Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

Chapters 21-40

Chapter 21: Mr. Collins finds consolation in talking to Charlotte Lucas, who is spending the day with them. Wickham accompanies Elizabeth and her sisters back from Meryton and confirms the report that he did not attend the Netherfield ball in order to avoid Darcy. When they get home a letter arrives for Jane from Miss Bingley, saying that they are all going to London and do not intend to return to Netherfield for some time. Jane is distressed but composed; Elizabeth thinks that Miss Bingley has deliberately parted Jane and Bingley because the Bennets are not rich enough and because she wants her brother to marry Miss Darcy in the hope that Darcy will then be more likely to propose to her.

Chapter 22: Mr. Collins proposes to Charlotte, who accepts him. She wants no more than to be comfortably settled and is not blind to his character. Mr. Collins then leaves Hertfordshire. Charlotte announces her engagement to Elizabeth, who does her best to hide her shock.

Chapter 23: Sir William Lucas, Charlotte's father, announces his daughter's engagement to the whole Bennet family. Mrs. Bennet is incensed at what she sees as a betrayal on Charlotte's part. Elizabeth's anxiety grows that Bingley's sisters will successfully keep their brother in London all winter, as gossip has it that he will not return to Netherfield for some time.

Chapter 24: A letter arrives from Miss Bingley which confirms this report. Jane resigns herself to losing Bingley and in a discussion with Elizabeth attempts to acquit everyone concerned of any possible blame. Elizabeth is more cynical, reasserting her conviction that Bingley's sisters and Darcy are at the bottom of it all. Elizabeth's acquaintance with Wickham grows as his relationship with Darcy becomes common knowledge.

Chapter 25: Mr. Collins leaves the county again, having returned as soon as possible to spend time with Charlotte. No sooner has he left than Mrs. Bennet's other sister, Mrs. Gardiner, arrives with her husband. They are particularly welcome guests to Jane and Elizabeth and, after hearing the whole sorry tale of Jane and Bingley, Mrs. Gardiner invites Jane to return with them to London when they leave the Bennets, thinking that a change of scene might do her good.

Chapter 26: Mrs. Gardiner warns Elizabeth against falling in love with Wickham, on the grounds that he is poor. Elizabeth takes her aunt's advice well, but does not promise her to follow it. The Gardiners leave for London with Jane. Charlotte and Mr. Collins are married; before leaving for Kent Charlotte asks Elizabeth to visit her when Sir William and Maria Lucas do. Jane writes from London that Miss Bingley has behaved coldly towards her and that she now considers the acquaintance entirely at an end. Wickham transfers his attentions from Elizabeth to a Miss King, who is rich. Elizabeth excuses him and feels little regret for herself, concluding that she cannot have been in love with him.

Chapter 27: Elizabeth leaves for Kent, going via London, where her aunt asks her about Wickham's new attachment. Mrs. Gardiner then invites her niece to visit Derbyshire and the Lakes with her and her husband in the summer.

Chapter 28: Elizabeth and the Lucas's arrive at Mr. and Mrs. Collins's home. They are promptly invited to dine at Rosings, Lady Catherine de Burgh's estate, the next day.

Chapter 29: The dinner-party at Rosings takes place; Elizabeth finds Lady Catherine domineering and supercilious. Lady Catherine, for her part, thinks Elizabeth is impertinent and too forward in offering her opinion.

Chapter 30: Elizabeth's visit continues to be dominated by engagements at Rosings; Lady Catherine does not improve on acquaintance and Mr. Collins's obsequiousness continues to amuse and irritate Elizabeth. Darcy arrives in Kent on his annual visit to his aunt, bringing with him his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Both men visit the parsonage; Darcy is as awkward as ever, but Fitzwilliam is friendly and likeable.

Chapter 31: The parsonage party dine again at Rosings; while Elizabeth is playing the piano, Darcy watches her, and she and Fitzwilliam tease him about his awkward manners.

Chapter 32: Darcy comes to call at the parsonage; he finds Elizabeth alone and they have an awkward conversation. After this Darcy and Fitzwilliam are regular visitors; Elizabeth guesses that Fitzwilliam admires her, but cannot work out why Darcy should visit her so often.

Chapter 33: Elizabeth meets Fitzwilliam while she is out walking; he hints that he cannot afford to marry as he likes and then tells her that Darcy has just interfered in a friend's love life by separating him from the girl he loved. Elizabeth assumes that this relates to Jane and Bingley and is furious.

Chapter 34: Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, saying that he does so against his better judgement. She refuses him, angrily accusing him of having insulted her, ruined Jane's happiness and mistreated Wickham.

Chapter 35: Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter in which he answers her accusations. He felt that Bingley's marrying Jane would be a mistake on the grounds of her lack of money or connections; he felt convinced that Jane was not really interested in Bingley anyway and so felt justified in separating them. As for Wickham, he had decided not to go into the church and accepted some money instead of the parish which Darcy's father had offered him. He then began to lead a "life of idleness and dissipation" which culminated in his persuading Darcy's sister Georgiana, then only fifteen, to elope with him. Darcy concludes by urging Elizabeth to ask Colonel Fitzwilliam to confirm the truth of his story if she doesn't believe him.

Chapter 36: As she reads and re-reads Darcy's letter, Elizabeth moves from disdain and disbelief to the conclusion that Darcy must be telling the truth and that she has been entirely wrong in her judgement of both him and Wickham.

Chapter 37: Darcy and Fitzwilliam leave Rosings the next morning. The last week of Elizabeth's stay is full of invitations to Rosings, but she continues to think about Darcy's letter. She has to conclude that although it was not tactful of him to be so honest about her family's defects, she cannot deny that he was right and that, ironically, Jane has lost Bingley through the vulgar behaviour of her mother and younger sisters and through her father's refusal to discipline Kitty and Lydia.

Chapter 38: Elizabeth leaves the Collins's and arrives in London, where she delays telling Jane about Darcy's proposal because she is unsure how to reveal the truth about why she and Bingley were separated.

Chapter 39: Jane and Elizabeth return to Hertfordshire; Kitty and Lydia meet them and they have lunch together, during which Lydia reveals that Miss King, who everyone thought would marry Wickham, has left the county. The officers who have been encamped at Meryton are moving to Brighton for the summer, and Lydia is dying to go with them, but her father is adamant in not allowing it. The girls return to Longbourn.

Chapter 40: Elizabeth tells Jane about Darcy's proposal and relates what she now knows about Wickham; Jane, finding it impossible to think well of all the people concerned, is shocked. They decide not to make the story public.

Elizabeth, now able to observe her sister properly, sees that she is not happy and that she is pining for Bingley. Despite this, Elizabeth decides not to tell her what Darcy said about Bingley's love for her.