That's two chapter's in one night lucky ducks
"Scarlett darling, whatever's the matter, you look as if you've seen a ghost?"
Scarlett sat across from Prince Albert. "In a way I have. My late lamented husband is settling into his rooms as we speak."
"Rhett? The great Rhett Butler is here? Well finally this week is looking up. I've always been terribly curious as to the type of man that would so captivate you."
"Bertie please. Don't even acknowledge that you know about him and I, please."
Bertie took a sip of his brandy. "Did you tell him about the enfant?"
"No I did not. Bess is none of his business."
"He is her father Scarlett."
"No he isn't, you are."
Bertie laughed. "No one really believes that story I'm afraid. Oh darling why can't you tell him, I think you'd sleep better with it off your chest."
Scarlett poured herself a neat brandy. "Helena agrees with me. Neither of us thinks Rhett deserves to know. He married that milksop Anne when he loved me. He made love to me, and then went to her a bare month later, and damn him to hell I still love him."
"Darling, it's woman like you and my sisters that make me regret that I don't feel a shred of sexual attraction toward woman. You must be explosive in bed." Bertie smiled widely at her. "Why don't you go upstairs and treat Mr. Butler to a taste of what he's been missing. Vanilla is very nice, but bland. Where as you darling are a seductive treat entirely without definition."
Scarlett stood and began to pace. "You are no help what so ever, you know that don't you. Why I love you, I'll never know. You have been the best friend I could ever hope to find, yet you drive me to distraction."
"Scarlett, do you know why I am the constant thorn in your side. Because when you don't like the course of our conversations you can't flash me a smile and an expanse of breasts, and to be frank the smile would stand a better chance. You love the man, you've talked about him since the first time I met you. Your child needs a father and frankly and with love you need a man."
"He has a wife Bertie."
"Is she here?"
"Sounds as if there's trouble in paradise."
"I doubt it."
"Then my little serpent why don't you go make some."
Scarlett smiled and came forward to give Bertie a peck on the cheek.
"Sometimes I wish you really were Bess's father."
"Liar, you are quite pleased with her father, but thank you for the complement all the same."
"I have some last minute arrangements to see to. The Princess Alexandra sent her regrets but will not be joining us this weekend."
"Sometimes my angel, I would love to claim Bess as my daughter, seek an annulment from my shrew of a wife and live in content bachelorhood awaiting my coronation. That way my mother would simply think I had my head turned at last by a lovely woman I could never hope to have. It would make my life a hell of a lot simpler."
"Lord Winchale arrived a little while ago."
"Ah but then I'd only seek to complicate my life. Would you ask him to come wait on me here?"
Scarlett paused by the door. "Do you think that's wise?"
"I don't, but it's what I'd like."
Scarlett sighed and set off to find Lord Robert Winchale.
Bertie leaned back in his chair. There had to be some way to help Scarlett and he only had a little less than a week to find it.
Scarlett stood still as two maids put the finishing touches on her dress and hair. One tied the fringed sash around Scarlett's tiny waist while the other carefully threaded pearls strung on a narrow gold chain through Scarlett's heavy black hair.
She felt as though she were a doll like the ones that Ella and Bonnie dressed and played with their whole short lives. She could be Bonnie's doll Miss March, so named because Rhett bought the doll in March. Scarlett smiled slightly; Bonnie had no imagination when it came to names. Her pony Mr. Butler, Miss March her doll, and Kitty-Kitty her cat.
Rhett was here in this house tonight. They had been apart for a year and a half and now he was here like a miracle. She still loved him, deeply. She knew that. Scarlett knew in her soul that she would always love Rhett. She thought that she loved Ashley but she'd know that in her heart she would have never taken the risks required to be with Ashley,
whereas to be with Rhett she would give up everything. Not that she had much. Wealth, yes, more in fact than she could ever hope for while starving at Tara after the War. From her investments and the money from Rhett she might actually have more money than she could ever spend. None of it meant a damn thing.
After Ella died there really wasn't anything left. Except of course for Elizabeth. Elizabeth Victoria Butler. Her angel and her lifeline in the ocean of tears she'd been drowning in.
She knew that Rhett must be wondering about her now fluent mastery of the French language. She of course knew a little French from her mother and her ladies academy education. But only after Ella died and she and the Princess Helena had grow so close did she throw herself whole-heartedly into mastering French.
She'd met Helena, and her sisters the Princesses Beatrice, Alice and Victoria at the Paris Flower Market the July after she'd left Rhett. By then she was nearly six months pregnant. She and Ella had decided to paint so Scarlett suggested they find a floral subject at the Paris flower market in the Rux de Premiere. Ella was thrilled that her mother wanted
to take her on an excursion so she was on her best behavior.
While at the flower market they had been behind a group of woman who were obviously British from their dress and accents. Scarlett had laughed to herself when she realized they were engaging in the age old pastime of tease the youngest sister till she cries. A game that was the same no matter where and with whom it was played. All the sisters kept teasing the youngest, Beatrice, about a Henry Battenberg. Finally Alice declared that she would tell Albert on the lot of them and then they'd see who laughed loudest.
It was then that Ella tugged Scarlett's sleeve. "The lady in the green dress mother dropped this." She bent and offered Scarlett a beautiful bracelet with beautiful inland mother of pearl work.
Scarlett admired it for a minute before telling Ella "Run and catch them darling, I'm a little winded and I might not be able to make it. I'll wait here." Ella glowed to be entrusted with a mission by her mother. Obviously her mother trusted her.
Ella darted after the ladies and a moment later the group came back following Ella and the youngest woman, still a girl really.
"Oh thank goodness for you and your daughter Madame. That bracelet was a present from my fiancée and he would have been very cross."
Scarlett handed it to her "It appears the clasp is broken, it should be simple to fix."
By this time the group had arrived. One of the woman who was older than the others smiled. "You aren't French, nor your daughter? American, from the south."
"Yes," answered Scarlett offering no more. Maybe this wasn't a coincidence; perhaps Rhett was looking for her and these woman...
"Madame? Are you alright you look very pale and you are,..." The lady made a helpless gesture.
"Mama's going to have a baby sister just for me," piped up Ella.
The older lady, the group's spokeswoman laughed "But poppet what if the angels send a boy, won't you be happy with a brother?"
Ella shook her ginger curls. "No, the baby is a sister. I'm sure."
The lady turned to Scarlett and smiled "I fear I have offended your daughter Madame. My name Victoria, you've met Beatrice," she gestured to the youngest clutching the bracelet, "and this is Helena and Alice," she continued gesturing to the other two."
Scarlett smiled "I am Scarlett Robiliard and this is my daughter, Ella."
Ella swept them a deep curtsy "Enchante Mademoiselles."
"Close Ella," replied Scarlett. "She is just learning French and I had thought perhaps living in France would immerse her in the language." There that explained why they were in France just in case.
Beatrice looked at Scarlett's simple black dress. "I'm sorry about your husband."
Scarlett blanched at the same time as the sister identified as Helena exclaimed "Beatrice, for the love of God."
Beatrice colored a deep rose. "She is very young", apologized Victoria who was also blushing.
Scarlett smiled to herself as she remembered the sisters' horror at the implied rudeness of Beatrice innocent statement. The British she'd learned were stickler for proper behavior and good manners and Beatrice had now embarrassed them all.
Helena rebounded quickly. "Madame Robiliard perhaps you and your daughter would be our guests for dinner tonight at our hotel, a thank you for Ella retrieving my sisters bracelet?"
Scarlett looked down at Ella "Well..."
Ella tugged her mothers sleeve; Scarlett leaned down "I could wear my new dress mama, oh please."
Scarlett laughed and all four sisters looked relieved "Who am I to say no to an invitation when one has a new dress."
From then on the sisters and Scarlett grew closer as July. Scarlett and Ella often joined them for the ballet, the opera, and picnics on the Grand Promenade. The sisters eagerly suggested names for Scarlett's baby. Alice and Victoria already had children so they were both filled with suggestions both good and awful.
Then came September, the sisters were all preparing to return to London were they would then be heading for home from. Alice and Victoria both lived abroad with their husbands while Helena and Beatrice lived in London.
They all promised to write once they arrived home and Scarlett promised to let them know if she and Ella left France for anywhere else. Then Ella became ill and was gone. Scarlett had been inconsolable. She could only remember Ella calling her a liar saying that her Uncle Rhett would come when he didn't.
It was Helena who sent the other sisters home and told them that she was staying with Scarlett till her baby was born.
Rhett put the finishing touches on his evening clothes in preparation to go downstairs for a late supper with the rest of Prince Albert's guests.
So Scarlett had fallen in with the British Royal family. That woman was no end of surprises. He took a small breath thinking back on her discourse on Ella. How could Ella be gone? Silly but sweet little Ella. Bonnie's best friend and truly his other daughter. He should have been there.
If only he hadn't be so quick to dismiss a letter from Scarlett as an appeal for a reconciliation. But the other thing she'd told him, that she'd sent him a telegram. If she was telling the truth and though Scarlett could lie like the devil when it suited her he doubted she'd lie about the existence of a telegram.
Who signed for it? Obviously he hadn't, if he had known nothing would have stopped him from being there for Ella and her mother.
Could Rosemary have taken his message? Perhaps she didn't read it. Maybe she just saw that it was from Scarlett and believed she was saving her brother from himself. But there was a second possibility, one that forced his normal control to a near breaking point.
Anne who simpered and volunteered her time with unfortunate children. Anne who blushed constantly in his presence. Anne who pretended to be attacked in her home so that his mother and sister would beg her to come and stay with them. Anne who only in the heat of an argument with him reveled that Scarlett had written a note detailing her travel itinerary in case Mrs. Butler worried or if Rhett wanted to locate her.
Of course Anne took his telegram because she still thought that she had a chance of becoming Mrs. Rhett Butler and she saw a dying child as a threat to those plans. Scarlett herself told him that she thought Anne was a sly minx. He simply chalked it up to female jealousy but why would Scarlett O'Hara be jealous of a pale-faced do gooder. She wasn't, she simply with her shrewd unsentimental eyes saw not Melanie Wilkes redux,
but a shallow copy.
Now he'd lost the chance to tell Ella how much he loved her, he would have to find the courage to ask Scarlett where Ella rested so he could pay his respects to her if nothing else. Also Wade's address at Harvard, he would have to make it a point to go up north to see the boy, the only one of his children left. His heart ached for Scarlett. If she was correct and Wade was angry with her she was probably heart broken.
Although he often baited her about her mothering abilities he knew that Scarlett loved Wade and Ella and Bonnie all in her own way. They could have always depended on her for food, shelter, and protection. Scarlett simply wasn't expressive when it came to her feelings toward them. Now all she had left was Wade and she had said he was furious about Ella and her choices in life in general. Would it be possible for both of them to go and see Wade? She might not like that suggestion and above all he didn't want to hurt her ever again. But between them would that ever be a possibility?
Scarlett stood at the vast double doors leading to the dinning room where the supper was being served. She was gracious, constantly smiling as she greeted each of the prince's guests often by name. Her sharp memory for numbers in business had translated nicely into professional hostessing. Which in theory was her position as listed under the household accounts. She drew a salary of 4 pounds sterling each quarter. Bertie had tried to give her much more but she'd refused saying that she couldn't profit from their friendship.
Many of the guest were trying to come to conclusions about her. Was it true, was she the future King of England's mistress? But many people had believed that the Prince's taste ran toward, well frankly men. Not boys but handsome titled peers of the realm who shared his interest. But now Prince Albert had a beautiful woman constantly at his side that for all intents and purposes he was devoted to. Then there was another rumor, one that was only whispered. That Bess Robiliard was in fact Elizabeth Victoria the illegitimate daughter of Prince Albert.
How was this possible, in that Scarlett had to admire the tenacity of the rumor mill. The Prince had in fact gone to Germany to visit cousins last February actually around the time Scarlett had gotten pregnant. People whispered that perhaps the Prince had stopped over in Paris and left her pregnant. In order to keep rumors from being started the Prince's sister, Helena, was the one to bring Scarlett to London then to Whitehall to met the Prince when she was a guest of the Royal Family at Whitehall.
What happened next was equally amazing. The Queen of England herself who had been living in a self imposed isolation from the time her husband had died in 1861 till around about 1870. The rumors about her son had of course reached her so she was both shocked but also a bit hopeful. Could her son have a mistress who was carrying his child? Perhaps after all the talk about the prince being a Sapphic he was simply displeased with his wife and that's why he'd never showed any desire toward Princess Alexandra. The Queen asked to be presented to Scarlett while she was at Whitehall. Bertie was at first reluctant but the Queen was adamant, she wanted to meet the lady that was the whisper of London's drawing and ball rooms.
Scarlett who was so overjoyed at the prospect of being a mother was nearly glowing. She was so engaging that the Queen offered to stand as Godmother for Scarlett's child. Bertie tried to explain to his mother that Scarlett was just his friend but even this did not deter the Queen. She liked Scarlett and liked the thought of having a child in her life that was not being groomed for a future in Royal intrigue or their future as a marriage pawn.
It was a still night in late October when she went into labor. Scarlett awoke to the familiar pain of the beginnings of contractions snapping across her stomach. She called out to the ladies maid that Bertie insisted be stationed in her room every night in case she needed anything.
The girl blinked the sleep out of her eyes. "Yes ma'am?"
Scarlett gritted her teeth for a moment. "Would you run and tell Mrs. Banett that I believe I may need a Doctor. I think I'm going into labor, now."
Renee immediately rose to her feet from the small couch next to the fireplace that she'd been dozing on. "Yes ma'am, will you be alright though?"
Scarlett nodded. She had tried to respond but a random pain caught her off guard and it was all she could do not to cry out. "Make sure someone let's his majesty know that I've started."
Renee hurried from the room as though the hounds of hell were on her heels. Scarlett lay in the semi darkness trying to breath in and out calmly. This would be the first baby since Wade that Melanie wouldn't be by her side to urge her on and support her.
Scarlett turned her head to see Bertie standing in her doorway. "Bertie? I told that girl to let you know, you didn't have to come."
"Of course not," he picked up a chair and brought it to her bedside, "but aren't you glad that I'm here."
Scarlett thought silently for a moment she desperately wanted to say that she was brave enough to do this on her own but another contraction made her cry out.
"You'll stay, swear to..." her jaw tightened against the pain.
Bertie nodded "Of course, I realize that it's highly unheard of to even offer, but you might very well be the only friend I've ever had besides my sisters."
The labor was fast but intense, at one point the pain was so blinding that Scarlett vaguely remembered begging Bertie not to let Anne Hampton raise her child with Rhett.
But when it was finished she held her small, perfect baby girl in her arms. After Bertie had her nightgown and bed linens changed they lay side by side watching Scarlett's baby sleep.
"I wish that things were different, not often mind you, but I wish that your child was mine as well. That you were my wife or even mistress. There's at least honor in loving your mistress. Most men would even find that acceptable. Marry for duty, love for the sheer sake of love."
Scarlett turned her head to look at him. "Oh Bertie, isn't there any way for you to be happy?"
"I could deny who I am to the very deepest fibers of my being, no my love. I will simply have to learn to be content with what I have. "Bertie reached out to trace the baby's nose with his pinkie, "I have a beautiful goddaughter and a friend, and for me what more could I hope for? So come Madame Secretive what is her name?"
Scarlett smiled I've decided, after spending these last few months in London I've chosen Elizabeth after one of your Queen. She outwitted all her enemies and let no man rule over her, a perfect example for my beautiful daughter, and if, that is if you wouldn't mind, for a middle name I thought Victoria for your mother who has been so kind to me."
Bertie smiled "My mother will be over the moon, I don't think you could have selected a better name."
True to their word Bertie and Queen Victoria had stood godparents to her child and the months had past. In spite of the loss of Ella and her estrangement from Wade Scarlett was finding peace at last. She had friends, powerful ones that was pleasing in itself. Her daughter was a constant delight and then there was of course Bertie.
Bertie who was so special to her that she couldn't imagine her life without him. They hunted together, rode for hours on end, and danced together at fetes and balls. The ton, London's society, nodded and said of course it had all been just idle gossip about the Prince's sexual desires, the Princess Alexandra was a whey faced Norwegian who would put anyone off the idea of procreation.
Bertie had offered to give her a title, not being British she couldn't be a Dame but he could find an Irish title for her one going back to when the O'Hara's ruled Ireland. She refused, preferring instead to be referred to by the French word for Mrs., Madame.