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Elizabeth is uneasy over Lady Catherine's visit, ridiculous though it was. She speculates that the news of Jane's engagement to Bingley, traveling swiftly from Lucas Lodge to Hunsford parsonage to Rosings, must have given rise to the assumption that Elizabeth would become engaged to Bingley's friend.
Elizabeth has no doubt that Lady Catherine means to persist in her interference. The question is how much influence she has over Darcy. How fond is he of his aunt? How much does he depend on her judgment? He must have a higher opinion of Lady Catherine than Elizabeth has, and the very arguments that to her seemed ridiculous might have far more force with him, she reasons.
Elizabeth knows that Darcy wavered before first proposing to her. With his aunt loudly restating all the reasons why he shouldn't marry into the Bennet family, won't he choose to preserve his dignity at the expense of his love? Elizabeth decides that if Darcy sends some excuse instead of returning to Netherfield, she will take that as a sign. She will give up all expectations, and soon she will even stop regretting that she lost him-or so she tells herself.
Her father summons her to his study. He says he has something to show her that will surely amuse her, a letter from Mr. Collins. The letter begins with congratulations on Jane's engagement, then goes on to warn Mr. Bennet most seriously that he should on no account allow Elizabeth to accept a proposal from Darcy. The idea of Darcy proposing to Elizabeth strikes Mr. Bennet as a towering joke. Mr. Collins goes on to say that Lady Catherine would never consent to such a match.
At last Mr. Bennet notices that Elizabeth does not seem to be enjoying the joke. "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?" he asks. Elizabeth tries to laugh. Her father then asks why Lady Catherine called. Was it to refuse her consent?
Elizabeth brushes this guess aside with another laugh, but it is too close for comfort. She goes away wondering about her own judgment. Her father is so sharp in his observations, and yet he believes it impossible that Darcy could be attracted to her. Does her father see too little? She wonders. Or has she been imagining too much?