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There is an omnipresent gloom over Hertfordshire as the regiment’s stay in Meryton is coming to an end. Kitty and Lydia are wretched, and their mother shares their grief. Elizabeth is ashamed of their behavior and realizes again the truth of Darcy’s denunciations.
Elizabeth is worried about Lydia’s trip to Brighton with Mr. Foster; she is afraid that Lydia will behave in an unguarded, flippant, flirtatious, and wayward manner, damaging her reputation and the reputation of the Bennet family. Elizabeth, therefore, strongly advises her father not to allow Lydia to go; but her pleas fall on deaf ears.
On the regiment’s last day in Meryton, Wickham and some other officers dine at Longbourn. Elizabeth tells Wickham that she has visited with Darcy and Fitzwilliam, which seems to alarm Wickham. He is also baffled by Elizabeth’s sudden reversal of opinion about Darcy and says that Darcy is always on his best behavior when he is staying with his aunt, Lady Catherine, whom he fears.
The gloom that pervades Hertfordshire over the regiment’s departure is a comment on the nature of life in small, English country towns. The regiment has brought a breath of fresh air to their boring small-town existence; their departure implies the return to boredom and a narrow cycle of routine life.
Mrs. Bennet identifies with the beautiful, brainless, and flirtatious Lydia; one can only assume she was exactly like Lydia in her youth. Like Lydia, she grows sad when the regiment prepares to leave; she does not want to return to boredom. She easily grants permission for Lydia to go to Brighton for summer vacation and even suggests that Mr. Bennet take the rest of the family there for a while. Mr. Bennet has no intention of going to Brighton; neither does he try to stop Lydia from going, in spite of Elizabeth’s warnings. Caught between an over-indulgent mother and an uninvolved father, the Bennet girls are in a sad plight.
Elizabeth deliberately brings up Darcy in her conversation with Wickham; his discomfiture confirms to Elizabeth the veracity of Darcy’s account. She is now beginning to understand the real Darcy, accepting him as good rather than being prejudiced against him as evil. When Wickham questions her about her change of heart, she remarks that Darcy "improves on acquaintance".