As the carriage arrived in front of Willows, Georgiana Darcy was in awe of the estate’s house. “William, this is such a wonderful place. I feel as if it is calling to me to welcome me.”
Darcy smiled. “I had the same feeling when I first came here. It is a pleasant estate, and I am sure our cousin has made it even more comfortable since she has settled in.”
The carriage came to a stop, and Darcy stepped out, turning to hand his sister down. “I am surprised Elizabeth is not out here to welcome us. I hope she is well.”
Mr Blaine overheard Darcy’s comment. “Mistress is well, she can be found in the green drawing room. Refreshments are being prepared as we speak.”
“Thank you, Mr Blaine. May I take the opportunity to introduce you to my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy? Georgiana, this is Mr Blaine, the butler of The Willows. His wife is the housekeeper.”
“Miss Darcy, it is an honor to make your acquaintance. I know Mistress is excited for your visit. If you require anything, let myself or my wife know.”
Georgiana gave him a shy nod, somewhat hiding behind her brother’s arm.
“Come, sprite, Elizabeth awaits us.” Darcy moved his sister forward, leading her inside the house and to the green drawing room.
They entered the room, finding Elizabeth seated on the sofa. Before she even stood, Darcy could see the difference in her figure. A puzzled look stole across his brow.
“Yes, my secret is out.” Elizabeth laughed. “And now you can understand why I had such queasiness when I first arrived from Belgium. I have been told it is common for ladies in my condition to be queasy, especially in the mornings. I hope you will forgive me for not telling you before.”
Georgiana was surprised, and timid when approaching Elizabeth. Darcy took a few moments to register what Elizabeth said to him before he guided his sister to make the introductions. “Elizabeth, this is my beloved sister whom you have been hearing so much about. Miss Georgiana Darcy, may I introduce you to Mrs Elizabeth Bennet Fitzwilliam, our cousin.”
Elizabeth smiled, reaching out a hand to the young girl. “I am pleased to finally meet you, Miss Darcy. Welcome to Willows. I hope your stay here will be enjoyable.”
“Th…th…thank you, Mrs Fitzwilliam. I am p…p…pleased to meet you.”
“Please, you must call me Elizabeth or Lizzy. My family and friends are not allowed to call me Mrs Fitzwilliam. Come, take a seat. Mrs Blaine is preparing a tray of refreshments. Cook has been baking today, making my favorite biscuits.”
“I could smell something quite delicious when we arrived.” Darcy smiled. “Now, forgive me for bringing up such a topic, but why have you not spoken of your condition before this?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Every time I thought I would write to you, I was afraid. Not only afraid of what you might say, but also afraid of my in laws learning of my condition. I have been bombarded with letters from their solicitors, with all sorts of threats made against me.”
“Did you know, before Richard’s death?” Darcy asked.
“Yes, he knew before going into battle the last time. He had already submitted papers to resign his position, it was to be his last battle. Richard told me he hoped it was a daughter. A part of me prays it is a daughter as well, as your aunt and uncle will have less desire to take the child from me if it is a girl. A son, to carry on the Fitzwilliam family name would be too great a temptation for them.”
Darcy felt tears stinging his eyes. His cousin was a good man, the best man Darcy had ever known. And now, Richard would never know his child. A part of Richard would live on, though never know the father who loved it. Standing, Darcy walked to the nearby window, looking out over the grounds. From where he stood, he could see the willow tree which stood shading Richard’s final resting place. “Forgive me, I feel the need for some fresh air.” He stated as he suddenly left the room.
Walking quickly, Darcy soon found himself at the side of his cousin’s grave. “Richard, good God, what is to be done? Your parents will demand the child as soon as they learn of it. Your child. Oh, Richard, I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am to know a part of you will live on. But I am afraid of what your family will do. They are so bitter, and attempting to strike out at Elizabeth in every way possible. I must find a way to protect her from them. Tomorrow, I will speak with Mr Phillips. He will know what we can do to protect your child. Your child. I am so happy, yet so sad. How I wish you could be here, hold your child in your arms, rock them to sleep and chase away bad dreams, tell them the same silly stories you used to tell Georgiana when she was a little girl. It is not fair. You did not have time to enjoy your life as you should. Your wife, and now, your baby, should not be without you. I wish I could take your place, allowing you the time to enjoy your family, as you deserve.”
“William, do not fret.” Elizabeth said softly as she placed a hand gently on his shoulder. He had not heard her approach, and was surprised to hear her voice. “Do not fret, William. Your cousin is here, with us. Maybe not in the way we wish, but I feel him all around. When I take walks, I can hear his voice telling me stories, like he did when we took walks together in Brussels. When I find myself lost in a book, I can hear Richard teasing me about how difficult it is to get my attention when I am reading. And every time the babe moves inside of me, I am reminded of Richard’s love for me. I can imagine his eyes, the way they looked at me, wrapping me in a warmth which I cannot explain. I, too, wish he were still with us, but we cannot change that fact. We must move forward. We have a part of Richard which we can still love.”
“Elizabeth, I fear for your safety. When my aunt and uncle learn of the babe, they will become even more insane with their demands. You must come to Pemberley, stay with us. We will protect you.” Darcy stated, taking hold of Elizabeth’s hands.
“William, look at me. I am in no condition to travel further than this neighborhood. We are preparing for our first harvest with me as the property owner. A feast and ball are to be held. My child is due to be born the first week of November. There is nothing to do but stay here and protect myself and the babe from Richard’s family.”
Darcy shook his head. “There must be a way to protect you from them. I will not allow them to take your child. Tomorrow, I will meet with Mr Phillips. If I need to, I will send to London to hire the best solicitors we can find. Georgiana and I will remain here until after the babe is born, and, as soon as you are able to travel, we will take you to Pemberley.”
“Calm yourself, William. Do not allow Lord and Lady Matlock to cause you so much frustration. Now, come inside. Georgiana went up to freshen up. You should do the same. I have some letters in my study I should address before dinner. We will eat in two hours, will that give you enough time to refresh?”
Darcy nodded his head. Taking Elizabeth’s hand in his, he wrapped it around he arm before leading her inside the house. Leaving her at the door to her study, Darcy continued up the stairs to the rooms he had used before.
~~ ** ~~
Elizabeth picked up the second express which had arrived earlier that day. Opening the letter, she began to read. Her hands began to shake as the words assaulted her. Lord and Lady Matlock knew. They had discovered her secret. They were making their intentions well known. Richard’s child would be raised at Matlock, as they saw fit.
Mrs Blaine was coming from the smaller dining room when she heard screams coming from Elizabeth’s study. Something was terribly wrong. Rushing to the door of the study, Mrs Blaine found the door locked. “Mistress, are you well? Has something happened? Mistress, please, can you speak to me?” No response came from inside the room.
“Albert, hurry, come here.” Mrs Blaine cried out to her husband. “Something is wrong. I need your keys.”
“Of course.” Mr Blaine called back to her as he hurried towards her. Just then, sounds of a heavy footstep running down the stairs was heard. Darcy had heard Elizabeth’s screams, as his rooms were just above her study.
“What is wrong?” He asked the Blaines as he approached them.
“We do not know. The study is locked, but my husband has the key.” Mrs Blaine said, tears of worry forming in her eyes. She dearly loved her mistress, and was afraid something was wrong with the babe.
Mr Blaine opened the door quickly, and stepped aside to allow Darcy to enter first. Elizabeth was collapsed on the floor, near her desk. In her hand was grasped a letter.
“Mrs Blaine, send someone for the physician. I will take Elizabeth up to her rooms. Send word to Mr Bennet as well.” Darcy said as he wrapped his arms around Elizabeth, lifting her carefully. Carrying her up the stairs, Darcy called out to the maid in the hall to open the door to Elizabeth’s room. Once he had placed her on the bed, Darcy sat beside her, concerned for not only her health, but the health of her unborn child. His cousin’s child. Richard’s child. Mrs Blaine entered the room, bringing her bag of medicinal herbs and smelling salts.
“Mr Darcy, you should step out of the room. Lucy and I will make the mistress more comfortable and change her into a night gown for when Mr Herbert arrives. I also sent for the midwife.”
Darcy knew it was inappropriate for him to remain in Elizabeth’s rooms, with her lying on the bed. Remembering the letter she held clutched in her hand, Darcy relaxed her fingers to remove the letter from her grip, taking it with him into the hall.
There was a flurry of people rushing about. Darcy moved a chair from the music room into the hallway near Elizabeth’s rooms. Sitting down, Darcy began to read the letter.
Georgiana had heard all the scurrying about and came out to investigate. Seeing her brother sitting in a chair in the hall, she became concerned by his expression. “William, is something wrong?”
“They are bloody fools if they think they will have their way in this matter.” Darcy growled angrily. “How dare they behave in such a manner? I cut all ties with them, from this day forward. Nothing they can do will ever make me forgive them, not after this.”
“William, what has happened?” Georgiana knelt beside the chair.
“Elizabeth received another letter from Lord and Lady Matlock’s solicitor. They have learned of her being with child, and they are taking steps to remove the child from her care as soon as it is born. The audacity of them. What right do they have to take Elizabeth’s child from her? She is a good person, kind and caring. I can understand why Richard fell in love with her. She will be a wonderful mother. There is no reason to declare her unfit and remove the child from her care. The way they are going about it, they are planning to have her committed to Bedlam. I will not stand for this.”
“Is Elizabeth well? Why are you sitting out here?” Georgiana was greatly concerned.
“We heard her screaming, and then found her unconscious on the floor of her study. If she loses the babe, or her health suffers, I will see that Lord and Lady Matlock suffer for what they have done.” Darcy’s attention was quickly averted to the sound of painful cries coming from Elizabeth’s rooms.
“The babe, it is too soon.” Darcy said under his breath. It was clear he was deeply concerned.
Mrs Blaine came out from the bedchambers, calling for the staff to perform several different tasks. Turning her head, she could see Darcy stand and take a step towards her. “Mr Darcy, it appears that the mistress’ labors have begun. The midwife sent word that she is tending to another delivery, and will be here as soon as possible.”
“And the physician? Is he coming?”
“Mr Herbert is at Lucas Lodge, so the footman is on his way there to find him. I requested Mr Bennet bring his housekeeper, Mrs Hill, when he comes. Her mother was a midwife, and she assisted in the births of all the Bennet children at Longbourn.”
Darcy looked deeply into Mrs Blaine’s eyes. “It is too soon, is it not? What are her chances?”
“I cannot tell you, to be honest. I do not know. But Mistress is strong and healthy. I have faith that she will come through this. It is the babe I am worried for. I cannot understand what happened. Mistress has been doing so well.”
“It is most likely due to a severe fright. The letter she was holding was from Lord and Lady Matlock’s solicitor. They know about the babe, and are determined to take the child from here.”
A gasp came from Mrs Blaine. “That is her worst fear. No wonder she screamed as she did. Oh, my goodness. Will they never leave the poor girl alone?” Realizing who she was speaking to, Mrs Blaine blushed. “Forgive me, Mr Darcy. I forgot for a moment that you are related to Lord and Lady Matlock. I did not mean to be disrespectful.”
“When it comes to that family, they deserve any disrespect they are given.” Darcy spat the words. “I despise what they are doing and how they are treating Elizabeth.”
A breathless Mr Bennet came quickly up the stairs, followed by his wife, Jane, Mary and a lady Darcy assumed was Mrs Hill. As the ladies hurried into Elizabeth’s bedchambers, Mr Bennet came to Darcy’s side. “What has happened? Lizzy is not due to deliver for another month. And we did not expect you to arrive for another fortnight.”
“We had best make ourselves comfortable in the music room.” Darcy stated, motioning to the elder man to lead the way.
Once inside the room, Darcy moved to the sideboard, pouring a glass of port. “Would you care for a drink, Mr Bennet?” Darcy inquired. When Mr Bennet nodded his head, Darcy poured a second glass, carrying it to Elizabeth’s uncle.
“Mr Bennet, allow me to introduce you to my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy. Sprite, this is Mr Thomas Bennet of Longbourn. He is Elizabeth’s uncle.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Darcy.” Mr Bennet bowed to her. “So, Mr Darcy, what brings you here so much sooner than expected?”
Darcy explained that there had been an unfortunate incident in Ramsgate, making Darcy uncomfortable to remain there with his sister. He went on to explain how they had just learned upon their arrival of Elizabeth being in a family way, and how she had gone into her study to handle some letters. Darcy then explained how he had heard Elizabeth screaming, and his race to her study, only to find her collapsed on the floor, holding a letter. Handing the letter to Mr Bennet, Darcy’s fury was clearly written on his expression.
“I have never been as revolted by members of my family as I am at this moment.” Darcy declared as he tossed back the liquid in his glass, before walking back over to the sideboard to refill his glass.
“I will send word to Mr Phillips to come immediately. We must come up with a solution before the Fitzwilliams descend on us.” Mr Bennet announced.
Darcy nodded in agreement. “Georgiana, perhaps it would be wise if you were to stay in your rooms for the time being. I will come to you when there is any news.”
“William, I would prefer to stay here. I understand what is happening, and I wish to be strong for Elizabeth.”
Looking at his little sister, Darcy had a sudden surge of pride in her behavior. She was trying desperately to be strong for him.
“Very well, Sprite. But if I ask you to leave the room, I insist you do as I ask. There is bound to be some serious talk which would be unfitting for your ears.”
Georgiana nodded her head. “I will do as you say, when need be.”
The men continued to discuss the situation, each cringing when they heard Elizabeth’s cries from down the hall. Mr Phillips arrived, as requested, and was shown the letter which had wrought so much pain.
Shaking his head, Mr Phillips was frustrated. “I have been battling with these men over everything. They have no morals, and would do whatever they could to have Elizabeth declared unfit, thereby allowing the Fitzwilliams’ to take custody of the baby.”
“Is there nothing which can be done to prevent this?” Darcy pleaded. “There has to be some way of stopping them.”
“The only way I can see is if Lizzy was married to a man still living, before she gives birth. Once married, whether the child is the blood relation to the man or not, he takes on the responsibility of being the father to it.” Mr Phillips explained. “Then Lord and Lady Matlock would have no claim over the child, as the child would legally be claimed by the husband.”
“How can it be done before she gives birth?” Mr Bennet shook his head. “We do not have time to read the banns, nor do we have a young man who would be willing to take on such a situation.”
“A common license can be obtained from the bishop, over in St Albans. He can even perform the ceremony.” Mr Phillips announced.
“Can it be done quickly?” Darcy asked. “She could give birth at any moment.”
“Mr Darcy, we will act as quickly as possible. We first need to find a willing groom.” Mr Bennet stated.
“You have one. I swore at my cousin’s grave that I would do whatever I could to protect Elizabeth and their child. If marrying her will accomplish that, so be it. Send for the Bishop. I will pay whatever his fee is to come here and marry Elizabeth and myself immediately.”
“You cannot be sure Elizabeth will consent to this plan.” Mr Bennet suggested. “What if she does not agree?”
“She needs to realize that it is the only solution to protect her and the baby. Mr Phillips, send word for the bishop to come immediately. I will see if the ladies will allow me to speak to Elizabeth, make her see the logic.” Darcy began making plans. Stepping out of the music room and down the hall, Darcy knocked on the door of Elizabeth’s chambers. Mrs Blaine opened the door a crack.
“Mr Darcy, is there something you need?”
“I need to speak with Elizabeth. I know that now is not the best of times, but it is urgent. We have determined a way to protect her and the babe from my cousin’s family, but we have to act immediately, before the babe is born.”
Mrs Blaine was confused, frowning as she considered what Darcy had said. “Just a moment, Mr Darcy.”
Closing the door behind her, Mrs Blaine went to Elizabeth’s bedside. After a few moments, Mrs Blaine opened the door again, this time, wide enough for Mr Darcy to enter the room. “Mistress is weak, and she is in pain. Speak quickly and then you will have to leave the room.”
“Thank you, Mrs Blaine. I will keep her welfare in consideration.” Darcy crossed the room in only a few long strides, coming to his knees beside the bed. “Elizabeth, we have an idea to protect you and your child. Mr Phillips suggested that if you were married, before the birth, the child would become the child of your husband. Lord and Lady Matlock would have no claims, and you would both be protected.”
“I could not marry.” Elizabeth said weakly. “I could not forget Richard.”
“You do not have to. Elizabeth, I am proposing that you marry me. Tonight. Before the babe arrives. I have already sent for the bishop, he can issue a common license, for a fee. I will pay whatever is needed to see this done quickly. I do not wish for your money or property, we will settle all of that later. But we have to marry as soon as can be arranged. Will you accept me? I vow to respect you, give you the time to mourn the loss of my cousin. Our marriage would be a merger. I promise you that I will make no demands of you.”
Another contraction coursed through her, making Elizabeth cry out in pain. Once it had subsided, Elizabeth took hold of Darcy’s hand. “William, if I agree, if I do not survive, promise me you will raise this child with love.”
“Of course, Elizabeth. But do not think such. You will survive. You are strong.”
“I agree to the wedding. I cannot guarantee how much longer I will be able to hold on, so it must be done in haste.”
“Rest, Elizabeth. I will return when all has been arranged. We will hurry as much as possible.” Darcy placed a kiss on her hand, which he had been holding.
Two hours later, Darcy was placing a gentle kiss on his wife’s hair before leaving her in the capable hands of the midwife, who had finally arrived. The bishop officiated over the ceremony, having heard the name of Darcy, he had no intention of declining the purse of coins which was offered as incentive. The license was signed, with Mr Phillips and Mr Bennet signing as witnesses. A marriage contract was crudely written stating the money and property Elizabeth brought into the marriage were to be hers to utilize, though they were legally granted to Darcy as her husband. Darcy had the contract worded so that it protected Elizabeth’s inheritance from the family at Matlock, but allowed her to have control over it all.
Near five in the morning, Mrs Blaine came from the bedchamber into the music room, where the men were awaiting word. Mr Bennet and Mr Phillips had long since fallen asleep, and Georgiana had retired to her bedchamber hours before. Darcy could not sleep. He was worried for his new wife and the babe she carried.
Hearing the housekeeper enter, Darcy looked up. She was clearly exhausted. “Mr Darcy, would you come with me?”
Her words frightened him. His feet felt like boulders as he attempted to move forward, taking much effort to propel him forward.
In the hallway, Mrs Blaine placed a hand on Darcy’s arm. “The babes are born. You have a son and a daughter.”
“Twins?” Darcy was shocked. “Are they well? Elizabeth, is she well?”
“The children are small, but have a good deal of fight in them. Much like their mother, I suspect. Mistress is weak. She had some bleeding, and she is going to need lots of rest and plenty of time to recover.”
“As long as she is well and the children are, nothing else matters. We will stay here until Elizabeth is strong enough to travel to our estate in Derbyshire.” Darcy could see, by the look in Mrs Blaine’s eyes, there was something more she wished to tell him. “What is wrong, Mrs Blaine?”
“I do not know if I should be telling you this, but you are her husband now. The birth was complicated, and, to be honest, we were concerned for Mistress’ life. Well, you should know the truth. The midwife, she does not think Mistress will be able to have any other children. There was some something wrong, which is why she bled so much and why it took so long for the children to be birthed. Mistress has not been told yet. Her aunt thought it would be better coming from you, as you are now her husband.”
Darcy nodded his head. “That is a bridge to be crossed a long time from now. The most important issue at the moment is to see that Elizabeth recovers her strength and the babes thrive. Has a wet nurse been employed?”
“The midwife sent word to her niece. The girl is young and healthy, and will be good to the children. At the moment, the twins will not be taking as much milk, but as they grow, we can hire a second wet nurse if needed.”
“Thank you, Mrs Blaine. I cannot express to you how grateful I am to you and your husband for all you have done. Not just today, but ever since Elizabeth came to live here.”
“Master, it has been a blessing. Your wife is a wonderful woman. I am grateful to you for protecting her, as you have since I first met you. Now, my husband has seen to it that your belongings were moved to the Master’s rooms. Your valet has seen to everything being placed where it should be. If you need anything, please let me or my husband know.”
“Very good, Mrs Blaine.” Darcy stated as he walked towards the door to his wife’s rooms. “Would it be acceptable if I were to check on my family?”
“Yes, sir. The babes are sleeping at the moment, as is their mother. Wait until you see those sweet faces. They are such angels.”
Hearing the housekeeper gushing over the children which were now his son and daughter, Darcy chuckled. “Oh, and Mrs Blaine, my housekeeper at Pemberley calls me Master William. You are welcome to do the same.”
Mrs Blaine smiled. “Good night, Master William.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Walking as carefully as possible, Darcy approached the bed, where Elizabeth was asleep. Wrapped in blankets and lying on the bed beside her, were two little bundles. Seeing that one of the bundles was squirming, Darcy reached over and lifted it into his arms. “Hello, little one. Your mamma is sleeping, do not fuss and wake her.”
Taking one of his long fingers, he held it to the infant’s tiny hand. After a few moments, the baby latched on to the finger. Darcy looked at the child’s face, smiling as he could recognize some of its features being inherited from Richard. How proud Darcy was to hold the baby, his cousin’s legacy, so small and delicate. Suddenly, the other bundle began to squirm. Being so small, Darcy was easily able to hold both of the infants in his hands at the same time. He carried them to the other side of the room, watching them squirm and wiggle about.
Each infant was different. The little girl had her mother’s dark curls, while the little boy had his father’s fair hair. Each had a different shape to their face, and it was clear that each had very different personalities. The boy settled in and calmed easily, while the little girl continued to squirm about. Darcy was certain that she would be the miniature of her mother.
Looking at the miniature of Richard, Darcy smiled. Mr Bennet had asked him if the babe was a son, would Darcy be prepared to accept him as his heir. Without a moment’s hesitation, Darcy said he would. The child shared his bloodlines, and was a part of Richard. Having Richard’s son become Master of Pemberley one day was extremely acceptable to him. Especially if the midwife was correct, and Elizabeth would never be able to bear him any children of his own.
The thought of marital relations with the lady sleeping on the bed brought a mixture of emotions to the gentleman. He found Elizabeth attractive, with a pleasing figure and handsome face. Her eyes had intrigued him from the start, though he had not allowed himself to think of her in such a way at the time. She was in mourning for Richard. She was Richard’s wife. Would she come to regret her decision to marry Darcy? Would she see him as an imposter, a pale substitute of the man she loved and lost?
There would be much to discuss and decide, but it could be done once Elizabeth recovered. What mattered at the moment were the precious bundles in his arms, and they were safe from Lord and Lady Matlock’s grasp. All else could wait for a later date.
~~ ** ~~
“I insist we go to her immediately.” Lady Matlock stated in a huff. “I am fed up with waiting for the solicitors to handle the situation. We need to make the trip there and speak directly with her. If we offer her enough money, I am certain she will give us the child when it is born.”
“From what I have discovered, the chit is wealthier than we are. I told you that the solicitor is attempting to find a way to take the funds from her. The problem is the laws from other countries have to be honored and Richard signed the marriage contract, refusing to have claim to her inheritance unless she was deceased. Our son was a foolish man, how he could marry the harlot in the first place is beyond me. I blame it on the war. He was living in the moment, not thinking of his family or his place in society.”
“My poor boy.” Lady Matlock sniffed as she dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. “When I think of him, dying all alone, so far from those of us who loved him, I just break down in tears.”
“I will make that hussy pay for tearing Richard from our family. We would have had him home, with us, rather than continue to fight in a war. I had planned on giving him the property which was left him by your uncle. I know it is not in good condition, and would take a lot of work, but Richard would have been in England and safe. It is her fault he remained on the continent. It is because of her that he was killed. I will never forgive her for taking my son from us.”
“Perhaps we could offer to allow her to keep her inheritance, if she gives us the baby. She could live comfortably, and most likely have many more children by other men. Please, can we go to this village and convince her to accept our offer?”
“Very well. I have a meeting tomorrow, so we can make the journey in two days.” Lord Matlock agreed. “And James can journey with us. Martha might even be able to join us, as her daughter is over her fever now. I still cannot understand this younger generation. The servants are there to take care of the children, why Martha felt she had to assist the nursemaid, I do not know.”
“She was not brought up in such a manner. I blame her husband for her behaving so foolishly. You would think she was brought up in a lower social circle, behaving like a commoner in such a way.” Lady Matlock was quite scandalized. “I can only pray no one learns of Martha’s actions. I would be mortified if Lady Armstrong were to hear of it.”
~~ ** ~~
Opening her eyes was difficult. She felt as if heavy weights were holding her eyelids in place, refusing to budge. When she tried to lift her arms, they, too, felt as if they were weighted down.
“Arrgg.” Elizabeth grumbled as she could not force her body to cooperate with her.
“Relax, Elizabeth. Rest. You have been through a lot.”
“The babe.” Elizabeth mumbled.
“You mean the babies. We have a son and a daughter.”
Elizabeth’s eyes were suddenly able to open. “Twins?”
Darcy nodded his head. “They are healthy and strong. Much like their parents.”
“Did we…are we…?”
“Did we marry yesterday?” Darcy smiled as he brushed a wayward curl from her forehead. “Yes. Mr Phillips made the suggestion that, if you were married before the babe, or babies in this case, you would be under the protection of your new husband. And the child would become the child of the new husband, born with his name. Lord and Lady Matlock cannot take them from us.”
“What would Richard think?” Elizabeth’s eyes began to water.
“He would be grateful that you were able to protect his children. I promise you, I will make no demands upon you. Our marriage is one of convenience, and I understand that. You are still grieving for Richard, as am I. Together we will raise the children, see that they know how dearly they are loved.” Darcy smiled, reaching out to take hold of her hand. “Have you thought of any names?”
Elizabeth turned her eyes away. Realizing what she must be thinking, Darcy squeezed her hand. “If you do not mind, I believe Richard Thomas is a fitting name for our son.”
Her eyes returned to look at Darcy. “Thank you. But you forgot to honor his new father. Richard Thomas William.”
“Richard Thomas William Darcy. I like it. It is strong and dignified, befitting of his future as my heir.”
Elizabeth was shocked. “You would make him your heir? He is not your son by blood.”
“Yes he is. Richard and I shared a bloodline. So does his son. I cannot think of a more appropriate heir.”
“But what if you were to have a son of your own?”
Not wishing to discuss the possibility of Elizabeth being unable to bear more children, Darcy replied. “Between us, we have several estates. We can have as many sons as we are blessed with, and each would have an estate of their own. But little Richard Thomas William Darcy will have Pemberley. Now, as to our daughter, what name shall she have?”
“Aristella. I wish to name her for my mother. But not for Richard’s mother.”
“My mother’s name was Anne. What do you think of Aristella Anne Elizabeth Darcy?”
Elizabeth smiled. “I like it. And we can call her Ari.”
“Would you like to see them?” Darcy asked.
Nodding her head, Elizabeth’s smile grew. “Oh, yes. Please.”
Darcy left the room momentarily, returning with his arms filled with two bundles. Placing the first one on the bed beside her, Darcy pulled back the corner of the blanket wrapped around the infant. “My dear Elizabeth, may I introduce you to Master Richard Thomas William Darcy. Master Richard, this lovely lady is your beloved mamma. After what you and your sister have put her through to deliver you, I expect you to be kind to her from now on.”
Peering at the sleepy infant, Elizabeth’s eyes filled to overflowing with tears of joy. “He has Richard’s hair.”
“And the same shape of the face. When his eyes were open earlier, I got the sense that they will be like his as well. A handsome young man, indeed.”
“Thank you, William.” Elizabeth could not take her eyes from her son. Suddenly, she realized she had another child to meet.
“And this little princess is Miss Aristella Anne Elizabeth Darcy. I believe Richard got his wish, for she has her mamma’s dark curls. She is also the more active of the two. It is clear to see that she wishes to take long walks in the park.”
Elizabeth laughed as she looked at the daughter who was so desired. “Ari, oh, how you would have been spoiled.”
“Would have been?” Darcy chuckled. “Do you not think I am capable of spoiling Ari? All you need do is look at Georgiana to know I am putty in her hands. Do you believe Ari will not have the same control over me?”
“You have been more of a father to Georgiana than a brother.” Elizabeth replied. “Though, she is not spoiled. She is lovingly indulged.”
“Very well. Now, your family insists on you sleeping some more. When you wake again, we will have food for you to eat, as well as stories to tell you of our adventures while you were resting. We wish you to recover your strength, Elizabeth. And we plan to take care of you for the time being.”
Her eyes were growing heavy as Elizabeth gave a slight nod of her head. “Yes, Mr Darcy.” She giggled.
“Thank you for obeying me, Mrs Darcy.”
~~ ** ~~
“Good morning, Brother.” Georgiana said in a sweet, soft voice.
“Good morning, Sprite. Did you sleep well?”
“I did. I saw Mrs Blaine as I left my rooms. She said that Elizabeth had twins.”
Darcy smiled. “A son and a daughter. They are amazing.”
“And, is it true? You and Elizabeth are married?”
“It is true. You had already retired to your rooms, and everything was so hectic. Mr Phillips, who is the brother in law of Mrs Bennet, is a solicitor. Mr Bennet sent for him when he learned of the letter which had caused Elizabeth so much anxiety. Mr Phillips suggested that, if Elizabeth was married, before the birth, her husband would be giving the child his name and claim the child as his own. As the twins are part Richard, I had no question in my mind to step forward and claim them, to protect them.”
Georgiana was surprised at her brother’s behavior. “Did Elizabeth give them names yet?”
“We decided together. You are now the proud aunt of Master Richard Thomas William Darcy and Miss Aristella Anne Elizabeth Darcy. Master Richard and Miss Ari are the perfect miniatures of their parents.” Darcy wore a pleased smile. “They are sleeping at the moment. In an hour, I will take you to meet them.”
“Is Elizabeth well?” Georgiana had overheard two maids discussing their mistress’s delivery, describing the tremendous blood loss.
“She is weak, as the delivery was difficult. It will be some time before she is fully recovered, so we will be staying here for the foreseeable future. I hope you are comfortable with this decision.”
“I like the house, and I look forward to knowing Elizabeth better.” Georgiana’s demeanor began to improve. “I will like spending time with the babies. I have never even held a baby before.” Her eyes began to light up with the thought.
“I can guarantee you will have plenty of opportunities in the months to come. Especially as there are two of them. And Elizabeth’s cousins are quite nice as well. Miss Bennet and Miss Mary are a bit older than you, but Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia are younger than you. Miss Mary, from what I have been told, is quite proficient at the pianoforte.”
The smile on Georgiana’s face grew. “I noticed the fine instrument in the music room. It is well tuned and plays wonderfully. I thought I would wait to play, as I do not wish to disturb Elizabeth.”
“When she wakes, I am sure she will enjoy hearing you play. And we can hire a master to come here, work with you on your drawing. I know you have also wished to learn more techniques with painting. Would you like that?”
A giggle came from his sister. “Brother, you do not have to find things to fill every moment of my day. I will be fine. Just as I would if we were at Pemberley.”
“There are some fine horses in the stables. I was planning to go for a ride later, if you wish to join me. You would be able to see more of the estate.”
“I would enjoy riding with you, William.” Georgiana placed a kiss on her brother’s cheek. “But only after I meet the twins and visit Elizabeth.”
“Very well, Sprite.” Darcy chuckled.
~~ ** ~~
The Bennet family had stayed overnight at Willows, as the ladies were with Elizabeth until after the delivery. Mrs Bennet was concerned for her niece, for in her weakened state, it would be devastating if she were to develop a fever. She and her elder daughters decided to remain with Elizabeth, each taking turns sitting with her. Mr Bennet returned to Longbourn, to check on his youngest two daughters, and to see to some work he needed to handle. Mr Phillips had finalized all the paperwork needed for the Darcys, making several copies of the papers. Mr Bennet had the marriage contract and certificate from Elizabeth’s marriage to Richard, along with the inheritance papers and, now, a copy of the marriage contract with Darcy. In the cellar of his home, there was a hidden room, which only his son and wife knew of the location. Inside the room, there was a safe. Mr Bennet’s father had been paranoid, as he could remember a cousin being killed in Town, when criminals forced their way inside his house to rob him. After the cousin’s murder, Mr Bennet Senior had the vault constructed. He kept items such as extra cash, the most expensive of the family jewelry, and, most important, all of the legal papers.
Thomas Bennet placed the documents pertaining to his niece inside the safe, inside the vault. Lord and Lady Matlock will not get their hands on these papers. Now, if only we can find a way to put them in their place.
~~ ** ~~
Charles Bingley was excited to be moving to Netherfield Park. His family was new money, their wealth was derived from trade. In the upper circles of society, there was a taint on their money, as many looked down their noses at tradesmen.
Bingley’s father had planned to purchase an estate, making his family a part of the landed gentry. Unfortunately, Frederick Bingley died young, when his children were in their teens. Mrs Bingley was fixated on her children rising on the social ladder, and she did all she could to promote them. It was at the university his mother sent him to, where he met Fitzwilliam Darcy. Darcy had been shy, introverted, intelligent, and came from well-known family ties. Bingley was friendly, extraverted, and had wealth. Between the two, a fierce friendship was forged. When Richard had gone into the army, Bingley was Darcy’s closest friend.
Never having had an estate in his family, Bingley was unsure how to manage one. He had spoken with Darcy, who had been taught estate management from the cradle, who suggested leasing an estate to begin with. Once he had his feet wet, he could decide what he wanted in an estate.
When Bingley’s agent found Netherfield Park, Bingley jumped at the chance to lease it. Darcy knew of the estate, having been in the neighborhood. He gave his friend a glowing report of the neighborhood, especially the Bennet family and Elizabeth Fitzwilliam.
The only problem Bingley had was that he was responsible for his two sisters. The eldest, Louisa, had married a gentleman who was heir to a small estate in the north, Mr Gilbert Hurst. The second sister, Caroline, was unmarried, and had a high opinion of herself. And Caroline Bingley had her cap set on being the next Mistress of Pemberley.
The plan had been for Bingley, his sisters and Hurst to arrive at Netherfield a fortnight ahead of the Darcys. This would allow Bingley the chance to stand on his own for a few weeks before needing Darcy’s opinion and support. Miss Bingley did not approve of the plan. She felt that Darcy should join them immediately, as she was determined that she would be able to convince him of her suitability to be his wife. As she was to act as hostess for her brother, she could impress Darcy with her skills. At least, that was her plan.
Arriving at Netherfield, all Miss Bingley could do is complain about the neighborhood, the house, and everything she saw. She did not like leaving London, and hated country life, but she was willing to endure it for the sake of being Mrs Darcy. If only she did not have to wait for Mr Darcy to arrive.