That night, however, both of them did not return. Nicole had been expecting Auguste to drop by with a small note from Prince Francis, but Auguste had sent it along with one of the pages instead.
My dear Marie, the note began, I have some urgent business to attend to and will not be able to fulfill the promise I had proposed earlier. Please forgive me. I would very much like to see you, but time grows short for my coronation and I must practice. I have sent word with Captain Auguste. He will be able to take care of you and answer any questions that you may have of me.Ã¢â‚¬Â?
At least Francis had signed it, Nicole thought, but there was no Auguste de Barbarac to go with it and she was so looking forward to seeing him again. She angrily ripped it to shreds, then set down to compose a reply.
Sorry that you could not make it. I was looking forward to seeing you and getting to know my future husband better. I know that we have a lot in common, growing up in the same province. I believe that we also have the same interests.
When might I be able to see you and speak with you and your Captain again? I especially look forward to your visit. I think that Nicole might have quite an interest in Captain Auguste
In anticipation of your visit, I await your answer.
She had signed it with MarieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name.
She didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to think about the deception, but she wondered how long this was to continue. She stood up and handed the answer to the waiting page. He bowed, walked from the door and jumped on his horse and made for the castle.
She closed the door and headed for the library where she knew Marie would be.
Marie sat in the library, unable to read. All she could do was think about what a big mistake she had made. How could she even have considered doing such a stupid thing?
Both men had fallen for Nicole. They fawned all over her calling Nicole by her name.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Could we do this for you, Marie? Could we do that? Would you like something to drink, something to eat?Ã¢â‚¬Â?
It went on and on like that all day. Auguste and Francis paid hardly any attention to her.
She was now sitting by herself furious at the deception she created. She really had to do something and quickly.
Most of all she had to stop thinking about this. But she couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. She remembered everything that happened.
The Prince and the Captain began their visit by competing for the charms of Nicole/Marie.
Marie sat on her own, watching this display. At first, she thought it was cute and funny at the same time. Now she was getting sick and tired of it. Forty-five minutes and she had become bored. So she walked away and sat on her own. No one was paying attention to her anyway.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Excuse me, Nicole,Ã¢â‚¬Â? Francis said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but I have just noticed that you are off by yourself. Perhaps you would care to take a walk with me?Ã¢â‚¬Â?
Marie/Nicole jumped and turned around. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had no idea anyone was there,Ã¢â‚¬Â? she answered smiling at him. She looked at him. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Of course, Your Highness,Ã¢â‚¬Â? she said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would love to accompany you.Ã¢â‚¬Â?
The Prince grinned. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Very well, milady,Ã¢â‚¬Â? he said, placing his arm on his hip. Marie/Nicole slipped her hand into it. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a lot to talk about. I would really like to get to know you better.”
They walked up the path arm in arm.
But all he wanted to talk about was Nicole/Marie. What kinds of things did she like? What did she think of him? How pretty she was, how her red hair shone brightly in the sunlight.
On and on the questions went until Marie was sick of them. She would have said something to him, but she thought better of it.
Now she was sitting in the library. She had gone there to try to stop thinking about that afternoon. She looked for a book to take her mind off what had happened. When she finally found the right one, she sat down at the table and began to read. She got through ten pages before she put the book down, unable to read anymore.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Marie,Ã¢â‚¬Â? a voice called out, breaking the stillness of the library. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I need to speak with you.Ã¢â‚¬Â?