King Wenceslas, Look Out!! - Part Two
CONTINUED FROM PART ONE
The King returned to his careful study of the crossword grid.
"Now, using that 'R' from 'Pear' means that's the second letter of 'Confused Petri dish may have a bovine lining' (5 letters)"
"Tripe!" The Page said, with some feeling.
"I beg your pardon! Have you forgotten to whom you are talking?" The King glowered at his Page.
"The answer to your conundrum, my Lord, is 'tripe'"
"How do you make that out then?" The King eyed the crossword suspiciously, as if it might be trying something underhand.
"It's an anagram of 'Petri', Sire, meaning 'a bovine lining' or cow's stomach in this instance, hence 'tripe'"
"Is it, by Jove! I think you've got to have a funny sort of mind to work these things out" The King tossed the parchment aside, sullenly, "Have you got a funny sort of mind, Page?" He asked, sarcastically.
"If it pleases your majesty" The Page replied, knowing what his master was like when he was out of sorts. "Perhaps a walk in the woods might sharpen my Lord's keen intellect?"
"Ah, I know what you're trying to do! You're trying to get me to take some food to that vagrant again, aren't you?" The King looked pleased with himself.
"With respect, your Majesty" which they both knew meant nothing of the sort, "I really do believe that my proposed venture would greatly aid my Lord's standing in the community and leave a lasting legacy" The Page smiled at him, hopefully.
The King sighed, looked blankly around his chamber and at the crossword lying on the floor, sighed deeply again and then said "Oh, go on then. But you fetch the food, just a loaf or two and anything Cook was going to throw away"
"Wine? Are you trying to bankrupt me?"
"Perhaps some pine logs for cooking?"
"Don't push it, Page!"
"I'm just thinking of my Lord's reputation. Would you really want it to be said that the King brought food for someone with no wine to go with it, and no means of cooking?"
"Oh, if you put it like that, I suppose so. Not the good stuff, mind? Something the Cook uses for stews or something like that and the odd bit of scrap timber"
"As you wish, your Majesty" The Page bowed deeply and backed out of the chamber.
A few minutes later, Page and Monarch were at the door of the castle viewing the howling gale, fresh falling snow and the blackness of the night, with some trepidation. The Page was rather hoping the King wouldn't notice the contents of his basket, which was brimming with fine food including a rather plump pheasant, wine featuring a few bottles from the cellar that even the King didn't know were there, and some of the best pine logs from the store.
"You know, Page, I'm not sure I'm all that fussed about my legacy" The King turned to head back into the relative warmth and comfort of the castle.
"Sire, I'll admit the night grows darker now and the wind has something of a wild lament but…"
"It's bitter out!" The King said, forcefully.
"Indeed, Sire, but they would hardly be likely to be singing your praises, centuries hence, if were a Spring day with the sun shining and the birds singing in the trees"
"Centruries hence? Oh, all right! Mark my footsteps, my good Page, tread thou in them boldly"
Page and Monarch, forth they went, forth they went together. However, after a few hundred yards,
"Yes, my Page?"
"Might I point out a logical inconsistency?"
The King turned and looked quizzically at his servant, or rather did his best to look quizzically given the blizzard conditions and the fact that his hood had stayed put when he turned, so that he was actually trying to stare meaningfully at the inside of his own garment.
"You what?" Came the muffled query.
"I mean, Sire, there is something amiss"
"Such as? Not wolves!" The King looked around, panic-stricken.
"No, Sire. I simply note that I am following you through the snow"
"Ah yes," The King replied, with some pride, "make sure you tread where the snow lays dinted"
"Indeed, my Lord, and it is very kind of you. However, may I respectfully suggest that you know not where you are going"
"I do!" The King bellowed, causing a squirrel to drop out of a nearby tree, "You said he lives underneath the doo-dah, right beside the forest fence, by St. Thingummy's wossname"
"Your Majesty's powers of remembrance are, indeed, extraordinary but there remains the small point that we are, currently, proceeding in precisely the opposite direction"
"Are we? Oh, yes, of course we are. Wondered if you'd notice! Well, I suppose your eyes are younger than mine so, perhaps you should lead the way, but Page…"
"Yes, my Lord?"
"When it comes to the ballads and stuff…"
"I shall, of course, say that I followed you, my Lord."
They trudged on for, what seemed like, miles, until…
"We have arrived, my Lord"
"Where?" The King had been thinking, keenly, about his dinner.
"At the peasant's hovel, Sire."
The King looked around, perplexed.
"Over there, Sire" The Page said, patiently.
"You mean that pile of old timber? I thought someone had dumped it, I was going to tell you to have it removed! Has he got planning permission?"
The Page gave him a hard stare.
"Ah, no, perhaps not" The King muttered and shuffled his feet in the snow.
The Page strode up to, what passed for, a door on the hovel and banged hard with his staff. The 'door' creaked open slightly to reveal a smoky, dimly lit, interior, partially hidden by a lined face peering suspiciously out.
"Yuh?" The face quizzed.
"We come bearing gifts!" The Page explained.
"We don't buy nothing at the door and I'm not changing my religion at my time of life" The peasant said, firmly.
"What did he say?" The King asked with a hint of menace.
"Sire, he is but a poor man protecting his humble abode. Look kindly upon him" The Page said loudly and then "Remember the ballads" he hissed.
"Who are yer then?" The peasant asked.
"This, my man, is your King." The Page explained.
"How do I know that, then?"
"Well, he's got a crown, see?" The Page pointed to the Monarch, quickly gathering snow in the background.
"Anyone can have a crown" The peasant pointed out, reasonably.
"Have you got a crown?" The King boomed.
"No." The peasant admitted.
"Well then! Reserved for Kings aren't they? Like me!" The King said with a degree of self-satisfaction.
"We bring you flesh and we bring you wine, we also have pine logs, hither." The Page passed the laden basket, which the King observed with some surprise.
"I thought we were just bringing him some bits and pieces…"
The Page glared at him.
"Oh, yes, well… enjoy!" The King turned and stomped away.
"Rejoice in your good fortune" The Page advised and turned to follow his master. They hadn't gone many yards when…
"'ere!" The peasant shouted.
"You go and see what he wants. I've had enough, I'm heading back to the castle. Just remember, we're not taking anything back!" The King strode off through the blizzard.
The Page returned to the hovel, where the peasant was shuffling around in his doorway.
"What do you want of me, peasant?" He said, loudly.
"'s very kind of you, this." The peasant mumbled, humbly, "means a lot to me and the wife. Don't know how we can thank you."
"Just make sure that people know it was the King who brought you this generous gift." The Page said, meaningfully.
"Yers, course. Would, erm," The peasant shuffled his rag-bound feet, furiously, "would you honour us by coming to dinner tomorrow?"
The Page smiled, broadly, "I would be delighted."
"Merry Christmas, son" The peasant patted the Page's arm.
"Merry Christmas, dad"
You can find a lot more like this in the special Christmas collection of stories "A Christmas Cracker"