Author's Note: This is a new story of mine that I'm still considering whether to continue or not. It all depends on the feedback I get.
Research was difficult, but I tried my best to make sure that the prologue was as historically accurate as possible.
Feedback is greatly appreciated!
Sponsored by Lady Ainsworth, I am to be presented to the queen. After weeks of fittings, practicing, and being reminded that I could not bring shame on myself, I am ashamed to say that I am nowhere ready to be presented at court.
My body is bruised and battered from the training. I have yet to master the complicated curtsy; my knees look like plums because I fall every time I try to bow. Yesterday my tutor stormed out of the room, crying that I was a hopeless case.
The only one unashamed of me is my father, Viscount Newbury, partly because he is half-mad—a fact well-known to the ton. However, I fear what will happen when he finds out that I ruined all the tablecloths—oh, and the fine curtains I destroyed when I needed something to substitute for a long gown's train.
I enter the queen's drawing room and present my card to Chamberlain, who frowns and raises his left eyebrow when seeing how the card is bent in half.
Finally, he clears his throat and calls out, " The Honorable Priscilla Randall."
I am about to take a step forward when the gentleman-in-waiting whispers in my ear. "Wait, miss. Your train."
"Oh," I say loudly. So much for acting discreet; some of the people in the room stare at me, causing me to blush. I wait as the gentleman-in-waiting spreads out the fine fabric, so that I do not trip during my presentation. Yet…somehow, having someone hold my train never stopped me from making a complete fool out of myself.
Then, I begin the long walk of horror. Head up, back straight, I remind myself, but I can't help but wonder if I have forgotten something.
Oh well, that can't be helped.
The long walk feels like an eternity, and I swear that my hair has a streak of gray in it by the time I reach the queen. Holding my breath, I curtsy, my knees shaking as I try to hold them in place.
I wear an elaborate headdress made of feathers; it's hideous, and it makes me look like a peacock, but as Lady Ainsworth tells me, "All the debutantes wear them at court, so you don't look any more foolish than the rest of them."
One feather makes its way out of my headdress and hangs in front of my eyes like a hypnotist's pendant. I try to blow the feather out of the way, but it only manages to hang lower. My nose tickles, I and hold my mouth shut. My sneeze comes out like a horse's snort.
The queen looks at me as if I am a baboon that had escaped from captivity. I feel as if my legs would fall off if I had to hold this curtsy any longer.
Unsurprisingly, my knee hits the ground. I bite the inside of my cheek to prevent myself from crying out, and I taste metal on my tongue. Luckily, my skirts hide my mistake, but my face shows how much I suffer.
I most likely look like I am constipated, judging by the queen's mortified expression.
Finally, I bow and kiss the queen's hand. When I move my lips away, I see blood mixed with spittle on the queen's fingers. The queen wipes her hand on her gown, and I pray that she doesn't order my beheading.
There are no more beheadings in the 19th century, right? We're not in King Henry's time, after all.
I rise and curtsy to the other royals present before giving one last curtsy to the queen. A lord-in-waiting retrieves my train—a piece a cloth long enough to make another gown with. Honestly, instead of adding trains to gowns, we could clothe London's poor and save lives while reliving debutantes of their burden.
With my train draped over my arm, I begin to back out of the room. I can hear Lady Ainsworth reminding me in my head that I am to never turn my back on the queen.
Oh no, I'm hearing voices in my head. I believe my court presentation has turned me as mad as father.
Finally, I exit the room uninjured. Well, my reputation, that is; my knees throb painfully. I have survived the most important event of my life—except for my wedding, which is an entirely different matter.
Or so I think.
My train tangles and wraps around my body like a snake. Suddenly, I hear I loud rip, and all eyes are on me.
Then the other debutantes point and laugh at me. My cheeks burn, and mothers go around, shushing their daughters and reminding them to act ladylike. Lady Ainsworth wraps her arm around my shoulders and leads me away from the palace and into her carriage.
An hour later, a lady relays the incident to her footman—then that footman repeats the story to the other servants. Before the clock strikes midnight, guests in ballrooms are told of the poor debutante who ripped the train of her gown and showed London her bare legs. Scandalous!
I receive the ton's attention…Just not in the way I had planned.