Whereto should I express
My inward heaviness?
No mirth can make me fain
Till that we meet again.
My inward heaviness?
No mirth can make me fain
Till that we meet again.
From Where Should I Express
Bridget Littleton raised her face to the darkening sky. Stars sparkled and shone, accentuating the soft feel of the salt-scented air. Leaning against the rail of her father’s luxurious yacht, she gave herself up to the gentle listing of the ship, enjoying the sound of the slap of the waves against the yacht’s steel hull. To her left, a seagull flew – just at eye level, so close that she could hear it pull the wind beneath its snowy wings. Intermittently, the maritime bird would glide and soundlessly ride the air currents, like a silent phantom above the blue-green waves of the sea. Flap, glide, dip and climb, her airborne companion followed the yacht for a short time, then soared off in the quest of an aquatic snack.
She’d brought an opened bottle of red wine to the aft deck of the yacht. There comfortable chairs and couches were placed for the ease of her father’s friends and clients. She still wasn’t sure as to how she was able to convince her father to let her use his yacht, but she was grateful. The Bridget, so named by her late mother, was a large, well-appointed vessel, its primary use being for the entertainment of her father’s business associates. Somehow she persuaded him to lend it.
Bridge preferred this part of the large, luxurious yacht, preferred to see where she had been rather than where she was going. Bridge’d always felt that way, felt the pull of a past she couldn’t quite bring into focus.
Lifting a crystal goblet to her lips, she drank of the Bordeaux she preferred, savoring the taste of black cherry on her tongue. She held the wine there for a few seconds, savoring the taste, then let it slip down her throat, enjoying the chocolate finish of the wine.
The evening was a little cool, pleasantly so, and there was a slight wind carrying the scent of salt, a briny perfume she found enticing, seducing. She loved the smell of the sea. To her, it was a fragrance that called up phantoms of memories she could not quite grasp.
The wind began to pick up, and as her hair lifted in response to its urging, she shook her head, reveling in the feel of soft hair moving against her neck and shoulders. She delighted in the wind in her hair – enjoyed the pull of it, the slight tug as hair and wind became playmates, dancing around her neck and cheeks, then billowing upward creating a silky parachute of silver and gold. Leaning her head back, she again looked up into the vast dome of sky above her. She loved to be at sea. She felt as if someone were calling to her; the pull of the sea was as strong and as insistent as a lover.
Footsteps caused her to turn from the rail. “Ah, Liam, good evening.” She smiled in greeting as one of her guests approached her – a second bottle of wine in one hand and a shawl in the other.
“I was afraid that you may catch a chill, Bridget. The wind is picking up.”
“Please, call me Bridge. Thank you, Liam. That was kind.” Both turned to the rail and observed the wake of the boat as it made its progress.
“Aren’t we in the Bermuda Triangle?” Liam asked.
“Yes, we are. Not afraid are you?” Bridge teased.
“Nah – not really.” Liam chuckled but finally admitted, “Well, not too nervous anyway.
“Say, this is some yacht your dad has here. Who named it The Bridget?”
“My mother did when I was born.”
“I see. Not bad to have a whole luxury yacht named after you.” They fell silent as both gave in to the beauty of the night and the softness of the breeze. Bridge lifted her glass for another sip and Liam noticed a ring on the middle finger of her left hand as she raised it to her lips. The kiss of the moon’s ethereal rays made the stones dance with light as if the ring were enchanted.
“Wow, Bridge, beautiful ring.”
“Thank you. It was my mother’s. By tradition, it is given to the eldest daughter of the eldest son. There is some kind of mystery to it. My ancestress through my mother, Bridget Lyttleton, supposedly owned it. That is why I’m named Bridget, by the way. My father’s name is John, and he is also a Littleton, but my parents are something like seventh cousins. Anyway Bridget’s father-in-law was named John, as was her husband, Sir John, actually, and my mother thought it would be nice to honor her, especially since the ring originated with her. So Bridget I am, but of course it got shortened to Bridge.”
“Well, it certainly is a beautiful ring. The gold is exquisite and, those are rubies, right?”
“Yes. Actually, it’s a Tudor Rose.”
For the second time that evening she held up her hand. The moonlight again caressed the stones and they seemed to come alive. Set in heavy gold, the center gem was a perfect four grain (equivalent to a karat) pearl surrounded by five slightly smaller rubies which shimmered in the moonlight. It was stunning, but Bridget measured its value by the previous owner, her mother, who wore it on the same finger until she died of cancer when Bridge was three.
“Yes, it’s a rather long story, but basically, a rose bush bloomed with both red and white petals signifying the union of two royal houses. Don’t get me started or I’ll talk for hours about it. My hobby is Tudor history,” she laughed.
“Oh, this may interest you,” Bridge said. Lifting the shawl she now wore and showing him an unusual brooch which was pinned to her gown.
“Hey, that’s an interesting piece of jewelry you have there.”
Bridget glanced down at the pin and smiled.
“Yes. Actually, it has an amusing story behind it.
“Upon hearing that I was intending a cruise which necessitated my basically staying within the Bermuda Triangle, my friend Cynthia became frightened. It is superstitious nonsense, of course, but what can you do?
“So, she went to Tiffany’s and had it made for me as a good luck talisman.”
“What is it? I can’t quite see.”
“It’s a sixteenth-century ship. She knows of my love of Tudor history and this is a replica of one of Henry VIII ships named the Mary Rose, after his favorite sister. Here, dangling from the figurehead is a diamond. Supposedly representing the North Star. Here on the back of the ship, on the quarter-deck, is a woman. I guess that’s supposed to be me.
“These scrolls along the water line are waves and represent that the ship is in a storm, but the woman will be safe because she has the North Star to guide her. She calls it the ‘Storm Tossed Ship’.
“Oh!” Bridge exclaimed as the yacht lurched. The wind, heretofore a gentle breeze, was picking up, and the sea was becoming choppy. The shawl which Liam brought to Bridge rose into the air. She made an attempt to catch it, slipped and almost fell into the sea, the goblet of wine crashing to the deck with a splintering sound of shattering glass as red wine coursed down the planks in blood red streams.
The wind increased and began to howl.
“Bridge!” Liam yelled. Grabbing her arm, he attempted to keep her from sliding over the rail as the yacht tossed and pitched as though it were deliberately trying to throw her overboard. Below her, Liam watched in horror as a whirlpool appeared starboard, and like a tornado, began to draw Bridge into its depths. He held on frantically, his eyes stretched wide as he looked into Bridge’s fear-filled face. Slowly her arm began to slip from his hands until the whirlpool claimed her and she was gone.The storm quieted and the ship ceased its tossing. Crashing to his knees, Liam covered his face with his hands and cried out, “Bridge!”
I make you fast and sure;
It is to me great pain
Thus longë to endure
Till that we meet again.
It is to me great pain
Thus longë to endure
Till that we meet again.
From Where Should I Express
Bridge slowly rose from the bottom of a deep chasm. Slowly, slowly, darkness turned to mist, and mist turned to light. She could hear voices, faint at first, but as she drifted up through a veil of unconsciousness they became clearer, more distinct. Something in her brain, or maybe it was her soul, whispered caution. She waited, like a small animal, not sure if it should come out of its burrow.
As she floated gradually to the surface, she listened. There was a clacking sound, which she decided was the sound of wood on wood – perhaps clogs on a floor. Yes, the rhythm of the clacking was definitely that of walking. Someone opened a window and a faint breeze wafted into the room accompanied by an odor she couldn’t quite put a finger on. Her nose twitched in an attempt to ascertain its identity: something earthy mixed with the smell of rain. The clacking began again, moving closer until it stopped near where she lay. Holding her breath, Bridge waited.
“It was a miracle, ‘tis what I say, him just riding along and finding her there on the banks of the Avon. Why, she could have drowned, poor poppet! And what a beauty! Imagine if some bad sort come upon her first? Makes a body shudder.”
“And her shift. I ne’er seen cloth like that, and what was that she was wearing….underneath?”
“Thee knows as well as I do. The poor maid, and she but a girl not yet fifteen, I warrant. We shall bring her about, Bessie; thee can be assured of that!”
The clacking started again, this time moving away. There was another sound, like cloth on cloth, or the whisper made by limbs moving over linen sheets.
Bridge was confused. Have I ended up in some Amish home? She held her breath, and opened her eyes just enough to peer through the merest slit. What she saw almost caused her to sit upright.
Two women were in the room, gathering what seemed to be mounds of linen. They both wore what looked like corsets over what appeared to be white linen blouses with full skirts falling to the tops of their shoes, which were square of toe.
Aprons covered their skirts, presumably from any dirt that could be transferred while performing their duties. On their heads, they wore what resembled a stocking cap, but they were made out of some kind of cloth: linen, she guessed. They appeared as though they existed within a living Hans Holbein the Younger painting. Bridge’s confusion grew and a trill of alarm began to course down her spine.
Closing her eyes and pretending to still be unconscious, Bridge waited. I think I need to be careful here until I know where the hell I am!
She had seen the room as well during her undetected peek. Occupying one wall was a large fireplace. The furnishings were simple, but the room wore a comfortable feel. The mattress upon which she lay was undeniably stuffed with feathers, and beneath it felt as if there were a second mattress which gave firmness to the bed. Were it not for the two women in the room, she may have been tempted to curl up and enjoy the comfort. But something here was strange. Where am I? she wondered, and how did I get here? And where is here?
Avon, she said that I was found on the shores of the river Avon. Avon? England? What happened to me?
Bridge tried to dredge up through the mists what exactly had happened, but the memory would not come. She remembered being on deck with Liam and showing him the pin. The wind picked up suddenly and…and then…and then…what?
She remembered water! Somehow she was surrounded by water and it kept spinning and spinning. It was hard to breathe and a blackness fell over her, and then there was nothing.
The women left the room and she dared to open her eyes to look around. Sitting up, she looked down at the bed and, her ring! Her ring was gone! What happened? Calm down. They probably took it off of you and put it somewhere.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she hopped to reach the floor. Only then did she see the three steps leading up to the bed. “Wow, a new way to get high,” she remarked sotto voce. She ventured deeper into the room. Passing the fireplace, the sound of wood popping and cracking filled the now silent room, the fire within its recesses casting a dancing glow on nearby benches and filling the room with the scent of burning wood. Shafts of light cast through a mullioned window fell in pools upon a solid, wood floor, covered by layers of carpets upon which was placed plain, but solid, furniture…and no lamps. Not a single electric lamp. All she could see was candles. Could this indeed be an Amish home? “Wow,” she said aloud and immediately slapped her hand across her mouth.
Something tells me that I need to be careful here until I know where I am and whose house I’m in.
It was then that she noticed that she was wearing a shift of some kind. Made of snowy white linen, the garment covered her from the collar bone to mid-shin. The voluminous sleeves were gathered at the wrist by a blue ribbon threaded through sewn eyelets in the cuff. A chill, like a bucket of ice water, washed down her spine a second time.
What is going on here?
Approaching footsteps drove her back into the bed. Diving in, she barely managed to get under the covers and back into position before the door opened and the woman named Kate, if she was remembering her voice correctly, walked in with another person.
“Here she is, Missus.”
“So, how does she?” a pleasant feminine voice queried.
“I think she will awaken soon, Missus. I have seen her move about a bit, natural like, so I do not think it will be long.”
“Excellent, Kate.” So it was Kate.
“When doth Mister Lyttleton return, Missus?”
“Any day now, Kate. Until then, we must care for our guests. Mister John Lyttleton, my dear husband’s brother, will tarry until yon maid is able to travel.”
Bridge could hear the rustle of clothing as either the woman, whose name was obviously Missus Lyttleton, or the woman named Kate, walked over to the bed where Bridge lay and pretended to still be unconscious. A cool hand was laid upon her forehead.
“Her skin is cool to the touch. ‘Tis certain she is noble. Regard her brow, her well-kept hair and hands – and her beauty. ‘Tis not well that we offend by ill care, Kate. Perchance she is of noble blood. We must take special care of the maid. Do you take my meaning?”
“Very well. Let me know of any change. I shall return anon. And close yon window, one half is open allowing a breeze to enter; the street reeks.”
There was the clacking sound again followed by a creak as the door opened and closed.
Slowly Bridge slipped from beneath the covers and stepped out of bed, this time using the small stair steps provided. Looking around, she tried to orient herself as to where she was. Her last memory was of standing at the rail of her father’s yacht with Liam, then a sudden storm, the whirlpool, and…nothing. How did she get here?
Walking on tiptoe to the window, Bridge gazed through one of the diamond-shaped panes which made up the aperture. Discovering the latch, releasing it and hearing a slight click, she slowly opened the window. The smell of dust mixed with mud, animals and another odor, rotting vegetation and dung, she guessed, greeted her immediately. Gasping and backing away, she closed the window, placing the latch back into position. “What is going on here!” she exclaimed. “Where am I? WHEN am I?” The opening of the door, heralded by a now familiar creak, alerted Bridge to the fact that she was no longer alone. Swinging around and facing away from the window, her back pressing against the sill, she beheld a man.
He stood approximately five-ten. Dark hair framed a handsome face from which her own eyes, the color of orchids, sparkled with intelligence. Smiling, he walked toward her slowly, gently, as if approaching a wild animal that was in danger of bolting. Bowing he said,
“Hello, Mistress. I am called John Lyttleton. I am he who found you on the banks of the Avon. I am glad to see that you have come ‘round. I am here to help you.”
John Lyttleton! She looked at him closely. He appeared to be in his early 40s. Is it possible? She examined his clothes, the room, remembered what she had seen out of the window. Have I lost my mind? The time…the street outside…the house…he has my eyes. Other than my parents, I’ve never seen anyone with my eyes. I remember a John Lyttleton from my research into my family roots. Is this my twelve-time great-grandfather? This doesn’t make sense. What happened to me? Was it the Bermuda Triangle? It can’t be; I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo, but mumbo jumbo or not, I’m in a room without electricity, in a city with people walking around in the mud in Tudor dress with horses and carts and garbage in the street, and now here is this man, claiming to be John Lyttleton, looking at me with my own eyes!
Bridge, because of her love of history, and her inheritance of the Tudor Rose ring, had thoroughly traced her lineage, and the name of John Lyttleton, later spelled Littleton, was found in her family tree as early as the late 1400s to as late as the 1700s where Pharell, grandson of Sir John Littleton, MP, appeared in Virginia as one of the overseers on George Washington’s plantation. Amazed and confused, she backed away slightly, fumbling for something on which to hold.
She could feel her heart slamming against her ribcage and hear her breath as it escaped her lungs with a soft wheezing sound. Sweat sprung out upon her brow as she fought to not lose consciousness. This was unreal – this couldn’t be!
The little maid is frightened, John thought with regret. Smiling, in an attempt to calm her, he said, “Good morrow. Prithee, little one. Let us sit upon yon bench. I am sure you are confused, and mayhap I can answer questions, which I am sure run rampant in your mind. Pray, sit ye down. I will not harm you!” he said, chuckling and lowering himself onto the bench. Sweeping his arm to the right, he indicated where she should sit.
Walking over to him slowly, Bridge continued to stare into his eyes. He did appear to be kind, and she felt safe with him. She sat down gingerly, yet still left some space between them. The bench was cool beneath her sweaty palms and as she fought to quiet the beating of her heart, she attempted to draw in a deep breath.
“You…you found me?”
“Aye, I am he what discovered you. I found you awash in naught but a shift, a wondrous garment, but alas, worse for the wear. How fair you?
“Sir, ummm … prithee … ummm … where am I?”
“Ah! Aye! You would not know. As fate will have it, you are now in Bristol, and here you shall abide in the house of my good brother William until such time as I may take you thither to mine own home in Worcester.”
Bristol, apparently somewhere back in time. Bristol – once called Brigg Stow or meeting place at the bridge. Main industry import and export…wine, wool. How did I end up here?
“Sir,” Don’t give away that you don’t know what year it is. Think….your knowledge of Tudor history can help you now…think…. “That is, kind, good sir. What is the latest news of Bristol?” There, maybe that will help me hone in on when I am!
“Fancy you should ask! Why, Bristol is right proud, for a new grammar school has been founded and all may now boast of an education.” He beamed his joy, which began in his sparkling, orchid eyes and slipped down to a surprisingly well-preserved smile.”
Oh, my God! Let me think…1532? Really? 1532? And if this is indeed my twelve-time great-grandfather, that would make him….forty-two, maybe forty. John interrupted her thoughts,
“Mistress, where hail ye from, for I do declare, you have mine eyes. Never have I beheld such as mine in another living creature outside of mine own family. From whence hail ye? Are we perchance kin?”
Almost blurting out “Yeah, real distant relatives, grandpa!” Bridge metaphorically bit her tongue. This was going too fast. She needed time to think, needed time to assimilate all that was happening to her, needed time to figure out how to speak without drawing attention to herself or making everyone think she was looney tunes.
She had to admit that his language was seeping into her brain and becoming more and more familiar. Her penchant for reading letters from this era was turning out to be a godsend. More and more she was hearing his language as if it were modern English. That is, she understood as quickly and as intuitively as she did her own.
These were very dangerous times, and if I am indeed in 1532 Tudor England, fascinating as it may be, I will have to tread softly. There is the issue of allegiance to the Queen versus….oh, my! Anne Boleyn! Religion!
“I…I…” Taking note of her confusion, John immediately associated it with fatigue.
“By your leave, Mistress, I will leave you now for you are quite wore out. Know this: I will take care of you. When you are strong and able to travel, we shall journey to mine home where my good wife Elizabeth will aid you in any particular of your wellbeing. I will be your protector and friend; you need have no fear. Now, allow me to help you to your bed. I will tell my sister-in law that you are in need of sustenance.”
“Thank you,” Bridge mumbled. She was tired, overwhelmed, incredulous, unbelieving, half believing and just plain frightened. Then she remembered.
“Pardon, good sir, where is my ring?”
“Why, Mistress, there was no ring, but ah, aye, I have forgot me, I did manage to save this.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the brooch, the “Storm Tossed” pin; the diamond was still attached.
John bowed and left the room. Walking to one of the benches situated by the fireplace, Bridge sat. Cradling her face in her hands, she wept. She felt horribly alone, extremely frightened and vulnerable. To make matters worse, she somehow lost the one anchor she had to her old life that she really cared about: her mother’s Tudor Rose ring.
And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.
The air smelled of beeswax. Candles blazed, their light reflecting off of various jewels and dancing within the eyes of beautiful women. The room was warm and filled with the sounds of lutes and flutes, trumpets and drums.
The king sat at the main dais, the jewels on his fingers, and adorning his gem encrusted hat, shot flashes of fire as candlelight played within their facets. Henry sat watching the dancers, sipping a goblet of Bordeaux and absentmindedly nibbling on a Deception, a relatively new art form in which the cook in charge of all things sugar in the kitchen created edible sweets and modeled them to look like castles, unicorns, even goblets and bowls. Considered by many future scholars to be the ancestor of the wedding cake, Deceptions were very popular in Henry’s court. Made of sugar icing and formed to represent a mermaid, the confection was sweet, perhaps overly so, and he decided that he’d eaten enough of the sugary treat. Besides, he wanted the main form to remain intact as it was made to honor his guest, a beauteous maiden by all reports, pulled from the edge of the river Avon.