Sufficient Encouragement Refresh– Chapter Eleven

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Chapter Eleven

Despite the exhaustion usually felt after the exertion of a ball, sleep did not claim Elizabeth until very late. Nevertheless, routine being a necessity to a country lady in such a household, she arose at her usual hour. Breakfast brought some relief and restoration, and she decided to take up work with her sister, Kitty, and her mother in the morning room while Jane and Lydia returned to rest. Mary retired to her apartment for her morning studies. With the ladies at such tasks and the gentlemen likely as tired, she did not expect the intrusion that followed.

Mr. Collins came in just as Elizabeth and Kitty finished discussing which colour to use next for their work. He immediately approached Mrs. Bennet. “I hope, my dear lady, that you will allow me a private audience with your fair daughter, Elizabeth.”

Mrs. Bennet immediately replied, “Oh yes! Certainly! Lizzy shall have no objections at all. Come, Kitty. I desire you upstairs.”

After gathering her wits, Elizabeth rose and called out to her mother and sister as they reached the door, “Mama, Mr. Collins can have nothing to say to me that others cannot hear. Indeed, I am going away myself in only a moment.”

“Nonsense!” Mrs. Bennet declared. “You will stay and hear Mr. Collins. I insist.”

Elizabeth paused long enough to consider that it would be best to get the undoubtedly mortifying scene that would inevitably follow over with and contained her astonishment that her mother thought such a command was in her power. She sat and was soon alone with Mr. Collins.

“Your modesty, Miss Elizabeth, has only added to your other perfections. Had you thought yourself so deserving of my addresses, it would have diminished your amiability in my eyes. Fear not, I have your mother’s permission and had settled upon you as the companion of my future life almost from my first entering this house. Before I continue with my feelings, however, I think I ought to explain why I have chosen to marry.”

Elizabeth listened with disbelief, astonishment, offence, and finally amusement as Mr. Collins explained that his patroness insisted he marry, and that his decision to choose from amongst his cousins was befitting atonement for being next in line from the entailment. Even without consulting her feelings for the gentleman, Elizabeth had no choice but to refuse, and most succinctly.

“Thank you for your attention, sir, but I must decline.” Elizabeth congratulated herself on finding words which gave no room for argument but were not rude. Unfortunately, Mr. Collins did not understand her.

His combined pride and prejudices were never more exposed than when he persisted, stating that ladies frequently refused men to inspire more affection. “Your refusals only strengthen my regard, which I am sure is your intention,” he said.

After several more rounds, it finally struck Elizabeth how to convince him to accept her refusal. He must think it was his own decision and that she was not just unworthy but imprudent. Fortunately, she knew his weakest spot. “Surely you jest that such ladies even exist. If I thought you would make me happy, I would not take such a risk. I think of your happiness as well as mine. I cannot bring you the joy you desire. Lady Catherine would despise me. What could make you more miserable than to lose her good opinion?”

This gave him pause, but soon he rallied. “If I thought it were possible at all for her ladyship to disapprove of you…but she can find nothing amiss with you. It does you credit to worry about her acceptance of you but be certain that I will extoll your qualities when I next see her.”

Growing exasperated, Elizabeth stood and replied, “I must judge my own happiness. If you will compliment me, then believe what I have said. This matter is quite settled now.” She dropped a hasty curtsy and almost sprinted from the room.

However, before reaching the door, Mr. Collins spoke. “When we speak again, I am confident you will reply more favourably. I understand, due to the delicacy of your female mind, that you reply according to a custom most designed to encourage my suit.” He paused, but before Elizabeth could speak, he continued, his tone cold and his face dark. “You are nearing cruelty in tormenting me, and such actions have their rewards.”

A shiver ran up Elizabeth’s spine as she perceived his words had a menacing quality, but she remained firm. “Really, Mr. Collins, you deceive yourself! How can what I have said be made into encouragement? If this is the case, then I can think of nothing that may convince you.”

A glint appeared in his eye as he replied, “You allow me to flatter myself, Cousin. I know I am more than good enough for you and many women would desire to marry me. Not only do I enjoy a stable income and have an adequate home, I have the patronage of the de Bourgh family. Surely you did not forget that I will inherit this home too?” He stepped closer and said lowly, “You should consider that despite your attractions, no other offer of marriage may come your way. Your portion is so small that it diminishes your suitability for marriage…although, it cannot detract from your loveliness.”

Elizabeth fought the urge to slap him or give a sharp reply.

He met her eyes and spoke with a challenge in his voice. “I choose to attribute your rejection as wishing to increase my love. You are not serious in your rejection of me.”

Although she turned red at his insinuations that she was better suited for a man’s amusement than as his equal, her feelings became cold as his final words sounded like a threat. Her courage rose, and after taking a deep breath, she replied, “I thank you again for the honour of your proposals, but my feelings forbid their acceptance. I am not attempting to torment or insult you.”

She opened the door just as he laughed. “How charming you are! I believe on your father’s authority that my offer will become quite acceptable.”

Elizabeth immediately quit the room, having no real fear that her father would support the match, and rather thought he could, at last, make Mr. Collins see reason.


Elizabeth evaded her mother in the hallway and remained in her room until summoned by her father.

“Come here, Child,” he said as she entered the library, his wife standing beside him. “I have heard you have refused Mr. Collins’s offer of marriage.”

“I have, sir.”

“Your mother insists you accept.”

“Yes, or I will never see her again,” Mrs. Bennet interjected.

Elizabeth turned her eyes back to her father, expecting to see amusement in his eyes, but there was none.

“Allow me to speak with Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet.”

With a raising of her chin in presumed victory, the lady left. Elizabeth sat before her father, her stomach beginning to turn. He had never dismissed her from the room before to take Elizabeth’s side.

“On what grounds have you refused your cousin?”

“We have no affection for each other,” she began, disbelieving that her father would even ask.

“He assures me in animated language the strength of his regard for you.”

“It is entirely imaginary, I am sure.”

“It is well you see that. Marriage should not begin with expectations of affection.”

Elizabeth’s heart stuttered as she caught her father’s words. He could not consider this match, could he? A silent and speedy prayer went from her heart.  “You have always given me reason to believe you highly regarded my sense. Our temperaments are ill-suited to each other. I find him ridiculous and would never be happy with him. I also doubt he would with me.”

“The match is a prudent one.” Mr. Bennet stroked his chin. “He would offer you amusement, such as I have with your mother.”

“I find that such amusements are best enjoyed in small doses or quickly pale. Even you, sir, have been keen enough to get Mr. Collins out of your book room for some peace.  Moreover, a husband definitely has the upper hand in the case of any disharmony.  I shudder to think what I should be permitted to read by him; he has already been lecturing us on what is and is not suitable for a lady to read.” Elizabeth shook her head adamantly. “No, life with him would be insufferable.”

“You cannot find me so unhappy.”

Mr. Bennet said it with a smile, but Elizabeth had witnessed the truth of her parents’ marriage. She licked her lips while summoning a different argument. “His manner was offensive throughout the proposal. He disparaged and insulted me at every turn. There would be no amusement when he grew to resent my lack of dowry or my irreverence in the face of his patroness. He can only be pleased with a woman who can flatter him.”

“Perhaps he needs only some encouragement of your esteem to be truly amiable.”

Elizabeth squeezed her hands tightly in her lap, willing the tears to stay back. “No, I cannot. Are you insisting?”

Mr. Bennet pulled his glasses from his face and rubbed his brow. “I ought to. It is in the best interests of your mother and sisters that one of you marry him.”

“Could not he be persuaded to offer for Mary? She is young but serious and of a religious and moralistic bent; I believe she would likely accept his suit.”

Even as she said it, she knew it would never be. Mr. Collins wanted a beautiful ornament and she had now offended him. He would not be inclined to choose among her sisters now. Her shoulders slumped against the weight of the guilt she felt.

Her father sighed heavily. “I believe he is too proud to wish to connect himself with us now. As you said, he must be flattered.”

The two were silent for a moment. Before Mr. Bennet returned the glasses to his face, Elizabeth perceived how exhausted he appeared. Still, his next statements surprised her.

“I understand his manner was offensive, and he is ridiculous. However, I would caution you to think seriously about any further offer you receive, even if the mode is inelegant. I have raised you to consider reason over sentiment in marriage. While temperaments and dispositions are more important than beauty or charm, you must realise that a person may change considerably in the course of a lifetime. However suitable they seem during courtship does not guarantee happiness. You are turning down an excellent chance at security. As much as it pains me to remind you of my deficiencies, you are at his mercy should I die before each of you are settled.”

Perceiving her father would not welcome her silliness over the idle concern of his future demise, she kissed his cheek and left the room to inform Mr. Collins that her father would speak with him. On her way, she thanked God for keeping her out of Collins’ clutches…for now, at least.


Darcy arrived at Longbourn at the earliest possible hour for calls. Bingley had left for Town on business, and the Hursts and Miss Bingley were still abed when he left. He knew it was peculiar for him to call on the Bennets in this way, but he did need to speak with Mr. Bennet. At this hour, no one could construe his coming to see Elizabeth. As he walked up the path, he perceived Mr. Collins peering out a drawing room window. Upon seeing him, the parson fled, and Darcy feared he would be waylaid before even entering the house. His prediction proved too true.

“Mr. Darcy! How kind of you to call upon my humble relations and on a day after a ball! Did you rest adequately, sir?”

He was exhausted. He had barely recovered from his cold before dancing all night; he really ought to have slept more. “Of course, sir. I see you have as well.”

“Oh yes. My room is very accommodating. I am fortunate indeed to be the future master of such an estate.”

Darcy allowed the remark to pass. A home’s furnishings were hardly the mark of a good estate. He knew far too many who spent their fortunes on furnishings while the estate was poorly managed and failing. These same families would be in a bad way if they did not modify either their income or their spending. The man had rambled on while Darcy was in thought.

“And of course, we look forward to seeing you often at Rosings. Miss Elizabeth will be a very gracious clergyman’s wife, I am sure.”

Darcy startled and his heart seized. He was too late. “Do I understand I am to wish you joy?” he asked through a tight throat.

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