MOON LETTERS : CREATIVE WRITING
Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit's Tale: Part XIV and Epilogue - by Lillian C.
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On a night of early October, Elizabeth was suddenly wakened by a great commotion that was a combination of shouting, slamming doors, and feet pounding up and down the stairs. Rather than risk being forced out of bed by her mother, Elizabeth rose, dressed quickly, and hastened out of her room. To her extreme astonishment, Mrs. Bennet was actually not the cause of the uproar (though she was a noteworthy participant).
At the top of the stairs, Jane intercepted Elizabeth and exclaimed, "Oh Elizabeth! Father and Lydia are come home, and they are well!"
Jane led Elizabeth to Lydia's room where she was laid on her bed wrapped snugly in blankets and loudly blowing her nose with one of her mother's handkerchiefs. Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Underhill, and Kitty were close at hand, fussing over her and asking silly questions.
"Well, I was too busy having heaps of fun to write to you, Kitty!" Lydia insisted with a great deal of sniffling.
"Of course you were, my dearest girl!" Mrs. Bennet declared. "Kitty, if you are determined to pout, then you had best return to bed!"
When Lydia noticed Elizabeth's presence, she simpered and said, "There you are, Elizabeth! Were you very jealous when you came home and found I was gone? I wager you were! Was not Wickham a favorite of yours once?" As she said the latter, she promptly clapped her hand over her mouth and giggled.
"Where is Wickham?" Elizabeth demanded, choosing to ignore Lydia's questions and her ridiculous behavior.
Lydia's face darkened considerably. "Father is being utterly disagreeable! He says I am never to speak of Wickham again, or Darcë for that matter."
"Darcë?!" Elizabeth gasped.
"Yes," Lydia replied, giggling at her sister's wide eyes and flushed complexion, "Darcë is the one who decided that I should not speak of having met him, though I do not know why...Oh dear! I was not even supposed speak of not being able to speak of them! It was all to be a great secret! Father shall be doubly cross now!"
"Hush my dear," Mrs. Bennet soothed. "I will have your father know you are in a very delicate condition now and need no scolding. And he need have no fear of our discussing Darcë any further. What is that elf to us anyway? I would rather hear of your dear Wickham. What has become of him?"
However, Lydia only put a finger to her lips and shook her head. Before her mother had a chance to become indignant and raise her voice, Elizabeth left the room and went directly to the library where she knew her father had taken refuge. She did not bother to knock, but immediately pushed the door open and went inside. To her dismay, she found Mr. Bennet sunk into his chair by the fireplace, his head buried in his hands. Elizabeth hurried to him and knelt at his side.
"Father, I am so happy you are come home!" Elizabeth said tearfully, momentarily forgetting her anxiety over Lydia's involuntary revelation. "You must be dreadfully fatigued. Is there anything I can get for you?"
At the sound of his dearest daughter's voice, Mr. Bennet raised his head and promptly embraced her. "I need nothing now, my child," he murmured.
After some time, Elizabeth drew away and asked, "Father, was the situation very bad?"
Mr. Bennet studied his daughter intently before he answered. For the first time in her life, Elizabeth felt unable to meet her father's eyes, for they gleamed in a way that was unfamiliar to her. It appeared almost to be disapproval or even displeasure, and it seemed directed towards her rather than towards Lydia, Wickham, or anyone else.
At last Mr. Bennet shrugged and said, "It depends on which situation you mean. If you are speaking of Lydia, well I suppose it all could have been worse. She is alive, and unharmed save for a nasty fright and a nastier cold. On the whole, I believe her sense has received little to no improvement from her experience, though perhaps that was a little too much to hope for..."
"I concur with you there," Elizabeth remarked wryly. "for she has let slip Darcë's involvement, or I assume he was involved somehow, despite your orders that she say nothing. I know not why it must remain a secret, but in view of the fact that she has revealed this much, would you not indulge me with the story in full?"
Mr. Bennet sighed heavily and shook his head. "I anticipated your finding out sooner or later, though I had rather hoped it would be later. It was Darcë's wish that I not reveal the fact that we owe Lydia's safe return to him."
"He saved her from certain death at the hands of the servants of the Enemy. What Lydia does not and will not know is that her attackers had murdered Wickham just before they found her camp."
Elizabeth paled at her father's words, and was suddenly overcome with the warmest gratitude for the one who saved her sister from Wickham's fate.
"The encounter not only rendered Lydia unconscious but also spooked Darcë's mount, so he proceeded to carry her home. I met them but five miles from the town. As for his motives in going after them, I would think you would be more familiar with them than I."
Warm color returned to Elizabeth's face in full force as that strange glint once again entered her father's eyes. Though she knew not exactly what her father meant to imply, she could very well understand the direction he was taking.
"What do you mean, Father? What has Darcë told you?" Elizabeth asked cautiously.
"Very little, to tell you the truth, but I surmised enough from his behavior then and at Rivendell...and from your behavior as well, I might add," Mr. Bennet replied dryly.
"My behavior?!" Elizabeth cried somewhat indignantly.
Mr. Bennet chuckled at her father's expression. "Yes, my dear. Clever as you are, you have never been able to hide your emotions, at least not from me. It has been many months that you could not hear that elf lord's name spoken without blushing and becoming discomfited as you are now, and I remember quite clearly how your eyes tenaciously followed his movements in Rivendell - that is, when his eyes were not following yours. When I happened upon him outside of Bree days ago, it was only too apparent that all the pains he undertook for one sister were all for the sake of another." Mr. Bennet leaned forward and grasped his daughters hand. "My child, I do not believe you are fully aware of what the decision you made could entail. That such a choice should have come to one of my daughters in these times is almost beyond my comprehension! Not only will Darcë have to utterly forsake his place among his people in the West but you will have to relinquish all claims to the world you have known. I am sure I need not recount to you the histories of unions such as these to remind you of the anguish they often inspire."
By that time, Elizabeths eyes were swimming in tears, a visual testament to Mr. Bennets latter words. Her tears however proceeded more from regret than anything else, regret that her father presumed more than what actually existed between her and Darcë and a more subtle regret that his presumption did not have a better foundation.
"You have nothing to fear, Father," Elizabeth said, careful not to let her feelings seep into her voice. "Darcë and I have no understanding. In fact, I believe such a thing quite impossible, considering Lydias latest escapade."
Relief shown plainly in her fathers face. "No understanding? Truly? Forgive me, my dear, but I must say I am quite relieved. I confess I was not a little displeased that you would have set your heart on an elf lord you had but lately disliked so prodigiously, but I am the last person who should fault you for having a wayward heart. After all, I did marry your mother." Mr. Bennet chuckled as he patted her hand reassuringly. "Let it go then, for it will pass in time, and I advise you to try to be content within your own sphere. Others have done so in the past and have come to no serious harm."
Elizabeth gazed at her father, blinking back further tears as his words left cruel gashes in her already sore heart. However, she knew that such was not his intention, thus she smiled weakly at him and said, "Yes, I will try. And perhaps if fortune is on my side, I may in time meet with another Mr. Collins."
Mr. Bennet snorted, "Well, whatever you wish, my dear, but pray let it not come to that."
Elizabeth affected a laugh and promptly fled her fathers presence to the sanctuary of her room where her pillow offered a sympathetic shoulder for her tears.
No sooner had the gossips lost interest in the conjectures surrounding Lydias mysterious return than yet another item of local interest emerged and was spread throughout town: Binglorn had unexpectedly returned and was reputedly in a hurry to settle all his unfinished affairs in Bree.
The news did little to raise the spirits of the Longbourn family. Mrs. Bennet and her daughters took this as a sign that Binglorn meant to depart for good, and the former did not scruple to bewail to Jane the loss of her suitor. Mr. Bennet, who had been better informed of Binglorns business in the area, came to the conclusion that the Rangers were most likely to move south soon and assist in the wars that were brewing there. Elizabeth, though sympathizing with Janes distress, was also aware of a keen disappointment that the general word implied Binglorn had come alone this time.
Thus, the entire Longbourn household was taken utterly by surprise when Mrs. Underhill burst into the drawing room declaring, "Master Binglorn is coming up the drive, my lady!" With that, the hobbit rushed from the room to receive him at the front door.
Fortunately, Mr. Bennet had the foresight to retreat into his library before his wife had a chance to react to the news. Elizabeth would have followed suit, but Jane caught her arm and silently beseeched her to stay at her side.
Mrs. Bennet jumped from her seat and exclaimed, "Steady yourselves, girls! We shall receive him as any other caller. Oh, Jane! Would that you had put on your blue gown this morning! But its too late to think of it. Mary, do not fidget so! Go ring the bell for tea!"
Kitty, who had run to look out the window when the announcement was made, said, "Someone is with him! Who could it be? I think it is that elf who was with him before."
"Do you mean Darcë?" Mrs. Bennet gasped as she ran to the window.
Lydia immediately joined them, and seeing that Darcë was indeed come, fled to her room. Jane and Elizabeth observed her flight in confusion, but each silent wishing they could follow.
"Oh dear, what a pity Binglorn is not alone," Mrs. Bennet said. "Well, I suppose we shall be forced to welcome the elf since he is Binglorns friend. Now, where did Lydia run off too?"
Elizabeth, clasping Janes hand as much to receive comfort as to give it, sighed in frustration at her mothers words and wished she herself had not expressed her former opinions of Darcë so strongly.
When voices and approaching footsteps were heard in the hall, Mrs. Bennet immediately scurried to her seat and tried to assume an air of serenity. Her efforts proved to be in vain however, for when the door opened she sprang to her feet once more and accosted Binglorn with her warm exclamations of welcome. Elizabeth noted her mothers pointed attempt to ignore Darcë and looked away in embarrassment, being painfully aware of how much her family was indebted to him. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, Darcë took no notice of Mrs. Bennets rudeness, his only interest at the moment being Elizabeths reaction to his arrival. Noting her obvious discomfort, though not knowing the true cause, he looked away and sighed.
"Your departure was most abrupt, and we were so desolated when you left us without a word. But all is well now, for you have come back! Will you be long in the neighborhood?"
"I am afraid not, Mrs. Bennet," Binglorn replied as his eyes drifted to Jane. "I am actually in the process of permanently removing from this area and do not look to return in the future, so naturally I came to pay my respects to your family."
"You are very kind, sir," Mrs. Bennet sniffed, not at all pleased with his answer. "So you are to leave soon?"
"Yes, very soon. And there is some business of great importance that I must conclude here ere I depart. Would you-" Binglorn hesitated and looked to Darcë who gave him a small smile of encouragement. "Would you grant me an interview with Miss Bennet?"
Mrs. Bennets good humor returned in full force, and she rushed forward to clasp Binglorns hand. "Of course, good sir! The rest of us will have tea in the dining room, and you may join us when all is settled! Mary, Kitty, Elizabeth, come!"
Elizabeth blushed furiously at her mothers presumption and behavior and stubbornly remained where she was, determined not to leave Jane alone unless she wished it. Though as yet uninvited, Darcë opted to follow the others and offered his arm to Elizabeth. She looked uncertainly from Darcë to Jane and, finding that Jane attended to no one save Binglorn, shyly accepted his arm.
Tea that afternoon was a most uncomfortable affair. Mrs. Bennet, caught between excitement for what must be taking place between Binglorn and Jane and her awe of Darcë, was quite unable to say a word. Kitty and Mary were just as uneasy in the presence of the elf lord, so it was up to Elizabeth and Darcë to carry on some form of polite conversation. When they had exhausted every mundane topic relevant to the Bree-lands, Mr. Bennet entered the dining room with a smiling Jane and Binglorn in tow.
Mr. Bennet solemnly cleared his throat and said, "Mrs. Bennet, prepare yourself. You are about to lose one of your daughters."
At that moment, Elizabeth was extremely grateful for the presence of Darcë and his restraining effect on her mother. Save for him, she had no doubt her mother would have indulged herself in a fit of joyful hysterics. As it was, Mrs. Bennet limited herself to warm embraces for Jane and Binglorn and proceeded to drill Mr. Bennet on the subject of wedding clothes.
When Binglorn and Darcë took his leave that evening and Jane could spare a moment from the attentions of her family, she drew Elizabeth aside and led her to her room where they could speak privately.
"You will be so happy, Jane!" Elizabeth said warmly. "It is no more than what you deserve."
"I am happy already! Though you speak otherwise, I can hardly believe myself deserving of such happiness! He said he has loved me all the time! He just did not believe I returned his feelings." Jane fell silent, and the brilliance of her smile clouded a bit. "Elizabeth, he spoke truly when he said he was to leave soon. He will, and I will go with him - to Rivendell. All must be taken care of rather quickly, you see, because
well, he says we must settle at Rivendell before it is too late."
"Yes. He says the lands are changing and becoming more dangerous by the day, but Rivendell is a safe refuge. It has been a sanctuary for his people for many years."
Elizabeth drew in a deep breath as she finally understood. "Then, Binglorn is a Ranger? One of the Dúnedain? And I would wager that Father knew it all the time."
Jane nodded slowly and said, "Binglorn told me the Rangers have maintained a vigilant watch over this area for some time, though he has not yet explained why. It was his chieftain who left Bree last month with that small party of hobbits, and now Binglorn believes him to be in Rivendell."
"And he is eager to join him," Elizabeth finished sadly. "When will you go?"
"In two days."
Elizabeth laid her head on her sisters shoulder, averting her face to hide her tears. "So, now our roles are reversed. It is you who is to go on the adventure and I who must stay behind wondering how I am going to get on without you."
"You are not for Bree, Elizabeth," Jane assured gently. "Of that I have been sure for quite a while."
Much to the chagrin of some, the wedding of Binglorn and Jane was a small, quiet affair, requiring little by way of new clothes and witnessed by few outside the Bennet family. Surprisingly, Darcë was not present to witness it, and Binglorn explained that his absence was due to urgent tidings he had received a day after their arrival and that he would join them as soon as possible on the road to Rivendell.
Elizabeth did not want to believe that Darcë would miss his dear friends wedding to avoid her, but the thought did not escape her. She witnessed her sisters nuptials with as much happiness as she could muster and parted from her with all the dignity in her power. Only when Jane had at last departed with her new husband did Elizabeth turn away and give full vent to her grief and loneliness.
It was not until December that Darcë was able to return to Longbourn. During the time of Binglorns wedding, a search was being made for any trace of the servants of the Enemy, and Binglorn had been called to assist. Instead of allowing his friend to forsake the opportunity for happiness that lay before him, Darcë accepted the summons in his behalf, eager to do his friend any service after he had once before come between him and Miss Bennet. That business concluded, Darcë was at last at liberty to see to his own happiness.
The sky was clear on the night of his arrival, and the stars shown with an uncharacteristic brightness. After passing silently through the gate, rather than seeking admittance into the house, he turned his steps to the gardens where he knew a large tree stood. It was a place where he knew Elizabeth would be found on such a night. He saw her curled up beneath her tree - somehow he knew it to be hers - with her face turned upward so that her eyes and tears mirrored the starlight. Or perhaps it is the reverse, Darcë thought wistfully. He spoke no word but moved noiselessly to her side and knelt before her.
"Why these tears now, Elizabeth?" Darcë asked as he brushed away the evidence of her sorrow with a feather-light touch. "Your youngest sister is safe, your eldest has found happiness. What now is wanting to make you content?"
Elizabeth drew away in surprise at his sudden appearance and tender address.
"My lord? What do you do here? I had thought never to see you again."
Darcë smiled gently and commanded, "Answer my question, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth hesitated, for whether or not he knew it, he was asking for admittance to her hearts most sacred secrets.
"I am not ungrateful," Elizabeth said, in her embarrassment seeking some safe diversion. "I am indeed content and most happy for Janes situation. And I know it is to you that my family owes its good fortune."
Darcë only smiled at this obvious diversion, but he was not to be deterred. "You know very well I am not seeking your gratitude, or your familys for that matter, as much as I respect them." He seized her face firmly but gently with both hands that he might gaze without hindrance into her eyes. Elizabeth gasped at the intensity of the emotions etched on his face. "Have your feelings changed at all since last summer?"
"Have yours?" Elizabeth queried, almost teasingly.
Darcë grinned and almost laughed aloud when Elizabeths face abruptly fell. "Elizabeth, my feelings for you could only deepen. We elves are not easily mistaken by our own hearts, and we do not give our love lightly or carelessly, I least of all."
A sob nearly escaped from Elizabeths throat as she heard Darcë speak the words she had so longed to hear ever since they had parted in Mithlond. However, the memory of her fathers words prevented her from at once easing his suspense.
"How can I allow you to give up your life for me?" Elizabeth demanded tearfully. "Who am I that you should make such a sacrifice for my sake?"
Tears now filled Darcës eyes, but Elizabeth was not given a chance to be shocked at the sight, for he immediately pulled her into his arms, and she felt his tears upon her neck where he rested his cheek.
"Elizabeth, my Elizabeth! I never lived before I found you! For ages I was but an empty form, walking aimlessly beneath the Sun and the Moon, awaiting the End. You brought warmth and feeling to what before was cold and bitter." Darcë drew away slightly and looked into her eyes. "Could you allow me to return to that state? I shall if I cannot be with you."
Elizabeth had never felt so lost for words, and the feeling was strange. It was not in her nature. Therefore her heart, at last freed from the bonds of reason and common sense, came forward to speak the words that sealed their fates forever.
"I love you."
Mr. Bennet was lightly dozing in his library when what seemed to be a dream visited his slumber. His dearest daughter, his Elizabeth, swept softly into the room and knelt by his chair. Taking his hand and kissing it she whispered, "Good bye, Dear Father."
He was then awakened by a sound like the closing of a door, and he found himself alone; but on his desk, an unfamiliar object glittered in the candlelight: a blue jewel set in gold that bore a star with many rays. With a certainty that brought him pain, he recognized the star as the symbol of the House of Fëanor.
Mr. Bennet rose and stood at the window. He beheld his reflection there on the panes and saw with surprise that he had been weeping.
"Good bye, Elizabeth," he whispered. "May the payment required of you for your choice not be too dear.
Thus, the people of Bree neither saw nor heard of Elizabeth Bennet again, though rumors were spread and wild conjectures made long after her disappearance. Some went so far as to say that she had been abducted by Wickham, but most held that the wizard Gandalf had whisked her away at last. Whether any of the Bennet family were better informed of her whereabouts was not known.
Mrs. Bennet, after an appropriate period of wailing and lamentation, dismissed her daughters disappearance as an unavoidable event caused by her peculiar nature. Mr. Bennet paid no heed to the whisperings save when a particularly absurd piece of gossip reached his ears and brought forth an amused smile. It was observed however that his journeys into the Wild not only increased in number but greatly increased in duration.
During that tense period when Binglorn was away with his kindred fighting in the wars of the south, Jane was surprised by letter given to her by Glorfindel. In hopes that it was from Elizabeth, from whom she had not received word since her departure from Bree, she hastened to the quiet of the Hall of Fire. With trembling hands, she broke the seal. The letter was in her fathers hand.
My Dear Jane,
Your sister, Elizabeth, has flown at last and in all likelihood will never again return to the likes of Bree. Be not alarmed, Jane. She is in no danger. On the contrary! She is undoubtedly happier now than she has ever been, for I have reason to believe she has acquired for me a most unusual son-in-law. But I will cease here and leave the rest for her. She will probably make an appearance at Rivendell some time or another.
-Your ever affectionate father
P. S. Pray do not mention any of this in any letter you might have a mind to send to your mother or sisters. It would not do for Mrs. Bennet to be scurrying about town with the news that her newest son-in-law is an elf, and in any case, I doubt her nerves could handle it.
Elizabeth laughed mischievously as she strolled unshod along the beach, her careless steps leaving an odd trail in the sand. She continued thus till she arrived at a favorite seat of hers, a fairly large rock situated just in view of the harbor. With a little more difficulty than usual, she pulled herself onto the rock and sat comfortably on its relatively smooth surface.
Since her removal to Mithlond, she had spent many evenings in such a manner: waiting for the sun to make its glorious farewell as it descends into the West. Her husband often accompanied her, but that particular evening, he had chosen to join the other elves on the docks as a few of his acquaintance would be sailing. Then, after the ship disappears into the horizon, Elizabeth supposed Darcë would return to his home expecting to find that his wife, in pious obedience to his stern commands, had spent the evening safely indoors. Elizabeth laughed heartily at the thought and strained her eyes toward the docks in an attempt to catch a glimpse of him, but her efforts were in vain. She knew very well that Darcë, with his keen elven sight, had probably observed her already and was only waiting for the ship to depart before he would hasten to give her a sound scolding.
Elizabeth was not disappointed. The ship had barely pulled anchor before she spied a solitary figure making its way toward her. She immediately crossed her arms and assumed a look of defiance. Darcë stopped within five feet of Elizabeths rock and regarded her in a similar fashion. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed her bare feet.
"Well, my lord?" Elizabeth demanded expectantly, unabashedly dangling her feet below her. She was surprised by an abundance of merry laughter.
"Love, you are impossible! Would that you would leave me some illusion of authority in our home!"
Elizabeth frowned. "That would not do. You would not find so much amusement in my society then."
"I suppose not," Darcë conceded as he leaped nimbly onto the rock and settled down beside her, wrapping his cloak about her shoulders. "Perhaps a compromise is in order. You may defy me as it pleases you, as long as you do not endanger yourself or the little one."
"Oh, to hear an elf speak of clean sea air as if it were a danger to ones health! What is the world coming to?" Elizabeth cried with a dramatic sigh. "You are over-anxious, Love. I have always had a solid constitution."
Darcë looked intently into his wifes face as if trying to determine the truth of her words and then answered her questioning eyes with an affectionate smile and a kiss on her brow. This simple caress yielded many more until night enveloped the pair and Darcë finally recollected himself.
"It seems we have missed another sunset, my lord," Elizabeth remarked as they walked home.
Darcë laughingly noted the mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "And likely it will not be the last."
Darcë and Elizabeth retired happily that evening, content with themselves, each other and their world. Knowing the respective dispositions of each, it could not be said that their evenings always passed so peaceably, but it can be assured that their mutual affection grew with time and trial. And so it was that amid the violence and upheaval of the War of the Ring, there was at least one haven of love and light untainted by darkness and despair.