“It feels so splendid to be engaged don’t you think?”
“There is so much excitement surrounding the whole thing. Yes, I do suppose it does Theodore.”
“Jane, you don’t sound certain.”
“Oh I can’t wait to see my new gown, when shall it be ready?” Jane added, in attempt to change the subject.
“When my Mother’s dress maker has finished it. She is very nimble fingered. I imagine that it will not take her any longer than 5 days to complete.”
“That is not long at all. What is on your mind Theodore, pray tell me what are you thinking? You seem a little sullen all of a sudden.”
“Forgive me, sometimes I have moments when I am extremely happy, but then I worry that my happiness might be taken away from me. Such a silly thought. I give you permission to ignore me completely.”
“And why would I do that Theodore? Don’t worry about things that wont come true. We are very young yet and have been in good health up to now.”
“I know.”
“Then why let it bother you so? I think you and I are in need of a little refreshment, I propose that we take tea in the drawing-room.”
“An excellent notion Jane! I do believe that you will soon be accustomed to this lifestyle, you are doing exceptionally well already. I shall ring the bell.”
He did so, and a sumptuous afternoon tea was brought to them.

“My! Fruit scones, they are the most beautiful ones that I have ever seen. I am afraid of gaining weight.”
“Weight? You are as slender as can be, don’t let that worry your pretty little head.”
“I wont be for long. I am not used to such rich food.”
“I see. Well, everything in moderation.”
“Yes I suppose so.”
She cut a tiny piece of scone nibbling at it like a church mouse. Theodore cleared his throat, placing some scone into his own and chewing with care.
I am so flattered.”
“Why is that my dear?”
“I am flattered that you chose plain little me.”
“You are not in the least bit plain, you are quite the beauty.”
“But what about all the other women you could have chosen?”
“You were the chosen one.” Theodore laughed.
“My dear, I see that you are leaving half of your scone, why is that?”
“I am not so hungry today, I can’t think why. Perhaps it is a good thing.”
“Perhaps. Well, I wont eat my other half either, but I would like some more tea. Here, you don’t need to ring for the servants, I am quite capable of doing it myself. What precisely are you doing?”
“Admiring you.”
“Me? Oh, why?”
“Do you not like me doing it?”
“I do not mind at all, except forgive me, it’s not something that I’m accustomed to.”
“That’s understandable. Neither am I.”
“You must be!”
“Not really. Oh I’d almost forgotten, you said you’d like some more tea, here you go, and would you like some more milk?”
“Yes dearest.”
“There you are then.”
“That is perfect, thank you.”
“Have you written to your family and told them?”
“Yes, of course I have. They will be very excited to discover our news. Even if I hadn’t told her, she would have found out sooner or later anyway. You look so- so.”
“So what my dear Jane?”
“Erm, ravishing as a matter of fact. Might I kiss you?”
“And why would you need to ask my permission?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come here please.”
She joined him on the plush, red velvet sofa opposite herself, seating herself upon his knee. She kissed his cheek, Theodore laughed ever so slightly as her warm breath tickled his cheek. He turned her face to him, kissing her full, rosy lips. She kissed him back, slowly moving her mouth and placing her tongue into his. Theodore paused for a moment and kissed her once more, before coming up for air. He blushed ever so slightly.
“My, that was rather pleasurable! More so than before. You are quite the natural Jane.”
“Why, thank you. I have to admit that I have not had much practice.”
“Much practice?”
“Forgive me, I have only kissed one other apart from yourself.”
“Don’t look so alarmed, it was only once and perfectly horrid!”
“How so?”
The boy was ugly.”
“That’s a little mean is it not? What became of him?”
“I have no idea Theodore, I haven’t seen him in four years, come this Autumn.”
“Well that makes me feel happier about the whole thing. What did he look like?”
“Oh not half as handsome as you Theodore.”
“Ah, now you flatter me!”
“No it’s true. He had a heavier brow and dark brown hair. You have gentler eyes and a better complexion.”
“I see, well that is always reassuring.”
“Theodore, your majesty, please do not be cross with me.”
“I am not angry, I only wish that you had told me beforehand. We need to be truthful and honest with each other if this engagement and hopefully marriage is to last.”
“I’m sorry and I fully understand. I apologise for not telling you before.”
“Well you have confessed now. Is there anything else that you wish to tell me?”
“No my dear, nothing at all. Or at least, not that I can think of.”
“Ah here is Mother. Good afternoon!”
“Hello my dears, don’t you both look cheery, I see that you have both had refreshments. You both look so happy. Anyway, don’t mind me, I shall leave you in peace. I am shortly being joined by a friend myself.”
“Have a lovely time Mother.”
Jane swallowed. “Goodbye your majesty.”
“Jane you need not be afraid of Mother you know.”
“I-I’m not.”
“I tell you that you are, but you ought not to be. She is a great woman.”
“I have no doubt of it.”
“Indeed. We are to begin the celebrations soon!”
“For our engagement of course.”
“Oh goodness.”
“Don’t look so scared, it will be very exciting. Now then I have a gift for you, I can’t believe how quickly it arrived. It is the first of many. Howard, do bring it in.”

Howard shuffled into the room carrying a large gift box.
“Good heavens, what is in it?”
“Open it and you shall see. A little something new for tomorrow.”
“The first of our many engagement parties. I have a waistcoat and cravat to match.”
“Ah, I may have guessed!”
With great care, Jane removed the lid from the box to unveil masses of tissue paper.
“Oh my! Is it what I think it is?”
“Most probably!”
She peeled back the layers of tissue paper like a lotus flower, slipping the gown from it’s beautiful box. She held it against her, swaying gently from side to side so that the material swished.
“It is the most exquisite gift I have received! Oh heavens!”
“And you shall have more in time, I can’t wait to see you wearing it.”
“What a gorgeous colour, I adore midnight blue. So you are wearing that colour also?”
“Partly, yes. I can’t wait to show you off to everyone.”
“How I shall relish every moment of the attention. Oh Theodore, you really are a dear, I shall be quite the belle of the ball!”
“Yes, indeed you will, now come along my dear, I propose that we take a little stroll in the grounds.”
“Must we, it is quite cold outside.”
“I feel like I would benefit from fresh air, but you need not come with me if you don’t want to.”
“No, no I’ll come.”
“Ah, that pleases me a great deal, come along then Jane, it will only be for an hour.”
Hand in hand, they strolled into the gardens.
“ My how beautiful it is. I love nature, do you like it Jane?”
“I have to be honest, no not really.”
“Then, I am determined to convert you. It would take something very serious indeed for me not to want to set foot out of doors. Here, please come with me.”
“Very well then Theodore, I shall go and get my warmer gloves and shawl. It is the cold that I fear the most.”
She returned promptly. Theodore held out his gloved hand and took hers in his.
“You have such slim, nimble fingers.”
“You have already said that. It’s a shame that I have to wear gloves, it means that I have no choice but to hide my engagement ring.”
“Well, no-one shall see us anyway, except perhaps the gardener.” Theodore pointed to him.
“Oh yes! Look at the poor creature hiding away there!”
“That’s what I said isn’t it?”
“Yes Jane, but as far as I can see, he is a man.”
“Oh Theodore! It is just a term I use, no need to become all serious all of a sudden.”
“Yes, well, all human beings deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what their cast.”
“Social class.”
“Oh yes. Theodore, what is the matter?”
“Well, all of a sudden you look very pale and drawn.”
“Drawn? Now I don’t recall having my portrait done before.”
“Oh Theodore, please be sensible. I am worried, the colour has gone from your cheeks and you are really quite breathless!”
“Don’t fret. Here, I shall sit down on this bench.”
“Do you feel unwell?”
“No, I think it was the cold air taking my breath away. It happens to me sometimes, it is really quite odd.”
“Would you like to go inside?”
“Not yet, but would you mind if we just sat here?”
“Not at all. What’s wrong? Theodore, tell me! What is the matter?”

Theodore placed his head in his hands and closed his eyes, the world revolving rapidly around his trembling body. He swayed in his seated position, his head falling into Jane’s lap.
“Theodore!” She shook him, quite violently. He gasped and his eyes flashed open.
“I-I am sorry.”
“What on earth just happened?”
“I don’t know.”
“You fainted? You did didn’t you?”
“Don’t lie to me, be truthful, are you ill?”
“Jane my dear, I shall explain. Sometimes, but not very often I have little dizzy spells which sometimes lead to me loosing consciousness for a few seconds.” He sighed loudly. “There, now you know.”
“And you forgot to tell me this?”
“Jane, I thought you knew.”
“No! No I did not.”
“You were at my parent’s anniversary banquet with your parents were you not?”
“Well of course I was. Oh God! That’s why you left the table for half an hour isn’t it? And the Christmas ball last year when you made a very swift exit from the room. Forgive me, I thought that you had been drinking to excess and needed to…”
“I never allow myself to get intoxicated, ever!”
“I-I’m sorry Theodore, let’s not quarrel. Do you feel unwell at this moment in time?”
“Just a little light headed.”
“I am furious! How could you keep this from me?!”
“I really am sorry.”
“No you’re not! How can you propose to a girl who you claim to love and then force this news upon her? It isn’t right Theodore. What happens if these little attacks get worse, am I to become your nurse maid?”
“Oh Lord, no! I wouldn’t expect that of anyone.”
“I can’t believe that you only told me this now, this is ridiculous, and what kind of life are we going to lead?”
“I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
“Theodore! You are 19 years of age!”
“Yes, well remembered.”
“No, I mean it could be something very dangerous indeed. Are your parents aware?”
“What? Partly?”
“Yes they know about it, but…”
“But what?”
“I wish to live a normal life. If I told them too much, then I think they’d stop me from horse riding for example.”
“Perhaps that is a good thing. They only know half of the truth?”
“They know most of it.”
“This is outrageous!”
“Your reaction was the most outrageous part of it. What happened to the excited, loving girl whom I proposed to? Hmm?”
“She is still here, but in shock.”
Theodore stood up, helping Jane to her feet. He kissed her, but she pulled away, salty tears filling her eyes.
“Don’t cry for me. I’ll be alright I’m sure.”
“I’m not crying for you! I’m crying for myself! I am engaged to a liar and it scares me so!”
“Darling, I didn’t lie.”
“Darling.” She parroted, mockingly. “Don’t patronise me Theodore!”
“I can understand that you’re cross.”
“I am boiling over with anger!”
“Please don’t look at me like that.”
“Like what? Argh! I’m going to have to go to my room to cool off and decide what to do. I must get ready for this evening.”
“Decide what to do?”
“Are you deaf? Must you repeat everything I say like a trained parakeet? We shall speak again in one hour! Oh and please try not to faint again.”

Theodore stumbled along the landing, blinded by his falling tears. He made his way into his four-poster bedroom and flopped onto his bed, hiding his face in his pillow. He lay there for a few minutes, before lying on his back, placing a hand to his fevered brow. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t attend the dance tonight’, he thought, attempting to tame his breathing and racing heart, which pounded heavily against his rib cage. Theodore composed himself, splashing his face with cold water. He washed and changed his clothes for the evening, sitting down at his dresser. His legs trembled terribly. Theodore combed his wavy chestnut hair, gazing into his mirror, admiring it as it gleamed in the last of the dawn sunlight creeping through his window. There came a tapping at his door.
“Go away!” He snapped. The door creaked open and Howard, his male servant peered gingerly around the door.
“Oh Howard, I’m sorry, what is it?”
“Your Mother and Father were asking after you. They are already downstairs and the guests are beginning to arrive.”
“Tell them that I shall be down in 10 minutes or so.”
“Very good, your grace.”
Theodore adjusted his outfit once more, there came a second tapping at the door. It was Jane.
“Jane! Come in.”
“I- I wanted to apologise.”
“Nonsense, you do not need to. My how revising you look, how proud I will be to have the most beautiful girl in the room with me.”
“You are too kind Theodore. I am only beautiful, because of the stunning dress and I thank you.”
“Why no! You are a natural beauty.”
She blushed. “Thank you.”
“There now we are friends again, shall we go downstairs?”
“Yes of course. You go first, you are the Prince after all.”
“We shall go together; I want to make you my equal.”
“Very well. I am looking forward to tasting another glass of that delicious wine!”
Theodore laughed. “And what about your fiancée?”
“What about him?”
“Are you looking forward to spending our first proper evening together as a newly engaged couple?”
“Oh yes! Of course! ”
“I am glad.”
“I beg your pardon, but you are not yourself. You look pale and tired.”
“What a silly thing to say. Pray, don’t mention it again today, all this talk of my health tires me, now let’s go and make our appearance. Are you ready?”
“Yes, of course. I am not nervous in the slightest.”
Queen Evangeline cleared her throat.
“Ladies and Gentleman, you all know of my son Prince Theodore; second in line to the throne, but might I introduce his fiancée Miss Jane Mallis. I am very proud to welcome her into our family”
Jane beamed and squeezed Theodore’s hand as they descended the remainder of the staircase together. The court bowed and curtsied and a round of applause filled the air with cries of; “Congratulations” and “It is a joyous day for the whole kingdom.”
Theodore kissed Jane’s cheek. She pulled away ever so slightly, embarrassed to be kissed in public.
“Don’t be shy Jane, just be happy.”
“I am.” She reassured.
“You don’t look to be. I dare say that the dancing will cheer you up. Here ,have some champagne my dear.” He grasped one of the many glasses from a silver tray and handed it to her.
“You are not drinking champagne yourself Theodore? You don’t feel that there is cause to celebrate? Whatever will you drink for the toast?”
“Forgive me Jane, for tonight, I will just drink water.”
“You are being careful,something is wrong!”
“Shh, will you keep your voice down please. I am fine now, stop making a mountain out of a mole hill and please smile. Try to look remotely happy.”
“How can I when you look so ill?”
“Shh, I do believe that Father is going to make a speech.”
Jane pursed her lips, loosening her grip on Theodore’s hand.
“Ladies and Gentleman. Welcome to our home. I am delighted to be celebrating my son Prince Theodore’s engagement to Miss Jane Mallis this evening. I imagine that they are soon to be married and my wife and I wish them a long and happy marriage.”
Queen Evangeline nodded, wiping away a tear. Theodore swallowed, were they tears of happiness? He truly hoped so. It was not long before the pair were mingling with the crowd. Theodore sensed Jane’s fear, taking her to one side.
“What is wrong my love?”
“I do not know anyone, not really.”
“Ah, well my cousin Elizabeth is very kind and only three years older than us. Here, I shall introduce you after I greet her.”
Elizabeth’s eyes lit up, after seeing Theodore and kissed him on both his cheeks.
“My dear Theodore! How are you cousin?”
“I am well, thank you.” He stated uncertainly.
“You do not sound confident.”
“I am. Here, where are my manners? This is my fiancée, Miss Jane Mallis.”
“And very beautiful she is too. What a stunning couple you make.”
“Thank you ma’am.”
“Please, call me Elizabeth, Jane. Theodore is a dear and will treat you well, you are both going to be so happy!” She beamed, adjusting the pearl hair pin in her curly, chocolate brown hair.
“Yes.” Jane nodded. “Your gown in very beautiful Elizabeth.”
“Why, thank you! Although, it is not half as grand as yours.”
“Oh I don’t know, I like it. Let us talk.”
“Why of course Jane, are you happy?”
“Oh yes! The happiest I have been in years! Theodore’s family have all been so kind to me although, I don’t know if the Queen likes me.”
“Aunt Evangeline? Oh of course she does, I think change scares her a little, that’s all. Once she warms to you, you two will get on like a house on fire.”
“I really hope so. I do want to be on good terms.”
“Is there anything that I should know about Theodore, that I might not know already?”
“Hmm, yes there is one thing.”

To be continued…

©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014


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