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Authors: Gilbert Morris

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BOOK: As the Sparks Fly Upward
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Adam Winslow was not only large and strong, but he had a persuasive manner about him. Somehow he had wrangled permission
from his parents to allow him to go on a voyage with Sir Francis Drake. Now he stood before his parents and Sir Francis, his face alight with excitement. “I'm so thankful to you, Sir Francis, for allowing me to go with you.”

“Why, lad, I'm not sure I'm doing you a favor.”

“Oh yes, sir! It's what I want more that anything in the world!”

Sir Francis turned to Adam's parents and said, “Stoneybook, you know the dangers, as do you, ma'am. I'll take care of the boy as best I can, but I can't guarantee his safety.”

“I'm sure you'll do your best, Sir Francis,” Brandon said.

“I'll be all right, Father, and Mother, you must not worry about me. No stranger can get the better of Sir Francis Drake! He is a Seahawk, you know!”

“Yes, I know,” Brandon said. He bit his lip and turned to study the visitor. Drake was not a very large man, but there was something in his eyes that was almost magical. They glowed with excitement. Brandon had kept up with Drake's exploits, as had practically everyone in England. Drake had taken small ships on raids and stolen riches from the Spanish treasure ships in the coastal towns in Spain. The Spanish king was incensed with rage and vowed that Drake would never do it again.

“You have made the king of Spain very unhappy, Sir Francis. Won't that make it more dangerous?” Brandon asked.

“I trust the good Lord to keep me safe, sir, but the voyage will be dangerous.”

“I'm not afraid, Sir Francis!” Adam said pridefully.

“Well, it's up to your parents. You may be gone for as long as a year.”

“What does the queen say to this?” Brandon asked.

“She is trying to stay friendly with Spain in case France wants to declare war.” Drake smiled, and his entire face lit up.

“She is a crafty one, our queen is! She wants no trouble with
Spain, but when I raid them she doesn't turn down her share of the treasure.” His face suddenly grew solemn, and he shook his head. “One of these days we are going to have to fight Spain. I want to help train men who will drive them from the seas.” He moved forward and put his hand on Adam's shoulder. “You will have a hard time, my boy. We all did, growing up at sea, but you'll become a wonderful sailor.”

“I want that more than anything!” Adam said.

Brandon and Eden were troubled. They had given Adam permission, but now they were reluctant to face the absence of their son. As Drake was speaking of his plans, Colin came in. Eden was shocked to see that his face was bloody, and he was holding something in his arms. “What in the world happened to you?”

“Nothing, Mother.”

“Don't be foolish,” Brandon snapped. “You've been beaten.”

“I'm all right, sir, but this bird is hurt with a broken wing. I think I can cure it.”

Eden said quickly, “That is kind of you, to try to save the bird.”

Adam asked, “How did you get beaten up?”

“Well, two boys were poking the bird. I tried to stop them, but I wasn't able to do much.”

Adam was disgusted. “You can't take care of yourself, Colin. You need to learn how to fight.”

“I don't want to.”

Eden stepped in and stopped the argument. “Tell your brother what you are going to do, Adam.”

“I'm going to sea with Sir Francis Drake!”

Eden watched Colin, for she could tell something was not right.

He said nothing, just studied the bird he carried.

“Come along, Son, and I'll get you cleaned up.” They left at once and went to a room where the medicine was kept. While Eden was dressing his wounds, she asked, “What's
wrong? You look sad, Colin. I think it was a fine thing you did. I'm proud that you have compassion for weak and helpless things.”

“I wish I were more like Adam and Father.”

“God made you different, Colin, and you must strive to become what God wants you to be, whatever that is!”

5

November 2, 1578

“I
hate London!”

Colin had spoken unthinkingly, and now he turned to see a smile on his father's face. “Do you like London, Father?”

“No, I don't, Son, but we have to come here from time to time to take care of things. We just have to put up with the noise and the stench and the hordes of people. It's a big city.”

As they made their way down a cobblestone street, Brandon saw to it that they walked as close to the shops as possible. Overhead, almost all of the shops had apartments for the owners of the businesses. Many of the shop owners had the nasty habit of throwing garbage and night soil out the window. The safest thing was to walk under the overhanging structure, but of course that meant you met people coming from the opposite way. This caused a constant struggle and sometimes resulted in cursing, accompanied by pushing and shoving.

The streets were punctuated by narrow alleys that could barely fit two pedestrians along them. Sign boards for almost every business hung almost nine feet off the ground. In theory,
this would allow a man on horse to pass under. Colin kept his eyes on one of the signs that had paintings of Cupid and a torch.

“What does that mean, Father?”

“That's the sign of a glazier, Son. That one there with the cradle? That means a basket maker. And see that one with the elephant? That's where ivory and other things can be bought.”

As the two moved among the throngs, Colin wanted to put his hands over his ears. The heavy vehicles clattered loudly on the street, which was barely fourteen feet wide. At times it became narrower, and then a shouting match proceeded. Iron wheels crashed and screeched over the uneven cobblestones. Horses were whinnying, dogs barking, and the geese driven down to market were making their honk-honk noise. Cats howled, singing birds chirped, and pigeons cooed on the roof. Street vendors yelled their advertising slogans, and from the windows came the sounds of loud conversations. “It is so
noisy
, Father!”

“It is, after the quiet of Stoneybrook. All big cities have such clamor. It's true, Son, there's not much to like about London, but it's the only place to go for some things.”

Colin did not answer. He himself liked the woods and forest—and especially the towering oaks and yew trees that surrounded Stoneybrook.

Brandon suddenly gave Colin an affectionate glance, saying, “Well, Son, you're sixteen years old today. Do you feel like an old man?”

“I don't feel any different today than I did yesterday. I've always thought a fellow should feel some difference when he becomes a year older overnight, but I never do.”

“When you're a young fellow the years seem to drag by. But when you grow old, they fly by faster than a falcon.” Brandon stopped and gestured toward a small shop. “Here's where we'll get your new clothes.”

“I don't need any new clothes.”

“Of course you do! You've been wearing Adam's hand-me-downs for too long, and they never did fit you.” Adam had been bigger and broader in almost every aspect, so his castaway clothing made Colin look slightly ridiculous. “The tailor will fit you just right. Come now, don't sulk!”

“Let me have a look at you.” Brandon examined Colin carefully, then smiled with approval. “You look like a prince, Colin. And you've grown a lot in the two years since we visited the queen.”

Colin squirmed uneasily. He was wearing the new clothing the tailor had made, which included a padded doublet with full sleeves. The shirt beneath the doublet was pure white, and the britches were in the full Venetian style. Many men padded these garments to make them look full, but Colin had stubbornly resisted this, so now the britches simply fell, lying flat against the lower part of his body. He wore light blue stockings with gaiters just below the knee. The new leather shoes with pointed toes hurt his feet, and he muttered, “I feel like a fool!”

“You'll fit right in at court. You're growing up fine, Colin.”

“I'll never be as big as you or Adam.”

“Maybe not, but size isn't the best measure of a man. You're just right for a young fellow of sixteen.” Indeed, Colin was trim and slender, whereas Adam was bulky with heavy muscles. Colin's lighter weight had made a fine runner out of him. The one thing he could beat Adam at was foot racing; indeed, he had beaten all the boys of the village and some of the grown men. His hair was chestnut in color, crisp and tending to curl, which annoyed him. He was wearing a soft crowned bonnet with a narrow brim. Now he tugged at it, muttering, “Who needs a fancy hat like this?”

“No more complaining now, Colin.” The two made their way to the palace where Queen Elizabeth was holding court. As soon as they arrived, Brandon sent his name in and the servant came back after a considerable wait, saying, “It will take a little time, my lord, but the queen will see you.”

“Thank you.” Brandon turned and said, “Colin, I have to go see a man who owns some property that adjoins ours. I want to lease it. You wait right here.”

“What will I do if he comes to take me to the queen?”

“You go right with him, and keep the queen entertained until I get back.” Brandon smiled. “You can just charm her with your fine manners and handsome clothing.”

Colin shook his head stubbornly. “I don't think I could charm a queen.”

“You never know until you try. Besides, you've charmed Queen Mary, so you've got the hang of the thing.”

Colin shrugged and watched as Brandon left. He felt ill at ease in the palace. For a time he paced nervously. Then his eyes fell on two young women, no doubt ladies in Elizabeth's court. He had seen some like them on his previous visits. Now he saw that they were whispering to each other and giggling. The two offered a contrast, for one was tall and blond with a thin figure, while the other was short and chubby. They approached him and said, “Good morrow, sir.”

“Good morrow, ladies,” Colin said and bowed stiffly.

“You are waiting to see the queen?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Well, you can tell us about yourself, then. My name is Cora.” The speaker was the tall blonde, who had an inviting look in her blue eyes. The shorter woman had dark hair and a mark on her cheek. “And I'm Caroline,” she smiled. “Are you coming to stay at court and serve the queen?”

“No, I'm here on a visit with my father.”

The two girls moved closer to him and Colin felt hemmed
in. He had no experience with ladies of nobility, and the two began to tease him.

“Tell us about your love life,” Caroline said.

“I—I don't have any.”

Both women laughed and Cora moved closer. “That will have to change. You need a woman to teach you about courtship.”

The two were obviously experienced and Colin wished desperately that they would go away. The talk went on for some time, but then Colin saw Caroline wince and touch her arm. “Is something wrong, lady?”

“I spilled some hot grease on my arm and the burn still hurts!”

“Let me see.” Colin looked at the forearm when she pulled her sleeve up. “I have something that will ease the pain, if you'll just wait right here.” He turned quickly and left, walking to where the horses were tied. He rummaged through his saddlebag until he found a soft leather pouch. He hurried back inside and found the two girls still waiting. “I think this will help,” he said and removed from the pouch what looked like a tiny twig with thick leaves. “Let me put this on your burns.” The young woman tentatively put her arm out. Colin squeezed the plant, and when a few drops came out he moved the leaf over the burn.

“Oh, that is wonderful! It stopped the pain!” Caroline exclaimed. “Are you a physician, sir?”

“No, it is magic.” Cora smiled.

“Are you a magician, then?”

“Oh, not at all!”

“Well, it works wonders!”

She moved closer to Colin and whispered, “Surely I must find some way to show my gratitude.” Colin tried to think of an excuse that did not sound childish or impolite, but only managed to sputter a meaningless phrase or two. He was relieved to see his father appear and smile at him.

“Well, Colin, are you making friends at court?”

“This—this young lady had a burn and I wanted to help her.”

“He did, sir,” Caroline gushed. “He must be a physician.”

Brandon laughed as the two women stood flirting with Colin. Then the uniformed servant appeared and said, “The queen will see you now.”

“You must come and look after my injury,” Caroline smiled. “I'll be watching for you.” Colin did not answer, but as soon as they were out of earshot, Brandon said, “You'd better be careful of these women at court. They're not good company for a proper young man. Remember what Proverbs says about women who trap men?”

“Yes, sir, I remember. It's in the fifth chapter. ‘For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.'” Colin proceeded to recite the entire chapter from the Bible dealing with the adulterous woman.

BOOK: As the Sparks Fly Upward
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