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Chapter 9

ELIZABETH passed the chief of the night in her sister's room, and in the morning had the pleasure of being able to send a tolerable answer to the enquiries which she very early received from Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time afterwards from the two elegant ladies who waited on his sisters. In spite of this amendment, however, she requested to have a note sent to Longbourn, desiring her mother to visit Jane, and form her own judgment of her situation. The note was immediately dispatched, and its contents as quickly complied with. Mrs. Bennet, accompanied by her two youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon after the family breakfast.
Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet would have been very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her, that her illness was not alarming, she had no wish of her recovering immediately, as her restoration to health would probably remove her from Netherfield. She would not listen therefore to her daughter's proposal of being carried home; neither did the apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at all advisable. After sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss Bingley's appearance and invitation the mother and three daughters all attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley met them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet worse than she expected.

"Indeed I have, Sir," was her answer. "She is a great deal too ill to be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her. We must trespass a little longer on your kindness."

"Removed!" cried Bingley. "It must not be thought of. My sister, I am sure, will not hear of her removal."

"You may depend upon it, Madam," said Miss Bingley, with cold civility, "that Miss Bennet shall receive every possible attention while she remains with us."

Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.

"I am sure," she added, "if it was not for such good friends I do not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the world -- which is always the way with her, for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I ever met with. I often tell my other girls they are nothing to her. You have a sweet room here, Mr. Bingley, and a charming prospect over that gravel walk. I do not know a place in the country that is equal to Netherfield. You will not think of quitting it in a hurry I hope, though you have but a short lease."

"Whatever I do is done in a hurry," replied he; "and therefore if I should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite fixed here."

"That is exactly what I should have supposed of you," said Elizabeth.

"You begin to comprehend me, do you?" cried he, turning towards her.

"Oh! yes -- I understand you perfectly."

"I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful."

"That is as it happens. It does not necessarily follow that a deep, intricate character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours."

"Lizzy," cried her mother, "remember where you are, and do not run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home."

"I did not know before," continued Bingley immediately, "that you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study."

"Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage."

"The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but few subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society."

"But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever."

"Yes, indeed," cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a country neighbourhood. "I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in the country as in town."

Every body was surprised; and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.

"I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the country for my part, except the shops and public places. The country is a vast deal pleasanter, is not it, Mr. Bingley?"

"When I am in the country," he replied, "I never wish to leave it; and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."

"Aye -- that is because you have the right disposition. But that gentleman," looking at Darcy, "seemed to think the country was nothing at all."

"Indeed, Mama, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother. "You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there were not such a variety of people to be met with in the country as in town, which you must acknowledge to be true."

"Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four and twenty families."

Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep his countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her eye towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile. Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something that might turn her mother's thoughts, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her coming away.

"Yes, she called yesterday with her father. What an agreeable man Sir William is, Mr. Bingley -- is not he? so much the man of fashion! so genteel and so easy! -- He has always something to say to every body. -- That is my idea of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves very important and never open their mouths, quite mistake the matter."

"Did Charlotte dine with you?"

"No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the mince pies. For my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters are brought up differently. But every body is to judge for themselves, and the Lucases are very good sort of girls, I assure you. It is a pity they are not handsome! Not that I think Charlotte so very plain -- but then she is our particular friend."

"She seems a very pleasant young woman," said Bingley.

"Oh! dear, yes; -- but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas herself has often said so, and envied me Jane's beauty. I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane -- one does not often see any body better looking. It is what every body says. I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen, there was a gentleman at my brother Gardiner's in town, so much in love with her, that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer before we came away. But however he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were."

"And so ended his affection," said Elizabeth impatiently. "There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!"

"I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love," said Darcy.

"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away."

Darcy only smiled, and the general pause which ensued made Elizabeth tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself again. She longed to speak, but could think of nothing to say; and after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required. She performed her part, indeed, without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself forward. The two girls had been whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at Netherfield.

Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence, which the attentions of the officers, to whom her uncle's good dinners and her own easy manners recommended her, had increased into assurance. She was very equal, therefore, to address Mr. Bingley on the subject of the ball, and abruptly reminded him of his promise; adding, that it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not keep it. His answer to this sudden attack was delightful to their mother's ear.

"I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement, and when your sister is recovered, you shall if you please, name the very day of the ball. But you would not wish to be dancing while she is ill."

Lydia declared herself satisfied. "Oh! yes -- it would be much better to wait till Jane was well, and by that time most likely Captain Carter would be at Meryton again. And when you have given your ball," she added, "I shall insist on their giving one also. I shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame if he does not."

Mrs. Bennet and her daughters then departed, and Elizabeth returned instantly to Jane, leaving her own and her relations' behaviour to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to join in their censure of her, in spite of all Miss Bingley's witticisms on fine eyes.
 

伊丽莎白那一晚上的大部分时间都是在她姐姐房间里度过的,第二天一大早,彬格莱先生就派了个女佣人来问候她们。过了一会儿,彬格莱的姐姐妹妹也打发了两个文雅的侍女来探病,伊丽莎白总算可以聊以自慰地告诉她们说,病人已略见好转。不过,她虽然宽了一下心,却还是要求他们府上替她差人送封信到浪博恩去,要她的妈妈来看看吉英,来亲自判断她的病情如何。信立刻就送去了,信上所说的事也很快就照办了。班纳特太太带着两个最小的女儿来到尼日斐花园的时候,他们家里刚刚吃过早饭。

倘使班纳特太太发觉吉英有什么危险,那她真要伤心死了;但是一看到吉英的病并不怎么严重,她就满意了;她也并不希望吉英马上复元,因为,要是一复元,她就得离开尼日斐花园回家去。所以她的女儿一提起要她带她回家去,她听也不要听,况且那位差不多跟她同时来到的医生,也认为搬回去不是个好办法。母亲陪着吉英坐了一会儿工夫,彬格莱小姐便来请她吃早饭,于是她就带着三个女儿一块儿上饭厅去。彬格莱先生前来迎接她们,说是希望班纳特太太看到了小姐的病一定会觉得并不是想象中那般严重。

班纳特太太回答道:“我却没有想象到会这般严重呢,先生,她病得太厉害了,根本不能搬动。钟斯大夫也说,千万不可以叫她搬动。我们只得叨光你们多照顾几天啦。”

“搬动!”彬格莱叫道:“绝对不可以。我相信我的妹妹也决计不肯让她搬走的。”彬格莱小姐冷淡而有礼貌地说:“你放心好啦,老太太,班纳特小姐待在我们这儿,我们一定尽心尽意地照顾她。”

班纳特太太连声道谢。

接着她又说道:“要不是靠好朋友们照顾,我相信她真不知道变成什么样儿了;因为她实在病得很重,痛苦得很厉害,不过好在她有极大的耐性──她一贯都是那样的,我生平简直没见过第二个人有她这般温柔到极点的性格。我常常跟别的几个女儿们说,她们比起她来简直太差了。彬格莱先生,你这所房子很可爱呢,从那条鹅卵石铺道上望出去,景致也很美丽。在这个村庄里,我从来没见过一个地方比得上尼日斐花园。虽然你的租期很短,我劝你千万别急着搬走。”

彬格莱先生说:“我随便干什么事,都是说干就干,要是打定主意要离开尼日斐花园,我可能在五分钟之内就搬走。不过目前我算在这儿住定了。”

“我猜想得一点儿不错,”伊丽莎白说。

彬格莱马上转过身去对她大声说道:“你开始了解我啦,是吗?”

“噢,是呀──我完全了解你。”

“但愿你这句话是恭维我,不过,这么容易被人看透,那恐怕也是件可怜的事吧。”

“那得看情况说话。一个深沉复杂的人,未必比你这样的人更难叫人捉摸。”

她有母亲连忙嚷道:“丽萃,别忘了你在作客,家里让你撒野惯了,你可不能到人家这里来胡闹。”

“我以前倒不知道你是个研究人的性格的专家。”彬格莱马上接下去说,“那一定是一门很有趣的学问吧。”

“不错;可是最有趣味的还是研究复杂的性格。至少这样的性格有研究的价值。”

达西说:“一般说来,乡下人可以作为这种研究对象的就很少。因为在乡下,你四周围的人都是非常不开通、非常单调。‘

“可是人们本身的变动很多,他们身上永远有新的东西值得你去注意。”

班纳特太太听到刚刚达西以那样一种口气提到乡下,不禁颇为生气,便连忙嚷道:“这才说得对呀,告诉你吧,乡下可供研究的对象并不比城里少。”

大家都吃了一惊。达西朝她望了一会儿便静悄悄地走开了。班纳特太太自以为完全占了他的上风,便趁着一股兴头说下去:“我觉得伦敦除了店铺和公共场所以外,比起乡下并没有什么大不了的好处。乡下可舒服得多了──不是吗,彬格莱先生?”

“我到了乡下就不想走,”他回答道;“我住到城里也就不想走。乡下和城里各有各的好处,我随便住在哪儿都一样快乐。”

“啊,那是因为你的性格好。可是那位先生,”她说到这里,便朝达西望了一眼,“就会觉得乡下一文不值。”

“妈妈,你根本弄错了,”伊丽莎白这话一出口,她母亲就红了脸。“你完全弄错了达西先生的意思。他只不过说,乡下碰不到象城里那么些各色名样的人,这你可得承认是事实呀。”

“当然罗,宝贝──谁也没那么说过。要是说这个村子里还碰不到多少人,我相信比这大的村庄也就没有几个了。就我所知,平常跟我们来往吃饭的可也有二十四家呀。”

要不是顾全伊丽莎白的面子,彬格莱先生简直忍不住要笑出来了。他的妹妹可没有他那么用心周到,便不由得带着富有表情的笑容望着达西先生。伊丽莎为了找个借口转移一下她母亲的心思,便问她母亲说,自从她离家以后,夏绿蒂·卢卡斯有没有到浪博恩来过。

“来过;她是昨儿跟他父亲一块儿来的。威廉爵士是个多么和蔼的人呀,彬格莱先生──他可不是吗?那么时髦的一个人!那么温雅,又那么随便!他见到什么人总要谈上儿句。这就是我所谓的有良好教养;那些自以为了不起、金口难开的人,他们的想法真是大错而特错。”

“夏绿蒂在我们家里吃饭的吗?”

“没有,她硬要回去。据我猜想,大概是她家里街头等着她回去做肉饼。彬格莱先生,我雇起佣人来,总得要她们能够料理份内的事,我的女儿就不是人家那样教养大的。可是一切要看各人自己,告诉你,卢卡斯家里的几个姑娘全是些很好的女孩子。只可惜长得不漂亮!当然并不是我个人以为夏绿蒂长得难看,她究竟是我们要好的朋友。”

“她看来是位很可爱的姑娘,”彬格莱说。

“是呀,可是你得承认,她的确长得很难看。卢卡斯太太本人也那么说,她还羡慕我的吉英长得漂亮呢。我并不喜欢夸张自己的孩子,可是说老实话。这并不是我说话有信心。还在她十五岁的那一年,在我城里那位兄弟嘉丁纳家里,有位先生就爱上了她,我的弟妇看准了那位先生一定会在临走以前向她求婚。不过后来他却没有提。也许是他以为她年纪太小了吧。不过他却为吉英写了好些诗,而且写得很好。”

“那位先生的一场恋爱就这么结束了,”伊丽莎白不耐烦地说。“我想,多少有情人都是这样把自己克服过来的。诗居然有这种功能──能够赶走爱情,这倒不知道是谁第一个发现的!”

“我却一贯认为,诗是爱情的食粮,”达西说。

“那必须是一种优美、坚贞、健康的爱情才行。本身健强了,吃什么东西都可以获得滋补。要是只不过有一点儿蛛丝马迹,那么我相信,一首十四行诗准会把它断送掉。”

达西只笑了一下,接着大伙儿都沉默了一阵子,这时候伊丽莎白很是着急,怕她母亲又要出丑。她想说点儿什么,可是又想不出什么可说的。沉默了一下以后,班纳特太太又重新向彬格莱先生道谢,说是多亏他对吉英照顾周到,同时又向他道歉说,丽萃也来打扰了他。彬格莱先生回答得极其恳切而有礼貌,弄得他的妹妹也不得不讲礼貌,说了些很得体的话。她说话的态度并不十分自然,可是班纳特太太已经够满意的了。一会儿工夫,班纳特太太就叫预备马车。这个号令一发,她那位顶小的女儿立刻走上前来。原来自从她们母女来到此地,两个女儿就一直在交头接耳地商量,最后说定了由顶小的女儿来要求彬格莱先生兑现他刚以乡下时的诺言,在尼日斐花园开一次跳舞会。

丽迪雅是个胖胖的、发育得很好的姑娘,今年才十五岁,细皮白肉,笑颜常开,她是母亲的掌上明珠,由于娇纵过度,她很小就进入了社交界。她生性好动,天生有些不知分寸,加上她的姨爹一次次以美酒嘉肴宴请那些军官们,军官们又见她颇有几分浪荡的风情,便对她发生了相当好感,于是她更加肆无忌惮了。所以她就有资格向彬格莱先生提出开舞会的事,而且冒冒失失地提醒他先前的诺言,而且还说,要是他不实践诺言,那就是天下最丢人的事。彬格莱先生对她这一番突如其来的挑衅回答得叫她母亲很是高兴。

“我可以向你保证,我非常愿意实践我的诺言;只要等你姐姐复了元,由你随便订个日期就行。你总不愿意在姐姐生病的时候跳舞吧?!”

丽迪雅表示满意。“你这话说得不错。等到吉英复元以后再跳,那真好极了,而且到那时候,卡特尔上尉也许又可能回到麦里屯来。等你开过舞会以后,我一定非要他们也开一次不可。我一定会跟弗斯脱上校说,要是他不开,可真丢人哪。”

于是班纳特太太带着她的两个女儿走了。伊丽莎白立刻回到吉英身边去,也不去管彬格莱府上的两位小姐怎样在背后议论她跟她家里人有失体统。不过,尽管彬格莱小姐怎么样说俏皮话,怎么样拿她的“美丽的眼睛”开玩笑,达西却始终不肯受她们的怂恿,夹在她们一起来编派她的不是。



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