‘No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing, when one has a motive; only three
miles. I shall be back by dinner.’
‘I admire the activity of your benevolence,’ observed Mary, ‘but every impulse of feeling should be
guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.’
‘We will go as far as Meryton with you,’ said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company,
and the three young ladies set off together.
‘If we make haste,’ said Lydia, as they walked along, # ‘perhaps we may see something of Captain
Carter, before he goes.’
In Meryton they parted: the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers’ wives, and
Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and
springing over puddles, with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with
weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
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 should have walked three miles so early in the day in such dirty
weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was
convinced that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by them; and in
their brother’s manners there was something better than politeness—there was good-humour and
kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all. The former was divided between
admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion 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 Bennet had slept ill, and, though
up, was very feverish, and not well enough to leave her room. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her
immediately; and Jane, who had only been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience, from
expressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted at her entrance. She was not
equal, however, to much conversation; and when Miss Bingley left them together, could attempt little
beside expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silently
When breakfast was over, they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth began to like them herself,
when she saw how much affection and solicitude they showed 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
must endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promised her some draughts. The
advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabeth
did not quit her room for a moment, nor were the other ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, they
had in fact nothing to do elsewhere.
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 at 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 despatched to Longbourn, to acquaint the family with her stay, and bring back a supply of clothes.
AT five o’clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner.
To the civil inquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the
much superior solicitude of Mr. Bingley, she could not make a very favourable answer. Jane was by no
means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four times how much they were grieved, how
shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill themselves; and then
thought no more of the matter: and their indifference towards Jane, when not immediately before them,
restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard with any complacency. His
anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing; and they prevented her feeling
herself so much an intruder as she believed she was considered by the others. She had very little notice
from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr.
Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards,
who, when he found her 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 began abusing her as soon as she
was out of the room. Her manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed,—a mixture of pride and
impertinence: she had no conversation, no style, no taste, no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and
‘She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her
appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.’
‘She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why
must she be scampering about the country, because her sister 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 not doing its office.’
‘Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,’ said Bingley; # ‘but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss
Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat
quite escaped my notice.’
‘You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,’ said Miss Bingley; ‘and I am inclined to think that you would
not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition.’
‘To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone,
quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited
independence, a most countrytown 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 this adventure has rather
affected your admiration of her fine eyes.’
‘Not at all,’ he replied: ‘they were brightened by the exercise.’ A short pause followed this speech, and
Mrs. Hurst began again,—
‘I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet,—she is really a very sweet girl,—and I wish with all my
heart she were well settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid
there is no chance of it.’
‘I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in 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, ‘it would not make them one jot less
‘But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,’
To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their
mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.
With a renewal of tenderness, however, they repaired to her room on leaving the dining-parlour, and sat
with her till summoned to coffee. She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit her at all, till
late in the evening, when she had the comfort of seeing her asleep, and when it appeared to her rather
right than pleasant that she should go downstairs herself. On entering the drawing-room, she found the
whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high, she
declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself, for the short time she could
stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
‘Do you prefer reading to cards?’ said he; ‘that is rather singular.’
‘Miss Eliza Bennet,’ said Miss Bingley, ‘despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in
‘I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,’ cried Elizabeth; ‘I am not a great reader, and I have
pleasure in many things.’
‘In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,’ said Bingley; ‘and I hope it will soon be increased
by seeing her quite well.’
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards a table where a few books were lying.
He immediately offered to fetch her others; all that his library afforded.
‘And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow; and
though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked into.’
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.
‘I am astonished,’ said Miss Bingley, ‘that my father should have left so small 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 that noble place. Charles, when
you build your house, I wish it may be half as delightful 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 England than 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 by purchase than by
Elizabeth was so much caught by what passed as to leave her very little attention for her book; and soon
laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-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 be as tall as I am?’
‘I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather taller.’
‘How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a
countenance, such manners, and so extremely accomplished for her age. Her performance on the
pianoforte is exquisite.’
‘It is amazing to me,’ said Bingley, ‘how young ladies can have patience to be so 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 net purses. I scarcely know any one
who cannot do all this; and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without
being informed that she was very accomplished.’
‘Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,’ said Darcy, ‘has too much truth. The word is
applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen; but I
am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing
more than half a dozen in the whole range of my acquaintance that are really accomplished.’
‘Nor I, I am sure,’ said Miss Bingley.
‘Then,’ observed Elizabeth, ‘you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished
‘Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.’
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