We begin today's chapter where yesterday's left off - Bingley and Darcy have just left, and Elizabeth heads off into the gardens to have a think. Mr Darcy was silent for most of the visit, and seemed to be observing Jane a great deal. She knows he was entirely pleasant and at ease at Pemberley, when she was there, and that he maintained that pleasantness with Mr and Mrs Gardiner when he spent time with them in town, so she is trying to figure out why he's back in his shell now.
That he might be re-examining Jane Bennet's demeanor in light of Elizabeth's assertions that Jane is shy, but was very much attached to Mr Bingley, never crosses her mind, although it was the first thing that came to my mind last chapter when she dwelt on Darcy looking thoughtful and watching Jane. But Lizzy is making it all about herself, as most of us would likely do as well, so she's just flummoxed.
Elizabeth is fairly certain that Bingley is still quite attached to Jane, and she expects a happy ending for them long before Jane thinks it possible for herself - a point that holds in both of the private conversations she has with Jane in this chapter.
Darcy and Bingley come to dinner
Mrs Bennet doesn't exactly stand on ceremony with the seating arrangements at dinner, since Mr Bingley is free to choose his own place, more or less. Jane smiles at him, so he sits next to her. Still, Mrs Bennet keeps to someof the proprieties, since she sits Mr Darcy (the highest-ranking man in the room, as best I can tell) next to her. Of course, she then treats him coldly, since she's so small-minded and clueless, but really, were I Mr Darcy, I'd prefer that to her usual loquaciousness. And if she liked him, one can only imagine how obsequious she would be, given how smarmy she gets over Bingley, who has only half of Darcy's annual income.
Elizabeth really wants to talk with Darcy, but she doesn't get the opportunity. She's too far away from him at dinner, and the women circle the wagons after dinner, boxing him out. She does manage to inquire about Georgiana, but that's pretty much it.
Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!Poor Elizabeth! And then she can't even manage to sit at the same table as him for cards. "They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself." God, I love Austen. She's so wry.
"A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex, who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings!"
Mrs Bennet's triumph
Mrs Bennet is quite thrilled with the success of the evening - the other young ladies present were nice, but plain (so as not to pull attention away from Jane); Mrs Long thinks Bingley and Jane look a likely couple; and the meal turned out well: "[E]ven Mr Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least."
Two things here:
1. Obviously, Mr Darcy was acting in a polite manner toward Mrs Bennet. He offered her a specific compliment, after all.
2. "French cooks" were highly prized in that time period. Not everyone had one or could afford one, of course. And they weren't easily obtained, since Britain and France were at war at that time. However, many of the very fashionable members of society had French cooks. Mrs Bennet's remark about Darcy having "two or three French cooks at the least" is obvious hyperbole (and what do we expect from Mrs B if not hyperbolic remarks?), but it also reflects her implied assessment that Darcy is a man of taste and substance.
Tomorrow: Chapter 55
Back to Chapter 53