Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1602
As March approaches, Elizabeth finds that she is actually looking forward to visiting Charlotte. She travels with Charlotte’s younger sister Maria and Sir William Lucas, Charlotte’s father, who arranges for her to stop in London for one day so that she can briefly visit with Jane and the Gardiners. Mrs. Gardiner questions Elizabeth about Wickham’s sudden interest in the newly wealthy Miss King—an interest Mrs. Gardiner deems “indelicate.” Elizabeth defends Wickham’s apparently “mercenary” behavior, noting that his possible financial motives are not so different from Mrs. Gardiner’s motives in cautioning Elizabeth about him at Christmas. Later, Elizabeth is overjoyed when the Gardiners invite her on a “tour of pleasure” through Derbyshire and the Lake Country for the summer.
Elizabeth and her traveling companions set out from London the following day and pass Rosings Park, the grand home of Lady Catherine, on their way to Mr. Collins’s parsonage. Mr. Collins shows the travelers around his grounds and house, being sure to note the fine details of every room and piece of furniture. His commentary seems directed toward Elizabeth, as if to show her what she has missed out on by rejecting the privilege of sharing in his comfortable lifestyle. When left alone, Charlotte gives Elizabeth her own tour of the house. Elizabeth later reflects on Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of her surroundings, realizing that Charlotte truly has found a peaceful life at Hunsford. At dinner, Mr. Collins tells Elizabeth that she will undoubtedly have the good fortune of being able to meet Lady Catherine very soon. The next day, Miss Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine’s daughter, causes a stir when she stops by Hunsford in her carriage. Though Anne does not come in, Elizabeth sees her from afar and notes that she “looks sickly and cross” and will thus make a perfect match indeed for Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins returns from the gate and informs the party that they have all been invited to dine at Rosings the following evening.
The next day, the party is preparing for dinner at Rosings. Mr. Collins instructs Elizabeth to wear the best of whatever she has brought and not to worry about her “simple” garments, for Lady Catherine enjoys having “the distinction of rank preserved.” Upon meeting Lady Catherine, Elizabeth observes that she is a large woman with a manner that makes others remember their inferior rank. She speaks in a commanding voice to further her sense of self-importance. Though Sir William Lucas and Maria seem quite apprehensive in Lady Catherine’s presence, Elizabeth finds that she feels “quite equal to the scene.”
After dinner, Lady Catherine turns her scrupulous attention to Elizabeth, quizzing her about her family and asking a series of intrusive questions about her sisters’ looks, education, and marriage prospects. Lady Catherine is unpleasantly surprised to learn that only one of Elizabeth’s sisters can sing and play an instrument and that none of them can draw. When she learns that the Bennets did not employ a governess, Lady Catherine declares that she’s never heard of such a thing. She goes on to criticize that the Bennets have allowed all their daughters to be “out” into society at once. Elizabeth defends the choice, arguing that her youngest sisters should not be prevented from enjoying the “pleasures” of youth simply because the eldest is not yet married. Lady Catherine says that Elizabeth is quite opinionated for a young person, and when she asks for her age, Elizabeth dodges the question, much to Lady Catherine’s displeasure. When Charlotte later asks Elizabeth for her opinion on all she had seen at Rosings, Elizabeth kindly makes her impression sound more favorable than it truly is.
Sir William leaves Hunsford after a week, and Elizabeth is at first concerned that his departure will lead Mr. Collins to further encroach upon her time with Charlotte. However, Charlotte has cleverly arranged for them to spend most of their time in a part of the house into which Mr. Collins rarely ventures. The group dines at Rosings a couple of times per week, and Elizabeth finds herself generally enjoying her stay, taking advantage of the pleasant weather to walk outdoors often. She soon learns that Mr. Darcy is expected to arrive for a visit to his aunt, and when he finally appears, he brings his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, with him. Catching Darcy alone, Elizabeth asks if he has seen Jane in London during the previous three months. Darcy seems a bit confused and replies that he has not been so fortunate as to see Miss Bennet.
Elizabeth finds Colonel Fitzwilliam a very agreeable man and an easy conversationalist. Their spirited discussion during one visit to Rosings catches the attention not only of Mr. Darcy but also Lady Catherine, who demands to know the subject of their conversation. When Colonel Fitzwilliam responds that they are discussing music, Lady Catherine asks Darcy about his sister’s playing; he assures her that Georgiana practices frequently. Lady Catherine then mentions that she has tried to persuade Elizabeth to practice more and that she has invited her to practice on the pianoforte in the room of Anne de Bourgh’s companion, Mrs. Jenkinson, where she “would be in nobody’s way.” Darcy looks rather ashamed of his aunt’s rude comment.
Later, when Elizabeth is asked to play for them all, Darcy comes to stand near her. She wryly accuses him of trying to intimidate her, but says his effort is in vain, for her “courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate [her].” After some playful banter, Colonel Fitzwilliam asks Elizabeth to describe how his friend Darcy behaved in Meryton, and Elizabeth relates his behavior at the first ball where he danced with almost no one. Darcy replies that he does have a talent for conversing with people he does not know well, and Elizabeth suggests that his conversation skills, like her musical skills, could be improved with practice. Darcy smiles and remarks that neither he nor Elizabeth “perform to strangers.”
The next morning, Mr. Darcy stops by Hunsford for a visit and is surprised to find only Elizabeth there. Elizabeth inquires whether Mr. Bingley will ever return to Netherfield, and Darcy says that it is not likely since his “engagements are continually increasing” elsewhere. He then compliments Charlotte, describing Mr. Collins as “fortunate” in his choice. Elizabeth agrees that her friend is very sensible but reveals her feeling that marrying Mr. Collins was perhaps not Charlotte’s wisest move. Nevertheless, Elizabeth says, her friend seems “perfectly happy.” Charlotte and her sister then return and are surprised to find Darcy and Elizabeth alone. Later, Charlotte wonders whether Darcy has fallen in love with Elizabeth, which would explain his continued visits to the parsonage. Elizabeth laughs at the absurdity of Charlotte’s suggestion, and so Charlotte privately wonders whether Colonel Fitzwilliam might make a suitable match for her friend instead.
Much to Elizabeth’s surprise, she continually runs into Mr. Darcy on walks around the park. One evening, she is met and joined by Colonel Fitzwilliam, and their conversation turns to Darcy. He tells Elizabeth that although he isn’t sure of the details, he has heard that Darcy recently saved a good friend from an “imprudent marriage.” When Elizabeth presses him for more information, he adds only that there were serious objections against the lady. Left to reflect upon his words, Elizabeth is convinced that this lady is Jane, which means it was actually Darcy, not Caroline Bingley, who orchestrated Bingley and Jane’s separation. She assumes that Darcy must have thought Jane was, by virtue of her family connections, too low for his friend and wished for Bingley to marry his sister instead. Elizabeth is so distressed by this realization that she refuses to accompany the party to Rosings that night, as she does not wish to see Darcy.
After everyone leaves for Rosings, Elizabeth is shocked when Mr. Darcy appears at the door seeming agitated. After some brief small talk, Darcy unexpectedly confesses that he has come to admire and love Elizabeth. Completely speechless, Elizabeth listens as Darcy describes how he has tried to ignore his growing feelings because of her “inferiority” and “family obstacles.” Insulted and angry, Elizabeth coolly responds that though it is expected for her to express some gratitude for a proposal, she cannot, for she has never sought his favor. When Darcy remarks on the uncivil nature of her refusal, Elizabeth says that his proposal itself was rude, noting that Darcy claimed to love her “against [his] will, against [his] reason, and even against [his] character.” Unable to contain her anger any longer, Elizabeth says she has other reasons to reject him as well, telling Darcy that she is well aware that he not only destroyed Jane’s chance at happiness but also ruined Wickham’s chances for prosperity. Darcy does not deny that he intervened with Mr. Bingley and Jane, but he scoffs at the notion of Wickham’s “misfortunes” and argues that Elizabeth would have easily overlooked these “offenses” had he not wounded her pride by being honest in his proposal. Elizabeth rejects this, insisting that from their very earliest meeting, she knew that his manners, arrogance, and conceit made him the last man she would ever want to marry. Darcy replies that he has heard enough and prepares to depart, apologizing for taking up so much of her time. Elizabeth cries for half an hour afterward and flees to her room when she hears Charlotte returning.
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