Hi ho! I have an excerpt for you today of my newest novel, tentatively titled Mrs. Bennet’s Favorite Daughter, due out in April. While I might have chosen another passage of more immediate importance to the main plot of the story, I couldn’t resist this one. It’s a scene with Mr. Collins doing what he does best, and I’m rather proud of how it turned out. It’s a little long, so I hope you’ll stick around for some Collins-induced inanity!
To set the stage: Colonel Fitzwilliam has sustained an injury which has left him unfit for the demands of active service and has been put in charge of the regiment in Meryton as he recuperates; Mr. Darcy’s arrival is a little later than usual in this story, though Georgiana is already present; Mr. Collins has just arrived at Longbourn with an agenda a little altered from what you’re used to seeing; and Mrs. Bennet is close to Elizabeth, seeing her as an intelligent daughter who assists and helps her whenever Mrs. Bennet doesn’t quite understand. I will warn you ahead of time that while I looked this over before posting, I have not run it through rigorous editing, and as such, there may be some errors. Enjoy!
While Mr. Collins was not punctual to their mealtimes—and he made no apology when he arrived to break his fast as the family was rising from the breakfast table—he was most attentive at all other times. The man lingered over his breakfast for some time—longer than Elizabeth thought was necessary. When he finished, he took it upon himself to attend ‘his fair cousins,’ as he put it himself, and none could convince him his civility was quite unnecessary.
“My, your stitches are uneven, are they not, Cousin Elizabeth?” remarked he not long after they were all seated in the sitting-room. “Perhaps you should practice more, for my patroness always speaks of the efficacy of practice in effecting an improvement in one’s skills.”
“Thank you, Mr. Collins,” said Elizabeth, not at all offended by his faux pas. “Indeed, Lady Catherine’s wisdom in this matter cannot be disputed. Though I do not enjoy embroidery as a rule, I would agree that practicing would improve my stitches.”
Mr. Collins, however, paid no attention to Elizabeth’s reply. “Really, Cousins, must you laugh so loud?”
In Elizabeth’s opinion, Kitty and Lydia had not been bothering anyone; they certainly could when they put their minds to it, but at present, they were rather quiet. Lydia appeared on the verge of some retort, but a sharp look from Elizabeth put an end to it, and she sulked instead.
“That is better,” said the parson. “If you have not heard it said that children should be seen and not heard, let this be a lesson to you. There is little to be gained from making a raucous display when you should be sitting quietly in the presence of your betters.”
For the girls this was the final indignity, for after fixing Mr. Collins with a hateful glare, Lydia rose and called Kitty after her, leading her sister up the stairs. The sound of the door slamming behind them as they entered what Elizabeth thought was Lydia’s room was a testament to the offense they felt toward a certain man. Mr. Collins did not seem to understand it for what it was, for he smiled and nodded with satisfaction, though he turned his attention back to Elizabeth.
“It appears your mother has done little to restrain the high animal spirits of your sisters. I should advise in the most strenuous manner possible that she should not overlook their education.” Mr. Collins paused and looked critically at Elizabeth. “In fact, it may be best if she attended to you all or hired the services of a woman to oversee your education, if she is not capable herself. Your sisters will not grow to be a credit to your family if they are not taught to behave properly.”
A stinging retort was on the tip of Elizabeth’s tongue when Mary said: “Shall you not sit with me, Mr. Collins? I was reading in Deuteronomy yesterday and came upon a passage I cannot quite make out. Perhaps your knowledge of the scriptures and insight as a parson would help.”
Mr. Collins waved Mary off. “Then I would recommend you listen closer to Sunday sermons, Cousin Mary. I am not in the habit of explaining every minute detail of the scriptures to those who do not bother to take their attendance with the seriousness it requires.”
For a moment, Mary was unable to reply, so surprised was she. Then she too rose and, giving the parson an imperious glare, retreated from the room. Mary was better behaved than her younger sisters and the slamming her bedroom door behind her was not as loud. Elizabeth fancied her sister’s footsteps on the stairs were louder than Mary’s usual tread.
“It seems your sisters have all taken my advice to improve themselves,” said Mr. Collins with satisfaction. “That is well, for if Lady Catherine were here, she would advise them in the most serious manner to listen well to the words of their superiors, lest they be despised wherever they go.”
Then Mr. Collins turned to Jane. “Tell me, Cousin, do you play the pianoforte?”
“Only a little, Mr. Collins,” said Jane. “Though I enjoy it—”
“No, no, that will not do at all!” exclaimed Mr. Collins. “Why were you not taught? Have my cousin and his wife abrogated their responsibilities to this great degree? Have I come to a family who has no talent, no training, and little in their heads other than fashion and novels?”
“Jane,” said Elizabeth, rising to her feet and looking at her sister to avoid strangling the parson. “Shall you not assist me in my room? I believe I forgotten something there.”
Though Jane’s sense of politeness urged her to disagree, she caught the stony nature of Elizabeth’s glare and agreed. While Jane made some quiet attempt to excuse herself from the parson, Elizabeth hurried her from the room and led her upstairs. When they gained her room, Elizabeth closed the door—without slamming it, though it was a near thing—and rounded on her sister.
“Thank you, Jane. If we had stayed another moment in that room with that odious man I would not have been responsible for what I said to him!”
Jane sighed and sat on Elizabeth’s bed. “Mr. Collins is . . .”
“A disgusting and unendurable man,” finished Elizabeth.
Even Jane could not gainsay Elizabeth’s statement. “It is well that our parents have already informed us all we will not be required to marry him.”
“I would not anyway,” rejoined Elizabeth. “I should rather end a scullery maid than endure Mr. Collins my entire life.”
Jane nodded with agreement and they fell silent.
When Mrs. Bennet returned to the sitting-room after speaking with Mrs. Hill, she was surprised to see Mr. Collins sitting alone. The parson, far from being distressed at his solitary state, appeared to be in a position of self-satisfaction, though she could not understand why that might be.
“Where are my daughters, Mr. Collins?”
Catching sight of her, Mr. Collins gave her a look of such satisfaction that Maggie wondered what he was about. “They have taken my advice and absented themselves in order to affect the improvements I suggested.”
That sounded worrisome, for Maggie could not imagine anything Mr. Collins could say to improve her girls. It was more likely he had offended them in some way and driven them all from the room.
“Now, if you will, Mrs. Bennet, I wish to speak to you on a subject most dear to my heart.”
Though feeling all the effects of skepticism enter her heart, Maggie decided it was best to humor him. “Very well, Mr. Collins,” said she, settling herself in her favorite chair. “How may I assist?”
“I wish to know something of the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennet. The families with whom you dine, the number and attributes of any daughters they have, and so on.”
“You mean to make yourself agreeable to our society while you are here?” asked Mrs. Bennet.
“Of course,” said Mr. Collins, “for it is the duty of a clergyman to adapt himself to the society in which he finds himself, whether high or low. There is another matter of which I am interested, but I shall make more of that known anon, when I know something of the people who live here.”
A sudden memory entered her mind of Mr. Collins speaking the previous evening, and she said: “As I recall, you are here to search for a wife.”
“To put it indelicately,” replied Mr. Collins.
Thinking hard, Mrs. Bennet considered the gentleman before him. He was objectionable to be certain, but on a certain level he was also respectable, possessing a good living, not to mention his future inheritance of the place she now called home. Furthermore, though there were many ladies in the neighborhood who could be said to be looking for husbands, loyalty dictated she speak of her own daughters first. Mary was pious and knowledgeable concerning Bible related matters, and Mrs. Bennet had always thought she would make a good parson’s wife. Maggie thought Mary a little more kindly disposed to Mr. Collins than her other daughters, given what she had said the previous evening.
“There are many young ladies near Meryton, Mr. Collins,” said Mrs. Bennet.
“Yes, yes,” said the gentleman. “I am sure there are. But I do not wish to hear of them all—only those who possess that certain something that all men wish to find in his wife.”
Maggie was confused, but she attempted to reply, nonetheless. “If you are looking for a wife who will suit you as a parson, my middle daughter, Mary, would suit. Mary is pious and studious, and often visits our tenant children. I think she would make an excellent parson’s wife.”
Whatever response the parson offered Mrs. Bennet would not have expected him to laugh. But he did, shocking Mrs. Bennet once again.
“My dear Mrs. Bennet,” said Mr. Collins. “I do not believe you understand me. Your daughters may be amiable, but you cannot think I would ever be induced to offer for one of them. You are obviously proud of them, as any mother would be, yet I cannot think their chances of capturing husbands are great at all.”
“Whatever can you mean?” demanded Mrs. Bennet, now growing cross.
“Why, because of those deficiencies attached to their situations, which are no fault of their own, as well as certain others which are.”
“My daughters are good girls, Mr. Collins,” said Mrs. Bennet from between clenched teeth. “They are pretty and amiable, have excellent dispositions, and have been brought up in the proper manner. I cannot but think they would make any man who marries them proud.”
Mr. Collins laughed again—again! The sight of the man and his merriment brought Mrs. Bennet close to the breaking point. What she would not give for a bottle to break over his thick head!
“The affection you hold for your daughters is admirable, but surely you are not blind to their deficiencies. Miss Bennet is tolerably pretty, I suppose, but she cannot even play the pianoforte, has little seeming talent otherwise, and rarely opens her mouth. Your youngest daughters are improper hoydens in need of a firm hand and your middle daughter is a bluestocking and the most likely spinster in the making I have ever seen. And the worst is your second daughter, who speaks as if she were a man, talking of matters she cannot understand, besides being ill-favored and the furthest thing from tempting to a man that I can imagine. I suggest you prepare your daughters for spinsterhood, Mrs. Bennet, for it is unlikely they will ever marry.”
Shooting to her feet, Mrs. Bennet glared down on the parson, unwilling to allow him to insult her dear daughters. “Then it is fortunate for you, Mr. Collins, that you do not consider my girls good enough to be your wife, for I cannot imagine ever agreeing to any one of them marrying you.”
Then she turned on her heel and marched from the room, head held high, not caring what Mr. Collins thought. As she climbed the stairs to her room, Mrs. Bennet was counting the days until they could dispense with the parson’s company. He was the most loathsome man she had ever met!
The fourth time Mr. Bennet heard a door slam above him he looked up from his book, wondering what was happening in his house. The first one had been the loudest, the third the softest, but all had been unusual in what, he thought, was a tranquil home. Could something have happened that morning?
As Bennet considered the matter, he decided to refrain from investigating. If his presence was required, his wife would call him, and as she had not appeared, it was better to leave well enough alone. Besides, Bennet had little desire to draw his cousin’s attention. Let the ladies have the pleasure of his company for a time—Bennet had endured enough of the man the previous evening.
That decided, Bennet turned back to his book and immersed himself in its pages.
Well, what do you think? Is Mr. Collins as deliciously ridiculous as you expect? What do you think he’s looking for in a wife if the Bennet sisters don’t meet his standards? Colonel Fitzwilliam doesn’t make an appearance, but you can bet his presence will make for some rather large consequences for our friend Wickham. And don’t worry about Darcy—he’s on his way, and his sister will play a large part in this story too. Stay tuned, for Mrs. Bennet’s Favorite Daughter is scheduled for release on April 23rd. Cover and blurb to follow!