Amor vincit omnia

Disclaimer: see chapter 1

Chapter 28: Three weddings and a christening

October 1946

"We should have more horses!" Louisa stated while combing Conversano Theokratia's mane.

"Pardon?" Llewelyn was just disposing shampoo at the tail of the mare Andana. He looked rather funny wearing a blue work coat, loaned by Georg and therefore rather loose around his lanky frame, and white riding trousers with chequered green-brown stockings up to his knees and a pair of worn, green wellington boots. "I actually think your six are quite enough at the moment – especially considering the fact that all of them are white and at least four must have a pig in their pedigree! I know now why I joined a regiment where only black horses are ridden! Getting greys clean really is a pain! Why are they all so fond of rolling in mud?"

"Conny never rolls in mud. He's a very clean boy," Louisa said, petting her stallion.

"Conversano Theokratia is the exception to the rule!" Llewelyn stated, rubbing the mare's tail. "But all other greys I've ever known were real pigs!" He chuckled. "Which reminds me of a grey called 'Prince Charming'. He belonged to our company's leader – he is the only one who rides a grey in the regiment. The rest of us do with blacks or black browns. However, 'Prince Charming' got a new groom just a few days before the king's annual birthday parade. Said groom wanted to do his job especially well, so he was the first in the stables on the day of the parade. As the others came to get their horses ready, he had already washed and shampooed the Prince from head to hoof and put him back in his stall so he could start polishing his bridle and saddle. Only the Prince used this chance to first raise his tail and produce some muck and then roll happily in it. When the poor groom was done with the leather, his Prince wasn't grey anymore, but had once again yellow and brown spots in his coat – and so the poor groom had to start all the cleaning over again." He patted Andana's back. "And don't you get any ideas, girl! I certainly won't give you a chance to roll! You'll be tied up until the moment I put you in front of the carriage!"

"First thing one learns with Lipizzans," Louisa grinned. "Never let them loose if you want them clean." She was now balancing on a bucket. "Conny, could you perhaps bring your head down a bit? It really gets tiresome to have to reach up to work on you!" she grumbled at her horse.

"You see, you've got enough horses to groom!" Llewelyn grinned over at her.

"No!" Louisa said a bit sulky. "I really would have liked to drive four-in-hand too! Besides it's quite a shame that we need two more fiacres to get the entire family to church! Father really should have bought two more mares – I mean, four aren't enough for a real stud, so in any case we need at least six. And if we had them already …"

"… you still couldn't drive four-in-hand because I don't think mixing mares and stallions for a harnessed team would be too good an idea," Llewelyn answered. He had found an especially dirty strand in the mare's tail and was cleaning it between his hands. "Besides I believe you'll have your hands full enough with the boys – and I really hope that Pluto Bona won't use this excursion as a chance for a big show."

"If you're so worried about the boys, you could let me drive the girls and take them," Louisa suggested.

Llewelyn rolled his eyes. They had already discussed this very subject a few times. "Darling, driving four-in-hand through the woods is one thing. Driving them through a city is another. At the moment neither you nor the girls have much experience with four-in-hand. Besides you know yourself that the reins become pretty heavy after a while. I'm sorry to say it, but driving four-in-hand is men's work."

"I'm pretty strong!" Louisa sulked.

"Yes, you are!" Llewelyn let the mare's wet tail go and stepped over to Louisa. After a brief glance at the farmhouse – no one to see there – he bent down and kissed her cheek. "You're even admirably strong, my dear. But if your arms were strong enough to keep the reins for four horses for as long as we need to get to Nonnberg Abbey, I probably wouldn't find you as lovely as I do anymore. You know, I'm not much into wrestlers as girlfriends."

Louisa smiled up at him and, stretching on her tiptoes, kissed his jaw. "You're bad, Lew!"

"Because I always manage to convince you in the end?" He grinned and went over to his horse again, starting to wash the soap out of her tail.

"Nevertheless I'd still like to have a few more horses!" Louisa insisted.

"Oh my!" Llewelyn rolled his eyes once again. "And who, pray tell me, would drive them? Gretl would perhaps like to, but at the moment she's much too busy chasing the youngsters! When I last saw her," he chuckled, "she had Allegra – who's obviously as fond of rolling in mud as those horses – under one arm and Phillip in the other. He had tried to sneak into the stables after Gretl had already washed him."

"Dirty horses and dirty children are happy horses and happy children!" Louisa laughed and started to braid a golden tie into Conversano Theokratia's mane.

"Following that Adana must be one of the happiest horses alive!"

This time it was Louisa who approached him. Kissing his cheek, she whispered: "She can't be as happy as I am today. My siblings are getting married and you are here!"

Llewelyn twinkled at her. "Considering how often I was here before you moved to Vienna – I actually believe I know more of Salzburg than I do of Vienna!"

"The next two years I'll be in Vienna – and we will devote all of our free time to sight-seeing!" Louisa comforted him.

"Oh yes! Only I'm afraid after half a year even my diplomatic immunity won't help us anymore, because all the fiacres you always scold for not treading their horses as they should will conspire against us, catch us and put us in the Hofburg dungeons!" Llewelyn laughed. "But knowing you I don't think we'll starve to death there. As soon as you hear the first Lipizzan led along you'll find a way to break out."

"Isn't it good that you can trust me to always find a way to get close to a horse?" Louisa responded cheerfully. "Besides I'm looking forward to see your Uncle's horses after Christmas."

Llewelyn was done with the mare's tail and started to plait her mane. "I'll tell my mother then to meet you at the stables. She's eagerly waiting to meet you."

Louisa bit on her bottom lip, suddenly looking awkward. "Oh my – your mother …," she slowly said.

"What about my dear, old mother?" Llewelyn asked. "She's going to like you!"

"I'm not so sure of that," Louisa replied. "I mean, I'm certainly not what she dreamed of for her only son."

"And why not?" Llewelyn shook his head. "You're intelligent, well-mannered, hard-working, charming and easy on the eyes. And you're even a Baroness – not that my mother or my Uncle Algernon would care about that, but my Aunt Dorothy, who's a snob to outdo all snobs, does. She always wanted me to marry the daughter of her brother-in-law whose best feature – in the eyes of my aunt – is her pedigree. She's 38th in line for the throne! She'd only need the entire royal family to drop dead to become Queen of England! However, in my eyes she's got only one feature I could adore: Her teeth. They always remind me of a horse. That's probably why she always wears a kerchief. She's afraid someone might mix her up with a horse, put a bridle in her mouth and go hunting if she didn't wear such a thing."

"Llewelyn! You're impossible!" Louisa laughed, but became immediately serious again. "All the same, I doubt your mother will be happy about me."

Once again Llewelyn shook his head. "Why, darling?"

"Because I'm nothing at all how she probably imagined the girl you should be with! I'm a tomboy with short hair and no interest in pretty clothes and other girl stuff. And instead of attending parties, I'm at the university to become a vet – a job most people don't think very suitable for a woman."

Llewelyn was finished with the mare and tenderly patted her neck. "Now you're pretty, my girl!" He smiled at Louisa: "And as far as you're concerned: Don't underestimate my mother. She doesn't only have a great son, she even likes him – so much that she wants him to find a girl who's got something more than parties and dresses in her head. Besides my mother's a horsewoman – and when she heard that you're becoming a vet, she was delighted. She would think it awfully practical to have a vet in the family."

Maria looked once again in the mirror, for the last time tugging at her hat. From the yard she heard the rattling of two carriages and the voices of her children. Gretl was arguing with Stephan because she was upset that he was allowed to sit on the coachbox while she only got a place in the carriage. And of course, Stephan, now 15 years old, proved himself a true von Trapp male, haughtily explaining to Gretl that sitting on the coach box was "men's work."

Maria rolled her eyes and wondered why Gretl didn't tell him that driving a carriage obviously wasn't – or why else was the carriage the stallions were pulling driven by Louisa?

Louisa was just storming into the master bedroom where Maria stood in front of the mirror. "Mother, I can't get this idiotic hat to stay on my head! Must I really wear it?"

"It looks pretty, darling!" Maria answered and shoved Louisa in front of the mirror where she fixed the hat with two pins. Smiling at her daughter she asked: "Are we ready?"

"I hope so! My boys are probably already getting impatient, so it's time we started."

"Well, then I'll look after our brides," Maria replied and went out into the hall. "Liesl, Julie – we're ready. How are you doing?"

Elsa answered from above: "Just a minute – we only need to fix Julie's veil, then we can start."

"Fine!" Maria responded. "I'm going down to load the children into the carriages."

Walking down the stairs she once again went through the plan – and the logistics of the enterprise of getting all of the family to church in style had been rather difficult! Louisa – with Kurt on the coachbox – would drive the stallions, with Liesl, Elsa, Brigitta, Marta, Allegra and the baby with her. Llewelyn would drive the four mares, Stephan would be at his side on the coachbox while Maria, Julie, Gretl, Barbara and Phillip would sit in the carriage.

The men – meaning the two bridegrooms, Friedrich and Christopher, Georg, Johannes (who had pestered his father for days about becoming part of the men's party), Max and Christopher's former superior Algernon Newstale-Heavens, who was incredibly proud to have been made godfather of the youngest Fenswick – were at the moment in the hotel "Goldener Hirsch" where later dinner and the party would be celebrated. They would be driven to the church in two fiacres.

Shooing the children into the carriages, Maria started to understand Georg, who had said the night before that he would now like to have an auction for his daughters. "We should marry all of them off tomorrow! Then we would be done with this wedding business once and for all!"

It really had been rather hectic over the last few days. Actually the last quiet minute Maria remembered having had been last Friday when she had sat in the Abbey church while Elsa and Max – in a very small ceremony – had married. Georg and the Reverend Mother had stood with them as Elsa, born Countess Enns, widowed Baroness von Schraeder, widowed Countess Rechberg had become Mrs. Detweiler. And although she had worn a rather modest blue suit, Maria had thought that Elsa had never radiated more beauty as at the moment she had turned to Max and answered the priest's questions with a firm, clear: "Yes, I will." There had been something in her eyes that had shown Maria that Elsa had finally found what she had been searching for. Max was more to her than a loving husband – though one could see in his eyes that he really adored her. He was also her friend and her partner in a business she obviously didn't only have talent for but also loved to do. And probably that was what Elsa had been born for: conducting business, connecting people, organizing events. Max had said in right once: "Actually Elsa was wasted only organizing parties. She needs something big to work on – and the bigger, the better!"

The carriages were finally rolling and Maria allowed herself to close her eyes for a blissful moment. Compared to the ruckus she had lived through over the last few days her own wedding had been a peaceful affair. Or did she only feel so because she had missed what had been going on in the villa the night before? She had been at the Abbey then, enjoying the peace there while Max, Georg and Sister Maria Desiderata had dealt with the children.

Now it had been her task to keep – as Llewelyn had said – all her ducks in a row. And that hadn't been an easy task with Phillip's love for falling into dirt; with Allegra – she obviously was becoming a tomboy too – always trying to run away to climb trees or visit the horses; with Louisa not caring in the least for her dress and hat; with Gretl and Stephan fighting all the time; with Julie becoming melancholic because she didn't have any family of her own; with Christopher driving the entire clan and especially his Liesl up the walls because he had misplaced the rings twice; with Friedrich catching a cold only two days before the wedding – luckily he was already better – and with the seamstress being more nervous than the brides.

Oh, it was good to sit in the carriage now, looking out at the beautiful landscape and knowing that she would spend the next hours cosily on her backside. In the church no one would need her to fix anything, no one would want to be comforted and no one would need advice or help about a dress, a hairdo, or "shall I wear the white or the lace stockings?"

And even the weather seemed to bode well for the von Trapps: The sun was smiling down from a lovely blue sky, the woods on the mountains around Heuberg had already changed colour and were greeting the carriages with the beautiful gold and red of autumn; a herd of cheerful looking cows mooed as they passed their pasture; and the neighbour farmer who was taking advantage of the beautiful Saturday to work in his apple garden –Maria had invited him to the celebration, but he had shaken his head, murmuring something about not being one for big parties and "besides, your horseys and kids will need apples during the winter" – lifted his hat and waved at the family.

Maria felt happy. Everything was fine in her little world – though the youngest member of the family obviously didn't think so. Liesl's son was protesting loudly about not getting his afternoon nap and even his favourite aunt Brigitta – who was also to become his godmother – couldn't calm him. But now Liesl took him over and her son's crying subsided at least a bit.

Whenever Maria saw her youngest grandchild, she couldn't help smiling. It had already started at his birthday. The young man obviously had been in a hurry to come into the world. Fourteen days before Liesl was due, she had called Maria – luckily the Sonnenhof had finally gotten a telephone the week before – and told her: "I'm afraid my baby is already on its way. Can you come?"

Although Georg had probably established a new speed record for the drive between Salzburg and Vienna, he and Maria had arrived too late. The youngest Fenswick hadn't even wanted to wait until his mother had been taken to a hospital. Before the doctor and the nurse had made it to the Fenswick residence, the boy had been born – and so it had been Llewelyn who had cut the umbilical cord, later modestly commenting: "I grew up on a stud and have helped a few mares give birth. The difference between a foal and a baby isn't too big – though the foal is quicker on its legs than a baby!"

When the von Trapps arrived, they had found Liesl, dressed in an elegant nightshirt, in her bed, proudly smiling down at the bundle in her arms. And as she had tenderly shoved the blanket away to allow the grandparents a look at the infant's face, Georg had started to grin while Maria had chuckled. Except for the nose – though Maria was convinced that it would once become rather hawk-like too – the boy was the spitting image of his father: fine, gold-blond hair; a high forehead – and he had even wrinkled it, which had made him look even more like Christopher – and blue eyes; the generous mouth and the long, energetic chin.

Georg had later, when they were alone, grinned at Maria and said: "Christopher could have spared himself the test. There can't be a doubt about this boy being his!"

Yet what had touched Maria most had been a little scene in Liesl's bedroom the next morning. She had kept Liesl company while the proud father and grandfather had gone to get the baby registered. Sitting on Liesl's bedside, Maria had seen a velvetcovered box on the nightstand and pointed at it. "The father's gift for the new mother?" she had asked.

Liesl had sat up, covering her mouth with both hands. "Oh sweet heavens!" she had cried. "I had forgotten all about that! Christopher gave it to me last night, but I was so busy with our son and him, I didn't even look at it! And he obviously didn't think of it anymore either."

Maria had given Liesl the box who gasped while opening it. And so had Maria when she saw the tiara in the box. White gold with diamonds and blue sapphires – the most exquisite piece of jewellery Maria had ever seen, and that meant something because the Washington society presented some rather fine pieces too.

Now Liesl wore the tiara instead of the veil and ivy which graced Julie's head. However, as pretty as Julie was, Maria thought Liesl more beautiful. She wore a dress of pale, blue silk which reminded Maria of her own glorious wedding gown and the tiara in her dark hair made her look like a princess.

As the two carriages arrived at Nonnberg, two fiacres were already waiting. The men were already in the church, except Georg, a dashing figure in his blue mess dress. He was waiting in front of the church and together with Maria he sorted out the formation: Barbara and Phillip in front, strewing flowers; followed by Johannes who felt quite adult because he was to lead Allegra up the aisle. After him came Brigitta with the baby – now, luckily, sleeping. Then Gretl and Maria walked into the church as the proud bridesmaids. Maria led Julie down the aisle and at the end of the line came Georg with his oldest daughter on his arm.

Louisa, Llewelyn, Kurt and Stephan hadn't wanted to walk down the aisle. Although Georg had gotten four local boys to look after the horses, the four had insisted on sitting in the back of the church during the ceremony so they could easily sneak out if one of the horses became too nervous.

Sitting down next to Maria – suppressing a curse because the ceremonial dagger he wore at his side was once again in the way – Georg felt almost dizzy. Marrying his two eldest children off at once could cost a man some nerves! And the little party the men had celebrated the night before had been a rather lengthy and wet affair, especially with one British officer proving that he could really hold his alcohol. Max and Georg's attempts to get Llewelyn drunk had ended with the young man standing up at two o'clock, shaking his head and stating: "I'm certainly not up to driving a car anymore!"

Georg and Max had grinned, but then the youngster had said: "Well, it's no problem – the night's lovely and a little stroll is just what I need to sober up!" And so he was gone and obviously he had reached Heuberg in time to start getting the horses in shape.

Georg and Max in the meantime had needed some urgent rest after Llewelyn's departure. In the room they were sharing they had fallen in bed like logs and the last Georg had heard from Max had been a sigh: "Damn and blast, we're getting old, Georg!"

Looking at the two couples in front of the altar Georg couldn't help thinking that Max had been right. The proof that his youth was gone stood there: Friedrich, a head taller than his father, wearing the blue mess dress of a lieutenant of the American Navy with a row of medals on his chest, smiling tenderly at his lovely bride. And next to him were Liesl, looking regal with her tiara. Christopher at her side was in uniform too: A blue jacket with a silver bandolier and belt, a row of medals on his chest, white gloves, tight white trousers, polished black boots leading up to his strong thighs, dagger at his side and a silver helmet with white feathers under his arm. Charles Forester, certainly not lacking in what he called "locksmithery" – five rows of medals – on his chest, had seen him, grinned and whispered to Georg: "If that's English understatement, I'd like to know what they do to show off!"

However, from the look in Liesl's eyes when the priest asked her if she would take "Christopher Vyvian Peter Lord Fenswick of Hollbridge" for her lawfully wedded husband, Georg was pretty sure that she would even have answered "yes, I will" if the man next to her had been wearing sackcloth and had been misnamed "Jim Smith". And the same was probably true for her friend Julie Miller who just – with tears running down her cheeks and her voice almost breaking – whispered her "Yes, I will" and so became Baroness Julie von Trapp. Friedrich was kissing her now, blushing as always when he found himself the centre of attention.

Yet there was even more to the ceremony than the two couples. Algernon Newstale-Heavens, wearing the same uniform as Christopher – only he looked, following Brigitta, not as handsome as his younger friend, but rather like puss in boots – stepped forward now, all pride and eagerness as he took over the bundle Brigitta had been carrying. The youngest member of the family, wearing the same white lace in which once his mother had been christened – thanks to Elsa who had found the piece in the attic of the villa in Aigen – was still sleeping while his elder sister, sitting on Maria's lap, watched fascinated at how the priest poured water over her brother's head and said: "Julian Georg Algernon Christopher Frederic Carson-Fenswick, I christen you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen!"

Only Julian obviously didn't like being christened too much. He proved with loud screams that he, though looking like his father, had inherited his mother's lungs and volume of voice. And it was Christopher who took him from his godfather and cradled him on his chest where Julian promptly caught one of his father's medals, took it for a pacifier and fell asleep again.

Georg swallowed and closed his eyes. Twenty-six years earlier he had stood where Christopher was just standing, wearing the gala uniform of an Austrian Naval officer, and like Christopher he had felt incredibly proud because he had been the one in whose arms the crying infant Liesl had calmed down. He remembered how he had felt a small hand lightly squeezing his arm and, looking down at the dark head of his wife, he had seen Agathe's brown eyes smiling at him. Even now he thought he could smell her – a slight hint of orange blossom and tea roses. And it was as if she was with him, and in his mind he whispered to her: "Have I done well with our children, my love?"

The organ started to play, but Georg didn't hear the music. Instead he thought he heard Agathe, her voice full of warmth and love: "I never expected anything else from you, Georgie."

Suddenly his mind was filled with memories of her. Agathe as he had seen her for the very first time, a petite brunette girl with big, chocolate brown eyes, coming down the stairs in her father's home, wearing a white dress. Georg still remembered every detail: The pearls braided into her hair, almost too rich for her small head, making her look like an exotic princess; the lace of her dress; the dark red satin sash around her fragile body; the smile which had immediately captured him. He had lost his heart in that very moment.

All the young men at the ball had gathered around her, but she had smiled at him and that had given him the courage to make his way through the crowd and, bowing in front of her, asking: "Would you honour me with a dance?" He had heard an older lady gasping behind him – and yes, he had known that it actually was considered a faux pas to approach a young lady he hadn't been formally introduced to, but he hadn't cared. And Agathe had crooked her head and, already laying her small hand on his arm, had asked: "Is your navy always so quick?" Her voice, amazingly deep and full for a girl so small, had filled his stomach with sudden butterflies.

Georg had led her to the hall where they had started to dance – a waltz. And as he had taken her in his arms, he had smiled: "I am Lieutenant Georg von Trapp from the Austrian Imperial Navy. And you know, the motto of our emperor's family is: 'Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube. Nam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi diva Venus' – others may fight wars, but you, happy Austria, marry! What others are given from Mars, you shall receive from the Goddess Venus."

"Is it possible that you're not only quick, but rather brazen, Lieutenant von Trapp?" she had looked up at him, her eyes full of mischief.

"Not at all," he had answered. "I'd actually like to court you; to sing serenades under your window; to slaughter a dragon for you and lay his head at your feet …"

She had interrupted him with pearly laughter: "My father would have something to say to you about singing serenades under my window! And as far as the dragon is concerned: What would I do with a dragon's head? I suppose they smell rather putrid after a while."

"Miss Whitehead, you're not a romantic!" Georg had laughed.

"What did you expect? I'm English!" she had responded.

"Then it's time for you to find an Austrian to teach you something about romance!" Georg had led her in a series of twirls and she had laughed in his arms.

He hadn't let her out of his eyes for the rest of the night, though he had not managed to dance with her again. She had been always surrounded by admirers who had scowled at him and pushed him aside. But she had looked at him – more than once and finally, as she danced with a chubby officer in a red uniform, she had even blushed from smiling at Georg. He had taken his leave then – but only to get speak to the footman who had waited at the door. Georg had bribed him with some money and had learned that Miss Whitehead usually went riding out the morning after a ball.

The next morning he had borrowed a horse and had waited for her at the promenade along the coast. She had appeared on a beautiful chestnut mare, accompanied by an older groom. Once again a few banknotes had inconspicuously changed hands, and the groom had promptly discovered that his horse had lost a shoe, and because the weather had been so lovely and Miss Agathe's horse needed more work, Georg had offered to accompany her.

Agathe had of course seen through his action. As soon as the groom had disappeared, she had laughed and said: "You are brazen, Lieutenant von Trapp!"

"No, Miss Whitehead – I'm not brazen; I'm just in love with you," Georg had told her.

She had first laughed at him. "How can you be in love with me? You only saw me once!"

"That was enough, Miss Whitehead. I saw you and I knew immediately: You will become my wife and the mother of my children!"

"Children? Let me guess, Lieutenant von Trapp: You already know how many children we will have and what we'll name them!" She had looked amused – and at the same time there had already been some gentleness in her eyes.

"But of course! We'll have a daughter named Agathe …"

She had promptly interrupted him: "No. Not Agathe. I was never too fond of my name." And then she had giggled. "Let's have a son named Georg instead!" It had been the first time she had said his name, almost stumbling over its foreign sound.

"No. Not Georg. I was never too fond of my name!" he had responded with laughter.

"Does that mean I shouldn't call you 'Georgie'?" she had chuckled.

"You can even call me 'Georgie'," he had replied. "But I'd rather have you call me 'Darling'."

"Darling? Why not 'Liebling' (1)?"

"You'll call me Darling and I'll call you Liebling!" he had decided.

She had once again laughed out loud. "Lieutenant Georgie von Trapp, I think you're mad!" Then she had started to gallop along the strand and he had followed her, laughing and feeling happy.

On the next two days he had gone riding with her again – and then, on the third day, he had appeared at the Whitehead mansion in the afternoon with a big bunch of roses. Giving them to the butler, he had asked to see Mr. Whitehead. He had been led into the shipyard owner's big study where he had told the rather surprised man that he intended to marry his only daughter. Robert Whitehead had first laughed at him and told him that many young men wanted to do so and why did he think that Agathe would be interested in him?

Georg had persuaded him to ask Agathe. She had been called into the study where her father – still looking very amused – had said: "This young man just told me that he wants to marry you. I don't think I want my only daughter marrying an Austrian. But what do you think, my dear?"

Georg had already known what she would answer even before she had opened her mouth. He had seen the rosebud she had in her hair – out of the bunch he had gotten her. Nevertheless he had felt a bit nervous until she had stepped next to him, taken his hand, looked up at her father and had firmly said: "Father, I'm afraid you will have to live with your daughter marrying an Austrian." And looking up at Georg she had nodded: "Yes, Georgie – I want to marry you, darling!"

Other memories of her went through Georg's mind: Agathe in her beautiful white wedding gown, stepping down the aisle of St. George's, Hanover Square in London on the arm of her father. Agathe, in a honey-coloured dress, the wind tugging at her hair, awaiting him at port as he had come back from his last journey. Agathe, this time in a yellow summer dress, running out of the door of her doctor's house in Vienna, waving a paper and calling loudly: "Georgie, you're going to be a father!" Agathe in his arms, her skin like gold in the light of the candles around their bed, her mouth swollen from his kisses, whispering: "I love you, Georg. I love you so much it almost hurts!" Agathe with the children; Agathe at the grand piano, singing; Agathe at the terrace in Aigen with baby Gretl in her arms and – yes, that was part of his memories too – Agathe, so small and pale in the white hospital bed, her eyes filled with love and pain and her raw, bloodless lips whispering: "You must marry again, Georgie. Our children will need a mother and you need someone to love. Promise me …"

The parish started to sing and Georg felt a hand on his arm. Maria was smiling at him, driving the memories away. But this time they didn't leave him feeling empty and sad, but full of warmth. He was sure: Agathe had found her peace as he had with Maria. She had been his and the children's saviour; she had healed his heart and made him and the family whole again.

Seeing her next to him filled him with joy. Whatever the future held for him, his children and grandchildren, he was sure that they all would face it with the courage and love for life Maria had taught them. And whatever happened to him, Georg Ritter von Trapp, he was certain of one thing: if one day, when the night was sinking down over him, he could lie in Maria's arms, he would die a happy man.

to be continued

(1) Liebling German for "Darling"