Posted on 2011-10-01
When the party from Netherfield entered the assembly room at Meryton 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, elegant young woman, who was most attentive to him.
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.
What a contrast between him and his friend! Although the gentlemen had pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies had declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, his manners eventually gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Darcy danced twice with Miss. Bingley and twice with Mrs Hurst, but declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment, by his having slighted one of her daughters.
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 a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."
"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a kingdom! Anyway, you have already danced twice with Caroline, and you cannot dance with her again this evening, or I shall be obliged to ask you about your intentions".
Bingley spoke in a light-hearted manner, but Darcy turned a rather startled look at him, and said after a moment's pause:
"Your sisters are the only ladies that I'm acquainted with, and since I have danced twice with Miss Bingley, I meant to ask Mrs Hurst for another dance as well. There is nothing improper in that, surely, and nobody could wonder that I prefer to dance with the ladies in my own party."
"Very well, but you might also dance with another lady in the meantime. Upon my honour, 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," 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 moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.
Mr Darcy, when Mr Bingley had left him, after a few moments' recollection on Bingley's words about having already danced twice with Caroline, began to feel the danger of paying her too much attention. When Mrs Hurst was disengaged, he asked her for the next dance, and hoped that his attention to the married Mrs Hurst would remove any appearance of particularity in his attention to Miss Bingley. It was true that he was quite captivated by Miss Bingley's youth and beauty, and that appearance of charm and wit, which youth and beauty generally give. He really believed that, were it not for the inferiority of her connexions - for the Bingleys' fortune had been acquired by trade - he must be in some danger.
Mr. Bingley had inherited property to the amount of nearly an hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it.
His sisters, who had been settled with dowries of twenty thousand pounds each, were very anxious for their brother having an estate of his own; but, though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table. Mrs. Hurst had married a gentleman of rather more fashion than fortune, with a fashionable address in Grosvenor Street, who had found the interest of her twenty thousand dowry to be a useful addition to his income, and she was quite inclined to consider her brother's house as her home whenever it suited her.
Between Bingley and Darcy there appeared to be a very steady friendship, in spite of a difference in situation and great opposition of character. Bingley was the son and grandson of wealthy merchants, while Darcy was descended from an honourable and ancient, though untitled family on his father's side, and on his mother's side, he even had connexions with the nobility, since his mother had been the daughter of an Earl.
Bingley was perhaps endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. Darcy was haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence. It might be a puzzle as to why Darcy had condescended to form such a close friendship with the Bingleys; Mrs Hurst, observing him narrowly, had hoped that she detected a silent admiration on Darcy's part for her sister, when she sometimes caught him staring silently at Caroline.
The manner in which Darcy and Bingley spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in his life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much.
Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so; but still they admired her and liked her. Mrs Hurst pronounced Miss Bennet to be a sweet girl, and one whom they should not object to know more of.
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, and this attention was received with the greatest pleasure by Jane.
When Jane received an invitation from Miss Bingley to dine at Netherfield one day, Mrs Bennet insisted that the carriage horses were needed in the farm and could not be spared, so that Jane was obliged to go on horseback. It looked like it was going to rain, and Mrs Bennet hoped that Jane would have to stay the night at Netherfield. 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. The next morning a servant from Netherfield brought a note for Elizabeth; Jane found herself very unwell this morning, which was no doubt to be imputed to her getting wet through the day before. Her friends would not hear of her returning home till she was better, and had insisted also on sending for Mr. Jones the apothecary.
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, but a good walker, walking was her only alternative. When she arrived, the Netherfield party was still at breakfast, but she was received very politely by the Bingleys, and was glad to be taken to Jane immediately.
When breakfast was over they were joined by Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they shewed for Jane.
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.
The next two days passed much as the day before had done. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued, though slowly, to mend; and in the evenings Elizabeth joined their party in the drawing-room.
By the third day, Jane was already so much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening, and Elizabeth rejoiced in the hope of being at home again in a day or two.
When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room, where she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure; and Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour which passed before the gentlemen appeared. Their powers of conversation were considerable. They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object; Miss Bingley's eyes were instantly turned towards Darcy, and she had something to say to him before he had advanced many steps. Miss Bingley was soon almost engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so. However, Jane had no cause to complain, since Mr Bingley was quite as engrossed by her, as his sister was by Mr Darcy. Elizabeth, who had taken up some needlework in the opposite corner, saw Mr Bingley's attentions to her sister with great delight.
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth wrote the next morning to her mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day. But Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish Jane's week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before. Her answer, therefore, was not propitious, at least not to Elizabeth's wishes, for she was impatient to get home. Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added that, if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could spare them very well. Against staying longer, however, Elizabeth was positively resolved; she was getting bored at Netherfield, where she missed her access to her father's fine library. The collection of books in the Netherfield library was but small. The Bingleys' late father, a wealthy tradesman who had retired with a fortune of nearly a hundred and thirty thousand pounds, and had intended to purchase an estate but did not live to do so, had not had much taste or inclination for reading and literature.
Elizabeth urged Jane to borrow Mr. Bingley's carriage immediately, and at length it was settled that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be mentioned, and the request made. The communication excited many professions of concern; and enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the following day to work on Jane; and till the morrow their going was deferred.
On that Saturday afternoon, Elizabeth went into the Netherfield library, with the hope of at last finding a book that could keep her occupied for that day. She was hidden behind some shelves in a corner of the room, when the door opened and Miss Bingley and Mr Darcy entered the room. Miss Bingley was saying:
"I hope you can find the book you are looking for, Mr Darcy. I'm so sorry, I wish that the collection here were larger for your benefit and my brother's credit; but my father had left so small a collection of books, and Charles had not yet added much to it. 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 that noble place. When Charles build his house, I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley."
"That may not be for some time, and by that time, your home may no longer be with your brother."
Miss Bingley stared at him, he was silent for a few moments, then he said:
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
Caroline's feelings at Darcy's words were beyond expression. She stared, coloured, trembled with joy, and was silent as she was too overcome to speak at the moment. Her dearest dream was about to come true! He seemed to be aware of this, he considered her reaction to be more than sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority -- of its being a degradation due to the low origins of her fortune since it had been acquired by her father in trade -- of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but should have been very unlikely to recommend his suit.
He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance would have exasperated many young ladies, and did exasperate her a little; when he ceased, the colour rose again into her cheeks.
In spite of her great joy and delight, and her great sense of the compliment of such a man's affection, she could not be completely insensible to his insult to the memory of her late father and to her family, when he talked about their marriage being a degradation to him due to her family's trade origins. Although her intentions to accept him did not seriously vary for an instant, she did feel some resentment at the language of his insultingly worded proposal. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with the patience and gratitude that he evidently expected.
She had a moment's struggle as she listened to him chose to tell her that he liked her against his will, against his reason, and even against his character. But her struggle lasted only a moment, when he ceased speaking, she was able to give her answer almost immediately, and with no more apparent hesitation or agitation than was quite proper and becoming for a young lady who was overwhelmed with the joy of receiving a marriage proposal from the superior gentleman whom she loved and respected, as she said:.
"Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of the great honour of your proposals, and it will give me great pleasure and happiness to be your wife."
"Dearest, loveliest, Caroline!" cried Darcy, as he swept her up in a passionate kiss. Caroline submitted to his kiss, and as he kissed her again and again, she felt slightly breathless and murmured:
"We have to tell Charles now - as soon as possible - and get my brother's consent..."
"Your brother's consent - ah, yes of course. You don't really think he would dare to refuse his consent to anything that I ask for, do you?" said Darcy with a confident little laugh, as they walked arm in arm out of the room.
All this while, Elizabeth, hidden from their sight behind the book shelves, had been in a most awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing situation. She had not at first realized that there was going to be such a private and intimate conversation between Mr Darcy and Miss Bingley when they had first entered the room. When she became aware that Mr Darcy was going to propose to Miss Bingley, it had seemed too late for her to announce her presence to them, it would surely have disconcerted them and ruined the moment for the two lovebirds. So she had awkwardly decided to remain silent and hidden out of their sight.
She had tried her best not to listen to what they were saying to each other at what should have been such a personal moment between them, but she could not help overhearing and was appalled by the words of Mr Darcy's proposal of marriage. She thought that if any man of Mr Darcy's consequence or even of higher rank had proposed marriage in such a manner to her, she would have had no hesitation in refusing him, even if her feelings had previously been favourable towards him. Miss Bingley must be a besotted fool with no proper sense of self-esteem to have meekly accepted such an insulting marriage proposal. It was unworthy of a gentleman! Elizabeth was filled with contempt towards Mr Darcy, and a mixture of contempt and pity for Miss Bingley.
Mr Bingley informed the assembled party of the engagement between Mr Darcy and his sister when they were at dinner that evening. Mr Hurst politely congratulated Mr Darcy, Mrs Hurst was in raptures of joy over her sister's triumph, Jane warmly congratulated her friend Caroline, and Elizabeth said what was polite and proper to Miss Bingley on the occasion. Mr Bingley also announced that he was going to hold a ball at Netherfield in honour of his sister's engagement to his friend.
Mr Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was rendered exceedingly angry when she received the news of her nephew's engagement to the daughter of a tradesman. Her ladyship had raved and ranted to her companion, Mrs Jenkinson, about it. They were in London at that time, for Lady Catherine had finally decided that her daughter Anne, the heiress of Rosings, whom she believed had been destined since her cradle to marry her cousin Darcy, should be out during the little season in town in preparation for her future role as Mrs Darcy of Pemberley. Anne had listened quietly to her mother's ravings and rantings, and then slipped quietly away to write a little note addressed to a certain gentleman.
Lady Catherine was planning to undertake a journey to Netherfield, to confront Miss Bingley and demand that she break off her engagement to Mr Darcy by informing her of Anne's prior claim, when an agitated servant brought her the news that Miss de Bourgh was not in her room that morning, that her bed had not been slept in the night before, and that she had left a letter addressed to her mother on her dressing table. In her letter, Anne wrote that her mother need not upset herself over cousin Darcy's engagement, as her own affections were otherwise engaged, and she was going to marry Mr Henry Crawford, a fine young gentleman who owned the estate of Everingham in Norfolk.
Miss de Bourgh and Mr Crawford had met during the little season. He had been in dejected spirits when they first met - he used to be a flirt in the past, but had the year before fallen in love for the first time with a quiet, gentle young lady, Miss Frances Price, the niece of Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park. Unfortunately that young lady had not returned his affections, she had refused his offer of marriage, and he had recently received the news that she was now married to her eldest cousin, the heir to Mansfield Park. Mr Bertram had been dangerously ill after falling from his horse during a rainstorm, and they had fallen in love when she had devotedly nursed him back to health. Mr Crawford was feeling very lonely and dejected, he could not even visit his sister Mary, since she was married to Mr Bertram's younger brother, and he could not bear to be near the Bertrams when his heart was still so sore with the disappointment. There was something about Miss de Bourgh's small figure and delicate looks which had reminded him of his first love, she was also a quiet young lady, and her disagreeable, domineering mother reminded him of Fanny's disagreeable, domineering Aunt Norris. He had gallantly wanted to rescue Fanny from Mrs Norris, now he felt that he could with equal gallantry marry Anne and rescue her from Lady Catherine.
Lady Catherine, after some more ravings and rantings over perverse nephews and daughters, finally had the sense to resign herself after her brother the earl of Matlock told her not to make such a fool of herself. Anne's marriage to a gentleman with an estate of four thousand a year was perfectly eligible, and while they could wish for a better match for Darcy, at least the young woman did have a dowry of twenty thousand pounds. Lady Catherine retorted that it would not have been quite so bad if Darcy had at least chosen to marry the daughter of a country gentleman, even if she had been a young lady with little dowry, than a young woman whose fortune had been acquired by the vulgar taint of trade. She predicted that Darcy would live to regret his choice.
At the Netherfield ball held in honour of the engagement between Mr Darcy and Miss Bingley, Mr Bingley devoted himself to his angel Miss Bennet, and during the course of the evening, took the opportunity to ask her to marry him. The marriage between Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet took place a few weeks after the marriage of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Caroline Bingley, when Mr and Mrs Darcy had returned from their wedding trip.
At about that time, Mr Bennet's cousin and heir to his estate of Longbourn, Mr Collins, whose late father had quarrelled with Mr Benent, wrote to propose a reconciliation between them. Mr Collins was the rector of Hunsford, a good living near the de Bourghs' estate of Rosings.
Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to chuse one of the daughters. This was his plan of amends -- of atonement -- for inheriting their father's estate. As Elizabeth was now the eldest Miss Bennet, she was his first choice, but Mr Bennet had the sense, when he realized Mr Collins' plan, to steer him away from Elizabeth to Mary, by representing Elizabeth's lively disposition as not quite suited for a serious young clergyman, and praising Mary's studiousness as peculiarly fitting her for such a role. Mr Collins allowed himself to be guided in his choice by the young ladies' father; he soon proposed to Mary, who was quite pleased to accept him.
Elizabeth had visited Hunsford a few months after Mary's marriage, and had met Lady Catherine's only remaining unmarried nephew, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, the younger son of the Earl of Matlock. The Colonel had fallen so deeply in love with Elizabeth that he had declared that although he was a younger son with no very large fortune of his own, he was willing to give up his habits of expense, and had asked her to marry him. Elizabeth had liked the Colonel very much from their first meeting, he was not handsome, but intelligent and very agreeable, and she was happy to accept him. She had found him to be very different from his proud, disagreeable cousin, Mr Darcy. The Colonel did have a moderate fortune, and that, together with his pay and emoluments from the army, enabled him to support his wife and family in reasonable comfort.
Elizabeth's marriage to Colonel Fitzwilliam proved to be a blessing for her younger sisters Kitty and Lydia, and also to her particular friend Charlotte Lucas, for all three of them met their future husbands while visiting Colonel and Mrs Fitzwilliam. Miss Lucas had married Major Frederick Tilney, a friend of the Fitzwilliams who was also the heir to Northanger Abbey. He had been a flirt in the past, but none of the silly, flirtatious girls he had flirted with had been able to hold his interest for long. Miss Lucas was very different from those girls, and he found himself seriously attracted to her quiet good sense in spite of her rather plain looks. Kitty and Lydia had later married handsome young Captains who were serving under their brother-in-law's command.
Lady Catherine's prediction that Darcy would in time regret his marriage to his once dearest, loveliest Caroline had come true. Mr Darcy found that he had been captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of wit and charm which youth and beauty generally give, and that he had married a woman whose superficial understanding and narrow mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. But Mr. Darcy was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own passion had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice. He loved his estate of Pemberley, was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, except that she had performed her wifely duties and given him two fine sons, an heir and a spare, and thus was entitled to some consideration. Whatever his own feelings for his wife, he never committed that breach of conjugal obligation and decorum and was careful not to expose his wife to the contempt of her own children, for that would have been highly reprehensible.
Mr Darcy's sister Georgina had married about a couple of years after her brother's marriage; her husband was a nice young gentleman who was the heir to his father's pretty estate of about two thousand a year.
Caroline found that marriage to Mr Darcy did not give her all that she had hoped for. She had imagined that as Mrs Darcy, she would be a leading figure in the fashionable society of the ton. But Mr Darcy disliked London, and preferred to spend almost all the time in the country. Of course Pemberley was a fine estate, and to be its mistress was certainly something. Mrs Darcy had consoled herself by spending her days nicely dressed wondering from room to room in her beautiful house, displaying her accomplishments by playing the pianoforte, doing fancy needlework, netting purses, drawing, painting tables, and covering screens.The End