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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

We learn the answers to some of these questions in the very next chapter. Darcy waits for Elizabeth on her morning walk, hands her a letter, and asks her to do him the honor of reading it. She begins to read it without believing a word of it. But as she goes back over it again and again, her attitude toward its contents begins to change.

Darcy has answered her two angry accusations of the evening before. To the first, he admits that he persuaded Bingley not to pursue his courtship of Jane. He admits also that he concealed Jane's presence in London from Bingley, a deception of which he is somewhat ashamed. But he justifies his interference on the grounds that it could not have been a good marriage, considering the behavior of the younger Bennet girls, their mother, and even their father. He declares that, before he intervened, he watched Jane carefully, and from the untroubled serenity of her behavior he became convinced that she did not return Bingley's love at all. If he was mistaken, and if he has indeed caused pain to her, he apologizes. He acted from the best of his knowledge and observation.



To Elizabeth's second accusation, about his treatment of Wickham, Darcy turns Wickham's story completely around. He tells Elizabeth that Wickham gave up all interest in a church career and asked Darcy instead for a sizable sum of money, with the intention of studying law. Darcy gave him what he asked (the sum was L3,000) but instead of beginning studies, Wickham squandered the money on idleness and gambling. In debt again, as a last resort he approached Georgiana. Trading on childhood affection, Wickham persuaded Georgiana to elope with him. Fortunately Georgiana, a loving and dutiful sister, confessed the plan to her brother in time to halt it.

Darcy tells Elizabeth that he trusts her with these painful facts, which could be damaging to his sister's reputation, knowing that he can rely on her to keep them confidential. He also tells her that she can verify the story with Colonel Fitzwilliam, who as his fellow guardian is acquainted with it all. He ends his letter with a generous "God bless you."

Here are several points for Elizabeth to ponder. One is the confirmation that Darcy did in fact steer Bingley away from Jane. A second is that he did not do this unfeelingly, but took the possibility of causing pain to Jane into consideration. Elizabeth remembers what Charlotte once said-that Jane might be concealing her love for Bingley all too well.

Next is the revelation of Wickham's true character. He stands forth in this account as an idler, a gambler, an irresponsible, dissipated man who will go so far as to lead a young girl astray, just to get his hands on her fortune-although in this case, as Darcy suggested, Wickham might also have wanted to take revenge on Darcy by harming his sister.

Darcy, on the other hand, appears totally innocent.

NOTE: Is Darcy's version the truth? What will Elizabeth believe? How will she feel toward Darcy now? Toward Wickham? In addition to these suspenseful questions, we have also received a warning: Watch out for Wickham as a possible source of trouble.

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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