Chapter 5 Part 1

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In the master chamber, Thea was sitting on the edge of the bed, still holding Gabriel to her breast. As closely as she was holding him, it was a miracle that her mother had gotten her into a nightdress. Cassia sat beside her, speaking in her familiar soothing tones.

 "They will find her. Do not concern yourself with that. Your son is safe, and that is what matters."

Evelyn watched from the doorway. She'd been sent to join her mother and sister for the remainder of the night, as it was quite late and Guy insisted that she retire. Knowing what they did not, she took a small step forward, speaking quietly. "Mama, they have found her already."

Thea turned fast, eyes blazing with anger. "I want her whipped until the flesh is stripped from her bones!"

Evelyn sighed. "She is dead, sister. She fell and struck her head in the pursuit."

To that, Thea spewed viciously. "I hope her blood and brains were scattered! I hope the animals tear her traitorous body to pieces and feast upon her!"

Her shouting startled Gabriel, who began to cry. Cassia spoke gently but firmly.

"For the love of heaven, Thea! You upset your son with this madness and he has been through too much already." She tried to take him, but Thea would not allow it. With a sigh, Cassia rose to her feet.

"Evie," she said, "Sit with your sister and try to calm her. I will fetch her a goblet of wine."

Evelyn went to the bed, sitting beside Thea...and her heart ached at seeing how her sister trembled. Putting an arm around her shoulders, she reached up to brush the wayward hair from Thea's face, speaking gently.

"Do not be afraid. Adele is no more. She cannot return to harm him."

Thea's voice was low but sharp. "Do not speak her name again. And she may indeed be burning in purgatory for her sins, but how do I know there is not another to take her place?"

Unsure of how to respond, Evelyn chose to remain silent. As she leaned her head on Thea's shoulder, comforting her, their mother returned. Evelyn exchanged places with her, watching as she forced the cup into the hand of Thea, who at first refused it. But Cassia insisted.

"I am your mother, and you will do as I say."

Thea hesitated for a moment. Then she took up the cup and drank.

Evelyn took a spot at the window seat, observing them...wondering what her mother would do to maintain the situation. She soon knew the answer, as Thea's eyes began to droop. Her hold on Gabriel slacked enough for Cassia to take him, even as Thea tried to make a weak attempt at a protest. Given the baby to hold, Evelyn watched as her mother made Thea lie down.

"Will she be well, Mama?"

Cassia sighed. "There is no way of knowing for certain. But the child is safe, praise God. And for now, your sister sleeps. So let us all do the same. It has been a long night, indeed."

It seemed that Gabriel agreed, for now that he was in a calm and quiet embrace, he brought his tiny fists to his face and yawned. When she placed him in his cradle, he made no noise...only a silent suckling gesture in his sleep.

Evelyn helped her mother remove her garments, and Cassia returned the gesture. There would be no servants to tend to them this night, which suited Evelyn just fine. At times, it was pleasant to do without them, as rare an occasion as it was. They donned their nightdresses and blew out the candles, leaving only the firelight of the hearth.

The bed of the master chamber was enormous, enough to sleep three people comfortably. For the duration of the party this was where they would all be residing, while her father and brothers would share the room next door. It was done to allow their guests ample space, but Evelyn did not mind. She tried to do as her mother said, lying down to rest. All was quiet for a time.

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