“You’re sneaking off to visit that servant boy, aren’t you? Jacob, was it?”
The conversation between Princesses Agnes and Matilda happened in lowered-yet-excited voices, one at the prospect of seeing her love and the other at the prospect of catching her sister in the act. It was one that happened far more often than you’d think, but never more than once a week.
“It’s Thomas,” 15-year old Matilda corrected, but her face grew hot as she realized she’d given herself away.
“So you are!” Agnes said joyfully. “I knew it!”
“Oh, stop,” Matilda said, covering her cherry-red face with her hands. “Please don’t tell Mum! I’d never see the light of day again. Besides,” she uncovered her face and raised an eyebrow with an air of hidden knowledge, “you’re one to talk! Half the castle knows you’ve been upstairs with the Artist at least twice a week.”
18-year old Agnes and the servant Thomas, who was 17, were closer in age than Thomas and Matilda, but Agnes had no interest in him. She was drawn instead to the mysterious, elusive Artist who lived in the top tower. His skill and charms were far superior to Matilda’s simple servant boy. But of course, she would never admit it.
“The Artist?” Agnes said, attempting valiantly to hide her embarrassment. She did know his name – Elias – but for the sake of her cover-up she did not use it. “Are you crazy? That’s not even possible. If I do visit, it’s only to see his art. It’s simply magnificent.”
“Indeed,” Matilda agreed, “but you wear your heart on your sleeve, dear sister. Even on the rare occasions that he dines outside his room, you steal glances every few minutes.”
Agnes sighed and gave up at that. “Yes, yes, you’re right. But you must swear not to tell. Cross your heart.”
“Cross my heart.” Matilda made the motion over her heart as she left the room, a small smile of accomplishment on her face.
Heavens above, Agnes thought as she watched her sister leave the room. I’ve got to be more careful. To ensure that her secret was kept, she waited another 20 minutes before leaving her bedroom, watching the halls all the time. There would be no servants arriving at the Artist’s room for several more hours, and Agnes knew they would be safe.
She knocked four times when she reached the Artist’s door and then pushed it open. “Who is it?” the Artist said stiffly, just as he always did.
“Agnes,” the princess replied in a near-whisper, just as she always did.
The Artist turned around in his chair, and he softened. “Agnes, my dear.” He crossed the room and kissed her gently, beckoning her in. “Have you come for the paintings again?”
“Actually, I was hoping to see the sculptures this time. Have you finished the one you were working on the last time?”
They sat down at the table, where piles of clay and several carving tools lay about. Agnes picked up a small figure of a girl, one that she recognized as the handmaiden named Margery. “This is lovely!”
“Oh, that one.” The Artist waved it off. “That’s just a trinket I made over a year ago. The real beauty is in the one I’ve nearly completed. But you will have to wait until next time for that one.”
“Elias!” Agnes protested with a laugh. “I can’t wait that long!”
“But you will have to, my love.” The Artist brushed some of Agnes’s hair behind her ear.
For the rest of the princess’s time there, the Artist showed off his sculptures and Agnes admired (was that really the right word?) them, hardly able to believe what she was seeing. It was truly some of the most beautiful art she’d ever seen.
On the bench in the garden sat Matilda. Across the garden from her was Thomas, the young servant she had come to meet. At the current point in time, he was working his way toward her, pruning the flowers. Of course, the reason for this was that their relationship must be kept secret, otherwise they may never see each other again.
Thomas was a rather shy, quiet servant who had tended to the Royal Family’s needs (not the rest of the castle, just the family.) ever since childhood. When Matilda was about ten years old and Thomas was 12, she had developed something of a crush on him. It had persisted until the present, when they had finally given up on hiding their attraction from each other.
“Milady,” Thomas said, bowing. He took her hand. “Shall we visit the horses? They are in need of tending.”
“We shall,” Matilda responded with a smile. She stood up and followed him to the stable, where they shut the door firmly and locked it from the inside.
“Thomas, no, stop!” Matilda laughed. Thomas was kissing her fiercely, pressing her against the wall of the stable, almost knocking her over. “Really, we have to stop!”
“But why?” Thomas said, doing the opposite of stopping. Strangely, he was always far less shy when they were together. “Why should we?”
“Because,” Matilda replied, pushing him off playfully, “if we get caught, we’re done for! My mum would kill me! And I’ve got to be back to the castle for dinner soon!”
“Alright,” Thomas finally caved. “I guess perhaps we should stop. But it’s obviously not my first choice.”
“Well, it isn’t mine either!” Matilda said. “But I don’t want to lose you.” She kissed him once more and then left the stable.
As you can see, Agnes is the more responsible of the sisters, the more careful and precise with her and the Artist’s relationship, while Matilda is the wilder girl, the one who’s willing to take the risk of being found with Thomas. Why is this important, you ask?