Once upon a time, a young man with a healthy appetite came upon a walled-in garden. The young man was named Martin, and is in fact the same Martin that will later befriend Prince Daniel, but that is beside the point.
Martin looked around and saw there was a house in the garden he had come upon, and a tower attached to that house. As he passed by the garden, one of the fig trees had a branch extending outside the wall, and, since he had a healthy appetite as was previously mentioned, he plucked one of the figs and ate it. It was so good that he quickly reached for another one. Instead of continuing on his way into town, he leaned against the stone wall surrounding the garden and picked four more figs from the tree. It was as he was reaching for that fourth fig that he noticed the girl in the tower.
Many years had passed since Leffertia had taken the baby, Honey, from her mother.
Leffertia was a powerful sorceress, feared by many in lands near and far. She had learned her craft at a young age, as her father was also a powerful magician. But her father was a cruel man, and so Leffertia grew up practicing evil magic. As Leffertia grew older, though, she started to realize that many of the things she was doing were wrong. She knew she wanted to change, but she wasn't sure how to make those changes, and the villagers that knew her never trusted her.
Leffertia decided to leave her home town, and so she moved. She found a house with a tower and a garden. She loved her garden. She found that the plants, and the insects and animals those plants attracted, helped her. They made her feel calm and at peace. She finally felt like she could be a good person. But she also felt alone. She had never figured out how to interact with people in a friendly way, and the few times she ventured to do so, someone would irritate her, and, without thinking about it, Leffertia would revert to the black magic she knew to punish them. So again, the villagers feared her and avoided her. And she avoided them. She isolated herself from the people in her new village, building a stone wall around her house and garden.
And still, of course, she felt alone. She longed for a child, preferably a daughter, to keep her company. One day, she got her chance. Although she had to take the child by force, she finally had her daughter. Leffertia consoled herself of doing the wrong thing because she felt that she knew Honey's mother, Madeleine, would not have been a good mother. Madeleine had already hired maids and governesses to raise her child for her, rather than wanting to care for her daughter herself. Leffertia was sure she could be a much better mother than a nursemaid. She convinced herself she had done the right thing.
Leffertia cared for Honey deeply. She purposefully did not teach Honey any magic; neither good nor bad. She wanted Honey to be a normal girl who could eventually have a simple life. But Honey could never truly be a normal girl. Leffertia feared that her parents would find her and take her away, much as she had done to them. Thus, she kept Honey locked in her room at the top of the tower.
"Leffe," Honey asked when she was seven years old, her large hazel eyes wide with wonder, "might I ever be able to go outside and play?"
Leffe, as Honey had fondly nicknamed her, would shake her head. "No, my child. It is too dangerous. Someone might steal you away from me."
And, so, sadly, Honey would continue to sit in her tower, learning to sew and tat, but nothing more. Honey would look out her window and watch Leffe tend the gardens and the bee skeps and she would cry silently.
"Leffe," Honey asked when she was thirteen years old, her hazel eyes clouded with unshed tears, "might I ever be able to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and the smells in the garden and the bees and butterflies, as you do?"
"No, my child. It is too dangerous. Someone might steal you away from me. And you are getting to an age where men may try to take you for their wife."
And so the years went on. Honey passed her afternoons and evenings in the tower, making lace doilies that Leffe could sell in town. When she wasn't tatting, she would sit by the window and brush through her golden hair, then braid it. Her hair was quite long as it had never been cut, and if she put her head out the window, her hair reached nearly halfway down to the ground. Honey half wondered if she could cut her hair and fashion a rope with it to climb out her window, so desperate was she to get outside. But, although Leffe was generally kind to her, Honey feared her wrath if she were to be caught trying to get out.
Thus it came to pass, one day when Honey was a young lady, she looked out her tower window and saw a young man, not much older than herself, leaning against the garden wall and eating figs from Leffe's tree. The man was quite handsome, thought Honey, with his curly flaxen hair and sky blue eyes. The man reached up to grab more figs, and as he did so, he turned and looked in her direction. Honey became fearful as she recalled all of Leffe's stories, and quickly ducked out of sight.
Martin wasn't sure at first that it was a girl he saw. She moved so quickly out of sight that all he could tell was that someone had been in that window, and now they weren't. Pretending to not pay attention, he grabbed the fig he'd been reaching for and nonchalantly started to eat it. Sure enough, an apparently curious young lady dared to look out the window again. He wondered at her timidity but did not want to scare her away, as even from his distance he could tell she was quite a lovely thing.
Martin continued on his way, but he was back the next day. This time, when the girl appeared in the window, he raised his hand to his cap and, with a flourish, bowed to her. "Good morning, fair damsel," he called up to her window.
The fair damsel ducked quickly out of sight. Martin waited patiently, certain that the girl's curiosity would overcome her shyness. It was only a few minutes before the girl peeked out the window again. Martin waved his cap at her once more. "Fair damsel, might you come out? Your figs are delicious and while I admit I've been taking them freely, I certainly should pay you for them."
The damsel shook her head. Her cheeks were flushed with either embarrassment or nervousness, or perhaps both. No matter, Martin thought; she was beautiful. With a disappointed sigh, Martin opened his coin bag and placed two gold coins in his palm. "Here is my payment for the figs. I did hope you would come down in person so I might give them to you." The damsel shook her head again. Martin looked around, trying to find a convenient place to leave the coins. Finding none, he called up to the maiden once more, "Where shall I leave these?"
Once again, the fair damsel shook her head. "The figs are yours for the taking," she said.
Martin was thrilled to hear her voice, golden like her hair. "Thank you, my fair damsel. May I come back tomorrow and partake of more?"
"Certainly," the damsel replied. "But if you hear someone in the garden, please do not let her know you are here." With that, the damsel moved out of sight again.
Martin waited a few minutes for her to return. When she didn't, he went on his way, curious about the damsel and that last statement.
Martin returned the next day and the next. Every day he managed to talk to the damsel just a little bit longer than the previous day, but she still told him very little and he had yet to learn her name.
On the sixth day, the morning started as normal. As he approached the garden, he could see the tower and the window of the young lady's room. The maiden with hair the color of golden honey and a voice like a songbird was there. She waved to him first, but then put her fingers to her lips.
Taking her cue, Martin said nothing, but smiled up at her as he made his way closer. The maiden quickly ducked away from the window. Martin continued walking towards the wall and the garden. As he approached, he lightly swatted away two bumble bees before glancing up again at the window. He saw the back of another woman with dark hair, and knew he wouldn't be able to talk to his honey-haired friend today. Disappointed, he walked past the tower and made a circuitous route back to his own home, as he really had no other purpose for remaining.
On the seventh day, he tried again to see his fair maiden. When he got to the wall, she still hadn't shown herself at the window, but Martin saw no signs of anyone else either. He stood quietly, and then whistled softly. It took only a minute for the maiden to appear. "Good morning, fair damsel!" he called out to her.
"Good morning, young sir," she replied. Her tone of voice was that of a woman conducting business, but Martin thought he detected a hint of sadness, as well. Martin squinted up at her for a closer look and thought she might have been crying.
"Dear miss," he called up to her, "is anything wrong?"
The damsel shook her head, but did not answer his question. Instead she replied, "Please take your figs and be on your way."
Martin was hoping that the girl did not really mean this. Guessing that the dark-haired lady might be with her, he played along. "Thank you, miss. Shall I leave you some coins for the figs I have gathered?"
She shook her head. "As I said before, if the branch extends over the wall, those figs are free for the taking." The maiden disappeared inside the tower.
Inside the tower, Honey stood stoic in front of Leffe.
"I guess you may be right," Leffe acknowledged. "The boy is more interested in the fruit than in you. All is well."
Honey nodded. "I told you, I only answered him because he kept calling for someone so he could pay for the figs."
"He seems an honest young man, then." Leffe smiled kindly at her young charge. "But as I've stated before, no one can be trusted. I cannot risk losing you."
Honey felt torn. She knew Leffe cared for her and would be heartbroken if something should happen to her, but how long was she to be kept inside this tower? "Mightn't I ever get to go outside? I promise I'll be careful. And you would be with me."
Leffe studied her closely. Honey was tall and slender, frail even, and the tone of her skin was pale from lack of exposure to the sun and air. "Yes. Yes, someday you will have to come outside and tend the garden with me. It would be good for you, I think, to get some air, and even more so to understand the flowers and the insects and the small animals within our gates. Those things are good, and perhaps I've been wrong to keep you from them." Leffe sighed. "Though my fears are great, if I am with you and we are inside the walls, we should keep well."
Honey could not believe her ears. Leffe was going to let her outside! She could go and smell the flowers while they were still on the bushes. She could touch the ground they grew from. Oh beautiful day! She thought perhaps it was proper that she had to send the young gentleman on his way, but at the thought, she felt a strange ache in her heart. She had, after all, only known him less than a fortnight. While she looked forward to having conversation with someone other than Leffe, she could forego this for some time in the garden. Dismissing the ache she was feeling, she took a step closer to Leffe. "Thank you," she said simply, but the depth of that thanks was obvious in her eyes and in her smile.
Martin waited three more days before he returned to the walled-in garden and the maiden in the tower. He sensed he ought to wait even longer, but he simply could not. However, he did not see the maiden. Saddened, he returned home. He tried four times more to see the young girl, each time to no avail. All he ever saw when he was at the garden were a few bees buzzing around the fig tree whose season was coming to an end. It was then that he decided he should journey out and give his heart time to forget the beautiful damsel.
In his wanderings, he came across a castle and an orphaned prince there-in. The prince was only a few moons older than himself, and they quickly befriended each other. When young Prince Daniel learnt of Martin's beautiful cousin, Princess Halena, Daniel went on his own journey in hopes of making her his queen. Martin took this time to wander further himself, still trying to forget the fair maiden.
Martin left Prince Daniel's castle and journeyed to the river's end until he came upon the sea. There, he saw a merchant ship setting sail. He applied to the captain, a young man by the name of Peter, and joined the crew. Some months later, the ship returned to the land of York, and Martin decided the sailing life was not for him. He got along well with Captain Peter and also with the owner of the ship, Sir Edward, but he did not get along so well with the rolling waves and lack of gourmet food.
"Ah, Martin, I understand," Sir Edward told him. "If you are going to remain on land, I have three daughters, all of whom should be wed soon. I am sure they will come to meet the boat and perhaps you will enjoy their company. You are a fine young man, hard-working, honest, and with an appetite that rivals my own." Sir Edward laughed jovially.
Martin still pined for the honey-haired girl who lived in the tower, but thought meeting new girls might help, and so he agreed to travel to Sir Edward's home. The girls, as well as their two brothers, came to the ship. All three of the maidens were lovely, but the loveliest was the youngest one, Diana. She was only a year younger than himself, and her two older sisters, twins, were about a year older than he. Where her sisters' locks were a beautiful chestnut brown, Diana's were black as a raven's wings. And Diana's eyes were a lovely deep violet color instead of the emerald green of her sisters.
After three fortnights staying with Sir Edward and his family, Martin had learnt that Diana was intelligent as well, preferring to spend her evenings with a book rather than going out with her sisters. It was on one of these evenings, when Diana and he were reading together a story about some magical bees and the honey they made turning to gold, that Martin realized he had to go back to find his honey-haired maiden. He and Diana had become fast friends, but there were no other feelings between them. Diana seemed pleased when she and her family bid Martin good-bye; not so much pleased that he was leaving, but pleased to know he was following his heart, for she was a good friend, indeed.
On his trek back to the garden and tower, he wandered through Brook Land with the intention of visiting his friend Prince Daniel to see if he had returned from Champion Creek a bachelor or a groom. The castle appeared vacant, and no one answered his knocks. He continued on his way, but just as he left the castle's vicinity, he spied a strange beast in the forest moving quickly along the trail toward him. There seemed something familiar about the animal, but Martin could not determine why he should think so. He was too far from the beast to be certain, but it stood somewhat taller than a man.
The beast let out a noise, a mournful sounding cry. Martin felt the hairs along his arms stand on end. His curiosity about the beast was great, but his heart reminded him that if he tangled with the beast and did not come out alive, he would be certain to never see the beautiful golden locks and hear the beautiful voice of the girl in the tower again. At least if he returned to the tower, there was the possibility she would be there. He turned off the forest trail to hide, and was relieved when the beast did not follow him but continued on toward the castle. Disappointed earlier that his friend, Daniel, was not at home, he was now thankful that the young prince was not in the beast's path. When he felt a safe distance away, he returned to the open road and quickly made his way back to the village of Sleepy Hollow that he had left some months before.
The season of figs had long passed and still the young man had not returned.
Honey sat on the ground, a thick blanket beneath her. She loved sitting here in the garden, underneath the branches of the large fig, where Leffe could easily see her while she tended almost any part of the large garden. The garden was covered in frost, but she didn't mind as long as she was outdoors instead of in her tower. It was only recently that Leffertia had made good on her "someday" promise and let Honey out in the garden with her. Honey was glad that the young man kept his distance after she ignored his calling, as she was sure it was his prolonged absence that helped ease Leffe's mind. Leffe had been convinced the young man wanted to steal Honey away.
Honey placed the book she was reading on a nearby rock. She couldn't help thinking of that man all the same, and as much as she was relieved that he had not returned, she was equally disappointed. Nearby, some honeybees buzzed cheerfully around some early spring blossoms. She looked up above her; the branches of the fig were bare now, but she knew from years of watching the garden from her window that it would only be a couple of fortnights before small leaf buds started to show. She wondered if he would show with the figs. She started to wonder if he was a figment of her imagination; a fig sprite she had dreamed up in her loneliness.
"Honey, it's time to go inside," Leffertia called to her.
Honey sighed, stood up, and gathered up her blanket and the book that lay forgotten on a rock. "Coming, Leffe."
A few days later, rested from his journey and freshly bathed, Martin took a stroll to the walled-in garden. He wasn't sure if he would see the maiden who lived within, but knew he had to try, as staying away for so long had only strengthened his heart's desire to know the girl in the tower. It was still too early to hope for a fig or two from her tree, but that didn't matter. He was soon at the wall, and he looked up into the tower. His heart raced as he saw the maiden there. And his breath stopped in his throat as he saw her long golden hair. He hadn't realized how long it was, and Martin gazed in wonder as her plaited locks tumbled down almost to the top of the wall. The maiden still hadn't seen him, so he called up to her, "Good morning, fair damsel!"
The damsel turned toward him with surprise and her mouth spread into a wide smile. "Good morning, kind sir! You are too early for the figs as yet."
Martin smiled back, relieved she didn't seem angry. He wanted to tell her how he thought about her every day and how he missed her. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, and how he hoped to have long conversations with her someday as they strolled through a garden of their own. With a nervousness he was unaccustomed to, he asked a question she had heretofore not answered. "Fair damsel, might I know your name?"
The young lady stuck her head out the window a bit further, causing the long braid to descend just a bit further. "Mightn't I know yours, first, sir?" she replied.
"I am Martin Belden, esquire, at your beck and call, my lady," Martin answered, bowing deeply in her direction.
"Martin, I am known simply as Honey." The young lady indicated her long tresses, as she added, "Perhaps for the color of my hair."
"How fitting," Martin acknowledged. "In my mind, nay, in my heart, I often thought of you as Honey; pure and flavorful and golden." Honey blushed, and Martin thought again how beautiful she was. "Might I come in and see you?"
The girl shook her head. "I daren't let you." Martin was about to ask if she could come down then instead, but Honey continued on before he could phrase the question. "And I dare not come out, either. Leffe would certainly be irate with me. She is always frightened someone will steal me away."
Martin thought this over. "Is Leffe your master?" he asked.
Honey shook her head, causing the long braid to sway softly back and forth. "Leffe is more like my mother, only I've always called her Leffe."
"I can see why she would be worried, but I must see you again." Martin wondered how he could ever be face to face with Honey. "Is she home now?" Maybe he could ask her if he could court Honey.
"Oh, no. I wouldn't be talking with you if she were." Honey frowned. "Perhaps you should go so that she doesn't catch us."
"If I talked to her, perhaps she would let me see you, under her chaperonage, of course." Martin looked up at Honey, his blue eyes wide with hope.
"I think it's best you did not, for Leffe can be very cruel when she feels threatened, and me talking to anyone causes her much stress." Honey thought for a moment. "Please, can you return tomorrow, somewhat earlier than today? Leffe is always out in the mornings to take our goods to the market."
Martin agreed and with a quick goodbye walked away with a happy skip in his step.
The next morning he returned. There was no one at the window, so he called lightly, "Honey! Honey!"
She soon appeared at the window, smiling again. "Good morning, Martin. The morning is lovely, isn't it?"
"My dear, Honey. Any day I get to see you is a lovely day indeed." Martin gazed up at the beautiful damsel. "I only covet to stand in juxtaposition to you and we could discourse on the aurora of the sun and the effulgence of the moon and anything our hearts desired."
Honey giggled. "I'm not certain I understood all that, but I too long for your company." Honey stuck her head out the window, letting her golden braid fall to the tower wall. "If only you could climb the wall, perhaps you could then climb up here using my braid? For there is no other way I can let you in."
Martin couldn't imagine using that beautiful golden hair as a rope, but then, on reflection, it could be stronger than he realized. "Tomorrow I will find a way to climb this wall, if only so I can caress your soft tresses."
"Tell me, then, instead, why you were absent so long?" Honey demanded.
"It was you that did not show for many weeks," Martin rebuked her, but his voice was gentle and forgiving. "After that, I journeyed far so I might forget you."
Honey sighed and frowned. "Alas, I so wanted to leave this tower and enjoy the garden that I stayed away in order that Leffe would learn to trust me. She does trust me now, and lets me out when she's at home. Only, now, I'm afraid I'm betraying her trust."
"Shall I leave?" Martin asked, hoping fiercely she would reply in the negative.
"If you promise to return tomorrow, and with a way to climb this wall." Honey's smile looked forced.
"I promise. Until the morrow, then." Martin watched her retreat from the window, then turned to look at the branches of the fig tree. Some of them looked sturdy enough to hold his weight.
The next morning he returned, carrying a rope with a weight tied to one end. He looked up at the tower window and called softly, "Honey! Honey!"
Honey appeared, and smiled. "Good morning, Martin. I'm relieved to see you."
Martin smiled back at her. "Is Leffe gone to market?"
Martin turned to the tree and swung the end of the rope with the weight into the air. He managed to loop it around one of the sturdy branches and proceeded to climb the rope to the top of the wall. "Let down your hair," he called, and Honey did. The long braid fell, and the very tips of her hair just touched the top of the wall.
Martin walked carefully along the wall to stand next to her hair. He touched it and held it to his face. The tresses were soft and even more beautiful up close. "Oh how I wish I could climb this and see you face-to-face. I fear I will hurt you though, if I try."
"Oh, but please do try," Honey pleaded to him.
Martin shook his head and pulled another rope with a weight from his bag. "Stand away from your window, my Honey. I would rather climb a rope than risk hurting you."
Honey nodded in agreement and pulled her braid back up. She backed out of sight of the window, and then called out to Martin, "You may try now!"
Martin tossed the rope and hit the side of the window. He caught the weight on its way down and tried again. On the third try, he finally got the weight to land inside the damsel's room. It was a bit of a climb, but he was eventually at her window. He peered inside to see her standing in a corner, watching his progress. With nimbleness only youth could possess, he hopped over the window sill and into her room.
"Honey," he said simply. He wanted desperately to take her in his arms, to hold her, to kiss her. He didn't want to frighten her though.
"Martin," she replied, with a shy smile.
Martin looked around the small room. He noticed many cloths and skeins of yarn and spindles of thread in baskets near her bed. And he noticed the small bed, covered in a beautiful coverlet made up of many small scraps of fabric. He noticed the one chair in front of a simple wooden dresser. And he noticed the iron door. His heart broke to think she spent her days alone in the tiny quarters. "Are you never allowed outside?" he asked.
"Oh, I am sometimes," Honey answered. "Leffe will allow me to sit in the garden if she is out there with me."
A bee flew in through the window, circled the couple once, and flew back outside. Martin watched it go, but his thoughts were not on the bee, but on his beautiful Honey.
"Honey," Martin said again, stepping closer to her. Honey took a half-step back and then seemed to stop herself. Martin realized she had probably never been so close to another person before, besides this woman, Leffe. Martin held a hand out to her, and was filled with joy when Honey met his hand with her own. He caressed her palm with his thumb, and then intertwined his fingers with hers. Her skin was so soft. He wanted never to let go of her again.
"Martin," Honey finally spoke. "I enjoy touching your hand, but I'm afraid you must leave now. I daren't risk Leffe finding you here." A tear formed in the corner of Honey's left eye.
"I will leave, but please let me come back tomorrow." Martin, while still holding onto Honey's hand, indicated the rope. "Perhaps..." Martin wanted to say that perhaps she could climb down with him, but he didn't think she was ready for that step. "Perhaps," he started again, "you could hide the rope here in your room, and let it down for me when I come again?"
"Yes, of course," Honey answered. She detached her fingers from his grasp. "I'm sorry the visits must be so short."
And so, each day, except on Sunday when the markets were closed, Martin returned to visit Honey in her tower. As he became more adept at climbing the ropes, he managed to make his visits last longer. And she seemed to become more comfortable with him staying longer. Often he would sit and watch her work. While she tatted or sewed, he would regale her with stories of his adventures on the sea or with the stories and plays he and Prince Daniel had written.
Since the visits were short, Martin had plenty of time to find odd jobs in the village to earn his keep. He saved most of his earnings, and one day, some weeks later, he decided it was time. He had enough gold saved to make a good home for himself and Honey. He made his way to the tower, and climbed the wall.
"Honey!" he called up to the tower window.
Honey let down the rope so that he could climb up, but Martin did not climb. "Honey, climb down, please," Martin requested.
Honey's hazel eyes opened wide, but the outside beckoned to her. Sure she had a taste of the outside sitting in the garden, but to be outside with Martin? She hesitated only a moment before she clambered clumsily down the rope. Martin met her part way to help steady her descent, and his arms around her felt right somehow. Soon, she was standing on top of the wall, Martin's arm still around her waist to support her. Suddenly, she was frightened. "How will I ever climb back up?" she asked.
"I was hoping you wouldn't," Martin responded under his breath.
Honey heard him. "But what about Leffe?" Honey worried how Leffertia would react to that. She would never let her go.
"Come, let's climb all the way down and go for a walk," Martin beckoned. He must have sensed her hesitation. "We can keep the walk short and be back in a few minutes. I can help you climb back up."
"All right," Honey answered. She felt she would risk anything for more time with Martin. Perhaps they didn't need to come back after all. Her desire to stay with him was pulling at her heart.
Martin helped her climb down the tree. Once on the ground, he held her hand and walked with her up the road. But his mind seemed preoccupied and he did not entertain her with stories as he usually did. He suddenly stopped and turned to her, dropping to one knee. "Honey," he asked, "will you consent to be my wife?"
"Your wife?" Honey felt silly repeating his question. She was surprised, and yet felt she should not have been. Hadn't she wished for this very thing? Hadn't he hinted at this same thought when he asked her to descend from her tower? Was this her chance to leave Leffe; to run away but not as a scared young child, but as the wife of her dear Martin? She watched a pair of lazy bees bumble around a rose bush nearby, and still she could not answer.
"It is conceivable I have asked too much of you too soon," Martin commented, when several moments had passed and she still hadn't responded.
"Oh, Martin." Honey finally found her voice. "I would very much like to be your wife, to live with you. I only fear Leffertia and her wrath, for she is a powerful sorceress and could hurt us both gravely in her anger."
"Is your Leffe cruel to you?" Martin asked with great concern. "Besides locking you up in your tower and keeping you from experiencing the joys of life?"
"Your tone is sarcastic, Martin," Honey replied, but with a wink. They had talked of this before. "But, no, Leffe has always been kind to me."
"Except the tower thing," Martin reminded her.
"Except the tower. But that has been for my protection." Honey reflected for a moment. "She has always worried that someone might steal me away from her. And here you are, stealing my heart."
"That I might be the thief that captures your love would only be my greatest joy." Martin's blue eyes twinkled merrily and his smile widened to show a boyish dimple. He reached for her hands, and Honey found herself giving in to him. Still holding both her hands, Martin spoke again. "Please, let us speak to Leffertia. Perhaps she will accept me as a husband for you. For my life would not be complete without you."
The two of them walked in silence, hand in hand, and Honey couldn't be more content. But as they turned to go back to the garden, with every step, Honey's worry increased. Soon they were in sight of the wall. Honey thought momentarily of asking Martin to help her climb up, and to be gone for the day. But what about the next day? And the next? No. She had her taste of freedom and she would not let it go. "I will face Leffertia alone," she said aloud.
"We will face her together," Martin responded. "Or it will be I who faces her alone."
Honey shook her head. With a grim determination, she made up her mind. "Together, then." With a smile full of hope, she added, "And may we do many things together from this day forward."
And so it was that Leffertia found her Honey child and a young man standing together outside the wall of the garden. Her astonishment was obvious as she dropped the satchels of goods she had been carrying. Her anger was quick as well. Martin had stepped forward to retrieve the belongings that were now scattered on the path.
"Away with you!" Leffertia yelled, lifting her free arm and sending Martin flying back against the wall.
"Oh, please, Leffe!" Honey cried. "Please do not hurt him."
"Has he touched you, child?" Leffertia's black eyes narrowed. "Who is this man? Wait; I know. 'Tis the same young man from last year that so enjoyed our figs."
"Yes." Honey nodded. She stole a glance at Martin who was still pinned to the wall by Leffe's force, unable to speak. "It is he. And I wish to be his wife."
Leffertia dropped her arm, causing Martin to slump to the ground. "You wicked child! I will banish you to the desert and you can live out your days in misery, short as those days will be. For you will perish from thirst and hunger --"
"Wait." Martin stood up and braced himself against the wall. "Madam Leffertia, please hear us out."
Leffe looked ready to strike at Martin again. Honey rushed forward, holding both of Leffe's arms and turning to look in her eyes. "Please, my dear Leffe. Let us go inside the garden and talk."
Leffe blinked, and Honey found herself on the other side of the wall, alone.
Martin saw Honey disappear and panicked. He looked at the large woman, just a little bit taller than he himself, but twice as wide. Her black hair and black eyes contrasted with the pallor of her face. It was hard to believe this woman cared for Honey. Honey. Gathering his wits and his courage, he recovered from the shock of Honey disappearing. "Where is she? What have you done to her? If you have banished her to some distant land, I will find her!"
"Calm yourself, young man. I have only sent her to the garden on the other side of this wall." Leffe smiled, and while the smile looked menacing and evil, Martin sensed something much more human behind that smile.
"I believe we have gotten off on the wrong foot," Martin said calmly. He bowed to the woman in front of him. "My family name is Belden. Martin Belden. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Pleased, are you? I doubt this very much." Leffe studied him and Martin forced himself to stand tall under the scrutiny.
"But I am. I have asked Honey many times if I might meet you so that I could court her properly." Martin's blue eyes shot a bit of fire of their own at the woman who stood before him. "I know you care deeply for Honey and want to protect her, but so do I."
Martin waited for Leffertia to respond. She didn't. But her expression softened. He felt like he might have gotten through to her by acknowledging her own love for Honey. Emboldened, Martin continued. "I fell in love with Honey the day I first saw her. At that time, she was too timid to even look at me. But little by little, I gained her confidence. And then, she suddenly did not appear in her window. I left this town, hoping to forget her. But though I ventured far, I could not remove her from my memories, nor from my heart. I came back for her, and I will not leave her again. I hope I can convince you my intentions to her are true. I hope we can obtain your blessing for our marriage."
Leffe snorted. "You want to steal my girl away from me and you expect my blessing?"
"Yes, m'lady, I do." Martin glance up at the tower window and quickly looked back at Leffe before she noticed; Honey was climbing down the rope from her window. She must have gone from the garden up to her room. "As the two people in the world that love Honey the most, I hope we can come to agree that she should be free to decide her future," Martin said softly. "She is a young woman now; no longer a child needing your safeguard."
Leffe shook her head slowly. "I cannot agree to that. I fear she is very innocent and naive. 'Tis my doing, I admit, but she needs my protection."
The soft thud above them as Honey landed atop the wall drew both their attentions. Martin, having known she was on her way down, smiled broadly at his love. Leffertia seemed more concerned. "Has it come to this, then?" she asked Honey. "Do I need to find another way to lock you up and keep you from the evil world?"
Honey sat down on top of the wall, still high out of reach. Her hazel eyes shone defiantly. "There is no lock or key that can keep me. No matter what you do or where you send me, I will find a way to get back to Martin."
"I see," Leffertia said simply.
"Please, dear Leffe, let me go." Honey's words were simple, her tone pleading. Martin hoped that Leffe would see the expression in Honey's hazel eyes, dark with sincerity and determination.
Martin didn't think Leffe even heard. She had closed her eyes. A couple of bees were buzzing around her, and a bird chirped noisily in the tree. When Leffe opened her eyes again, they were warmer, kinder. "Perhaps I've been too harsh. Let us go inside and talk over a nice cup of tea."
"Thank you, my lady." Martin wasn't sure Leffe wouldn't end up poisoning the tea, but it was a chance he had to take. He was about to follow Leffe and Honey into the garden, but instead a dizzy feeling overtook him and with a blink, he was standing inside a small kitchen. He wasn't so sure he liked all this magic.
Honey looked at him, eyes full of love. "I'll make the tea." Martin tried not to let his relief show.
Leffe sat down in one of the chairs and motioned for Martin to sit across from her. "What is it you do, Martin?"
"I labor at many things. I mostly help out at taverns or nearby farms to earn my keep. I also write plays and put on performances," Martin answered.
"A street performer?" Leffe raised a bushy eyebrow. "And this is how you intend to make your way? Will you earn enough to take care of my Honey and any children you may have with her?"
"Actually, yes. I already have money saved up from these performances. And I am in a position to start my own farm. I haven't yet, only because it is spring and farm work nearby is steady this time of year." Martin hoped this would assuage any doubts Leffe had about money.
"And you believe the farming life is right for you and for Honey?" Leffe studied him intently.
Martin's blue eyes met the steady gaze of the beady black eyes. "Yes, I do. My family has owned a farm for many generations; I know what work is required and I am certain we can make our living thusly."
"And children? I suppose you will want children?"
For a mere fraction of a second, Martin thought he saw a sign of pain in the coal-like orbs, but it was gone so quickly he couldn't be sure he hadn't imagined it. "If the good Lord so blesses us, yes, I would love to have children."
"And if you do have children, how will you educate them?" Leffe turned to glance at Honey as she placed three teacups on a tray.
Martin mentally bit his tongue. He knew what he would like to say, but he would keep silent for Honey's sake. Any mention of them not locking their children away and out of sight would only bring back Leffe's wrath. "We will bring them up as best we can," Martin answered. "We will provide them with an education in the local schools and we will teach them the values we hold dear: to be kind and respectful to all living creatures, to give benefit of doubt and forgiveness to those who may wrong us, and to cherish life for the precious gift that it is."
"Very well," Leffe said. She turned to Honey who stood by the stove waiting for the kettle to boil. "Honey, my dear. I allow you to marry Martin."
Honey dropped the towel she was wringing in nervousness and rushed to Leffe, engulfing her in an enormous hug. "Oh, thank you! Thank you!"
Martin watched as a single tear fell from Leffe's eyes.
"What made you change your mind?" Honey asked, to Martin's relief, as he was curious himself, and also somewhat untrusting.
"It was the bees."
Martin's blonde eyebrows shot up in surprise, but Honey seemed to understand. She simply nodded and repeated her thanks.
Leffertia smiled at Mart, an odd sort of grimace on her large face, but friendly all the same. "They said they would sting me, each and every one of them, and the queen would move to a hive far away, if I didn't let Honey go."
And so it was that Martin and Honey married three moons later and lived happily together.
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