Although the women of the house question Mr. Bennet repeatedly to give them more information regarding Mr. Bingley, Mr. Bennet refuses to satisfy their curiosity.
The women must resort to hearing the details from their neighbor, Lady Lucas, who reports that Mr. Bingley is handsome, agreeable, and loves dancing. Jackpot.
In accord with the societal norms of the day, Mr. Bingley returns Mr. Bennet's visit. The two men sit in the library for about ten minutes, and we learn that, although Mr. Bingley had hoped to see the young ladies (the grapevine has informed him that they're beautiful), he has to make do with their father.
The Bennet girls manage to catch a sight of Mr. Bingley.
Following his visit, the Bennets send Mr. Bingley an invitation to dinner.
Mr. Bingley sends his regrets, saying that he has to go into town. This sends Mrs. Bennet into a flurry of: Why is he going into town? Will he always be traveling? Why doesn't he want to stay at Netherfield?
Lady Lucas tells Mrs. Bennet that Mr. Bingley's reason for going into town is to bring back lots of guests for the upcoming public ball.
It turns out that Mr. Bingley brought only four people back from town: his two sisters (one of whom is married), his brother-in-law, and a young man.
Ooh, a young man.
First, though, we have to get a description of Mr. Bingley and company.
Mr. Bingley is good looking and easygoing.
His sisters are fashionable, elitist snobs.
The brother-in-law is named Mr. Hurst, and he's a gentleman.
Moving on to the young man: His name is Mr. Darcy. More importantly, he has an income of ten thousand a year (which is a ton of money).
Ooh, what a good-looking, nice, wonderful man, everyone says.
A little while later, everyone's all, "Ooh, what a jerk!"
So what happened?
Well, it turns out that Mr. Darcy is very proud. It's clear that he considers himself better than everyone else at the ball. In all fairness, he's out in the boonies of England, which makes him the equivalent of a Manhattan socialite at a square dance.
Although Mr. Bingley is also, figuratively speaking, a Manhattan socialite at a rural square dance, he delves right into the party. He talks to everyone, dances all night, and expresses disappointment that the ball ends early. Solution: He'll throw his own ball!
Meanwhile, the locals can't stand Mr. Darcy. He dances only twice (once with each of Mr. Bingley's sisters), doesn't talk to anyone, and stalks around the drawing room, disapproving of everything.
Due to an unequal male/female ratio, Elizabeth has to sit out two of the dances. As she's sitting down and minding her own business, she overhears a conversation between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy.
The conversation goes something like this:
Mr. Bingley: Hey, Darcy, there are some really gorgeous girls here. Why don't you go dance with some of them?
Mr. Darcy: Bingley, you're dancing the only good looking girl here.
(Side note: Mr. Bingley is dancing with Jane, the eldest Bennet girl.)
Mr. Bingley points out that Jane's sister (Elizabeth) is available and also good-looking. (Yes, and sitting so close that she can hear every word the men are saying.)
Mr. Darcy looks at Elizabeth and gives her the old once-over; he then turns to Mr. Bingley and delivers one of literature's most famous put-downs: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me."
Elizabeth laughs it off and tells the story to all her friends.
The entire Bennet family has a great time at the ball, and it's clear that Mr. Bingley is interested in Jane.
When Mrs. Bennet and her daughters return home, they find Mr. Bennet still awake.
Mrs. Bennet immediately launches into a play-by-play of Mr. Bingley's movements and all his dance partners, until Mr. Bennet finally begs her to be quiet. (He does this in a rather roundabout fashion, i.e., expressing his wish that Mr. Bingley hadn't danced so much.)
After trying to talk about the ladies' fashions at the ball and being rebuffed again, Mrs. Bennet finally settles on the topic of Mr. Darcy's rudeness.