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Going to Vienna
The train pulled out of the station in Berlin with great puffs and gusts of steam. As each chug bore her further away from her home, Luise von Goff-Puttkamer slumped further down into her seat and cried.
Her father leaned over and put one of his big, square hands over her tiny ones. "Ludi, sweetheart, what is it?" he asked.
She turned her face away from him, letting the tears run unheeded down her cheeks.
Otto turned to his ward, Kirsten, in a mute appeal for help. Tears were welling up in Kirsten's blue eyes. "You, too?" A touch of desperation tinged his voice.
Kirsten slipped off her seat and kneeled in front of Luise, her crinoline billowing around her. "Don't cry, Ludi, please. I can't bear it when you cry," she whispered.
Otto sat back. Never, never would he understand women, not even young ones like these two. Luise had pleaded with him since she could first talk to be taken with him on one of his trips, and now that he was taking her, she wept.
"I don't want to go, Vati," Luise whispered, her face still turned away.
"Is this the same girl who couldn't wait to travel with me?"
"We'll be gone so long," she wailed, turning to look at him. "What if something happens while we're away? What if Franz forgets me?"
"The staff will take good care of everything. They know what to do if something goes wrong. Whenever I've gone away I've had that same bailiff to watch over Schönwald, and he's run everything exactly the way I want it every time. There's nothing for you to worry about, not even your Franz. Dogs remember the people they love for years. He wouldn't forget you even if you didn't go back until you were as old as I am."
If Otto had expected Luise to smile at that, he was mistaken. Her tears increased. "But, Daddy, why do we have to stay away?"
"We have to be in Vienna until your mother is well enough to go back home. We must do everything we can for her, I thought you understood that."
Then Luise felt guilty. She covered her face with her hands. "What if Mutti never gets better? Will we never go home?"
Otto glanced at Kirsten, hoping the older girl to help him say the right thing. Kirsten dabbed her eyes delicately with an embroidered pocket handkerchief. Otto gathered Luise onto his lap as he used to when she was tiny. He held her close and rocked her. "We will do everything we can for your Mutti, Liebchen. I daren't make you any promises about her. The only thing I will promise you is that we will go back home in time for Christmas no matter what happens."
"In time for Christmas! That's almost a year away!"
"Actually, its ten months, and it might not take as long."
Kirsten returned to her seat. She picked up her embroidery and began to work on it.
"You don't care, do you?" Luise snapped.
Kirsten answered, calmly, "Yes, I do, but since we can't turn around and go back now, we might as well make the best of it."
"It's alright for you. You didn't leave your dog behind for who knows how long."
"That's because I don't have one."
Otto gave Luise a tiny shake. "That will do, Luise Maria. There's no call to turn on Kirsten just because you're not happy."
Luise lowered her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks again.
"That's entirely enough of that," her father murmured.
"You don't understand," Luise wailed.
"Nicht, no, I don't. Nor can I if you don't tell me what it is that has you so upset. Miraculous though I might be, I cannot read minds."
Luise sniffled and wiped her face with a kerchief screwed into a grubby ball in her fist. She plucked up the courage to say, "I'm afraid."
More gently Otto asked, "Of what?"
"Something might happen while we're gone."
"I thought we just talked about that?"
"But awful things can happen."
Otto sighed and considered his words carefully. "We need this time away just as much as your mother does, Liebchen."
Luise's head jerked up, her blue eyes fierce with indignation. "We don't sit in corners rocking ourselves and not talking."
"I didn't mean that we need to go to Vienna for the same reasons, but that we need it just as much. It will take time and distance for us to put Gottfried's death behind us. Even if having a guest murdered in his bed didn't unhinge our minds in the same way as your mother, that doesn't mean we aren't affected too."
"But if something happened, we'd be so far away."
"We were all in the house when Gottfried was killed, so our being there or not being there is of no consequence in a thing like that."
Luise's face crumpled again. "I just feel like Schönwald isn't safe without us."
"I know," Otto said with compassion. "Yet you know Frau Blücher was caught and hanged for her crimes. She can't hurt anyone anymore.
We need this holiday to put it all in perspective."
"What does that mean?"
"Right now we're all still caught up in it. Look how worried you are instead of being excited, yet you've wanted to travel with me since you were tiny. It's not like you to miss an adventure you've longed for like this."
"But it doesn't feel like an adventure. It feels like we're going away when we should stay home to take care of things."
"After a little while you won't feel scared. You'll sleep more easily again. You'll be able to enjoy the trip."
Luise climbed down from her father's lap and returned to her seat. She looked out of the window as the train sped along, and said in a sulky voice, "I thought you would take me with you to some wonderful place like England or Sweden. We're not even going on a ship."
"Vienna is a wonderful place, Ludi. Austria is completely different from Prussia. Once you girls get used to travelling we'll go by ship, but a train is enough for now."
"This is dumb. Everything looks the same as home."
"Give it a chance. We're still in Brandenburg. By tomorrow the land will look a little different. Each day you'll see more new things."
Luise gave a sigh so big it seemed to come from her boots.
"How would it be if I told you a story?" Otto asked, falling back on a proven comfort.
Kirsten stopped stitching and looked at her guardian, a gleam of amusement in her eyes.
Luise wasn't a striking beauty like Kirsten, but she had an elfin prettiness that made her look porcelain delicate when she was unhappy. She continued to stare out of the window.
"Would you like to hear a story, Kirsti?" Otto asked.
"Ja, Onkel Otto, Luise's told me about your stories."
"What would you like to hear?"
"About the trip you made to England when you brought Fluch back with you."
Luise's head whipped around when she heard her parrot's name.
"Nobody will take proper care of Fluch while we're gone," she wailed.
"They're all too scared of him."
"Cosima's not scared of Fluch," Otto assured her. "You can write to her and find out how he's doing." He leaned forward to whisper their secret code in her ear. "I am the trunk ..."
With a swift glance at Kirsten, who politely turned away, Luise whispered back, "... and I am the branch ..."
"Together we're one tree," Otto continued.
"Together 'til the ends of the earth," Luise finished. It had been their private signal to one another since Luise was three years old. They usually finished it with Luise burying her face in her father's beard but she couldn't bring herself to do that in front of anyone, not even Kirsten.
In fact, they had never before gone through their litany with Kirsten present. When any one was around they shortened the code to the single words, 'branch', or 'tree'. It let all three of them know how much Kirsten had become part of the family that they said it in front of her.
Comforted, Luise told her father, "I'd rather not hear stories about the pets. It makes me think of them missing us. Could you tell us something else, please?"
"You've been hearing my yarns all of your life. What would you like to hear?"
"I don't know, Vati. Everything I can think of makes me want to go straight home."
"Well, then, what about the first time I saw Vienna?"
"Ja, ja, that's it. Tell us about that," they chorused.
Otto sat back in his seat to compose his yarn. He fiddled with his tinderbox to get a good enough spark to light his pipe, then he tamped, lit and relit his pipe. Finally he raised his chin and blew a stream of smoke up to the ornate ceiling of their carriage. The girls dutifully watched without a word. Kirsten was a naturally patient sort and young Luise had learned that her father's stories were better if she gave him a chance to organise them before he started to tell them.
"I was about your age when my parents took all of us south," he started.
Kirsten picked up her stitching again.
Luise wiggled in her seat. She rubbed her cheeks with her kerchief, leaving grubby streaks across them.
"My mother had heard stories of miracle cures in the spas, so my parents brought my sister Elisabeth to Vienna to see if a miracle could give her sight. We all came. My sister, Adelheid, was twenty two; my brother, Werner, was twenty; Sigismund was eighteen; Elisabeth was sixteen; Johann was fourteen; I was twelve and Monika was three.
In those days the railway didn't cover Europe as it does now, so we spent weeks travelling by carriage where we now spend days on the train to cover the same distance. Ada, Werner and Sig were grown up enough to keep themselves busy during the trip. Elisabeth was fascinated by each strange sensation. She and the baby were cared for by our nanny. Our parents were full of hope that Elisabeth would be cured, so everyone else was happy."
"Everyone else except you, Vati?"
"That's right. Johann and I were bored, bored, bored. Our tutor was with us to keep us out of trouble, but do you think we could pay attention to lessons?"
Luise looked at Kirsten and both girls giggled. They shook their heads.
"We couldn't. What happens when you're bored and you can't pay attention to the things you're supposed to?"
Kirsten, dutiful child that she was, rarely got into that sort of trouble. She glanced at Luise, who protested, "Don't look at me!"
"Can you tell me what happened to us?" Otto asked Luise.
"Why does everyone right away look at me?"
"You've never been in trouble for not doing your lessons?"
"Wellll ... maybe a little bit."
"And you've never had to stay and finish something after Kirsten was allowed to go?"
"Maybe one time."
"Only one time?"
"Wellll ... maybe more than one time."
"Almost like every time there's something you hate doing you put off doing it?"
"Almost like that."
Luise looked at her and realised what was happening. "Vateee, don't tease meee!" she protested.
Otto and Kirsten burst out laughing.
Luise gave both of them a disgusted look. "Tell the story," she told her father, "You're not telling the story. This isn't part of the story."
Otto bowed to her, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "Your wish is my command, Fräulein."
"You're still teasing."
Otto made a show of controlling himself. "Ahem. Being such a good child who never daydreams through her lessons, you wouldn't know about the kind of trouble we got into."
Luise glared at Kirsten, silently warning her not to giggle at Otto's teasing.
Kirsten wrinkled her nose at Luise.
"It's not that we meant to misbehave, you understand. I didn't intentionally get left behind in Dresden. I didn't realise how panic stricken my mother would be when they found out I wasn't with them and they had no idea how far behind they'd left me."
Luise was horrified. "How could they not notice one of their children was missing?"
"We were travelling in five carriages, since this rail line didn't exist then. Each thought I was in one of the other carriages until they stopped somewhere and all got out. Then it was obvious I wasn't with them."
"How did you come to be left behind, Onkel Otto?"
"I didn't mean to. It just sort of happened while I was hiding from my mean brother Johann."
"Why did you call Onkel Johann mean? He's our best uncle."
"He is now a monk. Back then he was a fourteen year old boy who didn't like it when his little brother tied his boots together while he slept. He liked it even less when I laughed myself silly when the carriages stopped and he fell on his face trying to get out with his boot laces tied together."
"Why did you tie his boot laces together, Onkel Otto?"
"I thought it was funny."
"Were you a bad boy, Vati?"
"Just mischievous. I didn't intend to hurt anyone, though I'm sure Johann didn't like falling on his face."
"Was Onkel Johann really angry?"
"He was not pleased. Even when they found me again, he was not pleased."
"Wasn't he glad to see you were all right?"
"Not when his ears were boxed because of me."
"Why did they hit him?"
"For some reason they thought he should have told them I had been left behind."
"Did he know you weren't on another carriage?"
"It sounds like he wanted something to happen to you."
"He certainly did."
"But you were the only little brother he had."
"For which he thanked God every night. Big brothers don't like little brothers who play tricks on them. Mind you, I can't see where he had the right to be so offended by that trick when he stole the idea from me."
"Whose boot straps did Onkel Johann tie together?"
"Our tutor. Then he let me take the blame for it."
"Were you punished for tying the tutor's boots together?"
"Can you imagine the unfairness? Just because a person does something once doesn't mean he--or she--did it the next time it happened, does it?"
Luise peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. It sounded suspiciously like he was teasing her again. "Were you in trouble that whole trip, Vati?" she asked to divert attention from herself.
"It was after that trip that my mother finally agreed to let me go to school like the older boys instead of being tutored at home."
"Did you want to go to school, Onkel Otto?"
"Until it got there and found out what a miserable place it was, I wanted to go more than anything else in the world."
"Why wouldn't your mother let you go, Vati?"
"Until I was nine, when Monika was born, I was my mother's baby, and afterwards I was still her baby boy and she wanted to keep me near her."
"Why did spending time in Vienna change her mind?" Kirsten wondered.
"It's possible that when our tutor gave his notice it affected her decision a bit."
Luise frowned, thinking Otto was teasing. "Your tutor left just because Onkel Johann tied his boots together?"
"That was only the beginning of the things we inflicted on that poor man. Remember, he kept trying to give us school lessons throughout the entire trip."
Luise snickered. "How ill-mannered of him," she said impishly.
Otto was so glad to see her return to her usual playfulness that he laughed far more than necessary for such a mild attempt at humour. He realised he was overdoing it when the girls glanced at one another. Immediately he caught himself and launched back into the story as if he'd always meant to. "When my father arrived back to find me I made sure he found a frightened, crying child waiting on the side of the street."
Kirsten frowned. "Weren't you scared, Onkel Otto?"
"Nein, mein Schatz. I had a fine time with the local kids until I saw a man riding into town. I was pretty filthy by then, so I had the local kids beat on me until my Vati came."
"Didn't that hurt?" Luise asked, settling down to listen.
"Not too much. It riled meines Vati, though. He scooped me up on his horse with him and rode back telling me what a close escape I'd just had. I had expected them all to come for me. But my father had left the carriages and headed out alone. He said it was faster that way, but I was convinced he loved me. They put me in one of the later carriages because of the mess I was in. They figured they'd clean me up when we got to a hotel, which kept me out of Johann's reach until we stopped to look at Vienna. Then Johann came out of his carriage towards mine, and I took off."
The girls laughed. Otto signalled his valet, Ernst, to bring refreshments to them and continued, "He ran down one side of the carriages and I escaped out the other side and ran to some bushes."
"You weren't really scared of Onkel Johann, were you?" Luise asked.
"He's your friend, now."
"When one of you is fourteen and has started his final growth spurt and the other one is a weedy little twelve year old, a judicious exit is wise."
The girls giggled, and settled down together.
"Mind you, my devoted older brother felt less blasé about losing me when he thought he'd killed me."
"Vati! Why would he think he'd killed you?"
"You have to remember we were young boys, Luise," Otto said while mentally kicking himself. He was taking the girls with him to help them get over the horror of a murder in their house, and here he was scaring them with unnecessary lurid exaggerations. "Johann didn't intend to hurt me. It was when I fell down the hill that he thought I'd died."
"What hill?" Kirsten asked, completely lost.
"The trouble was the bushes I meant to hide behind were on the top edge of the bank of the Danube."
Excerpted from Viennese Yarns by Laurie Campbell. Copyright © 2013 Laurie Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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