"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 may 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, it into farther 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 chuse 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 pretension 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
"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, that 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 must be decisive, and whose behaviour
at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
<CHAPTER XX (20)>
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 of their nearer connection. Mr. Collins
received and returned these felicitations 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 stedfastly
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 to believe it, and could not help saying
"But depend upon it, Mr. Collins," she added, "that Lizzy shall be brought to
reason. I will speak to her about it myself 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 every thing 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
"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
"I have, Sir."
"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting
it. Is not it 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, by talking in 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 motive 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 had hardly 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 what, 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 any body. 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."