Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In Which a Wedding is Celebrated at Court

From the diary of Dulcie, Crown Princess of Bentlefay:

Well, we have had our wedding, and the happy couple is gone for a long month to Dumcruckle. My one consolation is that they have taken Master Falconer with them. He has been up the skirt of every lady and maid who will allow him there – I will say for him that at least he recognizes that distinction; we have had guests who do not – and the household has been in a state of chaos as a result. He has treated Mother and me like pieces of porcelain, but we and Lynde seemed to have been the only ones immune.

Lynde had been worried about my safety in her absence, but the matter was quite magically resolved, since with Rafe still too convalescent to do much, Tarpley is at quite a loose end, and it has been arranged that they will spend most of their time with me and Tarpley will be my bodyguard for the interim. It works out well for me at least, because as much as I love Lynde, she is just too kindly to be a truly fascinating conversationalist. Rafe has never had that problem, so the month will go quite quickly.

The ceremony was beautiful, and quite different from Winnie’s hurried wedding just a month ago. The whole court was in attendance for Lynde and Tom, and I am confident that it will be considered the fashionable wedding of the year.

It took place in the evening, with a real royal feast that took days to prepare. The household staff was pleased at the opportunity to show off their skills, and in any case they adore Lynde, even sour old Tess who scourged her myrmidons into a frenzy of simmering, roasting, basting, baking and boiling for the event.

We finally managed to finish Lynde’s green gown by dint of sewing feverishly on it at every waking moment, even giving up dancing in order to flay our fingers in the cause of fashion. The results amply justified our care: when we were arraying her to go out Lynde looked like the queen of happiness. Her hair was loose and streamed gloriously down her back, with a gold fillet keeping it away from her face. We had given her a golden torc for her neck and lent her small gold hoops for her ears, and the whole of her gleamed as though burnished.

“Tom will be awestruck,” Mother said.

“Maybe he will faint, and the wedding will have to be postponed,” I added, perhaps a touch hopefully.


“Do you really think it is all right?” Lynde asked, more shyly than I would have expected from her.

“My dear,” Mother said, “you are as beautiful outside as you are in your heart, and I have no praise higher than that.”

So we went out to the hall, where Father already stood magnificent at the top of the room with Tom, and the massed courtiers made a gaily colored background. The household staff stood in the back, those who were not directly responsible for the feast at that moment, and there were many preliminary snifflings among the maids. I knew how they felt.

The bugles struck up, and Lynde swept into the hall on her father’s arm. I had seen her just a few minutes before and thought her beautiful, but now the glow of happiness that suffused her made her ten times more lovely. I sneaked a glance at Tom and did not see a trace of the awe I expected in his eyes, which irked me a little until I realized that he had not even noticed her dress but was looking at her self, with a certainty and gratitude that set all the trappings at nought.

I am ashamed to say that I hardly remember the ceremony. It seemed to come at me in impressions: Father’s solemn voice in the ceremony and the two clear voices in response, the sunset through the upper windows falling on Lynde’s hair, the look in Tom’s eyes, and finally the bugles playing them out, as resplendent as if they were king and queen themselves.

The feast was of course the kind of miracle that only Tess could perform, and most of the guests gorged themselves to repletion, but I found I could only pick at my food. Lynde would be going tomorrow, and although she would be coming back in a month, things were bound to be forever changed. Her first responsibility would necessarily be to her husband, not to me, and although I hated to think of myself as a particularly needy person, it made me feel awfully lonely.

Oddly enough, the one who understood was Tom.

The guests were at their dancing, the feast lay in shattered remnants on the trestles and Lynde was blithely receiving the congratulations of the household.

“She loves you, too,” he said, coming up behind me.

“Never mind about me,” I said hastily. “If I couldn’t bear not being the center of attention at someone else’s wedding, I’d be a selfish person indeed.”

He laughed. “Of course not. But, you know, it seemed a little as though you thought something was ending.”

“It is a little, though, isn’t it?”

“Not so much as you might think. And beginnings are nice too, take it from me.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing the library in a few months, certainly.”

I hesitated, then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Congratulations, Master Crowder. You are a fortunate man, but it seems to me you are worthy of it.”

Tom put his hand to his cheek. “Is the kiss of a princess supposed to be good luck?”

I smiled. “You will have to make it so.”

“Tom, darling!” Lynde called at that moment. “Tess wants to tell you something!”

So he trotted over obediently and was absorbed back into the congratulations, leaving me with a little more to think about, but somewhat comforted.

Beginnings, I thought. I wonder if it will ever happen to me.

But just then the bugles struck up again, and I was unable to think about it anymore.

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