"Max, when I asked you to find us some extra transportation, this was not exactly what I had in mind…"
"Ah Georg, I just couldn't resist!" the impresario clapped his hand against the saddle of the motorcycle, "A Harley Davidson. Less than a year old…. An engineering masterpiece and in the most beautiful condition I have ever seen…!"
"Hmmm," Captain Georg Von Trapp paced around the offending motorcycle, examining it as though it were some unruly cadet he intended to discipline, "And just how much did such a… beautiful engineering masterpiece happen to cost me?"
"Absolutely nothing!" Max clapped his hands gleefully, "She is freely on loan to us for the weekend."
"And just how did you manage that?"
"Oooh an old favour here and there," the impresario replied enigmatically, "A few old debts cashed in on and the like…"
He patted the saddle, distracted again.
"She is marvellous, isn't she Georg?"
The Captain raised his eyebrows but before he could answer, an exclamation came issuing through the open door of the villa:
"Oh Max, what a beastly device!"
Sweeping her way through the front door and onto the driveway, Baroness Elsa Schrader stopped in front of the motorcycle with a sharp click of her heels.
"Oh how terrible!" she exclaimed again, flicking her eyes towards the Captain.
"Don't blame me, my darling," he replied quickly, "I had absolutely nothing to do with it!"
"And neither shall I have anything to do with it!" she replied definitively, patting her perfectly coiffed hair, "You shall not have me in that sidecar, my dear Max, whatever your penchant for motorcycles and women…"
The impresario did not seem to be listening. Instead he was running the palm of his hand gently across the metal curves of the bike's painted body, his expression almost comically affectionate.
"Perhaps we ought to give them some privacy…?" Baroness Schrader squeezed the Captain's arm and he chuckled.
"Ah, she is a beauty…" Max straightened up again.
"Tell me, my dear, why must men always refer to their automotive devices as 'she'?" the Baroness asked, "They are such infernal, ugly things – it is positively insulting…"
"O-ho! Perhaps because they can be so temperamental…!" the Captain suggested, earning himself a slap on the arm.
"Because you must treat them as you would treat a woman, my dear," Max replied, walking over to the Baroness and offering her his arm, "With diligence, respect and affection."
He bowed his head.
"And because they occupy men's dreams as often as the fairer sex," he finished.
"O-ho! Your dreams, maybe…" the Captain stepped across to the motorcycle and regarded it rather begrudgingly, "Which perhaps explains why you have had such poor luck with women…"
He smirked at the impresario before rapping his knuckles against the driving block.
"And tell me Max," he went on, "Just how do you propose fitting all seven of my children, all their assorted paraphernalia, us four adults-?"
"Yes," the Baroness interjected, "And you know very well that I do not pack lightly, my dear…"
Maria watched, amused, as the Captain shook his head, turning in her direction with a rather helpless shrug as Max led the Baroness back into the villa, their voices now raised in an animated discussion of their own.
"And what do you make of it, Fraulein?" he asked, walking towards her.
"Oh I'd imagine your sons will love it at the very least, Captain," she smiled up at him, "I'm sure they will travel in the sidecar quite happily if Baroness Schrader would rather not…"
He laughed, "I would bet that Elsa would not even wish to be seen dead in such a thing," he shook his head, glaring at the motorcycle again, "But, it seems that we are stuck with the wretched thing," he went on running a hand through his hair, "Just make sure that yourself and the children pack lightly, won't you Fraulein?"
It was indeed rather a squash in the back of the Captain's car. Even with Friedrich and Kurt happily ensconced in the sidecar, that still left five children, three adults and five suitcases to be packed in one none-too-large automobile. Etiquette of course demanded that the Baroness ride up front, and in fact Maria could not imagine her faring terribly well amongst the rabble of children in the back – she had already seemed a little displeased to find one of her suitcases pushed into her foot-well. But with Gretl on her knee, a suitcase below her own legs, and a variety of arguments between the Von Trapp children to arbitrate, Maria was certain that she was in the worse position, however many times the Baroness might discontentedly rearrange her feet.
Despite the chaos, the Captain seemed determined to get to their destination as quickly as possible. As soon as the car doors had been squeezed closed they had been away, zooming off down the road and leaving Max and the Harley Davidson far behind.
Despite his view from the back of the car being entirely obscured by Marta and Gretl's heads, a hat box and the children's suitcase, the Captain seemed disinclined to deviate from his chosen course and speed. It made for a rather bumpy ride, but no one, not even Baroness Schrader dared complain. The hard set to the Captain's jaw and a tell-tale glimmer in his eye were enough to persuade her that even small talk would not be wise, and so she deigned to sit in silence, filing and pressing her nails for most of the journey.
By the time they arrived at their destination, some five and a half hours later, the girls had finally squabbled themselves into silence, and the two littlest ones had fallen asleep. Even Maria herself was being gently lulled into some sort of slumber when the car abruptly came to a rather violent stop, sending the Baroness' hat box lurching suddenly forwards and into the back of her head.
Everyone jumped, Gretl letting out a small scream as she was suddenly woken.
A confused, rather desperate silence fell before the Captain clapped his hands against the steering wheel.
"Well, here we are!" he exclaimed.
They all exchanged glances in some bewilderment, Maria shaking her head briskly and running her hand comfortingly across the top of Gretl's head as the Captain swung open the front door and stepped outside.
With great care everyone extricated themselves from the back of the car, Maria appearing last with a suitcase and the hat box. She looked around as she closed the door behind her, wincing slightly as she stretched her tired leg muscles.
"Oh, it's beautiful!" she could not help the exclamation as she looked across at the scene spread out before them.
She had never been to the ocean before and had never imagined that it could look so vast and eternal. She felt as though she were standing on some last bastion of land, beyond which there was nothing but water.
"Fraulein look!" Brigitta shouted, "There's our boat…. Is it our boat, Father?"
Maria turned to see the Captain pivoting around to face his daughter and then followed the finger Brigitta pointed.
"Yes that's it."
"But it's enormous, Father," Marta said, "Why doesn't it sink?"
Maria did not listen to the Captain's answer, for she was more interested in looking at the ship herself. Marta was quite right – it did look enormous, far larger than she had ever expected, with three or four levels of windows, three masts, and two gigantic cylindrical towers, a column of steam rising slowly from each.
"I'd imagine Eberheld is rather pleased with it," she heard the Captain say a minute later.
"Oooh yes," the Baroness agreed, "It was all he would talk about at their last dinner party!"
"It will make him a pretty little fortune, I would imagine," the Captain commented, "The 'next generation of luxury cruise liner'…" he quoted, shaking his head, "I remember when such ships would never have been allowed to exist… when they would have been scorned and mocked from the ocean…!"
"Oh don't Georg," she chastised him, patting his arm, "Think of it as an adventure. Bringing together your two loves – decadence and the open ocean…!"
"O-ho! I would wager we will not make more than two miles from the shore. Hardly the open ocean my dear!"
"Oooh you are in one of those moods again!" she shook her head.
"Yes, when you must insist upon contradicting me! When every word issued from my poor little mouth is to be used only for your amusement and ridicule…" she sounded distinctly coquettish, "I shall not say a word more to you!"
Maria could not help but seek out her employer's gaze, exchanging with him one of those subtle glances which they often did when no one else appeared to be watching.
The Baroness lit a cigarette.
"I wonder when Max will get here?" she asked, immediately breaking her vow of silence.
"Oh in several hours I should expect," he answered casually, "What say we make ourselves known to Baron Eberheld?"
"Let him know that the cavalry has begun to arrive?"
"Something like that!" the Captain chuckled, "I must say I don't envy him! Inviting some of the Navy's most formidable commanders… well, he'll have hell to pay if this maiden voyage is not as smooth as a run out on the lake! And of course with their wives along to criticise every detail of the… decadence…" he shook his head, "I wonder that he will not abandon ship before we reach the Riviera!"
"Baroness Eberheld certainly might," she replied as the Captain waved his arm at the children, "I think the ladies will be more exacting than your colleagues, my dear!"
"We will all regret the day that women were allowed onto the ocean!"
"Oh but Georg, surely there are certain things that-"
They stepped out of earshot as Maria gathered the children together. They were all talking excitedly, occupying her attention fully as they followed their father across the harbour and along a gangway.
The Captain was greeted the moment he had set foot onto deck, and Maria watched as he sent a runner to collect their bags from the car. A smile flashed over his face as the roar of an engine suddenly filled the otherwise quiet evening air.
"And it appears that the rest of our party have arrived too," he said, turning back to the man who had come to meet them.
Tall, and with a rather large belly, well clipped beard and moustache, and neatly combed whiskers, Baron Eberheld looked rather more like Maria's idea of a sea Captain. Indeed, she was sure the Captain remembered their conversation about such a subject, for she received another amused glance from him as the Baron shook her hand, a cigar clamped firmly in his other fist. There was just the spyglass missing, she decided as she introduced herself, smiling broadly as she remembered that particular afternoon with her employer.*
"A-ha! We are not intolerably late then?" Max had suddenly appeared at the end of the gangway and Maria was not able to help her laugh as she saw both his face, and those of the two boys.
Absolutely covered in dust from the road with just a clean patch around their eyes, Herr Dettwelier and the Von Trapp sons made for an interesting sight – interesting enough to almost make their journey worthwhile, Maria decided.
Any reviews/feedback/constructive criticisms are really welcome and very much appreciated!
*From my first story, 'A Trip to Town'