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The Peggers' Tale

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List', maids, while I to you recount,
The queerest of things I did mount,
When to my Lady I'd come, newly.
I was younger then, unknowing -
Not yet wise to courtly doings;
'Twas a fault soon mended hand'ly!

Merry made the court at Christmas,
Though at Orne their home afar was -
Wine and fine meats cure many ills!
Music there was and gay dancing -
Hunts for lords, for ladies singing,
For a sheltered maid a host of thrills.

E'en our King and Queen's fighting,
Baiting, shouting, even screaming -
None couldst lessen my gaiety.
Little did I know what would come,
When our Queen turn't to the bedroom,
Or what her plans could mean for me.

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'Fetch me wine, my pretty wench,'
Sought my Lady, her thirst to quench,
So at her door I boldly tapped.
Called out to her, 'Oh, Lady mine -
Queen Nell, I've brought to thee spiced wine!'
No answer made she as I rapped.

That door it opened when I push'd
Being neither barred nor latch'd -
Readied for when I'd reappear.
This invitation I did take;
Free of her chamber I did make
Stept at ease into her bower.

The usual things I there did see,
Sun shining on work't tapestry,
When round the chamber I first look't -
'Cept Lady Nell at her needle,
Whose lack set my brows to beetle,
'Til one arras, alcove-hiding, shook't.

Just one step forward I did take,
When did a moan the silence break
Issued forth from alcove hidden.
Then the shaking a gaping made,
The King and Queen by it betrayed -
Aye, my Lady was no maiden.

Therein was set a sturdy board -
And, aye, upon it with her Lord,
Made my Lady her seat, astride.
Lady Nell, behind him mounted,
Against his arse fiercely pounded,
No need of horse for her to ride.

Her lordly mount her rein did heed,
Ruled by her in carnal deed -
The sole obedience she'd know.
'A Royal ride needs no reviewing;
Maid, what is't thou thinkst thou's doing?'
Laughed her Lord as he let her go.

In disarray he sat anon,
His shirt all of the clothes he'd on,
And watched his wife herself restow.
As she drew her robe around her,
Himself he made no move to cover -
Kingly e'en with his jewels on show.

'Maid,' said she, as I stood staring,
Cheeks as flushed as good red herring,
'Knew'st thou not what men and women do?'
'Aye,' I said, 'that women rode men,
Sat astride like all good horsemen,
But not that we could ride to hinds, too!'

Lady Nell, she laughed and told me,
'Henry did not know before me -
But now he likes it just as well!
Keeps it here his careful secret,
Not because he's cause for regret,
But simply: who might he now tell?'

Then, said she, 'This work is thirsty;
Hast thou wine? Then give it quickly.'
And, so saying, from the flagon quaffed.
Long her throat with wine through-flowing,
Long her neck her robe revealing.
Long I watched her drink full draught.

Then I noticed her Lord staring,
At I, twas his wife adoring -
And therefrom found my cue to go.
From the room I almost fled then,
Nervous as a dowdy brown wren,
That her Lord's wants she would make so.

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Our King was known through manse and town
For throwing willing maidens down -
And from them taking their prized queyntes.
The talk about his Lady wife,
Was ne'er so bold nor oft so rife,
Though firm it held in its complaints.

Jealous of his favor was she,
Fierce and strong and sometimes petty,
In her defence of what was hers.
No love there was lost between them,
Their marriage like a minstrel's poem -
Jangling, long, and ruled by ardors.

Next she called me to her chamber,
Bade me not a-fear to enter
Still 'twas with caution I obeyed.
From her Lord my care had kept me,
Though to ladies' chambers crept he -
And 'neath the covers where they laid.

In her bower I did find her,
All her other ladies from her,
And her Lord at hunt that day.
I did then settle at her knee,
There to faithful' list' her decree -
Or whate'er 'twas she wish't to say.

'Would'st thou like a riding lesson?
There is much I would impress on
He who seeks life sep'rate from me!
Bishop's kiss shall not sustain him,
Though he long did naught but praise him -
If bold thou art, I would'st make us three.'

As she sat there, smiling, waiting,
In my head, my thoughts were churning -
How shouldst I answer, aye or nay?
'Lady, my queynte is my treasure
Precious beyond count or measure -
What have I if it's gift away?'

Kindly, said she, 'Thou'd give nothing!
Only take what Henry's off'ring:
To ride thy King like a war-horse.
I would tell him where to touch thee,
Not to kiss thee or caress thee -
Thy queynte would nary be the worse.'

To ride a king I'd ne'er thought of -
For kings do ride all the rest of
Those whose fortunes in their hands lie.
'Aye, I said - how could I not do?
When thou offer me the chance to
Do this without a pig did fly.'

'Do this for me,' said she, smiling,
'And find kings aren't all'st good for riding
Mayhap thou'd like'st be ridden too?'
Though her meaning was a clear one,
There was naught I could rely on,
But say, 'As my Lady wish't, I do.'

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On the day she'd so appointed,
I met my Lady so anointed,
As she'd bade me to her rooms come.
In the alcove, on that same board,
Where I'd surprised her with her Lord,
Sat she holding purse and nostrum.

'Sit,' said she, 'and get acquainted
With the purse in whom is nested
He who'll help thee win the day!
Take this bag kept in my bower;
Release from it our third member;
Make friends - he'll chase thy nerves away!'

From down the male, a head poked forth,
A bonny head, full of its worth -
It bade me draw it fully out.
Lambskin sheathed wood, I'd no complaint
Of nestling it against my queynte,
To bind it there like'st a wee spout.

My robes my Lady push’t aside,
Surveyed my queynte with royal pride;
Said, 'How pretty,' of what's hidden,
By a maiden's meet modesty;
Placed she tack and harness on me,
Though I'd to ride, not be ridden.

At her Lord's knock, she bade him come,
Remove his hose and bare his bum -
To take his seat astride the board.
His seat he took with regal grace,
A pensive look upon his face -
Whilst saying naught but one dark word.

'Eleanor', he said, whilst stripping
Like his lady wife 'twas cursing,
For that knowledge with him always.
Apples mayn't always be sweet things,
Crabbed and sour they make bad eatings -
But oft hunger a man betrays.

'See how prettily she wears it?
How she holds it and controls it?
My gentle teachings made it so.'
My Lady turn’t me, him shewed me,
A play made'st of her hold on me,
Proof that I stayed when he did go.

On the board, my King awaited,
My first ride anticipated -
As directed by my Lady.
Best then to throw my leg over,
Begin as I meant to canter -
Mounted up and standing ready.

Soft my Lady's hand upon me,
Guiding me in sitting rightly -
This my first time riding to hinds.
Rough the breath my King released,
When my tip his hind had breached,
Brought him low, this gentlest of binds.

'Fast,' my Lady said, 'and faster.
Ride like thou'st Hell's demons after -
Him they'll follow when he leaves me.'
So I did as she commanded,
Rode my King as he demanded,
Rode my way to true ecstasy.

Beneath my robes my queynte it pulsed;
On the board, I sat convulsed,
Our third member helpmeet to me,
As my King I kept on riding,
Spurred on by my Lady's guiding -
Telling me, 'Finish my Henry.'

Moments passed - or mayhap longer -
As my posts again grew stronger,
My Lady's command my fixed goal.
My King did writhe and moan and shout,
Ev'ry sound he made wrested out,
Like secrets torn straight from his soul.

Then my Lady was before us,
Sat astride the board that bore us,
Saying to my King, 'Aye, Henry,
Thou want it badly, so deeply
It's almost madly, though freely
Thou'rt ridden by this maid, Marg'ry.'

'Thou shalt only have her this once,
Only as she sets the cadence -
Her kisses and her queynte to thee
Are barred. Aft', she'll know what's hidden,
In thy soul that's most a midden -
If thou then press, thou'll pay the fee.'

So spake my Lady to her Lord,
Sat on that stout and sturdy board,
As like his charger he was rid.
I, behind him, looking down on,
Shoulders that whole kingdoms rest on,
Marvelled at what queens and kings did.

Into battle I did ride him,
With his Lady sat beside him,
But in a nonce the clash was o'er.
With a grunt and then a sigh,
He laid his tender weapons by,
Yielding at his Lady's order.

Said he naught to me or any,
O'ertaken by pleasures many,
Undone by this my maiden ride.
Having ridden for the fences,
Sailed o'er them by feet and inches,
I lolled behind him flushed with pride.

My Lady, from her wooden seat,
Said, 'Tis a pretty, little feat,
To leave My Lord without a word.
Yet thou'st done it, without trouble -
Thy charms, with practice, may'st double;
But ne'er they'll be known by my Lord.'

Tolled a bell, vespers signalling,
From diversion us recalling
To our places, as we're bidden.
Forth went my King to join his lords
His hinds still 'membering the boards,
Hard as he was on them ridden.

But my Lady in her bower,
Said she, 'Pluck'st thou now the flower,
Careful keep it, e'en though it fades.
Always there will be another,
Whose sight or scent wilt thee bother,
Though constancy's favoured in maids.'

'Know,' said I, 'that should I pluck it,
In my bosom I should tuck it,
Carry it there above my heart.
Win it and my favour's constant,
Ne'er to be lost in an instant,
A promise only death may part.'

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Christmastide came on apace, then -
Watching, I, a diff'rent maiden,
Saw my King and Queen with new eyes.
In their battles lay new tension,
That I now had the apprision,
To know it to her riding ties.

Feasts and fancies, carolling too,
Gaily by those holy days flew,
Each and ev'ry one still thrilling -
Though I a sheltered maid no more.
My riding finding royal favour,
Left this maid sanguinely dancing.

Aye, I do still serve my Lady,
As she wish't and as she wills me,
For what she once told me proved true:
Kings like horses can be ridden,
Even if it must be hidden,
But ladies who ride, ladies ride, too.