Mary stood up from her chair that sat off to the side of her aunt's parlor. Nervously she smoothed her plain gown and walked to the piano forte. Mechanically she played through a lively dance tune that grated mercilessly upon her ears. She gazed at the few dancing couples and frowned. Why was it that she so hated to dance? She wasn't heavy on her feet…in fact her sisters often told her she was graceful enough when they practiced and had need of an extra partner. She shrugged aside her sudden—silly, she thought—thinking and wished hard for the evening to end.
The carriage rocked in the gusts of icy wind in the crisp, purple tinged night. Mary huddled against her father's solid shoulder and settled herself in the warm folds of her blanket. A jolt woke Mary, telling her that they had arrived home. She smiled to herself and nearly ran into the house for warmth. The household settled itself to sleep with only a few outbursts from its mistress.
The next morning, when all of Mary's sisters were awake, Mary sat herself on the worn piano stool. She ran her fingers over the pages of the piano sonata that she'd been gifted on Michaelmas. She laid her fingers on the piano keys and performed the music of her soul. It was a pity no one liked the darker pieces that she was so moved by. Well, except for….
… one month ago Mary had seen encouragement enough to continue her playing. She had been visiting Elizabeth at Pemberley along with her mother and father. Besides the enchanting, rolling lands of the grand house, Mary was most captivated by the piano forte of Georgiana's. It had a rich tone and was tuned just right (the one at home couldn't afford being tuned regularly). Georgiana had given Mary permission to play whenever she wished to. Mary found joy in the prospect of having such an instrument at hand for the next fortnight.
She had been cajoled into attending the Michaelmas ball that her sister was planning. A dressmaker was brought in to clothe Mary in something suitable for a high-society event. The woman was pinched in the face and had sharp eyebrows, and, despite being so imposing, she had a gentle touch that put Mary at ease. A deep red dress was created from the chaotic measuring and the numerous pins. It was really quite lovely, but Mary was uneasy about putting herself into it. It flattered her dark hair and soulful eyes, drawing more attention to her than she wanted.
Once more, Mary found herself sitting on the sidelines of jumping, dancing couples. Though this time she was not unbothered. A spattering of young men came to her side and asked to take a turn with her. Each she refused. Not only because she so hated to dance, but because her dress was cutting her breath off and rubbing uncomfortably at her shoulders. Finding that no one was soliciting her hand or even looking for her, Mary, feeling ignored, slipped out of dancing hall and to a certain magnificent instrument.
She sighed as she sat for the first time in front of the piano forte's grandness. Almost hesitantly, as if she did not want to break them, Mary's fingers flowed over the black and white keys producing a sonata that was played passionately. Why didn't anyone ever appreciate such playing? No one ever sat to just listen to her play, instead they demanded she play flighty music. Never feeling so alone, Mary felt a tear gather at the corner of her eye. As she swiped the wetness away with the back of her hand, the sound of a footfall behind her on the wooden floor reached her ears.
Mary swung around, ready to get up and leave. All thoughts stopped and lay still in her head as she saw the young man standing before her. He stood motionless with his left foot behind him. Breaking his boreal blue eyes from her intense gaze, he looked away, a flush rising up from his cheeks—he looked embarrassed.
"Forgive me." His voice echoed faintly in the silence of the room. When Mary said nothing he cleared his throat and continued, "You probably are angered at my intrusion, but when I hear such music I cannot keep away."
Mary's cheeks became infused with sunset pinks at his words. "Was it so terrible?" she said, almost whispering with timidity.
The young man stepped forward, shaking his black locks emphatically. "No. It was heartfelt and…and beautiful."
"You really think so?" Mary said and looked up at him briefly, her brown eyes flashing with a warm happiness. Her look entranced the young man.
"What is your name?"
"Mary Bennet. I am sister to Mrs. Darcy."
"Yes…I've heard of you. You aren't what I expected."
Mary had thought this man was nothing like those men who had never asked to dance with her or to talk to her. He had seemed interested in her and what she valued most highly—her music. His last words made her heart sink. The young man saw her face fall and her petite shoulders slump. Mary turned to leave but was stopped short when a large, gentle hand took hold of her wrist.
"Please…please don't go. I didn't mean to say that." He saw doubt in Mary's eyes. "What I meant to say was that I had not been told that Mary Bennet was such a wonderful musician, and…."
"And what?" Mary asked. She held her breath and fiddled with the folds of her gown with her free hand.
"And that she was so fine-looking." Both of them blushed and looked away from each other. The chiming of the clock in the parlor jarred the calm in the room. The young man looked up at the woman standing next to him, smelling sweetly of wild flowers. He took her hand to his soft lips, placing them slowly on her knuckles. He let go and smiled at the look of shock and amazement on Mary's face. He bowed and left the room walking backwards, heart warming at the sight of Mary touching her lips….
…Mary flushed at the memory of the encounter. The brushed a lock of hair from her eyes, and, catching sight of the very hand that the young man had kissed, she held her hand to her cheek and sighed contentedly.