Barb Rumson, author and educator


By Barb Rumson

"Rufus, you spend far too much time with the gardeners. Your father will be so disappointed in you." Rufus' mother, Lady Ann, stood very tall. Her face was stern as she looked at her son. "Mother, I'm learning so much from the gardeners," Rufus looked downcast. "You have too much to do running this castle," he countered, "Father should be here with you. He's been away fighting in the Crusades too long."

Crusader’s Battle

Crusader’s Battle


Lady Ann's face became a hard mask. "That may be so, but I have sent for my brother, Lord Henry. He will be taking you back to Gulwick Castle. Then you can start your training to become a great knight just like your father and your uncle."

"Mother, you need me here," Rufus looked hopefully into her strained white face.

"That's enough. I have made up my mind. Your things are being packed," and with a wave of her hand Lady Ann turned and walked away.

The next day Lord Henry arrived in a flurry of activity. "I must get back as quickly as possible," he said sharply. "We have started some renovations at our castle."

Lady Ann pulled at her brother's sleeve. "Stay for a few days, we can discuss what would be the best training for Rufus."

"The training has been organized. I must get back." Lord Henry looked down at the white strained face of his sister, Lady Ann.

"Henry," she said, "you should be with my husband, Oliver, fighting in the Crusades. Instead you chose to stay at home. But you loved the fame, the glory and the conquests." Lady Ann hung on to Lord Henry's arm.

"True. True. But I found that it was getting harder and harder to leave my wife and children to go off and fight someone else's war. So I thought it over and came to the conclusion that it was my duty to stay home. So I did and I'm very happy for it."

"Don't fill Rufus's head with your silly attitude. I want Rufus to be a great knight like his father. He has to be the best." Lady Ann turned away as a single tear slipped down her pale cheek.

Rufus stood in the shadows listening to the conversation. His mouth trembled and his fists clenched in soundless rage. Then he turned and ran away into the shadows of the castle and hid crying in the darkest corner he could find.


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The next day Rufus and his uncle rode off to Gulwick Castle. It was hard to leave and his hands trembled as they held the bridles of the horse. But Rufus loved his uncle and his easy ways, they talked of many things along the way.

Lady Gwen was waiting at Gulwick Castle. "At last, Rufus, I have you all to myself. I'm so happy your mother decided to send you to us. You will be the best knight in training." Gwen hugged and kissed Rufus.

"I have a favour to ask Rufus," said Lady Gwen. "Our head gardener, Raymond, has a young son named Murray. He will be helping you while you are here.

He's a good boy, but he stutters and limps a little. Please help him." Lady Gwen's eyes opened wide.

"I'll do my best, Aunt Gwen, " said Rufus as politely as he could.

She looked up quickly. "Here is Murray now. Murray, you can help Rufus learn all the short cuts around the castle and all those little things that would make it easier for him." Murray bowed his head and waited.

"Both of you be off. We have to wait for Mortimer, the other knight in training."

Rufus turned to Murray and grabbed his arm, "Come on, let's go."

Murray and Rufus ran outside. Suddenly, Rufus stopped and looked around.

"Wow, your father is an excellent gardener. Can you introduce me to him?"

"Y-y-y-yes, I-I-I c-can," stammered Murray, "B-but, don't you w-want to see the h-h-horses or the falcons?"

"Later," said Rufus. "First, the gardens. I want to meet your father."

Rufus grabbed Murray's arm and they raced along as fast as poor Murray's bad leg would let them go. All the way Murray talked and pointed and explained and Rufus listened.

Around a bend in the path and behind a large stone wall, Murray called, "Father, this is Rufus, Lady Gwen's nephew. He wants to help you in the garden."


A gardener: Martinus Hortensius, 1631

A gardener: Martinus Hortensius, 1631


Raymond, the gardener stood up and stretched. He looked down at Rufus. "You'll have to get permission from Lady Gwen. I could sure use help. Murray here hates gardening."

"Yes sir, that's easy enough." Rufus pulled on Murray. "Let's go and get permission." But instead they forgot and spent their time tracing secret routes around the huge, dark castle.

Not too long after Mortimer arrived and the two boys were given their first instructions by Lady Gwen. She stressed that the greatest characteristics in a knight were humility and helpfulness with honour in everything. Rufus listened intently.

But, Mortimer took every chance to make fun of Murray and his stuttering and limping. Lady Gwen quickly chastised Mortimer and told him this would go against his record. If he didn't change, he would be expelled from training.

Within days Rufus and Murray became inseparable. He might never be a knight, but at least he and Rufus could be together. Murray slept in the page's quarters and dressed in Rufus's clothing.

Lady Gwen called Rufus one morning. "I understand that you have involved Murray in all the training. And, I see he wears your clothing too. Strangely from a distance, I can't distinguish you from Murray. I know what you are doing. So long as it doesn't interfere with your training you are free to carry on."

Time was filled with wonders of learning and discoveries and all three knights-in-training looked forward to each day as only the free and innocent can. Lady Gwen was a sharp and hard task master. Their duties in the castle from the lowest form of servitude to the most honourable were supervised by her.


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Rufus spent most of his free time working with the gardeners. He told the gardeners of his plan for a Dream Garden that would open on the day of the Ceremony of the Candles. They listened to his wonderful words and dreamt along with him.

The ceremony of the Passing of Candles to celebrate the passage from page to Squire was to be the highlight. Rufus arranged for Murray to be included in this ceremony. The castle staff were thrilled that one of their kind was able to surmount the class strand and become a squire in training. Lady Gwen and Lord Henry were hailed as true spirits of justice.

Lord Oliver, Rufus' father, was not able to attend but Lady Ann attended the ceremony.

At the Passing of Candles Ceremony, the squires would be presented to their supervising knight with whom they would train. Each of the squires had to be subservient to their knight.

Knight Alfred, Lady Gwen's son was Rufus' supervising Knight. Rufus had more free time than the other two knights as Alfred was wooing a young girl. Rufus was a keen student and was able to juggle his time successfully. The gardeners and Rufus started their new project. They were planning to create an Enchanted Forest which would be opened when they would be knighted.

The three supervising knights decided to put the knights-in-training to a test. They planned a mock joust. Murray and Mortimer were excited. Mortimer proclaimed that this was his chance to get back at Murray and Rufus. During the mock joust, Mortimer accidentally pushed Rufus off his horse. Rufus fell off his horse and hit his head as he landed. He was in a coma for a long time. Doctors were summoned but nothing could be done for Rufus. Lady Gwen and Lady Ann continued their vigil. Raymond's wife knew something of herbal medicines and started her own treatment on Rufus. She got the castle staff organized. Each person had a turn massaging Rufus's legs and arms with special oils so the circulation would be maintained. They talked and sang to him all day long. Rufus did not respond. Raymond, the head gardener, went ahead with the plans for an Enchanted Forest to match the Dream Gardens.

Months passed and there was no improvement.

The castle staff asked permission to take Rufus down to his Enchanted Forest. Even though he could not respond, the staff would talk to him asking his advice but there was never any response. He lay there. Pale. Thin. Lonely. They continued massaging his arms and legs. They talked. They sang. They got him to eat the special gruel to maintain his strength. Friar John came every day. His eyes brimmed with tears but he continued with his prayers and Rufus' lessons.

Mortimer and Murray would come every day and tell Rufus what they were doing. There was a steady flow of people. Each with their own loving kindness. Rufus was never alone.


Flowers of Queen Isabella the Catholic


As Raymond sat with Rufus, he mentioned the problem he was having. The Enchanted Forest needed some very important decisions about the waterfalls and the shorelines. Only Rufus knew how to make this forest truly enchanted. "Please help us, we need you." The gardener turned to leave as another was to take his place. He noticed that there was a slight tremor of Rufus' hand. "Come quick. I saw something. Look there is a small movement of his hand." Raymond's face turned into a magical wet smile with his eyes turned toward heaven in a prayer of thanks.

The castle staff came running. Rufus mumbled. His eyes were closed. His fingers moved gently. This was the sign they needed. They worked harder than before massaging, talking and singing to Rufus.

Rufus slowly regained his strength. The staff continued to work with him and he slowly was able to resume training and was back helping in the gardens. Rufus worked hard even though they all cautioned him to take it easy. Murray and Mortimer and the Knights all rallied around Rufus as he worked to regain his strength and skills.

The palace buzzed with new plans for the large ceremony of the Passage to Knighthood. Preparation for this would take a long time. Rufus, Murray and Mortimer were ecstatic. They worked within the castle and out. They were the best trained knights in the whole Kingdom. Everyone wanted to see these new gentle giants who were larger than life in every way. Everyone had heard about the Dream Garden and now the Enchanted Forest that would be unveiled at the ceremony. There was much preparation at Gulwick Castle.

They made and erected large colourful tents for visitors. The Holy Chapel was given a complete refurbishing. Rufus and the gardeners had created a rainbow of floral colour around the large statues that lined the walk to the Chapel. Royalty arrived from far and wide.

The castle staff was the first to be greeted. Peasants from the surrounding countryside came to pay their respect. They came to cheer these three young men who dared to be different from the great knights of the past. They had a new code added to being honest and merciful as well as gallant and brave. Their code was to give love and strength and to protect one's own home land first. Friar John started the service. There was a reverent hush. "My brethren, these are our three men who have been training for many years. They have surpassed, not only in the skills and training program for knighthood, but have excelled in their studies. They were the most reflective students I have ever encountered. They started on a path and have created new visions. They will change the course of history."

There was disturbed hush.

Knights did not want to change this brotherhood who fought for right. There was a gentle buzz among the Royal visitors. Heads moving from side to side. But these three knights would change it all.

The three knights in training, walked forward and knelt at the railing with heads bowed in prayer. Friar John gave them their blessing. The three supervising Knights filed past the Royal visitors. They stood in front of their respective students. They had their hands behind their back. With the sound of the trumpets, Lord Avery brought out his hand from behind his back. Instead of a sword, he held a rose. He laid the rose first on one shoulder of Rufus and then on the other saying, "I dub thee Knight of the Roses Rufus."

The crowd cheered.

Lord Oliver was stone faced. Lady Ann's face was a mask of white putty, her mouth quivered. She turned and squeezed Lord Oliver's arm. Lord Oliver bowed his head and froze as drops of tears fell before him.

Lady Gwen and Lord Henry came over and their silence spoke much of what had happened. Lord Oliver turned to Lord Henry and said, "You were right to stop when you did. I, too, have had enough."

The four of them turned as Rufus came down to greet them. Rufus searched his father's face. He smiled as he saw his father's eyes brimming with tears. The procession moved slowly to Rufus' masterpieces, the Dream Garden and then through it to the Enchanted Forest. People found spots that they would forever remember. They heard sounds they would never forget. They saw colours that heightened their awareness. They touched the soft and the textured. They felt nature wrap them into spiritual contentment. The enchantment brought peace and love with the winds of change moving softly around them.


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© Barb Rumson 2021



Crusader’s Battle:
Rev. George Williams, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue border
Illuminated ornaments: selected from manuscripts and early printed books, from the sixth to the seventeenth centuries by Shaw, Henry, 1800-1873; Madden, Frederic, 1801-1873

Gardener Emblem
Martinus Hortensius, 1631., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Red border
Illuminated ornaments: selected from manuscripts and early printed books, from the sixth to the seventeenth centuries by Shaw, Henry, 1800-1873; Madden, Frederic, 1801-1873

Hours of Queen Isabella the Catholic, Queen of Spain: Fol. 275r by
Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximillian (Flemish, c. 1444-1519); Associates
Publication date: c. 1500
Usage: CC0 1.0 Universal
Hours of Queen Isabella the Catholic, Queen of Spain: Fol. 275r, c. 1500. Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximillian (Flemish, c. 1444-1519), and Associates. Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum; codex: 22.5 x 15.2 cm (8 7/8 x 6 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1963.256.275.a

Green Border
Illuminated ornaments: selected from manuscripts and early printed books, from the sixth to the seventeenth centuries by Shaw, Henry, 1800-1873; Madden, Frederic, 1801-1873


Sample short stories by Barb Rumson

External links

Puddles for All Seasons
Illustrations by My Way in Education
Published by MightyBook, Inc. © 2004

Music Lessons from Long Ago
Classical Music Daily

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