The candles were blazing in every room at Pemberley. Worried servants ran to and fro. The mistress of Pemberley was giving birth.
The labor was hard and took most of the night. Doctor Jameson was becoming rather worried and she could hear the midwife rapidly crossing herself. Bessy Haves, a young and rather giddy personal maid, hovered anxiously in the background, getting more and more hot water.
But Elizabeth Darcy saw it all only through a mist: a sharp pain was rending her, and she was weary, so weary of pushing. She just wanted to go to sleep...if the pain would let her.
"No, my lady!" It was the physician, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his forehead glistening with sweat and a grim, rather desperate frown in his eyes. "My lady, you must try."
"No...want...to be...left...alone" she barely whispered, but gave another push.
In the hall, outside the heavily carved door, Fitzwilliam Darcy was pacing restlessly. Back and forth, back and forth. I must have memorized every detail of that flower arrangement in the corner he thought as he turned for the umpteenth time. The thought, empty and meaningless, kept running through his head as a persistent refrain. Suddenly he heard a noise and stopped abruptly. Young Tom Marson, his very new butler was anxiously awaiting him with a new bulletin from the birth chamber.
Seeing the haunted look in his master's eyes, Tom's kind heart was wrung. He knew what his master was feeling. After all, hadn't he gone through the same with his Annie a few months ago?
Poor Master Darcy. He is almost terrified. And who could blame him? After all, death in childbirth was common and Darcy's own mother had died that way.
He cleared his throat and told his master the news, putting as much hope into his voice as he could:
"Dr Jameson says the labour is hard"
As if I didn't know. As if I needed to be told thought Darcy My God! When I can hear her screams!
"But it is progressing satisfactorily." Tom rolled the word on his tongue
Then why all the hushed whispers, why the delay?
"And it will be done in no time" The last was Tom's improvisation, but he would have gladly perjured his soul at that moment to cheer Mr Darcy.
But Darcy didn't even hear the last remark. He was turning the knob on the door to his wife's bedroom.
"Mr Darcy! You can't go in there, sir!" gobbled Tom. "It...it isn't done, sir!"
But Darcy didn't even hestitate. The heavy doors opened and he was in the room.
It was dark...so dark. And she wanted him. Her husband. It even seemed she could hear his voice through the mist.
"Elizabeth? Elizabeth!" and then a ragged, uneven "Please..."
She opened her eyes at that and saw her husband kneeling by the bed, gripping the edge of the sheet, his knuckles white. Doctor Jameson and a very shocked midwife were trying to remonstrate with him to no avail.
"Dar...ling" It hurt her to talk, but he mustn't despair, he simply mustn't.
His eyes, wet with unshed tears, flew to her face.
"Elizabeth, everything's fine. You are going to be all right, I swear." Satisfied, she closed her eyes once again.
"Hold my hand, Elizabeth, hold on to it" Semi-conscious, she grabbed his hand.
The next hour would never be spoken of, never forgotten by either of them. When the pain got very bad, she squeezed his hand. Dr Jameson attempted to remove Darcy's hand from her grasp by she wouldn't let go. "Leave it be" ordered Darcy curtly, wincing as she gripped his had in a new wave of pain.
"But sir, your hand..." stammered the physician.
"Leave it be" was the only reply. The doctor gave one look at Darcy's face and subsided.
Light was beginning to stream through the windows and Bessy Haves thought that they've all been in this room for infinity or more.
Suddenly, a shrill cry broke the silence.
"She did it!" gasped the doctor. "And by George, Sir, you have a fine healthy boy!"
"And...my wife?" Darcy paused before asking the vital question.
"She's going to be just fine, Mr Darcy. Don't you worry. I'll look after her." He was glad to see relief flood the man's tired face.
"But now, I'll bandage that hand, if you please! No nonsense about it. And after that I'll give you something to sleep for a couple of hours."
"No arguing" added he, seeing that Mr Darcy was about to protest and marched him off.
Elizabeth opened her eyes as the sun streamed through the curtains and sighed. She was so tired!
No wonder she thought wryly. You've just given birth, my girl
She was still rather weak, but otherwise, she felt perfectly fine, she discovered with surprise. Twisting her head slowly to the right, she saw Mrs Reynolds, her cap asqew, sleeping on a hard chair in the corner.
Moving her arm, Elizabeth sent a small bag Dr Jameson forgot crashing to the floor and Mrs Reynolds awoke with a start.
"Oh, Miss, Miss!" flustered, said Mrs Reynolds hastily as she went and leaned over the bed "you've awoke! And me asleep in the chair. What was I thinking off."
Lizzy just smiled at her and Mrs Reynolds went to the door, opened it and told someone outside: "She's awake now"
A few minutes later, Darcy was gingerly sitting on the edge of the bed and Elizabeth was gazing with adoration on him...and a small package he held in his arms.
"What do you want to call him, my darling?" he asked her very tenderly.
"I want to name him after a gentleman who saved me yesterday. After a man I love most in the world." looking deep into her husband's eyes, she paused and then said softly: "I want to name him Fitzwilliam."