Chapter 13

``I HOPE my dear,'' said Mr. Bennet to his wife as they were at breakfast the next morning, ``that you have ordered a good dinner to-day, because I have reason to expect an addition to our family party.''

``Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming, I am sure, unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in, and I hope my dinners are good enough for her. I do not believe she often sees such at home.''

``The person of whom I speak, is a gentleman and a stranger.''

Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled. -- ``A gentleman and a stranger! It is Mr. Bingley, I am sure. Why Jane -- you never dropt a word of this; you sly thing! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad to see Mr. Bingley. -- But -- good lord! how unlucky! there is not a bit of fish to be got to-day. Lydia, my love, ring the bell. I must speak to Hill, this moment.''

``It is not Mr. Bingley,'' said her husband; ``it is a person whom I never saw in the whole course of my life.''

This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being eagerly questioned by his wife and five daughters at once.

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 anything about.

``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 himself.''

``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.


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

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