Chapter Three: Mr Collins Pays a Visit
Elizabeth spent most of the night in her sister's room. In the morning Jane
was better. She sent a note to her mother asking her to visit and decide what
to do. Mrs Bennet and her two youngest daughters arrived at Netherfield
Although she was satisfied that Jane was in no danger, Mrs Bennet did not
listen to her proposal of going home. The doctor agreed. Miss Bingley then
invited the mother and three daughters to the parlour. Bingley met them with
hopes that Mrs Bennet had not found Jane worse than expected.
'Indeed I did, Sir,' she answered. 'She is much too ill to be moved. We
must depend a little longer on your kindness.'
'You may depend on it, Madam,' said Miss Bingley coldly, 'that Miss
Bennet shall receive every possible attention.'
Soon afterwards Mrs Bennet asked for her carriage, thanking Mr Bingley
again for his kindness. When they had left, Elizabeth went immediately to
Jane, leaving the two ladies to ridicule the behaviour of her relatives.
The day passed much like the day before. Elizabeth spent the evening
downstairs. She could not help noticing how frequently Mr Darcy looked at
her. When Miss Bingley played a lively song on the piano he came to
Elizabeth and said, 'Do you not want to dance when you hear such music?'
She smiled, but did not answer. He repeated the question.
'I heard you before,' She said, 'but I did not immediately know what to
answer'. I know you wanted me to say "Yes," to give you the pleasure of
ridiculing my taste. So I have decided to tell you that I do not want to dance
at all. Now ridicule me if you dare.'
'Indeed I do not dare.'
Elizabeth, expecting him to be angry, was surprised at his gallantry, but
there was a mixture of impertinence and sweetness in her manner which
made it difficult for her to offend anybody. Darcy had never been as
attracted by any woman as he was by her. He thought that only the
inferiority of her connections saved him from the danger of falling in love.
Miss Bingley saw this. Her anxiety that Jane get better soon came from her
wish to see her sister leave. She often tried to make Darcy dislike Elizabeth
by planning his happiness in an imagined marriage with her.
'I hope,' she said as they were walking in the garden the next day, 'you will
teach your mother-in-law the advantage of silence, and if you can tell the
younger girls not to run after the officers... '
At that moment they met Mrs Hurst and Elizabeth.
'I did not know you wanted to walk,' said Miss Bingley, in some
embarrassment, fearing she had been overheard.
'Why did you not tell us you were going to the garden?' asked Mrs Hurst,
leaving Elizabeth and taking Darcy's free arm. The path was big enough
only for three. Mr Darcy felt their rudeness and said, 'Let us move. This path
is not wide enough.'
But Elizabeth answered laughingly, 'No, no. You make such a handsome
picture; another person would spoil it.'
She ran off, happy in the thought of soon going home. Jane was so much
better that she planned to leave her room for a few hours that evening.
After dinner, Elizabeth helped her sister down to the drawing-room. Her
friends welcomed her warmly. Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable,
but when the gentlemen came in Jane was quickly forgotten. Miss Bingley
immediately went to speak to Darcy. He greeted Jane politely, but it was
Bingley who was happiest to see her. After seeing that she was in no danger
of the cold sat down by her and talked to nobody else.
They decided not to play cards that evening. Darcy and Miss Bingley
began to read; Mr Hurst went to sleep and his wife spoke a little to Jane and
her brother. Hearing her brother speak to Jane about a ball, Miss Bingley
said, 'Charles, are you really thinking of a dance at Netherfield? I am sure
there are some of us to whom a ball is no pleasure.'
'Are you speaking of Darcy cried her brother. 'He can go to bed before it
begins, but the ball is a certain thing.'
Mr Darcy had been speaking to Elizabeth when Caroline Bingley, tired of
listening to this conversation in which she had no part, asked Mrs Hurst to
play some music. After a minute's thought, Darcy was not unhappy for it. He
was beginning to feel the danger of giving Elizabeth too much attention. She
attracted him more than he liked. It was a good thing that the two sisters
were to go home to Longbourn the following day.
'I hope, my dear,' said Mr Bennet to his wife the next morning, 'that you
have a good dinner today, because I expect somebody to join us.'
'Who do you mean?'
'The person of whom I speak is a gentleman and a stranger.'
The ladies were surprised and questioned him.
'A month ago I received a letter from my cousin Mr Collins, who will
come to live in this house when I die.'
In some families it was agreed by law that property could only be left to
men. If those families had only daughters, their houses and land would be
left to any male relative after the father's death. Mr Collins was Mr Bennet's
only male relative.
'He writes that his father died some time ago and that he wants us to forget
the disagreement between our families,' Mr Bennet said. 'He is a man of the
Church and has found an important patroness in the Honourable Lady
Catherine de Bourgh. He apologises for the injustice done to our daughters
because of his getting Longbourn and would like to help them. This is the
reason for his visit. We may expect the gentleman at four o'clock.'
Mr Collins was a tall, heavy-looking young man of twenty-five. His
manners were very formal and he soon complimented. Mrs Bennet on
having such fine, beautiful daughters. He was sure, he said, that soon she
would see them all well married.
'You are very kind, sir, I am sure; and I hope it will be so; or indeed they
will be very poor.'
'I know, madam, of my dear cousins' misfortune. I could say much on the
subject. At present I will not say more. But I can assure the young ladies that
I come ready to admire them.'
At dinner, Mr Bennet observed that Mr Collins was very fortunate in his
patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr Collins's manner was most serious
as he explained that never in his life had he seen such kindness in a great
lady. She had already asked him twice to dine at Rosings. She made no
objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood or to his visiting
his relatives. She had even told him to marry as soon as he could,
providing he chose the right wife, and had once visited him in his humble
'Does she live near you?' asked Mrs Bennet.
'The garden of my humble house is next to Rosings.'
'You said she is a widow, sir. Has she any family?'
'She has only one daughter who, one day, will have Rosings and a great
'All!' cried Mrs Bennet, 'Is she handsome?'
'She is a most charming young lady indeed. I have more than once said to
Lady Catherine that her daughter was born to be a duchess. Such little
attentions please her ladyship.'
'It is happy for you to possess the talent of flattery,' said Mr Bennet. 'May I
ask if you think of these pleasing attentions at the moment, or are they the
result of study?'
'I sometimes amuse myself with thinking of such little elegant
compliments, but I always wish to give them in as natural a manner as
Mr Bennet was satisfied. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped.
Having a good house and a sufficient fortune Mr Collins now intended to
marry. His first choice was Jane, but a conversation with Mrs Bennet the
next day informed him of her hopes for Jane's marriage. He had only to
change from her to Elizabeth.
That day Lydia planned to walk to Meryton to ask after a Mr Denny, an
officer she was friendly with. All her sisters, with the exception of Mary,
and Mr Collins decided to go with her. In pompous nothings on his side
and polite answers on that of his cousins, the time passed till they entered
Meryton. From then on the younger sisters were busy looking for officers.
The attention of every lady was soon attracted by a young stranger of most
gentleman-like appearance. He was walking with Mr Denny who introduced
him as a Mr Wickham, an officer in his regiment.
They were talking together when they saw Darcy and Bingley riding down
the street. The two gentlemen came up. Bingley was just going to
Longbourn, he told Jane, to ask after her. Suddenly Elizabeth saw Darcy
look at the stranger in surprise. Both men changed colour. Mr Wickham
touched his hat. In another minute Bingley took leave and rode on with his
friend. Mr Denny and Mr Wickham walked with the young ladies to Mr
When Jane introduced Mr Collins to her aunt, she received him with her
very best politeness. She could not answer her nieces' questions about Mr
Wickham, but promised to invite him to dinner with some other officers the
As they walked home, Elizabeth told Jane what she had seen pass between
the two gentlemen. Jane was surprised as well.