I’ve settled on that as a working title at least. I have yet another work-in-progress in my brain, possibly for NaNoWriMo this upcoming November. The premise is “Whatever happened to Mary Bennet?”
Jane Austen gives precious few bits of information regarding the futures of the Bennet sisters in her letters. Obviously, Jane and Lizzy get their respective happily-ever-afters. And I don’t care one bit what happens to Lydia or Kitty. Not really, anyway. Lydia deserves what she gets, and Kitty is kind of boring. I wish her well with her vicar, but I’m not interested otherwise.
But Mary? Sure, she was foolish and self-important and prudish in P&P. But think about how very alone she was. Jane and Lizzy had each other. And, well, Lydia had Kitty to domineer and influence, if it wasn’t equally requited to Kitty’s benefit. Still, they had each other for companionship. Mary, however, was simply in the middle and alone, merely tolerated by both her older and younger sisters.
I was noodling the information Austen revealed in letters around in my head one day, just before Creative Writing Club one morning at school. Mary, she wrote, grew somewhat more social when forced to go with her mother on outings and visits after all her sisters were married and out of the house. Eventually she married a clerk in her Uncle Phillips’ law office and became quite content with her status as a social big fish in the small Meryton pond. That’s it. That’s all that Austen revealed about Mary’s outcome.
I started imagining the when and how of all that, and I eventually wrote this little drabbly-bit to get myself started. I think it has good potential.
It is an occurrence commonly understood that it will befall an unmarried daughter to be required to care for her parents in their waning years, and so it had turned out for Miss Mary Bennet. Mary smoothed down the coverlet and placed a small pillow under her dear Papa’s head, that he might breathe more comfortably.
In her head, Mary had become, the older she got, brutally honest with herself. As sure as she was that the joy playing her pianoforte and singing afforded her was far outstripped by any actual talent she might possess, Mary was also cognizant of the fact that Mr. Bennet had not, by her, always been considered “dear Papa.”
Mr. Bennet had made it no secret to a younger Mary, that he, when he considered her at all, thought her to be dull and disagreeable. When Mrs. Bennet had surprised her family by succumbing to influenza some years ago, and not, as they had expected, outlived her husband after all, Mary became the mistress of Longbourne, her childhood home. The propinquity thrust upon them gradually fostered in father and daughter a new respect and understanding between them. This happy feeling had, in turn, grown into an honest and forthright affection.
Mr. Bennet patted her hand and murmured, “Mary, my dear. Such a comfort to me. Such a good girl.”
Mary’s typically stern countenance was broken by a tight smile. She was not a girl. It was the year of Our Lord 1832, William IV was on the throne of England, Mary Bennet was eight and thirty years old, and her father was dying.