“Oh, no,” murmured Lady Natasha Rambovalina. “Here she comes.” For a woman who was nearly as wide as she was tall, Tata Sous-sus was amazingly fast and lithe on her feet. Walking like a woman with a purpose, she reached Lady Natasha in a few seconds, arm extended with a folded piece of paper in her hand.
“This is for you,” blurted Tata. “Read it now.”
“Would it kill you to be a little more discreet?” Asked Natasha as she snatched the note from Tata’s hand. “What’s this all about?”
“Just read it,” sighed Tata in exasperation.
It read: To my devoted servant- leave my Court now. -P
“What law have I broken,” demanded Lady Natasha. “Why should I leave Court like a thief in the night?”
“I’m just the messenger. I’ve no idea why someone would want you to leave.” Unspoken was the fact that the “someone” was Queen Pirouette.
Lady Natasha Rambovalina Ulanova heaved a huge sigh of relief as she disembarked from the carriage that had brought her from the waterfront to the Queen’s palace in the very center of the capital. The narrow roads and alleys of the city were forever clogged with others in carriages, with wagons full of produce and other wares that were pulled by large beasts of burden and then there were the people on foot, risking life and limb in order to move from one part of the city to another, often just a block or two away. If she’d left the pier on foot, unencumbered by luggage, she could have made the journey to the palace in about an hour. By carriage, it took twice that time.
Speaking to her lady’s maid, who doubled as her sole traveling companion, Lady Natasha said, “Go on, Sally! Lead the way!”
There was a sizable welcoming party for Lady Natasha. Included in the mix were the Archbishop for the Capital who had several lower prelates, abbesses, monsignors, and even acolytes swinging their censors, belching incense into the air. The Captain of the Guard was there with a small contingency of men carrying their pikes against their shoulders. The Prime Minister was there as well to greet the daughter of his oldest brother.
“At last, our visitor from the frozen north has arrived!” Exclaimed the Prime Minister with open arms to embrace his niece. “You look even more beautiful than the last time we met.”
“Well, when you wrote to me telling me that the Queen needed a new lady in waiting, I had to respond in person.
Despite the repeated entreaties of Lady Abigail and the other women of Queen Pirouette’s suite, Her Majesty insisted on attending the Thursday Night Ball. Applying her cosmetics alone was a nightmare for the ladies of the Queen’s bedchamber. She’d already chosen and rejected a dozen gowns.
“The ball is supposed to begin no later than 9 in the evening, and here it is, ten minutes away!” Moaned Tata Sous-sus, never one to suffer in silence.
“The ball begins when I say it begins,” snapped Pirouette. She normally wasn’t cranky, but she had a splitting headache which made it hard to be patient with anybody, least of all cousin Tata Sous-sus.
It was well after nine thirty when Pirouette made her entrance into the Grand Ballroom. All the attendees were curtsies and bows. Holding Abigail by the arm, the two women performed the first waltz together, much to the delight of everyone present. Soon, others were joining in, some emulating their Queen; that is, men danced with men and women danced with women.
Pirouette noticed the dashing young general looking at her, and for some reason, his gaze embarrassed her. Covering her face with her fan, she leaned into Lady Abigail and asked, “Who is that dashing, young general with the temerity to look at me so directly?” She asked Abigail.
“He’s General Montclair. He’s just returning from an extremely successful campaign in the south,” answered Abby in a waggish tone of voice.
“Watch your step, Abby,” said the Queen. “If you’re not careful, you may find yourself working part-time as a laundress for the entire court.”
Lady Abigail stifled a giggle. This was an ongoing joke between just the two of them. One day, Abigail would usurp Pirouette’s throne and force her to marry some minor prince from the Empire, while, she Lady Abigail, would be coronated in her place, in order to set the ship of state on the correct course.
It was time for Queen Pirouette’s religious studies class. This was conducted by Père Clairmont, the Royal Confessor. Unlike the confessional, these sessions were not protected by any form of confidentiality, so Her Majesty was often reluctant to answer him with complete candor. Père often found this frustrating, but he understood her reluctance. Some answers, if posited fully would be politically lethal.
“Tell me, Your Majesty,” he began. “What do you think is the source of evil in this world?”
“I suppose its the Devil,” she answered tentatively.
“That’s a good answer,” he said with a benign smile. “Have you considered that it might be man’s desire to place his own will before that of God’s?”
“I suppose,” she said again.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” he responded patiently. “The questions aren’t meant to be answered with suppositions, but with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
Taking advantage of a break in the rain, la duchesse du Linge and friends decided to frolic in the gardens. Given her advancing age, such diversions were now rare in the life of the old King’s former mistress. Catching her foot on an uneven brick in the pavement that cut through the roses, she fell to her knees, tearing her new dress, knocking her wig into a precarious position and soiling her gloves as she braced herself from falling on her face. In her distress, she cried, “Oh, poo! Somebody help me!” As she tore off her blindfold, she smeared her eye makeup, giving her the appearance of a sad clown.
Thank you to Cee Neuner for turning me onto this challenge that is hosted by Clare’s Cosmos.
There’s a lot to this photograph. Both of these cats have passed over to the great beyond. JD, the black and white, was an amazing cat who lived to be sixteen years of age. I named him after my first roommate in college, with whom I am still friends. The other cat was Natasha, and this is a very rare photograph of her because when she was less than a year old, she lost one of her front legs in a freak accident. This was just one of those magical moments when I had my camera deployed and I was able to catch them mixing it up.
The reason I adopted Natasha was because JD’s mother, Princess Ula had passed away. He’d had his mommy all his life, so naturally he fell into a deep depression, so much so that I thought he was going to follow Princess Ula swiftly to the grave. A friend suggested that I get him a kitten. So Natasha was really a magical kitty. She saved JD’s life. He lived on for many years.
This photo was taken with a disposable camera. I scanned it into my computer a few years ago. I’m not really sure where the original is at this point. I’ve never edited it, never even cropped it. I could go on for days about these two kitties, but I’ll save it for another time. God bless you, Natasha and JD!
The Royal Barge seemed to float on the water. The paddles, wrapped in gold leaf, dipped quietly into the water, pushing the vessel smoothly along its course. On board were Queen Pirouette and her three daughters with an accompanying entourage of ladies in waiting, almoners, confessors, musicians, maids, not to mention the crew. The barge was fairly stuffed with people. God forbid it should capsize!