Lord Knosley was quite happy with Mr. Otis. He was a fine young man who was wholly in love with his daughter. Fine lineage, fine looks, fine intelligence. Lord Knosley strongly believed the man would make her content. It was all he could have dreamed of for his daughter. He was quite proud of himself for finding such a jewel for her.

 Though he himself seemed blind to his daughter's emotions for Mr. Otis. He felt assured she held to the regular rules of decorum and not letting her feelings get too much of her. There was no sign of outward dissatisfaction. They would be a very pretty couple, perfection shelted from much of the world.

Both men agreed that Mr. Otis would ask her to marry him - there was no doubt that she would refuse! - rather then telling her of their forced marriage. Mr. Otis insisted on giving such a proposal. So on the planned morning, they summoned Elizabeth into the room and Lord Knosley left them to be alone - though he waited just outside the door with his ear pressed against the wood to catch every sound.

Elizabeth was wondering, wildly curious about her handmaids insistence on making her appear so pretty that morning. As of late, they had been particularly fussy, but this morning they were very strict in their extraodinary decoration of her. Her seamstress had made the most beautiful day gown of shimmering rose pink silk and delicate, untouched lace. They had spent hour after hour primming her. Elizabeth started to think that her father was having her potrait done again, though, she thought that highly improbable.

Finally she was called down from her place on her stool, somewhat sore from sitting so long.  The handmaids watched her go with smiles, knowing exactly where she was going and why - gossip got about easily in the kitchens - remembering the young girl she once was and what a woman she had grown to be.

As Lord Knosley left them be - supposedly excusing himself for something of 'business' - Mr Otis could immeaditly feel the passion overtake him. Her beauty was far beyond he ever could have thought; a lone, tantalizing dark curl was hanging on her smooth, untouched neck, her marble hands neatly folded in her lap. All the plans he made, all the speeches he had wrote and thrown away, meant nothing.

When he knelt before her and took her hands, Elizabeth felt an immeadiate alarm, no place to retract from his grasp. His proposal was a desperate plea, frantic begging. Color drained from her face, her heart thudding wildly against her ribs. He wanted to marry her. He loved her, he loved her, he loved her! He couldn't live without her - he didn't know how he did before they met! She flushed as he kissed her hands, his fingers crawling up her arms, his emotions so free, so wild.

Finally she was able to compose herself enough to speak, her voice wavering ever so slightly, "M-Mr. Otis, please calm yourself. Please restrain yourself!"

"How can I restrain myself aroud you!" he cried out in a great show. "My love for you is greater than anything I have felt before. Everything else means nothing. Marry me; be my wife!"

 Elizabeth's hands were trembling, the amazing love in his eyes hurt her. She wanted to believe what he said; she wanted to pretend he was everything she wanted and more.  But she could not.

 "No," she murmured, her voice soft and weak. 

 His face was wiped clean, horrified. He withdrew from her slightly. "What?" he whispered, as if someone had taken his voice away.

 "No, Mr. Otis, I cannot marry you," Elizabeth said with more resolute strength, though it still shook with distress. She stood, Mr. Otis kneeling pathetically at her feet. Her father had heard everything, and flaberghasted, he burst through the door.

"Elizabeth!" cried Lord Knosley. "You are being irrational, please think!" Mr. Otis still was kneeling on the floor, as if frozen with shock. She walked to the other side of the room, her expression confused and troubled.

 "I have already thought, Father," Elizabeth said calmly. "And my answer is no."

 "No?" he echoed her, the flair of anger thudding through his veins. All his work to protect her, to give her all of what she wanted, that he had found this man to love her so unconventionally, a match so perfectly made! She seemed ungrateful, insolent! "Well my answer to you is no, Elizabeth Knosley. This wedding will continue as planned."

Elizabeth paused, turning. "As planned?" 

 "Indeed! The wedding has been arranged long ago! You were engaged long before his arrival!"

She looking to both men, betrayed. Mr. Otis said he loved her, and yet the match was forced! But it was her father she was most angered and hurt by - she never thought he would do such a thing to her. She clenched her jaw, enraged, "No. I will not marry him."

Her father half laughed, eyes blazing, "No is not an option."

Tears blurring her vision, she stood helplessly, clenching and unclenched her fists furiously. Unable to contain herself, she grabbed her skirts up in great bundles, and bolted from the room, uncontrollable tears streaming down her cheeks.

Engaged! Engaged!

The End

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