Saturday, December 29, 2018

Vast and Perilous Estates ~ Where to Find the Golden Ratio


Nature’s beauty dies. 
The day dawns when the nautilus is no more.
The rainbow passes, the flower fades, the mountain crumbles, the star is no more.
But beauty in mathematics – the divine proportion, the golden rectangle,
Spira mirabilis – endures for evermore.
– H. E. Huntley, The Divine Proportion



            There are those who embrace religion as the expression of the life of the spirit.  They recognize and accept its doctrines and practices as mere representations of that which, having no material form or function, nonetheless is an integral part of one’s being.  Their participation in its disciplines has the effect of enlarging their hearts and expanding their capacity for mercy, truth, and justice. There are others, however, for whom the practice of a religion only serves to nurture a secret self. Their religion brings bondage rather than liberty and blindness rather than sight. Father Caril’s mother, Lady Irmtraud, was of the latter sort. Her Christian beliefs fed her deepest fears of unworthiness. Its practices were for her the means of relegating others to hell in the hope that it would reach its capacity and not have room for her. Elbert’s mother, the Lady Sarai, was also in the same camp as Lady Irmtraud, but it was not fear of a wrathful God that was her prime addiction to religion; it was pride. Lady Sarai hungered after a high rank in the church hierarchy—a lofty position from which she could feel justified in despising the undeserving masses.
            Lady Sarai, wife of Lord Ethelred of Kent, was descended from an ancient and noble house of lords. Her father, Lord Varyk, was the king’s private counselor. It was he that had arranged her marriage to Lord Ethelred. At the time, she was but fifteen and had no knowledge of her future husband save that he was destined to be one of the ruling lords of Albion and that his heritage traced back to the first Christian ruler of Albion, Lord Ethelbert of the Jutes. Lord Ethelred’s religious ancestry weighed more heavily in his favor than the crown of Albion. She entered into the marriage with visions of ruling the Christian world by his side; alas, in this she was bitterly disappointed. Ethelred, despite his heritage, had little interest in the church and did nothing to advance his standing in it. Thwarted in her attempts to secure her husband’s position as a lay leader, Lady Sarai determined to see her ambitions realized in her son, Elbert.
            Thus from an early age, Elbert was steeped in the history, the doctrines, and the practices of the Church. He knew his catechism by the time he reached the age of four and was able to read the Latin texts of the liturgy by the age of seven. When the other sons of the nobles were learning riding, swordsmanship, and heraldry, Elbert was learning about the church fathers and reading the works of Augustine of Hippo. Elbert’s father, Lord Ethelred, interfered as much as possible but it was difficult to gainsay the determined aspirations of his wife. He looked forward to the day when Prince Rhino came of age, and Elbert would be removed from Lady Sarai’s influence.
            When he was very young, Elbert was fascinated with the gospels and the stories of Jesu, the Christ. He loved hearing about the miracles Jesu performed and wished that he could have been there to witness them himself. Whether it was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, calming the storm, or even raising the dead—all were evidence of bringing order into chaos. One of his favorite passages of scripture was from the book of Isaiah the prophet:

            “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
To give them beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

            Impressionable child that he was, Elbert dreamed of a day when he, too, could work such wonders and bring beauty into the world. For this was how religion touched the heart of Elbert. He loved the Christian faith, not out of fear or pride but because it represented beauty and order.  In the church, with its established liturgy, its symbolic architecture, and its prescribed disciplines, Elbert found the answer to his deepest desire for design and structure. He spent many happy hours reflecting on the number patterns he found on the altar, in the nave, on the ceiling and wall panels and in the statues. He saw in the miracles of Christ the power to bring the beauty of perfection to an imperfect world. His heart yearned to walk among the poor, the outcasts, and the needy and restore them to a well-ordered humanity. However, when Elbert tried in his childlike way to express his feelings to his mother, he met with her disapproval. 
            “Elbert,” she said, “it is not for someone of your position to concern yourself with the poor. They are created that way by God and must accept his divine will for their lives as you must accept it for your life.”
            “But, Mother, did not Jesu himself walk and live among them? Was not he himself poor, born in a stable of animals?”
            His mother was aghast.  “We do not speak of such things. To think of the Son of God as a man is irreverent. He is Spirit and must be worshiped in such a manner. Now go to the chapel this instant and say the rosary for your penance.”

~

            That conversation took place ten years ago. His mother’s words came to mind as Elbert made the journey Kent with his brothers. He knew that he had changed in the nine months since he had last seen his mother, but he doubted that she had. If anything, he imagined her more set in her ways and more determined to see him elevated in rank and power. Elbert wondered what her reaction would be if she knew all that he had been doing since he left London. Working in the brine pits, feeding sheep and cattle, cleaning fish, mucking out stables, and hauling debris from the mines were not the sort of activities Lady Sarai had imagined for her son. And what would she think of his brothers?  Elbert involuntarily glanced at his companion. What would his mother make of Wilfred?
            Elbert found himself approaching the family estate with trepidation. Sir Arlan had made it manifestly clear that they were not yet worthy of the title of “lord.” No doubt he had another lowly and disagreeable task in mind for their further training. His father, he knew, would accept anything Sir Arlan required, having experienced it himself; it would be much more difficult for his mother to honor the dictates of a man whom she clearly thought of as a subordinate.  Elbert fervently wished that she would not embarrass him in front of his brothers. He had met the other mothers—Lady Mariam, Lady Elspeth, Lady Rhowena, and Queen Ethelyn.  They were so unobtrusive that Elbert had only a vague, general impression of soft voices, the rustle of dresses, wafts of perfume, and regal faces.  If only Lady Sarai would be equally content to remain a quiet figure in the background!

            After four days of travel, Rhino, Trevor, Skandar, Wilfred, and Elbert busied themselves exploring the castle and grounds of Lord Ethelred, Lord of Kent. That night after supper, the boys gathered in Elbert’s room.
            “I say, Elbert, this is some place,” said Wilfred. “Look at the size of your room.  We could have a grand battle in here.” 
            Wilfred waved his arms expansively, indicating the dimensions of Elbert’s apartment. Elbert blushed.  His mother would see that his room was the largest. Trevor noticed Elbert’s obvious discomfort.
            “Was this your room before?” he asked. “I can imagine it is rather nice to be back in your own bed after all these months. Whoever arranged this was very thoughtful. In fact, I am finding the accommodations exceed my expectations. Was this your mother’s doing?  If so, we should all express our thanks.”
            “I’m all for that,” said Wilfred, “especially the meals. What a feast that was!”
            Rhino nodded. 
            “We have been treated as honored guests at every home,” he said. “It makes such a contrast to the work that we have been doing. I wonder what Sir Arlan has in store for us during our stay here.”
            “Well, here’s a hint of it. What is the nastiest, smelliest, most back-breaking, and bone-chilling task you can think of?” asked Skandar. “That’s what we’ll be doing.”
            “Slopping pigs!” 
            “Slaughtering pigs!” 
            “Cleaning up after the pig slaughter!” 
            “Cleaning pig’s feet!” 
            “Cleaning pig’s noses!” 
            Each new suggestion resulted in peals of laughter. 
            “Teaching pigs to clean their own noses!” 
            The list went on. Outside the door, Lady Sarai stood listening with a frown on her face.  The young heathens, she thought. She noticed that a priest had accompanied them.  Lady Sarai resolved to speak with him first thing in the morning with regards to the brothers’ religious training.

            The next morning, the brothers were seated in Lord Ethelred’s immense library waiting for Sir Arlan to arrive. Row upon row of books, in both scroll and codex form, were stretched from floor to ceiling. The boy’s were impressed, even Wilfred for whom reading was a non-preferred activity.
             “Elbert,” he said, “havin’s all these books about makes a fellow want to read just to say he’d done it. Where did they all come from?  Books are powerful rare and costly, ain’t they?”
            “These books represent the work of many generations over hundreds of years.”  Lord Ethelred answered, entering the room. “It has been the charge of each succeeding lord to add to the collection. I have done my duty; the task will fall to Elbert when he inherits the title and the estate.”
            “If you please, my lord, how does one go about finding such treasure?” asked Rhino.
            “Many of my resources are the monasteries established by the Irish monk, Columcille. Under his direction, his band of White Martyrs fanned across Ireland, Scotland, Albion, Normandy, and Brittany founding monasteries that serve as repositories of knowledge. It is of some significance that just days before Columcille died, my ancestor, Lord Ethelbert converted to Christianity. The name of Ethelbert opens many doors in the ecclesiastical world.”
            The boys were prevented from asking further questions by the entrance of Sir Arlan. He strode purposefully into the library, followed by a short stout man with an enormous white beard, fierce eyebrows, and a high brow. His head was completely bald.  The boys looked at him in astonishment; he was a monk! His face was weathered and wrinkled, indicating a life spent in the sun, but his hands told a different tale. Long and supple they were, crowned with delicately tapering fingers. These were not the hands of a laborer. 
            “Lads, this is your new instructor, Brother Simon, from the monastery at Gastonbury. He is going to teach you about art.”  Sir Arlan indicated the man at his side.
            Art! The silence that followed this pronouncement was filled with inward sounds of dismay, doubt, and delight. 
            “No pigs?” asked Wilfred hopefully.

~

            That morning, Lady Sarai and Father Caril were having a private a tete-a-tete.  They were seated in a small parlor that Lady Sarai used for private gatherings.  t was separated from the main wing of the house by the kitchen and a small cloakroom. Lady Sarai chose this place to ensure no one could overhear the conversation. Father Caril gave her a brief account of the boys’ travels from the time they left London until the present.  To say that she was dismayed by what she heard would underestimate the depth of Lady Sarai’s displeasure. To think that her son would toil like a common peasant was appalling; the thought was beyond her comprehension. Her husband, Lord Ethelred, had never seen fit to share with his wife the details of the training he had undergone when he had come of age, thus she had formed a romanticized ideal of chivalry, heraldry, court manners, and lofty discussions of the Holy Scriptures. She feared her carefully taught ideals would be tossed aside in the face of practical realities. 
            Father Caril could easily read Lady Sarai’s fear and the source of pride that stoked it. He saw it as an opportunity to play to his advantage. Ever since their sojourn in Wales, the brothers had formed an impenetrable bond against him that thwarted every effort of his to gain entrance into their thoughts. Without knowing what they were thinking, he was operating in the dark in terms of gaining the advantage of influence. He was beginning to feel desperation at his tenuous position. In a few months, the brothers would be back in London, where his hold on them would diminish altogether. If the priest could play the mother’s pride to his advantage, perhaps the time spent in Kent would be profitable after all.  For the time being, he would present a sympathetic face and speak soothing words.
            “I am sure, my lady, that any rough habits acquired on their travels can be smoothed away by constant and steady devotion to the teachings of the church; that is, if it is allowed.” 
            At his words, Lady Sarai started and lifted her chin.
            “Why do you suppose it would not be allowed? Here of all places, the teachings of the church are honored and upheld. It displeases me to hear you suggest otherwise.”
            “My lady, please forgive my offense. I meant none to you or your house.” Father Caril coughed discreetly.
            “If I may be so bold,” he continued, “I have not always been given adequate time with your son and his brothers for the purpose of religious instruction. It seems that Sir Arlan always has something else that takes precedence. My hope is that here, in this monument of the great Christian convert, Lord Ethelbert, the teachings of the Church will be given the preeminence.”
            Lady Sarai answered, “I can assure you, Father Caril, that I will do all in my power to see that your desire is accomplished. Sir Arlan may be in charge of the young lords’ training, but he must know his place and not presume above it.”

~

            “It was Pythagoras who first discovered the Golden Ratio one day while playing on a monochord, which is a box with a string on it (like a lute with one string.) By sliding the bridge up and down and plucking the string, he found he could create various tones.  But the curious thing is, when he placed the bridge so that it divided the string into two-fifths and three-fifths, the two strings plucked together created a harmonious tone known as the perfect fifth.” 
            Brother Simon was lecturing as Trevor, Elbert, Skandar, Rhino, and Wilfred were laboring at the task he had assigned them: Divide a line drawn in the sand so that the ratio of the larger segment to the smaller segment was the same as the ratio of the entire line to the larger segment. As the boys sweated under the sun, drawing and redrawing the lines in the sand, there was some whispered grumbling.
            (“I thought we were going to learn about art.”) 
            (“This is a waste of time…Trevor, watch your hand!”)
            (“Just because you can’t do it…”)
            (“Can we suggest working with pigs instead?”)
            (“When we’re done with this, we’ll have to draw pigs.”) 
            There was muffled laughter.  If Brother Simon heard it, he gave no indication of it as he continued his lecture.
            “Pythagoras concluded that this particular ratio was inherent in all great works of musical, physical, and mathematical beauty. If you were to count the successive rows of a pinecone and take the ratio of one row to the next, you would find the ratios approach the Golden Ratio. If you were to measure the length of a person’s arm and the length of his body, the ratio of the body to the arm would approach the Golden Ratio. In fact, you can find instances of the Golden Ratio throughout all of nature. All is ratio and proportion. In our eyes, that is what gives the appearance of beauty. Well, then, let’s look at what you have done.”
            Brother Simon walked about the sand pit, looking from one drawing to the next, commenting as he inspected their work.
             “Nicely done, Rhino; you seem to have a fine perspective. Skandar, your divisions are a decent first attempt. Wilfred, you were instructed to divide your line into two segments, not three. Trevor…is this what you call a line? It looks more like a curve that wandered off and got lost.  And what is this? Elbert, this is your work? This is approaching perfection. Have you studied art prior to this?”
            “No, Brother Simon,” Elbert replied.
            “But this is amazing! How, pray tell, did you accomplish it?”
            Elbert looked uncomfortable, especially since by now the other boys were crowded about his drawing. 
            “I really don’t know,” he said. “It just seemed reasonable to make the division here, at this point.”
            “My dear boy, however it came about, it is impressive. I think you are ready for the next task. Draw a square and then draw a line inside and parallel to one side of the square to form a large and a small rectangle. Then draw a line through smaller rectangle and perpendicular to the first line. The size of the square is irrelevant. However, the lines must be drawn so that the ratio of the dimensions of two smaller rectangles is the same as the ratio of the dimensions of the larger rectangle. You two (indicating Rhino and Skandar) may do so also.”
            So Elbert, Rhino, and Skandar began the second task. Trevor and Wilfred were instructed to continue their work on the line. After a while, Brother Simon was satisfied with the day’s work and called for an end. Before he dismissed them, he gave them a final task.
            “Lads, I want you to look for patterns of numbers in the things you see around you—the leaves on a tree, the veins in a leaf, the petals in a flower, the pebbles in a stream, the spiral in a sea shell, to name a few. Study your face, your eyes, your nose, your mouth, and your ears. Look at spatial differences and see whether there is a pattern.  If something catches your eye as beautiful, ask yourself why and look for evidence of the Golden Ratio. All is ratio and proportion.”

            Back in the privacy of his room, Elbert locked his door and then went to the wall behind his bed. He knelt on the floor and with a small knife prised off one of the panels, revealing a small cubbyhole. He reached inside and pulled out a leather case. Carefully opening its cover, Elbert removed a sheaf of parchment. As he looked over the pieces of parchment, one by one, his eyes filled with tears. Here was beauty and structure. It was inside him all this time, and he never knew what it was. His heart blessed Brother Simon for opening his eyes to the Golden Ratio and to the beauty it contained.
            Elbert sat there for a while, bent over the precious drawings. No one knew about them, not even his mother. His heart wrestled with idea of showing them to his brothers, but his mind quickly dispensed with the idea. This was his very soul; he dare not risk exposing it to those who might handle it lightly. With a sigh, Elbert put the sheaf back into the leather case and slid the case back into the recess in the wall. He replaced the panel and knelt to say his prayers. Tomorrow was going to be a wonderful day.

            The brothers worked hard at their training. The days were now filled with art appreciation and drawing, in addition to the usual activities of riding, swimming, running, and martial arts. They also devoted many hours to reading and analyzing manuscripts, writing all manner of prose and poetry, and discussing philosophy and mathematics.  Father Caril insisted on his share of the boys’ attention for catechism. Lady Sarai had a word with Sir Arlan about relegating more time for religious instruction, intimating that he was to serve at her pleasure. Sir Arlan said nothing but kept to his schedule. When Lady Sarai appealed to Lord Ethelred, she was informed that he had no say in the matter.  Her unfortunate servants bore the consequences of her displeasure.
            After three weeks of studying the rudiments of ratio and proportion, Brother Simon took the brothers to a hill overlooking the castle and town of Winchester. He was giving them an exercise in perspective.
            “Look down here at the road that leads to the gates of the city,” he said. “Notice its width. Now follow its path with your eye until you see where it passes through the gates. What do you notice about how wide it looks?”
            Rhino spoke first. “The road is not as wide at the gates as it is below the hill.”
            “So, has the road changed somehow? It is the same road we traveled on when we left this morning. How do you account for the varying widths?”
            Elbert answered. “The road from the hill and the road at the gates are different distances from our eyes. It changes how we view it.”
            Brother Simon beamed.  “Well spoken, Elbert. There is a name for the phenomenon that you just described. It is called ‘perspective.’ It all depends on our viewpoint. Now suppose that the town and everything in it is no longer there, so that all you see is the road. What would eventually happen to the width of the road if your eye continued to follow it?”
            “It would disappear!” shouted Rhino and Elbert in unison.
            “Yes, lads, it would eventually disappear or seem to vanish. Every object we perceive with our eyes grows smaller as the distance between it and our eyes increases.  Yet the objects themselves remain their same physical size. When we draw a picture of something, we attempt to recreate a three-dimensional effect on a two-dimensional canvas. Using perspective and vanishing point are two strategies for doing this. All is ratio and proportion. So now let us return to the castle so you may work with what you have learned.”
           
            When they were back in library, Brother Simon produced a set of wooden rectangles, roughly one square foot in size. 
            “I had these made especially for the five of you”, he said. “With these you can practice drawing and reuse it over and over as needed.”
             As he handed each boy one of the rectangles, they could see that the rectangles had a wooden back and the sides were raised one inch, forming a shallow tray. Inside the tray was a layer of smooth clay. 
            “You draw with the stylus and erase with your finger or some other flat object. The clay is a better medium than sand,” he said. 
            The boys were duly impressed. Soon each one was bending over his clay canvas, attempting to represent the concept of perspective and vanishing point. For a while, the only sound that could be heard was the faint scratching of the stylus through the clay, accompanied by occasional grunts and groans from Wilfred. After a while, Rhino put his canvas aside and looked at the monk.
            “Brother Simon, when you say all is ratio and proportion, does that apply only to art or can it be found in other things as well?” asked Rhino. “What I mean is, I was thinking about the covenant of Albion. It decrees that Albion is to be ruled by one high king and four high lords—five altogether. Well, I was looking at my hand yesterday and I noticed it has four fingers and one thumb which all work together. Isn’t this sort of like my brothers and me?  The hand is a model of Albion and its rulers.”
            “Does that make you the thumb?” teased Wilfred. The boys laughed but Brother Simon looked pleased.
            “Rhino, that is a very astute analogy; even to your being the thumb. Think about it, lads. Which digit is central to all that the hands can do? Would you rather lose your thumb or one of your fingers?”
            Skandar answered excitedly, “We almost did lose the thumb. Remember, lads?  Remember when we lost Rhino in the snow? At the time we would have preferred it was one of us fingers.”
            Trevor rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  “I see what Rhino is getting at,” he said.  “It’s similar to your foot having one great toe and four smaller toes. The head, the arms, and the legs make another pattern of five. Do you think there is something special about the number five? Do you think the holy sisters knew that when they created the covenant?”
            Father Caril happened to be passing by the library when he heard Trevor’s question. Curious about what the monk would say, he stationed himself quietly outside the door where he could listen unseen.
            Brother Simon smiled broadly. “I do not know whether the holy sisters knew all the mysteries of the number five, but they certainly must have had an intuitive understanding about it. To answer your question, Trevor: Yes, the number five has unique properties, many of which were discovered and revered by Pythagoras. If I may,” he said, holding out his hand for Skandar’s clay canvas.
            He smoothed the clay and then drew on it a five-pointed star. The boys crowded around.
            “See this star? If you draw a segment from one point to another, you form a five-sided figure the Greeks called a ‘pentagon’. Inside the star is another pentagon that is exactly proportional to the outside one. Now look. I can draw another five-sided star inside the smaller pentagon, forming an even smaller pentagon in which could be drawn an even smaller five-sided star and so on. You see…”
            “Brother Simon,” interrupted Father Caril, hastening into the room. “May I have a word with you—in private?”
            “Of course, Father Caril; our lesson is nearly over.”
            “I would like to speak with you now on a matter of utmost importance,” insisted the priest.
            Brother Simon frowned. “Is there an emergency?  Is someone of the household injured or stricken ill? Are we under attack?”
            “No, not exactly.”
            “Then our conference will wait until the lesson is over.” 
            With that, Brother Simon turned back to the boys, who were goggle-eyed at what they had just witnessed. Father Caril felt the dismissal and made his exit, seething with anger. Lady Sarai would be informed about this! This monk, this so-called man of God, was teaching the prince and his brothers about Pythagoras. It was unsupportable! It was bad enough that the boys were being exposed to Art, especially that of the pagan Greeks, but to expose them to the very devil himself was sacrilege.
            Father Caril paced with impatience outside the library until he heard the sounds of the lesson ending. Drawing back into a recess, he waited until the boys trouped by, and then he passed into the library.
            “Father Caril, I will be with you in a moment. I just want to put away these canvasses.” 
            There was no hint of embarrassment or discomfort in Brother Simon’s manner.  With an effort Father Caril restrained his temper as the monk tidied the remnants of the lesson to his satisfaction.
            “Now, then,” he said, wiping his hands on a cloth, “How may I serve you? You said there was a matter of import to discuss.”
            Father Caril took a deep breath and gently probed the monk’s mind for guidance on how to proceed. He perceived thoughts of patience, equanimity, and stern resolve—not what he had hoped for. 
            “Brother Simon, as pleased as I am that you have been engaged to train the young lord, I must express my concern for what that training entails. If they need to learn to appreciate art, then let them learn about the beautiful expressions of in the Church. Why would you expose them to the art and philosophy of heathens? —in particular, Pythagoras, who we all know formed a secret cult of idol worshipers and practiced dark arts with forms, music, and numbers. I must protest that this is beyond what is expected and required. I am sure that Lord Ethelred and Lady Sarai would join me in my objections.”
            Brother Simon sighed inwardly. So few people understood. 
            Why is it so often that those who know the least feel compelled to say the most? He thought.  Feeling it was a hopeless cause, the monk nonetheless attempted to enlighten the priest.
            “Father Caril, your concern for the well being of the lads is creditable, and I do intend to include the works of Christian artists. However, I wish them to know from whence comes all art and beauty; it is the handiwork of God. The Lord God said, ‘Let there be Light.’ And so it was. God is the source of all enlightenment and knowledge. It is God who invented mathematical patterns and numbers. Even the ‘heathens’, as you call them, can recognize the hand of God in the cosmos. Should we decide one of God’s creations no longer has merit merely because someone outside the faith has appropriated it?  Have we not done the same with the crucifix, turning a symbol of Roman torture and death into a revered object?”
            “I hardly think the comparison is appropriate,” replied Father Caril. “We of the Christian faith know the truth, the only truth. To imply that the unbaptized know God is unthinkable. If we admit that there is anything worthy to be found in pagan beliefs, then we undermine our entire religious foundation. Therefore, I most fervently ask that you desist your teaching about anything other than the accepted Church doctrine regarding art.” 
            Brother Simon shook his head.  “I am sorry that I cannot honor your request. I must continue my present course and teach that for which my services were engaged. If you still continue uneasy, I recommend that you bring the matter up with Sir Arlan for he is the one to whom I am accountable for the present curriculum.”
            To this Father Caril made no reply. Instead he turned on his heel and left the room. He reckoned it would be no use to appeal to Sir Arlan; while a good enough knight, the man was clearly an unbeliever. However, he knew he could count on Lady Sarai for a sympathetic ear. It was to her that he would apply to assist him in his cause.  In the meantime, Father Caril would make the most of the brothers’ catechism to override Brother Simon’s heretical teaching
~

            “Beware the wisdom of the world; it is a snare and a trap set for those who seek to be wise in their own eyes. Did not Saint Paul the apostle warn us when he said that God would destroy the wisdom of the world and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent? And I quote:  ‘The Jews request a sign and the Greeks seek wisdom’—but God has chosen the base and weak and foolish things of the world to confound the wise.”
             Father Caril was in rare form. It seemed to him that the words fell inspired from his lips. If the windows of heaven were opened to human eyes, no doubt, he would see the hosts of angels leaning over the gates of pearl and listening to his every word with awe. Spurred by his recent unfruitful encounter with Brother Simon, Father Caril poured forth all of his pent-up frustration and wrath into his sermon. If no one else recognized the purpose of the message, it was not lost on Brother Simon. He knew that he was its target, but the thought did not pain him. He considered Father Caril young and somewhat foolish and therefore took pity on him. He occupied his mind with more edifying thoughts until the chapel service was over.

            That evening Brother Simon had just retired to his study when he was surprised to hear a soft knock on his door. He opened it and was even more surprised to see Elbert standing before him with a leather pouch under his arm and a pleading look on his face.
            “Brother Simon, I would like to speak with you, if you please.”  Elbert spoke with quiet urgency.
            “Of course, dear boy, do come in.”  Brother Simon checked outside the door to see if anyone else was with him; then he shut the door and turned to find Elbert standing in the middle of the room, trembling. Brother Simon was instantly full of concern.
            “Elbert, what is the matter?  You do not look well. Perhaps I should send for a physician.”
            “No!  Please! Wait a bit; I’ll be alright.”  Elbert gasped. “I just need a minute.”
            “Very well, take your time. Would you like to be seated?”
            Elbert shook his head.  “I want to show you something.”  He opened the leather pouch and pulled out some pieces of parchment.  “Would you please look at these?” 
            He handed them to Brother Simon and then walked over to the window, gazing up at the night sky. Brother Simon sat down at his writing table and began looking at the parchments in his hand.  They looked like…yes, they were. They were drawings done in ink. They were beautiful, powerful, and even poignant. In a few masterful brush strokes, the artist had conveyed insight and sensitivity to his subject. 
            “Elbert, are these your works?” Brother Simon asked, not taking his eyes off the drawings. Silence. Brother Simon felt rather than saw Elbert shifting nervously from one foot to the other and took that for a yes. He continued to study each drawing, commenting to himself as if unaware of Elbert’s presence.
            “If I am not mistaken, this drawing depicts Christ feeding the multitude. See here is the boy offering his loaves and fishes. And this one—this looks like Christ healing the leper. What a magnificent use of ratio and proportion! One can almost hear the words of gratitude pouring forth from the beggar’s lips. Now here is one, let’s see, in this one it appears that Christ is restoring sight to the blind man. The blind man’s visage fairly glows with the beatific vision.  Hmm,I notice that in all of these drawings the face of Christ is turned away from the viewer; instead, the artist has reflected his face in the features of those beholding it. What an extraordinary concept, to show the miracles and ministry of Jesu, the Christ as seen through the eyes of others. Elbert, whatever inspired you so?”
            Elbert made no response. Brother Simon looked over at him and saw his body shaking with silent sobs. The monk’s heart was filled with compassion born of understanding. He recognized and honored the great risk Elbert had taken in showing his work to him. He knew that it takes a great deal of courage to expose the vulnerable places in the heart. Brother Simon walked over to Elbert and slipped a comforting arm about his shoulders. 
            “Come,” he said, “sit here by the fire and tell me how you came by this wonderful gift.” 
           
            Some time later, Elbert slipped quietly from Brother Simon’s study. He was empty-handed; he had left his precious drawings with Brother Simon at the latter’s request. Brother Simon had suggested that Elbert show his artwork to his brothers, but Elbert blanched at the very thought. What if they laughed or disparaged it?  Or even worse, what if they were indifferent? Brother Simon said no more on the subject save to express his opinion that the brothers were very supportive of one another and would take delight in Elbert’s artistic ability. Elbert would commit to nothing more than a promise to consider his teacher’s suggestion.
            All was still in the castle, and Elbert gained entrance to his room without encountering anyone who might ask awkward questions. He failed to account for the inquisitiveness of his brothers. When he opened the door to his room, there were Trevor, Wilfred, Rhino, and Skandar.
             “Now where you would be wandrin’ off to by yourself at this hour?” asked Wilfred. “You skedaddled early enough from the supper table and a hair o’ you ain’t been seen since. We ain’t leavin’ til you tell us.”  To emphasize his words, Wilfred plumped himself down on Elbert’s bed.  Rhino, Trevor, and Skandar followed suit. Together they presented a formidable group.
            Elbert stammered that he had question he wanted to ask Brother Simon about the day’s lesson.
            “What kind of question takes hours to answer?” asked Rhino. “What is so important that the answer cannot wait until morning when we meet with Brother Simon all together?”  Elbert merely blushed and hung his head guiltily. The others started badgering and teasing Elbert with their own questions—all except Trevor, who rose and walked over to Elbert.
            “I think I know,” he said quietly.  “It’s about art, isn’t it?”  Turning to face the others, Trevor said, “Don’t you see, lads? While the rest of us are muddling along trying to wrap our pea brains around ratio, proportion, perspective, and pentagons, Elbert is experiencing it with all his heart. Isn’t that right, Elbert?”  Elbert merely stared at the floor.  “You see, it’s like me with music and Skandar with machines.”
            Skandar spoke up.  “Or it’s like Wilfred and food, (“Hey, I heard that!”), or Rhino and archery, riding, swordplay, running, wrestling, climbing…OOF! Stop that!”   Skandar last words were muffled as Rhino sat on his head.
            “I’ll save you, Skandar,” cried Trevor, flinging himself on Rhino.
            “Trevor, you dolt, you’re goin’ to break your arm and then where will you be?”  Wilfred punctuated his words with a flying leap at the boys. The four of them rolled off the bed and onto the floor, a wriggling, straining, laughing pile of arms and legs. 
Elbert took in the scene with his mouth agape. 
            And Brother Simon wants me to show my precious artwork to these…these ruffians!  These uncouth, undignified, unsanctified heathen? 
            He thought for a minute; then it came to him.  Of course, he would! Then he whooped uproariously. Without restraint or reservation, great torrents of laughter bellowed forth from the serious, decorous, always-correct Elbert as a wellspring of joy sprung up in his soul.
            “Lads! Lads! Hold up a minute,” he said. The others stopped wrestling and untangled themselves.
            “Well,” panted Rhino, trying to catch his breath. “What is it? Are you going to confess, or do we have to add you to the pile?” 
            “Lads, if you can trust me and wait until the morning, I promise I will answer all of your questions. I have something to show you, but not tonight. Will that do, Rhino?”
            Rhino looked at the others and then nodded. 
            “It sounds fair. We’ll meet in the morning and you will enlighten us about the nocturnal wanderings of Elbert, son of Lord Ethelred. Oh, and Wilfred, would you let go of Trevor?”

            The next morning, Elbert intercepted Brother Simon on his way to the library and whispered a few hasty words. The monk nodded and headed back to his room. A few moments later, Brother Simon emerged with a leather pouch under him and a pleased look on his face.
            “Lads, I have something special to show you,” he said. With that, he opened up the pouch and removed the drawings. One by one, he laid them out on the tables.  Trevor, Skandar, Rhino, and Wilfred all gathered around to see. Elbert stood off to one side, in a veritable sweat of nerves.
            “I say,” said Rhino, “These are very good.”
            “Good?  I’d wager they’re the best we’ve seen so far,” asserted Wilfred. “And I should know ‘cause I don’t know nothin’ about art.”
            Trevor said nothing but looked over at Elbert and grinned.  “I wonder who drew these beautiful pictures. Have you any idea, Elbert?”
            “Why, it’s Elbert, o’ course. Who else could do such a eye-poppin’ job?”  Wilfred shook Elbert’s hand and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, lad, well done. This was your big secret, wasn’t it?” 
            “Yes, it was,” said Elbert. Wilfred whacked him on the side of the head.
            “What was that for?” asked Elbert.
            “That’s for keepin’ it a secret, you great oaf.”
            “What is a secret?” 
            Lady Sarai came into the room, followed by Father Caril. She smiled sweetly at the boys.  “We were passing by the door of the library and I heard something about a secret.  Do we have secrets here?”
            At her words, the room fell silent. Rhino and Skandar looked at Elbert, who had turned pale. Trevor stepped on Wilfred’s foot as a warning. All seemed suspended in tension. It was Brother Simon who took charge of the situation.
            “Lady Sarai,” he said amicably, “God be with you this morning. The lads were just about to begin their lesson for the day. Would you care to join us?  There are no secrets here.”
            Lady Sarai walked over to one of the tables on which were displayed Elbert’s drawings.  “And what are these? Are these drawings part of the lesson?  They have a look about them that I do not care for. The subject matter is disagreeable—peasants and beggars, from the look of it. What purpose do they serve? Who is the artist?”
            “These are depictions of the miracles of Christ, a most worthy subject as ever represented. And the gifted artist is your own son, Elbert.”
            “Elbert.”  Lady Sarai tittered. “I declare, son, that your drawings are so realistic one can almost smell them.”  She wrinkled her nose. “Whatever do you mean by it?   Father Caril, may we know your opinion?”
            As she was speaking, Father Caril had been idly looking at the drawings. There was one that arrested his attention. It depicted a woman, and by the other figures holding stones in their hands, it appeared to be the one caught in adultery. Father Caril examined it more closely.  he face of the woman looked familiar.  It was remarkably like…
            “Blasphemy!” cried Father Caril, dropping the parchment as if it burned him.  “’Thou shalt make no graven images.’ The Lord’s command is very clear. These abominations are the works of the devil and must be destroyed immediately!”  He made a move toward the table to gather the drawings; Brother Simon interposed.
            “Father Caril, these are wonderful works of art; there is nothing evil about them.”  He looked in amazement at the priest who was pale and shaking.
            “I beg you, brother, compose yourself. There is no cause for alarm,” he said.
            “You ask me to compose myself in the face of such sacrilege?  I will not, brother, and demand you relegate those works of evil to the flames!” 
            Father Caril moved once again to the table but before he could lay hold of the drawings, he felt a restraining hand on his arm. It was Rhino.
            “No,” he said quietly. “Leave them be.”
             It was but a few words but they were spoken with authority and power. Father Caril waved his hands feebly.
             “I leave it to your conscience then,” he said, as he hastened out of the room, leaving behind Lady Sarai with a puzzled look on her face.
            “Father Caril?”  But he was gone.

            On the way to his room, Father Caril grabbed hold of a servant.
             “Wine,” he said. “Bring it to my room immediately.”
             He stumbled his way back to his room and shut the door behind him.  Beads of sweat appeared on his brow. It cannot be, he thought. How could it be? A discreet knock on the door produced a servant bearing a tray with a decanter of wine and a glass. Father Caril dismissed him and poured himself a large goblet that he drained in one breath. As the warmth of the wine began coursing through his veins, Father Caril flung himself into a chair by the fire. Ceridwen. How long had it been since he had even breathed her name?  Twelve, thirteen years, perhaps? A lifetime ago? And yet there she was looking at him with the same wondering glance out of an ink drawing.
             It is merely coincidence that the picture is so like. It must be. How long has it been? I thought I had forgotten her face—such a lovely face, so sweet, so intelligent.
            “No!” he cried, flinging the goblet into the hearth. The shattered glass mirrored his inner turmoil. Father Caril sat with his head in his hands. So undone was he, it took him several minutes to realize what had occurred in the library. Rhino had defied him!
            Father Caril caught his breath. Rhino had said “no” to him; Rhino had gainsaid his will. Any semblance of self-composure Father Caril achieved from the wine disintegrated in the face of this new reality. He felt panic. The situation was unraveling before him. 
            Stop, he told himself, and think. Things look desperate but all is not lost. I just need time and counsel. Yes, that is what I need…counsel and reassurance. After all, I have been carrying on the battle myself these many months. It is small wonder I should feel under attack, with my resources drained. I need refreshment and encouragement.
            For some time, his thoughts ran this direction until at length he came to a decision. He would ask leave from Lord Ethelred to meet with his superior, the Archbishop, on a matter of urgency. He was confident of Sir Arlan would also grant permission.  Father Caril finished the wine. Tomorrow he would leave for Canterbury.


Next Week: How to Get Rich and Powerful


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Vast and Perilous Estates ~ Where the Door is Unlocked


Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
– William Butler Yeats, The Stolen Child



            Amalia’s grandfather Whelan and grandmother Kathlyn had three children.  Hosten was the eldest, next was their daughter, Beryl, and then the younger son, Virgil.  Kathlyn died of a fever when Virgil was eight. The two brothers worked with their father at the inn until his death six years later. In his early twenties, while on a provisioning trip to London, Hosten met and fell in love with a young woman named Beatrice. He determined that as soon as Virgil was old enough manage the inn without him, he would move to London there to marry and set up shop as a baker. That was nearly twenty years ago. Hosten was Virgil’s senior by five years and was regarded as the head of the family, not only by Virgil and Beryl, but also by others of the village. Over the years, many of their children had been sent to London to be fostered in the warm hospitality of Hosten, Beatrice, and their three daughters.
            Virgil and Franna were pleasantly surprised when Amalia agreed to go to London at the earliest possible convenience to her parents. Albeit it was their recommendations that she go there, but they had not anticipated Amalia’s swift acquiescence. They were unaware that Skandar’s presence in London weighed heavily in Amalia’s decision. She never forgot her friend from Caerleon and was anxious to renew the acquaintance, and so it was that in January, Amalia was on the road to London with Virgil and Finn. 
            It was a wonderful journey for Amalia, who had never ventured beyond the confines of the village and its outlying areas. She was delighted to learn of Finn’s recent encounter with Skandar and plied him with questions about him and about his new brothers. Finn recounted to Amalia all that Skandar, Trevor, Wilfred, Elbert, and Rhino had told him of their adventures since they left London. On the second day of their journey, Finn recalled an incident that occurred at the winter training camp.     
            “I tell you, Skandar seems to have an instinct for mishaps”, he said with a grin.  “As I mentioned earlier, the camp itself was located in a small valley surrounded by snow-covered hills. Skandar took one look at those slopes and decided something must be done with them. He persuaded Sir Arlan to allow him and the other boys a break from training to spend the day exploring one of the hills. What he failed to mention was that they were going to take large shields with them; Skandar had the idea of sitting on a shield and sliding down the hill.” 
            “It worked beautifully. The shield made a perfect vehicle for riding down the snow-covered slope. Its curved surface allowed a rider to sit comfortably inside, holding onto the arm straps.  The boys had a grand time of it, sliding down the hill, toiling their way back up, and sliding down again. Then Skandar formulated the idea of the boys linking themselves together, in a sort of human chain. So there they were, Skandar, Wilbert, Trevor, Wilfred, and Rhino lined up on the shields, with the person in front holding onto the legs of the fellow behind him.  Off they went.”
            “To hear the lads tell of it, they were literally flying down the side of the hill on wings. Toward the bottom of the slope, they encountered a small hummock formed in the snow. When they hit it, they broke free from their chain and tumbled in different directions. Skandar, Trevor, Wilfred, and Elbert struggled to free themselves from the snow, laughing and whooping in excitement. The boys regained their footing and took stock of their situation, but there was no sign of Rhino! They looked around and shouted his name in mounting panic; Rhino was nowhere to be found.”
            “’What have we done?” cried Elbert. ‘We’ve lost Rhino!’
            ‘Now, lads, let’s not get in a muck,’ said Wilfred. ‘He’s got to be around here somewhere. Here Rhino, come on, lad; tell us where you are.’ The only response to Wilfred’s call was the muted creak of tree branches shifting under their burden of snow.
            “In the meantime, Skandar and Trevor had been combing the surrounding area for any trace of the prince. 
            ‘Whatever will we tell Sir Arlan’, Trevor fretted.
            ‘Brace up, Trevor. He’s here; I can feel it. We just can’t see him as yet.’
            “The boys continued their search, carefully scrutinizing the terrain beneath their feet and the trees overhead. Suddenly Skandar shouted,
            ‘Over here!  I see something!’  He pointed to the base of a huge fir tree. The others crowded around and followed his pointing finger. There in the snow was a small object that looked like the tip of a boot. They immediately fell to digging around the object to expose the entire boot. Heartened, the boys intensified their efforts and in a few seconds revealed Rhino, buried in the snow.”
            “Well, to hear them tell it, there was no shortage of tears and hugs all around.  Apparently what happened was this: When Rhino made contact with the hummock, he sailed into the air and landed at the base of the tree. His body impacted the tree with such force its branches dumped their load of snow on Rhino’s head. The boys anxiously crowded around Rhino, who was trying to catch his breath. Skandar was beside himself with remorse.”
            “’Rhino,’ he said, ‘I am so awfully sorry. I never should have suggested such a mad scheme. Are you going to recover? Oh, I am such a heedless fool! Rhino, please speak to me; tell me that you forgive me.’  Rhino shook the remaining snow out of his ears and drew a deep breath. 
            ‘Lads’, he said, ‘let’s do it again!’”
            Amalia and Virgil laughed uproariously at Finn’s story.  It was so like Skandar.  Amalia could hardly wait to see him again. How surprised he would be when he returned to London to find Amalia there to greet him. Finn’s anecdotes aroused Amalia’s curiosity about Rhino. She questioned Finn more closely about him and the other brothers.
            “I think they are all good lads,” he replied in response to her questions. “In the brief time I was with them, they showed themselves honest, trustworthy, and hardworking. However, I would say that Rhino exhibits a quality of leadership more than the others. He seems to feel most keenly the weight of the crown he is to wear. If he continues in the path he is on, I think he will make a good king of Albion.”

            The travelers arrived at Hosten’s home on the fourth night of their journey from the inn. Amalia was so weary she had no idea where she was as she tumbled into bed; her last thought before sleep overtook her was that Mother must have gotten a new coverlet.

~

            Virgil and Finn spent a week in London before heading back to the inn. During that time, they made their rounds for provisions and soon their wagon was loaded with bags of flour, barley, and rye; there were sacks of salt, dried peas and beans. Amalia accompanied them on their routes, her mouth agape at the sights, sounds, and smells of London. There were such a variety of people, too. It seemed to Amalia that each new day greeted her with a fresh supply of discoveries and experiences, some delightful and some appalling.
            The night before he and Finn left, Virgil asked Amalia to sit with him in the small but tidy garden in the back of Hosten’s house. They found a seat under a fragrance bower of lavender and there remained for a while in contented silence. Father and daughter remembered another time of solitude when Amalia was struggling with newfound knowledge. Virgil had told her at the time that her mind, heart, and body had come to an agreement that it was time for her to walk upon a different path. Its many steps had now taken her to a London.  Virgil broke the silence.
            “You may leave with us in the morning, if you like.”
            Amalia started to open her mouth to protest, but the words died in her throat.  She felt annoyed rather than pleased at Virgil’s words. 
            “Would you find it easier if I decided for you?” Virgil asked.  Amalia’s annoyance increased because that was exactly what she wanted. To leave one’s family, friends, and familiar home was a weighty decision, and Amalia did not want to be burdened with it; it was more comfortable for her parents to decide for her. She wondered if her father knew that; he probably did. Furthermore, she had a suspicion that he knew her real motive in coming to London. She wondered if he guessed about Skandar.
            “Mole, why did you agree to come to London?  Now that you are here and see what it is like, has your reason for coming here diminished in anyway?  Do you think you will find what you seek?”
            This was not to be borne!
            Amalia blurted out, “I came here mostly because I wanted to see Sku…Skandar.  Remember the young lord who stayed with us at the inn while he recovered from the stinging nettles? Well, the truth is, he and I got along splendidly and ever since he left, I have so wanted to see him again. I’m sorry to disappoint you and Mother, but I really am not that interested in learning a passel of new things. I think I’ve had quite enough to think about at present. If you think that means I need to go back to the inn, then I will.”
            Amalia sat in unhappy silence. She loved her parents without reservation, but sometimes she wished that they weren’t so reasonable.  It was hard to be at odds with people who were so kind, so understanding, and so wise. Sometimes Amalia wanted to feel wronged and mistreated, but her parents were entirely uncooperative. She had no target for her conflicted self except herself.  It was most unfair.
            Virgil put his arm around his fretful child. His mouth twitched a bit as he considered her predicament. She wanted someone to do the learning for her, but her own inner self would not allow it.
            “Amalia, have you considered that your very desire to see Skandar is born from your deeper desire to learn and grow? We are not disjointed beings with special compartments for various thoughts, feelings, and experiences. All are connected. I am confident that your wish to come to London has its roots in what is good. I merely wondered whether this is the time for it. You are very young, and the climate here is different from that which you are accustomed. You have a sensitive spirit; I do not want you to be overwhelmed by a new environment.”
            “So…you do not mind that I thought of Skandar first?” asked Amalia.  When Virgil shook his head, Amalia laughed aloud with relief.
            “Oh, Father,” she gasped, “I was so worried that my motives were not for some high and lofty ideal. I thought you and Mother would not allow me to come for such a small-minded reason.”
            “My dear, there is nothing small-minded about friendship. The relationships we forge and treasure with another heart represent the highest good, the most exalted ideal.  So do you want to stay?”
            “Oh, yes, I do.’

            Virgil and Finn left the next day with Amalia waving farewell at the door of her uncle’s bakery. She then began the daunting task of settling into her new home.  Compared to a typical day on the streets of London, the inn at its busiest was positively staid. What was curious to Amalia was that the same atmosphere of calm and peace that surrounded the village also emanated from her uncle’s house. It was a study in contrasts; after spending a day at the market with all of its pother and bustle, entering the street where her uncle lived was like walking into an undisturbed tomb. She wondered at this as well as a myriad of other things. She constantly peppered her aunt and uncle and cousin with questions.
            “Uncle Hosten, what is that smell?”  “Aunt Beatrice, who lives in the house with the beautiful garden?”  “Why do the children of Moor Gate fight with the children of Bysshoppes Gate?”  “Sybil, why must we walk this way to the butcher’s?”  “Who takes care of the children along the river?” 
            Her aunt and her uncle and her cousin were patient with Amalia’s questions and always met them with a question of their own.
            “Amalia,” one of them would say, “what do you think?  What are you learning?”
            Well, thought Amalia, I am certainly learning a different way of life.

~

            A fortnight after Virgil’s departure, Amalia had the pleasure of meeting Henry William. Henry William was the son of the Derwin the miller who lived at Fynnes Byrie. Hosten and Amalia were driving a small cart to the mill to buy a supply of flour. It was one of those days hinting of spring when winter weary souls enjoy a bit of sunshine.  Henry William was sitting outside the mill in the shade of a weathered tree. Hosten turned the pony’s head to the small drive that led to the mill. When he saw them, Henry William began kicking his legs and waving his arms. Hosten and Amalia climbed down from the cart and walked over to the boy. Amalia could see at once that Henry William was not what she expected. He was crippled, or so it seemed from the way his legs twisted about the legs of the chair. She noticed that he was tied to the chair with a rope about his waist. He held his arms open at the sight of Hosten who leaned over and embraced him. Henry William’s face lighted up with pleasure and he opened his mouth and made a loud noise that sounded like a laugh. Virgil stepped back and motioned for Amalia.
            “Henry William, I would like to introduce my niece, Amalia. She has recently arrived in London and is living with my family. Amalia, this is Henry William.”
            Amalia offered her hand, which Henry William smacked with his own; he then laughed again, his legs moving vigorously.
             “Uncle Hosten,” she began but just then Derwin emerged from the door of the mill.
            “Hosten well met!”  The two men shook hands. “Henry William was on the lookout for you.”  He looked at Amalia expectantly.  “I see you brought someone with you.”
            “Derwin, this is my niece Amalia. Her parents own the inn at the River Avon.  She is come to London for a visit.”
            Derwin took Amalia’s hand in his own calloused one.  “Well met, my dear.  I see you have met Henry William. Just go into the kitchen there, and my wife will be pleased to sit with you while your uncle and I tend to business. I dare say you can winkle a cup of tea out of her.” With a friendly nod, he pointed Amalia in the direction of a small cottage next to the mill.
            At a reassuring glance at her uncle, Amalia made her way to a door painted a bright yellow and slowly pushed her way into a small but neat room.
            “Hello,” she called hesitantly. “I was told to make myself known to the mistress of the house.”
            “And so you have,” said a voice from a cupboard behind the door. A tiny woman stepped out, wiping her hands on her apron. 
            “Well met,” she said, holding out a delicate hand.  “I am Margery, the wife of the most fortunate of men.”
            “My name is Amalia; Hosten the baker is my uncle, the brother of my father.  Why is your husband the most fortunate of men?”
            Margery lowered her eyes in false modesty. “It’s because he has me and Henry William.” Seeing Amalia’s puzzled look, she laughed becomingly. 
“Come, my dear,” she said, “let us get some tea and sweets and sit for a spell with Henry William. I can tell you all about it and then you tell me whether you think Derwin the miller is the most fortunate of men.”
            Following Margery about the kitchen, Amalia soon found herself balancing a tray with a pot of tea, cups, fresh cream, and honey. Margery was placing some hot buns into a basket, along with cakes. Once outside, the two placed their repast on a blanket that Margery had laid alongside Henry William’s chair. At the sight, Henry William began gesticulating and expressing his pleasure aloud. His mother took his hand and kissed it.  “My beautiful boy,” she said, tenderly.  “Look, my dear, at my lovely son.  Have you ever seen such a one as he?”
            Amalia regarded Henry William carefully. He had black, closely cropped hair, large brown eyes, and long, impossibly long eyelashes that framed his eyelids. The back of his head seemed overly large; indeed, Henry William frequently rested his head on his shoulder as if its weight was too heavy to bear. His nose was straight and well formed but his mouth appeared to be crowded with too many teeth. She could see the roof of his mouth when he laughed; it had a high vault. Amalia looked into Henry William’s eyes and saw a joy for life. 
            “He is indeed beautiful,” she said. “But why does he have two names?”
            “Oh, that was Derwin’s idea, said Margery.  “You see, my dear, I had a terrible time bringing Henry William into this world. To begin with, I am not such a large woman (you might have noticed) and to birth a normal size baby would be no easy task.  But Henry William here grew an overlarge head in the womb, and for a time it seemed there was no way to get him out. So finally, the midwife called the other midwives together for a conference. They decided that the only way to get Henry William out was to cut him out. And that’s what they did.”
            She nodded vigorously at Amalia’s incredulous expression. “Oh, yes, it was quite an ordeal. I would have never agreed to it, but after three days of hard labor, I was that desperate to get the baby out. But once I held my sweet boy in my arms, I vowed I would do it all over again. Derwin, of course, was beside himself with relief and pride. It was him that gave him the two names. ‘Wife’, says he, ‘this boy of ours lives another life—you can see it in his eyes. He needs two names: one for his outside life and one for his inside life.’”
            Amalia held out her hand to Henry William who promptly seized it and held it to his forehead. At the gesture, Amalia’s throat grew tight with emotion. She sensed a deep poignancy, as if a long-forgotten joy were knocking for admittance into memory. Henry William had somehow found a way into her inner world, but she did not know where he was. Margery noticed the gesture and the look on Amalia’s face.
            “Now do you see why Derwin the miller is the most fortunate of men?” she asked.  With tears in her eyes, Amalia nodded.
             Henry William, she thought, I am most fortunate to have met you. 
            Henry William replied with a loud “AHHH!” 
             Amalia, Margery, and Henry William proceeded to have a wonderful tea. After a while, Derwin and Hosten joined them. It was a merry time and much too short in Amalia’s opinion. However, Uncle Hosten had two other places to visit before the day’s end, so he and Amalia expressed their thanks for the tea and company. Amalia was pleased to learn that her uncle regularly visited the mill; she eagerly anticipated her next encounter with Henry William, his mother Margery, and Derwin the miller, the most fortunate of men. 

~
           

            “Well, I say if you want it, then come and get it!” 
            A scrawny boy of seven or eight years of age emphasized his words by waving a small object above his head. His companion nodded and stuck out his tongue, revealing a gap where his front teeth should have been. Amalia sighed. 
            Must it always come down to battle? She thought.
             She quickly surveyed the scene before her. The two boys taunting her had an alley at their backs, which led into a dead end. In a flash she lunged at them—the boys took off running. As expected, they made for the alley and soon found themselves cornered. Like young wolves at bay, they turned to face Amalia with their fists at the ready. In doing so, one of the boys dropped the object he was holding.
            Amalia cried, “Look up!” 
            Involuntarily, they glanced briefly upward. It was all the time Amalia needed to snatch the object and run back down the alley. She did not expect any pursuit; nonetheless, she did not slacken her speed until she was back at the chandler’s shop where a small girl was sobbing forlornly.
            “Here”, she panted, thrusting the object in the child’s hands. It was a small doll made of straw. The child turned a dirty, tear-streaked face up to Amalia with a look akin to worship. 
            “Oh, thankth ever tho much”, she lisped. Then, clutching her treasure, the little urchin trotted, barefoot, down the street.


            That evening at supper, Amalia related her encounter with the two bullies to Uncle Hosten, Aunt Beatrice, and her cousin, Sybil. At the end of her recital, her uncle asked his usual question.
            “So, my dear, what have you learned from this?”  He looked at her quizzically.  Amalia exploded.
            “What have I learned?” she exclaimed. “What have I learned?  I will tell you what I have learned. I have learned how to strike a blow and how to duck and parry to avoid one! I know what territory each street gang claims and what are the best escape routes when one is being pursued. I know that the children along the banks are at war with the children of the merchants and that the children of the merchants fight the children of the artisans. But they all will put aside their differences to trounce on an unsuspecting stranger who wanders into their territory.”
            “I have learned that the small loaves in the basket by the door of the bakery are given to any hungry child for the asking. I have learned that the butcher on the next street regularly visits the families along the wharf with meat from his shop, and that once a week Edwin the carpenter works on their homes in order to make them more snug. You want to know what I have learned?”
            “I have learned that kindness and cruelty can be encountered at any given moment, sometimes from the same quarter. If there is any virtue, if there is any honor, anything praiseworthy, I have seen it here in London. If there is any lying, cheating, or stealing, I have seen it here also. I am learning about a life that is worlds away from that of the village and I feel like my head is going to burst from it. It is exhausting. Even when I barely stir from the shop, at the end of the day I feel as spent as if I had been swimming in the River Avon in a strong current.”  Amalia put her head down on her arms.  “Is this what I am supposed to learn?” she asked in a small, muffled voice.
            Her uncle regarded her with compassion. Beatrice arose and put her arm around Amalia’s shoulder and kissed her. At a nod from her mother, Sybil slipped quietly from the room.
            “Dear Mole,” Beatrice said, “That is a good question and one that you yourself will answer in time. The best answer to any question is the one that we discover ourselves.”
            Amalia sighed.  “Well, then, I suppose there’s no help for it.”
            Hosten shifted his large frame in his chair. 
            “Perhaps this will”, he said. “Imagine that in every person there are two reservoirs of knowledge; one is a boundless sea and the other is a small pond and the two are connected by a channel. The pond holds everything we know and we are aware of it; it is the Known knowledge. The sea holds all the things we have learned but our mind is not yet aware of it—it is the Unknown knowledge. Every moment of our lives what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch adds to either reservoir. So as we go about the day, some of what we perceive is like water going into the small pond; we are aware of it and we respond accordingly. However, most of what we perceive does not register at the conscious level of awareness; it is added to the vast sea of unknown knowledge where it waits undiscovered until it flows into the conscious level. But here is the mystery: People respond to the unknown knowledge as much as they do to the known knowledge. They just do not know it. Take those two bullies, for example.”
            “If you were to ask either one of them why they took the little girl’s doll, I would wager neither one of them could tell you why. At most they would say it amused them to do so, and they did it to gratify a passing desire. But why is that a pleasure to them, to make a child cry? It is because they were responding to something they have learned and who knows what that might be. They have their own reservoirs of known and unknown knowledge, and therein lay the answer to the things they say and do. But they themselves are unaware of it.”
            Amalia looked puzzled.  “But, Uncle”, she asked, “if that is the case, doesn’t that make people confused all the time wondering why they do the things that they do? How can anyone separate what they know from what they don’t know, if they don’t know what they don’t know?”
            Hosten looked rueful.
            “The sad truth is, most people don’t even think about it; they just respond to life at any given moment. In all of us, the extent to what it is made known depends in large part on the vigor of the channel connecting the two reservoirs of knowledge. For people like us who are descendants of the holy sisters, the channel is a roaring, mighty river.  One of the reasons you feel so overwhelmed is there is so much more assaulting your senses here in London than in the village. Moreover, your elevated sense of perception does not yet know how to filter and manage the abundance of information you receive; that you will learn in time.”
            “On the other hand, the channel in some people (I would say many) has been reduced to a small trickle in which unconscious knowledge barely seeps into the conscious level; and for still others, the very thought of knowing what lies beneath is so painful, so truthful, that they have effectively dammed the channel altogether. Such people fall prey to enormous self-deception.”
            Hosten fell silent.  He and Beatrice waited for the meaning of his words to settle into Amalia’s heart. Amalia breathed deep and leaned back in her chair with her eyes closed, trying to picture the two reservoirs and the channel inside her. She found herself in a cave illuminated by three candles. The candles cast a reflection on a lake inside the cave. When Amalia looked at her reflection in the water, her face answered back with a question: “What are you learning?” 
            She noticed a stream of water flowing from the lake and leading out of the cave.  She stepped into the stream and felt its cool touch on her bare feet, and then on her ankles and legs as the waters mounted up her thighs and to her waist. As Amalia felt it swirl about her chest, her heart beat a tattoo against the many waters with a question: “What are you learning?” 
            Amalia followed the stream to the mouth of the cave. The waters swept Amalia out of the cave and into a vast ocean whose waves crashed with abandon against the rocks and sand. Its song was a murmur; its song was a mighty roar. Amalia heard her voice rise above the living waters demanding an answer to the question: “What are you learning?  What do you know? What do you know that you know? What do you know that you do not know? What are you learning?” 
            Amalia opened her eyes and slowly exhaled, her eyes cast downward. Finally she looked up at her aunt and uncle and smiled.
            “I see that I am the one who must ask the question—and I will, but something tells me that I will not always like the answer; especially when it takes its own time to arrive.”

~


            “…and so Edith and I looked at each other and said, ‘Why should we go on to Bath when London is right here?’  So we pointed our noses to the most likeliest spot in town for a musician and settled ourselves comfortably along the river, near the wharf.”  Malcolm waved his arms expansively. 
            “I tell you it’s a perfect location, “ he said. “There are three taverns within a few minutes walk, and they are always full of travelers with ready coin willing to pay for a song or three. So here we are exploring the attractions of the town, and everyone we meet says, ‘You gotta visit Hosten the baker; he has the best goods in London.’  So off we go to the baker’s place and what do you think?  We walk in the door and see little Amalia behind the counter. It is like something in a song—in fact, I think I will make a song of it.  ‘The Tale of the Musician from Tyne on his way to Bath and how he met a young girl from the Inn at the River Avon in the royal city of London’.”         
            Malcolm surveyed his guests with satisfaction. He and his wife, Edith, and his son, Wade, were hosting a supper for Hosten, Beatrice, Sybil, and Amalia. Since the day he and Edith discovered Amalia in London at her uncle’s bakery, they had been pressing the family to join them for an evening’s entertainment, so it was that a week after their visit to the shop, Amalia found herself once more in the lively company of Malcolm and his family which included his sister, Merion. Amalia looked at Wade with curiosity.
            “How do you get along with the children who live along the river? Are they…er…friendly?” she asked.  She remembered being chased by the more unsavory denizens of the wharf the last time she was in the vicinity.
            “Oh, they are no trouble,” Wade replied. “I don’ bother them, and they don’ bother me.  They…” 
            “I’ll say they make no trouble,” Malcolm interrupted. “They take one look at the size of my boy here and think better of it.”  He punctuated his words with a playful poke at Wade’s broad belly. Wade blushed and looked quickly at Sybil; his glance betrayed his hope that she did not notice. Sybil found a sudden interest in the ceiling.
            During the supper, Amalia sat next to Merion. Although she did not look at her more than twice, she was intensely aware of Merion’s silent presence. Her thoughts kept returning to the day by the oak tree when she inadvertently wandered into Merion’s inner world. Amalia wondered whether Merion was aware of it. So focused were her thoughts on Merion that she missed part of the conversation. When she once again attended to it, Malcolm was, as usual, beginning another tale.
             
            “Have you ever seen a man fly?” Malcolm asked his guests. When they indicated they had not, Malcolm beamed with delight and began his story.
             “Well, my sister and I once did. It happened when we were young, about nine or ten years of age. Merion and I had been tearing about the yard as usual when Merion brushed too close to a thistle bush. Several of its sharp thorns clawed at Merion’s dress and tore a piece out of her underskirt as neat as neat. When she freed the fabric from its thorny prison, a breeze blew by and swept the fabric out of her hand and into the air.  Watching that piece of cloth waft gently to the ground gave us an idea.”
            “We gathered together some bits of straw and string and fashioned a tiny figure, small enough to fit in one’s hand. Then we tied four strings to the corners of the fabric; the other ends were tied to the straw figure. Our plan was to toss the figure into the air as high as we could to see whether it would float to the ground, held aloft by the fabric. We took turns tossing it into the air only to have it fall to the ground after a disappointingly short flight. Finally, Merion gave one final heave just as the wind freshened. The updraft caught the cloth and lifted the tiny figure high above our heads. A miracle of flight had occurred!”
            “Up and up it soared without showing any signs of descending. Merion and I followed its path out of the garden and into our father’s wheat field. Still it floated onward, leading Merion and I out of the wheat field and into a meadow. Merion and I were so intent on keeping our little figure in sight, we did not notice that the meadow into which we strayed belonged to our neighbor—the one who kept an ill-tempered old cow.”
            “Our mouths were open in awe at the wonderful sight. Would the little man ever touch the earth?  Our spirits were soaring up, up in the clouds with him until we heard a mighty bellow behind us. We turned around just in time to see that old she devil of a creature bearing down on us with malice in her heart. Now it was Merion’s and my turn to fly. We found our legs in time to scramble up the nearest tree. There we stayed, clinging to the branches until our mother missed us and came looking for us. Seeing our predicament, she waved her broom at the cow and hit her between the eyes until she rumbled away to the other side of the meadow. Then she used her broom on the business end of Merion and me; in her own way, she got us to fly home. We made it back there lickety-split. And as for the little man, we never saw him again. For all we know, he is flying still, seeing the sights of Albion from his home in the sky.”

            They all laughed appreciatively at Malcolm’s story. 
Amalia smiled at Merion.
             I wish I could have seen that, she thought. 
            Well, then come along and see.
            Amalia looked at Merion with a question in her eyes; imperceptibly Merion nodded. By unspoken agreement, the two of them rose quietly from the table.
            “Uncle Hosten,” said Amalia, “Merion would like to show me something.”  At these words, the two of them slipped out the door and into the evening. Merion took Amalia’s hand.

            The two of them reposed on a hill overlooking a quilted valley. Orderly rows of wheat and barley stretched their happy heads toward the sun; the orchards kept their ranks of trees in line. Here and there miniature homesteads smoked contentedly. Merion pointed to one of the homesteads.
            “This was where we lived,” she said. “And over there (with a sweep of her arm) was the home of my parents. My father often said that Cullen could cause the rocks to grow, he was that gifted. It was as if the very earth itself was eager to serve at his pleasure. He loved the land and the land, in turn, loved him. So strong was his love that death could not conquer it. He is even now a part of the earth, giving life to growing things and the earth does honor to his memory. I see it in every branch, every leaf, every bud, and flower. They all proclaim to me that Cullen in here. And even now, he is teaching our daughter the ways of life.”
            Merion smiled at Amalia. 
            “Contrary to what my brother thinks, I do not spend my days in silent mourning.  The fever that robbed me of my husband, my child, and my hearing left something in their place —the gift of vision. In my world of silence that which was heretofore hidden in a world of sound has been revealed. I see things I had never before considered.”
            “So do you ever miss it, hearing, I mean?” Amalia asked.
            “Some things I do.” Merion replied. “I miss the trill of the lark but not the screech of the crow. I miss the sound of cows lowing but not the bleating of sheep.  The chatter and gossip of busybodies, the curses and taunts of bullies, and the fawning flattery of sycophants I am pleased I no longer hear. I miss hearing truth spoken in due season, but do not miss the easy lie.  But above all, I miss the sound of my brother’s voice. If there is anything I could give to hear his music, his tales, and his laughter, I would.
And what about you?  If you suddenly found yourself in a world of silence, what would you miss?—or not?”
            Amalia about it and then laughed.
             “I think that I, too, would not miss the bleating of sheep. I wonder why that is.  Certainly in the sheep’s opinion, they have a right to express their sheepish thoughts.  Their peculiar noises are no doubt pleasing to other sheep, but sometimes they go about it so relentlessly. Perhaps that is why I do not care for the sound; the bleating of sheep reminds me of people that make noise just to hear the sound of their own voice. That is a sound I would gladly forego. However, I would miss the sound of a friend’s voice. The kind word, the tender endearment —these are pearls beyond price, even if the cost means having to listen to the bleating of sheep, both animal and human.”
            Amalia surveyed the pastoral scene before her in contentment. At length, she turned to Merion. 
            “Not everything needs a spoken word; nonetheless, I am very glad that you allowed me to hear your voice. Thank you, Merion.”

            Amalia and Merion arose from their perch at the end of the pier and walked back in silence to Malcolm’s house. At the door, Merion paused and took Amalia’s face in her hands. 
            “Thank you, Amalia,” she whispered.

~

            For most of the next day, Amalia’s thoughts were occupied with her visit with Merion. What a wonderful memory Merion shared with her! Amalia could not think of it without a feeling of reverence and gratitude. It moved her deeply that she was able to connect with another human being. She realized, on further reflection, that Merion also benefited. It gratified her to know that with her gift of heightened perception she was able to bring the sound of a human voice into a world of silence. She wondered if there were other circumstances in which she could be equally as helpful. She thought about Henry William.  I wonder… she thought. Amalia decided she would visit Henry William at the first opportunity. 
            When the time came for Uncle Hosten to visit to Derwin, the miller, Amalia was in high spirits; she fairly bounced in her seat on the short drive there. Upon their arrival, there was no sign of Henry William outside in his chair, although the day was fine.  Amalia and Hosten disembarked and walked up to the door. 
            “Hello, Derwin,” Hosten called. 
            When there was no response, her uncle shrugged. 
            “I’ll just go check in the back of the mill,” he said. 
            He disappeared around the corner of the cottage and Amalia settled herself on the doorstep to wait. The door opened abruptly behind her. It was Derwin.
            “Oh, I beg your pardon, my dear,” he said.  “Is your uncle here so soon? I’ll just go find him.” The miller’s face looked pale and pinched, dark circles outlined his eyes.  “I am sorry I cannot invite you in…it’s that…That is, I mean to say…” he hesitated.  “Henry William is not having a good day today. If you would be so kind to wait in the wagon, I will get what your uncle needs straightway.” As he turned to go, Amalia caught a glimpse of bright tears in his eyes. She laid a hand on his arm.
            “Please,” she said. “I want to help. May I?” 
            From inside the cottage came the sound of a high-pitched cry. Derwin started back inside and turned to Amalia.
             “Come, then”, he said.
            Amalia followed Derwin to a back bedroom. There was Henry William thrashing on a small bed. His arms and legs were bound to the bed by soft cloths. Margery was holding and stroking Henry William’s head, repeating the same words of comfort.    “There, child; there, there, my lovely boy. Your little mother is here. Your father is here.  We will take care of you.  We will not let anything hurt you.  My boy, my beautiful boy.”      She occasionally stopped to dip a cloth in a bowl of water and apply it to his brow. Tears streamed down her face. Amalia nearly toppled to the ground from the weight of the grief pervading the room. Then she took action.
            Going to one side of the bed, she took Henry William’s hand in hers, looked at Margery, and said, “I can help.”  To Henry William she said, “Look for me.”  Then she closed her eyes.

            Pain! Terrible pain! The atmosphere was electrified with bolts of shivering terror.  Darkness roiled overhead in a thick canopy of clouds and wind. Torrents of rain battered her face and arms. Crashing thunder swallowed her voice whole.
             “Henry William!” she called. “HENRY WILLIAM! WHERE ARE YOU?  HENRY WILLIAM!  IT’S ME, AMALIA.  HENRY WILLIAM!”  Above the roar of the tempest came a faint answering cry. 
            Over here; we are over here.
            Amalia turned in the direction of the voice; the wind beat against her, barring her progress. She tottered back and forth on unsteady feet and, in desperation, dropped to her knees and crawled toward the sound. 
            “HENRY WILLIAM!”  We are over here.
            “KEEP CALLING, HENRY WILLIAM, SO I CAN FIND YOU.”  We are beyond the belt of trees; we are here behind the rock. 
            “WHERE IS THE ROCK?  I CANNOT SEE IT.”  Just keep going; you are headed in the right direction. We are here.
            Crawling with one hand and using the other to keep her hair out of her eyes, Amalia made grueling progress across the savage terrain. At last she spied a large rock in the middle of a rise. She made for it, struggling to gain the last few steps. 
            “Here I am, Henry William. Oh!” 
            It was not Henry William huddled next to the rock but two old men.
            “No time to talk now,” one of them said. “Henry William is close by and must be found. We tried, but we just plumb gave out. The storm is the worst over there; that’s where we think he is. Come on, let’s go.”
            Amalia had no choice but to obey this strange command. She resumed her crawling once more, only this time with the two men clutching at her heels. This impeded her progress, but she could not stop to shake them off, so she inched her way to what looked like a veritable maelstrom of wind, hail, lightening, and thunder. She could scarcely see her hand in front of her face.
            “THERE IT IS!  THERE IT IS!  MAKE FOR THE DOOR!” called one of her companions.
            Amalia looked back. Were they insane?
             “WHAT DOOR?” she cried.
            “THAT ONE!
            Amalia looked, doubted, and looked again. There in the middle of the storm was a door painted bright yellow. It was standing of its own accord and did not bend and sway with the wind. Curled up at the foot of the door was Henry William.
            “WE NEED TO GET HIM BEYOND THE DOOR!  SEE IF YOU CAN OPEN IT!”
            Amalia grabbed the handle for support against the tempest and lifted herself up; the force of the wind pinned her against the door. She twisted and turned the handle but it would not budge. Slowly she fought her way to the other side of the door. There was nothing back there but more of the storm-ravaged landscape.
            “IT’S NO GOOD TAKING HIM AROUND THE DOOR; HE’S GOT TO GO THROUGH!’
            “THE DOOR IS SHUT FAST!  I CANNOT GET IT OPEN!”
            “THEN COME BACK OVER HERE!  WE WILL SHELTER HIM AS BEST AS WE CAN!”
            Amalia flung herself on the ground next to Henry William’s head. She held him close to her chest. 
            I’m here, Henry William.  I’m here, she thought. 
            All about the storm raged. Amalia could feel flying debris batter her head, her arms, and her body. At one point, a large branch scraped her arm as it flew by. She wondered how the old gentlemen were holding up under the assault. 
            I’m here, Henry William; I’m here.
            Suddenly the storm ceased. Amalia, still clinging to Henry William, was aware of a great silence followed by birdsong. She sat up in surprise and looked about her. There was no trace of the storm. She looked down at the boy still clasped in her arms. He was the most beautiful child she had ever seen.
            At once, Henry William leaped up with a laugh.
             “Hello, Amalia. Hello, Grandfathers. Isn’t it a glorious day.” 
            A butterfly wafted by his head.
             “Look at that!” he exclaimed. With another laugh, Henry William hastened after the butterfly. The two old gentlemen watched his progress for a few minutes and than breathed a sigh.
            “That was a fierce one, that was,” said one of them, mopping his brow. He was tall and thin and sported a long beard and moustache. 
            “Aye, it was indeed. I declare they seem to be getting worse and more frequent,” said the other, who was shorter than his companion and a bit stouter. His beard was trimmed short and streaked with red.  They turned and both noticed Amalia, standing open-mouthed at the door.
            “I beg your pardon, miss. We’ve not been properly introduced. My name is William. Derwin the miller is my son. And this fellow is Henry, Margery’s father. We are the both of us Henry William’s grandfathers.”
            Amalia offered her hand with a curtsey. 
            “My name is Amalia,” she said. “My Uncle Hosten is the baker who does business with Derwin the miller. I came with him for a visit and encountered all of…well, I am not sure what I encountered. The last thing I saw was Henry William thrashing about and crying; I took his hand, and he practically dragged me in here. Is he going to be alright?”  A look passed between Grandfather Henry and Grandfather William.
            “That depends, Miss Amalia. These storms come and go without warning, and we are hard pressed to do anything about it but shelter Henry William while they blow. If we could get him through the door, he would be in a place beyond the storms, but that door is locked fast against us, and we cannot budge it for love or money.” 
            Grandfather William shook his head. 
            “One of these days, the storm will brew that will blow the door open, and then Henry William will get through. But I sure do no want to see the monster that can accomplish that. It would be so much better if the door were unlocked. However, neither of us has the key.”
            At that moment, Henry William dashed by, this time in pursuit of a lark. Amalia stared at him in wonder. Where was the boy with the overlarge head, the twisted legs, and the crooked mouth?  She would have sworn it was not the same child except for the expression in his eyes. She looked at the grandfathers and saw the family resemblance.
            “Does Henry William live here? Do you live here?”
            “Well, this is sort of a between place for people like Henry William,” said Grandfather Henry. “He is really not altogether in your world and not altogether in his world. He is here for a while until he can get through the door. As for us, we are keeping him company until he does. Then we will all be together in our own world.”
            “And speaking of which, shouldn’t you be getting back yourself?” said Grandfather William. “Not that it hasn’t been a pleasure, but this is not where you live either.”
             Grandfather Henry took Amalia’s hand. 
            “There is a reason Henry William invited you in. Who knows but maybe you can do something about that door.”
            When Amalia opened her eyes, she was back in Henry William’s room, where he was sleeping peacefully. The only signs of the recent battle were the dark shadows under Henry William’s eyes and the chafe marks on his wrists and ankles. His face was pale and his hair was matted with sweat, but his on his lips was a secret smile. Derwin stood protectively over Margery with his arm about her shoulder. Uncle Hosten was standing in the doorway. He walked over to Derwin and Margery and laid his hands on their heads.        “Be at peace tonight,” he said. “I will call again in a few days. Amalia, are you ready to go?”
            Amalia nodded and took her uncle’s hand. What words could be said?  She looked at Henry William and at Derwin and Margery. It was well for now.
            On the drive back to the bakery, Hosten quietly allowed Amalia to speak of her experience. She told him all that had occurred—the storm and its aftermath, the two old men, the yellow door, and the altered appearance of Henry William.
            “You say there was a door, standing by itself without any support?”
            “Yes, Uncle. It was a bright yellow door, not unlike the door of the miller’s cottage. What do you suppose they meant, the grandfathers, that is, that Henry William had to get through the door? If he has to get through the door, then why would it be locked?”
            “Why, indeed,” replied her uncle. “It is something to consider.”

~

            A few days later Hosten and Beatrice went to call on Derwin and Margery. Their visit lasted several hours. Upon their return, Hosten called Amalia into the kitchen.
            “Mole, dear, Derwin and Margery would like for you to visit them tomorrow. I will take you over in the morning, if it suits you.”
            “Oh yes, Uncle, I would like that ever so much. I want to see them and Henry William.”

            The next morning found Amalia sitting next to Henry William in his favorite spot under the tree. Derwin and Margery were close by but strangely quiet. Henry William kicked his legs and waved his arms with such enthusiasm that Amalia could picture him chasing after a butterfly or a stray little cloud. Presently Derwin cleared his throat; when he first spoke his voice was thick with emotion.
            “Amalia, I—that is, we want to thank you for what you did for Henry William.  Your uncle told us about it. It seems as if you were allowed into his inner world and learned a few things. Well, we learned a few things, too.”  He swallowed and took Margery’s hand. There was a long silence.
            “We have the most beautiful boy, a precious treasure he is to us, make no mistake.  Well, actually, we did make a mistake. In our love for him, we kept such a strong hold on him that we locked him out of his own world.”  Derwin looked at Margery who nodded fiercely. “We are going to let him go. So we were wondering if you would let him know that the door is unlocked.  That is, if you would not mind.”
            At first Amalia did not understand the gravity of their words. If Henry William needed to go through the door in order to get away from the storms, why shouldn’t the door be unlocked? The grandfathers had said he would be in his own world. Then she understood. Once Henry William entered his own world, he would no longer be in this one. 
            How can they ask me to do this? She thought. 
            Then she remembered the terror of the storm and that pain and suffering would eventually force open the door. How much better it would be if Henry William found it open one day while he was chasing butterflies. 
            Amalia gently took Henry William’s hand.
            “He knows.”


Next Week: How to Find the Golden Ratio