The lady in waiting
I woke up by the sunlight swimming in a single conical beam through the hole in the wooden roof. My head really hurt and so did my torso. Curse these tight corsets! One would think I would have gotten used to them by now but I certainly had never slept in it. I always wondered why every woman needed to look like a tall vase and that too at the cost of squeezing all the inner organs together in a pulp. Unable to bear it anymore I loosened the strings and threw aside the corset at the furthest end of the battered wooden cabin and lay my bare back on the stone cold floor. The aching red marks sent waves right up my spine, as if a red hot iron had been quenched in a tub full of ice. I closed my eyes and let the sunbeam dance over my face. Things felt slightly more hopeful after the sunrise, especially after last night’s ordeal. But then everything is scary in the dark. A warm, luminous sun had risen, I now wished for a sunrise in my dark life, ‘our life’ to be precise. Anne and I needed a drop of sunshine. The last I saw of her was the night before in the tower window, her beautiful face and tear filled eyes staring at me as I galloped away. How I loved that beautiful face! The world may call it blasphemy but how can something as pure as love be blasphemous? Not that I cared. The love I had for Anne thrived beyond the horizons of right and wrong, virtue and vice. When we were together, the world around ceased to exist. In that moment she ceased to be a princess and I no longer identified as her lady in waiting.
Nightfall came stealthily and I stared at the lone star swimming in the dark ocean of sky through the pigeon hole. Second night alone in this hellhole! My throat was parched and my stomch spasmed with hunger but I was too scared to venture out of the cabin I search of food or water. I lay on my back reliving the horrific moments of my escape from the castle- the high pitched yells of the queen’s chambermaid shouting blasphemies and accusing me of witchcraft when she found me in Anne’s arms, the silent sobs of Anne as she pleaded me to leave the castle and wait at this log cabin for her to join me in two days, the howls of the coyotes as I galloped through pitch black forest as if my life depended on it. Late into the night after my tears had all dried up exhausting my entire being I plunged into deep sleep.
The next day I could not take it anymore. I decided to bury my fears and venture outdoor to the stream for some water and fish. As I bent over the water to scoop up some water, a sharp pain exploded in the back of my head and I went blank. I am not sure for how long I lay unconscious but I remembered being forced into consciousness by a splash of freezing cold water across my face. Gasping for breath I tried to make sense of my surroundings.. My head ached wanting to burst open. The first rays of the dawn’s light were setting in. I could not move and I was bound, hands to knees, gagged and nude. A tall lanky man, dressed in black with hooked shaped nose stared at me with cruel demeaning eyes. I recognised him. He was the bane of existence of every man and woman who chose to defy the so called norms of the society. I was sure money had changed hands, whispers of betrayal had been set in motion. His majesty had made his intentions clear- a lady in waiting was dispensible , the honour of the crown not so . Third day in hiding and I had been discovered. The tall lanky man spoke in cold voice-“ I am the confessor. When did you sign a pact with the devil?” I knew him. I knew what was happening and I was pretty sure of my fate. It was sealed. I refused to speak and consequently was flogged incessantly. I battled in and out of state of consciousness for next few hours. Finally, Brutalised, starved and writhing in agony, I broke. I lied and confessed to things I had not done. Truth did not matter to me anymore. I just wanted to rest even if it meant forever.
The young chambermaid read aloud – ‘The woman who lay in hiding for three days in the log cabin yonder the woods was finally captured by the witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins on Friday the 13 th 1632 CE. Her confession coupled with the devil’s mark on the lower of her back was enough to prove at trial that she indeed was a witch in guise of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne’s lady in waiting and so was burned at stake in the outskirts of the county ofPendle.’
“ Good riddance I must say, your Highness! And to think she lived in the castle some days before!” the chamber maid exclaimed as she folded the parchment and began brushing the Princess’ hair. Princess Anne sobbed a silent tear. The chambermaid thought she was relieved, the new lady in waiting interpreted the sob as that of worry. Silently, Princess Anne mourned the loss of her one true love.
Matthew Hopkins- self proclaimed ‘ witchfinder general’ in 17th century. Though not officially appointed, he was responsible for capture and execution of more than a hundred women alleged as ‘witches’ in England. These women included, free thinkers, midwives, naturalists, homosexuals and also anyone the society disliked.