This was Mary's first trip to London and she was enjoying herself more than she had thought possible. While her aunt and uncle were neither going out nor entertaining beyond the family, they encouraged her to go out with her sisters and their friends. She went to balls, the theatre, lectures, exhibitions, museums, and shops. The list of entertainments seemed endless. She had some quiet evenings, but the only time she really had for writing was in the morning, before breakfast. She had always treasured the early morning at home. Her bedroom window faced east and she would sit at her little table and write while watching the light spread across the countryside.
In London, her chamber faced north, but she had claimed a spot in the parlour that saw morning sunshine. Every morning she sat there, writing furiously, trying to record the events and personalities she had seen, snippets of conversation. In just two weeks she was convinced that she had material for another three novels. Her first novel was at the printers, as she'd attended to the proofs immediately on arriving. She often felt that she was dreaming, she had never dared to hope that anyone would think her work worth publication.
Kitty felt that she was dreaming. To be spending a season in town! To be staying with two ladies that were friends, not relatives! To take lessons from a drawing master! She was in heaven. She had tried to share her joy with Lydia, but had received a reply that if she wasn't going to write about anything interesting -- fashion, balls, men, parties -- she shouldn't write at all. It had upset her, but she determined that she would not let her fun be ruined by Lydia.
Today was to be an exciting day, even by Lydia's standards! The General was taking her, Elinor, and Anne to watch the men training. They had packed their sketchbooks and charcoal, planning to make only quick sketches, which they would later work into larger pieces. The men had all been warned to be on their best behaviour and Richard was hoping to spend most of the day with the ladies for a change. They were introduced to so many officers that they all started to blur together. There was one, however, who Kitty recognised.
"Why, Captain Carter, what are you doing here? I thought the militia and the regulars were quite separate."
"Indeed they are, Miss Kitty. I have transferred to the regulars and am now Major Carter."
"Congratulations!" she said, as the others rejoined her. He was introduced to the ladies and they spoke a while, though Kitty's attention could not be drawn from all the red coats for long.
"I am quite jealous, Major," she said eventually.
"Jealous, Miss Kitty? Of what?"
"First you join the militia and travel all over England and now you are in the regulars and will likely go abroad. This is my first trip from home and I can never hope to see all that you have!" She sounded quite petulant, and Elinor laughed at her.
"Oh, Kitty, you can certainly travel widely if you wish to. You must simply find a husband who will take you where you wish to go." She had noticed that the man had seemed particularly pleased to see her friend and rather thought that army gentlemen made some of the best husbands.
A number of the officers they had met were invited to call upon them with the General, and the Major was one of them. Kitty went to bed with her head full of oceans and mountains, jungles and islands.
Due to his duties, the General had not been able to spend as much time courting as he had hoped. He had taken possession of his house in town and was trying to determine whether or not to leave the army altogether. If he did resign he would have all his time to lavish on Elinor. Every time he thought of actually resigning though, he felt a weight in his stomach. Not knowing what to do, he consulted his lady.
"You do not seem to want to resign, so I shall have to say that I do not think you should."
"No? Even though I see you so rarely?"
"Several times a week is hardly rare. If you were likely to be sent to the fighting again, to be in danger, then I would probably think very differently. But you are in no danger at all, so that has no weight. You enjoy your time training the men and they have need of your expertise. So, no, I do not think you should resign unless the work starts to make you unhappy."
There were many in town for the season, and neither Marianne nor Elinor were pleased when their brother came to call. His wife came as well, gushing over them as though they were favoured relations. Her ambition brought her -- the first of her friends to meet the new Mrs Darcy and Lady Matlock's nieces. They were only thankful that she was spiteful enough to leave her new sister behind. Of course appearances must be maintained and it was not long before all the John Dashwoods and her mother found themselves dining at the Darcys.
John Dashwood had been overjoyed to hear his eldest sister was marrying into the Earl of Matlock’s family. He did rather share his wife’s confusion as to how she’d managed to attract such a man. Despite her illness, Marianne was still the more striking of the two. Fanny Dashwood and her mother discussed their surprise at the match on their way home from the Darcys.
“She’s practically penniless, as well, mother.”
“I suppose that an Earl’s family need give no thought to dowry, in general, but I always understood that the younger son would have to make his own way.”
John thought that one of the youngest ever generals must be a successful man, but was in no mood to argue the point and so said nothing.
“I understand that Mrs Darcy has even less than Elinor and Marianne, yet she managed to catch him somehow as well.”
“I do wonder how long Mrs Darcy’s family have been acquainted with your sisters, John. They seemed very close indeed, yet neither of you have ever mentioned it to me before.”
“Why would we, Mother? Mrs Darcy’s family is as impoverished as our sisters.”
“I believe the acquaintance was only made last season, before Marianne was taken ill. Colonel BRandon was involved somehow, and they all spent this past summer together.”
Mr and Mrs Robert Ferrars were also in town. He was swiftly returned to the family, and she had only to wait a few weeks before her assiduous attentions allowed her admittance to the family circle. She had been quick to call on both Dashwood sisters, claiming their friendship and using that to gain an introduction to the Darcys and Miss de Bourgh. Georgiana was terrified of her, so she frequently found that the Darcys were not at home. She had rather more success encroaching on Miss Dashwood’s politeness, but never received the coveted introduction to the Countess. Why, when she left at the end of the season she hadn’t even been introduced to the General!
The elder Mrs Ferrars and her daughter were also discouraged by their formal, polite acquaintance that never achieved the desired results. Mrs Ferrars might not understand it, neither Lucy nor her mother-in-law, but Fanny Dashwood knew exactly why they were treated so distantly. What she could not understand was why their previous treatment of the Dashwood sisters was being held against them. No-one would have behaved any differently, given what their expectations had been. The behaviour of the Darcys and their Matlock relations was unaccountable, going around elevating penniless misses.
As if their relations were not enough of a trial for Elinor and Marianne, they had the misfortune to meet the Willoughbys at the theatre one evening. Lady Middleton had made the acquaintance of Mrs Willoughby soon after her marriage. Mrs John Dashwood was quite pleased to make her acquaintance as well, which was easily done as she and Lady Middleton truly enjoyed each other’s company.
When Mrs Willoughby heard that Miss Dashwood, who her husband also happened to be acquainted with, would be able to provide an introduction to Lady Matlock, she was determined to befriend the girl. Though her husband warned her that neither the Dashwood sisters nor their friends were likely to welcome such a thing, she carried her point and he took the first opportunity to make the introduction.
Marianne was even colder than Elinor and ,while they did not snub the couple they came close. As the rest of the party took their cue from the sisters, Mrs Willoughby was forced to admit she would never have more than a formal acquaintance with the Darcys or Miss de Bourgh, never mind the Matlocks.
“I do not understand why they should treat me so coldly, Fanny.”
“They have gotten above themselves. They are distant with me as well, their own family!”
Lady Middleton could not restrain herself from saying, “I expect they dislike you for marrying Mr Willoughby, Sophia.”
“Well, really, how could they possibly expect to compete with me? I had £50 000.”
“And yet General Fitzwilliam is courting Elinor who has only £50 a year.”
“Do you know that young lady, Mary? They have actually cut her!”
“I believe that is Miss Bingley. I think Miss Godden is a friend. Would you like an introduction?”
Mrs Willoughby did, and so they were shortly chatting amiably with Miss Bingley.
They waited the appropriate number of visits before they felt themselves intimate enough to consider asking the questions they had at the theatre. Caroline was more than willing to detail her grievances against the Bennets and their friends, with particular vitriol reserved for Mrs Darcy. Her new friends were quite sympathetic, with only Lady Middleton finding anything in the lady’s behaviour to censure. She would never say as much, of course, and soon put the matter out of her head entirely. She preferred to focus on the more important matters, such as her children and the elegance of her entertainments. When Fanny and Sophia began making noises about finding an appropriate husband for Caroline, she could not help but be reminded of her mother, but was sure her friends would undertake such a thing with far more decorum. The ladies had their work cut out for them, as the lady was fussy and the gentlemen were cautious.
The General waited until the beginning of February and then renewed his addresses, by asking Elinor if they were sufficiently acquainted for a proposal.
"You may laugh at me all you wish, but I would not give up these past few months for anything."
"Not for all of England. You know not what your letters mean to me."
"As long as you engage yourself to me, I shall not repine any choices that have pleased you."
"You will be pleased to know that you need not ride to Barton. Mother has already given her consent."
"And will you give yours?"
Soon all their friends and family had the news, and the congratulations were hardly out of Lady Matlock's mouth before she began planning the engagement ball. If Elinor had thought life in town a whirlwind before, she had no way to describe how busy she now was. Lady Matlock insisted on dressing her for the ball, as it was the closest she'd yet come to having a daughter. Their taste was similar, and both were reasonable enough to compromise, so that they were both pleased with the chosen gown.
There were wedding clothes to buy, though Elinor didn't think she needed quite as many as everyone else thought necessary. In addition to the clothes, there was also a house to decorate. While Elinor might be frugal with regard to her trosseau, she quite agreed that the entire house needed to be redone. It had last been decorated almost fifty years previously and Elinor found it all dark and oppressive. All the ladies were happy to give their opinions, but Elinor knew what she liked and could not be persuaded that red was the most romantic colour for a lady's chamber, no matter what Marianne said. When the house was finally finished -- a mere three weeks before the wedding -- it was tasteful, elegant, and understated. Elinor had chosen greens, cream, pale yellows, and blues, and, of course, white, and each room gave an impression of light and space. The General was most pleased and said he could not wait to see what she made of Owlsbury.
Lady Matlock's second ball of the season, celebrating her son's engagement was a huge success and greatly enjoyed by all who were able to acquire an invitation. Miss Bingley was most displeased to find that she was not one of them, but had at least learnt not to turn up uninvited. They were forced to invite Mr and Mrs John Dashwood, but were all pleased that there was no need to invite any of the Ferrars. The Willoughbys were certainly not on the list.
Elinor did not believe that anything could possibly dampen her happiness and would not have cared had any of them been invited. As it was, she enjoyed herself immensely. The General was extremely pleased with himself and the only thing he was able to find fault with was that his lady did not think it proper to dance more than three sets with him. Surely at a celebration of their engagement he should be entitled to dance every set with her? Even Darcy was laughing at him!
Colonel Brandon had danced the first set with Miss Bennet with great enjoyment. He rather thought her manner encouraging. He was distracted from his musing by Sir John.
“Ah, Brandon, there you are. Sir Thomas would like an introduction.”
Sir Thomas had not been pleased that business called him to town, but Tom was on the mend and he really could not delay any longer. He had brought Edmund with him as much for his company as for his assistance. He had not expected to find himself at the Earl of Matlock’s ball.
“Colonel, Sir John tells me that your estate is at Delaford.”
“Would that be the same Delaford that has Mr Ferrars for its vicar?”
“Indeed it is. Are you Miss Price’s uncle then?”
“I am. Such a pity there’s so large a distance, but I’m sure she’ll be very happy there.”
“I certainly hope so. Did she perhaps accompany you this evening?”
“No, no, she’s at Mansfield yet. My eldest son has been unwell. My younger son, Edmund, is here, however.”
Edmund and the Colonel were soon introduced and Sir Thomas left them happily discussing the matter of their mutual friend. They were interrupted by Marianne.
“You have not forgotten our dance, I trust?”
“No, indeed, Miss Marianne. Is there perhaps a young lady free for this set that I can introduce Mr Ferrars friend to?”
Marianne gave her attention to the young man with far more pleasure than if he had been a total stranger. “I believe both Mary and Anne have yet to be asked for this set.”
Having met the young ladies, Edmund requested dances with them both and was soon introduced to the entire group. He greatly enjoyed his dance with Mrs Darcy, at least in part because he reminded him of Miss Crawford. She had kept him on his toes with her witty banter and it was only afterwards that he was able to reflect on the matter.
“You seem solemn, Mr Bertram.”
“Forgive me, Miss Dashwood, my attention should be on my partner.”
“Might I enquire as to what you were thinking of?”
“Mrs Darcy reminds me of a young lady I used to know.”
“Yes. Just as lively. But I shall be distracted again. I understand your family lives quite close to Colonel Brandon?”
“A half day’s ride.”
“Ah, so if my cousin should become Mrs Ferrars perhaps she will meet all of you?”
“I’m sure she would, though I shall not be there very much longer.”
“No, but as General Fitzwilliam is so close a friend of Colonel Brandon’s you may visit him.”
“Indeed, I think that likely. And should the Colonel marry there would be a friend very close to her.”
“Do you think that he intends to marry?”
She smiled and said that she did not think it her place to speculate on such a thing. Edmund had followed her eyes to Miss Bennet, who was dancing with Mr Darcy, and resolved to meet the woman. He danced the first set after supper with her and was pleased with her gentle nature. He thought she would make a fine friend for Fanny.
As he readied himself for bed that night, he had to admit to some disappointment that the only lady he’d found himself interested in was Mrs Darcy. He had hoped that perhaps he would meet a lady he could come to care for on this trip to town, but while they were all lovely, amiable girls, he had to admit he found none of them captivating.
Anne and Mary had struck up a close friendship, at least partly due to their similarly retiring natures. They both enjoyed observing those around them, particularly in social situations that they would otherwise find overwhelming. It was to Mary that Anne told her hopes of Mr Bingley.
“Do you really like him so? I must confess myself surprised. You conceal your feelings very well.”
“Do I? I have made no attempt to do so.”
“Perhaps it is merely habit from always being careful to show nothing of what you truly felt or thought to your mother.”
“You are, no doubt, correct. As is usual. Do you suppose that he remains ignorant of my feelings?”
“I do not know. I shall have to watch him the next time you are in company with him.”