He could feel his strength failing him, even as he addressed Mrs. Anna and his subjects. It gave him a pang to see the way his children stared at their schoolteacher, the grief on their faces plainly for her and not for their illustrious father. But then, he had not been close to any of them, save for the crown prince. His favorite son appeared stoic, but in him the King saw the sort of suppressed panic he himself had felt upon the death of his own father. The prince was not ready to become King, but then, could any man truly be ready for such a position?
As tiny Ying Yawaloc recited her pleading message, the king’s eyes moved to Anna. In her face he saw heartbreak, the look of one torn from her family too soon. She had always had such a capacity for loving, that Anna Leonowens. As she knelt to embrace his daughter, the King saw every child lean forward, desperate for an embrace as well. She was mother to them all, providing them with safety and security as they absorbed all she had to give. In a single day, a single hour even, they would lose both father and mother. He could not bear to look at her as she stood once more, for fear his eyes would show the same longing as his children’s. He heard the rustle of skirts as she passed, then heard her footsteps stop abruptly. Turning his head, he saw her whirl around, her eyes wide as she commanded her son to stop the ship from sailing and send her things back to the palace. A knot of tension he had not even noticed released as he fell back against the pillows. His children would be alright now. They would have their teacher and the new King would have a strong and wise advisor. He could feel his body failing, but did not fear death. Those he cared for would be safe with her. He only wished he could watch her work.