h an adversary under his own roof.
Gone are the days when the bank would say that anyone could come in and deposit their money safely.
“Why?” Bjorn asked, stunned.
Erna looked at Bjorn with round eyes.
She felt like she was facing his own grandmother, the Duchess of Arsene, who had been so against the rapidly changing world.
The Duchess of Arsene had some of her own savings accounts, so that comparison was not exact.
Bjorn looked at his wife, who seemed to be living in the last century not in just the manner of her dress, but ideals as well.
He burst into laughter and Erna cocked a look at him, not understanding the joke.
The Grand Duchess’ cookie jar bank.
This was the form of Bjorn’s insult? How he had been shut down.
Erna placed the bills back into the jar and replaced the lid.
The smiling snowman, who’s nose made up the handle, was laughing at him, as if teasing him.
It was like the kids that would walk around with a piece of muslin for comfort.
Never letting it go and throwing a tantrum should anyone attempt to take their comfort blanket from them.
A knock came at the door and Mrs Fritz came in.
“Ah, you’re back, Your Highness.
You need to give confirmation to the Director of the Royal Academy of Arts today.”
Bjorn raised an eyebrow.
“To the art director, why?”
“For your portrait with the Grand Duchess.
You are needed to confirm if you wish to go ahead with the recommended artist.”
According to royal custom, the portraits of the Grand Duke and Duchess were to be hung in the hallways with all the portraits of all the Dniester ancestors.
It has been several seasons already.
Bjorn was procrastinating on the matter, he found it very dull.
“Just do as the art director suggests,” Bjorn said, waving a hand.
He had no interest in art, so it didn’t really matter to him.
Since the Academy of Arts houses some of the best artists in the land, whoever the art director suggested would no doubt be well suited to the task.
“Yes, Your Highness, I will send the reply immediately.
I believe the Director mentioned the artist’s name as Mister Lore.”
“Lore?” Bjorn thought for a second, “Pavel Lore?”
“Ah, yes, Your Highness, Pavel Lore.”
Erna let out a sigh as Mrs Fitz confirmed the name.
Bjorn looked down at his restless wife.
“Do you wish to discuss this more?” Mrs Fitz asked, seeing Erna’s reaction.
Bjorn shook his head and Mrs Fitz left.
“Bjorn, I wish we could get a different artist,” Erna said, letting everything out once Mrs Fitz had left, “please, get someone else.”
“Pavel…” Erna faltered as she recalled that Autumn night and how she had said goodbye to Pavel.
Painting the portraits of the royal family was a great honour for any painter, but Erna could not face a reunion with the man she told never to write to her.
No matter how great the honour was for him, she didn’t want to go through with that and didn’t want to put him through that.
“I don’t want to see him,” Erna said, strength coming to her words, “please Bjorn, please.”
Erna begged again, an attitude that grated against Bjorn’s nerves, even though Erna spoke softer than when she was constantly prattling on.
Bjorn leaned back on the cushions and looked out the window.
The spring day was very beautiful and the sunlight streaming in, making Erna’s skin glow, made her look just as beautiful.
There was no reason to linger on this painter, but if Erna was going to be uncomfortable with him being around, maybe he should get her a new painter.
What would have happened if he had not found her, abandoned in the rain on that fateful night? It was a meaningless question that suddenly came to his mind when he looked at Erna.
It wasn’t a hard question to answer, she would have run off with that painter.
She really must have intended to follow him, if she was willing to wait so long in the rain, in the dead of night.
If he had not taken the carriage past the station, she would have gone with Pavel Lore and probably be his wife by now.
A light smile came to Bjorn as he considered the scenario.
Then, while Erna looked at him pitifully, he rang the small service bell and Mrs Fitz returned.
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“Let’s get things moving as they are, the sooner it’s done, the sooner we can move on to more important things.” Bjorn said.
He saw no reason to change the artist just because things might be a little awkward for Erna, the sooner they got the paintings done, the sooner they could move on from this.
When Mrs Fitz withdrew, the drawing room became very silent.
Erna looked at Bjorn, bewildered, but said nothing.
The snowman on the cookie jar in her lap carried on smiling innocently.
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