Mr Bingley made no answer to this speech, but his sisters gave it their full agreement, and continued for some time to make fun of their dear friend’s inferior relations.
Elizabeth spent most of the night in her sister’s room, and in the morning requested that a note be sent to Longbourn, asking her mother to visit Jane and form her own judgment on her condition. The note was immediately sent, and Mrs Bennet, with her two youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon after breakfast.
If Mrs Bennet had found Jane in any real danger, she would have been very upset, but when she was satisfied that her illness was not serious, she had no wish for her immediate recovery, as her return to health would probably remove her from Netherfield. She would not listen, therefore, to her daughter’s proposal of being taken home; nor did the doctor, who arrived at about the same time, think it advisable.
Mrs Bennet repeated her thanks to Mr Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy. Mr Bingley was eager that his two guests should remain, and forced his younger sister to be polite too. She did this duty, even if rather unwillingly, but Mrs Bennet was satisfied, and left soon after that.
The day passed much as the day before had done. Jane was slowly recovering. In the evening, Elizabeth joined the company in the sitting room, and took up some needlework. Mr Darcy was writing a letter.
When that business was over, he asked Miss Bingley and Elizabeth to play some music. Miss Bingley moved eagerly to the piano. After a polite request for Elizabeth to begin the performance, which Elizabeth refused with equal politeness, Miss Bingley seated herself.
Mrs Hurst sang with her sister; and while they were employed in this, Elizabeth could not help noticing how frequently Mr Darcy’s eyes fixed themselves on her. She could hardly imagine that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man, but it seemed even stranger that he should look at her so, because she knew he disliked her. She could only suppose that she drew his attention because there was something wrong about her. The supposition did not upset her; she liked him too little to care for his opinion.
Soon after, as Miss Bingley began to play a lively Scottish tune, Mr Darcy, approaching Elizabeth, said to her:
‘Do you not feel a great desire, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity for a dance?’
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I heard you before, but I could not decide immediately on what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say «Yes», so that you might have the pleasure of thinking badly of my taste, but I always enjoy defeating such intentions. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you that I do not want to dance; and now, think badly of me if you dare.’
‘I do not dare.’
Elizabeth, having rather expected to offend him, was astonished at his politeness, but there was a mixture of sweetness and intelligence in her manner that made it difficult for her to offend anybody. Darcy had never been so attracted to any woman as he was to her. He really believed that, if it were not for her inferior relations, he would be in some danger of falling in love.
Miss Bingley saw, or thought she saw, enough to be jealous, and her anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane was increased by her desire to get rid of Elizabeth.
As a result of an agreement between the two sisters, Elizabeth wrote the next morning to her mother to beg her to send the carriage for them during that day. Mrs Bennet sent them a reply that they could not possibly have it before Tuesday. But Elizabeth had decided that she could stay no longer, nor did she very much expect that she would be encouraged to. She urged Jane to borrow Mr Bingley’s carriage immediately.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were leaving so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade the older Miss Bennet that it was not safe for her, but Jane was always able to be decisive when she believed herself to be right.
It was welcome news to Mr Darcy. Elizabeth attracted him more than he wished. He decided to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him. He kept steadily to his purpose, and hardly spoke to her through the whole of the day, and although they were at one time left by themselves for half an hour, he kept firmly to his book and would not even look at her.
On the next morning, they left for home. They were not welcomed back very gladly by their mother, but their father was really happy to see them. The evening conversation had lost much of its liveliness, and most of its good sense, during the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.