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From Hell to Heaven

Chapter 71 - The dramatist’s marriage heaven clouds over. The bride’s true nature unmasked.

1. Continues the dramatist: “I now saw nothing but a paradise before me, having reached my goal. But only too soon, dark clouds rose above my paradise.

2. My Emma was increasingly tormented by her conscience for having left her father, becoming more despondent by the day, regretting that ultimate step, and cursing the hour when she first met me. She furthermore became homesick, making me earnestly concerned about her. I did everything to give her a new concept of life, without avail! And so I had no alternative but to quit England and to retire with Emma back to Vienna as a private man of means.

3. Arriving there, we headed for Emma’s father to obtain his possible forgiveness. But – probably more out of grief than fever – he had passed on!

4. For Emma, this was the last straw. Her haughty siblings reproached her bitterly, making her out to be the murderess of her father, who, dying, is supposed to have stretched out his hands for Emma! Such news landed her in sick-bed and me it cost thousands. She did however recover, not infrequently asking sacrifices of me which I could ill afford, but which I nevertheless performed with gentleness. Chance would have it that her siblings died after a couple of years, whereby my wife, the mother of two daughters, became the sole heir of an extensive fortune. One would think this would make my Emma happier and more gracious towards me.

5. But only after the inheritance settlement did I find out who she was and who I was! – Her erstwhile emotional sickness indeed soon righted itself, after receipt of the inheritance. But in its place stepped unquenchable desire for desire for glitter, splendour and pleasures of every variety.

6. On one occasion I gently intimated to her that such life is not right and that she had made me far unhappier than I did her, and that in England I could have been an admiral by now if I had not sold my officer’s position to go to Vienna out of love for her. Telling her so with tears in my eyes, the devil was let loose! Without a word she rushed to her chamber, fetching papers worth two hundred thousand Gulders (Florins), saying: ‘There, my lord spouse, born a swineherd, herewith what I have cost you. Leave my residence and look for another! You are also free to take the couple of child dunces with you, because I will not put up with brats which, in my blindness, I begot from a peasant boy! Adieu! We are quits!’

7. With these words she slammed the door behind her, leaving me standing there, petrified, together with my weeping dear little daughters. After a couple of hours I went over to her, but was not admitted. The valet said that it is the Madam Baroness’s desire for me to at once leave the house. I indicated to the valet to announce to madam that I have need of neither her money nor her house, and that I shall, together with the children, get along with my own legally acquired fortune!

8. Whereupon I hastened to my chamber, summoning my domestic staff. I ordered them to gather up all my things in haste, as we must leave the house today. – ‘One of you fetch a casual worker to speed things up!’ My domestics made big eyes and long faces, but quickly fell into line.

9. Whilst engaged with packing, someone knocked at my door. Who? My good major-general, who on that very day had business in Vienna! ‘What do I see – what are you doing? Are you moving house?’ were his words. I related everything to him, of course, and that without any of it being of my own doing!

10. The general did not at first know whether to laugh or be angry. Only after a while did he focus with the words: ‘My poor, beloved friend, calm down! If your betrothed is like that, then be glad that you got rid of this noble dame in this honest way! But keep these high currency documents for your children, for it would not be wise to leave her this considerable sum for no reason at all!’

11. Following the general’s reassuring counsel, the madam’s valet burst into the room, saying: ‘Madam is letting you know that under no circumstances shall she receive the compensation back from you. Should the sum be insufficient, however, then she is ready to give you more!’ I bit my lip in rage and was truly speechless. But the general spoke for me, saying: ‘Tell madam that in view of the sacrifices this man has made for her, this sum of two hundred thousand florins is but beggars’ coins. One does not pay such beggar coins for the honour of an officer as this one was! Hence let madam now put her hand in the big cash box and come up with recompense for treading with her feet the honour of a man second to none! Tell madam that I, Prince N. N., father of this my most beloved son, demand it of her! And tell her also to never dare go under his name again! Has he understood all that?’ – Says the valet: ‘Yes, Your Highness!’ – ‘Then beat it’, thundered the general. The valet bowed to the ground before departing.

12. After a while the door opened and the baroness burst in before the general, her hands wringing and begging him and myself for forgiveness. She spoke much of ill-temper and consequent over-haste, and God knows what else that she quacked together.

13. The general let her finish, then, speaking with dispassionate ease: ‘Madam, I knew your bigoted father and I know you! The apple never falls far from the tree, and so you, my fair one, will not be much better. Although this your former husband is not my physical son, I prevailed over the good emperor to recognise my rightfully adopted son under the title of Earl, as I have no children. Should I die today or tomorrow, then he is Prince, do you understand? Should some other high nobilities secretly press the emperor not to allow the title to be acknowledged, then he nevertheless remains my son, and sole heir of all my assets! This my son has need of neither your home nor your wealth. But you as baroness have defiled his honour, and I as his father demand half a million! Do you understand me, Madam?’ – Says the baroness: ‘Your Supreme Highness and father-in-law! Not only half a million but my entire fortune do I give, if you forgive me and take not away my beloved spouse!’

14. Says the general: ‘Indeed, indeed, my fair daughter, now that for the first time you find out that this ‘swineherd’ – as you were want to address him, is my son, you feel love for him again! But this will hardly do again. Hence return to your chamber, as I have important things to disclose to my son.’ – Emma now implores even more ardently for forgiveness, promising by everything holy to her that she would prefer to be a swineherd for the rest of her life, to leaving him again for one minute! – ‘Good’, says the general, we shall see! I shall feel free to at once probe your nobility-tooth and see how you shall pass the test!’ – Says Emma: ‘Do with me as you wish, only as a corpse shall I be separated from my husband!’ – Says the General: ‘Well, this will soon show, dearest Baroness. Wait for no further test from me, as I have already tested you and you have passed it, badly. You love my son only because by your own admission you take him for that without a doubt. But it is not so! I say this only to test you and to strikingly convince you of your ignominious nobility-bravado. After your naivety no longer perceived the stinking swineherd, but a prince, you began to eat humble-pie! But what will you do if I firmly revoke what I said only to test you, and now say that your lord, supremely worthy to me, is nonetheless only the son of a peasant?’

15. On hearing this, Emma quite leapt, yelling: ‘What?! So does one deal with the daughter of the wealthy Baron N. N.? – So! My spouse not a prince, but only a peasant’s son, and a newly hatched gentleman in England! Oh, this is shameful, this is unspeakably despicable. To stamp me, a baroness of the first order, as the merest goose! – Valet!’ – Says the valet: ‘What is Madam’s pleasure?’ – Says Emma: ‘Let him hasten to my chamber and bring the documents on my table, so I can make good this here farmer’s offended honour!’ – Says the general: ‘Will not be necessary, my Madam! I knew that the second test would turn out worse than the first. You are and remain what you are. I hope you understand me? And this, my real son, remains, as I said to you, what he is in spite of his peasantness! So make off with you now!’

16. With these words Emma turns around again, saying: ‘Your Highness, you were good enough to tell me that I fared badly with this test, but you do not consider that this my well-calculated appearance was nothing but a forceful question directed at my lord spouse, to ascertain whether he still loves me. For I must confess that my lord husband has in the last eighteen months behaved towards me with inexplicable coldness, which made me completely unhappy. I often gave him to understand that I did no longer appear to be what I once was to him! But my Earl husband always knew how to find a thousand excuses. Hence there had to be a problem somewhere!

17. ‘I am now wealthy, and have the means to probe my spouse’s heart in certain ways. I throw parties and balls, and had myself courted by cavaliers, to see whether any jealousy at all is to be detected in him. But all my efforts foundered! It even seemed to please him if others showed me a better time than he. My heart bore this humiliation for a lengthy period. But since his coldness only grew and our bed-chamber seemed alien to him, I carried out my resolution this very day, in order to earnestly confront his heart with one last probe!

18. ‘But this yielded not the least success. Since I had no part in thus completely losing his love, so be it in God’s name!

19. ‘Verily, Your Highness, I now speak the full truth. For as long as I was by his side as a needy one, he loved me with an intensity I could hardly comprehend. But on becoming a sole inheritor, all was over between us. Not only did he fail to cheer me, but it perpetually annoyed him, often saying to my face: Your money shall always be a curse and never a blessing to this house! – Let Your Highness therefrom soberly consider my position, and then judge whether I am the kind of sinner that you and your adopted son think I am!’

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