The Prince of the
(Candy "between the lines" )
There was an unusual atmosphere of hustle and bustle at
the normally peaceful Lakewood Villa this day... clan members from all over were
on the grounds and servants scurried about preparing for some great event. A
young boy in his mid-teens half looked out the window at the scene below and
half looked in the mirror before him trying to decide if his hair looked
"Ah well, no matter," he thought since he would be donning a bonnet to cover it anyway.
All the men of the Adley clan were supposed to be in full traditional dress for the outing which meant a Scottish kilt, the plaid, sporran and dirk – the whole works, even a bagpipe, if you could play one -- and William could.
Before he could turn away a rough hand tousled his long blond locks from behind ruining any previous attempt at managing them.
"You'd better quit messin' with your hair son, and get downstairs before the party leaves without ye!” William's father said with a ring of impatience. "An' where's your medallion, boy? Don't you be a forgetting that, now either!"
William spun around in time to see his father's back as he was going out the door. "Don't worry! I'm sixteen now you know and can think for myself."
But Sir Adley Sr. was gone with no response whatsoever.
"Someday soon, I'll be old enough to do what I want to do with nobody looking over my shoulder all the time," he muttered to himself and continued dressing.
His father had been born in Scotland and was from of one of the oldest, and wealthiest families of that country. Sir William Sr. moved to America and increased his wealth in banking and the
American stock market. Though immeasurably wealthy, his father was still a practical man and a down-to-earth man even if that didn’t make William's mother overly joyous...she and Great Aunt were too busy climbing social ladders to really care anyway, and they knew they couldn’t change Father.
William remembered when he was little that Great Aunt Elroy smiled much more, and she was more fun to be around -- Nowadays she sounded like had she swallowed an Etiquette Book and if perchance she smiled it might crack her face. But William only felt sorry for her. Thank God his Father had not become a "stuffed shirt" like his mother had from Aunt Elroy’s influence. Still even so, William the younger's outlook on life was quite different from his father's, a fact that was becoming more and more obvious, and upsetting to all the close family members.
He looked around the large lovely decorated room with its elegant French Provincial and more modern Victorian furnishings. Truth be told, he didn’t care if it were an old shack he were living in! He often spent time in the old abandoned house back in the woods with his friends, the local fauna. He had tamed some of the wild animals and they were eating right from his hand, a fact that made him proud indeed. But he dare not tell his parents -- they would probably insist that he not go into the woods and give him rabies shots just for touching anything with fur besides a domesticated dog, cat or a horse.
He had to chuckle to himself when he thought about the look on Great Aunt face if she could see him petting or feeding a skunk or a wild deer. "She'd likely drop dead, right there," he thought.
He was digging hastily in a dresser drawer thinking about these things when the glint of precious metal caught his eye.
"Ah ha! there you are," he exclaimed as he drew the object up into the sunlight.
It was the Adley crest. The medallion was made of gold and silver and flashed in the morning sunlight. It was fashioned in the form of an eagle and there were three diamonds set around the bird's head and a large cursive "A" on its breast. From it’s tailfeathers a tiny bell tinkled musically as William pinned the medallion to his tartan shirt.
"I'd catch the dickens if I lost this," he grumbled and dashed out the door and down the stairs.
The ride was a day-long affair and the party
would ride through the countryside about 3 hrs. journey to the hill country near
a small town that existed mostly because the railroad passed through there.
William didn't know the name of the town and it was doubtful they would see it
anyway, going cross-country and avoiding the roads. They would stop for lunch in
that area and maybe if daylight held out also stop for tea on the return trip at
a lake about 30 min. ride outside of Lakewood. If William didn't care greatly
for the company he would enjoy being outdoors and seeing the sights -- and
perhaps he would see or even make some new animal friends, granted he could
sneak away long enough at the proper moment. He figured the lunch break would be
his best opportunity to do this and relished the idea even as they started out.
Riding out the through the beautiful rose gates, William looked back at the familiar sight of the Villa -- he would miss it greatly. The newest addition to the Adley holdings of cost-prohibitive, oversized domiciles would be completed by the Spring of next year. Located in Chicago the new central home of the Adley clan promised to be the largest and grandest mansion in the State of Illinois, maybe even the whole U.S.A.
The move was inevitable and he knew it was coming, because Rosemary, his older sister had died here last fall. There were too many bad memories lingering here for Mother and Father, himself included.
The scent of roses filled the air as he passed beyond the gates. Rosemary’s wonderful roses...she loved the Villa more than any other place in the world.
Besides, Father would be closer to his business, and Mother would be in better proximity to all the important social gatherings. William would be farther away from his beloved woods, the old mansion and his friends, the animals. He would have to move to Chicago with the rest of his family and prepare to someday take over the family business and its accompanying duties.
The bright side, if any, was that Great Aunt and her perpetual frown-face would remain at the Villa, at least most of the time. But that was little consolation.
The riding party had stopped
for lunch. It was amazing what had come along for a few hours ride, the servants
had brought small portable tables and chairs, cooking utensils, even some fine
Watching the scene disgusted William. He liked the rugged, rough and tumble experience of being out "in the wild" and here the Adley clan had brought all the trappings of fine society with them.
"They might as well stayed at home," he muttered under his breath and walked toward a distant stand of trees -- behind the trees was a steep hill.
"They'll be sipping tea and gossiping for quite some time and it will take the servants another half hour to pack all that stuff, he thought."
"So, I'll have time to climb that hill and get a good view of the countryside."
He started off for the woods and brought his pipes along too, even though they were a bit to lug he thought he might get a chance to see some wild animals. His animals at old mansion liked the sound of the pipes so maybe he could attract some animals that way.
"Aye, music hath charms to soothe the savage beast," he said as he patted his pipes and disappeared into the trees.
It took longer than he figured to clear the woods and worse, some rain clouds had dumped a summer shower on the area, but at last William was in the open again. The steep hill was right ahead…it looked like he would have to take a little bend to the left and then back to the right to reach the crest.
"I’ve come too far to turn around now, but I'd better hurry up to the top."
He didn't expect some kind of breathtaking view but still the hill was there and he was going to climb it. He was about a third of the way up when he noticed a building to his left. It looked like a church, just a small frame building with a cross atop a meagerly built steeple. Little kids were playing outside around the building and next to a large tree nearby it. Then he recalled someone in the riding party mention there was a small orphanage in the area.
"That must be it," he thought. For some reason, William felt inclined for a moment to climb the huge tree -- but dismissed the thought saying to himself, "Not a chance wearing this garb" and chuckled out loud.
Turning his attention away from the building and the tree he continued his ascent and had gotten near the crest when he heard a sound not far away, it was the sound of someone weeping. Hurrying forward towards the sound it grew louder, yes, it was the sound of a girl softly sobbing and he could see her through the trees now -- lying face down in the wet grass. She clutched a letter in her small hand. He could hear what she was saying now between sobs..."Annie"..."Oh Annie"...
Apparently, William thought, she must be an orphan girl from the building he saw in the valley below. Running into a little girl crying in the woods wasn't quite what he expected when he wanted to climb this hill, but here he was, and there she was. He felt sorry for the girl and wished there was some way to cheer her up. He came forward softly but the girl sensed his approach, the crying ceased and the limp letter fell unconsciously from her grasp.
The girl was fair-haired and looked to be about six or seven years old. She looked up and stared with wide blue eyes at her surprise visitor, moist tears still rolling down her cheeks. She had a cute little face, he thought, with a smallish nose sprinkled with a generous amount of freckles.
The girl looked William over from head to toe with a look of marvel on her freckled face. Her eyes fixed particularly on William's pipes.
Then, still with the puzzled look on her face she broke the silence speaking out loudly.
"Who are you?"
"Who do I look like?" said William, returning her question with a question -- curious to see how the girl would react.
Her eyes were still wide with amazement. Apparently she had never seen anything quite like him.
"Your clothes, they're funny -- you look like an alien!"
The girl had heard her teachers talking about the immigrants coming in droves to America recently and used that word, "alien" and it seemed, at least to her, to fit the strange boy.
"An alien?" repeated William with a quizzical look on his face. "Oh, she thinks I am not from the United States, well, I hardly look it with this garb on!" he thought.
The girl continued, "Welll..because you are a boy, and...You’re wearing a skirt! And you're carrying a flute with a belly!"
The conversation was beginning to amuse William, but some clarification was in order, he didn’t want her to run back home and tell her guardians a strange man was wandering in the woods wearing a woman's dress, such rumors would not be good for the Adley name...yes, the great Adley name, something else to stay on “needles and pins" about constantly. He was looking less and less forward to the day that he would be bearing the full brunt of this responsibility as well.
The thought was unpleasant so he dismissed it turning his attention back to tutoring his "new pupil".
"It's not a woman's skirt - it's called a kilt and it is traditional formal men's dress in Scotland, that’s where my family is from...and this is a musical instrument, they are called "bagpipes"...and here, I'll play something for you."
William raised the mouthpiece to his lips and began to play. The mournful droning melody of the pipes filled the forest and echoed over the ridge. He wondered if the riding party would hear it and stopped abruptly. It came to him the sudden shower would have certainly shortened the party's lunch break so he had better be getting back there.
Looking up and back at the girl he noticed she had wrinkled her nose and screwed up her mouth like she had bitten into a sour lemon, then she stuck out her tongue and exclaimed in a loud voice.
"It sounds like a parade of snails!"
This struck William as too funny and he burst out laughing.
"A snail parade? That's just too much!"
And when he laughed so did the girl...and they were both laughing, the heir of the Adley fortune and this little orphan girl.
"How nice to see her with a happy face, her cute laugh, and that smile -- you'd never know this was a girl with no Father or Mother...an orphan..." He was glad he came to this hill, this girl made the trip worth it.
"You're much prettier when you smile, little girl!" he beamed, then reflected on what that particular phrase meant to him.
It was a common thing his late sister, Rosemary, would say to her son Anthony when he had scuffed his elbow or became otherwise discomforted like little boys often did.
"You're much handsomer when you smile, Anthony dear," she would tell him, and more often than not, his little face would brighten up and he would quit crying.
Of course, William had changed the "handsomer" to "prettier" in this case, but it came quite natural to him...and this young girl, she reminded him of his sister in a way...her flashing blue eyes. Then he thought of the riding party again -- he had better get back, they would be leaving soon.
The girl's freckled face blushed to red, and she realized that this boy had seen her on the ground crying.
"How embarrassing!" she thought and spun around out of the boy's gaze.
Just then a sudden gust of wind picked up her letter and she saw it blowing out of her sight, into some nearby trees.
"Oh my letter!" she exclaimed and dashed off to rescue it.
The still damp ground hadn't allowed it to get very far and she caught up to it.
"My name's Candy! What's your name?" she blurted as her snatched up her soggy prize.
She turned to walk back to the clearing to join her strange new friend...that boy with his funny costume, like something out of a book of fairy tales...like a young prince. Yes, he came along at just the right time and cheered her up when she needed a friend, he definitely was a Prince among boys.
"Play that snail-sound again!" she chimed as she cornered the last of trees blocking the view of her new acquaintance. But when she got to the clearing, no one was there. The Prince was gone.
The mist caused by the shower was starting to drift away, and tiny droplets of rain still dripped from the trees but there was no other sound.
"Was all just a dream?" she asked herself.
The brief encounter did seem so unreal, that boy, the Prince -- he came and went like a ghost...was he a ghost? She wondered.
The dark clouds that brought the rain rolled back giving way to bright summer sunshine again. She was about to go back down the hill, back to the only home she knew when the glint of something shiny caught her eye, something lying in the grass...
When William returned to the riding
party everyone was standing around talking, but in an impatient sort of way. He
knew he had been gone too long when upon being spotted coming towards them from
the wood, everyone began to mount their horses -- except his Father...who strode
towards his son with an unwelcome look of anger on his face.
"Oh no, I knew it," he groaned to himself.
"It's about time ye got back here, boy."
"We're about to leave without you...What's this?...where's your Adley crest boy?”
“An' after I told ye not to be fergittin it."
Without looking he reached up to the place where the precious medallion should have been pinned to his shirt. It wasn't there. "Damn, it must have come off back on that hill, of all the luck.”
William obliged his father, not caring to confess the truth.
"I'm sorry Father...I must have misplaced it and didn't have time to find it before we left the Villa.”
"Ah, excuses, excuses...someday yer goin' to have to carry the responsibilities of the clan, boy."
"An, yer gitten off to a mite poor start."
"I said I was sorry!" William retorted.
But his father had already stalked off towards his mount not paying much attention to the apologetics.
"Ah, the responsibilities of the Adley clan? Not if I can help it." William thought.
"I really don’t want anything much to do with your Adley clan, your stupid tea parties, or even the money!"
William blushed a little thinking such rebellious thoughts, but he truly didn't want to follow in the footsteps of his father -- and the only one he could confide in with this was George...only George really understood William's problems.
Still, George also had a way of talking the young Adley heir out of doing a lot of things he would have liked to do...things that would certainly make his parents furious. But someday George's guidance would not influence him. Someday, William would have his way. He turned his thoughts away from the distant future and back to the present dilemma, of the lost medallion.
Hopefully, George would be able to sneak him a replacement, with no one else the wiser...good ol' George, he always came through when the chips were down. But that medallion was history, the chances of it being found and returned were astronomical, and then he thought…
"I wish at least that poor orphan girl might find it, maybe it would bring some cheer to her.”
Gold, silver, diamonds...none of that brought cheer to William, no not at all.
The riding party was mounted and ready to ahead back to the Lakewood Villa. William mounted his horse and looked back at the hill where the little girl had been...realizing that he had never asked for her name.
He looked up at the bright summer afternoon sun. It was a beautiful day again and suddenly he felt an odd surge of optimism -- he set his mount off at a gallop towards rest of the party.
"Who knows? Maybe, someday, I'll meet her again!"
The thought made him smile.