MFB09: Mrs. Dumplesugar Steals His Knickers

At her own insistence, Mrs. Dumplesugar had breakfast in the servants’ dining room near the kitchens, and although the Humans were a bit shy around the Talking Raccoon at first (many of them having never met a Talking Beast of any kind before), Mrs. Dumplesugar was not the sort of person you could be shy around for long, especially as she regaled them with stories of Narnia and her own mischievous kits. Then when the linen maids rose to go on their rounds, she joined them to pick up the clothes hampers of her own charges.

“Oh, but Mrs. Dumplesugar,” one girl protested, “you’re our guest here! We’d be happy to wash your kings’ and queens’ things.”

“Nonsense, my dear,” she replied, tying on her apron and tucking the soap (which she had brought all the way from Cair Paravel) into a pocket. “I would be out of sorts all day if I didn’t do a bit of washing in the morning! My dear King Peter said I must come with them on a holiday, but I’d enjoy myself much better if I made myself useful first.”

So saying, she trotted along behind her Human colleagues to the royal quarters and dragged out first the hamper from the girls’ room (where she was staying as well), then gathered a few items from the Dwarfs’ and Mr. Tumnus room, and finally entered the boys’ room. Not having been at the royal breakfast table, she did not know that Peter was still asleep, and without even bothering to look around she started pushing the hamper across the floor. The noise was enough to rouse the High King from his repose.

“Mrs. Dumplesugar,” Peter murmured, rubbing his eyes and yawning. “To what do I owe the honour?”

“Why, bless me!” the Raccoon exclaimed, peering over the top of the basket. “I had no idea you were here, your Highness!”

“Oh?” was Peter’s sleepy reply. He sat up in bed, then as he looked around the room, he realised that he was not in his own chambers in Narnia, but visiting Anvard. Suddenly the events of the previous evening rushed to the forefront of his memory, making him blush. “Oh! But… where’s Edmund?” he asked, confounded as he found himself alone in his bed and the other bed empty as well.

“I would think he’s had his breakfast by now,” Mrs. Dumplesugar answered, coming over to check on the High King; for she wondered if he might not be ill to be still in bed. “Are you feeling quite well, your Majesty?”

“Yes, thank you. In fact… I haven’t felt so well-rested in a long time…”

His eyes continued to search the room for traces of Edmund’s presence, his emotions a jumble of guilt and happiness, while the Beast placed a gentle paw on his knee.

“Eh! I see how it is, your Majesty — your royal brother has left you to sleep, and it’s a good thing that he has! You’ve been altogether too worn from your cares, and he (thinking to do you some good, of course) must have left you to make the most of your holiday. I’m sure he’s explained your absence to the good King Lune, too, for he’s that clever and thoughtful! And I am so glad to see you looking more like yourself — beggin’ your pardon, your Highness, but you had begun to look a little too old for your tender years. Now, you should take your time getting yourself ready, and go out to meet the court with a fresh face, as befitting a Man of your youth. I know just what you ought to wear, too!”

As she had prattled away, she had dug into the trunk which she had packed with his clothes and pulled out a brilliant blue outfit that she had pressed just before leaving Cair Paravel. Peter listened only half-heartedly, for he wondered if Edmund might have found out what he had done, but shaking himself to attend to the kind Raccoon, he moved to step out of bed — only then remembering what a state his garments were in. He did not feel the usual insistent need, either, which meant that he must have spilled his seed in his sleep again.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dumplesugar,” he said, trying hard not to blush. “That will do very nicely.”

Her sharp eyes did not miss the fact that he was sitting on the edge of the bed but had the covers pulled about him.

“Well, as I was just come to gather the wash,” she said, very reasonably and pointedly, “you may as well give me your nightshirt, too. Not to mention your knickers.”

Peter blanched at her direct words, then blushed like a ripening apple.

“B—B—But Mrs. Dumplesugar!” he protested, as she pushed the basket of laundry towards him with a determined glint in her black eyes. “I really… I need to… that is, you know…” he trailed off helplessly.

“Now, my dear King Peter,” she began, in a tone of voice that said she would not brook any foolishness from him today. “We’ve had this talk before, haven’t we? And it simply won’t do to have you hanging your wet things about this room, since there’s no balcony for you to spread them out on, like back at home. I’ve finally got King Edmund to be sensible about this sort of thing and to put all his wash in the hamper as he should; don’t make me think that his brother and elder has less sense than he!”

She thrust out her little black paw (much larger than any raccoon’s paw in our world, but still much tinier than Peter’s) expectantly, and in meek submission, the High King took off his nightshirt, folded it, and handed it to her. It was followed by his undergarment (taken off under the covers, for he was very modest, even in front of a Raccoon old enough to be his grandmother) which made him blush redder still.

“I’m so sorry,” he mumbled in shame, not knowing what else to say.

“Nonsense, my dear,” she said, pulling out his clothes from the day before to place on top of his soiled nightclothes, “it’s only natural that you’ve got the yearning, at your age, and who would know that better than I? For my boys were so restless once it started that they drove me to distraction! I didn’t have a moment’s peace until they were all settled in their own homes with their wives. The best thing for it is to find a fetching She-Human and settle down as soon as possible, your Majesty — and where better to find a lovely Daughter of Eve than here in Anvard, where there are so many of them? And all very sweet and sensible from what I’ve seen. Now, King Peter, you must go out and be as charming as I know you can, and find yourself a lovely queen!”

And after a final, affectionate pat to his knees, Mrs. Dumplesugar pushed the basket out of the room.

Peter let out a long sigh and got up from the bed, muttering, as he washed himself with some cold water in the basin, “I must be the only king in the world who has his ‘knickers’ stolen by a Raccoon!”

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When King Peter followed the sounds of cheers and applause out to the courtyard, King Edmund was still going at it hammer and tongs with Prince Corin, much to the delight of the royal personages as well as the courtiers in attendance. Having realised what a disadvantage his height was in dealing with the little tyke, Edmund had strapped some padding (such as were worn under armour, for the shoulders) on to his knees, and was waging his wooden-sword duel upon them. Prince Corin now had the advantage of easier movement, but was so intent upon hitting his target as to not be making good use of it; however, he was having such a good time (with at last an opponent short enough to reach) that it scarcely mattered.

Peter had hoped to slide into a seat next to Susan unnoticed, but his host had no subtlety of that nature.

“My dear King Peter!” King Lune cried aloud, as soon as he had espied him. “Welcome, and most heartily! For thy masterful brother hath provided us with such fine sport, that the only thing lacking to make this scene perfect was thine own most august and noble presence!”

Peter blushed but managed, with a sheepish smile, to bow as gracefully as he ever had.

“I must humbly beg of your Majesty’s gracious pardon,” he began, then caught sight of Edmund grinning at him impishly, which made his heart skip a beat while it brought some relief to his other worries. “But my venerable brother seems to have lapsed in his decorous duty, leaving me to slug abed for half the morning. My only excuse is that your Majesty’s warm reception of the evening past had left me so overwhelmed that I was insensible to the dawning day.”

“Pshaw, my good friend! Thou needest make no apology to me,” King Lune countered, clasping Peter in his bearlike embrace. “For what better proof of our accommodation could you give than to sleep well and deeply, and arise refreshed as thou lookest today?” He grasped Peter’s shoulders as he said so, appraising the healthy glow of the younger man’s countenance and looking quite pleased. “Come, thy repast is awaiting thee, and observe how thy brother makes almost a man out of my son! Sooth, if Corin is as fine a swordsman as King Edmund by the time he is his equal in years, I should be the proudest father alive!”

“My brother has already bested me in a match fairly played,” Peter remarked, sitting down as a servant brought him some fruit. “If we were not removed our several years, he should no doubt be the more dangerous man, for in addition to his skill, he has a dexterity which few can match.”

“Aye, that he does,” King Lune agreed, watching as his son tried (in vain) to catch Edmund with his toy sword, each time being foiled by a deft block of the shield. Even on his knees, Edmund managed to evade the prince, who was getting somewhat aggravated by his own inability.

“Come, Prince Corin,” he was saying just then, “you must use your shield to block my blows! See how the proper angle will deflect my sword,” with the appropriate (and very restrained) strike. “There! Now block it as I come round… Good! Now try to catch mine with yours…”

“He teaches very expertly as well,” King Lune pointed out. “He is no doubt a credit to his masters.”

“Indeed he is,” Peter said, as another plate (this time of fresh toast and eggs and sausage) was set before him. “The Centaurs who train us have often praised how quick a study he is. And were he not the son of my own father, I could say no less without compromising my veracity.”

They watched for a while in silence, and Lucy came to sit beside her oldest brother, ecstatic to see him looking so well. Finally Edmund called for a break, thirsty from giving Prince Corin so many directions. Corin was disappointed, not having yet tired of this play, so his mother was coaxing him to the table with some sweets. However, he glanced back at Edmund and saw him kneeling on the ground, unarmed, trying to untie the pads from his knees. Without another thought the little prince smacked him on the head with the flat of his sword.

“OW!”

“Ed!”

The crack had not yet stopped reverberating in the courtyard when King Lune’s voice thundered over it.

“FIE AND SHAME, MY SON, FIE AND SHAME! TO STRIKE AN UNARMED MAN WHEN TRUCE WAS CALLED—!”

He raved on for a few minutes more, freezing the disgraced princeling to the spot as nothing else might. Meanwhile Peter (who had cried out almost before the blow had been struck, having seen it in the making) had rushed to Edmund’s side, followed by their sisters, and watched in anxious trepidation as his brother pressed a hand to his crown.

“I’m all right; it just smarts,” Edmund mumbled as others drew near.

“Here, my Lord — a cold cloth,” said one of the Archenlandian nobles, and Peter took it from him and placed it gently on Edmund’s head.

“Thanks, that’s better,” the younger king murmured. “And would someone get me some water? I’m parched.”

Susan grabbed a chalice of cold juice and brought it for him, which he quaffed in two great draughts. King Lune had finished scolding his son (who was made to sit in his chair with absolutely none of the sweets which Queen Primela had offered him a moment before) and came now to apologise profusely to all four siblings.

“Please, your Majesty, it’s nothing,” Edmund protested, standing up now as Lucy untied his other knee pad. “My head is made of much hardier stuff than that!”

“Your Grace is kindness itself,” King Lune sighed, shaking his head. “But for my son to return thy patient tutelage with such treachery! He shall not sit so easy when I have done with him.”

“Oh, please!” Susan gasped, guessing his intent. “He’s only a little child!”

“Child or not, he must be made to learn the rules of fair combat, and at once,” the king said, his expression set and grim. “But for the tender mercy which thou hast extended to him, he should have been hauled off ere now.”

As their host left to deal with his son in private, Peter re-folded the cloth to place a cold side of it back upon Edmund’s head, and held it there as they walked towards the table.

“Does it still sting?” Peter asked in a low voice, not wishing to distress King Lune any further by fussing over his brother excessively, yet still worried — and with some cause, for the sound of the blow had been sharp and loud.

“A little,” Edmund answered, also in barely above a whisper. “But don’t worry, I’ve had worse before and lived.”

Peter was relieved to hear it, and proud of his brother for bearing it with such good grace. Without thinking, he pulled Edmund close to kiss his temple.

“For what it’s worth, until you called for the rest, I thought you were doing uncommonly well.”

Edmund flushed with pleasure, and was unable to hide the happiness that curved his lips. The bees in his stomach were humming again.

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When King Lune rejoined them with Prince Corin in tow, the boy (with great tears in his eyes) was brought before King Edmund to make as contrite an apology as a child his age could manage, and Edmund (no longer needing the cold towel upon his head) very gravely and properly accepted it. Then he told the boy that they must shake hands to prove that they were friends again, and when Corin obediently did so, Edmund reached out to tickle the little prince’s ribs. Corin giggled, forgetting the woe that had plagued him until a moment ago, and was eagerly scooped up by Queen Susan to sit upon her lap. Being not a little tired from playing and bawling, he fell asleep almost at once.


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