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Mr. Collins reports in detail to Mrs. Bennet. He repeats that he is not discouraged by Elizabeth's refusal, but will continue to propose to her. Mrs. Bennet, however, knows Elizabeth and she is alarmed. Elizabeth is a headstrong girl, she says. She will command Elizabeth to accept him. Mr. Collins himself is alarmed at her choice of words. A headstrong girl is not the kind of wife he wants.
Charlotte Lucas comes to call as Mrs. Bennet is pouring out her disappointment to Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins withdraws his offer of marriage to Elizabeth once and for all. Charlotte, standing tactfully to one side, hears it all.
The story begins to move faster. Mr. Collins transfers his attentions to Charlotte, Mr. Wickham renews his attentions to Elizabeth, and Jane receives a goodbye note from Caroline Bingley. Miss Bingley implies that her brother will not return to Netherfield, and she expresses her hope that he will marry Darcy's sister Georgiana.
NOTE: The mood now becomes one of anxiety. Elizabeth tries to raise Jane's spirits with the argument that Miss Bingley is only expressing her own wishes, not her brother's. But privately she fears that Miss Bingley may win out and that Jane's hope of happiness will be dashed.
Mr. Collins sneaks out to Lucas Lodge and quickly accomplishes his mission. Charlotte is watching for him. As she expects, he makes his proposal of marriage to her. She promptly accepts and instructs him to say nothing to the Bennets of their engagement. He leaves Longbourn, promising to return.
Charlotte confides her news to Elizabeth, who is at first disbelieving, then shocked. She is convinced that her friend can't possibly be happy with this absurd man whom she can't respect, much less love. Charlotte, not offended, answers her. She is not romantic, she says. She asks only for a comfortable home, and considers her chances of happiness as fair as most people's on entering a marriage.
NOTE: Charlotte here expresses an attitude toward marriage that was common among middle-class young women of the time. Security was the main thing, not love. Elizabeth can't accept this philosophy. For her, marriage must be based on mutual affection and respect.