Bingley, of course, was happily dancing with as many of the young ladies as he could manage. He had been forcibly struck by the beauty of the eldest Miss Bennet, and had, upon being made known to her, asked her to stand up with him. It was in the midst of their set that the gentleman noticed his friend standing at the side of the room. Well, he thought, we cannot be having that! Seeing that there would be a wait of a few minutes for their turn to go down the dance, he gestured to his partner and stepped away to speak to his friend.
“Come, Darcy, I must have you dance. I see no sense in you standing about in this stupid manner.”
“I shall not. You know I detest dancing when I do not know my partner. I have danced with your sisters already; there is no one else in the room with whom it would not be a punishment to stand up.”
“I would not be as exacting as you are for the world! There are many pretty girls here, some of them uncommonly so.”
Inclining his head toward the eldest Miss Bennet, Darcy replied, “You are dancing with the only handsome lady in the entire room.”
Bingley gave him a look of exasperation. “She is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld, an angel, even; but one of her sisters sits there, behind you, and she is also very pretty. Allow me to ask my partner introduce you.”
“Which one?” Darcy looked over his shoulder to see the girl in question. He examined her from head to toe, until catching her eye, he turned away again. “She handsome enough, but I do not care to dance. You should go back to Miss Bennet and quit wasting your time with me.”
Bingley did not reply, instead shaking his head and going back to his dance. In all the years they had been friends, he had never understood Darcy’s reluctance to engage in social activities. With the beautiful Miss Jane Bennet across from him in the set, however, his mind soon turned to much pleasanter topics.
The young lady Darcy had rejected, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, had been close enough to hear every word of their conversation. How rude, she thought. Everyone knew that it was a gentleman’s duty, when in attendance at a ball, to ask ladies to dance who were not engaged for a set when the gentleman was free. Certainly Mr. Darcy could see that there were far more ladies present this evening than gentlemen. In truth, the only thing that could have injured him more in Elizabeth’s eyes would have been to denigrate her appearance, for she loved to dance almost as much as she loved to laugh.
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