“Well, Luise, it is the brute creature. That is just what I have always said. We don’t amount to as much as we think. But here we always talk about instinct. In the end I think it is the best.”
“Don’t speak that way. When you begin to philosophize—don’t take offense—Briest, you show your incompetence. You have a good understanding, but you can’t tackle such questions.”
“And if it is absolutely necessary to discuss questions there are entirely different ones, Briest, and I can tell you that not a day passes, since the poor child has been lying here, but such questions press themselves on me.”
“Whether after all we are perhaps not to blame?”
“Nonsense, Luise. What do you mean?”
“Whether we ought not to have disciplined her differently. You and I particularly, for Niemeyer is only a cipher; he leaves everything in doubt. And then, Briest, sorry as I am—your continual use of ambiguous expressions—and finally, and here I accuse myself too, for I do not desire to come off innocent in this matter, I wonder if she was not too young, perhaps?”
Rollo, who awoke at these words, shook his head gravely and Briest said calmly: “Oh, Luise, don’t—that is too wide a field.”
* * * * *
EXTRACTS FROM “MY CHILDHOOD YEARS” (1894)
By THEODOR FONTANE
TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM A. COOPER, A.M.
Associate Professor of German, Leland Stanford Jr. University
On one of the last days of March, in the year 1819, a chaise drove up before the apothecary’s shop at the sign of the Lion, in Neu-Ruppin, and a young couple, who a short time before had jointly purchased the shop, alighted from the carriage and were received by the servants of the house. The husband was only twenty-three years of age—for people married very young in those days, just after the war. The wife was twenty-one. They Were my parents....
I was born there on the 30th of December that same year. With my mother it was a matter of life and death, for which reason, whenever she was twitted with favoring me, she was accustomed simply to reply: “That is because I suffered most for him.” In this favored position I remained a long time, some eighteen years, till the birth of a late child, my youngest sister, for whom I stood sponsor and whom I even held during the christening. This was a great honor for me, but with it went hand in hand my dethronement by this very sister. It goes without saying that as the youngest child she straightway became the darling of the family.