- About the Book
- About the Author
- It was not Betrayal
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
Ruth Waldeck leads a charmed life. Beautiful and talented, the young heiress is content to roam the mountains with her widowed father or sing sweetly in the parlor for Mrs. Grotthus, their devoted housekeeper. Then her father remarries – and to Ruth’s dismay, the woman she must now call "Mother" is a scheming artiste with a dubious past. But does the glamorous Erna really love the wealthy Consul? And can Ruth resist the charms of Mrs. Grotthus’ handsome son, Fred?
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
It was not Betrayal
By Hedwig Courths-Mahler
Translated by Anna Matussek
For the past two years, Maria had been working as a nurse at Castle Lehnsdorf, caring for a sick boy.
The deceased Princess Rastenberg, little Prince Wilhelm’s mother, was born the Countess of Lehnsdorf and with her marriage to Prince Rastenberg, he had become the owner of the wealthy county and its magnificent castle.
Prince Rastenberg was now almost exclusively living at Castle Lehnsdorf. He only went to Rastenberg for a few weeks a year to look after official business.
Prince Rastenberg had been widowed for five years. His wife, a delicate thing, had died of pneumonia, which she’d contracted in Vienna following a royal ball.
Prince Wilhelm, their only child and heir, had also always been a delicate, sickly child, whose health was always of great concern to the prince. As Prince Wilhelm entered his tenth year – his mother had already died – he fell ill. With each passing week he became weaker and fainter. All the while no one seemed able to discover the reason for his suffering. Doctors were at a loss and Richard, the boy’s father and Prince of Rastenberg, lived with the constant worry of losing his heir.
Following a friend’s advice, he called the renowned Professor Bernd to his son’s sickbed.
Professor Bernd left the residence of the duke and travelled to Lehnsdorf, accompanied by his nurse, Maria.
He entrusted Nurse Maria with the prince’s care and supervision for the first few days until he was ready to announce his final diagnosis. Eight days later, Professor Bernd announced that one thing alone would restore Wilhelm’s health: a blood transfusion.
Prince Richard had complete faith in the professor and immediately volunteered himself. However, after a moment of consideration, the Professor shook his head and responded: "Only a younger and more vigorous subject would be compatible." At this, the boy’s nurse turned to the physician, looked him in the eyes and said, "I will do it. I’m young enough and in good health. If it will help the young prince, then please, use me."
The Professor scrutinized her closely. For a while, everyone was silent.
"Are you sure, Nurse Maria? Are you aware of the dangers?"
"Good. Then we can soon begin," the professor said, turning back to the prince, "providing Prince Richard gives his permission."
After it had been established that the blood types did, indeed match, Richard did not hesitate for a moment to give his authorization and so the blood transfusion was immediately performed.
In the two years that had passed, Wilhelm had grown into a strong, healthy boy, grateful for his second chance at life with each breath he took. After recovering from the transfusion, Maria was entrusted with caring for the young prince. She tended to him with utter dedication and refused to accept any gratitude. Wilhelm soon grew attached to the beautiful, gentle friend who cared for him so tirelessly. When he was finally able to leave his bed, he wouldn’t hear of Nurse Maria leaving Castle Lehnsdorf. Prince Rastenberg also hoped that his son would continue to be in the care of the seasoned nurse. She had become more than just a caretaker to the boy. She had grown into being a second mother. "You and I, we belong together! You’ve become my best friend, my guardian angel, and must never leave me again!"
As the young prince had said this, a melancholy yet happy smile appeared on her face.
She wore the same smile now as she stood by the window of her room and looked down upon the castle garden, bathed in moonlight. Then the smile disappeared again and immediately made way for a crestfallen expression. Like a deep, nameless pain, it clung to her features.
A painful sob was rising in her chest.
"I have to leave – I mustn’t stay here any longer," she said to herself. With that she slumped down into an armchair and buried her face in her hands.
What little happiness she had gathered so far in life had been cruelly taken from her. She thought back on how she had come to Professor Bernd with her tired, raw soul and only one desire – to dedicate herself to serving the sick and suffering. Slowly, she managed to find peace again.
Then she came to Lehnsdorf.
Apart from her motherly love for Prince Wilhelm, she found an unwanted yet powerful feeling was slowly developing in her heart. In her daily exchanges with Richard, Prince of Rastenberg, she grew to adore him for his kindness and his distinguished, generous nature. His self-sacrificial love for his son moved her and his sense of chivalry enchanted her. As much as she tried to resist it – one day she came to realize that she was in love with Richard.
However, Prince Rastenberg was unattainable – society placed him as far away from her as the pale moon was above the garden. What was she to do with this love? Hadn’t she suffered enough?
In order to ward off these feelings, she conjured up memories of her past. After a while, she jumped up again and reached out her arms as if in defense.
I have to get away from this house, where life smiles on me so joyfully and temptingly. I mustn’t stay any longer, mustn’t allow myself to be lulled into this sweet tranquility. I have to throw myself back into battle and work. Only then may I learn to forget again. She wrestled with these thoughts as she restlessly paced back and forth. Suddenly, she stood still and stared ahead.
"Tomorrow morning I’ll speak to the prince and tell him that I’m returning to work with Professor Bernd," she thought to herself.
This decision calmed her a little. Slowly, she removed her white bonnet so that her thick, golden brown hair was exposed.
Illuminated by the room’s lighting, she stood framed in the open window. As she stood there she was unaware that that Prince Rastenberg was down below, pacing up and down in the shadows under the moonlit trees under her window. As he became aware of her presence and gazed up towards her, he let his eyes rest upon her form. How beautiful she was! She was pretty and kind, courageous and selfless, yet so humble! He loved her … yes … he loved her! He, an old man! Would she reject his hand in that same calm and confident manner she always refused to accept his words of gratitude? What would Wilhelm say? Oh, he would love to call her mother as she’d already been a mother to him all this time. "Not Nurse Maria – she should be called Mother Maria," young Wilhelm had said to his father one day. Richard had known that he loved her from that moment on.
The next morning, Nurse Maria asked for a meeting with the prince. He received her in his study right away.
"Please, take a seat Nurse Maria and tell me to what do I owe this rare pleasure," he said affably.
Once she had taken a seat, he sat opposite her.
She locked her hands and took a deep breath. Without raising her eyes she said: "Your Highness, please allow me to return to my previous work with Professor Bernd. Thankfully, Prince Wilhelm is strong enough again so that he doesn’t need me anymore and my presence here is unnecessary."
Richard found it difficult to remain calm. He was completely unprepared for Nurse’s Maria’s request to leave Castle Lehnsdorf.
"No, no, Nurse Maria! This can’t … it mustn’t be your wish!" he firmly declared. "What has happened to make you wish to leave Lehnsdorf? Are you missing anything? Do you have any wishes? Tell me and they will be fulfilled immediately."
His voice began to tremble and Maria noticed it too. She lifted her hand in refusal and shook her head.
"Oh no," she then said, "I want for nothing, absolutely nothing here. Your highness is so very kind. I am missing nothing but the knowledge that my help is still needed here, which is really not the case. I should have returned to my previous duties much earlier, but – I will honestly admit to you – I was afraid to. The decision to separate from Prince Wilhelm had become very difficult for me."
She said those last words very quietly. Prince Rastenberg arose and paced the room a couple of times. Then he stopped in front of the fireplace and rested his arm on the mantelpiece. His eyes searched Maria’s face. She had never looked more beautiful, never more desirable to him than at this very moment. He took a deep breath and his voice filled with deep agitation as he began: "You say that you want for nothing but the knowledge that your presence here is still required. Do you really not have this assurance any longer, Nurse Maria? Don’t you know that your work here at Lehnsdorf is that of a guardian angel? I can’t imagine my life without you. Ever since the day Professor Bernd brought you to Lehnsdorf, your presence has been a blessing. You brought my son back to life with your selflessness! I know you don’t wish to hear it but let me speak. Ever since that day, you’ve grown closer to me than any other person on earth, other than my son. I can hardly believe that you’re considering leaving. I always thought that your love for Wilhelm – I know you’ve grown to love him like a mother – would keep you here."
She was silenced by exhaustion.
The prince started pacing the room again. With sudden determination, he stopped in front of her.
"Nurse Maria," he said, controlling his voice with difficulty. "You mustn’t leave us, it cannot be!"
She looked at his distraught face with strangely dull eyes. "I have to, Your Highness," she replied tonelessly.
"No, you do not," he continued, "it doesn’t have to be like this if you don’t want it to be. Stay Maria! Stay with us, with Wilhelm and me. I’m not only asking for my son’s sake, but I’m asking for myself too. I have fallen in love with you, Maria, with all the intimacy and depth a mature man is capable of. Stay here with us as Wilhelm’s second mother and as my wife!"
Nurse Maria jumped up. Her hands reached out as if to hold onto something but then weakly dropped.
"Your Highness, it can’t, it mustn’t be!" she exclaimed.
"Why not, Maria? Sure, I must be an old man in your eyes – but still, still I hope to win your heart."
She gave him a look that made his heart beat faster.
"Your Highness, I want to be completely honest with you. The shadow of distrust shall not stand between us now," she said, her voice shaking with anxiety. "That’s why I will honestly admit that I want to leave Lehnsdorf because my heart has developed a deep, strong love for Your Highness against all odds. I mustn’t stay in Lehnsdorf any longer with this love in my heart because I don’t want to lose myself."
The prince tried to pull her towards him, but she resisted.
"It mustn’t be? You say yourself that you love me and that makes me indescribably happy."
"Your Highness is forgetting the differences of our societal standing."
The prince made a dismissive gesture: "I don’t care about those things. Thankfully, I am a prince without a throne – I’m my own man and don’t need to ask anyone’s permission. Wilhelm’s mother, whom I truly loved, was taken from me too early. And she gave me an heir, which my ancestral tradition demands of me. This has freed me to choose a second wife with my own heart. I have chosen you."
"Your Highness, you know so little of me."
A smile crossed his face.
"I know enough to ask for your hand."