New Year's Day 1773 dawns at almost midday in the Grand Duke's personal chambers on the third floor of Krankenstadt Palace. Let's see what Irwin-Amadeus II and his trusty gentleman's personal gentleman Hives have been up to. . .
Irwin-Amadeus II: (Blinking eyes and rubbing temple): Oh my head, Hives, my head! Close the curtains, please, for the love of God. . .
Hives: (Sets down bed tray over the Grand Duke's legs): Early to bed, and early to rise, Sir.
IA: (Reaches for pocket watch on bedside table): Oh, dash it all, Hives! Not so loudly. It's only ten minutes to Noon. Leave me in peace, I beg you.
H: (Gathers Grand Duke's clothing from last night on floor at foot of bed and does not lower voice): Very good, Sir. But may I remind you that you have two important appointments this afternoon that you cannot miss.
IA: (Puts head back on pillows, closes eyes, and puts one hand across face): Very well, Hives. What, pray, is on my agenda for today then?
H: (Frowns slightly at state of rumpled clothing and dumps it in Grand Ducal hamper at foot of bed) At half past one, Sir, you must appear before the assembly of finance ministers, who are still trying to settle certain questions about the national budget and rising debt this morning.
IA (interrupts): My head, Hives, my head!
H: And then at half past four, Sir, the Lady Elizabeth 'Liesl' von Goshenhoppen and her mother the Lady Lucretia von Goshenhoppen will be calling for tea. There is the matter of your engagement and wedding to the former to announce and plan, Sir.
IA: Oh blast! I was having so much fun last evening that I almost forgot about that.
H: (Laying out the Grand Duke's clothes for the day on his settee across the room) It is your aunts' sincere wish to see you married and with an heir to the throne of the Grand Duchy on the way, Sir.
IA: (Opens eyes and makes face) But Hives! Liesl von Goshenhoppen? Surely Aunts Irmgard, Hiltrud, and Waltraud can't be serious?
H: (Buffing the Grand Duke's black buckle shoes with horsehair brush) Your aunts are of the opinion, Sir, that you have reached an age where the matrimonial state would be be more of an advantage to the Grand Duchy and its affairs at this point than continued bachelorhood.
IA: (Slathers slice of toast with butter and gooseberry preserves) Very well, Hives. I'll grant you that there have been times recently when the thought of the possible rewards of wife and family have indeed crossed my mind. It's just the Lady Liesl's hands. Have you seen them?
H: (Brushes the Grand Duke's coat meticulously with clothes brush) The Lady Elizabeth does have well-developed phalanges and palms, Sir.
IA: (Takes drink of tea, swallows, and replies) Oh, Hives! Really! Let's not beat about the bush. The Lady Liesl has man-hands! Honestly, it escapes me. She's got the face of a young Romy Schneider, I'll admit, but how such a petite and otherwise reasonably charming young lady could have hands like. . . like the most grizzled stable hand. And twice the size of dinner plates to boot!
H: I have heard through certain channels that the Lady Elizabeth is rather accomplished at Tiddlywinks, Cats Cradle, and (he pauses uncomfortably). . . arm wrestling, Sir.
IA: (Through another mouthful of toast) You see my point then, Hives.
H: Yes, Sir.
IA: (Wipes mouth with napkin and takes another sip of tea) Well? Is that all you have to say on the matter, Hives?
H: Sir? Yes, for the moment, Sir.
IA: But Hives! We've got to do something. I mean, I'm hardly in a position to allow the engagement to continue all the way to the marriage ceremony when the Lady Liesl could snap my spine with one clap on the back!
H: (Gathers breakfast accoutrement on tray) No indeed, Sir.
IA: And her mother, the Lady Lucretia von Goshenhoppen already seems rather too eager about and overly involved in the whole affair if you ask me.
H: Indeed, Sir. However, a marriage between yourself and the Lady Elizabeth would be seen as an acceptible social and familial connection.
IA: But, Hives! The von Goshenhoppens? They're minor Bavarian aristocracy after all. Do you really think they would fit into life and society here in the Lutheran North? And all of that sausage and kraut (makes face). Really!
H: (Turns to face the Grand Duke) Stranger things have happened, Sir. You may indeed, hands notwithstanding, find your love match with the Lady Elizabeth.
IA: Come, come now, Hives. We've got to think of a way 'round this mess. Hives? I'm depending on you.
H: As you wish, Sir.
IA: (Brightening) I'm sure you'll think of something. In the meantime, Hives, two aspirin and a glass of water, please. I suppose there is nothing for it but to bathe, dress, and meet with my ministers and then the von Goshenhoppens later this afternoon. We must keep up appearances and all that, eh, Hives?
H: Very good, Sir.
IA: (Cheerily) Well, then. Nothing for it I suppose. Into the valley of death, and there but for the grace of God go I, eh Hives?
H: Most assuredly, Sir.
IA: (Throws back the covers) Hives? Draw a bath, please. I'll submerge myself in the tub for a while while you cook up a way for us to get out of all this. Oh, and Hives?
IA: Have Frau Goetterfunken send up a pot of fresh coffee from the kitchen. This Frisian tea isn't quite doing the trick this morning. My head must be clear for that meeting with the von Goshenhoppens later today.
H: And the meeting with your finance ministers about the Grand Duchy of Stollen's budgetary concerns, Sir?
IA: What? Oh, that. They'll work something out, Hives. I'm sure of it. Now, where is my new cravat? You know. The Italian silk one with the teal parrots.
-- Curtain Falls --