CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

Honeymoon At Last

Virginia and Wolf got up very early the next morning to make the final arrangements for their honeymoon trip. Virginia got suitcases from the chambermaid and packed the things they'd put aside the night before. Wolf got one of the stablemen to make arrangements for a carriage to take them to Kissing Town. The perfect butler helped bring the suitcases down to the great foyer so they could leave as soon as they said their good-byes. Then Virginia spoke to the chef and asked him to pack their breakfast and lunch so they could eat on the way and save time. But she brought out a little package of bacon to her husband so he could nibble till it was time to go.

"Oh, thank you," Wolf said, grabbing the bacon and gobbling it down. "I was famished."

"I had a feeling you would be."

As they were standing in the hallway, Lord Rupert came by with his sleeves rolled up and several materials in various shades of green, flung over his shoulder. "Oh, good morning, Prince and Princess!" Rupert said, jovially.

"You're up early," Virginia noted.

"Oh, I have to be. Prince Wendell announced his wedding last night and I am the lucky chap who's in charge of everything. It's wonderful! Except that I have less than three weeks to get it all done. Princess Rose wants the wedding to take place just before the full moon."

Virginia and Wolf tried not to smirk, but it didn't matter. Lord Rupert was too involved with his green materials to notice their expressions.

"I want to use green as the secondary color," Rupert said. "But I'm not sure which is best. I've got olive, forest, emerald, and apple green. I'm just on my way to see which one matches up best to the tapestry from the library. I put it up in the ballroom last night."

"Oh, I think the olive green," Virginia said.

"Do you?" Rupert asked. "I'm kind of leaning toward the emerald myself. But I just don't know."

"Well, we won't keep you," Wolf said. "You look very busy."

"Oh, yes. But I love it. Truly love it. This is the second time that I've had the opportunity to serve your family by arranging a wedding. And… " Rupert moved in closer to Wolf and lowered his voice into a conspiratorial tone. "If the time should come again soon, that you need yet another wedding planned, I hope you'll ask for my help."

Rupert was speaking, of course, of a possible wedding between Tony and Matilde. He had seen things heat up between them recently as Virginia and Wolf had not. And he had seen Tony and Matilde talk to each other incessantly by mirror all the time they were away with the cannon crews. He could smell a wedding coming. But since Virginia and Wolf knew nothing about that yet, they could only exchange confused looks.

"Sure," Wolf said. "We'll do that."

"Oh! Thank you!" Rupert said eagerly. "What a feather in my cap that will be! I know the whole of the Nine Kingdoms will come out for that one. Everyone will see my work! For that I'm thinking two secondary colors, a combination of gold and silver. What do you think?"

Wolf and Virginia exchanged another look.

"I'm sure silver and gold would be find," Virginia said.

"Oh, so do I! Now I hope you don't mind, but I've got to fly. So much to do today, just so much." And Rupert took off toward the ballroom with a pronounced clippity clip.

"What was that all about?" Virginia asked.

"Who knows!" Wolf said, waving it off. With him it could be anything."

While Wolf was packing their luggage in the carriage, Wendell and his bride-to-be came down for breakfast. Virginia ran to embrace Rose immediately while Wendell stopped to receive congratulations from a couple of other people.

"Wolf told me," Virginia said, to her sister-in-law. "I think it's wonderful!"

"I'm just so happy," Rose said. "And look, Wendell gave me my engagement ring last night. It was his mother's."

Virginia looked admiringly at the ring with its circle of rubies. "It's beautiful."

"Will you help me pick out my wedding dress?"

"Oh, I can't," Virginia said. "I would, but we're finally leaving on our honeymoon today. We just stuck around long enough to say goodbye to you and my Dad."

"Well, it's about time you had a honeymoon," Rose said. "But you better be back in time for the wedding."

"We wouldn't miss it."

"Will you be my matron of honor?"

"I'd love to," Virginia said. "You're finally going to be Cinderella and marry the prince."

"What?"

"Oh," Virginia said, wiping away a little tear. "It was just one of your favorite stories when you were a little girl."

Rose laughed. "It sounds so strange to hear you say that! Look, when everything settles down, you've got to tell me everything that happened in the past from your point of view. I already got Wolf's side of things."

"Of course. We'll have lunch and I'll tell you everything."

The two women embraced again as Wolf appeared.

"I hear you two made it official last night," Wolf said.

Rose threw her arms around her brother and showed him her ring. "Yes, isn't it wonderful!"

"Yes," Wolf said. "And the ring's nice too. Even if it can't sing."

At that point, Wendell came over and joined the group. "Wolf," he said, with a proper clearing of the throat, "I'd very much like it if you would be my best man."

"Mm, seems fair, since you did the same for me."

"Oh, but you've got to give me away," Rose said.

Wolf shook his head. "I don't really think that's quite proper for a brother. I'd feel kind of funny."

"What about my Dad?" Virginia said. "I'm sure he'd love to do it."

"That's a great idea!" Rose said. "I'll ask him after breakfast."

"Which I fear we've got to get to right away," Wendell said. "I have a meeting afterwards with a group of noblemen. And the Chancellor always gets so upset when I'm late."

"All right," Rose said.

"Have a good honeymoon!" Wendell said. "And make sure you're back in plenty of time." And with that, he steered Rose in the general direction of the diningroom. But it was slow going as other well wishers overflowing with congratulations stopped them.

"They seem very happy," Wolf observed.

"Yes, very."

"I'll just fetch the lunch basket from the kitchen and we'll be on our way."

"No," Virginia said. "We still haven't said goodbye to Daddy."

"Right." He had promised himself that he would try to be more cordial to his father-in-law. It wouldn't be right to run off without saying goodbye to him. "I'll take my time then and stop for a little more bacon. You want anything?"

"No, I'll wait till we're on the road."

Wolf went off to the kitchen and a couple minutes later, Tony came down the main stairway.

"Dad!" Virginia said, flagging him down.

Tony came over to her at once. "Honey! How are you doing?" he said. "We missed you last night at dinner. Did you hear the news about Rose and Wendell?"

"Yes. Rose asked me to be matron of honor. And Wendell asked Wolf to be the best man. Now don't tell anyone, but if you play your cards right you might get to give the bride away."

"That would be quite an honor," Tony said.

"Just don't tell Rose I told you. She wants to ask you herself."

"Did you have breakfast yet? I was just on my way to meet Matilde in the dining room. She went down earlier to Wendell's office to handle the morning dispatches."

"You don't have to tell me about those early morning dispatches," Virginia said, with a big sigh. "I did more than my share of those, coming downstairs half-asleep before the sun had even come up. Sorry we can't join you for breakfast, though. Wolf and I are leaving for our long awaited honeymoon this morning."

"You are?" Tony asked, looking a little distracted. He was thinking he couldn't let them go till he'd told Virginia how serious things were getting between him and Matilde. "That's wonderful. How long will you be gone?"

"Till just before Rose and Wendell's wedding. Wolf and I have a lot of catching up to do. We're planning on going to Kissing Town first for a few days. Then we'll travel around a bit from there."

"That sounds wonderful. But, Honey, there's one thing I wanted to speak with you about before you go."

"What?"

"It's about me and Matilde. You see, I think it's getting kind of serious between us and…"

"Now, Dad. You haven't gone and fallen for her?"

"As a matter of fact I have and I know she feels the same about me."

Virginia shook her head. She still thought her father was under some kind of delusion. "Yeah, well. I just don't want you to get hurt."

"I won't get hurt. I know she loves me."

"She's fond of you, sure," Virginia said as though she were talking to a child. "She did a lot for all three of us. But, that doesn't mean she's in love with you."

"Look, a lot has happened that you don't know about."

"Dad, I'd be really happy if things worked out for you. But I just don't want you burying yourself in these delusions and getting hurt. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you and you can let me know if she's really started noticing you by the time I get back." Virginia tidied her father's tie for him in the same disparaging way she used to tidy his uniform when he worked as a janitor in their old apartment building.

Tony knew she wasn't hearing him. Maybe he'd have to wait till she and Wolf got back. But at the rate things were going, he and Matilde would be planning their wedding by then.

"Get back?" Matilde said, coming over. She had just been coming out of the King's study and seen them engrossed in a father/daughter conversation. She knew what it was about. From the way Virginia had tidied her father's tie, Matilde was pretty sure that the girl still wasn't ready to hear about their relationship. It had been easier to see her father flitting about childishly through brief relationships than to think about him getting involved seriously. Ah, young people! They think they're the only ones who can fall in love and have sex. "Where are you going?"

"We're finally leaving on our honeymoon," Virginia said. "Kissing Town first and then a little trip around the Fourth Kingdom."

"It sounds perfect."

"But we'll be back in time for Rose's wedding."

"I've got the lunch basket," Wolf said, dragging a gigantic basket up to them that would easily have fed several people. "They had this tiny little lunch made up and I made them give us something bigger." He came to a stop next to Matilde and stood up straight with a big, "Whew! That's our breakfast and our lunch."

"That's all?" Matilde said with a laugh. "Virginia tells us you're leaving on your honeymoon."

"Right away," Wolf said.

"I'd like to thank the two of you once again for all you did for the Nine Kingdoms," Matilde said, reaching for Wolf's hand first and then Virginia's.

As Matilde took Wolf's hand, he let his head fall to one side and he gazed at her strangely.

"Oh, it was nothing," Virginia said. "We're getting used to long quests."

Wolf walked behind Matilde and sniffed. Then he walked around Tony and sniffed. When he came to a stop, his jaw dropped open and he was simply speechless. He knew Tony and Matilde had spent the night together, just as he had known Rose and Wendell had.

"Well," Virginia said, grabbing Wolf's arm. She didn't know what his problem was. But she was afraid he was going to say or do something even more embarrassing. "Take the basket," she told Wolf.

When Wolf had trouble getting a hold of himself long enough to get a hold of the basket, Tony moved in and took it for him.

"I'll do it," Tony said. And he led the way through the great foyer to the top of the stairs that led into the castle.

"Now, Matilde, you take care of my father," Virginia said, still leading her husband along.

"Oh, I'm sure she will," Wolf said, with a sheepish grin.

"Dad gets these funny ideas sometimes," Virginia continued. "But he means well."

"Virginia," Wolf whispered.

"He thinks very highly of you, you know. It would mean a lot to him if you could spend some time with him."

"Oh, Virginia," Wolf whined.

"I mean, before you go back north."

They had reached the top of the castle steps by then and had caught up with Tony. He handed off the lunch basket to the coachman, who carried it to the coach and put it inside.

"Well," Tony said, turning to embrace his daughter and shake Wolf's hand. "Take care, you two. Be careful and don't get caught up in any stray traveling dust again."

"We'll try not to," Virginia said. She gave Matilde a perfunctory kiss and said. "It was so nice meeting you. Remember what I said, now."

"Oh, Virginia," Wolf said, grabbing her hand and dragging her down the stairs. "Don't bother Queen Matilde anymore."

"But I was just saying goodbye."'

"Yes. And you said it long enough. Goodbye," Wolf said with a big wave.

Tony waved back and smiled. "What was the matter with him?" he said under his breath to Matilde.

She was smiling and waving too. "I think he knows about us."

"Really? I couldn't get Virginia to believe me."

"I know. She was just giving me a speech about how much you admired me and maybe I could let you spend a little time with me."

They turned to go back into the castle as Virginia and Wolf fell to discussing something as they got into the carriage.

"But how could Wolf suddenly know about us?" Tony asked.

"It would be a bit indelicate for me to explain," Matilde said.

From below they heard Virginia call out very loudly, "They WHAT?"

Tony and Matilde exchanged a look.

"But I'm very sure he knows about us," Matilde said.

The coachman signaled to the horses and Wolf and Virginia's carriage started on its way toward Kissing Town.

"They'll get used to the idea by the time they get back," Tony said, offering his arm to Matilde.

And they all lived happily ever after…Until their next adventure.

- THE END -