11 August 2015

Summering outside Königsberg with Irwin-Amadeus II and Hives. . .

Gelbensande Manor outside Rostock, Germany, masquerading here as the country home of the Grand Duke's cousin, one Bernhard 'Bumby' von Tempelhof.

It has been some time since last we met our heroes.  Irwin-Amadeus II and his faithful manservant Hives have spent July and the first half of August 1765 summering outside of Königsberg, at the country estate of a distant cousin to the Grand Duke.  Today is an unseasonably hot day, and we find Irwin-Amadeus II sitting alone at the harpsichord in the breezy music room, picking out a melody and accompaniment while humming to himself.  He occasionally sings out loud and picks up a quill pen to jot down lyrics on a chord chart propped up before him. 

Hives: (Enters music room with try of chilled refreshments) Good afternoon, Sir.

Irwin-Amadeus II: Ah, Hives!  There you are.  Give a listen to this.  (Begins playing and singing):  

♪♪ . . .  Good night Königsberg.
You city of a million something-or-others. 
Yes, good night Königsberg. 
The city where I nursed my broken heart.
Hm-hm, hm-hm, hmmm. . .  ♪♪ 

I-A: (Stops) Well?  What do you think?  It took me all morning to work out.

H: (Places tray on a nearby table and pours tall glass of iced lemonade and hands it to I-A).  Most inspiring, Sir (clears throat discretely) although might I point out that your song does bear a marked resemblance to that well-known composition ‘Goodnight Vienna’.

I-A: (A deflated look comes over his face) What?!  Oh, blast!  I knew it seemed too familiar.  And to think that I’ve been going over that tune in my head for days trying to get it just right.  (Sighs) Thank you, Hives (takes sip of lemonade and puts glass back on nearby table).

H: The unfortunate result of visiting the same operetta three times in one week, perhaps, Sir.

I-A: Yes.  Yes, I see what you mean, Hives (looks toward ceiling thoughtfully).  But the young lady playing the lead role is something to behold.  When the light is good at least.

H: (With a mildly disapproving tone): You’ll pardon me, I trust, for suggesting it, Sir.  But an opera singer on the stage is hardly the right match for a gentleman of your station and situation.

I-A:  (Pauses momentarily) I suppose you are right, Hives.  Mustn’t stir the ol’ socioeconomic pot too much, eh? 

H: No, Sir.  A large part of marriage, I am afraid, has to do with establishing the right kinds of social connections.  Marrying someone similar to oneself in background and outlook can prevent a myriad of potential problems down the road.  The state of matrimony is not simply about matters of the heart.  Or it should not be.

I-A: (Reins himself in) No, Hives.  No.  You’re right of course. 

H: (Raises an eyebrow) There was also the lady Leonora-Christina von Grandin several years ago, was there not, Sir?  She was suitable in a number of directions.  You could always open negotiations once more with her parents.  (Suppresses a barely noticeable smirk) I am certain they would welcome your reaching out to them.

I-A: Oh, Hives really!  (shudders comically) The Swedish oaktree?  Never a serious chance.  Anyway, that ship has sailed already.  Thank the good Lord!

H: Just as you say, Sir.  There are the three young ladies and their mothers, who have also been summering here with us the last several weeks at Herr von Tempelhof’s.  Perhaps one of them might, as you are fond of saying, be just the ticket?  More lemonade?

I-A: (Lost in thought) What? Oh, yes, please Hives.  Yes.  Um. . .  No, I’m not sure any of them are the answer despite their letters of introduction from my three gorgons, aka Aunts Irmgard, Hiltrud, and Waltraud.  It’s all of this business about molding, Hives.  They want me to find a wife who will “mold” me into something worthwhile.

H: Sir, they are your aunts if you’ll excuse the observation.

I-A: (Mildly frustrated) Yes, Hives, yes.  Frightful business really.  All of this backroom letter writing and pitching of woo by post that has gone on around here this summer at the hands of these young ladies, their mothers, and my aunts.  A man can’t hear himself think with all of the socializing.  It’s nothing but games of Skat in the mornings, luncheons on the lawn, croquet in the afternoons, and suppers or balls in the evening.  I mean, give me a good boarhunt on a crisp autumn’s morn, and I’m your man.  But wilted watercress and cucumber sandwiches on a humid summer afternoon in the shade?  No, Hives, no.  All of the women involved, regardless of their parts in this convoluted dance of love, seem just a tad too eager it seems to me.  Something odd in all of that.  

H: Surely though, one does not wish to remain a bachelor forever, Sir.  And there is the question of an eventual heir to the throne of the Grand Duchy if I might be so bold as to broach the subject.  Surely there is ample opportunity between the three young ladies in our presence to make a suitable match?

I-A: (Makes face) Oh, come now Hives!  Let’s look at the situation without our rose-colored glasses, shall we?  Neither the one, nor the other. . .  nor the other are quite the thing when it comes to taking a wife and settling down for the long haul.  (Pauses) Pour yourself a lemonade, Hives.  It is rather warm in here this afternoon.

H: Thank you, Sir.  (Pours himself half a glass and takes sip, but remains standing some distance from the Grand Duke).

I-A: Anyway, as I was saying.  Neither of these three young ladies quite fits the bill as pleasant in appearance as each one is.

H: Are you certain of that, Sir?

I-A:  Hives really!  I think sometimes you are this obtuse on purpose.

H: Just as you say, Sir.

 I-A: May I go on?  Thank you.  Take for example the Lady Konstanz von Bingen.  Easy enough on the ol’ eyes, with her curly auburn hair, blue eyes, and infectious laughter but she is one of those. . .  (Makes face of great concentration) Oh, what is it?  (Snaps fingers) Yes!  Lady Konstanz is what some call a morning person.

H:  A morning person, Sir?  I am afraid I don’t quite take your meaning.

I-A:  No more of that, Hives.  No more I said.

H: Very good, Sir.

I-A: Anyway, she and her blasted mother keep arranging all of these early morning events to which they invite me: watching the sunrise over the lake at 5am, breakfasts on the veranda afterwards, animated conversation before 10am, and all without any coffee being served.  That last item is vexing in the extreme.  I mean, who in the world doesn’t serve coffee with breakfast?  No, Hives.  It can’t be done I’m afraid.  I just don’t see a collective future with Lady Konstanz.

H:  I see Sir.  And we do enjoy our late breakfasts in bed, if you’ll pardon my saying.  Have you considered either one of the other two ladies in residence, Sir? 

I-A: Oh, Hives!  (Rolls his eyes skyward) I wish it were so simple when it comes to the other two woo-pitchers, but things don’t look especially promising there either.  The Lady Margarethe zur Löwe admittedly has a pleasing figure, and the most flaxen hair, but she seems especially fond of mineral water and rosehip tea, which is all well and good.  But not without sugar and a dash of milk at least.

H: No, Sir.

I-A: And Lady Margarethe doesn’t seem to take much meat during her meals, or, indeed, to arrange for any to be served during the meals to which she has invited me at any rate.  Where is the fun in a supper consisting entirely of unseasoned roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips, Hives?  To say nothing of a breakfast with neither bacon, nor bangers?

H: I see your point, Sir, but the Lady Margarethe may simply have your health in mind.

I-A: But a man has to enjoy life, Hives.  And then there are her topics of conversation.  It’s always about fuzzy puppies, or furry kittens and things like embroidery, or the stars.

H: The Lady Margarethe does seem to have a rather idealized worldview, Sir.

I-A: An understatement, Hives.  An understatement.  No, I don’t foresee connubial bliss there either I’m afraid.

H: What about the third young lady who has joined us here at your cousin’s house?

I-A:  (Makes a bug-eyed face) I knew you were going to ask about her, Hives.  I just knew it.  Call it gentleman’s intuition.

H: Have you nevertheless considered the suitability of the Lady Luise-Henrietta von Strenge, Sir?

I-A: Oh, Hives!  She is the worst one of the bunch.  Again, most attractive in a tall, rather slender way from what I am able to tell, and her dark hair and eyes could drive the right man mad, but she takes a rather pietistic view of life.  She doesn’t approve of gambling, for instance, so attending the horse races and games of cards become suddenly less interesting.  She also insists on giving endless recitals around the harpsichord in the drawing room during the evenings after supper.  Now, that’s fine, of course, but her compositions of choice are always, oh, how shall I put it?

H: Spiritual, Sir?

I-A: You’re onto something there, Hives.  Yes.  And while a certain degree of spirituality can be a good thing, Lady Luise-Henrietta invariably goes too far in our daily interactions and somehow manages to suck all of the fun out of life.  Why, it’s like having a spaghetti meatsauce without any garlic or other spices added to it, or a dried out loaf of whole-grain bread from the local farmers’ market if you take my meaning?

H: I do, Sir.

I-A: No, Hives.  It’s time for us to think about heading for home, I am afraid.  Our time here outside Königsberg with ol' Cousin Bumby has been remarkable on one level, but it’s not real life after all.

H: Agreed, Sir.

 I-A: It will be nice, I think, to get back to the palace at Krankenstadt and settle back into the day-to-day with detachments of the Leib Grenadiers drilling outside my windows each morning.  At least until the snow flies.  These romantic entanglements are not good, Hives.  Not good at all.  It taxes a man’s mental and emotional well-being.

H: Shall I begin arranging things to pack your trunks for the journey home, Sir?

I-A: Not quite, Hives.  Not quite.  There is a lecture one evening this week at the university by some fellow named Kant that I’m thinking about hearing.  You never know, eh?  I might just stumble onto the young lady destined to become the eventual Grand Duchess of Stollen at that.  Stranger things have happened.

H: Just as you say, Sir.

I-A: I think I’d like a new wig to wear over my own hair for that though.  Hives, would you be so good as to visit that shop in town with the newest gentlemen’s wigs on display in the front window?  You know, the one on Ohrwurmstraβe?  There is a wig on display there that I would like you to pick up for me, please.

H: (Flares nostrils) The one with the golden half-moons and tiny imitation nightingales woven into it, Sir?

I-A: The very one, Hives.  Have them charge it to my account.

H: (Raises an eyebrow) Sir?  That particular wig is somewhat. . . frivolous.  Is that really. . . ?  

I-A: (Cuts him off) Hives, we’re not having that discussion again!  I'll say no more about it.  Now, here is what I would like you to ask when you go down there this afternoon. . .

-- Curtain Falls --


Gallia said...

My dear Stokes,
This was a genuinely entertaining read to the very end. I do so enjoy a diversion like this. Encore!
Cheers and applause,
Bill P.

Der Alte Fritz said...

It is good to have the tales of the GDofS back again. A very enjoyable read.

Si Bath said...

A great read and good to have the Grand Duke and Hives back.


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