The Last Miss Bennet
Mr. Jeremy Wallace sat at his piano forte, at his house, Volcanholm, the very night that Mary Bennet was at the party. He was attempting to compose a piece on the piano forte, but his tunes all seemed flat. He enjoyed creating his own songs, but tonight they simply refused to work out. He thought of Pemberley, and of the merry occupants there, and was at a loss. His home was decidedly more empty than Pemberley had been, and he was lonesome for good company. So, he addressed his dog, who lay by his feet, chewing on a piece of bone.
"Hektor, this isn't working."
The dog was silent, but stared at him.
"It is so lonely here. I should have stayed on at Pemberley, helping the sick, and all that rot. Anything is preferable to this...silence. Complete. Occasional silence is good for the soul, but such complete silence...I wish that I had someone to converse intelligently to."
The dog went back to his bone, but suddenly stood, as Mr. Wallace's sister entered his music room.
"Jeremy! I had no idea that you were still awake!"
"Sister, I am. I have naught to amuse me. I would be better off in bed."
"Silly man! Brother, you are simply tired. Now, how did you like the book I sent you from Edinburgh?"
"You haven't even read it."
"I have...wasn't it the one with all those long passages describing hills?"
"I suppose...what makes you so vague, brother?"
"I am lonely. I miss the party from Pemberley."
"Why not invite them here? It is your own home."
"Yes...I suppose that you are right. I should....but Fitzwilliam and his wife are away, and I understand that his sister and the Miss Bennets are as well. You know quite well that I loathe Mr. Redding, and the captain is engaged, somewhere, with his mother. The happy party was abruptly broken....has there been any post today?"
"Nothing of much interest. My cousin, Miss Campbell wrote me, and your lawyer in Town sent some rather uninteresting papers...nothing much."
"How fares your dear cousin?"
"Quite well. She has been in Ireland this Christmas, and remains with a family there."
"Ah. Quite. Yes...I'd better go to bed." He rose stretched, and his sister left the room, the dog following at her heels. Suddenly, he thought of Mary's face, and sat at the piano. He soon had composed a short, sweet tune. He smiled, and put the sheet of music on his desk. He entitled it, "The Two Marys". He rose, and retired.
É * É
The next day, Mr. Wallace received a letter from Fitzwilliam Darcy.
My dear friend,
I hope that this finds you in excellent health and spirits. We are now in London, and happily engaged with friends. These past nights have been so filled with gaiety, that I find myself quite weary, and rather frustrated, so I thought I would write you.
There is not much of consequence to write, for the days are full of trivial things. I trust that your sister and estate fare well, and my apologies that I should bracket your lovely sister, and your rocky estate in one phrase....
My sister is also in London, but she remains at my house, with the Miss Bennets as companions. I understand that Mr. Redding has seen them, on several occasions. ...
....Bingley had made some comment on planning to travel to Ramsgate when the weather grows milder, and as my esteemed father in law is likely traveling to the coast, I thought that some of us might at least make up a party there. My sister has not yet been told of this, and I know that you are aware why, so i trust you not to mention it before I bring it up. If you find the plan agreeable, please write to me, and we shall see about lodgings.
Mr. Wallace felt a thrill, on hearing that he might soon again be in the company of the party which had lifted his spirits to such a height that he was no longer content. He thought about the group, but most of all, Miss Bennet's face shone in his mind. Miss Bennet, and all of her improvements. Miss Bennet, and her notes on the Aenead, Miss Bennet, and her enraptured face, smiling at his, after some comment he had made...Miss Bennet and her happiness when he taught her to ride. He had thought it impossible to love the little plain creature whom he had first been introduced to, but now...he was unsure of himself. He braced himself. Remember Mary. What will she do if you leave the country, in search of a bride? Pull yourself together!
Hektor ran up to his master, and licked his fingers gently. There was work to be done, and Mr. Wallace pulled Mr. Darcy's letter closer, and a sheet of paper, and sat calculating an answer. Yes, he would be delighted to go to Ramsgate...and a large happy party was just what Georgiana Darcy would need. Mr. Wallace smiled. The best way to put off personal dilemmas was to help other people solve theirs.
Late January in London slowly changed to February, and then March, and the Miss Bennets returned to Longbourn. Lydia had long since made herself absent, and was again with her husband, in the North. Georgiana wrote to each of them, full of shy accounts of her neighbors, and the parties she attended. However, to Mary, she wrote confidently of her love.
... Mary, he has now gone away, and I hope to see him later, in the spring perhaps. He wants me to wait, even now. I shudder when I think what a mistake has cost him. Could we not be happy with each other, even now, had he not made an error. I will tell you the truth, whatever rumors might arise, speaking of other reasons why he feels that he is in disgrace.
My love is working with politics, at a local level, but still, politics, and he came by a quarrel between tow wealthy men, who sought to have his support in solving their conflict. The dispute involving land, but also sabotage that had been caused on both properties. My love tried to show them that they could fix their problems, but listen they would not. On their begging him, he agreed to engage someone to help him look into the matter, before they felt the need to take this to the courts.
He worked, trying to help each of his neighbors, for so they were, to solve their differences, and he found that one of them was lying, and causing the rather extensive damage. This man sought to buy a certain strip of land, at a low price, so that he might add a large piece into his estate. He also had heard stories of treasure having been buried there...but there was not. My love told the neighbor of what he knew, and the man was ashamed. My love advised him to redeem himself, and that he would not tell anyone, if the damage was repaired. The man was so disgraced at his treachery having been identified, that he drowned himself. This is why my love seeks to spend time away from England. He feels guilty, and hopes to make things better by helping the man's son with his plantation in the West Indies. So, my love has gone away, and I must wait. My dear Mary, I hope that you will understand why I have told you this, and why i have not told you my lover's name...and Mary, we are to be wed, if I wait. And I shall. I hear that we shall go to Ramsgate this spring...I shall enjoy seeing you again.
Yours, Georgiana Darcy.
And so, winter slipped at last into spring, and the Bennet family prepared to leave Longbourn, for about two months. They left all together, Mr. Bennet calmly alerting Kitty that she was standing upon his foot, and Mrs. Bennet announcing loudly to Mary, that she "longed to see the sea, and it was high time that Mr. Bennet took her on a trip." Mary calmly smiled, and bore with it. The journey was quite long.
É * É
The house which Mr. Bennet had procured was of a decent size. With three daughters no longer dependent upon him, he was somewhat more free to spend his money, although he still worried about his Mary, and whether she would be able to find a husband...
Mrs. Bennet liked the decor of the house, which was something in its favor, and it was not in a bad position in the town at all. Mr. Darcy's house, and that which the Bingleys had found, were of course more grand, but Mrs. Bennet was quite happy to visit them at all hours during the day.
Georgiana, it appeared to Mary, had been to Ramsgate before, and she also gathered that returning was somewhat painful, but seeing all the pained looks, as Miss Darcy walked along the shore, or saw a bench on which two young people sat. However, she seemed to get a fair amount of mail from her beloved. Mary sat, trying to figure out who exactly the man was.
He could not be Mr. Solloway, for the man was even yet in London, and was quite famed for keeping his nose into his won business. Neither could it be Sir Richard Bladde, who was reputedly at home, with a nasty and undistinguished sore throat. It must be either Mr. Redding, or Sir Andrew Krumpe. And Krumpe was such a foul name... But Georgiana had been so indifferent to the man, at every point when they had met..they had not talked at all, save greetings, at Lady Daire's party...Mary was stumped. She wished that she had Mr. Wallace's general genius with her now.
Mary sat musing for most of the morning, being quite dull company, but this was not much noticed, as Jane and Mr. Bingley had come to call, and Mrs. Bennet was completely engrossed in attending to one of her most beloved daughters.
"My dear Jane, how well you look! Isn't this such a lovely party, out by the sea? Mr. Bennet should take us out more often."
Jane could only smile gently. She was about to speak, when she happened to glance out the window....
"Gracious me! Is that not Lydia, out there in the square?"
All turned to look. Mary's attention was captured. What was her sister doing here? She ought to be in the North, with her husband. She squinted, trying to discern who else was with her sister.
With Lydia, there was another woman, whom she recognized as a Mrs. Gowen, a woman who Lydia idolized, and whose miniature she had been given, and also a red haired man, with a beard, whom she supposed must be Captain Gowen. Mary wondered if they knew that the Bennets were in this house.
Whether they would have recognized a serving girl, entering through the staff entrance, and made the connection, is unknown. Mrs. Bennet had no scruples in alerting Lydia of their presence. She drew up the window, and leaned out, calling to Lydia.
"My dear girl! Lydia, dear! How extraordinary! We are all in Ramsgate now...me and your father and your sisters...come here my dear, and greet them!"
Lydia looked up, and a grin burst over her pretty dimpled face.
"Why mama! Hello!" , then, turning to her companions, she made some sort of excuse, and ran up the front steps, and nearly knocked over the woman who opened it.
"Mama! How delightful! I had no idea that you were here!" Mary smiled. Lydia must not read much of her mail. Or she was never in the same spot enough to receive it.
"What a happy party this is! Hello Jane, Mr. Bingley...Kitty, Mary, Papa." She smiled.
"You must be wondering why I am here! Papa....I trust that you have only ventures so far on the doctor's orders?"
Her father look grave, and exasperated, but nodded. Mr. Bingley did not know where to look, he was heartily ashamed of Lydia's manners, on their behalf, as most of the Bennets chose to overlook the matter. Lydia sat herself down with a contented air.
"I am here, visiting my friend Mrs. Gowen, and also Wickham entrusted me to carry out some business for him, I must deliver some letters to a friend here."
Her family nodded, and searched for something to say. Lydia thought not at all.
"So, what will you be having for dinner?"
Mary sighed, and looked to the floor. Nothing had changed about Lydia.
The morning after Lydia's visit, Kitty and Mary were walking along the shore, chattering merrily, and picking up pretty bits of shell or pebbles that came across their path. They soon drew near the street on which Mr. Darcy had taken a house, and decided to call upon Georgiana. They hastily put down their small collection of shells, and washed their hands in a fountain, and dried them carefully on their handkerchiefs. They went up to the door, and when it was opened, they asked to see Miss Darcy, and were admitted into the morning room.
Miss Darcy was quietly pursuing a letter, but stood, and greeted the Miss Bennets. She smiled at Mary, who understood who the letter must be from...only she didn't know exactly who had written it. They all sat down together, and shared gentle gossip, but each time that Georgiana lay her eyes on the paper which she had put upon the table, her eyes shown. Yes, Love did seem to have made a great change in this damsel.
They had not been together for more than ten minutes, when the door opened again,and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy entered. The paused, though, which meant that there was someone following them. And there was. Much to Mary's astonishment and delight, Mr. Wallace stepped from the hallway, and entered the room.
To say who seemed more astonished, it would be difficult to ascertain. Mary had had no idea that Mr. Wallace intended a trip to Ramsgate, and Mr. Wallace had not expected Mary to be in the room. Both, however, smiled at each other, and were reminded by all the others, what a long time it had been since we are all in this happy party! The only ones who were missed, were the Bingleys and the Reddings.
Elizabeth urged her sisters and her guest to stay for dinner, and they did. The meal was very cheerful, and all were incredibly happy. Indeed, the most unhappy was Kitty, but she was only a bit sulky because Captain Redding had not come, and she was as cheerful as any of the party. Soon, the Darcys pressed their three visitors to join them for a supper party which they were planning for the Friday, which was just over a week away. They all did not need much persuasion, and agreed readily, also for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, whom Elizabeth thought it proper to invite, although Darcy was considerably less eager on the matter, but he would have Elizabeth happy, so he gave in soon enough.
As the party broke up, Mr. Wallace drew Mary aside, and asked whether he would hear her play on the night of the party, and Mary replied rather anxiously, for she thought of Mary Campbell,
"Yes, sir. But only if you delight the company."
He laughed, and said,
"Miss Bennet, I have missed our conversations. Have you read the books I leant you?"
"Then I shall be honored if you would discus them with me when I see you next. But I see that your sister is waiting, and shall not detain you any longer." He smiled, and she turned away, towards Kitty.
Mary Campbell met him first. Who am I to interfere...he is so attentive, but it all must be false. He must love Mary Campbell. Whoever she may be.
The dinner party came very quickly, and all were in a flutter, dressing and chattering, so that Mr. Bennet was forced to adopt an invalid pose, and mutter.
"All these women are so noisy! Would that I had my Jane with me...so quiet and steady. You would never guess that Lydia was no longer here."
Mrs. Bennet then made bemoaning noises, and loudly asked why her dearest girl had not been invited. Mr. Bennet sighed. His wife would never understand.
É * É
The Darcy's dining room was very pretty. The tables were of polished wood, with crisp white cloths, and sparkling silver. At each place there was tied a small nosegay of shore flowers, which gave off a pleasing perfume. The whole room was alight with good feelings, and friendship.
The party was small and select. The Bingleys, Bennets and Mr. Wallace attended, but also a couple by the name of Gordon. Elizabeth was the perfect hostess, and was kind to everyone, including her mother, who was by far the most vulgar of the group. As the group sat down, Mary noted that she had been placed next to Mr. Wallace, and also Mrs. Gordon. Mrs. Gordon was a slight woman, with fair hair, and great dark eyes, whom Elizabeth had met in London once, and then had met again while out walking in Ramsgate.
Mr. Wallace was most attentive to Mary, and they discussed the books which they had read quietly, but also participated in the larger conversations carried about through the table. After the meal, they proceeded to the "music room" which indeed was just another parlor, where a hired piano forte stood, so that Miss Darcy might be able to practice. As usual, the young ladies were asked to play, but also Mr. Wallace, which startled the Gordons, as they did not know of his strange gift.
Elizabeth played first, a jolly piece by Mozart, with Georgiana merrily turning the pages. Next Georgiana herself played, and then Mary, who chose an old ballad, which Mr. Wallace seemed enraptured with. His lips moved with the words, and he applauded loudest of all, when the piece was done. Mrs. Gordon played a piece, as well, giving up the piano to Mr. Wallace, who drew from his pocket a sheaf of paper, which he unfolded, and set upon the ornate music rack. Without any words of introduction, he began to play. The song was strange, yet hauntingly beautiful. There was a wild melody, and a pastoral one, which ran in and out, throughout the piece, Mary was completely enchanted, and Mr. Wallace saw it with a smile. He rose, accepted applause, and sat back down on a chair, near the settee on which Mary sat.
Mary turned to him.
"I must know the name of that piece. I never heard the like of it in my life! Indeed, sir, pray tell me who wrote it!"
"I shall tell you who wrote it, my dear lady. I did. As for the name, you would not understand...not now. I'll tell you another time. Did you really like it?"
"Like it? Sir! it was the most amazing thing I have heard in ages! You.... you wrote that? I cannot believe you. You are teasing me, sir."
"Indeed, madam! You are teasing yourself. I most certainly did write it. I shall give you a copy, if you so insist, but do be considerate to Miss Darcy, and listen to her exquisite performance!"
Mary meekly did as she was told, but kept on looking at her neighbor in awe. This was a man whose cleverness surpassed all she had met already. She listened to Miss Darcy, who, on finishing, came over, and sat beside Mary. She whispered to Mary,
"Mary, I have received yet another letter! He is at his estate now, clearing up the dead man's affairs. I have written in response, and we are to marry....when he is free to. But I am happy...Mary, I am to be married...shy little me, whom most never take notice of...Mary..." Georgiana sighed, and turned her attention back to Elizabeth, who was entertaining the group with a lively marching tune.
As the march ended, Mr. Wallace called upon Mary to assist him in a duet. Mary agreed, and as she sat at the bench, and shifted aside the music Miss Darcy had left on the piano earlier, she saw a letter, and the location from whence it had been sent. Sandilwaine...then it was not Mr. Redding, who lacked an estate...it as Sir Krumpe...the generous and lion-hearted baronet, who had always been willing to help others...kind Sir Krumpe was responsible for a man's suicide...poor Georgiana, and poor Krumpe....well, love or not, Georgiana wasn't marrying him for his name..imagine being named Krumpe...Lady Krumpe....even worse. Georgian must love the man dearly....
Mary was called back to the piece before her, but no one but her partner noticed that she seemed occupied. They played the piece, and then sat down. Neither spoke.
É * É
The party broke up, and Mr. Wallace escorted Mary from the house, out to her carriage.
"Miss Bennet...something is engulfing your attention. Might you trust a friend with the burden?"
"Sir...I thank you, but I cannot. The burden is that of a friend's. I am not at liberty to divulge it."
"Surely not just a secret could weigh so heavily on the mind of such an enlightened creature...no, I insist something else is troubling you."
Yes, Mary thought. Mary Campbell is. You seem such a gentleman, but you throw your attentions at me, and then ask me why I am occupied. I think of Another. The one to earlier catch your fancy....think of her, and leave me to be burdened. She came first.
"Sir...whatever troubles me, clearly does not trouble you. You have no thought towards it, and I am left in anguish. Sir, Remember your duties, and stray not from them. I had thought you the model of virtue."
Mary drew her hand away from the astonished Mr. Wallace, and entered the carriage, which Kitty was just entering. Mary sat by the window, and saw Mr. Wallace standing there, looking hurt and amazed. Mary sat still, head in hands.
What have I done now?...but it is all for the best...yes, it is. Even so, her words did not convince her.
Mary slept very little that night, wondering why she had so forcibly shook Mr. Wallace's offered friendship away. She told herself that she thought of Mary Campbell, but in her heart, she knew that she did not care that Mary Campbell existed. She had never shown up in Mr. Wallace's conversation, and indeed had never been mentioned by any of Mr. Wallace's friends, nor, indeed by his cousin. The lady might as well not exist, for all Mary really cared...just...Mary wanted a constant man...and if Mr. Wallace, her standard of virtue, was inconstant, she knew not what to do...she was in severe agitation, and remained so, even when she and Kitty walked out in the square, later in the morning.
Jane, Elizabeth and Georgiana greeted the pair from across a street, and they hastened together. They all walked down the street, pausing at shop windows, talking to one another.
They all agreed that the sea air was doing Mr. Bennet much good, and that his daily walks with the salty air were strengthening him. Indeed, he had seemed quite well last night at the supper party...
Which led to the next bit of news.
"Kitty, Mary, did you know that Mr. Wallace has suddenly left Ramsgate? He left quite early this morning, and only stopped in at our house, to send his regrets that business at his estate called him away. What do you make of that?" ventured Elizabeth.
Mary was all astonishment...she needed to see Mr. Wallace, apologize...but she had driven him away. Business would not call him away now, he had mentioned to Kitty that indeed everything was most peaceful at this time of year. Something was wrong...and Mary had caused it all.
Trying not to show the struggle she felt, she exclaimed..
"Gone! I do not believe it...I shall be sorry of his company." Then, she added, "I shall also be sorry to not be able to read the piece he wrote."
"Did he write it then? Good for him!" exclaimed Elizabeth.
"Mary," spoke Georgiana, hesitating, " He left a copy of his song for you, it is here." Georgiana drew from inside her cloak a folded sheaf of papers, carefully arranged, with her name attached on a slip of paper.
"He told my brother that you had most specifically asked about the song, and he left it for you to read."
Mary smiled faintly.
"Indeed, I am thankful." She was. This was the only sign that he did not go away, in horror of the more outspoken and talented creature which he had formed. He trusted her, but did not want to speak to her. Mary carefully opened her reticule, and placed the treasured sheets within it.
The group continued to stroll, until Kitty suddenly saw a glimpse of some fabric in a store window, and stopped the whole group.
"Sister, Georgie...would you all be terribly upset if we stopped and had a look at some of the cloth in there? I thought I saw the perfect material for my wedding gown...."
The group entered the shop, much to the keeper's satisfaction, and he was quite pleased to show them all the different white materials that he had in stock...
Thus Mary began to forgive Mr. Wallace completely, surrounded by billows of lace and satin, clutching his song, and helping her sister to dream up a beautiful wedding. And weddings take a great deal of energy to plan. Then, Mary's philosophy was that dedication to one thing drives away all thoughts of another, and so she set herself deep into her younger sister's plans.
É * É
Kitty purchased the material, and had the shop's boy make it into a parcel to be sent along later. Kitty then, since her mind was so turned to the approaching marriage of her to Captain Redding, the party stopped at several other stores, and contrived to find material; for other involved people to wear. Jane found some beautiful yellow muslin for Mary and Georgiana, the bridesmaids, to wear, and they spent the whole afternoon arguing over how to have it made up. Thus, it was late at night that Mary remembered the music which Mr. Wallace had left her. She unfolded it, and found that the creation was about four pages long, written out in a very handsome hand. Also, as Mary had expected, there was a letter enclosed.
My Dear Miss Bennet,
I Had thought us to be friends, and indeed, I had also considered that people sharing such an office should not willfully remind their friends of their shortcomings. It is true that i am not always faithful to me responsibilities...it is the spring, when my fields will be sown, and I have a sister and her fiance to deal with. My cousin, whom I have heard you are acquainted with, is always asking my advice, and my pleasure pursuits demand some attention. Therefore, to be reminded in such a cold manner that I was not the man I had thought I was with you, has caused me to leave.
Thus is my reason for hasty departure, and, Madam, I trust that you will understand that I do stand up to my responsibilities, and it is they that drive me from your company.
Your friend, as I had thought myself to be,
Volcanholm, near Melrose.
Mary sank to her bed. He had wanted her friendship...he had found her company pleasant. There was nothing to suggest that the man was in love with her, and indeed, his queries were those of a concerned ally. She wept quietly. She had driven away the first man to really recognize her dormant qualities...and the man who had brought them into the light. Improper as it was, she would write Mr. Wallace...apologize, thank him for his music, "Untitled of Two" as he had scribbled on the top. But that was not its name, as Mr. Wallace, his sister and his dog knew. This song had been written for Mary, and she never guessed it, as she sat at the small instrument in the house, and played late into the night.
She did not know when she would next see the man...but she knew that she must see him. Some friends are too dear. But in the meantime, Kitty's wedding was approaching, and things needed doing. May was approaching quickly....and Mr. Wallace was invited to the festivities. Only several more weeks...and then...then he would know. Several weeks of waiting. And Mary was not a very patient woman.
Kitty was to be married from Longbourn Church, and the house, and many places of lodging in Meryton were filled with guests, who were to attend the event. Nothing so grand had taken place in the church, except for the two elder Miss Bennet's weddings, and even each of those had fewer guests than Kitty's was to have, as both she and Redding were popular in society.
Amongst those invited, the Bennets knew only about a third. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had never met some of Kitty's friends from town, and only knew Captain Redding's immediate family. Thus, suddenly Longbourn and Meryton were suddenly the location of the event for the month of May. Parties of all sorts were celebrated each night, for a week ahead of the ceremonies, and the whole affair was one great gathering of the nicest people Mary had ever met, along with the closest her family had gotten since the marriage of Lydia, who was to attend, as well.
Mary was pleased to note that some of the friends she had met while with the Darcy's were there...of course there was Captain Redding's family...but the Gordons, Lord and Lady Daire, Miss Pointers, Mr. Dale and his family, and most important for Mary...Mr. Wallace would attend, but he was not due until the day before the event.
Mary was greatly tied up with all of her work surrounding the preparations for the event. She needed to practice her bride's maid duties, along with Georgiana. The house and even gardens were being tidied and arranged carefully, so that everyone at Longbourn was most busy. However, she gloried in being a part of the wedding party, and was pleased every time that someone noticed her efforts.
With but two days until Kitty's wedding, Mary was at a card party, being held at the Lucas's, enjoying herself fully, duties all but forgotten. She merrily watched as her sisters split up to play cards, and sat alongside, so to be able to watch.
Her observation was interrupted by Mr. Redding, who came over to talk.
"Miss Bennet, it seems that you and I are to be sisters."
"Yes, Mr. Redding. You are to be your brother's groom's man?"
"Yes. Miss Bennet, do you not join in the cards?"
"I have not great skill in these games."
"Do you not play, sir?"
"No, the stakes were rather too high for a second son, who has not yet his own profession. And I too, although fond of cards, am not often a winner."
Elizabeth scored high just then, winning the game, and that group dispersed, calling May over to help choose the next game. She left Mr. Redding, and hastened over to assist her sisters.
É * É
The next morning, Mary was walking about the gardens at Longbourn, along with Georgiana and Kitty, when they ran into Mr. Redding. Kitty was distracted in her greetings, thinking of the day to come, and Georgiana looked worried, as if something had finally made sense, and that she was not happy with the conclusion which she had reached. This left Mary ton greet him, and to make conversation.
"So, Mr. Redding, did you play any more after we talked?"
"Yes, I did. I won a match."
"Thank you Miss Bennet. Where are you three headed?"
"To the bridge by the church. Jane told me that she had seen may flower buds on the old tree, and we thought that we should see them. Kitty takes this all as a good sign."
"I what?" asked Kitty, suddenly returning to the spot.
"You want to see the buds."
"Oh! Yes...I do. Mr. Redding..is your brother about this morning?"
"He is indeed. He is rather rushed, seeing to details. That sort of thing. You should understand."
"I think I do. After all this time of being engaged, I look forward to actual being a wife. Though, I am quite sorry that Mary shall be the last Miss Bennet. She is much improved."
Mary flushed, and smiled at her sister, who was now much dearer than she had ever been in the many years before Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley brought their happy influence over the Bennet family.
"Yes, Miss Kitty, you are correct. Miss Bennet is much improved. I should hardly have known her, from when we first met. No doubt, the gentlemen see why. I have heard rumors enough concerning her and various gentlemen's hearts. It seems the Bennet girls are popular."
"Sir! You must not credit rumors," insisted Mary. "They are often wrong. And do not flatter me...I am the plain Bennet, and I enjoy the office. My sisters have more merit than I."
"But not more modesty. Come now, my friends, let us find these ominous may flowers, and find my brother. He is sure to be searching high and low for you, Miss Kitty."
The group headed off to the church.
As the party ascended to the main road to the place, which had the larger road pass by, they glimpsed a carriage coming up towards Longbourn. Kitty stood upon a stone, and glanced at it intently.
"Thank goodness! Here is Mr. Wallace and his sister...I had thought that they should never get here!"
"His sister?" ventured Mary.
"Yes, a lovely girl. You'll like her. Come along, I see the flowers! Such snowy perfection...I must pick a few."
The women ran over to the bush, which they all paused to admire, before collecting sprigs of the plant.
É * É
When the small group returned to the house, Mrs. Bennet was out in the garden, looking over a vast list, which had upon it all the names of the guests, and she as busily marking who had yet to come.
"Kitty, my darling, A Mr. Wallace and a Miss Campbell have just arrived for you, I believe that they are still here. Greet them, my love..."
Mary stood shocked for several moments. Miss Campbell ? The Miss Campbell? And yet, Kitty had certainly said that his sister was to attend. Clearly agitated, she followed Kitty into the house. Mr. Redding, noticing her state, offered her an arm, which she gladly accepted, Georgiana following close behind.
Mr. Wallace was standing by the empty fireplace, back to the door, and in conversation with a young woman, and with Captain Redding. Kitty was overjoyed on seeing all three. She ran over to her betrothed, and kindly greeted each guest in turn. Mr. Wallace seemed a bit surprised to see Mary leaning upon Mr.. Redding's arm, but said nothing, and showed hardly any of his surprise. Mr. Wallace turned to Mary, and said,
"Miss Bennet, you have not yet met my sister. This is Miss Mary Campbell, my half-sister, and Mary, this is Miss Mary Bennet, who is Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Bingley's sister."
The tall auburn haired woman smiled. Her voice was beautiful, and the Scottish lilt pleased the ear that heard it.
"I am pleased to meet you at last, Miss Bennet. My brother has told me much about you. Your performance at the piano forte, I am told, is very pleasing. Perhaps I shall hear you during our stay in Meryton?"
Mary was astonished that Miss Campbell had heard so many pleasing things about her. More so, she was completely shocked that Miss Campbell was Mr. Wallace's sister. The dreaded Miss Campbell was no rival at all...Mr. Wallace was a completely virtuous man, who simply had an easily injured spot where comments about responsibility hit him. Mr. Wallace was free....Mr. Wallace was free. She could scarcely contain her joy, and sunk to a chair, lest she should faint.
Mr. Wallace was free.
It is the habit of many brides to be married on beautiful spring days. Kitty was no exception. The day of the wedding was beautiful and bright, with only fluffy white clouds, brilliant and soft against the glorious blue of a May day. Longbourn church was beautifully decorated, and filled past capacity with Kitty and Captain Redding's many friends.
The bride and groom were each dressed in fashionable and beautiful garments, and everyone was commenting to each other on how lovely they all looked. Mary, Georgiana and Katherine Redding were the bride's maids, and Mr. Redding made a handsome groom's man. Mrs. Bennet sobbed as her "darling girl" was given away to "that sweet young man", and as all joyfully clapped and shouted their congratulations, she filled her hanky with tears. Now she had only one daughter to marry off.
Too soon the time came for the Bennets and former Bennets, and Reddings to say farewell to the newlywed couple, and they all bid their adieux. The whole party then went back into Longbourn park, and proceeded to finish a large and delicious dinner, served inside the house.
Mary was standing in a corner, much occupied with people congratulating her on being such a proficient bride's maid, and others asking when the last Miss Bennet would be leaving Longbourn. Exasperated by the repetition of the comments, Mary retreated across the room, to talk with Georgiana and with Maria, who had come, with her husband in tow, much to the delight of Lady Lucas.
Mary's friends greeted her warmly, and tool her into their company with pleasure. They talked happily for several minutes, before Mary noticed that Mr. Redding was watching her closely, and that Mr. Wallace was eyeing him with distaste. She wondered what was not right between the two gentlemen. Then, on being summoned by her father to meet some young lady whom he had decided was a feather brained nitwit, she left the company of her friends, and also her thoughts.
É * É
That evening, a ball was held at Longbourn, to celebrate the conclusion of the who happy events of the wedding. Most of the guests were leaving on the next morning, and were eager to all be together once more, before setting off to resume their respective lives.
Mary found herself in the room which had been cleared for dancing quite early. She was wearing a rather nice gown, made of creamy muslin with lace, and arrived into the room, only to have Mr. Redding rush up to her.
"Ah, Miss Bennet, you look beautiful this evening. May I claim the first set with this excellent creature?" his smile was hard to read, but, lacking any alternative, she agreed, and was led into the ball room.
Soon the room was filled with those who had attended the ceremonies in the morning, not least amongst them, the Darcys, Bingleys, Mr. Wallace and his sister. On arriving, Mr. Wallace skirted around Mary, not talking to her, but soon he seemed to give in. He approached Mary, who was chattering gaily with Miss Darcy.
"Miss Bennet, would you dance the first set with me?"
Mary was happy, and astonished, but then, she remembered Mr. Redding, and her face fell.
"I...I am sorry, sir. They have already been claimed," she stammered out at last.
"I see...I hope that I shall have the pleasure later in the evening then," he spoke slowly, but turned quickly towards his sister, as he saw Mr. Redding touch Mary's sleeve. The music for the first set was beginning, and he went to stand in the corner.
"So, brother, this is the Miss Bennet you have told me of during our journey here? She is not as handsome as her sisters, but seems to be quite intelligent, and I dare say that she is not plain, either."
Mr. Wallace smiled grimly.
"But she is claimed. What a fool I was, running away!"
"Jerry, you can scarcely blame yourself, you've never been steady with women before, and the whole practice must be very odd for you."
Mr.Wallace turned away, as Mr. Barklem approached, bearing a glass of wine, and with his mouth wide open. Miss Campbell escaped to Miss Darcy's side, and avoided the slobbering gentleman.
The set came to an end, Mary thanked her partner distractedly, and went over to Georgiana, nervously, for she saw Miss Campbell with her, and had not yet got over her feelings towards Miss Campbell completely. However, Miss Darcy was making eye contact with Mary, and she felt that
she must come over. She did, but looked about anxiously for Mr. Wallace, praying that he should come and claim her for the next set. But Mr. Wallace was sitting in a corner, balling up a napkin rather violently, with no apparent intention of doing anything different for a long time. Miss Campbell followed Mary's gaze, and smiled wanly. Mr. Wallace was
not behaving his best, and if he had yet any intention of gaining Miss Bennet's affections, he had better change his stance. Mary Campbell excused herself, after exchanging pleasantries with Mary Bennet, and went to her brother, leaving Georgiana and Mary alone, so to speak.
"Mary," Miss Darcy whispered, "He will come back soon." She was talking of her beloved.
"Sir Krumpe?" asked Mary.
"Yes. A frightful name, but a delightful man. Mary...he writes to say that he shall come back to me, as soon as he has finished destroying all evidence that he had anything to do with that man's suicide."
Mary shuddered every time that she heard about the unfortunate man. Surely no one would suspect Sir Andrew Krumpe of driving anyone to self - destruction, so why was he so cagey about this. True, some one might dig up this story if and when he ran in political races, for he was
trying for a seat in Parliament, but unless they knew what they were looking for, it would be an obscure thing.
"He seems rather cautious," remarked Mary.
"He is," admitted Georgiana. "He is trying for a seat in Parliament, and this could be damaging," she added, echoing Mary's thoughts.
Georgiana tucked the letter she had been consulting back into a fold in her gown, and looked elsewhere.
"If only he were here. You know that it is Sir Andrew...he is a brilliant man...and he doesn't just want me for the money. He loves me."
"No one has doubted it, dear Georgiana," soothed Mary.
Then, Georgiana was claimed by a Mr. Dale, who could not bear to see one of the ladies from Derbyshire remain on the sidelines. Mary was left alone. Mr. Redding danced with Miss Cynthia Pointers. Mr. Wallace was brooding in the corner, but deigning to talk to his sister.
"Jerry, you look like a drunk, sitting like that," instructed the
formidable Miss Campbell.
"I might be," responded her brother.
"You have had only a glass of wine. I know you are not. What is Miss Bennet to think, with you lounging like some sort of a slob?"
"What does it matter?" exclaimed Mr. Wallace. "She danced with Mr. Redding. That loathsome man...if only I dared to say the things that he has done...but I daren't. His brother has just married into our host family, and I have no intention of telling them."
"Jerry... what has Mr. Redding done? Something ghastly?" she asked, hoping to hear something worth knowing.
Her brother would not answer.
"Jerry, if you do not act like a human being, I shall go dance with Mr. Hurst, and leave you to deal with his wife."
Mr. Wallace sulkily rose to his feet.
"Mary, you are such a bully." He walked across the room, to get another glass of wine, and saw Miss Bennet standing alone. He summoned up his courage again. Better late than never.
"Miss Bennet, would you dance the next set with me?"
A smile and a glowing countenance answered in the affirmative.
Miss Darcy saw them from her position in the dance. She smiled. Mary Bennet had a right to be happy, and Mr. Wallace was a lovely gentleman. Not as lovely as Sir Andrew, but a lovely one. She was so happy, that she did not notice until the set was done that her letter had fallen from in her gown.
Miss Pointers picked up a folded piece of paper from near Mr. Redding's feet.
"Sir, did you drop this?"
He unfolded it, and read eagerly. On seeing the contents, he nodded. Lord Caloven, Sir Krumpe's main opponent in the races, would be interested in this...and Mr. Darcy too. There was money to be made here. He smiled, and tucked it away into his frock coat.
Mary saw this action, and something worked out in her mind.
"Good Lord!" she exclaimed, and fell faintly against Mr. Wallace's arm.
The morning after the dance, Meryton and Longbourn were considerably less empty. All were rather tired from the night earlier's festivities, but everyone was in good humor, and said their farewells cheerfully, calculating time until they would next meet.
Mr. Wallace and Miss Campbell came to Longbourn before they were to leave. He was attentive, and looked inquiringly at Mary, still wondering what realization had made her suddenly grow faint the evening before. Mary Campbell was pleasant, and was most p[leased that she had made Miss Bennet's acquaintance, and pronounced Longbourn to be a very pretty place. Both embarked in a carriage, which was bound back for Melrose. There was a long journey ahead for both of them. Mary Bennet stood and waved, and both the young Scots were pleased to see this. Mary Bennet was a sweet girl.
Mary returned into the house, and gathered up a basket and a pair of shears, and went out into the garden to gather some flowers for an arrangement she was thinking of. As the Darcys, Bingleys, Wickhams, Reddings and Hursts had not yet left, she was pleased to see Georgiana running towards her, but then felt faint, recalling what she had seen. Miss Darcy called out first, in an agitated voice.
"Mary! I must speak to you!" Mary put down her basket, and they went over to a bench in a secluded spot.
"Mary...after I changed from my gown...after the ball..the letter is gone!" she finally managed.
"I thought I saw...Mr. Redding with a slip of paper...he pocketed it."
"Good Grief! Not him...he is a supporter of Lord Caloven...my God! He'll...he'll give it to lord Caloven..and Andrew's political career will be done with. My brother will never entrust me to Andrew..and I might as well die! Oh Mary! Are you sure ?"
"No. How can I be. What is done is done. Is there anything
incriminating in that letter?"
"No-ooo..." the syllable was drawn out, "but Mary...when we were in London...I think he saw my first letter...just after I told you...he came to tea...and that letter was moved after the tea...Oh! Poor Andrew!"
"Calm yourself, Georgiana. We'll manage something. I'll talk to Mr. Redding. Perhaps he could be convinced to part with it."
"Oh, Mary... would you?" her tone was genuinely reassured, "You have so much sense...you'll manage something. I oughtn't to be so silly."
So reassured, she smiled, and went back to the house, where her brother was calling her to come tend little William while Elizabeth showed him some garden improvements. Mary resumed her flower cutting.
She had not been working long, before Mr. Redding showed up.
"Miss Bennet, I was wondering if I could speak with you." The words were so similar to Georgiana's...and yet...this man was apparently so evil, so plotting, as he would deliberately not give back a private letter to it's intended.
"Yes, Mr. Redding?" What other response could she give? You dirty slime ball...give my friend back her letter!
"Let's go over there..." he gestured to the bench where Mary and Miss Darcy had been sitting, not twenty minutes earlier.
They reached the bench, and she stood, while Mary sat.
"Miss Bennet, I must tell you how much I admire you." Mary's first proposal, and it was by the man responsible for her dearest friend's unhappiness.
"From Christmas time I have followed your movements and accomplishments eagerly. I see that you have sense, and beauty, and are a very worthy creature. Your manner has captured my fancy, and I must beg you to consent to be my wife. Mary...you are the most amazing young woman I
have ever met...please make me the happiest of me." He paused, expectantly. Mary's face went red.
"Sir...before I answer, you must answer me truthfully. Did you or did you not take a private letter of Miss Darcy's, and not return it?"
He was startled.
"Who told you that?"
"I saw you."
"Ah, Miss Bennet, your observations are another of your many merits. But I assure you, the public has a right to know what Sir Andrew Krumpe has done."
"Have they? have they a right to be reading the private love mail of this gentleman to his intended?"
Mr. Redding's face went purple.
"Intended? Mr. Darcy knows of their affairs?"
"A letter from Sir Andrew arrived for Mr. Darcy yesterday. I shouldn't be surprised if he would write back today."
" Miss Bennet, thank you. But, as I believe we were mentioning before...will you marry me?"
"No. You are responsible for a dear friend's unhappiness. I do not trust you."
"Trust? What is trust? I have no need for it. I value intelligence, I value sense. Especially money sense. A younger son needs to have such talents."
"Need a younger son be Criminal?" Mary was standing by this point.. She hated Mr. Redding. Mr.. Redding was attempting to blackmail Mr. Darcy about Georgiana's private correspondence with a man...he had admitted so, but the timely arrival of Krumpe's letter had stopped this...but what about the letter in Redding's possession? Redding was completely purple in his face.
"Madam," he spat out, "You have said more than enough. I understand you now, as I did not before. You are too sentimental, and have no sense about the world. How are we all to survive if no one takes control over others. My brother took control over my family. Your father takes control over his. We are all out to save our own skins, and let the rest be d*mned. You may be out to purge the world, but you are going to need more help than just yourself. Good day, madam. I hope you have a lovely afternoon."
He stomped away, leaving Mary shocked. This was not at all how she had imagined a proposal to be like. She had been offered marriage, and she had refused it. Mr. Redding had been offered a chance to confess, and he had refused it. They were equally unhappy. Nothing worked out the way it did in novels. Mr. Wallace was off to Scotland, and she might never see him again. She was the last of her sisters at home, and her chances of staying so for a while loomed large. She had refused an offer of marriage.
She could not stand to pick flowers any longer. half in hysterics, she ran up to her room, and sat there. On her desk, amongst other things, was the address Mary Campbell had given to her and Georgiana, so that they might remember each other. Mary breathed deeply, and sat down to write a letter.
My Dear Mary Campbell,
I have no good news to relate, but I need to trust you, and I have a dilemma, concerning our mutual friend, Georgiana Darcy. Miss Darcy, it seems, has become engaged to Sir Andrew Krumpe, as will likely be common knowledge soon enough. They man however is in difficulties, minor on their own, but what with politics, quite dangerous if these facts should fall into the hands of Lord Caloven, his rival... She continued for about a page, describing particulars about Krumpe's problems, and about Mr. Redding....
And so the man refuses to give up the letter, and admits to having it amongst his belongings...such vileness, and my sister married to his fine and upright brother...I fear scandal, for both my sister, Captain Redding, and Georgiana. Pray, council me, I need assistance, and turn to you. If your mind is so turned towards the logical as your brother's, I pray that you will help me, I am at a loss, and the good man leaves in two days time...I must get that letter back. Pray help me....
....I am yours,
Mary nervously sealed the letter, and addressed it. She was not sure if Miss Campbell would help her...but maybe...maybe her brother, who was so supportive...maybe he could council Mary...Mary who trusted his council more than any other man's... In short, something must be done, and the steady brains of her Scottish friends seemed the proper ones to turn to...for as long as Mr. Redding held the letter, she dare not talk to anyone at Longbourn...he had the letter as a safety. If only Mr. Wallace would see her letter!
Mary sank back, exhausted, in her chair. She pushed the letter forward on her desk, and cried. Life was so difficult! Just as things were going properly with her and Mr. Wallace, he had to leave, just as Mary was proposed to, there was a
problem with the gentleman. Once her sisters were all married, she was left. What was the last Miss Bennet to do?
Mary woke the next morning, to hear bluebirds singing outside her window. She smiled, but then remembered all about Mr. Redding and the letter. She was in a wretched mood the next morning. Lydia and Mr. Wickham, who were the only ones to remain at Longbourn besides the Reddings, noticed this, and were thinking up impossible things to explain this, the whole morning. Mr. Redding saw her mood too, but chose to ignore it.
Mr. Redding was in agitation, as well, though. Miss Bennet knew that he had a letter which was not lawfully his, and she undoubtedly would make the connection of this to other misactions of his...and then his name and reputation would be mud.
So, thus the group at Longbourn was not in the best of spirits, and the day passed rather fretfully.
É * É
Miles away, at an inn along a main road, Mr. Wallace was watching as a pair of grooms hitched a pair of post horses to his carriage. Miss Campbell stood watching, amused as one of the horses left a pat on the dirty groom's boot, and that the groom did nothing but kick it to the side.
Soon a mail carriage drove up, and stopped by a hitching post while the exhausted horses perked up their ears, on smelling the fresh grain and hay in the inn's stable. The driver, a portly man, with a rather large and wrinkled coat, jumped from the seat, and made off towards the dirty groom, who had finished with the horses for Mr. Wallace's carriage. However, in his leap, he loosened a sack, which contained letters, sending them sprawling all over the courtyard. Mary Campbell was even more amused to see one of the letters fall straight into the horse - pie.
Mr. Wallace, being the very soul of gallantry, helped the unfortunate driver to retrieve the letters. He even made for the letter in the horse - pie.
"Sir...you've got a very dirty letter here. I can't even make out the label..."
He called over one of the young lads who was carrying one of his bags, and drew from it a soiled handkerchief. He wiped the letter carefully, and then stopped, in surprise. The label was addressed to his sister, and was sent from Longbourn.
He turned to the driver, and called Mary to him, voicing that the unfortunate letter should be addressed to this young lady. The driver was reluctant to give up a letter in his charge, but after Mr. Wallace showed the man his address on his trunks, and showed him some letters, as well as paying the mail fee, the man gave Mr. Wallace the letter, and ran off to find his fresh pair of horses. Mr. Wallace was naturally very curious about the letter, and helped his sister to speed her reading of it by opening the letter, and giving her a clean handkerchief to hold the soiled sheets with.
On their both discovering the contents, they were shocked. They had not thought Mr. Redding quite so dastardly, and were quite astonished. Mr. Wallace was less so than his sister.
"Mary...I told you that I knew ill of him...the man has some serious debts around gambling, and I am told, is quite desperate for money...he would even turn to this, a sort of blackmail...stealing a young lady's correspondence, and selling it to Lord Caloven...quite hideous! I must tell everyone about this...I who know of his troubles...Miss Bennet, being the excellent creature that she is, will likely fear to tell anyone...
"Groom! Find my coachman, and tell him that we are making back to Hertfordshire immediately...Mary, I can't let those two young women sit and watch as that villain ,makes off with a fortune...no doubt Fitzwilliam would not like the world to know of his sister's very private affairs...and I have no great love of Lord Caloven, and Sir Andrew is a much nicer type...I'd hate to see Mr. Redding win."
"Brother, I knew that you would rush back. Come, let us hurry..we have quite a journey to travel."
É * É
Mary was quite astonished when, the following after noon, Mr. Wallace's carriage should come up the drive. She had been sitting, thinking, trying to come up with a way for Mr. Redding to surrender the letter...but all came to naught. She did not know where he hid the thing, and also she should tell as few people as possible about it. her best hope was with Miss Campbell...and frankly...Miss Campbell had arrived. Mary dashed to the gate as the carriage came through.
Mrs. Bennet, who had been out walking with Lydia, was quite astonished to see the carriage, but not unpleased. She recalled his kind behavior towards her last single daughter, and had researched his background. He had ample income, a fine estate, was generally well thought of, a friend of Darcy's, and his carriage was speedy. Even though he was a Scot, and not English, she would be quite willing to see Mary wed to the man. Mary was now the least favorite of her girls, and he was quite good enough for Mary. She would welcome the man warmly. The three ladies, Mrs. Bennet, Lydia and Mary, were standing by the door as the carriage drew to a halt. Mr. Wallace jumped out first, with an anxious gaze at Mary, and then helped his sister from the carriage.
"I am sorry, ma'am, to intrude so, but I found that I had urgent business with Mr. Redding. My sister was eager to spend more time with Miss Bennet, so we turned around immediately."
Miss Campbell turned to them, and smiled, as if in an affirmative. She ran forward, and chattered to Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, allowing her brother to catch Mary aside.
"Miss Bennet, by good fortune we intercepted your letter when we were not too many days journey away, and have sped back here. Does Mr. Redding yet remain with you?"
"Oh, sir, yes...he does. He leaves tomorrow morning for London, taking his mother and sister with him. I fear...I fear that we shall be too late, and that he shall have posted the letter along to Lord Caloven already."
"No fear, dearest. Does he try to blackmail Darcy?"
"A-hem," Mr. Wallace cleared his throat, a bit embarrassed. "For a young lady, such as Miss Darcy, to be writing in such an intimate way with a man such as Sir Andrew...is well.. highly improper. People might presume."
"I see. No...but Georgie had every right to write him...at least in the end...she has become affianced to Sir Andrew."
"Has she! Good girl..no one can hurt her now..only damage every chance he has in a political career. By the way..what exactly is this letter accusing Sir Andrew of doing?"
"Oh...indirect manslaughter...I can't say more."
"I...er...yes. Although Sir Andrew never seemed violent to me."
At this point the two had lingered as much as physically possible, and were called into the group. Soon, however, Mr. Wallace said that he wanted to find Mr. Redding, and left the room.
Oh, thought Mary, I hope he shall not fight...if he is hurt I shall blame myself always, and then he shall hate me...oh, I do hope that he is not hurt, and that he does not fight.
É * É
Mr. Redding was out fishing in one of Mr. Bennet's streams. He did not hear Mr. Wallace approach. When he did, there was no opportunity to escape. he hoped that Mary had not taken this man into her confidence.
"Mr. Wallace, how delightful! I thought that you were on your way back to Scotland."
"I was, until I was called to the aid of two damsels in distress. On must always help the troubled maiden, must they not?"
"Give me that letter." Mr. Wallace's voice was steel.
"You know. Give me that letter."
"Because I will hurt you if you do not."
"Bully, bully. I don't want to give it up. You know why....Mr. Jeremy Wallace, who follows a chap around, and keeps "em in line. I owe your cousin, Mr. Solloway over a thousand pounds. If I keep the letter, he will be repaid. Surely you do not want your cousin to suffer so?"
"Leave off my family. Miss Bennet asked me to help her, and I intend to do so. Where is that blasted letter ?"
"Miss Bennet, is it..don't you call her Mary by now...the kind Mr. Wallace, who helps hopeless young ladies to acquire taste. It couldn't mean that you are serious about her, are you?"
"Leave off. Where is the letter?"
"I might just tell you..." muttered Mr. Redding, "Just to see if you would believe me. Very well. A game. Give me a scrap of paper or something."
He laughed demonically, and wrote something on two sheets, pulling a sketching crayon from his rather full pocket.
"One of these is correct, and the other is not."
Mr. Wallace swore quietly.
"Come sir, pick one. I am waiting."
He drew off his jacket, as Mr. Wallace stood, staring at each piece. One of them would help Mary...win her trust....then, he came to a conclusion.
"Neither is correct. The letter is in your pocket. I saw it." He hurriedly stepped upon Mr. Redding's coat.
Redding's face turned bright purple.
"And now that I have it, I shall bid you good day."
He then reached over to Redding, and gently, but firmly, pushed him into the stream. He hoped the lines would hinder him. He ran back towards Longbourn.
He had the letter.
Chapter 24: ~ Conclusion
Mr. Wallace arrived at the house, just as Mary and his sister were coming out for a walk, but really to find him. They saw Mr. Redding's coat, and were confused.
"I've got the letter," said the Scotsman, pulling it from the other man's pocket. "And I entrust it to you, Miss Bennet, to give back to Miss Darcy. I suggest that she destroy it. It has caused quite a bit of trouble."
"Thank you, Mr. Wallace! Thank you...so much! Miss Darcy...she shall be very happy indeed..." she flushed. "Will you not come back into the house, sir?"
He smiled. " Of course."
É * É
The two Marys had gone quite a way from the house, and had yet a nice journey back to it. Unfortunately, they soon heard a noise, and all three turned to see a rather frightening figure approach them , shouting menacingly.
The figure was quite a shock to both Marys, it was a man, that much could be discerned, but he was covered with dark water-weeds, and was dripping wet. There was mud on his trousers, and he wore no coat. After their initial shock, they realized that it must be Mr. Redding.
"Oh, so that is what you did with him, Jerry" said Miss Campbell, approving.
However, he was quickly approaching, and was quite a strong man, and would likely attempt to take the letter back by force. Mr. Wallace sent the ladies ahead with the letter, and ran off to head off the rampaging water buffalo.
Miss Campbell saw a tree ahead, an apple tree, in full blossom, but for a few small tiny green apples which had only begun to grow. The tree had branched well spaces, and Miss Campbell turned to it. Come on, Mary, let us climb up there, and drop those apples on his head, for although they are not large, they are hard, and will likely be quite painful."
Mary was astonished at this behavior, but somehow her inner self longed to try it, and she let herself be helped up into the tree, careful not to tear her gown in the process.
As it happened, Mr. Wallace was unable to head off Mr. Redding, who ran suddenly after the ladies. He lost sight of them, however, at the top of a hill, where a tall apple tree stood. He paused, and suddenly regretted it. He was pelted with the small hard apples, and was knocked to the ground.
Enough of the apples on his bare and wet head seemed to have knocked him senseless for a short time, after he tripped backwards down the hill, and Mary Bennet froze in terror for a moment.
"I haven't killed him, have I?" she asked Mary Campbell, wide-eyed.
"Not at all...now let's send the good man home. He's fallen into the stream, and knocked his head, you know. Jerry should help us get him back to the house."
The two young ladies climbed unceremoniously from the tree, and attempted to brush the pale pink petals from their hair and gowns. They soon found Mr. Wallace, who volunteered to go back to the house, in search of medical help. He readily agreed that the Meryton society should only know that he had been discussing business with Mr. Wallace, when he slipped into the stream and struck his head. That would account for the lump, and also the wetness, not to mention, the mud.
Mary Campbell saw her brother gaze at Mary Bennet, whose cheeks were quite bright from the fun she had been having in the tree, and whose hair was dotted with the tiny pink petals, which made her look very feminine and delicate. Mary Campbell knew that her brother should be very grateful to walk with Miss Bennet alone, and stated that she thought she should stay with the poor victim. Mr. Wallace was very grateful.
The couple walked quickly and quietly towards the house. Then, Mr. Wallace turned, and they both knew what would follow.
"Miss Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet, would you do me the honor of consenting to be my wife?"
Mary's eyes were glowing. Her second proposal. Jane had never had two proposals. Kitty never...Lydia never...and none of her sisters, not even Elizabeth, could ever hope to be so pleased.
"Of course," was Mary's response.
No more words needed saying. They just stood and stared at each other, one seeing the virtue and honor of the Scot, the other wondering at the sudden delicacy of the English girl. He had never thought that he would marry and Englishwoman, but he was, and he was proud of the fact. He had, in truth, created the current Mary Bennet, and wanted to retain his creation. His beautiful, lovely, intelligent creation. And now she would be his.
"Thank you," said Mr. Wallace. They hastened back towards the house.
É * É
"There you are at last!" exclaimed Miss Campbell as the small group reached the prostrate form of Mr. Redding. His mother had come, as well as Wickham, and a manservant to help him back, and Mr. Bennet had hobbled out, still a bit weak, or at least so after so much excitement, Lydia and Mrs. Bennet could not possibly have been left away from the scene, and they ran along too. Mary Campbell looked at her brother and her friend and smiled. She whispered to Mary,
"I take it that I shall have a sister?"
Mary nodded, fighting back tears of joy that should certainly cause a flutter in the household. She wanted to announce the happy event on her own time, and certainly not before Lydia.
The group helped Mr. Redding back to the house, where he came round to consciousness, although he was knocked silly, and was quite delirious. The Bennets immediately sent for a doctor, and Mrs. Redding went into hysterics. Mary Campbell was very grateful that he could not tell the real tale, and quietly encouraged him in saying ridiculous things. Mr. Bennet ran off to his library, seeking peace, but was followed by Mr. Wallace, who wanted to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. The house was in pandemonium.
So, Miss Mary Bennet, last of the Miss Bennets of Longbourn, a handsome clan, announced her engagement to Mr. Jeremy Wallace of Volcanholm, amidst the ravings of the idiotic Mr. Redding, the shrieks of his mother, the laughter of a Scotswoman, the sighs of Mary's father and the frank statement of Lydia Wickham's,
"I cannot believe that Mary married so well."
© 2001 Copyright held by author