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Chapter 8

  • At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past si_lizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil inquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superio_olicitude of Mr. Bingley's, she could not make a very favourable answer. Jan_as by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or fou_imes how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, an_ow excessively they disliked being ill themselves; and then thought no mor_f the matter: and their indifference towards Jane when not immediately befor_hem restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her former dislike.
  • Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regar_ith any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions t_erself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much a_ntruder as she believed she was considered by the others. She had very littl_otice from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her siste_carcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was a_ndolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards; who, when h_ound her to prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.
  • When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley bega_busing her as soon as she was out of the room. Her manners were pronounced t_e very bad indeed, a mixture of pride and impertinence; she had n_onversation, no style, no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and added:
  • "She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. _hall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almos_ild."
  • "She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensica_o come at all! Why must  _she_  be scampering about the country, because he_ister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"
  • "Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it no_oing its office."
  • "Your picture may be very exact, Louisa," said Bingley; "but this was all los_pon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she cam_nto the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
  • " _You_  observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley; "and I a_nclined to think that you would not wish to see  _your_  sister make such a_xhibition."
  • "Certainly not."
  • "To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, abov_er ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by it? I_eems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a mos_ountry-town indifference to decorum."
  • "It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," said Bingley.
  • "I am afraid, Mr. Darcy," observed Miss Bingley in a half whisper, "that thi_dventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes."
  • "Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened by the exercise." A shor_ause followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:
  • "I have an excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she is really a very swee_irl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such _ather and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance o_t."
  • "I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney on Meryton."
  • "Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside."
  • "That is capital," added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.
  • "If they had uncles enough to fill  _all_  Cheapside," cried Bingley, "i_ould not make them one jot less agreeable."
  • "But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of an_onsideration in the world," replied Darcy.
  • To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their heart_ssent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dea_riend's vulgar relations.
  • With a renewal of tenderness, however, they returned to her room on leavin_he dining-parlour, and sat with her till summoned to coffee. She was stil_ery poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit her at all, till late in th_vening, when she had the comfort of seeing her sleep, and when it seemed t_er rather right than pleasant that she should go downstairs herself. O_ntering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and wa_mmediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high sh_eclined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse hersel_or the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at he_ith astonishment.
  • "Do you prefer reading to cards?" said he; "that is rather singular."
  • "Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, "despises cards. She is a grea_eader, and has no pleasure in anything else."
  • "I deserve neither such praise nor such censure," cried Elizabeth; "I a_not_  a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things."
  • "In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure," said Bingley; "and _ope it will be soon increased by seeing her quite well."
  • Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards the table wher_ few books were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her others—all tha_is library afforded.
  • "And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; bu_ am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I eve_ooked into."
  • Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in th_oom.
  • "I am astonished," said Miss Bingley, "that my father should have left s_mall a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!"
  • "It ought to be good," he replied, "it has been the work of many generations."
  • "And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books."
  • "I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these."
  • "Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of tha_oble place. Charles, when you build  _your_  house, I wish it may be half a_elightful as Pemberley."
  • "I wish it may."
  • "But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a finer county in Englan_han Derbyshire."
  • "With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell it."
  • "I am talking of possibilities, Charles."
  • "Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley b_urchase than by imitation."
  • Elizabeth was so much caught with what passed, as to leave her very littl_ttention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near th_ard-table, and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game.
  • "Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?" said Miss Bingley; "will she b_s tall as I am?"
  • "I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet's height, or rathe_aller."
  • "How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me s_uch. Such a countenance, such manners! And so extremely accomplished for he_ge! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite."
  • "It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to b_o very accomplished as they all are."
  • "All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"
  • "Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and ne_urses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I neve_eard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed tha_he was very accomplished."
  • "Your list of the common extent of accomplishments," said Darcy, "has too muc_ruth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise tha_y netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing wit_ou in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing mor_han half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are reall_ccomplished."
  • "Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.
  • "Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea o_n accomplished woman."
  • "Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it."
  • "Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteeme_ccomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woma_ust have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and th_odern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must posses_ certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved."
  • "All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet ad_omething more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensiv_eading."
  • "I am no longer surprised at your knowing  _only_  six accomplished women. _ather wonder now at your knowing  _any_."
  • "Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?"
  • "I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, an_pplication, and elegance, as you describe united."
  • Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of he_mplied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answere_his description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter complaint_f their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation wa_hereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.
  • "Elizabeth Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, "i_ne of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex b_ndervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in m_pinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."
  • "Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed,
  • "there is a meanness in  _all_  the arts which ladies sometimes condescend t_mploy for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable."
  • Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to continue th_ubject.
  • Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was worse, and tha_he could not leave her. Bingley urged Mr. Jones being sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced that no country advice could be of any service, recommended an express to town for one of the most eminent physicians. Thi_he would not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with thei_rother's proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones should be sent for earl_n the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedly better. Bingley was quit_ncomfortable; his sisters declared that they were miserable. They solace_heir wretchedness, however, by duets after supper, while he could find n_etter relief to his feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions tha_very attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.