<CHAPTER III (3)>
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, &c. 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 large number of ladies; but were
comforted the day before the ball by hearing that, instead of twelve, he had 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 oldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance,
and easy, unaffected manners. 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
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 every body 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 overhear 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 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; and 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 towards him.
She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a
lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing 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 to be never 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 event of an evening which had raised such
splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that all his wife's views on the stranger
would be disappointed; but he soon found that he had a very 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. Every body 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 enquired 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. Oh! that
he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!"
"Oh! my dear," continued Mrs. Bennet, "I am quite delighted with him. He is so
excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw
any thing 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."