“My Lords,” Roland said as he rose. “Lady Brianna. Will you pardon me? I had better see to the horses before I retire.”
“I will help Maven with the dishes,” Margueritte said, knowing it would let her outside as Roland was going outside. Then her father had to ruin it all.
“Don’t mind the ogre if he’s back. He really is a nice fellow.”
“Oh, yes.” Roland had forgotten and needed to think a minute.
“It’s all right,” Tomberlain said. “I’ll go with you and help.”
“Thank you.” Roland stole a glance from Margueritte.
Margueritte took out the plates, knives and cups and set them in the water, not too gently. Marta came back in time to help and ended up doing most of it because Maven’s back hurt.
“What’s the matter missy?” Lolly asked, shooting for the core. “You like that hunk of a young man, don’t you?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Margueritte said, sounding ever so frustrated. “Tomberlain won’t let me get a word in edgewise.”
“What are those?” Margueritte fell right into it.
“Heartaches, Headaches, and Husbands,” Lolly said. “And that last, ungrateful, self-centered child is the cause of most of the first two.”
“I would like a husband.” Marta spoke up from her work and honestly tried to join the conversation.
“Yes, Marta.” Margueritte got curious. “Why aren’t you married.”
“No one ever asked me,” she said.
Maven got up then, grinning, and came forward, rubbing her hands together. “Well, well, well,” she said.
“Now, now.” Lolly tapped her cooking spoon tenderly against Maven’s hands and eyed Marta with a strange look. “I think you need to be leaving this one to the experts.”
Margueritte knew Marta would not be long for this world. “I gotta go,” she said, and she slipped off toward the barn, but could not imagine a reason to go closer than the old oak. Think, think. She said to herself, but it was no good. The moon came up. The stars twinkled and she knew, like Elsbeth, she ought to be in bed. At last, when she could think of no excuse to wander into the barn, and indeed, she felt she could hardly think at all, she settled on returning to the house and to her sleep. She got near the door, however, and heard a word.
“Hello.” The word startled her. “That brother of yours is hard to lose.”
“Thick head, good heart,” Margueritte said, smiled and suddenly felt very giddy.
Roland smiled his perfect smile and it made Margueritte turn her head, slightly.
“What?” Roland wondered. “You should not hide your smile.”
“Who would notice?” he said and reached to touch her, as if looking, but let his fingers linger on her lips. Margueritte looked deeply into his blue eyes before she pulled back ever so little. “All night I thought you had something to ask me.”
“Oh, yes.” Margueritte had to pause to remember. “I wanted to know if you really saved Lord Charles’ life.”
“Yes,” he said. “I suppose I did. But I grew up on the Saxon Mark so in a way I knew what treachery he would face, and he could not have known.”
“You are modest,” Margueritte said, and thought this was a rare and prized quality not found among the braggarts who surrounded her father or who called Tomberlain friend. “But I feel that is very important. I have a sense about your lord; that he has only begun to step into his greatness.”
“The same as I feel,” Roland said, in a more serious tone. “Even though he has already done more in his life than most men ever dream of doing.”
Both looked at each other, and Margueritte wondered why she kept speaking of Charles when Charles was not on her mind or heart. She got ready to ask another question when a little voice interrupted them both.
“What am I missing?” Goldenrod fluttered up and hovered briefly in between them. Roland seemed to take a good long look at the fairy’s face, and she looked at him with curiosity. “Are you loving?” she asked. Neither felt quite sure what she was asking. Roland looked uncomfortable for the first time, and Margueritte answered for her little one.
“I do hope we may be friends,” she said.
“Yes,” Roland agreed. “You know what friends are, don’t you?”
“Oh yes,” Goldenrod said with some excitement. “My Lady, and Elsbeth and I are best friends. And my Lady Brianna and Little White Flower.” And she started a list. “And Luckless, Grimly, Lolly, Maven and Marta, Tomberlain, and even Hammerhead, and Miss Blossom and Lady LeFleur, my mother. She is queen of the fairies, you know.”
Roland interrupted. “So that makes you the fairy princess.” He tipped his hat to her.
“It does?” Goldenrod widened her little eyes. “Wow. Wait ‘till I tell Elsbeth. She’ll be so proud of me.” She flew off as quickly as she came. Roland looked at Margueritte.
“We have pointed this out to her many times,” Margueritte said. “But retention of the facts is a fleeting thing for a fairy so young. She is only about seventy years old; you know.” Roland swallowed and looked again in the direction Goldenrod had gone. Margueritte took a deep breath. “I should be in bed,” she said. “Goodnight, Sir Roland.”
“Just Roland, if you don’t mind. I’m still getting used to the sir part.” He smiled again, but she turned toward the door and stopped only before entering as Roland spoke once more. “By the way, you did not have to kick your brother. He is a good young man, and despite his questions, my attention was all yours.”
Margueritte’s hand went to her mouth. She kicked the wrong leg. She felt very embarrassed.
“Oh, don’t think of it,” Roland said quickly. “My sisters used to do that all the time. It reminded me of home. And I found it very refreshing after all the stiff formalities of the palace. I don’t believe the ladies in Paris even know how to kick.” He tried hard to help, and Margueritte smiled for his efforts, but she felt embarrassed all the same.
“Goodnight then,” she said, went inside, and only paused to say goodnight to her mother who was waiting to escort Sir Roland to his room.