"Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel–writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding.... There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?”

“Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language." --Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bingley's Blunder, Chapter 4

All I can say about the end of this is-- Oh, yes I did.

Chapter 4

In the Announcements section of a prominent London newspaper:

Engaged: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire, to Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. Also, Mr. Charles Bingley of Netherfield, Hertfordshire, to Miss Jane Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire.


In the society section of the same prominent London newspaper:

            So the truth has come out at last! Those who care to peruse the Announcements of this paper will note that the rumors that the wealthy Mr. Darcy of Pemberley has at last cast his handkerchief at the feet of a maiden are truebut the Miss B in whose possession that handkerchief now resides is not the same Miss B of rumor! Instead of the fashionable sister of his longtime intimate friend, the gentleman has chosen an unknown gentlewoman from the beautiful county of Hertfordshire. Who could this mystery maiden be? All of society waits with bated breath to meet her!


In breakfast rooms across London:
[very mean-spirited chortling]
“So you see, Mrs. Snitchwood,” concluded Bingley, “I am afraid that my careless remarks may have led you to an erroneous conclusion, but the truth is that Darcy is to marry the sister of my future bride, and that is how we shall be brothers.”

“Oh, Mr. Bingley,” breathed Mrs. Snitchwood, “I am honored by your confidence. Of course, I assure you that we were not the source of those rumorswere we, Lucy, dear?”

“Oh no, indeed, Mr. Bingley,” agreed Miss Lamb solemnly.

“But we are most gratified by your current explanation. What a marvelous thing for both of you! To be marrying sisters!”

“Yes, I assure you it is most marvelous. Would you do me the favor of relating this to all your acquaintance? My sister was quite distressed to be the subject of false speculation, and I know sheand Mr. Darcywould be grateful for any assistance in making the truth known.”

“Oh, of course, Mr. Bingley!” She clasped her hands together. “We shall be delighted to assist youand Mr. Darcy. Of course we would not breathe a word of it without your permission, but, in the cause of truth, we will do our best.”

“In the cause of truth,” nodded Bingley.

“Now, pray tell…” She scooted a little forward on her seat. “Miss Jane Bennet is the elder, you say? And Miss Elizabeth the second? What charming young ladies they must be, to be sure! Can you not tell us of them?”


            Miss Thane, when she read the paper, laughed for a long time before she put on her pelisse, bonnet and gloves, and called her carriage. Fifteen minutes later she was being put down at the Hurst townhouse. It took all of Miss Bingley’s resolution to not deny her immediately.

            Miss Thane walked into the room still smiling. “My dear Caro!” she exclaimed. Caroline, who disliked being called Caro as much as Elizabeth disliked being called Eliza, winced. “I have come to commiserate.”

            Miss Bingley drew herself up with as much dignity as she could muster. “I have no need of commiseration.”

“No?” Her lips curved mockingly. “A country chit, Caroline? How embarrassing!”

The other half-turned away. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“And I’m sure you do. Darcy, my dear! Darcy’s real engagement. You couldn’t bring yourself to say it, could you? You couldn’t bear to admit that he was actually promised to another!”

This was far too close to the truth. Caroline’s color rose, but she managed to retain her composure and gestured for the other to be seated. “It was not my secret to disclose,” she said as she sat herself, looking as cool as she could under the circumstances. “I did tell you it had been a mistake.”

“And what a mistake! No wonder you were so perturbed! What a mockery of your hopes!”

Miss Bingley stood up jerkily. “Diana!”

“No, no, sit back down. You must tell me everything about this Miss Bennet! Of course it’s clear how the mistake came about. Darcy is getting married, but to Bingley’s sister-in-law, not his sister! So who are these charmers who have swept your men off their feet?”

Miss Bingley winced again, but answered faithfully. “They are” she swallowed. “They are the daughters of a very respectable country gentleman. I believe the estate has been in their family for generations. They arevery highly thought of there. The preeminent family in the area! Until dear Charles arrived, of course.” She smiled a forced smile.

Miss Thane, who was not much deceived, eyed her with amusement. “Are they very rich?”

“I could not undertake to say the size of their dowries,” she replied with dignity. “It was quite enough to satisfy my brother and Mr. Darcy!”


“Twenty thousand pounds a piece, I heard!”

“Really? Ten thousand is the figure I’ve heard.”

“I heard they have nothing at all. Absolutely penniless, but great beauties!”

“Like the Gunning sisters!”

“Not at all. Mr. Darcy may be rich, but he’s hardly a duke.”

“Aye, he's far more fastidious. Ten thousand at least I say, and very beautiful.”

“I cannot agree. Darcy has seen the richest, most beautiful women in England for years, and never shown any sign of interest.”

“Well, she must have something special about her. After all, he did offer for her.”

“I wonder if it was a forced marriage. Perhaps she sought to entrap him somehow!”

“Posh! He’s far too clever for that! As if women haven’t tried that before on him!”

“Well, this one evidently succeeded. What a jab in the eye for all our London women, eh? Won’t they be furious!”

“Hertfordshire!” wailed Miss Wasson. “Hertfordshire? He chose a woman from Hertfordshire? Why not Ireland? Why not Yorkshire? Why not China, while he’s at it!”


 “Well, I for one wouldn’t have thought it of him,” grumbled Sir Edward Tristan over breakfast. “Darcy, of all men! I would have said he was a dashed sight too proud for an alliance of that sort.”

“And Miss Bennet? Who, pray, is Miss Bennet?” demanded his indignant wife. “Who is she, to take such an eligible man away from our girls? She should have stayed in Hampshire.”


“What does it matter? Wherever it was, she has no business marrying a man of his stature.”

“Dashed suspicious, if you ask me. Never was such a proud fellow as young Mr. Darcy. Thought he was holding out for a duke’s daughter, or something of that sort.”

“It seems clear to me that he’s making a fool of himself. And over what? A country girl? The daughter of an insignificant squire? What can he have been thinking?”

“Well, I can tell you what he was thinking,” replied Sir Edward. “Humph. He was thinking like a man, that’s what. Wouldn’t have thought it of him. Darcy! Dashed odd. Dashed odd.”


“Ha! I knew it! I knew Caroline Bingley couldn’t have caught him! He doesn’t care two pins for her, I always said it!” crowed Miss Jurbish victoriously to her companion Mrs. Winterly. “Didn’t I always say it?”

“To be sure.”

“He would rather marry a country nobody than marry her. And who could wonder at it? I’m sure she drove him to it!”

“To be sure.”

“Oh, won’t I gloat over her over this one! And she had the gall to look at me in such a superior manner the other day, when all the while she wasn’t engaged to him at all. Why, everyone knows the Bingleys’ only claim to especial notice is their connection to Darcy. Ha! It’s almost worth losing him myself just to see her humiliated!”


            “If it wasn’t for the fact that the Hursts have apparently been trying for days to say it was all a mistake, well… you know what people would say.” Mrs. Hardcastle gave a knowing look to her spinster sister.

            “Very unamiable people I’m sure,” replied that lady primly.

            “I for one would never believe she was so desperate as to attempt to force his hand that way.”

            Even though he had just offered for someone else.”

            “Even though, yes. Unless…” she pressed her lips together.

             “Yes, sister?” prompted Miss Prism eagerly.

            “Well, I would never be so uncharitable as to suggest it, but some people I know might even have insinuated that Mr. Darcy heard the rumors and then offered for Miss Bennet….”

            “To escape Miss Bingley, you mean? Why that would be a shocking suggestion!” She clucked her tongue. “It is fortunate none of those people will say such a thing now.”

             “Yes, poor dear creature, I feel for her keenly.” Mrs. Hardcastle sighed. “To be at the mercy of gossiping tongues is an unkind thing indeed. I am sure her disappointment is quite grievous even without such a fate.”

            “I am so pleased that none of those sorts of rumors can be spread about now.”


            “Well if you ask me young Bingley wasted a fine opportunity,” snorted the elderly Lord Guise. “The other engagement wasn’t announced yet; he could have pleaded honor, friendship, even breach of promise.”

            Mr. Wisner shook his head. “You forget he’s marrying the other one. I can’t imagine it would have gone down well in his marriage bed, eh, to have persuaded his friend to cast off her sister? Even such an arrogant fellow as Darcy would be wary of starting marriage on those terms.”

            “Well then if you ask me they’re both fools. Fools for love!” He snorted again. “In my day we did things differently, I can tell you that.”


In the society section of another prominent London newspaper:

            Who are the Bennet sisters? In news that is sure to leave society gasping, these young women of unknown origin have successfully attached two of England’s most Eligible Bachelors, including the inscrutable and much-sought Mr. F. D.  How did they do it? What secrets have they to impart to our incoming debutantes? Rumors are rampant as we speak.


“I do not like to boast, but he confided in me first,” said Miss Bingley impressively to her circle of guests. She was quickly discovering that whatever she had lost in consequence by not being the betrothed of Mr. Darcy she had gained in being the best source of information on his betrothed. “I believe I was aware of his attraction to her before anyone else was.”

The ladies gazed at her with bright, gleaming eyes. “Well?” prompted one. “What did he say?”

Miss Bingley appeared to consider whether she should impart such information. Then she leaned forward confidentially. “We were at a party,” she began, as four other heads inclined towards her in a ring, “and Mr. Darcy appeared most abstracted. So I asked him what he might be thinking of, and he said…” she paused for dramatic effect, “‘I was meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.’” Four ladies sighed in romantic pleasure. “So naturally I asked him whose eyes could have inspired such admiration, and he replied, as coolly as you please, ‘Miss Elizabeth Bennet.’ That was very early on in their acquaintance, you know.”

“Oh, Miss Bingley, he must have been in love with her already, to say such a thing,” breathed Miss Alice Simmons.

“Yes, I never heard him give a compliment to any woman in my life,” put in another. “Why, the nicest thing he’s ever said in my hearing is ‘Your playing was very tolerable, madam.’”

“That was to Miss Grey, and she preened like a peacock when he said it,” sniffed the third lady. “As if it were the equal to him declaring his regard!”

“She must be very handsome, Miss Bingley?”

“She isquite pretty, I believe,” replied Miss Bingley, with credible sincerity. “Mr. Darcy… Mr. Darcy told me once that he thought her one of the handsomest women of his acquaintance! Her sister Jane, who is soon to be my sister, is a very handsome woman indeed, and very sweet. The dearest creature in the world, really! She and Eliza are very close.”

“And to think all these days we all thought it was you Mr. Darcy was engaged to. How you must have laughed!”

“Oh, of course. It was excessively entertaining. Mr. Darcy and I quite laughed about it together.”

“How did that story start, my dear Miss Bingley?” Miss Marlburg smirked. “I must admit to being very curious to hear it.”

All four ladies gazed at her expectantly, with an expression that told her that if her explanation was not sufficient, she would be heartily laughed at later.

“It was all my brother’s fault,” she said bitterly. “He came to town for little more than a day on business, and told an acquaintance in the street that he and Mr. Darcy were to be brothers by marriage! And then he ran after a man selling a horse before he could explain further.” Since Mr. Bingley had already cheerfully agreed to shoulder the blame publically, she felt no guilt at all about tossing him under the cart thus. “I would be extremely vexed if it weren’t so amusing!” she added, suddenly reverting to her society tone.


At Brooks’s, White’s, Boodle’s, and other Gentleman’s Clubs Which Shall Remain Nameless:

[money changes hands]



“They say he’s madly in love with her,” whispered Miss Wishon to the soon-to-be Countess of Chesney.

“How vulgar,” she sniffed.

“But horridly romantic!”

“Horrid is right. Madly in love! I wouldn’t have Lord Chesney madly in love with me for the world.”

Miss Wishon, reflecting that Lord Chesney was fortyish, balding, and more than a little chubby (not to mention the fact that he stammered), snickered behind her fan.

“Only Commoners,” continued the other, “fall in love. My mama used to approve of the Darcys, but now she says they’ve become Common. We shall have nothing to do with them when he brings her to town.”

Miss Wishon, reflecting that the future Countess’s family was so desperately in debt that everyone knew the that jewels around her neck were really paste, and that her father courted the friendship of every rich person he could latch onto, snickered behind her fan a second time.

“I still think it’s romantic!” she declared. “Not that I would want him to fall in love with mehe’s far too serious, and do you know he wouldn’t dance with me when we were presented?—he hardly dances with anyonebut that just makes it more romantic, don’t you think? He was as cold as ice until he met her, and now he’s Abandoning All for Love.” She sighed.

Her companion sniffed again. “Love? Romance? Commoners!”


            Mr. Niven Tutor stood outside the Hurst townhouse. He had read the announcement in the paper along with everyone else, but it had taken him a full three days to work up the resolve to come. Miss Bingley was truly unattached now, but it did not follow that she would look at him any more than she had in the past. He was still not, and never would be, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

            He went up to the door, plied the knocker, and presented his card to the butler. A few minutes later he was being ushered into a sitting room. Miss Bingley was alone.

            “Mr. Tutor,” she said, coming forward, “how very nice to see you. It has been a long time since I have had the pleasure of your company.”

            He smiled. “I apologize, Miss Bingley. I am glad you have not forgotten me.”

            “Forgotten you? Oh sir, I assure you, I could never forget you.” She smiled at him. “Won’t you have a seat? My brother is in town, and will be back shortly. I know he would be most happy to see you.”

“And I him. In fact, since I have an appointment shortly, I brought a note for him.” He reached into his inner pocket. “Would you be so kind as to give this to him for me?”

“Why, of course, Mr. Tutor, I should be delighted.” She took the note and looked down at her brother’s name written across it. “What fine handwriting you have, Mr. Tutor.”

He took a seat and raised one eyebrow. “I know you have a great appreciation for good handwriting, ma’am.”

“Indeed I do.” She sat down next to him. “You must have occasion to write so many letters! Men always do. I wonder you do not find it tiresome.”


Seated next to the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple at a dinner party, Lord Blatherworth let his opinions be known. “I don’t know what Matlock was thinking, to allow it!” he rumbled. “If it was my nephew I’d have a thing or two to say to the matter, I can tell you! It was bad enough when it was that Bingley woman, but now it’s a Bennet. Bennet, Bingleywhat is it with all these ‘B’s? Well they all spell the same thing to me: Bad Blood, that’s what!

“Oh?” said the Dowager Viscountess.

On his other side the usually staid and shy Mr. Miniver had consumed a little too much of the pre-dinner refreshments. He smiled vacantly and repeated to himself, “Bennet, Bingley, what is it with all these ‘B’s?”

A little further down the table other sentiments were being aired. “Well, I think it’s a capital thing that the boy has found someone to suit him,” said Sir William Greenly staunchly.

“And it’s a fine thing that it’s not Caroline Bingley,” murmured Mrs. Corbin.

“Yes, poor girl. Never did think her hopes would come to anything.”

“No one thought her hopes would come to anything.”

“Bennet, Bingley, what is it with all these ‘B’s?” from down the table.

“I intend to stand by him, whatever Blatherworth and his ilk may say.”

“Well, it’s not like she’s a shopkeeper’s daughter, or a,” she lowered her voice, “chorus girl. He’s a gentleman, she’s a gentlewoman, why shouldn’t he marry her?”

“Yes, exactly, exactly my point. Capital! Capital!”

A little further up the table, on the other side, a Mrs. Corrine Brickle, a very imposing matron, was saying to Lord Valorous (who, whatever his name might imply, was a sickly and foppish young peer), “It doesn’t surprise me at all that Mr. Bingley is marrying the sister of Mr. Darcy’s bride. He always did follow him in everything!”

“Quite, quite,” chuckled Lord Valorous. “You are quite right, madam.”

“But who are these Bennet women? No one seems to know anything, except Miss Bingley, who of course is just trying to puff off her own consequence.”

“Bennet, Bingley, what is it with all these ‘B’s?”

“Well, I don’t know, but I have heard they are quite lovely, you know.”

“Which one is the elder? Is it the one Mr. Bingley is marrying, or the one Mr. Darcy is marrying?

“I believe the one Mr. Bingley is marrying.”

“Well, that doesn’t seem right. The elder girl ought to marry first, you know, but Mr. Darcy is first in consequence, there’s no denying that.
He simpered. “And both of them will be marrying before Miss Bingley.”

“Yes, and I daresay it serves her right, for dangling so shamelessly after the same man for all these years.”

“There are some who say the late mistaken rumors were all a plot on the part of Mr. Bingley to force Darcy to marry his sister instead.”

“One wonders, of course—a frightfully bold scheme, it would have been, of coursebut it seems Mr. Darcy was simply too attached to his Miss Bennet to fall for it. Bingley has achieved his aim of alliance with that family in any case. It seems almost certain to me that Bingley will marry first; the older sister must marry first, you know.”

“SO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING, MADAM,” suddenly intruded Sir Oswald Pinterninton in a loud voice, leaning quite rudely across the table towards them, “WHAT YOU ARE SAYING is that the Bennet who becomes a Bingley will be a blushing bride before the Bennet who is Darcy’s darling bride, and both the beauteous Bennets will be brides before the Bingley who took Darcy as her darlingthis despite the daring by which Bingley blundered brides!”

“Bennet, Bingley, what is it with all these ‘B’s?”


  1. If Niven Tutor has anything to say about it, both the beguiling Bennets and his beloved Bingley will be blissful brides before the banal de Bourgh.