There came a loud knocking on Maira McGrath’s front door. She jumped from her chair and unbolted it, to see a half-frozen, shocked Bonnie. Her windswept hair, having half fallen out of its bun.
“Bonnie, what has happened?”
Bonnie did not answer, as Maira guided her into the chair by the fire.
“No wonder you are chilled to the bone, you have no bonnet and shawl. Oh Lord, I am so sorry. Is Prince Theodore…d-”
Bonnie shook her head, placing it into her hands.
“You have had an argument?”
“No. I have been my clumsy, stupid self. It was an accident, but I am afraid I have done something terrible.”
“You are very shocked. Drink this tea to warm you and tell me. You have lost a lot of weight Bonnie and you look so tired dear.”
“I am fine.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Mother, the Queen is furious once more.”
“Heavens above Bonnie! What have you done now?”
“Stop talking to me as if I were a naughty little girl. I wish Father were here. He always had the best solution for difficult situations!”
“Well he’s not here. I am sorry, tell me.”
“I wrote a letter to you, because I missed you. Unfortunately, being the clumsy buffoon that I am, I dropped the letter. It contained some information that was quite private and Queen Evangeline found out. She was fuming, boiling over with anger, said she will have me hanged for treason. The letter really wasn’t detailed, but it did include a section which I should never have written.”
“Bonnie, you are underweight, trembling and look like you have not slept in weeks.”
“Is that all you have to say when I have been dismissed… again?”
“You look like you have suffered enough lately. I do not want to come down on you like a tonne of bricks and add to your troubles.”
Bonnie nodded, dabbing her eyes. “Mother, I am scared. His Grace is so very ill, each day he sinks a little. I may never see him again.”
Maira took Bonnie’s hand in her own. “Bonnie, have faith. If I am in doubt, I ask your Father.”
“Yes.” Maira smiled, her eyes glazed. “All the time.”
Mr Howard examined the bruising, it was not as bad as expected.
“You are very cold, your Grace.I will look after you, for as long as poor Miss McGrath is gone.”
Queen Evangeline swallowed as she looked on.
“I will stay with him tonight.” Mr Howard stated.
“No, I shall. This is my fault, as penance, I won’t leave his side, but you must fetch his Physician.”
“Ma’am forgive me, but-”
“Oh good Lord! Not you as well Howard! Just look at him, he looks horrific!”
“Where is his Grace?”
“The King? In bed.”
“Theodore will come to, wont he?”
“I hope so.”
“Oh don’t! Do not say that to me Howard!”
“He has endured quite an ordeal.”
“Speak comfort to me Howard!”
“Ma’am, I have none to give.” Mr Howard stated coldly.
“Hmph! Theodore loves you more than his own Father! Did you know that? Does that make you happy?”
“I have looked after him and guided his Grace all his life.”
“Yes! Yes! Don’t speak the obvious like a simple fool!”
“His Grace breathes easy. It is getting late and….”
“Yes, I will go, he’d rather have you stay with him anyway!” She snapped. “This has been the most horrid day!” She stormed from the room.
Mr Howard shook his head and sighed, patting Theodore’s hand.
“You do not have long now, I hope that you will come around and get to speak with Miss McGrath again. It was not her fault, not really it could have happened to anyone. It is just such a shame that it had to be her. Do not fret, she is probably torturing herself as you do. You know, you are both so alike. If circumstances had been different, and Bonnie of a higher class, then you would have been a great match for each other. I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’d like to think that you can. How dry your lips look, Miss McGrath always had her lip balm at hand, did she not ? I am afraid to give you water from a glass, for you would only choke, but there is….” He paused. “I think there is an invalid feeder somewhere. That may work, for I cannot sit here and let you be thirsty.”
Indeed there was, he filled it with cool water, sitting Theodore bolt upright, placing the spout into his mouth. To his relief, Theodore took a few sips, managing to swallow the cool liquid. He paused and tried again, until all the water had gone, sensing Theodore’s damp flesh underneath his shirt sleeve.
“What precisely are you doing Mr Howard?”
“Ma’am, I am taking over from Miss McGrath’s duties.”
“Her duties! She was employed as a reader, not a nurse! Do not answer back! He will choke to death!”
“Your Majesty, someone needs to take care of him and seeing as though you sent Miss McGrath away again, I have taken her place. I cannot let him die of thirst!”
“Well you can go now; you’ve seen to him enough and ensured that he has drunk something. Three hours you have sat with him! I cannot sleep, I am over-run with emotion!”
“I am staying here.”
“You will be dismissed, there are other jobs in which you should be attending to. Not this.”
“Once Prince Theodore passes, I shall most probably leave. I am tired, exhausted in mind and body and I am not so young any more.”
“You choose to leave your position?”
“ Very possibly, for I am tired and not as young as I was.”
“Bon-“ Theodore whispered.
“All he does is ask for her, all he desires is to see that stupid, little peasant. Well I will not have her in the palace and that is final.”
“If only you were well enough your Grace, I would take you to see Bonnie myself.”
“Yes, yes of course you would!”
Theodore opened his eyes. “Bonnie?”
“No, it is Mr Howard, but I did mention her name.”
“Where is she?” He muttered, in a voice so broken, Mr Howard turned a shade paler.
Mr Howard gasped, perhaps it was concussion he thought. ‘Please’ he prayed. ‘Let him remember, I do not want to have to tell him.’
“Your Grace, try to remember.”
“John? Oh John, is that you?”
“Your Mother sent Bonnie away.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014