Mr. Collins was not a sensible man. His position as Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s pastor had brought conceit. He was a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility. His plan on coming to Longbourn was to choose one of his cousins to marry as an appeasement to the entail. His first choice was Jane, but Mrs. Bennet redirected him to Elizabeth. Mr. Collins was now in Mrs. Bennet’s good graces even though she could not bear to speak to him the day before. A walk to Meryton introduces them to Mr. Wickham, soon to be a Lieutenant in the militia. His appearance and manners were favorable, only lacking “regimentals to make him completely charming.” Mr. Bingley meets the party on horseback with Mr. Darcy. Darcy notices Wickham and Elizabeth witness’s one turn white, the other red. What could it mean? The group progresses to their aunt and uncle Phillips house where Mr. Collins is introduced. They are all invited for dinner the next evening including Mr. Wickham. As they walk home Elizabeth shares with Jane what seemed to have passed between Wickham and Darcy.
Mr. Collins and the Bennet sisters attend the party at the Phillips’. Mr. Collins compares the drawing-room to a small room at Rosings, which baffled Mrs. Phillips until it was explained how grand Rosings. Mrs. Phillips was an attentive listener resolved to retell all to her neighbors as soon as she could. Wickham’s gentlemanlike appearance is a hit with the ladies including Elizabeth. Mrs. Phillips entertains Mr. Collins while Elizabeth and Wickham chat about the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. He had been connected about Mr. Darcy. She thinks him very disagreeable. He cannot give his opinion. He has known him too long to be impartial. She thinks that everyone is disgusted by his pride. He and are not on friendly terms. His father bequeathed a living to him which Mr. Darcy chose not to honor though he can recall doing nothing to offend him. Elizabeth thinks he should be exposed, but Wickham will not out of respect for Mr. Darcy’s father’s memory. Elizabeth did not suspect him this malicious and inhuman. Wickham exclaims that all of his actions can be traced to pride. His sister is the same. Collins joins them and mentions Lady Catherine de Bourgh who Wickham privately confides is Mr. Darcy’s aunt. Her daughter Anne is intended for Darcy. This made Elizabeth smile in thought of Miss Bingley’s vain hopes. Wickham believes Lady Catherine dictorial and insolent. Wickham’s manners recommended him to everyone at the party. “Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully.” Elizabeth’s head was full of him.
Elizabeth shares Wickham’s story about Mr. Darcy with Jane. Jane defends both thinking they have been deceived. “One does not know what to think.” Mr. Bingley and his sisters arrive to give their personal invitation for the ball at Netherfield. They are civil to Jane, but rush off to avoid the rest of the Bennet family leaving their brother perplexed. The Bennet ladies thought that the prospect of a ball was quite agreeable. Mrs. Bennet thought it a compliment to Jane. Jane looked forward to visiting with the Bingley’s, Elizabeth, Catherine and Lydia to dancing with Wickham. Even Mary was not opposed. “Society has claims on us all.” Mr. Collins entertained no scruple on the matter and would venture a dance. He hoped to be honored with the hands of his fair cousins during the course of the evening asking Elizabeth for the first two. Trapped, Elizabeth accepts though she would have rather saved the first two for Wickham. It now struck her that she had been selected among her sisters by Mr. Collins to be mistress of Hunsford Parsonage
Mr. Wickham did not attend the Netherfield ball to avoid a certain gentleman. Elizabeth’s feelings against Mr. Darcy are heightened. She shares her grief with Charlotte. Elizabeth and Darcy dance a set in silence. To punish him she makes him talk. She sees a great similarity in their personalities being unsocial, taciturn and unwilling to speak unless it will amaze the room. Goading him she remarks on Mr. Wickham losing his friendship and will suffer from it all his life. Sir William Lucas remarks on the upcoming have event of Jane and Bingley’s marriage. This strikes Darcy forcibly. Elizabeth continues the conversation by quizzing Darcy in order to illustrate his character which puzzles her exceedingly. He asks her not to sketch his character at the present moment. She may not have another opportunity. “I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” ending the dance in silence. Miss Bingley approaches Elizabeth to warn her about Mr. Wickham’s infamous behavior toward Mr. Darcy. She pities her discovery of the bad news, but considering his descent, one could not expect much better. Mr. Collins introduces himself to Mr. Darcy, his patroness’s nephew. Elizabeth is horrified by his boldness. Elizabeth overhears her mother bragging to Lady Lucas about her expectation of Jane and Bingley’s marriage. Much to Elizabeth’s horror, Mr. Darcy overhears this. Later Elizabeth attempts to dissuade Mary from playing the pianoforte. The Bingley sisters are derision of her performance and Mr. Darcy looks grave. Mr. Bennet intercedes asking Mary to let other young ladies exhibit. In turn Mr. Collins makes a loud speech on a clergyman’s duty. Elizabeth is duly horrified by her families behavior. Mrs. Bennet left satisfied that she would be ordering wedding clothes shortly.
Mr. Collins requests a private audience with Elizabeth who sees what’s coming and begs off. He began to single her out as the companion of his life from the moment he entered the house. He proposes, enumerating the reasons why he should marry few of which concern Elizabeth or his feelings for her. She thanks him for the complement but it is impossible for her to do otherwise than decline. He thinks she is being coy, acting in the usual manner of elegant young ladies in rejecting an address of the man they secretly mean to accept. He is not discouraged. In making her an offer he has satisfied his need to heal the breech made by the entail. She is serious in her refusal. He may take possession of Longbourn without reproach. The matter was closed in her mind, but not his. He will try again. He believes that his situation in life is so highly desirable that she should reconsider. Another offer of marriage may never be made to her. She is just increasing his love by suspense. Elizabeth assures him that she has no pretense of suspense and cannot put it plainer. He is not dissuaded and believes with her parents blessing she will change her mind.
Elizabeth leaves Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet joins him to offer her congratulations. He informs her of Elizabeth’s refusal attributing it to bashful modesty. Mrs. Bennet is startled by the news. She is a headstrong and foolish girl and must be brought to reason. If so, he does not think she will make a desirable wife for him since. Mrs. Bennet entreats he husband to make Elizabeth marry Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet asks Elizabeth for confirmation that she has refused him which she gives. Unhappily, her mother will never see her again if she does not marry him and he will not see her again if she does. Mrs. is disappointed in her husband and daughter. She continues to try to persuade Elizabeth to change her mind but to no avail. Charlotte Lucas arrives to learn of Elizabeth’s refusal. Mrs. Bennet attempts to persuade Charlotte to convince Elizabeth to change her mind. Mrs. Bennet warns Elizabeth that there will be no one to support her when her father is gone. “Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.” Mr. Collins joins them and asks Mrs. Bennet to be forever silent on this point, withdrawing his offer of her daughter’s hand.
Elizabeth is met with peevish allusion by her mother and resentful silence by Mr. Collins. His assiduous attentions were transferred to Miss Lucas. The girls walk to Meryton and meet Mr. Wickham who reveals to Elizabeth that his absence from Netherfield had been self-imposed. He accompanies them back to Longbourn and is introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. A letter arrives from Netherfield for Jane. Caroline Bingley and the whole party have departed without any intension of returning again. She wishes her a joyful Christmas and that her beaux be so numerous that she will not miss the three that have departed. She is anxious to see Mr. Darcy’s sister who they hope to be theirs too. Her brother’s admires her greatly and his relations all wish the connection. Jane believes that Caroline is convinced of her brother’s indifference to her. Elizabeth thinks the opposite. Miss Bingley sees her brother in love with her and wishes to separate them. They are not rich enough or grand enough for them. Jane asks her how she can be happy by accepting a man that his family wishes to marry elsewhere? Elizabeth advises that if the misery of angering his two sisters outweighs the happiness of being his wife, she must refuse him. They agreed that the news of the Netherfield party should be shared with their mother, but not the details of why.
© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose