Tournament of Tempers (536 words)
I would not submit and he knew it. The hard smile faded on Sperling’s lips, but his hand remained on my knee.
“It is yours, is it not?” he questioned again. “Come, speak. You’ve tongue enough for all the world.”
“It is mine, my lord,” I said.
“Then you confess it!” His eyes gleamed. “There are orders, I believe, forbidding you from keeping tokens as this on your person—let alone leaving them at table.”
A childish side of me, rather off topic, wished I would remark the displeasure of attending his table at all. I could not understand the aloofness of the man; his pride, pomp, and pretense left me cold as death and yet he laid it on thicker with me than with anyone.
“I am sorry, my lord,” I said.
“Sorry!” he exclaimed. “Surely not. What, after all, are the customs of civility to one accustomed to the battlefield?”
“What indeed, my lord.”
“You are not sorry, then?”
“To have distressed you—not to have forgotten myself.”
He breathed sharply inward. I was amazed to see his rigid features soften, and I doubt if my surprise did not show on my face.
“Your lack of grace is almost like a courtesy,” he observed. He held the kerchief out to me, releasing my knee at last and lifting it within my reach. Sensing freedom, my horse jostled his reigns more impatiently. “Please, take your prize again. May I inquire who is the fortunate ‘dame’?”
It was impossible to suppress a genuine laugh at his foolishness. “This is no token,” I said. “I haven’t accepted a gift from any man. This is as just what it is—nothing more.”
He withheld the kerchief once more. “No man has offered?”
“To me?” The concept was so supremely fanciful that again I was unbalanced. “I’m no goddess of femininity.”
“You take pride in it,” he said.
“Does that displease you?” I asked.
His reply astonished me. He held his head aloft, gazing upward at me with an expression of fire.
“It pleases me,” he said, “to see a person true to herself and her heart. It pleases me that you are my equal in spirit if not in station, and however many toys and trinkets you please to drop, I am gladdened by your company whenever you are free to give it.”
I went rigid as a post. It would not do to let him realize the effect his words impressed me with, but my nerves were drawn taught as bowstrings. I could think of no reply suitable to both the situation and my desire to remain impassive.
Viewing my silence, he laughed in the manner of one who is not entirely sure what he has done but is determined to be pleased with the result.
“So you can be charmed to silence,” said Lord Sperling amusedly. “I hope I’ve not upset you. Here, take it and go; what an idler I must seem to whittle away time you must spend either on the battlements or in training.”
I considered the proffered handkerchief. “You must think my horse a Pegasus, my lord, to achieve the battlements.”
“Ah, perhaps,” he said, with an insistent wave of the kerchief.
Written in response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt, “Rube.”