In Bed With A Stranger(2)

By: Mary Wine

“You mean to acknowledge the bastard?” In shock, Philipa felt her lower lip quiver. “What of Mary? I have given you a daughter, my lord!”

“And you were honored well and truly.” Her husband released her arm and ran the back of his hand across her cheek. “I’d honor you again without holding a grudge if you’d return to my bed as a wife should.” He lowered his voice so that Ivy could not hear him. “I’ll set her aside, Philipa, for you and a legitimate son. Think on it. But I’ll not turn to rape. You will not lay such a burden upon me. We are married and it is your duty to bear my child as much as mine to take you to my bed.”

Her husband left her to join the group of visitors celebrating Ivy’s survival of childbirth. Today was her sitting-up ceremony, and in another two weeks if she still lived, there would be the churching day when the new mother was cleansed by the estate clergy and allowed back into the church. The bastard would be taken from her at its baptism. The traditions were older than anyone remembered. If Ivy died before she was churched, she’d be buried in unconsecrated ground. If the baby died unbaptized, it, too, would be denied burial in church ground.

The baby’s soft smacking sounds filled the chamber as Philipa watched her husband lean over to kiss his mistress. The bed was draped in lavish display. Thick wool tapestries covered the top of the bed and hung as curtains along the side of the bed. There were fine linen sheets, the stained sheet from the day of the birth proudly displayed by the window. The visitors all touched it for good luck as they passed. Ivy was wearing a shift taken from Philipa’s own wardrobe. The fine fabric shimmered against her creamy skin. There was mulled wine at her command and cakes baked with spices from the lord’s own private stock.

Everything was laid out as grandly as it had been when she was the mother and her daughter Mary first allowed to be seen. The only difference was that a wet nurse had suckled the child because as a noblewoman she could afford the luxury of not tending to a newborn’s fussing. Philipa gazed at Ivy’s breasts as the milk ran across the baby’s cheek and the earl laughed. He wiped the milk away with his own hand. Ivy smiled as the lord bathed her with his attention, praising her and her whelp.

The sight left a bitter taste in Philipa’s mouth. She shivered as she realized what it would take to win his attention away from his mistress. She couldn’t do it. Not again. It had taken two days to force her daughter into the world. Days that had seemed endless as the pain wrung her body. In truth, she couldn’t have suckled her child because she hated it so much for hurting her so greatly. That hate extended to her husband and his demands for more children. Her mother had had to endure such from her father, but it was a different time now. England had a queen and Mary could inherit everything. Elizabeth Tudor would see to that. Men were going to see an end to their absolute rule over their female relatives.

Turning in a flare of silk petticoats, Philipa left. Let the bastard be acknowledged! It would not change the fact that she was mistress of the estate. The earl would be called back to court and Ivy and her child would answer to her.

Warwick Chapel

“By what name shall the child be known?”

The congregation held their breath as they waited to hear the baby’s name. A child was never named until it was being baptized to ensure that Satan couldn’t send one of his demons to snatch the child’s soul.

“Anne.” Philipa spoke clearly as the clergyman looked to her as the godmother to decide on the name. “After the Queen’s own dear departed mother.”

The clergyman almost dropped the infant into the baptismal font as his eyes bulged out in shock. Philipa fluttered her eyelashes innocently at him. There was a mutter running across the congregation but she did not care. Let the bastard bear an unlucky name. Anne Boleyn had lost her head long before her daughter wore the crown of England. Her husband was forbidden to attend the baptism along with Ivy in an attempt to cleanse the child completely without any softhearted parents in attendance. Philipa glared at the clergyman and he dunked the baby with far less grace than he normally did.

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