Borne in Blood PART I Prologue


Text of a letter from Helmut Frederich Lambert Ahrent Ritterslandt, Graf von Scharffensee at Scharffensee in Austria, to his daughter-in-law Hero Iocasta Ariadne Corvosaggio von Scharffensee at Chateau Ragoczy near Lake Geneva, Yvoire, Switzerland.

Graf von Scharffensee sends his greetings of the season to his daughter-in-law, and hopes that the new year of 1817 will bring her good health and better weather than we have seen this last year.

Let me assure you that your children are doing well. My son would be proud of their progress, were he still alive to see it. You will be pleased to know that Annamaria has begun her study of French and is already able to say a great many words correctly. Her tutor, Frau Linderlein, has said that by the time she is nine, she will be fluent in that tongue. Bertram and Berend have acquired a second tutor for mathematics and geography: Herr Wilhelm Klebber has been engaged to instruct them in these things; he has a gift for dealing with their high spirits, and claims he can tell them apart, which Herr Gunther Drossler still cannot do, much as he may know of letters and humanities. Siegfried has celebrated his eleventh birthday on the 2ndday of this month, as you no doubt recall, and I am pleased to tell you that he is finally applying himself to something more than hunting and shooting. He, too, is receiving instruction from Herr Drossler, and may soon begin his military training, if such can be arranged. He saw the 8thHungarian Hussars on parade and is now most keen for a career in a fine regiment, although he decries the lack of a foe to fight now that Bonaparte is no longer rampaging about Europe.

I will take the children to Vienna at Easter, to purchase their annual wardrobe and to let them enjoy some of the luxuries and elegance of that splendid city. I am not yet prepared to have you join us, and for that reason, I recommend that you not ask that I include you. There will be time enough when they are a little older for you to become acquainted with them again, when their characters are fixed and they no longer answer to every turn in the wind. For now, it is fitting that they continue with me. As their grandfather, I can provide them the guidance and maturity that men must naturally impart, and which will engender the respect for their father's memory that they will need in later life. Rest assured, they are receiving the best care and instruction that I can provide them, and that I will continue to do so as long as you continue to agree not to interfere in my guardianship. We are agreed, are we not, that you have neither the position, the money, the standing, nor the ability to care for them yourself. In any contest of law, the courts must uphold my claim over yours.

Should you remarry, as much as I would dislike that to happen, I will, of course, return my grandchildren to you, provided I am satisfied that your new husband is sufficiently comfortable in funds and standing to care for them in the manner to which they are now accustomed. Your present arrangement can hardly be deemed appropriate for the company of your children, but I will not oppose it so long as you and the Comte remain discreet. If you bring scandal upon my name, I will have to take measures to constrain you, for your children's sake as well as for the preservation of my family's good name. You must still agree that as things are, you cannot offer them either education or material opportunities for the future, nor can you establish them in the world when they are older. My son ought to have provided both, but as we are aware, he did not, and his political alliances have proven to be inadequate to the changing conditions around us. The law, in its wisdom, has entrusted his estates and his children to my care. I hope to instill a distrust of radical notions in the children so that they will not commit the same order of folly that their father did. Fridhold did not expect to die in the full flower of his manhood, but still he did, and his children, without my help, are left with little or nothing to sustain them.

You may repose complete confidence in my devotion to my grandchildren, and to their welfare in life. At this time of year, it behooves us both to renew our pledges of agreement, and to make every effort to ensure as pleasant a surround for them as is possible. That they should have had to spend eight years traipsing after Napoleon so that my son could embarrass us all with his enthusiasm for that Corsican fool is more than enough hardship for them to endure in their young lives. You cannot escape the taint of revolutionism, and that must affect your children so long as they remain under your care. With me, they have regularity in all things, and responsible instruction, and the firm and affectionate hand of a man to secure the educations and the futures you and I must want for them. As the daughter of so famous a scholar as Attilio Corvosaggio, you should appreciate the value of learning, especially in these erratic times.

I write this to you from my Schloss, and send it by regular post; I extend my good wishes to you, on this, the Eve of Christmas, 1816,

Your father-in-law,

Helmut Frederich Lambert Arhent Ritterslandt

Graf von Scharffensee
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