Meeting at the Well

They walked together until they reached the castle courtyard, then Jevan drew Cecily into the shadow of the stables. He seemed to be working up the nerve for something when a loud hemph sounded from a few feet away. Lady Mallkyn and Lady Leticia stood on the castle steps, beckoning to Jevan. He gave Cecily a flash of a smile and a wink, then ran towards the other women, bowing and kissing each of their hands in turn.

Try as she might, Cecily could never be indifferent toward this man. Her first impression had been violent dislike and a vow of eternal hatred, but recent events had made her think better of him.

Pozzo interno by Frankz
Pozzo interno, a photo by Frankz on Flickr.
She came out of the shade and moved toward the kitchen door, but caught sight of two people standing near the well. Coming nearer, she realized that it was her mother and Old Rivens. That too-familiar dread invaded her stomach. Mum had been getting worse and worse. Just yesterday she had fallen asleep while stirring the pottage and almost fallen into the fire, she was just that dead tired.

Alis now drew a bucket from the well, wrestling it to the top, then pitching backwards as she lost her balance. Rivens steadied her with one hand and grabbed the slipping rope with the other. Back on her feet, Alis said something and Rivens laughed, then they both turned in the direction of the stables. Cecily slipped around a corner where she might hear without being seen, and caught her mother’s words.

“…what it is with those two. I thought at first it might be a mother’s imagination, but I think it’s pretty nearly confirmed—if only by the times I’ve heard the story from others. What say you, Rivens?”

“Hmm.” He chewed his lip a moment before answering. “I must admit I ‘ave seen them more than once together.”

“Can there be a reason?”

“I think we must both of us know a few, madam.”

Alis grabbed the bucket, sloshing water all over the pavement. “It can’t be that. She’s nothing to him! He will be a great earl someday, and, much as I love her, Cessy is a cotter like the rest of us. It does no good for them to hang about together.”

“He’s a good boy, Alis. Isn’t afraid to speak to us ordinary people, and I rather like him. He’s got ideas, that one.”

“But I’m afraid for Cessy. She’s got ideas, too. I don’t know where they’ll take her. You will watch out for her, won’t you Rivens?”

“Haven’t I always?”

“And I would say to watch out for him too. I’ll take your word for it that he’s a good boy—foolish, perhaps, but good..”

Rivens shifted his weight on his cane. “He seems a bit crooked in places, but nuthin’ that mightn’t be straightened out in time.”

Alis lifted an eyebrow. “You’ll not go about reforming him, will you? Everyone else at the castle has had quite enough of your moralizing for many’s the year.”


“Ah, do what you will, Rivens, do what you will. No doubt everyone will be all the better for it.” Alis turned to walk away, then the bucket clattered to the ground as she burst into a coughing fit. Her hand clenched her chest and the rasping hacks were painful to hear for several minutes. She staggered, teary eyed, as Rivens gave her the support of his arm. “Thank you Rivens, you’re too kind.” Cecily could barely hear her; the voice was weak, like a small bird growing too frail to fly.

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Constructive criticism is welcome! Please remember, though, that nearly every excerpt posted here is my first rough draft.