“Proper? That is a word, Count, that I do not like.”
“Pardon me, your Highness. All this talk is merely for the sake of saving you needless embarrassment.”
He bowed and took his leave of her.
“Jugendheit! Ah, I had rather my garret, my garret!”
And her gaze sped across the Platz and lingered about one of the little window-balconies of the Grand Hotel.
THE YOUNG VINTNER
The Black Eagle (Zum Schwartzen Adler) in the Adlergasse was a prosperous tavern of the second rate. The house was two hundred years old and had been in the Bauer family all that time.
Had Fraeu Bauer, or Fraeu-Wirtin, as she was familiarly called, been masculine, she would have been lightly dubbed Bauer VII. She was a widow, and therefore uncrowned. She had been a widow for many a day, for the novelty of being her own manager had not yet worn off. She was thirty-eight, plump, pretty in a free-hand manner, and wise. It was useless to loll about the English bar where she kept the cash-drawer; it was useless to whisper sweet nothings into her ear; it was more than useless, it was foolish.
“Go along with you, Herr; I wouldn’t marry the best man living. I can add the accounts, I can manage. Why should I marry?”
“But marriage is the natural state!”
“Herr, I crossed the frontier long ago, but having recrossed it, never again shall I go back. One crown-forty, if you please. Thank you.”
This retort had become almost a habit with the Fraeu-Wirtin; and when a day went by without a proposal, she went to bed with the sense that the day had not been wholly successful.
To-night the main room of the tavern swam in a blue haze of smoke, which rose to the blackened rafters, hung with many and various sausages, cheeses, and dried vegetables. Dishes clattered, there was a buzzing of voices, a scraping of feet and chairs, a banging of tankards, altogether noisy and cheerful. The Fraeu-Wirtin preferred waitresses, and this preference was shared by her patrons. They were quicker, cleaner; they remembered an order better; they were not always surreptitiously emptying the dregs of tankards on the way to the bar, as men invariably did. Besides, the barmaid was an English institution, and the Fraeu-Wirtin greatly admired that race, though no one knew why. The girls fully able to defend themselves, and were not at all diffident in boxing a smart fellow’s ears. They had a rough wit and could give and take. If a man thought this an invitation and tried to take a kiss, he generally had his face slapped for his pains, and the Fraeu-Wirtin was always on the side of her girls.
The smoke was so thick one could scarcely see two tables away, and if any foreigner chanced to open a window there was a hubbub; windows were made for light, not air. There were soldiers, non-commissioned officers—for the fall maneuvers brought many to Dreiberg—farmers and their families, and the men of the locality who made the Black Eagle a kind of socialist club. Socialism was just taking hold in those days, and the men were tremendously serious and secretive regarding it, as it wasn’t strong enough to be popular with governments which ruled by hereditary might and right.