I have finally finished writing this novel! 2020 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? I’ll spend a few days editing and then get it to the real editor. This should be out in early October. Don’t forget to stop by in a few days for the Epilogue! Thanks for reading!
Previous Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven / Chapter Twelve / Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen / Chapter Fifteen / Chapter Sixteen
“Are you certain that you are well enough for this?” Darcy asked his wife for the fifth time that morning.
Elizabeth huffed and rolled her eyes. “You have been present for every exam and sufficiently inquisitioned each medical advisor. Each of them has said that I merely experienced false labour pains, and my bag of waters did not break.” She blushed a little at the admittance. “The baby is safe, and I have taken care to allow myself enough water and rest this last week.”
The fear of losing Elizabeth, the baby, or both had gripped Darcy when they first arrived at Longbourn. It had been an exhausting night waiting for the rain to cease so the midwife and apothecary could examine Elizabeth. Darcy’s London physician arrived the following day and confirmed their conclusions. The stress of their journey and her heightened emotional state induced the pains. However, they were natural and not to be feared. Each practitioner assured Darcy and Elizabeth that Elizabeth would know the difference when the real time came for the baby to arrive.
Today was Jane and Bingley’s wedding day. Elizabeth and Darcy were standing up with them as witnesses, nevermind the fact that Mrs. Bennet feared it was unseemly and untraditional for a married and pregnant woman to stand up with a bride. Jane insisted she would have no one else but Elizabeth.
Privately, Elizabeth had confided to Darcy that she worried their taint of scandal would mar the wedding. However, all the invited guests had confirmed their attendance to the following breakfast.
Stifling his continued anxiety, Darcy smiled at his wife. If she were genuinely ill or in pain, she would not be near as argumentative. Her impertinence was all the proof he needed that she was well. This morning, she glowed with radiance as Mary putting the final touches on her hair.
“What do you think, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth asked while meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Do I look presentable to your critical eye?”
“You will outshine the bride, my love. But you would no matter what.”
Elizabeth’s gaze softened, and a small smile played upon her lips. Darcy barely registered the annoyed sigh of Mary, followed by her clearing her throat.
“Will you please wait until I have left the room before you get all lovey? I have had enough with courting couples.”
Elizabeth laughed as her sister left the room. “Oh, Mary. Wait until your time comes!”
Mary merely shook her head and did not reply.
Jane and Bingley’s ceremony was far more traditional than Darcy, and Elizabeth’s had been. Still, as Darcy stood before the church with onlookers, he could not help but be thankful for the small, makeshift wedding they had. He vastly preferred not being the centre of attention to so many people. He observed Elizabeth for any sign of regret on her face, but she merely gazed at him with love. His heart beat strong to see it. He would never tire of seeing admiration in her eyes. It was dearer to him after being so certain he would never achieve it.
After the wedding, they returned to Longbourn. Despite Netherfield being larger, Mrs. Bennet insisted on hosting the wedding breakfast from Longbourn.
“There will be time enough for the county to visit Jane as Mrs. Bingley at Netherfield. I want to remind them all of where she came from!” Mrs. Bennet had insisted.
When she was not over-anxious or over-excited, Darcy found that his mother-in-law was a sensible woman. Even more shocking was discovering that his youngest sisters-in-law could make amiable companions to Georgiana. Kitty and Lydia were seen to sigh and giggle over Richard. Still, a stern look from their father set them to behaving correctly.
“I do not see what all your fuss was about with Bingley attaching himself to an imprudent family,” Richard said after drawing near to Darcy. “The Bennet ladies are quite charming.”
“And quite without ample dowries,” Darcy reminded his cousin.
“All the better to admire without harm,” Richard said with a wink to Kitty from across the room.
“And have you met my mother-in-law? I am surprised she has not fastened one of her daughters to your side yet.”
“One mention of not having an estate was enough to make her despair of me as a suitor, I’m afraid.” Richard laughed. “No, it is my brother that is in peril.” He nodded in the direction of Mary and Darcy’s other cousin, Viscount Fairfax.
“Mary is too sensible to angle after a man only for his purse and title. I would say Miss Bingley would be a concern, but I have no fear that Fairfax knows how to avoid her.” Darcy paused to sip his punch. “I have written to your parents, but please extend my thanks. I know they could not come due to my uncle’s duties, but they were very kind to send a present and write to Mrs. Bennet. She has read your mother’s letter to every family in the vicinity.”
“They did it to show support of your marriage to Elizabeth far more than out of consideration to Bingley, of course,” Richard said.
“I know, but it means much to us.”
“Lady Catherine will come around,” Richard squeezed Darcy’s shoulder. “In the meantime, enjoy her silent treatment.”
The men chuckled. Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam had written to Darcy and Elizabeth congratulating them on their marriage. They were invited to dine with them when they were next in London. However, Lady Catherine had sent an angry letter abusing Elizabeth and decrying Darcy’s lack of intelligence and honour. Thankfully, Anne had sent her own missive, congratulating them, and insisting that she did not share her mother’s sentiments.
“You will have detractors, at first,” Richard said. “But Elizabeth is charming, and in time Society will see that she was no fortune hunter, and it is a love match.”
“I hope you are right,” Darcy said.
“By the time the lad goes off to Eton, everyone will have forgotten all about it.”
“I think it will be a girl.”
Richard laughed. “Well, you have raised Georgie well enough. I say you are well-practiced with girls. However, if she has some of Elizabeth’s spirit, perhaps that will turn your hair grey.”
Darcy laughed. “If you keep that up, I will have my mother-in-law join forces with Lady Fitzwilliam to find a wife for you.”
“Oh, no. I am determined to be Uncle Richard for many years before I shall ever be Papa.”
Smiling at the image of Richard as a doting uncle, Darcy’s eyes found Elizabeth. She was hugging Jane, who was ready to depart. Excusing himself, Darcy went to her side.
“You look tired, love,” Darcy whispered in her ear.
“I am but also so full of joy. Thank you for this gift.” Her hand fell to her stomach.
“You and our babe are my gifts, and I will treasure you both until the end of my days,” Darcy said, wishing he could kiss her.
They wished Jane and Bingley joy as they departed for their honeymoon to a seaside resort. Darcy was pleased to hear something less than a full whine from Lydia on the subject. Mrs. Bennet had winked and nodded in his direction that perhaps there would be a better experience for her in the future. Lord help him if he were expected to chaperone Lydia Bennet about the ton. Then again, perhaps it would be the motivation she needed to improve herself.
Mr. Bennet approached and rolled his eyes in his wife’s direction, causing Elizabeth to giggle. “Never fear that we will be foisting Lydia upon you. I am determined that she must learn to mind her tongue and curb her impulses before she steps foot in London. I would bemoan the difficulties of a daughter at such an age, but then wisdom has taught me that I will survive it, and all too soon, they will be out of my house.”
Darcy watched as his sister linked arms with Lydia and Kitty, ushering them into the music room where Mary already awaited. He would sympathise with Mr. Bennet’s words. Georgiana was not married, but he had very nearly lost her and thoroughly knew the Bennet patriarch’s anxiety regarding his daughters.
“Would you care to join me in the library?”
Bennet asked both Darcy and Elizabeth, but Darcy knew the request was really for Elizabeth. A glance in her direction proved her eagerness for seclusion with her father. Darcy politely refused, stating a need to see to his relatives. Elizabeth gave him a grateful squeeze to his arm, and a whispered thanks.
As he watched father and daughter walk away arm in arm, there were no lingering signs of uneasiness or regret. In the week since arriving at Longbourn, they had often spent time together in the library playing chess or reading or taking a stroll in the garden. Darcy gave a silent prayer of thanks that Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet had healed the breach between them and hoped one day he may have as close a relationship with a daughter of his own.
Elizabeth wiped tears of joy from her eyes, as the midwife placed her screaming newborn into her arms. The doctors and midwife had been correct, and the pains Elizabeth experienced before Jane’s wedding were only false labour. The baby was in no hurry to arrive and came nearly two weeks later than expected. While she had been uncomfortable and eager to meet her child, it was well worth the wait when she looked at the squirming bundle. She was absolutely perfect.
A few minutes later, Darcy was allowed to enter the room. He rushed to her side.
“You are well?” he asked. “There were no complications?”
Elizabeth placed a calming hand on her husband’s face. “They tell me it went as smoothly as could be expected.”
“Does it always take so long? You must be exhausted.”
“I would do it all again,” Elizabeth said earnestly, the bliss she felt overcame all fatigue and pain. “Have you ever seen something so absolutely perfect and beautiful?” They stared down at the baby, now fed and asleep.
“Yes,” Darcy said and placed a kiss to her temple. “In the face of her mother.”
“You are too much.”
“I can hardly believe we made something so perfect. Look at how tiny her fist is!” Darcy stroked the baby’s hand, which reflexively opened and closed around one of Darcy’s fingers.
The look which stole over his features filled Elizabeth’s heart to bursting. “You should hold her.”
The new parents struggled at first but successfully transferred the infant to Darcy’s ready arms.
“I wish I could capture this moment in a painting,” Elizabeth said. “The proud Papa with the young lady that has stolen his heart.”
“Never fear, my darling. There is room enough in my heart for you as well as her and any other children the Lord should bless us with.”
“I know,” Elizabeth said. “I never had any doubt that you would be able to love us enough.” She would have said more, but a yawn stole her speech.
“You should rest,” he whispered to her.
Feeling the giddiness of new motherhood leave her, she nodded and relaxed against the pillow. She awoke sometime later to a shrill cry from the corner of the room. Her eyes popping open, she saw her father pacing with her baby.
“I am sorry, Lizzy,” Mr. Bennet said. “I am usually good with soothing infants, but I am afraid this young lady is hungry, and no amount of walking and shushing will help.”
Darcy, who had been resting at her side, helped her into a sitting position. “Your father wished to see the babe, and I did not think you would mind.”
“Of course not,” Elizabeth said.
“They are asking about her name,” Darcy said. “Are we agreed?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “Grace Abigail.”
“It’s as beautiful as she is,” Mr. Bennet said. “I’m eager to hear how you chose the name, but it will wait.” He placed the baby in Elizabeth’s arms. “She will have a blessed life, loved by many, especially her parents.” He kissed Elizabeth’s forehead before departing.
As Elizabeth watched her baby feeding at her breast, she felt the truth of her father’s words in her heart. Indeed, it’s how they chose her name. She was an unexpected and unmerited blessing in their lives. If it weren’t for her, would they even be together? They were forced to move past their misunderstandings and fears and be honest with one another. They chose Abigail as her middle name because it meant “father’s joy.” Nothing better captured Darcy’s feelings about their child.
Where once there was anxiety and concern about having Mr. Darcy’s baby, there was now only peace and happiness. Regardless of what Society thought about their marriage and the date of their child’s birth, they would have a happy and fulfilled life because happiness was of their own choosing.