After a brief time spent pacing back and forth behind the screen, Guy gave in to his impulses. His newborn daughter had nearly been lost...a thought that still rattled him to his core. Cassia, of course, was in great distress over it. It was unlikely she would ever be free of the memory.
Louisa can go to the devil, he thought.
Despite the passage of only a few minutes, he rushed forth. Louisa shot him a dark look, but he gave it no attention, hurrying to Cassia’s side. The soiled bed-linens had been removed, and as a maid-servant bathed Cassia’s face and tidied her hair, Guy watched her, seeing how she craned her neck in search of the baby. Sharing her impatience about the delay, he made his displeasure known, raising his voice in anger at the midwife and her servants.
“Why do you tarry so? Bring the child to us.”
Louisa sighed, vexed by his show of temper. “She is being bathed, my lord. You shall have her in a moment.”
Muttering under his breath, he turned to his wife. Brushing the maid off, he sank down on the bed beside Cassia, who fell against him with tears in her eyes. He held her close, moving his hands up and down her back to soothe her. Her body and voice trembled in equal measure.
“Oh Guy, I have never known such terror.”
Nor have I, he wanted to say. He wanted so much to confess his own fears. But it was she who needed comfort...not himself. He tried to calm her with soft, whispered words. But he knew there was only one way to ease her fears...and his own. Frustrated and impatient, he bellowed in anger.
“Good God, woman. Will you bring her to us? We have waited long enough.”
At last, one of the maids brought the baby forth, and Cassia gathered her close. Guy watched, his eyes intense, as Cassia touched the tiny arms and legs, her feet and hands, as if to be certain there was no damage. When she gently brushed back the material that was gathered around the baby’s head, a soft and delighted sound escaped her. In all of the chaos, neither of them had noticed the crown of thick, black hair. Guy could not help himself. Reaching out, he ran his fingers through it. After the greatest scare of his life, he at last allowed himself to experience the joy of his daughter’s birth. A smile came to his lips as he touched her head.
“What a mane she has,” he remarked. “The others were not born with such a crop of hair.”
Cassia softly laughed. “Oh Guy, look at her eyes. Look at how lovely and blue they are.”
His smiles grew as he watched the baby open and close her eyes. Lightly brushing back her hair, delighting in the way it sprang back up, he looked at Cassia. “What shall we call this lovely imp? Have you a name in mind?”
She nodded, clutching the baby’s fingers. “Her name shall be Evelyn. I have found no other name that pleases me as much.”
He softly kissed her temple. “So be it,” he said. “Evelyn she shall be.” Reaching out, he gently took his daughter in his arms. She was calm now, moving her fingers and turning her head...blissfully unaware, it seemed, of the fright she had caused them all. He spoke to her in a low, soft tone.
“You have caused a great commotion, young lady. I hope such behavior is not a sign of things to come.”
When she closed her eyes, he smiled again, thinking she was as perfect as a child could be. And yet, he found himself looking her over. Few moments in his life had been as frightening as the ones just after her birth. He felt a desperate need to hold her and not let go, but he knew that if he felt this possessive, Cassia was surely more so. As he returned Evelyn to her mother’s arms, there was a scuffling outside their chamber door. They both lifted their heads, listening and watching, and they heard the sound of Claudia’s speech rushed in French. Beatrice, the housekeeper, was speaking as well, their voices mingling with childish chattering. Guy and Cassia looked at one another, and Cassia smiled, gesturing her head towards the door.
“They must surely wonder why we have not seen them this morning. Please bring them, my love. Let them meet their darling sister.”
He nodded. “Of course.”
As he hurried towards the outer door, he experienced a strange rush of emotions. Delight lightened his step. But he felt a need to be authorative and lordly. So much of the past day had been beyond his control, and it had nearly crippled him with fear. But now he could be master once again, and his first task was to rid himself of the servants who had dominated the room.
“Louisa, you may go,” he said. His voice was, at first, rather harsh. But then he considered the fact that she had forced Evelyn’s life to spring forth. Uncertain of how to be thankful without sounding soft, he gave her a light pat on the shoulder. “Your work is appreciated,” he added. He moved towards the door, not seeing the smirk on Louisa’s face as she and her maids gathered their things, preparing to depart.
When he opened the door, he saw Thea struggling to pull out of Claudia’s grip. Beatrice was holding Owen, and William was standing at her side, obedient and calm, but with his eyes shining with curiosity. Guy gestured them forward, and Thea and William hurried to him. With Claudia and Beatrice following behind, they all entered the room in a quiet but excited manner. He took a step forward, intending to join them. But then, he paused.
How would it look if he rushed in, giddy and foolish like a child? What example would that set for his two young sons, who were in their formative years? Easing his way forward, he stood a short distance from the bedside, watching. Beatrice held Owen, gently placing him next to his mother, while Claudia watched over William and Thea. Guy smiled at seeing his daughter so calm and gentle. It was so unlike her. Cassia spoke gently to the children.
“This is Evelyn. She is your sister.”
Thea was not shy. She leaned down, kissing Evelyn’s head. “My sister,” she said.
When William leaned in for a closer look, Thea seemed to take her own words literally. She tried to hold him back, but Cassia softly scolded her.
“Theodora, you must behave like a lady. You must share your sister with others.”
Thea nodded, replying softly. “Yes, Mama.”
William moved in carefully, reaching out to touch the baby’s feet. Owen seemed curious, pointing at her, and Claudia guided his hand to Evelyn’s. Guy delighted in the happy scene...his family content and safe. It was difficult to remain passive, when he wanted so much to express the great happiness and love he felt for his wife and children. It would not do, in front of his children and servants, to express such tenderness. But when the baby started to cry, he felt he was permitted to act...and he was more than happy to do so. He came forward, speaking firmly but gently.
“Claudia...Beatrice. Take the children to the nursery. Lady Cassia and the babe must rest.”
Claudia and Beatrice obeyed. As they took their charges away, Thea fussed, and though it was tempting to coddle her, Guy motioned his head towards the door. If his attention was needed by anyone, it was Cassia and Evelyn, and after the servants and children were gone, he returned to his place beside his wife and daughter. With all eyes removed from him, except for Cassia, he could act as he pleased. He could speak as he pleased. As Cassia put the baby to her breast, he touched Evelyn’s downy head. A sigh escaped him, but it was the sound of a weight being lifted from his shoulders.
“We shall give her a grand birthday celebration,” he said, his voice soft and low.
She smiled, looking over her daughter with adoring eyes. “It will be grand, indeed. For we have much...so very much...to celebrate.”