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Many days when the weather is fair
This lovely young maiden often walks in her gardens
And imagines herself to have a fine lover.
A handsome, noble man of breeding and yet
with a secret in his past. His visits known only to she.

One beauteous spring morning when the fair maid was seventeen,
She walked with her cloak thrown back
to be warmed by the sun.
And a gentle, soft breeze fluttered the ribbons in her hair,
As she watched the birds swooping
upon the bright sparkling air.

Her romantic dreams roiled in turmoil in her heart
For she has been informed that her beloved Papa is negotiating her
engagement to an older man of excellent means:
The Honorable Sir Jeffery Beaucarte.
Tears shine in her eyes as she longs for the freedom
to fly from this fate, much as the birds she has seen.

Only cold dread she feels, sinking deep into her soul.
Fear of the life she will now never well know.
Sadness at living a life empty of passion and love,
knowing that duty will exact a too heavy toll.
Turning simple joys only to a pale
acceptance of conventions beyond her power to tell.

Our young maiden fair is not rebelliously ahead of her time.
She understands duty, fidelity and patient forbearing.
Watching the birds flying high in the garden,
she bids her dream lover a final 'goodbye'.
Saying 'yes' to her Papa's wishes is a mature form of caring.
Although more for others than for herself.

Mama has commissioned a lovely new dress which she will wear
Tonight at the dinner to announce
her betrothal to Sir Jeffery.
It is pale ice blue, a color which her daughter adores.
But of most import to Madeleine is that
She will see the one chosen for her for the very first time, and he, her.

Near to the time of the falling of dusk,
Madeleine is dressed and coifed
and her beauty coaxed to perfection.
As she gazes in the vanity mirror at her reflection,
she asks that all who serve her be dismissed.
"I must be alone, dear Mama, for a bit."

Hurrying to the garden door, she steps out into the gloom.
Behind her, the castle is bright,
light shining in near every room.
The clop-clop of horse hooves,
tell her that guests are arriving for the evening.
Panic nearly takes her, she truly feels like fleeing.

Almost running, Madeleine glides quietly to the garden bench
'neath the towering willowtree.
And, sinking down, rests her silken head
against the roughened bark of the trunk.
A deep, gasping sigh escapes her lips as a shadowed form
steps into the glade where she had thought herself hidden.

For the space of moments, this shadow man brings to mind
a carefree game from many bright days in her past:
The phantom lover of a romantic headstrong girl.
('Come, steal me away! Rescue me from my life.'...)
The thought, unspoken, but urgently wished for in the blink of an eye.
Shock at being discovered here beneath the willow.

"Pardon, Madame, but you seem very troubled"
the tall, man spoke in a voice richly timbered and filled with concern.
"Sir, you have me quite at a disadvantage.
For I know not whom you may be and recognize not your voice.
Since I be a maiden unchaperoned, please remove yourself
from my garden. The party is convening at the front entryway, kind Sir."

"Party?" the man questioned.
"And may my lady tell me the nature of the celebration?"
Madeleine's deep sigh at this query, was followed by complete silence.
Then with a catch of breath, the answer came, nearly at a whisper.
"An engagement is to be announced, Sir."
Again, a deep sigh, sad beyond all description.

"Alas, for 'though the news seems joyous, I sense that happiness is not
in your heart at this occasion,"  the gentleman spoke with solemn concern.
"A maiden's duty is to her family, kind Sir.   Pray, escort me into the
drawing room for my parents will be concerned that I be too long gone."
"Do I have the great honor of addressing Miss Madeleine?" his query
accompanied by a courtly bow.

"Yes, Sir, you do have that privilege, but I am at disadvantage for I know
not your name." Madeleine stood and stepped one step forward toward the
lighted doorway.  Again, the man made a deep, courtly bow. "I Madame,
am sworn to the quest to see you happy and laughing again.  If I could steal
you away from this party, would I see you smiling and carefree once more?"

"Sir, you overstep yourself, for I am a virtuous maiden.
I must find my chaperone for she will scold me for being so bold
as to speak with you alone."
"Miss Madeleine, were I to steal you away I would treat you with
the tenderest respect and only try to make you laugh again.  You, my dear
one, deserve a secret lover who only wants what is best for you.  Do not settle
for any less in your life, my dear."

Madeleine's cheeks flamed at his words,
for his mention of a Secret Lover was so near
her own wish, her own daydreams.
Why could not Sir Jeffery have been this kind stranger?
For he would then be easy to love.
"Please, Sir, escort me back to the house, for I must join the party."
She placed her small hand at the bend of his elbow and his warm, long
tapered fingers covered hers for a moment where they rested on his arm. 
But Madeleine only felt his offer of friendship, his concern in the touch. 
And looking up into the kindest pair of rich brown eyes that she had ever seen,
she suddenly knew that she had just met her intended.  And she began to smile.
With their shared smile starting at their eyes and working down all the way into her heart.



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