Mozart's Sister by
Nannerl Mozart's early days seem to be the stuff of fairy tales--traveling far and wide, performing piano concerts with her younger brother, Wolfgang, before the crowned heads of Europe. But behind the glamour lurk dark difficulties--the hardship of travel, agonizing bouts of illness, and the constant concern over money. Their father, Leopold, is driven by a desire to bring his son's genius to the attention of the world.
But what about Nannerl? Is she not just as talented? In a world where women's choices are limited, what hope does she have of ever realizing her own dreams?
My brother was dead and I couldn't find his body.
I walked among the bleak mounds of the cemetery, pulling my cape close with one hand while clasping the hood tightly around my head with the other. It was too cold to be beyond the city gates of Vienna in this awful place, yet it was fitting that I was here under such conditions. To search a graveyard on a sunny day seemed wrong. Perhaps if I'd known where he lay and was bringing him a fresh spray of flowers, the sun would have been an appropriate prop. But not knowing his exact resting place, and fearing that I'd never know ... cold air and skies that threatened rain were essential ingredients to my inner gloom. Mirroring my regret. Sustaining my sorrow. Sostenuto. Espressivo. An elegy for the dead.
I smiled at the terminology. My memory of the musical terms would have made our father proud. How many times had he drilled my brother and me about such things?
I walked on. There were no trees here. No tombstones. St. Marx wasn't a normal cemetery, where statues of angels and cherubs made the dead less dead. It was devoid of beauty. Yet I did not turn back but kept walking, hoping to discover some detail about my brother's final fate.
It was incomprehensible that the two most important men in my life were dead. Father and brother. Two musical impresarios, gone. It wasn't fair they'd left me such a musical legacy when there was nothing I could do to make it endure.
I could have—once. I had musical talent. I'd been a wonder-child along with my baby brother. He'd become interested in music by watching me. It wasn't my fault Papa had decided only one child could have center stage, only one child could be carefully sculpted for greatness. My brother. Not the girl-child who grew into a young woman too fast.
We'd started performing together in public thirty years earlier, in 1762. I was five years older than my brother, five years that accentuated his precocious talent and made mine less remarkable. If only we'd started touring when I was six years old and he still a baby. If only I'd had a few moments alone, basking in the glow of fame, letting the warmth of the accolades fall on me. Would Papa have pulled me onto his lap, looked into my eyes, and said, "You are an extraordinary child, Nannerl. With my help your talent will shine so kings and empresses will know your name and shake their heads in awe at your music"?
I tripped on a stone that had invaded the path. I righted my body—and my thoughts. Life wasn't fair. Otherwise, why was my brother dead at thirty-five, and me alive to ... to do what?
The options were distressingly limited.
I was familiar with these thoughts and knew they would take me into dark corners where contentment was tightly bound and regrets had free rein. I knew I had to set them aside and get back to the task at hand.
Mound after mound of the dead.
I'd passed some nameplates on the outer wall. Perhaps ...
"May I help you, meine Dame?"
I nudged the hood aside so I could see the speaker. The man was stooped, dressed poorly, and carried a shovel. "I'm searching for the grave of a relative."
"When did he die?"
"Three months ago. The mountain passes ... I couldn't get through."
The man nodded. "There'll be no grave for him here. Not in this place. None you can visit."
"You're not from Vienna, then?"
"I live in St. Gilgen."
"I don't know it."
"It's a small town, east of Salzburg."
"Ah. It explains why you may not have heard about the law. Emperor Joseph decided people were spending too much on fancy funerals—going into debt they were, 'specially with churches overcharging. He didn't like timber being wasted on coffins neither, and seeing's how coffins slow the body going to dust ... so a few years back he changed things. People didn't like it, and he took back some of the law, but still ... this is the way we do it most of the time. A few blessings, the ring of a bell, then drop-drop, into a common grave they go. A few handfuls of lime and I cover 'em up." He made a sprinkling motion with his arm, then nodded around him. "These are them."
I shuddered. "So he's ... with ... others?"
"We can fit up to six in a hole depending on how many need burying. We been ordered to dig 'em up after seven years to make room for more."
The way his eyes sparkled ... he clearly enjoyed my discomfort. I pointed toward the nameplates on the wall behind me. "There. May I find his name there?"
I hesitated. He longed to be. "No."
"Then you won't find his name."
This was unbearable. With no headstone and no marker, there could be no future flowers set in his memory, no hand on the gravestone making the coldness of death real, no letting my gaze linger on the deeply carved letters of his name and dates.
No proof he was gone.
And I was still alive.
I spotted another mourner close by. Oddly, the man did not politely look away but kept his eyes on me. I lowered my head within the folds of the hood. I did not need an audience for my disappointment.
"Sorry to upset you," the grounds keeper said. "Even I admit it's a bad law. Maybe ... what was your loved one's name so I can say a prayer for him?"
I hesitated, then decided it was not my place to halt any prayer for my brother's soul, even one from such a man as this. "Mozart," I said. "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was my brother. I am his sister." The last I added for vanity's sake—may God forgive me....
There was the flicker of recognition on his face, but I didn't have time to study it, for suddenly the other mourner rushed toward me. His face screamed recognition.
"Mozart? You're Mozart's sister?"
I took a step back, as did the cemetery worker.
The man stopped his approach but not his query. "You're Nannerl?"
For God to reward me with recognition after I had so pridefully sought such attention just moments before ... "Yes, I'm Nannerl," I said. I let the hood fall open so he could see my face, then pulled it tight again.
"I've been searching for his grave, his name," the man said. "I'm a writer and an admirer of his music. I have questions. So many questions."
I looked at the grounds keeper and nodded at him, giving him permission to go. He withdrew, leaving me alone with this stranger, this man in the middle of a cemetery. Yet I was not afraid nor concerned for my reputation. For who was there to see us but the dead and the grieving who were intent on their own private issues of character and situation?
The man gestured toward the exit, not twenty steps away. "Shall we, Fraulein Mozart?"
I accepted the idea of escape from this place and did not correct the name he'd connected with mine. He did not need to know that I was Frau Berchtold now: Baroness Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Berchtold zu Sonnenburg, but simply Nannerl to all who knew me. I was the wife of a man twice widowed, the mother of six children, and far, far removed from my brother's fame.
Too far removed.
You're due the recognition. You're entitled.
But was I?
The man paused outside the cemetery walls, giving me no chance to ponder such intricacies of my worth.
"I have been remiss in not introducing myself. I'm Friedrich Schlichtegroll." He offered a tight bow.
I let the hood fall to my shoulders. The cold air took possession of the space around my head, nipping at my ears, expelling the warmth I'd so carefully hoarded. "You have questions, Herr... ?"
"Schlichtegroll. Your brother's music is well known, but I want to confirm some of the details of his personal life. Is his wife still living? How many children does he have? Are they well? Where do they live? Was he working on any piece of music when he died?"
Each question produced a weight, as if the gray clouds were descending downward, threatening to release my own private storm. I longed for the anonymity of the hood.
I needed to be away. Immediately. I looked for my carriage and spotted it a short distance to the right. "If you'll excuse me." I walked quickly, praying he wouldn't follow.
I heard no other feet crunching gravel. When I glanced back, he still stood at the entrance. He raised a hand and called after me, "But, Fraulein Mozart ... the questions are not difficult."
They shouldn't have been.
But they were.
* * *
I hugged the wall of the carriage, needing to feel substance around me, supporting me. If only the far wall were close enough to push against my free side to contain me completely, to put a limit to the breadth of my regret.
The jostling of the carriage on the cobblestone streets of Vienna prevented me from the oblivion of rest. Apropos. I did not look out the window as the world sped by. I did not deserve to be a part of it.
I heard rain against the carriage roof. It was inevitable the sky overflowed, letting the tears of God rain down on me. For surely the Almighty grieved at the distance that had developed between the brother and sister Mozart.
How could two siblings who had been bound as one, who thought as one, whose lives played out as if they were one being, lose contact like two appendages of the same body amputated so that neither could function fully?
Tears demanded escape and I let them come, for each one represented a wasted moment as Wolfgang and I had lived our lives apart.
The carriage came to a stop at an intersection. I leaned forward and saw two children rush by in the rain, urged on by their father—the older one a girl, the younger a boy. Both smiled and laughed while their father's face showed his opinion that rain was serious business. Hurry, hurry, we have places to be.
Two proud and happy children. Proud and happy for good reason.
Like the Mozart children.
A bow from Wolfie and a curtsy from me.
Applause. So much applause.
I glanced at my little brother and he winked at me. I wanted to stick my tongue out at him—and if we had been at home, that's exactly what I would have done. But we were not at home practicing. We were not even in our hometown of Salzburg. And though Papa and Mama were in the audience, there were even more important people to impress here in Vienna. Dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses by the dozens.
As Wolfie took another bow—he liked bowing; he liked sweeping his right arm to the side dramatically, as he'd seen grown-up courtiers do—I looked in the direction of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Francis. They were the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, of all Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia. They sat in the front row, and it was their applause that mattered. They were a golden couple, dressed like heavenly angels in white brocade with gold trim. Yet they were not scary and stern as I'd imagined the rulers of an empire to be. Although their silk-covered chairs were a bit more grand than other chairs in the room, they were not massive thrones as I'd expected. And the empress and emperor were not giants in the land, as one would think. They were quite short—Papa was taller than both—and I'd noticed them fidgeting in their seats, and even scratching under their powdered wigs. Like real people. And though at first I'd found this disconcerting, it had also eased my nerves. As for Wolfie? He didn't have nerves and always played well. Actually, neither of us had made a single error while playing our sonatas on the clavier.
The applause began to fade, and the emperor leaned forward and rested his elbows on the carved arms of his chair. He pointed his finger at us. "Bravo, children. Yes indeed, bravo. But ..." He surveyed the room with a smile, like a boy scheming mischief, and everyone gave him their attention. "It is no great art to play with all your fingers, but if you could play with only one and on a covered keyboard, that would be something worthy of admiration."
Papa had taught us such tricks, but before I had time to choose which trick to do first, Wolfie ran to the keyboard and began playing a Scarlatti sonata with one finger, just as His Majesty had requested. Wolfie's stubby little finger moved swiftly over the keyboard, more swiftly than I had ever seen him play. He did not miss a single note.
I glanced at Papa. He smiled at Wolfie.
I would do the next trick and earn my own smile. The worn leather satchel in which we carried our music held a length of cloth we could use to cover the keys. As my brother received his applause with another grand bow, I retrieved the cloth and stepped toward the keyboard. But Papa snatched the cloth from my hand like a magician pulling a scarf from his sleeve.
He made a great show of covering the keyboard, then adjusted the blue satin pillow Wolfie sat upon in order to reach the keys. With a sweep of his hand, Papa backed away and bowed to Emperor Francis.
"Your wish is our command, Your Majesty."
Through the cloth, Wolfie began to play Haydn's Sonata Number 5 in C. The lords and ladies gasped and clapped. We did this all the time at home, but I was not surprised they thought Wolfie clever. After all, he was only six. If Papa would let me play one of the really difficult songs, I'd let them see what five additional years of lessons had taught me.
Without warning, Wolfie stopping playing. He looked left, then right, as if in search of something. "Where is Herr Wagenseil? They said he would be here."
Silence enveloped the room as everyone stared at Wolfie, then glanced uneasily at one another. Mama looked horrified, and I could feel my own face growing warm. Wolfie hadn't learned when to speak and when to keep silent.
Papa stepped forward, his face and neck a deepening red against the white lace of his jabot. "Forgive him, Your Majes—"
The empress laughed and snapped her fingers. "Summon Herr Wagenseil at once!"
The room buzzed with low whispers as two footmen hurried out. Within minutes a man with a long, wavy wig entered and bowed grandly before the emperor and empress.
"Well, court composer," said the empress to Herr Wagenseil, "our young Mozart has requested your presence." She extended a hand toward Wolfie, who was sitting at the clavier.
Herr Wagenseil raised an eyebrow but, with a bow to Her Majesty, moved toward Wolfie—who scooted over on the bench, making room for him. The composer sat next to my brother, his smile uncertain, his eyes flitting across the audience. There was a hint of disapproval in his expression, as if he did not completely regard his summons with pleasure.
"Well, young Mozart," the man said, "what shall I play for you?"
"Oh no, sir," Wolfie replied. "I am going to play one of your concertos, and you must turn the pages for me."
The room was silent except for Herr Wagenseil's intake of breath. No one moved—until the empress laughed. "Indeed, Herr Wagenseil. Turn the pages for our young impresario."
Wolfie did justice to the court composer's piece, but I noticed that even though Papa was nodding and smiling, his eyes were angry. We would pay for making Papa angry.
After Wolfie finished and everyone applauded, he got so excited he jumped off the pillowed bench and ran toward the empress.
Don't run! Wolfie, don't run! He hadn't taken a bow, had hardly acknowledged the applause at all.
Before he could reach Her Majesty, he tripped over the edge of a Persian rug and fell to the marble floor with an oomph. I moved to help him up, but the empress's daughter Marie Antonie—who was no older than he—was there first, taking his arm, pulling him to his feet.
Wolfie thanked the little girl, then added, "When I grow up I will marry you."
At first no one reacted. Then nervous laughter sped about the room. I wanted to slip away and hide. Why couldn't he behave?
But then, turning away from the archduchess, Wolfie seemed to remember why he was running in the first place, and ran up to the empress Maria Theresa herself and climbed into her lap. Then he put his arms around her neck and kissed her.
I couldn't move. Neither did anyone else. The man and woman behind me snickered and someone whispered, "The child presumes too much." Mama took hold of Papa's arm, and I saw his jaw twitch.
But then ... to everyone's surprise, the empress hugged Wolfie back—and kissed him. The guests clapped, and my little brother was showered with praise and verbal tokens of affection. I would never cease to marvel at how Wolfie always ended up the darling.
That took talent.
* * *
Mama and Papa sat across from Wolfie and me in the carriage as we left Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace. With Mama's fancy dress and the bulk of my parents' cloaks, they didn't have much room, yet the one time I'd suggested Mama sit with Wolfie and I sit with Papa, my idea had received a stern dismissal. "You two squirm and fiddle too much. We would never have any peace."
It wasn't I who squirmed. I sat very still with my hands in my lap just like Mama. At eleven, my feet didn't touch the floor of the carriage as yet, and they sometimes skirted numbness from dangling. To escape their ache I might move, yet every time Papa flashed me a look, I was still.
Wolfie moved all the time. He constantly climbed onto his knees to see outside, played with the drapes at the window, or kicked the underside of the seat with his heels. Over and over Papa told him to be still.
When Papa sighed deeply and looked directly at us, I knew it was time for Wolfie to be punished for what he'd said to Herr Wagenseil, as well as for running and sitting on the lap of the empress. I reached for his hand, ready to comfort him.
"You did well today, children."
It took me a moment to realize Papa wasn't mad. His pleasure made me bold. "Papa, I wanted to do what Wolfie did," I said. "I wanted to play with one finger and with the cloth. Why didn't I get a turn?"
"Complaining does not become you, Nannerl," Mama said.
Papa's eyes held mine. "We ..." He turned his gaze to Wolfie, but my brother had his feet on the seat and was playing with his shoe buckles. Papa waited for him to pay attention. When he didn't, I pushed Wolfie's feet to the floor and nodded toward Papa. Finally Wolfie looked at him.
Papa cleared his throat. "We must all work together to earn a living. That means adapting to each audience. Who does what is not important. We all must do our part."
"Part, sna-dart, pa-fart." Wolfie giggled.
Mama gave him a stern look to quiet him, then leaned forward and touched my knee. "You should be grateful for any opportunity to use your God-given gifts, Nannerl."
I was. If only Papa would let me use them more.
Mama and Papa started talking to each other about our schedule. Wolfie poked me in the side, then pulled his cheeks down and out. "Look, I'm Emperor Francis."
With a sideways glance at Papa, I giggled. Emperor Francis did have big jowls.
Then Wolfie hit his palm with his fist three times. He wanted to play rock-paper-scissors. I joined in, yet while Mama and Papa talked, I listened.
Mama touched Papa's arm. "Dear one, I noticed the empress called you the Kapellmeister of Salzburg. Since you are not the head conductor, you should have corrected her."
"I could not correct the empress!" Papa glanced in our direction, then lowered his voice. "Besides, that post is open. As is the post of Vice Kapellmeister, which I expect to obtain when Lolli gets promoted. It's only logical the archbishop will let me fill Lolli's place." He sighed and rubbed his hands against his thighs. "On that subject, I'm glad His Grace gave me a leave of absence to tour with the children, but I am afraid decisions are being made back home without me."
"You think the archbishop will make a decision on the positions before we return?"
Papa patted the pocket of his cape. "I'm urging our friend Hagenauer to pass round these letters I send him. Soon everyone will know of our success and know we are effective ambassadors for Salzburg. I still prefer Salzburg to all other places, but I must not be held back. I will not."
Mama took his hand and smiled. "We won't be, dear one."
He shook his head. "Time is against us. The children are growing...." He sighed. "Ever growing."
"It will all work out." She leaned her head against his shoulder.
"For now," Papa said. "For now."
I'd stop growing if I could. For Papa.
* * *
I thought staying at an inn was fun. Papa ... did not. One morning he stood near the window, adjusting the ruffles of his shirt under his waistcoat. "Have you ever noticed how this lodging is a thousand feet long and one foot wide?"
I hadn't paid much attention, but now that he'd made such a comment ... it did seem strangely narrow compared to our Salzburg apartment.
He looked in the small mirror near the door, angling to see his cravat. Frustrated at not being able to see more than one portion of his torso at the same time, he sighed. "But at least we are in Vienna. That is something."
I liked Vienna. It was much larger than Salzburg. The streets were constantly alive with wagons and horses and people going by. There was a pub next door and I heard people singing—though not very well. And the guest in the room beside us liked to argue with his wife late at night. Mama said not to listen, but how could I not? I tried to figure out what they were arguing about, but it was in French and was beyond what Mama had taught me.
It was never quiet here. Never.
His morning dressing complete, Papa arched his back and groaned. "A narrow room, and marginal beds."
I thought the beds were quite comfortable. Mama and I shared one, and Wolfie shared with Papa. That was part of the fun. We all shared a bedchamber at home too, though there I shared a bed with Wolfie. On the road I was glad to be rid of his fidgeting.
Papa pointed a finger at my brother, who was on his stomach retrieving a red top from under our bed. "You, young man, have sharp elbows. You throw me out of the bed with all your pushing."
I laughed. Mama touched the tip of my nose. "You are no better, Nannerl." She picked up the brush and patted our bed. I sat and she began to brush my hair. She shivered. "I do wish I'd brought along my fur cape. It's cold. Could we have it sent from Salzburg?"
"To send it by mail coach would be too costly. And it might get spoilt," Papa said. He moved toward us and kissed the top of her head. "But I shall have a new one made for you. Would you like that?"
A new fur for Mama when she had one at home? Papa didn't spend money on such things. Had someone paid us well for one of our concerts?
Mama raised her face for another kiss. I looked away, but in truth I liked seeing my parents in love. Back home, I didn't see many shows of such affection. But back home we weren't together as much. During the days Papa had his duties in the archbishop's orchestra playing the violin, and Mama had our household to run. On the road we were always together. Always.
I glanced at my brother, who lay on his back on the floor, his feet straight in the air, trying to balance the top on the bottom of his shoe. Wolfie was a handful. Being older, I tried to help with him as much as I—
There was a knock on the door of our room. Papa answered. It was the innkeeper. He nodded a greeting to Mama, then pointed downstairs excitedly. "You have a visitor, Herr Mozart. He says he's the privy paymaster?"
"I shall be down directly." When Papa looked back at us, his eyes gleamed. "Now we'll see how much the emperor and empress liked your playing." With one last look in the mirror, he left us.
Wolfie turned on his stomach and spun the top on the floor, where it hit the leg of a chair and rattled to a stop. He let it lie and hopped to his feet. "Do you think there are presents? I like presents best."
So did I, but I knew money was better for the family.
Mama finished tying a ribbon in my hair. She stood and held out her hands to us. "Come. We must pray for God's blessings."
And lots of money.
Although Mama moved her lips she prayed silently. I could tell Wolfie wasn't praying because he was staring at the door, waiting for Papa. I too found it hard to concentrate on my heavenly Father while waiting for my earthly one to return.
Footsteps sounded in the hall. Mama dropped our hands and we all turned to face the door. Papa came in, smiling broadly. He carried two huge boxes. "First, I present to you gifts for the children."
He set the boxes on the bed. Wolfie pulled the red ribbon without asking, but I looked up at Papa. "May I?"
I carefully removed the emerald-colored ribbon on the second box and handed it to Mama for later use in my hair. Then I removed the lid. And pulled in a breath. Inside was a white dress so beautiful I was hesitant to touch it. Certainly, it was made for a princess, not an ordinary girl like me. It had pink lace and silver braid at the neck and at the bottom of the sleeves and hem, and tiny ruffles around the neck.
"Oh, Nannerl," Mama said. "It's magnificent. A broche taffeta. And look at all the fine trimmings."
Wolfie had his box open too. His was a coat, vest, and breeches. "Mine's purple!"
Although it was hard to pull my eyes away from my own present, I glanced at his—and corrected him. "It's lilac," I said. His suit had wide gold trim and satin cuffs. It was very beautiful, but not as beautiful as mine.
But as I took the dress out of the box, I was horrified to see it looked too small.
Mama held it up to me. "Oh dear," she said. "Last year this would have fit you, but not now." She looked up at Papa. "Perhaps we can exchange ..."
I knew it was awkward. One did not exchange gifts from royalty.
Papa confirmed my fears. "The note says Wolfie's suit was made for the son of the empress, Archduke Maximilian," Papa said. "And yours, Nannerl, was from the wardrobe of one of her daughters."
The empress and emperor had eleven daughters. I wondered which one had worn the dress. The dress I would never get to wear. Mama touched my cheek. Her eyes were kind.
As if to rub it in, Wolfie proclaimed, "I will wear my suit forever!" He put on the coat and turned in a circle. It fit him perfectly.
Mama put a hand on his shoulder, quieting him. "You will wear it until you grow too big."
"Which, unfortunately, will be too soon," Papa said sternly. But then his face changed. He smiled and pulled out a small velvet pouch. "I have received something even better than beautiful costumes."
Money! The disappointment of the dress was forgotten.
Mama held out her hand, her voice breathy. "How much?"
He put the pouch behind his back. "First, you must know the best news. His Majesty the Emperor has requested we remain in Vienna a little longer."
"You said yes, of course," Mama said.
He made a little bow. "Of course. His Majesty will summon us soon. But until then ..."
He emptied the pouch onto the bed. Mama knelt beside the mattress, staring at the coins. "So much!"
"One hundred ducats," Papa said. "Nearly two years of my violinist's salary back in Salzburg."
Wolfie ran his hands through the money, lifting it up, dropping it, making the coins clink and clatter. I reached out and took a coin I'd helped earn. I recognized the empress on its face, wearing a crown and standing with an orb-topped scepter and a sword. She looked prettier in person.
"In addition to your fur cape, I plan on buying us our own coach," Papa said. "With all our engagements, we've been needing a carriage two, three, even four times a day. Even when someone has been kind enough to provide the carriage, the tips to the driver and the footmen amount to the same expense as a hire."
"If you think it's necessary...." Mama stood. "And toward that end, I could forgo the new fur."
"Nonsense." Papa turned to us. "But remember, you children must play well to continue to earn such generous payments."
I would. I would play very well indeed.
* * *
Mama sat on the edge of Wolfie's bed, stroking his hair, and blotting his forehead with a coarse towel. Papa stood in the doorway and I stood behind him in the hall, peeking around his arm. The doctor had told me to stay away or I would get sick too. Sickness was a shadow on our travels, always close, often distinct, but sometimes hiding in dark places.
"Well?" Papa said.
Mama put a finger to her lips and whispered. "He cannot go out, Leopold. The doctor says it's scarlet fever. Plus he's getting new teeth, so that pain, added to the other ..."
Wolfie opened his eyes. "My back aches, Papa." It was hard to understand him because his tongue and cheeks were swollen. He had a rash on his neck and down his body. It was red like he had been in the sun too long, and Mama said it felt like Papa's cheek before he shaved.
"You look horrid," I said.
"That's not nice," Mama said.
But it was true.
"It's been nearly two weeks," Papa said. "This sickness has cost us fifty ducats at least."
While Wolfie had been sick, I'd seen Papa's worry and heard him making his excuses to people who wanted us to perform. I tugged on the sleeve of his coat. "I could go, Papa. I could perform."
"Sorry, Papa," Wolfie croaked.
"Shh," Mama told him. "Just get well, liebchen."
Wolfie closed his eyes and Mama tiptoed toward us, shooing us into the hallway. She closed the door. "Nannerl, go tell the innkeeper we need more towels."
I looked up at Papa. "I could perform, Papa. I'm very healthy."
Papa gave me a nudge. "Do as you're told, Nannerl."
I had no choice but to obey. I went down to the bend in the hall, but there I stopped and listened.
"You must not make the boy feel guilty for being sick, Leopold," Mama said quietly. "He is just a child."
"Which is one of the main reasons he has any musical venues at all."
He. Papa said "he"....
Papa continued. "As soon as he's well enough, I plan to take him into public, for a stroll perhaps. The festival of St. Charles is coming up next week. If I take him out so people can see him, they'll know he's available for engagements."
"The doctor said his rash may last a long time—even when he seems well. People may think it's smallpox and will want nothing to do with him. Perhaps it would be better to wait until he is completely—"
"We cannot wait!" Papa's voice came out in a hiss. "Our time of favor is fleeting. We mustn't waste it."
I heard his footsteps coming toward me and I ran downstairs. Mama needed more towels.
Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser
Copyright © 2006; ISBN 0764201239
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.