“And so am I, father dear,” responded Fritz, with a sudden outburst of affection. “Yes, yes, father,” he continued heartily, “you and I understand each other. I am a chip of the old block, I am—he, he!”
And with the most effusive cordiality this affectionate parent and son separated, with the avowed purpose of seeking oblivion in slumber, in their respective apartments.
“Perhaps I have been doing the old fellow injustice, after all,” thought Fritz, as he clasped his father’s hand once more at the bottom of the staircase.
“The young gosling hasn’t ventured into such deep water as I thought,” murmured the happy father, as he stood listening to Fritz’s footsteps re-echoing through the empty corridors.
Mr. Hahn, Sr., having satisfied himself as to his son’s sincerity, retired to his private chamber; not for the purpose of going to rest, however, but in order to make an elaborate toilet, having completed which, he hailed a droschke and drove to an obscure little street in the Friedrich-Wilhelm Stadt, where he ordered the coachman to stop. As he was preparing to dismount, he saw to his astonishment another droschke driving away from the door which he was intending to enter.
“Hm,” growled Hahn, “if she has been making acquaintances, she isn’t the girl I took her for. But there are other people living in the house, and the visit may not have been for her.”
Clinging fondly to this hope, he climbed with wary steps two flights of dark and narrow stairs, which was no easy feat for an elderly gentleman of his bulk. As he reached the second landing, panting and breathless, he found himself in violent contact with another person, who, like himself, seemed to be fumbling for the bell-handle.
“Beg your pardon, sir,” said a voice in the dark.
“What, you sneaking young villain!” cried Hahn in great wrath (for the voice was only too familiar to him); “I might have known you were up to some devilish trick, or you wouldn’t—”
Here the senior Hahn choked, and was seized with a violent coughing fit.
“You miserable old sinner!” hissed Fritz; “the devil has already got his finger on your throat.”
This was too much for Mr. Hahn; he made a rush for his rival, and in a moment he and Fritz were grappling furiously in the dark. It seemed about an even chance who was to be precipitated down the steep staircase; but just as the father was within an inch of the dangerous edge, the hall door was torn open, and Mother Uberta, followed by Ilka with a lamp in her hand, sprang forward, grasped the combatants in her strong arms and flung them against the opposite wall. They both fell on the floor, but each managed, without serious injury, to extricate himself from the other’s embrace.
“You are a fine, well-behaved lot, you are!” broke out Mother Uberta, planting herself, with arms akimbo, in front of the two culprits, and dispensing her adjectives with equal liberality to both.