Chapter 20MR. 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 so.
``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 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.''
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