We left off with Mrs. Bennet worrying about her two youngest making a bad impression on the party from Netherfield Park.
To freshen your memory:
“We agreed, Fanny, the local Assembly was the perfect venue for our two youngest daughters to make their soft come-out. We are among friends here and they can’t get into too much trouble where they are so well known.”
Mama tapped her fan into the palm of her hand. “Yes, but I did not think the Netherfield party would be so disobliging and they will get the wrong impression of our family.”
“Weren’t you planning on being a bit flighty yourself, to test the waters?”
Lizzy watched as her mother cast an assessing look toward the dour Mr. Darcy, who’d begun to pace the edges of the hall.
“Yes,” she finally huffed out on a sigh. “Very well. Let Lydia have her light flirtation, but we still must take care that her reputation is not stained beyond any hope of redemption. If we are judged by our country manners, then so be it, they are not worth our attention.”
“I am sure, between her sisters and myself, Lydia will not come to any harm.” He squeezed his wife’s hand with great affection. “In case I forgot to tell you – you look absolutely lovely tonight, Mrs. Bennet.”
To continue the scene with the infamous insult:
She flushed and brought up her fan to cool her heated cheeks. Lizzy grinned and moved away, catching sight of the empty chair. With a sigh, she lowered herself onto the lightly padded seat and, while watching the dancers, remembered her friend with fondness. Her silent reverie was interrupted with the advent of Mr. Bingley accosting Mr. Darcy not more than four feet from where she sat.
“Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you stand about in this stupid manner.”
“I most certainly will not. You know how I detest the activity, especially if I’m not acquainted with my partner. At an assembly such as this’ – he snorted in derision – ‘it would be insupportable. There are no women in this room whom it would not be a punishment for me to stand up with.”
“Fie, Darcy!” cried Bingley. “I would never be as fastidious as you. Why, there are several here who are uncommonly pretty.”
“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room.”
Lizzy took note that he looked in the direction of Jane and smiled. At least Mr. Darcy had some good taste.
“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld.” Mr. Bingley glanced over Mr. Darcy’s shoulder and seeing Elizabeth, whispered loudly, “One of her sisters, sitting down behind you, is very pretty and I dare say agreeable. Would you let me introduce you?”
“Whom do you mean?” Darcy turned around and looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and said in a voice that would have frozen over the Thames, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” At Bingley’s horrified gasp, he continued. “You had better return to your simpering partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”