“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 spirits.”
17 November 1811
Elizabeth followed Jane as she entered the carriage, giving a blissful sigh as she took her seat. While Jane would, no doubt, miss the company of Mr. Bingley and his sisters, Elizabeth could not feel the same. She was pleased to depart Netherfield and its disagreeable inhabitants—well, with the exception of Mr. Bingley, that is.
Over the past week, she had endured enough of Miss Bingley’s incivility, Mrs. Hurst’s titters, Mr. Hurst’s boorish snoring from across the drawing room, and Mr. Darcy’s proud and pompous manner. If her dearest sister had been well enough, she would have rushed Jane back to Longbourn upon her arrival, yet the past days in their company had been a necessity despite unpleasantness of the situation!
Her elder sister waved with a peaceful smile to Miss Bingley and Mr. Bingley, who stood to his sister’s side. Elizabeth had reason to believe her elder sister’s feelings for the brother had increased during her convalescence; however, she did not envy her such sisters if she did in fact wed Mr. Bingley. Of course, her mother would not be content until such a happy event occurred.
“The week was not so terrible, was it?” asked Jane with a tilt of her head.
“Forgive me if I do not enjoy the company of many of the party. I will not include Mr. Bingley in that statement as he is an amiable gentleman, but I cannot appreciate the manner of his sisters or his friend.”
Her beloved sister’s face became scolding. “Lizzy! Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst very agreeable, and I am certain his friend must be just as kind. Mr. Darcy strikes me as one who is not comfortable amongst strangers and not one to rattle on as some young men do.”
Elizabeth bristled. Mr. Darcy was insufferable! How could Jane not see how proud and disagreeable he was! “He is a man of wealth and education, and his behaviour since entering the neighbourhood has illustrated his insufferable pride and contempt for those beneath his notice.”
“Yet, he is friends with Mr. Bingley, who has yet to purchase his own estate. I believe there is more to the man than an ill-spoken insult at the assembly.”
“You always seek the good in people, Jane, and never wish to acknowledge when one is ungenerous.”
“I prefer to believe there is some kindness in all and sundry whether it be to the fullest measure of the individual or whether it be in a small amount in one corner of their heart.”
A lift of Elizabeth’s lips could not be helped. Her sister’s unswerving devotion in the goodness of all was part of why she adored her elder sister; however, one day, Jane’s heart would be broken by her inability to see the ill of the world
Her view of Mr. Darcy was certainly not a fair assessment of his character. The wealthy gentleman from Derbyshire had been taciturn, rude, and unfriendly for the entirety of his residence in Hertfordshire; his manner during their stay at Netherfield did not improve her opinion of him one jot!
Mr. Darcy had been intent on arguing with her based on their conversations after dinner each evening. The accomplishments of women, indeed! He looked upon her to find fault, so now he also found deficiency in her abilities—not that he was aware of her accomplishments. He had scarcely spoken to her much less inquired as to any talents she might possess!
She would not even contemplate the scandalous remark he made about her and Miss Bingley’s figures!
“Lizzy, Are you well?”
She snapped from her reverie. “Yes, I am exceedingly well.”
“I am grateful to you for coming to Netherfield. I am only sorry you did not find associating with the Netherfield party more agreeable.”
Jane’s face transformed with a sweet smile as she took Elizabeth’s hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I believe you are too good to me.”
A loud shriek cased both Jane and Elizabeth to startle and peer out of the carriage at their mother, who stood before the open doors of Longbourn, her hands upon her hips.
“I expressly instructed you to remain for another day, Miss Elizabeth Bennet! I am certain Mr. Bingley would have declared himself had you waited!”
The carriage came to a stop and Elizabeth followed Jane from Mr. Bingley’s fine equipage. “Jane is well, as you can see, Mama. It would have been rude to impose for another night.”
“Rude?” exclaimed her mother. “The party at Netherfield should have no reason to perceive you as rude! Jane was so very ill!” Her eyes narrowed as she stared at Elizabeth. “It was you who was so mad to return home, dashing all of Jane’s hopes in the process! How you try my nerves!” She gave an indignant huff and returned indoors.
“I have no hopes to be dashed—none as of yet anyway,” explained Jane.
With a slight shrug to the shoulders, Elizabeth levelled her elder sister with a stern expression, which likely was not severe in the least. “I do not believe your falsehood for a second, Jane Bennet.”
Jane’s smile was serene, as always, but there was something more in her eyes. Her eldest sister’s heart was touched! She was certain of it!