Chapter 1 -- At the Meryton Assembly
Posted on 2013-04-26
When the party from Netherfield entered the assembly room it consisted of five persons altogether -- Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with very great admiration by everybody; superior as Mr Bingley was, Mr Darcy appeared to be superior to him not only in fortune, but in person, countenance, air and walk. Mr Darcy was the happy man towards whom every female eye was turned, unfortunately for the young ladies, however, his own eyes were frequently turned towards the young lady at his side - Mr Bingley's younger sister, a very attractive and fashionably dressed young woman - and it was soon evident from their manner towards each other that there was an attachment between them.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield - indeed he more or less announced that he would soon be giving a ball at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. Mr. Darcy was also a charming young gentleman, and a good dancer, but as it appeared obvious from his attentions to Miss Bingley that he was not an unattached gentleman, the disappointed young ladies and their matchmaking mamas turned more of their attention on Mr Bingley, although Mr Darcy with his fine estate in Derbyshire was naturally given due attention as well. When Mr Bingley was talking about giving a ball at Nethefield, the significant looks and smiles that passed between Mr Darcy and Miss Bingley clearly indicated the special purpose for which Mr Bingley was going to give a ball.
Mr Darcy had danced with Miss Bingley and with Mrs. Hurst, and had graciously agreed to be introduced to a couple of other young ladies and danced with them, when he was seen during the two fifth dances to be walking about the room instead of dancing, with a slightly annoyed expression marring his handsome face. Mr Bingley, surprised the unexpected sight of his friend not joining in the dance, came from the dance for a few minutes to talk to him.
"What is the matter, Darcy?" said he, "How come you're standing about by yourself in this stupid manner" Why aren't you dancing?"
"Your sister has engaged herself to dance with that clumsy youth."
'Well, of course, I mean you have danced with her, and you can ask her again for another dance afterwards, but in the meantime ..."
"It seems that she had misunderstood - I believed that I had engaged her again for these two dances, but she thought that it is for the two dances after this."
"Well then, you will dance with her again after this, but there are several other young ladies . ... I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty."
"You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room, next to your sister," said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
"Oh! she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."
"Which do you mean?" and turning round, he looked for a long moment at Elizabeth, rather in the manner of assessing a horse, then his annoyed expression faded, and he said with a slight smile, " Well, she is not a fashionable beauty, but she is tolerably handsome enough to tempt me for a couple of dances; although I rather wonder why she is sitting down among those young ladies who are slighted by other men. You may ask your partner to introduce us."
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear the conversation between him and Mr. Bingley. The introductions were duly made, and Mr Darcy smiled charmingly as he asked for her hand in the dance, and Elizabeth politely accepted, but having overheard his conversation, she had no very cordial feelings towards him. He struck her as a conceited young man, and the practised compliments and gallantries that fell from his lips during their dance struck her as rather affected and annoyed her further. She was not sorry when the dance was over, and quite pleased to observe him returning to Miss Bingley's side.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Mrs Bennet was also pleased to see Elizabeth dancing with the great Mr Darcy, although he did not distinguish her by any further attention; still being asked to dance by such a gentleman must have added something to her consequence in the eyes of the local young men. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations.
"Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet," Mrs Bennet said as she entered the room, "we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her! but, however, he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy and the Boulanger ..."
"If he had had any compassion for me," cried her husband impatiently, "he would not have danced half so much! For God's sake, say no more of his partners. O that he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!"
"Oh! my dear," continued Mrs. Bennet, "I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. His friend Mr Darcy is very handsome too, and very rich, but I think he is engaged to Miss Bingley - he danced with her twice, and was most attentive to her, and did not seem to like her dancing with other men -- Mr Bingley is going to give a ball at Netherfield, I daresay they will announce the engagement then. But he did ask Lizzy to dance, and although we can not hope for anything further from him, I think it made the other young men present sit up a little to see her dancing with Mr Darcy of Pemberley."
Chapter 2 -- A Meeting at Netherfield
The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. The visit was returned in due form. Miss Bennet's pleasing manners grew on the good will of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest. By Jane, this attention was received with the greatest pleasure; but Elizabeth saw a certain superciliousness in their treatment of everybody, hardly excepting even her sister, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value as arising in all probability from the influence of their brother's admiration. It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love.
One morning, the footman brought in a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for an answer. Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was eagerly calling out, while her daughter read --
"Well, Jane, who is it from? what is it about? what does he say? Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, my love."
"It is from Miss Bingley," said Jane, and then read it aloud.
"My dear Friend, -- If you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day with Louisa and me, we shall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of our lives, for a whole day's tête-à-tête between two women can never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can on the receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with the officers. -- Yours ever,
"With the officers!" cried Lydia. "I wonder my aunt did not tell us of that."
"Dining out," said Mrs. Bennet; "that is very unlucky."
"Can I have the carriage?" said Jane.
"No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night."
"That would be a good scheme," said Elizabeth, "if you were sure that they would not offer to send her home."
"Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton; and the Hursts have no horses to theirs."
"I had much rather go in the coach."
"But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennett, are not they?"
"They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them."
"But if you have got them to-day," said Elizabeth, "my mother's purpose will be answered."
She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses were engaged: Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered: Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission: Jane certainly could not come back.
"This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!" said Mrs. Bennet more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth --
"My dearest Lizzy, -- I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones -- therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me -- and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me. -- Yours, etc."
"Well, my dear," said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, "if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness -- if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders."
"Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long as she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her if I could have the carriage."
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her only alternative. She declared her resolution.
"How can you be so silly," cried her mother, "as to think of such a thing, in all this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get there."
"I shall be very fit to see Jane -- which is all I want."
"Is this a hint to me, Lizzy," said her father, "to send for the horses?"
"No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner."
"I admire the activity of your benevolence," observed Mary, "but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required."
"We will go as far as Meryton with you," said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.
"If we make haste," said Lydia, as they walked along, "perhaps we may see something of Captain Carter before he goes."
In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers' wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
Elizabeth's arrival at Netherfield coincided with that of a gentleman who had at that very moment arrived in a travelling carriage, and they met on the steps of the house. Elizabeth at first glance thought that the gentleman was Mr Darcy and was puzzled by the travelling carriage; a second glance however, showed her that this gentleman, while very like Mr Darcy in his height, colouring and features, was not the Mr Darcy who was already staying at Netherfield.
The young gentleman saw a young woman who was obviously a gentlewoman in spite of her dirty stockings and slightly mud stained gown, he lifted his hat and bowed politely to her; he found himself struck with admiration by the beautiful, heightened expression of her fine dark eyes, and the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion. His elder brother had often eloquently praised Miss Bingley's handsome looks and elegant figure, but he himself had never admired Miss Bingley very much, although she was a handsome woman; indeed he had never been struck with half as much admiration for any young woman as he was by the unexpected sight of this strange young lady.
They were shewn into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane were assembled, and where the gentleman, who turned out to be the Rev Mr William Darcy, of Kympton Parsonage, the younger brother of Mr George Darcy, was evidently expected on a visit, but where Miss Elizabeth Bennet's appearance created a great deal of surprise. That she should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by them; and in their brother's manners there was something better than politeness; there was good-humour and kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all. The former had been occupied in his flirtation with Miss Bingley, while the latter was thinking only of his breakfast.
Elizabeth's enquiries after her sister were not very favourably answered. Miss Bennet had slept ill, and though up, was very feverish, and not well enough to leave her room. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had only been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience from expressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted at her entrance. She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and when Miss Bingley left them together, could attempt little beside expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silently attended her.
When breakfast was over they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they showed for Jane. The apothecary came, and having examined his patient, said, as might be supposed, that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promised her some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabeth did not quit her room for a moment, nor were the other ladies often absent: the gentlemen being out, they had, in fact, nothing to do elsewhere.
When the clock struck three Elizabeth felt that she must go, and very unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her the carriage, and she only wanted a little pressing to accept it, when Jane testified such concern in parting with her, that Miss Bingley was obliged to convert the offer of the chaise into an invitation to remain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes.
At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil enquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superior solicitude of Mr. Bingley's, she could not make a very favourable answer. Jane was by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill themselves; and then thought no more of the matter; and their indifference towards Jane when not immediately before them, restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believed she was considered by the others. She had very little notice from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards; who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her. The younger Mr Darcy appeared to be a quiet young man, who did not have anything much to say for himself.
When dinner was over and she was about to return directly to Jane however, she was rather surprised when she suddenly found Mr William Darcy at her side, he said rather awkwardly -
"I won't keep you from your sister, Miss Bennet, I mean Miss Elizabeth, but I wish there is anything I could do to help - I hope that Miss Bennet your sister will be well soon."
As she looked at him and thanked him for his concern, she noticed the warm expression in his eyes, and the slight flush of embarrassment on his face, it certainly occurred to her that while he and his elder brother were very like each other in their features, the difference in their expressions and manners were quite striking. The elder brother always appeared confident and at his ease, with his polish, gallant and slightly supercilious manners, while the younger brother was quiet and now she realized was really rather shy.To Be Continued . . .