The next evening, Mr. Collins and the girls go to the Phillips' house for a dinner party.
Mr. Wickham sits beside Elizabeth at dinner and they really hit it off.
Lydia has her eye on him, too, but the game of whist ends up being more attractive. For the moment.
Mr. Wickham explains that he's known the Darcy family since he was a baby.
Elizabeth says that Darcy isn't too popular in these parts, and Wickham basically says, "Can you keep a secret?"
Well, obviously. Here's the gossip:
Wickham hasn't brought up to be in the military or even to have a job at all, but circumstances now dictate that he must.
Translation: he was supposed to be a gentleman, meaning that he didn't have to work for a living.
Clergymen were gentlemen too. (Sure, they technically had jobs, but most of them didn't work very hard. They left all that to their curates.)
So, Wickham was supposed to be a clergyman, and Mr. Darcy's father promised him the "living" on the Darcy estate.
Quick Brain Snack: the "living" of an estate was the church on an estate. Every major estate would have one, and some would have multiple. Wickham says that the elder Mr. Darcy promised him the "next presentation of the best living in his gift" (16.24), which implies that he had more than one. An estate owner could give the living to whoever he wanted; usually, it went to some sort of family member.
Anyway, the younger Mr. Darcy didn't honor the request, for reasons Wickham can't explain. According to Wickham, Darcy hates him.
Whoa! says Elizabeth. Somebody should expose Mr. Darcy for the awful man that he is.
Mr. Wickham won't do it; he has too much respect for the senior Mr. Darcy's memory.
But Darcy's sister is just as bad as her brother.
So, why does Mr. Bingley like him so much?
Maybe he doesn't know the truth, Mr. Wickham says. Mr. Darcy can please people if he tries.
Oh, and BTW, Lady Catherine is Mr. Darcy's aunt. Wickham says that Mr. Darcy will marry Lady Catherine's daughter, so that they can merge the two estates.
Lizzy gloats a little, thinking about how Miss Bingley keeps macking on Mr. Darcy.
And it looks like someone is developing a little crush on Wickham.