Soon after, Kitty and Lydia Bennet are thrilled to learn that a military regiment is being stationed in Meryton. They make frequent visits to Mrs. Philips to learn all they can about the officers. Mr. Bennet dismisses the girls as incredibly silly.
Compared to gentlemen like Bingley and Darcy, military officers offered a slightly less but still respectable option for marrying.
A letter arrives to Jane from Caroline Bingley inviting her to visit. Mrs. Bennet schemes to send Jane on horseback, even though it will rain, so that she will have to spend the night at Netherfield.
Mrs. Bennet is so desperate to get Jane married to a wealthy man that she's willing to risk her daughter's health by denying her shelter from the storm.
The next morning, Jane sends Elizabeth a letter explaining that she caught a bad cold in the storm. Elizabeth walks the three miles to Netherfield to care for Jane, arriving dirty and tired. Caroline later mocks Elizabeth's appearance, but Darcy is moved by the glow of exercise on Elizabeth's face. Jane's condition soon worsens and Elizabeth is invited to stay at Netherfield too.
While Elizabeth displays great loyalty to her sister, her appearance strikes Bingley's sisters as undignified. Darcy might have thought the same thing before, but now his view of Elizabeth is influenced by his growing feelings for her.