When Luke and Jonathan were alone, the former, who had been cautious in his praise of Miss Bingley before, expressed to his brother how very much he admired her.
“She is just what a young woman ought to be,” said he, “sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so much ease, with such perfect good-breeding!”
“She is also handsome,” said Jonathan; “which a young woman ought likewise to be, if she possibly can. Her character is thereby complete.”
“I was very much flattered by her asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”
“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than her asking you again? She could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other man in the room. No thanks to her gallantry for that. Well, she certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like her. You have liked many a stupider person.”
“Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life.”
“I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak what I think.”
“I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candour is common enough;—one meets it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design—to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone. And so you like this woman’s brothers too, do you? Their manners are not equal to hers.”
“Certainly not—at first. But they are very pleasing men when you converse with them. Mr. Bingley is to live with his sister, and keep her house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in him.”
Jonathan listened in silence, but was not convinced; their behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than his brother, and with a judgment too unassailed by any attention to himself, he was very little disposed to approve them. They were in fact very fine gentlemen; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their sister’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
Miss Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly an hundred thousand pounds from her mother, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Miss Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of her county; but as she was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of her temper, whether she might not spend the remainder of her days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.
Her brothers were very anxious for her having an estate of her own; but, though she was now established only as a tenant, Mr. Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at her table—nor was Mr. Hurst, who had married a woman of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider her house as his home when it suited him. Miss Bingley had not been of age two years, when she was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. She did look at it, and into it, for half an hour—was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.
Between her and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of her temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to her own, and though with her own she never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy’s regard Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of her judgment the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever. She was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and her manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. In that respect her friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever she appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence.
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with pleasanter people or prettier boys in her life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to her; there had been no formality, no stiffness; she had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Luke Bennet, she could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom she had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Luke Bennet she acknowledged to be pretty, but he smiled too much.
Mr. Hurst and his brother allowed it to be so; but still they admired him and liked him, and pronounced him to be a sweet boy, and one whom they should not object to know more of. Luke Bennet was therefore established as a sweet boy, and their sister felt authorized by such commendation to think of him as she chose.