A Synopsis & Summary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

!!! WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

A Brief Overview of our Heroine and her Situation

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Elizabeth Bennet is alive in England during the Regency period. She's clever and energetic, and fortunate enough to be the daughter of a "gentleman" — a man without a title (he's not a lord, or a baron, etc.), but a man able to live upon the income generated from his land. Although they're not the wealthiest members of their social class, Elizabeth's family is really quite privileged.

Unfortunately, though, Elizabeth's father's land and property is lawfully entailed, meaning that it's inherited by the males of their family line. Because Elizabeth has no brother to inherit, when her father dies, her family's house and means of income will pass to her closest male relative... her weird cousin, Mr. Collins.

Because of this, the women of the Bennet family, (all six of them), are basically living on borrowed time. Eventually, their patriarch, Mr. Bennet, will die. After that, they will have to rely on the generosity and charity of friends and extended family to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. 

It's not a comfortable prospect.

However, if Elizabeth and her four sisters get married, they won't have to be dependents to such a strong degree. Furthermore, if one of them is lucky enough to marry a prosperous man, that sister will be able to provide for the other Bennet women, should they be in need. That's the chief thing you need to know about Pride and Prejudice going into it — so much depends on the Bennet sisters getting married.

When the story begins, Elizabeth's mother, Mrs. Bennet, is ecstatic to hear that a very wealthy young gentleman has moved into the neighborhood (specifically, into the great house, Netherfield Park). Mrs. Bennet desperately hopes that this man, Mr. Bingley, will fall in love with one of her daughters and marry her, thus saving the Bennet women from their looming destitution.

Because of the strict rules of Regency decorum, Mr. Bingley won't be able to speak with the Bennet girls unless Mr. Bennet introduces himself on behalf of his family. The problem is, Mr. Bennet is an aloof man. 

"Have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mrs. Bennet begs him to visit Mr. Bingley at Netherfield so their daughters can have a shot at winning his heart. To entertain himself, Mr. Bennet prolongs his wife's suspense, but eventually he does pay a call on the fabulous Mr. Bingley.

As a result, when the Bennet girls and Mr. Bingley meet at the local assemblies (social events with dancing), he is free to speak and dance with them. It becomes immediately obvious that Bingley is quite taken with Jane, the eldest (and most beautiful) Bennet sister. Mrs. Bennet is triumphant.

Eventually, Bingley's two sisters, who are living with their brother at Netherfield, invite Jane to tea. Mrs. Bennet sees this as an opportunity for Jane to insinuate herself into the family. She sees that it's about to rain, and orders Jane to ride a horse over to Netherfield instead of taking a carriage, in hopes that the storm will keep Jane stranded at the Bingley's. 

"No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night."

Mrs. Bennet's plot succeeds beyond her wildest dreams. Jane, during her visit to Netherfield, comes down with a terrible cold. She is invited to recuperate her illness at Bingley's home.

Our protagonist, Elizabeth, is close with Jane, so she sets off to visit her sick sister. Elizabeth's presence at Netherfield does so much to comfort Jane that Mr. Bingley invites Elizabeth to stay there as well, until Jane is feeling better. However, Elizabeth's presence brings a great deal of trepidation to Bingley's other house guests — to his sister, Caroline, and especially to his great friend, Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth Is the Object of a Reluctant Admiration and Regard

While Jane and Bingley's attraction has been blossoming, Elizabeth has won herself an admirer, too. Over the course of a few social events, Mr. Darcy, a fabulously wealthy young man, has managed to snub and offend Elizabeth, only to later become captivated by her vivacity.

At the first assembly, where Jane and Bingley met, Bingley encouraged Darcy to dance with Elizabeth, who was without a partner. Darcy, (who we later find out is ill at ease in social situations), refused, claiming that Elizabeth wasn't pretty enough. Elizabeth overheard his mean remark and formed an intense dislike of him. However, at subsequent assemblies, Darcy changed his mind about Elizabeth. He began to find her quite pleasing and attractive.

"Darcy was continually giving offence."

At one such assembly, he was caught staring at Elizabeth by Caroline Bingley. He admitted to her that he enjoys the sight of Elizabeth's "bright eyes." This whipped up in Caroline a dislike of Elizabeth, because Caroline has serious designs on Darcy's marital status.

Because of all this, when Elizabeth comes to stay at Netherfield, in close quarters with Darcy and Caroline both, it's enough to test everybody's propriety.

"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild."

During the course of Elizabeth's stay, Bingley's sisters are passive aggressive and rude to her. They're spurred on by Elizabeth's less formal manner of behavior. She muddies her hems. She sharpens her wits against Mr. Darcy's. It irks Caroline, especially, that Darcy is interested. Although he tries not to stare at Elizabeth, he can't help but look at her, take her in, and find her admirable.

The chief reasons behind Darcy's reluctance are Elizabeth's unimpressive connections and her family's vulgarity. On one occasion, Mrs. Bennet comes to visit Netherfield with Mary, Kitty, and Lydia Bennet, all in tow, and all the women behave in a ridiculous manner. They embarrass Elizabeth, disgust the Bingley sisters, and annoy Mr. Darcy. When Jane finally recuperates well enough to return home, Darcy is relieved to see the back of Elizabeth. His attraction to her is beginning to alarm him.

Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening.

But although Caroline and Darcy see social disgrace when they look at the Bennets, Mr. Bingley doesn't take notice. He is captured by Jane's beauty, but also by her sweet and gracious temperament, which is so like his own. He decides to hold a ball at Netherfield and invites the Bennet family to attend. That invitation also includes Mr. Collins, the cousin of the Bennet girls, who arrives to stay with the Bennets shortly after Jane and Elizabeth arrive home from Netherfield. 

The Cousin Who Would Kiss Her

Mr. Collins is the heir who will inherit the Bennet home and land after Mr. Bennet's death. Collins's own father, estranged from Mr. Bennet, recently died, and now Mr. Collins is reaching out to his cousins to heal the family breach. He even hopes to help the Bennet women by marrying one of them! Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed to learn this. Her great, dread fear of being evicted after Mr. Bennet's death could be solved by the union of Mr. Collins with one of her daughters.

There's a single problem, though. Mr. Collins is revolting.

Educated to be a clergyman, young Mr. Collins has just taken his first job, where he enjoys having the moral high ground from his pulpit. The only person to whom Mr. Collins pays obeisance is the wealthiest of his parishioners,  a widow by the name of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is a patroness of sorts to the stupid, young parson. After she encourages him to marry, he obediently scurries off to pluck a cousin from the tree of convenience. Collins first sets his eye on Jane as a prospective bride, but Mrs. Bennet quickly (and presumptively) informs him that Jane will be engaged soon.

His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal.

 Hardly deterred, Mr. Collins decides upon Elizabeth, the next eldest, to be his future bride.

Elizabeth could care less about Mr. Collins, aside from the amusement that his social gaffes provide. She is, however, intrigued by a military officer who has come to be stationed in the nearby village of Meryton — Mr. George Wickham. He's a dashing young man, with suave manners and heartbreaking backstory. The villain of his past is an enemy held in common with Elizabeth — Mr. Darcy. 

George Wickham and Mr. Darcy grew up in close quarters with each other, as the young George's father was Mr. Darcy's father's steward (a man who oversees the farming and infrastructure of a large property). The stewardship profession is one of respectability, but it also one of service. Because of this, George Wickham grew up with two feet in different worlds. On one hand, he was doted on by the elder Mr. Darcy, his father's boss, and socialized with that man's son, the heir to a vast fortune. On the other hand, George was the heir of nothing. 

His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.

Wickham confides in Elizabeth that the elder Mr. Darcy promised him a certain sum of money, to be received upon the older man's death. The money would go towards Wickham's certification in the church. However, the younger Mr. Darcy, upon his father's passing, denied Wickham the sum he'd been promised. The reason, Wickham believes, was jealousy. The elder Mr. Darcy loved Wickham more than his own son

Prompting this story from Wickham was Elizabeth's witness of a intensely uncomfortable encounter between Wickham and Darcy on the streets of Meryton. No words were exchanged between the two men, but Elizabeth was privy to their immense shock and fury upon seeing each other. 

Despite his discomfort, Wickham proclaims that he will attend the ball at Netherfield along with his regiment, as Darcy is the one who should be hiding from society.

The Bennet Family and the Ball

Looking forward to seeing Wickham at the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth takes extra care in her appearance. However, Elizabeth's efforts are lost on Wickham, for he decided not to come, after all. Instead, Elizabeth must endure the stifling attentions of her cousin, who is doing his level best (yet failing) to woo her. After she escapes Collins, however, she is asked to dance by Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth accepts in shock, and then shares her regret with her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte tells Elizabeth that she is foolish to snub Darcy in favor of Wickham, as Darcy is a man of immense consequence.

She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest.

While dancing, Elizabeth does her best to provoke conversation from the silent and taciturn Darcy. She actually succeeds, and Darcy extends himself into making polite small talk. However, when Elizabeth touches upon the subject of Mr. Wickham, Darcy retreats into silence and cold civility.

During dinner, disaster breaks loose, for nearly every member of Elizabeth's family exposes him- (or her-) self to public derision and ridicule. Mr. Collins, delighted to discover that his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh's nephew is in attendance, makes a shocking faux pas by introducing his own self to that very nephew, Mr. Darcy.

"To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success."

 Mrs. Bennet is extremely vulgar in talking loudly about her expectations of Bingley marrying Jane and how their marriage will acquaint her daughters with other rich men. Mary Bennet, Elizabeth's little sister, takes over the dining room piano, playing and singing with no self-awareness of how wretched she sounds. Then, Mr. Bennet rebukes her callously in front of everyone. Lydia and Kitty, the youngest girls, flirt indiscreetly with the officers in attendance. To top it all off, Mrs. Bennet overstays the family's welcome, conspiring for them to be the last people to leave the ball.

Although Jane has been in her own world with Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth saw all of her family's disgrace, and was greatly discomfited.

An Immodest Proposal

But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour.

Although Elizabeth's personality isn't a gloomy one, she can hardly recover from the disastrous ball before she is ambushed by Mr. Collins. He has decided his wooing has reached its pinnacle. He proposes to her, referencing his connection with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, citing his obligations as a clergyman, and complimenting his cousin's manifold attractions. 

Elizabeth refuses him, but Mr. Collins won't take no for an answer. He begs her to cease from prolonging his suspense of a favorable answer. Irritated, Elizabeth tries to make him believe it — she really, really does not want to marry him. Eventually, she can only walk away.

Mrs. Bennet, beyond irate with Elizabeth, tries to enlist her husband's authority in forcing Elizabeth to accept Mr. Collins. However, Mr. Bennet will not coerce his favorite daughter into marrying a buffoon. He congratulates Lizzy on her good sense.

Following his failed proposal, Mr. Collins's last wish is to socialize with the Bennets. Luckily for him, Charlotte Lucas invites him to dine with her family. During the next few days, Mr. Collins departs for Lucas Lodge at dawn and stays there until dark. A few bizarre days later, Charlotte tells Elizabeth that she has accepted a proposal by Mr. Collins. Elizabeth is shocked and disappointed.

Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, is enraged. Elizabeth had a chance to keep her mother and sisters from being sent away from the family home by marrying the heir, and she didn't do it. 

Charlotte's kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of.

To further sink Mrs. Bennet into despair, Mr. Bingley up and left Netherfield for London, very suddenly and without making Jane any promises. Caroline Bingley writes Jane and confides that she doesn't expect her brother to return. She further insinuates that Bingley might have his eye set on Mr. Darcy's sister, Georgiana. 

There is some hope, however. Jane is very close with her maternal uncle and his wife, the Gardiners, who live in London. The family plans for Jane to go stay with them for a while, to see if she can't carry on her acquaintance with Bingley in town. It's a bit of a desperate move, but the devastated Jane decides to do it.

The Stay at Hunsford

Elizabeth, meanwhile, has reluctantly accepted Charlotte's invitation to come visit her at her new home at Hunsford Parsonage. Elizabeth will travel there with Charlotte's family and spend a few weeks in the stifling company of her former suitor.

"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to come to Hunsford."

In Hunsford, Elizabeth is very soon invited, with the entire Collins party, to dine at Rosings, the great home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Although everyone seems star-struck by the wealthy, imperious woman, Elizabeth can clearly observe her faults and foibles. Lady Catherine is extremely enamored of her own consequence and enjoys belittling and controlling other people. Long evenings of listening to Lady Catherine drone on quickly grow stifling.

However, Rosings becomes more pyrotechnic when Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, arrive for an extended visit with their aunt.  Although Elizabeth is oblivious, time and distance has not cooled Darcy's interest. In fact, he is quite decidedly in love with her now. During the course of a few weeks, Darcy finds every opportunity to be alone with Elizabeth, although he is often withdrawn and overtly uncomfortable. Elizabeth, for her part, is puzzled. 

"We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home. Her ladyship's carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should say, one of her ladyship's carriages, for she has several."

Elizabeth quickly forms a friendship with the genial Colonel Fitzwilliam, who insinuates that he would have had a serious interest in her, should he not have to marry for money. The Colonel also lets slip another intimate detail, this time about Darcy. Apparently, Darcy has boasted of how he prevented a good friend from making a terrible, marital mistake. Elizabeth knows that the Colonel must be referring to Jane and Bingley.

Later that evening, following her conversation with the Colonel, Elizabeth stays home from Rosings, as she's tense and emotional. However, she's shocked when Darcy comes to call on her — alone — when by all accounts he should be dining at Rosings with everyone else.

To her utter shock, he delivers to her a passionate offer of marriage. However, he also metes out insult. Darcy describes his tender emotions with frustration, and he also feels the situation merits an explanation of why he is stooping so low. Elizabeth's family is highly improper, he explains. Marrying her would do him no financial or dynastic good. He is not, he explains, being kind to himself in making the decision to marry Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, for her part, is incredibly insulted and confused. She declines his offer curtly. 

Fighting surprise and humiliation at being refused, Darcy tries to argue to get the upper hand, but Elizabeth quickly flings an accusation at him — he acted indefensibly in separating Jane and Bingley. Darcy, with a rising temper, proudly admits to ruining Jane's chances, and states that his actions there were highly defensible. 

Outraged, Elizabeth launches another volley —  he treated George Wickham abominably. What can possibly be his defense there? At the mention of his great enemy, Darcy's anger flares. He doesn't answer her question, but hotly suggests that Elizabeth wouldn't be reacting so badly had he flattered her pride, instead of being both honest and reasonable. 

At that, Elizabeth reaches her limit, and unstops every pipe. With sharp precision, she goes after all the facets of Darcy's arrogant temperament and nasty manners — all reasons why polite society — and she — cannot abide the sight of him. 

The blows hit, and Darcy, at his breaking point, flees.

Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes.

The following morning, Elizabeth goes out walking alone, but Darcy finds her. He only gives her a letter, however, asks her to read it, and walks away. Elizabeth reads it and is shocked by its contents. In the missive, Darcy addresses the complaints she laid at his feet the previous night. He admits to interfering in Bingley's relationship with Jane. In fact, Darcy encouraged Bingley to leave Netherfield by insisting that Jane had no affection for him and later concealed the fact that Jane had gone to London. Darcy writes that he did it to protect his friend from Jane, a possible fortune-hunter, and from Jane's unsuitable family.

As for Wickham, Mr. Darcy has a very different story than what Elizabeth had heard from the other man. Darcy did give Wickham the money he was promised, but Wickham did not become a clergyman with the funds. Instead, he wasted it away in profligacy. Then, Wickham came to Darcy for more money, promising to spend it on a profession. Darcy, knowing Wickham to be dissolute, refused. So, in an act of revenge and mercenary greed, Wickham seduced Darcy's fifteen year-old sister, Georgiana, and convinced her to elope with him. Luckily, Darcy discovered the plot before his sister was irreparably ruined. This is why he and Wickham are the bitterest of enemies, Darcy writes. Moreover, Colonel Fitzwilliam could be applied to for the truth of Darcy's account, as he is the co-guardian of Georgiana, and knows everything of what happened.

"I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you."

A devastated Darcy leaves Hunsford abruptly, before Elizabeth has a chance to encounter him again. Elizabeth, for her part, keeps everything that happened between them a secret from her companions. When the time comes for her to return home, she does so without delay, despite Lady Catherine's surprising protestations.

The first person she does confide in is Jane, who has returned from London. Jane is full of disbelief, but feels very sorry for what must have been a crushing disappointment for Darcy. The two women agree not to spread the word of Wickham's bad character, for to expose Georgiana's near disgrace without the permission of the innocents involved would be wrong. Elizabeth, though it pains her, believes Darcy's side of the story, and is embarrassed that she was so easily taken in by Wickham's false charms.

Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened could no longer be overcome.

Fortunately, Wickham is scheduled to leave Meryton and go to beachside Brighton with his regiment. Unfortunately, Lydia, the wildest, youngest Bennet sister, has been invited by a colonel's wife to go with them. Elizabeth, fearing that her sister will further destroy their family's reputation, pleads with her father to keep Lydia at home. She sees a disaster waiting to happen, but Mr. Bennet brushes off Elizabeth's fears, preferring to have the peace and quiet afforded by Lydia being absent.

A New Beginning

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay.

Elizabeth, after so much turmoil, welcomes the warm and sensible company of her aunt and uncle. The Gardiners are touring the peak district and taking Elizabeth with them. Their party has a splendid time on the tour, especially Elizabeth, who has been feeling the stress of the past few months. Her trepidation revives, however, when the Gardiners arrive in Lambton, the village outside of Pemberley, Darcy's estate. To Elizabeth's unease, Mrs. Gardiner is keen to take a tour of Darcy's home, mostly due to her interest in his infamously bad manners. 

Elizabeth baldy refuses to go to Pemberley, until she hears that Darcy is out of town. Only then does she relent, allowing herself to feel some curiosity.

It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.

Arriving at Pemberley, Elizabeth is shocked at the scope of Darcy's wealth, and aghast that she had been in a position to become mistress of the place. The housekeeper gives them a tour of the interior, and is delighted when she discovers Elizabeth knows Darcy. She has been serving her employer since his boyhood, and has only good things to say about him and his family. However, when Mrs. Gardiner asks about Wickham's past at Pemberley, the housekeeper sours, stating that Wickham turned out less than proper. 

Elizabeth and the Gardiners are exploring the walking paths outside the house when Elizabeth receives a heart-stopping shock — Darcy is at home. Too late for her to hide, he sees her and appears equally horrified. Darcy mumbles some mannerly words towards Elizabeth and the Gardiners, then disappears inside the house. However, he reappears soon, changed out of his traveling clothes. With great politeness, he invites the Gardiners and Elizabeth to keep touring the grounds with him.

To Elizabeth's astonishment, Darcy is the picture of refined gentility and graciousness towards the Gardiners and herself. He is a gentleman — fostering conversation, comfort, and ease. To stagger Elizabeth further, he asks her permission to introduce Georgiana to her, should Elizabeth still be in town upon his sister's arrival. 

Elizabeth can't help but wonder if Darcy's improved behavior has to do with her pointed criticisms on the night of his failed proposal. She can think of no other explanation, save that her reproofs made Darcy adopt better manners. The thought charms her.

And, true to his word, the next day, Darcy brings his sister to the Gardiner's inn to meet Elizabeth. To Elizabeth's assessment, Georgiana is not condescending and proud (as Wickham had claimed), but merely reserved due to shyness. Of her big brother, she appears worshipful.

Elizabeth is surprised again when Bingley appears next. To her pleasure, he appears not at all taken by Georgiana. Instead, Bingley cannot stop asking Elizabeth about Jane, much to Elizabeth's satisfaction. 

Before Bingley and the Darcys leave, Georgiana requests the honor of Elizabeth and the Gardiners' company at a day-party at Pemberley. Elizabeth accepts the invitation with pleasure... and nervous anticipation.

Georgiana's reception of them was very civil; but attended with all that embarrassment which, though proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong, would easily give to those who felt themselves inferior, the belief of her being proud and reserved.

At the day-party, Elizabeth crosses paths with Caroline Bingley once again. Caroline is sour that Darcy is paying such overt interest in Elizabeth and retaliates by being nastier than ever. Elizabeth, however, will not be perturbed. Instead, she begins to receive Darcy's attentions towards her with a keen, internal interest.

The following day, Darcy pays another a call to the inn, this time to invite Elizabeth and the Gardiners to Pemberley yet again, only to come across a devastated Elizabeth...

The Fallen Sister

Lydia... a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence.

Elizabeth has received a letter from Jane with terrible news. Lydia has disappeared from Brighton, leaving only a thoughtless note to explain how she's run away... with George Wickham. To a gently bred family like the Bennets, this act, indicative of licentiousness, is enough to poison the entire well. Lydia hasn't just ruined herself. She's ruined all of her sisters, too. Elizabeth knows that her family isn't rich enough or powerful enough to find Wickham and compel him to marry Lydia. Her family's disgrace will now be complete, and Elizabeth is heartbroken. 

Darcy, who has witnessed Elizabeth's breakdown (and explanation of it) first with shock, then with an inscrutable intensity, sends a servant to fetch the Gardiners. He then begs to take his leave. As he departs, Elizabeth assumes she will never see him again, and feels a terrible sense of loss. She realizes that, with time, she could have truly loved Darcy.

The Gardiners take Elizabeth home and then depart for London to help Mr. Bennet find Lydia and Wickham. Jane and Elizabeth are left to take care of Mrs. Bennet, who has retreated to her bed.

Too many days for comfort pass without any news, and eventually, Mr. Bennet arrives home, for Mr. Gardiner has taken over the search. Mr. Bennet is ashamed and defeated, knowing how his careless parenting allowed Lydia's ruinous decision to take place. 

After a terrible wait, news arrives. The Gardiners have found Lydia and Wickham, who have been living together in an unmarried state. Mr. Gardiner has successfully secured Wickham's promise to marry Lydia, but chooses not to disclose the sum of money that he, naturally, had to pay out.

Mrs. Bennet, with absurdity, is revitalized by the news of her youngest's impending nuptials, seeming to forgive Lydia for her selfish profligacy due to the outcome. Elizabeth, however, feels increasingly depressed, feeling anxious and out of spirits with the thought that Darcy must be congratulating himself on dodging a disgraceful marriage to her.

She felt depressed beyond any thing she had ever known before.

The Secret Groomsman

Mr. and Mrs. Wickham come to visit the Bennets. Their behavior is incredibly loathsome, and Elizabeth does her best to avoid conversation with them. However, one morning, Lydia lets slip that she wishes Mr. Darcy hadn't been groomsman at the wedding. 

Elizabeth, with intense interest, demands to know what Darcy had to do with the affair, but Lydia says she was sworn not to tell a word. Elizabeth, deciding not to bother with Lydia, writes to her Aunt Gardiner instead, pleading with her to disclose the secret. Obligingly, her aunt spills every detail in a return letter. 

Mr. Darcy, it turns out, made contact with the Gardiners as soon as they had made it to London to search for Lydia. Darcy insisted on heading the investigation, and he was the one who found Lydia — through his knowledge of Wickham's old connections. It was Darcy, not Mr. Gardiner, who paid Wickham an immense sum of money to marry Lydia, thus saving the Bennets' good name. However, Mr. Darcy swore the Gardiners to secrecy, made them take all the credit, and had them promise not to breath a word to Elizabeth. 

"My dear niece, I have just received your letter, and shall devote this whole morning to answering it, as I foresee that a little writing will not comprise what I have to tell you."

Mrs. Gardiner, deciding she'd much rather have Mr. Darcy for her nephew than not, feels no compunction in breaking the promise, however. She spills the secret details in a long and cheeky letter. Elizabeth is overcome with gratitude and other warm emotions for Darcy, who flayed his own pride, giving yet another payout to his greatest enemy, all to save the Bennets.

A Renewal of Those Offers

The Bennets have happy news when they learn that Bingley is moving back to Netherfield. Soon, he arrives on their doorstep, eager to rekindled his association with the Bennets... and with Jane. It doesn't take too many visits before Bingley proposes to her — and Jane, ebullient with happiness, accepts.

Along with Mr. Bingley, Darcy has returned to the country, as well. With Bingley, he even pays a stiff visit to the Bennet home. Elizabeth, her heart now totally invested in Darcy, cannot even meet his eye. She feels it is impossible for a man as proud as Darcy to propose a second time. Yet, she is suffused with a desperate hope that he will.

The Bennet women are so pleased with Jane's engagement that they hardly notice Elizabeth's odd mood. They cannot help but be alerted, however, when Lady Catherine appears at the front door one day, asking to take a walk with Elizabeth.

Once they are in private, Elizabeth is shocked to hear what Darcy's aunt has to say. A rumor, that Elizabeth is secretly engaged to Darcy, had reached Lady Catherine. She set off at once for the Bennet home to hear Elizabeth deny such preposterous claims. 

Elizabeth, with great reluctance, admits that she is not engaged. Lady Catherine, however, will not be mollified until Elizabeth promises never to enter into such an engagement with Mr. Darcy.

"Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter."

To marry him, spits Lady Catherine, Elizabeth would pollute his family line. With fury at being so gravely insulted, Elizabeth refuses to make that promise and walks away from an irate Lady Catherine.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction.

On a day soon after, Bingley and Darcy come to call once again, and the young people agree to a walk in the countryside. At a certain point, Bingley and Jane wander off, and then Kitty decides to visit a neighbor. So, for the first time since the inn at Lambton, Elizabeth and Darcy are alone together.

Elizabeth breaks the awkward silence first and, although her heart is racing, she decides to be bold. She confides that she knows what Darcy did to save her family, in finding Lydia and bribing Wickham to marry her. She extends her gratitude and thanks on behalf of all the Bennets. 

"You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."

Darcy, unsettled and embarrassed, professes that he didn't do it for the Bennets... it was only for her. With nerves and hope, Darcy asks Elizabeth once again to marry him, promising to drop the subject forever should her second answer be unfavorable.

Elizabeth, also with nerves and hope, accepts his offer. 

They walk on, with happiness quietly exploding inside them. Eventually, they regain their speech, and then find it difficult to stop speaking. 

Tp propose a second time, Darcy attributes his courage to Lady Catherine, of all people. After confronting Elizabeth, his irate aunt flew straight to her nephew to repeat everything that had been said. When Darcy learned of how Elizabeth refused to promise to never enter into an engagement with him, he was infused with hope. 

Darcy also wishes to know if his letter, delivered after his failed proposal, had anything to do with the change of Elizabeth's regard. Elizabeth affirms that the letter did begin the gradual reversal of her feelings for him. Still, Darcy wishes for it to be burned. He can't stand the thought of her reading it again. Elizabeth, amused, tells him she has already memorized it, but she will certainly destroy the letter to give him peace of mind.

With much to talk about, they linger in the outdoors. They arrive at the Bennet's much later, to find everyone assembled, wondering what had happened to them.

The next time Bingley and Darcy call, Darcy and Elizabeth can hardly go out walking (and get separated from everyone else) fast enough. They have too much to discuss for the meager time allotted to them, being only secretly engaged. They resolve that Darcy will ask for Mr. Bennet's consent that night.

Following dinner, Darcy sneaks away from the assembly to follow Mr. Bennet into his library. Elizabeth waits with terrible suspense. When, at last, Darcy returns and signals her turn to pay audience to Mr. Bennet, she feels shaken and uncertain. 

Mr. Bennet, grave and solemn, tells Elizabeth that he has given his consent to Darcy, but he urges her strongly, as her father, not to settle for an ill-suited marriage due to material temptations. Darcy is wealthy, her father states, but Elizabeth deserves far better.

Fighting tears, Elizabeth tells him the entire hidden story, from beginning to end. Mr. Bennet is thoroughly shocked... then terribly amused. He will never have to worry about paying back Lydia's marriage bribe, he says, because Darcy is too noble and love-struck to ever accept it. Mr. Bennet, with great relief, gives Elizabeth his whole-hearted blessing.

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."

And They Were Happy...

Their engagment announced, Elizabeth and Darcy now have far more time and privacy afforded to them. Elizabeth, still intrigued and amazed by Darcy's love for her, asks him to give his account of how he fell under her passive and totally unknowing spell.

Darcy, still a bit stiff and formal, but rapidly warming under the sun of Elizabeth's joy, tells her. He also reveals how he confessed his interference in Mr. Bingley's love life to the man himself. Bingley was angry, Darcy says, but only as long as he was without Darcy's assurances that Jane really did love him. 

Soon, both Jane and Elizabeth are married to the men of their dreams. Jane and Bingley live at Netherfield until their proximity to Mrs. Bennet drives them to relocate near Darcy and Elizabeth, at Pemberley. 

Lady Catherine is so heinously rude to Elizabeth in her letters to Darcy, that he refuses to write, see, or speak to her for a long time. Eventually, however, Elizabeth fosters a reconciliation between aunt and nephew.

Lydia and Wickham's marriage turns sour and they are constantly in debt. Elizabeth quietly sends them sums of her own money. Lydia is allowed to visit at Pemberley, but never with Wickham.

Georgiana and Elizabeth grow close, and Georgiana grows less shy under Elizabeth's example. She's shocked to see Elizabeth be so jocular with her older brother (who, at ten years her senior, has always been a stern parental figure), but she eventually realizes that solemnity has no place in Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage.

Mr. Bennet, content with his favorite daughter's happy state, visits her at Pemberley with frequency, and often unannounced, to his vast amusement.

With the Gardiners, Darcy and Elizabeth form a close bond, for the Gardiners were the means of uniting them and bringing them lifelong happiness.

"Now suppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err."

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