He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
``Very well. -- That reply will do for the present. -- Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. -- But now we may be silent.''
``Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?''
``Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible.''
``Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?''
``Both,'' replied Elizabeth archly; ``for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. -- We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.''
``This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,'' said he. ``How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. -- You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.''
``I must not decide on my own performance.''
He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation, added, ``When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.''
The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said,
``Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends -- whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain.''
``He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,'' replied Elizabeth with emphasis, ``and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.''
Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopt with a bow of superior courtesy, to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.
``I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear Sir. Such very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Miss Eliza (glancing at her sister and Bingley), shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy: -- but let me not interrupt you, Sir. -- You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me.''
The latter part of this address was scarcely, heard by Darcy; but Sir William's allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner, and said,
``Sir William's interruption has made me forget what we were talking of.''
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