It is needless to say that Mr. Hahn picked up a good deal of valuable information in the course of his career as a waiter; and to him information meant money, and money meant power and a recognized place in society. The diplomatic shrewdness which enabled him to estimate the moral calibre of a patron served him equally well in estimating the value of an investment. He had a hundred subterranean channels of information, and his judgment as to the soundness or unsoundness of a financial enterprise was almost unerring. His little secret transactions on the Bourse, where he had his commissionaires, always yielded him ample returns; and when an opportunity presented itself, which he had long foreseen, of buying a suburban garden at a bankrupt sale, he found himself, at least preliminarily, at the goal of his ambition. From this time forth, Mr. Hahn rose rapidly in wealth and power. He kept his thumb, so to speak, constantly on the public pulse, and prescribed amusements as unerringly as a physician prescribes medicine, and usually, it must be admitted, with better results. The “Haute Noblesse” became the favorite resort of fashionable idlers, among whom the military element usually pre-ponderated, and the flash of gilt buttons and the rattle of swords and scabbards could always be counted on as the unvarying accompaniment to the music.
With all his prosperity, however, Mr. Hahn could not be called a happy man. He had one secret sorrow, which, until within a year of his departure for the Tyrol, had been a source of constant annoyance: Mrs. Hahn, whom he had had the indiscretion to marry before he had arrived at a proper recognition of his own worth, was not his equal in intellect; in fact, she was conspicuously his inferior. She had been chamber-maid in a noble family, and had succeeded in marrying Mr. Hahn simply by the fact that she had made up her mind not to marry him. Mr. Hahn, however, was not a man to be baffled by opposition. When the pert Mariana had cut him three times at a dancing-hall, he became convinced that she was the one thing in the world which he needed to make his existence complete. After presenting him with a son, Fritz, and three rather unlovely daughters, she had gradually lost all her pertness (which had been her great charm) and had developed into a stout, dropsical matron, with an abundance of domestic virtues. Her principal trait of character had been a dogged, desperate loyalty. She was loyal to her king, and wore golden imitations of his favorite flowers as jewelry. She was loyal to Mr. Hahn, too; and no amount of maltreatment could convince her that he was not the best of husbands. She adored her former mistress and would insist upon paying respectful little visits to her kitchen, taking her children with her. This latter habit nearly drove her husband to distraction. He stamped his feet, he tore his hair, he swore at her, and I believe, he even struck her; but when the next child was born,—a particularly wonderful one,—Mrs. Hahn had not the strength to resist the temptation of knowing how the new-born wonder would impress the Countess von Markenstein. Another terrible scene followed. The poor woman could never understand that she was no longer the wife of a waiter, and that she must not be paying visits to the great folks in their kitchens.