Posted on 2015-03-30
I am Charles Bingley, now of the county of Derbyshire, and there is something I need to set straight for my own peace of mind. What you or others will make of it I have no control over. It is thus: I have been accused by some "friends", acquaintances, and even by people who know nothing of me, of acting in a hesitant, and indeed a faint-hearted, manner in an affair of the heart. It is claimed that my indecision almost cost me the woman I truly love. It is not so......
Fair weather friends, for that is how I class those who are so ready to believe any rumour or gossip that circulate amongst those rich and idle members of our society without morals or decency, are hardly worthy of the title 'friends' at all. Indeed, such people are hardly worthy of mention except to state that unfortunately they exist. The whole section of society of which I am a part, has become indolent and bored to the point of making an art of gossip and adopting the media adage of never letting the truth get in the way of a good scandal. My own story has been told in such a way that it fortunately leaves a lengthy passage of time missing and unexplained, - some eight months or so in fact - and passes no judgement on my actions therein. In one respect this silence was almost as damning to fertile imaginations as outright lies. Let me then set down my own relating of that period so that you may judge my actions for yourselves.....
Last year I left Netherfield Park, an estate I had just moved into around Michaelmas in high good spirits and with a lightness of heart that only someone in love can really know. Miss Jane Bennet, a most beautiful lady I had recently met and been drawn to like a trout to a fly - although that sounds an indelicate way of expression - was uppermost in my thoughts, and my every action bore along thoughts of her that gave me a feeling of constantly floating on air.. I had met her at a local assembly at Meryton in Hertfordshire, invited along there by Sir William Lucas a resident of the town and a new acquaintance. As soon as I saw her I was totally captivated by her looks and sought an acquaintance and claimed a couple of dances with her. To find that her manners matched her appearance, and that she was sweetness personified, was way beyond my expectations, but it was so. Both my sisters were both so drawn to the lady that, even with such a short acquaintance, they wished her for a friend. My own friend Darcy may claim, tongue -in- cheek, that he has seen me fall in love many times. It is not so, and never was. Mild infatuation of two days duration is hardly 'madly in love'. Indeed, having once spoken to most of the women whose looks attracted me it was obvious where their intent lay. It had little or nothing to do with love or affection. They were painted butterflies and, where love was concerned, with a similar life expectancy.
I must state with complete honesty that, in Jane Bennet's case, love and affection were hopes within me rather than any stated intent. Normal social intercourse was strictly observed between us and the feelings within me were that it was a period of just following a path with patience. Jane Bennet is never the sort of person to make rash assumptions or decisions. I like to think that, just as I did, that she thought it might just be a matter of time before we moved on together. Alas, it was not to be. The undisclosed part of my story begins when business took me to London, very shortly after Miss Bennet had graced a ball at my home I intended a couple of days in a London hotel and a speedy return to Netherfield and a renewal of acquaintances with my friends and, of course, Jane Bennet. In that intent I was to be bitterly disappointed. . Little did I know then I would not return for eight months of unspoken unhappiness.
On the second day of my stay in London, Darcy arrived at my hotel on a surprise, but certainly not unwelcome visit and invited me to stay in his house in town. That decision required no thought and I settled my bill and accompanied him to his home to find both my sisters there. Their plans were to spend an extended visit and winter there and when I confessed a desire to return to Netherfield all three protested strongly against it. What reason needed me back at Netherfield in winter? Far better they claimed, to spend the Christmas season in the capital amongst friends and acquaintances than amongst the rain and mud of a country environ with just Meryton as entertainment . With rumours of the militia moving on, how dull would it be? When I explained that my reasons were strongly concerned with Miss Bennet, Darcy expressed surprise, even amazement. Love? Had any such subject passed between us, had anything at all been said of an engagement? On my admittance it had not, Darcy told me he had observed Miss Bennet's reaction to my attentions as nothing more than polite friendliness. He had, he claimed, certainly sensed no indication of overdue affection at all. Darcy is a true friend and would neither lie, nor advise me ill. It must be the case. My sisters agreed this was the truth of it in their views. In addition to being bitterly disappointed if this really were the case, inwardly I chastised myself for believing differently. I had taken things for granted that didn't exist. How embarrassed would Miss Bennet have been if I had raised my hopes enough to offer a proposal she did not wish? Such hopes were gone! I must stay away. The general mood was that a potential disaster had been averted.
Despite the Christmas season, the period following my acceptance that I had been a fool, was neither a joyful one, or one of much consequence. Society was, on the surface, little different than its normal round of house parties, acquaintance visits and a couple of balls, all of which I completed with little enthusiasm whatsoever. Several society ladies introduced their daughters forward after seeking acquaintance but my heart had no interest in thoughts of romance. I endeavoured to be myself as much as possible, but inside it was as if a part of me was missing. Darcy had his own matters to attend to for much of the time, including his annual visit to his aunt as Rosings Park with his cousin, but sweet Georgiana was in residence which helped as we took several carriage trips out to the country so that she could paint. I even attempted a couple of rural views myself but they would hardly trouble the swarms of artists wanting to paint the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Wellington and it was too cold to be out there too long. Thus time went by.
Alone in my room before retiring I secretly wrote several letters to Jane Bennet; letters never meant for more of a life then a couple of painful hours before being consigned to the fire flames. If I thought it may help I was deceiving myself there too. I must try harder to forget. Did I toy with the idea of a return to Meryton on a purely social visit to Longbourn? Yes, that too and more than once. It would not do and may cause even more pain. It was of little consolation but time did begin to ease the pain and memories slowly but progressively. Spring, and some pleasanter trips with Georgiana strengthened our fondness for each other, but it was in a brother/sister way and thus our time was pleasant and anticipated. Caroline was ever in attendance and Louisa and Mr Hurst called frequently in the evenings for cards and supper. The pains eased and slowly faded and by May time I was once again my own master and in control of my emotions. Talk of dispensing with the Netherfield let completely occured and alternative options were briefly discussed. Darcy decided we should all travel back to Pemberley in June, for he had been to long away from his estate, and thus when my sister, Georgiana and I arrived it was then that he announced he had met Elizabeth Bennet, Jane's younger sister, purely by chance the previous day in Pemberley's grounds. It appeared she was touring Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle and had visited his home unaware that he was there. I was shocked. Derbyshire is some hundred and fifty miles from Hertfordshire and I confess she was the last person I expected to find there. When he told me he was visiting her at the Inn at Lambton on the morrow, all my good intentions and self-control were overwhelmed in a crazy rush of heart-pounding exuberance. I had to see her. I had to know about Jane. I had to!.
To those of you familiar with our story you will know what happened then. What you may not, cannot know is that when I met Jane Bennet again, hardly a word was spoken. People claim the the eyes are the windows of the soul. I can attest to its truth. We looked at each other and there really was no need for words .
Darcy? Yes, I do believe he thought he was acting in my best interests and that fact made him behave out of character. Seeing my joy at being reunited with Jane he confessed to his wrongs and I forgave him. In retrospect, Darcy's actions were mainly governed by an element that, until he met Elizabeth Bennet , had been almost unknown within him. What did he know of love? Fondness for close friends was almost an admission of weakness to him and for strangers he encouraged nothing but social correctness. For his sister he had a very special love that was possibly the strongest emotion in his life. In Elizabeth, now his wife, he found a new sensation that could do naught but make him a better man, love. This is not Darcy's story however, but my own so I'll say no more of him.
In closing, what really matters to myself is that I never totally abandoned hope that Darcy might have always been wrong, and that I will claim my actions were brave and of good intent and not those of a faint-heart. I hope my words have filled a long unexplained situation and that I may be judged satisfactorily on truth and not imagination.
I wish that you may experience in life the happiness that I myself have now found.
Charles Bingley.The End