KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
The next morning, Viola waited in the chilly chapel for mass to begin. As always, the priest was late, her aunt yawned prodigiously and the guests who chose to attend gossiped in whispers.
She wasn’t disturbed by these small frustrations today, however. She was more anxious to see if Sir Melvin would attend. She had noticed him at mass before and hoped to see him this morning, too. His cousin, she had likewise noted, had never been to the chapel.
Unfortunately, since her aunt always insisted on being close to the altar, she couldn’t see the entire chapel and hesitated to turn around, lest her action cause gossip or wonder.
Until there was a long prayer. Then she risked a quick survey of the building and was rewarded by the sight of Sir Melvin, his dark head bowed, his eyes closed, his hands clasped in devotion.
Indeed, he seemed so intent on the prayer, she felt rather ashamed of herself and resolved to pay more heed to the mass as it progressed.
Once it was over, her aunt led the exit from the chapel in her customary fashion, with her head lowered, her steps slow, as if deeply moved by the ceremony. This was, Viola knew, only a performance, as her aunt proved the moment they were outside and before the rest of those assembled followed her.
“Viola, I can’t tell you how pleased I was last night to see you dancing with Lord Barengar!” Lady Anne whispered, her eyes gleaming with excitement. “I must commend you on your display of modesty by only dancing with him once. That’s just the way to keep a fellow like him paying attention! Too many young women are too eager and only serve to make a man think the less of them. Your admirable gravity as you danced was perfect, too. Simply perfect!
“Oh, good day to you, Lady Fishly!” her aunt said more loudly as the older guest joined them. “It appears to be another fine day, does it not?”
Viola was not sorry to have Lady Fishly interrupt her aunt’s enthusiastic praise. Aunt Anne would have been much less enthused or happy if she’d known Viola had only danced with Lord Barengar because she feared there would be more gossip if she didn’t. She also she feared the man would continue to pester her until she did. She was sure he was the sort of vain fellow so certain of his own attractiveness that he would never believe a woman would truly not want to dance with him.
So she had danced with him, and spent the rest of the evening avoiding him before retiring. If Lord Barengar interpreted her avoidance and silence as maidenly modesty, so be it – although she sincerely hoped he didn’t.
Then, among the people leaving the chapel and making their way to the hall to break the morning fast, she spotted Sir Melvin. She immediately left her aunt’s side and threaded her way through the others in the courtyard until she was near enough to say, “Good day, Sir Melvin.”
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH AND THE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.