AN1 - sorry it has taken so long, I have been trying to post since 7pm on 2/3 but the site would not let me. It finally seems to be back up, so here we go.


Teddy's acquisition of a title did not really change anything. Technically he should now have been addressed as Lord Stone, but most people in our household still referred to him as the young master or Master Teddy.

Of course, Teddy knew about his new title. After Mr. Baines left we had a family conference to explain the situation to Teddy and Grace. We told him people would use Lord Stone to address him in much the same way they used Colonel for Richard when he was in the military. Once Teddy realized the title did not change who he was it became acceptable, although I think he saw it as something of a burden. Richard and I agreed that viewpoint was actually a good attitude to take, at least to some extent. Teddy would take on the responsibilities that came with the title seriously and Richard would help him learn.

0o0o0o0

With our new routines in place June turned into July which quickly rolled into August. We met more of the neighbors and attended a few dinner parties. Mr. Sanders had clearly spread word that Richard was nothing like Lady Catherine. Most of our neighbors were willing to offer us a chance to prove that.

Miss Black and Miss Fallow came to visit with Grace. She and Mrs. Burton later returned the visits. I did not see Grace becoming close to them in the way she was close to her adopted cousins, but the young ladies would be company of her own age during any social gatherings.

Richard visited Upford Hall in early July and offered Mr. Walter the opportunity to repurchase his family home on reasonable terms. Mr. Walter accepted gratefully and the bargain was made, with mortgage and sale papers drawn up by Mr. Phillips. Richard told me he was relieved to let the estate go. I knew he felt it should be owned by those who most cared for it.

Our family kept the postman busy with all the letters coming and going. We received at least one packet of letters a week from each of the family homes and we returned letters just as frequently. Teddy practiced his writing enough with all the letters he wrote to the various cousins that he was developing an excellent hand. He often added drawings, which improved in clarity over time as well, although Richard and I still sometimes sent hints of the intended subject matter in our letters.

Uncle Bennet rarely chose to write, letting Longbourn's news be carried by the ladies of the house. This meant Richard paid close attention to the letter he received at the end of August. He showed it to me after reading it through. In part it said:

May I request you do me the favor of bringing your family to visit soon, Philosopher. My wife's confinement is almost upon her and I desperately need the company to distract me from my worries. This last month has been more difficult for her than for any of our previous children. I fear for her well-being. She has expressed a wish to have Sophia attend her for the confinement as it would not be appropriate for our youngest daughters to do so. Jane will provide the same office for Lizzy and cannot be with both her mother and her sister. Mary and Daniel stand ready to join us as soon as the confinement is imminent but cannot be away too long. Please come.

It was an appeal we could not resist. Richard sent a messenger that very day to accept the invitation. We arrived at Longbourn for our visit three days later.

Uncle Bennet had cause to worry. Poor Aunt Bennet had swollen hands and even more swollen feet and ankles. Because she was frequently short of breath, they turned Jane's old bedroom into a sitting room with her favorite chair settled by the window. This way she did not have to go up and down the stairs or travel too far if she needed to refresh herself, which happened frequently. Uncle Bennet said she was even more tired than she had been in the early months and often slept in her chair. Despite the warning he gave us when we arrived, I was still surprised at how exhausted she looked when we first visited her.

"Oh, Sophia, I am so happy you and Richard have come," she said as she struggled to her feet when we entered her sitting room. Richard quickly stepped forward to offer her support while I gave her a gentle hug. Teddy and Grace followed us into the room and gave her hugs as well. Richard kissed her cheek before helping Aunt Bennet resume her seat.

"You have made this a very pleasant room," I said, taking a place on a settee I recognized as having been moved from the back parlor.

"It was Mr. Bennet's idea," she said with a smile. "He has been taking such good care of me. Kitty and Lydia helped arrange the room."

"You have taught them well. It is light and inviting. Are you enjoying the view out the window from where your chair is placed?"

"Yes, I can see down the drive and am the first to know when visitors arrive."

We chatted with her for a while. In a way it felt like we had never left. Teddy took his place on the floor and occasionally ventured a comment. Kitty and Lydia joined us and chatted with Grace, catching up on all the things they had not included in their letters and revisiting those they had. In a way were were home.

0o0o0o0

We had visited for a week and a half before the midwife, who had come to check on Aunt Bennet daily during that time, felt that her confinement was close to hand. Richard immediately sent a messenger to town and a day later Mary and Daniel joined us at Longbourn.

Mary and I had agreed to attend at the birth, although both of us were nervous about the experience. Mrs. Shaw, the midwife, would deliver the baby, but Daniel would remain close by in case he was needed. The girls were both too young and unmarried, which made it highly inappropriate for them to attend. As for Uncle Bennet, he was relying on Richard to keep him company through the wait for news.

On the afternoon of Friday, September 11th, Aunt Bennet's confinement truly began, although she had been largely keeping to her room the two days prior, feeling ill and rather weak, with severe pains in her back. The birth was a great strain on her. She was not as nervous as Mary and I were. After all, she had been through this five times before. Despite her prior experience, she found this time very difficult and tiring. We supported her as best we could and Mrs. Shaw was there the whole time to help her through. Finally, at a little after four in the morning young Thomas Bennet II made his way into the world to the great delight of his exhausted mother.

He was tiny. Far tinier than Grace had been and my mother had declared her to be a very small baby. He looked delicate and his cries were somewhat weak. At the same time I sensed he had the stubborn nature so often seen in his sisters, Elizabeth and Lydia. He might be small, but I was sure he would survive.

Mary stayed with her mother after Mrs. Shaw helped deliver the afterbirth and cleaned Aunt Bennet with our assistance. Daniel had come in to check on the older woman and he stayed as well.

"Take the baby to his father," said Mrs. Shaw. "Mr. Bennet should see him, but keep the little one wrapped warmly and bring him back quickly."

She showed me how to hold him and sent me off. I made my way carefully downstairs with my precious burden. I carried the future of Longbourn resting against my shoulder. He murmured a little and wriggled against me as I held him carefully in place.

"Uncle Bennet?" I said tentatively as I reached the open door of the study. He looked up quickly from the game of backgammon he and Richard were pretending to concentrate on. Teddy stirred where he slept in the big chair behind Uncle Bennet's desk. Clearly he had tried to keep his uncle company as well.

"Is she well? Is the baby born?" he asked quickly.

"They are both well, Uncle. Aunt Bennet says to tell you his name is Thomas Arthur Bennet. Would you like to see your son?"

Uncle Bennet stood so abruptly he knocked over the backgammon board and almost fell himself. Richard had stood just as quickly and steadied him by the elbow. I stepped inside the room and shifted the tiny, slightly squirming body so Uncle Bennet could get his first look at the face of his namesake.

He stepped forward with a look of awe that was mirrored in Richard's face. Raising his hand, Uncle Bennet stroked a gentle finger along the side of the baby's face.

"My son," he said in a whisper. "He is so small. Even Jane was not that small."

"Daniel and the midwife say he is probably early." Young Thomas snuffled a little, as if to agree.

"Will he be well?"

"I think he is a fighter, Uncle. There is something about him that reminds me of Elizabeth."

Uncle Bennet sighed a little. "I hope so. I hope my Lizzy is doing well bringing her little one into the world."

Richard stepped around to my side. He also stroked the baby's face with great tenderness.

"I was supposed to take him back up quickly," I told them.

"I will come with you," Uncle Bennet said, still almost whispering, "I must congratulate Fanny on her accomplishment."

I moved to offer the baby to him, but he waved me back. "No, he is safer in your arms. You carry Tommy. I would not want to drop him."

Richard carefully picked up Teddy who shifted but did not wake. He must have been very tired not to have woken the game board fell. "I need to put this lad to bed. He insisted on keeping us company as long as he could stay awake."

We three headed upstairs, two of us carrying our young burdens. The third smiled with the look of a man who had all his burdens lifted.

0o0o0o0

Aunt Bennet recovered slowly, but she did recover. We were glad Daniel had come to look after her. She insisted on feeding Tommy herself and managed well. He was the better for it as Daniel told us he would be. All of us watched over the two of them carefully. It was clear the boy would be doted upon by his family.

Despite his small size and early start Tommy thrived. He began to put on a little weight and his skin looked less translucent. Soon his cries were stronger and healthy sounding. He was a fighter indeed.

Two weeks after Tommy was born a messenger came from Pemberley. Young Tommy now had a nephew. Bennet William Darcy had joined the family much to the joy of us all. Will reported Elizabeth to be recovering well, although he mentioned Jane had been quite frightened by the birthing process and was not looking forward to her own confinement. With another four months to go, she would probably get used to the idea, he wrote. I could imagine that comment having come from Elizabeth.

We stayed at Longbourn long enough to be sure Aunt Bennet would fully recover and Tommy would be well. Eventually, though, it was time for us to go home. We needed to make sure all was in order before we headed north to pay a visit to Pemberley to meet the newest Darcy, with a side trip to Castlemere for Grace.

It had been less than a year since I had come to Longbourn as a governess. Now I had a home and an extended family I could never have imagined this time the previous year. I had my sister, Grace, with me and Teddy for my son. Above all, I had Richard, my beloved husband. In him I had truly met my perfect match.

~0~0~0~0~

AN: A huge thank you to everyone who read their way through this whole story. I appreciate your tenacity. I have learned many lessons in writing this story, both from the writing itself and from the helpful comments I received all along the way.

I know the story was long. I know my characters were too perfect. I know there were too many plot twists, coincidental linkages, side journeys, digressions and a whole lot more. I also know many people enjoyed it anyway, including myself. For all its flaws, writing this story was an incredible experience that I would not wish to have missed and sharing it was even more so.

I do have plans to pick the story up again in "Coming Out" in which we will see the five girls have their London season and, of course, find their perfect matches. We go back to third person point of view and will alternate between the girls, although not necessarily every chapter. However, one of the many lessons I have learned is not to work without a detailed outline, so I will be taking the time to carefully plan the third segment before I start posting anything. I also have a good bit of research to do into the whole London season thing. In other words, it might be a little while before you see this story come up. I do have a few chapters written in draft but they are only in draft for now.

Coming Out will be delayed a little further while I finish up Voices in the Dark, which I have been writing in the background while posting Miss York. I am also working to keep it very tightly written and expect it to be much closer to novella length, although that could change. It is a Lizzy and Darcy story with a supernatural element and was spawned by the same plot bunny vision as "Ghosts of Rosings Park" although the two have very little resemblance beyond a setting at Rosings. Now that I can work on it exclusively I should be able to start posting fairly soon. I have the first eight chapters written, but I want to wait to make sure they are really going the way I want the story to flow before posting anything. Plus I want complete that detailed outline and then stick to it. Voices is a darker story, containing little laughter or banter, more along the lines of a gothic novel. I am enjoying it anyway, and I hope you will too.

The comments to this story and private message conversations have been fun and often enlightening. I look forward to chatting with many of you again. Once again, I think you all.

Best wishes,

Lady Jaeza