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 an_atisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in variou_ays—with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises;
but he eluded the skill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accep_he second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her report wa_ighly favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quit_oung, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, h_eant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be mor_elightful! 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," sai_rs. Bennet to her husband, "and all the others equally well married, I shal_ave nothing to wish for."
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat about te_inutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted t_ sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he sa_nly the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had th_dvantage of ascertaining from an upper window that he wore a blue coat, an_ode 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 a_nswer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in tow_he following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour of thei_nvitation, etc. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagin_hat business he could have in town so soon after his arrival i_ertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flying about fro_ne place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lad_ucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone t_ondon only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed tha_r. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to th_ssembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies, but were comforte_he day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve he brought only si_ith him from London—his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entere_he assembly room it consisted of only five altogether—Mr. Bingley, his tw_isters, 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 o_ecided 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, tal_erson, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in genera_irculation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousan_ year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladie_eclared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at wit_reat admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgus_hich turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; t_e above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate i_erbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeabl_ountenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people i_he room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that th_all closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Suc_miable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him an_is friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Mis_ingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest o_he evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his ow_arty. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable ma_n the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again.
Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of hi_eneral behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his havin_lighted one of her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit dow_or two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing nea_nough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who cam_rom 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 standin_bout by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularl_cquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would b_nsupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in th_oom 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 hav_his 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 he_isters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say ver_greeable. 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 giv_onsequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had bette_eturn to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your tim_ith me."
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remaine_ith no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however, wit_reat 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. Benne_ad seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr.
Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by hi_isters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though i_ quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure. Mary had heard hersel_entioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood;
and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be withou_artners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. The_eturned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where the_ived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Benne_till up. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasio_e had a good deal of curiosity as to the events of an evening which ha_aised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that his wife's view_n the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found out that he had _ifferent story to hear.
"Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet," as she entered the room, "we have had a mos_elightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane wa_o admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; an_r. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice! Only thin_f _that_ , my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was the onl_reature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Mis_ucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her! But, however, he did no_dmire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struc_ith Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and go_ntroduced, and asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced wit_iss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jan_gain, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the _Boulanger_ —"
"If he had had any compassion for _me_ ," cried her husband impatiently, "h_ould not have danced half so much! For God's sake, say no more of hi_artners. 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 mor_legant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst's gown—"
Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any descriptio_f finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject,
and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, th_hocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.
"But I can assure you," she added, "that Lizzy does not lose much by no_uiting _his_ fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at al_orth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! H_alked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsom_nough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given hi_ne of your set-downs. I quite detest the man."