The noise that first woke us this morning kept getting louder and closer. It began as the sound of a woman wailing and crying in a distant corridor. To that was added the sound of a man’s voice, alternately talking and shouting something indecipherable. Then the door to the nursery opened and closed, and Nurse began admonishing anyone who would listen to stop the racket as it was upsetting the children. The wailing and shouting kept moving in our direction, growing louder and causing any number of doors to be opened and slammed shut as squires and maids went out into the corridors to see what was happening and everyone started talking at once.
Next came the sound of heavy boots and more shouting as guards began running through the corridors trying to determine if there was some sort of threat. The entire din then made its way up the corridor outside our apartment, to be augmented by an incessant pounding on a door across the way which I presume, from the direction of the sound, to be the door to John’s apartment.
The screaming and pounding continues. Two voices are completely unintelligible. One of the guards is shouting to someone to fetch Brother Nicholas—clearly Tove and Kjeld are involved somehow. Nurse is still shouting for everyone to quiet down because of the children.
“What do you think’s going on?” asks Gwen.
“If I had to guess, I’d say my brother has asserted his conjugal rights somewhat earlier than the schedule called for,” I reply, getting out of bed and going to the door.
The scene I find when I open the door is even more chaotic than it had sounded from inside the room. I let out a shrill whistle that, thankfully, gets everyone’s attention enough to quiet them. Then I walk deliberately up the corridor and knock in a normal fashion on John’s door.
“John, it’s Alfred. Come to the door. There are enough guards out here to restrain those who would seem to be demanding your head on a pike.”
I hear footsteps inside and eventually the door is opened tentatively, but only just enough for us to speak.
“Is Gundrea in there with you?”
“Not any longer,” he replies. “I sent her back to her room more than an hour ago.”
“We won’t discuss what a bad move that was.”
He says nothing.
“Alright, I’ll deal with the mayhem out here. Get yourself dressed and be in Father’s private reception room in an hour.”
“Isn’t it a bit early?” he asks.
“John, there’s not a soul in the castle that isn’t already wide awake, thanks to you. Father’s private reception in an hour. Understood?”
Pleased with his conquest and feeling full of himself, John looks hopeful of a retort from one of us, but his hopes are dashed when the door from the bed chamber opens and my parents join us. I can tell by his demeanor that my father intends to take this all in stride.
“John, next time you decide to wake us all before dawn, I’d appreciate it if you’d make it for some really good reason—like we’re being attacked by hordes of crazed men with their faces painted blue—something on that order. I really prefer a gentler start to the day unless our lives are being threatened.” My mother smiles sweetly at her husband. For once, John holds his tongue.
“So,” my father continues, “I understand you’ve decided to give up your bachelor life and make sure there’s no chance for an annulment of your marriage. May I be the first to congratulate you.”
John is completely taken aback. No doubt he had expected another lecture. My father is becoming quite skilled at knowing when and how to deflate his son’s excesses of ego.
“And I as well,” says my mother. “Petronilla and I are quite looking forward to teaching Gundrea the ways of queenship. We shall get her moved into your apartment today. I’ve already spoken with Nona, and she’s delighted to help with getting her settled in. I suspect Gwendolyn could spare Letty as well if she’s needed, don’t you think, Alfred?”
I simply nod in the affirmative. Rupert is struggling to suppress his amusement. My father looks regally serene. And John is utterly speechless.