Lord Henry and his friend, Lord Philip, lounged against the oak tree that overshadowed the courtyard of Castle Marsh. Henry twirled one end of his moustache as he listened to Philip plan his courtship strategy.
“I say, Henry, I think the best way to woo Maid Maudlin Marsh would be to take the sentimental approach: serenading her with love songs whilst strumming the mandolin; gifting her with a fresh bouquet of flowers each morning; hanging upon her every word whilst holding her ivory hand; and—of course--taking her for long romantic walks that last just late enough so that the evening chill requires that I, her suitor, remove his cloak to warm her fragile shoulders.”
“Rubbish!” spat Henry. “Rubbish, rubbish, and more rubbish!”
“Whaaat?” gasped Philip as his face reddened.
“You heard me, Philip! I said, ‘Rubbish!’”
“—And just what is wrong with my plan, Henry? It incorporates all the best time-tested methods used by the most up-and-coming suitors of fair maidens of the realm!”
“First of all, you can barely carry a tune in a bucket. Next, you don’t own a mandolin—oh, I could loan you mine—but you’ve only learned to play one chord upon it. Then again, you can only sing in a monotone, so I suppose one chord would be all that you would need…”
“Stop! Stop! I get your point—I can’t sing, nor can I play any instrument. –But I could do all the other things, couldn’t I? --The flowers, holding her hand, taking her for walks, gallantly covering her with my cloak…”
“Ha! You obviously have not done your research!”
“Research? What do I need to research? I plan to woo and win the fairer sex, not study the stars!”
“Well, Philip, if you had done your research you would know that Maid Maudlin can’t stand flowers of any kind—they make her eyes to water and turn red, her nose to itch, and her mouth to sneeze repeatedly! Look around you…have you ever wondered why no flowers grow in this castle courtyard, when flowers grow in all the neighboring castle courtyards? If you had started presenting Maid Maudlin with daily bouquets of flowers, you would have sent her to her sick bed.”
“But what of the other things? Surely I could hold her hand and go for walks?”
“Nay, I fear even those mundane activities would not be much enjoyed by the fair lady.”
“—And why not?”
“I happen to know that the Maid Maudlin detests having her hand held by anyone with sweaty palms.”
“Oh, no! Alas, my hands always become moist when I am nervous—and the presence of a beautiful woman always makes me nervous!”
“See, that is why holding hands with the fair Maid Maudlin would be a very bad idea! --And then there are the walks in the chill of the evening. First of all you would be restricted to walking her only in this tiny castle courtyard to keep her from the danger of exposure to flowers outside the castle walls…and then there is her propensity for instantly developing a fever when she gets even the slightest chill.”
“—And how do you know that?” Philip said as he gave Henry a suspicious look.
“Oh, I have gleaned this from the most trustworthy of sources, Maid Maudlin’s own loyal nurse, Brunhilde,” said Henry with a modest dip of his head.
“Then all is lost! My hopes of wooing and winning the fair lady, Maid Maudlin, are dashed! I shall go back to my manor immediately to pen my heartfelt regrets to M’lady. Would you like to come with me? Perhaps we could stop at the Bronze Knocker on the way for a bit of refreshment…”
“No, you go along. Your dilemma has made me morose. I think I will sit here under the oak of Castle Marsh and compose a lament to all spurned suitors everywhere. A pensive mood always stirs the creativity within my breast. Fare Thee well, Lord Philip!”
“Fare Thee well, Lord Henry!”
Henry continued leaning against the trunk of the great oak. Suddenly he pushed away from the tree with a broad smile upon his face, and strode purposefully to the back door to the castle. He swung open the door and called loudly, “Maid Maudlin, my Dearest Angel, you’ll be happy to know that Lord Philip is finally gone! Now we can sit together in the library and read our poetry!”
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