Chapter Eleven: News From Afar
Every day I looked for the promised letter from Malcolm eagerly. Over a month had passed and my worry for his safety grew as the weeks went by. Before falling asleep, and even in my dreams, I would invent all sorts of horrible circumstances that I imagined must have kept him from writing me.
However, as it turned out, my worries were without cause, for I finally received a letter in Malcolm’s hand. It came from a soldier who was promptly whisked off by the princess to hear all about the progress of the battle and how her father was doing.
I shut myself in my chamber, settled down next to the window so I could read by the dying sunshine, and opened the precious note.
I hope this letter finds you and Chris both happy and well. I long to hear all the news you have of dealings in the castle and all the trouble you have managed to get into while we responsible ones are away.
I smiled and treasured each word he wrote…I could almost hear his voice in my head as I read his loving, teasing sentences. My eyes dimmed with unshed tears. Oh, how I missed him! More than he could ever possibly realize. We are well, I thought to myself sadly, but hardly happy without you. I continued to read:
Let Chris know that her father is doing very well. He contracted a slight fever after having to stay out in a bad rainstorm while we were marching, but he seems to have recovered quickly, and is now back to his normal, busy self. We have a few days left before reaching where we believe our enemies lie in wait, but God has blessed us with fine weather and even better company.
Prince lost a shoe about a week into our march, so now he goes barefoot. I think he likes it, but I am worried that his hooves might be quite worse for wear when we return. He would not let me get near enough to see, so I hope you will give me some advice as to how to manage him. You always were better at taking care of him than me.
Oh Meg, I cannot tell you how much I miss you and your funny aspect on life. Every day when I wake up I think about you and how much I wish you were here with me. This morning we were awakened by the most beautiful sunrise. It was your favorite colors Meg, and I wish I could somehow capture its beauty in words, but words fail me. I pray for you and Chris as well as all the people at home every day. May He bless you with the best that life can offer.
Tell Chris that I send my love. Yes, I asked her to marry me Meg, and she said she would just before we left. Her father finally gave us his blessing. Forgive me not telling you sooner, but you know how busy we both were right up until we marched off. I wrote as soon as time allowed. Chris will be getting her own letter soon after this one I hope. Alfred is coming after Flannigan with her letter. I do not have time before Flannigan leaves to write another letter, this one I will only be able to get to him barely. His baby is being born soon, so the king gave him temporary leave to go back for a few days and then return with Alfred.
This march has taken its toll on all of us. We are tired and worn, but God continues to give us strength to face each new, exhausting day. Somehow, we all keep a stiff upper lip and courageously keep going, but already we have had to leave sick men on our trail. It pains me to speak of the hardships of war, but you have to know that not all is sunrises and buttercups along our march.
Please send a reply back to us with Alfred and Flannigan whenever you get this letter. I long to hear about everything. If you cannot think of anything to say, at least send your love in the letter I know Chris will send.
I hear Flannigan mounting up now, so I will end this letter now, with promises of another one soon.
I love you Meg and I cannot wait until I hear from you and Chris.
Your loving brother,
I finished his letter with a sigh, and smiled. The door to my chamber was opened softly and Chrystal poked her head in.
“Meg?” she said softly.
I motioned her to come over to me. “Malcolm says he sent a letter to you, but that it will arrive later. He sends his love.”
The princess looked at me. “Oh,” she replied carefully.
“I know all about it,” I assured her, seeing her uncertainty. “And I’m happy for you both. You have always had my blessing.”
A relieved look passed over Chrystal’s face and she smiled. “Well, I knew you probably knew that we loved each other, but I didn’t know you knew about our engagement. It was rather sudden, but Malcolm wanted the assurance that I was truly his before he left.”
I stood and hugged the princess. “I look forward to being your sister,” I whispered. A smile lit up Chrystal’s face and she hugged me back. I stepped back and handed her my precious letter. “Here, you can read this. It won’t be as good as reading your own, but it’ll suffice until yours arrives.”
Tears sprang to the princess’s eyes and she hugged the letter to her heart. “I can’t thank you enough Meg, this means more than words can tell.”
“I’ll want it back,” I added teasingly as she walked away. “Be careful with it.”
Chrystal looked back at me before going into her chamber. “I will treat it like gold,” she promised.
* * * * *
I miss you. And I hope you return home safely very soon.
I stared at the paper in disgust. This was going just as badly as I thought it would. My reply sounded short, dry, and extremely boring. Rubbing my forehead, I tried hard to think what I would want my letter sound like. I wanted it to sound like what I wished I could say aloud to him right now. I threw the first letter under the desk and began again.
My dearest brother,
I cannot begin to describe how happy I was to receive your letter. Chrystal and I have been longing to hear from you ever since we saw you disappear from our sight. The princess has yet to get your letter, but she now looks forward with great anticipation to Alfred’s arrival.
We have been doing fairly well, overall. The princess did get a little humiliated after a scolding from William the other day, but after hearing his side of the story, it really was her fault. She is fine now though, and we have not had any other wrinkles in our life. Moreover, no, we have not got into any trouble. Not yet at any rate.
I will keep you and the other soldiers in our prayers for safety. Oh, I wish I could put how much I miss you into this letter, but Malcolm, you know only too well how bad I am at getting what I feel into words on a page.
Tell the king that Chrystal wishes for him by her side every day, and that she is doing a fine job running the kingdom while he is away, for even though she thinks she is doing a horrid job, she is really quite good at it. William tries his best to help, but with most of her father’s advisors gone at war, it has been a bit tricky to say the least. I think we will manage though.
I look forward to your next letter. I think they will be the only things to keep me from worrying my life away while stuck here at the castle. You know I hate being cooped up without anything worthwhile to do with my time except helping the princess, and she does such a good job by herself, I hardly feel needed.
Well, I hope this letter cheers you, even though I am not half as good at filling you in on news as Chrystal probably is. I hope it finds you as well as your letter found us. I will not bother sending Chrystal’s love, since I am sure she wishes to send you her love herself in her own letter.
I miss you, and I hope to see you back home and safe very, very soon.
P. S. About Prince’s hooves, just give him some sugar and soft words and he should not give you any more trouble. I will be prepared for the worst when you return.
I sat back and stretched my arms, suddenly tired. My hands, wrists, and arms were shouting their complaints up to my brain, but I ignored them and carefully sealed my reply before setting it upright on my desk.
Alfred was expected tomorrow, and I looked forward to the news he would bring of our loved ones. I could hear Chrystal’s soft snores through the open door between our chambers, and I smiled.
Blowing out my candle I had been writing by, I felt my way to my bed in the darkness and undressed as quickly as possible in the sudden chill. I slipped into my nightgown and under the warm covers.
Within moments I drifted off to sleep, welcoming the escape from reality and pang of loneliness.