A week after Bingley and Jane become engaged, Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits the Bennets. The noblewoman wants to speak with Elizabeth and insists that they walk outside to hold a conversation. There, Lady Catherine informs Elizabeth that she has heard a rumor that Darcy is planning to marry her. Such a notion, Lady Catherine insists, is ridiculous, given Elizabeth’s low station in life and the tacit engagement of Darcy to her own daughter.
Elizabeth conceals her surprise at this news and acts very coolly toward Lady Catherine. She admits that she and Darcy are not engaged but, despite the noblewoman’s demands, refuses to promise not to enter into an engagement to him. Lady Catherine claims that Elizabeth is bound to obey her by “the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude.” She presents the familiar objection: the Bennets have such low connections that Darcy’s marrying Elizabeth would “ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.” Elizabeth defends her family, declaring, “I am a gentleman’s daughter,” and then asserts her independence from the exasperating control that such snobs as Mr. Collins, Miss Bingley, and Lady Catherine herself always attempt to exert over their social inferiors. “I am . . . resolved,” she says, “to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.” Lady Catherine leaves, furious and frustrated, and Elizabeth keeps their conversation secret.
“My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”See Important Quotations Explained
A short time later, a letter arrives from Mr. Collins that suggests that an engagement between Darcy and Elizabeth is imminent. The letter comes to Mr. Bennet, who reads it to Elizabeth and comments on the absurdity of the idea of an engagement with Darcy—“who never looked at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life.”
A little while after Lady Catherine’s visit, Darcy again comes to stay with Bingley at Netherfield. The two friends visit the Bennets, and everyone takes a walk together. Elizabeth and Darcy lag behind, and when they are alone, Elizabeth thanks him for his generosity in saving Lydia’s good name. Darcy replies that he did so only because Lydia is her sister. He then says that his feelings toward her have not changed since his proposal. Elizabeth tells him that her own feelings have changed and that she is now willing to marry him.
That night, Elizabeth tells Jane about Darcy’s intention to marry her. Jane, stunned, cannot believe that Elizabeth truly loves Darcy. Elizabeth promises Jane that she does. The next day, Darcy and Elizabeth walk together again, and that night Darcy goes to Mr. Bennet to ask him for his consent to the match.
Like Jane, Mr. Bennet needs Elizabeth to convince him that she does indeed care for Darcy. After she assures him of her love, she tells him how Darcy paid off Wickham. Mrs. Bennet then learns of her daughter’s engagement and is actually struck dumb for a time before bursting into cries of delight.