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"I hope, my dear," said Mr. Bennet to his wife, as they were at breakfast
the next morning, "that you have ordered a good dinner to-day, because I
have reason to expect an addition to our family party."
"Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming, I am sure,
unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in—and I hope <i>my</i>
dinners are good enough for her. I do not believe she often sees such at
"The person of whom I speak is a gentleman, and a stranger."
Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled. "A gentleman and a stranger! It is Mr.
Bingley, I am sure! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad to see Mr.
Bingley. But—good Lord! how unlucky! There is not a bit of fish to
be got to-day. Lydia, my love, ring the bell—I must speak to Hill
"It is <i>not</i> Mr. Bingley," said her husband; "it is a person whom I
never saw in the whole course of my life."
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being
eagerly questioned by his wife and his five daughters at once.
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus explained:
"About a month ago I received this letter; and about a fortnight ago I
answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and requiring early
attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may
turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases."
"Oh! my dear," cried his wife, "I cannot bear to hear that mentioned. Pray
do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the
world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own children;
and I am sure, if I had been you, I should have tried long ago to do
something or other about it."
Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain to her the nature of an entail. They
had often attempted to do it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs.
Bennet was beyond the reach of reason, and she continued to rail bitterly
against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five
daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.
"It certainly is a most iniquitous affair," said Mr. Bennet, "and nothing
can clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting Longbourn. But if you
will listen to his letter, you may perhaps be a little softened by his
manner of expressing himself."
"No, that I am sure I shall not; and I think it is very impertinent of him
to write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such false friends.
Why could he not keep on quarreling with you, as his father did before
"Why, indeed; he does seem to have had some filial scruples on that head,
as you will hear."
"Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent, 15th October.
"The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured father
always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to
lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I
was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful
to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had
always pleased him to be at variance.—'There, Mrs. Bennet.'—My
mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received
ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by
the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of
Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the
valuable rectory of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to
demean myself with grateful respect towards her ladyship, and be ever
ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the
Church of England. As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote
and establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my
influence; and on these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures
are highly commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the
entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not
lead you to reject the offered olive-branch. I cannot be otherwise than
concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg
leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to
make them every possible amends—but of this hereafter. If you should
have no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself the
satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday, November 18th, by
four o'clock, and shall probably trespass on your hospitality till the
Saturday se'ennight following, which I can do without any inconvenience,
as Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional absence on a
Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of
the day.—I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to your
lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend,
"At four o'clock, therefore, we may expect this peace-making gentleman,"
said Mr. Bennet, as he folded up the letter. "He seems to be a most
conscientious and polite young man, upon my word, and I doubt not will
prove a valuable acquaintance, especially if Lady Catherine should be so
indulgent as to let him come to us again."
"There is some sense in what he says about the girls, however, and if he
is disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be the person to
"Though it is difficult," said Jane, "to guess in what way he can mean to
make us the atonement he thinks our due, the wish is certainly to his
Elizabeth was chiefly struck by his extraordinary deference for Lady
Catherine, and his kind intention of christening, marrying, and burying
his parishioners whenever it were required.
"He must be an oddity, I think," said she. "I cannot make him out.—There
is something very pompous in his style.—And what can he mean by
apologising for being next in the entail?—We cannot suppose he would
help it if he could.—Could he be a sensible man, sir?"
"No, my dear, I think not. I have great hopes of finding him quite the
reverse. There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his
letter, which promises well. I am impatient to see him."
"In point of composition," said Mary, "the letter does not seem defective.
The idea of the olive-branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is
To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were in any
degree interesting. It was next to impossible that their cousin should
come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some weeks since they had received
pleasure from the society of a man in any other colour. As for their
mother, Mr. Collins's letter had done away much of her ill-will, and she
was preparing to see him with a degree of composure which astonished her
husband and daughters.
Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great
politeness by the whole family. Mr. Bennet indeed said little; but the
ladies were ready enough to talk, and Mr. Collins seemed neither in need
of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself. He was a tall,
heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty. His air was grave and stately,
and his manners were very formal. He had not been long seated before he
complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters; said he
had heard much of their beauty, but that in this instance fame had fallen
short of the truth; and added, that he did not doubt her seeing them all
in due time disposed of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the
taste of some of his hearers; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarreled with no
compliments, answered most readily.
"You are very kind, I am sure; and I wish with all my heart it may prove
so, for else they will be destitute enough. Things are settled so oddly."
"You allude, perhaps, to the entail of this estate."
"Ah! sir, I do indeed. It is a grievous affair to my poor girls, you must
confess. Not that I mean to find fault with <i>you</i>, for such things I
know are all chance in this world. There is no knowing how estates will go
when once they come to be entailed."
"I am very sensible, madam, of the hardship to my fair cousins, and could
say much on the subject, but that I am cautious of appearing forward and
precipitate. But I can assure the young ladies that I come prepared to
admire them. At present I will not say more; but, perhaps, when we are
He was interrupted by a summons to dinner; and the girls smiled on each
other. They were not the only objects of Mr. Collins's admiration. The
hall, the dining-room, and all its furniture, were examined and praised;
and his commendation of everything would have touched Mrs. Bennet's heart,
but for the mortifying supposition of his viewing it all as his own future
property. The dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he begged to
know to which of his fair cousins the excellency of its cooking was owing.
But he was set right there by Mrs. Bennet, who assured him with some
asperity that they were very well able to keep a good cook, and that her
daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen. He begged pardon for having
displeased her. In a softened tone she declared herself not at all
offended; but he continued to apologise for about a quarter of an hour.