An accusation and a contract.
To compound my bewilderment, within a few days Wolfi stunned us by saying that he had to move. When Mama got angry with his implausible excuses, he admitted that his Papa had ordered him to find other lodgings.
Turning red and then pale, Wolfgang said that the command had been issued in no uncertain terms.
Now, this made sense to Mama. Quite prudently, the old man wanted his boy out of our house. If Wolfgang met with success in Vienna, Leopold would be rewarded for his years of dedicated instruction. However, if his son had got himself saddled with a wife in the meantime, he could hope for nothing.
There was another reason, too. Mozart admitted that he’d heard gossip at the theater that we were engaged. He thought this was damaging to my reputation, especially since he wasn’t ready to marry yet.
“Not for a few years, anyway,” he said shifting uneasily under Mama’s fierce gaze. “I need to establish myself. After that, there isn’t another girl anywhere I would want before dearest Konstanze.”
Anxiety personified, his busy fingers tripped over his watch chain as if it were a rosary.
“Well…I should hope so, young man!” Mama was barely able to contain herself.
How could they say we were engaged?
We had gone to hear music and to the opera together but always in the company of Mama, Jo, and Sophie. Every Sunday, the five of us trooped off to Mass. Surely no one could have seen his fingers entwined with mine, and hidden, with utmost discretion, in the folds of my skirt.
Mama sniffed. “Well, sir, you won’t find lodgings half so comfortable or convenient anywhere.”
Wolfi studied his silver shoe buckles, blushed and agreed. A guarded look was sent in my direction, but what could I do but continue to carefully stitch the button hole on his lavender jacket, pretending that his departure was nothing special to me?
“Well, Herr Mozart. If that’s the way it is, perhaps you’d better leave today,” said Mama.
“As you wish, Madame,” said Mozart, looking miserable.
“And you, Miss.” Mama turned a cold eye upon me. “Get up at once and help him pack. We wouldn’t want to detain Herr Mozart.”
Even with my best effort to hold back, a big tear plopped upon the lavender brocade. Feeling as if my head were going to burst, I got to my feet.
“And leave that door open, please.”
I did as I was told. Looking neither to left nor right, I went straight to his bureau and began to unload the contents onto the bed. Wolfgang came to help.
Silently we packed his clothes, music, and writing things into the battered trunk. My head spun as I imagined life without him, remembered our first, playful kiss.
When Mama slammed away into the kitchen, yelling something to Jo about making less for dinner, his arms swiftly encircled me.
“Oh, Stanzi,” he said. “Please don’t cry. I can’t bear it! I promise I’ll come and see you every day.”
That only made it worse. I pushed at him.
“Listen to me, Stanzi,” he insisted. “Papa has ordered me to leave, but I’ve been thinking, too.”
“Who cares?” I slapped him.
“Stanzi! Stop! Listen to me.” He endured the slap and grabbed my hands once more. “I don’t want to leave, but I can’t trust myself. This is safest for you, best—”
“Liar!” I sobbed, kicking at his shins.
“Ow!” My aim was good. “Stanzi, stop!”
“You’ve had your fun. Now you’re running away.”
“I love you. I swear" He jumped to keep his white silk stockings out of the way of my energetic foot. “But I need time, time to make some money. How can I ask you to marry me when I don’t have a kreutzer to my name?”
Marry? I stopped kicking and stared.
“Yes.” He pulled me close. “I want to marry you. If you’ll have me, I will. I promise. On my honor.” His blue eyes gazed into mine, so sincere, as full of tears as my own.
We shared a desperate kiss, just as if he was going to be hanged. All too soon, however, the passionate reassurance of our embrace was ended by the returning clump of Mama’s feet.
Mama, as you might imagine, grilled me as soon as Mozart was gone. Just exactly what had gone on between us?
Upset as I was, at least I had sense enough to stick to my story about only kissing. Nonetheless I was called “hussy” and thoroughly slapped.
I knew she was angry because Mozart hadn’t agreed to marry me before his departure. It would be easier for her if I were settled. But it still hurt, the insults as much as the slaps.
When she was done hitting, Mama announced to the family that from now on they were to watch all my comings and goings carefully. Anna, our maid, was warned that she would be dismissed if she carried any notes between Herr Mozart and me.
Further, Mama instructed, he was never to be admitted if she wasn’t at home.
In spite of this, plenty of messages made their way into my hands. Sophie surprised me by becoming the staunchest ally.
While Anna looked the other way, Sophie met Mozart at the back gate and passed letters with real daring and bravery. His tender, funny messages bolstered my spirits when he couldn’t visit.
To my great joy, he did visit. On those days, we sat stiffly in the parlor while Mama, now watchful as a dragon, sat with us. Holding hands was as much intimacy as we were allowed.
I was so starved for his touch that the slightest brush of his fingers sent shivers all over. If Mama’s head was buried in her work basket for a just a second, Mozart would dare to kiss my cheek and whisper “I love you.”
Every time it happened, I wanted to pinch myself. I was being courted! Courted by a young man who could have simply moved away and forgotten me, despite where his hands had been. Every night my dreams told me how much I loved him.
We soon learned that Mama approved of anything that looked like a music lesson. A four-hand klavier piece proved to be an especially good way to touch.
Shortly after leaving our home, Mozart found the exact play he wanted to use for his opera. No matter what other reverses he might be suffering, setting the opera thrilled him.
Whenever he visited, he’d play his newest music for me. During one such visit, he announced proudly that he’d changed the heroine’s name.
“To what?” I asked.
“Why, to the prettiest name of all. To Konstanze, of course.” He kissed my fingers with a flourish and then played and sang the tenor love song to me, which consisted of mostly sighs and my name. I blushed fiercely and loved every minute of it.
Mozart swore that this opera, "The Abduction from the Seraglio," would make his fortune; if he could just get it staged. Unfortunately, old Kapellmeister Gluck was mounting two productions this winter. There might be no opening for Mozart’s opera until next summer.
Things went on like that for about a month. Then Mama took a new tack.
“A man of his age should be married.”
There was no need for a name. Everyone knew who Mama meant. We were all in the kitchen. Jo was whisking chocolate. Even without seeing her face, I knew the catty smirk was there.
“Konstanze dear, I think you’ll be interested in a story I heard from Herr Thorwart.” Mama put her hand down hard on my shoulder and I waited dumbly, visited by a sensation probably familiar to rabbits in butcher shops.
“He says he keeps hearing talk at the theater. He says that a certain young man boasts daily about how irresistible he is to a certain young lady and that it won’t be long before he has a mistress.”
A cold chill ran down my back. Would Wolfi really talk like that? It didn’t seem possible, and yet...
“Herr Thorwart is going to see Mozart and have a serious talk with him. I’m at my wit’s end.” The hand on my shoulder had perceptibly tightened.
“Hasn’t there already been enough scandal in this family?”
“But, Mama, I wouldn’t do anything like that,” I protested.
She went on as if she hadn’t even heard. “Herr Thorwart doesn’t think Mozart should see you if his intentions are not honorable. He wants me to forbid him our house. I don’t want to do that, for he has been our friend. Still, if your guardian orders me to stop him from visiting…well,” she paused for full effect, “what else can I do?”
My eyes closed. I was certain that if Mama and Thorwart tried to force Mozart into marrying me, he would disappear. There would be no more smiles, no more presents, no more caresses. Without steady work he couldn’t possibly marry, or even promise to.
“He can’t marry me before he gets a place,” I cried. “You know that. But, we love each other truly.”
“So now it’s love.” Mama’ smile was not pleasant to behold. “And where is your proposal, you silly goose? Do you think I left you alone with him for less than a ring?”
Her eyes turned wild, a shade of stormy blue we girls all feared.
“Has he seduced you? Has he? Answer me!”
In spite of my tears and denials, there followed a blurry ordeal of shaking, slapping, and screaming. Mama’s punishments were rarely reasoned or fair, but this was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. It would not be too strong to say she terrified me.
Now, I couldn’t even go to the Necessary or to see Hannelore without Jo or one of the maids coming along. When Mozart arrived at the door, Mama coldly sent him away.
“If you want to see Konstanze ever again, you’ll have to get Herr Thorwart’s permission,” I heard her say.
Thorwart, the greasy villain, visited and gave his opinion the following day.
“I don’t believe that young man has any intention of marrying your daughter. I think you should forbid him your house until he can be made to sign a contract agreeing to marry her. Frankly, I think he’s already seduced her.”
Before I could catch my breath, Thorwart turned on me, speaking in his best High German.
“See here, Fraulein. Tell me the truth this minute. As your guardian I have a responsibility to safeguard your chastity.”
His eyes were censorious, but there was a nasty something lurking behind the show of righteous indignation. As he stepped close, I was unpleasantly aware of his sour, beery breath, his big belly, his fat, thick hands.
“For instance,” Thorwart suggested, his voice suddenly soft and sly, “if I doubt your word, I could order a midwife’s examination.”
I shot a horrified look at Mama.
“Then, my girl,” he ended, “we would have the unadorned truth.”
When Mama promptly nodded in agreement, I fell to my knees, seized her skirts, and burst into tears.
“Oh, no, Mama! Please, no! We never! I swear!”
“At this point,” Mama said, “the truth doesn’t matter. Your reputation has been ruined. Of course I believe what you say, but every musiker in Vienna is talking. Herr Thorwart says it’s all over town that you’re the little rat’s mistress. If Mozart doesn’t sign the contract,” a fat finger tapped the paper on the table, “then we’ll know his intentions never were honorable. If he does, then you’ll have either a husband or a dowry to help you find one in spite of what people think.”
I brooded miserably. I was sure Mozart would never sign the contract Thorwart had drawn.
How could he? The part about the three hundred florins made me want to die of shame.
What would he think of us--of me?