Elizabeth receives two letters from Jane regarding their sister, Lydia, who has supposedly run off with Mr. Wickham to marry, and their whereabouts are unknown; Jane has asked that Elizabeth come home immediately. Elizabeth is thinking she shall never see Mr. Darcy again on such good terms as she has these last few days, as she heads for Longbourn with her aunt and uncle.
Mr. Bennet and Colonel Forester are already out tracing the steps of Lydia and Mr. Wickham, with no word yet of any success, while Elizabeth laments that she should not have kept what she learned of Mr. Wickham’s character a secret. But what does it matter when Lydia has been allowed to be idle and amuse herself in such silly ways, searching for love and affection from anyone who will give her attention?
Now the town of Meryton has nothing good to say of Wickham, alleging him to be in debt, and Colonel Forester believes more than a thousand pounds is required to cover his obligations at Brighton; it is discovered that he was involved in gaming. Meanwhile, a letter from Mr. Collins arrives addressed to Mr. Bennet, although read by Jane and Elizabeth, that he has shared this matter with Lady Catherine and her daughter, and they agree that this disastrous affair involving Lydia will be detrimental to future fortunes of the other Bennet girls. Finally, Mr. Bennet returns home unsuccessful and is content to take the blame for all this folly.
Another letter arrives, this time to Mr. Bennet from his brother-in-law, Mr. Gardiner, and he has found the pair in London and has taken Lydia into his care. The two have not been married, but Wickham has agreed to do so, and the circumstances regarding his debts are not as they were supposed. Then it is considered that Mr. Gardiner must have paid his debts for him, and Elizabeth and Jane are astounded and grateful to him. Elizabeth reflects on the truth of their marriage,
“How strange this is! And for this we are to be thankful. That they should marry, small as is their chance of happiness, and wretched as is his character, we are forced to rejoice!”