Mr. Collins, who has been visiting with the Bennets since the last chapter, is having a conversation with Mr. Bennet about Lady Catherine, whom he brags about, and her only daughter, a sickly girl, but nonetheless, a “bright ornament” according to Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet assures his cousin that he “possess the talent of flattery with delicacy,” and to himself believes his guest to be absolutely ridiculous just as he had expected.
The author makes clear that Mr. Collins is prematurely full of himself, and now that he is employed as a clergyman and has a home, he is searching for a wife - quite possibly one of the Bennet girls, except he has to make a quick selection change to Elizabeth when Mrs. Bennet tells him assuredly that Jane is probably going to be engaged very soon. Later, Mr. Collins attends four of the Bennet ladies in a walk to Meryton where they come upon two officers, Mr. Denny and a handsome Mr. Wickham. But who should be coming through town at the same moment, but Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy! And when they stop to greet the ladies, Elizabeth saw the whole exchange between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham in which both had a change of manner when they saw the other.
The following evening Mr. Collins attends the five Bennet girls to Meryton to have dinner with their uncle and aunt, who also invited Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth has the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Wickham, and she learns more than she could imagine, including: that Mr. Wickham had grown up under the guardianship of Mr. Darcy’s father, that the late Mr. Darcy had bestowed an inheritance upon him, though it was lost to him and given to another, that Mr. Darcy, the younger, had claimed Mr. Wickham to have sacrificed it through irresponsibility, and furthermore, that the same also hates him. In addition, Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy is the nephew of Lady Catherine, and that her sickly daughter is to marry Mr. Darcy. That night, Elizabeth returns home with her thoughts on the elegant Mr. Wickham.
Elizabeth shares with Jane all she had learned through Mr. Wickham, and naturally Jane cannot believe that any of this can be true, as she cannot understand how Bingley, a man of good character, would know it and still remain amiable with Mr. Darcy. In the meantime, Bingley invites the Bennet girls to a ball at Netherfield, and Elizabeth figures out that she has become the object of Mr. Collins choice for marriage. Yikes!