"I was pregnant."
Elizabeth bowed her head and shut her eyes, dreading his reaction to her words. What would he think of her?
"Lizzy..." he breathed. "I cannot tell you how--wait." He paused, and she glanced up to see his smile turn into a confused frown. She quickly closed her eyes again. "Was pregnant? Elizabeth, what happened?" It was all she could do to keep from crying again, but she did not trust herself to speak, and she could only shake her head. Gently, Darcy lifted her chin and said, "My love, please, tell me. Do not try to bear this burden alone."
She opened her eyes slowly, feeling the tears well up again at the incredible tenderness she read in his expression. "I was with child," she whispered. "But I miscarried. Oh, Fitzwilliam, I am so sorry! Please... please forgive me."
"Lizzy... my dearest, loveliest Lizzy... no, my sweet, no. I am certain you did everything within your power to ensure a healthy pregnancy; I find nothing for which I should forgive you," he said.
Elizabeth shook her head and tried to turn away from him, but he held her tightly. "No, no, I should have called another doctor, had a second opinion, I should never have trusted him when I could feel that something was wrong. And I should have taken more care when I recieved that dreadful letter... I should have known it was untrue, I should have demanded to see firm evidence before believing that you were dead, I should not have allowed it to distress me so, for perhaps if I had kept my head about me I would not have lost the baby. It was my fault, entirely my fault, and I shall not blame you if you choose never to forgive me for killing our child!" The last of her words were nearly drowned out as she was no longer able to keep her tears at bay and they were gasped between frantic sobs.
Darcy, to his credit, did not display anything but compassion for his wife. He held her close until her crying subsided once more, stroking and kissing her hair as he murmured whatever endearments came to mind. "I shall always forgive you, Lizzy," he said when she had quieted somewhat, "no matter what you think you have done. I know how little control you have over what has happened, and I do not blame you half as much as you seem to blame yourself."
"Certainly not. I know little enough of the female sex, I admit, but I realilze that such things are not uncommon. Indeed, I recall only too well my own mother's distress over her miscarriages--and there were many, for in between myself and Georgiana there is quite a gap, and my mother was certainly not barren during those years. But neither she nor anyone else believed her to be at fault. As she explained it to me, a baby's development often goes awry, and rather than carry a flawed child to term, her body would simly reject it. It is no one's fault, Elizabeth, it was simply not meant to be." He kissed the top of her head and leaned back against the headboard of the bed, pulling her with him so that she was resting with her head pillowed on his chest. As he did so often when they were alone together, he began to run his fingers through her hair, and she took a great deal of comfort from the familiar sensation. But she could not be fully comfortable just yet.
"But it cannot be as common as you would think," she protested. "I do not believe that my mother ever lost a child."
He chuckled. "And how many families do you know which boast five children, with ages so near to each other as those of you and your sisters? I believe, my love, that your mother is rather the exception than the rule."
There was nothing Elizabeth could say to that, for as she thought about it she realized that he was right. Still, there was more on her mind. "But you, Sir, how can you be so implacable upon the reciept of this news? Are you not in the least distressed by it?" Her tone was, perhaps, overly bitter, especially considering the warmth of his reassurances, but she could not help herself.
"Yes, of course, but you must realize that I have had not held any great hopes for the past few weeks, as you have, and so have not been so sorely disappointed. It is difficult to mourn someone you never knew existed, Lizzy. I am much more concerned for you, and as you are so distraught one of us ought to be able to keep his head." He smiled playfully. "And you must know by now that I am very accomplished at hiding my feelings."
Elizabeth could not hold back a smile of her own at that. "How unlucky," she mused, "that you are always so reasonable. It puts me at quite a disadvantage, you know, and that is most ungentlemanlike of you."
"I am very glad that you have told me, for you know I absolutely depend upon your advice as to how a gentleman should behave. In the future, I promise to attempt to be less reasonable in my dealings with you," he said.
She laughed. "Excellent, Sir, thank you." How good it felt to be teasing him, and to hear his warm tone as he teased her back! And to think, only that morning, she had believed that she would never experience such happiness again. She reached for his free hand and kissed it tenderly, then held it to her breast with both of her own. "You are not to leave me ever again, Fitzwilliam Darcy. I absolutely forbid it."
"I have no intention of leaving you again," he said seriously. "The next time I am forced to go to town, even if it is only overnight, you are coming with me, unless that is utterly impossible. In which case, I will conduct my business by letter, regardless of the inconvenience. I will not put you and Georgiana through this again."
"Oh! Georgiana! William, you must go to her--I have been so selfish, keeping you all to myself. And this morning, I was so cruel to her and Jane. I must apologize. But no, you go first; she is your sister, and I daresay she is longing to see you." He tried to protest, but Elizabeth would have none of it. "Nonesense. I should probably sleep, anyway, to regain my strength, and she must be wondering by now if your return was just a dream. I will not keep you from her any longer." She squirmed out of his arms and kissed his cheek. "Go. I am not so distressed that I cannot bear to let you out of my sight--only my home."
He smiled and rose. "Very well, then. I expect to find you fast asleep when I return, Elizabeth." With a quick kiss, he bid her good-night and went to find his sister.
Georgiana looked up from her seat at her pianoforte to see Jane still reading complacently on the couch. "How does she remain so calm after all that has happened?" she wondered, feeling just a bit of jealousy. All day, Georgiana had worked hard to ensure that Pemberley would not suffer in the absence of its master and its mistress, and she had forced her own grief to the back of her mind. Even now, knowing as she did that her brother was safe and Elizabeth would probably recover, she kept her feelings in check. But it was taking a considerable effort on her part, and she was beginning to feel the effects of her exertions. It was all she could do not to retire early and allow herself to vent her emotions in the privacy of her chambers; her brother would come looking for her eventually, and she wished to make him proud of how she handled herself.
Jane stood abruptly, startling Georgiana out of her thoughts. "I believe I will invite my father and Mr. Bingley to join us, Georgiana, if you do not mind," she said.
"Not at all," Georgiana answered, mustering a smile. In fact, she was grateful for Jane's offer, as the short time alone would give her a few moments to collect herself. Jane returned the smile and left, and Georgiana breathed a quick sigh of relief. For a few moments, at least, she did not have to hide anything.
But no sooner had Jane left than there were footsteps in the hall and in walked her brother. Georgiana was very pleased to see him and her warm greeting conveyed it, but she was not so skilled at hiding her discomposure as she had hoped.
"I am sorry to have caused you such distress, Georgiana," he said as he sat next to her on the couch. "I hope you have not taken too much upon yourself as a result of this misunderstanding."
He could see through her all too well, she thought. "No, indeed, I have only done what had to be done. But I am so very glad that I shall not have to make a daily habit of it."
"Dare I ask what, exactly, you felt had to be done?"
Georgiana gave him a brief summary of all that she had done for her family and the estate in his absence, preferring not to dwell on the considerable amount of effort she had put into all of it. But he seemed to comprehend pefectly what she had gone through and he expressed himself as warmly as he could.
"I must confess, Georgiana, I am torn between concern and pride. I know what it must have cost you to do all of that, my dear, when you were no doubt struggling with your own feelings, and I am very proud of how well you handled yourself. I know how difficult it is to put one's emotions aside in order to do what must be done. But please, if it has taxed you at all, tell me at once that I may do something for your relief."
Blushing at recieving the very praise she had sought, Georgiana replied, "No, thank you, I am well. I mean, it was difficult, and I am so glad that I do not have to continue it for I do not know if I could, but it was not so very dreadful for just one day. That is, of course it was awful, but since it was for such a short time I daresay I will be all right. You needn't trouble yourself over me, Fitzwilliam."
His smile conveyed his warm pride, but he remarked no more on the subject and moved on to topics more comfortable for them both. They passed the evening together in very agreeable conversation, such as Georgiana could not remember having with him since his wedding. Even when they were rejoined by Mr. Bennet and the Bingleys, he paid her special attention, and she retired for the night convinced that she had not passed such a pleasant evening in a very long time. At last, she reflected as she lay in bed that night, everything was the way it should be. And with that satisfying thought, she fell asleep.
I have to apologize for the dreadfully long time it took me to get this chapter posted. It was incredibly difficult to write (partly because I had no clue where it was going, so I didn't have anything to work towards, like I have in the past), and I was busy this week what with the festivities on the 4th and then going down to visit my parents (and watch the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, of course!) on Wednesday evening. So I haven't exactly had much time to write. But I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations!
I don't know how much is left, but I'm certain that this isn't the end. There are some more letters that need to be written, after all. : )