by M. S. Barnes
"I will always protect you. I promised."
|This is a later part of the story. Please, read the prologue - part three first. Now I have to fill in the gap.
"Azalea, I think today we will work in the cloister." Mary said as they were finishing up their meal.
"It has become a bit over grown all of a sudden. How about you go get what we need and I will go ahead to see what needs to be done." Azalea replied as she took their wares to be cleaned.
"Alright, I will meet you there." Mary left to gather any tools that they might need and Azalea with baby Garren in her arms headed to the cloister to make a list of what needed to be done. Some of the trees need to be trimmed, and there are weeds that need pulled. With all this rain lately, it has been hard to keep up with all the chores. Soon Mary rejoined her and laid the tools next to the fountain. This is when Azalea set Garren on a blanket in the shade of a tree and started to work on the forget-me-nots. She began to hum a lullaby that her mother used to sing to her when she was young.
Then a lady's voice spoke with a Portuguese accent. "That is a beautiful canção de ninar, young lady. Where did you learn it?"
It cannot be her. Azalea slowly turned around to see who was talking to her. "My mother use to sing it to me." Elvira said as she rose to her feet.
"Elvira, I finally have found you. It was not in till lately that we thought of checking the abbeys. I am surprised that you were able to enter without a dowry"
“Duquesa Manuela, why did you come all the way from Portugal?"
"I came to be with my sister, Countess Madalena, after Earl Garrett passed away. I also came to look for you. I thought maybe having a new set of eyes would help."
"Umm...excuse me; I do not understand what is going on. How do you know her, Azalea," asked Mary as she walked up to the two women.
"Azalea's real name is Lady Elvira, Daughter of the late Earl Garrett and Countess Madalena. Lady Elvira is my niece."
"She is your niece? You are a noble."
"Yes, Mary, I am. I am sorry I lied to ..."
"You do not have to explain. I think I understand.’
"Elvira, why did you leave home?"
"I-I" she was interrupted by Garren crying.
"Oh, I see now." Manuela replied as she walked over to the baby lying on the blanket. She gently lifted him into her arms. "He must be the reason. I am not sure how my sister is going to react. She will have to adjust to being a grandmother. There has been enough talking. We need to pay a visit to Abbess Mariah and explain to her the situation. It was nice to meet you, Mary."
"Yes, it was a pressure to meet you, Duquesa Manuala. Goodbye, Azal-Lady Elvira."
"Farewell, maybe we will see each other someday." Elvira said as she hugged her friend and then followed her aunt out of the cloister.
They found the abbess in her room. " Duquesa Manuela, It looks to me that you have found Lady Elvira. Now I understand the situation better. I am surprised Lord Bennett had anything to do with this."
"He does not know who I am. He just wanted to help. He only knows little of the details."
"You are telling me he helped you not knowing who you really were or all of the details. Did you lie to him?"
"Elvira, who is Earl Bennett?"
"He is the one who saved my life the night I left from home. I did not lie to him. He did not want to know the details. He just wanted to help me."
"Are you telling me he paid your dowry?"
"Yes, he did, but he was not involved anymore than I have told you."
"Abbess Mariah, I am here to request for Lady Elvira to be released from her vows since her guardian did not give permission for her to give them."
"Yes, of course, she must be returned to her guardian. I will have to report this to the arch deacon. He will take care of the matter."
"It is time to leave now." They said their goodbyes and prepared to leave.
"You stay here while I go to the Abbess Mariah. I want to know what she knows of these rumors of unrest in this area." Bennett told his men as he dismounted from his horse. He was almost to the door when he noticed Azalea walking out. "Hello, Azalea Gardyne, how are you today?"
"I-I...." He then noticed an older dark haired woman standing behind Azalea.
"....Are you Earl Bennett Grosmont of Devon?" The woman asked.
"Yes, I am."
"Lady Elvira, go ahead to the coach. I need to speak with Earl Bennett. Please, let us return inside."
Elvira? Why did she call her Elvira?
The woman introduced herself, "I am Duquesa Manuala de Porto. I am Lady Elvira's aunt. I have been told you have paid my niece's dowry. I need to repay you." She then pulled out a bag and handed it to Bennett.
He took the money and stared at it, "Azalea is Lady Elvira. I had no idea."
"I apologize for my niece involving you. I know you were an innocent bystander. I thank you for your help."
"Has Azalea Gardyne, um, I mean Lady Elvira tell you who is the father of the child? She never told me, but I found out last summer. I did not say anything because I did not think it would make a difference. That has changed now that Azalea Gardyne is not a peasant as I thought she was."
"No, she did not."
"From what I understood the father did not know Lady Elvira is nobility. It is your right to know."
"How do you know?"
"I was actually told by the father of the child."
"Yes, I understand and please proceed. I want know everything so I can tell her guardian, Earl Anthony de Mowbray." Bennett started with the day he meet her and told about his brother's confession. "The father is your brother?"
"Yes, that is why I come and check on her when I can. The child is my nephew after all."
"I thank you for your help. I must be going now. Earl Anthony will be glad to see his sister and surprised to meet his nephew." She walked out of the abbey and into the coach where he knew Lady Elvira was waiting. The coach started to move and rode out of his sight.
Bennett walked into his good friend's meager room and waited for Arch Deacon Jonathan to notice him. "Please, come in and shut the door. You have something important you must speak to me about?"
"I know the identity of the father of Elvira child. How can I put this?” Bennett said as he paced the room. “The father is my brother, Trent."
"Please, take a seat. It looks like we have a lot to talk about." he motioned the chair nearest to him. "Why are you speaking against your brother that he did have a love affair with Lady Elvira?"
"The reason why is because he told me he did."
Shocked the arch deacon was barely able to voice his next question. "When he tell you?"
"Last spring when I was home on leave, Trent bragged to me that he had tricked a peasant girl into believing that he loved her. He said he was enjoying the results. I put this in nicer words than he did."
He asked another question still not completely convinced. "Was there any time he actually told you who the girl was that he was seeing?
"Yes, there was a time about a month after I had brought Lady Elvira to the convent. Trent and I came here to visit with our brother, Cece. While we were here Trent saw Elvira. He was surprised she was here, and that she should have to farther away to hide her shame. It was clear to me that he knew her situation. Which I doubt she would have told him if he was not involved with her."
The arch deacon then sat there shaking his head. "I do believe you. Never in the past have you given me any reason to doubt you. I will have to pray about this matter. Thank you for coming forward with this information. You may leave now." Bennett rose from his set and left the friar, who was concentrating on what he was writing.
It was well past midnight when Bennett arrived back home from his visit with the arch deacon. He quietly walked through the halls and reached his room. He had been in bed awhile when heard the door open. "Who's there?"
"Your father." said the usually firm but gentle voice.
"What is wrong?" Bennett said as he quickly stood.
"Why did you go talk to the arch deacon?"
"I told him what I knew about Trent and Elvira's relationship and that Trent was the baby's father."
He replied shocked, "What did you tell him?"
"I told him all I knew on the matter."
"Why did you speak against your brother?" I never thought you were one who could act in jealously."
"I am not jealous of Trent. I speak against him only because I know that it was the right action to take. I only told the arch deacon the truth."
"Do you not see what this is doing to our family name?"
"Yes, father, but we are not the only ones this is affecting. Is it right for Trent to get away and leave others with the consequences? He left Lady Elvira to face the consequences alone. He is the one you should be having this conversation. I have done nothing wrong here. I did what was right because it was the right thing to do."
"Yes, you speak the truth. We are just going to have to live through this one. Do not tell your brother, but there have been times when I wished you were the first born."
"Father, do not say such things. That past cannot be changed and that is something you had no control over."
"You are the noble one."
"Thank you, father, but I am not as noble as you make me out to be."
"I am still looking forward to the day went I see you settled down with a wife. It made me sad the day when you refused the offer from Earl William."
"I know you were, but I want to wait until I am no longer in the service of the king."
"I understand, son. What do you think will become of Lady Elvira?"
"The future is always uncertain, father. If she is permitted to stay, she will probably live continue to live with her brother."
"Yes, so true. It is sad that this have to happen to such a delightful young lady. Before she disappeared, I was hoping she was the one you would settle down with."
"Really, father, you knew about her before all this started?"
"Of course, I did. I make it my business to know all the lords' families in the kingdom. You do not remember her? You met her about ten years ago. She was only eight."
"I met her?"
"Yes, her father, Lord Garrett, invited us to a hunt. She was the little girl who was so sweet to you. It was right before you became a knight and was sent to fight in the war."
"I do remember now." The whole time we were there I called her "My Iris" because that was her favorite flower. She was the one that was covered with mud when we were introduced. She had light brown curly hair and an infectious smile. I can hardly believe that I had forgotten about her. She is so different now."
"I really believe what she says. She is a lot like you, so noble and honest; too bad it turned out so badly for her"
"Yes, it is..." Bennett said as he started out the window at the moon.
"You love her, don't you?" His father said as he took hold of his arm. Earl Devon let out a laugh as red started to creep out his son’s face. Bennett looked at him and did not reply. "Maybe it can end well for Elvira."
Bennett stood in the middle of the enclosed garden admiring the roses, lilies, irises and many other flowers that the monks used to decorate the monastery. "Ola...um...I do not remember you name...sorry." stated little Elvira as she took hold of Bennett's hand.
"My name is Lord Bennett." He said as he looked at her and smiled.
"Lord Bennett, yes, I will try to remember. Bennett, Bennett, Bennett...look at all the flowers. They are so beautiful. Is it not true?" She said returning a smile.
"Yes, they are beautiful. Do you know what flower I believe is the most beautiful of them all?" He said whispering to her.
"No, I don’t know. Please, do tell." Elvira whispered as she tugged on his arm eagerly.
"You are, My Iris, of course." Bennett said as he placed his free hand on her head.
"Really?" she replied with a melody of giggles.
"Yes," Bennett heard the voice of his uncle nearby, "we better be going back to the others. I think they are waiting for us." He said as he gently tried to guide Elvira towards the voices.
"Wait, I have to show you something;" As she spoke this she quickly turned and pulled Bennett in the opposite direction. This almost threw him off his feet, "here."
"Yes, your favorite flowers, the blue irises." He said as he tried to become once again composed.
"They seem so much more graceful then the other flowers. When I see them I think of them as the most beautiful of women in the city dressed in blue going up the steps to mass."
"Yes, I can see what you mean."
Then she turned to him and with a tone of seriousness stated, "You will be a knight soon. Will you protect the irises; you know the people of the king."
"Yes, I will anyways protect my king and his people."
"Will you promise to protect me?"
"Yes, of course, I will always protect you, my Iris"
"Do you promise?"
"Yes, I promise."
Bennett woke; staring into the darkness. He stood up, and stared out of the window. "I will always protect you. I promised."
I have to do this. Bennett told himself as he rode out the town. It was just Keane and himself today. He would rather go by himself but Keane would have thought he was crazy. By the end of today a lot of people will think I am crazy. I am going to do something illogical. No one would do what I am about to do.
“Are you alright, Earl (address needs to changed). You don’t seem to be yourself today.” Keane said breaking
“I am fine. I just have to something difficult. I am just nervous.”
“Nervous, wow, I never saw you like this. Not even in a battle. Have you seen yourself? You look like you did not sleep.
“I only slept a little.”
“Does this have anything to do with where we are going today? We are going to Nottingham, right? This has to do with Lady Elvira.
“You are too smart for your own good.”
Keane smiled for a moment and then grew with shock. “You can’t be thinking…”
“…Keane I think you know me well enough to know that answer.”
“I thought you king offered you his daughter for…”
“…please, Keane drop it.”
“So scared to talk to her?”
“No, I am not scared of Lady Elvira. I am worried about Earl Anthony de Mowbray reaction of me coming. That He might take what I say wrong, and challenge me to a duel. I have yet to beat him when sparing.”
“Oh, now I get it.”
“Can we please drop it?”
Garren played on his mother’s lap contently as the arrangements were being made for them. This is for the best. I will be able to live comfortably with my aunt. Still there is something missing.
“We will be leaving tomorrow morning for Porto, Portugal. Elvira, did you hear me?” Duquesa Manuala asked as she waited for her niece to come back to reality. “Elvira, you don’t have to go. We will not make you.
“I am so sorry. Yes, I think it is for the best and I thank you, dear aunt, for opening your home to me.” Elvira said quickly, embarrassed that she was caught not paying attention.
“It is not a problem. Your younger cousins will be happy to have you and Garren around.”
“Are you sure I will not be in the way?”
“You of course will not.”
Just then the door opened and one of the older servants walked in. “Earl Anthony, There is a visitor waiting for you in the library. I am sorry I seemed to have forgotten his name…Earl something….I am truly sorry.”
“You said an earl? I wonder who that could be. I am not excepting any visitors today. He rose from his seat and swiftly left the room.
The room was filled from top to bottom with books. There are twice as many as my father’s library. Bennett walked over to a shelf and pulled out a book. It was a Latin philosophy text. He had read a few paragraphs when he heard the door open He looked up to see Earl Anthony standing in the doorway with a puzzled look on his face.
“Earl Bennett, I am surprised you would come to my home after recent events.” Anthony stated as he closed the door. “What brings you here?”
“I have come to request something of you. Please, hear me out before you answer.” Bennett walked up to Anthony and waited to for a reply.
“Please, have a seat. I will listen to what you have to say,” Anthony pointed to a nearby chairs and table.
Bennett waited till they were seated before he continued, “I-I am-am here the request your sister’s hand in mar-marriage.”
“What? This is a very bold move considering recent events. Mabel probably will not approve and I am going to force her.”
“I don’t mean Mabel.”
“Elvira?” Anthony almost fell off his chair. He stood and took a few steps backwards causing his chair to fly across the room. “Are you out of your mind? You want the women that you own brother tarnished.”
Bennett stood and rushed to where Anthony was standing. “Yes, I know it does not make sense. I really don’t know if I can explain it. I know it crazy.”
“Is it pity? If it is, I will have to ask you to leave.”
“No, I do not pity her. It is more like a broken promise that I forgot up till recently.”
“What broken promise? When did you make a promise?”
“I made it to Elvira when she was eight or nine. I promised to always protect her. This was before I even became a knight. I have failed her. I want to be able to keep that promise from now on.”
There was a long silent as they stood there staring at each other. Anthony turn away from Bennett and started to scratch his beard. A few minutes passed when Anthony looked over his shoulder and asked, "Would you describe your feelings as love?”
Bennett answered without hesitating, “Yes, I would, Earl Anthony.”
Anthony turned to Bennett with a smile, “Then go ask her yourself and see if she will agree.”
“Thank you.” Bennett tore out of the room and down the hall. After a few moments he returned and asked, “What room is Elvira currently staying?”
“Follow me. I will take you.”
Bennett opened the door slightly and said, “Excuse me, Lady Elvira."
Elvira and Mabel turned to see Bennett standing at the door. The sisters stood up. Elvira replied surprised. "Earl Bennett, what pleasure do we receive by this visit?"
"If it is alright with you, I would like to speak with you if you will?"
"…Aye, of course she is will. I will watch Garren for awhile. Do not worry about him." Mabel interrupted as she leaned in and swopped the baby into her arms and quickly left to room.
"Um...well...what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?"
"I am not sure now to say..."
"…I am a truly sorry I have dragged you into this mess. Now everyone suspects you are the father when you have not done an….”
“….let them think that I am.”
“What do you mean?” Elvira was trying hard not to let her anger get the best of her, and she looked down to the floor with her arms crossed.
“I mean…” Bennett walked closer to her and gently lifted her face with one hand and took hold of her hand with the other.
“…You should not be here with me like this” Elvira pulled herself away from his grasp and moved to look out the nearby window.
“Why not?” He replied as he reached her.
“It could hurt your reputation, and your standing with King Marc. I understand he has just offered you land and his youngest daughter, Princess Mary.”
“My family and my own reputation already are tarnished. I doubt much could do to salvage it.” He said as he pulled her over to him.
Tears started to flow down Elvira’s face as she spoke. “What are you talking about? I am sure it can.” She said as pounded on his shoulder.
“Calm down. I never thought you to be one for violence.” He said taking a hold of her shoulders.
“Sorry, I just…you make me…so…so mad when you talk about all of this like it is nothing.” She calmed down for a bit. “Did I hurt you?”
“Nay,” He then let her lose and looked into her eyes. “The question I should be asking is; did you hurt yourself?”
“Um…Aye…a little. You shoulder is like a rock.” Elvira said as she rubbed her hand.
“Now, please, let me ask you a more important question.” Bennett walked away from her and paced the floor for a moment before continuing. “Do you remember the story of Ruth in the Old Testament?”
“Aye, of course I do.”
“Do you remember how Boaz was Ruth kinsman redeemed? How she made sure she had collected plenty of grain in his fields. How he married her despite her being a Moabite woman."
“Aye, But how does that have to do with what you want to ask me?”
“I am trying to ask you if I can redeem you.”
“I do not think I understand.” She turned her back to him and stared out the window.
“I think you do.” Bennett pulled Elvira closed to him, “I am trying to ask you to be my wife.” He slowly kneeled before her. “Will you mar…”
“Please, stop,” Elvira push pass Bennett and ran out the door.
Behind her Elvira could hear Bennett coming after her. Why will you not give up on me? I am not good enough for you. You cannot possibly love me.
“Please, stop, Elvira.” Bennett took a hold of her hand just before she reached the stairs leading to the first floor.
“Leave me alone.” Elvira turned and pulled free of his grasp. “Why can you not see it?”
“What am I suppose to see?” The look in Bennett’s eyes was too much for Elvira and she turned away from him. “Why will you not listen to what I have to say?”
“I am not good enough.”
“Good enough for what?”
“I am not good enough nor do I deserve to marry you.” She grasped the banister and stared out into a mid-June sunset.
“Look at me, Elvira.” She turn slightly just enough to see his face. “Do you think we are deserving of God’s grace. We certainly are not good enough to receive it. Remember; it is a gift.” She turned to him shocked. “He forgave us; just as I have forgiven you.”
“Please, stop, I do not understand…”
“….It does not have to…” Bennett grasped Elvira’s hand, and pulled her towards him.
“…Why didn’t you marry the princess? You would gain prominence. Something a second son usually never sees.”
“I do not care about achieving such fame. Besides I would not be happy married to someone I do not love. Especially sense I am in love with someone else.” Elvira pulled away and started to walk down the stairs slowly. “Please, tell me that you return my love.” She stopped. “Elvira?”
“You are only saying this because you feel sorry for me. I do not need you pity. You feel responsible somehow for what your brother, Trent, did to me. You are forgetting I went to him willingly.” Her voice betrayed the fact that tears had formed. “You are too nice. This is a harsh world. It will be the end of you someday.”
“Then let it. I do not want to be like the rest of this unforgiving world. I am not just saying this.” Bennett closed the distant between them and set his hands on Elvira shoulders. “I truly do love you. Love has come upon me like an army storming a camp at dawn.” Gently Bennett turned her toward him. He slowly wiped away some of her tears. “Despite how well guarded my heart was; it was overtaken.”
“Yes, I was overtaken by a beautiful blue iris by the name of Elvira. She is ‘like most beautiful of women in the city dressed in blue going up the steps to mass.’"
Elvira gasped, “Blue Iris? dress in blue? You could not be the same boy at spring. The one who…”
“…promised to protect the little blue iris,” Bennett whispered as he pulled Elvira closer to him, “My Iris” he gently cupped her chin with his hand lifting her face to his till his lips met hers.
She pushed away and looked into his eyes, “because you promised?”
“I promised.” He reclaimed her lips once again in a deeper kiss.