Posted on Wednesday, 14 February 2007
Elizabeth Darcy hummed as she went about her duties in her new home. She and Fitzwilliam Darcy had been married nearly four months prior. She enjoyed her new life greatly and loved her husband even more. As she hurried down the hallway, past her sitting room, she heard her husband call her name. His brusque tone alerted her to his displeasure. Elizabeth stopped immediately and turned to find him standing in the doorway, a dark scowl upon his face.
Taking a deep breath, she responded, "Yes, dear?"
"Please, if you would, come here. I wish to speak to you."
"As you wish." She stepped into the room and felt a shawl of thick apprehension surround her. Elizabeth could not fathom what had caused such a disturbance in his manner. Since their arrival at Pemberley in December, she had endeavored to learn all her duties and had been striving to become an exemplary mistress of the estate, reining in, to some degree, her natural liveliness and teasing nature when away from her husband's company.
Without pause, he began. "Elizabeth, I have been looking over these papers, here," he pointed toward her delicate writing desk, "and discovered this."
"Pardon me," Elizabeth interrupted, distracted from the object he wished her to consider, "but why would you occupy my sitting room, let alone examine my papers?" She flushed as anger began to rise within her, his demeanor recalling to her mind a particular audience she had had, not so long ago, with the great Lady Catherine.
For a moment, Darcy looked at her with clear displeasure before answering. "Am I not the master of Pemberley? Do I not require information about all that occurs on these premises?"
Gritting her teeth, Elizabeth replied, "Yes, of course, sir, but may I ask why you did not request my presence while you undertook this task?"
"That is of no importance," he haughtily returned, pulling himself up to his full height. She had not seen this Mr. Darcy in many months and was not pleased at his return. "This, however," he continued, "is what requires explanation." On completing his words, he solicitously held out a small casket for Elizabeth to inspect.
"What is that, sir?"
"Can you not tell me?"
"No, sir," Elizabeth answered. "I have never seen it before."
"Then for what purpose was it upon your writing table?" Darcy asked.
Elizabeth stood in shock at this report, but after a few moments, stirred herself enough to respond. "On my table, you say? Are you certain that is where you found it?"
"Yes, I am most certain."
Completely perplexed, Elizabeth queried, "Would you please inform me where upon my table you found this object?"
Darcy glowered at her. "It was amongst the account papers, I believe," he replied coldly.
Still in confusion, Elizabeth walked over to her desk and shuffled the papers about, hoping to find information concerning the box. "I know not from where that object came, Fitzwilliam. Is it something of great import?"
Darcy responded to her question, his voice more temperate, "Yes, I believe it is of very great importance."
Watching her husband observing her, Elizabeth had no idea of what to do or say next. To her knowledge, she had done nothing wrong, but still, she felt thoroughly upbraided. The two of them stood in silence. Finally, Darcy held out the box to her, motioning her to take it into her possession. Elizabeth hesitated and then complied. Again, they stood observing each other. Finally, Darcy spoke. "Madam, I believe you should inspect that case more closely; see if you recognize it."
Elizabeth stood motionless. "Sir, I think I do not. This object holds no familiarity to me."
Again, Darcy urged her to examine the box. "Please, open the casket. I believe you should inspect the contents before you answer so assuredly."
The situation had begun to take a toll upon Elizabeth's equilibrium, her hands having begun to tremble. Weakly, she responded, "If you wish." Slowly, she lifted the lid. Peering inside, her heart seemed to stop beating. She looked up at her husband, then back toward the contents of the box. "Fitzwilliam," she choked out, "from where did these come? I do not understand." Again, she raised her eyes to her husband's face and was startled to see him warmly smiling down upon her; he enjoying the success of his ruse. She knew not whether to laugh or cry. In her hand, in the casket, she held the most beautiful pair of earbobs she had ever seen, gold and emeralds intricately interwoven into a delicate pair of dangles.
"Please, Fitzwilliam, tell me what I hold."
Taking pity upon his befuddled wife, he enlightened her, great pleasure apparent in his voice. "That, my dearest, is an anniversary gift."
She suddenly felt giddy, unsteady on her feet. Puzzled, she frowned as she attempted to make sense of his words. They had been married but four months. That certainly could not demand a present.
Placing an arm about her shoulders and ushering her to a chair, he lowered himself to his knees before her and took her hand within his. He proceeded to explain more fully. "This time last year, I made the most prodigious fool of myself that one could imagine. I thought we should celebrate your humbling of me, for had you not, we should not be here, together, today. Accept them with love and wear them in health, my darling."
Astounded, Elizabeth determined to argue. "Husband, that day was all the horror anyone could possibly conjure. I should think we should prefer to forget it completely." Upon saying these words, she gave her head a shake as if to drive out the memory. "Not celebrate it with such joyful occupation."
Darcy frowned. "No, my dearest, I believe that joy is exactly what is required to commemorate this day. We have been blessed. What occurred but a year ago, we should never forget. It was the inducement of alteration in us both. It chastened us and caused us to reflect upon the errors in our manners and characters. Were it not for that day, what chance had we to meet again with happy thoughts and hopes? No, sweet Elizabeth, rejoice in the memory of that day, for it brought us together. I, for one, never wish to forget it and lapse again into such folly.
Tears sprang to Elizabeth's eyes. Before her was the most generous and forgiving man that surely lived, one who tolerated her free spirit, her headstrong ways, and loved her in spite of, or possibly because of, them. She felt humbled before him. "Fitzwilliam," she sniffed, "you are too good. I do not deserve these."
"Nonsense," he huffed. "I shall not hear words such as these. You deserve this and more. You have made my life complete, and I shall be eternally grateful to you for so doing." Continuing in a soft, dulcet tone, he declared, "I love you more than I could ever have imagined, my Lizzy." Those words uttered, he leaned in and captured her lips for a tender kiss."
Elizabeth sighed as they parted. "I thank you, Fitzwilliam; they are beautiful. I shall retire to our chamber and affix these ornaments in their appointed place." Smiling, she reached out her hand and stroked her husband's cheek, then lifted her face towards his for another kiss.
He obliged, though, with increased fervor. Pulling back, he whispered, a devilish grin spreading across his visage, "Perhaps we should both retire to our chamber and scrutinize how lovely these will look upon you."
Returning his grin, Elizabeth nodded. With a wink, she said, "Oh, Mr. Darcy, you do devise the most brilliant plans. I believe I could be tolerably tempted by that suggestion."
Peals of laughter were heard echoing through the ancient halls of the noble estate of Pemberley. All who heard them smiled.
*** At one time, emeralds were believed to preserve love, were considered a symbol of faith and hope, and were used as a calmative for a troubled mind. They seemed the perfect choice for a gift from Darcy to Elizabeth on the first anniversary of the Hunsford proposal. I hope having read the story that you, gentle reader, think so, too.