Elizabeth encountered Mr. Darcy while walking along the boundary of the park at Rosings the morning after his disastrous proposal. She had tried to avoid him, but he called out to her and she was forced to walk into the park. He was handing her a letter as he started to say, "I have been walking ...." and she reached instinctively to take it from him, but before she could get ahold of it, the wind swept it out of his hand and carried it a few yards away and over the wall. He chased the letter, only pausing a moment to implore her to stay. He passed out of the park by the same gate she had just used to enter it, in pursuit of his missive. It landed on the ground a few yards in front of him, but as he moved to grab it, the letter tumbled out of his reach. Darcy followed.
Elizabeth at first remained at the gate, but he soon had got so far away from her that she felt she should either follow him or retreat to the parsonage. She followed him. From a distance she could see that the wind had picked up the letter again and was rolling and plunging it in the air just out of Darcy's reach as he grasped for it first with one hand and then the other. It was a little comical and Elizabeth could not help laughing. He looked back at her a little perturbed at her amusement. She decided to help him. She caught up to him in time to see the letter land on the ground in front of them, she reached for it but was only able to brush her fingers against a corner when it escaped again.
They both continued chasing the letter and Darcy began to cry out, "No, no, no, no, no, ..." as they followed it towards a stream that ran parallel to the park border. He stopped short as he approached the edge and threw his arms up. The letter was floating. He leaned in to grab it, but the current had taken it a few feet downstream.
Elizabeth, having passed Darcy by, followed it. After running a few yards she turned back towards him and said, "Look, it has stopped." The letter had been caught at the edge of the stream by a curious water plant. But it was at the opposite edge and neither Elizabeth nor Darcy could reach it. The stream was too wide to cross without getting wet. Darcy was looking for a long enough stick to dislodge the letter and guide it to their side of the stream while Elizabeth kept her eye on it, lest it should break free and float further downstream.
Just as Darcy was picking up a stick to retrieve the letter, a large frog hopped from the opposite bank right onto it, plunging it deeper into the water. "No!" cried Darcy again. The confused frog emerged from the water and attempted again to get on top of the letter, tumbling it around underwater until, exhausted and frustrated, it retreated to the bank and hopped away. Elizabeth stifled a laugh.
Darcy pulled the letter towards him with the stick and picked it up out of the water. It was soaked through. He unfolded the pages only to find the ink completely smeared and illegible. He looked at her with such despair that she approached him and took hold of one of the pages herself. When she saw the number of pages and the copious amount of ink now drippping from them, she said, "What could you possibly have had to say that would use up so much paper and ink?"
He looked at her, clearly working very hard to control whatever emotions were contorting his features. "You need not be alarmed, madam, that it contained any renewal .... " he stopped.
"Oh no, I have no apprehension of that, I assure you. This letter is far too long for anything of that kind; and you were so angry when we parted and spoke so pointedly of your regret .... No, I could not imagine the possibility."
He blushed a little at her references to the previous evening. "I was very angry, and said some things I should not."
"Well I am sorry that your letter was destroyed, it must have taken a great deal of time to write."
His features softened. "Yes," he said, "yes, it did."
"Then it must have been important."
"Yes. I ... I felt the need, nay, I felt I had a right to defend myself against your accusations."
"And this is your defense?"
He held up the papers and, looking at her, said, "It was." Then with a half sigh and a half smile, he added, "It is a bit ridiculous."
"It was the frog that did you in at last, I think. Before that there was some hope."
He flinched a little at her last word. "I suppose it is of no matter," he said, crushing the papers in his hands.
"If you had something to say in your defense why did you not say it last night?"
He looked a little incredulous as he responded, "I was not then master enough of myself to know how much I should reveal."
"If you still want me to know what was in your letter, you can tell me now. I will listen."
He looked at her doubtfully.
"I cannot promise not to quarrel with you, but I will hear you out, if you wish."