One year later
“Please, my love, sit down and rest,” Guy insisted as soon as he entered the nursery that was very nearly finished.
Honoria finished folding the hand-woven blanket her mother had made and placed it in the cradle before she turned to him, a hand placed protectively upon her swollen stomach.
“I am fine,” she insisted, but Guy took her hand and led her to the rocking chair beside the cradle.
“Is she kicking?” Guy asked as he crouched before her and laid a hand upon her stomach. “I hope she is not giving you too much trouble.”
Honoria couldn’t help but smile at the way he said ‘she’. Though they had no idea of the gender of their first child, they both had a feeling that it would be a girl and she was relieved to know that he seemed pleased by it.
“No more trouble than usual,” she assured him as she took his hand and moved it up to the top of her stomach, just in time for him to catch a kick to the palm.
Guy’s eyes widened just as they always did whenever he felt their child kick, and Honoria felt happy tears beginning to prick the corners of her eyes.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” he asked, looking up at her with rounded eyes.
“Sometimes, but not right now. It only hurts when she kicks me in the ribs.” She chuckled at the way her husband cringed.
“You are a saint, my love,” he told her. “I do not think I could put up with being kicked at all hours of the night.”
Honoria smiled at him, remembering the night before when he had laid awake with her because their child had been much too active for her to sleep.
They’d lain in bed together, feeling each kick with their hands and laughing at every one of them.
“How was your trip into town?” Honoria asked, eager to know how his business had gone.
“I met with Francis’s man for the last of their payments,” Guy told her, and a wave of relief washed over her. Their ties to Francis and Judith had been cut just in time for their new arrival.
“So they have decided to remain in France?” Honoria asked, relieved at the thought that her husband hadn’t had to suffer through a face-to-face meeting with her cousin.
“It seems that way.” Guy nodded, still with his hand on her stomach, waiting eagerly for the next kick.
“I hope they shall stay there,” Honoria said, not sure she had meant to say the words aloud.
“Francis’s man says they have put their house up for sale, so it appears they have no intentions of coming back to England any time soon.” Guy’s words relieved her even further and she leaned back in the chair.
She would be happy if she never saw her cousin or his insufferable wife again.
“It is time to forget about the past and look towards the future,” her husband told her, and she smiled in agreement.
“Bright future with our daughter,” she chuckled.
“I can’t wait to meet her,” Guy said, proving once again that he was unlike any other man. Most would have insisted that they were the father of a son, right up until their daughter was born. But it seemed that Guy was simply happy to be welcoming a child into the world.
“What should we call her?” Honoria asked, and Guy looked at her in surprise.
Up to now she had insisted they not discuss names for fear it might bring them bad luck. Now, knowing that she was in her final month of pregnancy, she was too excited to hold off any longer.
“I’m sure you already have something in that stubborn head of yours so why don’t you tell me?” Guy smiled up at her. “What shall we call our daughter?”
“Hope?” Honoria suggested, and as if in answer the child in her stomach gave one great kick.
“I think she likes it,” Guy laughed at the smaller kicks that fluttered beneath his hand.
“Hope it is.” He nodded as though they had chosen the name between them.
Hope for the faith I kept while you were away in France, Honoria reminded herself. Hope for all the times I insisted that God couldn’t have taken you away from me.
The pain that Honoria experienced during childbirth was nothing compared to seeing the look on her husband’s face when he got to hold his daughter for the first time.
He sat upon the side of the bed, cradling the infant delicately in his arms and looked at Honoria with such love that she couldn’t imagine ever believing that they would not be together.
“You did it, my love,” he said joyfully, his voice soft so that he would not wake the baby that slept peacefully in his arms.
“We did it,” Honoria corrected him, stifling a yawn as she began to realise just how exhausted she was.
“I suppose we did,” Guy smiled back at her. Holding the baby in one arm, he reached out with his free hand to take hold of hers.
“I never believed I would ever be as happy as I am now,” he told her as he gazed affectionately into her eyes.
“I hope that over the years that happiness will grow.” She smiled back at him and placed her other hand on top of his.
“I am sure it will,” Guy responded, and Honoria found herself closing her eyes to imagine all the children they would have.
If she thought of it long enough, she could see them all, boys and girls, playing out on the lawn just as she and Guy and his sisters had when they had been children.
As if she sensed just how exhausted Honoria was, Jean appeared at the doorway and quietly suggested, “Lord Mansfield, perhaps we might allow your wife to get some much-deserved rest?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Guy nodded, and he allowed the maid to gently remove Hope from his arms to place her in the bassinet beside the bed.
“Do not let me sleep too long,” Honoria insisted, knowing all too well that her daughter would need her again soon.
“I’m sure she will wake you when she is hungry,” Jean pointed out.
Guy pushed himself up from the bed and leaned down to kiss her forehead.
“Sweet dreams, my love,” he whispered before moving to place a second kiss upon his daughter’s head.
Many years later, Honoria sat upon the patio watching the very scene she had imagined so many times before.
Guy tossed a ball high over the lawn, his four- and six-year-old sons running eagerly to catch it. They tussled as it dropped towards them, both eager to be the one to catch it.
Honoria couldn’t help but smile as she cradled their youngest daughter in her arms.
“Edward! Philip! Don’t tire your father out too much!” she called, all too aware that her husband’s leg still troubled him on occasion.
“Mother look!” eight-year-old Hope called from where she was examining the roses in the closest flower bed.
Honoria looked up and followed her daughter’s finger to the other end of the garden path where a small group were walking.
With delight Honoria stood, realising that it was Elizabeth and Constance come to call upon them.
Behind them walked their husbands, Constance’s husband back from war and the older gentleman Doctor Lawson, who had taken quite a fancy to Elizabeth almost a year after her first husband had been tragically killed.
Honoria couldn’t help but remember all the times Elizabeth had insisted that the doctor was not interested in her even as she watched the woman pushing a baby-blue pram before her. The doctor himself was carrying a three-year-old boy on his back, the child shouting gleefully as Edward and Philip rushed down the path to meet them.
Constance’s two sons, five and seven, hurried to meet them, their little sister stumbling after them on much shorter legs.
“Good morning!” Guy called from where he still stood on the lawn, proudly watching his sons run across the grass.
Constance was the first to lift her hand and wave, holding her swollen stomach with her other. Honoria knew it would not be long before her fourth child came into the world. She was so pleased that her children had friends to play with, just as she’d had in Guy and his sisters when they were children.
And not for the first time she realised that everything had gone full circle around her.
“This was the way it was always meant to be,” she said proudly to the little girl in her arms who cooed at her words.
As the others came to join her on the patio, she eagerly offered her child to Constance who seemed keen to hold the baby, even with her own kicking away in her stomach.
“Can you believe it?” Elizabeth asked as her husband and Constance’s husband joined Guy on the grass to play ball with the boys.
“What?” Constance asked.
“Can you believe that we are all sitting here now with our children and our husbands?” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “There was a time when I believed I would never be happy again.”
“There was also a time when you were certain nothing would ever come of your relationship with Doctor Lawson,” Constance chuckled. “And look how that turned out.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes at her sister and said, “Am I wrong in believing you thought your husband would never come home?”
“Now, now ladies, let’s simply be grateful for what we have,” Honoria insisted.
She knew that she was grateful and happy beyond measure, knowing that all her wildest dreams had finally come true.
She couldn’t have been happier than she was in that moment, watching her husband play with their sons, surrounded by all their friends.
“Honoria is right.” Constance nodded and placed a hand upon her swollen stomach once more, cradling the baby in her other arm. “We should look to the future.”
“And what a bright future it is.” Elizabeth agreed, and they all began to nod.