Darcy arrived to espy Ben teetering atop the fence railing with a long stick to serve as a balancer.
“I caution you against such dangerous feats, young man. What if you should fall and break an arm or a leg?” Darcy asked once he had dismounted and secured his horse to the opposite end of the fence.
Ben continued his perilous journey for another foot or so until he reached a point where he could safely climb down to the ground.
“Do you often engage in such folly, outside the supervision of one of your elders?” Darcy gently scolded.
Ben cast Darcy a befuddled look. “You sound just like my mama!”
“Your mother is very wise, no doubt.”
“Yes, she is the smartest person I know,” young Ben boasted.
“Tell me something else about your mother.”
“What would you most like to know?”
“Anything,” he began, “what is she like?”
“Well, my mama says I am just like her. So in turn, she must be just like me!”
“Then I should expect she is kind, she is witty, and she is charming.” Darcy immediately brought to mind his enchanting goddess. “Is she pretty?”
“I do not know.” The child’s face reflected his puzzlement. “Do you think I am pretty?”
Darcy nearly bowled over with laughter! “Men would rather think of themselves as handsome.”
“In that case, my mama always tells me I am very handsome. So yes, I would say my mama is very handsome.”
Darcy smiled to himself at his young friend’s forthrightness. Wondering if the lad trusted him enough to be more forthcoming about his entire family, Darcy asked the next logical question. “Will you tell me more of the rest of your family? What was your father’s name?”
“I have told you already all there is to know, my King!” Ben raced over to Darcy’s horse, clearly disinterested in the current line of discussion. “King Arthur, I have noticed you do not have a sword. What happened to it?”
Darcy surmised his young friend was not yet ready to open up to him. Rather than press his point, he joined little Sir Lancelot. “A sword! Why, I have never owned a sword. Sword fighting is not my forte. I prefer fencing.”
“Fencing? Is it anything like sword fighting?”
“Yes, to a very large extent. Fencing involves the use of a special type of sword as a weapon, as well as the utmost focus and skill.”
“Do brave knights fence?”
“I suppose a brave knight can do whatever he chooses. Shall I teach you to fence? Would you like that?”
“Indeed! But what exactly is fencing?”
“I suppose it will be easier to show you than to explain it to you. But first, we shall require foils, the weapon of choice for a beginner such as you.”
“Perhaps I shall fence with my sword. I am already an excellent swordsman!”
“What would be the fun in that? If we are going to do this, we must start by doing it the right way. What say you we commence by crafting ourselves two proper foils?”
In no time at all, Darcy and Ben had managed to search the nearby trees to procure branches best suited to their purposes. Ben waited patiently as Darcy carved and smoothed the rough edges. With makeshift weapons in hand, Darcy and Ben stood facing opposite each other.
“En Garde!” Darcy advised his opponent upon assuming an offensive posture.
Even though Ben did likewise, his curiosity begged for an explanation. “En Garde, my King? What does that mean?”
“I mean to warn you to assume the proper stance in preparation for our match. En Garde simply means on guard in French!”
“Well, sir, if it is as simple as that, then—on guard!”
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