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Chapter 34

When they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate
herself as much as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her
employment the examination of all the letters which Jane had
written to her since her being in Kent. They contained no actual
complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any
communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost
every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which
had been used to characterise her style, and which, proceeding
from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself and kindly
disposed towards everyone, had been scarcely ever clouded.
Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of
uneasiness, with an attention which it had hardly received on the
first perusal. Mr. Darcy's shameful boast of what misery he had
been able to inflict gave her a keener sense of her sister's
sufferings. It was some consolation to think that his visit to
Rosings was to end on the day after the next-- and, a still
greater, that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with
Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her
spirits, by all that affection could do.

She could not think of Darcy's leaving Kent without
remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel
Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at all, and
agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.

While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound
of the door-bell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea
of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before
called late in the evening, and might now come to inquire
particularly after her. But this idea was soon banished, and her

spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter
amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an
hurried manner he immediately began an inquiry after her health,
imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She
answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few
moments, and then getting up, walked about the room.
Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of
several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and
thus began:

"In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be
repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire
and love you."

Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared,
coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient
encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long
felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there
were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he
was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of
pride. His sense of her inferiority-- of its being a degradation--
of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination,
were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the
consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to
recommend his suit.

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible
to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her
intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for
the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his
subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She
tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience,
when he should have done. He concluded with representing to
her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his
endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with
expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her
acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that
he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He SPOKE of
apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real
security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther,
and, when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she
said:

"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. 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 anyone. 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."

Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his
eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less
resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with
anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every
feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure,
and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have
attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful. At
length, with a voice of forced calmness, he said:

"And this is the reply which I am to have the honour of
expecting: I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so
little ENDEAVOUR at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of
small importance."

"I might as well inquire," replied she, " why with so evident a
desire 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? But I have other provocations. You know I
have. Had not my 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?"

As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but
the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting
to interrupt her while she continued:

"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, and the other to its derision for disappointed hopes,
and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind."

She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was
listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any
feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of
affected incredulity.

"Can you deny that you have done it?" she repeated.

With assumed tranquillity he then 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."

Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil
reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to
conciliate her.

"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, and with a heightened colour.

"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help
feeling an interest in him?"

"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy contemptuously; "yes, his
misfortunes have been great indeed."

"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth with energy. "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 misfortune with contempt and ridicule."

"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across

the room, "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, stopping in his walk, and turning towards
her, "these offenses 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?"

Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she
tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said:

"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of
your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared
the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you
behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner."

She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued:

"You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible
way that would have tempted me to accept it."

Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with
an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went
on:

"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, your conceit, and your
selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the
groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have
built so immovable a dislike; 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."

And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth
heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the
house.

The tumult of her mind, was now painfully great. She knew not
how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and
cried for half-an-hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on
what had passed, was increased by every review of it. That she
should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! That he
should have been in love with her for so many months! So much
in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections
which had made him prevent his friend's marrying her sister, and
which must appear at least with equal force in his own case--
was almost incredible! It was gratifying to have inspired
unconsciously so strong an affection. But his pride, his
abominable pride-- his shameless avowal of what he had done
with respect to Jane-- his unpardonable assurance in
acknowledging, though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling
manner in which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty
towards whom he had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the
pity which the consideration of his attachment had for a moment
excited. She continued in very agitated reflections till the sound
of Lady Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was
to encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to
her room.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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