“Bonnie, what ever did you do when you were away?”
“I am afraid that I was little use to anybody. But, I tried to fill my days with useful tasks.”
“How I yearned for you. One night I felt so ill, I was certain that I was going to die, but Mr Howard stayed with me throughout. If Mother had her way, he would have been dismissed too. I asked Father and he agreed that Mr Howard should come and get you. He brought you back to me.”
“Yes, yes they did. Let’s not dwell on the past. We must look to the future now.”
“I no longer have one. Look at me!”
Bonnie placed her arms around his neck and supported his body, so that his head might rest upon her shoulder.
“I promise you that- it does not do you much good to be cooped up inside this palace when there is a perfectly safe bath chair. I think I am going to speak with Mr Howard. Here, drink some more water.”
“Do not ask questions, for it may be a surprise.”
“I am so confused.”
“You needn’t be, but you are half perished.”
Bonnie took her shawl and wrapped it around him. “Thank you.” “Sometimes change can do a person the world of good. I’ll leave you with that thought, but for now my friend; you must close your eyes and sleep.”
“I love the idea!” Mr Howard beamed, adjusting the ornaments upon the fireplace of one of the parlours. “However, I shall have to speak with the king first, before we make further plans. Come, I will assist you and you must speak to him yourself.”
“Yes of course. Except, I do not want to leave his Grace for too long.I am afraid that I am a little scared.”
“Ah, I see. Then; you may stay here while I ask him to speak with you.”
“Of course, thank you.”
King Rupert cleared his throat, taking a long sip of tea from the hand-painted tea-cup. He smiled, rubbing his chin in thought.
“I think it’s a capital idea!”
“Why yes. I do not know why we did not think of it before. It is a warm day and we are not so far from a beach. You and Miss McGrath have my full permission to take Theodore for as long as he wishes to one of the coves, allow him to sit on the cover and inhale the fresh, sea air. It is practically private”
“Wont you come, your Grace?”
“I- I have.” King Rupert paused, gazing at the little red breasted robin perched upon one of the finer tree branches.
“Well of course I am coming! I do not know what I was thinking! Howard, insure that Theodore is wrapped up warm and prepare the smallest horse and carriage.”
“My goodness, I had convinced myself that you would say no.”
“And why would I do that Howard? My Son is dying, the least I can do is to adhere to his wishes, now go and see to Theodore. Make sure he is ready and meet me in the parlour in half an hour.”
“Yes your Grace and thank you.” A beaming Mr Howard returned to Theodore’s bedroom. “And?”
“And, your Grace, I am delighted to inform you that your Father thought it was a capital idea and he has insisted that he must come too. Now then, I must dress you if I may and…”
Theodore placed his arms around Mr Howard’s neck, holding him close. Mr Howard paused, reciprocating the warm embrace, tears welling in his eyes. He patted Theodore’s shoulder, clearing his throat.
“Ahem, let’s get you wrapped up.”
He opened the wardrobe, fetching some comfortable clothes and warm over garments. He returned to Theodore, helping him put them on. “It feels strange wearing proper clothes again. Where is Bonnie?”
“Getting ready herself. I will have to carry you downstairs.”
“Are you sure you…”
“I want to do this.” Theodore whispered.
Bonnie stood by the door. “Here are a couple of blankets, but I see that you are well wrapped up.” Bonnie took his gloved hand in hers.
“Here is your Father now.”
Bonnie and Howard bowed in acknowledgement as Mr Howard carried Theodore outside, into the waiting horse and carriage.
“Theodore should go in the middle.”
King Rupert smiled.
“A rose between two thorns.”
Theodore added. Theodore rested his head on Bonnie’s shoulder as he took her hand in his. “It is a rather exciting excursion, don’t you think?”
Bonnie stroked his cheek.
“Tell me truthfully, do I look pale?”
“Like a ghost, but the fresh, salty sea air will soon bring warmth back into your colourless cheeks. How do you feel?”
“Like I could sleep for a hundred years.” Theodore muttered. “But apart from that, I am pain-free.”
“I give you full permission to rest your head against my shoulder.” Bonnie glanced at King Rupert and Mr Howard, who nodded and smiled in agreement.
Mr Howard scurried from the carriage and opening the door for king Rupert. With care, he placed it on the ground, putting on the breaks and lifting Theodore from the carriage. Theodore gritted his teeth.
“Forgive me, did I hurt you?”
“No, it is the pain within my chest that ails me. You are not to blame.”
“It is worse than before?”
Theodore admitted honestly as Mr Howard wrapped extra blankets around his frail body.
“I think your ears are going to get cold.”
“I do not own a hat.” Theodore admitted.
“Then, we must put your scarf over your head. It will also act like a disguise.”
“I will look like a little traveller!”
“Keep warm, your Grace.”
“John.” Theodore whispered, a small smile creasing his lips.
“Yes, I’ll have the scarf.”
“There now your Grace, can you sense the warmth of the sun?”
Mr Howard carried Theodore down the small path as the King and Bonnie followed closely behind. Bonnie took the extra rug which was tucked under her arm and placed it upon the ground. Bonnie sat upon it.
“I am not sure if I can sit.” Theodore whispered.
“Then, you can rest against me once more.” They lay Theodore on the rug, so his head was supported by Bonnie’s shoulder, the wisps of hair blowing freely around his face. “That is so much better. I am most comfortable.”
“And you are cosy?”
“Yes. Listening to the whistle of the sea air is most delicious.” He muttered, closing his eyes. Mr Howard placed a hand upon his shoulder as Bonnie stroked that fading face.
“This reminds me of my childhood.” Bonnie smiled. “We used to live not far from the beach; I taught Andrew how to build sand castles and how to hunt in rock pools. Your Grace?”
“Oh, I am sorry.”
“I was listening.”
“Perhaps we should return.” Mr Howard suggested.
“No, I don’t want to do that. Please, all of you; stay with me. Father, are you still there?” King Rupert gazed into the horizon, his eyes misty with tears.
“I am here.” He lifted up the strand of hair upon Theodore’s head which had blown the wrong way and adjusted it accordingly.
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014