Darcy was brooding. Elizabeth shook her head, smiling down into her cup of tea, which had grown cold over the course of the afternoon. She had not had a chance to refresh it -- she had hardly the time to get a word in at all -- since that peculiar stranger had arrived at their door all those hours ago.
It really had been rather strange, the abrupt arrival of the man that was now pacing about the sitting room of Pemberley Estate. It had been around six in the morning, and the sun had not yet fought away the dark. Elizabeth was sitting in the breakfast room, which was arguably the most amiable room in the otherwise imposingly regal mansion that she and Darcy now called their home. She laughed to herself -- she ought to have been calling her husband ‘Fitzwilliam’ by now (perhaps even Fitz, just to see the blood rush to his ears at the doting epithet). She was ‘Darcy’ now, herself -- Elizabeth Bennett Darcy -- though she secretly still thought herself unworthy of the title. It was this thought exactly that had been oscillating about her mind when had come an urgent rapping at the front door.
Elizabeth rose from the breakfast table to see who would be shown into their foyer so early in the morning. As she walked, she heard the knocking again, this time all the more desperate and accompanied with shouts of, “Ho! Let me in! Kindly, I beg you!”
‘Ah,’ thought Elizabeth. ‘It is Sunday; the staff will likely be gone to worship.’ She quickened her pace, realizing that she would have to be the one to receive this frenzied guest.
“Oh, Let me in! I fear for my life!” called the frantic voice. It was obviously the voice of a man, and Elizabeth placed him at around her own age. He pounded his hands on the door once again. “Oh, anyone, anyone! I will surely be killed if I remain marooned out of doors for one moment longer!”
“Hello?” Elizabeth called hesitantly through the door. She was reluctant to welcome in the man on the other side of the door. If he was about to be killed, then she felt for him as deeply as she was able, but she was not sure she wanted to become involved in his predicament.
“Oh, madam, please! The wrath of God himself is upon me! Let me in or I will be flown post haste to the fiery gates of Hades!”
At this, Elizabeth stifled a laugh. “All right,” she said, moving to open the door.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, life-saver, redeemer-” His panegyrics were interrupted by a scream upon Elizabeth’s opening of the door. The stranger fell back upon himself, scrambling away from the doorway. “You are Azrael, Angel of Death, come to take my soul!” Elizabeth said nothing, for she was completely dumbfounded and did not know what to say. “I see the light of God! Oh, I am repentant!”
Elizabeth, still unable to construct any real response, looked around the room, searching for whatever could be causing his madness. Suddenly, she saw it, the “Light of God” that the stranger was so terrified of. There was a lamp in the corner. A smile broke out across her face. She passed him, looking out through the door, and lo! The new electric street lamp was shining brightly in the absence of the sun, proclaiming, apparently, that a swift death and a painful eternity were waiting for our passing stranger. Elizabeth broke into peals of laughter. Taking a moment to compose herself, she strode over to the lamp and flipped it off, extinguishing God’s wrath from the room.
The stranger fell at her feet, weeping and crying, “Oh, beautiful Mercy, thou hath smiled upon me today!” Suddenly, he started up, and they were standing eye to eye. Elizabeth for the first time was able to study the man in front of her. He was quite beautiful, though he had an emptiness about his eyes, as if his head was void of all things save for a few flights of fancy. “Show me, oh Mercy, this Olympian Palace you surely must call home.” He strode past her, commenting on the beauty of a wall hanging, or the mystery of a novel sitting on a shelf. He avoided the lamps.
Finally, they arrived at the sitting room, where Fitzwilliam Darcy was taking his morning tea over a copy of Jacques the Fatalist. He looked up from his reading, mild shock on his face at the sight of the stranger, who had still not given his name to anyone. “Elizabeth,” said Darcy, a puzzled look on his face. “Who is this man?”
“Well, he- well… I’m not aware of his name,” she replied, turning now to the stranger. “What is your name, stranger?” Elizabeth asked, internally chiding herself for not inquiring sooner. “And where are you from, to have never seen a lamp before?” Elizabeth had attempted during their amble to the sitting room to explain how God had not been poised to smite the unrepentant in her foyer, but she did not think the man fully grasped her explanation.
“I,” said the man, bowing deeply, “am Candide of Westphalia. I hail from castle Thunder-ten-Tronckh, the most beautiful and wonderful castle in the entire world!” The stranger threw his arms up in a grand gesture, attempting to convey the majesty of his homeland. “But,” Candide frowned, losing some of the glow that had been about him only a moment before. “I am cursed that I will never return to my beautiful homeland. I am on a quest now, to recover the love of my life, who I would follow to the ends of the earth, and who I very well may have already followed there and back again. Why, only a moment ago, I was in the jungles of South America, where my beautiful Cunegonde was being help as a captive bride by the wretched governor of Buenos Aíres! I was travelling by canoe to the fabled country of Eldorado when we were sent tumbling down a waterfall. I awoke here, my face in a puddle, Cacambo nowhere in sight, and the wrath of God himself hovering above me!” Candide’s chest was heaving, for he had told his entire tale in but two breaths.
Elizabeth’s mouth hung open. She glanced over at her husband, who shared a similar expression. “Well, I-“ she started, but was soon interrupted by Candide.
“Oh, the woes I have faced are many!” He threw his hand up to his forehead, as if the recollection of his misfortune alone was enough to cause him to faint. “And yet Pangloss, my mentor, and a brilliant scholar, insists that we live in the best of all possible worlds!”
So began Candide’s retelling of his many adventures. The servants had returned at around ten, and had brought tea and biscuits. The biscuits had been eaten by ten forty, and the tea remained, half finished, well into the afternoon. The servants had not been called to refresh their cups, for Candide hardly paused but for a desperate breath before continuing on his tale. Darcy had fallen into a cloud of maltemperment at around eleven (Elizabeth was both proud and surprised that he had managed to uphold a neutral demeanor for even that long), but at one in the afternoon, when Candide had finally run out of adventure to recount, he began to evangelize the principles of Pangloss’ Optimism, and Darcy could no longer contain himself.
Candide had been mid-sentence when, trembling with rage, Darcy leapt from his seat with the accusation, “Are you so blind, that you fail to see the wretchedness of the world, so daft that you fail to comprehend it, or are you so masochistic that you take pleasure in it?!”
Elizabeth nearly choked.
“Why, I-” Candide sputtered. Darcy advanced on him before he was able to form a coherent reply.
“I will have you out of my home!” Darcy was furious.
“Sir,” said Candide, clearly indignant. “I do not know what I have done to offend you, but as you have questioned my honor as a man, I must duel you this instant to restore it!” Candide threw up his fists, bouncing from foot to foot.
At this point, the majority of the servants had congregated at the door of the sitting room out of curiosity. “I will have you arrested, sir, if you lay but a finger on me!” Shouted Darcy.
“Your mother,” Candide spit, preparing to charge his opponent, “looks like a toad, and smells much worse!”
Darcy tackled Candide.
Elizabeth’s mouth still hung open.
One of the servants had run to fetch an officer, and now he arrived at the scene to pry apart the skirmish. After a brief, yet heated explanation of the events leading up to the brawl, Candide was expelled from Pemberley Estate. Thrashing in the arms of the officer, he vowed to one day enact his revenge. Darcy vowed something that would be immoral to recount in text, and was promptly ushered away from the scene by Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy sat in the sitting room, an awkward silence hanging between them. Neither one knew what to say in reaction to the series of events that had transpired over the course of the day. Darcy was obviously embarrassed about his outburst, and Elizabeth seemed to be deep in thought. So they sat for minutes on end, until finally, Elizabeth caught her husband’s eye, a wry smile on her face.
“My, Fitz, but you do have such a mouth on you,” she laughed. And just as she had suspected, Fitz turned red to his ears.