Liam took a walking tour with his parents through Shrewsbury Castle gardens. On the edge of the Severn River, a tour guide named Julia waved Liam’s group into a ruin with broken columns and wall fragments, some with windows still framing the soft Shropshire sunshine.
“This is the Queen’s Ruin,” said Julia, the tour guide. “Queen Maud and her cousin Stephen battled for the throne of England. At one point, Queen Maud is said to have taken refuge here, and after she left, Stephen pulled it to the ground, leaving only ruins. This statue in the flowers is said to be of Queen Maud as a young woman, descended of kings, married to a king and mother to a king.”
Liam looked at the statue for long minutes as the rest of the tour continued on to the archways of blooming wisteria. She looked so peaceful there in the shadows of the lilacs. Unfortunately, both arms were broken off of the white marble. Liam was sad to see her damaged.
An animal darted out of the flowering shrubs and climbed up the statue to sit on her head. “If you are sad to see her broken, leave her a gift and dawn will see her right.” Liam’s mouth dropped open. The animal was brown except for a creamy throat, and had a bushy tail. What kind of animal was this that could talk? All at once, it gave a huge leap and disappeared.
“You have been lucky to see a pine marten,” the tour guide said, suddenly appearing behind Liam’s shoulder. “They are very strong and quick, and hardly anyone sees them.” He wondered if Julia had heard the pine marten speak, but he did not want to ask in case she had not.
“What do you give a queen?” he asked instead. She responded: “Your service.” She dropped a curtsy to the statue.
As Liam and his parents toured the castle, and as all the visitors exclaimed over the scary spiral staircases and extraordinarily thick walls, Liam pondered. He finally decided the best service he could give a queen so badly ruined by her own family and time itself was to give her a flower. He knew his mother very much liked flowers. At last, Liam’s tour was left to explore the gardens on their own. The tour guide left Liam in front of a patch of white daffodils.
“These flowers symbolize truth and chivalry,” she said. Then her smile glinted and she walked away. They seemed like a perfect gift, and when all the visitors were looking away, Liam picked three and placed them before the statue. That night over dinner in a pub, he begged his parents to visit the castle gardens again. After awhile, they agreed but they could only make a quick stop before heading to London for their flight home. The gardens were quiet in the dark early morning. As dawn broke, Liam could see the statue was perfect, not broken at all.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham