Life Without Life

Chapter 6:

"Your Excellency, I have a proposition for you," Josette says as she reenters the great hall. "If you and my father, the Baron of Cannock, wish for me to marry your son, Matthew, I ask to be granted one wish."

"What is it you ask of me, milady?" questions the Baron of Nottinghamshire.

"That you have the prisoner Emily-Elizabeth be permitted to attend to her sick and dying sister and then have her banishment be carried out as ordered."

"Have you gone mad, child?! Has she been putting these thoughts into your head in order to stay alive?!" bellows the Baron.

"Good heavens, no! Your excellency, please, hear me out. I know that her sister, Kathleen Marie, has indeed come down with Fever and will probably die unless properly taken care of. All I ask is that if I am to marry your son, I should be allowed one wish. This is my wish."

"Give me twenty-four hours to decide on your 'proposition'. By then I will have made my decision," the Baron says as he arises and storms out of the great hall and through the corridors of the castle.

As Josette is patiently waiting the Baron's reply, she begins to wander through the castle corridors. She hears someone or something whistling from down in the garden below and she quickly runs to a window to see. As she peers out at the gardens below and the meadow afar, she discovers the old willow tree, thin and weak from the winter's dusting.

How exquisite that tree must be in the spring, she contemplates as she listens to the pleasant melody of a robin perched on one of its gigantic branches. She is interrupted from her meditation by footsteps coming down the corridor behind her.

"Josette, I can hardly believe you could even think of letting that prisoner go!"

"Well, well, it's 'Mr. Man-of-the-hour himself! How are you, Matthew?"

"Do not 'How are you Matthew' me! Why did you do it, Josette? Why did you have to choose a proposition like that?!"

"What, are you afraid to let that thief loose, or are you just upset that she will be free and out of your life forever?!" Josette teases as she brushes past Matthew.

"Do not walk away from me, Josette! Answer the question!" he hollers, seizing Josette's arm and whirling her around.

"Get your hands off me, Matthew!" Josette exclaims as she snatches her arm free from his grasp.

"Then answer me! Why did you ask for that wish? Why did you have to ask for my Em to be let go?"

"Because- - -"

"Because why?"

"Just because."

"Tell me why?!"

"Because I know how much she loves you and I know it means more than anything to her to be free from someone who does not return her love! There, I have said it. Let me leave you now!"

"Wait a minute! Do you mean to tell me that she 'adores' me so much that she would rather be banished than stay here on my father's manor?!"

"Matthew, we are to married in less than one month and you expect her to sit in a dungeon cell while her beloved marries another? And what's worse, her sister is probably dying of the Fever because your obstinate father will not allow Emily-Elizabeth to go to her!"

"My father is not obstinate! I cannot believe I allowed my father to talk me into marrying someone like you!"

"What is that supposed to mean, Matthew? Do you really think I enjoy the fact that I am to be married to a man, no boy, that is just as stubborn as his father?!"

"How dare you call me stubborn! Just because I am not in love with a baron's daughter does not make me stubborn!"

"So you can stand here and openly admit that you are in love with Emily-Elizabeth?!"

"I never said that- - -"

"You just said you were not in love with a Baron's daughter and I know for a fact that you loved her with all your heart and soul! Now that you admitted that, I guess it is my turn."

"What, are you 'in love' with one of the commoners?" he says mockingly.

"Maybe I am, but what is it to you?"

"I was just wondering."

Just then, a guard enters the room with orders that Matthew is to follow him into the great hall.

"What is this all about, guard?"

"Your father's niece has come for a visit and you are to be her tour guide of the lands of the manor."

"Great," he utters as he starts walking away. "I am not finished speaking to you!" he says to Josette. Josette turns around and peers out the window. The robin is gone.


continue to chapter 7