Brandy Purdy

Brandy Purdy by The Queen's Rivals

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Authors: The Queen's Rivals
teasing, tantalizing glimpse of the fine wine sparkle of garnets and deep purple amethysts set in silver. “Who would want to marry me?”
    “I’ve chosen someone very special for you, my little love.” Father chucked my chin and kissed the tip of my nose. “Now he is a wee bit older than you are, five-and-forty, and a kinsman of mine. Mayhap you’ve heard tell of him, for he’s a war hero, one of our greatest—my cousin William Grey, Lord Wilton.”
    Kate gave such a frightful shriek that I nearly toppled off Father’s lap, and Jane momentarily forgot her own staggering surprise as horror, then pity, filled her eyes as she stared at me. Then both my sisters were there, crying and clinging tight to me, as though they could not bear to let me go. But all I could do was nod, my disappointment and hurt went too deep for tears, and there are times in a dwarf’s tormented life when one feels all cried dry of tears.
    The whole of England knew the story of Lord Wilton, and little boys fought to play him in their war games, their vying for this prized part often leaving them with bloodied lips and blackened eyes. He had been hideously wounded, his face grotesquely mutilated at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. A Scottish pike had smashed through the front of his helm, shattering several teeth as it stove in his mouth, and pierced through his tongue, knocking out even more teeth in its violent progress, and penetrated the roof of his mouth. At some point, his nose had also been broken and smashed in in a grotesque and bloody parody of one of those darling little dogs with the pushed-in noses that Kate adored so. To make matters worse, his helm had been quite destroyed by enemy blows, and the metal intended to protect his face had instead turned against him, biting deep, like jagged steel teeth, lacerating his flesh, and leaving behind ugly, jagged scars zigzagging like a violent lightning storm all over his face. The enemy pike had also cost him an eye. Some said he was merely blinded and wore a black leather patch to cover the hideous gray-clouded eyeball, though others claimed the eye was white and sightless as an egg, while others said that it concealed an empty hollow, that the Scottish warrior who took it had boasted he had plucked it out of its socket like an olive, though some rather ghoulishly insisted that he popped it in his mouth and swallowed it whole, and yet others insisted he had chewed it with great vigor and glee.
    Regardless of which of these tales was the true one, Lord Wilton left the battlefield that day with a face that frightened children and now went about veiled like a lady in public lest his ears be assaulted by cries of “Dear God, what is that hideous thing?” and “Monster!” and the terrified wails of children, the screams of women, and the thud of their bodies falling down in a faint. I felt sorry for him; I, “Crouchback Mary,” the “little gargoyle,” the “goblin child,” and “mashed-up little toad,” could well understand his pain and torment. It must have been especially hard for him since he had once been accounted amongst the handsomest of men, whilst I had been born ugly and misshapen and had known no other form or face.
    But empathy was not enough to make me want to marry him. Oh what a pair we would make! I could picture myself leading my half-blind and veiled husband around by the hand, my crooked spine straining and aching at the awful effort. People would think we were a couple of freaks loose from the fair or some nobleman’s collection of Mother Nature’s mistakes. Those who enjoyed such spectacles might even come up to us and offer us pennies to peer beneath my husband’s veil or toss down their coins and cry, “Dance, dwarf, dance!”
    “Nay, pet, look not so downhearted! You’re frowning as if the world were about to end without your ever having tasted of all its pleasures! Smile! ” Father cried, setting me down and with the tips of his fingers pushing the

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