Volker: Was it alright to return it as it is?
When we reached the carriage, I noted the coat of arms. So in my arms, I must be holding the Castley daughter. I stared at the fairy in my arms, if I recall correctly, she was engaged to the heir to the Duke of Cájes. But it wasn’t something I paid particular attention to.
Keeping my face neutral, I laid her on the carriage seat. She whimpered a bit, but she showed no signs of rousing.
I turned to the maid, who bowed low and curtsied deeply.
‘Thank you so much for your kindness, sir, I apologise for our impoliteness. My lady is Fredericka Castley, daughter to Viscount Castley. I am Marie. May I ask your name?’
‘There is no need for gratitude. I am Volker Brennan, security officer for the ball. Please send your mistress to rest quickly.’
Marie murmured her thanks and got into the carriage.
I went to the guards and had them escort the carriage until it was in Castley grounds.
‘Are they thieves?’ one of the guards asked. I glared at the fool, and he quickly corrected his posture.
I returned to making my rounds at the ball, but I realised the atmosphere was strange. Usually it was supposed to be light and breezy but there was tension in the air and it felt like a secret meeting instead of a ball. All the trappings of a lively ball were there; the orchestra were playing, the servants were busily running about with drinks and nibbles, there were many young people milling about, but only a few couples were dancing, instead, most of the ball’s guests were clustered about in groups chatting, but it didn’t seem like they were having fun.
I called over one of the guards posted in the ball rooms. The young man saluted.
In a low tone, I asked for a report.
‘I will begin: Twenty minutes ago, Eugene Cajes attended the ball with a young lady who was a commoner, who had not been invited. He declared that he was cancelling his engagement with Miss Fredericka Castley. She accepted it and left the ball. After that everyone has been gossiping. That is all, your Excellency.’
‘Is that true?’
The thought that such a thing happened to her so publicly made me more sullen than I expected. But I could not care about such things.‘I saw the whole thing with my own eyes and heard it all with these eyes. I am not lying.’
‘I see. Return to your post.’
As I walked on, my fists were clenched tightly and my strides were long and furious.
Miss Fredericka’s engagement was broken. She accepted it and left the ball. How hard it must have been for her to be humiliated in public like that. My head felt hot.
I had heard that Lord Eugene had a princely character, and he had a reputation of not being lofty, which had earned him the admiration of the young Ladies of Society.
But when Miss Fredericka saw her fiancé escorting someone else to the ball, she must have been hurt.
She buried the pain deeply and ran away without crying. I suddenly remembered the handkerchief I had in my pocket and the tightness in my heart ceased. I wonder why.
It was hard to imagine that she would have fainted just because she ran into me, but if that was the case, I suppose I should make her acquaintance.
But the case of Miss Fredericka was a strange one indeed.
Even though I didn’t know about the situation, I wish I had done more for her. Surely, the delicate Fredericka would take to her bed for a time. I wondered if I should send her flowers or a letter or visit? I heard a voice behind me and my thoughts were interrupted.
I consciously put Miss Fredericka in the back of my mind.
The ball continued on till late. But everyone returned to their homes in a subdued air, looking thoughtful. I watched the young people go expressionlessly.
I remember Miss Fredericka’s eyes, and thought that I wanted to see that fresh green glitter brightly.
‘Welcome back, my Lord.’
My butler greeted with a bow as I entered my house. He received my coat and bag and walked with me as I returned to my rooms. When I entered my room, I made to take off my coat and remembered the item in my pocket.
Fredericka’s lost handkerchief.
I wondered if I should return it back with flowers. I reached into my pocket absently and handed the item to the butler, ‘Zuzie, please have this washed.’
My butler froze at the item I held in my hand. Then he cleared his throat and asked, ‘Master, would you really like me to wash it?’ his gaze fixed on the item I held out to him.
I looked at his worried expression and looked at the handkerchief. It was not a handkerchief; it was a lady’s undergarment, a nothing of light pink silk ribbons and lace.
I could feel the heat growing on my face as a blush crept up.
‘No, that isn’t it.’ I said in a bit of a panic.
‘Master, what does this mean? Why do you have a lady’s undergarment in your pocket? Have you gotten yourself…? How did this…?!’I held my hand out trying to calm him down.
‘I don’t know what you are thinking, but it is not it.’ I took back the underwear and searched my pockets again; there was nothing but the undies. I could not understand it.
It was supposed to be a handkerchief that Miss Fredericka had dropped, I may not have seen it clearly but I recognise the size and colour. No one could have crept up on my and replaced the handkerchief with underwear, unless they were magical.
So then…I had picked up underwear from the start?!
No matter how I think about it, I didn’t know.
What do I do?
‘Master, do not be embarrassed. You can give me the underwear.’
I released the breath I was holding, and handed Xavier the embarrassing item.
After a bath, I was having a stiff drink and talking to Zuzie, really Xavier, about the item I had retrieved. We decided it was Miss Fredericka’s.
‘I noticed that one of the cords had broken, therefore it would have fallen off.’
So that meant…I covered my face with my hand.
‘It means that Miss Fredericka was wearing it when you met her.’ Zuzie announced. How could he say such embarrassing things with such a straight face?
Despite my age, I haven’t dated many women. But I am very confident about my experiences. Yet, I don’t think any woman had ever used their underwear to get my attention.
‘She will be embarrassed when we return this to her.’
‘But it would not be good to keep silent about it.’
‘That is correct.’
‘But could it really be sent back?’
‘Should we dispose of it?’
‘In the event it is a treasured item, I don’t know whether we can take responsibility.’
‘I don’t wish for that. Even though it would be washed by a maid, the lady may find it disgusting that a man had seen her shed undergarment. ‘And with the engagement cancellation, she might have a distrust of men’ Xavier added quietly.
‘But she should have noticed the loss of her underwear, so I’m sure it would become a matter of concern for the young lady.’
I sighed, ‘That is likely.’It looked like Miss Fredericka knew me, and I also gave my name to her maid. She may already think I know something about her missing underwear.
‘Xavier, I am going to call on Miss Fredericka tomorrow. Get some flowers prepared, and get this washed by the maid and wrapped.’
It felt wrong to touch it directly now that I knew it wasn’t a handkerchief, so I put it in my handkerchief and handed it Zuzie. He took it without a word and left my room.