This poignant tale reveals more tolerance for Elertde of Brittany than Lawrence has in the novel.
Lawrence and Jo lived in bliss for a month and a half at Ratherwood. But Lawrence had begun to worry over this and that political matter, and Jo sorely missed her babies. And so, reluctantly, they returned to the court, on April 28, rested and happy. The whole of Lawrencium turned out for home coming. It was a beautiful spring day and the world seemed to have awakened after a dreary winter.
The first thing Jo did was to run to the nursery to see her children. Lawrence followed close behind. Little Peter was all dressed up and very impatient. He knew what all the hubbub was about. His eyes lit up when he saw her coming. She threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly to her, She had not realized how she missed him so much. She held her son off her and looked at him, the tears streaming down her face. Lawrence came and stood over her, smiling.
"Oh, I am a beast for taking you away them!" he said, in mock self-reproach.
"Ch, no, silly'" she replied, giving him that special look which made the maids smile at mother.
Peter grabbed his father's leg and gazed in joy at him. "There, my fair queen," said Lawrence, proudly beaming at her, "is the making of a king!"
Josephine had prayed that today, since it was the princesses' birthday, she might know her own daughter. But the to little girls who toddled awkwardly toward their mother were has golden haired and blue eyed as she, and might have been sisters, Lawrence watched her anxiously as she studied them for any resemblance to herself or him.
Caitie was her father's girl. She ran, fell, and crawled, gurgling delightedly, to his feet and pulled herself up by his leggings. Josephine laughed at the look on his face as he beheld the two golden-haired children staring adoringly up at him. Peter laughed too and letting go of his father, and reached over and smacked his little sister on the cheek with a t little kiss. That was too much, Jo burst into renewed tears and Lawrence looked as if might at any moment.
Elayne, who had been gazing shyly at her adored mother and alternately across at her father from the safety of her mother's skirts decided that the whole scene was entirely too frightening and, with one little sob, buried herself completely in her mother's s skirts clung, shaking, to her mother's leg.
Jo immediately dug her out of the folds, lifted her, and held her against her breast smoothing the golden hair,
"Oh, there now, we're awfully sorry, you know," she said, soothingly.
The little body stopped shaking and the little head lifted and looked doubtfully at the anxious faces. Lawrence came, stood behind Jo, and smiled reassuringly.
"Happy birthday, princess."
There was a long silence as Elaine stared at him questioningly and not convinced yet, Lawrence reached down and brushed the tears off her cheek. Suddenly the little face broke into a smile, as she gazed shyly up at him through her long lashes,
Lawrence's heart was captured. Nothing would do but he must carry Elaine in to see he baby brother, Donal was now nearly seven weeks old. His little cherub's face was haloed in gold, proof of belonging to the family,
"Jo," said Lawrence, looking at her shining face and then at little Donal, "Jo, you've given the most beautiful family!"
"Oh, but where's my Tavish?" she cried, suddenly, missing him. The servant's looked embarrassed at the pronoun she had used.
"I'll get him, madam," said the head of the nursery, looking humble, "We'd thought you want to see your own children first,"
"Oh, but he is family. He is mine!"
"Jo!" Lawrence silenced her with his look "Don't get upset."
"Here he is, darling, been crying for ye all this month too, he has, he has,." scolded Rachel, lovingly, scandalizing everyone with h< familiarity, and blushing up to give her "darling, " her Tavish. Everyone looked away as the little dark-haired boy clung to the Queen desperately, as if she might leave him again.
Lawrence was very moved. "Jo, I love you." He whispered into her ear and she caught his hand in hers and squeezed it.
They spent the afternoon getting settled back in, and seeing everyone who had been waiting for their return to settle this or that little matter.
In the evening they had mead in the nursery, which proved to be a very chaotic affair during which they managed to drink very little, having constantly some small member of the family in their laps. After they had put each one into bed without the help of the nurses, they dressed for the evening and joined their nobler friends and court in the grand hall.
It was a very pleasant evening, no one wishing to burden the king and queen with any heavy matter when they looked so happy.
Lord Percy welcomed Jo back warmly,
"And how is my dear Jocelyn, the Lady Percy?" she inquired of him. "I have not had more than a glimpse of her tonight, in this crowd."
"She is well and happy and anxious to talk to you, too, shall I go find her?"
"Oh yes, please,.. oh, and Percy?" she called after him as he turned to go.
"Is not my lord Elerde here tonight? Surely he is not ill,..?"
The grayness of his face frightened her. She caught at his sleeve.
"Tell me, is he not well then?"
"I assure you madam, he is quite well," Percy replied.
Thereupon she was relieved and turned smiling back to her husband who was listening to a talkative young man. But his words were flowing over Lawrence not to be heard; the King was staring blankly at his cup, his heart wrenched by Jo's unknowing but obvious interest, in his right hand man, the Lord Elerde.
Elerde leaned heavily against the wall and glared at the lone candle flickering on the table beside his cup and the three empty flagons. He was filled with rage at life; at himself. He grabbed the cup and threw it at the wall. It crashed and clattered to the floor. The three flagons followed.
He looked around desperately for something else to throw and his eyes lit upon the vase still filled with the rotting branches Josephine had put there in the fall, He knelt reverently beside it and listened to faint noise of revelry in another part of the castle.
"All this, " he said angrily, as if blaming the vase, "all this could have been mine, A castle blessed by her loveliness and the laughter of her children. Her face always turning to mine as if I was a magnet. That indeed would be heaven on earth…"
He dreamed for a moment of how it would have been but broke off suddenly in pain, "But as it is…my life is in hell. I cannot leave this place. I live only to see her now and then. I cannot kill her love, for then I should surely kill whatever love she has for me. I cannot entice her away for she loves her children and she love him too. I cannot kill myself for some part of me still hopes. And that hope will never die until she looks at me and stares coldly past, feeling nothing. My heart says to me, 'Regardez, fou, she trembles at your glance, and watches after you when you pass; why do you not take what you want?'"
He searched for another flagon and downed half of it without bothering to find his cup,
"Ah, yes," he said in reply to himself, "but you cannot, because you love her and you are un gentilhomme. Fool! You will never get drunk enough to forget that you love and cherish her. Never! Never! Never!" But as if to try to disprove this he poured the rest down his throat and began to rummage around for more. Thus he went on through the night -at times yelling at himself, at times throwing anything he could lay hands on, at times crying desperately. Dawn came and found him scaring soberly at his cup.
He heard the castle awaken. In midmorning he heard "women's voices in the garden and. leaned out his window to see.
"Ah, madam," fretted a young girl, "he was just here. Where could he have gone?" With pain, Elerde recognized Jo's voice. "Well, she must be close by. He's just playing games."
In vain they searched. Whomever they sought certainly seemed to have disappeared. On impulse Elerde went down, and offered to help the young maid.
Elerde looked around, No Tavish. He wandered off a little way and back again. With a smile he beheld a hammock that had come unhooked from a tree. He lifted it. Fast asleep lay Tavish underneath it. Elerde sat down beside him and, leaning against the tree, gazed at the baby, A strange longing filled his heart.
Tavish rolled over and sat up. Rubbing his eyes, he gazed, back up at this strange man,. "Well hello, my fine little truant, I dare say you've given your mama a good scare,"
Tavish decided he liked this fellow. He crawled over the man's legs and sat himself down en Elerde's lap.
"Well, you are brave, aren't you? Now what's a chap like you trusting one such as I? Eh bien,"
A curious thing was happening to Elerde, He fought it, but to no avail. It had a firm grasp on him. His heart so full of love and longing for a home was at the mercy of this child that had taken a fancy to him.
Tavish had no doubts. He declared Elerde his. He reached up and grabbed hold of Elerde's beard and gave it a fierce yank. At Elerde's look of mock indignation he laughed outright and bounced up and down.
Ma foi, you have some boldness, eh? Why you are so much as insulting, Here I thought I was so mechant.."
At this moment he became aware of Jo standing only a few feet from him, listening to his strange comments, her eyes glistening, her lips trembling.
In a moment he was on his feet. He felt the sharp touch of mixed excitement and pain in his chest at the sight of her.
"I, uh, guess I should have called. I am devastated to have let you worry," he said, his voice catching.
"That is alright, I assure you. At least he is safe. Tarena! Here he is!" she called to her maid.
Tarena emerged from the bushes and, heaving a sigh of relief, grabbed the baby up and hugged him. "Oh, dear Lord, dear Lord, I thought I should die of very fear." She turned to carry him up into the castle. For a moment Tavish considered this and then, seeing his new friend left behind, he let out a wail of anger.
Almost pleased, Elerde caught up with them, the unbelieving Queen following behind. He took Tavish from the girl, and the three went up to the nursery.
Afterwards it became ritual that Elerde should take Tavish wherever he went in the morning. Wherever he did go people stared; it was a strange sight to see the grim, isolate Elerde explaining complicated matters to little Tavish, who listened with all the appearance of intensity.
Lawrence observed this astonished. But he liked what he saw, because he respected this man. He was glad of the change In Elerde, also. Elerde had come to believe that he must live up to the child's admiration. And now his relations with the Queen could be less strained, since they had something they shared in Tavish.
"Do you know what that little scapegrace did today?" he'd say and she would laugh at their adventures.
Thus It was that a great load was lifted from Lawrence's mind and from the Queen's also, knowing the King was at peace, and life became calmer, or at least as much so as they could be at court.
Next: The Usurping
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Old Stories: Elerde and Tavish, 769 AD
This poignant tale reveals more tolerance for Elertde of Brittany than Lawrence has in the novel.