Part I:Being a Man of Means...Bingley Becomes a Landed Gentleman
How is it that he always ends up looking like a poorer copy of Darcy? They patronize the same tailors, shops and clubs yet Darcy always looked like a man of 10,000 a year while Bingley, didn't. Bingley gave his poor reflection in the mirror a silent commiseration and straightened himelf more to gain an air of abused but still living dignity. Of course Darcy is a man of 10,000 a year and the master of Pemberley. While he Bingley inherited his fortune from his father who earned it in trade. A fact that his sisters disliked beyond reasonable borders. A fact that should have kept Darcy from his social circle but it didn't. Bingley could not know how he looked to other people because he was neither vain nor supercilious enough to care. A youth of good humor he grew to be a young man of lively sense of society and kindness. While Darcy was imperial in his feature and form, Bingley was smaller and had laughing eyes and beautiful hair. He could disarm anyone within minutes of acquaintance thus his reputation that followed him was always favorable in nature. He was always known to be handsome, well-pleasing and witty. These descriptions were even more favorable when compared to his friend Darcy who always gave offense in some way. But Darcy was no fool, and he genuinely like Bingley for the man's refreshing honesty in society that has almost none and the man's unending kindess to everyone's faults including Darcy's shone Bingley like a beacon in a middle of a foggy night.
Now that youth has taken Netherfield, a fair estate with the town of Meryton few miles away. Granted Bingley thought it can not even begin to compare to Pemberley, the estate is filled with promises of a secure future, a real home and where Bingley could establish a family of his own. He smiled to himself a little as he remembered all the matches he foiled every time he spent a season in London. He wanted neither wife nor fiance until he was firmly established and connected. Now he is and perhaps he should look for a wife in earnest. A secret he kept away from everyone including his sisters and Darcy. For he might not be astute or cunning as the rest of the people residing in Netherfield he had instinct enough to know what difficulties the future Mrs. Charles Bingley will have with his family and acquaintances. Looking at himself in the mirror once more he dashed out to the hallway to find the rest of the entourage waiting for him with dour looks on their faces. Oh dear, it's going to be one of those evenings Bingley dismayed.
The music at the Assembly was very loud, though not very well played. Bingley recognized the air and smiled for it was a tune that was very familiar to him. He could feel the disapproval eminating from the rest of the party and Bingley quickly did what he always did. He tried his best to balance the dislike of the rest of his party with his enthusiasm and soon the whole assembly knew that he loved the music, was very fond of dancing, thought that it was total kindness to be invited to such a lovely evening and will give a ball himself in Netherfields to say thank you to the local society for letting him enjoy such a fine evening. And that he would be very sorry when the last air has been played. This shone him in favorable light indeed and excused his sisters' behaviors as well. They were very elegant and reserved, perhaps a bit proud but that could be so well-explained away when they had such an eligible brother as Bingley. However his friend Darcy was incredibly proud, unforgiving and did his best to snub the local society. The difference between the two gentlemen was enough to send tongues wagging in Bingley's favor and decidely against Darcy's. Early on the night Bingley saw a young lady standing amidst many and thought the comparison of the last rose came to mind. She was always in pleasing countenance and whispered continuously with the girls around her. But Bingley instinctively knew her talk was not laced with maliciousness like those of Caroline and Louisa. Her smiles were sweet and those eyes beheld the world with no ill will. That matched with her regal height and bearing made Bingley wonder who she was. It was also very obvious that though the gentlemen were scarce in this party those girls had constant attention of every young man in the room and the one with gentle eyes had no need to despair for lack of attention. He quickly asked a few questions and found her name to be Jane Bennet. And the smaller and livelier one was Elizabeth Bennet, the sister closest to Jane. There are 5 Bennet girls in the place whispered a gentlemen eager to have Bingley's ear. And they are known beauties in the local area but Jane Bennet was a sweet girl with such a good disposition that her temper was as famed as her beauty. The younger one Lizzie as known was a quick wit and some talent on the pianoforte. The rest alas could not match the older two in talent and wit but the whole family is very pleasant to know. That was all Bingley needed. Practically dragging his host he was introduced to the Bennets and within minutes was dancing with the most beautiful girl in the room. Bingley's smiles were real when dancing with Jane. He had no need to be on his guard like when he with his sisters or Darcy. Bingley saw in Jane the inability to harm others with either words or gesture and her temper was as kind as his was. The two made a handsome pair, moreso for they found in each other some haven from the rest of the world. After the first dance he had to relinquish her and in his height of good will sought Darcy out. He could not bear to have Darcy stnding by himself while such merriment was going about and tried to convince his friend to take a dance. He even offered to introduce Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of some real beauty but Darcy rebuffed him coldly. In other situations this would have hurt Bingley but the man was in such a good mood that he followed his friend's words and went to join the dancers on the floor again.
Soon he was partnered with Jane and all was well.
That night when the Netherfield party returned Charles was already planning in his mind to throw a grand ball to welcome the local society and introduce himself as a permanent master of Netherfield. Caroline and Louisa with their usual acrimony described what they detested about the dance. But their words could not match the disdain of Darcy. And Charles felt himself wince as he heard the vicious words fall from his friend's lips.
The Meryton people were savages with very little beauty and no fashion. He received no pleasure or society from such a group and thought them beneath him so much that Darcy would never attend another function again. Charles quietly rose to his neighbors' defense. "They are good people with little artifice and pleasant in their greetings of myself and you Darcy. The music was lively and so was the party. They were kind in their acceptance of us and showed much patience to total strangers. So much care was given that I felt no uneasiness amongst them and soon I found myself dancing with beautiful girls around the room. The wine could have been better I grant you but I care none for it when I have other things to keep me cheerful." Darcy raised his eyes to Bingley and matched his gaze but Bingley did not break his stare at all. He could not know how dominating his voice was at the moment he opposed Darcy in front of his sisters and Mr. Hurst. For all he could think about was Jane Bennet receiving such harsh rebuke and thought it most unjust. Darcy gave a crooked smile and nodded admitting consent and the air was softened again. Bingley then talked little of Jane Bennet but was delighted to find his sisters agreeing that she was a sweet girl, one of the very few they really liked and would like to know more of. Charles went to bed that night with the thought that perhaps he could contrive a visit to the Bennet household soon.
Part II: Affection is always easily earned by giving affection
Bingley met with the Bennets no less than 4 times in different occasions and found himself more and more pleased with Jane Bennet. Though the girl was reserved in her actions and regard her sweetness and obvious preference of his person banished any fears he had of her opinion of him. It was not only this that pleased him but her treatment of others was always forthright and kind. There never was any kinder gentlemen than those she met, no ladies finer than those she spoke of and her sisters were all angels that showed no wings. Even her mother whose first acquaintance jarred Bingley into silence was a dear and meant only kindness to her children who can be difficult at times. Even his own sisters improved on him when spoken through Jane's voice and opinion. By the time the Bingley party arrived at the Lucas' Ball Charles Bingley was beyond besotted and was quickly on his way to love. This claim a young handsome man can make easily and Bingley is not the exception in this forgivable fault however his person was such that when he believed himself to be in love, he is quite capable of convincing himself into it. The change in this scenario was the object of his affection, Jane Bennet and his steadiness in belief that he wanted her as his steadfast partner in life. For Bingley though not reasoning it out finally met a lady of culture and wit and whose patience will never run short of his many small follies. And whose goodness can finally end the quiet misery surrounding his family life. Simply said Jane Bennet can match his sisters' ill will with her own strength and triumph perhaps finally sparing Bingley the silent grief he bore in regard to Caroline, Louisa and to an extent Darcy. A woman like that he thought as she danced with an officer can make a beggar rich and a rich man envy a beggar. But he was no beggar, a young man of means and some social connections he knew he was a fair catch. And he hoped he shone with that favorable light into the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Oh dear, he just saw Darcy confront Elizabeth Bennet and took steps to prevent his best friend damaging his good reputation among this folk. Then he heard the gist of the conversation and wisely disappeared into the crowd. He smiled to himself: Bravo Ms. Elizabeth Bennet. You are a truly remarkable woman to have the last word on Darcy. She proceeded to play on the pianoforte and though the talent was not of London quality it far exceeded everyone's expectations and the audience's approval was great. The rest of the evening became what is now the usual affair at Netherfield. The Hursts, Caroline and Mr. Darcy complaining about the local gentry while Charles blithely ignoring them all and thought of other ways of meeting with Jane Bennet. Late at nights he also had a ritual that would have saddened the strongest and make the most dour laugh in good humor. Bingley would enter the rooms of his mansion and imagine the uses the particular room would be suited for. His imagination developed by years of neglect and shyness in the early stages of life fulfilled his wishes magnificently. Then he would imagine Jane there, sitting by the fire, lifting that profile when he entered the great room. Jane sitting in the music room valiantly trying to keep up with Elizabeth then stumbling and finally the two sisters laughing at the hopeless mess the duet has become. He would see Jane walking by the portrait hall gazing upwards and regaling him with stories of the owners past. Jane garbed in magnificent silk and satin in colors that only she could carry dancing with him in the middle of the room to the obvious envy of every other person. He did this late at night so he need not explain his longings to anyone, and moreso defend them to people he could not obviously deceive. And these silent if somewhat pathetic dreams of Bingley gave him the strength to hear the criticisms constantly made around him during day. And in those moments he was safe and secure with no fear of criticisms or of failings. The next morning he bounded down the stairs in good energy overtaking Darcy and the two spend the rest of the day shooting then dining with the officers. The company was most agreeable and even Darcy showed his best if sardonic side at the dinner table. But what greeted Bingley when he reached home dissipated any good mood he carried over.
His sisters invited Jane Bennet for dinner, a fine news indeed.
However she came on horseback and it was pouring during the whole ride and while having dinner she was taken seriously ill and now was resting upstairs. Bingley bounded up the stairs so quickly neither sisters had a moment to catch him. He gathered himself outside her door and came in with enough anxiety to worry for everyone. She was ill, so small under the heaped blankets and her face was feverish. What the devil was she thinking of going about the country on horseback?! However she smiled a little and apologized for being such a nuisance. He convinced her out of that folly in two sentences and barked no less than 2 servants at her need for the night. He always imagined her here, but not like this. She was not near death's door soothed Darcy kindly and in the morning they will send for a surgeon and a note to her family. Bingley did not realize at that fatal moment of weakness he let his real emotion regarding the ill lady show. Mrs. Hurst regarded Jane Bennet just as another fancy but Caroline who has been in his company longer knew better. And she was frightened.
She was made cruel and haughty by years of neglect like Charles but unlike her brother she had no deep reserve of character. She wanted security like Louisa but did not want to marry a bore to have it. Then Darcy came and she saw her salvation. Money, power and prestige, there in Darcy was everything she needed ensure her happiness and survival. And to fix this chance she wanted Charles to marry Georgiana, the young sister of Darcy who is an heiress and a beauty to the good society. Unfortunately she was willing to sacrifice her brother's happiness to secure hers. Now Jane Bennet has arrived and so has her younger sister who seemed to have secured Mr. Darcy's good will in a short time. And Caroline did not like Jane Bennet for another reason, for when one compares a shabby work to a masterpiece the differences are very plain. These obvious differences clawed at her mind insufferably and no matter how plain Jane dressed and how rich Caroline's jewels were Jane always shone in comparison. Now her younger brother was willing to throw away all their chances for that silly country girl! This cannot be allowed.
This as made even more intolerable when Elizabeth Bennet arrived the next morning after receiving the news of her sister's illness. Her dress was stained in mud and her hair was total disarray by her walking 3 miles to Netherfield. However Bingley forgave all her social transgressions for he knew her presence would be a great comfort to Jane. And when Caroline led the younger Miss Bennet into her sister's room he quietly followed behind and was blessed with such a grateful smile from the patient that he had to compose himself before going back to the breakfast parlour. He immediately sent for an apothecary and ate his breakfast with a greater cheer than he felt when he started. And when his sister returned she announced that the older Ms. Bennet brightened when seeing her sister. Caroline could not know that Bingley witnessed the meeting behind her back and Bingley thought it wiser not to speak of it. By late afternoon the apothecary came and determined that Jane had a severe cold and should be looked after assiduously to guarantee a quick cure. Bingley offered Miss Elizabeth Bennet a room in his place to keep her sister company and to soothe the ill lady's nerves. She expressed her gratefulness with disarming charm and gratitude and he soon sent for her clothes with an explanation to the Bennet family. He could not know what turmoil this caused in his sisters' lives and his friend Darcy whom for some strange reason grew silent in his opinion and temper that day. But if he could have guessed correctly Mr. Charles Bingley would have done himself a great favor and would have had some inkling as to how to stop the machniations that slowly and unflinchingly started against his person and that of Miss Jane Bennet.
Part III:Learning the harsher lessons in life, Bingley fades
The next day unfortunately the mother of the Bennet girls descended upon the residents and within minutes the whole place was in an uproar. Bingley was still wincing in his imagination as she invaded even in absence his peace later that evening. Both Darcy and Caroline did their stoniest to respond to her nonsensical chatter but even Darcy's usual imperial facade failed to protect his nerves and he was indeed in a foul disposition for the rest of the day. But one grateful thing about Mrs. Bennet's tongue was that Bingley was almost certain he has the family's favor in regard to their eldest daughter Jane. Thus he was able to be a gentle and kind host even to a guest like Mrs. Bennet. That evening went as many evenings before but if Mr. Bingley was not so blinded in his emotions he would have seen the tempest that began to brew in the breast of one person whom he trusted above all, Darcy.
The party was set as usual with Caroline paying inordinate amount of attention to Darcy and the gentleman in favor showed so little care that even Charles began to feel embarassment for his sister. Then Caroline compared Darcy's handwriting to his own and complained of her brother's handwriting. Bingley playfully replied "My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them-by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents." Ms. Elizabeth Bennet smiled sweetly and reproached him with kindness "your humility Mr. Bingley must disarm reproof." The conversation was light with neither barb nor sarcasm in it but to Bingley's surprise it was Darcy who interrupted them. "Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast." Bingley stared at Darcy in surprise for he has never heard such criticism of his person from Darcy! And his tone no longer held the playfulness that he shared with Miss Bennet. "And which of the two do you call MY little recent piece of modesty?"
The conversation took a turn as Darcy quoted some foolishness that Bingley said in the morning and Bingley in turn defended himself with spirit. And to his friend's invisible dismay Elizabeth Bennet took her strength with Bingley's and soon Charle's sense of humor returned into the verbal foray against Darcy, a rare occurence indeed. This vexed Caroline greatly and Darcy sunk deeper into his mood. Neither of their disposition improved when Bingley blithely announced the next day that he will throw a ball and he declared if Darcy doesn't want to attend the gentleman by all means should turn in early for that evening! That evening there was yet another tete-a-tete between his friend and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. This was becoming something of a regular occurrence at Netherfield mused Bingley but he was glad for someone had enough spirit to stand up to Darcy! It was not that Charles Bingley lacked courage but he admired his friend too much and held him in such esteem that Bingley believed his friend to be in the right most of the time. However with Elizabeth in the company Bingley was finding himself more independent than ever before and was enjoying her's and Jane's company to the exclusion of the others. However this happy passing soon ended and the Bennet girls returned to Longbourn in his carriage.
That evening Charles was in the study believing himself to be alone and was lost deep in his thoughts. Darcy entered and saw the private smile on his friend's lips and promptly guessed at the cause. He roused Bingley from his dreams and asked him why such a smile? Bingley stared at his friend and felt a need to share his hopes for until that moment he shared it with no one.
"Well Darcy I was wondering where Ms. Elizabeth Bennet would like the pianoforte to be in the great hall or the new music room I will accomplish by next fall." Darcy was stunned. "Miss Elizabeth Bennet? What are you talking about?" Bingley stared at his friend's face and burst into happy laughter. "My beloved Jane though talented would rather hear her sister play so I was musing where to place the pianoforte to please both sisters!"
Darcy dared not break this for he wanted to hear what Bingley was about to confess. "You know how fond of Jane I am Darcy. That could not be such a surprise. She is an angel and my savior. With her Netherfield will be a great estate. Oh yes, when the time is appropriate I will ask for her hand. Count on it and we will be happy!" "Charles, she has no wealth, no inheritance and no..."Darcy somberly reminded his friend. Bingley gazed at him, "And what of it? I have wealth, I have friends, I have connections but I don't have Jane. And any man who has the woman he truly loves Darcy rules above all others!"
Darcy could barely hide the flinch in his face as he heard Bingley express what he dare not. "She is grand Darcy for she is kind and her wit is tempered by wisdom. Her patience is infinite for she had to be an angel to bear her mother's foibles and her sisters' follies. Not the Miss Elizabeth Bennet can be counted to have too much of that! But Darcy Jane is what I want, what I love and wish for. I would be a coward if I did not do what my heart tells me to be true." Darcy kept his visage plain but inside he felt himself move under Bingley's spell. "And I can do great good for her sisters you know! I can introduce them to society..." "Introduce them to society? Bingley that is a grievious mistake!" Darcy cried out. Bingley shook his head his mind galloping far ahead of Darcy. "No Darcy it isn't! Think man, for instance Elizabeth Bennet. A girl of great wit and no lack of beauty I remind you. She is charming, she can play and sing. She is a sweet a girl as any I have seen in 'Society' and she will be refreshing. There are plenty a gentlemen out there looking for wives with her qualities. And they would not care a whit if she's an heiress." Darcy was indeed pale and Bingley mistakenly believed that Darcy was horrified in his contemplation of the Bennet sisters being in society. Had he guessed the real truth he would have stopped himself. "Why for instance, that landed gentlemen, the one near Highbury..." "He just married his neighbor." Darcy abruptedly informed Bingley. "A girl he held as a babe in his arms no less." For a moment Bingley was quite silent. "Oh really? How old is she then..." his question faded in embarassment. "One and twenty." Bingley heaved a sigh of relief. He quite liked that tall, dark and somber gentleman. Scrambling to reestablish himself "There is always that colonel from up north...""He just announced his bann in London." Bingley was mute. Darcy gave a nod. "He is getting married? But he must be at least..." Bingley tried to remember the officer's age. "Yes and he is marrying a girl not yet eighteen. Another neighbor and this silly chit made a fool of herself regarding that fellow from
___shire." Bingley repeated "Eighteen? Oh dear. That is a bit young for the Colonel." Darcy gave a shrug dismissing the latest London gossip. "I do admit the girl is quite pretty but to fall for a child half his age! I do not see a happy..."
Bingley did not let him finish. "But I do. And I do for the Bennet sisters also. Darcy imagine it. All I have to do is to come to an assembly with my lovely Jane and then few weeks later invite Lizzie to London. The society will be awash with curiosity by then and she will have no problems with admirers."
Darcy dismissed this happy imagination. "The high society will not liken to her kind Bingley. She is not..." "All I need is one admirer Darcy. A gentleman who can see a true value when it standing there in front of him. Not all of London can be filled with pompous idiots and sophists. And I know there is one out there for there is one standing in this room!" He meant himself and Darcy knew this to be the truth. He looked at the window and forced himself to face what Bingley was planning. His good friend was telling the truth and as impossible as the scheme may seem, Bingley was right. All he needed was one admirer for Elizabeth Bennet and there will be more than one in London. For there are many a wise man out there with good fortune who will easily succumb to the innocent charms of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Who will admire her eyes and the wit behind them. And who though knowing her music to be not of London quality will gladly stand by open windows as he did that day to hear her play and sing. And who are not constrained by birth and society to take her as a wife and give her the happiness she deserves. And this sense of loss darkened Darcy. In his pride and self-righteousness regarding others in his influence this fear of loss crept in ever so quietly. That within fortnight the poisonous viper named loss will wound a great deal more than just Darcy himself.
Part IV: Hopes are dashed and Bingley exits
The conversation between Darcy and Bingley lasted long into the night. And Bingley felt himself a better man for telling his true friend what he felt to be a good future for himself. However Darcy could not sleep that night and imagined just the opposite. He dearly cared for his innocent friend and he believed with conviction that Bingley as flighty he may have been before was in serious earnest regarding the eldest sister of the Bennet family.
And if he would put that youthful energy into the one endeavor of making Jane happy then Elizabeth would not have a year before taking another man's name. And this was to Darcy intolerable for if she marries into good society he will see her everywhere but never near him. And her witty remarks and honest appraisals will be banned from his presence. Netherfield will be filled with laughter Darcy thought, of Bingley, Jane and Elizabeth and children. Where can he be in that picturesque scene? He would not fit anywhere concluded the gentleman. And the thought taunted his unbending pride. His mind turned towards the lady that Bingley sought so much and silently approved his friend's choice.
She was truly lovely and was sweet-tempered girl. She can at least protect his friend and keep bay some of Caroline's more vicious talk. Then his mind submerged by selfish depression and lonely thoughts turned towards the unfortunate lady and came to a rather ugly conclusion.
Days went passed and formalities were passed between Longbourn and Netherfield. The news was good for Jane Bennet once home was recooperating admirably under the care of her family. Then a bit of gossip came along Netherfield that neither bachelors wished to hear. A cousin of Mr. Bennet, the male heir who has the estate entailed to him person was coming to visit the Bennet family and he was certainly a bachelor. The man's visit was to claim his innocence in the miserable affair and to assure Mr. Bennet that he though humble would try his best for the Bennet family when Mr. Bennet has passed away. This amused Caroline greatly but her brother felt a prick of uncertainty. Why Jane would certainly stand out in Mr. Collins' eyes (he was informed of the cousin's name through Mr. Lucas) and she being a sweet disposition would make sure of the visitor's comfort. Even Darcy heard of the news with some trepidation and neither gentlemen had humor to spare for the rest of the evening. However Bingley met Ms. Jane Bennet in town and was glad to see her again. She smiled at him brightly and thanked him again for his kindness to her. He would have stayed right there but Darcy suddenly galloped away from the whole party with such speed that Bingley had to curtail his conversation and chase his friend!
The night of the ball arrived and the "savage" society bedecked themselves to honor their host. Bingley was flattered with the attention and the praises so he was in fine form when the Bennets came. Jane entered into the hall with her sisters laughing behind her as Elizabeth entertained them with some witty remarks about the feathers and other various things decorating the ladies' hats. Bingley was happy to see all of them and finally had a chance to truly observe Mr. Collins. Within 4 sentences from Mr. Collins he was free from the fear that there was a rival for Jane's affections. And Bingly gave his arm to Jane, favoring her above others and led the Bennets to the Great Room. Caroline stared after them and thought that she must act quickly now. The dances began and the crowd became boisterous. Wine, music and good company flowed through Netherfield as never before and Bingley realized around the end of the affair that his ball was a great success! Jane Bennet outshone above others and for a minute he even let himself believe that at the end of the night she would not leave in her family's carriage because she resided in Netherfield. Such fancies became stronger for him as he allowed himself the hope that they may all one day come true.
Final guests trickled out into their carriages and the Great Room became stale with wine and drooping flowers. Bingley didn't care much of the spent rooms and cheerfully bid everyone good night. Darcy stared after his friend his face betraying nothing of the maelstrom that was coming.
Days passed and one night Caroline acted rashly on what Darcy was planning to do calmly. She berated her brother telling him that he is made a fool by a country girl! When he could have his choice of the true and refined ladies he chooses a mere pretty bauble that he came upon here in G-dforsaken Meryton! It was unforgivable and so beneath the family that how Bingley could even contemplate to shame their family name was beyond her comprehension. Bingley stared at her and quietly reminded that all her jewels and dresses were bought with their father's money from trade. And they are not the level of Pemberley nor half of London's great society. The only reason that they are tolerated is because of Darcy's presence in their circle and that Bingley was an eligible bachelor. His words were not brutal nor sharp but the truth was enough to make Caroline shed real tears and escape from her shame. Louisa was shocked but kept her tongue and Bingley upset as never before excused himself to the study. He was furious for the first time at his sister and not just annoyed. Her words brought to him the great differences between them and he could not shoulder the pain. If she was a stranger he admitted to himself, he would avoid her society at all costs.
"She is your sister Bingley." Darcy gently admonished his friend from the door. "You must forgive her foibles. And if any blame is to be laid, let it be on my conscience. She has grown too used to my society that she speaks so ill of Miss. Jane Bennet."
Bingley gave him a grateful smile and motioned him in. Darcy spoke his next words very cautiously. "I do not wish you harm Bingley but I do wonder about the merit of Caroline's wishes to see you away from Miss Jane Bennet." Bingley raised his head with a frown on his face. "What merits might they be?"
Darcy sighed and spoke "Everyone knows of your preference to the eldest Miss Bennet. And no one blames you for it either. She does have a good reputation is liked by all here in society. But Bingley do you know of her emotions towards you?" Bingley gave a laugh and said "Yes, of course I do man. Do I look like a fool?"
Darcy responded "No, you look like a man in love and sometimes they are fools." He saw Bingley start to pull away and hastily added "But listen, you are so blinded by your own feelings do you know how much Jane prefers you over others? She is always polite and attentive but then she is that kind of person. I am sure she prefers your company above other men but Bingley does she love you? Did she profess any emotions as such or even a strong emotion?" Bingley sat slowly his mind playing over the times he met Jane Bennet and every time he thought he spied a strong emotion his mind told him otherwise. Bingley began to falter in his love for the first time. Darcy saw this and pressed onwards.
"I have watched you plain and I know, even that nitwit Mrs. Bennet knows of your feelings but I see non reciprocated Bingley.
I see Jane unmoved towards you and I am sorry but that is the truth." Bingley raised his head defeated for he did not remember a word or a touch from Jane that could not be construed as true love..."And would you marry her Bingley? Knowing how much you feel and that she feels kindness, friendship and gratitude but no more? Could you survive such a match? Seeing her everyday loving her and knowing she feels none?" Bingley didn't want to listen but he was quite helpless to do otherwise.
"Come Bingley, let's return to London for a while. And leave this place, if Jane Bennet is fond of you, she will know it surely and perhaps it will strengthen in your absence. You in turn will recooperate your senses while in Town. And when we come back to Netherfield you can see her again and decide then if you still wish a match. I think you need this break before such a momentous decision is to be made." Bingley closed his eyes and remembered all those begrudged moments with his Jane. Darcy was right of course, but then he was always in the right. Weakened by the emotional battle he had with Caroline, despairing over the partial truths told by his friend and persuaded by his respect for Darcy Bingley assented to spend a while in London. But he had enough left to desire a return to Netherfields as soon as possible. Darcy planned otherwise.
Part IV: Unrequited Love is Never Truly Forgotten
The next day the decision to enter town for the duration and Caroline rejoiced inwards. However she was prudent enough to not express such happiness and a bit of sisterly love desisted her from any true show of triumph. Darcy for once was grateful for Caroline's behavior and the party was packed to London. Bingley had written a small letter to Jane Bennet before departing and left it with a footman with firm orders to deliver it to the lady. However this was marked by Louisa and Bingley's letter was substituted with Caroline's by mid-afternoon. The original token of explanation was cast into the dust bin and the writer never knew of its fate. This contemptous masquerade was played out to London and Bingley soon found himself buried under social and business obligations from the moment the Town heard he had returned from "rustication".
Days turned into months and soon Christmas came and danced away from him. The longer he was left alone without a missive or news from Jane Bennet the sorrier his heart grew. He was torn between the feeling that his affections would have never been returned and the hope that had he stayed longer the lady's affections would have been his by now. Surely by now his letter would have stirred some emotion! If she was so kind she would have answered him in fortnight after his departure from Netherfield but silence reigned from that lovely part of England. However his kind heart gave Jane plenty of excuses, for how could a lady answer such a letter? He wondered if she kept it close by with hopes that he would arrive with the Spring birds and blossoms. And perhaps that letter resided in her pillow cachet or under her keepsakes in a small box somewhere? Bingley might not be mighty as Darcy but in this small fraction of his character he far outweighed his friend. Spring came and his mood was indeed more erratic than ever before. A fact that Darcy noticed with more and more repetent heart. He did believe that he was doing Bingley good by taking him away from Miss Jane Bennet but she was around Bingley like some kind ghost. This fancy was acceptable to Darcy for he felt another ghost around his own person and she tormented him from the moment he opened his eyes 'til the end of his conscious day. But Bingley's ghost was far kinder than Darcy's for his conscience would not let what has passed rest within Darcy's breast.
Bingley was indeed blind within his own emotions but he could not miss the total misery Darcy was in. Then the situation turned even darker after his visit with Lady Catherine, a woman Darcy truly despised. Bingley tried to convince him to not visit her but Darcy was always a great one for duty and off he went. He returned abruptly to London and refused to see any including Bingley for days! Spring entered into early Summer and Bingley found himself strolling next to Darcy again on a pleasant path.
Darcy was changing but it was so slow and gradual that Bingley would not recognize it until the end of the conversation they were having.
"Bingley, is a man, a strict and tempered man with habits hard formed ever be able to subject himself to change?"
Bingley was puzzled at the course of their conversation but Darcy lately was a mystery to him. "I believe when a man realizes that he needs to change, he is already well along the way." He was rewarded with a warm smile from Darcy. Bingley's curiosity rose itself and broke through the waves of desperate emotions he was drowning under.
"Darcy are you doing well? Do you need my help?" he questioned his friend in earnest.
Darcy shook his head thoughtfully. "No dear friend not yet. I was just musing over a description heard of me. One that I am afraid was not flattering but true." Bingley cocked his head in a slight angle inviting the description.
"An arrogant man, a conceited man who has no care for other people's feelings." Bingley nearly dropped his walking stick.
"This was said in your presence?"
"Oh yes, the lady said it for me to hear since I was the only other person than her in the room." He quietly answered.
Bingley was outraged but became depressed. Darcy he thought you are a man of contradictions and I fear losing your friendship for what I am about to say.
"Darcy if anyone knows you intimately and holds your good opinion you are the best sort of man a person can wish for. Your care
towards Georgiana can not be faulted. Your tenants and servants adore you like no other and I am grateful that I may call you friend. But to others Darcy you are very harsh and unbending."
Bingley silenced himself waiting for a reply but none came from the hushed friend by his side.
"Then why are you with me?" finally asked Darcy.
"Because you are my friend if I may still call you such. And there really aren't bad friends or good friends. I believe once a person becomes a friend then that is who they become. Any other words become useless in describing this person's importance in my life. No one capable of doing all good and there are so few that mean well without some personal gain I would be grateful if I meant one such person in my life. You put up many tortures to be around me. Caroline for instance. You can not be happy when she is in the same room with you yet you stay by my side and endure her endless prattle and false charms. I appreciate that Darcy, I truly do. And your good opinion which is so rarely bestowed on others is given to me with free will that I would be a fool to not appreciate it."
Darcy found himself nearly about to break here. For Bingley's honest praises drew the thorns of Miss Elizabeth's words deeper into his side than he could care to admit.
Bingley continued now lost in his explanation of Darcy's character. "You are a hard man, made harder by the responsibilities you carry, as a master of Pemberley, as a father rather than a brother to Georgiana and the carrier of your family's good name and reputation. You are always hunted by fortune seekers and other unsavory characters so I am not surprised by the degree of disdain you see when meeting strangers. But Darcy take care, among the trash there are such jewels that one would bear much ill will to find that one clear bit of beauty and kindness. And Darcy when you find it, treasure it and never let it out of your sight. For once lost a man must work twice as hard to get it back." Darcy nodded for he did not trust his voice to mask himself. His sharp mind was racing now and he knew he had many mistakes to correct. But where does he begin?
"Darcy did you harm this lady in some way?" Bingley asked innocently. Darcy flinched but replied "Yes, I'm afraid so.
It was a mistake caused by my less-than acceptable behavior and the damage done was great indeed."
"Well, I know you to be a gentleman so I can trust you to make the proper arrangements to correct this." Bingley stated quickly. And Darcy again gave a strong nod to assure his friend he would not fail in this apology to the "lady".
Pemberley, Darcy thought. he wanted to return to the lovely hills and gardens of that estate and seek solace. He will find a way to correct all the wrong he has done there!
He turned to Bingley "Let's go to Pemberley. Summer is unbearable here so let's escape to the hills!"
Bingley laughed at Darcy's uncharacteristic enthusiasm and agreed with a full heart to please his saddened friend. For Bingley would have gladly gone to America with Darcy would that have cheered his friend.
Part VI: Bingley continues to mature and his voyage is yet again pointing towards Netherfield
Bingley entered into Pemberley's grand hall and always the same feeling overcame him. He felt like a small schoolboy in front of headmaster for reasons not very flattering to himself. He smiled at his own fear of inadequacy and escorted his sisters into the Grand room. Georgiana was already playing the hostess though she was ill-suited to the position. This wasn't because she lacked manners or charms but she was positively the shyest girl Bingley has ever known. She was a true beauty for her age but would have been happy to be relegated to the widow's corner in balls except that her beloved brother would disapprove of such actions. And Georgiana dare not ever lose her brother's good will. Bingley often tried his best to be kind to her and begin conversations but it often resulted in her hiding behind Darcy so he gave up his effort. However friendship between them bloomed more easily after that. Darcy entered the hall greeting them and soliciting their requests. Caroline and the Hursts wanted to rest in their rooms and refresh themselves after such a journey and Darcy saw to it that they had servants for their needs. He whispered something to Georgiana and the girl smiled and gave a nod. She left the room and Bingley was about to excuse himself when he saw Darcy's carriage being ready for travel. "Darcy where are you going?" Darcy hesistated for a long duration then answered. "I am seeing Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She is in Lambton and I am taking Georgiana to introduce her." Bingley barely managed to hold the shock from his voice. "Miss Bennet is nearby? I think I wish to see her Darcy. It's been too long since I've left Netherfield. I'm afraid I have become rather a neglectful master." Darcy gave a cautious nod and nothing else was said between the gentlemen all the way to the inn. And when they arrived Bingley gave a feeble excuse saying that he will be up shortly and marched around the square in front of the inn in absolute misery. He feared the worst, for what if Jane is now a wife? Someone else's fiance perhaps? Then forcing himself he bounded up the stairs to the quarters where Elizabeth was staying and entered to see the young lady who could bear great news or evil tidings standing in front of him. He had no Jane to see but in the absence of the older sister their similarities leapt into his mind's eye. Their colorings were different but there was the same shape of the head, the carriage and the slant of the neck. And their voices held similarities too painful for Bingley to ever forget. Then she smiled radiantly at him and held out her hand in familiar kindness. He gallantly kissed it and introduced himself beginning with a sincere apology of his absence in Netherfield. He asked for information on everybody's health and welfare in Meryton. And soon Bingley actually regretted sharing her with the other guests for he wanted information desperately but dared not raise Darcy's suspicions. She answered his questions and he could not help but again express an apology for his prolonged absence. "It was a very long time since I had had the pleasure of seeing you. It is above eight months, We have not met since the 26th of November. When we were all dancing together at Netherfield." His voice was full of regret and longing. Had he glanced at his friend at that moment Darcy would not have been able to meet his friend's stare. And real pity flashed across Elizabeth's face mixed with relief. Then later he asked about her sisters specifically and she answered him quickly and told him the youngest went on a trip but yes, all the others were still at Longbourn. Bingley had to be satisfied with that and even that small hope would have carried him through days of Caroline's spite. Mercifully Darcy and Georgiana requested her and the Gardiners to dine at Pemberley and Bingley fairly danced a jig to the carriage. Darcy realized that he took a small step towards repairing the damage he had caused and was grateful. Elizabeth was no Jane but to Bingley she was the cause for all his unbreakable hopes to be reborn.
The evening went well for Bingley did his usual fare of ignoring every single word Caroline was saying and Elizabeth Bennet had enough spirit and wit to ensure him that she would not cave under Caroline's silly barbs. The Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet left Pemberley with his good grace and blessings. However this emotion would not carry into the night. He entered into the salon for a minute before Caroline started her diatribe against Miss Bennet. And Bingley once again began to feel his dislike towards his sister come to bloom. Elizabeth Bennet was refreshing, pretty and very witty girl who would do any person credit with her presence. She was extremely kind to Georgiana and even managed to get 5 sentences from the girl. A feat which Caroline miserably failed and to Bingley's recollection no other except Darcy has ever achieved. But before he could open his mouth and give Caroline a put down Darcy did it for him.
"But that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintances." And with this came Darcy's most imperial voice and look. Such expression from a man like Darcy would silence the Parliament and even Caroline. She stood there in shock and Darcy knowing he had the final word excused himself and went away. Bingley was equally shocked but for a different reason. Darcy's good opinion of Miss Elizabeth Bennet was very little if any and Bingley always believed Darcy to be annoyed with Miss Bennet for she would not cower nor bend to Darcy and his 10,000 a year. Here was a woman who could not be bullied into respect and Darcy had that unfortunate habit from much practice. Bingley left his sister there in her shame and marched into his room. For a while now he was suspecting something undefinable and as much as he tried to give his suspicion shape he could not.
This disturbed him greatly though he could not see it straight and sleep eluded the young man that night. The next day brought even more chaos for Darcy after a visit to somewhere came back wild-eyed and distressed. Bingley demanded an explanation and even blocked his friend from physically leaving his room until Bingley was sure he could not aid in Darcy's troubles. Darcy calmed down and explained that he needed to go to London and immediately solve a problem that has arisen because of his foolish pride. Bingley promised to join him in London as soon as his sisters were packed and Georgiana made safe and comfortable in Pemberley. Darcy left that afternoon and Bingley shored himself for bad news. Caroline wanted to stay and the Hursts really did not appreciate all this traveling so he arranged to have them follow him to London later. Mrs. Annesley, Georgiana's companion by merciful fate was a good and clear headed woman who would do Georgiana all the good and protect her from his family and their designs. The next morning he followed Darcy with steel determination to help his friend whether the friend appreciated or not!
His arrival at London was quiet for he did not want Darcy to hear of his arrival and he soon had his footman follow Darcy.
The news that was reported to him was singular so he had his maid make friends with Darcy's servants and in two days heard the awful news. Lydia Bennet, a daughter of one of Darcy's friends ran off with a man named Wickham, a truly never-do-well
and disappeared into London! Darcy was bent on finding the couple and was using every available resource in accomplishing this. Then the news just got worse. The gossip was that this savage of a man almost succeeded in the same evil with Georgiana when she was only 15 years old, no more than a babe! And by the luck of the L-rd Darcy prevented the tragedy.
Bingley made sure the maid's tongue was silent and rewarded her greatly. She was always grateful for his kind treatment of her and the rest of the staff and knew better than to abuse the obvious trust he had in her. And from the worry on her handsome master's face the news was ill indeed! Bingley quietly sent out his men under the false pretense that Wickham owed him a great debt and must be found immediately but with stealth for if this scoundrel realized that he was hunted he would disappear. The men determined to please such a nice gent as Bingley went through London with care and it was not too far before they found him. Bingley heard the report and was relieved. It seems that Darcy was swift and discovered the couple and there is a marriage to take place between Miss Lydia Bennet and Wickham in the near future. Bingley rewarded his servants and they thought nothing more about it for his relief and gratitude paid full any of their own suspicions. By the end of this affair Bingley knew the full reason for Darcy's motive in finding the couple. And the motive is grand, for Miss Elizabeth Bennet is worth this much gallantry and effort! He waited until the marriage was over and introduced himself to Darcy's presence.
Bingley marveled at Darcy's self-control and made sure his friend's days were filled with amusement and diversions in order to relax Darcy. Then one night he received a dreaded letter. It was from a man requesting to purchase Netherfield from him and the sum was quite handsome. Only a fool would reject such an offer mused Bingley. Then he carefully and methodically tore the letter in half. Then it was shredded even further into quarters. The pieces became smaller and smaller until they weren't even good enough for a fire but that was where they were dispensed to. He stared at the flames and wondered what to do. September was coming upon them and soon it will be one full year before he returned to Netherfield. Would anyone even remember him or even care? Would Jane remember him with some kindness or even curiosity? I am not a coward thought Bingley. I may be blind and at times wavering but I am not a coward. He swiftly dispensed a letter to his servant and the man galloped away into the night. Caroline entered the study to wish him good night and found he had already retired for the night. She stared at the fireplace and frowned. Why in heaven's name did Charles set a fire on a warm August night?
Part VII: One can choose one's friends...Bingley discovers the lies...
September rushed upon all in London but for the sleepy town of Meryton it came with its usual glorious fall colors. Darcy left his friends and compatriots in the first week of September and Bingley shocked his sisters by announcing his return to Netherfield for hunting. He declined their company because it was for shooting thus only gentlemen were allowed in the caravan back to Netherfield. Caroline and Louisa bitterly complained but Bingley pointedly reminded them of their less-than genteel descriptions of their stay in the country and soon was on his happy way to Netherfield. Caroline most anxious to interfere in any reunion between her brother and the insufferable Bennets sent a letter to Darcy warning of her brother's behavior. The letter was received with great rejoicing and Darcy sent his own request to join Bingley at Netherfield's. Bingley's arrival was anticipated with much trepidation but none felt such exhilaration as the young gentleman when he entered the grounds of Netherfield.
Fall in the country is gorgeous he thought as his eyes swam in the colors. The house was brightened and his servants were indeed glad to see the cheerful young master return. That very afternoon Darcy's letter arrived and Bingley anxious to have his friend's love affair resolved as quickly as his immediately dispatched an invitation. Darcy did not bother to send a thank you for the invitation and came straight away instead. The hunting began in earnest but both gentlemen had many other things in mind. It was soon that Bingley ho-hummed an excuse to pay call to the Bennets and both men soon found themselves once again guests at Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet was her usual overwhelming self and Mr. Bennet was nowhere to be found. The two gentlemen were received with decorum by the whole family but neither men saw any greeting that might suggest their presence was more welcomed than it should have been.
"It is a long time, Mr. Bingley, since you went away." Of course that would be the topic she would start off with Bingley miserably thought but cheerfully and with sincere regret agreed with her.
"I began to be afraid you would never come back again. People did say you meant to quit the place entirely at Michaelmas; but, however, I hope it is not true. A great many changes have happened in the neighbourhood, since you went away. Miss Lucas is married and settled. And one of my own daughters. I suppose you have heard of it; indeed, you must have seen it in the papers. It was in the Times and the Courier, I know; though it was not put in as it ought to be. It was only said, "Lately, George Wickham, Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet," without there being a syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived, or any thing. It was my brother Gardiner's drawing up too, and I wonder how he came to make such an awkward business of it. Did you see it?''
Bingley was aghast that she should mention such a delicate topic and in front of Darcy but he answered the question realizing the silence from his friend was becoming stonier.
"It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well married" continued mrs. Bennet "but at the same time, Mr. Bingley, it is very hard to have her taken such a way from me. They are gone down to Newcastle, a place quite northward, it seems, and there they are to stay I do not know how long. His regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the ----shire, and of his being gone into the regulars. Thank Heaven! he has some friends, though perhaps not so many as he deserves."
Bingley was frantic to change the course of conversation then suddenly it was done for him. He was asked how long this stay will be and he brightly replied perhaps three weeks, maybe more. Mrs. Bennet solicited his presence in Longbourn in the following manner, "When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley,I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet's manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you, and will save all the best of the covies for you." Bingley was glad of the invitation as awkward as it was. Then she reminded him of their previous invitation for Bingley to dine with them at a family dinner and he quickly accepted. All the while the young gentleman noticed different facets of the woman he admired so.
She was as handsome and as gentle as she once was. Her face though betrayed no heavy emotion he was glad to stare upon the fair visage once again. So elated was he Bingley did not notice Darcy's stormy face until they have returned to Netherfield. 2 days later they dined at Longbourn and it was grand for Bingley actually sat next to Jane though his poor friend had Mrs. Bennet as a dinner companion! The two men went through the night in totally different emotions and both returned to Netherfield different men.
Bingley was in the study when suddenly he heard a sharp noise outside. He took a look out the window and saw his faithful stablehand struggling with a piece of equipment. He cried out if the man needed help and the poor fellow blustered an apology for disturbing his lord. Bingley smiled and walked out the study doors to join the fellow underneath the beautiful moon. Soon the two men so different in birth and situation fell into easy conversation underneath the clear and starry sky.
"If you don't mind your lordship I am sure glad to be back here sir. I was born with country folk and I feel much better sleeping under these stars than under the lights of London."
Bingley laughed a little and agreed realizing the fellow to have had a few tipple at the local inn.
"And why what's so great about town?" mused the worker. "With them dresses and fine music? Why that Miss Jane Bennet could outshine all of 'em. Pardon me for saying so sir. No insult to the lady for I have never seen such a nice and kind lady as that one. And when she came to London I thought you see there! Even the London gentility can't stand a hair against that Miss Bennet."
Bingley felt his blood stop and his heart deaden.
"She was in London Jeffrey? And how could you know this?"
"Why I saw her I did. Can't miss that face or that kind smile. Never until the day I die m'lordship. She soon left though and I think she was busy thinkin' somethin. She had a certain look on her face...I thought either Miss Caroline or Mr. Darcy would have told you that she came by."
"Oh Darcy was there to receive her? " Bingley asked feeling something inside of him die.
"No sir, he came by to visit your lordship but you weren't there so he was waitin' and then Miss Jane came." The fellow answered innocently.
"And was Caroline in to receive her?"
"Oh yes, and she was good 'nough to pay her a visit she did. Drove all the way to...I forgot where now but she returned the visit soon enough." By now Jeffrey was totally confused with the questions that his master was posing and felt uneasy even underneath the haze of liquor.
Bingley thanked the man for spending time with him and wished him well. Jeffrey would struggle to bed later on and soon forget the strange conversation he had with his young master but Bingley would not.
He sat alone and felt his world tear itself apart. Caroline he was furious at but yes, this behavior was definitely within her character. He was determined now to separate himself from her maliciousness. This went beyond some silly jealous behavior and he would suffer no more underneath her contempt and cruelty.
But Darcy, his friend, the man whose opinion Bingley held in the highest esteem was also member of this treachery. Darcy of all the people knew his real emotions and fears. Darcy was the one who convinced him to flee Netherfield almost a year ago knowing that Bingley was in despair over Miss Jane Bennet. Yet when Jane, sweet Jane came to see him in London and probably in response to his agonizing letter he was left clueless!
To continue this torment, this agony with clear plan and with such malicious coldness Darcy! Why? Do you see me with so much contempt beneath that masterly exterior that you would design this maze of confusion for your best friend...then the thought struck Bingley and it was an evil thought. Bingley is at the core a decent and good man with such a nature he can never ill design a harm to anyone. However the clear explanation his shocked mind built was in its heart the truth weaved upon the knowledge of his friend. And this thought was not buried under the kindness of admiration or awe he held for Darcy. Darcy could not bear to have his friend lost to a Bennet. Darcy thought Jane beneath Bingley not because of Bingley but because of Darcy. His friend's hubris and vanity extended to the limit that he would rather see his friend alone then to connect himself with such low company. The measure Darcy used was not Bingley's happiness but his own pride. And moreso for Darcy in his heart was jealous. Jealous that Bingley could love so easily with a woman in spite of her birth and decree, and love her for what she truly is. Darcy could not and there was Elizabeth Bennet. Bingley tried to stop his ugly thoughts but could not. Of course, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of the lovely eyes and sharp wit impressed upon Darcy quickly and most definitely in spite of his friend's heated protests against the society of Meryton and Longbourn. And should his friend marry Jane Bennet then Darcy would forever stare at what he could never have because of his suffering pride and his place in society. And Darcy would suffer, greatly too
because the younger sister would have definitely been a presence in Netherfield Hall. And Darcy could not allow that to happen!
Bingley remembered all his happy ramblings that late evening with Darcy, all his hopes and plans for Jane and her family. How Darcy must have panicked then! How unsure was he of himself that he would treat his friend with so little respect and care. Bingley stopped his contemplation abruptly and solemnly made a vow there. No more Darcy, no more Caroline or Louisa. Let fate have her way but he will no longer tolerate any interference with his hopes for Jane Bennet. He will speak to the Lord of Pemberley tomorrow morning and give him a day to pack and leave. He does not need friends such as Fitzwilliam Darcy but he surely needed the companionship such as offered by Miss Jane Bennet.
Part VIII: Bingley is Not Without Cunning...
As good a friend as Bingley was to Darcy the man was too happy to give immediate consideration to his friend. However in couple of days he was determined to write a letter pleading his friend back into his circle but was at a loss how to convince someone like Darcy to do something against his will. The lie he fibbed to Jane and Elizabeth was beginning to wear the poor man's conscience and he frantically tried to think up excuses, any plausible ones to bring Darcy back to Netherfield. The answer came in a form of a carriage one morning about a week after the engagement. Both Bingley and Jane escaped such a rude intrusion but not before Bingley had an eyeful of the visitor. It was Lady Catherine! Why was she visiting Longbourn? Almost immediately Bingley hit upon a brilliant scheme that unknowingly was the truth. He remembered how Darcy told him of his engagement with this lady's daughter...what was her name? The pale sickly one whose voice still remained a mystery to Bingley. He suddenly stopped and berated himself, why he was starting to sound like Caroline! However Bingley had the distinct impression that Darcy would rather remain a bachelor and die childless rather than marry that lady. And perhaps now with the legitimacy of Lady Catherine's visit...he left Jane with some speed that morning and composed this impossibly ludicrous letter to Darcy.
I come from Longbourn with some disturbing news. Your aunt Lady Catherine visited Miss Elizabeth Bennet at Longbourn this morning and I must say before it was a proper time to call on total strangers. I did not listen in on the conversation though now I wish I did but whatever was passed has upset Miss Elizabeth Bennet my future sister-in-law grieviously. So much that Jane and I are concerned. However she being a strong-willed character refused to divulge the body of the conversation. Just that the Lady held a mistaken belief and was unfairly imposing upon Miss Elizabeth Bennet to explain the belief in totality. A feat that the young lady rightfully refused to do. I do not know how else to phrase this but since she is your aunt can you explain this rather extraordinary manner of hers? Jane and I are anxiously awaiting your reply for we are both worried about Elizabeth's welfare.
Hah! Let Darcy try to wait on that bit of news! Of course Bingley never witnessed a thing and had no idea how his future sister-in-law was handling the visit but had faith that she would upright the pompous aunt like she did Darcy. But Darcy would be driven into action because there could only be one reason why Lady Catherine would ever degrade herself and come to Longbourn.
Bingley summoned his best rider, giving the youth ample funds to ride to London without delay and with great satisfaction saw the rider off. He made his daily visits to see Jane and her family but two days when he saw Darcy's carriage arriving in Netherfield at dusk. Bingley frantically composed a serious face and greeted his friend whose discomposure was not limited to his attire. His friend entered the study and quickly turned to Bingley.
"How is Miss Elizabeth Bennet?" His voice was so anxious that Bingley felt a pang of guilt. Well kindness doesn't always
come with gentle brushes. "She isn't herself Darcy. You know the younger Miss Bennet, always witty and funny. But now, she is subdued and quiet. Almost like she is suffering under some burden she can not even share with Jane." Actually now thinking of it Bingley wondered if the lie wasn't a lie after all. Elizabeth was quiet last couple of days and hardly spoke to him outside of polite conversation. Darcy's loud sigh broke his reverie and Bingley sharply stared at his friend. With real concern Bingley asked Darcy what has happened between Miss Bennet and Lady Catherine. Darcy would not meet his gaze and gave an explanation that surprised Bingley.
"She came because she somehow discovered my preference for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. You see I proposed to her when I visited Lady Catherine last time and was rejected with utmost firmness. Before going on my defense Bingley I deserved the answer for my proposal was so poor in kindness, respect and love should she have accepted it I would have liked her less. But she didn't and told me in no uncertain terms how she hated my pride, arrogance and coldness. That she will never consider me as a lover for those characteristics which so define my nature was such an offense to her character to be unforgivable." Bingley felt a conflict within himself for admiring Miss Bennet for telling such a harsh truth and sadness for his friend's obvious pain.
"What happened of the visit then?" Darcy gave a sad smile and said "She upbraided my aunt too if you can believe it. In fact Lady Catherine took leave without giving regard to any of the Bennets. Right after your letter arrived lady Catherine came and she was in a storm. She demanded that I renounce this blasphemy, yes she called it that and tried to bludgeon me into submission. I as usual treated her with the usual disdain and she left unsatisfied. Bingley why did Elizabeth not tell Lady Catherine that she has no regard for me?" The question was so poor of hope and happiness that Bingley was truly sorry to have sent the letter though the damage in front of him was no cause of his. "Because Miss Elizabeth Bennet cannot lie and she did not to Lady Catherine. If she felt nothing for you my friend she would have not only upbraided your aunt but mocked her for a fool to believe in the nonsense and show her how foolish she was by telling her that she had no feelings for you. I am not saying Elizabeth would have been cruel but that she would rise to such an attack upon her person and her family's honour and you are quite aware how Miss Bennet is at that point. So that is what you hope for?"
Darcy raised his face and nodded.
"It is slim isn't it?" he asked his honest friend.
"Yes, but better than none." Bingley answered then added "And next time I guess its my turn to take a carriage and run off to London."
Darcy frowned and Bingley explained, "Because my good friend, a year ago I ran away from happiness because I was unsure of myself. Instead of facing the risk I hid under some miserable beliefs. Not so long ago you did the same so next time it will be my turn unless we both stop this cowardly behavior right now."
Darcy stared at his friend's eyes and managed to laugh. It was true and this shameful behavior running off to London at the first sign of rejection from the Bennet sisters must be stopped.
The next morning both visited Longbourn and found themselves taking a walk. Bingley deliberately separated Jane and himself from the group hoping against hope for something good to happen.
A marriage proposal given and accepted would have been too much but perhaps a friendship could blossom between those two and that would ease Darcy's pain so much! The day passed and the two gentlemen finally returned to Netherfield but Bingley did not know how to approach Darcy. His friend then gazed upon him with such a smile that Bingley could not have failed to notice the cause of it.
"The Bennet family will be missing one more of their precious daughters Bingley. Miss Elizabeth Bennet has consented to my proposal which I might add was more true to my feelings that the previous one and I am the happiest man in England!" Bingley stared at him in shock. "You just proposed to her? At your first walk today...in any day and she accepted?" Darcy nodded and laughed at his friend's ridiculous expression. Bingley shook his head in total amazement. The difference between himself and Darcy was not only the sum of 5 thousand pounds and Pemberley but Bingley was buried in too much good news to ever grudge his friend his luck. The next day they visited the Bennets and he saw Elizabeth return to the cheerful mood she once had. This sealed his own belief and worry and was glad for both his friend and his future sister-in-law. And it was no small comfort that Jane was almost as jubilant of her sister's engagement as she was of her own. Both couples suffered willingly under the local gossip and good will. Darcy and Bingley even bore the ill-will of some of their relatives with remarkable ease and Georgiana, the sweet child was like a haven for she approved both matches with abandon and good words. She wanted a sister so desperately and now she is guaranteed to have at least one of the new brides at her side!
The double wedding date was set for both couples some time before Christmas and festivities and well-wishers abounded through the place.
Bingley finished dressing himself for the wedding ceremony and approved of himself in the mirror. Then he went downstairs and saw Darcy. Darcy saw his friend's gaze and was puzzled as to the meaning. "What are you thinking about Bingley?"
"Why is it that we both patronize the same tailors yet you look like a man of 10,000 a year and I don't?" Bingley questioned with a laugh.
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