Mrs. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Miss Bingley. She had always intended to visit her, though to the last always assuring her husband that she should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid he had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner:—Observing her second son employed in trimming a hat, she suddenly addressed him with—
“I hope Miss Bingley will like it, Johnny.”
“We are not in a way to know what Miss Bingley likes,” said his mother resentfully, “since we are not to visit.”
“But you forget, papa,” said Jonathan, “that we shall meet her at the assemblies, and that Mr. Long has promised to introduce her.”
“I do not believe Mr. Long will do any such thing. He has two nephews of his own. He is a selfish, hypocritical man, and I have no opinion of him.”
“No more have I,” said Mrs. Bennet; “and I am glad to find that you do not depend on him serving you.”
Mr. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain himself, began scolding one of his sons.
“Don’t keep coughing so Willie, for Heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.”
“Willie has no discretion in his coughs,” said his mother; “he times them ill.”
“I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Willie fretfully. “When is your next ball to be, Johnny?”
“Aye, so it is,” cried his father; “and Mr. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for him to introduce her, for he will not know her himself.”
“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Miss Bingley to him.”
“Impossible, Mrs. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with her myself; how can you be so teasing?”
“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a woman really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture somebody else will; and after all, Mr. Long and his nephews must stand their chance; and, therefore, as he will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.”
The boys stared at their mother. Mr. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”
“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried she. “Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense! I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Francis? for you are a young lad of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make extracts.”
Francis wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.
“While Francis is adjusting his ideas,” she continued, “let us return to Miss Bingley.”
“I am sick of Miss Bingley,” cried her husband.
“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would not have called on her. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”
The astonishment of the boys was just what she wished; that of Mr. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, he began to declare that it was what he had expected all the while.
“How good it was in you, my dear Mrs. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your boys too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”
“Now, Willie, you may cough as much as you chuse,” said Mrs. Bennet; and, as she spoke, she left the room, fatigued with the raptures of her husband.
“What an excellent mother you have, boys!” said he, when the door was shut. “I do not know how you will ever make her amends for her kindness; or me either, for that matter. At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance every day; but for your sakes, we would do any thing. Nicholas, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Miss Bingley will dance with you at the next ball.”
“Oh!” said Nicholas stoutly, “I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest.”
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon she would return Mrs. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask her to dinner.