Chapter Eight – continued
It was several minutes before Madeline pulled open her door, several minutes of Abigail rapping sharply on the solid wood, constantly peering over her shoulder nervously for any sign of Muriel.
“Abigail?” Madeline asked with a yawn, drawing her dressing gown tighter around herself. Her hair was in complete disarray and her eyes were sleepy, but she pulled her door open so her stepsister could step in. “Is something the matter?”
“I need to know how prepared you are for the soiree,” Abigail said as she strode in and put her hands on her hips.
“What?” Madeline asked, bewildered, as she shut the door. “Abigail, it’s the middle of the night.”
Abigail sharply clapped her hands once, making Madeline jump. If only it had been loud enough to overpower the sudden fear she had of coming face to face with Adrian as Abigail and Gail. “Madeline, please. It’s important. You’ll only get this one chance to make an impression on Adrian. That is what you want, isn’t it?”
“Well…yes. But, Abigail, it’s the middle of the night. Couldn’t we do this tomorrow? Besides, my etiquette tutor will be sure to drill it into me.”
“Your tutor is one thing. What I need you to know is another. Your tutor will teach you to be flawless when presented to the rest of the royal family. Only I can make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself in front of the Duke.”
That seemed to get Madeline’s attention. She visibly swallowed and dropped her hands to her sides, lifting her chin as the sleep quickly faded from her eyes.
“Then teach me, Abigail.”
Abigail gave a sharp nod and crossed her arms. “Let me see you curtsy.”
Madeline obliged, stretching her dressing gown out as far as she could, dipping her head, and sinking a couple of feet towards the floor. After a beat, she rose, keeping her head bowed and dropping her dressing gown to demurely clasp her hands before her.
“That will do just fine in formal royal occasions, but the soiree is not one of them.”
“There’s a different way of curtsying?” Madeline asked, gaping at her. “I just spent a whole day learning how to properly curtsy to the king!”
“Yes, well, that is the proper way to curtsy to him, and you’ll need to do that at the engagement ball. But it will not do for informal gatherings, nor is it appropriate for anyone other than the King, Queen, and Crown Prince.”
Worry creased Madeline’s face and she nervously played with the sash of her gown. “What do I do?”
“For one thing, no fidgeting. Ever. It’s undignified.” Madeline’s hands instantly stilled. “For another, you only avoid eye contact with the King and Queen in any situation. Otherwise, you must keep eye contact. Once you’ve made your dip, the formalities can drop. Here, copy me.”
Abigail swept out her gown in a quick, practiced move, keeping her head up, and sank into a dip before dropping her gown and rising to stand in her usual pose. Madeline, her eyes nervous, copied Abigail’s moves until Abigail nodded.
“The only time you need to curtsy is when you first greet someone. You do not approach anyone above our rank; they will approach you if they wish to speak to you. The only people you will be allowed to initiate conversation with is anyone below our rank. However, once you have already conversed with someone of a higher rank, you are then free to approach them at will during the remainder of the event. Of course, the Murants tend to be a little non-traditional, so keep a sharp eye for what everyone else is doing.
“Be sure to be introduced to Adrian as early as possible. Once you’ve been introduced and have exchanged pleasantries, you will be able to address him directly as you please, assuming he is not otherwise engaged with someone else. Andalissa will be the first one you formally meet. It’s best if you request an introduction to her brother once all of the guests have arrived.”
Madeline swallowed. “You mean you will not be introducing me to him?”
“It’ll be best if Andalissa introduces you,” Abigail said, sidestepping Madeline’s question. In reality, she planned to be nowhere near Adrian the entire night. “Don’t worry too much, Madeline. Keep what I’ve just told you in mind, keep your eyes on me or Camille to know how to conduct yourself, and you shouldn’t embarrass yourself.”
“Shouldn’t,” Madeline repeated, her voice trembling slightly.
“If you do feel nervous, eat something. It’s impolite to interrupt someone when they’re eating. Keep that in mind. Do not approach someone if they’re eating. If someone invites you to eat something with them, do so and take something to eat.” Abigail briefly touched a finger to her lips. “And then forget all of this when we attend the engagement ball.”
Madeline paled and her hands went back to fidgeting with her sash. “I’ll never survive being part of the royal family.”
Abigail took a breath, finally realizing just how much she had put on her stepsister to try to stamp out her own anxiety. “You’ll do fine. Everything will be fine as long as your mother doesn’t embarrass herself. Clarice has made a new gown for her, hasn’t she?”
Madeline grimaced. “I hope so. Trust me, I do know how unfashionable my mother is.”
“Then, Madeline, she is the only thing you’ll need to worry about at the soiree.”
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