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 attempted to explain to her the nature of an entail. They
had often attempted 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
"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
"No, that I am sure I shall not; and I think it was very impertinent of him to
write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such false friends. Why could
not he keep on quarrelling with you, as his father did before him?"
"Why, indeed, he does seem to have had some filial scruples on that head, as
you will hear."
"Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent, 15th October.
DEAR SIR, 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 any one 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 of good-will 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'nnight 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 peacemaking 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 discourage him."
"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 credit."
Elizabeth was chiefly struck with 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 stile. -- And what can he mean by apologizing for
being next in the entail?
-- We cannot suppose he would help it, if he could. -- Can he be a sensible man,
"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, "his letter does not seem defective. The
idea of the olive branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is well expressed."
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 well disposed of
in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the taste of some of his hearers, but
Mrs. Bennet who quarrelled with no compliments, answered most readily, "You are
very kind, sir, 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 you, 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 better acquainted -- "
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 every thing 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 excellence of its cookery was owing. But here
he was set right 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.
<CHAPTER XIV (14)>
DURING dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn,
he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started
a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate
in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration
for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better.
Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual
solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never
in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank -- such affability and
condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously
pleased to approve of both the discourses which he had already had the honour of
preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent
for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening.
Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen
any thing but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any
other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society
of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his parish occasionally for a week or two,
to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon
as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in
his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had
been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself, -- some shelves in
the closets up stairs.