Web Site: Mozart's Wife
The Webers acquire a new boarder, and Mama Weber sees possibilities.
A week later, Mozart appeared at our door again. He’d done it, he announced. Walked out on the Archbishop.
Mama’s jaw dropped. A musician, or any servant for that matter, could be jailed for leaving his master without written permission.
“For days I’ve been trying to present my resignation, but the Archbishop’s Chamberlain kept refusing to receive it. Today, a footman came pounding on my door and ordered me onto a coach for Salzburg. The brute stood there roaring ‘within the hour’ at me. Well, I’m a free man, not a slave.”
I guessed it was not the heat from our parlor stove which sent a thin trickle of perspiration from beneath Mozart’s wig, where it was immediately intercepted by an expensive lawn handkerchief.
“And I’ve gone, all right,” he said. “Not to lousy, stinking Salzburg, however.”
Then he said that “some of the Princes” had been encouraging him to stay, although he hadn’t actually found a new patron yet.
“Good Heavens!” cried Mama, responding much as Papa would have done. “That’s no way to treat a dog, much less a person of talent. How fortunate that the room off the parlor happens to be empty.”
“Oh, thank heaven and you, Widow Weber! I must write to my father at once, explain it all. Of course, he’ll be terribly upset, but how much more was I supposed to take from that arrogant Aristo beast?”
Mama nodded sympathetically and then turned and clapped her hands at me as if I were the scullery maid.
“Konstanze! Herr Mozart is coming to stay with us,” she said, as if I hadn’t just heard the whole thing. “Get up at once and help our friend unpack.”
A man pushed the trunk in in a wheelbarrow, then dragged it upstairs to the spare room. After he left, Mozart and I were left kneeling together regarding the battered thing. When he released the lock, the lid fairly flew up in our faces. The trunk was absolutely stuffed.
Wolfgang favored me with one of his cheerful grins. I smiled back and then began to remove clothes, shaking them out. Each piece had been folded and laid away with care.
“For someone in a hurry, you did a good job.”
“Well, Papa insisted that everyone who travels for a living should get the knack of packing.”
With his help, we got his belongings put away. On my knees before the trunk for the last time, I reached for a straggler, a grubby woolen ball. As I picked it up, tears of recognition and remembrance pricked my eyes.
“My sister says you knit very well.” He sat beside me on the floor again. “They fit perfectly and they really lasted.”
The sight of those raggedy mittens brought back painful memories. All at once I was sixteen again--and in love.
“I felt like a prize jackass when you told me you’d knitted the first pair,” he confided, leaning closer. “If I hadn’t been so crazy about Aloysia, I never would have been fooled. And you, dear little Stanzi Marie, how unkind I was.”
Before I knew what was happening, his warm lips met mine. The kiss was not in the least tentative but sweetly sensual and decidedly more than friendly. The delight I felt was extreme, for his kisses and caresses were a thrill I’d rekindled many, many times since that long-ago Munich Christmas.
Interruption came in the thud of Mama’s feet along the hallway. We ducked our heads behind the lid and pretended to be searching in the empty trunk.
“Hurry up, Konstanze,” Mama said. “I need you in the kitchen.”
It seemed impossible that she hadn’t seen the kiss, yet she gave no indication.
As she’d tramped away again, Wolfgang stuck out his tongue at her wide, retreating back.
“Does she always order you around like that? Sapperlote! Your Mama’s about as polite as my Archbishop.”
“I want you to do extra for him, Konstanze. Pay attention to what he needs. See to his mending and brush his suits. He’s…” Mama paused for breath and perhaps inspiration. “He’s a good boy and has been kind to us in the past. Of course, his kindness did neither us nor him any good because it was wasted on your heartless sister.”
She went to pat my cheek, but I recoiled. Since Papa had died, she’d done nothing but criticize, hit, and load me with work.
“And who are you going to say does it this time?” I grumbled, “Josepha?”
“Impertinent!” The expected slap arrived. I endured it, rubbed my smarting arm and glared as much as I dared.
“Herr Mozart’s a well brought up young fellow. He’ll be sure to give me extra money for what you do. Now, here, darling. I don’t mean to be so hard on you all the time. Come, give Mama a hug.”
What? A slap followed by an embrace, all in the space of a minute?
I submitted obediently, but enveloped in her fat arms all I felt was disbelief.
Living at close quarters with Mozart brought back a lot of things we’d forgotten. For one thing, he was always in motion. He twitched and fiddled while you were talking until you longed to reach out and quiet his hands. If you challenged him, he could always repeat whatever had just been said, proving that he had somehow, through all that turmoil, been listening.
I didn’t understand how he could manage so many things at once, but Sophie had a simple solution. “Herr Mozart’s crazy!” she declared, giggling.
He enjoyed confirming her judgment, promptly doing something weird, like meowing and vaulting over the chairs in an excellent imitation of a cat full of ginger. Nevertheless, Sophie agreed that he was a much nicer boarder than any we had had before. Every time he came banging in the front door, we felt a happy rush.
Still, my work basket was always stuffed because now there were his things to mend, along all the rest. He had loose buttons, torn underarms, and runs in almost every pair of his silk stockings. On top of that, the taffeta lining in his only black jacket was coming apart.
What a challenge! Mending was one thing, but this approached the tailor’s art.
“You’re a darling to help me,” Wolfgang said, staring down at the jacket in my lap. “Poor Konstanze. I’ll bet you don’t get a chance to play music anymore.”
“No, Herr Mozart.”
Abruptly the needle was plucked from my fingers and stuck into the padded arm of the chair.
“Herr Mozart, indeed,” he cried. Catching my hands, he pulled me to my feet and whirled me around.
“I’ll call you Fraulein Konstanze Marie Weber if you want, but I have decided the best name for you is ‘Stanzi Marini.’ Doesn’t that roll off the tongue splendidly? Tell me, Stanzi Marini, do you still have that dress you wore at the Christmas party?”
I tried to wriggle away, but he held onto my hands and kissed them. I liked the kisses, but it was embarrassing. My hands were dry and chapped from all the scrubbing and cleaning.
To ease our poor hands, Josepha had made a lotion; boiling and steeping rose petals and mashing the resulting goo with olive oil; but even this master potion didn’t always work. Still, Mozart bestowed hundreds of warm, nibbling kisses upon my rough little fingers as if he didn’t notice the damage at all.
He'd just returned from his daily visit to the Deutsches Haus where the Archbishop was still in residence. He was hoping to be allowed to present his resignation. Each time, however, he was put off.
“The Chamberlain dares to lecture me on my duty to Papa!” After each unsuccessful attempt Mozart stormed around our apartment, talking to anyone who would listen. “God! I’m sure I know my duty to Papa better than he does. Is it my duty to stay and be abused for a lousy four hundred gulden? I can get that anywhere! I’m so sick of this whole thing. I just want to resign properly.”
Other times he was wistful, as if he really didn’t want the break to occur. “If only the Archbishop had let me play at those parties, bring my poor old Papa a few extra gulden. But no. No! That would be the human thing to do. And that man is a monster!”
When he calmed down a bit, he would bustle off again, doggedly trying to get some pupils, some engagements to play. When he returned around nine or ten each evening, he retreated into his room, either to compose or to pen more of what seemed to be an unending blizzard of letters to his feared and beloved Papa in Salzburg.
One June day, Wolfgang came racing up the stairs, face scarlet. Not only had he been prevented from turning in his petition as usual, but it seemed that he had been ignominiously and publicly kicked out the door by that same grave Lord Chamberlain.
Well, here was an unequivocal dismissal!
I was sorry he had been humiliated but was glad he’d be staying. For me, his presence had brought some wonderful changes. For instance, before he’d come, the start of every day had been accompanied by what I’d privately dubbed “Mama’s morning lamentations.”
“My digestion is ruined, simply ruined by all these terrible troubles!”
“I’ll tell you, there’s no justice in this world, not a bit of it, and, believe me…”
“Your poor father. A good hearted man, but not a brain in his head.”
“Your sister, the ice-hearted bitch, how I ever raised such a nasty little snake in my bosom I’ll never know.”
And on and on. I'd heard it about a million times and was heartily sick of it. Weren’t we all in the same boat?
Well, soon after Mozart’s arrival, not only were the lamentations no more, but Mama stopped shouting perfunctory orders at me; certainly not if Wolfgang was within earshot. She even stopped comparing my cooking unfavorably to Jo’s.
It wasn’t only that his presence made Mama nicer, but Wolfi was so much fun. He liked me; that was clear, although he didn’t act at all like he had when he’d been courting Aloysia. No deferential humility for me, just sparkling eyes as he whispered something supremely naughty into my ear.
By late summer, our boarder was very busy. He’d become klavier teacher to several wealthy ladies and had begun, through their introductions, to play at parties. He got up at five every day when a friseur came in to shave him and fix his hair. Well before nine o’clock he was on his way.
If he returned in the evening while we were still awake, Mama used his homecoming as an excuse to burn a bit more oil and pour a little wine for all of us. Then, color high, she would ask him questions about the doings of high society.
She wasn’t interested in music but in weddings, pregnancies, and love affairs. Here in Vienna she could have the most delicious gossip: gossip about royalty!
Mozart obliged her. He had an astounding memory, and his descriptions of the latest fashions and wigs were detailed and evocative. He gave us news of all the scandals and did wicked imitations of the great.
The one he did of the Archbishop of Cologne was hilarious, although not exaggerated. The man lisped and carried on like a half-mad Italian castrato. My sisters and I had seen the haughty cleric at the opera waving his pudgy hands while screeching and strutting like an exotic bird in his gorgeous robes. Wolfi’s imitation left nothing out.
One night, he and I and Sophie, whose big eyes were becoming quite a nuisance, were together in the dining room. I was supposed to be setting the table, but Wolfgang was one step behind me, singing some crazy nonsense and removing the silverware and plates as fast as I put them down. Ever since Mama had gone into the kitchen, he had been as underfoot as a cat wanting dinner.
I was ready to throw something at him when he suddenly cried, “Dance with me, Stanzi!”
The plates and silver were deposited with a summary crash upon the table.
“Come on! We’ll have a lesson!”
“Wolfi, don’t be silly. I’m trying to set the table. Besides, there’s no music.”
“Why, we can sing our own. Do you know The Mayflower?”
I shook my head.
“Why, goose, it was only the most popular tune at Carnival this year.”
“How would I know? Mama never lets me go dancing. And, anyway,” I added, with a teasing pout, “who do I know who would take me?”
His reply was a series of kisses that began at my fingertips and then traversed palm and wrist on the way up to the inside of my elbow. Sophie’s eyes were in danger of popping out of her head; so, although he was sending tickles of pleasure everywhere, I thought it best to stop.
“Wolfgang. Quit it!”
“I’ll take you dancing if you’ll give me a kiss.” Holding my hands tight, he whirled me in a circle. “A nice kiss! A warm kiss! I know you know how.”
“Wolfgang Mozart! Hush.”
It was all too much for Sophie. She rushed forward and caught hold of one of his pockets. “You leave my sister alone!”
Fearing a rip in the expensive jacket, he came to an abrupt halt. As a last piece of mischief, he let go of my hands before I was ready. Giddy and hopelessly in motion, I stumbled away, tripped over an ever present hump in our old red and blue Turkey carpet, and fell onto the sofa. Stays dug into my stomach savagely, but I was laughing too hard to care.
Turning his attention to Sophie, Mozart seized her by the ears, dragged her to him and administered a comic, smacking kiss full on the lips.
“Ugh!” Sophie screeched, leaping back. She couldn’t make up her mind whether to rub her ears or wipe her mouth first. Cheeks abloom with rage, she hurled herself after him, but he danced and ducked just ahead of her.
“I kissed you! I kissed you! Now I’ve kissed three sweet, sugary Weber girls!”
Well, well, I thought. Princess Aloysia must have at least once kissed her frog.
“You’re disgusting,” Sophie said. “I’m telling.” She dashed out of the room, banging the door behind her.
Now what would happen? Looking into Wolfgang’s wild, merry eyes, I couldn’t seem to care.
“So when are you going to make it four and kiss Josepha?” I asked, trying to sit up.
Wolfgang ignored my comment. He had his own idea of where the conversation should be going.
“I always get paid for my lessons. Except for your clumsiness, Fraulein Weber, that would have been a splendid dancing lesson. When are you going to pay me? It’s kisses I want. And I’ll have them, right now.”
He pounced onto the sofa and tried to kiss me, while I giggled and resisted. This tantalizing sport was all too soon interrupted by the sound of approaching feet.
At once, he bounded away to the table where he hastily and deftly set the knives and forks around. A monkey couldn’t have gamboled any faster.
In came Anna with the soup, Mama right behind her. Sophie trailed along last, carrying a basket of rolls. She looked sulky and subdued, almost as if she had been smacked.
What was going on? Mama hadn’t been upset by the tattle- tale! In fact, she was beaming.
“Are you two ready for supper?”
Wolfgang made a nice little bow. There would be nothing but good behavior now. His ever-active brain was no doubt busily concocting an explanation for what had gone on, but no questions were forthcoming.
Seated, we bowed our heads for grace. Ever since Mozart had joined our household, Mama insisted he deliver the blessing. She maintained that blessings seemed “much more effective when offered by a man.”
Dutifully, Wolfgang composed himself and launched into a flowery grace. Halfway through, his knee rubbed against mine.
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