The engagement settled, Bingley comes to visit often. Jane learns that he had no idea that she was in London over the winter, and she realizes that his sisters were attempting to keep him away from her. Meanwhile, the neighborhood agrees that the Bennets are extremely fortunate in their daughter’s marriage.
Elizabeth’s realization that Darcy is “exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her” is ironic, since she not only rejected his marriage proposal earlier but did so in a manner that made it clear that she despised him. To Elizabeth, the irony is obvious: “she became jealous of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be benefited by it . . . she wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of gaining intelligence.” Her feelings toward Darcy are now what his were toward her earlier; she assumes that he has changed his mind and that her change of heart has come too late. For even if Darcy were still interested in her, Lydia’s elopement seems likely to have destroyed any chance of his proposing again. The Lydia-Wickham affair serves as a reminder of Darcy’s original objection to marrying Elizabeth, and Elizabeth believes that he must certainly consider it a symptom of the poor breeding of her family and an example of the embarrassment that association with her family would bring him.
While Elizabeth’s hope of Darcy’s still loving her slowly grows in these chapters, the reader receives hints all along that Darcy’s feelings for her have not altered. He has paid for Lydia’s wedding, and the insightful Mrs. Gardiner, who provides levelheaded analyses of situations at various points in the novel, can think of only one reason for him to do so. Elizabeth’s instincts tell her the same thing: “Her heart did whisper, that he had done it for her.” Nevertheless, she insists on squashing that whisper, as her embarrassment about Lydia and her sense of Darcy’s pride compel her to the assumption that Darcy would never connect himself with her family, especially now that the odious Wickham is her brother-in-law.
The happy conclusion to Bingley’s courtship of Jane suggests that Darcy no longer cares about the Bennet sisters’ low social status. As evidence that Darcy has overcome this important obstacle at least to some, he now does nothing to dissuade his friend from tying himself to a disreputable family. Whereas Darcy previously disrupted the romance between Bingley and Jane in order to protect his friend’s social status, he now allows their love to triumph over their class difference, despite Lydia’s elopement scandal, which he could easily have used as an excuse to distance himself and his friends from the Bennets. Austen does not allow Elizabeth to assume anything from Jane’s engagement, but the reader is allowed to assume that another wedding will follow.