Theodore heard the sound of Mr Howard escorting Jane from the room. Bonnie sat silently as a church mouse in the corner. She trembled, her silent tears marking her gown.
“I can sense you’re still there Bonnie.”
She said nothing, watching the ticking second hand on the clock do a full cycle, until her eyes were too misty to read the digits.
“Please Bonnie, I beg of you! Say something.”
Bonnie did not answer, but stood shakily and tiptoed from the room as Theodore slipped into a deeper sense of darkness.
“Hmm?” Theodore muttered, a coolness brushed his forehead as he smelt that sweet perfume.
“Yes Theodore, hush now.”
“Bonnie, where is Bonnie?”
“Sleeping. She did come back, but you had already cried yourself to sleep. She thought it best that she leave you in peace.”
“I was dreaming.”
“Was it a pleasant dream?”
“In a way.”
“Theodore, I now know that Jane told you the full truth.”
“Yes, and I am glad.”
“At least I know, even though I am deeply saddened by it.”
“You and I both, my son. If only we had known. Now then, on another subject, I do believe that you and Miss McGrath have some talking to do.”
“Poor Bonnie. She may never want to see me again.”
“I would not blame her. Well, she has had a few hours to dwell on the news. I had some refreshments sent up to her an hour ago.”
Theodore placed his hand in a fan upon his chest, squeezing his eyes shut as he gasped for air.
“I deserve this!” He gasped. “I deserve to suffer and I ask God to punish me now.”
“When did it happen?”
“It- it was a moment of foolish passion. That’s all it takes and then the damage is done. I am disgusted with myself, I am ashamed of my behaviour. Bonnie probably cannot bear to look at me. Oh I am angry, angry and guilt-ridden. Does Father know, did you confide in him?”
“No dear, perhaps I shouldn’t, he needn’t know. It would only add to his troubles.”
“His troubles? Well, tell him after I have passed, if you like. The hour is nearing.”
“I-I must go, Theodore. I can see that nothing I say is bringing you comfort.”
Theodore lay alone, shivering, his bed clothes tangled and dangling from the bed, exposing his bare feet.
“Your Grace, you are torturing yourself. You must stop.”
“I deserve to be tortured John.” Theodore whispered. “I have condemned my soul to hell.”
“You did not know of her troubles. Jane will always remember the last few words you said to her. She knows that you have forgiven her and she you. Do not be angry now, you cannot change the past. Bonnie is coming.”
“Yes dear, I am awake now. Do not trouble yourself, there, there don’t cry.”
She dabbed his eyes with her lacy handkerchief and kissed his salty cheek.
“You are so cold!” Bonnie found her other shawl draped over the end of his bed and tucked it around him. Bonnie exited the room, fetching one of the pairs of bed socks that she had been knitting and placed them on his ice-cold feet.
“My child.” Theodore muttered. “The unborn baby. Bonnie, I am sorry, but I promise that I did not know.”
“I know you didn’t. The child is at peace now.”
“The baby is buried in un-consecrated ground. It shall not go to heaven, all because Jane was sent away. If only I had listened to her and been kinder, instead of being so headstrong and selfish!”
“Please stop! You are mentally torturing yourself!”
“I am preparing myself for hell.”
“No! Listen to me your Grace, hell is for murderers and criminals who have committed serious crimes.”
“H-has Jane gone?”
“I don’t know your Grace but I can go and find out for you. I imagine so, it is 1 O’clock in the morning.”
“Please.” Theodore whispered, his eyes filling with tears once more.
“Then, I’ll be back soon. Please don’t cry any more.”
Bonnie kissed his hand, gazing upon the young face, which now looked so troubled.
“Goodbye my dear friend.” She planted a kiss upon his cold, dewy brow, pulling the coverlet up to his chin.
“Our friendship has meant the world to me.” Theodore sighed, sensing the reassuring, male hand upon his shoulder.
Bonnie darted from the room, in search of Mr Howard or the Queen. She heard the bustle of the remaining party guests in the great hall, how would she find her. She scanned them all, but there was no sign. With no time to lose, she ran up the staircase, knocking on Queen Evangeline’s parlour door.
“Thank God!” Bonnie sighed, performing a low curtsey.
“Forgive my intrusion. His Grace was wondering whether Miss Mallis was still here.”
“I’m afraid that she left half an hour ago, it is very late after all.”
“Oh dear. I am afraid that he is very upset. Well, if that is the case, then I shall return to him.”
Theodore lay dosing. Bonnie stroked his cheek, kissing it with care.
“I am afraid that Jane has left, I imagine that she was not feeling so well.”
“I fully understand.” He muttered gravely.
“I am sorry.”
“No, I am the one who should apologise. I feel like…oh Bonnie, you are such a dear to me and I do not deserve your kindness!”
Theodore gasped as he coughed, Bonnie wiped the small amount of saliva from his lips.
“Now why would you say that. You are a good man, your Grace. Did that hurt?”
“How is your pain at the moment?”
“Comme ci, comme ca.”
“You look tired, I should go.”
“Bonnie my dear, I recall that story you were telling me, you never did finish it. Perhaps it shall send me to sleep.”
“How right you are, your Grace. I must remember where we left off.”
“I can barely remember, you might as well leave it now, or perhaps I could come up with an ending.”
“Oh, are you sure your Grace?”
“Yes. I’d like to test my hand at story telling.”
“Ah, only if it is not too much trouble.”
“The Prince, received some bad news, some which he was equally to blame for and I am afraid that he took it rather badly. But as penance, he will die too.”
“Your Grace! That is not penance, please don’t say that.”
“He is not afraid of death, not any more. He has had guidance from friends who have taught him how to love again, but as the hour grows nearer, eventually, he will die.”
Bonnie took his hand in hers, holding it to her cheek and kissing it. Using his thumb, Theodore wiped away the tears from her eyes.
“Your Grace, I am sorry. I do mean to cry.”
Theodore shook his head, the tears welling in his own.
“Oh, gosh and now I am making you cry.”
“No, it is nothing that you have said. I cannot stop thinking about my baby. That poor, little, innocent baby and Jane. What trauma she must have endured. I am worried about her.”
“Shall I ask your Mother to write to her tomorrow, or Mr Howard to fetch her?”
“Bonnie I sense the hurt in your voice tone, I did not mean to bring up the subject again. I should be grateful to you, not asking about Jane. She did leave me, after all.Bonnie, you must go to bed.”
Bonnie paused. “I would much rather be here with you.”
“Will you ask Mr Howard to fetch my Mother and Father, I imagine that they are still awake. How I miss them.”
“Yes, yes of course.”
Bonnie curtsied as the King placed an arm around his wife’s waist as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief, stroking Theodore’s hair.
“How is Jane?”
“She arrived safely at home and is resting.”
Theodore nodded. “I am glad.”
“Theodore, it is late my child.” Queen Evangeline stated.
“I know, but I have far too much on my mind to sleep.”
Bonnie bit her bottom lip and stared at the woollen carpet beneath her feet.
“No Miss McGrath, stay.”
King Rupert nodded. “Yes stay.” He sat next to Theodore, placing his hand upon his shoulder.
“How are you my son?”
“I am incredibly happy that we are all reunited once more, Father. My time is ticking, like an hourglass full of sand. Every second another part of my soul slips away.”
“Would you like me to fetch our physician?”
“No Mother, what could he do? The best medicine for me now is my family and dear Bonnie, who makes me so very happy.”
“I’ll ask Mr Howard to call for him directly.”
“And what precisely would he say Mother?”
“I don’t know, but perhaps he could at least give you something to ease your pain. Theodore, you need proper care.” The Queen lowered her voice. “Miss McGrath is of little use to you now.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014