1820, Two Years Later
“Shapes are in everything we could ever look at,” said Bridget, her hands on her back as she moved among her young students. “Once you master recognising shapes, it becomes easier to sketch and paint just about anything.”
A young girl lifted her hand, talking when Bridget nodded her head. “Will it help me draw my mother? She wants me to do a portrait of her.”
“It certainly will, Elizabeth,” Bridget assured. “Think of the shape of her head, her eyes, her nose, her mouth— they all have shapes. Of course, as you become better, you will no longer think in shapes and simply draw what you see, but that is because you have the skill to copy what you see. It doesn’t come easily. You all have to practice.”
The students nodded, their little faces serious as they took in the knowledge she was giving them.
“Now, you’ll find that many artists seem to do free-hand as though they are painting with no reference,” Bridget continued. “That is simply a result of much practice. They come to know what each paintbrush will do, what a single brush stroke can achieve, how to apply colour, how to mix light and dark so you can change the depth of an object. All this comes from practice. So what do we all have to do?”
“Practice!” the girls chorused together.
Bridget grinned. “That is precisely the answer. Practice whenever you have the time, do the techniques you learn in class, study the world around you, and see it from an artist’s perspective. You see, talent will only get you to a certain point, but if you have passion and pair it with—”
“Practice!” the girls cried.
Bridget nodded, her smile widening. “Then you will be even better than the person who seems to draw, sketch, and paint effortlessly. Do you have any more questions?”
Another girl with bright orange hair lifted her hand. Bridget was itching to replicate the vivid colour on her paintings, but she had been too busy lately to do more than she managed in her classes.
“I love drawing animals, but I never get their dimensions right,” the girl complained. “My brothers always laugh at me.”
“Your brothers are silly,” Bridget stated. “They probably cannot draw even a flower!”
The girl giggled and nodded her head. “They think art is foolish.”
Bridget rolled her eyes dramatically. “Well, what do we call people who call what we love foolish?”
“Ninny Pinnies!” the girls shouted.
“Precisely, girls. Now, we shouldn’t go around calling everyone who disagrees with our passion a ninny pinny, but we can think it in our minds. Let me show you a little trick using shapes, yes?”
Bridget waddled to the front, releasing a slow breath as pain engulfed her lower belly. Since this morning, she had been getting odd pains, but she had thought nothing of them. Her mother had told her about the same pains that happened during pregnancy and advised her to take a warm bath and allow her body to calm down. Bridget planned to do that very thing once her class was done, and not before. This was the only class she could take since her pregnancy had advanced, and she couldn’t travel around Wiltshire to all the schools she and Charles had opened. Fortunately, she could hold one three times a week in her own little space where she did all her artwork, but since it wasn’t big at all, she could only fit in five children at a time.
“Are you well, Your Grace?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, Lizzy, I’m merely tired,” she assured. “Walking around with a big belly can be challenging.”
But Bridget wouldn’t change it for all the world. It had taken her two years to fall pregnant, two years of feeling like a failure for not being able to have a baby. Charles had supported her and assured her that she didn’t have to worry about children; he had been ready to have it be just the two of them and still be happy, but Bridget hadn’t felt right at all. Her twin sister, Rebecca, fell pregnant ten months after her wedding and gave birth to a little girl. Lydia had also fallen pregnant soon after her wedding and also gave birth to a girl. Bridget hadn’t been jealous at all, but she had wondered and prayed about when it would be her turn. Finally, her time came around, and Bridget could not have been happier. She was due any day now, but it seemed foolish to wait around for the baby to come, so she had continued to teach.
“My Mama had a big belly last year,” Cassandra commented. “She had two babies. Your belly doesn’t look as big as my Mama’s, Your Grace.”
“That must mean I am only carrying one baby,” said Bridget. “Let me show you that trick, yes? If we want to draw a squirrel, we just think about the overall shape of the squirrel. We have the legs, face, torso, and tail,” she said, guiding the girls by drawing the shapes of each body part. “Now, we draw some lines to connect them all.”
“It already looks like a squirrel!” another girl shouted excitedly.
“It does, but we’re not done yet, Deborah. We know that a squirrel has lovely fur, so let’s create it with overlapping strokes of my pencil— we won’t touch the face just yet.”
Bridget was still adding pencil strokes to her squirrel when she heard the girls giggling. It couldn’t be her drawing, so she turned and laughed as well when her husband attempted to sit in a chair they specifically had made for their young students.
“What on earth is the duke doing?” she said, shaking her head.
“I wish to be part of the class, Your Grace,” Charles said. “I also wish to know how to draw a squirrel, but that one looks a little funny.”
This made the girls laugh even harder. Bridget shook her finger at her husband. “You are not a very kind student, Your Grace. My girls are all better than you. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I’m a boy, not a girl,” Charles whined, using a small voice. “I don’t have to do everything the girls do.”
“But you are in a girl class and not a boy class,” she scolded. “Did you not see all these girls when you walked in?”
Charles put on a quizzical expression, staring at each girl until he turned his gaze back to her. “I assumed they were all faeries!”
The class erupted into peals of laughter, all undoubtedly pleased to be called faeries. Fantastical creatures were one of the themes Bridget had promised the class this year, and they were all looking forward to drawing and painting creatures of myths and lore.
“You seem to be disturbing my class, Your Grace,” Bridget chided, putting on a stern teacher’s expression. “You cannot stay in this class if you are going to do that.”
Charles wrinkled his nose and turned to the girls. “The teacher is not treating me kindly,” he complained. “Do you think I should go?”
“No, no!” the girls cried.
Charles turned a triumphant grin on her. “Your students do not wish for me to, Your Grace. Please, teach me how to draw that squirrel. I promise not to criticise your work.”
Bridget huffed. “Oh, very well. I suppose we can squeeze one more student into our class. Now, everyone has to pay attention, or you will not see the transformation. You will think it’s magic.”
Bridget continued adding details to her squirrel, ensuring that she was going slow enough for everyone to see and catch on. She added features to the face and gave it character. Next were the feet and fur under the body. Satisfied with that, Bridget took some watercolour paint and added colour, darkening some areas and leaving others lighter. She stood back once she was done, seeing the amazed look on her students’ faces and the love and admiration in her husband’s eyes.
“What do you all think?” she asked the class. “Do you still believe the squirrel is silly?”
The girls shook their heads. “It looks real, Your Grace,” said Charity. “How did you do that?”
“You all saw the techniques I used, yes?” Bridget asked. “I’ve been teaching you those same techniques so you can do the same thing. Remember: practice makes perfect. Class dismissed.”
The girls didn’t immediately get up but slowly put their things away as they continued to stare at the image. This was why Bridget loved art so much. It brought wonder and awe to the audience and left them with a sense of magic. They eventually came to hug her as was their custom, but none of them could reach around the girth of her belly, so they were left hugging the baby and telling it to be good. Bridget couldn’t help smiling. She and Charles walked the girls to their awaiting carriages, waving at them until they had all disappeared behind a thicket of trees.
“It is time for tea, my love,” said Charles, taking her hand.
“It is a good thing the house is just a few feet away, or I would not make it,” she said, wincing at the pain along her lower back.
“Allow me to carry you inside,” her husband insisted.
“Goodness no!” Bridget said, laughing. “I cannot imagine what the added weight of our baby has done to my body. I shall definitely be too heavy for you to carry, and I do not wish you to try. Simply let me lean against you as we walk, and I shall be just fine.”
Charles lifted his arm so she could tuck into his side, breathing a little sigh of relief as some weight on her back lessened.
“That is much better,” she said. “You might have to feed me my tea while I lay on the chaise longue,” she warned. “I need to lift my feet and rest this body.”
“Why do you continue to take these classes if you know that you cannot be on your feet too long?” Charles asked.
“Because I enjoy what I do, Charles,” she replied. “And the girls like to see me every week. Their week is not complete unless they see me. Do you know that little Ophelia called me Mama? It merely fell out of her mouth. The poor dear was a little embarrassed, but I convinced her that it was no bother at all. I shall enjoy having my child refer to me as Mama.”
“That will happen any day now,” said Charles, helping her up the steps.
A servant held a door open for them, greeting them with a bow. Bridget inclined her head at him and returned his greeting.
“How are you, Timotheus?” she asked. “I do not think I saw you this morning.”
“Mr Evans sent me on an errand, Your Grace,” the young man explained.
“I see. How is your mother? Does she still suffer from the cold?”
The young man shook his head with a grin. “No, Your Grace. She keeps warm in the blankets you sent to her. She thanks you kindly.”
“I am pleased to hear that, Timotheus. Please send her my regards.”
“Of course, Your Grace.”
Charles led her past the man and to the nearest parlour, knowing she would not be able to make it any further.
“Sit here, my love,” he said. “I’ll pull the rope for tea.”
Charles helped her put her feet up, but no sooner had he moved away than a terrible pain slashed through her belly, making her gasp with surprise. Charles whirled around and knelt next to her, taking her hand.
“What is it, my love?” he asked.
“I am not certain. I’ve been having pains throughout the day, but this one is much worse.”
“Should I call the midwife?”
Bridget shook her head. “Not yet. This pain will surely pass, and I will be just fine. Call for our tea, Charles. I need something warm.”
Charles’ worried gaze never left her as he walked backwards to the rope and pulled on it. A few minutes passed by, and the next wave of pain came upon her, but this one was worse. Her mother had said that the closer the pains, the closer she would be to labour. Bridget realised with a start that she was indeed going through labour.
“Charles,” she gasped when the pain had subsided. “Call for the midwife— our baby is coming.”
Bridget had never seen Charles run so quickly or look so terrified. She actually had to laugh and was still amused when the subsequent pain hit her. Surprised at its strength and somewhat weakened, she lay on the chaise longue and prayed for a healthy, strong baby. So many illnesses could attack the vulnerable, but Bridget wanted her baby to live and be loved.
Several Hours Later
Bridget gave one last push, tears streaming down her face. She never wanted to go through this ever again and would tell Charles to stay far away from her. A weight seemed to leave her, and suddenly, she felt better. She was still sore, but the excruciating pain of moments earlier seemed to have vanished.
“It’s a boy, Your Grace,” the midwife said.
“Oh, a boy, my dear!” the dowager duchess cried, kissing her brow. “You have given me a grandson.”
The baby had a pair of strong lungs as it cried, but the second he was placed at her breast to suckle, he quietened down.
“He is so beautiful,” Bridget cried, looking at his fingers and toes. “Where is Charles?”
“Oh!” the dowager duchess exclaimed. “He must still be outside pacing. I will call him to you. He will want to see his son.”
The woman carefully moved off the bed, not wanting to disturb the silently drinking infant. She appeared moments later with a weeping Charles who ran to the bed and simply stared down at them.
“A son, my love,” he said, his voice choked up. “You have given me a beautiful baby boy.”
“Would you like to hold him?” Bridget asked.
“Is he not still drinking?”
“No, he just seems to be latched on, but he isn’t pulling anymore. He must have had his fill. Help me sit up.”
Charles easily pulled them both up, arranging the pillows behind her until she had a comfortable alcove of fluff. She gently released her breast from the baby’s mouth, earning her a frown.
“He is just like you,” she mused. “Look how he frowns when you take something away from him?”
Charles chuckled, but tears were still coursing down his face. “I do not know how to hold him.”
“Sit on the bed beside me and cross your hands against your chest like this.”
Bridget placed their baby in Charles’ arms as soon as he was positioned well, keeping a soft hand on the child’s head.
“We have been waiting for you, Charles Campbell the Fifth,” Charles whispered. “Welcome to the world.”
They had decided on Charlotte if she was a girl and Charles if he was a boy, but they would call him Charlie.
“He is tiny!” Charles said in wonder. “Look at his hands and feet. Have you ever seen anything so small?”
“Besides little animals and insects? No,” said Bridget, feeling drowsy. “I suppose we should send letters to my parents and Aunt Prue, or they will not be happy that we didn’t let them know as soon as Charlie was born.”
“I’ll write the letters and have Timotheus deliver them. Fortunately, we all live in the same county, except for your sister and Andrew. They are still in London.”
“We’ll send them a letter as well,” Bridget told him. “But they might not arrive right away. Parliament is still in session.”
Charles nodded, kissing his son on the brow. “He is not fussing at all.”
Bridget nodded as she gave a great yawn. “Charlie must know that he is safe in your arms.”
“We still have a few more things to do before we are done, Your Grace,” the midwife interrupted.
“May I take him?” Charles asked. “I do not wish to put him down just yet.”
Bridget smiled. “You are the father, my love. You have as much say as I do. I shall probably be asleep when you return.”
“I’ll put the baby in his bed and curl up next to you,” he promised.
“I would like that. Now, go before you see anything gruesome. I recall Lydia telling me what came out of her mother after the baby. It gave me nightmares for some days.”
Charles grimaced, carefully leaving the bed. “I shall return as soon as I can,” he said, kissing her brow.
The days to come were filled with people all coming to admire the baby and congratulate the new parents on a healthy and beautiful boy. Bridget appreciated their words, but she was still tired and needed rest. The dowager countess had suggested a wet nurse, but Bridget believed the Lord Almighty gave every woman the ability to feed their child, and that was precisely what she was going to do. A week after Charles was born, Bridget lay in bed late one afternoon with her son and husband, struggling to remain awake.
“I love you, Bridget,” she heard Charles say.
Bridget opened her eyes, smiling. “And I love you, Charles. Does your life feel different now that our baby has arrived?”
“Well, I was already happy and fulfilled, but Charlie has brought a ray of sunshine into my life that I didn’t know I needed. I cannot see my life without it now.”
“I feel the same way,” Bridget admitted. “He is our ray of sunshine. I think I could be persuaded to have another baby, but hopefully, it will be a girl, so we can call her Charlotte.”
“I would like that,” said Charles, sounding excited. “I was always so lonely as an only child, so I do not wish our son to be alone. My parents loved me, of course, and gave me everything I could possibly need, but a sibling would have made my life more complete.”
“Charlie will have his sibling, but I need time to rest my body. Perhaps next year,” she replied, her words slurring a little.
“Sleep, my love,” Charles whispered, his fingers trailing across her cheek. “I shall watch over you and Charlie. Nothing will ever happen to either of you.”
Bridget fell off to sleep smiling, knowing that her whole world would be beside her when she awoke.