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Chapter 2

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr.
Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last
always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the
evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it. It
was then disclosed in the following manner: --Observing his
second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he suddenly
addressed her with:

"I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy."

"We are not in a way to know WHAT Mr. Bingley likes," said
her mother resentfully, "since we are not to visit."

"But you forget, mamma," said Elizabeth, "that we shall meet
him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long promised to introduce
him."

"I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two
nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I
have no opinion of her."

"No more have I," said Mr. Bennet; "and I am glad to find that
you do not depend on her serving you."

Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to
contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.

"Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven's sake! Have a little
compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."

"Kitty has no discretion in her coughs," said her father; "she
times them ill."

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully.
"When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"

"To-morrow fortnight."

"Aye, so it is," cried her mother, "and Mrs. Long does not come
back till the day before; so it will be impossible for her to
introduce him, for she will not know him herself."

"Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and
introduce Mr. Bingley to HER."

"Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted
with him myself; how can you be so teasing?"

"I honour your circumspection. A fortnight's acquaintance is
certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by
the end of a fortnight. But if WE do not venture somebody else
will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her daughters must stand their
chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if
you decline the office, I will take it on myself."

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only,
"Nonsense, nonsense!"

"What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?" cried
he. "Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress
that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you
THERE. What say you, Mary? For you are a young lady of
deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make
extracts."

Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.

"While Mary is adjusting her ideas," he continued, "let us return
to Mr. Bingley."

"I am sick of Mr. Bingley," cried his wife.

"I am sorry to hear THAT; but why did not you tell me that
before? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would
not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually
paid the visit; we cannot escape the acquaintance now."

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of
Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first
tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she
had expected all the while.

"How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I
should
persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to
neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is
such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning
and never said a word about it till now."

"Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose," said Mr.
Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the
raptures of his wife.

What an excellent father you have, girls!" said she, when the
door was shut. "I do not know how you will ever make him
amends for his kindness; or me, either, for that matter. At our
time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new
acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do
anything. Lydia, my love, though you ARE the youngest, I dare
say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball."

"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I AM the
youngest, I'm the tallest."

The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he
would return Mr. Bennet's visit, and determining when they
should ask him to dinner.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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