Delwyn

 

 

Chapter 6

 

I woke up to see Emyr getting out his Royal uniform out of his trunk. I got up, and went to stand silently behind him. "Is that what we wear to the Cathedral?" I asked.


He jumped. "Crumbs! You gave me the willies! I thought you were still asleep. Yes, it is. Are you coming?"


"Yes."


I got out my uniform and started to dress. "Are you going to give me an explanation for yesterday?" he asked, turning to me for the first time, uniform in hand. The left eye was hideously black and swollen. I gasped.


"I'm so sorry! I thought you were one of the Brats from back home. Ask Georgie for the whole story. I have to get ready."


I got dressed and left the room with Emyr. I still didn't know my way around the page's wing. Let alone the castle. I ate breakfast but was bombarded by questions.


"What happened?" asked Onyx, sitting down beside me.


I told them the story, and then waited for a response. None came. They were all too stunned. I finished my breakfast in a few bites and left the room in silence.


I met Georgie out in the courtyard. I sat on the ground next to her, and I told her about my dreams last night. "They are all true," she said.


"But what is this gold fire stuff? What do I do with it?"


"I think you have the power to heal, through your faith in God. Maybe you could ask the priest in the Cathedral when he has some free time." She was looking serious.


I sighed, Why so many problems? I thought.


The Outlaws crowded round me at that moment. "We're sorry we didn't say anything," said Alwyn. "I think you're going to give us a lot of adventures, and lots more to think about during your stay here."


"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked indignantly.


"Think about it, you haven't been here a week, and you are already known throughout the Castle," said Alexander.


I looked at the faces around me to verify it. They each nodded. I blushed and fiddled with the cross that hung around my neck.


"It is something to be proud of, not embarrassed of," stated Llewelyn.

 

"That's how you see it," I muttered.


"Why don't you see it that way?" asked Andrew.


"Would you like to come to someplace you'd never been to, and in less than two days later, to be known by people you have never seen or heard of before. I don't even have much memory anyway. Look what it cost to get what I have," I pointed out.


"I understand," said Dafydd.

 
"Come on, we have to start riding to the Cathedral," said George, getting up.


This was the first time I had seen George in a dress, and the first time to see her standing up next to me. As I stood up, I looked her over. She was beautiful in a blue dress reaching to the ground and folding around her feet. Embroidery ran down the middle, on the neckline, the cuffs, and around her upper arm like an armband. She wore a red cape that was pinned to her shoulders by to elaborate brooches. It was also embroidered around the hem. Her hair was in a bun at the top of her head. A small, gold, crown was set on her head. Her face had a healthy complexion and her lips were full and red. She was short, even for a girl, four foot and six inches. I come up to the shortest boy's shoulder, being five foot and three inches, but Georgie comes up to my chin. When Alwyn went to her side to offer her arm, she looked six years old, compared to his massive six foot six height. Alwyn is the tallest, but all of the Outlaws except me are over six foot.


We went to the stables and I saw Rhys for the first time I could remember. He was a massive black shire stallion. I saddled him and climbed on. I joined the rest of the castle's representatives going to church, in the Main courtyard. I stationed myself next to Georgie, reminding her of her promise last night. We rode in five minutes. Slowly the procession thinned out enough so that I could talk to Georgie without anyone hearing. She looked very pretty on her horse. It was a large, brown Bristle, but she still was lower than me. She started the conversation by saying,

 

"You used to sing like a nightingale. It was my pleasure to have you sing m to sleep when I was at Penrhyn Castle. Can you still sing? It sounds as if your voice hasn't cracked yet."


I pondered this. "I didn't even know I could sing. I guess I'll find out when we sing in the Cathedral."


"Hmmm, yes," she said and messed with her horse's mane.


"What is your horse's name?"


"I named her Tegwyn, because to me she is beautiful, like the meaning of the name.

 
"I have to warn you now, I am pretty sure one of my acquaintances will come and see who I have at my side. Try not to laugh, to snub her, or say anything rude."


"Why an 'acquaintance'?" I asked, looking at her face closely.


"Well, she isn't one of my friends. I have few of them, and what friends I do have, they are usually pages and city boys. I don't have a single girlfriend, besides Adrianne, that is a noble. They are all kids from the lower city. I don't see them often. So, back to the point, she thinks we are friends. But she just uses my rank for her purposes, if you know what I mean. As soon as she sees me with someone knew, she'll come over to me and ask to be acquainted with you, and then she'll exclaim how lucky I am to have such a handsome boy at my fingertips for him to do what I please. She always comes over as asks for us to go over to my the Outlaws and talk with them. Poor boys, she soon put them out of their wits, trying to stay civil with her and not be rude. I soon started to say 'no'. But with you at my side, nothing will keep her away until she has made sure you 'know her'. I'm sorry, but there may be others that will come. She has a group of friends who all act that way. None of the Outlaws like them. Adrianne will most unpopular with the girls, because she will be so popular with the Outlaws. But, mostly the girls stick to the Bandits, since they worship the ground the girls walk on. But they still long to be approved of by the Outlaws, since you are all so handsome, gallant, and hard to get."


"Don't worry, I'll brave the encounter with you. It will be bound to happen some time, might as well be while I am in good humor."


"I'm glad. Thank you for being so understanding," she said looking up at me gratefully.


"Thank you for warning me. I guess I'll draw the attention from the Outlaws for once and stay far away from them," I said and looked at her. Our eyes met in what seemed like a long moment but what in real life, was a few seconds. Then we both blushed and looked down. I fiddled with the reins in my hand. Then, looking up, I decided to take all that I could see of the country surrounding the castle. I didn't have time to, for we came up to Lincoln Cathedral at that moment.


It was huge, with one large tower occupied the back center. Then in the front, there was two, more smaller towers. There was one huge stained glass window above the gigantic door and two smaller windows to the side. Carvings were elaborately done all of the face of the Cathedral. Arches were plentiful, both inside and out. It truly was beautiful.


We gave our mounts to servants. I entered with Georgie on my arm. I entered the massive church in awe. Inside, there was an extensive nave with arches on both sides. At the end was the pulpit. It was painted in brilliant color, with a gallery of little figures, animals, saints, acrobats, and grotesques. It was full of glory. An organ was above the screen. We moved up to the front, there we sat in the seats set for nobility only. Commoners had to stand in the back. I felt guilty about this.


I was not long in sitting with Georgie, when a girl in a brilliant, flashy, dress came up. Her hair was done up fashionably in a braid wound into a crown on her head. It was blonde. She had baby blue eyes, a fashionable pale face, and small pert lips. She was very beautiful. She before she came upon us, Georgie tightened her grip on my arm, and leaned over to murmur quietly in my ear, "That is the girl I told you about, Eira."


"Oh! you darling child! Who is this? He is new, is he not? Please introduce me."


Georgie looked at me half apologetically, and half I-told-you-so. "Eira, this is Delwyn of Lamasse'. Delwyn, this is Eira of Logoa. Delwyn has been my best friend since we were..."


"Six or seven," I finished for her.


"Oh, I'm so glad to meet you. Georgiana, you cat! You have kept this handsome man all to yourself. That is very selfish of you. You always keep the best for yourself. You can't have all of them."


Georgie's long red nails dug into my skin viciously, but that was all she showed of her boiling anger. I put my hand involuntarily on hers and stroked it soothingly. The hair at the back of my neck stood up from what the girl said to Georgie. "I have only come the day before yesterday. Her Majesty keeps nothing from the world. She is only friends with the boys. You must see that Miss Eira."


"Yes, of course," she said but didn't mean it. "I must tell the rest of the girls, bye!" she said cheerily and left.


Georgie buried her face on my shoulder and said, "Ugh!! She makes me so angry!"


I smoothed her hair, and said soothingly, "There, you know it is never true. Don't believe what the old witch says."


We walked over to the Outlaws and they helped calm her down. "You know that's not true," said Onyx.


"I'm ashamed of you, sister, if you take offense from an airhead girl," said Alwyn. Georgie looked at him pleadingly, and Alwyn took her in his huge arms. She was swallowed up in his hug. Alwyn bent and kissed her on the top of her head. "Look all around you. We are all grateful for all you've done for us. You tell us to brush off the teacher's mean comments, but you can't brush off a few words said by an old cat which you know aren't true."


Georgie came out and looked down at her feet, blushing. "I'm sorry you guys. I'm being a big sissy. Come," she said to me, taking my hand. "We must get as far away from the Outlaws as we can, before the other girls come."


"Thanks a lot, Delwyn and Georgie. We owe you one," called Andrew. They all turned and walked to the opposite side of the nave.


"Let me carry on the conversation and you can be safe in my shadow," I said to Georgie.


"This is all hogwash. Why should I be worrying about what they say?"


"Because it is natural. They are your age, and your nature instinctively wants to be on everyone's good side. It's one of your many charms," I said truthfully.


"I never looked at it that way," she said in a brighter tone. As the girls drew near, I whispered in her ear, "Just don't try so hard on these rats, they aren't worth it."


She laughed as the girls fell upon us. "How are you, dear?" one said.


"Do introduce us to your boyfriend. You're being selfish," said another, looking hurt. Georgie's nails tightened their grip.


"Ladies," I said before Georgie could say anything. "I am only her best friend, not her boyfriend. If I choose to have my privacy, then it is certainly not Princess Georgiana's fault. I have just arrived."


Georgie's nails loosened and she smiled at me gratefully.


"Are you to become a brave night?" one said.


"Yes," I answered, bluntly. I didn't want the conversation to go that way. I thought of something, and said, "My sister, Adrianne of Lamasse' will be joining me with our honored sire, tomorrow. Mayhap you will get to meet her."


"Oh! Is she pretty?" asked a large, bossy looking girl.


"Very beautiful," I answered proudly.


"Oh," they said, as hatred already started to enter their expressions.


"She is most accomplished in most things including many things an average noblewoman doesn't have. Almost as perfect as Princess Georgiana," I said slyly.


"Not half," said Georgie.


"What does she do?"


"She can embroider the most beautiful designs, she can read Latin, French, Spanish, and Welsh. She can play the organ, lute, flute, and panpipes. She can swim, do acrobatics, run as fast as any boy, shoot very accurately, handle any simple weapon, hunt, and ride both as a man, and sidesaddle. She can cook, make clothes, and sing. This is plus a regular education in etiquette. But her specialty is making jewelry. She made this ring I gave Princess Georgiana," I said, holding out Georgie's hand proudly.


She glared at me, accusingly. I just smiled at her and mouthed 'watch'.


"This is beautiful! But she must be much of a boy, and not very pretty if she does so much sports and vulgar activities. How old is she?"


"She is a year younger than you. But since you insult her so, I have no wish to keep you away from your gossip. Good day, girls."


And with this, I turned and with Georgie's hand still in mine hurried off like one who has just been insulted heavily. The girls just sat dumb, staring after me. I just caught a girl saying, "Don't worry girls, he was too small anyway. They're all too conceited, not good enough for us. But we had better watch out for his sister. She sounds pretty dangerous. We'd better handle her as soon as she comes."


Another said, "Yeah, we run the things around here."


"Did you hear that?" I asked Georgie, squeezing her hand.


"Yes, but you know Adrianne can handle herself. Crike! Won't the boys fall head over heels in love with her?"


I led her to a seat next to the Outlaws. "Yes, I think they will. It'll be quite a job for us to keep her from being spoiled."


We sat down and she said, "Yes, I quite agree. Alwyn especially will be bitten. He never has before so that will only make it worse."


She winked at me as Alwyn demanded, "What are you talking about? As Prince Alwyn of England, I demand to know what you're saying behind my back."


Georgie put her best commanding and stubborn face on and said, "Well, as Princess Georgiana of England, I will not tell."


The tension held between the two as she looked up two feet into his snapping black eyes, and then she said quietly, "You will know very well what I'm talking about when you're bitten on the morrow," and she sat down, still glaring at him, daring him to try to anger her any more.


Emyr got up and took Alwyn by the shoulders and said pushing him into the pew, "Cool off, Alwyn. Here comes Bishop Hugh."


Bishop Hugh came in with the procession, and the service began. It was all very interesting to me, but my favorite part was the organ playing and the choir. The choir consists of 15 young boys with their rich, high voices. They are selected and most are from the common families. Not one of them is a noble. That really is because by the time a noble gets here, their voice has cracked.


At the end, the whole congregation stood and sang a hymn. I noticed that I could reach a lot more of the high notes than the rest of the Outlaws. I also learned that I sing very loud. Some of the Outlaws, including Onyx, Emyr, and Alwyn, were looking at me with surprise in their faces. I felt embarrassed, and quieted down a bit. Georgie looked at me with an expression that was half proud and half I~told~you~so.


After the hymn, Bishop Hugh said, 'Amen' and we all repeated. The Bishop left the nave with the procession.


The congregation stirred and everyone got up and started to move about, talking to one another. Georgie whispered in my ear, "Come on, I'll show you the choir and some of my friends."


I held her hand, and she led me through the crowd and through a small door. We went up a winding staircase and through a small room with windows looking out over the land. We paused to look out, and then continued up another stairway.


"That room was used when the Normans were attacked. They'd hide in there and shoot through the windows," she informed me.


"Pretty clever," I mumbled.


We came out onto a walkway. It was going over the roof. I looked down and gulped. There was nothing between me and a long drop. We slid along the platform and made it to the other side. Going down another staircase, we went much deeper.


"We're underground, now. This is all secret passages for the Normans."


We stopped at an iron ladder. She said, "Up there is St. Hugh's Choir."


She climbed up to the top and lifted the slab, slowly off. She climbed out and I followed her. We were behind a pew. As she slid the top back into its place, I noticed it was a piece of wood, made to look like the stone floor.


Georgie stood and walked down the aisle to pew near the front, with me following behind. The St. Hugh's Choir, which is what this inner room is called, is gorgeous. The pews for the choir are delicately carved oak. The rest is incredible, too much to describe. Across from us was the choir. They were singing a song I'd never heard of and I sat next to Georgie on a pew, watching and listening.


The master was directing them from his stand. The boys watched him intently, obeying his every gesture. Some of the boys smiled when they saw Georgie. She smiled back and listened.


After half an hour of this music, they stopped. Most people had gone home. The master complemented the group on their performance and told them of a few errors here and there and then dismissed them. Georgie stood up and went after the master, as he was leaving.


"Master Edward? Can I have a word with you?"


"Yes, Your Highness, anything you want," he said facing her graciously.


"This is one of my oldest friends, Delwyn of Lamasse'. The one I told you about, remember? His voice hasn't changed yet. In fact, I think it has improved."


Master Edward looked me over and said, "I like the looks of you. Come with me to the Chapter House."


"You're going to audition for a place in the choir. I asked daddy and he said it'd be okay since you don't have any academic work. Please do it. Sing, just for me. Please?"


"Well, all right, but only for you. Do you have any friends in the choir?"


"Oh, yes. I forgot to introduce you," she exclaimed. Turning, she went back and I followed the master by myself. She returned with three boys my age in tow. "This is Glynn, Olwyn, and Tegyd. They are all my friends. Guys, this is Delwyn of Lamasse', an old and really good friend of mine. Don't worry, he doesn't act like a noble around you, either."

 

 

Chapter 7

They said 'hello' in the common people fashion; clapping you on the back and cheerfully saying, "Good day, old chap!" That normally means they like you already. We walked outside.

We caught up with the master, opening a door. We went in and I saw a large, empty room. Circular, high ceiling, benches only against the wall, and stained glass windows. I was suddenly nervous. The boys took a seat on the benches in front of me. Georgie among them. She gave me a reassuring smile as I wiped my sweating hands on my royal uniform, and closed my eyes. I started to sing an old Welsh melody that I didn't remember. It just flowed out of my mouth in fluent Welsh. I translated it as I sang the words. In English, it said,

When you're all alone
Out among the sheep and mountains
You feel a growing sensation
One that cannot be described
Or no one can imitate
Freedom
Freedom in the open.

When you're all alone
Out among the running wild horses
You feel a growing sensation
One that cannot be described
Or no one can imitate
Pride
Pride in your heritage.

When you're all alone
Out among the ordinary faces
You see a girl in the crowds
One that cannot be described
Or no one can imitate
Love
Love another person.

When you get these feelings
Cherish them close to your heart
Don't you let them get away
Remember them always
They cannot be imitate
Feelings
Freedom, pride, and love.

I opened my eyes and realized that they were all clapping. I grinned at Georgie. She smiled back. Her eyes were over bright and her lashes were damp. The master came over and shook my hand. "That was wonderful!" he said. "Can you come everyday at nine of the clock until twelve to the St. Hugh's Choir and practice everyday?"

"Yes, sir," I replied, surprised that I had made it.

We all left and I accompanied Georgie home, alone. I meditated the whole ride home and was still silent when I put Rhys in his stall. Georgie asked a stableman to take care of Tegwyn. She hurried off after saying good-bye. I didn't think much of this behavior and went on currying Rhys.

I went to the pages' dining hall. When I entered, all the Outlaws crowded around me, congratulating me. Bewildered, I looked at them. "What is all this for?"

They all laughed and we sat down at the table. "You made the choir, of course," said Onyx.

"Who told you?" I asked, feeling really embarrassed. What kind of a knight sings in a choir?

At that moment, Georgie came in smiling. I glared at her. She glared back, unwaveringly. I fell to eating my breakfast. I said nothing no matter what anybody said. I didn't trust my sharp tongue one bit. I left after having eaten.

I searched out Master Henry, and he agreed to a wrestling match. We found an empty inside training room, and set it up for the match. I did pretty well considering it was Henry. It got rid of some of my anger.

After we got all hot and sweaty, we stopped. A movement caught my eye and I saw Georgie standing in the doorway. I calmly picked up my towel and water, and walked past her. I heard her sigh as I made my way to the baths.

After a warm bath, I put on some warm and comfortable clothes, and went to the pages' library. I sat down in a chair, and read until supper. I ate quickly but in silence, and then left to watch the pages serve a Sunday meal. These were always more elaborate than any of the other evenings. It is larger, due to the small lunch, so early. None of the pages seemed in good spirits. And Georgie just picked at her food. Every now and then, she would search the perimeter of the Main Dining hall to see if she could spot me. Serves her right, I thought bitterly from the dark shadows where I sat.

I left as soon as I could, and went back to the library. I wonder if Hypocrates was ever humiliated, especially by a girl asking you to sing just for her. That was what I did wasn't it? Why do I deserve to be disgraced, especially in a place where I have been here only two full days?

"There you are," said a voice, breaking my concentration.

I said nothing. She came and sat by me. Her hair was down and it was flowing over her shoulders. Her face was sorrowful and pitiful. Her crown was gone, and her dress was replaced by plain breeches and a tunic. She placed her hands on mine, and said, "I'm sorry. Please, won't you at least speak to me?"

"Well, I'll explain how I feel and then you tell me what to say. I thought I was being taken to the choir just because I appreciate musical talent. But it turns out that my best friend wants me to try out for the choir. I go along just for her. But when I do sing just for her, I make it. I think it would be good to occupy myself in the mornings as long as the boys don't know. What kind of a knight sings in the choir. It kind of suggests two things; that the person is a sissy, and that he doesn't spend enough time training. But I trust my best friend not to tell anyone. Except, when I enter the dining hall, I am surrounded by people who know that I am in the choir. What do I feel like? I feel utterly humiliated, cheated, and hopeless. Now you tell me what I am supposed to say."

She looked up in surprise when I told her how I felt. "I don't see why you feel so humiliated, cheated, and hopeless. I was extremely proud of you. If I wasn't, then I wouldn't have told. The Outlaws were crowding around you and congratulating you. They are jealous! I didn't really know you would feel like a sissy. Realistically, you should feel honored and privileged. How many nobles can get into the Lincoln Cathedral choir? Be proud of being in the choir. I thought I understood the male sex, but now I know I'm wrong."

I thought about this and nodded. I think I see the positive side now. But, are you sure that the Outlaws aren't laughing at me?"

"No! Of course not. Remember this morning, Alwyn said that he thought you would give them a lot more adventures and more to think about? Well, this is what you are doing right now. You really do have a beautiful voice. It is a gift from God. You must express God's reflection and give other people the pleasure of hearing your voice."

I blushed deeply and said good night. I found my room and went straight to bed. Then, suddenly remembering that Adrianne was coming tomorrow, I sat up in bed. What shall I give her? I thought frantically. Then, remembering what Georgie had said, I decided to write and sing her a song. I laid back down thinking of some verses, already forming in my mind. I pretended to be asleep when Emyr came in to bed.



The next day, I got up, ate, served for the first time at breakfast, and left for the Cathedral on Rhys.

 

I met the choir just on time, in the Chapter House, where we practice. I was included immediately and accepted as one of them. I made friends right away with Glynn, Olwyn, and Tegyd. I was classified as a soprano. Master Edward rejoiced at this, for there a few sopranos even in a choir of about 15. As a group, we worked on three knew songs, and reviewed seven others for Sunday. I caught on very well, and was praised by the master.

 

I like Master Edward. He is friendly when not directing, but does his job seriously. He holds our hands as we cross the difficult parts, and celebrates with us at the victory of conquering, yet another song. He cares and loves each of his 'little songbirds' and feeds us constantly with knowledge. He knows how to get the attention of the boy, wanting to be out among the streets, playing boys' games. But most of all, we have fun. Work is done when needed too be done. The rest is fun. I hope this all makes sense. It is rather hard to explain.


After practice, I hurried back to the castle, and ate lunch. I joined Henry in learning to use a shield, staff, dagger, and mace. Each time, I remembered the past, and did it perfectly in the end. Then, after a bath and a change of clothes, I locked myself up in the library and with my lute; I sat down to practice the song I had composed.

 
"Delwyn? Are you in there?" came a muffled voice behind the door.


"Coming!" I replied, getting up and setting my lute down.


I opened the door, and Georgie was standing impatiently outside. "Come on. Adrianne's company has been spotted. They'll be here any minute now."


I picked up my lute, and followed her through the halls and outside into the courtyard. Just as I got there, the procession came in. The riders dismounted, and I hung back as everyone else went to greet them. Three of the riders I focused on. One, a middle-aged noblewoman, dressed for traveling but still majestic, but motherly. Two, a middle-aged nobleman, dressed for traveling but still commanding and brave. And the third, a young girl, about a year younger than I, dressed in - she had a large cloak over her so I couldn't tell what she was wearing. But her blonde hair was all pulled up into a bun at the top, emphasizing her long, graceful neck. She was shy and timid among the many strangers. Then I saw her face change completely to joy and rapture at seeing Georgie. She hugged her tightly and then Georgie led her away from the crowd.


The people? They were none other than Mother, Father, and Adrianne. Adrianne certainly looked much more different than in my dreams. The Outlaws really are going to fall in love with her, I thought.


She spotted and ran to me. I swung her up and around in my arms and then held her above me to look in her face. She was smiling delightfully, blue eyes shining. I dropped her in my arms and gave her a long hug. It was comforting to smell her unique smell and actually recognize it. She was so warm and comforting, it was hard to let her go. I gave her back to Georgie and left to welcome my parents.


Father shook my hand and clapped me on my back. Mother gave me a hug. As I looked over Mother's shoulder, Georgie was trying to get my attention. She mouthed and partly acted, 'Should I tell Adrianne about singing?' 'No!' I mouthed back and then smiled innocently at Mother.


With all the formalities over with, my parents went off to greet the King and Queen. The servants cleared away the horses and baggage. I offered Adrianne my arm. "Where would you like to go?" I asked her.


"Actually, I would like to go to my room. I have some things to give to you two and I would like to shed this cloak."


"As you wish," I said. Catching a servant passing by, I asked where I could find Adrianne's room. He led us to a room, not far from mine. Opening it, I saw all her bags neatly laid out. She entered and surveyed the room with satisfaction. She gestured toward the bed, and Georgie and I sat down.


She searched several of the bags before finding what she wanted. She pulled out an object wrapped in cloth. Handing it to me, she pulled out another one for Georgie. "You open yours first," Adrianne directed Georgie.


Georgie unwrapped the large square object and revealed a painting set in a frame. The painting was of a large oak tree standing in the middle of a field with a pond in front of it. Georgie loved it, and decided to hang it in her room.


"I painted it. If you remember the time when we out in the middle of a field, and we were playing. That was when Delwyn told me to '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.' I never have forgotten those words. I have done the first two but I don't expect to even touch the last one until I am at least sixteen."


"I can't believe you remember what I said," I murmured.


"Oh, yes. There are lots of phrases and proverbs that I recall coming from your lips. Now, open yours."


I unwrapped the object in my hands, and exposed a beautiful sword and scabbard. Its pommel was a gold disc with a large, clear, sapphire in the center. Ivory protected the tang and soft leather covered the ivory for the grip. On the blade, was inscribed, 'Martyn'. The scabbard was leather stretched over an iron frame with the word 'Martyn' embroidered on the side. The belt from which it hung, was strong, tough leather embroidered with gold, purple, red, blue, green, and white thread. Overall, it was very impressive.


"I made the hilt, scabbard, and belt. The blade, I got from a swordsmith in France. It is Poitiers steel, the strongest I could find. Martyn is what I named the sword. It comes from the Roman god, Mars. The gold thread in the scabbard and belt, is my own hair. I couldn't find pure enough thread to satisfy me, so I took it from my hair. It is the greatest work of art I have ever made. I knew you would be needing a sword soon. It might as well be the strongest. Mother and Father paid for it, and I made it."


I was truly stunned. I knew my sister had great skill in whatever she turned her hands to, but this was outstanding! "Wait until the Outlaws see what I have as a sword. Martyn. I like the name. I shall be proud to say that my own sister made such a work of art."


I hugged her close and thanked her. How is my gift compared to hers!? I barely spent two days on it, and no money. I will get her something better than this, when she leaves to become a lady.

 

"My gift is for you only and it is not nearly as wonderful as yours. I was not expecting anything so great as this. But I am ashamed to let anyone else see my gift."


Georgie guessed what it was, and glared at me. "I have seen it yesterday, so why can't I see it again?"


"Well, okay," I said, reluctantly. I picked up my lute, and began to play the simple melody I had composed. I sang a song in Old English. It said,


Eyes, as blue as the sky,
Hair, as yellow as corn,
Cheeks, as rosy as cherries,
Lips, as red as mortal blood.

Smile, as bright as the sun,
Nature, as sweet as a rose,
Heart, as pure as gold,
Talent, as plentiful as grass.

These are all my Adrianne,
Flock to see her while you can,
Soon she will be far away,
Playing her harp with wings to fly,
Up to God himself to serve,
For this is all that she deserves.

As I stopped, I opened my eyes. Adrianne was crying openly. She threw her arms around me and cried into my tunic. I looked at Georgie desperately. My expression read clearly, 'What do I do?!'

She just smiled and mouthed, 'Love her.' I thought, Gee, what a great best friend. Soon Adrianne stopped crying, and she said, "Forgive me dear brother. I was only thinking of the time to come when we must part for years. I shall miss you so. But, I had no idea you sang so beautifully. It was the best present I have ever received. I say this particularly because I know it came from the heart. But I do not deserve one hundredth of what you sang. It truly is better than any material object I have been given. The only bad thing about it, is that I can never hear it again, especially like I heard you now."

"No," I said, very pleased with this response. "But I can write down the notes and words for you to sing or play in the future. I could write lots of songs for you to play. I think I am good at composing."

"That would be wonderful. It would give me exceeding comfort, and console me greatly when I am alone and set to the task of acting ladylike."

"I shall do so at your command. Shall we continue our journey?" I asked both girls.

"Yes, we shall be late for lunch," said Georgie.

"Just let me take off my cloak. By the way, I might warn you that I wore these clothes solely for my comfort, and not at all to the fashion. I made it hastily, just before I left. The cloth is extremely soft, but can stain very easily." And with this, she took off her green cloak, to reveal a white gown that hung loosely everywhere. The sleeves were long and baggy, and the hem reached the floor. It fitted tightly only at the neck. But, even though no one would wear this to a social gathering, it suited Adrianne very well. The pure white dress, golden hair, healthy skin, blue eyes, red lips, and silver cross that hung around her neck, all contributed to her image of an angel.

Crike! Tell me she is not an angel! The Outlaws I am positive, will fall in love with her.

"It is absolutely stunning," I said, eyes wide.

"I doubly agree," said Georgie.

Adrianne looked timid and shy, and said, "Do you think I should change?"

"Crumbs, no," I said, coming back to my senses. "You look better than I have ever seen you before. Besides, why should you change into uncomfortable clothes when there is nothing wrong with that? Come, take my arm."

She took the arm I proffered, and Georgie the other, and we walked out of the room. Georgie whispered in my ear, "Let me go in to the dining hall first. The Outlaws don't know she is coming, and I want to get a full view of their faces, especially Alwyn's."

I nodded as Adrianne elbowed me savagely and said, "What are you two talking about. We never used to have secrets from each other before."

"Yes we did," I contradicted. "Whenever we had a surprise for each other, we had plenty of secrets."

"Well, kindly talk about them when I am not about. It is rude."

I whispered loudly in Georgie's ear, "Isn't she turning out to be a snobbish lady?"

Georgie laughed, Adrianne gasped and stamped on my foot, and I cried out in pain. "That was uncalled for," I said through gritted teeth.

"Yes, well so was that remark. I challenge you to a match in archery."

"No, not when you have just come. Make up and be at peace. You have only just arrived.   Wouldn't you regret it if one of you died?" interfered Georgie.

"Yes, I am terribly sorry I said the mean things I said," I voiced humbly, kissing her hand and bowing.

"I accept, and I am sorry to have hurt you so."

"Well," said Georgie. "Shall we continue in a dignified Rebel fashion?"

"Lets."

We came to the dining hall door, and I let Georgie go in first. I peeped through the door and watched Georgie go and stand before the Outlaw's table. She got their attention, and announced, "I am pleased to be the one to tell you all, of the arrival of the angel, Adrianne of Lamasse' with her honored brother, Delwyn of Lamasse'."

The Outlaws all turned to the door, thinking this all as a joke. An angel indeed. I opened the door and escorted Adrianne down the dining hall. Only her tight clench on my arm revealed her anger, embarrassment, and nervousness. The entire hall silenced with our entrance. Not just the Outlaws, but the Bandits and the servants, all stopped and stared open mouthed at the gorgeous creature gliding along next to me. I walked importantly over to the Outlaws' table, and stopped before them.

I broke the silence and formality of the moment with my words, "I would have thought you pages knew how to act when in the presence of such a noble lady."

Adrianne's nails dug deep into my flesh. I ignored it and continued. "This is my sister Adrianne. But you may call her 'the Angel'."

This time her nails broke the flesh and blood oozed out from my arm. She said quickly in her melodic voice, "He is only joking. You may call me Adrianne."

"Adrianne, I would like you to meet my fellow pages." I then lowered my voice so that only the Outlaws and Adrianne could hear. "Besides at this table, those vermin are the Bandits. Almost exactly like the Brats at home. You know how to deal with them." Then raising my voice to normality I said, "This is Emyr of Cystennin, Onyx of Xerox, Andrew of Cornwall, Alexander of Maxell, Dafydd of Elys and Llewelyn of Thames you know, and this is Georgie's brother, Prince Alwyn of Sunbury."

She curtseyed deeply to Alwyn, looking humbly down at her feet. Alwyn blushed a deep red, and said hastily, "Please, arise. Do not think of me as a prince. I am an Outlaw, and hope to be your friend."

"I will, Your Highness."

"Adrianne, call him Alwyn," said Georgie, who was smiling smugly. I looked at her and mouthed, 'What?' 'Later' she replied.

Llewelyn got up and gave Adrianne a boisterous hug. Dafydd did likewise and they talked to her eagerly of Penryhn Castle and the Rebels. I set her down opposite Alwyn, and between Llewelyn and I. Georgie sat beside me and whispered in my ear, "Watch Alwyn's face. I told you he'd fall in love."

I did watch his face. He was unusually silent, and watched Adrianne with a type of awe mixed with admiration. He truly thinks she is an angel, I thought. But anyone will have to go through me before they can get Adrianne. She is much too young. The other boys, too, were in awe. All except Dafydd and Llewelyn. It was a jolly lunch and we enjoyed it immensely.

After our meal, I suggested that we have a friendly contest in archery. "Well, that's no fair. We all know you will win with your eyes closed and one hand behind your back," said Alexander.

"I promise I won't compete. I shall be the judge. Adrianne can use my bow and quiver."

"Adrianne? Can you shoot as well?" asked Onyx.

"Of course I can. I can do anything that my brother can do, except compose music," replied Adrianne, a little indignantly.

"You shouldn't insult people so," I mocked Onyx. "I say! Shall we ask the Bandits to join us? It would be smashing to beat them so much."

"Yes. Go and ask them for us, will you Delwyn?" said Emyr.

"Okay. Adrianne will you come with me? I am sure they will accept with you in presence," I asked, winking at her to communicate that I wanted to talk to her.

"Yes, brother," she agreed daintily stepping towards me. When she was by my side, she whispered, "Why are you doing this?"

"I want them to respect you as they do Georgie. When you beat them at archery and a few other events, they will certainly think differently of you. Really, they have you in the category of a snobbish noble airhead."

"Okay, I'll do it, but I do hate to ruin their pride."

"Oh hogwash. They can assuredly loose a bit of the pride they have," I scoffed. "Now act commanding and cold towards these idiots. Don't say anything to them, and if they ask you something, look as if you wouldn't speak to such dirty rats as they."

We came up to their table, and I said, "Would you like to join us in several competitions of strength and skill?"

They all looked at me suspiciously, and then glanced at each other, and then to Adrianne who was acting her role perfectly.

"Are you to be the prize?" one of them asked, sneering.

"No," I said, smiling through clenched teeth. "She shall be competing too. I shall not."

They looked at each other and I was pleased to note that their faces clearly communicated, 'We could win easily, let's do it.' They all turned and nodded. Triumphantly, Adrianne and I told the Outlaws, and left the dining hall to set up a shooting grounds. In half and hour, we all met in the field with a target set in front of us about a hundred yards away.

"So long?" asked the leader of the Bandits, Hughbert.

"Yes, so long. Why, can't you handle it?" I said, smiling.

"Of course," he scoffed.

I called forth these people in this order to shoot for the first round; Onyx, Hughbert, Alwyn, Douglas, Emyr, Henry, Georgie, William, Andrew, Kyle, Adrianne, James, Alexander, Richard, Llewelyn, John, Dafydd, and lastly, Louis. These people made it to the second round; Hughbert, Alwyn, Henry, Georgie, Adrianne, Richard, Llewelyn, John, and Dafydd. These people made it to the third round; Hughbert, Georgie, Adrianne, Llewelyn, and Dafydd. And these people made it to the final; Adrianne, Llewelyn, and Dafydd.

This was the most exciting. By now, all the boys had changed their thoughts to deep admiration for Adrianne. The three cousins, all with blonde hair, and blue eyes, lined up. Adrianne pulled her hair loose and she crouched suddenly. Several Outlaws were at her side at once, Alwyn being the first. "I'm okay," she said, looking up and smiling. "I am just trying to get my train of thought back to the straight path. I must admit, I was not thinking of my shooting, the past three rounds. I just need to think."

She ducked again, her hair covering her face. We all watched her silently. I then called for Dafydd to shoot, knowing that nothing could disturb Adrianne when she got into this state of mind. He shot and hit the edge of the bull's-eye. Llewelyn then shot, and hit just in the circle below Dafydd's arrow. Then I called for Adrianne. She got up and pushed her hair back. Her face was serious and completely blank. She picked up my bow, fitted the arrow, and pulled back. She closed her eyes, and then after a moment, let the arrow loose. It whistled threw the air, and hit the center directly. Silence. This girl who was younger than all of us, had beaten every squire in the palace. Then, Alwyn came forth, and kneeling before Adrianne, he held up his bow and quiver, and said humbly, "My Lady, you must certainly be an angel. I kneel before you as Prince Alwyn of England."

Adrianne's eyes were wide with terror when she looked at me. I guess she has no idea what she has just accomplished. I came to her rescue and whispered in Alwyn's ear, "My sister is not accustomed to this behavior. Give it to her in private and you might have better luck. But Adrianne was trained never to accept the best. She has no idea what she has done."

Alwyn looked up and understood. But before he could say anything, Hughbert came forth and said, "What is this scandal that is before us. Surely this figure is a boy dressed in girl's clothes. How can we tell it is not just a boy wearing a wig and a loose gown to hide the shape?"

Before I could lift a finger, Adrianne indignantly said, "Oh, so you think girls can't shoot better than boys? You think I am a boy masquerading as a girl? If I were you, I would take that comment back before it is stuffed down your throat!"

Georgie, Llewelyn, Dafydd, and I all came quickly to Adrianne's side. We all knew her quick, hot, temper, and knew what damage could be done when it was aroused. But it was too late. "I don't take it back. If you were a real girl, then you wouldn't challenge a boy older and stronger than you," Hughbert sneered.

"Well, then to prove that a girl can beat a boy~" Adrianne, now furious, threw off her white gown and revealed a tunic and breeches. She lunged at Hughbert, knocking him flat on the ground. The rest of the Bandits fell to help their leader, but Llewelyn, Georgie, Dafydd, and I held them off. Then when the Bandits realized it was useless, they stopped, and watched Adrianne and Hughbert still rolling in the ground. In less than a minute, Hughbert was pinned down to the ground with a hand at his throat, a knee on each hand, and another hand threatening to come smashing down upon his face. He was red as an apple with anger. Adrianne growled, "Yield to the girl who beat you fair and square in wrestling and archery?"

"Yes," he croaked. Then, getting up, Adrianne let him go, and turned to face me. "You let him go easily," I said.

"He was pathetic. If I knocked everyone who is that pathetic and stupid, then I wouldn't have time to breathe."

Then, hearing this, Hughbert leapt at Adrianne's back. She heard him, ducked and kicked him severely in the stomach as he sailed over her head. Then leaping after him, she sailed a massive punch right at his eye. She hit contact, and Hughbert was thrown to the ground. He sat there whimpering. All the Outlaws came and stood around him. We all looked down at him. I personally, had already vowed to get revenge on this mutt for what he had done to my beloved sister. I said, "As soon as you are well, I shall come for you, and we shall meet in single combat. There, shall you pay for what you have done to my sister."

We all turned away as the Bandits came to help Hughbert. I went straight away to Adrianne. She was kneeling, her hair covering her face. I knelt beside her and took her in my arms. She leaned against me and whispered, "I just realized what I have done. What will Mother and Father say when they find out? They shall be livid with me. I will have to be sent home as soon as possible."

"Hush," I whispered, smoothing her hair. "I shall work it all out. Don't worry."

Then Alwyn knelt in front of me, and he said, "Come on, I know of a place where we can talk."

He picked up Adrianne in his arms, and we all followed him to a garden nearby. Once inside, the Outlaws all crowded around Adrianne who was sitting on my lap. She was now recovering, and was pleased at the many compliments on her hand fighting. "Maybe you could watch Delwyn and I wrestle sometime. We were always told that we were equal, and gave plenty of entertainment to the audience when we fought," she said, smiling at me.

As she stood up, I said, "Yeah, and you always won which is why you're offering."

"Not always," she admitted, putting on her white gown again. Georgie came and started to brush her hair. "You can beat me too," Adrianne said to Georgie, who smiled.

"What else can you do, Adrianne?" asked Andrew.

"Adrianne," I said. "Can handle any simple weapon; speak, read, and write French, Old English, Spanish, Welsh, Latin; she can play the organ, lute, panpipes, and flute; swim, do acrobatics, run as fast as any boy, shoot accurately, hunt, and ride both like a man and a woman; she can also cook, make clothes, and sing. This all on top of her regular education. But her best skill, is making jewelry. She made me a beautiful sword and scabbard."

"Can you really do all those things?" asked Onyx.

"Just ask me, Llewelyn, or Dafydd," said Georgie, proudly.

"You are worthy enough of becoming a knight even," said Emyr. "Hey, sing us a song."

"Oh, no," laughed Adrianne. "I shall never sing in public as long as my brother lives. He will always outshine me in that subject."

 

Chapter 8

"Well! I think it is high time we went inside. I don't want my precious Adrianne getting sick in all this cold weather. I have heard that it shall snow in a few days," I said quickly getting up and marching straight for the castle. I heard the others all laughing at my attitude behind me.



The next few days passed quickly with choir in the mornings, lessons in the afternoons, and pleasure time with Adrianne and the Outlaws in the afternoon.


It was four days after Adrianne's arrival, and I appeared with Martyn at my side. Yesterday, Master Henry had told me that he planned to start teaching me swordplay. I still have no memory of previous lessons, but Adrianne says I have had them. I began with drills on balance. Henry set up a high beam, about five feet off the ground. Under it he put mats for when I fall.


I walked across it while Henry paced beside me trying to bring me off balance without physically touching me. I didn't do too well at first, but I soon got the hang of it. Then, he put objects of different heights and lengths that I had to jump over. After I could go the whole length of the beam without falling off, he made me do a flip on the beam. This took a lot of time and bruises. But I am proud to say, that I did accomplish it. From there, we got more and more difficult.

 

When he was satisfied, he let me get off, and I was given a shield. Henry tried to hit me with a club. I had to guard myself with the shield, but stay on only one leg. This must have given me at least two broken bones and a sprained ankle. I learned that day, how mean Henry can be.


I showered and went straight to bed. I was excused from serving at meals, claiming to be sick. Adrianne came to my bed, and she sang me to sleep, though it took some persuasion.

 



The next day, I was extremely sore. But I still had my duties, serving, choir, serving, training, and serving. But I noticed that there was a lot of whispering behind my back. Even Adrianne and Georgie were joining in the conversations going on behind me. Then, that evening, they pounced on me all at once.


I was in my room, practicing a song I had just started composing. I enjoyed working with my instruments late at night. Emyr knocked, and then entered, bringing with him, all the Outlaws and the two girls. Sighing, I started to put away my flute. Emyr put his hand on mine and said, "No, don't put it away. We all came for a concert."


I looked at him skeptically. Adrianne came forward and put on her stubborn as a mule face. Oh boy! I'll never get out of this one alive. I looked pleadingly at her, with my best guilty puppy face. She softened a little, but Georgie came and stuffed the flute into my hands and demanded, "

 

"Play, you filthy excuse of a bard."


I sighed and held it to my lips. Everyone sat down and looked expectantly at me. I began to play.

 

It was just the flute and nothing more. When I finished, there was just silence. "Well, I played for you, now you can just run along and ask Adrianne to play, or even Dafydd."


Onyx laughed, and said, "Oh, we wanted you to play and sing!"


"Surely this must be a conspiracy against me," I mumbled to myself. Then out loud, I said, "Um, guys. I'm sorry, but I have a sore throat today. I don't think I can sing tonight."


"If you don't, I'll cry," said Adrianne in a perfect teary voice. I looked at her. Tears were already starting to roll down her face. Disgusted I turned and picked up my lute. How come I come I can never stand to look at that face? I asked myself.


"Alexander, would you open my trunk. Inside should be a book with Music written in gold letters. Pull it out for me will you?" I said, pointing to the leather book I use to keep all the music I write in.


He pulled it out and whistled. "Hey! Would you look at all the tyke has written," he said and held it up for everyone to see.


I grabbed it from his hands and said, "Keep your hands off you jerks."


I picked out a short song and started to play.


To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

I stopped and said, "That is all you get, and nothing more."

No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't get me to play or sing anything more. They finally left. Emyr and I both went to bed.

The next day was a Friday. I don't know why this day seemed special to me, but it just did. I felt like something should happen. I kept racking my brain, trying to see if there was something I had to do that I had forgotten. But try as I might, I couldn't think of anything, as I rode on Rhys to the Cathedral. In the choir, we are getting along very well. I shall be able to sing on Sunday.

As I returned, a messenger came to meet me, and I was told to fetch a package for my father from the leather workers store. The man gave me a note to the shopkeeper from Father, saying it was all right to give me the package. Then I was given a list of other items I needed to pick on my way, from Mother. She is often like that, and doesn't always trust her servants. I turned around, and set off for the town. It is a somewhat small village, and I discovered that it was easy to find the stores, by their signs hanging out of the door.

First, I dropped off at the leather worker's shop, tying Rhys to a post outside. I walked in, and waited for the man to serve me. As the woman before me left, the shopkeeper turned to me. "I don't remember seein' the likes of you around these parts before, 'ave I?"

"No, sir. I have just recently come to be a page at the castle," I replied politely. It is never good to be rude, to anyone, especially in the village. The people don't always like nobles.

"Well, what can I do for ye?"

"I am here to pick up a package for my father," I said handing him the note.

"Oh, aye, he is a grand fellow. I shall be back in a moment," he said, smiling. As he went through a side door, he bellowed, "Olwyn! Come an' en'nertain this boy!"

Olwyn I thought. And then, my assumptions were confirmed, as Olwyn, my friend from the choir, came in smiling. "I thought you'd be here," he said. "Here to pick up your father's package?"

"Yes, but how do you know?" I said, puzzled.

"oh, I know lots of things that are going to happen to you today. And you not knowing what day it is! Ha ha, this'll be one to laugh about over some hot milk in the winter. Ah! do you remember the day Page Delwyn thought he'd lost his mind? Yes, this will be fun."

Then, his father came in, and sent the boy running back to the workshop. I had no time to ask what he meant. I felt like I was going to be stabbed in the back or something. I got the package, and walked to the Confectionery Store. Here, I picked up a large bag of assorted sweets, and was given a small one for free because it was 'Such a special day'. I was utterly clueless. Mother must be having a party or somethin' I thought.

Then I picked up another one from the jewelers, and another from the shoemakers. With all my parcels, I got up on Rhys, and rode back to the castle.

I was met by Mother and Father, who kissed me on the head, took the packages, and walked off. I put away Rhys, and went to the kitchens to find some extra scraps of food, since I missed both the page's meal, and the main meal for the rest of the castle. I was given a bit of chicken, some potatoes, and a chunk of bread. As I fed on these, I saw a pastry being made for someone in the castle. We rarely have cakes, except for special occasions.

After I had eaten, I changed, and went to locate Henry. I found him, and we worked on thrusts for two hours. I felt like I would be thrusting in my sleep. I was let off early because, 'It is such a special day,' as Henry said.

What is so special about today? I wondered. I took a bath, and retired to my room, determined to use my free time wisely. I thought of a tune to go to the poem, "All Things Bright And Beautiful" by Cecil Frances Alexander. As I muddled away at the strings on my lute, I was interrupted by a knock at the door. A servant was outside, and he said, "Miss Adrianne wants to see you in the library."

Bringing my lute with me, I plodded bare foot and in my pajamas to the library thinking, It is just Adrianne. She has seen me less decent than I am now in pajamas and bare foot. I was thinking entirely of the poem stopping every now and then.

I opened the door to utter darkness. I wonder if this is some kind of a joke, I thought. Then, a score of candles flared up, to reveal, Georgie, Adrianne, Mother, Father, the Outlaws, Olwyn, Tegyd, and Glynn. "Happy Birthday!" they all cried in unison. Birthday? Is this when my birthday is?

I was dragged in, and seated down at a table. In front of me, were a few parcels and a small cake, the very one I saw being made in the kitchen. Adrianne sat beside me and explained, "Today is your birthday, and this is a celebration. All those are yours. You even brought them in from the village without knowing it. People were giving you obvious hints and you never had a clue. Henry even said it was a special day!"

One by one, I opened the presents. One was a pair of shoes, another was a knew leather-bound book for my music, another was a painting by Adrianne of the mountains, another was a watch, and the last was a large bag of candy. All of them I picked up from the village except Adrianne's. I felt really stupid, but grateful. Instead of thanks, my friends all asked to hear a song.

Grumbling, I picked up my lute. The words to the poem I had previously been working on, popped into my head. Using the new tune, I sang;

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

I stopped, looking expectantly around me. My friends all clapped, and asked for more. "I'll do another one, if Olwyn, Glynn, and Tegyd join me."

They clearly didn't want to, but the Outlaws all pushed them to it. "I'll do it only if we sing the song, Dreams, by Langston Hughes," said Glynn.

"All right, I said. But we have to do it acapella," I said.

We started off, me the soprano, Glynn the tenor, and the others, the altos.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken~winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren filed
Frozen with snow.

More clapping. But that was all I was going to do. I ate the cake and went to bed, after saying goodnight to all my friends. Back in the room, I asked Emyr, "What day is it?"

"Why, don't you know your own birthday?" he asked, shirt half over his head.

"No, not many people can remember their birthdays after being hit across the head, and their whole memory wiped out."

"Oh, well, it is the twenty-second of February."

I went to sleep on this special day, feeling happy.



My first Sunday choir performance went well, and nothing unusual happened. Adrianne was guarded very heavily by the Outlaws, and the obnoxious girls could only look at her. Alwyn especially was always by her side, ready to growl at anyone who came too close. Adrianne and Alwyn got on very well together. Alwyn acted different around her. He was more of a gentleman and lost some of his air of superiority. Georgie and I both didn't have any regrets about this, and often laughed over it in private.

 

The first time the girls actually got through our defenses, was in a most weak time for us males. It was a large banquet and dance in honor of Alwyn's second to the oldest brother, Marc, who had just been dubbed a knight. Of course all the pages, squires and knights in the castle were invited, all Marc's siblings and family, and most of the nobles in court at the time. This included, my parents, Georgie, Adrianne, the Outlaws, the Bandits, and those horrible girls. Let me start at the beginning, as I got dressed.

 

I was fitted against my wishes, for a new suit. I was given, this evening, a pair of nice, blue breeches, a starch white shirt, and a red velvet tunic. I put these on, and was about to leave, when Emyr caught me, and sat me down in a chair. He attacked me with a comb, and made me all neat.

 

Why are people so fussy? I thought, as he pulled the knots out of my blonde curls.

 

"Won't the girls think you dandy?" he teased.

"I shall stay in a corner, thank you. No girl shall fuss over me, let alone come near me," I grumbled.

"What about Adrianne and Georgie?" he asked, and set the comb down.

"Well, they are different. I don't know what to call them, but they aren't prissy, and inept in the ways of the human race. They are also not near as stupid as Eira and them are."

"I quite agree," he murmured, and surveyed me with scrupulous eyes. "All right, you're done. Wait for me, before you go."

He pulled the comb, through his hair a couple of times, making sure it was straight, before picking up his cape, and walking out the door. I grabbed my sword and scabbard on my belt and my black cape, before following him.

At the banquet, I was seated next to Mother and Adrianne. The royal family, including Marc, Georgie, and Alwyn, were all located at the high table in the front of the hall. We were served by servants, as the pages were all guests. The food was lavish and extravagant. Jesters and acrobats, were present to entertain people. I didn't pay much attention to them.

I was discussing a new song I had thought of with Adrianne, when a servant came to my side, and said, "Page Delwyn of Lamasse'. His Majesty requests your presence."

I glanced worriedly at Adrianne, and followed the servant to the throne. Once by his side, the king turned and said, smiling, "I have heard many things about your voice." ~ at this point I turned white. "I would like to hear you sing in front of the Court tonight. Pick any song you want. I shall send for your instrument, by a servant if you don't mind."

A royal command is a royal command. "Yes, Your Majesty," I said meekly, bowing.

As I returned to my seat, I just happened to glance in the direction of where Georgie was sitting next to Alwyn. They were both watching me, and smiling. They gave me a nod for encouragement. I was mad! Why are they doing this to me? I thought, rebelliously. I told Adrianne, who smiled, and said,

 

"Oh, guess what everybody? My brother is the famous Delwyn. I am sure you have heard of him. 'Oh your brother is Delwyn?! You must be very happy.' 'Yeah you sure are lucky.' That is what everyone will say. Go on, show your talent."

The servant came with my lute. As I walked away, I heard her call after me, "Sing for Georgie."

Yes, sing for Georgie, I thought. I went into a dark, secluded corner, and tuned my lute to the key of F sharp. I softly went through the song selected in my mind, my fingers running over the strings. Then I got up, walked to the front of the high table, and bowed before King Jonathan and Queen Robyn, and the royal family.

"Attention please!" the king called, over the din of the banquet. "Delwyn of Lamasse', a page here in our castle, shall sing an air."

I sat down on the stool in front of me, and said through the silence, "A Red, Red Rose. Words by Robert Burns, and tune by Adrianne of Lamasse'."

O, my love is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June,
O, my love is like a melody,
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonny lass,
So deep in love am I,
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas go dry.

Till all the seas go dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun!
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Though it were ten thousand miles!

I stopped, letting the final chord ring through the air. That went pretty well, I thought. I stood up, and bowed before their Majesties.

"Please, sing another," cried Queen Robyn.

I was about to refuse, when I saw Georgie's face. She was pleading. I looked at Alwyn, he too was pleading. Why am I so weak! I thought as I sat down again. The clapping had died down, and I tuned my lute to the key of B flat. I thought of the princess who had won my friendship since we met with her character, and remembered a song I had finished three days ago. It is funny, and I know Georgie will like it, but what about the rest of the court? Oh well, I might as well try. If they don't like it, then I will be able to go back to my seat in safety again. I thought.

"The Princess. Words by Sara Henderson Hay, tune by Adrianne of Lamasse'."

I'll ask for a red rose blossoming in the snow,
A music box hid in a walnut shell,
Nine golden apples on a silver bough,
A mirror that can speak, and cast a spell.
I'll send them East of the Moon, and West of the Sun
For a wishing ring made of a dragon's claw. . . .
And they will fail, just as the rest have done,
And I can stay at home, with dear Papa.

Oh sometimes in my silken bed I wake
All of a shiver, and my hair on end,
Because again the terrible dream occurred:
What if one of those suitors should come back
With the impossible trophy in his hand,
And I should have to keep my foolish word!

I stopped, smiling, and thinking how like Georgie, that poem is. The laughing and clapping, filled my ears. I looked around, surprised, and then looked toward Georgie, who was laughing and clapping her hands in delight. I was pleased about this. But nothing would induce me to sing again. Twice is more than enough.

I bowed before the high table, and quickly left the center of the hall and hid in a corner. My face flamed red. Did I just disgrace my family with a rude lyric? I asked myself. I got up, and slipped out of the nearest door, to put away my lute. I delayed in my room for a few minutes, trying to bring up the nerve to go back out. I finally thought of Adrianne becoming worried, and I walked back to the hall.

I slid into my seat beside Adrianne and Mother, both of which congratulated me. I finished my meal quickly, and wasn't up to conversing any more. Adrianne said, "I don't think anybody felt insulted my the poem. It was a very good selection, if you ask me. But why did you say the tunes were by me?"

"It is bad enough to be a page that sings. But to be a composer on top of that, is too much for me. The people who really care who wrote it, know already. But I would like to give you all the credit while I can, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind," she said. Then she whispered, "Did you really think of Georgie both songs? Are you in love with Georgie?"

"No," I said, quickly. "I thought of you the first time and Georgie the second."

"That was sweet," she said, grinning. "Come, they are going to the ball room, now."

I offered her my arm, and we walked to the ballroom. There, we discovered a room, lit with many candles. Naturally, the people split off into groups. The kids going into their gangs, the parents splitting off into groups of friends. Only the royal family was kept together, receiving congratulations, and other matters along that line. Adrianne and I caught Master Henry before we lost sight of him.

"Henry," I called. "Could I have a word with you? Henry, this is my sister, Adrianne of Lamasse'. Adrianne this is my trainer, Master Henry."

Henry bowed and kissed Adrianne's hand. "I am pleased to meet you at last. So you are the composer of the songs, and he is the performer? They were both excellently composed and sung."

"Thank you, but Delwyn composed them. He just gave me the credit for some odd reason. I do agree with you though, they were brilliantly sung. I am proud to be his brother," Adrianne said.
I said quickly,

"I don't have nearly as much talent as she. She can sing too, and play four instruments, use five languages, shoot better than any page in the palace, do acrobatics, and a little bit of sword play. She can also do other things like embroidery and cooking, and so on. So think how proud I am."

"You must be, and have the right. Your family must be a gifted one. I would like to see you shoot some time. I did hear about the contest on your arrival. And I also heard of the event following your win, but we won't mention it here, shall we?" he said, smiling.

Adrianne blushed and looked angrily at me. I shrugged my shoulders helplessly. That was when they hit us. We were all alone and defenseless, Adrianne and I. Eira and her group came up to us.

"What a lovely song that was in the hall," one said.

They had successfully formed a circle around us. I slipped a protective arm around Adrainne's waist.

"Thanks," I said gruffly.

"Please introduce us to your beautiful girl friend," said Eira, pretending to look innocent.

"I do wish you would not jump to conclusions. This gentlewoman is my sister. I guess I have to introduce you, don't I?" I said reluctantly, wishing one of the Outlaws would rescue us.

"Yes, please do," one said eagerly.

"This is Adrianne of Lamasse'. Adrianne, these girls are children of other lower nobles of the court," I said.

"Oh," said Adrianne, sounding very much disinterested. "I am pleased to meet your acquaintance."

"Please, tell us about your many skills, that Delwyn has talked about," asked Eira.

"I would prefer not to discuss such a personal matter at a dance, thank you," she said, acting extremely bored.

She is making a wonderful display, I thought.

"Well, how are all your friends doing?" asked one, eyeing the group of Outlaws, who had not yet seen our predicament.

"Friends?" asked Adrianne, as if she was surprised at the subject. "Oh, them. I just hang around them for mild company. I keep to myself mainly. My best friends are in the Royal Family, and Delwyn. But you all know how hard it is to be friends with some of the Royal Family. They don't have as much time with you, and so on, what with all the duties and all. But I don't mind, seeing as I am so busy myself, and being used to this sort of thing."

She sounds like a regular snob. I do hope she won't turn out like this after becoming a lady, I thought.

Just at that moment, a servant came up and said, "Miss Adrianne and Master Delwyn of Lamasse', his Royal Highness, Prince Alwyn, and her Royal Highness, Princess Georgiana, request your presence."

"Of course, dear man, here is a copper penny for calling us," Adrianne said, and smiled her most ingratiating smile. "If you will excuse us please, girls," she said, in a totally opposite voice to the girls surrounding us in dismay.

We made our way quickly to the Royal Family, and stood next to Alwyn and Georgie.

"I do hope you were not with that awful group too long. I didn't see you for a long time after you came through the door," Alwyn said, taking Adrianne and my hands.

"Oh no," I said. "Adrianne was doing a marvelous job at acting like a snob. I almost thought she would turn into one before my very eyes."

"Surely that is not possible, dear, is it?" asked Georgie, kissing Adrianne on the cheek.

"I don't know," she said, looking distant. "I felt different, but I don't know what it is. It was like I felt a deep anger at these stupid people. All they seemed to live for, was to trap a good and legitimate husband, and live in wealth for the rest of the idiotic lives. I shall feel dreadful if they succeed in trapping an Outlaw."

"Don't you worry, lass. I wouldn't like it either. I am certainly not going to think about marriage, until after the initiation to knighthood," Alwyn said.

"Quite right," I said. As the music, started, I asked Adrianne, "May I have this first dance?"

"Certainly," she said, and curtseyed before me.

"And may I take your hand for this dance, Georgie?" asked Alwyn, bowing.

"Certainly," Georgie said, curtseying before her towering brother.

I said over my shoulder to Alwyn, "The only colour I shall wear from a lady until I am a knight shall be Adrianne's."

"I guess, same here," he said, looking like one who has just resigned himself to a great fate.

Georgie punched him playfully in the stomach, as we stepped out into the middle of the hall. The dance went splendidly, and we all went to the group of Outlaws, huddled in the corner, after.

"All right for you," said Andrew gloomily. "You two have the only descent girls in the whole room."

"Yeah," said Llewelyn.

"Well, then why don't you ask them now?" I said.

Several boys crowded round both damsels. Both glared at me, as I smiled, and leaned gracefully against the wall with Alwyn.

Adrianne and Georgie went off with Llewelyn and Andrew. As being the custom, Adrianne went with her closest relative first, me, and then went to the next. Dafydd and Llewelyn being equal, the oldest then gets the priority. Alwyn turned to me and gasped, "Crumbs, being a prince does take it out of a chap. Though it does have advantages," he said grinning. "We got you to sing in front of the Court, and I was able to rescue you and Adrianne from those idiots."

"So it was you who set it up?" I asked glaring angrily at him.

"Yes. Well, me, Georgie and Adrianne."

"Thanks a bunch. Don't be surprised to find some very unpleasant things in your bed for the next week or so."

"Come on, don't be such a spoiled sport. You had fun, didn't you?" asked Onyx.

"Actually, no I didn't. I don't know about you people, but I don't like to be nervous and sweating and having to sing in front of the entire Court! It might as well be the whole of England!"

"But you played wonderfully. You could make a very good living off of your voice if you wanted to," said Dafydd.

"Hmph," I said, grumpily. This was a very touchy subject for me.

"Tell us all what happened with you and those girls, Delwyn," asked Alwyn, putting a large, muscular arm around my shoulder.

"I was talking with Adrianne and Master Henry, when they popped up. They circled round us, like prey. They commented on my singing, and asked to be introduced to Adrianne, referring to her as 'my girlfriend'. I reprimanded to her for jumping to conclusions, and them introduced them all. Adrianne acted disinterested, bored, and cold to them. When they asked to talk about her 'skills', she refused. When they asked how Adrianne's friends were doing, meaning the Outlaws, she indicated simply that she was too good for the Outlaws, and that she was friends only with the Royal Family. She told them briefly about what it is like to be friends with a prince and princess of England. Then, to put the frosting on the cake, the servant asked us to come before the presence of Alwyn and Georgie. That was when we escaped."

"It sounds like you did a jolly good job of holding them off," said Emyr.

"I sent that servant, just so you would be called away from them. I am sorry it took me so long to realise," said Alwyn.

The girls came back then, and I quickly seized my chance, and asked Georgie to dance, while Dafydd got the honor of Adrianne's hand.

"I loved your singing," Georgie said.

"Thank you. I thought of Adrianne for the first song, and you the second," I told her.

"I thought that 'Princess' song very funny."

"I knew you would like it, but I wasn't so sure about the rest of the Court."

"Hey, if Father laughs, then the whole Court laughs."

"Why don't you think of a song. We could work together, you just think of a simple tune, and I can figure out the chords. You think of the lyrics, and I can sing them," I suggested.

"All right. How about if we meet in my room, since Emyr is roommates with you."

"Okay, every other evening, at eight of the clock," I decided, as the dance ended.

Georgie was taken by Onyx, as Adrianne went with Alexander. The evening went on like this, well into the night.



That was the evening that those dreadful females punctured our defense.

 

After my reflection of that night, I rode my horse up the hill, away from the field where I had had a break for the day, from my intensive training. Suddenly, there came a loud rumbling, and a cart driven by a team of crazy horses came around the bend. I was thrown off Rhys, and saw complete blackness.

 

 

Chapter 9

I woke up to a flurry of people. I sat up, and looked around. Where am I? I heard distinctly, Oh hell, she hasn't lost her memory, has she? "What," I said, looking around.

"It is all right dear. You just rest. You've had a horrible two weeks," came a gentle, motherly voice.

I looked at the speaker. She was a young, pretty lady, with light brown hair wound tightly into a bun, and very distinctive sharp green eyes. I had seen those before. I remember. Georgie had them, I thought, triumphantly. I heard, Who is Georgie? I looked around again.

A young man was standing at the foot of the bed I was in. He also was young, and was handsome, with a tall, modest body, supporting a head covered with a tidy mop of straight brown hair. He had soft brown eyes, that were understanding, but didn't show anything to suppose that he had spoken. On the other side of the bed, was another young man. He was tall and muscular. His hair was a dirty blonde, and he had anxious blue-grey eyes. I heard, Can you not hear me?

I looked at him suspiciously, and said, "Is it you who hath spoken several times with me?"

"Oh gosh. Yes, my Delwyn. Come and stay with me for about fifty more years, and then you can die."

"I was not near dying, thank you. I have no earthly idea of what you are talking of, where I am, who you are, and how you know what my name is. Where is my sister, and the Outlaws, and my parents? For that matter, what have you done with my shire, Rhys?"

"Rhys is safely stabled, so don't you fret, deary," said that motherly voice. "Peter, go and get some more hot water, and bring in Adrianne."

"Adrianne? Where is she? Will someone explain what is going on?" I demanded, as I started to get out of bed.

Both the man at the foot of the bed, and the woman beside me started forward, and pressed me back into the pillows. "Don't get up yet, Delwyn," said the woman.

"Well, then at least tell me something. What are your names?"

The couple exchanged worried glances, and then the woman laid a smooth hand on my forehead, and said, "Delwyn, I am Robyn, and this is Jonathan. You remember now, don't you?"

I was startled. "Forgive me Your Majesties. I did not recognize you. What, may I be so humble to ask, are you doing beside my bed?"

The man called Jonathan, came forward and said, "We are not majesties, Delwyn. Tell us what is in your mind, so that we may sort it out."

"I am Delwyn of Lamasse', son of the Duke and Duchess of Lamasse' which is located near the north of Wales. There is the river Mersey that runs through it. My home is Penrhyn Castle. I have a sister called Adrianne. I belong to a group of pages, called, the Outlaws. I am working to become a knight. I am a member of the Lincoln Cathedral choir. I can compose music, and play three instruments. I am eleven years old, and my health is perfectly fine."

The woman called, Robyn, opened her eyes in horror as my tale went on. She finally said shakily, "I think Peter should hear of this before we do anything."

At that time, Peter came in with a girl that looked a lot like Adrianne. She had blonde hair, and blue eyes. Robyn repeated what I had said, to Peter. He looked worried, and sat down. "Delwyn. You are in the eighteenth century. You fell off Rhys, and was knocked unconscious. You fell sick, and for two weeks, you were asleep in this bed. You are in a big house called Penrhyn, in Liverpool, which is by the river Mersey. Your only immediate family, your parents, are in Boston, America. You have no siblings. You are a girl. There have not been any knights for at least five hundred years. Lincoln Cathedral is hundreds of miles away from here. I think you have just had a dream or something. Forget it all, and become used to your environment for now."

I closed my eyes, and went to sleep. When I woke up again, it was only Peter in the room. During my sleep, I had regained most of my memory. I got up, and walked, though a little stiffly, over to him, on the couch. I leaned against him, and asked, "How have you been faring these past two weeks?"

He looked down at me, and said seriously, "I have been a nervous wreck. Never knowing if you would live or not. The only comfort I got, was believing that you were in no pain whatsoever."

"I'm so sorry," I said, as he pulled me onto his lap.

"So," he said, grinning and bouncing on his lap. "What would my little Delwyn like for Christmas? A toy engine? A little dolly? Or how about a picture book?"

"Santa? I wanna puppy," I said, as I sucked my thumb.

"Aw, little Delwyn wants a puppy? Okay, well Santa will get you a cute little puppy of your own, okay?"

"Okay, but I also wanna a new book, and a bunch of candy, and wibbon for my hair."

"Santa will bring you them, don't you fret," he said, and laughed.

Then I sat next to him, and pulled him onto my lap. "And has little Peter been good this year?"

"Yes, I've been very good."

"Are you sure you won't find a whip or a bunch of coal in your stocking?"

"No, sir."

"Well what do you want to find?"

"I wanna book, a bunch of candy, and a trip to the mountains in England. But I also want to go to China, the moon, and Australia."

"Are you serious?" I asked, my face suddenly turning somber and surprised.

"No, of course not," he said, laughing. "Come on, you're not supposed to be out of bed."

"Why? I want to get up and wander round the house," I whined.

"Well, let me get Adrianne to dress you," he said, standing up.

I stood up next to him, and looked up into his eyes. "Thank you very much for taking care of me."

He looked into mine, and said softly, "I didn't want to lose you just yet. I have many things to say to you before you have my permission to die."

And with this, he leaned over, and kissed me gently on the lips, and quietly left the room to get Adrianne.

I got back into bed, and went to sleep, too stunned to do anything else. The next day, I woke up to Peter on my bed again. He said, cheerfully, "Would you like to stay here for Christmas, or move on to London? Robyn and Jonathan have invited us, since they don't have any other company."

"Yes, I would very much like to stay here, though not too long after, for I fear we might trespass too much on their hospitality."

"I shall go to deliver our answer myself, or, do you want to come?" he asked, standing, and getting ready to leave.

"Yes, let me ring for Adrianne, and I shall get dressed," I answered, getting out of bed. As I jumped down, pain shot through my foot, and I collapsed on the floor. Peter quickly put me back in bed, and said, "Watch it. Your foot has not yet healed. It would be best if you used the crutches."

"I totally forgot about my foot. I shall remember from now on," I said, as I took the crutches from Peter's hands.

Adrianne came soon, and dressed me in a loose, warm dress. A warm cape was draped around my shoulders, and soft leather and fur slippers were put on my feet. I walked slowly, with a little bit of help from the crutches to the morning room on the same floor as my bedroom. There, I met Robyn, Jonathan, and Peter. I sat down in an empty armchair, and said, "Thank you very much for your kind hospitality to Peter and I. I know I am especially in debt to you for all you have done for me as I was unwell."

Robyn beamed at me, and said, "Oh, you are welcome here at any time, my dear. Jonathan and I can get lonely. You have definitely left a different atmosphere in our house. Never shall you be turned away. As it is, will you stay for Christmas with us? No one else shall be out honored guests but you, so we would very much appreciate it."

I glanced at Peter, who said, "We have considered, and think it would be best for Delwyn, and we would love to share a Christmas with you. We have only a cranky old uncle, and London to look forward to. They can both wait."

"I could travel to London if I wanted to," I said indignantly. "I am in the best of health, but for my ankle. But if I can cross the Atlantic on a boat, then I can certainly travel to London. I do wish you would stop thinking me a stupid idiot like Eira."

Peter grinned, and said, "You have become gullible since two weeks ago, haven't you? By the way, who is Eira?"

"Oh..." I said, and studied the carpet with embarrassment. "Um... nothing."

"What ever you say," he said, dismissing the name, briefly.

"May I be excused? I should very much like to practice piano for a while alone."

Robyn said, "Certainly, go right ahead. You might need to dust it off a bit, it hasn't been used for a while."

"Thank you," I said, and left the quartet in the bright morning sunshine.

The music room was impressive, and contained several. They included the flute, piano, lute, panpipes, harp, and violin. I sat down, and with my books, worked through nine new songs, and reviewed seven others. After playing at leisure, I picked up the lute, idly. I strummed it a little, catching the feel of it, and then played a lilting melody from somewhere in my memory. After repeating it twice, words started to find their way out of my mouth. It was a strange language, and I had no clue to what it all meant. When it came to the end, I looked up and saw Peter and Robyn watching me with funny expressions on their faces.

They came in. Peter said, "I had no idea you knew how to play the lute."

"Neither did I," I said tartly.

"That song. It was written by a young lad of eleven, in 1345. He was a page for King Jonathan. It is funny, because his name was Delwyn of Lamasse'. It is all like you said.

"I am sure that cannot be true," I said. "I was taught that song by my Nurse," I lied. Somehow, I did not want to tell anyone about my ‘dream'. If it was a dream, then why was I able to do things like in my dream, and act like in my dream? I didn't want to know.

"Oh well. It is a famous Welsh hymn. Please, play another song," pleaded Robyn.

"No thank you. I have had enough for today. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to see Rhys, the shire," I asked, feeling that maybe, just by some slight chance, that he would solve a few of the puzzles.

I visited the stables alone. I went into Rhys' stall, and cooed softly to him, talking and asking questions. As I pretty much expected, no answer.

I left him, and went into the library. I was about to look up Delwyn of Lamasse', when I thought that if I were to go back and forth, or in some way, live the life of this boy, that I would not want to know what I would do in my life, and how I die.

I picked up a book of fairy tales, and read the stories until lunch. I joined the rest of the group, and Adrianne for lunch in the smaller dining room. "Shall we have a dance here Jonathan, this year, or shall we skip it?" asked Robyn.

"I always enjoyed it, and there is no reason not to. What do you say, Peter, Delwyn, Adrianne?" Jonathan asked.

"We have no problems with it," I said.

And with those words, the whole house was unsettled from its peaceful environment. Invitations were sent out, entertainment searched for, the ballroom set up, food to arrange, costumes to decide to wear, and generally all that it takes to organize a dance.



It was too soon, when I found myself dressed in a sweeping dress of white, with my hair up in a bun at the top of my head. Diamond earrings hung from my earlobes, and a simple silver necklace with a center of a diamond around my neck. I was allowed to attend the dance without crutches, but I must not dance. Peter had said he also would not dance, though against my wishes. Adrianne was in a gown of blue with borrowed sapphires to adorn her earlobes and neck. I was very proud of her. She had objected the whole time, at being able to attend the dance as a guest/hostess next to me. But I had pushed her through, and now she was grateful. Secretly, I had asked Robyn to find a suitable partner for Adrianne. Robyn had supplied a gentleman who would not care for her stature in life, and take care of her. Adrianne expects to remain at my side the entire time.

 

After I had seen that Adrianne was as ready as I, and went with her at my side to the hall to help Robyn and Jonathan receive the guests. The first arrivals came near six o' clock, and I saw to it, that they were properly attended to, before hurrying off to find what Peter was up to. I found him fussing with his collar in his bedroom. Laughing, I went forward to help him. "You desperately need help."

 

"My hero," he said, kneeling before me and clasping his hands dramatically. "You shall surely help me, my brave knight."

 

Something in what he said, sounded like deja- vu, or something that would be said in the future. I said, "Oh stop acting silly. Okay, got it. Stand up, and let me have a look at you. I guess you will insist on being my beau for the night as you and I both have none."

"Yep," he said, smiling pleasantly, as he stood up before me. He looked very handsome and gallant in his black suit, combed hair, and bowtie. But there was something missing. "Hmmm," I said. "What could it be? Oh, I know!" said, and dashed out of the room, returning with a package in my hand.

I handed it to him and he opened it. "It is an early Christmas present, seeing as you need them tonight."

The package contained set of five handkerchiefs. Each was embroidered by me with a P and a different spray of flowers. Thinking of something else, I produced a rose and placed it in his buttonhole. This added the final touch, and with one kerchief in hand, he and I left the room and went down to the ballroom.

It was already a quarter full and the musicians were playing soft music. I stationed myself near the music and surveyed the room. Peter stood beside me, and I leaned on him for support, trying to keep the weight off my foot. Quite a few people came up and we introduced each other, keeping up a conversation, until they gave up trying to make heads or tails of me. I am not, and do not want to be fashionable. Adrianne soon found me, though I had tried my best to lose her.

"Why did you run off like that?" she asked, a little hurt.

"I placed a white gloved hand on her arm, and said, "I want you to go out and have fun. Not to be beside me the whole time. I do wish you would dance too."

"I don't want to, if you're not," she said stubbornly.

At that moment, a young man came up and said, "Madam, could I have the honor of your hand for this next dance?"

I jumped forward, pushing Adrianne in front of me, saying, "She would be delighted." And in Adrianne's ear, I whispered, "Go on, don't be shy. He will show you what to do. Tell him your name is Adrianne Davis. This is an order as I am your master."

She looked at me pleadingly, as she was led away by the gentleman. I watched them dance, and smiled, as I saw a happy look spread across Adrianne's face. Then, I had an idea. I left Peter's side, and vanished into the crowd, before he could lift a finger. I concentrated hard on what there was for dinner so he would not guess my plan. I caught up to Robyn, and asked her,

 

"Could you find a girl to dance with Peter please?"

"Oh, certainly," she said, grinning, as she saw my idea.

I was soon presented by a young lady, who was very beautiful. I was surprised she had no partner, let alone a beau. I looked her over, and then said, "Hello, I am Delwyn Davis, how are you?"

"I am Laura Raynor, and I am kind of lonely."

"That can be fixed. Would you mind if I leaned on you while I lead you to a friend of mine? I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago, and I can only walk a little on it."

"Oh, by all means, I don't mind," she said, and came to my side.

"We need to head to the corner by the musicians. I hope you like the dance," I said, as we hobbled toward the musicians.

"I like it very much," she said.

"I am very glad," I replied, as we came to Peter. "Peter, this is Laura Raynor. She is in need of a partner. You have none, so why don't you take her for dance. She really is nice."

"Certainly. I am Peter Whitehead, how do you do?" he said, bowing to Laura.

You little brat. I swear, you do this on purpose, he thought. Of course I do. You shall thank me later. Please? She really is lonely, I pleaded. Looks like I have no way out, doesn't it? Yes, I said.

They went and danced a waltz, and both did very well. When they came back, Laura was looking happier. Adrianne came back at the same time, and I set her up with Peter. Peter didn't mind this as much, and willingly went with her.

"Let us go out onto the balcony," suggested to Laura.

We walked onto the balcony outside, and sat down. It was deserted, and we could talk in peace.

"How do you know Robyn and Jonathan?" I asked Laura.

"Robyn and I were childhood best friends. We went through school together, and we like a lot of the same things."

"Yes, you do act a lot like her, in some ways," I said, thoughtfully.

"How do you know them?" she asked me.

"Peter and I have been best friends since birth, and I mean literally birth. We live in Boston, and we came here for a vacation. Just before we left, I slipped on the ice, and twisted my ankle. But, we still decided to come. We came in at the Albert Dock, and we were supposed to stay here only for a week. Robyn and Peter's mother were friends, and we had to stay, as it was polite. Robyn and Jonathan both became friends with Peter and I soon. But a few days after our arrival, I... fell sick, and was in bed for two weeks. When I was better, we were invited to stay for Christmas instead of going on to London and an old uncle of Peter's. And that is how we came to exist here."

"Oh, you must be happy here," she said.

"Yes, we are," I replied.

"Let us go inside, I am getting chilly," she said, rubbing her bare arms.

"Yes, I agree."

We went inside. She excused herself, and went to get some food. I was found by Peter, talking to the gentleman who had first danced with Adrianne. Peter was jealous as he thought, Talking to strange men, I see. There is nothing wrong with having an innocent conversation with someone at a social event. So stop being jealous.

He stood beside me, and slipped an arm around my waist, thinking with concern, Aren't you tired, or is your foot hurting? Have you had anything to eat? I am a little tired and my foot aches a little and I haven't had a bite to eat since I broke my fast this morning.

"Would you accompany me to get some food, Miss Delwyn?" he said.

"Yes, thank you," I said, and excused myself from the young man.

We ate from the tables set out at the end of the hall, and Peter sat me down in a seat. He would not leave my side for the rest of the evening. Robyn and Jonathan came to talk to us for a while, each. Robyn tried to get me to play or sing something but I would not be budged.

 



The next morning, we all woke up late. Adrianne I left in a deep slumber on my bed, where I laid her last the night before when she fell asleep while cleaning up. I went straight to the music room, and played for two hours. This helped me to get back into the swing of ordinary life. Peter came in while I was playing, and listened until I messed too much from nervousness to continue.

"Someday," he said. "I shall cure of being nervous. Come here."

I went to him, and sat in his lap. "I wanted to apologize for the way I acted last night."

"Apology accepted," I said. "In what ways, did you think it was inappropriate?"

"You were very beautiful last night, and I felt jealous when you talked to someone else. Also, I did not behave like a gentleman, and ask others to dance, when it should have been my duty. I felt like I wanted to dance with no one else but you," he said, and took my hand.

"I don't want our friendship to become impure with jealousy and selfishness. You have a place in my mind. You shouldn't have to worry about how I prioritize you. You will always have several places in my heart. You are a brother, a father, a best friend, and sometimes a mother to me."

"Nothing more?" he said.

"Nothing more! What more do you want?" I said, feeling exasperated. I could feel a sort of aching in him, but that was it.

"Never mind," he said softly, pulling my head to rest on his shoulder.

 



We ate lunch together at noon, and by then, I had calmed down. "Shall we all go into town, and get some of our Christmas shopping done? There is only a week left," proposed Robyn.

"That would be nice. When do you put up your Christmas decorations?" I asked.

"We can put up all of them today, if like. But the Christmas Tree is left until Christmas Eve," said Jonathan.

"That would be wonderful," said Peter.

"Adrianne, you come too," I said to Adrianne.

"Why?" she asked timidly,

"You have to help me. I need someone to lean on."

Yeah, right. What are you going to make her do? Carry your packages? Peter thought. No, I was going to give her some money of her own, so she could buy some too. Also, I can get a good idea of what she would like for her present. I retorted. Good idea.

"If you don't mind, I would like to ride Rhys into town," I asked.

"Sure, go right ahead. Adrianne may go with you if she likes, and she will know her way around," said Jonathan.

 



I rode into town on Rhys, and bought presents for Adrianne, Robyn, Mother, Father, Jonathan, Rhys, and Laura. Peter I always don't even think about, because he can read my mind easily.  At home, I wrapped each one and stuffed them under my bed. In the evening, we gathered in the library. "Now," said Robyn. "We decorate one room to our fullest extent. Then lightly decorate the rest of the house. That room can be a morning room, a library, the music room, the gallery, the dining room, wherever you want. That room will also contain the Christmas Tree. So, which shall it be?"

"I think it should be the morning room," proposed Jonathan.

"I think it should be the library, since we are in it most often, and it so cozy," I said.

"I think it should be in the music room, since it has the best view, and the most space, and Delwyn can give us music at any time," said Peter.

You big, stupid, stuffed bear, I thought, viciously.

"I suggest that it be in the drawing room. It has the biggest fireplace," said Robyn.

"How about the gallery? That would be pretty," suggested Adrianne.

We all wanted our idea. Jonathan sat down at a table, picked up a piece of paper, and a quill. He wrote down each suggestion. "Let us do this by process of elimination. The library isn't really big enough for the stuff we have to fill it with. The gallery is not wide enough for a tree and presents. The drawing room is nice, but it has a very expensive rug, and I would not like it to be spoiled. The morning room really has too much furniture. But, the music room would do nicely. It does have a nice view out the windows, a cheap carpet, space, little furniture, and an unlimited supply of entertainment," he said, grinning at me.

Why do I always lose? I am always terribly outnumbered.

"So, I shall ring for the servants to bring everything down to the music room, and we shall begin. Jonathan and Peter, move the piano into a corner, and Delwyn, supervise the moving of every instrument to where it would be convenient to you. I shall be helping to move the boxes. Adrianne, would you make sure every crook and cranny is clean before we put anything up."
We all bustled about in this manner until well past midnight. But our reward was great. The music room was transferred to become a magnificent display of Christmas. All that remained was the bare Christmas Tree.

"Tomorrow, would you like to go ice-skating? It is the perfect weather," asked Jonathan.

"You all can go, but I shall watch. I have yet to feel safe and comfortable on my ankle," I said, and yawned.

We all went to bed, and slept well into the morning. We all met for a late breakfast in the smaller dining room. After a warm meal of porridge, toast, and coffee, we all wrapped up warmly, and with our skates, set off for the pond. There were already a few couples out on the ice, and I watched them as the others put on their skates. I settled against a tree, and admired the skill shown off before me. Adrianne, this being her first time to skate, was a funny sight, and I enjoyed observing the progress she made through the afternoon.

The day whizzed past, and we soon started to hear our stomach's protests more and more. Around three o' clock, we all trooped back to the house, and spent a jolly time in front of the fire with a hot tea set out before us. Scones, bread and butter, malt bread, cookies, cake, jam, cream, herbal tea, and mincemeat pies were all laid in front of our eager eyes. It was not long before the table was completely empty. Adrianne had never really tasted such delicious food, and was continually teased about the look of her face, each time she savored something new.

We spent the rest of the day, with me reading old fairy tales from our childhood. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, The Prince and the Pauper, Beauty and the Beast, and Binnorie Millstream, were all in the selection. I had never really heard the Binnorie Millstream before, as it is British. It was about a princess, who's jealous sister pushed her in the millstream called Binnorie. The princess drowned, and floated down to where a young girl dragged her out, and laid her in the sun. A passing bard caught sight of her, and the sight of the princess' face never left his memory as he traveled over the countryside. He finally came back, and made a harp out of what was left of the princess. He used a collarbone where it should be wood, and golden hair, where it should be sinew. One day, he sang before the princess' family. When the bard set the harp down, the harp began to sing of its own accord.

O yonder sits my father, the king,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And yonder sits my mother, the queen;
By the bonny mill~dams o' Binnorie.

And yonder stands my brother Hugh,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And by him my William, false and true;
By the bonny mill~dams o' Binnorie.

And there sits my sister who drowned me
By the bonny mill~dams o' Binnorie.

And with this, the harp broke. I liked the story, even though it was sad. I never understand why people can be jealous. We went to bed soon after.

The days flew by, and it was not before long that I woke up, to find a light curtain of snow falling outside, and it was Christmas. I hurried to get dressed into warm clothes, and told Adrianne I was going to town. I saddled Rhys, and cantered to town. I bought the presents for Peter, and rode back. I wrapped my parcels in the stables, and slipped them under my pillow, to be remembered later. Me being an honest person, Peter had already bought mine. I never pry into his mind without a serious reason. Peter, on the other hand, is a naughty boy, and always tries to find what I got him. It is the same on our birthdays.

I was late to breakfast, and as I sat in my chair before the table, I said, "I apologize for being so late. I guess I overslept."

"Oh its all right. Eat just a little, for we have a large supper tonight. If you all don't mind, I have invited one of my old best friends for supper, to join us. She says she knows you both already. I wondered how," said Robyn.

"What is her name?" I asked through a mouthful of marmalade on toast.

"Laura Raynor. Didn't I introduce her to you at the dance?"

"Yes, she was the only girl, besides Adrianne, that Peter danced with. She is a very sweet lass, and I would be pleased to have her for supper," I said.

"Oh, I am so glad. As soon as you are finished, we shall enter the music room."

"Won't the view be gorgeous, what with all the snow?" said Jonathan.

"Yes, and we shall hear beautiful music, shan't we Delwyn?" said Peter, prodding me in the ribs.
"Oh, go stick you head in the sand," I growled.

After I was done eating, I went to my room, and put on one of my best dresses. An emerald green, plain dress fitted over my slim figure, with a red sash at my thin waist. Red slippers covered my feet. Rubies hung at my ears, and around my neck. A white cape was draped over my shoulders and two red brooches pinned it onto the dress.

I dressed Adrianne in a red dress with a white apron, and let her borrow some diamond earrings and a necklace for her adornments. She was smiling gaily, the whole time. "What are you smiling at?" I asked her.

"I was thinking of all the nice presents I got for you, Peter, Jonathan, and Robyn. I have never been this happy in my life!" she exclaimed, and clapped her hands for joy.

This made me happier than ever. I wonder what she will think when she receives all her presents? I wondered.

We all met outside of the music room. Peter and Jonathan were in their best suits, both looking extremely handsome. Robyn was in a blue dress with yellow as her second color. We opened the doors, and gasped at the sight before us. The Christmas Tree was decorated from the angel at the top, to the last string of tinsel at the bottom. Candles were lit all up and down the pine. A pile of presents lay beneath it. Full stockings, embroidered by Robyn and I in secret, hung precariously from nails in the mantle place. The piano was decorated with silver tinsel which looked especially pretty for the black wood. A bracket of lighted candles stood on top. The windows were bordered with pine wreaths, with red bows. The curtains were drawn back to reveal a world blanketed with a soft white snow, unbroken by man.

We all quickly recovered our senses, and sat around the tree. A servant handed out the presents to their receivers. Hot chocolate and meringues laid on plates were within arms distance away. After all was delivered, we each took turns in opening just one while everybody else watched. I went first, seeing as I was the only female guest. It was a book of Christmas songs for the piano. I smiled wryly at Jonathan, the giver. He said, "I gave it to you for a reason. I would like to hear you try a few before the end of the day."

"All right, I guess there is no way I can refuse. Thank you very much, Jonathan," I said, and got up to give him a Christmas hug.

Peter got a pair of woolly socks, sent from his Nurse. This sent tears into my eyes, which I remained hidden except for Peter. He thought, I received a telegram while you were sick. It wasn't your Nurse who died, only one of the maids. I think her name was Claire. I rejoiced silently at this, though I felt guilty. I never did like Claire. She was mean.

Adrianne obtained a pair of warm slippers. Robyn received a new diary for next year. And Jonathan got a new set of quills and a bottle of ink. From there, we just opened them at random. Adrianne was shocked at all she got. I laughed inside. I was given a good many useful things. Books, a set of ribbons, ten new handkerchiefs, a pair of skates, a necklace, a journal for all the books I read, a sketch pad with pencils, and more. But none of them were from Peter. I began to wonder what he had up his sleeve. I still didn't dare try to read his mind.

After everyone was finished, I sat down at the piano, and worked my way easily through the entire book. It was nice to have this set of challenges before me. After I had reviewed each, the whole household gathered behind me, servants and masters alike. We sang every single carol we could think of, plus the ones in the book. Then the servants obtained their gifts, and left in a rare bliss. Adrianne, Robyn, and Jonathan went with them to see their faces.

I was meddling around at the piano, playing odd tunes here and there, when Peter came up from behind me, and kissed me deeply on the mouth. I rested in his arms, stunned. Then he pulled away, and said, "Never stand or sit beneath mistletoe unless you want to get kissed."

"You rat," I said, and then resumed my practicing.

Laura came, and we sat down to a large meal. Turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, peas, and green beans all lay on the table. The best silver, and the best china was set in their places. Cider was poured into each wine glass, as none of us drank alcohol. We ate heartily, and then ate a slice of Christmas cake, and a slice of Christmas pudding with white sauce or custard on top, each. I don't know about the others, but I was stuffed.

"Why don't we go skating to work some of this food off? It will be great fun, especially with the snow," suggested Peter.

We all agreed, and went to change into warmer clothes. I decided not to risk skating, and resigned myself to watching. Along the way, we had two short snowball fights, and three people thrown into the snow. I was lucky, and dodged all attempts to get me.   The others all skated, and I leaned against the tree. Slowly, the figures on the ice blurred, and I soon fell asleep.

 

© 2000 Copyright held by the author.

 

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