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TILL ELIZABETH ENTERED the drawing-room at Netherfield, and looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of redcoats there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never occurred to 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. Darcys 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 Denny, who told them that Wickham had been obliged to go to town on business the day before, to attend a demonstration of a new carriage that boasted of being impervious to attacks by the manky dreadfuls. This assured Elizabeth that Darcy was not answerable for Wickhams absence, and her every feeling of displeasure against the former was sharpened by immediate disappointment. She was resolved against any sort of conversation with him.

Having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, Elizabeth was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin, and to point him out to her particular notice. The first two dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and uncommonly round, 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. If Master Liu had seen such a lapse of awareness! Twenty lashes at least, and another twenty trips up and down the thousand steps of Kwan Hsi!

I dare say you will find Mr. Darcy very agreeable, Charlotte tried to console her.

Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all!

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 ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set. 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 with:

It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some sort 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.

On the contrary, I find that balls are much more enjoyable when they cease to remain private. Elizabeth could not help but blush, but she was determined that her face betray not the slightest hint of amusement. Instead, she added archly; 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, or be regarded as uncommonly clever.

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 undoubtedly.

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 meet with zombies on their walks 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 acquaintance.

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 his ability to walk for a twelvemonth, I understand.

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 stopped with a bow of superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.

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, for she is as ferocious as she is fetching! I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Eliza (glancing at her sister and Bingley) shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! But let me not interrupt you, sir. You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching young lady. Oh! To think of the ways her many skills could be put to amorous employ!

Darcy directioned his eyes with a very serious expression toward Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself, however, he turned to his partner, and said, Sir Williams interruption has made me forget what we were talking of.

I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted 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 cannot imagine.

What think you of Orientals? said he, smiling.

Orientals-oh! No. I am sure we never met the same, or had the same feelings toward them.

But if that be the case, we may compare our different opinions. I think them a strange lot-both in appearance and custom, though having studied solely in Japan, I admit that the opinion may be incomplete. I should be most interested to hear of your time in the company of Chinamen.

No-I cannot talk of Orientals in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else.

The present always occupies you in such scenes-does it?

Yes, always, she replied, without knowing what she said, for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject-to the pain of Master Lius glowing brand searing her flesh; to sparring matches with her sisters atop a beam no wider than their swords, as pikes waited to punish an ill-placed foot below. Her mind returning to the present, she suddenly exclaimed, 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 being created.

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 out.

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 reports 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.

But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity.

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; and on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcys breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling toward her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against another.

Elizabeth then sought her eldest sister. I want to know 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. I am sorry to say by his account, Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young man.

Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?

No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton.

I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingleys sincerity, said Elizabeth warmly; but you must excuse my not being convinced by assurances only. Mr. Bingleys defense of his friend was a very able one, but since he is unacquainted with several parts of the story, I shall venture to still think of both gentlemen as I did before.

She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each. Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Mr. Bingleys 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 Darcy she had scarcely replied, before her fat cousin 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.

Ah! May I suppose, then, that you have discovered the location of the buffet? said Elizabeth, rudely.

No! 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 the 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.

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 Catherines nephew.

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 must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance. When Elizabeth ceased speaking, Mr. Collins replied thus:

My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, particularly in the slaying of Satans armies; 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. After all, you may wield Gods sword, but I wield His wisdom. And it is wisdom, dear cousin, which will ultimately rid us of our present difficulties with the undead.

You will excuse me for saying so, but I have never seen a zombies head taken off by words-nor do I ever expect to.

You must 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.

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. Darcys 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.

As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley. She saw her in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable, under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Bingleys two sisters. Her mothers thoughts were plainly bent the same way, and she determined not to venture near her, lest she suffer her endless prattling. When they sat down to supper, therefore, Elizabeth 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 Lady Lucas freely, openly, and of nothing else but her expectation that Jane would soon be 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 Janes marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other rich men. Oh! What joy to see them all thus provided for! To see them entertaining at their own estates; raising their own children, instead of all this silly training and fighting. 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 mothers 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, her breath thick with meat and port.

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 heavens sake, madam, speak lower. What advantage can it be for 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. 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, not a servant was to be found to attend to their empty plates. Seeing his guests grow restless, Mr. Bingley rose from his seat and excused himself-no doubt to scold his steward for the embarrassment.

Upon his return, Elizabeth promptly reached for her ankle dagger. Mr. Bingleys white face and troubled countenance were enough to solicit such a reaction.

Mr. Darcy, if I may have the pleasure of your company in the kitchen, said Bingley. Darcy rose, taking care not to move too quickly, lest he alarm the guests. Elizabeth took it upon herself to follow him. When Darcy took notice of this, he turned to her and said, in a whisper, Miss Bennet, I would much prefer you took your seat. I am quite capable of attending to Mr. Bingley myself.

Of that I have no doubt, Mr. Darcy. Just as I have no doubt in my ability to form my own opinion on the matter. Now, do you wish to cause a stir, or shall we to the kitchen?

Mr. Bingley led the two of them down a hidden staircase and into the cellar, which was divided into two halves by a long corridor-one side belonging to the servants quarters and armory, the other to the exercise parlor and kitchen. It was in the latter that a most unfortunate sight awaited them. Two adult unmentionables-both of them male-busied themselves feasting upon the flesh of the household staff. How two zombies could have killed a dozen servants, four maids, two cooks, and a steward was beyond Elizabeths comprehension, but she knew precisely how they had gotten in: The cellar door had been opened to let in the cool night air and relieve the oppression of the woodstoves.

Well, I suppose we had ought to take all of their heads, lest they be born to darkness, she said.

Mr. Bingley observed the desserts his poor servants had been attending to at the time of their demise-a delightful array of tarts, exotic fruits, and pies, sadly soiled by blood and brains, and thus unusable.

I dont suppose, said Darcy, that you would give me the honour of dispensing of this unhappy business alone. I should never forgive myself if your gown were soiled.

The honour is all yours, Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth thought she detected the slightest smile on his face. She

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


watched as Darcy drew his blade and cut down the two zombies with savage yet dignified movements. He then made quick work of beheading the slaughtered staff, upon which Mr. Bingley politely vomited into his hands. There was no denying Darcys talents as a warrior.

If only, she thought, his talents as a gentleman were their equal.

When they returned to the ball, they found the spirits of the others very much disturbed. Mary was entertaining them at the pianoforte, her shrill voice testing the patient ears of all present. Elizabeth 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.

To Elizabeth it appeared that, had her family made an agreement to embarrass themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more success.

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 on her to dance with him again, he put it out of her power to dance with others, by using his thick middle to hide her from view. In vain did she offer to introduce him to any young lady in the room. He assured her, that 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. Collinss conversation to herself.

She was at least free from the offense of Mr. Darcys further 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.

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 especially 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 meeting of the Society of Gentlemen for a Peaceful Solution to Our Present Difficulties, of which he was a member and patron.

Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied, and quitted the house under the delightful persuasion that she should see her daughter settled at Netherfield, her weapons retired forever, 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 and Netherfield.

CHAPTER 17 | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | CHAPTER 19