Today’s lesson is from the book of Pride and Prejudice, Volume I, Chapter 10.
When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and Elizabeth for the indulgence of some music. Miss Bingley moved with alacrity to the piano-forte, and after a polite request that Elizabeth would lead the way, which the other as politely and more earnestly negatived, she seated herself.
Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus employed, Elizabeth could not help observing, as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her was still more strange. She could only imagine however, at last, that she drew his notice because there was a something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth, said to her —
“Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel?”
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
“Oh!” said she, “I heard you before; but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say “Yes,” that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have therefore made up my mind to tell you that I do not want to dance a reel at all — and now despise me if you dare.”
“Indeed I do not dare.”
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
We have been seeing a few comments here and there on social media stating that Elizabeth Bennet is really a bit of a b-word. The first thing that came to our mind on hearing that was the narrative comment of Elizabeth having “a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody.” Earlier in the passage, Darcy was offended by Bingley teasing him about being an “aweful object” when he was bored; yet Darcy does not find Elizabeth’s teasing offensive. The narrator tells us why; though we think Darcy’s burgeoning affection for Elizabeth may have something to do with it, too. Darcy was fond of Bingley, but certainly in a different way. Apparently “bros before hoes” is not part of the Darcy ethos, and we think well of him for it. And we don’t think Austen meant for us to think Lizzy went around giving constant offense, and being a mean girl. Here endeth the lesson.