Gateway to the Classics: Mozart's Youth by George P. Upton
Mozart's Youth by  George P. Upton

The Wonder Child

V ICE Chapelmaster Leopold Mozart of Salzburg paced to and fro in his apartment, evidently disturbed and anxious. He stopped several times at the door of the adjoining room and listened intently to every sound within. Then he would resume his monotonous walk from one corner of the room to another. From time to time he whispered a hurried prayer. Great drops of sweat fell from his brow. His face was pale, and showed unmistakable signs of trouble and misgiving.

The hands of the house clock, which persistently kept up its monotonous ticking, moved slowly forward. Minute after minute passed, and with every minute the vice chapelmaster grew more and more anxious. A piano stood at one side of the room. To divert his thoughts he went to it, and with trembling hands struck a few chords, whose soft, full tones seemed to exert a quieting influence upon him. He wiped the perspiration from his brow, and his dimmed eyes grew brighter as he went to the window and looked up at the sky.

"Let the dear God do as He wills," he gently said to himself. "He will surely do everything that is for our best and highest good."

He stood at the window several minutes with clasped hands and uplifted eyes. The sky was overcast with dark clouds, with here and there occasional glimpses of the blue. The air was sultry and oppressive, and seemed to threaten a storm. Suddenly the dark cloud-veil was rent, as it were, and the dazzling sun shed a brilliantly glorious flood of light upon the beautiful scenery of Salzburg. The glistening sunbeams also streamed into the vice chapelmaster's room, and Father Mozart welcomed them with a serene smile.

"Behold, it is as if the eye of God were shining out of heaven in token of his inexhaustible goodness and mercy," he said to himself. "I will accept it as a good omen, Lord, my God."

A cheery little nurse with smiling face entered, carrying in her arms a little boy, vigorously crowing and kicking.

"Look, Herr Vice Chapelmaster," she said with an expression of the heartiest delight; "this is what the beautiful sunlight, even yet glistening upon the roofs like gold, has brought us. If this is not a good omen, why, then, I am no prophet."

The vice chapelmaster stretched out his arms to the little boy, held his hands in blessing over his head, and made no effort to restrain the tears of joy which ran down his cheeks.

"My God and Lord," he said with trembling voice, "accept my thanks for this happy moment, and let Thy blessing rest upon the head of this child whom Thou hast given me for my comfort." Thereupon he bent down, kissed the boy's forehead, and looked at him for some time with an expression of the greatest delight.

"And the mother, my good woman?" he asked hastily, as if awakening from a beautiful dream.

"All is well, Herr Vice Chapelmaster," was her reply. "The dear little woman is as lively as a fish in the water. See for yourself."

He needed no second invitation. In three steps the happy father was in the next room. His wife, somewhat pale, smilingly stretched out both her delicate hands, which Father Mozart affectionately kissed.

"My dear wife, you have made me very happy," he said in a tone which came straight from the heart.

"Not any happier than I feel myself," the mother replied. "Let us both praise God for His merciful help."

"Yes, but I must insist that you do your praising apart from each other," interposed the woman, who stood one side with the still vigorously kicking and screaming boy in her arms. "You must withdraw at once, Herr Vice Chapelmaster, for your little wife must have some rest. You ought to be satisfied, for you have seen with your own eyes that everything has been done for the best. So go, or I shall be offended."

Father Mozart smilingly obeyed, after he had kissed his wife, and returned to his room. He could not keep quiet long, however. His heart was too full. He must relieve it in the glorious freedom of nature. He took his hat and cane, quietly slipped out of the house, and hurried through the narrow streets of Salzburg to the beautiful avenue leading to the Archbishop's château at Heilbronn. Here he could give vent to his feelings without interruption or restraint, for the avenue was usually quiet, and frequented by only a few solitary pedestrians.

Father Mozart, ordinarily a very calm, sedate, self-possessed man, was hardly himself to-day, for by the blessing of God a wish, long and secretly cherished in his heart, had been realized. A little son had been given him. When he reflected that he would educate and instruct him, inspire him in his early years with a love for his beautiful art of music, and, with divine aid, develop him into a great musician, a thousand hymns of joy exultantly sang themselves in his heart, and his fancy painted bright pictures of the future. He was oblivious of all around him. He had no eyes for the attractions of the unsurpassably beautiful country stretching out in every direction like a blooming garden. He thought of nothing but his little son. He rubbed his hands together exultantly, muttered unintelligible words to himself, looked up with radiant glance into the blue and now cloudless sky, and so far forgot himself as to indulge in loud and joyous peals of laughter—laughing upon the public highway!—something which no one before had ever known the vice chapelmaster to do. He acted really like one completely beside himself, and so absent-mindedly, indeed, that he failed to observe a gentleman approaching him from Heilbronn, who had been watching him for some little time with a quiet smile.


He failed to observe a gentleman who had been watching him with a quiet smile.

The new-comer stepped behind a tree trunk, and as the happy father was going by without seeing him, he came up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said in good-natured banter:

"Why, why, my respected friend and vice chapelmaster Leopold Mozart, what kind of a whimsical notion are you carrying about in your pate that makes you behave on the public thoroughfares like one out of his senses? Never before in all my life have I seen you laughing and acting like this. It must be something extraordinary that has brought about such a radical change."

"Guess, friend Adlgasser," replied Mozart, good-humoredly, as he freely joined in the laughter of his old, true friend, who had been appointed court musician in the chapel of the Archbishop of Salzburg. "Guess! Indeed, it is something extraordinary. Just think of it, Adlgasser, when the sunshine first broke through the dark clouds to-day, the dear God gave us a strong, healthy baby, at the very instant of the first gleam! Is not that well-nigh a miracle, and should not a father's heart leap for joy?"

"Oh, friend, if that is the case, all is explained, and I congratulate you as an honest friend and faithful comrade should," replied Adlgasser, as with joyous face he stretched out both hands to the vice chapelmaster. "My hearty good wishes. May the little one grow up to be a joy to us all, and some time become as skilful a musician as his father, our always esteemed Leopold Mozart. It surely was a significant omen, for it means that this little one will some day illuminate the whole world like the sun, and all the earth will regard him with admiration as a true light from heaven. I do not know whence the thought comes to me, Mozart, but I have a presentiment that this is not only true, but that he will accomplish this result in a very short time."

"God grant that you speak truly, dear friend," replied Mozart, excitedly. "At least, let us hope we may live to take comfort with the little one, and that we may bring him up to be a valiant follower of our noble Mistress Musica."

"Amen! may it be so," said Adlgasser, heartily shaking the vice chapelmaster's hand.

Arm in arm the two went on, discussing for some time the little world-citizen who had come fresh from the other side with the sunbeams, until the sky was all aflame and the towering peaks of the neighboring Untersberg were transfused as with a golden glory.

"A beautiful evening," said Adlgasser, "but, if I mistake not, still more beautiful days will follow it. God has given you a son, Mozart, and, as I believe, a wonder child. Let us hope he will fill the whole world with the light of his genius."

"Yes, let us so hope, but let us put our trust in the help of the Almighty," said Father Mozart, with much emotion. "Everything shall be done, so far as lies in my power, that will make this child a great artist."

By this time they had reached the city, where their ways separated. They parted with a hearty handshake, and each betook himself to his own house. Father Mozart's way led him straight to the cradle of his boy. The little one was peacefully sleeping. He gently kissed him, and in a silent prayer commended him to the protection of the Lord. Then he went to his own room, took his violin, and in sweetest tones gave melodious expression to the happiness of his heart. That was always his way when his emotions were aroused. He had not played so beautifully for a long, long time as on that evening; perhaps he never played so beautifully in his life. Never before, indeed, had there been such a joyous and satisfactory inducement.

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