Elizabeth Woodville watched Grace leave and quickly wiped her face clean of the emotions she felt. She allowed herself to feel those softer emotions for Grace because she could… She could safely feel kindness and care for that girl because in the end, the larger picture of life, Grace posed no real threat or value to anyone. She was truly an innocent bystander in this game of power and pawns. Unlike her own daughters who could be used much to her advantage, used against her or be traded off to the highest bidder, Grace was a safe replacement to show affections to. She had come to care for the girl more than her own children simply because she knew from their births that her children were not truly hers. Her sons were, for all practical purposes, sons of England… never had they really been hers to love or guide. Her daughters were looked at as much valuable commodities and although she had been allowed to keep them close and raise them, there was always the underlying knowledge that they were not truly hers either. She had learned early on that it was better to not be so closely attached and overly fond of them for they would eventually leave and be expected to give their loyalties to those houses they were wed into. If one did not give into those intense feelings, it did not hurt nearly so much when they were taken away. It was a lesson she had learned with the early deaths of two of her children, and then the lesson had been re-enforced more recently with the death of daughter Mary. Mary’s death had been the turning point of her heart going cold. It was then that Elizabeth turned so much colder and distant towards the other children. She determined then that whether they left by death, by marriage, or as in the case of the boys- by way of a crown… it mattered not, they were still gone to her.
She summoned that coldness within her heart as she turned to face the two daughters left to her right now. Somewhere deep inside, she knew that one of these girls was the traitor to her and to the rest of them. Now, she must determine which of them it was. She also felt a need to understand why. Perhaps it was more a case of them not realizing just what they had done. She thought on this as she approached them and set about explaining the circumstances with the chest.
The two young girls eyed their Mother warily and both were in some state of fear as she looked at them coldly and spoke with a calm, yet chilled demeanor, “It has been brought to my attention that something of most precious and important value to us was misplaced during our leaving . It is now in the hands of Richard… And, I should like to know just how this happened?” The girls were perplexed and Elizabeth watched them both closely for some sign of guilt. Neither of them showed sign of knowing what she was talking about so she continued, “When we were packing and arranging for our items to be moved and stored away, the coffer chest of my Mother’s which I held so dear to me was supposed to be sent on to my sister Catherine for her safekeeping should anything happen to us… I have been informed that it never was sent but left in our apartments.”
At this statement, both girls seemed on edge. They looked down at their feet, glanced at each other then returned to staring at the floor. Their hands fidgeted with the cloth on their dresses and they did not respond to her questioning. Their Mother was growing agitated and vexed. Could it be that both girls held a part in this?
As neither girl would speak up, Elizabeth spoke crossly to them both. “I am not accusing anyone or placing blame… But, I would advise and warn you both that the contents of that chest have raised the suspicions of Richard. He has made threats that he could make those contents known and accuse us all of witchcraft.”
Both girls went equally pale and gasped in unison as she went on, “Of course should he do this, it would not just apply to me, but to all of those in our family. As he put it to me, Wouldn’t it be a bitter irony… We could all escape the cold damp confines of this sanctuary to be forever warm roasting over a bonfire together!”
The girls were so visibly shaking and crying that now they were unable to make a coherant response to her. She did not give in to their tears or their fear. She wanted them to feel that same fear that had overtaken her. “I know not who is responble for this greivious error, I care not right now…I just want you both to know what danger we have been placed in by this act.” She turned away from them and spoke more softly more to herself than them but with the intent of them hearing her clearly.
“Perhaps it was done out of carelessness… I can not think that someone would intentionally put us all at such risk. Mayhaps they did not realize what was in the bottom of that chest, were unaware of the importance of that well worn and much sewn ancient linen within. That linen which has been passed down through generations of women in our family and been sewn upon by so many of us. Ahhh well, even if not done intentionally or purposefully, the result is still the same. The linen, the chest, and all of the precious memories of our family such as Dearest Mary’s locks of hair and last scraps of sewing are now forever gone to us. Richard now holds everything most precious and dear to us and can use it against us.”
With that quiet speech, she walked away from the girls into the other room. She stood around the corner out of sight, waited and listened to the girls.
Young Elizabeth and Cecily, both trembling and in tears eyed each other. Through their tears, they began to whisper heatedly to each other. Elizabeth grabbed her younger sisters arm and pinched it viciously, “What in God’s Holy name have you done, you wretched girl?”
Cecily slapped her sister’s hand away and spat back, “Me? It was not I who touched that linen and that chest last. Twas you searching through it and I remember well your curiousity about that blasted cloth!” She hissed at Elizabeth, “Do not place this blame upon me, when it is you who are always going on about how much more responsible you are than I. It was you who should have ensured it was sent off to Catherine.”
They looked at each other in much confusion and Elizabeth finally spoke, “Think, Cecily, Think very hard… Try to remember who all was in the room with us when we were preparing to leave? It was all so hurried, I can not remember it all so clearly. I know that I gave specific instructions as what should be done with that chest but there were so many of us there and such haste that I can not recall who was to have charge of taking it and delivering it…” Elizabeth began to cry again, weeping and wiping the tears away. She felt such guilt for this action that may or may not have been her fault but as her Mother had put it all too harshly, the result was the same.
Cecily for once shared her sister’s feelings and felt her own amount of guilt. Her guilt was well founded though, as she knew what had happened and had let it occur, thinking only of herself at the time. Even now, her guilty thoughts were more of the fact that this act which she had not thoroughly thought through was coming back upon her directly. Cecily knew full well what was in the bottom of that chest and it’s significance. She also knew that she wanted no part of it, then or in the future. She wanted no part of her heritage and was loathe for it to be ever connected to her or their family. Her only thought at the time had been that it should be better for them all to be well rid of it forever. To send it on to her aunt Catherine would only put Catherine in danger, and she did like her aunt Catherine. There was one person in the room at that moment whom she had trusted well enough to do her a favor and take the chest away from all of them. That person was one that would never want such a thing as a hint of witchcraft to associated with Catherine’s name, nor with Cecily’s or young Elizabeth’s.
Margaret Stanley had been present in the room at the time and Cecily had ever been a favorite of Margaret’s. The Duchess Catherine was married to Margaret’s nephew, and Cecily also knew of Margaret’s secret plan to sway a marriage between Elizabeth York and her son. Margaret shared much with Cecily that she did not divulge to others. For some reason, she well liked the young girl and made much praise over her when her Mother and others did not. Cecily had confided in Margaret about the possibility of danger within the chest and asked the woman to take it away from them all.
Now, Cecily cried in some heartbreak that the one she had trusted so well had seemingly betrayed her and all of her family. She felt guilt for that trust but was bewildered as to why Margaret would have done such a thing when it was still her intent to see her son wed to Elizabeth. This did not make sense even to Cecily’s young mind. Cecily might be young but she was wise enough to see that there was still some puzzle about this. She also though quickly enough on her feet to realize that neither she nor her sister Elizabeth should have to take the fall or the blame for this. While yes, they had been careless in their actions, the blame could go to Margaret for this mess!
She whispered as much to Elizabeth, admitting some guilt and responsility only for the fact that she had left charge of the chest to Margaret Stanley. Elizabeth looked at her sister in some surprise and suddenly gave a rather smug and harsh smile, “Haaaaa then it would seem that this would be my gift from God above… if it was truly she to blame, I would not think that even Mother would go so far as to give me off in marriage to them!”