Romancing the Guttersnipe
Four Years Later
Eliza stumbled through the front door of 27A after nearly loosing her footing on a patch of ice. She handed her outerwear to the butler, with a gentle smile and pink tinged cheeks.
"Where are my husband and my daughter?" She inquired, voice wearied.
"In the study, ma'am."
Eliza nodded, and requested that hot chocolate be brought into the study at the earliest convenience. When she opened the door to the study she found Elle, sitting on top of Henry's desk, painting intently with the set of oil paints Henry had recently purchased for her. Henry was sitting at the desk, shuffling through a mountain of paperwork, heedless to the fact that Elle seemed to be taking every piece of paper he discarded and marking it with a messy blob of red. The sound of the Eliza's footsteps caused both of them to look up with twin expressions of disapproval.
"I have half a mind to call up Dr. Burke and ask him if he would let his wife trek up and down the city in such an advanced state of pregnancy, " Henry proclaimed, causing Eliza to cover her swelling midsection self-consciously.
"Advanced? I am only five months along, and you know it is the busiest time of year for the shop," Eliza reasoned.
Henry rolled his eyes. "Silly excuse of a made-up holiday."
Eliza sighed, and turned to her daughter. "And what have you to look so sour about, Miss?"
Elle's frowned deepened. "I don't want you to grow a baby."
"Oh? And why not?"
Elle shrugged, and turned her attention back to her painting. "Can't you grow something fun, like a pony or a kitten?"
A sharp burst of laughter erupted from Henry for a moment, before he stifled his mouth with a discreet hand. Eliza shot a glare at her husband, who was fairly shaking with mirth. Elle looked at both parents, her bright blue eyes darkening with confusion. To a four year old, such a question is quite valid.
"Henry, you are a professor; why don't you explain to our daughter why I can't give birth to a pony?"
Henry's face turned to crimson at the inquiry. "Well!" He cleared his throat. "Elle, darling, only horse mothers can grow ponies; human mothers grow human babies… It's biology."
Eliza saw Henry breath a sigh of relief. It really wasn't fair; Eliza usually had to go through several minutes of explanations before her daughter was satisfied with any sort of answer. Perhaps it was appropriate; Henry hadn't had anyone to hang off of his every word in years, and Elle looked to him as though he was the very center of her universe.
"Now, Miss Elle, do you think you would prefer a brother or a sister?" Eliza asked, moving to her sofa, so she could sit down and elevate her sore feet on the nearby ottoman.
Elle climbed down from Henry's desk, and crossed the room so that she could sit next to her mother before the roaring fire. Eliza allowed Elle to lay her curly dark head upon the gentle swell of Eliza's stomach, the girl's ear pressed against it, as though listening for her unborn sibling to whisper its gender. "A brother," Elle announced solemnly.
Eliza smiled up at Henry as he joined the two of them on the sofa, and his hand reached over to muss affectionately at Elle's already untidy mop of hair. "Is that so? Well, I am glad to hear it; I've been surrounded by nothing but females ever since Pickering left for India," Henry half-joked.
"Perhaps Colonel Pickering will be more apt to visit if he knows that he is going to be meeting his namesake," Eliza suggested.
Henry looked at his wife with an amused smile. Although it was the first time they had even broached the topic of baby names together, the thought had crossed Henry's mind before, naming the baby after his own dear friend. It never failed to surprise Henry, every time he discovered that he and Eliza were of a similar mind.
"Hugh Higgins… Can he have another 'H' name for the middle?" Elle asked, her eyes sparkling. "It would be ever so jolly!"
"Oh no, your grandpapa would fairly butcher a name like that!" Henry exclaimed, kissing Elle on the cheek to avoid meeting Eliza's look of disapproval.
"Father's elocution is coming along quite well, now that he has to mingle with a different sort of circle," Eliza reasoned feebly. It wasn't so; Alfred Doolittle clung to his West End vocalizations with a stubbornness that only came with age. It was not unusual for him to go home after a social visit, and leave Elle with a whole new world of insults and creative colloquialisms that threatened to turn her parents' hair pure white.
Eliza mused on her little family with a happy heart. True, not a day went on without her or Henry squabbling over something or other, but there was a strange sort of harmony in their disharmony. None of their disputes ever escalated to the severity that they had earlier in their acquaintance, and rarely did either of them go to bed angry at the other.
Raising Elle was a rewarding, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. Neither Henry or Eliza had much experience in the realm of children, although Eliza did have some. They fought the battles together, and with little interference from the outside. They soon found out that everyone in their acquaintance had very different ideas on how to raise children, and while some methods were sound, most did not feel right to Henry or Eliza. Therefore, while Elle did have a governess, the bulk of the responsibility of shaping the child's mind belonged to Henry and Eliza. There were times when Elle would spend the entire day at Eliza's flower shop, observing the proceedings with a touching sort of curiosity and focus that belied her years. Most days, however, were spent with Henry, soaking in the wealth of wisdom he was only to willing to bestow upon his precious daughter. The latter resulted in Elle coming in possession of a rather keen, somewhat biting wit for her young age, and she was not unafraid to test that wit on unsuspecting victims, namely her cousins.
Eliza was aware that most found her family to be imperfect. Henry was too blunt, no one took a firm enough hand with Elle, and Eliza was considered a social climber with a crude, but entertaining, father. Such was not a recipe for a typical middle class family, but Eliza's life up to that point had been anything but typical. All that Eliza had ever asked for in life was a family, and she had it. Never mind that it lacked the boring, gentility of her neighbors; it was a family. Eliza smiled, accepted the hot chocolate from Mrs. Pearce, and basked in the glow of the fire with her husband and her daughter.