Early Morning Interlude
Finally admitting to herself that sleep was beyond her, Elizabeth Darcy rolled out of bed. It was still dark, she supposed it was two hours past midnight, but she could not read the clock in the dim, moonlit room. Due to the lateness -- earliness -- of the hour, she did not want to wake her husband.
She pulled on a loose cotton nightdress and a quilted dressing gown. She blushed. Even after ten months of marriage, she was slightly embarrassed at the concept of sleeping unclothed -- and not alone. "What would Mamma say?" she asked herself and smiled.
She looked over at her sleeping husband. Darcy's curly hair almost always was unruly, but it was even more so when he slept. She resisted the urge to brush the curls off his face and, pulling woolly slippers on her feet, walked out of their bedchamber.
"Now what?" she asked herself. "It simply will not do for the Mistress of Pemberley to wander the halls in a dressing gown, even at this outlandish hour. Perhaps some tea, I can take the back stairs," she thought.
Nearing the kitchen, she heard the sounds of preparations for a new day. Luckily, nothing was cooking. Food smells had been troubling her of late.
Emily, a kitchen maid, stepped into the hall on an errand and saw Elizabeth. "Can I help you Mum?"
"Indeed you can, Emily" Elizabeth replied. "I would like some tea."
"Yes, Mum," Emily said returning to the kitchen.
Elizabeth sat down on a hall chair to wait for her tea. "Hopefully a nice cup of tea will help me relax," she thought to herself. She knew why she could not sleep. She was too nervous. In fact, she had not slept well for the past week, as her suspicions had grown. Today, she had determined, would be the day she would learn the truth.
Darcy would be going into Lambton after breakfast as he did every Thursday. While he was gone, she would send for the doctor, Mr. Martin, and he would either confirm or deny her suspicions.
She was unwilling to broach the subject with her Darcy until she was certain. She loved him to much to risk dashing his hopes. She remembered too well the look on his face after she had refused him at Hunsford.
And, Elizabeth remembered the loneliness she herself had felt leaving Derbyshire last summer, when she had realized she was in love with him, but thought she would never see him again. She shuddered at the memories.
"Are you well Mum?" Emily asked, seeing her mistress shiver. She had returned with the tea.
"Yes, Emily, perfectly well," Elizabeth replied. "I believe I shall take this upstairs. It seems closer to dawn than I had realized."
"Yes, Mum. It is nearing four o'clock."
"Indeed? I would normally have arisen in a few hours anyway. Would you please find Martha and send her up to me in half an hour?"
Elizabeth took her tea and made her way upstairs. She walked to the gallery and gazed upon the portrait of her husband, again remembering the day she first had seen it. "How conflicted my emotions were then." But that day Elizabeth had not dared even hope to see her own likeness on the wall next to his. "Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy" reads the small plate at the bottom of the frame.
Now, though, she did allow her mind to wander. She thought of how proud Darcy had been when her portrait had been hung. How important it was to him to have added something tangible to this part of his ancestral home. She could only imagine how his pride would swell, in anything but an improper way, at having the likeness of his son taken -- an heir for Pemberley.
Yet, Elizabeth felt certain that he would be just as welcoming of a daughter. A little girl for him to dote upon. She smiled at the thought of her Fitzwilliam, somewhat experienced in raising a girl because of Georgiana, becoming even more protective of his own daughter.
"Is my likeness so unlike me that you find it laughable?"
Elizabeth jumped at the sound of Fitzwilliam's voice and dropped her teacup, which shattered and spilled what little tea was left upon the hardwood floors.
"Dearest, I am sorry. I did not wish to frighten you," laughed Darcy, coming up behind his wife, turning her around and encircling her with his arms. Turning more serious, "But you look pale. Surely you're not concerned about the cup or the floor?" Noticing her attire, he said, "How long have you been awake? Did you not sleep again? Why did you not wake me? Were you feeling ill again?"
"A little," she admitted, unwilling to lie despite her desire to withhold from her suspicion that she was with child.
"You mustn't go out of doors today,"
"Fitzwilliam!" she interjected.
"Well, at least stay within the immediate lawn and gardens. You've been so tired despite your inability to sleep and you haven't been eating well either." Darcy was beginning to grow more truly concerned. "I will not go into the village today. My business there is not of a pressing nature and certainly can be postponed until next week's meeting. I will stay here with you. Should you wish to walk about, I will go with you. No, Elizabeth, do not protest, my mind is set on this matter. I will send a boy with a note for Mr. Dennison directly. As a matter of fact, I will send the boy for Mr. Martin, my physician as well."
Elizabeth knew that her carefully planned day would not happen, but she resigned herself to that. She was too happy to concern herself with such minimal details. "If you think it is best, Fitzwilliam," she said, trying to sound disinterested. This way, she would see Mr. Martin sooner than she had planned, but she did not want to give her husband any reason to think she was looking forward to the visit.
Mr. Martin, the physician, arrived not long after the Darcys had finished breakfast. He met with the couple in the library, and listened as Darcy described his wife's symptoms.
"And you have no notion of what may be causing this?" he asked seriously. Darcy responded in the negative, but behind his left shoulder his wife looked at Mr. Martin with a noncommittal expression upon her countenance. Her practiced look suggested more hope than ignorance, and the sensitive doctor immediately understood her desire for discretion.
As a professional in Lambton, Mr. Martin had no desire to find himself on the wrong side of the Darcys' pleasure. Mrs. Darcy obviously did not yet want her husband to be aware of her probable condition, and Mr. Martin was not about to go against the wishes of the Mistress of Pemberley. "Mr. Darcy. I cannot give your wife a diagnosis until I have examined her. If you will permit us some privacy, I shall do so directly."
"Yes. Of course. My wife will show you the way upstairs," Darcy said. The words rushed out of his mouth quickly, betraying his concern to the doctor, who turned away, so as not to smile. "Mrs. Darcy?" Mr. Martin questioned.
"This way," she said, leading the way out of the library. Her husband followed them. He obviously intended to wait directly outside of her chamber, which she did not want. "Fitzwilliam," she said quietly, pulling her husband aside, "perhaps you should take a turn outside, in the gardens. This morning September air is so pleasant."
"I wish to be near you," he said simply.
"There is nothing for you to do in the corridor upstairs. I will come to you after we are through." Darcy could tell from his wife's tone that she would not react kindly to a negative reply, and, being so concerned about her health, he decided not to endanger her by making her angry. "After all," he reasoned, Mr. Martin is certain to confine her to the house until she regains her normal strengths, and she is more likely to accept such limitations from him than from me," he thought.
"Certainly," he acquiesced, and turned toward the door to walk outside.
Elizabeth then turned around and walked up the grand staircase. She smiled to herself, thinking, "So simple, yet so much more elegant than the much-discussed staircases at Rosings."
She met Mr. Martin in the hallway outside her rooms. "Mrs. Darcy," he began. "Do you have not the slightest notion of what may be the cause of your ailments?"
Elizabeth smiled, surprisingly shyly, and said, "I am hopeful that I know the cause, but I thought it better that Mr. Darcy not be aware until I knew for certain."
Mr. Martin smiled back. "Come, now. This should be finished quickly," he said as he followed her into the room.
As expected, it was not much later when the two again emerged from the room. Elizabeth's smile was even larger now. "Spring," she said, as a giggle escaped from behind her smile.
"Thank you Mr. Martin," she said seriously, although the smile still did not leave her face. "Could you remain? I am certain Mr. Darcy would wish to speak with you," Elizabeth asked as she and Mr. Martin made their way downstairs. they were there met by Georgiana, who was coming inside.
"Elizabeth, are you ill?" she asked, her concern evident in her voice and look.
"No, indeed. I am quite well," she said. The relief was immediately evident upon Georgiana's face. "Have you seen your brother?"
"Yes," she replied. "He was walking near the trout stream. You are certain you are not ill?"
"I am certain. I believe Mr. Darcy, though, will not believe me. I will go fetch him and bring him back here, if you would wait with Mr. Martin."
Georgiana nodded her acquiescence, and led Mr. Martin into the drawing room as Elizabeth set outside toward the trout stream.
She soon found her husband. They met on a footbridge as he had been on the other side of the stream.
"Why are you out here alone?" he asked immediately. "Where is Mr. Martin?"
"Mr. Martin is inside with Georgiana. I dare say you will be speaking with him shortly," Elizabeth said. She was suddenly reminded of the day he had proposed -- the second time -- when she had been so overcome with happiness that she was unable to meet his gaze.
Darcy unfortunately misread her averted face and fear began to grip his heart. "Tell me, please, what did he say?" He took her hands in his, but her eyes remained fixed on the grain in the wood of the footbridge.
"Pull yourself together, Lizzy," she thought to herself. "Dear God, you're frightening him," but she still could not will herself to bring her eyes to his.
Darcy brought his right hand, still holding her left one, to her chin and slowly lifted her head till he could look squarely in her eyes. She felt him stiffen as he saw the tears in her eyes, but she saw nothing but love in his countenance.
"This spring," she began, but stopped when she felt his hands grip hers.
"Spring, so quick?" Darcy's voice began to crack. This could not be happening.
Finally regaining her composure, Elizabeth remembered to smile again. "Marriage proposals are men's work," she thought. "It is fine for a woman to be silent. But now, no."
"Yes, my dearest, spring. That would be the usual time." Elizabeth laughed lightly. This time she had to make him look at her. "Mr. Martin has told me that this spring you are to become a father."
Darcy looked at his wife in shock. All he was able to say was, "What?"
Holding her husband's hands tightly she said, "I am with child. You are going to be a father. We are going to have a baby."
"Oh dear God," Darcy said reverently. "A child. Our child." The tears that had pressed behind his eyes when he feared he would lose his precious wife now coursed down his face unheeded, a visible testament to his relief and joy.
He pulled Elizabeth tightly toward him and wrapped his arms around her. He lifted his head and kissed his wife lightly on the tip of her nose, then passionately on her lips. Then he stepped back and looked at her. He placed his hands on her abdomen, "I cannot believe this. I am so happy Elizabeth. What have I ever done to deserve so many blessings?"
Darcy sighed, contentedly and pulled his wife close to him again. "But you have been so ill. Should you be out here? Is it safe?"
"My symptoms all have been quite normal, and although Mr. Martin wishes that I not walk out alone or overtire myself, I am quite well. However, I am certain you will not rest until you hear such things from him. And, we must rescue your sister. She must be running out of things to say to Mr. Martin."
Darcy wrapped a protective arm around her waist and the pair happily walked back toward the house.
© 1999 Copyright held by author