“She is mine!” Robert exclaimed as he smiled down at his newborn daughter cradled so peacefully in his arms. Tears came to his eyes as he stroked her soft brown hair and his voice trembled as he spoke softly now, “I thought that mother was being biased, but this child is the most beautiful, wonderful baby that I have ever seen!”
“Robert, did you ever doubt that it was your child that I have carried?” Leigha asked quietly, a different tear from his escaping and falling rapidly down her cheek as she spoke, “Did you not believe me?”
Leigha sat waiting apprehensively for Robert to speak. The room grew cold about her as he seemed to lose himself with the child, shutting Leigha out.
“Robert,” she said tensely after several minutes had passed, “I love you, you know that!”
“You love Simon as well,” he said with a trace of bitterness in his voice. Refusing to look up at her, he kept his attention on his child as he went on, “Until I saw our child, I was not sure that she was of my seed. Surely you can understand that. Though I prayed that she would be mine and carry on my name after I die, I did not know the truth of it until now.”
“Robert, how can you say that?” Leigha cried, her tears falling freely now.
“You gave yourself to Simon as well and not all that long after having been with me,” he looked up at her with pain and anger in his eyes as he hissed in a low voice, “You cannot deny that!”
“But I was already with child at the time only I didn’t know the signs of it! Had I known, I would have told you before you had left for Clairemont’s Keep!” Leigha pleaded, her heart aching from the coldness in Robert’s voice that cut through her like a knife. “I swore to you that the child is undoubtedly yours! Why could you not believe me? I had no reason to lie about it. She is yours, just look at her and you’ll know that ‘tis truth!”
“Yes, I can see that she is mine,” Robert said quietly as he gazed again at the tiny beauty he held close against him and stroked her fine, downy head.
He then looked up to meet Leigha’s tear-misted eyes with his own. Silence hung heavy between them for several minutes, crossed only by the melding of his hazel eyes with her bright green orbs. Robert seemed to search into her very soul. Neither spoke as Leigha’s heart beat hard within her breast. She knew not what to say and so waited anxiously for him to speak again.
“We have talked all around the subject of you and Simon, evading the issue whenever it threatened to come up these past few months,” he began, keeping his eyes locked with hers as he spoke. “I have tried very hard to understand how you could love two men. I alternated between the thoughts that if you loved him, you could not possibly really love me as you say. But if you truly love him and not me, why would you leave him to be with me? Is it just your sense of duty or even perhaps guilt? I think not and have come to believe that you do love me after all. I . . . I know that most of the time I am not in a proper state of mind, what with the injuries and the infections keeping me so often from rational thinking, but when I can think straight, I spend my effort on these thoughts and try to face the fact that you do love both Simon and I. I have also finally faced the fact that I am dying, and it will be soon now I believe.”
“No, Robert, you will live, you must!” Leigha cried, taking his free hand in hers, willing her strength to him as she went on. “You cannot die now!”
“Leigha, you have known that I am and that I cannot hang on to life much longer,” he said gently, squeezing her hand in comfort and trying hard to smile as he said, “I have held on this long only because I had to see my child. No, don’t cry, it is a fact that we both must face! Leigha, I’m tired of fighting, and I grow weaker every day. There are times when I am unconscious or delirious for days on end and these are increasing! It is only by God’s sweet mercy that I am alert enough now to be able to wrap up the last pieces of my life so that I may die in peace. I don’t know how long I can hold on to this slender line that keeps me with you in mind and body, so you must not argue with me and waste the precious time that I have been granted. Promise me that you will keep your chin up. Smile for me.”
“I will, Robert,” Leigha promised, smiling weakly and trying to obey his wishes though her lips trembled and her eyes remained filled with tears.
“That’s my girl.” He smiled at her, knowing how hard she was taking his words. “As I was saying, I have finally faced the fact that you do love Simon. No, I know that you love me as well. I have also faced the fact that I am a dying man, and I leave behind me a fine wife and a beautiful daughter. Leigha, you need love in your life. God knows that you were a very lonely child with your mother dead and your father gone most of the time. You know the depths of a man’s love, first from me and then from Simon. You must have someone with you, not just Mother and Father or our little child here. If you have only them, you will grow too dependent and live your life through them. You must have your own life as well. If Simon can return, your life lies with him. I give you my blessing in that matter.”
“Oh Robert!” Leigha said softly, barely controlling her tears as she exclaimed, “God, how I love you!”
“I know, I know, Leigha,” he said with a smile then sighed and looked down at the sleeping child in his arms. Looking back up into Leigha’s face, he said, “You must now promise me something.”
“Anything, my love,” she said without hesitation.
“Simon will be her father if he returns,” he began, his words growing weaker for he had already expended too much of his precious energy. Laying his head back against his pillows, he said, “Promise me that she will be a Dagon, not a Montieth!”