Author's Update: I am working on revising "A Bit of Advice." Stay on story alert for this story if you want; I plan on putting up some "deleted scenes." But because there's other things I want to write, please enjoy a preview to my new story, which is a sequel of a slightly darker tone. It involves a mystery surrounding Miss Bingley's new suitor, but still has the wackly hijinks of our favorite Derbyshire couples.
You can find it here:
http/ Question of Consent - Preview
Chapter 1 – A Most Unexpected Visitor
The servant this morning had no such worries as he entered and bowed. "Mr. Bingley, sir."
Bingley was in London. Darcy knew that as a fact. He had received a letter and had business of great import in London that could not be avoided, and with Jane still a month away, he was finally convinced by his wife to answer the call and high-tail it to Town. That was only two days ago, by Darcy's estimation, but he didn't question it and gave an approving nod.
The man who entered immediately after him was indeed Charles Bingley, still carrying his hat and looking rather weather-worn. He had clearly been riding, perhaps from Kirkland. "Please forgive – "
"What is wrong?" Darcy did not hide his concern. "Who is ill?"
"No one. I have not in fact been to Kirkland, but I did hear it and everyone is well."
Darcy frowned, and bid him to be seated, but Bingley would not. He paced by the fireplace instead as Darcy observed, "You came here directly from Town?"
"Yes. Yes, I did." He practically spit it out. "I need your advice."
"On business I assume?"
"No. Yes. Sort of. Not the business you are thinking of." As usual, Bingley was a sputtering mess, but the truth would be out soon enough, and the important thing was, Jane and Elizabeth were well and the children were well. Everything else was irrelevant and could take its time in revealing itself. "You recall I was told of pressing affairs in Town. The letter made it seem as if they were trade related." Though he rarely spoke of it, the Bingley family was still very connected to the wool trade, as it was the source of their original fortune and had potential for future fortune, but Mr. Bingley Senior had raised his son a gentlemen of leisure, so Bingley had little to do with his own business and relied on overseers and stewards to manage it almost entirely. "This was not entirely true."
Darcy simply gave him the same impatient look that said, 'Do go on, silly man who is wasting my time' that he gave to practically everybody.
"As it turns out, my sister is engaged, and was seeking my consent for her marriage to a certain minor earl. His name is Lord James Kincaid, and they are very eager to be married, but I suppose they must have imagined that I would not leave Kirkland for another month."
"And they could not come to you."
Bingley shrugged. "I suppose Caroline wanted me to meet him in the proper setting."
"So I am to understand that Miss Bingley is affianced to Scottish nobility, and you are here to ask me ... what, exactly? If you should give your consent?"
"No, not precisely." Bingley twirled around in frustration. "I dislike saying it."
"Saying what? I was not under the impression that you dislike anything in this world."
Bingley frowned, and leaned on the fireplace, facing into the dark, unlit coals. "I do not favor this man."
To this, Darcy had to give pause. Considerable pause. "In our entire history, I cannot think of a single acquaintance that you did not like immensely, even when there was ample reason for the contrary. You have spoken highly even of women who have slighted you and servants who have cheated you. So I must come to the conclusion that this man is either secretly George Wickham, or he is the most disgusting, disagreeable man in Britain."
"Precisely. Only, he isn't. He's quite pleasant, and he seems ... well, Caroline is pleased with the arrangement."
"So he is wealthy."
"Not by heritage. His particular region is not very prosperous, somewhere in the lowlands. But he went to Australia and made a fortune there, and has just recently returned to settle down."
"The lowlands, you say?"
"Yes. Not so terribly far from here, so it is not a question of my not wanting the distance between us ..." Because despite the general disposition of his siblings, Charles Bingley was a model brother and loved them dearly. "To be blunt about it, I don't know what it is that bothers me about him. I can find no proper reason not to like this man, and eagerly consent to a marriage that would make Caroline happy." He paused. "And yet, here I am."
"And I am still waiting for your answer to my question. On what subject do you need advice? Surely you cannot ask me to judge the man from afar? Or for that matter, to have any real say in the matter of whom Miss Bingley marries."
"I know, but ...," he hesitated again. "I would wish a favor from you, Darcy."
"You know you do not even have to ask."
"I would ask you to go to Town. Secretly, or to accompany, I care not. But – to put it correctly – you know something of discovering people's ... connections."