“Oh goodness gracious! Where is Theodore? The guests will be arriving at any moment and he appears to be missing. Oh do find him Howard.”
“Yes your Grace.”
“And don’t be long, the festivities have almost begun.”
Howard gazed at Queen Evangeline’s tall, slender form as she adjusted her broach. A smile crossed her lips and she shook her head. How young and wild her son was. King Rupert took a long sip of wine and wandered from the crowd of guests to greet his wife.
“Ahem! What is this regarding our son?”
“He has escaped our company for the time being, but do not fret my dear Rupert, Howard will find him and all will be well again.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“I think you are forgetting that he is a man Rupert my dear, he is almost 20 years of age.”
“And fast how the years pass Evangeline. I wonder where he might have gotten to?”
“Oh I have my suspicions, as Miss Mallis is missing also.”
“Ah, Miss Mallis. Well, that explains it all.”
Howard paced with great haste, through the vast topiary mazes in attempt to catch any glimpse of Prince Theodore’s fine chestnut hair, or hear his hearty laugh, but all remained silent, except the sound of orchestrations coming from the castle’s great hall.
“Oh your majesty, we are both going to be in trouble! Me especially. Whatever will your parents say?”
“Hush now Jane, or we may be overheard. I am watched like a hawk 24 hours of every single day, but for the next 10 minutes or so we shall be alone. I believe poor Howard has lost us.”
“It is very easy to lose Howard!” Miss Mallis laughed. “He is such a simpleton.”
The insult aimed at Howard stung Theodore like a whip.
“My dear, I ask you not to speak of him in such a way. I am aware that he is not in any way educated, but that man’s service to my family has been second to none and I won’t hear a bad word said about him!”
“I-I apologise, I didn’t mean any harm by it.”
“I know my dear Jane, but pray, don’t say it again. Now then, you know that I always strive to make you happy, are you?”
“Yes Theodore, I am most content. How could I not be? I am stood with one of the richest, most beautiful and most eligible young men in the entire country. You have no idea what kind of happiness that it brings to my family and I. I could dance and sing with joy. I am so lucky.”
“You deserve all the luck and happiness in the world.”
“I do not deserve you.”
“Oh my dear! What ever would make you say or think such things? Pray, do tell me?”
“Very well then. Firstly, I am of a lower class and secondly, so many beautiful women have their eye on the future king, whatever made you choose me?”
“You have social status and estates do you not? Your family own several properties in Canterbury alone, I love you and I dare say that one day, my parents will too.”
“Theodore, we must return, everyone will wonder where you have been.”
“Yes, I suppose that will be the case, come along my dear. You must go in first through the front door, I know of another way in. I shall wait 5 minutes or so. Mingle with the crowds, that way people may think that you have been in the room for longer, but just suppose that they have not noticed.”
“What a clever idea! Oh you are sensible Theodore, far more intelligent than I.”
Theodore secretly beamed inside, but did not admit that Miss Mallis was right, after all, the last thing that he wanted to do was to hurt her feelings.
“Heavens! Mother is coming! I shall make myself scarce!”
Miss Mallis hid behind a small crowd of women, grasping a glass of champagne. Queen Evangeline approached her as Miss Mallis curtsied.
“Oh your majesty, what a wonderful evening this is.”
“It is indeed, have you seen Theodore?”
“N-no. I have not seen him for over half an hour.” She lied.
“I see, perhaps he is in another room.”
“He is probably reading, I am fully aware of his love of books, he is quite the bookworm.”
Miss Mallis laughed nervously, smoothing the creases of her skirts. Queen Evangeline nodded and turned her back, re-joining the crowd.Theodore gazed at the drawing room clock sheepishly. It had been half an hour; surely no-one would suspect him now. He closed one of his much loved books and placed it in the correct order in the library book shelf. He stood in the entrance of the great hall, the crowd silenced and bowed, acknowledging his presence. Queen Evangeline was soon at her son’s side.
“Where were you?”
“That is really none of your business Mother, but if you must know; I was reading.”
“Reading? When we have guests and are in good company.”
“If this is what you class as good company.”
“Everyone wondered where you were and how unusual that you and Miss Mallis disappeared at exactly the same time. People will suspect Theodore, they are not as insolent as you may think!”
“Oh Mother please! I am a man, yet you treat me like a petulant child. I shant lie to you, Miss Mallis and I were together. There now, you know the truth and I no longer feel guilty. Forgive me Mother, please?”
“Yes dear, I forgive you, but why did Miss Mallis lie to me? She said that she was not aware of your whereabouts!”
“Oh dear. Well, I ask you to forgive her, she is a little afraid of you and Father that is all, and rightly so. You hold this country in the palm of your hand.”
“Now that is a very pleasant way of putting it. Now my dear, please stay where we can see you.”
“Yes Mother, as you wish.”
” You are just in time for the dancing my dear.”
“Oh splendid, I shall enjoy that very much.”
“Oh your majesty, you are a fine dancer!”
“Why thank you Miss Mallis, I feel like I must return the compliment. You are extremely graceful, wherever did you learn to dance so well?”
“Oh, I attended lessons and of course I had elocution.”
“You are a very refined, accomplished young woman.”
“Thank you your majesty, you are too kind!”
“No, I speak the truth.”
“You flatter me so; I am blushing!”
Queen Evangeline tapped Rupert’s shoulder;
“My dear, they are most definitely in love!”
“Heavens! So soon?”
“I think so. I do believe that they will be announcing their engagement before long.”
“Don’t count your eggs before they have even hatched Evangeline, but we shall see.”
“Rupert, if he asked your permission, would you allow it?”
“The marriage of course!”
“Oh! That! Why yes, they seem to make a good pair don’t you think?”
“I’m not so sure?”
“Do you doubt our son’s judgement?”
“Hmm, yes a little, I fear that he is blinded by love and he is thinking with his head and not his heart. There is no denying that she is very beautiful, but what is she truly like? Is she good enough for our son?”
“Well dear, I don’t know and only time will tell.”
Theodore and Miss Mallis laughed as the dancing continued. Her beautiful eyes met his and he was smitten, head over heels in love.
“You have the most glorious hair.” He whispered.
“It is no finer than yours, you have the most beautiful chestnut curls, I am very envious.”
He shook his head. “No, I like yours best and it would look even more splendid if it were to be adorned with pearls and fine hats, that can be arranged.”
“Oh how I love fine things.”
“I am aware of it.” Theodore grinned. “And you shall have anything your heart desires.”
“That’s what I said, was it not?”
“Splendid! I am in much need of a new gown!”
“You shall not have one, but several and of course you shall have new hats and gloves.”
“Yes, my indeed. Shall we sit down? I am a little tired.”
“Oh your majesty, I did want to dance the next dance with you.”
“In that case, I have changed my mind, shall we proceed?”
“Theodore, couldn’t the orchestra play something else? This is a slow dance and people will suspect!”
“I think they already do my dear. in time, we shall make our relationship public, but only when my parents come to the decision that it is suitable.”
“Very well, as you wish.”
“Ah, I see that you are not pleased with this.”
“I am not.”
“Well, it has to be done this way. We must court for a while and then, eventually I shall ask my parents for their permission to have your hand in marriage. Should they accept, then we can make our engagement public.”
“Everyone in the kingdom will know?”
“Oh how exciting! What a wonderful thought, everyone will know who I am, how splendid!”
“Yes and one day, you shall be Queen in time and I king.”
“I hadn’t thought of that! This kingdom shall be ours.”
“Yes and everything I own shall become yours also.”
“Will I have my own servants?”
“Yes of course, only the best for you my dear. Here, shall we sit at the banquet table? I have taken a fancy to having a glass of wine.”
“Wine? Oh yes, I have only tried it once before.”
“Well, I dare say that this will be the best wine that you have tasted. Here now.” Theodore clicked his fingers and a servant quickly filled the glasses.
“There my dear Miss Mallis, take a sip and tell me exactly what you think.”
She placed a hand upon his thigh.
“Please my love, you must call me Jane.”
“Very well Jane, do you like it?”
“Why,it is delicious and indeed the most magnificent grape!”
She placed the glass down on the table, letting out a burst of laughter and hid her face in her handkerchief.
“Whatever is the matter?”
“Good God! Who is that woman in the red satin gown, she is the most dreadful dancer that I have ever seen. I could make a better attempt of that dance with my ankles tied together.”
Theodore flared his nostrils, biting his bottom lip.
“Oh, what a dreadful thing to say!”
“She looks like a circus elephant! The most shocking part is that I was just thinking how clumsy she looked upon the floor. Women of a certain size should not be allowed to dance!” Jane cried.
The woman looked up. Theodore’s face fell and his heart froze for a brief second in his chest. Jane giggled, taking another long sip of wine, while Theodore’s cheeks flushed a bright shade of fuchsia.
“Theodore, what pains you?”
“Jane, she overheard you! Oh Lord, I feel like I owe the poor woman an apology!”
“Oh she will have forgotten by morning, all I said was true. Here, finish your goblet of wine, I would love to share another dance with you! Oh come on now, don’t behave coldly with me, you know that I didn’t mean what I said, it was just a light hearted little joke was it not?”
“I suppose so, but I do not wish to offend people.”
“I offended you, you didn’t even say anything. Once the wine goes to her head she will forget everything. Now kiss me and all shall be well again.” Theodore planted a kiss upon her smooth cheek.
“That was a little cold! I am very disappointed.”
“We are in the public eye!”
“Oh yes, I suppose we are. Oh well it will have to do for now. Oh my dear I simply must see you tomorrow, I want to do something exiting, I know full well that you are an exquisite rider! Oh do take me horse riding.”
“Very well then, as you are staying in the castle tonight, you may stay longer than the other guests and we shall go tomorrow after they have gone.”
“Oh yes, marvellous! Have you a horse for me?”
“Why of course! We have 5 and I know full well that Mother would like more in the near future. Yes, Marigold will be the perfect height for you.”
“Oh everything is falling into place. How fun it will be and just imagine, I am to ride with a prince. I must write to my Mother and tell her!”
“Very well then.” Jane curtsied and scurried up to her guest bedroom, grasping a sheet of paper from her desk.
‘Dear Mother, I having the most wonderful time at the palace. I can’t even begin to explain it. Prince Theodore is generous and charming and I can see that he falls a little more in love with me each day. I intend to make him mine, listen for word of our engagement. Your daughter, Jane.’
“The palace seems so quiet now.”
“Yes, I agree, but I prefer it that way.”
“What are you reading?”
“Oh it is a book belonging to my Grandfather.”
“Oh, to tell you the truth, I loathe reading it is so dull.”
“You really think so? Why, when I am alone it is my favourite past time, I’d say that I must have read over three quarters of the books in this palace, there are so many, I can’t imagine that I’ll ever get the chance to read them all.”
“Ah, no probably not.”
“What is the pattern upon your tapestry?”
“I haven’t quite decided yet, I am in two mind sets on what to do!”
“Well, I will look forward to seeing the finished result and I dare say that Mother would hang it somewhere in the palace.”
“I’d like that, that means that every time you see it, you will always think of me!”
“Yes indeed. Pray forgive me, I am growing tired so I think that I shall have to retire to bed, I hope that you find your bedroom comfortable Jane, goodnight.”
“Goodnight your grace.”
“Please, call me Theodore.”
Jane awoke, placing on her black riding hat with it’s long veil. She strutted through the long corridors in search of Theodore. She approached one of the several butlers.
“Please Sir, could you tell me where Prince Theodore is?”
“He is in one of the drawing rooms down stairs, playing the harpsichord.”
“My goodness! That is him playing, my! I am very impressed.”
“Yes his majesty seems to be brilliant at everything he puts his mind to doing.”
“It appears that way. I shall find him now.”
Jane held onto the banister, gracefully stepping down the red carpeted staircase and knocked on the drawing room door.
“My you are keen Jane! I have arranged for us to have breakfast together and then we must ride.”
“Oh, well I could easily do without.”
“I however cannot I’m afraid. I cannot begin to function without food.”
“Yes your grace, well in that case I shall dine with you.”
“Please Jane, call me Theodore, you do not need to call me your grace any longer.”
“Splendid! Very well Theodore I feel that this is the first time that I shall enjoy breakfast.”
Jane placed a tiny piece of toast into her prim mouth, chewing slowly. She ate half a piece, leaving the remainder.Theodore glanced at the waste upon her plate, yet said nothing. She gazed up at him.
“Forgive me, I am rarely hungry until luncheon.”
“I see, well I am nearly finished now. I can tell that you are keen to go.”
“Oh yes extremely.”
Theodore downed the last mouthful of tea.
“Well, in that case, we shall ride.”
Jane picked up her hat from the small wooden table and placed it onto her head.
“There now, I am all ready, but tell me, how do I look?”
“Very beautiful as always and radiant. You always look so fresh.”
“Well you are as handsome as I am beautiful, we make a very attractive couple Theodore, don’t you think?”
“I agree, what a glorious Queen you shall be. I can already envision that crown upon your head.”
“Ah and I can already feel it.”
“Come along now, I think that we are becoming a little lost in our reverie!”
“It was a divine one!”
“You are divine!” Theodore laughed. “Now come along!”
Theodore offered Jane his hand, which she took gratefully.
“It is so perfect.”
“This, being here with you and in your palace, I never want things to change Theodore, I want us to be this happy forever.”
“Well, I dare say that we shall grow older and wiser, but yes I feel most content at this moment in time. You are a beautiful young woman and you have no idea how happy you make me, I’m so over the moon I could burst. There, now you know.”
“I already knew it. Let’s ride. Here, I shall help you onto your horse.” Theodore did so with care, before mounting his own.
“I will race you Theodore and I will win!”
“Not if I have my say in the matter, the first person to touch the oak tree in the meadow wins.” Theodore tapped the horse with the stirrups and raced into the countryside, the cold wind in his face, he laughed as he heard Jane’s cry of defeatas he placed his hands upon the bark, I win!”
Jane followed, pouting.
“You cheated, you already had a good 30 second head start and then you declare yourself the winner, that really isn’t fair Theodore.”
“I am sorry Jane! Please don’t be upset.”
“I tell you that you are, but pray, tell me, how I can make amends?”
“Ah, now that sounds like a very sensible plan.”
He placed his hands around her small waist, sensing the material of her riding cape and dress underneath his fingertips. Theodore drew Jane close to his as she placed her arms around his slender neck and kissed him tenderly, intertwining her fingers in his soft, chestnut curls.
“You have beautiful hair.” She gasped, pausing for air.
“Shhh.” He kissed her once more, but on the forehead.
“That was most pleasant I have to admit. You are an excellent kisser your majesty.”
“Yes. I am sorry, Theodore.”
“Why, thank you I am flattered and I feel that I have surpassed myself, seeing as though you are first woman that I have ever kissed.”
“Please kiss me again, I never want this moment to end.”
“We cannot stand here kissing for the next 20 years.”
“It is all so beautiful, the weather, being here with you…”
“That is why I am taking the opportunity to…”
Theodore got down upon one knee, producing a small box from his pocket.
“Theodore!” She shrieked, placing a hand to her mouth.
“This is beyond my wildest dreams, oh I have gone to heaven!”
“You have not seen it yet.”
Carefully, he opened the small, blue velvet box, to reveal an exquisite ring.
“Oh heavens! It must have cost a small fortune.”
Theodore shook his head.
“It is a family heirloom.”
Jane’s face fell, the excitement in her eyes vanishing.
“You-you do not like it?”
“I do, but I am not sure about wearing someone else’s ring, if you get my meaning.”
“I am most disappointed, please at least try it on.”
“Oh Theodore, I apologise, I just expected the ring to be new, that was all.”
“It is tradition in my family to pass down rings and such, it belonged to my Grandmother.”
He slipped the ring onto her finger, she held it up to the sunlight, catching it’s rays and sparkling magnificently.
“It is very pretty.”
“You like it?”
“ Oh yes, of course! My we are engaged, just like that, I can’t believe it.”
“Come, we must tell my Mother and Father.”
“You did ask their permission didn’t you?”
“Not as such Jane my love, but they had their strong suspicions and I am sure that they have grown very fond of you. Come, we have to share our good news!”
“Yes we must.”
Jane took another glance at the delicate ring, secretly she had hoped for a ruby or diamond, something with a bigger stone which would sit out prominently upon her finger.
“Jane, you hesitate. Whatever is the matter, you know that you can tell me, I give you permission to speak freely.”
“I am just a little overwhelmed with happiness.” She lied, forcing a smile.
“Ah. I too, this is the happiest day of my life!”
Theodore entered the small dining hall where his parents sat eating a late breakfast. They glanced at the contented young couple, having their suspicions.
“Mother, Father. I have asked Jane to marry me and she has said yes! We are engaged!”
Rupert and Evangeline glanced at each other, their eyes widening. Rupert wiped the corner of his mouth, placing his napkin down upon the table.
“You- you are engaged? You did not ask for my permission!”
Theodore turned pale and swallowed.
“I did not, but I know that you both have a high opinion of Jane.”
Queen Evangeline embraced him.
“Congratulations to you both, I have no objection to the match. I have already told you in the past that I think highly of Miss Mallis.”
“Please, call me Jane.”
“Very well my dear Jane. That ring is most beautiful on your slim finger. Oh Rupert, do come and see her ring?”
Rupert who was staring out of the window, turned back to face them, forced a smile and came closer to examine the engagement ring.
“It suits you Miss Mallis and I have to say that you both seem very happy together.”
“Oh we are.”
“We shall announce the engagement public ally at last! I suspected it at the dance last night, I knew that there would be a royal wedding soon! Oh how wonderful. Come we must celebrate, Theodore you shall have a new suit made and Jane shall have a brand new gown!”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014