Last week, I posted a story inspired by Thomas Rhett’s Unforgettable. It had a modern setting. Today, I have a story inspired by the same song but set in the Regency Era. Let me know which you liked better!
14th of October, Regency
Charles Bingley greeted the master of ceremonies of the country assembly he attended. He had recently let a large house in the neighbourhood. Many of the area gentlemen had called and introduced themselves as a necessary etiquette before they could introduce their wives and daughters. Sir William Lucas, the man he was speaking to, introduced his eldest two daughters, Charlotte and Maria. Both seemed kind young ladies although Maria appeared very young and uncertain of herself. Bingley assumed she had only recently entered Society. Miss Lucas looked a few years his senior, and her mother desperately suggested they partner for the first dance. Never one to want to give offense and an enthusiast of the sport in general, Bingley complied.
As he led Miss Lucas to the dance floor, his eyes fell upon an angel. Her white gown had a blue overlay and exposed nearly all of her shoulders. The seductive glimpses of skin were balanced by covering her ample décolletage.
“Mr. Bingley,” Miss Lucas’ voice interrupted his musings.
“Pardon me, I was admiring the splendour of the room.”
Miss Lucas grinned. “I could see that. She is lovely, is she not?”
Bingley blushed. “Forgive me. I did not wish to offend.”
“Oh, I am not offended. I am quite used to young men falling in love with Jane. She is too sweet for me to be upset about it.”
Was he in love already? His friend, Darcy, would laugh at him for he had a habit of falling for a lady at first sight. Usually, Darcy would have to talk sense into him later and expose the lady’s cruel designs. Joining high society had been Bingley’s father’s greatest wish, but he was far more ready for the cutthroat attitudes of the ton than his son was. Bingley would rather live in the country than in London. His greatest wish was to surround himself with true friends who loved him and not his five thousand a year.
Seeing that Miss Lucas was not upset at his indifference, he asked, “Would you introduce me to her after our set?”
Bingley’s heart hammered loudly in his chest as Miss Lucas performed the introduction. He bowed over Miss Bennet’s hand and promptly asked her to dance. When she smiled at his request and agreed, he swore his heart skipped a beat.
Minutes passed while the musicians shuffled their music and couples filtered to the dance floor. Bingley grabbed a cup of punch to steady his nerves. Throughout the dance, Bingley’s tongue could not keep up with his brain which went blank every time Miss Bennet glanced at him. They spent most of their dance in silence, conversation limited to general topics and entirely perused by Miss Bennet.
After their dance, Miss Bennet’s mother came to her side shrieking and complimenting her daughter on her conquest. Many other young ladies, some with striking facial similarities to Miss Bennet, gathered around her. He needed to dance with her again, to feel the pressure of her gloved hand in his. However, etiquette dictated that he could not yet ask her to dance again. Instead, he sought an introduction to the lady closest to him, a Miss King. Then he danced with the younger Miss Lucas. Between sets, he sought out the punch bowl to loosen his tongue so he might dazzle Miss Bennet with his charm and wit during their next dance.
At last, the moment came. Bingley confidently walked to Miss Bennet’s side, but before he could say a word, an aging man with a growing gut appeared.
“If you are free, my dear Miss Bennet, I would be honoured to dance with you.”
Charles scowled at the man and his poorly worded request. He ought to humbly beg this angel sent to earth to deign to glance at him! Feeling his face heat in indignation, Miss Bennet’s sweet voice rang out.
“Forgive me, Mr. Long, but I am already promised to Mr. Bingley for this set.”
She reached her hand forward, and Bingley immediately grabbed it. Without another look, he led her to the dance floor.
“Pray forgive me. I did not mean to trap you, but Mr. Long has been so persistent and will not take my hints at displeasure with his suit.”
“How intolerable. I will gladly be your partner at any ball.” Bingley paused for a moment as the dance separated them. “In fact, dinner engagements may not be safe either. We could arrange to find one another at each meeting and then you would be safe from his attentions.”
A soft smile set on Miss Bennet’s face. “I do not know that we need to go to such lengths. Surely, he will be discouraged soon enough.”
“If it were me, I would not give up so easily.”
Miss Bennet laughed. “Upon my word, that is very forward of you for such a new acquaintance. Sir, are you foxed?”
“No, certainly not.” Missing a step to the dance, he almost fell and most certainly would have sprained his ankle.
Miss Bennet’s eyebrows rose. “I see.”
Taking a deep breath to puff out his chest, Bingley focused on saying something that would convince her of his sobriety. “Would a drunk man say that…” Miss Bennet began to smile, and his mind went blank.
“I am waiting, sir.”
“I am going to marry you.”
“Pardon?” Miss Bennet stumbled, and Bingley caught her by the hand.
“I said I am going to tarry here.”
“No,” Miss Bennet shook her head. “I do not think you did.”
Flushing, Bingley attempted to think fast. “Forgive me, I was attempting to tease, but I think perhaps it was too far.”
Miss Bennet’s eyes went wide and then searched his. Slowly, she began to smile.
“Oh, I can tease as well. My sister, Elizabeth, is a great teaser.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that is her in the green.” Miss Bennet nodded to her left. “You ought to ask her to dance next. I think you will enjoy her wit.”
“An excellent suggestion, thank you.”
“You see if I thought you were serious about wanting to marry me I would hardly suggest you dance with my sister.” Miss Bennet’s eyes shined with mirth. “And I might point out how utterly nonsensical it would be to marry a lady when you do not so much as know her Christian name. My sister and I are agreed to never marry a man out of his wits.”
The dance separated them, and Bingley considered how to respond to her tease.
“If that be the only obstacle to our union, then I am assured of our happiness, Diana.”
“I wish you every happiness with the mysterious Diana but am sad to say it is not I.”
As they waited for the others to go down the set, they continued with their game. Thirty minutes later, the set ended and Bingley had not correctly guessed Miss Bennet’s name. She turned to introduce him to her sister.
“This is my next youngest sister, Elizabeth. Lizzy, this is Mr. Bingley.”
Miss Elizabeth curtsied and greeted him with civility and good humour.
“I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Elizabeth. Your sister tells me that you have a very charming wit and love to tease.”
Miss Elizabeth laughed. “Did she indeed?” She turned to Miss Bennet. “Jane! You surprise me!”
Bingley’s rejoiced at Miss Elizabeth’s use of her sister’s name. His eyes immediately met Jane’s. “You remind me a bit of my own sister, Miss Elizabeth. Already, I believe I have a very brotherly regard for you. Your sister, Jane, has made me look forward to this set.”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow but merely glanced between Jane and Bingley. Jane blushed but did not look away from Bingley.
“Indeed?” Elizabeth said. “How else would you describe your dance with Jane?”
“Unforgettable,” he replied.
One year later, Bingley entered the Meryton Assembly hall with Jane by his side as Mrs. Bingley. “There,” he pointed to the centre of the room. “Right there was where I fell in love with you.”
“And I with you,” Jane smiled and squeezed his hand as they walked to the dance floor.