17 December 2017

Free Holiday Online Read

Since it is the holiday season, I thought I would provide my readers with a special holiday treat...a free holiday online read of a Christmas related chapter of my newest book THE COUNTRY GIRL EMPRESS. Enjoy!

The Country Girl Empress

by A. Piper Burgi

Copyright ® 2017 A. Piper Burgi

Chapter Two

Just Another Girl

Due to the number of guests, and the expected “big event”, the servant’s Christmas was severely limited. Even though the Duke was as jovial as always, he seemed distracted…and no wonder! His short visit to his wife’s bedside had made him concerned, despite the doctor’s assurances that everything was proceeding normally.
He and Ludovika were twenty-nine years old. A woman of that age was no longer considered the youngest, while a man of the same age was regarded as at his peak. But Ludovika was healthy, and would, as Max hoped, give him many more children.
The Duke put his youngsters to bed. Together they said their prayers and asked for extra help for their mother. But, brother and sister just couldn’t fall asleep. The opening of the presents and the happiness that followed was not the only reason for their insomnia. A great secret lay over this house on said evening.
The clock turned ten, then half past. The air in the delivery room was thick enough to cut with a knife. The room was overheated, and everyone was on edge. After a short rest, following a phase of exhaustion, the contractions began anew. They were so violent that Ludovika began to groan and she finally screamed. It wasn’t an easy birth. The doctor was concerned for the mother, but the midwife didn’t lose her nerves and sent one of the servants to fetch the Duke.
“Tell him, to come quickly. It’s time!”
She wiped the Duchess’ forehead, while the footman ran out the door.
Unerringly he headed for the library, where he found the Duke sipping a small glass of liqueur.
“Your Royal Highness,” he began his formal address.
The Duke cut him off with a violent hand gesture. “Just tell me,” he yelled, “is it time yet?”
“Yes, it is,” the servant nodded stiffly. “Her Royal Highness is ready now.”
“Well, then I am ready to join her,” the Duke replied and took long strides towards the delivery room.
“YUCK,” he yelled as soon as he entered the salon, in which the Duchess writhed in pain.
“Does no one ever open a window in here?”
“For Heaven’s sake, do you wish to kill Her Royal Highness?” One of the secretaries stepped forward.
“Very well,” the Duke conceded, “but some people rather freeze before they suffocate in this stench!”
And in just that moment the Duchess screamed bloody murder, and then the doctor held the newborn in his arms and dictated loudly for the stenographers, while the midwife took care of the afterbirth: “Born on this Sunday the 24th of December 1837, at 10:43 pm, a well-formed female child…”
The people on the other side of the paravent began to clap and congratulated the Duke. But he only murmured disappointed: “Another girl!”
Nevertheless, even though it was “only” another girl, the happiness all around was real. The little princess, a rose-colored and wrinkled bundle of joy, was vivacious from the beginning. The royal physician had no need to administer the obligatory smack on the bottom to get the child to breathe because she did that all on her own. And when Papa Max held her in his strong arms for the first time, she screamed again. Max held her up and showed her to all who wished to see her. The newborn obliged and squawked once more as if to say: “Look here I am! Merry Christmas, everyone!”
Max couldn’t help but admire that loud little voice, and when he looked closer at the newest addition to his family, he cried out in surprise: “Holy Cow!”
He immediately pulled the doctor over to the other side of the room, even though he had been busy caring for the recovering mother, and Max showed him his miracle child.
“Doctor, is there something wrong with my eyes? Take a closer look at her when she opens her mouth again!”
The doctor put on his spectacles and did as he was asked. And when the baby cried out, he said: “Unbelievable, Your Highness. Simply incredible!”
“It’s true, isn’t it? She’s got a tooth coming in! You can see it clearly right there. My poor child was born with a toothache!”
“But that is certainly not my fault, Your Highness, or your wife’s,” the doctor hurried to reassure the Duke as if he felt responsible for the fact that the princess was born that way.
Surely this circumstance was the explanation why the child had been so active in her mother’s belly of late, and why the birth had been a bit more complicated than the mother would have liked it to be.
“But if she’s already teething, then this can only be a lucky omen,” assured the white-haired Countess Hohenberg, while inspecting the baby through her opera-glass.
“She is a Sunday child, and on top of that she was born with a good luck tooth, and all of that on Christmas Eve! One day she will be an extraordinary lady, I can already predict that,” she assured the father.
“Is that so?” Max doubted the Countess. “And how do you know all this?”
“But my dear Duke, those are all ancient Chinese pearls of wisdom,” the Countess replied slightly piqued.
“Well, but we are here in Munich and not in Peking,” Max grumbled while shaking his head.
“But the mention of Christmas Eve indeed reminds me of something.”
“What does it remind you of, if I may ask?”
“A kind of parental negligence. In all this chaos, no one thought about it, you see? We have no Christmas present for the little worm!”
The Countess clapped her hands together and laughed. “But my dear Duke, I highly doubt she will notice!”
“She might not, but I do,” declared Duke Max seriously. “Everything must be done in an orderly fashion! I shall take care of this oversight myself first thing tomorrow morning!”
At last, he gave the exhausted new mother a big kiss on the forehead.
“You did a great job, Vicka,” he praised her. “Even if it’s only another girl, we shall, nevertheless, be happy!”
Ludovika sighed and smiled; Vicka, as Max affectionately often referred to her…such a ridiculous nickname! But although her husband had little to no tact, he was otherwise a good man.
The worst was behind her.
“Holy Mother of God, I thank thee and grant our little one your special protection!” Ludovika sent a quick prayer towards Heaven.
Another half an hour passed before the last of the visitors had left, and the recovering mother could eat a bowl of chicken broth in peace. And while the broth warmed her from the inside, her wide-awake mind was working overtime.
“What name shall we give her, Max?” she asked her husband, who sat at the foot of the bed. “And our two other children? Are they asleep yet and were they happy with their Christmas presents?”
“They are both fast asleep,” Max reassured her. “Do not worry about them, Vicka. And they were indeed happy with their new toys, but we have nothing for the new baby.”
“She doesn’t need anything,” Ludovika shook her head.
“Of course we need something for her since it’s not only Christmas but also her birthday. She shall not be able to one day throw it in my face that I forgot.”
The naming of the child was, of course, another state affair. If the child would have been a boy, the name had already been chosen for them by the King and his ministers.
The newborn slept next to her mother, restless in her cradle and did not worry about her ancestry or the future. But she was no ordinary child. She was a part of the House of Wittelsbach.
The Duke felt exhausted. He had a vague vision of a get-together at the Hofbräuhaus. He definitely wanted to pay the place a visit tomorrow. His friends would already be curious to hear about the details, and to Max, they were almost more important than all those high-born visitors today.
“Good night, Vicka,” he quickly told his wife, “and get well soon! We need you.”
That came straight from his heart. Even high-born mothers died from childbed fever. This disease was a mysterious illness, which quickly and gruesomely killed new mothers when their newborns needed them most. The fear of the fever was part of having children, in poor homes as well as the wealthy and no one seemed to be safe from it. One could only hope that it could be avoided.
The next day the Duke attended Christmas mass in the Palais chapel. Afterwards, when he had confirmed that Ludovika was well and had presented her with a valuable pearl necklace, he just couldn’t stay home any longer. He donned on a simple, green coat and stomped towards the Hofbräuhaus.
He was pulled towards it like a magnet, where in the so-called “Extra Room” a table for the Duke and his friends was always reserved, and they already awaited his arrival.
“It’s another girl, just so you know!” Max yelled across the room while hanging up his coat.
“And she already has a tooth! She shall become quite a lady!”
Everybody laughed, and the Duke got comfortable in his usual chair. Before he knew it, a tankard of beer was placed before him, which he emptied in honor of his newborn daughter.
His circle of friends consisted of an apothecary, a university professor, an artist, a factory owner, a lumber and coal dealer, a veterinarian and a merchant – they were the “Good Seven”, as the Duke called them. Altogether they were part of the middle class, and all of them except the professor were wealthy, but nevertheless, the fellow was an essential element of this circle of friends since he was a learned man.
“Does the King know?” asked the professor.
“I believe he knew even before Ludovika and I,” the Duke grinned from ear to ear. “But seriously, if he read the protocol from last night then he knows everything. Possibly even that our little treasure already has a tooth. Now it’s only a matter of time before he will show up on our doorstep and whether or not he feels generous.”
“We shall hope so,” declared the merchant. “We, and I mean the lot of us, will definitely…”
“I have a problem,” the Duke interrupted, while the waiter served a second round of beers and the obligatory roasted lamb with red cabbage and potato dumplings.
“What sort of a problem?” asked the merchant.
“Yesterday was Christmas Eve when our little girl was born,” Max explained and began to eat with gusto. “And I didn’t have a Christmas present for her, and a proper father would have been prepared for such an eventuality. Now I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Ahhh!” the chorus replied.
“Aren’t I right?” the Duke chomped down on a potato dumpling and looked around the table, hoping for help from his friends.


Want to read more? Just follow this link:  https://goo.gl/Hqv4zc

by A. Piper Burgi

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

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