After dinner that evening, the Bennet family gathered in the drawing room. Four of Mr Bennet’s daughters were young ladies of much charm. Jane was the real beauty, but Elizabeth, who was twenty, had so much liveliness, and such fine dark eyes, that she had a radiance all her own. Kitty, who was seventeen, was slight and delicate; but Lydia, very nearly sixteen, was tall and fresh-complexioned. Nineteen-year-old Mary was the only plain member of the family: thin, round-shouldered, and near-sighted from poring over books.
Elizabeth was busy trimming a hat when Mr Bennet said to her: “I hope Mr Bingley will like it, Lizzy.”
“How shall we know what Mr Bingley likes?” asked her mother resentfully, “if we are not to visit him?”
“You forget, Mama, that we shall meet him at the assemblies,” Elizabeth said.
“Lady Lucas will present Mr Bingley if you ask her.” said Jane.
“She,” said Mrs Bennet darkly, “has her own daughters to think of.”
“That’s not very gracious, Mama,” said Elizabeth.
Mrs Bennet threw up her arms and swung upon Elizabeth. “Do not dare to lecture me, Elizabeth,” she cried. “My nerves will not stand it. In any case, a casual introduction at a public assembly is of little consequence. Your papa has no thought for you at all.”
She glared across the room at her
“Can we still not persuade you to call on Mr Bingley, Papa?” asked Elizabeth in a coaxing tone.
“Please do,” wheedled Jane.
“Oh yes, sir, I beg you!” urged Lydia.
“You may exclude me from that request. Papa,” said Mary, coldly. “I have no desire to pursue Mr Bingley.”
Mr Bennet looked from one to the other. “I have already declined to call on Mr Bingley,” he said.
“There!” cried Mrs Bennet. “You see! It is too bad! Oh, my poor head!” Since all this had no effect on her husband, she began scolding one of her daughters. “Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sake! Have some pity for my poor nerves. You tear them to pieces.”
“I do not cough for my own amusement,” said Kitty.
“We understand that,” remarked Mr Bennet.” But let us return to Mr Bingley—”
“No, no,” cried his wife. “I am sick of Mr Bingley!”
“Indeed, I am sorry to hear that, my dear,” said her husband, enjoying himself immensely. “But why did you not tell me so before? If I had known, I certainly would not have called upon him yesterday morning.”
“What!” cried Mrs Bennet. “You have called?”
“Oh, Papa!” exclaimed Jane, Elizabeth, Kitty and Lydia in unison.
“But my dear Mr Bennet, you positively declared that you wouldn’t!” said his wife.
“That is so. I had already done so, you see.”
“Oh, how good of you, my dear. I was sure you loved your girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. It was such a good joke to play upon us! Oh, my dear Mr Bennet, how very pleased I am!”
“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr Bennet as 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. “What a fine, thoughtful man he is!”
The rest of the evening was spent in wondering how soon Mr Bingley would return the visit.
- be of little consequence – something that doesn’t mean a great importance.
- coax – if you coax someone into doing something, you gently try to persuade them to do it.
- wheedle – if you say that someone wheedles, you mean that they try to persuade someone to do or give them what they want, for example by saying nice things that they do not mean.
- urge – if you urge someone to do something, you try hard to persuade them to do it.
- be sick of smth. – – be very tired of smth.
- fatigued – if you are feeling fatigued, you are suffering from extreme physical or mental tiredness.
- raptures – expressions of intense pleasure or enthusiasm about something.
- return visit – if you make a return visit, you visit someone who has already visited you, or you go back to a place where you have already been once