KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
Blushing and bashful, Melvin smiled and didn’t meet Lady Viola’s gaze, something she found charming and respectful and all too rare. “Oh, good day to you, Lady Viola. Fine weather, eh? Looks to be a sunny day. Hopefully not too hot, though. I’m not partial to a hot day. Makes me sweat too much.”
He cringed as if he was embarrassed by that admission, and she found that charming, too. “I, too, dislike a very hot day,” she said, boldly taking his arm and leading him away from the chapel, the hall and her aunt. “The chapel is certainly cool enough. I’ve noticed you there before.”
“You have?” he cried with unabashed delight. He quickly grew serious. “It does a fellow good to ponder something important at the start of the day, before he gets bogged down in things like what the fishmonger wants to be paid for a basket of eels or what the wine merchant thinks his latest offering is worth, or if a farmer’s late with his tithe.”
“You find such things tiresome?”
“God save me, I do! And difficult. I mean, maybe the farmer’s had a bad crop, or his wife’s ill, or his child died. Unfortunately, all the pence add up so I have do have to deal with such things.”
“If you had a wife to run your household, that would save you a great deal of trouble, wouldn’t it?”
She’d never seen a man’s face go so red with a blush as Sir Melvin’s did. “Oh, well, someday, I hope to marry, you know, provided I can find a woman willing to take me. I haven’t got a lot to offer.”
“Perhaps you should let a woman decide that.”
He cleared his throat and looked down at his toes. “I suppose so.”
She would have liked to ask if Sir Melvin had any particular young woman in mind for a wife, but that was too bold even for her, and might even make the bashful young man avoid her. “Have you any brothers or sisters?”
“Alas, no longer,” he said sorrowfully. “I had two older brothers – fine fellows, too, they were. Either of them would have made an excellent master of the estate when my father died last year. Nobody ever thought that would fall to me. I was supposed to enter the church. I spent the past few years in a monastery studying.
“Not that I was a brilliant scholar,” he added with typical self-effacement. “Had a devil of a time with Latin verbs. Sum esse fui is about all I remember now, and that’s a small triumph, I assure you. Mind you, I did enjoy the histories, myths and legends, such as they let us read. Funny, I didn’t have nearly as hard a time translating the as the Biblical texts.”
“Probably because the histories and stories were more interesting. I, too, enjoy stories from the past,” she replied. “The history of Rome and Greece, tales of Ulysses and Troy -- although I have no good opinion of Helen. Or Paris, either.”
“Nor I!” Melvin cried, his eyes lighting with pleasure. “That Paris fellow always seemed to miss the battles, whisked off by some helpful feminine deity or another, although the war was all his fault. And Helen – she may not have been happily wed, but she should have tried to make the best of it. I expect any woman who marries me....”
He fell silent as Lord Barengar came staggering around the corner of the nearby stables. His cousin’s hair was disheveled, his tunic askew and he had a wineskin in his hand.
“If you’ll pardon me, my lady,” Sir Melvin said quickly, gently lifting Lady Viola’s hand from his arm, “I believe my cousin requires my assistance.”
She watched as Melvin trotted across the yard to meet his cousin, who greeted him with “What ho, old man! Praying again, eh? Won’t help you a bit, Fatty!”
If she thought Melvin had been red-faced before, it was nothing compared to his scarlet cheeks now. It would have served his insulting cousin right if Melvin had left him to fall headlong into the horse trough. Instead, he put his shoulder beneath his cousin’s, just as he had his injured squire’s, and helped Lord Barengar toward the guest chambers.
Tempted though she was to offer her assistance, Viola decided against it. Melvin would probably be as embarrassed and ashamed as if he were the drunkard, and she didn’t want to cause him any more distress.
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH AND THE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.