Beginning, Section IIJump to new as of March 11, 2013
Posted on: 2009-10-28
The first snow came overnight in late August, and although it melted away within two days the Daringers realised that, within another week or two, they would have to remove the cattle from the pasture and drive them home. They greeted the prospect with mixed feelings. Leni knew that she was bound to think of Eduard more often in the cold months – the work one was likely to do during the long autumn and winter evenings was not difficult enough to occupy her mind as well as her hands, which would permit her to think of him much more often than was good for her. So, while she was glad that the summer had passed without any serious accidents – even the calf with the adder-bite had survived and was doing rather well – she was also sorry to leave the pasture behind her.
Marianne, too, was feeling slightly melancholy. While being in the valley again meant that she was going to be closer to Jakob, it also meant that she'd enjoy less freedom than she'd had on the pasture. Not that she cared for anyone's opinion but Jakob's, but still there would be fewer opportunities for them to meet.
Gretl was sorry to exchange the freedom of pasture life, which had suited her exactly, for the boring and restricted existence in the valley. She'd become fast friends with Stephan, and was pretty certain he'd forget all about their friendship once school started again. He'd be with the other boys and tease her; or worse – he might even ignore her. As for school, Gretl was not looking forward to it. The local girls disliked her for being a foreigner and so she hadn't made any friends yet; the schoolmaster was prejudiced against her and her family for the same reason and blamed her for everything untoward that happened in the classroom. He was old, and his lessons were dull. Gretl felt that she'd be much better off at home. She had even suggested to her mother that she stay away from school; she was certain she could make herself useful in one way or another. But some grown-ups just didn't know what was good for them; her mother's view of the matter was highly unreasonable. Gretl was to go to school like the other children, and that was that. Gretl hoped she'd be needed for harvest work so she could stay away from school for a while longer*. But she'd have to go back to school eventually, and the thought was not a pleasant one.
Mrs Daringer was glad when autumn came. She was looking forward to spending the quiet winter months in the valley with her daughters, and sensed it might well be the last winter she was going to spend with all of them by her side. Things were becoming serious between Marianne and Jakob Wildauer, or so she could tell by watching them. It was not unlikely that Marianne would be married before spring. Jakob certainly showed every characteristic of a man who was deeply in love and determined to settle down. He was a charming, affectionate man and would suit Marianne, Mrs Daringer was sure. For Marianne's sake she was happy, but she also felt sad on her husband's account – that he hadn't lived to see his daughters happily settled.
She was also glad of the cold season for another reason. The Bavarian vet who'd saved the calf had taken advantage of the fact that she was beholden to him, and had paid her more attention than she thought seemly. She was a widow, and her husband had not yet been dead for a year. Her reputation, she felt, would suffer if she encouraged men to dangle after her – she was too old for that kind of thing anyway. But while Rudolf had understood her concern for her reputation and had taken care not to flirt with her when there were witnesses to his shocking conduct, he still persisted in wooing her whenever circumstances permitted it. Mrs Daringer had found his behaviour highly exasperating. It was not that she disliked him, or that he was making himself disagreeable; she simply thought that it was too soon after her husband's death to think of someone else, and had therefore ignored Rudolf's advances. She was relieved to find one day that he had gone from Weidach, and had returned to his home near Munich. He might not come back, she told herself, and tried to convince herself that it was for the best. Yet to be entirely honest with herself she had to admit that she did miss him. A little.
Luckily she did not have much time to miss him more than a little. The weeks before driving the cattle home were the busiest of the summer, for besides looking after the cattle and doing their dairy work they had to prepare the pasture for the long winter. The cabin and their dairy tools, though spotless at all times, needed to undergo another thorough cleaning before the Daringers could leave them behind. Small repairs had to be made – Stephan proved himself quite capable with a hammer and nails, and could do some repairs almost by himself, although his father and the Talbacher helped him whenever they could visit the pasture. The work they had to do was important – a small damage might well turn into a huge one over the winter, when there was no one to look after the deserted cabin and cowshed. Maybe this was why all those stories about the Winter Dairyman (or Dairymaid) had emerged – to warn people in charge of the mountain pastures that carelessness in their job could have disastrous results. Many were the tales of dishonest or sloppy dairymen and dairymaids being punished by the Winter Dairyman**. Even though Mrs Daringer did not believe in those stories (yet she'd have been extremely reluctant to return to the pasture after All Hallows Day) she wanted to leave everything in perfect condition. Doing a good job in autumn would leave her with less work to do in spring, she knew, and that was reason enough for her to take extra care to give the cabin a thorough clean even though she did not fear the pasture spirits.
The girls gathered flowers to decorate the cows for their way into the valley. The custom, though one belonging to the Lower Country rather than the area where they were now, was very close to their hearts and neither Cousin Johann nor the Talbacher had had any objection to their keeping it up. The summer had passed without serious injury to either staff or livestock, and this was a circumstance to be celebrated with flower garlands***.
One custom that both Upper and Lower Country had in common, however, was the homecoming dance. The Talbacher promised them just such a dance at Talbach Farm once they came back into the valley, and they were very much looking forward to it. They would not be able to dance, naturally, for it was not yet a year since their father had died. But they'd be able to enjoy the company of other young people after a long summer on the pasture, and they'd be able to catch up on some news. Besides, after the monotonous diet they'd enjoyed on the pasture they were really going to enjoy the food that was usually served during such festivities****.
They drove the cattle from the pasture in mid-September. The Talbacher and Cousin Johann came up from the village to help them with the task. So did Toni, the Talbacher's old dairyman, who would have been greatly offended if his boss had not permitted him to come along.
"Looks like you've done a proper job of it after all," Toni remarked as they let the cattle out of the cowshed and fixed the flower bouquets on their heads. "The cabin's almost as tidy as I left it."
Leni smiled, and did not reply. The fact that he'd been replaced by a couple of women still rankled, she knew. Better let him think that they were inadequate if it made him happy.
"I must say your mother's cheese is not half bad," he added grudgingly. "She has learned her trade, certainly."
"So she has," Leni agreed.
Toni ran a practised eye over some of the cows. "The livestock's in fine shape too," he said.
"Thank you. From you that's a real compliment."
"I wasn't sure you'd manage, but it seems you have." Toni sighed. "Time for me to sit back and enjoy my retirement then. I'd hoped the Talbacher would give me my old job back and send you to the devil, but I can't see that happening any time in the near future."
Leni laughed. "You will always be welcome here, you know," she said.
"Wouldn't do any of us any good if I took you up on the offer," Toni said. "I can't come here and just watch after having been in charge here for decades, and I don't suppose you'd want me to meddle."
"You're welcome to meddle any time you like; I know there is much we could learn from you," Leni replied.
"There is," he agreed, and then admitted grudgingly, "Though not as much as I thought there was."
Their descent into the valley was just as exhausting as their climb had been earlier in the year. Toni, Cousin Johann and Stephan were walking ahead of the herd to set the pace. Leni, her mother and the Talbacher were at the centre of the herd to make sure none of the animals strayed from the path and got lost. Gretl and Marianne followed at the back and made sure none of the animals fell behind. Leni watched the Talbacher do his work, and admired him for the kind, yet firm way he kept the cattle in check. One could tell a man's character by the way he treated animals and children, her father had often said; a rule she had often found to be true. It was a pity Marianne did not return the feelings the Talbacher had for her; he'd have made her an excellent husband, probably even a better one than Jakob Wildauer would. That there was an understanding between the two Leni did not doubt. She supposed that they'd start their wedding preparations as soon as the anniversary of her father's death had passed. Marianne had not said anything to that effect, but it was what everyone expected to happen.
They arrived at the Bartlhof in the late afternoon, and although they'd all preferred to get some rest they had to make their cottage habitable again. Mrs Daringer did not rest until they'd scrubbed all the floors and cleaned the windows, made up the beds, aired all the rooms and, after a dinner of boiled potatoes and butter, cleaned up the kitchen. Once all this was done none of them was in the mood to stay up any longer; they fell into their beds and were asleep almost before their heads hit their pillows.
The next morning they got up early to have a bath and wash their hair. Then they put on their best clothes, and went to the village church with Cousin Johann's family to attend a small thanksgiving service held in honour of their safe return. All the villagers had come to hear the mass, and all of them were invited to the orchard of Talbach Farm where the homecoming dance was to take place. It was a large crowd that made its way across the village. Jakob Wildauer had approached Marianne immediately after service and she was now holding on to his arm as they walked, beaming happily and listening to his witticisms with a sparkling eye.
As they reached Talbach Farm, however, the Talbacher's housekeeper came out of the front door and handed him a piece of paper – a telegraph. Without comment, the Talbacher read it and then gave orders to have his horse ready in ten minutes. He then turned to his guests.
"I'm sorry," he said. "As you have noticed, I've just had an urgent message that makes it impossible for me to stay any longer. I must go to Town at once. But please stay and celebrate; you have worked hard and deserve a feast."
"But what happened?" Cousin Johann protested. "Can't this business wait until tomorrow? The dance won't be the same without its host!"
"It is your celebration as much as mine, Johann. You can act as host with my goodwill, and I know you'll take good care to make our guest feel comfortable. My people here know how to do their jobs; you won't lack anything. But I cannot postpone this business, as I said it's urgent. I must be gone immediately."
"I hope it is not from your sister," Mrs Jäger interjected. "Is she ill?"
"No, my sister is fine, thank you. It's just some business I must attend to."
"It can't be a mere business matter if it worries you so much. Why, you look as pale as a ghost! Do let me know the truth."
"Mother, leave the Talbacher alone." Mrs Mayrhofer rebuked her mother, but her mother chose to ignore her.
"Perhaps it's from your cousin? Is she married?"
The Talbacher smiled, but it was not a humorous smile. "Don't you think she'd invite me to her wedding if this was so? And not at such short notice as that."
"Now I know!" Mrs Jäger cried. "I know who the telegraph is from! And I do hope she's well."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Mrs Jäger."
"Yes, you do! You know exactly who I mean."
"I must be off," the Talbacher said hastily as one of his stable hands came across the farmyard leading his horse. He took his leave of his guests, attached a bag to his saddle, mounted his horse and rode away.
Leni heard Jakob Wildauer say to Marianne, "There are some people who can't abide celebrations like this, and the Talbacher is one of them. I'd lay you any odds that he sent that telegraph to himself just to get out of it."
"I don't doubt it," Marianne replied. "At least he didn't cancel the dance altogether. I'd say he's perfectly capable of doing so, but it can't done at such short notice."
* While school was compulsory for all children between six and fourteen years of age, those who were needed for farm-work at home were exempt for the duration of planting, harvest and the summer. So for some children in rural areas school would not start until harvest work was done.
** A lot of mountain pastures and cabins have haunted reputations; very often the ghosts connected with them are those of dishonest staff once working there and now paying for their sins. This is why it's considered dangerous to go back to the pasture after the cattle have left it in autumn – the spirits may have settled in, and don't take kindly to being treated with disrespect.
There are those, of course, who turn out to be harmless lost souls who are just waiting for someone to help them on their way. In those cases, they will offer a generous reward for their release, usually in the form of good health and fortune.
*** "Almabtrieb" – the cows wear flower arrangements on their heads, usually with religious symbols in between, as some kind of thanksgiving for an uneventful pasture summer. A major tourist attraction nowadays.
**** Since one has to carry up every bit of food on one's back, the dairymaids and dairymen don't take any more than the bare necessities with them. A bag of flour, some salt (which they'll have to share with the cattle), maybe some bacon if the farmers are feeling generous. So after a diet of butter, milk, cheese and flour for months on end I guess they were ready to kill for a couple of potatoes.
The Talbacher's sudden departure to Town, coupled with his silence as to why he'd been obliged to leave so quickly, filled the mind of Mrs Jäger, and since the Daringers spent most of their evenings in Cousin Johann's parlour spinning wool and flax* they had plenty of opportunity to listen to her conjectures. She imagined all kinds of misfortunes to have befallen him, and enlivened the evenings of her son-in-law's entire household by sharing her theories.
"Something very bad must have happened to him I'm sure," she said. "I could see it in his face when he read that telegram. The poor man! I'm afraid he is running out of money, for you know his brother left Talbach Farm in an awful state and he had to invest a tidy sum to bring it about again! I do think the telegram must have come from his bank in Town."
"Nonsense, Mother," Cousin Johann protested. "Whatever the problems may have been when the Talbacher took over, I'm sure he's sorted them out by now. He's a very prudent man in money matters, and good at running Talbach Farm. It must yield some profit for him – he's probably better off than me!"
Thus adjured Mrs Jäger remained quiet for a couple of minutes, until another thought entered her mind and she gave voice to it.
"Maybe it's about that girl, his ward," she said. "I dare say that's what it is; he looked so conscious when I mentioned her! Maybe she's ill, nothing can be more likely! Wasn't she always a sickly child? I'd give anything in the world to find out the truth! And what about his sister in Imst**? Maybe she's fallen ill and has sent for him! He set off in such a hurry that it seems highly likely to me! Well, I wish for his sake that his troubles may soon be at an end, and that he'll find a good wife."
"That ought to put an end to all troubles he's having at the moment though there's no saying what further troubles it might cause him," Cousin Johann said, grinning.
The Talbacher returned to Weidach a week later, but not even Mrs Jäger's continuous efforts could draw the reason for his journey from him. He listened patiently to her sly allusions to such topics as sisters, wards, and bank accounts, but gave nothing away. Instead he made such remarks as led her to the most shocking conclusions. On one visit he made a passing remark regarding a pretty waitress at the Golden Eagle, a well-known hostelry in Town, which made Mrs Jäger think that he was either contemplating marriage or had got a girl in trouble; probably both. He laughed openly at that, and informed Mrs Jäger that whatever he'd been doing in Town had been for him to know and her to find out, which made her double her efforts. She even went so far as to write to her daughter, Mrs Pallhuber, landlady of the Jägerbräu Inn, to inquire whether she'd seen the Talbacher in Town, but Mrs Pallhuber had not seen him; had not even been aware of his presence in Town, and so Mrs Jäger's curiosity remained unsatisfied.
Leni, though unable to deny that she was curious as well, had other matters to think of which were even more important, in her opinion, than what business had made it necessary for the Talbacher to travel hot-foot to Town. Her mind was taken up with Marianne and Jakob Wildauer, and their uncharacteristic silence on a matter that they must have known was close to their well-wishers' hearts. Why they should not openly admit to their engagement, at least to Marianne's immediate family, Leni could not imagine.
It was not difficult for her to see why an immediate marriage might not be forthcoming, for although he appeared to be at leisure to spend any time he chose in Weidach they had no reason to suppose Jakob a rich man. But Jakob and Marianne's behaviour was that of a couple who'd come to an understanding, and why they were reluctant to inform their friends of their engagement was something Leni did not understand.
One Saturday evening Marianne asked her mother whether she could attend early Mass the next morning rather than High Mass later in the day, as was their custom. Mrs Daringer, suspecting that Marianne had an assignation with Jakob, and feeling that this could only mean that he meant to propose to her at last, had no objection to the scheme.
Their surprise was great, however, when Marianne did return from church with Jakob, but immediately dashed upstairs to her room where she gave way to a violent bout of tears. Jakob himself was looking dejected and his expression greatly resembled that of a mistreated puppy, or so Mrs Daringer thought. Alarmed, she asked Jakob what had happened.
"Is anything the matter with Marianne?" she asked. "Is she ill?"
"I hope not," he said, trying to assume the cheerful countenance they knew so well but failing. "It's me – I have suffered a great disappointment."
"Disappointment? How so?" Mrs Daringer wanted to know.
"I have come to take my leave of you," Jakob told her. "This morning my aunt, Mrs Albrecht, told me that my stay here has lasted for long enough and that I am to attend to business in Town for a change. She has given me my orders, and I will leave presently, but not without taking leave of my friends on the Bartlhof."
"To Town! And you must leave immediately? It seems heartless to send you on your way on a Sunday!"
"I'm afraid this is quite urgent, so yes, I must leave at once."
"That's bad," Mrs Daringer said. "But naturally you must oblige Mrs Albrecht – and I don't suppose her business will keep you from us for long. That is to say I hope it won't."
Jakob flushed, as he replied, "You are very kind to me, but I'm afraid it won't be in my power to return to Weidach any time soon. I only visit my aunt once a year, you know."
"Surely Mrs Albrecht is not your only friend hereabouts? You must know that you'll always be welcome here, you needn't wait for an invitation!"
He submitted his shoes to close study in order to avoid Mrs Daringer's gaze, and only murmured, "You're too good."
Mrs Daringer looked at Leni in surprise, and Leni's amazement was quite as great as her mother's. For a few moments no one spoke.
"I won't press you to return at once if it goes contrary to your aunt's wishes; I know I need not doubt your own inclination," Mrs Daringer finally said.
There was some confusion in Jakob's face as he said, "My business is of such a kind … in fact … I dare not …" He broke off.
Mrs Daringer was too astonished to speak, and so there was another pause until Jakob said, with a faint smile, "It's foolish of me to stay any longer. I can't stay with friends whose company I can enjoy no longer."
He hastily said goodbye to them all and left the house. Gretl ran to the window and watched him as he walked to the garden gate and then disappeared behind the bend in the road. Mrs Daringer looked much shaken and retired upstairs, to see how Marianne was doing and, Leni suspected, to seek solace in some tears of her own.
Leni was just as uneasy as her mother. The scene that had just taken place in their small parlour filled her with anxiety and distrust. Jakob's behaviour in taking leave of them, his evident embarrassment and unwillingness to accept her mother's invitation greatly disturbed her; it was so unlike Jakob, so unlike a lover. For a moment she feared that he'd never been in earnest about Marianne; the next she suspected that there'd been some kind of quarrel between him and her sister that had made him want to leave at once. In fact, it seemed like the most probable explanation for Marianne dashing up the stairs as she had done, without a word to Jakob or them; yet considering Marianne's love for him Leni thought it impossible that they should have quarrelled. But whatever the reason for their separation was, Leni was afraid that Marianne, rather than seeking relief in her tears, would nurture her grief and consider it her duty to be as miserable as she could for as long as she could contrive.
About half an hour later her mother came back downstairs, dressed in her Sunday best and ready to go to church. She sat down at the parlour table, watched Leni doing Gretl's hair and said, "Jakob must have left Weidach by now, and must travel with a heavy heart indeed."
Leni, having finished braiding her sister's hair, sent her upstairs to change into her Sunday raiment, knowing full well that she was more likely to press her ear to the floor and try to catch whatever she could of her mother's highly interesting conversation with Leni.
"It is very strange," she said when Gretl had closed the door behind her. "To be gone so suddenly, without warning, and without the least intention of coming back! Something must have happened; something that he did not care to tell us! What can it be? Do you think there was an argument between him and Marianne? Why else should he be so unwilling to accept your invitation?"
"It's not that he was unwilling, Leni, I could see that! There's a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he can't come to see us; I am sure it is his aunt's fault. Mrs Albrecht dislikes his regard for Marianne; maybe she has other plans for him. This is why she wanted him to leave, and came up with some urgent business as an excuse to send him off to Town and keep him there. I believe he knows that, and knowing how dependent on her goodwill he is he does not dare act contrary to her wishes. You will tell me, of course, that this may or may not have happened, but I won't listen to your argument unless you can come up with an explanation as reasonable as this one. Now what do you say?"
"Nothing; you've already said everything."
"Leni, sometimes I don't understand you at all. How eager you are to think ill of others rather than good, with no foundation for your opinion! You prefer to look out for misery for Marianne and guilt for Jakob to accepting an apology for him! For what reason? That he wasn't as affectionate to us just now as he usually was? Consider what his feelings on the occasion must have been, consider his disappointment before you judge him! What do you suspect him of, anyway?"
"I don't really know; but I suspect that something unpleasant will come of this. I am willing to make allowances for his state of mind, and I hope I'll always do my best to do justice to everybody in my opinion of them. Jakob may have several good reasons for behaving as he did; I hope he has. But it would have been more like him to tell us all about them; I wonder at his not having done so."
"I do not blame him for having acted contrary to his character," Mrs Daringer insisted.
"It may be proper for him to keep his engagement to Marianne – if they are engaged - a secret from Mrs Albrecht, if she opposes the match," Leni said. "But why keep it a secret from us?"
"Leni! Not too long ago you worried about their not being cautious enough and demonstrating their love for each other too openly, and now you accuse them of secrecy?"
"I don't need any proof of their mutual affection," Leni insisted. "But I have yet to see proof of their engagement."
"I don't," her mother said curtly, and since Gretl came into the parlour that moment, and the church bells reminded them of their duty, their conversation was at an end.
* Most farmers had a flax field somewhere on their property; Upper Country linen was known for its durability and therefore sold well; apart from that the farmers' wives made the clothes for their families and staff using homemade fabrics.
** Imst: small town in the Upper Country.
Posted on: 2010-04-05
Knowing what was due to her status as a jilted lover, Marianne did not get a wink of sleep that night; in fact she'd have had no good opinion of herself if she had managed to sleep for as much as five minutes. She stayed awake all night, crying most of the time, thereby making sure that her sister could not sleep either, got up with a headache in the morning and refused to eat or drink anything at breakfast. Any attempts on her family's part to console her were spurned and indignantly forbidden and, after a while, no further efforts were made.
Unlike the heroines of Marianne's favourite novels, whose example she was endeavouring to follow, she was not at leisure to indulge her grief and go for solitary walks. It was a fine Monday morning in September, and the potato harvest was in full swing. So instead of wandering to the Alfingerhof and thinking of the might-have-been, shedding bitter tears in the process, she was obliged to join her Cousin Johann's family in the potato field, collect potatoes in large baskets and fill them into bags afterwards. Those rough mountain folk did not even know what delicacy of feeling meant; they did not have feelings profound enough to sympathise with what she was going through at the moment. But, as Leni had pointed out to her in the morning – never had Marianne disliked her more than at that moment – since Marianne was quite happy to eat potatoes she was to assist with the harvest too, and hard work would keep her mind off things.
Marianne did not want her mind to be kept off Jakob, and did what she could to keep his memory fresh in her heart. When they returned from the field in the evening, she sat down on the garden bench with one of her books which exactly suited her humour; she read, and stared out at the road, reliving moments of happiness she'd had with him. Anyone happening to walk past and greet her as was the custom almost had their nose bitten off for their pains, and no one was offered an invitation to join her*. However, since by that time it was general knowledge that Jakob Wildauer had left Weidach with no date fixed for his return, and the pair of them having given the people enough reason to talk about them and make conjectures, no one was really surprised at Marianne's conduct.
No message from Jakob came, and it did not look as if Marianne was expecting to receive a letter from him. This surprised Mrs Daringer, and made Leni uneasy; but Mrs Daringer had no difficulty in finding an excuse for behaviour that she meant to pardon.
"If they have to keep their engagement a secret, and we did consider that possibility, it is unlikely that he will write. You know how the postman pries into people's affairs; if Marianne were to receive a letter from Jakob the news would be all over the village within the hour!"
Leni had to acknowledge the truth of that, and tried to accept it as a sufficient explanation of Jakob's silence. But there was one simple method by which her mother could find out how matters stood between Marianne and Jakob, and Leni was surprised that it had not occurred to her mother to ask Marianne whether she and Jakob had come to an understanding.
She made the suggestion, but without success.
"I wouldn't ask Marianne for the world!" Mrs Daringer cried. "Especially now that she's calmed down a bit – if she's not betrothed the question will cause her pain and embarrassment, and if she is she won't feel much better! If they are obliged to keep their engagement a secret, how can I ask her to confess it to me? I am not going to force her confidence; she will tell me what the matter is when she feels the right moment has come."
About a week after Jakob had left Weidach, Marianne and her sisters were walking back to the Bartlhof after having made some purchases in the village shop. They stopped and put down their baskets for a moment, and as they looked towards the road to town they saw a man walking towards the village.
"It's Jakob!" Marianne exclaimed, as the man came closer. "I know it's him! He has a dark suit just like that one!" She hurried away from her sisters to meet him.
"Wait, Marianne!" Leni cried and followed her sister. "I don't think it's Jakob. He's not tall enough, for one, and this is not how he walks!"
"Nonsense; I know it's him," Marianne replied, and continued her way towards the man. Leni followed her, trying to keep Marianne from making a fool of herself.
As they drew closer, Marianne realised that the traveller was not Jakob, and turned away in disappointment. By this time, however, her sisters had recognised him, and their enthusiastic welcome of the traveller made her turn back and take a closer look at him.
It was Eduard Falkner, and the only man in the world who could be forgiven for not being Jakob. Marianne suppressed the tears that had started in her eyes and greeted him, smiling, and for a moment forgetting her own disappointment for the sake of her sister's happiness.
Marianne's greeting of Eduard was probably even more cordial than Leni's, a fact that did not surprise her since she'd always thought the coldness of manner between them rather odd. On the Neaderhof it might have been explained away by Fanny's opposition to anything that resembled a romantic entanglement between her brother and her sister-in-law, but surely here there was nothing to prevent them from behaving as outrageously as they wished.
On Eduard's side, especially, there was a pronounced lack of anything that a lover ought to say and do on an occasion such as this. He seemed confused, betrayed no pleasure in seeing any of them, didn't look happy at all, and did not speak at all beyond what he was saying in response to their eager questions. There was no sign of particular affection for Leni either, which puzzled Marianne to no end, and almost made her take him in dislike. She compared his conduct to Jakob's, and could not help but feel that there was a striking contrast between them.
After a short silence, Marianne asked Eduard whether he'd been in Town all summer.
"Oh no, I visited some friends near Kufstein**, and stayed with my family for a while," he replied.
"In Kufstein! I'd no idea you had friends there," Marianne said. "You've never mentioned them before!"
Looking rather distressed, he said that he'd had no occasion to mention those friends so far.
"Have you been anywhere near the Neaderhof lately?" Leni inquired.
"Oh yes, I stopped there on my way back to Town, not two weeks ago," Eduard said.
"And how does the dear place look?" Marianne wanted to know.
"I daresay it looks as it always does at this time of year," Leni said dryly. "It's growing dark and gloomy again, and the leaves are falling sooner than anywhere else."
"Oh, but how beautiful it used to look!" Marianne cried. "The leaves turning to gold, and then falling! How much I used to enjoy watching them driven about by the wind! Now there's no one left to take pleasure in them. I dare say Fanny thinks them a nuisance, and before long she'll have Hans cut down the trees."
"Not everyone shares your passion for dead leaves," Leni pointed out. "I don't think Hans will cut down the trees in the orchard though. He's too fond of our apples and pears – and the must*** always sells well, which no doubt pleases Fanny."
"People don't usually share my feelings," Marianne said. "Though some people do." She looked wistful for a moment, and then said, "Now, what do you think of Weidach, Eduard? The farm in the orchard over there is the Bartlhof, which is where we live now – in that small cottage you can see next to the farm house."
"It looks like a pleasant place to me," Eduard said. "Though smaller than what you are accustomed to."
"It's quite nice, actually," Gretl hurried to reassure him.
"What about the neighbourhood? Have you made friends already? Are the Mayrhofers agreeable people?" Eduard asked.
"No," Marianne said. "Our situation could not be more uncomfortable."
"But Marianne!" Leni exclaimed. "That's not true! You're being unjust to the Mayrhofers; they've done all that's in their power to make us feel at home here! They're respectable people, Eduard, and treat us in the friendliest manner. Don't forget how many pleasant days we've spent in their company, Marianne!"
"No. Nor how many painful moments they've caused me," Marianne said sharply.
Leni chose to ignore her sister's ill-natured remark; it would not be seemly to start an argument with her in front of their guest. So instead she turned her attention to Eduard, and talked to him about their change of situation, the summer they'd spent on the pasture, the house they were now living in, describing the advantages of their new home and thereby drew questions from him. His cold and reserved manner vexed her, but she did not betray her resentment in anything she said or did. Keeping his connection to her family in mind, she did her best to treat him with the same civility any of their visitors could expect from her, and would indeed have thought very ill of herself had she not succeeded.
* The garden bench or "outdoor bench", as it was called, was some kind of meeting point. It was the place where people would meet and exchange news and gossip, and it was also the place where young men would meet their sweethearts. By refusing to invite anyone to sit with her on the garden bench Marianne is being quite offensive, in fact.
** Kufstein: Town and district capital in the Lower Country, on the Bavarian border. Famous for its fortress.
*** Must: Wine made of apples or pears.
Posted on: 2011-06-03
Mrs Daringer showed no surprise at Eduard's arrival, and it was thanks to her that his shy and reserved manner gave way to more natural behaviour; he became more like the Eduard they knew and loved simply because he was not immune to the cordiality of Mrs Daringer's welcome. He was shown all over the house, and said what was proper; he praised the amenities of their new home and patiently listened to their account of the summer they'd spent on the pasture. He was kind and attentive, but not in spirits. They all noticed it; there was something that occupied his mind, and by all appearances it was something unpleasant. Mrs Daringer was quick to put the blame on Eduard's mother, and by the time they sat down to have supper together she was out of all patience with selfish relatives of all kinds.
"Well, Eduard," she asked him. "Does your mother still insist on your becoming a priest?"
"No; I believe she is beginning to realise that I'd be better off if I took up another profession," Eduard replied.
This certainly was good news, Mrs Daringer thought, and said, "Has she decided on a way to make you rich and famous then? For I am afraid she will settle for nothing less now that you are not going to join the clergy."
Eduard smiled. "I will not make an attempt to become rich and famous. I've never been one to put myself forward, and hope to God I shall never have to."
"You're a modest man, I know, with moderate ambitions if any."
"As moderate as anyone's, I think. Like everyone else I wish to be happy, and like everyone else I must find my own way of achieving happiness. Fame will not make me happy, though; I know as much."
"It would be strange if it did," Marianne said. "What do fame and fortune have to do with happiness?"
"Fame does not contribute to happiness, it's true," Leni said. "But fortune does, you'll have to admit."
"Fie, Leni!" Marianne cried. "Money can only give so much happiness; to such people as don't know where else to find it."
"I wasn't thinking of a large fortune," Leni defended herself. "Just enough to afford some of the good things in life."
"If only there was somebody to give us all a fortune," Gretl said.
"Oh yes! Wouldn't that be nice!" Marianne cried.
"I think we'd all be happy about that," Leni remarked. "In spite of the fact that wealth alone does not denote happiness."
There was a short pause in the conversation while everyone did Mrs Daringer's cooking the credit that was its due. Eduard sometimes looked over at Marianne, and finally said, "You have changed, Marianne."
"I have not!" Marianne protested hotly.
"I think you've become more serious since I last met you," Eduard insisted.
"You're the one to talk! You're not exactly contributing to the gaiety of this party either, are you? What's turned you so sober?"
"I've always been a rather sober kind of person, I think," Eduard said. "I don't think I am any different now than last time you saw me."
"I don't think Marianne is," Leni remarked. "She has always been earnest and eager in everything she does. Although she sometimes talks in a very lively manner about topics that are close to her heart, and although she likes music and dancing, I wouldn't call her a very merry girl at all."
"I suppose you're right, Leni," Eduard said. "But I must admit that I've always thought of Marianne as a lively girl. I wonder why I was mistaken."
"Oh, that kind of mistake happens often," Leni replied. "I have often caught myself doing it. Sometimes it's because of something people say of themselves, at other times it's what their neighbours and friends say about them, and one doesn't take the time or is too lazy to judge for oneself."
"I thought, Leni," Marianne said acidly, "that it was right to be guided by one's neighbour's opinions of what was right and proper. It's certainly one of your principles, isn't it?"
"I'm sure I never said so," Leni retorted. "I've never meant anyone to subject their judgement to that of others. The only thing I've meant to change was your behaviour. Don't try to put words into my mouth. I admit I've often wanted you to pay greater attention to our acquaintances' opinion of you, but when have I ever asked you to adopt their notions, or accept their judgement as final in serious matters?"
"You have not been able to convince your sister then?" Eduard asked.
"Far from it. Quite the contrary, I'm sorry to say," Leni said, giving her sister a significant look. She did not want to start a quarrel with Marianne in front of their guest, but she was not going to give in either. Marianne gave a sigh of exasperation and turned her attention back to the food on her plate. Even someone with much less good sense than Eduard would have noticed that not all was well with Marianne. Eduard, no fool, attempted to make peace between them.
"I suppose my judgement in this matter is on your side, Leni, but my practice is on Marianne's," he said. "I don't wish to offend people, but I'm so shy that I often seem negligent when it's only my natural awkwardness that is to blame."
"Marianne is not shy, so that cannot excuse her," Leni replied.
"She knows her own worth too well for false modesty," Eduard replied. "I suppose shyness is the effect of some sense of inferiority or other. If I could convince myself that I am not at all shy but that my manners were easy and graceful, I would not be shy."
"But you'd still be reserved," Marianne said. "That's worse."
"Me? Reserved?" Eduard laughed, but it was an awkward laugh. "Am I reserved, Marianne?"
"You are – very!"
Eduard reddened. "I…I don't know what you mean," he stuttered, but did not look at any of the Daringers. The contents of his plate were suddenly of utmost importance.
Leni was surprised to witness his confusion; and in order to lighten the mood at the table she said, "But you know Marianne! Don't you know that everyone is reserved in her opinion who does not talk as fast as herself, and who does not express his opinions as quickly as she?"
Eduard gave no reply to this. The gloominess of his demeanour returned, and he remained silent throughout the meal.
Eduard's low spirits caused Leni much uneasiness. She felt flattered by his visit – even more so because she'd already feared that he'd forgotten all about her – but it would have given her much more pleasure if he'd been happier to be with them. That he was unhappy was obvious, but Leni wished his partiality for her would still be as evident as it had been when they'd been on the Neaderhof. She'd had no doubt of his affection for her then, but she was no longer as certain of him now. His manners towards her were pointedly reserved, and contradicted the cordiality he'd shown earlier.
At the breakfast table the next morning he announced that he was going to have a look round the village, and left them the moment he had eaten his bread-and-butter. He returned some two hours later and, when Marianne asked him if he'd liked his walk, told her that it seemed to be a pleasant enough place; but his praise of Weidach was pretty lukewarm in Marianne's opinion. When she told Eduard so, he laughed, and informed her that he was not a man of many words.
"So maybe it is good I won't be a priest after all," he said. "Just imagine how dull my sermons would have been!"
Marianne, wishing to help Leni and Eduard along, left them alone in the parlour, giving some pressing work in the kitchen as her excuse, but she had hardly closed the kitchen door behind her when she heard the parlour door open and Eduard stepped out again. He had forgotten that he needed some new shoe-laces, he said, and asked Marianne for the way to the nearest shop. Since Eduard had only just been in the village and must have come across the only shop there was, this excuse seemed weak in Marianne's eyes. For once she kept her opinion to herself, however, and merely told him where he'd find the shop. She wondered at his unwillingness to stay alone with Leni, though.
When they were having their coffee in the afternoon, Marianne noticed a ring Eduard was wearing on his little finger. It was made of hair.
"I've never seen that ring before, Eduard," she cried. "Is it Fanny's hair? I remember she promised to give you some. But isn't her hair darker than that?"
Eduard blushed violently, and with a glance at Leni said, "Yes … yes, it is my sister's hair. You have not seen her in a while; maybe you remember her hair being darker than it really is. There is also the light to be considered, and the setting, you know."
Leni had met his eye, and looked away, embarrassed. Like Marianne, she thought the hair might have been hers, but while Marianne thought Leni had given him a lock of her hair as a keepsake Leni knew that she hadn't given him any. So if it really was her hair, how had Eduard got hold of it? She was not going to discuss this, however, and therefore pretended not to have noticed what was going on and changed the topic. She determined, however, to take a closer look at Eduard's ring as soon as possible, and to find out if the hair was really hers.
Eduard did not recover soon from his embarrassment, and his absence of mind lasted for a while. Marianne censured herself for having put him out of temper, but she would have forgiven herself sooner had she known that her sister was not offended at all.
Mrs Daringer had just sent for Marianne and Leni to help her in the kitchen when the door opened and Cousin Johann and Mrs Jäger came in. There could be little doubt as to the reason for their visit – they must have noticed they were entertaining a guest, and were curious to meet him.
With his mother-in-law's assistance, Cousin Johann was quick to discover that the name Falkner began with an F, and if it had not been for Eduard's presence in the room Leni supposed they must have begun to tease her about him immediately.
Cousin Johann never called on them without inviting them either to eat their dinner in his house, or to drink coffee with his family. On that occasion he outdid himself, and invited them not only for dinner but an impromptu dance.
"A dance!" cried Marianne. "But who will dance I wonder?"
"Why, you and your sister of course, and we'll invite the Hartls and Neuners too. And Thomas Eder, who you know is an excellent violin player. You didn't think just because a certain person is gone nobody would dance any more, did you?" Mrs Jäger asked.
"I certainly wish Jakob Wildauer was with us again. The life and soul of every party, he is!" Cousin Johann cried.
This, and the blush on Marianne's cheeks, was not lost on Eduard. "And who is Jakob Wildauer?" he asked Leni, who was sitting next to him. "He sounds like a Ziller valley* man – I know a couple of Wildauers myself. Maybe I have met him?"
Leni explained to him who Jakob Wildauer was, how he had come to be in this area, and how their acquaintance with him had come about. What Leni's report did not tell him he could gather from Marianne's expression, and when Cousin Johann and Mrs Jäger left, he went over to Marianne, saying, "Shall I tell you what I have been guessing?"
"What do you mean?" Marianne asked, puzzled.
"Do you really want to know?"
"Well then, I think Jakob Wildauer is a hunter. I won't go so far as to suppose him a poacher; your cousin would hardly wish him to be here if he was. But I am persuaded he hunts."
"Oh Eduard, how can you?" Marianne cried, flustered. Then, regaining her composure, she said, "I hope the time will come – that is to say, I am sure you will like him."
"I am certain I will," Eduard replied, surprised at the earnestness in her expression, and regretting he had teased her about Jakob Wildauer in the first place.
* Ziller valley: A side valley of the Inn valley in the Lower Country, also the valley where Fanny and Eduard as well as Jakob come from. The name Wildauer is quite common there, which is why Eduard knows Jakob to be a Ziller valley man at once even though they're not acquainted.
Posted on: 2011-06-12
Eduard stayed with the Daringers for almost a week, and if Mrs Daringer had had her way he'd have stayed even longer. She saw no reason why he should not remain under their roof for several weeks; since he was not planning to return to university there was no reason why he should go back to Town so quickly. Neither was he going to visit his mother, whose reaction to his announcement that he was not going to become a priest after all had left him with no wish to see her again too soon. As for Fanny, since she agreed with her mother in everything, Eduard was not too keen on seeing her, and therefore a visit on the Neaderhof was out of the question too. Yet he seemed quite resolved to leave his friends just as he was beginning to enjoy himself in their company. His spirits had greatly improved in the past few days; he began to like the Daringers' house and its surroundings, and never spoke of going away without uttering a sigh. Never had a week passed so quickly before, he said, and he wished he could stay longer, but he had to go.
Leni put the blame for Eduard's odd behaviour at his mother's door. She had met the woman only once – at Hans and Fanny's wedding – and not really knowing her enabled Leni to do so. Yet she was disappointed and sometimes even vexed with him for acting in such an ambiguous manner with her. She was willing to view his behaviour with all the excuses she could think of; she attributed his lack of spirits and openness to his mother and her avowed intention to keep him away from such women as Leni – there was no doubt that while Mrs Falkner had reconciled herself to the fact that her eldest son was never going to enter the clerical profession she would do all that lay within her power to prevent his marriage to Leni; and until Eduard had found some way of earning his living he still depended on his mother for his livelihood. Leni would have loved to know when his serfdom – for that was what it was, in her opinion – would end; when he could openly acknowledge his attachment to her and tell his mother to keep her nose out of his affairs. For the time being she had to be content with such signs of affection as he chose to give her, and they were not as many as she had hoped to get. Had Mrs Falkner been anywhere near them, there was no doubt that Leni would have given the woman a piece of her mind, and perhaps it was lucky for that lady that she lived in the Ziller valley, far beyond Leni's reach.
Leni was determined to subdue her feelings when Eduard left them; the memory of Marianne's behaviour after Jakob had returned to Town was still fresh in her mind and she was not going to follow her sister's example. Instead of retiring to her bedroom and crying herself to sleep, worrying her mother and sisters by refusing to eat and running off every now and then to enjoy the solitude of a walk in the forest Leni sought consolation in her work.
As soon as Eduard was out of their sight, she started making butter, and then set about cooking apple preserves. Leni's behaviour, which was exactly the opposite of her own, did not serve as a good example to Marianne. It seemed no more meritorious to her than her own had been faulty, in her opinion. To her it seemed impossible that anyone disappointed in love could go calmly about their business, as Leni was doing. There was only one possible explanation for it – Leni's feelings for Eduard were not as strong as Marianne had supposed them to be. That realisation made Marianne feel almost ashamed for her sister, yet she had to acknowledge that in spite of her sister's fault of character she still loved her.
Without separating herself from her family at any possible moment, or leaving the house when she was most wanted because she required solitude, or lying awake all night and therefore making it impossible for her sisters to sleep, Leni still found that there were enough moments of leisure for her to think of Eduard, and his behaviour. Even without staying away from her mother and sisters there were moments when their occupation made it impossible for them to keep up a conversation, and at those moments Leni's thoughts were allowed to run in whatever direction they chose.
Leni was busy sewing a new apron for herself when she was roused from just such a moment of reflection by a sharp rap on the window that announced visitors. She was sitting in the parlour all by herself; her mother piling up firewood in the shed and Marianne having gone to the village shop to buy some flour and sugar. On getting up and looking out of the window she recognised Cousin Johann, his wife and mother-in-law, and a couple she had never seen before. They entered the house without ceremony*, and Cousin Johann came into the parlour saying, "I have brought you some strangers; I hope you will like them."
Leni, not in the habit of discussing people within their hearing, was trying to think of a polite answer but without success.
"It's only my sister-in-law and her husband," Johann continued. "Kathi is very pretty, I can tell you. – Where's Marianne? Is she run off again?"
"Nothing of the sort; she's gone shopping, and Mother and Gretl are in the shed. If you'll excuse me for a moment I'll go and get them."
"Don't bother; they'll come in when they hear us talk I'm sure," Johann replied.
Frau Jäger came in after him, saying, "How are you, Leni? And your mother? Where are your sisters? – What, you're all by yourself? You'll be glad of some company, then. I've brought my other daughter and her husband to see you, the Pallhubers you know. Only think, I had no idea they were planning to visit us! When I heard their carriage last night I first thought it was the priest come for a visit, but it wasn't! I remember saying to Johann that the priest had come for a visit and we didn't have anything fit to be eaten in the house, but then he looked out and said it was only Pallhuber and Kathi, so that was all right…"
At that moment the rest of the party came into the room, and Leni was obliged to receive them. Mrs Mayrhofer introduced her sister and brother-in-law, Mrs Daringer and Gretl came in from the shed at the same time, and Mrs Jäger continued to tell her story as if no interruption had occurred.
Mrs Pallhuber was several years younger than her sister, and as unlike to her as was possible. She was short and plump, with a pretty face, and appeared to be very good-humoured. Leni remembered that it had been Mrs Pallhuber who'd instructed the Jägerbräu deliveryman to take the Daringers to Weidach with him; and this still filled her with gratitude. Mrs Pallhuber's manners were not quite town-lady-like as her sister's, but in spite of that – or maybe because of that – they were much more engaging. She came in with a smile, immediately told them to call her Kathi for she did not want to be mistaken for her mother-in-law, and except when she laughed, which was often, she kept smiling during all of her visit.
Her husband was of a different cut. He was a serious-looking man in his mid-twenties or early thirties – it was difficult to tell – who appeared to have more sense than his wife but was less willing to please his hostesses, or to be pleased by the company he was moving in. Perceiving the Farmers' Almanac on the table, he immediately took it up and started reading, and did not put it down during his entire stay.
Kathi Pallhuber, on the contrary, had hardly sat down on the bench by the stove when she started to praise the cottage and what the Daringers had made of it.
"What a cosy room this is! I'm sure I never saw anything like it! The curtains – I so like the curtains! Did you embroider them yourself, Mrs Daringer? Of course you did; you look like the industrious sort. I wish I could make anything so beautiful but I have no talent for embroidery I'm sorry to say. I am much better at knitting. – I have always thought what a sweet place this was – didn't I always tell you so, Mother? But you, Mrs Daringer, have made it even more beautiful. How I'd like such a house for myself! Wouldn't you, Georg?"
Mr Pallhuber gave her no answer; he didn't even go so far as to look up from the almanac, or to give any sign of having heard his wife.
Mrs Pallhuber burst out laughing. "Georg does not hear me," she said. "He often doesn't. How ridiculous it is!"
Mrs Daringer raised her eyebrows at that; she had never thought inattentiveness in her own husband funny in the least, and could not help being surprised at that notion.
Mrs Jäger, in the meantime, talked on as loudly as she could, and continued her account of the surprise they'd had the previous evening, on seeing their relatives. Mrs Pallhuber laughed heartily at the recollection of her mother and sister's astonishment, and everybody kept agreeing that it had been an agreeable surprise. Mrs Jäger continued to talk about her new grandson, whom she hadn't seen before, and whom the Pallhubers had brought with them to visit his uncle, aunt, grandmother and cousins.
"You may believe how glad we were to see them," Mrs Jäger added. "However I can't help wishing they hadn't travelled quite so fast, or made such a long journey, for you know, it is wrong to take such a small child on such a long journey. Kathi should have stayed at home with the baby, but she says she longed to see us – and was so curious to meet you – that she threw all caution to the winds and here she is!"
Mrs Pallhuber laughed and said it would not do her or the child any harm.
Mrs Mayrhofer, who could not endure such talk unless someone was talking about her own children, turned to her brother-in-law and asked him if there was anything of interest in the almanac.
"No, nothing at all," he replied and read on.
Cousin Johann, looking out of the window, saw Marianne approach the house carrying her shopping basket and immediately announced her arrival. "Now you'll see a monstrous pretty girl, Georg," he said to Mr Pallhuber.
He went into the passage at once, opened the front door, and led Marianne into the parlour himself. Mrs Jäger asked her, as soon as she came into the room, whether she'd been to visit Mrs Albrecht, and Mrs Pallhuber laughed so heartily at the question that it was obvious to Leni – and no doubt to Marianne too – that she quite understood the meaning of that question. Mr Pallhuber looked up from the almanac, stared at Marianne for a few moments, and then returned his attention to the weather predictions for the next month.
Mrs Pallhuber then chanced to look at Mrs Daringer's wedding trunk** in the corner of the parlour, and declared she'd never seen anything so beautiful. "How sweet! Just look, Mother! I could look at it forever!"
Yet, upon sitting down she forgot about the trunk's existence. When Mrs Mayrhofer rose to go away, Mr Pallhuber followed her example, laid down the almanac, stretched himself and looked around the room.
"Have you been sleeping, Georg?" Mrs Pallhuber laughed.
He gave no answer, and only remarked that the room was rather low-pitched – which was true – and that the ceiling was crooked. He then shook hands with Mrs Daringer and her daughters, told them how delighted he was to have made their acquaintance, and followed his sister-in-law out of the house.
* Front doors were hardly ever locked, so visitors were free to enter almost any time.
** Wedding trunk: Whenever there was a wedding in a village, the bride's trousseau was put on a wagon and taken to the bridegroom's house for everyone to see. The trunk was part of the trousseau, and was decorated with carvings and / or paintings. It would also have the name or initials of the bride, and the year of the wedding, on it. You can find a picture here:
Posted on: 2011-10-11
The next morning Leni and Marianne were working outside in the vegetable garden when Mrs Pallhuber hurried out of her brother-in-law's house and came towards them.
"I'm so glad to see you!" she cried. "I was afraid I might not catch you before we have to go home - we must leave tomorrow, you know. I am very sorry our visit is such a short one; however I hope we'll meet again in town before long."
"In town!" Leni cried. "But what makes you think so, Mrs Pallhuber? We aren't going to town!"
"Not going to town!" Mrs Pallhuber was obviously surprised, and for a moment did not know what to say. Then, with a laugh, she said, "But I'll be quite disappointed if you don't come! I could get you decent lodgings, right next to my house, at a very reasonable price! You must come - and I'll be happy to show you around and take you to dances and introduce you to all my friends if you do!"
Marianne pointed out that they were still in mourning for their father.
"Why, yes, but not for much longer - it's almost a year since he died, isn't it?"
At this tactless remark Marianne turned back to her work, choosing to ignore Mrs Pallhuber, for which Leni was glad. While Mrs Pallhuber was not quick to spot an insult, there was no saying how she'd react to one of Marianne's outbursts.
"Nevertheless we are not going to town," Leni said.
"Only listen, Georg!" Mrs Pallhuber addressed her husband, who was just coming out of the house at that moment. "They're not coming to town! Have you ever heard anything like it? You must help me persuade them!"
It was obvious that Mr Pallhuber did not care whether they came to town or not, for he made no answer. He merely greeted the Daringer sisters with a nod, and started to complain about the weather.
"Dreadfully cold, isn't it?" he said. "One can hardly get outdoors in this chill!"
"It is not as bad as that," Leni replied.
"Oh, but you must come into the house and drink some coffee with me," Mrs Pallhuber said. "It'll keep the cold out!"
"I am afraid we cannot accept your invitation," Leni said. "We haven't finished our work yet."
"Surely it doesn't make a difference if you finish it now or later?" Mrs Pallhuber insisted.
"The carrots won't run away!"
"But just look at our hands!" Leni protested. "I can't go visiting looking the way I do!"
But Mrs Pallhuber did not give up until Leni, weary of arguing with her, told her that they would come over for a cup of coffee once they'd safely stowed their harvest in the cellar.
Having washed and put on clean clothes, Leni and Marianne walked across the orchard to Cousin Johann's house. At first Marianne had refused point-blank to come with her sister, but Mrs Daringer, upon hearing about the invitation, had told her to go. One did not insult one's employer's family, she had said, and had sent Marianne to her room to dress.
They found Mrs Pallhuber sitting in the parlour with most of her sister's family.
"I won't say anything about your coming to town any more," she said brightly. "For now."
"Didn't you have your customary walk to the Alfingerhof today?" Mrs Jäger asked Marianne. Marianne gave her sister a reproachful glance but did not say anything in reply.
"Oh, don't be so sly on our account!" Mrs Pallhuber cried. "I know all about him - and I must say I admire your taste! He's so handsome, and quite charming! His home is not far from Georg's you must know - no more than a mile or two."
"Thirty, rather," Mr Pallhuber said dryly. "I am from the county town, and his home is in Brandberg, at the far end of the Ziller valley."
"Oh, the distance doesn't matter. I've heard his property is quite large, and he has a beautiful house."
"Mortgaged to the hilt," Mr Pallhuber said.
Marianne did not take part in the conversation, but her countenance betrayed her interest in what was being said.
"As if that mattered, once he inherits Mrs Albrecht's property!" Mrs Pallhuber cried. She then whispered in Leni's ear, "Georg is so droll! He's always so ill-tempered!"
Leni saw nothing to laugh at in an ill-tempered husband but did not say so. Yet she was greatly surprised when the men left the room and Mrs Pallhuber said to her, "You do like my husband, don't you?"
"Why, yes … certainly," was Leni's hesitant reply. "He seems very pleasant."
"Well, I'm glad you do. He certainly does like you and your sisters, I can tell you, and you can't think how disappointed he will be if you don't come to visit us in town. - I can't imagine why you should object to it! There's not much for you to do here in winter, is there?"
Leni declined the invitation once again, and then changed the subject to put a stop to Mrs Pallhuber's attempts at persuading her. She thought it probably that Mrs Pallhuber, since her husband was a native of the same county as Jakob Wildauer, might be able to give her some more information of Jakob's general character; such as the Mayrhofers had not been able to give her. She was willing to listen to anything that was said in his favour, anything that would put an end to her anxiety regarding Marianne and her future prospects.
She therefore began by asking if they saw much of Jakob in town, and whether they were well acquainted with him.
"Oh yes, I know him extremely well," Mrs Pallhuber replied. "Not that I've ever spoken to him, mind you, but I have often seen him in town. He sometimes comes to the Jägerbräu, but I don't have anything to do with our customers so … but he is often seen at all kinds of places! For some reason or other I've never been in Weidach when he came to visit his aunt. My mother has often seen him in church of course, but I never have. Maybe I'd have met him more often - to speak to, you know - if we spent more time in Schwaz*, but we don't, as a rule. Georg has so much to do with the brewery and the inn in town; he hardly ever goes to Schwaz these days. Not that Jakob visits his home often; I think he spends most of his time in town; he has some kind of job there, though what he does for a living I don't quite know. - I know why you inquire about him; your sister is going to marry him. I am very glad of it, for then I'll have her for a neighbour and that will be delightful!"
Despite herself, Leni had to laugh at that. "You know much more of the matter than I do, if you have any reason to expect such a match," she said.
"Don't pretend not to know anything about it, because it is what everybody says - I even heard of it in town!"
"I'm Kathi, you know."
"Kathi, then. You cannot have heard such a thing in town - who could have told you about it? No one we know lives there!"
"I met Colonel Stöckl in town the other day, and he had it from the Talbacher. He told me all about it."
"I'm surprised at the Talbacher for sharing such information with a person who is not - cannot be - interested in it. Even if it were true, which it isn't! It's not like the Talbacher to spread such tales!"
"But I assure you this was what happened - I'll tell you how it was. When I met the colonel he turned back and walked with us, and so we began talking about my sister and her family in Weidach, and all the people there. I said to him, 'So, Colonel, there is a new family come to Weidach, I hear, and my mother tells me they are very pretty, and one of them is to be married to Jakob Wildauer. You must have met the Talbacher, I know he was in town lately - what does he say to that?'"
Suppressing a smile, Leni asked, "And what did the colonel say?"
"Oh, he didn't say much, but he looked as if he knew - and as if it was quite true! From that moment on I was quite certain of it, and I'm so looking forward to the wedding!"
"When is the wedding to take place?" Mrs Pallhuber asked.
"I don't think there will be a wedding any time soon," Leni said truthfully. "So you didn't meet the Talbacher himself in town, did you?"
"No, but he was here last night, and full of praise he's been for you girls!"
"I am flattered to hear that he praised us. He's an excellent man, and I think him very pleasant."
"So do I. He is so charming; it's a pity he should be so grave and so dull. Mother says he's in love with your sister too - I assure you it's a great compliment to her if he is, for he hardly ever falls in love with anybody."
Once again, Leni tried to steer the conversation in the direction of Jakob Wildauer.
"Is Jakob well known in your county?" she asked.
"Oh yes; extremely well! That is I do not believe many people know him, as such, because his home is pretty far off, but they all like him well enough I assure you. Nobody is better liked than Jakob Wildauer wherever he goes, and so you may tell your sister. She's a very lucky girl to have caught him, but he's just as lucky, if not luckier, to have got her, because she's very pretty and agreeable; no man can be good enough for her! Not that I think her at all prettier than you, Leni, you're quite as beautiful as she I think! And so does Georg, too, though I couldn't get him to own as much last night."
Mrs Pallhuber's information regarding Jakob was not very material, but any testimony in his favour, no matter how small, pleased Leni.
"I'm so happy we met at last," Mrs Pallhuber continued. "And now I hope we'll always be great friends. You can't think how much I wanted to see you! It's so delightful that you should live here, in this cottage! And I am so glad your sister is going to be well married! I hope you will spend a great deal of time in Brandberg**, it is a sweet place by all accounts!"
"You've known the Talbacher for long, haven't you?" Leni said after a short pause.
"For ages - ever since my sister was married! He's a great friend of Johann's, they get along famously; much better than his brother used to get along with Johann, or so I've heard. I believe he would have been very glad to have married me, if he could have got me. My sister and Johann would have liked the match very much, but Mother was against it. I think she didn't think he was good enough for me - not enough money, you know, though that's nonsense of course, for he's pretty well off. If it hadn't been for my mother Johann would have mentioned it to him and I'm sure we would be married by now."
"Didn't the Talbacher know of your brother-in-law's plans for you? Has he never shown you his affection?"
"Oh no, but if Mother hadn't objected to it I daresay he would have liked it well enough. He didn't know me well of course; I was pretty young then - still at school, I believe. However I'm much happier married to Georg. He's the kind of man I like."
* Schwaz: Old silver mining town in the lower Inn valley. Also a county town.
** Brandberg: Small mountain village in the Ziller valley. Sorry to the people of Brandberg for making Willoughby one of their number. ;) It IS a sweet place.
Posted on: 2012-02-21
The Pallhubers went back to Town the next day, and for a while everything returned to normal. The harvest was in full swing, and Leni was much too busy working in Cousin Johann's fields and orchards and their own garden to think of Mrs Jäger's relatives and marvel at how Kathi Pallhuber could be so happy with so little cause, or at her husband's conduct during his visit at his mother-in-law's, which seemed at an odd variance to what was expected of a man of his station in life. But before she was able to give much thought to the matter, Mrs Jäger and her eagerness for young company gave her someone else to wonder about.
On a pilgrimage to Absam* which she'd undertaken to offer her thanks to the Holy Virgin for the safe delivery of her grandson, Mrs Jäger had chanced to meet two distant relatives of hers and, feeling that they might be delightful company for the young people at home in Weidach, had invited them to stay with her. The two young women were quick to accept the invitation, and therefore arrived in Weidach only a week later. They were a pair of sisters by the name of Steiner, Anna being the elder of the two, and Lucia the younger.
At first, Mrs Mayrhofer was not quite happy having to welcome two young women of whom she knew nothing at all except that they were some sort of relatives of hers, about a dozen times removed. But she was soon reconciled to their presence by their eagerness to please, and their frequently expressed admiration of her offspring. The Steiners took her by storm, and within an hour of their arrival Mrs Mayrhofer, too, declared them to be two very agreeable girls.
Not that the term "girl" could, in good conscience, be applied to Anna Steiner, who was thirty if she was a day though not yet despairing of finding a husband. The moment she became aware of the Talbacher's bachelor state and eligibility, she threw herself at him in a manner that Leni found quite embarrassing, but which left that gentleman unmoved. He bore with her with a stoicism close to sainthood, in Leni's opinion, and ignored Anna Steiner's attempts at flirtation. Even though the Talbacher's discouraging attitude to her advances had not been enough to keep Anna at a distance, Lucia Steiner was well able to rein in her sister. It was she who was the more forceful character of the two, and she had Anna well in hand, or so Leni thought.
The Daringers did not meet the Steiner sisters until the Sunday after their arrival, when Cousin Johann invited them in for some late-morning coffee** after Mass. One of the Mayrhofers' youngest children had taken a fall on their way back home from church, and while Mrs Mayrhofer and Mrs Jäger took their poor little darling to the kitchen to fuss over her injuries, Leni and Marianne were in the parlour with the Steiners and Cousin Johann.
"The poor little girl!" Lucia remarked. "Let us hope the wound does not cause her too much pain!"
"A scratch on her knee?" Marianne asked. "Haven't we all had one of those at one point? She'd have forgotten all about it by now if her mother and grandmother paid less attention to the injury."
"But how can Mrs Mayrhofer ignore it, being the sweet woman that she is?" Anna asked.
Neither of the Daringers thought it prudent to reply to that comment, and, after a short pause, Anna continued, "And what an amiable man Johann Mayrhofer is!"
"He is very good-humoured and friendly, to be sure," Leni remarked. "Also well-liked and respected in the neighbourhood."
"And what a lovely family they have! I have never seen such fine children in my life - and how well-behaved they are! I am quite fond of them already, yet I hardly know them! Though I must admit that I dote on children in general, don't you?"
"I like them well enough," Leni replied. "Children in general, that is. As for the Mayrhofer children, we don't know them very well either, not having seen much of them since we arrived here. But we have grown fond of Stephan while he was on the pasture with us this summer. A clever, hard-working boy, and with his father's amiable temper. If his brothers and sisters are like him I'm sure I'll grow to like them just as well."
A short pause ensued, which was again broken by Anna Steiner, who was obviously in a chatty mood.
"And how do you like it in the Upper Country?" she wanted to know. "You must have been very sorry to leave the Lower Country; it is quite different here, isn't it?"
"Not so very different," Leni replied cautiously, disliking the familiarity of Anna Steiner's manners, in spite of the Lower Country people's reputation for openness towards strangers. "We were naturally sorry to leave our home, but we have grown to like Weidach by now."
"The Neaderhof is a very beautiful place, isn't it?" Anna insisted.
"We have heard Johann talk about it," Lucia explained, shooting her sister an annoyed glance which she failed to notice.
Leni, who knew well that Cousin Johann had never seen the Neaderhof himself but also knew that this fact would not keep him from telling all and sundry that it was the most beautiful place on Earth, merely said, "I suppose anyone who sees it will admire it, though I don't believe anyone can appreciate its beauties more than we do."
"I'm sure you had a lot of dashing admirers in Unterau," Anna said slyly. "One hears things about the young men from the Lower Country! I dare say you don't find as many around here, the Upper Country men being what they are!***"
Lucia, seemingly embarrassed by her sister's conversation, intervened. "What makes you think that there are not as many fine young men around here as there are in the Lower Country?" she asked.
"I didn't mean to say that there weren't any dashing young men here," Anna protested. "I'm sure there are! All I meant was that the Daringers might find it dull here, what with Upper Country men's manners! - I suppose your brother must have been quite the heart-breaker, before he was married!" she said, turning back to Leni. "Smart and good-looking, I don't doubt! And rich, too!"
"I don't think my brother is a heart-breaker at all," Leni replied, trying hard not to let her annoyance show. "It is not in his nature." At least not, she reflected, in the sense Anna Steiner was indicating.
"Oh, one never thinks of married men as heart-breakers!" Anna cried, laughing. "They have done with such nonsense of course!"
"Will you stop talking of men, Annie!" Lucia cried in exasperation. "You will have everyone believe there's nothing else in your head!"
That was exactly what Leni was thinking, but she was grateful to Lucia for changing the topic and, instead, talking to them about their work on Talbach Falls Pasture.
This first proper meeting with the Steiner sisters would have been quite enough for Leni's taste, but she had little opportunity of avoiding them. Mrs Jäger and Cousin Johann would not take no for an answer and kept inviting them, and since the harvest had been more or less completed they did not even have that excuse for staying at home. Besides it seemed the Steiner girls had taken a fancy to them, and short of being downright rude to their employer and his mother-in-law there was nothing they could do. Anna Steiner pronounced them the prettiest and most good-natured girls she had ever met, and both sisters expressed an earnest desire to become better acquainted with both Leni and Marianne. So they often spent an evening at the farm house whether they liked it or not, and had to endure the Steiners' society. The only comfort, as far as Leni was concerned, was that the Talbacher was frequently invited too, and she was always happy to see him and talk to him.
Luckily he was not there when Annie - she had insisted on that apellation on their second meeting - congratulated Leni on her sister's having caught the most eligible young man in Weidach.
"Quite a smart one he is, too, I've been told," she said with a saucy smile. "It's a good thing she should be married so young! And I hope you'll soon be as lucky as she - or do you have someone up your sleeve already? You can always tell me, you know!"
It was quite obvious where that piece of information had come from - Annie must have heard from either Cousin Johann or Mrs Jäger; and Leni had no reason to suppose that they had treated what they must think of her romance with any more circumspection than they'd treated Marianne's. Since Eduard had come to see them, there had never been an encounter with either Johann or Mrs Jäger during which they had not made sly allusions to the letter F, complete with winks and nudges that were to inform anyone that they had discovered Leni's weak spot.
She did not doubt that the Steiners, too, must now know all there was to know about these jokes, and considering that it was hardly surprising that the elder of the sisters wanted to know more. Leni did not choose to give her any information, but Cousin Johann was only too happy to supply her with it.
"His name is Falkner," he said in a stage-whisper. "But do not tell anyone, it's a great secret!"
"Falkner!" Annie cried, her eyes widening. "What, is he the happy man? Your sister-in-law's brother? He's a fine young man; I know him well! You've got taste, Leni!"
"How can you say we know him well?" Lucia, who was in the habit of calling her sister to order, though not often enough for Leni's taste, interrupted her. "We haven't met him above three times; we met him at my uncle's occasionally but it's too much to say you know him well!" She turned to Leni with a smile.
"We keep house for my uncle, who is a priest in Hall," she added by way of an explanation. Leni nodded, and dearly wished to know more - how they'd become acquainted with Eduard, whether he'd often visited their uncle, what they thought of him - , but she was too wellbred to ask any questions and for once Mrs Jäger's curiosity, on which one could usually depend , let her down.
* Absam: important place of pilgrimage near Innsbruck, Northern Tyrol. People go there to see a picture of the Virgin Mary which appeared in a window pane in the late 1700s.
Pics can be found here: http://www.sagen.at/fotos/showphoto.php/photo/8493
** It's what would be called "elevenses" in English, but it's taken earlier than eleven o'clock and is therefore called "neunern" in Tyrolean dialect - a meal taken some time around nine o'clock in the morning.
*** There is the saying that a Lower Country man will get you pregnant before you get a kiss from an Upper Country one. ;)
Posted on: 2012-03-12
Marianne was never one to encourage people whose interests were different to her own, or people whom she thought vulgar and ill-bred. Her present frame of mind was such as made her even more disinclined to make allowances than she had been before, and so she did not make much of an effort to become acquainted with the Steiners. This, Leni surmised, was probably the reason why Cousin Johann's guests took a fancy to her rather than her sister. Lucia, especially, seemed to think of Leni as her best friend and chief confidante, never mind that they had not been acquainted for more than a couple of days. She missed no opportunity of sitting with Leni and talking to her, quite oblivious of the fact that Leni had a great deal of work to do and would have infinitely preferred getting her chores done to listening to whatever it was that Lucia wished to say to her.
There was nothing to be said against Lucia's mental capacity; Leni found her quite clever, and her remarks were often amusing. For half an hour or so, her discourse was entertaining and even agreeable, but after that Leni often wished for it to end. Leni was not much of an educated woman; in fact, none of the farmers' daughters she knew were, but what little education she had received in her childhood was much more than Lucia had ever had - or cared to have. She was ignorant and illiterate, as Leni discovered one day when she took it upon herself to read a newspaper article to her. Leni did not want to draw anyone's attention to that fault; it was one commonly found among young women and even if it had not been Leni had no wish to offend Lucia. This was not what repelled Leni no matter how much of an effort Lucia made to get to know her better. It was Lucia's lack of sincerity in her dealings with the Mayrhofers that put her off. Leni was perfectly aware that Lucia strove to gratify her host and hostess with her attentions and flatteries, and having observed several instances on which Lucia had unwittingly exposed her insincerity - although she had always been quick to gloss over any mistakes she'd made - Leni no longer took Lucia's attempts to become friendly with her seriously.
"You will think my question odd, I'm sure," Lucia said to her one afternoon as she helped Leni gather pears in the orchard. "But I have been wondering - do you know your brother's mother-in-law well?"
"Mrs Falkner?" Leni did think the question an odd one, and her countenance most likely told Lucia so. "I only met her twice - at my brother's wedding and at my nephew's christening. I never got the chance to talk much to her."
"Oh, really!" Lucia exclaimed. "I thought you must have seen her often on the Neaderhof."
"No; she is too busy with her own farm to visit her daughter all the time, or so my sister-in-law keeps telling us."
"I see. But maybe you can tell me what kind of a woman she is."
"My sister-in-law or her mother?" Leni asked.
"Her mother," Lucia replied, carefully putting some pears into a crate.
"As I said, I don't know much about her," Leni said cautiously, unwilling to give her real opinion of Eduard's mother to a stranger whose curiosity she felt to be quite presumptuous.
"You must think me strange, asking about her as I am," Lucia said, giving Leni a sly sidelong look as she bent down to pick up another couple of pears. "I have my reasons - oh, I wish I could tell you what they are but I dare not! I hope you don't think I meant to be nosy."
Leni, unable to think of a civil reply to that, merely nodded and went on with her work. After a few minutes' silence, Lucia started on the subject again.
"I've been thinking," she said, "and I can't bear the thought that you might find me unduly curious. I'm not, I swear! I'd rather do anything in the world than have you think I'm the kind of person who asks impertinent questions about matters that are no business of hers! I know no one whose good opinion is more worth having than yours! And I'm sure I can trust you; in fact I'd be very glad if you could give me some advice on how to go on! Such an uncomfortable situation as I'm in, but there's really no reason why I should trouble you with my problems; it's no concern of yours after all. I am sorry you don't know Mrs Falkner better, though."
"I am sorry I don't," Leni replied, astonished. "Provided I could be of any use to you if I did know her. But I had no idea you were connected with the Falkner family; so I hope you will forgive me for being surprised at your questions regarding Mrs Falkner's character."
"I don't wonder at that," Lucia said solemnly. "But if I told you everything - if I dared - you wouldn't be surprised at all. Mrs Falkner is nothing to me at present, but there may be a time in the future when - when we may be closely related."
She looked at the ground, ostensibly to discover if she had overlooked any pears earlier, but throwing a sidelong glance at Leni to see what effect her statement regarding Mrs Falkner had had on her.
"Good Lord!" cried Leni. "What do you mean? Do you … do you happen to know Robert Falkner? Can you be..." She broke off, thinking that the idea of having Lucia for a sister-in-law did not appeal to her at all.
"No," Lucia replied. "Not to Robert Falkner; I've never met him in my life, but -" here she looked up and kept a close watch on Leni's face, " - to his brother."
If anyone had later asked Leni to describe how she had been feeling at that moment, she would have found it impossible to do so. Astonishment did not even begin to describe her feelings - there was only disbelief at first. Leni turned to Lucia, unable to think of any reason why Lucia should tell her such a thing if it was not true, and although she was pale she managed to remain calm, holding on to her scepticism for as long as she could. There must have been some mistake!
"I can see that you are surprised," Lucia said. "As well you might - I don't blame you at all. You can have had no idea of it before; I'm sure he never said a word."
Leni shook her head. "I thought he … he was studying to be a priest," she managed*.
"That's why we kept our engagement a secret," Lucia said. "It's his mother - I know she wants him to be a priest, and what she will say when she finds out that he'll be no such thing I am sure I don't know; in fact I shudder to think of it. It all depends on her, of course - once she finds out. No one in my family knows anything of it either - except Annie, and I'd never have said anything about it to you if I didn't know that I can depend on you to keep it to yourself, and if I hadn't been afraid of what you might be thinking of me, for asking impertinent questions about your sister-in-law's family. But as it was I thought I'd better explain how matters stood between Eduard and me. And I don't think he'll mind my telling you, because I know he holds you in the greatest esteem and affection, just like another sister!" She paused.
For a few moments, Leni was unable to say anything. Disbelief was giving way to pain now, although she was still suspecting Lucia of falsehood, and it took her some effort to speak without betraying her feelings. In the end, she said, "May I ask for how long you've been engaged to Eduard?"
"Why, it must be nearly four years now!"
"Four years! Good heavens! That's a pretty long engagement!" Leni, though shocked, was somewhat incredulous. "I had no idea that you even knew him till your sister talked about him the other day," she said.
"We have been acquainted for years though," Lucia said. "My uncle often invited him and some of the other boys when he was in grammar school."
"Your uncle the priest?"
"Oh yes - did you never hear him talk about Father Joseph Pucher? That's my uncle."
Leni remembered Eduard talking about him once or twice, and nodded. "I think I have," she admitted reluctantly.
"My uncle lives in Hall, which is where Eduard went to school," Lucia said. "And he teaches at the grammar school as well. That's how he met Eduard. Annie and I have lived with my uncle and kept house for him ever since my father died and my mother remarried - my stepfather not wishing to be burdened with another man's daughters. This is how I came to know Eduard, and how we became engaged to be married - though that didn't happen until after he'd left grammar school and gone on to university. He still came to see my uncle, or so he said until I found out what the true reason for his frequent visits was." Leni wished she could do something to wipe that self-satisfied smile from Lucia's face, but could think of nothing. "I didn't like the idea of a secret engagement - behind his mother's back! - but I was young and so much in love with him that I gave in in the end. You don't know Eduard as well as I do, Leni, but you have seen enough of him to know that he can be quite persuasive if he puts his mind to it."
"Oh, quite," Leni agreed automatically. Although all the facts Lucia was giving her sounded irrefutable, she still felt that there must be some kind of mistake, that Eduard would not behave so dishonourably, and that Lucia must be lying to her, though to what purpose she could not tell. "Engaged to Eduard Falkner! I must admit I'm totally surprised at what you're telling me - I never suspected a thing! Really, I - are you sure we are talking about the same Eduard Falkner?"
Lucia smiled. "I am sure we are," she said. "Eduard Falkner, the eldest son of Mrs Falkner of Fügen**, and your sister-in-law's brother. That's the man I am talking about; you must allow that I'm not likely to mistake the man to whom I'm engaged to be married. All my happiness depends on him!" She then took a photograph from her pocket, and handed it to Leni. "Look at this! That will show you that we're talking about the same man! It was taken some three years ago but he hasn't changed much."
There was no mistaking the young man in the picture. It was Eduard, looking younger than when she'd last seen him, and decidedly solemn, but it was him. Leni quickly gave the photograph back to its owner.
"How strange it seems," she said, "that he never even mentioned your name!"
"Just take a moment to consider our situation and it won't seem strange at all," Lucia said. "We had to keep the matter secret! - You didn't know me, or my family, so there was no reason for him to mention my name to you; and he was always afraid of his sister suspecting something - he must have been afraid she might overhear your conversation if he told you!"
He'd had a point too, Leni thought gloomily. Fanny was good at overhearing things she was not supposed to know. The more she thought of it, the more sense it made. Lucia's story had to be true after all. But however painful this conversation was, Leni was not going to let Lucia know that she was suffering.
"You've been engaged for four years," she said with a firm voice, to convince herself rather than anything else.
"Yes, and heaven knows how long it will take us until we can be married. Poor Eduard! He's so unhappy about it! If only his mother saw reason! There is no point in trying to force a man to become a priest if he has other plans for his future!"
"You are quite right, of course," Leni said. "Apart from being unhappy with his life he wouldn't be a good priest either."
"I'm sure," Lucia said, "that you will faithfully keep our secret. You must know how important it is to us that it should be kept from his mother especially, for she will never approve of our marriage even if she does relent and allow Eduard to choose another profession for himself! I have no money, you must know, and I'm sure that would be the only thing that would reconcile her to the match. She seems to be such a proud woman!"
"I didn't ask you to confide in me," Leni said, "but you can depend on me, I promise. Your secret is safe with me. But I am surprised at your telling me at all- it wasn't necessary for you to do so! You must have known that you were taking a considerable risk by letting me know!"
Saying this, Leni looked earnestly at Lucy, hoping to discover something in her demeanour, maybe a hint of uncertainty, but there was nothing.
"I was afraid you might think I was taking a liberty with you," she said. "I haven't known you for long, to be sure, at least not in person, but I've known you and your family by report, and when we finally met I felt as if we'd known each other for ages! Besides I really thought you needed some explanation as to why I was asking so particularly after Eduard's mother, and there's really no one whose advice I could ask. Annie is the only one who knows of our betrothal, and she's quite useless - in fact she's doing more harm than good, for I'm in constant fear of her betraying us! She doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut, as you've no doubt discovered, and she gave me such a fright the other day when Eduard's name was mentioned! You can't imagine what I'm going through, what I have suffered for Eduard's sake these four years! All the suspense and uncertainty, and seeing him so rarely - we can hardly meet more than twice a year! It quite breaks my heart!"
Lucia's speech ended in a sob, and she took the corner of her apron to dab at her eyes, but Leni was not feeling in the least compassionate - nor was she convinced that Lucia's agitation was real.
"Sometimes," Lucia went on, "I think it would be better for us to go separate ways, to call the wedding off." She looked at Leni. "But then I don't have the resolution to do it - I can't bear the thought of making Eduard unhappy, as I'm sure he'd be! And he's so dear to me, I don't think I could do it! What would you advise me to do, Leni? What would you do yourself?"
"Forgive me for saying so, but I can't advise you in such an important matter as that," Leni said, startled. "It's entirely up to you - it's not for me to meddle!"
For a few minutes, they gathered pears in silence. Then Lucia said, "To be sure, his mother can't cast him off, can she? Even if he doesn't live up to her expectations she'll have to give him something to live on - he's the eldest son, isn't he? She'll be angry with us at first, but I'm sure she'll be fine in the end. If only Eduard didn't suffer so! Didn't you think him dreadfully out of spirits when he came to visit you? He was so miserable when he left us, I was afraid you'd think he was ill!"
"Do you mean to tell me that he came from you when he visited us not long ago?"
"Oh yes; he'd been staying with my uncle for a fortnight. Did you think he came from town?"
"No; he said he'd been visiting friends - in Kufstein." Leni remembered how strange she'd thought it at the time that Eduard would not talk about those friends he'd stayed with - not even mention their names.
"Didn't you think him out of spirits?" Lucia repeated her question.
"We did notice it, especially when he arrived," Leni said.
"I begged him to exert himself to be cheerful, for fear you should suspect what the matter was, but it depressed him so! Not being able to stay with us for more than two weeks, and seeing me so unhappy - the poor man! I am afraid it is just the same with him now; his letters tell me that his spirits have not improved in the least since he left me. I heard from him just before I left Hall. He must have been tired when he wrote that letter, for he hardly filled the sheet, which is what he usually does. - Writing to each other is the only comfort we have during our long separations. Yes, I have his picture - he doesn't even have that comfort, for I haven't been able to have my picture taken yet. I gave him a lock of my hair instead, and he said that was better than nothing but he'd prefer to have a picture. Did you notice the ring he's had made of it when you saw him?"
"We did," Leni said with a calmness that effectively hid her true emotions. Never before had she felt so utterly devastated; so betrayed! But she'd die sooner than show her feelings to Lucia, or anyone else. She'd been mistaken in Eduard, or at least in his feelings for her, but that was quite her own problem. So was her suffering - it was her own to deal with.
Luckily for Leni, they had filled the crate by then, and after she'd helped Lucia carry it to the Mayrhofers' house she was at liberty to return to her own home and be as miserable as she chose - at least until her mother and sisters came home from the fields and wanted their dinner.
* The Tyrol was (and is) predominantly Catholic, which is why Eduard can't marry if he goes through with his mother's plans for his career.
** Fügen: village in the Ziller valley.
Posted on: 2012-03-20
On serious reflection, and much against her own inclination, Leni could not find anything wrong with Lucia's story. Why should Lucia have invented such a tale? What would she gain by telling Leni that she was betrothed to Eduard if she was not? Therefore Leni could no longer doubt that what Lucia had told her was true, much though she wished she could; there was too much evidence to support Lucia's story for it to be mere coincidence.
They had certainly had the chance to become acquainted during Eduard's years in Hall, even more so if he had really known Lucia's uncle, which he must have done, considering that her uncle had, among other things, been a teacher in Eduard's school. She remembered Eduard's melancholy state of mind during his last visit, his pessimistic outlook on life on the same occasion, his ambivalent behaviour towards her, the things the Steiner sisters knew about the Daringers and the Neaderhof. Apart from that there was the photograph of Eduard in Lucia's possession, and the ring Eduard had been wearing. There was no getting away from these facts, and this meant that Eduard had been making a fool of her. For a while Leni was furious with him; so furious in fact that, if she'd had the opportunity, she'd have cheerfully slapped his face and told him exactly what she thought of him - an experience he would not have enjoyed at all. Later, she began to wonder if Eduard had really intended to deceive her. Had he merely pretended to be in love with her? Was he still in love with Lucia?
That, Leni was certain, he was not. Whatever he might have felt for Lucia Steiner once - and he must have been infatuated with her or he would not have taken such a risk to win her - he no longer loved her. If he did, what kept him from making the engagement known to his mother and acting according to his own wishes rather than hers? Leni did not think that financial considerations weighed much with him. She knew Eduard was clever and a hard worker; he would not find it difficult to find some kind of job to support a wife and family. No; he no longer loved Lucia - he was in love with Leni. Her mother, her sisters, his sister had all noticed that he was becoming uncommonly fond of her during that time on the Neaderhof. Hadn't Fanny tried to hint her away? Why should she have done so if Leni had simply been imagining things?
The thought of Eduard unhappily in love with her made Leni's heart soften towards him. It was that thought that made her forgive him, no matter what he'd done wrong. He'd made a big mistake in remaining on the Neaderhof for as long as he had, even after he must have become aware of the effect she was having on him. Of course; he'd been sorely needed there, and he'd have had to come up with a good explanation for leaving, but it could have been done. There was no excuse for his staying, but the fact remained that in doing so he'd hurt himself more than Leni. His case was quite hopeless. She might sooner or later get over the affair and get on with her life - she sincerely hoped that it would be so - but he had no hope of ever being happy again. What did he have to look forward to, after all? Could he really be happy with Lucia Steiner as his wife? Even if he had not fallen in love with Leni, could he be satisfied with a wife like Lucia - illiterate, spiteful and selfish? He may not have seen her faults when he'd become engaged to her, but by now he must be painfully aware of them.
Considering that his mother was not going to accept his marriage without making things very difficult for him, even in the best of cases, what would she say if Eduard brought Lucia home to her and introduced her as his affianced wife? The troubles he'd have to endure in order to go through with this marriage would be great, and the question was whether he'd feel that spending the rest of his life with Lucia would compensate him for the loss of both family and fortune. Apart from being no longer in love with Lucia he might well begin to resent the sacrifices he'd made for her sake. This did not bode well at all. Leni shed some tears as she thought of what Eduard's life would be once he was married to Lucia, but by the time her mother and sisters returned home for dinner she'd calmed down sufficiently to be able to hide her agitation from them.
In a way, Leni was glad that she had promised Lucia not to tell anyone about her engagement to Eduard. That way she need not talk about the matter with her family; she was spared the endless discussions that she knew would be her lot if Marianne and Mrs Daringer ever found out. After the disappointment Marianne had suffered at Jakob Wildauer's hands, Leni preferred to keep this distressing news from her sisters and her mother for as long as she could; she knew it would give them pain. It would also hurt her to hear a word said against Eduard, and she knew how outspoken Marianne could be if she felt any member of her family had been slighted. Leni did not feel up to the task of defending Eduard from her sister's abuse, and was grateful that she did not have to defend him just yet. It would be easier to deal with her grief alone, and her own good sense would tell her how to do that.
Her first conversation with Lucia on the subject of her betrothal had caused Leni considerable pain; yet she soon wished to continue it for several reasons. She wanted to understand what Lucia really felt for Eduard; whether she truly loved him. Apart from that she felt that by bringing up the topic again, and by being able to talk about it calmly, she would convince Lucia that she was no more interested in Eduard's affairs than her friendship with him merited. She knew well that her agitation upon first hearing of it must have caused Lucia some suspicion, and she feared that Lucia's temper was a jealous one. What other reason could she have had to confide in Leni, if not a suspicion that Eduard was becoming more attached to his brother-in-law's sister than was good for him? What other purpose could she have had in mind but to tell Leni in no uncertain terms that Eduard was already spoken for and that she ought to keep away from him? Therefore, and since she was not likely to hear anything more hurtful than she'd already heard, Leni resolved to speak to Lucia once again - if only to convince Lucia that her heart was unwounded.
It was not until the following Sunday that she got the opportunity of talking to Lucia without being overheard - they walked together on their way back from church, and when Lucia stopped to tie her shoe-laces there was nothing more natural than Leni stopping and waiting for her to move on. With the rest of the Mayrhofers and Daringers walking a couple of dozen yards ahead of them, Leni felt it was safe to say, "I would not deserve your confidence if I didn't want you to confide in me again, or if I felt no curiosity on the subject. So I won't apologise for bringing the matter of your engagement up again."
Lucia beamed. "Thank you," she cried. "Thank you for bringing it up; you have taken such a weight off my shoulders by doing so! I was afraid I'd offended you by what I told you on Monday."
"Offended me? Certainly not - how could you suppose so? You may believe me when I say that nothing could be further from me than wanting to give you such an idea. Could you have had any motive for confiding in me that wasn't honourable and, in fact, quite flattering?"
"And still," Lucia replied, giving her that sly look again that Leni had grown to know - and, to be frank, hate - by now, "there was a certain coldness in your manner that made me quite uncomfortable. I was sure you were angry with me, and have been scolding myself ever since for having taken such a liberty as to burden you with my affairs. But I am glad to find that it wasn't so. If you knew what a relief it was to be speaking to you - to talk of what I am thinking of, every moment of my life! You'd feel so sorry for me you'd quickly forgive anything I may have said to offend you!"
"I can easily believe that it was a great relief to you to be able to unburden yourself," Leni said. "You'll never have reason to regret it, I promise. Your case is a most unfortunate one; you seem to be surrounded with difficulties, and you and Eduard will need all your mutual affection to keep you going. Eduard is entirely dependent on his mother."
"So he is!" Lucia sighed. "Although he says that he has some money of his own that his father left him, but it won't be enough to support a family I'm afraid. Marrying on as little as that would be madness, though for myself I wouldn't care. I've never had much money; I've always been able to make ends meet with what little I had. But it seems so selfish of me to expect him to give up everything his mother might give him, if only he could convince her that he has no wish to be a priest. She has her heart set on this, you must know."
Leni nodded. As much had been made abundantly clear to her - not only by the things Eduard had told her himself, but also by the things Fanny had let fall in order to warn her off.
"So there is nothing for it - we must wait until such a moment as Mrs Falkner can be brought to listen to reason, or until she dies, and that may well take years! With any other man I wouldn't like the idea at all, but Eduard - he is so much in love with me I know I have no need to doubt his fidelity."
"This must give you great comfort," Leni said. "And no doubt his faith in your constancy supports him as well. If the strength of your attachment had failed, as so often happens during long engagements, your situation would have been beyond pitiable!"
Leni became aware of the sharp look Lucia gave her, and took care to give nothing away in her expression.
"Eduard's love for me has been put the test already, by our long separations, and it has stood the trial very well. It would be unpardonable of me to doubt it now. He never gave me a moment's alarm in that respect."
Leni hardly knew whether to smile at that assertion or burst into tears.
"I am rather jealous, I'm sorry to say," Lucia went on, "and considering our different situations in life; his living in town by himself, I would have been quick to suspect him if he'd ever changed in his behaviour towards me whenever we had a chance to meet, or if there'd been any feeling of dejection that he could not explain to my satisfaction, or if he'd ever talked of any woman more than another. I'm not particularly quick-witted, but in such a case I'm sure he could not deceive me."
"But what," said Leni after a short silence, "are your prospects? Or is there nothing you can do but wait for Mrs Falkner to die? Is Eduard willing to submit to all this waiting, to keep you all in suspense for years and years, rather than risk his mother's displeasure by telling her the truth and hoping that her anger will be short-lived?"
"If only we could be sure that it would be short-lived! But Mrs Falkner is a very proud woman, and likes to have everything her way, and there's no saying what she would do if she found out! She might give the farm and everything to his brother in a fit of temper, and that possibility fills me with such dread I'm not in favour of hasty measures! I don't feel any anxiety for myself, naturally, but it's Eduard one must think of!"
"Naturally," Leni said dryly. Lucia looked at her again, and remained silent.
"Do you know Robert Falkner?" Leni asked.
"No; I have never met him, but I think he is quite unlike his brother - not very clever, and not as good-looking."
They had reached the Mayrhofers' house by now, and stopped at the garden gate while everyone else entered the house.
"There is one scheme I have thought of, to get things going. It would be a waste of Eduard's talents to let him rot on a farm*; you know him well enough to know that, don't you? Well, my hope is that he will get a job with the government, which would enable him to marry and support a family. I've been hoping you'd be able to do something for him, which I'm sure you'll do, being friends with both me and Eduard."
"Me? What makes you think I could do anything to help him along if he chooses a government career?"
"Couldn't your brother do something for him?"
"How? He has no influence with anyone of note! You'd better apply to Mrs Jäger; her son-in-law might be able to get Eduard a job in government circles. He knows all the right people, to be sure. My brother doesn't. Even if he could, what makes you think that he wouldn't help Eduard for his own sake? He's his brother-in-law!"
"But his wife wouldn't like the marriage - like her mother she counts on him becoming a priest!"
"Then I suspect Hans will listen to her rather than me."
Lucy was quiet, digesting this. In the end, she sighed, "It would be the wisest thing, I suppose, to end it right now. There's no end to our difficulties! It would make us miserable for a while, to be sure, but in the end we might be happier. What would you advise me to do?"
"I cannot advise you on such a subject," Leni said, with a smile that concealed her feelings. "You know very well my opinion would not weigh with you, unless it matched your own."
"Oh no, you're wrong!" Lucia replied. "I know nobody whose judgement is more to be depended on! I really believe if you told me to put an end to my engagement to Eduard, I should make up my mind to do so at once!"
This was so obvious a piece of falsehood that Leni felt herself blush. "Even if I had an opinion on the subject I'd be loath to tell you what it was, after this confession," she said.
"That's why I want to hear your opinion," Lucy said, impatiently. "If I suspected you to be biased by some feelings of your own, I wouldn't want you to tell me what you thought."
Leni decided that it was wisest not to answer to this, and even went so far as to decide that she was never going to speak of the subject again. She'd heard quite enough.
"Will you go to town for the autumn fair**, Leni?" Lucia wanted to know, after a pause.
"Oh no, I won't," Leni replied.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Lucia replied. "I'd have loved to meet you there - we often go there, you must know. But I suppose you will go for all that - your brother and sister-in-law will be there too, won't they? Surely they'll ask you to see them there!"
"I don't think I'll be able to go even if they want to see us," Leni replied. "There's so much work to be done here."
"Oh, how sad that is!" Lucia said. "I quite depended on meeting you there! Annie and I will certainly be there, we will enjoy ourselves so much at the fair! I only go for Eduard's sake, of course. He will be there. Otherwise town holds no charm for me; I'm a country girl at heart."
Which was why Lucia wanted Eduard to become a government official, Leni thought cynically.
It was Marianne's calling out to Leni from the cottage kitchen window that put an end to their confidential conversation, and Leni took care that no further such conversations should take place.
She was fairly sure now that Eduard had not only stopped loving Lucia - if ever he had been in love with her in the first place - but that he did not even have the chance of being tolerably happy in his marriage if he did marry her. If she'd been truly in love with him he would have had that chance, but Leni was quite sure that the only reason why Lucia still kept up the engagement was pure self-interest. That, in Leni's opinion, could be the only reason why she kept up an engagement with a man who had so obviously wearied of her.
* Apart from that, farm labourers were not supposed to marry - and even if they could have done so they wouldn't have earned enough to support a family.
* *There is a fair in Innsbruck (called "Town" in this story) twice a year - in spring and autumn. Traditionally, it has been a place for people from all over the country to meet up, sell their produce, buy new machinery for their farms or whatever else it was they needed, exchange news, and meet potential marriage partners. Today, it's a commercial fair mainly, but it still is a meeting-point.
Posted on: 2012-04-02
Mrs Jäger, in spite of living with her eldest daughter and her family in Weidach, had a home of her own in Town, and although she preferred to live with her relatives during the year to living by herself in her town house, there was one time every year when she preferred to stay in her late husband's home next to the Jägerbräu brewery - the time of the Autumn Fair. It was therefore hardly surprising that, by the time the agricultural papers announced this year's Fair, she was all agog to go to Town and enjoy the festivities attached to the event. For the autumn fair was not only a commercial show, a place for farmers to buy or sell livestock and machinery. There were also dances and balls - one had to make good use of the time between harvest and Catherine* - , and many a marriage had been the result of the Autmn Fair celebrations.
Seen from that point of view, it was hardly surprising that Mrs Jäger not only wanted to attend these festivities in order to enjoy herself, but also that she asked the Daringer sisters, who were now officially out of mourning, to accompany her. As she said, with a conspiratorial wink, one never knew who else might be found in Town. Mrs Jäger's request did come as a surprise to Leni and Marianne; they'd never known of Mrs Jäger's habit of going to town for the Fair, and even if they had they would not have expected her to ask them to come along.
One look at Marianne's face could have told Leni that her sister, for one, was not at all averse to going, but she refused the offer on her own behalf as well as Marianne's without a moment's hesitation.
"We can't leave my mother to herself at this time of the year," she said. Mrs Jäger was not inclined to accept that excuse, as she made clear when she immediately repeated her invitation.
"I'm sure your mother can do without you for a couple of days - we won't stay in town for longer than a week, or two at the utmost! She can't object to that! I do hope you will keep me company, I've quite set my heart upon it. If you're worried about inconveniencing me, I hope you'll put that thought right out of your mind, for you won't cause me any trouble at all I know. I'll ask Georg to send his carriage to pick us up, and he'll be happy to do that! And if you don't want to accompany me all the time when in Town, there's no problem with that; you'll be free to do whatever you like! Kathi will be happy to take you anywhere I can't accompany you, she'll be delighted in fact. I'm sure your mother will trust me; I've been able to make good matches for my own daughters as she knows, and if you aren't engaged to be married by the end of two weeks at the Fair it won't be any fault of mine, I can assure you! I'll be happy to throw all the eligible young men in your way!"
Leni barely suppressed a shudder at the very thought of attending a dance with Mrs Jäger as her chaperon and being the victim of her match-making efforts. Even if she'd wanted to go to Town - which she did not, considering that both Eduard and Lucia would be there too - this would have been enough to put her off.
"I suspect," Cousin Johann said shrewdly, "that Marianne wouldn't object to going if only her sister agreed to it. I must say it's very hard on her - why should she have to forego the pleasure of the Autumn Fair because Leni doesn't want to go. My advice is, mother, take Marianne and go without saying a word about it to Leni."
"Oh no," Mrs Jäger cried. "I'm not saying I wouldn't be happy if Marianne were the only one to accompany me to Town, but the more the merrier is what I've always thought, and I think it would be more comfortable for the Daringer girls to be together, because if they got tired of my company they'd still have one another to talk to. But I want one or the other, or both of them, to come with me, and I won't rest till they come with me. Come, Marianne, let's make a bargain, and if your sister changes her mind later she's welcome to join us!"
"Thank you very much, Mrs Jäger," Marianne said politely. "I'll forever be grateful to you for your invitation, and I'd be happy to come, but it is like Leni said - we can't leave my mother behind to shift for herself and with only Gretl for company - not at this time of year. This time last year my father passed away; she may need us to comfort her and take her mind off things."
"Oh, nonsense, I'm sure she'll be fine. She does have Gretl for company; it's not as if she didn't have anyone with her, and what will she do once the two of you are married I wonder? She'd better get used to it while she can, and depend on it she knows that!"
"No doubt, but I can't in good conscience leave her," Marianne insisted. "I couldn't forgive myself for making her unhappy." In spite of her protestations, it was obvious to Leni that Marianne was undergoing a severe struggle, and she realised that in her eagerness to get to Town and see Jakob Wildauer again Marianne would go to any length. She therefore gave up her direct opposition to Mrs Jäger's plans and merely said that they would apply to their mother for her permission.
She had little hope, however, of her mother objecting to their plan, little though she herself could approve of it. She did not think it would do Marianne good to meet Jakob in Town, and as for herself, the visit would not give her much pleasure she was sure. But she knew that whatever Marianne wanted she would get, and it was unlikely that Mrs Daringer would see eye to eye with Leni regarding Jakob Wildauer and his unaccountable behaviour. Nor could Leni confide in her and explain why she herself did not care to go to Town.
That Marianne, in spite of her dislike of Mrs Jäger's manners, should disregard the mortification she might have to feel if travelling in that lady's company just in order to get to Town was very telling. It was obviously of such importance to her that she'd put up with worse inconvenience than Mrs Jäger's chaperonage, and Leni knew when to stop arguing and admit defeat. Mrs Daringer, when informed of the invitation, was certain that it would do the girls good to go to Town and amuse themselves for a while; it was clear to her how much Marianne was looking forward to the treat, and therefore she would not hear of their declining the invitation on her account.
"Oh no, you mustn't refuse Mrs Jäger," she said. "It's exactly what I could wish for you. You've been working hard all summer, and you deserve a break. Never mind about Gretl and me; we'll be fine. It will give me the time to teach her to spin, she's old enough now to learn that, and how cosy that will be! She'll be glad to have me to herself for once, and you'll find her so improved when you come back again!"
Leni doubted that; two weeks did not make that much of a difference to a girl of Gretl's age, but she kept her thoughts to herself.
"I've also been meaning to make some changes to your bedroom, and this will give me the opportunity to go about it without causing you any inconvenience," she went on. "Besides, every girl ought to go and see the Autumn Fair, Mrs Jäger is quite right about that. You'll be well taken care of; Mrs Jäger is a good, motherly sort of woman, and I needn't feel anxious on your account. Besides, I'm almost certain Hans will be in Town too, you know he usually goes to the Fair, and in spite of his faults, and his wife's, he is your brother and I can't bear to have you estranged from each other."
"You're forgetting one thing," Leni pointed out. Marianne's countenance darkened. "There's one fly in the ointment, and I'm afraid it's a big one."
"And where's that fly in the ointment, in your opinion?" Mrs Daringer asked.
"My objection is this - though we can't doubt Mrs Jäger's respectability and kindness, she is a trifle difficult to live with, as we know. She means well, but her behaviour is such as we find hard to tolerate at times. She is well-known in Town, as are her manners I'm sure, and being her guests can hardly give us consequence."
"That's true," Mrs Daringer admitted grudgingly. "But she said herself you'd often be with her daughter, and there's nothing wrong with Mrs Pallhuber as far as I know. You like her, don't you?" Leni did like Mrs Pallhuber, but she was by no means certain that she would make a fitting chaperon for them; especially since she was more likely to stay at home and look after her baby son.
"If Leni is afraid to be seen with Mrs Jäger," Marianne said sharply, "that needn't prevent me from going! I'm sure I could put up with every unpleasantness of that kind!"
Leni could not help but smile at her sister's words, thinking how often she had had to intervene in order to make Marianne treat Mrs Jäger with something like common civility. If Marianne chose to accompany Mrs Jäger to Town, she felt, she would have to go as well, for Marianne needed someone to rein her in and this, she was afraid, Mrs Jäger was unable to do. Besides, it would be heartless to leave Mrs Jäger to Marianne's mercy - there was no doubt that there would be trouble within a day of two.
"You'll both go," Mrs Daringer said determinedly. "These objections of yours are nonsense, Leni. You will enjoy going to Town, especially in being there together, and if Leni could for once foresee enjoyment rather than unpleasantness she would realise how many opportunities of enjoying herself are awaiting her. She might even remember that a certain member of her sister-in-law's family is in Town, and that she might meet him occasionally. She might even try to become better acquainted with his mother; one never knows what good that will do!"
Leni had often wished she could give her mother a hint that there was no likelihood of her marriage with Eduard, so that the news of Eduard's marriage with Lucia would not come as a shock, and she tried to make use of the opportunity now.
"I like Eduard very much, as you know, and I'll always be glad to see him. As for the rest of his family, it's a matter of perfect indifference to me whether I know them or not."
Her mother smiled, and said nothing. Marianne stared at Leni in astonishment, and Leni conjectured that she might just as well have held her tongue for all the good it had done her to speak.
In the end, it was settled that the invitation should be accepted. Mrs Jäger received the news with a great deal of happiness, and many promises of the treats that were in store for them. But she was not alone in her sentiments. The Steiner sisters, too; Lucia especially, told Leni that they had never been so happy in their lives.
Once the arrangement had been made, Leni submitted to it with less reluctance than she'd expected to feel. As for herself, she could not have cared less as to whether she went to Town or not, but when she saw how much the plan appeared to please her mother, and how happy it made Marianne, and how much the prospect of going to Town cheered her up, she could no longer feel opposed to it.
* Catherine: St Catherine's Day, November 25th. The saying is "Kathrein stellt's Tanzen ein." - "Catherine puts an end to dancing." Advent, like Lent, is a time of fasting, and that includes that no public dances will take place until after Christmas.
Posted on: 2012-04-25
The time for their departure came soon - too soon for Leni's taste. Only a week before she'd objected to Mrs Jäger's plan of taking them to town for the fair, and now they were on their way. In spite of Leni's doubts regarding Jakob Wildauer's constancy, she could not help hoping that he would prove himself worthy of Marianne's love for him. Nothing could be more obvious than Marianne's feelings for him. Nor could Leni help comparing Marianne's hopefulness, her ardour and her expectations with her own prospects. In a short time they would know what Jakob's true intentions regarding Marianne were. He'd gone to town, and Marianne probably knew where to find him once they got there; she certainly expected to see him. If they met him, Leni would continue to watch him with her sister, and should she come to the conclusion that he was not serious about Marianne she was determined to do everything in her power to open Marianne's eyes to his real intentions. If, on the other hand, his devotion to Marianne had stood the test of time and separation, she would stop trying to find fault with him and be happy for Marianne's sake.
Their journey took an entire day, and if Marianne's behaviour as they travelled was anything to go by Mrs Jäger was not going to enjoy entertaining her as her guest. She was silent almost all the way, lost in her thoughts - and Leni did not find it difficult to guess what thoughts they were - and only answered Mrs Jäger's remarks if she could not avoid it. Only when she saw something she liked - a beautiful house or garden, or the autumn foliage in a particularly beautiful stretch of woodland - she expressed her admiration of it. She never directed those observations at Mrs Jäger though. Unless she was obliged to answer one of her hostess' remarks, Marianne spoke exclusively to Leni. It fell to Leni to talk to Mrs Jäger and keep her tolerably amused, to gloss over Marianne's rudeness and give Mrs Jäger the civility she was entitled to, not just as their hostess but also as an older woman whose son-in-law was, after all, their employer.
Mrs Jäger's kindness to them was amazing, especially in view of Marianne's conduct. As they stopped for luncheon and an hour of rest at a roadside inn - the same where they'd stopped on their way from Town to Weidach - she made sure they had everything they needed, treated them to an excellent lunch and was anxious that they should be comfortable.
Towards evening, just as it was getting dark, they finally reached town and made their way through the busy streets to the Jägerbräu brewery, where Mrs Jäger's house was. The Jägerbräu had started out as a mere inn some seventy years before. The late Mr Jäger's grandfather had built it; outside the city gates at that time though close enough to one of the major roads leading there, and business being good he'd soon obtained a licence for brewing his own beer and running a distillery on his premises*. The Gasthof Jäger was renamed to Jägerbräu, the customers kept coming in, a brewhouse was built and the Jägers began to sell their produce to other innkeepers. By the time Mrs Jäger's husband had taken over the family business, the Jägerbräu Inn had been double the size of the original structure, and another brewhouse had been added. Until his death, the Jäger family had lived on the premises; a part of the building had been separated from the public rooms to give them some privacy.
Georg Pallhuber had broken with family tradition. By that time the new railway had reached town, and while having a major train station in one's neighbourhood was good for business one did not want to live in such a busy place. Upon his marriage with his employer's daughter, Mr Pallhuber had therefore bought a house in a new and fashionable part of town, and when his father-in-law had died and left the business to him he'd willingly given the private rooms at the Jägerbräu to his mother-in-law, so she could live there whenever she visited town.
The house was huge and quite beautiful even though it no longer had the charm of an old country inn. Above the main entrance of the inn a huge painting of a hunting scene** - a hunter carrying a dead mountain goat on his shoulders, with his faithful dog at his heels - indicated to passers-by that here was a place the owner of which could afford such ostentation. Not that this was in any way necessary, for the Jägerbräu brewery was well-known not only in the city but also in the surrounding villages, and everyone knew it to be a business that prospered.
A side entrance led them to Mrs Jäger's private residence, where they were welcomed by Julie, one of the inn's chambermaids whose duty it was to look after the former landlord's widow whenever she was here. One look at Julie's neat appearance, her black town-style dress, her starched apron and cap and her superior manner made Leni suspect what she thought of having to wait on a pair of country bumpkins whose station in life was no better than hers. Not that she showed it - Julie was a well-trained servant. She merely showed Leni and Marianne to their room and left.
They were to sleep in the same room as Mrs Mayrhofer and Mrs Pallhuber had while they'd still lived with their mother. It was large and cosy and had a tiled stove of its own, a luxury the Daringers had never enjoyed before. Even better, the stove was warm. Leni sat down at the writing table next to it and started writing a letter to her mother, knowing that Mrs Daringer would worry if she did not hear from them soon. Marianne, too, took some writing paper from one of the drawers and instead of waiting for Leni to finish her letter and take her place at the writing table then, she sat down on her bed and used her bedside table instead.
Leni, observing this, said, "I'm writing to Mother, Marianne. Wouldn't it be better if you waited for a day or two?"
"I'm not writing home," Marianne replied curtly. She then turned back to her task, as if wishing to avoid further questions. Not that Leni needed to ask Marianne who was going to receive that letter she was writing - there was only one person, apart from their mother, to whom Marianne would write. It must be a letter to Jakob to inform him of Marianne's arrival in town. Things must be serious between them after all, Leni surmised. If Marianne wrote to him, there must be an understanding between them even though they hadn't made it public yet. Before long, they would see Jakob again. Leni didn't know whether she ought to feel anxious or relieved.
They gave the letters to Julie who promised to hand them over to the deliverymen going into the recipients' direction, which would not guarantee immediate delivery but had the advantage of costing them less than sending them by post. With this Marianne had to be content, but nevertheless she was in a fever of anticipation all evening. She could hardly eat her dinner, even though it came from the inn's excellent kitchen and Mrs Jäger had urged them to indulge themselves and order all their favourite dishes while they were staying with her. She seemed to be listening for the doorbell all the time; and whenever a carriage stopped outside she could hardly resist the urge to run to the window and see who the new arrival was, never mind that they were staying at a busy inn and brewery where carriages and carts were coming in and leaving all the time.
Luckily, Leni thought, Mrs Jäger was so happy to be in her own home again that she did not notice Marianne's odd behaviour. She shuddered to think of what Marianne might say to Mrs Jäger if that lady dared to tease her about young men in general, or one young man in particular. She had no taste for the kind of scene that must ensue in that case, and was considerably grateful that Mrs Jäger appeared to care more about the quality of the food on their table, and the new curtains and upholstery which looked just as she'd thought they would.
"I bought the material at the fair in spring," she told Leni, "and it has turned out so well, don't you think? Makes the room so much brighter!"
Leni agreed with her hostess, and politely asked whether the embroidery on the tablecloth was Mrs Jäger's own work.
"Oh no, that's one of Kathi's. Both my girls went to convent school, and I'll say this for the nuns: they do teach girls how to do their stitchery! Kathi has left some of her work here; she has no use for it in her new house. There's an altar cloth*** in the parlour that she has done too - I'll show it to you when we go there after dinner."
Leni told her that she was looking forward to seeing it, and that she quite envied Mrs Pallhuber her skill with the needle. "I wish I could do anything as fine," she confessed. Mrs Jäger beamed. Any praise directed at either of her daughters pleased her. In the parlour, Mrs Jäger showed them the altar cloth and would have taken all the linen out of the drawers for the Daringers to inspect if a loud rap at the door had not interrupted her. Marianne flushed, and kept herself with difficulty from rushing to the door. When the parlour door opened and not Jakob, but the Talbacher came in she could not hide her disappointment. Her face fell considerably, and the moment greetings had been exchanged she excused herself and fled to her bedroom.
"Is Marianne quite alright?" was his anxious question as the door slammed shut behind her.
"She's fine," Leni reassured him. "Just a little tired perhaps. The journey, you know."
It was not a very convincing excuse, and Leni knew it. A girl who'd spent all summer working hard on the mountain pastures from dawn to nightfall was not likely to suffer unduly from a day's journey in a comfortable carriage. But whatever opinion the Talbacher might have of her explanation, he accepted it with good grace. Mrs Jäger invited him to sit down at the table, and offered to send Julie over to the tap room of the inn to fetch some beer for him, which he declined. He did accept a glass of wine though, sat down and chatted amiably with Mrs Jäger, asking some civil questions as to her journey and the healths of everyone back home.
"I'd no idea you'd gone to town too," Mrs Jäger said archly, having told him that they'd enjoyed the journey and that everyone at home was well. "You should have told us - you could have gone in the carriage with us."
"You mean you didn't know I was going? That's a bit of a surprise," the Talbacher said, grinning. "Seeing as I go to the fair every autumn."
"I'm sure you would have gone with us if you'd known I had such pretty girls travelling with me," Mrs Jäger insisted.
"Hardly; I wouldn't want to impose on their good nature."
"As if you ever could!"
"I can't. That's why I went by myself." The Talbacher took a sip of his wine. In spite of his flippant manner, Leni suspected that he was feeling anything but cheerful, and could make an educated guess as to the reason. If only Marianne had herself better in hand! Her reaction to his arrival would have been hard to swallow for any man; it must be infinitely worse for a man who was suffering from one of the worst cases of unrequited love ever. It was this thought that kept Leni from asking him if he'd seen Jakob in town - there was no need to rub it in.
"You're staying at the Jägerbräu, I hope," Mrs Jäger said.
"We're neighbours then," Leni said, smiling.
"So it seems. What are your plans for your stay, Leni? Doing some shopping?"
"There's that," Leni agreed. "For myself as well as for Gretl; my mother says she needs a new Sunday best and I am to look for the material."
"And they're going to dance, of course," Mrs Jäger interposed. "There's a dance here on Thursday, do you know? Surely you'll be here too!"
"I'm staying at the inn so I guess I will."
"We haven't seen much of you lately," Leni said, mainly in order to say something.
"I've been very busy," he replied, a trifle hesitantly. "You know how it is in autumn."
Leni did know.
"Have you seen Kathi lately?" Mrs Jäger asked eagerly.
"I paid a visit to her husband yesterday, and she didn't let me leave before I'd had a good look at her son," the Talbacher replied.
"I'm sure he's such a fine boy by now!"
"I'm no judge in these matters, Mrs Jäger. I know nothing of children."
"It's about time you got yourself a wife," Mrs Jäger said. "A man still single at your time of life! Just wait for that dance on Thursday! I'll have you dance with all the prettiest girls!"
"And you'll have me married by the end of the Fair," the Talbacher said, finished his wine and rose. "I must be going. - Give my regards to your sister, Leni. I'm sure I'll see her one of these days. Thank you for the wine, Mrs Jäger. Good night!"
* Those licences being expensive, you'd have to do good business to be able to afford them. In addition to the expense of buying the licence, you would also have to pay high taxes every year. But since breweries had the reputation of being a way to make lots of money in a very short time, people put up with that as a necessary evil.
** "Jäger" is German for "hunter", so the scene is quite appropriate even if the place is named after the family who owns it. This kind of painting on the outside walls of houses is quite popular in parts of the Tyrol and even more popular in Bavaria. Here's an example that's quite close to Weidach - an old farm house.
*** In every traditional Tyrolean household there's a "Herrgottswinkel" - a corner with a crucifix, a rosary, a picture or statue of the Virgin Mary and / or a saint the family is particularly attached to, decorated according to the season. This is where the family say their daily prayers, and where the family Bible is kept. It's the corner directly opposite to the door, so it's the first thing you'll see upon entering the room.
As Marianne got out of bed the next morning, she appeared to have forgotten all about last night's disappointment. She was in the kind of mood Leni had not observed in her ever since Jakob had left Weidach - she was even humming a tune as she made her bed. Obviously she expected a visit from him before long.
They were sitting at the breakfast table when Mrs Pallhuber arrived. She was delighted to see them in Town, she said, though she ought to be offended because they had accepted her mother's invitation in spite of having declined her own. But never mind, now that they were here what fun they would have! She would never have forgiven them if they had not come!
"Georg will be happy to see you," she told them. "Only the other day he said -" Here she paused, trying to recollect what it as that Mr Pallhuber had said. "I've forgotten what it was," she admitted after a few moments' silence. "But it was so funny! How I laughed!"
She spent an hour sitting with them, and then invited her mother and the Daringers to accompany her on a shopping expedition in the old town*. Both Mrs Jäger and Leni consented to do so at once, since they both had some shopping to do. Marianne declined at first, and Leni did not find it difficult to think of a reason why she preferred to stay at home - she wanted to be there when Jakob called. In the end, however, they persuaded her to join them. Still, wherever they went, Marianne was on the lookout, probably hoping to spot Jakob somewhere in the crowd. No matter which shop they were in, she took no interest in whatever goods were on sale there but kept looking about her. Leni soon found it useless to ask her for her opinion of anything she wanted to show her; she did not seem to take any interest in articles of clothing, even if Leni thought they might suit her. Her impatience to get back to the JägerbrŠu was palpable, and she became increasingly vexed with Mrs Pallhuber, who had no intention of returning there any time soon and kept discovering something new she wanted to examine wherever she turned.
It was not before lunchtime that they came home, and the door had hardly closed behind them when Marianne hurried to seek out Julie the maid to ask her if anyone had come to call in their absence. Even without hearing Julie's reply Leni could tell that Jakob had not come to see them - the look of disappointment in Marianne's face was quite enough to inform her of that.
"Well," Marianne said, and swallowed hard. "Has there been a letter then?"
"No, nothing," Julie replied.
"That's odd," Marianne said, and went upstairs to their room to take off her coat.
It is odd, Leni thought. Marianne must know him to be in town, or she wouldn't have written to him here. But if he is here, why hasn't he come to see her or written an answer to her note if he couldn't come at once? I hope for Marianne there's nothing wrong! I'm still not sure if it's a good thing that Mother encouraged that engagement - Marianne's so young, and we know so little about Jakob when all's said and done! And all that secrecy - it can't be a good thing at all! How I wish I could talk to Marianne about it, but if I interfere . . . But Leni knew well how Marianne would react to any interference on her part, and therefore decided to remain silent for the time being. If things continued in this way, however, she would write to her mother, inform her of what was going on, and demand she take action of some kind.
In the evening, the Pallhubers and some old friends of Mrs Jäger's whom she'd met during their shopping expedition dined with them. The Pallhubers left soon after dinner, but Mrs Jäger's friends stayed on, and Leni was obliged to assist in their entertainment. Marianne was no use at all. Not only did she refuse to play cards - she'd never troubled herself to learn any card games even though their father had been a shrewd card-player** and more than willing to teach his children - but she spent most of the evening sitting by the window and looking out. Sometimes she'd pick up a book and attempt to read, or get up and walk about the room, but never for long - after a few minutes she'd always resume her vigil by the window, but without the desired success. Jakob did not come.
"If this fine weather continues, Johann won't care to leave Weidach for town," Mrs Jäger remarked as she looked out of the window the next morning. "He's such a keen hunter, and so rarely gets the opportunity!"***
Marianne listened up at that, and immediately seemed more cheerful. "That's true," she said. "I hadn't thought of that! This weather will keep many hunters in the country."
The thought certainly did much to cheer Marianne up - she sat down to her breakfast with a smile.
"How they'll enjoy themselves, I'm sure! But I don't think it will last long. At this time of the year, it's bound to change sooner or later and when it gets colder hunting will no longer be fun."
Leni had to suppress a smile. Like herself, Marianne ought to know that the autumn was the time when fine weather was at its most constant.
"At any rate," she said to keep Mrs Jäger from guessing in what direction Marianne's thoughts were most likely going, "Cousin Johann must be joining us next week. He won't care to miss the fair, and Mrs Mayrhofer will want to be here for the dancing."
"You may depend on that," Mrs Jäger said with a chuckle. "Maria usually has her own way."
Marianne's next letter, Leni thought, will go to Brandberg. But if a letter was written, Leni did not see Marianne write it. She must have written it in secret, and slipped out of the house for a few minutes to post it, not trusting Julie with it this time. At least Marianne's spirits improved, and while Marianne was cheerful Leni could not feel uncomfortable on her behalf. Marianne appeared to be happy with the mild weather, and even happier in expecting the night frosts that might soon put an end to the shooting season.
They spent most of the morning calling on Mrs Jäger's old friends in town, and Marianne was busy watching the sky for signs of a change in the weather.
"It's rather cool in the morning, isn't it?" she asked Leni. "Rather colder than yesterday, don't you think? Well, it was a very clear night. A few more of that kind and we'll get frosty mornings."
If it hadn't been for the fact that Marianne was clearly suffering as every day went by, Leni might have allowed herself to be amused by these remarks. As it was, it gave her pain to watch her. She sat by the window every evening, and if she did not look down into the courtyard hoping to catch a glimpse of Jakob as he walked up to their door, she looked up at the sky to see if it was clear or not; if there was going to be any frost in the morning. But the Fšhn**** kept blowing and so it stayed warm and sunny, with no frost in sight.
The Talbacher, whom Mrs Jäger seemed to consider almost a member of the family, came to see them almost every day. He came to look at Marianne and talk to Leni, who was looking forward to her conversations with him but was worried about his continued regard for her sister. She feared, in fact, that his attachment to Marianne grew stronger every day, and it grieved her to see how Marianne treated him.
About a week after their arrival, they found a card from Jakob when they returned from another shopping expedition.
"Oh no!" Marianne cried. "He's been here while we were out!"
His arrival in town was certainly good news, Leni thought. "He'll come back later, or tomorrow," she said.
Marianne, putting the precious card into her pocket, escaped to their room before Mrs Jäger became aware of what had been going on.
From that moment on, Marianne was unfit for anything but waiting for Jakob to arrive. She insisted on staying at home as Mrs Jäger went out the next morning. During their absence, Leni's thoughts were full of what might be going on at the JägerbrŠu, but one glance at her sister as they returned there was enough to tell her that Jakob had not come.
Just at that moment, Julie brought in a note.
"For me?" Marianne cried, jumping up and almost overturning her chair in her eagerness.
"No, for Mrs Jäger."
Marianne was not convinced and took up the note. "ItÊisÊfor Mrs Jäger," she said. "How provoking!"
"You're waiting for a letter then?" Leni asked, unable to remain silent.
"Yes; though I don't have much hope."
Leni hoped her sister would at last confide in her, but in vain - no further information was offered. After a short pause, she said, "You don't trust me, Marianne?"
"This reproach fromÊyou, Leni, who confide in no one!"
"Me? I have nothing to tell, Marianne."
"Nor have I," Marianne said. "Our situations are quite alike then. Neither of us have anything to tell; you, because you don't communicate, and I because I keep nothing secret."
Leni felt some distress at being charged with reserve in herself; knowing that even if she wanted to confide in Marianne she could not, having been sworn to secrecy. Under these circumstances, she felt, she could hardly press Marianne to be more open with her.
Mrs Jäger's note was from Mrs Mayrhofer, who had arrived and was now staying in her sister's house. It contained an invitation to dine with the Mayrhofers at the Golden Eagle, a well-known hostelry, and although it was clear that it was uncivil to let Mrs Jäger go there on her own it took Leni some effort to persuade Marianne to accompany her. She had still seen nothing of Jakob, and did not want to risk being out when he called again.
The Pallhubers were with the Mayrhofers, of course, as was the Talbacher. As they were ushered to their table at the Golden Eagle, Marianne looked around to see if Jakob was there, but since he wasn't she sat down at the table and refused to talk any more than she had to for the entire evening. She was obliged to be there, but no one could force her to enjoy herself. There was music, and some dancing, and although Marianne did dance with several young men she complained of fatigue when they returned to the JägerbrŠu late that evening.
"I can see how it is," Mrs Jäger said shrewdly. "I'm sure you wouldn't have minded dancing if a certain young men who shall not be named had been there. And I cannot understand why he wasn't when he was invited!"
"Invited?" Marianne asked.
"So Maria has told me. She says Johann met him in the street this morning and he invited him to come to the Golden Eagle tonight."
Marianne said no more, but she looked extremely hurt. Leni decided that the time had come for her to take a hand in the matter and to write to their mother the next day, and her resolve was strengthened the next morning when she observed Marianne writing a letter to Jakob - for who else would she write to?
As Mrs Jäger went out after lunch, Leni sat down at the parlour table to write her letter, while Marianne paced about the room or sat down on the bench by the stove, too anxious to speak or read or do anything useful. Leni took some time describing current events to her mother, and urged her to demand from Marianne an account of her real situation with regards to Jakob.
She had hardly finished her letter when a knock at the door announced a visitor, and a few moments later the Talbacher entered the room. Marianne had seen him come across the yard and had made good her escape before he'd reached their front door. The Talbacher looked grave, and although he said he was glad to find Leni alone he sat with her for a few minutes without saying a word. It was almost like the early days of their acquaintance, Leni thought.
After a few minutes, he said - though it clearly gave him pain to do so, "When am I to congratulate you on your getting a new brother?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
With a forced smile, he said, "Marianne's engagement, of course. It's common knowledge."
"Not in this family it isn't. We know nothing of an engagement."
He looked surprised at that. "I'm sorry if you think I'm being impertinent, but I didn't think you were keeping it a secret. They are writing to each other, aren't they? And their marriage is talked of."
"How can that be? Who talks of it?"
"Many people - not all of them are acquainted with you, but among your friends such as the Pallhubers, or Mrs Jäger, or the Mayrhofers. But I wouldn't have believed it - mainly because I didn't want to believe it - until I saw the maid carry a letter, directed to Jakob Wildauer, and in Marianne's writing. I came to ask you, but I was convinced before I had the chance to do so. Is everything settled between them? Can I -" He broke off and drew a deep breath before he went on, "But I don't have the right and É and I never had any chance with her anyway. I - I'm sorry, Leni. I have said too much, and that was wrong of me. I hardly know what to do, and I do depend on your good sense, that's the only excuse I have. Tell me, is it true - is it settled?"
These words affected Leni very much. She was unable to say anything for a while, and even when she recovered her calm it took her a while to come up with a proper answer. He was in love with Marianne; as much had been clear to her for a while, and now he had as much as told her so. The real state of affairs between Marianne and Jakob was unknown to her, and therefore she might say too much as well as too little. Yet she knew that Marianne's feelings for Jakob were such as left the Talbacher with no hope of ever succeeding with her, whatever might happen. So, after some consideration, she thought the kindest and most sensible course of action was to tell him more than she really knew.
"They have never told me about an engagement," she began. "But I don't doubt that they are very much in love with each other, and I'm not surprised at their correspondence."
"Thank you for being frank with me," the Talbacher said, with some emotion in his voice. "I wish É for Marianne's sake É that she will always be happy with him, and I hope that he will do everything in his power to deserve her." He then rose and went away, no doubt to digest this piece of news, leaving Leni to feel sorry for him.
Posted on: 2012-06-09
As three more days passed nothing happened to make Leni regret having written to her mother. Jakob did not come to see Marianne, nor did he write. Mrs Jäger and Mrs Pallhuber were both busy preparing the annual Jägerbräu dance, which the Daringer sisters were to attend as well, and Leni and Marianne were therefore left to themselves for most of the time. Although both had volunteered to help with the preparations - Leni's offer had been more serious than Marianne's - Mrs Jäger and Mrs Pallhuber had not wanted to hear anything of it. They had enough maids at the inn to do the work, Mrs Jäger had said, and all they needed was someone to tell them what to do.
At the evening of the dance Marianne got dressed for the event, without caring much for her appearance or, indeed, for going to the ball. It was Leni who made sure Marianne looked her best; who took out their Sunday dresses and brushed and ironed them, and who braided Marianne's hair in a becoming style. Once she was ready, Marianne sat down by the stove in the parlour, staring at a book without reading it, and speaking to no one. When Mrs Jäger finally came in and the Mayrhofers arrived, she was almost surprised that they were going somewhere that evening.
The ballroom where the annual Jägerbräu dance took place was on the first floor of the Jägerbräu Inn; in fact it took up the entire first floor of the building. It was in great demand among bridal couples planning their weddings, for it was large enough to accommodate some two hundred people and there was still enough room for the dancing*. In spite of its size, the room was almost bursting at the seams that evening. Mrs Jäger was enjoying herself immensely. As she steered her party through the crowd to the table that had been set aside for the Jägerbräu family and their guests, she greeted her acquaintances and promised to talk to them later, and Leni did not doubt for a moment that this was just what Mrs Jäger would do. They were not going to see much of their hostess, she assumed, and she was right.
Some of the windows were open, but in spite of this it was stiflingly hot in the ballroom. Leni was almost glad that they'd found a place to sit down, and that no one had asked them to dance yet. She was not sure she would be up to the exercise in this heat. Even sitting here all evening was a tiring prospect.
It was not long, however, until the Talbacher turned to her and asked her for a dance, and Leni did not have the heart to refuse. Marianne, too, had joined the dancers with a young man who'd been sitting at the table next to theirs. It was halfway through the dance that Leni noticed a young man wearing the red waistcoat and black trousers usually associated with the Ziller valley men**. He was dancing with a very pretty young woman also wearing the Ziller valley dress, which Leni recognised because her sister-in-law had one of these as well.
As they came closer, the young man looked into Leni's direction, and Leni recognised him at once - it was Jakob. She gave him a nod by way of a greeting, and he acknowledged it with a nod, too. Then he quickly turned back to his partner, saying something to her. From what Leni could tell, they were on fairly intimate terms - a childhood friend or relation, maybe? Leni hoped that this was the case; that there was no other connection between them.
Marianne had seen him too, and the moment the music stopped she hurried towards him, with Leni in hot pursuit. She grabbed Marianne's shoulder and made her stop.
"Let me go to him!" Marianne cried. "Why doesn't he come here to talk to me? Why don't you want me to go to him?"
"I don't mind you talking to him," Leni replied. "But calm down first. We don't want everyone here to know how you feel, do we? Don't make a fool of yourself in public! He won't thank you for that - maybe he hasn't seen you yet."
Even as she said this, Leni was sure that this was not the case. It was not that Jakob had not noticed Marianne. What was more, he must have known she would be at the dance - he'd known she was staying with Mrs Jäger after all. So why hadn't he sought her out?
"If he hasn't seen me yet I'll have to tell him I'm here," Marianne said and immediately called out his name. He turned round and looked at her for the first time, but instead of coming towards her he merely nodded at her and turned back to his dancing partner. Before Leni could stop her sister, she hurried towards him.
"Good God, Jakob, what's the meaning of all this?" she demanded. "Haven't you read my letters? Won't you shake hands with me?"
It was now impossible for Jakob to ignore Marianne, and so he did shake hands with both her and Leni, although it seemed to Leni that he'd have preferred to be anywhere else but here - and with anyone but Marianne. He was clearly struggling for composure. After a long, painful pause, he said, "I did try to visit you a couple of days ago but you'd gone out. Didn't the maid tell you?"
"She did, but didn't you get my messages?" Marianne asked. "There must be some mistake, some dreadful mistake! For Heaven's sake, Jakob, tell me what is the matter!"
Jakob flushed, and what composure he'd had vanished. He caught his partner's eye, and merely said, "Yes, I did get your message that you'd arrived in town, and very happy I was to read it. Good evening."
With these words, he turned back to his partner, and left Marianne standing there, dumb-struck. Leni got hold of her shoulder and pushed her towards their table, where she made her sit down. The Talbacher, who'd witnessed the whole episode, handed Leni a glass of wine without saying anything. Leni gave it to Marianne and made her drink. Marianne was almost unable to hold the glass; she was as white as a sheet and trembling all over. Leni, who feared she might faint any moment, moved in front of her to shield her from everyone's view.
"Go to him, Leni," Marianne demanded. "Go to him and force him to come to me. Tell him I must see him again - I must speak to him at once! I can't rest - I won't have a moment of peace until he has explained himself! Go and get him here this moment!"
"How do expect me to accomplish this?" Leni asked. "You must wait until tomorrow. This is neither the time nor the place for explanations."
Marianne started up from her chair as if to go after Jakob herself, but Leni pushed her back into her seat.
"At least wait until I can get him alone somewhere," she said. "It won't be much use confronting him now, with that girl by his side. Once she's gone I'll go and try to get him to talk to you. I promise. Just sit here quietly for now and calm down. You're in no state to be talking to him."
As she said so, she saw Jakob and his partner moving towards the exit of the room, and told Marianne that she would not have the chance to speak to him any more that night.
"He's just left," she said.
"But he can't have - I need to talk to him!"
"He's left nevertheless," Leni said.
"Maybe - maybe he's just gone out for some fresh air." Marianne said desperately.
"He's taken his hat and jacket with him," Leni replied. Marianne began to cry. Leni sat down next to her and held her close to her shoulder. The less people around them noticed the better it was.
Then the Talbacher, who'd silently observed the whole scene, took charge. "I think Marianne is feeling unwell," he said to Leni, loudly enough for people to hear. "The heat in here is getting too much for her. Let's take her home, shall we?"
"We can't leave just like that," Leni objected, if only for the sake of their interested audience. "Mrs Jäger will look for us."
"You needn't worry about her; I'll tell her when I come back," the Talbacher replied and took Marianne's arm. "Come on, Marianne, you'll feel better in a moment!"
Marianne did not resist him as he led her out of the room, across the courtyard and to Mrs Jäger's front door. He waited in the hallway as Leni put her sister to bed, and then took his leave of Leni, promising to do his best to gloss over the affair.
Leni returned to their bedroom to see if Marianne needed anything. Marianne lay quite still, her face turned to the wall, and did not react to anything Leni said to her. She had stopped crying by now, but it was evident that she was as unhappy as she could possibly be.
There was no reply.
"Marianne, won't you talk to me?"
Marianne shook her head. "Just leave me alone, please," she whispered. Hesitantly, Leni left her to herself. She went into the parlour, sat down on the bench by the stove, and decided to wait for Mrs Jäger coming home. During the long wait, she began to think about what had happened.
It was clear that there had been some kind of engagement between Marianne and Jakob. It was also obvious that, for some reason or another, Jakob had grown tired of it. No matter what Marianne would say in his defence, Leni could not believe that his behaviour that night could be attributed to some mistake. He'd deliberately treated Marianne like a passing acquaintance. Nothing but a thorough change in his feelings for Marianne could account for this.
Strangely enough, Leni was not as angry as she felt she ought to have been. This was probably because she'd seen his embarrassment at meeting them, which indicated that he well knew he was acting like a villain. At one point, Leni did not doubt, he'd been as much in love with Marianne as she had been in love with him. Their separation may have been the cause of his coldness towards her now, and he may have found it convenient to forget all about her. But he'd loved Marianne once; Leni could not bring herself to doubt that.
As for Marianne, Leni felt deeply concerned for her well-being. The pain this unhappy meeting must have given her, and the pain she was destined to feel in the future, were such as Leni knew she would be unable to handle. Her own situation was nothing to this. She could esteem Eduard as much as she'd ever done no matter how they might be divided in the future. She knew she had not done wrong; she knew he had not betrayed her.
How different Marianne's situation was! There was no doubt as to what must follow tonight's encounter; their love - his love, at any rate - was at an end, and the only consequence of that could be a permanent separation. Knowing Marianne as she did, Leni dreaded the future.
* Tyrolean weddings are traditionally a large affair. Even nowadays, a wedding with less than 100 guests is considered a small one. So hotels and restaurants with rooms large enough to accommodate so many people are in great demand during the wedding season. :) Today, most weddings are in spring, summer and early autumn, and on Saturdays. The traditional wedding season was between Christmas and Lent, and no one would have married on a Saturday.
** One could tell where people came from by their traditional dress. The Ziller valley clothes are quite noticeable. The men wear a black and grey jacket, black trousers or leather breeches, an embroidered leather belt, white shirt, red waistcoat. The ladies have a black velvet dress, brocade apron, scarf made of the same material. Hats are worn for important occasions only.
Here's a historical picture: http://www.haus-sporer.at/Grafik/pics/tracht1.jpg
The clothes still look the same, and people still wear them for important occasions, such as weddings or funerals. (They'd wear a black waistcoat instead of a red one at funerals though.)
Posted on: 2012-06-29
It had taken Marianne a long time to fall asleep that night, and Leni woke up early the next morning to find her sister by the window, writing feverishly, using the window sill as a writing table. From time to time she stopped, sobbing, her tears making it impossible for her to go on with her task.
Leni got out of bed, went over to Marianne and touched her shoulder. "Marianne," she whispered. "Won't you tell me now?"
With a violent sob, Marianne shook her head. Then, pulling herself together for a few moments she managed to say, "Not now. Later. Soon. But not yet."
Her attempt to calm down did not last long. She had hardly finished talking when she started to cry again, and it took her some minutes before she went on writing. Considering this, Leni did not need to ask Marianne who the recipient of this note was. It was all too obvious that the letter was for Jakob - maybe the last one he'd ever get from Marianne. Every attempt of Leni's to soothe her was met with rebuff. Marianne did not want to talk and no, she was not feeling cold so she did not need the shawl Leni wanted to place round her shoulders, never mind that she was shivering. In the end Marianne got dressed and sought refuge in the garden where she could grieve in peace and quiet, for no one would be found there at that time of day.
At breakfast she did not eat; in fact she did not even try. Leni did her best to distract Mrs Jäger's attention from Marianne. Since Mrs Jäger was very fond of a cup of coffee or two in the morning, the breakfast lasted for a considerable time, and they had hardly left the parlour to get dressed for their morning walk when a letter arrived for Marianne. Marianne snatched it from Julie's hand and ran upstairs at once. Leni, who suspected that the letter was Jakob's reply to the one Marianne had written in the morning, felt almost sick with apprehension but forced herself to be calm, and to take part in Mrs Jäger's discussion of the previous evening's events. It had been such a lovely evening; too bad Marianne had been feeling unwell! What a party she'd missed! But such a good thing she had got a letter from her sweetheart at last! That ought to make her feel better!
"I've never seen a young woman so desperately in love," Mrs Jäger commented. "My girls were nothing in comparison to her, and yet they used to be foolish enough. But Marianne is quite an altered creature. I really hope he won't keep her waiting much longer, for it's a crying shame to see her so ill and forlorn! When are they getting married?"
Leni, though in no mood to take part in such a conversation at a time like this, felt obliged to answer that question.
"Do you really think Marianne is engaged to Jakob? I thought you were only teasing her, the way you always do. But since you seem to be serious I'll tell you that nothing would surprise me more than Marianne and Jakob getting married."
"Leni, how can you talk so?" Mrs Jäger protested. "Don't we all know they must make a match of it sooner or later? Why, they must have been head over ears in love with each other from the moment they first met! Didn't he walk up all the way to Talbach Falls nearly every day to meet her? And don't I know that Marianne only came to town with me to buy her wedding clothes? This won't do, Leni. Just because you're so sly about it yourself doesn't mean we can't put two and two together. The news is all over town! I tell everybody of it, and so does Kathi!"
"But you're wrong," Leni said, very seriously. "Please don't spread such rumours; it's a very unkind thing to do, as you will find eventually even if you don't believe me now!"
Mrs Jäger merely shook her head and laughed in her good-natured way, and Leni did not have the courage to say more. Besides she was curious to know what Jakob had written, and so she excused herself and hurried upstairs to see Marianne.
As she opened the bedroom door she found Marianne lying on her bed, motionless, holding one letter in her hand while some others were scattered about her. Leni sat down on the bed, took Marianne's hand and gave it a sympathetic squeeze. Then she, too, burst into tears.
Once she'd calmed herself, Marianne handed her the letters before turning away from her, burying her face in her pillow, and almost screaming with agony. Leni, although shocked at having to witness Marianne's suffering, knew that those feelings must run their course and turned her attention to Jakob's note.
thank you for the letter you have been so kind as to send me this morning. I am very sorry if my behaviour last night has offended you, though I cannot think of any reason why it should have done. I certainly did not mean to insult you. Yet it seems I must beg your forgiveness.
I will always remember the summer I spent on Talbach Falls with you and your family as one of the best times of my life; and I will always be grateful for the kindness you all have shown me. Your friendship means much to me, and I hope it will not be ended by a misunderstanding. If I have been so unfortunate as to give rise to expectations I am unable to live up to; if I have been unguarded in my professions of friendship I certainly have reason to reproach myself.
You will realise that I never meant more than that when I tell you that I have long been engaged to be married, and that my wedding is to take place soon.
Hard though it is to part from your lock of hair, which you were so kind as to give me once, and from your letters, I have enclosed them in this message as you demanded.
Your devoted friend,
With an angry exclamation, Leni threw the letter aside. She'd been aware that it must contain a confession of inconstancy, and that it would put an end to Marianne's hopes. But the tone in which this was written! Such impudence! Such callousness! Such disregard of everything that was honourable! Leni would not have thought him capable of it; yet she had seen the proof of it with her own eyes. This letter was an insult, and written by a hardened villain.
After a few minutes, she picked up the letter and read it again and again, and her disgust with Jakob grew with every re-reading of what he'd written. So great was her anger that she did not trust herself to speak; she might well wound Marianne's feelings even more by congratulating her on being jilted. Still, a separation from such an unprincipled, heartless man surely was a good thing! Marianne might not be able to see it that way yet, but Leni did not doubt that if Marianne had married Jakob her life would have been a miserable one. Maybe one day Marianne would agree with her.
A knock at the door made her put the letter down and get up from the bed. It was Julie, asking if Leni and Marianne were going to accompany Mrs Jäger on her morning walk. Leni told the maid that her sister was feeling unwell and that she would stay with her, if Mrs Jäger did not mind. Julie went to inquire, and returned with Mrs Jäger's best wishes for Marianne's recovery, and was there anything she needed? There was not.
Leni went to the window and watched as Mrs Jäger left the house and walked across the courtyard towards the street. A noise made her turn around - Marianne had sat up and was looking at her. It seemed as if she was willing to talk to her now. But all those sleepless nights and the days during which she'd hardly eaten anything had taken their toll. When Marianne tried to get out of bed her knees gave out and she nearly fell over, and Leni had to come to her assistance. She gave Marianne a glass of water, and waited. At last, Marianne began to speak.
"Poor Leni! How unhappy you are, and it's all my doing!"
"I only wish there was something I could do to console you," Leni replied earnestly.
She cursed herself for having said that, however, when Marianne cried, "Oh, Leni, I can't tell you how unhappy I am!" and burst into tears again.
Leni, who feared that Marianne would make herself seriously ill if she went on in that manner said, maybe a trifle sharply, "Enough, Marianne. Try to pull yourself together, if you don't want to kill yourself and everyone who loves you! Think of your mother, and what she would suffer if she saw you like this! If you can't make an effort for your own sake, try to make one for hers!"
"I can't!" Marianne cried. "Go away if you can't see me like this; if I distress you, hate me if you like, but don't torment me! How easy it is for those who have no sorrow of their own to talk of pulling oneself together! You can have no idea of what I'm suffering!"
"Can't I? If only you knew! - And can you really believe I could be happy, seeing you like this?"
"I'm sorry, forgive me, please!" Marianne put her arms round Leni's neck. "I know you feel for me, I know your kind heart but yet you are - you must be happy; Eduard loves you! What can do away with such happiness as that?"
"Many circumstances," Leni said.
"No, Leni, he loves you, and you only! You can't know what I'm going through!"
"While I see you in this state I can hardly feel happy."
"Get used to it, Leni. You will never see me in any other state again! How can such unhappiness ever go away?"
"Don't talk so, Marianne. Don't you have comforts? Friends? Is there nothing in your loss that could give you some consolation? Much as you suffer now, only think of what you would have suffered if you'd discovered his true character later - if your engagement had gone on and on for months before he chose to put an end to it. Every day more would have made the blow worse!"
"Engagement?" Marianne cried. "But there hasn't been one!"
"There was no engagement?"
"No; he wasn't as bad as that! Not as bad as you may think him!"
"But he told you that he loved you!"
"Yes - no - never in so many words, actually. It was implied every day, but he never really said so. Sometimes I thought he might - but he never did."
"And still you wrote to him."
"After all that had passed between us that couldn't have been wrong, could it? But I can't talk, Leni. Will you leave me alone? Please?" She turned her face to the wall, and Leni picked up Marianne's three letters to Jakob which she had not yet read. She sat down by the window to repair this omission.
The first letter was the one Marianne had sent to him upon their arrival in town.
you will be surprised to hear from me, and I think you will feel something more than surprise when I tell you that I am in town. Mrs Jäger has invited me to come to town with her, and in spite of having to go in her company the temptation was too great to be resisted. We are staying in Mrs Jäger's house at the Jägerbräu, and I hope you will receive my note in time to come here tonight. I won't depend on it, however, but I will expect to see you tomorrow. Marianne
The morning after their dinner with Cousin Johann she had written her second letter.
I can't express my disappointment in having missed you when you came to call on us, and I am astonished to find that you still have not answered the note I sent you when I arrived in town. I have been waiting to hear from you, and to see you, almost every hour of the day. Please call again as soon as possible and tell me why you have kept me waiting. We dined with the Mayrhofers last night, and Cousin Johann told me you'd been invited too. I could hardly believe it - you must have changed a great deal if you missed out on one of Cousin Johann's invitations. But I cannot believe this possible, and I hope to be reassured very soon.
Her last note was different in tone.
What am I to think after your behaviour last night, Jakob? You owe me an explanation! I was so looking forward to meeting my dearest friend again, and I was never more disappointed! I have passed a miserable night trying to find an excuse for conduct that can hardly be called anything but insulting, but I have not been able to come up with a reasonable apology for your behaviour. If you do have one, I am perfectly ready to hear it.
Perhaps you have been misinformed, or someone lied to you in something concerning me, which may have lowered me in your opinion. Tell me what it is, explain the reasons for your behaviour! It would grieve me to be obliged to think ill of you, but if I must do it, if I am to learn that you are not what we have believed you so far, that you were only making a fool of me, let me know as soon as possible. Right now I do not know what to think. I want to acquit you, but most of all I want to be certain - this uncertainty is killing me! If you no longer feel for me as you did, I must ask you to return the letters I sent you, and my lock of hair. Marianne
Leni found it hard to believe that such letters, so full of love and confidence, could have been answered in such a way. Still she was not blind to the impropriety of their having been sent at all.
Marianne, having watched Leni's reaction to her letters, observed that there was nothing in them that she ought to feel ashamed of. Anyone in the same situation would have written the same.
"There was no real betrothal, but I felt as if there was one," she said. "To me, he was the man I wanted to marry!"
"I can believe that," said Leni. "But unfortunately his opinion differed from yours."
"It didn't! He did feel the same, Leni, for weeks and weeks! I know he did! Whatever may have changed him now, I was as dear to him as I could wish! This lock of hair, which he has most readily given up now - he kept begging me for it for a week! If only you'd seen his look, his manner, if you'd heard his voice at that moment! Have you forgotten that last evening we were together in Weidach? The morning he left, too? When he told me that it would be some time before we could meet again - he was so unhappy then! How can I ever forget his distress as he took his leave?"
For a moment or two she could not say more; but after a brief struggle for composure she added, "Leni, I have been treated badly, but not by Jakob."
"Marianne, who if not he? Who can have instigated his behaviour last night?"
"Everyone in the world sooner than him. I'd sooner believe everyone of my acquaintance in league to ruin me in his opinion than believe him capable of such cruelty. This woman he says he's engaged to - whoever she is - or anyone else except you, Mother, Gretl and Eduard, but not him! Not Jakob! I - I know his heart too well to believe such things of him!"
"Whoever may have been your enemy, let's cheat them out of their triumph then. Let them see how the consciousness of your innocence and good intentions supports your spirits. Show some pride!"
"No, I'm too miserable for pride," Marianne cried. "I don't care who knows how unhappy I am! All the world is welcome to that triumph! Those who suffer little disappointments may be as proud and independent as they like, but I can't!"
"But for Mother's sake and mine..."
"I'd do more than for my own, but I can't act happy when I'm so miserable! Don't ask it of me, Leni!" Marianne picked up Jakob's letter again, and after having read it through once more she cried, "It is too much! This can't be yours, Jakob! And yet - such cruelty! Nothing can excuse this, Leni, nothing can explain it! Whatever he may have heard against me, he ought to have told me of it, to give me an opportunity of clearing myself! But he didn't! This is unpardonable! Jakob, where was your heart when you wrote this letter? - Leni, can he be justified?"
"No, Marianne, he cannot possibly be."
"And yet there's this woman - who knows what she may have said, or done? How she may have premeditated and contrived this? Who is she? Who can she be? I never heard him talk of any female acquaintance of his as young and attractive as her! He didn't talk of other women at all, only me!"
There was another pause, then Marianne said, "Leni, I must go home. I want to go home to Mother. Can't we leave tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow? I don't think so, Marianne."
"But why should we stay? I only came for Jakob's sake, and now what? Who cares for me? Who wants me here?"
"It would be impossible to leave tomorrow," Leni said, feeling that this was not the right moment for her to argue about who wanted Marianne in town and who did not. "We owe Mrs Jäger much more than civility, and civility ought to keep us here until she goes home with us."
"Another day or two perhaps, but I can't stay to endure the questions and remarks of all these pepole - Mrs Jäger, the Mayrhofers and the Pallhubers - how am I to bear their pity? The pity of such a woman as Kathi Pallhuber! Oh, what would he say to that!"
Leni advised her sister to lie down again and try to get some sleep, but it was not until Leni had given her some valerian drops that Marianne could get some long overdue rest.
Posted on: 2013-02-24
Leni went downstairs once she could be certain that Marianne had fallen asleep, and awaited their hostess' return. She wanted to inform her of what had happened and to warn her that Marianne might soon want to go home. As it was, Mrs Jäger already knew.
"How is Marianne, my dear?" she asked almost before she'd closed the parlour door behind her.
"Not very well, I'm afraid," Leni said.
"And I'm sure it's no wonder! He's to be married soon, I've heard - that good-for-nothing!Mrs Negrelli told me half an hour ago, and she has it from one of that Sophie Kršll's friends or I'm sure I wouldn't have believed it! I was ready to sink, I can tell you! But all I said was that if that is true he has treated a young girl of my acquaintance extremely badly, and I wish with all my soul that his wife may plague him into an early grave. And so I'll always say, you may depend on it, and if ever I meet him again I'll surely give him a piece of my mind, and he won't care for another such conversation I promise you! But there's one comfort; he's not the only young man in the world worth having, and with her pretty face she'll never want admirers. The poor girl! I won't disturb her; she'll want a good cry and then be done with the whole affair. I'll see if the Negrellis or the Pallhubers might want to have supper with us tonight. That might amuse her."
To Leni's great surprise, Marianne decided to come down for dinner that night, in spite of her advice to the contrary. She was sure she could bear it very well, she said, and there'd be less trouble for everyone if she came downstairs. Leni, pleased that for once Marianne appeared to rate someone else's well-being higher than her own, gave in even though she was not sure Marianne would make it through the dinner. She merely helped her get dressed - or she'd never have got ready in time for the meal - and then went downstairs with her.
Marianne still looked desperately ill, but she ate more and was calmer than Leni had supposed she would be. She did not speak to anyone, and ignored or, more likely, did not notice Mrs Jäger's well-meaning attempts to distract her. At least, Leni noted with some relief, there were no guests.
Leni did her best to acknowledge Mrs Jäger's kindness and made sure to be civil to her, not only for herself but also for her sister's sake. Mrs Jäger saw that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that it behoved her to do everything in her power to make her feel less so. She treated her with an indulgent fondness that a parent might have shown towards a favourite child. Marianne was to have the best seat by the stove, her favourite food had been prepared, and her hostess tried to keep her entertained by recounting all the news of the day. If it had not been for Marianne's obvious misery, Leni might even have allowed herself to be amused by Mrs Jäger's endeavours to cure a broken heart with a combination of sweetmeats and gossip. However, the moment it dawned on Marianne that she was to be cheered up, she excused herself and went upstairs to her bedroom, not without letting her sister know that she wished to be alone.
"Poor girl," cried Mrs Jäger as soon as she was gone. "How it grieves me to see her like this! And she hasn't finished her wine - or the dried cherries!If only I knew there was something she particularly likes, I'd search all over town for it! But nothing seems to do her any good! It seems so odd to me that a young man should use such a pretty girl so ill! But when there's plenty of money on one side, and next to nothing on the other - Lord! It's bad, but that's the way of the world!"
"His bride is very rich then?" Leni ventured to ask.
"Can you doubt it? She owns the largest inn in the entire Ziller valley, and plenty of farmland. Quite a catch, though not much to look at in spite of her taste for finery. I don't know how much cash she has, but you can depend on it her father could set aside a nice nest-egg for her, and it won't come before it's wanted. I've been told Jakob is all to pieces. Maybe that's why he's in a hurry to be married. Dashing about the way he does I'm sure it's no wonder! Well, it doesn't signify talking, but when a young man whoever he may be comes and makes love to a pretty girl and promises marriage he has no business to fly off only because he grows poor and a richer girl is ready to have him. Why doesn't he sell off some of his horses? Why doesn't he reform his way of life? I'm sure Marianne would have waited for him till he'd settled his affairs! But those young men nowadays never want to give up anything that gives them pleasure; it's a right shame!"
"What kind of girl is Sophie Kršll?" Leni asked. "Is she - is she nice, at least?"
"I've never heard any harm of her. Though I've heard it hinted that her guardians won't be sorry to have her off their hands. Strong-minded and shrewish she is, they say. Well, she's of age now and free to do what she chooses, and a pretty choice she's made, upon my word!"
Leni quite agreed with that view of the matter though she did not say so aloud.
"Marianne's gone to your room, I suppose, to cry and moan by herself. Is there nothing I can get to comfort her? The poor dear, it seems quite cruel to leave her alone like this! I think I'll invite some friends tomorrow: that will amuse her a little. What shall we play at? I know she hates Watten*, but is there no game she likes?"
"I don't think you need to worry about what games she enjoys," Leni said. "I'm sure she won't leave her room any more tonight. If I can, I'll persuade her to go to bed early; I'm sure she needs some rest."
"You're right; that will be best for her. Ask her what she wants for breakfast and let her go to bed. No wonder she's been looking so ill and so cast down this last week, this matter must have been hanging over her head for as long as that. And so the letter that came today finished it all! If only I'd known how it would be I wouldn't have joked about it! But how could I have guessed? How concerned Johann and my daughters will be when they hear about it! If I'd had my wits about me I should have called on them on my way home, and told them of it. But I'll see them tomorrow."
"It will be unnecessary to caution Cousin Johann and Georg Pallhuber against mentioning Jakob's name in Marianne's presence," Leni said. "They are both too good-natured for that; they'll know it's a cruel thing to do. And the less they say to me about the subject, the more my feelings will be spared too, as you will easily understand."
"Lord, yes, don't I just! It must be terrible for you to hear it talked of, and as for your sister I'm sure I wouldn't mention a word about it to her. I didn't at dinner, did I? No more would Johann, or my daughters; they're all very thoughtful and considerate. Especially if I give them a hint, as I certainly will. The less said about these things the better; the sooner it'll blow over and be forgotten. And what good does talking do?"
"In this affair it can only do harm, perhaps even more than in similar cases. I must, in justice to Jakob, tell you that he has not broken a positive engagement."
"My dear, there's no need for you to defend him! No positive engagement my foot! After taking her all over his aunt's house, and no doubt talking over the arrangement of furniture that might suit them best!"
For Marianne's sake Leni did not press the subject any further and hoped it was not required of her to do so for Jakob's sake. Marianne's reputation might suffer much if she did, while Jakob's was not likely to win much by her telling everyone how matters had really been between them.
After a while, Mrs Jäger said, "But there's one good that will come of it - it will be all the better for the Talbacher. He will have her in the end, you mark my words! If they aren't married by next summer I'll be greatly surprised! How happy this news must make him! How he must laugh when he hears it!"
Leni, who had often thought that much though the Talbacher was in love with Marianne his feelings for her were entirely unselfish, did not think that the news would make him happy at all.
"I hope he'll call on us tonight," Mrs Jäger went on. "It'll be a much better match for Marianne - the farm, his fortune, and he's the mayor too! The position she'll have in Weidach once she's married to him! There's this ward of his, true, I've forgotten about her for a moment but she'll be taken care of at small cost and needn't trouble anyone, so what does she signify? Talbach Farm is a nice place, very comfortable! Everything a woman could wish for! You've seen it, of course, so I needn't tell you about it. I shall give the Talbacher as much encouragement as I can. If we can just put Jakob out of her head!"
"If we can do that," Leni said dryly, "we'll do very well; with or without the Talbacher's assistance." Having had quite enough of the topic for a while, she rose and went upstairs to see if Marianne needed anything.
"You'd better leave me," Marianne said when Leni came to their room. As Leni had suspected, she was still fully dressed and looking out of the window. She had read Jakob's letter again and was still holding it in her hand.
"I will," Leni promised. "If you go to bed."
Marianne refused to do so at first, but after some persuasion on her sister's part she did put on her nightgown and lay down on her bed after all. Even before Leni had left the room, she was fast asleep.
When Leni returned to the parlour, she found the Talbacher sitting with Mrs Jäger. From the way he was looking at her she surmised that he already knew what had happened, and that he did not expect to find Marianne with her. He patiently listened to the gossip Mrs Jäger had to impart and, when their hostess went to summon the housemaid, turned to Leni.
"How is Marianne?" He looked pale and worried, as Leni had expected him to be.
"She's not well," she replied. "She's been in a bad way all day, and I've finally been able to persuade her to go to bed."
"Then what I heard this morning É there must be some truth in it! I didn't believe it at first."
"What did you hear?"
"That the man who I had reason to think - who I knew was engaged to Marianne - well, you know already what he's done so I needn't tell you."
"You're talking about Jakob and his engagement to Sophie Kršll. Yes, we do know it all. - Where did you hear it?"
"I had some business at the governor's office, and while I was waiting for him two officials were talking about it. I know one of them to be a friend of Jakob's, so I knew there can't have been a mistake about it. I know they've finally made their engagement public and they want to be married soon. The other fellow, I found out afterwards, was Sophie's guardian; he ought to know all about it too."
"Have you also heard that this Sophie is quite the heiress? According to Mrs Jäger she owns half the Ziller Valley. If that is true, we may have found an explanation."
"It may be so, I don't know, but if he's capable of -" He broke off. "At least I think -" Again, his eloquence deserted him. "And how - how did Marianne take the news?"
"Very badly, as you may think. I only hope that her grief will soon wear itself out; violent as it is. Until yesterday she never doubted him, and even now I'm not sure she quite understands. Personally, I think he never really cared for her. A pack of lies he has told us, and in some points there seems to be a hardness of heart about him. I don't know how to express it any better but ..."
"I know what you mean, and yes, he is ruthless. You can have no idea - but Marianne does not agree with you?"
"You know her character; and so you must know how eagerly she'd still justify him if she could."
He did not answer that, but Mrs Jäger, upon returning to their side was disappointed to find that far from being happy the Talbacher was rather more quiet and brooding than ever.
*Watten: A card game not unlike whist. I've posted a link to the rules before, but since it's been a while since I last posted here it is again:
Posted on: 2013-03-11
Marianne slept more than she'd expected to, but her sleep had done nothing to remedy her heartbreak. She awoke feeling as miserable as when she'd fallen asleep the night before. Leni, thinking that it might do Marianne good to talk, was ready to oblige her in that respect, and even before they left their room and joined Mrs Jäger at the breakfast table they'd discussed Jakob and his heartless conduct several times. Sometimes Marianne believed him to be as unfortunate and innocent as herself; at other times she found herself unable to acquit him, which made her unhappier still. At breakfast, she refused to talk to Mrs Jäger because, as she later told Leni, all Mrs Jäger wanted was gossip, which she was not willing to offer her. Despite Leni's remonstrations she believed Mrs Jäger to be incapable of true sympathy. A letter from their mother, the reception of which would have pleased Marianne under usual circumstances, renewed Marianne's impatience to go home and only with great difficulty did Leni persuade her to stay until their mother's wishes were known.
Mrs Jäger soon left them to visit her daughters, who stood in need of the latest news regarding Marianne's sad disappointment, and although Leni had offered to accompany her she would not hear of it. Marianne needed someone to look after her; surely Leni was the best person to do so? Leni did not contradict her, and so she stayed at home with Marianne and helped her write a letter to their mother, informing her of what had happened and asking for her advice as to what they were to do next. Helping was, perhaps, the wrong word, for it was Leni who did the writing while Marianne burst into tears again and again, grieving over the hardship of having to write such a letter as well as over the effect the news would have on her mother. They had not finished the missive when Marianne, hearing the doorbell, went over to the window to look out.
"Who is it?" Leni asked. "At such a time too!"
"It's the Talbacher," Marianne said with an exasperated sigh. "We're never safe from him. He feels entitled to see us at any hour, day or night."
"He won't come in if he hears Mrs Jäger is not at home," Leni said.
"I don't think he cares about that," Marianne said, already opening the parlour door to go to her room. "A man who has nothing to do with his own time doesn't think twice about intruding on others." With that, she made good her escape.
The Talbacher did come in, but Leni was convinced that it was solicitude for Marianne that had made him call on her, and she could see that solicitude in his demeanour and in his anxious inquiry after Marianne's health. Seeing him like this Leni felt her anger rise - Marianne's attitude towards a man who had nothing but good intentions was unforgivable.
"I met Mrs Jäger in the Old Town," he said, "and she encouraged me to come and see you - which suited me very well, since I wanted to talk to you alone. I wished - well, in a way I hope to bring some comfort to your sister. No comfort at present, I'm afraid, but at some future time perhaps. I don't wish to meddle, mind you, and I've been thinking it over for hours - whether it's right to tell you, that is - but then I thought since you're working for me - no, that's not it. We're friends, aren't we? At least I always thought we got along alright. So - I'm not talking gibberish; there's some sense in all this somewhere." He stopped.
"I think I understand you," Leni said. "You want to tell me something about Jakob; something that will throw some light on his character, or on what he's done. Is that it?" The Talbacher nodded.
"If you know something about him - something that explains his actions - telling me about it will be the best thing you can do for Marianne. I'll be grateful to hear it, and I'm sure she will be too, in time. Do let me hear it!"
"I'll keep it brief," the Talbacher said. "You remember how I left Talbach to go to town at the harvest dance? No, that won't work. This won't give you an idea; I'll have to go back farther than that. There's a lot you need to know about my own history, but I'll keep the story as short as I can." He sighed. "We did talk once - I don't expect you to remember - about a girl Marianne reminded me of. The girl whom life taught a harsh lesson."
"I remember," Leni said. "I said I hoped life would teach Marianne a lesson or two, and you said you didn't." He nodded.
"The more I think about it, the more I feel that they have a lot in common - had. Elisabeth is no longer alive. But she had the same warmth of heart, the same eagerness as Marianne. She was an orphan and lived in my father's house - her father, a friend of his, had left her in his care. She was about the same age as me; we were the best of friends and as we grew older our friendship turned into something more. You'll not believe it to look at me now, but I was as much in love with her as a man could possibly be. I'm pretty sure she felt much the same way for me, but that didn't matter to my father. He had plans of his own, and I was getting into his way. Luck would have it that I was drafted into the army and had to leave, and the next thing I heard was that she was married to my brother. They'd put such pressure on her - until she consented to a marriage she didn't want, and married a man she didn't even like. Nor did he like her overly much, but he did want her property, and so he consented to it too, even though he knew how I felt about her. A fine family, the Prantls, don't you think?"
"I have no complaint to make about those I know," Leni said.
"I was stationed in Brixen at the time, and got to know the steward of Neustift Monastery*. From him I heard they were looking for a dairyman who'd take over one of their remote mountain pastures in the Ridnaun Valley, and when I got my discharge I took on that job. It included board and lodging during the winter, too, and having nowhere to go I was glad of that. The pay was decent too, and if Elisabeth's marriage to my brother had been a happy one I might have been able to forgive both him and my father, though I still wouldn't have gone back to Weidach, I think." There was a pause.
"As it was, my brother was a drunkard, and a brute, and from what I've heard Elisabeth used to be his favourite victim. Soon after their marriage my father died, and Andreas - never one for letter-writing even at the best of times - paid Toni to give me the news, and to ask me to come home. I flatly refused. I told Toni there were still far too many Prantls at Talbach for my taste."
"Harsh words," Leni observed.
"True; and if I'd known how things would turn out I'd have bitten off my tongue rather than say them. But I was young. An angry young fool. - At one point, Elisabeth had had enough and ran away from her husband. She went to town, found work in a factory, and things went downhill from there. Andreas didn't bother to find her; I think he was glad to be rid of his wife. His drinking became worse and worse, until one winter night he took a fall on his way home from the alehouse and froze to death. That time it was my sister and her husband who came to see me, and to entreat me to come back to Talbach Farm. So I did. There was nothing else I could do."
He walked over to the window and looked out into the courtyard. Then he turned to Leni with a rueful smile. "I guess that was what threw that gloom over me; having to take over the farm from my brother, trying to pick up the pieces and start anew, and somehow feeling guilty for having brought it all on with some unguarded words uttered in anger.** - As soon as I got back, I went to town to try and find Elisabeth, and find her I did. Life hadn't been kind to her. She'd fallen for some man who'd abandoned her the moment he found out she was pregnant, and when I found her she was very ill - dying, in fact - and all alone in the world except for her child, a little girl. You can imagine how I felt on seeing her in such a state - the pain I felt on her account as well as mine. I tried to make amends; I offered to marry her and take her back to Talbach with me, to adopt the girl and make sure she had a proper home. Until his death, Elisabeth had been my brother's wife, so one might say the girl was my niece. But Elisabeth refused to marry me. She didn't want to go back to Weidach, where everyone knew her for a - for what she said she was. You know what women like her have to endure from their neighbours; it's the same everywhere, and while people in town didn't know her child was not her husband's those in Weidach certainly did. I guess she was right; that idea of mine wasn't any good. And so the only thing I was allowed to do for her was visit her every day, be with her during her last hours, pay for her funeral when the time came, and find a new home for her little girl."
"Oh no!" Leni cried. "The poor woman!"
"Marianne cannot be offended by the resemblance, I hope. Their fates can't be the same, although their characters are alike in many ways. If her marriage had been happier, Elisabeth might have become everything that you will live to see Marianne become. Marianne is lucky in having a family and friends who will see to it that she comes to no harm. But to what purpose have I been telling you this, you may wonder? Well, there's still the girl. Lisi - Elisabeth named her after herself. She was about three when her mother died and left her to my care. I was glad Elisabeth trusted me with her - I would have taken Lisi to Weidach with me, if Elisabeth hadn't asked me not to. She was afraid the people there would not accept her as my niece; that she'd be treated badly. So I left her with a respectable woman I knew, and went to see her there as often as I could. I know there are people who think she's my daughter, but she isn't. I call her my niece, which in a legal sense she is even though we are not related at all. Lisi seemed happy with her situation; the people she lived with doted on her and she grew up to be a fine girl. She decided to start working as a housemaid, and I found nothing wrong with that, provided she was with decent people. I found her a job with one of the doctors here in town; I knew both the man and his wife and I knew they'd treat her well. Then, last January, she suddenly disappeared."
"Her employers knew nothing of where she might be, nor did the other serving-maid in their house. So all I could discover was that she was gone; for months I knew nothing at all. You can imagine what I thought, what I feared - and what I suffered."
"Could it be - could it be that Jakob had something to do with it?" Leni asked.
"The first news I had of her was in that letter that reached me at the harvest feast, and that was why I left Weidach in such a hurry that day. I'm sure people must have thought all kinds of things at the time, and some must have been offended too. Jakob cannot have known, I suppose, when he gave me that censorious look as I rode away, that I was going to help a girl he'd got into deep trouble. If he'd known, what difference would it have made? Would he have been less happy, enjoying himself less? I doubt it. He'd already done what no decent man capable of feeling would do. He'd seduced Lisi and abandoned her, without home, without help, without friends; without his address, even! He told her he'd be back, but he neither returned, nor wrote to her."
"This is beyond everything!"
"I've told you now what I know about him; he's a dissipated wastrel, and worse than that. Can you guess what I must have felt on seeing Marianne as fond of him as ever, and on being assured that she'd soon be married to him? Guess what I must have felt for all your sakes. When I came to see you last week I was determined to find out the truth, though I didn't know what to do if I did discover it. My behaviour must have seemed odd to you then, but you will understand it now. To see you so mistaken in him; to see your sister - but what could I do? I had no right to meddle, and sometimes I thought Marianne's influence might yet be the making of him. But now, after all that happened, who can tell what his intentions have been? - Whatever they may have been, though, Marianne may be grateful when she compares her own situation to Lisi's; when she considers the wretched and hopeless situation Lisi is in. Surely this comparison must help her. Her own sufferings are not the result of her own misconduct, and they don't disgrace her. On the contrary, every friend of hers will be even more her friend than before. - You may tell her all that if you like, but use your own discretion in how much you tell her, and when. Please believe me when I say that I wouldn't have bothered you with my sad family history if I didn't truly believe that it might be of use to you in some way or other. I didn't mean to make myself look better than others by doing so."
"I am glad you told me," Leni said. "I'm sure it will help Marianne to know that Jakob's character is not what she thought it to be; that he isn't worthy of her love or her respect. It may take a while, though, until she sees the truth of it. Right now she's still trying to acquit him, which hurts me a great deal - will hurt me even more now that I know what he's done to poor Lisi. She will suffer a great deal at first, I know, but it will soon get better. Have you ever spoken to Jakob since you left Weidach that day?"
"I have, once," he replied gravely. "Neither of us relished that meeting, I guess."
Leni, startled by his manner, looked at him anxiously. "Did you meet him to É?"
"Beat him up?" He smiled wryly. "He's a good ten years younger than me; much good it would have done me to try! I made an appointment with him to arrange for Lisi's relief, and I'm afraid he did not take too kindly to that. He attacked me, I defended myself and he ended up sporting a black eye. That was it."
Leni did not blame the Talbacher for having hit Jakob, although she secretly regretted that a black eye was the only injury Jakob had suffered. It seemed a small price to pay for having ruined a girl's life.
"Is Lisi in town now?"
"No; I've sent her back to the people she grew up with. She's going to have her child there, and when the baby is old enough I'll find a job for her somewhere else. Maybe in Brixen, far away from it all, where she can start a new life. - But I'm keeping you away from your sister. I'd better leave."
Leni thanked him once again for his visit, and he left her full of compassion and even greater respect than she'd had for him before.
*Neustift: A large Augustinian monastery near Brixen (South Tyrol). I don't know if they have property in Ridnaun, or what kind of property, but for the sake of this story they have. ;) I know other monasteries have - or used to have - mountain pastures.
** That one's difficult to explain. The Talbacher feels he's sinned against his family by saying there were "too many Prantls", and feels responsible for their misfortunes. In a way he considers his brother and sister-in-law's deaths a divine punishment for the things he said. I hope that makes sense - it was (and still is) a common superstition around here.
Posted on: 2013-08-11
Leni did not wait long until she told Marianne the Talbacher's story, but her account did not have quite the effect she had hoped for. It was not that Marianne doubted the truth of it all; Leni was quite certain that if she did she would not hesitate to voice her objections, and she did not. She listened to what Leni told her quietly, occasionally shedding some tears - whether for her own sake or poor Lisi's Leni could not tell - and made no attempt to find an excuse for what Jakob had done. Indeed, she seemed to understand that there was no excusing it.
It did make Marianne more kindly disposed towards the Talbacher. She no longer sought to avoid him and when he called she even voluntarily spoke to him. She kept to such innocuous topics as his health, his business in town and his plans for Talbach Farm, but she treated him with some kind of tolerance, even respect. The Talbacher, though not a little surprised with that development, humoured her. He was his usual friendly self, tried to cheer her up by recounting an amusing anecdote or two, and seemed content that she no longer kept her distance the way she'd done before. If he still cherished some hope of gaining more than Marianne's friendship, which Leni did not doubt for a moment, he showed no sign of it. Leni commended his good sense in this - trying to fix his interest with Marianne at a time like this would do him more harm than good, she knew, and it seemed quite obvious that he knew it too.
Still, Marianne was no less unhappy now than she had been before. She no longer expressed her grief as violently as she had done, but she fell into a state of deep depression. It seemed to Leni that finding out about Jakob's true character was worse than just having lost him to another woman - his seduction and desertion of Lisi, that poor girl's misery, and her beginning doubts of what Jakob's designs for herself might have been, preyed on Marianne's mind. If only she could bring herself to talk about it, Leni thought, but she did not, not even to her. Whenever she had nothing else to do, Marianne sat by the window, staring into emptiness, and silently brooding over her misfortunes. Her own helplessness in this matter, having to stand by and watch without being able to help her sister, gave Leni a great deal of pain.
Her mother's letter, when it arrived, contained nothing that Leni or Marianne had not said before. Mrs Daringer expressed her anxiety and solicitude for Marianne and begged her to bear up under this misfortune. She strongly advised their staying in town, however, thinking that if Jakob married soon, which was to be expected, he would bring his bride to Weidach to meet his aunt, and surely it would be easier to avoid the couple in town than in Weidach. Besides, town life had much more to offer in terms of distraction. Mrs Daringer knew that Marianne would spurn the suggestion at the moment, but suggested she should go into company and at least pretend to enjoy herself, in defiance of Jakob and his shameful conduct towards her. Marianne need not fear coming across Jakob in town again, since everyone who called themselves Marianne's friend would surely have dropped the acquaintance with him by now.
Mrs Daringer had another reason for asking her daughters to stay in town. She had had a letter from her stepson, announcing among other things his intention of going to town for the fair, and she felt they should remain there to meet their brother. He was family, after all.
Since Marianne had promised to follow her mother's instructions as to what should be done, she resigned herself to staying in town even though it was contrary to her own wishes and kept her away from what she wished for most, which was the sympathy and indulgence she could be sure to receive from her mother. But the fact that what she disliked would be good for her sister brought Marianne some degree of consolation, and Leni, on the other hand, felt that while she did not care to stay in town Marianne would benefit by a prolonged stay. To ensure Marianne's comfort she made an effort to guard her from hearing Jakob's name mentioned, and put up with hearing everyone's complaints about his character, sometimes hoping people would show her the same forbearance than they showed Marianne. It was an unreasonable wish, she knew, and so she had to listen to Mrs JŠger, Cousin Johann and Kathi Pallhuber as they vented their indignation.
Cousin Johann could not have thought it possible. A man of whom he'd always thought well! So good-natured! So dashing! There was no accounting for it! He wished Jakob at the devil with all his heart, and would never speak to him again! And if he thought he could buy one of Asta's puppies after what he'd done to Marianne he'd better think again!
Kathi Pallhuber was just as angry as her brother-in-law. She was determined to drop his acquaintance at once, and was very thankful that she'd never been acquainted with him in the first place. She wished with all her heart Brandberg was not so close to Schwaz, but it didn't matter, since it was too far off to be visiting there. She would never mention his name again, yet she promised to tell everyone she knew what a good-for-nothing scoundrel he was. Leni wondered how she'd managed to keep a straight face during that conversation.
Mrs Pallhuber also made herself useful by discovering all the particulars of Jakob's approaching marriage and relating them to Leni. She knew which tailor was making his wedding suit, which photographer's shop Jakob had been seen to enter - no doubt to have his picture taken, a procedure that filled Kathi with dread since it involved sitting still for a considerable time, and what if that flash set fire to one's dress? She'd certainly never consider it, although Georg had wanted her to! - where the wedding ceremony would take place and which inn would provide food and drink for the three hundred - odd wedding guests.
Mrs Mayrhofer's calm and polite unconcern was a happy relief to Leni. It was a great comfort to know that there was one person among their circle of friends who did not feel any curiosity after particulars, or any anxiety for Marianne's health.
The Talbacher's enquiries were never unwelcome to Leni. He had earned the privilege of discussing Marianne's disappointment with her, and Leni knew that her confidence in him was well placed. She was happy to talk to him, and hoped that Marianne would begin to truly appreciate him at one point, which was all the reward he craved. Mrs JŠger, who knew nothing of what the Talbacher had told Leni, only knew that he continued to be as grave as ever, and that she could not prevail on him to make him offer for Marianne, or to commission her with making his offer for him. After two days had passed with the Talbacher showing no signs of relenting, she was beginning to think that the Talbacher and Marianne would not be marrying before Christmas, though an Easter wedding was probably more likely. A week later, she'd given up all hope of them making a match of it, but she was beginning to suspect that the Talbacher and Leni were getting along very well. Maybe he was looking in that direction for a new mistress of Talbach Farm, and he surely had Mrs JŠger's blessing if that was where his preference lay. He was surely a better candidate than that Eduard Falkner, who did not look as if he was going to give up his career as a cleric for Leni's sake, and even if he did, what were they to live on?
It was not long before Leni had to give Marianne the news of Jakob's marriage. The wedding had been celebrated in Sophie Kršll's home town, with all the pomp and circumstance that was due to her large fortune. Leni had taken care that Marianne would hear the news from her rather than one of their well-meaning friends, for she felt she would be able to soften the blow. At first, Marianne reacted with surprising composure, but after a few minutes she burst into tears and retired to their bedroom. Half an hour later she returned to the parlour, but for the rest of the day she was in hardly a less pitiable state than she'd been in when she'd first had the news of Jakob's engagement. At least, Leni thought, they need not fear any chance encounters with the newly-weds, since they intended to stay in the Ziller valley. This meant Marianne could leave the house without running into them.
This was when the Steiner sisters arrived in town. Leni was sorry to see them - their presence always gave her pain, and she was hard put to answer civilly when Lucia, with a saccharine smile, told her how delighted she was to find her still in town.
"I'd have been quite disappointed if I hadn't found you here still," she said repeatedly. "I always thought I would, I was almost sure you wouldn't leave town for a while once you got here. It would have been such a pity for you to go away before your brother and sister came. And now I'm sure you won't be in a hurry to leave. I'm glad you didn't keep your word."
Leni perfectly understood her meaning and it took her a great deal of effort to pretend that she did not.
"Well," said Mrs JŠger, "and how have you been since you left Weidach?"
"Perfectly well," Anna Steiner assured her. "We've even managed to come here by train, rather than walking or catching a lift on a wagon. Dr Werner, from the hospital, you know, had business in town and he travelled with us - second class, too! - and attended to us just like the gentleman he is!"
"That's very kind of him," Mrs JŠger said, and added, "I guess the Doctor is a single man, is he not?"
"Now then," Anna laughed affectedly, "I don't know why everyone keeps teasing me about the Doctor, upon my word I don't! Lucia says I've made a conquest there, though I don't think of him at all! Look, Annie, here comes your suitor, she said the other day when she saw him cross the street in front of us. My suitor! I said I didn't know what she meant. He's no suitor of mine!"
Mrs JŠger laughed. "That's very pretty talking I'm sure, but you won't fool me! The Doctor is the man, it's as clear as daylight!"
"No, really, he isn't!" Anna replied with fake earnestness. "And if you ever hear anyone say so, I hope you'll have enough sense to contradict it!"
Mrs JŠger assured her that she would most certainly not, which appeared to gratify her, for she beamed at the assembled company.
"I suppose you'll go and stay with your brother and sister-in-law when they arrive in town," Lucia said to Leni.
"I don't think we will," Leni said curtly, refusing to rise to the bait. It was clear to her that Lucia meant to provoke her, though to what end she was not sure.
"Oh, I think you will!"
Leni made no reply; she did not deem this kind of sally worth her notice.
"How generous of your mother to spare the two of you for such a long time," Lucia continued.
"A long time!" Mrs JŠger cried. "Why, we've only just arrived in town!"
After that, even Lucia realised that it would be more prudent to remain silent.
"I'm sorry we can't see your sister, Leni," Anna remarked. "I'm sorry she's unwell."
Marianne, upon perceiving who'd just arrived, had made her excuses and escaped to their room just as the Steiner sisters had entered the house. Leni envied her.
"Thank you. I'm sure she's equally sorry to have missed your visit, but she has been suffering of headaches lately. Must be the Fšhn*, you know how it is; and when she's having a headache she's not fit for company or conversation."
"Oh my, that's a great pity! But she won't avoid such old friends as Lucia and me! I think she could come down and see us; we won't speak a word!"
Leni, with as much civility as she could muster, pointed out that Marianne was most likely to be asleep, and in her nightdress, and therefore unable to come downstairs.
"Oh, if that's all we can always go upstairs and see her," Anna exclaimed.
Leni felt her temper rise, but she was saved the trouble of coming up with a civil reply by Lucia sharply reprimanding her sister, which did not put her into a very favourable light but at least put an end to Anna's impertinence.
* Fšhn: warm wind coming from the south, which is especially prevalent in spring and autumn in the city of Innsbruck (or any valley going in a north / south direction). It is said to give people headaches.
Posted on: 2014-01-05
One Sunday morning, after Leni had spent most of Saturday evening trying to convince her reluctant sister that it was the right thing to do, Marianne consented to go to church with her and Mrs Jäger, but only on the condition that they should attend early Mass, which took place at a time when few people were out and about. That way she hoped to escape unwanted attention. After that, they would join the Pallhubers for breakfast and return home before they were in any danger of meeting people on their way to High Mass.
As they left the church, Mrs Jäger recognised one of her friends among the churchgoers and stopped to exchange greetings - and, Leni suspected, a great deal of gossip - with her. While they were waiting for Mrs Jäger to come to them again - Marianne had refused to do more than greet the woman in question and had immediately retreated to the other side of Church Square to avoid being spoken to - Leni was surprised to find herself addressed by no other than their brother.
Hans had not changed, and although he did not look all too pleased with running into his sisters in town he managed to keep up the appearance of one who was quite happy to be talking to a sister whom he had not deemed worthy of one letter in all the months he had not seen her. His inquiries after his stepmother and youngest sister's health were polite rather than affectionate, but Leni gave him credit for not trying to fool her into believing that he cared. He told Leni that he and Fanny had arrived in town two days before.
"I'd have loved to call on you yesterday," he said by way of apology, "but we had to take the boy* to see his grandmother - she's in town too you must know - and afterwards we had to take him to the confectioner's for a treat. I was going to come to see you today if I could find the time, but you know how it is, there's always so much to do. Tomorrow, maybe, I'll be able to look in on you and pay my respects to your friend Mrs Jäger. I've heard she's quite rich? And the Mayrhofers too, you must introduce me to them. That Cousin Johann is treating you well, I trust?"
"We could not wish for better treatment," Leni said. "He pays attention to every little detail that might make life easier for us. We are very happy to work for him."
"I am glad to hear that, I really am! Not that I had any doubt that he, being related to your mother and a man of good fortune, would do anything less than he ought. And so you are comfortably settled and want for nothing! Eduard gave us a charming account of the place, he said he'd rarely seen a more comfy cottage, and you going on so well! We were very happy to hear it, you can be sure of that!"
Leni was glad to be prevented from answering by Mrs Jäger's arrival by her side. Almost every word he had been saying had made her feel more ashamed of him. How was it possible that two people descending from the same parents - well, one common parent anyway - could be so different?
Instead of telling her brother what she thought of him, Leni introduced him to Mrs Jäger. He said what was proper, again promised that he would call on them the following morning if he could find the time, and took his leave.
Contrary to Leni's expectations, he did call on them the next morning. He had not brought Fanny with him; she had excused herself by saying that she and her mother were very busy transacting all kinds of business which could not possibly be put off any longer. Mrs Jäger assured him at once that she did not mind, that they had no need of standing on such ceremony with each other, being kind of related anyway, but that she would visit Mrs Daringer without delay and would, naturally, bring Leni and Marianne with her.
Hans eyed the Talbacher, who'd come in a few minutes after him, with some curiosity. He knew, of course, that the Talbacher was the other owner of the pasture Leni, her mother and her sisters were tending to, and that he was the mayor of the village they were now living in. That appeared to entitle him to the same amount of civility as was due to Mrs Jäger.
After staying with them for half an hour, Hans asked Leni to accompany him to a nearby shop, since he wished to buy some trinket or other for Fanny and wanted her advice in choosing it. Leni, well aware that he had done so out of mere curiosity and not because he thought he needed her advice, did accompany him, if only to find out what it was that he wanted. If she was willing to satisfy his curiosity, the least he could do in return was satisfy hers as well. She did not have to wait long.
Stepping out into the street, he turned to her and said, "So that was the Talbacher, was he?"
Leni answered in the affirmative.
"A fine-looking man. Pretty well off, isn't he?"
"Yes, he owns the largest farm in Weidach."
"I'm glad of it. He looks like a respectable man, too, and I think, Leni, I may congratulate you on the prospect of a very advantageous match."
"I don't pretend to understand you, Hans."
"Oh, you know what I mean! He likes you! I've watched him closely and I'm quite sure. - How much money does he have, do you happen to know?"
"I've no idea; I've never talked to him about money, apart from the wages he pays us," Leni said. "It's none of our business."
"He looks like a rich man to me," Hans said. "For your sake I hope his farm thrives."
"I do believe that," Leni said, "but I'm sure the Talbacher has no intention of marrying me."
"You're wrong, Leni, quite wrong. It won't take you much effort to catch him, you mark my words. He may be a little undecided yet; he knows you don't have a feather to fly with; his friends may advise him against it. But if you were to encourage him ... There's no reason why you shouldn't either. There's no prior attachment on your side, is there? That is to say, if there is you'd better think again, you know it can't be, and you have too much sense not to see that! Try for the Talbacher; he'll make you a decent husband I'm sure and as far as I'm concerned I'll do what I can to make him think well of you and your family. It's a match that would perfectly suit all parties involved."
Except for myself and the Talbacher, Leni thought, but kept quiet.
"I mean to say," Hans continued, "Your friends are anxious to see you well settled, Fanny especially. She has your interests very much at heart, I assure you, and her mother, too. My mother-in-law is a very good-natured woman and I am sure it would give her the greatest satisfaction to see you well married. In fact, she said so only the other day! "
That Leni was well able to believe.
"It would be something remarkable, now," he said, "if Eduard could conduct your wedding."
"Oh, is he about to take holy orders?" Leni asked, hoping she sounded unconcerned enough.
"Not yet, but his mother insists he should do so before long," Hans said. "She says she has spent enough on his education, and he should know what he wants by now. There's a parish vacant not far from FŸgen which she wants him to take over."
"I am not sure it's as easy as that," Leni remarked. "Isn't it the bishop's job to decide who gets which parish?"
"Let's put it that way. Mrs Falkner may have some friends in the right places, and the parishioners have a say in the matter too."
Someone was in for a nasty surprise then, Leni thought, though she was not certain yet who it was to be - either Mrs Falkner on finding out that her son had no intention of becoming a priest, of Lucia Steiner if Eduard found himself unable to stand up to his parent. One way or another, the cat would have to come out of the bag at last. In spite of everything, she was heartily sorry for Eduard.
"My mother-in-law is very generous, as you know. It was she who wanted us to come to town with her, and she pays for our expenses - which are considerable, you can imagine, what with the cost of lodging being what it is at this time of the year - without grumbling."
Leni forced herself to say, "The journey and your stay here must have cost you a great deal, but surely you can afford it? The Neaderhof has always provided its owner with a sufficient income."
"Not as much as some people may think," Hans said acidly. "I don't mean to complain; it's a comfortable income to be sure, and in time it will get better I hope. But I need to invest a great deal in the improvement at the moment; it doesn't do to keep things as they are. I've bought some land from the Treichlin, you remember her? Seems that ne'er-do-well son of hers has got into debt; it's been a bargain! Just the thing I've wanted for ages, adjoining to my property too, very convenient. I couldn't have let anyone else lay his hands on it. However, it has cost me a great deal of money."
"Not more than you thought it was worth, I'm sure."
"Why, no, I don't think so. I might have sold it on at once, for more than I gave."
Leni could only smile in reply to that.
"We've had some other expenses too. As you remember, our father has left the goats to your mother, and a great deal of linen and household goods have gone with her, too, so we had to replace them."
With some effort, Leni refrained from reminding her brother that the goats had not exactly been left to her mother but had been hers right from the start, paid for by her own savings. As had been the linen and household goods she had taken with her. Mrs Daringer had never had much, but those things she'd had were of the best quality, and she was unlikely to leave them to a daugher-in-law like Fanny.
"Of course he had every right to dispose of his property as he chose," Hans said.
"So he had," Leni agreed.
"So you see, we're far from being rich."
"I quite understand. I hope, though, that with your mother-in-law's assistance you'll escape penury for a while yet."
"Another year or two, perhaps, and we may be out of danger," he replied gravely. "There's still a great deal to be done. I haven't even started on Fanny's new baking-house."
"Oh! Where are you planning to build it?"
"Just behind the house. I've cut down the old walnut trees to make room for it."
Leni was grateful that Marianne was not with them and did not hear of it; she'd always been highly attached to those trees. She would have given Hans a piece of her mind, to be sure, but Leni did not relish watching her siblings quarrel.
Having made his poverty clear to his sister to escape having to buy something for her and Marianne, Hans' conversation returned to Mrs Jäger. He congratulated Leni on having such a friend as her.
"She seems a valuable connection to me. A brewer's widow - a well-to-do one, I'd say, too. Her inviting you to come to town with her is certainly a thing in your favour. She must be very fond of you; when she dies you won't be forgotten I daresay."
"Nonsense. Mrs Jäger has two daughters and plenty of grandchildren to leave her money too. I wouldn't even take anything if she did leave money to me," Leni protested.
"Don't be such a fool!" Hans exclaimed. "She must have a great deal to leave!"
"Nothing at all, I suppose. She only has her jointure, which will go to her children. The house and everything else belongs to her son-in-law; she only has the use of it for her lifetime."
"She doesn't look like someone who uses up all her income, though, and whatever her savings are she will be able to dispose of them as she wishes."
"And you really think she'd leave that to us rather than her own daughters? Highly unlikely!"
"Her daughters are both well married, aren't they? I don't see why she should give anything more to them; they're well provided for. And she takes so much notice of you and treats you so generously that I cannot help thinking that she has some plans for your future. She would hardly treat you the way she does if she did not wish to give rise to expectations on your part."
"She certainly doesn't give rise to expectations on our part. Your anxiety for our welfare and prosperity carries you too far, Hans."
"To be sure," he said, "people have very little in their power. But what's the matter with Marianne, Leni? She looks so ill; the colour is quite gone from her cheeks!"
At least he'd noticed, Leni thought. "She's not well; she's had a nervous complaint," she said.
"A nervous complaint? Well, it's not as if I hadn't seen it coming, with her head in those trashy books all the time, getting ideas above her station in life I shouldn't wonder! She was a very good-looking girl last September, and likely to attract any man she wanted! There was something in her style of beauty - I remember Fanny saying she'd marry sooner and better than you would, not that she isn't very fond of you too, but it happened to strike her at the time. But now I'm afraid Marianne won't marry a man with more than a couple of cattle and very little land, if as much. You look much better now than you did, though. The Upper Country air must agree with you."
"Thank you," Leni said dryly.
"Weidach! I've never been there, but it seems a good place to be, and when you're settled there you can count on me and Fanny to come and visit you!"
Leni did not doubt that, but she did her best to disabuse her brother of the notion that she was going to marry the Talbacher, or anyone else for that matter.
The idea appealed to her brother's mind, however, and he was resolved on becoming friends with the man and promoting the match by every means in his power. His having failed his sisters by not doing enough for them made him feel some regret, it seemed, and he wished to make up for it by getting other people to do something for them instead. This was the easiest way of atoning for his own neglect, and would not cost him a farthing.
*It's not unusual in these parts to refer to one's male child as "the boy" and not by his name, especially if there is only one.