In this inner room on the 19th of April, 1864, Mr. Hahn and his son were holding a solemn consultation. The news of the fall of Duppel, and the consequent conquest of all Schleswig, had just been received, and the capital was in a fever of warlike enthusiasm. That two great nations like the Prussians and the Austrians, counting together more than fifty millions, could conquer poor little Denmark, with its two millions, seemed at that time a great and glorious feat, and the conquerors have never ceased to be proud of it. Mr. Hahn, of course, was overflowing with loyalty and patriotism, which, like all his other sentiments, he was anxious to convert into cash. He had therefore made arrangements for a Siegesfest, on a magnificent scale, which was to take place on the second of May, when the first regiments of the victorious army were expected in Berlin. It was the details of this festival which he and Fritz had been plotting in the back room at the restaurant, and they were both in a state of agreeable agitation at the thought of the tremendous success which would, no doubt, result from their combined efforts. It was decided that Ilka, whom by various pretexts Mr. Hahn had managed to detain in Berlin through the whole winter, should appear in a highly fantastic costume as Germania, and sing “Die Wacht am Rhein” and “Heil dir im Siegeskranz,” as a greeting to the returning warriors. If the weather proved favorable, the garden was to be brilliantly illuminated, and the likenesses of King Wilhelm, Bismarck, and von Moltke were to appear in gas-jets, each surmounting a triumphal arch, which was to be erected in front of the stage and at the two entrances to the garden.
“As regards that Tyrolese wench,” said Fritz, as he lighted a fresh cigar, “are you sure we can persuade her to don the Germania costume? She seems to have some pretty crooked notions on some points, and the old woman, you know, is as balky as a stage horse.”
“Leave that to me, Fritzchen, leave that to me,” replied the father, confidently. “I know how to manage the women. Thirty years’ practice, my dear—thirty years’ practice goes for more in such matters than a stripling like you can imagine.”
This remark, for some reason, seemed to irritate Mr. Fritz exceedingly. He thrust his hands deeply into his pockets, and began to stalk up and down the floor with a sullen, discontented air.
“Aha! you old fox,” he muttered to himself, “you have been hunting on my preserves. But I’ll catch you in your own trap, as sure as my name is Fritz.”
“The sly young rascal!” thought Mr. Hahn; “you have been sniffing in your father’s cupboard, have you?”
“Fritz, my dear,” he said aloud, stretching himself with a long, hypocritical yawn, “it is ridiculous for two fellows like you and me to wear masks in each other’s presence. We don’t care a straw for the whole Sieges business, do we, Fritz, except for the dollars and cents of it? I am deucedly sleepy, and I am going to bed.”