When I first saw her, my breath was swept away by her beauty. I know I could have loved her, had things been different. But that wasn’t meant to be.
The first time I asked my groom, Robert, about the gatekeeper’s daughter, my question was casual one. I merely remarked that I heard the old gatekeeper was dutifully taken care of by his daughter, and asked Robert if he knew anything about her. His answer was simple and to the point, but it was mere child’s play to connect the dots and discover that this girl was one of rare beauty and character, and Robert had a deep respect for her.
My curiosity was awakened by the story of this maiden, so devoted to her father that she rarely left the gatehouse except to help her father perform his duties. I kept my eyes and ears open every time I went through the gate, but I did not get a chance to see her for several months.
One cool evening in May I came back to the castle grounds after a walk in the country. Coming to the gatehouse, I heard the sound of music from a lyre. By the moonlight I could see the shape of a young bard slouched against the brick wall of the gatehouse as he strummed the notes to a love song. Above him I saw a maiden perched in the sole window of the building. The candles glowing inside lit the loose strands of her hair like fragile strings of gold as they danced in the breeze. Even though it was difficult to see her features in the merging of candlelight, moonlight, and shadows, I could tell she was very beautiful.
I sensed animosity in the bard’s attitude when his music was interrupted by my hail. It was worth it, though, to get a closer look at the angelic form of the maiden as she came out to open the gate for me. I knew that this youth was trying to win her love, but was not worthy of her.
One day in June Robert asked for leave from his duties. The wistful longing in his eyes interested me, and like the spoiled nobleman’s son I am, I followed him as he left the castle and walked toward the gatehouse. He lingered there, obviously hoping for a chance to see the gatekeeper’s daughter, and then abruptly turned and walked towards the country.
Following him into the meandering paths of the country, my gait was interrupted by a sense of horror when I saw two figures sitting on the bank of a brook, and recognized them as the bard and the gatekeeper’s daughter. The bard had just given the maiden a bouquet of wildflowers, and tried to steal a kiss, but she turned away, a shy smile waltzing on her lips.
Afraid that Robert would be heartbroken, I stole a glance at him. I could see no malice in his eyes, but instead saw him gazing at the smile on the lips of the gatekeeper’s daughter. A smile of his own lit up his face, and he turned back—and saw me.
In his eyes I read love, a real love that could demolish the kingdom of the world in a moment and set one in its stead much more beautiful and noble. Robert knew what I saw in his heart, and wasn’t ashamed; he presented me a grin as he walked past me back toward the castle. Wondering what he would do, I continued to play the part of a nosy fool as I pursued his steps. What he did next amazed me, and I will never forget it.
Robert retrieved two buckets of water from the gatekeeper’s well and hauled them to the gatehouse. Barely able to stretch high enough to peep through the window, I watched him merrily keep company with the bedridden gatekeeper as he scrubbed the floors of the small house, leaving petals of his love sparkling in the dim corners. Long tended with sadness, the house was filled with new echoes of laughter as he worked. I slipped away long before he had finished whatever plans he had devised, but not before my heart was stirred by his living example of what love is.
If the word of a nobleman’s son is worth anything, the angel who lives in a gatehouse will not be marrying a bard.
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