A scene cut from the final version. Daniel is a guest of Charles II for one night at Hampton Court, and is pondering certain undesirable aspects of his life.
Daniel’s bed was large, big enough for two. When he finally gave up on the idea of sleeping, he looked thoughtfully at the empty space on his right and wondered what it would be like to have someone there. Just to have the company, to have his loneliness finally assuaged. To roll over and find not just empty space but a warm and welcoming body, someone your arm would naturally drape over as you turned; someone who would receive you into her embrace. Who would kiss you, softly at first, gently, but then with increasing passion, and run her hands over you, and your clothes would come off — how? He had never quite worked that out; wriggling out of a nightshirt involved at least sitting up and a bit of contortion, which surely would break the romantic spell — but anyway, the clothes coming off somehow and then making love gently and tenderly, sealing all the bonds between you of heart and body. Two bodies as one.
He had to admit that perhaps it was more than just company he desired. He lay back down again with a dissatisfied grunt. Nor was it just a matter of answering his curiosity. He knew a few Holekhor girls his age, daughters of Dhon Do’s officers, and he could probably put in some hours, as Charles had phrased it, without too much difficulty if he made his desire known. He was being courted as a groom-spouse by the Domon’el’s heir, after all. He was a desirable property. He lay on his back and glanced up at the window. If the worst came to the worst, he was in Hampton Court, for goodness sake. He had money in his pockets; even at this hour he could probably wander into town and return at dawn, quite likely diseased but all questions answered. No, there was more to it than that. The girl would have to be special, no question there. But if he lay with her, and they then grew apart and he fell in love with someone else, what could he give to the next one that he hadn’t already given another? Charles seemed to have the hang of it. He seemed to give his heart to each of his women, and then take it back again somehow still in pristine condition to give to the next one. He never just discarded someone. Even Alice, Daniel’s former nurse and (apparently) Reliever of the Royal Virginity, was put up in a lodge on the Windsor estate with a pension to care for herself and young James Fitzroy in perpetuity. Though that might have been because she was mother of the king’s first child.
But Daniel didn’t think he could be like that. Part of it might have been his bringing up by a celibate priest; part of it might have been an awareness of his own origins and the conviction, erroneous but one he had had for his first twelve years, that his father had just loved and left his mother. If your bodies were joined then so were your souls, and two souls joined were far harder to take apart again. It was like mixing salt and sand.
Copyright © Ben Jeapes 2004. Not to be reproduced without permission.