And the winner of Love and Friendship is:
Congratulations! You shall both receive emails from me soon. For those of you who did not win, the giveaways will continue through this month so come back on Friday and try again.
Now back to Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet. I hope you enjoy this scene, as it is one of those which directly corresponds to Austen's original, which are the most fun to write. It is one of my favorite in the book, so please be so kind as to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Enjoy!
After making such a stalwart resolution one might think that Mr. Collins would have been disheartened the next morning when, upon finding himself tête-à-tête with Mrs. Bennet, he received a caution against pursuit of the very Elizabeth he had fixed on, but then one would not be accounting for the flexibility of this astonishing specimen of humanity. For a conversation beginning with his parsonage house and leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes that a mistress for it might be found at Longbourn, elicited this presumptuous comment from his hostess, “I have reason to believe, sir, that Lizzy's affections are already quite attached to a wealthy gentleman of large fortune who has recently come into the neighborhood, though I know of no existing predisposition amongst my younger daughters.”
It was a natural progression for Mr. Collins to turn his sight on the next chronologically eligible daughter, despite some understandable disappointment that the ladies of the house were not as ripe for the picking as he had imagined. There was some minor indignation to overcome as he felt his station entitled him to the pick of the litter, but his eager mind quickly perceived how much more appropriate Mary would be as a companion at Rosings than the elder, more showy Bennet girls. Though not a sensible man, no one would dare underestimate how keenly aware Mr. Collins was of his duty to his illustrious patroness and her daughter; readily he grasped at the notion that Miss Mary would be of far more assistance in upholding his claim that Miss De Bourgh was superior to the handsomest of her sex (and other such homages he thought due the ladies) than a sparkling Miss Elizabeth or breathtaking Miss Bennet.
In many more words than need be recounted here, Mr. Collins assured Mrs. Bennet that he would very much enjoy getting better acquainted with her middle daughter. What were her pursuits and accomplishments? Happily Mrs. Bennet recounted Mary's diligence and piety, suddenly valuing these qualities more than she ever had before. What a surprise blessing a household of daughters could prove to be! Mary was perfect for Mr. Collins – it now appeared that she had been raised purposefully for the role of clergyman's wife and Mrs. Bennet happily took the credit for educating one of her daughters thusly. She treasured up the hint from Mr. Collins and trusted she might soon have three daughters advantageously settled. Mr. Collins, formerly loathed and despised from afar, now stood high in her good graces.
Though Mary was not privy to this conversation she would not have found it disagreeable. It was difficult being the middle child amongst such sisters and she had often experienced great anxiety regarding her desirability. Mrs. Bennet's constant preoccupation with the disposal of her daughters only heightened these concerns: each of the many times her mother bemoaned their fate should Mr. Bennet die, Mary would picture her particular lot in that scenario and saw much to bemoan. Surely her prettier, livelier sisters would make matches of some sort or another but what was she to do? Work as a governess? Spend her life caring for an aging and unloving mother? While she had long ago determined that she would not shirk from fulfilling whatever role life demanded from her, she also prayed fervently that it would be one of wife, not caretaker. So when Mr. Collins began to pay her attentions she felt both flattered and receptive, having rarely been the recipient of any masculine notice. From her perspective Mr. Collins was an excellent match – she honored his profession, his role as her father's heir, and the good sense he showed in wishing for a practical and pious wife above a beautiful one.
After parting from Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet rushed into the library in order to share her good news, “Mr. Bennet! Oh Mr. Bennet it is too perfect!”
“What is it my dear?”
“Mr. Collins of course! He is interested in our Mary! She will make the perfect clergyman's wife and break that odious entail. Have I not arranged everything admirably?”
“It is your affair to arrange as you will, Mrs. Bennet,” he replied, barely containing the smile that threatened to destroy his nonchalant mask. “If you desire to live out your years in residence with Mr. Collins the match will of course receive my blessing, but I for one will be glad to be dead, buried, and rid of the man.”
“Oh, how you do vex me Mr. Bennet!” she exclaimed before bustling back out the door. Mr. Bennet listened to the sound of her shrill voice as it carried down the hall before standing and moving to the window. There he spent many happy moments envisioning his grandchildren, the future heirs of Longbourn, playing merrily on its ancient lawn.