All around me, there are pictures reminding me of my wonderful childhood life with Peter. He has been my best friend since I was born. Over there is a picture of Peter and I as babies, fighting over a bottle of milk. And in the other corner, is a portrait done of Peter and I as toddlers. I'm lying in his lap while he is sitting against a large, blue pillow. We're both looking off to the left of the painter. Probably when the artist got the image we were looking at a guy trying to be funny but not succeeding. It's one of my Mother's favorite portraits of the two of us.
Mother is very proper and fashionable. She doesn't care a fig about me. My father is too busy trying to get richer than paying any attention to me or what Mother does to me. I'm all alone except for Peter. He's the closest person in the world to me. We've been inseparable since childbirth. My mother met his mother in the birthing room. They are very alike and became friends almost immediately, even though both were going through considerable pain. Peter is just eight minutes and thirty-two seconds older than me.
Over the years, his mother often came with his nurse to put him with me, then she and my mother would forget us in their silly conversations- or really I should say gossip. Peter and I never minded as long as we were together. The most fun we had was getting away from our nurses and climbing out the window and down the five story mansion on the vines just outside the window. We started that when we were about five.
One memory that will always stand out in our minds is when I was six and a half. I fell as I was climbing out the window. I dropped like a stone the whole five stories and hit the grass pretty hard. I didn't scream or yell for I knew that would bring the nurses running. When Peter whispered from the window, I was too stunned to answer. He immediately came down in record time. The next thing I knew he was by my side. His face was white and scared. Slowly I turned to him and tried to smile and I said, "I beat you down," in a hoarse, raspy voice.
Peter has always been strong for his age, and I have always been skinny and light-weight, so he picked me up in his arms and carried me to the secret hiding place we always went to on nice days. I had my eyes closed the whole time until something wet hit my cheek and I looked up to see Peter kneeling over me crying. Slowly I put my arms around him and hugged him tight. He was obviously relieved for he hugged me just as tight. I whispered in his ear, "I think I'm okay." We held each other for a long time, each of us wondering what life would be like without the other. Then slowly Peter helped me up. Pain shot through my body and I sat down again. But what was a shock to me was that Peter also had to sit down and looked in pain as well.
When the pain had subsided enough to think, I thought I heard clearly,
My gosh! Where did that come from?!
I naturally said, "Where did what come from?"
He stared at me and I heard again clearly, Can you hear me?
I replied, "Of course I can!"
Peter said, Look at my lips, we're telepathic!
I looked at his lips, they weren't moving. I suddenly felt a lot closer to Peter than ever before, if it were possible. I heard the same thoughts from Peter.
Gently, Peter went into my mind and felt my body. Looking at him, his eyes were closed. Then he exited my mind and said, "There's no broken bones, just bruises."
Then he came to me and again we hugged each other. Slowly he helped me up. He carried me home and we snuck into my room. He laid me down in my bed and he sat holding my hand until I fell asleep.
From that day on we always were in each other's minds, if we were near enough. We often made mischief through our minds. The disadvantage was that we had the same emotions as well as thoughts. If he was in pain then so was I. If I was grieving over a dead bird then so was he. One of the good things about knowing each other's emotions was that if one of us was angry at the other for something, then we both understood why. It was always worked out before five minutes were up. Most of the causes of arguments are misunderstandings.
Coming back from this pleasant memory, I just happened to be looking at a picture of Peter and I dressed up to go to our first concert alone. We were 14 and Peter looked rather handsome in a nice suit and I was in a long, plain, forest green dress, reaching to just below the ankles. I had a silver locket on, which contained Peter's picture on one side and an engraved message on the other. It said, "To my dear Delwyn. For our 12th birthday together. Love Peter." Over my dress was a long black cape with no arms and a hood. Underneath, I wore a black fur muff to keep my hands warm. At the concert we felt the same emotions and often commented to each other through our minds.
Sitting down now, I feel very lucky to have Peter as my best friend. He should have been here 5 minutes ago. Then, I heard the back door slam shut, and I knew it was Peter. For who else comes through the back door in such a noisy manner? In another minute he burst into the room, gave me a peck on the cheek, and sat down beside me on the settee'. He took my hands and looked earnestly into my light blue-grey eyes. "I have to go to England, or so Mother says. I'm to be in London for 8 months. I want you to come with me," he said.
Of course I replied, "Oh Peter! I'd love to come! What are the details?"
"I'm so glad you'll come. It makes me much happier. I don't know what it would be like to go 8 months without seeing you. Knowing Mother it will probably be more. In one week we'll load on to the Victoria liner and then a week later we'll land in Liverpool, Albert Dock. We visit a friend of Mother's for another week. Then we take a carriage into London. There we'll be staying in my great uncle's mansion, close to Parliament. He's going on vacation to Austria for 8 months so we'll be able to occupy his house. There will be other people staying there. We won't be in London all the time. I would like to go to visit the mountains in the northern part of England. I'd also like to see a bit of Wales."
I could feel the excitement he felt. His feelings were always contagious. "Wonderful, thank you so much! Does Mother approve? Have you asked her?" I exclaimed.
"She's approved eagerly, I'd say."
There was something he was holding back. I went into his mind and immediately knew what it was for he didn't try to conceal it very much. Mother had been too eager. Almost as if she didn't want her child around any more and was glad to get rid of me. Just a little deflation settled over me. Peter felt it and he hugged me tightly saying through his mind, I don't care what she feels, I love you and it was my idea to ask you to come. This comforted me little.
Peter and I walked hand in hand out of the room into the gardens. My Sunbury Park is known for the wonderful gardens. They aren't like the British ones but they are exceptionally nice for a New England mansion. Mother is aware of the praise and is vain in keeping the gardens flawless.
On these times, we just let our thoughts go. We listen to each other's while letting our own go, all the time silently consoling or making other comments or opinions. Somehow I let it slip that I wished I had a dog. Peter didn't look surprised since I often wanted an animal around to pet or play with. He always said that he was as close to an animal I would ever get. Peter continued the subject of dogs by asking what kind I wished to have. When he had gotten enough of this subject he seemed to remember something, and said, "Will you go to the concert with me tonight? I've heard there is a great pianist going to be playing with the background orchestra. He's supposed to be good. Maybe even as good as you if you would only stop being so shy!"
I punched him playfully and agreed adding, "You keep off the subject of shyness you hear?"
But he had hit a tender spot. I play the piano well. My parents made me take piano lessons since I was 5. I still take lessons and I try to practice everyday. But my one problem is that I am extremely shy and I hate playing in front of anybody except my tutor and Peter. Peter understands what I feel like and he knows just the right way of giving me confidence. But I didn't like to have my nose rubbed into my weaknesses. I do wish I wasn't so shy and could learn to play like some of the wonderful people I have seen in the concert halls of Boston, Massachusetts.
Peter felt my wistfulness and said sorry. I knew he meant it and could only forgive him.
We turned down the Statue Path. On both sides there are bushes towering to about 3 feet above Peter's head. Every hundred yards or so, there is a statue in a recess in the bushes. The statues are all Greek mythical gods and goddesses ranging from Zeus to Mars to Minerva. There are natural doorways in the bushes leading into different gardens or ponds. The Statue Path is really four main paths coming from north, east, south, and west to meet in the center of the Park in a large circle. In the center there is just the four paths on the sides and a large fountain in the middle with goldfish in it. On one side there is a white gazebo with benches and a table in it. Sometimes Mother uses it to give a tea party or something there. Wandering about the gardens is lovely no matter what season, time of day, or weather it is.
Coming to the Center, we sat on the ridge of the fountain and watched the goldfish play in the ripples. Then I remembered I hadn't been to the evening garden in quite some time. So we set off to the west and turned just before the statue of Hermes the messenger god. Peter said as he ducked under the doorway, "You know, I don't remember this garden."
I said, "Oh, it's just beautiful at twilight! It's a nice place to share a wonderful evening with your best friend."
We turned in the narrow tunnel and came out into the dying sun's rays. Most gardens have four walls of bushes, but a few don't like this one. It has three, where there should be another wall, there is just a large open field stretching at least a mile out. This is perfect to see the sunset. There is just one small, gurgling, white, marble, fountain in the center. To the left there is a lovely dogwood and a marble bench at the back wall with nothing to obscure the view. All along the outside there are white flowers. The whole garden is blossoming white flowers. Every now and then in a cluster of white there'd be a few yellow or orange lilies. It's beautiful at the right time of year and on a clear night like this one.
We took a seat at the bench and watched the sun slowly slip below the horizon. It is a full moon tonight which makes the garden even more like a fairy's palace. I leaned on Peter's shoulder wishing this moment would never move on to be a memory as all time does. Peter put his arms around me, feeling the same way. As the first star came out, Peter started his wish upon it and I soon followed. I wished that this moment would represent the rest of my life. Peter heard my wish and he said, kissing the top of my blonde curls, "What other kind of life could you lead with a disposition like yours?"
"I don't know."
As the last rays disappeared, we got up to go back inside to get ready for the concert. I went alone to my bedroom, still marveling at the scene at the Evening Garden. Peter had left, promising to return with the carriage in time for them to leave for the concert. It is nearly five o' clock so I have plenty of time to be ready.
I put on a plain royal blue dress, the hem just reaching the floor. Over the top I'm wearing a white fur-trimmed cape with a hood. I have white lace up boots and a white fur muff. My boots hurt a little because they are one inch off the ground and were tied by my nurse. Mother says it is the fashion. I'm not keen on fashion but sometimes Mother insists. I have the hair at my temples and my bangs pulled into a ponytail tied by a matching blue ribbon. The rest of my blonde ringlets are let loose down my back.
I left my room and made my way down to the library. This is often my favorite room. It's full of books I love. In the center of one of the larger walls is a large brick fireplace with a lovely soft rug in front of it. Since this is a corner room, it has large windows on two sides with thick heavy curtains to stop damage by sunlight at certain parts of the day. In the corner of these two outer walls, there is a small doorway with a curtain covering it. It leads to a small round room with windows on all sides.
This room houses my grand piano. This is a great place because I'm confident that it could only fit no more than three more people besides my tutor. It is also a quiet part of the house so I feel alone and play much better. It's lovely just to play some of my lilting melodies and just enjoy the beautiful view through the windows. I can shift the piano to face any way I want it to.
I sat down at the piano and started playing "Greensleeves". After I finished that I moved on to the "Moonlight Sonata". As I came back to reality, I felt Peter's presence in the library. Startled I started to get up to escape when he came in and said, "Please don't stop, that was beautiful! I love to come in when you don't know it and just listen to you play the most beautiful music. But what I find more special than the world's greatest pianist, is that with you're gorgeous playing, you think beautiful thoughts as well. I see these in my mind and feel the same way you do and it's much better."
Blushing I sat down again and just ran my fingers in scales on the ivory keys. Peter realized I wasn't in the right mood anymore and suggested we read a bit more of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Mother is insisting that I read her books because it is the fashion. I don't mind as long as Peter reads them to me. He makes it much easier to understand Jane Austen's books. Peter and I sat in front of the fire on the rug, reading until it was almost time to go.
Peter helped me into my cape and guided me out the door into the wintry snow, towards the carriage. Once inside, we continued to discuss what we thought would happen in our book until we came up to the entrance to the Boston Concert Hall. Peter guided me through the crowd and handed our tickets to the lady in the lobby. We have pretty good seats, about four rows from the stage. We sat down and looked at the program. It was white with large black notes and other symbols you see in piano music on the front. Inside it had a few advertisements, the names and instruments of the orchestra, and a page about the pianist. Peter read the pianist's page to me through our minds.
The whole of the concert was wonderful. At the intermission we talked about what makes a good pianist. At the end there was a roar of clapping and a standing ovation. Peter guided me out of the Hall into the cold winter outside. There was ice on the ground so I should have been extra careful because of my precarious boots. But I stepped too close to the curb of the sidewalk and I slipped and jammed my foot into the gutter which happened to be beneath me. Peter didn't catch me in time though he was in as much pain as I was. Slowly I eased my foot out of the gutter. But it still hurt. I must have done something to it. Peter who still had his arm around my waist helped me hobble to the carriage even though he was in my great pain. He lifted me into the carriage with the help of the driver, trying not to bump my ankle. Peter got in at the other side and sat down beside me looking very pale. Suddenly, I had and idea. I closed my eyes and shut out my mind from Peter for the first time since I fell out the window. There was a large empty feeling that washed over me. I nearly fainted but got control of myself in time. I looked at Peter who had looked as if he had the same feeling except with relief mixed into it. Then he looked at me with a pleading look in his eyes. "Please let me back in."
"No, I don't ever want to put you through the pain I'm going through for my sake."
"I swear, it makes no difference to me. This is a greater pain than what I was in. Please?"
Then I said through gritted teeth, "No!"
Peter looked as if I had taken everything in the world he had. Maybe it was all he had in the world! But on the other hand I couldn't put him through the pain I was in. I fainted.
While I was unconscious, the carriage made it home and Peter carried me into my bedroom looking worse than he ever had before. Nurse undressed me and put me into my bed. The doctor came as soon as possible, and set my foot straight, bandaging it tightly before he left. He gave my nurse some crutches and said I mustn't use them too much. He also left some pain reliever which never works.
I woke up and looked around the room. Peter sat hunched over staring into the fire. It was not the first sight I liked to see on waking up after a full night and morning of unconsciousness. I felt with my mind to him. It gave him pain when I didn't know it. He jumped and grabbed his foot. I immediately took my mind away. He turned and came to my bedside, kneeling. "Please let me back in."
I shook my head decidedly. Peter then said, "I've been thinking, what if you kept me out too long and I couldn't get back in?"
He had a point there. To have Peter out of my mind forever sent the empty feeling I still felt, soaring. Slowly, I let him in. It was such a relief to Peter that he didn't mind the pain and gave a me large bear hug. I hugged him back and said I was sorry.
For the next two days, I was entertained by Peter. He read to me, told jokes
and stories, and he stayed with me as I slept. On the third day I was quite a
bit better, though the doctor said my sprained ankle wouldn't heal for another
three weeks. At first Peter helped me try my crutches just around the room.
Then in the afternoon, he and I walked in the gardens, trying to get some fresh
air into my lungs. I had to be careful through the snow and ice. Peter was
always there to help me. We walked down the Statue Path, stopping every now and
then to look into a few gardens. At the center we decided to go to the Winter
Garden. As we turned down the North path, my arm pits were started to hurt.
Peter felt it and said we ought to stop soon. Turning just before the statue of
Mars, we entered the Winter Garden. It's called that because all the flowers
are ones that bloom in the winter. There are all sorts of flowers along the
walls and in the center there is a huge oak tree, at least a hundred years old.
Hanging from one of the low branches there is a swinging bench the color of
stained wood. We sat at this bench and Peter took my crutches and set them on
the snow. I was glad for the comfort of my thick, outdoor cape, meant for these
days spent outside. I felt very tired, which is unusual for just a walk in the
gardens. I leaned against Peter and sighed. If this was going to continue, how
was I to make it to England in one piece? I've decided to cancel the trip
until you've fully recovered, thought Peter. Why? What can't I do on a
ship that I can do on land with crutches? I asked. Because on land the
ground we're walking on isn't being rocked by waves. Because on land you don't
have to climb so many stairs to get somewhere. Because on land you have a
lesser chance of injuring your foot again. Because- Okay, okay I said. But
I still would like to go this week and not detain your already scheduled trip.
Besides, by the time it's time to go, I'll have gotten used to the crutches and
considerably better at them. I promise not to do too much and be careful.
Well, okay, but you promised.
We sat there resting in the mid-afternoon sun for another half hour-part of which I slept on Peter- before we turned to go back to the house. When inside we decided to occupy the library for the evening. I realized I was falling behind in my piano practice and told Peter to go occupy himself elsewhere. He obeyed, though reluctantly. I first did a few exercises and then scales. Looking out the window there was a breath taking view of the gardens. It was covered with newly fallen snow making the whole world look white. Filled with inspiration, I played song after song whilst looking out at the world. It made me forget everything, including my ankle.
Running out of songs, I stopped and closed the curtains. I felt Peter in the other room, and went to join him. I knew he wouldn't stay out of the room even if his life depended on it. He was sitting in a large blue arm-chair. He held out his arms and I hobbled over to him on my crutches and sat in his lap, enfolded by his arms. I leaned against his shoulder, feeling as if I had everything I could ever want. That's the most beautiful music I have ever heard you play. What inspired you? I gave him the picture that I saw out the windows through my mind. That's a good picture to inspire you, if I know my Delwyn. Peter knows me better than I do.
"Can we finish Pride and Prejudice tonight?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?"
He picked me up as he stood, turned around, and put me back on the chair, and went to fetch the book. When he had left the room, I wondered idly if I didn't love him as a lover. But he has never meant anything more than a brother, a best friend, and sometimes even a father. I dismissed the idea completely, embarrassed that he might hear my thoughts.
Peter came back into the room carrying the leather-bound book. He pulled a bunch of cushions from various perches around the room and set them on the rug by the fire. Then he came over to me and carried me to the pillows, setting me gently onto them, putting a pillow underneath my bad foot. I felt like a silly, helpless, little girl who calls herself fashionable and rich. I hate those kinds of girls. "I don't think you are. It's my fault your hurt and my choice to take care of you so you don't do anything daft like you would if left alone."
"But it wasn't your fault! Mother made wear those stupid fashionable boots. I wouldn't have slipped if I had control over my feet like when I wear practical shoes. And I should have been more careful of where I put my feet because of the ice. Don't you ever go blaming yourself for my stupidity, Peter Whitehead!"
Peter just laughed and picked up the book and settled down before the fire. I could still feel the blame on himself as I lay down, putting my head in his lap. I must have fallen asleep when he was reading for the next thing I knew I was in bed and it was morning. I picked up a book that I have been reading lately and read for an hour. Peter came and when he peeped into my room I asked him to come in. He pulled up a chair and sat down beside my bed. Only Peter and my nurse is allowed to see me in the morning when I'm still in bed. I don't look too good as most people probably don't. "When did I fall asleep?"
"About when Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane."
"I'm sorry I fell asleep in your lap, I assure you it wasn't intentional."
"It's all right, I understand. Here let me help you get up."
He pulled the covers back and picked me up and set me down on the chair he had previously occupied. Then he called for Nurse and left the room telling me to meet him in the library when I was finished. Nurse came in and dressed me. I asked to just leave my blonde ringlets loose since I'm not going anywhere. Picking up my crutches, I left my bedroom and went to the library. There Peter was waiting in an arm-chair, reading a book.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"Have you started packing for England? We leave in two days."
"No, it is one of my things I'm to do today."
"Okay, but I have to go out of town today with my father on business and I'll come back tomorrow evening. But if you want I'll stay here with you if you feel you need me."
"Oh no! I wouldn't dream of keeping you here just because of me. It's not as if I can't walk. I have Nurse to help me and I think it's time I paid my mother a visit."
"Well, all right. I'll see you the day after tomorrow." And saying this he kissed my cheek and left.
I sighed and got up to go start packing. I spent the whole morning packing and getting ready for England. In the end I have two trunks and a large hand bag. Not bad for a rich, fashionable, lady.
After getting all primped up by Nurse, I prepared to go visit Mother in the grownups parlor. I brought the set of handkerchiefs that I'm making for Peter's birthday with me. I carefully made my way to the parlor taking care of where to put my crutches on the newly polished floor. Gently knocking on the door, I went in. Mother greeted me and pulled up a chair for me by the fire opposite her. I hobbled over and sat down, setting my crutches beside the chair.
I put my sewing in my lap and looked at Mother. She is the same as usual, every hair in the right place and wearing the most fashionable clothes. She really is beautiful. No wonder my father married her. If only I were as gorgeous as her. Well at least I'll always have a place in Peter's heart even when he gets married to some other beautiful woman. Well, that won't happen for a few years at least. We're still only nineteen.
"How is your ankle Lindsey, dear?" my mother asked. (My real name is Lindsey Davis. Peter gave me the name Delwyn. He said he would tell me why some day, but I think he'll forget why before he thinks it fit to tell me.)
" It's doing very well, thank you. And you have been doing well, I trust?" I replied.
"Very well, thank you. Where is Peter? Has he really left you?"
"He has to go out of town with his father on business before we leave for England. He'll be back the day after tomorrow. He did offer to stay here if I needed him. But I wouldn't dream of holding him back just for me."
"Why not, Lindsey? You are to appear as a helpless young lady in a male's eyes. If he offers you are to look pleadingly into his eyes and say you would die without him. Have you forgotten everything I taught you?"
"Oh no, Mother! It's just that your rules of flirting and "hooking a man" has never been applied to Peter. I've known him since I was a few minutes old. And he has been my best friend my whole life. He knows me better than I do. Since when did Peter become someone to flirt with?"
"Since he came of age dear. You should start thinking seriously of Peter. If I'm not mistaken, he is in love with you even as we speak."
"That is rubbish, Mother!"
"It is not rubbish and you know very well it isn't."
Embarrassed, angered, and flustered, I picked up my sewing and started to thread my needle. Mother saw my feelings and said with little sympathy, " Peter is a wealthy young man and you should be looking by now for a wealthy husband. Use your knowing him so well as an advantage."
"Mother, he is my best friend. I love only as a best friend and a brother."
"How could you say you love him as a brother?"
"Because he is a brother to me. He cares for me and protects me as a brother should. He takes the place of the brother I would have had if Jonas hadn't died when he was two. At concerts he guides me through the crowds as a brother and he reads to me as a brother would in the evenings. So how could you say I couldn't love him as a brother?"
"All those things are signs of love!"
"Mother, he would tell me if he loved me. And he hasn't so that ends the subject." There was no way I would tell Mother that we felt the same feelings and practically shared one mind.
I started to sew with new enthusiasm. Once again the question came up that what if I did love him as a lover. But once again I dismissed the idea as being silly and false. We spent the rest of the afternoon sewing and talking of various things. We took a break for tea at five. At six I left feeling like I needed to think for a while.
Back in the privacy of my bedroom, I called for Nurse. Should I really think seriously of Peter? I thought as Nurse put on my nightgown. I got into bed and thought, I would know the moment he fell in love with me wouldn't I? I wasn't so sure about this thought. But looking back at memories and watching other men flirt with ladies, I noticed it wasn't a bit like how Peter acted towards me. But on the other hand, how do I know what a brother acts like since I haven't had one, since Jonas died before I was born. I fell asleep thinking.
The next morning I woke up in pretty good spirits. Nurse dressed me and I sought the solitude of my piano room for an hour and a half. Then I decided to read a bit. For lunch I chose to join my parents for once. It was a large meal and they made me eat everything that was put in front of me. I've lost my appetite since I sprained my ankle. Peter made sure I was eating at least enough if not more. It was a good thing my parents make me eat everything I have. When I was excused, I visited Nurse who told me some of my childhood stories. It really is great comfort sometimes to go to Nurse and ask her to tell some of those stories. Then she told me some of the things Peter and I did for mischief. When she had to get back to work, I went to Cook and helped her make some cookies for tea.
Then, Polly, my tutor in piano, came, after the cookies were in the oven, and Polly and I went off to the library. She also loved my little room and sometimes just sat there in the arm-chair, listening while looking out the windows. She listened to the songs I have been recently learning and gave me pointers on them, explaining it as she went along. I love her as my teacher. She also is beautiful, even though she doesn't wear or like fashionable clothes or styles. She has just recently been married to her husband, Tom Shaw. Polly and I are friends as well, and when she has time, she and I would talk in the library. At the end of my lesson she gave me two new books and told me to work on them when I have a chance in England and told me to keep up the good work. We then went into the library and sat down in front of the fire.
"Polly, I went to Mother for the afternoon yesterday, and she told me to start thinking of Peter seriously and to start flirting with him."
"You know that Peter isn't in love with you don't you?" she said.
"Well, now that my mother mentions it, all the things he does suggest he might be. Though I don't feel it, I'm not positive." Polly is the only one I trusted to tell about sharing a mind with Peter. And often are the times that I am glad I have told her, for she helps me understand so many things. She herself went through hard times just before she knew Tom loved her. She told me all about it once. She lived with Tom when she was fourteen because her best friend, Fanny, is Tom's sister.
"I never told you this, but maybe I better had," she said. "You know Fanny's husband, Arthur Sydney, well he was once in love with me. I knew that Fanny loved Sydney, and I didn't. I deliberately went out of my way to avoid him. And when he caught up with me one afternoon, I gave him a big hint, that I didn't love him and he understood. He then left for a few weeks. After the Shaw's crash and they were settled in their cottage, Sydney came back and continued to see the family. Over time he truly learned to love Fanny and that is how they came to be coupled. By my being truthful and telling him I didn't love him, he got someone who really cared for him, and I got the man I loved. If you start feeling his love and you still don't love him, then tell him before it gets too far and you break his heart."
Polly made a lot of sense, a lot more than Mother ever does. I gave her a hug and thanked her. I saw Polly out the door and went to the gardens to brood over this new information. Wandering around I came back to the Evening Garden and went to sit on the same bench Peter and I had sat on a few nights ago. I watched sunset only half paying attention to what I saw. I went deep into my feelings. Deeper than Peter could ever go and was surprised at what I found there. It was love. Deep inside I did love Peter. I kept the feeling at this depth and hoped it would stay there. Maybe Mother was- for once - right.
I left the Evening Garden in darkness. In bed I still thought about it and finally came to the conclusion that my love should remain hidden until anything further happened. I fell asleep soon after making this resolution.
"Wake up! We'll never make it to England if you continue to be a lazy girl." I felt a large weight settle next to my waist and I opened my eyes. Peter sat there, all cheerful and awake. It makes me sick how he can be so cheerful in the morning. He has always been an early riser. I sat up and put my arms around his waist and gave him a big hug. It was so comforting to have someone to hug. I don't have a father to hug, just Peter.
"Did you miss me that much?" he said hugging me back.
"Well Mother decided to pop a few things that were unpleasant and surprising at me yesterday. I've had only myself to think about them, though Polly helped a lot." I got up on my good foot and reached for my crutches beside my bed.
"How was your lesson with Polly?"
"Oh it went very well. She gave me a couple of new books to keep me on my toes in England, when I have the chance." I called for Nurse.
"Well, great! I don't have to pay for entertainment. I bring my own!" he said as he left the room.
We had an early breakfast in the greenhouse. Then Peter had my trunks put into the carriage along with his and I went alone to bid my parents good-bye. They were still in bed eating breakfast. I kissed them both on the cheek and promised to write when I had the chance.
"Remember what I said yesterday. Your father agrees with me," my mother called as I left the room.
This comment put my spirits back to the ground again. Peter felt the change as we got in the carriage and asked, "Do you love your parents so much that your spirits are down even as we start our long journey to England?"
"No, it's my mother's parting words that put me in these spirits. They refer to the unpleasant conversation we had yesterday," I replied.
"Will you not tell me of this conversation? I don't want you to take a large burden by yourself."
"I will tell you sometime when we are settled on the ship and alone," I said, hoping he would forget.
"Don't worry, I won't forget," he said tweaking my nose playfully.
We came up to the Boston harbor and got out of the carriage. There was our liner, The Victoria. We left our trunks to the care of the baggage handlers, and started up the ramp. At the top we gave our tickets to the porter and stepped onto the ship. We went to find our rooms, and when we found them, our trunks were stowed in various places that were meant for them. We both have first class cabins next to each other. There is a door between the two that we can either keep locked or use it to go between rooms. Peter had especially got the rooms as close as possible to everything I might need or want so I wouldn't have to go far on my crutches.
Since I am already injured, I had to go visit the ship's physician before the ship left the dock so if there were any problems, I could get them fixed right now. The doctor really is a jolly fellow who likes his drink. He examined my foot with great care while I clung to Peter's hand for comfort. He had insisted on coming even though it was likely I would be in pain. But there was nothing except a bit of looking and wrapping it back up. The doctor told me to come to him every other day for another review.
Feeling rather tired, I went back to my room while Peter explored the ship. Back in the cabin, I decided to do a quick experiment. Peter? Can you hear me? I thought strongly through my mind. Delwyn? Is something the matter? a voice anxiously replied. No, I just wanted to see if I could hear you on any part of the ship in case something did go wrong. Peter thought, I'm at the opposite end of the ship right now, so I think we can communicate wherever. Okay. I answered.
I went to sleep until I was woken up by someone stroking my hair. I woke up to look into Peter's green eyes. "Come on, the ship is about to leave America."
He picked me up and sat me down in an arm-chair that Peter had ordered to be there on purpose. He fetched my crutches and handed them to me. I got up and started upwards toward the deck.
Someone let me through so I could see over the railing of the ship onto the thousands of people standing on the dock, waving handkerchiefs. I waved as we started to pull away from Boston Harbor. It was still early in the morning and a gentle breeze sent wisps of my hair flying as I watched the dock get smaller and smaller. I felt a sudden relief and a feeling of a great weight of responsibility being taken off my shoulders. I was glad to be away from Mother's nagging about fashion and the continuous carping of my father telling me to behave properly for his reputation's sake. The one weight that stayed was the worrisome Peter and his over-protective ways. I guess he'll never go away. You're right sweetie, think what you'd be like without me. Alive and healthy I should say. Hunh!
We took a walk on the top deck. As my arms were starting to tire, Peter suggested we eat dinner. We went to the first class dining room and ate a large dinner. After the meal, we split up; Peter to the exercise rooms and me back to the room to get a bathing suit and go swimming to exercise my leg in a less strenuous manner. I stopped off at the doctor's office to pick up a special cast for my ankle to go swimming in. The pool was a long way down and I was slow in getting there. The rocking of the ship had increased since we have entered the deeper waters and land is now out of sight. I took off my over clothes and gently slipped into the water. It was warm to my touch and felt very pleasant. My thoughts soothed Peter's mind as he was puffing on a stationary bicycle. I started off slow and then worked my way up to my normal standard and then stopped. I rested every half hour and then stopped after my third rest. I sat on the edge of the pool for ten minutes thinking. I got out and put on my over clothes after getting my breath back. I limped my way up the many stairs and changed into some warm clothes in my room. Then I went up to the deck and stood against the railing watching the crests of the waves break as The Victoria plowed her way through the icy waters toward Liverpool. As the sun was slowly slipping behind the horizon, Peter came to my side. Watching silently with me he slipped his arm around my waist and I leaned on his shoulder. As twilight entered this part of the world, we left the railing and slipped into the dining room. We ate a small supper.
"What shall we do tomorrow?" Peter asked.
"Sleep in like I've never done before," I said wearily.
He agreed with me heartily. I went to bed right after that.
We spent the whole week resting and being ourselves for once. I was happy to be myself without the falsehood of fashionable characters and dispositions.
The journey took one week. So we arrived in Liverpool on Monday. We were met at Albert Dock by Mr. and Mrs. Harris. They were quite the opposite to what I had imagined them to be. Being a friend of Peter's mother, I had expected them to be like all the other fashionable couples I've met; cold, unloving to each other, and sometimes even ignorant in the world's happenings besides the usual gossip. I heard the same surprise from Peter, for his mother had told him only the little she could remember of their looks.
The couple was young, and newly married. Close to my age! I thought. Sure enough. A very handsome couple, I should like to add, came Peter's reply. Mrs. Harris was very pretty, but was wearing the same kind of plain clothes that I wear. Her light brown hair was in a loose braid and wrapped around her head like a crown. She had bright green, sharp eyes, that told what she was feeling with the greatest of ease. She must be very honest, I thought. Hmm, yes. Mr. Harris was tall and had a modest body. He didn't look strong like Peter but probably was. He had straight brown hair and brown eyes. His face was handsome and cleanly shaven. They looked like they were born for each other.
After the formal meetings had taken place we boarded their carriage and started for their home. In the carriage there was silence. I racked my brain, trying to think of what to say. Then my mind fell upon something Mother says a lot.
"How long have you been in Liverpool?" I finally said.
"Not that long," said Mrs. Harris. "We used to live in the country, in a house called, Clwyd. It is a wonderful house with beautiful gardens. But my mother said 'The rich must live in the big cities.' So we moved to Liverpool. It was the nearest place to our country house and farthest from my mother's in London. We still have our country house, for we couldn't bear to part from it."
"I think my mother is very much like yours. She wants me to do all the fashionable things and dress like all the other fashionable ladies. But I don't care for it much. I hate most fashionable things, they are a waste of money. I sprained my ankle because of wearing fashionable boots."
"Really! How did you manage that? If you'll excuse my being so rude. I'm very curious."
"Peter and I were going to a concert and Mother insisted that I wear these boots so I wouldn't disgrace the family. The boots had tiny, high heels and my nurse put them on too tight. So as I was coming out of the Boston Concert Hall, I slipped on the curb and caught my foot in the gutter. It's extremely hard to control those kinds of boots on the ice."
"I know exactly how you feel. Fashions are very uncomfortable sometimes, and can be a pain in many different ways."
I like her. Do you? I asked Peter, as we were getting out of the carriage onto the Harris' drive. I like her a lot. She's very much like you in some ways, he replied.
The house was very elegant and rich, but small for a wealthy family's city house. We went in a large double doorway, and came onto a marble white floor. In front of us was a large sweeping staircase with mahogany railings and tan marble steps. Above us was a glass and iron dome set in a plaster ceiling.
We went up the winding stairs and at the top there was a wide corridor going left, right, and forward. Looking ahead, I saw that the forward hall was short, with three doors. Two on the left and one on the right. At the end there was a large window looking out onto the garden. I didn't have time to take a good look at the garden, but looked to the right. It was longer and contained six doors, three on either side. At the end, was a large painting that covered the entire wall. It was lit by three candles on both sides. It was of a landscape, looking from a mountain onto a valley with a little village of about twenty houses, and a church. I thought it was darling and cute. I wondered if it was of a real place.
We turned down the left corridor. It had six doors set in the same way as the right corridor. At the end, it also had a large painting of a landscape lit by candles. It was like the painter was looking from the village in the valley up to where the painter was standing in the other painting. You could see a set of mountains with a gentle mist on their tips. There were patches of sheep dotting the mountain-side here and there with gray lines of walls that separated the fields. Not once was there a house or a carriage to obscure the view. You could just see in the corner, a small herd of wild horses. Some were a shaggy tan, some a smooth gray, and one, a large yellow, leader.
Mrs. Harris opened the middle door on the right and went in followed by Peter, Mr. Harris, and I. The room was a bedroom with my luggage in it. It was a beautiful blue and white room. There was a large four poster bed that started at my knees, on the back wall facing the large window, which looked out on the gardens. The curtains, the bed covers, the sofa, the window-seat, and the arm chair were all a blue satin. The carpet was a brilliant white. The fireplace was white marble, same as the mantle piece. The desk that rested in the far left corner was painted white and had two drawers with knobs of blue porcelain. On the desk was a white porcelain ink pot with two large blue quills in it. There were a few sheets of paper set in the middle of the desk, ready to be used. At the back, against the wall, there were a set of five books held up by two white statues of Aphrodite with a blue toga half covering her body, as bookstands. The books were Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Raven And Other Poems By Edgar Allen Poe, The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, and The Adventures Of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carol. The books were bound in blue leather with silver writing. In the other corner was a large white wardrobe with intricate blue designs carved on the doors. Next to it was a white dresser with a stool covered with blue satin below it. There was a mirror set in silver attached to the wall just the dresser. On the it was just a blue porcelain brush, and a white, matching, porcelain, comb with silver teeth. On the corner was a small blue and white jewelry box. By the bed there was a little white table with a blue porcelain basin and a matching pitcher next to it. On the wall next to my bed there was a long strip of tapestry that was about three inches wide. It had a white metal handle at the bottom. The tapestry was white, embroidered with delicate and complicated designs. The arm chair was set next to the window on the wall to our right, and the sofa was settled against the wall to which the door was set in. The actual door was painted white on the part that faces the inside but was just the plain wood on the outside. The handle and keyhole was brass on the outside and blue on the inside. The wallpaper was white with blue patterns. The ceiling was carved, white plaster. And in the center of the ceiling there was a large glass chandelier. On the desk and on the table beside my bed, there were two new, white and blue candles.
" This, your room for whenever you come to visit us. I hope you find it satisfactory. I picked this one especially because you only have to go up one flight of stairs. The rest of the bedrooms are upstairs. It doesn't have all the fashionable accessories that other houses have. Ring that bell pull when you want anything, such as the chandelier lighting, or your water," she said, pointing to the blue and white tapestry. Then, handing me a blue and white key she turned to leave me in privacy. Peter thought, Don't you like it? You haven't said a word. I think it's a beautiful room. It suits you down to your toes. It's absolutely marvelous! How could anyone think ill of it? I'm just speechless.
Then I said, turning to Mrs. Harris, "
My dear Mrs. Harris, thank you so much. It's wonderful!"
"Oh don't be so flattering. It's not that good. And call me Robyn." And with this she was gone with Peter and Mr. Harris following her. I closed and locked the door with the key. It was cold in my hand, and it felt smooth. It was a very large key that fit exactly in the palm of my hand.
I went and stood in front of the window. The afternoon sun was pouring in and it made the room look more beautiful than before. A story below me, lay the garden. It was small, for this was the center of the big city. There was a round courtyard just as you came out of the garden door. In the center, there was a fountain. In the middle of the fountain there stood a statue of a peacock, with its feathers spread out in display. Beyond the paved circle, it extended with a carpet of grass. It was different from America's average grass. This was bright green, lush, and soft. The actual perimeter of the garden was in the shape of a square. There was a wall on the outside to keep out nosy peepers. There grew only one tree, a dogwood. It was in its middle years, with healthy branches though there were no leaves. There were no flowers growing, for we are still in the frost season, though it hasn't snowed all winter. But there were signs of life to be. White pots with designs on the sides were located around the courtyard as a small boundary. A white swing hung limply from one of the sturdiest branches of the dogwood. And in the corner, partly under the shade of the tree, was a small pond with weeds and lilies in it. When the weather gets warmer I guess I'll be able to see if there are any fish living there.
Satisfied with the view, I turned and hobbled my way to the arm-chair. I sat down and rested my arms. In a few minutes, someone knocked on the door. Sighing, I got up and crutched my way to the door. I unlocked it and opened it. Standing outside, was a young girl of about fifteen in a long black dress and a white apron. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a tight bun with a white rag fastened on top. She curtseyed to me and said, "Please, Miss. I was told to help you unpack and to stay with you until the end of your visit."
"Oh, wonderful. Please come in."
She hesitated, not sure if it was allowed, and then entered the room. I gestured to the sofa for her to sit down. I crutched my way to the chair again, and sat down. The girl was still standing.
"Won't you sit down?" I asked.
She hesitated again and then sat down carefully on the edge of the sofa. I decided to get this shyness over with since I was to depend upon her for a week.
"What's wrong? Why won't you relax?"
"I'm new here. I don't know what's right and what's not."
"Well, tell me if I am not in full charge."
"Oh yes, Miss."
"Well I tell you to relax and I'll tell you what to do. I'm not used to this sort of thing either since I can normally help myself. I'm not always crippled, you know. Let's get to know each other and be friends. Then we can be easy on each other. Friends understand when you make a mistake, friends help each other through good and bad. Deal?"
The girl's face brightened a considerable bit and she stood up and shook my hand readily. "My names Emma Riley. People normally just call me 'Girl' or 'Hey You!' You can call me anything you like. I already know yours. Miss. Davis, it's a pretty name. And your companion is Mr. Whitehead."
"Wrong!" I said.
Emma's face fell.
"My name to you is Delwyn. Mr. Whitehead's name to you is Peter. And your name, to me is what you want it to be. Pick any name you like. I was given my name by Peter. My real name is Lindsey."
"I'd like to be called Adrianne. It's one of the most beautiful names in the world. There's this one girl I know, who has beautiful blonde hair and clear blue eyes. She's gorgeous. Her last name is also Davis. (Lots of people have that sir-name in England.) But I'd like to be named that. But I like your name real nice. Why did Mr. Whi- Peter name you that?"
"I don't know. He said he'd tell me some day. I like your name. You shall be Adrianne to me and Peter at least. Now would you be so kind as to bring that trunk over to me? Oh, never mind you won't be able to lift it." I said this because she didn't look very strong or well-fed. I didn't think Robyn would treat her so. I'll ask later. Meanwhile, I got up and walked to the bed and sat down on it as best as I could from standing. Since it's so high, I have to wriggle my way back. I set my crutches beside me and turned my attention to the large trunk that had to be dealt with sometime. Adrianne came over and opened it with the key that I handed her. Inside were all my belongings for the months I was to stay in England, except the things I had in my other hand bag.
One hour later, Adrianne sat back on her heals and said, "There that's the last of the clothes."
I too, laid on my back on the bed. Everything was now in its proper place. While we were packing, I learned quite a few things from Adrianne. She is now an orphan, though she doesn't regret it. Her mother had died when she was born and her father had hired her out, when she was old enough to earn extra money. Her father worked in the factories. This was her knew job. It was temporary right now. Just to see how she got on. She'd been recommended by a friend of Robyn's, someone Adrianne had worked for previously, until they decided they didn't need her. They had made sure she had another job before firing her. Not everyone had been that kind to her. Some had literally beaten her. I felt very sorry for her.
I now felt in my mind for Peter.
What's up? he asked. Where are you? Can I bring the girl I have to look after me come with me to visit you? Are you situated in your room yet? I'm on the next floor, and on the right corridor I'm the last door to the left. Yes, I'm situated and, yes, you can come with the girl.
"Come on," I said to Adrianne. "Let's go see Peter."
We left the room together and went down the corridor back to the stairs. I went up them slowly and then went right, down the corridor he'd named. I knocked and glanced at Adrianne. She didn't look too happy. Don't answer the door yet. Stall just a bit. I said to Peter.
"Why the frightened face?" I whispered to Adrianne.
"I don't know what he'll be like. Will he beat me if I mess up? Is he mean? Will he mind if I call him Peter? Are you sure I shouldn't call him Mr. Whitehead?" She's really scared. She's been beaten before and has known some really cruel men. I thought. Yeah. I'll get rid of those thoughts, don't worry.
"It's okay. I'm almost like a sister to him. He won't hurt you even if he was mean. He's just a big, stupid, stuffed bear." Hey! You don't have to tell her the truth!
Peter opened the door and welcomed us in. I half pushed Adrianne in and requested for her to help me sit down on the sofa.
Let me take a moment to tell about the room as I looked around. It was a lot like mine. With the exact same furniture in the same place. But the window was looking out onto the street, and the colors were all different. All the wood pieces were stained a light brown. The satin was red, green, and yellow. The floor was hard wood with a rug witch had latter colors. The wallpaper was white with red designs. The ceiling was carved wood. Nothing else was much different. Only the dresser was the masculine type.
"Peter," I said. "This is Adrianne. She'll help me the week I'm to be here."
"Glad to meet you, Adrianne," he said, shaking her hand. "My name's Peter Whitehead. Call me Peter if you can spare the habit."
Adrianne grinned and gave me a grateful sideways glance.
" I've been told some things about you and they're all true. I'm glad to meet you too. I'll take good care of her for you."
Does she mean the stuff you said at the
door? Am I really a big, stupid, stuffed bear?
Yes. And have you talked to her before? I have a great suspicion you have. I looked at him accusingly. I knew his weakness in protectiveness. Me? Oh no! I'd never do that! he said over innocently. You big, stupid, stuffed bear! I thought. Out loud I said, "Have you finished unpacking? I have. But of course you didn't have some help."
"Actually, I have. I don't have nearly as much junk as you do."
"What you call junk, I call stuff my mother makes me take."
"Do you always argue?" said a small, innocent voice. Peter and I both looked at Adrianne and then blushed.
"No," I said. " Let's go and find Mr. and Mrs. Harris."
There came a knock at the door and Peter said, "Come in!" Robyn and Mr. Harris entered the room.
"I hope we're not interrupting anything." Said Robyn, fearfully. (She's always afraid of offending anybody.)
"Oh no. Certainly not. I just love my room. Thank you so much," I said.
"Nothing, really I assure you. I hope you find your maid satisfactory. She's only just come to our household. You're very welcome here."
"I like Adrianne very much. We are already friends."
"Where'd you get Adrianne from? I thought her name was Emma," said Mr. Harris.
"Adrianne picked her own name. I think that is totally reasonable, don't you Mr. Harris?"
"Call me Jonathan, and, yes, I have no problem with that. And what a lovely name it is too."
"Thank you, sir," said Adrianne timidly.
"I hear you are fond of libraries, are you not, Miss Davis?"
"If I'm to call you Jonathan, then you're to call me Delwyn. And, yes, I am very fond of libraries. I like to read, also."
"Well, let us take a tour of the house while we are about it," said Robyn.
"Well, let us take a tour of the house while we are about it," said Robyn.
We all trooped out of the room with Adrianne and I trailing behind. The rest of this floor was bedrooms. Some for guests and some for the servants here. We went down one flight of steps, to the floor where my Blue Room was. This time, we went to the right. The first of the three doors on the left side was a drawing room. The next, Jonathan's private study. And the last, a music room. (It contained a piano, a lute, a set of panpipes, a violin, and a flute.) On the right side of the corridor there was a morning room, the long gallery, and the library.
In the corridor that went forward, the one door that opened to the right, was a large ball room. The first on the left was a small theater, and the last, the official study.
Down the corridor to the left, was a parlor at the end, opposite that room was the smaller, family dining room. Then next to that was a small, primitive chapel, used only on Sundays. And next to that, was a saloon. The middle door on the right was my Blue Room and then another much larger dining room, used for when a large party comes.
We went down stairs to the ground floor. This only contained a small waiting room off to the right side of the hall, the kitchen at the back, and the conservatory to the left side. Going down a small passage, we came to two more doors which contained another drawing room and another morning room.
All the rooms in the house were lavishly furnished and contained small details that made them more homely than the formal rooms they would be. Little things like portraits of nieces and nephews, toys from around the world, things made when the Harris' were little made the place look warm and friendly. It was a very pleasant place to be.
We went back up to the library and settled down for an hour. I searched the books and found several that looked interesting. I sat down on the sofa, next to Peter with a book of old fairy tales. I read for about half an hour, and then started to get drowsy. The words on the page started to blur and I leaned on Peter's shoulder and closed my eyes. Peter stroked my cheek softly, and then let me drift off into the land of slumber.
Peter carried me to my room and then took off my jewelry, shoes and socks, and over clothes without waking me up. He tucked me into bed and then left.
A loud knocking awoke me late in the night. I got up and realized where I was. I grabbed my crutches, some slippers, and a dressing gown and went out of my room into the corridor. Going down the passage, I came to the landing above the entrance hall. Someone, probably a maid, was opening the big front door. Adrianne then came to my side and watched anxiously with me. I wondered who could be at the door at this hour. The maid received something from outside, and then gave something back from a pouch in her hand in return, and then closed the door. In the maid's candle-light, I could see it was a telegram. It must be an express to have come at this hour. The maid looked up and met my eyes. "For you Miss," she said, holding up the envelope. Adrianne went down and took it up to me. I sat down and opened it. Peter came and sat down next to me. The telegram read as follows:
To Lindsey Davis;
We're sorry not to have got you sooner, but we have some sad tidings to give you. Not long after you left for England, Nurse fell ill. She died a few days later. We're sorry to interrupt your happiness. She will be buried in two days.
From Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Davis
My eyes filled with tears as I read the news. I was devastated. This was worse than having my own mother die. I turned and buried my face in Peter's shoulder and cried openly. Peter put his arms around me and held me close. He was just as sad as I was. He put his cheek on my unbrushed blonde hair. I felt something wet on my scalp. I felt a tinge of guilt for making him so sad. I'm so sorry, he thought.
Robyn and Jonathan came to our side and questioned me. Adrianne picked up the telegram at my side and read it softly to the couple. They showed equal sorrow and much sympathy. Adrianne gave me a hug and whispered shyly, "I'm sorry I don't show much sympathy or sorrow, but I don't know what it is like to have someone you love die."
"It's okay," I croaked.
Peter then picked me up again and we went into my room. Robyn and Jonathan left in a few minutes after making sure I was all right. Adrianne went not long after. Now it was just Peter and I. Leaning against his chest. I felt very guilty for all the mean things that I ever did to Nurse. She was more of my mother than my maternal one. Tears still rolled down my cheeks but they weren't the uncontrollable sobs that they were a few minutes ago. I felt how much I would miss her. A great deal it seemed. I sat in Peter's lap crying for over an hour while Peter tried to soothe my feelings. Every few minutes he would take out his handkerchief and wipe my damp cheeks.
When I finally fell asleep he had already beaten me. I could hear the rhythmic beating of his heart and his breathing.
Early in the morning, near dawn, I woke up. I was stiff and still on Peter's lap. He was already awake and was absent-mindedly stroking my unruly hair. I leaned into the caress gratefully and he looked down. He saw the deep sorrow in my eyes and mind and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
I got up on one foot and hopped to the arm-chair and flopped in it. I was tired. I would have gone back to sleep again if there hadn't been a soft knock on the door. "Come in!" I called.
Adrianne stepped into the room with my crutches in her hand. She set them down and then came to me.
"Would you like me to help you get undressed and into your bedclothes so you can sleep more in comfort?"
"No, thank you. I will get dressed and then will you come with me to take a stroll in the garden?"
"Yes, I will do so," she said.
Taking the hint, Peter got up from the sofa. "Oh, I'm so sorry Mister. I did not see you," cried Adrianne, curtseying to Peter.
"Cut it out," Peter said wearily. "I told you to call me Peter and not to curtsey to me."
"I'm sorry, it quite escaped my mind."
Peter left and went to his room. You may not want more sleep, but I do. I'll see you in the spring. Big, stupid, stuffed bears need their hibernation.
Adrianne got out one of my black dresses and I put it on. I wore some soft black slippers and put a couple of black handkerchiefs in my pockets. I put a large gray cape on my shoulders and hobbled down stairs with Adrianne at my side.
I went through the garden doors, and out onto the courtyard. I told Adrianne to stay inside so she wouldn't get cold. I went to the little pond in the corner. Putting my bare hand on the ice , I broke it and stuck my finger into the icy water. I tried to stir the fish, if there were any, but didn't have any luck. I felt a yearning for life. All around me there was dead plants, and not a single thing stirred in the dawning sunlight.
I turned and walked as fast as I could on my crutches to the stables. There I examined every animal. My favorite was a strong, shire stallion, full of life but restless. He calmed under my touch, and I entered the stall cautiously. He snorted and ducked his head to my shoulder. I buried my face into his mane. He smelled of the wild. He smelled of fresh grass and flowers; he smelled of trees blowing freely in the wind; he smelled of running over the mountains just because he wanted to; he smelled of other horses; and he smelled of freedom. I wanted to run free with this horse and be without worries. I took my face out of his mane and looked deep into his ebony eyes. They looked mischievous, undomesticated and untamed, but yet they were gentle, amiable, and would obey someone if properly cared for. I stroked the bridge of his nose and blew gently into his nostrils. He blew back and I laughed for the first time since last night. I then ran over the rest of his body and checked his hooves. The hooves looked unkempt and his body ungroomed. I left the stall in search of some grooming tools and ran into the chief hostler for the stables. Startled, I was left speechless. I wasn't sure if I was allowed into the horse's stall. He looked at me suspiciously and said, "Did ye drug 'im?"
"Oh no! I'd never do that. He's too wonderful a horse to be tampered with in any way. It's just that he was ungroomed, so I was going to see if I could find some tools to groom him with. I'm terribly sorry if I'm in any way a trouble to you. I'll leave now."
" Nay, here are some tools," he said, handing me a basket of a grooming kit. "I'd like t' see ye groom 'im."
I took the basket and went back into his stall and picked up his front hoof. Taking a pick, I dug all the dirt away from the frog. Then I did the rest of his feet. The stableman was making me nervous. I then took the larger brush and rubbed all the dust and grug from his skin. Going back with a bristle brush I swept it off his fur entirely, letting it float to the floor. I then took a large comb and combed his tail and mane. The horse and the stableman remained quiet through the whole procession. When I had finished I put one arm under the horse's neck and cooed to him soothingly, while stroking his cheeks and muzzle. I then turned to the stableman and asked what the point to all this was.
"That horse," he said, "has never let anyone near his stall, never let anyone touch him, and never let anyone shoe him. He's as wild as the wind and as fierce as the Horse-God himself. So I'm wonderin' how the 'ell ye got into his stall, let alone groom 'im."
"I don't know. I got news from Boston last night that my Nurse died. She brought me up. I've been lamenting ever since. I wanted to see something actually alive and was lead to the stables. I seemed to prefer him to the others and started to pet him. Then I got into his stall and got to know him quite well. He smells of freedom. Then I noticed how untidy he was and left the stall to find a grooming kit. And then I met you. That's the whole truth, sir. I didn't know anything about the horse. I don't even know his name or breed."
"Hmm," he said. "Let me try to pet him."
With this he started forward to the horse's stall. The horse rolled back his eyes, bared his teeth, and stepped back a pace. The stable man turned and looked at me, puzzled. "I don't know what t' make of it. Can ye put this bridle on 'im?"
"I can try," I said. Taking the bridle from his hands, I went into his stall. I took his muzzle into both my hands. He opened his mouth willingly. I slid it into his mouth and he accepted it without a quiver. This is strange, because even a very gentle, tame horse will struggle a little. He seemed to savor it in his mouth. I mounted on his bare back and took the reins in my hand. I walked him out of the stall and onto the stable floor. Then with an encouraging nod from the stable man, I walked him out onto the courtyard. I trotted him around the paved circle and then tried a gallop, and then stopped. I turned the horse in a complete circle and then the opposite way. He seemed in every way a trained horse to me. I was still shocked that he would be so savage to the man. The man was looking at me strangely again. "I still don't know 'ow ye do it. I decided that this was too much excitement for me today.
"I'll put him away now, if you don't mind. I'm getting tired. I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Nay, go ahead. By the way, since ye can control 'im so well, why don't ye give 'im a name."
I put the beautiful horse away and went back into the gardens again. A name, I thought. How about Alwyn, or Cystennin, or Dafydd, or Emyr, or Llywelyn, or Rhys, or maybe Onyx. I think Rhys fits the horse best. It's Welsh for fiery warrior.
Deciding on this, I got up and went into the house, intending to go to my room and write a telegram to my parents. I did so and sent it by express.
That afternoon, Robyn offered to lend a horse to me anytime I wanted to go out. I thanked her and said I would take her up on that offer. After tea, I asked to take Rhys out. I went into my room and changed into some old breeches, a heavy shift, and a thick tunic. I brought out my soft leather boots and a huge black cloak with a large hood. I tied all my hair into a knot at my neck and put the cloak on. It covered my entire body with some to spare. I pulled the hood up and crept silently into the stables and gave Rhys an apple. Cooing softly to him, I led him out of his stall and leapt onto his bare back. This took great skill considering that his withers was located at the top of my head. I know I'm short even for a woman, but I looked like a midget compared to Rhys. Clinging onto his mane, I guided him into the street, keeping to the shadows. If anyone tried to come and question me as to why I had such dismal clothes on and was trying to conceal my existence, they were scared away by Rhys. One passerby called out saying, " Hey you! Why ye lookin' like that?" I simply looked deep into his eyes with tears in mine and said, "I'm in mourning, kind sir." He apologized to me and continued on his way.
Finally I came to the edge of the town and followed a dirt road lined by an old stone wall. Following it for a mile, I came to the farms. I broke Rhys into a run and then we leaped over the wall and continued to run. We kept to the empty fields. Just the jump took my breath away, but I could never catch it for we were going at a speed I had never gone at before. Rhys just kept going and never seemed to tire. Plowing through the deep, unbroken snow and having a marvelous time. I clung to his black mane for dear life and felt the ripple of his sleek muscles underneath my legs.
After a while my bad ankle started to feel uncomfortable. Regretfully, I slowed Rhys down. I expected him to hang his head as a tired horse normally does, but Rhys was obviously not tired, for he held his head high and kept sniffing the air. His breath came out in white puffs. I walked him over a few more fields into a valley. Looking up into the sky, it was a gray haze. I felt like the only soul in the world. I'd never really experienced this feeling, coming from America. My hood had blown off and strands of blonde curls had escaped the tie. I could live here forever. Away from all troubles. England's a gorgeous place, don't you think so? I asked Rhys, not expecting an answer. Definitely said someone. Startled, I wheeled Rhys around. He whinnied and reared. For a moment I thought he was going to fall on his back. Then we hit the ground with a heavy thump. I toppled off. The ground seemed miles away as it slowly came nearer. I closed my eyes just as the ground hit my side. I landed in the most awkward position a person can fall off a shire. It sent pain through my body for a split second and then blessed silence.
Looking around, I was in a large dimly lit room. Beneath, was a hard stone floor. The ceiling was high above my head. Huge stone beams came across the ceiling in arches. On the stone walls there were heavy tapestries. Behind me a bonfire blazed in a large fireplace. The heat was comforting. Tables were set up along the side walls and one was ahead of me. The front one was set on a higher platform. A man in what looked like a throne, sat looking at me. In fact everyone was looking at me. From the beautiful lady beside him with a circlet on her black head to the little page boy serving food to the central table. A man at the side of the large table said in a loud voice, "Delwyn of Lamasse' son of Lord George of Lamasse', being presented to His Royal Highness, King Jonathan and Her Royal Majesty, Queen Robyn!"
"Come here boy," said the king in a gentle but commanding voice. I obeyed, walking up to the table and bowed as deeply as I could. I felt my hair brushing my earlobes and curving at the back of my neck at a final length of about a quarter inch off my shoulder blades. I wonder how long it will take to grow it back again. "I heard you had an unlucky fall on your way to the castle. You are lucky someone kind found you and brought you here. Are you all right?"
I felt thoroughly confused. I tried to remember who I was, but couldn't. I tried to remember what I was doing here and where I was bound to when I was riding. I could remember riding a large black shire stallion named... Rhys. I remember falling and then... nothing. It was all blank. That was all I could recall in my memory. All I could think of about my identity was that my name was Delwyn. I couldn't even remember if I was a boy or a girl, how old I was, or who my sire was.
"To tell the truth, Your Majesty," I said, my voice coming out like what sounded like a young boys' of about ten years of age. "I don't remember anything. I don't feel any physical discomfort, but a bit of stiffness, which is to be expected in riding long hours. Still, I don't have any memory of my life except that my name is Delwyn, I was riding somewhere on a black shire stallion named Rhys and I fell when he reared."
A great stir ran throughout the room, murmuring rippled like gossip. I read concern on the Royal couples' faces. "That is unfortunate. You may be assured you will have the greatest help while you are with us. I may be able to tell you this, you were riding here from your father's fief, about a two day ride. Your guardian was slain by bandits, your horse knocked you off from fright and protected you as you were unconscious. A kind priest found you and read the note in your tunic and brought you and your horse here. As soon as you were awake, you were brought here. You are eleven years old and have come here to try to be a page. Then if you succeed then you shall become a squire to a knight if you are good enough, and then if you do well and pass the Ordeal of Knights than you shall enter into knighthood. Would you like to continue this plan or go home and recuperate?"
"Your Highness, I think I shall continue my plan, but I must have help with my memory."
"Granted, you are dismissed. Andrew will show you to your rooms."
A large looking boy with dirty blonde hair and dark brown eyes came, and I followed him to a tapestry. Behind me, I could hear the bustle and talk of an evening meal being revived after such an unusual incident. Andrew pulled aside a tapestry and behind it was a door. I entered after him and continued down a long dark hall. He turned left then right then right then right again and then left and then came to a door. I was thoroughly lost. He opened it and we entered another long corridor. It had doors on both sides. He came to one and unlocked it with a key. I entered with him and encountered a room with two identical beds, two identical trunks, and one desk. There was a small window in one of the walls. Two candles were lit. A boy about a foot taller than me, with brown hair, green eyes, and tan skin looked up and stood. Andrew said, "You shall share a room with Emyr of Cystennin. He is the same age as you. He will explain everything you need to know. Emyr, this is the boy who fell and has lost his memory. Help him as much as you can and try to be understanding."
Emyr held out his hand with a grin and said, "I will take good care of him, don't worry Andrew. Get back to your duties. Your night off isn't until Thursday."
I took his hand meekly. Emyr shook it heartily. I stood blushing and looking down at my clothes. What I was wearing looked very familiar. I realized, I must not have changed since I fell. It was a muddy mess.
Emyr saw my face and said, "A servant brought your bags in a while ago. I put them in your trunk."
"Thank you," I murmured and went to the right trunk to which he pointed. I opened it and then looked up at him and said, "What time is it? Should I put night clothes on?"
"You really are confused aren't you. It's about nine of the clock."
Blushing, I looked in the trunk. Everything was put neatly in its place. Turning an even deeper shade of red, I said, "I'm sorry to bother you so but I don't know what all these clothes are. I don't know what's night clothes and what's undergarments."
Grinning, he said, "Sure. This is your shift for night. These are the shifts you wear in the day. These are your winter tunics that you wear on top, and these are your summer ones. These are your winter breeches and these are your summer ones. And this is your winter cloak and that is your summer one. This is the uniform you wear on formal occasions that require your duties as a page. If you ask me, your really small to be training for a page. Are you sure you're eleven. You look more like to be seven."
Examining the royal blue and silver and red uniform, I replied frankly, "No I'm not sure. If the king hadn't told me how old I am, then I would have had to ask you."
"Well if the king told you than you must be. After you are changed come over to the desk and let me start to explain the duties of a page."
I took off my muddy clothes and found out that I really was male. I had doubted it until now. I slipped the clean, wool shift over my head and padded over to Emyr.
"To start off with, let's test what you know in academics, so we can place you in your classes tomorrow. Every other day you have academics and the rest of the time you have physical training. Can you read?"
"Of course I can," I said feeling as if he thought I didn't know anything.
"Don't get so hot. Most beginning pages can't. I didn't when I first came."
"Sure. Now read this," he said and pulled out a scroll and lay it out. I read it with the greatest of ease until he told me to stop.
"Okay, can you write?"
"Write what I say on this." He pulled a board from out underneath a pile of scrolls. It had soft wax on it and you could write in the wax with a pointed stick. I took up the stick and wrote what it Emyr said. "I am Delwyn of Lamasse'. How I came to be here I do not know. King Jonathan and Queen Robyn are very kind to me. My horse is a black shire stallion. I love my horse because he protected me from the bandits. I can write very good-"
"I think in those circumstances you say I write very well. To say good is bad grammar."
"Oh of course, well I can see you can write well. Now let's try to see how you are at arithmetic. Do these problems."
He smoothed the wax out and wrote a few adding problems. I worked them out in a few seconds. He then kept writing harder and harder ones until he had to pull a scroll out and copy from that. We got way into algebra before he stopped and said, "Well you can pass a squire in arithmetic. Let's try battles."
I breezed through that subject, as well as history, botany, and science. When I asked what was the full date he burst out laughing. "You can beat any squire in all academics but you can't remember your age, the date, your family, or what you're doing here. You really did lose your immediate memory."
"Of course! Did you not believe me?"
"No, I didn't. I didn't think it was possible. Today is Tuesday, January the twenty-first the year of 1345."
"Oh, I think I need to sleep for a bit."
"Sure just tell a brief summary on what you know about war arts."
"Nothing," I said sheepishly.
"Nothing?" he said looking thoroughly shocked.
"Nothing," I assured him.
"Oh, looks like you'll be spending all your days learning war arts instead of academics. Tomorrow report to Duke Alwyn. Good night. I hope you regain your memory."
"Thanks," I said getting into the warm bed. Emyr blew out the candles and retired himself.
I felt something wet on my face. I assumed it was Emyr trying to wake me up. "Is it morning already?" I asked and opened my eyes. It wasn't Emyr, it was a large, wet, slobbery, tongue attached to a long black snout. Pushing it away, I sat up and looked about. I was in a large field. I heard thumps on the ground. They stopped a few feet away and someone jumped off the beast. Peter came to me, putting an around my shoulders. I leaned gratefully against him and pondered what I had just dreamed.
"Are you okay?" Peter asked.
"I think so," came my unsure reply. I was still stunned. Peter put his other arm under my legs and lifted me up. He set me down on Rhys' broad back sideways. I swung my other leg across and started off to nowhere. I needed to think. Why is life so complicated? I thought. What's so complicated that you're worrying about? Peter said through my mind. I ignored what he said and thought, Did I just die? And then come back? Geez I'm confused. I need to think. I need to think. I kept Rhys walking. He felt something wrong and turned and galloped back to Peter.
He led us home. When we got to the drive, he picked me up off of Rhys' back and carried me into the house. Robyn, Jonathan, and Adrianne all stood waiting. Peter said as he went up the stairs with me. "I think she's sick. She seems to be delirious."
Peter carried me into my room and put me into bed, and left. Adrianne undressed me and put on a warm nightgown. I fell asleep soon after that, still dazed.
I opened my eyes to look up at Emyr. "You want to know how long it took me to wake you up? Hurry up or you'll make me late."
Now completely perplexed, I got up. A blast of cold air hit me as soon as I got out of my warm bed. Quickly, I got dressed, putting on my winter leggings, shift, and tunic. I followed Emyr out of the door and down the hallway. We came to a long hallway. There were tables on both sides filled with food and boys eating it. Emyr went straight for a table that stood at the end of the hall. I followed him.
"This is where my friends called the Outlaws, and I normally eat. You can join us if you want but you have to be quick. We have to be up at the main hall to serve for the rest of the castle in ten minutes." We came to the table and the boys occupying it silenced.
I felt nervous. Emyr came to my rescue. "Guys, this is Delwyn of Lamasse'. Delwyn, this is Onyx of Xerox," he said pointing to a red headed boy who grinned and shook my hand.
"Andrew you know from last night, that is Alwyn of Sunbury," he said, nodding to a boy with black hair that looked more blue than black. He had black eyes to match his hair, but besides that there was a very friendly twinkle in the depths that made me smile as I shook his hand.
"And this is Alexander of Maxell." He had brown hair and gray eyes. I shook his hand and smiled.
"Dafydd of Elys is sick. And finally, is Llewelyn of Thames." I looked the boy over and gave my approval almost immediately. He had blonde hair, and blue eyes like mine.
He got up and gave me a boisterous hug. "Great to see you cousin. Why, the last time I saw you, we were but little tots."
I gave an unsure look at Andrew and then Emyr. I had never seen this guy before for all I knew. Emyr decided that this was the appropriate time to tell the group of my accident and memory loss. All seemed sympathetic, but Llewelyn seemed most shocked.
"No wonder you seemed not to recognize me. Gosh I'm so sorry!"
"I am pleased to meet you. And I'm grateful for your sympathy, but I don't really need it. I feel no worse and I don't think I've lost anything much. I really don't feel any loss. I haven't lost all my memory, I can still remember how to do academics."
"Ha! That's true," Emyr said laughing. "Delwyn can beat any of you in all subjects."
"Whoa, you have changed since I left you!" Llewelyn exclaimed. "I remember the days when you dreaded to touch a book, or anything that would teach you anything, actually. Since when did you become a sissy in a book?"
I blushed and murmured, "I don't remember."
Alexander stood and offered the seat next to him saying, "Stop teasing him. How can he help it if he's no memory? He's lucky to be alive! Come let's break your fast. We have only about five more minutes."
I sat and broke bread with my knew friends. After the morning meal, we all had to go to serve in the main hall. I was put out to the side to watch. When the king saw me he beckoned. I obeyed and bowed low at his side. "How are you feeling?"
"I am feeling much rested, Your Majesty. But I still have no memory."
"Pity. I see you have made friends with my youngest son and his friends. I'm positive they'll help you. Who are you rooming with?"
"Emyr of Cystennin, sir," I said. "Um, sir? What do you mean, friends with your youngest son?"
"I have seven children. Three daughters, and four sons. Alwyn is my youngest."
"Alwyn is your son!"
"Doesn't look much like me does he? He takes after his uncle, Duke Alwyn."
"I like your son very much, Your Majesty."
"I'm pleased that you do. I've heard your opinion is hard to get, I mean you as a family. I hope you will regain your memory soon."
"Thank you, Your Majesty." I bowed and returned to my watch.
One by one my new acquaintances approached me with the inquiry to what King Jonathan had said to me, when they got the chance to have a quick break. The first was Alexander. His gray eyes were bright as he came rushing over to me. "What was the king just saying to you?" I told him and he exclaimed over it and was then called away. Then came Onyx and Andrew. And then Llewelyn. He said he was proud that I was his cousin. When Alwyn came, I asked, "Why are all of you asking me and exclaiming over it? I see it as no big thing. The king is very nice and I like him a lot." I had forgotten already that Alwyn was his son. He said calmly, "My father doesn't talk to someone as low as a page very often." I mentally hit myself on the head for my stupidity. "And when he does, it generally causes a commotion. I know he has already thought of you as a favorite. That is good."
"Oh, I had no idea. He approved of my choice of friends obviously."
"Well I must see to his whims for now. Don't be bothered by the Outlaw's sometimes weird and stupid behavior. It has a tendency to be contagious. By the way, don't explain the conversation to any other page or squire other than the Outlaws."
"Why? What do I say?"
"Because some don't like favorites to the king and you can be a victim of jealousy. Say you had a conversation about being a page. That's usually enough to keep most nosy people away."
"Don't call me that by the way. Just Alwyn," he said and left.
Emyr came and explained a few things that were going on behind the tapestries that I would need to know. While he was at it he asked what I was talking about with the king. Sighing, I told the story one more time.
"Pretty good, if I don't say so myself," he said after hearing it and left.
After breakfast, I followed the Outlaws to their first class. All the rest of the pages were there. They all stared at me. I then realized how abnormal I was compared to the rest of them. They were all large, all tan, and all muscular. I wasn't' any of those. I was a midget compared to them. When the smallest of them stood up, I came up to their chin. Oh boy, thought, it will take a lot to prove myself here.
While the pages
were all staring at me, I had no seat and tried to stand inconspicuously next
to the door. When the teacher, finally looked up from his reading, I was as red
as a cherry. Emyr stood up and said, "Sir. Arthur, this is Delwyn of
Lamasse'. He is the most recent new page."
"I know who he is, boy. For heavens sake he's my godchild. Come here Delwyn, I haven't looked in your eyes since three years ago when I last visited your father's home. He wrote me saying you would be coming. He will be following to make his appearance at court next week but I'm sure he told you that."
I looked desperately at Emyr and stayed where I was. Emyr still standing in front of his desk said, "Begging your pardon sir but Delwyn had a bit of an accident on his journey coming here. Bandits attacked him and his guardian, killing the guardian and Delwyn's horse reared him off and he fell unconscious. A priest read the letter to His Majesty in Delwyn's pocket, and brought him here. That was yesterday. But the point to all this is that Delwyn has no memory beyond that of his horse and falling off it."
Here I hung my head in shame and embarrassment. " Oh, my dear boy!" And with this I was enveloped in a large hug. I returned it.
Then pulling away my godfather said, "Read scrolls 45 and 46 and be ready to recite them when I am through. Delwyn come with me to my anteroom and I shall help you."
We went into a little room filled with papers and scrolls and books. I took the offered chair in a corner while Sir Arthur sat on a stool. He took a deep breath and stared at the floor. Then he began: "Is all this true?"
"What do you know?"
"My name, that I'm eleven years old, that Llewelyn is my cousin, the Outlaws names and that Alwyn is the king's son, and now I know that you are my godfather."
"That is so very little. Do you know anything else about your family?"
"Okay, I'll begin there. You are the eldest son of Sir Lindsay and Rachel. You have just one younger sister who will come with your father next week. She is a sweet thing, just one year younger than yourself. Adrianne also has blonde hair and blue eyes. Her hair is very beautiful with it in large ringlets down her back. She shall have many suitors. It will be your duty to protect her from any danger when your sire dies." With the mention of my sister, something in my memory sparked. Sir Arthur continued. "I am your father's best friend so I was awarded the honor of being his first son's godfather. Your family home is called, Penrhyn Castle. It is located near the center of the fief named Lamasse'. It is located near the northern border of Wales. The Castle is built on the shores of the Mersey river. Yours is one of the largest of the fiefs. When your father dies, you will inherit the fief.
"That is all I can tell you about your family in so short a time, but if you ever have any more questions to ask, just come in to my rooms or my classroom at any time."
"Thank you very much, sir. Is their anyone else I have known previously and am supposed to recognize?"
Georgiana or Georgie as her friends call her, visited your house when she was
six and ill, and she became great playmates to you and your sister. Really you
should have a gift for her. She'll be very disappointed if you don't. She has
been looking forward to your coming since her father mentioned it. You'll
probably meet her tonight after dinner in the common room."
I panicked. "Tonight! I don't have a gift for her! How will I recognize her? What shall I do if she asks about my past or my sister? How do I act in front of a princess?"
"First, I have a present you could use. Second, you can ask Emyr to point her out for you. Third, if she asks about Adrianne's health, say she is doing well, if she asks anything else, just say mysteriously that she'll find out next week. And lastly, you act around her as if she were an old friend. Just like you treat Alwyn. Oh, except that the laws of politeness call for you to bow and kiss her hand for a formal introduction if one is given."
"Do I have any other relations, like uncles, aunts, grandparents?" I asked feeling rather sick at having to kiss a girl's hand.
"Grandparents, no. Aunts and uncles, yes. You have your father's brother, Richard and his wife, Rebecca. They have their only son, Llewelyn. And then there is your mother's sister, Ruth and her husband Edward. They have their son Dafydd. He is the one who is sick. You know after this talk, you can be dismissed to go and see him. I know you won't need any tutoring in academics for a while yet. Emyr told me all about last night this morning, during breakfast. I'm ashamed that you do not know anything about war or weapons. I think it is because of the memory loss. You were always very skilled in any weapon you took up. Fist fighting with the scruffs in the street was your favorite past time." He got up and ruffled my hair.
"Don't worry, everything will work out. Run along to Dafydd's room. Ask any servant you see in the halls to show you. Give my love to him."
And with this, he
left the anteroom, and I was left to myself. I exited the room and came into
the hallway. Catching a passing guard, I asked him the way and directed me to
I knocked softly. "Come in!" came a feeble reply.
I opened the door and went in. There was a room just like mine. In the only bed lay a boy my age. His eyes were closed. I came to the bedside.
"Dafydd, it's your cousin, Delwyn."
"Delwyn!? Wow! It really is you." And with this he sat up and said, "Close the door will you. I was told you were coming soon. Geez, it's really great to see you. Hey, you remember the last time I came to Penrhyn Castle? We had great fights with the Rebels."
Might as well tell him now and get it over with. "No," I said. "I don't remember." And I told my "tragic" story. I got the usual sympathy from him as well but shrugged it off.
"What are you doing here anyway? I thought you would have Sir Arthur's class," he asked.
"I talked to him, and he told me all about my family. But since I'm ahead in all my academics, he let me come and keep you company."
"Thanks but I'm okay, actually. I just act sick to get out of classes."
We talked for another 20 minutes and then I had to leave. I went with the servant that had been sent to retrieve me to an office of some duke. When I entered, the servant bowed and said, "His Lordship, the Duke Richard of Thames."
Deciding on how to act, I said, "Uncle! How good it is to see you, though I have lost my memory and can't remember you from the past."
The Duke returned my odd entry to my great relief by giving me a big hug. He was large like his son. He offered me a seat and I sat obediently. "I hear you have passed in academics. Your father tells me you also know much in the ways of war and weapons."
"Sir, I don't remember how to fight or even pull a bow-string."
"Oh, well hopefully when you start with a special tutor, you will regain your strength. I think I will put you with Master Henry. He will help you and teach you the basics. You will start today, and will keep it up while the others are in school. The rest of the time you can spend with your friends. By the way, have you picked your group yet? Most young boys split off the day they get here, separating into their little squads of pals."
"I'm friends with the Outlaws, your son's group, I guess."
"The Outlaws are a mischievous group and I'm always having to put them on punishment. The last time that any of them had any free time was at least three months ago. Stay out of trouble whatever you do. But, your father did say to watch you. He said you have a tendency to get in fist fights, especially in town. Well, I must say that the capital's common folk are much rougher and tougher than your Lamassse' country folk. Just watch what you say to them and try to keep on their good side when you do encounter them. Do what I say and be off with you, boy."
"Yes, sir," I said and bowing, I left the room.
The servant who had shown me in, came to my side and led me to Master Henry. He was in the inner courtyard. The servant left me to fend for myself against this large black man. What gave me the courage not to run, was that he had a very gentle face. It looked kind and loving. He had beautiful brown eyes that melted your knees. He looked up at me and smiled. "Come here, child."
I obeyed and went to his side. He went down on one knee and looked at me, eye to eye. I blushed and looked down. "I am Henry. I'll teach you the basics of war and weaponry. For starters, do you know how to string, load, and shoot a bow?"
"No, Master Henry. Maybe if I tried it might come back to me."
"My name is Henry. Get it right, lad. Let us get a small unstrung bow."
We went to a shed in a corner of the courtyard. He tested each bow from a rack and decided on a small white one. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a string. He took the string and unraveled it. Putting one end of the bow on his big toe, he slotted the sting into the bottom part and then bent the bow to fit on the top. He held it up, pulled it, and aimed at an imaginary target. He then put it down and unstrung it. Then, handing it to me, he gestured for me to try. Gulping, I tried to copy what he did. Surprisingly, I did it perfectly. Henry smiled and took a quiver of arrows from a hook on the wall. Tossing it to me, he went out he door and said, "Come on, now you can string a bow, let me see you shoot."
I followed him out and stood next to him, facing a large target in front of several bales of hay stacked up.
Over the next half hour, I learned to shoot. Then something sparked in my memory. I was crouching next to small white animal covered with blood. Picking it up I had shown it proudly to my companion. It was the first time I shot an animal. I followed the memory back a bit, and remembered how I had shot it. Standing up again, I took another arrow from my quiver, and slotted it onto my string. Pulling back, I closed my eyes and focused my thoughts on where I knew the target to be and let it loose. I hit the bull's-eye directly. "All right!" was the response from Henry with a clap on the back to accompany it. "Do it again. We must make sure it wasn't a mistake."
I did do it again and again. Next I tried wrestling. He taught me things I felt like I had done before, but didn't actually know how to do. Then another memory hit me. I was standing in front of someone. I felt sort of proud and sort of ashamed. I had a sharp pain in the left eye. I couldn't see clearly through the narrow slit. I felt other bruises all over my body. It must have been the first time I had gotten in a fight. I felt a knew strength in me. Getting down into fighting position again, I stared at Henry straight in the eye. I remembered the bandits who had tired to kill me. Anger threaded through my veins. I took Henry around the shoulders like he said and pushed with all my strength. He toppled back and pressed my chest against his and counted aloud for five. Puffing, I sat back on my heels. "Brilliant! Do it again. But use a different move every time. Your opponent will expect them if you repeat."
I did as he said, this time butting him in the chest with my head and pinning him down. I did it again with a move he hadn't expected. I leapt up as soon as he said go and landed on top of him. But he was so large that it didn't work as I expected it to. He whipped me off and I crouched again. This time he lunged forward, and I leapt sideways. He caught himself before he landed on his face and lunged for my legs. I leapt back and to the side. Then seeing my opportunity, I landed on his back as he fell. After the count, I pulled back and sat down. "Crumbs! Where did you learn that? You'll be a mighty wrestler if you continue like that. Being small does have its advantages. Be sure to know all of them. Now be off with you to lunch before you embarrass me any more."
I ran off to the
pages' dining hall. I met the Outlaws on my arrival. I grabbed some food and
attacked it vigorously. "What did you talk about with your
godfather?" asked Alwyn.
"About my family and some other useful things I'll need to know. I found out that I have two uncles, two aunts, two cousins, a sister, a father, a mother, and godparents all in ten minutes. Then I went to see my other cousin, Dafydd. He seemed all right to me. What happens if he gets caught?"
"He gets extra lessons or something," replied Onyx, casually.
"You aren't going to tell are you?" asked Andrew.
"Of course not," I said.
"What did you do the rest of the morning?" said Alwyn.
"I went to Duke Richard and he told me I was to be tutored by Master Henry in war and weaponry. That was what did the rest of the day. I now remember how to shoot an arrow to a bull's-eye, and beat Henry in wrestling."
"Go Delwyn! Did my father receive you affectionately?" That was Llewelyn with a roll half stuffed in his mouth.
"Yes, he gave me a big hug. He also said you were a naughty bunch of kids. Always getting into trouble and scrapes. Is this true?" I asked.
Alexander said, in between mouthfuls of pudding, "Ever since the Outlaws came together, trouble seems to find us. I think it's time to tell him about the other group in the pages. What do you say boys?"
They all agreed and I sat looking at their faces intently. "You know what we have planned, I think this would be a good opportunity so it won't be spoiled," said Emyr above the rest.
"Okay, then. The other group is our rivals. They, in short, are just a bunch of stuck up nobles. They think they are better than us for no reason. They detest our existence and they worry too much about their appearance. They go after only the most beautiful girls or the most wealthiest. We often get in fist fights. That is the trouble that Duke Richard was talking about. Generally we are blamed. Most of the time they start it by words and we start it by action, hitting them in the mouth is what we prefer to do when they talk trash. They are called the Bandits," said Andrew.
"Even my father doesn't like them very much. Though he doesn't see them much," added Alwyn.
I thought the whole thing through and then slowly replied as if far away, "Back in my home, I was part of a group of commoners, mostly street children. We were called the Rebels. We had a continuing war with the Brats as we called them. They were a group of merchant's sons. They also thought they were better than us and we proved time and again that they were wrong. I stayed leader of the Rebels even though I was a noble. They never though me otherwise. Then one day, I met the leader of the Brats in a deserted alley. Both groups were there. It was supposed to be a one on one hand fight. "Fair and square" he had said. As soon as it started he knew he was going to lose. But in the middle, after he had received several cuts and bruises, he signaled to one of his boys. The next thing I knew, I was knocked on the temple with a rock. I was told by my people that they scampered before any Rebels could lay a hand on them. I'll never forget that. And I'll get my revenge yet.
"But what I meant by this was, you really should be more cautious and let them make the first move. Then you have every right to respond. Or disgrace them beyond repair. That would hurt them most." I started suddenly as if just coming out of a daydream. All the boys except Llewelyn were looking at me with surprise on their faces.
asked them, blushing. "Why are you looking at me that way? That was the
third flash back today. I have to catch them while they're there." They
seemed to wake out of a daze.
"Um..., we just thought of you as being a little goody boy, who always followed the rules. We never had any idea that you would be a leader of a common gang. Or get into fights for that matter," said Onyx.
"Yeah," said Alexander. "I thought you would eventually go to the Bandits, thinking that we were too rough. Geez, I'm sorry if we misjudged you."
"I know it does seem surprising. But would you really like to see a page with no memory on his first day, get into a fight or suggest that he'd be any trouble?" I said.
"Well, no," said Llewelyn. "I knew. I bet you don't remember that whenever Dafydd or I came over to Penrhyn, we joined the Rebels. Boy it was fun! You were always the worst and had the hottest temper."
"I did not!"
"How would you remember anyway?" pointed out Alwyn.
I closed my mouth and concentrated on eating my desert. I still thought about the memory flash that I had just received. Something in it felt missing. I closed my eyes and tried hard to remember. Then I was in a large, warm, and comfortable room. I was sitting on a bed. My bed. Someone sat across from me with her legs folded beneath her. She had straight brown hair. It fell about her like a curtain. She was wearing the same type of breeches and tunic and shift that I was wearing. She had lovely hazel eyes and a beautiful smile. She reached over the space between us and took my hands. Looking down at my hands clasped with hers, I saw that they were of an early juvenile. I was probably six or seven. She said, "Come let's go play with the Rebels." I said, "No you are still sick. I won't allow you to leave the palace until I am satisfied you are well." She pouted and said, "Why are you so protective? I can beat any of the Rebels in staff fighting, archery, and wrestling. You know that. Why are you making me live a life of misery inside a castle of women who pick on me." I thought and said, "Because I care about you and I would suffer more than you if you fell sick again. Partly because I'd blame it on myself. Let's go to the practice rooms and I'll teach you all I know about sword play. How would that amuse you, my Princess Georgiana." I got off the bed and bowed deeply before her and pointed my arm out to the door. She took it and laughingly threw me to the floor and pinned me in a lock. "Hey! That's no fair! I taught you that and you were taking advantage of me." She let me up saying, "Then don't call me Princess or Georgiana. My name is Georgie." I offered my arm seriously and said, "As you wish my Lord." "That's better!" she said as we went out the door.
"Man is he in a faint or what! He's been out for five minutes," a voice said through the darkness.
I looked down and saw a bright gold ball of light at the bottom - of what? I took it with imaginary hands, and tried to stretch it. It did, and a piece tore away softly, like bread. I brought it up in my imaginary hands and looked at it closely. I wondered what it was. I tried to taste it with an imaginary mouth. It tasted - like bread. I opened my eyes wider and the darkness folded away in specks, leaving behind a few portions here and there.
I looked up into a girl's hazel eyes. They were anxious. They drew away, and another pair came into focus and then five more in a ring. I recognized Alwyn's black ones. Then Emyr's less dazzling hazels. Then all at once I saw Onyx's crystal blues, Andrew's dark brown ones, Alexander's milky brown lamps, and the two darker blues like mine must be Dafydd and Llewelyn. But it was the bright hazel lights that bore down on my memory, like I should remember them from somewhere. Then I recollected the flash back I had just been given. Those mysterious and unusual eyes must be the girl who was in my memory flash. But what was her name? She had said, "My name is George." The rest of the room cleared. I sat up quickly, about to demand some answers, when the blackness rolled in again. Quickly this time. I heard the words, "There he goes again! We almost had him. Did you see the confused looks he gave us? What if he's lost his memory again?" drifting away.
That voice, it was female, and vaguely familiar. Where have I heard such a voice. And then I slept dreamlessly. I tossed and turned a lot.
my nose. There it goes again. I grabbed whatever it was a clenched it in my
hands, close to my chest. I remember thinking, "There that will take care
of those nasty Brats."
Again, slumber. This time it hurt. It was sharp pain on my cheek. It went again and again. I hit where I thought the source would be and yelled, "Stay away from me you bloody Brats!" Then I laid back again. I had hit something that was soft in the middle and hard around the edges. An eye! I thought. I had hit the right target. I settled down again.
Then something cold hit my body. I was drowning! "Help!" Please God, I cried silently. Then I was okay. I threw up water and other things like... lunch!
Silence. Peaceful, blessed, silence. After what seemed like only two hours of this bliss, I felt something soft stroking my cheek. I reached up slowly and put my hand on another hand. It was bare with no rings and had the roughness of someone who worked and played. But it was small, slender, and feminine. Something brushed my lips. It was gentle but thrilling. I struggled to open my eyes and see for myself what it was that felt so comforting. The hazel eyes were in the darkness above me. I wanted to thank them. I looked down again at my ball of gold stuff. I took another piece, and tried to hand it to them. They pulled away suddenly. "Oh no! I must have frightened her. If it is a her."
Then every thing fell away. I was in my old familiar room. People all around me stood. They were looking at me again. "Geez, why are they always staring at me?" Hands held me down. They were Llewelyn's and Alwyn's. The bright green eyes did belong to a... a girl! My age. She came forward and put cool hands on my forehead and cheek. "Rest, Delwyn. You never do what I say. But this time, I'm serious! Stay lying down. How are you feeling?"
I tried to speak but only a croak came out. "Don't answer my question," she said. As she leaned over, straight brown hair flowed down from her shoulders. I reached with my hands as far as I could and fingered it. It did look wonderfully familiar. Then it hit me, like a wall falling down. "Georgie!!" I hoarsely whispered and threw my arms around her. She hugged me back. I looked deep in her eyes. Something bad was bothering her. "What's wrong?" I asked.
My response was everyone feebly laughing. Emyr came forth for the first time. He had the beginning of a very nasty black eye. "Who did that?" I asked innocently.
More laughter. I pulled the covers over my head and put my face in the pillow.
"Why are they laughing. It is like when the Brats laugh at something they did that they think is funny but know is overall pretty lame. But it is also what my mother sounds like when she laughs feebly for relief. Maybe I'll go back to sleep."
I decided to take my advice. The advice that wouldn't have come out of the most learned scholar. I fell asleep. I slept with nothing happening. No disturbances, and nobody woke me up.
When I did awaken, only George sat on the bed beside me. I put on my most honest look, and said, "Tell me what is going on. I'm sooo confused."
"I don't know what you did to start it off, but you fainted. You were out cold all afternoon. Then you drew out some gold ball of something and messed with it. After tasting it, you came around. You looked at everyone confusingly, then tried to sit up immediately. That sent you off again. You tossed and turned for an hour, and we tried to wake you up with a number of different methods. The first one we got a response to, was the feather. But instead of waking, you grabbed it and held it to you. You still have it in your hand."
I did still have it. But by now it was very crumpled and worn.
"Then we tried
other things, and the next that worked was when we tried to slap you. You
punched Emyr, who was doing the slapping, and yelled, "Stay away you
bloody Brats!" By then we were getting desperate. We threw water over you
and you half woke up. You thought you were drowning and called for help. When
we stopped, you threw up, water and lunch. After that mess, we let you sleep.
Then I tried the peaceful method. I just stroked your cheek and you instantly
responded. You put your hand on mine. Then thinking of fairy tales, I kissed
you lightly on the lips, and you opened your eyes. Then you brought out the
gold ball of stuff and tried to give it to me. I drew away frightened, and you
came completely conscious. Then when you asked what was wrong, we all laughed.
And when you asked Emyr who ht him, we laughed still more and you turned and
went back to sleep. Now we are taking turns to watch over you.
"Now do you know why we laughed? You gave us quite a scare."
I blushed. "I'll tell you what happened. The Outlaws were all sitting at lunch and they were telling me about the Bandits. I went into a flash back. It was about when I was leader of the Rebels. I was talking while this happened. When I came back, I felt as if there was something missing in the memory, but I couldn't pinpoint what. I had closed my eyes and tried really hard to remember. Then I went back into a different flash back. This was when you were sick and was staying in Penryhn Castle. We were by ourselves, sitting on my bed. You were sitting just as you are now. You wanted to go out with the Rebels, and I said no because I didn't want you to get sick again, when you hadn't fully recovered. I offered for the first time, to teach you all I knew about sword play. I offered my hand and you pinned me to the floor using the same lock that I had taught you, because I teased you about being Princess Georgiana. You took my arm the second time when I called you my Lord. We left the room.
"Then I remember looking down into what looked like a well. There was the gold ball. I took it with imaginary hands and played with it a bit, and then tasted it. You know, it tasted like bread. Then I became half way conscious. All I could see were a ring of eyes around my bed, looking at me. Then, when I tried to get up and demand some answers to what I wanted to know, the blackness came again. The next thing I knew, something was tickling my nose. I just grabbed whatever it was, and went back to sleep. Then someone was hitting me. You know I could never stand defeat, or being helpless, or letting someone do something to me or someone I care about, without them getting payment. So I just hit where I thought the Brat would be. Well, that was who I assumed was hitting me. Then I dreamed I was drowning. It felt real, though. I couldn't breathe. Then I threw up and went back to sleep.
"Then I felt something soft on my face. It felt comforting and gentle." I took Georgie's hand in mine and stared at it. "When you kissed me, I wanted to see what it was that was so thrilling and wonderful. When I could see a little, I saw your eyes again. I tried to give you the gold stuff as a gift. But you drew back. Then I was in the room. But when you all laughed at me, I felt like I had better things to do than be laughed at and not be able to do anything about it. So I went back to sleep. Nothing else happened until I woke up."
I looked up at her for the first time since I had begun my story. She was looking at me strangely. Then she looked distantly down at our hands, and murmured, "I remember that time. I was so cramped being kept in the castle. But when you started to teach me sword play, I was happy. I felt proud. Proud of you, my teacher, and myself, for having accomplished so many things." She looked up at me, "I'm sorry you have lost your memory. We had some wonderful times together."
"Yes, I'm sorry too. But I think I will slowly regain it. I have something for you if you will bring me my tunic from...what time is it and what day?"
As Georgie got up she said, "Today is tomorrow in an hour."
I looked at her, confused. "It is eleven of the clock on the day you fainted."
She brought my tunic, and I pulled a small leather case from the side pocket. Giving it to her I said, "For you, my Lord."
She took and opened it. Inside, laid on velvet, was a small silver ring with just a sapphire in the center of the band. She gasped and took it from the case. I took it from her hand and slipped it on her finger saying, "I know you never wear jewelry, but will you wear this to remind you of me? I had it made simply just for you. The sapphire is supposed to represent my blue eyes, and the silver is supposed to represent strong, which you always are. You'll outlast me one of these days."
"Thank you," she whispered and put her arms around me. I returned her hug fiercely, knowing she will soon have to leave to become a lady in the convents. When she pulled back she said, "Now I have something for you. Though it isn't as nice as your present."
She took a small velvet bag out of her pocket, and gave it to me. Opening it, I drew out a necklace. It had a small silver cross with an emerald in the center. It was hanging on a silver chain. She put it on for me.
"That reminds me," she said. "Tomorrow is Sunday. We all go down to the Cathedral at ten of the clock. Are you going?"
"Yes," I said. "Will you go with me? I have some things I need to talk to you about."
"Sure, I'll go with you, but why not now?" she asked.
"I need to think, and sleep," I said, laying back on my pillow.
"I get the hint," she said, getting up. Putting her hand on mine, she said anxiously, "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"I am sure, my lord," I said, kissing her hand. And she left. I fell asleep soon after and many dreams. The night seemed to last a lifetime...
I was twirling round and round. The world was circling me around my head. Someone was with me, creating a weight that let me twirl without falling back. Our hands were clasped. Then they let go, and I was falling back. When my head cleared, I glanced around. I was in a meadow, with extremely bright, soft, green, grass. There were two girls sitting on either side of me. They were about the same age, six or seven. One had long, wavy, blonde hair and blue eyes. The other, straight, brown, hair and bright green eyes. They were laughing and so was I. I felt carefree. Their hair was blowing out in the wind. Both looked pretty. I'll bet they'll be popular in Court. I thought. "Come on, Adrianne," the brown haired girl said. They got up and twirled around and around. It was a wonderful sight if you believe in special moments. We were a happy trio. When they at last collapsed to the ground, panting, I proposed, "Let's show off our tumbling." Getting up I ran a hundred yards and then launched into a series of flips, twists, turns, cartwheels, and jumps. Then at the end, I jumped immediately from one direction to the opposite way. Finally ending at the girls' feet, they clapped their hands. I sat down, while Adrianne said, "Georgie, you go next." Georgie got up, and started to limber up a bit. Then she ran off. After a hundred yards or so, she launched into a series of movements similar to mine, except in a different pattern. Adrianne came over to me and said as she watched the flipping girl, "Can I have a cuddle, Delwyn?" "Sure," I said. She climbed into my lap. She curled up and snuggled against my body. I put my arms around her and asked, "Why do you need to be comforted?" "Why can't I be as good as you? You are both able to do wonderful things, but I can't. Why, brother?" That word sparked my memory. Sir Arthur had said my sister's name was Adrianne, and she looked like me in hair and eyes. This girl in my lap, was my sister. She was frail and gentle. She would become a beautiful lady some day. I will protect her until my death from the men who would corrupt and ruin her. She is a flower, and must be treated that way. But a flower needs something more than food, water, and sunlight, it needs the need to grow. If the flower doesn't feel its species needs more flowers then it won't produce seed. This flower needs the need to grow, I thought. I said, "My pet, you are younger than us. You haven't had enough practice. If you were as good as us, then something would be wrong with Georgie and I. We are supposed to be better than you. If you practice hard enough, then maybe you can, but I wouldn't advise it. You are still too young to devote your life to something. Become accomplished in all things, become a lady but have some skills men have, get a good husband who respects you and all your skills and lets you use them. That is my advice for you." Georgie came over as I finished, and Adrianne laid her head against my chest. Georgie came to my side and I put an arm around her, too. She put her head on the other side of my chest, and settled against me. Over time, the two girls and I fell asleep, a small bundle of bodies in the middle of a meadow.
Water, everywhere. I was swimming. My head popped up. There were two heads that came up near me. One blonde, one brown. We were in a pond out in the middle of nowhere, as far as I could tell. I quickly rejoined in the games that I had been previously playing in. Dunking heads and grabbing bare feet. I realized we were all naked, but thought nothing of it. After a while, we climbed onto the banks, and laid out in the sun. I found out that we were around the ages of eight and nine. We dried off by the summer sun's rays, and talked. Then, getting dressed, we started our walk back to the Penryhn Castle.
I was in a dark room, with only a few candles lit. I was standing over a large bed. A small white body occupied it. She was about ten. She had brown hair and green eyes. Georgie looked tiny, thin, and miserable. She was hot, and had a pale complexion. No one else was in the room. She opened her eyes and held a feeble, livid looking hand. I took it and held it close to me. I knelt on the bed and leaned close so I could hear her. She whispered, "They'll never get me, not with you in my presence." I felt shocked to hear her say what she had. "Of course," I said, thinking she was delirious. "You can have whatever you want from me, if you'll stay alive." Then she looked at me earnestly, and a man's voice came from her mouth, "Use the gift I have given you. Delwyn, you have the power to use it. Have faith in Me and My works. Turn to My son's works and use them to help you. People before you have done it, so you can too. Remember My words, Delwyn. Listen for me and I will come. I am the Lord thy God." She then turned and fell asleep. I felt disturbed. I turned and went out of her room, into the hallway. Adrianne was there standing next to the door, looking anxiously at my face. I took her in my arms briefly, and then whispered to her, "She'll pull through. She is a child of God, remember. She cannot die. God didn't make death, sin, or disease, so they have no existence. I'll be in the chapel." I left her, and she entered Georgie's room. I made my way to the chapel and went straight to the Bible. I can read Latin, so I searched the Bible and listened to God for three hours straight. When a servant said I was being called for by Georgie, I left and followed him. On entering the room, I saw that it hadn't changed, except Georgie held a blood red rose, given to her from Adrianne. I knelt beside her, and looked deep inside myself. Seeing only a ball of gold, I took it and threaded it out to Georgie. Praying to God the entire time, I spread the gold fire over her body and imagined her clearly when she was healthy and happy. When I felt I had completed it, I pulled the gold fire back, balled it, and replaced it in my depths. Georgie was breathing easier and I realized she had watched the whole thing. She smiled and said in a strong voice, "I knew you could do it. You'll always have the faith in our Lord."
I was standing in front of Georgie, with Adrianne at my side. It was not much after when Georgie was sick. I hugged her for long time and whispered, "I shall come to be a page soon." "I know," she said. We broke away, and Georgie hugged Adrianne just as long, and said a few parting words to her, too. She jumped on her horse, and rode away after the procession that was just a little down the road.
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