Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the footman with a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for an answer. Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was eagerly calling out, while her daughter read,
``Well, Jane, who is it from? what is it about? what does he say? Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, my love.''
``It is from Miss Bingley,'' said Jane, and then read it aloud.
``My dear Friend,
IF you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day with Louisa and me, we shall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of our lives, for a whole day's te^te-a`-te^te between two women can never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can on the receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with the officers. Yours ever,
``With the officers!'' cried Lydia. ``I wonder my aunt did not tell us of that.''
``Dining out,'' said Mrs. Bennet, ``that is very unlucky.''
``Can I have the carriage?'' said Jane.
``No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.''
``That would be a good scheme,'' said Elizabeth, ``if you were sure that they would not offer to send her home.''
``Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton; and the Hursts have no horses to theirs.''
``I had much rather go in the coach.''
``But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are not they?''
``They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them.''
``But if you have got them to-day,'' said Elizabeth, ``my mother's purpose will be answered.''
She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses were engaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not come back.
``This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!'' said Mrs. Bennet, more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:
``My dearest Lizzy,
I FIND myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my
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