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Darcy does not send excuses, as Elizabeth had fearfully expected. Instead he returns, and the very next morning after his arrival at Netherfield, he comes calling with Bingley. They all take a walk, but Jane and Bingley soon drop far behind, and Kitty stops at Lucas Lodge to visit Maria. Elizabeth and Darcy go on alone.
Taking courage, Elizabeth thanks him for his part in rescuing Lydia. He is surprised that Mrs. Gardiner could not be trusted with the secret. She quickly tells him the truth: it was Lydia who in her thoughtless way let it slip. He says, "If you will thank me, let it be for yourself alone... I believe I thought only of you."
With this excellent beginning, he goes on to tell her that his feelings toward her have not changed. But if she still doesn't want him, she has only to say so and he will be silent on this subject forever. With no hesitation but much embarrassment, Elizabeth quickly assures him that her feelings toward him have indeed changed, and she now hears his proposal with gratitude and joy.
Happy at last, the lovers walk on, freely sharing their thoughts and emotions over the happenings of the past several weeks. Darcy tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine did indeed call on him to deliver her arguments against Elizabeth. But the effect was the opposite of what she intended. Her angry account of her visit-of every word she and Elizabeth exchanged-gave him hope that he might yet win Elizabeth's hand.
Both now admit that they have been heartily ashamed of what they said to each other on the memorable evening in Hunsford parsonage, when he made his offer of marriage and she rejected it. Darcy now tells her of his own self-examination since that night when she astonished him-not only with her refusal but with her strict criticism of his behavior. He grew up a loved and spoiled child, an only child for his first dozen years, he explains. He was brought up with good principles, but became proud and conceited-until his dear Elizabeth taught him otherwise.
When he first encountered her at Pemberley, he says, he had intended only to show her that he had changed his attitudes and manners. But within half an hour he was wishing for her to return his love.
Finally, he acknowledges that he had no trouble persuading Bingley to go back to Jane. He simply apologized for his interference and assured Bingley that Jane was not indifferent to him. Elizabeth is tempted to joke about Bingley's willingness to be guided by his friend. But she realizes that Darcy is not yet accustomed to being laughed at and wisely restrains her impulse.