Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit's Tale Part X
by Lillian C.
Chapter 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
Dear Jane, you may by now have observed that as this month has progressed, my entries have become sparse and muddled, but do not fear. I will relieve your curiosity on all obscure points when we are together again.
Perhaps homesickness is what increasingly deprives me of the ability to find inspiration here. I hear elvish song and laughter and find myself recalling Kitty and Lydia's squabbles with something akin to fondness. Once, as I sat in the Hall of Fire and listened to some ancient tale of the First Age, it occurred to me that I was wishing I were listening to one of Mary's long-winded sermons. I even strain my ears to hear Mama calling me from the other end of the house to perform some silly task. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that I am going mad and that I must return home at once. Father is of like mind, for he came to me this morning and informed me that we would leave for home in a few days. We expect to reach Longbourn by the end of July. So, as I have already exhausted your senses with a detailed description of every inch of countryside between here and Longbourn, I will conclude this narrative here and permanently retire my pen.
Jane chuckled and handed the journal to Elizabeth. "It was a very charming narrative, indeed, and it kept me wide awake till a dreadful hour last night!"
Elizabeth accepted the journal with surprise. "Why are you returning this to me?"
"Because many clean pages remain, and you will not be home two months before you are off on another adventure."
Elizabeth's face darkened as she remembered the promise she had made to Georgianiel. "It will hardly be worth recording, I assure you."
Jane frowned at her sister's gravity. She had come across more than one passage in the journal that puzzled her to no end, but Elizabeth had yet to explain them. Jane could sense her discontent, but she did not press her confidence, knowing full well that Elizabeth would come to her in time.
On an afternoon two days from Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth's return, she did come. Elizabeth proposed that she and Jane take an "extended" walk, and Jane readily accepted. Jane estimated that they had walked about a mile before Elizabeth began making random comments about their journey, and she supposed that Elizabeth was gradually making her way to the cause of her unease.
After a particularly long pause, Elizabeth drew a deep breath and said, "There is something rather extraordinary that I would tell you, Jane, something I could not bring myself to disclose in the journal. I have anguished over it for weeks and still know not how to put it into words!"
"Speak and be easy, Elizabeth. You will feel much better if you do."
"I fear it is not so simple as that. I would that it was! But you are right. I will put it off no longer."
In the plainest terms, Elizabeth spoke of her various encounters with Darcë, of his declaration and proposal, and of the answer she gave. She was careful to omit certain portions of her story, including that particular conversation between her and Glorfindel, for fear of giving unnecessary pain. She concluded by giving Jane the first page of Darcë's letter, which she had kept with her since the day she received it.
"Poor Darcë!" Jane cried after she had read the page.
"Poor Darcë? Do you blame me for refusing him?"
"Of course not, Elizabeth, but think of the pain he must have endured! To know that the one he loves thinks so ill of him!"
"I confess I cannot equal your compassion. He has other feelings that will have no difficulty extinguishing any amount of love he may still feel for me," Elizabeth said darkly.
Jane frowned slightly and shook her head. "No, I cannot believe that he could so easily cast his heart aside, that anyone would be willing to sacrifice everything for feelings that could fade at the first sign of difficulty. I must say, it is all very strange. I mean I always knew your heart would be sought after, but I never thought that is, I never expected "
Elizabeth laughed, sparing her sister further discomfort. "Yes, it all seems out of one of Father's tales, does it not? Yet I do not think I have ever heard of a heroine so blinded by prejudice, though I still believe at least some of my prejudice is merited."
"Dear Elizabeth! When you read that letter, you must have suffered as greatly as Darcë when he heard your refusal. Indeed, you could not have made so light of it then as you do now."
Elizabeth nodded solemnly, remembering well the mortification of the experience. As they returned home later, the single page of the letter became a crumpled form in her fist.
"It is most unfair, Papa, that Elizabeth should twice be allowed to travel!" Lydia whined at the breakfast table. "She is not the only one in need of excitement and diversion!"
It had not been long after her return to Longbourn that Elizabeth began to wonder that she had ever missed her family's antics, and she soon became eager to depart again. As she listened to Lydia's chatter, she smiled at the strange waywardness of her feelings, mentally adding it to the list of character flaws she would have to teach herself to laugh at.
"I have never set foot outside of Bree!" Kitty pouted.
"Kitty and I should be allowed to go on a long journey!" Lydia insisted. "It does not signify where, so long as one is required to brave miles of fearsome wilderness."
Mr. Bennet, who had not appeared to be listening to his daughters' pleas, paused thoughtfully. "Kitty and Lydia left to themselves in the Wild. That is something worth considering. Please pass the sausage, Jane."
"Oh, Mr. Bennet!" Mrs. Bennet cried. "How absurd you are! Think of all the horribly dark and rugged strangers they would encounter in the Wild!"
"Dark, rugged strangers " Lydia echoed wistfully.
"You need not fear, my dear," Mr. Bennet reassured his wife. "I am certain the lands hereabouts would not truly merit that name unless these two were set loose within them."
Mrs. Bennet could think of no reply to this, so she turned her head sharply away to show her offense. This gesture bothered Mr. Bennet not at all, and he sought to enjoy the remainder of his breakfast in peace.
Mary looked crossly at her sisters and said, "If you would only find more useful employments for your minds, you would not be so keen to run about the countryside."
Lydia only huffed impatiently and once more turned pleading eyes upon her father, but he had ceased to attend the subject at hand and continued cutting his sausage.
Once the initial joy of Elizabeth's return had subsided, Jane's spirits sunk into the general melancholy that had persisted since Binglorn's departure from Netherfield, and the fact that her sole confidante would once again leave for some strange country depressed them even more. Elizabeth noted this with dismay and urged her to join the company to Mithlond as well. Jane firmly declined, though not without some regret. However, she knew very well that her mother would never support the idea of her eldest daughter travelling to foreign places. (Jane chose not to dwell on the oddity of the perfect ease with which Mrs. Bennet allowed her second daughter to travel where she wished.)
"But Jane," Elizabeth protested, "it is no more your fate to remain at Longbourn forever than it is mine, of this I am certain! Perhaps Father could intervene for you?"
"No Elizabeth. I will not put one parent against the other in such a way. And even if I could procure their consent, I do not think I am ready to brave the world just yet."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and said, "Believe me, few are more prepared to take on the world than those who have survived the perils of Longbourn."
This remark elicited from Jane a soft laugh, but nothing more.
"I wish you would come," Elizabeth sighed. Jane detected in Elizabeth's voice a hint of anxiety, and she wondered if Elizabeth was thinking of Darcë and if she feared seeing him in Mithlond. "I see you are still unhappy, Jane, and it grieves me to no end."
Elizabeth was indeed thinking of Darcë then but only as the author of Jane's misery. Though she had long since admitted to herself that she had been mistaken about his intentions, she still bristled over his officiousness. She briefly wondered whether Binglorn was at all conscious of his thralldom to the elf lord.
Jane, who had been observing her sister's hardened features with concern, said, "Elizabeth, unhappiness is inevitable in this world, as much for the great as for the lowly. The histories and tales Father has passed on to us are proof of this. It will not do for you to allow every vexation, every misfortune to be a cause of such distress, as is your wont." Jane smiled fondly at her. "I know you never tire of your struggle against the injustice of the world, but do not waste your strength on things that cannot be helped. I was mistaken about Binglorn's feelings for me, and he will not return. There is nothing I can do about it; I have resigned myself to this. His departure still pains me, yes, but there is nothing you can do about that either. So trouble yourself no more on my account. I need only time to mend."
The summer waned with little excitement - not so much as a ball was held, much to the chagrin of Longbourn's younger inhabitants - and the first signs of autumn began to appear in the land. Elizabeth observed the change with mixed feelings. Though she welcomed the thought of traveling again, she feared where her journey might lead her.
It was on a cool September morning before the sun had risen when a small party of elves reached Longbourn. Barely a whisper or a rustle was heard as they passed the gates and approached the three mortals who awaited them.
Of the Longbourn household, Mr. Bennet, Jane, and Elizabeth alone were awake to welcome them. Mr. Bennet stepped forward first, and judging from the solemnity with which he exchanged farewells with many of the elves, Elizabeth gathered that most of the party would soon be taking the westward way, never to return.
Despite the hour, Jane was wide-eyed as she exchanged greetings with the fair people. Darcë was the only elf she had ever seen, and it seemed to her that these people were rather different from him. They seemed gentler in nature, more wistful, yet somehow more melancholy; but different from all the elves was Georgianiel, whom Elizabeth presented to her. She alone seemed to carry some semblance of youth and lightness of manner.
"Your sister has told me much of you Jane Bennet, and it is clear to me why you are so dear to her," Georgianiel said with a shy smile, which Jane eagerly returned. The two liked each other immediately; and Georgianiel was saddened, for she knew she would be leaving Middle Earth soon and would never have a chance to cultivate a friendship with this mortal who she perceived to possess a temperament not unlike her own.
After all farewells had been made and Elizabeth had embraced her father and sister, Mr. Bennet and Jane returned to the house. When Jane reached the threshold and looked back to catch a parting glance, she was surprised to see that the small company had disappeared. She would almost have felt they had not been there at all had not she remembered with a sinking heart that they had taken Elizabeth with them.
Elizabeth had not anticipated that she would add very much to her journal along the road to Mithlond, not expecting to come across anything she might consider a novelty. However, she found that traveling with the elves was an experience wholly unlike traveling with other mortals. Perhaps it was because the elves rarely made use of the Road, preferring to cut across the country and keep close to the more heavily wooded areas. However, Elizabeth felt the world did appear differently, and areas she had felt would be familiar to her were entirely foreign. Though winter was but a few months ahead, the lands seemed adorned in springtime freshness as she gazed up at the stars overhead and listened to elven voices sing.
As might be expected, Elizabeth and Georgianiel spent much of the journey in each other's company. They made a very merry pair, each taking great delight in the new scenes to which their path led them.
Assuming as indifferent an air as possible, Elizabeth inquired after Darcë, desiring to learn whether they would see him in Mithlond. Georgianiel suddenly looked downcast and said she did not expect they would, for she believed he had spent much of the summer with the Dúnedain in the Wild. Elizabeth struggled to conceal her great relief as she expressed a polite amount of regret for Darcë's anticipated absence.
After a few days of rugged, untamed country, the travelers came upon an expanse of well-cultivated fields. It was a sudden change in the landscape, and Elizabeth knew instinctively that they were crossing through the Shire. However, the elves, as Elizabeth expected, steered clear of such areas and made for Woodhall.
On one particular evening while they were still within the Shire's borders, Elizabeth spied a hobbit whom she was certain had observed them as well. He walked leisurely in solitude and wore a wistfully contemplative expression that was uncharacteristic for a hobbit. She wondered that any hobbit would go so far into the woods by himself in the evening, and she was strongly reminded of the tales of Bilbo's adventures.
A distant tremor that shook the air and resounded through the earth reminded the elves that they had best complete their task before nightfall. Círdan the Shipwright, who had been silently watching their progress, turned to regard the menacing storm clouds hastening towards them. Such tempests had become increasingly common the past few years, and the Lord of the Havens wondered what omens they would bring with them. He returned his gaze to the nearly completed ship that would soon carry into the West another group of elves weary of Middle Earth.
The sound of light footfalls approached from behind, and Círdan turned in surprise to see Darcë walking towards him.
"Greetings, mellon!" he said. "You return home sooner than you had planned."
"Lord Círdan, mae govannen! I wished to return in time to bid farewell to Georgianiel, which I was not able to do in Imladris. I see that all will soon be prepared for her passage," Darcë said with a nod to the elves laboring below.
"Yes and none too soon," Círdan replied, gesturing towards the darkening sky. "Will you tarry much longer after Georgianiel departs?"
Darcë turned and looked eastward to a place Círdan could not see. "No, perhaps not."