"George?" It was the first word Jane had spoken in weeks, other than to make cooing noises at the nonexistent baby she held in her arms.
"I'm right here, sweetheart." George's voice was full of compassion as he took her hand and began to lead her away from the scaffold. "It's all over now, and I'm taking you back home."
"Home?" Jane stared uncomprehendingly as George led her back into the palace, back to their chambers. Once inside, Jane looked around, and the confusion on her face seemed to clear.
"I lost the baby, George." Her voice was so faint that it was almost a whisper. "I lost it. I'm so sorry." She began to cry. George held her in his arms and comforted her.
"I know, darling. It wasn't your fault. Not at all. You did nothing wrong." Suddenly she was sobbing hysterically. Realizing that she was experiencing a breakthrough of some sort, George simply held her and let her cry. "That's right, sweetheart. Just let it all out. Everything's going to be all right. I'm right here, and I love you so very much."
The sobbing dwindled to hiccups. George held her and rubbed her back. Suddenly she looked up at him, remembering.
"He's fine, Jane. Anne's been kind enough to look after him for us while you've been...sick."
"Katherine's gone now, Jane. So is Thomas Culpepper. No one's ever going to hurt you like that again."
"I want my baby!"
"Of course. We'll go fetch him right away."
Little Georgie was overjoyed to see his mother again. With a happy shout he ran to her and wrapped his arms tightly around her neck.
"I'm so very happy to see you again, darling!" Jane held the little boy as if she would never let him go.
"Can we go back home now, Mama?"
"Indeed we can. Say good-bye to Aunt Anne and Bessie and Jamie and we'll go there now."
That night Jane slipped beneath the soft sheets of her own bed and into the warmth and comfort of George's arms.
"I've missed you so!" she murmured.
"I can't begin to tell you how glad I am to have you back where you belong," George replied, beginning to kiss her tenderly at first, then more passionately.
That night they made love for the first time since Jane had been attacked by Thomas Culpepper. For Jane it was a very healing experience. George was so eager that he had to keep reminding himself to be very gentle, in consideration of the brutality she had suffered in the past. Afterwards they both fell into a contented sleep in one another's arms.
Jane's recovery was gradual but steady. Every day she smiled more and showed more enthusiasm for life. She and George spent many hours going for leisurely walks in the garden when the weather was nice, or lounging on the sofa while George read to Jane when it was bad. Little Georgie had grown to become a bright, inquisitive, sensitive little boy, and Jane enjoyed watching him grow and teaching him new things.
By late spring Jane showed the first signs of pregnancy, and she and George rejoiced. As the summer progressed, she watched her belly grow larger and thrilled at the evidence of a new life beginning. As she and George lay in the tall grasses of the field under the hot sun, she took his hand and placed it on her belly so that he could feel their child's tiny kicks.
The weather had just begun to turn cooler and the leaves to fall from the trees when Jane's labor contractions began. George got Anne to watch Georgie and sent for the midwife, who arrived and examined Jane.
"Everything's going fine," she said. "It'll probably be several more hours."
Outside their chambers, George paced nervously. He remembered Georgie's traumatic birth and gave thanks to God that this time Jane was safe and in capable hands. He prayed that Jane would come through the delivery quickly and safely and that their child would be born alive and healthy.
"I feel like I have to push," Jane said later that night.
The midwife quickly examined her. "Go right ahead. You're ready."
Jane gave several mighty pushes, groaning with the effort. At last she felt her child slide from her body.
"It's a girl!" the midwife exclaimed.
Tears of joy ran down Jane's face as she held her new daughter. "George will be so happy," she said. suddenly she couldn't wait to see her husband.
George started when he heard the door open, and relief flooded through him when he saw the midwife standing there and smiling broadly.
"You may go in now," she told George.
George entered the room to see Jane sitting in bed propped up by pillows, exhausted but euphoric, holding a small bundle wrapped in a blanket.
"Are you all right, love?" he asked his wife.
"She's beautiful, George," Jane told him. "She looks just like you."
"So she does," he agreed happily, gently taking the bundle from Jane's arms. "Well, hello there, little one," he greeted his new daughter. She looked up at him with unfocused dark blue eyes.
"I'd like to name her Alice, after my mother," Jane said.
"That's fine with me," George said generously.
Far above, the heavens smiled down upon them. They would return some day, a long time from now, when they had lived out their lives on earth and accomplished all they'd been intended to. For now, they still had many productive years ahead of them, time to grow spiritually, to enjoy their family and friends, and to experience all life had to offer.