Mrs Bennet hurried at once to her husband, calling out shrilly as she entered the sunlit library.
Oh! Mr Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in a most terrible uproar. You must not vacillate in acting to make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows wilfully she will not have him. And if you do not make all haste he is on the calamitous brink of deciding not to have her.
Mr Bennet raised his eyes from his book like an owl being disturbed, and carefully fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her frantic communication.
‘I have not had the always much appreciated pleasure of understanding you – not one whit,’ said he, when she had finished her beseeching utterance. ‘Of what are you so excitedly talking?’
‘Of Mr Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy steadfastly declares she will not have Mr Collins, and Mr Collins begins to say he cannot countenance having Lizzy.’
‘And what am I to do on this fraught occasion? – It seems a completely hopeless business.’
‘Speak to Lizzy about it yourself, make the most fervent imprecations. Tell her you unwaveringly insist upon her marrying him.’
‘Let her be called down. She shall hear the weight of my opinion.’
Mrs Bennet rang the bell with a jangling flourish, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned forthwith to the library.
‘Come here, child,’ cried her father not unkindly as she appeared. ‘I have sent for you on an affair of the utmost importance. I understand that Mr Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?’ Elizabeth replied that it indubitably was.
‘Very well – and this offer of marriage you have resolutely refused?’
‘I have, Sir, resolutely.’
‘Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother emphatically insists upon your accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs Bennet?’
‘Yes, or I will never see her again.’
‘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, and I will never see you again if you do.’
Elizabeth could not but smile wryly at such an unanticipated conclusion to such an unpromising beginning; but Mrs Bennet, who had fully persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished him to regard it, was excessively disappointed.
‘What do you mean, Mr Bennet, by talking in this way? You unambiguously promised me to unflinchingly insist upon her marrying him.’
‘My dear,’ replied her husband, ‘I have two small favours to request. First, that you will unfetteredly allow the use of my understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be unreservedly glad to have the sunlit library to myself as soon as may be.’