Posted on Friday, 10 January 2003, at 8:48 a.m.
It had been almost a week since Miss Jane Bennet had made Mr Charles Bingley the happiest man on earth by consenting to be his wife. Much as this might sound like a case of hyperbole, it wasn't, as judged by the next sister of the said lady, Elizabeth. And while Elizabeth was usually of a critical and discerning opinion, she agreed with Mr Bingley's assessment of the situation. After all, with Jane's gentle, kind disposition, and her groom's unfailing good cheer, combined with the fact that the two were truly in love with one another, it was inevitable that they would be happy. So it was with great expectation that she awaited her sister's wedding, for her sister's sake anyway.
While she was extremely happy that Jane had finally been united with her obvious partner in life, it pained Elizabeth that while Jane would lose her, she would gain Charles. But Elizabeth knew she would just lose Jane, and be alone.
Not that she didn't have hopes. She had once had great hopes for Mr Bingley's closest friend, Mr Darcy. But the infamous marriage of her youngest sister, and Mr Darcy's puzzling involvement in that affair, made it all but impossible that her hopes would ever become reality.
Elizabeth had almost resigned herself to being the spinster aunt of the little Bingleys, for she would never marry but for love. Her notions of marriage were such that she would only marry where she truly admired, esteemed, respected and loved. And there was only one man for whom she could ever feel these emotions, the one who was just beyond her grasp, Mr Darcy.
She recalled a conversation she had held with Jane the previous evening before bed. During their walk, Mr Bingley had presented Jane with an engagement ring. It was simple, befitting Jane's simple nature, with one diamond, surrounded on all sides by tiny amethysts, set in a simple gold band. It was more what the ring represented that had any sort of significance. . .
'It is beautiful, is it not, Lizzy?'
"I must say that it is, for not other answer would be acceptable.' Elizabeth laughed at the glance shot her way by Jane. 'Truly, Jane, it is beautiful. I think the fact that your fiancée chose it so perfectly, without consulting you or even me, does him credit.'
'Do you know what this ring represents to me, Lizzy?' Seeing her sister shake her head, Jane continued, 'it represents the love Charles has for me. Like the ring surrounds and protects my finger, I feel that Charles' love surrounds me, and always will protect me. The same with the stones. The amethysts guard the diamond from all sides.'
'You will be very happy with him, Jane. He will protect you, and you will be with him, always. You are very lucky.' The last was said in a wistful tone, which was not lost on Jane. She knew not how to reassure her sister's fears, so she kept silent, praying that her sister would know the same joy soon. . .
Elizabeth's reverie was interrupted by the sound of hoof-beats on the drive. She looked out the window to see the expected figure of Mr Bingley, but also the unexpected figure of Mr Darcy, approaching. Her heart skipped a beat. Perhaps there was hope for her after all.
A further week later, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy were walking arm in arm in the garden at Longbourne Estate. This was still a novelty, as Mr Bennet's consent had only been secured the previous evening. Darcy gently led Elizabeth over to a bench and let her sit, before he took the seat next to her.
'Elizabeth, now that our engagement is official, and has been announced, I have something I would like to give you. It was my mother's, but I had it reset to better suit the new Mistress of Pemberly.'
He extracted a small box from his pocket, which he opened to reveal an elegant, yet simple, ring. The gold band was twisted to form a gleaming rope, inset with a diamond flanked by an emerald and another diamond on each side.
'I had the ring with me the day I proposed at Hunsford. When I left you, I removed it and locked it away, convinced I could never look upon it again. But about a fortnight before I returned to Pemberly, I reconsidered my anger and found it had turned into a desire to change, to earn your love. The ring returned to my pocket. On the ride home to Pemberly, I had been considering what I would do if I could not earn your love. I could never marry anyone else, but what would happen to Pemberly, and the Darcy name? On arrival, I decided to take a swim to clear my head, but when I emerged, there you were, looking to me as a natural, integral part of the scene. I was struck by a sense of continuity, and I knew that I HAD to work on myself, to earn your love. When I went to London, I had it reset, and it has not left my pocket until now.'
By this point Elizabeth was wiping her eyes. 'It was not only you that had to be deserving of me, but me that had to be deserving of you. No,' she commanded, on seeing him open his mouth to argue, 'we are not discussing this point again. I must admit that I did feel surprisingly comfortable at Pemeberly, much like I feel here. What I do want to know, though, if why you chose this setting.'
'Simple enough. Previously it was the two emeralds in the centre, surrounded by smaller diamonds. This represented my parents marriage, with my father being the protector and my mother the stable centre. In our marriage, I want us to stand as equals, like the two emeralds. Close enough to always be united, but with enough space to be individuals. I discussed it with Bingley last night. I am sure you have seen Jane's ring?' Her nod confirmed that she had. 'I feel it represents the nature of their relationship as well, Jane shining and stable in the middle, with Bingley admiring from all sides. I want to always be able to admire you, but I want you to stand up and be an individual as well. I love you too much to want you to change for me.'
Again, Elizabeth nodded. 'And the golden rope?'
'Continuity. Between Hunsford and Pemberly, I was convinced that this was the end of my line, the end of Pemberly. As I said, when I saw you I understood that my line would continue, and be strengthened, through you, my blood flowing with your blood in the veins of our offspring.'
Elizabeth smiled, looking down at the ring on her hand, toutched by the amount of thought that had gone into it, honoured that she was his choice.
Before much more time had passed, the Bingleys and the Darcys were able to begin their lives together. Everything about the wedding was simple, from the dresses of the brides to the decorations at Longbourne to the wedding bands. No finery or splendour was needed to show the joy of the day.
A year later Elizabeth was busy in her dressing room at Pemberly, fiddling in her drawers. She had not been feeling very well of late, and so had called the doctor while Darcy was out that afternoon, not wanting to alarm him. He was just home, and she was due down at dinner, if she could only find it. . .
'You look lovely tonight, my dear. You always do, but tonight you are positively glowing!'
Elizabeth smiled demurely without saying anything.
After dinner Georgiana excused herself to practice her piano, while the others retired to Elizabeth's sitting room.
'Darling, I have just noticed! You are wearing your engagement ring. Not that I object to it, but you usually only wear your wedding band.'
The moment for revelation had arrived.
'Fitzwilliam, do you remember what you told me when you gave me this ring? That it represented continuity, of the Darcy line? About how some day your blood would flow with my blood through the veins of our children?'
He looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment before sweeping her off her feet, and putting her down again almost immediately, for fear of injuring her.
Six months later Emma Bingley was born. Followed a month later by Anne Darcy.