September 14, 2009

Light: Part II

The doctors said he’d survive, but his blindness would be permanent. And so, Benjamin lived in a darkness deeper than before. Now, without his sight, there was no escape into the world of books. His love for truth was buried under the constant pressure of fear. There was nowhere he could go where he was not criticized, scorned, or spit upon because of his blindness. His cursed eyes sat in their sockets, speaking death to all who saw him. He became an outcast in the palace.

When the King finally died of madness, Ben’s situation changed slightly. Philip had long since given up taunting him, for it was a waste of time already too scarce. But King Philip decided to enact some reforms. “In my kingdom,” Philip declared to Ben, “There shall be no idlers or fools. You waste your time skulking about, and frankly, I’m not impressed with it. I ask you to either find something useful to do- become a squire to some knight who needs help, it doesn’t concern me exactly what you do with yourself- or else leave this palace and find someone else’s charity to support you. I can’t stand you making yourself useless.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Ben assented. “Only, I wish you could tell me which knight to assist. I…I…I can’t ask them.”

Philip rolled his royal eyes. “Very well, I will ask for you.”

None of the knights were willing to take on Ben. Some already had squires, others shied away from the prospect of training a blind youth. At last, Philip was consigned to let his own brother serve him. He didn’t want to hear any rumors about his inability to provide for his own family. Ben must stay in the castle to preserve the reputation of the royal household. Since there were no other options, Ben began training as a squire.

His lack of eyesight hindered him at first. Thankfully, most of his responsibilities required only touch and hearing. He polished weapons, cared for horses, and performed various other jobs for King Philip. He was designated as the bearer of news to the palace. Every morning, with a cane as his aid, Ben walked around the city, overhearing everything from housewives’ idle chatter to the proclamations of street vendors and merchants from far away. When his walk was over, he repeated the news to Philip.

Every venture out of the house was a deliberate step into danger, but strangely, Ben survived. During the first few weeks serving as news-bearer, he set out of the palace fearful and uncertain. Yet, even as weeks passed, no one bothered him. His job simply required him to remain alert, and his own self was unthreatened. As an information gatherer, he could know much while remaining unknown. He said nothing about himself, preferring the safety of anonymity.

~

A man with a foreign accent had taken the square, and a surge of townspeople leaned in to hear. Ben turned to hear this visitor. A clear, powerful voice was proclaiming, “My ruler, the Lady Anne, lives a hundred leagues away. Her touch enchants the snakes and spiders. Her songs mingle with the music of the birds; she leads them in a divine choir. Her beauty is beyond compare and none can gaze upon her without taking on some of her glory. Her words are of the greatest wisdom and no foolishness crosses her lips. Wherever she goes, flowers bloom and plants grow tall. She is perfection itself, and belongs to no one. All in our land belong to her. She has graced us with her favor, and she is the identity of every true citizen. So that, my fair listeners, is who I am and where I come from. I travel only to proclaim Lady Anne’s beauty, and offer you to come to our blessed land. Come to the Lady and live!”

This news, certainly, would be of interest to Philip. Ben hurried away, eager to for the news to be heard.

~

Philip spat in scorn. “He advertises this Queen as a ware to be bought and sold. What a blabbering idiot. But I can’t help but wonder, is that all she is? Perhaps she truly is beautiful. Perhaps, instead of subjecting myself to her, I can secure her for my kingdom, to be my wife. Then her fame would be my own, and the world would see that Philip is not to be trifled with. I must set out to find her at once. You, I suppose, will accompany me.”

“That shouldn’t be necessary,” Ben quickly countered, looking nervous. “This Lady is great… and it wouldn’t be safe… I mean, I’d only be a dead weight to you. You, you don’t need me to get in the way.”

“Silly boy! You give yourself too little credit. You will be needed, for you must write the annals of my success. How have any grown famous without the record of history? How will the world know of my strength and courage unless you tell them? Prepare for us to leave tomorrow.”

Ben stumbled off, feeling discouraged. He didn’t know exactly what he felt. Well, he knew he was afraid of the Lady Anne. What would she think of him? She was cultivated and lovely, he simple and blind. She’d be too polite to call him a blind fool, but he knew she would think it. In her tone of voice, she’d make it clear that he was unwanted. But that wasn’t much to fear after all. At least, it was nothing new. Maybe, she’d be cruel, despite her beauty. Maybe she’d cast him away from her presence and tell him he was worthless- but he was worthless, wasn’t he? He sighed. But she sounded so beautiful. If only he could simply hear her, and know her, without being seen. If only he could take in who she was without risking her disapproval.

2 comments:

Hayley said...

"His love for truth was buried under the constant pressure of fear." QFT. [That feels, redundant. Oh well. I like this line, that's mostly what I meant.]

"If only he could simply hear her, and know her, without being seen. If only he could take in who she was without risking her disapproval." Thinking about these lines allegorically - wow! What silly things our sin makes us believe, and how beautiful is grace!

Michael said...

Ditto to what Hayley said. I don't have much else to add, just...I'm reading.