“Hush, child, hush! You don’t know what you are talkin’ about,” said the mother severely. Then turning to Hahn: “I should like to put one question to both of you, and when you have answered that, I’ll give my answer, which there is no wrigglin’ out of. If the old woman went along, would ye then care so much about the singin’ of the daughter?”
“Certainly, by all means,” responded Hahn promptly; but Fritz was so absorbed in polishing his finger-nails with a little instrument designed especially for that purpose, that he forgot to answer.
A long consultation now followed, and the end of it was that Ilka agreed to go to Berlin and sing for eight weeks, in her national costume, on condition that her travelling expenses and those of her mother should be defrayed by the manager. Mr. Hahn also agreed to pay for the board and lodgings of the two women during their sojourn in the capital and to pay Ilka the one thousand florins (and this was a point upon which Mother Uberta strenuously insisted) in weekly instalments.
The next day the contract was drawn up in legal form, properly stamped and signed; whereupon Mother Uberta and Ilka started with Hahn and Fritz for Berlin.
The restaurant of the “Haute Noblesse” was a splendid specimen of artistic decoration. The walls were frescoed with all sorts of marvellous hunting scenes, which Fritz had gradually incorporated in his own autobiography. Here stags were fleeing at a furious speed before a stout young gentleman on horseback, who was levelling his deadly aim at them; there the same stout young gentleman, with whiskers and general appearance slightly altered, was standing behind a big tree, firing at a hare who was coming straight toward him, pursued by a pack of terrible hounds; again, on a third wall, the stout young gentleman had undergone a further metamorphosis which almost endangered his identity; he was standing at the edge of a swamp, and a couple of ducks were making somersaults in the air, as they fluttered with bruised wings down to where the dogs stood expecting them; on wall number four, which contained the chef-d’oeuvre of the collection, the young Nimrod, who everywhere bore a more or less remote resemblance to Fritz Hahn, was engaged in a mortal combat with a wild boar, and was performing miraculous feats of strength and prowess. The next room,—to which it was, for some unknown reason, deemed a high privilege to be admitted,—was ornamented with a variety of trophies of the chase, which were intended, no doubt, as incontestable proofs of the veracity of the frescoed narrative. There were stuffed stags’ heads crowned with enormous antlers (of a species, as a naturalist asserted, which is not found outside of North America), heads of bears, the insides of whose mouths were painted in the bloodiest of colors, and boars, whose upward-pointed tusks gave evidence of incredible blood-thirstiness. Even the old clock in the corner (a piece of furniture which every customer took pains to assure Mr. Hahn that he envied him) had a frame of curiously carved and intertwisted antlers, the ingenious workmanship of which deserved all the admiration which it received. Mr. Hahn had got it for a song at an auction somewhere in the provinces; but the history of the clock which Fritz told omitted mentioning this incident.