This story refers back to Lou's story Darcy's Duel
Chapter 1. There's No Place Like Home
Darcy stood holding his wife tightly. He could scarcely believe her words. Had she really just told him that he was to be a father soon? The events of the last week had his mind in a jumble. He had been afraid for her safety and had sent her from Pemberley to Longbourn, until the man who had meant to do the Darcy Family harm had been caught. It was all over now, and he was just grateful to have her in his arms again. But, for her to surprise him with this, the most wonderful news, he was overcome with joy. His emotions and fatigue took over, he held her and softly cried in her ear, "I love you, Mrs. Darcy."
There were so many questions he wanted to ask her, so many things he wanted to say, but his present state made it impossible. He looked at her beautiful face, tear stained as it was, and kissed her cheeks.
"Elizabeth, please do not cry!" he softly pleaded with her.
"I can not help it! I was besides myself with worry. I thought you were lost to me forever!" she sobbed. "And then, when I found out I was with child...Oh, Fitzwilliam...please, I want to go home to Pemberley!"
"We shall go as soon as possible." he petted her, trying to calm her down. "Shhh, my love."
They stood in the hallway, holding each other, when Mr. Bennet came in to make sure everything was all right. Darcy gave him a smile, as he cradled Elizabeth and gestured to him that they would join the rest of the family in a moment.
"Elizabeth." he held her face in an effort to bring her some stability. "Have you told our family the good news?"
She shook her head, wiping the tears from her eyes. "No." she took a deep breath. "They have all been so worried about me. I was quite ill when we arrived here and Papa sent for the doctor. I told the doctor I suspected about the baby, and he confirmed it. I asked him to keep my confidence until I could tell you.
"Come now, we shall tell them together." He kissed her forehead and led her into the dining room where the family was gathered.
Georgiana ran to him. "Oh brother! Is everything all right now?"
"Yes, everything is fine. No one was hurt and the man was captured", he reassured everyone in the room and whispered to Bingley and Mr. Bennet that he would fill them in later. He helped Elizabeth take her seat, and he stood by her side.
"See Lizzy, I knew everything would work out fine!" Mrs. Bennet said taking a seat. "My dear, you must eat something now."
"Mama." Lizzy halfheartedly scolded her mother. "Mama, we have something we must tell you all."
Darcy saw Elizabeth sit back in her chair. She was smiling, but he could tell she was exhausted and perhaps not feeling well. He looked at Mrs. Bennet who was waiting somewhat impatiently to hear this news.
Darcy spoke to the group, "Elizabeth has just told me that we are to be parents soon." His delight was clearly written on his face.
"A Baby!" Mrs. Bennet was besides herself. "Oh, my dear Mr. Bennet...we are to be grandparents!"
She scurried over from her seat and gave Elizabeth a hug. Everyone in the room was delighted for the Darcys. The ladies went to Elizabeth, and Mr. Bennet and Bingley congratulated Darcy.
"Oh my, I should have known why you were feeling so ill, my dear." Mrs. Bennet authoritatively told Elizabeth with a giggle. "I thought it was only an attack of nerves."
Darcy whispered something to Mr. Bennet, and he called to his wife.
"My dear Mrs. Bennet. I think Elizabeth needs to get some rest now. Her husband will accompany her to their room and see that she gets that rest." Mr. Bennet then asked the servant to send a tray of food upstairs for Darcy.
"Thank you, sir." Darcy wearily smiled in appreciation and he escorted Elizabeth up the stairs and to their room.
Darcy propped up the pillows and helped Elizabeth into bed. He sat down on the bed next to her and reached out to brush her hair away from her face.
"You have not eaten anything? Shall I call down and have something sent up for you?" he asked.
Elizabeth resolutely shook her head. "I can not seem to eat. The only time I can tolerate anything is at midday. The doctor said it was perfectly normal and should subside in a month or so."
"A month!" Darcy was surprised at hearing this.
She nodded. "I do get very thirsty, and I have this unbearable urge to do nothing but sleep." She saw Darcy furrow his brows as worry overtook his face. "Fitzwilliam, I am adamant about wanting to go home. I wish to lie in our comfortable bed."
"Elizabeth, perhaps now is not a good time to make such a long journey, if you are feeling ill? I am at a loss to know what is best? I think I would like to ask the doctor first."
She nodded her head in consent. She knew better than to argue with him, when he had such a look on his face. He held her hand and kissed it, and she settled into the pillows and gave in to her fatigue. He sat next to her and watched her drift off to sleep. He loved this woman more than anything in the world. She was now to be the mother of his child, the heir to his name and fortune. He did not want to jeopardize that for anything.
Elizabeth sat up in bed and looked at the doctor. "Mrs. Darcy, I must tell your husband what he wishes to know. I will explain every option to him fully."
She nodded her head in silence. She was queasy and some of her indomitable spirit had temporarily left her. She was in no position to argue, however much she wanted to go home. The doctor left the room and returned with Darcy.
Darcy paced back and forth, alternating glances at Elizabeth, the doctor and then out the bedchamber window.
"Mr. Darcy, please, won't you sit down and I will try to explain everything to you."
Darcy glared at him a moment as if the doctor had interrupted his most private thoughts. When his mind refocused to the present, he sheepishly sat down in a chair next to the bed and waited impatiently for the doctor to continue.
"Mr. Darcy, I have already told your wife all this." He stopped a moment. "Mrs. Darcy is some...seven or eight weeks along at this time. It is very common for her to be feeling extremely tired and somewhat nauseated. She has told me she wishes to return to your home, which I understand is a few days journey from here. I see nothing terribly wrong with making such a trip."
Darcy sighed in relief and sat back in the chair.
"However, it will not be comfortable for her, judging from her fatigue. You will have to go slowly and allow her time for rest along the way. There is always the risk of a miscarriage. You could wait another month or so. By then her present symptoms should subside, but then you would be traveling in winter."
Darcy ran his hand through his hair. All this did not give him many options, nor relief. He stood up and thanked the doctor for his time and saw him to the door. He walked back towards Elizabeth and sat back down in the chair. He looked at her and strained a smile. "I know what you want to do Elizabeth. Are you sure?"
"Yes." She pleaded. "Jane and Georgiana will be with me in the carriage. It will be perfectly fine, my love."
He said nothing, but simply nodded his head as he drifted back into his own thoughts.
The traveling party bid farewell to Longbourn and the Bennets and headed north to Derbyshire. Elizabeth felt relief to be on her way home. She kept wondering to herself what it was that was causing her desperation to wish to be back at Pemberley. She had become quite settled there since their marriage. It had quickly become her place of belonging, and she longed for the love and comfort it and her husband had given her. She also knew that pregnancy had altered all her senses and emotions, and she was desperate for tranquillity. Jane and Georgiana helped her settle into the carriage. The day was not so bad at first, but as it wore on and Elizabeth began to tire, and the carriage rocked back and forth, her nausea returned. They had been on the road for seven hours and had gotten only half the distance they should have. They would have to stop for the night. It was a well traveled road, thankfully, and they would be able to find accommodations in places they regularly did not stop at. Darcy's anxiety increased with every stop, and he barely slept as he kept one eye on Elizabeth and mulled over the next days trip in his mind.
It was some two days longer than usual when they finally reached Pemberley. Mrs. Reynold's anxiously awaited their return, overjoyed by the news of the impending Darcy heir, and worried as to his mother's condition. Darcy breathed relief when he caught a glimpse of the house from the road. Elizabeth was helped out of the carriage, pale and gaunt. Darcy looked rough and worn and exhibited the signs of his insomnia. It was Mrs. Reynold's personal mission to nurse the master and mistress back to their previous vitality.
Chapter 2. A Long Row to Hoe
Darcy rolled over and hugged the pillow tightly. He was grateful for his own house, his own bed and a decent night's sleep. He felt as if he could sleep forever. His mind stirred to consciousness, and he rolled back over to look at Elizabeth. He reached for her but she was not in the bed. He sat up and looked around the room, almost in a panic. The room was still dark, for the drapes had not been opened and the fire was dim.
"Elizabeth?" he gently called out, yet there was no answer. "Elizabeth!"
His heart began to race. "Elizabeth, where are you?" and he launched himself out of the bed and pulled on a robe in one swift motion. He made his way to her dressing room, and she came around the corner, bumping into him. She was white as a ghost.
"Elizabeth? Is something the matter?"
She shook her head, walked over to the bed and crawled back in. "Fitzwilliam, mornings are not my best time. Could you please ring down and have someone bring me some toast."
He did as she asked, then stoked the fire and crawled back into bed next to her. She laid on her side, facing away from him, almost on the edge of the bed. He reached out to touch her, then pulled back, thinking it might not be a wise thing to do.
"Elizabeth, is there something else I can do?" he whispered.
"No...you have already done enough!"
He raised his eyebrow at her comment. Did she mean what he thought she meant by it? She rolled over to face him.
"I did not mean that. I do not know what I am saying. I am sorry..." she began sobbing again.
"I am sorry you feel ill. If I knew what to do to give you comfort, I would certainly do it." his voice cracked and his face flushed.
"I know you would." She managed a faint smile. "I am afraid you will have to put up with me, and my temper for some time. I have never been a very good patient."
He looked at her, his jaw set and square. He felt useless to her and he also felt a little bit sorry for himself, to own the truth. Sorry that his wife was not the wife he had been used to, and put out that he would have to share her with someone else from now on. There was a knock on the door and he got out of bed to let in the servant with Elizabeth's toast. He returned to her and helped her to a chair, then left her with her maid, and went to dress.
Everywhere he went that day, be it around Pemberley, or in Lambton, someone stopped to congratulate him and speculate on the arrival of his heir. By the time he came into the house he was racked with guilt about that morning. When he finally found Elizabeth, she was sitting in the sun by a window in the great hall, quietly looking out. He stood watching her, until she noticed his presence.
"May I sit down?" he gestured to the seat next to her.
She smiled and nodded, and he took a seat. "You are looking better." He told her.
"Yes, I am better."
He looked down at the floor, wondering how to begin. "I...I am a very selfish man, Elizabeth."
She questioned him with her look.
"Selfish because I was more concerned about my ego this morning than I was about your discomfort. I love you and I love our child, and I am too perplexed to know what to do, to know what to say. I do not even know how to feel lately. One minute I pace the floor in a nervous fit, the next I want to go tell the world of my joy, then still I feel jealousy that you are not exclusively mine anymore.
"I do not think you are the first expectant father to feel this way." She reached out to hold his hand. "And you are probably not the last."
Gradually Elizabeth began to feel more like herself and Darcy welcomed the change in her. She rarely felt ill and stopped wanting to sleep all the time, and she started to feel like this was all real. They took short walks together in the brisk air outside, and walked about the house and the conservatory. They spent time together in the Library, and discussed plans to renovate the nursery. Darcy was relieved that Elizabeth finally had an appetite, even if it did take a bizarre turn now and then. He watched her eat things he knew she had always had an aversion to, but he had learned not to question it at the present.
She began to look fuller, and healthier and happier. And in return he relaxed his watch on her, although he was always concerned that she take care in everything that she did. He could actually accomplish his obligations to the estate without his mind wandering. At night he had the comfort of having her in his arms again, and sleeping peacefully.
Doctor Grant made regular visits to the house to keep watch over Elizabeth's progress. That was the one thing that unsettled Darcy the most. He would examine her, then call Darcy into the room. He would always stand with his hand on his chin and let out a definitive "Hmm" while nodding his head. Darcy would stand watching him, his nerves on the surface of his skin, until the good doctor would say, "Everything seems fine." Then he would show himself out, leaving Darcy and Elizabeth looking confused, yet relieved.
It was February, and Elizabeth was in her sixth month. Doctor Grant made his usual monthly visit and called Darcy into the room. He put his hand on his chin and let out the usual "Hmm". Darcy stood there and looked at Elizabeth, grinned and rolled his eyes.
"Mrs. Darcy...are you quite sure you are only six months along?" the doctor inquired.
Darcy and Elizabeth looked at each other, then back at the doctor baffled. Elizabeth nodded in affirmation of his question.
"Well then, everything seems fine. Mr. Darcy, you should keep a close eye on your wife. It is probably not a good idea for her to go up and down stairs unaccompanied. I'll show myself out. Good day." And with that he left the room.
Darcy sat down in a chair. "I have always wondered why doctors stand around with their hands on their chins and say "Hmm".
Elizabeth looked at him, amusement in her eyes.
"I should liked to have attended medical school to find out what it means...but I am afraid of the sight of blood." He shuddered at the thought.
"Really?" she giggled.
Chapter 3. A Bundle Of Nerves
Elizabeth was entering her seventh month. She stood in her dressing area and looked at herself in the full length glass. "My goodness! In another month I will be as big as Pemberley itself." She sighed. The baby she carried had been very active since around her fifth month, and she could feel it poking and prying. There were times when it had moved so much that she found it to be a most uncomfortable distraction. Darcy, however, was fascinated by it all. Whenever they were alone, he had made a habit of talking to her belly. Every time he did so, the baby would poke and prod and tumble and Darcy would chuckle.
It was April and there would be no going to London this year. Neither one of them seemed to mind much, but Elizabeth did miss her walks out of doors. Darcy forbid her to go outside alone, and he kept his watchful eye on her. She rather wished he would learn to relax a little more, but it had never seemed to be in his nature to do so.
Darcy walked down the hallway towards his study, with a handful of papers, reading as he walked along. He turned the corner and something caught his eye on the great staircase. He glanced up to see Elizabeth begin to descend the staircase alone. "Elizabeth!" he called with some little restraint. She stopped and smiled down at him, and watched him climb up to meet her, two steps at a time. When he reached her, he tucked his papers under his arm and grabbed her tightly, helping her down. When they were safely at the bottom, she smiled at him again.
He stood there expressionless, then looked around him as if in some confusion. "MRS. REYNOLDS!" he yelled at the top of his voice. "STEVENS!"
Mrs. Reynolds and Mr. Stevens came running and servants gathered around in a panic. Rarely, if ever was the master heard shouting at the top of his voice. Alarm was in the air and Elizabeth just stood next to him looking back and forth at all the dismayed faces.
"Sir?" Mrs. Reynolds asked him quite out of breath from her hurried state. "Is something the matter?"
He stood there, his face becoming red with anger. "How is it that this household employs some thirty persons on its staff..." he breathed in, "and not ONE of them can see that Mrs. Darcy is escorted down the stairway!"
"Fitzwilliam?" Elizabeth calmly chastised him.
He looked at her, eyes wide and just grunted his disapproval of her interference. She abruptly halted any retort she may have wanted to give.
"The next time I find Mrs. Darcy descending the staircase unaccompanied, someone will be..." his face reddened even more as he searched for the appropriate word. "SACKED!" He quickly turned on his heel and disappeared back into the study in a flurry of coat tails and papers.
Elizabeth pushed the door open to the study to find Darcy sitting at his desk, his head in his hand, writing feverishly and muttering unintelligibly to himself.
"Fitzwilliam. You are a bundle of nerves! You must learn to calm yourself. It's not good for you, or me. And we will have no one to staff the house, if you continue in this manner."
Darcy set down his pen and shook his head. He knew he was bordering on the ridiculous lately. He anticipated the birth of their child, and feared it at the same time. She was right about him being a bundle of nerves, yet he could not seem to control it. He sat back in his chair and looked at his wife. Really took a good look. She was truly lovely, everything about her was lovely, especially her attitude. He got up from his chair and walked over to her, helping her out of the chair. He turned her around and wrapped his arms around her from behind. He could barely make them fit around her and they both laughed at his struggle.
"You are tremendously beautiful, wife." he kissed her neck.
"You are incredibly fanciful, sir." She giggled, relishing his attentions.
"You are mistaken, my dear. You know I have very little imagination at all." He said as he deposited more kisses on her ear and cheek. "I know only what I see, and I see a beautiful woman...my beautiful woman."
"Oh, how I long to hear you say it." She mused. "I have the urge to dance...it's been a long time since we danced Mr. Darcy."
"Next season, we shall all go to London, and I will dance every dance with you. In the mean time, you will have to content yourself with listening to Georgiana play the pianoforte."
She let out a heavy sigh. She was beginning to grow weary of carrying this child around with her. She desperately wanted to see it and hold it, hear its cry and love it. It wouldn't be bad to be able to see her feet again either.
Chapter 4. What's In A Name?
Elizabeth walked around the nursery, inspecting everything and smiling at all the little attentions that Mrs. Reynolds had bothered to include. The room was bright and airy and had been freshly painted some weeks ago and there were new curtains on the windows. It had a very happy atmosphere, indeed. In the middle of the room was the bed where she would have the child, and spend some nights afterward with the baby next to her in the carved cradle. The linens in the cradle were soft and smelled wonderful, when she picked them up to inspect them. The cradle had been the one used when Darcy had been born.
She walked over to a bureau and opened the top drawer. Inside were the tiniest white gowns, little socks and caps, all lovingly made by the housemaids and presented as gifts. In the corner on a stand was a small tub, where she would have the joy of watching the baby have its first baths. By the hearth was a wooden rocking chair with blue cushions and Georgiana had brought out some of her favorite little rag animals and a wooden doll's house that she set in another corner.
The baby was due in about three weeks. The weather was starting to warm and flowers sprang up in the gardens outside the nursery windows. It was May. Elizabeth longed for the new beginning that would change her and her husband's lives forever. After so many months of anticipation, she was ready to be a mother. She sat on the edge of the bed, it was not too uncomfortable. She arranged the pillows so that when she sat back against them, they would be high enough for her to be able to get back up, without having to call for help. She laid against them, searching for a comfortable position. When she found it, she closed her eyes and tried to imagine what the baby would be and what it would look like.
She hoped if it were a boy, that he would have his father's nose. She had always found Darcy's nose to be distinctive, which also seemed to be a family trait from looking at the portraits in the great hall. If it were a girl, she hoped she would possess the wonderfully feminine qualities in her sister Jane, but be lively enough to know her own mind.
Darcy poked his head in the door, when he noticed it ajar. He saw Elizabeth lying on the bed, lost in her daydream. He quietly walked in and looked over her. She gently opened her eyes, and upon seeing him, had a start.
"I did not hear you come in!" she exclaimed.
"Good Lord! I am sorry to give you a fright. Are you all right, Elizabeth." he sat on the bed helping her to sit up.
"Yes, I am fine. Fitzwilliam, do not do that again, or we will be having this child a few weeks too soon!" she reprimanded him with a smile. "Lay here next to me on the bed if you will?"
He looked at her with a grimace, uncomfortable in her request.
"You will not catch anything, Fitzwilliam. It is perfectly all right. I wish to discuss something with you."
He reluctantly did as she asked. "What is it that you wish to discuss, my dear?"
"Names? Names of what?"
"Names for this baby, dearest. We should be prepared to give it a name as soon as may be. I do not wish for the little darling to be referred to as Baby Darcy. It needs an identity!"
"All right, I agree." He laughed at her determination. "It should not be that hard to find a suitable name for the child."
"A suitable name, indeed." she huffed. "This is not one of your bird dogs, Fitzwilliam. It is our baby! How would you have liked it if your parents had made light of naming you?"
He sat up and looked down at her with a raised brow. He was not going to continue with the direction this conversation was going. He laid back down next to her on his back with his hands behind his head. "All right then...I would like this child to have its own name. Its own, unique name. Certainly not "little Fitzwilliam" or anything like that. We would all be running around wondering who was talking to who. I swear, every time we had a family gathering when I was a child, and someone called "George", ten people would stand up and be acknowledged."
"Well then, we have ruled out the obvious. However, once we get through the Darcy family line there will probably be very few choices left." She grinned.
"Very humorous..." he replied.
"Well...what if I start naming names and you can agree or disagree. We will start with boys."
Darcy nodded and waited patiently for her first crack at it.
"How about Robert?" she smiled.
"There has already been one." He quipped.
"Well then, how about Edward?"
Darcy shook his head to inform her that it had been done before. Elizabeth bit her lip and tried to have patience.
Darcy shook his head again and looked over at her with a triumphant smile.
"I rather like Rupert" she smiled back at him.
"Oh Elizabeth, please!" wishing her to be sensible. "Let me try. What about Samuel...Samuel Darcy!"
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. This was getting them nowhere fast. "Perhaps we should work on a girl's name then?" she insisted.
"As you wish, Elizabeth." he sighed. "But remember the rules!"
"Yes, yes. Let me see, I have always liked the name Abigail."
Darcy laughed out loud, he was actually starting to feel silly.
"You do not like it?" she pouted.
"It is not that, Elizabeth. I did not think this would be as difficult as it is turning out to be. Please, forgive me?" he was still chuckling to himself. He sat up and leaned over her and spoke to her belly. "Hello, there! What do you think?"
The baby kicked as usual when it heard his voice and Elizabeth laughed. "Please Fitzwilliam, do not wake it up. You are not the one who has to roll with the punches."
He propped himself up on an elbow and gazed out into space. "I knew a woman once whose name was Maren. She was very beautiful."
Elizabeth glared at him, her lips pursed.
He looked at her face and realized he was losing the battle. "My dear, why not write down all the names you can think of and we will hash this out tomorrow. I think I hear Mrs. Reynolds calling us for tea."
Elizabeth wrote to the Gardiners the next day. The doctor had been to examine her and pronounced that the baby could come at any time now. Darcy slipped back into restrained hysterics upon hearing this news. Elizabeth wished for the comfort and wisdom of her aunt during the birth, and she thought the placid character of her uncle would be good for Darcy. She also wrote to Jane. She had been overjoyed to receive the letter from her three months ago, that the Bingleys were also to become parents. Elizabeth had always grieved for her sister, since she had lost a baby that summer. How she wished Jane would be at her side also. She had to admit to herself that she was indeed a little nervous.
Chapter 5. The Agonies He Must Be Suffering
The Gardiners arrived at Pemberley, and Darcy was indeed grateful to have someone else there to keep tabs on Elizabeth. He had gone to the stables in the afternoon to check on a new stallion he had purchased which had just arrived. He was speaking with the gentleman who had delivered the animal, when a servant ran into the stable.
"Mr. Darcy, sir." He huffed. "Mrs. Darcy said I should fetch you right away!"
Darcy didn't give the servant a chance to say anything else. He took off at a run towards the house, with the poor servant following, trying desperately to catch up with him. He reached the doors and crashed through them, sliding on the floor of the foyer and coming to a screeching halt in front of a waiting Elizabeth.
"Yes! Elizabeth...what is it I am supposed to do? Is someone fetching the doctor? The midwife?" He spun around to survey the room. "Where is everyone?" he panted trying to catch his breath.
"What are you talking about husband?" she said calmly.
"What? Elizabeth?" he puffed and looked at her realizing his mistake. "I thought...you...good god, Elizabeth, I thought you were having the baby!"
She giggled and said, "I was only calling you in to tell you that the Bingleys are here."
"Ha." He squawked out, putting a hand to his chest. He turned around to see the poor servant standing there, huffing and puffing. Darcy gave him a frown and the servant quickly bowed and excused himself. He turned back around and tugged on his coat, trying to put himself back together and followed Elizabeth into the parlor.
"Darcy! How are you man!" Bingley exclaimed upon seeing him.
Darcy shook hands with him and greeted Jane with a kiss to the cheek. "I am very glad to see you. What are you both doing here, though?" he looked at Jane who showed the signs of maternity.
"Jane insisted on being here with Elizabeth. I could not talk her out of it. I hope you do not mind too terribly much if we remain until after the blessed arrival?" Bingley pronounced.
"No...not at all." He looked over at Elizabeth and could tell she was pleased to have the comfort of her sister's presence.
"And besides, I thought I could wait it out with you. Keep you on the straight and narrow. I know of your fondness for pacing and your unbearable temperament when you are nervous." Bingley teased him. "I thought it would go better on the servants, too."
Darcy feigned a laugh and both men left the room to return to the stables. Elizabeth looked at Jane and showed her pleasure for Bingley's good nature.
"Jane, your husband is a dear. He will be very good for Fitzwilliam."
"He does look rather uptight, Elizabeth."
"You do not know the half of it, dear sister. He means well, but he has every servant here on pins and needles, and he is restless at night again. All he had to hear was the doctor proclaim that the baby would be due any day."
Jane laughed. "He loves you very much, Elizabeth. And he anticipates fatherhood."
"Yes." Elizabeth reached down to hold her side and shift her position.
"Are you well, Elizabeth?" Jane asked with concern.
"Yes, Jane. Do not worry so much about me too!" she held onto her side again. "I am having a few pains, though. Aunt Gardiner says it is nothing to worry about, since they are not regular and do not last. Come, let me show you the nursery. It will take us a while to get there however."
Darcy was sleeping peacefully. The house was quiet and warm and all was right with the world. He thought Elizabeth was sound asleep and he relaxed knowing all the others were in the house as well. He snuggled up against his pillow and moaned.
"Fitzwilliam." Elizabeth whispered.
"Hmm." He moaned and yawned and drifted off.
"Fitzwilliam. It's time." She whispered a little louder.
"I'm glad my love, go back to sleep." He softly mumbled.
"Fitzwilliam, wake up. The baby."
He snuggled into his pillow and smiled, still asleep. "The baby" he thought dreamily. "THE BABY!" he jerked awake and saw his wife sitting in the chair next to his side of the bed taking deep breaths. He sat up and tried to clear his head.
"I have been here for two hours, the pains just keep getting stronger and steadier." She tried to keep a slight smile on her face. "Perhaps you could wake up m y aunt, Fitzwilliam."
He swallowed hard and got up, slipped on a pair of trousers and sloppily tucked in a shirt. He knelt down next to the chair. "Do not go anywhere Elizabeth."
She looked at him, her impatience becoming evident.
"I will go wake up Aunt Gardiner." And he quickly left the room.
Aunt Gardiner looked at Elizabeth and then back at Darcy. "Nephew, I think you should have someone fetch the midwife and send for the doctor." She scribbled a note and handed it to Darcy. "See that the doctor gets this."
Darcy left the room again and kept a quick pace down the stairs towards the servants quarters. He woke up Mrs. Reynolds and handed her the note. She got dressed and proceeded to awaken the household, even though it was three o'clock in the morning. Darcy made his way back up stairs to Elizabeth, on the way he literally ran into Bingley, who had come out of his room on hearing all the commotion. All Bingley had to do was take a good look at the panic on Darcy's face to know what was up. He ran back into his room and woke up Jane and dressed.
Darcy skidded back into his bedchamber, in time to see Mrs. Gardiner helping Elizabeth to her feet and wrapping a shawl around her shoulders.
"Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth needs to walk around slowly for a while. I am leaving her in your capable hands while I go and dress." She handed her over to him and Elizabeth looked up at his white face and gave him a reassuring smile, until another pain made her grimace.
Darcy took Elizabeth out into the great hall and they walked slowly down to one end. The servants scrambled to light the chandeliers hanging above them. Darcy and Elizabeth would take a few steps then stop, as Elizabeth would grab his arm and blow out air as a pain would consume her. Darcy would stand and wait for her to start again, wishing there was something he could do. It seemed like an eternity until the Gardiners and Bingleys came out of their rooms. The men escorted Georgiana downstairs, and Jane and Mrs. Gardiner went to prepare the nursery, leaving Darcy alone with Elizabeth again.
"Elizabeth?" he looked at her steadfast. She looked up at him, unable to speak. "I love you, Elizabeth. If you wish it, I will not leave you now?"
She shook her head and gasped. "You will have to wait with my uncle and Charles in a while." She stopped to pant again, then resumed, "Everything will be fine. I will think of you every moment. I love you too."
The midwife arrived and took Elizabeth from Darcy and escorted her to the nursery and closed the door behind them. Darcy was left alone in the great hall, his shirt untucked and his hair wild. He backed up to a chair and plopped down, holding his head with his hand. What was he supposed to do now?
Chapter 6. In Thy Image
Darcy walked slowly into his dressing room, he changed his clothes and put on a waistcoat, sans the dress coat. He knew he would only discard it after a while anyway. He ran his fingers through his hair and proclaimed himself fit to be seen in company. He did not care about his appearance, all he could think about was his wife and child. God how he wished he could see the future, to know that they would be all right. He walked out into the great hall and looked down in the direction of the nursery. He was tempted to go and knock on the door, but knew they would only turn him away. His presence would be considered a useless distraction and his penance would be banishment to the downstairs, to wait and pace. He walked down the stairs slowly, his head began to spin as he came down emotionally from all the excitement of the morning. He sat down on one of the stairs and bent over holding the back of his neck. Mr. Gardiner came out of the morning room where he was having coffee and saw Darcy on the stairs.
"Charles! Come out here!" he gave a quick yell.
Bingley came running out of the morning room and looked at Darcy in a heap. Mr. Gardiner was trying to talk to him. Darcy nodded his head and mentioned that a little fresh air would not be a bad idea. The men helped Darcy to his feet and took him out in the back courtyard. He sat on the edge of a fountain and took small breaths trying to halt the pounding in his head. Mrs. Reynolds came running out with a glass of cold water, insisting that Darcy drink it. He did as he was told and began to feel a bit more stable. He looked up and smiled at his family and nodded again.
"Thank you. I believe I will be fine now." As he looked up he noticed the lights in one window. It was the nursery window. He could see the shadows of people moving around the room. "Mr. Gardiner, how long are we to wait?"
"It's is only four-thirty now. It is really only beginning." He sat down and put a hand on Darcy's shoulder. "Nephew...you must be patient, these things take some time, I'm afraid. Especially since this is Elizabeth's first child."
Darcy glanced up at Bingley, who wore the same disappointment on his face as Darcy. Since Darcy was feeling much better, they all went back into the morning room. Mrs. Reynolds had hot coffee and tea and brought in and some pastries. Mr. Gardiner and Bingley sat down to take some refreshment. Mrs. Reynolds handed Darcy a cup of coffee. He took a sip and set it down and began his regimented pacing. This he did for some time, then he would sit down, pick up his coffee cup, discover that it was cold and set it down. He would then pick up a book, flip through the pages, throw it back down on the table, get back up and pace some more. After two hours of that, Bingley was ready to strangle him.
"I say Darcy...it is six-thirty and the sun is coming up. Shall we walk down to the stables or around the lake?" Bingley suggested.
Darcy stopped pacing long enough to look at Bingley as if he had been knocked senseless. "Are you serious, Bingley? What if I am needed and I am out taking a stroll?"
Mr. Gardiner shook his head in disagreement. "Mr. Darcy, I'm afraid you will not be needed for some time yet."
Darcy flushed in embarrassment and motioned his hand for Bingley to lead the way. Both men grabbed their overcoats and hats and walked quietly along the path that lead around the lake.
It was now midday and Darcy sat in Pemberley's chapel, having worn himself down pacing and walking. Georgiana sat with him. She had stolen upstairs an hour earlier and begged to inquire as to Elizabeth's condition. Mrs. Gardiner assured her that Elizabeth was doing well, but that she and Darcy needed to have patience. Georgiana ran downstairs to tell him, in the hopes this news would give him some relief, and it did. She was content to sit with him in silence for as long as he wanted, but she knew he had eaten nothing the whole day. He looked haggard and dark, having not shaved that day. He just stared at the alter, lost in his own thoughts, occasionally letting out a sigh and shifting his position.
"I wonder what Papa did on the day I was born?" she thought out loud.
"What?" he jumped as she disturbed his trance.
Georgiana slipped her hand into his to comfort him. "Do you remember the day I was born Fitzwilliam?" she asked innocently.
"Yes." He smiled. "I remember I was very excited, wondering if you were a boy or a girl."
"I hope you were not disappointed?" she laughed.
"Never!" he laughed back and hugged her around the shoulder.
"Sir?" Mr. Stevens said in a hush behind them.
Darcy bolted up and turned around. "Yes, Stevens?" he inquired earnestly.
"Mrs. Reynolds says that dinner is served, sir."
Darcy slowly came back to earth. "Uh." He looked at Georgiana. "Tell her we will be there momentarily."
They walked into the dining room and everyone sat down, except for Darcy who grabbed a cup of tea and took up his position at the window.
"Darcy come sit down and have something to eat. You will waste away to nothing!" Bingley's exasperation began to be apparent.
"I am not hungry. You will not offend me by eating."
"I am not worried about offending you Darcy. You are running yourself ragged over circumstances beyond your control!" Bingley snapped.
"Bingley! Remind me to come and torture you when you are in my shoes!" Darcy snapped back.
Bingley exchanged irritated glances with Mr. Gardiner and they both looked at Mrs. Reynolds. She had restrained herself as long as she felt was humanly possible. She had tolerated the master's outbursts, his unrestrained anger, his intolerable requests and his moodiness for months. Enough was enough. She took a firm stand and threw back her shoulders. What would be so bad about being "sacked."
"MR. DARCY!" she fumed. "You had best stop this nonsense and sit down and eat something! You will have two very exhausted persons to look after soon and I do not see how you will be able to manage if you do not keep up your own strength!"
Darcy wheeled around to face her. His eyes burning in rage. She matched his stern expression and kept her ground, awaiting the storm she could see brewing within him. Then she saw his expression soften and he backed down.
"You are quite right Mrs. Reynolds. Forgive me." And with that he took his place at the table to the shock of all present, including Mrs. Reynolds.
The clock on the mantle chimed six. To Darcy's calculations it was going on fifteen hours since Elizabeth had awoken him. He looked around the room. Georgiana was curled up on the sofa with a throw tucked around her. Bingley sat in the chair by the window staring blurry eyed at the ceiling. Mr. Gardiner sat next to Georgiana, a newspaper in his lap and his reading glasses on the end of his nose as his head bobbed. Darcy sat down on the other sofa and leaned over, his head in his hands. He thought it quite possible he could go mad. He stared at the floor, counting the pattern squares in the carpeting for the eighth time.
The door to the parlor opened and someone walked in. He did not hear Mrs. Gardiner as she approached him, even though she had caught the attention of everyone else present. She smiled at the others and Mr. Gardiner nodded at Darcy and rolled his eyes.
"Nephew?" she said tenderly.
Darcy looked up. His heart fluttered and the held his breath. "Elizabeth?" he said to her.
"Elizabeth is very tired, but will be just fine."
He stood up and she walked to him and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Your family is waiting to see you now in the nursery."
He grinned broadly and bolted from the room, without asking another question. He ran up the stairs and down the great hall and stopped in front of the closed door. He waited a moment before knocking, composing himself. He knocked gently on the door and let himself in. Doctor Graves walked over to him and shook his hand. "Congratulations sir. You have a fine, healthy family."
Darcy let out a huge sigh of relief and closed his eyes in a quick prayer. He looked over at the bed where Elizabeth was dosing. He pulled the chair over to her side and sat down looking at her. He reached out and touched her cheek and she opened her eyes and smiled wearily at him. However, he could see love and joy in her eyes. He smiled at her in return and bent over to kiss her lips and caress her face.
"My love." He whispered. "Tell me you are well?"
"I am well, my husband." she said with truth in her eyes.
He heard a tiny squawk and looked up to see the nursemaid lay a bundle down on the bed next to Elizabeth and saw it squirm. He looked at her, questioning, until she softly said, "Meet the heir to Pemberley and our name...Andrew Bennet Darcy."
She opened the bundle for him to see a tiny little face sleeping peacefully inside. He thought it was possible he could start to cry, but managed to maintain some composure as he glowed with insurmountable pride. He heard the baby start to cry and looked back at him, but he was still asleep. His eyes widened as he looked at Elizabeth who had tears of joy in her eyes. The nursemaid laid another bundle in front of him. He looked at it dumbfounded.
"And the sweetest little girl you have ever seen." Elizabeth laughed with the tears still in her eyes. "Hannah Alise Darcy."
Darcy could manage his composure no longer. Twenty years of masking his emotions, nine months of worry, fifteen hours of self inflicted agony, one wife and two tiny babies were just too much for him. He looked up and began sobbing. He wiped the tears from his face when he heard little Hannah begin to cry again. He wrapped his arms around the bundled baby and looked inside. "Shhh, little love. You have me wrapped around your finger just like your mother." The baby stopped crying and wiggled in contentment at the sound of his voice.
It was ten o'clock that night and everyone had finally gone off to bed, completely exhausted. Darcy crawled out of his bed, donned a robe and walked into the nursery.
"Mr. Darcy. Is something the matter, sir?" the nursemaid asked him.
He shook his head and said, "I am just checking", and she left him to it. He looked at his lovely wife sleeping peacefully and loved her more this day than any other. He checked on the infants, one asleep in the cradle, his cradle, and the other in the cradle that had been whisked down from the attic, which had held Georgiana. He bent down close to make sure they were each still breathing, as all new parents do. When he was satisfied, he quietly went back to his room and crawled into bed in complete paternal satisfaction.
Chapter 7. The Children Shall Lead Them
Darcy sat in the rocking chair, peacefully gazing down at his infant daughter. He was cradling the baby in his arms and rocking gently. Elizabeth was nursing their son, as she looked over at her husband, so content and comfortable as a father. He had spent practically every moment with his wife and children since the birth two days ago. He would wake in the morning, quickly dress and go to the nursery to check on them. He would kiss his wife and sit down next to her in the chair and the nursemaid would hand him one of the infants. He took to fatherhood, like a duck to water, much to his wife's delight.
He thought to himself as he rocked the infant. He had felt the utmost joy the day Elizabeth had accepted his hand. He had been the happiest of men on his wedding day, and had cherished every moment he had spent with her as his wife. But there was something different about fatherhood. It was a feeling he could not describe, a continuation of all his hopes and dreams. He was confident in the task before him, of guiding these children through life, as long as he had the sensibilities of his wife to back him up.
He stood up and laid his daughter on the bed next to Elizabeth and took his son from her arms. The nursemaid handed Elizabeth the baby girl and the whole process began again. Elizabeth insisted upon nursing the children herself. She would not hear of entrusting her newborns to a stranger and Darcy indulged her wishes. So they were often seen swapping babies back and forth, at feeding time. They were quite content to be alone with the children. Bingley and Jane had gone home, and the Gardiners were to remain a few more days. Georgiana quietly visited her nephew and niece a few times during the day. The Bennets would not come for a few weeks and both Darcy and Elizabeth were glad for the peace. Elizabeth was still very tired and nursing two babies, day and night, allowed her very little rest.
The day before, Darcy had written to their families, announcing the births. He did so with the greatest pride, for they were indeed beautiful and happy children. After some debate on his part, he pulled out a sheet of paper and began his announcement to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It was accurate in its descriptions, and his invitation to her and his cousin to attend the christening, some six weeks hence, was formal. He took no joy in its writing, as he had in all the rest. He firmly believed that she would ostracize his children as she had his wife, and that he would simply not tolerate.
The weather began to warm more, for it was now nearing the end of June. Elizabeth delighted in learning how to care for her infants. She was not comfortable with the conventional methods of child care. She preferred a more "hands on" approach, and she did not care who disapproved of it. She wanted to regain her strength and figure as quickly as possible. Darcy often walked outside with her and they would talk of the children, and their plans for the future. However, there was a void between them.
Darcy lay on his bed, in the room that he and Elizabeth had shared for the past two and a half years. He could not sleep. It was hot and stuffy, and he tried to satisfy himself with a book. Elizabeth was in the nursery, where she had remained after the birth of the children three weeks before. Darcy felt a loneliness he had not felt for some years. The time they were in their room, before they retired each night, had always been their own. Time that Darcy and Elizabeth had talked solely to each other. Time they spent, protectively in each others arms. Darcy missed the way she knew his thoughts from his temperament, he missed her advice, her touch. He got up and opened a window, hoping for a breeze. He heard the door to the bedchamber open and turned around to see Elizabeth standing there. She ran into his arms and cried.
"Oh Fitzwilliam, I could not sleep."
"Nor could I, my love." He answered her as he held her close. She kept crying and he moved her over to sit on the bed, and sat down next to her. "Elizabeth? Why are you crying?"
"I don't know? I have been weeping for an hour and I can not seem to stop!" she replied between sobs. "It is hot...and I am tired...and lonely...and...and." She paused to look up at him. "Do you still want my love?" she sobbed harder.
He looked at her in disbelief. "Of course I do. What would make you say such a thing?"
"I have heard of husbands who take comfort in another, when their wives cannot be with them!"
He was stunned. "Elizabeth?" he said, his voice firm. "That thought has never crossed my mind. Where would you hear such a thing?" he commanded.
She looked up at him, taking some comfort in his words. "I have had a letter...from the Collins'." She flushed at the thought of it.
"Go on." He said becoming suspicious.
"Lady Catherine wished them to pass on her advice." She began to feel foolish.
"Say no more!" he spoke as his temper rose. "That man is an simpleton, and I can not say much more for my aunt. It is not like you to pay heed to what those people say, Elizabeth?" he said as he pulled her to him. "There will be no more of this nonsense." He made her look at him and he whispered, "But, I do miss you."
Darcy walked into the nursery that morning and looked at the infants. They were five weeks old and had grown considerably, even though they were still small. They were livelier now and Darcy enjoyed them more and more every day. He would sit and hold one, talking and cooing at the baby and it was easy to see that they loved their Papa. Elizabeth walked into the nursery and stood next to her husband. "Good morning, my little darlings." She sighed.
Darcy turned around to the nursemaid. "Mrs. White, would you please have the children ready to go outside today, around eleven o'clock."
The nursemaid looked at him in horror. "Sir?"
"Hmm?" Darcy questioned her.
"Sir, you cannot possibly mean to take them outside? They are hardly old enough!" she commanded.
"That is nonsense!" he said with a huff. "It is going to be a hot day and it is very stale in here. You will prepare them to go for a picnic with their mother and I, and open up the windows in here while they are gone."
"Very well, Mr. Darcy." she said hesitantly, bowing to his will.
Elizabeth was delighted to hear they would be going out. She picked up Andrew, kissed him and sat with him on the rocking chair. "Do you hear that my little love? Your Papa is to take us outside today!"
Darcy picked up Hannah and cradled her in his arms. She wiggled in delight and stared at his face. She reached a tiny hand up to his chin and he kissed her little fingers. The nursemaid took her from his arms. "Your wife and I will see that the children are fed and dressed for their outing, sir."
He smiled and left the room to visit the kitchen. He had the cook prepare a luncheon to take with them and went outside to instruct a servant where to take a pile of blankets and assorted other things. When the children and Elizabeth were ready, they made their way downstairs with Mrs. White in tow. Darcy escorted them out into the gardens and around the side of the lake. There were blankets spread out under a large tree, with a basket of food and pillows all around. Elizabeth laughed in delight and laid down the infant on the blankets, propped by the pillows. Mrs. White nestled the other down in the same fashion. Elizabeth sat next to them, making sure they were secure and Darcy turned to the nursemaid.
"Thank you, Mrs. White That will be all." He told her.
"But sir! What if you have need of me?" she said in a panic.
Darcy grinned at her. "Then, we will call you. Try to relax Mrs. White. You have been working exceptionally hard, you deserve a rest."
Mrs. White reluctantly went back to the house, leaving Darcy and Elizabeth with the children under the cool shade of the tree. Darcy took off his coat and spread out on the blanket on the other side of the babies. He looked at Elizabeth, with a twinkle in his eye and reached for her hand. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her. She laughed and looked at him with love.
"Is it today, Fitzwilliam?" she said with a grin.
"Yes, my love. Has so much happened, that you do not remember?" he kissed her hand again. "You do not remember that day I found you? Here on this spot, with your Aunt and Uncle?"
"You mean that day I found YOU, Fitzwilliam?" she giggled.
He looked at his children and laughed. "Your mother is indeed a wit! But, I love her all the same." The babies wiggled happily, feeling cool and free in the shade. Little Hannah squealed in delight and little Andrew reached for his father's face as Darcy leaned over them, kissing their tiny feet and laughing.
Chapter 8. Small Blessings
The Bennet family finally arrived at Pemberley for the christening and to take their first look at the babies. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty each held a baby in the nursery and Mary stood looking over Kitty's shoulder, not sure about holding one at all. Elizabeth had to smile at her mother. It was nice to see Mrs. Bennet preoccupied with something other than her nerves. After all, the children seemed to have a calming effect on Darcy.
Mr. Bennet looked over his grandchildren and nodded his approval. He stood up and turned to Darcy. "Well son, you have done quite well. The girl looks quite like Lizzy did, when she was born."
Darcy grinned at his father-in-law's enthusiasm. Mr. Bennet went to look at Andrew and stared at him for quite a while, then shook his head. Darcy looked at him alarmed and confused.
"The boy must resemble you, sir." He said looking at Darcy's face. "As I have had no model to go by."
"Oh Mr. Bennet, how you delight in vexing me." Mrs. Bennet exclaimed as she sat in the rocking chair with her grandson.
"Yes, yes. Well I dare say they are fine children. Now if you can outlast all the trials they will put you through and see them to fine adults..." he looked at Darcy. "You will be quite accomplished at fatherhood."
Darcy let out a defeated sigh. He was not looking forward to all the parenting advice he would surely receive from everyone who was to attend the christening. He walked over to Elizabeth and whispered in her ear. "I am going to go do something." He said.
She looked at him and whispered back, "What is it that you are going to do?"
"I do not know, but whatever it is...it shall take some time, I think."
Elizabeth gave him a sideways look. He excused himself under the pretense of business and left Elizabeth and the children in the hands of Mrs. Bennet.
After half an hour, Mrs. Bennet and the girls went back to their rooms to unpack and rest. Elizabeth remained in the nursery. She was going to bathe the children, with the assistance of the nursemaid, for the christening tomorrow. She loved to watch them play in the water. She would prop them up in the tiny tub and move their legs and arms around and cup her hand and push the water onto them. Then dry them and dress them, and snuggled them when they were done. They had just finished when the butler knocked on the nursery door to announce a visitor.
"I am expecting no one, Mr. Stevens. Who is calling?" She said over her shoulder as she picked up Hannah.
"It is a Lady, Ma'am. She would not give her name. Only that she would not leave until she saw the Master and I can not locate him at present." The butler replied.
"Oh, all right. I will be right down, Mr. Stevens." she fumed to herself. She was much too busy today for visitors, especially obstinate ones. She handed the baby to one of the attendants and went downstairs to the parlor. As she reached the door, she heard an all too familiar voice, but she could not believe her ears. Elizabeth took a deep breath and entered the room.
"Lady Catherine." She said and politely curtsied to Darcy's aunt. "It has been a very long time."
Lady Catherine de Bourgh turned around to face Elizabeth and saw her greet her daughter Anne. The three women stood staring at each other, at a loss as to what to say. Finally Elizabeth spoke. "Mr. Darcy is out somewhere on the grounds. I sent a servant to locate him."
Lady Catherine looked Elizabeth up and down. Then spoke with condescension, "Mrs. Darcy, you are looking fit."
Elizabeth just nodded her head in agreement. What should she say to a woman who had not spoken to her husband or herself in almost three years? She was not sure how Darcy was going to receive his aunt's visit, and she rather feared his reaction.
"I had received the news that you had born my nephew an heir. My congratulations to you." She said reservedly.
"I thank you. Will you not sit down?" Elizabeth motioned to a chair. Lady Catherine took a seat and Anne sat down next to her. Elizabeth directed a servant to bring some refreshments and sat down across the room, trying to think of something neutral to say. She knew her cheeks must be flushed and that she must be wearing a look of confusion. Anne looked as uncomfortable as Elizabeth and Lady Catherine just stared at her. Elizabeth heard the welcome sound of footsteps and looked up to see Darcy enter the room and stop dead at the sight of his aunt. Lady Catherine stood up to get a better look at him. It was some moments before he could speak.
"Aunt Catherine." He made a slight bow to her. "Anne."
"Darcy." Lady Catherine replied as civilly as he had. "I have come to see your heir. If you will permit it."
"I will." He said. Elizabeth rose from her seat to go fetch little Andrew, but Darcy blocked her path with his hand. "There were two children born to us. A son and a daughter." His stare was direct at his aunt.
"Girls are never of much consequence to a family, if there is a son to carry on the family name." She retorted in her fashion.
Elizabeth saw Darcy frown and stiffen his body. "My daughter is important to my family. They are both as dear to me!" he said, not giving up his ground. "You may see them together."
"Very well, then." She bowed her head. "Your mother would want me to see her grandchildren."
"My mother would want you to accept her grandchildren equally. I see my mother weeping when I think of you, Aunt. Because you have chosen to alienate her family from yourself. Because you did not wish her son joy at his wedding." He spoke, his voice full of the anger he felt.
Lady Catherine softened her gaze. "The memory of your mother haunts me as well. I have come to make my peace with you...and your family, Darcy."
Elizabeth looked at her husband, as his demeanor softened some as well. He still blocked her path. He was not ready to offer his children as peacemakers, until he was satisfied with his aunt's motives.
"You have become quite your own man, Darcy. You are not the spoilt, self-possessed young man you used to be. You are Master of this Estate and of your family. I am very glad to see it." She looked straight at Elizabeth. "I should think your wife has had some influence on affecting your change. And I also hear that she is an honorable Mistress." She sat back down in her chair and sighed. "Your mother would be proud."
Elizabeth managed a smile at Lady Catherine and looked up at her husband. He removed his hold on her and she knew he would now allow her to bring down the infants. She and the nursemaid returned to the parlor with the children, and Elizabeth handed Andrew to her Ladyship. She cradled the infant in her arms and looked at him...and smiled.
Chapter 9. Where The Heart Is
The day the Darcy children were to be christened arrived like any other that summer. It was to be a very warm day and Elizabeth was glad the service would be early. They arrived at the church, which was full. People from far and near gathered to have a glimpse of the children and their parents. The invited guests were all present, including Lady Catherine and her daughter. Darcy could not have wished for a better day.
He stood at the side of the church while the children were brought to the front and handed to their godparents. Colonel Fitzwilliam held onto Andrew and Georgiana held Hannah, and both beamed with delight that they should be honored in such a way. Elizabeth looked at Darcy as he stood proudly, hearing the names of his children proclaimed as lambs of god. How pronounced an effect they had made on his life. They had altered his sense of being, his sense of worth. They had reunited his family and brought him the greatest peace. They were each a treasured gift, in tiny little packages.
Darcy found it hard to believe that they were only six weeks old. He wondered what they would be like years from now. He would instruct his son as his father had him, in the ways of a gentleman, to one day take his place as Master of Pemberley. He would one day watch his daughter leave his house for her husband's. He wondered how fast the time would go by, and felt a little saddened by it. As the service ended, he turned to Elizabeth. She was lost in her own thoughts of the future. He slipped his hand in hers and she tightened her grip.
Darcy walked around the nursery with Andrew asleep on his shoulder. It had been a long day for the children, as they were passed around from person to person. It was evening, and the night air was beginning to cool, and the infants were ready for bed. Darcy kissed the little cheek on his shoulder and handed his son to Elizabeth. He looked at his daughter in her cradle. She had discovered how to suck her thumb, and it was dangling just out of her mouth as she had fallen asleep. Darcy laughed quietly at the sight of it. He walked over to Elizabeth and kissed her cheek.
"Will I see you downstairs? He whispered.
"Yes. In a few moments." She enticed him with a smile.
He walked the length of the great hall and down the stairs and looked around the house. He realized, except for the staff, he and Elizabeth were completely alone. The Bennets and Gardiners had gone on to visit the Bingleys, and Georgiana and Fitzwilliam had accompanied Lady Catherine back to Kent. He passed Mrs. Reynolds as he walked towards the back doors.
"Mrs. Reynolds, will you tell my wife I have gone out into the west garden."
"Yes, sir." She smiled at him and went about her business.
He walked out the back doors and down the stone steps and onto the path that led to the west garden. When he got there he stood by the fountain and looked at the setting sun. It was still a bit muggy so he took off his coat and laid it on the stone bench. He walked slowly around the fountain, his head bowed as he watched his feet and his hands clasped behind his back. He could smell the fragrance of the white nicotiana blossoms. They released their fragrance only at night, and what a heady fragrance it was.
Elizabeth walked down the stairs in the cool white dress she had chosen for that day. The house seemed very quiet to her as well. Mrs. Reynolds called out to her from the dining room doorway.
"Mr. Darcy wished me to inform you he is in the west garden, ma'am."
"Thank you Mrs. Reynolds." She called back with a mischievous smile, and hurried out the back doors and down the path. She stopped halfway down to survey her husband as he strolled around the fountain. She took the pins from her hair and tossed it about with her hands, feeling light and free, and quietly stole up behind him. She slipped her arms around his waist.
"It is a splendid evening, is it not?" she breathed.
Darcy turned around to face her, still in her grasp. He breathed in when he saw her long dark hair tossed about her shoulders. She was stunning. He almost let the moment carry him away, when he shimmied out of her hold and staggered over to sit on the edge of the fountain. She smiled and sat down next to him with her head on his shoulder.
They had not been in each other's intimate company since some time before the birth. Being this close to her reminded him of the sweet agony of their courtship. The only difference was that he knew what he was missing. He looked up at the sky and breathed deeply again.
Elizabeth realized she was not succeeding in her alluring attempts. She inched closer to him and reached up to kiss his ear. He hesitated a moment, then slid away. She was bewildered. She desperately wanted to be a wife to him again, after all these months. Could he possibly be this obtuse? She reached her hand into the water of the fountain. It was deliciously warm and she swirled her hand about, then brought it out and flicked water at the side of his face. He jumped back startled and she laughed at his baffled expression. She dunked her hand in the water again, this time splashing him more.
He stood dumbfounded. "Elizabeth! What are you doing?"
She giggled and gave him another good splash. He lunged at her and caught her by the wrists and she squealed. He wore a devilish grin and let go one of his hands to splash water onto her. He laughed back at her as water dripped from her face, but she was not laughing anymore. She just stared at him intensely. He was overcome, and leaned over to kiss her lips. When they finally parted, he turned away from her.
He managed to say in a hoarse tone, "Elizabeth...do not tease me."
She was astonished at this disclosure. "Is that what you think of me Fitzwilliam? That I am tormenting you?"
He stood still and said nothing in reply. Since he would not face her, she edged her way in front of him.
"I would never stoop to such tricks, as I know you are well aware. Have we been so preoccupied as parents that we have forgotten how to be lovers?" She was somewhat angered.
His heavy countenance lifted. "There is nothing I want more than you."
"I have been trying to tell you, that I am yours, husband," and she tiptoed up, and kissed him. She pulled back with a twinkle in her eye, "Would you like to try for three?"
It was just becoming dark, when Mrs. Reynolds walked out into the back courtyard, in hopes the Master and Mistress would soon return. She saw them walking up the path, arm in arm. A glimpse of how they had looked as newlyweds. She smiled and slipped back into the house unnoticed. That night, the Darcy children favored the household, by sleeping the whole night through, much to the joy and delight of their loving parents.