By late afternoon, Jennifer was hungry. When she opened the door to their bedchamber, a very large footman was standing in front of it. He turned when she appeared.
"Begging your Grace's pardon," his tone one of great courtesy. "The Duke has instructed me to stand before your door."
"Whatever for?" Jennifer asked.
"He said you were not to leave the room and I was to stay here to see to the right of it."
A deep flush suffused the man's cheeks. Guarding the new Duchess was one thing; acting as her jailer was something else entirely.
"My apologies, your Grace. I am only obeying the Duke's instructions."
"I'm hungry," Jennifer stated matter-of-factly.
"No one is to enter the room," the footman blushed.
"I'd like a tray, please," Jennifer said as politely as she could. "You can hand it to me without entering the room."
"Yes, my lady. I can do that," he agreed. "But I would have to leave the door unattended to get the tray."
Frustrated with the man's response, Jennifer closed the door and pulled the bell rope near the bed so that the housemaid would respond to the bell.
No one came to ask what she wanted. She pulled it again and again and then wondered why she was being ignored. She was hungry but there was no way to get past the footman. Is this my husband's way of exercising his control? He's going to punish me like a child? Locked away in this room? Without nourishment? For how long?
Distressed, Jennifer stood at her window, the view slightly obscured by the line of ancient trees that had graced the estate's landscape for more than a century. The greenery also provided privacy for the master suite; no one could invade the Duke's inner sanctum. Jennifer felt as if she were suddenly thrown into a beautiful but secluded prison - an outsider in her own home.
Not really my home. The uneasy thought seemed loud in her mind and she shook her head trying to disabuse herself of the notion. It lingered - teasing and taunting and reinforcing her loneliness.
When night shadowed her view she grew tired and still fully dressed, she lay upon the marriage bed and slept even though her belly protested its hunger.
Jennifer rose with the dawn, the brightening sun and a new day holding a promise of better things to come. She was certain her groom would return, apologize for this altercation and confinement and they would sort things out.
"Surely he does not intend to starve me and keep me from living a more satisfying life," she murmured. She washed her face and when she was presentable, pulled the bell rope once again.
Once again, no one answered her call.
She went to open the door - it was locked from the outside. Shocked, she knocked upon it and said she was hungry.
An answering voice made her stumble back, almost tripping on her feet.
"Since my son decreed you are not to leave this room and no one is to enter without his permission, no one will come to your summons, miss. That's the way of it."
"I have not eaten," Jennifer protested after hearing her mother-in-law's strident voice.
"That is not my concern," was the reply. "Perhaps this will teach you a lesson in obedience," the harridan added. "When my son returns, then and only then will a decision be made as to what to do with you." God's teeth! Maybe the wretched lass will die and we'll be rid of her so Marcus can marry a proper wife.
When the older Duchess reappeared below stairs she reminded the staff that no one was to go near or enter the Duke's rooms save for the two alternating footmen assigned to guard that door. No matter what their personal opinions were regarding the new Duchess, none dared to disobey the woman who had ruled the household for forty years.
Breakfast came and went.
Afternoon tea was a distant memory.
Supper never happened.
Jennifer was hungry. The food trays that had been left behind when the Duke was still in the house had small amounts of food left over. She ate them - cold, stale, greasy, whatever they were. There was cold tea and a small amount of wine and those she drank in moderation not knowing how long she would be imprisoned without fresh nourishment.
The day that followed was the same - no one came to the door, no one brought food or water, no one spoke to her. The food was gone; she took only a few sips of tea during the day, a few sips of wine at night hoping it would help her sleep.
The third day passed - the fourth - the fifth and sixth - and when the sun rose on day twelve of her seclusion, Jennifer was too weak to rise from her bed. She had finished the wine - had drunk the last of the tea as well as the remaining water in her washing bowl. She couldn't help wondering if her marriage bed would be her deathbed as well.
You married me off to a good and proper suitor, did you not, father? I thought you might have wanted grandchildren. Did you know he would leave me to his mother's whims? Perhaps this was his intent. Was it yours as well?
Jennifer grew weaker with each passing day and had only fleeting moments of lucidity.
How long does it take to die? Will it hurt? Maybe I'll just fall asleep and never wake up. It could be weeks, maybe months, until they discover my body. What if the Duke never returns?
There was a lot of land between the Duke's English estate and his seldom used estate in Wales. The ride was smooth in places, treacherous in others and care was taken to protect the horses from undue harm. Time was of the essence, but as large as his entourage was, if he and the men were exhausted when they arrived, they wouldn't be of any use.
"Better to arrive in one piece and worthy of fighting for our own than showing our weaker side," the Duke remarked to the captain of his guard their third night on the road. "We'll rid the place of the vermin who would steal from me, leave an adequate number of men in place and return to England."
"You miss your Duchess," the captain smiled, his familiarity with the Duke acceptable because of their lifelong friendship.
"I do," the Duke replied, missing his Jenny. Fingering the locket he had purchased for her, he remembered that he left her hurting from their disagreement. We'll be together soon, my love and we'll sort things out. You'll see. All will soon be well between us. He pictured her talking to cook about the evening meals, walking in the extensive gardens, and hopefully, because of the thrashings he had delivered to her tender backside, she was riding more cautiously. He shook his head at his thoughts, and dismissed them to concentrate more fully on the matters at hand.