Fiction > Harvard Classics > Theodor Fontane > Trials and Tribulations > Chapter V
Theodor Fontane (1819–1898).  Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Chapter V
LENA and Botho paused before the “castle” with the green and red painted tower and asked Dörr with considerable formality for permission to go into the garden and walk there for half an hour. The evening was so fine. Father Dörr muttered that he could not leave his property in better hands, whereupon the young couple took leave, bowing courteously, and went into the garden. Everything was already quiet, and only Sultan, whom they had to pass, got up, and whimpered until Lena had stroked him. After that he crawled back into his kennel.   1
  In the garden all was perfume and freshness, for all the way along the principal path, between the currant and gooseberry bushes, grew gilly flowers and mignonette, whose delicate perfume mingled with the more powerful odour of the thyme beds. Nothing stirred in the trees, and only the fireflies darted through the air.   2
  Lena was hanging on Botho’s arm and they walked together to the end of the garden, where a bench stood between two silver poplars.   3
  “Shall we sit down?”   4
  “No,” said Lena, “not now,” and the turned into a side path bordered with tall raspberry bushes which nearly overtopped the garden fence. “I love to walk leaning on your arm. Tell me about something—something really pretty. Or ask me about something.”   5
  “Very well. Are you willing that I should have more of a friendship with the Dörr?”   6
  “As far as I am concerned.”   7
  “A curious couple. And moreover, I think, they are happy. He has to do as she wishes, and yet he is far cleverer than she.”   8
  “Yes,” said Lena, “he is cleverer, but then he is miserly and hard-hearted and that makes him docile, because he always has a bad conscience. She looks after him sharply and will not allow it, if he tries to overreach anyone. And that is what he is afraid of, and that makes him yielding.”   9
  “Is that all?”  10
  “Perhaps love, too, if it does sound strange. I mean love on his side. For in spite of his fifty-six years or more he is perfectly wild over his wife, simply because she is stout. Both of them have made me the most wonderful confessions about that. But I confess frankly, she is not to my taste.”  11
  “But you are wrong there, Lena; she makes quite a figure.”  12
  “Yes,” laughed Lena, “she makes a figure, but she has none. Can’t you see, that her hips are a hand’s breath too high? But you never see anything like that, and ‘figure’ and ‘imposing’ are every other word with you, without any concern as to the origin of that ‘imposing figure.’”  13
  Chatting and teasing each other thus they paused and stooped down to see if they could find an early strawberry in the bed that lay in front of the hedge and fence. Finally Lena found what she wanted, took the stem of a perfect beauty between her lips and came close up to Botho and looked at him.  14
  He was nothing loth, plucked the berry from her lips and embraced and kissed her.  15
  “My sweet Lena, you did that just right. But just hear how Sultan in barking; he wants to get to you; shall I let him loose?”  16
  “No, if he is here, you are only half mine. And if you keep on talking about ‘stately Frau Dörr,’ then I have as good as nothing left of you at all.”  17
  “Good,” laughed Botho, “Sultan may stay where he is. I am contented. But I want to talk more about Frau Dörr. Is she really so good?”  18
  “Yes, she really is, for all that she says strange things—things that sound as if they have a double meaning and perhaps really have. But she knows nothing about that, and in her doings and behavior there is not the least thing that could recall her past.”  19
  “Has she a past then?”  20
  “Yes. At least she had some sort of a relation for years and ‘went with him’ as she calls it. And there is no sort of doubt that there was plenty of talk about that affair, and of course about good Frau Dörr herself. And she herself must have given occasion for it again and again. Only she is so simple that she never gave it a thought, still less reproached anyone. She speaks of it as an unpleasant service, that she faithfully and honorably fulfilled, simply from a sense of duty. You man laugh, and it does sound queer. But I don’t know any other way to tell it. And now let us leave Frau Dörr alone and sit down and look at the crescent moon.”  21
  And in fact, the moon stood just above the elephant house, which, in the flood of silver light, looked even more fantastic than usual. Lena pointed to it, drew her hood closer and hid her face on Botho’s breast.  22
  So the minutes passed by, silent and happy, and only when Lena aroused, as if from a dream that escaped her, and sat up again, did she say: “What were you thinking of? But you must tell me the truth.”  23
  “What was I thinking of, Lena? Why, I am almost ashamed to tell you. I had some sentimental thoughts and was thinking of our kitchen garden at Castle Zehden, which is laid out so much like this of the Dörr’s, the same lettuce beds with cherry trees between and I would almost wager, just as many bird houses. And even the asparagus beds run the same way. And I would walk amongst them with my mother and if she was in a good humor, she would give me the knife and let me help her. But woe be unto me if I were careless and cut the asparagus stalk too long or too short. My mother’s hand was hasty.”  24
  “I well believe it. And I always feel as if I ought to be afraid of her.”  25
  “Afraid? How so? Why, Lena?”  26
  Lena laughed merrily and yet her laughter was a trifle forced. “You must not take it into your head that I have any intention of presenting myself before the gracious lady; you must just feel as if I had said that I am afraid of the Empress. That would not make you think that I meant to go to court? No, don’t be afraid; I shall never complain of you.”  27
  “No, you wouldn’t do that. You are much too proud for that, and then you are a regular little democrat, and every friendly word has to be almost choked out of you. Isn’t that so? But however that may be, describe my mother, as you imagine her. How does she look?”  28
  “Very much like you: tall and slender and blond and blue-eyed.”  29
  “Poor Lena (and now the laugh was on his side), you have missed it this time. My mother is a little woman with bright black eyes and a long nose.”  30
  “I don’t believe it. Is isn’t possible.”  31
  “And yet it is true. You must remember that I have a father too. But that never occurs to you. You always think that you women are the principal thing. And now tell me something about my mother’s character. But make a better guess.”  32
  “I think of her as very much concerned for the welfare of her children.”  33
  “Correct.”  34
  “… And that all her children must make wealthy, yes very wealthy marriages. And I know to, whom she has ready for you.”  35
  “An unfortunate woman, whom you …”  36
  “How you do mistake me. Believe me, that I have you now, for this very hour, is my joy. What follows does not trouble me. One of these days you will have flown away.…”  37
  He shook his head.  38
  “Don’t shake your head; what I say it true. You love me and are true to me; at least in my love I am childish and vain enough to believe so. But you will fly away, I see that clearly enough. You will have to. The saying is that love makes us blind, but it also makes us see far and clear.”  39
  “Ah, Lena, you do not know how dearly I love you.”  40
  “Oh yes, I do. And I know too that you think of your Lena as something set apart, and every day you think, ‘if only she were a Countess.’ But it is too late for that now, I can never bring it about. You love me, and you are weak. That cannot be altered. All handsome men are weak and the stronger spirit rules over them.… And the stronger spirit … now, who is that? Either it is your mother, or people’s talk, or your connections. Or perhaps all three … But just look.”  41
  And she pointed towards the Zoological Garden, where through the darkness of the trees and foliage a rocket rushed hissing into the air and with a puff burst into a countless shower of sparks. A second followed the first and so it went on, as if they were chasing and trying to catch up with one another, until of a sudden the rockets ceased and the shrubbery began to glow in a green and red light. A couple of birds cried out harshly in their cages and then after a long pause the music began.  42
  “Do you know, Botho, what I would give, if I could lean on your arm and walk with you over there up and down that school for scandal, as safely as here among the box borders, and if I could say to everyone: ‘Yes, you may wonder at us, he is he and I am I, and he loves me and I love him,’—do you know what I would give? But don’t guess, for you never could. You only know yourself and your club and your life. Oh, the poor little life.”  43
  “Don’t speak so, Lena.”  44
  “Why not? One must look everything squarely in the face and not whiten anything over, and above all one must not whiten one’s self. But it is growing cold and they are through over there. That is the last piece that they are playing now. Come, we will go in and sit by the fireside, the fire will not be out yet and my mother has long since gone to bed.”  45
  So they walked back along the garden path, she leaning lightly on his shoulder. The lights were all out in the “castle” and only Sultan gazed after them, thrusting his head out of his kennel. But he did not move and only some dim, sullen thoughts passed through his brain.  46



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