Yet again, sorry it took so long! I hit a major slump with this story. Likewise, I'm afraid this chapter is mostly filler due to how hard it was to write, but hopefully the next one will be more engaging! As a final note, as doesn't allow for "crossed out" text, in the letter later on in the chapter, underlined words are the ones that are crossed out.
Johanna invites him, so Denmark stays for dinner. He helps lay the table, and when he peeks back into the living room, the money is gone. Well, good. He'd have had to argue if they hadn't taken it; maybe get the government to help him track down and deposit it directly in their bank accounts—this stuff is too complicated, so he's glad not to need to.
Hirsch is still grumpy, but his wife seems to be trying to engage and wash the tension away. Dinner is simple but good, and the dogs circle the table and try to look cute for snacks.
"You've lived here forever?" Denmark asks, sneaking Rosie and Daisy some of his fish.
"Two streets down," Hirsch says.
"We met in grammar school," Johanna elaborates, touching her husband's hand. "Both our families are from the south—"
"South?" South means Germany. Denmark didn't mean to interrupt, and blinks and stuffs some bread in his mouth to hide it.
Hirsch nods. "My parents moved here after the war. Three elder siblings, but I was born here. They lived in Kiel for generations. A damn shame."
"My mother was German herself, from Holstein," Johanna said, "but in the case of my parents, they decided they'd rather be Danish when the war came."
The war. Denmark rubs at his thigh without thinking about it: when Prussia and Austria had taken Schleswig and Holstein from him, he'd gained a scar on his right leg and a limp for several years. And lost much more. "Glad they decided to stay," he says without thinking.
"Why?" Hirsch says. Denmark doesn't really know what to say to not sound suspicious, like a country glad for his people. What would Hr. Kierkegaard say? Something philosophical?
"Uh," he says.
"If they hadn't, I don't know if we'd be in a better or worse situation," Hirsch grumbles instead.
"Worse," Johanna says softly. Denmark notices her feeding Rosie part of her roll. "I still have cousins in Germany."
"It'll be okay, I told ya guys," Denmark says, mixing his potatoes and gravy together with his bread, sprinkling it with pepper, and then eating the resulting mush. "Germany doesn't want m—everyone fighting." He mashes his food fiercely, pretending it's Germany. Then he realizes they're both watching him and stops, goes back to eating.
"I was talking to Kristina earlier today, and she said she ran into some soldiers yesterday," Johanna says, clearly addressing her husband. Denmark shovels his food into his mouth, but listens. The soldiers had snapped at her when she was out past curfew, even though she was heading home from the hospital (Denmark wasn't sure what she was doing in the hospital, but apparently the Hirsches knew). They had given her a hard time, but ultimately let her pass. It had been frightening.
Hirsch is of the opinion that that just shows what has gone wrong with Germany in the past generation; his father's generation would never have done this. In the past hundred years, it's clear that something has gone wrong with how children are raised; some missing core of respect and understanding for other nations. Even Sweden seems to have learned or remembered it lately, he adds, and Denmark starts laughing and choking all at once.
"Are you alright?" Johanna asks, hurriedly pouring him more water. He coughs and drains it just as quickly, his eyes watering.
"Yeah! I ate it wrong!" he coughs a few more times, but the lump in his throat is gone. The old man doesn't know how right he is. Except for maybe the Sweden thing. Denmark leans back in his seat. "I was just thinking that Germany's been a brat since he popped up."
Tall as he may be, Germany's damn young. Even America's older. And Germany's the reason Prussia's stepped up being a dick lately—he thinks of Prussia suddenly, sprawled out and snoring on his sofa, skinny and taking orders from an Austrian. For some reason it bothers him instead of cheering him up.
"He?" Hirsch says.
"Uh… the Fatherland, ya know… Can I have more fish?" he holds his plate out to Johanna. She serves him another piece, and he covers it in his remaining potato and white sauce mush. "Yup, no matter how you look at it. Politically, Germany's been a dick forever now. The last war was no good either." Even if in the Great War his neutrality had actually been upheld.
"People are less civilized in this era," Johanna offers. "I'm certain there it was more courteous in the past. When there were knights and chivalry, like in the stories. If you were in a war then, there was none of this nonsense."
Denmark had once worn knight's armor. Denmark had tried to destroy Sweden over the smallest slights or little more than boredom, allied with Netherlands to destroy England just because he was paid, overthrown kings to gain advantage, gone on Crusades, captured and sold Estonia, and one November day in Stockholm, beaten Sweden until his hands bled and watched a massacre. He wasn't sure wars were any better or worse than they ever had been. Only politics had changed.
"What about vikings?" he asks her, just out of curiosity.
"Those weren't really wars, were they?" With the cautious frown of someone who isn't sure and doesn't really know history.
Denmark doesn't argue, just shrugs.
Hirsch hmphs. "Women oughtn't try and understand politics," he tells his wife, who doesn't seem offended.
"Hr Kierkegaard," she says to Denmark instead; "would you like dessert? I have some cake and some almond tart in the larder. We might as well eat it now," she adds, directed at her husband, who doesn't argue.
Denmark can hear rain on the windows, and staying is tempting. But it's getting close to curfew. He shakes his head. "I gotta get back to Roskilde."
"Of course," Johanna says, and they all stand. She clears the table and the dogs get active again, chasing them all around for attention. Hirsch shoos them out from underfoot, and Denmark grabs a last piece of bread and sticks it in his pocket when no one is paying attention.
There are hands to shake and farewells to say. Denmark also makes sure to write down their full names and address so that he can bring it with him to Copenhagen, which gets Hirsch suspicious again. Johanna come out of the kitchen with a piece of cake wrapped in paper, hands are shaken, and then he hugs her and him. They both are startled. "I'll come back soon," he promises, and he means it. He doesn't break his promises.
By the time he leaves the house, Rosie trying to follow him out, it is already curfew. The streets are black. Denmark would get lost or bike into a tree if this wasn't his home; even so it's difficult.
He kind of hopes to run into soldiers, cause a fuss, but he doesn't. In a way, it doesn't surprise him.
He arrives home at half past nine, soaking wet. The cat is waiting for him.
Denmark plans to spend the next day napping and maybe cleaning up his garden a bit. It's already almost May and he's not sure how. But at noon, shortly after rolling out of bed, there's a knock on his door.
He opens it in his pajamas; it is a man in the uniform of a messenger, and he delivers a telegram with wide eyes that mean—yup. The message is addressed to the Kingdom.
It's from his boss. At last, he'd being called back to Copenhagen.
He'll be gone for a while. He gets dressed and takes the cat next door for Anna to watch over; then he goes home and packs. Properly, this time. Stationary and pens so he won't have to borrow them, two sets of plain clothes—he can wear a suit there so he won't have to worry about packing one. He hesitates. After a long internal debate, he adds the uniform Prussia delivered, brushing his fingers over the insignia as he folds it. Then he shakes his head and goes to find his razor and toothbrush.
He's happy to climb abroad the train. It's almost empty, which isn't as nice, but it gives him room to sprawl out and re-read the telegram:
COME TO COPENHAGEN BY OFFICIAL REQUEST. REPORT TO THE PALACE AS SOON AS YOU ARRIVE. YOU WILL STAY THROUGH THE CHRISTENING.
He was already disappointed to have missed the birth of the princess—the announcement had been crowded in with his other mail during the week he was ill. Denmark was really looking forward to meeting her. It was too bad it wasn't a prince, but really, he loved all of his bosses family. He was sure she was adorable, and made a note to stop in a toy shop before heading to the palace, to buy her a birthday gift. And maybe something for her parents as well. Let's see, what kind of things would they like…
In this way, the train ride passed quickly as he ignored the words official request. Anything his boss said was automatically an official request and they both knew it. For it to be stated meant it was probably someone else's.
He spent the rest of the train ride smoking and writing a letter on his leg to try and send to Norway:
Hope you're OK. I'm doing great OK. Germany and Prussia both came to visit and I gave them a tour and went drinking but it wasn't anything much. Got word that America & England are looking after the kids so they're OK have you heard from them?
Ingrid has had a baby girl. I'm on my way to visit now. Things are OK here and I can do that without trouble I hope they're good at your house too. If they aren't give them hell! I can't but it's not like I'm giving up or anything so I hope you don't think I'm just rolling over because
I miss you! We'll hang out soon! It's already been a month so I guess it'll probably only be a little longer. There's no way this will be like the Great War people are too knowing of that to let Germany try it twice.
So lets meet again soon!
All my love as always,
He rereads it when he's done. His handwriting is worse than usual due to the train's shaking and his leg being used as a table, but it looks okay to him. Nor doesn't like long letters much, and he's not sure what he can say. Talking about Jensen and the Hirsches would be weird on paper. Talking about his illness… he wonders if Norway was sick too, but before he can decide whether or not to add that question, the train whistle blows and he realizes he's arrived in Copenhagen.
Admittedly this is a bit of a filler/gap chapters as i try to get back into the habit of updating this story! Next chapter should have politics and action, and we'll finally start moving through time faster. Just for the record, it's around April 24th in the story right now. Sorry it's a little boring, I'll try and make the next chapter more engaging!
The Hirsches are referring to the Schleswig-Holstein wars, when Prussia took Denmark's two southern-most provinces, sparking a huge national depression. Both families chose to move into the northern remaining part of Denmark after the land was ceded to Prussia and Austria. I'm not sure how common or uncommon this was.
Denmark's reminiscing about the past includes references to several events in the past, most of them are probably pretty self explanatory except for perhaps the couple of times during the Anglo-Dutch Wars he allied with his buddy Holland to fight England, mostly because Holland paid him to.
The baby born is of course the current queen, Margrete II. She was born 16 April 1940, and christened 14 May 1940. At the time of her birth, women could not legally take the throne, and so her uncle remained second in line until the law was changed around 1947.
Interestingly but logically enough, World War II wasn't called "World War II" for a while after it began, nor was WWI called that. It was the Great War, and II was the "war in Europe" until it became clear that it really was the sequel. There's not an official time the name changed, but in US almanacs at least, it took until 1942 or so for the switch to take place. For that reason, Denmark is calling them "the Great War" and "this war," and doesn't believe it will last half as long as the last big European mess.
As a side note, the story can be read with the original (nice) formatting and fonts on my writing journal at this link: community. livejournal. com / ightning / 18433. html
Just remove the spaces and you should be all set!