Some of you who have hung around this blog for some time will know that I started a couple of new novels early in 2017 and then just dropped them altogether. That’s not an unusual thing for writers. CS Lewis said that almost every book he wrote had spend years in some desk drawer before being taken out and finished.
One of the books is about an American entrepreneur who lived in the early part of the 20th century and who falls in love with a young Austrian princess. I’ve picked this story up again and I am tinkering with scenes and characters. Below is a draft of a new scene that I dashed off this morning. It takes place in about 1912, before the start of WWI.
If you are intrigued and would like a bit more of the story to put this post into context, just search the word “Austria” in the search engine on this page. There will be three or four posts that will come up from the fall of 2106. You can whip through those in no time and have a better idea about what is going on here.
William Martin first saw Princess Catherine’s father in the great hall of the castle Burg Hohenwerfen. Martin saw the man standing just inside the grand entrance. It was early evening in mid-summer and the last of the day’s sunlight streamed through the tall windows in the west wall. As they awaited the call to dine the courtiers stood in circles of five and six, casting their long shadows across the marble floor. Their conversations made a low hum in the hallway. The men in various, complicated forms of military dress, red, blue, white and gold and ribbons and medals everywhere, hair and beards carefully tended, bellies bulging; the women in belling gowns, standing erect, their waists cinched tight.
But the prince stood alone and spoke only in passing to those who lately wandered into the hall from the gardens of the upstairs rooms. He was trim and clean shaven.
Martin did not know the prince; did not know that this was the man to whom he would submit his petition for Catherine’s hand; did not know that this was the man who would influence Martin’s own destiny and the life of the town in America where Martin would build his family and fortune. Nonetheless, Martin was struck by the aura of this singular figure who was distinguished here by his carefree but alert demeanor and by the fact that he quite obviously did not seek distinction.
In only two weeks, all had changed. Martin knew he was in love with Catherine and knew that he could not leave Bavaria without asking for her hand and knew further that his suit for her was all but doomed. She was Austrian nobility, he the commonest of American commoners. She, beautiful, rich and of the one hundred families, would be sought after by the best and brightest men that her nation had to offer. The future of the nation and the continuation of family and culture were in her. He would never let her leave.
But when the day came, Martin stated his intentions without hesitation or apology. He told the prince that his own fortune was considerable and growing, but that his business was all in America and that was where his life would have to be lived.
“You know that parting with Catherine would be parting with my very life. My very soul.”
“Yes, sir. I do. I know that I am asking for the world. More than many men would be bold enough to ask for. I know that I may very well be refused. But I can do no other. I have never seen such beauty and grace in any other creature and I know that I never will again. She has opened my soul and allowed me happiness and fulfillment that I never before imagined. And what I have learned of life tells me that to cower from great venture is to invite regret.”
“Do you know what is coming here?” the prince asked.
“I don’t know your meaning. Are you speaking of the season? Of tomorrow?”
“No. I am speaking of the end.”
“The end? The end of what?”
“This gilded and powdered world. My world. This very place where we break bread. It is all coming to an end. It may take years, even decades, but it may come tomorrow. It cannot last.”
“No. I don’t know that. I don’t know what you’re talking about. But tell me of it, please.”
“There is not a man in this castle who could win a fair fight with the girl who scrubs the floors. There is not a man in this castle that could scale any of the peaks that surround us. There is not a man in this castle who cares for the poor. What is coming is God’s judgement. We have left undone what ought to have been done and done that which ought not to have been done. We spend the nation’s fortune on our own ostentation.”