Gilbert is walking home from the vicarage, where, in order to satisfy his mother, he’d been paying a call on the Reverend Millward, when Eliza approaches him and asks if she might accompany him on his walk. She would like to see Rose, as she has some interesting news to impart. Gilbert asks her what she has heard, and she gladly complies. She has heard that Helen Graham is to be married. Gilbert, while not believing her report, asks who the rumored bridegroom is to be. A Walter Hargrave, perhaps? Eliza answers in the affirmative. Gilbert tells her she is wrong—it’s impossible—but he makes his mind up that night to go to Grassdale and learn the truth himself. If he needs to, he will save Helen from making such a terrible mistake.
This scene mirrors the one in which Gilbert mistook Frederick’s brotherly affection for Helen for a lover’s embrace. Having read Helen’s confusing and contradictory diary entries about Walter Hargrave, there is a tiny part of him that thinks Eliza Millward could be telling the truth. That he should still doubt Helen at this point says more about his character than hers.
It’s a long, snowy journey, but eventually Gilbert makes it to the small country church where a wedding is indeed taking place—not between Helen and Walter, but between Esther and Frederick. Frederick is as shocked to see Gilbert as Gilbert is to see his friend, but both are completely happy, Frederick because of his bride and Gilbert because of the knowledge that Helen is not marrying Walter after all. After Frederick and Esther leave for their honeymoon in Paris, Gilbert wonders why Frederick kept his romance a secret. Perhaps he didn’t want to depress Gilbert by talking too much about his own happiness.
The weather during Gilbert’s journey represents the storm brewing in his mind. He cannot abide the thought that he could lose his beloved Helen to Walter Hargrave. His thoughts are jumbled; he is filled with dread. Finding Frederick and Esther at the altar adds to the confusion, but it also continues Brontë’s theme of good people being rewarded with true love. Esther and Frederick clearly deserve the reward of each other.