“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Mrs. Bennet reveals to her husband that Netherfield Park is let at last to Mr. Bingley, a young single man of large fortune from the north of England. She hopes that he will marry one of her daughters and asks Mr. Bennet to call on him immediately. Teasingly, Mr. Bennet resists suggesting she visit in his stead. She must put in a good word for his Lizzy who is not as silly and ignorant as her other sisters. Mrs. Bennet balks at his abusing his children so claiming he has no compassion for her nerves. He claims the contrary. Her nerves are his old friends these 20 years. He does not know how she suffers. Mr. Bennet was such an odd mixture of sarcastic humour and caprice that his wife did not understand even after 23 years of marriage. “She was a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”
Mr. Bennet visits Mr. Bingley which was his intention from the start but withholds the information from his family. Mrs. Bennet laments their not being able to call on Bingley and that she must be introduced to him at the assemblies by their neighbor Mrs. Long. She proclaims she is sick of Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bennet says he is sorry to hear that because it could have saved him the trouble of a visit to him that very morning. Now they cannot escape the acquaintance. His family is astonished and Mrs. Bennet ecstatic. She claims the credit in persuading him. She praises his excellence to her daughters. The rest of the evening was spent in conjecture of when Mr. Bingley would return the visit and when they should ask him to dinner.
Mrs. Bennet and her five daughters learn from their neighbor Lady Lucas that Mr. Bingley was young, wonderfully handsome, agreeable and attending the next assembly with a large party. “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” If Mrs. Bennet could see one of her daughters happily settled at Netherfield and all the others equally well married she would have nothing to wish for. Mr. Bingley arrives at Longbourn and is invited to dinner which is declined. He must depart for London to collect his friends for the ball. When his party enters the assembly it consistes of his two fashionable sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man Mr. Darcy who drew attention by his noble mien and report of ten thousand a year. His proud, arrogant manners gave way to disgust. Not even his large estate in Derbyshire could save him. On the other hand, Mr. Bingley was lively and amiable, offering to give a ball at Netherfield. In contrast, Mr. Darcy slighted Elizabeth by refusing to be dance with her. She overhears him tell Bingley that she was only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him. Mrs. Bennet is the first to openly detest him.
Jane shares with Elizabeth that she greatly admires Mr. Bingley. He is just what a young man ought to be, sensible, good-humoured, lively, happy manners and perfect good-breeding. Jane was surprised by Bingley asking her to dance twice. Elizabeth was not surprised. “Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never.” Elizabeth thinks Jane is too apt, never finding fault and being honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others. The Bingley sisters were agreeable when they chose to be, well educated with a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, not proud it was acquired by trade. Bingley and Darcy are steady friends despite their differences in character. Bingley relied on his judgment. Darcy was clever, “haughty, reserved and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting.” Bingley saw everyone at the Meryton assembly as pleasant and attentive and the girls pretty. Darcy saw the opposite and had no interest in them. He acknowledged Miss Bennet to be pretty but smiled too much. Bingley’s sisters agreed and pronounced Jane a sweet girl. This gave Bingley the authority to think of her as he chose.
Sir William Lucas was the Bennet’s neighbor who had earned a tolerable fortune in trade. In recognition he had been raised to a knighthood. Their eldest daughter Charlotte was Elizabeth’s particular friend. At age 27 she was considered a spinster. Elizabeth and Charlotte discuss the ball. Bingley was overheard to say that Jane was beyond a doubt the prettiest woman in the room. She commiserates with Lizzy on being only tolerable in Darcy’s eyes. Mrs. Bennet does not want Lizzy to be vexed by him because he is a most disagreeable man. He is eaten up with pride. She warns Lizzy not to dance with him. “I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.” Charlotte is not offended by his pride and says because of his family and fortune he has a right to it. Elizabeth retorts “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Mary Bennet believes pride a common failing, but vanity and pride are different though the words are interchangeable. “A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
The ladies of Longbourn visit Netherfield. The Bingley sisters thought Jane’s manners pleasing, her mother intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to. Elizabeth saw superciliousness in their treatment of everybody. She felt that Jane was yielding to a preference to Bingley though she guarded it from the suspicions of the impertinent. Charlotte felt it a disadvantage to be guarded. “In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she feels.” Bingley likes Jane, but he may never do more if she does not help him. “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least…it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” Preoccupied by her sister, Elizabeth did not notice that she had become the object of Mr. Darcy’s observations. Previously, he had only looked at her critically, now he found her attractive and manner playful. She is unaware. She noticing him joining to her conversations and is puzzled. He has a very satirical eye and if she does not begin by being impertinent she will grow afraid of him. Mr. Darcy passes the evening in silent indignation until Sir William Lucas asks him to dance with Elizabeth. Elizabeth claims no inclination to dance. “Mr. Darcy is all politeness.” She leaves. Mr. Darcy reveals, to Caroline Bingley’s astonishment, that Elizabeth Bennet has fine eyes and a pretty face. She wishes him joy. He expected this reaction. “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” Sarcastically she reminds him that he will have a charming mother-in-law always visiting at Pemberley.
Longbourn estate earns two thousand a year but was unfortunately entailed by default to the male heir, Mr. Collins a distant cousin. Catherine and Lydia learn from their aunt Mrs. Phillips that a militia regiment has arrived in the neighborhood for the winter. Now they could talk of nothing but officers. Miss Bennet departs on horseback to dine at Netherfield even though it looks like rain. The next morning they learn that Jane is ill. Mr. Bennet chides his wife that she is responsible. Mrs. Bennet does not believe that anyone can die of a little trifling cold. Elizabeth decides to visit Jane and travels on foot. “The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles.” Elizabeth arrives “finding herself with weary ankles, dirty stockings and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.” Elizabeth feels the Bingley sisters look down on her for it. Mr. Darcy said very little but admired the brilliancy of her complexion from the exercise. Jane is delighted to see her sister even though she has a violent cold. At three, Elizabeth felt she must leave for home but is convinced to stay by Jane and Miss Bingley’s offer.
© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose