- About the Book
- About the Author
- Exiled Love
Lady Courths-Mahler – Vintage Love Stories
In this revival of "vintage chick-lit", there are no cell phones nor computers – but love letters that sometimes take weeks to reach their starry-eyed recipients. Suitors court their sweethearts, and gentlemen woo their ladies. Legendary German author Lady Courths-Mahler paints a portrait of magical romance, of a glimpse into the life of beautiful damsels and handsome heroes. These "fairytales for adults", from the early 1900s have been revived from the vaults and appear now for the first time in English. Their tender charm will leave your heart singing for more.
About the Book
Daniela Falkner has accepted a position under the employment of a Russian countess. The elderly Russian Countess has seen her share of hardships. Not only has she lost her home but also her husband and her only son, Dimitri. According to an eye-witness, as Dimitri attempted to escape captivity, he was shot.
Now the Countess keeps everything she treasures including a picture of Dimitri in her personal sanctuary. One day, the picture disappears and the Countess suspects Daniela and expels the young woman from the house.
However, fate will bring the two women together again in a dramatic and surprising way.
About the Author
The story of Hedwig Courths Mahler's life could have come from one of her novels: a real fairytale like the story of Cinderella- but she did not marry the prince, she became a queen on her own. Born Ernestine Friederike Elisabeth Mahler on February 18, 1867 in the town of Nebra a.d. Unstrut, Hedwig Courths Mahler was the product of an out of wed-lock affair and was raised by various foster parents. She first worked as a saleswoman in Leipzig while she wrote her first seventeen novels. Between 1905 and 1939, after marrying and giving birth to two daughters, she became a highly circulated author with her Courths Mahler romance novels.
But success did not come easy to the energetic young woman who originally wrote in order to feed her family. At times she sat at her desk, writing for fourteen hours a day, turning out six to eight novels each year.
As the Nazis refused to publish her work, Hedwig Courths-Mahler stopped writing in 1939. When her daughter was arrested by the Gestapo, the author suffered such great agony, she never wrote again. On November 26, 1950 Hedwig Courths Mahler died on her farm at Lake Tegern without witnessing the Renaissance of her novels.
Lady Courths Mahler – Vintage Love Stories
By Hedwig Courths-Mahler
Translated by Dagmar Breitenbach
Thank you, Daniela, you may stop reading to me now."
Daniela Falkner rose. "Is there anything else I can do for you, Baroness?"
Baroness Berken shook her head. "No, but there’s something I’d like to talk to you about."
Daniela gave the old lady a questioning look.
"Child, you know that I’ve grown rather fond of you and that I’ve gotten used to your company."
"You’ve always been very good to me, Baroness. When I took the position in your household after my mother’s death, I was terribly anxious. But you quickly soothed that fear."
"Well, I haven’t really been that easy on you. Lonely old women like me are grim. But you’re patient and remarkably easy-going. That makes it doubly difficult for me to tell you that our ways must part."
"You want to let me go, Baroness?"
"I don’t want to, but I have to economize, which means I can’t keep any other staff but my old cook, Christine. You don’t expect your brother to return to Germany in the near future?"
"No, Baroness, I don’t. My brother is glad to have found work as an engineer in Stockholm."
"Yes, that’s right, your brother had to go abroad to find work after he returned from Russian captivity. But I don’t want you to worry too much about your own welfare: in the mail this morning, there was a message for you, let’s say it was heaven-sent. I received a letter from my friend, Mrs. Lentikoff. You’ve met the lady."
"Certainly, Baroness, and I must say, she is the most intriguing woman I have ever met in my entire life."
"She certainly is an interesting woman. You should know that Mrs. Lentikoff told me today that she plans to engage you as a traveling companion, if you are so inclined."
Daniela blushed. "Mrs. Lentikoff wants to engage me?"
"I’ve told her that I am forced to let you go."
She pointed out a passage in the letter: You know how much I want to help you, my dear Magda, but I also know that you are too proud to let me. But at least I can and will relieve you of your concern about Miss Daniela. I had occasion to observe how endearing and tactful the young lady is; she really anticipated your every wish. You know I am a lonely, bitter woman and I find it difficult to get attached to people. That’s why I only travel with my old Natasha, even though there are times when I long for more educated company. What a pillar Miss Falkner, who speaks several languages and whom I like, could be for me! I entreat you to ask her whether she would like to enter into my service.
If she says yes, I authorize you to tell her as much about my fate as she needs to know in order to understand my cantankerous nature. It’s better if you tell her, as even now, I still can’t speak without distress when I realize once again that my son Dimitri is dead. …
At this point, Daniela lowered the letter. "This last part surely isn’t meant to be read by me, Baroness."
"There’s no harm done if you read it, Daniela, because I’m supposed to tell you about Katharina Lentikoff’s lot, as well as reveal her true name. First, however, pray tell me whether you want to accept the position."
Daniela brushed a strand of golden brown hair from her brow. "I would consider it a good bit of luck to find a new position so quickly."
"You must also bear in mind that you won’t be leading a quiet life with her. Her restlessness takes her to Paris today, to Berlin tomorrow, to Rome or Madrid the day after. Mrs. Lentikoff leads a genteel but nomadic life. So now, I’ll tell you what you need to know about the woman’s life. …"
Daniela slipped a cushion behind the Baroness’s back and took a seat.
"My dear child, first let me tell you that Mrs. Lentikoff’s real name is Countess Smolenski. Her husband was Russian. He owned considerable territories in Courland and had a princely fortune. She is German by birth; she and I went to boarding school together.
"Her husband adored her and their marriage was incredibly happy. After a year of marriage, the Countess gave birth to a son. He was to remain an only child. This son grew to be the spitting image of his father. I saw him for the last time before disaster struck, when Dimitri was 22 years old. He was a gifted young man, diligently studying to be an engineer. But in the middle of his studies he joined the army. He wanted to serve as an officer for a few years before returning to university.
"His father didn’t see eye to eye with the country’s leadership and his dissent was taken sorely amiss. He knew they were conspiring against him and, since he was a wise man, he saw the writing on the wall. Gradually, he transferred his entire fortune to American and British banks. After receiving a warning from a friend, he secretly sold his properties too.
"He didn’t approve of his son studying in Leningrad because he was well aware of the young man’s impulsive nature and feared that with his frank ways, Dimitri might make enemies just like he had. After that last warning from his friend, the father urged his son to stay with his parents, ready to flee the country.
"He managed to save his assets, but he couldn’t save his son, who was arrested before they could say farewell. He was charged with treason. The young Count was sentenced to be deported to the Siberian mines, while his father was exiled. He and his wife were allowed to take along only what they could carry, while his fortune and properties were to go to the state.
"So the young Count’s parents went into exile, accompanied only by the Countess’s old lady’s maid, a German, and a loyal Russian servant.
"During a stop on their journey, the lady’s maid died. People believed that the Countess herself had died, and she did nothing to set that rumor straight.
"At first, she and her husband sought out a relative in Germany, an uncle who could barely get by himself on his meager pension.
"They had barely arrived when they received a message that Dimitri had tried to flee the transport to Siberia, only to be shot dead by a guard.
"Count Smolenski dropped dead at the news, and the Countess almost went mad. It was then that her hair turned white. She was ill and, for a long time, close to death.
"She recovered physically, but the white-haired woman with the fixed, gloomy stare was but a shadow of my poor Katharina. She was possessed by the morbid thought that she must seek her son. Her enormous wealth allowed her to lead a comfortable itinerant life. As you know, she stayed with me for a few weeks last year—until her old restlessness once more got the better of her.
"She owns but one picture of her son, a magnificent painted miniature that faithfully depicts the lost son’s facial features. Along with the miniature painting, her husband gave her a precious frame: a reliquary, a grand example of Russian goldsmithery. You might have seen it, since the Countess never parts from it. And at night, she places it next to her bed." Daniela lifted her head. "One morning, when I was in the Countess’s room, I did see a treasure made of gold that looked like a miniature altar on the bedside table."
"You should not get used to calling your future mistress anything but Mrs. Lentikoff. She has a right to the name, as the Smolenskis were once the Counts Smolenski-Ripnik-Saratow-Lentikoff.
"If you, dear child, succeed in bringing even a glimmer of joy and sunshine to this melancholy mind, you’ve done a good deed."
Two weeks later, Daniela Falkner accompanied the Baroness to Mrs. Lentikoff’s hotel, where the two had been invited to dine with her.
Natasha welcomed the ladies and, in halting German, asked them to wait for a few minutes.