While Joyce pressed on with the duchess’ tour of the hall, Rabbie was downstairs helping Mrs Owens in the kitchen.
He’d just popped out to put some rubbish in the dustbin when he got the shock of his life to find non other than the Queen, sitting on some boxes and smoking a cigarette. She looked extremely pensive and somewhat sad.
“Michty me – hev ye no mercy, givin’ a man a wee heart attack like tha’ Ye Majesty!”
The Queen looked up in surprise but relaxed when she saw it was Rabbie.
“Oh, Rabbie, it’s you,” she said, looking sad again, “You’ve caught me at a bad time but listen, do me a favour, cut the Majesty thing for a little while, I’m just not in the mood. Call me Betsie.” You could have knocked Rabbie over with a feather.
The Queen carelessly threw her half-smoked cigarette to the floor and Rabbie shuffled uncomfortably before stubbing it out with his foot as he searched frantically for the right thing to say in such unconventional circumstances.
“Is there anything ah can do te help, Ma’am,” he eventually said.
“BETSIE!” the Queen half shouted but, pulling herself up short, she added, “Oh, I’m sorry, Rabbie, I really don’t know what’s gotten into me, I just can’t do the whole Queen thing today,” and as she said this her eyes welled up with tears.
Terminally kind hearted, Rabbie quickly pulled himself together and rose to the occasion.
“Aye, weell, ma wee Betsie, it sounds te me like ye are in great need of a cup of tea and a shoulder te cry on and ah intend te see te it that ye get that!” he said decisively and, taking the Queen’s arm, he led her into the hall – followed closely, of course, by her faithful bodyguard, Beefy, who had been hiding around the corner and now picked up her lengthy train and hurried after his out of sorts sovereign.
Rabbie led the Queen to the dining room – the only room he could be sure they wouldn’t be interrupted in.
“Ah am nay supposed te bring ye here, Betsie, on accoont of the room nay being riddy for ye visit,” he explained.
“Frankly, Rabbie, I don’t give fig if the curtains aren’t up, the fireplace doesn’t have a hearth, the mirror is upside down, there’s no light fitting and very few pictures have been hung,” the Queen replied. Rabbie was impressed with her powers of observation. “I just want someone to talk to,” the Queen continued, and with that she burst into tears.
“Look, Betsie, just ye sit ye wee royal backside down here, ah hev an idea,” said Rabbie.
It was the same idea Rabbie always had in stressful situations, “Hoo aboot we forget the tea, Betsie, and have a wee dram?” he suggested. The Queen didn’t need to have her arm twisted.
“A blinding idea, Rabbie, make mine a double and hold the ice,” she said in a trice as she blew her nose and pulled herself together.
Large glass of whisky in hand, the Queen looked at Beefy, standing stiffly by the door.
“Beefy, you are my dearest and most trusted guard but just for once I’d like to forget who I am and I’m afraid I can’t do that with you standing there. Would you be a poppet and go away for a while?”
Beefy dutifully did as he was asked, but not before checking the dining room windows were secure and scanning the street outside for undesirables as he did so.
“Noo then, lassie, what is it tha’ ails ye se badly?” asked Rabbie when Beefy was safely out of the room and the Queen had taken a deep swig of her whisky.
“I’m lonely, Rabbie,” wailed the Queen, dissolving into tears again. “You’ve no idea what it’s like living in the palace all alone, having only servants around you all day, having to say “one” all of the time and just waiting, waiting, forever waiting for my Prince Phillip to come along,” she said between sobs.
“Aye, it must be hell, lassie,” said Rabbie, not without irony, “But de ye nay hev ye ladies in waiting te talk te?” Rabbie stopped, recalling the Duchess of Grecongarthdale at the opening ceremony, “Aye,” he said, “ah see hoo that might nay be any consolation.”
“YES! That’s just it! Hyacinth – the Duchess of Grecongarthdale that is – is a horrid, horrid woman and she looks down on me, Rabbie – me – the Queen!” said the queen sounding exasperated.
“But in tha’ case, why’d ye hev her as ye companion, Betsie?” asked Rabbie. The Queen, already a little flushed from the whiskey, suddenly reddened.
“I’m afraid she’s got something on me,” she said mournfully.
“Ah, noo tha’ sounds interesting,” said Rabbie, leaning forward.
“Let’s just say I thought I’d found my Prince Phillip and I was a little… indiscrete. Well, a lot indiscrete actually. Well whatever, the long and short of it is that he wasn’t my Prince Phillip and somehow Hyacinth found out about… things, and now I can’t say no to her or it will be all over court.” The Queen’s sobbing went up another notch. Realising he was in for the long haul, Rabbie went to refill their glasses.
To be continued…
© 2017, Zoe. All rights reserved.