``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 chusing 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 any thing, 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 chuse 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 should 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 any thing 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. Teaze 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. Teaze calmness of temper 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 acquaintance. I dearly love a laugh.''
``Miss Bingley,'' said he, ``has given me credit for more 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 or 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 any one. 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.
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