Posted on Monday, 5 January 2004, at 3:02 a.m.
After arriving in town to visit their aunt and uncle, both Elizabeth and Edward were somewhat surprised to be included in an invitation to attend a Masquerade ball, a festivity of twelfth night, at the renowned Vaucluse Gardens. Masquerade balls were becoming increasingly popular among society, one could act how one pleased with little consequence to their reputation, and with the number of people in attendance it would be almost impossible for ones identity to be found out.
Elizabeth and Edward were initially sceptical of the idea of attending such an event, but with the company of their favourite aunt they could hardly refuse. Costumes were obtained within short notice, dressing in the fashion of one of the previous generations they looked every bit the part of their ideal.
The dress that Elizabeth had sent from Longbourn was so exquisite it was almost indescribable. The heavy layers in the back were of glistening silver and the soft flowing silks showing in the front were in a deep midnight blue. It was embroidered with a simple elegant design along the hem and the bodice had a sting of tiny pearls attached to a sapphire stone in the centre. The fitted sleeves ended at her elbow and were trimmed by the midnight blue silk, the complimenting mask hanging from her right arm by silver ribbons. The particular dress had belonged to great aunt Isabella, and had long been favoured by Elizabeth. It had been made especially for Isabella's coming out ball and among other dresses had been preserved for future generations to marvel at.
Edward however seemed content in piecing together a costume, much unlike any other seen on that night. He appeared as a vision from many, many generations back - he claimed to be the great playwright William Shakespeare and any witness could not doubt it.
When they arrived at the ball the party was immediately separated, each going their own way and each feeling the same sense of intimidation in the crowd. It was not long before score of young ladies were listening intently to the sonnets being performed by an amorous young gentleman claiming to be a great poet. Elizabeth watched on from a great distance with amusement, once she thought it best to go and rescues her brother from the brawling beauties, yet thought it better to let him have his enjoyment.
She was standing alone, admiring the scene the Masquerade ball presented, when she felt the presence of someone familia standing behind her. Elizabeth turned expecting to see her aunt, or maybe her uncle, yet she saw, standing at a comfortable distance, a gentleman. A gentleman in a costume of black, a cape falling over his shoulders and a mask covering across his eyes, a single rose stem in his hand. He stood; seemingly content watching from a distance.
Elizabeth turned back to watch her brother, unfortunately the crowd had encompassed him, she no longer knew the location of her aunt and uncle and she was alone in a sea of strangers. However she did not panic, she simply looked around her in wonder. Little lights were hanging from the trees and a great glowing lantern of a mythical creature was suspended above the middle of the lake, the scene was simply magical to Elizabeth and she stored away as much as possible to keep forever in her memory.
She turned around, viewing all that she could; yet she kept turning back to that gentleman in black. He was still standing under the same tree, still watching her. Their eyes locked for the first time, he smiled, a smile that took Elizabeth's breath away. She stood feeling unsure of the situation but determined not to walk away, instead she dipped a shy curtsey, the best she could accomplish in such a constricting dress and smiled demurely at the gentleman before lowering her head, a becoming blush overspreading her features.
By the time she slowly raised her head the gentleman in black was standing in front of her, offering her the snow white rose that he had been clutching. He placed the rose in her hair and twirled her around until they reached the area where people were scandalously waltzing, without endeavouring to obtain her consent. They remained silent; each feeling speech would ruin the magic that they had weaved around themselves, encompassing the pair in their own little world. Any concept of time was lost of the pair, they existed for only each other.
Suddenly, without warning, disaster struck, the beams that had been holding the giant mythical creature had collapsed and the fuel creating its glow caused fire to fall like rain around the park. Screams of panic were heard and individuals were swept up in a great crush of people trying to escape the gardens. Elizabeth clung to the mysterious gentleman and he in return held her close trying his hardest to protect her from the masses. They moved, back to the tree he was first standing under, away from the rush and terror of the crowd. Elizabeth still in his arms, knew that she must find her family. Sensing her worry he uttered his first words to her, "We shall meet again, it is inevitable. I do not know precisely when or how, but we shall know each other." He gently fingered her necklace; meeting her eyes he shyly requested, "If I may take it, as a token so I shall easily recognise someone I never wish to forget." She acquiesced, nodding meekly, knowing that their time was coming to an end. The gentleman removed the signet ring that he wore on his smallest finger and place it gently in her hand closing her fingers around it- "Till we meet again my sweet." He took a step away.
Elizabeth suddenly heard her brother calling for her, his voice approaching, he could see her but she could not see him. She turned back to her mysterious gentleman, only to find him gone. Elizabeth tightened her fingers around the ring, reminding herself that all had come to pass was not some dream, the ring in her hand was proof.
"Elizabeth?" "Edward?" The siblings were reunited amongst the horror that was playing out, the mysterious gentleman watching on from a distance.
"Our Aunt and Uncle are safe, I have sent them on their way. I have told they that we would be perfectly fine to make our way back"
"How did you know that you would find me?"
"I thought you might like to say your farewells to your new friend," Edward smiled at his sister.
"Aunt and Uncle, they do not know, do they?" Concern was evident in Elizabeth's voice.
"No sister, I told they that I left you with some friends who were sitting safely on the grass."
Out of the corner of his eye, Edward could see the gentleman leaning nonchalantly against the same tree, watching. Edward tipped his hat, with not blittle irony, to the gentleman that had taken care of his sister, yet imposed on her at the same time. The gentleman responded with a bow, the simple actions were ones that Elizabeth did not observe. With safety now ensured the siblings left the park and made their way home, relief overcoming the pair.
Later that night Elizabeth shared all that had happened with her brother - letting him marvel at the ring and pleading with him not to tell their family what happened to her precious garnet cross. The ring meant more than anything to her now, much more than her treasured necklace. She did not encounter the gentleman again during her stay in town and felt despondent of ever seeing him again. She had fallen in love with a man that she did not know. All she had as remembrance was the small treasure he had cupped into her hand, the signet ring. The delicate gold band glimmered under the light of the candle, as did Elizabeth's falling tears.
On her arrival home her family noticed the difference in her character. Edward explained that she had suffered a great shock seeing so many injured at the gardens and had yet to recover from it. Her secret remained safe.