It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man inpossession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may beon his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so wellfixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he isconsidered the rightful property of some one or other of theirdaughters.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have youheard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, andshe told me all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wifeimpatiently.
“_You_ want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”
This was invitation enough.
“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield istaken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England;that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see theplace, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr.Morris immediately; that he is to take possession beforeMichaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house bythe end of next week.”
“What is his name?”
“Is he married or single?”
“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune;four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”
“How so? How can it affect them?”
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be sotiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one ofthem.”
“Is that his design in settling here?”
“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likelythat he _may_ fall in love with one of them, and therefore youmust visit him as soon as he comes.”
“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you maysend them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, foras you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like youthe best of the party.”
“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly _have_ had my share ofbeauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now.When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give overthinking of her own beauty.”
“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”
“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when hecomes into the neighbourhood.”
“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”
“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment itwould be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas aredetermined to go, merely on that account, for in general, youknow, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will beimpossible for _us_ to visit him if you do not.”
“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will bevery glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you toassure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever hechooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for mylittle Lizzy.”
“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit betterthan the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome asJane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are alwaysgiving _her_ the preference.”
“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he;“they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy hassomething more of quickness than her sisters.”
“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way?You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poornerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves.They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them withconsideration these last twenty years at least.”
“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”
“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young menof four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”
“It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since youwill not visit them.”
“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I willvisit them all.”
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour,reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twentyyears had been insufficient to make his wife understand hischaracter. _Her_ mind was less difficult to develop. She was awoman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertaintemper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous.The business of her life was to get her daughters married; itssolace was visiting and news.