Chapter 12: If Only Us... Chapter 12

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Romance

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We were sitting on the compartment’s day seat with Virginia lying back against my chest when the conductor knocked and announced himself.  We told him to enter.  He was all smiles, and began in halting English to tell us he had finished his duties for the moment and would like to have a word with us.

Wir sprechen beide Deutsch, Mein Herr,” I said, in German, informing him we both spoke German.  This put him visibly at ease.

His smile got broader as he explained what had happened at the Stadt train station.  He knew Hans and Gerd personally and they had told him of our upcoming honeymoon and that if he could help us at all they would be very grateful.  He told us that Hans was the one who had put the coupon box in our compartment just before we boarded and that the flowers were put aboard when the train was in the yard down south.

“If there is anything I can do to make you trip more pleasant, please call for me.  Herr Trippler, your steward has been informed of your ‘just married’ status and will help keep your privacy.  Bon voyage.”  He tipped his hat, turned, and gently closed the door behind him.

I pushed the steward’s call button and stood to open the door.  He appeared in a moment and I asked if the dining room would be interested in the flower arrangements.  I added that the set of blue cornflowers would be very nice at our table; pausing to ask at which serving and what table we’d be located.  He seemed a bit surprised that I was familiar with traveling by train, but recovered nicely.  He consulted his list, and told us table 22, at the nineteen hundred sitting.  He asked if that would be acceptable.  I told him that was fine.

He left but returned in about five minutes with three younger men in tow wearing starched white waiter jackets.  They took charge and carried the flower arrangements out.  The porter bowed his way out by telling us that the Dining car Concierge was pleased with our offer and that he would take pleasure having our table set with the arrangement I wished.

I had done some checking into this trip.  What would normally take about five hours by car, would take the train almost twelve hours.  This wasn’t due to any fault of the railroad system, which was superb, but more towards the arrival of this special train in a city and waiting for connecting trains to arrive before moving onwards.  We were to wait in Bonn for over two hours and another two hours in Düsseldorf.  Our longest delay was in Arnhem.  None of this bothered us in the least because we already had many things to do while waiting.

“First things first,” I declared.  “Let’s go have a drink in the bar car.  Ready?”

“You go ahead.  I’ll be down in a little bit.  I need to freshen up a little.”

“Alas; ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’…”

“Baloney.  But very nice Shakespearian baloney,” she snickered at me and kissed me on the cheek before I closed the door.

I arrived in the bar car apparently before the afternoon crowd.  There were a few couples sitting in lounge chairs, a foursome at a card table, and a very tweedy-looking gentleman speaking British English at the bar.  He was trying to tell the bartender how to create a drink – without much success.

“May I be of help?”  I asked the gentleman.  “I speak German and maybe I can explain easier.”

“I’d be ever so grateful if you would.  I’m just not sure how to get this over to the chap.”

He went on to describe a mixed drink that required careful measuring, shaking, and pouring.  I nodded and relayed this to the bartender, who looked exceedingly grateful.  He built the drink and waited expectantly for the response as to its taste.

“Excellent!  Just like home.  Thank you my boy.”  He said to the bartender.  “May I offer you something in return?”  He asked me.

I turned to the bartender and asked for a popular Swiss beer.  He beamed and had it wreathed in cool vapors on the bar in seconds.  The gentleman paid for both and we wandered back towards a matronly-looking woman who was holding forth to two captive couples on an opposing couch.  She was almost ranting about something which, until I listened for a while, I didn’t realize it was probably Virginia and I she was carrying on about.

“I tell you it is shocking, shocking.  Of course they have to be Ameddican don’t they?  Always doing impulsive things.  The poor girl is barely seventeen and he is not much older.”

She carried on in the background as the old gentleman leaned towards me.

“Oh, Lord.  She’s off on another morality toot.  She just heard about this couple from the porter and now she’s made up her mind they are impulsive, silly, rash, and, above all, American.”

The woman continued: “I doubt very much if they have even a decent education between them.  Ameddican schools are so permissive as to be almost useless.  Nothing worthwhile is taught but the barest essentials needed to get along in this world.  They probably haven’t the table manners of servants.”

I was absolutely fascinated listening to this woman tearing at Virginia and me this way.  I must have shown my amusement because the gentleman looked at me and asked if anything was wrong.  I assured him I was fine and that maybe we should sit down.

“Good show.  That’s my wife, but the way.  Sometimes she can be a frightful bore, but she means well.”

“I understand, Sir”

He took my elbow, pointed me to a chair next to the one couple and I sat down.  He waited for a break in the barrage of words and stepped in to introduce me.  I stood, affected a very slight English tone, and gave my name.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the gentleman swallow a sip of his drink and almost choke it back up at my accent.  He wiped the smile off his face with his napkin.

“Enchanted, sir.  Very happy to meet you.  I am Lady Rathford.”

I bowed slightly, said “Your Grace”, and sat back down to sip my beer.  “You were enlightening us on American schools were you not?”

“Where was I?  Oh yes; it isn’t hard to visualize what these two children must be like.  How could their parents send them on a trip like this with not even a chaperone along?”

“I would imagine that perhaps they already may know how to behave in public, ma’am.  And, they are married; isn’t that a consideration?  Until you see them you would never know for sure at any rate.  I have heard that they first fell in love just over two years ago.  Imagine how young they were even then.  I might also say that it was he who pushed her wheelchair around for two months when she broke her leg in three places skiing in Garmisch-Bertchesgarden.  When he was hit by a fouled baseball and put into a coma for a day it was her who cried at his side for that entire day.  I am further told that they both are taking college courses in school and will be graduating – together – next spring at the top of their class of over two hundred.  I could go on madam, but…”

I stopped, looked at the door to spot Virginia smiling and walking towards me through the vestibule.  I stood and dramatically threw out my hand towards her.  She halted.  I continued, using my stage voice:

“But soft!  What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green

And none but fools do wear it.  Cast it off!

It is my lady!  O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing.
What of that?  Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; 'tis not to me she speaks.

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!”

“Aye, me.”  Virginia, a quick learner, picked up her cue line with no hesitation.

“She speaks!”  I reached for her hand and bowed over it.

Everyone in the car exploded with applause and Virginia colored nicely with a flush that ran up her neck to touch her cheeks.

I turned to Lady Rathford.  “That, madam, was the beginning of Act two, Scene two, known as the balcony scene, from Romeo and Juliet; written by one of your countrymen – a Mister Shakespeare I believe.  I guess I am one half of that unwashed, uncouth, pair of Americans you were so sour on before.  My wife, Virginia, ma’am.  Virginia, this is Lady Rathford, and her husband Lord Rathford.  To not put too fine a point on it your grace, I can also repeat that little speech in German and halting French.  I am sorry if this embarrasses you, but one thing I cannot stand by and listen to is someone espousing ill about someone else they know nothing about.  Please, may I buy you another sherry?”

She opened her mouth several times while, behind me, I heard choking sounds from Lord Rathford who was doing his best not to explode with mirth.  Lady Rathford went through many facial changes until she settled on what I thought was a very good, upper crust, ‘thenk yew veddy much’.

This was too much for Lord Rathford.  He finally could contain his laughter any longer and broke out with a loud haw-haw that echoed around the lounge.

“Well said, sir.  Jolly well said.  Janice, I’ve told you time and again that you’d get in trouble some time holding court and now you have.”

She nodded ruefully and, by way of apology, motioned for Virginia to sit next to her on the couch.  I rose and got the sherry and a glass of schnapps for Virginia.  When I returned she and Janice were in deep conversation.

“I’m known as Harry, my boy,” said Lord Rathford.  “That was a heady quote you know.  You have a very good grasp of Shakespeare.  Have you delivered the Bard?”

“Last year, sir.  I wasn’t lucky enough to play Romeo against Virginia’s Juliet, but I was understudy.  I accepted the part of Petruchio.”

“That meant you had to learn both parts didn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Lord, what stamina.  I could barely make it through Lear as a third nobleman.  My hat is off to you my boy.”

We sat for another hour sipping our drinks and talking about pretty much anything that entered our minds.  Janis had completed her readjustment towards ‘Ameddicans’ and allowed Virginia and I under her radar.  The two of them were fast friends before long.  Harry sent a note to the dining car Concierge to have us included in his dinner party which came as a very nice surprise to the both of us.  We gratefully accepted and offered to have my flower arrangement moved to his table – which he accepted.

“My goodness, just married yesterday.  How extraordinary.  Maybe I’m just getting too old.”

“Not at all, maybe just a tiny bit out of touch.  Are you an MP, sir?”  I asked quietly.

“Yes, I am.”  He said, slightly startled.  “Why do you ask?”

“Have you ever been out to meet and really get to know your constituents?  People who support you may not be able to pay a hundred pounds for a meal, but they eat just as well, if not better, than you might think.  It is the young people of the world that will inherit what you give to us.  Go places where they congregate and just listen.  I don’t mean a loud rock club, or beer hall, but places where you will find them more receptive to what you offer them.  Ballrooms are good, but small dance clubs may give you more of a feel for what is actually motivating us.  And I include myself and Virginia in that ‘us’.  I don’t consider myself loftier that any of my peers.  I am terribly eager to make a mark in the world, but I want to first observe and see where I can make that mark.  Leadership like yours is where I could turn if I felt it would respond to my questions.  Give it a try and you will be rewarded I’m sure.”

“Surely Janice got it wrong when she said you were barely eighteen.  You sound much older than your years my boy.  Have you ever had any political leanings?”

“I will be officially eighteen next month; actually, on the day after the signing of our little statement of Independence.  Virginia will turn eighteen three months later and, fortunately, be eighteen when our child is born.  My only ambition now is to take care of my family the best way I know how.”

His eyebrows climbed as his eyes widened.

“That little slip of a girl is with child?”  He murmured to me.

“Nobody but our parents and, of course, us, know that though.  Please keep it under your hat.”

“Under my – hat – you say?  I love you Americans; you’re so refreshing to an old stick like me.  I’ll have to remember that one – under my hat.”  He chortled to himself.

The steward appeared and announced the dining car was open for the nineteen hours sitting.  We rose and wandered forward to the dining car.

 


Submitted: May 15, 2013

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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VyrgoMD

I had to memorize the death scene of that play, to perform in front of a classroom. I was very melodramatic about it, and many students just laughed at my antics. But it was the most fun A+ I've ever made! Anyway, you seemed to have been quite the witty young gentleman. I wish I had even half that wit, or speed at which to express it!

Thu, November 14th, 2013 3:26pm

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I did a lot of striding the boards in my high school years from 1955 through 1959. My favorite role was as Puck. Iambic pentameter is not the easiest to learn, but once you get the hang of it, it sort of grabs you. Shakespeare lends well to being overly dramatic and almost scenery-chewing without causing an eyebrow to raise. Thanks for reading.

Thu, November 14th, 2013 7:38am

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