Mr. Darcy worked on business in his study, but was interrupted by Mr. Agnew. The footman brought in the day’s mail on a silver tray.
Nothing looked unexpected until he got to the letter from his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Darcy sighed as he expected the same pleas he always received. That his aunt would ask when he would visit Rosings Park, why he would not visit her more than once a year, and when would he honor the engagement set between his mother and Aunt regarding his marriage to Anne de Bourgh.
Mr. Darcy had never found any documentation of the supposed engagement and he had looked. He was quite sure that his aunt made up this engagement after his own mother died. Either she wanted to live at Pemberley or, and this was more likely, there were no suitors for his cousin Anne and therefore he was the only person left to force into a marriage with her. Of course there was his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam, but he was in the military and would be gone often. Anne was so sickly that she could not travel with Col. Fitzwilliam. So Mr. Darcy was the lucky unmarried cousin who was the focus of Lady Catherine’s attention.
Mr. Darcy picked up the letter from his aunt and opened it. Mr. Darcy’s heart rate suddenly spiked, and he sat forward in his chair. He laid the letter on his desk and reread it again more slowly. “That isn’t possible!”
He read it again. Then he read it a third time.
I do not understand why you have not posted the banns for your engagement to your cousin, Anne. You know that you must marry her by you turn thirty or you will lose all that was entailed with the Darcy line. I am sure you are well acquainted with your own a birthdate. The only question is where banns will be read. They need to be read in the church in which you will be getting married. Unless you have procured a special license, in which the banns are not needed to be read. I expect that you have procured a special license for this wedding as it would not do to have the granddaughter of an Earl to be married without one. You must start to make arrangements for this wedding or I will.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh
That was completely and utterly preposterous. There was no stipulation on the entailment. There could not possibly be one as he would have been informed of it. However, he had only been ten when his father died. He had never actually looked at the will since then.
Mr. Darcy stood, turned to the wall behind him and pulled a certain book. There was a click then Mr. Darcy swung out the middle section of the bookcase. Behind it was a safe built into the wall. Mr. Darcy turned the dial several times then opened the safe. He shuffled through the boxes and documents then pulled out a black packet.
He sat down at his desk, opened the packet and pulled out the papers. The packet contained his father’s will and a document that was much older than his father’s will. Mr. Darcy moved his desk lamp closer. He slowly read the flowery script in his father’s will which stated nothing about his son having to marry by a certain age to inherit. He then pulled the much older document forward. This paper detailed the requirements of inheriting Pemberley, the other Darcy properties and financials. And he found it. He did indeed have to marry by the time he reached his thirtieth birth date it or he would lose everything.
Mr. Darcy sat back in his chair speechless. How could no one have told him about this stipulation until now? Why did his aunt wait until it was four weeks until his thirtieth birthday? He had four weeks to wed. Mr. Darcy stood up and paced his study. He grabbed the letter, will and the writ of entailment. Everything looked legitimate. He tugged at his hair.
He had four weeks to marry somebody. At this point he could not hold out to marry for love anymore. He had to just marry someone he could love at some point, but at the least someone he could tolerate. Mr. Darcy groaned as he realized this task would be nearly impossible. “And that is why my aunt waited until now to inform me of this stipulation that she kept to herself for decades.”
Lady Catherine had wanted him to marry her daughter, Anne. Now she thought she had finally forced him to marry his cousin. He had four weeks to marry someone or he would lose everything. His aunt must be sure that he would marry Anne instead of recklessly finding someone in four weeks. Well, he had no plans to marry his cousin. She had been sickly her entire life and would unable to be a proper wife for anyone. Not that he had anything against the infirm and ill. If he had a choice, he would rather have a healthy wife than one that was so sickly he was not sure how much she actually walked on her own.
The first thing he would do would be to write the law firm and verify the stipulation as well as why he was never informed. Someone from that law firm had to have told his aunt while he was a minor. His aunt did this on purpose. He derided his thirtieth birthday now more than ever. “Blast and damnation!”
Instead of waiting for a letter to reach the law firm and then for a letter to travel back Mr. Darcy decided to travel to the law firm in London himself. If this entailment was indeed accurate, he surely did not want to waste weeks waiting for letters. Mr. Darcy left his study and went straight to the music room where his sister Georgiana loved to spend her time.
“Brother, I am so glad you came to hear me. What is wrong?”
Mr. Darcy was sure he looked fierce but it could not be helped. “Georgiana, Lady Catherine has just sent me a letter that contains information that I need to verify with our law firm in London. It is of the utmost importance and speed. Can you be ready to leave in two hours?”
Georgiana sat at the pianoforte like a statue. Her brother had never done anything rash in his life. Now he planned to leave for London in two hours?
“But what could…”
“I do not want to tell you until I verify that this information is accurate. Call your maid to quickly pack your things. I have to meet with my steward and Mrs. Reynolds and then we will leave.” Mr. Darcy strode quickly from the music room.