Arthur would never admit in his earlier years the name of the girl he liked. He and his peers were taking note of some of their female peers. They were on the cusp of male puberty at thirteen, admiring the female anatomy for the first time. Before that girls had been disgusting creatures.
But he never spoke of what happened a few weeks before. He had been playing alone at the very back of the gardens after escaping his nurses and Sir Ector. As he went along he came across a pretty red hair pin. He put it in his pocket and on his way. Time passed him by as he wandered alone when, suddenly, someone invaded his solitude.
He recognised her straight away – it was the blacksmith's daughter and Morgana's brand-new maid. She used to be just a cinder maid. He had seen her many times when he had been in town. His 'protector' Sir Ector liked to stop and converse with common people, to show he was 'doing his bit'. Arthur liked to watch Tom at work, amazed by how much word went into making a sword.
Arthur had asked why she was there (after she fumbled a small courtesy) and Gwen replied that she was trying to find Morgana's favourite hairpin that she had lost while walking there earlier.
When he produced the hairpin from earlier her face lit up. 'That's the one!' she had said. But Arthur decided to tease the little maid. He held it high in the air and began to dare her to take it, 'Or are you too scared?' He was amazed when the girl, coyly but determinedly, approached him and tried to take the slide from him. Arthur had only just begun his growth spurt but the girl still couldn't reach the pin.
They had been standing by a small murky lake. Arthur moved the slide in and out of the girl's reach; she tried to wrestle it from him. He lost grip and the pin went flying out of his hand and into the lake. Gwen looked horrified while Arthur just laughed. But he immediately stopped as Gwen, without a moment's thought, removed her cape, shoes and dress to leave nothing by her white under dress. Arthur didn't even think to turn away he was so stunned and all the girl could think of was how upset her mistress would be to know that beautiful pin was lost. Gritting her teeth, she sank into the cold water and disappeared.
He stood there for ages, waiting.
There was a moment when he wondered if she had drowned, whether he should jump in after her or run to get help... but he was frozen to the spot.
Then, suddenly, she emerged from the lake like a pretty water nymph in one swift movement. She stood there trying to catch her breath while grasping the fine red slide in her dripping hand.
Eventually she opened her eyes to look at the prince. Arthur immediately turned away, embarrassed that he could see right through her wet chemise. Gwen then remembered her shame in the midst of her awkwardness and rushed to get her clothes. The next time Arthur looked she was dressed again but still very wet. It was summer; she would soon dry.
Nothing was said. Arthur tried to apologise but Gwen had rushed off before he had a chance. Gwen couldn't believe she had done what she had right in front of the prince. Arthur couldn't believe what he had witnessed full stop. The girl had leapt into a cold lake... for a hairpin?
It would be years before either of them would dare to look at each other again. But the other boys knew Arthur liked someone but no matter how hard they pressed and teased he wouldn't say who. They assumed it was Morgana because every time she appeared with her that little maid, Arthur went deep red and swiftly looked away immediately.