And when I had kissed them and walked for the last time in many months up the flower-bordered path, the scarlet and pink, and green and gold of that wonderful garden swam in a mist before my eyes. Frau Nirlanger was next. When we spoke of Vienna she caught her breath sharply. "Vienna!" she repeated, and the longing in her voice was an actual pain. "Vienna! Gott! Shall I ever see it again? Vienna!
As I unpacked I thought of my cosy room at Knapfs', and as I thought I took my head out of my trunk and sank down on the floor with a satin blouse in one hand, and a walking boot in the other, and wanted to bellow with loneliness. There came to me dear visions of the friendly old yellow brocade chair, and the lamplight, and the fireplace, and Frau Nirlanger, and the Pfannkuchen.
"Poor, plain, vivacious, fascinating little Frau Nirlanger!" I said. "I wonder just how much of pain and heartache that little musical laugh of hers conceals?" "Ja, that is so," mused Frau Knapf. "Her eyes look like eyes that have wept much, not? And so you will be so kind and go maybe to select the so beautiful clothes?" "Clothes?" I repeated, remembering the original errand. "But dear lady!
"Aber!" exclaimed Frau Nirlanger, not daring to laugh because of the strange snugness. "Ach!" and again, "Aber to laugh it is!" We had decided the prettiest of the new gowns must do honor to the occasion. "This shade is called ashes of roses," I explained, as I slipped it over her head. "Ashes of roses!" she echoed. "How pretty, yes? But a little sad too, is it not so?
Like rosy hopes that have been withered. Ach, what a foolish talk! So, now you will fasten it please. A real trick it is to button such a dress so sly they are, those fastenings." When all the sly fastenings were secure I stood at gaze. "Nose is shiny," I announced, searching in a drawer for chamois and powder. Frau Nirlanger raised an objecting hand. "But Konrad does not approve of such things.
"He must not see that she looks different as the ladies in this country. So Frau Nirlanger wants she should buy here in the stores new dresses echt Amerikanische. All new and beautiful things she would have, because she must look young, ain't it? And perhaps her boy will remember her when he is a fine young man, if she is yet young when he grows up, you see? And too, there is the young husband.
You must see her before Herr Nirlanger comes home. He's due any minute. She looks like a girl. So young! And actually pretty! And her figure divine! Funny what a difference a decent pair of corsets, and a gown, and some puffs will make, h'm?" Frau Knapf was panting as I pulled her after me in swift eagerness. Between puffs she brought out exclamations of surprise and unbelief such as: "Unmoglich!
Deliberately and in silence Anna Nirlanger walked to the mirror and stood there, gazing at the woman in the glass. There was something dreadful and portentous about the calm and studied deliberation with which she critically viewed that reflection. She lifted her arms slowly and patted into place the locks that had become disarranged, turning her head from side to side to study the effect.
"I? Come, you are sworn to good-fellowship. As one comrade to another, tell me, what sort of husband do you think I should make, eh? The boorish Nirlanger sort, or the charming Max variety. Come, tell me you who always have seemed so so damnably able to take care of yourself." His eyes were twinkling in the maddening way they had.
She cooed to him in a babble of French and German and English, calling him her lee-tel Oscar. Bennie seemed miraculously to understand. Perhaps he was becoming accustomed to having strange ladies snatch him to their breasts. "So," said Frau Nirlanger, looking up at us. "Is he not sweet? He shall be my lee-tel boy, nicht? For one small year he shall be my own boy.