I was not surprised to see her. She was sitting on the chair at the end of my bed, her favourite tea set on the butler’s tray my son-in-law made for my birthday years back. Her Grace is, of course, far too well bred to allow her irritation to show, apart from a slight flare to the aristocratic nostrils. Her every movement as she prepared a cup of tea, just the way I like it, was completely controlled, with a trained elegance that she had learned from the cradle.
I’d thought about her often during the day, wondering what her reaction would be to missing one of her Monday’s for Tea. And now I knew. She was here for an explanation.
She looked up from her task and met my eyes. “Tea, Jude?” A glance around the room, more habit than expectation. No, Eleanor, the Knight household does not run to servants, except the mechanical and electronic kind, two centuries away from your experience.
Beside me, my personal romantic hero slumbered on, as Eleanor, the Duchess of Haverford carried the tea to my beside table with her own aristocratic hands before resuming her seat and pouring a cup for herself.
”I trust your indisposition is minor,” she hinted, sweetly. I suppressed a smile at her assumption that only an illness or injury could have prevented me from making a priority of writing her regular weekly engagement with the denizens of the fictionsphere. It was not untrue, but I was pleased to reassure her.
”Indeed. I am almost fully recovered. The usual problem complicated by a fall and the demands of a busy season. I lost Sunday to bed rest, and have been trying to catch up without overdoing things.”
She nodded, once, and the slight stiffness eased. “I am relieved you were not badly hurt, and are feeling better. Of course, you have other matters that need your attention.”
”A major project at the day job, Christmas crafts with my grandchildren (that was Saturday gone), a new book with a deadline for final loading of tomorrow and last minute changes to the cover and the interior. Yes, you could say that.” I offered a palm branch. “You will be pleased with the book, I think, Eleanor. It is about a granddaughter of yours and her suitor.”
”Truly? The name on the invitation for yesterday was Sarah Grenford. One of my descendants, I thought, perhaps.”
”Next week, Eleanor, I promise. God Help Ye, Merry Gentleman will be published over the weekend, and Sally and David will visit you on Christmas Day.”
“That will be very pleasant,” her Grace agreed.
”I am on holiday from Friday, and during my three weeks off I plan to set up the schedule for next year and send out invitations for other authors to send their characters to visit you.” I sipped my tea, appreciating the fine bouquet, though I usually drink decaffeinated in the night. Not something I could expect Eleanor to know about.
She favoured me with her warm smile. ”Thank you, dear. I know my social calendar is only one of your jobs, but I do so enjoy my Monday afternoons.”
“I do, too, Eleanor,” I assured her.