First Comes the Earl
Ewan stared in wonder as Alicia furrowed her brow and bit her lip, carefully dragging her paintbrush across the crisp canvas before her.
She was always beautiful to him, but never more so than when she was concentrating on one of her paintings. Even with her expression serious and focused, her eyes sparkled with delight, and her lips held the slightest of smiles, no matter how long a painting took her to complete or its level of difficulty.
Ewan had asked her to paint him many times over the past year, and she had happily obliged. He did not wish to have so many paintings of him, of course.
He only loved to sit and admire her while she worked. And he knew she took great joy in painting him, as well. Heaven knew he did not understand why she loved painting him. But it made her happy, and her happiness filled him with the greatest joy he had ever experienced.
As his eyes traced the bulge of her very pregnant stomach, his smile widened further still. He thought the next painting he requested from his beautiful wife would be of him and their first child.
“You must stop changing the expression on your face, darling,” Alicia murmured, not looking up from her painting. “How can I get your smile just right if your lips are constantly moving?”
Ewan chuckled, sticking out his tongue at his wife in reply. She always said the same thing to him, and he knew she knew his facial expressions by heart. It was playful banter in which the two of them engaged each time she painted him, and he loved every moment of it.
Alicia, at last, looked up from the canvas, her eyebrows raised, and her eyes were sparkling impishly.
“Very well,” she said, nodding her head, wait until you see this one.”
She worked for another hour in silence, and Ewan continued to watch, utterly in awe of his wife.
“And that is what happens when you commit such foolishness while I am working,” she announced proudly.
Ewan looked at the painting, bursting into laughter immediately. Alicia had painted him just as he had been the moment he had stuck out his tongue.
Only, instead of painting his eyes as they normally were, she had painted them crossed, as though he were a silly jester entertaining a renaissance king or queen.
It took him a moment to catch his breath. When he did, he wiped away the water building up in his eyes from his laughter, kissing his wife on the forehead.
“I believe that must hang in the parlor above the fireplace,” he said.
Alicia regarded him with a look that said he was mad. Then, she giggled.
“Would that not be a most interesting prompt to the conversation?” she asked.
The happy couple laughed. Ewan leaned down to kiss his wife again, this time on the lips. He placed a hand on her distended stomach and smiled.
“If that is not, then this little one certainly will be,” he said fondly.
That night as they dressed for bed, he thought again about the silly painting Alicia had made of him. He really did think he would like to put it somewhere on display. But, instead of the parlor, he thought he would rather put it in his study.
It would be something to lift his spirits when work was especially oppressive and dreary, and it would add a little life to any dull business meetings he hosted there.
He made a mental note to mention it to Alicia the following morning at breakfast. She had decided to paint for a little while longer before retiring for the evening. She was working on the first painting for their unborn child, and he did not wish to disturb her.
He had just gotten himself settled into bed when the door to his bedchambers flew open in rushed a frantic Charis who, upon seeing him in nothing but his nightclothes, covered her eyes and turned her back.
“Do forgive me, your lordship,” she said, breathless. “But Lady Walshire has gone into labor.”
Ewan flew out of bed, getting tangled in the bed coverings before freeing himself.. The maid turned to see what the commotion was and, despite her frantic demeanor, giggled. Ewan desperately fought to get to his feet.
“Have you sent for the physician?” he asked.
“I took the liberty of sending a servant to fetch him right away,” she said.
Ewan sighed, thanking the heavens there was a physician who solely did house calls and lived close by, as Alicia’s family did. Alicia’s family, he thought in a panic.
“I have sent a message to Lady Walshire’s family, as well, milord,” Charis said.
Ewan looked at her, surprised at the maid’s competence in dealing with the situation, suddenly replacing the thrill and shock of learning his first child was soon to be born.
“Thank you, Charis,” he said, smiling warmly at the maid. “I shall see to it that you receive a nice bonus for your brilliant initiative.”
The maid bowed, blushing.
“Thank you, milord,” she said. “Now, excuse me. I shall go and see to it that Lady Walshire is comfortable and tended to while we await the physician’s arrival.”
Charis closed the door softly behind her as she exited, and Ewan practically jumped into his clothes. He put on his shirt backward the first time, mumbling to himself as he righted his mistake. Then, when he was reasonably presentable, he hurried to Alicia’s bedchambers, where Charis already had her mistress in bed and was wiping her face with a cool, damp cloth.
“Darling,” he said, approaching his wife and kissing her gently on the cheek.
Alicia smiled weakly at him.
“I am glad you are here,” she said. “Will you stay with me until the physician comes?”
Ewan nodded eagerly, kissing the hand his wife extended to him and sitting gently beside her on the bed.
“There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be just now,” he said.
Alicia’s family arrived first. Charis ushered them in, all of them stooping to kiss Alicia on the top of her head. The younger women surrounded her, gushing about how excited they were that their very first niece or nephew was almost there.
Her parents stood back, watching their daughters with their arms around one another with great pride. Ewan walked over to them, reaching out to shake the baron’s hand.
Lord Saldington pushed it aside and instead pulled Ewan into an embrace.
“I am very happy for the both of you, son,” he said.
Ewan clapped the baron on the back, his own emotions flooding him.
“Thank you,” he said. “Alicia and I are both thrilled you could be here.”
“You jest, surely, my lord??” the baroness said through her tears, pulling Ewan away from her husband and hugging him fiercely. “We would not miss the birth of our very first grandchild for anything in the whole world.”
The baron wiped at his face, looking at his wife fondly.
“I certainly feel my age catching up to me now, my dear,” he said.
The baroness laughed.
“I am certain the little one will keep us young for many years to come, darling,” she said. “And, hopefully, this is just the first of many.”
The physician cleared his throat as he entered the room. The entire family turned to confront his gentle, smiling face.
“Good evening,” he said, dipping his head briefly before he placed his medical bag at Alicia’s feet. “It is wonderful to see the mother-to-be has the support of so many people who love her.”
The baroness nudged Ewan’s and her husband’s arms, giving them a knowing look. Ewan nodded silently, understanding her meaning. Then, he walked over to Alicia and kissed her once more.
“I love you, my darling,” he said. “I will be just outside.”
Alicia nodded, touching his face.
“And I love you, Ewan,” he said.
Ewan shivered, beaming as he left his wife’s side and followed his father-in-law out of the room. The two men were joined a moment later by the younger women, who were still chatting excitedly amongst one another.
Alicia’s mother stayed to comfort and support her daughter as she gave birth. He was glad that everyone was there because they were Alicia’s family and because they were now his. Her sisters had treated him as if he was a true brother to them, and her parents did not seem to mind. He already loved them, just as he would have his own sisters, and he was sure he had the best in-laws in all of London.
Ewan was also glad for the company Alicia’s family provided him with while she gave birth. He imagined that, if not for them, he would have been a pacing, anxious mess.
Her sisters were thrilled about becoming aunts, and her father was calming and reassuring, offering advice and sharing stories from when Alicia was born and his first months as a father.
Ewan felt his nervousness giving way to excitement, and he could hardly wait to hold his son or daughter in his arms for the very first time.
A few hours later, the door to the room where Alicia was giving birth creaked open. The baroness stepped out, her smile bright on her tear-streaked face.
“Come, Ewan,” she said. “Your very first son is ready for you to meet him.”
Ewan’s heart leapt for joy, and he followed the baroness inside the room. The rest of the family waited outside to allow him a few moments alone with his wife and brand-new little boy. The baroness kissed his cheek and then joined her family, leaving just the physician, Alicia, and their son.
Ewan hurried to the bed, reaching for his wife. Her cheeks were flushed, and her forehead was covered with sweat, but her smile was brighter than ever.
She took his hand, squeezing it weakly as she lifted her head from the pillow and pulled back the blanket from the bundle in her arms. There, sleeping soundly, was Ewan’s first-born son.
“Oh, Alicia,” Ewan sighed, tears streaming down his face. “He is absolutely perfect.”
Alicia nodded, caressing the sleeping baby’s cheek with a gentle finger. The touch stirred the child, and he opened his unfocused eyes. Even though Ewan knew he could not yet see clearly, he felt as though his son was looking right at him.
“He looks just like you,” Alicia said, taking Ewan’s hand again and kissing it.
Ewan kissed hers in return, looking at his son lovingly.
“I thought we could name him Silas,” he said, wiping away his tears. “After my father.”
Alicia’s smile widened.
“That would be perfect, darling,” she said. “Silas Walsh.”
Squealing erupted from the doorway, and Ewan stepped aside. He smiled fondly as his sisters-in-law rushed into the room, surrounding their eldest sister and fawning over their new nephew. Ewan stood back and gave them time to congratulate Alicia and look at the baby, standing aside with his parents-in-law.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” he said, looking at the baron and baroness. “I am the luckiest man in all of London.”
This is the end of my novel “First Comes the Earl”. I hope that you enjoy it! Your effort to read it means a lot to me and I have to thank you for your love and support on these difficult days!
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