Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1466
Mrs. Bennet begins to make plans for Lydia to move into the neighborhood with her new husband, but she cannot think of a nearby house that meets her grand expectations for her daughter. Mr. Bennet interrupts to tell her that Lydia and Wickham are never to enter Longbourn again and that he will not offer Lydia any money for wedding clothes. Mrs. Bennet appears more horrified by this announcement than the actual elopement. Now that the situation has been largely resolved, Elizabeth begins to regret revealing Lydia’s indiscretions to Mr. Darcy. She is quite certain that Darcy could have made her happy, yet she is keenly aware that his proposal—which she would now eagerly accept—is not likely to be repeated in light of Lydia’s scandalous elopement.
Mr. Gardiner writes again to tell Mr. Bennet that Wickham plans to transfer to a new regiment in the north, far away from their area of the country. Colonel Forster has been asked to pay off Wickham’s creditors in Brighton, and Mr. Bennet is asked to pay off the creditors in Meryton. Lydia has also asked to see her family once more before heading north. Mr. Bennet initially denies this request, but Elizabeth and Jane convince him to allow her and Wickham home one final time before she departs for the north.
The newly married Lydia finally arrives at Longbourn with her husband in tow. She is as loud and unabashed as ever, demanding congratulations from each sister. Even Jane is shocked by Lydia’s obliviousness, considering the circumstances. Lydia wonders aloud if people know that she is married, explaining how she’d made sure to take off her glove to show off her ring when she entered town. Elizabeth is so annoyed with her sister’s brazen behavior that she has to leave the room. She returns in time to hear Lydia saying that her sisters must all envy her and that she hopes they can find half of her luck. Lydia tells her mother that when they all come to visit her, a couple of sisters should stay behind so that she can find husbands for them. Elizabeth responds that she doesn’t especially like the way Lydia finds husbands.
After observing the new couple, Elizabeth is certain that Wickham’s affections toward Lydia do not equal her sister’s toward him. Lydia asks whether Elizabeth wants to hear about her wedding, and Elizabeth replies that she believes that “there cannot be too little said on the subject.” Lydia proceeds to give her all the details anyway and happens to mention that Mr. Darcy was there. Elizabeth is astounded, and Lydia, realizing she has let something slip, explains that it was supposed to be a secret and she can speak of it no further. Elizabeth is burning with curiosity as to why Darcy should have been present at Lydia and Wickham’s wedding, and she decides to write to her aunt to determine how this came to be.
Elizabeth receives a reply from Mrs. Gardiner, who says she found Mr. Darcy and her husband in a meeting upon her return from Longbourn. Darcy was distressed about Lydia’s situation and believed himself to be responsible, as he had failed to make Wickham’s deceptive nature known to the community. Trying to remedy an evil which he believed he had caused, Darcy tracked Wickham and Lydia down. He tried to convince Lydia to return home, she was determined to remain with Wickham. Darcy then met with Wickham multiple times to determine how to settle the situation. Wickham had at first requested an unreasonable amount of money...
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to marry Lydia, but eventually Darcy negotiated him to a reasonable sum, which he paid Wickham himself. Darcy wished his involvement to remain unknown, and so he convinced Mr. Gardiner to take the credit for finding the couple and resolving the matter. Mrs. Gardiner writes that Elizabeth’s letter—and apparent discovery of Mr. Darcy’s involvement—has pleased Mr. Gardiner, who wishes to give praise where it is due and not take undeserved credit. In the end, Darcy settled over a thousand pounds of Wickham’s debts, paid another thousand to settle on Lydia, and purchased Wickham’s new commission.
Mrs. Gardiner tells Elizabeth that she tried to impress upon Lydia the wickedness of her actions, but Lydia would not listen. Mr. Darcy attended the wedding, and Mrs. Gardiner expresses to Elizabeth much she likes the man. After reading the letter, Elizabeth is filled with mixed emotions. She is flabbergasted that Darcy willingly entered into negotiations with a man whom he detests on behalf of a girl he does not respect, and she suspects that he may have been motivated, at least in part, by his feelings for her. She is humbled by her past ungracious behavior toward him and is now proud of his compassion and honor. Suddenly, Wickham enters the room, and asks Elizabeth about Darcy and his sister. Throughout their conversation, Elizabeth hints that she knows the truth about Wickham and Darcy’s past, which leaves Wickham very uncomfortable; in the end, she tells him they need not “quarrel about the past” for they are brother and sister now.
News arrives that Mr. Bingley will soon be returning to Netherfield, and Mrs. Bennet is hopeful for Jane, though she pretends to be indifferent to his return. Jane insists to Elizabeth that Bingley’s impending arrival means nothing to her, but Elizabeth can tell that her spirits are disturbed. Mrs. Bennet begs her husband to visit Bingley upon his arrival, but he calls the effort a “fool’s errand” and refuses. Only three days after he reportedly arrives in town, Bingley visits Longbourn with Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet receives Darcy coldly and Bingley with warm affection, much to the embarrassment of Elizabeth, who knows that Darcy has saved Lydia’s and the family’s reputation. Mrs. Bennet asks whether Bingley has seen Lydia’s wedding announcement; Bingley acknowledges that he has and offers his congratulations. Mrs. Bennet then reminds Bingley that he never fulfilled his promise to dine at Longbourn and insists that he and Darcy have dinner with the family soon.
Elizabeth is left feeling confused after Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy depart, and she wonders why Darcy was so silent and distant. Jane is in better spirits, having convinced herself that she can meet Bingley neutrally as an “indifferent acquaintance.” However, when Darcy and Bingley finally dine at Longbourn, Bingley places himself by Jane, and Elizabeth is certain that their feelings for one another are as strong as ever judging by their interactions. Darcy avoids Elizabeth for the most part. This makes her angry until she remembers that it was she who rejected his proposal and that it would be odd for him to risk further injury by seeking her out. She finally finds the resolve to engage him in a conversation about his sister, but their interaction is brief. When the two men leave, Mrs. Bennet is thrilled with the success of the dinner.
Mr. Bingley visits the Bennet family again a few days later, and Mrs. Bennet invites him to dine with them. He apologizes for having other engagements and assures them that he would love to visit another time. A meeting is set up for the following day. The next morning, he arrives so early that none of the girls are dressed, and Mrs. Bennet is aflutter as she tries to get Jane speedily prepared for her visitor. Bingley spends the entire day with the family and makes arrangements to visit again the following morning to shoot with Mr. Bennet.
After Bingley and Mr. Bennet return from shooting the next day, Elizabeth finds Jane and Bingley engaged in a warm conversation, which they quickly turn away from when she enters. After whispering a few words to Jane, Bingley leaves, and Jane tells her sister that she is the happiest creature in the world. Bingley has gone to their father to ask for Jane’s hand in marriage; Jane rushes to their mother with the news.
Elizabeth is thrilled for her sister, and after Bingley departs, Mr. Bennet tells Jane that she will be “a very happy woman” with him. Wickham and Lydia are already forgotten, and Jane quickly becomes Mrs. Bennet’s favorite child. Bingley is a daily visitor at Longbourn from this day forward, often coming before breakfast and remaining until after supper. Bingley apparently had no idea that Jane was in London the previous spring, for which Jane blames his sister. Though Jane is well aware that Bingley could have chosen a more advantageous wife, she hopes his family will be content with the match when they realize how happy he is.