From the diaries of Lady Stéphanie Alexandra de Conti de Nemours
Vienna, Saturday, 17th June 1876, early morning, Summer Solstice.
The past few days have been full of preparations for the arrival of the Ericas’ cousin Dr. Erasmus Grey from the Bear Flag Empire of the New World, upon the 16th June. It would be unneeded to state that the twins have been atwitter, although in truth, they are more subdued than is their custom. I attribute this in the main to Eryca’s attention being paid to her role as Aida in the Opera of the same name. Signore Giuseppe Verdi has composed an inspiring, yet tragic tale, and it is to Eryca’s grace and honour that she has won this place. We are fortunate in having such a patron of the arts here that it has made it’s debut locally a scarce four years since its European premiere in Milan. I find myself siding with the populace and not the critics in my enjoyment, although I would have preferred a stronger Radames, perhaps Signore Pietro Mongini, who had the role at the Cairo opening.
Monsieur le Doctor Grey c’est un homme formidable, a near giant of a man; he towers over me nearly a foot, with dark hair and blue eyes, and presents a demeanour that while never overbearing, is still commanding of respect, even in gentle conversation (not that he and I have had much opportunity to engage in such. As he is the twins cousin, I am attempting to allow them to make the most of his visit and simply observe.) He is also a Sheriff and close companion of the Emperor Norton, we learned; I do believe that they neglected to inform me of this fact in their haste to ensure his presence.
He has accepted my offer of the carriage house for his stay, and brought with him a young Rom, Janos, as his man. Of the two, I must admit to finding this Janos of more personal interest at this time, for he claims to be related to my dear Jessénia, and knows of her family. (I simply do not know what I would have done with her assistance this past year, providing honest employment is the least I could do to repay my debt to her for being the vessel of my Guardian Angel in aiding in my escape.)
Dr. Grey made the acquaintance of an African Princess on his voyage, a most unusual woman – for she is apparently traveling half way around the world with only a serving woman for a companion! (And society thinks that I am improper! I laugh behind my fan!) Needless to say, when I learned of this, I invited her to dine with us and to attend the Opera for the closing sessions. She is called First Daughter, although I gather that this is but a much shortened form of her name; she is of one of those quaint tribal groups that deals in spirits and such. In fact, she informs me that my own home is possessed of the spirit of a young girl! Well, why not!?
Dr. Edward Wells has also newly arrived in Vienna to follow up on the work that he and my beloved Armand were engaged with. To balance the table, of course he has been invited to attend with us. I find that I enjoy his conversation, although he is easily distracted (as are all men) by his work, and will cease all other activity if some problem or other confronts his thinking. He is such a dear; he prepared a special set of opera glasses for me that collapse to a very small (and convenient) size, along with gifts for others as well – including making an adjustment to a faulty clasp on a pin that belongs to First Daughter.
I find that I am jumbling my thoughts tonight… I am more distressed over the ruined dinner plans of this past night than I let on to my guests, though I should explain.
The Doctors accompanied First Daughter and I to the opera, in attendance were Jessénia and Janos. Following the performance, we were to have dined, yet as we were leaving the theatre, I first observed a ruffian cut into Dr. Grey’s coat and then beheld a brazen act of thievery. I was not alone in my observation, and upon calling for the cretin to halt, he and his companions (and I am still uncertain as to how many there were, whether it was two or four or more) made as to escape. Needless to say, although as is my wont, I say it nonetheless, several of us lashed out to apprehend them, I with only my walking staff and a simple knife (I realize that it is impolite to go about armed with firearms in polite company, but it would have been much simpler to shoot them in the leg to stop them.) Two of the villains were killed and a third apprehended.
Of course by this time, the police have arrived and are making much of poor Janos and Jessénia standing over the body of one, while First Daughter, bless her, had the presence of mind to see if the other was truly dead or simply wounded beyond movement. Dr. Grey indicated that an important case had been taken in the attack and demanded that it be returned. It was then I learned of his close relationship to Emperor Norton. Although he had paid his respects to his Embassy, they had apparently not sent word to the local authority of his standing, and there were a few tense moments while the police sorted things out. I am pleased to think that I may have assisted in that, for when I made myself known, the officer recalled the unpleasantness of this past season and his disposition improved. Dr. Grey went with officers to the morgue for the examination of the dead men and to see if his property was with them, while the rest of us attended the woman accomplice to the police station where she was interrogated to no avail. Once Dr. Grey rejoined us, we returned to the manor, as the celebratory mood had been ruined, even though I attempted to make the nights excitement to be as “a grand adventure” I think I called it. Cook prepared a cold supper for us on short notice, despite having been told she would have the evening off (I must remember to gift her with an appropriate gratuity, without herself, Gustav and Jessénia, I would have been completely lost these past months with grief. Dr. Grey’s arrival has forced me to come out of my shell somewhat, and begin to return to the world of the living. For that, at least, I am grateful.) Poor Eryka, to have her evening so shattered, when she was the shining star. She is such a tender child, unaccustomed to such events. I shall have to speak with Erica later to see that she is alright. And poor Dr. Grey, I understand that this was his only formal evening coat! Although I know it can be repaired, perhaps I can find a tailor capable of providing another for him.
At last the guests have retired or departed, and I am composing my thoughts here before I retire myself. To my knowledge, there are no engagements for the day, which is good, after so much excitement, and there is the closing Ball tomorrow (Sunday) night.