Elizabeth Marton

From even her first sighting of him, Elizabeth strongly despises Fitzwilliam Emmerson, the silent, surly friend of Edmund Fitzwield, owner of a nearby estate. However when things take a funny turn and something more than what Miss Marton could ever have anticipated is revealed, she begins to realize
exactly how wrongly judgemental she has been, particularly concerning Mr. Emmerson's father...


23. 23.

"I had a hard time as a little boy." said Mr. Emmerson loudly, for the room to hear.

The others leaned eagerly forwards, thirsty for a good story.

"My father was a harsh, abusive man, and he abused myself and my sisters most uncivilly. When I was seven, Ophelia only four and Georgia a mere newborn infant, he stormed out, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. He did not especially wish to leave - the house, anyway; he always was a greedy man - but we never saw him again... Well, that is, my mother, Georgia and I never saw him again, anyway. Ophelia, though, was a different matter. I only found out when I was twelve that she was, in fact, still inleague with him and trying to break me, the heir of the family's entire fortune, and whom became solely in possession of at leas half of it after my father's departure. For eleven years I lived in fear of my younger sister after that descovery. I knew in my head, my heart, my soul that she was watching my every move, writing letter after letter to the man with the strings, the man behind it all. I was unable to tell my mother or Georgia anything without Ophelia intercepting it and passing the information along, could not feel one single emotion. I grew to live in fear of a father whom I had not seen since I was seven years old, grew to hide everything from everyone. I knew my father was out there somewhere, biding his time, waiting for the right moment, the right reason, to attack. He wants to break me. Gain my money. I have felt, over my three-and-twenty years of living, that I cannot confide in anyone. Anyone at all. Not even Mr Fitzwield, my closest and most trusted friend, whom I met about four years ago, outside an inn near Derby, when I was an exceedingly arrogant, shy young man, blinded by hurt and pride, and whom managed to bring me out, a little, from my shell.

When I met Elizabeth, however, things changed even more. Every wall I'd ever built around myself crumbled. Every emotion I felt for her was stark against my face. Ophelia, although far away, was beginning to suspect my feelings. She knew I must have met some woman and fallen in love, although I had managed to conceal from her exactly how much. I knew, however, that I would need to find a better way of concealing my sentiments and so, for months, I behaved in a manner towards Elizabeth which grandly showcased my indifference. I was terrified of Ophelia finding out the truth and alerting my father, and even more so at the thought of the danger Elizabeth would be in if that indeed happened. I behaved vulgarly towards dear Lizzie, despite all the agony it gave my heart to do so and, in behaving in such a manner, gave you all false compromise of my ungentlemanly manners. I did, however, once or twice, let my mask slip, much to my mortification. I am furthermore ashamed to say, dear sirs and madams, that the business with my father was not the only reason I had for keeping silent on the subject of my deep affection. I have already told you that I was a terribly proud creature when Edmund first met me. Hurt, angry and knowing next to nothing about how to love, I behaved rudely and arrogantly towards anyone outside my family circle. Since then, I flatter myself that I have changed, but, until now, Fitzwield alone knew my secret. The cold-hearted person I used to be. And so, yes, pride and conceit were my other two motives for staying silent. Edmund, of course, knowing me well, was full aware of these reasons. They were, in fact, the only other clues that could have lead people to guess my true feelings. If you had not known the truth about my character, then you should never have seen through my little piece of acting. I will admit I am rather proud of that accomplishment - although I know I ought not be; nobody is perfect.

Either way, underneath all my private conceit and shyness, I knew that I would not be able to keep my love for Elizabeth a secret for ever. That I would not be able to deny it for long. When my mother died, and I left for home, there came that such time. What with all the pressure I was under, as I struggled to protect my family, manage my own grief, stay hidden from Ophelia and become a better person, I finally cracked and wrote to Fitzwield, begging him for advice. Unfortunately, as I suspected he would, Edmund then made the mistake of reading my letter aloud, in the most careless manner possible, missing out half of it along the way. Of course, none of you could have failed to realize that something was amiss, but Elizabeth alone tried to find the missing puzzle piece. She then wrote to me, asking for the truth and I, under the weight of the joy of hearing from the woman I loved, immediately wrote back and told her everything, almost, that I am telling you now. I also confessed of my love to her, before writing again to Edmund and admitting to him that he had been perfectly right about me all along.

Upon my return to Inklefields - Elizabeth and I corresponded for a while - out gushed all my sentiments and I foolishly performed the act, for which I was later banished. I beg you, now, to kindly forgive both myself and Elizabeth. The kiss was entirely my fault and it most certainly shall not happen, in public view at least, again." Concluded Mr. Emmerson with a dry smile.

Elizabeth reached for his hand and squeezed it. "It was not entirely your fault." She said, perfectly loudly. "For I kissed you back, and shamelessly, too."

Mr. Emmerson shook his head. "Silly girl." But he was laughing along with her.

On the sofa, Sergeant Peft cleared his throat. "Well, that clears that up. My very small job here is done and you should now manage fine without me. I shall, from now onwards, be at Pickely house, making further investigations there." and he rose to leave.

The remaining company sat in a dazed silence, the rest of Elizabeth's family being far too stunned by what they had heard to say anything at all. How wrong they'd all been! Finally, however, Mr Marton spoke. "What say you, Lizzie, about this whole bewildering case? Do you indeed love Mr. Emmerson back?"

Elizabeth raised her head and stared at her father in disbelief. "Do I love him? Do I? Why, dear Papa! Would I kiss a man I hated? Would I? And would I have gone through all of this and fought against you all if I did? I may have hated Mr. Emmerson in the beginning, but that was before I knew him. Since then, I have learnt much about both him and my own judgment, very much. So yes, father. Yes, mother and Anne and Kitty and Mr. Emmerson, too. I love this man with all of my heart, every bit of it. And if I were without him-"

Mr. Emmerson cleared his throat. "Many thank yous, but I feel as though my conceit is being left to florist under your steady compliments. Perhaps you ought water something else by insulting me, instead!"

Elizabeth laughed. "Silly man! You speak of gardening too much!" and everybody chuckled.

"Well, then." Said Mr Marton, standing up. "Lizzie, your mother and I ought have very little objection should you decide to marry Mr. Emmerson. We shall now be... Erm... Preparing for dinner." and he dragged the rest of his family out of the room, firmly, as he went, warning Kitty and Anne not to eavesdrop.

"But why should we eavesdrop, father?" asked Kitty innocently as she left the room. "You know quite well that Anne and I are as good as gold!"

The door swung shut.

"Dearest Kitty!" Said Elizabeth, now alone with Mr. Emmerson. "Whatever should we do without her?" 

Mr. Emmerson smiled. "Let us hope that they do not eavesdrop. Unlike the way your sister, Janet did."

Elizabeth put her hand over her mouth. "Oh! Who told you about that?"

"I saw her." said Mr. Emmerson simply. "Hiding behind a chest of drawers. I may have been upset, but my eyesight was not disfunctoning"

"How I laughed when Janet told me what she'd heard!" laughed Elizabeth. "Golly! I would never think of laughing about br now!"

"Good." replied Mr. Emmerson. "Because I did not find it so amusing."

"But you would never have!"

"I know." Mr. Emmerson smiled again. Then, a little more seriously, he spoke again. "So, Elizabeth. A little off-topic this may be but I ought to ask. Will you finally do me the honors of becoming my wife?"

Elizabeth beamed. "Aye." She said. "But did you honestly think I would say no?"

Mr. Emmerson sighed. "I was only asking." he said, slipping his gloved hand into hers. Elizabeth thought about how nice it was to hold his hand instead of the vicar's.

"Care for a brief walk, my lady?" Mr. Emmerson then asked and Elizabeth joyfully accepted.


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