Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1430
While out on a walk the next morning, Elizabeth is approached by Mr. Darcy, who hands her a letter and asks her to read it before walking away. The tone of Darcy’s letter differs greatly from the tone of his proposal, and he begins by conveying a need to address the two accusations made against him. First, Darcy explains that while he did convince Mr. Bingley to leave Jane, he only did so because he was convinced that Jane did not love Bingley as Bingley loved her. Darcy apologizes, acknowledging that Elizabeth understands Jane’s true emotions far better than he could but writes that he believed Jane completely “indifferent” to Bingley after observing her at the Netherfield ball. His other objection to the match, he explains, was not Jane’s lack of connections but the impropriety often displayed by Elizabeth’s parents and younger sisters. He adds that he doesn’t wish to hurt Elizabeth but that he must be honest about the way her family represents themselves.
He then proceeds to address Elizabeth’s charges regarding Mr. Wickham. Darcy writes that his father was indeed fond of Wickham and supported him through school, even providing for his education at Cambridge. After Darcy’s father died, Wickham came to Darcy asking for three thousand pounds (triple the legacy provided to him) to study law. Darcy had serious doubts about the truthfulness of Wickham’s request but nonetheless provided him with the money. Wickham soon wasted the money away and then returned to Darcy to request more. When Darcy refused, Wickham became resentful and turned his attention to Georgiana Darcy, convincing her to secretly elope with him when she was only fifteen. Overcome with guilt at the last second, Georgiana confessed everything to her brother, who, realizing Wickham was after Georgiana’s inheritance of thirty thousand pounds, immediately separated them. In an effort to preserve his sister’s reputation, Darcy was forced to keep the entire situation as quiet as possible. He invites Elizabeth to corroborate the story with Colonel Fitzwilliam to verify the truth of his claims.
Reading the letter over and over, Elizabeth desperately tries to make sense of the two conflicting stories of Wickham’s character. She ultimately comes to realize that she allowed herself to be flattered by Wickham’s attention, and this shaded her judgement of him. She realizes now that it was odd for him to share such personal details with her about Mr. Darcy when they were little more than strangers. In retrospect, she also begins to see how Wickham’s words and actions have not always aligned. She is sure that Colonel Fitzwilliam will support Darcy’s claims, as she has come to deeply trust the colonel’s character. Realizing she has been duped, Elizabeth is flooded with shame to think how severely she has misjudged both Wickham and Darcy. Elizabeth then considers Darcy’s explanation for his intrusion into Jane and Mr. Bingley’s relationship. She remembers Charlotte’s worries that Jane appeared too reserved in her affections toward Bingley, and Elizabeth herself can recall only a few times when Jane’s feelings for him were clearly on display. When she returns to the parsonage, Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam stopped by to see her while she was out but have since departed.
Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam leave Rosings the next morning, and Lady Catherine insists that the Collinses and guests join her for dinner. At dinner, she tries to persuade Elizabeth to stay for a few more weeks, but Elizabeth insists that she is needed at home. When Lady Catherine declares that her mother can spare her for a bit longer, Elizabeth replies that her father cannot. “Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father,” Lady Catherine assures her, but Elizabeth insists on adhering to her original plan. Resigned, Lady Catherine discusses their departure, insisting that the ladies travel with manservants to convey proper propriety. Elizabeth continues to ponder all the details of Darcy’s letter, and she is entertained frequently at Rosings until the day of her departure arrives.
On the morning of her departure, Elizabeth is approached by Mr. Collins, who wishes to express his sincerest hopes that she has enjoyed her time at their “humble” parsonage and that she has felt welcomed at Rosings. Elizabeth assures him that her time has been pleasant, and he conveys his wish that she will find the same degree of “felicity” in marriage that he has. Elizabeth feels compassion for Charlotte for having to remain in the eternal presence of both Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine, but she also realizes that her friend chose this path with eyes wide open. On the way home, Elizabeth plans to stop at the Gardiner residence in London, where she and her traveling companions will remain for a few days before returning home with Jane to Longbourn.
Lydia and Kitty meet Jane and Elizabeth on their way back to Longbourn. Lydia has wasted their lunch allowance on shopping and tells her older sisters that they will have to pay for her lunch as well as their own. Lydia relays that the soldiers are leaving Meryton in a few days for Brighton. She hopes to convince their father to take them there over the summer and believes there is little else worth looking forward to. She also reports that Wickham has left Miss King, commenting that he never could have cared for such a “nasty little freckled thing” anyway. Elizabeth privately reflects on how recently she herself might have held such similar sentiments. Lydia goads her sisters, saying that she had hoped they would return with engagements or husbands. Calling Jane “quite an old maid” at nearly twenty-three, Lydia declares that she would be ashamed to be unmarried at that age. At home, Mrs. Bennet is thrilled that Jane’s beauty is intact, and she absorbs news of fashion from her daughters; meanwhile, Mr. Bennet is happy to have Elizabeth home again. Lydia arranges for a group to accompany her to Meryton, but Elizabeth declines in order to avoid seeing Wickham.
Elizabeth finally finds an opportunity to share with Jane the news of Mr. Darcy’s proposal, including how she rejected him and accused him of injustice toward Wickham. Elizabeth reveals Darcy’s account of Wickham’s conduct, and Jane sympathizes that the hostility Darcy received in response to his proposal was greatly undeserved. Elizabeth asks her sister whether she should share with their acquaintances the truth regarding Wickham’s character, but both agree that since Darcy has not given them permission to make his grievances public, they have no right to speak of it. Elizabeth notices that Jane is not happy at home and surmises that she still clings to her tender affections toward Mr. Bingley. For fear of hurting her further, Elizabeth chooses not to tell her sister what she learned about Darcy’s interference in Bingley and Jane’s relationship.
Lydia is thrilled to receive an invitation to accompany Mrs. Forster, wife of Colonel Forster, to Brighton, where the soldiers are traveling. Elizabeth begs their father to prevent it, convinced that Lydia’s antics in Brighton will reflect poorly on the entire family, but Mr. Bennet replies that keeping Lydia home after she has received the invitation of her dreams will make her impossible company. Elizabeth is forced to accept Lydia’s departure but still worries that she will disgrace them all with her flirtatious and improper behavior. On the last day the regiment is in town, some of the officers, including Wickham, dine at Longbourn. Elizabeth makes a point to mention Colonel Fitzwilliam in conversation with Wickham and notices that Wickham appears “displeased” at the reference. She then mentions that she has gotten to know Darcy better and understands him more now than she did before. Wickham looks alarmed and makes a hasty exit from their conversation.
The Gardiners arrive at Longbourn in July to pick up Elizabeth for their summer tour. They drop off their four young children, who Jane will care for in their parents’ absence. Elizabeth departs with them on their much-anticipated trip. Their route takes them near Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s home, and Mrs. Gardiner expresses her wish to see the grounds again, having grown up nearby. Elizabeth is mortified at the thought of encountering Darcy on the property, but after being assured by a chambermaid at the local inn that Darcy is not home for the summer, she agrees to go.
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