Mr Collins Makes Another Proposal
The Bennets were invited to dinner with the Lucases, and again, most of the time, Miss Lucas was kind enough to listen to Mr Collins. Elizabeth thanked her warmly, and Charlotte told her friend that she was glad to be of service to her. This was very helpful of her, but the real reason for Charlotte’s kindness was something that Elizabeth had no idea of- a desire to attract Mr Collins herself. When they parted later that night, Charlotte would have felt almost certain of success if he had not been planning to leave Longbourn. But Mr Collins, wasting no time, escaped from the Bennets early next morning with great skill. Miss Lucas noticed him from an upper window as he walked towards her parents’ house. She came down quickly to the garden, and there, meeting him as if by accident, received his proposal of marriage.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were immediately asked for their agreement, which they willingly gave. Mr Collins’s present position made it a good marriage for their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune, and in the future he would be Mr Bennets heir. Charlotte was fairly well satisfied. Mr Collins was neither sensible nor agreeable, but she, on the other hand, was twenty-seven, and with little chance of other offers.
She decided to give the news to the Bennets herself, and therefore asked Mr Collins to say nothing when he returned to Longbourn, which he was leaving the next day.
When Elizabeth was privately informed by Charlotte, her astonishment «was so great that she could not help crying out:
‘Engaged to be married to Mr Collins! My dear Charlotte, impossible!’
‘I see what you are feeling,’ replied Charlotte. ‘You must be surprised, very much surprised, as Mr Collins was so recently wanting to marry you. But I do not expect very much from marriage, you know. I shall be satisfied with having a comfortable home.’
Elizabeth answered quietly and, after an awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the family. Charlotte did not stay much longer, and Elizabeth was left to think over what she had heard. The strangeness of Mr Collins’s making two offers of marriage within three days was nothing in comparison with his being now accepted. She would never have expected Charlotte to give up her finer feelings to gain no more than comfort. She felt that her friend had shamed herself, and she did not believe it possible for her to be happy in the life she had chosen.
As for Mrs Bennet, she was astonished and shocked by the news. A week passed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, and a month before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude. Lady Lucas was not without pleasure in being able to talk to Mrs Bennet about the comfort of having a daughter well married, and she visited Longbourn rather more often than usual, to say how happy she was. Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was an awkwardness that kept them silent on the subject. Elizabeth felt that there could never be any real confidence between them again, and she turned with greater fondness to her sister Jane, for whose happiness she became daily more anxious.