Chapter one — The Bennets
It is, of course, generally accepted that a wealthy single man must be in search of a wife. As soon as such a man moves into a neighbourhood, each of the families that live there will, without any inquiry as to his own feelings on the subject, immediately consider him the rightful property of one of their daughters.
'My dear Mr Bennet,' said Mrs Bennet to her husband one day, 'have you heard that Netherfield Park has been rented at last?'
Mr Bennet replied that he had not.
'But it has,' she repeated. 'Mrs Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.'
Mr Bennet made no answer.
'Do you not want to know who has taken it?' cried his wife impatiently.
'You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.'
This was quite enough encouragement.
'Well, my dear, Mrs Long says that Netherfield has been taken by a rich young man from the north of England, that he came down on Monday to see the place and was so pleased with it that he agreed to take possession immediately, and that some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of the week.'
'What is his name?'
'Is he married or single?'
'Oh, single, my dear! An unmarried man of large fortune - four or five thousand pounds a year. What a fine thing for our girls!'
'And why is that? What difference does it make to them?'
'My dear Mr Bennet,' replied his wife, 'how can you be so annoying? You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.'
'Is that his intention in settling here?'
'Intention? Nonsense, how can you talk like that! But it is likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.'
'I see no reason for that. You and the girls may go, or, even better, you may send them by themselves, because as you are as good-looking as any of them, Mr Bingley might like you the best of the party.'
'My dear, you praise me too highly. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but when a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give up thinking of her own appearance. But you must go and see Mr Bingley when he comes.'