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When she responds to Elizabeth’s letter, Mrs. Gardiner is surprised that Elizabeth does not know the truth about the Wickham marriage. She informs Elizabeth that Darcy had found Lydia and bribed Wickham to marry her. Darcy then made Mr. Gardiner promise that he would conceal this information and take the credit for having paid Wickham. Elizabeth is overwhelmed by Darcy’s kindness and finds it hard to believe that he has done all this. She assumes that his involvement has sprung from his sense of responsibility for Wickham.
Wickham confronts Elizabeth and tries to find out if she knows the truth about his relationship with Darcy. Elizabeth is evasive and cynical in her vague response and succeeds in getting rid of him quickly.
Elizabeth is shocked to learn from Mrs. Gardiner that it was Darcy who found Lydia and paid Wickham to marry her. She feels deeply indebted to Darcy; at the same time, she is so ashamed of her family that she wishes she had not confided in him.
It should be noted that Elizabeth is a fiercely independent woman who has never wanted to be under obligation to anyone, especially not to someone she loves. In the past, she has thought that her relation with Darcy was unequal because of the disparity in their social status. Now the balance is further tipped by Elizabeth’s sense of indebtedness to Darcy.
In this chapter, the reader sees a contrast to the first scene between Elizabeth and Wickham. Wickham’s is no longer boastful to Elizabeth, for he is aware that she knows the shameful truth about him.