When GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats entered the old King’s bedroom, he found the old man standing by a window with Tata Sous-sus on one side and Princess Pirouette on the other. They were conversing quietly about something outside that had caught their eyes. While their exact words didn’t quite register in GarGar’s ears, he did think he heard the word, “raven.”
“I was taught that les corbeaux were most unlucky,” said Tata Sous-sus. “Not at all,” replied the old King. “They are very intelligent birds. You can train them to do anything.”
The old King was still bed-ridden with pneumonia. While it didn’t seem to be getting better, neither did it appear to be getting worse. With Princess Pirouette, Tata Sous-sus and la duchesse du Linge in attendance at the sickbed, His Majesty was under constant supervision. It was Tata Sous-sus who made a liniment by crushing the leaves of various plants such as cedarleaf and nutmeg. With a few drops of turpentine to seal the deal, she rubbed the concoction onto His Majesty’s chest.
“It was my own mother who taught me how to make it,” said Tata Sous-sus to Pirouette. “She called it ‘country comfort.‘ It works like a charm when a fever settles into the chest.”
“Ouch!” Cried Princess Pirouette. “I’ve been stung!”
“Let me take a look,” said GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats, reaching for Pirouette’s hand. “Let’s pull back your glove and see what kind of damage has been done.” Pirouette whimpered quietly as GarGar peeled the fine chamois fabric away. “It must have had a long stinger to get through this cloth,” he observed. And there it was, an angry red welt on the back of Pirouette’s hand. GarGar gave it a gentle kiss. “Feel better?”
“Oh, much better, kind sir,” replied Pirouette. “I’m afraid you may have missed your calling, Monsieur GarGar,” continued the Princess. “You would have made a fine chirurgeon.”
“Specializing in insect bites, no doubt.” GarGar laughed.
Once again the old King had taken to his sickbed. Despite Monsieur le Premier Ministre dire suspicions of poison, his fairly competent physicians had diagnosed pneumonia. For this His Majesty would require lots of bedrest and copious amounts of water to be poured down his gullet. While his Majesty was more than happy to loll around under the covers, he was resistant to drinking anything but wine.
Of course whenever His Majesty took ill, a quiet pandemonium would strike the court. Servants would stand and sit in small groups, gossiping when they should have been working. Various nobles would crowd around the old King’s bedchamber hoping to hear the latest news. Of course Princess Pirouette never left his side. There she sat, morning, noon and night, offering him broth, wiping his brow, adjusting his covers and whispering encouragement. With such a nurse, how could he not recover?
Against her better judgement, Princess Pirouette agreed to GarGar’s request that they take an evening stroll on the southern terrace. With Lady Greenmeadow and Abigail Hoffenhoff walking a respectful ten meters behind them, Pirouette felt reasonably safe. She even let GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats take her arm and slip it inside his own. “Please do let me escort you properly,” he said. By the glow of the torchlight, GarGar’s eyes shimmered seductively. Pirouette did her best not to look into his face for more than a second.
When GarGar paused in front of one of the large windows that looked into the grand ballroom, he released a long, heartbreaking sigh. “Look at our reflection in the glass!” He said. “Don’t we make the perfect couple?” This was one of those rare moments when Pirouette was at a loss for words. If she said, “yes,” it would be tantamount to an agreement to marry. If she said, “no,” it would be an immutable rejection, and so she said nothing. She simply sighed.