"You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it."

Elizabeth looked at Darcy as if challenging him to rebuke the intrinsic merit of her statements. He stared back at her no less bravely.

"You are mistaken, Miss Elizabeth, if you think that such will be the end of the matter. I will have you for my wife."

He had drawn quite close to her where she stood with her back to one of the bookshelves, and grasped her hands in his. She started in outraged shock as he pinned her hands at her sides. His face was scant inches from her own and so was she overwhelmed by his presence and faint odors of cologne, horse and his own self that she could scarce listen to his words.

"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, will you agree to marry me?"

Her own pride rallied within her and, though she could not speak, shook her head vehemently.

"In that case you leave me no choice, for have you I will."

Darcy released her hands then turned and swiftly exited the room. The sudden and total silence felt stifling, and Elizabeth shivered as she felt a nebulous yet wracking fear seize her. After a few moments, she tried to resume Jane's letter, but quickly let it fall back, now in the throes of a headache — this one quite real.

Gravel crunched under Darcy's boots as he strode up to the doors of Rosings. Plans for a letter of explanation swirled in his mind, and he barely had the presence to greet his cousin, who accosted him in the foyer, followed closely by Lady Catherine. Darcy tried to give his excuses, but Lady Catherine, smelling something afoot, sent Colonel Fitzwilliam back to the drawing room with orders to serve tea to her guests from the parsonage and took herself upstairs after her nephew.

Darcy, his mind filled with words, scarce noticed his aunt's entrance to his study as he sat to begin the letter, which was swiftly snatched from under his pen.

"What is this, Fitzwilliam Darcy? Why are you writing to Miss Elizabeth Bennet? What could you have to say to that young woman?"

Darcy rose, angered.

"Would you please leave me? I have important business to attend to."

"I will not leave until you explain to me why you are writing to Miss Bennet."

Darcy sighed and sat carelessly.

"I am writing Miss Elizabeth Bennet because I am proposing marriage to her."

Lady Catherine drew herself up in outrage.

"Propose marriage? To Miss Bennet? That is impossible. How can you forget your engagement to Anne? Do you think you are a Turk, to have two wives? You are already engaged, sir." At this, she tore the paper in half. A white rage filled Darcy.

"I am not engaged to your daughter, madam, your and my mother's intentions to the contrary. I have no intention of chaining myself to that unfortunate creature, and you would do well to make some other plans for her."

As Lady Catherine stood, enraged and agape, Darcy seized his hat and fled the room.

Pausing only to assure himself that the parson and his family were still in the drawing room, Darcy hurried back to the rectory, closely followed by his body servant and his groom. He had told them little but that he was required to leave on a sudden trip. His air of command and their habits of obedience made the arrangements disarmingly simple.

The servant again announced Mr. Darcy to Miss Bennet, and he entered the room swiftly and made his way to the window where he signaled curtly to someone out of Elizabeth's sight. He then turned to fix her with a wild gaze, then dropped his eyes and apologized softly, almost too softly for her to hear. Something in his air alarmed her greatly, and the few moments passed slowly by before two men, Darcy's servants, burst into the room.

"Miss Bennett will be accompanying me on my journey," Darcy told them. They seized her. She began to struggle, but it was no use.

"Mr. Darcy, this is infamous," she cried as they forced her from the room, then one put his hand over her mouth to silence any further exclamations. Darcy followed, catching the eye of each servant who had gathered at the scene. The housekeeper bravely stopped him just as they were about to quit the house.

"Miss Bennet and I are going to Scotland," he told her, pressing a coin-filled pouch into her hand and looking meaningfully at her. She took measure of the bag in her hand, then curtsied deep.

"Congratulations, my lord," she said.