Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy was a proud man. He was proud of his family, full of illustrious noblemen. Proud of his wealth, the product of the work of many generations of Darcys, famous for being fair and generous masters. His mother taught him to feel pride in his noble lineage, which placed him above many. His father was an exceptional man and taught him how to be a good master for when his time would come. But, sadly, it was much earlier than Fitzwilliam expected.
The sudden death of his father caused him to assume as Master of a large state when he was only twenty-one years old. He had spent much of his youth studying and being one of the top students at Cambridge, from which he graduated with honors. He had taken on enormous responsibilities, from managing complex businesses to raising his sister after his father's death at an early age.
As the perfectionist man he was, he always tried his best to achieve his goals. But unfortunately, Mr. Darcy thought everything could be resolved rationally without considering the emotions or feelings involved in certain decisions.
Last summer, for the first time in his life, he had felt that he had failed at something. No matter how hard he tried to explain why Georgiana had acted like that, he could not find a rational explanation. But, at least, he had survived the experience. By luck or divine providence, he had managed to arrive on time and avoid the disaster that would have been for Georgiana to marry a scoundrel like George Wickham.
He had always assumed his responsibilities with poise in all the difficult moments, with his head held high. His pride and prominent place in society constantly reminded him that a man of his status should not be weak and that he could always find the best solution to even the most challenging problems. But at this moment, that pride that he felt, which had always helped him overcome everything, could not allow him to forget a socially inferior woman with a wildly inappropriate family.
It all started on that damn day his friend had forced him to attend that assembly. In that hideous place, he saw the most charming woman he had ever seen. At first glance, she had seemed like an ordinary woman, another country bumpkin who would undoubtedly do anything to get his attention. Although first, he insulted her without the slightest remorse, looking at her better, he realized she was different from other women. Her face lit up with a beautiful smile, and her fine eyes, a mixture of green and hazel, made her face simply beautiful. For the first few weeks, he did his best to deny or admit that Elizabeth could be called pretty. He even dared to say that if she was considered a beauty, her mother should be called a wit.
Finally, after having had the opportunity to interact with her on several occasions, he realized that it was absurd to fight against that attraction or try to deny it. Without thinking, he realized that wherever she went, his gaze followed her, and when she spoke, he always tried to listen to her interesting conversations and witty comments. This is how he discovered that in addition to her physical attractiveness, she was an intelligent, lively woman with a talent for playing with words and transforming sarcasm and ironies into jokes that made people laugh and did not offend anyone. On one of those occasions, when he watched the object of his admiration, he inadvertently lowered his guard and confessed to Caroline Bingley that he admired Elizabeth Bennet's fine eyes.
At that moment, he decided to observe and admire Elizabeth, knowing that he would probably forget her after leaving Hertfordshire in no time. He was confident that what he felt was nothing more than a passing infatuation.
Now he could admit that he was wrong. Today, looking at the fireplace in his office after having drunk more than was convenient, he found himself reviewing in his mind each of their interactions, each word said between them, and all of their debates. But more than anything, he was thinking of her eyes. Those eyes seemed to challenge him every time they talked. But he also remembered fondly her melodious voice that revealed the strength of her ideas and the passion with which she defended them.
He knew he had done the right thing by walking away from her and, simultaneously, preventing his friend Bingley from falling victim to a woman who only sought financial security in him. But for some reason, he could not understand why he could not feel happy knowing that he would never see Elizabeth Bennet again. He knew that she would be in some part of the world, brightening the lives of others but not his, and that, in a way, made him realize how lonely he was and felt.
For the first time in his life, he felt sorry for himself, sorry for being a bystander in his life, for not being able to do something wild, pondering how his life would be different if he could do what made him happy and no one else. But instead, he knew that he should marry a woman who could bring a good dowry and impeccable connections. The right wife would allow the Darcy family to continue being one of the richest and most prestigious and would allow his sister to marry well too. All that was his duty, and he would always comply and do the right thing.
"Brother, do I interrupt you?" Georgiana asked shyly. She had wanted to talk to her brother for days. She had noticed him a bit distant and wanted to know if he needed anything.
"No, Georgie. Come in; I was just going through some documents." Mr. Darcy tried to put his desk in order and hide the bottle of brandy. Since they had returned from Ramsgate, the relationship with her sister had not been the same. She was more withdrawn than usual, and he felt guilty about everything that had happened. So, he would take advantage of any chance to bond and reconnect with her.
Georgiana sat up and noticed that her brother was nervous. Nevertheless, she was willing to do her part so that he could one day forgive her. "William, how was your visit to Hertfordshire? I must tell you that I read all the letters you sent me, and I want to congratulate you on your patience with Mr. Bingley's family, especially with Miss Bingley."
Mr. Darcy couldn't help but laugh. "You're right, she's very persistent, and she can be a bit annoying at times with her constant flattery. But Bingley is a good friend, and I went to that place to help him."
"Did you meet interesting people there?" Georgiana wanted to ask about Miss Bennet because her brother had mentioned her in more than one of his letters, but she did not dare.
Mr. Darcy stood up and looked out the window, pretending to be interested in something going on outside. "No, Georgie. You know, it looks like it's going to rain tonight." Mr. Darcy thought for a bit and added, "The habitants of Meryton are good people, but they don't move in our social circles, so it is hard to be friends with them."
Georgiana understood that her brother did not wish to speak further on the subject. Indeed, the people he had met weren't refined enough, and she knew William was very strict about things like that. So the brother and sister talked for a few more minutes until it was time for dinner.
That night before going to sleep, Mr. Darcy decided to focus his mind and energies on his business and stop wasting time thinking about what could never be. "Without a doubt, you and I, Miss Bennet, belong to different social circles, and like it or not, it will always be that way," thought Mr. Darcy aloud before falling asleep.
"Look, Jane, I have brought you these beautiful flowers that I found on my way back from my morning walk," Elizabeth said to her sister, unable to avoid feeling sad when she looked at her. She could see that Jane was disheartened. It had been almost three weeks since the Netherfield's party had left Hertfordshire, with nothing more than a farewell note that Caroline had written to Jane telling her they did not plan to return.
"Don't look at me like that, Lizzy. I know what you are thinking, but I have already resigned myself. I know that Mr. Bingley never had a true interest in me. I never was more than a temporary friend for him", Jane told Elizabeth with firmness and resolution. She had decided it was not worth waiting for something that might never happen.
"Jane, why do you say that? Mr. Bingley always looked at you with affection. His face lit up just from seeing you. You must not lose hope; I am sure that if it had not been for the influence of his sisters and his detestable friend, he would never have left in the way he did. In fact, he said that he would return in a week, and only when he was in London did his sisters, and that man decided to leave. They are surely doing everything possible to keep him in London. But you will see that when you least expect it, he shall be back in Netherfield, and everything shall be alright," Elizabeth told Jane without being entirely sure that what she said was true.
Jane looked at Lizzy seriously, and after thinking for a few seconds and clarifying her ideas, she confidently said, "Lizzy, do you want for me a man who is not capable of making his own decisions and that is easily persuaded by his family and friends to do what they want, even if that goes against his own wishes? I shall not deny that I have come to admire Mr. Bingley deeply in these few months, but I'd prefer to assume our friendship never truly had a future."
Jane took a deep breath and continued explaining to Elizabeth how she felt. "I don't want people to feel sorry for me. Because of that, I want to put this chapter of my life behind me as soon as possible. I know that our mother will continue to pester, as she has done with you for not accepting Mr. Collins, but I ask you, my dear sister, not to insist on this issue and let me forget about all of this", as she said that, some tears rolled down her cheeks.
Elizabeth hugged her sister as tightly as her arms would allow and whispered in her ear, "I'm sorry, Jane. I promise you that from today on; I shall not insist on talking about this anymore." Then, after Elizabeth wiped Jane's tears, she said, "Let's find a vase to put these flowers," and so they both left their room, trying to leave behind bitter memories.
The next day, Mr. Darcy managed to complete only a small part of the pile of work pending on his desk. As always, he had gotten up early, but lack of sleep after days of staying up very late and brandy made it almost impossible to respond to the heap of correspondence he had accumulated in the last week. As he tried to concentrate on his work, his butler knocked on the door.
"Come in," Mr. Darcy said in a voice that reflected his bad humor.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir, but this message came from your Aunt, the countess, and the messenger asked me to deliver it to you immediately." Mr. Taylor explained.
"Thank you, Taylor. I'm sorry if I sounded impolite when I answered you, but I was trying to concentrate on my work and ... " He couldn't finish because the butler told him not to worry and that he hadn't noticed it.
The truth was that the butler, the housekeeper, and all the staff had noticed the change of mood and habits in the always-correct Mr. Darcy. They knew that their Master was a very responsible man, and indeed, he had many things to do, which is why he was a bit tense.
The butler left the office, and Mr. Darcy opened his aunt's message. She invited him to dinner that night because she was having a little gathering and wanted to introduce him to some new people he didn't know.
Mr. Darcy frowned; he knew very well what his aunt was planning when she invited him to meetings like this. Indeed, she wanted to introduce him to a new lady looking for a husband. He decided to discard the invitation to continue working. But he stopped to think, "Maybe I should go and allow myself to meet these new people... Maybe within them, I can meet someone interesting."
With that new resolution, he decided to go to his room and nap. He was too tired to focus on any work. He asked to be awakened in two hours. Sleep quickly overcame him, and he managed to sleep so deeply that he didn't even have time to dream about anything. When his valet woke him up, he took a bath, asked to be shaved, and dressed impeccably like always.
Several minutes later, he left his house ready to meet that new fine and distinguished woman, who moved in the same circles as he and whose family and dowry would never be a source of shame.
Mrs. Bennet was furious with Elizabeth. She had missed the opportunity to secure Longbourn and accept what was probably the only marriage proposal she would receive. No important man with a good income would want a rebellious wife who was more intelligent than him. "Because of you, Lizzy, when your father dies, we shall all be turned out to starve in the hedgerows!"
After dinner, Elizabeth immediately went to her father's office to escape her mother's complaints. She kept accusing her of being the culprit of the future ruin of her family for rejecting Mr. Collins. Elizabeth wasn't sure how long she could go on tolerating her mother without bursting.
"Lizzy, I see you've copied my tactic," Mr. Bennet said, smiling.
"What do you mean, Papa?" Elizabeth asked.
Mr. Bennet looked up and closed the book in his hands. "I meant that, like me, you hide in the office when you can't stand your mother anymore."
Elizabeth did not laugh at the matter as her father did. Instead, she was curious about it, and she asked. "Papa, why do you allow my mother to behave like this? So many times, she doesn't measure her words and ..."
"No, Lizzy, we didn't come to the library to talk about your mother but to hide from her. Keep reading your book; I'll keep reading mine." Mr. Bennet opened his book again and quietly continued reading.
Elizabeth understood that Mr. Bennet did not want to talk about it, much less be interrupted. She tried to keep reading, but as she looked at the book's pages, she couldn't help but anxiously think about her future and what it held for her. She was aware that the day her father was gone, she, her mother, and all of her sisters would face a life full of difficulties. They did not have anyone who could protect them financially.
That night she stared out the window at the beautiful full moon, thinking and reflecting. "If I can't get married for love, I will have no choice but to look for employment."
"Lizzy, stop talking to yourself and sleep," Jane asked.
"I'm sorry, Jane. Good night," Elizabeth said.
"Good night, Lizzy," replied Jane with a yawn.
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