Once upon a time, many
years ago, true love
walked hand in hand
with kisses and promises, and
decisions were made to last forever. In such a time, two girls
received a summons to appear
before the governor. Governor
St. Juste tended their island
with the gentle care of a loving
father. He knew each inhabitant
by name, and on the morn of each
one's birth, she expected to discover a basket of chocolate and
fruit on her doorstep. No one was
"Are you nervous?" Kate asked
her sister as they stood in the
governor's palatial waiting
"Terrified!" whispered Liza,
reaching out for the comfort of
"But he's always been so kind."
"It 's true. Which leads me to
wonder what we've done that he
should call us before him!"
Governor St. Juste welcomed
the young women into his office,
a large room paneled in walnut
carved with designs of fruit and
flowing ribbons. Towering mirrors reflected the blue of the
afternoon sky behind a wall of
windows. The appointments of the
room appeared almost as magnificent as the governor, but in
truth, upon close inspection, the
most majestic wood and mirrors
could not eclipse the character
of the man himself. Even the
shining golden medallion of his
office, hanging from a satin
band around his neck, did not
outshine the regal air with
which he moved or the kindliness
that glowed in his eyes.
He beckoned them with a
sweep of his arm. "Liza and Kate,
come sit here by my desk. I have
something to give you."
The girls, pink with relief and
delight, settled themselves upon
two chairs facing the gleaming
surface, adjusting their skirts
just so and crossing their feet at
the ankles as their mother
taught them. They dared not
speak, but nodded as though his
words held almost as much
importance as "Let there be..."
He eased back in his chair and
clasped his hands across the
front of his light blue, quilted
waistcoat, idly fingering the
medallion. "You're getting older
now, you know. Many years ago
your father and mother
approached me and asked me to
set you aside for a special purpose. The time has come for me
to fulfill that promise."
Kate, just seventeen, wiggled
in her seat and raised her eyebrows at Liza, soon to turn eighteen.
Liza refolded her hands in her
lap. "Thank you, sir."
He cleared his throat. "You
know your father and I go back to
our boyhoods together, don't
you? My father's carpenter was
"Yes, Your Grace," Liza said.
Father told them often how their
family had served the St. Justes
for generations. How Father had
even saved the governor's life
years ago, before they came of
age. Father said a strong bond
like no other knit them together
"Yes, well. In a week's time, my
eldest son is returning home
from his tour of duty with the
Royal Navy. He will need someone to care for his house. You're
from a good, hearty family, hard
workers all. Your parents are
responsible, faithful citizens of
the island, completely reliable
and dependable." He rapped his
knuckles on the beautiful desk
the girls' father had made only
the previous year. "Not to mention the history between your
father and me. No doubt he's
regaled you with stories of how
much we loved to fish together
and wander the hills."
The girls nodded. If James Carpenter, their father, carried one
regret, it was his inability to step
into the life of his good friend.
Privilege like that belonged to
only a few. On the other hand,
James, a fine carpenter, was
known and respected as a gifted
"All in all, you seem to be
strong, able girls."
"Thank you, sir," said Kate.
Her voice echoes sweetly,
"Of course, m'lord," said Liza.
Not nearly as pretty as her sister,
or as silver-throated, she tried to
sound as agreeable as she felt.
Truly she couldn't remember ever
being this excited, this honored.
Or this nervous.
"Good, then!" The governor
reached down and opened a desk
drawer. From its recesses he
pulled out two large wine-red
apples. Beautiful, shining, perfect specimens of fruit.
Liza had never seen such pleasing food in all her life, for her
father, royal carpenter though he
was, possessed not the riches for
such luxuries. The crimson skin
glowed as if from within, and
Liza just knew the flesh was the
sweetest found anywhere.
"Oh my!" she said. "How beautiful!"