"You're needed upstairs, Miss Elizabeth," Hill relayed the message from Mrs. Bennett and curtsied.
Bingley rose as Lizzie got up from her seat. She reluctantly left Jane with Mr. Bingley. Bingley resumed his seat across from Jane.
An awkward silence descended upon the drawing room. Both Jane and Bingley started to speak once, but stammered in confusion. They both blushed. Jane lowered her eyes,
"Please, Mr. Bingley, do speak first."
"Miss Bennett--Jane," he began somewhat hesitantly as if seeking permission to address her so informally. When she nodded, he began again.
"Jane, I have just learned you were in London last winter. Please believe me that had I known you were there, I would certainly have called upon you."
"But Caroline," Jane began with some surprise, but stopped abruptly. It would not do to speak ill of his sister. She folded her hand together and stared at the floor.
Bingley got up from seat and moved across the space separating him from Jane. He took the seat next her. He gently place a finger under her chin to turn her face towards him.
He looked into her eyes and stated, "If I had known you were in London, nothing would have kept me from calling upon you." Jane blushed and tried to look away. Bingley kept her face turned toward him.
"I would have returned to Netherfield last winter, had not I been wrongly persuaded that you held no more than a passing affection for myself, and, I must confess," Bingley had some trouble saying what he wanted to say, " I thought that you felt, I had hoped for, I wanted more from you, because," Bingley took a deep breath, "I loved you, Jane, I am still in love with you," the words came out in a rush.
He could see tears in Jane's eyes. He dropped his hand and looked away from her, feeling stricken, maybe Darcy and his sisters had been right the first time. "I am sorry," he began, starting to get up from the chair, when he felt Jane's hand on his arm.
She smiled through her tears, "I have dreamed of this moment but did not believe that it would ever be possible." Bingley was greatly relieved, "Then I can hope that return some of my affection?" Jane, unable to speak, nodded.
"Jane, would you do me the very great honor of consenting to become my wife?" Bingley asked.
Part II--Jane's reply
In another part of the house Elizabeth begged, "Please let me go down to Jane. I promised her I would not leave her."
"Stay where you are," Mrs. Bennet commanded, "another five minutes will do the trick."
So Elizabeth fretted about Jane, Mrs. Bennet dreamed of bridals, Mary wondered what she would sing at the reception, and Kitty hoped to be a bridesmaid. Meanwhile, back in the drawing room.......
Jane got up from her seat, and moved toward the fireplace, she turned to face him, unsure of what she was going to say.
"Jane, what is the matter?" he asked with concern, looking confused, for this was not the respose he expected.
Unfortunately for Bingley, just as Jane had been about to say yes, the thought of his sisters invaded her head like a poisonous serpent. They would not look kindly on the match, hopeful as they were for a more prominent connection. This thought so distressed her that she blurted out her thoughts, "I had scarely hoped that you would offer for me for Caroline said you were to marry Miss Darcy. . . "
"Georgiana!" Bingley interrupted with astonishment. "But she is just a child. I have never given my sister any reason to suppose that I felt anything more for Miss Darcy than the affection for a friend's sister." He stood up and moved to stand next to her. "Come, perhaps it is best if you tell me everything that took place between my sister and yourself, so there can be no more misunderstandings."
"When you left Netherfield, Caroline wrote to say she thought you would be staying in London, especially as Miss Darcy was there. Lizzy thought you be back by the following week." And so I should have been, Bingley berated himself. "She later wrote that you would not be returning at all."
"After Christmas" Jane continued, "I went to stay with my aunt in London. I wrote to Caroline--twice--to tell her I would be in London and hoped to call upon her." She noticed Bingley frowning, but she did not know that he had asked Caroline if she ever heard from Jane, and been told "No".
"I did visit her once, but I now see that she was unhappy to see me, and when she made her return visit, it was clear that she had no real affection for me." As Jane said this, Bingley realized that Caroline's behavior had deeply hurt Jane--who never pretended friendship for his sister, but had actually meant it. "She said," Jane caught her breath, "she said you knew I was in London but were to busy with Miss Darcy to see me."
Bingley felt his anger rise at Caroline's manipulations. If she had been in the room, she would have seen a storm of fury quite out of the ordinary for her easy going brother. However, he let go his anger (for the moment) for the need to know Jane's response to his proposal was more important.
"Jane, despite all lies that my sister told you, you are the only woman I have ever considered marrying. And you will marry me, won't you?"
Jane had barely whispered "yes" before Bingley kissed her, somewhat chastely at first, but with increasing ardor when she returned his kiss. Both were startled by the intensity of their emotions. When the kiss was finally over, there were no longer any doubts on either side.
Bingley brushed back a wayward curl that had fallen upon her cheek. "I love you, very much, and nothing anybody does or says will ever make me change my mind." It was a promise from his heart. "I shan't let you get away from me now," he said in a lighter, teasing manner.
Jane smiled shyly at him, "I have no desire to get away, for I love you."
"Jane, I believe you have made me the happiest man alive," Bingley positively beamed at Jane. Jane return his smile, and when he began to lower his head to kiss her again, she was waiting with much anticipation, when the door was thrust open and Lizzy came into the room.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.