Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit's Tale Part VIII
by Lillian C.
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I must own, Jane, that this is a perfect house, whether you prefer music and tales, food and drink, pleasant company, long walks or quiet reflection. After only a day, I have been convinced of this, though I was a bit skeptical at first when old Mr. Baggins told me so. I can now say with certainty that I could spend all my life at Rivendell in contentment, but somehow I feel that you would be especially happy here. The quiet order and refined air of Elrond's house would suit you. However, I will not attempt to put into words the beauties and wonders of this place; to do so would not only be tiresome for me but insufficient for you. Alas, there are some things that cannot be captured within a body of text. I would much rather try my hand at describing for you some of the people I have met here.
I shall begin with Elrond, the Master of the House. People call him a half-elf, a lord of elves and men, and I can well believe it. The wisdom of many years glitters in his eyes, but he appears in the vigor of youth. He is a kind host, but I rarely see him as he is much engaged with his counselors these days, or so I am told.
Mr. Bilbo Baggins, whom I have mentioned before, is native of the Shire, and the tale (one of many I will tell you when I am home!) of how he came to be a permanent resident of Elrond's house kept me awake till a very late hour last night! He is a curious sort - quite as bookish as Father, if you will believe it - but very much a hobbit. I hear his room is so littered with papers that its furniture has not been seen for many an age. (Does this not seem familiar, Jane?) He and Father spend a great deal of time among the many books, maps, and records kept at Rivendell, so I am often left to myself. And of course, aside from history and storytelling, Mr. Baggins' chief interest is Elrond's table.
Glorfindel, a high elven lord, was unwittingly the means by which my newly formed prejudice against elves was removed. He is much like your Binglorn in temperament, being kind, quick to laugh, and generally in good humor; but despite this, one cannot help but feel the strange power that emanates from him. Father told me that Glorfindel has a long and legendary history reaching all the way back to the First Age of the World. However, Father chose not to discuss it in detail, as is his wont. Thankfully for him, I did not inherit a tendency toward nervous fits or else I would have plagued him incessantly about it!
While Father is about with Mr. Baggins or the elves, I find an amiable companion in the company of an elf named Georgianiel. She is really very young for an elf and is only slightly taller than I am. Her features are just what I would expect of an elf maid: fine, delicate, and framed with pale golden curls. She moves about so lightly and gracefully that I sometimes feel quite awkward and clumsy beside her. When first I met her, I thought her aloof, but when I drew her out I discovered she was only shy and unused to the society of humans. Once Georgianiel opened up, I found her an invaluable companion. She seems to know everything about everyone at Rivendell and entertains me with the most diverting stories, while showing me the best walks throughout the Valley. Now that I think of it, I am due to meet her in the gardens at this moment and must lay down my pen. Until tomorrow!
Retiring her journal and pen to their place on the windowsill, Elizabeth hastened out of the room and followed an intricate path through passages and down stairwells that led to the front door. The day was waning so most areas of the house were empty as people were making their way outdoors or to the Hall of Fire where songs and tales would be shared. The music that arose from the Hall reached Elizabeth's ears like a farewell as she flew out the door.
When Elizabeth reached her and Georgianiel's meeting place in the gardens, she found another person seated on a low bench in her friend's stead. Elizabeth gasped in surprise, and the person started at the sound. The dark figure was none other than Darcë, and judging by the expression on his face, he was just as surprised by her presence.
"Darcë. How nice to see you again," Elizabeth said with difficulty.
Darcë seemed not capable of further speech, but he made no move to leave. Out of politeness Elizabeth ventured to make a few attempts at something like conversation, but Darcë was not very cooperative and seemed content to continue staring at her in surprise. Quickly becoming annoyed, Elizabeth gave up and took to strolling idly about the area, pretending to be fascinated by various flowers. Darcë, having already offered Elizabeth his seat and been refused, sat himself down and continued to study her.
"Do not let me keep you from your meditations, my lord. I shall be leaving here shortly as soon as my friend arrives."
Darcë smiled softly and said with the barest hint of irony, "Nay, lady, you are in no danger of disturbing my present meditations."
Fortunately, Elizabeth soon heard the welcome sound of Georgianiel's light, girlish voice calling her name. She answered immediately, and Georgianiel entered the clearing with a bouncing step. Upon seeing Darcë, Georgianiel squealed in delight and flew into his arms. Elizabeth found herself gaping at the spectacle of Darcë affectionately embracing and laughing with the elf girl.
"Darcë, have you met my friend Elizabeth?" Georgianiel asked, having taken note of her friend's wondering expression.
When Darcë replied in the affirmative, Georgianiel proceeded to explain to Elizabeth that they were connected through an ancient marriage between her cousin and one of his kinsmen. As their respective kindred had passed over the Sea either by choice or misfortune, Darcë was the only family Georgianiel had left.
"It has been too long since you have come to see me!" Georgianiel said reproachfully. "You must accompany Elizabeth and me on our walk and entertain us with your adventures. And do not deny having some ready tales to tell, for I know very well that you have been in the company of the Dúnedain! Come Elizabeth, help me persuade him!"
"I fear I must decline," Elizabeth laughed. "I do not wish to intrude upon this reunion. We can postpone our walk, Georgianiel."
Darcë and Georgianiel naturally protested, but Elizabeth remained firm and left them to themselves. She returned to her chambers and was welcomed with the warmth of a fire in the hearth.
Once more that evening, Elizabeth sought the company of her journal. As she flipped open the cover and thumbed through the pages, she was amazed to find that almost half the book was filled with her small, delicate script. She smiled when she thought of how pleased Jane would be.
Elizabeth paused thoughtfully as she reached the first clean page. After a few minutes, she began to write. Jane, I have just learned the most remarkable thing!
When Darcë returned, Georgianiel noticed the change in his behavior almost at once, and she was not long in detecting its source. Thus she wisely chose not to share her discovery with Elizabeth but began to closely observe her kinsman and her friend while together. As the reader has no doubt already guessed, this proved to be a difficult task, for while the first party would not at all object to being in the company of the other, the second party tried to avoid the company of the first if she could help it. However, with a few innocent maneuverings, Georgianiel succeeded in bringing the two parties together occasionally.
One of her greater successes occurred when she arranged to have Elizabeth encounter Darcë and her in the Hall of Fire one afternoon. Georgianiel knew that the Hall would most likely be empty at that time and so Elizabeth would have no choice but to join them.
As Elizabeth approached them in the Hall that day, Georgianiel did not miss the suspicious look she cast in her direction upon seeing Darcë, but she only laughed and said, "I have been telling my cousin of your musical abilities, Elizabeth, and was hoping you would favor us with an air."
"Musical abilities?" Elizabeth inquired with an arched brow. "I believe I once told you I sang a little, but I meant a very little and very ill, especially to those who are accustomed to beauty of a much grander scale."
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing Darcë color at this statement and smiled archly at him.
"Nonsense!" Georgianiel cried. "Who that hears your voice would not agree that it would be fair in song? Sing for us a song of your people."
"Very well, if you are so determined to have your ears cruelly tortured. I will sing for you one of Mr. Baggins' songs. I heard him sing it the night I arrived here."
Georgianiel concealed a triumphant smile as best as she could as she listened to Elizabeth's acceptance and turned her eyes to Darcë to watch his reaction to her song.
In her soft alto tones, Elizabeth proceeded to sing:
The Road goes ever on and on
Elizabeth fell silent and smiled apologetically. "I do not remember any more."
"I have also heard Master Bilbo sing that song. I like it the better for having heard you sing it! It was very prettily done!" Georgianiel said.
"Very beautiful, indeed, Miss Bennet," Darcë said gravely.
Elizabeth, of course, assumed the worst of his gravity, but Georgianiel knew better. She did not miss the soft glow in Darcë's eyes as he watched Elizabeth sing nor the way they trailed after her when she took her leave. Georgianiel was not overly disappointed by Elizabeth's swift departure. Her suspicions had already been confirmed. She only wished she could be more certain of Elizabeth's feelings.
The hall in which the feast would be held was filled with folk by the time Elizabeth and her father arrived. Mr. Baggins had managed to save a seat for Mr. Bennet but had not been able to do so for his daughter. Fortunately, Glorfindel had observed her plight from the front of the hall and motioned Elizabeth to a seat on his left. Elizabeth accepted the seat gratefully, much to Georgianiel's dismay who had hoped to seat her between herself and Darcë.
When Elizabeth sat down, she looked around for her friend but was unable to see her from her prospect at the upper end of the hall. Looking to her right towards the head of the table, she saw Elrond seated with his sons upon his right and left.
"I did not know they were identical," Elizabeth whispered to Glorfindel.
"Yes, few can tell them apart," Glorfindel replied.
"What keeps them in the mountains for such extended periods of time?"
"Vengeance," Glorfindel whispered solemnly. "Years ago, their mother was gravely injured when her entourage was attacked by orcs, and the pain she suffered could not be cured, even by the healing powers of Elrond. She has since passed into the West. But let us not sully the celebration with dark memories! Instead, you might tell me how you have employed your time in Rivendell thus far. Surely not buried in books and documents like your father?"
"No indeed!" Elizabeth laughed.
As servers bearing heavily laden trays made their entrance, Elizabeth and Glorfindel continued to converse amiably together on different topics. When Glorfindel commented on Darcë's unexpected appearance in Rivendell and the delight Georgianiel must have felt on the occasion, Elizabeth thought of an unanswered question that had been gnawing on the edge of her mind since Darcë's arrival.
"Have you made Binglorn's acquaintance? Does he ever come to Rivendell?" Elizabeth asked.
"I have never met Binglorn and do not believe he has ever journeyed hither, but I know him to be a great friend of Darcë's," Glorfindel replied.
"Yes," Elizabeth sighed, "he is a great friend of his. I have no doubt that Darcë takes a prodigious deal of care for him."
"Neither do I, truthfully. I have heard that Darcë lately saved Binglorn from the unhappiness of a most imprudent marriage."
Elizabeth froze upon hearing this. The image of Jane turning her face away from her to hide her tears suddenly appeared before her mind's eye.
"Did you hear of the reason for his interference?" Elizabeth asked quietly.
"It had to do with the family I suppose."
"And what makes him think he is qualified to be the judge?" Elizabeth muttered to herself.
Glorfindel looked at her in concern, his keen hearing having heard her words above the din of the merrymaking around them.
"Forgive me, Miss Bennet. Perhaps this was not something I should have spoken of. Miss Bennet, are you unwell?"
"My head is aching. I believe some fresh air is what I need right now. Excuse me."
Elizabeth rose and walked swiftly out of the room. Though she had assured the elf lord that it was but a trifling ache, Glorfindel started to follow her. However, at that moment, Elrond claimed his attention and prevented him from doing so.
She never despised Darcë as much as at that moment when she discovered he had been the means of deeply wounding her dearest sister. When she reflected on Jane's misery coupled with her determination to appear as content and serene as ever before her family, Elizabeth felt an overwhelming desire to exact vengeance on the haughty, arrogant elf lord, and the intensity of her dark feelings frightened her.
Jane, so kind and unaffectedly generous - she of all people is most deserving of happiness! But what does that elf care? We lowly mortals are nothing to the likes of him in the grand scheme of things!
So deeply was Elizabeth immersed in her grief and anger that she failed to notice the agent of her emotions walk furtively into the Hall.
"Miss Bennet?" he called toward the dark corner where she was seated.
Despite being startled and greatly vexed at having been discovered by Darcë, of all people, she succeeded in regaining most of her composure and hastily wiped away her tears.
"Forgive me, Miss Bennet. I saw that you had abruptly quitted the merrymaking and wished to inquire after your health."
"I am well," was the only reply Elizabeth could offer.
However, Darcë appeared not to have heard her and seemed as agitated as she was. He made no move to leave Elizabeth but stood before her, alternately gazing into the fire and glancing uncertainly in her direction. This puzzling behavior continued for several minutes before he finally stepped towards her and said in a shaking voice, "Whatever may befall me, I can no longer struggle against my feelings. I must tell you how ardently I love you."
In a single moment, every vexation that had tormented Elizabeth's heart was consumed in the shock of Darcë's declaration. Her entire body shook with the violent change. Her face, once crimsoned with the mingled effects of anger and proximity to the fire, was now as white as her gown.
"I know now that I have loved you almost from the first time I beheld you," he continued when she did not respond. "Of course, the absurdity of the fact that I, a High Elf of the Noldor, could choose a mortal as the object of such feelings long prevented my professing them. Marriage between us would undoubtedly incur the incredulity and censure of my kindred were they present to witness it; and the fate of an Elda who cleaves to a mortal is also no small consideration. But even these objections are nothing to what I feel for you, therefore nothing is to be done save accepting you as my wife. Will you have me?"
Elizabeth stared at Darcë in astonishment for some time before she realized that he was awaiting her answer. That he expected an answer at all to his ridiculously supercilious speech was astonishing. Though she trembled still, Elizabeth slowly rose and stood stiffly before the expectant elf lord.
"My lord, you need not fear for your immortality. I have no desire to be the cause of your doom. I suppose I should feel some obligation as you have succeeded in persuading yourself to make such a sacrifice - but I cannot. I am sorry to give anyone pain, but it was unintentional, and I am sure that those considerable objections will have no difficulty convincing you once more of the absurdity of your feelings."
Deeming this answer to be sufficient and certainly more civil than he deserved, she moved away from him towards the Hall's entrance.
"Eliza- Miss Bennet!" Darcë called.
Elizabeth turned in exasperation to face him once more and was taken aback by the emotions his face betrayed. She was uncertain whether it was wrath or incredulity that radiated from his presence, but a fire burned in his eyes that she had never before witnessed. Perhaps it was akin to desperation.
In truth, Darcë had not expected a refusal and was struggling to comprehend the full import of her reply.
"And so I am rejected? May I ask why?"
Elizabeth crossed her arms and assumed a look of defiance. "I am at a loss to know where to start. Perhaps I could begin with the cruel part you played in separating Binglorn and Jane, or perhaps I could begin at an earlier point by mentioning your betrayal of Wickham? But now that I think of it, I should really go straight to the root of those evils by saying I could never marry someone, be he man or elf, who is as proud, conceited, and arrogant as yourself!"
Darcë was now as pale as Elizabeth had been, and he had the look of one who was suffering a mortal wound - but perhaps he was.
"So all these months, this has been your opinion of me?" he haltingly asked.
Elizabeth did not answer, but her countenance told him everything.
"Very well," he said softly. "At long last, I understand. Forgive me for having disturbed you, and may the stars shine upon the end of your road*."
But Elizabeth barely heard his blessing, for she had fled the Hall and was hastening to her chambers.
*J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings, Book I.