The Wooing of Miss Mary Bennet
It is a verity that love knows to boundaries, Venus knows no confines, and Cupid's aim can be straight. However, loves labors were lost on Miss Mary Bennet. It did not help Miss Mary's cause that she always had her nose in a book. True love probably could not find her because she had rather spend her time in contemplative pursuits, rather than entertain a dance partner. The good lord had not blessed her with an inherent vocal talent, even though she had a willingness for demonstration. Her powers of flirtation with the opposite sex, were limited at best. In short, she did not possess the alluring endowments of her sisters.
This, however, did not discourage her mother. Mrs. Bennet was determined to rid herself of every last daughter. This she would do, to give herself peace of mind that her daughters would be well looked after, if anything should ever happen to Mr. Bennet. And it did not hurt that the marriages of her daughters served as the best fodder for the local gossips. Yes, Mrs. Bennet was a determined woman.
She encouraged Mary to attend assemblies, and local parties. Mary would have none of it. She wanted nothing more that to sit in a corner and study the great philosophers of yesterday. Mrs. Bennet was so vexed that she went as far as to send a correspondence to her daughters Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Bingley. In the correspondence she stated her concerns for Miss Mary's future welfare and used her impeccable powers of reasoning to suggest that Mrs. Darcy or Mrs. Bingley invite their sister for a visit. This way, she may be introduced to society in another county.
It was no more than a week before she received a reply to her request. It seemed that Mrs. Bingley was much too busy with her new baby to give thoughts to entertaining her sister, so Mrs. Bennet waited for a reply from Pemberley
Elizabeth Darcy folded the letter from her mother and placed it in her writing desk. She had read it through, perhaps three or four times. She turned to the letter from her sister Jane, which described her reply to their mother's letter. Elizabeth shook her head and chewed on a fingernail as she made her decision. As she left her room in search of her husband, she began to waiver in her determination. She had almost given up on the idea, when she encountered her husband. He was walking down the hallway towards his study with a handful of papers and an easy countenance.
"My love! I thought I would take a walk outside, around the lake." He smiled. "Will you join me?"
Elizabeth supposed this to be too good of an opportunity to be missed so she accepted his invitation. She and Darcy had been married more than three years, and they still preferred each other's company to anyone else's. They often took walks together, spent time together as parents with their children, and looked forward to those moments of the day that they could talk in privacy, and share their thoughts. Elizabeth rarely felt awkward with her husband, and never felt there was a subject she could not entertain with him, until now. They walked down the roadway leading out of Pemberley, then down onto a path towards the lake.
"You are very quiet, my dear?" Darcy finally speculated.
Elizabeth looked at Darcy casually, "Am I? I had not noticed."
Darcy kept walking, stealing a glance at his wife now and then. After three years he had come to know that when Elizabeth avoided conversation with him, there was an ulterior motive to be had. After a few more minutes of this avoidance, his patience wore thin.
He stopped walking and turned to her, "Elizabeth, you might as well tell me what this is about now. While I am still in good humor."
She turned towards him, motioning towards a protest. When she saw his adamant expression she gave up all thoughts of carrying this game any further.
"Fitzwilliam." she sighed. "What would you think of inviting my sister Mary to Pemberley?"
"That is it?" He inquired of her. "You want to ask your sister for a visit?"
"Yes." She replied with a nervous sort of laugh.
"Elizabeth?" he chastised her. "There is something else. I can see it in all your looks."
She quickly looked down at the ground, realizing that they were too close to each other to keep secrets, even the smallest of secrets. Her cheeks flushed and she continued to look down. "My mother wishes for us to introduce her to the local society here." She chattered as quickly as she could, hoping he would not feel the full effects of her words.
He stood a moment in silence, then groaned, and continued to walk down the path. She followed close behind him. He walked on faster and faster, until she practically had to run to keep pace with him. Finally he came to a stop and spun around to face her.
"Introduce her to society, indeed!" he fumed. "You intended to say...find her a suitor! That is what you intended to say!"
Elizabeth sighed again, the blush still upon her cheeks. She took off her bonnet and fanned herself with it, trying to cool her face and her growing temper. Darcy's determination was evidently against her so she turned in the opposite direction and began to quickly walk back to the house.
"Elizabeth?" he shouted. "Where are you going?"
She kept walking towards the main road and back to the house. He stood flabbergasted wondering what had just happened. It was not like her to give up a good argument. He began to walk quickly after her.
"Elizabeth!" he finally caught up to her and took her by the arm. She spun around to him, with a determined pout on her face. Had they not been arguing about something of the utmost seriousness, in his opinion, he would have laughed. "Tell me, why did she not ask Bingley and Jane?"
Elizabeth's pout tightened. "She did!"
Darcy's eyes widened and he tried to hide his laughter. "The Bingleys said no? I have to hand it to him, he has finally gotten wise."
Elizabeth was livid. She huffed under her breath, "I knew this would happen one day."
"What would happen?" he asked her, then waited for the reply that was not forthcoming. He put his hand under her chin and turned her face towards his. "Oh, you thought one day I would turn my back on your family?"
"If you must know...yes!"
"Sit down." He pointed to an outcrop of large boulders. She did as he requested and he sat next to her. "Let us come to an understanding, and be done with this. Your sister is always welcome here, as are the rest of your family."
She felt ashamed of her accusations towards him and her cheeks flushed more.
"But...I will NOT be a matchmaker, and I refuse to be a part in any of this."
She smiled wryly and quickly said, "I shall not ask any more of you, Fitzwilliam."
"Good." He said resolutely. "Never. No matchmaking." He whispered under his breath. Fitzwilliam Darcy was a very knowledgeable man for his years, however, he had not yet learned the cardinal rule of marriage...Never say never!
Miss Mary Bennet arrived at Pemberley a fortnight later. She had not changed much in the three years since her two eldest sisters had married. She disembarked the carriage with a sour expression on her face, as if she had been sucking on a lemon. She greeted her sister and brother-in-law and was shown to her room to settle herself in. After some time she came downstairs and acquainted Elizabeth with the news from Hertfordshire, which did not take long.
"Well Mary, tell me about you? What have you been doing with yourself?" Elizabeth warmly smiled.
"Pursing my interests." Came Mary's reply.
Elizabeth waited for more, however none was forthcoming.
"Might I see the Library?" Mary inquired.
Elizabeth sighed. "Mary, must you always think about books?"
"Is there anything else?"
"Yes!" Elizabeth laughed in exasperation. "There is much more to life! Do you never think of marrying? Raising a family?"
Mary recoiled at the question. "Well...I suppose I do. Gentlemen do not seem to have much of an interest in me."
"Mary, perhaps they show no interest, because you show no interest in them?"
"I do not know how to...flirt." She said.
"You do not have to flirt, Mary." Elizabeth tried to be compassionate. "Just show an interest in the things a man enjoys, try to converse...not philosophize. Try to be pleasing, and..." here Elizabeth stopped for she was unsure of how to approach this, "...alluring."
"Alluring!" Mary practically yelled out.
"Mary, I shall help you. Tomorrow we shall go into Lambton and have some new dresses made for you. We shall fix your hair, and perhaps some powder and rouge." Elizabeth started to fuss over her sister. "It will be a very good start! Then I shall coach you in how to act, in front of the opposite sex."
Mary sighed nervously. Had anyone but Elizabeth been trying to convince her of this...she would never have tolerated it.
Darcy had a caller the next day, a Mr. Harry B. Wright, who lived on the other side of Lambton. He was a respectable man, of about eight and twenty. He was not much of a conversationalist, and he was rather humble in appearance. He owned a modest property with an unpretentious, but comfortable house, and was known in the area as a gentleman farmer and a respected land surveyor.
He had come at Darcy's request for a contract to survey the west boundary of Pemberley, which was under dispute between Darcy and the neighboring estate. Mr. Wright was shown to Darcy's study. As he walked down the hallway with Mrs. Reynolds, he passed Miss Mary Bennet, who was on her way to the Library. He stopped and bowed politely and she hurried a curtsy and continued on her way. He stood tall again and watched her go, then continued on to the study with Mrs. Reynolds.
Darcy was waiting for him, "Mr. Wright, thank you for coming." He bowed. "I am in need of a survey, to be done on the west side of the Pemberley grounds. I have an old map, I can give you and this old deed. I am afraid it has not been done in many years, and the monuments have been worn away with time. If you will look it over, we can settle on a fee."
"Sir, I shall certainly look over the map and offer you a price, perhaps even as soon as this evening."
"That would be most agreeable Mr. Wright."
Darcy offered him a drink and Mr. Wright accepted his hospitality and the two men sat down. They spoke a little of local politics and Darcy inquired as to Mr. Wright's sister, whom Darcy had known as a child. Mr. Wright was not a great conversationalist, although he was easy enough with Darcy. He finished his drink and stood up to take his leave, however, before he did he made an inquiry.
"Mr. Darcy, on my way in to see you, I passed a young woman...wearing spectacles."
"Yes, Mr. Wright. She is my wife's sister, Miss Mary Bennet who is here for a visit."
"Indeed!" Mr. Wright looked somehow more uncomfortable than usual, and began to fidget.
Darcy had the feeling, man to man that is, that Mr. Wright was interested in an introduction to Miss Bennet. Darcy thought it improper to inquire, unless the gentleman were to ask the favor. Before he knew what he was doing, Darcy began to speak.
"Ah, Mr. Wright. Since we are to discuss your fee this evening, will you not stay and dine with us?"
Mr. Wright's manner eased and he nodded in appreciation.
"Very good. I will tell my wife to expect you. Will seven o'clock be convenient?"
Mr. Wright's head bobbed again. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He said as he bowed, and turned to take his leave.
Darcy watched him go and slowly sat down behind his desk, leaning his head in his hand. He had managed to do what he had sworn not to. His ears started ringing, and he groaned as he heard his own words, "I will not be a part of this. No matchmaking."
Darcy fussed with a button on his vest while dressing for supper. He was having second thoughts about introducing Mr. Wright to his sister-in-law. He began to grumble to himself. "Stay out of this, Darcy."
"What was that, my dear?" Elizabeth inquired of him.
"Hmm?" he looked up. "Nothing."
"Oh, I thought you were speaking." She looked at him suspiciously. "It was very good of you to invite Mr. Wright to dine with us. However, I cannot come to think why? You are not in the habit of extending casual supper invitations to business associates."
Darcy looked at her with all the innocence he could muster. "I thought he would be good company."
Still, Elizabeth could not help wondering, "He seems a very amiable man. He is unmarried, is he not?"
"Yes, I believe he is." Darcy sighed and cursed again at the button on his vest.
Elizabeth walked up to him and fixed the button. She smoothed his collar and brushed back his hair with her hand as she gave him a kiss. "You are very good." She whispered with a devious smile.
Darcy's frowned for he knew he was poking his nose in where it did not belong. He extended his arm to his wife, to escort her to the dining room.
Miss Mary Bennet walked into the dining room and Darcy took a double take. She looked very pleasing, in a new dress which somehow flattered her nondescript figure. Her hair was done up nicely and she had a hint on a blush on her cheeks. She had taken off her spectacles, however Elizabeth suggested she put them back on so as not to squint and bump into furniture.
Darcy commented on her pleasing appearance and she gave a resemblance of a smile along with a curtsy. Elizabeth scurried over to her to make sure she was satisfactorily put together, as Darcy took a glass of wine from the servant. Mr. Wright was shown into the dining room and Darcy greeted him cordially.
"Mr. Wright, I believe you know my wife, Elizabeth."
Mr. Wright bowed and Elizabeth greeted him with a dazzling smile.
"And this is Miss Mary Bennet." Darcy said, with a slight clearing of his throat, which made Elizabeth give him a quick look of disapprobation.
"Miss Bennet." Mr. Wright managed to say and extend a bow.
Mary greeted him with her little sour smile, and Elizabeth poked her slightly in the back, reminding her to smile wider.
Darcy helped his sister and wife to a seat and extended the invitation for Mr. Wright to take his place. Darcy sat down, unfolded his napkin, and tried in desperation to begin some suitable conversation.
"I thank you for your kind invitation Mrs. Darcy." Mr. Wright nervously stated then turned to his host. "And I have your bid, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Wright. After supper we shall discuss it." Darcy looked over at this wife for some assistance.
Elizabeth eagerly looked at Mary then at the very nervous Mr. Wright. "Tell me, Mr. Wright. How long have you lived in Lambton?"
"All my life, ma'am." He said with a sort of wry grin.
"I see." Elizabeth looked at Darcy who was already requesting his second glass of wine. "And you are a surveyor?"
"Yes, ma'am." He also took a sip of his wine.
Mary's interest was captured by the mention of surveying. To Darcy's amazement she began to inquire as to the latest methods of surveying, how many increments in a chain and the preparation of a legal description. Mr. Wright enthusiastically answered every question, with delight. It appeared as if Miss Mary Bennet was quite taken with Mr. Harry B. Wright, and vise versa.
Darcy and Elizabeth ate their meal in silence as their friends developed a sincere admiration for each other over roast duck and chestnut stuffing. When every one was finished with their meal, Darcy sat back in his chair and looked over at his wife, raising his eyebrows with a sigh. She gave him a quick look back and covered her laughter with her napkin. It seemed to the Darcys as if Miss Bennet and Mr. Wright had completely forgotten their host and hostess. In fact Darcy was tempted to get up and walk out, from shear boredom. Decorum dictated otherwise and his wife dutifully got up to leave her husband to discuss his business with Mr. Wright. Mary did not notice the customary gesture, so Elizabeth put her hand on Mary's shoulder.
"Mary, the gentlemen need to discuss their business affairs." She turned to Darcy. "Will you join us in the parlor when you are finished, my dear?"
"Mr. Wright?" Darcy inquired of him.
"It would be my pleasure Mrs. Darcy...Miss Bennet." He got up from the table and gazed at Mary in complete admiration. Darcy stifled a smile as Elizabeth put her arm through Mary's to drag her away from her fascinating new beau.
Mr. Wright reluctantly took his leave later that evening, after more stimulating conversation with Miss Mary Bennet. Mary looked at her sister and her husband and smiled broader than Darcy could have ever imagined. She excused herself and Darcy and Elizabeth watched her float up the stairs to her room.
Darcy shook his head in amusement and decided he needed a breath of fresh air out in the courtyard. Neither he nor Elizabeth really knew what to say to each other, since they had been quiet for so long. Darcy sat on the edge of the fountain and wondered out loud.
"What is it about you Bennet girls that drives a man to distraction?"
Elizabeth snuggled him and smiled. "I believe it is our uncharacteristic good looks, our charming personalities, and our capacity to have deep meaningful conversations."
Darcy laughed along with his wife. "Believe me Elizabeth, I should have never thought this whole evening to be possible."
"Did you not have a good time, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy looked at her incredulously, "I have had more excitement watching the grass grow."
Elizabeth laughed at him then said in all seriousness, "Do you think that Mr. Wright will call again?"
Darcy just smiled at her and drew her closer to him. "Mr. Wright can do as he pleases...as for us...what would you say to livening up the rest of the evening? Shall we go to the library and look up how many increments are in a chain?"
"Not so fast Mr. Darcy. I had more romantic pursuits in mind." And she dared to kiss her husband right there in the courtyard, for all of Pemberley to see.
Amazingly enough, Mr. Harry B. Wright was seen at Pemberley the next morning. Ready to begin surveying the west boundary. He found Darcy out on the grounds, looking over some maps with his steward.
"Mr. Wright, I would like to ride along with you and take a look myself, if you do not mind?" Darcy inquired.
"Not at all, sir." Replied Mr. Wright, with enthusiasm. This was better than he had hoped, for he had wanted to talk with Mr. Darcy alone.
A stable boy tied Darcy's mount onto the back of the survey wagon and Darcy climbed up onto the bench next to Mr. Wright. About a mile into the trip, Mr. Wright worked up enough nerve to converse with his present employer.
"Sir, may I say how much I enjoyed last evening...and meeting Miss Bennet." He stammered.
Darcy looked at him and nodded his head, "Yes, we all had a fine time...indeed." Darcy then tried to change the subject by asking a few questions relating to the survey.
Mr. Wright, however, was a determined man...at the moment. He turned deliberately to Darcy and mustered up every ounce of courage he had. "Sir, since Miss Bennet's father is not in the vicinity, I should like to ask your permission...if I may...to make my addresses to Miss Mary Bennet."
Darcy's mind was a blur. The voice in his head repeated, "Stay out of this Darcy...No matchmaking." In his mind he saw his wife's lovely face, thanking him for his kindness towards her sister. His determination not to interfere faltered. "Well Mr. Wright...I am sure your addresses would meet with no opposition. That is if Miss Bennet has no objections."
"I have not inquired as yet of Miss Bennet's feelings." Mr. Wright nervously shifted positions.
"Mr. Wright, believe me...I am no expert in these matters. However, I do know securing the young lady's good opinion is fairly paramount." Darcy could not believe the words coming from his mouth. Not only was he interfering in the matter...he was giving the poor man advice! At that moment the vision of Mrs. Bennet demonstrating her approbation of his interference in the matter made him shudder.
"Mr. Darcy, I am not sure I know what to say to Miss Bennet?"
"Well, I am sure something will come to you." Darcy did his best to avoid the subject.
"Sir?" Mr. Wright pleaded with him. "You managed to secure the good opinion of your wife. I am sure you must have known the right thing to say to her, when you told her of your affections?"
Darcy had a mixture of varying emotions right at that moment. If the poor man only knew the truth of the matter, Darcy was sure he would not be actively seeking his counsel.
"Mr. Wright...Perhaps I am not the best person for you to be asking." He stammered. "You know...after all, she is my sister-in-law."
"I am afraid I have no one else to turn to, sir." Mr. Wright admitted.
Well that was it. Darcy felt a sort of brotherly obligation, both to Mr. Wright and Elizabeth's sister. "Well...perhaps if I give you some suggestions...you know...as to what to say, and what not to say?"
Mr. Wright nodded enthusiastically and Darcy began his dissertation in the fine art of marriage proposals. He was fairly confident at this point in his life that he knew what a woman would want to hear, and definitely what she would not. When he finished, Mr. Wright felt a bit more confident.
"Now sir, there is only the matter as to when to do it." Darcy contemplated.
"I was hoping to see Miss Bennet at the Lambton assembly tomorrow night. I had hoped to disclose my feelings there." Mr. Wright swallowed nervously. "That is if you and Mrs. Darcy will accompany her?"
Darcy nodded his head in defeat and utter agony. All this pressure and now the thing he dreaded most...a public assembly, where he would be expected to dance under the watchful eyes of his neighbors. It was almost more than he could stand, but he felt an obligation to this man who had taken him into his confidence. Mr. Wright made Darcy promise not to make any disclosure as to his feelings for Miss Bennet, even to Mrs. Darcy, and Darcy was only too happy to oblige him.
Mary and Elizabeth were delighted to attend the Lambton assembly. Mary however, was extremely nervous and Elizabeth tried her best to calm her.
"Elizabeth, I never thought I would take delight in attending an assembly. But I find the company of Mr. Wright most...pleasing." Mary divulged as Elizabeth assisted her in fixing her hair.
"Yes, Mr. Wright is a very pleasant sort of man. He seems to like you very much." Elizabeth expressed herself with delight that her sister was taking such an interest in a man. "Perhaps, he will make addresses towards you."
Mary nervously fidgeted with her hair and took her spectacles off and put them back on several times. Elizabeth took them from her and placed them back on her face.
"Mary, Mr. Wright will have to like you as yourself...with your spectacles on...or not at all. It has always been my philosophy that you cannot begin a relationship under false pretenses."
Mary nodded her head and Elizabeth left her to dress for the assembly. Darcy was waiting for her in their rooms. Elizabeth found him already dressed and nervously pacing back and forth with his hands behind his back.
"Mary will be ready to go in a few minutes. You seem very nervous, Fitzwilliam? We are not late? Is something else the matter?"
"No...no, not at all." Darcy stopped pacing. "What could possibly be the matter?" He had not been this nervous, since his own courtship. "Elizabeth, tell me...Mary has not disclosed any feelings for Mr. Wright, has she?"
Elizabeth was intrigued at his question. Why on earth would Fitzwilliam Darcy be so concerned as to her sister's feelings for a man?
"Is it so strange that my sister may have feelings for Mr. Wright? Every pot has a lid, you know." She said with determination.
"What?" he looked at her curiously. "Every what has a what?"
"It is an old saying...every pot has a lid. It means there is a match for everyone." She said in annoyance at his ignorance when it came to matters of the heart.
"Every pot has a lid," he said under his breath, then he wondered whether he was the pot or the lid in his own marriage.
The Darcys and Miss Bennet walked into the crowded assembly room and met with a hush as the neighborhood turned to inspect the elusive guests. Darcy's distaste for such events kept them from attending very many town functions. Several of the town dignitaries came over to greet the master of Pemberley estates. Mr. Wright greeted them also and extended his arm to Miss Mary Bennet. She was extremely flattered and showed her approval with a new found smile and a slight batting of her eyelashes.
Elizabeth took delight in watching her sister's happiness as she conversed with the townswomen who were very eager to entertain her. Darcy stood towards the side of the room, with a group of men, who were also eager to speak with him.
"Mr. Darcy, do you attend assemblies often?" one man inquired of him.
"Very rarely sir. I am not very fond of dancing." Darcy replied as he kept an eye on his wife.
"Neither am I, however when my wife heard that you and your wife were to be here tonight, she insisted that we attend." Said another man.
"Aye, and mine." Said another.
Darcy stood listening to several men blame him for their misfortunes as to attending this assembly. For once, he realized how ridiculous he must sound. He thought that the prospect of dancing with his wife did not seem that bad, and excused himself from the group. He walked up behind her as she spoke to a group of women and said, "Mrs. Darcy, will you do me the honor of the next dance?"
Elizabeth turned around to see the handsome face of her husband, waiting for her reply. "I should love to dance with you Mr. Darcy," she said and took his outstretched hand. The other women in the group looked on in envy at the lovely Mrs. Darcy and her very charming and romantic husband. Darcy saw their jealousy, and as he took his wife to the floor, he grinned at the group of men, obviously their husbands, who had the audacity to blame this whole affair on him.
Darcy did enjoy dancing with his lovely Elizabeth. They had not been on the dance floor in some time and he had forgotten how beautiful and graceful she was, especially when she teased him with her eyes and smiles, each time she passed him in a set. Darcy happened to look over at the side of the room, to see Mr. Wright and Mary sitting side by side, in intense conversation. He wondered if Mr. Wright had worked up enough courage to inquire of Mary's affections towards him and whether or not it was going well. The whole affair made him nervous again and he became rather preoccupied with spying on the couple.
"Mr. Darcy...you do not seem to have your mind on your partner anymore? Pray, let me in on your secret?" Elizabeth teased him.
He composed himself enough while on the opposite side of the floor. As he made his pass by her, he said, "I keep no secrets from you, wife."
"Come now, Mr. Darcy. You look like a man with something to hide."
"No, madam...there is nothing that I can recall."
"But I can see your anxiousness, especially when you look towards my sister and Mr. Wright."
"Just keeping a watchful eye on my sister-in-law."
"Mr. Wright did not, by chance, take you into his confidence...regarding my sister, did he?"
Darcy looked at her quickly and feigned a laugh. "Why should he do such a thing?"
"I do not know, but perhaps he has sought out your sagely advice? Since you are such a happily married man? Perhaps you are more involved in this affair than you would like me to believe?"
Elizabeth had a habit of striking a nerve in her husband's calm demeanor whenever they were on the dance floor. He immediately took the defensive, "It is as I told you, Elizabeth. I will have nothing to do with this...no matchmaking."
Darcy's pride made him a retched liar. It was plainly written all over his face that he had a hand in the matter, and Elizabeth was determined to solicit a confession sooner, if not later. The dance set ended and Darcy suggested he fetch a drink for Elizabeth while she waited for him. He stole up to the punch bowl, which just happened to be situated near to where Mr. Wright and Mary were seated. He tried to eavesdrop on their conversation, for it seemed as if the suspense was killing him, but because of the din of the crowd he could not hear a thing.
Elizabeth kept her eye on her husband from across the room. She was amazed at his behavior, for he never seemed to take an interest in these kinds of matters before. His adamant replies that he would never interfere in matters of love between other people, led her to believe it was true, for she had always had it on good authority that Fitzwilliam Darcy always told the absolute truth.
Elizabeth and Darcy were talking to a group of couples, when Darcy saw Mary and Mr. Wright coming up to them. Mr. Wright still looked nervous, and Mary looked a little dazed. She smiled at Elizabeth and actually let out a small giggle. Elizabeth was worried that she was ill, so she suggested that she take Mary to the powder room, to clear her head. As soon as the ladies had left, Darcy pulled Mr. Wright to one side.
"Well man? Did you ask her?" he could barely contain himself.
Mr. Wright nodded his head in the affirmative. "I did."
"And?" Darcy was losing his patience with the man. "What did she say?"
Mr. Wright took a deep breath. "She said...yes. I believe I am at liberty to court her and then we will become engaged, sir." He laughed nervously, "That is...with your consent."
"Of course...of course." Darcy breathed out in relief. "My congratulations, Mr. Wright." Both men stood looking at each other in silence, "You do not have any regrets...do you, Mr. Wright?"
"No sir! I am just...completely overwhelmed."
Darcy nodded his head, for he knew quite well how that felt. It was amazing how a man could want something so much, then end up feeling like someone had hit him over the head with a brick, when he finally obtained it. Elizabeth and Mary came back and joined them. Darcy knew of Elizabeth's good information by the smile on her face and the laughter in her eyes. However, he did his duty informing her of the imminent engagement of Miss Mary Bennet to Mr. Harry B. Wright.
Congratulations flowed in from the Bennet Family, and all of Miss Bennet's sisters. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner sent a glowing reply to the announcement they received, and Mr. and Mrs. Bingley packed up the new baby and made the thirty mile journey to Pemberley, to extend their personal congratulations and meet Mr. Wright.
Bingley and Darcy sat in the library, while the women discussed engagement and wedding plans and played with the children in the nursery. Bingley was as amiable as ever, and seemed extremely happy. Darcy on the other hand, had time to contemplate the upcoming events. It had been decided on that the wedding should take place in Lambton, which meant the whole Bennet clan was to converge upon Pemberley. Mother, Father, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and children were to stay with the Darcys in a few months time.
"Darcy, can you believe it...only one more wedding!" Bingley chuckled.
Darcy however, did not find that much amusement in Bingley's speculation.
"Tell me of this Mr. Wright, Darcy?"
"He is a very good man, Bingley. He will make her a good husband." Darcy fidgeted in his chair. "Bingley...I have a confession to make."
Bingley had heard those words before, and contemplating what was forthcoming, was extremely unsettling.
"I made the match." Darcy confessed as he stared directly at his brother-in-law.
A smile came to Bingley's face, then he started to laugh. "That is a very good joke, Darcy!" he laughed louder. "You made the match." He laughed harder, then looked at a stone cold Darcy. "You are not laughing, Darcy?"
Darcy groaned. "I swore to myself I would never do such a thing. I would never again interfere in the love affairs of others."
"It all worked out for the best. Do not be so hard on yourself, Darcy." Bingley tried to console him.
"What is worse, is that I swore to Elizabeth that I would never do such a thing...never...no matchmaking...I said." Darcy was ranting. "If she finds out about this...my whole position as the authority figure in this household will be squashed. I can see it all now...Bennets, here, there, and everywhere...children running amuck...all hell breaking loose."
Bingley cringed at the vision. "That is ridiculous, Darcy. Elizabeth would never lose respect for you!" he admonished Darcy. "Even if you did lie about it."
Darcy groaned and sunk down in the chair.
"Besides, you are too intimidating not to command respect from everyone else."
"I suppose you are right Bingley." He rubbed his forehead. "I am just ashamed of myself for not standing by my convictions. I have learnt a very good lesson, you know. For every pot there is a lid."
Bingley smiled at his brother-in-law. "I thought you were going to say you learnt never to say never."
That night everyone gathered in the dining room to congratulate the happy couple. Mr. Wright passed muster with the Bingleys, and all was right with the world. Darcy's nerves calmed a bit after his confession to Bingley, and he presided over his table with a congenial air. Mr. Wright was also more at ease this time at supper, and he and Mary Bennet looked extremely happy. Mr. Wright's conversation skills were much improved now that he was not so nervous, and he and Mary happily answered questions concerning their brief courtship, for Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Bingley.
Mr. Wright brought with him an invitation from his eldest Sister, Mrs. Dorothea Palmer. Mrs. Palmer wished to meet his intended and invited her to tea on the morrow along with Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Bingley. She had married a reasonably wealthy man, which had elevated her position in the neighborhood and in her own estimation as well. Elizabeth had heard gossip while in town, that Mrs. Palmer could be a cold and unreasonable woman. She had every hope that the gossip was untrue.
Elizabeth delighted in the fact that for this evening, the party was a merry one. That was until Mr. Wright inadvertently blurted out during supper, that if it had not been for Mr. Darcy's generous introduction, helpful suggestions and staunch encouragement, he would not be such a happy man this day. Darcy went pale at Mr. Wright's disclosure and nearly choked on his food. Elizabeth looked over at her husband and had to bite her tongue to keep from saying that she knew it all along. But to Mr. Harry B. Wright and Miss Mary Bennet, Darcy was cupid himself.
Elizabeth waited impatiently all night to be alone with her husband. She would not be satisfied until she heard the truth from his lips as to how he had come to break his word. However, when they were finally alone in their room that night, she did not have the heart to tease him. For he had been of great assistance towards one of her sisters yet again. And as much as she was angry at his flat out refusal to help her in the beginning, she was indeed grateful for his assistance to a happy outcome.
"Well? Are you not going to ask?" Darcy finally said, as he took off his coat and laid it on the chair back.
She continued to brush out her hair, and quietly looked up at him and gave him a loving smile.
"Yes, I did interfere in your sister's courtship. Yes, I did set up the introduction." He sighed, unbuttoning his vest. "And, yes, I did encourage him to make his addresses." He sat on the edge of the bed and kicked off his shoes. "And I did everything I told you I would never do." He laid back onto the bed, "I am sorry I tried to deceive you...I deserve your censure."
To Elizabeth, this sounded like a laudable confession. She sat down on the bed next to him. "It is your right, as master of this house and family to do what you think is best. I would rather be held in your confidence, but you have been very kind towards my sister."
He turned and looked at her in disbelief. "You will not call me on this...you will not reprove me?"
"No, Fitzwilliam Darcy. I love you for it."
The next day, the ladies departed for the home of Mrs. Palmer, leaving Darcy and Bingley to some quiet solitude. As the carriage rolled out of site, Darcy looked at his old friend. "Ah, Bingley. What say you to a friendly and profitable game of billiards?"
"Profitable for whom, Darcy?" Bingley eyed him.
"There is always a chance you will defeat me, Bingley. However, I do hope you brought quite a bank roll with you." He grinned.
They were half way through their second game when they were interrupted by a servant. "Mr. Darcy...Mr. Leyton is here to see you, sir."
"Leyton?" Darcy looked up from his shot. "Hmm, show him in here."
The servant bowed and went to fetch Mr. Leyton.
Darcy made his shot and looked over at Bingley, rather vexed. "I wonder what that disobliging cur wants?"
"Who is he, Darcy?" Bingley was amused by Darcy's unfavorable reaction.
"He is the neighbor to the west. We are having a boundary dispute, one of many that have come about at his insistence over the years. I find the man utterly impossible." Darcy whispered as Mr. Leyton was shown into the billiard room.
Mr. Leyton extended a marginally courteous bow. "Darcy."
"Leyton." Darcy nodded curtly and laid down his cue. "This is my brother-in-law, Charles Bingley."
Mr. Leyton nodded to Bingley and got right to the purpose of his visit. "Darcy, I have heard that Harry Wright is betrothed to your sister-in-law."
"Well, as a matter of fact...yes, he is." Darcy smiled in amusement. "Why, pray, are you so interested in a betrothal?"
"Darcy, I am interested in a survey...your survey as to be exact. The one you commissioned Wright to perform along the boundary between Pemberley and Whitlea Hall."
Darcy folded his arms across his chest. "Leyton, what does all this have to do with anything? Speak plain."
A determined grin came to Leyton's face. "Only that I will not accept the survey, if in fact you have it recorded at the assessor's office."
Darcy's was becoming angrier by the second. "Why not?"
"Conflict of interest." Leyton said. "How do I know that Wright is not doing you a favor...as a future member of your family. Perhaps he may alter some of his findings...make the survey come out in your favor."
"Why you self-important..." Darcy fumed, trying to hold back his wish to tell Leyton to get off of his property. "You have known Harry Wright all your life...you know well enough that he would never do such a thing...even if you have the audacity to think that I would."
Leyton made a face to the effect that he did not trust Darcy's sincerity. Darcy on the other hand was completely livid at Leyton's accusations. Leyton, turned to take his leave.
"I will be commissioning my own survey, Darcy...and there had better not be any discrepancies between the two!" He bowed to Bingley, "Good day, Mr. Bingley." He looked at Darcy and nodded, taking his leave.
Darcy was incredulous. He should have known that Leyton would choose to play such games with him, especially when it came to winning a dispute between their respective families. Darcy's father had engaged in many a dispute with Leyton's father, and the new generation of Leytons seemed enjoy upholding the tradition. Darcy began to pace, considering his options, until he turned and headed for the door and his study, followed closely by Bingley.
When they reached the turn in the hallway, Darcy saw Elizabeth enter the front doors. She saw her husband and approached him, red with fury and shaking in anger and disappointment.
"Fitzwilliam!" she exclaimed as her voice cracked.
Darcy could not imagine what had happened to have upset her so. He then saw Jane and Mary enter the house as well. Jane was pale and Mary Bennet looked as if she were near to tears. Darcy and Bingley looked at poor Mary and when she looked at them, she uncharacteristically burst into tears and ran towards the staircase, towards her room.
"What has happened?" Darcy managed to blurt out.
"Mrs. Palmer has happened!" Elizabeth shouted as Jane took her arm to try to calm her. "That...woman..." she huffed. "We were not there half an hour, when Mrs. Palmer decided to tell Mary how plain she was...in her opinion. Then she proceeded to tell her that she believed her brother to have made a mistake, associating himself to such a plain and unconnected young woman!"
Elizabeth stopped to catch her breath while Darcy looked at her, in complete mortification. "Mary says she will not connect herself to such a family!" Elizabeth said as she began to cry and run to her own room. "And I do not blame her!"
Jane quickly followed Elizabeth up the stairs leaving Darcy and Bingley standing in the hallway, with their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open. Neither man spoke at all for at least a minute, while they contemplated such a turn of happy events.
Finally Bingley said to Darcy. "What were you saying...about all hell breaking loose?"
Darcy went to his bedchamber and found Elizabeth laying on the bed, weeping. He could never stand to see her cry, for it wrenched at his heart to see her so. He sat down on the bed next to her and reached out, taking her hand.
"Elizabeth." he whispered. "Do not cry, my love...please."
She sat up and wiped the tears from her face. "I am sorry...everything is such a mess, Fitzwilliam...and I said such dreadful things to Mrs. Palmer!"
"Oh, good lord," he backed up. "What did you say?"
"It is said and done...and there is no taking it back." She sniffed.
He groaned in exasperation. "Perhaps, this will all come out right, my love. I do not believe that Mr. Wright shares in his sister's opinions."
Elizabeth sniffled again. "Perhaps not, but what can be done? I know that nothing can be done."
Darcy smiled and touched her face. "Where have I heard those words before?"
Elizabeth managed a slight smile, remembering the distress she had felt some years ago, in the inn at Lambton. "Fitzwilliam, I knew when we married, that there would be those who would always consider my connections inferior to that of Darcy. I am quite resigned to it. But my poor sister?"
"Elizabeth," he held her close to him. "I will never believe that you are resigned to accepting the ill opinions of others."
Elizabeth bucked up her courage and put aside her own disappointment to knock on Mary's bedchamber door. Mary opened the door and stepped aside to allow her entrance. She was holding a book and looked very prim and sensible. Elizabeth knew however, that Mary was upset in her own way.
"Mary...I wish there was something I could say and do..."
Mary interrupted her. "These are times meant to test our fortitude. I must endure and forget any attachment I might have had to Mr. Wright."
"Mary...you can not believe that Mr. Wright had anything to do with the rude behavior of his sister? I am sure he does not even know of it, nor would he support it if he did."
Mary said nothing as she sat down in the chair next to her bed. "Lizzy, if he calls...please tell him I will accept no visitors. I would like to be alone."
Elizabeth closed her eyes and nodded her consent. She felt there was nothing more she could say, for she had not succeeded in making Mary, or herself, feel any better.
Mary did not come down for supper that evening, and the Darcys and Bingleys spent a miserable evening, with very little conversation at all. Darcy did not know how to console his wife, and he felt responsible for his sister-in-law's distress. A servant entered the dining room and announced the arrival of Mr. Wright. The gentleman entered, and bowed to Darcy.
"Mr. Darcy, I have just now seen my sister...and I am in a dreadful state..." Poor Mr. Wright stopped short of finishing his sentence for he was far too upset to continue. He glanced around the dining room and quickly looked back at Darcy in confusion when he did not see Miss Bennet.
"Mr. Wright...I...I am afraid Miss Bennet was not well enough to join us for supper." Darcy hemmed and hawed.
"I would like to speak with her...if I may?" he stammered.
Elizabeth stood up from the table. "I shall tell her you are here, Mr. Wright."
"Thank you, Mrs. Darcy."
Elizabeth returned to the dining room after a few minutes. She looked sadly at Mr. Wright and shook her head. "My sister is a determined young woman, Mr. Wright. She will not see you."
Mr. Wright was a pitiful creature at that moment. It was evident that he did not know where to turn. He looked quickly at everyone in the room and silently shook his head in dismay. It had become obvious to him that the woman he wanted to be with more than anyone else in the world, had changed her opinion of him.
Darcy felt for the poor man. Memories of rejection came flooding back to him and he felt a distant, but familiar feeling of emptiness in the pit of his stomach. He turned and spoke to Mr. Wright, "Sir, perhaps we could speak outside?"
The two men left the dining room for the courtyard. Emotionally, Mr. Wright grabbed Darcy by the arm. "Mr. Darcy...I am dreadfully sorry and I apologize for my sister's behavior towards your wife...and towards Miss Bennet."
"Mr. Wright, there is no need for you to apologize for the manners of your sister."
Mr. Wright nodded his head in appreciation, but his distress was still evident. "Mr. Darcy...tell me...what am I to do?"
Darcy could barely look the man in the eye. "I do not have an answer for you, sir."
Mr. Wright kicked at the dirt in distress and looked up at the sky, speaking as if he were talking to a higher power. "What is a man to do? I love her and I have lost her." He turned to Darcy. "What am I to do if the woman I love will not return my affections and rejects me?" he cried.
Darcy spoke low, as if his were the voice of experience. "You go on...the best way that you can."
Darcy was shown into the parlor at the residence of Mrs. Dorothea Palmer. He felt uncomfortable with his choice to pay a call, for he was not sure what he would say.
"Mr. Darcy." Mrs. Palmer coldly greeted him. "I suppose you have come to express regret for your wife's contemptible words to me yesterday?"
Darcy raised an amused eyebrow at the woman's impudence. "To own the truth, I do not even know what my wife has said, Mrs. Palmer."
Mrs. Palmer huffed in indignation. "I do not remember her exact words, however I believe she used the words 'despicable' and 'iniquitous' in some form of a sentence."
Darcy bit his lip to keep from laughing at Elizabeth's impish spirit, especially when someone threatened those she loved.
"Well?" she waited impatiently as to the reason for his request for an interview.
"Mrs. Palmer, I did not come to offer an apology, especially since my wife's words appear to be quite fitting." Mrs. Palmer made a move to respond, however Darcy silenced her with a motion. "I only came to ask you to reconsider your unwise choices. You have ruined the happiness of two people, who wish very much to make a good life for themselves."
"I cannot give my blessing to a marriage, which would be beneath my brother and his potential." She hissed.
A voice came from the doorway of the parlor. "I do not need your blessing, nor do I care about your disapprobation as to whom I choose as a wife."
Darcy spun around to see Mr. Harry B. Wright, standing proud and determined. Mrs. Palmer scurried over to her brother, but he would have nothing to do with her.
"You have insulted the woman I have been searching for all my life. I do not want a woman who can offer me connections. I want a woman who can love a modest man. A woman who understands the things I know and dream of. A woman who is interested in other things besides money and affluence. I want the woman I have fallen in love with." He heaved a sigh and smiled at Darcy, who had a appearance of a grin on his face. "And if she will have me...there is no one on this earth who shall ever come between her and me again!"
Mr. Wright turned on his heel and quit the room. Darcy grinned at a dumbfounded Mrs. Palmer, and said, "If you will excuse, me?" and quickly followed Mr. Wright out of the house.
Mr. Wright stood by his mount, holding the reins and taking deep breaths. Never had he stood up for himself so adequately. Never had he been quite as much his own man. From that moment on, Darcy held Mr. Harry B. Wright in the highest esteem, as a peer.
"Mr. Wright...that was quite commendable!" Darcy chuckled.
"A lot of good it does me...for Miss Bennet still refuses to see me."
"Mr. Wright, I believe Miss Bennet does not know what is for her own good. Follow me...you have given me a new determination."
Darcy strode into his house and located Miss Mary Bennet who was sitting in quiet solitude in the library. He smiled and bowed to her.
"Dear sister. I hope you are well, this fine day?"
She looked at him quizzically and replied. "I am tolerable, thank you."
"Well..." he stammered. "Very good."
He walked over to the window and stared out at the grounds. "Yes, it is a very fine day. It is shaping up to be a lovely spring." He turned to her with a sparkle in his eye. "The gardens are very fine. I was just going out to the west garden. Will you do me the honor and join me?"
"Mr. Darcy." Mary sighed. "I do not wish to be disrespectful, but I am not a garden dweller or a posy sniffer."
"I see." Darcy was not surprised by her tart revelation. He should have known that customary tactics would not work on Miss Mary Bennet. He would have to think fast..."Well, actually I was going out there to...to look at..." he sputtered, trying to come up with something that would attract her interest. "...to look at the old pump house well...no one seems to be able to successfully prime it. Perhaps you could give it a try?" Darcy rolled his eyes at his own stupidity.
"You should have said so in the first place." Mary commented.
Darcy could not believe his good fortune. He motioned to her and she withdrew from the library and he quickly showed her the way out into the garden. As they neared the pump house, Mary saw the figure of a man. He turned around to face her and she gasped when she saw her old beau.
"Mr. Darcy!" she said with a huff.
Darcy stopped her from turning back. "Miss Bennet...I beg you...hear what the man has to say. If after that you still wish to return to the house, I will escort you myself."
"Miss Bennet?" Mr. Wright pleaded. "Miss Bennet...I can only say how dreadfully sorry I am that you were exposed to such a rude and insulting woman as my sister. Please believe me, that I had no idea she would affront you so. If I had known it, I would never have put you in such a position."
Mary's demeanor calmed for the moment, and Darcy carefully moved away from her, to allow the couple a little more intimacy.
Mr. Wright continued his pleas. "You must allow me to tell you that I am in misery without you. I cannot bear the thought of my life without you near me."
The coldness of her heart began to melt. She began to forget the humiliation she felt and looked on him with affection once again. She thought how hard it must be for him to pour his heart out so.
"Mary...we belong together...you and I." He reached out for her hand and she gingerly took it. "Like Antony and Cleopatra...Romeo and Juliet...like..."
"Pots and lids!" Darcy blurted out unknowingly, caught up in the moment.
Harry and Mary turned around and glared at Darcy in confusion.
Darcy realized his untimely interference, "Um..." Darcy motioned towards the house.
"I shall just go into the...house. In case you should need me for anything." He turned on his heel and bolted for the courtyard.
Mr. Wright and Miss Bennet turned back to each other and laughed at their dear cupid. "Miss Bennet, please reconsider. I shall do my best to make you a worthy husband."
"What about your sister?"
"We shall not know her anymore, unless she changes her ways."
"Will you promise me always to be modest, Mr. Wright? Will you promise never to want a woman more comely than I?" Mary demanded.
A wide smile came to Mr. Wright's face. "I promise...Miss Mary Bennet. You are the only woman for me!"
The day of the marriage of Miss Mary Bennet to Mr. Harry B. Wright was a sunny summer affair. Pemberley was a veritable circus of wedding guests and children running this way and that. When Darcy wasn't busy chasing his own children as they ran trying to keep up with the Gardiner children, he was dodging Mrs. Bennet and her undying gratitude towards him for getting rid of her last unmarried daughter.
Mrs. Palmer and her husband graced the grounds of Pemberley and condescended to attend the wedding. Elizabeth was not pleased to have such a woman in her home, but she managed to hold her tongue and not use the words 'despicable' and 'iniquitous' in some form of a sentence the whole of the day.
Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Wright, left directly after the wedding ceremony and headed for their home, not too many miles away from Pemberley. Over the years, they spawned eight children, all of whom had a propensity for good books, philosophy and all things highly technical. They lived happily in their modest house and Mr. Wright continued his surveying, teaching his sons the trade. His survey of the west boundary of Pemberley was right on the mark, and Mr. Leyton accepted the results with little reluctance. Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Wright were glad to be neighbors the rest of their lives and Mrs. Wright tutored the Darcy children, along with her own when they were young.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was true to his word and never again from that day forth interfered in the love lives of others. His matchmaking days had ended with the wooing of Miss Mary Bennet. He happily left those arts to the ladies. There was only one matter of the heart which he was concerned with, that being his own. He finally did learn the cardinal rule, which was...never to say never, and he lived a long and fulfilling life with the woman who had captured his own heart and loved him no matter what his convictions were.
© 1998 Copyright held by author