Now that I had uncovered the truth of my royal descent and regal connection, I was in a state of the utmost tumultuous delight. While admittedly, such sentiments are more commonly associated with those of a girl with questionable natural beauty and little consequence when she receives a matrimonial proposal from a man of elevated rank, they never the less agitated my sensibilities. Thus, whence I had reached the Foleys’ house I was nigh on overcome by that girlish folly of hysteria.
“Confess, I am nigh on overcome by that girlish folly of hysteria!” said I to Sukey, who was engaged in counting how long the footman, Mr. Puff, could abstain from breathing afore he found it necessary to expire. She turned instantly with a look that, with each raised brow, expressed that she was all ardent eagerness to hear the cause of my nervous complaint.
“My dearest Francesca, I am all ardent eagerness to hear the cause of your nervous complaint.” said she.
I hastily applied myself to recounting all that had passed to Sukey, employing the descriptive flair I am fortunate enough to count as one my accomplishments.
“Francesca, tis impossible to denounce you as a liar! For your fervent expression of sincerity renders me incapable of sufficient doubt in your royal notions. Thus I am forced by the double powers of logic and rationality to conclude that you must, indeed, be a member of our fine and illustrious monarchy!” Sukey spoke with such warmth and affection, concluding her speech with a bow of such elegance that I began to suspect that her cordiality was not merely on account of our friendship but born from her desire to claim such intimate acquaintance with our sovereignty as might be afforded by me!
At that very instant an event occurred of such fatefully excellent timing that it was of a type usually found in those inescapably honest works of literary prose, the novel. Mrs Foley entered the parlour in a state of disarray that suggested she had run the five and twenty miles distance from Lady Bletchley’s where she had been taking tea. She approached us with a gait that with every fall of her right foot indicated happy tidings.
“My dears!” Cried she in tones of such rapturous delight that one might almost think she had received word from her dressmaker that her new gown was to be ready a day earlier than predicted. “You shall never believe what I have heard, for I can scarce believe it myself! Indeed it is beyond any conceivable joy that would be within your power to imagine, tis better even than that.” Continued she in a voice laden with every happy sentiment. “This news is of such an indescribable nature that I fear tis almost beyond my power to describe it. Nay I am certain I cannot relate it to you in a manner that might do it full justice for I am so very flustered that it is not in my power to reveal what I know until I have regained command of my senses.” With these words she turned to Mr. Puff, the footman who had nearly perished under Sukey’s command and had yet to return to his usual pallid complexion, and bade him bring her a glass of the best fortified wine. Having settled upon the fact that nought could be settled until her constitution had been settled, she proceeded to take incessant turns about the room in the hope of preventing a bilious attack and aid the recovery of her composure.
My own composure was greatly aggrieved however, for there is little in the world so reminiscent of vulgarity than announcing to the assembled company that one has knowledge of no small significance, then forcing the above mentioned company to remain in a state of intolerable suspense while one indulges one’s weak constitution and partiality for port wine!
Whence Mr Puff had returned my patience had been sorely tested. Thus when the unhappy Mrs foley, having sampled her fortified wine, exhaled it with a severe lack of propriety into the purple hued visage of the unfortunate footman declaring it to be only the second best variety, I could tolerate no more.
“Mrs Foley! This shall not be borne! I shall not be kept waiting for news in a manner that could only be rendered acceptable if one was a wife of the militia awaiting news of her husband’s certain death!” I cried in tones of vexation.Though I was deeply desirous of striking the wretched woman I allowed myself only the indulgence of adding; “madam, if you insist upon continuing in so uncouth a fashion I shall have no choice than to conclude that you are so unhappy as to be an ill-bred milksop!”
Mrs Foley instantaneously informed us that none other than their estimable personages of their majesties the Prince of Wales and his sister were expected in this part of the county by and by and they had acquiesced to the request to attend the Marchmonts ball. Upon hearing so coincidental a coincidence I abandoned myself to that most superior of refined and delicate ailments; the faint, with all the over zealous eagerness of a lately widowed swan who is entirely determined to follow his life’s partner into blissful oblivion!
This incapacitation of both body and mind lasted a full seven days. It was fortunate, therefore that Sukey is inclined towards perseverance and has the resolve of a gamekeeper wholly decided upon stopping a band of peasants; thus she was able to rouse me from my stupor the very morn of the ball. This left me with sufficient time to tend to my toilette. For anything less than a dozen hours would be too little to arrange one’s tendrils into a chignon adequate for the event of informing the monarchy that one is their long lost kin!
Sukey and I had settled upon frocks that were of a hue identical to our eyes, thus mine was a blue perfectly calculated to draw the attention of the royals. While Sukey’s was of a dull brown perhaps better suited to manure than to muslin. By and by the hour of departure arrived, though the Foley’s carriage travelled at far to slow a pace to be considered fashionable; causing my arrival at the doors of the Marchmonts great house to be an ill humoured one . The finery and grandeur of the ball, whilst being of a quality far superior to anything I had seen, held little to entertain or divert me. I was all anxious anticipation of the prince’s arrival. This long awaited event occurred after such a delay that, had it been any other guest, it would most certainly have exposed them to the supposition that their ill manners were due to intoxicating liquors.
The Royal party, whence here, indulged in none of the usual diversions of a ball, but rather chose to settle in a corner of the room at a convenient distance from the punch bowl. Seizing my opportunity I approached them from the right, so that my figure might appear to it’s best advantage, and passed before them. But nought happened. I turned to Sukey who was at my side and said, “I suppose if I had full expected their highnesses to distinguish our association upon my first passage before them I ought be called out as a sanguine utopian disposed to faith in fantasy!”
“Pray, Francesca, why do you not simply tell their majesties that you are undoubtedly among their progeny? I am certain they would be overjoyed by such tidings!” Responded she.
“I am confident they would.” I replied. “Yet do you not find it more fitting for so delicate a heroine as me to be the discovered rather than the discoverer?”
Sukey’s Visage was all confusion, thus I continued; “My dearest Sukey, do not you think it would be a far more beauteous resolution to my current plight if his Regal Highness the prince were to see me from afar and conclude for himself that I am of the closest familial connection. He would undoubtedly cry out ‘Hazaar! Tis our long lost relation who was tragically orphaned but naturally gifted. I had been afeared that we should never be reunited!’ Besides my dear Sukey, you forget that we are not formally introduced. Thus approaching them would expose me to impropriety, ruining my reputation perhaps forever!”
As soon as I had concluded my speech I proceeded to pass before them again, and thrice more. But still to no avail. Five and thirty minutes passed, during which I had taken numerous turns about the room and danced a cotillion and a quadrille directly before the royal party, yet, despite my lightness of foot no declaration of recognition occurred.
“Hang caution!” Said I, and embarking upon an energetic jig directly before the Prince of Wales and his fair sister I saw the Prince’s face contort. His visage changed hue above seven times with the rapidity of a coward fleeing from a duel. I knew the Prince was in the grip of the flush of recognition. He would at any moment, I was entirely certain, throw his arms out to me and welcome me as a niece. I could bare it no longer, and was seized by impatient agitation, I stepped forward and placed myself squarely before our future sovereign and, anticipating his next words, I spoke hastily to confirm them. “Indeed Sire, it is I Francesca Tapestry Nonsense, your misplaced relation, and I have returned!” I cried in tones melodic delight.
With the suddenness of a young debutant falling in love for the first time, silence fell; as did the Prince. With an anguished cry of “Forsooth!” he stumbled forwards rendered nonsensical by emotions! I reached forth to assure him that my reappearance was not a cruel deception. Yet, afore I could offer such consoling words I was pushed sideways with unbecoming force. Cries of “Nay, tis the gout! The Prince has the gout!” filled the ballroom and above one lady surrendered herself to the hysterics with refined dedication.
I looked on in shocked dismay as the Prince was carried off having fallen prey to an attack of the gout in a fashion that showed an indecent disregard for familial reunification!