FictionForest

Chapter 34

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

Light off Small Medium Large

When they were gone, Elizabeth, as
if intending to exasperate herself as much as possible
against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination
of all the letters which Jane had written to her since
her being in Kent.  They contained no actual complaint,
nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or
any communication of present suffering.  But in
all, and in almost every line of each, there was a
want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterise
her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity
of a mind at ease with itself and kindly disposed
towards everyone, had been scarcely ever clouded. 
Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea
of uneasiness, with an attention which it had hardly
received on the first perusal.  Mr. Darcy’s
shameful boast of what misery he had been able to inflict,
gave her a keener sense of her sister’s sufferings. 
It was some consolation to think that his visit to
Rosings was to end on the day after the next ­and,
a still greater, that in less than a fortnight she
should herself be with Jane again, and enabled to
contribute to the recovery of her spirits, by all
that affection could do.

She could not think of Darcy’s
leaving Kent without remembering that his cousin was
to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it
clear that he had no intentions at all, and agreeable
as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.

While settling this point, she was
suddenly roused by the sound of the door-bell, and
her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of
its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once
before called late in the evening, and might now come
to inquire particularly after her.  But this idea
was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently
affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr.
Darcy walk into the room.  In an hurried manner
he immediately began an inquiry after her health,
imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were
better.  She answered him with cold civility. 
He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up,
walked about the room.  Elizabeth was surprised,
but said not a word.  After a silence of several
minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner,
and thus began: 

“In vain I have struggled. 
It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed. 
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire
and love you.”

Elizabeth’s astonishment was
beyond expression.  She stared, coloured, doubted,
and was silent.  This he considered sufficient
encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt,
and had long felt for her, immediately followed. 
He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those
of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent
on the subject of tenderness than of pride.  His
sense of her inferiority ­of its being a
degradation ­of the family obstacles which
had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with
a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was
wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike,
she could not be insensible to the compliment of such
a man’s affection, and though her intentions
did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry
for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment
by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion
in anger.  She tried, however, to compose herself
to answer him with patience, when he should have done. 
He concluded with representing to her the strength
of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours,
he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing
his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance
of his hand.  As he said this, she could easily
see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. 
He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his
countenance expressed real security.  Such a circumstance
could only exasperate farther, and, when he ceased,
the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said: 

“In such cases as this, it is,
I believe, the established mode to express a sense
of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally
they may be returned.  It is natural that obligation
should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude,
I would now thank you.  But I cannot ­I
have never desired your good opinion, and you have
certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.  I am
sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone.  It has
been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will
be of short duration.  The feelings which, you
tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of
your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming
it after this explanation.”

Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against
the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed
to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. 
His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance
of his mind was visible in every feature.  He was
struggling for the appearance of composure, and would
not open his lips till he believed himself to have
attained it.  The pause was to Elizabeth’s
feelings dreadful.  At length, with a voice of
forced calmness, he said: 

“And this is all the reply which
I am to have the honour of expecting!  I might,
perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour
at civility, I am thus rejected.  But it is of
small importance.”

“I might as well inquire,”
replied she, “why with so evident a desire of
offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that
you liked me against your will, against your reason,
and even against your character?  Was not this
some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil? 
But I have other provocations.  You know I have. 
Had not my feelings decided against you ­had
they been indifferent, or had they even been favourable,
do you think that any consideration would tempt me
to accept the man who has been the means of ruining,
perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved
sister?”

As she pronounced these words, Mr.
Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and
he listened without attempting to interrupt her while
she continued: 

“I have every reason in the
world to think ill of you.  No motive can excuse
the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there
You dare not, you cannot deny, that you have been
the principal, if not the only means of dividing them
from each other ­of exposing one to the censure
of the world for caprice and instability, and the
other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and
involving them both in misery of the acutest kind.”

She paused, and saw with no slight
indignation that he was listening with an air which
proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. 
He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.

“Can you deny that you have done it?”
she repeated.

With assumed tranquillity he then
replied:  “I have no wish of denying that
I did everything in my power to separate my friend
from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. 
Towards him I have been kinder than towards
myself.”

Elizabeth disdained the appearance
of noticing this civil reflection, but its meaning
did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.

“But it is not merely this affair,”
she continued, “on which my dislike is founded. 
Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was
decided.  Your character was unfolded in the recital
which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. 
On this subject, what can you have to say?  In
what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend
yourself? or under what misrepresentation can you
here impose upon others?”

“You take an eager interest
in that gentleman’s concerns,” said Darcy,
in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.

“Who that knows what his misfortunes
have been, can help feeling an interest in him?”

“His misfortunes!” repeated
Darcy contemptuously; “yes, his misfortunes
have been great indeed.”

“And of your infliction,”
cried Elizabeth with energy.  “You have reduced
him to his present state of poverty ­comparative
poverty.  You have withheld the advantages which
you must know to have been designed for him. 
You have deprived the best years of his life of that
independence which was no less his due than his desert. 
You have done all this! and yet you can treat the
mention of his misfortune with contempt and ridicule.”

“And this,” cried Darcy,
as he walked with quick steps across the room, “is
your opinion of me!  This is the estimation in
which you hold me!  I thank you for explaining
it so fully.  My faults, according to this calculation,
are heavy indeed!  But perhaps,” added he,
stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, “these
offenses might have been overlooked, had not your
pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples
that had long prevented my forming any serious design. 
These bitter accusations might have been suppressed,
had I, with greater policy, concealed my struggles,
and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled
by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by
reflection, by everything.  But disguise of every
sort is my abhorrence.  Nor am I ashamed of the
feelings I related.  They were natural and just. 
Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of
your connections? ­to congratulate myself
on the hope of relations, whose condition in life
is so decidedly beneath my own?”

Elizabeth felt herself growing more
angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost to
speak with composure when she said: 

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy,
if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected
me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern
which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved
in a more gentlemanlike manner.”

She saw him start at this, but he
said nothing, and she continued: 

“You could not have made the
offer of your hand in any possible way that would
have tempted me to accept it.”

Again his astonishment was obvious;
and he looked at her with an expression of mingled
incredulity and mortification.  She went on: 

“From the very beginning ­from
the first moment, I may almost say ­of my
acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me
with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit,
and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others,
were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation
on which succeeding events have built so immovable
a dislike; and I had not known you a month before
I felt that you were the last man in the world whom
I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

“You have said quite enough,
madam.  I perfectly comprehend your feelings,
and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have
been.  Forgive me for having taken up so much
of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health
and happiness.”

And with these words he hastily left
the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment
open the front door and quit the house.

The tumult of her mind, was now painfully
great.  She knew not how to support herself, and
from actual weakness sat down and cried for half-an-hour. 
Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed,
was increased by every review of it.  That she
should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! 
That he should have been in love with her for so many
months!  So much in love as to wish to marry her
in spite of all the objections which had made him
prevent his friend’s marrying her sister, and
which must appear at least with equal force in his
own case ­was almost incredible!  It
was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong
an affection.  But his pride, his abominable pride ­his
shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to
Jane ­his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging,
though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling
manner in which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his
cruelty towards whom he had not attempted to deny,
soon overcame the pity which the consideration of
his attachment had for a moment excited.  She
continued in very agitated reflections till the sound
of Lady Catherine’s carriage made her feel how
unequal she was to encounter Charlotte’s observation,
and hurried her away to her room.

 

Leave a Reply