Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 753
Elizabeth spends the night in Jane’s room and sends for her mother early the next morning. After arriving with Lydia and Kitty in tow, Mrs. Bennet decides that Jane is in no real danger and secretly hopes that Jane recovers slowly so that her stay at Netherfield will be extended. For his part, Mr. Bingley won’t hear of sending Jane home in her condition, and Caroline Bingley stiffly agrees. As the group converses, Darcy offers a quip about the lack of variety among people in the country. Mrs. Bennet takes offense, embarrassing Elizabeth and prompting her to defend Darcy’s comment. Desperate to change the subject, Elizabeth asks her mother whether Charlotte has visited Longbourn recently; however, this only prompts Mrs. Bennet to rudely remark that Charlotte is “very plain” compared to Jane.
As Mrs. Bennet and her youngest daughters prepare to leave, Lydia steps forward and recommends that Mr. Bingley host a ball at Netherfield. Bingley tells her that as soon as Jane is recovered, she can set the date for the ball herself.
Elizabeth attends to Jane and then joins the party downstairs, where Mr. Darcy is attempting to pen a letter to his sister, though he is regularly interrupted by Caroline Bingley, who relentlessly praises his writing. The group’s discussion turns to how the appearance of humility is sometimes a pretense that allows for an “indirect boast,” and Elizabeth and Darcy verbally spar once again. Later, Elizabeth notices that Darcy seems to be watching her with interest—though she doubts it is because he admires her. For his part, Darcy thinks that he has never met a woman so bewitching as Elizabeth. Caroline notices Darcy’s attentions toward Elizabeth, and her jealousy makes her wish for Jane’s speedy recovery. The next day, Caroline corners Darcy to joke about the absurd future that awaits should he marry into the Bennet family.
After dinner, Jane is feeling well enough to join the party downstairs for a while; Mr. Bingley is focused solely on her needs and speaks little to anyone else. Caroline overhears her brother mentioning an upcoming ball to Jane, and she wonders aloud whether he should consult the rest of the Netherfield party before planning such an event, as some of them may find such a “tedious” event more painful than pleasurable. She then rises to walk about the room, hoping that her fine figure might catch the eye of Mr. Darcy. When he doesn’t look up from his book, she asks Elizabeth to join her. Elizabeth does so, which does draw Darcy’s attention. When Caroline asks Darcy to walk around the room with them, he declines, saying that the only reason the two of them walk together is to either discuss some “secret affair” or to show off their figures—either way, he jests, it is best for him to remain seated. When Elizabeth suggests they laugh at him as punishment for his comment, the conversation turns to Darcy’s character flaws. Darcy dismisses Elizabeth’s teasing suggestion that he would claim to have no faults at all, acknowledging that he has a temper and finds it difficult to forgive people who have wronged him: once he loses a good opinion of someone, it is lost forever. When Darcy reflects that everyone has some defect of character, Elizabeth quips that his is to hate everyone; he replies that hers is to willfully misunderstand everyone.
The next morning, Elizabeth writes to ask her mother to send a carriage for her and Jane, but her mother refuses, having planned for Jane to stay away a full week. Certain they will be intruding if they remain any longer, Elizabeth requests Mr. Bingley’s carriage, and it is decided that they will depart the following morning. Mr. Darcy is relieved that the women will be departing, as he is unnerved by his growing attraction to Elizabeth and finds Caroline’s lack of civility toward her tiresome. When the sisters finally arrive home, their father is thankful they have finally returned, but Mrs. Bennet does not offer them a warm welcome since they have disrupted her plans. Catching up on all they have missed, the older sisters learn that Mary has spent her days studying human nature, while Catherine and Lydia have been visiting the officers stationed in Meryton. They are brimming with gossip about the militia, and share a rumor that Colonel Forster, a leader in the militia, will soon be married.
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