Chapter 10

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

“From now on, you are me and I am you.” Mary thrust her shawl around Phoebe’s shoulders. Phoebe pressed the purple cloth into Mary’s hands. “You think like me, you act like me - you stay safe. I will meet Richard, explain everything.” Phoebe had told her Matthew’s predictions about Hendrik’s plan. “Now, how will I recognise him?”

“This.” Phoebe handed her a tiny drawing of a dark-haired, square-jawed man, followed by the golden ring that betrothed her to another. “He will meet you at the square at dawn. I wrote him before I…escaped.”

A nervous silence hung between them.

“Won’t your grandma notice I’m…well, not you?” Phoebe said suddenly, voice shaking.

“Blind as a bat!” Mary grimaced. “Well, almost. Burn the soup – that’s her usual complaint. She’ll have no doubt.”

Iain was either too drunk – his semi-permanent state of being – to notice it was Mary getting into carriage or chose to humour it as they journeyed to Loch Lomond.

***

 

Phoebe played up her Mary as best she could. If Matthew knew, he didn’t let on. Surely not, else he wouldn’t be telling her her own story and putting her, the real Phoebe, in danger! He’s never actually seen my face so doesn’t know I’m me!

Phoebe and Mary had concluded Hendrik wouldn’t take the fake princess. Then again, he had only seen drawings of her! How could he know it wasn’t her? Or had she played right into his hands?

Phoebe pressed her quivering lips together. She owed it to Mary to get her out of this mess.

 

***

 

Hendrik was a surprisingly handsome man. Tall, broad, with a long but otherwise well-proportioned face and thick brown hair. He didn’t look his age, but then again he was Dutch.

Yet as she stood aboard the Royal Zeelandia, Phoebe shook herself back to reality. What now?

“When we made arrangements for…matrimony,” Hendrik spoke with a heavy Dutch accent, “I was informed you have command of the German language. I, too, uh, speak it.” He paused, surveying her. “I should have guessed the other was not you. Refused to speak a word of German.

He clapped his hands, then announced: “Und so wird die Maus gefangen…”

How would she get out now? A sickening image of her hanging off the bow of the ship flooded her mind. At least Mary and Richard were safe.

“Aber du bist nicht halb so hübsch,” Hendrik continued, studying his nails, “und viel zu dramatisch.” He fixed Phoebe with a dark stare. He would surely torture her now…

“Die Vereinbarung ist aus!” he declared suddenly, clapping once more. “I shall inform your parents.”

She hadn’t heard him right, had she? She was ugly and dramatic and so he had called off their engagement?

“Auf Wiedersehen.” He waved her away… like a servant.

 

***

 

Richard’s eyes brimmed with tears, Mary’s with confusion and Matthew’s…

“I will never marry a Scottish princess,” he said tersely, glaring from Phoebe to Mary.

“I will.” Richard stepped forward, taking Phoebe’s hand at last.