Posted on Date: Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, newly wed and lately of London, had been quite merrily cooped up inside their home due to several days of constant and heavy rain. Elizabeth, however, fairly ached, craving a walk.
"Yes, my dear?" he answered, lifting his eyes as he set aside his book.
"The rain has abated. It is little more than a light drizzle now. Do you think … I mean, could we …" a deep sigh escaped her lips before she could finish.
"Lizzy? Is all well?" Darcy looked at his wife with concern. It was highly unusual for her to experience difficulty communicating her thoughts.
"Yes, my love, all is well. It is just … just … Oh, I should so like to wander about outdoors."
Darcy smiled at his bride. He knew that his country wife, so fond of long rambles amongst flora and fauna, had been feeling the effects of her housebound state for quite some time. "Your wish is my command. Come, let us gather our outer attire, and be off."
"Come." He stood and offered her his hand.
They strolled for many blocks, reveling in the feel of the light mist upon their faces. Elizabeth's hand rested lightly upon her husband's arm. Quiet conversation passed between them. He, from time to time, pointed out significant edifices and shared his knowledge of their importance, and, as they advanced, he would indicate the homes of illustrious residents, major or minor, with whom she would soon be likely to come into contact. She asked pertinent questions, trying to learn as much as possible of the locale and people with which she would now live for at least a portion of every year. Continuing in this manner, they happened upon a small flower stand set slightly back from the street.
"Flowers, miss?" cried the vendor. "They's fresh this mornin.'"
Tempted, Elizabeth turned toward her husband, seeking his opinion.
Love emanating from his eyes, he asked, "Should you desire some flowers, then?"
"Yes," she nodded, "if I may."
"Of course you may," he replied gently. He tilted his head toward the bins of blossoms and with a heartfelt smile, added, "Select whatever you wish."
Elizabeth withdrew her hand from his arm and stepped closer to the array of colorful hothouse blooms. "They are all so lovely." She noticed the daisies, the stock, the mums, and the freesia, but her attention riveted upon a small cluster of purple flowers.
"These, please," she told the young man, pointing to her preference.
"Ah, yes, miss, a very good choice, if'n I might be so bold. Violets, me missus' fav'rit." Lifting the bunch of flowers, he gently wrapped them in a piece of paper. The man turned the small package over to Elizabeth as Darcy passed him a coin. The flower-monger said, "Thankee, sir," and turning to Elizabeth added, "Enjoy 'em, miss." The lad tapped his hat with a finger and nodded his head in homage to the young couple.
Elizabeth and Darcy turned and walked a few steps away. She stopped and brought the bouquet up to her nose and inhaled the sweet, light fragrance.
"Are you pleased with them, Lizzy?"
She smiled up at him, her eyes shining. "Yes, very much. I thank you."
"Your happiness is, ever, the only thanks I wish."
They stood there gazing endearingly at each other for a brief time. The sound of conversation behind them suddenly brought them back to the moment. Turning, they witnessed the flower seller and a woman in an exchange, one they never would have heard had they been standing a trace further away.
"Hallo, luv," the man called out.
"Hallo, yerself. How 'ave you been doin' t'day?" answered a comely young woman, neatly, if not elegantly dressed.
"No complaints. Been a good run uh trade t'day."
"Whatcha been up ta?"
"Been to see me mum," she grimaced.
"How's the ol' bird doin'?"
"'Bout the usual." The two exchanged a knowing look, then she added, "I'll be headin' 'ome now; I need ta git yer supper ready." Jesting, she added, "I just wanted to make sure yer weren’t bunglin' things up round here wivout me."
"Awright, but first, cheeks, how 'bout a lit'le cuddle?" the man asked, delight apparent in his voice.
"Aw," the woman playfully slapped his arm, "you behave yerself, you do." She then snatched up his hand and gave it a quick squeeze before releasing her hold.
"I'll see ya later, me dear," she called in farewell.
The woman turned and walked away; the man, a content look resting upon his features, set about straightening his display of flowers.
Elizabeth raised her eyes toward her husband to find a curious expression residing upon his features. "Fitzwilliam?"
"Ummm?" he offered in distracted reply, his eyes still locked upon the now solitary man.
"Fitzwilliam," she called again, more firmly.
Darcy shook his head and faced his wife. "Pardon?"
"Fitzwilliam, where ever was your mind?"
"Lost in thought, I believe, but fear not, it has returned." Cocking his head to the side, he questioned, "Shall we return home?"
"Yes," answered Elizabeth, unsettled by her husband's preoccupation.
"Yes," he echoed her response as he gestured toward the flowers, "for I suspect that you should like to put those in some water." He lifted her hand and placed it gently into the crook of his arm, and they began back in the direction from which they had come.
In their chambers, later that night, Darcy lay stretched out upon the bed, his hands clasped behind his head, watching his wife brush out her hair. How he loved to watch her as she stroked the bristles through her gleaming chestnut tresses, lifting them, and then allowing them to fall softly to cloak her neck and shoulders.
Elizabeth, having finished her evening exercise, set down the brush, a smile crossing her lips as her eyes rested upon the dainty, purple flowers sitting in a small, scalloped-glass* vase off to the side of her dressing table. She stood and leaned down to inhale their gentle, pleasing fragrance.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Darcy interrupted her attention to the bouquet. "You prefer violets to other flowers, my love?" There was still so very much they needed to learn about each other.
Straightening, she shook her head. "Prefer? I do not believe I prefer them to all others, but I find them so delicate and sweet, so pleasing to the eye, that they always bring me a sense of joy."
With some apprehension, Darcy asked, "Have you been in need of joy, then?"
With a shake of her head, she quickly answered, "No, not at all," reassuring him as her fingers played gently with the blossoms. "I possess more joy with you," she looked eloquently at Darcy, "than I can ever recall. No, it is not a lack of joy, but looking upon these sweet, little posies has always added an extra touch of gladness to my heart. Somehow, they always brighten even the darkest hour." Lifting an arch eyebrow at her husband, she added, "And, they remind me of you."
"Me?" He bolted upright on the bed. "However can they do such a thing?"
Smiling, Elizabeth walked over and sat upon the near edge of the mattress. "Are you familiar with the tale of King Frost?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I might have heard it as a child, but I do not recall the particulars." As he reached out and took her hand into his own, he softly petitioned, "Shall you tell it to me?"
Her eyes sparkled at his request. "If you like." A momentary lull descended upon them, allowing her to collect her thoughts and then she began.
"Once, there lived a lonely king, who resided in a forbidding palace; a locale sheathed in ice and snow. All around it lay frozen and desolate. Snow carpeted the ground and cold piercing winds skirled about, robbing all of warmth. It constituted a very difficult life, even for him, the ruler of such a land, as his spirits, much as his castle, were encased in a heavy and dark mantle of woe."
She looked to Darcy and found him gazing at her, a hint of a grin hitching the corners of his mouth. She continued.
"So lonely was he, that one day he determined to find a beautiful and kind young wife, a woman who would always stay at his side, and who, he hoped, would help to melt his frozen heart and bring him joy." A broad smile lit Elizabeth's face.
"The king, therefore, swiftly sent his courtiers out to search for this lady. After many days of casting about and scouring the frosty countryside and far beyond, they happened upon a very shy young maiden who gladly offered to accompany them to meet the king. Her name?" she paused for effect, "Violet. They returned triumphantly with the lass and presented her with great flourish to the king.
Elizabeth interrupted her story. "Shall I continue," she asked, "or have you heard enough?" She rolled her lip between her teeth as she awaited his reply.
Darcy chuckled, a low, pleasant rumble emanating from his chest. "Pray, continue, my love, for I wish to know my place in this legend." His eyes met and held hers for just a moment, transmitting his adoration for her admixed with his amusement at her tale.
"Very well." She then dallied briefly to recollect her place. "The king had a reputation for having a strict and austere nature. However, once he looked upon the young damsel, he became bewitched by her charm and fell in love. Over time, with the maiden's return of the sovereign's love, the king became gentle and kind and promised his subjects that the bitter and never-ending winters in the dominion would cease, to be replaced with warmer and milder weather for full half of each year. From that day on, for six months whole, the kingdom would see warm breezes sweeping through the gardens, dancing through the flowering vines, and chasing away the mist-filled clouds. The trees grew tall, their drooping boughs forming graceful arches to filter the ever present sunshine, allowing it to dapple the ground with golden drops of glimmering radiance. Birds sang their sweet songs as glittering dragonflies darted about in the balmy air. This was the tender consequence that the beloved Violet had upon the king."
Darcy interrupted, "Am I that cold and heartless king, Lizzy, warmed and turned affectionate by my own Violet?" He leaned over, reaching out his free hand to stroke it lightly against her cheek.
"It is possible," she giggled, placing her hand over his and giving it a gentle squeeze. Now, pray, do let me finish, for I am near the end."
He nodded his permission, his admiration for his wife's playfulness softly diffusing across his face.
"Her new home, her haven, was all that she could desire. Violet dearly loved the king and enjoyed his companionship, but she also cherished her family and missed them terribly. She pleaded with the king to allow her to visit them. Because he truly loved her in return, he granted her wish. He would permit her to see them each spring. Only he placed one condition upon this visit, for she could only return to her home in the form of a flower, and then for only a portion of the year. At the end of the allotted time, she would be required to return to the palace, to her human form, and to her husband, who adoringly awaited her. Of course, she always arrived as expected, and great celebration met her homecoming." Elizabeth stopped and beamed a bright smile at her husband.
"Is that the end?" Darcy inquired stoically.
Elizabeth nodded her head. "Yes, except for the fact that the royal couple lived thus, to the end of their days, in happiness and harmony." She studied her husband's reaction, and then asked, "Did you enjoy my little fable, dearest?"
He hesitated but a moment before he answered. "Yes, I believe I did." He stroked the back of his hand against his chin as he paused in thought, "So you see me as being altered by your love, do you?" A moment of uneasy silence passed between them. Taking in a breath, looking intently into her eyes, he continued, "Yes, I believe it not a tale, but a true story, for as we both know, you transformed me body and soul. Bewitched me, indeed."
Silence again filled the room.
Breaking that silence, Elizabeth softly said, "I love you, Fitzwilliam."
"And I, you." A mischievous glint in his eye, he added, "Now come, cheeks, and give us a lit'le cuddle."
The tension broken, easy laughter erupted between them as Lizzy advanced across the bed to her husband's side and into his arms, eager to fulfill such a request, secure and content in the knowledge that she and her king would share happiness and harmony such as this throughout their lives together.