The decision was made.
Lady Godiva spun away from her husband, lest she slap his smug face with the ringed hand that itched to fly free. How dare he suggest that if the peasants wished lower taxes, they should send their first-born to the monastery? The first-born was the child they relied on to pick up the slack in fields, the first child to take on an adult role while his mother was birthing new children. The first-born, especially if a male, was the corner pin of their family unit. They could ill afford to give up such a child.
No, the answer was to decrease their taxes. When the drought was over, then the taxation could resume normal levels, but this year, the yield from their fields was less than fifty percent of the norm. To expect the same level of taxes was unfair and unjust.
She folded her arms under her chest and glared out the window, pointedly ignoring her husband, who cleared his throat, eyeing her rigid back angrily, then slapped his hat on his head and stomped from the room.
With the closing of the door, Lady Godiva grabbed the corded pull, summoning her maid. Sarah entered via the side door and curtsied. “My lady requires assistance?”
“Yes Sarah, fetch me my cloak and have my mare saddled, I will meet you downstairs in five minutes.”
“Yes, m’lady.” Sarah curtsied once more and left.
Lady Godiva, with a somber shake of her head, walked over to the ornately carved chest which stood beneath a gaudy gilded mirror and wrenched open the top drawer. Inside were her sleeping shifts, weightless things imported from the silk mills of such far away cities as Milan. Indecent things, and worth a month’s peasant wages, let alone the taxes. She smiled as she lifted the first garment, letting the silken chemise drip through her fingers. Yes, it is time i put such wares to good use. Lord knows that its effect was wasted on my husband.
She dragged the nude colored garment from the drawer and doffing her robes, pulled the negligible shift over her head. It hugged the contours of her body like her first skin. Shivering, she pulled open the door of her wardrobe and pulled out her winter cape, draping over her shoulders and wrapping it tight in the front.
With a puff of air, she extinguished the wall sconce and picked up the candle holder with its half melted taper, and strode out the door of her apartments on slipper clad feet.
When she reached the side entrance at the stables, her maid curtsied and opened oak door for her as she strode through. On the other side, a stable boy stood, holding the halter of her horse. Draped in red, her mist colored mare named Shadow pawed the ground, the crisp evening air swirling curls of frosted breath as she snorted.
Lady Godiva climbed into the saddle, careful to keep her cloak free and unencumbered, and patted Shadow’s neck.
“Are you sure you do not wish an escort, m’lady?” asked the groom nervously.
“Not at all.” She smiled a grim smile, her tight lips revealing small white teeth. “This is meant to be a solo ride.” She dug her heels into the side of her mare and she jumped to a canter, hooves clattering across the stone paved square. She rode through the arched wall, ignoring both guards as she went and once clear of the walls of the keep, took the main road to town.
Owls hooted a cold cry as she passed and she shivered under the heavy woolen cloak. Her shivers were not caused by the cold air but by the cold of fear. She knew her destination. Soon all would know her destination.
She rounded the curve in the road, and bright torches flooded the village square packed wall to wall with her people, the villagers who worked the lands. On a raised platform in the middle of the square stood a tall, muscular man, who shouted in an angry voice “Will we stand for this taxation? When our children cry at night from the gnawing pain of hunger, cramping their bellies? When the beasts of the field eat better than their masters? When the cold freezes our limbs from the lack of heat in our barren fireplaces?” His eyes raked the crowd who shouted back, fists raised in the air.
The nervous guards, shuffled their feet, unsure what they should do, with their neighbors in such an agitated state. Suddenly the man caught sight of her bearing down on the village and his face split with a grin. “Every male here, avert your eyes! Our Lady rides for our rights!” The man dropped his eyes and the crowd followed suit.
With a piercing whooping cry, she flung the cape from her shoulders and rode into the crowd, not breaking stride. Lady Godiva has arrived to lend her support, in the only way possible. This was not her shame, it was HIS.
As she rode by, a guard by the name of Tom, peeked a look at her naked form. It was the last sight he ever saw.
English idiom: “peeping Tom”- A person who secretly watches others, especially for sexual gratification; a voyeur…This expression, first recorded in 1796, alludes to the legend of the tailor Tom, the only person to watch the naked Lady Godiva as she rode by and who was struck blind for this sin.”
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