Somebody Else’s Gentleman is my newest 2021 release. The story premise poses the following question:
What happens when Elizabeth meets her knight in shining armor—a tall, handsome stranger who rescues her, comforts her and stirs her passions in ways she never dreamed possible? What happens when the next time they meet, he appears to be somebody else’s gentleman?
As Miss Caroline Bingley is the somebody else in question and she truly believes Mr. Darcy is her rightful property, she exercises extraordinary measures to drive a wedge between the gentleman and potential rivals for his affection.
Here’s one of my favorite instances of Caroline trying to poison Mr. Darcy’s mind against Elizabeth from canon Pride and Prejudice:
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.
She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest by talking of their supposed marriage and planning his happiness in such an alliance.
“I hope,” said she, as they were walking together in the shrubbery the next day, “you will give your mother-in-law a few hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can compass it, do cure the younger girls of running after officers. And, if I may mention so delicate a subject, endeavor to check that little something, bordering on conceit and impertinence, which your lady possesses.”
“Have you anything else to propose for my domestic felicity?”
“Oh! yes. Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Phillips be placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great-uncle the judge. They are in the same profession, you know, only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
Here’s another passage from canon Pride and Prejudice I enjoy. This time, Caroline employs Elizabeth’s help in garnering Mr. Darcy’s attention:
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.”
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?”–and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?
“Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.”
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
“I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”
“Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?”
“Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him–laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”
“But upon my honor, I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught me that. Tease calmness of manner and presence of mind! No, no; I feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself.”
Being a fan of this presumed rivalry between the two ladies (at least in Caroline’s busy mind), I had fun with it in Somebody Else’s Gentleman. Here’s an excerpt I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I do:
When Elizabeth emerged from her sister’s apartment later that morning, bent on enjoying a solitary stroll in the park, Miss Bingley insisted on going with her. There was only one subject on the eager young woman’s mind.
“Oh, I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have my brother’s best friend as our houseguest for three months!” Miss Bingley exclaimed. “Spending so much time with him will be such fun!”
“Three months?” Elizabeth was alarmed. How am I to endure three whole months of possibly being in frequent company with this man?
The more she saw Mr. Darcy the more afraid of him she was becoming. She could scarcely look at him without recalling the first time she laid eyes on him. And judging by the way his eyes raked all over her whenever he deigned to look her way, Elizabeth could only suppose he recalled their encounter at the pond too.
“Yes, three months! I am not sure how I will cope with so much time to be with him, but I’m sure it will be delightful, indeed. The two of us sharing all our meals, taking frequent walks about the park—that or horse riding about the estate. That is to say nothing of our spending night after night under the same roof.” Here, Miss Bingley blushed a little. “Although, that is not to suggest anything untoward. Mr. Darcy is the consummate gentleman.”
Elizabeth wondered if Miss Bingley was speaking of the same gentleman she knew. He, a consummate gentleman?
Remembering his tender touch almost made Elizabeth forget what she was about, and she trembled deep down inside.
Miss Bingley said, “However, Mr. Darcy and I may very well be officially engaged by the end of his stay. Who is to say what might go on between the besotted betrothed?”
Elizabeth looked away and rolled her eyes before looking back at her besotted walking companion. “No doubt, you must be congratulating yourself on having such an attachment.”
The other woman nodded in agreement. “But, Miss Eliza,” Miss Bingley said quickly, “as intimate as Mr. Darcy and I are, I am sure I shall rely on you to help me in furthering my romantic quest where he and I are concerned.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean in the very special way that intimate friends often rely on each other in such a case as this. Sometimes even the most besotted man in the world will take his time in realizing the best means of securing felicity in marriage. I fear Mr. Darcy is the rule rather than the exception if you take my meaning.”
Elizabeth hesitated. It sounded as though Miss Bingley meant to employ her as a matchmaker.
Why on earth would I wish to interfere with Miss Bingley’s relationship with Mr. Darcy? Elizabeth asked the other woman as much.
“Are we not friends, Miss Eliza? Is that not what friends do—help each other?”
“I suppose there is some truth in that.”
“Wonderful!” Miss Bingley exclaimed. “I knew I could count on you.
As far as Elizabeth was concerned, she had agreed to nothing. Still, she held her tongue. To her way of thinking, appeasing Miss Bingley must certainly work to Jane’s advantage where capturing all that remained uncaptured of Mr. Bingley’s heart was concerned. Therefore, Elizabeth said nothing more on the subject. Ever the loyal sister, she would merely pretend to go along with Miss Bingley’s scheme for Jane’s sake.
“Should the chance arise for you to sing my praises to Mr. Darcy, I shall count on you to do so with alacrity,” Miss Bingley continued.
Elizabeth turned and looked at Miss Bingley. “Yes?”
“You will remember to keep your promise, I pray. Mr. Darcy likes me, to be sure. However, gentle reminders from those whom he holds in esteem from time to time can only bolster me in his eyes.”
A bit taken aback, Elizabeth asked, “You suppose Mr. Darcy holds me in esteem?” It was a fair question to be sure, for most of the time Mr. Darcy and she were in public they pretended they did not even know each other. Whether she was following his lead or he was following hers Elizabeth could not say—but the fact remained that they behaved as little more than indifferent acquaintances when others were around.
Miss Bingley frowned. “Of course I do. Why on earth would he not? I assure you; Mr. Darcy is far more generous than you must suppose him to be. He is one of the best men I know. I daresay he is the very best, as I am sure you will learn once you get to know him better. Were he not such a kind, loyal, and upstanding man, I am sure I would not be half so much in love with him as I am. He really is a gentleman.”
Elizabeth really did not know what to think of Miss Bingley’s glowing assessment of Mr. Darcy. Perhaps she had been too harsh on him since overhearing his uncharitable remark at Lucas Lodge some weeks ago. What was more, he had risked his life to save hers, even though she was still unclear about what really happened between them in the aftermath of her rescue.
Miss Bingley took a step forward and reached out her hands for Elizabeth’s. “Miss Eliza, there is something I want to say to you. Something I have scarcely ever said to anyone of my own sex before. You are the most kindhearted person I have ever met. I believe we will become the dearest of friends.”
Elizabeth stopped and looked at the young woman standing before her. Can this be Miss Bingley?
The look on her face was so sincere and full of gratitude that Elizabeth was taken aback. Her initial impression of Miss Bingley had been that she was heartless and cold—precisely the sort of female who ought to stand by Mr. Darcy’s side. This picture of the young woman was not only contrary to every preconceived notion Elizabeth ever held of young women of Miss Bingley’s ilk, but it was rather refreshing as well. Refreshing and oddly disturbing.
The skeptical part of Elizabeth could not help but wonder if Miss Bingley was so insecure in her status in Mr. Darcy’s life that she would resort to flattery and duplicity to ward off potential competitors for the gentleman’s affection.
Wait—potential competitor? Elizabeth frowned a little at this unlikely depiction of herself. What in the world am I thinking?
Miss Bingley turned and walked away but paused and turned back.
“Miss Eliza, I just want you to know that I was not raised in a loving home as you no doubt were. I was taught to disdain anyone whose circumstances in life were less than my own. I have not always understood the true meaning of friendship. But I promise you, Miss Eliza, I will do my best to show you that I can be a most loyal friend. I just want you to know that.”
Then, with that, Miss Bingley turned and walked away again.
She stopped for a second and turned to Elizabeth once more.
“And one other thing, my dearest Miss Eliza. If you find someone that you are in love with as much as I am in love with my Mr. Darcy, I will be there for you as well, supporting you and celebrating with you. I promise.”
Is this yet another example of Caroline’s duplicity or a hint of her sincerity? What say you?
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