Author's note: One of the things that spurs me to write fanfiction is my ever-present fascination with side characters; that is, the sisters and cousins and distant friends and other "extras" who surround the main characters of just about any story. Sometimes these obscure characters will get a mention in the epilogue, and sometimes they're just forgotten; but I always, inevitably, wonder what happens to them. A lot of people have come up with their own ideas for the younger Bennet sisters (especially Kitty) which I really enjoy reading, and I've been wondering, since I started my first Pride and Prejudice fiction, Miss de Bourgh in Bath, how my own version of their story might go.
This story is intended to follow Miss de Bourgh, but it is not necessarily a sequel; while many of the characters of that story will appear in this one (with varying degrees of prominence) you shouldn't need to have read Miss de Bourgh in order to read—and, hopefully, enjoy!—The Miss Bennets Set Forth.
On a more personal note, and in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state that I am a senior in college, enrolled in five courses, taking the maximum number of credits, writing a thesis and working as many hours as I can. In other words, I'm busy! I will always do my best to update in a timely manner, but sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day, and I apologize in advance for any weeks-long waits you may have to endure between updates. I promise, it's for a good reason!
Disclaimer: Not mine.
The first child of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy was, as Mrs. Darcy had privately expected, a daughter: little Sophia Darcy. She was a charming infant, with her mother's clever gray eyes and her father's soft dark curls, and everybody who saw her declared her to be the most winning creature they had ever beheld.
Mrs. Darcy's mother, the estimable Mrs. Bennet, had of course situated herself at Pemberley for the duration of Elizabeth's confinement, and had cooed and fussed over the child with more enthusiasm than anybody else, for while Sophia was not Mrs. Bennet's first grandchild, the young Wickhams had all been born out of the reach of their doting grandmother. Thus, little Sophia received not only her own allotment of kisses and cuddles, but also the shares that would have belonged to little George and little Frances, if only they did not live in the North.
Mrs. Bennet's daughters, Mary and Katherine (called Kitty), had been fortunate enough to accompany their mother into Derbyshire, to tend their sister during her confinement. Mrs. Bennet also hoped that at least one of them might catch the eye of some gentleman in the Darcys' neighborhood, and was encouraged to hear that Elizabeth had also invited some friends of hers from Bath to spend the autumn at Pemberley.
Her disappointment, upon discovering that none of these friends were single gentlemen, was short-lived, for Mrs. Bennet was an eternally optimistic woman. Besides which, she privately held that any new acquaintance was likely to expand her daughters' prospects; who could tell what eligible bachelors might number among the connexions of Colonel and Mrs. Fitzwilliam, or Mr. and Mrs. Hart, or young Miss Hart (the gentleman's sister)? Indeed, upon discovering that there existed a second Hart brother, a young man currently studying to join the medical profession, Mrs. Bennet resolved that the acquaintance must be maintained. With this happy thought to carry with her, Mrs. Bennet enjoyed her time at Pemberley very much indeed.
Kitty and Mary similarly enjoyed their time at Pemberley, albeit for very different reasons. Although she was disappointed at the lack of young bachelors in the party (for she took great pleasure in flirting), Kitty was delighted to be introduced to Georgiana Darcy and to Rosamond Hart, both of whom were near her own age. She immediately approved of Miss Hart, who possessed a calm, amiable temperament, in addition to a talent for easy conversation. Miss Darcy was rather more difficult, for she had neither Rosamond's serenity, nor Kitty's own joviality; but under their influence, she grew gradually less shy and retiring, and when Kitty left Pemberley, Georgiana was even bold enough to give her a sisterly embrace, when she had greeted her with nothing more than a timid nod and a curtsy.
There was nothing Kitty found so exhilarating as making new friends, for she had always adored that rush of affection and admiration that colors those first weeks of friendship. She spent every spare moment with Georgiana and Rosamond, and enjoyed each conversation with them more than the last. She was delighted to find that both of her friends performed beautifully upon the pianoforte (though she had never cared for music before); that the two of them shared a taste in novels, which they quickly spread to her (though she had never been a great reader); that Rosamond was an excellent dancer, and Georgiana an excellent artist; and that none of them had any great love for History.
In addition to Georgiana and Rosamond, Kitty was pleased to make the acquaintance of Colonel Fitzwilliam, a cheerful young gentleman, and his pleasant wife, who was only a few years older than Kitty herself. Mr. Hart, a barrister, shared his sister's good nature, and Kitty could not help thinking that if he had been unmarried, she could very easily have fallen in love with him, at least for a week or so. He was not unmarried, however; his wife was the former Miss Anne de Bourgh, cousin of the Darcys and of Colonel Fitzwilliam, whom Kitty had heard described (by Maria Lucas) as a weak, sickly-looking little creature, and (by Elizabeth) as very proud and ill-humored. But some changes had clearly been wrought in Miss de Bourgh since she had become Mrs. Hart, for she was quite agreeable, and a very dear friend to Rosamond and to Georgiana—even she and Elizabeth appeared pleasant to one another, though their relationship was hardly an affectionate one. Furthermore, her devotion to her husband, and his love for her, was very apparent. (Georgiana whispered to Kitty that they had married against the wishes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who had banished Anne from Rosings Park as a punishment; Kitty thought she had never heard anything so romantic.) With such stories and characters to entertain her, Kitty's days at Pemberley were a whirl of chatter and laughter, and she was very sorry to leave.
Mary had no interest in Pemberley's inhabitants. Being herself of a quiet, rather standoffish disposition, she was never able to have a conversation with Miss Darcy; and Miss Hart's mild temperament caused Mary to wonder if she was not perhaps entirely dim-witted. In addition, Mr. Hart and Colonel Fitzwilliam were too lively for Mary to really enjoy their company, while Mr. Darcy's gravity intimidated her, and Mrs. Fitzwilliam, though she was a married lady, reminded Mary a great deal of her silly younger sisters. Elizabeth was occupied in entertaining her guests and preparing for the birth of her daughter; Mary had never had a great deal in common with her mother; and Mrs. Hart, who was very recently married, was scarcely to be parted from her husband. Mary enjoyed Pemberley not for its people, but for what it offered: that is, a renowned library, and an excellent pianoforte.
The rest of the world might have seen Mary Bennet as quiet, plain, and wholly unremarkable, but Mary Bennet saw herself as a young lady of two prevailing passions: Music and Literature. She cared hardly at all for Art, and only a little for History, but Music and Literature were two topics which she felt she could claim as her own. She practiced every day upon the pianoforte at home, which was old and rather battered, and the opportunity to practice instead upon a first-rate instrument (a gift to Miss Darcy from her brother) was not to be missed. Similarly, she was delighted by the size and scope of Mr. Darcy's library, and by the frequency with which it was added to, though she could have wished for more books of sermons, which comprised her usual reading. And so she devoted her time at Pemberley to the pursuit of her great passions, much to the dismay of her sister Kitty.
"I simply can't understand what you find so interesting," Kitty complained one evening, when she had come to sit in her sister's room before bed. "I should be bored to death, if I spent so much time by myself. Do you never wish to talk to people?"
"I see no purpose in discussing trivialities," Mary said sternly, "particularly when I share no common interests with the other party. I believe my time is better spent in private thought and study, in an attempt to better myself."
Kitty considered this for a moment. "Did you know," she said at last, "that Georgiana and Rosamond play the pianoforte?"
"I did," Mary replied stiffly. Indeed, she had heard both young ladies play, and had been forced to admit to herself that each possessed a skill quite superior to her own.
"And did you know," Kitty continued, feigning indifference, "that Rosamond and Georgiana are very great readers?"
"I did," Mary answered, her irritation growing. It was true that Miss Hart was often to be found with a book in her hand, and that Miss Darcy took almost as much pleasure in Pemberley's library as she did.
"Then you have something in common with them," Kitty said, glancing up at her sister demurely.
"I have not," Mary snapped, "for I am sure neither of them has any true love of music; they play only as an accomplishment. And they do not read real books, Katherine—they read novels, which are frivolous and have no useful application. Our interests are entirely separate."
"Lord!" Kitty exclaimed, standing and making her way to the door. "You are very unkind, and I should think very unfair as well, and I declare it is no wonder you haven't any friends of your own. Good-night!"
She shut the door rather hard behind her.
Despite her sister's inability to understand, however, Mary was very pleased with the time she spent at Pemberley, and rather wished they did not have to leave so soon.
Yet leave they must, for in the weeks following the birth of little Sophia, it became quite clear that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy wished for some time alone with their daughter. Though she was hardly an insightful woman, Mrs. Bennet was nonetheless a mother herself, and understood the desire to enjoy one's children before they grew old enough to play upon one's nerves; and so she and her daughters, the last ones to leave, made an uncharacteristically tactful departure from Pemberley, and returned home to Hertfordshire.
Mr. Bennet was glad to see his wife and daughters for at least an hour or so after they had returned. He was pleased that their journey had been a safe one, and was willing to listen to Mrs. Bennet's glowing descriptions of the baby, and her assurances that they had left Elizabeth in excellent health and even better spirits; but once the talk turned to the other guests at Pemberley, and who they were, and what they wore, and what they said, and what Mrs. Bennet thought of them, Mr. Bennet began to wish that he had Longbourn all to himself again.
Mrs. Bennet had a specific purpose in this conversational turn. The fact that Colonel and Mrs. Fitzwilliam, and Mr. and Mrs. Hart, had all married within the past year, combined with the fact that they had all been living in Bath at the time of their marriages, combined again with the fact that between them, the two families seemed to have a very wide circle of acquaintance—all of these factors had combined to arouse in Mrs. Bennet the suspicion that Bath, not Meryton, was the place to be, if she wanted to see her two remaining daughters married.
She had already fixed on the younger Mr. Hart as ideal for either of the girls. She had no more knowledge of his character than what close observation of his brother and sister could tell her; but they both seemed perfectly rational and good-natured, which she found reassuring. Besides which, their father, Dr. Hart, was a well-respected physician in Bath, and his younger son was studying to become the same, which certainly meant that his prospects were excellent, even if he was not so rich as Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley, or so dashing as Mr. Wickham. Indeed, she hoped to call one of her daughters "Mrs. Hart" before the spring.
This, however, was not to be. Having made up her mind on the subject, the next object for Mrs. Bennet was to convince Mr. Bennet that an immediate departure for Bath was absolutely necessary, and it was here that she found the difficulty. Mr. Bennet had no qualms about sending his girls to stay at Pemberley, where they would be under the watchful eye of Elizabeth, or Netherfield, where they would be attended by Jane; but Bath was quite a different matter. He himself refused to go, under any but the very direst circumstances, and was unwilling to send his children without him. Mr. Bennet had once before allowed a daughter to travel unsupervised by her family, and he was not anxious to repeat the experience.
"Oh, Mr. Bennet," Mrs. Bennet cried disdainfully. "Bath is not Brighton, and they shall not be unsupervised; I shall attend them!"
"And you will marry them off to the first handsome man who looks in their direction, whether he is a gentleman or no," Mr. Bennet replied. "No, my dear, they marry good men, or not at all."
Mrs. Bennet exclaimed that she was perfectly capable of finding decent husbands for her own children, whatever Mr. Bennet might think; and anyway, one could not meet good men in such a provincial town as Meryton, for all of the good ones were married already. Mr. Bennet retorted that it seemed they would not marry at all, then. At this, Mrs. Bennet dissolved into wails of frustration, and Kitty dissolved into tears.
"I am desperate to go to Bath," she sobbed to Mary. "I shall die if I do not visit the Pump-room before I am too old to enjoy it."
"I have no desire to go anywhere," Mary replied, rather smugly.
It was true, she did not; for, as has been mentioned, she had very little opinion of any of their new Bath acquaintance, and found the idea of living in a bustling, noisy, crowded town thoroughly unappealing. She much preferred Hertfordshire, with its fields and its farms, where she could spend an entire day reading, uninterrupted, and was only obliged to attend a ball once every month or so. She hoped her father would remain firm.
Yet it was difficult for him to do so, under his wife's relentless pleas and demands. Mrs. Bennet reminded him that she had never obliged him to take her to London, for she knew how he despised it; could he not then grant her this one favor, which would not trouble him in the slightest? She warned him against resigning his two remaining children to spinsterhood, for they were sure to grow very bitter, and to die young as a result. She threatened to become very ill indeed, and throw the entire house in an uproar, if she were not given her way. She protested that he did not trust his daughters enough, nor did he trust her, and declared herself deeply wounded. She promised him that she should take every precaution against meeting "the wrong sort," and assured him that their acquaintance in Bath was all of a very sensible, attentive kind, who would not allow their daughters to sink into wickedness. She moaned that her poor nerves could not bear such unfairness, and sighed at her own foolishness for having married such an unfeeling man. She wept, she begged, she argued, she coaxed, she waxed lyrical and she feigned swooning fits, until at last, in order to get some peace, Mr. Bennet agreed to write a letter to Elizabeth, questioning her on the prudence of the matter.
"Whether or not her decision shall have any bearing on mine, remains to be seen," he warned his wife, but Mrs. Bennet was so pleased that she flung her arms about him and kissed his cheeks, and he turned rather red.
Mary's heart sank, and Kitty danced about the parlor.
Sophia had been born in the beginning of December; the Bennets had returned to Longbourn in the middle of January; and Mrs. Bennet's persuasive wiles had lasted until the end of March. It was another fortnight before Mr. Bennet received Elizabeth's reply, which Kitty carried to him with trembling hands. He opened it in his study, read it with a furrowed brow, and then strode out into the parlor, where the ladies of the house were all attempting to act naturally.
"Lizzie writes," he began grandly, "that springtime in Bath is a time of much gaiety and flirtation. She informs me some young ladies are apt to lose their heads over the amusements of the Baths and the Assembly Rooms, and that the place is always very full of young men, not all of whom possess the best intentions."
He eyed them austerely. Kitty, her hands at her mouth, stifled a sob.
"However," Mr. Bennet continues, "she also claims that when the Season is over, the city is a changed place. She tells me that its inhabitants appear to regain their senses, and that fewer unsuitable marriages are made in the summer and autumn months than at any other time in Bath. Furthermore, according to our Lizzie, the names you have repeated to me incessantly, Mrs. Bennet—that is, the Fitzwilliams and the Harts—are families of good reputation, and she has excellent opinions of those family members with whom she is acquainted."
Mrs. Bennet looked as though she wanted to interject her own excellent opinions of them, but wisely held her tongue.
"For that reason," Mr. Bennet went on, "I have decided that a stay in Bath during the late summer, and perhaps into the autumn, cannot reasonably be expected to bring about our family's ruin."
Kitty let out a squeal.
"But you must promise me, Mrs. Bennet," Mr. Bennet went on, "that you will not wed Kitty or Mary to any gentleman until I have met him myself; that you will not allow Kitty to chase after red-coats, as is her wont; that you will not spend every hour of every day in the Pump Room; and that you will allow yourself to be guided by the opinions of those who know the city, and its inhabitants, better than you do."
Whether or not Mrs. Bennet heard any of this, is debatable, for Kitty was dancing about the room again and Mary was declaring very loudly that she did not want to go, while Mrs. Bennet herself was considering, out loud, the need for a new wardrobe for each of the girls, and wondering where they might procure lodgings, in order to be as close as possible to the Pump Room and its environs.
"I will arrange your lodgings," Mr. Bennet said firmly, over his wife's chatter, and she turned to him, beaming.
"How kind you are, Mr. Bennet, to take such a task off my shoulders! How good you are to your daughters! We shall never want for any thing anymore—an autumn in Bath! I declare Lady Lucas will be quite green with envy! Though I could have wished that we were going to be there for the Season; still, I suppose it cannot be helped. I am glad Lizzie has such a good head on her shoulders, and does not worry so about things of no consequence!"
Mr. Bennet, already tired of the happy scene being played out in his parlor, retired to his study.
But what were they to do until August? Kitty's delight soon faded into irritation that she should be made to wait so long, and for several days she stormed about the house, setting things down hard and slamming doors, until Mr. Bennet reminded her that she did not have to go at all, and her sweet disposition made a swift return.
She occupied her time the way she always had, before she had ever even thought of going to Bath: she visited the Lucases at Lucas Lodge, her aunt Philips in Meryton, and Jane at Netherfield. Both Maria Lucas and Mrs. Philips could be relied upon to declare supreme jealousy over Kitty's good fortune, much to her delight. Jane was less envious, but was always willing to listen to Kitty's fantasies (in which she was inevitably courted by some enchanting young duke, and became the toast of Bath society).
When she was not visiting, Kitty spent her time in Meryton, usually with Maria Lucas at her side. The militia had not returned for the summer, but nonetheless there were always people to watch, and handsome apprentices and shop assistants to giggle over. She spent all of her money on ribbons and bonnets in preparation for her journey, much to Mary's disgust.
"You know you shall buy even more trinkets when we are in Bath," Mary said. "What is the point of buying them now?"
Kitty felt certain that her sister's case was hopeless.
She did manage to sit still long enough to write a very short letter to Rosamond, wishing her a happy birthday (Rosamond and young Mr. Hart, who were twins, turned twenty in May) and informing her that they would be in Bath in August. Rosamond's reply, much longer and rather better-written than Kitty's note, expressed all her happiness at the prospect of their reunion, and assured her that they should be seeing Bath at its best, when the trees were beginning to change color and the fashionable families who crowded the streets in the spring had left the city.
Kitty, naturally, read the letter aloud to her sister; and Mary was glad to hear that the city should be less busy than it was in the spring, though she still had no desire to go.
Mary spent her summer (her "remaining months," as she tended to think of them), absorbing what she could of Hertfordshire. She took long, thoughtful walks, during which she attempted to console herself with philosophy. She practiced her pianoforte for hours at a time, until Kitty shouted at her or her mother complained about her nerves or her father demanded quiet. She read her sermons and began making lists of which ones should be packed. She avoided any thought of balls and assemblies, of card-parties and dinner-parties, and reminded herself that Bath was also famed for its concerts. She made no efforts to prepare herself for the social rigors which she was to undergo, for she knew only too well that any preparation was useless. Mary Bennet had many talents (or thought she did), but sociability was not one of them. She was quite prepared to sit stupidly at any party, taking comfort in the superiority of her own thoughts to everyone else's, and indulging no effort at trivial conversation.
Despite this odd sort of self-assurance, however, or perhaps because of it, Mary found herself greeting each morning with increasing trepidation, and even, as the summer stretched into June and July, with dread. The peace and tranquility of the country grew ever more poignant in her mind as she compared it to the impending noise and commotion of Bath; she began to think of each hour at the pianoforte, each quiet moment alone with her sermons, as the last she should ever enjoy. She even began to miss, preemptively, the unhurried activity of Meryton; the sight of a farmer's wife or a red-cheeked country child was almost enough to move her to tears. Mary was homesick before she ever left home; she could only imagine how dreadful she would feel when she was far away.
"Oh, you are never pleased with anything," Kitty said scornfully, when Mary confessed her anxiety. "How silly you are being! You have spent nearly twenty years at Longbourn; surely you can spare a few months for Bath."
"But won't you miss Jane, and Aunt Philips, and Maria?" Mary pressed, determined to make her sister at least half as unhappy as she was. She was disgruntled when Kitty only waved a hand dismissively.
"I can write to them, and they to me; and I daresay I shall be too busy to miss anyone. Besides, Rosamond is there, and she is quite as amusing as Maria. And think only of all the new acquaintance we shall meet! I am sure it will be such a thrill!"
She laughed. Mary muttered, "I am sure it will be a great disappointment," but Kitty was not listening anymore.
They left Longbourn on the third day of August, amid a great deal of disorder and confusion. Kitty had left her packing until the morning of their departure, and was in tears trying to fit her yellow muslin gown into an already overstuffed trunk; while Mrs. Bennet, having forgot four of her hatboxes, shrieked for the post-chaise to stop almost as soon as it started. Mary, meanwhile, spent the entire morning declaring her great desire to stay at home, and insisting that she should loathe every minute spent in Bath, until she had worked herself into a state almost matching that of her tearful sister, and was only slightly comforted by the embrace of her father, and his assurance that loathing, being a strong sentiment, was preferable to apathy, which was dull indeed.
At last, however, the three ladies and their luggage were squeezed into the post-chaise, which clattered away down the drive. Mary attempted to turn in her seat, to catch one last glimpse of Longbourn; but she was thwarted in this by Kitty, who was nearer the window, leaning out of it to wave good-bye to Mr. Bennet, while Mrs. Bennet leaned out of the other window at the same time, for the same purpose. Thus, Mary, looking from one window to the other, could see only the backsides of her mother and sister, who did not even seem to consider that she might like a turn at a window. Here, the tears welled up, and she folded her arms crossly at her chest, resigned to being miserable.
They stopped overnight at an inn near Oxford, and proceeded the next morning with only one stop to change the horses. The closer they came to Bath, the more Kitty seemed to dance in her seat; by the time they reached Chippenham, she was already leaning out of the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the city.
"It is still many miles away; you'll be leaning out of the window for hours," Mary said spitefully. Kitty ignored her, but Mrs. Bennet gave her a sharp look.
"Oh, do sit and read your sermons, Mary," she said.
"I cannot read in the carriage. It hurts my head."
"I don't think that's the carriage," Kitty answered unpleasantly, at last pulling herself back inside, "I am sure it comes from reading such dreary nonsense every day."
"I read in order to learn and to better myself," Mary snapped, "not so that I can discuss romantic drivel with all of the other shallow young ladies of the fashionable world."
"You read so that everybody will say how serious and clever you are; you are more concerned with your appearance than I am with mine!"
"Indeed! Is that why you have packed three trunks, and I have only one?"
Kitty could think of no reply but to pinch Mary's arm, hard. Mary, very red in the face, began loudly lecturing on the unnatural shame of violence in young ladies, and how despised it was by gentlemen in particular; Kitty, laughing nastily, demanded how Mary could know anything of what gentlemen did or did not despise; but Mrs. Bennet drowned them both out, by declaring stridently that her nerves were strained almost to the point of permanent injury, and that she was sure she should have another nervous attack if Mary and Kitty did not cease their noise at once.
Their ride into Bath was spent in frosty silence.
Despite her lingering resentment, however, Kitty was enchanted by her first views of the city. The creamy stone, the cobbled streets, the pretty bridges and the green hills and valleys, speckled here and there with flashes of red and gold: all seemed calculated to induce in Kitty a rapturous admiration, so that she soon forgot all about her quarrel with her sister, and leaned her head out of the window to better appreciate the sights. Mary, too, was at first forced to admire the beauty of Bath—but once they had come down into the valley itself, and were in the city, rather than above it, the clamor and activity of its streets sent her scurrying back to her mental safe haven of melancholy and disdain.
Mr. Bennet had overseen the procurement of lodgings, suspecting rightly that his wife, left in charge of such matters, would be more likely to pay attention to fashionable addresses than to concerns of budget or practicality. He had found them reasonably priced lodgings in Henry Street, which offered a fine sitting room, serviceable dining room, and two good-sized bedrooms. Though it was not Sydney Place, or even Queen Square, Henry Street was situated at an easy distance from Bath's primary attractions: the Pump-room, the Roman Baths, and the surrounding shops. Milsom Street was something of a longer walk, and they would perhaps be obliged to take a chair to the Assembly-rooms; but Kitty, upon discovering that the front windows of their house offered an ideal view of everybody else's comings and goings, could not bring herself to complain. (Mary noted, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that their apartments did not contain a pianoforte.)
So many people! was Kitty's first thought, as she climbed down from the carriage. It was a fine, breezy day, and the street was filled with people. Ladies walked by, arm-in-arm, in dresses that reminded her a great deal of Mr. Bingley's stylish sisters; some were escorted by gentlemen, all of whom struck her as very dashing. Merchants, tradesmen, shoppers and social-callers hurried by on their private business, ducking in and out of shops and houses. Doors opened and shut; greetings were called across the street; carriages and Bath-chairs rushed by. Never before had Kitty seen so much activity—and, furthermore, never before had she seen so many gentlemen, all in one place. Her sister Lydia had once assured her that Brighton was the place to get a husband; but now, as Kitty gazed down Henry Street, Bath was seeming more and more likely.
Mrs. Bennet appeared to echo her thoughts, for at that moment she whispered, "Look at all the gentlemen, my love! We shall surely find you a husband here!"
Kitty giggled so much that she could not form a reply.
The disorder and confusion which had heralded the previous day were now called upon again, for there were trunks and hatboxes to be brought in, gowns to be unpacked, and squabbles to be had. Kitty had shared a room with Lydia for much of her life, but recently had grown accustomed to having her own; and Mary, though she had always occupied the smallest room in the house, had nonetheless had it all to herself. Neither of them looked forward to sharing a room, and Kitty immediately offended Mary by taking up all of the space in the closet and most of the space in the wardrobe with her clothes, leaving Mary, whose trunk was unfortunately brought in last, with only a few inches of space for her own. Mary scolded Kitty for her selfishness, and began unceremoniously pulling dresses out of the closet; Kitty cried that it was Mary who was selfish, and that it was not her fault that she had more clothes; Mary responded that it certainly was Kitty's fault, and argued that she would be happy to utilize the smaller closet, if Kitty restricted herself to the wardrobe. Kitty snapped that her clothes did not fit in the wardrobe, and that Mary was being entirely unfair; and here Mary lost her temper, and said some very unkind things about her sister, which ought not be repeated. (Mrs. Bennet, safe in her own room, hummed a tune to herself in order to drown out the sounds of the argument.)
At length, a compromise was reached; but by then it was dinner-time, and certainly too late for visiting. Mrs. Bennet, who had hoped to visit the Harts (in order to catch a glimpse of her future son-in-law) was disappointed, and chided the girls for their laziness. They dined quietly, too tired for much conversation, and spent a dull hour in their unfamiliar sitting-room. Kitty, sitting by the window, amused herself with watching the street, and reporting the activities of everybody on it; Mary attempted to read, but found the city noise distracting.
Bedtime, as is usual after such an arduous journey, came early. Mrs. Bennet fell asleep immediately, for her nerves were exhausted. Kitty tossed and turned a bit, for she was excited, and kept sitting up to look out of the window again; but, at length, she fell into a deep and peaceful sleep. And then it was only Mary who was left awake.
The noises of the house were strange to her, and the noises of the street outside even stranger. Mary had never been so homesick—for crickets, for owls, for the rustle of leaves. She started every time a carriage rattled past, its wheels noisy on the cobblestones; she imagined every voice, every door-slam, to be coming from within their own lodgings. She feared robbers and murderers, and shut her eyes against the spectre of a madman at the door. She heard a dog bark, and imagined it was the Lucas' dog, across the fields at Lucas Lodge; but then it was joined by another dog, and another, until it sounded for a moment as though every dog in the city was barking—and then they fell silent. Mary felt as though she had been lying awake for hours. She could not make herself comfortable on her bed. The mattress was too soft and the pillow too stiff, and the cover was too thick for August; she flung it off, but then she was too cold, and pulled it back again. Another carriage clattered by, and she jumped. Someone in the street let out a shout, and then someone else let out a noisy laugh, and Mary despised them for their unruliness. She wished she had not put out the light, for then she could read, but Kitty had insisted. She wished Kitty would stop shifting, for her bed creaked every time she did so.
"Kitty," she hissed through the darkness, "are you awake?"
There was no response. Mary had whispered to her sister with the intention of rebuking her, if she replied, for moving too much; but Kitty's silence was infinitely worse than the creaking of her bed, and Mary, who had always prized her solitude, suddenly felt very much alone. She turned her head into her pillow, and felt tears roll down her cheeks.
Sleep, thankfully, was not far behind; and Mary was surprised to find that her dreams, though she would not remember them distinctly, were far pleasanter than her waking thoughts would have suggested.