It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be fighting women off with a stick.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that some new bloke has moved into that big posh flat over the dry cleaners?
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
"But it's true," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."
"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that this bloke is a chancer who made a packet selling knock-off watches on Ebay. He came down on Monday in a white Porche Boxter, and he liked the apartment so much that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and his Blu-ray Home Cinema system will be installed by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Is he married or single or gay?"
"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! He has a friend called Darcy who might be 'the other way'; he's always taking his shirt off, but Mr Bingley is a straight man of large fortune; forty or fifty grand a month. What a fine thing for our girls!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his getting off with one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may think one of them is well fit, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party, in a milfy kind of way."
"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I'm no Cheryl Cole. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty or get some serious work done. Now I know I've run this Kissogram business for nigh on twenty years, but I'd still be bricking it if I had to meet up with Mr Bingley - you have no compassion for my poor nerves."
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you bang on about them these last twenty years at least."
"Ah, you do not know what I suffer."
"Well get back down the Doctors, then, and see if he'll put you back on the Prozac. In the meanwhile, get Lizzy and a couple of the other girls to dress up in their Kissogram Nun outfits and stand out on the High Street."
"But my dearest, to what ends?"
"Bingley will see them by and by, passing through in that pimp motor of his and he's sure to check them out. Then we will see who he chooses to dally a while with."
"My dear, it will undoubtedly be Elizabeth, for she is certainly the tartiest of all our girls, and always well up for it, according to the tales told in and around Meryton. Oh, I'm sorry Mr Bennet, no offence meant . . . "
"Nun taken, my dearest," chortled Bennet, "Nun taken!"