"The most incomprehensible thing in the world to a man, is a woman who rejects his offer of marriage!" - Jane Austen
The next morning, I sat next to my sisters as we had our breakfast. Jane and I looked forlornly down at our plates. Broken hearts can do that to women. I forced myself to pour a cup of tea. I placed a hot scone upon my plate and smeared honey and butter on it. I put a scone on Jane's plate and whispered, "They do not deserve us to mourn their departure."
She sent me a strained smile, accepting the scone with generosity. She placed an arm around my shoulders and whispered back, "You are right. We should not dwell on the past."
Mr. Collins walked down the steps and into the dining room. "My dear cousins, I trust you all slept well."
Instead of saying anything, Lydia sipped her tea. Mary walked away from the table to play on the piano. Jane and I took bites of our scones, and Mr. Bennet had not looked up from his reading. Mrs. Bennet seemed cross at us and smiled at Mr. Collins, "Have you slept well?"
Mr. Collins smiled; glad to receive some acknowledgment. "Yes. Thank you."
Everyone went back to his or her business, ignoring the fact that Mr. Collins was still standing there. "I would like to request to speak to Miss Elizabeth."
"You have my permission," Mrs. Bennet smiled and looked as though she were going to explode.
"Alone. I would like to request to speak to Miss Elizabeth in private."
I choked on my tea and stood up, "I'm sorry. But, I know what's coming, and I already told Charlotte Lucas about you. She's eager to meet you. But, before I could say anything more, my family stood up to leave. I sent Mr. Bennet a pleading look but, all he did was shrug and walk away with the rest of the family. The breakfast room emptied, and I was alone with Mr. Collins. I glanced worriedly at the door. I was certain everyone was standing behind it, trying to listen.
I looked away as he got down on one knee, "Lady Catherine told me to seek out a spirited woman, and I have found one. I have found spirit in you! Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife, Miss Elizabeth?"
"Get up!" I demanded, "Get up now!"
Mr. Collins stood up and took my hands in his. I jerked them away, "No. I will not marry you."
"I understand that you might like to keep an air of mystery. Most women are like this. So, I will ask you again, will you marry me?"
I hissed, "I said no!"
"I must admit that you were not my first choice. But, I believe we would do well together."
"I will not marry you because I cannot marry someone whom I do not love. I do not want to do well with someone. I want to be in love!"
"Love is a luxury, Miss Elizabeth, which will come in time."
"Not where I come from," I said with dignity. "I will not learn to love my husband and I will not learn to love you. I am quite sure that I cannot make you happy, and that I am saving you from total demise. Good day, Mr. Collins, and here is some advice... look to Charlotte Lucas."
I walked away from Mr. Collins. My mother, who was listening at the door, followed me, "How dare you! Lizzy, you have ruined this family."
"I did." I counterattacked, "I will not marry to make you happy."
"It is not too late to accept his proposal!" She called to Mr. Collins, "Lizzy has made a mistake. Do not fret."
Mr. Collins shook his head, "The damage has been done. I cannot consider her now."
Mrs. Bennet pleaded, "Mr. Bennet, talk some sense into both of them!"
Mr. Bennet walked back to his chair, eager to finish his breakfast. "I am not involved in this scheme. Mrs. Bennet, if you want to make things right, you will have to do it on your own."
My mother was not one to do this on her own. It required too much work. While she was less lazy than father, she believed actions spoke louder than words. She knew Mr. Collins was no longer interested in me. Rejoicing inwardly, I was ecstatic that he no longer paid particular attention to me. Mrs. Bennet alternated between cries of anger and sadness. Between her shouts of anger and cries of distress, all were wondering when this would stop. She considered kicking me out of Longbourn and disowning me at one point. Mr. Bennet talked her out of that.
Finally, he stated, "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day, you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins," he smirked at me, "and I will never see you again if you do."
Mr. Collins stayed in his bedroom now. He only came out during meal times. He thought too highly of himself and could not comprehend why I refused him. His pride was hurt but not by much, because he received some solace in knowing Mrs. Bennet's reproach of me. Mrs. Bennet would not talk to me; yet, Mr. Bennet was happy that his daughters did not have to marry Mr. Collins, after all. Mrs. Bennet believed that my headstrong, obstinate ways had finally ruined the family for good. I thought otherwise since I knew this novel and at least did something right! But, even I was beginning to worry that there was no way home. I may not have ruined the family but, I was sure of something.
I had ruined my chance with Darcy.