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Chapter 17

  • Elizabeth related to Jane the next day what had passed between Mr. Wickham an_erself. Jane listened with astonishment and concern; she knew not how t_elieve that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard; and yet,
  • it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of suc_miable appearance as Wickham. The possibility of his having endured suc_nkindness, was enough to interest all her tender feelings; and nothin_emained therefore to be done, but to think well of them both, to defend th_onduct of each, and throw into the account of accident or mistake whateve_ould not be otherwise explained.
  • "They have both," said she, "been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other,
  • of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresente_ach to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the cause_r circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on eithe_ide."
  • "Very true, indeed; and now, my dear Jane, what have you got to say on behal_f the interested people who have probably been concerned in the business? D_lear  _them_  too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody."
  • "Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. M_earest Lizzy, do but consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr.
  • Darcy, to be treating his father's favourite in such a manner, one whom hi_ather had promised to provide for. It is impossible. No man of commo_umanity, no man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it.
  • Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him? Oh! no."
  • "I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr.
  • Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night;
  • names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr.
  • Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks."
  • "It is difficult indeed—it is distressing. One does not know what to think."
  • "I beg your pardon; one knows exactly what to think."
  • But Jane could think with certainty on only one point—that Mr. Bingley, if h_had_  been imposed on, would have much to suffer when the affair becam_ublic.
  • The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery, where this conversatio_assed, by the arrival of the very persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr.
  • Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long-
  • expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday. Th_wo ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an ag_ince they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with hersel_ince their separation. To the rest of the family they paid little attention;
  • avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, an_othing at all to the others. They were soon gone again, rising from thei_eats with an activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying of_s if eager to escape from Mrs. Bennet's civilities.
  • The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to every femal_f the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to he_ldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitatio_rom Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card. Jane pictured t_erself a happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attention_f her brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great dea_ith Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of everything in Mr. Darcy'_ook and behavior. The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia depende_ess on any single event, or any particular person, for though they each, lik_lizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by n_eans the only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was, at any rate, _all. And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination fo_t.
  • "While I can have my mornings to myself," said she, "it is enough—I think i_s no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening engagements. Society ha_laims on us all; and I profess myself one of those who consider intervals o_ecreation and amusement as desirable for everybody."
  • Elizabeth's spirits were so high on this occasion, that though she did no_ften speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help asking hi_hether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley's invitation, and if he did, whethe_e would think it proper to join in the evening's amusement; and she wa_ather surprised to find that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head,
  • and was very far from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lad_atherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.
  • "I am by no means of the opinion, I assure you," said he, "that a ball of thi_ind, given by a young man of character, to respectable people, can have an_vil tendency; and I am so far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shal_ope to be honoured with the hands of all my fair cousins in the course of th_vening; and I take this opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss Elizabeth, fo_he two first dances especially, a preference which I trust my cousin Jan_ill attribute to the right cause, and not to any disrespect for her."
  • Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully proposed bein_ngaged by Mr. Wickham for those very dances; and to have Mr. Collins instead!
  • her liveliness had never been worse timed. There was no help for it, however.
  • Mr. Wickham's happiness and her own were perforce delayed a little longer, an_r. Collins's proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could. She was no_he better pleased with his gallantry from the idea it suggested of somethin_ore. It now first struck her, that  _she_  was selected from among he_isters as worthy of being mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting t_orm a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors.
  • The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilitie_oward herself, and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit an_ivacity; and though more astonished than gratified herself by this effect o_er charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to understand that th_robability of their marriage was extremely agreeable to  _her_. Elizabeth,
  • however, did not choose to take the hint, being well aware that a seriou_ispute must be the consequence of any reply. Mr. Collins might never make th_ffer, and till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.
  • If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, th_ounger Miss Bennets would have been in a very pitiable state at this time,
  • for from the day of the invitation, to the day of the ball, there was such _uccession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once. No aunt, n_fficers, no news could be sought after—the very shoe-roses for Netherfiel_ere got by proxy. Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patienc_n weather which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance wit_r. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such _riday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.