The End of My Childhood

I woke up and looked around. I was on my bed surrounded by people. "What's wrong?" I asked.  I sat up and winced. I felt sore all over. Reaching up I felt a large bump beneath my hair. "What happened?" I inquired, looking around at their worried faces. Sarah spoke up. "You fell out of one of the trees in the garden, Prince William."

"Trees..." I didn't remember that. "That can't be right." I said. I was playing tag with Jerold yesterday." But I had a feeling that I was forgetting something. Someone screaming...

"Not yesterday, Prince William," said the palace doctor. "Two days ago."

"Two days!" I exclaimed, with a gasp. I rubbed my head. "I remember now. After we played tag we got some water. Then I suggested that we climb the trees. Jerold didn't want to so I climbed by myself." I looked up at my father. "And then I fell."

The king frowned. "Who is this Jerold boy?"

"Ann's son."

"The cook?"

"Yes, father."

He frowned and left the room. Sarah sat on the foot of the bed.  "You foolish boy!" she said angrily, "Do you know what you have done?"

"What do you mean?"

"Jerold is in danger!"

"Don't be absurd! What danger could he possibly be in?" But even as I said it I felt uneasy. The doctor noticed my discomfort and decided that I must be tired. "Sarah," he said, "I think it is best if you allow him to get some rest." She nodded. I noticed that her face was streaked with tears. She had been crying. Had my father felt worried? Probably not. It is most likely that he was simply worried that his only heir would be gone. Sarah walked out of the room as I pulled up the covers and went back to sleep.

                                                           * * *

I recovered and a few weeks later a servant came to my room and informed me that a carriage was hitched up outside and that the king wanted me to come see something. "What is it?" I asked excitedly.

"He did not inform me, sire."

I changed and went out to the carriage. A footman came to help me in but I waved him away and climbed in myself. "Where are we going father?" I asked as the carriage rumbled along.

He looked down at me. "It is a surprise, William."

I looked out the window. There were many people looking at us and waving, obviously trying to catch a glimpse of us through the curtained windows. Finally, the carriage came to a halt. I leaped out and looked around. My glee turned to dismay. I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Do you know where we are, William?"

"Yes, father. The gallows."

 I disliked watching public executions, although my father watched them frequently. I began to wonder why he had brought me here. Everyone parted as we walked to the front of the huge crowd gathered there.

"You see William, that accident you had taught me something. That I have been allowing you too much freedom."

The town crier began to call out names.

"I have allowed you to mingle with the riffraff far too long."

The criminals began to line up on the wooden platform.

"What do mean, father?

He motions toward the platform. "Is there anyone there that you recognize William?"

I looked and could scarcely believe my eyes.

"No..."

Jerold was standing among the criminals.

"Father, you can't do this! What happened was my fault!"

"That boy is a bad influence!"

I watched as the executioner put a noose around Jerold's neck. "You don't have to do this. You could simply send him away..."

"No William, you need to see this. You need to learn this lesson."

I broke free and began to run toward the gallows. "Jerold! Jerold!"

He looked at me. I will never forget how his eyes looked. Full of fear, pain, confusion. My father pulled me backed. The executioner reached for the lever. I closed my eyes and covered my ears but I couldn't block out the faint twang as the rope went taut or the cheering of the crowd.

                                                           * * *

After that I stopped playing with the servant children. Jerold's mother was sent away so I wouldn't have the guilt of seeing her. I immersed myself in studies and learning my kingly duties. A few years passed and my mother became pregnant. At first the palace was joyful, because no king in his right mind would only leave one son. They had to have more, just in case. However, as time went on I noticed that she stayed in her room more and more often, and that the doctor visited her constantly. Then one night I was aroused by a servant who had come tell me that Mother had passed away while giving birth to my new brother. Horrified, I raced to my parents' chamber but it was too late. She was gone.

At her funeral I couldn't stop crying. I didn't see my mother as often as  most, but she was the kinder between my parents. I sneaked off during the funeral speech and sat  in one of the many corridors in the castle alone, by myself.

"Prince William."

I turned around. It was Sarah. We hadn't really spoken to each other in years. She sat down next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. She didn't say anything else. Not a word. And there we stayed for hours and hours.

After that I began to notice things about Sarah I hadn't noticed before. The way her golden hair shined in the sunlight. How her eyes sparkled like sapphires and her laugh tinkled like a bell. We meet in secret so my father wouldn't catch us and my brother wouldn't spy. We went for walks in the garden and played chess in the library. And the more I saw her, the more certain I became that I loved her. But she didn't appear to share my affections. When I hinted at what I felt she'd laugh and say that we were just good friends.

And that is why one summer evening, in the royal garden I revealed my feelings. It is a strange  coincidence that this was also the night I died.

 

 

The End

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