He returns to court a month before the new heir to the throne is born. Victoria is in confinement and Albert is occupied but he called for his brother and thus, here he finds himself once again in English soil. He denies missing the country and its people. But he did. And he surprised himself missing some more than he thought in the beginning.
The plump beauty that was Wilhelmina Coke, a fine company on her own, with wits and a shyness he expected from a maiden, she was a good companion for his music and for his stay in Court the last time. He does regret how he left things between them, not oblivious to her affections. How could he ignore them, when she actively seek him out with timid smiles and conversations? While not a beauty at first glance, her mind was brave enough for Ernest to start considering her while away.
And she was quite the handsome young maiden, while not at first glance of course. He did notice the honey nature of her hair and the fact it was very much all curls and waves, as he remembers from the costume ball. And her eyes were a very striking blue, so like those of the queen herself, it was fascinating. Or the way her cheeks redden as he complimented her in any shape and form.
So he makes heist to find her, somehow eager to see if she had learned more than just Chopin as he had advised her (though his words had implied something else entirely). And wouldn’t you know it, he finds her in the piano room.
The thing was she was not alone.
A gentleman stood behind the woman, leaning against her back, one hand pressing over bare shoulder as he whispered something in Wilhelmina’s ear that caused her to look down and laugh in a nervous manner. She muttered something and started playing once again. He recognises the melody; Schumann. She played it quite nicely. Though the presence of the man does seem to bother her.
He believes them to be in courtship at first, it was not a rare occurrence after all and she was still an unmarried maiden. But his hand travels lower by her shoulders and she does stop playing, swallowing, and he recognises she is not comfortable, both flustered and bothered. He ignores the pit on his belly and struts in, considering only the noble thing to do, to aid a lady in trouble.
“Miss Coke! The Queen has sent me to fetch you, she needs your assistance as your aunt is indisposed.” And the man strides away from Wilhelmina as she stands up, quite in the rush, wide blue’s surprised by his appearance, mouth gaped open, eyebrows pledging with her to continue with his deception.
Eyes travel from her companion and to himself before she speaks. “Oh! If you excuse me. We shall continue the lessons later, monsieur.” And she curtsies, the man barely having a chance to reply as she walks fast, his hand ghosting over her waist as he leads her out, giving one last look at the man. Of course he had to be French, he thinks to himself.
They don’t speak for some time as they simply walk, away from the room they both enjoyed, away from the man who seemed too comfortable with the woman and did not knew how to behave, and they kept moving until he sees that she is relaxed and at ease, his hand somehow now pressed firmly on her back for support. “I was expecting you at the welcoming committee.” He finally dares to speak as they enter one room.
They are alone, and she does seem to smile, as she used to, cheeks red with blood, tongue wetting her lips as she fiddles with her fingers. “I was not aware of your arrival. I’m sure my Aunt failed to inform me.” Of course. A gentle pause before she adds, nervous laughter from her lips filling the air around them. “She does not like how I behave around you, Your Grace.”
And that causes him to smile, eyebrows lifting in amusement. “And how do you behave, Miss?” He enquires, his hand finally leaving the place on her back and falling to his side. She seems to notice, blue eyes following his motion.
“Like I seek your favour, how an unmarried maiden should not behave.” Embarrassment does seem to reach her once again and she looks down. Though Ernest is quick to hunch down, eyes searching eyes.
“Tell your Aunt I do not mind your behaviour or company, Miss Coke.” It does seem to surprise her, and the smile on her lips is evident shortly after. “After all, who else would enjoy my Chopin while I stay here?”
And laughter fills the air, shortly followed by his own quiet one. “Will you be staying for long, Ernest?” Oh, boldness finds her at the use of his name and he notices it. So he responds by a small step closer.
“Would that be agreeable with you, Wilhelmina?” He returns the favour, and she only seems to nod, apparently out of words to say. “Then, I will stay as long as you do not bore yourself with my Chopin.”
“Oh, I believe that would never happen, sir.” Smile returns to her lips once more and she seems to struggle with her hands, does she reach for him or not? She chooses not to, letting them fall to her sides. “I would be concerned of you bored by me, Your Grace.”
And he simply shakes his head, taking her hand on his own for a quick moment, no one around to witness the closeness, as hand is raised and a kiss is gently pressed to her knuckles. “That would never happen, miss.”