Carlisle Manor

A Servant Called Much 15

Carlisle Manor

Much found Robin waiting for him at the entrance of the manor. The servant felt odd when Robin let him enter first, but said nothing. Instead, he went straight to his room. He ignored the whispers from the younger servants snickering as he went through his belongings. Lucy helped him pack the few items he had into a cloth bag. Finally, he raised his mattress of his bed to find several cloth caps that his mother had made for him when he was younger. Osmond had always forbidden him from wearing them, but with a bold streak running through him, Much placed one of the caps on his head before stuffing the others into his sack.

When he stood, Lucy smiled at him. "It looks good on you."

Much tried to smile back, but tears were filling his eyes. The older woman hugged him. "It will be fine. You will be fine. I promise." She gave him one final hug and then helped him dry his tears.

"Sorry," he stated as she patted his eyes.

"Don't be." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek before walking out of the room and disappearing down the hall.

Robin peeped inside the room. "Are you finished?"

Much looked around the room, and gave it a final mental good-bye before joining his new young master in the hall. "Yes, I'm ready." With his bag over his shoulder, he followed Robin upstairs to the guest room. After entering the room, the lord shut the door and hurriedly emptied the clothes-laden chair.

"Here, you can sit there. I see that Lucy has made a pallet for you on the floor." He gestured with his head to the other side of the room. "She is a very efficient and caring woman." Carefully, the young noble pulled off his stained shirt, setting it on the table beside the bed. Lucy also prepared a wash basin in his room, with which he washed off as much of the red wine as he could.

Looking at the chair, Much remained standing and stated, "Even if Osmond did trip me, I am still sorry about the wine." The embarrassment was still too fresh to let go.

Robin shrugged his shoulders. "I did not like that shirt anyway." After reaching into his bag to retrieve a green shirt, he confessed to Much. "I knew that Osmond was up to something. I saw him send the boy in your direction with the honey pots. I knew when the same boy came out of the cabinet that this was all a setup." With one fluid motion, he pulled the new shirt over his head.

Surprised, Much could not help but ask, "If you knew that he was up to something, why didn't you tell my master? Why didn't you get him in trouble?" Much fumed, "Maybe he would have been the one put out of the manor."

Returning to sit on the bed, Robin tried to explain to the servant what his father had told him earlier. "Politics… have you ever heard of that word before."

Flustered, Much responded, "No…" He tried not to appear ungrateful as he looked to the floor, fearing that he would make his new master angry with him, but he could not help himself.

Sighing, Robin tried to explain. "There is an unspoken rule of how nobles handle their affairs. My father forbade me from telling Lord Hayden what I suspected. We nobles don't really appreciate others telling us how to handle our own business." Robin cocked his head. "I never really understood that rule before today. I know that I would not appreciate anyone else telling me how to run my lands, my manor."

Still trying to understand the concept, Much asked, "Why did your father release me from this estate if he knew I was not in the wrong? Surely Lord Hayden would have listened to him."

Again, Robin said the word. "Politics, it is a very interesting game, and it has many different layers. Lord Hayden is a very proud man. He has placed a lot of trust and power in Osmond's hands. Out of all the servants in the household, Osmond holds the most authority. To accuse him as the leader of all the treachery going on would not have been pleasant for everyone." Robin tried to explain as best he could, hoping Much would understand. With a small laugh, he added, "I did not help matters any by stopping Lord Hayden from striking you. My father had to do something to restore Lord Hayden's self-importance." Robin shook his head as the small smile slowly left his face.

Seeing the young noble become uncomfortable, Much began to wish he had not pressed the matter. "It is not important."

The noble continued, "It is important. You are important." Robin looked over at Much and locked eyes with his. "My father gave Lord Hayden a prized gift that my mother had made for him many years ago, a fine leather purse with a gold and silver chain. I'm sure that he also fed him a story that stroked his ego as well, but in the end, he gave Lord Hayden back his control over the situation."

Feeling guilty, Much merely stated, "Oh."

"In my family, everyone whom we look after on our estate is our responsibility. We value them more than any gold or silver. I want you to understand that." Feeling satisfied with his explanation, Robin smiled. "I'm sure Osmond is fuming over the negotiations. Besides, you get to go to the best shire in all of England."

Finally, Much felt that he could accept the young man's answer. If his mother were alive to see this day, she would have surely pushed him out the door with these nobles, knowing that they cared more for their servants than Osmond cared for his horses.

Much placed his bag on the floor and carefully sat in the chair. Smiling, he ran his fingers over the blue velvet upholstery. "Osmond would be having a fit if he knew I was sitting here." He smiled and asked, "Did you really call him out?"

With a shrug, Robin nodded. "After my father and Lord Hayden left to discuss business, I just told him that he thought more of himself than others." Robin smiled, "I think that he would have loved to have said something back, but held his tongue."

"Ha… I am glad you put him in his place. Lord Hayden has never seen him for the man he truly is." As Much paused, he both heard and felt his stomach rumble loudly. He had forgotten that he had not eaten since breakfast after all of the upsetting events of the day.

Robin frowned, "Have you not had dinner?"

"Actually, neither lunch nor dinner." A sad look crossed his face. "The others who served dinner would have had the leftovers afterward. I was really looking forward to a bite of the pork, and maybe the carrots or the potatoes." Again, Much's stomach rumbled, but this time, more loudly than before.

Robin jumped to his feet. "Which way is the kitchen?"

Surprised, Much asked, "Why?"

"You, my friend, are going to have a fine dinner before this night is over." Robin walked over to the door. "Downstairs and through the dining room, right?"

"My lord, if you are hungry, I should be the one to get the food." Much stood, confused by the young noble's offer.

"I do not think it wise for you to leave the room. Not after everything that has happened this night." Robin smiled. "I do this all the time at home, sneaking out of my room at night to raid the kitchen. Thornton has a fit every time he finds the pantry missing food."

"But…" Much tried to argue, even though his stomach pleaded with him to let the noble's son get the food.

Opening the door, Robin looked around to make sure the hall was empty. With a small laugh, he stepped back inside. "I won't be gone long. Just keep the door shut and I shall return." Without another word, Robin slipped out and closed the door.

Surveying the room, Much started to pace before the door. "I should have gone with him," he whispered to himself.

A thump on the door startled Much. Worried that Robin had returned unsuccessful, Much rushed and opened it. To his horror, Osmond pushed his way into the room. Much stepped back, letting the steward enter. In dismay, Much asked, "What do you want?"

Osmond whipped around to face Much and his eyes locked on the cap the young servant was wearing. Without hesitation, the steward swiped it off of Much's head. When Much tried to steal it back, Osmond merely held it out of reach.

"That is mine. You have no right to take it." Much dropped his hands to his side. "Besides, I do not have to report to you any longer."

A sneer crossed Osmond's face as he tossed the cap to the floor. "You have no right to be anywhere, least of all in a guest room."

Much kept glancing at the door, trying to will Robin's return. Osmond noticed the nervous gesture and sneered.

"You want your new master to return, the teenage boy." Osmond scoffed.

"He knows what you did. He knows that you were trying to get me thrown out of the house." Much stated, wanting to somehow threaten Osmond, but not quite sure how.

"Oh, does he?" Osmond circled Much. "Does he know how clumsy you can be, how distracted you get, or how mouthy you are when you don't get your way?" Osmond stopped behind him and leaned closer to whisper, "It won't be long before you get yourself kicked out of their manor. Trust me, I understand how nobles think." After a quick slap to the back of Much's head, Osmond kicked the cap across the floor as he exited the room and quietly closed the door.

Much's knees wobbled as he stood in the middle of the room, confused and upset. When Lucy helped him pack his things, the thought had crossed his mind. What if these new masters did not like him? What if he made more mistakes, and they sent him away too? Slowly, he bent over to pick up his cap and placed it back on his head.

This time, when the door opened, Much jumped.

"Whoa… it is only me." Robin entered with a bundle of food wrapped in a cloth tucked under his arm while his hand clasped two cups. He held a flask against his chest with the other arm. Much immediately took the cups and food and allowed the noble to pull out the flask.

Much placed the bundle on the floor. When he unrolled it, he thought he had died and gone to heaven. Inside were two pork flanks, a large loaf of bread, and half a wheel of cheese. Robin proceeded to sit on the floor, and reached for the cups.

"We are going to have a small feast. Sorry, there were no more carrots or potatoes, but this should make up for it." Robin opened the flask and poured what Much thought looked like wine into the cups.

"You didn't?" Much said in shock. "The master's wine?" He whispered.

Robin shrugged. "He won't notice any of it is missing, trust me."

Robin held up his goblet. "A toast." When Much did not follow suit, Robin prompted him. "Pick it up."

Much only hesitated a moment, and then held up his cup.

Robin continued, "May you have many happy days in Locksley." With a grin, Robin clinked cups together and swallowed the contents.

Much, thinking he had to do the same, drank his entire glass too. To his surprise, the contents made him cough fiercely. This time, it was Robin's turn to apologize.

"Sorry…" he laughed. "You should have sipped it if you are not use to drinking wine." Robin picked up the bread and broke it, giving Much the larger piece. "You will not go to bed hungry this night."

After he regained control of his breathing, the servant smiled as he gratefully took a bite out of the bread, and then the pork. He could not help but to voice his enjoyment of the food. "This is very nice. Thank you, my lord." This time, it was Robin who filled Much's glass with wine, and Much made an effort to only sip the contents, which was not too bad if drunk in smaller amounts.

The two young men ate and shared stories about their different experiences growing up in their respective estates and stations in life. Both found that their lives were very different, but had many parallels in the struggles of becoming their own person. To not be the son of a noble or the son of the stewardess was a common desire for each. After many hours of talking, Robin finally decided that they must call it a night if they were to be able to get up in the morning to head back to Locksley.

As Much got comfortable on the pallet in the floor, he again felt a peace settle over him, despite Osmond threats. The young servant felt certain that he did not have to fear the injustices that he had experienced on the Carlisle Estate in Locksley. He had never served a family of nobles before and felt that the experience would be much more enjoyable than serving one bitter noble who seemed to hate the world. As he drifted off to sleep, the fear of leaving his home subsided, and was replaced with excitement. Tomorrow would be a better day.

The next morning, a loud knock at the door woke both sleepers from their deep slumber.

Lord Robert's voice drifted through the door. "We need to be on the road soon if we are to make it back to Locksley in two days."

Ever so slowly, Robin threw back his covers and called out. "We are up… be down in a minute."

Much bolted upright off the floor and then struggled to stand. The floor was definitely harder to sleep on than the straw in the barn. He and Robin were both rubbing their eyes, trying to wake themselves. Feeling confident about the day, Much reached down and unwrapped a leftover piece of bread. After he chewed it, he remembered his company in the room. Feeling a bit embarrassed, he asked, "Did you want a bite, my lord?"

Robin only grinned and shook his head.

The servant then wrapped the rest of the remnants in the cloth Robin had used to bring the food upstairs. Robin placed the wine flask on the table next to the water basin. Much placed the bundle with its contents on the table as well, knowing that it would be Lucy who cleaned the room. He smiled, knowing that she would be pleased to discover that he managed to eat something after the fiasco at dinner.

Much proceeded to pick up his new master's bags and add them to his own. Robin smiled to himself as Much made a big deal trying to also get the door for him while juggling the bags on his shoulders. As Robin left the room, he noticed through the windows his father already outside, waiting for Robin and Much to join him.

Very quickly, both men rushed down the stairs and out of the manor. Once outside, Robin heard Lord Hayden once again laughing heartily while talking with his father. The young noble felt pleased that the events of the night before seemed to be forgotten. Much made a great effort to secure Robin's belongings on the horse.

After the bags were tethered to the saddle, Much sighed and looked around. He spied Lucy and Jarrod standing off to the side of the manor, watching him.

Robin prodded him. "Go… Lord Hayden and father are still swapping gossip about the shires. You have time to say your good-byes."

Smiling, Much ran over to where Lucy and Jarrod stood.

The groundskeeper extended a hand to Much. After shaking it, he leaned forward and said, "You won."

"What?" Much questioned.

Lucy smiled. "Thanks to the nobles from Nottingham, you beat Osmond at his own game. He must have been trying to get you kicked out of the manor house without anyplace to go, but instead, you get to serve one of the most respected nobles in Nottinghamshire."

Looking back at Lord Robert and Robin, Much could not help but feel a sense of joy in his heart. When he turned to face Jarrod and Lucy, his heart fell, as the sadness of leaving behind his two dear friends also filled his heart.

"I will miss you both. You are what made this place my home." Much admitted.

With that statement, Lucy once again hugged him. This time, he felt confident that he would not lose himself in tears. His heart was sad, but happy at the same time, a feeling he had never truly experienced before.

When Lucy released Much from her hug, he vowed to both Jarrod and Lucy, "I will never forget you."

Jarrod added, "I am sure your mother is smiling down on you this day, with all the warmth of the sun." He looked up and squinted at the sky.

Much joined him in his gaze, and smiled again. "I'm sure she is." With that said, he nodded at the two servants and returned to join the nobles.

Lord Hayden's merriment had yet to subside. When Much joined them, the noble smiled at his former servant. "I want to know if he is able to perform the task you have planned for him, Lord Robert."

Robert nodded, "I will send word to you."

Much looked to Robin, but the young noble merrily shrugged his shoulders. "Father still has not told me what he said to Lord Hayden." Robin whispered. Without waiting any longer, Robin mounted his horse while Much followed behind him on foot to join his father.

From atop his horse, Lord Robert nodded his head to Lord Hayden, "I hope to be welcome back here in the future to continue our trade between the shires."

Without any hesitation, Lord Hayden replied, "You and your son are always welcome. I must admit that your visit was very interesting. Good-bye, Lord Robert… Robin." With a wave to the men, the lord of the Carlisle Estate headed back to his manor. Much walked beside Robin's horse, and turned to catch one last look at his former life. He spied Osmond standing in the doorway, watching. With great satisfaction, Much smiled to himself, thinking about what Lucy and Jarrod had said. He had beat Osmond at his own cruel game.

Both father and son rode in silence for a while until they were well outside the Carlisle Estate. The desire to know what his father had said to Lord Hayden was eating him up inside, but Robin wanted to show self-control, hoping his father would volunteer the information. Finally, it was too much and he had to ask.

"So, what did you tell Lord Hayden?" Robin asked as they kept their horses at a slow pace through the countryside, allowing Much to keep up with them. The servant had been looking around, watching the land pass by, but the words from Robin brought his attention back to the two nobles.

Robert grinned down at Much, and stated, "After what happened at dinner, I realized that I had a great need to bring you home with us."

Much could not believe that the lord was addressing him. "You did, my lord?" Much asked.

"I understand that what was happening back there was not very pleasant or kind to you, but yesterday's trials showed me that Robin is becoming a nobleman whom I am very proud to call my son." Robert returned Robin's smile before continuing. "So I decided it was time to give him more responsibility. Do you remember what you told me when you asked me to bring Much home with us, and I reminded you of our other responsibilities at the estate?"

Robin's face furrowed as he tried to remember his conversation with his father. Then the memory hit him. "I said I would make it work."

Robert held up his hands. "You accepted the responsibility of taking care of someone else, so I'm going to provide you the opportunity to prove yourself." Robert stopped his horse and addressed the young servant. "You, young Much, are now Robin's manservant. You are responsible for making sure that he is taken care for at the estate and during his travels throughout the shire." Then Robert addressed Robin, "And you, young man, are responsible for Much. Prove to me that you can be a responsible noble, and then I will give you more privileges."

Much stared up at Robin, trying to read the young man's face. He felt anxious, not sure if young noble was expecting to be made responsible for him. His heart soared with the opportunity to prove his worth to the young man who kept him from being tossed out of the Carlisle Estate with no place to go.

When a smile finally crossed the young noble's face, Much's face mirrored the emotion.

Robin laughed, "I know what we will be doing as soon as we get home."

His father questioned him, "What?"

"Have Roderick give Much riding lessons." The noble extended his hand to Much. "We may have let Lord Hayden think it, but you aren't walking all the way back to Locksley."

Much could not believe that a noble was offering him the opportunity to ride on a horse. With a hoist from Robin, he straddled the horse behind his new master.

As the nobles resumed their trek home, Robin added, "Mother will be pleased to have someone else to talk to when we get home."

As Robin spoke those words, Much realized that he could not wait to reach Locksley. With one stolen glance, he said good-bye to his old life and welcomed what awaited him in his new one, as the personal servant to Robin of Locksley.

Cynthia Burnett