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A Young Man in Search of a Wife 2 (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

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“Pray do not talk of the odious man,” said Mrs Bennet “I do think it’s the hardest thing that your estate should be entailed away from your own children.”

“Well, there is nothing that can be done about it, Mama,” said Jane, who had, with Elizabeth, often attempted to explain to her the nature of the entail, which would not allow females to inherit the estate.

“Perhaps, if you listen to his letter, my dear you may be a little softened towards him. He says that he cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your daughters – and hopes to make them every possible amends.”

“But what amends can he make?” asked Jane.

“Yes, what, indeed?” said Mrs Bennet. “And you’ve invited him to stay for a fortnight?”

“No, my dear – he invited himself.”

“La! I think he sounds an awful bore,” said Lydia.

Mr Bennet regarded her coldly. “From which, Lydia,” he said, “I infer that you are displeased that your cousin will not come in a scarlet coat. We may expect this peace-making gentleman at four o’clock. Until then, we need not weary our minds with further speculation as to his romantic and financial potentialities.”

*

As it happened, Mrs Bennet was the only member of the family left in the house when Mr Collins arrived, punctual to his time. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five and twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners very formal.

“You are punctual, Mr Collins,” she said coolly. “Will you be seated, sir?”

“Thank you, ma’am,” and Mr Collins sat.

“I trust,” said Mrs Bennet, “that you had a comfortable journey.”

“Tolerable, ma’am; but in truth I scarcely noticed the discomforts, since my mind dwelt on the prospects of what awaited me at my journey’s end. I allude, ma’am, to the prospect of my meeting your five daughters. I have heard much of their beauty.”

“They are acknowledged to be the most handsome girls in the country. It is not surprising; after all. I have had my share of beauty -”

“Indeed, ma’am, you retain it yet,” said Mr Collins gallantly. “I have no doubt that in due time all your daughters will be well disposed in marriage.”

“I hope so, sir, with all my heart – else they will be left destitute. Things are settled so oddly.”

Mr Collins shifted uneasily on his chair. “You refer, perhaps, to the entail on this estate?”

“I do, indeed,” and Mrs Bennet gave a heavy sigh. “Not that I mean to find fault with you.”

“I am very sensible, ma’am, of the hardship to my fair cousins. I could say much on the subject, but I do not wish to appear forward and precipitate -”

“Do not hesitate to speak frankly with me, sir,” said Mrs Bennet hastily.

“You are very kind, ma’am. I will be frank with you. I must tell you first that I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to whose bounty and benevolence I owe my living. Lady Catherine has advised me to marry.”

Mrs Bennet beamed and nodded her head sagely. “How very, very sensible!” she said.

“I am happy, ma’am, to find you so understanding – since I have come here with the plan of selecting a wife.”

“I am sure, sir, that it would add to your happiness.”

“In fact, ma’am,” said Mr Collins with much gravity, “I mean to choose one of your daughters. It is my plan of amends for inheriting their father’s estate.”

Mrs Bennet rose, with both hands outstretched to him. “My dear Mr Collins,” she said, “how happy I am to welcome you to Longbourn!”

Vocabulary

  • allude – if you allude to something, you mention it in an indirect way.
  • amends – (in phrase make amends) compensate or make up for a wrongdoing.
  • destitute – someone who is destitute has no money or possessions.
  • infer – if you infer that something is the case, you decide that it is true on the basis of information that you already have.
  • odious – if you describe people or things as odious, you think that they are extremely unpleasant.
  • precipitate – cause (an event or situation, typically one that is undesirable) to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, or prematurely.
  • stately – something or someone that is stately is impressive and graceful or dignified

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