Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital.
After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several
that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister
Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked
hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application,
it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have
injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached. Elizabeth, easy and
unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half
so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and
gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who,
with some of the Lucases and two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at
one end of the room.
Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the
evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his
own thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William
"What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! -- There is nothing
like dancing after all. -- I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished
"Certainly, Sir; -- and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the
less polished societies of the world. -- Every savage can dance."
Sir William only smiled. "Your friend performs delightfully;"
he continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; -- "and I doubt
not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy."
"You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, Sir."
"Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight. Do you
often dance at St. James's?"
"Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?"
"It is a compliment which I never pay to any place, if I can avoid it."
"You have a house in town, I conclude?"
Mr. Darcy bowed.
"I had once some thoughts of fixing in town myself -- for I am fond of superior
society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air of London would agree with
He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was not disposed to make any;
and Elizabeth at that instant moving towards them, he was struck with the notion
of doing a very gallant thing, and called out to her, "My dear Miss Eliza, why are
not you dancing? -- Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you
as a very desirable partner. -- You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure, when so much
beauty is before you." And taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy,
who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly
drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William, "Indeed, Sir, I have
not the least intention of dancing. -- I entreat you not to suppose that I moved
this way in order to beg for a partner."
Mr. Darcy with grave propriety requested to be allowed the honour of her hand;
but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose
by his attempt at persuasion.
"You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the
happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general,
he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half hour."
"Mr. Darcy is all politeness," said Elizabeth, smiling.
"He is indeed -- but considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot
wonder at his complaisance; for who would object to such a partner?"
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her
with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when thus
accosted by Miss Bingley.
"I can guess the subject of your reverie."
"I should imagine not."
"You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this
manner -- in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never more
annoyed! The insipidity and yet the noise; the nothingness and yet the self-importance
of all these people! -- What would I give to hear your strictures on them!"
"Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged.
I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the
face of a pretty woman can bestow."
Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he would tell
her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections. Mr. Darcy replied with
great intrepidity, "Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet!" repeated Miss Bingley. "I am all astonishment. How long
has she been such a favourite? -- and pray when am I to wish you joy?"
"That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask.
A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love
to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy."
"Nay, if you are so serious about it, I shall consider the matter as absolutely
settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law, indeed, and of course she will
be always at Pemberley with you."
He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself
in this manner, and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her wit flowed
<CHAPTER VII (7)>
MR. BENNET'S property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand
a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs
male, on a distant relation; and their mother's fortune, though ample for her situation
in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Her father had been an attorney
in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.
She had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to their father,
and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a respectable
line of trade.
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance
for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week,
to pay their duty to their aunt, and to a milliner's shop just over the way. The
two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these
attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters', and when nothing better
offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish
conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might
be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they
were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia
regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was
the head quarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Philips were now productive of the most interesting intelligence.
Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers' names and connections.
Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers
themselves. Mr. Philips visited them all, and this opened to his nieces a source
of felicity unknown before. They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr.
Bingley's large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother,
was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.
After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject, Mr. Bennet coolly
observed, "From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two
of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now
Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect indifference,
continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him
in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to London.
"I am astonished, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet, "that you should be so ready to
think your own children silly. If I wished to think slightingly of any body's children,
it should not be of my own, however."
"If my children are silly I must hope to be always sensible of it."
"Yes -- but as it happens, they are all of them very clever."
"This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I had hoped
that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from
you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish."
"My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their
father and mother. -- When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about
officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself
very well -- and indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel,
with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall not say nay
to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other night at Sir
William's in his regimentals."
"Mama," cried Lydia, "my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter do
not go so often to Miss Watson's as they did when they first came; she sees them
now very often standing in Clarke's library."