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Medieval Duchess
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We walked along the lines of fruit trees, one on each side, with a basket held to the trunk.  We walked, pausing to shake the tree gently and catch any falling fruit in our baskets.  As we walked we talked.  We talked about things of no importance: who was pretty and who was lonely.  It didn’t make for a bad day.

As soon as our baskets were full we returned to the house.  We both set the fruit on the counter for Mother.  She smiled at us as we walked in, happy for the abundance that had not existed a few years ago.

We returned to the castle, leaving our mother and brother at home.  Those who ran the castle always had work for us.  Before long we were sitting by a small hearth darning stockings.  It was not nearly as fun as our earlier harvest but it was money, money which could not be turned down.  It was hard enough to get work as it is.  By the time the sun was nearly to the horizon our pile was diminished.  We took our few coins and headed home, knowing that we had barely enough time to get there before it was dark.

Life was good.

All of our siblings were running wild when we returned for the night.  Abigail and Henry were fighting over a small toy and Gabriel was busy working on something that he would not let anyone near.  James was chasing after Mother.

We settled Abigail’s dispute by finding a new toy for both of them.  Supper was almost finished but we helped anyway, saying nothing but working as one.  When Father arrived all the children’s hands were washed and they were in their place at the table.  We ate then slept; Gabriel, Henry and James in one room and the rest of us in another.

The next day was laundry day.  Laundry day is my least favorite but Elizabeth does not mind nearly as much as I do.  We went down to the river with Abigail for it was nearly time for her to learn for herself; for now she could play with the other children who’s mother’s were not as lucky as us.

Everyone talked.   It was a way to make work better, less tedious and more interesting.  We heard about new medicines and the Duke’s latest fancy.  We returned to our house with a basket full of dripping clothes.

“Mercy, hang the clothes,” Mother said as we approached.

“We are,” I responded.  Abigail ran off to bother James and we began to leave.

“No Mercy, just you.”  I shot a worried glance and Elizabeth -- who shared my panic – and left to hang up the dripping shifts and shirts.

These talks were never good.  I hung as slowly as I could but still ended up waiting outside until Gabriel called me inside.  Elizabeth had left; I could see her walking towards the castle.  I sat on the kitchen stool and waited for Mother to return.  She came in while I was shifting my weight.

“A lady never shows impatience, Mercy,” she told me as she took a seat.  I could come up with nothing to say so I nodded.  After taking her time arranging her skirts she fixed me with a calm stare that made me want to move.  “Mercy, I’m worried about you.  At your age you should be courting men, not following your sister.”

“I’m not, it is not my…” I hesitated, waiting for Elizabeth to finish for me, like she usually would, before continuing, “fault she comes with me.”

“She said almost the same thing,” Mother mussed, “That is what the problem is.  Abigail refers to you two as ‘Lizcy’.”

“She’s barely five years of age!”