How Much Do I Love Him
Elizabeth Darcy and her sister Jane Bingley sat contentedly sewing in the parlor at Pemberley. The Bingleys were staying with Elizabeth and William until everything was ready for them to move into Hartley Manor, the estate the Bingley had lately purchased just 26 miles from Pemberley. "It is so wonderful to see you so happy, Elizabeth," Jane said with a gentle smile.
"And I am equally satisfied to see that you and Charles are so wonderfully happy together. To think Jane we shall be living so close to each other, I can scarcely bear so much happiness," replied Elizabeth.
"It gives me such joy to see how much you and Mr.. Darcy love each other, and to see him smile so much and hear him laugh. He is truly happy Elizabeth," Jane said.
"I do love him so much Jane, so much so that sometimes it frightens me," Elizabeth sighed.
Jane laughed, "Frightens you, Lizzie how can loving someone frighten anyone."
"I am afraid that I might do something or say something to make him so angry with me that he would leave me. You know how I strike out sometimes when I lose my temper and say hurtful things. I have never done it with William, but sometimes I dream that I have been very foolish and have hurt him greatly with my sharp tongue and he goes away from me never to return. Other times I dream that he tires of being married to a country girl and goes to Rosings to live with his Aunt and his cousin Anne, leaving me here alone."
"Oh Lizzie, Mr.. Darcy would never leave you, he is mad about you. How can you be so silly?" Jane said with such concern in her voice. "You are carrying his child and he is ecstatic, the last thing you have to think about is his leaving you, what foolishness.
"What foolishness, indeed," said Darcy, "where in the world would you ever get the idea that I would leave you, my dearest."
He walked across the room to take her hand and kiss both palms with great concern on his handsome face.
He had been worried sometimes since Elizabeth had, at last after nearly a year of marriage, become pregnant. She seemed to have such changes of mood, but he had attributed this to her condition.It had never occurred to him that she would ever be frightened about anything. Now here he comes into the room to hear her say that she is fearful of losing him and his love.
"William, Charles, we didn't hear you come in," Jane said, "how much did you hear of our conversation."
"Enough to know that my wife is having some flights of fancy that are disturbing to me," replied Darcy.
"Jane, dearest, you certainly don't harbor any such thoughts as these," Bingley said.
"Of course not, Charles, this is just some to the silliness that a woman goes through when she is carrying a child," Jane laughed.
Darcy, however was not convinced and pulling his wife from her chair asked the Bingleys to excuse them as he led his Elizabeth out of the room and up the stairs.
"If you will excuse us I must speak to my wife and find a way of reassuring her that my love is forever hers," he said as they left the room.
"Well, Jane, since we are left alone perhaps I should reassure you also," Bingley said with a grin and led his Jane up the stairs after the Darcys.
Darcy walked to the hearth to stir up the fire and lay another log on before turning to look at his wife as she sat in her favorite chair here in the master bed chamber.
Walking to where she was sitting he lifted her and sitting himself down in her place placed her on his lap saying.
"Now, my love tell me how long you have been doubting my love for you."
"It isn't you I doubt, dearest, it is myself. I am so huge and ugly, my temper flares at you for no reason and I feel so clumsy and uncomfortable," Elizabeth answered.
"You have never been more beautiful to me, my heart, I don't think that there is anything more lovely than a woman carrying her child, especially this one, with my child," Darcy told her.
Elizabeth laughed, "Oh, William, I do love you so very dearly."
She laid her head on his shoulder just beneath his chin where he began to stroke her hair telling her again how very much he loved her until she fell asleep.
Darcy reached over to pick up the book he had been reading being very careful of his movements as he did not wish to wake his wife. She had not been sleeping well of late and he wanted her to get all the rest she could.
The book could not keep his interest though as thoughts of his courtship and married life kept invading his reading.
What a stormy sea they had traveled before they had at last made it to the altar.
She was the only woman he had ever met who saw him for himself and not for his wealth or position, and he had known long before he won her that he could never be complete without her in his life for ever.
She had brought so much joy into this house with her wit, her laughter, her love of music and books. He was indeed a fortunate man in his wife, he thought, in spite of her mother, though he found he enjoyed Father Bennets company more and more as time went on.
Still stroking her brow he said quietly to her, "The servants adore you and will do anything you ask as I would myself. The tenants think you are an angel, always there to help when you are needed. The MacMasters especially, revere you, the solution you came up with was so simple, yet so beneficial to all."
The MacMasters were nine months behind in their rent and were fearful of being evicted before they could catch up, but Elizabeth pointed out to them all that the third boy had a love of horses and seemed to have a way with the animals. Since they were in need of a stableboy at Pemberley the boy could work at the stables, and the oldest daughter could take the place of Marie in the kitchen, since her marriage had left an opening in the staff there.
The two of them could work there until the debt was paid off and if they wished to they could stay on working for their own wages after the rent was all caught up. If not they could return home.
The solution had been beneficial to all. Robert was the best stableboy they had ever had and Wilson was now getting fearful that he might lose him in a few months.
Sarah had been a blessing in the kitchen, she had a great knowledge of cooking and as cook said did twice as much work as any of the other girls without a whimper at any task put before her.
"Yes, my love you are loved by all here at Pemberley, and even the neighbors have come to appreciate you after getting over the shock of my marrying a girl without fortune or position. Fortune, you are my fortune, Elizabeth Darcy," Darcy smiled and himself fell asleep.
Darcy raised himself up on his elbow to look at his sleeping wife before trying to slip quietly out of the bed. He had to go to visit the two farms at the farthest end of Pemberley Estates this day and so had to leave very early in the day. Before first light if he could. He wanted to leave the bed without waking Elizabeth but as she had from the first night of their marriage, as soon as he left her side she was awake, sleepily asking what time it was. Darcy gave her the time before urging her to go back to sleep. She had had a restless night and he was worried about leaving her for the entire day, at least he hoped it would be only one day but sometimes when he went to these farms it took two or three.
She had trouble getting to sleep the night before and had gone from the bed to the chair that she loved in front of the fireplace in which she felt was more comfortable at that time than the bed. He had joined her sitting in his own chair next to hers where he soon fell asleep whilst they were talking.
He could not clearly remember going back to the bed but somewhere in the back of his mind was the memory of his wife tucking him in before snuggling up beside him.
He returned to the room dressed for his journey and leaned over to kiss her saying, "Go back to sleep my love, my journey will be easier if I know that you are well and getting the rest you need at this time."
"Is Charles going with you," asked Elizabeth.
The Bingleys had come to stay until the child was born. It was a great relief to both of the Darcys to have them there.
They had not been, as Elizabeth told Jane, entirely honest with their mother. After the disaster of her waiting upon Jane at the time of her child's birth.
The last thing Elizabeth needed was to have her mother there having hysterics and attacks of nerves. Jane had told them that it was more exhausting trying to get Mrs. Bennet to calm down than it was to have a child.
She had alternated between screaming at the doctor and having to have her smelling salts to quiet her nerves and keep her from fainting.
Elizabeth could picture the scene very clearly in her mind and was determined that her mother would be as far away as could be when it came time for her own confinement. They had therefore told her parents that the child was not due until the end of June, giving Elizabeth a month to recuperate before the onslaught of her relations from Longbourn.
Darcy returned to the room to check on his wife before going down to breakfast and found her in the chair reading.
"Please, my love will you not try to get some sleep. Aunt and Uncle Gardiner will be here this afternoon and you must be rested before they and the children come. You know that the children will want to entertained after their long ride and will tire you out completely."
"Don't worry, Dearest William, I will rest when you are gone. Is Charles going with you, you did not answer my question before," she replied.
"Yes, I would rather he would stay here but he wishes to go with me, so I could not deny him the pleasure he gets from these little trips. He finds such great pleasure in spotting for game for future references," Darcy laughed.
Elizabeth stood at the window watching the two men she loved so very dearly as they rode off to the west and wished them Godspeed in her mind. She too wished that Darcy's trip would be a short one.
She had not told him how much her back and legs ached last night and this morning for she knew that he would cancel his trip and it was an important one.
"Oh," she said to herself, "it seems like I have been in this condition forever."
First there had been the nausea and the retching. The aversion to food and the sight and smells of it . Worst had been bacon, it seemed to permeate the entire house when cook fixed it, sending her running for the basin to retch in.
Poor William, she thought, he loved his breakfast bacon, but had forgone it for three months until she was over that part of her pregnancy. She, however, still could not bear the sight of it.
The next three months had been easy and she had begun to wonder why Jane had complained about being uncomfortable. She and William still took long walks and she felt so wonderful and happy .
The seventh month had started out just as good as the last three, but by the end of it the back aches had started and she began to feel huge and cumbersome. She was sure in spite of her husbands reassurances that she was about as ugly as it was possible for a woman to be. She waddled about like a duck and took an eternity to go up and down the stairs, but she was determined not to shrink from her duties as Mistress of Pemberley.
Now she was in the last month and she was looking forward to getting it over with. It seemed that in the last day or two the child was lower, but she put that down to her imagination.
She fell asleep there in the chair, the book falling to the floor beside her until she was awakened by a searing pain that coursed through her whole body taking the very breath out of her.
Could her time be here she wondered, but the pain passed soon and she dismissed it.
Looking at the clock on the mantle she exclaimed, "10:35, I have been sleeping her for at least four hours. Jane will wonder what I am about," and she rose to call her maid to help her dress before going down to find her sister.
When she was almost to the landing when another pain hit her like a blow and she sat on the step to let it pass before she continued on down to the East Room to find her sister and ask if she could enlighten her as to what was going on with her. Jane would know if the time had come for her child to make his appearance.
She did not want to ask Mrs. Reynolds and send the servants into a panic. When she was sure that it was time she would have to ask the housekeeper to send for Dr. Mack but for now she wanted to keep it between herself and Jane.
Elizabeth took her sewing basket and went in search of her sister.
Mrs. Reynolds emerged from the morning room to be greeted by the sight of the Mistress looking very pale and asked her if she were feeling unwell.
Elizabeth assured her that she was fine and asked if she knew where Mrs. Bingley might be.
Mrs. Reynolds was not convinced that Mrs. Darcy was being entirely truthful but informed her that her sister was in the morning room. As she watched the mistress go toward the room to find Mrs. Bingley she made a note to keep a close watch on her until the master returned. It was time for the heir to Pemberley to make his entrance into the world and at the first sign of distress from their dear Elizabeth she would send for Doctor Mack.
Elizabeth took a deep breath as she stood for a few minutes outside the door trying to decide how to ask Jane how one knew when one's child was on the way.
Jane looked up with a welcoming smile at her entrance and Elizabeth felt instantly comforted. She returned her sisters smile as she sat on the settee and took out her sewing.
"Dear Lizzie," laughed Jane, "how many nappies have you made for this child?"
"I am told that this is one thing one never has enough of," replied Elizabeth with a grin.
She had no more than finished saying this when another pain assailed her. Keeping her head down she hoped that her sister had not noticed her discomfort.
The had been sewing for about and half an hour when Jane again heard her sister's quick intake of breath and noticed that for a short time she stopped sewing. If what she was thinking was true she hoped that Darcy's business would not take long and that the two husbands would return soon.
"Jane," said Elizabeth, "how did you know when it was time for little Charles to be born."
"Well," said Jane, "I had ever increasing pains which got closer and closer together, you are having pains now, are you not sister? How many minutes are they apart and how long have you been having them?"
"They started last night but were not too bad until just before I came down the stairs. Now the are about 20 minutes apart."
Jane dropped her sewing and ran into the hall to call for Mrs. Reynolds, who came running in immediately.
"Mrs. Reynolds, send for Dr. Mack at once, Mrs. Darcy's pains are a mere 20 minutes apart. Tell him to come with all haste and send the girls up to prepare the birthing room so that the mistress can go up there without any hustle and bustle about her," Jane instructed. "Elizabeth, you should have told me when you came down, it has been two hours and you have not breathed a word of you pain."
"I know not how close the pains should be before I should start to worry about going upstairs" Lizzie replied as another pain hit her, "but I do believe it is time."
Jane took her arm to steady her as they went up the stairs. while Mrs. Reynolds gave orders to the maids. "Robert went to fetch Dr. Mack" She told the two that he should be here within the hour. "I have helped birth quite a few including Miss Georgiana so do not be alarmed, we will handle things until he gets here."
Darcy and Charles entered the house in high spirits, the business had been taken care of quickly and they were back at Pemberley before sunset.
"Where is everyone," William asked, as they entered the quiet house.
Uncle Gardiner came out of the library as they were passing by carrying a book."Ah, William, Charles how happy I am to see the two of you back so soon."
"Mary, what is going on here'" asked Darcy as the maid rushed past them carrying am armful of towels and rushed up the stair.
"Oh Master, she cried as she went, it is time the child is being born."
"What," shouted Darcy and started to hurry up the stairs after her followed by Bingley and Uncle Gardiner trying desperately to catch him, shouting at him to stop.
They reached the top to the stairs to hear a piercing scream emanate from the birth room.
Darcy flew down the hall shouting Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I am coming. He was met at the door however by Jane and Aunt Gardiner who stopped him before he could enter the room. With the help of the two men they got him to a chair in the hallway and forced him into it.
"I must go to my wife" he shouted, "I know she needs me right now."
"Calm yourself nephew," said Mrs. Gardiner, "the last thing Lizzie need now is a hysterical husband. It is almost over and--" another scream echoed down the hall and Darcy struggled to get to his feet to fight his way into the room.
"Do you wish to make things worse or do you wish to do what is right for your wife," scolded Uncle Gardiner, "stop thinking about what you want and try to think about Elizabeth's peace of mind, she has enough to cope with now, do you not agree."
Darcy sat back into the chair as another scream sounded followed by the most distressing sounds he had ever heard. "What is wrong, she sounds like she is straining to lift a heavy load," he cried.
"That is a good sound, it is almost done," sighed Aunt Gardiner. She had no more than uttered these words than they heard a small but ever increasing wail. "It is you child William, she said with a warm smile and a kiss for her favorite nephew.
"When can I see Elizabeth," asked Darcy I know she will want to know that I am here for her."
"She knows, dear" answered Mrs. Gardiner, she has always known that.
Jane came out of the room carrying a bundle which she took to Darcy.
Uncovering the face of the child she said softly, "Fitzwilliam Darcy meet your son, Fitzwilliam Darcy, meet your father.
Darcy looked into the red wrinkled face of his son who screwed up his countenance and opened his mouth in a huge yawn, blinking at his father he proceeded to try to stuff his entire fist into his mouth.
Darcy laughed and asked his aunt if the boy thought he could get his mouth that wide open.
After a few more tries the boy began to wail and Jane moved to take him back to his mother.
Darcy begged to be allowed to take him to Elizabeth but Jane was adamant he would not be allowed into the room until all evidence of what had taken place was cleaned up.
It seemed and eternity to William before she returned and told him that Lizzie wished to see him.
Leaping to his feet he rushed into the room to find his wife smiling happily holding their son. She looked elated but tired but the smell of blood lingered in the room he thought.
"Well my love, what do you think of the our son, is he not the most beautiful child ever," she muttered sleepily.
"He is so red and wrinkled, Darcy said' but he has a healthy pair of lungs I must say."
He pulled a chair up beside the bed and sat down where he could be close to her brushing the damp curls back from her face as he did so.
"You are so very beautiful, he murmured, I do love you so very much, I am so sorry that you had to bear this ordeal and there was no way I could be of help to you. They wouldn't let me in."
"You were with me all the time in my heart, said Elizabeth, and it was really an easy birth as Doctor Mack will tell you. I beg you please, go down and drink a toast with him and the rest of our family."
I do not want to leave you," he muttered.
Lizzie giggled, "William dearest, I am very tired and I wish to get the sleep you urged on me this morning, go down to our guests I beg you."
Darcy rose with great reluctance and after kissing her did as she asked.
Elizabeth awoke to find her husband again there at her bedside, his head on the bed, sleeping peacefully. She smiled and ran her fingers through his dark curls awakening him. As she kissed him softly they heard sounds of protest from the cradle. "Bring him to me me she told him, we have not found a wet nurse so I must feed him now, I am sure he is very hungry at this point.
Darcy lifted his son to the bed and as Elizabeth began to nurse him touched his hand lightly with his finger to have a small hand grasp it tightly. "How strong he is, he said with a delighted laugh."
"What did you expect from the heir to Pemberley," Elizabeth answered with a smile.
"We will have to inform Papa and Mama, but let us wait at least a fortnight she said.
"Whenever you wish," he grinned at her.
"Will you send news of our son to your Aunt Catherine," Elizabeth asked.
"No," Darcy said sharply.
Darcy headed from the stables to the house, his long legs making his passage twice as quick as most.
He hoped that Elizabeth was getting some much needed rest, young Will had been restless last night and she had not slept much. She had promised to take a nap before her parents arrived and let Jane and the nurse take care of the baby. They had finally found a wet nurse but Elizabeth had resisted having her breasts bound and instead was gradually turning the nursing over to Mrs. Davis. She had been feeding him less and less each week but it would,as Mrs. Reynolds advised him be a few more weeks before the transition was complete. To Darcy it seemed that it was taking an eternity but the doctor had agreed that this was the best course to follow, so he would have to be patient.
Darcy heard a carriage approaching and gave an involuntary shudder as he thought of the impending visit of his mother in law. Will was now two months old and this was the first visit from the Bennets since the birth. The thought of Mrs. Bennet's nerves was almost enough to give him a nervous attack himself. He strode quickly to the door to inform Mrs. Reynolds that their guest were arriving and to make sure that his instructions had been carried out.
Mrs. Reynolds informed him that the Mistress and the Bingley's were sleeping and asked if she should wake them. He told her that that was not be neccessary as he wished his wife to get as much sleep as she could. He did ask her to inform Mrs. Bingley if she woke that her parents were arriving, hoping that Jane would come and help relieve him of the duties of host.
Walking back into the courtyard he was greeted by the sight of Mrs. Bennet descending from the carriage, plumes bobbing, handkerchief fluttering. Raising his eyes he gave a quick prayer for strength.
"Mr. Darcy, dear, dear Mr. Darcy, how well you look. What a horrible journey, my poor nerves, such rough roads, the dust and the heat, it is almost more than I could stand. The thought that my dear Lizzie was in such dire need of her mother was all that kept me from returning to Longbourn, so we persevered on. Where is my dear dear Lizzie?"
Before Darcy could reply she went on. " To think that my grandson is all of two months old before I am to see him, but Lizzie has always been so thoughtless of my sensitivity. She would have the child before I could arrive to assist, so thoughtless of her, and it is yet another month before we are to see the dear heir to Pemberley. How pleased your Aunt Catherine must be to know that my Lizzie has given you a son."
Darcy was amazed that the woman could say so much without seeming to stop for breath and her stared at her with a stunned look.
"Elizabeth certainly did not think she was doing anything to hurt your sensitive nature he replied coolly, she thought to spare you the distress that you suffered at the birth of your first grandchild."
"Oh, dear Mr. Darcy how wonderful of you to defend her, but Lizzie has always been so thoughtless of me," she persisted.
"Enough, Mrs. Bennet, declared Mr. Bennet shaking Darcy's hand.
"I should have known you would take up for her, Mrs. Bennet whined, she can do no wrong in your eyes, you always take her part no matter how it hurts my feelings, she learned her insensitivity from you I am sure."
Darcy, while they were wrangling was helping Mary and Kitty from the carriage.
"Welcome back to Pemberley, girls, he said, Georgiana is looking forward to your visit with great joy."
Escorting the party into the house he was again assailed by his mother in laws voice, "Dear Georgiana, how does she feel about being an aunt, is she continuing her music studies, I shall look forward to hearing her play, and Mary will entertain us also, won't you, my dear."
Not by singing, Darcy prayed, silently
As they came into the foyer the servants took the bags toward the back of the house. Mrs. Bennet stopped them saying, "No, no they go up the stairs here. Where is my daughter Mr. Darcy, she should be here to great her dear mama.
"Continue on, said Darcy, "I have taken the liberty of putting you up in the west wing Mrs. Bennet. I felt that it would be best for your nerves to be away from the sounds of crying babies and the hustle and bustle that goes on with two infants in the house."
"Oh, such a dear boy, so thoughtful, so kind, isn't it a shame our daughters are not as considerate as Mr. Darcy." Mrs. Bennet almost wept as she thanked him again.
"Where are Lizzie and Jane and the Gardiners, do they not know that it is only polite to greet guests when they arrive," she went on. I would think that Mr. Bingley would at least make an appearance, so unkind of him to force my poor dear Jane to move away from Netherfield and her family."
"We thought it might be best if you went to your rooms and rested from your journey, I am sure you will at least want to freshen up before you see your grandchildren, and from what you have told me a little nap will rejuvenate your spirits before tea." Darcy told her hoping it would be a long nap.
Mr. Bennet was studying the board trying to decide on his next move. Charles was sitting in a chair beside them watching his father in law and his best friend match wits over the chess board
Suddenly they heard someone enter the room. Mr. Bennet knew immediately that it was Elizabeth from the look of joy and the smile that crossed Darcy's face.
This young man was indeed a treasure, he thought, his love for Lizzie is there in his face each time he looks at her. Lizzie was indeed right, he was the best man she would ever know.
"Papa, I didn't know you had arrived, she cried, William why did you not wake me."
"I would not have it so, said Mr. Bennet, your generous and thoughtful husband informed me of how little sleep you got last night and we agreed that you should finish your nap."
"Where is Mama, Mary, Kitty," Elizabeth asked.
"They are resting from the tiring journey from Longbourn, but they should be awake soon, it has been at least two hours," her father informed her.
Jane entered the room to great her father, "Papa I am so sorry I was not there to greet you but I fell asleep myself after I put Charlie down.""I did not even hear you when you came up the stairs, usually the noise of trunks being moved about and Mama and the girls talking would awaken me, but I must have slept more soundly than usual.
'I took the liberty of putting your family in the west wing, Darcy informed them,it would seem best for your mothers nerves if she is away from the noise of the children.
" A good thought," said Mr. Gardiner, and Mrs. Gardiner agreed wholeheartedly.
Mrs. Bennet entered the study all aflutter, the two younger daughters following close behind.
"Lizzie, Jane come and kiss your mama, she cried, neither of you were there to greet us, only Mr. Darcy was kind enough to make us welcome, good day Mr. Bingley, brother, sister, where have you been hiding yourselves."
"We were in Lampton visiting friends, we did not know when to expect you and Mrs. Bowles asked us for to visit, her brother told her.
Lizzie rang for tea, while inquiring about their journey and was given a full account of all the bumps, the dust, the heat, the bad food and the uncomfortable beds in the inn where they had spent the night.
Mrs. Bennet enjoyed telling all about her trial and travails a great deal and finished every detail before remembering that they had a new grandson that they were to see.
"Where is the heir to Pemberley, why have I not had the chance to admire my new grandson, Lizzie you are most thoughtless of your poor mother,"
"Mrs. James is bringing him down as soon as he is awake and fed, Mama," Elizabeth explained.
"Jane, Bingley, where is young Charles, I have come all this way and you neglect to present him to me too."
Mr. Bingley told her that Charles was napping too and would be there when he awakened.
"All this long journey and so much to bear and I must wait to see my grandsons, it is too much to bear, Mr. Bennet do you not agree."
"I believe the girls were only thinking of your poor nerves, my dear, you know how much a fussing baby upset you, they only wish for the boys to be well rested to make their introduction to their grandmama more pleasant," he replied, to her consternation.
"I don't know why I look to you, she sighed, I know that you always take their side against me."
"Sister, no one is taking sides against you, said Mr. Gardiner, indeed it seems to me everyone has been giving a great deal of thought to how badly your nerves will be acting up after such a journey as you have had."
"Indeed Fanny, you should be grateful for their consideration and kindness," interposed Mrs. Gardiner.
"Well, if you put it that way I suppose you are right", answered Mrs. Bennet without much conviction.
"Georgiana, Kitty, Mary, how good it is to see all of you together," Mrs. Gardiner said, hoping that the entrance of the three girls would divert her silly, self centered sister in law, Perhaps we can induce Georgiana to play for us after tea."
"Mama, would you care to pour," asked Elizabeth, hoping that acting as hostess would appease her mother for all her imagined slights.
Mr. Bennet was only too happy to pour from the fine tea set placed before her by Mrs. Reynolds, who informed them that the nurses would be bringing the babies down in a few minutes.
Darcy rose and took his son from Mrs. James and presented him to his grandparents.
"Oh Lizzie, squealed, Mrs. Bennet, he is the most beautiful child I have ever beheld, let me have him."
Her high pitched voice frightened young Will and he let out a loud wail, causing his grandmother to call to Lizzie for help.
Elizabeth took her son and speaking softly to him soon had him smiling before she gave him to her Father. He smiled and cooed at his grandfather sending Mrs. Bennet into tears and recriminations that being Lizzie's son he would of course prefer his grand father.
"Don't be a fool, Fanny said Mr. Gardiner in disgust, you squeal in such a high voice you frighten the child, you must speak to him quietly and softly."
"You are all against me, I am going to my room," Mrs. Bennet wailed and ran from the room.
Dear Lord if this is an indication of what this visit is to be like, Darcy thought, I shall go mad.
Lizzie sat in her favorite chair nursing her son while her husband knelt beside her tracing the boy's cheek with his finger. Lizzie never felt so content at any time as she did at this time of the morning. She and William spent these quiet minutes each morning talking while she fed young Will.
" I shall too soon have no more milk and his feedings will be taken over complexly by his wet nurse, she said with a trace of sadness, I shall miss our quiet times together, just the three of us."
"We shall many quiet times even after you no longer nurse him. We shall have him brought in here each morning after he is fed and just enjoy playing with him," Darcy replied, kissing her softly.
"He shall have to be brought into the master bed chamber for we shall move back there as soon as our guests are gone, at least when my family leaves," Elizabeth said with a laugh.
Darcy joined in her laughter as they both remembered the last time her mother had visited.
Mrs. Bennet had three mornings running gone into Elizabeth's room to find it empty and the bed unslept in. She had been shocked almost into a swoon when she found out that they shared one bed in the master suite and had done so from their wedding night. She had insisted that this was simply not done and that Lizzie must sleep in her own bed, she declared their behavior most unseemly. Elizabeth had promised to do as she asked to placate her.
The next morning she had walked unannounced into Lizzie's room only to find both of them in the bed. She had rushed from the room crying that they did not understand of what she spoke when she told Lizzie that she must go to her own bed instead of Mr. Darcy's
"You are thinking the same as I, I would wager," laughed Elizabeth.
"I believe so, answered William, what do you think would have happened if she had marched in 15 minutes earlier."
"Elizabeth laughed so hard that tears ran down her cheeks.
"I believe my father would have been a widower at this time if that had happened, at least she did not enter the bedroom before breakfast again during her entire visit, though she did make her displeasure known for at least three days."
No more were the words out of her mouth than the door opened and her mother swept in, crying, Lizzie dear I must see my grandson."
She stopped short a look of alarm on her face as she cried, "Lizzie, what are you doing, and in Mr. Darcy's presence too."
"I am feeding my son, Mama, and Mr. Darcy is his father, what are you scolding about Mama."
"Oh, Ohhh, this is too much to bear a daughter of mine nursing her own child, Lizzie what are you thinking of, you have a wet nurse, do you not, OHHH, Ohhh dear I feel faint I must have some smelling salts," she sobbed as she flopped back into Darcy's chair.
"The wet nurse has been with us only for three weeks, Elizabeth explained. Surely you would not have me let this poor child starve until she was available."
"Oh Mr. Darcy I must apologize for my daughter's conduct, she was not brought up to do such an unladylike thing, but she has always gone her own way regardless of propriety, to think that a daughter of mine should do such a thing, it is not to be borne."
"I believe it is a beautiful thing to see a mother nurse her child, but I must go down to our guests ." Darcy replied as he kissed Will and then kissed his wife on the head as she whispered, "Coward."
With a grin and a raised eyebrow he left her to her mother and beat a hasty retreat.
OHHH, OHHH dear, OHHH, dear, I must have some smelling salts Lizzie, this is too much, to think that Mr. Darcy approves, it is more than I can bear."
"I have no smelling salts, Mama. I have not need for it, said Elizabeth so pull yourself together and we will go down to breakfast."
"I could not eat a bite, her mother wailed, what will people think and Lord and Lady Matlock are arriving today, what will they say about the way I have raised my daughters, you are thoughtless beyond belief Lizzie."
"Mama, how will they know unless you tell them," Elizabeth said as she left the room her mother trailing after her still decrying her daughters unfeeling actions. First Jane moving so far away and now Lizzie's actually nursing the baby, it would be her undoing she was certain.
Elizabeth came into the breakfast room followed closely by her mother, handkerchief fluttering as she wailed. "Oh brother, sister, Mr. Bennet, my nerves, my nerves, I have come upon Lizzie nursing her child and in Mr. Darcy's presence, what are we to do. You must speak to her Mr. Bennet, you must tell her how improper her actions are."
"And what am I to do about it, he replied, it seems that there is nothing I can do, so calm yourself and have some of this delicious breakfast cook has made, it will make you feel vastly better."
"I could not eat a thing, Mrs. Bennet replied as she filled her plate. I should have known better than to appeal to you, you will always take her side. Sister you must help me show Lizzie of the error of her ways, she must stop this at once."
"Fanny, what would you have her do, let the boy starve while they sought a wet nurse, do not talk foolishness sister, I find it quite commendable, myself."
Mr. Bingley, hoping to aleve the situation said, "You must admit Mother Bennet that this was all you daughter could do, I am sure that when you give it some serious thought you will see that this is so. He is a beautiful child, is he not."
"Do not seek to placate me, Mr. Bingley, you, who forced my Jane to move from Netherfield and her dear family, you who moved her up here in the wild north country, do not even speak to me," she snapped.
"Mama, Mr. Bingley did not force anything on to me," Jane said a little sharply for her, but she was beginning to tire of her mothers constant recriminations
"Indeed, my dear, it was the only way they could escape you constant attendance. You would not give them a day to themselves while they were at Netherfield. I tried to tell you to let them have a few days alone, but no, even on the day after their wedding you insisted on going to visit taking Kitty and Mary with you," Mr. Bennet reminded her.
"I was only trying to help, poor, dear Jane needed her mothers advice and counsel. You are all against me, I have no one to talk to, no one who understands my pain," cried Mrs. Bennet stuffing her mouth with her breakfast, which turned out to be considerable for a woman who declared all the while that she could not eat a thing.
"My dear Fanny, I am going into the village this morning, I am sure you would enjoy the ride and there are some fine shops there. Why don't you come with us, we will take the girls too and make a day of it, what fun we shall have. We shall lunch at the inn, the food there is particularly fine," Mrs. Gardiner said.
"Shops, lunch in town, what fun, did you hear that girls," Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, forgetting in a trice all about her nerves. "Kitty, Mary finish you breakfast so that we can be off. Georgiana I am sure you will enjoy a day of shopping too, dear."
Georgiana readily agreed, and left the table with the other girls to make ready. Anything , she thought, to give her dear sister a relief from her mothers hysterics.
Darcy gave his Aunt Gardiner a relieved smile and a silent thank you.
"Come, Bingley, if we are to go to the Richards farm and be back for tea we must be off," he said as the two young men took their leave.
When her mother went quickly to her room Elizabeth gave her aunt a kiss and a hug in thanks for her quick thinking and diverting her mother's unseemly behavior.
Elizabeth stood at the window watching her husband and Charles ride off.
"Dear Lizzie, I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me to see you so loved and so happy," her father said as he came up behind her to watch with her.
"I am so very happy, Father," she replied, "and I do love William as much as he lives me."
"Lizzie dear, that is evident each time you look at him, no one could doubt your love for each other, after seeing the two of you together."
"I love him so much it sometimes frightens me," Elizabeth said quietly. "I fear it might be sinful to love a man so much, but each day find more reason to love him. I fear that my life is too perfect and something must happen to punish me. Each time he leaves me I am fearful that something will happen to him, is that not foolishness, Papa. His tenants love and respect him for his fairness and compassion. The servants would lay down their lives for him, he treats all with respect such I have never seen before in a master of such a great estate."
"I know how much you are both loved and respected, my child, not only here at Pemberley but in the town as well, everyone speaks highly of the Darcy's." Your fears will disappear in a short time , dear,it is not unusual for a woman to feel thus after the birth of a child," her father reassured her.
"I was much surprised by Jane's outburst though, it is not like our Jane to speak so sharply to her mother."
"I think that Jane is getting more than a little tired of Mama's constant recriminations against Charles, and she really needs some rest, I sent her to her room to get some sleep before everyone comes back,"Elizabeth replied.
At the sound of the carriage entering the compound, she smiled saying, I hope that is the Fitzwilliams, I know how much you enjoy their company Papa. Will you entertain them while I go to get young Will, I know that Aunt will want to see him at once."
Lady Matlock smiled at Jane as she entered the room, expressing her delight at seeing her once again and congratulating her on what a beautiful child Charles was at a year and a half.
Jane thanked her ladyship and took a seat beside her son and her husband telling Charles that she had not expected him back so soon.
Charles told her that he had found her asleep when they returned and did not wish to wake her so he brought young Charles down to meet the Fitz-Williams. He explained to her the reason for their swift return and urged her to look at the beautiful quilt.
As she was admiring it Mrs. Bennet swept into the room declaring to Lady Matlock that she had not thought that they would arrive until late afternoon or she surely would not have gone into town.
Turning to Elizabeth she began to admonish her for not informing her when Lord and Lady Matlock were to arrive.
"Mama I did not know when they would arrive so I could give you no information of the kind," Elizabeth answered.
In spite of her ladyships reassurances she continued to scold Lizzie without letup.
Lord Matlock exchanged looks with his wife each of them thinking, how could such a woman bring such wonderful, amiable and wise young women into this world. Does the woman know the meaning of the word silence, he thought, and what an irritating voice. Did she ever speak in a normal tone.
"How very kind of you to try to make Lizzie's thoughtlessness seem forgivable but you do not know what I suffer. The fluttering of my heart, and my tremblings, see how my hands shake even now. This however is nothing compared to this morning when I caught her nursing young William, and in full sight of Mr. Darcy. I am sure you would never allow a daughter of yours to do such a thing" she wailed.
"If it meant my grandsons life I can assure you that I would certainly insist that she do so, replied her ladyship with disgust, after all isn't that why God gave women breasts in the first place, I would have done it myself if need be."
Mrs. Bennet went on without even hearing Lady Matlock's words, " and my poor dear Jane packed off against her will to this north country, taking her away from her mama and her much needed advice and counsel. To think that we all thought that Mr. Bingley was such a fine husband and son-in-law, but he insisted that they must leave Netherfield after being there for only a year. And after all I went through helping to bring this beautiful child, Charles into the world."
"The entire company was astounded when Jane rose from her seat and cried out, "Enough Mama, Charles did not force me into anything, I was even more anxious than he to leave Netherfield and your constant unsolicited and unwelcome advice than he was. Your constant hounding me to spend, spend, spend on things that I did not want and were not needed. I did not need your advice on how to run my household after all Lizzie and I have been running Longbourn for years while you lounged in your room with you tremblings and flutterings. You gave us no time for ourselves, from the first day of our marriage you were there from sunrise to sunset, inviting the neighbors for tea without once consulting me."
"We went to town for a fortnight after the first week to escape you. Charles had no business there but it was the only way we could be together by ourselves. As for your help in delivering my son, you were constantly begging the doctor to attend you and your nerves when I needed him most. If you remember Mama, he told you that if you did not leave the room he would send for Father and have you taken out bodily. Now you come here and instead of commending Lizzie for doing what she had to do and rejoicing in what a fine healthy grandson she has give you, you bemoan the fact that she is feeding her own son as God himself intended."
"Oh, Jane, Jane how can you speak so to me, your mother. Mr. Bennet are you going to just sit there and let your daughter abuse her poor mother."
"I see not reason to stop her," he replied, "after all isn't everything she said the absolute truth, I tried to tell you to leave off all the visits and invitations to the neighbors, but you would not listen."
"Do you see Lady Matlock what I suffer, my ungrateful daughters abuse me so. What am I to do when the neighbors find out that my dear sweet Jane has been so cruel to me and Lizzie is so unladylike and crass. However will I hold my head up again?"
"It seems to me madam, that the only way your neighbors will know of this is if you yourself tell them, I am sure that no one else of the assembly here is going to spread word of your self inflicted pain."
"Mr. Bennet, I must insist that we leave this house at once, everyone here is against me, I want to go home at once, or better yet I would go on to Lydia's. She and Mr. Wickham know how to treat a mother, such a charming man, so sweet, so thoughtful."
"Yes Mama, so sweet, so thoughtful, but I wonder how sweet and thoughtful he would be if you discontinued giving him money. He tells you what you wish to hear and you repay him, but he takes you for a fool and laughs at how easy it is to make a fool of you, he boasts of how stupid you are and the fact that he can get whatever he wants from you for the price a a little flattery," Jane went on. "The young child at the inn, did you not notice the resemblance to your dear Wickham, after all he is the father of the boy. Seducing a thirteen year old girl, that is you dear, sweet Wickham."
"This cannot be true, I do not believe you," she cried, "I am sure he was not b held to blame for a young girl flinging herself at him if it is so."
"I fear it is true, Mrs. Bennet," Darcy said, "the boy is Wickham's, the mother died in childbirth."
"Well, I am sure she was no better than she should be, I am sure she flung herself into his arms, he is such a charming, handsome man," Mrs. Bennet said.
"Flung herself into his arms, no better than she should be, Mama, like your dear Lydia," Jane snapped.
OWE, OHHH, Mr. Bennet I must go to Lydia, now," wailed Mrs. Bennet.
"You may go wherever you like," he replied, "but I am staying here for my grandsons christening and the girls are staying with me."
Mrs. Bennet ran sobbing from the room shouting for her maid to pack her trunks at once.
"My dear Jane don't cry," her father said, "no one blames you for this, you have been pushed beyond the limits of endurance, why don't you go to your room and have a little rest."
"Yes, my love, let us go upstairs," Charles said as he picked up their son and put his other arm around her shoulders.
"I must apologize to everyone here," Jane sobbed, "I don't know what got into me, but i cannot say yet that I am sorry, pray excuse us," and leaning for strength on her husbands arm they left the room.
"I must go with her," said Lizzie, "I have only seen Jane lose her temper twice before and find her formidable indeed when aroused."
"No, Lizzie," said her father, "let her be with Charles for a while and you have guests, remember."
"Indeed I do remember," said Elizabeth, "you must excuse my family Lady Matlock, Lord Matlock, it has been a trying day, and Jane has not been feeling well, it seems to have built up to the boiling point, but I cannot say I blame her."
"Elizabeth, my love, think nothing of it," laughed his lordship, "you should hear some of the rows that go on at the Fitzwilliams', now if everyone is open to it, may I suggest a round of cards."
"Indeed my dear, think no more about it," added Aunt Rebecca. "Mrs. Gardiner, Mr. Gardiner, I have not had the chance to tell you how delighted I am to see you again, I so enjoy your company."
Aunt Gardiner still had a stunned look on her face as she said, "I am delighted to see you too Lady Matlock, I wish it could have been under more pleasant circumstances though, I have never known Jane to lose her temper in her 24 years, but I must say she has been provoked for two days now."
Elizabeth finished her night feeding of Will while again Darcy sat in the chair opposite. When she had finished he touched his sons hand with his finger and Will grabbed on to it.
"He is uncommonly strong for one so small," he said.
"Of course, he is a Darcy, is he not," Elizabeth replied.
Darcy smiled and lifted his eyes to his wife's face where he saw such a look of love that he said softly, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth."
As he leaned over to kiss her a knock sounded at the door.
He rolled his eyes to the heaven as he said "Oh Lord do you think your mother is there?"
Elizabeth laughed, "I think not, my love whoever it is knocked. Come in."
Lady Matlock entered saying, "I hope I am not disturbing you but I wanted to know if you would wish me to go and talk with you mother, Elizabeth."
"Not tonight, Aunt Rebecca," she replied, "she will not hear anything anyone says at the present time. Perhaps in the morning, but she must be made to understand that if she is to stay she must no longer abuse Jane and Charles, on that I stand firm."
Lady Matlock knocked on Mrs. Bennet's door. When the maid asked who was there she answered and was given permission to enter.
"Lady Matlock, how kind of you to come, sighed Mrs. Bennet, but please do not try to dissuade me, I intend to leave this house as soon as may be."
"I have no intention of trying to dissuade you, her ladyship replied. As a matter of fact I think it would be for the best for all if you departed. Since your new grandson seems to be such a source of pain to you, I am sure you have no interest in attending his christening. What a shame you should dislike the child so much, he is such a beautiful baby, and so well behaved, he cries so seldom, and seems to be all smiles for the most part, so like his father as a babe, and so bright too."
"Dislike, my own grandson, what nonsense, whatever are you speaking of, of course I do not dislike the boy. What nonsense is this, I am sure Lizzie has put these notions into your head," cried Mrs. Bennet.
"Indeed, she has not, her ladyship replied, it is you yourself who put it into my head. It would seem that you would prefer that Elizabeth let the child starve so that you would not be embarrassed by her nursing him."
"But, but, that is not what I said," sputtered Mrs. Bennet, "I merely thought it inappropriate that she should nurse her own child, a woman in her position. I don't know what Lady Lucas will think."
"Mrs. Bennet, I know Lady Lucas, I am sure she will think nothing unseemly about Elizabeth's actions, as a matter of fact the only one I know of who is or would be troubled is you, the boy's own grandmother. How is Lady Lucas or any of your neighbors to know unless you tell them, your husband certainly will not and your daughter are not even aware of it," Lady Matlock said with a small sigh of disgust at this silly, vain, self centered woman.
"I am sure she will find out, she always does," wept Mrs. Bennet.
By now her ladyship was becoming fed up with Mrs. Bennet and said sharply, " Yes I think she will, one day when you are in need of attention you will tell all, hoping to elicit sympathy from whom so ever you are speaking to at the moment."
" How can you be so cruel to me," sobbed Mrs. Bennet, "My three daughters are so far from me, rarely do I get to see them and when I do all is not well. First Lydia and Wickham are sent so far north, and Mr. Bennet refuses to let me visit them. Then Lizzie marries Mr. Darcy and spends most of her time here in the north too. Now Jane and Mr. Bingley desert me and move up here also, you do not know the heartbreak I suffer. How could Jane speak so harshly to me, I am sure it is all Mr. Bingley's doing, could you believe the things she said to me," with that Mrs. Bennet fell into a handy chair sobbing and waving her handkerchief about.
"Mrs. Bennet, your daughter did not need your advice on running her household, of that I am sure. Face the truth madam, you saw a chance to entertain your friends lavishly at you new son's expense and you took every chance to do so. If this were not true you would have done your entertaining in your own home as you always had, but here was a chance to remind the ladies of your daughters new wealth and position. You gave no thought to the two newly weds or their need for a little privacy, you thought only of yourself," Lady Matlock said hotly.
"You are being so cruel to me, how can you speak so to a poor sick woman," sobbed Mrs. Bennet.
"Tell me, Mrs. Bennet, her ladyship went on, when you were first married did your mother in law spend all her time with you, giving you no privacy."
"Of course not," Mrs. Bennet replied indignantly, "my husband's parents went to visit friends in town and went on the grand tour to give us time to become situated."
"Very wise and thoughtful of them," replied Lady Matlock, "what a shame your daughter and Charles could not have enjoyed the same thoughtfulness and courtesy. Well, I must not keep you from your packing, I am sure you are most anxious to be gone, and the Darcys will welcome the piece and quiet your leaving will have on the household so that they can have their son christened without further ranting and fits of nerves."
"Be gone, indeed you are mistaken, I have no intention of leaving before the christening, do not think madam that you can drive me from this house no matter who you are or what your position is in society. Sarah, Sarah, unpack at once, we are not to leave after all, I will not be driven from my own grandsons christening by anyone," Mrs. Bennet shouted.
Lady Matlock entered her chambers with a small secret smile on her face.
When his lordship saw her look of satisfaction he he asked, "Well my dear did you succeed in sending the lady on her way or did you convince her it was best to stay until after the big event."
Lady Matlock laughed as she replied, "I know how to handle women like Mrs. Bennet and your sister Catherine, the best way to convince them to do what you want them to is to make them believe that you want just the opposite."
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