Now that Mr. Collins has a good house and a good income, he intends to marry. His plan is to choose one of the Bennet daughters; this is his method of "atoning" for inheriting their father's estate.
He is interested in Jane, but Mrs. Bennet lets him know that Jane is likely to soon be engaged, so he quickly switches his affections to Elizabeth.
Mr. Collins accompanies all the girls, minus Mary, on a walk to Meryton.
While in Meryton, the girls get excited about a young soldier walking across the other side of the street with another soldier they know, Mr. Denny. The stranger is handsome, charming, and self-possessed.
The girls are soon introduced. His name is Mr. Wickham and he has accepted a commission in the corps stationed there in town.
As the girls are talking to him, Darcy and Bingley approach them on horseback. The two gentlemen begin talking to the ladies. Mr. Bingley is on his way to Longbourn to inquire after Jane.
Mr. Darcy is trying to avoid looking at Elizabeth when he notices Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth observes the two men exchange glances – both of them changing color (one picks white and the other one picks red). They barely acknowledge each other with a tip of the hat.
The girls proceed to their aunt's house. Mr. Wickham and Mr. Denny continue on their way. The girls gossip with their aunt, named Mrs. Phillips, about Mr. Wickham.
Elizabeth tells Jane about Darcy and Wickham's behavior, but Jane can't explain it either.