Later that evening, everyone was called to dinner at the table in the dining hall. Lady Catherine sat at the head of the table, as was protocol and expected in Rosings. Everyone else sat down according to rank and marriage. Elizabeth sat next to Darcy and the Collins sat across from the Darcys. Arthur joined the table next to Lady Catherine as dinner was served. The table was quiet as the clanking of silverware and plates filled the room. It was a solemn dinner, in fact the quietest one Elizabeth had ever attended in her entire life. She began to understand how much Anne despised this household and life in it. All of her life she had remembered noisy dinners at the table in Longbourne, her childhood home. Meals were full of chatter of her mother and sisters about the latest news in town and the newest trends in fashion. However, she and Jane were the exception. They spent their meals chatting with one another and their father about books and the simple things in their lives that were not gossip.
Even now, all the gossip of her household was looking better than the dreary quiet of Rosings. Elizabeth endured dinner if only so she could steal away to the nursery upstairs to visit Emily. Once she was alone in the nursery, she began to sing a lullaby. It was the same one she used to sing Bennett to sleep when he was a newborn and would not fall back asleep in the middle of the night after his feedings. The soft melody soothed Emily to sleep in Elizabeth's arms. Just as she got the baby to sleep, Lady Catherine walked into the nursery. Elizabeth expected a confrontation, but what happened astounded even her. Lady Catherine came over and took Emily out of Elizabeth's arms into her own and held her for a moment, just looking at the child. Elizabeth wondered how a woman so cold could show even the tiniest amount of affection for an infant. Lady Catherine took Emily over to her cradle and gently placed her inside.
"She looks so much like my Anne." Lady Catherine continued to marvel over the child in the cradle.
"That she does, your ladyship." Elizabeth saw no reason to not be civil at the moment. "They have the same eyes."
Lady Catherine nodded in agreement. "I remember the day Anne was born. Everyone in the house was in a stir over the birth of a child at Rosings. My husband had hopes for a son, but when Anne was born he changed his mind. He adored her with every fiber of his being and doted on her whenever he could."
"What ever happened to him?" Elizabeth had never heard mention of Lord DeBourge as long as she had known Darcy.
"He passed away when Anne was five-years-old. The doctor said that his heart went bad because of something in his family. Apparently, the same defect passed to my Anne. Her health began to deteriorate around her tenth birthday."
"I am truly sorry Lady Catherine for your loss." Elizabeth courtsied out of protocol of society.
Lady Catherine paused for a long while, just gazing at her only grandchild. "I know why you and Darcy are here."
"We are here to grieve the loss of Darcy's cousin and to offer our condolences." Elizabeth offered the answer she thought Lady Catherine was looking for.
"Yes, but you are also here to take Emily from Rosings to raise her at Pemberley." Lady Catherine turned to face a completely stunned Elizabeth.
Elizabeth froze, not knowing what to say for the first time in her entire life. Nothing came to her mind to say to the woman she despised with everything inside of herself.
"Elizabeth," Lady Catherine took a step forward towards her and used her first name. "Though I love my granddaughter dearly, I know that this is not the life my Anne wished for her child. If I could do things over again, I would have raised Anne the way I should have and the way her father intended before his death. Now I want Emily to have that life, the life her mother would have wanted her to have."
"I don't understand."
"You are Emily's mother now. Anne would have wanted her favorite cousin and his wife to raise her daughter and I want to honor those wishes." Lady Catherine paused and Elizabeth saw tears in her eyes. "You may take her on one condition."
"What condition would that be your ladyship?"
"That I be able to see my grandchild grow up to be the fine woman I know she will be, healthy and strong. Would you please consider bringing her to Rosings for visits?"
"Yes ma'am, Darcy and I will." Elizabeth could hardly believe what was transpiring right before her eyes. "How will you deal with Arthur?"
"That imp of a man wants nothing to do with his child, so I am sending him back to London where he belongs with the rest of scoundrels just like him." Lady Catherine's tone was harsh in speaking of Arthur.
"Lady Catherine, may I ask why the sudden change in heart? You have despised me since before I married Darcy and now you wish me to take your only grandchild and raise her as my own."
"Because child, I have read the letters you sent to my daughter-I found them after she passed away-and realized what a true friend you were to my daughter for such a long time when she felt so alone. I never realized how lonely Anne was until then and the guilt has torn my heart to pieces. Emily deserves a better life, one that you and Darcy can give her as parents that I could never give." Lady Catherine produced the letters from under her coat, wrapped in twine.
"Anne and I corresponded for over a year. She made me promise to raise Emily as my own and I intend to honor my promise and also because I have come to love his child as my own." Elizabeth looked over at the cradle and the sleeping baby within it.
"As it should be." Lady Catherine looked back at Emily as well. "Go now and get some rest. I would like to spend some time with Emily before you and Darcy depart for Pemberley."
Elizabeth bowed and walked out of the nursery, respecting Lady Catherine's wishes. She walked down the hall to her own room where Darcy was waiting for her. She could hardly believe what had just happened. For a moment, she thought she had just dreamed the entire encounter, but realized that she was fully awake and that it did really happen. When she recounted it for Darcy, he could not believe his ears either. Both of them were elated that Lady Catherine relinquished her hold on Emily under favorable conditions so that they might raise her with the love of parents, just how Anne wanted. Both of them were worried that they might have to take more drastic measures to take Emily from Rosings. Now ease settled into their minds as they knew they would be taking Emily home with them when they left in the morning. They settled into their bed for the night, leaving the lamp on to give the room some light. Elizabeth felt Darcy's warm arms wrap around her waist and the kiss he placed on the back of her neck.
"We're taking her home tomorrow." His voice was low and soft against her ear.
"It just does not seem real. I thought that Lady Catherine would surely detest the idea of Emily living at Pemberley with us." Elizabeth turned over to face Darcy in the dim light.
"Perhaps she has realized that what truly matters is Emily, not her own selfish will. My aunt knows how miserable Anne was here all of her life. She knows that Emily deserves a better life, one with two parents who will love her and raise her."
"Who are we to say that we will be the right parents for her?"
Darcy grazed his hand over her cheek. "Anne believed that we will be the right parents for her."
Elizabeth paused for a moment and smiled. Her shined amber in the soft light of the room. "I cannot wait to bring her home and for Bennett to meet his baby sister."
"They will be as close as Georgiana and I are."
"Bennett will be a protective older brother, just as you are to Georgiana."
Elizabeth snuggled closer to her husband, laying her head on his shoulder. Darcy pressed his lips to her forehead, lightly kissing her forehead. Within a few minutes, Elizabeth fell asleep to the rhythm of Darcy's breathing and heartbeat. Knowing she was asleep, Darcy continued to lay in the bed thinking about the days that were ahead. Tomorrow they would bring Emily home with them and he would officially be the father of two children. No matter what anyone in society would say, Emily was his and Elizabeth's daughter and would always be.
The next morning came quickly to those in Rosings as the sun slowly peaked over the horizon into the windows of the house. Everyone was up and about, things were moving and shuffling around. The moving is what startled Elizabeth awake to find Darcy had already vacated the bed. Figuring he wanted her to sleep a little longer, she quickly forgave him and got out of bed to dress. The maids were quickly summoned and helped her dress with excitement. Everyone must have known by now that she and Darcy were taking Emily home with them. After all, the maids do know everything that goes on in a household without the masters having a clue. Elizabeth reciprocated thier excitement because she would be gaining a daughter today. A daughter she loved with all her heart already. Nothing could stand in her way now because she had Lady Catherine's approval to take Emily. Inwardly, she prayed that the previous night were not a dream and that she really could take Emily without a fuss. As she finished dressing, she quickly made her way down to the nursery where she found Lady Catherine holding Emily lovingly. Lady Catherine looked up to see Elizabeth standing in the doorway. All the nursery things had been moved out, so this really was happening. Lady Catherine walked over and handed the baby to Elizabeth.
"This is your mother now," she told the baby softly. "She will love you no less than your real mother did and I'm sure she will care for you always."
Elizabeth looked Lady Catherine in the eyes. "Thank you," she said softly and gently.
"You will write to me of her progress?" Lady Catherine's tone was hopeful.
Elizabeth nodded. "I will. Darcy and I will make sure of it."
"Elizabeth," Lady Catherine looked her in the eyes. "I am an old woman and I know when I have made a mistake. I misjudged you the first time I met you and I allowed that to keep me from truly getting to know you. I see now that my nephew made the best decision of his life in marrying you."
"Mr. Darcy is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I really do love him."
"I see that now and I should have from the very beginning. Anne never wanted to marry Darcy because she respected him so as her cousin and nothing more." Lady Catherine paused, almost on the verge of tears. "You must think me a horrible mother for arranging Anne's marriage."
"No, as a mother myself, I cannot condemn you because you were only doing what you thought was best for you child."
The older woman nodded, a tear falling down her cheek. "If I could do things differently with Anne, I would. I would gladly trade places with her so that she might see her daughter grow up, but I know that I cannot."
"Your ladyship, I do not think Anne would want that. She would want you to see Emily grow into a strong young woman like she could not be."
The two women stood together in the empty nursery, Emily secure in Elizabeth's arms. After a few moments, they walked out and down the stairs where Darcy was already waiting. Elizabeth smiled at him as she reached the bottom of the stairs with the baby. Nothing could ruin this moment as both of them knew they were going home. The moment was all too perfect until a very drunken Arthur entered the room, angered and ready to hurt someone. Elizabeth tightened her hold gently on Emily, scared of what Arthur might do. The man staggered over towards Elizabeth until Darcy intervened, pushing him away from Elizabeth and the baby.
"Just where do joo think you're going wif my daughter?" Arthur's speech was slurred and his words hardly understandable.
Darcy remained calm and kept his grip on Arthur. "I think you need to sit down."
"No, give me my Emahly..."he staggered forward again.
It was at this point that Lady Catherine stepped forward from behind Elizabeth and slapped Arthur in the face. Elizabeth had never seen Lady Catherine do something so indignified for as long as she had known her. Darcy looked equally shocked. Arthur fell back onto the ground, holding his face and slightly wimpering in his drunken state.
"You, sir, are an animal and shall not come anywhere near my grandchild again. You are indignified in all your drunken fits and unsuitable as a father. I regret that I ever allowed you to marry my Anne. You are one of the reasons we buried her yesterday!" Lady Catherine's face was red from yelling. "Darcy and Elizabeth are her parents now and forever more. You are to return to England and never grace my presence again."
Arthur looked dumbfounded. He stood up, holding the side of his face and staggered outside. Both Darcy and Elizabeth were equally impressed by Lady Catherine's response to such a man. Once things had settled after a few moments, Lady Catherine looked around the room and the servants all scurried back to their own work. They were unused to seeing such behavior from their mistress. After another few moments, Lady Catherine recomposed herself to say goodbye to Darcy and Elizabeth.
"Please excuse my behavior," she apologized. "That man is horrid and I have wanted to tell him so for several months now. He was drunk all the time and was so far gone the night Emily was born that he laid on a couch and did not even bother to see his child."
"There is no need for an apology aunt." Darcy smiled for the first time at Lady Catherine.
A few more goodbyes were made before the Darcys were in their carriage and on their way home. Such joy filled both of their hearts as they were excited to bring home a new baby, but also to see their son. Elizabeth had missed her baby boy and longed to see him. They knew that now they were parents to two children, a change both of them had deeply longed for. Emily was precious in every way. The entire ride home, Elizabeth held her while she slept soundly. Darcy looked on in tender admiration and the realization that he now had a daughter hit him. Many years from now, he would be fending off suitors at their doorstep and praying that someone decent and good would win the heart of his daughter. But, even before that time, he knew that a little girl would capture his own heart with her giggles and sweet smile, much the way Georgiana did when she was a child. It would not be long before Emily had Darcy wrapped around her little finger. He knew he would do absolutely anything for his daughter. A daughter meant having a little girl to spoil for no reason other than love. Elizabeth and Bennett had been his whole life for some time, but now a new life had been added. As he looked on at Emily in Elizabeth's arms, an overwhelming sense of completeness filled him. In the past few years, his world had been turned upside down. First, Elizabeth walked into his life. She astounded him in many ways with her sense of humor and her wit. Unlike the many girls he had met before, she had a spark of spirit inside her that made her so much more alive to him. After many trials and misunderstandings, he finally came to marry the woman who had so captured his body and soul, thus his heart. They were happy and completed one another. A year into their marriage, tragedy took a child in a miscarriage that broke Elizabeth's heart. Yet, through their tragedy they grew closer and later welcomed Bennett into their lives. He had blessed them with so much joy and love. Now, they were bringing Emily into their family. Darcy could hardly believe all that had happened. Five years ago, he would not have imagined being so happy now. Elizabeth had changed everything and since her, nothing had been the same. As the carriage continued along the road, Darcy could not wait to get home.
A/N: Again...sorry about the delays. School has taken over my life, but fear not...summer is approaching and with that means...more chapters!! Thank you so much for all the support and reviews. I really appreciate them!!