You say slowly, “I do not doubt that you wish to marry Lizzy - you would not trouble yourself to come to me if you did not. But am I to understand that she truly wishes to marry you? And for what reasons?”
At this, he flushes with ill-concealed anger. “You may ask her yourself. But I must know this now - if she persuades you of the sincerity of her feelings, will you give your consent?”
“Any father of sense would give his consent to such a match, if he could be certain that she really loves you!”
“But do you give your consent?”
You are not quite sure of his meaning; is he implying that you are not a father of sense? No matter; you want to speak to Lizzy as soon as may be. “I do,” you say, knowing that only this answer will remove him from your presence. Indeed, if you withhold your consent, you fear for your safety.
His face glows with such an expression of pleasure as you have rarely seen before. “I will send Elizabeth to you,” he says magnanimously, as if he now controls her every desire; and leaves the room directly.
You rise from your chair and pace the floor, feeling grave and anxious. Lizzy enters the room so quietly that, for a moment, you are unaware of her presence. Then you notice that she is standing before you, pale and watchful, and you cannot help yourself.
"Lizzy," you cry, "what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated him?"
A deep blush restores the colour to her cheeks. “Oh! my dearest papa, that was so long ago and based on such ill-conceived notions! Please believe me when I say that I – that we have an attachment and – oh! how I wish I had not spoken of him in those terms, I was ignorant of so much –”
"In other words, you are determined to have him. He is rich, to be sure, and you may have more fine clothes and fine carriages than Jane.” You fix her with a steady gaze. “But will they make you happy?"
She stares back at you. "Have you any other objection than your belief of my indifference?"
"None at all,” you say, with a mirthless laugh. “We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him."
"I do, I do like him," she replies, and you can see the gleam of tears in her eyes. "I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms."
In a rare display of affection, you put your arms round her. "Lizzy," you say softly, "I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse any thing, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery.” You hold her from you and look down at her dear, bright face. “My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about."
Her eyes fill with fresh tears. “No, Papa, you know not what you are about. Are you so blind to my chances of happiness that you cannot trust my judgement? I assure you that I love him with all my heart, I respect him more as each day passes, and there is no one else I would rather marry.” She reaches up and kisses you. “And you do not know the whole story.”
“The whole story?” you repeat, somewhat perturbed.
“It is many months since I stopped hating the man I thought I knew, and even longer since he stopped being indifferent to me. Indeed, you will learn to love him too, once you know what he really is.”
And she relates the tale of his first proposal, and their meeting at Pemberley, and enumerates with renewed energy all his good qualities until you are sick of hearing about this paragon of virtue.
In the end, more moved by her passion than you care to admit, you hold up your hand for silence. Then you say, with a sad little smile, "Well, my dear, if this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy."
There is more to come, however. When she tells you what Mr Darcy did voluntarily for Lydia and his arch-enemy Wickham, you are speechless. But only for a moment; you recover your spirits swiftly. "This is an evening of wonders, indeed! And so, Darcy did every thing: made up the match, gave the money, paid the fellow's debts, and got him his commission! So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle's doing, I must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers carry every thing their own way. I shall offer to pay him to-morrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter."
You then recollect her embarrassment a few days before, on your reading Mr Collins's letter; and after laughing at her some time, you allow her to go -- saying, as she quits the room, "If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure."
For the rest of the evening, you listen for shrieking as evidence that Mrs Bennet has learned of her second daughter’s engagement. But a serene silence reigns long into the night. It is only when you retire to bed that your dear wife betrays any knowledge of the happy event. You perceive that she has already planned the wedding clothes, and is about to mention that four-letter word beginning with L -- but you simply affix your ear plugs and allow her rapture to flow uncontained.
Over the weeks that follow, you take pains to get acquainted with Mr Darcy and are able to assure Lizzy that he is rising every hour in your esteem. "I admire all my three sons-in-law highly," you observe. "Wickham, perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like your husband quite as well as Jane's."
When the wedding is over, you miss Lizzy exceedingly; your affection for her draws you oftener from home than any thing else could do. You delight in going to Pemberley, especially when you are least expected.
And if, as you grow older, your cravings are more difficult to control, and you secretly roam the Pemberley estate to drain the blood from an occasional sheep or cow, this provokes no comment from Mr Darcy. Indeed, one would almost think he understands, even shares, your affliction.
But that, dear readers, is another story ...
The End. Congratulations, you have become Mr Bennet – we hope you've enjoyed this interactive experience!