Miss Mary Bennet had always prided herself on being a good judge of character. Her observations, however, seemed to always fall upon deaf ears. So she began to keep them to herself. And besides, she thought dryly, her plainness made it easy for her to become part of the décor and observe.
Mr. Bingley was coming and Mary saw all the love and joy her sister Jane betrayed. She knew since they first met him at the Assembly that Jane was born to fall in love with someone like Mr. Bingley who was so like her in character. Mary thought she needed harmony in her husband as well as in her married life.
When Kitty said that Mr. Darcy was also coming, Mary saw, to her great surprise, her sister Elizabeth's eyes sparkle with joy. What was this? Elizabeth has made very clear her dislike of the gentleman. Maybe events occurred to make her reevaluate her opinion of him. Lizzy, unlike Jane, was not an easy person to see through. She had so much depth that sometimes Mary could not understand her. Lizzy needed someone strong and reliable, but not intimidated by her wit. Remembering all the exchanges that her older sister had with Mr. Darcy during his stay here last fall, Mary thought he could be the man able to stand up to Lizzy.
The welcome of her mother to the two gentlemen was very different. Like she said, she only tolerated Mr. Darcy because he was Mr. Bingley's friend. Her distaste for the other was very clear though. But apparently Lizzy likes him and wants him to be here, Mary thought. She saw her older sister steal a sideways look at Mr. Darcy. The man in question returned it and let his eyes linger on her. Apparently Mr. Darcy was attracted to her older sister and judging from her frequent glances at him, even when he moved to the window, Elizabeth was too.
Mary dedicated her attention to her book but continued to observe Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Of Jane and Bingley she was not interested. It is not as though she did not love or have concern for Jane, but she could see clearly where their relationship led. For Elizabeth and Darcy, on the contrary, it was more difficult to predict.
Every minute confirmed her suspicions towards the couple. Elizabeth's distress at her mother's words and slight of the dark gentleman well betrayed all her feelings for Mr. Darcy. And he, despite his silence, told all he felt for Elizabeth with his sly glances and constant attention to her gestures. Mary understood that he wished to talk to her but could not think of means to do it. Although it is not quite clear to Lizzy as it is to me. Before the gentlemen went away, her mother invited them to dine in two days. They readily assented (well Mr. Bingley agreed eagerly, Mr. Darcy just nodded while continuing to stare at Elizabeth).Chapter 2: Partridges at Longbourn.
Two days later, the two gentlemen arrived early for dinner. Mr. Bingley not long after entering found a seat next to Jane while his friend tried to come closer to Elizabeth. However, this challenge was met without any success. During the dinner, Mr. Darcy was placed next to her mother and Kitty but his attention was not focused on them. He wants to be near Lizzy and Lizzy wants to be next to him. Mary saw their distress of not being able to talk to each other, as they clearly much wanted to do. Mary pitied her sister. As astonishing as it was, Lizzy was truly in love with Mr. Darcy. She saw the passionate and loving glances Darcy sent her sister when he thought she was not looking. They intensified when he saw her laugh with her father and neighbors. The same emotion was reflected in her sister's eyes when he looked away from her for a moment. Her sister was very embarrassed and her suitor very reserved. Could Mr. Darcy be shy instead of proud? Lizzy loves him so he could not be that bad.
When the dinner was over, and the gentlemen returned after the separation with the ladies, Jane prepared the tea and Elizabeth the coffee. Normally, it was Mary's task to prepare the latter, but this night, she left the task to Lizzy hoping it would encourage Mr. Darcy to talk to her. Her plan went well and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth discussed a few moments before Maria Lucas came and Mr. Darcy moved away. Oh no, Maria, this not the time! These two need time to make things work out. She sighed when she saw her sister's longing look.
When the card tables were installed, Mary saw that her mother wanted to claim Darcy as a whist player at her table. Poor Lizzy was forced to sit at another table. Mary sat near Mr. Darcy's table with a book and witnessed his inattention to the game that seemed to affect Lizzy as well. Stupid cards! Never useful except for separating people who did not want it, in order to suit others! She raged.
The Netherfield gentlemen were the first to depart, leaving no time for Lizzy and Mr. Darcy to talk again.
The next day, Bingley was there early. He appraised of Mr. Darcy's leaving for town for ten days. Mary caught the brief flicker of pain in Lizzy's eyes. Her mother who clearly wished to make the match of Bingley and Jane, very grossly and not very subtlety left the room with Kitty and her. Only Elizabeth remained but was fetched soon by their scheming mama. After a certain time, Jane come into the room and imparted the news everyone expected.Chapter 3: An important lady.
One day when Mary was reading in her room upstairs, she heard the wheels of a carriage. She glanced at it when it stopped in front of the house. Obviously it belongs to someone who was very rich and took care to show it very obviously. Before even knowing him or her, Mary was wary of this stranger. She detested ostentatious display. Then a lady exited the carriage and entered the house. A few minutes she was back followed by Elizabeth and disappeared in the copse at the end of the house. A few minutes later she was back trailing behind Elizabeth. Mary could see by her quick step that Elizabeth was angry. She opened the window to hear what was said. She knew it was most rude to intrude into a private conversation but she wanted what this lady could say to upset her sister so. She caught these words:
``You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?''
"Lady Catherine, I have nothing farther to say. You know my sentiments.''
Mary was stunned. So this was Lady Catherine de Bourgh, my Cousin Collins' patroness and Mr. Darcy's aunt!
The exchange continued for a few moments with Lady Catherine yelling insults about their family and social position. What can she mean to shout like this? Everyone could hear her. What right does she have to insult my sister? Mary thought angrily. But Elizabeth remained cool and polite and never lowered herself to insult back Lady Catherine.
Finally the great lady took her leave saying she would do anything to regulate Elizabeth's "ambition". Her sister watched the carriage go away, then went into the house. After this, Mary went downstairs. Lizzy was watching outside the window apparently in deep thought. No doubt wondering what Mr. Darcy's reaction would be.Chapter 4: Happy day.
Mr. Darcy's reaction came two days later. He and Bingley arrived early. As soon as he entered, Mr. Darcy gazed at Elizabeth with, Mary thought, wondering, determination, hope. Elizabeth responded to that gaze as long as she could before blushing and dropping her eyes to the floor. Mr. Bingley proposed a walk.
Mary who was usually not a walker found a good opportunity. She mumbled she needed to work on some concerto. Much to her disappointment, Kitty agreed to join them. Mary was relieved to hear she wished to call upon Maria Lucas. The five set off together.
Mr. Bingley and Jane returned half an hour after. About a quarter of an hour after her eldest sister and her fiancé's return, Mary was walking outside collecting flowers for the parlour. She noticed Mr. Darcy and Lizzy standing in a remote corner of the garden not seen from the house itself. Mr. Darcy's arms were around Lizzy's waist and Lizzy's arms around his neck and they were kissing each other tenderly. Mary, with a blush, withdrew quickly afraid of being seen and to give them the privacy they needed. Then they continued walking towards the house. Mr. Darcy had Lizzy's right hand in his and was kissing it frequently, while the two were looking at each other with complete happiness. Finally thought Mary. She went back into the house rejoicing for her sister.
Through the dinner, Mary was glad to see the frequent glances and smiles exchanged between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. At one moment she asked Lizzy to pass the tomatoes and was amused to see she did not hear it.
"Lizzy." she says as she poked her lightly on the ribs.
"Ah" she jumped "Ah I'm sorry Mary. What did you say?"
Struggling to contain her smile, she repeated her entreaty with a most serious air and Elizabeth complied then resumed her previous activity.
As the gentlemen took leave, Mary arranged to detain Kitty and her mother for a few minutes. When they rejoined the two couples into the hallway, Mary saw that her second sister's cheeks was more bright than before and glanced at Mr. Darcy with barely contained passion that the gentleman eagerly returned.
Finally my sister is as happy as she deserves.
(This story (number six already!) is dedicated to my net pen friends Mary S.(Mary Catherine), Julie Jindra (Julianne E.). A very special thanks to my beta reader Ally M. who corrected and improved this new product of my thoughts. Then a huge merci to all my support committee with Linh, Genevieve Dudley, Jean Louise, Lucie, Jane, Joan Ellen, Kiersten B., Felicity S. Louise)
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