Mary is 16, in the bloom of youth – very pretty, with long luscious chestnut hair, a clear smooth complexion and deep blue eyes.
She is a maid at the castle like her mother was before her.
One night, there is a grand feast at the castle – it is a sumptuous occasion with many lords and ladies in attendance.
Mary is walking around with a tray full of drinks, she takes in the ladies’ beautiful dresses, their perfectly coiffed hair – she is particularly fascinated by their pale unblemished hands. Those hands have never known a day’s work in their lives, some are adorned with rings of precious metals and stones Mary doesn’t know the name of.
As she approaches someone beckoning to her, a handsome man stops Mary in her tracks. He leans over, picks up one of the goblets while his eyes linger on her face, and says in a low voice: “you are very pretty”.
The room seems to spin, the colours are fading in and out. By the time Mary recovers, the man is gone. The rest of the evening passes off in a haze. Who was the man? Mary did not know: a lord, a guest at the castle that she never saw again – his name was a mystery but his face was imprinted in her mind. His face……and those 4 words she replayed constantly in her head.
Years passed, hard years of labour, of incessant toiling. Mary’s beauty faded a little more each day. She got many propositions of marriage but refused them all. How could she marry those kind but coarse men……after him? His handsome face had receded a little from her memory but she clung to it stubbornly, bringing it up in her rare moments of leisure and while she was working. He was a presence that never left her: in the scullery, while polishing the silver, the last thing she saw at night – he was always there.
Mary lived and wilted without knowing love – only infatuation born from that fleeting moment when he had bent towards her and murmured those 4 words.
4 little words threw her whole entire life in turmoil.
4 little words he forgot as soon as they left his graceful lips.
Image credit: “A pensive moment” painting by Daniel Ridgway Knight