"I have no reason, I assure you," said he, "to be dissatisfied with my reception.
Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention. He answered me with the utmost
civility, and even paid me the compliment of saying that he was so well convinced
of Lady Catherine's discernment as to be certain she could never bestow a favour
unworthily. It was really a very handsome thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased
As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her
attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley, and the train of agreeable
reflections which her observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy
as Jane. She saw her, in idea, settled in that very house, in all the felicity which
a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable, under such circumstances,
of endeavouring even to like Bingley's two sisters. Her mother's thoughts she plainly
saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to venture near her, lest she
might hear too much. When they sat down to supper, therefore, she considered it
a most unlucky perverseness which placed them within one of each other; and deeply
was she vexed to find that her mother was talking to that one person (Lady Lucas)
freely, openly, and of nothing else but of her expectation that Jane would be soon
married to Mr. Bingley. -- It was an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable
of fatigue while enumerating the advantages of the match. His being such a charming
young man, and so rich, and living but three miles from them, were the first points
of self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters
were of Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the connection as much as
she could do. It was, moreover, such a promising thing for her younger daughters,
as Jane's marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other rich men; and
lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able to consign her single
daughters to the care of their sister, that she might not be obliged to go into
company more than she liked. It was necessary to make this circumstance a matter
of pleasure, because on such occasions it is the etiquette but no one was less likely
than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying at home at any period of her life. She
concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be equally fortunate,
though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother's words,
or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible whisper; for to her inexpressible
vexation, she could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr.
Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for being nonsensical.
"What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I am sure we
owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to say nothing he may not
like to hear."
"For heaven's sake, madam, speak lower. -- What advantage can it be to you to
offend Mr. Darcy? -- You will never recommend yourself to his friend by so doing."
Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her mother would talk
of her views in the same intelligible tone.
Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.
She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy, though every glance
convinced her of what she dreaded; for though he was not always looking at her mother,
she was convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her. The expression
of his face changed gradually from indignant contempt to a composed and steady gravity.
At length however Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who had been
long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no likelihood of sharing,
was left to the comforts of cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now began to revive.
But not long was the interval of tranquillity; for when supper was over, singing
was talked of, and she had the mortification of seeing Mary, after very little entreaty,
preparing to oblige the company. By many significant looks and silent entreaties,
did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of complaisance, -- but in vain; Mary
would not understand them; such an opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her,
and she began her song. Elizabeth's eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations;
and she watched her progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which
was very ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving amongst the thanks
of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed on to favour them again,
after the pause of half a minute began another. Mary's powers were by no means fitted
for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected. -- Elizabeth was
in agonies. She looked at Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly
talking to Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw them making signs of
derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued however impenetrably grave.
She looked at her father to entreat his interference, lest Mary should be singing
all night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished her second song, said aloud,
"That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the
other young ladies have time to exhibit."
Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted; and Elizabeth
sorry for her, and sorry for her father's speech, was afraid her anxiety had done
no good. -- Others of the party were now applied to.
"If I," said Mr. Collins, "were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should
have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider
music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession
of a clergyman. -- I do not mean however to assert that we can be justified in devoting
too much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things to be attended
to. The rector of a parish has much to do. -- In the first place, he must make such
an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his
patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too
much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which
he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible. And I do not think
it of light importance that he should have attentive and conciliatory manners towards
every body, especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment.
I cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of the man who should
omit an occasion of testifying his respect towards any body connected with the family."
And with a bow to Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had been spoken so loud
as to be heard by half the room. -- Many stared. -- Many smiled; but no one looked
more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins
for having spoken so sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that
he was a remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves
as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them
to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think
it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped his notice,
and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed by the folly which
he must have witnessed. That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have
such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations was bad enough, and she could not
determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the insolent smiles of
the ladies, were more intolerable.
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was teazed by Mr. Collins,
who continued most perseveringly by her side, and though he could not prevail with
her to dance with him again, put it out of her power to dance with others. In vain
did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to introduce him to
any young lady in the room. He assured her that as to dancing, he was perfectly
indifferent to it; that his chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend
himself to her, and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close to
her the whole evening. There was no arguing upon such a project. She owed her greatest
relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and good-naturedly engaged
Mr. Collins's conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy's farther notice; though
often standing within a very short distance of her, quite disengaged, he never came
near enough to speak.
She felt it to be the probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham, and
rejoiced in it.
The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart; and by a manoeuvre
of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their carriages a quarter of an hour after every
body else was gone, which gave them time to see how heartily they were wished away
by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely opened their mouths except
to complain of fatigue, and were evidently impatient to have the house to themselves.
They repulsed every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by so doing, threw
a languor over the whole party, which was very little relieved by the long speeches
of Mr. Collins, who was complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on the elegance
of their entertainment, and the hospitality and politeness which had marked their
behaviour to their guests. Darcy said nothing at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence,
was enjoying the scene.