Friday, November 15, 1811
Elizabeth Bennet had been nursing her older sister, Jane, at Netherfield Park for two days and she viewed the necessity of breaking her fast with her host and his sisters with scant enthusiasm. Mr. Bingley was, in every respect, a most genial gentleman and host: kind, amiable and obviously much attracted to Jane Bennet, for it was apparent that nothing was to be found wanting in the care provided her while she resided at Netherfield. Elizabeth could not see that his sisters were of a similar disposition. While quite prepared to express their concern for, and a desire to entertain, her sister, their intentions and attentions did not survive the inclusion of the gentlemen into their company. Mr. Darcy, in particular, was the object of Miss Bingley's regard and it was a source of amusement to Elizabeth to discern that gentleman's obvious, to her at least, distaste for Miss Bingley's admiration. If Elizabeth had liked the gentleman more, she might have felt some sympathy for him; but, as it was, Darcy's manners and comportment had not recommended him to her and his gratuitous insult at an assembly before they had even been introduced, had fixed in her mind that he thought poorly of her. Nothing that had occurred between them since had altered this opinion and she quite believed him to be the most disagreeable and conceited man of her acquaintance.
It was this company she contemplated before she entered the dining room to break her fast. She was, therefore, not disappointed or surprised, to find, when she did so, the exact company already engaged in eating. Mr. Bingley only greeted her.
"Miss Elizabeth, may I inquire as to Miss Bennet's health?"
"She is much better, sir. I have hopes that she might be well enough to join us downstairs this evening."
Mr. Bingley was pleased at such tidings and was expressing his satisfaction when the door to the room opened and the butler made an announcement.
"Captain James Bingley."
The gentleman who followed the butler into the room was greeted by silence. Miss Bingley's mouth was gaping like a day old cod and Mrs. Hurst looked almost dismayed. Elizabeth wondered at their reaction but her thoughts were distracted by her host's behaviour for, as soon as he mastered his surprise, he jumped from the table and almost rushed to welcome the newcomer.
"Brother," said he, "You sent us no warning you were to visit."
"Does that mean I am unwelcome, Charles?"
The good natured laugh that accompanied his words and the eagerness with which the two men greeted each other left no doubt as to the affection that existed between them. Captain Bingley was a man of about thirty years of age, rather weathered in complexion; with a multitude of wrinkles around his eyes as if he spent much time squinting into the sun. He was a good looking man, although not as handsome as his younger brother, of much the same height but seemingly larger and more strongly built.
He greeted his sisters with an easy familiarity and Elizabeth rather supposed, from the manner in which that greeting was returned, that the pleasure shared by all three parties was inferior to that existing between the brothers. Mr. Hurst received only a brief nod which was returned in kind. Mr. Darcy, the captain greeted with civility. It was clear that while the two were acquainted, the relationship was not as warm as that between Darcy and the younger Bingley. Neither, however, appeared displeased to have renewed the acquaintance.
When introduced to Elizabeth, the captain made no effort to mask his pleasure at gaining the acquaintance of such an attractive young woman. He quickly made it known that he had departed his accommodations very early in the morning, and having eaten only lightly, required no encouragement to join them in their meal. Once a plate was filled, he wasted no time in placing himself beside Elizabeth; however, he was not to be allowed to devote his attentions to her as his brother had numerous questions which must be addressed while he attempted to consume the edibles before him.
Why had he come to Netherfield? – His business had called him to London and, as he had no pressing engagements, he thought to visit his brother and sisters. How long did he intend to visit? - This was a matter to be decided but he was not averse to remaining with them for some time. Why had he not written to advise them of his coming? Captain Bingley glanced at his sisters and mentioned that it had been a decision made on the spur of the moment.
Elizabeth laughed, remembering the conversations of the previous day about Bingley's impulsiveness.
"You are much like your brother then, Captain Bingley?"
He looked puzzled and Bingley laughed.
"Miss Elizabeth is, I fear, recollecting our conversation of yesterday where Darcy was finding fault with my habit of acting upon impulse."
"Ah, I see. Allow me to assure you, Miss Bennet, that my behaviour in this regard is generally more like Darcy's than my brother's."
"I found no fault with your brother's character, sir."
At this point Elizabeth realized that she had finished her meal and that Jane was likely to be waking. Making her excuses, she made her way upstairs, leaving Captain Bingley puzzled as to the reason for her presence. His confusion was quickly answered by Miss Bingley.
"Miss Eliza has taken upon herself the nursing of her elder sister who most inconveniently fell ill while visiting us two days ago. We assured her that her sister would be provided the best of care but Miss Bennet was so desirous of her sister's presence that nothing would do but to have her stay here also."
Bingley was not pleased at the asperity in his sister's tone.
"Caroline, that is most. . .well, allow me to say that Miss Elizabeth has been most attentive to her sister and I find nothing wanting in such sisterly concern."
"But surely Charles, her appearance when she arrived! Her petticoats six inches deep in mud. Even Mr. Darcy questioned the need for her attending her sister. Why. . ."
"That is quite enough, Caroline!" responded Bingley, who then turned to his brother who had been listening to this brief exchange with a great deal of interest. He wondered if his brother had an interest in Miss Elizabeth, for he had defended her most vigorously. That his youngest sister did not like the young lady was quite obvious, although he could not fathom why that would be so.
Most of the questions he harboured about the presence of the Miss Bennets were answered later that morning when he joined his brother and Darcy in the study. A change of clothing and a bath had not been unwelcome and his mood was cheerful when he sat down across from his brother. Darcy was also present but, as he was as reticent, as was his usual wont, Captain Bingley chose to disregard him, for his brother had claimed his attention quickly.
"I still wonder at your joining us, James. I had not thought you likely to leave the comforts of Liverpool."
James Bingley was slow to respond. In truth he was not sure why he had decided to join his siblings. The obvious reason, his business affairs were such at the moment that he had the freedom to do so, did not explain why he had acted so precipitously, for he could as equally have visited friends or stayed in London. Several possibilities had been before him and yet he had come here to Hertfordshire, a county that he had never before visited and one, if asked about in the past, he would have declaimed any interest in visiting. Yet here he was and with company that, if honest with himself, only one member of which could be considered pleasant.
"I cannot give you a satisfactory answer, Charles. I hardly know myself. I suppose that I was simply interested in seeing the estate you had let."
"Your business affairs go well?"
Captain Bingley nodded, "Very well indeed. All my ships but one are at sea and I do not anticipate them returning until the new year."
"How many is that now?"
Charles' eyebrows rose, "Indeed, I had not realized it was so many."
Captain Bingley shrugged. He was not in the habit of discussing his business affairs with anyone and his brother had rarely displayed more than a passing interest in the subject. He had no reason to believe his interest had grown. Besides, there was a matter of greater import.
"Now, Charles, you must enlighten me as to the presence of Miss Bennet and her sister. How did you meet them?"
Charles then endeavoured to do exactly that and, if his recital was somewhat disjointed, his brother swiftly understood that it was not Miss Elizabeth Bennet who had secured his brother's interest, but her older sister, Jane.
"When am I to meet this angel of yours, Charles?"
The captained noted a little smirk cross Darcy's lips and wondered at it.
"Tonight, if Miss Elizabeth is correct. You will, I know, find Miss Bennet to be everything that is most delightful. She is the most beautiful creature I have ever met."
"She smiles too much." said Darcy.
Bingley laughed, "And that is to be considered a fault? She is the most proper of creatures. I have yet to hear her speak poorly of anyone, even Darcy!" He laughed again and Darcy scowled slightly. Captain Bingley pursed his lips to stifle a chuckle. Clearly his brother's friend did not, for some reason, view Miss Bennet as favourably as Charles. He was soon enlightened on the reason.
Darcy sighed, "I do not mean to speak poorly of Miss Bennet, or even of Miss Elizabeth, but their family is most unsuitable. Their mother!" He shuddered slightly. "A harridan of the worst sort. And their younger sisters." He shook his head but would say no more.
As Charles did not refute his friend's statements, the captain could only suppose that there was substance to them.
He was to encounter Miss Elizabeth later that day as she was exiting the house for a walk with Mrs. Hurst. His company was offered and willingly accepted by both ladies. They had been walking for some time and the conversation, mostly carried by Elizabeth and the captain, was pleasant. After a quarter hour they could hear voices ahead, coming from an intersecting path and very shortly encountered Miss Bingley and Darcy.
His youngest sister appeared slightly perturbed at their meeting, although the captain could not discern a cause for it.
"I did not know that you intended to walk." said Caroline.
"You used us abominably ill," replied Mrs. Hurst, "running away without telling us you were coming out."
Then taking the unengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk with the captain. As the latter was not adverse to the loss of his sister's company and quite willing to enjoy that of Elizabeth, the situation appeared to satisfy all the parties to it.
"Miss Elizabeth," said he, "perhaps we might wander down this trail. From what my brother has mentioned, you are a great walker – which I know my sisters are not – and we might thus allow ourselves a brisker pace and you could better acquaint me with the beauties of Netherfield's park."
Elizabeth was pleased at such an offer and with the prospect of furthering her acquaintance with Bingley's older brother. She was almost convinced that to remain at Netherfield might not be unpleasant, if the captain continued to be so agreeable.
As she could not remain separated from her sister for too long, the duration and extent of their ramble was limited; however, their conversation was not, and Elizabeth had rarely enjoyed a gentleman's company as much before. The captain was interested in Hertfordshire, Longbourn and her family and she had much to relate. She had only begun to direct the conversation to other subjects when she realized that it was past time for her to return to her sister.
"I am forced to take exception to your company, sir. It is altogether too enjoyable and has made me quite forget my obligations to my sister. I must leave you now and hurry back to her."
Captain Bingley laughed, "Never before have I been chastised for such a cause. I must ensure you of my gentlemanly behaviour and accompany you. I believe I can accommodate your pace."
In good spirits they returned to the manor house where Elizabeth left him to join her sister. The captain found that he missed her company exceedingly; he had never so enjoyed a young lady's conversation and regretted the loss of it. His intention to return to Liverpool before the Christmas season, he now questioned; however, there was easily a month before such a decision was required and that was more than sufficient to allow him to get to know Miss Elizabeth Bennet better.
When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well guarded against the cold, attended her into the drawing room, where she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure. Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour that passed before the gentlemen joined them. Their powers of conversation were considerable. They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
But, when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object. Mr. Darcy had advanced but a few steps into the room when Miss Bingley had something to say to him; however, he addressed himself to Miss Bennet with a polite congratulation on recovering her health, and Mr. Hurst echoed the sentiment. Diffuseness and warmth were left to Charles Bingley who was full of joy and attention. His first object was to introduce his brother to her acquaintance, but once that task was complete, he spent the next half hour building up the fire lest she suffer from the change of room; and she removed, at his desire, to the other side of the fireplace, that she might be further from the door. He then sat down beside her and scarce talked to anyone else. Elizabeth who was sitting somewhat removed from them both watched with great enjoyment.
Captain Bingley, once the necessary introduction to Miss Bennet had been made, moved to sit near Elizabeth and both comfortably conversed until tea was over. Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the card-table - but in vain. She had learned Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even his open petition rejected. She assured him that no one intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do but to stretch himself on one of the sophas and go to sleep. Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her brother's conversation with Miss Bennet. Elizabeth and Captain Bingley remained comfortably ensconced on a sopha and Elizabeth took the opportunity to further her acquaintance with him.
"I am ashamed, Captain Bingley, to admit my ignorance but, with the _ Militia being quartered here, I rather thought you were an officer in the regulars, but from a little you have said, I now surmise that to be a mistake."
It turned out that her supposition was greatly in error. James Bingley had been sent to sea as a midshipman in His Majesty's Royal Nay at the tender age of twelve and was almost continuously at sea for the next fifteen years, rising to the rank of captain before retiring upon his father's death.
"I am an active sort of fellow, Miss Elizabeth and upon retiring was not content to live an idle life."
Miss Bingley had overheard some of their conversation and interrupted.
"My brother decided not to purchase an estate and chose instead to return to trade." she said disdainfully.
"Our father was in trade; your dowry is derived from his efforts. I see no shame in his activities."
"He wished his sons to be gentlemen." Caroline protested.
"I do not consider myself ungentlemanly. The life of a landowner does not suit me, Caroline. I have lived my life on the sea and it is that sphere where I am most comfortable."
"Do you captain a ship now, sir?" inquired Elizabeth.
"Not precisely, Miss Elizabeth. I engage in shipping, the transport of goods from one continent to another for the most part."
"Ah, my uncle engages in importing and exporting goods. Mayhap he uses your ships."
Captain Bingley smiled. "I know the company. They use a competitor of mine."
Elizabeth smiled slyly, "I am sure my father could arrange an introduction, should you wish one."
He laughed and Caroline scowled. Mr. Darcy's thoughts on the matter could not be discerned but Elizabeth was sure from his expression that he did not approve.
Elizabeth considered the captain further. His manner was engaging although not as polished as his brother's and, if his voice had a gruffness not evidenced in Mr. Darcy and Charles Bingley, she suspected that it was due to having to make himself heard over the howling of winds. She was not inclined to fault his manners for, if slightly unrefined, there was no want of politeness or consideration in his behaviour. There was a touch of an accent in his voice which she thought must be from his roots in the north; but it was not unpleasing. His clothes reminded her of how her uncle dressed. There was a plainness of style married with an excellence of cut and quality of fabric which suggested his business was not unprofitable and that his taste, was superior. She wondered at his circumstances and that his younger brother had inherited his father's fortune, but it was not a question that could be raised in polite company. She could not doubt her observations and was of the opinion that he possessed a respectable income.
Miss Bingley's attention was now quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy's progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, "How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
Captain Bingley laughed, "Caroline, to my knowledge, in the years since my return, you have not read anything more challenging than a novel and not more than a handful of them."
Caroline ignored her brother's comment and he forwent the pleasure of teasing her further.
She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement; when, hearing her brother mentioning a ball to Miss Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and said, "By-the-bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield? I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure."
"If you mean Darcy," cried her brother, "he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins — but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards."
"I should like balls infinitely better," she replied, "if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day."
"Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball."
Captain Bingley's grimace prompted Elizabeth to inquire, "Are you of Mr. Darcy's persuasion, sir? Do you despise dancing?"
"Not at all, Miss Elizabeth, but my years at sea have not provided many opportunities for me to perfect the art."
Elizabeth was dismayed for she had, upon learning about the ball, hoped to have a dance with the captain. "Have you not learned, sir, or is it a want of practice?"
"The latter, fortunately. I must confess that my talents do not entail displaying a nimble foot on the dance floor."
"I believe the ladies of Hertfordshire will treat you kindly, Captain."
"Provided I do not insult their feet too much!" He chuckled.
Elizabeth's response was interrupted by Miss Bingley who had begun to walk about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious. In the desperation of her feelings she resolved on one effort more; and turning to Elizabeth, said, "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."
"Caroline," interrupted her brother who was not insensible to the touch of disdain underlying his sister's words, "I am, I admit, not often amongst the highest circles of society but I always have been given to believe it highly improper to refer to someone other than by their proper name unless one is a particular friend. Am I incorrect on this?"
Miss Bingley looked affronted, for she knew that she had spoken of Elizabeth in such a manner as to display a touch of contempt. Only her eldest brother would dare question the propriety of her actions - and in front of company. She was not prepared to concede her fault though and chose to ignore what he had said. Her brother, however, was not disposed to allow the matter to rest and persisted.
"In future, Caroline, you shall refer to Miss Elizabeth properly."
He fixed his gaze on his sister and, after a brief pause, she nodded and repeated her request to walk about the room.
Elizabeth was surprised that Caroline had repeated her request, and was about to agree to it when the captain interceded once more.
"I am sure that Miss Elizabeth obtained sufficient exercise this morning as we must have walked for more than hour complete. And I should not wish to have our conversation interrupted."
Elizabeth was pleased at being so championed but the idea of stretching her legs was not unpleasant and she, with an apologetic look at Captain Bingley, said as much and agreed to Miss Bingley's suggestion. 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 also invited to join their party as was Captain Bingley, but both men declined it and Mr. Darcy observed that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere.
Miss Bingley was excited by such a response. "What could he mean?" She was dying to know what could be his meaning - and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him.
Captain Bingley only laughed heartily, "I know not what Darcy is about, but I can admire Miss Elizabeth's figure best if I remain sitting here."
Elizabeth blushed prettily at such a comment although she was far from displeased. Darcy scowled but only Miss Bingley was sensible of his reaction.
Captain Bingley smiled at having discomposed Elizabeth to such an extent and, if he had thought she might object, would not have hazarded the comment. He turned to Darcy, "I had not meant to discourage your comment, Darcy. Say your piece."
Darcy waved it off. The moment had passed. Elizabeth was curious as to what he might have said although she was not unhappy he had chosen to be silent.
"Do not encourage him, for I am certain he means to be severe on Miss Bingley and myself, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it."
The captain raised an eyebrow at Darcy who shrugged and gave every sign that he did not wish to pursue the matter further. His demeanour looked more forbidding than usual and Elizabeth could not comprehend what could have caused a disagreeable man, to become even more disagreeable.
Caroline chose to allow the matter to drop for her brother's comment raised in her breast a suspicion that he admired Miss Elizabeth Bennet and she hardly knew what to think. If the lady's interest was deflected to her brother, it was possible that Darcy would lose interest in her. Certainly, Miss Elizabeth and her brother had appeared most companionable. Could she tolerate such a connection? Could she even influence her brother's decision? He was not like Charles. He never sought her advice, nor did he attach any value to it when she had provided it unsolicited. In more cases than not, he had done the reverse of what she wished to happen. It was bad enough that Charles appeared enamoured of Jane Bennet. To have her elder brother equally bewitched by Miss Elizabeth was more than she could countenance.
Miss Bingley was most unsettled by her current dilemma and cried, "Do let us have a little music! Louisa, you will not mind my waking Mr. Hurst."
Her sister made not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was opened, and Darcy, after a few moments recollection, was not sorry for it. He had begun to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention and yet, if he understood the situation, her interest had been captured by Captain Bingley. He was not sure how he felt about that and he hoped the captain was not trifling with her. He wondered how long an attachment would last once the man had been introduced to her family for he could scarcely believe that any sensible man would pursue a connection to a family so bereft of propriety. Charles might, he knew, simply because he cared little for such matters. Darcy doubted his older brother would be equally sanguine about such behaviour. He was a sensible man, after all.
Saturday, November 1, 1811
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth wrote to her mother to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day. But Mrs. Bennet had calculated on her daughters remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday which would exactly finish Jane's week, and could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before then. Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added that, if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could spare them very well. Her answer, therefore, was propitious, at least in terms of Elizabeth's wishes, for she was eager to have more of Captain Bingley's attention; however, Jane, whose notions of propriety were stringent, felt it imperative to return home. She was reluctant to further impose on her hosts and fearful of being considered as intruding themselves needlessly long and decided to request the use of Mr. Bingley's carriage immediately. At length she settled with Elizabeth that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be mentioned, and the request made.
The communication excited many expressions of concern; and enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the following day, to influence a change of Jane's opinion; and till the morrow their going was deferred. Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded her affection for the other. The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were to go so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that it would not be safe for her - that she was not enough recovered; but Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right. Captain Bingley was almost equally vociferous in the expression of his wish that Miss Bennet remain as it would ensure that Miss Elizabeth would be part of their company.
To Mr. Darcy the departure of Elizabeth cast him into an unfamiliar milieu of mixed emotions. On one hand, it was welcome intelligence - Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked - and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teasing than usual to him. One the other hand, Elizabeth had paid him little attention and such conversation that she had was mainly with Captain Bingley. An emotion he thought might be jealousy – and he could not even be certain of that, for he had never before been in such a state – arose when the Captain's attentions were considered. He could not be blind to Elizabeth's obvious approval of the captain but was certain that, should his interest be known to her, she would quickly transfer hers to him. His wealth, status and connections were, in every respect, superior to those of Captain Bingley, and Elizabeth, as a gentleman's daughter, could not possibly be insensible to them. Nonetheless, he resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the remainder of her visit must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves for half an hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her.
If he had known that Elizabeth had entered the library after a long and interesting walk with Captain Bingley and had hardly even been aware of Darcy's presence, he would have been elated at his success in masking his interest, and disheartened at her lack of the same for him.
As one gentleman was resolving to hide his interest in Elizabeth in order to ensure he did not raise expectations, another was considering how best to forward his attachment and, when Captain Bingley had, from his bedchamber window, observed Elizabeth as she was strolling in Netherfield's gardens, he hastened down to join her. It had been a felicitous move for she welcomed him with pleasure. They had wandered around for over an hour, their conversation so easy as to render them quite oblivious to the garden itself. There had been no shortage of subjects to be discussed and an eager interest on both their parts to discuss them. Hertfordshire, Meryton, the navy and Liverpool were amongst the topics canvassed and both were sorry when required to separate. The Captain, while unhappy at the prospect of Elizabeth's departure, which would deprive him of her company, realized her removal would also allow him to pursue her more directly. As long as she was in residence at Netherfield, he could not, with propriety, speak of his intentions. Once she returned to Longbourn, he would act.
Sunday, November 17, 1811
The Bingley brothers were more than eager to accompany the Bennet sisters to services on Sunday. Miss Bingley, the Hursts and Mr. Darcy joined them with varying degrees of pleasure. Miss Bingley had the satisfaction of being escorted by Mr. Darcy to the pews reserved for Netherfield; however, her satisfaction was tempered by the sight of her brothers each escorting the Bennet sister of his choice to those same pews.
The service was remarkable only in one regard. Captain Bingley's voice, although quite capable of making itself heard over the roar of the wind and the snapping of sails was not melodious. Not in any respect. And he quickly became aware of that singular fact and noting the amused glance that Miss Elizabeth Bennet sneaked at him after the first hymn, the singing of which he had entered with no little enthusiasm. He knew he had best moderate his efforts.
As they left after the service, Miss Elizabeth once more on his arm, she whispered, her eyes fixed determinedly ahead, "I must admire your enthusiasm for singing the hymns, sir."
He chuckled, "I confess I tend to forget that one need not sing as loudly as possible to be heard, Miss Elizabeth."
"Church services are held at sea then, Captain?"
"Indeed they are. Every Sunday unless conditions or circumstances do not permit."
"Aye, I am afraid war does not recognize the Sabbath and we have, several times, had to clear for action on a Sunday."
Elizabeth wished to have him explain what he meant by 'clear for action' but as they had reached their carriage, 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.