"In vain I have struggled, it will not do, you must allow me to tell you how much I love and admire you" were the words Elizabeth was sure issued from Mr. Darcy's mouth yet surely they weren't meant for her. Elizabeth was sitting somewhat off to the side in the Hunsford parlor and that side of the room was not well lit especially with Mr. Collins following Lady Catherine's edicts on domestic economy to only put one candle in each sconce rather than the two or four they were designed for. Elizabeth had stopped paying attention to what Mr. Darcy was actually saying since she noticed that he kept looking off towards the archway. The way he kept shifting his weight and sliding the brim of his hat around in his hands spoke to his extreme discomfort and nervousness. At that moment Elizabeth realized her colossal error. Dear lord, Mr. Darcy must be proposing to someone and didn't realize she was there! Elizabeth and Jane were constantly trying to teach their younger sisters the importance of genteel behavior. Gentlewomen didn't eavesdrop they admonished their siblings, which advice was invariably received with rolling eyes. Elizabeth could not help herself though. She knew she should remove herself from what should be a private moment but just could not make her feet move. Whoever Mr. Darcy was proposing to must be behind her in the archway. Curiosity could not be denied and Elizabeth turned her head to see who was there.

Mr. Darcy had fully expected Elizabeth to rejoice in his proposal. Once he started his oration he noticed that Elizabeth seemed to try to shrink back into her chair in the corner. She kept averting her eyes. What a cad he was. He knew he was quite an intimidating male specimen and here he was so full of vim and vigor with the ardor of his love that he was intimidating his lady love and she must already be overwhelmed with the honor of his proposal. With much effort he greatly lowered the volume of his voice. He did not need to shout out to his Juliet like Romeo at the balcony as he had initially in the heat of the moment. She was after all sitting right over there. His love would be spoken with soft whispers like a gentle breeze caressing dew drops on roses. What better way to show the depth of his love than to wax poetic of her family's inferiority and his great sacrifice to his station to offer for her. And so he continued with a voice not unlike that which he had used with Georgiana when she had awoken frightened at night as a small child. "surely you must realize that the degradation. . . "

Jane Bennet had accompanied Elizabeth to Hunsford because even the beatific Jane could not absorb any more well meant outings in London to cheer her up. It was good to be back in the country and being in Kent was an Acadian idyll. For all his foolishness, Mr. Collins had a way with manure. Jane had never seen such a well-tended garden. Jane loved flowers as Lizzy loved roaming the countryside. While admiring Mr. Collins' forget me nots several bees that Jane must have awakened from their winter nap and were still a mite grumpy, decided to retaliate. Not wanting to go to Rosings with three swollen bee stings on her face, Jane too had stayed at the parsonage with Elizabeth. Mr. Collins at first was apoplexic about both Elizabeth and Jane staying at the parsonage, but Charlotte had been able to hint that maybe Jane's swelling and Lizzy's headache were just symptoms of a new plague. Not wanting the illustrious DeBourg ladies to be exposed to any possible health risks, Mr. Collins acceded to the Bennet sisters' wishes.

Jane had left the parlor to get some mending and was on her way back when she thought she heard someone enter the house. She was just about to step into the parlor when a very deep voice commenced with "in vain. .". Good heavens someone was proposing to Lizzy. Jane stepped just back from the arch. If she tried to move any further, her footsteps would attract their attention. She thought that to just stay mostly hidden where she was would be more discreet.

As Elizabeth furtively looked behind her she caught a glimpse of Jane's dress. It all made sense. Mr. Darcy had convinced Mr. Bingley to give up Jane and Netherfield so he could have Jane to himself. They were both very quiet reserved people. For someone cold and aloof like Mr. Darcy, meeting someone like Jane must have been like humanity felt when Prometheus brought them fire. To face a life with no real love in it, and then to meet someone who practically personified goodness and warmth, must have been overwhelming. Elizabeth almost could forgive Mr. Darcy his manipulations with Mr. Bingley. It would destroy Jane to be married to someone like Mr. Darcy though. Even Jane's font of love was finite. He would drain her of all her joy and warmth. Jane would marry him to save her family though. It was a plan born in an instant and of desperation. Elizabeth would save Jane. Mr. Darcy might not know she was there but if he admitted that he proposed to Jane while not knowing Elizabeth was in the chair he would sound like a fool. Elizabeth had not listened to many of his words but his proposal seemed to be over. If she was to act it had to be now. She jumped out of the chair into the brighter light and threw her arms around Mr. Darcy. "Yes of course I'll marry you".

Elizabeth wondered all the rest of her life why Mr. Darcy didn't look the least bit surprised.

Jane saw her dear sister Lizzy throw herself into Mr. Darcy's arms and felt vindicated. "Though dost protest too much" little sister. Jane had known all along that Lizzy wouldn't make Mr. Darcy the object of so many conversations had she not actually quite liked the man deep down. If Lizzy had truly disliked him, she would have just pretended the man didn't exist. Jane sighed. Lizzy and Mr. Darcy made such an attractive couple. Lizzy was so pretty and Mr. Darcy was quite the handsome man. Not nearly as handsome as that nice Col. Fitzwilliam, Jane admitted to herself, but compared to most men he was very pleasing to the eye.

Jane quietly turned and backed away to give Lizzy and her new fiancé their privacy. Once Lizzy was married she might very well get to spend more time with the colonel. He was such an amiable man, even more so than Mr. Bingley. Jane realized with a start that she hadn't really thought about Mr. Bingley since she had started walking with Col. Fitzwilliam in the morning. Jane was very fond of walking, but not of almost running like Lizzy. She had noticed Col. Fitzwilliam walking one morning at a civilized pace and had merely made sure to be in the same vicinity at the same time on subsequent mornings. Military men were so orderly in their routines. It was so lovely to have company on her walk.

Had the current inhabitants of the parsonage not been so preoccupied with their various thoughts, they might have looked at the window and they might have seen a very intriguing creature. Puck held his middle as paroxysm of laughter overtook him. It might be a well worn plan, but the mixup of romantic partners was one of his favorite entertainments. This one might even be better than Titania and old Bottom. He hadn't been this inspired in centuries.