Chapter 54

As soon as they were gone, Jonathan walked out to recover his spirits; or in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more. Miss Darcy’s behaviour astonished and vexed him.

“Why, if she came only to be silent, grave, and indifferent,” said he, “did she come at all?”

He could settle it in no way that gave him pleasure.

“She could be still amiable, still pleasing, to my aunt and uncle, when she was in town; and why not to me? If she fears me, why come hither? If she no longer cares for me, why silent? Teasing, teasing, woman! I will think no more about her.”

His resolution was for a short time involuntarily kept by the approach of his brother, who joined him with a cheerful look, which showed him better satisfied with their visitors, than Jonathan.

“Now,” said he, “that this first meeting is over, I feel perfectly easy. I know my own strength, and I shall never be embarrassed again by her coming. I am glad she dines here on Tuesday. It will then be publicly seen that, on both sides, we meet only as common and indifferent acquaintance.”

“Yes, very indifferent indeed,” said Jonathan, laughingly. “Oh, Luke, take care.”

“My dear Johnny, you cannot think me so weak, as to be in danger now?”

“I think you are in very great danger of making her as much in love with you as ever.”

They did not see the ladies again till Tuesday; and Mr. Bennet, in the meanwhile, was giving way to all the happy schemes, which the good humour and common politeness of Bingley, in half an hour’s visit, had revived.

On Tuesday there was a large party assembled at Longbourn; and the two who were most anxiously expected, to the credit of their punctuality as sportswomen, were in very good time. When they repaired to the dining-room, Jonathan eagerly watched to see whether Bingley would take the place, which, in all their former parties, had belonged to her, by his brother. His prudent father, occupied by the same ideas, forbore to invite her to sit by himself. On entering the room, she seemed to hesitate; but Luke happened to look round, and happened to smile: it was decided. She placed herself by him.

Jonathan, with a triumphant sensation, looked towards her friend. She bore it with noble indifference, and he would have imagined that Bingley had received her sanction to be happy, had he not seen her eyes likewise turned towards Miss Darcy, with an expression of half-laughing alarm.

Her behaviour to his brother was such, during dinner time, as showed an admiration of him, which, though more guarded than formerly, persuaded Jonathan, that if left wholly to herself, Luke’s happiness, and her own, would be speedily secured. Though he dared not depend upon the consequence, he yet received pleasure from observing her behaviour. It gave him all the animation that his spirits could boast; for he was in no cheerful humour. Miss Darcy was almost as far from him as the table could divide them. She was on one side of his father. He knew how little such a situation would give pleasure to either, or make either appear to advantage. He was not near enough to hear any of their discourse, but he could see how seldom they spoke to each other, and how formal and cold was their manner whenever they did. His father’s ungraciousness, made the sense of what they owed her more painful to Jonathan’s mind; and he would, at times, have given anything to be privileged to tell her that her kindness was neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole of the family.

He was in hopes that the evening would afford some opportunity of bringing them together; that the whole of the visit would not pass away without enabling them to enter into something more of conversation than the mere ceremonious salutation attending her entrance. Anxious and uneasy, the period which passed in the drawing-room, before the ladies came, was wearisome and dull to a degree that almost made him uncivil. He looked forward to their entrance as the point on which all his chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.

“If she does not come to me, then,” said he, “I shall give her up for ever.”

The ladies came; and he thought she looked as if she would have answered his hopes; but, alas! the gentlemen had crowded round the table, where Mr. Luke Bennet was making tea, and Jonathan pouring out the coffee, in so close a confederacy that there was not a single vacancy near him which would admit of a chair. And on the ladies’ approaching, one of the boys moved closer to him than ever, and said, in a whisper:

“The women shan’t come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them; do we?”

Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. He followed her with his eyes, envied everyone to whom she spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against himself for being so silly!

“A woman who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of her love? Is there one among the sex, who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same man? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings!”

He was a little revived, however, by her bringing back her coffee cup herself; and he seized the opportunity of saying:

“Is your brother at Pemberley still?”

“Yes, he will remain there till Christmas.”

“And quite alone? Have all his friends left him?”

“Mr. Annesley is with him. The others have been gone on to Scarborough, these three weeks.”

He could think of nothing more to say; but if she wished to converse with him, she might have better success. She stood by him, however, for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on the young gentleman’s whispering to Jonathan again, she walked away.

When the tea-things were removed, and the card-tables placed, the gentlemen all rose, and Jonathan was then hoping to be soon joined by her, when all his views were overthrown by seeing her fall a victim to his father’s rapacity for whist players, and in a few moments after seated with the rest of the party. He now lost every expectation of pleasure. They were confined for the evening at different tables, and he had nothing to hope, but that her eyes were so often turned towards his side of the room, as to make her play as unsuccessfully as himself.

Mr. Bennet had designed to keep the two Netherfield ladies to supper; but their carriage was unluckily ordered before any of the others, and he had no opportunity of detaining them.

“Well boys,” said he, as soon as they were left to themselves, “What say you to the day? I think every thing has passed off uncommonly well, I assure you. The dinner was as well dressed as any I ever saw. The venison was roasted to a turn—and everybody said they never saw so fat a haunch. The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’ last week; and even Miss Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose she has two or three French cooks at least. And, my dear Luke, I never saw you look in greater beauty. Mr. Long said so too, for I asked him whether you did not. And what do you think he said besides? ‘Ah! Mr. Bennet, we shall have him at Netherfield at last.’ He did indeed. I do think Mr. Long is as good a creature as ever lived—and his nephews are very pretty behaved boys, and not at all handsome: I like them prodigiously.”

Mr. Bennet, in short, was in very great spirits; he had seen enough of Bingley’s behaviour to Luke, to be convinced that he would get her at last; and his expectations of advantage to his family, when in a happy humour, were so far beyond reason, that he was quite disappointed at not seeing her there again the next day, to make her proposals.

“It has been a very agreeable day,” said Mr. Luke Bennet to Jonathan. “The party seemed so well selected, so suitable one with the other. I hope we may often meet again.”

Jonathan smiled.

“Johnny, you must not do so. You must not suspect me. It mortifies me. I assure you that I have now learnt to enjoy her conversation as an agreeable and sensible young woman, without having a wish beyond it. I am perfectly satisfied, from what her manners now are, that she never had any design of engaging my affection. It is only that she is blessed with greater sweetness of address, and a stronger desire of generally pleasing, than any other woman.”

“You are very cruel,” said his brother, “you will not let me smile, and are provoking me to it every moment.”

“How hard it is in some cases to be believed!”

“And how impossible in others!”

“But why should you wish to persuade me that I feel more than I acknowledge?”

“That is a question which I hardly know how to answer. We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing. Forgive me; and if you persist in indifference, do not make me your confidante.”

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