Fiction > Harvard Classics > Theodor Fontane > Trials and Tribulations > Chapter IX
Theodor Fontane (1819–1898).  Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Chapter IX
THAT evening Botho wrote to Lena that he would come on the following day, perhaps even earlier than usual. And he kept his word and arrived an hour before sunset. Naturally he found Frau Dörr there. The air was very fine and not too warm, and after they had talked a while, Botho said:   1
  “Perhaps we could go into the garden.”   2
  “Yes, either into the garden or somewhere else?”   3
  “What do you mean?”   4
  Lena laughed. “Don’t be worried again, Botho. There is no one hiding in ambush and the lady with the pair of white horses and the wreaths of flowers will not cross your path.”   5
  “Then where shall we go, Lena?”   6
  “Just out in the green meadows where you will have nothing but daisies and me. And perhaps Frau Dörr, too, if she will be so good as to go with us.”   7
  “Will she?” said Frau Dörr. “Surely she will. I feel much honored. But I must put myself to rights a little. I will be with you again directly.”   8
  “There is no need, Frau Dörr; we will call for you.”   9
  And so the plan was carried out, and as the young couple walked across the garden a quarter of an hour later, Frau Dörr was already standing at the door, a wrap on her arm and a marvellous hat on her head, a present from Dörr, who, like all misers, would buy something absurdly expensive once in a while.  10
  Botho said something complimentary to the rather over-dressed lady, and all three walked down the path and went out by a hidden side door and reached a little path, which before it led further and curved out into the open green fields ran along by the outer side of the garden fence where the nettles grew high.  11
  “We will follow this path,” said Lena. “It is the prettiest and the most solitary. No one comes here.”  12
  And certainly it was the loneliest path, far more silent and solitary than three or four other roads that ran parallel with it over the meadows towards Wilmersdorf and showed something of their own sort of suburban life. On one of these roads there were a good many sheds, between which there were horizontal bars somewhat like those used by gymnasts. These aroused Botho’s curiosity, but before he could ask about them, the work going on answered his question: rugs and carpets were spread out on the frames and immediately began such a beating and banging with big sticks that a cloud of dust rose and nearly concealed the road.  13
  Botho pointed out this dust and was beginning a discussion with Frau Dörr about the value or harmfulness of carpets, which, viewed in this light, are mere dirt catchers, “and if one has not a very strong chest one might get consumption and never know how.” But he stopped short in the middle of a sentence, because the road he had taken led past a place where the rubbish of a stone-cutter’s workshop had been thrown out, and all sorts of fragments of ornaments lay about, in great numbers especially angels’ heads.  14
  “There is an angel’s head,” said Botho. “Look, Frau Dörr. And here is even one with wings.”  15
  “Yes,” said Frau Dörr. “And a chubby face too. But is it really an angel? I think it must be a cupid, because it is so small and has wings.”  16
  “Cupid or angel,” said Botho, “they are just the same. You ask Lena, and she will tell you so. Isn’t that so, Lena?”  17
  Lena seemed offended, but he took her hand and they were good friends again.  18
  Immediately behind the rubbish heap the path turned to the left and opened immediately afterwards into a somewhat larger country road where the willows were in bloom and were scattering their fleecy catkins over the fields, where they lay strewn about like cotton wool.  19
  “Look, Lena,” said Frau Dörr, “do you know that they stuff beds with that now instead of feathers? And they call it tree wool.”  20
  “Yes, I know, Frau Dörr. And I am always glad when people think of anything like that and make use of it. But it would never do for you.”  21
  “No, Lena, it would not do for me. You are right. I am more in favor of something firm, horse hair and a spring bed, and if it gives a jump …”  22
  “Oh, yes,” said Lena, who was growing a trifle nervous over this description. “But I am afraid that we shall have rain. Just hear the frogs, Frau Dörr.”  23
  “Yes, the frogs,” repeated the latter. “At night they keep up such a croaking that one cannot sleep. And why? Because this is all swamp and only looks like meadow land. Look at the pool where the stork is standing and looking right over this way. Well, he isn’t looking at me. He might have to look a long time. And a mighty good thing too.”  24
  “But we ought really to be turning back,” said Lena, who was much embarrassed, and simply wanted to say something.  25
  “Oh, no indeed,” laughed Frau Dörr. “Surely not now, Lena; you mustn’t get frightened at a little thing like that. Good stork, you must bring me … Or shall I sing: Dearest stork?”  26
  And so it went on for a while yet, for it took time to get Frau Dörr away from such a favorite topic.  27
  But finally there was a pause, during which they walked slowly onward, until at last they came to a plateau-like ridge that led over from the Spree towards the Havel. Just at this point the pasture land ended and fields of rye and rape seed began and continued as far as the first rows of houses of Wilmersdorf.  28
  “Now let us go up there,” said Frau Dörr, “and then we will sit down and pick buttercups and make a wreath out of the stems. It is always so much fun to poke one stem into another until the wreath or the chain is done.”  29
  “Yes, yes,” said Lena, whose fate it was not to be free from small embarrassments. “Yes, yes. But now come, Frau Dörr, the path leads this way.”  30
  And talking thus they climbed the little slope and seated themselves at the top on a heap of weeds and rubbish that had been lying there since the previous autumn. This heap was an excellent resting place, and also afforded a good point of view from which one could overlook a ditch bordered with willows and grass, and could not only see the northern row of houses of Wilmersdorf, but could also plainly hear, from a neighboring smoking-room and bowling-alley, the fall of the ninepins and more plainly still the rolling back of the heavy ball along the two noisy wooden rods of its track. Lena enjoyed this, and took Botho’s hand and said: “See, Botho, I understand that so well (for when I was a child we lived near such a bowling-alley) that when I just hear the ball hit, I know at once how much it will make.”  31
  “Well,” said Botho, “then we can bet.”  32
  “And what shall we bet?”  33
  “We shall think of something.”  34
  “Very well. But I only have to guess right three times, and if I say nothing it doesn’t count.”  35
  “I am satisfied.”  36
  And so they all three listened, and Frau Dörr, who grew more excited every minute, swore by all that was holy that her heart was throbbing and that she felt just as if she were sitting before the curtain at the theatre. “Lena, Lena, you have undertaken too much, child; it really is not possible.”  37
  And so she would have continued, if they had not just then heard a ball hit and after one dull blow come to rest against the side guard. “Missed,” cried Lena. And this was actually the case.  38
  “That was easy, too easy,” said Botho. I could have guessed that myself. Let us see what happens next.”  39
  And then, two more strokes followed, without Lena speaking or moving. But Frau Dörr’s eyes seemed to pop out of her head more and more. But now, Lena rose at once from her place, there came a small, hard ball and one could hear it dance, vibrating over the board with a tone in which elasticity and hardness were curiously mingled. “All nine,” said Lena. And in a moment the falling of the ninepins was heard and the attendant only confirmed what scarcely needed confirmation.  40
  “You have won, Lena. We must eat a philopena to-day and then we’ll call it square. Isn’t that right, Frau Dörr?”  41
  “Why certainly,” said Frau Dörr winking. “It is all square.” And so saying, she took her hat off and began to swing it about as if it had been her market hat.  42
  Meanwhile the sun had gone down behind the Wilmersdorf church tower and Lena proposed to start for home, “it was growing so chilly; but on the way they would play tag: she was sure that Botho could not catch her.”  43
  “We shall soon see.”  44
  And now they began chasing and running, and Lena actually could not be caught until at last she was so weak with laughter and excitement that she took refuge behind the substantial form of Frau Dörr.  45
  “Now I have a tree to dodge around,” she laughed, “and so you’ll never catch me.” And thereupon she took hold of Frau Dörr’s rather loose jacket and pushed the good woman so cleverly to the left and right, that she protected herself for quite a while. But suddenly Botho was beside her and caught her and gave her a kiss.  46
  “That is against the rules; we had not agreed on anything.” But despite this protest she hung on his arm and commanded, imitating the harsh voice of the guard, “Forward march … double quick,” and enjoying Frau Dörr’s endless exclamations of admiration wherewith the good woman accompanied the game.  47
  “Is it believable?” said she. “No, one can hardly believe it. And always just like this. And when I think of mine! It is unbelievable, I say. And yet he was a man too. And he always behaved so!”  48
  “What in the world is she talking about?” asked Botho softly.  49
  “Oh she is just thinking.… But you know all about it.… I told you about it before.”  50
  “Oh, so that is it. Well, he can’t have been so very bad.”  51
  “Who knows? For that matter, one is about the same as another.”  52
  “Do you think so?”  53
  “No.” And she shook her head while her eyes shone with a soft and tender expression. But she would not let this mood get the upper hand of her and so she said quickly: “Let us sing, Frau Dörr. Let us sing. But what shall we sing?”  54
  “‘Rosy dawn’ …”  55
  “No, not that … ‘To-morrow in the cold grave’ is too sad for me. No, let us sing ‘A year from now, a year from now’ or rather ‘Do you remember?’”  56
  “Yes, that is right, that is a pretty one: that is my favorite song.”  57
  And with well-practised voices all three sang Frau Dörr’s favorite song, and when they had nearly reached the garden the words still rung out over the field: “Ich denke d’ran.… Ich danke dir, mein Leben.” And then from the other side of the road, where the long row of sheds and carriage-houses were, the echoes repeated the song.  58
  Frau Dörr was very, very happy. But Lena and Botho had grown quiet and serious.  59



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