Author's Note: I was cleaning out some old documents and found this little drabble from about ten years ago. It was inspired by the book as well as the 2005 movie version. As Jane Austen didn't provide the details of the proposal, and neither did Joe Wright, I'm sure others have written something like this before. Yet with everything happening in the world right now, I thought maybe we could use a little bit more fluffy goodness.
No matter what they said, his affections for her had not lessened. Not one jot.
Yet he had abandoned her. How his own words tormented him now - how he had once laughed at himself for being so changeable, so easily persuaded! What a fool he had been.
Caroline and Darcy had, of course, thought him a fool for loving Jane so passionately, when she was not believed to return his affections. Yet it was because he had been persuaded away from her that he knew he was a fool.
Now, however, he would not be deterred from his course.
It was Darcy who had first persuaded him that Jane did not truly care for him - and it was Darcy who, after being later convinced of the falseness of that initial premise, acted in haste to correct it.
With Bingley's characteristic haste, they had set out for Hertfordshire almost immediately after the revelation. On the carriage ride, Bingley had nearly worn his hat down into nothing, passing it in circles between his fingers.
His first proposal had been to Darcy, for practice.
His first attempt at a true proposal had gone awry. For when he met with her again, when he saw the radiance of her beauty, the gentle blue sea of her eyes with a question in her gaze… he had been overcome by his feelings.
His second attempt at a proposal would not fail. Perhaps Miss Bennet would refuse him, and he would dare say that he would deserve it, too, for how he had treated her. But he would not falter in his endeavor this time.
And so he had marched in to the Bennet home once more, just like a soldier might have done. Indeed, Miss Bennet's refusal might be the death of him, but he must know. He must know, once and for all.
The room of ladies looked at him in astonishment as he entered. He should not wonder at their surprise, having taken his leave of them mere moments ago, only to return so suddenly.
"I know this is all very untoward," he managed, "but I would like to request the privilege of speaking to Miss Bennet." Even he was surprised by the firmness of his voice, but it was matched by the resolve of his mind. He did not hesitate a moment before he added, "Alone."
His eyes were fixed upon her lovely face. He wished to read there what she was thinking, what she was feeling. He was aware only of her, and of his heart, pounding in his chest.
"Everyone to the kitchen," Mrs. Bennet said breathlessly; he heard her words as if in a dream, as if underwater. "Immediately. Except you, Jane, dear, of course."
Though his gaze remained steadily on Jane's face, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Mrs. Bennet kiss her daughter's hands. Yes, of course; his intentions had been understood.
She approached him then - Mrs. Bennet, that is, not Jane, for he did not dare expect that yet - and he managed to tear his eyes just briefly from Miss Bennet.
"Oh, Mr. Bingley - it is so good to see you again, so soon," she said, and then she had hastened away.
Miss Elizabeth was the last to leave, and before she did so she looked at him, their eyes meeting for a long moment. Something passed between them, unspoken, and whatever it was strengthened Charles' resolve.
He glanced behind him. Miss Elizabeth had closed the door.
It was then, when the room was quiet and the others were gone, when everything else was forgotten except himself and Jane, that things grew more difficult.
His stoic façade was not easy to maintain, as it was quite unlike him, but this was a solemn and sacred moment, and he was quite determined not to ruin it. He had done enough of the like already, what with his sudden disappearance and reappearance, and, as he had stated, he was aware that it was quite untoward. But he could not have waited another moment. He needed to do this. And Jane, beautiful Jane, perfect Jane… she would know what was in his heart. She had always seemed to.
He looked up at her and every plan that he had made up in his mind to follow, the careful rehearsal he had done with Darcy, was entirely forgotten when he looked into her eyes.
"First," he began, "I must tell you that I have been a most unmitigated, incomprehensive fool."
Without further ceremony, he lowered himself to one knee. Surely Jane, bright as she was, could have no doubt now as to his intention.
"Mr. Bingley," Jane breathed - perhaps in protest for what he had said about himself, for she was always so good, so generous; or perhaps in surprise at his newly-adopted posture.
He had walked in so sure, so filled with the exact words he intended to say. Yet in that moment, they all flitted from his mind. Though he had excuses and explanations for why he had left Netherfield, why he had not seen her in London, he could not summon them to mind just now. And they did not matter. For this was to be the defining moment of his life, and, he hoped, a happy one.
"Miss Bennet, I…"
His confidence faltered as he looked up at her. She was so inexpressibly lovely, looking at him with extraordinary patience in her eyes. After what he had done, leaving Netherfield so suddenly, never even writing to her, he did not deserve such kindness. He did not deserve her. Yet he wanted her, more than anything.
"I love you," he burst out. "I have loved you from the moment I first laid eyes upon you, and I was a fool for not telling you so sooner."
As he watched her with the utmost care, he wondered at the way her blue eyes sparkled; they always did so, he thought, but now, especially so. And he realized that they were tears.
"Oh, this is a disaster, isn't it?" he mumbled miserably to himself, running a hand through his red hair nervously and looking at the floor, unable to meet her gaze out of guilt. He couldn't believe he was making her cry. He really was a fool.
He was speaking rapidly now, scarcely pausing long enough to breathe.
"I know there is some possibility that your feelings for me are not what mine are for you," he murmured. It was that very thing which had deterred him once, upon Darcy's counsel and his sister's. He would not flinch away again, though, even if it was true. "But it has been agony to be parted from you these past nine months."
For he remembered exactly the last day upon which he had seen her.
Since that time, he had grown. He would not blame his sister or his friend for his leaving. If his character had been more steadfast, more self-reliant, more faithful to his Jane, he would not have been so easily turned aside from her. And it was upon his shoulders alone that he would lay blame.
"I was wrong to leave, Miss Bennet," he confessed, "and I wish never to be from your side again. I must know… I must know if…"
Pausing, he swallowed. He was conscious of the trembling of her lips, the soft fall and rise of her chest with shallow breaths. He must go on before he lost his nerve.
"I am here before you, my dearest, loveliest Miss Bennet, baring my soul, and begging you to relieve me of my agony - asking you if you would, in fact, be mine. If it pleases you, of course… say you'll be my wife, and make me the happiest man in the world."
There was a moment of heady silence, in which he believed he could hear his heartbeat throbbing in his ears. There was no sound but that and the agonizing tick of the clock.
"Yes," she said at last. A warm, happy laugh bubbled from her throat, tears glittering in her eyes. "A thousand times, yes."
At once, he sprang up from his feet. A smile spread over his face, so insistent that his cheeks began to hurt.
And for the briefest of moments, he allowed himself the divine pleasure of clasping her close to him - his beloved Jane, who would soon truly be his.