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Chapter 9

Elizabeth passed the chief of the night in her sister's room, and
in the morning had the pleasure of being able to send a tolerable
answer to the inquiries which she very early received from Mr.
Bingley by a housemaid, and some time afterwards from the two
elegant ladies who waited on his sisters. In spite of this
amendment, however, she requested to have a note sent to
Longbourn, desiring her mother to visit Jane, and form her own
judgement of her situation. The note was immediately
dispatched, and its contents as quickly complied with. Mrs.
Bennet, accompanied by her two youngest girls, reached
Netherfield soon after the family breakfast.

Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet would
have been very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her that
her illness was not alarming, she had no wish of her recovering
immediately, as her restoration to health would probably remove
her from Netherfield. She would not listen, therefore, to her
daughter's proposal of being carried home; neither did the
apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at all
advisable. After sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss
Bingley's appearance and invitation, the mother and three
daughter all attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley met
them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet
worse than she expected.

"Indeed I have, sir," was her answer. "She is a great deal too ill
to be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her.
We must trespass a little longer on your kindness."

"Removed!" cried Bingley. "It must not be thought of. My
sister, I am sure, will not hear of her removal."

"You may depend upon it, madam," said Miss Bingley, with cold
civility, "that Miss Bennet will receive every possible attention
while she remains with us."

Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgements.

"I am sure," she added, "if it was not for such good friends I do
not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed,
and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the
world, which is always the way with her, for she has, without
exception, the sweetest temper I have ever met with. I often tell
my other girls they are nothing to HER. You have a sweet room
here, Mr. Bingley, and a charming prospect over the gravel
walk. I do not know a place in the country that is equal to
Netherfield. You will not think of quitting it in a hurry, I hope,
though you have but a short lease."

"Whatever I do is done in a hurry," replied he; "and therefore if I
should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in
five minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite
fixed here."

"That is exactly what I should have supposed of you," said
Elizabeth.

"You begin to comprehend me, do you?" cried he, turning
towards her.

"Oh! yes-- I understand you perfectly."

"I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily
seen through I am afraid is pitiful."

"That is as it happens. It does not follow that a deep, intricate
character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours."

"Lizzy," cried her mother, "remember where you are, and do not
run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home."

"I did not know before," continued Bingley immediately, "that
your were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study."

"Yes, but intricate characters are the MOST amusing. They
have at least that advantage."

"The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but a few
subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move
in a very confined and unvarying society."

"But people themselves alter so much, that there is something
new to be observed in them for ever."

"Yes, indeed," cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of
mentioning a country neighbourhood. "I assure you there is
quite as much of THAT going on in the country as in town."

Everybody was surprised, and Darcy, after looking at her for a
moment, turned silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she
had gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.

"I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the
country, for my part, except the shops and public places. The
country is a vast deal pleasanter, is it not, Mr. Bingley?"

"When I am in the country," he replied, "I never wish to leave it;
and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have
each their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."

"Aye-- that is because you have the right disposition. But that
gentleman," looking at Darcy, "seemed to think the country was
nothing at all."

"Indeed, mamma, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for
her mother. "You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that
there was not such a variety of people to be met with in the
country as in the town, which you must acknowledge to be
true."

"Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not
meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there
are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with
four-and-twenty families."

Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep
his countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her
eyes towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile. Elizabeth,
for the sake of saying something that might turn her mother's
thoughts, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at
Longbourn since HER coming away.

"Yes, she called yesterday with her father. What an agreeable
man Sir William is, Mr. Bingley, is not he? So much the man of
fashion! So genteel and easy! He had always something to say
to everybody. THAT is my idea of good breeding; and those
persons who fancy themselves very important, and never open
their mouths, quite mistake the matter."

"Did Charlotte dine with you?"

"No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about
mince-pies. For my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants
that can do their own work; MY daughters are brought up very
differently. But everybody is to judge for themselves, and the
Lucases are a very good sort of girls, I assure you. It is a pity
they are not handsome! Not that I think Charlotte so VERY
plain-- but then she is our particular friend."

"She seems a very pleasant young woman."

"Oh! dear, yes; but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas
herself has often said so, and envied me Jane's beauty. I do not
like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane-- one does
not often see anybody better looking. It is what everybody says.
I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen,
there was a man at my brother Gardiner's in town so much in
love with her that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her
an offer before we came away. But, however, he did not.
Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some
verses on her, and very pretty they were."

"And so ended his affection," said Elizabeth impatiently. "There
has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I
wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving
away love!"

"I have been used to consider poetry as the FOOD of love," said
Darcy.

"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes
what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of
inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it
entirely away."

Darcy only smiled; and the general pause which ensued made
Elizabeth tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself
again. She longed to speak, but could think of nothing to say;
and after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks
to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for
troubling him also with Lizzy. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly
civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also,
and say what the occasion required. She performed her part
indeed without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was
satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this
signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself forward. The
two girls had been whispering to each other during the whole
visit, and the result of it was, that the youngest should tax Mr.
Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the
country to give a ball at Netherfield.

Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine
complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with
her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an
early age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural
self-consequence, which the attention of the officers, to whom
her uncle's good dinners, and her own easy manners recommended
her, had increased into assurance. She was very equal,
therefore, to address Mr. Bingley on the subject of the ball, and
abruptly reminded him that it would be the most shameful thing
in the world if he did not keep it. His answer to this sudden
attack was delightful to her mother's ear:

"I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement; and
when your sister is recovered, you shall, if you please, name the
very day of the ball. But you would not wish to be dancing
when she is ill."

Lydia declared herself satisfied. "Oh! yes-- it would be much
better to wait till Jane was well, and by that time most likely
Captain Carter would be at Meryton again. And when you have
given YOUR ball," she added, "I shall insist on their giving one
also. I shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame if he
does not."

Mrs. Bennet and her daughter then departed, and Elizabeth
returned instantly to Jane, leaving her own and her relations'
behaviour to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the
latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to join in
their censure of HER, in spite of all Miss Bingley's witticisms on
FINE EYES.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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