["So you want stories of Good King Henry?" asked the monk. " Why of course I know stories of Good King Henry! I could start this night, and not be finished until Whitsuntide, and the Feast of all Saints but scarcely a fortnight passed. Oh, I know many many stories of the Good King!"
"But what story should I tell you? he continued; "Let's see... You remember the tale of how the Good King defeated the Ogre, and brought happiness back to the kingdom? You do? Good! Do you remember the brave page that held the box containing the Ogre's heart? You do? Good. Would you like to hear the tale of how that brave child became a Page? You would? Good!" And calling for the littlest to come sit on his ample lap, the storytelling monk began:]
Well in the days of the Good King Henry and Eleanor his Queen, there lived a humble Smith named Tom. He worked night and day to feed and clothe his four sons, and through hard work and much effort, made a good home for his poor, motherless children.
["What happened to their mother?" spoke a worried young lass.
Roger replied: "When the youngest was but still a babe, their mother died giving birth to twin daughters, who followed their mother to heaven four days later. Now don't interrupt!" the monk thundered at the lass, and then gave her a merry wink, and she smiled and settled down again.]
Well, the Smith's three oldest sons were men after their father, the oldest weighing sixteen stone, and not an ounce of fat on his body. But the youngest child, Robin by name, was pale and thin, much like his sainted mother. So the Smith thought that perhaps his youngest might make a good page.
["What's that you ask? said the monk in surprise; "How can a Smith's child become a page? Why, these are the days of Good King Henry, remember? In King Henry's Court, any freeborn man could present his child to the Crown, and upon acceptance and the payment of the child's keep, a boy could grow to be a Page, serve a Knight as a squire, and if proven brave and true, serve the King as a Knight!]
So on the very next feast day, when the King opened his court to all his people, Tom the Smith brought his youngest before the King and Queen.
"He looks a bit young," Mentioned the Queen.
"The child has just passed his eighth year, your Majesty," responded Tom.
"We normally look for more potential in a Page," said the King.
"But." But before the Humble Smith could interrupt, the King continued; "But I see no harm in giving him a chance. Return in a month and a day, and we shall decide then."
And Robin entered the Page's school, that very day.
Work for Robin at the Page's school was not very hard. Oh, 'tis true that he was up before dawn, and rarely found his pallet before the sun had gone down. But life was like that at his home cottage, and he was used to it. Many of the other Pages were not so fortunate, and were the offspring of Lords and Ladies. They were used to having servants at their command, and a Page's life came hard to them. You might think that Robin might be resented, but he was so kind and pleasant to the other Pages that although he was young, he soon won their friendship.
One day, as the Pages sat before the Queen, learning their letters.
["What's that? Yes, the Queen herself taught the Pages how to read and write. This was the court of King Henry, after all! Now stop interrupting!"]
A strange look came over the Queen. At lessons end, she sent the Pages off to their tasks in the kitchen, but told Robin to stay behind.
"I want to change my dress before lunch," said the Queen, "And I need help removing my gown."
The poor little Page gulped; "Shall I find one of your Ladies in waiting?" asked the frightened child.
"No," responded the Queen, "After all, it is just us Ladies here!"
Robin turned as white as can be. "You know?" stammered the girl, pitifully.
"Those men might be fooled, but a woman has more sense! Now tell me what is going on."
And Robin told the tale of how when her mother died, her father did not know how to raise a daughter, and so treated Robin like he had done with her brothers. She grew up well in her brother's hand-me-downs, and took to the household tasks well enough. The Smith was kind to her, and as time passed, he almost forgot that Robin was a daughter. One day, however, he glimpsed Robin standing in her smallclothes, and the Smith knew that he could not ignore nature forever. He wanted to place his daughter where she would be safe, and be taught those things a girl usually learns from her mother. The royal court, he reasoned, where there are Ladies aplenty, would be a good home for his youngest child. If fortune was kind, before Robin came into her full womanhood, the court would love her so much that the question of her gender would be laughed off as a minor joke.
"Will you keep my secret? asked the child plaintively; "I love my da, but so want to stay and be a Page!"
The Queen did not answer directly, but said "we will see how your probation time does. Now be off to your work!"
Well, the day finally came, and the royal court was in session. The first petitioner came before the Royal Couple, and the boy was brought forth, and his progress evaluated. The King and Queen agreed that he would make a fine Page, and so upon the payment of a gold crown, the lad was a full fledged Page.
Seeing this, the good Smith gulped, for his was a modest life, and such funds he did have were nowhere near enough to equal half a gold coin, let alone a full one. But the Queen saw his consternation, and motioned for one of her guards to approach her. The man-at-arms took something from her hand, and moved away.
The King's herald called out; "Let Tom the Smith come before the Court!"
As Tom approached their Majesties, clutching his meager life savings in his hands, his child came out from behind the thrones, and stood with her father.
"Your child" said the King "is young, but shows great promise. He is quick with his hands, and meets each task assigned him with courtesy and good will. What do you think, my dear?" he asked the Queen.
"I have been very impressed with Robin," she stated, "and I think Robin will make a great Page. So much so" she continued, "that I have determined to make Robin my own personal Page."
"Good!" cried the King, and addressing the Smith said; "now if you and I can take care of his keep, we can go on to other business."
"Your Majesty" mumbled Tom, "I fear..."
But before Tom could say what he feared, a man came up from behind him, and nearly knocked him to the ground.
"Forgive my clumsiness, Good Smith, I did not watch where I was going." said the man-at-arms. "Here, let me help you pick up your coins."
The Smith stared with astonishment, for in his hand, instead of the one silver and four copper coins he had come in with, there now existed . why, it must be over 10 silver pieces, and, and, and. Two Gold Coins!
"These are not mine!" spoke the honest Smith; "I had not a tenth of this wealth!"
"As the Lord hear me, they certainly are not mine!"Spoke the guard, "They MUST be yours!"
"I see you have the money right there," said his Majesty, "but the cost is only one gold coin. Put the rest away, you don't want to lose it." And the King and Queen smiled.
[And so it was recorded in the greatbooke of the Kingdom that on this day a new Page entered the service of the kingdom, Robin by name, and as you will see, the kingdom was a better place for it!]
Roger of Belden Abbey
Roger of Belden Abbey
Daniel A. Thompson, Jr
415 SE 153rd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97233
Roger of Belden Abbey