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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 4 (Part One)

May 10, 2017 04:23PM
Authors Note: I am sorry for the delay, but life was somewhat frustrating these past weeks. I do not think I will be able to post next week. Chapter 5 will be posted in two weeks, if I find I am able to post it sooner, I definitely will! Sorry for the delay! Big shout out to Besty, Roxey, and Ashley - Their help was invaluable! Any mistakes leftover are because I decided to add/change parts of their already edited work!

Chapter 4 (Part One)

Longbourn, November 28th, 1811

When Elizabeth found her way to the breakfast table the morning after the ball, she was surprised by not only the presence of her aunt but also Mr. Collins. It was normal for the inhabitants of Longbourn to sleep in after such a late evening. She had been prepared for a quiet breakfast and possibly to be attended by her uncle. Elizabeth was certainly not prepared to meet with Mr. Collins. As she filled her plate, Elizabeth felt something was amiss: her aunt was practically giddy and her cousin was grinning like a cat that got the cream. A sense of foreboding enveloped her being.

“I hope you enjoyed the ball, Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth stated cautiously, as she finished her plate.

“I did.” Then turning to Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins asked, “Mrs. Bennet, would you grant me the honor of having a private discussion with your niece?”

Instantly, Elizabeth knew what was about to happen. “Aunt, there is no need –”

It was no use. Mrs. Bennet had already jumped up from her seat, and stated, “Of course Mr. Collins! Lizzy, Mr. Collins has requested a private interview with you, I am sure you can have no objection.”

“Aunt, do not go. I beg you. Mr. Collins must understand that there is nothing he can have to say to me that you need not hear!”

“No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to stay where you are.” Seeing that Lizzy was ready to escape through the door to the kitchen, she added,

“Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins.”

Almost as soon as Mrs. Bennet left the room, Mr. Collins with a sympathetic look, spoke to Elizabeth, “Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, your modesty adds to your other perfections and does you credit” He stood up at this point and started to pace behind Elizabeth’s chair, and then around the length of the long breakfast table.

After a few moments he continued, “You cannot be at a loss for the reason for my wish to have a private audience with you. My attentions have clear to be mistaken or concealed. Almost as soon as I arrived, I singled you out as the companion of my future life. Before I allow my feelings to run away with me, perhaps I should start with the reasons for my marrying and how I chose you, specifically.”

Stopping in front of Elizabeth, he said, “My reasons for marrying are simple. I believe that every clergyman is to set an example of a good marriage in his parish. I am, also convinced it will add greatly to my own happiness.” Elizabeth shuddered a little at this comment.

Mr. Collins, however, did not notice her as he continued to speak, “Furthermore, it was on the advice of my patroness Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Lastly, as I am to inherit this estate after the death of our uncle, I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters. I understand that you are not a legitimate heir of Mr. Bennet, only a niece. However, Mrs. Bennet has assured me that there will be no ill will if I choose to marry you due to the fact that you have been treated like one of her offspring these past years.

“As to your fortune, I shall make no demands of your uncle, as I understand you are not included in our cousins’ inheritance and have nothing for yourself. It is a great comfort that my patroness is very liberal and generous with my own salary in such a way that makes a dowry from you unnecessary. This will be the last time I will even mention your lack of connections or dowry.”

With a smile as large as his wide face, Mr. Collins stretched out his arms and started to go around the table to approach Elizabeth, “Now nothing remains but for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection –”

Alarmed, Elizabeth jumped up from her seat. She moved to put as much distance between her and Mr. Collins as was possible as she interrupted him and said, “You are too hasty, sir! You forget that I have not answered you. I am very sensible of the honor of your proposals and thank you for the attention you have given me,” she moved a little further from her cousin as he smiled and reached for her again, and concluded, “but it is impossible for me to do anything other than refuse you.”

Not being put off by her hasty statement, Mr. Collins continued his path around the table toward her as he said, “I have been informed that it is not unusual that young ladies will reject man whom they secretly mean to accept. Indeed, I have been told that the man could be refused two or three times before finally being accepted. I am not discouraged in the least by your refusal.”

“Your hope is a rather extraordinary one after my declaration!” cried Elizabeth. “I assure you: I would never act in the disrespectful manner you have mentioned. 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.” She saw that this did not deter him and tried a different tactic, “I assure you, if your Lady Catherine knew me she would find it very difficult to accept me as her clergyman’s wife!”

“If I believed that Lady Catherine would harbor such feelings towards our marriage, I would not have offered for you,” said Mr. Collins very gravely, and then brightened as he stated, “but I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all disapprove of you. You may be certain when I have the honor of seeing her again, I shall speak in the very highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other qualifications.”

“Mr. Collins, I assure you any kind words on your part will not be necessary since I will not marry you. Rest assured that you have respected the feelings of my family by making this offer. On the unfortunate day you take possession of Longbourn, you may do so without self-reproach. The matter of a marriage between the two of us is settled: it will not happen.” As Elizabeth declared this, she turned to leave the breakfast room.

Mr. Collins ran after her out into the foyer where the couple met with Mrs. Bennet, who had been waiting for them to conclude. “Cousin Elizabeth, I am by no means put off by your refusal. Please be assured that after an appropriate amount of time for you to rethink your position, I will offer again.”

With her skirts swirling around her legs, Elizabeth turned swiftly toward Mr. Collins and stated is a cold voice, “Mr. Collins: there will be no future offer. You have asked and I have refused.”

With a pudgy hand held out, Mr. Collins pointed to Mrs. Bennet in confusion, “But your aunt assured me –”

“Lizzy, you cannot refuse him –” cried out Mrs. Bennet cutting Mr. Collins off.

Elizabeth held her hands up to both Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins and stated, “I have refused you, Mr. Collins. I will not marry you. As for my aunt, she does not have the authority to assure you of my acceptance. Only my grandfather can do that; even my uncle has no authority over me in this matter. I can assure you, my grandfather will not allow me to marry you.”

“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 aunt and uncle, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable to your grandfather.”

“We will just see what your uncle has to say about this!” cried Mrs. Bennet as she grabbed Elizabeth’s arm and all but dragged her with Mr. Collins in tow to Mr. Bennet’s study. As soon as she got close enough, Mrs. Bennet proceeded to bang on her husband’s door. Mr. Collins was standing slightly back from her and refused to meet Elizabeth’s gaze.

“Depend upon it, Mr. Collins! Miss Lizzy will be brought to reason!” Mrs. Bennet cried, “She is a very headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know her own interest. We will make her know it!” then pounding again, she exclaimed, “Oh Mr. Bennet! Come quickly! Mr. Bennet!”

“Foolish? Headstrong?” repeated Mr. Collins to himself. Louder and directed at Mrs. Bennet he said, “If she is really headstrong and foolish, will she make a good wife to a man in my position? I mean, my profession, my intimacy with Lady Catherine De Bourgh, maybe this marriage is not in the best interest of either –”

“Sir, you quite misunderstand me,” said an alarmed Mrs. Bennet, who proceeded to pounding on the study door even more insistently, “Lizzy is only headstrong in matters such as these. In everything else she is as good-natured a girl as ever lived. She will only listen to Mr. Bennet, who I am sure will see reason.”

“Aunt, I assure you –” started Elizabeth.

“Enough!” yelled Mrs. Bennet to her niece, “Elizabeth, Mr. Collins wants you as his wife and his wife you will be!”

“But her grandfather –” started Mr. Collins hesitantly.

At that moment Mr. Bennet opened the door and came forward. “What is it, Mrs. Bennet?”

In a hurried voice, Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, “You must make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins,” as she said this as she grabbed Elizabeth’s arm and led her back to Mr. Bennet, “for she vows she will not have him!” In a loud stage whisper, Mrs. Bennet said, with her hand covering the side of her face Mr. Collins was standing and finished, “and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.’

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes and looked at Mrs. Bennet 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?”

Gesturing between the two, Mrs. Bennet stated, “Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy! Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins!”

Shrugging, Mr. Bennet asked, “What am I to do? It seems a hopeless business!”

Shoving Elizabeth forward toward her husband, Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, “Speak to Lizzy yourself on it! Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him.”

Mr. Bennet looked from Mr. Collins and his wife to Elizabeth’s heightened color. He realized he should do something before Elizabeth exploded at all parties around her. He looked a little surprised by the turn of events, “Elizabeth, is this true? Has Mr. Collins made you an offer of marriage?”

She could hear the surprise in his voice, and Elizabeth ground out, “Yes sir, he has. I have also refused him multiple times.”

“Multiple times?” he said with a smile; however he kept his comments to himself when he saw Elizabeth glare at him.

“Oh Mr. Bennet! She has been a very ungrateful child! I insist upon her marrying him!”

“If she does not?” queried Mr. Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet started waving her white hander kerchief toward Elizabeth and responded, “I will never see her again! She can simply go back to that grandfather of hers.”

Mr. Bennet whistled and with a quick look at Mr. Collins, who looked like a mixture between confusion and dismay, turned toward Elizabeth and said, “An unhappy alternative is before you. From this day you must be a stranger to one of us. Your aunt will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

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

“Aunt, I have told you that my grandfather would never sanction such a match! Uncle Thomas can have no authority in this matter!” Elizabeth tried to explain again and added, “Truly, Aunt you need not worry about Longbourn.”

It was Mr. Bennet who did not allow Elizabeth to continue this time. He interjected and said, “My dear, I have two requests: allow me my own decision in this matter as I am acquainted with her grandfather and his wishes, and my own room. As for your wish to return Elizabeth to her grandfather, it will go on as planned next summer. I will not be moved on either subject.” After which he turned to Mr. Collins and bowed to the man.

Mr. Collins started to depart, feeling all at once both lost and frustrated by the turn of events. Mrs. Bennet started to trail after him and tried to convince him that Elizabeth still could be persuaded to marry him.

Finally, a few minutes into her ranting, Mr. Collins exclaimed in a voice that marked his displeasure, “Madam! Let us be done! Far be it from me to resent the behavior of your niece when she has the approval and support of her guardian! I will be resigned to the decision. You will not, I hope, consider me disrespectful to your family by withdrawing my pretension on your niece’s attentions. I have asked and been refused. Let that be an end of it.”

“Yes, Mrs. Bennet!” cried Mr. Bennet, “Let that be an end of it! I will hear no more of this situation.”

Both Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins, at this announcement, retreated to their rooms. Mrs. Bennet could be heard yelling for her smelling salts as she climbed the stairs.

As soon as her aunt was well above stairs, Elizabeth turned back to Mr. Bennet and did not allow him the chance to speak. She vented her anger so forcibly that Mr. Bennet was required to rethink his previous actions, “That was badly done, Uncle: badly done! Had you heeded my warning weeks ago, we would have been able to avoid this entire situation. As it is, you are responsible for Mrs. Bennet’s activities, the hurt that has been caused to Mr. Collins who is a good man, and my own frustration and mortification at having to refuse a man who should never have been in a position to offer for me. Badly done, sir!”

As Elizabeth whirled around Mr. Bennet could not help be reminded of his own brother when he was angry. He belatedly hoped that all parties would be able to move on from the unfortunate situation. After all, what was he to do now that it was over?

The fallacy in his thinking was clear: Mrs. Bennet may have been told to be done with the proposal, but her cries and flutterings could be heard coming loudly from her room the rest of the afternoon. After a short time in his room, Mr. Collins found that he could not stand listening to Mrs. Bennet anymore and thus removed from the house.

Feeling the need to escape, Elizabeth grabbed her shawl and went outside. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, her day was not going to get much better. As she stormed around the side of Longbourn, she saw Jane sitting in the barren garden reading a letter.

As Elizabeth approached Jane, she could see a sadness descend over her cousin as she read and re-read the short missive in her hand. Even though Elizabeth was irritated with her aunt and uncle at the moment, all her thoughts turned toward Jane.

"This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me a good deal,” Jane started as Elizabeth drew close enough to hear her and Jane handed her the letter. “By this time, the whole party has left Netherfield, and is on their way to town. According to Caroline they have no intention of coming back.”

Elizabeth was taken back by Jane’s calm statement of her beloved leaving. As she read the letter from Caroline to Jane, she felt her ire rising and her irritation returning.

Netherfield Park, Hertfordshire
November 28, 1811

Dear Jane,

By the time you receive this letter, you will find that my brother and I have not only decided to remove to London, but have left as early as possible. I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in Hertfordshire, except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope that the next time you are in London, that we may enjoy a delightful visit and renew our friendship then. In the meanwhile, may we lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most unreserved correspondence? I depend on you for that.

Elizabeth stopped at this point and looked incredulously at Jane. Surely Jane realizes that Caroline has only invited her to call and write to her but has made no reference to intentions every being returned! Even if I could believe that Miss Bingley wishes for Jane’s company; to return a visit to Cheapside would be an affront to Miss Bingley’s dignity. Seeing the look of unhappiness on Jane’s face, Elizabeth could tell she was only thinking of Mr. Bingley. To Jane she said, “It is unlucky, that you should not be able to see your friends before they leave the country. Surely, they will not be retained in London for long. Miss Bingley shows every effort to maintain contact with you.”

“Elizabeth, keep reading; later in the letter, Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into Hertfordshire this winter.” As Jane said this, Elizabeth turned her attention back to the letter and read it aloud.

When my brother left us this morning, he imagined that the business which took him to London might be concluded in three or four days; but we are certain it cannot be so. I am convinced that once Charles gets to town he will be in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following him there so that he will not be alone. Many of my acquaintances are already there for the winter; I wish that I could hear that you, my dearest friend, had any intention of making one of the crowd—but of that I despair.

I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you.

Elizabeth started to shake her head, "All this states is that Miss Bingley does not mean that he should return before winter."

“Elizabeth, you do not understand. Caroline wrote something that particularly hurts me. I will not keep any secrets from you. She writes that his interest is elsewhere.” Jane said as she looked at the ground.

“Mr. Bingley interested elsewhere?” cried Elizabeth. “No, I do not believe it.”

“It is all in the note. Please read it aloud.”

Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the truth, we are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance, and accomplishments; and the affection she inspires in Louisa and me is heightened into something still more interesting. Dare I hope to call her my sister? I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings on this subject; but I will not leave the country without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable.

My brother admires her greatly already; he will be able to see her on the most intimate of footings. Her relations all wish the connection as much as his own; and a sister's partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman's heart. Am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?

Jane interrupted, clearly hurt by the passage, and cried out, “Is it not clear enough? Caroline is convinced of her brother’s indifference and seeks to warn me. After all the time Caroline and I have spent together, she must suspect my feelings for her brother and does not wish for me to be further injured by his indifference! Can there be any other opinion on the subject?”

"Yes, there can; for mine is totally different! Miss Bingley sees that her brother is in love with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy. She followed him to town in hope of keeping him there, and now is trying to persuade you that he does not care about you,” exclaimed Elizabeth who was equally upset by Miss Bingley’s clear intentions on separating her brother from Jane.

Jane shook her head but Elizabeth continued, “You ought to believe me, Jane! No one who has ever seen you two together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley clearly saw it and Louisa clearly mentioned her own approval of her brother’s affections. The only problem is that Caroline believes we are not rich enough or well-connected enough for her! Truly Jane, if she knew who I was or who my grandfather was, she would be doing everything in her power to separate her brother from his friend’s sister rather than encourage the match!”

“If we both viewed Miss Bingley the same way,” replied Jane, “I might be worried about your representation of her actions. However, I am more acquainted with Miss Bingley and believe that Caroline is incapable of willfully deceiving anyone. All that I can hope in this case is that she is deceiving herself.”

Elizabeth was incredulous, but could see that Jane did not wish to argue and so stated, “Believe her to be deceived, by all means. As a good friend fret no more. However, I warn you: when her brother returns after the winter he will still be in love with you.”

The rest of the morning, Elizabeth and Jane spoke of inconsequential things, both seeming to lose their attention and drift off into their own thoughts. It was about an hour before lunch that Elizabeth finally excused herself. “I must go and write to Uncle Robert. I have been neglecting my correspondence for the past few days. He probably believes that I have forgotten him entirely!”

“Of course, dear Elizabeth! Please greet him for me.” Jane replied as she watched Elizabeth get up to remove to the house.

The girls almost made it to the house, when they stumbled upon Charlotte Lucas. As the girls greeted each other at the door, all three could hear the shrill sounds of Mrs. Bennet upstairs. Elizabeth sighed as she led her cousin and friend inside and to the sitting room.

“Dear Elizabeth, what has happened?” Charlotte asked as she sat down next to Mary.

Mary answered for Elizabeth, who after the morning’s events was unhappy at now having to explain her aunt’s latest episode, “Mr. Collins proposed to Elizabeth and Elizabeth refused. Mother is upset by the proceedings.”

Jane gasped and put a hand over her mouth as she cried, “You never mentioned that the entire time we were outside!”

“Due to the fact that I wish it had not happened,” frustrated Elizabeth added, “He refused to accept my refusal and aunt kept telling him I would marry him.” She then gave a significant look to Jane and said, “It appeared that neither cared whether I wanted to marry him or if my guardian would let me marry him!”

Charlotte looked at the strained look on Elizabeth’s face and asked, “Elizabeth, would it help if I invited him to dinner?”

Elizabeth looked with relief at her friend and said, “Please do.”

Mary added, “Mother refuses to leave her room. All of her comments can be heard throughout the house.”

Elizabeth held her hands out in defeat and said, “I have no wish to harm him any further and would appreciate any help, Charlotte.”

Charlotte then asked, “When is he to leave? Would it be prudent if I offered him to stay with us?”

Mary smiled her gratitude and said, “He was planning on leaving the day after tomorrow around midmorning, after breakfast, I do not believe the hired carriage will arrive until then.”

Charlotte’s visit was a boon to Elizabeth. She only stayed long enough to receive not only Mr. Collins’ acquiescence, but also his promise to remove himself and his belongings to Lucas Lodge before dinner. However, for that time, Elizabeth felt as if a weight had been lifted. She had never wanted to hurt Mr. Collins: even though she found him very foolish, he was still a good man in essentials. That her friend would speak up and offer hospitality where her family could not was appreciated.

Dinner that evening was a quite affair. Mrs. Bennet had opted to stay in her room and Mr. Bennet was satisfied to leave the girls to their own devices. Shortly after dinner, he retired to his study. Still upset with her uncle, Elizabeth found she was pleased to spend the evening with her cousins.

As Jane mended some things, Mary could be seen showing Catherine the figuring for piece of music on the piano. Elizabeth, hoping to be able to read had brought with her a book to the sitting room. Her activity was quickly was interrupted when Lydia threw aside the old fashion magazine she had thought to go through.

“Lord!” she cried, “I am so bored!” she got up and started walking around the room until finally she approached Elizabeth, “Lizzy! I thought it quick funny that Mr. Collins’ even offered for you! I mean, everyone could see you didn’t like him! Who would want to marry him anyway?”

“He is a good and kind man, Lydia, I am sure there is someone for him out there,” sighing is Elizabeth added, “It simply is not me.”

“Can you image, Kitty, Elizabeth married to a clergyman?” cried Lydia across the room to where Catherine sat, “I mean, there would be no fun and no parties! I certainly could not do it!” She then started to laugh as she added, “You should have seen Denny and Wickham’s face when I told them you had refused our cousin, Lizzy!” Elizabeth’s head shot up and she asked, “Just who have you told about this? I had not wanted it general knowledge.”

Lydia laughed and said, “I do not know why! It is such a good joke!”

Elizabeth asked again, “Lydia, just who have you told?”

Lydia shrugged and responded, “I do not know. It was not as if I counted the people I spoke with. I mean, there was, of course, Mariah. We walked into town after lunch, and we met with some of the officers. I believe I mentioned it to the Long’s, and I saw Aunt Philips –”

Elizabeth cried, “Lydia! The entire town must know by now!”

Lydia shrugged and said, “Why do you care Lizzy? I assure you most of the people I spoke found it funny!”

Elizabeth cried, “Lydia! A refusal should not be made common knowledge! It does nothing good for either party. One will always inevitably be the source of negative comments for quite a while!”

“So? I do not understand why you are so upset! It is not as if you should be worried!”

“Lydia! Even though I am not the right person for Mr. Collins, that does not mean he deserves to be censured and ridiculed by society! Think of the embarrassment!”

Lydia shook her head and said, “Lizzy, nobody really cares about who you have refused. In fact, it was Aunt Philips who commented that she did not understand why you had refused him. After all, he is the best offer you could have made.” She stood and said, “I do not wish to be lectured, you are not Mama; I’m going to my room.”

Elizabeth sat down with a heavy sigh and attempted to pick her book up once more, however she felt a weight hesitantly sit down next to her. When she looked up she saw, Catherine had abandoned Mary. Elizabeth looked across the room to where Jane sat by herself with her self-appointed task of mending and saw Mary approach and silently pick up some of the mending to fix as well.

She turned to Catherine and said, “You seem troubled, Catherine. What is it?”

Catherine sat on the edge of the sofa, slightly turned toward Elizabeth and finally asked, “Elizabeth, why did you refuse Mr. Collins?”

Elizabeth stated simply, “I did not love him.”

“I know that but,” Catherine hesitate again and the quickly said, “Should you have?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Should I have refused him because I will not receive another offer since I have no dowry to offer to anyone?”

Catherine nodded and said, “Please do not be offended.”

“I could not, even if I wanted to!” Elizabeth smiled as she said, “You are concerned for my future. That is admirable.”

“I know Mr. Collins is a silly man, and not very bright. But he is the heir to Longbourn, and has what seemed like, a comfortable home in Kent,” Catherine stated, “Could you not have been content?”

“Could you see me being content with a man who is ridiculous?” asked Elizabeth, “Even if I have no dowry? Would you wish that life for me?”

Catherine shook her head and said, “No, I cannot see you being happy, nor would I wish that for you.” Catherine sat back in the sofa with the worry still etched on her face.

“Is there something else?” queried Elizabeth, “You still look troubled.”

Catherine looked down at her hands that were fidgeting with a cushion and asked, “There are so few eligible men in Hertfordshire, what happens if…Mr. Bingley does not return and marry Jane?”

Elizabeth cocked her head to the side and studied her cousin. Finally she asked, “Are you worried for your sisters, for myself, or for yourself? What happened to your own beau? Surely Lieutenant Sanderson has not lost interest in you.”

Catherine shook her head as she blushed, “I do not know what the lieutenant’s plans are. I do, however, know that I hope they include me. My worry is not for myself, but rather my sisters.”

Elizabeth put her arm around her cousin’s shoulders and said, “You need not worry, ever. Society is grossly misled as to my future; and my grandfather would never allow you or your family to be homeless.”

The sat in silence for a few minutes; Elizabeth allowed her thoughts to drift to her favorite cousin and Mr. Bingley. As she considered what would happen to Jane if Mr. Bingley was persuaded not to return after the winter, her face hardened. Jane deserves better. She deserves friends who will see her goodness and relish it. She deserves to marry a man devoted to her as she is devoted to him. Elizabeth avoided her aunt as much as she possibly could the next day. She found it quite easy due to the fact that Mrs. Bennet had chosen to stay in her room for most of the morning.

“Elizabeth! You will never guess what I just heard!” Catherine exclaimed as she and Mary burst into Elizabeth’s room after returning from a trip to town.

Elizabeth was very tired and had opted to spend most of her own morning in solitude; she had been unable to sleep the night before due to her thoughts being in a huge jumble. Elizabeth knew it was her duty to inform her grandfather of what had occurred. During dinner the evening before, it became apparent that Mr. Bennet felt the whole situation was over. Elizabeth did not know if he would write to her grandfather about it or not. She chose not to wait and find out.

Elizabeth had been sitting at her desk and was on her third sheet of paper, when Catherine and her sister had come into her room unannounced. “If she shall never guess, why should she try then?” questioned Mary.

“Oh pooh!” Catherine said, but turned her attention back to Elizabeth, “You will never believe it! Mr. Collins proposed to Charlotte Lucas last night and was accepted!”

The possibility of Mr. Collins’ fancying himself in love with her friend had not once occurred to Elizabeth; but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as Elizabeth encouraging him herself. Elizabeth could not help crying out, “Engaged to Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte! It is…impossible?”

Before Elizabeth was able to obtain the particulars, she heard Lady Lucas and Charlotte being announced downstairs. All three girls hurried down as quickly as they could. When they got to the sitting room, Elizabeth was astonished even more when the rumors were confirmed through Lady Lucas’s own lips.

“My dear Fanny! You will rejoice with me, I am sure. Last night, my dear Charlotte accepted your cousin’s proposal. She will soon be Mrs. Collins!” The entire room, Mrs. Bennet included, were shocked by this announcement so unceremoniously given.

The look on Charlotte’s face was enough that Elizabeth was ringing for her jacket to take her friend outside. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennet’s shock only lasted a few moments, and the young ladies and Lady Lucas were accosted by her words, “Surely not! Why just yesterday he proposed to Lizzy!”

Lady Lucas shook her head, “He informed us that he was refused. He asked, she consented, and her father’s permission has already been given. Indeed, right now, they are at Mr. Philips’ office, drawing up the paperwork.”

“Why on earth would he propose to your daughter when he could have Elizabeth?” cried Mrs. Bennet.

The young ladies all gasped, Lady Lucas, however, expected something like this and, taking no offense at the outburst, replied calmly, while directing her daughter to leave with her, “He could not have Elizabeth and chose my Charlotte. We wished to be the ones to tell you, my friend, and hope you will be able to rejoice with us in a few days after everything has calmed down. We shall leave you now as we can see it is not an appropriate time for a social call. I will contact you later this week.” As Lady Lucas finished her statement, she swept her daughter out of the room with her.

Elizabeth chose to leave the room as well, before Mrs. Bennet found her tongue again. As she reached her room and saw her last attempt at writing her grandfather she sighed, it seems I will have more to tell him, she thought as she attempted yet again to inform her guardian of what had happened.

She should not have worried about James’ reaction. After all, he had already written to her his opinion on Mr. Collins’ suit previously. However, when she was handed the his response to the whole affair, Elizabeth felt like she could finally breath and put the entire situation behind her.

Heythrop, Oxford
December 03, 1811

Dear Elizabeth,

First, I apologize for the lateness of this letter. As you have already determined, I am at Heythrop Park now. After a few weeks at Eddy’s country estate, I found my way to Heythrop. The mail is slowly catching up to my movements.

However, as you can see from the ill handwriting, something has happened to me. I am fine; however, Jones is actually writing this letter. Your foolhardy grandfather was thrown from his horse while riding to visit a tenant upon my arrival in Oxford. I landed on my arm and broke the blasted thing in two places. Dr. Martin claims I will heal nicely if I cease to use it. Outside of an irritation at being limited, I am fine. Do not worry yourself.

I have to admit to no small amount of shock as you describe what has happened to Jane. Speaking as a man, if Mr. Bingley was as attentive as you say, I would quite agree: he sounds as if he is in love with Jane. I would also hazard a guess that if he is truly in love with the girl, no amount of persuasion from his sister should be able to keep him from her. However, if she and his friend are able to permanently separate the two, then I do not believe he loved her enough. Time will only tell.

I am concerned by your reaction to this friend of his. Who is he? Maybe I know him. If you wish I could give him a good speaking to!

However, I would remind you of Mr. Johnston, though. Remember when Mr. Johnston claimed he had fallen in love with Jane and Jane found him to be a “charming man”? I remember you found him a bore and proceeded to persuade Jane against him. I still agree he was not the right man for her, but you might find that this friend of Bingley’s was doing the same thing that you did with Mr. Johnston.

Do not get mad at me for saying so.

On to a more serious matter: you were quite right, your uncle did fail to inform me of the Collins debacle. I am proud of you, my girl. You handled it with dignity. I caution you however, if he is your friend’s choice, you must choose: accept it and encourage her (not necessarily him) or lose the friendship. You do not have to agree with her decision; you only have to support her. Choose wisely; from your description of your cousin, I would never have thought to invite him into any of my homes voluntarily. However, if he is to be married to your good friend, you will have to accept him if you accept her.

I will admit to some level of curiosity regarding this new acquaintance of yours: Mr. Wickham. I have heard that name before but cannot place it. I will also admit to a little worry: you have not only have mentioned him once; it was from your uncle thata few times but never your preference for the man. I had to hear of your preference from Thomas rather than yourself. Let this not be a harbinger of what is to come. Please do not be afraid of telling me of your love interests. I cannot promise I will understand the attraction, but I still feel the need to be made aware of any potential grandsons…unless of course, your uncle is playing with me for his own amusement. In that case, disregard this last paragraph.

I will also admit to some confusion. If this Wickham fellow has indeed suffered as much as your uncle says he claims, then he is to be pitied. I caution you however, do not listen to one side of the story. There are always two. You seem to believe the worst of this friend of Bingley’s, whoever he may be, and you might find him to not be as bad as you thought. There could simply be a misunderstanding between the two.

I know that you will be seeing Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner soon, and am quite jealous. Mr. Gardiner just wrote me that he has received the case of French port I ordered for Thomas and is planning on sharing it with him during the Holiday season. The scene at Longbourn seems to be more and more inviting. Hopefully next year we can entertain all of the Gardiners and Bennets here at Heythrop with you as the hostess.

Once again, I am sorry. I wish to be with you and our family as much as you do, however, it has snowed quiet terribly here in Oxford, for some reason. With my arm, I do not feel it is safe to travel until the spring. Trust that I would rather be there than here with a broken arm. I find myself feeling quite alone in this drafty castle and am counting the days until I will finally have you by my side where you belong. If I have not said it enough, my dear, I am quite proud of the lady you have grown up to be.

Do not worry about me. I will overcome my melancholy. There are plenty of events to partake in in the dusty castle. I will finish now as this letter is already much longer than I anticipated. Jones is quite in a state of anxiousness. He wants to get to town to post it, and return back by nightfall.

Your Grandfather,

Elizabeth read and re-read the letter. The Gardiners were due to arrive next week and she found she had much to speak with Madeline about. I am so concerned about Jane, and Charlotte. But Grandfather gives me much to think about. Can I accept Mr. Collins as the husband of my dear, dear friend? Surely I can tolerate him in order to have her society. But I can hardly see him at Heythrop.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jane reading her letter. For over a week and a half, Jane had heard nothing of Mr. Bingley and his sister. Now, Jane had received a letter at the same time Elizabeth received hers from James. As she watched Jane read her letter, Elizabeth saw the depression in Jane’s posture become even more pronounced.

She asked, “Jane, what have you heard? For my part, my letters have all been re-routed to Oxford from London and Grandfather has just now received them.”

Jane handed Elizabeth her letter and said, “It has been decided. They will not return to Netherfield for the entire winter; if ever. There is very little in this letter to give me comfort, except for Miss Bingley’s professed affection for me.” Jane commented, as she folded the letter and folded the letter back up. “The chief of the letter contained information about the society they now keep with Miss Darcy.”

As the two sat in the sitting room, they could hear Mrs. Bennet lamenting from upstairs to either Catherine or Mary, who were sitting with her, “Oh, if only Mr. Bingley would return! Then all would be set to rights!”

Jane sighed and said in frustration, “If Mother were a little more discreet! She can have no idea of the pain she gives me by continually bringing him into conversation.” She added, “It cannot last long. He will be forgotten, and we shall all be as we were before. I have been expecting this letter for the past week at least.”

Elizabeth looked at her cousin with compassion, but said nothing.

“You doubt me?” asked Jane, slightly blushing, “You can have no cause to, I will always remember him as the most amiable man I have ever met, but that will be all. He cannot be blamed, he gave me no assurances. I am thankful that I do not have that pain. Trust me, cousin! I will heal and be over this!”

“My dear Jane!” exclaimed Elizabeth, “You are too good; I do not know what to say to you. I feel as if I had never done you justice, or loved you as you deserve.”

Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all praise and responded in kind, “No Elizabeth! That is not fair. You would have me believe that I can never speak ill of anybody!”

“Jane, believe me when I say, the more of this world I see, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense. I have met with two instances lately; one I will not mention, the other is Charlotte’s marriage. It is unaccountable! In every view it is unaccountable! You must allow me to be unhappy for you: you were well on your way to falling in love with a very respectable gentleman who loved you in return, I am sure of it. Charlotte has accepted a man she can barely tolerate and who is foolish simply to have a home! Tell me that this is fair!”

“Oh Elizabeth! Do not give way to these types of feelings! They will ruin your happiness. You must allow that each person has a different temperament and each situation calls for different action. Charlotte, for instance, is a very steady and prudent person; and Collins is a respectable gentleman. It is a good match; it is not perfect, but Charlotte is very fortunate. The Lucas family is quite large and even though it would be preferable for her to hold our cousin in her esteem, it is not required in a marriage.”

“Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man; you know he is foolish as well as I do. If Charlotte is attracted to him then she has very poor taste.”

“Elizabeth, simply because their temperaments and intelligence do not match, does not mean it will not be a good marriage. But enough of Charlotte – you mentioned two instances. Do not believe that I do not know to whom you are referring,” sighed Jane. “Elizabeth, we must not put blame on Mr. Bingley. I would not have him lowered in your opinion. Simply because he obviously enjoyed my company, we must not believe that his actions were meant for anything beyond friendship. I believe Mama is the perfect example of a woman fancying more admiration than there is.”

“And if men show more than they should?” posed Elizabeth.

“If it their actions intentionally led to conclusions of affection, they cannot be justified. However, I do not believe that this was the case with Mr. Bingley.” Jane replied.

Elizabeth sighed and tried to explain herself without upsetting Jane, “I believe that Mr. Bingley had no intention to lead you on, as well; and even though he did not intend to, he still was in error and therefore the cause of his own inconsistency. Thoughtlessness, wanting to give notice to the feelings of others, and the want of a resolution can cause this type of inconsistency of character.”

Curious, Jane asked, “Which do you believe is Mr. Bingley’s case? Do you still believe that his sisters influenced him?”

Nodding her head, Elizabeth stated, “I believe that Miss Bingley did, and that Louisa, more than likely has not part in the act. I also believe that Mr. Darcy has played a larger role in this as well.” Drawing closer to Jane, Elizabeth added, “I know that you find my opinion hard to believe. After all, it seems as if they wish only for his happiness. If he chooses you, then this should please her; however, I believe she wishes him to choose Miss Darcy instead.”

As she said this, Elizabeth stood and started pacing, finally she continued, “Jane, I do not wish to pain you, however, I do not believe that she wishes only for his happiness. This could be obtained quite easily by advancing your suit. Instead, Caroline, like so many others of the ton places more value on a lady’s fortune, connections, and pride. Believe me Jane, when I say, if she knew about all of your connections, her reaction would be very different.”

Jane stood as well, and stated, “It is clear from her letters that she wants her brother to marry Miss Darcy, with whom she sees him forming an attachment. Please do not be offended, maybe your own situation has affected your view on the matter? Not everyone is a fortune hunter and I cannot believe that Caroline could be so callous as to redirect her brother’s interest for her own self-interest.” Shaking her head she continued, “No, they have known Miss Darcy for much longer and love her more, which is reasonable. What sister would be able to separate her brother from the object of his own happiness without a good reason?”

Jane concluded, “No, I cannot believe that Caroline’s character is as inconsistent as you say; nor can I believe that her actions would change if she knew of your inheritance. She must truly believe that her brother is not attached to me. If she did believe that he was attached to me and sought to part us, and he truly was attached, she would not be able to succeed. This type of action causes a duplicity and conceit in all parties involved and it distresses me.”

Jane turned away from Elizabeth, almost as if she were ashamed of her next words, “I am embarrassed for having been mistaken in his regard for me, but what I would feel if I harbored ill thought of him and his sisters. It makes me ill just considering it. Allow me the courtesy of seeing them in the best light, a light, in my opinion, that is the only one that can be understood.”

Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time on, Mr. Bingley’s name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 4 (Part One)

MarciMay 10, 2017 04:23PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 4 (Part One)

Harvey S.May 14, 2017 04:57AM


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