KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
The next day Melvin headed toward the rose garden. Alphonse had told him that Lady Anne and some of the other noblewomen had gathered there. A quick survey showed Melvin that Viola wasn’t with her aunt in the garden, and for that he was grateful.
To catch his hostess’s attention, he purposefully stumbled into a rose bush. A thorn scratched his hand and as he wiped away the blood, Lady Anne rose and came bustling toward him, her veil fluttering behind her. “You’ve broken a branch!” she declared, frowning.
“Terribly sorry, my lady,” he replied. “I’m always barging and bumping into things. Clumsy oaf, that’s what I am. One reason I’m no good at games, or tournaments, either,” he added with a self-conscious laugh that was only partly feigned. “Barengar –- my cousin, Lord Barengar, I mean -- was wondering if your niece might be here. I said I’d look and see.”
At the mention of Barengar’s name, Lady Anne’s expression changed to one of delight. “Your cousin was asking?”
“Yes, he’s quite taken with her. Of course, what man wouldn’t be, eh? Such a lovely girl! And he realizes she’s from a very important family.”
“So is he. I understand his father is a good friend of King John,” Lady Anne replied with a gleam in her eye that told Melvin where her interest truly lay, and it wasn’t with her niece’s happiness.
“Oh, yes,” Melvin replied, rocking back and forth on his heels, his thumbs in his belt. “So far, anyway. The king’s a capricious, suspicious sort of fella, though, isn’t he? Still, Lord de Morraine – Barengar’s father, that is -- can probably keep in his good graces, although so many often don’t. It costs him a small fortune to entertain the king if he decides to come to his castle on a progress. Have you ever had to entertain the king and his entourage?”
Lady Anne shook her head and looked slightly less excited.
“Oh, dear me, Lord de Morraine spends a fantastic sum, what with the food and entertainment and extra servants and grooms and things. The poor man’s coffers were almost emptied the last time the king came his way.”
“I thought Lord de Morraine was rich,” Lady Anne warily replied.
“He used to be. Very rich. But then there’s the cost of the king’s visits and fitting up his sons for tournaments and well, there’s... ” He shook his head. “Maybe I’d better not talk about his wife’s extravagances. What do I know about the price of women’s clothes and things anyway, eh? Maybe what she spends isn’t strange, although I must say I thought fifty marks for a single gown rather a lot.”
“Fifty marks?” Lady Anne cried, aghast. “Was that for the king’s visit?”
“Oh, no. Just a gown she wanted. Of course, Barengar would never spend that much on his clothes. Armor, though, he’d spend more. Or a helmet or surcoat. Necessary expenses, he calls such things. He likes to look good for the tournaments, and who can blame him? I would, too, if I was as handsome as he is. Mind you, good looks can be expensive in another way. He’s gotten a few of his female admirers in an interesting way and had to pay...”
He gasped, widened his eyes and put his fingers to his lips. “Oh, dear me, I probably shouldn’t say anything about that. He can afford to have his sport or will be able to again if he marries well, unless the king decides to….”
He looked down as if embarrassed. “There I go again, talking too much.” He raised his head and regarded Lady Anne with a woeful smile. “He’s a good chap, really, even if he drinks too much and gambles. He wins sometimes, after all. And about the women, well, I’m sure he’ll settle down once he’s married. Or after a few years.”
He began to back away. “I think I’ll leave you now, my lady, if you’ll pardon me.”
“Good day, Sir Melvin,” Lady Anne snapped before she turned on her heel and marched back to her friends.
This work is protected by copyright. See sidebar for notice.
Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH AND THE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.