Chapter Seven: Mr Darcy Makes a Proposal
That evening Elizabeth decided not to go to Rosings. The agitation and
tears had made her feel ill. When the others were gone she sat down to
reread Jane's letters. They did not speak of the past or of present sufferings.
But all Jane's peace of mind and happiness were gone. That Mr Darcy could
be proud of the suffering he had caused made it worse. She was glad to think
that his visit was soon to end and that in a few weeks she would be with Jane
There was a noise at the door and to her complete surprise Mr Darcy
walked into the room. In a hurried manner he asked if she was better. She
answered him with cold politeness. After a silence of several minutes he
came up to her and began,
'In vain have I tried, but I cannot. My feelings are too strong. You must
permit me to tell you how much I admire and love you.'
Too surprised to speak, Elizabeth looked at him in silence. He continued,
telling her all that he felt and had long felt for her. He spoke well, but not
only about his feelings of the heart. He spoke as much of his pride, of her
inferiority, of the objections to her and her family. To marry her would be a
Elizabeth disliked Darcy, but she felt the compliment of such a man's
affection. At first she was sorry for the unhappiness she must cause him.
Darcy finished his proposal by telling her of the strength of his attachment
which he was unable to resist, and of his hope that she would accept his
proposal. As he said this, she could see that he was sure of a favourable
answer. When he was silent, she said,
'It is, I believe, usual to express one's obligation, even where feelings are
not returned. If I could feel thankful, I would now thank you. But I cannot. I
am sorry to cause suffering to anyone. It has not been done intentionally,
however, and I am sure it will not last long.'
Mr Darcy heard her words with anger and surprise. After a long silence he
'And this is all the answer I have the honour to expect! I could, perhaps,
ask why, with so little politeness, I am refused like this. But it is not
'I could as well ask,' answered she, 'why, with the clear intention of
offending 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 impoliteness, if I was impolite? But I have other reasons. You
know I have. Had my feelings been indifferent or even favourable, do you
think I could ever have accepted the man who has ruined the happiness of a
most beloved sister? I have every reason to think ill of you. Nothing can
excuse what you did there.'
She stopped, and saw that he was listening with a manner which showed
him unmoved, a smile of disbelief on his face.
'Can you say it is not true?' she asked.
'I will not say that I did not do everything I could to separate my friend
from your sister, or that was not pleased at my success.'
'But it is not only this,' she continued. 'Long ago, your character was
shown in the things I heard from Mr Wickham. On this subject, what can
you have to say?'
'You take a great interest in that gentleman,' said Darcy.
'All those who know what his misfortunes have been must feel an interest
'His misfortunes!' repeated Darcy disgustedly. 'Yes, his misfortunes have
been great indeed.'
'And all your fault,' cried Elizabeth. 'You caused him to be poor. You kept
from him the advantages meant for him, and yet you can speak of him
'And this,' cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, 'is
your opinion of me! I thank you for explaining it so completely. My faults
are great indeed! But perhaps,' he said, stopping in his walk and turning
towards her, 'you would have considered them less if your pride had not
suffered, if I had flattered you more. But I despise hypocrisy. I cannot
apologise for my feelings. They were natural. Could you expect me to be
happy about the inferiority of your connections?'
Elizabeth could feel her anger growing, but she tried to speak quietly when
she said, 'You are mistaken, Mr Darcy, if you think that the manner of your
proposal has made me feel anything but glad. Now I shall not feel sorry
about refusing you. I would have, if you had behaved in a more gentle manlike
She saw him look up at this, but he said nothing, and she continued.
'You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way
that would have made me want to accept it.'
Again his surprise was clear as he looked at her with an expression of
'You have said enough, madam. I completely understand your feelings. I
apologise for having taken up so much of your time. Please accept my best
wishes for your health and happiness.'
With these words he left. Elizabeth did not know what to think. From
weakness she sat down and cried for half an hour. Her surprise was greater
every time she thought about what had passed. That she had received an
offer of marriage from Mr Darcy! That he had been in love with her for so
many months, so much in love as to wish to marry her for all the objections
against her. She could not believe it. It was gratifying to have caused so
strong an affection. But his pride, his despicable pride, his shocking story
of what he had done to Jane, the unfeeling manner in which he had
mentioned Wickham soon stopped the pity she had felt for a moment.
Elizabeth woke the next morning to the same thoughts and feelings. It was
impossible to think of anything else. After breakfast she decided to take a
She was at the end of the garden when Mr Darcy came up and gave her a
letter which he asked her to do him the honour of reading.
When he had gone Elizabeth opened it and read,
Do not fear Madam! a repetition of those sentiments or offers which were
fast night so disgusting to you. I shall not speak of wishes! which, for the
happiness of both of us! cannot be too soon forgotten. It was! however
necessary for me to write this fetter and I must ask you to read it.
Last night you told me of two reasons for your dislike of me. The first was!
that without thought for the feelings of either, I had separated Mr Bingley
from your sister; the other that I had against the wishes of my father
ruined the future of Mr Wickham. To have abandoned the friend of my
youth! a young man with no fortune who had been taught to expect our help
would be scandalous. It cannot be compared to the separation of two young
people whose affection was only a few weeks old. I hope that you will
understand both situations when I explain. I had not been long at
Netherfield, before I saw that Bingley liked your eldest sister. On the
evening of the dance I saw that his feelings were serious. I had often seen
him in love before. At that ball I first understood that Bingley's attentions
to your sister had caused a general expectation of their marriage. I watched
your sister. Her look and manners were open! but I did not believe her to be
in love. If I was mistaken, your anger is understandable. But there were
other reasons against such a marriage.
Not only because of your mother's family! but also because of her
behaviour, that of your three younger sisters, and even of your father. I am
sorry if I offend you.
My friend left Netherfield the following day with the plan of soon
returning. His sisters and I had spoken of of the matter; they felt as I did.
So we decided to join him in London where I told my friend of the objections
to his choice. But I could not have stopped the marriage if I had not
convinced him of your sister's indifference. On this subject I have nothing
more to say. if I have Made your sister suffer it was not done intentionally.
As for Mr Wickham, it is best if I tell you the whole story. MrWickham is
the son of a very honourable man, who for many years was the steward of all
the Pemberley estates. My father, wanting to help the son, gave him a good
education. He hoped George Wickham would go into the Church. I long ago
began to see his true character as my father could not. My father died five
years ago. He asked me to help Mr Wickham as best I could, and to give him
a family living as soon as possible. Half a year later Mr Wickham wrote to
inform me that he had decided not to go into the Church, but wanted to
study law. he hoped I could help him. The business was soon settled. He gave
up the Church and I gave him the money to study. All connection between us
seemed now finished. He lived in London for three years, but he did not
study. Then he wrote again telling me he had decided against law and asking
for the living my father had promised him. You will understand that I
refused. After this the last connections stopped.
Until last summer. I must now mention a matter I would like to forget
myself, one I have not told any other person as I am sure you will not. My
sister, who is ten years younger than me, finished school last year and went
to live in London with a lady in whose character we were unhappily mistaken.
In the summer they went to Ramsgate, and so did Mr Wickham. With the
Lady's help he met my sister who had not forgotten his kindness to her as a
girl. She believed she was in love with him and agreed to an elopement. She
was only fifteen. I am happy to say that she told me the story herself when
I joined them a few days before the event. You can imagine how I felt. Mr
Wickham was clearly interested mostly in my sister's fortune, but I think he
would have been glad to make me suffer. This, madam, is the true story of
the matters we have spoken of. If you do not believe me you can ask Colonel
Fitzwilliam who knows everything. I shall try to give you this letter in the
morning. I will only say, God bless you.
With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, Elizabeth read
Mr Darcy's letter. She had to read it many times before she could begin to
understand it. That it was true she had to believe, although her feelings were
shocked and her pride suffered. She was completely ashamed of herself. Of
neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had
been blind and prejudiced.
'How despicable I have been!' she cried.
'I who was proud of my understanding. How mortifying is this discovery!
If I had been in love, I could not have been more blind. But vanity, not love
has been my weakness. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by
the opinions of the other, from the beginning I understood nothing. Till this
moment, I never knew myself.'
Darcy wrote that he had no suspicion of Jane's feelings. Elizabeth
remembered what Charlotte's opinion had always been. Neither could she
deny the justice of his description of her sister. It was true. While Jane's
feelings were strong, she showed them little.
When she read that part of the letter in which her family was mentioned in
such a mortifying manner, her feelings of shame were strong. What he wrote
was true. It was hard to think that Jane's present unhappiness was the work
of her nearest relations, to feel how both she and Jane must suffer in the eyes
of society because of her family's improper behaviour.
Elizabeth returned home to hear that the two gentlemen from Rosings had
visited to take their leave. Colonel Fitzwilliam had sat with them an hour
hoping for her return. Though she said she was sorry, Elizabeth was not
unhappy. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer interesting to her. She could
think only of her letter.