“Sir Guy’s Dilemma”, Ch. 13–The Middleton-Talkington Betrothal Couple Reunites, to Lord Archer’s Lament, 1/13/13 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #343)
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[From time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Sir Guy, Clive Standen as Lord Archer, Emma Watson as Lady Rose, etc.]
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Author’s Mature Content Note: “Sir Guy’s Dilemma” is a story of romance and intrigue set amidst Medieval times. As such there will be some passages in this story involving heartfelt love scenes (R rated) and some passages involving highly dramatic moments. I will label the maturity rating of those chapters accordingly. Otherwise, the general rating for this story is PG or PG-13 due to some mature situations and topics. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read the chapters with those labels. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Recap from the previous installment: Sir Guy had a frank talk with Lord George about his plan to relinquish the Middleton Estates management to Lord George–a decision made more clear by the extent of the injury to Lord George’s arm precluding his return to soldiering and to King Richard in the Hold Land–with Sir Guy squelching Lord Archer’s concern for Sir Guy being unappreciated by his brother-in-law Lord George. But while the healer woman Althea continues to make Lord George drink all exotic and awful forms of medicine, Lord George absents himself from his bed chamber and seeks out his baby niece Lady Helen and happens upon the lovely and blushing Lady Mary Havorford–whereupon a comfortable conversation ensues with the shy young girl somehow losing her shyness in his presence.
“Sir Guy’s Dilemma”, Ch. 13–The Middleton-Talkington Betrothal Couple Reunites, to Lord Archer’s Lament
Though Middleton Manor is a larger home with twelve family and guest bed chambers, they are filled to bursting with family and guests and their servants. One almost needs a score card to keep track of all of the aristocrats on hand this Friday beginning the week’s end. There is Sir Guy and his Lady Rose, their son Seth, and their daughter the now five month old baby Lady Helen–that is four bed chambers. Then there is Lord Archer, Lord Havorford now joined by his wife Lady Havorford, and their daughter Lady Mary Havorford who is betrothed to Lord Archer–three bed chambers. Lord George is ensconced in a large guest bed chamber, then there are Lord and Lady Talkington in one bed chamber and the Lady Saline Talkington who is betrothed to Lord George in another bed chamber–making three more bed chambers in use. That leaves two bed chambers unoccupied–for the moment. And the servants are having to double up in their quarters because each lady has a ladies maid, each lord has a valet, and then there is the healer woman Althea and her two children–plus the usual 30 odd house and grounds staff. It is a very full house, indeed.
Having received the message from Lady Roseanna and Sir Guy that Lord George has returned from the Holy Land–albeit wounded–the Talkington family is in attendance for a weekend visit. They have the express purpose of reacquainting their daughter Lady Saline with Lord George since they hope to advance the marriage contract. Of course, theirs is not the only marriage contract in place since Lord Archer is betrothed to the lovely and sweet Lady Mary Havorford.
The large dining hall at Middleton Manor can easily host a large banquet of 100–as it does during harvest days and Christmas celebrations–or smaller gatherings with elegant intimacy. The long rectangular burnished dark wood dining table is set with fine white linen cloth table top covering upon which Lady Roseanna has embroidered the letter “G” for Gisborne [(2) right] in a correspondingly white silken thread at the four corners of the table cloth at the table corners–the monogrammed design is interwoven with delicate leaves, and petite point flowers.
The ten of them are dining en famille, but still with some formality–with no guest sitting next to their spouse nor their intended as custom dictates–and alternating man and woman. Sir Guy and Lady Roseanna are sitting opposite each other across the long table. To Lady Roseanna’s right are Lord Havorford, Lady Eliza Talkington, Lord Archer, and Lady Saline. To Sir Guy’s righter are Lady Havorford, Lord George, Lady Mary, and Lord Talkington. As Sir Guy and Lady Roseanna preside over dinner at midday with their eight family and guests who are soon to be family in attendance–with little Seth eating and Lady Helen sleeping in their rooms with their watchful nannies–the dinner conversation mood starts out politely.
Eliza Lady T: “Rose, my dear, you have outdone yourself with your embroidery of this linen cloth. I myself do not possess such skill as you.”
Lady Roseanna: “Thank you Lady Eliza, you are most kind.” She beams at all of her guests.
This is Lady Roseanna’s first large hostessing event since baby Lady Helen was born–and she has taken great care with every detail. There are also silver candelabras shimmering with as yet unneeded candlelight since it is midday alternating with short vases with flowers in them down the middle of the table–such that only the taller men can see over them to the people on the other side of the table to them. Each place setting has pewter trenchers for their food and forks, knives, and even spoons crafted out of silver for each diner–no sharing of utensils nor need to use their fingers and risk soiling their fine clothes.
Lady Mary H: She smiles at her hostess. “It is very pretty, Lady Rose. And your embroidery of the framing of the “G” is, too. I am still working on just doing letters.” She shrugs her shoulders sheepishly at her limited embroidery or other wifely skills at present. She looks demurely about the table at the men–including her betrothed Lord Archer who smiles encouragingly at her.
Lord Havorford: “Yes, my dear daughter. You will want to practice the letter “H”–for when you wed Lord Archer the Earl of Huntington and become his countess.” He says a bit pridefully at him having snagged an Earl for his daughter.
Lord Archer: “My Lady Saline will then no doubt want to practice her embroidery of “M”’s.” Lord Archer whispers to her sitting next to him.
Lady Saline: Flashing with a bit of pique at his allusion, she responds also whispering. “”M”’s are a simple enough monogram. I have mastered the whole alphabet, unlike your child bride.” She wonders how Lord Archer can seriously be entertaining marrying that slip of a girl, Lady Mary.
Lord Archer: “Your talents and skill do you credit. You will have to tell me if there are any letters that you especially favor.” He answers her sotto voce with some amusement
Across the table from them, Lord George also admires the table settings.
Lord George: “I say Rose and Guy, decent of you to provide us with knives and even forks. Haven’t had forks much when I was on the crusades with King Richard.” Guests often have to provide their own knives [(3)] for meals. Picking up his spoon, he blusters. “But what the devil is this for?” He turns the spoon around in the air as he looks at it curiously.
Sir Guy: “Ah! Well George, there have been many developments in gracious dining while you were away. I have found that when my lady wife provides us with spoons as well, there is usually a soft pudding dessert to enjoy.” He smiles broadly
Lady Roseanna: “Just so my lord husband.” She beams.
Lady Havorford: Watching Lady Roseanna cut her meat with her knife and fork, she follows suit, then pops the meat into her mouth with the fork–rather than with the knife. “Hmmm. This is most convenient. And it secures the food so that it doesn’t soil our nice clothes. Perhaps we should have a set made for ourselves.” She smiles at her husband and he nods.
Then others engage in private and intermittent conversation with the person to their right or left as the case may be.
Lady Mary: Seeing Lord George staring at the meat on his trencher and stabbing at it unsuccessfully with one hand holding his knife, she offers delicately. “Lord George, might I be so bold as to cut up your meat for you since your arm is still healing?” She smiles so sweetly, that he cannot fathom saying no.
Lord George: “You are most kind, Lady Mary.” He nods his head with a smile and hands her his knife as she picks up his fork. Then she begins to cut his food for him. The other table guests notice this familiarity between them, but ignore it as etiquette requires. That is, all ignore it except Lady Mary’s father Lord Haverford who marvels at her lack of shyness with Lord George.
Intent upon completing her cutting task, Lady Mary’s brow furrows a bit when she cuts a particularly thick section of the meat, such that it also causes her to purse her lips out in a bit of a pout that Lord George finds most enchanting.
Lady Mary: “There! Will that be enough to get you started, Lord George?” She looks up at him quite pleased with herself.
Lord George: “It is Milady. But won’t you call me George? Everyone does, even King Richard.” He does a little name dropping for her benefit.
Lady Mary: She drops her head in shyness as she nibbles on a piece of bread. “You are too kind, … George.” She takes another bite. “Did you like being in the Holy Land with King Richard?”
Lord George: Smiling broadly now at their growing familiarity–despite the fact that she did not offer him the same intimacy with regard to addressing her. “I did! He is a most agreeable fellow for a king.”
Lady Mary: “How did you hurt your arm?” She looks at him with innocent eyes.
Lord George: His smile turns to a frown. “I fear that it would shock your maidenly sensibilities to learn what transpired. It is perhaps a tale best told another time, Milady.” He nods his head solemnly. Though he came out of the fight alive, his opponent was not as fortunate.
Lady Mary: “I am sorry to cause you distress. I should not have asked. I forget myself sometimes with my curiosity. It is a failing that I hope Lord Archer will over look in me when we are wed.”
Lord George: Recognizing that Lady Mary has been taught to be meek, though that is not her natural inclination, he remarks. “My Lady Mary, never apologize for seeking knowledge. It is the one attribute that brought man out of dwelling in caves. Were you my betrothed and later wife, I would encourage you to nurture your interests and pursue what makes you happy.”
Lady Mary: “Lady Saline is a lucky lady then, to have so thoughtful and considerate a future husband.” She nods and smiles at him demurely.
Lord George: Sensing an opening with Lady Mary, he asks. “But surely as a man of the world, Lord Archer would also wish you to explore your interests as his betrothed.”
Lady Mary: “I do not know, … George.” She says hesitantly, still testing how his Christian name without its honorific sounds upon her tongue. “Lord Archer and I have not had much chance to speak with one another–even when we are in company with others.” She looks at Lord Archer sitting across and down from her as he speaks to Lady Saline.
Lord George nods his head knowingly. It is perhaps ironic that Lady Mary finds such ease in conversing with Lord George–a man who is not her betrothed. But then again, perhaps, that is the point. There is nothing for her to be anxious about with Lord George–no expectations of maidenly modest virtues that she must live up to. Nor must she seek to please Lord George as she hopes to do with Lord Archer–even though she does not know what that might be. Lady Mary can just be herself with Lord George.
Lord Archer: “I see that your betrothed, Lord George, has taken a kindly interest in my betrothed, Lady Mary.” He tilts his head in their direction while not taking his eyes off of the beautiful Lady Saline [(4) right].
Lady Saline: “Jealous?” She retorts with a bemused expression.
Lord Archer: “Should I be? Are you?” He asks boldly of a lady when even a husband does not pressure his wife for her feelings.
Lady Saline: “Not at all. It’s just that child brides are so easily swayed by dashing deeds such as Lord George being wounded in the service of our King. Have you done anything similarly grand to capture Lady Mary’s interest?” She asks pointedly, knowing of Lord Archer’s reputation with the ladies and pitying Lady Mary for her choice of whom she surmises will be an unfaithful husband.
Lord Archer: That question takes him aback. What has he done in his life but scheme and plot and thieve and woo women? “Well …?”
Lady Saline: “Yes? Have you thought of something to tempt her?” She smiles teasingly.
Lord Archer: “Though ladies should not be tempted, they should be courted, I have only my present plans to rebuild Nottingham Castle and restore the village to self sufficiency to recommend me.” Lord Archer tenses his jaw [(5) right]. He has become a citizen of a place and set down roots that he would not have thought possible even two years ago.
Lady Saline: “And is that a lucrative venture?” Lady Saline asks sarcastically as she sips her wine–not looking at Lord Archer, but rather her bethrothed Lord George happily engaged in conversation with Lady mary.
Lord Archer: “No!” He says pointedly. “It is costing me money.” Then realizing that Lady Saline has obviously been made aware of his shameful past, his pride is wounded at her tone. “My Lady, my past was all about the quick and easy enterprise and conquest–be it lucre or ladies.” He states shockingly.
Lady Saline: “Hhh!” She gasps at his frankness as she whips her head around to look at him with curiosity.
Lord Archer: “But that life could only be sustained for a little while–before the tug of time and new responsibilities made me rethink my future.”
Lady Saline: “And what is your future, Lord Archer?” She asks a bit interestedly. This Lord Archer is certainly not predictable like Lord George is to her.
Lord Archer: “I look to my brother Guy’s happiness with his Lady Rose and their children–and I wish for a similar fate.” He looks over at his brother who is chatting amiably with Lady Havorford.
Lady Saline: “So you will take a child bride in Lady Mary to continue your dynasty?” She rolls her eyes–her rather green eyes.
Lord Archer: “She is young, I admit. And as such, she must be treated with gentle reverence.” He says contritely. “If she and I are to be lifelong helpmates, then I must endeavor to ensure her happiness in all things.” He says stoically–when it is the Lady Saline whom he is in love with and whom he wishes to make happy.
Lady Saline: “If? Are you uncertain about whether the lady accepts you?” Her interest piques further.
Lord Archer: “No, the Lady Mary does as her parents wish. And I must do as my prince wishes. But we somehow have to turn these other people’s wishes into our own if we are to make a happy life together.” He says forlornly.
Lady Saline: Getting very quiet now, she agrees. “Yes. Having to fulfill one’s obligations is not always a noble duty when one’s personal choice is taken away from us.” She dejectedly pushes around the meat on her plate with her fork.
Lord Archer: “You are speaking of your own betrothal now?” His ears perk up.
Lady Saline: “No! Of course not!” She snaps. “George and I will be wed as has been long planned from our childhood. Then Rose and I will be real sisters as we always hoped to be.” She tries to say cheerfully.
Lady Archer: Asking hopefully. “And if there were another way, another choice? Would you welcome that, My lady?”
Lady Saline: “Lord Archer, neither of us have choices. We have the decisions of others thrust upon us. It is best that we accept it with equanimity or risk lifelong dissatisfaction.”
Lord Archer: Reaching out to clasp her hand under the table, he whispers pleadingly. “Do you not think we can hope for something more, Mylady? If I could choose for myself, I would choose ….” But his voice trails off, realizing the impropriety of him almost suggesting that his betrothed Lady Mary is not a fine choice.
Lord Archer and Lady Saline look into each others’ eyes for an instant longer than is proper, their hands still clasped together under the table.
Lord Talkington: Having observed his daughter in deep conversation with Lord Archer–and her intended deep in conversation with Lady Mary–Lord Talkington disengages from chatting with Lady Roseanna and addresses his daughter sharply. “Saline!”
Lady Saline whips her head up and looks at her father guiltily even as she withdraws her hand from Lord Archer’s under the table.
Lady Saline: “Yes father?” She tries to keep her voice steady as she looks upon the stern countenance of her father as a blush creeps up her neck and face.
Lord Talkington: “Lady Roseanna was just telling me how helpful you were with baby Lady Helen when you were here last. I’m sure that Lord George would welcome you helping him get to know his little niece better. Perhaps you and the ladies and baby Lady Helen could watch while we men challenge your soon to be nephew little Seth to some croquet this afternoon. I hear that he is quite formidable at the game.” He smiles at Lady Rose and Sir Guy, who return his smile.
Sir Guy: Smiling broadly and also continuing to distract everyone from the couples who are not couples chatting so intimately with one another. “My son will be pleased to find a new adversary, My Lord.” Lord Talkington nods.
The assembled diners finish their meals now turning to the conversation partner to their other side.
After the midday dinner, the women array themselves comfortably on the terrace to watch the men play croquet. Lady Roseanna sits under an awning with baby Lady Helen chatting with Lady Talkington and Lady Havorford. They will all be family when the marriages are accomplished. Lady Saline and Lady Mary sit politely with each other watching the men play.
Seth is more than delighted to have a crack at Lord Havorford as a new croquet challenger. Seth has learned a thing or two from his formerly wiley uncle Lord Archer about cunning, bravado, and keeping them under wraps in order to lure your pigeon to your trap. Seth is all of five years old–going on fifteen years old with the education that his uncle gave him. So, Seth purposely played poorly the first match–with his father Sir Guy giving him a knowing look.
However, Lady Saline never one to be sidelined aches to join in the croquet fun. Truth be told, Lady Mary also shyly wishes to play–though she does not know how, she thinks it looks fun after watching one game. At Lady Roseanna’s urging, the girls butt in on the men’s next croquet match.
Lady Roseanna: “My Lord Husband, might you add two more to the play? I think that Lady Saline and Lady Mary would like to join you.”
Sir Guy: “They are welcome to join us. However, I think that I will sit out this match.” He says holding his injured side that was strained carrying Lady Roseanna a few weeks back.
Lord Talkington: “I will sit out as well.”
The men hand their mallets to Lady Saline and Lady Mary who gleefully head toward the croquet field.
Seth: Pouting, he whines. “Papa, we can’t have every man stop playing.” Sir Guy waves at his son and smiles.
Lord Archer: “Now Seth, you have your uncles and Lord Havorford here as well.
Lord George: “Yes! I may have only one good arm, but I can still swing a mallet.” He lifts it up in the air triumphantly.
Lord Havorford: “Yes Seth, don’t you want to see if you can beat me this time?” He asks jovially.
Seth: He looks over at his Uncle Archer–with a wink–then he turns to Lord Havorford and puts on a pout for him. “I don’t know. It’s no fun playing if I’m not going to win.”
Lady Saline and Lady Mary exchange bemused looks.
Lady Saline: “Now Seth, winning isn’t every thing.”
Lord Archer and Seth together: “It’s the only thing.” They both grin and laugh at saying it together.
Lord George: “I can see that you have been influenced by your Uncle Archer, Seth. But as your other uncle, I would encourage you to remember that there is honor in the pursuit of any endeavor–even if you don’t win.”
Lord Havorford: “Well said!” He claps Lord George on the back.
Lady Mary: “Yes it was.” She says shyly.
Lady Saline: “Oh, come on, George. Sometimes it is nice to win.” She rolls her eyes.
Lord George: “I seem to recall besting you many a time when we were children together, Saline.” He preens.
Lady Saline: “It helped that you were five years older and you were a head taller than I was, or I would have beaten you even then.” She says defiantly.
Seth: “It’s my game, my rules!” He interjects, wanting the adults to focus themselves on him and not each other. Then he turns to Lord Havorford. “If I beat you this time, what will I win?” He grins.
Lord Havorford: “I don’t think I have anything that a little boy might want.” He looks bemusedly at the adults.
Lady Mary: “But Papa, you do have something.” She speaks up. Instantly, all eyes turn to the timid and shy Lady Mary and she lowers her eyes and blushes.
Seth: Marching over to Lady Mary, Seth takes her hand in his and asks. “Aunt Mary?” For she will be Seth’s aunt when she marries Lord Archer. “What does your Papa have that I will want?”
Lady Mary smiles. Lord Havorford looks at his daughter quizzically. Then Lady Mary leans down and conspiratorially whispers something into Seth’s ear. Seth’s face lights up.
Lord George: “Now Lady Mary, please tell us. What might little Seth win?” He asks teasingly.
Lady Mary: She looks from face to face with a shy smile. Her father is still perplexed. Seth squeezes her hand and nods his head. “Well Papa, I just told him about the new foal that was born last month. She isn’t weaned yet, but you said that she is too small to grow larger enough to support a man. So maybe she might be a good sized pony for Seth to ride while he is young.”
Lord Havorford: “I don’t really wager on games. A gentleman never does.” He sniffs.
Lord Archer: He looks his future father-in-law in the eye. “Are you afraid of a little five year old’s ability to beat you at croquet?” He challenges.
Seth: “Yea. Are you afraid of me?” He stands his ground with his hands on his hips–to make himself look larger like he has seen his Papa Sir Guy do. Although at under four feet tall, Seth does not intimidate Lord Havorford.
Lord Havorford: “No! I will take your wager young man. If I don’t win, then you get the pony.” He holds out his hand to Seth. “Deal?”
Seth: “Deal!” Seth shakes his hand then gets ready to win his pony.
However, Lord Archer smiles slyly–because the wording of Lord Havorford’s wager leaves it open for anyone but Lord Havorford to win and Seth gets his pony. The odds are in Seth’s favor.
Lord George: “Ladies, first.” He motions to the Ladies Saline and Mary.
With each betrothal groom standing next to their fiancé, play begins. Lady Saline is a crack shot. Unfortunately, Lady Mary is too timid in their early play to really whack the ball–let alone send her opponents balls off the croquet range as she sees Lord George do. Lord Archer seems to take special delight in whacking his future father-in-law Lord Havorfords’ ball into the bushes where it takes him some time to find it. Seth is an avid player, but his small size hinders him in the long run–playing against adults. In the end, Lord Archer wins. And everyone congratulates Lord Archer–including a smiling Lord Havorford.
Seth: Pouting, Seth [(6) right] finally walks over to congratulate his uncle as his Papa has taught him. “Good game, Uncle Archer.” His petulant brow so reminiscent of his Papa Sir Guy.
Lord Archer: Kneeling down to his nephew, he gives him a hug. “Why so glum, Seth?” He asks bemusedly.
Lady Saline: “That should be obvious, Lord Archer. He did not win his pony.” She rolls her eyes.
Lord Archer: “Are you sure about that, My lady?” Lady Mary and Lord George share a knowing smile.
Seth: “What do you mean Uncle Archer?” He asks curiously.
Lord Havorford: “Yes, what do you mean? Little Seth did not win. So he doesn’t get the pony.” He pats Seth on the head. “Sorry about that. But you can’t win every game.
Lord Archer: “True. But Seth winning wasn’t the wager. Your losing was. If you will recall your exact words, If I don’t win, then you get the pony.”
Lord Havorford: Sputtering now, he tries to back peddle. “B b but I meant that Seth had to win to get the pony.”
Lord George: “Ah! Well, I quite agree with Lord Archer. You should have phrased it thus. But you did not.”
Seth: “I want my pony! I want my pony!” He starts hopping up and down and saying in a sing songy voice.
Seeing the commotion, Sir Guy stands and walks over to the croquet field.
Sir Guy: “Is something wrong?” He asks sternly.
Seth: “I want my pony! I want my pony!” He sings gleefully still hopping up and down. Lady Saline and Lady Mary giggle.
Lord Havorford: “Well, it seems that I misspoke in a little wager and your son Seth thinks that I owe him a pony.”
Lord Archer: “Lord Havorford made himself winning as the bet for keeping his pony.”
Seth: “I want my pony! I want my pony!” Hopping up and down.
Sir Guy: “Seth, please stop jumping up and down.” He places a gentle hand on his son’s shoulder, which halts his jumping. “Seth, this is a hard lesson to learn, but as a gentleman, we do not force others to honor claims that would be injurious to them.”
Lord George: “Oh Guy. Injurious?” He asks incredulously while shaking his head in amusement.
Lady Mary: Walking over to her father’s side, she asks sweetly . “Papa, she is only a little pony after all. Might you not give her to Seth anyway?”
Lord Archer: “Yes, as a gesture of your largesse and demonstrating to little Seth the meaning of a man’s word.”
Sir Guy: “Archer! You go too far. Lord Havorford is my guest–at your request as your future father-in-law–and you will not insult him in this manner!” Sir Guy has a look of thunder on his face. So does Lord Havorford. But a little voice punctures the tension.
Seth: “I want my pony! I want my pony!”
Lord Havorford: Angry no more, he rocks his head back in laughter. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I have been bested by a five year old! The pony is his.”
Lady Mary: “Thank you, Papa.” She reaches up on tiptoe and kisses his cheek.
Lady Saline: “Well Seth, it looks like between your Uncle Archer’s shrewd bargaining–and your own whining–you shall have your pony.”
Seth: “Yippee!” He claps his hands together with glee as he jumps up and down some more.
Lord George: “I helped.” He pouts.
Lady Mary: Lady Mary smiles sweetly at Lord George. “Yes, you did.”
Lady Saline: “Marginally.” She shakes her head and walks toward the entrance to the hedge garden area.
Lord Archer watches Lady Saline go, even has he sees Lord Havorford shaking hands with little Seth under Sir Guy’s appreciative gaze.
Lord Archer: He turns to Lord George. “Uh. Lord George. Shouldn’t you go after her?” He asks in concern.
Lord George: “No! Lady Saline is like a hot house flower–delicate one minute and frustratingly overpowering the next.” He flicks his good hand in annoyance. “Besides, we aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. I have to figure out a way to get her to accede to fulfilling the marriage contract–which she will. She has no choice. But you go. I’ll tip my hat to you if you can get her calmed down.”
Lord Archer: “I think I will.” He nods at Lord George. Then Lord Archer strides off in the direction of the hedge garden where Lady Saline disappeared into.
Lady Mary smiles at Lord George, who comes to stand by her side as they both watch little Seth still thanking Lord Havorford for his pony, while Sir Guy looks on in amusement.
Lord George: “I am glad that your father is not too distressed at losing his pony.”
Lady Mary: “I am, too. But Papa is very kind hearted. And he always wanted a son–but had only daughters.” She sighs, feeling the inadequacy of her female person in not being a son. “So, I’m sure he is charmed by little Seth–as we all are.”
Lord George: “Charmed, indeed.” He says, but he is looking at Lady Mary, not at his nephew Seth.
Walking through the eye level maze, Lady Saline finds a quiet corner, sits on a bench, and begins to weep. And a few minutes later, this is where Lord Archer finds her.
Lord Archer: Taking a pristine fine linen handkerchief out of his doublet’s breast and handing it to her, he sits down on the bench next to but apart from her. Speaking gently he says. “My Lady, I am sorry to see you in such distress. Command me and I will gladly help you in any way I can.” He is the wiliest of men–except when it comes to women’s tears.
Lady Saline: Drying her eyes, then blowing her nose quite loudly into the linen handkerchief, she laughs. “Ha ha ha! “I dare say that I have no right to cry. My life is pleasant and congenial. I am a selfish woman with no real purpose other than to beget heirs.” She admits shamefully.
Lord Archer: “Oh no, My Lady. You are destined for great things. You only have to believe in yourself and they will come true.” He looks soulfully at the top of her bowed head, marveling in the cascade of brunette waves that flow over her shoulders.
Lady Saline: “That is easy for you to say. You are a man. You control your own destiny. I do not.” She is wadding and unwadding the linen, then twisting and untwisting it in deep agitation and frustration.
Lord Archer: “I can only tell you that if I, who was born a bastard and orphaned as an infant can find my way back to my family and now work to rebuild a community that I once tried to pilfer, then anything is possible.”
Lady Saline: She looks up at him forlornly. “I just want something in my life to be my own choosing. To live as I wish to live, And to love as I wish to love.”
Lord Archer: “I wish that for you as well, My Lady Saline. Love is well worth the seeking.” He says respectfully.
Lady Saline: “I cannot even choose whom I will wed. Must even love be prescribed for me?” She looks at him mournfully, now seeing his soulful expression.
Lord Archer: “We all have choices to make. I have made so many wrong ones in my life, that I dare not stray down certain pathways or I will revert to my old ways. And I cannot let people down–which would surely happen.”
Lady Saline: “Archer, you and I are both stuck. Stuck with fiancés we neither want nor even fondly care for.” Lord Archer is silent as he contemplates the truth of her statement. “I want to love and to be loved–like Rose and Guy have. Is that so wrong?”
Lord Archer: “No My Lady. I hope that you will find it. Lord George is a good man.” He says grudgingly. “Your shared past will no doubt be a firm foundation for your future.”
Lady Saline: “You sound like my parents.”
Lord Archer: He winces and leans back from her. “Such is my lot, then–to be a parental influence for young maidens.” He blanches, wondering how he became so stodgy.
Lady Saline: “I’m sorry, Archer. I didn’t mean to imply that I think of you as a father figure.” Then she gets very quiet. “Far from it.”
Lord Archer: “I am glad to hear it. I was afraid that I might be slipping.” He smiles bemusedly.
Lady Saline: “Oh I’m sure not. I’m sure that ladies still all swoon with your charm.”
Lord Archer: “I fear that my charm, as you call it, is reserved for the woman I love and no other.” He says a bit cryptically.
Lady Saline: “Lady Mary is a lucky lady, then.” She holds out the tear stained linen to give it back to him.
Lord Archer: Enclosing his hands around her hand holding the linen, He sighs longingly. “Please keep it. As a gentleman, it is the only thing that I may give you.”
Lady Saline: “Lord Archer, you said that you would do anything for me?” She reminds him.
Lord Archer: “I did, My Lady Saline. Pray tell me what service I may render you?” He asks courteously.
Lady Saline: “I want to make a choice that is wholly mine. Archer, kiss me.”
Lord Archer: “Hhhhhh! I cannot, My Lady. You are Lord George’s betrothed. You belong to him. Just as I belong to my betrothed, Lady Mary.”
Lady Saline: “Can’t I just belong to me at this moment? And you belong to you? We are just two people trying to find our way. Why can we not do that together?”
Lord Archer: “Because our assignation–however chaste–would blot your reputation. And that I will not do.” He surprises even himself with his honorable intentions toward the Lady Saline.
Lady Saline: “But I give you permission to kiss me. I want you to.” She leans toward him, but he remains sitting upright and stiff.
Lord Archer: “You do me a very great honor, My Lady. But I cannot kiss you.” He closes his eyes. He knows that he should leave her side this instant or his resolve to behave honorably toward her might weaken. But he can’t bear to part from her–not yet.
Lady Saline: Lady Saline caresses Lord Archer’s cheek. Then she leans forward. “Then I will kiss you.”
Lady Saline brings her lips to Lord Archer’s lips in a kiss so soft–and so brimming with promise of love–that it is difficult for him not to respond to her. At first he resists–though he does not back away from her touch. But she is persistent and now leans her hands upon his shoulders and clings to him as she kisses him.
Lord Archer: Breaking free from her kisses, he says breathlessly. “I warned you.”
Then Lord Archer takes Lady Saline into his arms in a loving embrace and he kisses her tenderly, then lovingly, then adoringly. Again and again and again and again their lips speak the language of love with each other. But just as Lord Archer begins to deepen their kissing with his tongue lingeringly outlining her lips, they are interrupted by Lady Saline’s father, Lord Talkington.
Lord Talkington: “Unhand my daughter, you scoundrel!”
Lord Archer and Lady Saline instantly break apart.
Lady Saline: “Papa, I …”
Lord Talkington: “Not a word! Leave us Saline! I would speak to Lord Archer alone.”
Lady Saline looks soulfully at Lord Archer, then she leaves them as her father requested.
Lord Archer: “It is not Lady Saline’s fault.”
Lord Talkington: “I know that!” He snaps indignantly. “Your reputation with the ladies is well known. You will leave my daughter alone. If I could command your removal from this house, I would.” He is livid.
Lord Archer: “I plan to return to Nottingham on Monday.”
Lord Talkington: “Good! And you will stay away from Lady Saline in the mean time. I do not want to see you within five feet of her or I will be forced to relate what I witnessed just now to your brother, Sir Guy.” Lord Archer nods. “And I trust that you will tell no one what transpired here? Lady Saline’s betrothed is Lord George and I will have nothing and no one interfere.”
Lord Archer: “You have my word.”
Lord Talkington: “Hmmmfp!” He storms out of the garden and Lord Archer is left to reflect upon what just happened.
To be continued with Chapter 14
(1) “Guy’s Dilemma” logo is a composite of three images:
a) Sir Guy (portrayed by Richard Armitage) in the BBC’s Robin Hood, Series 3, episode 13 (pix 64).and is found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/RobinHood/album/seasonthree/Episodethirteen/slides/13_064.html;
b) Image of Lord Archer (portrayed by Clive Standen) http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/RobinHood/album/seasonthree/episodetwelve/slides/12_093.html;
c) a sword hilt from MS Office Clip Art was found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=sword&ex=1#ai:MP900432917|
2) This sample of a lovely letter “G” embroidery on linen was found at http://www.emsheart.com/merchandise/items/N076210%20Vintage%20antique%20linen%20Appenzell%20embroidered%20monogrammed%20linen%20napkins%20S.htm
3) Medieval Cuisine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_cuisine
4) The image (cropped to head) for Lady Saline is of a pre-Raphaelite style painting of a woman by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was found at http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01421/Waterhouse-2_1421196c.jpg ; for more about the painter, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Waterhouse
5) Image of Lord Archer of Locksley (portrayed by Clive Standen) in the BBC’s Robin Hood, Series 3, is a composite image of Mr. Standen’s head (cropped) found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/RobinHood/album/seasonthree/episodetwelve/slides/12_093.jpg ; and a Medieval type man’s formal attire found at http://www.medievalcollectables.com/images/Category/medium/158.png
6) Image (flipped) representing Seth Gisborne is a “Portrait of a Young Boy” by Jean-Leon Gerome (1924 – 1904) and was found at http://www.paintingall.com/Jean-Leon-Gerome-Portrait-of-a-Young-Boy-Oil-Painting.html
Previous chapter installments, Ch 12: