eBooks Cube
 
Chapter 8

At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past
six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil inquiries
which then poured in, and amongst which she had the pleasure
of distinguishing the much superior solicitude of Mr. Bingley's,
she could not make a very favourable answer. Jane was by no
means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four
times how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have
a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill
themselves; and then thought no more of the matter: and their
indifference towards Jane when not immediately before them
restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her former dislike.

Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she
could regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was
evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they
prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she
believed she was considered by the others. She had very little
notice from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr.
Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom
Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat,
drink, and play at cards; who, when he found her to prefer a
plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.

When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss
Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room.
Her manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed, a mixture
of pride and impertinence; she had no conversation, no style, no
beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and added:

"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an
excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this
morning. She really looked almost wild."

"She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance.
Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must SHE be scampering
about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so
untidy, so blowsy!"

"Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches
deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had
been let down to hide it not doing its office."

"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa," said Bingley; "but
this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet
looked remarkably well when she came into the room this
morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."

"YOU observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley;
"and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see
YOUR sister make such an exhibition."

"Certainly not."

"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it
is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could
she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of
conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to
decorum."

"It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," said
Bingley.

"I am afraid, Mr. Darcy," observed Miss Bingley in a half
whisper, "that this adventure has rather affected your
admiration of her fine eyes."

"Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened by the exercise."
A short pause followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:

"I have a excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she is really a
very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well
settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low
connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it."

"I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney on
Meryton."

"Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near
Cheapside."

"That is capital," added her sister, and they both laughed
heartily.

"If they had uncles enough to fill ALL Cheapside," cried
Bingley, "it would not make them one jot less agreeable."

"But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men
of any consideration in the world," replied Darcy.

To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it
their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the
expense of their dear friend's vulgar relations.

With a renewal of tenderness, however, they returned to her
room on leaving the dining-parlour, and sat with her till
summoned to coffee. She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth
would not quit her at all, till late in the evening, when she had
the comfort of seeing her sleep, and when it seemed to her rather
right than pleasant that she should go downstairs herself. On
entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and
was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be
playing high, she declined it, for the short time she could stay
below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.

"Do you prefer reading to cards?" said he; "that is rather
singular."

"Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, "despises cards. She is a
great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else."

"I deserve neither such praise nor such censure," cried Elizabeth;
"I am NOT a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things."

"In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,"said
Bingley; "and I hope it will be soon increased by seeing her quite
well."

Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards
the table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered
to fetch her others-- all that his library afforded.

"And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my
own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many,
I have more than I ever looked into."

Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with
those in the room.

"I am astonished," said Miss Bingley, "that my father should
have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library
you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!"

"It ought to be good," he replied, "it has been the work of many
generations."

"And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are
always buying books."

"I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days
as these."

"Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the
beauties of that noble place. Charles, when you build YOUR
house, I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley."

"I wish it may."

"But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that
neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There
is not a finer county in England than Derbyshire."

"With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell
it."

"I am talking of possibilities, Charles."

"Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get
Pemberley by purchase than by imitation."

Elizabeth was so much caught with what passed, as to leave her
very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside,
she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself between Mr.
Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game."

"Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?" said Miss
Bingley; "will she be as tall as I am?"

"I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet's
height, or rather taller."

"How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who
delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! And
so extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the
pianoforte is exquisite."

"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have
patience to be so very accomplished as they all are."

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you
mean?"

"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens,
and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this,
and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first
time, without being informed that she was very accomplished."

"Your list of the common extent of accomplishments," said
Darcy, "has too much truth. The word is applied to many a
woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or
covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in
your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing
more than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance,
that are really accomplished."

"Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.

"Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal
in your idea of an accomplished woman."

"Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it."

"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really
esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is
usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of
music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to
deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain
something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her
voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but
half-deserved."

"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she
must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of
her mind by extensive reading."

"I am no longer surprised at your knowing ONLY six
accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing
ANY."

"Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the
possibility of all this?

"I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and
taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe united."

Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice
of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew
many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst
called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention
to what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at
an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.

"Elizabeth Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the door was
closed on her, "is one of those young ladies who seek to
recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their
own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my
opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."

"Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly
addressed, "there is a meanness in ALL the arts which ladies
sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever
bears affinity to cunning is despicable."

Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to
continue the subject.

Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was
worse, and that she could not leave her. Bingley urged Mr.
Jones being sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced
that no country advice could be of any service, recommended an
express to town for one of the most eminent physicians. This
she would not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply
with their brother's proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones
should be sent for early in the morning, if Miss Bennet were not
decidedly better. Bingley was quite uncomfortable; his sisters
declared that they were miserable: They solaced their
wretchedness, however, by duets after supper, while he could
find no better relief to his feelings than by giving his housekeeper
directions that every attention might be paid to the sick lady and
her sister.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
Nabou.com: the big site