1892

When she was a little girl, her mother had a jewelry box made of delicate glass with an intricate pattern etched on the top. Sometimes, though not often, she would be allowed to carry the box from its place on the mantle to the sitting room and they would go through, piece by piece, admiring and playing with the contents on lazy afternoons. The box was an heirloom—or very expensive, she can't quite remember, but her mother would always say the same thing, "Walk very slowly and keep both of your hands on the box. Don't go too quickly or you might drop it and it will break." She always walked ever so carefully, knowing she was entrusted with such an important task.

She looks down at the baby in her arms, and feels that it is an alarmingly similar task. There are ten tiny toes, ten delicate fingers and two deep brown eyes all entrusted to her. The baby coos and swings her hand a bit. They have been sitting on her bed all afternoon. She had fleeting thoughts of taking the baby out on a walk, but decided against it. After all, she would not want to drop and break her. But the baby coos once more, likely out of boredom, and likely thinking that her mother is quite inept. The baby is probably right.

Carefully, very, very carefully she picks her up off of the bed and looks into her eyes. The baby looks back curiously. She really has to stop thinking of her as the baby. She has a name; though, Lady Mary Josephine Crawley seems a rather large name for such a tiny person to carry. She walks very slowly to the window and keeps both her hands securely on her. They look out the window at the sunny day. It's nearly November and soon it will be too cold to take walks outside. Perhaps if she is very careful with her, it would be ok. The baby coos in agreement.

They make it all the way downstairs without incident. All bundled up and into the pram, still no incident. They step outside for the first time since Mary's arrival, a month earlier, and bask in the lovely sun and fresh air. Mary's bright eyes stay fixed on her and though it makes her quite nervous, she keeps both hands on the pram and chats with her, conversationally, half expecting a response from the tiny bundle who seems so alert and so very content

After a nice long stroll around the gardens and discussing possible afternoon plans with Mary, the pram turns and they head back for the house. Mary has fallen asleep and she is quite proud that they have made it back without any incident. She hears the door open several feet ahead and looks up, expecting Carson to be ready and waiting. Instead, she is met by her husband who is wearing an expression that is a mixture of both utter joy and intense pride. He props the door open and rushes over to help her with the pram. Once again, carefully, she lifts the baby out, keeps two hands securely around her, and walks ever so slowly back up the stairs with Robert trailing behind.

"I trust it was a successful outing?" He watches as she unbundles their daughter and places her back in her bassinette. Awake again, she stares up at both of her parents, seeming pleased by her first little jaunt outside.

"Yes, I think we are making progress." She smiles down at Mary, who blinks in response.


1922

Looking down at the tiny baby in front of her, she frowns slightly. It is as though the child is acutely aware of her unease, and of her fear. She looks like one of the little dolls that used to be on display in the nursery, with bright blue eyes and a shock of soft, dark hair. She is lovely, though tiny, and seems fascinated by everything in her sight. Still, it is quite nerve-wracking the way she looks up with her wide eyes and solemn expression.

The baby simply stares as she lifts her up out of the bassinette and places her on the bed. They continue to stare at one another, perhaps sizing the other up, for what seems like an eternity. She looks delicate, far too delicate to hold for long periods of time, and yet all she really wants to do is pick her up and hold her close. She would probably hurt her, though, and so she lets her lay on the bed as they continue their little staring contest.

They are interrupted by a knock at the door. Her mother, the proudest new grandmamma in the county, peeks around the door with a wide smile.

"Mary, I thought you might like to take her for a walk outside? The flowers in the garden have finally bloomed." Cora looks at her cautiously, gauging her expression while watching the two of them on the bed.

"No, no, I don't think so. She should not be outside so soon." The little baby gurgles and waves her arm in protest, producing a peel of laughter from Cora, who is still watching intently.

Sighing, she looks down at her baby daughter once more. Only a month old and she is already expressing her likes, dislikes, and displeasure with alarming frequency. She is most certainly her daughter.

"Oh, alright then." Defeated, she picks the little bundle up off the bed and hands her to her mother, who is more than happy to hold her. If they must take her outside, it is not going to be her fault if something should happen to her. They do make it downstairs and get her bundled into the pram without issue, though. They wave to Carson as he holds the door open, and she is surprised by the burst of fresh air that they are met with. Aside from a few drives into town with Matthew, she has not left the house, and has certainly not left with the baby in tow. She cannot help but smile as she looks down at the tiny porcelain skinned face looking up at her. She does seem quite happy to be outside of the nursery.

Matthew is braver. He began taking her on walks all around the house only days after her birth. She would hear them strolling past her door, his hushed voice telling her stories all about the paintings on the walls, and how when she was older they would go for walks into town. She was far more content holding her carefully on the bed, or sitting with her in a chair, or even glancing at her from afar as she slept in her bassinette. She had grown up with two sisters, of course, but nothing had quite prepared her for being entrusted with someone so small and delicate. Someone whose features match her own, and whose future she already spends hours day dreaming about.

She is pulled from thought as her mother rests her hand over her own and smiles gently at her. "You can let go of the pram now. I think our little angel is asleep." They had been sitting for several minutes on the bench under the large tree, though she had not noticed the minutes slip by. Peeking over the top to confirm, she smiles again and sees that the baby is in fact asleep.

"You know, no one warns you about how small they are going to be," she explains, letting go of the pram.

Her mother smiles indulgently and nods. "No one ever warns you about bringing up daughters. Or sons for that matter! But I think you are making excellent progress." She leans over and kisses her cheek, before they stand to make the walk back.

Later that night, she watches as Matthew holds the sleeping bundle against his chest and rocks her back and forth, humming softly against the baby's cheek. She is asleep, and another day, complete with their first outing, has passed without incident.

"I trust you ladies had a nice walk?" He whispers as he places her in the bassinette pulled close to their bed.

She pauses before answering, looking down at her daughter once more. Still delicate, but perhaps a bit tougher than she looks. Another walk tomorrow might be in order.

"Yes, I think it was a rather successful first outing. Perhaps you shall join us on our second, tomorrow?"

Matthew grins and slips into bed, nodding in agreement.

Eventually it would all fall perfectly into place. Perhaps, it already had.