Overheard: Chapter Five
Moment: Mr. Darcy's first proposal (Chapter 34)
I know it technically isn't copywrited, but 90% of the credit goes to the fantastic Jane Austen, and about 9% to user infinitely-climbing who suggested the idea (thank you!)
"Oh, Lord," muttered Mr Collins. "This is inexcusable. Lady Catherine will be so displeased." He had long since picked up the habit of talking to himself, mostly planning his sermons in the garden. Despite some strange looks from passers-by, and mothers scurrying their children past him in the street, Mr. Collins found great comfort in the sound of his own voice, especially in times of plight like this. Scurrying down the path to his house, he was so fixated on his missing handkerchief that he did not see the door swing shut in front of him, as though someone had just passed through it.
After quickly making his way upstairs, half skipping, and rummaging in his cupboard to find his handkerchief, Mr. Collins walked triumphantly back through the house only to hear voices coming from the sitting room. Surely Cousin Elizabeth would not entertain her own guests while pretending to be ill? What a rude, ungenerous snub to Lady Catherine and her fine nephews! Why, what better company could anyone want? Maybe he should go in, and drop a few subtle hints on the proper behaviour of a young lady? Although... Miss Bennet had no friends in the area, it occurred to him that perhaps he had better see who it was first.
If anyone asked him about the morals of eavesdropping, Mr. Collins would have condemned it as rude and un-Christianly. However, a family member inviting guests into his home? Surely his rights as the owner of the house took precedence? Creeping closer, he put his ear nearly to the door, until the voices inside where clear.
"-struggled. It will not do."
Mr. Darcy! It was definitely Mr. Darcy's voice coming from inside the room, and he sounded nervous. What on earth was he doing here? Mr. Collins was ready to burst into the room and save his noble guest from his cousin's inexperienced, lack-luster conversation when the next sentence made him freeze, his mouth falling open.
"My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
He gaped like a goldfish at the closed door, before realising exactly what had happened. That hussy! She must have bewitched him. Or entranced him with her... feminine assets. And to think he had let her into his house, his home! As much as it pained him to think ill of his betters, Mr Collins did not think much of Mr. Darcy's taste. Although, she had managed to entrance him for a while, his superior mind had overruled his foolish heart. Whilst Mr. Darcy waxed lyrical on his /feelings/, Mr. Collins could only listen numbly. The man clearly knew about Miss. Bennet's inferiority, her family, so why was he declaring his love!? As he spoke at length upon the reasons as to why she was unsuitable, Mr. Collins could only stand there and nod. What a degradation- Mr. Darcy's own word!- for Lady Catherine. Whatever would she do? Mr. Collins could and would not look positively upon this match. Although, to have Mr. Darcy for a cousin...
Still Mr. Darcy spoke on, whilst Miss Bennet said nothing. Still Mr. Collins stood at the door, listening intently and bewailing the misfortune that would soon befall Lady Catherine. Neither men had no doubt as to her favourable answer- how could anyone refuse such a man? And what a compliment, to be singled out! Eventually the dreaded- to both Elizabeth and Mr. Collins- question came. 'Would she accept his hand?' Of course she would, both men had no doubts about her answer. Mr. Collins would have talked at length about the ridiculousness of this match, but internally he was much more conflicted. The elevation of station and connections... No. It was not worth Lady Catherine's wrath. He had to publicly stand against this match.
Elizabeth's voice carried clearly through the door. Inexplicably, even after an- apparently ardent- proposal, it sounded calm and collected. He would never understand that woman. He felt a little smug. At least his proposal had been met with emotion, rather than a mercenary approach.
"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned."
Anyone walking past might have easily assumed that Mr. Collins had just been hit. His mind whirled. Surely it was just a strange turn of phrase that implied the possibility of refusal?
"It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot - I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."
It was with great difficulty that Mr. Collins avoided falling on the door and revealing himself. No? But... but that was impossible! Ten thousand a year and related to the noble house of de Bough, besides a man universally respected, according to Lady Catherine. Apparently Mr. Darcy shared his shock, as it was a while before he spoke, in cold, restrained voice.
"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance."
"I might as well inquire," replied she, "why with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil?"
This was going from bad to worse. Not only had she refused Mr. Darcy, but she was now insulting him! Only Miss Bennet would dare do such uncouth things.
"But I have other provocations. You know I have. Had not my own feelings decided against you - had they been indifferent, or had they even been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?"
And which sister would that be? What had happened? Surely Mr. Darcy hadn't become... involved with one of the Bennet sisters? At this point, Mr. Collins would believe anything of that family.
"I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You dare not, you cannot deny that you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each other - of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind."
So Darcy was not involved with one of the sisters after all. Mr. Collins thanked God for small mercies. It was nothing but an ended courtship that Miss Bennet blamed on Mr. Darcy. But what a thing to reject such a proposal for!
"Can you deny that you have done it?" she repeated.
With tranquility he replied, "I have no wish of denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself."
"But it is not merely this affair," she continued, "on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation can you here impose upon others?"
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns," said Darcy, in a less tranquil tone.
Who on heaven and Earth was Mr. Wickham? Was it- ah, Mr. Collins remembered him now. That handsome soldier with whom half of Hertfordshire had become infatuated. To Mr. Collin's knowledge, he had little and less to do with this situation, except for the pressing question of just what Mr. Darcy did to young Wickham. Men of Mr. Darcy's stature should not be questioned about their actions towards mere soldiers! It was obvious that this, obviously malodorous no matter how charming he'd been before, had lied about his situation. Well, he was fairly sure, since his estimation of Mr. Darcy's taste was not quite what it used to be.
"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?"
"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy; "yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed."
"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth. "You have reduced him to his present state of poverty - comparative poverty. You have withheld the advantages, which you must know to have been designed for him. You have deprived the best years of his life, of that independence which was no less his due than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his misfortunes with contempt and ridicule."
"And this," cried Darcy, "is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps," added he, "these offences might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by everything. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? - to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?"
Mr. Collins let out a quick gasp but Elizabeth answered composedly.
"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner. You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it. From the very beginning - from the first moment, I may almost say - of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance,"
Miss Bennet had to stop saying such awful things!
"and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike"
Mr. Collins began to feel queasy.
"and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
"You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."
Darcy turned to dramatically flee from the room (to sulk, although he would never admit it) but he was unable to fling the door open with the desired force since it was partially blocked by a large, soft mass. Peering round the door frame, he saw the comatose form of the local parson. Mr. Collins had fainted dead away.
All the text that you recognise has been copied and pasted from www pemberley com/ etext/ PandP /chapter34. htm
Hello! It's been a long time since I last uploaded, which I suppose isn't too bad since my story has no continuation from one chapter to the next, but thank you to anyone who's still reading this.
Also a huge, huge thank you to anyone who's read, reviewed or added this to their tracked fics!
As I've probably mentioned, I'm not a very imaginative person, so if you have any good ideas for overheard conversations, I would be very grateful if you'd shoot of a review of it!