Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached from the rest,
and talked only to each other. Elizabeth preserved as steady a silence as either
Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was to much fatigued to utter more than
the occasional exclamation of "Lord how tired I am!"
accompanied by a violent yawn.
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most pressingly civil
in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at Longbourn; and addressed herself
particularly to Mr. Bingley, to assure him how happy he would make them by eating
a family dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal invitation.
Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily engaged for taking the earliest
opportunity of waiting on her, after his return from London, whither he was obliged
to go the next day for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied; and quitted the house under the delightful
persuasion that, allowing for the necessary preparations of settlements, new carriages,
and wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield
in the course of three or four months.
Of having another daughter married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty,
and with considerable, though not equal, pleasure. Elizabeth was the least dear
to her of all her children; and though the man and the match were quite good enough
for her, the worth of each was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.
<CHAPTER XIX (19)>
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 any thing but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet
instantly answered, "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 up stairs."
And gathering her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth called out,
"Dear Ma'am, do not go. -- I beg you will not go. -- Mr.
Collins must excuse me. -- He can have nothing to say to me that any body need
not hear. I am going away myself."
"No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. -- I desire you will 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 will 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 farther, 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 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 foot-stool, that she said, ``Mr.
Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. -- Chuse properly, chuse
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 any thing
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 to Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I
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 chuse
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 4 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 farther 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 decline
"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
"Upon my word, Sir," cried Elizabeth, "your hope is rather an 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 would 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 that when I have the honour of seeing her again I shall speak in
the highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable qualifications."
"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 not Mr.
Collins thus addressed her, "When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next
on this 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."