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

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The village of Longbourn was only a mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance to walk to call upon their aunt, Mrs Philips. The two youngest of the family were there most often, drawn by the recent arrival in Meryton of a militia regiment. Mr Philips knew all the officers, most of whom were frequently at his house, and it was not long before Kitty and Lydia knew them too. Mr Bingley’s large fortune was nothing in their eyes since he did not wear the red coat of an ensign.

They were in the morning room, on the day following a ball in Meryton, reliving for their mother and sisters the wonderful experiences of the night before.

“We danced every dance,” said Lydia joyfully

“We spoke to every officer in the room,” added Kitty.

Mr Bennet, who had appeared unseen at the library door, a letter in his hand, advanced into the room and coolly observed, “I gather by your manner of talking, that you must be two of the silliest girls in the country.

“My dear Mr Bennet, you must not expect such young girls to have the sense of their mother. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well -”

“Spare me, I beg you,” said Mr Bennet, “a dissertation on the charms of the military. I have come to tell you of the contents of this letter. We are at any moment to receive a visitor.”

“It is Mr Bingley,” said Mrs Bennet with great satisfaction. “Why, Jane – you never dropped a word.”

“Heavens above!” cried Mr Bennet. “Is there only one man in this world? It is not Mr Bingley.”

“Is he an officer, Papa?” asked Lydia eagerly.

“Is he young?” queried Kitty.

“Do we know him, Papa?” asked Elizabeth.

“He is a gentleman whom I have never seen in the whole course of my life. He wishes to stay a fortnight.”

“A fortnight?” queried Mrs Bennet. “A total stranger! How odd! Is he rich, my dear?”

“Probably not – he is a clergyman.”

“Oh!” said Lydia, sadly disappointed A clergyman!”

“Ah, but he is the heir to a large property,” said Mr Bennet. “A young man with expectations.”

Mrs Bennet’s face brightened. “Is he single?”

“He is as yet, my dear,” Mr Bennet replied. “But how long he may remain so after he has entered this house is a matter for the liveliest speculation.”

“A young clergyman with expectations!” mused Mrs Bennet. “H’m! Well, I shall be very glad to see him.”

“It is good of you,” said her husband sardonically, “to be so ready to welcome Mr Collins -”

“What!” cried his wife, appalled.

“Particularly in view of the fact,” continued her husband smoothly, “that – when I am dead – he may turn you all out of the house as soon as he chooses.”

“Oh, so it’s the Mr Collins who stands next in the entail?” said Elizabeth. “He is your cousin, is he not, Papa?”

“It is that Mr Collins.”

Vocabulary

  • appalled – if you are appalled by something, you are shocked or disgusted because it is so bad or unpleasant.
  • ensign – a sign or emblem of a particular thing
  • entail – limit the inheritance of (property) over a number of generations so that ownership remains within a particular family or group
  • muse – say to oneself in a thoughtful manner
  • regiment – a regiment is a large group of soldiers that is commanded by a colonel
  • query – if you query something, you check it by asking about it because you are not sure if it is correct

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