A Lady is Always Kind
Eleanor watched as a cloud of dust made its way over the hill towards the estate.
It had been nearly a week since Katherine had left Eleanor with Mary and Blythe. It was positively horrendous.
Eleanor now remembered exactly why she never had had children. They were a hassle. They were needy. They were disturbing.
When Eleanor had finally managed to get a few moments, alone, with her husband, the baby would suddenly need her and only her. When she had finally settled down with a good book, Blythe would need to go out for a few moments.
The young babe had used Eleanor as a replacement for her mother, knowing far well that Eleanor would suffice as a cuddle object.
And Eleanor didn’t mind. She loved the young babe with all her heart... but Eleanor was in desperate need of some time to herself.
“Blythe, would you mind preparing Mary? I believe her parents will be home.” Eleanor called as she whisked herself away from the window.
Eleanor had the servants prepare some food and a hot bath. She knew how hard riding could be on an individual, especially after fighting a war.
“What on heaven’s green earth are you doing, woman?” Jacque asked as he looped his arm around Eleanor’s middle, pulling right up against him.
“Katherine and Drake are coming home! We can finally kick the little babe off to their room and not ours.” Eleanor exclaimed, turning in his arms and grinning.
Jacque tapped her nose with his finger, “And we can work on getting one of our own?”
Eleanor shook her head, “Now, now mister. We talked about—”
A knock interrupted the two of them and a servant boy came in, “There is someone at the door for you, your ladyship.”
It was uncanny for anyone to come to the door for Eleanor and not Jacque, but Eleanor didn’t mind.
She waltzed into the foyer, ready to scoop up her young protégée in a hug. She had missed Katherine dearly, even though she had understood her reasons for leaving them. She missed her best friend.
A frown formed on her face when she came into the brightly lit room. Eleanor had made it a habit not to frown, as it made her look older, but she could not help the confusion that overtook her.
A young boy, dressed in the royal court’s attire, held his hat in his hand, standing at full attention. “Ma’am”
Eleanor cocked her head to the side, “You will have to forgive, dear boy, but I was expecting a lady and her husband. What is it you wanted?”
The boy came forward, lowering his head slightly, “Ma’am, I was sent by Lord Thomas Drake of his majesty’s court. I have come to inform you that his wife was found dead in the forest nearly the border of his Majesty’s camp. I regret to inform you and so proceed to bring you her personal affections, as requested by his Lordship.”
Eleanor laughed, “Excuse me? I believe you have the wrong girl!”
The boy frowned, “You are Lady Eleanor of Blenheim?”
“The same Lady who is related to Katherine?”
The boy shook his head, “Then I have made no mistake, ma’am. Lady Katherine Drake was found dead.”
The words reverberated in her mind. Dead. Stabbed. Buried. Her heart broke in pieces. Her vision blurred with tears.
Eleanor sank to the ground, her body trembling. She pressed her face into her skirts as she screamed.
It seemed the only just thing to do, to scream in grief, as she had just lost the one girl she could consider her family. She had lost two years of hard work to rear an adult into a lady. Two years of forming Katherine into her best friend.
Eleanor felt as if she had lost her own child. The grief that overtook her was suffocating, so much that she found herself gasping for air between sobs.
She could sense her husband’s presence as he came bounding into the room. His arms engulfed her and rocked her back and forth.
“She’s gone. She’s gone. Katherine is dead and it is all my fault. She’s dead. Oh god, she’s dead.” She cried, over and over.
“Shh, it’s okay. She’s in a better place.” Jacque whispered.
Eleanor shook her head violently. She wouldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe it.
Katherine was gone.
“Mary, you get away from the nasty beast right this instant!” Eleanor screeched as the brown haired girl chased after Jacque’s hunting dogs.
Two years had passed since her birth and the child had changed significantly. She no longer was the blond girl she was as an infant but instead a dark, curly-haired girl with a huge appetite for playing with dogs.
For a girl of two and a half years, Mary had acquired long legs and a good set of balance. She was quick and cunning and marvelously brilliant.
Everything she wanted in a daughter.
Another girl, this time with dark curls, stumbled after Mary, trying to keep up with the older girls longer legs. Eleanor reached out to pick up the small child and placed her on her knee, “Now, Aurora, we have discussed this. You are not quite old enough to keep up with Mary.”
The little girl babbled in response and stuck her thumb right into her mouth.
“Elle!” Mary called as she ran up to Eleanor, “There’s a man coming up the road!”
Eleanor stood and placed the child on the floor and took Mary by the arm, “Stay by Aurora. Blythe, can you watch them?”
Eleanor gathered her skirts in her hand and quickly sped towards the front of the house. She watched as the beast galloped onto the gravel, carrying a dark haired man.
With a hard glare, Eleanor walked over to the man, “You have no right to be here!” She pushed her finger into his chest.
Anger flared through her bones and roared through her ears. Her other hand clenched at her side. He had been gone for two years. He had left his child to fend for herself and if Eleanor had not been willing, he would’ve left her to be an orphan.
“She is my child, Eleanor. I believe you forget your place.” The man growled.
“It’s Lady Eleanor, sir. I believe you have forgotten your place. I am also the guardian of Lady Mary. Now, as her guardian, I will not allow you to see her for she is far to busy with her studies.” Eleanor snapped, pressing her finger farther into his chest.
“She is my daughter, Eleanor. I have come to take her home.” Drake said as he brushed past Eleanor.
Eleanor whipped her skirts behind her and stormed after him. Her hand grabbed his shoulder, turned him and promptly slapped him right in the face.
“You left your infant daughter alone! You left her, simply assuming that Jacque and I would take care of her. You assumed she’d be alright. You assumed she’d make it through without her father. All because of your selfishness!” Eleanor hissed.
“I lost my wife!” Drake stated, staring back at her.
“And I lost my best friend! Katherine was my best friend and my child! I raised that girl and tore out my heart for her! I lost a piece of me that day.” Eleanor said, feeling the tears come back up. She had worked for the past two ears in controlling her emotions, mainly for her husband and daughters sake. But now, it was coming all back, “Did you know that I have five pieces to my heart?”
Drake rolled his eyes, “Do not waste—”
“One is for God. The second is for my husband. The third goes to Mary and the fourth to Aurora. Do you know who had the fifth piece? Katherine did! And the day she died, the day you buried her without me, was the day she took that piece away. So, no, you can’t see your daughter. Mary is happy here and if need be, she will be taken care of until the day I die. Now, get right back on your horse and ride back to whatever kingdom you came from.”
Drake stared at his horse for a second and then back at the estate, “I am to be King now. The Queen has asked me to marry her.”
“I do not care.” Eleanor retorted.
“Elle! Can I see the pony, please?” A small voice asked as a hand tugged the back of her dress.
Eleanor spun around in shock, “I told you to stay inside!”
Mary frowned, “But missy Bly told me I could come to see you, Elle.”
Eleanor brushed Mary’s hair aside, “Did she now?”
Drake came forward and knelt at the girl’s feet, “You must be princess Mary.”
Mary giggled, “No, no. I am not a princess. I am a lady.” Mary exhibited her clumsy curtsy and grinned at the man.
“My, my and what a pretty lady you are.” Drake whispered, kissing the top of her hand. He lifted her up into his arms and smiled at her, “You know, Mary, one day I will make you a Queen. You will rule at the side of my son, Edward, and begin a great kingdom. But first, you have to promise to keep up your studies, yes?”
“Will I get a princess crown?” Mary asked, her eyes growing wide.
Drake set her down and patted her on the head. Eleanor quickly gathered Mary back under her arm and watched as Drake bowed lowly, uttering the words she never wanted to hear.
“As her majesty wishes.”