EloiseA Benevolent Lady
“Theodore, I will not tell you again!” Eloise said sternly. Her oldest boy, affectionately known as Teddy, looked up at her, wide-eyed and completely innocent.
“I wasn’t doing anything, Mama,” he said. Teddy was just over three years old and was already surprisingly articulate. He was dark-haired and serious, like his father, but he had an underlying mischievous streak. Eloise had to admit that this troublesome streak was likely her fault.
The one-year-old baby, Thomas, or Tommy, was lying happily in the arms of his nursemaid, burbling to himself and generally being a darling.
No, without a doubt, it was Teddy who made the most trouble in the Spencer household.
Sensing his mother’s attention had wavered, Teddy resumed what he had been doing before he had been scolded, which was poking his baby brother with a small stick he’d picked up during one of their coach stops.
“Teddy! I am quite serious! You won’t be allowed to ride with your Papa if you don’t stop immediately.”
That did the trick. Teddy loved horse riding, but of course was far too small. So, Rollo would take him up on one of the milder horses, put him safely on the saddle in front of him, and they would trot sedately around the courtyard. Threatening to take away this treat did wonders for Teddy’s behaviour. This was the final stage of their journey. Rollo had brought his horse along, as well as the horse he had bought for Eloise on their honeymoon.
Of course, what with Eloise’s early pregnancy with Teddy, and then Tommy following two years after, she’d scarcely had time to ride her new horse—whom she had called Red, in memory of the very first horse she’d ever owned.
Still, there would be more opportunities to ride, Eloise was comfortably aware of that.
“Are we there yet, Mama?” Teddy asked, blinking large hazel eyes. “I feel sick.”
“Just a little while longer, darling. Grandmama and Grandpapa will be delighted to see you.”
Teddy beamed. He quite adored his grandparents, and the feeling was mutual. “How long will we be at Grandmama’s?”
“A few weeks, darling. Grandmama and Grandpapa always throw a party around summertime, it’s a tradition. I met your Papa at one of those parties.”
Teddy had quite lost interest and was staring out of the carriage window. Eloise was beginning to recognise the scenery now. What with one thing and another, she’d hardly had a chance to visit her childhood country home in her four years of marriage. Eloise felt an odd frisson of excitement at the idea of coming home.
Rollo rode beside the carriage, occasionally leaning to look into the carriage and wave smilingly at his family. He always saved an extra special smile and glance for his beloved wife. Eloise felt strangely torn. She wanted to be out there, riding through the country with Rollo, but she also wanted to be here, with her beloved children.
It was strange and pleasant, all at once. Eloise sat back against the seat with a sigh. They’d be there soon. She was coming home.
Lord and Lady Pierce were waiting for them on the front steps, waving excitedly. Teddy was out of the carriage the instant the steps were down, racing happily towards his grandparents. Lord Pierce swept him up in his arms, throwing the little boy into the air. Teddy squealed with delight.
Eloise climbed down first, helping the nursemaid and baby Tommy climb down next. Lady Pierce came down to meet her, holding out her arms to take the baby.
“It’s good to see you, darling. You look well,” Lady Pierce said, kissing her daughter on the cheek. “Your Papa and I have missed you.”
“Well, we’ll have at least two weeks to spend together. Until the guests arrive, of course.” Eloise chuckled. “How many people have you invited this time? Twenty? Thirty?”
Lady Pierce laughed self-consciously. “Actually, your Papa and I have decided to have a smaller, family gathering. It’s just us, along with William and Jane, of course.”
“They’re here? Oh, marvellous. I haven’t seen Jane in an age.”
“If you like, you can go and say good day to her. I’ll hold little Tommy.” Lady Pierce smiled down at her youngest grandson’s sleeping face.
Eloise left her mother cooing over the baby and turned toward her old friend.
William and Jane’s marriage had taken place around six months after theirs. While the four had remained friends, there had been a certain coolness between them since the children had been born.
William and Jane had no children, not yet. Eloise knew Jane had been desperate for children. They’d talked about baby names and linens and more for weeks, and when Eloise discovered she was pregnant with Teddy, Jane was thrilled for her.
However, months and then years went past, and there was no baby. Jane’s excitement faded to worry. Eloise found herself occupied with her children and her house, and she spent her remaining time helping Rollo run his business—which was surprisingly entertaining.
William and Jane were talking to Rollo. Jane spotted Eloise approaching and brightened, breaking off from the little trio to greet her friend.
“Eloise, it’s so wonderful to see you!” Jane said, embracing Eloise. “How are your boys?”
“Very well. How are you and Will?”
Jane beamed. “We’re doing excellently. In fact, I’m. . .” She trailed off, one hand cupping her belly. Eloise’s gaze followed the movement, and her eyes widened.
“You’re expecting a baby!”
Eloise gave a delicate shriek. “Oh, Jane, that’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you!”
Jane laughed self-consciously. “We’re tremendously excited. Don’t tell anyone just yet, we’re trying to keep it a secret.”
“Understood.” Eloise linked her arm through her friend’s. “Now. Tell me everything I’ve missed while we’ve been apart.”
After dinner, Rollo and Eloise went for a stroll. They went through the rose gardens, enjoying the sunset and the warm summer air.
“I’ve missed these gardens.” Eloise observed. “Our London garden is nothing in comparison.”
“It’s so peaceful up here,” Rollo agreed. “We should visit more often.”
Eloise smiled up at him. “We should. Mama and Papa love to see the children.”
Rollo chuckled. “Did you ever think you’d have two monstrous little boys running around the house?”
“Frankly, no. It’s a little unreal at times.”
“Agreed.” Rollo pulled her closer, leaning down to press a kiss to the top of her head. “Even two of them are a handful.”
Eloise chuckled. “Then I have some terrible news for you, my darling.”
There was a little silence. “Wait, Eloise . . . are you saying. . .”
“Yes, Rollo, I am. I’m expecting.”
Rollo pulled back a little, and Eloise was delighted to see real joy and excitement on his face. “When?”
“Sometime next year, I think. This time,” Eloise ran her hands up the front of Rollo’s coat, “you know, this one is going to be a girl. I’m sure of it.”
Rollo nodded solemnly. “I’m sure, too. We can but hope.”
Eloise stood up on her tiptoes to kiss Rollo, winding her arms around his neck.
“I love you,” she whispered.
Rollo smiled down at her, eyes glittering in the growing twilight. “I love you, too.”
I hope you enjoyed “Eloise, A Benevolent Lady”. I would love to know your opinion!