While searching for Jane Austen quotes that might apply to my upcoming story, Something to Think Of, I was especially delighted when coming across the following:
“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.”
Given that Darcy and Bingley both face competition for the women they love, this quote is perfect. Poor Bingley, especially, will bear the brunt of his lady’s dilemma. And rightly so in my humble opinion.
I hope you’ll enjoy this next excerpt from Something to Think Of.
Something to Think Of – Chapter 4
Darcy looked up upon espying his friend Charles Bingley enter the room. It had been ages since they last saw each other. For a while, they had kept in touch by way of letters. That was before Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Since then, Darcy had cut himself off from almost everyone.
“I had expected your return to town weeks ago.” Taking a seat, Bingley sank contentedly into the finely upholstered chair.
Situated on the opposite side of his large mahogany desk, Darcy set aside the book he was reading. “Indeed, but I decided to travel to Somersetshire rather than come directly to London.”
“In your last letter, you mentioned Miss Elizabeth being in Kent visiting her friend Mrs. Collins. Did you have occasion to spend time in each other’s company?”
“Numerous occasions, in fact,” Darcy said.
“Did she happen to ask about me? I suppose she must wonder about my failure to return to Hertfordshire as I had promised.”
Did she ever, Darcy considered. Much to his chagrin, his deliberate interference in his friend and her sister’s relationship had been the catalyst for his most heated debate with Elizabeth ever—the one in which she rejected his offer of marriage.
“She did,” Darcy said, hoping he would not have to say more.
“You would not believe this, but I could swear I have seen Miss Bennet here in town—on many occasions, in fact. At the theater, at a shop in Mayfair, and at one time on a crowded street. I always supposed it was just my imagination running away with me. Surely were Miss Bennet in town, she would have made her presence known to me.”
“Actually, it may not have been your imagination at all. Miss Bennet is in town—at least she was here in town visiting her relations in Cheapside. I do not know if she remains in town.”
“What! Did Miss Elizabeth tell you her sister was in town?”
“And you thought to keep this information to yourself?” Bingley pounded his fist on Darcy’s desk, disrupting a stack of papers. “Can you explain your reasoning?”
Explain my reasoning? Darcy considered while watching his suddenly embolden friend nurse his aching hand. Since when have I sought to explain my motives to anyone?
Since I wrote a lengthy letter trying to explain myself to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, his broken heart whispered. Would he ever forget the pain of having to write such a letter? To that day, its opening paragraph weighed heavily on his mind.
“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you or humbling myself by dwelling on wishes that cannot be too soon forgotten for the happiness of both. The effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention. Your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.”
Never before had he bared his innermost thoughts to anyone. Only Elizabeth had garnered in him so much trust. He prayed he would never have cause to regret such openness on his part.
Feigning indifference toward Bingley’s uncharacteristic outburst, Darcy shrugged. “I am telling you now, am I not?”
Bingley sprang from his seat and started pacing the floor. “It has been months since Miss Bennet and I saw each other. The last words I spoke to her were the promise of my imminent return.” He looked at Darcy. “Do you think she will forgive me? Do you think I stand a chance of reclaiming all that I might have lost of her affection?”
Busy tidying up his desk, Darcy said, “I am happy to accompany you to Cheapside to call on Miss Bennet if you think it will help.”
“You would really do that for me?” Bingley asked, his countenance overtaken with hope.
“Of course I will. What are friends for?” he asked, not exactly letting on he had his own motives for wanting to go with his friend. No one knew how deeply in love with Elizabeth he had been all that time in Hertfordshire. She had bewitched him like no other woman he had ever known, and not even the sting of her harsh rebuke had released him from her spell. If there was a chance to see her—even if for the last time, he would take it.
“But why? Not that I do not appreciate the gesture, but I know how fastidious you are. I should imagine hardly a month’s ablution enough to cleanse you from its impurities, were you to enter that particular part of town.”
After a moment’s reflection, Bingley continued, “That is, unless you wish to observe Miss Bennet and me together to make sure of her attachment. Is that it? Because if it is, then I will have to decline your offer. Going forward, I shall follow my own counsel where it concerns Miss Bennet.”
“As you should,” Darcy said.
“If that is not your reason, then pray tell me what is?” A hint of understanding flashed before Bingley’s eyes. “Unless your wanting to go there is because of Miss Elizabeth.”
“My reasoning has everything to do with Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy conceded. “I finally came to realize just how much she meant to me,” Darcy confessed to his friend. “Indeed, I told her as much when the two of us were in Kent.”
Of course, Darcy dared not tell his friend that he had proposed to Elizabeth and she flatly rejected his proposal without a second thought. In this matter, he, too, would keep his own counsel.
“It was too no avail,” Darcy said in response to his friend’s stunned silence. “I came to know she had a dreadfully unfavorably opinion of me.”
He recoiled on the inside in recollection of Elizabeth’s words: “From the very beginning—from the first moment, I may almost say—of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
“I fear our manner of parting ways in Kent left much to be desired. I should like the chance to make amends,” said Darcy.
“Well then,” Bingley stated, “Of course you must come.” Unable to keep the wide smile from spreading across his face, he asked, “When shall we go? Now that I know Jane is here in town, I cannot stand the thought of us being apart a moment longer than necessary.”
“I hate to dampen your enthusiasm, but I am afraid you will have to wait until tomorrow. It would be highly inappropriate to call on anyone at this hour, especially with this being the first meeting with the Bennets’ London relations. That is assuming Miss Bennet is still in town, for she very well may have returned to Hertfordshire by now.”
This thought pained Darcy, for if Miss Bennet were no longer in London, the same would likely go for Elizabeth. Who was to say when or if he would ever see her again?
“Not only that,” Darcy said, willing away his melancholy. “Did you not insist upon my accompanying you to the theater this evening? We made this plan months ago.”
The last thing in the world Darcy wanted to be doing that evening was attending the theater. Especially during that time of year, when eager mammas as far as the eyes could see would be promoting their simmering daughters before men with sizable fortunes. He did not have the heart to turn his friend Bingley down. As heartbroken as Bingley still was over Miss Jane Bennet, at least the younger man was out in society trying to put on a good face.
Being partially to blame for Bingley’s disappointed hopes, attending the theater with him was the least he could do, especially since Bingley was availing himself of Darcy’s private box. The theater, however, is where he meant to draw the line. Darcy was certain he would not be attending balls and private dinner parties and the like. He was, after all, nursing his own wounded heart and disappointed hopes—even if he was the only one who knew it.
“I did indeed. And, of course, you are correct. For the sake of propriety, my reunion with Miss Bennet will have to wait until tomorrow.” Bingley flashed a broad smile—one Darcy could not help but notice.
“What are you thinking, Charles?”
“I am meditating on the possibility that Miss Bennet might be in attendance at the theater this evening.”
A bit of hope crept into Darcy’s mind at hearing this. Were both Bennet sisters in attendance, it would be an interesting prospect indeed.
That night at the theater, Jane made an excuse of wanting to refresh herself. She really hoped to free herself from the unease she suffered in espying Mr. Charles Bingley. She had only caught a glimpse of him before he disappeared into the crowd, but she was sure it was him. She would recognize his striking mane from among a thousand men.
The last thing Jane expected was to see him in the lobby. But there he was, standing nearby a column. Searching. Waiting.
Had he seen her as well? Was he looking for her?
I must compose myself. I simply must. I am here with Mr. Hemmingsworth as his mother’s guest. Mr. Bingley is part of my history.
Her heart pounded. Maybe an accidental encounter with Mr. Bingley is just what Jane had been hoping for—the reason she had escaped her party in the first place. Or maybe not.
It is too much. It is too soon, Jane considered, even though her very reason for being in town had been to reunite with Mr. Bingley.
His pernicious sisters’ behavior all but dealt a death blow to Jane’s scheme. Her feelings being anything but indifferent, as she had hoped, Jane determined to strike a different path than the one which was sure to bring her face to face with the past.
“Miss Bennet? Is that you?” Jane heard someone ask.
Jane turned to identify the speaker. She forced a smile to her face. “Mr. Hurst,” she said, curtseying.
“Well—well, it is you! It has been far too long since my eyes suffered the pleasure of beholding so much beauty.”
“You are very kind, sir.”
“I say nothing that is not true.” He raised his monocle to his eye and indeed beheld Jane from head to toe.
She could feel the color spread all over her body. She always knew the gentleman to be licentious. Still, she rather supposed his propensity was reserved for food and drink.
“My brother, Bingley, is also in attendance this evening. No doubt he will want to see you.” Mr. Hurst offered Jane his arm. “Shall the two of us go in search of him?”
Looking just over Hurst’s shoulder, Jane noticed another gentleman heading her way. Mr. Charles Bingley.
There really is no escaping him now.
Mr. Hurst lowered his arm and stepped aside to make room for Bingley. “Here you are, Brother. I just invited Miss Bennet to go in search of you.”
Bingley swallowed. “Miss Bennet,” he said, his voice a half-broken whisper.
Her composure no less disturbed than his, Jane thought to extend her gloved hand, but she did not. It was far too bold a gesture. She clutched either side of her gown and curtsied instead. “Mr. Bingley.”
His tone conveying something of real regret, Bingley said, “It is a very long time since I have had the pleasure of seeing you.”
Before Jane could reply, he added, “It is above six months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield.”
Jane was pleased to find his memory so exact. If only he had remembered to keep his promise to return to Netherfield after he concluded his business in town some three days hence. Jane was sure she did not wish to discuss the matter at that moment.
Trapped in an awkward engagement with two gentlemen was not Jane’s idea of how she ought to be comporting herself that evening. Then, Mr. Stanford Hemmingsworth joined the party. He offered Jane the beverage he was holding.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, accepting his proffered drink. “How did you know I was in need of refreshment?”
Tucking both hands behind his back, the handsome gentleman stood straight and tall. “I like to think the business of my life is anticipating your needs, Miss Bennet.”
Smiling, Jane tore her eyes away from Hemmingsworth’s long enough to take a sip of her drink. A familiar staring deep inside overtook her, and soon enough, she gazed into Hemmingsworth’s eyes again.
Mr. Bingley cleared his throat, summoning Jane’s attention as well as Hemmingsworth’s.
“Friends of yours from Hertfordshire, I presume?”
“Yes,” Jane began, “well, actually, no.” A bit flustered, she said, “Allow me to introduce you.” Gesturing to the elder of the two, she said, “Mr. Hurst, Mr. Bingley, this is Mr. Hemmingsworth.” Before either gentleman could muster the usual civilities, Jane said, “Mr. Bingley resides here in town—that is to say, he was, or rather he is my neighbor in Hertfordshire. His estate abuts my father’s. Mr. Hurst is Mr. Bingley’s brother-in-law. He also resides here in town.”
Hemmingsworth said, “Mr. Hurst, Mr. Bingley, it is my pleasure. I have heard good things about Hertfordshire. I understand there is so much to entertain. I, too, am thinking of acquiring property there.”
“I am sure you would find it to be a lovely place,” Bingley said. “I have no complaints.” He looked at Jane and continued, “I miss everything about it.”
His words drew Jane’s eyes to his. Neither seemed capable of looking away. His words were so simple, yet so eloquently put. Jane was surely affected.
“How could you not?” Mr. Hemmingsworth asked, directing his inquiry pointedly to Mr. Bingley. “I shall consider your words as a wholehearted endorsement.” The gentleman extended his arm to Jane. “Shall I escort you inside? My mother must not worry over our long absence.”
Here’s something to think of: Now that Mr. Bingley has met his competition for Jane’s heart, how do you think he fared? Next up, Mr. Darcy meets his competition under eerily similar circumstances. How do you think he will do?
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