After breakfast, Arwen kissed each of her parents, then went outside to play, the skirts of her blue silk dress flaring up around her knees as she ran. This was the day she had been waiting for. Full of excitement, she could not walk like a lady, the way her mother wanted her to, but hopped and skipped as she went looking for Santanu. She had promised to ask him first before seeking out Gadmae. There he was, sweeping the yard, a look of dreamy contentment on his kindly face. He seemed to be enjoying the sunshine that blazed from the clear blue sky.

“Santanu!” she called. “Are they here yet?”

“Yes, my lady,” he replied. “They were born early this morning.”

Squealing with delight, Arwen jumped and skipped, trying to stay in the centre of the paving slabs as she followed the gardener to the hay barn. “How many kittens did Gadmae have?”

“Five, my lady,” he replied indulgently. “They are all fiery in colour, as she is.”

Arwen halted for a moment. “Santanu,” she asked, “Will Gadmae mind if I pick them up to play with?”

“They are a bit too small for that now,” he replied with a smile, “but when they are older, they will certainly want to play with you.”

Happiness returned, and, bursting with excitement and joy, Arwen frolicked all the way to the barn. “I am thinking of names for them already!”

“Just in here,” said Santanu, leading the way.

At this time of year, the cattle and other animals were out grazing in the fields, so it mattered little that the barn was almost empty. Arwen barely made a rustle on her way across. Many times before, she had played hide and seek in here with her brothers, but this time, the barn had a delight for her alone. Though Sandtanu smiled like her father did, he had none of the excitement that overflowed in Arwen’s heart.

Right at the back, Santanu came to a halt. On a pile of sheaves where the strands were scattered loosely, Gadmae had made a nest, a little dent where she could bear and suckle her kittens in peace. In the dim light that filtered in from high slatted windows, Arwen saw the orange tabby curled around her babies, her head tilted up and her mouth stretched into a feline smile. Gadmae’s loud purr rumbled over the suckling of her kittens, who eagerly paddled her belly and purred as they fed. The scent of her milk mingled with the musty grassy smells of hay and weathered wood.

Rapt with wonder, Arwen hugged herself, wishing she could touch the kittens, but unwilling to disturb the scene. She watched till they had finished and Gadmae started licking them. How they rolled and twisted, mewing their displeasure! One even tried to crawl away, but Gadmae seized him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him back to the wriggling mass of tiny blind copies of herself.

“They are so perfect!” she declared. “Look at their tiny little paws!”

“That they are,” said Santanu.

“I must go at once and tell Ada about them!”

Without another word, Arwen scampered out and ran all the way back to the house. She hitched up her skirts as she went up the stone steps and in through the open door. Some of the older Elves who lived and worked there gave her disapproving looks, but she ignored them. Ada simply had to come and see them now. Up the grand staircase she went, through the Heroes’ Gallery and into her father’s study.

He was working at his desk, bent over writing on a piece of parchment, but if she did not tell him now she would simply burst!

“Ada!” she squealed. “Gadmae has had kittens!”

He looked at her with a frown that softened when he saw who it was. “Arwen!”

“Come and see them, quickly!”

“Arwen, my daughter, I am busy now. See what you have done – spilled ink on my parchment. Naughty child!”

Tears filled Arwen’s eyes at the rebuke, but she persisted. He had to come now. “But Gadmae has had kittens!”

“I see, but was it really necessary to come running in here while I am working to tell me?” he asked, a frown creasing his kind face.

“But Ada,” she importuned him, “they are so sweet. They are small and furry, like pussy willow buds, and they purr so much when their mother is feeding them.”

“Arwen, come and look at this,” he said, nodding at the sheet of parchment he had been writing on. He had already blotted the blob of ink with a small rag, but it was too late. A large black stain had spread, obliterating his neat script.

Abashed, Arwen retreated for a moment. “I am sorry, Ada.”

“I will have to start all over again,” he said sternly. “Please, child, knock before you enter in future.”

“But I was excited,” she protested.

“And I was busy with important matters,” he countered. “I love you, Arwen, but at this moment I would very much like you to find someone else to share your excitement with while I get this done. You can show me the kittens later on.”


“Go now.”

She pouted for a moment with tears of frustration welling in her eyes, but her father had already reached for the bell-pull. He turned his attention back to his writing, ignoring her while she stood there, disappointed. She turned and walked away, the sounds of her soft footsteps masked by the rustle of the new sheet of parchment he was working on.

Out in the hallway, a servant arrived.

“Hello, Tuludis,” said Arwen, with a sad little smile.

“My lady,” said Tuludis, “I do hope you are not being naughty.”

“Well,” said Arwen, dropping her head and raising her gaze in an effort to look innocent, “I am trying not to be.”

“Indeed,” said Tuludis, “but your father has rung the bell three times to let us know he was being disturbed while at work. Your brothers were forever going into his study while he was busy when they were small. I would be most disappointed to find that you are doing the same thing.”

Arwen wrung her hands. “I do not mean to disappoint,” she said in a small voice, “but I was excited about the kittens.”

“Would you like to show me?” asked Tuludis. “You can show your father later, after dinner.”

For a moment, she considered this. What Arwen wanted was not just to show her father the kittens, but to share her wonder and joy with him. Tuludis was good and kind, but she was not Ada. She wanted him to hold her, laugh with her and be as amazed at the tiny pink pads on the kittens’ perfect little paws as she was. “I will find something else to do till after dinner,” she said, and went outside again, dragging her steps.

She was skipping pebbles at the stream as her brothers had taught her when her mother arrived.

“There you are, Arwen,” said Celebrían. “Why are you unhappy, child?” She put her gentle arms around Arwen from behind and held her close.

Arwen turned around and hugged her mother. “Nana, why does Ada have to work all day? He will not come out to play with me.”

“He is very busy, child,” said her mother, and tenderly stroked Arwen’s face. “He is a lord, you know.”

“Yes, Nana,” Arwen argued, “but why can he not tell Erestor or Glorfindel to do the writing instead?”

Celebrían laughed and pulled Arwen down on the grassy bank with her. “Oh, darling, when I was a little girl like you, I wanted to play with my Ada, too, but he was very busy. Sometimes he would ask his advisers to take over from him so he could play with me, but at others, I had to let him be a lord and find other ways to amuse myself.”

“I suppose I could find other ways to amuse myself,” said Arwen, “but I really wanted to show him the kittens.”

“What about me?”

“I showed you the chicks, so it was Ada’s turn to see the baby animals.”

“I see.”

“It is important to me to treat both my parents equally, and not play favourites,” explained Arwen.

Celebrían giggled. “You look so much like your father when you quote him, Arwen.” She hugged her tightly. “Now tell me, darling, why did it have to be now?”

Arwen wriggled to get more comfortable in the well of her mother’s blue velvet skirts. Nana’s long silvery hair tickled a little, but it felt good to be held in her arms. “I wanted him to see them while they were still new. Does that make sense?”

“Perfect sense,” said her mother. “You wanted him to see them while they were still new to you. But Arwen, when he comes out later, they will be new to him.”

“Yes, they will,” said Arwen. The sensibility of Nana’s answer pushed the upset away and she felt better about it all now. She snuggled up closer and asked, “Nana, would you like to see them?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

They got up at once, and in hand, Arwen and her mother went to the barn where Gadmae nursed her kittens, purring loudly in her nest of hay.

The End

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