Ah, doesn’t this make you wonder what Eleanor is writing with her quill pen on the parchment in front of her? She loathes the despicable William, thus his treatment as a cur on the pages of TORCH IN THE FOREST. On the other hand, she holds tightly the secret of her powerful attraction to that arrogant Lord Hugh, and she holds it so tightly she can hardly bear to admit to herself. How shall Lord Hugh be portrayed on those pages…? Those intense blue eyes, that chiseled chin, the arrogant tone…? What think you, dear readers? Many thanks to Eleanor’s writing companion, Meradeth Houston, for this gem of a graphic!
What say you, dear readers?
Verona, Italia, the home of those star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet!
Oh, heavens, forfend! Eleanor has never tasted such delight! Tomorrow being Rocky Road Ice Cream Day, she has asked the cooks to concoct as close a treat as they can to this fabled dessert, though ’tis known in the British Isles as “cream ice,” and was brought to Europe by the famed explorer Marco Polo. Of course, marshmallows were unknown in Eleanor’s England, but, she is very partial to the chocolate and almonds in the cream ice. She wonders if Lord Hugh would enjoy Rocky Road. Frowning, she thinks of Lord Hugh. Ah, but she has traveled her very own rocky road with Lord Hugh. Imagine the brass — he returned from the Crusades and immediately accused her of allowing poachers to run rampant in her forest, crossing into his lands and forest to poach at will. Where was he all those years? Not managing his own forests, ’tis for certain, and most likely chasing skirts as well as Moors. Eleanor has had her huntsmen and Chief Forester on the watch, trying to catch the miscreants for months, but, does Lord Hugh take account of that? She knows he casts aspersions on her abilities, for he has accused her to her face of being a worthless ninny! Rocky road, indeed. Hmmmm. Eleanor wonders and a smile twitches the corners of her mouth. How handsome would that arrogant Lord Hugh look with a dish of ice cream mashed across that stern visage? She giggles. Then, Lord Hugh would have his very own rocky road!
Eleanor is getting ready for St. Bernard of Monjoux’s day tomorrow. Of course she has heard of this generous and intrepid man, who spent forty years in the Alps, caring for travelers. Naturally, Eleanor doesn’t know that St. Bernard dogs even exist, since the breed was not even known of, back in 1272. Perusing her Book of Hours, she has noted that St. Bernard was venerated for his mission to convert pagans living in the mountains to the Christian faith. Hmmmm, Eleanor muses. How she would love to convert Lord Hugh from an arrogant, supercilious (oh, but breathtakingly handsome!) lord to a kinder, gentler man. How he does make her pulse race, especially when they argue about whose fault it is that the poaching continues in their adjoining forests. Her pulse races because she is angry with him, but that is not the only reason it does so. She frowns. How did she ever find herself in this conundrum — attracted to a man whose blue-eyed gaze can destroy her composure, making her cheeks warm and forcing every cogent thought to flee from her brain. Conversion….how can she work on Lord Hugh. Do you have any help for Eleanor, gentle readers?
Eleanor doesn’t know about Norwegian Independence Day, of course, because in her day the Norsemen, (oh those Vikings!), were feared, and rightly so. They had roamed and conquered at will for the last eight hundred years, even bringing law and order to her British Isles in 1066, in the person of William the Conqueror, he of Normandy. That is one reason the British no longer painted themselves blue with woad and wore rabbit skins and now had a legal system that worked. She had no idea the Norwegians would eventually become part of the kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark and finally wrest their independence from their rulers. She has an affinity for those Vikings, however, because she can be fierce in her own way, confronting that cur, Lord William of Litchfield, as well as hunting down the poachers in her forests. Where she finds she cannot be fierce is in her thoughts of Lord Hugh, that handsome, arrogant neighboring lord. Well, yes, she puts up a good fight when she must meet with him, and he thinks her an impertinent young woman hardly worth his time, but, in secret, to her embarrassment, she discovers she harbors sweet longings for him, longings that make her blush. Where are those fierce Viking feelings? Alas, they say love conquers all, even those who wish they were more like Vikings. Why can she not conquer her own feelings?
Of course, Eleanor has heard of San Nicola, the revered bishop of the fourth century, who was known for giving people unexpected gifts, and who is celebrated on May 7 in Italy. Fishermen take his statue out to sea and then bring it back in again, to commemorate his return to Bari. Eleanor is definitely less interested in the ceremony than she is in what San Nicola was known for. An unexpected gift, she muses. What would San Nicola bestow on her? Would it be the ability to stare down that arrogant Lord Hugh? Ah, no, because one look in those piercing blue eyes sets her heart a-fluttering. Perhaps her unexpected gift might be to best Lord Hugh in one of the many altercations they are engaged in over her management of her forests — he calls it “mismanagement,” of course, and his constant accusations of her allowing poaching to run rampant. ‘Twould be a gift, indeed, that one. Then, Eleanor blushes hotly, what if the gift were a kiss from Lord Hugh? That, indeed, would be MOST unexpected….and, she admits, perhaps most welcome…..
Eleanor is thrilled to know that it is National Blueberry Pie Day, although she wishes that Lord Hugh might be coming to the castle to share in this delight. The cooks are working hard in the kitchens to craft this dessert, and the kitchen boys are resting after having scoured the forest to find the berries. The delicious scent wafts up the stairs to her solar, and she wonders if she dare intrude and have a slice or two without annoying the cooks. If Lord Hugh knew how delectable the blueberry pies were, he would, no doubt, saddle his steed and race here to Strathcombe. Why would he not race to the castle just for her? Eleanor muses. Why is he so insistent on seeing her as a ninny, incapable of managing her own lands and forest? What has happened to him to turn him into such an arrogant (though handsome, Eleanor sighs) lord — well, she admits, she does know that scandalous story of his late wife…but she, Eleanor is not the same at all. Lord Hugh believes all women to be disloyal fools; Eleanor is determined to prove him wrong, and once she makes up her mind to do something, Lord Hugh will have more than blueberry pie on his face to contend with. She smiles to herself. Just wait, Lord Hugh…just wait. She will vanquish him.
From somewhere in the castle, Eleanor hears music, but ’tis music like no music on earth — nor is it heavenly music, either, there being no harps involved, nor would even angels have the patience to suffer such music to be played in their presence. In fact, it is a cacophonous mixture of harsh sounds and screeches, the like of which she has never heard before, nor ever wishes to hear again. In her experience, it sounds a bit like hog-slaughtering time in the village. Frowning, she holds a kerchief to her nose, remembering the sounds and stench. What on earth is going on? she wonders. Listening to the reverberations through the castle, she asks herself, why would people voluntarily subject themselves to such agony? The drums are producing a ringing in her ears, the like of which she’s never felt before. ‘Tis time to put a stop to this nonsense, she decides, and off she goes to find the miscreants and tell them to stop. What if Lord Hugh were to appear and hear this disgraceful “music”? Ah, Lord Hugh…she would rather have a lute player here with some soft, gentle music to perhaps lull him into a gentle mood of…she blushes. No, wait. Lord Hugh and gentle? Those two words do not belong in the same sentence. If he were to hear this horrendous “music,” might he like it? After all, it does sound like a battle in full bore, and Lord Hugh likes nothing better than a good fight, whether with a knightly opponent, or with her. Frowning, off she goes to search for the source and to put an end to it, once and for all.