He donned a brown pair of trousers, a white linen shirt and a green wool jacket. He glanced in the large gold-sculpted mirror and pulled the brim of his felt hat deep into his face. He left through a back door and slipped out into the streets of Vienna.
He walked through back alleys and for the first time in his life he felt free. Down by the market there was a baker’s shop. Through the window he saw a young woman. She was the one. Had to be. He entered and asked for some bread. She pushed a large brown loaf towards him, but averted her eyes. He offered a note. She had no change.
"What's all this?” said her father.
“It's an advance,” he said and then added: “For all the loaves I'm still going to buy.”
She smiled. Warm rouge crept over her cheeks. Her eyes were bright as she nodded a “Thank you”. Her father said nothing.
Her flushed smile stayed with him and kept his heart light as he sat on the bench outside the bakery. He waited and watched. Then she came out. He walked with her through the back streets of Vienna and then back to the bakery. The next day they walked by the banks of the Danube and meandered through parks where roses bloomed. The one after, he kissed her.
State business took him to Budapest, but all the while his heart stayed in Vienna. When he came back after a month, he found the bakery boarded up. The whole family's gone, they told him. Where to, they didn't know, they said. But he noticed how they averted their eyes. How they shrugged and then left him. No one would linger or tell him what had happened. He felt so alone.
He wandered the streets, went into each courtyard, and saw more boarded up doors. He found her dead in the hospice. He sat by her bed, held her white hand and sobbed. An old nun shook her head and just looked away. It wasn't Mayerling. That was yet to come.