Welcome! the Love Inspired ladies want to offer you a short, sweet historical serial. And I have the privilege of starting us off. We hope you enjoy it.
My Lady Valentine
Oxfordshire, England, 1101 AD
With a long-suffering sigh, Lady Elizabeth D’Albini set down her section of the tapestry that she, her sister and their aunt had been repairing. The early February sunlight through the solar’s vellum window was weak and though her eyes watered like the winter rain off the castle’s roof, her head hurt more. Mostly due to her younger sister’s incessant chatter.
Lady Patrica continued, “Dear Elizabeth, ‘tis a simple request. I have it all planned. You will volunteer to assign the couples-”
“What a ridiculous waste of time, even during the Feast of Saint Valentine.” Elizabeth brushed aside the suggestion. “I shall be too busy helping our aunt prepare for the celebration. There’s far more to do than worry about trivial matters of the heart.”
As if Elizabeth had said nothing, Patrica went on, “When you write out the names of the young men and women, pair them up before you put them into the basket.”
“It sounds dishonest.”
“Nay, ‘tis not! The chaplain does it every year, assigning each woman to a man.” Patrica paused her crewelwork before blurting out, “He just does it willy-nilly!”
“I’m sure he considers each name prayerfully.” Elizabeth adjusted her diadem and picked up her needle again.
Patrica flicked her hand. “You wouldn't think that if you saw last year’s couples.”
"The game is foolish. All so that maids and men can get acquainted? They can do that without wasting good parchment."
“Nay, dear niece. Patrica has a good point.”
Elizabeth looked along the panel to their aging aunt. Her Grace, Duchess Jane of Oxfordshire, always kept a level head, and Elizabeth cringed inwardly at what might follow.
“Elizabeth,” the duchess explained, “my sister sent you two girls here to help repair my great Uncle Odo’s tapestry panel and mayhap find you each a good husband.”
“’Tis all I am doing,” Patrica interrupted.
“Whist, girl and listen!” When silence settled again, the older woman smoothed her wimple, tucking away the end of her braid, though that style was changing. She carried on, “Our chaplain is ill, so it makes sense for you, Elizabeth, to arrange the couples for the Saint Valentine’s Day festival. You learned to write along with your brother. And ‘tis only for fun. The couples take the following year to learn about each other, not to bind themselves into a marriage.”
“I have no desire to be shackled in any way to any man, milady, even if ‘tis only for fun.”
“Then assign no one to your name,” Patrica blurted out. “But please, Elizabeth, give me Baron Drake! He’s said to be strong and handsome, kind and valiant. And I hear from our chambermaid that he has already arrived.”
Her head pounding, Elizabeth rose. All she’d wanted was to learn to run a household. Their brother was always off fighting for King Henry. He would need someone to control their keep since their parents had sailed to Normandy to visit their lands there. It made better sense for Elizabeth to learn as much as possible from her aunt than to dilly-dally about because some men had arrived to spend the coldest month with them. She smoothed her kirtle and curtsied to her aunt. “I need some air. Please excuse me, Milady, whilst I take a stroll on the parapet.”
Elizabeth accepted her cloak from her maid. When she reached the parapet, she looked out at the Chiltern Hills as she loosed her kerchief to allow her long hair to flow free. Soon she was facing the sun and breeze, both cold even for February. Yet, they did wonders for her headache.
They'd also lured someone else up there and she could feel his eyes settle upon her.