Fiction > Harvard Classics > Theodor Fontane > Trials and Tribulations > Chapter XXIV
Theodor Fontane (1819–1898).  Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Chapter XXIV
A TELEGRAM sent just as Katherine was on the point of departure arrived on the third day: “I shall arrive this evening. K.”   1
  And she actually arrived. Botho was at the station and was presented to Frau Salinger, who declined all thanks for her good companionship during the journey, and kept repeating how fortunate she had been, and above all how fortunate he must be in having such a charming young wife. “Look here, Herr Baron, if I were so fortunate as to be her husband, I would never part from such a wife even for three days.” And then she began to complain of men in general, but in the same breath she added an urgent invitation to Vienna. “We have a nice little house less than an hour from Vienna, and a couple of saddle horses and a good table. In Prussia you have schools and in Vienna we have cooking. And I don’t know which I prefer.”   2
  “I know,” said Katherine, “and I think Botho does too.”   3
  Hereupon they separated and our young couple got into an open carriage, after having given orders for sending the baggage home.   4
  Katherine leaned back and put her little feet up on the back seat, on which lay a gigantic bouquet, a parting attention from the Schlangenbad landlady who was perfectly delighted with the charming lady from Berlin. Katherine took Botho’s arm and clung to him caressingly, but only for a few moments, then she sat up again and said, as she held the great bouquet in place with her parasol: “It is really charming here, so many people and the river so crowded with boats that they can scarcely find their way in or out. And so little dust. I think it is really a blessing that they sprinkle now and everything is drenched with water; of course one had better not wear long dresses. And only look at the baker’s wagon with the dog harnessed in. Isn’t he too comical? Only the canal.… I don’t know, it is still just about the same.…”   5
  “Yes,” laughed Botho, “it is just about the same. Four weeks of July heat have not managed to improve it.”   6
  As they were passing under some young trees, Katherine plucked a linden leaf, placed it over the hollow of her hand and struck it so that it made a popping sound. “We always used to do that at home. And at Schlangenbad, when we had nothing better to do, we would pop leaves and do all sorts of little tricks that we used to do when we were children. Can you imagine it, I really care a great deal for such foolish little things and yet I am quite old and have finished with them.”   7
  “But, Katherine.…”   8
  “Yes, yes, a regular matron, you will see.… But just look, Botho, there is the rail fence again and the old ale-house with the comical and rather improper name, that we used to laugh at so heartily at boarding-school. I thought the place was gone long ago. But the Berliners will not let anything of that sort go, a place like that will always keep on; all that is needed is a queer name, that amuses people.”   9
  Botho vacillated between pleasure over Katherine’s return and fleeting moments of discontent. “I find you a good deal changed, Katherine.”  10
  “Certainly I am. And why should I be changed? I was not sent to Schlangenbad to change, at least not my character and conversation. And whether I have changed in some other ways, mon cher ami, nous verrons.”  11
  “Quite matronly now?”  12
  She held her hand over his mouth and pushed back her veil, which had fallen half over her face, and directly after wards they passed the Potsdam railway viaduct, over the iron framework of which an express train was just rushing. It made both a thundering and a trembling and when they had left the bridge behind, Katherine said: “It is always disagreeable to me to be directly under it.”  13
  “But it is no better for those who are up there.”  14
  “Perhaps not. But it is all in the idea. Ideas always have so much influence. Don’t you think so too?” And she sighed, as if some dreadful thing that had taken a terrible hold upon her life had suddenly come before her mind. But then she went on: “In England, so Mr. Armstrong, an acquaintance at the baths, told me (I must tell you more about him, besides he married an Alvensleben)—in England, he said, they bury the dead fifteen feet deep. Now fifteen feet deep is no worse than five feet, but I felt distinctly, while he was telling me about it, how the clay, for that is the correct English word, must weigh like a ton on the breast. For in England they have a very heavy clay soil.”  15
  “Did you say Armstrong.… There was an Armstrong in the Baden Dragoons.”  16
  “A cousin of his. They are all cousins, the same as with us. I am glad that I can describe him to you with all his little peculiarities. A regular cavalier with his mustache turned up, and he really went a little too far with that. He looked very comical, with those twisted ends, which he was always twisting more.”  17
  In about ten minutes the carriage drew up before the door and Botho gave her his arm and led her in. A garland hung over the large door of the corridor and a tablet with the inscription “Willkommen” (“Welcome”), from which, alas, one “I” was wanting, hung somewhat crookedly from the garland. Katherine looked up, read it and laughed.  18
  “Willkommen! But only with one ‘1,’ that is to say, only half. Dear me. An ‘L’ is the letter for Love, too. Well then, you too shall have only half of everything.”  19
  And so she walked through the door into the corridor, where the cook and housemaid were already standing waiting to kiss her hand.  20
  “Good day, Bertha; good day, Minette. Yes, children, here I am again. Well, how do you think I look? Have I improved?” And before the maids could answer, which indeed she was not expecting, she went on: “But you have both improved. Especially you, Minette, you have really grown quite stout.”  21
  Minette was embarrassed and looked straight before her, and Katherine added good-naturedly: “I mean only here around your chin and neck.”  22
  Meantime the man servant came in also. “Why, Orth, I was growing anxious about you. The Lord be praised, there was no need; you are none the worse for wear, only a trifle pale. But the heat causes that. And still the same freckles.”  23
  “Yes, gracious lady, they stay.”  24
  “Well, that is right. Always fast color.”  25
  While this talk was in progress she had reached her bedroom, where Botho and Minette followed her, while the other two retired to their kitchen.  26
  “Now, Minette, help me. My cloak first. And now take my hat. But be careful, or else we shall never know how to get rid of the dust. And now tell Orth to set the table out on the balcony. I have not eaten a bite all day, because I wanted everything to taste good here at home. And now go, my dear girl; go Minette.”  27
  Minette hastened to leave the room, while Katherine remained standing before the tall glass and arranged her hair which was in some disorder. At the same time she looked at Botho in the glass, for he was standing near her and looking at his pretty young wife.  28
  “Now, Botho,” said she with playful coquetry and without turning around to look at him.  29
  And her affectionate coquetry was cleverly enough calculated so that he embraced her while she gave herself up to his caresses. He put his arms around her waist and lifted her up in the air. “Katherine, my little doll, my dear little doll.”  30
  “A doll, a dear little doll. I ought to be angry at that, Botho. For one plays with dolls. But I am not angry, on the contrary. Dolls are usually loved best and treated best. And that is what I like.”  31



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