Chapter 12: Jane and Elizabeth return home in Bingley's carriage; Darcy is glad to see Elizabeth go, fearing that she has realised that he likes her.
Chapter 13: Mr. Bennet reads a letter from his cousin, Mr. Collins, who will inherit the Longbourn estate and who is expected there that day. He introduces himself as a clergyman who has recently acquired the patronage of a Lady Catherine de Burgh. Since the death of his father, who had fallen out with Mr. Bennet, he hopes that the two families can be reunited. He writes pompously and condescendingly. On his arrival Mr. Collins hints that he intends to choose a wife from among the Bennet sisters.
Chapter 14: After dinner, Mr. Bennet draws out his guest on the subject of his patroness. He praises her extravagantly, adding that she has a daughter whose ill-health has prevented her socialising much.
Chapter 15: Mr. Collins hints to Mrs. Bennet that he hopes to choose Jane as his wife; she tells him that she is likely to become engaged soon; he promptly transfers his choice to Elizabeth. The girls (with Mr. Collins) walk to Meryton where they meet some of the officers and are introduced to another, Mr. Wickham, whom they all like immediately. Bingley and Darcy arrive, but react dramatically when they see Mr. Wickham and withdraw at once. The Longbourn party moves on to visit the girls' aunt Philips, who invites them all to a party the next evening.
Chapter 16: At the Philips's Elizabeth and Wickham fall into conversation. He explains to her why he and Darcy met so awkwardly the day before: his father was Darcy's father's steward and he himself grew up at Pemberly, Darcy's estate. Darcy's father had promised to set him up as a clergyman, but he died before this could happen, and Darcy refused to honour his father's promise. Wickham claims that this was out of dislike and jealousy; Elizabeth sympathises with him that his status in life has been so drastically reduced. Wickham also tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine de Burgh is Darcy's aunt and that he is expected to marry her daughter. He also gives a report of Darcy's much younger sister as equal to her brother in pride.
Chapter 17: Elizabeth repeats to Jane what Wickham has told her. Bingley arrives to invite them all to the promised ball at Netherfield; Mr. Collins immediately asks Elizabeth to dance the first two dances with him, from which she begins to suspect that he may propose to her.
Chapter 18: At the ball Elizabeth is disappointed to find that Wickham is not there and hears that he has stayed away in order to avoid Darcy. This increases her dislike of him and determination not to be pleasant to him. Darcy, however, asks her to dance. They struggle for conversation and Elizabeth finds refuge in barbed banter. Miss Bingley approaches Elizabeth to contradict Wickham's report of Darcy's cruelty to which Elizabeth replies disdainfully. Mr. Collins introduces himself to Darcy because of the de Burgh connection, which embarrasses Elizabeth. Her family then humiliate her futher: Mrs. Bennet talks openly about her conviction that Jane and Bingley will soon be married and Mary, the studious sister, shows off at the piano. The Longbourn party is the last to leave. Mrs. Bennet returns home, complacent in the thought of soon having two daughters married.
Chapter 19: Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth; he will not accept her refusal, convinced that she is merely following fashion by showing reluctance and confident that he will succeed in the end.
Chapter 20: Mrs. Bennet is furious when she hears that Elizabeth has turned Mr. Collins down and appeals to Mr. Bennet to use his influence on her. He supports her refusal, leaving his wife to attempt to persuade Elizabeth to accept him. When it becomes clear that she is adamant, Mr.Collins withdraws his proposal.
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