Chapter Five: In Which Skandar Becomes Enamored of Amalia
Then the great old, young, beautiful princess turned to Curdie.
“Now, Curdie, are you ready?” she said.
“Yes, ma’am,” answered Curdie.
“You do not know what for.”
“You do ma’am. That is enough.”
George MacDonald ~ The Princess and Curdie
The morning after his mishap, a servant helped Skandar to dress and guided him to the common room for breakfast. Sitting at one of the tables was a girl about his age. Also at the table was the innkeeper Virgil.
“Good morning, my lord,” Virgil greeted him. “This is my daughter Amalia. If it pleases you, she will be your companion.”
Amalia smiled and Skandar found he was very well pleased. He noticed that she had placed a large serving of sausages, bread, and jam on her plate and he followed suit. Virgil left the young people to their occupation. It was several minutes before either spoke. At length Amalia set down her knife.
“I heard about what happened. I am very sorry for you. I fell into a bush of nettles once when I was five years old. I will never forget how much it itched. I thought I would die.”
“How did you happen to fall into the nettles?” asked Skandar.
“I was climbing a tree trying to catch caterpillars. There was one beautiful caterpillar just out of my reach. I stretched out as far as I could to seize it and lost my balance and fell. It wasn’t very far to the ground and fortunately, there was a bush to break my fall; unfortunately, the bush was a nettle bush.”
Skandar was duly impressed. She was a person after his own heart.
“What would you like to do today?” asked Amalia.
“Whatever you would like,” answered Skandar.
“Well, then, shall we go?”
Amalia took Skandar’s hand and led him through the common room, into the kitchen, and out the back door of the inn.
As they walked, Amalia pointed out the various sights such as the large oak by the riverbank, the blacksmith’s pet rooster, and the village green. The shops were open for business and the shopkeepers were glad to share samples of their wares with the innkeeper’s daughter and her guest. Amalia told Skandar about her brother, Cyril, her sister, Anna, and her cousins Finn and Bethna. Skandar longed to tell Amalia about his brother, Alanar, but he had strict instructions to no longer speak of him. Instead, he told Amalia that he would reach his twelfth year on the twenty-first of October. She promptly shared that she would be twelve years of age in August, which was in two months time.
Presently, Amalia turned to Skandar and said, “Most people here call me ‘Mole’, it’s short for ‘Amalia.’ You may do the same, if you like.”
Skandar nodded his acquiescence. His companion could have been called anything for all he cared. In his eyes, no name could diminish the sparkle in her grey eyes or the sheen of her glossy brown hair. He considered telling her his nickname; he wondered if she would laugh.
After some hesitation, Skandar cleared his throat.
“I have a nickname, too. It was given me by my bro – by someone at my father’s house.”
Amalia looked at him expectantly.
“It’s ‘Skunk.’” Skandar’s heart pounded. His rash covered the deep blush that crept from his neck to the crown of his head.
“‘Skunk?’ Why are you called ‘Skunk?’”
Skandar pulled his hair back from his face, exposing the two golden stripes of color in his hair.
Amalia’s face lit up.
“How wonderful! Of course, now that you’ve shown me, ‘Skunk’ is a very fitting name.”
Amalia continued. “I have always thought that skunks were some of the world’s most beautiful creatures and were most unfairly misunderstood. Aunt Beryl says that a skunk’s odor is the best cure for a head cold, so whenever I smell one, I breathe deep. ‘Skunk!’ That is a wonderful name! Does everyone call you that? May I call you ‘Skunk?’”
Again Skandar nodded. You can call me anything you like, he thought. Having spent most of his life in the company of his brother, Skandar had never considered that he would encounter another person whose tastes were so similar to his own. And to think that she was a girl!