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 possible attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.
<CHAPTER IX (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 enquiries 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 judgment 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 daughters 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 shall receive every possible attention while she remains with us."
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
"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 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 that 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 necessarily 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 you were a studier
of character. It must be an amusing study."
"Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that
"The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but 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."
Every body 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 not
it, 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, Mama, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother. "You
quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there were not such a variety of people
to be met with in the country as in 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 eye 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 so easy!
-- He has always something to say to every body. -- 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 the mince pies. For my part,
Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters
are brought up differently. But every body is to judge for themselves, and the Lucases
are 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," said Bingley.
"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 any body better looking. It is what every body says. I do not trust my
own partiality. When she was only fifteen, there was a gentleman 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,"
"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing 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 attentions 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 of his promise; adding, that it would be the most shameful thing in the world
if he did not keep it.