Eleanor wishes all a very happy Christmas (as they say in England). Clasping her hands together in wishful thinking, she admits to herself that her Christmas would be complete with a special visit from (you guessed it!) that handsome Lord Hugh. Will he arrive with all his knights to toast the Christmas Eve in the Great Hall? She gazes out the window at her forests, hoping against hope she will see his entourage making its way through the trees. Do you think he can put aside his quarrel with her for just one day and feel the Christmas spirit? Ah, truth be told, he does have feelings for her, as well, but chooses to try and ignore them. We never know what the magic of Christmas can bring, dear readers!
Ah, yes, he doesn’t resemble the rotund fellow garbed in red with whom we are familiar, but Eleanor knows this San Nicola, the original Santa Claus. She has a few wishes for gifts under the tree, and one of them has intense blue eyes, a haughty manner, and–she is sure–a heart she wants to try to win. Will she receive her wish, dear reader?
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?
Yes, he united all the islands, the first ruler to do so. Eleanor has no idea, of course. The only uniting she cares about is seeing Lord Hugh again — and under kinder circumstances than the last time, when he condescended to her, as always. Why is he always so arrogant? Why does he not trust her intelligence? Eleanor sighs. She will vanquish him; just give her time! Then, he’ll see what ruling really means.
Yes, even in 1272, Eleanor is quite aware of April Fool’s Day, ‘t being a longstanding tradition. When in the village on this date, she will often see one peasant send another on a “fool’s errand,” much to the merriment of all. Sadly, Eleanor often feels like a fool herself, even ‘pon days that are not April 1, thanks to that arrogant Lord Hugh, he of the intense, blue-eyed gaze, who attempts to stare her down when they discuss the poaching crimes in their adjoining forests. She will not stand for that sort of treatment, and thus he thinks her insolent and a ninny, when she makes her case. The other reason she feels a fool is that her heart flutters a bit when Lord Hugh crosses the drawbridge to her castle, ready to meet again about catching the poachers. How could she have so many conflicting feelings at once? Is she a fool, indeed?
Ah, the luck of the Irish, Eleanor thinks wistfully. Perhaps someday, with any luck, that handsome, blue-eyed Lord Hugh will realize that she, and not her sister Mary, is the one for him. Such distress she endures! Not only is Lord Hugh determined to marry her younger sister, but, he continues to treat Eleanor with arrogance and condescension, so sure is he that she is a ninny –especially about the poaching in the forest and managing her lands — and not to be trusted. Little does he know! Luck — when will it arrive at the gates of her castle? Will it arrive in the person of Lord Hugh, whose intense gaze rakes her soul and drives all coherent thought out of her head? Is that the luck she should wish for? Such a dilemma….
Eleanor greets Valentine’s Day with a mixture of dread and longing….After all, that handsome Lord Hugh is never far from her thoughts, but oh, so far from her embrace! But, how can she wish to be with him, be held by him, when, at the same time, she dreads his presence? ‘Tis a constant frustration, to be sure, because when she sees him and his intense, blue-eyed gaze, her heart races, and yet, once he speaks in that condescending tone, chiding her for allowing poachers to ravage their forests, fury bubbles up in her, and she has to stifle the sarcastic words she would be so happy to say, but knows she should not. After all, he threatens to arrange to have her forests remanded to her liege lord, the disgusting Lord Litchfield, so to anger him further would not be politic. Ah, but Valentine’s Day….if only the forest problem could be resolved, then, then, perhaps she could receive her Valentine’s Day hope. What think you, dear reader?
Eleanor does think this small creature quite adorable, even thought ’tis not the hedgehog she is familiar with here in medieval England, but she does know the legend and custom behind it and this day, which is to celebrate Candlemas Day. “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.” So, she is attentive to the weather outside the castle today. She will light candles and wait for the day to unfold. Of course, if Lord Hugh were to arrive, the weather would be fair and bright — but, no, she remonstrates herself–he would bring clouds and rain. Frowning, she remembers his condescending manner as he chided her for allowing poachers into her forest. As if she would do so! Heavens forfend! His arrogant manner would indeed bring clouds and rain and thunderstorms. But….those blue eyes of his….perhaps a little bit of sun….dare she even imagine?
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?