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CHAPTER 54

AS soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover
her spirits; or in other words, to dwell without interruption
on those subjects that must deaden them more. Mr. Darcy's
behaviour astonished and vexed her.

"Why, if he came only to be silent, grave, and indifferent,"
said she, "did he come at all?"

She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure.

"He could be still amiable, still pleasing, to my uncle and
aunt, when he was in town; and why not to me? If he fears me,
why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent?
Teazing, teazing, man! I will think no more about him."

Her resolution was for a short time involuntarily kept by
the approach of her sister, who joined her with a cheerful
look, which shewed her better satisfied with their visitors,
than Elizabeth.

"Now," said she, "that this first meeting is over, I feel
perfectly easy. I know my own strength, and I shall never be
embarrassed again by his coming. I am glad he dines here on
Tuesday. It will then be publicly seen that, on both sides,
we meet only as common and indifferent acquaintance."

"Yes, very indifferent indeed," said Elizabeth, laughingly.
"Oh, Jane, take care."

"My dear Lizzy, you cannot think me so weak, as to be in danger
now?"

"I think you are in very great danger of making him as much
in love with you as ever."


They did not see the gentlemen again till Tuesday; and
Mrs. Bennet, in the meanwhile, was giving way to all the
happy schemes, which the good humour and common politeness
of Bingley, in half an hour's visit, had revived.

On Tuesday there was a large party assembled at Longbourn;
and the two who were most anxiously expected, to the credit of
their punctuality as sportsmen, were in very good time. When
they repaired to the dining-room, Elizabeth eagerly watched to
see whether Bingley would take the place, which, in all their
former parties, had belonged to him, by her sister. Her
prudent mother, occupied by the same ideas, forbore to invite
him to sit by herself. On entering the room, he seemed to
hesitate; but Jane happened to look round, and happened to
smile: it was decided. He placed himself by her.

Elizabeth, with a triumphant sensation, looked towards his
friend. He bore it with noble indifference, and she would have
imagined that Bingley had received his sanction to be happy,
had she not seen his eyes likewise turned towards Mr. Darcy,
with an expression of half-laughing alarm.

His behaviour to her sister was such, during dinner time, as
shewed an admiration of her, which, though more guarded than
formerly, persuaded Elizabeth, that if left wholly to himself,
Jane's happiness, and his own, would be speedily secured.
Though she dared not depend upon the consequence, she yet
received pleasure from observing his behaviour. It gave her
all the animation that her spirits could boast; for she was in
no cheerful humour. Mr. Darcy was almost as far from her as
the table could divide them. He was on one side of her mother.
She knew how little such a situation would give pleasure to
either, or make either appear to advantage. She was not near
enough to hear any of their discourse, but she could see how
seldom they spoke to each other, and how formal and cold was
their manner whenever they did. Her mother's ungraciousness,
made the sense of what they owed him more painful to
Elizabeth's mind; and she would, at times, have given any
thing to be privileged to tell him that his kindness was
neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole of the family.

She was in hopes that the evening would afford some opportunity
of bringing them together; that the whole of the visit would
not pass away without enabling them to enter into something
more of conversation than the mere ceremonious salutation
attending his entrance. Anxious and uneasy, the period which
passed in the drawing-room, before the gentlemen came, was
wearisome and dull to a degree that almost made her uncivil.
She looked forward to their entrance as the point on which all
her chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.

"If he does not come to me, then," said she, "I shall give
him up for ever."

The gentlemen came; and she thought he looked as if he would
have answered her hopes; but, alas! the ladies had crowded
round the table, where Miss Bennet was making tea, and
Elizabeth pouring out the coffee, in so close a confederacy
that there was not a single vacancy near her which would admit
of a chair. And on the gentlemen's approaching, one of the
girls moved closer to her than ever, and said, in a whisper,

"The men shan't come and part us, I am determined. We want
none of them; do we?"

Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She
followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke,
had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and
then was enraged against herself for being so silly!

"A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish
enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the
sex, who would not protest against such a weakness as a second
proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent
to their feelings!"

She was a little revived, however, by his bringing back his
coffee cup himself; and she seized the opportunity of saying,

"Is your sister at Pemberley still?"

"Yes, she will remain there till Christmas."

"And quite alone? Have all her friends left her?"

"Mrs. Annesley is with her. The others have been gone on to
Scarborough, these three weeks."

She could think of nothing more to say; but if he wished to
converse with her, he might have better success. He stood by
her, however, for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on
the young lady's whispering to Elizabeth again, he walked away.

When the tea-things were removed, and the card tables placed,
the ladies all rose, and Elizabeth was then hoping to be soon
joined by him, when all her views were overthrown by seeing him
fall a victim to her mother's rapacity for whist players, and
in a few moments after seated with the rest of the party. She
now lost every expectation of pleasure. They were confined for
the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope,
but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the
room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself.

Mrs. Bennet had designed to keep the two Netherfield gentlemen
to supper; but their carriage was unluckily ordered before any
of the others, and she had no opportunity of detaining them.

"Well girls," said she, as soon as they were left to
themselves, "What say you to the day? I think every thing has
passed off uncommonly well, I assure you. The dinner was as
well dressed as any I ever saw. The venison was roasted to a
turn -- and everybody said they never saw so fat a haunch. The
soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases'
last week; and even Mr. Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges
were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three
French cooks at least. And, my dear Jane, I never saw you look
in greater beauty. Mrs. Long said so too, for I asked her
whether you did not. And what do you think she said besides?
``Ah! Mrs. Bennet, we shall have her at Netherfield at last.''
She did indeed. I do think Mrs. Long is as good a creature as
ever lived -- and her nieces are very pretty behaved girls, and
not at all handsome: I like them prodigiously."

Mrs. Bennet, in short, was in very great spirits; she had seen
enough of Bingley's behaviour to Jane, to be convinced that she
would get him at last; and her expectations of advantage to her
family, when in a happy humour, were so far beyond reason, that
she was quite disappointed at not seeing him there again the
next day, to make his proposals.

"It has been a very agreeable day," said Miss Bennet to
Elizabeth. "The party seemed so well selected, so suitable
one with the other. I hope we may often meet again."

Elizabeth smiled.

"Lizzy, you must not do so. You must not suspect me. It
mortifies me. I assure you that I have now learnt to enjoy
his conversation as an agreeable and sensible young man,
without having a wish beyond it. I am perfectly satisfied,
from what his manners now are, that he never had any design
of engaging my affection. It is only that he is blessed
with greater sweetness of address, and a stronger desire of
generally pleasing, than any other man."

"You are very cruel," said her sister, "you will not let me
smile, and are provoking me to it every moment."

"How hard it is in some cases to be believed!"

"And how impossible in others!"

"But why should you wish to persuade me that I feel more than I
acknowledge?"

"That is a question which I hardly know how to answer. We all
love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth
knowing. Forgive me; and if you persist in indifference, do
not make me your confidante."





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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