Chapters 24–26 Summary
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 826
Caroline Bingley sends another letter to Jane, assuring her that the Bingley family will remain in London for the entire winter. Caroline mentions Georgiana Darcy’s beauty again and writes that she is overjoyed to see Georgiana and Mr. Bingley becoming increasingly intimate. Jane is left confused. Determined to think the best of Caroline, she reasons that if Bingley had felt true affection for her, his sisters would not risk his happiness by pushing him toward Georgiana. Elizabeth is convinced that Jane is “too good” and argues that Bingley’s happiness is not necessarily all that his friends are considering—perhaps they want Bingley to marry a girl of wealth or great connections. Jane agrees that the family clearly wishes for Bingley to marry Georgiana Darcy over her, but she insists that they wouldn’t have allowed this preference to overrule any true affection Bingley had for Jane.
At Jane’s request, Elizabeth stops bringing up Bingley altogether. Mrs. Bennet, however, unintentionally tortures Jane by constantly referencing Bingley’s absence. Jane tries to convince Mrs. Bennet that Bingley’s affections were “transient” and faded when he no longer saw her. Meanwhile, Mr. Wickham continues to visit the Bennets, and Mr. Bennet teasingly suggests to Elizabeth that Wickham would make a fine match for her. Wickham’s personal history with Mr. Darcy eventually becomes public knowledge in Meryton, and general consensus in town is that Darcy is “the worst of men.”
Mr. Collins leaves to prepare for his wedding, and Mrs. Bennet’s brother and his wife arrive to spend Christmas at Longbourn. Unlike his sister, Mr. Gardiner is “sensible,” and his wife, Mrs. Gardiner, is “amiable, intelligent, [and] elegant,” enjoying a warm relationship with Jane and Elizabeth. As Mrs. Gardiner distributes presents and discusses the latest fashions, Mrs. Bennet complains about the near marriages of her eldest daughters.
Later in private, Mrs. Gardiner asks Elizabeth how strong Bingley’s love for Jane seemed to be. Elizabeth conveys that she had never seen a couple more promising, recalling that Bingley was wholly engrossed by Jane to the point of ignoring others entirely. Mrs. Gardiner remarks that Elizabeth could have handled such a jilting much better than Jane, as she would have been able to laugh about it sooner. Wanting to distract Jane from her misery, Mrs. Gardiner suggests that she return with them to London, noting that it is highly unlikely that Jane will run into Bingley during her visit since they maintain different social circles. Elizabeth believes this is an excellent idea and privately wonders whether Jane’s presence in London might recapture Bingley’s attention.
While staying with the Bennets, the perceptive Mrs. Gardiner picks up on Elizabeth’s fondness for Wickham, and she resolves to speak to Elizabeth regarding the “imprudence” of this match. Though Mrs. Gardiner believes Wickham’s lack of fortune makes him a poor choice for Elizabeth, she enjoys hearing his stories about Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate, which is near where she grew up.
At the next opportunity, Mrs. Gardiner cautions Elizabeth to not let her fancy run away with her regarding Wickham. Elizabeth informs her aunt that she is not presently in love with Mr. Wickham and does not wish to embarrass her father by making her affection obvious. Elizabeth hears her aunt’s advice without resentment, though she only promises to proceed with caution and good reason.
Mr. Collins prepares for his wedding, which is planned for Thursday. Charlotte drops by to say goodbye and invites Elizabeth to accompany Sir William Lucas when he travels to visit Charlotte in her new home in March. The wedding takes place, and Elizabeth finds it impossible to engage with her friend with the same confidence as before. Once settled in her new home, Charlotte writes of her happiness and comfort, conveying the friendly behavior of Lady Catherine.
Jane, meanwhile, has settled in London and writes to tell Elizabeth what has transpired since her arrival: Jane wrote to Caroline Bingley and after time passed with no reply, Jane believed the letter lost and called on Caroline personally instead. The visit was short and Caroline was rather cold, claiming to rarely see her brother. When Caroline finally called on Jane in return, it was clear that she “had no pleasure” in the visit, and she said nothing about wishing to see Jane in the future. Jane is afraid of judging others harshly but thinks that “there is a strong appearance of duplicity” in Caroline’s behavior. After reading Jane’s letter, Elizabeth feels that any lingering hopes Jane may have harbored for Bingley have likely vanished.
Mrs. Gardiner also writes to ask Elizabeth about Wickham; Elizabeth informs her aunt that his attentions seem to have shifted to Miss King, who has recently inherited ten thousand pounds. Elizabeth finds that she isn’t overly pained about his redirected affections, which tells her that she wasn’t in love with him herself.