Delay of Olympic proportions, so my apologies. Here is the final installment…

Chapter Twenty Nine

By the 29th of September the German Supreme Command informed the Kaiser that the situation was hopeless, and by October 5 they asked President Wilson to negotiate the terms of a ceasefire. By the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of that fateful year of 1918, the war was finally over. They had all stood to attention in the great hall as the Earl of Grantham heralded the end. When the clock struck they lowered their heads in silent prayer to all the men lost, and to those who had returned irrevocably broken. The chime of the bell counting out eleven rang through the old house like the vanished. Matthew slowly reached down and took Mary's hand in his; he felt all the fear and the tension of the previous four years all fade away, and he felt much lighter for it. Sybil stood too, next to Finn, his arm resting lightly on her waist. He could smell the lavender soap in her hair as he turned and placed a gentle kiss against her temple. He felt at peace for the first time in his life. They would be married in the spring and she would wear a beautiful ivory dress with flowers in her hair. The uniforms of war finally dispensed with, and he in his family tartan. They had made quick work of removing it later that night as they passionately made love to each other. They put the past year's war and disfigurement behind them as they breathed and moved as one.

The terms of the armistice had been harsh. The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that they would squeeze the German lemon, until the pips squeak. If only they had known that it would lead to another even more destructive war that their children would have to face. But for now they would have another twenty years together in peace. Later that year, in December, Matthew was sitting at the breakfast table reading his newspaper as he had come to do every morning when Mary walked in and up behind him, slowly snaking her hands down over his chest. He leaned back in his chair, a slow smile of delight creeping across his mouth as he turned his head back against her cheek.

"Matthew darling…"

"Hmmmm?"

Her voice dropped down an octave before the warmth of her breath whispered against his ear, "We're going to have a baby."

He surprisingly tipped his newspaper forward, his body following it as he twisted around to face her, a look of shock as the realisation dawned on him before he jumped up with a shout and picking her up swung her about the room, planting kiss upon kiss across her jawline and up to her temple before placing her softly back on her feet. His breath was coming out in a thrilled puff at the impulsive exertion and he just stared at her in wonderment. They had both laughed then, as they often did, and had never been so happy as when their son had finally arrived: William Charles Findlay Crawley, followed in later years by another boy, Robert, and a girl they named Valerie. By 1928 they were moving into Downton Abbey as the Earl and Countess of Grantham after Robert succumbed to a long and painful illness. He had almost been resplendent though when he had finally slipped away into the night, his family gathered around him, and he was content. He had lived long enough to see his legacy continue down through his son-in-law and his eldest daughter and their eldest son.

Sybil and Finn often came to visit, with their two boys. They had started a rehabilitation hospital in Edinburgh for soldiers who had lost limbs during the war. Findlay was often featured in medical journals around the world for his pioneering techniques in prosthetics, and became known as the expert in his field, revolutionising modern medicine. One of his sons, Lachlan, followed in his father's footsteps and became a surgeon. And like his father, he would find himself on the battlefields of France too, but in 1944.

All in all, with Sybil and Finn, Matthew and Mary, theirs was a happy life filled with the laughter of their children, and later, grandchildren. Trials and tribulations would come to them over the course of their lives together, but, as they lay side by side in their last earthly bed, they knew they had accomplished much, given their all, and received rewards that even the poorest of creatures could cherish. No one was held with more love in their hearts than the other, and in the hearts of their children beating strongly, as was their birthright. They were grateful for all that they had, and for all that would come after them...

The end.

I hope you liked the ending. If you haven't reviewed, now is the time Would love to hear what you thought of my story. Thanks! …AM