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Chapter 3

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however,
with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask
on the subject, was sufficient to draw from her husband
any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley.  They
attacked him in various ways ­with barefaced
questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises;
but he eluded the skill of them all, and they were
at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence
of their neighbour, Lady Lucas.  Her report was
highly favourable.  Sir William had been delighted
with him.  He was quite young, wonderfully handsome,
extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant
to be at the next assembly with a large party. 
Nothing could be more delightful!  To be fond of
dancing was a certain step towards falling in love;
and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart
were entertained.

“If I can but see one of my
daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said
Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others
equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish
for.”

In a few days Mr. Bingley returned
Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes
with him in his library.  He had entertained hopes
of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies,
of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only
the father.  The ladies were somewhat more fortunate,
for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an
upper window that he wore a blue coat, and rode a
black horse.

An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards
dispatched; and already had Mrs. Bennet planned the
courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping,
when an answer arrived which deferred it all. 
Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following
day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour
of their invitation, etc.  Mrs. Bennet was
quite disconcerted.  She could not imagine what
business he could have in town so soon after his arrival
in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might
be always flying about from one place to another, and
never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. 
Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting
the idea of his being gone to London only to get a
large party for the ball; and a report soon followed
that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven
gentlemen with him to the assembly.  The girls
grieved over such a number of ladies, but were comforted
the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of
twelve he brought only six with him from London ­his
five sisters and a cousin.  And when the party
entered the assembly room it consisted of only five
altogether ­Mr. Bingley, his two sisters,
the husband of the eldest, and another young man.

Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike;
he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected
manners.  His sisters were fine women, with an
air of decided fashion.  His brother-in-law, Mr.
Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend
Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his
fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and
the report which was in general circulation within
five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten
thousand a year.  The gentlemen pronounced him
to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he
was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked
at with great admiration for about half the evening,
till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide
of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud;
to be above his company, and above being pleased; and
not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then
save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable
countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with
his friend.

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself
acquainted with all the principal people in the room;
he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance,
was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked
of giving one himself at Netherfield.  Such amiable
qualities must speak for themselves.  What a contrast
between him and his friend!  Mr. Darcy danced
only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley,
declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent
the rest of the evening in walking about the room,
speaking occasionally to one of his own party. 
His character was decided.  He was the proudest,
most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody
hoped that he would never come there again.  Amongst
the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose
dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into
particular resentment by his having slighted one of
her daughters.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged,
by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two
dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had
been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation
between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance
for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.

“Come, Darcy,” said he,
“I must have you dance.  I hate to see you
standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. 
You had much better dance.”

“I certainly shall not. 
You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly
acquainted with my partner.  At such an assembly
as this it would be insupportable.  Your sisters
are engaged, and there is not another woman in the
room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand
up with.”

“I would not be so fastidious
as you are,” cried Mr. Bingley, “for a
kingdom!  Upon my honour, I never met with so many
pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening;
and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”

You are dancing with
the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr.
Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

“Oh!  She is the most beautiful
creature I ever beheld!  But there is one of her
sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty,
and I dare say very agreeable.  Do let me ask
my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and
turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth,
till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly
said:  “She is tolerable, but not handsome
enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present
to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted
by other men.  You had better return to your partner
and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time
with me.”

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. 
Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with
no very cordial feelings toward him.  She told
the story, however, with great spirit among her friends;
for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted
in anything ridiculous.

The evening altogether passed off
pleasantly to the whole family.  Mrs. Bennet had
seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield
party.  Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice,
and she had been distinguished by his sisters. 
Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could
be, though in a quieter way.  Elizabeth felt Jane’s
pleasure.  Mary had heard herself mentioned to
Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the
neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate
enough never to be without partners, which was all
that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. 
They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn,
the village where they lived, and of which they were
the principal inhabitants.  They found Mr. Bennet
still up.  With a book he was regardless of time;
and on the present occasion he had a good deal of
curiosity as to the events of an evening which had
raised such splendid expectations.  He had rather
hoped that his wife’s views on the stranger
would be disappointed; but he soon found out that he
had a different story to hear.

“Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,”
as she entered the room, “we have had a most
delightful evening, a most excellent ball.  I wish
you had been there.  Jane was so admired, nothing
could be like it.  Everybody said how well she
looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful,
and danced with her twice!  Only think of that,
my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she
was the only creature in the room that he asked a second
time.  First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. 
I was so vexed to see him stand up with her! 
But, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed,
nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with
Jane as she was going down the dance.  So he inquired
who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for
the two next.  Then the two third he danced with
Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and
the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with
Lizzy, and the Boulanger ­”

“If he had had any compassion
for me,” cried her husband impatiently,
“he would not have danced half so much! 
For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. 
O that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted
with him.  He is so excessively handsome! 
And his sisters are charming women.  I never in
my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. 
I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown ­”

Here she was interrupted again. 
Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery. 
She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of
the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit
and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr.
Darcy.

“But I can assure you,”
she added, “that Lizzy does not lose much by
not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable,
horrid man, not at all worth pleasing.  So high
and so conceited that there was no enduring him! 
He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself
so very great!  Not handsome enough to dance with! 
I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given
him one of your set-downs.  I quite detest the
man.”

 

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