25 November 2006

Pride and Partiality - Chapter Four: After a night out

When at last they were left alone, Dylan, who had been cautious in his praise of Mr Binglay, expressed to his best friend Joe how very much he had admired him.

“He is all that a good man should be!” he said. “He’s good-humoured, and so positive and outgoing, and he shows great consideration for other people. He was so polite… I never saw such good manners!”

“He is also rich, handsome and well-endowed, which a man ought likewise to be if he possibly can,” replied Joe, “This makes him more than a good man, as far as the gay world is concerned: this makes him a perfect man. His character is thereby complete.”

“He certainly received a great deal of attention tonight, that is sure.”

“You received a generous share yourself.”

“Please don’t tease me, Joe! You know I don’t enjoy any of that, and you know it has only ever caused problems for me.”

“It is true, I do know what it's been like for you, and I shouldn’t tease you for it. I noticed that Charlie approached you before leaving.”

“Yes, I am glad of it. I wanted to speak with him, but I was concerned that if I did, he might get the wrong idea again. You were right to have warned me. It never occurred to me that because I enjoyed his company so much and spoke with him so often, that he might… I am sure that he was not in love with me, however. You only said that to make your point clearly, didn’t you?”

Joe said nothing for a moment. He had no desire to injure his friends feelings, and it was sure to disturb him to realise the truth; that Charlie had, in fact, suffered a serious crush for several months, despite all of the warning hints given, and despite all that his own common sense had allowed him to observe.

“He looked happy and relaxed tonight after he approached you, of that I am sure," said Joe. :You must be right in thinking that I was mistaken. But it is safe to leave things as they stand. He misses your company, for he told me that much. I suggested that if he finds himself at a loose end during the week, that we go to the cinema or have a drink together. I am sure Charlie will be fine, so don’t concern yourself further- already you are worrying, I can tell by your expression. Come, let’s return to the subject of Mr Binglay. He excited a great deal of attention, to everyone’s notice. It cannot be easy to remain down-to-earth in such circumstances, in that aspect I certainly do admire his character.”

“I was flattered by his asking me to dance for a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

“Didn’t you? That is another difference between us, Dylan: when someone compliments you, it never takes me by surprise. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you are about five times as handsome as every other man in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that!”

“It is kind of you to say that, Joe-”

“It is not kindness. It is honesty. You respect my friendship because I am one of the few people who do not flatter you. That requires me to tell you sometimes things that your modesty means you’d rather not have heard. I do not tell you in public, but we are alone here and you must know that your physical attractiveness is noticed wherever you go. It is necessary to remind you of that from time to time, otherwise you risk misjudging the motives of all those around you.”

“But I know that you think so only because... well, you are prejudiced in my favour!”

“Everyone is prejudiced in their friend’s favour, that I cannot deny. Yet I do my best to remain honest with my friends and with myself. I am convinced that if it were not for Mr Binglay’s wealth, and his the novelty, no one in the bar would have received more attention than you. All of the admiration you excite is well-deserved; those familiar with your character know that, but it is often given for the most superficial of reasons.”

Dylan hesitated for a moment before saying more.

“Mr Binglay danced with you also, Joe. Please tell me honestly, what did you think of him?”

“I thought that he was a very agreeable man.”

“Is that all?”


Dylan looked at his friend with an expression that was difficult to unravel; he appeared to be pleased and yet perplexed all at once.

“That is all!” said Joe insistently. “Don’t for a second suspect me of any greater admiration of Mr Binglay, or imagine that I conceal it out of deference to you! I do not fancy him, not in the slightest!"

"You really don't?"

"I don't. I give you leave to like him as much as you want. In fact, I encourage you for once; you have like many a stupider person!”

“Oh, Joe, don’t tease me about this!”

“I’m perfectly serious!”

“I do like him, truly, and so I can’t understand why you wouldn’t also… unless you can see fault in his character that I am unable to see?”

“You’re a great deal too apt to like people in general, and you never see a fault in anybody. All the world is good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you say a bad word about a human being!”

“Because I don’t think that it’s fair to judge anyone hastily, you know that. Yet I always speak what I think.”

“I know you do. It is that which makes me wonder at you. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the pettiness and nonsense of others. Everywhere on the gay scene you find the affectation of candour- people who pretend to be speaking their minds, hiding behind the mask of acting camp and being crudely outspoken, priding themselves on being uninhibited and direct. It is common. But to be as you are, candid without ostentation or design, to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad… well, that belongs to you alone!”

After a short pause, Joe continued.

“So you like Mr Binglay’s brothers, do you? Do you consider their manners equal to his?”

“Certainly not- at first. But they are both nice when you speak with them. The youngest is going to live with him at Netherfield. I am sure we shall find him a charming neighbour.”

Joe listened in silence, but was not convinced. The behaviour of Mr Binglay’s brothers had not been calculated to please in general. With more quickness of judgement and less pliancy of temper than his best friend, and with judgement unaffected by any attention to himself, Joe was little disposed to like them.

Anthony and Fredrick Binglay were in fact quite good looking, and were not deficient in good humour when they were pleased or without the power of being agreeable when they chose it, but they were also proud and conceited. They had a fortune behind them and had been educated in one of the finest private colleges in the country, and were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and in associating with people of fashion, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England, a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than the fact that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by their father’s ownership of a chain of sex saunas called Spunkies, with outlets nationwide.

Their father, Mr William Binglay (Big Bill as he was known to his friends) had inherited a fortune and used Spunkies to make his fortune greater still. With his fortune he had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it, after suffering a major heart attack while ‘interviewing’ staff at one of his outlets. His sons had sold the business, and his middle son Mr Charles Binglay, who had managed his own share of the inheritance prudently, intended to settle. Having spent their own share, his less sensible brothers were anxious for him to buy a large and impressive property in the city centre, for he was now established only as a tenant. His younger brother Anthony was by no means unwilling to live with him, nor was his older brother Fredrick, who had settled with a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider Binglay’s house as his own home when it suited him.

Between Mr D’Arcy and Mr Binglay, there was a very steady friendship, but no sexual attraction whatsoever, which is odd enough in the gay world, even without a great opposition of character between the two. Binglay was endeared to D’Arcy by the easiness and openness of his temper, even though it offered a great contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied.

On the strength of D’Arcy’s regard, Binglay had a firm reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion. In understanding, D’Arcy was the superior: Binglay was by no means stupid, but D’Arcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved and fastidious, and although handsome and well-bred, his manners were not inviting. In that respect, Mr Binglay had greatly the advantage, sure of being liked wherever he appeared, while D’Arcy was continually giving offence.

The manner in which they spoke of their night out on Saturday was sufficiently characteristic of their differences. Binglay had never met with pleasanter people or more handsome men in his life; everybody had been kind and attentive and charming; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Dylan, he could not conceive a man more beautiful. D’Arcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little style and no substance whatsoever, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. He acknowledged that Dylan was handsome, but remarked that he smiled too much.

Listening to this conversation, Anthony and Fredrick Binglay allowed it to be so, although they had both liked and admired Dylan and pronounced him to be a sweet boy that they would not object to know more of. Having established that Dylan was liked by his brothers, Binglay felt that he was given leave to think of him as he chose.

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