An Heir for Pemberley
The scene is Pemberley, the summer after the wedding, and a baby is due very soon. But the in-laws are coming, too.
There was nothing more peaceful nor relaxing in Elizabeth's mind, than a warm summer afternoon in the small wooded garden behind the great house on Pemberley Estate. A perfect blend of shade and filtered sunlight led her here every afternoon to lay in the chaise longue she had requested be brought up. Truth be told, she often found herself waking from a nap she'd had no intention of taking, surrounded by the soft twittering of birds and rustling leaves disturbed by rabbits and squirrels.
Today there was a soft breeze stirring the air as Elizabeth fought off her sleepiness while awaiting the arrival of Jane. Her sister and brother-in-law had spent most of the month of July inspecting estates and manors with little success in finding one to suit their needs. Finally their travels brought them north, and to Elizabeth's delight, several properties within a few hours of her own home. From this date on, Jane would be here at Pemberley to comfort Lizzie in her final weeks before the birth of her baby.
Despite her efforts, Elizabeth dozed off, for when she opened her eyes Jane was standing before her, still in her travelling clothes.
"Lizzie!" Jane smiled and leaned down to embrace her sister. "I have wonderful news! Charles and I have found a home! And best of all, it's only two hours away from Pemberley!"
"Oh, Jane! How wonderful! You must tell me all about it!" Elizabeth cried. "But first you must take some refreshment after your travelling. Let's go up to the house."
"No need." Jane replied as she seated herself on the bench next to the chaise. "Your dear sister Georgiana has seen to that and will be joining us momentarily."
"She is such a dear sweet girl" Elizabeth sighed. "Where is Charles?"
Jane removed her gloves and folded them in her lap. "Our husbands are going over the estate plans, preparing alterations to the landscaping already. They must be sure to have a trout pond handy!" She paused as Georgiana arrived with a servant bearing a tray laden with glasses, a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of freshly baked cookies. After everyone had been poured a drink, and the servant dismissed, Jane leaned forward slightly and said in a quiet voice "I have one other piece of news for you, Lizzie." At her sister's enquiring glance she continued. "Early in the new year your son, or daughter, will have a new cousin. I am expecting a baby of my own!"
Elizabeth cried out delightedly and clasped Jane to her in an enthusiastic embrace. "Oh, this is just too wonderful, Jane! I can scarce believe it. You can be sure that I will be with you, just as you have come to be here with me. And now that you'll be only a short distance away......Georgiana, did you hear that they've bought an estate only a couple of hours from here?"
The younger girl shook her head. "No, I didn't, but that is wonderful news." She broke off as the sound of voices drew near.
"Ah, I knew we'd find you here!" It was Darcy and Bingley, the latter with a smile fit to burst. "I assume Jane's told you all of her news?"
"Oh, yes" Jane said. "I could hardly keep any of it to myself."
Darcy pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to his wife. "This arrived a few minutes ago for you. It's from Longbourn."
Elizabeth glanced at the address, and seeing her father's hand, opened the envelope and scanned the contents.
"Father writes that he, Mama and our sisters will be most happy to attend us, as per your invitation last Christmas," she looked pointedly at Darcy, "before the month is out. That means less than a week! We must have the rooms prepared!" She sat up in her chair.
"Calm yourself, Lizzie," Jane soothed. "There is plenty of time. No need to rush. I'm sure another half hour here will not impair any preparations you need to make. Besides, I'm here to help you, now, and together with Miss Darcy, I'm sure no detail will be forgotten."
Elizabeth shook her head and settled herself back in her seat. "Of course, I don't know why I feel so flustered. It is but Mama, not the Queen, coming to visit."
Darcy laughed. "My dear, you have but one thing with which to concern yourself: that is your own health. You have but a few weeks to go. We shall take care of the guests. I'm sure your parents are more interested in seeing you than in you waiting upon them."
Elizabeth smiled at the truth of his words.
They all steadfastly remained in the garden to while away the afternoon.
* * * *
It had rained for nearly an entire week. Elizabeth felt like a prisoner in her own home. Despite the size of Pemberley, with its numerous rooms and cavernous hallways, she seemed to always end up in her mother's preferred space. Mr. Bennet had spent most of his time in Pemberley's vast library, occasionally emerging to rescue Elizabeth from the clutches of his wife, but not often enough, in his daughter's opinion. She could not fault her husband, for though he had often tried to extricate her, Mrs. Bennet somehow managed to find some reason to follow, and Darcy grew impatient with her fawning and prattling behaviour. At last, after a week of incessant attention, Elizabeth was relieved to see that the cloud cover had broken and the sun was making promises to appear.
Encouraged, she carefully made her way down the main staircase to the front hall, and, slipping through to the kitchen, startled the servants with her sudden appearance.
"Oh, Mistress!" cried the cook. "What a start you've given me! What may I do for you this morning?"
"I see the sun has finally condescended to join us today." Elizabeth's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Would you pack a basket of breads and cheeses for me and send it to the rose garden? Oh, and have one of the footmen take this note to Mr. Darcy for me."
Just then the sound of Mrs. Bennet's voice carried through from the front hall. Elizabeth looked guiltily over her shoulder and quickly raised her finger to her lips as she slipped out the back door to the kitchen garden.
The servants looked at one another and smiled, then set to work on their assigned tasks.
* * *
"She's gone where?" Jane looked at Darcy, bewildered.
Darcy waved the note in the air. "To the rose garden for some peace and quiet. Now, if you can manage to keep your mother and sisters occupied for a time, I shall see that she gets it. You know how much Elizabeth enjoys her solitude. After all of this confinement indoors I'm not surprised at her impatience at the first sign of sunshine."
Jane nodded. "I don't know that our mother has paid her half as much attention in her whole life as she has this last ten days! I shall know not to ask her to be with me when my time draws near!" With that, Jane assured Darcy that she would see to it that Elizabeth was not disturbed and left in search of Mrs. Bennet.
Darcy crossed the floor to the window which looked out over the side gardens. He watched as two of the servants, bearing covered trays, hurried up the path to disappear between the clouds of fragrant blooms. A smile touched his mouth as he turned abruptly and left the room. Unknowingly tracing the same route that his wife had walked a short time earlier, Darcy successfully avoided any chance encounters with his in-laws, and slipped out into the gardens. He knew exactly where Elizabeth would be waiting; deep in the heart of the gardens where the red roses were thickest, and he wasn't disappointed.
The servants were just finishing laying out the food. Darcy caught Elizabeth's eye and she rose to meet him. The servants discreetly made their exit, leaving the Master and Mistress alone with the flowers, the food, and the sounds of the birds singing in the strengthening sunlight.
* * *
Jane saw them from the window of the drawing room. She smiled at the sight; Darcy and Lizzie slowly walking arm in arm across the front lawn to the great front door. They both looked so relaxed, so happy, she thought. It's done them both good to have the day away.
She turned back to the room and noticed the time on the mantel clock was four-fifteen. The tea should be served soon, but the servants had been waiting until the last possible moment for the Darcys to return to the house.
Mrs. Bennet languished on the settee, while Mary studied a book and Kitty pretended some interest in her needlework. Jane caught her father's glance as the sound of voices reached them from the other side of the door. Mrs. Bennet had obviously heard them as well, for she had begun to rouse herself and opened her mouth to speak when the door opened and Elizabeth entered followed by Darcy and the footmen with the tea things.
"Why Lizzie!" her mother began, but Elizabeth cut her off midsentence.
"Mama, I must apologize for my absence. It was dreadfully rude of me, but I felt such a need to be out in the fresh air, in my gardens, and once there, I couldn't bear to come back inside after being confined so long due to the rain."
Mrs. Bennet continued to fuss. "Of course I understand your feelings, Lizzie, but you shouldn't be out in all that dampness for hours, not in your condition. You'll catch your death! Now come sit down. Let me feel your hands. Are you warm enough? You didn't catch a chill, now, did you? Here have some tea."
Elizabeth accepted the cup of tea the footman offered and dutifully sipped it. But Jane could see the sparkle in her eyes over the rim.
Their mother continued her oratory, although her concern was more for Elizabeth's health than any lapse in her duty as hostess. Darcy, for his part, had joined Mr. Bennet across the room. Despite appearing intent on his conversation with that gentleman, his eyes were frequently drawn to meet his wife's in a mischievous glance.
"The day out of doors seems to have benefited Lizzie greatly," Mr. Bennet observed. "It's brought some colour back to her cheeks."
"Yes," replied Darcy. "She has been a bit pale these last few days. No doubt due to her condition."
"No doubt," returned Mr. Bennet drily.
Darcy raised an eyebrow as he recognized the source of his wife's sense of humour. "The recent weather does not appear to have had any adverse effect upon yourself, sir. I observed you many times within the library."
"And a marvellous collection of books you have, Darcy! I may perhaps stay on for another few months." Mr. Bennet chuckled at the startled look Darcy gave him. "Have no fear, son, the allure of your library is great, but the sanity of my Lizzie is of greater magnitude."
Darcy's sigh of relief was masked by Mrs. Bennet's call for a card game to liven up the party before dinner. The tables were set up, partners arranged, and so they passed the remaining time until the evening meal was served.
For the thousandth time Mrs. Bennet enquired of her second daughter if she felt everything was prepared in the nurseries. Elizabeth patiently replied again that "yes, Mr. Darcy had seen to most of the initial arrangements and I have completed the final touches." All was in readiness. Mary and Kitty had grown weary of this topic of conversation, as it seemed to be all their mother was capable of discussing, and engaged Miss Darcy in talk of London and the other places she had visited. Mr. Bingley had joined them just before dinner, for he had been attending to the final details regarding the purchase of their new home. He and Jane were happily discussing the arrangements of their move.
At last, dinner was over and the ladies retired to the music room. Mary availed herself of the piano, as she had every night after dinner. Elizabeth had no objection, for, as the gentlemen would be otherwise engaged for at least an hour, Mary could play her sombre tunes to her heart's content. Usually, by the time the men rejoined the ladies, Georgiana had taken over at the instrument. This evening was to be no exception.
The entire party was in a lively mood and Bingley requested of Georgiana something danceable. She quickly complied with a Scottish reel. Jane, not feeling quite up to the fast pace of this dance, relinquished the floor to Kitty, whereupon she and Mr. Bingley entertained all present to a rollicking display. After several jigs and reels the two dancers collapsed laughing and exhausted to the applause of all assembled.
Elizabeth joined Georgiana at the keyboard at Darcy's urging, and the two embarked on several duets that they had spent many winter evenings rehearsing. Even Mrs. Bennet was silent in her appreciation of the music. The two Darcy ladies took turns in singing the arias; beautiful pieces flawlessly performed until Elizabeth's voice suddenly faltered and she struck a mischord. Jane was on her feet in an instant, but Darcy still managed to reach his wife's side first.
"Elizabeth, what is it?" he demanded as he clasped her hands, and his eyes searched her face.
"Is it time?" Jane's soft voice came from over his shoulder.
"Yes, I think so," Elizabeth replied, looking only at her husband.
Jane looked to her own husband, who immediately rang for the servant.
"Lizzie, we shall send for the doctor, but now we must get you upstairs and make you comfortable."
By now the entire party were on their feet. Mrs, Bennet rushed to her daughter's side. Leaning on Darcy, Elizabeth rose and they began to make their way to the stairs, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Jane and Bingley in tow. Georgiana, Kitty and Mary remained at the foot of the staircase, but their concerned gazes followed the rest until their forms disappeared from view.
There was a bustling of servants, as Mrs. Reynolds appeared with Mrs. Darcy's maid, Agnes, and two other housemaids, carrying trays, basins and towels. They moved up the stairs with alacrity and were gone.
The three young ladies looked at one another. Georgiana motioned them back to the music room where they began their wait for more news from above.
In her bedchamber, Elizabeth was being made as comfortable as possible. The flurry of activity surrounding her only heightened her apprehension. She derived comfort, however, from her husband's presence, and, oddly enough, her mother, who remained remarkably calm in directing the servants in their tasks. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Bingley had remained in the hallway, but Jane joined her at her bedside.
"Lizzie, it will be at least an hour before Doctor Huttick arrives. How are you feeling?"
Elizabeth found a smile for her sister. "The pains are not so bad, Jane. It's still early. If it's possible, I should like to spend the time waiting with Fitzwilliam. He'll have to leave me soon enough after that."
Jane nodded and spoke to her mother. They ushered the servants out, and joined their own husbands in the hallway.
Bingley had ordered chairs brought up, and as they now arrived, the ladies gratefully sat down.
"Now we wait." Mrs. Bennet announced to no-one in particular. Mr. Bennet began to slowly pace in front of the ladies.
"Father, do sit down. It's going to be a long night." Jane said quietly.
Darcy helplessly grasped his wife's hand. As each pain took her, she tightened her grip, yet she still claimed that the pain was mild. With his other hand he stroked Elizabeth's hair back from her face and marvelled at how her beauty transcended even the labours of childbirth.
She opened her eyes as the pain subsided. In their depths Darcy could see her childlike fear of the unknown. He tried his best to soothe her.
"It won't be long, now, my love. All these months of waiting and soon you will be holding our child in your arms." He smiled tenderly at her, hoping his own concern wasn't evident in his eyes as she sought them out.
"Our child!" she breathed. "It never seemed so real as at this moment. I'm so frightened, and yet excited at the same time! I want so very much to give you a healthy son."
"Or daughter," Darcy smiled. "You know it matters not to me. A daughter as beautiful as her mother........how could I not want that?"
Elizabeth laughed and some of her fears were banished. "How, indeed?"
He leaned forward to kiss her forehead, but she moved to meet him, and their lips came together with a heady sweetness borne of their love. Their arms wound about one another and in the embrace Darcy's voice found his wife's ear as he whispered "I love you Mrs. Darcy."
Elizabeth buried her head deep into his shoulder and clung to him, savouring the security of the moment. Another pain seized her, and Darcy gasped as her arms involuntarily tightened around his neck. He counted the seconds until it passed, and she released him. Shifting onto the bed, he took Elizabeth in his arms and held her tightly, her head resting on his chest as he stroked her hair.
In a low, soft voice, pitched only for her ears, Darcy wove a tale of his love for his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.
Daylight began to streak the floor from the high windows in the end of the upper hallway. Darcy rose from his chair and stretched. Glancing at his watch, he resumed the pacing he'd been persuaded to give up little more than an hour ago. Bingley had dozed off, but his father-in-law watched Darcy's progress quietly from his own seat. The younger man would pause to listen each time as he passed the door to the bedchamber. Lizzie lay beyond, nearing the end of her labour. Jane had assured them an hour earlier that the labour had not been difficult so far. Reflecting back on the births of his own five children, Mr. Bennet knew that his favourite daughter's experience was a good sight easier than her mother's. Still, trying to convince the expectant father wearing a path in the carpet, that his wife's travails could have been much worse..........well, the look that Darcy had levelled at him had said it all. He watched as Darcy paused once again by the door, raising an eyebrow as his son-in-law raised a hand to place it on the polished wooden surface and closed his eyes. After a few seconds the hand fell to his side, and Darcy turned reluctantly away to begin pacing once more.
"Darcy, my boy," Mr. Bennet said, louder than he had intended, and was rewarded with seeing the man in question nearly jump out of his skin. The faint sound of a cry behind the closed door caused him to start again. "It will soon be over. There is no need to fear for Lizzie. She is young and strong. Women have been having babies for centuries."
Darcy's gaze narrowed. "Other women may have, but this is my wife." His eyes widened at the sound of another, different cry from beyond the door.
Mr. Bennet smiled and leaned back in his chair. He slapped a hand at Bingley's arm to rouse him. Bingley's eyes snapped open and he glanced quickly around. Spotting Darcy transfixed, he rose to stand beside him. Darcy barely acknowledged him, so intent was he on willing the door to open that he could finally see his Elizabeth.
After a few moments the door moved and Jane emerged. She looked tired, but wore an enormous smile. Beckoning to her brother-in-law, she wordlessly invited him into the room. Darcy needed no urging. In three strides he had crossed the distance and, as he disappeared through the doorway, Jane stepped out to join her husband and father.
Heedless of the others in the room, Darcy rushed to Elizabeth's side and took her hand. His eyes searched her face and found only contented exhaustion. A relieved smile lit his face.
"My love," Elizabeth spoke quietly. "May I introduce our son?" She drew his attention to the small bundle cradled next to her.
Wordlessly, he drew back a fold of the blanket to reveal a small face framed with dark curling hair, and a pair of bright eyes gazing up at him. His emotions caught in his throat at the sight, and he simply looked at his wife and son -his family- in wonder and amazement.
"Our son," he managed to whisper.
Elizabeth sighed contentedly. "Now we are complete." she murmured. Her eyes closed, and she drifted off to a much needed sleep
Darcy continued to gaze upon his loved ones for a few minutes until he became aware of a presence at his side. He looked up to see Doctor Huttick smiling down at him.
"Mr. Darcy, it's best if your wife sleeps now for a while. Everything went very well. You have a perfectly healthy boy, and Mrs. Darcy should recover in no time. Now, I believe there are some people waiting for you to show off your son."
Darcy blinked. "Oh, yes. Yes, indeed!" He recollected that everyone in the house had stayed up the night through in their excitement. Gently gathering up the small bundle that was his joy, he paused to bestow a kiss gently upon Elizabeth's cheek. She stirred slightly, smiled and murmured something as she settled back into slumber.
Exhaustion and worry behind him now, his happiness propelled Darcy out into the hallway to meet the assembled family.
Mr and Mrs. Bennet were understandably proud, but it was the three young ladies, Georgiana, Kitty and Mary, whose excitement was most vocally expressed. Darcy's pride radiated from him, and Georgiana was hard pressed to get him to relinquish his prize to her waiting arms.
"Oh, he's looking at me!" she cried, delighted. Everyone laughed. "What name have you and Elizabeth decided upon?"
All heads turned to Darcy for his answer. "William Bennet Darcy."
Mr. Bennet expressed his satisfaction at having been included in his grandson's name. "Is William a shortened version of your own name, or from your family?"
"A shortened version, to be sure. Elizabeth insisted that a son must be named after his father, and I insisted that it not be Fitzwilliam."
Georgiana tore her gaze away from her nephew's face. "Breakfast has been laid out in the dining room. Shall we go down now, Fitzwilliam?"
"By all means!" he replied, reclaiming his son.
As the party reached the entrance to the dining room, Darcy was aware of the faces peering from the back corners of the hall. Allowing the others to pass into the room before him, he beckoned one of the footmen forward and instructed him to ask Mrs. Reynolds to attend him. The servant disappeared in a hurry, and Darcy had been seated at the table for only a moment before Mrs. Reynolds appeared at his side.
"Ah, Mrs. Reynolds! Following breakfast this morning, if you would be so good as to assemble the staff in the servants' hall, I will present my new son to them."
Mrs. Reynolds' eyes gleamed, and she happily replied, "Oh, sir, they will be ready and waiting." She added in a whisper, "Please accept my heartfelt congratulations, sir. I sincerely look forward to serving a third generation of the Darcy family."
The Master of the house smiled as she curtsied to him and departed.
* * *
Following breakfast everyone returned to their chambers to get some much needed sleep, except for Mr. Darcy and his newborn son. Before they could retire, a short visit to the servants' hall was in order.
A hush fell on the assembled staff as their master entered the room.
"I'm sure you are all aware of the recent addition to our household. I would like to introduce you all to the youngest member of the Darcy family: William Bennet!"
A soft applause followed his announcement, during which the younger maids could be seen straining on their toes to catch a glimpse of the tiny face hidden in the blankets. Darcy motioned to Mrs. Reynolds, who stepped forward and proudly took the baby in her arms. She then made a circuit of the room to present him to each of the servants in turn. There were many soft sighs and cooing sounds from the maids, and even a few nods and compliments from the male staff, before the housekeeper returned to a weary Darcy.
"Thank you, sir. I think it best that both of you should retire now, sir."
Darcy smiled and, nodding to his staff, gathered his son in his arms to return upstairs.
Elizabeth was still asleep. Darcy laid William in his cradle and climbed onto the bed to lay atop the blankets. Elizabeth stirred, and snuggled up to her husband to lay her head on his chest. Mumbling something unintelligible, she immediately drifted back to sleep. Darcy closed his eyes, sighed, and drifted off himself.
* * *
"Aahh, peace at last!"
Elizabeth looked at her husband reproachfully. He shrugged his shoulders and gave her a sheepish grin. It had been eight weeks since William's birth. The christening had been two weeks ago, and what a large gathering that had been! Elizabeth had been very grateful for her mother and sister's assistance. This huge house of Pemberley had been filled almost to capacity with friends, relatives and business associates of Mr. Darcy. Now the last carriage had pulled away carrying Mr and Mrs. Bennet and their daughter Mary on their way back to Longbourn. Kitty had gone with Charles and Jane Bingley to stay with them until Christmas.
"I confess, I quite agree," Elizabeth sighed. "It will be very good to get back to our small family circle." She looked down lovingly at their son in her arms. "Even if it is for only three months before we head for London once more."
"Would you rather stay at Pemberley this winter?" Darcy asked seriously as they made their way back to the morning room.
"Oh, no my dear!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Have you forgotten that this season in London is of the utmost importance? We cannot miss it!"
Momentarily puzzled by his wife's remark, Darcy turned his inquiring gaze on her.
"Georgiana's coming out, dearest. We must begin thinking about that soon."
Startled, Darcy's mind began working this over. "Well, Elizabeth, it won't be until March. We have plenty of time for planning."
"We may as well begin now." Elizabeth scolded. "I'm sure you would want nothing less than the most perfect, beautiful ball for your sister's eighteenth birthday and entry into London society. Now where did that girl get to?" Elizabeth set off in the direction of the drawing room, her husband trailing in her wake.
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