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As a rector, Mr. Collins has a sufficient income and a good house. He visits Longbourn with the purpose of choosing one of the Bennet girls as a wife, "if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report". Jane’s lovely face attracts him, and she seems to be his "settled choice". Mrs. Bennet, however, makes it clear that Jane’s affections are pledged elsewhere. Mr. Collins then turns his attention to Elizabeth.
The sisters walk into Meryton, accompanied by Mr. Collins. They meet Mr. Denny, an officer, who introduces them to his colleague Mr. Wickham. He is a young man with a fine countenance and a good figure. The group encounters Bingley and Darcy, who are riding down the street on their way to Longbourn to inquire after Jane’s health. Darcy and Wickham seem flustered on seeing each other, exchanging a strange look. Darcy and Bingley ride on while Denny and Wickham escort the girls and Mr. Collins to Mrs. Philips’ house. Mrs. Philips promises to invite Wickham and the girls to dinner the next evening, which thrills the girls. On returning to Longbourn, Mr. Collins lavishes exaggerated praise on Mrs. Philips’ excellent manners and hospitality.
"Mr. Collins was not a sensible man". This statement by the author sets a factual seal on the opinion voiced earlier by Elizabeth and her father. The subsequent actions of Mr. Collins only confirm this view.
There is a marked change in Mrs. Bennet’s attitude towards Mr. Collins. It progresses from hostility to deference, as his position changes from the eventual inheritor of Longbourn to an available suitor for her daughter. At first Mrs. Bennet loathes him as the person who is going to snatch their property. When he makes it known that he is interested in marrying one of the Bennet girls, she warms to him, and "the man, whom she could not bear to speak of the day before, was now high in her good graces". She realizes that if one of her daughters marries Collins, Longbourn will remain in the immediate family. She and her daughters will not have to be displaced.
The appearance of Wickham is crucial for two reasons. First, he serves as a contrast to Darcy; and secondly, he is an important character in the working later working out of the plot. The accidental meeting of Darcy and Wickham is very dramatic, and Elizabeth immediately senses that something is wrong between the two. Her insight is, however, obstructed by her prejudice, and she is not able to see through Wickham and accepts all his accusations against Darcy at face value.