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The Power of a Name

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Had she ever called him Edward? Elinor wondered. She thought of him as Edward. She spoke of him to others as Edward. Marianne called him Edward. But had she ever addressed him directly as anything other than Mr. Ferrars? Elinor couldn't remember.

 

There was an intimacy in calling someone by their given name. Had that been yet another way Elinor had guarded her heart, kept her distance? Was she not keeping those barriers firmly in place by resolutely calling him Mr. Ferrars? It was, she thought, possible; even probable. There had always been that odd wall between them, that one last obstacle to real feeling. She had been cautious, he had been diffident, and then Lucy Steele had hovered between them, a constant, painful reminder to stay in the bounds of propriety.

 

He was not hers to claim. She could fall apart, give into hysterics, lock herself in her room, but she had never been one to sink beneath her emotions and wallow in self-pity. Though her heart was just as broken as Marianne’s, she refused to let it shatter the rest of her. She had a duty to her family, a duty to herself , and she was determined to carry on.

 

And then, while reconciling herself to a future so contrary to her hopes, her fortunes changed. He was not Lucy’s at all. Such a reversal, after so much hurt, was more than her usual steadiness could bear. She could not help allowing her feelings to control her for once; she could not contain her own joy.

 

It was gratifying to finally, finally call him Edward.

 

***

 

Catherine had believed that whenever she finally found her hero, he would be called something like Vincentio, or Pierre, or Phillipe. She had never imagined something so very ordinary as Henry; particularly not a Henry who, though raised in an abbey, now resided only in a modest parsonage house. 

 

Where was the magic, the mystery in a name like Henry? At least, she thought, he was not called Richard. Richard would have been unbearable.

 

It was her one secret disappointment. Henry Tilney was nearly perfect in every way, but would he not have been more perfect with a name that better befitted a hero?

 

She realized her mistake the very first time she called him by his name. She hadn't thought anything about it - you could not feel intimidated by a name like Henry - but the effect of it had taken her by surprise.

 

How could she think it too ordinary? Henry was a perfectly wonderful name, as perfectly wonderful as the man himself. Really, she chastised herself, these notions of hers so often led her wrong. Her simple, ordinary life had proven more satisfying at every turn than any novel she’d ever read.

 

No, it was nothing close to what she had imagined, but Catherine had never felt more like the heroine of her own story as when she was hand in hand with her Henry, looking out over their garden at Woodston.

 

***

 

Fanny had always loved the sound of Edmund’s name - so full of nobility and heroism - but she had never called him by it. She addressed him as ‘cousin’ if she addressed him at all. Anything else would have been too great a freedom in her position.

 

Now, Fanny thought, glowing with delight, that had all changed. They were engaged. She was finally convinced of her place as first in his affections. By calling him Edmund now, she was meeting him as equals; no longer as the little girl who, Cinderella-like, had arrived at his home all those years ago as the inferior, unfortunate relation, but as a partner. Edmund himself probably did not notice the shift, but then he had never seen her as the rest of the family had; had never thought of her as so very inferior. She had long been his dear Fanny, his trusted friend and confidant.

 

But Fanny treasured it up, the power that came with calling him Edmund.

 

***

 

"I believe I shall call you Knightley," Emma said firmly. "I really cannot think of you as George, you know, and if you insist on my not calling you Mr. Knightley, this will be my compromise."

 

She seemed satisfied, even smug as she pronounced this.

 

"Quite right," said Mr. Knightley wryly, looking over his newspaper. "After all, if it is good enough for Mrs. Elton, it is certainly good enough for you."

 

Emma physically recoiled at this, to his very great amusement.

 

"Really, I think it is quite a good compromise. It is true that it is less formal than Mr. Knightley, and if you really cannot think of me as anything else, I would not wish to make you uncomfortable."

 

Emma narrowed her eyes at him.

 

"It is a good plan. I approve of it."

 

Emma seemed to be battling something within herself. Mr. Knightley, disappearing behind his paper once more, left her to it.

 

"On second thought," she said finally, "I believe I shall call you George after all."

 

"Just as you wish, my dear Emma."

 

***

 

He had been Frederick to her for that brief, blissful period of their engagement in 1806, but he had too soon sunk back under the heavy weight of Wentworth. Anne did not even think of him as Frederick anymore. 

 

For years, she had searched his name out, following his career, desperate for whatever news of him that she could gain. She quietly celebrated his achievements and dreaded seeing him connected with any great disaster.

 

She feared - and she hated herself for so unworthy a thought - hearing that he was married.

 

When he came back into her life, so unexpectedly and painfully, Anne faced the very great challenge of stifling the feelings that had been so long hidden but never forgotten. It was a new ache, having to see him again, speak to him again, so far removed from what they once were to each other.

 

But time passed and she felt his indifference thaw; felt the slow warmth of something that might inch towards friendship; felt his feelings burst suddenly back into love.

 

How quickly life can change, from Kellynch to Camden Place, from melancholy to felicity. It was a great happiness, Anne thought with a smile, to once again call him Frederick.

 

***

 

They had lost sight of Jane and Bingley again, as usual. Privacy could not be found at Longbourn, and Mrs. Bennet - whose tendency to interference remained unabated despite two positive engagements - was eager to get the couples out of doors, her claims about the healthfulness of the exercise a barely-concealed excuse for them to grasp at all of the alone time that could be permitted. It was a good thing, Elizabeth thought, that Mr. Darcy could enjoy their walks in companionable silence, for she had scarcely spoken a word in a quarter of an hour.

 

She was entirely aware that she was being silly. One had to call their betrothed by a name of some sort. She had, thus far in their engagement, avoided addressing him directly, but she was going to have to call him something .

 

Calling him Mr. Darcy would not do. It did not fit anymore, somehow, not after everything they had been through; not after they had become engaged. It was too cold, too formal; perhaps too full of past misunderstanding. Mr. Darcy he would be in company (and she was eager to hear herself called Mrs. Darcy), but she would not follow her parents' example. She would not call him Mr. Darcy for the rest of her life, not when they were alone.

 

The problem was, she thought ruefully, that Fitzwilliam was such an important-sounding name. It brought back, in force, the differences in their situations; reminded her that his family was very unlikely to approve of her; made her worry at just how much she could be asking him to give up. Fitzwilliam Darcy . It encompassed all of the familial expectation he was choosing to defy. She would not have had half the difficulty if he had been christened something ordinary, like Charles, or James, or Edward. Of course, none of those would have suited such a man, but his parents could not have known that. How much anxiety they had caused her, giving their son such an impressive name!

 

And you could not shorten Fitzwilliam. She shuddered at the thought of calling him William, or worse - she almost laughed aloud - Fitz. She smiled at the thought of his expression if she dared abbreviate his name in such a manner. 

 

No. There was nothing for it. She was going to call him by his given name and she was going to do it immediately. It was not the first time, after all, that she'd had to gather her courage during a walk with him.

 

"Do not you think, Fitzwilliam, that it would be agreeable to visit Oakham Mount again this morning?"

 

She said it briskly, unceremoniously, in a more matter-of-fact manner than she felt, and was wholly unprepared for the change in his expression at the sound of it. His gaze softened; he smiled. A small smile, yes, but warm and pleased, the corners of his mouth curving gently upward. He was a man, Elizabeth thought suddenly, who likely only heard his Christian name spoken by a very few people. She felt a surge of love for him. He was her Fitzwilliam now.

 

"I believe Oakham Mount would be very pleasant, Elizabeth," he answered her, still smiling. Really, she had been profoundly foolish before, not to have noticed how often he smiled at her. It was a lovely smile. "I shall have to thank your mother for recommending it in the first place."

 

She laughed at this, her awkwardness disappearing. Arm in arm, the two of them, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth, whiled away the morning.