“Darkness!” Evangeline gasped. “You see nothing?”
“Mother I can hear you. Oh what is it? Jane, where is Jane?”
“Darling she is here. Miss Mallis do not be alarmed, will you take his hand?”
“Oh I cannot!” She wept. “Oh this is all too much and I can’t bear it! Can’t you see it or all you all fools! Theodore has gone stone blind!”
Jane scrambled from the room. Queen Evangeline grabbed her wrist with her left hand, continuing to support Theodore’s body in her right arm.
“You will stay Jane!”
“Why? Why must I? After all, my fiancée is a blind, useless cripple, what use is he to any of us now!”
“Get out you, you little rat! Howard, remove Miss Mallis from the room. My God! You disgust me!”
“Jane please!” Theodore begged in his horse, cracked voice. “Oh Jane, I am so sorry, please I will try to get well and then it shall be like old times. Don’t go! Jane!” He bleated, the tears running down his cheeks.
“I wash my hands of you all, I cannot be married to a blind man! There is no hope for you Theodore, no one shall ever love you because you are damaged!”
She pushed past the guards, Queen Evangeline stroked Theodore’s hair as he wept, leaving his side to watch Jane Mallis strutting hastily down the long path. She shook her head and returned to Theodore.
“There, there dear. Shhh now, shhhh.” She kissed his forehead and his cheek.
“I wish there was something I could do, but she is too aloof to even reason with. My God! I should have seen it, she is far too head strong and feisty. I think that this is for the best Theodore, it may seem heart breaking now, but you are young and you shall find a more suitable woman one day.” She placed her hand on his trembling shoulder. Theodore pulled away, pulling the sheet over his head.
“Oh dear. Well, I shall leave you now as you are tired and still weak. My dear, try and get some rest and I shall come and see you later. But for now, I must speak with your Father.”
“Mother please! Do not go!”
“Very well dear, I shall speak with him in an hour or so, tell me, what can I do to bring you comfort? Are you hungry or thirsty? You haven’t eaten for so long.”
“Perhaps you shall change your mind. I will ring the bell and ask one of the servants to place an order in the kitchen.”
Theodore picked at some toast, only attempting to eat a meagre mouthful. He drank one cup of tea, followed by another, much to Queen Evangeline’s relief.
“We shall try and get you out of this bed soon. The weather has been really quite pleasant and..”
“No, I shall stay here.”
“I could ask Howard to help you sit in a chaise lounge in one of the drawing rooms in time.”
“How about a bath then? Something to sooth you.”
“Stop fussing over me as if I were some sick child!”
“Theodore, I am sorry and we are only trying to help. I remind you how ill you have been, don’t push us away my dear.”
“You are smothering me, I feel half suffocated!”
“Well dear, I shall go.”
Evangeline dabbed her eyes with a tissue and glanced over at Theodore, who had rolled on his side, facing away from her. She went to find Howard.
He bowed. “Yes your Grace?”
“I am becoming ever more concerned about Theodore, he will not eat. Whatever shall we do?”
“Well your Grace, I think that we should perhaps leave him be for a little while and I think that eventually he will come to his senses.”
“I hope so Howard, I really do.”
“Ah, a bell rings now. It may very well be him, I shall go ma’am.”
To his relief, it was indeed Theodore. Howard paced up the staircase and tapped on his bedroom door.
“Who is there? I am blind remember!”
“Your Grace, it is Howard.”
“Ah, I had hoped that it would be you. Howard, I would like a bath.”
“Very good sir, I shall run you one directly and return to assist you to the bathroom.”
“So you do think me to be a cripple?! I can manage, everyone needs to stop smothering me, but you can run my bath.”
Howard raised his eyebrows, nodded and smiled as he entered the bathroom and filled the white porcelain tub with warm water.
“I will need to wash my hair of course. I can imagine that it looks quite disgusting does it not?”
Howard said nothing, placing the towels on a small table next to the bath. Theodore’s legs trembled as he stood, He put a wicker wheelchair underneath him and wheeled him into the bathroom. He placed Theodore’s hand on the side of the bath.
“Here is the bath now, here I will assist you to stand again, you are weak still. Step into the water and there is a sponge and soap on the side for you here, can you feel them?”
“Good, then your grace, I shall leave you in peace to have your bath.”
Theodore lay, mulling in the water. He sighed, sensing it lapping at the back of his neck, the bottom of his curls soaking it up. Theodore tilted his head back to wet his hair and without taking a breath, submerged himself in the water. He sensed the hardness of the bath against his back as he lay there for a minute. The pressure in his lungs became unbearable, as if his chest were being crushed. Quickly he resurfaced, gasping for air. Panting, he smoothed his hair back and washed it, before rinsing it. That was quite enough foolishness for one day, he thought, as he washed his body and exited the bath, pulling the plug. Theodore pulled on his dressing gown.
“I am ready.”
“Very good your Grace.”
He jumped on sensing a hand touch his back.
“Sorry Theodore my dear, it is just your Mother.”
“Yes. Did you enjoy your bath?”
“It was quite pleasant actually.”
“I’m glad. Shall I take you back to your room.”
“No, Howard and I can manage, thank you!”
“Please Theodore, I only wish to help you, you are quite weak still and your Father and I are worried that..”
“Worried about what exactly? Oh do tell me! Are you afraid that I might not be married, because as you know I have been well and truly rejected by Miss Mallis. She saw her chance and fled! Hmm, let’s see what else could be on your mind; the fact that you may longer have an heir to the throne, because I assure you, a blind Prince is no use to this country. I suggest that you consider one of my cousins instead and I shall retire quietly somewhere.”
“Theodore, you are all of a tremble. Howard, please wheel him back to bed.”
“Mother, please leave me be! ”
“Howard please ignore what he says and take him to his room!”
“I am not going!”
“Oh dear. Well, now that you are in the drawing room I can be reassured that you are safe.” She waited as Howard helped him from the wheelchair and placed a blanket over his legs. “Rest by the fire for a while and that way, your hair shall dry properly. It looks as beautiful as ever.”
“What does that matter, I can’t see it anyway!”
“Everyone else can. Theodore, you are a good person, don’t let losing your sight defeat you, that is all I ask. I must go now.”
“Yes Mother you must, even though I am tired and lonely, you must leave me now.”
“Tell me, what can I do? There must be something. Would you like company?”
“Well dear, it can be arranged, I know how much you used to love reading and…”
“You might as well burn those books, no-one shall read them now. They shall stand there gathering dust, Grandfather would have been most saddened.”
“Theodore, I have an idea as you are craving to read books and have some company, then this what I propose, you shall have a reader.”
“Yes, someone can come to read to you daily for a few hours. I shall make sure that the person is educated and of a decent family and the books shall gather dust no more. What do you say to that?”
“I say, yes.”
“Then my son, if that is what your heart desires, your wish shall be granted and we shall advertise. Are you warm enough? Would you like a cup of tea or some water?”
“No thank you. I’d like to be alone for a while.”
“As you wish.”
Theodore ran his fingertips over the chaise lounge, sensing the intricate stitching and it’s high back, he sighed, placing his hand upon his sunken stomach.
‘I am damaged goods after all. Jane was right and now I am not worthy of her.’ His eyes filled with tears and he drifted off into a deep slumber.
“Theodore? Theodore my dear, can you open your eyes! Oh you scare me so!”
“Mother what is it?”
“Oh thank heavens. Oh Theodore you have been crying.”
“Well, our advertisement has been placed around the town. I dare say that we shall hear a response soon. Do not look so melancholy.”
“It will probably be some mumbling old man or woman. Oh how they shall bore me!”
“Or, it may be someone similar to your own age. I said we were looking for people between the ages of 15 and 30.”
“15! I will not have a child reading to me.”
“My! You are cantankerous!”
“And you are fussing and getting on my wick.”
“Well at least try to be agreeable. I will find someone close to your own age, I promise my dear.”
“You and Father have always made so many promises to me that you never keep. You are lucky that I trust you at all.”
To be continued…
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014