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  • Chapter Three of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

  • 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 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

  • eldest, and another young man.

  • Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentleman-like; 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 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."

Chapter Three of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice - Chapter 3 (Audio Dramatisation)

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    easylife posted on 2016/07/03
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