Wolfgang begins to make waves -- and romance -- in Vienna.
Sophie and I cracked open the kitchen door to see who had come to summon Mozart. There was a grand footman, in white wig and blue livery, inviting him to play at a party at the Prince’s palace on the Kallenberg. Immediately, I was called to do the packing.
“I’ll need my three best shirts, four stocks and cuffs, six handkerchiefs, three day’s underwear, four pairs of stockings, the red musician’s coat, the white Court suit, and my new flowered jacket.”
Mozart was all business now, so I went straight to work. While I got everything neatly into a carpet bag, he scribbled explanatory notes to his klavier students.
“You’re an angel!” he cried, giving me a quick peck on the cheek. “See that Pieter delivers these messages as soon as possible. See you in a few days, Stanzi Marini.”
Without another word or backward glance, he grabbed the bag and headed out the door. I stood there, feeling about as important as the maid.
Mama was impressed that Prince Cobenzl had sent one of his carriages to fetch Mozart. She bragged about it to all the neighbors.
Mozart was gone almost a week, a week in which the world turned gray. Each day was more boring and drab than the last. I missed him terribly; his smiles, his funny chatter, our tumbling romps. The ache was so strong that sometimes I slipped into his room and rested my head on his pillow where the scent of him still lingered. After a few days without his caresses and stolen, sugary kisses, my skin tingled emptily.
“Stanzi? Is that you?”
“Oh! Herr Mozart!”
I spun around in a fair imitation of surprise. I’d been slipping into the downstairs hallway off and on all evening in the hope of getting a chance to talk to him alone. There he stood, all smiles, stylishly dressed in his newest suit, the one with the interweaving chain of flowers embroidered along the buttonholes.
“Where is your bag?” I asked, wanting to find out if a servant would be coming.
“Prince Cobenzl is having it sent along tomorrow. The Baron von Sweiten was driving back to town and he dropped me at the door. On the way we had a marvelous chat about old Church music. For an aristocrat, von Sweiten is pretty knowledgeable. He has Graun, Papa Bach, and Handel played every Sunday at his house. He asked if I’d like to come and try some old music. I think I will.”
I was hardly listening, mostly delighted that as he talked, he had collected my arm and tucked it under his.
“Were you visiting Hannelore? What good luck to catch you on the way back,” he said.
Cheerfully, I nodded. It was just what I’d hoped he’d think. The downstairs neighbor’s girl and I were friendly, sewing and walking on errands together.
Mozart and I went up the stairs decorously, at least until we reached the shadowed place which lay between the dim lamps that illuminated each landing.
“Did you miss me, Stanzi?” he whispered, slipping an arm around my waist.
My cheeks burned, so hot I imagined that even in the dark he could divine the color. I didn’t answer.
“Well, I missed you a lot,” he said, tightening his hug. “At first I thought I was sick, but then I realized…”
Our lips met. Helpless young flesh, we were both sick with love, although neither of us quite understood it.
All I knew was that the scent of his fair skin, the taste of his mouth, was something I couldn’t do without. I slipped my arms inside his jacket, locked them around his slender waist and swayed blissfully against him. Feeling his heart knocking next to mine, we stole a few minutes in heaven.
Mozart was elated by the success of his journey. The way he threw money in all directions any time he found himself with a pocketful seemed, at the beginning, a virtue.
On this occasion, he gave Mama a month’s rent in advance. As she stood open-mouthed, he tiptoed into the kitchen where he found Josepha stirring a sauce on the stove. Slipping up next to her, he astonished her with a kiss on the cheek.
Next, he declared, using his thickest Salzburg accent, “While dinin’ on smoked sturgeon, liver pate, and great haunches of venison at Prince Cobenzl’s, I was only wishin’ for Leberklosse. For lovely, luscious Leberklosse, prepared by the lovely hands of Fraulein Josepha Marie Weber.”
Growling, saucy spoon raised, Jo sent him running. Nevertheless, the following morning when I went into the kitchen, I found her busily chopping away at an oozing heap of skinned and deveined livers. Close at hand was a dumpling mixture: cubed bread beaten into a mixture of yolks, butter, flour, and finely chopped onion.
On the back of the little stove, a rich stock simmered, the pot gently rocking on the uneven surface. Jo had been adjusting the flavor of this stock for days, adding leftover bits of meat, bones, and vegetables. The strained, clear liquid had many culinary uses, but today’s would be the base of the Leberklosse, the liver dumpling soup which Mozart craved.
I settled into a chair and looked longingly at a torte which held a place of honor in the middle of the table. Jo had baked the cake first. After grinding nuts and whipping cream, she had carefully assembled the layers.
“Whose Name-Day is it?” I asked, genuinely puzzled, surreptitiously sticking a finger into the cream on the side where she couldn’t see.
“No one’s, silly goose. It’s just that Herr Mozart is back from Cobenzl’s, paying his rent in advance and extra besides, and we’re all terribly glad to see him, aren’t we, Stanzi Marini?”
She paused, pretended to gag, letting me know that Wolfi’s sweet diminutives had not escaped her notice.
“Both Leberklosse and torte are Mama’s orders. And don’t we smart girls always do what our Mama says?” Jo, moist with exertion, tucked a stray curl under her kerchief and winked broadly at me.
Mozart resumed his customary rounds of lessons and parties. He was also looking for a libretto to set, for he had been given a wonderful opportunity to compose an opera for the Court theater. Now, when he wasn’t writing those endless letters to his Papa or composing, he was reading plays. If the words weren’t right, he said, even the addition of “the most beautiful music in the world” couldn’t fix it.
It was during this time when Mama showed me, with great ceremony, how to wash and iron a man’s stock and cuffs.
“Do I have to, Mama? Why can’t Frau Dietz do it?”
Why should I be the one to wash that dreadful thing?
Usually, the washerwoman did all our underwear, sheets and petticoats. She also boiled and ripped the old rags that we used for cleaning and hygiene.
But Mama insisted, taking me firmly by the hand and pulling me up to the basin.
“It’s Mozart’s,” she explained, as if this perfumed the task. “Would you ever believe that small, white neck could make so much dirt?”
I stared in dismay at the limp, greasy lace floating in the basin. Josepha’s lotion had just been starting to make my hands presentable again.
Curling my lip, I did as I’d been told, scrubbing with a little brush and then rinsing, exactly as Mama had demonstrated.
“It’s something every wife should know how to do,” she said in an off-hand way. “Nice full ruffles can help cover an old shirt, or fool the eye when the wearer has on a worn jacket. Of course, it’s the part that gets dirtiest.”
An entire lecture on starching followed. As I worked on his cuffs, I hoped that I should never ever have to regularly do such menial work.
Heavens! Only a nightcap could possibly be dirtier.