19 November 2006

Pride and Partiality- Chapter Three: A Successful Advance

Not all that Queenie, with the assistance of her five girls, could ask on the subject of Mr Binglay was sufficient to draw any satisfactory description from Bennett. They attacked him in various ways- with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises, but he eluded the skill of them all.

At last, they were obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Ivana Hardman. Her report was highly favourable. Sue Narmi, who did some volunteer work as a part-time cleaner in the local gay gym, had been delighted with all that she saw of him in the changing rooms: he was quite young, handsome, wonderfully well-toned, demonstrated considerable stamina on the exercise machines, had a steady right hand when it came to lifting a bell-bar, and to crown the whole, he was extremely agreeable. There was no doubt that he meant to be out on Saturday night, because after he asked her what she was doing going through his sports bag- she had one just like it and thought it was hers, she claimed- she struck up a conversation about what he had in his iPod. So he listened to Madonna? There were a few Girls Aloud and Pussycat Doll tunes on there too? Yes, he liked girl bands but not enough to buy a whole album, and he mentioned that he hadn’t been dancing in a long time although there was nothing he liked better. That was one of the reasons whey he’d left the country for the city; he was looking forward to going out on Saturday night.

What could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love, Queenie declared to the girls, and very lively hopes of Mr Binglay’s heart were entertained.

“If I can see one of my girls happy at Netherfield, and all of the others equally well settled, I shall have nothing to wish for,” said Queenie to her partner. “Except for that nice leather headboard for the bed that I saw the other day. It’s sure to wipe down beautifully, and it’ll be on sale by the end of the year, mark my words. You must come take a look!”

As was hoped, Mr Binglay returned the visit that had been made by Bennett, but at an unfortunate hour when no one was home to receive him. He left a note to say that he’d called. After having his handwriting sample analysed by her psychic, who was visibly taken-aback by the size of the loops at the end of his g’s, p’s and q’s, Queenie sent an invitation to Binglay to come over for dinner was. She already had planned the courses when a message arrived which deferred it all, for Mr Binglay was obliged to be in the country on the following day, and consequently was unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc. Queenie was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in the country so soon after his arrival in the city, and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, never settled in Netherfield as he ought to be. Ivana Hardman quieted her fears a little, starting the idea that it might only have been an excuse so that he could spend time at home, deciding what to wear out on Saturday night.

But distress was soon to return to Longhorn, with a report that Mr Binglay was to bring twelve gay friends, not one of them a fag bangle, along with him on Saturday. Queenie and the girls suffered both excitement and concern at this news: what did it all mean? Was Mr Binglay already attached? Would his company provide them with more men to choose from, or would his company compete with them for the few eligible batchelors left in the city?

On Saturday night, they were all comforted to find that they were victims of exaggerated rumour: when Mr Binglay entered the club, his party consisted only of five; Mr Michael Binglay himself, his younger brothers Anthony and his older brother Fredrick, who were both conveniently gay, and the partner of the eldest of those, Mr Hurst. There was also another young man called Mr D’Arcy.

Even to those not prone to exaggeration, Mr Binglay was both good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant smile and easy unaffected manners. His brothers were both fine specimen with an air of decided fashion, while Mr Hurst was considered by Queenie to merely look the part. But it was the other young friend of the party who soon drew the attention of everyone, with handsome features, his fine tall person, and his perfectly formed hind, not to mention the report which was in general circulation within five minutes of his entrance of his having a considerable and large…

“Fortune!” said Queenie. “He’s got even more to offer than Mr Binglay, they say!”

So it was that Mr D’Arcy was pronounced a fine figure of a man and declared to be much handsomer than Mr Binglay. He was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, until his manners turned the tide of his popularity. When the first Madonna song of the evening was played, he did not throw his hands in the air and smile like everyone else. When the third Madonna song of the evening was played, he pulled a face. When the eleventh Madonna song was spinning the decks, he was at the bar knocking back whisky and muttering under his breath. To make matters worse, Mr D’Arcy danced only once with the brother of Mr Binglay, declining to be introduced to anyone and flirting with no one at all. He spent most of the evening speaking occasionally to one of his own party or saying nothing at all. So it was that he was discovered to be have high ideas about himself, to be above his company and above being pleased. Not all his large estate could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

Mr Binglay, lively and unreserved and dancing every dance, had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room. He was disapointed that the club closed so early and talked of giving a party himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves! What a contrast with his friend, whose character was decided: Mr D’Arcy was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Queenie, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her girls.

At one point in the evening, Joe had been standing without a dance partner, and Mr D’Arcy had been standing near enough for him to overhear when Mr Binglay came away from the dance-floor to have a short conversation with his friend.

“Come, D’Arcy!” said he. “I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. Why not come dance?”

“No, Binglay. Your brothers are already dancing, and you know I detest dancing unless I am acquainted with my partner-”

“Then get acquainted! This room is heaving with men that I wouldn’t mind getting a bit closer to! So many hot bodies pressed together, and several of them look uncommonly well-hung too!”

“You know I’m not interested in all that!”

“Got enough for two yourself, have we?”

“Binglay, that’s not funny!”

“How long has it been, D’Arcy? Eh?”

“When erect? I’d rather not discuss that in public, if you don’t mind!”

“No, man! I’m not talking about your coc-”

“Keep your voice down, please!”

“How long has it been since the last time that you shagg-”

“I don’t think that is relevant!”

“It’s relevant to the mood you’re in. You look as if someone poured acid on your Madonna collection!”

“I wish someone would pour acid on the DJ’s!”

“Go have some fun! Move a little closer to one of those men behind you! My God, look at the size of that!”

“Binglay, please!”

“Oh, just don’t be so fussy!”

“Look, I’ve told you already what I think of places like this.”

“Oh for God sake! Here we go again!”

“There is not another man in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with!”

“What is it that you’re looking for, D’Arcy? Perfection? I never met with so many pleasant and handsome men in my life-”

“Handsome, certainly. But there’s more to life than-”

“Don’t pretend that looks don’t matter to you, D’Arcy.”

“I never said that they didn’t!”

“Just look around you! Look and look and… try to stop thinking!”

Mr D’Arcy fell silent. He looked across at Dylan.

“You’re dancing with the most sought-after man in the room, as usual,” said Mr D’Arcy.

“He’s the most handsome man I’ve ever beheld, and he’s a nice guy too! There’s one of his flatmates standing a little behind you, who’s… okay, he’s not that cute, but he has got something… nice eyes, and not a bad arse from what I can see. I dare say he’s up for it. Let me ask Dylan to introduce you!”

D’Arcy turned around. He looked for a moment until catching Joe’s eye, whereupon he withdrew his own coldly and said;

“He’s okay, I suppose-”

“Come on, that’s the attitude!”

“-but I’m not tempted.”

“D’Arcy, just get drunk and give it a go!”

“Leave it, Binglay. There’s not enough whiskey in this room. I’ve been breathing in cigarette smoke and listening to fucking Madonna all night, so I’m in no humour to make small-talk with young men who spend their nights standing around waiting for the next quick fuck. You’d better return to your partner and enjoy his smiles, for you’re wasting time with me.”

Mr Binglay took his advice, for he recognised the first bars of a J-Lo song and wanted to impress Dylan with the moves.

In no time, the dance floor was more crowded than ever with gyrating men demonstrating how to get right with them. Shortly afterwards, Mr D’Arcy walked off, leaving Joe with no very cordial feeling towards him. Later that night, he told the story with great spirit among his friends, for he had a playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous at his own expense.

“At least he said that I haven’t got a bad arse!” he laughed. “It boosts my chances of getting that next quick fuck I’m so eager for!”

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly. Queenie had seen that Dylan was much admired by the Netherfield party: Mr Binglay had asked to dance with him twice, and Dylan had also been distinguished by a wink and a smile from the two brothers. Even more satisfying, she’d seen Ivana Hardman and Sue Narmi looking daggers over at her.

Dylan was as much gratified by this attention from Binglay as Queenie could be, though in a quieter way, and of course Joe was only too pleased for him. It was a night for compliments: Mitchell had heard himself mentioned to the party as ‘that accomplished man I was telling you all about’ to the other brothers, which pleased him greatly, even though there was no opportunity for conversation as both of the brothers immediately announced that they needed to go fix their hair. Colin and Craig had been fortunate enough to dance all night and get a few swift hand-jobs in the toilets, which was all they had yet learned to care for in a night out. They all returned home in good spirits and found Bennett still up.

“Oh, darling!” said Queenie as she entered the room, “we have had the most delightful evening! I wish you had been there! Dylan was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well he looked; and Mr Binglay thought him quite beautiful and danced with him twice. Only think of that, my dear! He actually danced with him twice! Twice!

“I heard you the first time, Queenie!”

“Dylan was the only creature in the room that he asked for a second time. First of all, he asked that Halfling who rents a room from Ivana Hardman and Sue Narmi-”

“His name’s Charlie,” said Bennett. “If you’d remember his name, you’d save a lot of unnecessary rambling!”

“Well, I was quite vexed to see a man so fine as Binglay throwing attention that way! He must have felt sorry for him, I imagine-”

“Queenie, do you have to be so unkind?”

“I’m candid, darling! I can’t help myself! But anyway, of course Binglay didn’t admire Charlie at all… unless he’s in a darkroom, no one can bear to go anywhere near-”


“Oh, anyway… the important thing is that he seemed quite struck with Dylan from the first time he saw him. As we went to the bar, I overheard Binglay enquire who Dylan was. I decided not to rush over, but let him do a little of the running. Sure enough, Binglay got himself introduced and asked Dylan for the next dance. What do you think of that?”


“Then he danced with Blake King, and then Madonna came on so he danced in a circle with everyone, and then he danced to the new Scissor Sisters with Peter Lucas- it’s a great single, but the rest of the album isn’t up to much- and then he had a little rest before dancing with Dylan again, this time to J-Lo, and then he asked to dance with Joe to something dreadful by that imp Gwen Stefani, and after that he asked one of the Boulanger twins, I don’t know which-”

“For Christ’s sake! If he had any compassion for me, he would not have danced half so much!” cried Bennett. “No more of his partners! If only he had sprained his ankle going in the door!”

“Oh, darling, I am quite delighted he didn’t!” Queenie continued. “He is so excessively handsome, and his brothers are charming too: I never in my life saw anything more elegant than those little tops that they wore. I dare say those shoes were Armani…”

Here Queenie was interrupted again. Bennett protested against any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some considerable exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr D’Arcy.

“But I can assure you that Joe does not lose much by not interesting him,” she added. “He is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Our Joe not handsome enough to dance with! I’ll have a word with the barman next time I’m out and see if we can slip a little something in his drink to loosen him up… Ivana and Sue will take him down a dark alley and that'll teach him manners. No, no, I wouldn’t touch him myself, oh no… I don’t care how rich or how big he is! I just wish you had been there, darling, to have given him one of your set-downs. Why, I quite detest the man!”

No comments: