Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy strolled peacefully round her rose garden. She had planted this garden as soon as she had married Mr. Darcy, first in the conservatory of the main house, and then moved it into another off her sitting room. When her sister, Georgiana, asked why inside and not out, Elizabeth replied that this way she could enjoy the blooms all year round. This was the third winter she had enjoyed the subtle, heart-warming fragrances. Tomorrow was her second wedding anniversary, and she was searching for the perfect rose to put on the dinner table.
As Elizabeth perused the collections of rose bushed, she spotted the bench her husband had carved for her, and feeling a little fatigued, she sat down. Not that sitting on the bench was anything unusual, but she seldom felt tired for no particular reason.
Gazing at the water feature, her mind wandered back to the last two years of her life. They had undoubtedly been the best. Fitzwilliam was simply the most caring, most generous, most handsome, indeed simply the best man she had ever known. She was just so fortunate that they had been given a second chance.
Not that the time since her marriage had been all romantic moments and happy endings. Life was hard, she knew that, but just how hard life could be had never totally been comprehensible to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Oh, when she thought of all that had occurred over the last two years, Elizabeth shuddered.
On the way back from the Darcys' wedding, Fitzwilliam's cousin, the future Earl of ---------, fell off his horse and was killed immediately by the rampaging animal. This came as a shock to the whole family, but none more than Colonel Fitzwilliam, who suddenly found himself the heir to the title. In deference to his brother, he decided to retain his title of Colonel until he actually inherited the estate.
Two months after her marriage, Elizabeth received the news that, first, Lydia was expecting, and second, her sister, Mary, was to be married. That in itself was wonderful news, because the whole family had almost despaired of Mary ever marrying. Apparently her mother was of the same opinion, for as soon as it was confirmed, Mrs. Bennet reasoned to herself that with such rich brothers-in-law, Kitty could have no trouble finding a husband. With all her other girls safely married, Mrs. Bennet could have no other use, and the night after Mary's wedding, she passed away in her sleep. This came as a great shock to her family, because they had all thought her nervous complaints were simply a figment of her imagination. As much as she had embarrassed her daughters, the Bennet girls still missed their mother dearly.
Shortly after her mother's passing, Lydia gave birth to a two months premature baby. The child lived just long enough to be named Fanny, after her grandmother. Her mother however, was in a coma and did not even hear the name of her child before she too died of a severe loss of blood.
Thankfully after these tragedies came some good news. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley were moving to an estate close to Pemberley, and Jane was expecting. They moved in, and Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam went to stay with them for a few weeks. They had a wonderful time just spending time together, strolling around the lush grounds of Stilewood Manor. Because of the recent family tragedies, Elizabeth had not had time to get to know her new neighbours, so she undertook this task with her sister. They met all the ladies in the area, traveled up and down to Pemberley almost daily, and spent many happy hours in each other's company.
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were to remove back to Pemberley after New Years, so the couples could celebrate Christmas together. The day after Christmas, Jane began to have severe pains, and the next day she miscarried. She developed an infection and became very ill. It had taken another month of her sister's careful nursing to get her back to full health, but both women's spirits suffered severely. Jane was broken over the loss of her child, and Elizabeth could not stand to see her sister in such a way.
After Elizabeth eventually moved back to Pemberley, her and her husband made daily trips to Stilewood, Fitzwilliam to distract Charles with the basics of running an estate, and Elizabeth to sit with, sing with and cry with her sister.
Georgiana, in the meanwhile, had been staying with her cousins Lady Christabelle and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. She was in he first season 'out', and was having the most wonderful time with her cousins. Fitzwilliam thought she would be safe from all possible suitors with her other guardian the Colonel around. Little did he suspect that her most ardent suitor was the Colonel himself. Elizabeth laughed at the memory of the look on her husband's face when Richard came to ask for Georgiana's hand...
"Darcy, I have something of a rather serious nature to ask you. A certain gentleman is petitioning for your lovely sister's hand in marriage. Now he has certainly already gained her other guardian's whole-hearted approval, and now he is here to seek yours..."
It had taken several minutes for Darcy to figure out who the gentleman was, and another several to recover from his shock. Before too long he was reconciled to the idea, and by the end of summer Miss Darcy became Lady Georgiana Fitzwilliam, the same as her late grandmother who she had never met.
Georgiana's wedding did much for the recovery of Jane's spirits, no doubt aided by her discovering she was pregnant again shortly after. Up till now, that pregnancy had gone fairly smoothly, for which all parties were grateful.
Thank Heaven things were finally straightening out. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were at Pemberley with Colonel and Lady Fitzwilliam. Jane and Bingley were at their estate, taking things easy. No-one knew what had become of George Wickham, and no-one much cared either. Kitty was in town with her aunt and uncle looking for a ...
This thought was interrupted by a sudden wave of nausea. Elizabeth did not understand where this could have come from. After all, it was only eight in the morning, and she had not yet had anything to eat. It suddenly hit her like a lightning bolt why she had been feeling ill lately. She was with child!
Trying not to unduly alarm her husband, Elizabeth requested to see the doctor that afternoon. Her diagnosis had been correct, but she decided to wait for their anniversary dinner to tell Fitzwilliam. By saying she was in perfect health and he really needn't worry himself, she managed to avoid inquiries from the father-to-be.
That afternoon she found the rose she was looking for. It was just beginning to bloom, a perfect snow white rose, bursting with its delicate aroma. She picked it, and tied a silver ribbon around the stem, with a little note attached.
Perfect petals unfold gently,
Like a perfect, tiny hand.
The bloom simply represents,
Something new and grand.
It was clear from the shouts of joy that Elizabeth's message was perfectly clear.
In late winter Sarah Elizabeth Bingley was born, followed closely by her cousin Anne Jane Darcy. Miss Bingley was so named so Jane could show her gratitude to her sister for all she had done, and Miss Darcy was named for her aunt and grandmother in the hope she would have the sweetness and goodness of the two remarkable women she was named for. They were followed by Simon Fitzwilliam, so named for his late uncle.
Kitty came to stay frequently with the Darcys, and became close friends with Georgiana. When she was married five years later, she had a rather large retinue of nieces and nephews, including the adopted ones. Sarah Elizabeth and Alice Francis Bingley, Anne Jane, Leah Catherine and Rachel Georgiana Darcy, and Anne Fitzwilliam made lovely flower girls; while Saul Bingley, Charles Adam and Thomas Simon Darcy, and Simon and Robert Fitzwilliam made admirable page boys.
After that life was still hard. The three families experienced much together, but regardless what it was, things were always the same Ò they were in it together.
Elizabeth pressed the rose, and kept it in a special case, to always remind her that life was a blossoming, a blooming of many things, and so long as there were people who cared to share it with, nothing else much mattered.
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