Mr. Darcy leaves the Hunsford house where Lizzy has just rejected his proposal. He is extremely upset (Lizzy isn't happy about this either.) As he walks back to Rosings, Lizzy's words "You are the last man in the world whom I could ever marry." and "My opinion of you was decided when I heard Mr. Wickham's story of your dealing with him." ring in his head. When he arrives, he decides that at least he can defend himself about the accusations involving Wickham.
He writes her a long letter, explaining in detail the situation with Wickham. Wickham's father had managed Darcy's father's estate. Darcy and Wickham were childhood friends, and Darcy's father was fond of Wickham. After Wickham's father died, Darcy's father supported him at school and university, hoping that he would go into the clergy. But Wickham turned out to be a dissolute and dishonest person. Before Darcy's father died, he had expressed a desire that Wickham be given a valuable position in the church. Wickham was not interested in the church, but was given a £3000 sum instead.
Darcy's sister Georgiana (Emilia Fox
), 10 years younger than he, went to the seaside town of Ramsgate, under the guardianship of Mrs. Younge. Wickham found her there, and tried to elope with her, in order to get her £30,000 fortune. She was 15. Darcy discovered the planned elopement by accident, and put a stop to it. Darcy explains that Elizabeth can check the truth of this with Colonel Fitzwilliam, who knows all about the situation.
The second part of the letter explains why he separated Bingley and Jane. He believed, based on his own observations, that Jane was not in love with Bingley. He was also seriously bothered by the uncouth behaviour of Mrs. Bennet and the three younger sisters. After Bingley had left Netherfield to go back to London, Darcy had convinced him of the folly of an attachment to Jane. When Jane had gone to London to find Bingley, Darcy concealed that fact from Bingley.
The next day, Darcy happens upon Elizabeth and gives her the letter, which she reads. She accepts the part about Wickham (though she had never gotten a chance to discuss it with Fitzwilliam), but she is disgusted with Darcy's interference with Jane and Bingley, and his completely unapologetic attitude about it.
Elizabeth and Maria travel back home, met at Bromley by Kitty and Lydia, who relate the news that Wickham's engagement to Mary King has been called off. This presumably means that he is once again available, which pleases Kitty and Lydia. Elizabeth is not so enthused, of course, but she says nothing.
When Elizabeth arrives home, she tells Jane about Darcy's proposal, and about Wickham's bad character. They are convinced that Darcy was telling the truth about Wickham--he would not have made up such a story involving his own sister if it were not true. But they decide not to tell other people the truth about this, especially since Darcy, to protect Georgiana, does not want the issue made public.
Kitty and Lydia are very upset that the soldiers gave gone to the seaside resort of Brighton for the summer. They want to go there too, but Mr. Bennet forbids it.
Jane expresses to Elizabeth her extreme disappointment that Bingley has apparently abandoned her. Elizabeth does not tell her that the situation isn't actually that way, and that Darcy had deliberately separated them.
Lydia announces that she has received an invitation from Colonel Forster's wife (Victoria Hamilton
) to be their guest at Brighton. Lydia is ecstatic; Kitty is extremely upset that she wasn't invited also. Mrs. Bennet's demeanor varies wildly between vexation and euphoria, as usual, and Kitty is upset and unhappy. (That is her role throughout the whole serial, in fact.)
Mr. Bennet has changed his mind and is now going to permit Lydia to go. Elizabeth pleads with him not to let her go, explaining that her wild character could bring disgrace upon the whole family. She perhaps remembers what Darcy had told her. Mr. Bennet is unmoved; he says that Lydia needs to learn for herself how insignificant she is, and that Colonel Forster (Paul Moriarty
) is sensible and won't let Lydia get into any real trouble. He is, of course, badly mistaken in this.
At a going-away party for the officers, Elizabeth gets into a discussion with Wickham. While polite on the surface, the discussion is subtly vicious, something Elizabeth is quite good at. Wickham asks some probing questions about her stay with Darcy at Rosings, and she drops oblique hints about what they had discussed, suggesting, but not saying outright, that Darcy revealed the story of Wickhams's past, and that she believes Darcy.
Lydia departs for Brighton. Kitty is in tears with jealousy. Mr. Bennet makes one of his snarky comments at her: "In a year or two you'll have got over it tolerably well."
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and their four children, have arrived for their summer vacation. They leave the children, and take Elizabeth on a trip to the Peaks District in the North. It turns out that Mrs. Gardiner grew up there, in the small town of Lambton. It happens to be very close to the great estate of Pemberley, Darcy's home. Of course, Mrs. Gardiner's family did not move in the same social circles as Darcy's family.
They take in the scenic beauty of the Peaks district, and, at dinner at the inn at Lambton, the Gardiners suggest a trip to Pemberley--large private estates were often open to the public. Elizabeth is reluctant at first. Mrs. Gardiner mentions that Wickham grew up there, believing that Elizabeth has a high regard for him. After assuring Elizabeth that invitations are not required, that the exterior grounds are spectacular, and that Darcy will be away, Elizabeth agrees to go.
When they see the estate, they are awed by its splendor. The Gardiners say that "I think one would be willing to put up with a good deal to be mistress of Pemberley." "The mistress of Pemberley will have to put up with a good deal, from what I hear." (referring to the negative things they have heard.) "She's not likely to be anyone we know." not realizing that that person is actually sitting in the carriage with them.
The housekeeper gives them a tour. Elizabeth goes to a window, sees the magnificent view of the grounds, and says quietly to herself "Of all this I might have been mistress."
The housekeeper heaps great praise upon Darcy, saying that she has known him and Wickham since they were four years old, and that "They that are good-natured when they are children are good-natured when they grow up." Darcy is a very kind person, but Wickham has "turned out very wild." Elizabeth's view of Darcy is beginning to change.
Darcy travels up to Pemberley, still in a state of distress over Elizabeth's rejection. A number of companions, including Bingley and Georgiana, will be arriving the next day. Before going to the house, he stops at a pond and goes in for a brief swim. He is fully clothed, in keeping with the mores of the day. This scene is very famous for showing Colin Firth in wet clothes. It has no counterpart in the book.
As he is walking toward the house, he unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth. They are both tongue-tied. They exchange awkward pleasantries, and then he excuses himself and continues into the house.
Elizabeth has found the encounter upsetting, and, when the Gardiners arrive, tells them that they all need to leave. Meanwhile, Darcy has raced into the house, changed into dry clothes as quickly a possible, and run out again, hoping to meet Elizabeth properly. He realizes that this is probably his last chance to try repair the damage in Elizabeth's opinion of him. He manages to find the three of them, and is completely friendly and charming, a complete reversal from his previously cold and reserved behavior. He asks Elizabeth to do him the honor of introducing the other two people. When he learns that Mrs. Gardiner grew up in Lambton, they talk about the town, including a particular tree that they were both familiar with. He invites Mr. Gardiner to come back and go fishing with him. He tells Elizabeth that the rest of his party, arriving the next day, includes Mr. Bingley, and also his sister Georgiana, whom he would like to introduce. The whole encounter is completely pleasant.
The three visitors return to Lambton, with a very changed view of Mr. Darcy.