The Weather Outside is Frightful
Darcy brushed a lock of hair away from his daughter's face and stared lovingly at her. She was asleep and had the same petulant frown on her mouth that her mother wore when sleeping. In fact, she looked a lot like her mother. The same dark curls, the same smile, and when she was awake the same sparkling eyes. However, there were times when she would become her father's daughter; her eyes would flash angrily and her lips would tighten into a thin line. Usually she wore this expression when she did not get her way. Darcy and Elizabeth had named her Jane, after her aunt. "Jane Elizabeth," he thought, "my little angel. Well, excepting those occasions when you do not get your way," he smiled wryly.
He loved to watch his children sleep. They were not always easy to control during the day; there was no denying that. But at night, when he would creep in and count their breaths, he would also thank the Lord above that they were his. Jane sighed and rolled over in her sleep. He thought he saw a smile cross her face and he smiled too, thinking about the glorious day his family had shared. That day was Christmas day, and although the weather was bitter cold, the love shared by all had kept them warm.
Elizabeth's aunt and uncle Gardiner had joined them, with their children, as was the tradition since that first Christmas after he and Elizabeth had been married. Georgiana had joined them as well with her new husband, Thomas MacNeil. How hard it had been to give his little sister away only . . . six months ago! Had it really been six months already? He shook his head ruefully. He looked down at Jane again. He didn't even want to think about the day when he would have to walk his daughter down the aisle. Maybe he could somehow convince her never to marry, to never even look at a young man. Not likely, he knew, but perhaps it would be worth a try.
His train of thought was traveling a painful track, so he shifted back to Christmas morning. Jane had squealed with three-year-old glee at the sight of all her presents. She had been especially delighted with her new doll, which she now clutched tightly to her chest. She had named the doll Sally and had demanded that Sally be fed immediately. "But Daddy, after being wrapped up all night she must be very hungry," she had reasoned. Jane had refused to believe that dolls don't need real food, so he and Elizabeth finally relented and allowed Sally to have one piece of dry toast. Jane had fed her very carefully, and when Sally was full, had finished off what had not ended up as crumbs in Sally's lap. Then Jane had very carefully rocked her to sleep.
Now Jane lay asleep in her bed. Breathing in and out, in and out. He leaned down and kissed her forehead, then quietly crept out of her room and down the hall to her brother's room.
From under Richard's bedroom door, Darcy could see a light. Darcy sighed as he opened the bedroom door. Richard was sitting in bed reading, of course. He always had a book in hand and never stopped reading, a habit his Grandfather Bennet delightedly encouraged.
Richard jumped guiltily when Darcy opened the door and immediately started apologizing. "I'm sorry Papa. I'll go to bed right now. I just got to a really good part in my story." As he spoke he threw the book to the floor and hurried under the covers.
Darcy picked up the book and sat on the edge of the bed. "It's all right. It's Christmas. My last gift to you this year will be to allow you to stay up reading as long as you like."
"And will you lecture me tomorrow when I sleep in late?" Richard asked cheekily.
Darcy laughed then replied, "No, I will not lecture you, if you promise me one thing. You must tell me what your book is about."
"All right," Richard said as Darcy handed him his book. And so Richard told Darcy a story about a young boy on all kinds of adventures. Richard's eyes sparkled as he described one mishap after another, and at times Darcy was afraid Richard would fall out of bed, he was gesturing so much. " . . . So he started up the hill and then-"
"Then what?" Darcy didn't realize he was getting so caught up in the story!
"Then you came in."
Darcy couldn't believe the insolence of his son and heir! He attacked him and began to tickle him mercilessly. Both son and father were laughing so hard they didn't realize how close they were to the edge of the bed until it was too late. Down they came, in a tumble of sheets and covers, with a thud. They stopped and looked guiltily towards the door. Fortunately, it appeared no one had heard them so they gathered up the blankets and got Richard situated in bed again.
"Your mother will be furious with me if she finds out what we've been up to in here," Darcy told his son, "so I'll just go out quietly and we'll pretend this never happened. Where did your book go?"
"Actually, Papa, I think I will go to bed," Richard said yawning. "It's been a long day. I'll use your gift later, though," and he grinned.
Darcy watched as his son snuggled down into his bed to keep warm. It didn't take Richard long to fall asleep. It really had been a long day, Darcy thought. In addition to the gifts to be opened there had been Christmas services to attend at church and visits from friends and well-wishers. Then there had been dinner with the family. It had been a wonderful meal and afterwards the cousins had run around, playing games while the adults danced a little and had their tea. Sometimes Darcy thought it would be better to be a child again.
Richard snored a little and disturbed his father's thoughts. Elizabeth claimed Richard got this trait from his father, but Darcy emphatically denied it. Darcys do not snore, he told his wife. Looking down at his son, however, he was forced to admit that at least one Darcy did, and it was likely that he was not the only one. Richard had gained a number of good traits from his father, though. They shared the same sense of justice and charity. They both of them were reasonable people who tried to make decisions based on facts, not pure emotion. They had their creative and imaginative sides, however, as evidenced by their mutual fascination with adventure stories.
Darcy watched this seven-year-old boy and felt an overwhelming sense of pride. Richard was a good boy, who was every day growing into a good man. In a few years' time he would be going away to school and Darcy had ambiguous feelings about that. He wanted his son to have a fine education, to train his mind, and develop his character, but he would miss his son. Elizabeth would not even discuss the time when Richard would go to school, but he imagined the family would be spending a little more time in Town, to be nearer to Richard.
That was why Darcy so treasured these moments of watching his children sleep. One day they would grow up and leave home and live lives of their own. He wanted to always hold in his mind the memory of their sweet, innocent faces, dreaming of Christmas dolls and adventure stories.
Reluctantly, Darcy got up and made his way out the door. He walked slowly down the hallway, deep in thought, to the room that he shared with his beautiful wife. She was sitting before her dressing table, brushing out her hair.
"Was Richard reading in bed again?" she asked, as he undid his neckcloth and shrugged out of his coat. He laughed at her question, and replied, "Of course he was."
"That boy goes through so many candles it's a wonder we aren't in debt up to our ears with the candle maker! I'm glad he enjoys reading so much, but really, I think we should enforce some limits, Fitzwilliam."
"Oh he'll grow out of it. Let him have his fun. I was the same way at that age, believe it or not." Elizabeth chuckled a little and they finished getting ready for bed.
As they curled up together in bed, Elizabeth asked her husband, "Did you have a happy Christmas?"
"Oh yes, the best in years I think." He put his arms around her then continued, "We really have wonderful children don't you think? Wasn't Jane just too funny with her doll today? And Richard! I thought we would have to call Doctor Jenkins when he opened that new set of books!"
Both Elizabeth and Darcy laughed at the antics of their two children, but soon he became serious. He looked down at his wife, the love of his life. "Thank you for giving me our children," he said.
She smiled up at him. "Well I think you had a hand in it Mr. Darcy."
"No, Elizabeth, you gave them life. You have given me such an amazing gift. Our children are the best gift you have ever given to me." He pulled her close to him. She returned his embrace, but spoke over his shoulder, "Fitzwilliam, I have another gift to give you."
Quickly he pulled away and looked into her face to see if she meant what he thought she did. Her eyes confirmed it, and his heart filled with joy! A third child, he could hardly believe it! He embraced her again until she laughingly pushed at him and said, "Fitzwilliam, I think I would like to breathe again!" She rolled over and he put his arms around her.
Soon, Elizabeth was asleep, but Darcy was too excited. A third child! He was sure he had a silly grin on his face, but he didn't care. A third baby to hold, a third person to get to know and love, a third child to watch at night. He looked down at Elizabeth again. She was so beautiful. A sliver of moonlight fell across her face and he brushed aside a few curls from her face. He kissed her cheek and counted each breath. Outside the wind was howling and frost covered the grass. But to Darcy it felt like a summer's day. He rested his head on his pillow and felt the warmth of Elizabeth lying next to him. He started drifting off, but was conscious of one last thought before sleep claimed him. Elizabeth was snoring.