The disagreement subsisting between Mr. Collins's father and Mr. Bennet had always given Mr. Collins much uneasiness, and when he had the misfortune to lose his father, he diligently contemplated whether he ought to heal the breach. But at length, fearing that it would seem disrespectful to his father's memory to be on good terms with one whom it had always pleased him to be at variance, he made up his mind not to make any overtures of peace to Mr. Bennet. In pursuance of his decision he wrote the following letter:

Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent, 15th October.

"Dear Sir,--

I write to acquaint you with the recent decease of your cousin my honoured father, apologizing for my trespass on your attention without previous acquaintance with you. Although I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent qualities, and I shall ever be ready to demean myself toward you in a respectful manner, I am hesitant to offer an olive branch in disregard of my father's oft-stated sentiments. I must therefore follow the dictates of my conscience; and I caution your family to anticipate no further communication from me until such time as I come into possession of the Longbourn estate, which event, however, may not take place for many years. I flatter myself that this resolution will not sink me in your esteem and that you will harbour no ungenerous reproach toward me in your bosom.
—I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to your lady and daughters, your cousin
Wm Collins

A fortnight later he in turn received a letter.

Meryton, Herts, 30 October. Dear Sir,

I regret to inform you that your cousin Mr. Bennet of Longbourn House, Longbourn, Herts., has met a sudden demise. As you are the next heir in the entail, the ownership of the estate now passes to you. It is my recommendation that you present yourself at your immediate convenience at Longbourn House to engage in arrangements for the transfer of all property.
Yours faithfully,
P. Phillips,

Mr. Collins straight away took the letter to his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park, who after looking at it said, "In general I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family. But you must go to Longbourn at once. That is my advice. I have no objection to your absence on Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of the day."

Mr. Collins found himself, in a shorter space of time than he could have supposed, seated in a post chaise, and on the road to Longbourn to install himself as its master. He travelled as expeditiously as possible, and, by not stopping on the journey except to change horses, reached his destination before dinner time that day.

When he was shown by the servant into the room where the females of the family were sitting, their eyes fixed on him in astonishment, a gentleman and a stranger making a call at such an hour; and when the servant announced his name, Mrs. Bennet gave a cry and fell backward in her chair.

The sight of Mr. Collins was odious to her, as the one who on her husband's death had the right to turn her and her daughters out of the house as soon as he pleased, and she regarded him with fear and abhorrence. At first she was unable to utter a syllable and really seemed in a most pitiable state, but at length she said in a querulous voice, "I am frighted out of my wits to see you here! It is very hard that I should be forced out of this house, and live to see you take my husband's place in it! How anyone could have the conscience to entail an estate away from his own daughters, I cannot understand, and for your sake, too, a man who nobody cares anything about!"

Her daughters listened in silence to this uncivil effusion, sensible that any attempt to soothe her would only increase the violence of the irritation brought on by alarm and vexation.

"My dear madam," responded Mr. Collins, "do not make yourself uneasy. I sincerely sympathise with you and all your respectable family, in your present distress, and I am very sensible of the hardship to you and my fair cousins. Although resignation to inevitable evils is the duty of us all, I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring you and your daughters, and I beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make every possible amends. I could say much on the subject, but that I am cautious of appearing precipitate. Therefore I will not say more at present; but, perhaps, when we are better acquainted-".

Mrs. Bennet was almost beside herself. "At my time of life I have no pleasure in making new acquaintances, and I am sure I owe you no such civility. You care no more for us than if we were at York. I think it very hypocritical of you to come here at all. I hate false friends. Who is to maintain the girls? I am sure I do not know. They will be destitute enough. If you can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully your own—well! I should be ashamed of having an estate that was only entailed on me." Pressing her hand to her side she exclaimed, "Oh! What a dreadful state I am in!"

"Madam, let me advise you to console yourself. When you leave Longbourn for your new abode it shall be my earnest endeavour to do all in my power to assist you and make your situation as comfortable as possible. I feel myself called upon by our relationship to do as much. I shall look on it as a point of duty to bestow a gift on you, of five hundred pounds. Five hundred pounds, you must give me leave to flatter myself, is very handsome, and a prodigious increase to your fortune (for I have heard, madam, that you, are entitled only to five thousand pounds in the four per cents as your marriage settlement)."

"Five hundred pounds!" said Mrs. Bennet, with amazement and horror. "How shall we ever live on five hundred pounds a year?"

"Pardon me for interrupting you, madam, but you mistake my meaning. I alluded to a particular gift of five hundred pounds. There could be nothing more advantageous to you. It would maintain your family in a small cottage for several years, or if you invest it in the four per cents it will add twenty pounds per annum to your income. I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment, madam, but you can hardly anticipate requiring more than five hundred pounds. However your words lead me to reflect further—you are right, and it is the more to be lamented, that such a sum cannot alleviate so severe a misfortune as you are suffering, or comfort you under these circumstances. In addition, although I am quite indifferent to wealth myself, I assure you, I am very likely to need the full income of the estate, for I cannot excuse myself from the duties of caring for and improving the property. If I am not deceived in my intelligence the whole estate is worth but two thousand a year. You will not, I hope, consider me as showing any disrespect to you, my dear madam, or to the scope of your understanding, when I say that in this case I consider myself more fitted by education to decide on what is proper than a lady like yourself. I apprehend that five hundred pounds would represent a faulty degree of indulgence on my part and may be injurious to your principles of economy. An annuity would be a gift of the sort I conceive myself more properly bound to make, and an extraordinary blessing which few in your situation could boast—fifty pounds a year would doubtless make your family perfectly comfortable in such unassuming abode as you can afford to inhabit. You will have no carriage or horses, your housekeeping will be nothing, for with five daughters to cook and clean and sew you will be able to make a small income go a good way. There would be no employment for a servant, and you are hardly likely to keep any company. And then, your amiable daughters are sure of marrying shortly, even if it be only to shopkeepers or farmers, and you will have no expenses on their account. To assist you I would endeavour to do almost anything, but fifty pounds a year really is more than you will need. I shall, rather, count it an obligation of affectionate attention to give you a present of a few pounds now and then if you are distressed for money; indeed I think it is a right thing. My mind is now made up on the subject."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Bennet. "What an uproar you have put us in! I have such pains in my head and such beatings at heart, and tremblings and flutterings, all over me—", And she burst forth into tears and wails of regret, invectives against the Mr. Collins, and complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage. She continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of her expulsion from Longbourn until Kitty and Lydia, who also had been frightened almost out of their senses, at a sign from Jane led her out of the room.

Having accomplished his remarks, Mr. Collins took a seat with a highly gratified air and was at leisure to look around him and admire. He was clearly much struck with the size and furniture of the apartment and eager to see the rest of the house.

Jane, after exchanging a glance with Elizabeth, and scarcely knowing what else to do, apologized to Mr. Collins for his reception.

"I have no reason, I assure you," said he instantly, "to be dissatisfied with it. I would never resent your respected mother's behaviour as an affront. On that head, therefore, let us be silent. And now permit me to take this occasion of testifying my respect towards you, my fair cousins. I can promise you and your sisters that I come prepared to admire you. The fact is, that as the heir of the estate, I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from among you, that the loss to you might be as little as possible." Words were insufficient for the purity of his feelings; and he was obliged to rise and walk about the room, pausing now and again to examine a chimneypiece or painting.

At last conquering his emotion, he addressed Jane and Elizabeth once again. "The establishment I can provide is exceedingly desirable, and my relationship to your family and my connections with the family of de Bourgh, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into consideration, that in spite of your loveliness and amiable qualifications, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage as eligible may ever be made you. Your dowries are unhappily so small that they will in all likelihood undo the effects of your manifold attractions. It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy acceptance, and I am therefore persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of your excellent mother, my proposal to one of you will not fail of being welcomed."

The amazement of Jane and Elizabeth at this speech was beyond expression, but before they could make any reply to such an extraordinary proposition, the door opened and Mr. Bennet entered the room. On the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the events of a visit which had raised his expectations. "Ah, Mr. Collins, I presume!" he said, his voice and manner plainly showing how diverted he was to find his cousin in the house.

Mr. Collins stared at him. Jane's introduction of him as her father was followed up on his side by an exclamation of "Nonsense!"

His visitor's astonishment was just what Mr. Bennet wished. "What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?" he asked. "Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you."

"Am I now to learn, sir, that the report of your death is without foundation?" Mr. Collins inquired with no less resentment than surprise.

"Indeed it is. That is what makes it amusing! I sent you a few lines by my brother Phillips in response to your letter, for I was impatient to see you. But, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be insulted. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

This pronouncement roused a general bewilderment; and he had the pleasure of being gaped at by both his daughters and his visitor. Jane's and Elizabeth's feelings were too ruffled by their recent conversation with Mr. Collins to admit of amusement, and neither of them could force even a reluctant smile; and Mr. Collins's feelings were chiefly expressed by coldness of manner and offended silence. Mr. Bennet had most cruelly mortified him. "Far be it from me," he said after a pause, in a voice that marked his displeasure, "to resent your conduct. I have certainly meant well, and my object has been to give due consideration for the interests of all your family. Pardon me for differing from you in this matter, but you will not, I hope, consider me as showing any disrespect to you by withdrawing without further intercourse from your dwelling."

Mr. Bennet listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time a most resolute composure of countenance, and then replied cordially, "I see no occasion for that; let me advise you to think better of it. It certainly is a most iniquitous affair I have led you into, but I hope you will get over it." He then with great politeness invited Mr. Collins to remain a se'nnight at Longbourn.

Mr. Collins, still in a state of angry pride, was prompt in declining his hospitality, but Mr. Bennet responded courteously, "I honour your circumspection—you cannot be too much upon your guard. But depend upon it, you cannot escape an acquaintance with us now, and we will think it an act of kindness, if you accept the offer."

Although Mr. Collins did not believe that a week's visit at Longbourn would contribute much to his positive happiness, he had already obtained leave for such an absence from Lady Catherine de Bourgh and could therefore remain without any inconvenience. His plan did not need to be in the least affected by the sudden resurrection of Mr. Bennet. After a little conciliation and persuasion, therefore, on the part of Jane and Elizabeth, Mr. Collins assured them stiffly that he bore no ill-will and accepted the invitation.

Mr. Bennet greeted this change of mind with delight. "You act very properly in giving this gentle and unforced accord," he said, "and it is happy that you possess the talent of forgiving so graciously." Turning to his daughters he continued, "This is an evening of wonders, indeed! The discord in our family removed, Mr. Collins our guest for a week, and Mrs. Bennet confined to her room in hysterics. Girls, think what a comfort it is, that whatever may befall, you have a mother who will make the most of it."

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