In the eight years that had passed since their wedding, Pippa and Charlie had lived a wondrous life. Between the music and the joy of their daughters, Pippa still felt the weight of the early days when love was fresh and new.
It had not grown stale, even with all the days that had gone by. She still looked at Charlie with the same admiration that she’d always had for him. Although Pippa could accept that they had grown older, that they were changing, and they had many more commitments with three little girls in tow, her heart still fluttered when she heard Charlie strike the keys on the piano, and she knew it was time for another song.
“Will you sing with us, Mummy?” Annabeth asked, tugging Pippa’s sleeve.
“Of course, my dear. I shall always be delighted to sing with you and your sisters,” she replied.
“Then you had best be quick and gather around,” Charlie urged, already sliding onto the bench. “I have a lovely tune to play, and I want to hear the voices of the women I love.”
Pippa laughed and joined with the music as Charlie picked up a jaunty tune he had written after Esther, their youngest, was born.
O’ what is a man to do,
When he is all alone?
When ’neath his feet,
And ’round his knees,
They are filling up his home?
There they are, the ladies!
O’ there they are!
Everywhere I look I see them,
Around me, near and far!
Pippa the mother,
Then came Annabeth,
Soon after appeared yet another!
Henrietta arrived and was perfectly timed,
But now, what have we here?
Esther, my littlest dear!
At that moment, as usual, Esther burst into laughter. The playful song continued, and Pippa sang the words she knew by heart. An entire verse was dedicated to each of the girls and, during Henrietta’s verse, Annabeth tickled and teased her, eliciting yet more giggles from the three beautiful children.
They had Pippa’s blonde hair but Charlie’s blue eyes. Henrietta resembled Charlie the most, with a straight nose and more angular face, whereas Annabeth and Esther had Pippa’s more rounded features and button nose.
In all, she knew they were a beautiful family. Pippa loved every moment that she indulged with them, dreaming about the future when her girls would grow to become the ladies of British society. They had not been born as nobility, but she cared nothing for that. Rather, they were girls who would have a chance to make a difference, and that was a good deal more important to Pippa than anything else.
When the song came to an end, Charlie turned to them all and feigned exhaustion.
“Again! Again!” Esther shouted.
“Oh, my dear, I fear that we must go and get ready. Your mother needs to get you all to the bath and then into your lovely little dresses,” Charlie said.
“Papa, must we? Can we not sing a few more songs?” Annabeth whined.
“I am sorry, my love, but we need to get everything ready. Your mother has a lot she needs to get done, and I fear that getting you girls ready is the first part of that,” Charlie replied.
Pippa sighed. He was right. The day was moving along quickly and, although Miss Housen was already working away in the kitchen, Pippa would need to help her. There was much to be done.
Pippa had worked very hard to learn how to cook and keep things tidy around the home. Although she had been accustomed to servants doing all those things, she knew that Charlie would not be able to provide anyone to cook and clean all the time. In those early years, Pippa had done it all herself, and she had failed dramatically at times.
But after she had given birth to Henrietta four years ago, it all became too much, and Charlie and the quartet worked very hard to get more opportunities to play music and make enough money to provide. Joseph had needed it as well, particularly once he fell and love and married his own darling.
Now, they had Miss Housen to help around the home, but Pippa still tried to do as much as she could when she was able. And as she got the girls ready for the afternoon, Pippa realised just how fortunate she was.
She was fortunate that, despite their meagre circumstances, she and Charlie could afford a lovely home, a maid to help, and anything needed by the girls. She was also fortunate because her mother and father still did whatever they were able to help Pippa and Charlie. Oftentimes, Pippa would not ask, but her father would simply come by for a visit and bring gifts for the girls. It was a kind thing for him to do, but Charlie’s efforts had been quite successful, and it was rare they needed assistance.
After Pippa finished getting the girls ready, she rushed to aid Miss Housen while Charlie entertained the children a little while longer. The meal was nearly finished by the time Elizabeth and her husband arrived with William, their son.
“Elizabeth, how good it is to see you,” Pippa said.
“And you, my dear. I feel that it has been such a long time. Two weeks? Three?”
“I believe not since the Barrington Ball. I have missed you, but I am glad you are here. We must spend some time catching up,” Pippa said.
They sat in the parlour while the children played, and Elizabeth’s husband chatted away with Charlie. It was only a short time later when Joseph arrived, along with his wife, Emily, and their children, Daniel and Millicent.
“Come, sit with us, Emily,” Pippa said, ushering her over to where Pippa and Elizabeth were.
“Am I intruding?” Emily asked.
“Not at all. We were just discussing when we ought to all go to Brighton together. We should be most excited if you and Joseph would join us with the children,” Elizabeth told her.
Emily smiled sweetly, clearly excited by the prospect. But Pippa could see the gentle worry in her eyes about the cost of such a thing.
“Elizabeth’s husband has a family estate there. We shall not have to rent rooms, which I am most grateful for,” Pippa said.
Emily’s shoulders relaxed, and she appeared more eager than before.
“Indeed? That sounds remarkable,” she said.
“Very well!” Elizabeth said, clapping her hands together. “We shall find a month when we are all able to go and enjoy ourselves. I know that Brighton is not the far east or Europe or any of these other countries, but it is a lovely place regardless.”
Pippa nodded in agreement. It had been five years since she and Charlie had visited Italy, and she was desperate to see more of the world. But for now, Brighton sounded perfectly lovely, and she was excited to see the ocean.
Shortly before dinner, the bell rang again, and this time, Pippa knew she would be greeting her mother and father. She had seen them the previous week and noted how playful they were with one another. It had been a long time of hard work and gentle nudging, but it seemed as though they were finally coming to understand each other.
“Mother, Father. Welcome,” Pippa said, ushering them inside.
“Oh, dear. Are we the last to arrive?” her mother asked.
“Quite fashionably so,” Pippa replied with a laugh.
Her mother was instantly caught up with Elizabeth and Emily, but Pippa leaned towards her father.
“I am still amazed at times when I see the two of you together. I never imagined that you would truly enjoy being around one another,” she said.
“Nor did I, Pippa. And while I confess there are days when we still find it difficult, it has been quite remarkable to see how your mother has changed,” he said.
“Indeed, she has,” Pippa sighed.
“It is all because of you, you know,” her father said.
Pippa turned to him in surprise. She heartily disagreed but wondered what made him think so.
“What do you mean by that, Father? It was her change that allowed Charlie and me to be together,” she said.
“No, my dear. She only allowed that because I insisted upon it, and I had never made such demands of her before that. But as she saw the two of you grow in your love and commit to one another, she knew that she wanted it as well. And that has been quite a good thing for us both,” he said.
Pippa had never thought to take credit for the improvements in her mother and father’s marriage. Rather, she had always believed it was their change that enabled her to be with Charlie. But when she saw how her mother behaved so girlishly with her father, Pippa knew that whatever had happened, it was a beautiful thing that had blossomed into a stunning romance.
Although the townhouse was modest and simple, Pippa was glad to have everyone over so they could enjoy time together and indulge in being with those whom they cared for most. The children had a tremendous time with their friends, and the girls could be with their grandmama and grandpapa, while the adults could plan for the future and catch up on all that had happened of late.
“Are you attending Lord Seabright’s ball next weekend?” Pippa’s father asked as they sat down to dinner.
“Lord Seabright? Oh, no, I am not,” she replied, shaking her head.
“Why ever not? It would be an excellent chance for you to get out again and see some of the faces you have not seen for some time. You know, Lord Seabright is very well connected,” he said.
“Yes, Father, I know. But Charlie is to play at the ball. You know how I dislike attending balls where he is made to work and I am dancing and cannot interrupt him. There is no sense in going to a ball if I am unable to dance with my husband,” she said.
Her father appeared deep in thought for a moment before he brightened, as though an idea had struck him.
“Very well. If you are being invited to many balls that you cannot attend because your husband is working, I suppose I must throw a ball in your honour. I shall hire some of Charlie’s other friends, but all members of the quartet shall be guests rather than the musicians,” he said.
Pippa laughed and beamed at her father for this generous thought.
“Oh, Father, you are too kind. Do you really think you would like to throw a ball?” she asked.
“Certainly. It gets lonely at the estate without my darling girl. Your mother and I can only talk so much about doilies, you know,” he teased.
“Then we should be very happy to attend. But, Father, you mustn’t feel as though you have to do things like this for us. I know that I have chosen a simple life, but I would not trade it. I am happy,” Pippa said.
And she meant it. When she looked across the table and saw her husband sitting there, talking excitedly with Joseph about the trip to Brighton, she was reminded that this was exactly the life she was always meant to have. It was not grand or noble; it was not central to society. But it was happy, and she was at peace.
Lord and Lady Ganton were often the ones spoken of in the centre. They had become quite the fashionable couple after Pippa had pointed Lord Ganton in Lady Anna’s direction. Married within a few short months, they had enjoyed a brief courtship and the support of everyone in their lives.
Pippa was always happy to see them when she could, but she never wanted a life like theirs. It was not important to her. She much preferred being at home with her daughters. She loved the readiness of greeting her husband when he came home after a long night of playing music or during the days when he would sometimes be hired to teach a young noble child who was interested in learning the pianoforte.
There were days when she missed the excitement of socialising, but most of the time, she preferred this instead. She had little interest in making a show of herself and, here, that was not necessary.
The evening continued with joy and excitement. Travel plans were made and Pippa still hoped that one day, they would have a chance to go even further. Until then, she was happy with this. She was happy with simplicity.
“I must get the girls down to sleep,” Pippa said as they sat in the drawing room after dinner, realising how late the time was.
“Oh, dear. Yes, we ought to depart,” Elizabeth added.
Soon enough, the couples were all preparing to make their way home, and Pippa and Charlie said their farewells, grateful that they had been given another chance to spend with those they loved the most.
Once the guests were all gone, Pippa and Charlie rushed the girls up the stairs and to their room.
“But, Mummy, I don’t want to go to bed,” Henrietta complained.
“I know, my dear, but it is time. You have already stayed up quite a bit later than you are accustomed to. Now, let us get you changed into your nightdress,” Pippa said.
They got the girls down for the night and sang them a quick lullaby. Henrietta and Esther were already asleep by the time the song finished. Annabeth flashed a quiet smile and tucked herself cosily under the covers as Pippa and Charlie left the room.
“They certainly have strong personalities,” Pippa said with amusement as she changed into her own nightdress.
“Indeed, they do. Henrietta is so much like I was when I was a child,” Charlie replied.
“Well, I hope she maintains her tenacity and bravery in the years to come. At least, for you, the demanding behaviour was tempered, and you simply grew determined,” Pippa said.
“And she will do the same. She is young yet,” Charlie said.
Pippa sighed happily and sat on the bed. Charlie came to sit beside her, and he gently kissed the top of her head.
“Did you enjoy the evening?” he asked.
“Very much,” she answered. “It was wonderful to see those I love most in the world. I think they had an enjoyable time as well.”
“Yes, I think so. And how wonderful it shall be when we all go to Brighton together. I know that you still long for adventures, and we are afforded so few of them,” Charlie said.
“I think we have more than enough adventures,” Pippa disagreed.
“Not the sort you expected when we were younger. You wanted to see the world,” he reminded her.
“And I still do. But I would rather see Esther content to eat her broccoli. And I am certain that the East Indies are beautiful, but I would rather brush Annabeth’s impossible curls and see how they shine when taken care of,” Pippa said.
“I am so grateful that you see it this way, Pippa. That you see our girls as the greatest adventure,” Charlie said.
“What more could I explore that would strike my heart the way motherhood does? You and I have created a remarkable life, Charlie. And none of that would have been possible had you not chosen to pursue me when it was madness to do so. Nothing we have would have been ours if you had not chosen to be bold. I am so grateful for that boldness. I love it, and I love you,” Pippa said.
“My darling, I love you as well. I hope you know that by now. But when I think back to those early days, when I tried to capture you in the notes on a page, I realise just how foolish it was,” he said.
“You are still excellent at capturing our lives through music,” Pippa retorted.
“Oh, I enjoy writing little tunes to entertain you and our girls, but they are a mere reflection of my thoughts. They are not even the smallest fraction of what beauty we truly have here. And while you may credit my boldness, I credit your trust,” Charlie said.
Pippa laughed at that, thinking it was a silly thing to say.
“Trust? I love you, Charlie, but that was the sort of trust that could have got me into a dreadful circumstance. I was mad for choosing to allow a stranger to leave me music as you did. But I am glad for that madness. It was the greatest thing I could have done,” she said.
“Whatever the past held, it has brought us to this life, Pippa. And when I have you here, beside me, nothing could make me happier. Nothing could make me regret the struggles we faced, nor the choices we made,” he said.
With that, Pippa very much agreed. She had given up many things that people believed important. She had turned her back on a life of wealth, on the very travel she had longed for, on a title that would elevate her position in society. She had left it all behind because she found something that she deemed of a far greater value.
When she had met Charlie, everything changed for Pippa. It was precisely what Elizabeth had always told her. There was little sense in searching for love. When one searches for love, they find it—but it could be a paltry version of the real thing.
Being found by love? That was the best decision Pippa had ever made. She had been found by Charlie.
“Are you tired?” Charlie asked her.
“I am. I think I should like to go to sleep tonight and, in the morning, awake to a brand new melody,” Pippa said.
“A new melody?”
“Our life is a song, Charlie,” she said. “And it is far from over.”
Charlie smiled and drew close, his forehead resting on hers for just a moment before he leaned in for a kiss.