The Barbary Pirates, Part One
The Barbary Pirates, Part One
|By Jade_Hawkins (Original complete version at SelectSmart.com/commentary/blog.php?m=1377
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Chapter One: Pirates!
Once upon a time, in the age of vicious pirates and princesses and princes, kings and queens, there lived a beautiful princess with flowing black hair, that all of the princes and kings of the land longed to be their queen, named Princess Monica. Mallorca, a Mediterranean island that was part of the Balearic Islands was where a glittering castle sat on a mountain, where she lived. She had twelve brothers (which were all younger than her but one) and seven sisters (all of them younger). She was fifteen years old. Besides the fact that her royal mother, the queen, insisted that she be married by her next birthday, she had lived a very happy life until this time.
There was also, in the village of Calisborough, under the mountain, a man named Shawn. He was a Greek silversmith and he made swords, and was often drunk. He was a coward and spent most of his time in the town taverns drinking beer. He married in Greece and moved with his wife to Mallorca where his wife gave birth to a son and died in childbirth. His son, whom the midwife had named Jack, grew up in the village and took on his father’s inherited profession as a silversmith and soon became well-known, He, unlike his father, was kind, compassionate, and brave.
That autumn, there was a sickness that was affecting the village. It was feared even more than smallpox, or poison ivy. They called it crimson fever from the red color of the ill one’s face.
Now we must turn to the princess Monica. One sunny afternoon, she had sneaked away from the castle and was walking by the seashore, on a cliff over looking the water, and had seen something in the distance.
She did not know what it was. Maybe it was her father, the king, coming back from the fight at Menorca, an island not far from Mallorca, where a rebellion had begun, and her father, the king, had gone to settle it. Oh, what a surprise that would be to see him.
She looked at the castle on the mountain, admiring its white towers, its strong walls, and its terraced gardens. It had been built in the mid-fourteen hundreds by one of her grandsires after winning the island.
Then, she looked out to sea again. She squinted and tried to make out the flag that was normally mounted at the peak of the mast. What she saw made her face turn pale and sent her shaking hand to her wide open mouth. She saw the faintest glitter of a black flag, high up in the sky.
It was then that she found her voice and screamed.
“The pirates! The pirates! They are landing! Oh, no! They are coming, run!”
“What is it, Lord John? Who is running?” said Lord Jacques, an advisor of her father, who was near sighted. He was propped up on pillows in the castle, on the second floor in sight of the window looking out to the sea.
“It appears to be the Princess,” said the bewildered Lord John, who was seated in a similar manner beside the Lord Jacques.
“I thought she was in the garden!” his friend replied, who sat upright in his chair.
“Well…it seems that she was not. I cannot understand her, for she is too far away. I wonder what the trouble is. Oh, maybe her father, the King, has arrived. Hmpf, I wanted to surprise him with a feast to celebrate his victorious return to the kingdom!” the downhearted Lord John grumbled.
“The pirates are landing! Hide! They are attacking the island!” shrieked the terrified princess.
There were cries and screams of terror that followed this statement. Many fainted on the spot. But most ran in fright, to the shelter of the forest. The Princes ran with her ladies-in-waiting: Buttercup and Lilie, sisters, Dahlia and Susan, sisters, Rose and Poinsettia, sisters, Clover, and the garden boy Oliver; down the hallway to the armory and the gathered weapons. Before they had reached the door, she looked back. The king’s brother Sir Michaelo, her uncle, who was very deaf, had not heard the message. He did not know that it was the pirates that were at the door, so he opened it, seeing that it was swaying under to their furious knocking.
“Uncle, no!” Monica screamed.
He opened the door, and the pirate closest to the door stabbed him in the heart.
“Noooo!” cried the princess as he slipped lifelessly to the floor.
“Stop, you! There she is! The princess! Get her!” The pirate shouted as he scrambled to get the man out of his way.
They reached the door. They grabbed as many swords as they could carry. The princess and her party went into the adjoining chamber, the garden, and locked the door. They were all out of breath. Then, they sat down on a bench. Monica wrapped her embroidered shawl around her more tightly as a stiff breeze stirred the leaves of the trees in the garden. Her ladies-in-waiting tried to comfort her.
“We mustn’t make a sound,” said Monica. “If the hear us, we shall all either die, or be captured. Now, we must not panic. This kind of thing happens every where. They know where we are. We must be ready, if they should start coming over the walls.”
Just then, they heard, “Yaharr! Princessa!”
They all started, looked in the direction of the voice, and gasped in surprise! One of them was coming over the wall!
The princess ran to another door, and opened it. She stood looking into a large courtyard filled with boulders and old trees intertwined together. She hurried into the courtyard, closed, and locked the door behind her. She walked a short distance and heaved upon a section of one of the boulders. A door opened in the rock, camouflaged by the vines covering it. Monica peered down the dark, gloomy passageway. She waved to her ladies-in-waiting, and they all followed her into the darkness. The door closed behind them.
Chapter Two: Help
The dark passageway in which the princess was in was soon lit by several torches. The passageway led to a large room. They lit a fire in the hearth, and were soon warm. The firelight cast eerie shadows on the walls around them.
“Dahlia,” whispered Monica to one of her ladies-in-waiting, as she beckoned to her to move away from the others, “Would you do something for me?”
Dahlia said, “Yes, my princess. How is it that I can be of service to you?”
“Listen to me,” the princess said, trying to look on the bright side, “We do not have any food left, after that delicious lunch a few hours ago. I need you to go and find someone to help us. Tell them to get some food and things to cook with.”
“Yes, my princess,” said Dahlia.
She walked towards the passageway through which they had entered. Then, she turned, and said, “Your Majesty?”
“Yes, what is it?” said Monica.
“Pray for me, for I do not know how long it shall take for me to find someone to help.”
“Yes, I shall pray for you, Dahlia.”
Dahlia walked away into the passageway and disappeared.
Now we shall return to Shawn. When the pirates raided the town after the castle, Jack ran away into the woods. His father, who, and I have said, was a drunkard, was awoken from his sleep by a hard knock on the door.
“Open this door or we will do it ourselves!” yelled one of the pirates.
“I’m a’comin’, I’m a’comin’!” yelled Shawn. Then, as he walked towards the door, he mumbled under his breath, ‘I would be a’comin’ faster if you’d jus’ hush up an’ wait…’
When he reached the door, he unlatched it and opened it. “Wot da—ain’t you dem pirates? Oh, go awhey! I don’ wan’ you a’stayin’ aroun’ ‘ere an’ dizdurbin’ me! I wan’ you to go awhey!”
The pirates had been stunned for a minute, but finally one of them finally acted. He grabbed Shawn by the collar and actually picked him off of the ground. (Shawn was a somewhat short man. Some of the people that saw him every day thought it was a result of all of his drinking. They’d joke around and say that because he did not ever reach for things, because he was so lazy, he stayed short.) “Where’s all o’ yer swords? Where are all o’ yer guns and knives an’ all o’ yer stuff?”
Well, Shawn walked slowly into his house. He brought out boxes and boxes of his best knives and swords.
“Now, is that all?” said the pirate, drawing his pistol. “You ain’t keepin’ any o’ dat for you’ self, yer swab, are yer? ‘Cause if you are, den I would have to not let yer get off so easy!”
“Naw, thissis all I got,” said Shawn, downhearted.
Earlier, his son, Jack, gathered all of the food he could carry (which wasn’t much because of his extreme poverty) and his sword and headed for the woods as fast as he could when he heard the news that there were pirates attacking the castle. When he reached his destination, about five miles away from the town and a quarter mile away from the castle, he started to look for the landmark he had seen a few weeks ago: a large stone which reminded one of a large ugly nose cracked down the middle. As soon as Jack found it, he climbed on top of it. It was only about five feet down on the side that he had climbed up on, but it was a good twenty or thirty foot to the ground on the other side. He looked out at the beautiful scene that met his sight: a mountain upon which sat a glittering castle. He sighed, knowing that this was as close as he could be to it safely. The pirates were already leaving; their newly stolen carts piled high with their loot. He hoped that all would be restored to the castle soon.
A sudden anger raged up within him against the pirates. ‘Why could they not pick on someone somewhere else? This is the kingdom of King Reed and Queen Flora! And all of those people who did not even have a chance to protest for their life, they had been slain because of someone’s greed: it is a terrible thing: when you have it, you only want more and more – until it crushes you,’ he thought. He stared at the castle and then closed his eyes and felt the wind fill his cloak like a sail on a ship. He then decided to do a very brave thing. He said out loud, ‘If no one will save these people, then I shall!’
He slid down off of the rock and bounded for the cliff upon which the rock sat. He thought of going back to his father’s shop to get a gun; then thought better of it. The cliff had a slope to it of about fifty degrees. He slid down its rocky surface until he reached the bottom. Oh, torture! He twisted his ankle! He howled and hopped on one foot in pain. He had resolved, though, to help the people, and he was still going to, twisted ankle or not. He then hobbled the quarter mile or so to the king’s castle. After he reached the very outside of the castle grounds, on a small, dirt road, he stopped running to catch his breath. He looked around the bend, just in time to see a small, hooded figure, about five feet tall. He could not see its face, but he could tell that it was a woman, or at least, a girl. As the figure drew nearer, he could identify a basket under her arm. He stepped around the bend, in full vision of the person. The person stopped, and seemed to hesitate. Then, Jack said, in a strong, clear voice, “Don’t be afraid. I will not hurt you.”
The figure said, in a young voice, ‘Will you please tell me who you are, I am not sure if I can trust you…’
“My name is Jack, and I am in no way related to those rebel pirates. You need not fear me!” he said first with a stern voice, and then, realizing that he seemed too austere, laughed.
“Where are you going, sir?” said the girl, who still wore her hood.
“I was heading for the castle, or what ever is left of it. Do you know if the princess is in safe hands, or if she has been captured?” he asked, anxiously.
The girl lifted her hood. Jack saw that she had flowing black hair, and that she had a look of royalty in her face.
“I am one of the princess’ ladies-in-waiting. And I may assure you, she is well hidden.”
“What—what can I do?”
The girl thought for a moment, and then looked up at him. “You can come and help.”
“But—but how? I am only a silversmith, I—I know nothing of pirates, or—or anything reasonable, I —”
“Follow me.” The girl started to walk down the hill (for it was a hill that the road that he had been following was on) and beckoned to him.
At first he hesitated, for he had heard many stories of people being tricked by witches disguised as beautiful ladies. He decided to follow her anyway. He had his sword.
The girl turned to face him and said, “Come on, Jack. Do you know how important it is that you make sure the princess is well? If she has been captured while we were away, then the fate of this kingdom is at stake. Her royal brother was slain merely hours ago. She is the eldest of her kin, and if she is captured and killed just like him, the kingdom would be at stake. He sisters and brothers are too young to know how to rule, or even how to stay alive in this time of tragedy. If the kingdom falls, all the lives of those in Calisborough would be at stake. Your life, Jack, would be at stake.”
Jack sighed, for he had not agreed to go simply to listen to a lecture on lives being at stake and what not, “Yes, but where are we going? It looks like you are leading me into a wood. What—”
“Please be quiet!” Dahlia hissed, “We are nearing the castle grounds. We must not make a sound.”
Jack looked around him. He saw huge boulders that were so old and covered with vegetation that they almost looked like hills made of moss and leaves. He wanted to ask, Why must I be so silent? This does not look like the castle grounds! Who are you, anyway?, but he kept his mouth closed, knowing that Dahlia must have some reason to be quiet. He almost felt like he was being led into a trap, but then he remembered what she had said about the whole kingdom being at stake, and followed her as quietly as he could. The shadows grew longer as the sun let its last rays touch the earth in a warm embrace, only to be torn away in the sudden darkness and cold of night.
Chapter Three: The Underground Escapees
The princess was very sad that her kingdom was at risk. The pirates had the power to kill all of the leaders, all of her brothers and sisters, and all of the dukes and duchesses, lords and ladies, and everyone that was in the castle. Her father was soon to return, and when he did, what would he find? Would he ever return alive? She feared this above all else. After sending Dahlia on the mission, she decided to lie down in one of the adjoining bedrooms. One was made especially for her, and was furnished in the best Spanish taste. She plopped down on the bed and sighed.
That night the princess had a terrible dream. In that dream, pirates were led to their hiding place by Dahlia and a young man. The pirates slew all in their path, and were coming for her…
She woke with a start and sat straight up in bed. “Oh!” she whispered as she sank back into the pillows, “it was only a dream, just a dream. I wonder what’s keeping Dahlia. She should’ve been here by now, I am worried…” she fell back asleep. But even in her dreams, she kept wondering what had happened to Dahlia, and if she was bringing anyone to save them.
Meanwhile, Dahlia was getting desperate.
“Oh,” said Dahlia after it had already gotten dark, “Oh, and I was so sure that it was the right one. Oh, Jack, please assist me. I cannot find the right spot on this rock. If you can—that is, could you please try to push on all of the taller slabs up there?”
“Alright,” said Jack, as he began to poke and prod the taller spots up above. All of a sudden, they heard a sound like the crack of a twig. Dahlia spun around on her heel, and searched for the maker of the sound. She whispered, “Jack, hide behind the rock. I—”
Jack decided not to say, “What, Dahlia?”, but picked up a stone and thrust it toward a tree in the distance, almost invisible in the misty moonlight, which muddled everything. He heard a voice say, “He went that way! After ‘im!” He heard another thump and then he saw, dimly, the small form of Dahlia. He gasped. She was bleeding on the head!
He almost screamed! The princess’ lady-in-waiting was injured! One of the pirates must have thrown a rock at her! He was no surgeon, but he knew that he needed to stop the bleeding, so he took his bandanna from his pocket and wrapped it around her head. He immediately began heaving on all of the slabs of rock as tears streamed down his face and his twisted ankle hurt even worse. Finally, he pulled the right one and the door swung open. Then, in despair, covered in mud all over and in some places blood, he cried out and fainted inside of the passage.
When he finally came to, he was in a low-lighted room and someone was stooping over him. Someone must have touched his foot and he cried out in pain!
“Ah! My foot—I—I think I twisted it sliding down that hill,” he gasped.
As he tried to sit up, his vision clouded and his head felt heavy. He blinked, and saw, in the light of a fire, women caring for someone else besides him. Someone said, “Lay down; you’re not well. Lay back down.”
He lay down and asked, “Who are you? And where am I? I—I don’t remember.”
“You are in the secret underground chambered of Her Highness, the princess. You saved the life of her lady-in-waiting but fainted soon after entering the tunnel. We found you and Dahlia lying on the floor just inside of the door and carried you in here. You have been here for about three hours. Here, drink some of this.”
The milk was still warm and creamy, straight from the goat. He then asked his first question again after he had finished: “So, what is your name?”
The girl smiled and said, “My name is Buttercup, daughter of the Duchess Petunia.”
He smiled back and said, “My name is Jack, son of the silversmith Shawn.”
“Oh. I see,” she said, bandaging a wound on his arm, “and—are you also a silversmith?”
“Yes. My father and I made all of the swords that you own.”
“Hmmm. I see. Did you make Lord Peridian’s sword? Er, the one that had the golden hilt with the emeralds that he received last year?”
“Yes! That was the best sword that I have ever made. I loved that sword. I sure hope that the pirates never got it. I—ow!” he caught his breath as she put something that stung on his scarred face. He had scraped it against a tree branch, and the scrapes across his face were perilously close to his eyes.
“Now close your eyes,” Buttercup cautioned him, “this would be terribly painful if it got in them. Where’d these scratches come from? You look as if you were in a fight.”
“Yes, I was. A man in the street made an appalling joke about Princess Monica, so I punched him right between the eyes. He got up in a moment and went bawling into the square and his big brother came after me. So I reached back and gave him a huge punch that I aimed for his chin, but that went a bit low. He choked, and I stepped back. He got his father and he whipped me four times across my arm before I could get away. It stung. Then I ran back home. I just could not help it, I mean, he’d never learn his lesson if I just held my peace! I just could not let him say that about the princess.” He was getting his blood pumping from just thinking about it.
“Well, I don’t think fighting was exactly the right solution for that, but I shall personally ask the princess to ask the King when he returns to make it a law that anyone that jokes about any royal person shall be sent to jail for two days without food or water. That shall teach him a lesson, and everyone else that does.”
Jack looked away, and, seeing Dahlia, turned back and said, “How is Dahlia?”
“Oh, she has getting along. She really took a blow to her head, though. Do you know what it was?”
He winced again as she removed the cloth and blew on it so that it would dry. “Er…no. I think that a pirate must have thrown something at her, for she suddenly fell to the ground in mid-sentence and I threw a rock in the opposite direction. The pirates followed the sound, thinking that it was us. We very nearly escaped. It wasn’t too long until I found the right slab on the boulder and got inside. But as soon as I saw the blood on her head, I felt sick. I barely had the strength to get her through the door before everything went black. I—I did not remember what happened until you told me where I was and I saw Dahlia.” All of a sudden, his head felt light and his eyes heavy and he whispered, “Oh, what a terrible headache!”
“Here, drink this. It is cold ginger tea, and it will help your head.”
He sipped the tea and then sighed. “I feel so terrible. Like—like I would as if I had just drank seven-day old milk—or—or, almost as if I was sick. Yes. I must have a fever. Do I—does my head feel hot?”
Buttercup felt his head gently, placing her cool hands on his feverish brow. “Yes. I know, without a doubt, that you are indeed sick. Wait a moment while I go and ask Lilie. Her brother has had many sicknesses, and she knows far more than I.”
Chapter Four: The Sickness
She walked around the bed and over to where the other ladies were all huddled and came back with a girl named Lilie. She had fair hair but dark skin. She looked at Jack and felt his head. “I am not sure. It is definitely some kind of fever, but I am not sure which. How do you feel?”
Jack answered hoarsely, “My head hurts terribly, and my throat is so dry, but I feel fine, ahem, everywhere else. But tis’ mostly my head that ails me.”
“Hmmm… It does not sound like any kind of fever I have ever heard of.”
All of a sudden, Lilie’s voice seemed to fade and Jack had a sudden feeling of fear creep over him. He shuddered, and rubbed his eyes with his free right arm, because his other was bandaged. All of a sudden, he had a tingling feeling up and down his back. He was hot and frightened.
“What is wrong, Jack?” Buttercup asked worriedly.
His breath came in gasps. “I am—I am so hot!”
“His cheeks are… oh, no.”
“What is it, Lilie? You look—dreadful!”
“I think that it is no ordinary fever. Tis’ got to be… crimson fever.”
Jack gulped. He had heard about all of the people that had died suddenly from something that people called crimson fever from the flush look in the victim’s face. It was not something that anyone had yet survived. His future looked dark. He did not know what would happen to him. He did not want to die! He still wanted to save the princess and do what he could to save the whole kingdom if he could. This was not what he was expecting. No one knew what the cure or the cause was.
“Let’s move him to another room.”
“I don’t know; it just seems to help sometimes.”
“Oh, whatever! Just don’t blame me if he dies.”
Just then, Jack coughed and gasped for breath.
“Get him a drink. Some water would do him good. I don’t know what else to do. Where should we take him?”
Now, six of the ladies were involved. Only Poinsettia was left to care for Dahlia. She sat next to her bed and changed her head bandages every few minutes.
“You can let him have my room,” Buttercup said, hesitantly.
“How shall we get him there? We don’t have the strength to carry him as he is,” Lilie pointed out. She was always very practical and organized.
“We can do it somehow…one way or another…” Oliver encouraged, “we just have to work together…”
“We could make a litter of sorts, and carry him that way,” Rose said, who was always the optimistic innovative one with all of the ideas.
“That, my friend, is a wonderful idea,” Clover said, patting her on the back, and then adding as she walked past to get the materials, “for once.” She wasn’t always the nicest of ladies-in-waiting, but the others dealt with it.
One by one, all but Buttercup left the room to gather things to make it with. Clover went with Lilie to get staves strong enough to support him, while Rose and Susan went to find sewing supplies and a sturdy cloth. Then, they met in another room to show what they had gathered. Clover and Lilie had found two seven-foot one inch in diameter staves that had been used to pull curtains back and had been sharpened for the use of weapons and were in the sword cabinet. Rose and Susan found some thick thread and some strong material. They worked long into the night and finally made a stretcher that was long enough. It was four feet wide and almost seven feet long. They went to check on Jack before they put him on it. He was sweating, but still shivering. He had fallen into a fitful sleep and was tossing and turning. They had a whispering conference.
“Should we wake him?”
“I don’t know, but I certainly don’t think that we should leave him sleeping like this. I don’t know! Just ask Lilie.”
“Wot? Oh, well, I think that we should just get him onto it as carefully as possible. I have had a few sicknesses and I know that whenever I am woken from sleep, I always find that I always wish that I had stayed asleep. So let’s just not wake him up, but nudge him onto the stretcher and carry him to the room.”
Everyone thought that this was good advice, so they went back into the room quietly with the stretcher and carefully edged him onto it. It took four of them to carry him, and one to open the door. Now, Poinsettia washed her hands and took Susan’s place and Susan took hers. Buttercup held the door open while they carried him past. They went through the door, into the center room, and into Buttercup’s room. They eased him, slowly and carefully, onto the four-poster bed just as Buttercup was coming through the door with the bowl of cold water. Then, as most of them did not want to get the sickness, they walked out of the room, slowly, one by one, except for Buttercup. She stayed sitting on the stool by his side. His cheeks were red with fever. He woke up after she had been sitting there for about fifteen minutes. He turned over and said in a raspy voice, “Hello.”
“Hello,” came her cheerless reply. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” he said, smiling a weak smile, “But my head still hurts. I say, have you anything to eat around here? I am afraid I have worked up a terrible appetite. Some soup and milk would sound good about now.”
Buttercup smiled and said, “I will go get some. Do you need anything else?”
“Maybe another pillow,” he said, staring at the ceiling, “so that I can sit up.”
She laughed and smiled at him. “Of course; there’s a pillow over there. I will get it for you.”
“I am so hot. Tis’ so strange; sometimes I am burning up, but at other times I am freezing as if I was on top of a mountain in the middle of winter. Being hot is a bit better than cold, though. I feel more like myself. I get hot in the sun all of the time in the heat of the day when I am in my shop working near the furnace. But this is different. I feel—I feel as if I have been running forever but never getting anywhere, and as if there is no wind. I can barely stand it. Being in the shop reminds me—I—” he winced as he lifted his head for Buttercup to slide the pillow under him—“I think that most people don’t ever know how hard we work just to keep the things we own, when other people get everything thing they need and more without having to do anything. Tis’ just what they take for granted. I was just thinking, if I ever live through this, I want to ask the king to help out the poor people in the towns on the island. I know tis’ much to ask, but, if I don’t live, well…”
“I know that you shall live, but just to make you feel better, I promise that I shall ask His Majesty for you.” Seeing the look on his face, she added, “Don’t worry, I am sure that someone shall find a cure.”
And with that, she sang a song to help him sleep.
In a hidden valley, across the hill and vale,
There lives a man in a house made of shale.
He lives alone, he stays at home,
Except when he receives his mail.
They say that a leaf grows in his garden
On a life giving tree,
It heals the head and heals the heart
And oft where hearts meet
It heals the men of crimson fire,
And none it cannot defeat.
Jack had almost fallen asleep, when he said, “I say Buttercup: that seems like the cure…” and then he nodded off.
‘The cure… the cure… aha! The cure!” Buttercup whispered excitedly, “The cure for crimson fever! Oh, Jack, you are a genius! Just wait a moment while I tell Lilie!”
Jack smiled as he fell into a deep sleep.
Chapter Five: The Cure
She got up at once and fairly flew out of the room crying, “The cure! The cure! I know the cure!”
Of course, she woke all of the ladies, and of course, they all wondered what she meant. “The cure! The cure for the fever!”
“What on earth do you mean, you’ve found the cure?” Clover fumed, “There is no cure! You’re crazy! You must have gotten it also!”
“No, I am not! I am serious! Tis’ in the song!” Buttercup insisted, “Jack… I was singing Jack to sleep when he muttered that it must be the cure!”
Rose, who had come out of the room where Dahlia was, said, “Wait; what song?”
“Oh, you know… the song about the man that lives in a hidden valley with his house, and the leaf in his garden that heals everything?”
“Oh, that song,” Clover said, rolling her eyes, “Who ever believes those songs that old Benjamin sings?”
“I believe her,” Lilie said, putting her hands on her hips and staring Clover in the face.
Then, Rose, always happy, put on a stern face and joined her. “I also do.”
“And I,” added Poinsettia.
“I do,” Oliver said, smiling at the others and then looking Clover in the face.
Then Susan, finding courage from somewhere, said, in a determined voice, “And I.”
Then Clover, seeing that she was outnumbered, backed off, saying, “All right, All right, but don’t blame me when you never find this hidden valley. But leave me out on any of your expeditions. I am not going to die on a wild goose chase to save a poor peasant boy. But do as you like. I am going to my room.”
Lilie sighed and said, “Oh, Clover. When shall you ever see that the only reason that no one seems to like you is because you don’t seem to like anyone else?”
Then all of the ladies went into the far corner of Jack’s room and held a conference in hushed tones.
“I think that what it means by when he receives his mail, it really means chain mail, see what I mean?”
“I think that it means that the leaf that heals the head and heals the heart and oft where hearts meet… well that it heals relationships. I think. Or it heals the heart, like if someone is sad or something, it would help them to heal. Don’t you think?”
“I think that we should go over it line by line and not just saying all of our ideas at once,” Lilie said, silencing them. “All right, who knows what the first line might mean? Buttercup, could you sing it for us?”
“All right. ‘In a hidden valley, across the hill and vale’”
“Well, it means that there is a hidden valley that is across the hills.”
“Across the hills? What does that mean?”
“It means that we have to travel across the hills and vales to get to the hidden valley. Right, Buttercup?”
“Yes, that sounds right. So, tis’ saying that we have to travel over the hill and vale to get to the hidden valley!”
“All right, one line down. Sing the next, Buttercup.”
“Alright, Oliver. Ahem, ‘there lives a man in a house made of shale’.”
“A house made of shale? What’s shale?”
“Tis’ a kind of rock that comes in layers. Don’t you know anything?”
“She does know much more than thou, Lilie. Poinsettia, what other questions do you want to ask?”
“Well…Buttercup, does it mean that the man lives in a house in a cliff? I mean, are there any cliffs made of shale?”
“Yes, I do believe so. I say! That’s it! We travel across hill and vale to a cliff made of shale! Poinsettia, you’re a genius!”
“Buttercup, sing the next line! This is fun!”
“All right, all right, Oliver, all right! It goes—‘He lives alone, he stays at home,’”
“So, there’s no one else that lives with him. So how come he does not go out of his cave?”
“Maybe it means that he does not visit any one else.”
“So, the cliff must be far away from civilization, because he does not visit anyone or live with anyone. So if we go over the hills to a cliff far away from cities and towns and villages, we will find the man in his cave. Also, he must have, like, a water source in his cave or in his garden.”
“How do you know he had a garden, Lilie?”
“Well, Rose, it says it in the verse after the next! Would you sing the next line, Buttercup?”
“Of course… ‘Except when he receives his mail.’”
“Who said that it meant chain mail? I think that it means that we have to look for a cave with a garden and a mailbox outside. Does anyone have any more suggestions?”
“I think, Lilie, that it means that he has friends or relatives. Maybe we could start out by asking around to see if anyone knows him and could give us more directions.”
“That’s a wonderful idea! The next line goes, ‘They say that a leaf grows in his garden.’”
“So, he had a garden with a leaf in it. That’s easy.”
“So, that’s all? It is not part of the code?”
“I guess so, because it’s not a fruit, and it is most likely on a tree. But it might be on a bush, or grow up from the ground. Well, I guess so. Right, Buttercup?”
“Yes, I think so also. The next line goes: ‘On a life giving tree,’”
“The leaf grows on a life giving tree. A life giving tree?”
“So, what is a life giving tree? I have never heard this song.”
“Well, I think that it just means that the tree gives life. I guess, because if it heals crimson fever, it keeps them from death, which would mean it would give life.”
“I think the same.”
“Good, Oliver. We are getting somewhere. The next line is this: ‘It heals the head and heals the heart.’”
“So it heals a headache and heartache. That’s easy also. I think that it should be harder. My head needs to work.”
“It started out hard, remember. The next line goes: ‘And oft where hearts meet.’”
“Where hearts meet… where hearts meet… where do hearts meet?”
“Perhaps it means relationships. So it heals the head, and the heart, and friendships. Sounds like a wonderful leaf to me.”
“That sounds right. What comes next, Buttercup?”
“It heals the ones of crimson fire’. This was what Jack was sure meant crimson fever. Tis’ got to be.”
“Well, we’ve got that. What’s the last verse?”
“And none it cannot defeat.’ It means that it shall defeat any sickness, whatever the cost, I guess.”
“That was easy!”
“So, that’s the end of it. Well, who wrote the song, anyway?”
“Old Benjamin, I think,” guessed Oliver.
‘Old Benjamin!” Buttercup suddenly exclaimed, “Do you think that he’s a relative of the man that lives in the valley? I am almost sure of it.”
“Well, who is brave enough to travel on pirate-infested roads to see if he’s alive?”
Everyone stared in Buttercup’s direction. “Are you crazy?”
“You’ve never been outside of the castle in your life!”
“Lilie should go, she knows the way! You don’t, Buttercup. What ever are you thinking?”
“I love Jack with my life. I am willing to lose it for him. Now if anyone stands in my way, they shall have to answer to the king when he returns!”
They all stepped back. “Well,” Lilie said, in a surprised voice, “you—you’d better tell Jack where you’re going. We will leave you alone for a moment.”
Chapter Six: Romance
Buttercup waited until they had all filed out of the room silently, and then she walked over to Jack’s bedside. He was so pale that the sheets hardly looked white compared to him. She woke him gently. He smiled weakly and said, ‘Oh, hello again. How are you?’
She laughed a little, “I am fine. But how are you?” She now looked at him worriedly.
“I am cold again. Tis’ so strange. I had a dream that I was floating in midair and that I saw a valley surrounded by cliffs. There was a cave in one of them. The valley was filled with trees and bushes, and there was a beautiful lake. There was a stream running through it. It was so real; and yet so… imaginary. I don’t know.” He gasped for breath and coughed. Buttercup got him a glass of cool mint tea. He pulled himself up to drink it. He was worse than he had been before, though; she could tell. He was smiling more despite this. Buttercup was comforted by his attitude which wasn’t affected by his illness. She smiled and said, “Well, when I sang you that song, we, that is, we ladies-in-waiting, found out that it really is the cure, or, rather, the code to getting to the place of the cure. I have decided that I shall go and find it.”
“You? But, then you’ll have to leave me! I—” he coughed hoarsely— I don’t want you to leave. Why will not you let someone else go?”
“I—Jack, I want to go because—well, I feel that I must go. I don’t think that anyone else would go. But I shall stay if I must. But I must go ask Old Benjamin first. It was his song. I feel that it must be that he has seen the old man that lives in the valley. You see, it is his garden that the leaf is in. I think that it is the valley that you saw in your dream. I shall come back this afternoon.”
Jack closed his eyes momentarily. He opened them again and said, “Do hurry, please, if you can help it. I miss you already.”
Buttercup smiled and stood up. “I will try to hurry. I will try. Well, good bye!”
Jack sank back on the pillows and sighed as the door closed. He knew that he loved her, but why could he not just tell her? He thought to himself, ‘She would never understand, I mean, well; how would I even say it anyway? I love you? No, that would not work… I just need to write a note or something. But… I don’t think I could. Maybe if someone comes to see me while she is gone I could ask them to write it for me and put it by the side of the bed. Yes… that would work.’
He dropped off into a peaceful slumber.
He awoke again and saw Poinsettia sitting beside him. He smiled when she saw that he was awake and murmured, “Could you—” he coughed—“could you write something for me?”
“A note? Of course I shall! What shall I write?”
He looked at the ceiling for inspiration, closed his eyes, and then began to dictate:
‘I just wanted to let you know that I love you and have from the moment that I saw you. I really don’t think that this letter shall do any good since I am merely a villager and you a duchess’ daughter, but I just wanted to tell you, because I cannot keep it inside of me.
‘The most of love,
He then opened his eyes. Poinsettia had just finished and was putting it in an envelope when he said, “What shall you seal it with? Have you a candle?”
“No, I do not. I should think that we ought to have candles, though, but we only have oil lamps. But, nevertheless, I will go and ask Lilie or Clover whether we have any.”
She walked out of the room. In a few minutes, she returned carrying a red candle on a candlestick. She sat down and waited for the wax to drip down on the letter.
When a considerable amount of wax had dripped down onto the envelope, Poinsettia let it dry on the table and then when it was dry she wrote on the cover, “From Jack, son of Shawn, to Buttercup, daughter of Lady Petunia.”
She set it on the bedside and asked, “Do you know if she loves you?”
“No, sadly. Will you—could you ask her for me?”
“Of course I shall.” Poinsettia smiled and asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
“Yes, please,” he replied, suddenly feeling hot again. He sighed.
Continued at Part Two.