Chapter 1

Mr. Edward Gardiner was the eldest son of a respectable town attorney. As the eldest son, he received all the advice and teachings from his father. He was of modest economic status, not particularly good-looking, but of keen intelligence that he always nurtured through reading and long conversations with other well-informed gentlemen.

He always admired and tried to follow in his father's footsteps. However, at an early age, he realized that the world of law was not for him. Once he completed his studies, he would try to start his own business, which would allow him to progress economically and occupy his mind further in his passion, commerce. Like his father, he also possessed bright intelligence and a willingness to learn.

His mother was a completely different story. She was a beautiful woman from a modest family. With her beauty, she had managed to captivate the young and ambitious solicitor, who was beginning his career in the small town called Meryton. Despite the differences in intellect and interests, his father always loved and respected his mother. Similarly, his mother also loved and respected his father. Edward always felt lucky to have grown up in a loving home.

In their house, the father was in charge of raising and educating his son and his mother, her two daughters. Edward was fortunate to inherit his mother's good looks and his father's intelligence. Unfortunately, his two sisters were not so lucky. His middle sister Margaret inherited her father's looks and her mother's intelligence. Due to her particular circumstances, she developed an excessive interest in other people's affairs and gossip from an early age. It was the only way she could get attention.

His little sister, Fanny, was a faithful copy of her mother in beauty and intelligence. Since she was little, she was pampered by her mother and father. His mother admired Fanny because she was very similar to her, and her father spoiled her because she was the living portrait of the woman he adored. In short, this made little Fanny feel like the center of the universe. As a result, she was used to getting everything she wanted, even if it was necessary to throw a tantrum.

Unfortunately for her, Edward reflected, her husband did not love or idealize her as his father did with his mother. So Fanny, with her little understanding of the world, and her lack of self-control, became the object of ridicule and disdain of her husband. It was clear that Mr. Bennet had been attracted to his sister's beauty, but once time passed, that beauty was not enough for him as it had been for his father.

Beyond all that, the Bennet couple had produced five daughters, each with their own peculiarities. The eldest, Jane, possessed great beauty and all the goodness possible for a person. The second daughter, Elizabeth, had a non-traditional beauty that could rival her older sister and intelligence that could be sarcastic but never malicious. Mary, the third daughter, was a shy girl ignored by her family, who hid her fears behind repetitive and monotonous activities. Finally, the two youngest daughters, Catherine and Lydia, were still young but, unfortunately, very coarse and uneducated. Catherine, also known as Kitty, was a girl without her own will that no one considered, and to avoid Mary's luck, she clung to Lydia, who was her mother's favorite. For her part, Lydia was very similar to Fanny in her youth but without the advantage of having a loving home where she was understood and protected. Lydia, and therefore by extension Kitty, were encouraged by her mother to go brazenly through life and ignored by their father. He, unlike their mother, knew that all this was inappropriate and could jeopardize their future.

Engrossed in his thoughts, Edward reflected on his own family. When he was young and starting his business, he met the most wonderful woman in the world. He appreciated not only her striking beauty but also her intelligence, which rivaled even his own. It was a stark contrast to the women in his family, whom he loved and had grown up with, but with whom he had never been able to talk about anything serious or important. With Madeline, he could talk about his fears, consult about future businesses and how to invest and reinvest their money. He always admired his father, but once married, it was even more difficult for him to understand how he could have been so happily married to a woman with whom he had so little in common.

In these nearly thirty-two years of marriage, he had been immensely happy. He had managed to build a lucrative business with his wife and share her love and sorrow with his soulmate. But, unfortunately, not everything was joyous. A part of his married life hadn't been as fruitful as he and his beloved Madeline had wanted. In the first year of marriage, they were blessed with the arrival of their first and what would be their last child. Although for many years they hoped to have other children, they finally resigned themselves. They decided to accept that their beautiful family would only be a family of three.

Fortunately, Fanny's older daughters came to take the place of those daughters who never arrived. Since Jane and Elizabeth were little, Edward and Madeline welcomed them into their home, trying to fill all the gaps that their parents' careless and indolent education would not do. But, unfortunately, their other three nieces were never inclined to share with them in the same way for different reasons. Mary did not like to leave her house because she felt uncomfortable, and just thinking she should have long conversations with her sociable aunt and uncle made her feel scared and insecure. For their part, Kitty and Lydia considered them too strict and always talked about dull things and tried to teach them complicated stuff.

In this way, this Gracechurch Street couple became the guide and the example for the two oldest daughters of the dysfunctional Bennet marriage.

For the Gardiners, their son was the best of their lives. Without a doubt, Jonathan Edward Gardiner was the great pride of his parents. This thirty-year-old young man had managed to build a lucrative import business, traveling the world and following the advice and example of his parents.

When Jonathan turned twenty-one and had completed his studies, his father offered to make him a partner in his business, but he declined. Instead, he explained that he felt the need to forge his own path, just as he had done it. His parents supported him in this decision and provided him with the initial funds every business needed. In this way, Jonathan, together with a friend from his university years, started his company, which gave him an annual income of almost six thousand pounds today.

Edward Gardiner looked at the letter in front of him as he thought of his family and the last thirty years of his life. Then, just at that moment, his wife walked into his office. "Edward, why are you so distracted? Dinner will be ready in a few minutes, and I came to let you know", said Mrs. Gardiner, concerned.

"I'm sorry, my dear, I was thinking, and I did not realize how time passed," replied Mr. Gardiner.

"And what were you thinking so much about?", She asked him.

"You know, I was reading Jonathan's letter. I feel so proud of him, but at the same time, disheartened to know that he has spent the last nine years from one place to another, and we only know about him through letters. We often receive his letters many months later than they were written. I know he is a man grown, but I can't help but miss him very much".

"I also miss him so much, my dear, but I don't think we should think about that now. We will have him back in a few months, and as he told us in that letter, now you have in your hands, there will be no more trips. Fortunately, his business is sufficiently consolidated to delegate much of the work that involves traveling to his employees. Seeing my beloved Jonathan for no more than a few months in the last nine years has also been very hard for me", Mrs. Gardiner concluded with a broken voice.

"You are right, my dear Mrs. Gardiner. It has been difficult for both of us, especially the last four years since we have not seen him. But enough of this, let's have dinner and plan everything we will do to celebrate our son when he returns to his country, his home, and his family."

And so, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner went to dinner and began planning everything they would do in the months coming, including their trip to Hertfordshire, where they planned to spend next Christmas and bring the news of Jonathan's arrival.


Dear readers,

First of all, I sincerely apologize for all the problems with the first story we published. Unfortunately, we tried to do many things simultaneously, and it didn't work out as we expected. The story we published in K has several issues that we are working on improving, and we will let you know when the fully edited version will be available. As the book is an e-book, those who bought it will be able to update it at no extra cost. My daughter edited the entire "Lost" story but uploaded the wrong files and lost all her work.

During these weeks, I have been helping her, which is why I have not been able to continue writing. However, I think I will have free time in two more weeks to continue my WIP.

We have jointly edited this story, which will soon be available in K and KU. We changed the title of the book, and the published version name will be "The Cousin." We will post the story in two volumes because we have added dialogues and new scenes to make it more complex and interesting. I hope you like it!

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has supported my daughter in her efforts to raise money for her studies abroad. Asia is closer, thanks to you.


Yo and A Ce