Of all the family, Mary was probably the one most immediately gratified by the circumstance of Anne’s engagement …
Mary was one of the first to receive the news of Anne’s engagement. Calling on her father and sister in Camden Place she was eager to discuss it all, and hear from Sir Walter’s lips his particular feelings on the matter. Moreover, she wondered what Elizabeth might think of having a brother-in-law in the Navy. Captain Wentworth had made a fortune, it was true, but his position in society was hardly the rank a baronet’s daughter should be aspiring to marry.
She was shown into the drawing room with its long floor-length windows displaying all of Bath below them, and after greeting her father and sister cordially, started immediately on the topic of interest.
‘Well, this is a turn-up, is it not? I must say I was very shocked and surprised to learn of Anne’s engagement to the captain. But, now I have had time to reflect on the matter I find it is not so very displeasing. After all, it is rather creditable to have a sister married, and I flatter myself in having been greatly instrumental in its outcome.’
‘How so?’ snapped her sister Elizabeth who had been out of humour ever since she’d heard the news. ‘How could you have had anything to do with it? And, if you had, I daresay I would not be boasting of how I came to be responsible for such an alliance.’
‘If Anne had not been with me in the autumn we may well have seen a different ending. I introduced them, you know. We were most encouraging of the captain’s attentions, though it has to be said in the first instance, we all thought he might marry Louisa Musgrove. The Navy has quite infiltrated the family, but at least the captain is richer than Louisa’s Benwick, and has far more worth than Henrietta’s Charles Hayter. Elizabeth, Captain Wentworth may not belong to our class, but it cannot be denied that he has made a great deal of money and risen in the ranks of his profession, and I daresay will do more, though how much more I could not say. I am sure we have nothing to fear from his being honoured in any way.’
‘Good Lord, Mary,’ her father spoke up, ‘it is very doubtful that he should be raised to a knighthood, though it’s not unheard of – what’s his name, that Pellew fellow – first Viscount Exmouth – he came from humble sailor beginnings, I believe.’
‘Well I never,’ exclaimed Mary, ‘I did not know that such ambition was rewarded in quite that way. Of course it will never be the case that these newcomers to society may usurp the old families. Landowners, and the ancient lineages will surely never be threatened by the aspiring middle classes. My husband may not be a baronet, but at least he will be head of a noble family one day, and owner of his own estate. Anne has no prospect of her own manor house or landed estate, and he has no family.’
‘Though he has twenty thousand pounds, apparently,’ said Elizabeth with a sigh, ‘I am certain that will buy them a very pretty property!’
Mary looked struck dumb for a moment, she hadn’t thought of that. Why, Anne might soon reside in a house bigger than her cottage at Uppercross. She really must talk to Charles about persuading his father that they needed some renovations done, a wing or two added to their home.
‘Of course, we all thought Mr Elliot might be the one for Anne,’ Mary said at last, knowing her words would wound Elizabeth, ‘Charles was certain he was going to propose.’
‘And any dutiful daughter would have made certain she followed her family’s wishes,’ said Sir Walter, shifting in his chair with irritation etched on every feature. ‘I do not know what is the matter with the fellow and his hesitation. At the very first, we all thought he might pursue his addresses to Elizabeth, but then he seemed to change his mind for Anne, and now he’s been pipped by this captain fellow.’
Mary glanced at her sister who was looking most discomposed. Her countenance was quite suffused with a glow of puce to match the cushions she leaned against. She ought to say something, she supposed, but what? ‘Well, perhaps he can be persuaded to see where his affections ought to lie?’
Sir Walter looked rather encouraged by this, though Elizabeth’s expression was now white with anger.
‘I am sure you could get him with a little effort,’ Mary continued, ignoring her sister’s expression. ‘You are the eldest, but by no means over the hill, and it is quite astonishing what some of the new lotions can achieve in helping maintain one’s youth. I have been using Gowland’s, and Charles says I look as young as the bride he married. By the way, where is Mrs Clay this morning?’
‘I do not know, she is ever on the gad lately,’ said Elizabeth, barely keeping her composure. ‘I cannot keep up with her excursions. Even though it was raining when she set off nothing would persuade her to stay at home. It is quite wearing to have such a companion, and she knows how much I deplore this wet weather.’
‘I quite agree. I hate the rain, but the chair brought me here, and it is very pleasant to watch through the window, and the rhythm of raindrops pattering on the roof is quite delightful. Yet, I was very vexed at the time it took. I know the hill is steep, but the chairmen must have stopped a dozen times to get me here. I declare they were quite puffed out of breath.’
‘Even the servant class are not what they once were,’ bemoaned Sir Walter, shaking his head, and picking up his newspaper. ‘I’m sure if I hadn’t been cheated out of half my wealth by their rising wages, we should be in a much better position.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ Mary agreed, standing up to take her leave. ‘And I have just been struck with a little thought. I shouldn’t wonder if the captain couldn’t be persuaded to help you out a little. He would be glad to benefit from your advice, and profit from having your connection. You see, father, my interference in their love affair and all my efforts at matchmaking will turn out to everyone’s advantage in the end!’
‘Mary, sometimes your ideas are rather sound,’ her father answered, rising to peck his daughter on the cheek. ‘Perhaps I might persuade the captain to make some investments on my behalf – what a capital idea!’
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.