This was one of my first vignettes (much edited) that I wrote for a fan-fiction site. I penned it before I rehabilitated Mary Bennet in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy in which Mary finds true love. I believe Mary got the short end of the stick in Pride and Prejudice. As a middle child, I sympathize.
Mary Assists Elizabeth
Upon hearing the letter carrier’s bell, Charlotte took out her coin purse so that she might pay the postman. She was not surprised to find that she had received a letter from Mary Bennet. In fact, Mary had become her most prolific correspondent. Charlotte was not sure how this epistolary friendship had come about, and it truly was a friendship that existed only on paper as Mary had never ventured into Kent. Whatever its origins, it certainly turned out to be fortuitous for a certain couple.
Despite declarations to the contrary, Mr. Collins loved gossip, especially about his cousins in Hertfordshire, and encouraged his wife to continue her correspondence with Mary. It cheered Mr. Collins to know that at least one member of the Bennet family recognized his manifest qualities.
The letters, filled with interesting tidbits, had begun almost immediately after Charlotte’s arrival in Hunsford, and it seemed there was nothing that happened at Longbourn that Mary was unwilling to share. As a result, she knew that Mr. Bingley had left Netherfield Park to return to London almost as soon as it had happened. And Mary was quite liberal in sharing the depth of Jane’s heartache: “With Mr. Bingley now gone for four weeks, Jane has decided to go to London to visit with our mother’s brother in the hope of restoring her spirits, which are very low. Unfortunately, Jane and Mama had pinned all of their hopes on Mr. Bingley even though he had never once used the word ‘marriage’ in any of their conversations. It is now generally believed that Mr. Bingley will not return to Netherfield before the spring. It is my belief that he is never coming back.”
Charlotte, being well acquainted with the Bennet family, knew that Mary was unfortunate in being caught between two witty, beautiful, and intelligent older sisters and two pretty, vivacious, and witless younger ones. Because of her situation, Mary found comfort in books and tried desperately to earn her father’s approval by expounding on subjects that were of no interest to him. As the plainest of the daughters, she had long abandoned any attempt to engage her mother because Mrs. Bennet was all about “the getting of husbands” and believed Mary had no chance of ever marrying.
But Mary would have her revenge. It was she who revealed to the Collinses that Lydia and Wickham had left Brighton together in the middle of the night. “It pains me to tell you, Charlotte, that Lydia and Wickham have not gone to Gretna Green to be married but are hidden somewhere in the bowels of London living as man and wife without benefit of clergy! Please keep this information from Mr. Collins as long as possible. However, if your husband makes inquiries as to what has been written here, as his wife, you are obligated to share our unfortunate news with him.”
With Wickham and Lydia’s hasty marriage, the Bennets had hoped to limit the damage so that none beyond their closest family members would learn the particulars of the unhappy event. But it was not to be. Upon reading Mary’s letter, Mr. Collins felt compelled to share the tawdry tale with Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
But life does have its twists and turns. It was Mary who wrote to Charlotte of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley’s surprise return to Netherfield Park, and it was an observant Mary who had noticed how frequently Mr. Darcy looked at Lizzy during his visits to Longbourn with Mr. Bingley, confirming Charlotte’s belief that Mr. Darcy was in love with her friend. Charlotte shared her expectation that Mr. Darcy would soon become engaged to her friend with her husband.
Unsure of which way the wind would blow, Mr. Collins informed Lady Catherine of the possibility of an engagement and his disapproval for such a match, but he had also written to Mr. Bennet offering his congratulations for Elizabeth making such an advantageous marriage to "a most illustrious personage” without actually naming the prospective groom. The words of a possible engagement had barely left Mr. Collins’s lips before Lady Catherine was in her carriage and on the road to Longbourn. Her purpose in coming so far was to insist on assurances from Miss Elizabeth Bennet that she would never enter into an engagement with her nephew. The promises so eagerly sought by Her Ladyship were denied. Far from ending the romance, it restored Darcy’s hopes that a renewal of his attentions would be welcomed.
What a chain of events Mary had begun! As Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy exchanged their wedding vows in the Bennet's parish church, Charlotte was thinking of Mary’s role in bringing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together and wondered if she had any idea of what she had accomplished!
What is your opinion of Mary Bennet. She's been a very popular subject of late.