Monday 9th September
I left London today and met Bingley at Netherfield Park. I had forgotten what good company he is; always ready to be pleased and always cheerful. After my difficult summer, it is good to be with him again.
'Darcy! I knew I could rely on you. How was your summer? Not as trying as mine, I'll wager.'
I said nothing, which he took to be an assent.
'Caroline has been plaguing me these last three months, but now that I have found an estate I hope she will be satisfied.'
Bingley was, of course, delighted with everything he saw. He said how splendid it was and asked no sensible questions, but instead walked around with his hands behind his back as though he had lived there for the last twenty years. He was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, and satisfied with what the agent, Mr Morris, said in its praise. He asked nothing about the chimneys, or the game, or the lake, or indeed anything at all.
'Is it sound?' I asked Mr Morris.
He assured me it was, but I inspected it carefully all the same.
'Will it be easy to find servants in the neighbourhood? My friend will be bringing some of his own, but he will need maids, gardeners and stable-hands from the local area.'
'He will not find any difficulty in procuring them from Meryton.'
'What do you think, Darcy?' asked Bingley, when we had completed our tour.
'The price is far too high.'
Mr Morris insisted it was fair, but he was soon brought to realize that it was excessive, and a far lower sum was settled on.
'Upon my honour, Darcy, I would not like to try and stand against you when your mind is made up. Poor Mr Morris might as well have agreed with you straight away, and saved himself the effort of trying to argue with you!' said Bingley, when he had closed with the agent.
He might laugh, but he will thank me for my care when he is well settled.
'When do you mean to take possession?' I asked him.
'As soon as possible. Before Michaelmas, certainly.'
'You should send some of your servants down before you, then they can make sure that the house is ready for your arrival.'
'You think of everything! I will have them here by the end of next week.'
I was glad he had taken my advice. If not, he would have arrived at the same time as his servants, and then wondered why there was no dinner waiting for him.
Tuesday 24th September
'Darcy, welcome to my estate!' said Bingley when I joined him at Netherfield Park this afternoon. His sisters, Caroline and Louisa,were with him, as was Louisa's husband, Mr Hurst. 'The house, the neighbourhood, everything is exactly as I would wish it to be.'
'The estate is well enough, but the neighbourhood is small, with very few families,' I pointed out. 'I warned you of it at the time.'
'There are plenty of families,' he said. 'Enough for us to dine with, and what more do we want?'
'Superior company?' asked Caroline satirically.'Entertaining conversation?'
'I am sure we will find plenty of it,' said Bingley.
'You should have let me help you choose the house,' said Caroline.
'I did not need your help, I had Darcy's,' said Bingley.
'And a good thing, too. I was only saying to Louisa this morning that you could not have found a better one,' said Caroline, smiling at me.
'Upon my honour, I can think of no finer country than Hertfordshire,' said Bingley.
He is delighted with the neighbourhood at the moment, but I think he will find it dull if he settles here for any length of time. It is unlikely, however. He is so capricious he will probably be off again in a month. I said as much to Caroline after dinner.
'Very likely,' she said.'Until then,we must be thankful we have each other's company.'
Wednesday 25th September
This has been our first full day at Netherfield Park. Caroline has managed things well, and she was particularly pleased when I commented that no one would guess it was a rented house. She has had some trouble with the servants hired from the surrounding neighbourhood, but it is to her credit that the household is running smoothly.
Thursday 26th September
The neighbourhood visits have begun. It is a bore, but it was only to be expected. Sir William and Lady Lucas called this morning. Bingley thought them very civil, on account of Sir William bowing every two minutes and mentioning that he had been presented at St James's. Caroline suspected that their haste in calling marked them out as the parents of an elderly, unattractive spinster whom they wished to see married, and she told Bingley so as soon as they had departed.
'Depend upon it, they have a daughter nearing thirty and intend to pass her off as one-and-twenty!' she warned him.
'I am sure they do not have a daughter at all, and if they do, I am sure she is positively charming!'
'Caroline is right,' said Louisa.'One of the housemaids told me the Lucases have a daughter named Charlotte. Charlotte is unmarried, and is seven-and-twenty.'
'That does not stop her being charming. I am sure she is a delightful young lady,' protested Bingley.
'And I am sure she is a homely body who is always helping her mother about the pies,' said Caroline in a droll voice.
'Well, I think it was very good of the Lucases to call, and even better of them to invite us to the Meryton assembly,' said Bingley stoutly.
'The Meryton assembly! God save me from country assemblies!' I remarked.
'You have been spoilt by superior company,' said Caroline.
'I have indeed.The London assemblies are full of the most elegant people in the country.'
For some reason she did not smile at this remark. I cannot think why. She smiles at everything else I say, and she must surely have been thinking of my London acquaintance, for whom else could she have meant?
Sir William and Lady Lucas were not our only callers today.They were followed by a Mr Bennet. He seems to be a gentlemanlike man.
'He has five daughters,' said Caroline, when he had gone.
'Pretty girls,' said Mr Hurst, rousing himself from his stupor.'Saw 'em in Meryton. Handsome, the lot of 'em.'
'There you are!' said Bingley. 'I knew I had chosen well in settling at Netherfield. There will be plenty of pretty girls to dance with.'
'I know what you are thinking,' Caroline remarked, on seeing my expression.'You are thinking it would be a bore to be forced to stand up with a country wench. But you need not do so. Charles will make a spectacle of himself, no doubt, but you need not. No one will expect you to dance.'
'I hope not,' I said.'The idea of standing up with people I do not know is insupportable to me.'
'Come now, Darcy, this is not like you.You are not usually so stiff-necked. It is the weather.Only let the rain stop and you will be as eager to dance as I am.' Bingley is an optimist.