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Chapter 7

  • Mr. Bennet's property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand _ear, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default o_eirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother's fortune, though ampl_or her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. He_ather had been an attorney in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.
  • She had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to thei_ather and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in _espectable line of trade.
  • The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenien_istance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or fou_imes a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner's shop jus_ver the way. The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, wer_articularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant tha_heir sisters', and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton wa_ecessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for th_vening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they alway_ontrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were wel_upplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militi_egiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryto_as the headquarters.
  • Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the most interestin_ntelligence. Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers'
  • names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at lengt_hey began to know the officers themselves. Mr. Phillips visited them all, an_his opened to his nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They could tal_f nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley's large fortune, the mention of whic_ave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed t_he regimentals of an ensign.
  • After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject, Mr. Benne_oolly observed:
  • "From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of th_illiest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am no_onvinced."
  • Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfec_ndifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and he_ope of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next mornin_o London.
  • "I am astonished, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet, "that you should be so ready t_hink your own children silly. If I wished to think slightingly of anybody'_hildren, it should not be of my own, however."
  • "If my children are silly, I must hope to be always sensible of it."
  • "Yes—but as it happens, they are all of them very clever."
  • "This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I ha_oped that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so fa_iffer from you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish."
  • "My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of thei_ather and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not thin_bout officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a re_oat myself very well—and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smar_oung colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls _hall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becomin_he other night at Sir William's in his regimentals."
  • "Mamma," cried Lydia, "my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter d_ot go so often to Miss Watson's as they did when they first came; she see_hem now very often standing in Clarke's library."
  • Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the footman with a not_or Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for a_nswer. Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was eagerly callin_ut, 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, w_hall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of our lives, for a whol_ay's tete-a-tete between two women can never end without a quarrel. Come a_oon as you can on receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to din_ith the officers.—Yours ever,
  • "CAROLINE BINGLEY"
  • "With the officers!" cried Lydia. "I wonder my aunt did not tell us o_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 the_ould not offer to send her home."
  • "Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton, an_he 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 wante_n the farm, Mr. Bennet, are they not?"
  • "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 wil_e answered."
  • She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses wer_ngaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mothe_ttended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. He_opes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. He_isters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continue_he whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not come back.
  • "This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!" said Mrs. Bennet more than once, a_f 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. Breakfas_as scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following not_or Elizabeth:
  • "MY DEAREST LIZZY,—
  • "I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed t_y getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of m_eturning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones—therefor_o not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me—and, excepting _ore 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, "i_our daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die, i_ould be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, an_nder your orders."
  • "Oh! I am not 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 ver_ell. I would go and see her if I could have the carriage."
  • Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though th_arriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her onl_lternative. She declared her resolution.
  • "How can you be so silly," cried her mother, "as to think of such a thing, i_ll 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 on_as a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner."
  • "I admire the activity of your benevolence," observed Mary, "but every impuls_f feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion shoul_lways be in proportion to what is required."
  • "We will go as far as Meryton with you," said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabet_ccepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.
  • "If we make haste," said Lydia, as they walked along, "perhaps we may se_omething of Captain Carter before he goes."
  • In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one o_he officers' wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing fiel_fter field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddle_ith impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth o_xercise.
  • She was shown into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane were assembled, and where her appearance created a great deal of surprise. That she shoul_ave walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and b_erself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabet_as convinced that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by them; and in their brother's manners there wa_omething better than politeness; there was good humour and kindness. Mr.
  • Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all. The former was divide_etween admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to he_omplexion, and doubt as to the occasion's justifying her coming so far alone.
  • The latter was thinking only of his breakfast.
  • Her inquiries after her sister were not very favourably answered. Miss Benne_ad slept ill, and though up, was very feverish, and not well enough to leav_er room. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who ha_nly been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience fro_xpressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted a_er entrance. She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and when Mis_ingley left them together, could attempt little besides expressions o_ratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabet_ilently attended her.
  • When breakfast was over they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth bega_o like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude the_howed 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 mus_ndeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promise_er some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptom_ncreased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabeth did not quit her room for _oment; nor were the other ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, the_ad, in fact, nothing to do elsewhere.
  • When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go, and ver_nwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her the carriage, and she onl_anted a little pressing to accept it, when Jane testified such concern i_arting with her, that Miss Bingley was obliged to convert the offer of th_haise to an invitation to remain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabet_ost thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn t_cquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes.