Lord Matlock was impatiently pacing from one place to another, not knowing what to do. The deadline was getting closer, and he knew that he would have to make drastic decisions to solve this unpleasant situation. A series of events caused this disaster, which, unfortunately for him, occurred simultaneously. First, his streak of bad luck in the cards, whenever he believed that the next game would be the lucky one, the opposite happened, and today he had many debts of honor that he did not know how to pay.
Second, his irresponsible son, the viscount, who in recent years had done nothing more than get drunk and go from party to party accumulating debts wherever he went, for which no one gave him credit anymore.
Third, his wife, Anastasia. She had always spent more money than they had. She hosted big parties and bought expensive clothes and things she didn't even need. Her only dream had always been to be the leader of the first circles of London society, and it cost a lot of money to achieve that.
Finally, his sister Catherine could not pay the mortgage that the bank had on her property. She had spent years more than she produced on trivial and unnecessary things. Furthermore, Sir Lewis de Bourgh's capable steward had resigned from his job because he could not bear the continuous interference of the lady who, in her opinion, was always right. She hired a new steward, someone who did not contradict her and faithfully followed all her advice, an inept who was not prepared for the job, someone very similar to her parish clergyman.
His sister Catherine always thought the solution to all her problems would be the wedding between her nephew and her daughter Anne. However, since she did not see or hear anything that was not her own opinion, she did not realize that her nephew had no intention of marrying her daughter. He was an immensely wealthy, prosperous, and independent man, and she could never force him to marry Anne, no matter how much she repeated the story that he and her daughter were engaged since they were in their cradles. Furthermore, Anne was a thirty-year-old woman of extremely fragile health who could not assume the mistress' duties of an estate as large as Pemberley, much less producing the necessary heir.
"I'm not going to lose Rosings; no bank can ever take it from me," said the great lady with disgust in her voice.
"I'm sorry, Catherine, but I doubt that the bank is interested in your opinion, the alternatives are either you pay or you lose Rosings," her brother replied.
"If Darcy had fulfilled his duty to Anne, we would not have this problem. You have to talk to him and force him to marry my daughter."
"Catherine, please do not waste time telling me the story of the engagement since they were children because you and I know it is not true. You know very well that George did not like you as his son's mother-in-law. Also, supposing that Darcy agreed to marry your daughter, you would not have achieved anything because he would have taken control of Rosings, and finding out the disaster of your finances, likely, he would not have helped you. On the contrary, he has come without exception every spring to help you for the last five years. He has given you detailed improvement plans for the crops and the lives of the tenants, and the moment he left, you and the inept of your steward undid all his work," Lord Matlock concluded in an exasperated voice.
Lady Catherine, who had never taken criticism well, screamed at her brother with such rage that he thought she would have a stroke. "Who do you think you are to criticize me? You have bet on the card tables my father's legacy, you married a woman who has only brought shame to our family, and your son and heir is even worse than you!"
"Well, did you say everything you wanted to say? Let me tell you why I am here; we will not gain anything by recriminating each other. We are both in a desperate situation, and we have no other choice but to work together to solve this mess. Let me tell you my plan and how you are going to help me."
Lord Matlock told his sister that his evil plan was to seize part of his nephew's fortune and what Lady Catherine had to do to help him. Lord Matlock had met at a gaming table with none other than George Wickham, and he had tried to get some money, telling him what had happened between him and Georgiana last summer. When Lord Matlock responded that if he spoke one more word, he would let his son Richard know where he could find him, Wickham thought better of it and promised to keep quiet. But the moment he began to think about how to avoid the ruin and discredit of his family, Wickham's words came to mind, and he knew that there was a solution.
"Listen to me, Catherine, and follow my instructions without question," he said to his sister. "When Darcy comes to visit you at the end of this month, a group of men will come and kidnap him. You will be in charge of promoting the situation to happen. These men will take him to an abandoned castle in Scotland, and they will be in charge of feeding and providing what is necessary for him to survive. Meanwhile, I will see that Richard is sent out of England for a time, and Georgiana will be left in the care of my wife, who will allow Wickham to court her. This time he will take her to Scotland, and they will get married. He will keep the thirty thousand pounds of Georgiana's dowry, and he will hand over the administration of Pemberley to me. In that time, with access to Darcy's money, I will be able to solve all our problems.
After a year, Darcy will be released, and he will be able to claim everything back. The boy is intelligent and will be able to recover what he has lost after years of work. As for Georgiana, she will have what she wanted so much, to be with that man. But, of course, the family, from that moment on, will not recognize her as one of us."
And thus, Lord Matlock and Lady Catherine decided to solve their problems at the expense of the happiness of their niece and nephew.
One month later
"Eliza, it's time for you to get ready. In an hour, Lady Catherine is waiting for us to have tea," Charlotte said to her friend.
"I'm sorry, Charlotte, I have a headache, and I don't think I can resist Lady Catherine giving me advice that I have not asked or criticizing me because I do not play the piano as she would if she had learned. If we add to that the presence of Mr. Darcy, the night cannot be less promising," Elizabeth explained.
"It is fine, I understand. I will tell Lady Catherine that you were not feeling well and decided to rest." And thus, Charlotte closed the door of Elizabeth's room to let her rest.
Elizabeth knew that she would not be able to rest. She had learned earlier that day something too important to go to sleep. On her morning walk, she had met Colonel Fitzwilliam, and he had confirmed what she already assumed, that Mr. Darcy was one of the responsible for separating her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley.
From the moment she met this man, she knew he was an arrogant, proud man, and when she found out what he had done to poor Mr. Wickham, she also knew that he was cruel. However, she did not know how she would avoid meeting him since it seemed that someone had cursed her; wherever she went, she found him.
She felt anguished and suffocated, thinking again and again of her poor sister, who still had not managed to recover from the abandonment of Mr. Bingley. So, she decided to go out for a walk in the park, at least she could be sure that she would not meet that man, who would surely be having tea at Rosings.
Fitzwilliam Darcy stared at the door every three seconds, waiting for the Hunsford's party to arrive. Now that he had made the most important decision of his life, he only wished he could see Elizabeth, his Elizabeth, and tell her all that he had hidden for so long. He had been trying to forget her for many months, and he did not want to fight the force of that feeling anymore. He knew that by making this decision, he was expressly going against his family's wishes, and why not say it, his own better judgment, but he had no alternative. He knew that only she could be his wife.
His whole life had always been full of responsibilities, and he had fulfilled each and every one of them outstandingly. He was an excellent student, and he graduated with honors. He took over Pemberley when he was just twenty-one, and in those almost six years, he had grown the family fortune considerably. Furthermore, he had had to take care of his sister, and although he had been on the verge of failing her, things had worked out favorably, and he was still working hard to be an excellent example for Georgiana.
Elizabeth would be his only act of rebellion, the only time he would do the opposite of what everyone expected of him. Her company would be the prize he would receive for so many years of hard work and loneliness. With her by his side, he would never have to return home and have no one to share his joys and sorrows. Instead, with her natural joy, she would fill his life with light and love, and he did not want to live a minute more without her company.
He only wanted to tell her how much he loved her and begged that she allow him to kiss her. He had dreamed so much how it would be to have her in his arms and kiss her that he could not think of anything else even if he wanted it.
So, he was very concerned when the guests came in, and she wasn't among them. Mrs. Collins explained to Lady Catherine that Elizabeth had not come because she had a headache, and she was resting at home. The lady, of course, talked about how she never had headaches and what were the best solutions for it.
For his part, Mr. Darcy felt worried and nervous, and at the same time, furious that Mrs. Collins had left his Elizabeth alone when she was not feeling well. At that moment, one of the servants came in and delivered a message to Lady Catherine. She read it quickly and nervously put it away. Then, after she managed to calm down, she told her nephew.
"Darcy, I need you to go immediately to the house of one of my tenants. His farm is to the left of the lake, and the tenant's name is Mr. Smith. He has some problems with one of his neighbors, and I was hoping you could resolve it. When they see you, they will calm down and listen to what you propose as a solution."
Darcy was furious with his aunt; she always thought that she could manage his time how and when she wanted, but he also knew that it was a waste of time trying to dialogue with her, so he decided to do what his aunt asked him to do. In fact, this incident would provide an excuse to get out of the house, so he could go to visit Elizabeth and make sure she was alright.
Elizabeth walked carelessly along the path without paying attention to the surrounding landscape. She was very sorry that things always, for one reason or another, were so complicated. If someone deserved to be happy, it was her sister Jane. However, when she looked forward, she saw Mr. Darcy walked towards her. She wasn't sure that he had seen her, so she decided to hide behind the trunk of a very large tree by the side of the road. She didn't want to deal with his awkward silences or incoherent conversations that afternoon.
For his part, Mr. Darcy had seen Elizabeth and was happy to know that she was better. He knew that she loved nature, so he assumed that going for a walk had helped her heal. But, when he saw her hide behind the tree, he clearly understood her message. She was fostering a private meeting to allow him to propose. He thought how long she had been waiting; maybe she had given up hope that one day they could be together. So, he rushed to her side as soon as he could; his aunt's affairs would have to wait until the next day.
"Miss Bennet, are you feeling better? Your friend Mrs. Collins told us that you had a severe headache", asked Mr. Darcy, very nervous.
Elizabeth, visibly annoyed, which Mr. Darcy mistook for nervousness, replied curtly, "I'm better, sir, thanks for asking."
At that time, and as always happened in front of Elizabeth, he had trouble speaking and expressing his ideas and feelings. She looked at him more and more curiously and even worried. He was so nervous that he did not notice the change of expression on Elizabeth's face, nor did he hear anything but the accelerated beat of his heart. Then, finally, he decided to say everything he had planned. "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed anymore. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I" … at that moment, everything went black.
He did not know how much time or what had happened, but when he woke up, he was in a carriage with the windows covered and with Elizabeth looking at him very concerned.
"My love, what has happened"… Mr. Darcy asked while he looked at who he believed was his betrothed.
To my dear followers and fans,
This story is now available to read on K and KU (under the pen name of Miranda Flan) for all of you who want to read it or re-read it
All the funds from this story will be going towards my daughters summer studies abroad.
Thank you for your kind support!