Continuation from Chapters One - Two, posted in "Articles" section. More of Constanze's girlhood.
Josepha dug around in the scrap box by the stove for awhile before triumphantly fishing a couple of letters Aloysia had discarded. Chuckling, she announced that they were from Wolfgang. She read them to me, stumbling every now and then as she translated the Italian he always used when writing to his “Idol Mio.”
We had expected something to giggle over, but the letters were stiff and worshipful, larded with deep stuff about music. In the end, Jo simply tossed them into the fire.
“Dull, dull, dull. No wonder Aloysia didn’t want to keep them. He may be a great musician,” she observed, “but, Lord! He needs to read a few novels.”
As Jo poked the paper deeper into the glowing depths of the stove, she added caustically, “I wonder if Wolfgang Amadeus knows that his “precious friend” has got her career off to a fine start by spreading her legs for that rich old lizard?”
Hindsight made this turn of events, a happening of just a few months past, seem not only predictable, but inevitable.
There was a rosy light behind the shutters. The birds who made their home in the ivy on the walls were already muttering themselves awake when Sophie and I were brought to consciousness by a huge commotion in the hallway.
“Fridolin! Fridolin! Calm down!”
“Calm down? By God! I will not!”
“Ow! Don’t, Papa! Ow! Ow!”
At the sound of slaps, Sophie and I sat bolt upright.
“Wait here,” I hissed. Slipping out of the bed we shared, I crossed the room and cracked open the door.
There, in the hall, were Mama and Papa in their raggedy nightrobes. Mama was tugging on Papa’s arm. Aloysia staggered backwards before him, her hands raised to ward off his blows. She was still wearing her white Court dress.
“Konstanze Marie, you get back to bed this instant!” Mama had seen me. She waved frantically.
“No!” Papa bellowed. “I think she should take a good look at her sister. The girl who was too good to accept an honest proposal of marriage from Herr Mozart.”
He charged at Aloysia, seized her by the back of the neck and gave her a rough shove in my direction; an action with predictable consequences. Laced into stays, with a whalebone rod that ran from breastbone to navel, Aloysia couldn’t bend. Once she lost her balance, she would fall.
With a shriek, my sister tottered and then went crashing down, landing on her forearms. It must have hurt terribly, because she did not try to get up, just lay on the floor at my feet and sobbed. I was far too amazed to do anything.
“Fridolin! For God’s sake!” Mama cried, rushing to crouch beside her darling. “Leave her alone, you fool! Just for this once can’t you use your head? She’s only done what she must. Count Hadik will be generous. Isn’t he always? Her fortune’s made.”
Papa swayed. His plump face turned purple and then pale. For one stunned instant, I thought he was going to throw up.
Instead, he, too, began to sob. “My precious girl!” he cried. “My darling! Why, she’s nothing now! Nothing but a rich man’s whore!”
Like a dog throwing off water, Papa shook himself. “Oh God!” he cried. “God! It’s gone. Gone! The last shred of honor!”
Then he turned, threw the door wide and rushed down the stairs. The entire apartment, I sensed, was awake, full of listening ears.
My sister lay at my feet, weeping and cradling her head. A river of tears completed the ruin of her face, coursing through the blue-white powder and turning the beauty mark on her cheek into a long black smear. Half buried in a pile of silk and lace, she resembled nothing so much as a large, abandoned doll.
I tried to feel shock, but nothing came. I wasn’t supposed to know about these things yet, but I had ears, after all. Everyone knew that Count Hadik had a lusty appetite for young singers. To the acquiescent, he was unfailingly generous.
We hauled and heated water for a bath that morning. Mama tended Aloysia gently, sponging water over her shoulders and keeping up a stream of sympathetic chatter.
“My poor darling,” she crooned. “Mama’s not angry. She knows the terrible, wicked man forced you.”
That started Aloysia crying again, her broad shoulders shaking. As if to wash some invisible stain away, she splashed her face with water over and over again.
“He promised he would help me,” my sister said through the flood of tears. She repeated those words again and again, like a windup toy.
“Hold your head high, my darling,” Mama soothed. “Papa is angry now, but if the Count said that, he will surely keep his promise. A father is just bound to take it hard, my angel, but don’t you worry. I will deal with Papa.”
Aloysia looked curiously fragile, slumped in the tub. There were big black shadows under her beautiful eyes. It was a new and astonishing experience to feel sorry for her.