At last green mountains shadows soar, I shall not be here any more
For now my past great truth has risen and I shall leave this damp dark prison
1672 in a land where Kings still ruled and castles still silhouetted the sky on high cliffs overlooking the seas near Scotland. The misty morning fog clung to the bars of Jason’s prison window as he stood transfixed by the glow of moonlight. Jason’s once forest green velvet jacket was now faded and torn. He wore it only because he had no other clothes. His trousers bore the scar of many nights in a mud packed room. Yet Jason Bitworth cared little for his appearance. His mind was fixed on one goal. He was going to escape and find the woman who had given false witness and sealed his fate as prisoner Lord of Bitworth.
His title was taken and given away as Lady Diana had spun her lies to the King. She had told him Jason was plotting overthrow him. Jason had been taken from his private bedchambers in the middle of the night by four of his own knights. Led to a carriage in chains and driven over the drawbridge to Hunters Tavern. There he was transferred to a small armed guard and transported to Whitley. It had been the great Whitley asylum where he had been imprisoned for four years. Jason couldn’t understand why he had not been killed for treason. Why put him here?
It had been four long miserable years listening to the wailing at night and the sound of rats scurrying beneath his feet. He had learned to sleep leaning against the wall. He had spent his days in exercise within the confines of his prison room. His legs and arms bulged with muscle even as he was forced to eat what was given to him. Mostly it was watered down gruel or broth made from something he could not, nor would not try to identify. He ate because he knew he would need his strength. At times he vomited it up or became ill with diarrhea from the bad food. But, he made constant conversation to his Lord and knew he would one day be free.
Tonight he would put his plan into action. He stood contemplating his plan when he heard a rustling outside his prison cell. A young man wearing a brown wrap and hood appeared silently in front of his bars. ‘Are you Jason Bitworth?’ A young voice had asked.
Jason was praying at the time and thought at first he was hearing things. There was no light in his dark prison save for the small torch that the young man held.
‘Aye ,that I am. Who wants to know?’
‘I have news for you. For in truth, you were put here under false means. Your release is to be tomorrow. Are you Jason Bitworth, the true Lord of Bitworth?’
Jason whirled around and faced the young man. ‘Do not think to toy with me! I’ve withstood four years in this hell, surely you can come up with a better means for entertainment! Be gone, tell the guards you’ve had your fun!’ Many nights the guards had goaded him and tried to trick him into thinking he was going to be set free that day. He had long since ignored their remarks. He turned back around. He stood facing the dark window with his arms folded next to his chest. Shoulders back and feet spread apart. Though he was in rags, he was still a man not to be toyed with. The guards had long ago refused to go into his cell alone. Jason’s fingers could fit around a man’s throat. He did push ups on his fingertips several times a day.
Jason stood six foot four and was wire thin. Yet, he was all muscle and bone. He was quick on his feet and alert of mind. He did not waste away as was predicted by the guards. Rather, he had become much more confident in the God of his fathers. He had seen many attempts to kill him end in failure as God Almighty had come to his aid. His back bore the marks of the whip, but his heart was not hardened to Christ.
He stood staring out the window into the darkness for a minute. He heard no movement behind him.
‘Sir, I mean no harm. Be encouraged! Your moment of release has come. By this time tomorrow you will be free and bound for Bitworth. The truth has been given to the king himself. I must go now, but I wanted to speak to you’.
Jason turned around and sighed heavily. His eyes scanned the thin young man. He seemed to be shaking. God had given Jason fresh air when needed, food to get by and many hours of memory. He found he could recite the scriptures he had learned as a child. This had been his salvation as he existed these past four years. He knew it was a miracle indeed to have been able to remember what his mother had taught him as a boy. The floggings had been stopped for no apparent reason. His food was tasteless but seldom sickened him any more. Indeed, God had given him favor. But what is this? Could it be?
‘Why would the King send a mere lad to find me?’ He stared at the trembling figure.
The figure seemed to fall in on itself. ‘The King did not send me. I needed a private audience with you. I fear you might not listen once you are released.’
Jason could not understand this. He leaned his head back and stared at the mud packed ceiling. ‘I have nothing else to do right now.’
The figure huddled in the brown wrap suddenly lifted his head and moved the hood back. Jason stood in astonishment as he realized it was not a young boy at all but a young maiden. A golden haired girl with soft blue doe eyes stared back at him. ‘Please do not yell, the guards will come and I will be hurt. I know that. Will you listen to me?’
‘Madam, what on earth would make you come here? This is hell on earth.’
The girl put the hood back up but allowed her face to be seen by Jason. ‘Please sir, please listen. I haven’t much time. Lady Diana is dead. She fell down a flight of stairs. Yet, before her death the King learned of her treachery. ’ The girl moved her head and Jason saw an ugly scar on the side of her face. The girl was not aware her face was seen so clearly. Yet, Jason had grown accustomed to seeing well in the dark. The little torch only served to illuminate things to his eyes.
The girl went on speaking. ‘She had the ear of the King because he was taken with her. The King could have had you put to death, but was never sure of the truth. Now, the King knows she was a traitor to the crown and a liar as well. You will be free. I must go now.’
Before Jason could utter a sound, the small figure was gone. He walked to the bars and wondered how she had fled so quickly. He didn’t even know in which direction.
He stood for a moment and wondered. He had all ready devised a plan of escape. He was all set to escape that very night. But, if this little imp was correct…he should wait until tomorrow and be set free instead.
Jason was amazed. ‘Who was that little creature with that mark on her face? I never thought to ask her name.’ he thought. Jason knew that a girl with a scar like that would not be accepted into society. She must be someone’s maid. ‘A pity, she is so pretty.’
‘Lord’, he prayed as he looked out at the stars; ‘I had thought to find Lady Diana. You had other plans. It seems you always have a surprise. Will I really leave this place?’
Jason wondered and yet felt at peace with staying in the cell for the night. Then he wondered, if the King knew of his innocence why was he still in prison?
Just then Jason noticed the guards marching past his window. If he had proceeded with his plans he would have been captured. The guards never marched at this hour. Just then he caught a glimpse of a tiny bundle of brown scurrying past like a creature of the night. She turned to his window and looked at him before disappearing.
He was left with a side view of her scarred face. She had saved him from a disastrous encounter with the guards if he had tried to escape that night.
Jason sat down and stared at the moon through the bars of his cell. His thoughts were partly excitement and then wonder. ‘Was she telling the truth? Am I to be freed? What then?’
At dawn, Jason was found sound asleep sitting up with head against the stone wall. The sound of rushing footsteps awoke him.
‘Lord Bitworth?’ someone said as they approached the cell. Jason stared at four knights in armor. The sun had not shown it’s shadow well enough for him to see the men’s faces.
‘I am Jason Bitworth. The title was removed a long time ago.’ He slowly stood to his feet and walked closer to the bars.
One of the knights was busily opening the cell door. ‘You are hereby given your title back my Lord. We are sent by the King to free you and bring you to him. Come, you are safe with us.’
Jason stood back and stared without speaking. ‘Come, please…no harm will come to you.’ The knight repeated.
When Jason was still standing still, the knights reached for him. ‘You are free to go sir, but you are not free to keep the King waiting!’ Jason did not struggle as he was becoming more aware of the truth.
Jason was escorted down a long corridor but he did not see it. He was aware that he was going to be released and the shock was overwhelming him. When he was given a horse to ride he stumbled into the saddle. He had not ridden in a while but the moves were quite familiar as soon as he gripped the reigns. The men rode fast and hard through the dense forest. They came to road widely used by peasants and veered to the left.
Jason recognized the road to the King’s palace. In three hours time they were riding through the gates of the King’s home. A sentry met them at the gate and nodded to the men. Jason was escorted to a room to bathe and change his clothes. He looked at the room where he was left alone.
A fireplace blazed in one wall and a huge tub was in the center of the room. Towels and soap were left out. Jason looked closer and saw a table and chair with a plate of cheese and bread on it. A glass and a jug was also sitting on the table. He hadn’t noticed but a squire was also in the room. He was busy sorting through what looked like a trunk.
‘I was told that these were your clothes sir. But, they do look a bit big. I have a few things though and I am sure you can make them fit.’ The young lad turned around with a serious look on his face. ‘Do you need help undressing?’
Jason was amazed at the provisions and began to laugh. ‘Arnold, you are a Squire now? I remember you as that persistent little Page. No, I think I can manage to depart from these rags. Can you burn them?’
The squire smiled. ‘Yes, I am your squire! I am fourteen now! As for your clothes, I’ll stuff them in the fireplace. I was going to do that anyhow.’
Jason quickly undressed and descended into the warm bath.
Jason watched the skinny lad and realized he was nervous. He smiled and remembered himself as a lad. He was always too tall and trying to please everyone. ‘Arnold is such a serious name. How about if I call you Arnie? It’s been a while since I had a squire. You will have to bear with me. Perhaps this will be good for me though.’
‘Arnie it is then sir! Right glad I am that you thought of it. It’s the name my friends call me. Now then, I have a soft brush here so I can do your back if you like.’
Jason spent part of an hour washing and dressing and chatting with Arnie. It had been so long since he carried on a friendly conversation that he felt Arnie was truly a gift from God. When Jason was dressed, he took a bite out of his food and washed it down with the water that was left out for him.
Arnie was just getting things tidied up when a knock came to the door. A knight stood there when Arnie opened the door. ‘My Lord, the King awaits your presence. May I escort you now?’
The very idea that someone would ask rather than throw something at him was enough to make him smile. ‘I think I would like that.’ Jason turned to Arnie and said ‘thank you’. Arnie nodded and continued with his work.
The two men walked the length of the castle and headed for the stairs that led to the King’s chambers. They did not enter those chambers but continued on to the next floor. This was where the King entertained his guests.
When Jason entered the room he fell to his knees before the King. With his head bowed he could not think of anything he was supposed to say. A few moments went by when he felt the King’s hand on his head.
‘My son, you must arise. I have much to say and you need not worry about your own speech. Come, sit down in this chair next to mine. I need to see your eyes. I wish for you to see mine.’
Jason sat in the velvet cushioned chair with armrests inlayed in gold. He stared at the King and was silent.
‘Jason, four years ago I was told that you had devised a plot to overthrow me. I could not find any proof of such a thing and yet the girl who gave me the information seemed so true. Weeks went by and I had you watched. Your presence on the battlefield was overwhelming. Your great size and strength combined with the sheer determination caused many to follow you. It was a dilemma for me as I could not find any proof to exonerate you either. The girl had friends and they called for your death. Still, something made me hold out. That is why you were not killed. Even when you were flogged you spoke nothing against me. Over the years I have had many plots to engage you and you never spoke or acted against me. This past year it has come to my attention that this woman was lying. In fact, she tried to kill my own wife. She was running from one of my knights when he caught her trying to put poison in her food when she fell down the stairs and died.’
The King stopped to take a sip of wine. ‘Jason, I am truly sorry for this. Your estates and your land have been returned to you. Word has been spread about that you are a free man and in the King’s good graces. I truly do not know what else to do except offer you more land and money if you wish. I have put a large sum of gold in your name. Is there any way I can make this right for you?’
Jason knew that the King did not have to even try to make things right for anyone. After all, he was the King. The bold honesty of his words caused Jason to speak.
‘I am curious about the girl who came to see me last night.’
‘What girl?’ The King sat back and worried that Jason Bitworth had gone mad during captivity.
Jason remembered the girl had said no one had sent her. ‘I do not want her harmed. She had a scar on her face…’
‘Felicity? She came to see you? How?’ The King’s face was looking worried.
‘I truly do not know except she had on a monk’s costume. She said she came to warn me and I am glad she did. You see, I had finally found a way to escape and had I tried I would have been caught last night. Probably injured as well.’
The King nodded. ‘Yes, that’s true. The guards are told to flog anyone trying to escape. Sometimes the escapees are killed. But, Felicity would have known that trouble lurked. That is probably why she came to you. To warn you.’
Jason was confused. ‘Warn me? How would she have known my plans?’
‘Felicity is an unusual young woman. Years ago, some thought she was a witch. That is how she came to have that scar. However, this girl does not worship anyone but Jesus Christ. She has the gift of prophecy and sees things before they happen. She warns people.’ I have her living here at the palace as her family is now all dead.’ The King watched for Jason’s response.
‘I have heard about that sort of thing from my mother. She taught me about the prophets of the bible and said that the gifts of prophecy did not die in bible days. I’ve just never experienced anyone with that gift. You are right, most folks would think her a witch. How did she live after that?’ Jason forgot about whatever the King had wanted to tell him.
The King laughed. ‘I wish I knew for sure. No one does. Felicity was surrounded by a mob and simply cried out to God. ‘Save me, let me live so I may be used for your glory Lord Jesus!’ All of a sudden lightning struck the pole that they had tied her to. It split in half and she was freed from the chains. The people knew that it was God. I heard the story over fifteen times and it never changed. Yet, Felicity just smiles and says, ‘My God is for me not against me!’ She comes and warns me now if something is amiss. She warned me about you, and that is why you were not killed.’
The King shook his head. ‘I do not understand it all Jason, but I know she speaks truth. She is not a mischief maker. She helps the girls in the kitchens and even helps feed the small ones. No one will have her for a wife because of the scar of course. Yet, she is a dear one. There is more to the story but I want to get back to you. I wish to make amends and do not know how.’
‘Let me take Felicity to Bitwell castle.’ The words were out of Jason’s mouth before he realized what he had said.
The King saw Jason’s own reaction and smiled. ‘You didn’t intend to say that did you?’
‘I must be too tired to think straight your highness.’ Jason sat in his chair looking into the king’s eyes. ‘I really didn’t intend to ask that at all. I don’t know what came over me. But, I would like to meet this young woman.’
The King nodded his head. ‘You shall. But first, I truly do have need of you. I want you to go back to your castle. All has been restored just as you left it. I want you to regain your strength and then I will send for you. Trouble is brewing in this country and you are an excellent war strategist. When you are well enough, I wish for you to lead an army for me. Are you willing to fight for your King again, even after this?’
Jason nodded as he answered. ‘I am forever in your service your Highness. Nothing has changed that.’
‘Good, now I want you to go home. I want you to reacquaint yourself with friends and family. I want you to go and enjoy your land for a few months. I will send for you in three months.’ The King watched Jason leave and thought to himself. Jason had not seemed bitter and resentful. The King’s guards had reported well. Jason had taken great pains to exercise in his cell. He had recited the words of God each day. The King was glad to see a strong Knight in spite of the weight loss; Lord Jason Bitworth was back again.
‘I can’t give him back four years but I could give him something to last him the rest of his life.’ He called for the queen to come and speak to him.
Arnie was at the stables when Jason went to retrieve the horse he was given. A white stallion stood snorting in the cool air. Puffs of white came out of his nose and he pranced a bit before calming to Arnie’s touch and soothing voice. Jason stood at a distance watching the boy who was on the brink of manhood. It was a large horse at eighteen hands high. He whinnied as Arnie stroked his neck.
Arnie was tall and wiry and Jason could see he had no fear of horses any more. It had been Jason himself who had saved him years ago from being trampled. He was afraid of every horse after that. Yet, here he was talking soothingly to this skittish stallion as if they were best of friends. Jason walked to the pair.
‘Ye’ll have to talk to him a bit my Lord. He’s a bit skittish but he’s a winner for sure. He was in two battles and threw a knight once. But, you’re sure to keep in the saddle.’ Arnie had Jason’s armor polished and ready as well as his horse. He stood aside to show Jason the set of armor that had been his years before.
‘Before I help you into this, the other men here want a word with you if that is all right.’ Arnie motioned to the eight men. They stepped forward and removed their helmets. Jason knew them in an instant. They had grown up together and went to battle together. These were his cousins , brothers and friends.
‘My heart is struck dumb, I can’t speak’ Jason said. The men each embraced him in silence as they too were unable to speak. Jason coughed and asked, ‘We ride together, I don’t know who else is still with us. In fact, I thought it was just my squire and myself.’
‘No, no Jason! The men, or most of them are in the woods waiting for us. You have lost not one of your loyal knights. We ride with Lord Bitworth.’ The men smiled and mounted their horses.
Arnie and the other squires rode as well. Jason took the lead with his younger brother Charles. ‘Tell me, who took the Lordship while I was imprisoned?’ Silence met him for a moment.
Charles sighed and turned his head to his brother. ‘I did, but only to keep the lands from harm until you returned. All of us knew it was wrong what happened to you. You have nothing to win over Jason, it’s all yours.’
‘God was faithful beyond my own faith in Him.’ Jason replied. ‘I had thought perhaps the whole family was removed from the land.’ Charles nodded but said nothing. Jason looked at the beauty surrounding him. Green trees and lush meadows surrounded by forest. He rode on the forest trails and breathed in the fresh air. Pine needles smelled so clean after the daily smell of stench from the cell. It was as if new life was bursting within him. One by one his faithful friends rode up and spoke with him. He learned that his family still lived and were well cared for. His parents had died when he was twenty one and he had taken over Lordship with ease even back then. His father had taught him well what it meant to be a Knight and a Lord of the house of Bitworth. He was the law of the land, under the King. His brother Charles was three years younger, and all ready wed. Jason learned of the marriage as he rode with him through the forest. Jason’s other brother was four years younger. Sheldon was the only fair haired son. Wavy curls and bright blue eyes turned many a maiden’s head as he walked by. Sheldon had a brooding look on his face as he rode silently next to Jason.
After a few miles, Jason asked if they could stop a while and rest near the river. His mind was set on talking to Sheldon. The squires took the horses to water and rub down as the knights watched the forest for any signs of trouble.
‘Charles, I’d like to speak to Sheldon alone if I may.’
Charles looked his brother in the eye and a silent message was understood. Jason patted his brother on the back and walked to his youngest brother.
‘Might I have a word with you?’ He asked Sheldon.
Sheldon’s shoulder’s stiffened and he swallowed. ‘Of course. What is it?’
‘That would be my question to you. Your silence and the look on your face are quite telling. Something is quite wrong. What is bothering you? I’d like to get a heads up before greeting the rest of the family and friends.’ Jason leaned against a tall oak tree and folded his arms in front of him.
Sheldon sat on a old tree stump and rubbed his temple after removing his helmet. ‘It’s been four years and no one would let me see you. I wanted to break you out of there. Now you are free and I’m still angry! I’ve been dwelling on little else these past four years. I want revenge and yet you seem undaunted. You were the strong one and now…’
Jason heard more than his brother could say. ‘
‘You became a knight shortly before I was sent away. Do you remember the code of Chivalry?’
Sheldon answered quickly. ‘Why, of course I do.’
‘I’d like for you to repeat it for me. We have time. I’m not in any rush to go home. I’ve waited this long. I think I’d like to hear your version of the Knight’s Code of Chivalry’ Jason sat down on ground and stretched his legs out in front of him.
“Jason, really! This is not necessary.’ Sheldon stared off into the distance.
‘You would disobey a direct order from the Lord of Bitworth? The very brother that you said you wanted to break out of jail? Repeat the code Sheldon, and do it slowly.’ A flock of birds flew overhead and the sound of chirping filled the air. Jason watched them as he waited for his brother to begin.
‘Oh all right. A knight is expected to not only have the strength but the skills needed to face a battle. He is also expected to temper this aggressive side with a chivalrous side to his nature. We are to have bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. ‘ Sheldon stopped and waited for Jason to nod his head in approval. He was surprised to hear his brother say,
‘There is more, tell me the rest.’
‘No, that is what I was taught.’ Sheldon looked curiously at his oldest brother. ‘What more is there?’
‘I taught you the rest but you have forgotten. I will allow that you have been under stress but you do know the rest. However I will repeat it. When I became a knight I had to learn the code according to this…it is the Knight’s Code of Chivalry described in the Song of Roland.
We are to fear God and maintain His church,
to serve the liege lord in valour and faith,
to protect the weak and defenceless,
to give succor to widows and orphans,
to refrain from the wanton giving of offence,
to live by honor and for glory,
to despise monetary reward,
to fight for the welfare of all,
to obey those placed in authority,
to guard the honor of fellow knights,
to eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit,
to keep faith,
at all times to speak the truth,
to persevere to the end in any enterprise begun,
to respect the honor of women,
never to refuse a challenge from an equal,
never to turn your back on a foe.
Beyond all of that I learned the chivalric virtues of the Knights Code of Chivalry as described in the 14th Century by the Duke of Burgandy. Faith, Charity, Justice, Discerning, Perceptive, Prudence, Temperence, Resolution, Truth, Generous, Diligence, Hope and valour.
Now Sheldon, King Charles II did not have to save my life. I am not sure we even serve the same image of God. Yet, God did put him in authority for this time. I in turn will obey those in authority. Yet, I know that God is the ultimate authority. I will keep the faith and persevere. It’s easy to memorize these things in good times. But the test comes when faced with personal endurance. That is where my faith kept my sanity and God’s faithfulness kept my life.
Never allow emotion to get in the way of your faith Sheldon. Emotions can well up and plummet as well. Patience in trial will enable us to win in the end. It was not easy for me to endure these past few years. Yet, I knew God is for me. Bitterness and a need for revenge will only destroy you Sheldon. I have not been set free to find a brother in slavery of revenge have I?’
Sheldon stood amazed as his brother looked at him. ‘What did the King say to you? Do you believe him?’
‘It’s not a question of my belief in the King. It is my belief in the King of Kings and the bible says to obey the law of government. I hold no bitterness toward this King. Sheldon, we can not survive if we hold such bitter zeal for revenge. Come here, for I have missed you Sheldon.’ Jason said. Jason held out his arms and embraced his brother. Sheldon’s control deserted him as he felt Jason’s tears.
Thirty feet away Charles stood with Niles his friend. ‘I just never could understand your family Charles. You’re family is known to be the fiercest of fighters and powerful men. You win tournaments over all of us and yet you slobber all over each other.’ Niles was one of the few who could say such things to Charles or his brothers.
‘That is what makes us strong, but Jason is the worst of us!’ Charles was relieved to see it though. His brother Sheldon had been a bear for too long. He refused to speak to Charles unless he shouted. Charles had no knack for settling him as Jason could. When their parents had died suddenly from an overturned carriage, it was Jason who had kept Sheldon stable. ‘Remember when our parents died and Sheldon was just sixteen? He stuck to Jason like glue. They went riding and hunting all the time.’
Niles tapped his friend on the arm, ‘You and I went along and I remember Jason taking long walks with you as well. It was something to see. One day, Jason was a twenty one year old son, and the next day he was Lord of the keep.’
The men returned to their horses and waited shortly after for Jason and Sheldon. When Jason and Sheldon were back on their horses Jason turned to him. ‘Arnie was a good choice for my squire. Who made that call?’ Usually it was the Knight who chose his own squire.
Sheldon smiled. ‘No one chose him. We held a tournament and the squires who wished to serve you entered it. Arnie is a master with the bow and arrow. He can swing a javelin. He is superb with both the dagger and sword. He’s also fast and quite fearless. He served Charles for a time. Yet, when we spoke of how to obtain a squire for you Charles said a tournament might inspire the younger men. You’ve done well with Arnie. He is eager to serve you. By the way, your former squire is up ahead with Charles. He is a full fledged knight.’
Giles turned and smiled as his name was mentioned. Jason approved of the way Charles inspired the men. He made a mental note to tell him later.
The next few hours were spent updating Jason on their sister Biddy. Her real name was Elizabeth but she took the name of ‘Biddy’ when her youngest brother Sheldon called her that when he was two. Elizabeth was the oldest of the children. Her husband was Lord of Braxton. Biddy was blonde and blue eyed like Sheldon. Yet her husband was a big man with red hair.
‘Biddy will be at the castle when we get there Jason. Lord Edward is with her and so is young Edward. Wait until you see him. He looks just like you!’
Jason laughed. ‘I can’t believe Biddy is married with a child. But, shouldn’t the child resemble them?’
Sheldon joined in the laughter. ‘Edward says God must have made a mistake! Yet, young Edward is a rambunctious toddler.’
The sounds of horse’s hooves came to a stop when the castle came into view. Jason sat on his white stallion and looked at the view from his memories. In the cell he saw the vision. Yet, to see it in the natural was a spectacular moment.
Jason’s horse began to prance a bit. ‘It looks like my horse is ready to go home!’
Charles laughed. ‘You really should find a name for that beast Jason.’
‘I have, his name is ‘Destiny’.
At the sound of his name the horse lifted his head and reared up on his hind legs. ‘Quit showing off!’ Jason called. The horse settled and snorted a bit. ‘There now, let’s go home and see what awaits us.’
Queen Catherine was ushered into the King's private sitting room within an hour of his request. The King's guard had knocked on her room and simply told her she was wanted in the King's parlor. He then escorted her as per custom. Queen Catherine did not ever go unescorted since her murder attempt. She had no idea what the King wanted from her. She had a feeling it wasn't romance as he was still visiting with his favorite actress Nell Gwyn. The “Merry Monarch” had several mistresses that the Queen knew of. He even had children by them. She herself was barren.
The windows of the castle were open as the Queen entered the room. The sounds of the sea pounding on the rocks below was always music to her ears. She fell asleep listening to the sea gulls and waves making harmony most every night. Though the candles and fireplace were lit, the moon cast a brighter glow into the King's parlor. The sound of her footsteps against the marble floor made the King look up from his dreamlike trance.
“Ah, my good Queen. How lovely to see you.”, the King remarked as his wife approached him. The time was late and candles glowed on the tables before him. She saw the eyes of King Charles II light up as she turned her best smile on him. She loved this King, even though she had much heart ache.
She gathered her skirts and sat down next to him. The King smelled lavender soap as she sat down. The Queen was not sure what to expect, yet she knew the King was good to her. She had been accused of trying to poison him once and he had jumped to her defense.
The King took a moment to sip his wine. He watched the jewels braided into his wife's dark hair glitter as the fireplace and candles flickered. Her hair shined like dark satin. Unable to contain himself, he reached for her. “You are beautiful my Queen.” he said in her ear. For a moment they just sat there. She was wondering what to say and he was just enjoying the embrace. The heavy tapestry hung against the wall absorbed the flickering lights of the candles. It only added to the tranquility that the King felt so seldom.
He and his wife had no disagreements except for the topic of Lady Felicity. Catherine was the daughter of King John of Portugal. She had come to him with a huge dowry that included Bombay and Tangier. It was an alliance that was taken to help with the trade situation. Yet, he thought it a good alliance. He saw her as exotic. She was dark haired and petite. Her dark eyes sparkled no matter if it were daylight or dusk. She never ceased to charm the King. Though he had numerous mistresses, he would never replace her as his Queen. She held a special place in his heart and he wished she could give him an heir. They tried several times.
“What is it you wish tonight my King?” Catherine spoke quietly.
The King sat back and relaxed. “I know that you are a bit perplexed with the young maid, Lady Felicity”.
He waited for any response. His wife was Roman Catholic by faith and he fought for the Protestant views. She grew incensed with the very thought of Lady Felicity's way of knowing things that were to happen in the future.
The King watched as the Queen stiffened. “What would you have me say? Would you wish for me to lie to you? I don”t want her any where near the children of the palace. I believe in my heart that she is nothing short of a witch. The fact that her life was spared during a strange twist of fate has not changed my views.”
King Charles II was not surprised at this reaction. He still needed his wife's help with the plan he had yet to tell her of.
“There is no telling what would have happened if she had not warned me of that plot to poison you Catherine. You mean a great deal to me .” The King's eyes lowered as he thought of losing this woman. The King knew he was far from a faithful husband. But, as much as he knew how to love anyone; he loved this woman.
The Queen smiled as she considered her husband's words. She remembered how violently he had rewarded those who had been found guilty. She also remembered how he had jumped to her defense when accused of trying to kill him in the same way. Her right hand fluttered to touch his left hand without her realizing the movement.
King Charles II smiled as he held her slender hand his. The King interrupted her thoughts as he spoke. “I believe there is a way I can use Lady Felicity and further this kingdom.” He did not speak about the kingdom's possible war. Yet, he did speak of generalities with the Queen. He sat with her for almost an hour explaining some of the events. He told her about Lord Jason of Bitworth. She all ready knew most of the story. “I know the man is able to lead an army. I might be able to use Lady Felicity to gain his strength.”
“Your Highness, what you suggest will not be received well. Surely, you have seen that I am not received well in most of England. I am a foreigner and not well liked. Lady Felicity is in a worse situation. People still see her as a witch. Your suggestion that Lady Felicity would be accepted is preposterous. She has a mark on her face that is a public announcement of her shame. No one will accept her, especially to wife. Though you are not stating that is your plan.” The Queen waited to hear the King”s exact plans in the matter.
The King tapped his fingers on the armrest of his chair. He had thought about that a great deal. He remembered how Lord Bitworth had asked to take her with him. “Lord Bitworth has all ready asked me to give her to him. I am not at all certain what he plans with her. I am assuming she will just be as she is here. A lady in waiting.”
The Queen straightened her long gown and opened her fan. The warm night air was stifling in the rooms so high in the palace. She sipped her tea in silence as she listened to the King.
“Though you cause quite a stir with England because you are Portugese, you still run this palace. I've seen how you deal with the kitchen and the maids. I am not asking permission to execute this plan. What I need from you is your ability to silence the gossip.” The King knew his wife did not understand the prophetess uncanny predictions, yet he knew Lady Felicity was to be trusted. He did not know God as well as Lady Felicity. Yet he believed the words of the bible that she had told him.
“The palace does not need her. I know that you think her a prophetess. If God Almighty gives her a vision or a warning…” she waved her hand in dismissal of the idea. “I am sure she will come to you no matter where she resides.” The Queen sat up straight as she finished her tea.
The King nodded. “This conversation will go no further.” He was telling his wife that this was not to be repeated.
Gossip was a mainstay in the King”s castle. It was started with a morsel of truth and grown and twisted. Yet, King Charles II had just warned her that this item was not eligible for gossip. The King's face alerted the Queen that if news got back to the King she would indeed be in grave danger.
“No, your Highness. This will go no further. Shall I expect to be notified as to Lady Felicity's departure?”
The King hesitated. “No, but when she is no longer with us you will simply stop the gossip. Can you do that? That is why I called you here tonight. I know the maids and the cooks tickle your ear in hopes to gain favors from me. I wanted you to be ready.”
Queen Catherine nodded her head and waited to be dismissed. “Yes, your Highness.”
The King said “Thank you. Now then, I believe it's a fine night for a walk before we have a late meal. Do you care to join me?”
The Queen smiled. Apparently, the King wanted her company for the night. “Always a pleasure your Highness.” She was aware that his mistress Lady Castlemaine was readying herself for the evening. Apparently, she would dine alone. The actress as well was left alone. The Queen was to have the King all to herself.
He stood up and took her hand.
Meanwhile Lady Felicity was still in her kneeling position. She had been interceding in prayer for the safety of the people in the palace. She knew that evil lurked in the forest surrounding the palace walls. “Lord God, use me as you wish. Make me usable in your service. For in my heart Lord God, there is no King before you. I remind you of your own word in Matthew 8:2,3 “If You are willing, You can make me clean. Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him saying, “I will; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Yet, your grace is sufficient until the day you remove the shame of this scar on my face. For in you Lord, have I put my life. I thank you Lord God for releasing Lord Bitworth from his prison. I thank you for allowing me to see this man.”
The fireplace in her room crackled and her tiny hands braced the side of her bed. She stood a while and then sat down pulling the furs over herself. Something was in the air and she knew a change was coming into her life.
“I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” She spoke aloud. Her life had been torn apart from a young age. She lay remembering the night a man from the church had visited her father the Baron Nash Hornsby. “You have two daughters sir. One chases with every breath in her, after the heart of God. She has the gift. Pray for them both. Evil casts a shadow over them.”
Lady Felicity had prayed for protection and sought after the will of God. She thanked the Lord each day of her life for the miracles she had been allowed to see. Her very name meant “Happy” and that she was. In spite of the terrors that came and went; she was happy in the Lord's company. “I know you will never leave me.”
Lady Felicity touched her scar and reminded God of his goodness. For though no man would have her, no man would touch her either. They feared her because of the mark on her face. Yet, the King himself had decreed that no harm should ever come to her again. The night of the attempted burning was a memory she fought hard not to dwell on. Yet, the outcome of it all was that God had saved her.
Though many did not come near her, she had many more who loved her. “You have made even my enemies at peace with me. My life is in your hands Lord God.”
Turning over, she blew out the candle and fell into a peaceful sleep.
Lady Felicity didn’t have any trouble packing her few meager belongings and leaving for Bitworth castle. The King had summoned her for an audience with him the previous day and she was resolved to leave without an emotional outburst. Her entourage of fourteen of the King’s best Knights was a bit of a surprise. It was obvious the King did not want any harm to come to her. Yet, she felt the Lord also had something to do with it. It was well known that a woman could never travel alone in the woods. With a small escort it would have been doubtful she would have made it. If anyone had seen the scar on her face, she knew what might have happened. ‘I will be fine.’ She told herself over and over.
The air was warm and the sun was just up as she was assisted to the saddle of a gentle gray mare. One of the Knight’s tied Lady Felicity’s bag onto the saddle. Lady Felicity smiled and said thank you. The Knight looked up and nodded. Few dared to speak to her very often. They were courteous but not overly friendly. They each were ordered to be courteous and were told she was not a witch. Some, believed what they were told, and some did not. Either way, they all followed orders. Three of the fourteen Knights were Lady Felicity’s friends. She had forewarned one of them about a fuzzy green plant that would cause a child harm if he were to get near it. The child had a rash with blisters and no one knew why until Lady Felicity stepped in. The Knight was grateful as that child was his youngest brother.
Another of the Knights had fallen ill after being hit by an arrow. Lady Felicity was known as a healer. She knew the herbs and applied them when needed. The Knight had been near death when she had been summoned. Rather than using leeches, she had first prayed to God for guidance. The Knight remembered her prayers to Almighty God. He knew she was no witch. She prayed over him and applied medicine to the wound on his chest that was infected by a stray arrow. He rode next to her for the entire journey.
Still, the third Knight had been there when Lady Felicity was scourged. His eyes had seen how the woman cried out to ‘Jesus’ and not ‘Satan’. He saw the pole split and the chains break off. He knew he had seen the power of God that day.
These three Knights had volunteered to be part of the entourage that escorted Lady Felicity. These three Knights were keen to hear her speak of the God above all Gods. One of the Knights had asked for a bible when he was given a choice after saving the Queen’s life. The men read from it in turns. The other Knights listened.
Lady Felicity enjoyed the ride through the dense forest. She listened to the birds chirp and watched the squirrels scurry up and down the tree branches. Off in a distance she caught a glimpse of a doe running in the morning sun. The sun glinted off its honey colored coat. If it had been a different situation, one of the Knights would have aimed his arrow and brought it down.
Summer was soon to be at its end. A slight nip in the air reminded Lady Felicity that she was wise to wear the brown woolen cloak rather than carry it. The sun shined through the trees and the smell of pine trees and dead leaves filled the air. A twig snapped beneath the feet of her mare and she noticed the group had come to a halt.
As the group had neared the castle, they were met with guards from Jason’s keep. ‘Who goes there? State your business.’ The men in armor sat on their horses and waited for an answer.
‘We are here upon orders from King Charles II. We are delivering Lady Felicity to be in the custody of Lord Jason Bitworth.’ The guard yelled out.
Charles shook his head. He thought, ‘Why would the King send us this woman?’ He rode to the other guard who had spoken and took the parchment from his hand. ‘It says that Lady Felicity is now under the protection of Lord Jason Bitworth until such time as he sees fit to release her.’ Charles looked up at the knight to see if this was a joke. The king’s knights looked serious as did the knight in front of him.
‘I am Lord Jason’s brother, Charles. I will take her from here. Where is she and where are her things?’ He expected a few trunks. When he saw a gray mare led forward with a thin woman and small bag he was taken back. Then he remembered the story his brother had told him. He saw the brown wool cloak making her resemble a monk. The mark on the woman’s face could not be seen though as her face was veiled.
‘We were told to see her safely inside the castle walls.’ The King’s knight answered.
The wind swept up just then and Charles noticed the thin veil move from Lady Fecity’s face. ‘So be it.’ He led the King’s knights to the inside of the castle walls. Geese and chickens went flying as the horses rode in through the outer gates. As they past the potter’s house and were in sight of the silversmith; the King’s knight’s stopped. ‘She is delivered.’, one of the knights said.
Charles and four other knights were startled as some of the men suddenly rode away. Three of the knights remained. One of the knights helped the woman down from her horse. The three remaining knights gathered around her and spoke softly. Charles and the others could not hear them. However, Lady Felicity touched each of their faces and said thank you. Then, the three knights walked to Charles.
‘This woman has done wondrous things. I pray ye be kind to her. Though she bears the mark of shame on her face, she truly is a beauty from the inside out. She will be missed. Yet, if your Lord liege does not want her, we will come for her. Ye have just to say the word.’ The knight stood close to Charles so that his words did not carry.
Charles was stunned to see the fierce loyalty to this tiny woman. ‘No harm will come to her here. My brother has told me of her.’ The men nodded and with one last wave to the lady, they rode off.
Lady Felicity’s head was down as she was left alone in the dust of the King’s horses. Charles had one of the pages take her horse. He then escorted the woman inside the castle. The main room was much like any other castle with the far wall taken up with a huge fireplace. The rushes were changed each day so that the muck from the knight’s boots did not make the floor slippery.
Lady Felicity noticed the smell of stew cooking from the kitchen out behind the castle. The walls were ablaze with color. Many tapestries hung in rich red, gold and green colors. Heads of mounted elk, deer, and even wild pigs were mounted on the walls. Swords also graced the wall above the fireplace. A closer inspection showed the handles carved and imbedded with jewels. The Bitworth coat of arms hung proudly above the swords. Several chandeliers hung from the high ceilings and their candles were lit. The smell of melting wax adding to the many odors that Lady Felicity noticed.
A heavy set woman came into the room with a large tray of meats. She placed them on the table and looked over at Charles. ‘Your missus is in the kitchen my lord. She asked for me to tell her when I saw you come in. Shall I get her now?’
‘Cassandra is probably putting the finishing touches on the ‘Cockaleeky soup! I’ll just go in to the kitchen.’
Lady Felicity saw that the mention of his wife brought a smile to the Lord’s face. She followed silently behind Charles. Casandra was indeed busy adding thyme and parsley to the broth. Chicken and leeks swam in a rich broth with carrots, potatoes and some other vegetables that Lady Felicity did not notice.
‘Charles! I’m making your brother’s favorite soup…but who is this?’
Charles stepped to her side while gesturing to Lady Felicity. ‘This is Lady Felicity. King Charles II has sent her to live with us. I believe my brother had asked to meet her. I thought perhaps you could settle her in while I go fetch my brother.’
Charles left them in the kitchen and walked to the garrison. Several sweaty men were exercising along side of his brother. He called to him. ‘Jason, I need to speak to you.’
Jason stood up and walked to his brother. Charles smiled, ‘you have hardly broken a sweat dear brother and your men are worn out.’
Lord Jason turned around and found his men had been hard pressed to keep up with him. ‘I had nothing to do in that cell except exercise ,pray and think. They’ll catch up after a while. What do you need?’ Jason was always happy to see his brother.
‘It seems the King has sent you a present. A woman of the name Lady Felicity Hornsby has been delivered. Here are the papers that were sent with her.’ Charles handed his brother the rolled up parchment that he held.
‘For heaven’s sakes. She isn’t an animal that needs to have papers sent with it.’ Jason hated the way the King did some things. He unrolled the paper and read. ‘I can’t believe it, the King actually gave her to me ‘to be in my charge until such time as I see fit?’ Lord Jason shook his head as if to clear it. ‘She isn’t some bull I purchased! She’s a live woman, a human being! Oh, I hate how the King moves people like he is playing a game of chess! It’s obvious he is trying to placate me because he has need of me! The woman didn’t read this did she?’ Jason looked into his brother’s eyes.
Charles cleared his throat and grimaced. ‘Well, no but I did read this out loud. I’m sure she heard me.’
‘Oh dear Lord! I’ll have to fix this somehow. I did ask for her but not like this. I was tired and not thinking when I was with the King. This is a blunder! ‘
Charles waited for his brother to stop speaking. ‘Jason, we can’t just send her back. That would make it worse. I say we put her up in Mother’s old rooms. Treat her nicely. Perhaps have a nice visit and then send her back to the King.’
Jason clapped his hand on his brother’s back. ‘What a charmer you are Charles. Of course! That’s a great idea, that’s how to deal with it! No one gets hurt!’ The two of them walked to the kitchens.
Cassandra looked with curious eyes at the thin woman with the friendly face. She had been told of a brave woman from the King’s castle who had come to her beloved brother in law. ‘I’m pleased to meet you Lady Felicity. Please, sit for a cup of tea while my husband goes in search of Lord Jason. He’ll be a while. I’m sure that Jason is in the garrison. He works out all the time. It’s been hard to put any weight on him.
Lady Felicity smiled as she remembered how thin he had been when she saw him in the cell. She smiled also as she saw in this tall red haired woman a heart with no guile. ‘I would much appreciate a cup of tea. I’ve been on a horse for quite some time. If your husband had not grabbed me, I would have fallen as we walked in. I’m stronger than I look. At least, I thought I was.’
Cassandra had no doubt this woman was tired by the dark circles under her eyes. It was nearly three in the afternoon and she must have gotten up a dawn to be here this early. ‘You just relax. I’ll send for Biddy and we’ll get you settled in to a room.’
The hot tea tasted good with a hint of mint in it. ‘Who is Biddy?’
Cassandra drew a cup of tea for herself and called to one of the pages. ‘Please go get Lady Biddy for me.’
To Lady Felicity she smiled and said. ‘Biddy is the Lord’s sister. She is a mother hen, but she will love you I am sure. She is only here for a few more days. Her home is Castle Braxton. She has a wonderful little boy. He keeps us busy!’
Lady Felicity nodded her head. She wondered what she would be required to do here. As the question came to her, a tall dark haired woman with bright blue eyes came into view. She looked for any signs of fear in her. The mark on her face could cause a grown man to run away at times.
The woman smiled and approached quickly. ‘I am so glad to meet you! I’ve heard all good things. One of the Knights from the King told me about you when he visited my husband. My son was getting a strange rash and it turns out that same plant had been the culprit.’ Biddy sat down with Cassandra and Felicity. The three women enjoyed an hour of sharing stories.
Suddenly another woman came into the kitchen with an apron filled with apples. She saw Lady Felicity and threw up her apron. ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! A witch, get her out of here! She made as if to grab Lady Felicity but Cassandra blocked her.
‘Get off her! She’s no witch! This scar was put there in error! Be gone with you!’ The woman was still screaming as she ran out of the kitchen. The large woman who Lady Felicity had seen earlier appeared.
‘I’m so sorry miss. She doesn’t know any better. The whole village is afraid of people with strange marks on their faces. The old tales of witchcraft and all. Now, me, I knows you wasn’t a witch because I seen you before. But these young lasses, I’ll be telling them all though. It might take time though. I’m real sorry, I am.’ The Scottish burr was so obvious in this woman’s apology that Lady Felicity smiled.
‘Most everyone at the castle is English and it does my heart good to hear the sound of a true Scotswoman. Surely, I have heard worse that what the girl screamed. No harm done.’ She tried to reassure the big woman who was wringing her hands. ‘Now, can I help retrieve these apples? No sense letting the dogs get first choice.’
That was how Lord Jason Bitworth first glimpsed Lady Felicity. She, Biddy, and Cassandra were on their hands and knees picking up apples from the floor.
Charles and Jason stood smiling as they knew they were not noticed. ‘Ahem’ Jason cleared his throat.
Biddy looked up. ‘Don’t be standing there gaping at us, give us a hand in picking up these apples!’
Biddy looked over at Felicity. ‘Don’t let him lord it over you because of his size and all. I can still take him down with a broom or a piece of pie! Course, he tells me I’m about as welcome here as a skunk in the parlor but I don’t pay any mind.’ She grinned and winked at her brother.
Lady Felicity sat on the floor and began to laugh. She laughed for a long time and the other woman joined her.
Jason had never seen anyone more beautiful just then. This thin little lady with silvery blonde curls bobbing up and down as she sat on the floor laughing at him. Biddy watched her brother as he watched Lady Felicity.
Since he had returned, he spent hours in the garrison. He spent a lot of time with his people in the village. He spent a lot of time doing things for others. He worked on the books. Yet, she had not seen him smile as she did now. His eyes twinkled as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on the door frame. A look of pure delight emerged from his tired face.
‘Glory to God,’ she thought ‘it’s a pure miracle and I was here to see it.’ She made a note to talk to her husband about staying an extra week or two.
A swatch of brick orange glowed against a midnight blue sky as if to awaken the dawn. Jason watched from his bed chamber window high above the sea. He heard the sound of waves crashing to the rocky shore below only to retreat quickly as if they had forgotten something and then they came crashing back at a greater force. Jason’s eyes were trained on the horizon. Watching the sunrise was one of the things he missed from being in prison four long years. He rarely missed the chance to arise early and watch the sun emerge from a black sea. The brick orange colors slowly took on a yellow tinge as the sun slowly emerged from a foggy mist on the ocean’s horizon. The clouds appeared as dirty black pieces of soot before evaporating from the glow of the first rays of dawn.
To the right of Jason’s rooms lay Lady Felicity’s rooms. She had occupied the former Lady of the castle’s rooms for almost a week. Though she did not know it, there was a door adjoining her room with Jason’s. Jason heard the rustling of a mattress springs and knew that Felicity awoke. The soft sound of her footsteps and then nothing. Jason knew that each morning Lady Felicity awoke and kneeled at her beside to pray. He had worried the first two days of the sudden sound of silence and peered through a key hole and there she was on her knees. It was her routine.
It occurred to Jason that he had a rather keen sense of when the little lady was about. Though he did not intend to intrude or even spend a great amount of time with the woman, she was on his mind from time to time each day.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door that led to the hallway. He looked over at the door and wondered why anyone would knock this early unless something was amiss. Opening the door he saw that Lady Felicity was dressed with a cloak and seemed upset.
‘Lord Jason, I was praying and suddenly I got a vision of the stables in flames. I think we should go see to Destiny right away! If there is something amiss, perhaps I could walk him to safety while you see to things?’ Her face was flushed and she had not combed her hair yet. Wild silvery blonde curls danced around her face as she spoke.
‘I’m sure it’s fine, but I’ll go see to it. You needn’t trouble yourself.’
The woman was silent yet she followed Jason down the stairs to the outer door. Suddenly Lady Felicity darted past Jason. Jason was surprised to see her run across the short distance to the stables in front of him.
As he arrived, he could smell the smoke and hear the horse’s loud crying. The fire seemed to be coming from the year of the stables. He ran to the area and began stomping out some rags that had been on fire. He looked up and saw Felicity stroking Destiny’s mane and leading him out of the stables. She had put a bridle on him as Jason put out the flames. He was amazed at her speed as well as the fact that Destiny seemed as docile as a lamb within her hands.
Jason caught up with the two and asked, ‘How did you do that? How did you know?’
The horse stood still and turned his head toward him. Jason put his hands on his hips and waited for an answer.
The squires and pages were coming to the stables as per usual for this time of the morning. Chickens needed feeding and cook was drawing water to begin the breakfast meal. Lady Felicity stared at Jason for a moment.
‘Which question do you want me to answer first? Destiny is not hard to handle if you are gentle and I love animals. He can sense I mean no harm. I knew about something not right. The Lord gave me a vision of fire at the stables when I was praying to him today. Are you angry?’ Lady Felicity hadn’t thought how her words might sound when she knocked on his door. She only knew that she must move quickly. Still, she wondered if Jason would accuse her of being a witch as others said.
Jason watched the questioning look on her face. ‘Fear not little one, I know you are no witch. You do not mix incantations but kneel to pray as I do. Plus, I know that the Father uses you to warn others or give encouragement. I am pleased. I was just surprised is all.’ He smiled at her in hopes to give her peace of mind.
Felicity watched as he showed a dazzling smile that outshined the sun. Quickly she averted her eyes though that smile set her heart to pounding. She knew Lord Jason was kind but hoped he did not know that she was attracted to him. It would embarrass both of them; for she knew her face would not be suitable for any man like him. In fact, she doubted that she would ever marry.
The dogs were barking and the morning routines for everyone had begun. ‘Well, we can’t stay here all day Lady Felicity. Arnie! Please put Destiny back in his stall. I must check to see why someone left rags in the stables. They caught fire somehow this morning.’ He began walking back to the castle with Lady Felicity.
‘I will go upstairs to dress properly to break fast with everyone.’ She said. She hurried back up the stairs and to her rooms.
Lord Jason was dressed and ready for a warm cup of tea. Cook brought out some bread and his tea to the long table. The brothers soon joined him and Jason told them of the morning’s events.
‘I’m glad Lady Felicity is here,’ said Sheldon. ‘We could have lost a lot more than Destiny. The stables could have burned to the ground. Some of the other horses would surely have died. Plus, the stables are not far from other buildings. That would have been a huge fire!’
Jason thought for a moment. ‘Somehow, I don’t think this was just an accident. Keep an eye out, and put some of the knights on watch near there. If someone tries this again, I want him caught.’
The cook came in with eggs and cheese. Lady Cassandra and Lady Biddy were huddled with Lady Felicity. ‘Tell me, how does God speak to you?’
Lady Felicity smiled. ‘He speaks to all of his children. We sometimes just do not listen or pay attention. For me, I sometimes get a feeling that something is not right. I can sense evil approaching. At other times I get a vision of something to come. It’s not always bad, sometimes it encourages others.’
Lady Biddy was bursting to know something. ‘Do you have special powers?’
‘No! I do not! Why would I want that? The power of the most High God is all we ever need. He gets the glory, only Him! If any good happens, it is because I allowed myself to be used as His tool. Nothing more!’
Lady Biddy sat back. ‘I am sorry; I did not mean to offend.’
A tiny arm reached out to grasp hold of Lady Biddy. ‘I am not offended. I just want you to know that there is no power like the power from Almighty God! Witches have power, but it does not come from Jesus. It comes from Satan. Any power that does not give glory to Jesus Christ is not of God. Any power used to control or obtain self glory is not of God!’
The table was filled with people and silence filled the main hall. Lord Jason stared at Lady Felicity as he had never seen her so alive.
The cook and maids listened as they bustled about the table. Lord Jason broke the silence.
‘Before we eat, I want to thank God for saving our stables and horses and so much more. May we seek Him as never before.’
After they broke fast, Lady Felicity went to Lord Jason. He was in his study going over the books. She knocked on the door. ‘Come in.’
Lady Felicity cleared her throat. ‘I wanted to speak to you. I do not think someone set the fire this morning from any evil intent. I believe the Lord has something good in store for you. I’ve been praying a lot and I just feel in my spirit that you are not to worry of an arsonist. I’m sorry, I don’t know any more. But, the words of the bible kept coming at me. ‘But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you and keep you from evil.’ It is 2 Thessalonians 3:3.’
Jason sat as Lady Felicity stood with her message. He tapped his fingers together and asked, ‘Did you bring the King messages a lot?’
Lady Felicity was surprised at the question. ‘I spoke only when the Lord urged me to do so. Also, I only spoke exactly what the Lord told me. I never exaggerate or leave anything out. There is no way I can make you believe…’
Jason interrupted her. ‘I believe you. Never doubt that. I was just wondering how on earth the King could have reacted when you warned him of things. He does not know the Lord as you do. Yet, he believed you. It confuses me at times. I will expect something good to happen. The first time I set eyes on you it was followed by something good. This will be exciting indeed!’
Lady Felicity smiled and excused herself.
Toward afternoon, Lady Felicity went to the solar room to have a cup of tea. She sat quietly as the other women of the house chatted and sipped their tea. Their sewing was heaped nearby. She wasn’t sure why, but she gazed out the window at the stables just down the hill. A sudden movement caught her eye. There appeared to be a small boy in disheveled clothing peering around a corner of the stables. He stood with one hand on the stable’s outside wall and looking from east to west in before tentatively moving forward. He had a small sack in his hand and he seemed to be eating something.
An idea suddenly came to Felicity. ‘Pardon me, I think I’d like to go to the stables and see if Destiny fares well. He might be a little skittish after this morning.’ The women nodded as she got up to leave. So engrossed were they in conversation that they paid little heed to Lady Felicity’s quick departure.
The salty air met her as Lady Felicity carefully wandered down the path that led to the stables. She loved the clean fresh air and distant sounds of the sea. The stables were quiet and she stole in glancing to see if anyone was about. There appeared to be no one present.
Felicity could sense that the small boy was not far. She made as if she were going to one of the stalls. Destiny lifted his head and snorted in greeting. ‘Hello my friend.’ She said. Suddenly she ducked into the shadows.
Just as she suspected, a small hand came out and then a dirty face appeared from behind the stable’s door. He walked past Lady Felicity without seeing her. She reached out and grabbed hold of him. ‘Do not fear, I will not harm you.’ Felicity didn’t want to frighten him by being caught.
‘I’m not a feared of no lady! Lemme go!’ Huge brown eyes stared into Felicity’s green eyes. The child’s chin went out as if to portray no fear, yet Felicity could feel him shake. She looked him over a bit and saw that he was skin and bones. His clothes were ripped and dirty and a thick mop of jet black hair looked as though it had not been combed in a long time.
‘Did ya hear me? Lemme go! I didn’t take nothin’ He began to squirm.
Lady Felicity smiled. ‘Now, why would I think that? I just want to share some scones with you. I was having tea and I ate too many. I was going to feed them to the horse over there but a fine lad like you might appreciate them more. Go on now, take them.’ She reached out with the three scones.
He looked at her a moment before accepting the napkin of three scones. Felicity watched as he licked his lips. He popped one scone into his mouth whole. He took a while to chew while staring up at Lady Felicity.
‘May I ask what your name is?’ she said.
The child spoke with food in his mouth. ‘My name is Willie. These are good.’
The afternoon sun made its way through the stable windows and Felicity noticed a fresh mound of hay in the corner. ‘We should sit over there and get to know each other. It’s only fitting since I’m sharing my scones you know.’
Willie went over to the mound of hay and sat down munching on the scones. ‘These are real tasty. I haven’t eaten in a day or so.’ His face was dripping with melted butter and jam.
Felicity reached over and wiped his dirty face with her handkerchief. ‘Well why haven’t you eaten?’
The boy looked around and Felicity could tell he was trying to think of a lie.
‘Come on now, we are friends and friends don’t lie to each other.’ She spread her skirt a bit and folded her hands in her lap patiently awaiting his reply.
‘I ran away.’ His head went down and Felicity could tell he was frightened.
‘I see, you didn’t like where you were?’
Felicity reached over and touched his shoulder. The boy flinched. ‘Willie, why didn’t you want to stay with your family?’
‘I ain’t got no family since my Mother died. I don’t know my Father. My uncle took me and it was awful.’ He straightened his shoulders. ‘So, I ran away and now I can take care of my self.’
Lady Felicity looked up and spotted Lord Jason coming inside. She put her finger to her mouth and he ducked back out the door. ‘Willie, why don’t you like your uncle?’
‘Would you like it if someone got you up before sunrise and made you shovel hay all day and then beat you?’ He showed her the welts on his arms and legs. ‘He whipped me four times because I didn’t clean the stalls like he wanted. I tried to do the best I knew. I’m a good worker.’
Lady Felicity was appalled to see the angry red welts and one cut that looked to be infected. ‘How old are you Willie.’
‘I think I’m seven.’
The mound of hay moved as Lady Felicity moved closer to Willie. She put her arm gently around his shoulder and was surprised when he jumped. ‘Did I hurt you?’
He shook his head in silence. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt and shoved it over his shoulder revealing another welt. ‘My uncle said if I didn’t clean the entire stable and then wipe down the horses that he’d beat me again. So, I ran away. You won’t tell will ya? You said you were my friend.’ He looked at her hopefully.
Just then Lord Jason walked inside the stable. Willie started to get up and run away. Lord Jason caught him with one arm. Willie kicked and swung his fists in a futile attempt to free himself.
‘Be careful Lord Jason, he was beaten quite badly.’ Lady Felicity called out.
Lord Jason sat down with the small boy on his lap. ‘Now Willie, it is Willie right?’
‘No, I won’t tell you !’ he said.
‘Whoever hit you will never touch you again. I am Lord Jason of Bitworth castle. My word goes far. Now, I understand you said you can take care of yourself. I have a lady here who needs someone like you to help out. Would you like to be a page? You would live in the castle and be given your meals for free.’
Willie’s eyes got big. ‘A page? At the castle? I can have more scones?’
Jason smiled. ‘Cook makes all sorts of scones, pies, honey cakes and roast pig too!’
Lady Felicity smiled at the heart of Lord Jason. ‘There is only one thing, you might not like it. The pages have to take baths once or twice a week. ‘
‘Do you beat the pages if they don’t do as you like?’ Willie stood as tall as he could to see Lord Jason’s face.
‘No, we make them take extra baths instead. The pages get a bath once a week, but if they misbehave we give them three.’ He stood back and tried to maintain a serious look. ‘You are a free man Willie, it’s up to you.’
Jason looked over at the remains of the fire from that morning. ‘I wonder if you know about that little fire this morning.’
Willie looked at his bare feet. ‘I was cold, and the flint wouldn’t light outside. I never meant to burn up my coat.’
Lady Felicity and Lord Jason began to laugh. ‘Well, you will be happy to know that I give the young pages a free coat, pair of boots, and two sets of clothes.’
Willie looked up and Lord Jason and smiled. Then he immediately looked upset. ‘Wait, what if my uncle finds me?’
‘You just tell me his name and I will go tell him I had to take you into my castle. I need you more than he does.’
Lady Cassandra and Lady Biddy were astonished to see their brother walk in to the castle holding the hand of a filthy child. ‘Ladies, may I introduce our newest page. His name is Willie. He has agreed to bathe. Would one of you be so kind as to fetch cook and have her get him settled?’
Lady Cassandra looked into the black eyes of the seven year old. ‘Just come with me, I will bathe you myself. I think I know of some boots and a set of clothes that will fit for now. I will have to get my sewing out and make something more suitable for you though. I hope you won’t mind hand me down clothes for now.’ She winked at Biddy.
Willie let himself be led to a bath in grand style. ‘Oh, I won’t mind.’
Biddy looked over at Felicity and grinned. ‘What was that all about?’
Lord Jason explained. ‘It would appear I have a tenant who enjoys beating small children. I simply won’t abide by it. Willie has marks all over him and he looks half starved. He is the one who started the fire this morning as well. He was cold. So, if Lady Felicity does not mind…she is to be his guardian.’
Lady Felicity jumped. ‘Me? But, you are Lord Liege.’
Jason smiled. ‘I just mean I want you to teach him proper manners. I want you to mother him. Can you do that? I have seen you with animals, I just assumed you were good with children too. In fact, I heard you with him in the stables. You will do nicely.’
Biddy looked at her brother with a twinkle in her eye. It looked like Lady Felicity would be at castle Bitworth for some time.
An hour went by and Lady Cassandra led a well groomed young lad into the solar. Willie had clean clothes and his hair was washed and combed. Jet black hair gleamed against dark brown eyes. He smiled when Lady Felicity began fussing over him.
‘My,what a handsome lad you are!’ she smiled at him.
A mouth full of white teeth flashed and then Willie’s face turned scarlet. He stood silently in front of Lord Jason.
‘I am very sorry Willie but I neglected to tell you there is another requirement for you to remain in my care.’ Jason put on his serious look and squared his shoulders.
Willie looked up at Lord Jason who appeared to be a mountain. ‘What sir?’
‘I think I would enjoy it immensely if you took your meals with me rather than in the kitchens with the other pages. Not that I will require you to do so always, but at least for now.’
Willie had no idea that this was not done in most cases. He looked up at the big man and said…’well, will I have to share my food with you?’
Lord Jason laughed and picked up the seven year old child. ‘No Willie, I just like you is all.’ He hugged the child carefully and was shocked when Willie squeezed his neck .
‘I like you too Lord Bitworth’ Willie hung on to Lord Jason for quite some time.
‘Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ Proverbs 31:30
Lady Felicity sat with young Willie at the kitchen’s wooden table. ‘Now, you have done well with table manners thus far. I am proud of you Willie.’
Willie smiled and hoped todays lesson on manners were over. Arnie was outside in the stables and he wanted to go join him. Arnie had taken young Willie under his wing when he arrived. There were five other pages and six squires. Yet, Willie seemed to be attached to Arnie’s hip when his chores were done. The other pages were also in the kitchen stuffing their faces with apples.
‘Lady Felicity, are you going to teach us some more about the difference between a witch and a profitable person?’ Asked one of the young boys.
Felicity tried to hide a smile. ‘I think the word you are looking for is ‘Prophetess or Prophet. Neither of which takes any profit. Yes, I have time now if you are free.’ Biddy and Cassandra nodded their heads as did the other women in the kitchen who had charge over the pages. The boys lined up around the table as Lady Felicity began to speak.
‘Let’s see, where did I leave off.’ She looked to see if the boys had been listening.
Wally spoke up. ‘I was asking about that scar on your face and if you were a real witch.’
‘No, silly that is what started the whole thing.’ Matthew wiped his face with his sleeve. ‘Didn’t you just finish explaining that all glory goes to the God of the bible?’
Willy became a little restless but remained quiet. Lady Felicity smiled down at him. His black hair was combed but little curls kept sticking up. She reminded him of what a young Lord Jason must have looked like.
‘Oh yes, I was reading from my bible. Let’s see here it is…I Corinthians chapter 12. The apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthians about the body as a unit. Remember, last week we found out that the body he spoke of was the ‘Body of Christ’ and we who believe in Christ are all a part of that body.’
The boys nodded their heads. ‘Let’s see who can remember the parts that the apostle described. Willie held his hands together and tried to remember. Matthew, young Niles, Paul and James stood solemnly around the table trying to remember.
Willie spoke up first, ‘I know, the word of wisdom is one.’ Matthew followed him with ‘the word of knowledge through the spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit…’
‘Very good, but there are more gifts…who can name them?’ Lady Felicity watched the boys think in silence.
‘Well, I’ll read a part of Chapter twelve again.’ The boys nodded and stood quietly. ‘verses 4-11 is where I will read’ she said to herself.
‘There are diversities in gifts but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.’
Matthew looked over at Lady Felicity and asked. ‘That Spirit is the spirit of God?’ Lady Felicity nodded yes.
Niles asked a question. ‘Well, I heard that you can tell things are to come. Why is that? How do you know if it’s a gift from God?’
Lady Felicity said a quick prayer of guidance as to what to tell these boys. ‘As you can see by my face, there were those who thought I was a witch because I foretold some things that happened. Yet, what they failed to recognize was that I was not trying to bring glory to myself, but spoke in the name of Jesus Christ. In myself is nothing special, as we just read in the bible, ‘the same spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.’ You see, I did not ask to have a prophetic anointing. God felt that He could use me in this way and who am I to say no to Almighty God?’
The boys stood watching and listening as the cooks and maids also stood in the kitchen to hear. Lady Felicity went on. ‘I speak only when the Lord tells me to speak. I will get a vision sometimes.’
Willie wiggled in the chair. ‘What kind of vision? Like a nightmare? When you are asleep?’
Lady Felicity turned to see cook removing the bread from the ovens. The smells were wonderful. She turned back to Willie. ‘No, I am wide awake when the Lord gives me a vision suddenly. At times after I’ve been given the vision I have no breath in me but the Spirit breathes through. That is called God breathed or ‘Inspiration’. You can read about this in the book of Daniel chapter 10:17.’
‘That sounds scary!’ said Matthew. Lady Felicity smiled, ‘no Matthew it is never scary to have the Lord’s presence near. It’s only scary when people go around in graveyards trying to conjure up the dead. Remember, we serve a God of the living, not the dead. But at first I do feel a little faint, and then the Holy spirit gives me strength.’
The cook asked, ‘How can someone be sure if you are a true prophetess?’
Lady Felicity was glad she had asked. ‘The Lord is my master. His words always come true. A false prophet’s words do not always come true. The Lord sometimes gives me a warning to give to someone, or an exhortation. I try to comfort, and uplift the church by my testimony. When God warns us of danger, it is so we will repent and go to Him. He wants our relationship first and foremost. A witch will not honor anything to do with the most High.’
One of the maids was nervous but she had a question as well. ‘You are a woman and young though. I thought prophets were old gray haired men.’
Lady Felicity laughed. ‘If you check the scriptures you will find Exodus 15:20 You will read about Miriam the prophetess. Also you can find Deborah in the book of Judges. God does not care about gender or age. He seeks the heart that will serve Him.’
Once again Lady Cassandra was eager to ask. ‘So, have you performed any miracles?’
Lady Felicity knew the boys were eager to ask the same question. ‘When Jesus walked the earth in the form of a man, many wanted Him to perform miracles so they would believe. Let me take you to the book of Matthew chapter 24. Verse 23-25 ‘Then if anyone says to you, “look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.’ A person who can perform miracles does not mean they are a prophet. Now, I will tell you that I have seen many miracles that God has done. You have seen them as well.
Each morning as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Each time the squall of a newborn reaches my ears. The smell of fresh bread. The sound of the rain as it pours down on the roof. The warmth of love and the smile of children. Too amazing for me to put into words are the miracles the Lord sets before me each day.’
Lord Jason stood in the doorway and listened to each word that Lady Felicity spoke. His heart melted at the word of His lord. His eyes lighted as the face of Lady Felicity beamed of the miracles of God.
Willie was fidgeting again and Lady Felicity said that she was done with lessons for today. Everyone filed out of the kitchen but Willie lagged behind. ‘Lady Felicity, could you teach us about the witches too? What does God say about them?’
The cook started to reprimand young Willie but Lady Felicity said, ‘That is a very good idea. Forewarned is forearmed. Tomorrow, I will begin to teach you so that you can see the difference. But, I will teach you what the word of God says about it all!’
Willie dashed out the door and made for the stables. ‘Arnie! Lady Felicity is teaching us all about prophets and witches!’ Arnie smiled and continued to wipe down Destiny’s back quarters.
‘That’s right nice of her! We’ll be able to spot one er she comes near us!’
Suddenly the rain came down in large drops and Lady Felicity felt tired. ‘Care to join me in the parlor my Lady? I’ve had cook put out fresh tea and biscuits.’
‘Oh, that sounds lovely! Thank you, you are so thoughtful!’
Lord Jason led Felicity through the castle to the parlor. ‘I have to thank you for your excellent way with the pages. Do you know they sing your praises throughout the day? Even I have learned from you. Is there no end to your skills?’
Lady Felicity laughed. ‘I confess, I am horrible at needlepoint! Whenever the women gather, I just cringe!’
‘Excellent!’ Jason’s eyes shimmered. ‘When they do needlepoint I expect you to come visit me in the study then!’
Biddy listened as her brother chatted with Lady Felicity. It was if they forgot she was in the room. She was sure her brother was smitten and had no idea. Perhaps she should plant a seed and see what happened.
‘I have some news about Willie that I wanted to share with you and my sister.’ Jason said. He looked over at his sister who was wearing an odd expression.
‘Biddy, is everything all right?’
Biddy smiled and said. ‘It has never been better dear brother!’
Lord Jason sat in the study looking out the window. He never tired of the way he could walk from room to room or ride his horse over any hill he wanted. Freedom to move around and freedom to smell, see and taste the world beyond a dungeon never grew old to him. The desk in front of him was littered with papers and ink well. He was going over the routine books and inventory of the latest ship that had arrived with goods for him. The lace curtains and white flowers on the fireplace were a touch from his sister in law Cassandra. Otherwise, the study was much the way it had been when his father had it built. The heavy wooden desk smelled of beeswax and lemon. The fireplace still bore the portrait of his mother over it. Lord Jason could remember when it was painted. He was in his tenth year and his brothers and Biddy were enjoying the way the painter had spread his oils on the canvas.
The tapestries on the walls were rich in the colors of red and gold with dark brown on the edges. Lord Jason took it all in as he sat in his chair and leaned back. His hands were clasped behind his back and he was deep in thought as a soft knock came to the door. ‘Enter’ he said.
His servant entered with a message and handed it to him. ‘Thank you Michael.’ The servant nodded and left the room.
Lord Jason broke the seal of the letter and his smile went away. ‘Lord have mercy! Aunt Sara is coming with two young ladies!’ Lord Jason left the study in search of his sister Biddy. He found her in the solar with Lady Felicity and Lady Cassandra.
‘I have a bit of news. It seems we are to have guests within a day or so. Aunt Sara and two young ladies she wishes us to entertain.’
Biddy put her sewing down. ‘More than likely, she has two prospective wives for YOU to entertain.’
Jason sat in one of the stuffed chairs and grimaced. ‘She feels it’s her duty to marry me off!’ he addressed Lady Felicity. ‘Unfortunately, she also tries to assert herself into our household at the same time! How was it we got rid of her the last time Biddy?’
Lady Cassandra began to laugh. ‘Surely she isn’t that bad! Lord Jason, you jest!’ She reached for her cup of tea that was setting on the table next to her.
‘She is horrible! Father had his hands full growing up with her! She looks down on everyone! She’d find a speck of dust after a rainfall! Worst of all, she despises the fact that we gather in the kitchen with the hired help!’ Biddy explained. ‘Let’s see, last time I think we got rid of her when there was a rumor of a pox in the village.’
Lady Felicity sat taking it all in with a silent nod. Family matters were a reason to pray and not ask questions about, she thought.
‘Well, there is no help for it I guess. I’ll have to warn cook and the maids to try to keep up the pretense while she is here.’ Lady Biddy got up and went in search of cook.
The woman was in the kitchen plucking a chicken. She’d wrung it’s neck and had it half plucked when Biddy went to her.
‘Our Aunt Sara is coming for a visit.’ She looked at cook with apologetic eyes.
Cook smiled. ‘Say no more, my Lady! I know the drill. I’ll gather the household and set them straight. Poor little darlings though. They will miss Lady Felicity’s teaching in the kitchen. But, it can’t be helped. How long will she stay? I can make some sour pudding or runny eggs if you like.’ She grinned at Lady Biddy.
‘Sophie! You scoundrel!’ Lady Biddy burst out laughing as she picked up an apple from the bin. She was still laughing when she entered the solar. ‘We’re all set. By tomorrow everyone will know the drill. Lady Felicity, you will have to tell Willie he has to eat in the kitchen for a few days. I’m sure he won’t mind if Arnie is with him.’
Lady Felicity was amazed that they all put on an act for just one aunt. ‘Why not just tell her the truth?’
Lord Jason laughed. ‘Oh, she knows it’s an act Lady Felicity. When our parents died, I was twenty and one. The cook Sophie was the only one who could console us. My aunt wanted to move in and take over but I wouldn’t have it. We began to make friends with all of the staff as we found out what they did around here. I’d never want to go back to the old way. The hired help have our respect and they in turn would give their lives for us. In fact, we love Sophie almost as much as our own mother. She knows it well. Yet, out of respect for Aunt Sara’s feelings we …’
‘I understand’ Lady Felicity interrupted. ‘no need to explain further.’
The next day a huge decorated carriage rolled to a halt at the castle. Aunt Sara arrived with two young ladies. The family met them with affection and smiles. ‘Well, at least the castle has clean rushes. Did you get rid of that old fat maid? She was no help whatsoever.’ Aunt Sara spoke as she walked into the great hall.
The two young ladies were introduced as Lady Millicent and Lady Katherine. Lady Millicent was a shy doe eyed woman who jumped whenever Aunt Sara spoke. Lady Katherine was a chatter box who spoke whatever came into her head.
Lady Cassandra led them to the upstairs rooms that had been arranged for them to stay. ‘Oh, this will never do. I want the room of my late sister in law.’ Said Aunt Sara.
Biddy took a quick intake of breath. No one had given it a thought that Lady Felicity would have to be moved. Lord Jason stood off to one side and answered his aunt.
‘We have another guest staying with us Aunt Sara and that room is occupied. She is a friend of the King and I would not want to insult her by asking her to vacate the room.’ Jason had thought about this and he had made up his mind.
His aunt looked at him with a glare. ‘Who is the gentleman?’
‘It is a lady. Her name is Lady Felicity, may I introduce her to you?’ Jason took Lady Felicity’s arm and brought her forth.
The shock on his aunt’s face was immediate and she gasped. ‘Lord Jason, I need to speak with you in private.’ She did not address Lady Felicity but turned and walked towards Lord Jason’s study.
‘You will not speak to me in private!’ growled Lord Jason. ‘Nor will you be rude to a guest of this house!’ he hollered.
His aunt stopped and turned around. ‘Very well, come along girls I guess we will have to manage.’ Lady Cassandra swallowed and followed Lady Biddy upstairs to help settle the women into their rooms.
A gentle tap on Lord Jason’s sleeve tore his attention away from his anger. He looked down at Lady Felicity.
‘It appears she does not appreciate my being in your mother’s old room. I do not mind moving if it will make peace in the family.’ She was surprised to see Lord Jason smile down at her. A flash of white teeth against the dark hair and eyes caused her to swallow and step back. She thought he was devastatingly handsome.
Lord Jason was amazed that this little woman could be so sweet. He reached out and touched one of her silvery blonde curls. ‘You will not move. This will be along week and I want you to pray for my wisdom. To have a family member who does not follow after the ways of God is difficult. She goes to church and preaches to others, but she is a cold woman Lady Felicity. I will not allow her to be rude to you.’
He patted her shoulder and walked into his study. He locked the door behind him to keep his aunt from barging in on him as she had a habit of doing.
That night at dinner, the maids had out done themselves with good manners and the table was set with care. Each night it was an elite setting, but with the new guests they had made it even better.
When the girls came down, they took the seat either side of Lord Jason as they had been instructed by Aunt Sara. Lord Jason waited until all were seated before he said grace. Aunt Sara smiled as she noticed Lady Felicity had sat on the farthest end.
The girls spoke to Lord Jason as if they had practiced their lines by heart. They told him their ages of sixteen and seventeen. They explained their father was a Knight of the King. Lord Jason listened to the girls with appropriate politeness.
As the meal came to an end, he suggested they retire in the solar for tea. Lady Felicity went to check on Willy. He was busy scooping pudding into his mouth and smiled at her. ‘This is fun, Arnie tells funny stories!’
Arnie looked up and grinned. ‘We’ll have a time of it won’t we Willy!’
‘Yes!’ the boy announced.
Meanwhile, Aunt Sara was speaking to her nephew in a corner of the solar. The girls were talking loudly with Lady Biddy and Lady Cassandra.
‘What is it like to live with a witch?’ they asked the Ladies.
Lady Biddy was horrified. ‘She is not a witch! I’ll hear no more of the subject!’
Aunt Sara turned to the girls and then looked over and her nephew. ‘Really Jason! She is just not suitable to be in this house! I don’t care if she is a friend of the King! I say, she needs to go back to him! What will people think? What is her purpose here? Surely you don’t plan to court a woman with a scar like that!’
The girls began to giggle. ‘Imagine, Lord Jason with the ‘Scarred Face’!
They did not know that Lady Felicity was in the hall and heard it all.
Suddenly, Lord Jason could take no more. ‘Enough! I simply will not have this in my home! You will take these giddy girls and leave us in the morning! I find you rude and totally out of order Aunt Sara!’
Lady Felicity did not hear a word of this though. She had gone out of the castle and was running as fast as she could.
The three guests were escorted quietly upstairs. Lord Jason paced back and forth and finally retreated to his study. Lady Biddy and Lady Cassandra sat in the solar in shocked silence. Suddenly, Biddy thought of Lady Felicity who had been gone for over two hours.
‘Where is Lady Felicity?’ she asked. Lady Cassandra and Biddy went to the kitchens to see if she was with Willy. When they did not find her they went in search of her. After searching the castle they went to Lord Jason’s study.
They knocked on the door and heard their brother yell. ‘Go away!’
Biddy spoke up. ‘Open the door brother, it’s me and Lady Cassandra!’ The door opened suddenly by Jason’s hand.
Sheldon and Charles were seated in the study as Lord Jason paced angrily. ‘I just can’t believe this mess!’
The candles flickered as Jason paced back and forth in his anger. Biddy and Cassandra looked at each other. ‘Who will tell him?’asked Cassandra.
‘I will!’ said Biddy.
Jason stopped pacing and looked at the women. ‘Now what?’
‘We can’t find Lady Felicity.’ Said Biddy.
If Jason was upset before, he was furious now. ‘What? Did you look everywhere?’
‘We looked all over the castle! She isn’t in the castle!’ said Lady Cassandra. She began to shake as she saw the fury in Lord Jason’s eyes. Charles got up and put an arm around her.
‘Cassandra, it’s not your fault. We’ll find her.’ He looked at his older brother. ‘I’ll get the servants to recheck the castle. I’ll go to the stables.’
Lord Jason nodded. ‘Sheldon, go outside and check the gardens. I’ll check the beach!
Jason searched up and down the rocky beach while the castle sat on the cliff above. He watched the dim lights through the castle windows and knew that everyone was still searching for Lady Felicity. ‘Where could she have gone?’ He thought. The waves crashed to the beach in fierce answer to his unspoken question. The stars could no longer be seen in the sky and he began to worry. A storm was coming and the lady had left without even a cloak.
There was only the ship anchored almost a mile away. Perhaps she had gone there in her state of mind. Nothing seemed to be an impossibility to him. Just as he turned to run towards the ship, his squire came into view.
‘Arnie! Have you seen the lady?’ He was breathless and stood still to catch his breath. Arnie continued to run toward him in the dark.
‘No, but I think I know where she might be! Willie told me he used to sleep in the hayloft above the stables. He said he’d told Lady Felicity. I know you wanted me here with you on the beach Lord Jason, but I can’t think of anywhere she’d go here. It suddenly occurred to me that she might be in that hayloft.’ Arnie waited for Jason to reply.
‘Oh, well I’ll go check there then. Have you checked the ship? I was just going there.’ Lord Jason asked.
Just then a big wind came off the sea spraying water with it. ‘Yes, Sheldon’s squire and I both ran down. No one there saw anything and they certainly would have seen her. I doubt any mischief has occurred either Lord Jason.’ Arnie was swift to alleviate any harmful thoughts that might have occurred with seasoned shipmen and a innocent lady.
Jason nodded and ran up the path that led to the stables. Sheldon was still searching the stalls and met him inside. ‘I’ve not seen anything Jason. I’ve called and called and my voice is hoarse.’
Jason heard him yet his eyes were looking towards the rafters. ‘I have a hunch I know where she might have gone Sheldon.’ He and his brother walked silently together towards the other end of the stables. A rope ladder hung in a dark corner. Jason saw a piece of green satin that he knew was a piece of Lady Felicity’s gown. He pointed up with one hand and put his forefinger in front of his mouth to silence his brother.
‘Go call off the search, I will tend to this matter myself.’ He said in a whisper.
Sheldon gave a smile of relief and fled to the castle to call off the search. The storm had erupted in full force and he was soaked by the time he entered the main hall.
Jason climbed the rope ladder and pulled himself up onto the hayloft. There sitting on a mound of hay was his missing lady. Her back was to him and he could see she was in tears. She hugged her arms to her sides and rocked back and forth. Though she was silent, Jason saw the silent shudders.
‘My lady, I’m so sorry for my Aunt’s viscious manners.’ He spoke gently as he went down on his knees beside her. He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her towards him. ‘I’m so sorry.’
As Felicity turned to him, Jason sat down and pulled her on his lap. He sat with his back against the hay rocking and trying to soothe the woman’s sobs.
‘She’s right. You need to send me back to King Charles. I am not suited to be anywhere but beneath the maid’s quarters where no one sees me.’ Her sobs grew louder and she held nothing back.
Lord Jason continued to rock her and gently rubbed her back. ‘When I was in the prison I used to sit and listen for the rain. The lightening was a gentle reminder that some things were not capable of being shut out by man. I tried to remember all of the scriptures that I had been taught. Yet, there were times when I sobbed just as you are right now. It is all right to cry my Lady.’
His low voice seemed to calm the fierce storm inside of Felicity. He continued speaking. ‘I don’t suppose you have seen my fingers. Two of my fingernails were removed during my stay inside. They grew back but in truth, my hands are not much to look at now. My back has welts too from the whip. I am a scarred man. Yet, no one needs to look at my scars. You bear the scar of unjust cruelty on the side of your face with much grace.’
He continued to rub her back as he spoke. Felicity began to sniff and wipe at her eyes. Lord Jason took his handkerchief and gave it to her. ‘Most of the villagers and the entire castle do not see that mark on your face as you do. They have grown to see the beauty inside of you. It is my wish that you would consider remaining with us. Besides, you haven’t finished teaching the difference between witches and God’s prophetic anointing.’ He decided to use any means so that she would not leave.
Lady Felicity turned her head and realized that Lord Jason’s face was within an inch of hers. ‘When your future wife comes, she will not want a hideous lady nearby. I would bring shame on you.’
Jason looked into her eyes and denied the statement. ‘Never, my lady!’ Warm dark eyes stared into the teary hopeful eyes of Felicity. His hold on the woman encircled her even more. Automatically, Lady Felicity lifted her arms to hold his shoulders within her grasp.
Lightening struck and thunder roared just at that time. Lady Felicity jumped and Lord Jason dove. At first it was a light brushing of the lips. Instantly, the kiss deepened to lift Lady Felicity into thin air. She felt as though she was floating as she could taste the sea and the woods on Jason.
‘Felicity’ he murmured and he drew back. Jason was appalled at himself when he saw the wide eyes staring back at him. ‘I frightened you?’
She shook her head and smiled just a little. Jason was pleased that she trembled only slightly rather than trying to slap him, as he deserved. She just sat on his lap and stared.
Though Jason knew he should break the embrace he found he was incapable of stopping himself from taking just one more kiss. With one hand around her back, he gently put his other hand through her hair. He felt soft silk and smelled lavender and rain. ‘My Felicity’ he whispered into her ear. ‘It would seem this Lord finds you more than beautiful. You fill my senses.’ He let her go reluctantly and coughed to clear his head.
Lady Felicity felt like she was in some sort of dream. Yet, she did not wish to awaken.
‘The storm has let up, I think we should make a run for it and return to the castle before …well we should just get ourselves down from here I think.’ He suddenly was flustered and yet tried to remain calm.
Lady Felicity nodded and tried to stand. Lord Jason was sitting on part of her gown though and she fell on top of him. ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ She stammered.
Lord Jason swallowed and began to laugh. ‘It would appear I have sat on your gown. Here,’ he said as he shifted and stood up. ‘Let me help you up.’
Lady Felicity climbed down the rope ladder and waited for Lord Jason to follow suit. He hesitated a moment and grinned in the dark. Suddenly it struck him that he was acting like a dimwit. ‘Lord, I do believe she is the one you sent. Thank you.’ He silently shook his head and departed the hayloft.
The rain was still coming down lightly so he took Lady Felicity’s hand. He and she walked into the main hall dripping wet. Charles and Sheldon were seated in front of the fire and Lady Cassandra and Biddy came hurrying to Felicity.
‘Oh, my poor dear! Come here, and let’s get you out of that wet dress before you catch the ague!’ Lady Felicity was ushered to the upstairs rooms. Biddy glanced quickly back at her brother and smiled.
There stood the Lord of the keep with a huge grin on his dazed face. ‘Yes!’ she thought. ‘He has feelings for this little one! It’s about time!’
Jason shed his wet clothes in his room with his brothers in attendance. The fireplace in his room was lit and soon Jason was in a dry robe. Charles was the first to remark on his brother’s face.
‘What’s happened to you? Did you get struck by lightening? ‘ He offered Jason a drink of wine.
Jason sipped the wine and sat near the fireplace. Sheldon told the manservant to take the wet clothes and then bid him goodnight. ‘There now, is the lady all right brother?’
‘I believe so. Aunt Sara was horrible, more so than usual. She’ll be upset if Felicity says yes to my proposal.’
‘What proposal?’ the brothers said at once.
Lord Jason suddenly realized he’d spoken his thoughts out loud. His face reddened and he could do nothing but smile in silence at the knowing looks on his younger brother’s face.
‘Promise not to tell your wife or anyone? I’d like to be the first to ask the Lady!’ he said. The fire crackled and lit up the master bedroom. Sheldon and Charles began to laugh.
‘When pray tell will that be?’ asked Charles. ‘I seldom keep secrets from my wife.’ He tried to put on a serious face.
Sheldon thought for a moment. ‘I have no wife. But, I see no problem keeping quiet. You will speak soon though won’t you? I’d like to see Aunt Sara’s face. ‘ He paraded around the bedroom pretending to be their aunt. ‘Not suitable a tall! Disgraceful! Help, I’m having the vespers!’ he mimicked in a high voice. The three brothers broke out laughing.
Meanwhile in the next room, Lady Felicity lay under a warm quilt sipping tea in silence. The women had left her to rest. Yet, no rest would come to her.
All she thought of was a low voice and an explosive kiss that warmed her more than the fireplace. Suddenly, she got out of bed and went to her knees.
‘Lord, I have been blessed by your presence all of my life. Even when men tried to kill me, you spared my life. This mark on my face is not hidden from Lord Jason and yet he spoke of my filling his senses. You know my fondness for him Lord. Please guard my heart. Though I am not afraid to ask for anything from you, I do hesitate to believe that any man could love me. Show me your way.’
Felicity awoke the next morning with mixed feelings. She was a bit nervous to go downstairs to break her fast because of the kiss from the night before. What would she say to Lord Jason now? What would he expect from her? Her fears were needless as she soon came to find out upon descending the stairs.
Lord Jason had left the castle in search of Willie’s uncle. The three horses were winded when the three Bitworths slid off their backs and strode purposefully to the small cottage where Willie’s uncle lived. An older woman that Lord Jason recognized as one of the midwives met him at the door. Her hair was caught up in a scarf and she wore a worn brown wool dress covered by a shawl that was beige at one time. It was covered in dust and grime.
‘Good morn to ya Lord Jason, Charles and Sheldon.’ She nodded to them as she spoke. ‘I’ve been thinking that I’d see ya sooner than this. If it’s that lazy no account Simon yer after…ya won’t find him among the living. He keeled over and died while whipping his poor old horse last week. I dunno if the drink finally got him or the idea of a day’s work. I doubt he’ll be missed much. ’ She leaned against the door post and beckoned them to come inside.
Lord Jason was struck by the bare walls and few bits of furniture. ‘Did you pick the place clean?’ He asked.
The old midwife laughed. ‘Nothing to pick at. I jest came to make sure that boy was all right. Looks like he up and took off though. Poor little mite.’
The men could see that she was worried and tried to set her mind at ease. ‘Willie is well cared for at the castle my lady. You’ve no need to worry about his future.’
The woman looked up at Lord Jason and shuddered. ‘I was going to come and speak to you, but Simon would have beat me to death. It’s good that you took that young boy.’ She fished around in her apron pocket and brought out something shiny. ‘I need to tell you about that child but I am not sure you will believe an old woman. Perhaps this will help you believe I’m telling the truth.’ She held up a woman’s brooch that Jason and his brothers recognized at once as their mother’s.
‘It would seem we need an explanation for this.’ The brothers leaned against the wall and the old woman sat on a nearby stool.
Though the cottage had been swept clean, the smell of decay and urine came to the men’s noses. Lord Jason was reminded of the cell he had been in and couldn’t stand it. ‘I was imprisoned in a place that smelled much like this. Let’s go back outside in the fresh air.’ He had suddenly begun to hyperventilate and needed to get out of there fast.
The woman and his brothers followed him to a tree stump. Sheldon had picked up the stool for the woman to sit on while she spoke. Charles and Sheldon stood while Jason sat on the tree stump. ‘All is well, now please speak your piece.’ Jason said.
The sun was shining through the trees and the sound of birdsong met Jason’s ears. Fresh rain from the night before had left a clean scent in the air. He took a deep breath and prayed for patience. Sheldon began pacing as Charles stood with arms crossed about his chest.
‘There is no easy way to say this, I do believe that boy Willie is your own baby brother.’ She waited for the men to scoff but silence prevailed. ‘Did you know your mother was with child when the accident occurred?’
The men nodded their heads. The memory of their father taking her for a ride in the carriage still seemed odd to them. Usually, women of her age that found themselves with child would be in bed.
‘Your mother was a stubborn lady. I loved her, but she was so stubborn. She wanted to have fresh flowers in her room when that baby came and she wanted to pick them out herself. The silliest thing I ever heard. Your father loved her so much that he refused her nothing. So, that day they set out to go to the woods where they knew wild flowers grew. I’ve no idea why the horse spooked and bolted. I was in the carriage with them one moment and thrown out the next. Your father died instantly from hitting his head on a rock. But your mother…, ‘ The woman swallowed and went on. ‘I tried to see to your mother. The birth pains began immediately. Your mother was barely conscious. The baby came almost in five minutes. She named him William and closed her eyes forever. Then, I looked up and saw Simon creeping out of the woods. He grabbed that baby and took him home. His wife had delivered a stillborn the day before. But, they said that Willie was theirs. I told them what I knew and how your mother named him and all. They kept the name and the baby and told me if I ever breathed a word of it, I would die.’
The brothers were too stunned to speak. Finally Sheldon asked…’They both threatened you?’
The woman nodded. ‘ Simon’s wife had a wild look in her when her baby died. She was never the same since. I think she truly believed Willie was her son come back from the dead. But, I can prove he is your brother. Just check his right heel. He has the Bitworth birthmark.’ She began to tremble in fear of punishment from them.
Lord Jason held out is arm and touched her shoulder. ‘Have no fear. We are just in shock for a while here. Do you mean Willie has a star on his heel like we do?’ All of the Bitworth sons bore some sort of birthmark on their feet. No one knew why.
‘Yes, and also you can see that black hair that won’t stay put no matter how you comb it. His eyes are the same too. He's a smart one he is. See, I always checked on him at least once a week.’ She still trembled and Jason smiled to calm her.
‘Simon was a mean man. When he drank he became worse. I think that is why his wife’s babe was stillborn. She had bruises all over her. Will I be punished for this?’ She looked at the men in fear.
‘No, you were as much a victim as Willie. Thank you for my mother’s brooch. If you like, you can come with us and speak to Willie if you are worried about him.’ Said Jason.
The woman smiled a toothless smile. ‘No, if he is in your hands that is all I need to know. I knew some how this day would come. I’ll be going now.’ She got up and gathered her cloak about her and walked down the road.
The brothers stood and walked to their horses. As Jason began to mount his horse he heard Sheldon sniff. He turned around and held his brother until he regained his composure.
‘I knew they died from that carriage. But it was worse than I imagined. Now, to think our own brother was put through a life of misery.’ Sheldon shook his head and turned watery eyes to Jason. Charles walked over and hugged them both.
‘The thing is..’ said Charles, ‘this is a new day. We lost something precious but Willie has gained three brothers and a whole family who all ready love him. Let’s think about how excited that little boy will be to learn he is not a pauper but the youngest Bitworth!’ The men smiled and laughed victoriously as they rode home that day.
Lady Felicity was busy in a corner of the kitchens with the children and her bible on her lap. ‘So, what does that bible say about witches and stuff?’ asked Willie.
Lady Felicity opened her bible to Deuteronomy 18:9-12 ‘When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.’
Niles eyes grew wide. ‘But what is divination, sorcery or omens? What about a spiritist?’
Lady Felicity thought for a moment before speaking. ‘The word of God says in Hosea 4:6 ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge…so I will explain these things to you. Let’s take just a few words for today.
Diviner is one who uses sorcery and soothsaying. It is the pagan contrast to the prophetic. It’s man’s attempt to control the world and future apart from God. Foretelling or foreseeing the future or discovering hidden knowledge through omens, dreams, using lots, astrology or necromancy.’
The children knew what casting lots were. Yet Willie wanted to know what astrology or necromancy was. ‘Astrology is one who uses the stars to foretell the future. Necromancy or spiritist is one who calls up the dead.’
A sorcerer is one who practices magic, a enchanter or conjurer. One who claims to have supernatural power through evil spirits.
Witch craft or sooth sayings are the practice of witches using formulas and incantations to practice sorcery. It is the act of producing extraordinary effects by the invocation or aid of demons, using spells or charms.' Lady Felicity took a moment for questions. Once again, the children asked about 'astrology'.
'Astrology is the ancient art or science of divining the fate and future of human beings from indications given by the positions of stars and other heavenly bodies. [constellations]God does not want us to do that.' she said. She opened her bible again.
'In 2 Kings 17:16-18 The bible says ‘They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts [stars and planets] and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger. So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. ‘
Silence was loud in the kitchen as the maids and squires listened to Lady Felicity’s voice rise and fall as she read from the bible. Never had they truly known what the bible said about these things. For, a bible was seldom found anywhere but in the church or by the Laird of the castle.
Lady Felicity coughed lightly and closed her bible.
‘We went through many things today. If anyone has questions for me tomorrow it will be all right. For now, just know that God Almighty has the most power. He is our creator and has given us promises of salvation, safety, food and clothing. He is our greatest joy and can be our only God.’
The children nodded and went their way. Willie stayed behind and finished eating a honey cake he was given. The cook always gave him frequent snacks.
Suddenly, boots could be heard coming into the kitchen. ‘Well, there you are Willie. How would you like to come for a ride with us? ‘ Willie looked up at Sheldon, Charles and Jason who were smiling down at him. ‘I thought you’d like to see the new foal.’ Jason said.
Jason’s eyes had a special glint in them that Felicity was curious about. Suddenly, he turned to her and pulled her up out of the chair. He planted a kiss on her head and stood back. ‘We won’t be gone for more than an hour and then I’d like to speak with you.’
Sophie and Biddy watched as Jason and his brothers marched back outside with as much noise as they did while coming in.
‘I wonder what that was all about?’ asked lady Felicity.
Biddy shook her head. ‘I don’t know but Charles just hoisted Willie up over his shoulders. Look at that boy grin!’
Sophie looked and smiled but then caught lady Felicity’s smile and grinned all the more.
Jason watched as Willie approached the horse’s stall with caution. He marveled at how the boy seemed to know just exactly how to handle some situations without prompting. The smell of hay filled the air.
‘Well, hello pretty one!’ Willie stood nearby. The foal was all ready on it’s wobbly legs. A reddish brown foal with a tuft of white on its forehead. ‘Look at that mark?’ he said.
Sheldon squatted down near Willie. ‘Ahh, yes it does seem to have a pretty mark on its forehead doesn’t it?’
Charles stood nearby smiling at them. He glanced over to Jason to see when he would begin this conversation.
Jason let Willie spend a few moments with the foal before he took hold of Willie’s hand. ‘Come, let’s go over there and watch. We have something important to discuss with you Willie.’
‘Am I in trouble?’ he asked. He didn’t try to run away but he glanced up with worry.
Jason patted his head. ‘Why no, we just have some news that we want to share with you.’
Charles and Sheldon sat on a nearby bench and Jason found two wooden stools to place in front of them. That way everyone could face each other. ‘Willie, we went to speak with your uncle. ‘
‘You did? ‘ Willie became a little restless at the thought.
Jason sensed his apprehension and put his arm around his small shoulders. ‘Do not worry, he will never hurt you or anyone or anything else again. You see, he died last week. We did however discover an old woman who used to help out with birthing here at the castle.’ Jason said.
‘You found old Gertie? She used to come over a lot and bring me all sorts of things. She’s real nice.’ Willie smiled. ‘I can’t say I’m sorry about my uncle though. That would be a lie. He was meaner than a bear!’
The horses nickered behind them and Willie squirmed to watch the foal suckle to it’s mother. Sheldon became impatient and gave Jason the eye over Willie’s head. Jason put his hand up to signal ‘patience’.
‘Gertie told us some things. They were a great surprise. Do you want to know what she said?’ Jason asked.
‘Sure!’ Willie’s eyes grew wide in anticipation. ‘was it about me?’
The older brothers laughed. Jason nodded, ‘Yes, as a matter of fact. Here is the story. A long time ago the Laird of the keep went for a ride with his wife who was expecting a baby. Somehow, there was an accident and the Laird died.’
Willie looked disappointed. This story didn’t sound like it was about him, but people dying. He tried to remain patient though.
‘The wife fell out of the carriage and delivered a healthy baby boy. However, she too died later. Before she died, she named the babe ‘William’.
Willie perked up. ‘That’s my real name too!’
Sheldon smiled. ‘We know.’ He sat back and stretched his long legs out. Charles folded his arms and crossed his legs at the ankles. He smiled over at Willie.
Jason continued. ‘Well, the story takes a weird twist here. It would seem that your uncle came out onto the road just then and snatched the baby. He brought it to live with him and his wife. Willie, that baby was you.’
Willie stood up and looked at the three brothers. ‘Are you sure?’
Charles then added the rest. ‘Yes, we are. The couple who had the accident was our parents. Willie, you are our littlest brother. You have the distinction of being the youngest of the Bitworths. Is that all right with you?’
Willie looked at all of them. ‘How can you be sure?’
‘Gertie was in the carriage when the accident occurred. Plus, she tells us you have a birthmark on one of your feet. For some reason, all of us Bitworths have them. They are in different shapes. I’ll take my boots off and show you.’ All three of the brothers removed their boots.
Charles mark was a red splotch on his left heel. Sheldon had a red birthmark on his left ankle that looked like a teardrop. Jason showed him his right foot on top with a red mark the shape of a star. Willie was amazed and then smiled. He reached down and removed his own boot to reveal a red spot on his own right heel. It looked like a fish.
The brothers were more amazed than Willie. ‘Does it mean our Mom did something bad like the old wives tales say?’
‘No! Certainly not!’ said Jason ‘No one really knows how they get there and sometimes they go away as you get older. ‘
AUTHORS NOTE : IF YOU LOOK ONLINE YOU WILL FIND MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT BIRTHMARKS. SOME ARE GENETIC WHILE SOME ARE NOT. BACK IN THE DAYS OF THIS STORY, IT WAS THOUGHT TO BE FROM SIN.
As the men put their boots back on, Willie sat silently. Jason waited until he had put his own boots back on before continuing.
‘Willie, you do believe us don’t you? We are your brothers. Is that all right?’ he asked.
Willie smiled. ‘I have always wondered how come my uncle was married to my mother. It made no sense. But, they had told so many lies I guess they got confused. You can still call me ‘Willie’ can’t you?’
Sheldon laughed. ‘I guess we can see who is the practical and analytical one eh brothers? ‘ He grabbed up his brother. ‘Your name is Lord William, but we will be glad to address you as ‘Willie’ when we are together. You are not an orphan though Willie, when we are in public you will be addressed as ‘Lord William’ is that clear?’
Willie looked into his older brother’s face quite seriously. ‘Ok, but can I still eat with Arnie in the kitchen? Can I still be a page? Do you know for sure how old I am?’
Jason began to laugh. ‘Willie, the answer is yes for now, yes to being a page, and you are eight years old. Your birthday is November 20. That’s in two weeks, and we shall have a party to announce our new brother! It’ll be the biggest even ever!’
Willie and his brothers walked back to the castle with much laughter. Willie’s questions fired one after another. He worried he would have to change his clothes more, and go to war next year. By the time they arrived in the main hall, dinner was on the long table.
‘Would you bless us with your presence just this one time before leaving for the kitchen? Actually, I have a thought. If Arnie comes out here would you consent to eating with us?’ Jason’s eyes twinkled at Willie. It was clear he did not wish to disengage from the relationship with the young squire.
‘Oh! I’ll go tell Arnie! Wait, you must come with me or he won’t believe it! Any of it!’ Willie grabbed hold of Jason’s hand and ran out to the kitchens.
Scar of Beauty part 13
The four brothers stood quietly in the doorway of the solar listening to Lady Felicity sing. She had her sewing in her lap as did Lady Cassandra and Lady Biddy. ‘My soul reaches higher than the mountains Lord, you saved my heart from fear. Never will I roam from you, I will always want you near. Oh God my God, my Holy one I know you're never far. For I’d not want to leave you Lord, but be everywhere you are.’
Willie smiled up and whispered to Jason. ‘She sings really nice. Every day she sings to us.’
Lord Jason had heard her voice before. He could listen to it all day. When Lady Felicity continued to sing, he leaned against the door frame.
‘Keep me in your hand dear Lord, don’t let me fall away. For I would want to see your face, I’ll be able to some day.’
The women joined her song and the men stood with smiles on their faces. Willie walked in and the women looked up. Lady Felicity put down her sewing and held out her arms to him. ‘Well, here you are! Do you want to show these men how well you sing?’ She turned to the men, ‘He has a fine tenor voice.’
Willie’s cheeks grew red but he began to sing with Lady Felicity. Sheldon, Charles and Jason were amazed. Jason winked at his brothers and soon their low baritone voices blended in. Biddy smiled as she remembered how her brothers also sang like Willie when they were young.
When the song finished, Willie stood next to Lady Felicity. He was anxious to tell the news but waited for his brother’s to tell them.
A tray of tea was set up on a nearby table and Biddy poured for them all. ‘Well now, you men all seem to be eager about something. Come on now, out with it. I can see the gleam in your eye Jason.’
The men sat down and were suddenly tongue tied. ‘We have made a wonderful discovery.’ Jason began. ‘We went to speak to the man who claimed to be Willie’s uncle only to find one of the midwives who used to help our mother.’
Sheldon grew impatient and elbowed his brother. ‘Come on, get to the point Jason!’
Willie suddenly jumped in. ‘Guess what? I’m the youngest Bitworth!’ Biddy’s face went pale and she stared at her brothers.
‘What? Could this be?’ she whispered.
Lord Jason reached for her and looked into her watery eyes. ‘Biddy, it’s true. Mother fell out of that carriage and gave birth before she died. She named the babe William and closed her eyes. A man came out of the woods and took the babe. He has the same birth mark that we all do, even you. His looks like a fish. But, the old woman saw it all.’
Biddy got up and grabbed Willie. Lifting him up into her arms she clung to him. ‘Willie, I knew you were special when I bathed you that first day! My precious Willie! You’ve no idea how happy I am!’ She rocked back and forth with a startled Willie. He wasn’t used to being hugged.
He relaxed when Jason nodded to him. Putting his little arms around Biddy’s shoulders he decided he liked having a big sister. Biddy spoke softly to him. ‘I have to confess to you, I was hoping for a little sister when mother became pregnant. I have had these brothers to deal with you see. But, I am so glad to have you Willie! You are better than two sisters!’
Willie smiled at her and said. ‘I am? I’m going to be big like they are some day, you know. You won’t be able to hug me then.’
‘Nonsense! I hug them all the time. We are family who shows much emotion Willie. I hope you won’t mind!’ she answered.
Lady Felicity smiled as she watched. The Lord had told her something good was going to happen with this one. The group sat and talked for hours before it became time to eat.
That evening Lady Felicity looked out of her bed chamber window and saw Lord Jason out side walking. It was a usual occurance for him to get restless at night. Often, she would hear him yell in his sleep and suddenly crash to the floor. His faith in God had saved him from insanity those years locked away, but still he had some problems with the nights.
She often would awaken to the sound of footsteps just outside the window down below. This night Lord Jason’s white shirt billowed as the wind picked up. His boots made a soft crunching sound as he appeared to make his way to the beach. Felicity watched as his tall frame became a dark sillouette against the moonlit sky. Suddenly, she acted without a thought.
She dressed quickly and went downstairs. Throwing her cloak over her, she carefully walked the narrow cobbled path to the beach. There sitting on the banks with his knees up was Lord Jason. His elbows rested on his knees and he held his head in his hands. Few people knew it, but he often slept there. The sound of the ocean and the fresh salty air soothed him.
He sensed rather than saw Lady Felicity approach. ‘Lord Jason’ she said quietly.
He sat up and looked over at her. A small woman wearing that dark brown covering, she looked as she had when he first saw her. Her face was illuminated by the moon light and he could see she was smiling.
‘Why are you out so late?’ he asked.
‘I hear you many times during the night Lord Jason. You have trouble during the night hours. I thought perhaps you’d like to talk.’ She settled herself on the banks next to him.
Jason looked out at the white caps of the waves rolling in. He had spoken to no one after his release from the dungeon. His brothers had seen the scars on his back and his fingernails but said nothing. He could feel a knot in his stomach and wasn’t sure he should share with this delicate creature. The horrors of the nights of the asylum sometimes rang in his ears.
‘My thoughts may not be fitting for a woman of gentility Lady Felicity.’
Lady Felicity touched his arm, imploring him to relax. ‘Lord Jason, I have been subject to ridicule and threatened with death many times. The scar I wear gives me little room for squeamish thoughts. Share your heart and we will see.’
‘The sounds of the nights were the worst. People screaming and chains rattleing. They were insane and if they were tortured…I don’t know. All through the night for four long years I would stand near the open bars of my cell to get fresh air. The stench of human waste and urine still cling to my senses. The beatings were stopped within the first few months. I have no idea why. They thought I was a traitor, I thought they would kill me. But, the existence in that cell for four years was the punishment I got.’ He stopped talking and stared without seeing.
Lady Felicity began to rub his arm. Jason continued, ‘I used to watch them escort people outside for a while to hose them down. They would throw buckets of water on them. Many would pull their hair out because of the lice. The screams were like animal sounds. I just wanted to run away. I’d recite the words that my mother taught me. Praying to God always. I remember trying to remember all of my misdeeds and I asked forgiveness. The screams went on all night…every night.’ He began to shake.
Lady Felicity began to speak softly to him. ‘Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.’ She continued to speak the Lord’s word to him until she noticed he no longer shook.
‘Just talking about it brings it back. I try to focus on the ocean here.’ He reached over and took her hand. ‘I fear no woman will want a husband with such darkness in his mind.’
‘To confront the darkness alone would be harmful Lord Jason. But, you are not alone. God is with you, and so am I. I have something to tell you. I’ve been holding this in for so long. I need to tell you.’ She looked up at him and he could see the dread in her eyes.
‘My Lady, whatever it is..it can’t be so bad.’
‘I know the woman who lied to the King about you being a traitor. I went to the King as soon as I was allowed. After they tried to burn me, and the Lord split the pole that they fastened me to; the King wanted to speak to me. He then believed my innocence and I was finally put in a place where I could help you. Before that, no one would let me in to speak to him.’ Lady Felicity suddenly felt chilled and pulled the cloak closer.
‘But, why should you want to speak on my behalf? Did God tell you I was innocent?’
Felicity had gone this far, she knew she had to continue. ‘Well, yes but there is more. The King wanted to believe me. He stopped the beatings and ordered you be given better treatment. That is why the stew and the water basin was supplied each day. ‘
Felicity looked as he suddenly jerked away. ‘You knew this?’he asked.
She nodded. ‘I was able to come and go in the asylum because most feared the scar on my face. They thought I had special powers. God used this scar so that I could come and check on you. God was working on your behalf all along. Part of those screams you heard were actually people screaming at the sight of me. Does that information help you?’ She took hold of his arm and looked up into his eyes.
Jason stared down at her. ‘That does put a different thought process in my head. I still do not understand why you took so much risk. You could have been killed. Those guards, some of them raped those insane women. They wouldn’t have thought twice…’
Lady Felicity interrupted his thoughts. ‘God protected me on your behalf. But, I have to tell you something Lord Jason. I would have tried to help you no matter what.’
‘Why? I really want to know why?’
The night air, the moonlight and the sound of waves were giving her the calm she needed to tell Lord Jason the truth. Lady Felicity shifted so that she was on her knees before him.
‘Years ago my father had a visitor come to our home. He was a priest, I think. He told my father to pray for his two daughters. He told him this.. one daughter would follow after God, but the other daughter would follow her own ways. The evil daughter would try to kill her sister. My sister, was Lady Diana…’
Lord Jason froze as he stared down at her with wide eyes filled with horror. Lady Felicity became quite frightened and prayed silently for help. ‘You see, you can not even think to marry me. I will leave if you wish…’
‘Lady Diana tried to have you killed?’ he was incredulous.
‘Yes, she was the one who spread the gossip that I was a witch.’ Felicity watched as Jason’s face was a mixture of emotion.’
Jason’s foot dug into the sand as he shifted his position to face her better. ‘Did you kill her?’
‘No! I would never do that! She was running to the King with some new idea to have me removed from the palace and tripped. She fell down the stairs and broke her neck. She was furious that I was even nearby.’ Lady Felicity stopped to take a breath. ‘You must believe me Jason. I was trying so hard to have you freed. Even now, you struggle and are in torment. I want you to be free.’
Lord Jason watched for a moment as the moon light reflected on the scar on the side of her face. The scar was in the shape of a dagger. A sudden calm came over him. It was though the Lord lifted the veil of confusion and he saw things clearly. ‘My lady, you have no idea how much I believe you. Have no fear and I pray you do not even consider leaving. Your sister’s treachery scarred both of us. Yet, you were so brave. Now, I think it time I speak my heart to you.’
He reached for her trembling hand and kissed it. ‘Have no fear, for I find you as God must have meant for me to see you. Your beauty begins from within you. The spirit of the living God has truly been living within you for quite some time. All who have been near you see your beauty.’ He reached out and touched her face.
‘My lady, I long to have you as my wife. No one else will do. No one else has born the scars from a life born to serve. You know, I do believe my wretched nights are behind me. The sounds of demonic screams are no longer in my head. All that is before me is in your face my precious Felicity. I want you to know that I will treasure that scar on your face for all time. It is a mark that was meant to harm, but it became a ‘Scar of Beauty’.
Felicity looked at Jason with tear filled eyes. Jason took her face in his hands. 'My lady, would you truly marry this man?'
Felicity spoke quietly. ‘I would love to be your wife and my answer is yes.’
Eighteen months later….
Willie was playing with his wooden sword as Lord Jason paced back and forth. ‘This is taking much too long!’
Lady Cassandra smiled and patted her swollen tummy. ‘Good Heavens Jason, my son took two days to get here. Lord only knows how long my next will take. ‘
The door burst open and the midwife smiled. Her hair was in a scarf and sweat poured from her face but she was smiling. ‘Lord Jason, I believe you should come in.’
Jason raced into the room to see his wife and not one, but two babes. ‘Are you ok? Are they male or female?’
Felicity grinned as she gazed at her disheveled husband. ‘I am fine. You have one of each.’
Jason smiled down at his new family. 'We'll name them 'Louis and Louisa' A thought suddenly struck him and he unwrapped both babies. There was a tiny birthmark on one son’s left foot and another on his other baby's right foot. He shook his head as he stared at his wife.
‘They are beautiful!’ she said.