Posted on Monday, 02-Nov-98
If I had a spell of magic, I would make this enchantment for you:
A burgundy heart-shaped medallion with a window you could look through.
So that when all the mirrors are angry, with your faults and all you must do,
You could peek through that heart-shaped medallion, and see you from my point of view.
"Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion"
The young woman's rapid pacing took her on a circuit that she had already traversed many times: from the bed, to the wardrobe, to the window, to the vanity table, to the mirror, and back again. She was convinced that she was beginning to see a pattern worn in the lush carpet where her feet had passed. Pausing for a moment, she sat down heavily on the bed, venting a frustrated sigh. How could she face everyone? Waiting up here would not improve the situation, and yet…no, it was impossible that she should go downstairs!
She stood up again and bypassed her former route, this time going directly to the mirror, where she bleakly confronted her reflection. So there she was: Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, who tonight was probably the ugliest, most awkward girl in three counties! The dress was all wrong, she should never have agreed to the color, and her hair…better to not even think about it. Even if she did find the courage to go down, she would have to face all of her brother's guests, and they would watch her while she danced, and stare at her after supper if she was asked to play for them, and whisper about her when she wasn't looking! All the gossips would probably spend the evening wondering how George and Anne Darcy, who had produced such a fine-looking son, had managed to have such an ill-favored daughter.
A soft knock at the door of her chamber roused the young woman from her tumultuous thoughts. While she was debating whether to voice permission to enter, the door gently opened, and another woman stepped in.
"Georgiana, what is the matter? Do you need any help? No, I see you're dressed already. Why have you not joined us below? Our guests will be arriving soon."
The young woman sat down on the bed again, looked as dejected as can be. "Oh, Lizzy, I can't! Look at me! Everyone will laugh…"
Elizabeth Darcy could not quite repress the smile that her sister-in-law's dramatic spirits inspired. She thought she knew what Georgiana was feeling, being not many years away from a similar situation herself; after all, it is a great responsibility to be the guest of honor at a ball that is being given on the occasion of one's seventeenth birthday.
She sat down on the bed next to Georgiana and attempted to soothe her. "Nonsense, you look very well indeed, and I assure you no one will laugh. That gown is very becoming, and your maid has done something lovely with those ribbons in your hair."
But Georgiana refused to be comforted. "No, I look awful. I am nothing compared to you, and no one will pay me the slightest attention, because they will all be saying how beautiful you are." She looked sidelong at Elizabeth, admiring the way the candlelight glinted off the ivory silk of her dress.
"You are sweet beyond words," Elizabeth answered, laughing and giving Georgiana a warm hug, "but now I'm an old married woman, and this is even an old gown. Why, I wore this at Netherfield over a year ago! Do you think your brother will notice?"
Georgiana was affronted to think her brother, who embodied perfection in all things, would not notice something as important as his wife's appearance. "I am sure he will! He once told me that this was the gown he liked best to see you wear."
Elizabeth was secretly pleased, for this particular dress brought back fond memories for her as well. But she was straying from the reason she had come – with a mental shake, she returned to her original purpose. "Well, your brother may pay attention to me, but I assure you, everyone else tonight will be paying their respects to you. I would be surprised if you have an opportunity to sit down until supper, for I am sure all the young men will want to dance with you. But in order for that to happen, you must come downstairs."
Georgiana was nearly convinced, but old habits of shyness are very hard to break. "If I am asked to dance, I am sure it will be because the young gentlemen will feel sorry for me, or because they feel they ought to ask me out of a sense of duty. Dear Lizzy, I know you and Fitzwilliam will think well of me, no matter what happens. However, every time I am in company, I start imagining what everyone else must think, and it makes me so terribly nervous! I'm sure they're all saying that I'm not pretty, or graceful, or charming…"
"Georgiana, everyone at times has such doubts about themselves. You are not the first to think such things, so you are not the first to be wrong to think such things."
"Oh, no! I am sure you never doubted yourself, Lizzy! You have always been so kind and pretty and wonderful."
Elizabeth laughed again. "You would not say so if you had known me a few years ago! Let me tell you a little story. When I was sixteen and my sister Jane had recently turned seventeen, there was a large assembly in Meryton. Jane was very excited to attend, since the gentleman who was her beau at the time had already secured her for the first two dances. She spent an extra twenty minutes dressing – which frustrated my mother to no end, because she thought we would miss all the fun – but when Jane finally emerged we could immediately see that the time had been well spent. She was exquisite! Every detail was perfect, from the flowers in her hair to the lace trim at the hem of her dress. I took one look at her, and then one down at myself – and then I promptly burst into tears, rushed upstairs, and locked myself in my room."
Georgiana's eyes were wide. "Did you really?"
"I most certainly did. Compared to Jane, I felt about as plain as a fence post and as ungainly as a yearling colt."
"So what did you do?"
"Well, it happened that my Aunt Gardiner was staying with us at the time, and she followed me upstairs. Once she had finally convinced me to open the door, she sat down next to me on the bed and gave me a little talking-to, just like you and I are doing now. And then she gave me something very special." Elizabeth reached up and unclasped the necklace she had been wearing. She dangled the glittering chain and pendant from her hand, the better for Georgiana to admire it. The pendant was a heart-shaped crystal, faceted to reflect the light, surrounded by a border of tiny garnets.
"Oh, Lizzy, it's beautiful! I'm sure I have seen you wear it before, but I never realized it was a present from your aunt. But…what makes it so very special?"
"Like my dress, this necklace is not new. My great-aunt gave it to my Aunt Gardiner, who gave it to me, and now I am giving it to you." She waved away Georgiana's protests and continued. "It has become a tradition that this necklace gets passed on to its next owner when she needs it the most, because it has very special properties that will defeat the worst insecurities. If you hold up the pendant and look through it, you will see yourself just the way that the people who love you best also see you. Not one flaw or imperfection is allowed! Here, have a look."
She handed the necklace to Georgiana, who doubtfully lifted it. Every crystal facet showed her face, so that her miniature reflections were surrounded by the garnet outline of the heart.
"I will tell you what you are seeing," Elizabeth said, "to be sure you always recognize it. In that little window is the image of a beautiful young lady who is loving and kind and compassionate. She is both elegant and graceful, and her relatives have often told me how proud they are of the many ways she has improved in looks, deportment, and manners over the past few years. She dances very well and plays the pianoforte even better. She is intelligent and witty, and she loves to laugh – even if she is not quite brave enough yet to join me in teasing her brother. And she has welcomed me into her family as warmly as if I were her real sister."
Georgiana flung her arms around Elizabeth and embraced her tightly. "Oh, Lizzy, thank you! I shall wear it always and remember your reassurance. Goodness knows I need the reminder often enough, but I think you are being overly generous in your estimation of me."
"I am not," Elizabeth firmly answered. "After all, this pendant never lies." She took the delicate chain again and moved behind Georgiana so she could fasten it around the younger woman's neck. That done, the two exchanged another hug.
Georgiana stood up and went back over to the mirror. This time the reflection was quite different: the garnets in her new necklace matched the color of her dress very nicely, and her cheeks also showed a rosy hue. The new arrangement of her hair made her look quite grown up enough to be turning seventeen. Fitzwilliam was sure to approve, and if she was supported by his faith as well as Elizabeth's, Georgiana felt she could face anything. And not just their faith, either: she fingered the pendant and smiled at the thought of the others who had owned it, each one loving and helping the one who came after.
"Shall we go down? I'm ready now."