Yes, gentle readers, above is Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire, England, whose turbulent history is memorialized in some of Shakespeare’s plays as “Pomfret Castle.” Indeed, this could very well be where Lady Eleanor meets Lord Hugh, only to fall head-over-heels for his blue-eyed gaze that stares right through her to the depths of her very being . His castle is not far, a few hours’ ride. Marcie’s ancient ancestor, Lord Thomas Darcy, Baron of Templehurst, held that castle for King Henry VIII — until Lord Thomas led the Pontefract Rebellion against the king — an action which did not endear him to Henry. Alas, thus, Lord Thomas’s life was ended at the Tower of London, in King Henry’s usual fashion. Lady Eleanor does not know this, because of course, she lives in 1272, almost three hundred years before this sad event. To her, Pontefract is home…and, much as she hates to admit it to herself, how she dreams of sharing it with Lord Hugh. Her rebellious nature (genetic, no doubt!) leads her to confront Lord Hugh angrily time after time during their meetings about the forest poachers and demand that he treat her with respect. Lord Hugh, however, is quite sure no woman is neither to be trusted or respected. Eleanor has her work cut out for her, and so she paces the floors in the castle, planning and plotting how to vanquish Hugh, once and for all. Oh, but would not Lord Hugh grace the Great Hall with his handsome, arrogant face?
Eleanor is particularly thrilled this New Year! By looking at the above image, can you imagine why? Indeed, her face feels warm, her heart is beating quickly, and her hands are clasped in hope — perhaps, perhaps, this will be the year she can find true love! Of course, the very, very last person she would want to fall in love with is that arrogant, supercilious Lord Hugh, he of the piercing blue-eyed gaze that shakes her to her core. Eleanor frowns and unclasps her hands, doubling them into fists. Nay! she tells herself. She shall not quail under that gaze, but meet it headlong and vanquish him. How can he have the nerve to suggest that mismanagement of her forests is to blame for the rampant poaching both of their forests are experiencing? Most certainly not! Someone dastardly and connniving is at the bottom of this poaching, and she is determined to discover who it is. In the meantime, she does wish that being in the same room as Lord Hugh did not send her heart racing. It must be caused by anger, right, dear reader?
Ah, yes, Eleanor is no Cinderella, she who owns her lands and chase and castle as a fief from the wretched Lord of Litchfield, but, she has the wherewithal and spunk to defeat most anyone. Most of all, she would like to defeat Lord Hugh, who, at the moment is aggravating her to the umpteenth degree by being his usual arrogant self, disparaging her ability to manage her lands and forest, and, heavens forfend, impugning her honor by accusing her of being so inept that the poachers have almost overridden both their chases. But, all that said, Lady Eleanor would love to write something that would sting Lord Hugh into recognition of her abilities and her honor and her integrity. But, for that, she may need to be published….and even then, if he were to read it, would he be able to infer her longing for him, despite her rancor? So many mixed emotions, dear reader. What think you?
Of course, Eleanor has no idea that Daniel Boone (his national day is June 7) ever existed, because he lived in the 19th century, and she lives in the 13th, but, were she to see this painting and to read about him, she would mark a resemblance between him and *sighs* Lord Hugh. They are both brave, intrepid, scornful of risks, and enjoy pursuit of game. Eleanor wishes Hugh would pursue her, naturally, but, so far, he treats her with condescension–when he’s not lambasting her about the management of her forests. Ah, well, Eleanor must needs be patient, just as Daniel Boone was, and she may win her quarry. Perhaps, just perhaps, Lord Hugh will decide he cannot resist her charms any longer. What do you think, dear readers? Will Lord Hugh change the venue for his hunting from his forest chase to Lady Eleanor’s castle?
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?
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 quite thrilled that National Limerick Day is coming up. In anticipation, she has been taking quill to parchment and composing a few of her own.
There once was a Lord named Hugh
Who consistently caused a “to-do.”
Whether he grinned at the wenches
Or fought in the trenches,
He always made trouble anew.
There once was a Lord named Hugh
Over whom women would blush and coo.
He was sure he deserved all
But he was prime for a fall;
Since Eleanor knew he was due.
There once was a Lord named Hugh
Who thought every woman a shrew.
He disdainfully thought
Each could be bought,
Till Eleanor bested him anew.
Putting down her quill pen, Eleanor gazes out the window of her solar at her forest. A smile twitches at the corners of her mouth. Wouldn’t she love to have a messenger deliver those to Lord Hugh? He would be beside himself. Ah, but, then he might guess her feelings about him, no? She sighed. Eleanor glances at the fire in the hearth. She could burn the limericks…or send them. Eleanor’s cheeks warm as she thinks of Lord Hugh. What should she do, dear readers?
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.