FictionForest

Chapter 19

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The next day opened a new scene at
Longbourn.  Mr. Collins made his declaration in
form.  Having resolved to do it without loss of
time, as his leave of absence extended only to the
following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence
to make it distressing to himself even at the moment,
he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all
the observances, which he supposed a regular part
of the business.  On finding Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth,
and one of the younger girls together, soon after
breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words: 

“May I hope, madam, for your
interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I
solicit for the honour of a private audience with her
in the course of this morning?”

Before Elizabeth had time for anything
but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet answered instantly,
“Oh dear! ­yes ­certainly. 
I am sure Lizzy will be very happy ­I am
sure she can have no objection.  Come, Kitty, I
want you upstairs.”  And, gathering her work
together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth called
out: 

“Dear madam, do not go. 
I beg you will not go.  Mr. Collins must excuse
me.  He can have nothing to say to me that anybody
need not hear.  I am going away myself.”

“No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. 
I desire you to stay where you are.”  And
upon Elizabeth’s seeming really, with vexed
and embarrassed looks, about to escape, she added: 
“Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and
hearing Mr. Collins.”

Elizabeth would not oppose such an
injunction ­and a moment’s consideration
making her also sensible that it would be wisest to
get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she
sat down again and tried to conceal, by incessant
employment the feelings which were divided between
distress and diversion.  Mrs. Bennet and Kitty
walked off, and as soon as they were gone, Mr. Collins
began.

“Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth,
that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice,
rather adds to your other perfections.  You would
have been less amiable in my eyes had there not
been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure
you, that I have your respected mother’s permission
for this address.  You can hardly doubt the purport
of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may
lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too
marked to be mistaken.  Almost as soon as I entered
the house, I singled you out as the companion of my
future life.  But before I am run away with by
my feelings on this subject, perhaps it would be advisable
for me to state my reasons for marrying ­and,
moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design
of selecting a wife, as I certainly did.”

The idea of Mr. Collins, with all
his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings,
made Elizabeth so near laughing, that she could not
use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop
him further, and he continued: 

“My reasons for marrying are,
first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman
in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example
of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced
that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and
thirdly ­which perhaps I ought to have mentioned
earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation
of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling
patroness.  Twice has she condescended to give
me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and
it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford ­between
our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging
Miss de Bourgh’s footstool, that she said, ’Mr.
Collins, you must marry.  A clergyman like you
must marry.  Choose properly, choose a gentlewoman
for my sake; and for your own, let her
be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up
high, but able to make a small income go a good way. 
This is my advice.  Find such a woman as soon as
you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.’ 
Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin,
that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady
Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the advantages
in my power to offer.  You will find her manners
beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity,
I think, must be acceptable to her, especially when
tempered with the silence and respect which her rank
will inevitably excite.  Thus much for my general
intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be
told why my views were directed towards Longbourn
instead of my own neighbourhood, where I can assure
you there are many amiable young women.  But the
fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate
after the death of your honoured father (who, however,
may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself
without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters,
that the loss to them might be as little as possible,
when the melancholy event takes place ­which,
however, as I have already said, may not be for several
years.  This has been my motive, my fair cousin,
and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. 
And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in
the most animated language of the violence of my affection. 
To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make
no demand of that nature on your father, since I am
well aware that it could not be complied with; and
that one thousand pounds in the four per cents, which
will not be yours till after your mother’s decease,
is all that you may ever be entitled to.  On that
head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and
you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach
shall ever pass my lips when we are married.”

It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.

“You are too hasty, sir,”
she cried.  “You forget that I have made
no answer.  Let me do it without further loss
of time.  Accept my thanks for the compliment
you are paying me.  I am very sensible of the honour
of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to
do otherwise than to decline them.”

“I am not now to learn,”
replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand,
“that it is usual with young ladies to reject
the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to
accept, when he first applies for their favour; and
that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second, or
even a third time.  I am therefore by no means
discouraged by what you have just said, and shall
hope to lead you to the altar ere long.”

“Upon my word, sir,” cried
Elizabeth, “your hope is a rather extraordinary
one after my declaration.  I do assure you that
I am not one of those young ladies (if such young
ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their
happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. 
I am perfectly serious in my refusal.  You could
not make me happy, and I am convinced that
I am the last woman in the world who could make you
so.  Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know
me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect
ill qualified for the situation.”

“Were it certain that Lady Catherine
would think so,” said Mr. Collins very gravely ­“but
I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all disapprove
of you.  And you may be certain when I have the
honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the very
highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other
amiable qualification.”

“Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise
of me will be unnecessary.  You must give me leave
to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of
believing what I say.  I wish you very happy and
very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my
power to prevent your being otherwise.  In making
me the offer, you must have satisfied the delicacy
of your feelings with regard to my family, and may
take possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls,
without any self-reproach.  This matter may be
considered, therefore, as finally settled.” 
And rising as she thus spoke, she would have quitted
the room, had Mr. Collins not thus addressed her: 

“When I do myself the honour
of speaking to you next on the subject, I shall hope
to receive a more favourable answer than you have now
given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty
at present, because I know it to be the established
custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application,
and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage
my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy
of the female character.”

“Really, Mr. Collins,”
cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle
me exceedingly.  If what I have hitherto said
can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I
know not how to express my refusal in such a way as
to convince you of its being one.”

“You must give me leave to flatter
myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses
is merely words of course.  My reasons for believing
it are briefly these:  It does not appear to me
that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that
the establishment I can offer would be any other than
highly desirable.  My situation in life, my connections
with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to
your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and
you should take it into further consideration, that
in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no
means certain that another offer of marriage may ever
be made you.  Your portion is unhappily so small
that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of
your loveliness and amiable qualifications.  As
I must therefore conclude that you are not serious
in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute
it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense,
according to the usual practice of elegant females.”

“I do assure you, sir, that
I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance
which consists in tormenting a respectable man. 
I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed
sincere.  I thank you again and again for the
honour you have done me in your proposals, but to
accept them is absolutely impossible.  My feelings
in every respect forbid it.  Can I speak plainer? 
Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending
to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking
the truth from her heart.”

“You are uniformly charming!”
cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; “and
I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express
authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals
will not fail of being acceptable.”

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception
Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and
in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in
considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement,
to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered
in such a manner as to be decisive, and whose behavior
at least could not be mistaken for the affectation
and coquetry of an elegant female.

 

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