three families in question were considered to be the closest relatives of Princess Gladys, according to Karen.”

   “That’s right.”

   “But why?” Erna said, fiddling with the pen, “Are they people of character?”

   “Almost, they are people who have already spent my money.”

   As always, there was something in Bjorn’s response that caught Erna off guard, which he gave quietly.




Erna’s new education went well into the night.
When Bjorn pointed to a name, Erna moved it across and Bjorn went into deep explanation about the family, using concise words easy for Erna to understand.

   When Bjorn had finished and put down his pen, Erna closed the lid of the inkwell and looked at her new notes.
It was a crazy mess of lines and small words, but it was looking a lot more well rounded.
Erna had more than a few names in her column now.

   “You can learn the details from Karen, I’ve already spoken with her,” Bjorn said.

   It was something she wasn’t sure about, but Erna nodded her head deeply.
Before she knew it, her old wounds faded and she was filled with excitement.
Her heart did not stop pounding easily.

   “Thank you,” Erna said.
She found it hard to lift her head again, to look at her husband, it wasn’t like earlier, when she was filled with anger toward him for snooping through her things.

   “I will work hard and do my best,” said Erna shyly.

   “That’s my Erna,” Bjorn said as he brushed her cheek and gently raised her head, “When you talk to someone, you should be looking at them.”

   His voice was cool and soft.
It permeated an energy that warmed Erna and filled her with laughter.

   “Just like your favourite saying, ladylike,” Bjorn stated.
His lips were bent into a cosy smile.
Erna enjoyed this moment, seeing that smile on his face.
Bjorn always wore a loaded smile, but this time, his smile was different.

   “Is it better for you and Lechen if I remain quiet and doing nothing while we are in Lars?” She placed her hand over Bjorn’s, that was still on her cheek and he nodded.
“Then after, when we leave Lars for the other countries, I will work just as hard and do well.
Is that alright?” Bjorn nodded again, “are you going to be as busy?”


   “So that we can actually do things together.
It’s my first time travelling any where in my life,” Erna closed her eyes and smiled shyly.

   “What do you want to do?”

   “Will you join me if I tell you?”

  “We will see.”

   It was not a definitive answer, but Erna’s face lit up with excitement.

   “First, I just want to go for a walk with you.
A street, or a park in a foreign country would be so wonderful.”

   Bjorn was a little relieved that this was the most exciting thing Erna could think of.
He nodded and accepted.

   “I would love to find someone where to eat together and drink tea, too, in a pretty place.”

   “Is that all?”

   “What?” The excitement on Erna’s face paused for a second.

   “Is that all you want to do?”

   “ah…and….and…” Erna struggled to think of something wild and exciting, “Let’s talk, a lot, intimately.”

Bjorn didn’t see the value in her thoughtful wishes, but he was willing to give in to them. “Fine.” He heaved a sigh and gently caressed Erna’s cheek.
“Let’s do it.”

Erna looked at him and her eyes lit up.
Like a flower opening its petals, her grin brightened the room. 

Very pure

…and pleasing to the eye.




Erna’s letter came along with the first snows.

   Receiving the letter from the maid, Baroness Baden hurriedly found her glasses and sat in the armchair in front of the fireplace.
Mrs Greve, who received word of the letter’s arrival, came into the drawing room also.
She hobbled from the pain of arthritis in her leg.

   “You have no idea how warm my heart is at hearing Erna is doing so well,” the Baroness said, handing the letter to Mrs Greve when she finished.

   The strange sense of incongruity was no longer present and the letter felt more Erna-like.
It was more so when they had moved on from Lars.
It was said that they would be moving on to yet another country by the year’s end.

   “My lady, she really has fallen into her role as the Grand Duchess,” Mrs Greve said, returning the letter.

   Erna talked about the strangeness of the world in her letters and Baroness Baden soaked up all the information as the maid poured her tea.
That was a nice change that came with her Granddaughter being the Grand Duchess.

   Baroness Baden had refused the extra staff, but it was hard to refuse the stubbornness of the Royal Family.
The repairs to the mansion, which had begun at the moment the marriage was announced, were already completed and the number of servants increased dramatically.

   Ralph Royce, who had been a coachman in name only, finally had a beautiful wagon with which to work his magic on.

   The mansion was turned from a run down, dusty house, to a beautiful country estate and it was all thanks to Erna.

   “Her birthday is in a few days, will she be able to celebrate properly, in a foreign country?” Mrs Greve said.

   “Erna now has the most reliable family in the world, she will have a very special twentieth birthday.”

   “I do hope so.”

   The two old ladies looked out the window, at the slowly falling snow.
It was the same window they would look out of as Erna built the biggest snowman for her Grandmother and Grandfather.

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