When Rolland and I caught our first glimpse of Uncle Roderick’s home, I knew I’d been wise to bring my manuscript with me. The old castle, surrounded by dark pines, would be the perfect setting for my main character, Frederick DeLaney, as he visited the Mysterious Baron.
Uncle Roderick met us at the gate and ushered us inside. There we were greeted by Aunt Katherine and a lanky young man, our cousin, Richard.
“But where is Lavinia?” Uncle Roderick asked. Then he yelled “Lavinia! Come and meet your cousins.”
With a rustle of skirts, Cousin Lavinia swept into the room. I gaped in surprise. The little girl I vaguely remembered had blossomed into a beautiful woman. Her golden hair cascaded down her back, and as her eyes met mine I fell instantly in love.
Perhaps I wouldn’t bother with Frederick DeLaney after all.
Soon, however, I realized Rolland also admired Lavinia. It was evident by the way he gawked at her whenever they met. And when vibrant strains of music erupted outside my window one evening, I knew matters were growing serious. Peering out into the darkness I beheld a group of minstrels, all unaware that they were singing the praises of “Sweet Lavinia” beneath the wrong window.
Roaring, I flung open the casement and hurled a goblet at their heads. Shrieking in alarm they disappeared into the shadows.
Hoping to take my mind off Rolland and Lavinia, I sat down at my desk and pulled out my manuscript. But my own hand betrayed me. Frederick DeLaney, trapped in the Baron’s dungeon, was rescued by a beautiful maiden and quickly fell in love.
It was while Frederick was deciding how to propose that an idea struck me. I would write Lavinia a letter, a passionate, moving letter telling her of my love.
Laying my manuscript on the floor I began to write, but before I could sign my name Rolland walked into the room.
Instinctively I tried to cover the letter, but then I stopped. It didn’t matter if Rolland saw it. I knew my twin brother couldn’t read or write.
“I need your help, Edmond,” Rolland said, looking embarrassed. “I want you to write a letter for me.”
“Couldn’t you ask Uncle’s scribe?”
“Certainly not. I don’t want HIM spying on my letter.”
“Because I want to ask Lavinia to marry me,” Rolland replied.
My heart sank.
“Giles!” I yelled.
My servant poked his head through the door.
“Fetch me some ink. I’m running low.”
“Now then,” I said, taking a deep breath, “what should I say?”
As I wrote what Rolland told me to, I began to feel more confident. His proposal sounded awkward and unflattering, even to my ears. And if I hated it, Lavinia would, too.
Just as I finished the last line, Giles reappeared carrying an inkpot. Crossing the floor, he tripped on the rug and bumped into a table, spilling the contents of a flower vase … all over my manuscript!
Chaos reigned as I tried to save my stained manuscript and chastise Giles at the same time. Chuckling, Rolland signed his letter and left. Only after I’d banished a miserable Giles from the room did I turn back to my letter.
But it was gone. Only Rolland’s proposal remained on my desk. Rolland had taken my letter by mistake!
Enraged, I glared at the remains of Frederick DeLaney. By trying to save the manuscript I had sacrificed my letter and all hope of Lavinia.
But then, without even knocking, Lavinia herself slipped into my room.
“Lavinia!” I cried, surprised.
“Shhh!” she whispered, holding out a letter, MY letter. “I need you to read this for me.”
A million questions swept through my mind, but I asked only one. “Why?”
“That’s no secret,” she replied. “I can’t read. I never learned. Books are such a bore! But this letter Rolland gave me … I know it must be special. Won’t you read it to me, Edmond?”
Horrified, I stared at her. Was this the girl I hoped to marry? She hated books! She couldn’t read! And she’d never understand how much I loved both.
Suddenly I knew what to do.
“Have a seat, cousin,” I said, taking my letter, “and let’s see what Rolland has to say.”
Later that night Frederick DeLaney returned to his adventures, after escaping from the Baron AND the maiden, and I realized how much I’d learned about myself, as I continued drying my manuscript.
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