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Elizabeth is certain that the mercenary Wickham will not marry the penniless Lydia, a fact which makes matters worse. Elizabeth tells the Gardiners that Lydia knows nothing of Wickham’s despicable past and lacks the good sense and strength of character to judge him appropriately on her own.
When Elizabeth arrives home, there has been no word from Lydia, and Mr. Bennet, in London, has had no luck finding her. Mrs. Bennet, in hysterics, blames everyone for her suffering. She is still blind to the fact that her over-indulgence with Lydia is the principal cause of her daughter’s disgrace. To add to the misery at the Bennets, Lady Lucas calls to ‘console’ them, when in reality she has come to gloat.
Lydia writes a letter to Mrs. Forster and says that she and Wickham are going to Gretna Green. Jane and Elizabeth read the letter and share its contents. Mr. Gardiner plans join Mr. Bennet to help in the search for Lydia.
When Elizabeth arrives at home, she finds things in turmoil. Her father is in London searching for Lydia, and Jane is running the house while her mother is "nursing her hysterics". The chapter clearly reveals the inability of Mrs. Bennet to function as a responsible mother. She has encouraged Lydia’s flirtatiousness in the first place, and now that the inevitable calamity has occurred, she is full of self-sympathy and hysteria. The misery of the Bennets is aggravated by the consolation of Lady Lucas, who seems to gain pleasure from rubbing salt on the Bennets’ wounds. In contrast, the Gardiners are genuinely helpful; Mr. Gardiner heads to London to join Mr. Bennet in the search for Lydia.