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Authors: Jane Yolen

Queen's Own Fool

BOOK: Queen's Own Fool
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Table of Contents
Just then the servants began to clear away the remains of the banquet with a minimum of noise. The feasters ate silently as well. One would think that such a feast would be abuzz with conversation and laughter, but everything was oddly quiet, as if no one were allowed to speak above a whisper.
This was not a happy party.
Then the queen looked up and, seeing us, nodded her head.
At us.
At me.
Only the queen matters.
I heard Pierre's voice in my head.
“Your Majesties, honored lords and ladies of France,” Uncle declared, “we present to you the renowned skills of Troupe Brufort, as witnessed in the courts of Italy, Burgundy, and Spain.”
I did not show on my face what was in my mind. I did what Uncle wanted.
I smiled.
He waved us forward and our first—and only—perfor—mance before the King and Queen of France began.
To David and Debby,
who loved this book first
J.Y. and R.J.H.
Published by Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
First published in the United States of America by Philomel Books,
a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2000
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001
This edition published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2003
9 10
Copyright © Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris, 2000 All rights reserved
Yolen, Jane.
Queen's own fool: a novel of Mary Queen of Scots / by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris
p. cm.
Summary: When twelve-year-old Nicola leaves Troupe Brufort and serves as the fool for Mary,
Queen of Scots, she experiences the political and religious upheavals in both France and Scotland.
1. Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542—1567—Juvenile fiction. 2. Scotland—History—Mary Stuart,
1542-1567—Juvenile Fiction. [1. Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1567—Fiction.
2. Scotland—History—Mary Stuart, 1542-1567—Fiction. 3. Fools and jesters—Fiction.
4. Kings, queens, rulers, etc.—Fiction.] I. Harris, Robert J., 1955—II. Title.
PZ7.Y78Qu2000 [Fic]—dc2t 99-055070
eISBN : 978-1-101-07774-0

ary Queen of Scots is an historical figure. So is La Jardinière, one of her three female jesters.
We know much about the queen, though opinions about her vary widely. Her uncle, the opulent Cardinal of Lorraine, wrote that when she was still a child: “King (Henry II) has taken such a liking for her that he spends much of his time in chatting with her ... and she knows so well how to entertain him with pleasant and suitable subjects of conversation as if she were a woman of four and twenty.” But the wintry-souled preacher John Knox called her a “honeypot” and wanted to burn her as a sorceress.
At age ten Queen Mary was already writing to her mother about Scottish politics. At thirteen she composed and presented a speech in Latin to the French court. We know how she looked, what clothes she wore, what songs she admired, what friendships she had with her personal servants, and how—in the words of one critic—she was “Fond, foolish, pleasure-loving ...” How could she not be? She had been brought up in the court of France, known as the most elegant, most joyous, and most lax in Europe. Of course she would share that court's virtues as well as its considerable vices.
We know only this much about Mary's French fool La Jardinière, all from the court records: that she was female, that she was given several expensive dresses, that she was given linen handkerchiefs, and that she was sent home to France with a large payment when the queen went off to England.
Where history ends, storytelling begins.
Did Destiny's hard hand before,
Of miseries such a store,
Of such a train of sorrows shed
Upon a happy woman's head?
from a poem by
he rain poured down throughout the day, hard and grey as cathedral stone. One by one, we dragged to a halt. I stopped dancing first, then Annette, our skirts hanging in damp folds, tangling in our legs.
“It is like walking with dead fish,” I said. “Slip-slap.”
Annette giggled. But then she found everything amusing. Even in the rain.
Taking the tin whistle from his lips, Bertrand flicked it several times, trying to rid it of water. Nadine's tambourine went still, and she shifted little Jean to her other hip.
Now Pierre alone kept going, flinging the clubs into the air. One and two, three and four, five ... I wondered if he were going to try seven at once, here on the drowned streets of Rheims where no one would see him fail.
“What are
you doing?”
Uncle Armand cried out, and began hitting the rest of us for stopping. “Troupe Brufort does not stop for mere rain!” His hand was like some small, fierce, whey-colored animal nipping and pinching where it could.
Pierre dropped one of his rain-slicked clubs. It landed with a loud splash in a puddle at his feet. He stooped to pick it up.
Uncle Armand turned and slammed Pierre on the head with the gold-topped cane. “Clumsy fool! Did I tell you to stop?”
Stepping to Pierre's side, I began, “But Uncle, there is no one on the street. Even the beggars have left the road to seek shelter. We have come to the holy city for nothing, and ...”
This time the cane fell on
head, and I saw stars. Pierre had been smarter, going right back to his juggling. Would I never learn? One day Uncle would kill me with his cane.
“Mademoiselle La Bouche du Sud,” Uncle said, meaning Miss
Mouth from the South,
“says we have come to Rheims for nothing. But she is the nothing, not we.”
This time I bit my lip to keep from answering back. One day, I swore, I would break Uncle's cane over my knee.
Uncle was not finished speaking, though. His nose wrinkled as if he had smelled something foul. “We have come to Rheims for the young king's crowning. Fortunes will be made here. The new queen loves pageantry, songs, dances, mummery. All of which Troupe Brufort can supply.”
“But Uncle ...” I began, wanting to remind him that the city was draped in black for the old king's death—“A lance in his eye while jousting,” a walleyed beggar girl had said. “The new king insists on a long mourning.” So none of the grand folk racing to the coronation had heart or coins for street players.
“Dance!” Uncle commanded. “Now! Good will come of it.”
“Wet will come of it,” I mumbled. But not so he could hear.
BOOK: Queen's Own Fool
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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