In The Service Of Princes


The next day, Saturday 28th March, Freddie again met Bastian at the Academy. All went as before, to the considerable enjoyment of both, though Freddie’s urgent desire to have Bastian under him again was foiled by the arrival of two other men in the pool room. Their approach was detected almost too late, so preoccupied was Freddie by what Bastian was doing to him, and Bastian in what he was doing to Freddie.

‘I think they guessed what we were up to, though the pool smell may have disguised the smell of my offering,’ Freddie regretfully concluded.

‘They were just eager for us to leave so they could do the same, in my opinion,’ Bastian scoffed.

‘How on earth do you work that out?’ Freddie marvelled.

‘I can read faces and glances. Bessie and I have a talent that way, though she says I’m better at reading horses than men. She may be right. She usually is. But then, I have no desire to mate with a horse.’

‘Does that sort of thing often happen?’

Bastian laughed. ‘You really are fascinated by perversion, my Freddie. You should have done more of it when you were younger, and got it out of your system. Since you mention it, cavalry regiments don’t usually experience that sort of ... er ... activity. Our mounts are stallions not mares, and a man would be mad to dare to invite the attentions of a stallion, even were it possible to get away with it.’

They paused again at the Mariensäule. ‘Princess Osra Madeleine and Field Marshal von Tarlenheim leave Munich for Strelsau this noontide, as her business over her dower is now settled. But I’m taking leave for the next month and staying with Bessie. It’s been a while since we saw much of each other, and clearly I’m getting out of touch with her activities. Come to dinner this evening, it’ll just be us. Bessie so wants to know what we’ve been up to, so resign yourself to impertinent questioning.’

The two smiled and raised their hats to each other, and Freddie was startled by a sudden desire to kiss this boy goodbye, which was not something they had yet done. He wandered happily back up Theatinerstrasse to the embassy, blessing the luck that had brought him to Bavaria.


James was aware his aunt was leaving Munich that day, and so he sent a note to the Wollherz house requesting to attend on her before she went. Consent was received and James walked down to the Anger and found the street outside the house blocked by a line of carriages being prepared for the departure of the princess and the field marshal. His aunt was in the reception room with the lady Sebastienne in attendance.

James made his bow, and kissed the princess’s hand. They took seats at her direction. ‘My dear James,’ she said, ‘it has been a delight to find you at last, and I impatiently await the next occasion we meet.’

‘Is Fräulein Wollherz attending you to Strelsau, aunt?’

The young lady answered for herself. ‘My brother’s presence in Munich keeps me here. We’ve had too little time together of late.’

‘Prince Henry will accompany me as a substitute maid of honour,’ the princess added, ‘so I’m afraid my departure will deprive you of our brief moment of family reunion. But I trust Henry will find ways to meet up with you again. I know you two correspond regularly.’

‘I must ask, aunt, have things been settled between you and your son?’

His aunt sighed. ‘The indentures are being drawn up in Max Joseph’s chancellery. They will be brought to Strelsau for me to seal, and that will sever my connection with Glottenburg. It is a sadness to me, not least that it means I’ll not see my little grandson, Willem Stanislas, for some time. He’s an adorable little elf of only two years. He may be an adult when next I see him. Political necessity can be hard for princes, though the world may envy them.’

The princess had dressed in black that morning, and it was if she had returned to deepest mourning for the day. It made a particular item of her jewellery stand out, a bright silver brooch in the fashion of a death’s head she had pinned to her right breast. It intrigued James, who had never seen the like. It looked to be ancient to his informed eye, medieval very possibly. Was it some form of memento mori associated with her mourning? He almost asked, but it seemed a frivolous question at the time.

The rest of the visit was spent in a discussion of the current state of the electoral court, in which most of the talking was done by Princess Osra. James began to realise he was receiving a high level tutorial in the politics of the southern states of the Empire from someone who had mastered the personalities and policies of its princes. It would provide the material for half a dozen dispatches to London, and he was very grateful to her. For the first time he heard mention of the impending succession crisis in Bavaria.

‘I think you will find in your time here, James, that this is something that will increasingly grip the Wittelsbach court. Max Joseph has been a good, even a great ruler, but he is the last of his line. The next nearest member of his family is Karl Theodor, the Elector Palatine, a distant cousin of another Wittelsbach line. He may have the best dynastic claim but there are many who would oppose it, for he too is aging and there are other Wittelsbach cousins who can offer successors and therefore more stability. Karl Theodor has no legitimate offspring you see. Then there is the Emperor Joseph himself, who married Max Joseph’s sister seven years ago, deliberately to create a claim on Bavaria for the Habsburgs. She died only two years later, but I suspect the Emperor’s ambitions survived the loss of his wife.’

‘You foresee a war of succession, aunt?’

‘Ruritania has had experience over the past century of the willingness of its neighbours to exploit successions, which can be times of weakness. I myself was dragged bodily into the last such crisis to afflict Ruritania. Do you know the story, James?’

‘I do, aunt. And what is Ruritania’s position on the Bavarian problem?’

‘Your father is much occupied with that very question, James, as any such war will drag in Ruritania and Glottenburg. We cannot ignore instability in Bavaria, so often our adversary in the past. Rumour has it Frederick of Prussia is also very interested in the outcome, and his may be the decisive voice. Your brother Ferdinand has been speaking up in Council that we should align more with Prussia and against our usual allies the Habsburgs.’

‘And where do you stand on the question, aunt?’

Osra smiled ambiguously. ‘I find it wise to avoid taking positions before the game is in play, James. And now I must get away, sad necessity though it is. I have enjoyed our time together, brief as it has been. I can but hope for longer at some later time. You may kiss me.’

James did so, made a profound bow to the princess, a lesser one to her companion and left, his head full of what he had heard.


‘You call this the family gallery?’ Freddie was being introduced to the canvases in the Wollherz house, which covered the walls of a withdrawing room so densely from chair rail to ceiling there was little wall to be seen. ‘But they’re all horses, Bastian!’

His friend rolled his eyes. ‘In this family the dividing line is pretty narrow. These canvases originally came from the Wollherz stables in Strelsau, where the business room was covered with them, most of them commissioned by Karl Wollherz himself. Father brought them here, as grandfather had no interest in them. That one above the chimney piece is the famous Brunhild, in some ways the founder of our fortunes.’

‘A remarkably intelligent looking beast,’ Freddie remarked. ‘Her eyes seem to follow you round.’

‘The story is that she lived to the age of thirty. A long time for a horse, but the odd thing was she was still being covered and foaling at the age of twenty-three. Don’t believe me? I have the old stock books.’

‘That’s not possible. Fifteen’s the oldest I’ve ever heard.’

‘I asked father, and he decided that the stables must have had two Brunhilds in the early 1700s and the stablemaster made an error in the books. He keeps that idea quiet. People pay over the odds for the original Brunhild’s bloodline.’

They browsed the walls with interest for a while, then Bastian rang for drinks. ‘So where’s your sister?’ Freddie asked as they settled into armchairs.

‘She’ll be here for dinner. Where she is at the moment I have no idea. She’s enjoying her freedom now the guests have gone. That probably means she’s masquerading as me around town, the hussy. I tell you what, she’ll likely sneak round the side lane when she gets back rather than risk the street door. If we go to my bedroom we can see her as she crosses the stable court.’

‘I can think of other reasons to be there, too.’

Bastian laughed, and taking their drinks led Freddie upstairs. Once within the back bedroom that was his they relaxed together into an armchair, and in between craning out of the open sash practised their new enthusiasm, which was kissing.

‘Quick!’ Bastian’s eyes widened. ‘It’s her!’ His ears had caught the rattle of the yard door.

Leaning out they caught sight of another version of Sebastian Wollherz striding across the yard; not just a perfect facsimile of the man by Freddie’s side, but with his gait and manner too.

‘My God! It’s uncanny,’ Freddie declared.

‘I told you. She is talented. She could go on the stage.’

Freddie settled back into Bastian’s embrace. ‘How do we manage dinner? I know she knows that I know she sucked my cock at Karneval. So do I just pretend it never happened?’

Bastian kissed and licked his ear, causing Freddie to squirm. ‘I think you need to relax,’ he said, ‘and I know the perfect way, so get out of those clothes.’

With leisure and a bed at their disposal, they could take as much time as they pleased about their play, and indeed lost any sense of it. The door opened as they dozed in each other’s arms. Freddie reared in panic only to be pulled down by Bastian.

‘It’s just Bessie, Freddie. Darling, why don’t you knock?’

The girl was out of her male clothing, in a shift and silk robe, barefoot and her hair loose. She put her hands on her hips, with a very amused air. ‘Dinner is only fifteen minutes away, you two. Hello Freddie! Nice to meet you again, and in more pleasant circumstances than down by the Isar.’

Freddie’s attempt at a reply came out only as a stutter. Meanwhile Bastian left the bed, walked to his sister’s side and whispered in her ear. She smiled, shrugged off her robe and unloosed her shift, which fell down around her ankles. The pair posed together naked for Freddie, arms around each other’s waists, remarkably like a Classical statuary group. It was as if it were a pose they had rehearsed for public display. He sat up in the bed red-faced but fascinated.

In height, skin colour and hair they were identical. Both had small feet and their faces were of course indistinguishable, especially as Bastian had shaken his own hair loose around his ears. The anatomical differences were not pronounced, other than Bastian’s possession of a male member, though it was modest in size and mostly hid by his thick, black pubic bush. Sebastienne’s breasts were very small, barely swelling more than her brother’s pectoral muscles, the nipples not pronounced. Her hips were narrow for a woman and thighs no heavier than her brother’s. As they turned to display their rears, their buttocks were perfect and near-identical.

‘So what do you think?’ Bastian grinned back over his shoulder, and kissed his sister on the lips.

‘I think it’s uncanny,’ Freddie said, as the pair sat alongside him.

Sebastienne pulled back the bedclothes and gave a critical look at Freddie’s straining erection. ‘Quite as magnificent as I remember. You do the English nation proud, Freddie. So which of us brought you off better?’

Freddie was suddenly overwhelmed with amusement at his situation. He laughed. ‘You were identical of course,’ he pronounced.

‘Tempting though it is to contest that obviously incorrect judgement,’ she said, ‘I would remind you both that it’s getting dark, dinner is in but ten minutes and in this house we dress for it.’


As they laughed and chatted through the meal, set out on a round table in the library rather than in the grandeur of the dining room, Freddie found himself relaxing into his unusual situation. He was the lover of a brother whose sister seemed entirely casual about their relationship, and indeed about any other expression of sexuality.

The conversation shifted between French and English, in which both twins were fluent. When Freddie asked how that came about, Bastian laughed and blamed Shakespeare. ‘He is our father’s obsession, and he had us tutored so we could read it in the original, but speaking for myself I found other authors who were much easier and more fun to read. I particularly enjoyed Mr Defoe and Crusoe’s adventures in the Southern Seas. I think I was twelve when I first read them. I’ve read it again several times since, that and his other celebrated works. How I would love to sail to the Cannibal Islands and have such adventures. You English live in a wider world than we do.’

‘Be that as it may, Freddie, your German needs a lot of work,’ Sebastienne observed.

He sighed. ‘So it does, but my mind won’t buckle down to it. My stay here will only be till next March, and that gives it an excuse not to bother. But you’re right. German is a useful language to have and I should make more of an effort.’

Bastian agreed. ‘But at least you won’t need to learn Rothenian, as we had to when children. Unfortunately mother could not find us a Rothenian-speaking nurse in Munich.’

‘Is it a difficult language?’ Freddie was curious.

‘Not more so than English, and in grammar rather simpler. It has picked up many German loan words over the centuries, and it has no irregular verbs, unlike your treacherous language. Or, I must admit, mine, though French is worse again. But it is Slavic and not Teutonic, and the inflections can be tricky. I almost got in a duel with a Glottenburger officer because he found my greeting disrespectful, he said. Bessie is much better at it than I.’

‘Do you use it much?’

‘It depends,’ replied Sebastienne, ‘when I was in Glottenburg, it was the language of the court, which is the reason I’m so much better at it than my lazy brother. But he has an excuse. You can get by in Strelsau on just German.’

‘Rothenian is handy in the army of King Rudolf,’ Bastian objected. ‘My troopers may take orders in German, but they mostly talk in Rothenian amongst themselves. German monoglot officers miss out on a lot, and are less popular with their men.’

‘I think I’d like to see Strelsau,’ Freddie mused. ‘Teddie Carfax at the embassy has a lot to say about it, though I think he was very bored at the end of his posting there.’

Sebastienne laughed. ‘That may have been more to do with the embassy in Ruritania than the city and its society. Lord Windlesham is ... how you say ... deadly dull, and stultifies any social gathering he may be in. But then your country has little interest in the Rothenian lands and the boring viscount is merely an expression of its indifference. A great empire which bestrides India and the Americas is not going to find the Starel basin of much interest. Were your king not also elector of Hanover, there would be no embassy in Strelsau or Munich you can be sure.’

‘To tell the truth one of the things I’d quite like to do is write up a journal of my travels in the Empire, and why should I not include the Rothenian lands too! They’re not well known in England.’

‘Freddie!’ exclaimed Bastian, ‘I thought you were going to join me in the military profession?’

‘And can’t I do both?’

‘Of course you can,’ agreed Sebastienne. ‘Bastian has other talents. Did he tell you of his musical abilities?’

‘It was not mentioned.’

Sebastienne rang for a servant, and gave instructions in German. He returned with two guitars, which he presented to the twins. They moved from the dining table and took seats opposite each other. Bastian strummed the strings and then his fingers skilfully teased out a delightful if sad Baroque passacaille, almost mathematical in its precision. Freddie was mesmerised. And when his sister joined in with her voice tears flooded his eyes. The pair seemed to think as one as they made music. Freddie had never heard an instrument and a voice so closely attuned. He could do nothing but burst into applause as they finished. Piece followed marvellous piece, the last a duet in which brother and sister’s strings danced around each other in a remarkably complex minuet.

As the strings were stilled, Sebastienne smiled over at Freddie. ‘That last piece Bastian composed for us when we were but fourteen.’

Bastian laughed. ‘It was one reason King Rudolf was so forgiving about my murder of the performance of Twelfth Night. We performed this piece to the court the previous year, and to some acclaim. Music is the way to King Rudolf’s heart.’

His sister added, ‘The king had the piece published and added to the music library of the Hofkapelle.’

‘You should be proud, Bastian,’ Freddie admired.

‘Oh, he is,’ confirmed Sebastienne, ‘he just pretends he isn’t.’

Bastian put down his instrument. ‘Time for you to go, Freddie mine. It’s dark and your ambassador will be wondering where his junior clerk may be.’

He pulled Freddie to his feet and kissed him, then cast a look over to his sister. ‘If you need a linkboy, I think I can recommend a very obliging one.’


‘I say, Freddie,’ Frank Potts addressed him across his desk, ‘I was reading a pamphlet that came with the dispatches from London. I need you to explain it to me.’

‘Why, Frank?’

‘It’s about Anglicanism, on which you’re my own personal authority. It’s also about the American colonies, on which I know equally little. But there’s a godawful fuss going on over there about a parcel of clergy in Virginia who want the king to appoint your sort of bishop to rule over your church in the colonies.’

Freddie shrugged. ‘I can imagine nobody would be happy with the idea. The Bishop of London has authority over the colonial clergy, so he wouldn’t like losing it. Some of those in government wouldn’t like to see it happen either, as it would weaken the ties between the mother country and the colonies. Then again the colonies would hate the idea of an American episcopate with authority all the way from Halifax down to Savannah, as it would challenge their independence one from the other, which they prize. Nor would the Presbyterians and Congregationalists of New England like the idea of resident bishops in America. The idea of an Established church makes them very unhappy. That’s why they left England in the first place. Is the king lending an ear to this nonsense?’

‘Apparently he is, though the Governor of Virginia is in a rage about the temerity of the clergy who started it.’

‘It’s playing with fire,’ Freddie said. ‘It seems our government can’t do anything right in America these days. Every step they make takes them deeper into a trackless swamp.’

‘It’s not much relevance to us here, I suppose,’ Frank reflected. ‘Britain seems a long way away to me nowadays, thank goodness, and I’m really happy to be in Munich. You’ve surprised me by settling so fast too. How was your dinner on Saturday with your friends the Wollherzes?’

‘Really enjoyable,’ Freddie enthused. ‘They’re a unique pair. They speak English, believe it or not.’

‘You’d still better get down to Dr Constable for your German lesson. I hear the boy Wollherz has given you an entrée into the König von Bohmen. It’s where the young, rich and well-connected meet in Munich. His Excellency is delighted. The possibilities for intelligence are thrilling him. I don’t think the Prussian and French legations have found a way in there so far. So go and improve your skills to communicate with the jeunesse dorée of Bavaria, Freddie.’

‘Hmph, then maybe the embassy can pay the subscription that goes with membership, d’you think?’

‘I think you may find His Excellency will be quite ready to listen to your plea of poverty.’


On the Wednesday morning, Freddie met Bastian at the Academy for their early morning exercise, and found himself a little overmatched.

‘This practice is doing you good, Bastian,’ he remarked.

‘You think?’ he replied.

They paused, and rested their blades. ‘That wrist action is new,’ Freddie said, ‘you really must teach me it.’ He pondered a moment. ‘Dammit, you’re Bessie, aren’t you.’

She gave a delighted laugh. ‘Someone I can’t fool. Freddie, you’re a marvel.’

‘Oh, you’d have fooled me alright, but Bastian told me that you have the edge over him in fencing, and you’re proving rather more than my equal this morning. What were you proposing to do after the bout? Confess before we go down to the pool?’

‘No. I was planning to let you find out when I stripped off his clothes.’

‘And then what?’

‘Bastian tells me that thing of yours reaches up to his kidneys, I’d have liked to find out if he exaggerates. I remember I gagged on the length of it that night, but your memory of it is patchy no doubt. But I had to have you, so pretty and helpless you were. And staring at me from the table all that night.’

‘Wouldn’t Bastian mind?’

‘No, he’d like to be in bed with both of us, he’s just not sure about asking.’

Freddie was troubled. ‘Do you two ...?’ He couldn’t complete the question.

Sebastienne rolled her eyes. ‘Thank you for the delicacy of the way you asked. No, of course not is the answer. But watching’s a different matter, and he certainly would love to see you mount me.’

A little bewildered, Freddie finally said ‘I’ll think about it. I’ve never done it with a woman ... or at least someone I knew was a woman.’

‘So I’d guessed. But with me it wouldn’t be quite as stark a choice as all that would it?’

As Freddie dressed without bathing and headed back to the Embassy, he began to see what Bastian had meant when he called his sister wild. This was someone who admitted no constraints on her words or behaviour, as unsafe a companion as there ever could be. Her ascendancy over her brother seemed to be complete, and she was gradually imposing it on Freddie too. Perhaps he should resign himself to it. Whatever else Sebastienne was, dull she certainly was not. She had made him come alive in ways he had never been before.


The moment of truth came on the Saturday, after a late dinner at the Wollherzes.

‘You’ll stay the night, Freddie?’ Bastian said with an uncertain smile.

Freddie suddenly had an empty feeling where his stomach used to be, but he nodded. Sebastienne grinned across the table and winked.

As he and Bastian were beginning their lovemaking in his bed, the door clicked to behind them. Another naked body nestled against Freddie’s back and fingers found and caressed his erection. Bastian broke off their kiss and raised himself. Freddie turned and engaged with the identical grinning face behind him.

‘No less excited with me than with my brother I see,’ Sebastienne observed when they broke off, looking down at the evidence.

The bells rang out across the city for midnight as the three continued to exchange kisses. Sebastienne broke off and quirkily said ‘Well! It’s Passion Sunday. Let’s make it live up to its name.’

She lay on her front and Freddie mounted her without any preliminary. He found the entry easy and soon enough was demonstrating his skills to the appreciation of the woman beneath him, holding her under her armpits and giving free rein to his length in her backside.

Freddie had half wondered what Bastian would do while he and his sister were engaged. He found out as fingers assaulted his anus and another body covered his. A sharp pain in his virgin backside momentarily distracted Freddie as Bastian entered him with a delighted gasp in his ear. ‘Oh, this is so good,’ the boy gasped as he began fucking away at the man who was fucking his sister.

They none of them were sleepy at the conclusion of the first bout. They lay back on the bed, Freddie lying between the twins, who amused themselves caressing his body. All three were relaxed and Freddie was the happiest he had ever been in his life. They talked and swapped stories as lovers do. Most of it was inconsequential. But the part of it that later stuck in Freddie’s mind was when they chatted about their dreams. He was intrigued when the twins confessed that they had once shared the same one.

‘Really? I’ve never heard of such a thing. But twins have a reputation for weirdness don’t they?’ A sharp punch in his bicep from Sebastienne’s side made him yelp.

‘The world might well say, you perverted Englishman, that you’re as weird as us now. But Bastian will confirm it. It was when we were children getting to the age of sensibility. We slept in different rooms by then, which in some ways made the thing more odd. It was not a nightmare, which are those dreams children recall when they are older. No, far from it. We were in each other’s dream too, and we seemed to be able to talk to each other and interact.’

‘It’s true,’ said Bastian. ‘We both found ourselves on the banks of a stream in a beautiful country. The sky above us was a blue whose intensity I’ve never yet seen other than in the Giotto paintings in the Residenz here. We stood and took each other’s hand, finding ourselves naked, as is usual in dreams.’

Your dreams, at least,’ snorted his sister. ‘We must have been seven or eight at the time and as we stood looking around and wondering a flying horse – a pegasus – came down out of the sky and landed beside us. And riding her – it was a chestnut mare – was a naked boy, a little older than us. Blond he was, and the handsomest child I’ve ever seen, with a grin wider than you’d think possible. He jumped off his mount and sidled up to us, hands on his hips when he stopped. “Hello,” he said, “I’m Wilchin! You’re Bastian and Bessie. Welcome to the land of Fäerie!”.’

‘Wilchin?’ Freddie interjected, ‘Is that a German name?’

‘Don’t get Bastian started,’ Sebastienne snorted. ‘He’s analysed every word and memory of that dream to death. He’s obsessed with it in fact. Now you know why he took the coat of arms he has; twins supporting a shield with a flying horse.’

Bastian snorted in turn. ‘She exaggerates, as usual. Another odd thing was that I cannot recall what language we were talking to the strange boy in, and neither can she. Wilchin, if you’re interested, sounds to me like a diminutive of the German Wilhelm, or Willem in Rothenian.’

‘So what happened next?’ Freddie asked, by now deeply intrigued.

‘Well strangely, nothing much,’ replied Bastian. ‘We played in the sunlight in the stream and the woods behind it for what seemed to be ages with the boy Wilchin, talking happy nonsense as children do. It’s all so vivid still in my mind. But Wilchin did let us ride together on the winged mare through the sky.’

Sebastienne nodded. ‘Clinging to each other, swooping over tree tops is a memory I cherish. It was all so real. To this day I can feel Bastian’s long dark hair blown by the wind into my face as I clasped his warm body with my arms and the horse’s rough hide with my thighs. But the one thing that was less than happy was the boy’s final words as we parted on the river bank. Though we weren’t thirsty or dirty, he insisted we both bathe in the water and drink deeply from it. “Bye Bastian and Bessie! I love you!” Wilchin declared. “One day, one of you will meet me again, but not both. And the one who does will take my place. But always remember I love you. And I always will. You’re the best of me!” And that was it, other than his rather dramatic departure. He sprouted wings of his own, whooped and shot up into the sky, the mare chasing after him. And we woke up in bed in different rooms with the same memories.’

Freddie pondered as Sebastienne fell silent. ‘You’re right, that is by far the strangest thing I’ve ever heard.’

Bastian clasped him and kissed his cheek. ‘I’m glad we told you. You’re the only one we ever have. It’s so personal to us, and seems to have formed us too. Do you know, our old nurse told us that as small children we weren’t by any means as alike as we are now.’ He laughed suddenly. ‘Bessie was rather on the plump side and I was taller, and facially we were similar but not at all identical. Yet after we drank from that river day by day we converged in appearance until none could tell us apart, not even our mother.’

‘My theory is it’s why Bastian has such a small if perfectly formed cock,’ Sebastienne laughed, and suddenly Freddie was in the middle of a serious fight between the twins. He struggled out from under the mêlée as punches flew and the pair grappled laughing, till they fell off the bed with a thud.

Freddie peered over the edge and found the pair giggling and lying flat out on the boards. The twins kissed as he sat up over the side. Then they knelt up between his legs, faces together as they began to work on his genitals, staring up through their eyelashes at him, in the most erotic display he could ever have imagined. It did not take him long before he climaxed for the second though not the last time that night.


The month of April 1772 was a time Freddie Winslow ever afterwards remembered as one of supreme and unspoiled happiness in his life. He was deeply in love with Bastian Wollherz and he found the welcoming house in the Anger a place of intellectual excitement and emotional warmth. The element of danger in the arrangement represented by Sebastienne just seemed to add to things. He found he did not envy her relationship with her brother, though what he himself felt towards her was not something he could easily define, soon ceasing to try. Somehow it worked between them, however. Under such tutors his command of German raced forward, to the surprise of Dr Constable at the embassy. The only cloud on his horizon was that Bastian was obliged to return to active duty in Strelsau at the beginning of May. Freddie tried not to think of it.

In the meantime, things were happy also at the embassy. Lord Burlesdon was very much persona grata at the court of Elector Max Joseph, and had established good relations with his colleagues in the Munich diplomatic corps. Milord Burlesdon was also finding that the ambitious noble matrons of Bavaria had remarked on three features of recommendation concerning him, that he was unmarried, a Catholic and immensely rich. He was as a result being presented with a salver full of cartes d’adresse daily. He began to pick and choose engagements with hopeful parents, favouring ones where the father held an official position in the electoral government or the military.

‘Business with pleasure, Teddie,’ he remarked to his second secretary. ‘But please excuse the lack of romance in that comment.’

The first formal dispatch from Munich had gone off from the embassy to London on Palm Sunday by a King’s Messenger travelling from Vienna en route to London. It was a very thick packet that was added to the man’s satchel. But though the messenger service would communicate confidential material to London, James found that he had to make his own arrangements for sensitive packets destined for other British missions, and he felt bound to communicate material from his encounter with Princess Osra Madeleine to Lord Windlesham in Strelsau and to the smaller, separate British legation in Glottenburg.

Freddie was a little apprehensive when, on the last day of the month, he was summoned down to the library and the presence of the ambassador. ‘What have you done, Freddie!’ said Frank Potts with a grin.

Freddie didn’t return the smile. God! What if his lordship had got to hear something of his doings with the Wollherzes? They were discreet, but who knows what servants saw and gossiped about. But he found the ambassador nursing a cup of coffee rather than some damning report, and was cordially greeted. ‘Now then, Freddie. How’re things? Missing the rectory at Burlesdon? Take a seat.’

The boy was relieved, and returned Lord Burlesdon’s smile. ‘I love this place, my lord. It’s everything I’d hoped for, really.’

‘Oh, that’s a pity,’ said James, with a mischievous look.

‘What, my lord!’ Freddie was startled.

‘I only mean that as the junior and more dispensable clerk I’m delegating to you a mission that’ll take you away from Munich. I can’t spare your colleagues. Philip tells me your progress in German has been really considerable and he no longer has doubts that you can cope in any company. So you will be taking dispatches to Strelsau and Glottenburg that cannot be confided to the postal service of His Most Serene Highness the Elector.’

‘Oh sir! That would be no trouble! I’d love the opportunity to see those cities while I’m able.’

‘Yes, Frank was telling me about your travel journal. I think it’s an excellent use of your time. Now, I’d like you to depart on Saturday, that’s the second of May. It should give you time to make any arrangements. You can take one of the embassy’s road horses from the stables, and Herr Mossinger will issue you funds for the journey and a laissez passer for the frontiers you must cross. I imagine it would take 12-14 days or so if you went full out, but don’t feel you must. See the sights and take your notes. I won’t expect you back too much before the end of the month.’

As Freddie returned back upstairs to his garret office he was calculating how he could orchestrate his journey with Bastian’s return to Strelsau. Bastian had not yet set a date for his departure from Munich, putting it off as long as he could, Freddie believed, so he could enjoy as long a time together as possible. The obvious reluctance to go was one of the things that made Freddie so very much in love with the boy. He scribbled a note to his lover and rang for a footman to take it round to the Anger. Settling back into his office chair, he waited hopefully for the reply.