Thanks to Inspiration Monday for another great prompt. As ever, I welcome comments and critique. For those who enjoy a musical interlude, this piece reminds me of the song from Camelot – What Do Simple Folk Do?
I’m writing this early as I’ll be on a plane for some part of Thursday, but it should appear on schedule on Thursday if I’ve got the technology right!
How the other half live
King Rawton sighed as he looked out of the window. His people were gathered below, clamouring for scraps at the door to the kitchens. The smell of thronging bodies obliterated the delicate scent of fresh bread which had drawn him there that morning, but he was unable to tear himself away from the sight.
Unlike him, they threw themselves wholly into the matter at hand. None minded whether his tattered clothes were torn in the scrum, or his calloused feet trampled on by the feet of others; it mattered only that each man had his share of yesterday’s carcass, and of the bones which the royal dogs had spurned. Hanson, the kitchen boy, stood warily at the door, throwing the food as far into the crowd as possible, but – the King thought – more out of a desire for self-preservation than any attempt at fairness. If he had dropped the food at his feet, he would have been crushed in the scrum.
“Poor beggars,” said a voice at his elbow. The Queen had approached in silence and now stared past her husband at the scene below. “You mustn’t distress yourself, my Lord.”
“Far from it, my dear. I was thinking how lucky they were. None of these men cares a jot for high opinion or courtly manners. None of them needs to trouble himself about the restless border towns or the intrigues plotted by his Knights. Each man has, no doubt, a singularly ugly wife with whom no-one wishes to cuckold him; a brood of useless children, who will marry, if they marry at all, the useless children of a friend, and not the ambitious offspring of his foulest enemy. None of these men goes to sleep at night wondering if he will awake to find a knife in his back. Only the poor can afford to be happy.”
“The poor can afford to be happy only because their King wishes it so.”
“And I do,” said the King. “I strive daily for their happiness. But I wonder if they are happier than we, my sweet.”
“And they look upon your castle and see only the wealth and finery, my Lord. It is the burden of every man, to see another’s happiness better than his own.”
The King turned for the first time to look at his wife. “Tonight, let us go out into the Kingdom in rags, my dear. I shall tell our Uncle that we travel, but let us live among the people and see what they see. Let us look upon the castle with awe and envy, while others rule on our behalf. Will you be, for a day, the wife of a beggar?”
“A thousand times, my Lord. I married the man and not the King.”