Again, I apologize for the extremely long interval between chapters. I hope everyone is still enjoying this story and still interested in reading more of it. And a thank you goes out to my muse who gave me some much needed inspiration to continue writing this story.
A/N: Chapter edited for more detail and plot enhancement on June 17, 2013.
Disclaimer:Ever After does NOT in any way belong to me. And I am taking some liberties with Spanish history and royal lineage; I hope this does not offend anyone.
The Privilege of Love
By: M.L. Zhang
Chapter 6: In Sickness...
Expensive fine silk gowns embellished with lace and ribbons, in various colors and styles, and their accessories were being folded into heavy dark wooden trunks. Servants whisked around the large room, packing all the princess' belongings that she would take with her to her new home abroad. Not only were they her seemingly ordinary everyday items, but they would become tokens of her homeland; to which she would never return. The early morning sun shone through the opening between the rich crimson velvet curtains also the open window allowed a gentle warm breeze upon which the scent of gardenias from the garden below floated. The sunshine created glinting reflections on the jewels set in her clothes and in her exquisite jewelry as they too were packed for the journey.
All the while, the princess could only sit at the edge of her large downy bed, one item that would not be going with her, with her hands folded together and brought to her lips as she silently cried as her resplendent life was stuffed into cold boxes. Usually she would enjoy this kind of activity, when it had meant that court was moving to another castle, or her family was going on a holiday, but this time it was for no such joyous occasion. Although a marriage should be an immensely joyful celebration, for her it was not so. Though her outward appearance suggested bitter melancholy, she was seething with rage inside at her parents who refused to release her from this marriage engagement.
She bared no malice towards her beloved Alejandro, as he had tried his utmost best to think of a way to curtail this impediment which separated them. King Carlos was not in the least swayed by Alejandro's persuasive argument that a marriage between himself and the Princess Gabriella could be just as advantageous as a marriage to France. His argument that their union could solidify relations between the crown and the region of Andalucía, though tempting to the monarch did not change the adamant king's mind. Gabriella had believed that he could magically discover a way that they could be together, however the only final option being to elope and consummate the marriage so it would be binding. And though it was sweetly enticing, she could not bring herself to disgrace her family in such a way. As well, she knew that if she had done so, she would have been disinherited most promptly. Not that she would have been left penniless, for Alejandro's family was quite wealthy. But, she wanted both their families to approve of their union; she did not feel right going behind their backs and against their wishes. Even though she was greatly upset with them, they were still her parents and she loved them very much. And so… she reconciled herself to a miserable life in France married to a man she did not love, nor would she ever let herself love, and a man who probably would not love her. For this fate she was assigned to she could only blame two people, her father and her future father-in-law. She would never forgive them for separating her from Alejandro for as long as she lived.
The following morning, to show her parents her dissatisfaction, she chose to wore a simple black gown for the start of her journey to her new home. There was black lace along the neckline which outlined the gold cross pendant she wore at her neck. Black lace in small bell sleeves at her elbows, and a gold square link chain belt around her waist. She did look stunningly beautiful, especially with her long dark brown hair pinned up into a braided up do and donned with a black fascinator and small black lace veil.
She emerged from the palace into the sunny courtyard, which was flanked with potted dwarf cypress trees and the courtyard walls donned climbing roses in various shades of red, she drank in the sweet aromas of Spain she would never breathe again. This thought made her breath catch in her throat and a tear come to her eye, which she fervently blinked back. Her parents were overseeing the loading of her luggage into the many carriages that would take her north. When they turned to see their youngest daughter approaching, her mother started to smile and then frowned as Gabriella came nearer, "I hope when you have reached France and meet your fiancé you choose to wear a more flattering color."
Gabriella gave her mother and father each a kiss on the cheek as she greeted them. "I am traveling to my own funeral, Mother, what other color is more appropriate for mourning than black?"
King Carlos scowled at his daughter, "Though you may detest this arrangement, do not forget that you are my daughter and that you represent Spain. Do not disgrace us with your immature insolent behavior. I expect you to be the graceful, disciplined, obedient, and charming princess you were raised to be. When I hear news of what is happening abroad, I want to hear that you are making Spain look great by becoming the dutiful future French queen that is expected of you."
So that is my father's way of saying goodbye and that he'll miss me? Gabriella thought to herself. "How can I forget, father, when every day I am married to that French prince is a constant reminder? I will act the part of the dutiful wife that I must be, but know that I will be unhappy in my role every day for the only soul who holds my love and happiness is Alejandro." She paused and then added, "From whom you have taken me from."
She was assisted up the step and into a lavish carriage, which to her was more like a jailor's wagon leading her to prison. She chose the bench which allowed her to face the front and upon inspection she noted it would just be herself and a page boy traveling in her coach. She was not allowed to bring her servants or ladies; part of her acclimating to French society was to choose French servants and ladies upon her arrival. How she would miss the sound and comfort of conversing in her native Spanish?!
The carriage jostled forward and she watched in tearful silence as her home slowly faded from view. As the carriage rolled on along the road, she kept the curtain rolled up, so she could see everything including the scenery down to the lowly peasants working in their master's fields and burn into memory everything about Spain before she truly had to give it all up for a foreign land she could never love as much as her native Spain.
The air in the grandiose room smelled of incense, lavender, and chamomile drifting upwards from a large bronze bowl of burning herbs sitting on a small wooden table by a large four posted bed. The servant had promptly returned with the royal physician who was surprised to see a commoner in Prince Henri's bed, expecting to see Henri ill and lying there since these were his quarters and he had been summoned for the prince.
The physician just stood there dumbstruck, looking at Danielle. He was of thin build and medium height with silver long hair and a short white beard and compassionate pale blue eyes. He wore simple clothes even though with the salary of a court physician he could afford finer. Henri's voice was louder than he had meant it to be when he spoke and was in an irritated tone, "Well… exam her!"
Jean-Luc walked over to the bedside, pushing back a velvet forest green curtain and placed his bag of instruments and remedies at the edge of the bed. Danielle was sleeping, her lips parted and beads of sweat formed on her forehead from her high fever. Every so often she would start coughing, although it wouldn't wake her. The doctor stood over her, placing his hand on her forehead and indeed her skin was extremely warm. Though warm to the touch, she shivered as if deeply chilled. He untied the strings at the front of her shift to reveal her chest a little to discover large red rashes on her abdomen that appeared to be spreading. He checked her pulse and her breathing and while his face was near hers he heard her whisper, "Papa, but you just got home… do you have to leave so soon?"
The physician stood up and turned to look at Henri. "Do you know if the young lady's father lives nearby?"
Henri looked from Danielle to Jean-Luc, "He did, however her parents have passed on many years ago now. She has been living with her step-mother and step-sisters. Why do you ask?"
Hearing that information, the physician nodded, "Just as I suspected." He said more so to himself. She's having deliriums of her past he said to himself.
Henri looked concerned, "What is it?"
"She has typhus." The physician confirmed, "All the symptoms I've found point to it. And from what you told me of her conditions in the dungeons, that is likely where she contracted it. It is quite a common sickness among the prisons."
Henri tried to digest it all. Worried for Danielle, he asked "Is it curable?"
"I can administer some herbal potions and bloodletting to aid her in recovery." He paused, knowing the next bit of information the young prince will not like to hear. "However, the only cure is death. If she is to survive, it will be by her will to live." He said sadly, knowing that most often people did not recover from this disease by use of medicine.
Henri looked aghast at the news that death was so probable, a notion he would not accept. He nodded consent for Jean-Luc to immediately start treatment and the physician started to withdraw the implements from his bag he would need to withdraw all the ill humors in her blood with. For this procedure, Henri found he had to turn away until it was over as he could not tolerate seeing Danielle bleed if even to treat her ailment. When it was finished, the doctor gave Danielle her first dose of a tonic he prepared and instructed Henri how to mix it for the next dose. Packing up his bag, he walked over to Henri, "I've done all I can for now. We should know in a few days if her fever breaks, until then hope for the best. Keep the room filled with crushed flowers and lavender as well, it tends to help."
Henri patted him on the arm, "Thank you." The doctor gave a have smile of encouragement and then left the room.
Henri walked over to the bed and took Danielle's feverish hand in his, "I'm so sorry…" It was all he could say for awhile, feeling responsible and guilty that it was his fault she was so ill. "So…so… sorry."
Not caring about the risk of contagion, he brought her hand to his lips and kissed her, "Please make it through, I cannot imagine my life without you." He smoothed her hair away from her face and fixed the covers about her. And he spent the night sitting in a chair by her bedside, keeping a watchful vigil until he too fell asleep.
In the morning, a servant softly knocked at the door, waking Henri. Stretching from his not so comfortable sleeping position in the chair, he then went to door. "I have a message from your father, the King."
Henri nodded for the man to continue, "We have received word that your betrothed has left Castile and is en route to France as we speak. She should arrive within a fortnight if there are no delays."
When the servant stopped speaking, Henri asked, "Is that all?"
The man nodded, "Aye it is, Sire."
"My father did not mention anything about his decision on Danielle's fate?"
"No, sir. He did not."
"So, my father still thinks I am going to abandon Danielle and marry this Spanish princess?" Henri said, though as if speaking to himself. "Well, you can tell my father I heard this news and I have no response to it, except the wish to know his decision about Danielle."
The servant nodded and left the room. King Francis will undoubtedly be upset with his reply, but Henri did not very much care. Just by having this news delivered to him, Henri knew his father was reiterating the signed marriage deal, that it was his fate to marry the Spanish princess. It was completely clear to him then that with any amount of imploring was not going to get his father to change his mind. So, he needed to seriously start thinking of a different route to break this arrangement with Spain and to make a marriage to Danielle possible. But, how could a marriage between a Crown Prince and a commoner ever be deemed acceptable?
Twilight was descending slowly upon the landscape of northern Spain and as the carriages paused to rest the horses, servants walked along the procession lighting the lamps hanging from the carriages. Gabriella sighed, as she watched from her window and the page boy opposite her watched her intently.
"Your Highness is something the matter?" he asked.
Gabriella turned her attention to the boy, though not acutely, as he was just a commoner and did not deserve her full attention, "Everything is the matter. I am being wed to a man I do not love, traveling to a country I have never been to before, and I have no one familiar to come with me." She said in an irritated tone to the boy, as if he had asked a very obvious and stupid question.
He nodded, "Forgive me; I thought there may have been something else in addition."
She raised an eyebrow at him, wondering what exactly he was implying, but she did not inquire. She was in no mood to converse about her sadly pathetic life to a common servant. A servant who seemed in an odd way vaguely familiar, however one who probably worked for her father and who most likely was told to fish something out of her and report back to her father when the caravan returned to Castile.
The cook brought her a tray of food and a flagon of wine for her supper, which she picked at as the procession started back on their journey northward. The darkening landscape echoed her mood perfectly and she stared out at the fields and woods as they passed by, wishing there was something she could to change her fate. Wishing for a little while that she was not a princess that she was as common as the boy sitting opposite her, so that she could have some sort of say or control over her life. It was a futile thought though, for she could not change the royal blood that flowed through her veins, so she wished she could then change her attitude about the situation. Accept it and find some kind of happiness and joy in what fate (and her father) has chosen for her. But, no matter how hard she tried, she could not find it in her to happily accept this marriage. She was doomed to live the rest of life in miserable unhappy circumstances, and she so much had longed for a blissful life…. in Andalucía,… with her beloved Alejandro.
She pushed her dinner tray to the other side of the bench and then turned her head so that her veil and hat shielded her face from view. Gabriella then let herself mourn for the loss of the wonderful life she had always dreamed of and would never get to have.
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