You say, “I am Mr Bennet, Vampyre. If you linger any longer in my house, I will sink my fangs into your withered neck and drink your blood. I make no distinction between peasants and persons of rank.”
Lady Catherine ignores you and says to Lizzy, with great condescension, "I hope you are well, Miss Bennet. That man, I suppose, is your father. Tell him that I do not suffer fools gladly." She sweeps past you into your own sitting room, while you shrug and return to the library. A little later, you observe Her Ladyship and Lizzy walking in the garden; it appears as though Lizzy is giving no quarter.
The next morning a letter is delivered to you that arouses equal measures of amusement and amazement. You summon Lizzy to the library, and begin thus. "I have received a communication this morning that has astonished me exceedingly. As it principally concerns yourself, you ought to know its contents. I did not know before, that I had two daughters on the brink of matrimony. Let me congratulate you on a very important conquest."
You observe the colour rushing into Lizzy's cheeks and continue, "You look conscious. Young ladies have great penetration in such matters as these; but I think I may defy even your sagacity, to discover the name of your admirer. This letter is from Mr Collins."
"From Mr Collins! and what can he have to say?"
"Something very much to the purpose of course. He begins with congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest daughter, of which, it seems, he has been told by some of the good-natured, gossiping Lucases. I shall not sport with your impatience, by reading what he says on that point. What relates to yourself, is as follows. Having thus offered you the sincere congratulations of Mrs Collins and myself on this happy event, let me now add a short hint on the subject of another; of which we have been advertised by the same authority. Your daughter Elizabeth, it is presumed, will not long bear the name of Bennet, after her elder sister has resigned it, and the chosen partner of her fate may be reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages in this land. Can you possibly guess, Lizzy, who is meant by this? This young gentleman is blessed, in a peculiar way, with every thing the heart of mortal can most desire, -- splendid property, noble kindred, and extensive patronage. Yet in spite of all these temptations, let me warn my cousin Elizabeth, and yourself, of what evils you may incur by a precipitate closure with this gentleman's proposals, which, of course, you will be inclined to take immediate advantage of. Have you any idea, Lizzy, who this gentleman is? But now it comes out. My motive for cautioning you is as follows. We have reason to imagine that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, does not look on the match with a friendly eye. Mr Darcy, you see, is the man! Now, Lizzy, I think I have surprised you. Could he, or the Lucases, have pitched on any man within the circle of our acquaintance, whose name would have given the lie more effectually to what they related? Mr Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life! It is admirable!"
You chuckle to yourself, then frown as you notice Lizzy forcing a smile. "Are you not diverted?"
"Oh! yes,” says she, more like her usual self. “Pray read on."
You oblige. "Mr Collins continues: After mentioning the likelihood of this marriage to her ladyship last night, she immediately, with her usual condescension, expressed what she felt on the occasion; when it became apparent, that on the score of some family objections on the part of my cousin, she would never give her consent to what she termed so disgraceful a match. I thought it my duty to give the speediest intelligence of this to my cousin, that she and her noble admirer may be aware of what they are about, and not run hastily into a marriage which has not been properly sanctioned. And then our charming cousin rubs salt into a still open wound, by adding, I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Lydia's sad business has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that their living together before the marriage took place should be so generally known. I must not, however, neglect the duties of my station, or refrain from declaring my amazement at hearing that you received the young couple into your house as soon as they were married. It was an encouragement of vice; and had I been the rector of Longbourn, I should very strenuously have opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing. That is his notion of Christian forgiveness! The rest of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte's situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch.” You pause to glance at your daughter again. “But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be Missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"
"Oh!" cries she, "I am excessively diverted. But it is so strange!"
"Yes – that is what makes it amusing. Had they fixed on any other man it would have been nothing; but his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd! Much as I abominate writing, I would not give up Mr Collins's correspondence for any consideration. Nay, when I read a letter of his, I cannot help giving him the preference even over Wickham, much as I value the impudence and hypocrisy of my son-in-law. And pray, Lizzy, what said Lady Catherine about this report? Did she call to refuse her consent?"
To this question she replies only with a laugh and makes a hasty exit from your room.
End of Chapter 14.
Congratulations, you are becoming Mr Bennet! Chapter 15 is here.