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Chapter 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 way-- 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 place!"

"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."





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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