You can find previous posts HERE.
“Why would she not have you? I see no reason for her to reject you.” Bingley knew he was close to securing a solution. He had learned from his father that there were always a few nagging details which threatened to sink any negotiation. Hopefully, this obstacle would be easily overcome, although, with Darcy, even a small obstacle could become nearly insurmountable when he was in a dour state of mind, such as he was this evening.
“She believes George Wickham.” Darcy drained the remaining liquid from his glass and placed it firmly on the table next to him. “Which means he has once again stolen from me that which is dear.”
“He has not,” Bingley refuted. “He did not succeed with Georgiana, and he will not succeed with Miss Elizabeth either.”
Darcy’s jaw clenched as he shook his head. “He has already influenced her against me.”
“How do you know?” With any luck, there would be a great leap that had been made by his friend who could be overly pessimistic about things at times and see one small error as the ruin of a project.
“She questioned me about Wickham at your ball.”
Bingley leaned back in his chair and bit his cheeks to keep from smiling with satisfaction. He had heard about Miss Elizabeth’s questioning as Darcy had vented his frustration on an innocent set of billiard balls. It might be challenging to overcome the obstacles of George Wickham and Miss Elizabeth’s poor opinion of Darcy, but from Bingley’s position when considering the whole scheme of Miss Elizabeth and George Wickham, there was at least one way in which he knew he could very likely prod Darcy into action.
“Ah,” Bingley began, “so that is the real reason why you were in such a rush to return to London. You were unwilling to fight for Miss Elizabeth. Do you really think of yourself so meanly when compared to him? I must say it is rather startling that you do.”
Darcy bristled as Bingley knew he would. Not even the staid Mr. Darcy could keep from reacting with displeasure when his masculine sensibilities were challenged. In fact, Bingley knew that Darcy’s sense of honour was likely more honed and, therefore, more easily provoked than most gentlemen in the higher echelons of society.
“I do not trust him to behave in a way which will not bring harm to all those I care about.” Darcy’s voice was satisfyingly close to a growl. “It is safer for her if I do not fight him. He could not only harm her but her family as well.”
Bingley shook his head. He knew that his friend would not allow any about whom he cared to be placed in harm’s way and would sacrifice himself to see them safe, but his logic, in this case, was sadly lacking. “Have you listened to yourself?”
Darcy’s brows furrowed in question.
“Tell me. Exactly how is Miss Elizabeth safer with him than with you?”
Darcy huffed in disbelief, and Bingley waited patiently for him to explain why Elizabeth was safer with Wickham than with himself.
“He will leave her alone as long as he does not think I am interested in her,” Darcy explained. “Why do you suppose he singled her out to befriend after our meeting on the street in Meryton? She was acquainted with me, and my shock upon seeing him may have left me unable to hide my jealousy. Wickham knows me well. He would not miss such a thing. However, she has no money to tempt him into anything more than a light flirtation, and he would never risk being tied to a woman that would not provide amply for his expenses.”
Bingley shrugged. “True, but I still do not see how she is safer. What if she does lose her heart to him? While he may not marry a penniless woman, he is not above taking the little she has to offer.” His brows rose as he gave his friend a pointed look.
Darcy groaned and ran his hands through his hair. “Surely, she would not succumb to his charms. She is far too intelligent.”
“And Georgiana is not?”
Darcy was on his feet and pacing. “What do I do? Ride back to Longbourn and tell her stories of his past?” He sighed and shook his head at such a foolish idea. “She does not like me. I am sure I cannot convince her of his failings. I will only look like a vengeful fool.”
“So do not convince her,” Bingley replied. “She has a sister in town, and there is always the possibility of a well-worded letter placed in the hands of a man she respects such as her father or Sir William. I am sure Wickham has amassed a fair number of debts within the past months. Let her see his character for what it is. She is intelligent. She will see the error in her judgment.”
Darcy stopped mid-stride and turned to look at his friend. Relief suffused his features. “Bingley, I do not give you enough credit for your depth of understanding. You are positively wise tonight. Where do you suggest we start? With Miss Bennet?”
Bingley chuckled softly at his friend’s exuberance — a word not often associated with the man standing before him. “As much as I would love to start with a visit to Miss Bennet, I rather think a visit to your cousin would be better.” Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was well-known and respected by many. He also happened to despise Wickham. Both were items that could help their cause.
“Perhaps Richard could have some influence with Wickham’s commanding officer? Colonel Forester may wish to know of Wickham’s tendencies to gamble and dally with the ladies — not all turn a blind eye to such behaviors, you know. You do not even have to mention Miss Elizabeth to Richard. You just have to let him know where Wickham is. I doubt your cousin needs any further incentive to make the man’s life as miserable as possible.”
Darcy’s lips curled in a knowing smile. “Richard would need very little incentive to relieve Wickham of his life. If you will allow me, I will send a note to him now letting him know I need to speak with him.”
Bingley motioned to his desk. “Whatever I have is at your disposal.”