What was She Like?
The Swann manor stood proudly in the heart of an artfully twisted maze of gardens, peppered with marble fountains and gleaming white statues. The London moon bathed the scene in sweet, silvery moonlight, whilst shimmering stars clustered near their "mother".
Only one sound disturbed the perfect silence of the many fragrant hallways, penetrating the sound of nothing.
Scratch, scratch, scratch.
A quill scraped against dry parchment in the study, ceasing only to be dipped in raven-black ink. The dying fire cast flickering shadows across the ornate room, accentuating Weatherby Swann's facial lines. He worked steadily, pausing occasionally to seal a letter or wearily reread a section of his piece.
A quick glance at the grandfather clock tick-tocking in the corner by the bookcase told him it was a mere ten minutes to midnight. He truly hated it when his work consumed him till such late hours.
Frowning slightly, he dipped his tawny quill into the inkwell and resumed his work with a renewed vigour, determined to finish it within the hour.
The voice, sweet as a nightingale and slightly precocious, yet still containing betraying childishness, floated from the open doorway.
Weatherby turned to find his eight-year old daughter, Elizabeth, standing in the entrance to the study, fully dressed. Her wavy, golden-brown hair hung around her shoulders and her hands were held behind her back.
"Elizabeth- what are you doing out of bed at this hour?"
"I…had a nightmare. I can't sleep."
"I see. Come here, darling."
Her small stocking-covered feet padded across the study and he pulled her onto his lap. She nestled her head underneath his chin and swung her legs contentedly.
"Tell me about Mother," she asked after a moment. "What was she like?"
Weatherby sighed, and then smiled. He had told her tales of her mother on at least two dozen separate occasions, yet she was undeterred.
"What would you like to know, dearest?"
Elizabeth pondered for a moment, the decided. "What was her name?" She knew, of course. She just wanted to hear it again.
"Elizabeth, I have never met a more beautiful woman in all my years than Sabrina Lynette Bennett."
"What did she look like? Like me?" Another well-worn question.
"Hmm, well, let's see."
Weatherby smiled proudly at his young daughter. "You have her nose, for one." He tweaked her nose and she giggled. "And her hair." He flicked a strand of flyaway fringe out of her eyes. "And her mind. Most definitely her mind."
"Her mind? How can you tell?"
"I can tell, trust me."
"What was she like?"
"Free-spirited. Wild. Caring and sweet. Clever and witty."
"Would I like her?"
"Oh yes, I'm sure you would. I've never met anyone who didn't."
"Do you think…" his daughter hesitated, almost nervously. "Do you think she would have liked me?"
Weatherby studied his daughter's un-kept hair, innocent smile and soft brown eyes that barely contained a wild streak.
"Yes. She would have liked you."
Elizabeth smiled up at him, pleased. The grandfather clock chimed midnight in the corner, heralding a new day.
"And now, I think you'd better be getting back to bed, don't you?"
"No, Father, please! Can't I stay here and help you…?" she surveyed the mess of papers and documents that littered his desk as though she understood them exactly. She looked at him pleadingly, barely stifling a yawn.
"If you wish," he smiled. "Now, please hand me the letter of requisition from Lord Richards. It's under the taxation document by Lord Goldman."
Elizabeth stared at him blankly, and he laughed. "Off to bed with you, then."
He kissed his daughter on her forehead and she trotted off towards the door.
She stopped and looked over her shoulder. "Yes, Father?"
"What were you really doing awake at this hour? You're not in your nightclothes."
"Well…" she stammered. "When I got out of bed, after having a nightmare, I…got changed."
Weatherby raised a good-humoured eyebrow, waiting for a truthful answer.
She sighed. "I was reading."
He inclined his head. "And…?"
Another sigh. "I was reading… in the stable."
Her father didn't know whether to laugh or chastise her. "Why ever were you doing that, in the middle of the night?"
She shrugged guiltily. "I like it out there. It felt good being with the horses in the moonlight. I wanted to."
He nodded slowly. "Goodnight, Elizabeth."
Her face brightened, evidently glad not to have been punished. "Goodnight, Father."
Weatherby resumed his work, a small smile playing on his lips. She most definitely had her mother's mind.