Chapter Four: The Netherfield Ball

Chapter Four: The Netherfield Ball

Chapter Four: The Netherfield Ball

On entering their uncle’s drawing-room the next day, the girls heard that Mr Wickham was in the house. When he came in every woman looked at him, but Elizabeth was the one he came to sit by and, as they did not play cards, they soon fell into most agreeable conversation. Mr Wickham did not play. To Elizabeth’s surprise he began to talk of Mr Darcy.

‘His estate is a noble one. I can give you much information on that, as I have been connected with his family all my life.’

Elizabeth looked at him.
‘You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, after seeing the cold manner of our meeting yesterday. His father, Miss Bennet, was one of the best men that ever lived and my greatest friend, but Mr Darcy’s behaviour to me has been most dishonourable.’

Elizabeth listened with great interest.
‘I was meant for a life in the Church, but it did not please the gentleman we were speaking of just now.’


‘Yes – the late Mr Darcy left me the best living he had to give, but in the end, it was given to another.’

‘No!’ cried Elizabeth, ‘How could that be?’

‘Through Mr Darcy’s dislike of me. The late Mr Darcy liked me too much, however, and his son has always hated me for it.’

Soon afterwards the card party finished. Mrs Philips and Mr Collins joined them. Mr Collins had lost, but he assured the others seriously that the money was nothing to him. Thanks to the kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, it was not necessary for him to think of such little matters.

Hearing this, Mr Wickham turned to Elizabeth and asked if her cousin was intimately connected with the family of de Bourgh.

‘Lady Catherine de Bourgh has recently given him a living. I do not know how they met, but he has not known her long.’

‘You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters. She is aunt to the present Mr Darcy.’

‘Indeed I did not know.’

‘Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune and people believe that she and her cousin will marry.’

This information made Elizabeth smile as she thought of poor Miss Bingley. Useless indeed must be all her attentions, her affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he were already determined for another woman.

They continued talking till dinner. When Elizabeth went home she could think of nothing but Mr Wickham and of what he had told her.

The next day Elizabeth told her sister what had passed between Wickham and herself. Jane was surprised and shocked. She could not believe Mr Darcy to be so bad, nor was it in her character to question a young man of such agreeable appearance as Wickham.

‘There must be some misunderstanding of which we can have no idea,’ said she. ‘No man of honour could behave in such a manner.’

The two young ladies were called from the garden where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the people of whom they were speaking. Mr Bingley and his sisters had come to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield. The two sisters were delighted to see their dear friend Jane again. They paid little attention to the others, avoiding Mrs Bennet as much as possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, and nothing to the others. They hurried off so quickly that their brother was taken by surprise.

‘The thought of the Netherfield ball was agreeable to all the ladies. Mrs Bennet thought it a compliment to her oldest daughter. Jane imagined a happy time in society with her two friends and the attentions of their brother, and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing very much with Mr Wickham. Catherine and I, ydia’s happiness did not depend on anyone person though they both, like Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr Wickham. Even Mary, generally interested only in reading, didn’t seem to dislike the idea.

Until Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, she had been sure to find Mr Wickham there. When she did not, she suspected that he had not received an invitation because of Mr Darcy. Lydia asked Mr Denny, who told them that Wickham had gone to town on business the day before. Later he told Elizabeth that the presence of a certain gentleman at the ball was the real reason for Mr Wickham’s absence.

Elizabeth was sorry not to see Wickham and so disgusted with Darcy that it was difficult to answer politely when he spoke to her. But she was not made for ill-humour 坏脾气 and was soon laughing with Charlotte Lucas about the absurdities 荒唐的行为 of Mr Collins. She was mortified, however, by having to dance the first two dances with him. He danced badly, looked serious, apologised and did not pay attention.

Elizabeth was in conversation with Charlotte when Mr Darcy suddenly asked for her hand in the next dance. She was so surprised that she accepted.

When the music began they stood for some time without speaking. Though first determined not to say a word, she presently thought she could punish her partner more by obliging him to talk. She made some observation on the dance. He answered and was again silent. After some minutes she spoke again.

‘Now you must say something, Mr Darcy. I talked about the dance. You should speak about the room or the people.’

He smiled and assured her that he would say what she wished. ‘Very well. Now we can be silent.’

‘Do you have to talk in a certain manner then, while you are dancing?’ ‘Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know.’

They were again silent till he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to Meryton.

‘Yes,’ she answered, and could not help continuing, ‘When you met us there the other day we had just met someone new.’

Immediately Darcy looked serious, but said not a word. Elizabeth could not go on. At length 过了很久 he said, ‘Mr Wickham is fortunate in such happy manners that he makes friends with ease. If they remain friends is less certain.’

‘He has been so unfortunate as to lose your friendship,’ answered Elizabeth warmly, ‘and in a manner which may make him suffer all his life.’

Darcy made no answer. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared near them and, seeing Mr Darcy, stopped to compliment him on his dancing and his partner. He hoped to have the pleasure of other dances soon, especially when a certain desirable event took place, he said, glancing at Jane and Mr Bingley.

Mr Darcy looked at his friend and Jane, who were dancing together, with a very serious expression for some moments until he said,’Sir William has made me forget what we were talking of.’

‘I do not think we were speaking at all. There cannot be any two people in the room with less to say for themselves. We have tried two or three subjects already with few results, and what we can talk of next I cannot imagine.’

Soon after the dance finished Miss Bingley came up to Elizabeth and said, ‘So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are delighted with George Wickham! Your sister has been asking me a thousand questions. I hear that the young man forgot to tell you that he was the son of old Mr Darcy’s steward.管家 As a friend I must tell you not to believe him. His stories about Mr Darcy are untrue, though George Wickham’s behaviour has been shocking. I am sorry Miss Eliza for this discovery of your favourite’s true character, but considering that he is not a gentleman, one cannot expect much better.’

‘The only thing he has done wrong is to be the son of Mr Darcy’s steward,’ said Elizabeth angrily, ‘and that, I assure you, he told me himself.’

She left to look for Jane who had promised to ask Bingley about Wickham, but when she found them together Jane looked so happy that she forgot the matter. When she imagined her sister living in that house with Bingley, in a marriage of true affection, she even believed it possible to try and like his sisters.

Unfortunately , when they sat down to dinner, Elizabeth was placed near her mother and Mr Darcy. Clearly Mrs Bennet’s thoughts were also on matrimony and she spoke freely to Lady Lucas of nothing else but her expectation that Jane would soon be married to Mr Bingley.
Elizabeth saw that Mr Darcy could overhear the conversation and tried to tell her mother, but Mrs Bennet did not tire of talking about the advantages of the marriage. Mr Bingley was such a charming young man, so rich, living so near. His sisters liked Jane so much and wished for the marriage as much as she did. And it was such a good thing for her other daughters. If Jane married so greatly, they would meet other rich men. She finished with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be as fortunate with her daughters.

When at last they got up to go, Mrs Bennet invited the whole family to Longbourn, telling Mr Bingley how happy he would make them by eating a family dinner with them at any time. Bingley promised to visit after a short trip to London he was planning. Mrs Bennet left the house sure that she would see her daughter married at Netherfield in a few months. She was just as sure of having another daughter married to Mr Collins. Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her daughters, and she thought the man and the marriage quite good enough for her.

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