Let me on the day of this momentous occasion confide in you firstly the situation from which this occasion distinguishes itself by its momentous nature.
I am the princess royal of Adderberg. My grandmother was the princess regnant, until a vile uprising unseated her and sent us into this barely dignified Parisian exile.
In exile, our numbers have dwindled; now only I and a loyal retainer remain, but every month there is a letter, a letter every two months at the very least, smuggled out from Adder, from a loyal man or woman, or heartbreakingly sometimes a child, who wishes to pledge his or her support, and wish for our — my — restoration when the time is right.
There used to be more of us, but most of us have gone into grubby trades, or married unsuitable people, and abandoned their heritage. I myself have kept the faith in God and blood; though of necessity I have been forced into something which does resemble an “occupation”, while it is in truth an often pleasurable diversion that also happens to result in the acquisition of money. Furthermore, I should note my cakeshop is named “The Princess Cakeshop”, and indeed the front door bears the sigil of royal Adderian patronage.
I am somewhat uncertain if this is proper, with me being the patron and the proprietor of the shop, and half of its workforce, but in my desperate situation I have not been able to afford such considerations.
(The other half is Marie, who takes care of the cooking, displays, sales, desk-work, and delivery. And cleaning, book-keeping, finances and advertising. Let me hasten to add that I am not an insignificant part of the operation, for in addition to my name and patronage, I provide the kind and quality of conversation that our customers have come to expect and require. In these republican days, it is hard to find a good monarchist cakeshop.)
I have of course not married, since I cannot imagine a proper marriage happening anywhere except in the Adderberg Cathedral of the Mary of St. Anna, but for the reason of my exile and the demolition of the cathedral during my grandmother's ouster, that will need to wait until my restoration.
I confess to having dated several boys and girls solely for social reasons, but those insignificant affairs of the heart have ended for the objects of my interest have been shockingly unable to give honest account for what fills their hearts, namely, their bloodlines. Why, this one boy could only name one of his great-grandparents! Is it not known that one drop of bad blood takes a hundred of good to dilute it? By simple mathematics that I devised, this would give allowance to a single dubious ancestor at the level of your great-great-great-great grandparents.
When I presented this idea to my paramour of the time, I was met with incredulity. I despair of the modern youth's disregard of mathematics!
But — dear diary — but that is the nature of my present predicament, and thus it has been my whole life.
Now things have changed!
There is not only a letter, but a messenger from Adderberg, a fierce bearded colonel, who says out of subterfuge and necessity he is reduced to masquerading in the drab uniform of the outrageous “Republicans”, instead of the glorious gold, sky blue, black, red, pink and white panoply of Adderian Royal Life Guards which he is heir to. He has come to take me home. He is an envoy of the revolution — no, the restoration!
The uprising's downfall is close at hand!
My loyal retainer does not think this expedition is wise: then it must be an expedition of two, and not three. I shall leave the cakeshop to him and Marie; perhaps he can provide some of the royal grace and quiet noble dignity that it has been my delight and also “job” to provide for our visitors and customers.
Our train departs for Buda the first thing tomorrow morning. Until tomorrow, diary!
It is two days later, and I am at the edges of Adderberg, hiding in a house that no doubt never has held a princess in it; it is drab and featureless, more a collection of walls than a house.
I am in despair.
While the restoration still waits, my loyalists are gathered here to plan. Unfortunately, ours is not the only gathering.
My infernal cousin Manfred is here also; Manfred, of whom I had heard little before, and none of it good. He had been a collaborator of these Republicans, a lieutenant in their scabby little army; and now he would be king.
And it is not only Manfred the Traitor, supercilious in that ugly green uniform of his, with the most vuglar draperies of medals and gold twine, all but covering the few honest decorations that he no doubt robbed from his grandfather's dead chest, and only now worked up the liquid courage to cravenly wear.
I do not like Manfred.
My grandmother's granddaughter — I am sorry, grandmother, forgive me, but I cannot bear to explain her as a relation of mine — Sophia is here also. How they conveyed her here save through some closely spaced chain of wine dens and houses of ill repute, I do not know. The last I heard she was in Constantinople, of all places, the guest and worse of some Grecian lord whose blood was thicker with infamy than Sophia's dumb head is with dumbness.
I do not like her either.
She is here to proclaim herself queen; I have unexpectedly found a good spot in Manfred's green breast in his incredulity at this outrageous intent, as his incredulity closely parallels my own.
As if these two were not enough, there are some two dozen persons of noble blood present — I say noble blood because I must, because I do not possess the kennel books to prove what seems to me be their proper descent. I have never, not even in Paris, seen such grasping, squabbling, contentious persons! Each would be the Prince of Advice, or the Duke of Tous, or the Admiral of the Navy — what navy? Does Adderberg have a connection to some ocean of which I am unaware? The struggle is not yet began, but they are already dividing the spoils!
Worse still, with such clamor as they make, will not the Secret Police sooner or later hear us, or of us?
I must — as the true heir and the only sensible person in this nest of adders — go forth and proclaim my leadership and authority over all of them. Then we shall enter the streets, sweep up the populace in our wake, and march to the Palace!
Hope and despair mingle in my breast.
My declaration was a disaster, yet no worse than the similar though self-serving declarations of Manfred, Sophia, and some fool calling himself the Duke of Melfi — I do not know what this Melfi is, but it is not in Adderberg.
Our marching-out was likewise a disaster. We fled Adderberg in disarray, each going our separate directions. There was so much discordant noise, and such stony faces, I do not believe there was any blood shed.
I gave a speech. The people did not understand my French. Nobody cheered, not even after I asked them to.
At the border — ah, at the border one more disastrous surprise awaited. An inspection, where I had been assured by my bearded colonel, my one, sole true servant, that none would be, for the reason of the crass and money-hungry nature of the degenerate border guardsmen.
But no, there was an inspection, and the head inspector was a bear of a woman, with a blonde braid like a hangman's rope, and the shoulder plates of a General of the Secret Police!
Resolving to acquit myself in royal fashion, I drew my pearl-handled pistol, fired three shots into her chest, and then two at my own sacred cranium.
I cried with pain, and fear, and despair.
When the effect was laughter instead of the great death, I inspected my weapon, my last Durandal, and found its blade broken — the shells but shells of themselves — empty, rendered impotent.
The General merely congratulated my bearded colonel, offered me her condolences, stamped our passports, and left. The train rolled over the border. I sat in near-faint, clutching my weapon.
At Paris Central, the colonel extended me his apologies for the deception, and assured me further letters of hope might be conveyed if I still desired such.
I did not.
He gave me a small gift — a small stone figurine of an angel that once used to decorate the altar at the Adderberg Cathedral of the Mary of St. Anna — and then left on the train going back towards Adderberg.
I was abed with shock and dismay for several days, but eventually my trusted retainer, my only subject, my only pillar of hope and support, drew me to my feet.
I do not know if this was what he feared; this was more dreadful and less terrible than anything in my imagination. My own death I was prepared to face, in the hands of my opponents — but I never foresaw the opposition of my own.
For weeks, I considered if I had been too weak, too timid, if I should return and try again.
Then letters came from other sources, relating scurrilous lies that Manfred and Sophia and that damned Duke of Melfi had told — and I realized that because of my exile, or human nature, there was nothing to return to; no place which would be home, or right, or proper, or happy, above this life I lead here.
And so, dear diary, I find my trusted retainer's grasp of polite conversation to be akin to a dog's foot holding a sword, even if his good heart and loyalty shall never be doubted in my presence, or my dog's hand of a soldier will cut the calumnist's head right off!
Tomorrow I will return to the Princess Cakeshop; I have had Marie make exquisite decorations for the occasion, delightful cannonball explosions of red crepe and small crowns of goldened tinfoil for the children; for tomorrow the princess retakes her true throne.
Maybe I should really have a throne. I don't know if stools are really suitable. I will have to ask Marie if she knows about a carpenter.