I Dream of You vignette (chapter sequel)
This chapter follows the ending of “I Dream of You,” my story in A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2.
Darcy sat in a chair across from an enceinte Elizabeth. She was eight months along and in her confinement.
“I am quite glad you insisted on spending the rest of this time in London, my dear,” she said with a slight groan. “There is much to see outside our windows, and Thaddeus is readily available.”
He stood quickly, folding his newspaper and placing it on the table beside his chair. “Do you need him? Are you in pain? Shall I send a servant to fetch him?”
She held out her hands to him. “No, but I am uncomfortable. Come, help me up, please. I need to walk a bit. I feel so stiff.”
The tall gentleman walked over to take her hands and pull her to her feet. Her dress shifted, and he saw her ankles.
“I should rub your feet,” he said. “They look more swollen than they did yesterday. Do they hurt, my love? Where is Georgiana? At breakfast this morning, she said she would read to you, and it seemed to please you.”
“Pray, do not be alarmed, Fitzwilliam,” she answered, grasping his forearm for support. “’Tis simply that my time is nearing. I was six years old when my mother delivered Lydia, and I remember it very well. My confinement seems to be much like Mama’s. You know Jane’s last month was similar to this, too.”
Darcy drew her into his arms, resting his chin on the top of her head.
When she raised her face to his, he kissed her tenderly.
A knock at the door commanded their attention, and Darcy broke the kiss with regret.
“Come,” he said.
The butler opened the door and stepped aside, revealing a tall, blond young man. “Lord Thaddeus to see you, sir.”
Thaddeus Beckett made a slight sound of displeasure. “Mr. Beckett will do very well, if you please.”
He advanced into the room. “I have come to see my patient. How are you doing today, Elizabeth?”
“She is quite uncomfortable,” answered Darcy, standing aside, scowling. “I am most happy to see you, for I was about to send for you. Look at her ankles, and she tires so easily. She hardly eats at all. Surely this is not normal. Can you not do something for her?”
Elizabeth held out her hand, beckoning to the physician. “Thaddeus, it is so good to see you. Please tell my anxious husband that I am fine. He needs your attention more than I do, I fear.”
Beckett laughed quietly as he strode across the room. Stopping in front of Elizabeth, he made a courtly bow. “You are lovely as always, my dear.”
Darcy cleared his throat rather loudly. “You are engaging in pleasantries? Get on with it, man. My wife suffers most abominably.”
The younger man stood tall and arched a brow. “You do know how babes are born, do you not? There is suffering involved in the process.”
“I do – ” Darcy’s words were cut short by a gasping sound from his wife.
“Let us remove the lady to her chambers. Now.” The physician took Elizabeth’s arm and walked her slowly toward the door.
“Why are you doing this? You must examine her ankles first.” Darcy muttered through clenched teeth, following them.
Beckett spoke quietly. “Look at the floor. You shall be a father soon.”
“Help me, Fitzwilliam. My waters have broken.” Elizabeth looked back at her husband, imploring him. “Come, dear. Take my other arm. The pains have started.”
The colour drained from Darcy’s face; however, he took his wife’s arm as she requested, assisting her to her rooms.
While the men waited outside the bedchamber, Elizabeth’s maid helped her to don a nightgown and get into her bed.
Beckett put a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “Perhaps you should send word to the Bingleys, apprising them of the situation. I feel certain Mrs. Bingley would want to be with her sister, and Bingley can keep you occupied until this is over.”
Darcy raised both eyebrows, and his tone brooked no opposition. “Occupied? I shall be occupied, for I fully intend to be with my wife until she is safely delivered.”
“You cannot mean that. This may take a few hours or a full day. Each birth is a bit different,” replied the physician. “Go to your chambers and rest or back to the parlour to read a book. Elizabeth may not wish for you to see her like this.”
“First,” said Darcy tersely, “her chambers and mine are the same. Second, I cannot rest or read a book while my wife is birthing our child. My place is with her. If you are able to see her like this, I certainly am.”
Beckett shook his head. “As you wish, but if she asks you to leave, you will do so. Agreed?”
Darcy frowned, but nodded his consent.
When the maid opened the door, telling the men her mistress was ready, Beckett entered, followed closely by Darcy.
Beckett examined his patient, and then retired to the couch.
While Elizabeth was initially surprised by her husband’s presence, she soon made it known that she liked the idea of his being present for the birth of their child.
“Shall I read to you, my love?” he asked. “Perhaps it will distract you.”
She smiled, and he picked up the book on the table.
“Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded? Samuel Richardson is a bit dull, but the moral is good,” he said, moving a chair to the side of the bed. “I should not be surprised you would enjoy reading about a brave, intelligent, rather sassy woman.”
He sat down and began to read.
After a few hours, the maid came in with tea. Elizabeth sipped a bit, but would take no food, though she insisted both men should eat. Before the maid left, Beckett told her to bring plenty of clean towels and hot water.
Darcy soon noticed that her pains were occurring ever closer together. He left his chair to stand by the bed. “My darling, shall I rub your back?” he asked, removing his tailcoat, throwing it over a chair.
“Yes, please. Help me turn to my side.” She grunted as he moved her.
Beckett looked up from his newspaper, watching the couple.
Darcy noticed the movement and glanced at him. Is that envy on his face? Because I married the woman he loved, or because he wishes he were married? Perhaps I am too hard on him. He is very likely lonely. I have a wonderful wife who loves me, and we shall soon have a child. He goes home to relatives and servants, but no wife. His sister and her family love him, but that is hardly the same.
For several more hours, Darcy ministered to his wife, noticing her discomfort, trying to help her bear it, whispering encouragement to her.
Beckett removed his tailcoat and waistcoat, then took over reading duty while Darcy continued to massage her.
She groaned more and more as the time passed.
He rolled her to her back and used a cloth soaked in cold water to wipe the perspiration from her face and neck. “You are a champion, my strong, fearless wife. You must do this, and you shall. If I could, I would gladly do it for you.”
“If I could, I would let you,” she replied, attempting a smile.
He did his best to chuckle, but he could not.
Finally, her pains were nearly constant, and Beckett came to the side of the bed. “I think your baby shall arrive very shortly. Darcy, are you certain you wish to stay for the birth? You have surprised me by the way you cared for your wife during labour, but the birth itself is quite different.”
The gentleman did not look away from Elizabeth. “I helped to deliver colts, calves, and lambs at Pemberley when I was a lad, and I know what it is. I am fully prepared. I shall not leave Elizabeth.”
“You did not love the mothers of those animals. ’Tis truly not the same.”
Darcy bent over to look into her eyes. “Elizabeth, do you want me to stay?”
She grasped his hand with both of hers, squeezing until his eyes watered. “Yes,” she said, gripping him even more tightly.
Beckett walked to the nightstand, rolled up his sleeves, and lathered his hands and arms with soap, rinsing and drying them before returned to the bedside. He lifted the covers from her feet and legs, folding them until they settled on her thighs. After giving her a cursory examination, he turned to Darcy. “Wash your hands and send for more hot water. Take off your waistcoat, and use soap up past your elbows. Cleanliness is next to godliness. There is a reason that phrase has been quoted since ancient times, even if other physicians do not subscribe to it.”
Darcy kissed his wife’s cheek and hurried away to complete his tasks.
“I can see the crown of the head,” said Beckett. “Hold her knee aside. She is fighting me.”
For the next half hour, Darcy assisted Beckett, speaking to his wife from time to time, assuring her all was well.
And at the end of that time, he helped to wash his baby boy before he wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in the arms of his exhausted mother. She kissed his forehead and motioned to her husband to join her.
Thaddeus Beckett smiled at the little family as he cleaned himself up and dressed. He left, promising to return the following day to make certain mother and child were well.
Darcy climbed into the bed with his wife and son, kissing each of them gently. He was too exhilarated to sleep, so he watched them until his eyes grew heavy. Carefully, he lifted the baby from Elizabeth’s arms and laid him between them. Then he fell into a shallow sleep, awakening each time either his wife or child stirred.
William Alexander Darcy, his head full of dark curls, spent his first night being adored by his elated father.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was a happy man, indeed.
The End (Again)