FictionForest

Chapter 20

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

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Mr. Collins was not left long to the
silent contemplation of his successful love; for Mrs.
Bennet, having dawdled about in the vestibule to watch
for the end of the conference, no sooner saw Elizabeth
open the door and with quick step pass her towards
the staircase, than she entered the breakfast-room,
and congratulated both him and herself in warm terms
on the happy prospect or their nearer connection. 
Mr. Collins received and returned these félicitations
with equal pleasure, and then proceeded to relate
the particulars of their interview, with the result
of which he trusted he had every reason to be satisfied,
since the refusal which his cousin had steadfastly
given him would naturally flow from her bashful modesty
and the genuine delicacy of her character.

This information, however, startled
Mrs. Bennet; she would have been glad to be equally
satisfied that her daughter had meant to encourage
him by protesting against his proposals, but she dared
not believe it, and could not help saying so.

“But, depend upon it, Mr. Collins,”
she added, “that Lizzy shall be brought to reason. 
I will speak to her about it directly.  She is
a very headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know
her own interest but I will make her know it.”

“Pardon me for interrupting
you, madam,” cried Mr. Collins; “but if
she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether
she would altogether be a very desirable wife to a
man in my situation, who naturally looks for happiness
in the marriage state.  If therefore she actually
persists in rejecting my suit, perhaps it were better
not to force her into accepting me, because if liable
to such defects of temper, she could not contribute
much to my felicity.”

“Sir, you quite misunderstand
me,” said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed.  “Lizzy
is only headstrong in such matters as these. 
In everything else she is as good-natured a girl as
ever lived.  I will go directly to Mr. Bennet,
and we shall very soon settle it with her, I am sure.”

She would not give him time to reply,
but hurrying instantly to her husband, called out
as she entered the library, “Oh!  Mr. Bennet,
you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. 
You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for
she vows she will not have him, and if you do not
make haste he will change his mind and not have her.”

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his
book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with
a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered
by her communication.

“I have not the pleasure of
understanding you,” said he, when she had finished
her speech.  “Of what are you talking?”

“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. 
Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and
Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”

“And what am I to do on the
occasion?  It seems an hopeless business.”

“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. 
Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him.”

“Let her be called down.  She shall hear
my opinion.”

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss
Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

“Come here, child,” cried
her father as she appeared.  “I have sent
for you on an affair of importance.  I understand
that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. 
Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. 
“Very well ­and this offer of marriage
you have refused?”

“I have, sir.”

“Very well.  We now come
to the point.  Your mother insists upon your accepting
it.  Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before
you, Elizabeth.  From this day you must be a stranger
to one of your parents.  Your mother will never
see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins,
and I will never see you again if you do.”

Elizabeth could not but smile at such
a conclusion of such a beginning, but Mrs. Bennet,
who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded
the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

“What do you mean, Mr. Bennet,
in talking this way?  You promised me to insist
upon her marrying him.”

“My dear,” replied her
husband, “I have two small favours to request. 
First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding
on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. 
I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon
as may be.”

Not yet, however, in spite of her
disappointment in her husband, did Mrs. Bennet give
up the point.  She talked to Elizabeth again and
again; coaxed and threatened her by turns.  She
endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane,
with all possible mildness, declined interfering;
and Elizabeth, sometimes with real earnestness, and
sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks. 
Though her manner varied, however, her determination
never did.

Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating
in solitude on what had passed.  He thought too
well of himself to comprehend on what motives his cousin
could refuse him; and though his pride was hurt, he
suffered in no other way.  His regard for her
was quite imaginary; and the possibility of her deserving
her mother’s reproach prevented his feeling any
regret.

While the family were in this confusion,
Charlotte Lucas came to spend the day with them. 
She was met in the vestibule by Lydia, who, flying
to her, cried in a half whisper, “I am glad
you are come, for there is such fun here!  What
do you think has happened this morning?  Mr. Collins
has made an offer to Lizzy, and she will not have
him.”

Charlotte hardly had time to answer,
before they were joined by Kitty, who came to tell
the same news; and no sooner had they entered the
breakfast-room, where Mrs. Bennet was alone, than she
likewise began on the subject, calling on Miss Lucas
for her compassion, and entreating her to persuade
her friend Lizzy to comply with the wishes of all her
family.  “Pray do, my dear Miss Lucas,”
she added in a melancholy tone, “for nobody
is on my side, nobody takes part with me.  I am
cruelly used, nobody feels for my poor nerves.”

Charlotte’s reply was spared
by the entrance of Jane and Elizabeth.

“Aye, there she comes,”
continued Mrs. Bennet, “looking as unconcerned
as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were
at York, provided she can have her own way.  But
I tell you, Miss Lizzy ­if you take it into
your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage
in this way, you will never get a husband at all ­and
I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when
your father is dead.  I shall not be able to keep
you ­and so I warn you.  I have done
with you from this very day.  I told you in the
library, you know, that I should never speak to you
again, and you will find me as good as my word. 
I have no pleasure in talking to undutiful children. 
Not that I have much pleasure, indeed, in talking
to anybody.  People who suffer as I do from nervous
complaints can have no great inclination for talking. 
Nobody can tell what I suffer!  But it is always
so.  Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Her daughters listened in silence
to this effusion, sensible that any attempt to reason
with her or soothe her would only increase the irritation. 
She talked on, therefore, without interruption from
any of them, till they were joined by Mr. Collins,
who entered the room with an air more stately than
usual, and on perceiving whom, she said to the girls,
“Now, I do insist upon it, that you, all of you,
hold your tongues, and let me and Mr. Collins have
a little conversation together.”

Elizabeth passed quietly out of the
room, Jane and Kitty followed, but Lydia stood her
ground, determined to hear all she could; and Charlotte,
detained first by the civility of Mr. Collins, whose
inquiries after herself and all her family were very
minute, and then by a little curiosity, satisfied
herself with walking to the window and pretending
not to hear.  In a doleful voice Mrs. Bennet began
the projected conversation:  “Oh!  Mr.
Collins!”

“My dear madam,” replied
he, “let us be for ever silent on this point. 
Far be it from me,” he presently continued, in
a voice that marked his displeasure, “to resent
the behaviour of your daughter.  Resignation to
inevitable evils is the evil duty of us all; the peculiar
duty of a young man who has been so fortunate as I
have been in early preferment; and I trust I am resigned. 
Perhaps not the less so from feeling a doubt of my
positive happiness had my fair cousin honoured me with
her hand; for I have often observed that resignation
is never so perfect as when the blessing denied begins
to lose somewhat of its value in our estimation. 
You will not, I hope, consider me as showing any disrespect
to your family, my dear madam, by thus withdrawing
my pretensions to your daughter’s favour, without
having paid yourself and Mr. Bennet the compliment
of requesting you to interpose your authority in my
behalf.  My conduct may, I fear, be objectionable
in having accepted my dismission from your daughter’s
lips instead of your own.  But we are all liable
to error.  I have certainly meant well through
the whole affair.  My object has been to secure
an amiable companion for myself, with due consideration
for the advantage of all your family, and if my manner
has been at all reprehensible, I here beg leave to
apologise.”

 

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