Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 30 of 35

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
In Pursuit of Ever After

It was about an hours ride to the Marquis' country seat in Limoges. His mother, the Marquise, was hosting the ball. Nicole had insisted that they leave early enough in the day so that she could see it in the daylight.

The château itself was large and elegant, sprawling across a large lawn. Among the most impressive features were the extensive, lush gardens. Even in autumn, they were full of colour. They were the passion of the Marquise.

A few of the guests would be spending the night at the château, including the royals. After briefly exploring the gardens, they were shown to their rooms so they might rest before the festivities began. Nicole wasn't tired, so she spent part of the afternoon sketching in the garden, while Noël was busy with a few matters with his steward.

Gustave arrived late for the ball. He didn't feel comfortable at formal occasions, such as balls. He only came because Danielle had made him promise.

Danielle knew exactly how Gustave felt, so she always made a point to keep an eye out for him and make sure he was never left awkwardly alone. Her ladies helped her with this, since she was so in demand, it was hard for her to keep him occupied by herself.

Tonight was no exception. As soon as she was alerted that he had arrived, she greeted him and introduced him to the Marquise. They then joined a group which included Marguerite.

Gustave had rarely seen Marguerite looking as lovely as she did tonight. He thought she seemed to positively sparkle under the attention. This glittering assembly was obviously where she belonged. Where she thrived, he thought. She was promised for every dance, which he was not sorry for. He was not a good dancer. He spoke with her a few times throughout the evening, but she was always claimed by a new dance partner within a few moments.

Marguerite was frustrated at not being able to spend more time with Gustave. She had dressed with special care, hoping to use some of her allure to move things along. What better place than a romantic betrothal ball, she thought. The court would be leaving for Paris in a few days, and she hadn't been able to arrange a house yet nor finish founding the charity. She needed more time. Distracted as she was over thoughts of Gustave and what to do, she was paying no serious attention to her dance partner, who had suggested they take a walk in the garden. He soon had her complete attention as he spoke of love and pulled her into his arms.

"No! Let me go!" She struggled to get away as he tried to kiss her. She turned her head away, so he kissed her neck and shoulder as she continued to struggle. "Unhand me! How dare you!"

He merely laughed at her struggles. "Oh, how wonderfully exciting you are."

She tried to slap him, but he caught her hand and pinned it behind her back. "Now, now, is that any way to treat the man you are going to marry?" he backed her against a stone wall and pulled at her bodice.

"No!" she screamed. He covered her mouth with his hand.

"Make another sound and you will regret it," he threatened.

She bit his hand and kicked at him, managing to get out one more scream before he slapped her hard, knocking her to the ground.

Gustave had lost track of Marguerite, so he asked Danielle if she had seen her.

"I saw her heading out to the terrace with the Comte de Tournai about five minutes ago, I think."

"I checked the terrace and didn't see her there," he said.

Henry was immediately concerned, "She went outside with the Comte de Tournai? What could she have been thinking? We better go look for her Gustave. That man is not someone to be trusted," he kissed Danielle on the cheek. "Stay inside, we'll be back shortly." He quickly spoke with Noël and Antoine and the four of them left the ballroom and exited the château from a side door to search the gardens.

After a few minutes, Gustave heard her scream. He ran in the direction of the scream.

Gustave found the Comte kneeling over Marguerite, covering her mouth with one hand and pinning her hands above her head with his other.

"Get away from her!" Gustave yelled.

The Comte looked surprised at the interruption, but judged Gustave as not a serious threat. "Go away, boy. This does not concern you."

"I said get away from her! Now!" he was enraged, but he was unarmed and the Comte had a sword, he realized. Gustave grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him away from Marguerite, causing him to land on his back.

The Comte jumped to his feet, his hand on the hilt of his sword, "What are you going to do about it?" he sneered, taking a step towards Gustave.

"He is going to let the lady's brother-in-law deal with you while he takes her back inside," the Prince said coldly.

The Comte looked quite alarmed as the Prince stepped out of the shadows, followed by the Duc de LeVey and his host, the Marquis de Limoges. "Your Highness!"

Gustave went around the Comte to Marguerite. He knelt down next to her, "Marguerite, are you all right?" he took in her torn bodice and the trace of blood on her lip.

She threw herself into his arms, sobbing, "Gustave!"

The Comte tried to brazen it out, "She agreed to marry me, Your Highness. You need not interfere with a man and his intended, enjoying the gardens."

"I am her nearest male relative and she is a Royal Ward. As such, she requires my permission and that of the King to become betrothed. Even if she had agreed, I would not permit it," Henry told him flatly.

The Comte blustered, "I am a comte. She is merely the untitled daughter of a disgraced mother."

"She is a lady, sir and you have not treated her with the care and respect due a lady. An attack of this nature upon a Royal Ward is a serious offense." Not taking his eyes off the comte, he spoke to the Marquis, "Limoges, would you take them inside, please?"

"Of course, Your Highness," he went over to the couple sitting on the ground. "Let's get her inside, Gustave. Can you walk, my lady?"

Gustave helped her to her feet, attempting to straighten her gown to protect her modesty.

Everyone took in the state of her dress, her lip and how she was clinging to Gustave.

Henry addressed Marguerite gently, "Do you have anything you want to say now, or we can talk later if you prefer...?"

Marguerite composed herself, embarrassed to have been found in such a compromising situation by three of the most important men in the kingdom- and Gustave. They probably thought she deserved it. She pulled away from Gustave, trying to hold her dress together.

Gustave took off his doublet, putting it on Marguerite.

She addressed the Prince, "I should not have been so foolish as to come out here with him, but I did not agree to marry him nor to allow his attentions, Your Highness."

The Comte tried again, "She did agree, and what other man will have her now? She has to marry me."

Marguerite gasped in horror at the thought, recoiling. The Prince asked her gently, "Marguerite, do you want to marry the Comte? You do not have to, despite what he says."

Marguerite decided she had nothing more to lose at his point. "No. I am in love with Gustave, Your Highness."

"You are?" Gustave said in shock.

"Take her inside now," the Prince dismissed them, turning his full attention back to the intimidated comte.

The Marquis led Marguerite and Gustave inside through a side door and up a back staircase to her room, managing to avoid being seen. "I'm sure the Prince will be up in a few minutes. Would you like me to summon your maid, or ask the Princess to come?" he asked.

"No, thank you, my lord," she said.

He left, closing the door behind him, heading back out to the garden in case the Prince and Duc needed any help evicting the Comte.

Marguerite wondered what Gustave's reaction to her declaration would be. She sat at her dressing table to wash her face, wincing when she touched her split lip.

Gustave walked up behind her, concerned, "Did he hurt you badly, Marguerite?"

"No, I will be all right, Gustave," she looked at his reflection in the mirror. "I was more frightened than hurt. You found me in time," she added quietly.

"Did you mean what you said out there?" he asked unsteadily.

She turned towards him, "Yes, I love you Gustave. Is there any hope that you could ever love me in return?" she asked, forlorn.

"I do love you, Marguerite," he admitted, simply.

"You do?" She asked, smiling up at him, in wonder.

"Yes, but I can't help thinking that you would be happier married to one of those rich, sophisticated, titled noblemen who flock around you than to a simple painter, like me," he said repressively.

She stood up, walking close to him, "I do not care about the riches or the titles, Gustave. I have enough money for us to live comfortably and you can continue to paint. Danielle is going to endow the orphanage and I intend to be here to oversee it. I want to be loved by my husband and to love him. I do not want a cold, practical marriage," she leaned up to him, putting her arms around his neck.

Gustave chuckled, "Are you proposing to me, Marguerite?"

"If I have to," she answered.

He smiled at her, adoringly, "Will you marry me, Marguerite?"

"Yes, I will. I love you, Gustave," she declared with a seductive smile.

He put his arms around her and leaned his head down; kissing her gently on the side of the mouth that wasn't hurt. She melted into his arms and they stood there quietly, both amazed at this sudden turn of events.

"Do you think the Prince will allow us to marry?" Gustave asked her.

"As long as Danielle does not object, I think he will," she said, hopefully.

"You think Danielle will object?" he was surprised.

"You are her oldest, dearest friend, Gustave. She may believe that I am not good enough for you; although, I did wonder when she gave me the money if she suspected my feelings. She told me that it was enough money that I could afford to 'marry for love' and still live comfortably."

"She also knew that I would never propose to someone to whom I had nothing to offer," Gustave said, practically.

"You have so much to offer, Gustave. You are the most talented, loving, wonderful, fun person I know."

He smiled at her effusive compliments. "Danielle gave me the manor, told me to 'marry for love' and fill it with laughter and children."

"She gave you her father's house? You mean you own it?" she was stunned. "I thought she was just letting you live there."

"She said that she wanted it to be a home and since she could never live there, she wanted me to have it."

There was a knock on the door and they split apart.

Danielle and Nicole entered. "How are you, Marguerite?" Danielle hurried over to Marguerite, looking concerned. "We need to get you cleaned up and ready for bed."

"I will be all right, thank you, Your Highness. Gustave has asked me to marry him and I have accepted," she watched for Danielle's reaction, wondering if they would face any objections.

"He did?" Danielle was not expecting this news tonight. She smiled at them, pleased. "Congratulations! I thought you had come to care for one another."

"And- you do not object to me marrying Gustave?" Marguerite pressed bluntly.

"If you will make each other happy, then why should I object? He is my dearest friend and I would do anything to see him happy. If I thought you would hurt him, then I would have stood in your way, certainly," Danielle said with a smile. Marguerite wondered if that was a carefully veiled warning. "I do not think you will hurt him," she added, seeing Marguerite's doubt.

"She is too sweet to object, even if she has doubts," Gustave gave Danielle a kiss on the cheek.

Henry walked in then, "Why are you kissing my wife, Gustave? I think Marguerite is more in need of your attentions," he smiled, good-naturedly.

"Your Highness!" The Prince didn't seem truly upset, but Gustave was still wary around him. "Danielle was just giving us her blessing. I would like your permission to marry Marguerite," Gustave smiled at the Prince, hopefully.

"I have no objection," Henry said with a smile, "but we will need to get the King's approval as she is a Royal Ward. Congratulations." He shook Gustave's hand warmly and kissed Marguerite on the cheek. Her first ever kiss from the Prince. "We can discuss the details in the morning. You should go to bed, Marguerite. The rest of us must return to the ball. If we do not return soon, it may cause comment."

Marguerite was nervous about being left alone. "Your Highness, What happened with the Comte?" she asked.

"You need not worry about him, Marguerite. He has left court, permanently. He sent his apologies for any misunderstanding," Henry explained.

"He apologized?" She was surprised.

"Yes, his choices were to apologize and leave court or to meet me in a duel." Danielle gasped in horror at the mention of a duel. Henry put his arms comfortingly around Danielle, still speaking to Marguerite. "Fortunately for everyone, he chose the former. You have nothing more to fear from him. Your maid is waiting outside."

"Thank you, Your Highness." Marguerite was stunned that the Prince had challenged the Comte to a duel to defend her honour.

They all went back to the ball, except for Marguerite. They wanted to keep up the appearance that all was normal. Danielle didn't stay long, as she was tired, but no one would see that as odd, given her condition.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 30 of 35

<< Previous     Home     Next >>