The Marriage Bargain
Rolf Grover told me about Anna’s first husband, Hans Von Fuerstenburg, and the relationship between the two lovers. Hans was thirty-three and still not married. It was agreed by the Bund that this young Aryan prince must marry. In Argentina, however, German girls of proper social standing and parentage were in short supply. The German community of Argentina was primarily made up of Low Germans whose ancestry was of common German stock. What was needed was a young woman of proper breeding.
Antoinette Castillo, affectionately known as Anna, was now of the marriageable age. Appreciating the old ways, Anna’s father was a man of traditional values. In Argentina a girl was first promised in marriage and then given. A dowry was agreed upon and the bargain was struck between the fathers. Daughters had little say in the matter. The rich only gave their daughters to the rich. With this arrangement the dowry played a less significant role. This put an end to the thought of Argentine women being sold as cattle. But in the end, it was still a father’s decision as to whom his daughter would marry.
However, for young German men this was a different matter. If a bride of suitable social or financial position was not available within the community then another solution had to be found. And so it was for Colonel Hans Von Fuerstenburg. The Brenner’s, an older German couple who had immigrated to Argentina almost thirty years before, were chosen to be caretakers of this Aryan warrior. Being well known in the region and highly respected, they had achieved some success in farming and later in the manufacturing of farming equipment. Over the years, they had come to know Don Castillo, Anna’s father, through business dealings. The two men had become close friends. As an accomplished horseman, Clause Brenner had been called upon by Don Castillo to teach his daughter, Antoinette, the finer points of the horse. As a very young child she had spent many a pleasant hour being trained by Herr Brenner. Anna and her Uncle Clause, as she called him, became very close. Anna trusted him in all things since he had helped her to overcome her fear of horses. Many times she had fallen and he was always there to comfort her, gently guiding her back onto her stallion. As far back as Anna could remember he was always present at her birthday parties. Uncle and Auntie Helga could always be found at the estancia on holidays. On these occasions his wide smile would light up a room and his hearty laughter could be heard through the house.
It was Uncle Clause who first approached her father with the offer. Anna watched as he drove up the long, straight, stone road leading to the Estancia Castillo. His black car was a harsh contrast to the beautiful flowers and lush dark green shrubs lining both sides of the stone roadway. Anna could see him through the tall, French windows of her second story bedroom. Oddly, Uncle had stopped some distance from the main house. Seeing him off in the distance holding a piece of paper and reading aloud, she wondered what Uncle was doing. Anna rushed down the massive wooden staircase and through the foyer as Uncle placed his large, black auto into gear and raced toward the main house. She ran past the large brass urn that was always filled with fresh red and yellow roses. Pushing open the large, ornate, wooden entry doors she made her way outside and down the stone steps to the landing below. Feeling like a child again, Anna was remembering the fine German chocolates Uncle always brought her. "Uncle," Anna shouted, as he left his auto. He held one arm behind his back and began the little game they had played since she was a young child. "What does Uncle have for you?" He asked teasingly. "A drum?" She responded, giggling like a child. "No." He replied sternly. "A whistle to play a tune?" She asked playfully. "No." He replied, smiling broadly. "A big box of Bavarian candy?" Anna teased as she laughed. But there was no answer. So she chased him about as he tried to avoid her grasp. Older now, Uncle couldn't put up much of a playful fight. So he quickly gave up the box of candy to her with that wonderful smile of his. Throwing her arms around Uncle and holding him closely, Anna brought this large man of three hundred pounds or better, to tears. She was the child that he and his wife could never have. He loved her with the love of a father. Suddenly, Uncle let out a loud laugh and began to tickle her. Breaking away Anna ran to the front steps just as her father, Don Castillo, appeared above at the front doors of the estancia. Wearing riding clothes and knee length boots the Don shouted as he bounded down the front steps of the Estancia, "Clause my friend, to what do we owe this honor?" When the Don reached the bottom of the stone steps the two men gathered together in the abrasso, the embrace of men. The abrasso means far more than a mere handshake or even a kiss. It is the total acceptance of another man's masculinity, moving beyond physical contact. The embracing of another man with deep respect and love is the highest sense of honor.
Soon the Don and Uncle Clause were discussing business and family matters as they walked up the stone steps and into the estancia. "Jose!" Don Castillo called out. Soon his trusted valet of forty years appeared in the foyer with brandies for both men. There was much business to be discussed and the concern showed on Uncle's face. Don Castillo motioned Uncle into the large, main floor study where they could discuss important matters without interruption. The household knew not to intrude upon the men and their talk so Anna and the servants left them.
The front gate of the estancia and the surrounding landscape with its beautiful trees could be seen from the study windows. The two men sat in the ornate, high backed, Louis the XIV chairs as the bright sunlight streamed into the room from the tall windows situated directly behind them. They sipped their brandies and chatted about unimportant matters as they sat comfortably around a beautifully ornate Victrola. "Don Castillo." Uncle began. Don Alejandro Castillo interrupted. "For years my dear friend I have asked you to call me by my first name, Alejandro. Yet you persist in calling me, Don. We’ve known each other for a lifetime, so now my friend, please call me Alejandro.
As Clause looked into the eyes of his friend he thought for a moment. Then he remembered back to his first visit to the estancia some forty years before. Uncle smiled fondly as he recalled himself standing hat in hand in the large foyer of the estancia. There in front of him had stood the young and handsome Don Alejandro Castillo. A member of the Argentine Aristocracy its Estanciero Class, Don Alejandro’s bearing was that of a young lord. Standing tall, erect and confident the Don was then the most influential man in the region. When Uncle had come to ask him for work, those many years ago, it was this same study that he had been ushered into. Uncle had quickly fallen on hard times after arriving in Argentina with pennies in his pocket and no contacts. It was not an easy thing for him to beg for a job. Sensing this, the Don had shown great kindness to this proud German immigrant.
On that day many years ago, he had asked the Don for work. The Don was being more than kind offering him the job of a stable hand. Both men were aware that Uncle didn’t know the difference between a horse and a mule. But neither man pursued it. The Don recognized good value for his money after hearing about these hard working Germans and how they improved the lot of their patrons. In Argentina, to work for someone was to be owned by that person. To be sure the workers were often cared for and in some cases even loved. However, there was a class structure that had to be protected at all costs. It was this system that had given Don Castillo's family such great wealth in the first place.
Uncle found himself being shaken by the Don. "Are you alright my friend?" He said with a concerned look on his face. "Was the drink to strong?" The Don asked, still puzzled by Uncle’s distraction. "No, Alejandro." There it was. Clause had said the name. It shocked both men. Clause quickly assessed the situation. Once the words were uttered both men knew that things could never return to the way they once were. Understanding the gravity of the thing Uncle had made the Don an equal by using his first name. There was no turning back. The mere use of the Don's given name made them equals. After all, Clause had come to offer a prince for a princess. "Alejandro." He began for the second time. No longer with apprehension, the name came out easier and with less effort. He had earned this familiarity with the Don, he thought to himself. He had saved Anna's life. Uncle would never forget the day she was dragged by a runaway horse. He had brought the horse to a halt only after great difficulty. But he had also aided the Don by improving his herds and maximizing the crop yields. The estancia and its buildings were improved through his efforts. Uncle Clause had earned the respect it, was not merely handed over. When the Don heard the use of his given name a second time the matter was settled once and for all. He remembered back to the way that Uncle had endeared himself to the family. This man had served him well, improving so many things without being asked and never expecting anything in return. Uncle was worthy of respect. After all, he was the only Uncle the Castillo family had ever known. Over the years, this man had become a Castillo. Not in name, but by deeds and by acts of love. "Yes my friend." The Don said warmly. By that gesture the Don had acknowledged Clause’s special place within his family. Clause understood and accepted the Don’s warm gesture of inclusion and was touched by the kindness. Remembering only the good times, both men were more comfortable now.
"Alejandro, our Anna is now of marrying age." Uncle began. "Yes." The Don answered uncomfortably, sighing as he looked away. The thought of his little girl being bedded by a man bothered him greatly. "I’ve come to make you a proposition." Uncle said with a stern voice usually reserved for business negotiations. "Oh, and what proposal is this?" Don Castillo asked cautiously. "You know that I love the girl as my own. She’s the daughter Helga and I could never have. As such, we wish her all the happiness in the world." Uncle said the words with great emotion, his eyes tearing. "Yes, yes." Alejandro replied as if irritated. Uncle's voice became firm, resolute. "Alejandro, the girl needs a husband. A man worthy of her and the name she carries. I know of such a man, a countryman of mine." Uncle’s words were sincerely spoken. Who is this man?" Don Castillo asked genuinely interested. "His name is Hans Von Fuerstenburg. He comes from a fine and noble German family. He is a highly decorated officer who fought in the last war. He couldn't remain in a defeated Germany, so he came here. For him it was a matter of honor." Clause offered with assurance. Don Castillo then spoke. "My friend, I know of your love for my daughter and of the bond you two have. If another had come to me with such a proposal, I would have taken offense. It is true that she is of marrying age, but as you know a marriage is an alliance of two houses and should strengthen both. What can this man bring to the marriage that another cannot? What value would an alliance bring with this man? To your credit Uncle, you have always been a man of common sense and understanding. So tell me, what can this man offer?" Don Castillo had stated his position clearly and waited for Uncle's response.
Uncle looked at the Don with a steady gaze. He was certain of Hans’ pedigree of noble Aryan blood; he was the best the Fatherland could offer. "Alejandro, this man brings to your family many powerful friends, even the influence of the Mother Church, beyond Argentina, and indeed from Rome herself. He is a man we call one of the chosen, born and bred to lead. Great wealth is at his disposal; he needs only to ask for it to be given. I believe, in not to many years, he will have great influence. His influence will be felt not only here in Argentina, but abroad as well. His friends follow his every move and exert influence on his behalf. Anna's future would be assured. Your house and grandsons would be looked upon favorably by these powerful men." Uncle had given the Don an honest appraisal of Hans. Don Castillo sat back in his chair and swirled his brandy in a wide circular motion. As he did so, he gave due consideration to Uncle's words. "Is he an attractive man?" The Don asked in a concerned tone. "Yes, of course Don Castillo!" Uncle replied as if insulted by the question. It was clear that Uncle had said all he had intended on the matter. The meeting was now in its final stages. It was left to the Don to make a decision. His would be the final word and that word would stand.
"As you know Uncle, this is a delicate matter which must be weighed very carefully." Don Castillo commented, expressing sincere feelings. Uncle nodded and sat quietly awaiting the Don's pronouncements. After all Uncle, Anna is young and her future must be carefully considered." The Don cautioned. Then the he stood and walked to the windows that brought the brilliant Argentine sunlight into the large study. As he looked out, the Don could see his daughter below. Sitting on a stone bench next to the courtyard fountain with her little Bavarian chocolate box, Anna hummed a tune while eating a piece of dark German chocolate. Swinging her crossed legs backwards and forwards, she sang her song. The Don saw her mother's innocence in her. But she also had her mother’s stubbornness. Anna looked almost angelic as the sun filtered through her fine golden hair. Though he had worried about how thin she was as a child, the Don now saw before him a beautifully proportioned young woman. He was pleased with her long angular body. Fine delicate features framed her beautiful face. She had high cheekbones and a fine straight nose; her strong jaw was perfection itself. Her mouth was wide with thin pink rose petal colored lips and eyes of steel blue like her mother's before her. Anna was her mother’s daughter. She was tall, much like the German race she had descended from. Her mother's family had come from the north country of Spain, where the Moors had not brought their culture or genetic pool. These people were descendants of the fierce Franks who settled after the Roman Legions in Spain. There they had remained after the Roman departure.
Thinking of his daughter’s future, Don Castillo turned to Uncle and said sternly, "We will accept on one condition. The dowry must be land and not money." The Don had made his first and final offer. The unexpected offer had thrown Uncle off. "But Don Alejandro, it is traditional to offer money as well as land." Uncle replied knowing that the young couple would need financial resources. "Did you not say this young man has friends with power and influence? And as you said, he has only to ask and wealth would be placed at his disposal. Why then would he need money?" The Don’s words made perfect sense. Uncle had no reply. He could only nod his head in agreement with the Don's logic. "Then it is agreed. We need only settle upon the amount of land to be given." The Don offered, knowing he had out negotiated his friend.
With that comment the Don walked across the study and sat down across from Uncle. It was now Uncle's turn to show his discomfort. Uncle gathered all of his strength and moved his great German girth out of his chair. As he did the Don was reminded of a strong old bull fattened by the years, but still very dangerous. Uncle lumbered toward the large French windows. As he looked outside pleasant memories flooded the old man's mind. Seeing Anna sitting on the bench by the great fountain that he had built those many years ago, he remembered how stark and without life the estancia had been on that first day he arrived. The long driveway to the house was only compacted earth then. The areas next to the large house were bleak with only spotty areas of native grass. It was he, who first suggested to the Don that the estancia needed the thick, high walls to surround the main house and the stables. This, he had said, would protect the family from any bandits who might be operating in the district. Many years had passed since that day. "Uncle, do you remember the many years of work and cursing you put into this estancia?" The Don asked playfully, startling him. Both men laughed as they stood looking out into the courtyard.
"Uncle, many gauchos complained bitterly to me about how you forced them to learn stone masonry. There were always difficulties due to that overbearing German foreman, Herr Mueller. Do you remember how matters became worse when you convinced me to allow German craftsmen to lay the stone driveway and courtyard? The gauchos could not understand the meticulous way in which these craftsmen worked." Uncle only grunted his reply to the Don’s recollections. "Don Castillo, do you remember the fight between Miguel and the young German stone mason?" Uncle commented, bringing up an old argument. "Yes." The Don responded curtly. "But it was Miguel's fault. He should not have refused to remove the large area of stone placements which didn't meet the strict standards." Uncle was clearly not over that argument of many years ago. "My dear Uncle, Miguel was right in this matter. He had worked long and hard to lay the stones just so. I personally investigated the matter and found nothing wrong with their placement." The Don assured Uncle. "Yes, Patron, however, this wasn't the issue. It was the cement that was poorly mixed and placed incorrectly between the stones. If the cement had not been removed and the stones reset, there would have been a problem with the heavy winter run off. When the rains came the water wouldn’t have run off into the irrigation ditches properly, which I had personally designed and laid myself. In turn, the water could have undermined the foundations of the large house itself." Clause seemed angry as he finished his statement.
"Clause my friend," Don Alejandro interrupted, "we’ve never agreed on this matter. Let us discuss a more important matter, our Anna." After a minute of thought the Don offered to give one thousand hectares of land as the dowry. "Upon my death, Estancia Castillo and all its land will become theirs. This is my last and final offer." The Don would discuss the matter no further. "Then it is done my friend." Uncle interrupted. "I shall take the news to your future son-in-law." Clause was happy with the arrangement. "Will this be acceptable to him?" The Don asked, knowing that the offer was more than generous. "Yes, of course, Don Castillo." Uncle replied knowingly. The two men then shook hands on the bargain and toasted the union. As of that moment Anna's fate was sealed. She was to become Dońa Antoinette Von Fuerstenburg, a daughter of Argentina and a wife and mother of the Reich. There would be no questioning of the match. She would do as all Argentine women of gentle birth had done before her, accept her new husband. It was now only a matter of informing her of the approaching wedding. How this was to be done was not yet decided by the Don. He would find a way to gently deliver the news to her.
08/04/2015 08:44 AM