The Problematic Prince
“You shallow, selfish, foolish thing.” Walter Hardy was full of anger and rage toward his daughter.
He threw a paper onto the table, with the utmost face being a comparison article between Princess Gladys and Erna Hardy.
It was one of a multitude of papers that ran a similar article, but Walter chose this one because of its more refinement.
As if reading any of the other papers would drag his name through the gutter.
“I warned you, but you just don’t seem to understand.” The man raged on and grabbed a bottle, but as he went to drink, Brenda clutched at his arm.
“Calm down, dear.” Brenda Hardy said.
“It’s not over yet, there is still Count Lehman.”
The name broke through the haze of anger like a ray of sunshine.
Calming just a little, Walter put the bottle down.
After the fiasco of the festival, it was expected that the scandal between Prince Bjorn and Erna would resurface, but what was underestimated was the depths the people of Lechen would go.
The spread in the paper that stirred up public sentiment.
The variable being Princess Gladys.
The criticism against the Prince, for playing with another woman in front of Gladys, intensified.
Even as she had forgiven him, it said in the paper and they had decided to reunite.
The mention of a dead child was a fatal blow.
The Princess countered the rumour that the Prince was a cold hearted father figure, who ignored his child.
Mentioning that he had warmed up to the child, even after they had divorced.
He showed nothing but respect at the funeral.
Gladys urged a stop to the unjust accusations.
After all, he too was a parent, a father who had suffered the loss of a beloved child.
Their reunion was also not a very compelling issue.
If he chooses to involve himself with the Hardy family, the Princess would respect that.
The paper carrying Gladys’ interview spread all over Lechen.
It didn’t help that it wasn’t one of the gossip rags, but a well respected paper that everyone took as gospel.
Walter rang the little hand bell frivolously, though his initial instinct was to reach for the bottle again.
Even if he drank the water the maid would bring, the thirst would not go away.
His daughter had been set up to look like a wicked witch trying to snatch the Prince away from the innocent Princess.
The Lechinians were angered and were practically a baying mob that wanted to burn Erna at the steak.
Because of this, the line of nobles courting Erna dwindled away one by one.
There were no more letters of proposition, no more flowers and gentleman callers.
All that was left was Count Lehman.
The old man was still integral to public opinion.
Count Lehman was only interested in an heir, no matter who it came from.
That was all the old man wanted from Erna, anything he just didn’t care about.
“My lord, A letter from Count Lehman.” A maid came in, brandishing the small envelope.
For a moment, Walter was delighted at the news and at hearing the Counts name, but a worried look from Brenda made him change his thoughts.
Count Lehman was due to share dinner with Erna later on that day.
To receive a letter mere hours before the appointed time was a premonition for bad news.
“Hurry, hurry, open it, what does it say?” Brenda said.
Walter stared at the letter in his hands and tried to swallow, but all moisture had left his mouth.
He had asked the maid to bring him water, not a letter.
Walter unceremoniously ripped the envelope open and read the letter.
“Well, what does it say? It’s nothing, right, right?” Brenda went on.
Walter said nothing and simply heald the letter out to Brenda as a reply.
Brenda took the letter and scanned over it as in such haste, it was a wonder she could have picked out any of the words.
The letter was short, simply and lacked any formality.
It simply stated that Count Lehman would not be attending dinner.
Brenda read it again and again, but the words never changed and the lack of politeness could only mean one thing.
Now, at the last, their only hope was gone.
Count Lehman finally came to his senses and stepped away from wanting to marry Erna Hardy.
Walter stared off into the middle distance as one thing circled his mind over and over.
The day was probably not that far off now.
He had to borrow money time and time again.
He was reaching the end of the line, there was no one else willing to lend him money and he had no way of making it.
Walter snatched up the bottle, Brenda didn’t stop him this time and he took a long draft of the strong drink.
Overcome with shock, Baroness Baden slipped out of bed and grabbed her glasses that were sitting on the bedside table.
Despite her exhausted appearance, she escaped the bedroom.
“Erna, my baby,” she said.
When she remembered the name, the tears that had only just stopped after so long, flowed again in slow drips down her wrinkled cheeks.
The old woman shuffled over to the rocking chair that sat beside a large window overlooking the back garden.
She pulled out a heavily starched handkerchief and dabbed at her wet cheeks.
The handkerchief was soaked pretty quickly.
“Madam…” Mrs Greve said.
Mrs Greve came into the bedroom when she heard the Baroness shuffling about.
She could not find the words to say, to comfort the Baroness, so she watched and stood close by.
Her own eyes were red and puffy.
Ralph Royce had brought them the newspaper.
He had gone out to get some groceries and came back with this.
When he first gave Mrs Greve the news, she thought the man was being senile, but then read the article.
Mrs Greve rushed into the house and brought the paper to Baroness Baden and together they read the article, which had a large picture of Princess Gladys on it.
The grief of it hi the Baroness like an iron hammer and she forgot her arthritis for a moment, as she scrambled out of bed and over to the chair.
Mrs Greve quietly crossed the room and stood next to the Baroness.
The newspaper told a story of Erna Hardy and Princess Gladys, making Erna look like a villain.
“Erna wouldn’t do that.
This is wrong, it’s all wrong.” the Baroness said.
“Of course, absolutely.” Mrs Greve reassured her.
“She sent me a letter not too long ago, she said she was doing fine, adapting well to the city and seeing many rare and good things, and…” The Baroness cut off as the sobs became too much.
“It’s Walter Hardy, this is all his handy work, it must be.” The Baroness continued when she was able to catch a break between sobs.
The whole reason Erna left with her father was because of something Baron Baden had said.
“We can’t help her here, in this remote village, she needs to be out in the world, in the city, it will do her some good.” The Baroness couldn’t imagine being without the young girl and tried to delay it as much as she could.
Before she knew it, Erna was a full grown woman, so she decided that she had to let her go.
It was like her heart was being removed.
She knew Walter Hardy was a heartless Viscount, but he is Erna’s father.
“We need to save Erna.” The Baroness said, pushing her glasses back up her nose.
“I will not let her follow in Annette’s footsteps.
The reason Princess Gladys is as powerful as she seems is because she has no remorse.
Bjorn observed the recent commotion stirred up by the tabloids and came to that conclusion.
He knew it already, he had always known it, but this time Gladys seems to have taken it even further than ever before.
It seemed like his ex-wife was out for blood and it was almost awe-inspiring.
Bjorn tossed the paper away and it landed at the foot of the bed.
He leaned back against the cushioned headboard and sighed.
Leaning over, he took up the late morning tea from the night stand.
Maybe Gladys is serious this time.
The princess must have really tried to protect her ex-husband, who had been criticised for getting involved with Erna Hardy.
He wanted to protect the Hardy girl as best he could, while she was being laid out on the chopping block.
Bjorn let out a sigh as he set the teacup back on the night stand and ran a hand through his messy hair.
He looked out of the window and saw the weather was a dark reflection of the mood he felt over the city.
Dark and gloomy and threatened to storm at any moment.
A father bearing the scars of a lost child.
Bjorn burst into laughter when recalled Gladys’ skilful lie.
Gladys was so used to strangling people with the truth had finally learned to lie to achieve the same effect.
To weave a lie around a truth so expertly deserved praise.
Bjorn had to applaud the King and his attempts to get Princess Gladys and Prince Bjorn back together again, using the opinions of the people to sway events to his favour.
It was a great strategy, if not a tearful idiom.
The tea having washed away the sleepiness from his mind, Bjorn got up and put on a gown.
He then headed over to the window and drew back the curtains.
The wind blew in a rather strong smell of fish.
Bjorn looked at the cloudy sky and put an unlit cigar into his mouth.
Erna knew he was not trying to kindle any sort of flame between them and that was the moment a name suddenly came to Bjorn.
He tossed the unlit cigar back into the ashtray and went to shower up.
The sound of pouring water from the shower went on a little longer than usual.
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