After a deep but troubled sleep on his narrow bed, he returned to his post the following night. As he walked down the corridor, he could hear raised voices coming from The Princess’s reception room. The guard whom he relieved mouthed the words ‘The King,’ as they seamlessly exchanged places. A moment later, the door burst open and the King swept through it, his cloak whipping through the air, his face fixed in a furious scowl. His court advisor, who was following turned back and said into the room in an imperious voice, ‘It is settled. He will not discuss it further,’ and followed his master down the hall, both disappearing into the distance.
The guard glanced through the open door and saw the Princess crumple into a heap onto the floor, her maid in waiting running to her. He itched to go to her, but he had no choice but to stand his ground.
‘I can’t do this!’ she cried and then looked up and saw him. She stared straight at him with wide, tearful eyes. He gave her a warning shake of the head.
‘It will be all right,’ the maid said soothingly. ‘This is what we have all been waiting for. Don’t you want to marry and start a life of your own?
The guard’s stomach clenched at her words.
‘It’s too soon,’ the Princess said, ‘I am not ready.’
‘You will have time to adjust. I am sure you will feel better after you have met him,’ she continued, walking across the room and closing the door.
The guard was left in the silent corridor, the sounds of his Princess’s weeping still audible. He felt her pain in his soul but he overrode it. Maybe this was for the best. Maybe the man she was marrying was an inexperienced milksop who would have no idea that her virtue had been compromised. If she was with child, they would think it was legitimate. It was the perfect solution; he would get away with this. Later, he would find a way to speak to her and counsel her to pretend innocence. He would tell her she must not be too responsive on her wedding night. He would show her how to react with reticence and a little fear. He would push her away and stem her passion.
These rational thoughts were suddenly crushed by one realisation; if she left he would never see her again.