How Everything Began
(edited by CandyTerry)
Arundel, Sussex, UK - 1895 -
The picturesque town of Arundel, located in the valley of the River Arun, was entirely dominated by its castle on the hill, one of the most beautiful parts of Britain and historic residence of the Dukes of Norfolk for over 800 years. Its medieval charm enchanted travellers. Arundel was a small gem set in the South of England.
The Earl of Arundel, Richard Granchester, was the only son of John Miles, the thirteenth Duke of Norfolk. He was 25 years old and he had been educated to succeed his father, which, according to many, was going to happen very soon, considering the serious illness of John that forced him to bed for several months.
Richard's mother, Lady Catherine, Duchess of Norfolk, died when he was just 3 years old. His father, always engaged in his travels to London, to attend the sittings of the House of Lords, had entrusted him to tutors and housekeepers and then to the most prestigious colleges in England.
More than a woman's heart had beaten for the young Richard. His noble and proud look, his tall and athletic figure, his deep dark eyes and charming manners, seemed to have the same effect on women like a moth to a flame.
He, on the other hand, had never been insensible to the charms of women; he had loved, in a physical sense, several women, but never, in his opinion, had he been in love.
His love adventures continued despite his being engaged for a year, without love, to Lady Beatrix, daughter of the Duke of Abercorn.
Richard and Beatrix didn't love each other, their marriage was merely an agreement of convenience between their families, two of the oldest and noblest of all Britain.
They had seen each other only twice, in London, during a party at Buckingham Palace, and in Arundel, at their engagement party.
No spark had ignited, they were coldly greeted with a bow and a handkiss on both occasions. The few words that they had been exchanged were only about the beauty of the place or about the occasion of the meeting.
Beatrix was not unsightly, but her angular face, her hard features and her cold and haughty manners did not exercise any fascination for Richard. However, they were to be married; everything had been established.
LONDON - 1896 -
It was a cold January morning.
Richard and his best friend, the Marquess of Worcester, the eldest son of the Duke of Beaufort, sat in their carriage, chatting about this and that, about the weather and their latest conquests.
Both the young men had been invited to an exposure at the National Portrait Gallery. The expositor was a young American painter, Richard Henry, who seemed to be quite popular with his works. The two young friends were invited to attend the inauguration of the exhibition.
When they came down from the carriage, in front of the majestic building, light snow flakes began to paint the city, softening the noises of the bustling London life.
Richard and Edward were met according to the protocol, attended the opening, and uttered a short speech; before leaving, they decided to look at those paintings that seemed to attract so much attention from the London elite.
Landscapes and portraits, painted with soft strokes, ran before the eyes of Richard.
Suddenly, his attention was captured by a portrait different from the others.
The lines were more pronounced, the colours more defined and the picture seemed to have a different style than the other portraits.
The subject was a woman ... a woman of stunning beauty. Her nakedness was covered with a white veil, her long and smooth blond hair fell to her shoulders in a cascade of gold and...her eyes ... her deep blue eyes, pierced the heart of Richard.
She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Instinctively, he looked around the label next to the picture, but the only information that he took was: Philadelphia, 1891.
-Hey, Richard, what’s happening to you? - Edward asked , noticing the excitement of his friend.
-This woman ... – Richard said.
-Yes ... she is very beautiful ...
- .... She must be mine ...!
When Richard and Edward left the gallery, a light blanket of snow had whitened the city. The temperature had dropped considerably, but Richard did not feel the cold and biting air that enjoyed to pinching his face.
During the return trip to Manor Granchester, the London residence of the family, the young man was silent, lost in thought.
- Richard? Richard, are you listening to me? - Edward asked suddenly.
- Huh? What? Edward, tell me!
- Really I’ve been speaking for half an hour, but I have the impression of being alone on this coach!
- I'm sorry. I was a little distracted!
- "A little distracted'? You’re gone in the head since you saw that picture!
- That woman ... I was impressed!
- Let me say that is not the first time that a woman has this effect on you! But it's the first time with a painting! You're getting worse, old chap! - Edward said laughing.
- I want to know her name ... I want to meet her ... I want ...
- Okay, okay ... I understand, there is no need for you to fall in the details. I'm going to make you an offer.
- What offer?
- Ah ... I see that I was able to capture your attention!
- Speak! - Richard said impatiently.
- My father is a close friend of the gallery’s director ...
- Continue ...
- I could convince the director to talk to that painter to give us some information about the emh ... ... "picture"!
- I suspect you want something in return!
- Nothing much ... just in case you were able to meet her ...
- And she had a sister ...
- I would like you to introduce her to me! - Edward concluded with a laugh.
Richard laughed heartily at the joke and with this good humor, they arrived at Manor Granchester.
When Richard came into the room of his father, he was pleasantly surprised to find him standing in front of the window.
- Father! You must not fatigue yourself!
- Do not worry, Richard! I feel better today and there's an issue that I want to discuss with you!
Aided by his son, John Miles Granchester sat on an armchair next to the fire.
- Tell me, father! - Richard said, sitting in front of him.
- I know that you and Beatrix don’t love each other, but you would do well to pay attention to rumors circulating in London salons.
- Richard ... I know you are not faithful, but the society always has forgiven the sins of men like we are.
- So, what's the problem?
- The problem is that the rumors are about her! It is said she has a secret relation with her cousin, the Earl of Morlay!
- Apparently not so secret! - Richard said annoyed.
It was not jealousy that he felt, but his male pride was affected by it.
- This marriage is very important for our families. You have to talk to Beatrix and threaten to break the engagement if the rumors persist. You can be sure that her family will not let this happen!
- How you’d like, father! - Richard said, getting up to go on.
- Another thing, my son!
- I’m listening to you!
- My nephew will be a real Granchester, not a bastard!
A WEEK LATER ...
Richard was sipping his tea in the study, when a servant announced the visit of the Marquess of Worcester.
The two friends greeted each other with a firm handshake and sat down in front of the fireplace.
- I have good news for you! - Edward began smiling.
- And would they be? - Richard said raising his left eyebrow.
- I heard about your mystery woman!
Richard put down his cup of tea on the nearby table, sitting on the edge of his seat, prepared to listen to his friend.
- So ... it was a bit difficult to talk to that artist, but ...
- Tell me the name! - Richard interrupted him was no longer in the skin.
- Calm ... calm ... Her name is Eleanor Margaret Le Breton, but ...
- But ...
- She is better known by her stage name!
- Her stage name?
- Yes, she is an actress… Eleanor Baker ...!
Richard narrowed his eyes trying to remember. He had heard that name, but he had never seen her.
- And where does she live?
- Well, she is American, but ... do not believe it! At this time she is working in London in a theater company.
- Is she on stage this time?
- No ...she is preparing a play. The premiere will be on February 12th.
- I want the best box ...
- I have not finished!
- What else is there?
- The show will be in Paris, at the Opera Theatre. The Lord Chamberlain censored the play and he has not allowed the show was in London.
- Censored? But what is the title of the play?
- Salome ...
- Salome! - Richard repeated.
He had recently read the tragedy of that English writer, Oscar Wilde, and he was pleasantly shocked by some of its parts. He could not believe that soon he would see "her" acting in that role.
He closed his eyes in advance anticipating the pleasure of that vision.
New York, 1895
Eleanor and Maurice Barrymore sat at a table in a private room of the restaurant in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, one of the most exclusive in New York.
After the selection of 1891, Eleanor had become part of the Barrymore theater company where he played the role of actor and director.
The girl, now eighteen, had always played secondary roles, but her natural talent lit up the stage on which she recited.
In addition to her talent, her fresh and innocent beauty created a kind of magical aura around her, so those who saw the play or had the opportunity to talk to her, remained mesmerized by her charm.
That night Maurice Barrymore had invited her to dinner to discuss the new work he had planned for the spring season. The auditions were started since a month, but he had not yet assigned the role of the female protagonist.
- It’s the first time you’ve invited me to dinner! - Eleanor began.
- I needed a little peace of mind to talk to you about a certain thing ...
- Are you referring to the main female role of The Heart of Maryland?
- And yes ... I still have some doubts. I don’t know if I should to give the role of Maryland Calvert to you or to Leslie ...
- Well ... we did the auditions ... what influences your decision?
- You know that I interpret the role of Alan Kendrick ...
- This has always been the only certainty ... but ... what are you getting? - Eleanor asked defensively.
Since the time Maurice had invited her to dinner, a feeling of uneasiness had taken possession of her.
- You see Alan and Maryland are in love ... ... there will be some love scenes ... I wish to have the chance to try first if there is a such feeling between us .... If you are suitable to these scenes ... - Maurice said with a smile and a mischievous look .
- I bet you made the same proposal also to Leslie! - Eleanor responded calmly. In the meanwhile she learned to control her own reactions and emotions.
- Not really ... you are my first choice - he said trying to hold her hand.
- Can I ask you something? - Said Eleanor, trying to escape from that contact.
- Tell me ... well
- You have a daughter who is more or less my age ... with what courage could you still look at yourself in the mirror after such outrageous proposals?
- I understand that you refuse to participate in the auditions ...
- The "auditions" you mention do not interest me at all. I am an actress, not a whore!
- I feel that my choice will fall on Leslie ...
Eleanor was now furious, her self-control had deserted her.
- You can do whatever you want! - She said, rising to leave.
Maurice grabbed her left wrist.
- Think about what you're doing!
- Well, I thought! - Said Eleanor, while taking a glass of wine with her free hand and throwing it on his face.
- You will never find work in Broadway! - Maurice shouted furiously and humiliated by her rejection.
- It does not matter! - Eleanor responded - At least I can continue looking at myself in the mirror, I! - And saying this she went out from the room head-on.
Throughout the discussion Eleanor had tried not to cry, she did not want to give this satisfaction to Maurice, but now that she was at home, between the walls of her room, she could give free vent to her disappointment and anger.
Gladys heard her sobbing.
- Baby, what happened? Maybe you did not get the role you wish so much? – she asked entering into the room and holding her in her arms.
- Worse, aunt, much worse! – The young woman tried to answer and, between sobs, she told her what had happened.
- I am very proud of you! - Said Gladys - Remember that the most important thing is the respect we have for ourselves! Do not ever stoop to compromises! – she added.
- But now I will be forced to leave from New York! I will not find work here! Maurice will burn the land around me!
- Have faith, my child, you'll see that everything will be! - And saying this she helped her to get in the bed, tucked her in and, after giving her a kiss on the forehead, she left the room.
TWO WEEKS LATER ...
It was a February morning, when Eleanor and Gladys were having breakfast in the dining room. Eleanor was very quiet ... just the day before she had heard that the part of Maryland was given to Leslie Carter.
Gladys was checking the mail, when she suddenly exclaimed:
- Oh ... finally ... I was waiting for the answer!
She opened the envelope and read the letter carefully.
- There are good news! – she exclaimed.
- And who does it concern? - Eleanor replied absently.
- It concerns you! - The woman said, smiling.
Eleanor looked at her quizzically.
- I think it is appropriate to give you an explanation ... About two weeks ago, I wrote to my friend who lives in London, Emily Evans. She is fascinated by the arts, especially theater and I think she has a lot of friendships ...
Eleanor now listened carefully. Her eyes sparkled with colors ranging from blue to green.
- And what did she say? – she asked anxiously.
- The D' Olyby Carte Opera Company has announced the selections. She wants you go to London as soon as possible!
- Aunt ... But I have to leave New York City ... and you!
- My darling, if your greatest desire is becoming an actress, you will need to make sacrifices and waivers. We must always fight for what we want. And about me ... I'll leave with you and I’ll visit you often. New York and London are not so far away! She said with a wink.
- But where I'm going to live?
- At first you’ll stay with Emily. Later you will find an accommodation.
Eleanor stood up and embraced Gladys with all the gratitude and affection she felt in her heart.
- Thanks Aunt Gladys! -
- It’s nothing, baby! - Said the woman trying to drive back the tears that threatened to flow from her eyes.
Paris, February 12th, 1896.
Richard was in Paris since a few days. He had taken a suite in the Elysees Union Hotel and he had reserved a box, the one with the best view, in the Opera Theater, for the premiere in that evening. Edward had insisted about accompanying him, he did not want to miss the "show", he said, and Richard had doubts that he was referring about him. He did not mind the company of Edward, but, perhaps, that night he would have preferred to be alone with his emotions.
The beginning of the show was scheduled for 8 p.m., but he came very early.
At 8 o'clock the theater was packed with people, those who were most attracted by the uproar that this play had raised since its release in 1893.
When the lights went out and the curtain rose, silence fell over the entire theater. The scene took place on a large terrace, in Herod's palace, which opened to the banquet room: some soldiers were leaning against the railing, a large staircase on the right, in the background an old cistern surrounded by a wall of green bronze, the moon shone bright.
After the initial dialogue between the soldiers who were discussing about the beauty of the moon and the beauty of the princess Salome, she left the banquet to close the cistern in which the prophet was confined.
At the sight of her advancing on the stage, Richard gasped for breath, she was much more beautiful than in the painting that had troubled him so much.
He could not believe to his eyes and his ears, when she uttered the famous phrase:
"I'll kiss your lips, Jokanaan, I’ll kiss your mouth!"
A shiver ran through the back of Richard.
- I wish one day you’ll say these words to me! - He thought.
- But it will happen ... will happen very soon. It 's only a matter of time! – he said in a low voice with a strange glint in his eyes.
And when she danced the seven veils’ dance, Richard felt a burning desire. He had never experienced anything like that. He had wanted so many women, but never with such intensity that caused within him almost physical pain. She was an irresistibly sensuous beauty, but at the same time, innocent. He was completely lost in his desire for her.
When the show ended and the lights went on, Edward was the first to speak:
- And yes, I must say that for such a woman you can literally “lose your head”! - He laughed – and from what I see, my friend, you are right on track!
Richard tried to compose himself and said:
- She is a beautiful woman! I never get tired of watching her!
- I saw that! And if only looking at her gives you this effect, I dare not think what would happen if you meet her!
- You know - Richard said - that for me there are no "ifs" and "buts". I always get what I want ... It 's just a matter of "how" and "when".
- Richard I know it ... I know you, but be careful… not to burn yourself this time, you know that when playing with fire ...
- There is nothing to fear! I always have the control! – he said with a mischievous smile. And after saying so they left the theater.
The next night, when the show ended, Eleanor returned to her dressing room.
When she opened the door, a delicious scent invaded her nostrils. A wonderful composition of flowers, cornflowers, iris and forget-me-nots, all in the shades of blue, was resting on her dressing table.
The young woman was accustomed to receiving flowers, but they had always been red roses or white camellias. The color of the flowers was, therefore, the first thing that struck her. Next to the composition there was a note that she hastened to open and read.
It was a poem that she immediately recognized ... it was one of her favorite authors, George G. Byron ...
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies…
I tried to find.. but nothing in nature is comparable to the blue of Your eyes ...
Richard Granchester, Earl of Arundel.
Eleanor was still contemplating the composition and the note, when Emily came into the dressing room after watching the show.
- You were wonderful tonight, too, my dear!
- Oh .... What beautiful flowers! Who sent them to you?
The young woman showed her the note without saying anything.
- Oh .... what a romantic! Surely in a little while he will ask you for a date! Richard Granchester ... this name is not new for me ... But yes ... he is the son of the Duke of Norfolk!
- He could also be a prince, but I do not agree to meet all those who send me flowers!
- But it says he is a young man so charming!
- Emily, listen to me, I did not go away from New York to fall into the arms of a Count, Duke or whatever he is ...! He will certainly be a rich and spoiled young, used to having everything he wants!
- As you wish, dear ... but these flowers are really beautiful! Let's get them at home!
Despite her convictions, Eleanor, that night, before falling asleep, reread the note and, before closing her eyes, the last thing she saw was the beautiful blue flower arrangement.
Paris, February 1896.
Since Eleanor had begun the rehearsals of Salome in Paris, she and Emily had rented a flat near the Opera.
In the days that followed the premiere, the small apartment was filled with blue flower arrangements.
Emily did not know where to put the pots.
- You must decide to meet him sooner or later, or we move house due to lack of space! - Emily said, smiling.
- In the last note he has asked to me going to dinner with him! - Eleanor replied absently.
- And what did you decide to do?
- I told you I don’t accept invitations from strangers ...
- But Eleanor, he is the son of a Duke, he is young, he is fascinating, he is ...
- You know how I feel! - Said the young woman, but inside herself the desire to know the man who managed to upset her with every note that he sent her, was beginning to rise.
In his suite at the Elysees Union Hotel, Richard walked nervously across the room arguing with Edward.
- She has not responded to my invitation! She has not responded to any of the notes that I sent her! - Richard said with his wounded pride.
- Ah ... what a woman! - Edward said, smiling, blissfully sunk in an armchair - Hard bread for your teeth!
- But there's more! I do not give up so easily! I’ll find a way to meet her and then everything will be downhill for me! - Richard said with a mischievous look.
- Maybe I can help you ... - Edward said casually, looking at his nails.
- What did you say?
- I said maybe I can help you! – he repeated in a louder voice.
- Tell me how!
- Ah, if I had not come to Paris with you!
- Don’t try my patience! ... Talk ... Hurry!
- OK, as you want, but you owe me more than a favor!
- Do you know that banker, Henri Cernuschi?
- And who does not know him in Paris!
- He has organized a party at his home ...
- And then?
- It 's a party in honor of the troupe of actors who played Salome ...
- ... ... ...
- As members of the London aristocracy, you and I have been invited. The call came this morning. In two days you will meet your Salome!
- And you ... and you didn’t tell me anything! - Richard burst out of his mind, he did not know whether in anger or joy.
- You were talking, talking ... and I could not say anything!
- You're ... you're ...
- …the best friend you have! - Edward concluded and both the men laughed.
Eleanor and Emily had rented a coach to go to the Cernuschi banker's party. All the high Parisian society had been invited and Eleanor felt a little uncomfortable. Surely, being the protagonist of the play, she would have been the focus of attention. As an actress, she was used to being on stage, but when she was up there she did wear a mask and she raised a wall between her and the audience.
That evening she felt helpless; inside herself she still felt like a simple American girl in whose veins one drop of blue blood didn’t run.
As soon as Eleanor entered in the room, all eyes fell on her.
Her evening dress, in blue silk and taffeta with lace, showed her cleavage and her slender waist, and it put even more emphasis to the color of her eyes. The hair was collected in an elegant chignon, but soft locks framed her face and fell to her shoulders.
More than one man was mesmerized by that sight, while the women watched her with undisguised envy.
Cernuschi welcomed her and, after a solemn bow and a kiss on the hand, he led her toward the center of the room introducing her to the Parisian elite.
Various names and titles rang in her ears, but when she heard Cernuschi saying, "You surely do not know Edward Spencer, Marquess of Worcester, and the Earl of Arundel, Richard Granchester ..." and her eyes met a pair of deep brown eyes that looked at her as if they wanted to enter her soul, the Eleanor’s heart gasped.
Then, when he took her hand and brushed it with his lips, it was as if an electric discharge went through her. She could not say anything, but, fortunately, the banker led her to another part of the room.
Throughout the evening she looked around; she had never experienced a such sudden attraction for a man before now. He attracted her like a magnet, and she could not help but look at him.
When the dancing began, many men invited her , but not him.
Eleanor waited for him, she hoped to be invited by him, she wanted to be watched by those eyes again, but ... he did not approach her.
That night, while they were on the coach to return to their hotel, Edward asked to Richard:
- I want you to tell me something ...
- Tell me as well!
- Why the hell didn’t you ask to her to dance… you're almost dying for her…
Richard smiled mischievously and, raising his left eyebrow, said:
- Have you ever seen a cat playing with a mouse?
Paris, February 1896.
The next morning, Emily announced that she would be back in London.
- Although I'm having so much fun here -the woman said - I have a lot of things to do there!
- I'm sorry ... I will remain alone! - Eleanor said.
- Oh no, my dear, I just leave you in good company! - Emily said, smiling.
- What do you mean?
- Have not you noticed?
- Richard Granchester didn’t take his eyes off you all night!
- What are you saying! He didn’t even invite me to dance!
- Well ... he did it discreetly when you do not look at him! Let me say that you have your work cut out, too!
Eleanor blushed at these words. She thought that no one had noticed that.
- My daughter, I’ m many years old than you and I have observed you and him throughout the evening! – she said mischievously.
- So, because you're an expert ... what do you think? Why did he not invite me?
- Honey, you did not answer to any of the notes that he has sent you! I think this is male pride! But do not worry, it's just a matter of time! I think he is well cooked ! – she concluded with a laugh.
- In three days there will be the party by the Duchess Clermont Tonnerre ... - Eleanor dared to say.
- Magnificent! You have to be beautiful, even if you already are, and he will not resist to you!
- Emily ... ... but I do not know him!
- You’ll know him, dear, even before than you know it! - And so saying, she went to prepare for the luggage.
In the evening of the party, Eleanor wore a beautiful cream silk and chiffon dress with white India’s veil. She also put small blue flowers in her bun. The tight bodice and a little countersunk skirt made her even more slender and taller. As jewels she wore only two small diamond earrings, unique memory of her mother. A veil of powder and rouge and a cloud of her essence of roses and jasmine completed her toilet.
Eleanor looked at herself in the mirror. She was satisfied with the result, but a thought crossed her mind and it began to distress her:
- It looks like I’m going to a date! Eleanor, you do not know that man, you do not know anything about him! Try to keep your feet on the ground! - She said to herself.
When Eleanor arrived at the Clermont Palace she was greeted with full honors.
The first thing she did was look throughout the room, but she did not see him. He was not there that night.
- What a disappointment! – she thought – He will be back in London! Maybe it's better that way ... it was destiny! - But a shadow of sadness crossed her face.
Eleanor spent the evening chatting amiably with everyone and dancing with the men who invited her.
She was talking with the Duchess of Clermont Tennerre about her future engagements theater, when a deep, rich voice behind her whispered:
- It would be an honor for me if you accepted to dance this waltz with me!
Eleanor turned quickly and, again, a pair of dark eyes pierced her soul.
She was able to say:
- Excuse me, Duchess ... - and she found herself in his arms.
Her head was spinning and she could not tell if this was because the circling of waltz The Blue Danube or if this was the result of his intense gaze.
He was the first to speak:
- You are as stubborn a woman as you are beautiful ...
- Why do you say this? - She asked, smiling at the compliment, but also because he was telling the truth about her character.
- I have filled your dressing room with flowers and I've always been ignored by you ...
- I don’t go out with all those who send me flowers ... - she said and added, mentally, - and I did not know you were so charming ...!
- This makes you honored, because I imagine that many men do that!
She smiled again and said:
He could not look away from her heart-shaped lips and that small mole on the left corner of her mouth was so seductive. When she smiled, then, she was even more attractive, a dimple on her cheek was formed and this made her irresistible. And her eyes ... he wanted to immerse himself in those blue oceans.
- I noticed you were looking for someone when you arrived ...
Eleanor blushed. It was not possible that he had noticed that…he wasn’t there ... ... or maybe he was… - she thought - What a shameless man! How he dares to embarrass me!
- I was looking for other actors of the company ...
- I see... - he said with a half smile.
- He is really an impossible man! - Eleanor thought, smiling within herself. She had never met a man like this, but he intrigued her even more.
- Listen to me ... - he said at the end of the dance – I’ll forgive you for ignoring me all this time, if you dance with me every waltz tonight and also if you accept my invitation to dinner!
- But ...! You are shameless!
- ... And I know I'm not used to being otherwise!
They danced all night, because, oddly, the band played only waltzes.
When Eleanor returned to home that night, her head was still spinning.
Paris, April 1896.
The spring began to be felt in the Paris’ air.
The sky was blue and the scent of primroses, that some women sell in bunches in their baskets, spread through the streets of the city.
Richard and Edward were sitting outside of the Café de Flore in Boulevard Saint-Germain, one of the most popular Parisian Cafè. They were sipping their tea and eating a delicious fruit tart, but Richard's eyes were lost in that sky that so often reminded him of someone.
- I can not believe it! - Edward said between mouthfuls.
- You meet her for over a month, you went to all the Paris’ parties and still nothing happened?
- What do you mean?
- What do I mean? Richard, but are you really ? You've never lost so much time behind a woman! I do never know you!
- It's not as easy as you think ...
- In what sense?
- I think she has never other men before me ... She is so sensual, but sometimes she looks like a child! - Richard said – What was that affection he was feeling? - He thought.
- Ah ... a virgin! I see ... you want to enjoy the most of your achievement! It will be a nice trophy for your collection!
Richard was internally annoyed at that comment. He could not bear Edward to speak about her in that way. It was the same discomfort he had felt a few nights earlier, when he went back to the theater to see her.
When she danced the seven veils’ dance, the desire was mixed with another feeling. A thought had crossed his mind: other men were watching her! He wanted to run on the stage and to drag her away from there reserving the show only to himself, but, for obvious reasons, he had remained in his seat. Was it jealousy that he had tried?
Tenderness ... jealousy ... what was happening to him? He had never experienced anything like this for a woman!
Edward seemed to read his thoughts:
- Richard ... for once I want to talk to you seriously! Are you falling in love with her?
- But what the hell are you babbling? I have the situation well under control!
- It's like you say, but I've never seen you in this way!
- Trust me! I know what I say!
- And tell me, now that the season is over in Paris, how do you meet her?
- Tonight she will come to dinner with me ...
- ... Oh, congratulations, then!
- Shut up and eat! - Richard replied, throwing his napkin to him.
That night Richard took Eleanor to dine at the restaurant Le Bouillon.
He had booked a private room and the dinner was by candlelight. Her face was even more beautiful in the light of flickering flames. He could not stop looking at her.
During the dinner, she told him about her childhood:
- My mother died when I was only 3 years. I do not remember anything about her, only the music that she played on the piano for me. Only after did I discovered that it was a lullaby, the Mozart’s lullaby. Aunt Gladys told this to me.
- And your father?
- My father could not even look at me after the death of my mother. I reminded him of her!
- She must be very beautiful ...
- Yes, she was and my father was very much in love. Then, when I told him I wanted to become an actress, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. When I was 14 I found myself alone ... if Aunt Gladys was not there...!
Richard trembled at that thought ... how he wanted to be there with her to protect her! Here, it was happening ... again ... tenderness, jealousy, desire to protect her. What were all those feelings that were beginning to surface at an awareness level?
Was Edward right? No, it was impossible! He tried to divert his thoughts by talking more.
- I want to make to you a proposal ... - he told her.
- I’m listening to you!
- What do you think if tomorrow afternoon, we make a trip out of town? I would like to show you something!
- Is it a surprise? I just love surprises! - She said with her childish air that made him mad.
- Yes, it is a surprise and do not try to make me talk, because you could not so much!
- Oh, I could if I wanted it! - She said looking into his eyes.
Richard was shocked. How could she be so innocent and seductive at the same time? He was ecstatic. He had never met a woman like that.
The following afternoon, Eleanor and Richard led out of town. When they just arrived in a huge clearing in the trees, he helped her to step down from the carriage.
- Close your eyes and do not open them until I'll tell you! And do not try to be smart!
Eleanor laughed heartily and closed her eyes. He took her hand and guided her for a short trip.
It was the first time he held her hand ... what a wonderful feeling ... her little hand lost itself in the grip of his, strong and hot.
When Richard told her to open her eyes, she stood before an extraordinary spectacle.
- But ... but ... it's a plane, I had never seen one before!
- It 's my biplane! I did get here from Arundel…it is one of my passions ... ... – apart from you - he thought.
- It 's great! And can you pilot it?
- We are here for this, right? Tonight you will witness one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life! Directly from the sky!
- It will not be dangerous…
- Do you trust me?
- But ...
- Do you trust me? - he repeated approaching her and looking into her eyes.
- Yes , I do...
- So, take off your hat and wear these! - He said, handing her a helmet and goggles. - Fortunately, your skirt is wide enough to let you go!
Richard went up first and then he helped her to settle down inside the case behind him.
- Are you ready? – he asked to her.
- I think so ... - she said.
- So, brace yourself ... go!
- Oh my God!
The biplane was set in motion and, after a short path, it broke away from the ground.
Eleanor could not believe her eyes ... Everything was more beautiful from up there: the trees, the countryside, the river, the clouds and the sky painted by the colors of the sunset. It seemed like a dream!
The sun had set when they landed.
Richard helped her to go down and, when she took off her helmet, he was startled
Her hair was loose and fell to her shoulders just like in the painting in which he had seen her for the first time, the fresh air had colored her cheeks and lips; her eyes were made even more splendid by a glitter that he had never seen before.
- It was amazing! - She laughed, with an irrepressible enthusiasm. She ran like a girl, happy with a gift just received. After a while, she stopped panting, leaning back against a tree.
When Richard joined her, he could not resist to the temptation to take her face in his hands. He looked at her intently and she instinctively circled his neck with her arms. He could not resist to that sweet invitation and he put his lips on hers. Eleanor did not oppose any resistance, she let his lips caress hers over and over again, until he suddenly pulled away from her and said with a husky voice:
- Tell me what you said to him!
- What? - She asked, breathing heavily.
- What you said to the prophet!
- I'll kiss your lips ...
- Say my name!
- I'll kiss your lips, Richard, I’ll kiss your mouth!
- And then do it ...
He forcefully took possession of her mouth and she answered to him with equal force letting him enter completely into her.
With nervous hands, he began to unbutton her blouse and kiss her neck, her shoulders and her soft skin of the décolleté.
- I love you ... - he said between a kiss and another and, in that moment, he realized at last that was the truth.
- I love you too, Richard! - Those two words, spoken by him, had been dissolved inside her any reservation and fear.
In that warm April evening they loved to belong to one another entirely, while the aroma of their quivering skins mingled with the lilacs scent of that lovely spring night.