I travel. Sometimes I travel by boat, plane, or automobile. Sometimes I travel by book. Sometimes I explore the real world. This week I rambled around York with three more of the Seahaven daughters. The Bigglesworths’ handsome and rather unusual butler accompanied Lady Bess (and my humble self, of course) when she escorted the younger sisters, Merrilyn, who is ten, and Emma, who is twelve, to Clifford’s Tower. Their rather peculiar butler expounded at length on the tower’s history, history that reflects the power of England’s medieval kings. It was originally built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north, it was twice burned to the ground, and it was rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century. Merry and Emma, blood-thirsty little beings that they are took delight in the story of Sir Richard de Clifford, after whom the tower was named. He was hanged for treason in the time of Edward II and hung from the walls of the place in chains.
That butler’s knowledge of history was remarkable. A bigger surprise was the sensitivity in which he retold the story of Hebrew families trapped in the tower under siege and their decision to kill themselves rather than submit to forced baptism or worse. Emma, in particular struggled to understand the antisemitism behind the event, and Merry questioned whether the tower might not be haunted. He handled both questions with care. One doesn’t expect such depth from a butler.
About the Story The Butler and the Bluestocking
The last thing Bess expects to find at their borrowed townhouse in York is a stranger claiming to be a butler. She has every reason to disbelieve him, but her family is in desperate need, so she squelches common sense and offers him a job on the spot. Pray heaven, she won’t regret her decision.
On arriving in York to visit his godmother, the honorable Malcolm K. Marr did not expect to find her house locked and empty. Nor did he expect to have to break in to the house to find shelter. Least of all did he expect to be awakened at mid-day after the break in to find a woman with the bearing of an Egyptian goddess demanding to know what he was doing in her house.