|The Virgin and the Wise
Author: V de V PM
While talking about the Crusades, caves, and medieval tapestries depicting the unicorn hunt, a young French boy and his brother, the count, realize a few things about knights, ladies, and what it means to be wise and true of heart. A little different.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 5,903 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Published: 05-19-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2363923
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: So I just read Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince and thought it was the most adorable, lightly satirical, and awesome little book on life and philosophy ever. You simply must read it if you have not already. Your thinking will change, maybe a bit, maybe a lot, but it will change. Plato's Republic is another one of those pieces which also expands your mental horizon. So this little story/dialogue thingy is my corrolary to those two philosophical works from the French and the Greek. The medieval backdrop is only there to illustrate some ideas even though this piece is actually set in the 1850s. And do not worry. The philosophy is not that esoteric because I am having a five-year-old expound it. If anything, enjoy the characters who may be familiar.
The Virgin and the Wise
It was the middle of the autumn season in Picardy. A cold, murmurous rain fell onto the northern green lands from which, at the same time, a silvery mist rose up, shrouding the country in a dense fog illuminated by the occasional bolt of lightning that glowed with white-gold brilliance. The air smelled fresh and earthy and resounded with the rumbling roar of the thunder. From gaps in the pluvial clouds, the moon sometimes emerged, its light casting a milky effulgence over the old granite façade of the Château d'Argentile toward which a lone rider on horseback rapidly advanced. He drew in his steed, pulling back on the embroidered reins and was soon met by his equerry who, clutching a broad-brimmed hat to his head, urged his master to enter the manor while he tended to the snorting, black stallion. Gratefully, the rider dismounted and relinquished the reins to his servant before passing through the château 's heavy doors.
"Enguerrand, thank god you have arrived," a worried, feminine voice said upon his entrance.
"What is the matter, ma Charlotte?" he inquired, allowing her to take his sopping cloak from him.
"Raoul, ah the poor boy, is very ill," she responded. "I tell him he must rest and finish his soup if he expects to get better, but he does not listen to me. Instead, he runs about, coughing and sniffling, and then, exhausted by fatigue, has no more energy to do anything but drink half a glass of sugar water and sit near the fire playing with his toy soldiers before dozing off. He won't take the honey or syrup the doctor prescribed and spends close to the entire night coughing into his pillow."
"How is he right now?" Enguerrand questioned, rubbing his gloved hands together for warmth.
"He is upstairs asleep in his room," she answered. "Perhaps his is a peaceful slumber."
"As should yours be, Charlotte," he insisted. "Come, you look tired and ought to take some repose after all this. I shall see to Raoul."
She, a girl between the ages of ten and fifteen, smiled at her elder brother and nodded ascent. "You are too kind, mon comte. I thank you," she said, as she turned to go up the carpeted stairs.
Enguerrand did not reply but had one of the servants rekindle the fire for him in the drawing room. There, he took his Burgundy, biscuits, and a small pâté. While he ate, he smiled to himself when he espied the little viscount's gilded tin soldiers--the generals, the knights, and the footmen--all scattered in some half phalanx, half column formation. Raoul was especially fond of the Crusades and liked to have his army besieging Constantinople or scaling the castle heights at the Battle of Acre. To him, all twelve Crusades were glorious victories and, at the persistent age of five years, he vowed to follow in the illustrious path of Godfrey de Lorraine or Coeur de Lion and lead his own company of knights to Jerusalem where he aspired to be its king. Odessa and Antioch did not interest him, but the boy general possessed no army nor the pope's blessing as yet. Deus voluerat olim sed nunc Dominus tacuit.
Having finished his repast, the count arose and quitted the sitting room, pulling on the bell rope before passing through the velvet portiere to a small spiraling staircase leading to the upper stories. Soon, he was in Raoul's sleeping chamber looking down upon the viscount his little brother, a golden scarf around his neck and his blonde locks disheveled on the white pillow. As if sensing the count's presence, Raoul opened his gray eyes and rose to a half sitting, half reclining position.
"Bonjour, Monsieur mon frère," the child greeted, tilting his head up to the tall man beside him.
"Good evening, Raoul, how are you feeling?" Enguerrand said, sitting at the foot of the bed where the little viscount lay.
"I'm well," Raoul replied, though an unobliging cough indicated otherwise. "Except I'm a little ill."
The count smiled. "A little?" he asked.
"Oui, but just a very little," Raoul returned, playing with the silken fringe of his scarf.
Laughing, Enguerrand noted, "It is not good for the health to be ill, even if it is just a very little."
"But I never meant to be ill," Raoul confessed.
"One never does," the count agreed. "But you do mean to become better?"
"Do I have to?" Raoul countered with a subsequent cough.
"Non, Raoul, you do not have to," Enguerrand compromised. "But do you not wish it so?"
"I wish to be a brave chevalier and fight in a Crusade!" Raoul said.
"You are such a silly little boy," Enguerrand observed. "You are a vicomte, not a chevalier."
"I'll become a page and then an escuier, and then le grand seigneur'll dub me a chevalier," Raoul retorted. It did not matter that there were no more great lords left in France to perform the prestigious ceremony.
"All right," Enguerrand conceded. "But how shall you ever command your gold and tin army if you are coughing all the time?"
"Oh ..." Raoul considered. "I s'pose I'll have to get better then." Another cough affirmed his resolution.
"Ah, you see now the necessity for becoming well. Will you not take a little of the honey your sister was offering you earlier today?" Enguerrand coaxed. "It shall rid you of that cough of yours, leaving you free to shout to every man in your army. Nobody can say that he did not hear you when you gave the command to fire."
"I'll take the honey if it'll make me a grand chevalier. Otherwise I won't because I don't like it," Raoul reasoned.
"It shall make you a most famed chevalier," the count supplied, lightly placing a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Like Launcelot?" Raoul inquired.
"Just like Launcelot, mon petit garçon," Enguerrand confirmed. "Come, I shall fix your honey myself. You may have it near the fire if you prefer, and then you shall return to bed."
"But I'm not tired," Raoul contested, wriggling free from the sheets and coverlet.
"Perhaps the trek downstairs and up shall sufficiently fatigue you," Enguerrand offered, rising from the bed and walking to the arched doorway.
"What's a trek?" Raoul inquired, coughing and following the count out of the chamber. "What if the trek doesn't tire me enough?"
"Mon petit Raoul," Enguerrand said. "you are such a very troublesome boy tonight."
"Am I?" the viscount asked, worried. "Does that mean the trouble I am is only some?"
Enguerrand laughed, waiting for his brother to join him at the foot of the grand staircase. "Non, mon chéri. The trouble you are is a great deal larger than that."
"How much larger?" Raoul inquired. "It can't be as large as the trouble the brave and valiant chevaliers were to the Saracins."
"Oh perhaps not that large," Enguerrand agreed, striding toward the kitchens through a dimly lit hallway. "Non. But I think as much as the shifting clouds are to the vanity of the moon is quite apt."
"I'm a cloud then?" Raoul reasoned. "Can I be a rain cloud? They're so big, dark, and roar in the night, like this night. Did you hear them?"
"I did and continue to," Enguerrand replied, nearing the pantry. "Monsieur le Nuage has graced me with his company."
Raoul laughed, caressing the silken fringe of his golden scarf. "Do you think the clouds go on Crusades?" the little viscount asked while watching his older brother gather the honey jar, a sprig of mint, and a quantity of milk from the ice chest.
"I do not believe they do, mon petit Raoul," the count replied, pouring the honey into the cup of milk before grinding the mint. "They have no pope to spur them on."
"But ... But," Raoul puzzled, his infant Catholicism called into question with the pope not being everywhere. "isn't le bon Dieu just above them with the angels?"
Enguerrand paused and considered. "I forgot how close the clouds are to heaven," he remarked, adding the ground mint to the honeyed milk. "I think you are right."
"Oui! instead of Dieu telling the Pope to send all the brave and valiant chevaliers to Palestine couldn't Dieu simply tell the clouds to drift over to the eastern sky?" Raoul continued, his arms crossed at his chest as he paced about the count's feet. "And clouds could do His will faster because they travel swifter than chevaliers. I guess they could even greet the sunrise if they went fast enough."
"I wonder if the dawn would like seeing an entire army of Crusading clouds," Enguerrand mused. "Come, mon petit Raoul, let us to the fire so you may take your honey."
"I think the Byzantine clouds would be very happy to see the French clouds," Raoul said, turning to follow Enguerrand from the kitchens to the drawing room.
"There is a difference?" the count wondered, directing the little boy behind him to sit in a plush armchair to the left of the hearth.
"There must be," Raoul replied, rather inelegantly climbing up and around the ottoman to the over stuffed seat.
"Why," Enguerrand questioned, intrigued. He gave the little viscount his cup of milk and honey when he was comfortably settled in the chair before sitting himself in the seat opposite, the expanse of the Persian carpet between them. The warm firelight half illuminated the little boy, coloring his blonde hair a shadowy bronzy-gold and giving his gray eyes a soft lambent quality. His scarf of gilded yellow was in bright contrast to his red velvet robe, as were the creamy white contents of the cup he held in his small hands.
"Oh, I don't know really," Raoul admitted, taking a wary sip of his medicine. He made a face while swallowing and coughed. "It's not working!"
"Give it time," Enguerrand offered. "And do you truly not know, or are you just not telling me?"
"I truly don't know, Monsieur mon frère," Raoul said with conviction. "It just must be because Frenchmen are different from Englishmen and from Italians and Spaniards and Africans and ... and Gascons and those people who live in caves."
The count smiled and allowed a low laugh to escape him while Raoul continued, "And so French clouds are different from English clouds and Italian clouds and other people's clouds."
"I see," Enguerrand returned. "And who are the people who live in caves?"
"The people who don't live in château s of course," Raoul answered simply, venturing another sip.
The count inclined his head to the side, charmed by the logic. "Indeed," he conferred. "But could not a cave be a château to those people?"
"Non," Raoul said quickly. "Caves have all those stagmites and stactites, and château s don't."
"Stalagmites and stalactites," Enguerrand corrected, amused.
"Oh, how does it matter?" the viscount asked. "They are great big deer frozen in place."
The count's eyebrows rose as he considered his brother's declaration. "Deer?"
"Oui, Monsieur mon frère, how little you know," Raoul retorted, scrunching up his face for another sip. "Stags are deer. You hunt them in the summer and never let me come with you and all the other comtes and vicomtes. But you can't hunt stagmites because they are bigger and mightier than stags and scare the hounds."
Enguerrand sighed, running a thin immaculate hand through his hair. "Stalagmites, not stagmites, are tall pointed deposits of sediment and other minerals which rise from the floor of a cave. They are not deer."
"But they used to be the great stags of a cavern until the cave hunters caught them and turned them into stagmites," Raoul insisted.
"Is that so?" Enguerrand responded.
"Oui, Monsieur," Raoul replied.
"I thought your great stagmites could not be captured?" Enguerrand pointed out.
"Oh, they can't be captured by you and me with our hounds, but the cave hunters have no trouble chasing the stags through their underground forests," Raoul explained. "The cave hunters don't use hounds."
"Then what do they use?" Enguerrand inquired, ignoring the twelve knells of the clock overhead.
"Stactite because the hunters know stagmites like it," Raoul answered.
The count gave the little boy a quizzical look, and Raoul laughed. "Do you know what stactite is?"
"I am afraid to admit my ignorance, but the condition exists nevertheless," Enguerrand confessed. "Tell me."
"It's all right," Raoul consoled. "I didn't know either till I found out stactite is the word the cave hunters use to describe the malachite grass held by a cave maiden who extends her hand from which the stag feeds."
"Does the stag like the stactite more than the maiden holding it out to him?" Enguerrand inquired, wanting clarification.
"But that's not important," Raoul said. "The cave hunters know the stagmites will come to them without they having to do anything but allow the maiden to advance a little ahead of their horses. The cave hunters are very wise that way. They capture the stag and use the velvet on its horns for the velvet of their garments. They actually give most of the velvet to the maiden to thank her for her help, but there is enough left to clothe themselves and present a little to their roi."
"Their roi?" Enguerrand echoed. "So their government is a monarchy, mon petit Raoul?"
"Oui, it is," the viscount said, placing his empty cup on the side table beside him. "And I've finished my honey."
"So you have," Enguerrand agreed. "But tell me, do not the cave hunters put the maiden under some danger when they chase the stag?"
"Non," Raoul replied. "The stags will never hurt the little girl. She is too beautiful and kind to be harmed, and the stags know this."
"It seems the stags are just as wise as the cave hunters who capture them," Enguerrand jested.
"I don't know," Raoul admitted. "But I like the cave hunters. They're like the brave chevaliers who go on Crusade for their grandes dames."
"How so?" Enguerrand persisted.
"Well, the stag is very hard to catch and never seen. He never ventures out of his thicket unless he smells the stactite and sees a maiden holding it out to him," Raoul explained. "Altogether it's a very brave and gallant thing to do, catching the stag; and giving the little girl the velvet from the stag's horns is quite chivalric on the part of the hunters."
"Evidently," Enguerrand muttered. More clearly, he inquired, "How do you know all this about the wise hunters of the grotto?"
"They told me so," Raoul supplied.
"Where? When?" Enguerrand continued, one hand cradling his cheek with the elbow on the armrest of the chair.
"Today in the great chamber across from the morning room where Mademoiselle ma soeur was. While she painted, she allowed me to play in that room with the doors open so she could see me, but she didn't know that I went with the cave people."
The count became contemplative, thinking about the contents of the room in question. "Show me to this chamber," he commanded, rising from his seat.
"If you wish," Raoul obliged, hopping from his own chair and grabbing his brother's hand with both of his. "It's a very dark and gloomy chamber because it has no windows, but the candelabrum gave me light enough to see les chevaliers and little girl on the hunt for the stag. They were very kind people, very polite. You needn't worry."
The viscount playfully tugged and pulled at Enguerrand's wrist, dragging him up the grand staircase, past his own bedroom, along the adjacent nursery, and continuing onto the morning room overlooking the Argentile grounds. The doors to the morning room were presently open, and both man and boy spared a glance to the windows which were misty and splattered with rain. They could hear the thunder claps better, now that they were on the upper story. A bolt of lightning lit up the dark passage in which they stood, and the little viscount, not thinking of it, involuntarily tightened his hold on the older man's hand. "Oh, look how bright it is!" he exclaimed. "I bet the sun is afraid of it."
"If not the sun, then surely a little vicomte," Enguerrand thought aloud.
"Non, non," Raoul disagreed. "I'm not scared. I'm just surprised at how white and dazzling the lightning is. Nothing more, but let us go into the room where I met the cave people. They're expecting us."
Enguerrand did not bother to voice his inquiry as how the said people would know of their coming. He did, however, bother to glance all around him when he and Raoul were inside, the candelabrum still burning above their heads.
They were in a large room devoid of much furniture but which was still tastefully adorned. The ceiling was painted in a fresco depicting the late Count d'Argentile in the form of Apollo and Madame la Countess as Diana. Their son, Enguerrand the Viscount, was a young Dionysus and the daughter Charlotte a shy, gray-eyed Minerva. Raoul, as the second viscount, was the infant Cupid playing with a kitten, his bow and quiver of arrows discarded on a nearby cloud. Of course, the living counterpart of the winged child from the fresco could not or would not recognize himself in the painting. The crystal and iron candelabrum, located in the central emptiness of the fresco, hung from a bronze chain and lit the chamber with flickering, orange-yellow flames. The floor on which Enguerrand and Raoul stood was a hardwood parquet with cedar inlay, and slim Corinthian pilasters were mounted at the corners. But the chamber's chief ornament was a series of medieval tapestries that covered all of the stone walls.
According to family legend, Raoul II d'Argentile of the twelfth century had commissioned the tapestries for his wife Célestine after returning from the Third Crusade. They told the story of le chevalier's conviction of the infidelity of his wife, a new bride at the time, while he fought at Acre. When he arrived back in Picardy and had heard several rumors as to Célestine's dishonorable conduct, he confronted her. She denied the charges and begged on bent knees her lord for his clemency which he refused to show and summarily cast her out of doors. Having nowhere to go, as the rest of her family was in Normandy, Célestine retreated into the forested woods beyond Argentile-le-Château and survived off whatever she could--berries, apples, and mushrooms, drinking the water from a stream and sleeping in a grove of yew trees. It was not until Raoul, in company with chevaliers and escuiers, went on a grand hunt that he reunited with his bride. The legend speaks of a quest for the elusive unicorn by the Sire d'Argentile who, with the blast of the bugle, rode into the woods, his men behind, his dogs ahead, and his eyes alert for a streak of sea foam white touched by moonbeams. He never espied that bright ivory streak but instead happened upon a magnificent white orix whose head, graced by a spiraling horn, rested in sleep in the lap of a hauntingly beautiful though sublimely sad lady whom he recognized as his wife. He recognized, too, that unicorns only slumbered in the lap of a virgin. Le chevalier threw aside his golden chains and permitted the unicorn to go free. Pricked by a deep remorse, he dismounted from his steed and implored Célestine, in a supplicant's genuflection, to pardon him for his earlier harshness. The lady, who had always loved Raoul, readily forgave him, a fact illustrated in the last panel: the great lord's head, like the unicorn's, was in the virgin's lap with the Argentile device at one corner above the date MCC.
Enguerrand stood still, rotating his head to view the tapestries. They were primarily red, a vivid crimson vermilion from the rich cloth of Flanders. The figures were embroidered in gold leaf wire and the unicorn in silver, their eyes made from white diamonds or blue-green lapis. All ten panels, despite the centuries, were still crisp and bright, still redolent of medieval Picardy, le chevalier, and his lady. Every Argentile from the time of Raoul II knew the tapestries' tale and passed it on orally even though there was an illuminated book of verse that also held the tradition within its pages. Enguerrand noticed the bejeweled book in question lying open on a cushion at the foot of the fifth tapestry with a closed copy of Le Grand Testament de Francois Villon nearby. Although he knew his brother could not read yet, the count nevertheless picked up the copy of Villon's poem, wary of the little viscount being exposed to the writings of the poet-thief so early on.
"So, this is your cave, this tapestried chamber?" Enguerrand questioned.
"Oui," Raoul replied, seating himself on the cushion and looking up at the count. "It's so dark and cold like a cave."
It was true the room had a horrible draft, and the candelabrum could only give so much light.
"Well, your cave people are very charming," Enguerrand remarked, glancing from the chevalier to the lady.
"What about the stag?" Raoul asked. "Isn't he big and dangerous? With that horn, the cave hunters couldn't get him without the maiden to help. But why did they let him go?"
Enguerrand considered for a moment before replying, "Because the unicorn helped le chevalier."
"Helped?" Raoul echoed, bemused. "Do chevaliers need help?"
"At times, even chevaliers need help, mon petit Raoul," Enguerrand answered.
"But why?" Raoul inquired. "I thought chevaliers could do and knew everything."
"That is just the thing. They do not," Enguerrand said simply.
"When I'm a grand chevalier, I'll know everything," Raoul declared. "And I won't need some stag to help me."
"You shall be the first then," Enguerrand remarked.
"I will?" Raoul responded. "But I'll be kind to my unicorns. I won't cage them."
The count smiled. "That is indeed chivalrous," he noted.
Raoul shrugged his small shoulders before looking at the third to last tapestry with the unicorn's head in the lady's lap. "Why is la grande dame so sad?" he asked. "Shouldn't she be happy that le chevalier is coming?"
"She should," Enguerrand replied deliberately. "but the story, and it is a very old one, says that le chevalier and his dame had quarreled and so were not on good terms."
"Chevaliers don't fight with grandes dames," Raoul stated matter of factly. "It's not gallant. I think this chevalier is very silly to fight with such a beautiful and kind dame."
"Perhaps," Enguerrand agreed. "But he thought she was deceiving him."
"Was she?" Raoul questioned, anxious. He nervously stroked the silken fringes of his scarf while shifting his gray eyes from the languishing lady in the tapestry to the tall count clutching a copy of Villon's verses. He hoped the lady was innocent.
"No," Enguerrand answered.
Now Raoul looked even more bemused than the previous time. "So why did they quarrel?" he persisted, trying to understand.
"Because le chevalier only thought he had a point on which to quarrel," Enguerrand said.
"Only thought? But it wasn't true," Raoul returned. "How can you fight over something that isn't true?"
"It does not matter if it is true, only what you think is true," Enguerrand offered, wondering if the little viscount were capable of comprehending the first tenant of epistemology.
"Le chevalier's thought is untrue. And if the thought's untrue, then its wrong. So it's wrong of le chevalier to fight with la dame if she didn't do anything," Raoul reasoned.
Enguerrand meditated on the syllogism. "Oui, mon petit Raoul, you should become a philosopher," he said finally.
"Non, I want to be a chevalier," Raoul retorted.
"You still desire a life as a chevalier?" Enguerrand asked, perplexed.
"Oui, Monsieur mon frère," Raoul answered. "Le chevalier in the tapestry is a very silly man though he is wise to capture the stag with the maiden and the stactite. However, when I'm a grand chevalier, I won't be silly like that. I'll never quarrel with a dame over nothing. Indeed, ... I'll never quarrel with a dame."
"So what will you do with her?" Enguerrand inquired, intrigued.
"I'll honor her and protect her and make her proud of me," Raoul announced. "She'll be the most honored dame of the court."
The count smirked. "May you love her?" he questioned.
"I don't know," Raoul confessed. "I'll love Dieu and mon grand sire first. I don't know if there'll be enough love to give ma dame after that. It wouldn't be very chivalrous of me to pledge my devotion to ma dame and then have to take it back."
Enguerrand cocked an eyebrow. "You are right. It would not be fair to la dame," he said. "But suppose you could love her, would you?"
"I would," Raoul answered. "She's so beautiful and kind."
"And would you love her even if she were not beautiful?" Enguerrand inquired.
Raoul paused before answering. "I don't know," he said. "I would like it if she were beautiful, but I know I wouldn't like it if she were unkind. She should always be kind, and I should always be chivalrous. ... I s'pose I should be chivalrous even if she were not beautiful because I'm a grand chevalier."
"I see," Enguerrand returned, absently flipping to the first stanza of Le Grand Testament. "And would you still love her if she preferred another chevalier to you?"
Raoul looked crestfallen when he heard that. "I hope that never happens," he said. "I hope to be as chivalrous as I can and prevent that. But if it's so and there's no dishonor in it, I'll make sure that's what la dame wants and leave her be. I don't know if I can love her if another chevalier is, but I'll always remember that I did love her once. There's nothing unchivalrous with remembering, is there?"
"Non, mon petit Raoul," Enguerrand said, closing the book.
"Then I'll do that," the little viscount declared with a yawn.
"I think mon grand chevalier is becoming sleepy, non?" Enguerrand inquired, setting the book of Villon's poem beside the illuminated manuscript.
"We've been talking about the cave people all this time," Raoul stated. "And the cave people are very active individuals. The stag hunt takes a long time even with the maiden to help."
"Oui," Enguerrand concurred. "Your cave people are very intriguing."
"And very silly," Raoul noted. "I never knew how silly they were until tonight."
"Well, it is because of their silliness that you learned what it means to be a good chevalier," Enguerrand appeased.
"I s'pose you're right," Raoul said hesitantly. Once more, he toyed with the soft threads of the silken fringe of his golden scarf. "I want to be a good chevalier as well as a grand chevalier."
"Now I realize that the cave people neglected to tell you that chevaliers do not always know everything, but they were also derelict in not informing you that those same chevaliers need to sleep," Enguerrand began.
"But I'm not tired," Raoul retorted. This was accompanied by another yawn despite the viscount's best efforts to stifle it.
"If you insist," Enguerrand returned. "Give me company, then, as I walk to my bedchamber from this cave."
"All right," Raoul agreed, rising from the cushion on which he had been sitting.
The count and his young brother exited the tapestried chamber and shut the heavy oak doors behind them. The rain still pitter-pattered overhead, but a pleasant warmth in the hallway replaced the cool draft of the decorated room. Enguerrand glanced once at the morning room and then proceeded down the passage passed the nursery and eventually turned into the viscount's sleeping chamber.
Raoul, his scarf dragging on the carpeted floor behind him, paused when Enguerrand halted at the curtained doorway. "Your bedroom, Monsieur mon frère, looks like mine," he remarked.
"Does it now?" Enguerrand responded.
"Oui," Raoul answered. "It does! It does! I think you're growing younger otherwise how else will you sleep in a bed that size?"
"I never considered that, mon petit," the count answered. "Perhaps you can sleep there for me."
"I sleep for you?" Raoul questioned, confused. "How?"
"Do not ask how," Enguerrand advised, nearing the bedstead. "Just pretend to sleep even if you cannot. We have to go on a Crusade tomorrow. Hopefully, we shall run in with the cave people and all go on a great stag hunt after the Battle d'Acre."
"With a beautiful maiden to help?" Raoul inquired to assure himself.
"Oui, with a beautiful little girl, just your age, to help capture the stag," Enguerrand agreed, eying the covers and rumpled sheets.
"I'll become that little girl's chevalier. She's not a grande dame, but that is all right for now," Raoul said, excited. "I hope she gives me her cipher."
"Let us hope she even has a cipher," the count recommended. And with that, he stepped in front of his little brother and picked him up.
"Put me down!" Raoul exclaimed. "Grand chevaliers aren't lifted up by their brothers! Set me down immediately."
Quick to please, Enguerrand playfully dumped the little viscount onto his bed in a bright heap of red velvet and golden brocade. Raoul slowly rose up from the bolster and eyed the count disapprovingly. "That was not very chivalrous, Monsieur mon frère," he declared, rather violently fluffing his pillow.
The count laughed, seeing the boy's displeasure. "Forgive me, but sleep cares nothing for chivalry, mon petit Raoul," he said. "Be indulgent with it since it is only an escuier as yet."
"Humph," Raoul retorted, leisurely crawling into the sheets. He adjusted his scarf so it would not confine him while he lay down and tossed his head to the side in an ostentatious display of sangfroid. "An escuier! A page more like it."
"Good night, mon petit Raoul," Enguerrand called out after him while making his egress from the room.
"Au revoir," Raoul replied with a playful chuckle.
"Go to sleep," Enguerrand instructed, his head still looking to the bed with the smiling boy among the satin sheets.
"I'm asleep. Be quiet," Raoul retorted, feigning a snore but only managing to collapse into a fit of laughter.
"Ah," the count said resignedly, "le chevalier takes his rest."
And very soon, the little viscount who would be a great knight had closed his silver-gray eyes and slumbered serenely on the soft bed, his hand in a half caress of the silken fringe and his golden hair once more disheveled on the white pillow.