Mary looked into the twinkling eyes of Elizabeth. She gave her a quick hug, noticing almost immediately her slightly rounded belly.

“Are congratulations in order?” she asked in a low tone.

“Yes,” Lizzy whispered and turned slightly pink. “We’ve not told anyone yet. We wanted to wait until all the family had gathered.”

“Good plan. It’s always smart to save announcements such as these for when the family is around.” Mary almost laughed out loud at the expectation of Lizzy and Darcy’s reaction when informed of Longbourn’s pending arrival. She didn’t have long to wait. The second Mama removed her pelisse and turned, exclaiming, ‘Oh, Mr. Darcy. How good to see you again,’ Lizzy’s shocked expression was worth the anticipation.

“Mama!” Lizzy cried out and looked toward her husband. A lifted brow was the only response she received from the taciturn gentleman. “Are you…? Have you…?”

Her mother could only nod, much like a puppy following a bouncing ball.

“We have been blessed abundantly, Lizzy dearest, and I know… Just know the babe will be healthy and hale.”

“I’m both surprised and pleased, Mama,” Elizabeth said as Mama enfolded her in the largest hug she’d ever given, other than when Lizzy announced her engagement to Mr. Darcy.

Papa followed more sedately, as usual, a wry smile upon his face as his second eldest daughter learned their news. Darcy was the first to recover his senses and held out his hand in congratulations. Papa took it, and they shook most amicably.

“Congratulations are in order, I see,” Darcy said, turning to his mother-in-law. “Congratulations, Mother Bennet. I normally would not assume, but given the smiles adorning both your faces, you are delighted with the impending arrival.”

“We are, Mr. Darcy. Lizzy would be pleased to know that I take a turn about the garden every day as Mr. Jones says it is most beneficial for a mother to be active.”

“I could not agree more.”

Upon sighting her dear friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Adborough, seated across the room, Mary excused herself and moved to join her.

“Mary! I haven’t seen you in months. You look wonderful.”

“Your Grace.” Mary sank into a deep curtsy.

“Do I no longer have a first name?” Georgiana raised both her hands and Mary took them in hers before sitting beside her. She gave them a quick squeeze and then released them. “We are family and I insist you always call me Georgiana, or Georgi if you like. In turn, I won’t refer to you as The Honorable Miss Mary Bennet of Longbourn.”

“Oh dear, such a mouthful. Mama is beyond pleased with not only discovering she is Lady Bennet but also possibly carrying the future heir of Longbourn.”

Georgiana’s eyes flicked toward Mama, her mouth rounding into a circle of surprise. She turned her attention to Mary. “This is quite unexpected, not only for them but for the whole family. I hope, for their sake, everything turns out for the best.”

“Indeed, although there is a strong possibility, she may deliver yet another female child.”

“Then, we must wait and pray.”

“I already am.”

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