Queen Evangeline cleared her throat, Bonnie jumped, forgetting that she was still in the room.
“You-your Grace, I am very sorry, I forgot that you were stood there.”
“No matter.” She smiled, her expression softening. “It is very soothing hearing you talking together.”
Bonnie nodded. “I am aware that I am an outwardly spoken, country bumpkin, but I am not so bad.” She laughed.
Theodore smiled. “Scottish country bumpkin.”
“I shall go now as I have an engagement to attend.”
“Fair well your majesty.”
“Ha! Yes, I forgot that part your Grace.” She took his hand in hers, running her thumb over the beautiful ring upon his finger.
“It is lovely.”
“Hmm, yes. It is my most treasured possession.”
“Shall I close that window? The wind is so noisy, I am afraid that your voice is almost being carried away with it. Would you like some more water, or another boiled sweet perhaps?”
“Here then, here is some more water. Take small sips and finish this glass. I am afraid of choking you. There, here is the second sweet.” She placed into his mouth as he accepted it gratefully, sucking on the fruity piece of sugar and placing it inside his cheek with his tongue.
“You’d best not talk for 5 minutes in case you should choke.”
Theodore sighed and rolled his eyes. “I’m not an infant.”
“I am very glad that you are able to argue with me, it is reassurance. Now then, are you quite comfortable?”
Theodore nodded, sensing his ear rubbing against the pillow. Bonnie felt his forehead.
“Yes, the fever has gone now.” Theodore closed his eyes, curling his body into a ball. He gasped, placing a hand to his chest. Bonnie rested her hand against his back, rubbing it in circular motions.
“I feel that you would do better to sit upright in bed, it’s not the best position for sleeping, but just until the pain subsides. There now, do you feel supported?”
“Good, try to relax.”
“Tell me another story, I mean, if you please.”
“Yes, of course. Now then, where shall I begin; once there was…”
“Is- do I look very changed, please tell me honestly.”
“You have lost some more weight and your face is paler, but apart from that, you are not so different. Fear not, I think it would be impossible for you to look…”
“Ugly? No I think that I could, very easily. I can imagine that I was very unattractive when we first met.”
“No, on the contrary, your fine looks were the first thing that I noticed.”
“You are amused your Grace?”
“Um, I do not know. Hmm.”
“Here, close your eyes and I shall stay with you. No, do not let this go to your head, but you are very handsome indeed. That is a compliment only, nothing sinister or suggestive I can assure you. What is wrong, it is the pain, isn’t it? Here, have some more lip balm, you shiver. I will place some more coal on the fire and shut the window.”
“Thank you. I-I remember when….” Theodore paused, exhaling and pressing his lips together. “When I first was ill, Jane would not come, she would not visit me and then, then I lost my sight and-and she abandoned me forever, oh God, what if it happens again? What shall I do? I am powerless, I am a prisoner in my own body and I shall go mad.”
Bonnie shook her head. “Shhh, shhh now.” She scooped him into her arms, holding him next to her so that his head rested upon her shoulder.
“Be calm, be calm my dear friend. I will be here for as long as you want me to be a swear upon it, why if I had a bible I would swear upon it here and now. You are trembling, you are so cold. Here, take my shawl. I can assure you that you shall not go insane.”
She placed her arms around his waist, placing the flats of her hands upon his back as she wrapped the shawl around his shivering body.
“You must keep my shawl, it is a gift. I only hope that you will feel warmer soon.”
“It is very thick.”
“Yes.” Bonnie wiped away the tears from Theodore’s eyes.
“Crying, like a child.”
“Now don’t you worry about crying in front of me, I have already told you that. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Are you comfortable enough?”
“I am now.”
“This shawl is lovely.” Theodore pressed it against his cheek, it smelt of Bonnie.
“You may have it on loan until you are feeling better.”
“Thank you. Another foolish request..”
“Yes? Although, let me assure you that your requests are always reasonable ones, your Grace.”
“Could- could you bring Aggie again tomorrow?”
“Why, I had forgotten all about her.I brought her today, oh the poor thing! Aggie? Oh, here she is,under your bed.”
“That makes me happy. She is a lovely little character.”
“Oh, goodness! I think that she heard me.” Aggie hopped next to Theodore on the bed, sitting next to him and rubbed her head against his arm. He laughed, stroking her back.
“Well she clearly prefers you to me!”
“I may have to adopt her.”
Bonnie thought for a moment.
“She is yours…on loan, for company. She is very good and always goes outside to do the toilet, just make sure that your window is open at the bottom so that she can get out.”
“It is always open, the fresh air does me good.”
“Excellent. Now then Aggie, you must be a good girl.” Aggie purred as Bonnie tickled her stomach. “I should probably go now, Mother will wonder where on earth I am.”
“Yes, of course. Is that Mr Howard I hear?”
“Your Grace, Miss McGrath ah and a new edition.”
Bonnie laughed. “This is my cat Aggie, I have given her to his Grace on loan for a little while, she is very good, I can assure you.” Aggie yawned, closing her eyes.
“And lazy.” She added.
“No your Grace, you are ill, not lazy, there is a difference there. Now then, what about some refreshments?”
“I am not hungry.”
“Something to give you energy. I propose that you are to have some tea, it will warm you. How about beef tea, to help you to get your strength back, lemonade is also very refreshing.”
“Perhaps I shall try both.”
“Good idea, I shall ask Mr Howard to have some made immediately.”
Theodore sipped at the cool glass of tangy lemonade.
“How is that?”
“Delightful!” He smiled, taking another sip.“I don’t think I have tried beef tea.”
“I have, once. It is very palatable.”
“Were you very ill Bonnie?”
“It was influenza when I was about 13, but it was not so bad. I just lost my appetite afterwards. More lemonade?”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“I want to, more than anything.”
“Yes. Now then I am going to sit you up again, before we attempt the beef tea.”
Theodore gasped, closing his eyes, his face turning chalky white before Bonnie’s very eyes. He clutched his chest, leaning forwards. Bonnie supported him and sitting him bolt upright in bed. Theodore grasped the coverlet, his knuckles whitening as he clenched his teeth together.
“Where, where is the pain?”
“Your Grace, pardon my asking, but the first time you were ill, you said that the doctor thought that it was Scarlet fever did you not?”
“Yes, Scarlet Fever.” He exhaled. “It’s over, it was only a short spasm.”
“I-I have heard that after Scarlet Fever-” Bonnie paused.
“It- it is possible that a second illness can be developed.”
“I know little about it.”
“Oh. Yes, well that does make sense, the second illness I mean.”
“Oh gosh I am such a fool, it is not my place to tell you such things when I am only a servant.”
“Bonita you are a friend.”
Bonnie stroked his hair. “Yes I am, you shall not get rid of me in a hurry. I was thinking, have you ever considered having another Physician come and look at you?”
“I asked. Mother and Father refused, I suppose that they think that Mr Dickinson is the best. I disagree.”
“I-I know of another doctor, but I don’t think that your parents would be very welcoming of the idea.”
“No, they wouldn’t.”
“Hmm. Would you like him to look at you?”
“Yes, for my Physician is useless!”
“I know. Well, I shall have a think. How is your pain?”
“For the time being it is more of an ache, I hope it stays that way, it’s bearable.”
“You are tired and here I am muttering away,keeping you awake.”
“You do not mumble. Thank you for the beef tea and this little one. Is she asleep still?”
“Yes, she will sleep through the night now. Goodnight my dear, it has been a long day for you.”
“I have cherished every moment of your company.”
“And I yours.”
Bonnie kissed his forehead. “I’ll brush your hair once more for you before we go and apply some more lip balm.” She lifted his head, running the comb through it. “Ah, it is not so bad now.” She dabbed her finger in the balm and smoothed it over his top and bottom lip. He placed his hand on top of hers.
“Thank you again, for everything. I will be eternally grateful.”
“You do not need to thank me.”
“Your shawl, you must take it, or you will be cold walking back.”
“It is warmer today; I’ll hasten my walk and will not need it. Farewell your Grace, I shall see you tomorrow.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014