Consoled by this resolution, she was the better able to bear her husband's incivility;
though it was very mortifying to know that her neighbours might all see Mr. Bingley,
in consequence of it, before they did. As the day of his arrival drew near, "I
begin to be sorry that he comes at all," said Jane to her sister. "It would be nothing;
I could see him with perfect indifference, but I can hardly bear to hear it thus
perpetually talked of. My mother means well; but she does not know, no one can know,
how much I suffer from what she says. Happy shall I be, when his stay at Netherfield
"I wish I could say any thing to comfort you," replied Elizabeth; "but it is
wholly out of my power. You must feel it; and the usual satisfaction of preaching
patience to a sufferer is denied me, because you have always so much."
Mr. Bingley arrived. Mrs. Bennet, through the assistance of servants, contrived
to have the earliest tidings of it, that the period of anxiety and fretfulness on
her side might be as long as it could. She counted the days that must intervene
before their invitation could be sent; hopeless of seeing him before. But on the
third morning after his arrival in Hertfordshire, she saw him, from her dressing-room
window, enter the paddock and ride towards the house.
Her daughters were eagerly called to partake of her joy. Jane resolutely kept
her place at the table; but Elizabeth, to satisfy her mother, went to the window
-- she looked, -- she saw Mr. Darcy with him, and sat down again by her sister.
"There is a gentleman with him, mamma," said Kitty; "who can it be?"
"Some acquaintance or other, my dear, I suppose; I am sure I do not know."
"La!" replied Kitty, "it looks just like that man that used to be with him before.
Mr. what's-his-name. That tall, proud man."
"Good gracious! Mr. Darcy! -- and so it does, I vow. Well, any friend of Mr.
Bingley's will always be welcome here, to be sure; but else I must say that I hate
the very sight of him."
Jane looked at Elizabeth with surprise and concern. She knew but little of their
meeting in Derbyshire, and therefore felt for the awkwardness which must attend
her sister, in seeing him almost for the first time after receiving his explanatory
letter. Both sisters were uncomfortable enough. Each felt for the other, and of
course for themselves; and their mother talked on, of her dislike of Mr. Darcy,
and her resolution to be civil to him only as Mr. Bingley's friend, without being
heard by either of them. But Elizabeth had sources of uneasiness which could not
be suspected by Jane, to whom she had never yet had courage to shew Mrs. Gardiner's
letter, or to relate her own change of sentiment towards him. To Jane, he could
be only a man whose proposals she had refused, and whose merit she had undervalued;
but to her own more extensive information, he was the person to whom the whole family
were indebted for the first of benefits, and whom she regarded herself with an interest,
if not quite so tender, at least as reasonable and just as what Jane felt for Bingley.
Her astonishment at his coming -- at his coming to Netherfield, to Longbourn, and
voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to what she had known on first witnessing
his altered behaviour in Derbyshire.
The colour which had been driven from her face, returned for half a minute with
an additional glow, and a smile of delight added lustre to her eyes, as she thought
for that space of time that his affection and wishes must still be unshaken. But
she would not be secure.
"Let me first see how he behaves," said she; "it will then be early enough for
She sat intently at work, striving to be composed, and without daring to lift
up her eyes, till anxious curiosity carried them to the face of her sister as the
servant was approaching the door. Jane looked a little paler than usual, but more
sedate than Elizabeth had expected. On the gentlemen's appearing, her colour increased;
yet she received them with tolerable ease, and with a propriety of behaviour equally
free from any symptom of resentment or any unnecessary complaisance.
Elizabeth said as little to either as civility would allow, and sat down again
to her work, with an eagerness which it did not often command. She had ventured
only one glance at Darcy. He looked serious, as usual; and, she thought, more as
he had been used to look in Hertfordshire, than as she had seen him at Pemberley.
But, perhaps he could not in her mother's presence be what he was before her uncle
and aunt. It was a painful, but not an improbable, conjecture.
Bingley, she had likewise seen for an instant, and in that short period saw him
looking both pleased and embarrassed. He was received by Mrs. Bennet with a degree
of civility which made her two daughters ashamed, especially when contrasted with
the cold and ceremonious politeness of her curtsey and address to his friend.
Elizabeth, particularly, who knew that her mother owed to the latter the preservation
of her favourite daughter from irremediable infamy, was hurt and distressed to a
most painful degree by a distinction so ill applied.
Darcy, after enquiring of her how Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner did, a question which
she could not answer without confusion, said scarcely any thing. He was not seated
by her; perhaps that was the reason of his silence; but it had not been so in Derbyshire.
There he had talked to her friends, when he could not to herself. But now several
minutes elapsed without bringing the sound of his voice; and when occasionally,
unable to resist the impulse of curiosity, she raised he eyes to his face, she as
often found him looking at Jane as at herself, and frequently on no object but the
ground. More thoughtfulness and less anxiety to please, than when they last met,
were plainly expressed. She was disappointed, and angry with herself for being so.
"Could I expect it to be otherwise!" said she. "Yet why did he come?"
She was in no humour for conversation with any one but himself; and to him she
had hardly courage to speak.
She enquired after his sister, but could do no more.
"It is a long time, Mr. Bingley, since you went away," said Mrs. Bennet.
He readily agreed to it.
"I began to be afraid you would never come back again. People did say you meant
to quit the place entirely at Michaelmas; but, however, I hope it is not true. A
great many changes have happened in the neighbourhood, since you went away. Miss
Lucas is married and settled. And one of my own daughters.
I suppose you have heard of it; indeed, you must have seen it in the papers.
It was in the Times and the Courier, I know; though it was not put in as it
ought to be. It was only said, ``Lately, George Wickham, Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet,''
without there being a syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived,
or any thing. It was my brother Gardiner's drawing up too, and I wonder how he came
to make such an awkward business of it. Did you see it?"
Bingley replied that he did, and made his congratulations.
Elizabeth dared not lift up her eyes. How Mr. Darcy looked, therefore, she could
"It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well married," continued
her mother, "but at the same time, Mr. Bingley, it is very hard to have her taken
such a way from me. They are gone down to Newcastle, a place quite northward, it
seems, and there they are to stay I do not know how long.
His regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the ----shire,
and of his being gone into the regulars.
Thank Heaven! he has some friends, though perhaps not so many as he deserves."
Elizabeth, who knew this to be levelled at Mr. Darcy, was in such misery of shame,
that she could hardly keep her seat.
It drew from her, however, the exertion of speaking, which nothing else had so
effectually done before; and she asked Bingley whether he meant to make any stay
in the country at present. A few weeks, he believed.
"When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley,"
said her mother, "I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you please on
Mr. Bennet's manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you, and will save
all the best of the covies for you."
Elizabeth's misery increased, at such unnecessary, such officious attention!
Were the same fair prospect to arise at present as had flattered them a year ago,
every thing, she was persuaded, would be hastening to the same vexatious conclusion.
At that instant, she felt that years of happiness could not make Jane or herself
amends for moments of such painful confusion.
"The first wish of my heart," said she to herself, "is never more to be in company
with either of them. Their society can afford no pleasure that will atone for such
wretchedness as this! Let me never see either one or the other again!"
Yet the misery, for which years of happiness were to offer no compensation, received
soon afterwards material relief, from observing how much the beauty of her sister
re-kindled the admiration of her former lover. When first he came in, he had spoken
to her but little; but every five minutes seemed to be giving her more of his attention.
He found her as handsome as she had been last year; as good natured, and as unaffected,
though not quite so chatty. Jane was anxious that no difference should be perceived
in her at all, and was really persuaded that she talked as much as ever. But her
mind was so busily engaged, that she did not always know when she was silent.