Theodor Fontane (18191898). Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
AS the sun was setting the young couple reached home, and after Katherine had given her hat and cloak to Minette and had ordered tea, she followed Botho into his room, because she thought it fitting to spend the whole of the first day after her journey in his company, and besides she really wished to stay with him.
Botho was content, and because she was shivering, he put a cushion under her feet and spread a plaid over her. Soon afterwards he was called away, on account of some official business which required prompt attention.
At this very moment Botho came in again and was startled at what he saw. But he was immediately reassured, as Katherine pointed to the ashes and said in her most playful tone: What does this mean, Botho. Look there, I have caught you again. Now confess. Love letters? Yes or no?
And she took the pieces of wood that the servant had brought in the meantime, laid them skilfully together and started to light them with a couple of matches. The wood caught. In a moment the fire was blazing brightly and as she drew the armchair up before it and put her feet comfortably on the iron fender to warm them, she said: And now I will tell you the story of the Russian, who naturally was not a Russian. But she was a very clever person. She had almond eyes, all such persons have almond eyes, and she gave out that she was at Schlangenbad for the sake of the cure. Well, one knows what that means. She had no doctor, at least no regular physician, but every day she went to Frankfort or Wiesbaden, or even to Darmstadt, and she always had an escort. And some even said that it was not always the same one. And you just ought to have seen her toilettes and her conceited airs! She would scarcely how to anyone when she came to the table dhôte with her chaperon. For she had a chaperonthat is always the first requisite for such ladies. And we called her the Pompadour, I mean the Russian, and she knew that we called her that too. And the generals wife, old Frau von Wedell, who was entirely on our side and was quite indignant over this doubtful person (for she was a person, there could be no doubt about that)Frau Wedell, I say, said right out loud across the table: Yes, ladies, the fashions change in everything even in pockets large and small and in purses long and short. When I was young, there were still Pompadours, but now there are no longer any Pompadours. Is not that so? There are no longer any Pompadours? Is not that so? There are no longer any Pompadours? And as she said this we all laughed and looked at the Pompadour. But the shocking person won a victory over us for all that for she said in a loud, sharp tone (old Frau von Wedell was rather deaf) Yes, Frau Generalin, it is exactly as you say. Only it is strange, that as the Pompadours went out reticules came in, and presently they were called Ridicules and such Ridicules we still have. And as she spoke she looked at good old Frau von Wedell, who, since she could not answer, rose from the table and left the room. And now I should like to ask you, what have you to say to this? What do you think of such impertinence? But, Botho, you are not saying anything. You are not listening
Three weeks later there was a wedding in Jacobs church, the cloister-like court in front of which was filled with a large and curious crowd, mostly workingmens wives, some of them with children on their arms. But there were some school children and street children among them too. A number of carriages drove up, from one of the first of which a couple alighted, who were accompanied by laughter and comments, as long as they were in sight.
And doubtless this conversation would have continued longer, had not the brides carriage driven up just at this moment. The servant sprang down from the box and hastened to open the door, but the bridegroom himself, a thin man in a tall hat and high pointed collar, was quicker than he and gave his hand to his bride, a very pretty girl, who, as is usually the case with brides was less admired for her beauty than for her white satin dress. Then both walked up the few stone steps, which were covered with a somewhat worn carpet, then over the court and directly afterwards through the church door. All eyes followed them.
Oh, so that is it. Of course I have. But, my dear Kornatzki, if everybody paid attention to rumors there would be no more wreaths and Schmidt on the Friedrichsstrasse might as well shut up shop at once.
Yes, yes, laughed Kornatzki, so he might. And after all, for such an old man! At least fifty years have gone over his head and he looks as if he might be going to celebrate his silver wedding at the same time.
The next morning Rienücker and Katherine were sitting at breakfast, this time in Bothos workroom, both windows of which stood wide open to let in the air and light. Some mating swallows were flying and twittering all about the yard, and Botho, who was in the habit of giving them crumbs every morning, was just reaching for the basket again for the same purpose when the hearty laughter of his young wife who for the last five minutes had been absorbed in her favorite newspaper, caused him to set the basket down again.
Gideon Franke, Master Mechanic, and Magdalena Franke, née Nimptsch, respectfully beg leave to announce their marriage which took place to-day Nimptsch. Can you imagine anything funnier? And then Gideon!
Botho took the paper, but only as a means of concealing his embarrassment. Then he handed it back, and said in as careless a tone as he could muster: What have you against Gideon, Katherine? Gideon is better than Botho.