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CHAPTER 45

CONVINCED AS ELIZABETH now was that Miss Bingleys dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and was curious to know with how much civility on that ladys side the acquaintance would now be renewed.

On reaching the house, they were shown through the hall into the Shinto shrine, whose northern aspect rendered it delightful for summer. Its windows opening to the ground, the shrine admitted a most refreshing view of the high woody hills behind the house, and its many sacred mirrors honored the gods while creating a most pleasing abundance of light.

In this shrine they were received by Miss Darcy, who was sitting there with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady with whom she lived in London. Georgianas reception of them was very civil, but attended with all the embarrassment which, though proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong, would easily give to those who felt themselves inferior the belief of her being proud and reserved. Mrs. Gardiner and her niece, however, did her justice, and pitied her.

By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley they were noticed only by a curtsey; and, on their being seated, a pause, awkward as such pauses must always be, succeeded for a few moments. It was first broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse proved her to be more truly well-bred than either of the others; and between her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from Elizabeth, the conversation was carried on. Miss Darcy looked as if she wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes did venture a short sentence when there was least danger of its being heard.

Elizabeth saw that she was herself closely watched by Miss Bingley, and that she could not speak a word, especially to Miss Darcy, without calling her attention. Oh! How she must long to strike at me with her clumsy, untrained fists, thought Elizabeth. What fun it would be to see her lose her composure so!

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of Japanese delicacies. There was now employment for the whole party-for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of ham, frosting, and zarezushi soon collected them round the table.

While thus engaged, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of deciding whether she most feared or wished for the appearance of Mr. Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on his entering the room; and then, though but a moment before she had believed her wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he came-for she realized that her breath must tang of sweets and raw eel.

He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner, who, with two or three other gentlemen from the house, was musket fishing in the river, and had left him only on learning that the ladies of the family intended a visit to Georgiana that morning. No sooner did he appear than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and unembarrassed, because she saw that the suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch his behaviour when he first came into the room. In no countenance was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingleys, in spite of the smiles which over-spread her face whenever she spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made her desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means over. Miss Darcy, on her brothers entrance, exerted herself much more to talk, and Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for his sister and herself to get acquainted, and forwarded as much as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side. Miss Bingley saw all this likewise; and, in the imprudence of anger, took the first opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:

Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the Militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family.

In Darcys presence she dared not mention Wickhams name; but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in her thoughts; and she had to forcefully repress the desire to blacken Miss Bingleys eyes for such insolence. Exerting her tongue rather than her fists to repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question in a tolerably detached tone. While she spoke, an involuntary glance showed her Darcy, with a heightened complexion, his sword hand twitching ever so slightly, and his sister overcome with confusion, and unable to lift up her eyes. Had Miss Bingley known what pain she was then giving her beloved friend, she undoubtedly would have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended to discompose Elizabeth by bringing forward the idea of a man to whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility which might injure her in Darcys opinion, and, perhaps, to remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities by which some part of her family were connected with that corps. Not a syllable had ever reached her of Miss Darcys meditated elopement.

Elizabeths collected behaviour, however, soon quieted Mr. Darcys emotion; and as Miss Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared not approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in time, though not enough to be able to speak any more. Her brother, whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her interest in the affair, and the very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth seemed to have fixed them on her more and more cheerfully. Not since the Battle of Tumu Fortress had an assault been so poorly conceived.

Their visit did not continue long after the above mentioned; and while Mr. Darcy was attending them to their carriage Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms on Elizabeths person, behaviour, and dress. But Georgiana would not join her. Her brothers recommendation was enough to ensure her favour; his judgement could not err. And he had spoken in such terms of Elizabeth as to leave Georgiana without the power of finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable. When Darcy returned to the shrine, Miss Bingley could not help repeating to him some part of what she had been saying to his sister.

How very ill Miss Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy, she cried; I never in my life saw anyone so much altered as she is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again.

However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he contented himself with coolly replying that he perceived no other alteration than her being rather tanned, no miraculous consequence of traveling in the summer.

For my own part, she rejoined, I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her midriff is too firm; her arms too free of loose flesh; and her legs too long and flexible. Her nose wants character-it is unbearably petite. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, knowing look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether there is a self sufficiency and composure, which is intolerable.

Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best method of recommending herself; but angry people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected. He was resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination of making him speak, she continued:

I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been dining at Netherfield, She a beauty! I should as soon call her mother a wit. But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time.

Yes, replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, but that was only when I first saw her, for I now consider her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.

He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.

Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred during their visit, as they returned, except what had particularly interested them both. The look and behaviour of everybody they had seen were discussed, except of the person who had mostly engaged their attention. They talked of his sister, his friends, his shrine, his zarezushi-of everything but himself; yet Elizabeth was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs. Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her nieces beginning the subject.


CHAPTER 44 | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | CHAPTER 46