A Historical Novel WIP
'Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Kingsleigh. My name is Melissa and I am your tour guide today.'
I glanced around the group. Usual suspects. At least we've got the full ten today. Yesterday I showed round a party of two. It's worrying; we rely on the money from the tours to maintain the house. That tall guy's quite fit. I give him my A1 smile. If nothing else it should get me a good tip.
'The Manor of Kingsleigh was granted to Sir Thomas Kerswell by Henry VIII in 1520 as thanks for his part in The Field of the Cloth of Gold organisation. Work on the Great Hall began in January of 1521. The style of the building is early perpendicular but somewhat plainer than other great houses of the period such as Hampton Court. The Great Hall is constructed from local stone from the granite quarries of Princetown. The clock on the face of the tower is a later addition dating to circa 1750. Note the buttresses and the mullioned windows.'
"If you'll follow me Ladies and Gentlemen..."
The tourists followed me into the lobby of the Great Hall. The young guy jostled to the front. When he removed his baseball cap I could see that he wore his blonde hair unfashionably long. He smiled at me with gleaming white teeth.
'You will see here the carved oak screen dividing the lobby from the Great Hall proper. The Tudor Rose motif is commonly used in this period.'
"This way please... "
We passed through the heavy oak door into the Hall itself. Heels clicked on the stone flags and the sound echoed around the space. Eyes flew from the pannelled walls to the hammerbeam ceiling. I gathered them around the portrait of Sir Thomas hanging above the carved stone fireplace. I always liked the look of Sir Thomas; a portly gentleman with a kind face and a mischievous glint in his eye. A fat kid in a hoody walked into the fire place and stared up the chimney."' Please..." I glanced around the faces for some sign of a responsible adult. The youngster was grabbed by a middle aged woman who then glared at me like I was the one in the wrong.
'Whilst the building work progressed Sir Thomas made a number of visits to site, staying with Cecil Trelawny, an adjacent land owner and family friend. In September 1521 Sir Thomas married Catherine, Trelawney's youngest daughter.'
Everyone moved to Catherine's portrait. She had the rosy glow of a country girl and was dressed quite plainly for one of her station. A flash went off. "Sorry, photography isn't allowed inside the house." A Japanese tourist bowed in acknowledgement and put his camera in his pocket. "You can purchase a booklet with photos of all the portraits from the gift shop on the way out," I informed him. Uncle Simon signalled me from the doorway. "Would you excuse me for a moment?" I could see the anxious look on his face as I went to join him.
'Is she...' I asked.
I returned to my entourage. One face looked as anxious as I did; the fit guy. He moved to my side.
'Bad news?' he whispered in an American accent.
'Sort of...' He squeezed my arm. I gathered my thoughts for a moment before continuing.
'Catherine was presented at court in October of that year and it was whilst in the capitol that she announced her first pregnancy. Jane Kerswell was born on 21 June 1522 at the London home of the Duke of Somerset. Catherine and the child returned to the Trelawny Estates later in the year whilst Thomas continued to attend at court.'
An old lady raised her hand. "Do you have a question for me?"
"Yes dear, where's the loo?"
"There are toilet facilities adjacent to the gift shop in the old stables," I informed her.
"Oh dear, is there nothing closer?" She shuffled off toward the exit.
'Catherine gave birth to their second child, Anne, in May 1523. Unfortunately she died in childbirth and never saw the completion of the Great Hall in 1527. Sir Thomas and his two daughters moved into the house just in time for Jane's fifth birthday.'
'Yes Father' I answered him as I climbed me down from the hayloft. He was angry with me; once again. His grey eyes held a look of disappointment that I was so unladylike in my behaviour. Would that I had been born male.
'What reason have you for climbing in a hayloft pray tell me?'
'I was hiding Father.' I replied, straightening my skirts which I had tucked up to make the climb with more ease. The brown velvet was creased and speckled with grain.
'From whom, pray, were you hiding?' He demanded.
'From Tom sir.' I replied in all innocense.
'Who is this Tom, and what reason do you have to hide from him?' He questioned.
'Tom is the son of Jim Smith, your head groom sir. And we were playing a game of hide and go seek.' I explained. I could not comprehend why this should be considered a misdemeanour.
'Playing in haylofts with stable boys! I will not have this unseemly behaviour. I will not have it.' Father ranted as he pulled a piece of straw from my hair which had fallen free of my cap. He took my hand firmly in his own and led me across the cobbled courtyard and back to the house. I was handed over to Nurse who promptly put me to my bedchamber by way of punishment.
Within the hour my father sought me there. He took me on his knee and bade me forgive his temper. He plied me with chocolate. Then he read to me from Chaucer's 'Chanticleer the Cock';my favourite. He still did not make clear to me what I had done wrong. Was it the climbing into the loft that he objected to? Or was it the company of a stable lad that was the object of his concern? I was allowed to join my father at table that eve and we supped on pottage and I was allowed well watered ale to wash it down. Then my father read to me in the solar; 'Patient Grizelda', not my favourite.
The next morning found me once again in the stables.
'Tom?' I called. 'Tom, are you here?'
'Yes M'Lady.' The lad appeared from within carrying a pitchfork.
'I wish to ride.' I announced in my best Lady of the Manor voice.
'Beggin' your pardon M'Lady but you aint never done no riding.'
'Then you will teach me.' I ordered.
'And get my backside tanned again for my trouble.' He rubbed at his rear to emphasise the point.
'Does your father beat you?'
'He does when I forgets me place and treats you as friend. Mistress of the house you are and I may not forget it long as my ass is sore... oh begging your pardon for my course words.'
'Pardon you I will, pardon your father who beats you thus I never will.' I harangued, stamping my foot. Then in a gentler vein. 'As friend I think of you always and I beg you to always think of me as friend. But for the sake of your...er... sore ass, call me friend only when we are quite alone.'
'That I will ... friend. Now which horse do you have a fancy to ride?'
And ride I did. Ride like the wind. Beyond the lake. Beyond the copse. Down into yonder river valley and beyond. No fancy sidesaddle mind you. I rode as a lad and often in lad's garb. And always I rode with Tom at my side. For all of nine years I lived as a lad might live. My father tried to engage me in more feminine pursuits but the sewing needle proved my worst enemy and my singing voice would distress a thousand cats.
'You are more lad than many a gentlelad, I submit. What is to become of you?' My father asked in exasperation one day as I led my horse from the stables.
'I will be what I will be father dearest.' I replied, hiding my hair beneath my cap.
'And what adventure will you partake today?' he asked.
'I ride to the river purchance to catch a fish for your supper.' I replied.
'Have a care you do not fall into the river.'
'I have no fear of the water. I have swum the lake on many a day.' I answered his concerns.
'And climbed many a tree. Woe is me that I should sire a son in a maid's body.' he sighed.
Darkness was falling as I turned into the stable yard. As was usual Tom was by my side. A lamp was burning within. I feared to face a rebuke for being in the company of the stable lad. Tom had many times faced the wrath of his father dispite Tom giving the reason of being my protector on our expeditions. But it was my father who now awaited our return.
'I have great news. A messenger of the King has informed me that His Majesty is journeying to Cornwall this very week and seeks accomodation with us for the night of Friday next.' he enthused.
'T'is indeed a great honour. And will Queen Anne be accompanying His Majesty?' I asked in all innocence.
'Alas Anne is Queen no more. I fear she has been parted from her head this past two months. T'is a new Queen we have to greet. Henry has married Jane Seymour.' he informed me.
'I know not of mistress Seymour. Is she kin to the Seymours at Totnes?'
'Know not I. Word is that the young Princess Elizabeth will be accompanying the royal party.' he remarked.
'Is she not still locked away at Hatfield? I have always thought it brutal that she is denied her rightful place at her father's side by reason of her gender. Would seem that Henry is softening toward her.' I suggested.
'Perchance this Jane Seymour has a nurturing nature and wishes to indulge the poor motherless girl.' father replied with a sense of irony.
'Of what age is the Princess at this time?' I enquired.
'That poor mite Elizabeth is but three years. Blessed be that she is too young to know the truth of it, though it is my understanding she was present in the house when Anne was removed to the tower.' he informed me.'And I have been told that she is to be addressed as Lady Elizabeth forthwith as the king has declared his marriage to Anne unlawful and the child therefore a bastard.' I could see the sorrow in his eyes.
'Is he so desperate for a male heir that he would treat his own daughters thus?'
'Alas, not everyman has a son and heir with such feminine attributes as your fair self.' he jested, removing my cap and allowing my chestnut hair to fall loose about my shoulders.
'Just to please you sir, and to show off my feminine attributes in the royal company, I will ride to Plymouth on the morrow and purchase such vestments as are befitting the occassion. Be informed, dear father, it will leave your purse much depleted.'
'Then deplete it further with the purchase of a turkey for the royal feast.' Father added. 'And if they have no turkey see if the goose is fattened enough.'
I traveled to Plymouth and the shop of Mistress Penn, the dress maker. I told her of the Royal visitors. "Alas, M'lady, I cannot prepare an outfit in such a short time." I knew not what to do. Mistress Penn could see my disappointment. "I do have a gown I have been making for Mistress Cowper, the merchant's wife. With some alteration it might be made suitable," she offered. "The merchant is slow to pay his bills so I shall be slow to provide service on this occasion." I brightened. The gown was of black velvet though rather plain. "I can embellish with skirts and undersleeves of the best golden brocades," she suggested, "and, of course, a ruff of the finest Honiton lace." I was pleased with this notion.
Alas no turkey was to be found. The merchants, hearing of the Royal visitors, competed to provide the best of victuals. The wine merchant, in particular, offered the finest from his own private cellars. Many tried to avail themselves of an invitation; I said same to all, "speak to my father." His purse much depleted I stretched it more. I purchased a new saddle for myself. It was my fee for dressing in female garb for the visitors' pleasure.
As Tom and I returned from our morning ride on the eve of the Royal visit, we found the driveway to be crowded with carts transporting victuals to the house. I returned Wilhelm to his stable and Tom rubbed him down as we talked. "Are you excited by the Royal visit?" Tom asked, pulling a piece of straw from my hair, which now hung free. My feelings were diverse on the matter. "Would that I should not have to adorn myself with such finery. If I could only wear my breeches." I fetched Wilhelm's feed bag. "Shall we swim before supper?"
I was an adept swimmer and Tom and I swam in the lake most days. I saw nothing wrong in stripping to my under garments and plunging into the icy water. In the heat of summer I would even swim naked. Of course, my father would never know. Tom paid little attention to my nakedness as children; but I had noticed of late that there was a certain shyness in his glances as I became a woman. I was not so shy that I had not noticed him move into manhood. The affection I felt for him became more prurient.
Tom, alas, had work to do so we had to forego our swim. I returned to the house and sought out my father. "How go the arrangements?" I asked of him. He was writing in his ledger. "Very expensively," he answered. He closed the tome and looked at me, shaking his head. "Mistress Penn has delivered your gown," he informed me. I tried to muster excitement but failed. It did not go unnoticed. "Shall there be dancing father?" I asked now. Dancing was the one feminine pursuit I found agreeable. "Only if the King has brought his minstrels with him. My purse is straining to burst."
Retiring to my bedchamber I gave a mere glance to Mistress Penn's efforts and sought my riding attire, laying it out for the morn. Visitors or not, I would ride out at dawn as was my habit. The fancy attire could wait until the sun was at rest. Thoughts of Tom came flying to my mind as I lay upon my bed. When did such arousing notions surround my contemplation? I found myself doing that which is unspoken. I would repent my sin on the morrow. For tonight Tom had my mind and my body.
At first light I dressed in my breeches as usual and rushed out to the stables. Tom had the horses saddled and ready. "Where to, M'Lady?" he asked with a grin. "To the river. I fancy a swim." Tom looked uncertain. "Is it not too chilled to be taking to the water?" He had never shown such concern before. "You are not required to swim if you are such a milksop," I teased. "A milksop is it you call me. I am no milksop madam." Laughing, he rode off at speed. I galloped after him and soon overtook.
We slowed down as we neared the river and rode companionably to the bank. I took my time disrobing, all the while taking hidden glances at Tom. His naked torso exposed I could not but admire his muscled body. As I stripped myself of the last vestments I saw that he turned away. The water was indeed freezing. We kept our swim quite brief. As I emerged his eyes averted. We dressed quickly to keep out the cold. When I gathered my horse I made such a fuss of mounting. "Can you help me?" I asked. As his hands took my waist to lift me I stole a kiss.
At first he returned my embrace but then he pushed me from him. "'Tis not right. You are a high born lady; I'm a humble stable lad. It just cannot be." With that he jumped on his horse and sped away. Tears began to prick my eyes. I have always loved him yet when did that love take a lustful turn? My heart longed for him. His kiss still lingered but now grew cold. I could not in good heart return to the stable. I turned my stead toward the moor. It's bereft beauty would echo my own sentiments.
It took some time before I regathered my senses. I turned my horse for home. As I neared the far side of the lake I espied a large group of ladies and gentlemen gathered opposite. The Royal party had arrived. Suddenly there was a splash and a woman screamed. I jumped from my horse and dived into the water. I swam with all haste to the splash, knowing a life hung in the balance. Under the water a small body brushed mine. I grabbed at it and hauled it to the surface. Little did I know at that point the nature of the child.
The King himself knelt to take the child from me whilst another gentleman pulled me from the water. "Who is this lad? I must reward him," the King asked of his host. "That 'lad' is my daughter Jane Sire," Sir Thomas explained. The King looked me over. With my wet hair clinging to my head I looked more of a lad than was usual. The King slapped me on the back. "Aye, a fine son you have here even if he has a maid's body." After coughing some and crying more the young Elizabeth was now fully revived.
That night as we supped the King called my father and I to his side. "I have decided my reward. From henceforth the land and title of Kingsleigh will pass down the female line. I will have papers drawn up to that effect on the morrow. Meantime let us celebrate our good fortune that you have such brave progeny." The King's minstrels sounded out the first reel and I had the honour of leading off the dance with the King himself. For once I did not mind being dressed as a woman.
I continued to ride out in the company of Tom but he was forever distant. No more did we share the same little intimacies. I found myself swimming alone though took little pleasure from the exercise. My father's health was of growing concern. He regularly took to his bed now and had failed to attend court for some time. My sister Ann has recently been in the company of John Harwell. She is still very young. I hope that she will not hurry into marriage.
The mere mention of marriage brings to mind my affections for Tom. Would that I could marry him but he has stated plain that I am above his station and as such it can never be. He treats me now as any servant would treat his mistress. Yet I see him looking; a look that holds forth hope. The King may have given me fine prospects of title, land and money, but he could not give me love. I would gladly forgo my inheritance for love of Tom.
"I'm getting married," Ann announced. Father, who had once more taken to his bed, was pleased at the news. "I just hope that I may live to see both my daughters married." I doubted that. If I could not marry Tom then I would not marry at all. At least my inheritance would mean I had no necessity to marry. I was pleased for my sister that she had found love and that that love could be made whole. It did not stop my heart from breaking.
With my father ill I was charged with the arranging of my sisters nuptuals. The ceremony would take place in our own chapel. I prayed that father would be well enough to attend. "Come see my gown," an excited Ann begged. "Mistress Penn has indeed excelled herself," I extolled. My thoughts were of the gown I would never wear. Of late my conversations with Tom had been strained. I could see from his look that he would happily die for me though never wed me. Ann had noticed my melancholy. "Are you not happy that I am to wed?"
My heart wrenched and the tears that had been holding fast gave way. "I am happy for you sister. My melancholy is for my own broken heart. I love one who can never be mine." I gave no name to my heart's desire yet she knew. "You cannot still have hopes for Tom. 'Tis but a childhood fantasy." She took my hands. "Pray forget this lunacy and be happy for me." But I never would know true happiness without Tom by my side.
Father lived to see his younger daughter married then took to his bed and perished just days after. I begged my sister and her new husband to remain at Kingsleigh and make it their home. John Harwell, who was a younger son and as such would have no inheritance, agreed to this arrangement. I would come to regret it. I had long been in charge of the affairs of both the house and the estate but now that my father was gone Harwell took it upon himself to give orders. This proved to be both a complication and an opportunity.
I called for Tom. "You are, I believe, well versed in the running of the estate?" I remained aloof and treated him as I would any other servant. "Well M'Lady, I know about the farming and the hunting. But the accounting ..." I was unsure if his hesitancy was regarding his abilities or if more personal reasoning was to the fore. "I have need of a steward to manage the estate," I offered. Tom was more than capable of the position. Had I not myself taught him to read and write and do his figures. Yet it seemed I would need much persuasion.
"I will, of course, oversee the estate, but I need you to take charge of the daily problems that are the bane of my life." His demeanor changed. My request was not beyond his consideration. "If it will help you M'Lady I will give it a try." I instructed him in his daily duties. "I think I can do all that," he agreed. "It will be necessary for you to live within the house," I told him then. "Of that I am not sure. Can I not fulfill my duties from my father's home?" I had to give in on that point; for the present time.
The running of a household held no mystery; had I not been running this house for many years under the supervision of my father. The estate was a different matter entirely. What did I really know of farming? Even the gardens provided me with an enigma. I consulted with the cooks regarding the produce the estate was providing. This gave me an incite as to improvements to be made. I called upon Tom to meet with me at supper. "I have drawn up plans for improvement; we are to make a kitchen garden," I informed him. "I believe we can grow enough fruit and vegetables to provide not only our own kitchen but those of our tenants and maybe our neighbours also."
"It is a good plan M'Lady. It will make savings and bring in income. I will instruct the gardeners accordingly." He behaved so formally. "Why do you no longer address me by my given name?" I asked, a hurt look crossing my face. "It would not be seemly M'Lady." He looked down at the food which he had played with throughout. "We were friends," I said then. "We are still friends, but that friendship must be tempered by what is right and proper."
"Did we not make a pact as children that when alone we would forget our position and be true friends? And do not true friends call each by their given name? We are alone now Tom; can you not call me Jane?" He hesitated a moment. "Forgive me Jane. Indeed we did make such pact. Friends we have been for so long yet I have denied that friendship." He looked at me shamefaced. "A toast to our friendship," I said, raising my goblet. He lifted his, hitherto untouched.
"It grows late. I must take my leave," he said. "Can you not stay longer?" I pleaded. "It is time to take to my bed; I rise with the lark." He rose from the table and took my hand in his. I had thought that he might proffer a kiss. I was disappointed. He wrapped his cloak about him and departed. I stood at the window and watched as he crossed the courtyard. As he vanished into the shadows I could not stop a tear.
I too was up with the lark the next day. Tom and I had forsaken our morning rides since my father's demise. Today I had the need to gallop out across the fields. I did not see the bull until it was charging at me. My horse took fright and flew over the wall unseating me. I knew not where I landed. I awoke in my bed. "The physician has been sent for," said a worried Tom. He was holding my hand. "Oh Jane, I thought I had lost you." There were tears forming in his eyes. "I would not leave you dear Tom," I whispered weakly.
The physician was concerned that I might have a fevered brain and bade me remain abed for a week. "I will stay by your side until you are full well, that I swear," Tom promised. He brought me milk and honey and spoon fed me. "You too must take sustenance," I implored. "When you sleep I will sup," he reassured. The candles burned low before I took my rest. My sleep was haunted and I awoke with a scream. "I am here my love." Tom appeared from the shadows and took my hand once more.
"Will you lay down beside me and guard me from the spectres of the night," I begged. He answered my bidding. Though the coverlet lay between us I felt the warmth of him; felt his heartbeat matching my own. He kissed my forehead and bade me goodnight. My dreams grew sweeter with Tom beside me. If my brain be fevered it be not from injury but from love. If my spirit was restless it was from the want of him. I dreamed now of those happier days now past when we swam naked in the river. My sleeper's eyes cast broad upon Tom's nakedness and I felt a new awakening.
As the sun shone bright upon us I awakened. Nestled in his arm I discerned emotions within myself I never knew were possible. Was this how a bride felt on her wedding night? I knew there was more to the marriage bed than I had so far discovered yet for now I was content just to lay with my love. Tom yawned and stretched, releasing me from my heaven. He opened his eyes and looked into mine. "How do you fare?" he asked with concern. I did not want to tell the truth, that I fare well, lest he should leave my side. I gave a weak smile as my answer.
He felt my forehead; it was cool yet it burned at his touch. "The fever has broken. Will you breakfast with me?" I was half starved yet dare not say the same.
"I will take a little bread and milk," I answered weakly. He departed to arrange for food to be brought and I hastened to arrange my hair. Pinching my cheeks to give them colour I waited with a gladdened heart for his return. How long I could deceive him and keep him by my side was the question.
That night as he supped in the kitchens I stood before the blazing fire. My cheeks turned rosy and beads of sweat appeared on my brow. The deception was done. When he returned he found me abed and feverish. I tossed and turned and made out to shiver. I rambled and babbled like one in a fit. Then I ripped off my night attire and lay naked before him.
A subtle glance told me that he was aware of my nakedness. As I stilled my thrashing I whispered. "Lay with me. I have need of your strength to get me through this night." His desire overcame his principles. I discovered the true joys of the marriage bed. His muscled body glistened with sweat as he took me in his arms at the finale. I had never been happier. We drifted off to sleep entwine.
With the coming of the light came regret. He crept from my bed like a thief in the night. I lay there bereft. I had given him my most precious gift and now I would be denied? He stayed away all that day. I remained abed, not just to keep up the pretense of ill health but because of my low spirits. I had to ask myself if I had acted in haste? He was not ready to forego his principles. He had acted from the heat of his blood but now that ran cold and head ruled heart.
As the fire burned low footsteps ascended the stairs beyond my room. Who would be afoot at this hour? Tom crept in for fear of waking me. I feigned sleep lest he chastised me for my night of wantonness. I need not have feared. He, naked, climbed beneath the sheets. His hand led where his passion desired. "My love," he whispered as he embraced me and committed the final act of consumation.
"Will you not move into the house my love," I whispered as the morning light broke our sleep.
"I will take a chamber within these walls but I will not openly share yours. I come at night to your bedchamber unknown to my fellow servants. I love you with all my heart but I can not, nay will not, be openly your lover. It would bring shame to the household." I cared not for what the gossips might make of it; if he would not wed me then we would be lovers, secret or open.
It was but three weeks later when I noticed a change within me. A monthly event had absented itself and my breasts grew tender. I was with child. How Tom would react to impending fatherhood was the question on my mind. I drew him to my side that we might not be overheard. "My love, I have news," I whispered.
"What news demands secrecy?" he asked conspiratorially.
"It is the news every good husband longs to hear from a wife," I disclosed.
"You ..." He looked to my belly.
"Yes, my love. I am with child," I whispered, smiling. He was not smiling. I feared his rejection as he stared into the distance.
"Are you not pleased, my love?" I uttered through trembling lips.
"I no not whether tis pleasure or pain your words incite within me. Tis pleasure to see our love bear fruit, tis pain to consider the implications of such news. What of your good reputation? Will they not call you harlot?"
"Let them call me what they will. I am Lady of the Manor. None will dare call me within my hearing. What the gossips have to say in the privacy of their own homes is their business," I said in return.
"The act is done. The consequences are ours to face. If you fear not the gossip's word then who am I to question. I will always love thee as I will love our children." He took me to him and openly kissed me. The act was indeed done and for all to see.
Anne came into this world with little fuss. I had heard such horrors of the childbed yet such was the pain I bore it well. To some it would be unseemly to have the father present for such an event yet I took much comfort in holding his hand throughout. The midwife took my orders on the matter. As Tom took his child to make introduction with the world, I was bathed and prepared for the laying in.
It was common practice for a mother to live in privacy for some weeks following the birth. It was but three days before I ventured from my chamber. "Come, there is work to be done," I announced to Tom on finding him in the kitchens. He looked upon me with surprise.
"You are but days from your confinement; you should be at rest," he argued.
"Plenty of time for rest in the afterlife. How goes the kitchen garden?"
"It goes well."
"And the orchard?"
"And the cattle are breeding?"
"The calves are many. And how is our own young calf?"
My heart filled with anguish. "Crying, forever crying."
Tom took my hands in his. "We can find a wet nurse if the child is such a burden to your mind and body." he suggested. Was I so lacking as a mother that I should hand my child to another?
"There is no need for such a course. I need only to rest. The child's crying has indeed been an adversity yet I have no desire to give over the care to another. I wish only to be granted my leave for an hour so that I may be woman not just mother." He looked upon me with understanding.
"Then so shall it be. A nursemaid will have care for an hour each morn from ten of the clock. As to the night, I will share the burden of her crying so that you may slumber."
And so it was that Tom shared my bedchamber. At each whimper I awoke to find the infant in the loving hands of her father, Only once for the night was I roused to feed the hungry child. Each morn at ten I handed my daughter's care to Ellen, the nursemaid. Some days I would seek out Tom with inquiry regarding the estate. On other days I would relish the quiet of the garden and bask in the sun's rays. When my hour was completed I returned refreshed to my motherly task.
It was not long before the hour began to stretch as worldly tasks became my fondest endeavour. My child was not neglected; Tom revelled in time spent cooing over his offspring. As Summer gave way to Autumn, and the harvest became my joy, so did the child venture out into the world, turning her tiny face toward the last of the sun.
"She is her mother's daughter," Tom said one day, as I placed her on the back of the little pony I had purchased for just that purpose.
"It will be several seasons before she may ride the pony, but I will take her each day to make friends with it," I said, "It is my fondest wish that she should be a fine horsewoman."
"And that she should learn her place as Lady of the Manor, although may it be many years before she takes that place, my love," Tom added.