Here is a second extract from my new novel. It concerns the adventures of a young maid of honour at the court of Henry VIII.
I woke early in the morning to see the sun kissing the hills to the east. I hugged myself. It was May Day and great festivities were planned at the court. It was also my nineteenth birthday. I loved May Day and I adored my birthday.
I went into the Maids of Honours’ dining room. My friends Margaret Wicks, Joan Bray and Mary Zouche were waiting for me by the door. They each bore a gift, wrapped in green cloth.
I unwrapped Joan’s first. It was a necklace with a little locket. I opened it to see a tiny miniature of Jane Seymour. Tiny though the image was it seemed that she was glaring reproachfully at me.
‘That’s wonderful,’ I said, making haste to wrap it in the cloth once again.
‘You must wear it,’ Joan said wresting the necklace from my grasp. She looped it over my neck and clamped it shut, stepping back to examine her handiwork.
‘Now your gift, Mary,’ said Margaret.
Mary handed me her gift, her face unable to keep the excitement from her face. It was a recorder of exquisite design.
‘It’s made of rosewood,’ Mary said. ‘You said you wanted to learn how to play. I shall teach you.’
It was a beautiful looking instrument, polished smooth and glistening like the sun.
‘Smell it,’ Mary said.
I frowned in surprise but put the recorder to my nose. It had the sweetest fragrance, very like a rose.
‘It’s lovely,’ I said in surprise.
‘And it’s ten years old or more,’ Mary said. ‘Rosewood keeps its bloom and scent.’
I embraced Mary and gave her a kiss upon the cheek. ‘I can’t wait for my first lesson,’ I said. Mary was a wonderful musician, the finest of all the maids and ladies of the court. I blew a little note on the recorder and giggled. Mary clapped her hands with pleasure.
I turned to Margaret who gave me a winning smile. My heart beat faster at this and I wondered what gift she had chosen for me. Countless ideas flashed through my mind, but I stilled them and awaited what she was to give me with gleeful anticipation.
She held out her gift towards me; it was larger than the ones my other friends had given me and felt soft. I speedily unwrapped it and took a look.
It was an embroidery sampler.
‘Oh,’ I said. I could not think of anything else to say.
‘Practice makes perfect,’ Margaret said.
I nodded. ‘It’s lovely,’ I said at last. ‘I shall treasure it.’
‘It’s not to be treasured, it’s to be used,’ Margaret said, patting me on the arm, as if I were a little dog.
We breakfasted quickly, so keen were we to be out of doors and enjoying the celebrations. I hurried to the chamber and put away my gifts. I wondered for a moment what to do with Joan’s locket of Jane Seymour. I knew it would be sensible to wear it but I could not bear to think of her hanging round my neck, peering at everything I did on my very own day. So I pulled it off and flung it on a table before hurrying down to join my friends.
Joan saw that I was not wearing my locket and was about to speak when Margaret touched her on the arm to stop her. I was glad of that. I had no wish to explain myself or excuse myself in any manner today.
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was beaming from a sky of cornflower blue, a sky dotted with clouds as soft and white as lambs. A gentle breeze danced in trees already blushing with the green shoots of spring.
The lawns stretching from the palace to the Thames were filled with all manner of delights. There were scores of little booths and stalls, tables readied for the feast, outdoor ovens with cooks already attending, spits of various sizes loaded up with pork and boar and ox. Most of the court appeared to be milling around and the rest were hurrying out from the palace.
A stage had been raised close to the river and a small orchestra sat upon it playing light melodies. On the far edge of the lawn were jugglers, acrobats and even clowns for the children.
A large Maypole had been erected in the middle of the lawn. I gasped when I saw it for I had never seen a Maypole so tall and handsome. It was decorated with garlands, flags and flowers. Little purses hung from it, filled no doubt with coins and charms.
‘Gifts from King Henry and Queen Jane,’ explained Margaret.
I wanted to say, I guessed this, but thought better of it. Margaret liked to explain things to me, as was her right, having been at court much longer than me.
I have completed the first draft and it’s resting now. So am, come to that. I’m planning to work on the draft in December with a view to publishing it in the new year.
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- Alice Petherton #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)