26th March 1812
Dear Cousin Richard,
While you are in town, I have a mission for you should you have time. I would caution it is imperative this be done without Darcy’s knowledge. I would like to know anything you can find out about a family by the name of Bennet who lives in Hertfordshire. The name of the estate is Longbourn. Longbourn is entailed to the male line, and as there are no sons (but five daughters), the estate will pass to one William Collins, cousin to that family. Does that name sound familiar? Currently, he has the living at Hunsford under the patronage of our Aunt Catherine.
Why am I asking you this favor? I have formed a theory that my brother may be enamored with the second eldest of the Bennet daughters, Miss Elizabeth, whom he met last autumn when visiting Charles Bingley at his new estate. Of all the strange coincidences, said lady is here at Hunsford staying with her cousin, Mr. Collins, who was recently married to another lady from that Hertfordshire neighborhood. Small world, is it not? If William’s interest in her is what I suspect it to be, this could explain his strange behavior over the past few months. After meeting Miss Elizabeth, I can only say I completely understand his fascination with her.
I think you will find her family is of good character but definitely nothing to the standing of our own. However, if there is no scandal attached to their family name, then it is possible Darcy could pursue an alliance with her even though it would be somewhat unusual for someone of his status. Lord knows, he has found no one else to his liking amongst the debutants of the ton – despite your mother’s efforts, I might add.
By the way, thank you for coming to my rescue in the matter of the book in Aunt Catherine’s library. My future health was entirely in your hands! I was able to locate the volume and tear out the incriminating pages. Better she find a defaced book than discover the caricatures. I have to admit upon seeing them again that they were very cleverly done!
Please write to let me know of your progress, but do not tell William of my request. Give my love to your mother and promise her I will call the moment I return to London with the latest intelligence about our dear Aunt Catherine’s activities and absurdities. I know how your mother appreciates a humorous story, and you know how I love providing her with this type of entertainment.