"I hear reports," Fitzwilliam Darcy said, "that all of my friends and relatives are entering into the most improbable love affairs. And now I am about to propose the most incongruous one of them all."

He looked at her. "No one would ever have thought that you and I could love each other," he said gently.

"We are from completely different worlds," she said.

"We are both too stubborn and opinionated for our own good," he said.

"When we are together, we do naught but argue," she said.

"The first time we met, I insulted your beauty," he said.

"The first time we danced, I insulted your character," she said.

"And yet . . ."

"And yet . . ."

"And yet I have found my attachment to you impossible to conquer. Elizabeth Bennet, will you end my suffering and accept my hand?"

She paused briefly, savoring the moment, and then answered, "I will."

He took her hand and kissed it tenderly, then wrapped his arms around her waist. She reached up and slid her fingers into his hair.

"My dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, do you think that your father will approve of our union?"

"He surely will. I don't see how he could object to my romance after Jane's seduction of Colonel Forster."

"I still don't understand how that happened. Wasn't Forster married?"

"Not yet. He was only engaged. But he could not resist Jane's brazen flirtations. He broke his engagement and they wed. They are disgustingly happy together."

"I promise you, my darling, that our love will be every bit as disgusting as theirs."

She smiled at him. "I believe that it will."

Arm in arm, they went out for a walk in the morning sun.