Before the music paused for the guests to be seated at dinner, Elsa went in ahead to inspect the room. Frau Schmidt was just making the last of the adjustments to the table after adding one more setting for Fraulein Maria. As she was about to position the place card next to Max's, Elsa asked for it, and gave her own to Frau Schmidt instead.

"But, Ma'am, I was instructed to make Fraulein Maria Herr Dettweiler's dinner partner, not you. You're seated beside the Captain," the elderly maid said, confusion marking her face.

"There's been a little change in plans, and Maria will be Captain von Trapp's companion this evening," Elsa informed her.

"Ma'am? I don't understand?"

"I'm sorry, I don't have time to explain now. You'll find out soon enough. Thank you so much, Frau Schmidt, that will be all for now." The housekeeper looked at the Baroness for a long moment, wordlessly wondering what in the world the woman was up to now. But there was no time to waste, as the guests entered the room and began finding their own places. Frau Schmidt excused herself to oversee the servers, as Elsa turned to direct the guests. As the last of them strolled into the room, she noticed Georg and Maria had not yet entered.

As if her thoughts alone had beckoned them, the pair entered, Maria with a strange expression on her face. Elsa could only imagine that at least in part it was veiled panic, at being faced with what she assumed was her first experience with a truly formal dinner. She could see Georg whispering quietly to her, his hand gently squeezing the one Maria was using to grasp his arm. The more experienced socialite went to them.

"Georg, I've arranged for Maria to take my place beside you. She doesn't need Max yammering in her ear about the festival all night." She turned her head to address Maria quietly. "Don't worry, my dear. Georg will take very good care of you, and on your other side will be Baron Elberfeld. He is kind, and quite hard of hearing, so he won't be conversing much."

Relief washed over Maria's face. "Oh, thank you, Baroness Schraeder. I do enjoy Herr Dettweiler's company, but I don't know if I'd be able to endure an evening of him . . . requesting the children sing at the festival."

"All you need to do is tell him he must get me to agree, Maria," Georg informed her. Elsa noticed he'd dropped the Fraulein already, and was quite pleased.

"Now then, I trust you will make Maria's evening as pleasant as possible, Georg?" Elsa asked, raising her eyebrows at him in a teasing manner. She watched as his eyes took on a new glow, and he tried to bite back a grin, which only served to make the dimple on his cheek more obvious. Maria blushed, and studied the floor.

"I'll just have to do the best I can," he replied, as he moved to help Maria to her seat at the table.

XxXxXx

Elsa tried to be attentive to Max and to the friend of Georg's seated on her other side . . . oh, what was his name? Gunter something? She couldn't remember and he'd knocked over the placecard. It was simply that her eyes kept wandering over to watch Georg and Maria. How he so quietly would gesture which cutlery to use; would lean over to whisper into her ear things that made her her smile and blush; gently touch her hand to offer encouragement.

Finally, Max got her attention. "Elsa, darling, stop staring at them. One would think you'd never seen them before," he chastised.

"I can't help it, Max."

"Of course you can, just allow my wit and charm to overwhelm you," he deadpanned, causing Elsa to laugh aloud.

"Oh, Max, you really need to learn to like yourself." But his comment succeeded, and Max engaged Elsa and Baroness Elberfeld, seated at his other side, in lively conversation during the rest of the dinner hour.

XxXxXx

For the duration of the evening, Georg kept Maria close by his side, even to the point of having her join him at the door as the guests took their leave. It didn't seem a terrible faux-pas to anyone, as all in attendance were happy to meet the delightful young woman who had been teaching the von Trapp children all summer, and eager to congratulate her on their performance.

Elsa and Max hung back, watching the grand party wind down from their position in the grand hall. As the last guest left, Franz closed and locked the doors. Georg escorted Maria down the stairs, taking her hand and leading her out toward the terrace.

She sensed rather than saw Max move to follow them, and reached out to grab the sleeve of his jacket.

"No, Max, let them be alone," Elsa stated firmly. He opened his mouth to argue otherwise, and she gestured him into silence.

"We've done our part. Now, it is up to them. But I do think that out there is a young lady who will never be a nun."

XxXxXx

The wedding bells were indeed pealing madly, as Elsa stepped out of the dimly lit church into the bright sunshine. She hadn't been the least bit surprised when the invitation arrived in the post just weeks later. She was beyond pleased to accept, the handwritten note from Maria and Georg expressing their gratitude having been unnecessary but appreciated.

As the newlywed couple followed the children - their children - out of the church, Elsa smiled broadly. Max stepped out from the crowd of well-wishers to greet his dear friend.

"Well, you were right. I have to say, I never had you pegged as a matchmaker. My grandmother would have been proud of your skills," he offered.

Elsa laughed, as he offered her his arm, and they followed the wedding procession down the lane.

das Ende

A/N: Thank you to all my readers for following this little "what if" story. Sadly the tale had to end, but there will be another story to come along sooner or later.

u_s