You can find previous posts HERE.
Bingley made certain not to be available when his sister arrived home later that night, and in the morning, he took his breakfast in his study with strict orders to Jenkins that he was not to be disturbed by his sister. Then, after a few moments of clearing up some accounts and writing instructions to a particular milliner that credit was not to be extended to his sister beyond a certain point, he went in search of her.
She was at the piano forte, attempting to master a new piece of music.
He stood at the door for a moment or two listening. She was not a proficient, but she was every bit as good as the two ladies he had heard last night at the Johnson’s. Caroline was not without accomplishments, nor was she lacking in beauty. What his sister lacked was sense enough to realize that her ambitions were not to be fulfilled. She would never be the mistress of Pemberley, even if Miss Elizabeth refused the position. Darcy was not inclined to tie himself to a lady like Caroline for the simple fact that Caroline was grasping, and she lacked the sort of wit that would challenge Darcy. In fact, Bingley was quite certain that Caroline would never dispute with Darcy on much, and no matter how much Darcy liked to be right and in charge of every detail, Bingley knew that his friend craved stimulating conversation and having his opinions questioned — at least, at times. He chuckled to himself. There were moments when challenging an opinion would rile Darcy into a fit of temper. Richard was proficient at marching directly up to that point of breaking and then, with a laugh and a tease, retreating to a safer position. Bingley had witnessed it on several occasions.
At the instrument, Caroline moved the new piece of music to the side and pulled out another.
“I am off. Do not hold dinner for me. I do not know when I will return,” he said as he crossed to where his sister sat. “I have had the knocker removed from the door and have given instructions that it not be returned until I return or Louisa arrives to be a chaperone for any callers.”
“Where are you going?” Caroline asked in surprise.
“Anywhere that is not here,” Bingley replied with a small shrug. “I find I do not wish for your company at present.”
“Charles,” Caroline’s voice was soothing, “surely you cannot be angry with me for wishing to see you well-matched.”
Bingley’s smile was tight as he willed himself to remain calm. He knew that the disagreement they had broached last night in the Johnsons’ library needed to be revisited and that he needed to make his position regarding who he married clear, but he had hoped to delay it a bit longer. However, knowing what the note in his hand said, a delay was not actually feasible but merely a wish that was not destined to be granted.
“I am certain I should not be put out in the least if you showed even one ounce of concern about whether I was happy with such a match,” he said, taking up the argument of his happiness and wielding it in front of his sister.
“But I do wish for you to be happy,” she parried. “Happy and well-matched. If we are to rise above our beginnings and pass that new standing on to our children, we must align ourselves to best advantage.” She smoothed the pages of her next musical selection on the top of the instrument. “Do you not wish for your son to be more readily accepted in society than either of us were?”
There had been and still were, at times, sticking points when mixing with some in society. It was why Bingley was actively pursuing the purchase of land. For with the purchase of an estate with its fields and tenants came entrance to that group on the edge of which he could now only circulate because of his wealth and connection to Darcy but to which he could not be a member.
Land. Land was needed to become what his father had wished him to be — a gentleman in every sense of the word — educated, noble in character, and an owner of land. He knew, however, that even with his purchase of an estate, there would still be those who would think him inferior simply because his father had been a tradesman. That would not change. Though he were to marry the daughter of a king, there would still be those who would remind him of his heritage, for such is the way of some people, who can only feel superior when making others appear and feel of less importance.
“We cannot erase who our father was,” he said to his sister. “And I do not wish to remove his memory from our family. My children will know of their grandfather. He was a great man and an excellent father, Caroline.” His words must have struck a chord with her for she turned her head away, but not before he saw the glint of tears in her eyes.
“He was a tradesman,” she whispered.
“Yes, he was, and he always will be. However, he has provided well enough for me to purchase my standing as a gentleman and for you to have a generous dowry that will make it easier for you to marry a gentleman, therefore, raising your standing.” He placed the note he held in his hand on the piano. “I would not be lowering myself by marrying a gentleman’s daughter such as Miss Bennet. You know this.”
“But her uncles are not gentlemen.” Caroline lifted her chin, unwilling to admit that he was correct.
Bingley shook his head. Caroline was stubborn, foolishly stubborn. She had been all her life, and he knew that reasoning with her when her mind was set on something was nigh onto impossible. He tapped the note he had placed on the instrument. “Last night you attempted to arrange a compromise and force me into a marriage not of my choosing. This is a copy of a message that has been sent. It is the first of many which I will write limiting your spending at all your favourite shops. Should I even catch a whisper of you scheming in such a fashion again, another merchant will be made aware of your lack of funds.”
Caroline’s eyes grew wide as she read the missive her brother had written. “But there will be talk of us being poor.”
“Perhaps,” Bingley replied, “but that is your choice. Act wisely, and you shall retain your privilege to shop as you wish. Behave as you did last night and prepare to be the object of gossip and disdain.”
Her eyes narrowed , her cheeks grew red, and she set her jaw firmly.
“I will marry as I choose.”
“You will ruin us both,” she hissed.
“Have you so little faith in me?”
“You would marry …” She waved her hand toward the window in a circular motion as she sought for the right word. “A country miss of no standing. No! Less than no standing,” she rose from the stool on which she sat. “Jane Bennet is a nobody, Charles, a nobody with an uncle in trade!” She paced to the window and back, her anger evident in the measured and heavy steps she took. “I suppose you would have Darcy marry her sister as well. I saw how she flirted with him. Pretending not to like him and drawing him along. Why! That is just what Jane did with you. Batting her eyes and smiling demurely! They are fortune hunters, Charles. Nothing more than fortune hunters trained by their mother to snare the wealthiest man that enters the neighbourhood!”
“Darcy will also marry who he chooses, and it will not be you,” Bingley kept his voice calm, not because he knew it would do little good to raise it, but because he knew that keeping his voice placid would provoke his sister much more effectively, and after hearing such statements about Jane and Elizabeth as his sister had just spewed, he found he wished to provoke her.
“He would marry me if you would promote me to him,” Caroline snapped.
“Darcy would not marry you if I offered him twice your dowry.” He captured her wrist just before her hand made contact with his face. “You are a tradesman’s daughter, but that is not what keeps him from offering for you. You have not caught his interest. You are not what he seeks, and it is time you look for a match elsewhere.”
“Pemberley will be mine,” she sputtered.
Bingley held her wrist a moment longer. “I will not force him to do his duty to you no matter what position you might arrange for him to be discovered in with you. I would send you to our aunt and refuse to sign any papers or allow for a marriage. Do I make myself clear?” He released her hand only after she had given a small nod of her head.
“It might be best,” he continued, “if you were to remove to Louisa’s home. I will call on Hurst and see if he is amenable. I do not trust you and your friends not to arrange some folly that will end in some poor lady’s ruin and retreat from society along with yours.”