An English Fairy Tale
Once upon a time, Mrs. Miles and her daughter June were proprietors of the best Inn in Lowestoft. Many years before, Mrs. Miles had worked in the Inn for her dear Father. It had been her fifteenth summer, a time in life when young girls hoped to find a husband. The young Mrs. Miles was no different than any other young girl in the village at that time.
One day, a handsome wandering young man came into her father's Inn. He had long dark hair and blazing blue eyes set well apart in the pale skin of his handsome face. The young girl lost her heart when he looked into her eyes. Now, it so happens this young man was a wastrel and had seen this same look many times from young girls in his travels. He knew the clever things to say to a young girl to win her heart.
And so he did. Two days later he disappeared leaving the young woman with three things: a broken heart, young June growing in her womb, and hardness in her heart against the wiles of men. Of course, there was a scandal but Mrs. Miles lived through the scandal and, after a time, the scandal had faded from the memories of the townspeople. Now, Mrs. Miles was respected in the town for the beer and wine at her Inn was always good, the food was always filling and the rooms she rented were always clean, things dear to the heart of any Englishman. Mrs. Miles's life consisted of her Inn and her daughter. She closed her heart to everything else in the world.
And so June grew to be a young woman running the same Inn with her mother that Mrs. Miles had run with her father. Mrs. Miles was determined that the beautiful June would not suffer the same fate as she had. She hardened the heart of June against men just as hers had been hardened by the handsome young man whom had betrayed her.
In her thirteenth summer, June had grown to be a lovely young woman. The young men of Lowestoft began to come with their fathers to enjoy a mug in the Inn. Their attentions all turned to the lovely June. But June's heart had been turned away from them by her mother. She would pay no heed to their gestures, afraid of the wiles and the lies her mother had warned her of. One by one, the young men looked elsewhere, finding a wife among the other girls of the town.
Alone in her room at night June would sigh. All the other girls her age were getting married. Even fat Beatrix had married the baker's son. He and she would laugh and eat cakes all day, happy in their union, their cherubic faces red from the heat of the ovens. June felt emptiness in her heart but the hardness which was in her breast was like a dyke keeping everything inside separated from the life outside. The seasons passed her by, June serving dinners and beer in her mother's Inn.
And so it happened that on the eve of her fourteenth birthday as she worried she was about to pass from her maidenhood and into an age when the boys would no longer be casting glances her way, June was in her room preparing to change into her sleeping clothing. June was startled by a glow growing from the darkness of the corner of her room. A sudden gust blew past her and snuffed out her candle. June wished to cry out for her mother but she could not, the muscles in her throat were frozen and would not give voice to her fear.
The glow grew quickly; a golden light filled the room. From this golden aura stepped an apparition: a man, no, thought June, an eidolon of a man, with wavy golden hair gleaming in the night. He was a Greek God perhaps, for he wore no clothing. June knew no man would be in her room without his clothing on a chill autumn evening unless he was like the statues of the Greek Gods she had seen when she had visited the Palace of the Earl.
The apparition said no word, but took a step towards her. And as he stepped his passion became obvious. June gasped and covered her mouth with her hand but she did not cover her eyes never having seen a naked man before. The golden apparition approached poor June. The hands of the Golden Apparition reached up and touched her shoulders. They were warm and dry as the apparition guided her to her bed, laying her on it and joining her. As the clock tolled the end of her maidenhood the apparition stole the last shred of her girlish life. Now she was a woman in all ways.
June woke in the morning opening her eyes to the cold morning sun. She remembered the night and nervously looked around her room. There was no trace of the apparition or that anything had happened in the night. June dressed and went downstairs to help her mother prepare for the day. Several times she started to tell her mother what had occurred, or what she thought maybe had occurred but she held back, whether out of fear she would not be believed or fear of punishment she could not decide. Maybe it had been a dream.
That night, as June prepared for bed she nervously glanced around her room. Nothing. She removed her garments and dropped them over the chair in her room. Naked now, she heard a soft tread and turned. The incubus was back, smiling as he advanced towards her. June returned his beatific smile. The apparition stood before her, waiting. June took a moment to look at the strange figure. Yes, he did look like those cold marble statues in the Palace, smooth skin over muscles, graceful limbs and a face of radiant calm, full fleshy lips under a masculine nose and wide set almond eyes. But the specter standing before her was warm and fleshed, not cold marble. June took a step back, felt the bed against her legs, and lay back, awaiting her spectral paramour. A smile crossed its features turning them warmly human as he came to her again.
It continued, each night the golden visitor would appear and June would welcome it as a woman welcomes her husband. And so it might have continued if it wasn't for Mrs. Miles's sharp eyes. On washing day she spied a stain on June's bedclothes. She knew what it was, shouting for June. When confronted with her deception she broke down, crying and told her mother about the spectral visitor. At first, Mrs. Miles did not believe June, thinking instead that June had allowed a young man into her bed chamber. But June denied this. Mrs. Miles fell silent. That day, the two women worked never exchanging a word.
As June prepared for bed that night, Mrs. Miles came to her room and informed June she would remain this night to see this spirit herself. June stripped off her clothing, and as she laid them across her chair a bright glow appeared in the corner. Mrs. Miles gasped as the incubus materialized in front of her eyes. It moved towards her daughter but Mrs. Miles stepped between. It would not have her flesh this night, she vowed.
The apparition smiled, and Mrs. Miles felt a warmth she had not felt in so long she did not recognize it, at first. The ghostly presence picked her up in its arms; it turned to the door which swung open, then walked down the hall and into her chamber. The door closed behind. The specter put Mrs. Miles down and waited. She felt the warmth and knew what it wanted. It would have her or June. Mrs. Miles wished to save her daughter, but too, she recognized that long absent feeling in her loins. She untied her sash and clothing before laying back on her bed, welcoming the incubus with a warmth she had not felt in many years.
The next morning, Mrs. Miles told June that she must not prepare herself for bed that night until the bells had struck twelve. June begged her mother to tell her what had occurred but Mrs. Miles was silent. June did as she was told, and the apparition appeared in Mrs. Miles's chamber as she prepared for bed, bringing warmth to her bed that had been cold for so many years. June, curiosity overcoming her, padded silently down the hall and listened at her Mother's door. Angrily, she turned and fled to her chamber, burying her head in the pillows and crying for her loss.
On the morning, June stormed at her mother as she never had in her life, accusing her of theft of the golden apparition. Mrs. Miles stormed back and the day was filled with tension between the women.
That night, as the women mounted the stairs to their chambers; June turned and coldly informed her mother that she would prepare for bed as she always had. Mrs. Miles understood that this was a contest she could not win. How could she lure the spirit to her room if the young June awaited it as well? So, she offered a bargain. Mrs. Miles would not interfere if every other night June would wait to prepare for bed, as Mrs. Miles would wait this and alternate nights. June was surprised that her mother would bend, a woman so long unyielding to any passion. June searched her Mother's face and saw something that she had not seen before, a look of longing that June herself felt and also of shared compassion. She nodded. She watched as tears came to the eyes of her mother who quickly hugged her before running down the hall and locking herself in her room.
And so it was. The two women hardly noticed the cold northern winter winds and rain coming off the sea as their Inn became a place of warmth and merriment. The women, so known for their dour ways, now smiled and laughed with the men at their ribald jokes. The beer was still good and the food filling, but even more, Mrs. Miles's Inn now became known for the happy women and ever more popular in Lowestoft.