As a de Vere, Elaine was blessed - or burdened - with all the advantages and expectations of wealth and nobility. She understood the importance of propriety and so it surprised her as much as anyone else when she began to turn out wild.
It started with her first ball, when she was sixteen. She didn't remember how it happened, but she found herself in a cloakroom with George Cavendish, behaving in a manner that was not at all appropriate and quite enjoyable. Similar events followed, and it always seemed that she didn't quite know how it happened.
The de Veres hushed things up as well as they could, but rumours still spread about their youngest daughter, and her wild streak. It was important that they get her married off as soon as they could, to a respectable man of good fortune and high rank. Elaine made no objection, as she desperately wanted to crush this wild part of her before it got her into trouble. A suitable man was found, negotiations entered into, the couple were introduced and seemed to get along well.
That's when Elaine disappeared for the first time. No expense was spared in searching for her. Her trail led about a mile from home, and then went cold. She was seen at Ford's, looking at gloves for the wedding. Mrs Ford had said that she seemed distant and confused, asking the same questions several times. Mrs Ford had gone to the back to bring out some different samples, and when she returned, Miss de Vere was gone. As far as anyone could tell, Mrs Ford was the last person on earth to see Elaine de Vere.
It was while Mrs Ford was in the back of her shop that Billie - though she had no name then - opened her eyes for the first time. She looked around at all the linens and haberdashery, the ribbons and worsted yarns, and the selection of gloves spread out on the counter. Her first conscious thought was that this was the most boring place imaginable, and that she needed to find some excitement.
So she did.
More than six months later, Elaine found herself again. She was lost in the streets, drenched with rain, frightened, and utterly confused. Something had happened. The wildness inside her had escaped and gotten her into worse trouble than ever. She knew that much, but that was all she knew. She stepped into the nearest shop, a watchmaker's, simply to get out of the rain, and met Henry Stevenson.
An hour later, she was sitting by his fireside, wearing dry clothes that belonged to his maid with a blanket around her shoulders, and sobbing out her troubles as she drank hot soup. A week later, they had eloped. A month later, she finally had the courage to tell her family, and was promptly disowned for the scandal she had brought on the de Vere name.
For many years, it was a popular subject of gossip, how the youngest de Vere daughter had run away from her engagement to elope with a tradesman. But what could you expect? The girl had always been quite wild.