Apple Blossom Time
I can't remember how old apple trees can grow, or if they are in bloom in April in Derbyshire. "But in cases like these, a good memory is unpardonable." (My apologies to D.L.Sayers, for looting her poetry, and for so corny and inferior a piece of writing).
After an early breakfast Elisabeth left the parsonage in a hurry, eager to get out into the fields and the park. Charlotte kissed her good bye. "Be careful, Lizzy, or the sun will ruin your complexion. It is going to be a very hot day today."
"I guess, you're right, Charlotte, and for once I will listen to you and stay in the shadow."
She took another than her usual route around Rosings park, so that she might keep out of the sun most of the time. Where the park ended and the open fields began she discovered a large old apple tree. She reached up to a crooked branch and hid her face in the cloud of cool, soft, white-and-rose-coloured leaves that tickled her nose. With a deep breath she drew in the delicate perfume, and felt a deep gratitude for being existent and alive. - She looked up: was there anyone? She thought she might have heard a horse, but she must have been wrong. Shrugging her shoulders, she said to herself, cheerful: "Never mind. I don't care, anyway, as long as it is not Mr. Darcy." He began to tell on her nerves and was wearing her out with his persistence to be around.
Inhaling the scent of the sun-heated meadow and blossoms, listening to the humming and twittering sound of the bees and the birds, she began to turn around in circles as she did when she was a child. The world swirled and hurled on it's spinning axis, and came to a rest. Dizzy, drunken with delight, she rested herself in the grass and blinked into the deep blue sky through a pattern of blossom leaves and branches. Drowsily, she closed her eyes and was asleep in an instant. She dreamt of very sweet things and smiled.
About one year later
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy didn't care much to get out of bed on this Sunday morning in early Spring. Still sleepy, Elisabeth Fitzwilliam Darcy was dwelling in pleasant memories. "Darcy, how did you come to propose to me first? I mean, why at this day, and not at any other before or after?"
He kissed her temple. "Your talent to create new, unexpected questions out of well known terrain is calling for my admiration again and again."
"Do I hear some resentment in your voice?" she inquired.
"Not at all. I am delighted with this gift of yours. Only in this case I am not too happy about it. You have put your finger on a very sore spot."
"What do you mean by that? We have settled that neither of us will worry anymore about what we said to each other on that day," she stated, huddling herself comfortably into his embrace, locking his hands in front of her.
"I'm afraid I have to confess something, my dear," he mumbled into her hair. "I hardly dare to tell you. I'm afraid you will be shocked about me. At least I am." She made an effort to turn her head to watch his expression, but he was too busy exploring her neck with his lips as to let her go now.
"Are you laughing at me?" she asked, suspiciously.
"I would never dare to contend your privilege. - No, I'm serious. Do you remember the morning of the day of my disastrous proposal? It was a very fine and hot day, and you were walking on the far side of the park of Rosings."
"I cannot hear you very well, your voice is somehow smothered. - Do you mean, where the old apple tree is?"
"Right there." Fully awake now, she managed to untangle herself from his close embrace and turned around to see his eyes. "I remember I fell asleep there, that day." She wrinkled her forehead, a question in her eyes.
"From the grove I watched you standing there under the apple tree -both of you in full blossom - and you started to spin around like a little girl. - I was already deep in love with you, and seriously forming the plan to propose to you, but that picture of you drove me over the edge. I had to talk to you, at once! I got down from my horse, tied it to a tree and went to meet you. But when I came near, you were no longer there - can you imagine my disappointment!" Her heart cringed in sympathy.
"Nevertheless I approached the tree," he went on, his countenance lighting up in retrospection. "And there you were, right before my feet, lying in the grass, sleeping. I did not dare to move, and could not stop looking at you. I stood there, petrified, at least for five minutes. I worried if you might not wake up from the sound of my heartbeat." He looked up at her, watching her features, but she did not give away what she felt about his confession. "You smiled in your dream. It is ridiculous, but I got furiously jealous at this dream of yours. I was mad with passion and desire. I wanted to stay, be with you. And yet -" He stopped, holding his breath, and continued in a different tone. "I felt the whole awkwardness of the situation. At last the blessings of a good thoroughly English education as a gentleman got the better of me. I managed to do the only thing appropriate: I retreated, very careful, into the forest, and not one instant too early. From the distance I watched you getting up and walk away. - I got onto my horse and took a very long ride over the country, until I had recovered my senses to a certain degree. - I proposed to you that very evening. I HAD to. I was lovesick, mad for love. And this was the state of mind that led to my subsequent unpardonable behaviour," he finished, hiding in her arms.
His wife, deeply touched, ruffled his dark, silky hair. "And I hurt you so much, then."
"Whenever I remember that morning, I am still mortified. Just imagine, if you had seen me there, watching you! I had been beyond any forgiveness, hadn't I?"
"I'm afraid, I had not welcomed you, Sir, at the time." She considered the idea seriously. "Though, I wonder - " she checked herself and blushed.
He nuzzled her ear. "...if I had kissed you?" Now it was her turn to be embarrassed. He looked at her with a mixture of deepest agitation and alarm, half serious, and half not. "My dearest Eliza, are you going to tell me, that I, had I behaved in a LESS gentlemanlike manner, had I kissed you there under the apple tree - what a shocking idea, by the way! - that you would have given in and consented to be my wife, at once?"
"I don't know. But I wouldn't think of it as of something completely impossible. The more I think about it, the more I'm getting attracted to the idea."
"And so do I. I will fret over the chance I missed forever and will never ever look at an apple tree with the same sentiment again. Tomorrow I shall talk to the gardener to plant hundreds of apple trees."
He was true to his word. He built an alley of apple trees on Pemberley ground where it can be visited up to the very day as a monument of eternal love and passion.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.