A Love Never-Ending
Travel with Clare on her journey
A blind crone, shrouded in layers of threadbare brocade, cackles, blares her offer in my direction. "One follis for your future!" Bewildered, I take a coin from the purse at my waist. Her white eyes stare up, her free hand reaches toward the sound, claws the coin from my hand, then clutches at my tunic and pulls me close. "The one who loves you is near. He seeks you, yet he will only know he does when he sees you. But the one you call husband is no husband to you. Look to the streets. There is danger coming."
And then, standing before me, is a gargantuan shoulder of gray stone, taller than the mast of the tallest ship, larger than any rock I have ever before seen, climbing into the sky ahead to snag the remnants of the clearing storm. Opposite rise three granite triangles from whose ramparts a waterfall plunges into a mist of lacy spray. At that instant, the sky before me clears and I find myself standing at the gate of a landscape so marvelous it must indeed have been pushed into place by the hands of a giant.
Each day we are allowed to visit the garden, but heaven help us if we are ever found to be in the coeur or worse, the orchard, rumored to be a hideaway for lover’s trysts. The tower, Father says, is a haven from the rough world for gentlewomen like us, although sometimes it seems more like a prison, especially on the cusp of spring.
The pile of wool my brothers have left seems even larger than it was yesterday. I prick my finger on the distaff, which brings blood and more hot tears. Wool, wool, wool! Was that all that mattered? I look out the window yet again. The whole world lay stretched out before me, and here I was, tied to my small room by a klew of wool.
I am certain the sound of my sigh is heard by my attendants, indeed the entire retinue of ladies seated behind the screens, for there, in the midst of the musicians, playing the refrain from "The Singing Cicadas" is the appealing court gentleman I had seen twice before… I raise my fan and touch Lady Matsuko’s sleeve. "Lady, who is that gentleman? The flautist in the Imperial Consortium?"
After supper that evening, we open the book called Gulliver’s Travels… When we reach a page with a picture of the man Gulliver tied down by the little people, a blue-green satin ribbon, hidden between the pages, falls down to the floor. Some lady must have left it as a mark, but Elijah picks it up and, before I know what, he has tied it in a bow around my neck just like I’d seen fine ladies at the plantation do.