Last time we left Queen Filigree, lying on the floor in a faint….Chapter Nineteen
Winter: Chapter Twenty – Betrothals and Surprises
Prince Ronan was summoned to the queen’s dressing room and rushed to his beloved’s side. ‘Darling heart, please wake up, my love please.’ He was beside himself as he looked down at his wife’s ashen face. The door slammed open, and Doctor Doesugood raced into the room as fast as his bunions allowed.
‘Clear the way, out of the way you buffoon… oh… sorry your highness.’ He gently pushed the prince to one side, kneeling gingerly on the floor by his queen’s side.
‘Please leave me alone to tend to my patient; I will call you immediately I have a diagnosis Prince Ronan.’
Bewildered and trembling the prince was led away by the ladies in waiting as the doctor produced a vial of essential oil from his waistcoat pocket. As the smell of sandalwood filled the queen’s nostrils, she gasped and opened her eyes.
‘Ah thank goodness your majesty,’ the doctor patted her hand. ‘For a minute there I thought you were a goner!’
He called to one of the hovering ladies-in-waiting to assist him up from the floor, whilst others gently lifted their queen on to a red satin-covered day bed. There he completed a thorough examination which involved tongue pulling, ear tweaking, eye rolling and a good thump on the chest. After asking some impertinent questions about bodily functions and other activities, he prescribed an hour’s nap followed by a chamomile and honey infusion.
He patted his patient’s hand and whispered in her ear, eliciting a gasp from the royal lips, and tears to roll down her cheeks. The prince was summoned who knelt beside the day bed, whilst the doctor explained his prognosis. Sobbing, Prince Ronan gently kissed his wife’s ashen cheek and prepared to sit with her whilst she slept.
After the prescribed tea and nap, Queen Filigree rose from the couch and told Prince Ronan that she must attend the party that night to allay the fears of the courtiers. Before he left to don his own finery for the evening, they enjoyed a tender embrace that brought comfort to them both.
There was another reason that the queen’s presence was required at the gathering tonight, as her daughters were eager to introduce their two suitors to the court. Persephone and Narcissus both hoped that these two handsome princes from neighbouring kingdoms, might be on the verge of requesting their hands in marriage. With stomachs fluttering in excitement they sashayed across the red carpet behind their stiff-backed mother, bowing and smiling at the courtiers that lined the way. They sat in blue velvet chairs either side of the queen and her consort, watching with anticipation as two handsome Irish princes walked down the centre of the chamber, kneeling in front of the royal party.
Prince Frederick rose first and approached the dais holding a golden casket which he opened and placed at the feet of Queen Filigree.
‘Your majesty, with these precious pearls from the East of the lands, I humbly request the hand of your daughter, Princess Persephone in marriage.’ He paused and smiled at his intended fiancée. ‘I am to be given my own lands and substantial income on my marriage and I am first in line to the throne of Wexdonia.’
The queen glanced at her husband and her very eager daughter who was muttering ‘please, please, please’ to herself with her fingers crossed in the lap of her lilac coloured ball gown.
Queen Filigree smiled at Prince Freddie as he was usually known, and gestured for him to rise and stand behind Persephone on the dais. He placed his hand on his beloved’s shoulder and she smiled fit to burst.
It was now the turn of Prince Nathan to plead his case, and he gestured to a footman at the door of the chamber, who nodded in turn to another out of sight. The whole court turned to the entrance, wondering what an earth would appear that was suitable as a gift to the queen in return for the hand of her daughter.
With a clip-clop of hooves, the tiniest horse you can imagine was led through the doors towards the prince who gathered the silver reins in his hand. He turned to the queen and approached with the little steed high stepping by his side.
‘Your majesty I wish to present you with one of our miniature horses that are bred for their ability to dance.’ Enthralled the queen forgot her recent collapse and walked forward to take the reins from the young man. He gestured to the court musicians who began to play a light and frothy waltz, and the little horse bowed to the queen on one exquisite little foreleg, gliding around her as she stood still in amazement.
Queen Filigree began to mirror the creature’s fluid movements and it was clearly a magical moment. For a few minutes the queen and her new companion circled the dance floor until the music stopped. Reluctantly she handed over the reins to one of her grooms to take the little horse to the royal stables, where she ordered it to be housed in the finest of stalls.
She announced to the gathering that she accepted Prince Nathan’s request for the hand of Princess Narcissus, and to the cheers of the assembled guests he joined his betrothed with the rest of the royal family.
Despite still feeling a little queasy, Queen Filigree felt a sense of great happiness at not only forming two very critical alliances here in their new home, but also securing two kind and adoring husbands for her much loved daughters. She clapped her hands to announce that the guests should retire to the dining chamber to enjoy the stupendous meal that had been prepared by Chef Marcelle, knowing that all would require fortification before dancing the night away.
All through the evening Prince Ronan remained as his wife’s side, and they only took to the floor once to gracefully circle the ballroom. The courtiers were relieved to see that the colour had returned to their queen’s cheeks, and Doctor Doesugood remained close at hand in case of a relapse.
Not wanting to spoil her daughter’s celebrations, Queen Filigree and her husband retired to their chambers earlier than usual, but not before whispering in the Storyteller’s ear. He nodded gravely and watched as the couple slipped away before resuming the Viennese Waltz with his daughter Dorothy. Having been parted from her for so long, when she was transformed into a fox by the evil goblin, he treasured every moment that they now spent together. He was truly blessed, and he smiled as he thought about the lovingly hand-carved rocking horses that he was now creating for his three red-headed grandchildren.
The night was a huge success, and weary and rather the worse for wear after consuming several barrels of Amber Nectar, the court slipped away, one by one to their comfy feather beds.
©Sally Cronin Tales from the Irish Garden.2018
My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!
Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.
Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.
This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021