Till Mr. Collins entered the drawing room at Netherfield, he had not known what it was to love. But in the instant when he saw Miss Bingley, he suddenly became aware that he was gazing on the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld!

Looking at her with admiration, he began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards making himself known to her, attended to her conversations with others. Occupied in observing Mr. Darcy's attentions to Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Bingley was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of Miss Bennet's cousin. On his approaching Miss Bingley and her sister, however, though without appearing to have any intention of speaking, he drew her notice. Miss Bingley turned to him and said with no slight indignation, "What do you mean by listening to my conversation with Mrs. Hurst?"



Mr. Collins seemed to be in no need of encouragement to speak. He immediately apologised for his intrusion, without any previous acquaintance with her, which he could not help flattering himself, however, might be justified by his relationship to the young ladies of Longbourn House. He then complimented her, saying he had heard much of her beauty and elegance, but that fame had fallen short of the truth. This gallantry was very little to Miss Bingley's taste, and she looked sneeringly, and turned away. "I can hardly keep my countenance, Louisa," she said to her sister. "I never in my life saw such manners, or such impertinence! His speaking to me was a most insolent thing." Mrs. Hurst gave her warm assent, and the sisters indulged their mirth at the expense of their dear friend Miss Bennet's presumptuous relation.

Miss Bingley was far more engaged in watching Mr. Darcy than in watching out for Mr. Collins, and therefore when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Collins in an application for her hand for a dance, prefacing his request with a solemn bow, he took her much by surprise.

Her astonishment at being so importuned was great and she made no answer, but a haughty look enveloped her features, and she eyed him most unfavourably. Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged, even though Miss Bingley's disdain seemed abundant. When he did not remove himself she said coldly, "Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing." Her resistance did not injure her with the gentleman, and looking on her with some satisfaction, he replied, "Although I am a clergyman of the Church of England, I am far from objecting to dancing, A ball of this kind can have no evil tendency, as it is given by your brother, to respectable people."

At the end of this speech, she only made him a slight bow, and began to move another way. Mr. Collins, however, followed her and continued his petition. "I take this opportunity of soliciting your hand for the two second dances, trusting that you will attribute my request for the two second rather than the two first not to any disrespect for you but to the right cause, which is that I have already engaged myself for the two first dances to my cousin Miss Elizabeth Bennet. In the course of the evening I hope to by honoured by your hand for more than these two dances."

Miss Bingley entertained that evening the hope of subduing whatever was left of Darcy's heart, and she had fully proposed being engaged by him for those very dances; to have Mr. Collins instead! The idea was preposterous. Darcy, however, was inflexibly ignoring her. His eyes were fixed on the corner of the room where Elizabeth Bennet was now seated beside her sister and Bingley. In the desperation of her feelings, Miss Bingley suddenly resolved on one great effort, and feeling as though she was destroying every remaining prospect of her own for the ball, she accepted Mr. Collins's proposal with a contemptuous air.

When the dancing recommenced after the first two, Mr. Collins approached to claim her hand, and Miss Bingley succeeded in the real object of her action; Mr. Darcy was as much alive to the absurdity of Mr. Collins's attention as Miss Bingley herself could be and gazed at her in unrepressed wonder.

The couple took their place in the set but they were silent as they went down the dance. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, gazing adoringly at Miss Bingley instead of concentrating on the figures, often moving wrong, and apologising instead of attending, gave her all the embarrassment that a maladroit partner can bestow.

When the dances finally ended, the rest of the evening was a punishment rather than a pleasure to her. She was pursued by Mr. Collins, who could not govern his apprehension of being ousted by another admirer and, by continuing most perseveringly by her side, put it out of her power to dance with others. To no avail did she vent her feelings in criticisms on his person, behaviour and dress, or command him to stand up with somebody else. He assured her that his chief object was to offer those delicate attentions which are always acceptable to ladies and thereby recommend himself to her, and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close the whole evening. She was resolutely abusive to him, but he was engrossed by her and would not desert her; and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the gentlemen, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, at the exhibition she and her suitor made, were more intolerable.

To her further exasperation, the daughter of a tradesman who had been at one time the mayor of Meryton occasionally attempted to join them, and to engage Mr. Collins's attention to herself. She had little success, nevertheless, in winning him to any conversation, for his interest was all in Miss Bingley.

The end of the ball, and the moment of her release from Mr. Collins, was ecstasy to Miss Bingley. He, however, was rapidly yielding to the preference which he had entertained for her from the first, and was in a way to be prodigiously in love. Yet he felt it incumbent on him as a clergyman to resist such a strong attraction and so he wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no further sign of his increasingly extravagant and wild admiration should now escape him, and that he would do nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity. Steady to his purpose, he remained at Longbourn all of the following morning and made every exertion not to think of her.

But he had never been so bewitched by a woman as he was by her, and the inferno of his love that very afternoon led him to escape out of Longbourn House, and hasten to Netherfield Hall with the intention of throwing himself at her feet.

Miss Bingley could hardly restrain her consternation from being visible when she received him in her drawing room. She cared nothing for his admiration, considering him incapable of engaging any woman's heart, and found both him and his conversation to be intolerable. His presence was, indeed, closely guarded from any charm that could make Miss Bingley wish for it.

As she sat listening to his abundant civilities toward herself, and heard his frequent attempts at a compliment on her beauty and charm, she was astonished rather than gratified by the effect of her attractions. She at first tried to insult her visitor into taking his leave, but at length, quite exhausted by the attempt, moved to the pianoforte and seated herself. After playing some lively Italian vendetta songs, she varied the theme by a Scotch dirge; but while she was thus employed, she could not help observing with some uneasiness, how intently Mr. Collins' eyes were fixed on her.

When she rose from the instrument he hastened to inform her that she was the most beautiful and accomplished young lady he had ever met, far superior to any other of her sex, and he then assured her in the most animated language of the violence of his affection.

Miss Bingley's imagination was very rapid; it leapt from love to matrimony, in a moment. "Pray, when is the neighbourhood to be wishing us joy?" she inquired derisively.

Mr. Collins, thinking he might not again soon have such an excellent opportunity, threw caution to the winds, and resolved to make his declaration in form without loss of time. "To no avail," he said, "have I endeavoured to suppress my feelings. Our relatively brief acquaintance may seem to you an objection to my addressing you on this subject, but I will allow my status to plead my apology. There is a wide difference between the established forms of conduct amongst the laity and the clergy. You must therefore allow me to tell you how ardently I love you, anticipating no reason to be dissatisfied with your response. Although I am cautious of appearing impetuous, nevertheless you can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, for my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. As soon as I saw you at Netherfield, I singled you out as the companion of my future life. How wonderfully these things happen! I therefore earnestly entreat you to name the day that will make me the happiest of men."

"Oh!" cried Miss Bingley. "Mr. Collins has come to Netherfield to be laughed at!" And she did so, most merrily. Recovering herself with some difficulty she continued, "I never heard anything so odious. Have you anything else to propose for my connubial felicity? Shall I marry a toad that he may turn into a prince, or an ass that he may become a Midas?"

"I shall refrain from accusing you of cruelty," replied Mr. Collins very gravely, "because I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and no doubt you have said as much to secure the continuance of my addresses as would be consistent with the delicacy and modesty of your character."

Upon hearing this, Miss Bingley immediately rang for the footman, and when he appeared, ordered him to remove Mr. Collins from Netherfield, and never to admit him again, on any pretext.

Even Mr. Collins could scarcely regard Miss Bingley's refusal of his addresses as merely words of course, or the circumstances of his departure from Netherfield as heartening and he returned in dejected spirits to Longbourn meditating on what had passed. He thought too well of himself and his own superiority to comprehend on what motives Miss Bingley could refuse him; although he suspected that, being run away with by his feelings, he had not sufficiently stated his reasons for marrying—surely the object of his affections could not have failed to be swayed by the knowledge that Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park herself had condescended to recommend that he marry! And that as Mrs. Collins she would receive the notice and kindness of his illustrious patroness!

Resignation to inevitable evils is the duty of us all, he at length observed to himself; and I trust I am resigned. And so ended his affection.

Though his pride was hurt, the same pride prevented his feeling a very deep injury; and by the time he reached Longbourn he was already contemplating an attack on his cousin Elizabeth. Yet he ever afterwards considered Miss Bingley the handsomest and most vivacious woman he had ever known.

Would you like Mr. Collins to:
A.) Pursue Elizabeth Bennet, now that Caroline is out of the picture
or
B.) Become a heartbroken, committed bachelor