“What kind of fashion statement is that?” Asked the recently rehabilitated Lady Greenmeadow. The object of her scorn was the old King’s former mistress (one of many) la duchess du Linge. Rather than the usual court attire, the omnipresent mantua, she’d donned a pair of baggy trousers. Men’s trousers were usually rather tight and form-fitting, so she could not be accused of cross-dressing. No, this was the duchess’ feeble attempt to influence court fashions.
When the old King saw Madame la duchesse, he said, “My dear, you’ve never looked more lovely. Where did you get those trousers? They are much too large for you!”
Princess Pirouette couldn’t take her eyes off of the stained glass. To think that she had commissioned such a work of beauty was almost beyond her comprehension. For five years, starting at the age of only thirteen years, she’d been making payments, now the window was finally completed. She’d made certain that the saints depicted were women, and there they were: Saint Philomena with her anchor and the Blessed Mother herself. Right there above the altar was the result of her devotion. In a tiny corner of the window was an inscription bearing the words, “Commission by HRH Princess Pirouette,” along with the date of completion.
Kneeling at the altar rail, she’d been praying for at least an hour. An untold number of “Glory be’s,” “Our Father’s,” and “Holy Mary’s” had parted her lips and risen straight up to Heaven. Upon the third completion of the entire rosary, she concluded with the words, “And God bless the King, le comte des Deux Chats, Tata Sous-sus and dear Abigail.” As she rose, Pirouette was surprised at how stiff her legs and back had become from such an extended period of immobility. “And God bless me too!”
When Pirouette knocked over the ink pot, it was only half accidental. She watched calmly as the document upon which the pot had sat, soaked up the blue liquid. She smiled and said to herself, “Thank God paper isn’t waterproof.” She was done for the day anyway. Calling Abigail, she said, “See that pile of papers at the end of the desk? Give them to a messenger to take to his lordship, the prime minister.”
Abigail’s eyes grew wide at the titling tower of paperwork. “Did you go through all of that in one sitting?”
“Indeed I did, and my hand is cramping so that I can’t do one more jot of work!”
GarGar closed his eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun. It was a hot summer’s day. He mopped his face with a lace handkerchief and then tossed it unceremoniously at his stone-faced valet. This was probably one of the least obnoxious indignities that he’d received from the hands of his master. “Thank you, m’lord,” he said without a hint of sarcasm. Something in the servant’s words brought a memory to GarGar of his father, a charming scoundrel who’d left a string of illegitimate children across the kingdom before being struck down by an irate husband. Then he thought of his mother, a delicate beauty who with steely determination had remarried swiftly in order to provide her only child some kind of a legacy.
“Fetch me some quills and paper,” he said to the valet. “I need to write to Princess Pirouette.” It was understood that the valet would have to bring a pot of ink as well.
Princess Pirouette sat at her new desk. The polished surface was not visible for all of the papers scattered on it. Lord Boyd, the prime minister’s youngest secretary, personally delivered the piles earlier that morning. Pirouette was aghast. “What am I supposed to do with this?” She asked the secretary incredulously. “My suggestion is that you start from the bottom,” he said smoothly, before bowing low and departing as quickly as he’d arrived.
Chewing her bottom lip, Pirouette took Lord Boyd’s advice and pulled a paper from the bottom of the largest pile. The script was ornate and unfamiliar to her, but she squinted her eyes and tried to sound out the letters. “Whereas the people of the capital have found their streets to be piled with rubbish, and whereas …” That was all she could glean from the document. Scanning further down, she made out the words, “Therefore His Most Gracious Majesty…” Dipping her quill into the ink pot, she began to underline the words that she didn’t understand.
GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats, returned to a hero’s welcome from the campaign against the rebels. The church bells of the capital rang. The people thronged the streets. The markets were all closed. As he and his army road through the city, young maidens threw rose petals before them. Princess Pirouette and the old King greeted him on the steps of the great cathedral. Even the wretched poor, who couldn’t find a loaf of bread were assuaged by the wine that flowed from various fountains.
GarGar shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. Addressing a delegation from the rebellious city, he said, “Tell your city elders that if they do not surrender immediately, I will burn their city to the ground.”
Reaching into his waistcoat pocket, he drew out the miniature portrait of his beloved Princess Pirouette. At times like this, when he was required to be cruel, it helped him to remain steadfast in defending his future wife’s posterity. She looked back at him, unblinking, a faint smile adorning her elegant features. He sighed. How he loved her. Would she ever love him in return with even a fraction of the passion he felt for her? Whether or not she did, he vowed never to stop loving her.