Six months after Captain Von Trapp had been reacquainted with Baroness Everhart, at the home of the Eberfelds in Vienna, he found himself in that same drawing room again. This time, though the scenario was strikingly similar, there was a number of very important differences.
Young Pauline was again playing Chopin on the piano, but this time her new fiancée was at her side, and it was for him that she played. With the exception of Eleanor, there were no other unattached women in sight. And this time, Georg was really enjoying himself. Life was just beginning to smile at him again. If only he could do something to make his children just as content – if not happy.
There were discreet sounds of applause when Pauline completed another piece – Schubert’s Serenade. Baron Eberfelds butler discreetly informed him that there was a phone call from Salzburg.
The children, was his immediate thought.
When he had left his villa two weeks earlier, things seemed to be running smoothly. He had recently hired a new governess – the tenth since their mother died – and it seemed that at last his sons and daughters were agreeing with the woman’s guidance. He was happy to see that Frau Irmgard had no trouble in following all the rules of the house, and, even added one or two herself. Everything was unusually peaceful, as his children dutifully followed the governess guidance… That alone should have been a red flag. It should have given him the hint that something was amiss. They were up to something!
They had not played a single prank on the woman since the day he had hired her, even though she had kept a firm hand on them. Unusual – most unusual – but two weeks ago, he was so eager to run back to Vienna that he chose to believe that his children had finally accepted their new way of life, and would stop chasing away every woman in charge of their upbringing.
That phone call was about to prove him wrong.
“I'll pass the call,” the butler said.
“Thank you,” he replied, then made His way to the study and picked up the phone. “Yes?” Helmut arrived at that moment, and Georg gestured for him to wait until he finished the phone call. “Uh-huh. They did what?! That’s unacceptable!” he roared. “Of course, I certainly can’t blame Frau Irmgard for leaving.” He listened for a few minutes before conceding. “ All right, I’ll come back home – tomorrow, if possible. Thank you, Frau Schmidt. Goodnight.”
“A call from home?” asked Helmut after Georg hung up the phone. “ Something wrong?”
“Trouble with the children again,” Georg replied, curtly.
Helmut shook his head. “You have more trouble with seven children than I do with all my little starving artists. And you’re considering getting married again?”
“They need a mother,” he said swiftly. And a father, the voice of his conscience spoke, but he silenced it.
“…and you need Eleanor,” Helmut added, ignoring his friends irritated look. “How deliciously convenient. Have you spoken to her about your intentions?”
“No. And I won’t until I am certain that she – won’t say no to my charms.” Georg gave a smirk to his friend.
“Having doubts with yourself, old man? You – Captain Von Trapp?” Helmut noted that he may have hit a nerve with his friend, and he tried to appease him by adding, “I don’t believe she would. Who could resist you? The Naval hero of Austria! I dare say that it’s a wonderful match – even though she is not exactly…motherly.”
“Oh, I’m sure that she will adapt. No, that’s not the issue.” Georg’s eyes lost their sparkle as he added, “ I’m a widower with seven children. Not something that most women find particularly attractive.”
“Your medals, your title and the size of your bank account would make up for two dozen children, let alone a mere seven, Georg!” Helmut ignored his friends annoyed glance once more. “What happened in Aigen this time?” He couldn’t help but wonder what the little terrors – uh darlings, had been up to.
“The usual,” Georg replied with a sigh. “They terrorised another governess.”
“Another one? How many so far?” Helmut asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Ten,” was the curt reply. Helmut laughed, his hand playfully slapping the Captains shoulder. “This is not funny, Helmut! I take my children’s upbringing very seriously, you must know that.”
“Yes, but perhaps a little too seriously.” That earned him another scowl from Georg. “I’m sorry, but the image of ten elderly governesses running for dear life because of the children…Come on, Georg, you must give them some credit. They can be quite creative in their pranks.”
“I wish they would apply their creativity into something more productive,” he growled. Terrorising governesses was not acceptable – no matter how humorous some of their pranks had been.
“May I ask who their latest victim was?” asked Helmut.
“Frau Irmgard. The Eberfelds recommended her to me. She was employed by Prince and Princess Starhernberg for over a decade,” Georg replied.
“What? She survived those two little devils of theirs for over ten years and yet she couldn’t handle your children for more than two weeks?!” Helmut exclaimed, as they made their way back to the music room.
“Yes,” said Georg. “But apparently, seven Von Trapp's were too much for her.”
“Aren’t you just a little proud?” his friend added mischievously.
“Hell!” Georg hissed.
“Tell me, what did they do?” Helmut asked. “You know I’m just as curious as a cat.”
“And you know what happened to that cat,” Georg murmured. “Trust me, you don’t want to know…”
“There you are,” chided Eleanor as she walked towards the two men. Noticing the Captain’s dark look, she took hold of his arm and handed him a glass of champagne. “Here, darling, it looks like you need it. Something wrong?”
“Nothing terrible,” Georg replied. “Its just the children, as usual.”
Eleanor rolled her eyes. Behind them, Baron Eberfeld spoke. “The Captain and his seven children. One could write an entire novel about it.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Georg, why are they even at home?” asked Eleanor’s mother, from somewhere behind Helmut. “Children belong in a boarding school. Otherwise you will never be able to move on and live your life as you should.”
“Oh, mother-,” Eleanor began, giving a warning look to the elderly lady.
“Its alright, darling,” the Captain reassured her, then turned back to the Countess. “I’m afraid that is out of the question, Countess,” he relied with absolute honesty. “I was raised in a boarding school, and I was very unhappy there. I have no wish to impose the same fate on my children.”
“But the children of today are different,” replied the Countess.
Some misery in your youth is the best preparation for life. It was what his parents used to say, but Georg did not believe it. Anyway, his children were not in a boarding school at the moment, and yet they were still miserable.
“I’m afraid that I have to return to Aigen,” he said.
“Do you have to leave right away? Die Zauberflöté is playing tomorrow night. I know that it is one of your favourite Opera's. I have reserved a box for us,” said Eleanor.
He smiled at her. “I’m sorry, darling, but I should leave in the morning.” The Baroness was visibly disappointed. “That is, if I am planning to be back in Vienna before the month is over.” He winked at her. “I will need to find another governess, make sure everything is in order, and I will be back here before you know it.”
Captain Von Trapp had been wrong on all counts. It seems he underestimated his own children – again.
The series of pranks had started the day before the governess had fled. First, they had stolen her bedroom door during the night. The door was found in the stables, and promptly reinstalled. But what no one had realised was that the children had removed the doorknob and replaced it with a similar-looking one, so that when the governess went to her room, she was locked inside for hours. Apparently, that had not been enough to make the woman leave, so they resorted to desperate measures.
Somehow – and he did not even want to know how they did it – they obtained hundreds of crickets, which they released in the poor woman’s room while she slept – and she probably didn’t fancy having the insects in her bed. After that, it had taken all of Frau Schmidt’s powers of persuasion to try and convince the woman not to leave, but it hadn’t worked. Frau Irmgard hastily packed her belongings and left during the night.
The children were now lined before him. His eldest daughter, Stella, looked at him challengingly. John's eyes held all the anger he would not dare put in words. Elizabeth’s gaze was accusing – “we would not have to go through this if it weren’t for you” her eyes told him. The four youngest just looked frightened of him, as usual.
There were crickets scattered all over the house, and the sound of one of the annoying little insects broke the silence. Kathleen giggled, and he could see that the other children were trying hard not to laugh. To think that only four years ago, not only would he have encouraged that, he would have joined them.
He was about to introduce them to their new governess – number eleven. She looked no different than her predecessors, which made him wonder if there was some kind of code book governesses lived by, because they all looked and sounded the same to him.
He introduced her to his children, calling them by their respective whistle signals. He left after that, as he usually did, to allow his new employee to get better acquainted with her charges. It was the eleventh time he performed that very same routine, and the next step was to go to his study.
Two hours later, however, number eleven barged into his study, without even bothering to knock, bellowing at the top of her lungs that she would not stay another minute in that house – not after being locked in her room with various spiders and snakes as company. The children must have been uninspired, because they had already used the same trick, more than once – they usually never used the same prank twice.
Enough is enough, he thought, slamming his fist against his desk, after the woman left, carrying a generous check to compensate her for the trouble the children had caused. It's time for a different approach, thought the Captain.
All eleven governesses had been hired because of their impeccable qualifications and vast experience. They all had worked for the most aristocratic families in Austria. They had helped in the education of noblemen, diplomats, and even royalty. They had all been hired because they had the best possible references. Some of them were referred to him by old time friends who had employed their services.
Yet, not one of them had been able to handle his children. He needed someone who would be able to maintain discipline, and he knew of only two institutions where the ideals of discipline, order, and decorum were the golden rule, the very basis of which they were built. One of them was the late Austrian Imperial Navy, of which he had been one of the most distinguished members. The other was the Benedictine Abbey of Salzburg.
Since it was utterly impossible to find a governess from the Navy, all he was left with was Nonnberg Abbey.
He took out his writing pad and pen and started writing the Mother Abbess a letter.
Read Part One...
Read Part Two...
Read Part Three...
Read Part Five...