Mr. Collins has come to Longbourn with a plan to marry one of the Bennet sisters. He believes that doing so will atone for the injustice of his taking over their inheritance. He privately tells Mrs. Bennet his intentions, and she redirects his target from Jane, whom she hopes will marry Bingley, to Elizabeth. Mr. Collins obligingly agrees to shift his focus.
Mr. Collins' plan falls far short of providing the Bennet girls with any kind of self-determination. In addition, though he poses as a man of convictions, his love interest can change in the blink of an eye.
Mr. Collins joins the Bennet sisters in a walk to Meryton. There, everyone's attention is captured by a striking and unfamiliar young man: Mr. Wickham, who just accepted a post in the regiment. Wickham's conversation is friendly and lively.
Wickham is a master of first impressions. As such, he tests Elizabeth's belief that she can see through lies and falseness to uncover the truth in things.
Just then, Bingley and Darcy come up the street and stop to chat. When Darcy and Wickham see each other, each man recoils in shock. Elizabeth wonders how they know each other. Mr. Collins and the Bennet sisters then go to visit Mrs. Philips who invites them to dinner the next night. The girls convince her to invite Wickham too.
Austen creates tension here: the details Elizabeth most wants to know are the one she can't ask about, out of politeness. At this point, Elizabeth seems to like Wickham in part because he causes Darcy discomfort.