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They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

July 15, 2015 01:27PM
Chapter Three.

The visit of the Revered Mr William Collins turned out to be all that Mr Bennet had hoped for in terms of providing him with sport at the man’s obvious foolishness, and Mary, for the most past and due to her absence, conveniently, or possibly inconveniently, missed, whichever way one chose to look at it. Cousin Collins, as her sisters related later, arrived full of baggage, bonhomme, consummate praise of his patroness back in Kent, and most of all, himself. A letter from Lizzie informed a wide-eyed and suitably shocked Mary that their previously unknown cousin was now to marry their friend and neighbour Charlotte Lucas after first casting eyes in Jane’s direction, proposing and being turned down by Lizzie herself and then persuading Charlotte to make him the happiest of men by becoming his wife, and all within a couple of days. Mary decided she was missing a great deal of astounding events and brought forward her return post-haste. In the wake of a somewhat leisurely period of inactivity in Meryton, and particularly at Longbourne, things were suddenly moving along at an amazing pace. After meeting the unimpressive and somewhat, in her view, pityable, clerical cousin and having herself been scrutinised like a specimen of fruit bat pinned to a corkboard, Mary decided that being missing for most of his visit had been no bad thing at all. Would she, herself, she wondered, have been included in Mr Collins’s list of suitable candidates to be considered for the dubious honour of becoming his betrothed? The very thought produced a shudder! As soon as it was possible after her return, she cornered Lizzie and demanded a full account of all that had happened during her absence. Lizzie’s related account proceeded thus:

As a chance to recover his breath from another voluminous avalanche of praise for his mentor, the illustrious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Collins had accompanied the sisters to Meryton on a walking exercise. Whilst there, they had encountered a new member of the militia who had just arrived in the town after securing a commission with the officer in command, Colonel Forster. The newcomer’s name was George Wickham, by all accounts a very handsome and delightful fellow and a real charmer to the local ladies. The said Mr Wickham, it seemed – as he disclosed to Lizzie in surprising confidence at a supper at Aunt Phillip’s - had been unbelievably badly treated by the very same Fitzwilliam Darcy who had been found so ill-mannered by the Assembly patrons. Intriguingly also, Lizzie had previously witnessed a meeting of the two in Meryton which had resulted in some obvious shock on both behalfs and Darcy riding off in undisguised anger. How utterly intriguing? Two people, decidedly not local to their little community but quite obviously known to each other, encountering in this fashion? Cousin Collins then secured himself an invitation, as a guest of the Bennets, to a ball promised at Netherfield Park by Charles Bingley - and demanded as a debt of honour by Kitty and Lizzie - in which he displayed a totally ill-mannered self introduction to Mr Darcy that did him little favour with anyone. Once again, Lady Catherine had figured centrally in his dialogue. Wickham had declined to attend the ball much to Lizzie’s personal disappointment. She also confessed great annoyance with herself at allowing a dance request by Mr Darcy to surprise her into acceptance, and more so, that Caroline Bingley had made no secret of the fact in relating to her, that she thought George Wickham just a wastrel of low birth. Lizzie dismissed her sharply. Nothing transpired during the dancing to alter her views that she just did not like Fitzwilliam Darcy at all. The morning after the event had produced such a wild spate of romantic activity, back at Longbourne, that it was little short of farcial, and succeeded in bringing laughter from Mary at the very hearing of it. Despite consuming the details of Lizzie’s account with great interest and some glee, Mary did allow herself to wonder if Captain Robinson might have been in attendance at the Netherfield ball had he been in town. She had never even thought to ask if he took pleasure in dance, but then it was of little importance overall as he played the violin. That was a major asset for any man, was it not? Her feelings, she was discovering, were undergoing serious upheaval from her previously inattentive views on the topic of love and romance. Robinson Crusoe indeed had things to answer for, she decided. She would read more of him........

At least until his return, the topic of Captain John Robinson was for private perusal only, but Mary’s quiet moments had a glow of anticipation she had never previously known. It was a far from unpleasant experience being able to indulge in a little meditation and self examination on a whole new direction of thought. She found that conjuring up a mental image of Captain Robinson actually required no effort at all. He had faded blue eyes with lines at the corners that hinted of a quiet humour, and had matched so well his unforced smile at their initial introduction. “Stop this immediately, Mary” she reprimanded herself, but she was unable to prevent her lips quirking into a guilty upward twitch. Until he had appeared she had actually considered her mother’s constantly aired views on the topic of the importance of marital security to be somewhat tedious. Now, ironically those views seemed less ridiculous. Events however, were about to evoke even stronger change in her feelings….

If anyone besides Mary found any humour in the latest situation at Longbourne, it most certainly was not Mrs Bennet. Such was her anger at Lizzie refusing Mr Collins that she grabbed a carpet beater from a house maid working in the rear garden and battered the carpet so hard in her temper that the cloud of dust she raised was recorded by the Royal Greenwich Observatory telescope as a warning of rain, or at least so Lizzie claimed, with a wry smile, as she advised Mary not to broach a word on the subject as she was already in very serious disfavour. Mary was happy to comply but also hoped that her mother’s mood might improve rather sooner than later. Poor Charlotte Lucas, whose only crime was to accept a rare and unexpected proposal of marriage, was now regarded by the irate Mrs Bennet as little better than a low-life strumpet, and Lizzie not worthy of attention at all . Such was the less than ecstatic scene at Longbourne on Mary’s return. Other things had happened, of which only Lizzie and Jane knew at the time. Mary found out later that the Bingleys and Darcy had suddenly decided to winter in London, where both Darcy and Louisa’a husband, Mr Hurst , had houses, and left almost on the spot. Poor Jane was most disappointed, Lizzie, decidedly sensing a conspiracy by the Bingley sisters, was furious on her behalf. A letter from Caroline Bingley, which Lizzie felt was contrived for a purpose, confirmed that the Bingleys would not be in residence in either Netherfield or Meryton in the near future. Although she attempted to disguise it, poor Jane’s obvious distress and disappointment made Mary sad for her and thoughtful about her own latest feelings. Men were so infuriating in their moods and decisions. Whilst readily admitting Bingley had made no indications of his feelings, written or verbal, Jane had obviously believed he returned her own. Now, it seemed, nothing would come of it at all. Mary found annoyance surfacing in her. Jane, so very kind and gentle in her manner, did not deserve such unhappiness. Lizzie had a much more straightforward and strong resilience about her that indicated that she could cope with most things. At the moment her dislike of Fitzwilliam Darcy was her prevalent crusade although she did seem attracted to the militia chap? How poor Jane would cope remained to be seen. At the moment she was a very unhappy young woman.......

Despite all, Christmas passed with as much festive spirit as could be occasioned by the annual visit of Uncle and Aunt Gardiner and their children and Aunt Gardiner suggested Jane accompany them back to their home in London’s Gracechurch Street for a three month visit and a chance to raise her spirits. The idea was met with enthusiasm by Lizzie and agreement by Jane. Thus, it was arranged……

In the stately house that had once, many years ago, been his home in the town of Luton, John Robinson lay in bed in his old room and allowed his mind to conjure mental images of the girl he had recently met in Hertfordshire. After years at sea his thoughts strayed only to the subject of woman on the occasions when in foreign ports for any length of time. At such times he involved himself in less than serious dalliance with several ladies, but any romance of a lasting nature never troubled his mind. He had been amazed at his own instant attraction to the young girl playing the pianoforte so very well at the supper party. She was lovely and he found himself eager to see her again. Was the feel of land rather than the ocean beneath his feet changing his views? Luton was hardly more than a two hour ride away from where the girl of his thoughts may now be asleep. Had she given him any of her thought since they met, he wondered, and what did the future hold for him. Here in Luton his late father had owned a successful hat-making business, currently being managed by a competent lady named Mrs Margaret Miller; should they sell that and also the house in which he now temporarily resided ? His brother was in favour of doing so, but what of the three men and a dozen women that relied solely on employment in the millinery business for their livings? Would a new owner still employ them? With the war now over, did he, at almost twenty eight wish for another ship and a naval commission to places far and as yet unknown? The army and navy, at least in terms of officers, had some respect in society, but trade and those involved in it were still regarded suspiciously by the upper middle-classes as being below their levels of equality. He had always found it ironic that the ladies and gentlemen of society were very happy to wear the products of an industry whilst looking down on those who produced them. Time, thought and discussion were needed and Mrs Bennet’s postponed dinner invitation was somewhat at the rear of more pressing matters right then. It did not however, stop Mary Bennet’s face being the last thing his mind saw as he settled down to sleep.

The New Year and January arrived at a subdued Longbourne. Darcy and the Bingleys were gone and George Wickham had proved that he was more interested in the pursuit of money than romance by proposing marriage to a quite plain-looking girl named Mary King who was rumoured to have a dowry of ten thousand pounds from the will of a newly - deceased relative. During the next two months little else of any real consequence happened. The weather, typical of the first quarter of the year, was inclement and prohibitive of much outdoor exercise or travel. Without the carriage the lanes proved an unattractive walking option most days and thus time hung heavily on mainly idle hands. Although minimal visiting or social activity was happening, Mary was more than a little disappointed that no opportunity to socialise presented itself and thus, no chance to even encounter Captain Robinson. It was thus a total surprise when the maid announced one day towards the end of February that a gentleman was asking to see Mrs Bennet. The younger Bennet girls had risked the weather and were absent, pursuing the noble art of officer spotting, and Mr Bennet was taking a nap. When the said gentleman turned out to be none other than John Robinson, the surprise to Mrs Bennet and Lizzie, and the almost heart-stopping shock to Mary were immense. Captain Robinson could but stay a short while as he had urgent business to attend to with his brother, but felt he had to call and apologise to Mrs Bennet that he had not fulfilled his promise to take up her dinner invitation. Mrs Bennet was almost beside herself in insisting on renewing the invitation ad-infinitum .. Captain Robinson was introduced to Lizzie and greeted Mary with very obvious pleasure. She, despite her attempts at calmness, found her stomach in uproar and was unable to prevent herself turning the colour of a ripe summer tomato when John Robinson handed her a small book of sea shanties with a faded, red leather cover, saying he thought she may like to have it as she was a musician. Captain Robinson explained the situation with his father’s factory, taking close and somewhat apprehensive observation of the family reactions, but since Uncle Gardiner owned his own factory he saw nothing to give him concern as to their opinions. He had, he declared, with the war ended, decided to leave the navy and reside in the area after coming to a settlement with his brother on the sale of their father’s house. Because he could not bear the thought of being idle, he would own the business and take charge of sales and exports, but leave the every day running in the quite capable hands of the current staff under Mrs Miller. Mary said almost nothing beyond stuttering her thanks for the book. This fact was not lost on Lizzie as the amused glint in her eye showed. Her quiet younger sister was turning out to be somewhat of a real surprise. In order not to cause Mary too much embarrassment, for it was not too long ago she herself had been nineteen and known of the mixed emotions that such an age can produce, she decided to wait until Mary felt composed enough to talk of things. Promising to return as soon as he could, Captain Robinson took his leave of them and Mrs Bennet immediately began stating what a fine gentleman he was and lecturing Mary not to behave as Lizzie had done with Mr Collins. Lizzie remained silent, although inwardly readily admitting that John Robinson had seemed a very attractive man, and Mary was so positively overcome with emotion and shock to the extent of almost speechlessness. "Captain Robinson would not be away for long months at sea, but within a short ride of Meryton and Longbourne". She could hardly wait to dash off to her bedroom and examine her present with his name on the fly leaf, before tucking it carefully beneath her pillow. Life and mood were suddenly not ruled by the weather. Let it snow, hail or thunder as it wished. She moved in an aura of permanent sunshine.......

March arrived, and with it time for Lizzie’s visit to Charlotte, now Mrs Collins, at her new home in Kent. The parsonage was apparently hard by Rosings Park, the residence of the much vaunted Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter, Anne. Lizzie did not view the impending event with great enthusiasm, but the visit would last some six weeks and at least she would see how Charlotte had coped with her new situation. The thought roused her somewhat and soon they were on the way and she was allowing the driving rattle of the carriage wheels to transport her into a state of hypnosis effectively blocking out Sir Williams droll ramblings and Maria’s excited observations on every pebble, leaf, milestone and road sign along the highways.....

With both her elder sisters away and the prospect of just Kitty, Lydia and her parents for company, only the visit of Captain Robinson served to keep Mary’s own spirits up. She could wish for time to pass quickly for more reasons than one. She decided to lose herself as much as possible in her music practise, writing and study…oh, and a little harmless day dreaming of course……

Chapter Four.

Apart from one decidedly memorable event, quite how she managed to pass the next six weeks Mary was happy not to clearly remember later. Her mother still rambled on about Charlotte Lucas stealing Mr Collins away from a possibly beneficial union with Lizzie. The bald fact that quite regardless of Charlotte, such a union would never have taken place anyway seemed immaterial to Mrs Bennet. Sir William, who had returned from Rosings after only a week, and Lady Lucas, did not escape chastisement on the unfairness of potential husband-stealing and selfish disregard of the wishes of others. Only constant practise on the pianoforte and a few visits to the local church where she was allowed to play the organ once each week, broke the monotony of Mrs Bennets tirades, Kitty and Lydia’s foolish flirting and the absence of her elder sisters. When the weather improved slightly, a supper party or two at Longbourne and the home of Aunt Phillips, helped to pass along the weeks until finally it was time for Lizzie and Jane to return home. Just one priceless event had happened that in itself was enough for Mary to cherish beyond joy. One Saturday Captain Robinson had left a message that subject to any inconvenience to Mrs Bennet being stated, he would fulfil his promise to dine at Longbourne on the next day, Sunday. No inconvenience was forwarded by the delighted Mrs Bennet and the day duly dawned. Mary was a bundle of nerves as the morning wore on, changing her dress twice and spending more time on her appearance then she had done since a friend’s wedding two years ago. Mrs Bennet assured her that she looked exceedingly well and even her father commented on her appearance. It was beginning to dawn on both parents that their middle daughter was no longer a child but an exceedingly attractive young woman. Mary’s joy was almost too much to bear when John Robinson arrived driving his own curricle and entered the house carrying a violin case. He was still officially a Captain, having not yet received his discharge and the sight of him in his dark blue dress uniform, white stock, gold braid, white trousers and gleaming boots made Mary feel somewhat faint. After all the welcomes and introductions had been attended to, Captain Robinson needed little persuasion to produce his violin and play several airs. When he began to play a couple of the sea shanties from his book, Mary smiled shyly, rose and went over to her pianoforte and easily picked out the melody to accompany him. He nodded encouragingly and started to play the tune to “Over the hills and far away” and Mary followed him. He then began to sing the Beggar’s Opera lyrics and a bright flush suffused her cheeks as she realised he was challenging her to sing the ripostes. Taking her courage in both hands she followed him, but looked down at the keys as she sang to avoid making direct eye contact.

He: “Were I laid on Greenland's Coast, And in my Arms embrac'd my Lass;
Warm amidst eternal Frost, Too soon the Half Year's Night would pass.”

She: “Were I sold on Indian Soil, Soon as the burning Day was clos'd,
I could mock the sultry Toil When on my Charmer's Breast repos'd.”

He: “And I would love you all the Day,”

“She: “Every Night would kiss and play,”

He: “ If with me you'd fondly stray"

She: “Over the Hills and far away"

Perhaps it was to save Mary embarrassment at the lyric’s hinted sensuality by drawing attention away from her, perhaps not. but Robinson then continued with a different wording of the same tune, this from George Farquhar’s military lyrics but adding King George from the original Queen of the previous century. He had a fine rich voice and sang loudly and confidently. Mary continued to play the tune but didn’t sing as she knew not these words..

“Courage, boys, 'tis one to ten, But we return all gentlemen
All gentlemen as well as they, Over the hills and far away.
Over the Hills and O'er the Main, To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
King George commands and we'll obey, Over the Hills and far away.

Over the Hills and O'er the Main, To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
King George commands and we'll obey Over the Hills and far awayyyyy.

Everyone applauded warmly and Captain Robinson gave Mary a gentlemanly bow, before putting his violin back in the open case. Mrs Bennet’s beaming face was bright enough to light candles from. He then requested Mary to carry on playing which she did with much pleasure. His own delight was very obvious. The meal was a great success and the Captain regaled the diners with a few anecdotes of life on the wartime ocean, during it. Mary had been placed next to him by a rare insight of her mothers and could attend him without having to stare or be stared at obviously. When he rose to leave, the look in his eyes spoke volumes in the few brief seconds that their gazes locked. He left with a firm promise to return and also attend an assembly whenever possible. Mary was ecstatic with the day and went to bed in a golden glow of hope and dreams.....

Fifty miles away from the happy revelers, and unknown to any of them, events were taking place that would have a decided bearing on the lives of them all. It began with a surprise visit to Lizzie at Hunsford parsonage, by Fitzwilliam Darcy…..

Mary was to find out about it all quite some time after the events happened, but Lizzie, her visit to Rosings almost at an end, received a major shock before leaving. Two unexpected additions to the Rosings guest list were to combine to provide it. Fitzwilliam Darcy, as Lizzie had known from George Wickham, was a relation of the same Lady Catherine de Bourgh who was Mr Collin’s beloved patroness. He, together with his cousin, an army colonel named Fitzwilliam, were the nephews of her Ladyship and joint legal guardians of Darcy’s young sister, Georgiana. Lady Catherine it seemed, was also under the impression that Darcy would eventually marry her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had been quite impressed by Lizzie and during a walk around the Rosings estate one morning, inadvertently told her that Darcy had saved a friend from a most inopportune relationship with a lady of quite unsuitable background. During the following conversation, Lizzie realized that Colonel Fitzwilliam was unknowingly speaking about her sister Jane and that it was Charles Bingley that Darcy had supposedly saved by persuading him to leave Netherfield in haste and not return.. Lizzie, although she did not say so to Fitzwilliam, was shocked and furious and went off claiming to be unwell. A short time later whilst alone at the parsonage she received a visit from Darcy. He asked after her health since the Colonel had mentioned she was unwell, then utterly staggered Lizzie by announcing he was madly in love with her and asking her to marry him! Lizzie was dumbfounded that a man who she had been informed had ruined the chances of an advantageous marriage with a man who loved her, for her dear sister, and also stolen the potentially decent and prosperous living meant for George Wickham, should even consider her marrying him. She apparently lost no time in telling Darcy her views of his behaviour and showing him the door. Shortly after, Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam left Rosings but not before Darcy had met Lizzie and given her a letter. What the letter had contained Mary knew not, but Lizzie and Maria returned to Longbourne picking up Jane from the Gardiners home on the way and being met by Kitty and Lydia for the journey home. Lizzie was informed by Lydia that George Wickham was “safe” from Mary King and back in circulation. Lizzie was of the opinion that Mary King was the safe one, and found out later that her uncle had heard bad character references about Wickham and refused to let her marry him on pain of losing her inheritance. Without the financial magnet, Mary King’s charms had soon faded away from Wickham’s mercenary gaze.

Mary now had the benefit of all her family at home for some time and found herself the centre of attention when her mother related the visit to dinner of Captain Robinson and his interest in her. Of course Mrs Bennet made out that it would only be a matter of time before Captain John proposed because he had sung a duet with Mary and given her a song book. Even Kitty and Lizzie were not foolish enough to put too much store on those facts. Lizzie assured Jane however, that John Robinson, though she estimated that he was in his late twenties, seemed a thoroughly decent man both in looks and manners. She did not dismiss the possibility that her mother may well be right, at least at some future point. That John Robinson thought well of her younger sister, she was in no doubt about at all.....

Life at Longbourne returned to normality, but It was not the best of news for Mary that Lizzie was to go on a touring vacation with Uncle and Aunt Gardiner. Life always seemed a little brighter when Lizzie was around. Lydia became quite ecstatic with delight at receiving an invitation to stay with Harriet Forster, who had recently become the wife of the militia commander, Colonel Forster, in their new quarters in Brighton. Kitty was distraught at what she considered the unfairness of not inviting her too. Lizzie strongly advised her father not to let Lydia loose alone in Brighton but Mr Bennet rather stubbornly maintained that she was always going to embarrass the family somewhere, so why not Brighton? Mary kept her counsel but privately totally agreed with Lizzie. A small worry nagged at her that nothing would happen to affect any possible visits from Captain John Robinson. Lydia and Kitty were indeed silly girls in their general behavior and Lydia being away may prove quite beneficial.....

Summer arrived in Hertfordshire and Lizzie’s touring vacation, though somewhat delayed and suffering a disappointing change of plan in that they would tour the countryside but not have time to reach the Lake District of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, finally got under way and Mary suffered a drop in spirits as the carriage of the girl she considered her favourite sister disappeared down the drive in a cloud of sunlit dust. Her spirits were to be raised again, and then quickly to suffer a major disappointment for the following day a letter arrived addressed to he mother who read it quickly then passed it to her. It was from Captain John Robinson. The short letter’s content came as a complete surprise to Mrs Bennet and a crashing disappointment to Mary. Captain Robinson was to go back to sea. It was written in a flowing hand, dated two days previously and sent from Chadwick House, 13 Lostock Avenue, Luton.

Dear Madam.
I hope this letter finds you and your family well and in health. It’s purpose is to inform you that I have suffered a slight change of personal circumstance since I saw you last that could mean I may not be able to attend another of your excellent dinners nor hear your daughter Mary’s exquisite playing for quite some time. Whilst I submitted a resignation document to the Admiralty terminating my career, my discharge papers have not yet been approved and officially passed off. Since this is the case I was not in a position to refuse a letter informing me of a short voyage The Admiralty require me to fulfill. I am to make my way overland to Dover then sail across to Calais with two other sea captains. There are captured prize vessels held there that require sailing back to Dover with none less than captains in charge. Fortunately the factory will be safe to continue in the hands of my staff until my return and my brother will take care of any legal aspects and accounts, etc in my absence.
I am hoping that the whole business should be over and clear within four weeks or so and I may return home with my navy career behind me and once again visit you and your family to whom I send my best regards. Until then accept my heartfelt good wishes and may God bless you all.
John Robinson,

Mary was exceedingly dismayed. He was going back to sea after all. It was quite clear that Captain Robinson had totally observed decorum by writing to her mother and not herself directly. By doing so he could add nothing of a personal nature, only mentioning her name and playing in passing. At least he had mentioned her and four weeks was not forever. Trying not to show her obvious disappointment she folded the latter and casually placed it beside her on the table desperately hoping her mother would not want it personally. Fortunately, Mrs Bennet made no move to retrieve it and Mary resolved she would secret it away in her sea shanties book at the first opportunity. His hand, her name. She would pray every night for his safe return.

They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

Jim G.MJuly 15, 2015 01:27PM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

Lucy J.July 16, 2015 04:52PM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

AlidaJuly 16, 2015 12:58AM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

Jim G.MJuly 16, 2015 10:37AM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

terrycgJuly 16, 2015 12:53AM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

ShannaGJuly 15, 2015 06:40PM

Don't you dare kill him!

Maria VJuly 15, 2015 05:38PM

I second that!! (nfm)

LisetteJuly 15, 2015 09:45PM

Re: They must have heard about Mary. Chapters 3-4.

mpinneyJuly 15, 2015 03:29PM


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