When the ladies left after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister. Seeing she was well protected from the cold, she guided her into the drawing-room, where Jane was welcomed by her two friends by many cries of happiness. Elizabeth had never seen them as pleasant as they were during the hour that passed before the gentleman appeared. They had impressive powers of conversation, could tell a story with humour, and laugh with their acquaintance with spirit.
But once the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the main attraction; Miss Bingley's eyes were instantly turned towards Darcy, and she had something to say to him before he had taken many steps. Darcy oriented himself to Jane and gave polite congratulations on her return to health. Mr. Hurst also gave her a slight bow, and said he was "very glad;" exclamations and warmth remained for Bingley's greeting. He was full of joy and attention. The first half-hour was spent in piling up the fire, so she would suffer from the difference of temperature between the rooms. At Bingley's desire, Jane also moved to the other side of the fireplace, so she would be further from the door. He then sat down by her, and hardly spoke to anyone else. Elizabeth, working in the opposite corner, saw it all with great delight.
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law Miss Bingley of the card table. But she dismissed him, she had received private intelligence that Mr. Darcy did not wish to play cards. Mr. Hurst opened the invitation to all and soon found even that rejected by the group. Miss Bingley assured him that no one wished to play, and the silence of the whole party seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst therefore had nothing to do but to stretch himself out on the sofa, and go to sleep. Darcy picked up a book, so Miss Bingley did as well; and Mrs. Hurst, most occupied in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her brother's conversation with Jane.
Miss Bingley attention was as engaged in watching Mr. Darcy's progress through his book as it was in reading her own. She was constantly either asking him a question or looking at his page. However, she could not lure him into any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. Eventually, exhausted from her attempt to read her book, which she had only selected as it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said "How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How sooner one tires of anything than a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes around the room in a quest to find some amusement; upon hearing her brother mention a ball to Jane, she turned suddenly towards him and said:
"By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in thinking of a dance at Netherfield? I would advise you to find the wishes of the present group before you make decision. I may be wrong, but I believe there are some here to whom a ball would be more of a punishment than a pleasure
"If you mean Darcy, cried her brother, "He may go to bed before it begins if he likes, but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as the our chef Nicholls has made enough white soup, I shall send out my invitations"
"I would enjoy balls much more," she replied, "If they were carried out in a different manner. There us something insufferably dull in the process of such an event. Surely it would make more sense if conversation was made the order of the day rather than dancing."
"It would make much more more sense my dear Caroline," Bingley replied, "but then it would not be very much like a ball."
Miss Bingley did not reply, and soon afterwards she got up and walked around the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy, to whom it was all aimed, unchangeably continued reading. Feeling desperate, she gave one last attempt, and, turning to Elizabeth, said:
"Miss Eliza Bennet, let me convince you to follow my example, and take a walk about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one position."
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately, Miss Bingley then succeeded in the real reason behind her politeness; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much aware of the strangeness of Miss Bingley's attention as Elizabeth herself. Unconsciously, he closed his book. He was then invited to join their party, but declined it, stating he could only imagine two reason for their choosing to walk up and down the room together. He then claimed his joining the party would interfere with both reasons. Miss Bingley was curious, and asked:
"What could he mean? I am dying to know what could be your meaning?" She then asked Elizabeth if she could at all understand him?
"Not at all," was Elizabeth's answer, "But you can believe me, if he means to bewilder us, the best way to disappoint him and foil his plan is to ask nothing of it."
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, so she persevered in asking for an explanation of the two reasonings.
"I have not the smallest objection to explaining them," said he, as soon as Miss Bingley gave him opportunity to speak. "You either choose this way of spending the evening because you have one another's trust, and have secret business to discuss, or; because you know that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking. If it is the first, I would be completely in your way, if it is the second, I can admire you much better as I sit here by the fire.
"Oh! Shocking!" cried Miss Bingley. "I have never heard anything so dreadful. How shall we punish him for such words?"
"Nothing is as easy, if you have the desire," said Elizabeth. "We can all trouble and punish one another. Tease him—laugh at him. As close as you two are, you must know how to punish him best."
"But upon my honor, I do not." She replied, " I assure you our closeness has not yet taught me that. Maybe we may tease his calm manners and presence of mind. No, no I feel he may beat us there. And as to laughter, we must not reveal ourselves by attempting to laugh at him without a reason, or Mr Darcy may hug himself."
"Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "Then he has an uncommon advantage, and I hope it remains uncommon in the future. It would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh."
"Miss Bingley," said Darcy, "has given me more credit than deserved. The wisest and best of men, no, the wisest and best of their actions, can be made ridiculous by a person whose primary object in life is a joke."
"Certainly," replied Elizabeth, "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Silliness and nonsense, whims and paradoxes do distract me, I'll admit, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are exactly what you don't have."
"That is not possible for anyone. But it has been the goal of my life to avoid the weakness which often lead to ridicule."
"Such as vanity and pride?"
"Yes, vanity is indeed a weakness. But as for pride, where there is a real strength of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
"Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over I assume," said Miss Bingley; "and do share the results?"
"I am perfectly convinced that Mr. Darcy has no weakness. He admits it himself without disguise." said Elizabeth
"No," said Darcy, "I have made no claim. I have many faults, but I hope they are not of understanding. I do not vouch for my temper, I believe it is too short, certainly too little for the world's convenience. I cannot forget the mistakes and sins of others as soon as I ought, nor their crimes against myself. I am not sensitive creature despite attempts to move me. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. Once my good opinion is lost, it is lost forever.
"That is a weakness indeed!" cried Elizabeth. "Stern resentment is a fault indeed. But you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me."
"There is, I believe," said Darcy, "In every character a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome."
"And your defect is to hate everybody," said Elizabeth.
"And yours," he replied with a smile, "is willfully to misunderstand them."
"Let us have a little music!" cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in which she had no part. "Louisa, would you mind if I woke Mr. Hurst?"
Her sister had no objection, and the pianoforte was opened. Darcy, after a few moments of consideration, was not sorry for the music. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.
YOU ARE READING
A Simplified Pride and PrejudiceHistorical Fiction
This is for those who wish to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but find the old English it is written in to be too confusing and difficult to understand. This book contains the same story as a regular Pride and Prejudice book, but is 'transla...