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|Chapter 18 (Vol. I, Chap. XVIII)|
|(Vol. I, Chap. 17)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. I, Chap. 19)|
|Chapter 18 (Vol. I, Chap. XVIII)
|Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield and
looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats
there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never
occurred to her. The certainty of meeting him had not been
checked by any of those recollections that might not
unreasonably have alarmed her. She had dressed with more than
usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the
conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting
that it was not more than might be won in the course of the
evening. But in an instant arose the dreadful suspicion of his
being purposely omitted for Mr. Darcy's pleasure in the
Bingleys' invitation to the officers; and though this was not
exactly the case, the absolute fact of his absence was
pronounced by his friend Mr. Denny, to whom Lydia eagerly
applied, and who told them that Wickham had been obliged to go
to town on business the day before, and was not yet returned;
adding, with a significant smile,
|"I do not imagine his business would have called him away just
now, if he had not wished to avoid a certain gentleman here."
|This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was
caught by Elizabeth, and as it assured her that Darcy was not
less answerable for Wickham's absence than if her first surmise
had been just, every feeling of displeasure against the former
was so sharpened by immediate disappointment, that she could
hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries
which he directly afterwards approached to make. -- Attention,
forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She
was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and
turned away with a degree of ill humour, which she could not
wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind
partiality provoked her.
|But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every
prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not
dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to
Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was soon
able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her
cousin, and to point him out to her particular notice. The two
first dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were
dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn,
apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong
without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery
which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give.
The moment of her release from him was ecstasy.
|She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of
talking of Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally
liked. When those dances were over she returned to Charlotte
Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself
suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy, who took her so much by
surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing
what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again
immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of
presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her.
|"I dare say you will find him very agreeable."
|"Heaven forbid! -- That would be the greatest misfortune of
all! -- To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate!
-- Do not wish me such an evil."
|When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to
claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a
whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham
to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times
his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place
in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in
being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in
her neighbours' looks their equal amazement in beholding it.
They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began
to imagine that their silence was to last through the two
dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till
suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to
her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight
observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent.
After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time
|"It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. -- I
talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of
remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples."
|He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say
should be said.
|"Very well. -- That reply will do for the present. -- Perhaps
by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter
than public ones. -- But now we may be silent."
|"Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?"
|"Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look
odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet
for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so
arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little
as as possible."
|"Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case,
or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?"
|"Both," replied Elizabeth archly; "for I have always seen a
great similarity in the turn of our minds. -- We are each of an
unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we
expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be
handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."
|"This is no very striking resemblance of your own character,
I am sure," said he. "How near it may be to mine, I cannot
pretend to say. -- You think it a faithful portrait
|"I must not decide on my own performance."
|He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had
gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters
did not very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the
affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation, added, "When
you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new
|The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread
his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though
blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At
length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said,
|"Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure
his making friends -- whether he may be equally capable of
retaining them, is less certain."
|"He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship," replied
Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to
suffer from all his life."
|Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the
subject. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to
them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the
room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopt with a bow of
superior courtesy, to compliment him on his dancing and his
|"I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear Sir. Such
very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that
you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however,
that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must
hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a
certain desirable event, my dear Miss Eliza (glancing at her
sister and Bingley), shall take place. What congratulations
will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy: -- but let me not
interrupt you, Sir. -- You will not thank me for detaining you
from the bewitching converse of that young lady, whose bright
eyes are also upbraiding me."
|The latter part of this address was scarcely, heard by Darcy;
but Sir William's allusion to his friend seemed to strike him
forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious
expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together.
Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner,
|"Sir William's interruption has made me forget what we were
|"I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could
not have interrupted any two people in the room who had less
to say for themselves. -- We have tried two or three subjects
already without success, and what we are to talk of next I
|"What think you of books?" said he, smiling.
|"Books -- Oh! no. -- I am sure we never read the same, or not
with the same feelings."
|"I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at
least be no want of subject. -- We may compare our different
|"No -- I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is
always full of something else."
|"The present always occupies you in such scenes -- does it?"
said he, with a look of doubt.
|"Yes, always," she replied, without knowing what she
said, for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject,
as soon afterwards appeared by her suddenly exclaiming,
|"I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly
ever forgave, that your resentment once created was
unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its
|"I am," said he, with a firm voice.
|"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?"
|"I hope not."
|"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change
their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first."
|"May I ask to what these questions tend?"
|"Merely to the illustration of your character," said she,
endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make it
|"And what is your success?"
|She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such
different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."
|"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that report
may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss
Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present
moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would
reflect no credit on either."
|"But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have
|"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he
coldly replied. She said no more, and they went down the
other dance and parted in silence; on each side dissatisfied,
though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was
a tolerable powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured
her pardon, and directed all his anger against another.
|They had not long separated when Miss Bingley came towards her,
and with an expression of civil disdain thus accosted her,
|"So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George
Wickham! -- Your sister has been talking to me about him, and
asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man
forgot to tell you, among his other communications, that he was
the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy's steward. Let me
recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit
confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using
him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has
been always remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has
treated Mr. Darcy, in a most infamous manner. I do not know
the particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in
the least to blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham
mentioned, and that though my brother thought he could not well
avoid including him in his invitation to the officers, he was
excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the
way. His coming into the country at all, is a most insolent
thing indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it.
I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favorite's
guilt; but really, considering his descent one could not expect
|"His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the
same," said Elizabeth angrily; "for I have heard you accuse him
of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy's steward,
and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself."
|"I beg your pardon," replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a
sneer. "Excuse my interference. -- It was kindly meant."
|"Insolent girl!" said Elizabeth to herself. -- "You are much
mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack
as this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and
the malice of Mr. Darcy." She then sought her eldest sister,
who had undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of
Bingley. Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency,
a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how
well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening. --
Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment
solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies and
every thing else gave way before the hope of Jane's being in
the fairest way for happiness.
|"I want to know," said she, with a countenance no less smiling
than her sister's, "what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham.
But perhaps you have been too pleasantly engaged to think of
any third person, in which case you may be sure of my pardon."
|"No," replied Jane, "I have not forgotten him; but I have
nothing satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know
the whole of his history, and is quite ignorant of the
circumstances which have principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he
will vouch for the good conduct, the probity and honour of his
friend, and is perfectly convinced that Mr. Wickham has
deserved much less attention from Mr. Darcy than he has
received; and I am sorry to say that by his account as well as
his sister's, Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young
man. I am afraid he has been very imprudent, and has deserved
to lose Mr. Darcy's regard."
|"Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?"
|"No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton."
|"This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy.
I am perfectly satisfied. But what does he say of the living?"
|"He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though
he has heard them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he
believes that it was left to him conditionally only."
|"I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley's sincerity," said Elizabeth
warmly; "but you must excuse my not being convinced by
assurances only. Mr. Bingley's defence of his friend was a
very able one I dare say, but since he is unacquainted with
several parts of the story, and has learnt the rest from that
friend himself, I shall venture still to think of both
gentlemen as I did before."
|She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to
each, and on which there could be no difference of sentiment.
Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest
hopes which Jane entertained of Bingley's regard, and said all
in her power to heighten her confidence in it. On their being
joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss
Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last
partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up
to them and told her with great exultation that he had just
been so fortunate as to make a most important discovery.
|"I have found out," said he, "by a singular accident, that
there is now in the room a near relation of my patroness. I
happened to overhear the gentleman himself mentioning to the
young lady who does the honours of this house the names of his
cousin Miss de Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How
wonderfully these sort of things occur! Who would have thought
of my meeting with -- perhaps -- a nephew of Lady Catherine de
Bourgh in this assembly! -- I am most thankful that the
discovery is made in time for me to pay my respects to him,
which I am now going to do, and trust he will excuse my not
having done it before. My total ignorance of the connection
must plead my apology."
|"You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy?"
|"Indeed I am. I shall entreat his pardon for not having done
it earlier. I believe him to be Lady Catherine's nephew. It
will be in my power to assure him that her ladyship was quite
well yesterday se'nnight."
|Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme;
assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing
him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather
than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least
necessary there should be any notice on either side, and that
if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in
consequence, to begin the acquaintance. -- Mr. Collins listened
to her with the determined air of following his own inclination
and when she ceased speaking, replied thus,
|"My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the
world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the
scope of your understanding, but permit me to say that there
must be a wide difference between the established forms of
ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the
clergy; for give me leave to observe that I consider the
clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest
rank in the kingdom -- provided that a proper humility of
behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore
allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on this
occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point
of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice,
which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though
in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by
education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a
young lady like yourself." And with a low bow he left her to
attack Mr. Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly
watched, and whose astonishment at being so addressed was very
evident. Her cousin prefaced his speech with a solemn bow, and
though she could not hear a word of it, she felt as if hearing
it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the words "apology,"
"Hunsford," and "Lady Catherine de Bourgh." -- It vexed her to
see him expose himself to such a man. Mr. Darcy was eyeing him
with unrestrained wonder, and when at last Mr. Collins allowed
him time to speak, replied with an air of distant civility.
Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged from speaking again,
and Mr. Darcy's contempt seemed abundantly increasing with the
length of his second speech, and at the end of it he only made
him a slight bow, and moved another way. Mr. Collins then
returned to Elizabeth.
|"I have no reason, I assure you," said he, "to be dissatisfied
with my reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the
attention. He answered me with the utmost civility, and even
paid me the compliment of saying that he was so well convinced
of Lady Catherine's discernment as to be certain she could
never bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very
handsome thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased with him."
|As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue,
she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and
Mr. Bingley, and the train of agreeable reflections which her
observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as
Jane. She saw her, in idea, settled in that very house, in all
the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow;
and she felt capable, under such circumstances, of endeavouring
even to like Bingley's two sisters. Her mother's thoughts she
plainly saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to
venture near her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat
down to supper, therefore, she considered it a most unlucky
perverseness which placed them within one of each other; and
deeply was she vexed to find that her mother was talking to
that one person (Lady Lucas) freely, openly, and of nothing
else but of her expectation that Jane would be soon married to
Mr. Bingley. -- It was an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet
seemed incapable of fatigue while enumerating the advantages of
the match. His being such a charming young man, and so rich,
and living but three miles from them, were the first points of
self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to think how
fond the two sisters were of Jane, and to be certain that they
must desire the connection as much as she could do. It was,
moreover, such a promising thing for her younger daughters, as
Jane's marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other
rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to
be able to consign her single daughters to the care of their
sister, that she might not be obliged to go into company more
than she liked. It was necessary to make this circumstance a
matter of pleasure, because on such occasions it is the
etiquette but no one was less likely than Mrs. Bennet to find
comfort in staying at home at any period of her life. She
concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be
equally fortunate, though evidently and triumphantly believing
there was no chance of it.
|In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her
mother's words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a
less audible whisper; for to her inexpressible vexation, she
could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr.
Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her
for being nonsensical.
|"What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of
him? I am sure we owe him no such particular civility as to
be obliged to say nothing he may not like to hear."
|"For heaven's sake, madam, speak lower. -- What advantage can
it be to you to offend Mr. Darcy? -- You will never recommend
yourself to his friend by so doing."
|Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her
mother would talk of her views in the same intelligible tone.
Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.
She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy,
though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for
though he was not always looking at her mother, she was
convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her. The
expression of his face changed gradually from indignant
contempt to a composed and steady gravity.
|At length however Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady
Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights
which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the
comforts of cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now began to
revive. But not long was the interval of tranquillity; for
when supper was over, singing was talked of, and she had the
mortification of seeing Mary, after very little entreaty,
preparing to oblige the company. By many significant looks and
silent entreaties, did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of
complaisance, -- but in vain; Mary would not understand them;
such an opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her, and
she began her song. Elizabeth's eyes were fixed on her with
most painful sensations; and she watched her progress through
the several stanzas with an impatience which was very ill
rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving amongst the
thanks of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be
prevailed on to favour them again, after the pause of half a
minute began another. Mary's powers were by no means fitted
for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner
affected. -- Elizabeth was in agonies. She looked at Jane, to
see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly talking to
Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw them making
signs of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued
however impenetrably grave. She looked at her father to
entreat his interference, lest Mary should be singing all
night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished her second
song, said aloud,
|"That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us
long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit."
|Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted;
and Elizabeth sorry for her, and sorry for her father's speech,
was afraid her anxiety had done no good. -- Others of the party
were now applied to.
|"If I," said Mr. Collins, "were so fortunate as to be able to
sing, I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the
company with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent
diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession of a
clergyman. -- I do not mean however to assert that we can be
justified in devoting too much of our time to music, for there
are certainly other things to be attended to. The rector of a
parish has much to do. -- In the first place, he must make such
an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not
offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and
the time that remains will not be too much for his parish
duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which he
cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible. And
I do not think it of light importance that he should have
attentive and conciliatory manners towards every body,
especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment.
I cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of
the man who should omit an occasion of testifying his respect
towards any body connected with the family." And with a bow to
Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had been spoken so
loud as to be heard by half the room. -- Many stared. -- Many
smiled; but no one looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself,
while his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having
spoken so sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady
Lucas, that he was a remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
|To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement
to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening,
it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with
more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think it for
Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped
his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much
distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed. That his
two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an
opportunity of ridiculing her relations was bad enough, and she
could not determine whether the silent contempt of the
gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more
|The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was
teased by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her
side, and though he could not prevail with her to dance with
him again, put it out of her power to dance with others. In
vain did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and
offer to introduce him to any young lady in the room. He
assured her that as to dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to
it; that his chief object was by delicate attentions to
recommend himself to her, and that he should therefore make a
point of remaining close to her the whole evening. There was
no arguing upon such a project. She owed her greatest relief
to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and
good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins's conversation to herself.
|She was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy's farther
notice; though often standing within a very short distance of
her, quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak.
She felt it to be the probable consequence of her allusions to
Mr. Wickham, and rejoiced in it.
|The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart;
and by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their
carriages a quarter of an hour after every body else was gone,
which gave them time to see how heartily they were wished away
by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely
opened their mouths except to complain of fatigue, and were
evidently impatient to have the house to themselves. They
repulsed every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by
so doing, threw a languor over the whole party, which was very
little relieved by the long speeches of Mr. Collins, who was
complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on the elegance of
their entertainment, and the hospitality and politeness which
had marked their behaviour to their guests. Darcy said nothing
at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence, was enjoying the scene.
Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached
from the rest, and talked only to each other. Elizabeth
preserved as steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss
Bingley; and even Lydia was to much fatigued to utter more than
the occasional exclamation of "Lord how tired I am!"
accompanied by a violent yawn.
|When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most
pressingly civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at
Longbourn; and addressed herself particularly to Mr. Bingley,
to assure him how happy he would make them by eating a family
dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal
invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily
engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her,
after his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the
next day for a short time.
|Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied; and quitted the house
under the delightful persuasion that, allowing for the
necessary preparations of settlements, new carriages, and
wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly see her daughter
settled at Netherfield in the course of three or four months.
Of having another daughter married to Mr. Collins, she thought
with equal certainty, and with considerable, though not equal,
pleasure. Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her
children; and though the man and the match were quite good
enough for her, the worth of each was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley
|(Vol. I, Chap. 17)
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||(Vol. I, Chap. 19)|
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in English and Chinese