Chapter 30

"Princess!" stuttered the young Lady, leaping from her chair and nearly stumbling over her skirts. "Your-Your Highness. Excuse me, I did not expect your coming."

Cassandra bowed smoothly, excusing the handmaid that allowed her inside. "I am sorry, Lady Henrietta, for disturbing you at this time." Certainly Henrietta did not look well--it appeared that she had been crying for an extended amount of time, her hair and clothing frazzled.

It felt rather awkward, Cassandra being considerably younger then the woman before her. No, she was not terribly young and neither was Henrietta old, but it felt out of place, somehow, the two also almost unkown to one another.

The Princess made her way to the woman's side, offering her hand and beckoning for the both of them to seat themselves on the sofa in which Henrietta had originally sat. Henrietta wordlessly obliged her, the two sitting down relatively close. She took the opportunity to observe the woman she had only seen with mild interest earlier. She was not the most beautiful of the Court's women, with a nose rather long and dark eyes slightly narrowed, but she certainly was neither plain nor ugly, with rosied cheeks, pretty lips, and dark, rippled hair. Cassandra could not even fathom how two such persons as Sam and Henrietta had fallen together. There was a pang deep within her. It must have been the works of true love. Perhaps that feeling inside her was envy, envy that she had found love in Sam, who she herself knew so well. Or perhaps it was more sadness, for she knew the two would never be together, and made her think of her own feelings for Giddeon, her own situation with Alezander.

Henrietta looked up from her hands, anxious and unsure. "Y-you have told no what...of what you saw..." her voice wavered, tears briefly framing her eyes. "He-he tells me that the both of you are good companions, and-and he trusts you to tell nothing of it." She was cracking, trying so hard to keep her facade before royalty.

"Yes, you may trust me, Lady Henrietta," answered Cassandra. Also uncertain, she hesitantly put her hand on Henrietta's back in an attempt to reassure her. She assumed Sam had broken off their connection as he earlier said.

"Oh, Your Highness, please, please excuse me...I'm-I'm so sorry," Henrietta broke, hiding her face in her plams, her back trembling. "There is no way we can be together--never. I must except it....I'm sorry, Your Highness."

"There is nothing wrong, nothing that requires your apologies," Cassandra continually tried to ease her. She wondered at why she came up here...she knew she only felt obliged to after what she had witnessed, and her mutual connection to Sam.

The door opened, bringing the entrance of the Lady's father, Lord Akron. "Your Highness!" he nearly fell over at the sight. The two girls stood abruptly, Henrietta hurrying to sniff and wipe and hide her face. He looked to his daughter, alarmed, "What ever is the matter?"

Cassandra opened her mouth, not knowing what to say.  Lady Henrietta hurriedly interrupted her, "I told her of the death of my old mare, and...I lost myself." 

Her father's face contorted in a scowl, and his daughter lowered her eyes, ashamed. Brushing aside his expression, he turned to the Princess, "I am sorry for our behavior, Your Highness, we were caught very off guard by your arrival. What happens to be the reason that has us honored by your visit?"

"I came to....inquire whether if she would enjoy assisting me in....choosing fabribs for a new gown. I...know of Henrietta's superb taste," Cassandra attempted at making something up. She briskly added, "Lady Henrietta has always been so kind to me."

Something of a content expression entered the face of Lord Akron. "Oh, thank you, kind Princess. Surely we are both flattered by your visit and your inquiry. Certainly my daughter would enjoy that, yes, Henrietta?" He glanced to she, who nodded briefly and forced a quick smile. Looking about he rapidly asked, "We have been so rude to you; could we get you something? Tea? Anything?"

Cassandra was about to excuse herself and take the Lady along with her, yet a knock at the door interrupted her and a maid servant that she reconized as Kalera slipped inside. She curtsied deeply before speaking, "Your Highness, your parents request an audience with you. Immeaditly."

"I suppose you will have to postpone your get-together," Lord Akron said. "That is too bad."

"We shall be able to do it another time, I am sure," Cassandra assured him, part curiousity and part fear contorting in her stomach with the thought of both her parents calling upon her. What had she done wrong? Perhaps something about.....she gulped. No, no one was around. They were in the middle of a field for goodness sake! "I am so sorry, but I will have to excuse myself. I look forward to seeing you soon, Henrietta." The Lady curtsied in reply.

 With that, she easily slipped from the room and escaped, hoping Lady Henrietta would get by alright with her father after "shaming" him by crying before one of the royal family. Anything would be better then him learning of her secret affair with a stable boy--that would be the death of her. But her mind still lingered on what lay ahead of her with her own parents.

The End

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