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.