Jenkins looked at a sheet of parchment, and in his clear Welsh voice announced, “Hector De’Merly versus Jack Smith, and Rob Brewer versus William Longstaff, in that order.”
The Master of ceremonies called for order and announced, “De’Merly up to the mark.”
De’Merly stepped forward and sent his three perfectly made arrows directly at the bull.
“All in the centre” cried the umpire.
Jack stepped up, still unaware of the damaged flight; his first two arrows were excellent, but he knew the same instant that he loosed his last, and the flight came loose. The arrow, unbalanced, flew far too low, spinning erratically through the air… thwack, it hit the target but only just.
“De’Merly is the first finalist,” announced the Master of Ceremonies.
Jack tried hard to not show his disappointment; nonetheless his head was down as he walked back to his seat.
Rob and William took their places at the archers’ stand; William was an excellent archer, he loosed his three arrows very quickly and accurately.
“Small hand grouping in the bull,” announced the umpire.
Rob knew this would need to be his very best if he were to go through to final; he took a deep breath, pulled back and loosed, first in the dead centre, second an inch away, the third between his first two arrows.
“Inside a small hand!” Yelled the umpire, and Rob was through to the final.
“And now your Majesties, Lords, ladies and Gentlemen. The finalists are Hector De’Merly and Rob Brewer,” came the announcement from the Master of Ceremonies.
Applause and cheers rang out from the crowd. Rob stepped forward and a sense of calm came over him, he imagined that this was just him and Jack having a practice session on the village green. At last he could submerge the butterflies in his stomach; he took a deep breath, aimed carefully and loosed the best three arrows he had ever shot, wham, wham, wham they struck the bull, all in the centre, the last so close to the first that it stripped the flight clean off.
“All in a tight fist,” said the umpire.
De’Merly stepped forwards giving Rob a contemptuous glance. His first arrow was good, very good, however the second and third were not.
“In a hands breadth,” called the umpire.
Rob had won. De’Merly’s face contorted with rage as he pirouetted round screaming at the umpires.
“He has had his bow shaped by Jenkins and had his bow restrung. I want Jenkins to look at my bow and I want a rematch! It’s your fault mother, if you had got me Jenkins I would have won!” He threw down his beautiful bow at his mother’s feet and stormed off leaving an embarrassing silence.
The Brewer family followed closely by Jenkins and the Smiths ran forwards to congratulate Rob. Jack was first to greet him jumping and cheering with everyone.
The Master of Ceremonies called, “Silence please!” The noise died down to a murmur, “now Master Bowman Jenkins will present the prize of ten gold shillings to this year’s winner, young Rob Brewer of Marlton Village!”
Jenkins shook Rob’s hand and handed him a small leather bag containing ten gold shillings. “Congratulations and very well done indeed!” and then in a whisper to Rob, “don’t open it now, just hold it up in the air.”
This Rob did to a huge cheer and more hugs from his mother and father. Jack stood a little to one side trying manfully to hide his disappointment, then he thought to himself, well if I couldn’t win it I’m glad that Rob did.
A cry went up from the festive throng, “Three cheers for the young archers from Marlton!”
As the celebrations drew to a close, the two young men and their families gradually made their way back to their tents. Rob was taking in every smell, sight and sound, determined to remember this day for the rest of his life.