The hour was now approaching when Germania was to lift up her voice to celebrate the glorious achievements of her sons. The audience, which consisted largely of soldiers and officers, were thronging forward to the tribune where she was advertised to appear, and the waiters, who had difficulty in supplying the universal demand for beer, had formed a line from the bar to the platform, along which the foam-crowned schooners were passing in uninterrupted succession. Fritz, who was fond of fraternizing with the military profession, had attached himself to a young soldier in Austrian uniform with the iron cross upon his bosom. They were seated amicably together at a small table near the stage, and the soldier, by liberal treats of beer, had been induced to relate some of his adventures in the war. He was a tall, robust man, with a large blonde mustache and an open, fearless countenance. He talked very modestly about his own share in the victories, and cooled Fritz’s enthusiasm by the extreme plainness of his statements.
“It was rather an uneven game at the start,” he said. “They were so few and we were so many. We couldn’t have helped whipping them, even if we had done worse than we did.”
“You don’t mean to say that we were not brave,” responded Fritz, with an ardor which was more than half feigned.
“No, I don’t say that,” said the warrior, gravely. “We were brave, and so were they. Therefore the numbers had to decide it.”
He emptied his glass and rose to go.
“No, wait a moment,” urged Fritz, laying hold of his arm. “Take another glass. You must stay and hear Germania. She is to sing ’Die Wacht am Rhein’ and ’Heil dir in Siegeskranz’.”
“Very well,” answered the soldier, seating himself again. “I have furlough for to-night, and I can stay here as well as anywhere.”
Two more glasses were ordered, and presently arrived.
“Listen!” began Fritz, leaning confidentially across the table. “I suppose you have a sweetheart?”
“Yes, I have, God bless her,” replied the other simply, “though I haven’t seen her these six months, and not heard from her, either. She isn’t much of a hand for writing, and, somehow, I never could get the right crooks on the letters.”
“Here’s to her health,” said Fritz, lifting his glass and touching it to that of his companion.
“With all my heart,” responded the latter, and drained the beer mug at one draught.
They sat for a while in silence, Fritz trying to estimate the pecuniary value of the audience, the soldier gazing, with a half-sad and dreamy expression, into the dark sky.
“Curious lot, the women,” broke out the junior Hahn chuckling to himself, as if absorbed in some particularly delightful retrospect. “There is the girl, now, who is to sing as Germania to-night,—and, between you and me, I don’t mind telling you that she is rather smitten with me. She is as fine a specimen of a woman as ever trod in two shoes; splendid arms, a neck like alabaster with the tiniest tinge of red in it, and—well, I might expatiate further, but I wont. Now, you wouldn’t think it of a girl like that; but the fact is, she is as arch and coquettish as a kitten. It was only the other night I went to see her—the old woman was in the room—”