Autumn leaves drifted across the gravel path of the privy garden and twirled about Catherine’s skirts. Around the garden, the great stone walls of Whitehall rose in many-windowed splendor. At her feet, Feliciana sniffed the path as though she were a much bigger dog tracking a boar—a performance spoiled when she started as a leaf danced under her snout. Catherine laughed at her little dog and her breath steamed in the air. She tucked her hands deeper into her pockets.
“Are you cold, Your Majesty?” Lady Eleanor stepped closer with a shawl she carried over her arms.
“No. No cold—I am not cold.” English grammar was so nonsensical with all those extra words, but she would speak it. “It is good. This weather. At home . . . that is to say, in Portugal, the autumn is not this.” The sky was a high, clear silver that erased shadows and left the world glowing in faerie light.
“It must have been a very great shock to come here.” The brisk air had brought a little color into Lady Eleanor’s cheeks, which made her seem less sickly. “The weather, and the language, and then getting married straightaway.”
“Always I knew I would be sent for marriage.”
“Was it . . . was the wedding what you had imagined?”
An image of Charles’s smile took up residence in her memory. “I still did not meet your question for our marriage?”
“I only meant that I would imagine, given your great devotion, that you must have wished for a Catholic ceremony.”
Feliciana barked and saved Catherine from a response, as the little spaniel ran after a squirrel. It was not in her nature to lie, but the Catholic ceremony that Charles had granted her must remain a secret. “Vem aqui, cadela parva!”
Feliciana’s plumed tail waved like flag into battle as she circled the tree the squirrel had gone up. Catherine clapped her hands to summon the spaniel back to them, but Feliciana paid her no heed.
“Shall I fetch her back, Your Majesty?”
“A moment.” Catherine shook her head. “A wonder there are squirrels still here, with all the spaniels of the king.”
She clapped her hands again and tried to use a firm voice as Charles did. “Feliciana! Agora! Vem!”
To her delight, the spaniel dropped back down to all four paws and trotted over to her, tail wagging. If only she were able to speak in such simple sentences for her regular communications in English. Catherine crouched to meet Feliciana and fondled her ears. The dog panted white clouds into the chill air.
“Boa menina. Como uma boa menina.” She straightened, smiling, until she saw Lady Eleanor’s face. Now she seemed quite drawn and pale despite the weather. The poor thing seemed to not be eating enough no matter what tempting delicacies were sent up from the kitchens. “Let us get in?”
“At your pleasure, Your Majesty.” She adjusted the shawl she held over one arm. “You were telling me about your wedding, I think?”
Catherine linked her arm through Lady Eleanor’s, which she hoped would steady the young woman. Young . . . in truth she was three years Catherine’s senior, but her fascination with Catherine’s wedding made her seem like a girl fresh from the convent. “I told about the ribbons at my dress?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
Attempting to describe them in English took most of Catherine’s attention. She steered them back to the palace in order to get Lady Eleanor out of the cold; she was trembling as they walked. Catherine would have to bring a different lady when she next stepped out with Feliciana. The cool air was quite bracing, and the warm glow through the mullioned windows of her rooms promised the coziness of a fireplace. They entered inside the palace, and Feliciana raced ahead of them.
Catherine laughed. “She knows where we go.”
“Perhaps she smells her dinner?”
“That looks likely.” They caught up with the dog just outside the door to Catherine’s apartments. Feliciana stood on her hind legs, tail wagging furiously, as Jenny scratched her ears with one hand. The other held a tray from the kitchens.
At the sight of Catherine, the girl pulled her hand away and dipped into a curtsy, nearly upsetting Feliciana as she did so. The little dog hopped on her hind legs again and then rested her front paws against Jenny’s apron. Against the snowy fabric, small muddy paw prints left their tracks.
Catherine laughed and lifted Feliciana.
“Let me, Your Majesty.” Lady Eleanor held her hands out for the dog. “You will soil your dress.”
Catherine held Feliciana at arm’s length, though the position was far from graceful. Feliciana’s tail did not stop its wagging and her nose wrinkled and snuffled at the tray. Jenny’s face was flushed red and her gaze was fixed on the floor. Catherine turned to Lady Eleanor. “Would you be so good as for open the door. I will hold this bad dog.”
With a disapproving frown at Jenny, Lady Eleanor pushed the door open into a room of laughter. Lady Castlemaine’s voice belled over the group: “‘. . . my other weapon,’ and he reached for his breeches.”...