A very old drawing of Peter and lawrence.Lawrence followed his young son outside and into the courtyard. "Peter!" he called. The boy reacted to the sound of his father's voice but kept walking. "Peter, come here!" the King shouted.
The boy took off running. The King sprinted after him and caught him easily. His son struggled to be let go but subsided when it was obvious his father had a strong grip. He shot at his father defiantly, "Art thou going to beat the crap out of me now, the way thou beat Shannon?"
Lawrence flinched. He loosened but did not release his son. He said instead in a soft voice, "Peter, I prithee, stop and talk to me."
The boy sulking nodded and his father let him go. The man came down on one knee to talk to his son. "Peter, thou and I have much to discuss. I grieve for what my foolishness hath done to you and thy sisters and brothers."
Peter gave his father a sharp look. "Why didst thou give Mother's pendant to that.. that.. woman?" he demanded.
Lawrence sighed and put his hand on the boy's shoulder. The boy shrugged it off. "My dear son, I gave it not her. And her name is Lady Juliana. Whate'er thou dost feel about the lady, thou art a prince and will be a king. Thou must treat women with respect and courtesy." As soon as he said it, Lawrence knew how Peter would respond. He interjected, "Nay, thou must be better than me. Mine own errors are not license for thee."
Peter kicked one foot in the dirt and bowed his head, angry. "What meanest thou didst not give Lady Juliana that pendant? She hath it and she goeth about telling all it was a if from thee."
Lawrence nodded and stood. "Come, my son. Let us go sit in thy mother's garden. " As they walked he tried to explain. "Peter, Juliana found it and thought it was meant for her."
"But Father, why didst thou not tell her it is Mother's?" Peter demanded.
Lawrence shook his head. "I know not. I hath been a weak and dishonorable man."
The boy was taken aback by his father's self-criticism. It made him afraid. Men, fathers, Kings were not weak. Why was the King saying this?
They walked over to the little bench that was the Queen's favorite place to sit and think and watch the birds. It was too cold now and the plants were still mostly dormant. The King draped his cloak so that Peter did not have to sit on the cold stone. Then he wrapped the rest of it and his arm about the boy's shoulder to warm him. Peter was trembling. Lawrence looked at him with concern. "Art thou cold?"
The boy shook his head and tried to control his trembling. He wasn't cold . He was angry and hurt and confused and terrified. Lawrence guessed it all and bowed his head. He looked vacantly at the garden bed in front of them. His visage was gaunt. Peter said in a tiny voice, "Father? Art thou all right?"
Lawrence looked up and into his son's eyes. He said with utmost candor, "Nay, Peter. I am not."
"But Father." Peter stopped. Tears were beginning to well in his eyes. His voice, no longer mimicking an older boy, became that of a younger one. "Father, how couldst thou let this happen? How couldst thou let Mother run away? Why didst thou not go and bring her back?" The last had a hint of a wail in it.
Lawrence tried to pull himself into a more dignified position. He knew that the little boy's heart was wrenched but also that the king who resided, like a seed, in the child was frail enough to warp if bent too far this young. He decided it was time he spoke with the boy with respect and honesty.
"Peter, I shall not tell thee anything that is a lie. Thou deserves my honesty. But thou must decide now if that is what thou want.. the truth is a very sharp weapon and cuts e'en the strongest."
Peter's eyes grew large and afraid. He swallowed and tried to buck up his courage. He choked back a sob and tried to rally. "Aye, Father, I want to know the truth, whatever it is."
Lawrence smiled sadly into his son's eyes. He shook the boy's shoulder. "I am proud of thee, Prince. I should not blame thee if thou wished to remain a child longer." He shifted and stared straight ahead of him. "My dear son, when I didst travel to Derby I was in pain. That is no excuse to do what I didst. But I didst doubt thy mother. Didst still love me." Peter started to protest, but Lawrence stopped him. He went on, "I met the Lady Juliana there.. she was my sister's friend when we were young ourselves. She let me forget some of the cares that hath come with growing into a man. "
Lawrence looked uncomfortably at his son. "I know thou know of the love between a man and a woman, the love of the body. Thou doth not know yet what it can do to a man." He paused and added, "If he lets it."
He stood and paced slowly on the path near the bench.
"I let my hurt and my body take over the part of me that loves thy mother and thee and loves this kingdom."
Peter interjected, "Martin said she bewitched thee!"
"Your riding master hath no business telling thee such rot. The Lady Juliana is no witch. And she is not responsible for this. It is I you should place the blame on and I alone. I hope thou wilt be a stronger man than I. I have let thy mother unman me in ways she knew not she did. Do not blame her either. It is my fault. My fault."
"I do not understand, my father." Peter pleaded., "What dost thou mean."
Lawrence turned to look at his son. The boy was like himself but also like a clean fresh piece of parchment. Lawrence unspoiled -- that is what Peter was. "I promise thee, when I have come to understand I will explain it to thee. All I can say now is that I let thy mother drift away from me. I know not why. And then I did something that drove her away. Away from myself, and, worse, away from thee."
Peter started to cry. "Father, wherefore didst she leave us? The twins and I cannot make sense of it. Why does she not love us any more? We have been good. We know she is angry with thee, but why leave US?" His voice was lost, in pain.
Lawrence went to the bench and sat, gathering the boy in his arms. He was crying too.
"Oh Peter, I know not. If I could have known mine actions wouldst drive her from thee, I should rather have died." He kissed the boy's head which was buried in his father's chest. "I think I brought Juliana here to hurt her, to make thy mother understand how hurt was I. But that was not something I had any right to do to thee."
Peter slowly turned a tear stained and puffy face to his father's. "I think I understand, sir," he said.
Lawrence was surprised. "Understand what, my dearest?"
"Mother and Sir Elerde. I know that he loves her and that she looked at him oddly sometimes." He saw the grief on his father's face and started again to cry. "Oh Daddy, I am so sorry. I didst not tell Mother that I knew she was betraying thee."
Lawrence stopped him. "Hush, boy. She didst not betray me. She was e'er faithful to me. She simply needs must care for those who care for her."
Peter calmed a bit, but then said firmly, "I shall ne'er let my wife love another man like that. I hate Elerde!"
Lawrence pulled the boy to him again and patted his back. "Nay, nay," he crooned. "Elerde is a noble knight. He was just a man, e'en so. Thou loves thy mother, I love thy mother, then how should we be amazed when someone else does?"
Peter nodded sadly.
Lawrence held the boy away from him to speak to him directly and with assurance. "Peter, I promise thee that I shall do whate'er is in my power to make this right. I cannot promise thee thy mother will return. It pains me to say this, but if she left thee and thy sisters and brothers she is in very great pain indeed. It is not for want of love for thee. That thou must believe with all thy heart. But I have hurt thy mother sorely and she may not come back."
"But Father," the boy cried. "If thou send Juliana away Mother will come back!" Before his father could reply he went on in a tiny voice, "Unless... she has gone.. to Brittany."
"No, love, I doth not believe she hath. Erik said no lady of her station hath traveled across the Channel. He wouldst know." Peter who worshipped the swashbuckling Viking did not question his father's assurance.
"Then will thou not go in search of Mother?" he asked.
"Nay. Nay. We must wait for her to come back to us.
Peter protested, "Well she will not if that woman.. Lady Juliana I mean.. is still here."
The King looked glum. "She won't be," he promised.
The King looked at his heir, who looked back. They embraced and sat, holding each other.
Lawrence returned with Peter to the keep, giving over the boy, who tried to hide that he had been weeping, over to Percy and Jocelyn to care for him. The King trod heavily through the corridors to Juliana's chambers.
As he passed into the bedchamber she leapt up from her mirror and flew into his arms. "Oh Lawrence, the whole court is green with envy! They see thou hast placed me in thy favor and they must too." Her voice started to slow and lessen in energy as she felt his stiff and unyielding body. "My lord, is it not wonderful? And all because of thy sweet gift." She stayed in his arms a moment, thinking rapidly. She looked up at him and into his eyes. "Love, what is it? Hath I angered thee?"
"No, lady. Thou hath not angered me. Come, sit down. I need to tell thee something about that pendant."
Juliana followed him unsteadily. "Lawrence, what is it? I do not understand." She joined him on a padded chest that served as a seat as well. She implored him with her eyes not to hurt her.
"Juliana, dear girl. That was not a gift for thee. It belonged to Josephine." He lifted the medallion from her breast and turned it so she could read the initials, "L & J". "Lawrence and Josephine," he explained simply.
She snatched the medallion out of his hand and reared back. "No!" she shouted. "Thou dost not e'en know where she is! How couldst thou have a gift for her?"
Lawrence sighed, "Nay, 'twas given her when Peter was but a baby."
Juliana's sharp eyes caught the look of longing in Lawrence's face. She slowly stood. Then she shot at him, "How couldst thou?! How couldst thou let me believe the gift was mine? How couldst thou let me humiliate myself before all?"
Juliana started to pace rapidly back and forth. She ladled invective after invective on him. She demanded that he explain to her how he could have been so heartless. Then she abruptly stopped, softened and came to him. "Mine own love, I am sorry. I know thou didst not mean to hurt me. I am just surprised and embarrassed." She sat down and started to stroke his arms, then his chest. The look she knew well started to grow on his face.
But then suddenly Lawrence pushed her hands away and stood. "Nay. Nay! I cannot submit to thy wiles now. " He searched about for something to say, to get away from her, to break the hold she had on him. "I must leave thee now. I must go to my counsel chamber and work. I may not sup with thee tonight."
Juliana cried out and tried to pull him back. Lawrence pulled himself free and strode out the door.
Juliana sat stunned. "Oh dear God, dear God. I am losing him. How canst that be?" She wrapped her arms around her breast and began to keen, rocking back and forth. She stayed that way for some minutes and then stood and reached for anything, everything she could lift and throw. A small casket broke the mirror. A clay pitcher shattered against the wall. She snatched the medallion from her breast, breaking the chain, and she threw it hard on the floor. She muttered to herself, "That shall not be. That shall not be. I shall find a way to keep him. None can stand between us. I canst not go back to that life. I canst not lose him." Her face became more and more determined as she began to think of ways she could find to hold him.
Next: The King's Valentine Gfit