An Epilogue for Dearest Rogue

March 1742
Cornwall, England

If everything was as it should be.

She gasped as the fist suddenly released her, letting her draw breath. Outside the bedroom the wind howled and raindrops hit against the windowpanes like pebbles, making the windows rattle. Her labors had started with the rain—over twelve hours before. She thought it was now late afternoon, but as no one had told her the time recently, she couldn’t be sure.

And she couldn’t see to look at either clock or window.

There was a rustle of fabric at Phoebe’s left and then Betty, their maidservant spoke, ““You’re being so brave, m’lady.”

Phoebe tried a smile, though she feared it wobbled a bit. “Is there any word of James?”

“No, ma’am,” Betty said. “You know the captain would be at your side the moment he returned.” She hesitated and then continued, “But the storm is quite fierce. It may’ve washed out some of the roads to town. He’ll be back with the doctor soon, never you fear.”

A great rolling BOOM of thunder seemed to mock her words and Phoebe felt her heart quake. She wanted James here now. She felt vulnerable and afraid and alone without him—even with Betty here to help. Arthur, her father-in-law, Dolly, her sister-in-law, and Agnes, her niece would all be waiting anxiously together somewhere in the house. Everyone waited for this wonderful child, the first in the Trevillion family since the birth of Agnes, twelve years before. Dolly had baked Phoebe’s favorite bread daily for her in these last months. Agnes and her dog, Toby, had delighted in running little errands for Phoebe once it became harder for her to move around. Even Arthur, usually a gruff, dour man, had taken to hovering about her like a sheepdog with a flock of one—not that she’d ever make that comparison to him! 

And James? James had been beside her always, his strong hands helping her to stand when getting up from chairs became a problem. Letting her cry against his warm chest when the tears had suddenly overwhelmed her for no reason at all. Strolling with her at on the beach when she had a mind to smell the salt breeze. But the best time had been at night, just before they slept, when he’d lay his hand on her bare belly and simply felt the rolls of their baby.

She’d known she loved James before they married, but in these last months of her pregnancy that love had somehow deepened even more. Become a melding of souls. And now that their baby was finally about to make an appearance she need him.

She needed her husband.

“I just—” Phoebe broke off, gritting her teeth as another pain wracked her. 

“There, m’lady, there,” Betty said soothingly. “You’re doing fine, you are.”

“Oh,” Phoebe whimpered as the pain released her again. She rubbed the huge mound of her belly. The baby, so lively until her labors had started, hadn’t moved in hours. “Oh, that was awful.”

A cool damp cloth touched her face, a lovely respite, as Betty wiped her sweating face.

“Now let’s get you out of that dress,” the maidservant said practically.

“I just can’t help but worry,” Phoebe confessed as Betty helped her to stand and unlaced her. “He’s been gone forever it seems.”

“Now, don’t go a-courtin’ trouble, m’lady,” Betty scolded. “The Captain could ride almost afore he walked and he’s the best horseman in Cornwall. He’ll not let a little rain stop him from greeting his firstborn.”

Phoebe knew Betty was right—at least intellectually she knew it. But between the relentless thunder and wind and her own body, which seemed to be attempting to wring her dry, her spirits were very low.

What if something was wrong? What if her baby—

No, she wouldn’t think of it. Phoebe inhaled and gripped the arms of the chair so tightly that she feared she’d cut her fingers. This pain was long and wearying and she let her head fall to the side when it released her.

“Ah, they’re comin’ quick and fast,” Betty said as she pulled Phoebe’s dress over her head. “Won’t be much longer now.”

Phoebe simply panted, bracing herself for the next one. She had to finish this, she thought a little wildly. There wasn’t any other way for her to have her baby save for him to come out.

“I’m so hot,” she said, still standing. She braced both hands on the birthing chair’s sturdy arms. “Oh, take off my chemise as well.”

“Now, m’lady,” Betty began with a note of alarm in her voice, just as a gush of liquid flowed from between her legs.

The door crashed open and Phoebe could hear Toby the dog barking wildly outside in the corridor.

“Oh, sir, thank God, you’ve come,” Betty said and then Phoebe was in James’s arms.

“Phoebe,” he said, deep and calm and so, so wonderful. 

The scent of bergamot and sandalwood washed over her and suddenly Phoebe could think again. She placed her hands flat against his chest, feeling the wet fabric of his coat under her fingers. “Oh. Oh, I’m glad you returned. Is the doctor here?”

“No, my love,” James said, his voice hard with anger. “The man was drunk and nearly insensible. I’ll have him run out of the county when this is over. He’s a menace to the community.”

Betty muttered under her breath, “Such a pity Old Nan died the winter afore last. Her hands might’ve shook but she never drank and she knew how to catch a baby like no one else.”

Phoebe groaned as a pain took her and for a moment she could only grip her husband’s waistcoat and hold on.

“That’s it,” he whispered in her ear. “That’s it, my darling. You’re so brave, so strong. Soon we’ll see our daughter.”

“Or son,” she gasped, her regular teasing response to the certainty he held that the baby was a girl.

“Or son,” he murmured soothingly, and she knew he must be truly worried to agree so easily to her retort. “Old Owen is here. He’s helped more mares give birth than any man in Cornwall. I asked him to come and assist you.”

“If’n you don’t mind,” Old Owen’s voice was deferential. “I knows I’m not a doctor or such and a horseman midwife is a bit odd, but I swears, m’lady, that I’ll do my very best to see the next Trevillion into the world sound and safe.”

“Oh, yes, Owen,” Phoebe said on a gasp. “You know I trust you.” In many ways she’d rather Old Owen attended her instead of the doctor who she hardly knew.

But the pain wasn’t stopping now, rolling on and on, seemingly endless.

“Get her to the chair,” she heard Betty cry.

“Should she be in the bed?” James asked and his voice was strained as he helped her sit.

Worried.

She’d been carrying this baby when they’d married—though she’d not been aware of the fact. When she had realized that she was going to have a baby—James’s and her baby—she’d been filled with absolute joy. 

James had been glad too, but Phoebe knew that he was worried as well. Not because she was blind but because he considered her young. Her virile husband was just a bit abashed at how quickly he’d gotten her with child.

“That chair’s the best place, I’m thinkin’,” Old Owen said placidly. “Lets the babe drop proper like.”

Phoebe no longer truly cared where she was or even that she was half nude in front of the old man. Her body was gripped with strong, terrible pains, one crashing into another, and she knew she must push.

The baby was coming whether she was ready or not.

But she was ready. Calm seemed to envelope her as both Betty’s and Old Owen’s voices urged her on and James simply held her hand, strong and steady as always.

She pushed with every muscle in her body–once, twice, a third time and then something slipped from her body like a fish freed from a net.

Betty exclaimed. Old Owen crowed like a boy who’d hit an apple from a tree with a slingshot.

And Phoebe felt James press his lips to her damp palm. “My love. My love.”

His voice caught.

Phoebe gasped, her head falling back on the old birthing chair’s back. “Is it…? Is it well?”

“Yes,” James said, his words choked. “Discover for yourself.”

And then the most incredible thing happened. A little body was placed in her arms. 

She gasped, feeling the warmth, the weak wriggle of the limbs. “Oh.” She clutched her baby to her chest carefully and laid her palm on the tiny head. It was damp, but she could feel wisps of hair. Her fingers explored tenderly, over the rounded brow, the delicate nose, and to the pursed lips. 

The baby mewled and turned its head, following her fingers.

Phoebe’s mouth wobbled, breaking into an incredulous smile while at the same time tears started at her eyes. “Oh, James.”

She felt his arms surround her, his cheek next to hers as her fingers traced a small chest, the bump of a plump little belly and then the delicate, tiny crease of a vulva. “It is a girl! However did you know?”

“I didn’t,” he murmured in her ear, his voice still gruff. “I merely wished that I could have a daughter just like you. She’s beautiful, Phoebe. We have a beautiful girl child.”

She laughed then, the sound bubbling up joyously from her chest.

The next few minutes were busy as they dealt with the afterbirth, changed her chemise, and moving her to the big bed, baby and all, but when Phoebe was finally settled Betty helped her to put the baby to her breast.

It was the oddest sensation, a sort of pulling, combined with the feel of a warm little body snuggled next to her. 

An overwhelming rush of love swelled in her breast and Phoebe suddenly realized that for this little person was the center of her world now.

Hers and James’s.

“Can we see her?” That was the voice of their niece Agnes, and by the panting nearby she’d arrived with Toby the dog as well. “Granfer said Mother and I could come in.”

“Of course you all can see.” Phoebe smiled in their direction. Multiple footsteps crossed the room to the bed. “What do you think of her?”

“Small,” Dolly said in her thick voice. Phoebe felt her sister-in-law’s fingers next to her hand, carefully touching the baby’s head.

“She is, isn’t she?” Phoebe said gently. 

“We-ell,” Agnes said, drawing the word out tactfully. “She’s quite red, isn’t she?”

“Is she?” Phoebe asked curiously, rubbing her fingers over the baby’s crown again. She couldn’t stop touching her, committing all her tiny parts to memory. This was how she would know her daughter: by touch and smell and the sound of her voice. Phoebe found her smile widening at the thought. She couldn’t wait to hear her daughter talk. Hear her laughter and the patter of her little footsteps as she grew. 

“Yes,” Agnes said, interrupting Phoebe’s musings. “And she has black hair.”

“A Trevillion through and through,” Arthur commented with what sounded like deep satisfaction. “Her father looked very like her when he was first born.”

James, who was lounging in the bed beside them, snorted. “She has Phoebe’s mouth, though, I think.”

“What will you call her?” Agnes said, her voice nearer. Phoebe felt the bed dip as if the girl were leaning on the side.

Phoebe smiled down at her child. “I thought Martha Mary.” Martha had been James’s mother’s name and Mary was her own mother’s name.

Arthur cleared his throat loudly. “Now that’s a right lovely name, that is.”

“A pretty name for a pretty babe,” Old Owen concurred.

“What do you think?” Phoebe turned to James, feeling his shoulder under her cheek, solid and strong.

“I think it’s perfect,” he said kissing her brow as his fingers intertwined with hers. “Just like you.”