Bingley Hears Darcy’s Confession by Susan Mason-Milks
At first, Bingley was certain he had misheard his friend. Then his confusion turned to anger as he took in the implications of what Darcy was saying.
“I should plant you a facer right now.” Bingley jumped to his feet, but instead of moving to hit Darcy, he began to pace.
Darcy sat up very straight in his chair and stared off across the room as if he could not bear to meet his friend’s eyes. “I would not blame you at all if you wished to hit me.”
“How could you? You knew I loved her!” Bingley, who never raised his voice, heard himself shouting. In an attempt to keep himself from carrying out his threat, he held his fisted hands at his side.
“Last autumn, I thought I was looking out for your best interests when I told you I did not think Miss Bennet held you in any special regard. I now believe I was wrong. I am sorry. Truly sorry.”
Darcy’s words stunned Bingley. This strong, confident man had never apologized to anyone for anything, not in the entire time Bingley had known him. Bingley wrinkled his brow as he digested this new information.
“What changed your mind? Is this based on something you learned from someone or on your own observations?” Bingley asked. He wanted to understand what had caused his friend’s change of opinion.
“The latter. In our two recent visits with the Bennets this week, I watched her closely. What I thought was indifference I now believe is her natural modesty.”
“Yes, that is what I always believed, too, but you convinced me…and I…” Bingley’s voice trailed off. He scrubbed his hand through his hair.
“I was mistaken about her in so many ways. I interpreted her calm manner as a sign of indifference, that she was only following her mother’s instructions to trap a wealthy husband.”
“She is not deceptive, just reserved.”
Darcy nodded. “But even if I had been correct in my assessment, I was wrong to have interfered at all. You and you alone should have judged her interest. You spent time with her and were in a much better position to know her heart.”
Bingley took a deep breath and closed his eyes to better envision the beautiful lady who was the subject of their discussion. He sighed. “Miss Bennet is an…”
“Yes, I know. She is an angel,” Darcy said, managing a half smile.
Bingley felt his anger melting away at the mention of his favorite way of describing Miss Bennet. “Soon I hope she will be my angel. I must go see her immediately.”
He was starting for the door when Darcy said, “Wait, there is one more thing I must tell you.”
“Something else?” Bingley’s smiled turned to a frown.
Darcy hesitated as if what he wished to say was causing him actual pain. “I concealed something from you for which I am now heartily sorry.”
“You had best just tell me,” Bingley said, impatiently.
“Last winter, Miss Bennet was in town for two months, staying with her aunt and uncle in Cheapside. Your sisters saw her and decided to keep it from you. They shared this intelligence with me and begged me not to tell you either. At the time, I thought it the best course of action.”
Bingley felt his temper rekindling, and he resumed his pacing.
“Again, I know I overstepped. I should have told you what I knew and let you decide for yourself.”
“She called on my sisters, and they did not tell me?” Bingley picked up a book and thought about throwing it. He had to find a way to get rid of this unfamiliar anger burning inside him. He slammed the heavy volume on the table and glowered at his friend. “YOu conspired with my sisters? How could you do that to me? You knew I was suffering terribly being separated from her.”
Darcy looked resigned. “If you cannot forgive me, I will understand. My interference was inexcusable.”
Seeing his friend so obviously suffering was not easy for Bingley. Slamming the book had helped a bit. Envisioning putting his arms around Jane and kissing her calmed him even more. He walked to the window and looked across the fields in the direction of Longbourn, which was just beyond the last visible rise.
Miss Bennet had never been out of his mind the entire time he had been away. Waking and sleeping, she had haunted him! Many a night he had restlessly walked his room while thinking of her. After hearing Darcy’s confession, Bingley’s first inclination had been to blame his friend and sisters for these months of misery and suffering, but he was beginning to recognize some of this was his own fault. Because he did not like conflict, he often gave in to others, especially his sisters, even when his own instincts told him otherwise. This was an important lesson to him that he should have more faith in his own judgment. At last, he felt calmer, more in control.
Turning away from the window, he saw Darcy was staring at the floor. Bingley walked over and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “You cannot take all this on yourself. I am at least partly to blame. It is a mistake I will not make again.”
This conversation seemed to mark a shift in the balance of their friendship. Bingley was always the one who looked up to Darcy almost as an older brother. He realized now he had been depending on his friend too much. If he was going to be the kind of man who deserved the love of someone like Miss Bennet, he was going to have to make more decisions on his own. She would be counting on him – that is, if she accepted his proposal.
“You are off to town this morning?” Bingley asked.
“Yes, I have some business there.”
“Do you know when you will return?” Bingley asked, shifting the conversation away from the topic that had become much too personal and uncomfortable. He was very careful to say “when” and not “if.”
“So I would still be welcome here?” Darcy asked quietly.
“Of course. You are always welcome in my home.” It was the best way Bingley knew to let Darcy know he was forgiven.