edited: Thursday, July 17, 2008
By Juliet Waldron
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008
Become a Fan
Aloysia is a spoiled rotten big sister!
Whenever Wolfgang gave Aloysia klavier lessons, Josepha and I regularly spied on them from behind the kitchen door. It didn’t turn out to be much fun, though.
All they did was discuss music—and practice, practice, practice. Nothing as naughty as hugging or kissing ever seemed to happen, even though Mama hopefully left them unchaperoned.
One evening the house was full of their heavenly music and the almost equally heavenly smell of Josepha’s sugar rolls. These had just arrived, carried up by the baker’s boy from the oven we rented, down at the shop on the first floor. At first we’d given them kreutzers for the privilege; these days the baker, knowing a good thing when he tasted it, simply took some of Jo’s rolls to sell for himself.
I was eating a roll Jo had given me, cheerfully licking off the sticky topping, when she put her finger to her lips and motioned for me to follow. Slipping to the door that led into the parlor, she cracked it open.
We could see Mozart and Aloysia facing us over the klavier. Candlelight haloed their blonde heads.
Aloysia was playing. She did not have the piece performance-ready, however, for while it was smooth, she leaned forward and stared at her music. So much concentration spoke volumes about the difficulty.
Mozart’s big eyes were fixed on the tendrils of fair hair which curled along the nape of her neck. His expression was like that of our terrier gazing at a roast on the table—such longing, such desire—but not quite the nerve to go for it.
“He’s ready,” Josepha whispered, closing the door.
I had a mouthful of warm bread, but managed to mumble, “Ready for what?” Jo had a habit of thinking out loud. You couldn’t tell whether or not you were supposed to answer.
“For the coup de grace,” she whispered, impatient with my slowness. “For Aloysia to trample over him as she makes her way to fame and fortune. Papa said that Herr Raaff has sworn to get her parts. The entire Court is to hear her sing at Herr Wendling’s next week.”
Jo favored me with one of her crooked smiles. “She’ll laugh in the little man’s face soon, mark my words.”
I ached for him. Mozart had done more to help Aloysia’s singing career in two months than our threadbare Papa had managed in the last three years.
“You’re just jealous,” I murmured.
Jo pushed the door ajar again. Her defiant, dark eyes made a silent exposition, darting from me to the couple at the klavier. Aloysia was concentrating on Wolfgang’s music. Wolfgang was concentrating on Aloysia. They might as well have been blind.
“No one in Mannheim will ever take that little man seriously,” she said. “And, I ask you, how can he ever get a position at Court when all he does is loll about here?”
After supper one evening, Mama had a notion to make tracings of everyone’s hands. It was interesting to see how different each was.
Aloysia had long, thin fingers and a narrow palm. Mama’s hand was startlingly similar. Josepha’s hand was fleshy and broad. Mine was the littlest of all, even smaller than Sophie’s. The proportion of palm to fingers was equal.
“That means Konstanze is practical.” Aloysia knew the palmistry game. She held up her own slender hands and admired them. “I have long fingers, which means I’m sensitive and artistic.” She sent a soulful look towards Wolfgang which he, poor dupe, returned.
Mozart had such a muscular palm that it made his fingers look short. They weren’t, though, for we measured. Fingers and palm were in exact proportion.
“Just like Konstanze’s.” Sophie was the one to make the curious observation.
Wolfgang reached over to playfully pinch my cheek. It seemed to amuse him that we had something in common.
His hands might have been small, but they certainly weren’t weak. Sophie and I had discovered that we couldn’t get anything away from him if he didn’t want to let it go. Papa confirmed our observation, saying that a person had to have very strong hands to play as masterfully as Mozart did.
After we made the tracings, Mama cut them out. “I’m going to put these into my scrap book,” she said.
That, however, wasn’t her actual intention. The next day the outline of Mozart’s hand was presented to me.
“Here, Konstanze. Why don’t you start a nice pair of mittens for him? You’re so good at knitting, and he’ll be leaving for Paris soon. Remember how muscular his hands are and be sure to make the mittens full enough.”
I recognized a command, but it didn’t matter. I liked Herr Mozart. He, unlike most visitors to our house, acted as if Sophie and I mattered.
Mittens were easy. I would have them done in no time.
As soon as I finished, I dutifully turned them over to Mama. They were to be presented to him along with a book of the comedies of Moliere that Papa had brought with him from the wreck of our old home in Breisgau.
It was blustery and cold the day of Wolfgang’s departure. When he came up the stairs to say good-bye, his cheeks and nose were red.
As he formally carried Aloysia’s fingers to his lips, I saw tears spill from those sky-blue eyes. Even then it was a puzzle to me: How could someone who was so bright about some things be so dumb about others?
Sophie and I were genuinely grieving. Wolfgang had become a special kind of playmate; one we would miss.
As I watched Papa give him the book, I wondered where my mittens were. Mama wasn’t holding them.
When Sophie and I attempted to follow Wolfgang and Aloysia out onto the landing, Mama blocked the way. “Stay inside. All the heat will go out.”
She began to close the door, but as she did, I heard Aloysia say, “Here, dear Mozart. You’ll need these in the cold.”
Mozart’s reply was brimful of emotion. “Oh, my angel! Did you knit—”
The rest was lost in the closing of the door. I started forward, but Mama caught me by the shoulder. “Konstanze Marie,” she hissed, “don’t you dare!”
Understanding, when it came, was dumbfounding. I spun around and ran straight to the bedroom we girls shared. Mama followed, but I didn’t pay any attention. Jumping into bed, I pulled the covers over my head and burst into tears.
“Aloysia is the only one you love!” I sobbed.
“Now stop that. You shouldn’t begrudge your sister. What if Herr Mozart gets a place at the great Paris Court?”
Mama argued and scolded, but I hurt all over. I knew Aloysia was the important one, but this didn’t feel like the little thing she kept insisting it was.
“Talk to her, Fridolin,” she finally called to Papa. “The foolish creature has worked herself into a state.”
Papa sat down on the edge of the bed and claimed he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
“This is silly, Konstanze. I’ll have Aloysia give you something. You should be paid for your fine work, at least.”
Silly? Paid? How could my own dear Papa talk like that?
It gave me a horrible sinking feeling, for he was usually the honest one. His betrayal, the blackest, was so terrible that it started me crying all over again.
Finally, Aloysia was summoned. “I only did it because you knit so much better than I do,” she said.
“You don’t knit at all!” I cried, outrage bringing me from under the blankets.
“Well...well…Mama said you wouldn’t mind, but maybe I shouldn’t have believed her.”
Sitting there, soggy faced, I had the sudden, stunning realization that, for the first time ever, I actually had the upper hand. At once, I threw myself face down upon the pillow and began to work up another bout of sobbing. At this point, it wasn’t too hard.
“I’m sorry, Konstanze,” Aloysia said again. “Really, I am. Look here now. I have a present for you.”
Papa’s tactic was to be employed. After a few more minutes of her coaxing, I sat up again.
If my righteous anger was to be bribed away, it had better be with something really good!
Her long thin fingers held a necklace, a silver heart hung on a matching chain, set with a glittering sapphire chip. Immediately I recognized it, the thing of hers that I, in the purest sense of the word, coveted. It became difficult to maintain a pout, even though I knew it would be no hardship for her to give away this necklace.
“So what?” I made myself say. “You have a dozen necklaces.”
“But isn’t this the one you like best?” Aloysia flashed her smooth cat’s smile. “Stop crying and I’ll give you one of the cloisonne boxes, too. Then you’ll have a proper place to keep it.” She jiggled the necklace and it swayed and glittered.
Wiping my nose on a sleeve and hiccuping slightly, I sat all the way up. “Then,” I whispered, “I want the box with the butterflies.”
When she nodded in agreement, I accepted her peace offering and her hypocritical hug. Inwardly, however, I retained what I knew was my right—to sulk for a long, long time. From the way my parents left me to it, it was clear that they were feeling guilty, as well they should have been.