The following two chapters find us wrapping up the Bennet sisters’ time at Netherfield, which I believe is a turning point in “Pride and Prejudice” because Darcy senses the strength of his growing attraction to Elizabeth and begins to feel the danger of showing her too much attention.
When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room, where she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure; and Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour which passed before the gentlemen appeared. Their powers of conversation were considerable. They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object; Miss Bingley’s eyes were instantly turned toward Darcy, and she had something to say to him before he had advanced many steps. He addressed himself to Miss Bennet, with a polite congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a slight bow, and said he was “very glad;” but diffuseness and warmth remained for Bingley’s salutation. He was full of joy and attention. The first half-hour was spent in piling up the fire, lest she should suffer from the change of room; and she removed at his desire to the other side of the fireplace, that she might be further from the door. He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone else. Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner, saw it all with great delight.
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the card-table–but in vain. She had obtained private intelligence that Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even his open petition rejected. She assured him that no one intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas and go to sleep. Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her brother’s conversation with Miss Bennet.
Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s progress through _his_ book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement; when hearing her brother mentioning a ball to Miss Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and said:
“By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield? I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure.”
“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins–but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.”
“I should like balls infinitely better,” she replied, “if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing were made the order of the day.”
“Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball.”
Miss Bingley made no answer, and soon afterwards she got up and walked about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious. In the desperation of her feelings, she resolved on one effort more, and, turning to Elizabeth, said:
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.”
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?”–and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?
“Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.”
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
“I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”
“Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?”
“Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him–laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”
“But upon my honour, I do _not_. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught me _that_. Tease calmness of manner and presence of mind! No, no; I feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself.”
“Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!” cried Elizabeth. “That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to _me_ to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh.”
“Miss Bingley,” said he, “has given me more credit than can be. The wisest and the best of men–nay, the wisest and best of their actions–may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.”
“Certainly,” replied Elizabeth–“there are such people, but I hope I am not one of _them_. I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, _do_ divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.”
“Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”
“Such as vanity and pride.”
“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride–where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
“Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume,” said Miss Bingley; “and pray what is the result?”
“I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise.”
“No,” said Darcy, “I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding–certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”
“_That_ is a failing indeed!” cried Elizabeth. “Implacable resentment _is_ a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot _laugh_ at it. You are safe from me.”
“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil–a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”
“And _your_ defect is to hate everybody.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”
“Do let us have a little music,” cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in which she had no share. “Louisa, you will not mind my waking Mr. Hurst?”
Her sister had not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was opened; and Darcy, after a few moments’ recollection, was not sorry for it. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth wrote the next morning to their mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day. But Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish Jane’s week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before. Her answer, therefore, was not propitious, at least not to Elizabeth’s wishes, for she was impatient to get home. Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added, that if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could spare them very well. Against staying longer, however, Elizabeth was positively resolved–nor did she much expect it would be asked; and fearful, on the contrary, as being considered as intruding themselves needlessly long, she urged Jane to borrow Mr. Bingley’s carriage immediately, and at length it was settled that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be mentioned, and the request made.
The communication excited many professions of concern; and enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the following day to work on Jane; and till the morrow their going was deferred. Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded her affection for the other.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were to go so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that it would not be safe for her–that she was not enough recovered; but Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right.
To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence–Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked–and Miss Bingley was uncivil to _her_, and more teasing than usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should _now_ escape him, nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the last day must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves for half-an-hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her.
On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable to almost all, took place. Miss Bingley’s civility to Elizabeth increased at last very rapidly, as well as her affection for Jane; and when they parted, after assuring the latter of the pleasure it would always give her to see her either at Longbourn or Netherfield, and embracing her most tenderly, she even shook hands with the former. Elizabeth took leave of the whole party in the liveliest of spirits.
They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother. Mrs. Bennet wondered at their coming, and thought them very wrong to give so much trouble, and was sure Jane would have caught cold again. But their father, though very laconic in his expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see them; he had felt their importance in the family circle. The evening conversation, when they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation, and almost all its sense by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough-bass and human nature; and had some extracts to admire, and some new observations of threadbare morality to listen to. Catherine and Lydia had information for them of a different sort. Much had been done and much had been said in the regiment since the preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined lately with their uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had actually been hinted that Colonel Forster was going to be married.
Oh, to return to the comforts of one’s own home after being stranded with those eligible bachelors! How clever of the ladies to have Bingley’s coach take them home when Mrs. Bennet would delay the use of her family’s carriage. We know Elizabeth is glad to be back at Longbourn, but little does she know what soon awaits her there… The toady Mr. Collins will be arriving.
My biggest takeaway from these two chapters are Darcy’s growing feelings for Elizabeth and his fear about how he can manage and control those feelings for her. Of course we get a sense through Austen’s omniscient third person narration that his feelings are taking a turn towards a more romantic nature, and yet Elizabeth is still unaware of these feelings.
We also experience Darcy’s words through Elizabeth’s reactions, which is how Austen wrote many of their sparring scenes. Yet, I still think we can see how well-mannered Darcy is attempting to be in his responses to Elizabeth, even as she intentionally provokes him through their conversations.
The following song by the Dave Matthews Band, Crash Into Me, reminds me of the inner turmoil Darcy is suffering during his conflicting feelings and thoughts about Elizabeth. This song is so beautiful and reads like a work of poetry. Of course, there can be multiple meanings for these lyrics, so I just thought I’d highlight a few of the lyrics and explain how I connect them to Darcy’s current feelings in these last few chapters at Netherfield.
(Here’s the YouTube video of this song.)
“You’ve got your ball, you’ve got your chain/ Tied to me tight, tie me up again.”
This part describes is being totally enthralled by someone, and only wanting to be even more enthralled by this person. The ball and chain tied to the person can refer to an almost involuntary pull towards someone, just like Darcy is drawn to Elizabeth in this manner.
“Who’s got their claws in you my friend/Into your heart I’ll beat again.”
These lyrics allude to something that is holding Elizabeth back from Darcy. We know why she doesn’t like him, but really, at this point, he’s pretty clueless about her feelings. Previously, something may has removed the possibility of him from her heart, and it’s due to the feelings that have their claws in Elizabeth, making her dislike Darcy at this point in the story. But, Darcy is optimistic that he may regain (or really gain) her good opinion. These lyrics become even truer after Wickham has his “claws” more firmly into Elizabeth.
“If I’ve gone overboard / Then I’m begging you to forgive me in my haste.”
This reminds me of his hope that he’s not being too forward with his feelings and that maybe she will forgive him for loving her.
“Tied up and twisted, the way I’d like to be/ For you, for me, come crash into me.”
Here he’s almost pleading for her to “crash into me” for the sake of both of them so that maybe then they can deal with these overwhelming feelings he has for her.
Naturally, the whole essence of this song reminds me of Darcy because of the way he watches Elizabeth throughout the book. The overarching theme of being mesmerized by someone in such a captivating manner is really conveyed through this song, and I hope readers feel connected to this song in this manner as well.
What do you think dear readers? Do you feel this song connects well to this part of the story? Do you have another song(s) that you believe describes the characters or plot that you want to share with us? Please enter your comments below and share any links to songs and videos that you’d like us to discuss in connection with these chapters.
I’ll leave you with a photo montage of Chapter 11 that I just love… Oh, the dangers of love!