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A Question of Entail

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Chapter I.

Pemberley, 1st August, 1820.

Darcy turned his imaginary corner for what seemed like the hundredth time. He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece for what seemed like the one thousandth. He looked once more at the open double doors which provided the exit to the corridor that led to the next room. The next room. Where his wife was located.

He clenched his fist. If someone told him the identity of the man who said that it got easier every time, he would kill him here and now in the most gruesome way imaginable. The man must not have loved his wife, else he would never had said that supposed pearl of wisdom. For Darcy knew that the pain never got better, it only got worse, every time.

He turned the corner again and glanced around the room, trying to fix on something other than the floor. It was to no avail. The room was empty, Georgiana and her husband having kept his children downstairs while they waited to make sure they were not concerned. He grimaced. He did not blame Georgiana for doing that, for his own presence at the moment would be no help to his children, the worry for their mother written clearly upon his face.

Darcy sighed and turned another corner. He swore to himself every time that he did this that he would never put her through it again, yet always she would survive in perfect health and another year or so would pass before she would announce that they were in the family way once more.

At last he heard the wail of a child and instinctively breathed a sigh of relief. He came to a halt by the opened door, waiting for the midwife to come walking through, the agreed signal long ago for him to go to her. Five minutes later she came and he nodded politely to her before walking straight past her to go the next room.

The midwife made no comment upon the lack of acknowledgment of her presence, instead she just curtseyed and let him go past her without comment. Indeed, where the Darcys were concerned, she was lucky to get one at all. It was common knowledge in Derbyshire that Mr Darcy had only eyes for his wife, in fact it had been established within a month of their arrival.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Darcy opened the doors to the room that was only used in these circumstances. He blinked several times as he gazed at the scene before him, trying to confirm its truth. Elizabeth was there lying in the bed, sleeping peacefully. In the cot nearby, a babe was also sleeping equally peacefully.

Darcy went straight to his wife, sitting down on the chair that was near where she lay. He reached out and clasped her hand, bringing it carefully to his lips. Slowly the reality sank in, and he found himself shaking uncontrollably. He rested his head on their hands on the bed, as he finally let go of his restraint and sobbed out his grief.

Elizabeth's sleep was broken. She opened her eyes to find her husband crying on her hand. "Will? What's wrong?"

Darcy looked up. "Will" meant she was concerned, "Fitzwilliam" meant she was fine and "Darcy" meant that she was angry with him. Fortunately he had rarely heard that name being spoken. "Its nothing," he said honestly, gazing at her, "I'm just glad you're alive. I thought I was going to lose you."

She sighed and instantly began to reassure him, for they had had this discussion every time. " You never will."

"I love you Lizzy."

"I love you," She replied, her sparkle returning. Darcy smiled back at her and she leant down to kiss him. Then she sat up, turned and slid across to the end of the bed. She returned with the child and presented it to him. "Here is our daughter."

Darcy gazed down at the babe and was entranced. Every child had had the ability to do that to him since they had had Lawrence, their first and their heir. The babe opened her eyes and stared up at him, causing him to let out a gasp of surprise. Elizabeth's eyes were staring back at him from inside the babe in her arms.

Elizabeth saw his fascination. "What shall we call her?"

"Well," he replied, "as we decided against using our own names long ago and as she is the image of her mother, I think it should be Imogen Elizabeth Darcy."

Elizabeth considered for a moment and then agreed. "Imogen it is. Although I think her father is too much of a flatterer to judge so."

Darcy chuckled. "Let me take her and you get some rest. I'll introduce Imogen to the rest of the family. I love you, Elizabeth Darcy."

Elizabeth smiled. "I love you too, Fitzwilliam Darcy."

The 35th Regiment camp, Newcastle.

In a small, poor looking, ill-kept house on the main street, another woman was struggling in her labour. And this was to be her last child, at least for awhile.

Downstairs, a family equally nervous, waited for the ordeal to end. Seven children, unnaturally silent, wished for their mother to be okay. A wife of another officer kept her eyes on them worriedly.

A knock at the front door brought them all out of their trance. The woman got up and went to answer it. A officer, a Major by the look of him, was standing outside.

"Mrs Wickham?"

"No," the woman answered, "my name is Mrs Lawford. What can I do for you?"

The officer looked uncomfortable. "My business is with Mrs Wickham alone."

"Mrs Wickham is.........." A child's wail stopped the explanation and turned it to be unneeded. The officer nodded in understanding. "How long until she is fit to see visitors?" he asked Mrs Lawford.

"Not for a few days. Why do you ask?"

"I am afraid I come with some bad news. I regret to inform you, Mrs Lawford, that Captain Wickham was murdered this morning in a duel."