Gilbert is overjoyed that Helen is finally free of the burden of nursing a man who made her life a torment, but he does feel for Arthur. He and Frederick talk about the funeral. Frederick has been preparing for his journey while Gilbert read Helen’s letter, and he leaves almost immediately. Once he is gone, Gilbert sinks into melancholic reflection. He surmises that Helen no longer loves him. She mentioned him in her letters only once, and given the trauma of what she’s been through, he can’t imagine that she still feels for him what she once did.
Again, letters loom large in a narrative built around the written word. Gilbert had expected Helen to communicate with him through her brother, but without her encouraging words he loses faith, and whereas Helen places her faith in God, Gilbert places his in Helen and her love for him. Without concrete evidence of her regard, he doubts everything.
When Frederick returns, he says only that Helen was exhausted from her efforts. There is no talk of Helen asking after Gilbert at all, or even of her thinking of him. Gilbert assumes from his cold manner that Frederick would prefer he not marry his sister. Gilbert grows angry but endeavors to hide his feelings. He realizes later that Frederick’s reserve was not a result of any dislike or animosity toward Gilbert, but of his thinking he and Helen poorly matched, and of Frederick’s probably mistaking Gilbert’s attempts at coolness for the real thing. Gilbert vows to be patient and to respect her wish of not writing to her until six months have elapsed. He has ten more weeks to go.
Throughout the novel, Gilbert has allowed his sensitivity and defensiveness to get in the way of his understanding. He comes to the conclusion that Frederick in reality has no animosity toward him only after the fact. In the moment, he allows his anger to get the better of him, much like he did months before when he confused the terms of Frederick and Helen’s relationship.
Soon after Arthur’s death, Helen experiences another loss. Her beloved uncle Mr. Maxwell dies, and she leaves Grassdale for Staningley so she can be of service to her aunt. Gilbert is in an agony of frustration. While Helen is at Staningley, he cannot write to her—he must wait until she returns home. Frederick joins his family at Staningley and then on a trip to the seaside. When he returns, he is just as reserved as ever, and Gilbert takes offense at his attitude. He admits to Halford that he and Frederick do not get on well—they seem too touchy to be long-lasting friends. They do not see each other for a while after this meeting, and the next time they cross paths, Frederick seeks out Gilbert before traveling again to Staningley.
During all these months of waiting on Helen to return, Gilbert rarely mentions his work as a farmer. Instead, he seems to spend all his time reading Helen’s letters, visiting Helen’s brother, and wishing Helen would write to him. Without the healthy distraction of work to occupy him, Gilbert grows morbid, self-pitying, and useless.
Gilbert can sense that Frederick is trying to give him an opportunity to send a message to Helen, but Gilbert says nothing out of pride. He lets Frederick leave without taking a message, and, while he regrets his stubbornness, he cannot change it.
It is this state of mind that prevents Gilbert from reaching out to Helen. His hurt pride is also seemingly a direct result of his lack of real employment.
Gilbert takes this moment to acquaint Halford with the fates of Lady Lowborough, Lord Lowborough, Hattersley, and Grimsby. Lady Lowborough, it seems, eloped with a roguish gentleman. They fought and parted, and rumor has it she died a pauper. Lord Lowborough acquired a divorce and married a woman known not for her beauty or charms but her goodness. They were incredibly happy together by all accounts. Hattersley remained true to his resolution to be a good father and husband, and he and Milicent were likewise very content. Grimsby kept to the same crooked path he was on before, and died in a brawl.
Each of these characters gets what he or she deserves based on previous behavior. Lady Lowborough and Grimsby are villains, so they have unhappy ends. Lord Lowborough and Hattersley are good, so they receive happy fates. By rewarding the just and punishing the wicked, Brontë invests her novel with a clear moral—do good to others and you will be rewarded both in this life and the next.