Queen Adelaide

1988-1989, 11th grade.  Age 16

Assignment: was to write a story about a minor character in Macbeth.

“The Queen that bore thee/Oft’er upon her knees than on her feet/ Died every day she lived ” — Macbeth Act IV BC III v.123-5 (71)

Adelaide loved and lived to run. When she was still small, she would try to keep up with her father as he went off with the other nobles to stick swords into unfamiliar men — this they called war. However, she would never get very far; a servant would pick her up and take her back home where she was forced to amuse herself by running down the halls, smiling at the frowns of the servants. (Her sickly mother kept to her own room.) Yet as soon as the next war occurred, she would be out again, close to the men’s heels. As she grew older and realized that she was not wanted, Adelaide took up running by herself among rugged fields and rushing streams. Her father was so glad to be freed of the embarrassment of a tag-a-long daughter, he did not protest her practice; her new brother gaped at her in awe from the cradle as she jumped outdoors to run her happy way.

Cool early mornings and evenings were the best times to run. She did not mind the drizzle that was bound to come down almost daily. On the contrary, she was entranced by the delicate rhythmic spattering of the water drops. She carefully regulated her heartbeat and breathing to get the greatest strength possible. This gave her the sensation that her legs were flying; she scarcely felt them.

When it was too cold outside, she would run indoors. In fact, she was never walking. “You should be more careful, miss!” servants would yell — but in vain. She ruined cakes, upset pails, and once even managed to nearly bend her father’s shield inside out; yet she would merely continue to smile on after each event and remain oblivious to her environment. Sometimes her toddling brother would try to run after her. Noticing this, she encouraged him. Soon the two of them were running outdoors and indoors.

This did not last very long. Duncan entered her life; he entered right through the door of her father’s house. “I’m looking for a spirited sort of wife”. he said outright. “Your daughter is just that.” Adelaide was busy running with her brother though the halls at the time. Her father called out  [to] her as she passed by. “You’re marrying Prince Duncan, in case you were wondering.”

“I wasn’t,” she replied; but she tossed her head and muttered softly, “Duncan, marriage? Oh, why not,” and went on running.

They got married.

The first morning of their wedded life was bitterly cold. Unsure that Duncan would allow his Queen to run about outdoors in any case, Adelaide started her first run through Duncan’s unfamiliar castle. Her eyes uplifted, she was easy game for a fallen stone. Tripping over it, she fell at a terrible angle into a conveniently placed pothole. She struggled to get up but could not move her legs without piercing them with a sharp pain. A servant found her an hour later and a doctor was called. He quickly determined that her legs were fractured in many places. In a low whisper he told the Prince, “I do not know if she will be able to walk far again . . . she might be able to get by on her knees a little,” Duncan shivered.

Adelaide was set in bed. Servants attended her at all times, but she refused to talk to anybody; she only made screechy giggling noises when Duncan asked her how she felt. Her parents came and brought her brother. The little boy did not understand why his sister had been taken away from home to a strange place and why she was so scary looking.

Seven months later she was able to get up and scamper about on her knees. She spoke little and often moaned far into the night.

Duncan was coronated a year later. His Queen was still “out of it”; it seemed she was not living on earth but on a raincloud. When he expressed his concern to achieve an heir, she slowly replied with vacant eyes, “Oh that, of course. Sorry I forgot.” Within the next nineteen years they had three daughters and two sons. None of them showed any interest in running in the rain, so she paid no attention to them. She became known far and wide as a sort of pious recluse. The only one she could converse with normally was her brother, who now possessed his father’s title.

The next year, as the men went out to fight on the same bloodied fields of old, she felt an intense pain very like the one that had struck her legs on that dreadful day twenty years before. This time, however, the pain was searing her heart. Little drops of rain fell through a chink in the roof. She felt them on her forehead for the last time.

Her brother, moved by an urgency he could not explain, was the first of the nobles to rush back from battle to the Kings’ castle. He was the first to see dead Adelaide. The Thane of Cawdor stared hard at the gray face of his sister’s corpse for a long time before he could move away.