Renee Olsthoorn

Bed of roses

Renée Olsthoorn

Mr Bingley's Dashed Expectations


Sprawled in one of the comfortable leather armchairs of his London club, Charles Bingley absentmindedly stared into the tumbler of brandy he was enjoying, ignoring the idle talk of the other gentlemen boasting of their latest amorous conquests and various other 'sports' in which they excelled. 

He loathed the disrespectful manner in which his friends discussed the young women of their acquaintance. Admittedly, he had not been very different from them in the not so distant past. He had been in love, or so he had thought himself to be, many times, but after umm... a 'dance' or two with the object of his passion in a private room well away from the ballroom, his admiration always decreased rapidly and the fluttering sensation in his stomach that he felt upon seeing or thinking of the lady in question simply ceased. Often enough the expression out of sight, out of mind appeared to be quite appropriate. Not this time though - not since he had met Miss Jane Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. From the very beginning of their acquaintance at the Assembly hall in Meryton, this angelic young woman had dominated his thoughts. 

Upon his word, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld and whenever he thought of Miss Bennet -- which was almost constantly the case -- he forgot entirely the real world surrounding him. In his head he could still hear the soft sound of her voice coming from her sensitive mouth. He remembered the becoming blush that appeared on her cheeks and how modestly she had cast down her fine eyes when he smiled at her. He enjoyed the memory of her uncommonly pleasing figure. He so longed to unpin her golden hair; it had seemed soft as satin. Her natural scent mingled with the subtlest hint of lavender almost drove him wild with desire and had made him dislike even more the perfumes with which his sisters so abundantly sprinkled themselves. Inadvertently he sniffed the air, as if it would help him to recall the fragrance better. 

The time she had spent at Netherfield had been sheer torture: to have her under his roof for so many days had given rise to dreams from which he had awakened exceedingly aroused and bathed in sweat. When, on the other hand, he was unable to get to sleep he had tossed and turned and had been in some pain not to slip inside her bedchamber to seek sweet oblivion in the softness of her arms. Bingley chuckled at the thought As if she would ever have permitted me to enter her room at night! 

Bingley gradually became aware of the fact that he was not alone in his club, and noticing the puzzled glances cast at him by his friends, he sighed deeply and, slightly embarrassed, said: "Pardon me, old chaps, a private joke. Pray, pay no attention to me. Please go on, I am listening." 

She had given him the impression of being completely earnest, guileless and artless, so very refreshing in comparison with the ladies of the ton he knew. He was convinced that she had received his attentions with pleasure and had returned his affection with sincere, if not equal regard. At least, he had believed this to be true. 

Alas, that did not seem to be the case, at least according to his best friend, on whose judgement he relied. How could he have been so mistaken? Since Darcy had informed him a month ago of his own belief in Miss Bennet's indifference towards his person, he had had no choice but to face the cruel truth: she did not love him as he did her. 

It had seemed so crystal clear to him: she was the woman of his dreams. But a dream she will remain. I will not be given a chance to show her my deep devotion, nor will I ever know the joys of love she could give to me. My life might as well end here and now; I would not know of another way to forget her. He thought dramatically, taking another sip from his brandy. 

Heartily endorsed by his sisters, Darcy had told him the pitiless intelligence regarding the lack of Miss Bennet's feelings for him. 

"Pray, Charles," he had said, "Miss Bennet is a kind, cheerful young woman, but you must forget her. She liked your society and most of her smiles were addressed to you, I grant you that. But upon my honour, as far as I could perceive, the serenity of her air and countenance were such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that her heart was unlikely to be easily touched." 

Bingley was quite surprised that he remembered Darcy's well-turned phrase so accurately after the couple of brandies he had tossed down, but then again, these words had affected him deeply, nay, had shocked him. The message kept ringing in his ears. He had not expected this in the very least. He remembered the ball: the dances he had danced with her had felt divine, as if they presaged the perfect match that he and she would make. Her quiet elegance, her fluid movements, had enchanted him. Her soft humming whilst listening to the music had been so charming, as if she was in a world of her own. The feel of her hand in his had coaxed shivers of sheer delight down his spine. Whilst partaking of the white soup, she had given him so much opportunity to speak of his own concerns and interests. She was such a good listener. She did not rattle on like the other young ladies of his acquaintance. Indeed she did not talk much at all, but, upon his word, he had sensed that she held him in high regard. The manner in which she had looked him in the eye had been agonisingly sweet. 

"Darcy, are you certain, absolutely certain? The impression she made with me is so different. Did I truly see more in her countenance than there was, because I wished to do so?" He had asked, his voice broken with grief and regret. 

"Oh yes, I am certain, most definitely. I dare say your perspective is umm... a little muddled, Charles, which is understandable. I have seen you in love many times before, and as many times you were either disappointed or indifferent in the end. However understandable that you wish your regard for the said lady reciprocated, I most strongly urge you to not deceive yourself, my friend." 

"Darcy, I know you are never wrong, but did you, by any chance, take her poor and -- in your view undoubtedly objectionable -- relations into account? If that be the case, you must know that I do not care about them, not in the very least. And, if she would love me like I do her, we would be perfect for each other." 

"Admittedly, Charles, there are certain other evils for such a choice," Darcy had replied, "The family's want of propriety is appalling, except for the object of your affection and the second eldest Miss Bennet. Their behaviour is beyond any rebuke. But, you must trust me: all indications lead me to believe most strongly that her indifference towards your person is most definitely based on impartial conviction regarding her feelings alone. Apart from that, do you not agree that 'love' is too strong a term here? You have known the young lady but a few weeks! I most fervently advise you not to return to Hertfordshire." 

"You must be right, Darcy, you always are, are you not?" Bingley had replied most sadly, "I will do my best to forget her and will not return to Hertfordshire. What else is there for me to do? If I cannot rely on your judgement, on whose should I rely then?" 

"On your own, perhaps?" Suggested a little voice in his head, which unfortunately was too soft for him to hear over the raucous laughter of his friends enjoying another joke at a lady's expense.


©Renée Olsthoorn


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