``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!''
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