"I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted any 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 books?" said he, smiling.
"Books -- Oh! no. -- I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings."
"I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject. -- We may compare our different opinions."
"No -- I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else."
"The present always occupies you in such scenes -- does it?" said he, with a look of doubt.
"Yes, always," she replied, without knowing what she said, for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject, as soon afterwards appeared by her suddenly exclaiming, "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 report 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, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either."
"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; on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against another.
They had not long separated when Miss Bingley came towards her, and with an expression of civil disdain
thus accosted her, "So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham! -- Your sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man forgot to tell you, among his other communications, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy's steward
. Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit
confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has been always remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy, in a most infamous manner. I do not know the particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that though my brother thought he could not well avoid including him in his invitation to the officers, he was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the way. His coming into the country at all, is a most insolent
thing indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favorite's guilt; but really, considering his descent one could not expect much better."
"His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same," said Elizabeth angrily; "for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy's steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself."
"I beg your pardon," replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer
. "Excuse my interference. -- It was kindly meant."
"Insolent girl!" said Elizabeth to herself. -- "You are much mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry
attack as this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and the malice of Mr. Darcy." She then sought her eldest sister, who had undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley. Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency
, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening. -- Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment solicitude
for Wickham, resentment against his enemies and every thing else gave way before the hope of Jane's being in the fairest way for happiness.