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The Prize is Not as Great as You Think: Chapter 3

3) A Humble Farm

Gerry was content. The family ceremonies, marching in the St. Michael parade, were over for the year and he was glad to be home. Over six feet tall and big in the shoulders, he too found marching in the parade and carrying the platform physically demanding as his cousin the Crown Prince had been so vociferous about. Reginald had surprised him with the vast amount of curse words he knew and then loudly used when they reached the gates of the Celebont Palace.

Gerry knew that his cousin was angrier each year about their duty to carry the statue of St Michael up the long hill, but he thought Reginald was resigned to the task and would continue his obligation until ascending to the throne. Though Reginald had looked very nearly completely red, having been pelted with near all of the tomatoes that the citizenry had thrown at them this year. Cause for anger but his royal outburst had been far from princely. Gerry once again chuckled over his fortune in having removed himself from the Capital of Steilenberg. Reginald though was unable to do that.

Back at home Gerry was now able to return to his cows and tend the needs of the farm. Blue eyed with sandy brown hair, he had photographed well for the local paper. Now he was out of his formal clothes, and the ancient uniform that he wore to march in the parade was put away. Even the patent leather shoes with gilt buckles were gone for another year and he wore his second favorite boots once more.

Gerry's father would hate that he had become a farmer, as Prince Reginald also did, never letting a chance pass to make a snide comment about it, but it was a good life. And the Grand Prince, for all that he was a dictator and did little for many, kept the prices on food stable. The prices so good that the farmers sold high enough that no farmer who put in a honest day’s labor would ever starve.

Farmers fed the cities and they were paid for it. Not that a farmer ever wanted all those riches that the city folk had. What would you do with them anyway?

There was work in the cites such as making roads so that these new automobiles could ride on them.Crown Prince Reginald, said he had ordered a Mercedes that had 35 horsepower. When Gerry had ridden to Nantz for the train to Steilenberg he had used one horsepower. His mare Maggie was just fine to take him anywhere in the principality. Why look for trouble and try to find someone to sell you gasoline, or who could fix one of the tires. Any smith could shoe a horse. There wasn’t any place Gerry could think of nearby to purchase gasoline or fix a tire.

All Reginald and Athelstan could talk of was progress, and where the country should go once the old Grand Prince died and the shackles he placed on the principality were gone. The two did not know their own father well enough, Gerry was pretty sure. The Grand Prince was smart enough to have kept them and the country from folly for over thirty years.

His two cousins chomped at the bit wanting to fight alongside the great powers of Germany or France. The last time Almondy had been in battle, sixty thousand men had gone to war and twelve thousand had not come back. The next war would be worse, and it would probably be fought right in the principality. The Germans wanted to kill the French and the French wanted to kill the Germans just as badly.

These countries could not see that peace was the best. They never would.

Much simpler to like cows and milking them. There was a calm when you were in the rhythm of milking a cow. As long as you didn’t make the cow mad. And Gerry had the four sweetest cows this side of Splatz. They never gave him trouble.

No, never. You sat on your stool, pulled on the teat and milk came out. Twice a day, and then you had it to take to market, the night before’s milking and that morning’s. Though that Henry Samuelson was very energetic and now was running a cart late morning to take the milk into town for sale, and in the evening as well. He only charged a penny a liter and that meant a better use of Gerry’s time for it saved him two hours a day, each day of making the trip into town.

The cows had to be milked every day else they let you know they were unhappy. It became painful for them, Gerry thought. Two days not milked and then very painful. Wednesday’s though, he took the milk to town himself for then he met friends and had some fresh bread from Pieter the baker.

He then sat in the platz and sold some cheese and milk; and even a duck or chicken or two. Gerry had to thin his flock of fowl regularly and one man could only eat a bird every other week. Else Father Guiseppe, who had come to serve in Splatz all the way from Italy, would scold him for being a glutton.

Gerry had a good life and had urged Reginald this last trip to Steilenberg to marry and produce a son or three so that he would no longer be heir to Reginald. Cousin Athelstan laughed and laughed over that. Finally he shared the joke with Gerry, who had to chuckle as well. Everyone wanting Reginald to marry. Well it was time. Reginald was over thirty now and soon he would be Grand Prince. That was assured.

“So, another trip to the capital. I heard that young Samuelson looked after your farm when you were away,” Pieter said. As it was a Wednesday, market day, Gerry had come into Splatz.

He said, “He is a good lad. A very good lad. I don’t know that he makes a decent living at this carting nonsense or will ever make anything of himself and save enough for a farm. But he is honest, eh, and has that smile that make all like him.”

Pieter looked to Gerry. “You should smile more yourself. The ladies think you are quite handsome when you do, you know. And you are a Fitzroy Perry. You could be Grand Prince even.”

“That is why they like me. Once Reginald has married and has children I shall be a lot less attractive I assure you. Father did not think I would ever be higher than fifth in line but then the smallpox took all of Cousin William Simeon’s line and that shooting accident three years ago, and cousin Alan died. I just moved up the ladder I guess.

"You know I would have married Farmer Friedrich’s daughter over along the river, he has some land that would have been her dowry. But once I became second in line, he would not even speak to me. He thought for sure I was no longer going to continue farming. She married the cobbler and now’s expecting her second child. The man has no idea whether to plant millet or soybeans, oats or barley and Fredrich now won’t give him the land. Hopes he can sell it and give the man the money to make more shoes.”

Pieter laughed, “We don’t buy the shoes he makes now. Not many that I can see anyway. His window is so full of shoes you think that we all had a third foot.”

Gerry looked at Pieter who just laughed harder. Gerry returned to the subject of his cousins for all liked to hear what the royals were up to, and they had Gerry to tell them the gossip. No other small village had a man close to the succession and could tell them of the royals.

“My cousin Athelstan says that I need be suspicious if any French or German comes to town that we do not know or can vouch for. Almondy’s neighbors are thinking long term now. Athelstan worries that they may try and manipulate me.”

“I don’t know any German or Frenchie that has been here since you have been gone. I heard that there was an Englishman wandering about in the countryside.”

“Pieter, those in Steilenberg thing we are the countryside,” and Gerry began his own laughing.

“I know that. Do you think I am a simpleton. Just because I rise and start my fires at two o’clock so that you and the others can have fresh bread each day does not mean I am dumb. No, the countryside is anywhere around here that is not the town. That is where this Englishman was seen. They say he is walking about the countryside and is on a holiday. I am not the simpleton but this Englishman sure must be to think that walking about this part of Almondy is a holiday.” Pieter added a look of indignation as well.

“Our countryside is not all bad for one of my cousin Reginald’s lodges is here. And you are not at all simple in my eyes.”

“Harrumph," his friend cleared his throat. Then he continued, "Yes, Castle Grayton. But it is neither grey nor a castle. It is a good lodge and I will say that the view to the alps of Switzerland cannot be bested by anything else in our countryside. But that is five miles away.”

Gerry laughed, “And would you not want to see it from the inside and then spend time there? For only the little village below Grayton is nearer, with no rooms to let, for all that live there work at the lodge of the Grand Prince.”

“I suppose that you are right.”

Gerry nodded, for Pieter and he had discussed the castle before and how Gerry had visited it a few times.

There was a little commotion in the rest of the square, and a crowd seemed to be at the telegraph office. The one phone in the whole county was there, though a second line was being installed in the town council hall. “Trouble. When you see everyone swarm like that, it means trouble and never any good news, else you would hear cheering. Look, see,” Pieter pointed. “Old man Gerard is sending a boy to fetch the constable.”

They saw a young lad, too far across the platz to see who it was, but he ran from the telegraph office to the constables. Then the three constables, there were seven for the entire county, burst from the door of the office and now they were shouting and pointing. Arms flailing. Then the attention of the men from that side of the square all seemed to focus on the side where the bakery was, and where Gerry and Pieter were sitting.

“The commotion seems to be centered now on us here. And good friend, I can only think that there is one reason that they all point this way and now come,” Pieter said.

“Dear me. I can only think of one reason also. The Grand Prince must have finally succumbed to his many ailments.

The chief Constable, Lestaing said, “Hush all, Mr. Perry! Mr. Perry may we have a word? A message from Steilenberg. Terrible news, terrible news indeed.”

Gerry stood to receive all the men. “Is it my cousin? He has died?”

“Died, yes. Yes Mr. Perry. Died. No killed. The Crown Prince has been killed is the message from the Capital and we are to protect you until a company comes from the army. More later they said but we were to find you immediately.”

Gerry sat back down heavily.

“Back, all of you get back and give Gerry some room to breathe here. Constable clear these people back and delegate some to be your deputies,” Pieter said, waving his baguette like a stick to give Gerry some room and air.

“Tell me. Tell me what you know?” Gerry asked.

“That is all. Here you can read for yourself. If you want we shall send back to Steilenberg that we have you, your, uh highness. And ask them for any information you want.”

Gerry nodded, “Yes, let me read it.” That was quickly done. He was handed the telegram.


P REGINALD KILLED STOP

FIND P GERALD IMMED STOP

MAKE P GERALD SAFE STOP

COMPANY FROM ARMY COMING STOP

MORE LATER END


“Yes, a typical telegraph. Constable Lestaing, you will get your men and arm them. My cousin Athelstan told me that something like this could occur, but I thought he was joking. He said he would send me a paper on what to do in case this occurred. You, boy, run to the Postmaster and see if I have any mail. Master Helmut, will you see to my horse and getting the milking done for the next while. I don’t think I am going to be allowed to leave these gentlemen’s sight and best then I stay at the Blue Belle.” The only tavern that served a decent ale and that had rooms in the town.

Gerald thought that sounded commanding but he had little idea what else to do. He would have to tell his cousin the Grand Prince that he could not be a ruler himself. He had gone to the Assembly a few times with cousin Athelstan and saw why his cousin Reginald had avoided the place. They talked about many things and all too much for him. For what he wanted in life.

The Assembly talked whether they should rescind the ecumenical religious freedom as Rome wanted, Catholicism being the mainstay of the country, but Protestantism was second. And who did not see a Jewish doctor since Michael the Third brought them into the country when King Edward expelled them from England? Smart move that as well for the Jews brought banking to the country too. That made them important enough that their neighbors also refrained from attacking them for centuries just because they had banks and banking families.

Family legend had it that the Princess Sophie who had run off to America only did so because she was half Jewish, her mother being Jewish, and that the man she ran off with was Jewish as well. But now the Principality had Chinese, who were Buddhists and Japanese who were Shintoists, North Africans who were Moslem. It was a melting pot and Gerald would not know how to make a decision as Grand Prince. Or much more importantly how to keep France and Germany from each others throats, and the principality from becoming their next battleground.

How to know where to spend money, and how to keep the army supplied with new weapons like these automobiles, or the machine guns he had seen demonstrated. Those would cut a man in half surely. How could he be the Grand Prince and ask any man to fight, when those horrible guns could kill so swiftly.

Athelstan would be a much better Grand Prince than he would. Besides the court would laugh when he would bring his cows to the Celebont Palace. One could be an eccentric Grand Prince, but he was pretty sure that the nobles would not want to see Cows and their Grand Prince milking them. They would all probably complain about the flies and cow patties till he became deafened by them. That was the way he had always found the Steilenberg folk.

Men were rushing around at his direction then. Gerry turned to Pieter, “This is terrible. I do not think I can do this.”

“Nonsense. I have known you for years. You certainly will be better than your poor cousin as a Grand Prince. Reginald looked good in the pictures of him in his uniform, but I always heard he was dumber than a chicken. Liked the ladies and drinking, but not much more to him was there? You’ve told us all about him for years.”

Gerald’s lips puckered as he nodded. “Yes. I had always thought that my cousin would rise to the occasion though, for I think being Grand Prince here, now, means that one is thrust into greatness. If the first Michael had known we would be in the middle of such powerful neighbors, I think he would have walked right on by. Who knew in 1066 that the Celebont Palace would become so important. The knight my esteemed forbearer took the place from had only just finished building it and was deep in debt to the king of France. Styled himself a baron. Now look what we have got. Damn French have no king any longer but they want all the interest from that loan, I tell you,” Gerry said.

“Can’t trust no bankers. They’re all Jews!” Pieter went to spit. They had enough room that they had some privacy even as men tried to get a glimpse of Gerry. The same men who had seen him ten minutes before the telegram came, and they all knew what he looked like.

“Don’t disparage the Jews. The banker here, Mister Potts is not a Jew, though Doctor Coyne is. Best Doctor for miles as you well know. Took good care of that burn you had last year, and your broken leg the year before.”

Pieter nodded. “I suppose you are right. It is just a saying.”

“It is sayings that cause problems. Best think bad thoughts about people you know are bad and have done you wrong and then think nicely of those who have never harmed you. That I believe would be the best motto to live by, don’t you think so?” Gerry asked.

Pieter laughed, “There you see, Highness, you will make a great Grand Prince!”

Gerald shook his head. He knew he would not, and did not want to be one. Consable Lestaing had returned and he had three rifles and four pistols that he and another man carried.

“Here, if we can move you now to the Blue Belle, it will be easier to protect you…”

“I suppose that if men killed my cousin, then there are those who might wish to kill me, but I am just a farmer.” Gerry tried to protest. It did little good and soon they were all moving to the Blue Belle. There were some guests but all were Almondians and when they heard what was happening and who was now sitting in the main room, some who had rooms upstairs were happy to clear out of them and give the Crown Prince a safe place that he could go to.

Steilenberg was two days ride away, but the train, which had a stop up the valley at Nantz, could have a company there in some few hours. Depending on the station masters getting an army train assembled in Steilenberg and then getting the routing handled. That took time too. By nightfall a company of soldiers from the army could reach Splatz.

“Well, it will be a few hours. Pieter has a good round loaf of sourdough and you Master Kramer, do you not have a stew, as you usually do?”

Master Kramer and his wife kept the kitchen always ready to serve travelers food. There usually was a big pot of stew on the stove. For as long as Gerald remembered, bread from the bakery that Pieter now owned, would be used as bowls for stew from the Blue Belle. It always was a hearty meal. “I do. Of course I do. I shall fetch you some in a bread bowl, shall I highness?”

“Yes and I think a whisky is called for today to drink as well. I fear Constable Lestaing has made it clear he will not let me travel to my house. Though once the soldiers are here, I hope there will be enough men that I may go there and collect some things. I do not even have my night clothes that I may sleep. Or my shaving gear for tomorrow morning my cheeks will be very prickly.” That brought a laugh, but the Constable solved that problem. New shaving gear was brought from the local store of Mr. Mueller, while a nice girl, Hilda, went from the Inn to Gerry’s farm to fetch other items of a personal nature.

Hilda was a maid and two young men went with her, enjoying their new status as deputies of Constable Lestaing and the chance to accompany the very pretty Hilda. Pieter had returned to the bakery and the novelty was wearing off. Other townsmen drifted away about their business and soon it was the Constables and just a few others who also acted as guards with Gerry. Afew other thrill-seekers stayed in the hall as well as the guests of the Blue Belle.

“I don’t suppose that things will ever be the same again will they?” Gerry asked and it certainly was directed at the Constable. He was the closest thing to a man with authority in Splatz that Gerry, or any other, could trust.

Lestaing looked about and then shrugged, “Probably not, Prince. And don’t shake your head and tell me I’ve said before I wouldn’t call you that. You are the Prince now, whether you like it or not. Someone has to be the Prince, else this country is going to fall apart. Look about this room, a third are of German stock and proud of it. The other third are French, and as proud. That last bit, from all the other parts of Europe and Mr. Cheng is from China. We all get along pretty well, but that last war near tore us apart here as well as on the battlefield. An Almondian knows better to take sides in a fight between the big countries. But if the commoners all had the vote, then what would happen in the Assembly? War there I would bet. That is why Almondy needs the Grand Prince, to walk us across that tightrope.”

The room they sat in had two parts to it; the bar and dining area and the smaller sitting room area. They were in the dining room at a table next to the wall, which was also adjacent to the bar. Two of the men that Lestaing had deputized stood at the bar while the Constable stood at the other side of the table looking across the room. Other constables of Splatz had been summoned and some were in the rest of the dining room. One waited outside to wave down the soldiers when they arrived. Another was in the small entry room where the desk for those who were guests of the Blue Belle conducted their arrangements.

Eleven men Gerry knew of were guarding him and the Blue Belle. As much as it was possible in Splatz. He did not think that there would be an attack against him. He had been in the army for two years when he had graduated the university, and made a lieutenant as well because of his blood. His cousin Reginald had started life in the army as a colonel and then after three months he was made a general.

Gerry started as a lieutenant and ended as one. His first three months were spent learning how to be a soldier and the next three an officer, exactly as the other members of the aristocracy and rich upper class of men who sent their sons to become soldiers. Reginald, he knew, had never risen at four in the morning and spent fifteen minutes trying to bathe with cold water and do all that you needed to dress quickly and get outside for inspection, in the dark with twenty-nine others of your barracks all doing likewise. And there being only two commodes.

At least though there were commodes. Thirty years before, he had heard often enough from the training sergeants, the gentleman officers would have used an outhouse. The regular soldiers then and often now had no such luck but had a shovel in which to make a hole in the ground. Gerry had found later that was not a complete exaggeration. Several regimental barracks still had no plumbing to take care of such matters. Fortunately since the Franco Prussian war, and they had fought with the winning side, much had been done to modernize the army. More regiments had the appropriate facilities than did not.

Gerry was not a fool. Despite many thinking he was for his living in Splatz as a dairy farmer. Lestaing was right.

Almondy was certain to be the center of any new war. And as Gerry read in the papers, chances were that Almondy could swing the balance of power from one side to the other.

He cleared his throat to get Lestaing’s attention, “I don’t mean to criticize, but may I offer some advice, Constable. If I were to be attacked, first such a person has to get into the Blue Belle, or see me through the windows. Perhaps closing the drapes is in order? Then you have only one man outside. A perimeter created with a few more men; they can be watched from someone at the windows. I should think a man in the kitchen and the back door there kept closed, only opened when another man is there to help watch.” Some of the lessons of being an officer he could never forget.

“Yes of course. I tell you Prince, when the army gets here I shall be glad. This is too much for me. But you are right about this.” Lestaing gave out orders and repositioned his men as Gerald had suggested. “Why did you not stay in the army?”

Gerry thought for a moment and then signaled the barmaid for a tankard of the Belle’s Almondy Ale. “Not a long story but one of conscious and similar to the advice you have given me. I had befriended all the cultures of ours but I knew as I went higher in rank I would have to give orders that would cause one Almondian to hurt the family of another from elsewhere in Europe. That I thought would be hard to do. So dairy farming. Good hard work and no bullets.”

Now though, a bullet quite likely had killed his cousin. Whatever killed Reginald, this day would be remembered a long time. “I wonder how my cousin died and what the Grand Prince will do. When I was in Steilenberg I heard that there were radicals that had tried to kill Reginald before. But Athelstan also said that there were factions in service to Germany and France also that might wish to provoke an incident and make it look like their rival had done so. Something that would force us to choose alliance with the other.”

Lestaing said, “I hope for your sake that Grand Prince Michael lives for a long time. Then you do not have to bear such burdens. But if he were to pass the crown to you, I should think to have an alliance with both and we join the country that is attacked. Would that not be a deterrent. I have always thought to say that to someone, and you are the only Assemblyman we have because you are a noble. Now of course you are much more.”

Lestaing had a point. Two. It was a good idea to make alliances with France and Germany and say that Almondy would join the defender. The other point was less palatable. That Gerry was now in a position that he would be Grand Prince. Could he convince Michael to pass him by? Could the Assembly choose the next in line after him? Could he even abdicate or refuse? Would that be allowed? Had it been done before? He was not a good student of the history of the Grand Princes.

“Constable, can we send a runner to the bookseller. Mr. Granowitz has a number of books and if he has a few on the Grand Princes of Almondy I should like to read them. I have been avoiding this part of my heritage.”

Lestaing started to laugh, “I hope you have kept up on other matters. There is a lot to do should you become the Grand Prince. Of course you need not carry the statue of Saint Michael any longer during the pageant.”

“Yes. I know some things that I expect would be helpful, but I probably have much to learn. I think the key to being a good ruler of Almondy is choosing good advisors,” Gerry said.

“That is true of all men in power. I am fortunate that the mayors of our town always look to me to be chief constable. Mayor Goretz, before your time, thought perhaps that his brother would be a better chief constable and others had to appeal to the Senior Chief Constable in Steilenberg to ensure I was not removed from my office. I do not know if your cousin, Prince Reginald, was thinking along such lines as good and trustworthy men to help him rule and govern. The pictures in the papers often had him at parties and with various pretty women.” Almondy had three national papers and then several regional papers. Even they had a paper printed in Nantz.

Gerald said, “I should mourn more. Though I did not know Reginald all that well. When I went to Steilenberg as a child he had little to do with me. He was a few years older and that made all the difference. Even Athelstan was older for he was just a few months younger than Prince Reginald. Athelstan though spent time with me and saw to it that I had someone who talked to me. He called me five when I was very young because I was fifth in succession. Lately when he felt like making a joke he has called me two.”

The constable nodded, “If he has the poor taste to call you one, you should do something about that now. I will not say that Prince Reginald was a great man, but before we had these newspapers, Princes had lovers at court. All know that. And many drank and caroused. Perhaps they knew that once the crown was upon their head they would not have such time to do so again. We commoners can celebrate all our lives, but the Grand Prince must be serious for he has serious burdens and obligations.”

Gerry nodded, “I shall think on it. But if so, then I must catch up on carousing. Milking cows and tending the farm has not left me as many opportunities to make such a noise as my late cousin.” he smiled for a second and then thought of the sad circumstances and shook his head. More angry because he had made the statement then sorrow felt over Reginalds death. It had been a glib thing to say and not worthy of anyone to say such. Least of all him.

Gerry wished he could feel more regret at Reginald’s death. He knew that he was shocked by the news. But he also knew that Reginald was more of an acquaintance and one he did not admire than one of his closest relations. Gerry also sensed that Reginald did not feel favorably to him either. Reginald’s country relation who actually worked. Gerry was an embarrassment to Reginald and his cousin was surely glad they did not see each other more than once a year during the Pageant of St. Michael.

Constable Lestaing though grinned at Gerry’s last remark and turned to the bar and motioned for another Almondy Ale. As pithy as it had been about ‘carousing’, the man did not fault him for having said it. Gerry finished his stew and Mistress Kramer had a piece of pie ready. A very large piece of pie, that she had whipped cream up fresh to place on top of it for him to eat. She brought that out to give to Gerald.

Everyone in the county knew he was a Prince, but what Prince milked cows? They quickly had forgotten that Gerald was a Prince when he had brought the farm and lost his city airs. And when he did not seem to be inheriting the throne, he had become just one more of the hundreds of descendants of Prince Michael Fitzroy Perry, the Castle Snatch, that lived throughout the entire country. Though there were few now who could trace their line through a male, direct to the first Prince.

Hundreds though who could claim that they were family. And as he had seen at gatherings in Steilenberg, many would claim the closest of acquaintance even though they were the most distant of family, should they need something from the Grand Prince. They all paid the favorable taxes whether they owned rent paying land or not, which was a benefit. That was the most that the Grand Prince seemed to do when he was asked for favors, though all men were given a place in the army as officers should they wish it. They could even stay in it all their lives, for Gerald had met near twenty cousins who were in the army while he served his two years.

The training class the season after his had a cousin who he had met often in Steilenberg when he had been serving. He had not seen Sir David Lieven when he was at the capital for the St. Michael pageant a few weeks before. But Gerald had only stayed the one night, and gotten on the train not more than an hour after they had finished that terrible climb up the hill.

The hill had been mostly open in the days of the Castle Snatch in the eleventh century. Not until the summit was reached were there buildings for a little village outside, and a little away from the keep’s gates. But the way up to the keep was quite large, and now three streets to the left and two to the right of the main thoroughfare ran parallel. There was even a flattened area about the middle of the climb that the Square and Cathedral of St Alban had been built. The church was nicer he was sure, than Notre Dame in Paris, though tourists did not come as often to see the cathedral of Steilenberg. Other buildings were there as well. Rich nobles and merchants settled there, half way to the summit and the Celebont Palace. Enough room that they could lay out gardens and big houses. Higher along the roads to the castle there was not enough room for such luxury.

Sir David Lieven was a Captain in the cavalry now, a prestigious assignment, though not the Guards. Gerry knew that Reginald did not like Sir David, and Sir David could not trace his line through men all the way back to the Castle Snatch. At least two women, maybe even more, interrupted the direct line. A cousin nonetheless and dedicated to Almondy. Reginald was, no, had been, a snob.

When Gerald had become the second to the throne, Reginald had made a remark about the stench of his cows. Not that Gerald had not expected something like that. And not that he could reply in kind to the Crown Prince. Reginald had been a bully.

So mourning his cousin did not come with ease. Gerald needed to find something good to say.

Those sent to his farm had returned and he found they had been very thorough getting his writing journal and favorite pen. They also had found his travel case. Gerald had not taken it to the barn to put away just yet. It had been still out, though emptied after his last trip to Steilenberg. Hilda had filled it with clothes, including his officer’s uniform.

“I don’t know that I need that. I don’t even know that I can fit into that.”

Lestaing laughed. “I think you will find that you do need a uniform, highness. You will probably be wearing one quite often. It seems to be the only thing the papers show that Prince Reginald ever wore.”

Gerry nodded. That was so. Reginald was the Colonel-in-Chief of the Guards, though little good that did since the Guards did not seem to have protected him from death. Reginald was also the Colonel-in-Chief of at least three other regiments as well as the Senior General under his father of the entire army.

Would Cousin Michael Alan make him a man with such rank? Since the Franco-Prussian war Almondy had started a war college and Gerry had actually attended for three months at the end of his term as a lieutenant. It was in Steilenberg. He knew from his experience that those who wanted to treat it professionally, as the Germans did theirs, were outvoted by those who did not think it was necessary and so treated it more of a social opportunity while stationed in the Capital.

There were eight million Almondians and if Gerry had to bet, over two million men could be sent to fight if needed.

Without some professionalism soon, there would be no way to lead so many. Further, without professionalism in their army, the enemy, or friends that bordered their country would not think of Almondy as a threat. Just some roads they had to pass over to get at one another. And even better, if the Great Powers could fight in Almondy and destroy Almondian lands instead of their own, better still.

With his writing material he thumbed to a free page of his journal and titled it ‘Reginald.’ He did not want to make two lists, but one of just his good qualities. Too many would remember Reginald’s bad qualities now.

One day the good ones Gerry hoped could make it into a history book. He now had three books courtesy of Mr. Granowitz the bookseller. The man would not tell Gerald how much they cost, so Constable Lestaing agreed to find out. That way Gerald could send him the money. Why not? The royal treasury could pay or Gerry had the price even from his farming monies.

One thing Reginald thought to tell Gerry at the last trip was that Athelstan had been saying that Gerry had but five crowns a week all told to spend upon himself. Not the worst of the poor, but certainly not what one would think of a noble’s life. Gerry didn’t need his cousin to tell him what he already knew.

Gerald however did not care very much if Reginald knew or didn’t. He would miss his cows if he now had to live in Steilenberg. He was sure he would have to live in Steilenberg. He would miss not having cares beyond the farm. Those were more than enough for any man.

What if it rained too early? What if it rained too late? What if it rained at the right time, but too long? Too much snow. Too little. Too much sun and the same about too little. The stock getting sick. The stock having too many chicks, or calves, or foals. What if the price of feed went up by too much? What if the Grand Prince dropped the price of milk or beef, or chickens or grain? All these he worried about. All of them.

Would he have such worries in Steilenberg?

Now Gerry began to write about his cousin. Should Reginald choose he could say a word to make one filled with humor as well as make one feel snubbed. Reginald had been a ready wit. Gerry wrote down most of that leaving out the part about making people feel snubbed.

The Crown Prince had given out a great deal of coin when he was drunk and brought drinks for his many friends. A friend when he knew you for a moment and you chose the same brewery or distillery that he favored at that time. He did not discriminate that way.

Reginald was strong as well, though the last couple years he had put on too much weight. No he was still strong in spite of it. As Gerry thought about the list, he saw that it was growing and with some more time he would have a half dozen entries easily. More time and perhaps he could stretch it to a dozen. Reginald must have had something to recommend himself to the ladies besides the title he was to inherit. They all went back for more even after he had them as lovers. Though an unfavorable view would be that the ladies hoped for the prize of the throne next to the one he was to occupy.

That too could turn out to be his own fate, Gerald thought. That was something he did not want to think of. That was something he could not think of. He was twenty-five and had not decided should he marry or not. He had told Pieter that he wanted to wait until he was no longer considered for the Throne. Well that might never be an option. Now he might have no choice in the matter.

“Riders coming. I think it is the cavalry!” One of the lookouts at the window said and then one of the men from outside came in.

“The cavalry are here, highness.”

Gerald nodded and then knew he had to stand and go to them. He started to put his writing materials and books together but the maid Hilda hurried over, “Allow me highness, please. I shall put them with your things.”

Again he nodded and continued out to meet those who were riding up. It was a company he saw then even as the gloom of dusk was drawing nigh. One hundred and twenty men, all on horse. A pennant near the front of the column snapped and he saw on the long white triangle a black circle that enclosed a white number one.

“The First Cavalry regiment. A very good fighting unit. I was in the second infantry. But not the Guards. Do you wonder at that?” Gerald said aloud.

The constable shook his head, “From what I have heard the First Cavalry always has a few companies ready to stage from the railway station and they can have the rest of the regiment ready in an hour. The guards take longer.”

Gerald laughed, “True. At least it was so five years ago when I finished my stint as a soldier. Too many nobles and rich officers amongst the Guard and usually allowed leave to pursue their social agenda. They have their duties that they must attend, four hours of service with a royal once every two weeks, there are that many guard officers, but otherwise they may do as they please.”

“Well, highness, maybe that would be a thing you can change in Steilenberg. I think most people think the Guard are the elite of our men.”

Gerald nodded, “The men and sergeants are.”

The Constable looked at Gerald. Gerald shrugged. He certainly remembered them that way. He had been escorted by two privates of the Guards Regiment when he was in Steilenberg the previous week.

The unit made it’s way about the platz but two patrols split off and galloped to the flanks and the side streets that were to either end of the block that the Blue Belle was on. Those were good tactics and they should run into the men that Gerald suggested be placed there.

At least the commander of the company thought the same way that Gerald did.  There had been attempts on his cousin’s life before by radicals. Anarchists with bombs. All over Europe such little men thought they were made big by lobbing a bomb against their leaders. In many countries it was against those who had no real power, but were figureheads now.

Gerald liked being alive, most days. Last time he had a cold he would have liked to die. Milking the cows those three days were not fun, but it did pass and he felt better soon enough. So he did want to live. If there were anarchists now intent on killing him, best to take precautions and not only make it impossible for the anarchists to reach him, but try and root out the anarchists as well. Almondy had some men and women who acted as spies. He wondered how they were doing against the anarchists, or did his cousin the Grand Prince just have them looking to France and Germany and those two behemoths intentions regarding Almondy?

A company of cavalry should have a captain in command, a lieutenant to aid him, and four lieutenants to command the four patrols. Seven sergeants, fourteen corporals and one hundred and twenty troopers.

There, next to the trooper who carried the company banner was a very familiar face. The very cousin he had been thinking of. Sir David Lieven. On the other side of the banner trooper was another Captain as well.

“Hello Highness. You look well,” Sir David said.

“Captain Lieven, please.” The other officer said.

The trooper holding the banner grimaced. Behind them was a lieutenant and a couple sergeants. The troopers were spreading out, some dismounting and getting their rifles quickly. Rushing forward to enter the Belle, as well as make a perimeter around him. They thought to push the Constable from his side but he motioned that they shouldn’t.

One looked to the Captains on their horses for clarification but Gerald said, “I believe I am now the Crown Prince?”

That caused the man to back down even as the second Captain said, “Yes, highness. I have the duty and regret to inform you that…”

“My Cousin Reginald was killed. I saw the telegram. You are?”

“Captain Adolphus Krabe and this is my command, Fox Company.”

Gerald nodded and turned back to Sir David, “You command Baker Company, I had heard?”

“Yes Highness. Sorry but I have to call you that now, cousin. I tagged along for the ride when I heard the news. I am afraid I and Sergeant Phillipe here are absent without leave, though I shouted at the duty officer where I was going.”

“With your permission Highness, I will remind the other Captain that I command this column,” Krabe started again.

Gerald shook his head. “Captain, Crown Prince Reginald was killed how? You do not know either and we asked for clarification from Steilenberg hours ago. No, I think we must change some things. Who is your second, lieutenant?”

A man behind the sergeant that had dismounted said to the question, “Mannstein, highness.”

Gerald said, “Good. And you were one of the ready companies at the train depot, I suppose.” There was a lot of nodding to that. “Good. No offense Krabe was it? But I know Sir David as he probably told you. Sir David, please take command of Fox company. Krabe, I shall need an aide and you will do. You and your sergeant as Sir David of course has brought one of his. Lieutenant Mannstein please inform the patrol lieutenants, and now if both Captains will come inside. Four troopers, yes that will do. We have been in the dining room holding our own and that shall serve. Come you two, I do not wish to wait all night for I imagine you are holding the train at Nantz.

Lieven clapped his arm about Krabe and said, “Did I not tell you that his Highness would surprise you. Why I think you are in shock. And look here, Crown Prince Gerald Henry William Fitzroy Perry has much more to be in shock about then you or I. Highness, I come!”

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