Theodore lay, his head covered with his sheet, aware of his blood pulsating through his veins and arteries. He knew Jane was gone, gone for ever. He still had her engagement ring clutched tightly in his grasp, the stone making a prominent indentation into the palm of his hand. Jane darted down the staircase, taking the servant’s exit so that no-one would see her. Queen Evangeline heard the heavy footsteps, gazing up from her tapestry.
“Miss Mallis is that you?”
Jane did not answer and scurried out of a side door. Queen Evangeline placed down her handiwork, going to investigate, but she was no-where to be seen. Collectively, she marched up the staircase and tapped on Theodore’s door.
“My dear, open your bedroom door please and explain to me what is going on.”
It was not locked, she lifted the latch and waked in. She glanced at the huddle of bed covers pulled over a human form. Without saying so much as a word, she sat by him, placing a hand upon his shoulder.
“Theodore, where is Miss Mallis?” There came no reply. “Oh Lord this is my doing. Theodore my dear, I fear that I was too hard on her.” She pulled the blanket away from his tear-stained face.
“My, you are very warm. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hide your face any longer.”
“She thinks I am a liar! Well, I don’t blame her, that’s what I am; a selfish, uncouth, fool. That poor girl, what have a done? I fear that her heart may be broken.”
“Theodore my son, I can assure you that hers is perfectly intact. I see you are suffering and if there was a way to mend things, then I would do everything in my power to help you.”
“Mother, the damage is done now. The worst of it is over and I must forgive and forget. I must stop wallowing in my own self-pity and get out of bed. ”
“As you wish, perhaps you should rest. You have dark circles around your eyes my dear.”
“Well, for now I shall read in the library.”
“Yes, I think that to be a sensible idea for the time being.”
“Mother, the weather has improved again and I am in much need of some fresh air and exercise. I shall take my horse and go for a ride.”
“Theodore I realise that you are a man now, but think of your health, I would not advise it, not today. You have endured a shock and are very fragile. Please wait until tomorrow, so that you can decide then how you feel.”
“I am a man, not a child, so I ask you to stop treating me like one. You smother me! Yes, I shall go for that horse ride and it will do me no harm at all.”
Theodore meandered into the stable, quite alone. He pulled on his riding boots, wandering over to his favourite horse. He stroked her mane, sensing the coarseness of it.
“Aren’t you a beautiful girl?” He cooed, patting the side of her broad neck and lead her out of the stables. The well-trained horse stooped as Theodore mounted her, gracefully placing his boots into the stirrups.
“Yah!” He tapped her side and he raced out into the meadow on horse back. Theodore loved the freedom more than anything else, he closed his eyes, placing his arms around the horse’s neck as they raced. How he wished Jane was with him, the emptiness inside him ached and stung like a flesh wound, a wound across his heart. He sobbed, placing a hand to his throbbing chest, gasping for breath. The horse stopped, sensing it’s master’s distress and neighing loudly. Theodore, in his agony and confusion, dismounted his horse, collapsing onto the grass. The horse whinnied again, nudging Theodore with his nose, but he did not stir. She bolted, continuing to neigh loudly and raced towards the palace. Howard looked up from the bench he was painting and held his hands out to stop her and took her reins with gentle care.
“There now, what’s this about?” The horse nudged his arm and his back with her head.
“Ah, you’re trying to show me something? C-come on then, you shall take me there.”
Howard mounted the horse and braved the ride. The horse paused as Howard caught site of Theodore’s riding jacket.
“Your majesty?” No response. Howard crouched beside him, shaking the young prince. He placed a hand in front of his mouth, sensing his breath upon the back of his hand. He was alive. Howard assumed the trickle of the blood from his nose must be an injury from the accident.
“Prince Theodore, are you badly hurt?”
He did not respond. Howard bit his bottom lip, scooping the unconscious Theodore up in his arms. He placed Theodore on the horse first, before climbing on behind him, placing a hand around his waist to hold him up, propping his limp body against his own.
“Poor young sir, I feel that you were not well enough for that horse ride. I think sometimes the heart can control the mind. Your Mother is very worried about you.”
He placed a hand to Theodore’s flushed, clammy brow. “Oh dear, you have the start of the fever also.”
He led the horse into the stable and carried Theodore into the place. Queen Evangeline paced into the hallway, placing both hands to her face. “My Lord! What on earth happened?
“Prince Theodore has fallen from his horse.”
“He looks frightful, he must be put to bed immediately!”
“Yes your Grace. Your Grace, I think his arm is injured.”
“Then, once he is in bed, you shall fetch our Physician directly.”
“And Howard, I thank you, without you he may still have been lying outside somewhere. Oh whatever made him do this! I fear that Miss Mallis has broken his heart, that is the cause and now he has gone and fallen off his horse. Good Lord, so much drama! Horrible. Howard, place him in his bedroom, he is covered in mud, place another sheet on top of his bed before you place him on it.”
“Of course Madam and then I shall get the Physician.”
“Yes, that is what I said is it not?”
“Until you return, I shall stay with my son. Urgh! He is covered in mud! Remove his riding boots before you go, we do not want soil all over our floors, making uneseccary work for our servants, do we?”
“I shall do it now, there.”
She took out a bottle of smelling salts from her dress pocket, she supported his head with her hand as he inhaled. Theodore coughed. She stroked his cheek, but he barley sensed it.
“Theodore my dear, you have taken a nasty fall from your horse. I fear that you were not well before you stepped out of the palace. You must rest, Howard has gone to fetch our best physician.”
A red- faced, panting Howard returned with the doctor. “Ma’am the doctor is here.”
“Yes Howard, I can see that. Thank you for your service. You may take the rest of the day off.”
“Why thank you ma’am. Please tell his grace that I hope he makes a rapid recovery.” He bowed and exited the room.
The doctor removed Theodore’s mud-spattered clothing, taking great care not to move his arm too much, before carefully stetting it. Queen Evangeline, rushed to Rupert, who had just returned from a public engagement.
“Oh my dear! I am so glad that you are home!” She wept, placing her head upon his shoulder.
“Where is Theodore, has he said something to upset you?”
“No!” She sobbed. “He- he is very ill I fear!”
“Good God! Where is he now?”
“Theodore is in his room, the physician is with him. He has a broken arm and a fever, but worse a broken heart. My God! I could strike Miss Mallis down! She is never to set foot in this castle again, as far as I am concerned she is banished. Oh I curse the day that she met Theodore, I curse the day that she was born!”
“Oh my dear! We shall go and see him once Mr Dickinson our physician leaves, I am sure it is not as bad as it all seems. We are both aware that his health has been unsteady of late.”
“I fear it is. This is the sickest he has ever been.”
“In what way?”
“He is barely conscious.”
“Theodore will come around and his arm will heal.”
“You are not at all worried?”
“I have to admit to being slightly concerned.”
“I need to see my son!”
“Hush dear, you are very shocked. Here, sit by the fire, I will ring the bell for some hot tea.”
“How can you be so calm when Theodore is lying unconscious in his bed? I must- I must go and see him!”
Queen Evangaline hastened her step up the staircase, pushing open Theodore’s bedroom door with no warning. She gasped, pinning herself against the wall as she caught sight of the semi-naked Theodore; a blood collecting bowl ready under his left arm. His cheeks were flushed, his brow clammy as the waves of his fine hair clung to his fine face like limpets. His naked chest rose and fell rapidly, a single sheet covering his lower body. She caught sight of a pile of muddy towels in one corner.
He looked up, rolling down his white shirt sleeved and performed a low bow.
“Your majesty, I have done all I can for his grace. He has a fever, but apart from that, I am unsure of what is wrong with him. It may be the beginnings of Scarlet fever, but until the distinctive, strawberry-red rash covers his body, I am afraid that I am unable to tell you.”
“My God! You cannot wake him?”
“No your Grace.”
“You have tried everything?”
“Yes, I am afraid so.”
“What can I do?”
“Have faith and pray, God works in mysterious ways. I do believe that he has a plan for us all. There is little more I can do for his Grace at the moment. Stay with him tonight, keep his head cool and body warm, we must banish this fever from his body.”
Queen Evangeline gasped. “Miss Mallis ought to know!”
“Your grace, I shall go now.”
“Thank you Mr Dickinson.”
“God bless you all ma’am. Your family shall be in my thoughts and prayers tonight.”
Queen Evangeline sat by Theodore’s bed. Every two minutes or so, she gazed up from her tapestry.
“Jane.” He muttered. “Jane.”
She grasped some writing paper and a pen.
‘Dear Miss Mallis,
As you are probably not aware, I thought that I should write to you myself. Prince Theodore has taken ill and his condition is as worse as I feared. He says nothing, only your name. I know for a fact that you are in his fevered thoughts still, even though his brain is overrun with delirium. Please Jane, come back to him, that is all I ask.’
HRH Queen Evangeline’
Jane sat on her velvet window seat, her feet tucked under one of the many silk gowns Theodore had bought as gifts. There came a knock on her bedroom door. An elderly servant, one long past retirement age, peered around the doorway a silver tea tray in her arthritic hands trembling under its weight. Jane jumped, snapping her precious diary shut.
“Heavens Maude! You gave me such a fright. Must you go creeping about like an old witch? You may go and do not disturb me again.”
“I am truly sorry Ma’am. I have brought a letter to you.”
“Well why didn’t you say so you silly thing! Goodness I recognise the style! It is from the palace.” Jane snatched the letter and scanned over it.
“His brain is overrun with delirium ” She mimicked. “Complete and utter cods-wallop Why the whole family are liars. I suspect that Theodore is not ill at all, this is his little plan to force me to go back to him. The stupid fool!”
“Ahem, I beg your pardon ma’am.”
“Urgh! Woman! Why are you still here. Well go on then, what is it?”
“I overheard people talkin’ in the market today.”
“Did you now Maude, what precisely did they say?”
“I only caught loose ends.”
“Out with it old woman!”
“Madam, his illness is worse than they originally feared, so I heard. They believe that Prince Theodore might die!”
“Die! Bah! Poppycock! He is no closer to death than I. He clearly thrives from the drama, my what an interesting news title that will make. Prince taken ill, fiancée made accountable. Ridiculous! He says nothing, only my name! Well he is clearly saying something isn’t he! I’m not going, especially if he is ill, I may catch it! What happens if I have already?”
Jane gasped, examining her high cheekbones in the mirror.
“No, I still look pretty. I think I shall remain well.”
Theodore gasped, he was quite alone. Queen Evangeline had completed her 12 hour vigil and had retired, exhausted to her bed chamber. King Rupert paced up and down the gardens like a madman. Howard raised his head from his pillow, awoken by the loud coughing. He pulled on his overcoat and paced across the landing, opening Theodore’s bedroom door.
“You are alone?” Theodore lay slumped to one side. Howard adjusted his pillows and sat Theodore against them.
“Your lips are so dry sire. Here, try to drink some water.” He filled the glass, holding it to Theodore’s lips. He drank desperately until every last drop of the liquid had vanished.
“My, you were thirsty! There now, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I hope that the water has refreshed you a little. I will sit with you for a while, I do not mind being awake at this time, in fact I quite like it. I remember when you were a little boy your Grace, no higher than a grass hopper. You were such a character, such an intelligent child. Don’t give up hope your Grace for the sake of one girl. I will say no more, just in case that you are registering what I am saying. It is not my place to think or say such things.”
To be continued…
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014