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Stepping Back in Time
"You'll never believe it! There's a knight on horseback riding across the field!" called six-year-old Benny Alden, racing back to his sisters and brother.
"Benny, you have a great imagination!" said twelve-year-old Jessie.
The Alden children were on their way to Pleasant Valley Park for a picnic. The park was hidden from view by tall pine trees. But Benny had run ahead of the others. Now he had come back to tell them the exciting news.
"I'm serious!" Benny said. "There's a huge tent, and some smaller tents, and knights on horseback!"
Henry, who was fourteen, raised his eyebrows. "Oh, no! We forgot to bring our armor," he said with a smile.
The others laughed. Even Benny had to smile. But as they walked just beyond the pine trees, he pointed down to the field below. "See?" he said.
The Aldens stopped in surprise. Benny was right! A huge colorful tent, like a circus tent, filled the open field in front of them. Behind it were several smaller tents.
A man on horseback was riding from one of the smaller tents into the larger one. Just as Benny had said, the man was dressed in shining armor.
"I feel like we've stepped back in time," said Jessie.
"Look!" Violet said, pointing to a large sign that said, "Medieval Fair."
"What does m-m-med ... what does that mean?" Benny asked. He was just learning to read.
"That was a time, hundreds of years ago, when the world was ruled by kings and queens and there were knights," Henry explained. "It's also called the Middle Ages."
According to the dates on the sign, the fair was opening that evening. "The fair will be here all week!" cried Violet.
"Awesome!" Benny said.
"And look," Jessie added, pointing to a piece of paper attached to the sign. "They need volunteers."
"I want to be a volunteer," said Benny eagerly. He paused for a moment before asking, "What is a volunteer?"
"A volunteer is someone who helps with something," Henry explained.
"We're good at helping," Jessie said.
"Let's check it out," Benny cried, running down the hill toward the main tent.
The others followed, catching up with Benny at the open doorway to the large tent. The Aldens walked cautiously inside.
"Wow!" said Benny. All four children stood and stared.
Inside the tent, long rows of tables were arranged around a center ring. Colorful banners hung down from the ceiling of the tent.
The children paused for a moment, amazed at what they saw. Men on horseback trotted around the ring. Each man wore armor with a different colored jersey—red, green, blue, gold, or purple—and a matching cape that flowed gracefully behind him. But the Aldens were most impressed by a tall man who wore a silver jersey to match his shining armor.
"I like the silver knight best," said Benny, pointing.
A tall thin woman approached them. She had glasses and short brown hair that curved around her face. Unlike the others in the ring, she was dressed in modern clothes, a light blue skirt with a white blouse.
"Hello," she said, smiling at the children. "I'm Hannah Greene. I'm the manager here."
"We're the Aldens," Henry said. "I'm Henry. These are my sisters, Jessie and Violet, and my brother, Benny."
"We live close to here, Ms. Greene," Jessie explained. "We were planning to have a picnic in the park, but ..."
"But you found out it had been taken over by a medieval fair?" Ms. Greene asked, smiling kindly. "Please, call me Hannah."
"This is totally cool!" Benny said with excitement.
"I'm glad you think so," said Hannah. "We open tonight, and we're hoping lots of people will think it's cool."
"What exactly goes on at a medieval fair?" Henry asked.
"We put on a wonderful show," Hannah explained. "The knights are warming up for it right now. They joust and do battle, and in the end one knight wins the hand of a beautiful princess."
Violet's eyes were shining. "That does sound wonderful," she said in her quiet voice.
"And during the show we serve a delicious medieval meal," Hannah went on. "Roasted chicken, vegetable soup, and apple tart."
"Now that sounds wonderful to me," said Benny, grinning. Henry, Jessie, and Violet laughed. They knew their little brother loved to eat.
"I bet you'll like it even more when you hear how they used to eat in medieval times," Hannah said. "No silverware. And that's how we do it here. Everyone eats with their hands."
"Even the soup?" Benny asked, his eyes wide.
"You drink it right out of your bowl," Hannah said.
"Wow!" said Benny. "Grandfather would never let us do that at home."
The Aldens had lived with their grandfather since shortly after their parents died. At first the children had run away, fearing their grandfather would be mean. They lived for a while in the woods, in a boxcar from an old train. But once they learned how kind their grandfather was, they came to live with him. He had moved the boxcar to their backyard so they could play in it.
Just then the sound of a trumpet rang through the air. Hannah looked at her watch. "They must be starting the dress rehearsal for the show. Would you like to come see it? You can be our test audience."
The Aldens' faces lit up. "Sure!" said Benny.
Hannah led the way. The children sat down beside her in the front row. Since this was only a rehearsal, the rest of the seats were empty.
A mandolin player strolled about singing and plucking lively tunes on his mandolin. A jester wearing a brightly colored checkered leotard worked his way around the ring, juggling and doing cartwheels.
When the strolling performers left the ring, the lights in the seating area dimmed and bold music filled the air. The Aldens sat on the edges of their seats, eager to see what would happen next.
One by one, knights on horseback raced in, their shiny armor glinting in the bright arena lights, their colorful capes rippling. Each knight carried a shield and a banner. Each banner showed the knight's symbol—a lion, an eagle, a castle, a star, or a rearing stallion.
The horses were draped with colorful banners to match the knights' outfits. Some had brightly colored ribbons braided into their tails.
Most magnificent of all was the Silver Knight, who came in last. His banner and his horse sparkled with silver.
As the knights passed by, they waved to the children, who waved back and cheered. The Silver Knight tossed roses to Jessie and Violet.
"I hope the Silver Knight wins," said Benny.
"Me, too," Violet agreed.
Now the knights filed back out of the ring. The music grew quiet. A man in a long black cape entered, carrying a microphone. A lone spotlight shone down on him as he began to speak. "Welcome to our medieval fair, gentlemen and fair maids. I am the master of ceremonies. Let me introduce our noble king, His Royal Highness King Richard."
Spotlights lit up a royal-looking man with a white beard and white hair who was sitting on a throne. He wore a red velvet cape lined with fur. On his head was a crown studded with jewels. The king stood up to greet the audience. He nodded his head as he looked slowly around the darkened arena. The Aldens could see that a sword with a jeweled handle hung from his belt.
Benny whispered, "Wow, is he a real king?"
"No, he's an actor," said Hannah. "His name is Richard Worthington."
"He makes a great king," said Jessie.
"Oh, yes," Hannah agreed. "Just wait until you meet him. He really believes he is a king."
Then the master of ceremonies spoke again from the center of the ring. "Now I present the king's fair daughter, Princess Annabel." A beautiful young woman stepped into the spotlight. She had shining brown hair that fell gently over her shoulders. She wore a long white gown embroidered with silver threads.
"She's beautiful," Violet whispered.
Princess Annabel placed her hand upon her father's outstretched arm. She gazed slowly about the arena, a proud smile on her face. Then she and her father sat down side by side upon their thrones.
"Today the knights of the kingdom will compete for Princess Annabel's hand in marriage," the master of ceremonies continued. "Let the games begin!"
"Doesn't she get to choose who she wants to marry?" asked Jessie.
"I guess not," said Henry.
"I'm glad that's not how women find husbands now!" Jessie exclaimed.
Once again there was the sound of trumpets. The knights rode back into the ring. They competed in several different contests including throwing a pointed javelin at a target and using their long wooden lances to pierce metal rings or hit targets. The knights rode quickly and confidently, and the Aldens were amazed at their skill.
"This is really exciting," Jessie whispered.
During the javelin throw, the Green Knight missed the target completely. "I'm sorry, but we must remove the Green Knight from our competition," the master of ceremonies announced. The Green Knight bowed to the king and princess, who nodded their heads at him. Then he rode around the ring waving. The Aldens cheered as he went by.
The contests continued, and one by one the knights were removed—the Purple Knight, the Red Knight, and finally, the Yellow Knight.
In the end, only the Blue Knight and the Silver Knight were left. As the music grew quiet, the two knights retreated on horseback to opposite ends of the ring.
"Now we begin our final and most dangerous competition," the master of ceremonies announced. "It is now time for the joust."
The two knights on horseback turned to face each other. Each held his lance outstretched in front of him as the two raced straight toward each other.
The Aldens held their breath as the knights came closer and closer.
When they met in the center of the ring, there was a loud crash as the Silver Knight's pole hit the Blue Knight's shield. The Blue Knight lost his balance and fell to the ground.
"The Silver Knight won!" Benny cried excitedly.
But the contest was not over. As his own horse ran off, the Blue Knight reached up and pulled the Silver Knight from his horse. The two knights both grabbed for their swords and began to duel.
"Oh, my goodness!" cried Violet. "I'm afraid someone will get hurt."
"Don't worry," Hannah whispered. "The fights aren't real. The swords aren't sharp. The knights figured out all the moves in advance—like a dance. They know exactly what they're doing so no one will get hurt."
But the duel looked so real the children couldn't help gasping or cheering at every move the knights made.
The Blue Knight was a fierce fighter, but the Silver Knight managed to avoid his blade again and again. At last the Blue Knight pushed the Silver Knight down to the ground and stood over him. Now it looked as if the Blue Knight had won.
But suddenly the Silver Knight rolled to the side and jumped to his feet.
The two men began fighting again, when suddenly the Silver Knight's sword snapped. The two knights stood stunned, looking at the broken piece of sword lying in the dirt beside them. They seemed unsure what to do next.
The Aldens looked at one another, wondering what was going on. Until now, everything in the show had run so smoothly.
"Oh, no," Hannah said in alarm. "That wasn't supposed to happen!"CHAPTER 2
For a moment the two knights stood there uncertainly. But the pause did not last long. The Blue Knight dropped his sword, as if by accident. The Silver Knight dashed over to pick it up. He held the sword out boldly in front of him. The Blue Knight removed his helmet and knelt down, defeated. Then he walked out of the ring.
"We have a winner," announced the master of ceremonies. "It is the Silver Knight!"
"Hooray!" cried the Aldens.
The children cheered as the Silver Knight circled the ring, waving victoriously to the audience. Then he walked proudly up to the king's throne. There he took off his helmet. He knelt down before the king, his head bent.
King Richard rose and slowly raised his sword. The sword shone brightly in the spotlight. The heavy jeweled handle glittered.
"Wow, look at his sword!" said Henry. "I bet that sword won't break."
King Richard lightly touched the sword to the Silver Knight's shoulders. Then he smiled at Princess Annabel and announced, "Silver Knight, as winner of the tournament, you shall marry my daughter." Princess Annabel stood up, smiling brightly. The Silver Knight now stood and took her hand. The king, Princess Annabel, and the Silver Knight all bowed to the audience and walked out. Then all the lights came back on.
"What a great show," said Jessie.
Hannah smiled broadly. "I'm glad you liked it." But her smile quickly disappeared. "I have to find out what happened to the Silver Knight's sword. It wasn't supposed to break. It's a good thing this was just the rehearsal."
A moment later, the Silver Knight came across the ring toward them. Seeing him up close, the Aldens could see he was quite tall and attractive. "Did you see that?" he asked Hannah. "My sword just snapped in half!"
"I saw," said Hannah, shaking her head. "We'll have to do something about that." Then she turned to the Aldens. "These are some local children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden. This is Jonathan Fairbanks, our Silver Knight."
"Mr. Fairbanks, you were great!" Jessie said.
"Thank you, Lady Jessie," said Jonathan, sweeping his arm across his chest and bowing deeply.
Jessie grinned. "I'm really just Jessie, Mr. Fairbanks."
"And I'm really just Jonathan," the actor replied, smiling.
"Will you teach me all those cool moves?" Benny asked, jumping around excitedly, waving his arms as if he were in a sword fight.
"Why certainly, young page, I'd be happy to teach you. But first I need to speak with Hannah." Jonathan turned to her, a worried look on his face. "What are we going to do about my sword tonight? I need a new one."
"We don't have any extras," said Hannah. "That was specially made."
"But how can I fight the final battle without a sword?" asked Jonathan.
"What about the costume shop in town?" Henry suggested. "They have swords."
"I doubt they'll have one that looks real enough," said Jonathan.
Hannah was silent, trying to think of a solution.
"I have an idea," said Benny. "You could use the king's sword. It was really cool-looking."
A slow smile spread across Jonathan's face. "Yes! That sword would work nicely."
Hannah looked doubtful. "I don't know. That's a real sword, you know."
"But it's not sharp," said Jonathan. "I won't hurt anyone."
"Still, it's very different from the swords the rest of the knights carry," Hannah said.
"But the Silver Knight is the one who wins the tournament," Jonathan pointed out. "That sword would be perfect. Let's go ask Richard."
"Good luck getting it away from him," Hannah muttered under her breath, but she began walking across the ring to where the actor playing King Richard was standing. He was talking to the actress who played Princess Annabel. Jonathan and the Aldens went with her.
"Richard! Annie!" Hannah called.
The woman who had played Princess Annabel smiled in their direction. The Aldens were surprised to see how tiny she was up close, not much taller than Jessie. Without the lights and grand music, she seemed like a regular woman in a fancy dress. But the man beside her still looked and acted like a king. He turned slowly and bowed his head slightly in Hannah's direction.
"Yes, Madame?" he said in his deep, grand voice.
Hannah smiled and looked at the group around her. "First, let me introduce you to our test audience. This is Henry, Benny, Jessie, and Violet Alden. This is Annie Shore and Richard Worthington."
Annie Shore smiled and said, "Hi."
Richard Worthington held his chin high and gazed down at the children. "You may call me King Richard."
Hannah looked at the Aldens. "See what I mean? He likes to act as if he really were a king."
"My ancestors were knights long ago in England," he explained.
Smiling, Hannah said, "Yes. Well, there's something I'd like to ask you. Since Jonathan's sword broke, can he borrow yours tonight? It's just until we can get him another."
Mr. Worthington's eyes blazed. "Excuse me, Madame, but a king does not give up his sword!"
Hannah sighed. "I knew this would be a problem," she said. "Richard, I gave you that sword to use when you joined the show. Tonight Jonathan needs to use it."
Mr. Worthington looked angry. "And what will I do at the end of the show, when I bestow my royal honor on him, touching him with the tip of the sword?"
"You can just lay your hands on his shoulders," Hannah suggested. "I think that will be fine."
Mr. Worthington stood and stared angrily at Hannah. Several seconds passed and the children wondered what he would do. At last he unbuckled the belt on which the sword hung. Then he looked sternly at Jonathan. "You'd best be very careful with that sword, young man," he said, his voice low. "If anything happens to it, you will be to blame."
Jonathan nodded seriously, but a trace of a smile was on his face, as if what Mr. Worthington was saying amused him.
Then Mr. Worthington turned to Hannah. "I am still the rightful owner of that sword."
Hannah shook her head. "No, Richard, I am. Remember, I told you I got it from my parents before they died?"
But Richard Worthington just turned on his heel and strode angrily out of the tent.
As Jessie watched him go, she couldn't help wondering why he was so attached to the sword. It didn't really belong to him.
Excerpted from The Sword of the Silver Knight by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2005 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted May 29, 2012
Posted October 24, 2013
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