Clyvedon was known for being a very quiet house, miles from anywhere on a road to nowhere in particular. So when Simon Basset, Duke of Hasting woke in the middle of the night, the silence did not initially strike him as odd. Until he remembered that he shared his bed, and surely he should be able to hear her? He reached for his wife, only to find a cool spot in their bed. He sat up, confused.
His thoughts were groggy, but slowly, realization came. The baby must have had need of her. Simon hoped all was well, but instead of pulling the covers over his head, he rolled out of bed. He tugged on yesterday’s trousers and a dark green dressing gown, lined in flannel against the wintry chill of the house.
Upon opening the door, he could hear something new—faint notes from the pianoforte in the music room. Odd.
Instead of turning to the nursery, he followed the music, and soon could hear the fussing of his son.
The music room was dark, chilly. There was light from a few candles, but mostly the room was dimly lit by a gibbous moon, its light bouncing off the snow.
Daphne was at the piano bench, wrapped in her robe, and holding their grumpy baby. She had him nestled in her left arm and was picking out notes with her right hand, humming to him all the while. Evidently, she had not heard Simon approach.
He knocked softly and she turned with a tired smile.
“I wish I had remembered: teething is a most terrible time.”
“I had no idea the trouble teeth could cause a baby to begin with,” he replied. He stepped into the room. “Do you wish me to light a fire?”
“I think that will be welcome,” Daphne said.
The baby squawked more as Daphne tried to soothe him. Simon lit a small fire in the hearth, and then approaching her bench, took him from his mother.
“Alexander Simon Edward, do you not know that we should all be asleep?” He held the baby at arms length, eyebrow raised, mock-stern. He wailed, and Simon cuddled him, tucking him up on his shoulder. “All is dark, you ought to be resting.”
Alexander buried his face in his father’s neck. Simon began to pace slowly. Daphne turned back to her keys and began again, the song much more soothing with two hands than one. Simon adjusted the swaddling blanket. The room would warm soon enough, but it would not do for Alexander to catch a chill.
“What are you playing?” he asked Daphne.
“Beethoven. ‘Sonata in the Manner of a Fantasy?’ Only the first part.”
He shook his head, not really knowing the song. She was the music expert, not him. Maybe Master Alexander would take to it someday. The sonata was soothing, low. Alexander quieted a bit in his arms, distracted by the melody. Simon rocked him.
Fatherhood did not exactly come naturally to him, but watching Daphne, and honestly watching how the nursemaids did things, had built up his confidence. It helped that Alexander seemed to like his parents, usually smiling for them when he saw them. And he was a very, very handsome child. Everyone said so and it probably was not simple flattery.
Daphne reached the end of the first movement, and simply began it again. “It has been three nights of this. The last two nights Nanny Alice handled it, but she looked as if she could do with some sleep,” Daphne reported. “He does not seem hungry, and he is dry. But those teeth must really hurt.”
The fire slowly warmed the room, as Daphne played her sonata once more, then switched to another soft, slow, low song. Still Alexander fussed.
“Come, Alexander, you must want to sleep,” Simon said, smoothing his hand across the baby’s back. He was patient, though. He was mostly mumbling nonsense, hoping his voice might be as comforting to his son as his mother’s playing surely was.
“Mama suggested in her letters that we rub some whiskey or brandy on his gums, but I would rather not.”
“He is too young to appreciate it anyway.”
Daphne came to the end of her song and scrubbed her hands across her face, clearly worn out. Alexander, sucking on the corner of his blanket, winked and blinked in a way that suggested he was thinking about falling asleep.
“I think we might be nearly there?”
Daphne turned to look. “I have seen that face before. He is toying with us, Simon.”
Simon chuckled as he repositioned Alexander, cradled in his arms. “Come on little lamb, your mother is exhausted.”
Alexander babbled a few syllables. It was a new trick of his, and normally Simon would be charmed.
“I know, I know, the moonlight is lovely on the snow,” Simon said to the baby.
Alexander did not babble back this time.
“Hmmmm. What is that lullaby your mother sang to you?” Simon asked Daphne.
“That is the one.”
She yawned, wiped a few tired tears from her eye. “Fine, but you really must learn it yourself.”
“Oh, I am not the musician here.”
“Simon, you have a lovely voice.” She stood, stretched, and moved closer.
He shook his head and passed her Alexander. Daphne traced a light finger over their son’s features. His eyes were blinking now. Brown eyes with thick lashes, Simon’s eyes stared up at her. He had his father’s dark coloring, and her nose, or at least according to her mama.
“Bank the fire?” she asked Simon and went into the corridor until it was safe for them to leave the music room and head upstairs. Alexander yawned, stretched, and settled. Simon carried a candle to light their way.
“Lavender's blue, dilly dilly,
When you are King, dilly dilly,
I shall be Queen.
“Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so.”
Simon did not join her, but catching the tune, he managed to hum along. He did not really know any of these songs. If his nursemaids sang them, he could not recall them. Lady Danbury, for all her many virtues, was not a woman who sang lullabies.
“Call up your friends, dilly, dilly,
Set them to work.
Some to the plough, dilly dilly,
Some to the fork.”
“Work and fork do not rhyme.”
She glared at him and continued without missing a note.
“Some to the hay, dilly dilly,
Some to cut corn.
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly,
Keep ourselves warm.”
He opened the door to their room. Nanny Alice slept in the nursery, and they did not want to disturb what little sleep she got. There was a Moses basket in their room for this purpose.
“Lavender’s green dilly, dilly,
You must love me, dilly, dilly
As I love you.”
The Bridgerton house was full of music. It was not something he noticed immediately, but it was nice to hear Daphne and Francesca talk about the pianoforte, to hear young Colin sing. It always set a playful mood.
Clyvedon was already filled with music and sound, because of her. Nothing like the silence he had grown up with. When she planned to redecorate, he thought it was only to be a feast of the eyes, but the new sounds in his household were merry too.
“Lavender's blue, dilly dilly,
When you are King, dilly dilly,
I shall be Queen.”
Daphne managed to lay Alexander in the basket without his squalls beginning anew. As quietly as she could, she poked at the fire to wake up the coals a bit, then crawled into bed, shucking off her robe revealing a warm flannel nightgown. He stripped off his robe and trousers, blew out the candle and followed her.
And suddenly Simon wondered how he had slept in silence all those years. Perhaps it was the stillness that woke him tonight? Daphne was still humming the lullaby as she fell against him with a kiss.
“You must love me, as I love you.”
“You forgot the dilly dillies,” she said, snuggling down into the blankets. “Too proud for them, I suppose.”
He pulled her closet. “No, just saving them up for when I learn the song well enough to sing to Alexander.”
The baby grunted, whined, the basket rustled, but he did not cry out.
She chuckled. Her laugh felt like a lullaby.
“Do you know any songs?” Her question was guileless, wondering.
“I am afraid any songs I know, I learned in a public house or a university club.”
“Oh dear. I think him too young to know those just yet.”
“Good God, I should hope so. For now, it is impossible to imagine him walking and talking, let alone going to University.”
Daphne gasped. “I cannot even imagine him going up and down stairs on his own.”
“That settles it, he never shall. He is to remain small and portable.”
“Well, maybe after he has finished teething. I should like to sleep through the night sometime soon.”
“Very well. Once he has cut his teeth, he shall stop growing, and you can teach him all the lullabies you know.”
“I shall have to teach you, too.” Daphne smiled up at him. “You are on lullaby duty, should we be blessed with another.”
“Am I? Who decided this?”
She sighed and draped an arm dramatically across her eyes. “I did, just now. You and Alexander can lull that one.”
He smirked, though she could not see him. “You may live to regret this, I should hate to turn our children against music.”
“They are half Bridgertons, it is in their very natures.”
Simon bit his lip. She knew, she understood, his past. He has told her of the silence of this house, of his speech difficulties, of how quiet his childhood was. He pulled her into an embrace. She moved her arms around his shoulders and opened her eyes again.
“Thank God for that, I should hate for it to be too quiet around here.”
He leaned down to kiss her, and the baby cried again.
“You were saying?” Daphne said as they both dragged themselves out of bed.