The Warmth of Stone

Breakfast was eaten in relative silence. Even Lady Abigail seemed somber, and Sarah wondered if she knew the reason behind Sarah and Jason’s audience with the King today. It was a bit surprising to eat a meal without being quizzed on manners. Of course, Sarah thought, she could be giving me a practical exam by not saying anything and watching to see how I do. Sarah immediately sat up straighter and tried to eat with a little less gusto.

“Well,” Lady Abigail set down her napkin, ending breakfast. “Let us get you washed up and into your dress and gown.” Jason immediately helped the two of them rise. “Hickory ought to have your things ready in the parlor,” she nodded to Jason. “We will get ready in the Sun room.”

Sarah followed Lady Abigail out and around the corner into the sun room.

“Baths?” Sarah asked surprised.

“Of course child, we can’t go visit the King without being clean. Now in you go, I’ll take mine after.”

“Yours?” Sarah questioned as she undid her jacket.

“Of course, do you think I could let you see the King alone?”

“Jason is going with me.” Sarah looked perplexed at Lady Abigail but all she got was a hand flourish. Your mother is going with us? Sarah thought out to Jason at the front of the house.

Do not ask, he stated. She is my mother, trainer of madams, listener to the Gods, knower of all.

Sarah couldn’t help but smile as she slid into the tub. There had been such sarcasm in his statement that she’d had a flashback to their teenage years. Then she spluttered as Lady Abigail dumped a bucket of water on her head.

“We cannot dilly dally child, so wash up.”

“Yes, my Lady.”

Sarah dutifully complied and quickly scrubbed herself down and washed her hair. A knock sounded on the door just as Sarah stepped out and began to towel herself dry.

“Come in Margaret,” Lady Abigail called as she began to undress.

The door opened and Margaret entered, arms loaded with clothing. She set the pieces out over the chairs. “Come now Goodwoman,” she motioned to Sarah, “let’s get you trussed up to see the King.”

Sarah donned the chemise before Margaret helped her into the corset. Next the blue ankle length dress went over her head and was laced up the back. Donned like a giant trench coat, the sleeveless patterned gown was set upon Sarah's shoulders. Its tie went under her bust and around back where Margaret hid the knot behind the fabric of her train.

Lady Abigail rose from her bath and dried off. As Sarah watched Margaret dress Lady Abigail, she realized just how plain her court attire actually was. Sure there was ribbon festooning the bottom of the dress, but nothing had been done to trim the gown. On the other hand Lady Abigail’s gown had been beaded and embroidered, accenting the fabric’s floral pattern. Even her dress had been decorated with a large motif to match the gown.

“Now your hair,” Margaret turned back to Sarah who sat down on the settee.

Feeling like she was eight again, with her mother trying to do her hair for church, Sarah tried to keep her head still. Margaret fussed so much that Lady Abigail ended up coming over and helping.

“So short,” she muttered as she ministered to Sarah's hair. At last they stopped. “Face me child.” Sarah stood and turned towards the two women. “Well that will have to do.”

“She’d cause a fuss in court,” Margaret chuckled.

Lady Abigail flourished a hand at the woman as she sat herself down upon the settee. Her hair was done up much more quickly than Sarah’s, though it reached the lady’s waist when down. Another knock echoed off the sun room door as Lady Abigail stood.

“The carriage is here My Lady,” Hickory stated when Margaret opened the door.

“Just in time.” Lady Abigail smiled. “Come,” she held a hand out to Sarah. “We are ready.”

Ready as I’ll ever be, Sarah thought, suddenly nervous. Jason chuckled mentally at her, but she could tell he was also nervous. “Isn’t the castle in the city?” she wondered aloud.

“Of course!" Lady Abigail flourished a hand. "You do not expect that we would walk dressed as we are?” The woman adjusted her hold on her train.

“I suppose not.” Sarah frowned. Her puzzlement; however, was quickly forgotten when she caught sight of Jay. Sorry, she apologized trying hard not to laugh. In all the times she’d seen him, she’d never once seen him in such a fancy get-up. It was the knee britches that got her though, all decorated and puffed out from hip to waist.

All the Court Ladies think I look quite dashing. Jason informed her as he stepped to the carriage to help his mother alight.

I like your sergeant’s uniform better.

And that, he held his hand out to help her up, is just one of the reasons I like You better.

Sarah couldn’t help smiling back at Jason. A polite cough from his mother broke their communion. Sarah situated herself beside Lady Abigail as he vaulted up to sit next to Hickory.

With a shake of the reigns Hickory jolted the horse into motion. For five minutes, they listed to the brisk clip clop of the horse’s feet. A pull back on the reigns and Hickory halted them before a portcullis. Jason stood and exchanged salutes with the guard by the gate. He in turn issued an order to men on the wall above, who began to turn the crank that raised the heavy iron grate.

Passing through the archway Sarah looked around her. The castle walls towered above them, casting the large courtyard into shadow. Sarah looked up the slitted edifice and gaped. Somehow these stone walls intimidated her more than any skyscraper she’d stood beside. And yet, she thought, there was a warmth to the structure that a steel and glass building lacked.

The End

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