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Mozart's Wife 18
By Juliet Waldron
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
The long awaited wedding!
A few days later, in the stuffy summer gloom of St. Stephen’s, we joined hands. It was not the wedding of which I’d dreamed, but I was far from unhappy.
Josepha and Sophie were the only onlookers. For everyone else it was official business. Franz Gilowsky, a young surgeon from Salzburg and a childhood friend of Mozart’s, was pressed into service as his witness.
My guardian, Herr Thorwart, came as mine. Jolly today, Thorwart insisted upon giving me a kiss. After his fat lips pressed mine, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. He didn’t appear to notice. He was too busy winking at Mama, but even this evidence of their collusion couldn’t dampen my joy. The long uncertainty was over at last.
“Oh, darling Stanzi,” Mozart exclaimed, for I had burst into tears. He hugged me and began to cry, too.
Once started, it was a relief for both of us. Tears trickled as we tried, without much success, to listen to the priest. By the time our hands were formally linked, Sophie’s sniffles were audible. Mama, never one to miss an opportunity for an emotional display, began to cry, too.
After the ceremony was over, Thorwart joked that it had been more like a funeral than a wedding, but the priest reprimanded him.
“Marriage is a grave business, Herr Thorwart. Nothing to be undertaken lightly.” He thumped Mozart on the back. “Courage, young man, and God’s blessing on you both.”
“Gracious and lovely Baroness!” Wolfi’s face glowed with cheerful silliness. “We, your submissive children, have come to thank you and to ask for your blessing. Only through your great help and many favors, have we at last attained the married state."
“So impetuous, dear Mozart, as always.” She poked him with her fan. “We’ve a special dinner today in honor of your long delayed nuptials, but I think that after all the vexation I’ve suffered, all the officials I bribed to get this precipitous business done, you should at least play for me a little. Your wife,” and here she gently tugged at one of my loosened curls, “must sit beside you and warble her best to complete the charming picture. Then, after you’ve both eaten and drunk too much, I’ll have you driven home.”
The afternoon sped away. We ate and drank, and ate and drank again. Count Palffy joined the party, and he and Madame Podleska teased and toasted us.
Wine brightened everything. Mozart hugged and kissed me and the Baroness encouraged him, watching our caresses with her greedy, luminous eyes.
She kept threatening to come back with us, saying that we might need her help in going to bed. We had, after all, needed help with “every other aspect” of our marriage.
At twilight, she sent us off in one of her carriages. When we arrived at Mozart’s apartment, her Anton, to the amusement of the passersby, carried us one at a time across a huge pool of mud lying at our doorstep.
Once inside, Mozart seized my hand and pulled me, giggling and panting, up the three flights of stairs as fast as he could make a stuffed, drunk, and fashionably-dressed woman go. By the time we reached his rooms, I felt sick.
I leaned against the lintel and tried to catch my breath while he took out a big iron key and opened the door.
Oh, to escape from these wretched stays!
“Thank heaven Her Ladyship neglected to come back with us.”
“Yes. Praise God.” He pushed the door open. “Now,” he said. “I’ve got to carry you over.”
I stood there expectantly, but he was awfully drunk. For an unsteady minute, he considered my voluminous skirts.
Finally, he simply locked his arms around my knees and lifted. I had to duck to keep my head from being bumped as we went through the door.
“How much did you eat, Stanzi? You weigh twice what you did this morning.”
He groaned and stumbled into the darkness. Before he had taken three steps, we collided with his klavier which let out a vibrating hum. Grunting with relief, he let me down.
“We should light some candles,” I suggested, feeling along the top of the instrument.
As soon as I managed to get a candle started, he lit a taper from it and went back to close the front door. Then, in the dark rectangle that led to the bedroom, he got a lamp going.
That room, I could see, was crowded by a bed and a wash stand. His jackets and shirts hung along the walls.
He blew out the taper and came back only as far as the door. “Well,” he said, and his voice had more than a hint of teasing. “What are you waiting for? Come here!” He stretched out his arms, but suddenly I felt shy.
“No,” I said. “You’re supposed to carry me in there, too.”
“I’ll lose my dinner if I lift you again. Be a good girl now and obey your small, weak husband.” He opened his arms invitingly, swayed a little, and kissed the air. Just as the Baroness had promised, she had made him very drunk.
I was nervous. Would it be like Aloysia had said so long ago about the Count, not marvelous at all, only “wet and a nuisance?”
Then we heard a commotion on the stairs. It sounded like a crowd!
Hand in hand we went to the front door and listened. The tramping had mounted the first set of stairs and was starting up the second.
In a few minutes we knew the worst. The Baroness, Madame Podleska, Count Palffy, and the servant, Anton, stood on the landing. All except Anton were panting, but as soon as they saw us, they found enough breath to burst out laughing. Not knowing quite what to do, we were curtsying and bowing politely.
“Undressing not even begun, Madame Baroness,” observed Anton.
“Just as I feared,” replied the Baroness. “I knew they needed help.”
“Well,” chuckled Palffy, “the groom is a beginner, too. At least, that’s probably the tale he tells his old Papa.” They all laughed uproariously while poor Wolfi turned scarlet.
Down the hall, a door opened. A couple of nightcapped heads poked out to see what all the noise was about.
“We’re a wedding party,” Madame Podleska explained, waving blithely.
Then the Baroness took hold of me and Palffy took hold of Wolfgang. They pushed us back into the apartment.
“At least they got as far as lighting a candle,” said the Baroness, firmly pulling me along. “To bed with you, little bride.”
By the fortepiano, the men were pulling off Wolfi’s jacket and unbuttoning his waistcoat. I was propelled past him, straight into the bedroom. Once there, the Baroness determinedly set to work, cutting the threads that fastened dress to stays, unhooking and unbuttoning. What a queer sensation it was to be undressed by the very woman whom I’d served in this way so many times.
As Madame Podleska stood behind me loosening my hair, the cool long fingers of the Baroness slipped over my shoulders and came down to linger at the place where my breasts raised the fine material of the chemise.
“Very beautiful, Frau Mozart.”
Embarrassed, I lowered my eyes.
“Into bed now, darling, and don’t worry about a thing. That man of yours is as tender as a woman.”
Trembling, I obeyed. The linen smelled sunny and the bed was deep and thick. Everything, I realized, was absolutely new.
“We’re ready,” cried Madame Podleska.
The men rushed through the door, carrying Wolfi, who appeared to be wearing nothing but his shirt. With a noisy “Bravo” they rushed forward and dropped him on top of me.
In spite of our very public situation, the temptation of the position was too much for Wolfgang. Ignoring them all, he buried his face against my neck and began to nuzzle.
“Now, doesn’t that make it easier?” the Baroness said with a giggle. “Good night, darlings. Though I doubt you’ll do much sleeping.”
A flood of similar tired jokes followed as they withdrew, blowing out the candle on the klavier and locking up. We heard the scrape of the key being pushed underneath the door.
My husband was no heavy weight to bear. Relaxing into the fat featherbed together, we listened to laughter and receding footsteps. After awhile his hands began to move, reaching inside my chemise...
We first woke with gray entering our window and birds gaily anticipating light. Outside was the rumble of early traffic in the street, of food and firewood making its daily way into town, but we were so sleepy. Together, we rolled away from the sound. It wasn’t until much later that someone pounding at the door succeeded in waking us.
“God!” exclaimed Wolfgang. I watched him stretch his slender frame and then lean to pick his breeches out of the pile on the floor. “Wait,” he shouted to whoever it was. “We’re not dressed.”
This was greeted by a guffaw which I recognized.
Dear Blessed Mother, was it that awful Anton Stadler?
It was. In a few minutes I could hear Stadler boisterously greeting Wolfi. Sitting up with a groan, I rubbed my forehead. It ached dully from yesterday’s over-dose of champagne.
Somewhere else ached, too. I rolled out of bed and retrieved my stays from the things Madame Podleska had laid on the chair. They were, thank heaven, front stays. If I could only lace myself up a little, I could get the rest of my clothes on.
The dress had slid off the back of the chair and spent the night in a heap on the floor. I shook it fiercely and tossed it across the bed. Next, I went to peep into the pitcher on the nightstand.
Full! I poured lots into the basin. Still, the water within would have to go a long way.
I located his wash rag and started; face, neck, arms and breasts, moving down toward my legs and feet. Finally, I lifted the basin to the floor and crouched over it. Cold water on that place, the place that had had so much unaccustomed attention last night, felt wonderful.
At last, I stood and dried. After I had my chemise on, I dragged the new featherbed to the window sill to air. I inspected the cover carefully, but didn’t find a stain.
For once, I was glad I wasn’t a rich girl. On any aristocratic lady’s wedding morning, a lack of show could bring in its train any number of evils. Just to be safe, I took the wash rag and scrubbed, leaving a wet spot. If Wolfi, worried about von Hagen, wanted to know, I’d tell him that I’d already washed it out.
Then I paused by the cloudy mirror. Even in my tousled state, I thought I looked beautiful. My eyes seemed extra bright, my cheeks extra pink. Before going out, I folded the fine linen fichu, laid it over my shoulders and tied it in a big, square knot. That no-good Stadler would see as little of me as possible.
From the main room came a clank and a thump as the stove door was opened and wood dropped in. The men were, of course, talking music.
It had already begun to bother me, the way Mozart spent so much time working for people who couldn’t pay. He was always putting off the Countess Rumbeck or some other wealthy lady to play “for real musicians,” liable to work harder writing for someone like that lying, drunken Stadler than for a Count.
When I’d observed that Stadler was “nothing but a scrounger,” Wolfi had been upset. Stadler, he protested, was a musician of the first rank, a clarinetist whose skill had revealed “the soul of the instrument.” As such, Stadler ought to have the finest music in the world to play, which meant Wolfgang Mozart’s, of course!
When I went out, I discovered Wolfi by the stove. His shirt was hanging outside his pants and his small arched feet stood out pinkly against the dark floor. His hair was a disorderly billow of yellow. A cloud of blue smoke hung in the air. Apparently, the fire wasn’t starting very well.
Stadler, who’d been out in public, looked worse. His pockmarks were obscured by a three-day beard. A stringy queue straggled down his back, the scanty thing tied with an eelskin. His green satin jacket sported a greasy patina. He reminded me of nothing so much as a rat who has just escaped drowning in the sudden flood of a gutter.
As I got closer, I was assaulted by odors of stale beer and tobacco. Ensconced at our table, Stadler was sinking mottled teeth into a roll, four more of which lay on the table. While I hated to think that they had traveled here inside the pockets of that loathsome jacket, their wonderful new-baked fragrance made my mouth water.
“Frau Mozart! As pink and cheerful as my friend here. Congratulations!”
Stadler grinned, but he didn’t bother to get up. He was surveying my rumpled dress with approval.
“Hey, Wolfi, were you in such a hurry last night you couldn’t even stop to undress her?”
Wolfgang clanged the stove door shut. As he passed the table, he gave Stadler a cuff across the top of his head.
“Show some respect for my wife, Jackass!”
Stadler looked annoyed, but he rose and managed a bow.
“Angel!” cried Mozart, glowing as he kissed me.
“Stop!” I protested. Stadler’s lecherous grin was awful to behold.
“Never!” my husband declared gallantly. “Stanzi, darling, can you make us some coffee? I can’t imagine where Peter is.”
His servant, unreliable as ever, apparently hadn’t shown up. We were definitely going to have to look for a new one.
“Is there any more water?”
“Actually, there’s quite a bit in the kettle. Peter must have drawn it before he left yesterday.”
Covering for the wretched fellow. How soft hearted he was.
Stadler smirked. “Perhaps your little Frau doesn’t know how to cook as well as she knows how to kiss.”
I glared at Stadler across Wolfi’s shoulder. “Let go,” I said to my husband firmly. “I can’t cook while you’re hugging me.”
Our wedding breakfast! Mozart had sent Peter out for chops the day before and we discovered them on a shelf, a leaking, brown-papered mass. In the hot weather it was a wonder they hadn’t spoiled overnight.
The only thing to do was to cook them right away. When we got the fire crackling, I fried every one. We shared with Stadler, who offered us rolls and made one tasteless joke after another at our expense.
We were both too happy to care. I sat on my husband’s lap and in between kisses, he fed me.
Our joy was contagious. Finally, it even infected Stadler.
“Damn it. Such happiness. Granted, it will only last a month, but what a month you two will have.”
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|Reviewed by Gene Williamson
|The writing is excellent, Juliet. A fascinating wedding day--and night. As only Wolfi could orchestrate it. -gene.|
|Reviewed by Felix Perry
|Interesting chapter and some strong images captured with stirring emotions. Well done.