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Tato and Adrianne Stanislaus have just buried the fifth of their children, the last one of whom, Franz, named after the once beloved Emperor, died because of mistreatment in Franz Josef's illegal army. They have struggled to feed their family on the mere twelve and one-half acres of land that the emperor has allotted to them. In addition, they suffer the worst kind of discrimination. Tato is determined to make a better life for his six living children and he feels that America is the land of opportunity. Besides, he feels certain that Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, is conspiring with Germany and Russia and that war is imminent. But Adrianne and son, Mikhail, do not want to leave Austria to go to a strange country.
Tato muttered under his breath so Adrianne couldn’t hear, damn you Franz Josef you’ve taken four of my sons, this one I named after you, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Why can’t you be happy with the considerable amount of real estate over which you reign? Why must you conspire with Russia and Germany to take over the world? Enough! I will not let you take the four beloved sons I have left.
Tato tamped the last bit of soil over the grave and laid the shovel aside. Tears welled up in his eyes as he busied himself erecting a small wooden board on which he had carefully written in his own hand Franz Stanislaus 1891-1905, beloved son of Tato and Adrianne.
He straightened up to his full six feet height, and glanced around at the other four graves that testified to the loss of one child per year.
The total now stood at five, one daughter, Heidi, only eight years old, with her golden curls and the bluest eyes he had ever seen, lost to rampant yellow fever, and seventeen year old Nick, his firstborn son, he recalled, had always had a ready smile on his face.
Jan, his sixteen-year-old second born son had the greatest good sense of humor he could imagine. Then Stan, with his dark good looks, went at the age of fourteen, breaking his mother’s already shattered heart, and now Franz, lost to the brutal treatment received in the military.
Tato raised his eyes toward heaven and pleaded, “Father, you’ve given us almost more than we can bear. Please, Lord, let Franz be the last to die for no good cause.”
Turning at last toward Adrianne, Tato removed a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the tears that streamed down his face. He blew his nose, then looked at his petite auburn-haired wife who stood on the other side of the grave, clutching a small potted plant against her belly, very swollen with child, and quietly watching through tear-filled eyes.
Adrianne had been inconsolable ever since the news had come late yesterday. Now she said, “Poor Franz. He was only fourteen years old and his life is already snuffed out. For what?” She began to sob again, rubbing her belly with her free hand.
So distraught that he was not able to offer any solace to Adrianne, Tato glanced around at the vineyard that stood on the hillside just below, trying to collect his thoughts and make sense of it all.
When he felt he could trust his voice he turned to Adrianne, and said, “We must go to America.”
She thrust the plant toward him and said, “No, Tato, I can’t leave my children here all alone with no one to care for their graves.”
Still holding the plant, Tato took her hand, and said, “Adrianne, there is nothing more we can do for them. We must tend to the living. We must take the others to a safe place where they can grow up and have a good life.”
With his finger, Tato brushed a tear from the eye of this woman he had loved for many years, then swiped his shirtsleeve across his own face, and sniffed. “Franz Josef won’t stop. He is determined to start a war. All he needs is another excuse for it. He used to be a wonderful and beloved emperor, but ever since his son, Rudolph, committed suicide he has been a changed man. Then since his beloved Empress Cissi was assassinated he’s thought of nothing but war. It’s all in the news. You must realize that our sons are in danger. We are in danger. We must go to America.”
“But the wine! Who will tend the grapes? Who will make the wine?”
“Wine be damned! I won’t give another of our sons to the emperor’s silly war plans. He’s already conscripted thousands more than are legally supported. Can’t you see war is imminent? It’s only a matter of time. Besides, if they knew we are not Catholics—” his voice trailed off as emotion overtook him once again.
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 192
Paper Weight (lb): 8.4
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