Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit's Tale Part VII
by Lillian C.
Chapter 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
Needless to say, the prospect of a journey with her father was more than sufficient to buoy up Elizabeth's spirits. It was of small import to her where their destination might be, which was fortunate as Mr. Bennet chose not to disclose it. His secrecy puzzled Elizabeth, but she was so excited at the news that she would be allowed to step beyond the confines of her small world that she gave little heed to it.
Jane was extremely dismayed at the thought of being indefinitely separated from her favorite sister, who had been her only solace during the previous months of waiting and uncertainty. Elizabeth would have pleaded to her parents to allow Jane to come along, but Mrs. Bennet had made it known from the first that she would not hear of any of her other daughters wandering about in the Wild and certainly not her dearest Jane.
"Think of how the rugged country would spoil her looks! Elizabeth, to be sure, has little to lose on that score, but oh dear Jane! The thought is horrid beyond comprehension! Oh, my nerves!" Mrs. Bennet had cried.
During her last night at Longbourn, Elizabeth remained in Jane's room at the earnest request of the latter. Despite her father's advising her to get plenty of sleep as he planned for them to leave well before sunrise, Elizabeth and Jane kept vigil together well past midnight. The farewells that the family had shared earlier that evening could scarcely suffice between two sisters as dear to each other as these were.
"Will you be alright? I will not be here to guard you from Mother, you know. You will have to defend yourself for a while," Elizabeth teased.
"I daresay I will get on very well. I will feel the loss of your presence every minute, but I am happy that your dearest wish has been granted. And perhaps your absence will teach you to be fonder of your home?" Jane suggested smilingly.
"Or fonder of you. Dearest Jane, I will think of you often and miss you terribly. Most of all, I will fear for your happiness, as I do now. You always deny it, Jane, but I never believe you. You are not happy."
Jane shrugged and said, "I will be when you return. That is enough."
"But you still think of him."
Jane did not meet Elizabeth's eyes, but she conceded with a slight nod.
"You know, Mother often said that Binglorn would surely return in the spring," Jane said, "and though I professed otherwise, I allowed that to be my hope. I was foolish. Spring has passed, and he has not come, so I am resolved to think of him no more."
"Well, he did not first come to Bree in the spring, did he?" Elizabeth pointed out.
"Enough, Elizabeth. No more."
"Very well, but if he is not by your side when I return, I will denounce him as the stupidest of men!"
"Hush, Lizzy!" Jane scolded, suddenly becoming the older sister. "It is high time you went to sleep!"
Rather than give in to her first impulse and throw a pillow at her uncharacteristically imperious sister, Elizabeth threw her arms around her and whispered, "I know not whether I will be able to leave you."
"Of course you will, silly," Jane said, her voice trembling with unshed tears, "and I will let you go. But do not expect such lenience the next time you decide to become the great adventurer!"
Elizabeth laughed shakily and reluctantly endeavored to sleep.
Has the journey begun already? I do not even remember when it started!
From her position on the rock, Elizabeth gazed forward at the most beautiful sight she had ever beheld. The dark blue sea stretched onward until it mingled with a sea of scarlet. But I have never seen the sea! To her left, she saw a ship waiting at the dock. An assembly of people elves? stood upon the dock and watched as others boarded the ship. She heard the sound of their farewells as a sorrowful music, and tears stung her eyes. Her gaze then shifted to a lone figure standing on the shore before her who seemed to also be observing the scene. The sun prevented her from distinguishing his features, but by his movements she knew he turned to look upon her. He regarded her for some time, then raised his hand up to her. What does he want? Elizabeth watched him uncertainly. From the corner of her eye, she saw the ship begin to move from the dock. The voices of those left behind gradually became silent until naught was heard but the waves like wind through the trees. The figure elf?, perhaps believing Elizabeth could not would not move from her rock, began to make his way toward her. She would have stepped forward to meet him but for the sound of a familiar voice that called to her from behind.
"Elizabeth! Come back! Elizabeth!"
It was her father, but she did not obey him. She did not want to obey him. Why? Father!
"Don't go, Elizabeth!"
I won't! But her heart cried out in defiance and released her feet from their invisible bonds. The figure ceased its progress and pleadingly? raised both arms to her. She did not hesitate Stop! to run into them. As his warmth Who are you? surrounded her, she became deaf to her father's pleas.
Then, the sun disappeared, and darkness enveloped them both.
"Who are you?" Elizabeth murmured.
Jane looked upon her sister with concern, debating whether to arouse her from her much needed, though troubled slumber. However, Elizabeth soon became quiet, and her face assumed an expression of content, almost smiling tranquility. Jane sighed in relief. Kissing her sister's brow, she returned to sleep.
A dark, silent, and empty Longbourn was deeply unsettling to Elizabeth. She felt as if she had awakened to find herself in a different house altogether. Even Jane, who was still soundly asleep when she left her, appeared alien to her. It seemed as if her own home was rejecting her, as if it knew she did not wish to remain there.
Elizabeth pushed away these unpleasant thoughts as she shouldered her pack. Her father followed suit with a bit more of a struggle, his burden undoubtedly twice as heavy as hers. Elizabeth chuckled as she watched him.
"Tell me, Father, exactly what portion of the contents of your pack is comprised of books, papers "
"I'll have none of your impertinence on this journey, Child!" Mr. Bennet scolded with a wink. "Come, let us away ere your mother hears us."
And so, Father and Daughter began their adventure. Mr. Bennet, not wishing to cut through Bree to get to the East-West Road, chose a rarely frequented path that ran between the town and Chetwood and would lead them to the Road at a point just east of Bree. Taking this path, the pair arrived at the Road two hours after sunrise.
Mr. Bennet stopped at the edge of the Road and turned to his daughter. "Here, Elizabeth, we bid farewell to the world of security, civility, and decent food and enter the Wild. From this point, extreme caution is required at all times, for one does not know what he will meet upon the East-West Road. Trolls, temperamental dwarves, dragons, incoherent elves, goblins: anything is possible. The Road is not quite as safe as it was when I was a lad."
"It sounds truly delightful!" Elizabeth exclaimed with a girlish grin as she proceeded to lead the way. "Shall we continue?"
Mr. Bennet chuckled and followed after her. A daughter after my own heart!
"By the way, Sir," Elizabeth said, "do you not think it is now safe to reveal our mysterious destination?"
Mr. Bennet looked about him with affected wariness and whispered, "I suppose nothing dreadful will happen if I take the risk of disclosing this information. Your mother's ears are sharp, but I think we our well out of her range. We are going to Rivendell."
Elizabeth looked at her father in shock. "Rivendell?"
"Yes, you know. I have certainly told you of Elrond's house more than once. I was invited to come some time ago and never accepted the invitation."
Elizabeth walked on in stunned silence. She did not know what to think about visiting Wickham's childhood home and meeting the people who had turned him away. How could she behave with equanimity among them knowing what she did? But perhaps they are not entirely at fault. It was, after all, Darcë who deceived them. Elizabeth wondered whether Darcë himself would be there, but she consoled herself with the belief that he had most likely returned to his home at the Havens.
Mr. Bennet looked at his daughter with concern and said, "You are surely not displeased? I thought you had always wanted to learn more about elves, and here is the perfect opportunity to do so."
"No, I am not displeased, only surprised," Elizabeth said, recollecting herself. "So we are to see one of the last elven refuges this side of the Sea? An ideal place to spend one's summer. And as you say, it will be the perfect opportunity for many things."
The first two weeks of their journey passed uneventfully. Other than a small company of (temperamental) dwarves, they met no one on the Road. For the sake of his daughter, Mr. Bennet maintained an easy pace and stopped at least twice a day to rest. At night, he would never set up camp within sight of the Road but would find some hollow or wooded area that would afford them some protection from spying eyes. Travelling was easy for them, though Elizabeth may not have realized it, and the early June weather remained pleasant.
Elizabeth loved merely to watch the wild country in bloom. In the journal she had promised Jane she would keep, most of her entries thus far had been drawn and written sketches of the landscape. The lengthiest entry was a detailed description of a large plateau that stood among the Weather Hills to the north of the Road.
When she had asked Mr. Bennet about it, he had said, "It is called Weathertop. Once the great watchtower, Amon Sûl, stood upon it, but the tower was destroyed long ago."
"How?" Elizabeth had asked.
"By the Enemy. It was burned to the ground."
Mr. Bennet would say no more about it, and Elizabeth wisely did not press him.
Two weeks out of Bree, they reached the Last Bridge, by which they would cross the River Hoarwell. It was about noon, and they stopped near the Bridge for lunch. Elizabeth gratefully eased her pack off her shoulders and sat beside a tree on the bank of the River. As she selected various items from their store of food, Mr. Bennet walked about the area.
"After we cross the Bridge, it will be safer for us to set up our camp south of the Road at nights," Mr. Bennet said.
Elizabeth paused in the midst of her task and regarded her father thoughtfully. "How so?"
"If you stray too far north of the Road, you will cross into troll-country, and I fancy you would not relish that. We must double our caution during the remaining third of our journey, but I expect we will reach Rivendell within a week."
"I shall be glad! Being awakened in sleep by hungry trolls is not what I would call a pleasant end to our adventures!"
Mr. Bennet looked off into the distance with a slight smile and replied, "I have a friend who learned that the hard way. He would agree whole-heartedly with you."
Mr. Bennet's caution, though wise by all means, was needless. The country through which they passed was empty for the most part, so no evil befell them during the week that followed. Despite the ease of their travels, Elizabeth liked to imagine herself as a true adventurer. She almost regretted that they would soon reach the end of their road, but thoughts of bed, bath, and tables laden with food quickly overcame this.
At nightfall of the last day, they reached the Ford of Bruinen, and after crossing it Mr. Bennet abruptly turned off the road and headed northeast. The land began to rise sharply and was heavily wooded. Scattered trickles of moon and starlight were all that illuminated the way. The travelers became increasingly enmeshed in darkness, as the trees closed in around them and narrowed their path.
An hour after they had changed the direction of their course, Mr. Bennet paused and looked about him uncertainly. For a couple of minutes he seemed to consider something, then chose another path. When he paused once more, Elizabeth began to feel a bit alarmed. Up until that point, he had always seemed certain of where he was going.
"Father?" Elizabeth asked worriedly.
Mr. Bennet looked back and smiled at her, but Elizabeth was not for a moment fooled. The anxious glint in his eye did not escape her.
"Father, why do we not return to the Road?"
"The Road will not take us to Rivendell. If it would, anybody might find it. Have a little faith in your father, Child. I have never tried to make the journey to Rivendell before, but-"
"Never before? Father! You said yourself that the Valley is hidden! If you do not know how to find it, then what are we to do?"
"Do not fret, Elizabeth! That is why I never considered bringing along your sisters, much less your mother. Gandalf himself gave me directions to the House of Elrond long ago."
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and asked, "How long ago?"
"Never you mind!" Mr. Bennet replied with feigned severity. "I know very well what you are implying, and I will have you know that-"
"Hush Father! Listen!"
Mr. Bennet obeyed immediately and straining his ears heard singing in the distance.
"They are elves," Mr. Bennet whispered.
Elizabeth nodded and asked, "Shall we follow the sound?"
"At this moment, I can think of no better course of action," Mr. Bennet replied with a shrug.
Mr. Bennet only laughed heartily at his daughter and walked on ahead. Rather than allow herself to be annoyed, Elizabeth joined in her father's laughter and trailed after him. Mr. Bennet quickly regained his sense of direction using the elven music as a guide; and after traversing a short distance, the travelers came upon its source.
A gathering of elves sat about a fire, most of them equipped with an instrument and singing. Their faces were fair beyond measure, each seeming to give off a light of its own. An air of peace that was not present moments before when Elizabeth and her father were making their way through the woods surrounded them. Elizabeth stood still as she observed them, being afraid to move lest she disturb the ethereal scene. Mr. Bennet had no such qualms and strode confidently ahead to the circle of elves.
One of the few elves who had chosen not to take part in the singing looked up and laughed aloud upon seeing Mr. Bennet among them.
"Mae govannen, mellon!" the elf cried merrily as he came forward to meet him. A few of the others did the same and offered their own greetings. "So you choose to come at last, Thomas? Only you would have the cunning to come to Rivendell just after the Mid-Year celebrations are safely over!"
"Well, well. Far be it from me to disturb your folk whilst they are dancing about in the woods. I never did acquire a taste for it myself."
Several of the elves laughed at this and began to converse with Mr. Bennet in their own tongue. Elizabeth marveled at the sight of her father speaking with greater ease among these elves than he ever did among members of his own family, and at last she understood what Mr. Bennet truly sought during all his travels over the years. She met the eyes of the elf who first recognized Mr. Bennet and smiled shyly. He returned it with warmth then whispered something in her father's ear. Mr. Bennet laughed at whatever was said and motioned for his daughter to join them.
"Elizabeth! You are not one to stand aside, hidden in the shadows. Come hither!"
"So this is the famous Elizabeth Bennet?" the elf asked. "I have heard much of you, and I can see that none of the praise has been exaggerated! I am Glorfindel of the House of Elrond and bid you welcome to Rivendell, though you still have a few miles to tread before you reach it. My companions and I will escort you the rest of the way, otherwise I fear your father would never find it!"
Elizabeth smiled at Glorfindel, relieved to find that he was no more a Darcë in manners than he was in looks. Unlike the latter, Glorfindel's hair was long and golden, and he was clad wholly in white. Though his appearance was high and lordly, it was obvious to Elizabeth that he was also open, friendly and quick to laugh.
"I welcome your kind offer, my lord," Elizabeth said. "And perhaps along the way, you can tell me how it is that you have heard so much of me. Has my father been your informant?"
"Not I! If I was his only source of information, he would know nothing save that I have five ridiculously silly daughters!" Mr. Bennet teased.
"No, it was not your father. I have not had the pleasure of seeing him for some time," Glorfindel said. "It was Darcë of Mithlond who spoke to me of a certain lady of Bree who had won his admiration. I believe you made his acquaintance last fall?"
Mr. Bennet chuckled and turned away to hide his amusement.
"Well, I should hope that you would find his praise not exaggerated. He is my severest critic," Elizabeth said as she exchanged a sly smile with her father. "I am afraid that he and I are not the best of friends."
"Indeed? I must say I am surprised," Glorfindel said, looking not a little puzzled at their behavior.