Location: Fox and Hare Inn/ Dining Hall (Interior) (Morning)
Surprised by how refreshed I felt after what seemed an abbreviated night’s sleep, I dressed quickly and descended to breakfast.
Sir Jacques was absent from my door, though his chair and stool remained. Downstairs, I found all the knights save Jacques at their morning meal.
Nicolas “Highness, good morning to you! Please join us.”
Everyone rose from their seats until I sat with them. The service provided by the innkeeper and his daughter was excellent, the food plentiful.
Heroine “Sir Nicolas, can you tell me more of what is being done to find my father?”
The knight glanced about the room and discovered no prying eyes or ears.
Nicolas “No general alarm has been raised, for fear of demoralizing the people, Highness. It would not do for it to be widely known that the King is in enemy hands.”
Nicolas “Those units of the royal guard near the palace are on alert. Small groups of the Knights of Valois search the countryside . . . “
Alexandre “. . . our spies inquire of their sources. All signs are that His Highness is still held within Valois.”
Heroine “And who has done this? To what purpose?”
Nicolas “Both questions have no answers, m’lady. DuClos, the man we believe responsible, is an ally of Queen Thea of Gladius, but to kidnap a king—“
Henri “It is tantamount to a declaration of war. Once it is public knowledge, we will have no recourse but to attack Gladius.”
Heroine “Let it not come to that! But what is my role?”
Henri “To journey with us to the Palace in safety, allowing us to amuse you along the way.”
Heroine “The circumstances do not warrant much amusement, Sir Henri. It seems my nation’s situation is dire and, in the absence of my Father . . . “
Henri “Chancellor Talma and the King’s Council have matters well in hand. You are merely another potential hostage to the enemy until you are safe in the palace.”
(So I am just bit of valuable baggage, to be hauled from pillar to post by men?!)
Heroine “You will forgive me, Sir Henri, if I find your assessment of my appointed role in this drama insulting in the extreme. Enjoy the rest of your breakfast.”
As I rose and left the table, I heard Sir Nicolas and the others chastising Sir Henri, though none of them contradicted his notion of my helpless status.
Location: Nicolas’s room (Interior) (Morning)
As I moved down the hall, I heard snoring come from the room shared by several of the knights.
(It must be Jacques.)
And it was. He lay curled upon a wide bench beneath the window, his travel trunk open beneath him and some of its contents stacked about him.
(Books! He travels with his own library!)
Heroine “Jacques? Wake up!”
(A deep sleeper. Well, I suppose he was up most of the night.)
I sat on the floor beside the trunk and began to browse through the many volumes it contained.
(What a remarkable selection of titles! Poetry, fiction, history, science . . . and he carries all this with him?)
Soon, I was lost in a novel I had not yet read by a favorite author. Time passed as the sounds of the gradually waking inn wafted up the stairs.
Jacques “Do you always go through other people’s possessions?”
Heroine “Oh! You startled me! I was just at the point where Delphine discovered that her maid is actually – “
Jacques swung to his feet and tugged the book from my hand. He set it carefully in the trunk, doing the same with the other loose books.
Jacques “You did not answer my question, Highness. And for someone who has claimed the right to teach me manners, yours seem sadly lacking in this instance.”
(He is really very cross with me . . . and I suppose he is right to be.)
Heroine “I am sorry, Sir Jacques. It was not my intention to pry. I saw Levois’s new novel and became absorbed in the story.”
Jacques “Yes. Not as good as Lady of Spears, but far superior to Roses in Amber. However, I am not a lending library, Highness.”
(Is he selfish, or simply protective of things he treasures?)
Heroine “No, of course not. I did not – “
Jacques “It is forgotten. I assume Sir Nicolas is anxious to proceed with our journey?”
Heroine “I . . . we did not speak of his intentions this morning . . .”
Jacques closed the hasp of the lock on his trunk full of books and slipped the key, which hung from a long chain, back over his neck.
Jacques “Then I shall see if any breakfast remains. I suggest – “
We were interrupted by Sir Nicolas’s arrival. He seemed surprised to find me in the knight’s room.
Nicolas “Well . . . good. You’re both here. I have some important business for you, Jacques. I suppose you’ll need to take Her Highness with you.”
(Jacques’s sidelong glance tells me this notion is not much to his liking.)
a) “I am not sure I should go, Sir Nicolas.”
b) “I would be glad for the chance to see the town.”
c) “Are you sure you can risk me, sir?”
Heroine “I’m not sure I should go, Sir Nicolas. Sir Jacques seems reluctant for my company.”
Nicolas “Sir Jacques has a duty to me as well as to you, Highness. In this moment, they are one and the same. His feelings are not relevant.”
Heroine “It seems I am to be hostage to my fate one way or the other.”
Jacques “We are resigned to being at your service, Sir Nicolas.”
Heroine “I would be glad for the chance to see the town, though I could ask for more congenial company.”
Nicolas “I suppose I could send Sir Henri – “
Heroine “No, thank you. Henri seems to find me far more congenial than I find him.”
Jacques “Then it appears the Princess and I are at your service, Sir Nicolas.”
Heroine “Are you sure you can risk me, sir? I am, after all, little more than a potential hostage.”
Nicolas “Henri’s words were ill-chosen, Highness, and do not reflect my feelings on the matter. But the task I have for you is of considerable importance.”
Jacques “I’m sure I speak for Her Highness when I say we are at your service.”
Nicolas “We left without time to assemble proper medical supplies. I’m a fair field surgeon and have my instruments, but many things are lacking. Here is a list – “
He handed Jacques a list containing a dozen items, from bandages to botanical extracts to curative minerals.
Jacques “Is all this entirely necessary? We are only days from the palace – “
Nicolas “Better to have and not need . . . “
Heroine “. . . than to need and not have. Wise words.”
(Was that a grunt I heard from Jacques? Does he really not see the wisdom in preparedness?)
Nicolas “We next pass through the village of Hamlin. It’s an unsavory place with no reputable apothecary. I would have these items before we go further.”
Location: Shopping street of the town (Exterior) (Morning)
Directed by the innkeeper, Jacques and I soon found ourselves in a street filled with shops of every description.
Sir Nicolas’s list in hand, I searched diligently for an apothecary shop. Jacques’s attention drifted in other directions.
Jacques “Ah, a book stall. Let us just take a quick look – “
a) “I’m sure a quick look cannot hurt.”
b) “Help me find the apothecary first.”
c) “We can look at books after the apothecary.”
Heroine “I’m sure a quick look cannot hurt, but we must be brief. Sir Nicolas was quite adamant about departing within the hour.”
Jacques “One thing you will learn about Sir Nicolas, Highness – he is quite often adamant about something.”
Heroine “I imagine it is rarely something about which you, also, feel urgency?”
Jacques “You are more perceptive than I realized . . . oh, look! Nature’s Heart! Veronique is such a gifted poet in the theosophist vein, don’t you agree?”
Jacques vanished into the bookseller’s and was soon immersed.
Heroine “Help me to find the apothecary first. Once we have filled Sir Nicolas’s list, we can return here and browse for a short time.”
Jacques “A short time is never long enough. Look! Right here, outside the front door, the first treasure! Veronique’s Nature’s Heart!”
Heroine “The theosophist poet? Oh, may I see?”
Jacques handed it to me with a slight smile, and quickly vanished into depths of the bookseller’s.
Heroine “We can look at books after we have completed our mission to the apothecary. Now, help me locate – “
But he was out of earshot, having walked over to the bookseller’s despite my protests. When I caught up to him, he thrust a book into my hands.
Jacques “A rare find – Nature’s Heart by the poet Veronique! Theosophist verse has always been a fascination of mine . . . “
Heroine “Really? I have heard of her, but never read . . . oh, this is interesting . . . .”
I lost several minutes to the pages of complex verse before setting the book aside.
Heroine “We might be able to justify this delay if we were to purchase something useful, like Diderot’s Compendium of Healing Herbs or . . . Sir Jacques?”
(He’s wandered into the store! Now I shall have to drag him out.)
Several minutes were expended in my search. I finally found him nose-deep in The Voyages of Captain Tolliver.
Heroine “Where I’d gotten – oh, I see. You are making mock of me for being so easily fooled!”
Jacques “Highness, you wrong me – or perhaps not. In any case, all will be well once we make our purchase.”
Heroine “We don’t have time now! Sir Nicolas is expecting us and we’ve yet to find the apothecary!”
Jacques “You must learn to temper your desire to meet the expectations of others. You are the princess, after all, not Sir Nicolas.”
And with that Jacques spent several minutes in negotiation with the bookstall’s owner over the price of the volumes he wished to buy.
Heroine “Are you quite finished?”
Jacques “I am quite exhausted, actually. Come, let us sit down and consider our purchases.”
Sir Jacques ambled to a bench and arrayed himself comfortably, inviting me to sit alongside him. He pulled a candy from his pocket.
Jacques “Butterscotch toffee? It always helps me to relax.”
Heroine “Do you think I am a child, sir, to be bought off with candy? We have a mission to accomplish and you – “
He shrugged, popping the toffee into his own mouth, then opened one of his purchases and set the other beside him, tapping it.
Jacques “A few minutes of Captain Tolliver for me. You may peruse Diderot’s Compendium to see if you think Sir Nicolas will find it useful.”
(Diderot’s Compendium? But surely he was nowhere near me when I said . . . ?)
Heroine “But . . . how did you . . . ?”
Lost as he was on the high seas with the good Captain Tolliver, Sir Jacques did not answer.
Sighing deeply, I plumped myself onto the bench next to him, staring first at him, then at the book, the purchase of which he had plucked from my very thoughts.
(He is an immovable object and I am far from an irresistible force, it would seem.)
A sudden shout pitched itself above the everyday babble of the street.
????? “Thief! Stop him! He has stolen my bag!”
(A woman’s shout! And I can see the thief coming this way.)
A lean, dark fellow with a patched waistcoat and an unfortunate nose was running down the wooden walk in our direction, carrying a woman’s purse.
Heroine “Sir Jacques! The thief approaches! Stop him!”
Jacques did not respond. Did not, in fact, look up from his book. Then, with the thief nearly upon us, he stirred, stretching his arms and legs in a great yawn.
The thief was tripped on Sir Jacques’s extended legs and went flying, the stolen bag landing some distance from his grasping hands.
(Did he mean to upend the fellow like that, or was it an accident?)
Leaping to his feet, the villain spun on Jacques who rose lazily from the bench and twisted into side stretch just in time to avoid a brutal blow.
With no apparent plan or effort to do so, Jacques avoided several increasingly uncontrolled attacks from the man in the patched waistcoat, then –
Jacques “I’m glad you are all right, dear fellow, but after a fall like that, some rest seems in order.”
Enraged, the thief charged Jacques once again.
Jacques “You might take the opportunity to read this excellent book. . . “
Jacques extended his arm with the heavy volume in his grip, as though offering it to the fellow for a quick look.
The Voyages of Captain Tolliver met the thief’s ample nose with a loud crack, sending him on a voyage of his own . . . into unconsciousness.
Jacques pulled a handkerchief from his own waistcoat pocket and dabbed a spot of blood from the book’s leather cover.
For the first time I noticed the double-barreled pistol Jacques wore in an odd harness beneath his jacket.
(Why did he not draw it? Surely the threat would have stopped the thief . . . although he seems to have done that without resorting to his firearm.)
Jacques “You see, Highness, why I never lend books. People never treat them with the respect they are due.”
The victim of the crime approached Jacques, her bosom heaving and her blonde curls in disarray from the exertion of trotting the length of a single block.
???? “Oh . . . sir! Thank you ever so . . . . much! How . . . courageous and masterful . . . “
Jacques “I beg your pardon? Did you know this gentleman?”
Having recovered the woman’s bag, I stepped forward and presented it to her.
Heroine “I believe this is yours, Mademoiselle . . . “
???? “Dorine! I’m Dorine Millemant, the apothecary’s daughter.”
Jacques looked at me. He had that twist in his lip that I was beginning to recognize.
Dorine “Please come back with me to my father’s shop. I’m sure he will be grateful. I will insist he reward you with whatever you wish . . . within reason, of course.”
Stunned by this surprising turn, I pulled Sir Nicolas’s list of necessities from my own small bag.
Heroine “W. . we were just on our way to his shop . . . with this list . . . “
Jacques “You see, Highness: release all urgency and what you intend will find its way to you.”