Well, dear readers, I have been busy at my computer today, writing Chapter 3 of An I Promise To… Christmas. Here is what I wrote. I put a small snippet of it on fb earlier. This teaser is longer, but the beginning is the same.
Bingley awoke the next day determined to speak to his twin as soon as possible. He asked his valet to inquire of Caroline’s mad if she was awake and ready for visitors.
“Oh, and Bailey, if my sister is not going to be available to speak to me right away, ask her maid to tell her that I require an audience with her this morning, before she breaks her fast.”
The manservant nodded and moved away to do his master’s bidding. Within a few minutes, he returned with news that Miss Bingley would see her brother in her sitting room in a half-hour.
Bingley spent that time rehearsing what he would say. Caroline’s behaviour was serious. Very serious. He did not know what was going on in her head to make her think such behaviour as she had exhibited towards Mrs Darcy most of this visit was acceptable. She did not normally behave in such a fashion, at least not when he was near. Certainly when they were children she was been sweet-natured, much as he himself still was. However, when she had come back from school, he had noticed that something was a little different in her manner. Since it had never previously affected him directly, he had not thought much on it. Now he wished he had. He was not about to risk his relationship with his oldest and best friend to protect his most difficult sibling. Twins they might be, but the two were as different as night was from day at this point. He loved her dearly, but it was beyond time that she took responsibility for her actions.
When the appointed time came, Bingley presented himself at his sister’s sitting room door, knocking firmly. He gathered his fortitude around him like a great blanket as he waited for permission to enter. He was going to need as much of it as he could muster to get himself through this interview. Upon hearing Caroline’s voice bidding him to enter, he took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Good morning Caroline,” he began.
“Good morning, Charles. I was surprised at your summons so early this morning. Could this not have waited until after I had eaten?” Miss Binlgey knew why her brother was standing before her. She hoped, however, to put him off. It was not that she thought she could manipulate him; he had always had the ability to stand up to her, or anyone, who he felt was wrong. It was just that she knew how ladies in Society were expected to behave, and Charles did not. He had not been to her school and learned what she had about moving amongst the higher classes. If the Bingley family were to join the highest circles, she must learn to behave appropriately. Nothing she had done this visit had been any different than what had happened in any other location where women gathered.
“No, Caroline, it could not. Would that I did not have to address it with you at all, but I must. I will not allow you to come between me and the man I count closer than a brother. Your behaviour to Mrs Darcy was beyond the pale. What has come over you to behave in such a way? You have never been vindictive before? And what about fawning all over Darcy? What were you thinking? Caroline, he is married. That is forever. He is out of your reach, not that he ever would have considered you in the first place. Not the way you have acted since you left school. What happened to change you?” By now, Bingley had grown angry. His face red, his arms waving, his pointing finger punctuated each point he made. Every time he looked at his twin, his anger grew, for she sat there as though she had not a care in the world. She looked bored, and if he had not been taught to never strike a lady, he would knock her off that settee and make her sit up and take notice. Instead he paused, turning away to look out the window and get his pique under regulation. No wonder Darcy does this so often, he thought.
“I did nothing wrong, Charles. Women of the ton speak in that manner to each other. It is the way things are done. I fail to understand why you are so upset.”
Charles whipped around from the window to stare at her incredulously. “The way things are done? I have attended dozens of dinners, balls, and card parties, Caroline. I have observed Darcy’s family…all of them, male and female alike…and have not seen them behave in such a manner, ever. I have been to St James’ and Almack’s and have never observed such goings on in either place. In public, Caroline, ladies do not behave in that way. What is appropriate in one’s own home, and I am not saying all the gossiping you do is appropriate even there, but what is acceptable behaviour in one’s home is completely different than what is allowed in public. Visiting a friend’s home is the same as visiting in public when the gathering is this large and mixed with both family and those who are not. If you wish to defame anyone, not just Mrs Darcy, do not do it in public! You are setting both of us up for failure, Sister, and I will not have it. Darcy is my oldest and dearest friend, and I will not lose that for anyone, not even you.” Here Charles paused a moment to collect his thoughts.
“Caro, there are consequences and ramifications for every action a person takes. There are consequences that I must now enforce for you so that our family may maintain its respectability and the friendship of the Darcys. Fitzwilliam is the brother I never had, and I will not give that friendship up. You have been acting strangely at times ever since you returned from school. I have ignored it up until now, but no longer. Lord Walton had asked permission to speak to you about a courtship. However, he no more than made his request than Darcy’s uncle informed me of your behaviour, and Darcy himself told me in no uncertain terms that if your behaviour does not change, he will cut off our friendship. Walton was present during this discussion, and we decided that he will marry you.” Bingley raised his hand to quiet his sister, who had begun to speak out in protest. “Nothing you say matters at this point, Caroline. There is no other option for you. I will not have you in my household, and you know Hurst will not either. It is beyond time that you married. You have been “out” for four Seasons. I know that you were holding out for Darcy, but that ship has sailed. You will be Lady Walton in a few weeks and that is that. He will speak to you later today, and you will accept him.”
Caroline wilted a bit under her brother’s glare. He was rarely as angry as he was at this moment. It was rather frightening to see, and she could not immediately think of anything to say to appease him. She did not, however, want to be told who she was going to marry. Why should she be forced to marry because she told some home truths about a meaningless country nothing? So she married Fitzwilliam Darcy…she was still a nobody. Tasteless, uncouth, and without manners. Still, another peek at Charles’ face was enough to keep her from voicing those thoughts. I had best try to calm him, she thought.
“Very well, Brother. I will marry this Lord Walton.” Good, he seems to be relaxing a bit. “I do not like being forced to marry, but to make you happy, I will,” she sniffed, raising her chin. Though that does not mean I will make it easy on Lord Walton.
And there you have it! What do you think?