Darcy was successful in arranging the marriage of Lydia and Wickham. Now he must determine whether he wants to try again with Elizabeth. How does Darcy suggest to Bingley that they return to Netherfield?
September 20, 1812
Darcy climbed the steps to the small town home Bingley had leased in London. He was grateful his friend was no longer residing with his sister and her husband, as this allowed them to visit without Miss Bingley hovering about them.
Bingley had been unsuccessful in locating a home in town that suited him enough to purchase. Darcy believed there was more to his friend’s apathy than just not finding anything to his liking; in fact, he was convinced he still yearned for Miss Jane Bennet.
Darcy stopped at the door and closed his eyes as he considered all that had happened in the past few months. The exultation of finding Elizabeth walking the grounds about Pemberley – despite the initial awkwardness – gave him hope for a second chance with her. He had watched in delight as she and Georgiana seemed to share an instant affection for each other. Suddenly those months of self-loathing after Rosings were erased from his thoughts.
But then there was Wickham. How dare he run off with Miss Lydia! It incensed him! He was furious with himself, however, for not being open about the man’s character, but he was also grateful he had been able to salvage the situation for Elizabeth’s benefit. He did it solely for her, knowing there was no guarantee that she would ever return his love.
Darcy had debated whether to encourage Bingley to return to Netherfield, for even though it would give his friend much delight in being united with Miss Bennet again, he would be thrown in Elizabeth’s company. He doubted he would be able to endure another rejection from her.
But now he was ready. His friend had suffered too long, and he was determined to make things right. The thought still caused him turmoil as he considered seeing Elizabeth again. She had been most cordial to him and his sister while at Pemberley, but there was no guarantee that her feelings had changed since she had refused his offer. But at least his friend would be happy. He would do it for him.
He lowered his head and began to rub his jaw. Should he confess to Bingley that he had seen Miss Bennet in town earlier this year? He slowly nodded his head. Yes, he would, but after they arrived in Hertfordshire. There was no sense getting Bingley’s hopes up if Miss Bennet’s heart was no longer inclined towards him.
Startled, Darcy looked up to see Bingley at the door.
“What are you doing here? Did you knock?” He turned to the butler. “Did you not hear him knock?”
Darcy put up his hand. “I had not yet knocked. You are on your way out. But pray, do you have a moment to talk?”
“For you, my friend, I will make time. I was just on my way to the Hursts. Please, come in.”
Darcy gave his friend a nod of thanks and entered, walking past Bingley’s outstretched arm. “This sounds important, Darcy. I hope nothing is wrong.”
“Nothing is wrong, but I want to discuss something and hear your thoughts on the subject.”
The two men walked to the sitting room and sat down. Would you like something to eat?”
Darcy waved his hand. “Thank you, but no.” He sat erect with his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, his hands tightly clasped as his friend eyed him expectantly.
“I was wondering whether you ought to return to Netherfield.”
Bingley reacted to his friend’s words with a quick jerk of his head. “I still have possession of it for a few more months, but I did not feel that I should…” Bingley took in a deep breath and his brows lowered as he glanced down. “I do not think I should return.”
Darcy unclasped his hands and dropped them to tap his fingers on his leg. Very softly, he asked, “Do you still love her? Do you still love Miss Bennet?”
Bingley shook his head several times before he spoke. “Oh, I have tried to forget her. I have tried desperately, but to no avail.” He met Darcy’s eyes. “I am in earnest, good friend. I know your thoughts on the matter, but I do still love her.”
Darcy was silent for a moment and looked down at his hands. He deeply regretted what he had done and how much it had hurt Bingley. “I would suggest, then, that we return.”
Bingley’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “Do you really believe that I should?” Bingley’s words tumbled over one another. “Do you think… do I dare hope… am I understanding you correctly? You want me to return to Netherfield?”
“Most definitely, and I will accompany you.”
Bingley stood up and clapped his hands together. “When shall we leave? I can be ready by tomorrow morning.”
Darcy put up his hand to stay him. “You ought to first send word to have the housekeeper prepare for your arrival. Send a message today and in a week’s time we shall depart.”
“Oh, yes! So good of you to give such wise advice!” He let out a satisfied huff. “I am going to Netherfield!” He looked back at Darcy. “Do you really believe this is best?”
“I cannot guarantee how events may transpire, but I hope that everything will work out for the best.”
“Yes! I am certain it shall!”
The two men stood and Bingley approached his friend. “I could hug you, Darcy!”
Darcy laughed softly. “Please, do not. Save it for Miss Bennet… when it is appropriate for you to hug her.”
“Yes, I shall! And I must get that missive sent to Netherfield directly!”
The two men said their goodbyes, and Darcy departed. He stepped out the door and drew in a deep breath. His friend was eager and confident that Miss Bennet would receive him as warmly as he hoped. He could only hope her sister would do the same for him!