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When his wife finally let go of his thigh, Darcy rubbed it. His repeated glances at her face gave him no indication of what was wrong, but clearly something was. He helped her rise and exit the pew, then escorted her toward the door. He gritted his teeth every time someone delayed them, and many did, wishing him and Elizabeth a Happy Christmas. Finally, they reached the door, just as Elizabeth’s grip on his arm tightened. It was with great relief that Darcy was finally able to escort her out into the night.
As they reached the side of the sleigh, Elizabeth’s pain receded and she leaned her weight on her husband. She closed her eyes and tried to calm her racing heart. She knew Darcy was aware that something was wrong by the way he held her. Opening her eyes, she allowed him to hand her up into the sleigh, sighing in relief when she was finally seated again. She felt something pop and a warm rush of liquid flowed over her legs just as he was tucking the rug around them. “William!” Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide and she grabbed his arm. Turning her head toward him, she opened her mouth to speak when a pain, much sharper than the previous ones, gripped her. She doubled over.
“Elizabeth!” Darcy wrapped his arms around his wife and pulled her close. “What is the matter?”
“It is time,” Elizabeth gasped. “The babe … my waters …” She stopped speaking as she clenched her jaw to keep from crying out.
Darcy’s eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped for a moment as Elizabeth’s words sunk in. He looked at the floor of the sleigh, his heart stopping at the sight of the liquid seeping out from under the blanket at her feet. Looking at Henry, who had frozen mid-way into the sleigh, he barked out orders. “Get us home as fast as you can. First … wait …” Darcy looked around and, seeing one of his tenants nearby, hailed the man.
“Yes, sir.” John Smith pulled his hat off his head as he hurried up to the master’s sleigh.
“Find the midwife and send her up to Pemberley House. My wife is laboring.”
Mr. Smith’s reaction was similar to Darcy’s. His eyes widened and he had to snap his jaw shut so he would not look like an idiot. “Yes, sir!” He spun around and hurried away.
Darcy’s attention turned to his coachman. “Go, Henry!”
Henry had used the time Darcy was speaking to Mr. Smith to settle himself in the seat and take up the reins. At Darcy’s command, he slapped the leather on the horses’ backs, spurring them into motion.
The trip back to Pemberley took even less time than the one to the church had.
“Pull into the courtyard.”
Henry nodded at Darcy’s command, and soon, he had pulled the sleigh up to the bottom of the steps in front of the courtyard door.
The equipage had barely come to a stop when Darcy jumped out. He lifted Elizabeth out just as another pain doubled her over. Placing one arm under her knees and the other around her back, he picked her up and turned, sprinting up the four shallow steps to the now-open door.
The footman stationed at that particular door startled to see Darcy carrying Elizabeth, but when the master shouted for help as he passed, the servant rushed belowstairs to inform the housekeeper.
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