What follows below is more from my novel in progress. This is a continuation of the conversation between Bertha Von Suttner and Isaac Martin. Von Suttner is a real, historical person. She was an Austrian countess whose family and fortune had been devastated by war and she became an anti-war activist. Was the first woman to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Isaac Martin is a fictional character – an American, young and rich, who has fallen in love with Princess Rebecca, Von Suttner’s niece. Von Suttner has agreed to support Martin in his suit for the princess’s hand. She sees the next war coming and believes (correctly, as it turned out) that this war will be the end of the Austrian aristocracy and that her niece’s best chance for happiness is to follow Martin back to America. The conversation takes place in 1912 in the family’s estate in Bavaria. World War I would begin less than 24 months later and the Austrian Empire would end. The Emperor would be exiled and the Austrian aristocracy stripped of all title and privilege. Ed.
Mr. Martin, as certain as I am this this world of mine is about to end; as sure as I am that we have signed our own death warrant; I am every bit as certain that there is much here that is worth saving and that is in danger of being lost in the flood waters that are at our very door.
I would save all that I see, if I were able. Martin responded.
No. That is not possible and not even desirable. For too long we have been worshiping the wrong god and our lust for wealth and power has carried us down the wrong road in every aspect of life. Our art is false in glorifying battle; our music has taken on the tone of marches; our architecture is that of the conqueror; we race for the bigger and grander and we have forgotten ratio and proportion and beauty. We are too far gone, and we shall soon be judged. But there was once something here that held together. Something that came before the wars; something that created the nation and that allowed us to flourish for nearly a thousand years.
What can I save? What would you have me try to save?
First and foremost, you must save Rebecca. Her father and I have seen the decadence around her and we have undertaken to educate her outside of the common conventions that now hold sway. She knows the Bible and the Greek and Roman poets. She knows the history of our race. Her tastes and desires are attuned to the highest ideals. In some way you already know these things. This is why she has captivated you. Have you not thought – have you not said to others – that she is unlike any other woman you have ever met. You must save her and that means that she must be given a life that allows her to prosper; that allows all that is in her soul to flourish. By saving her in this way you may preserve and even continue all that has been good and great in our culture. She must go with you to America, but she can never be a common housewife. She must have position and means and opportunity and society. She must be surrounded by beauty. Is this too much to ask of you?
These were the words that inspired the building of Maple Hill.