Fiction > Harvard Classics > Theodor Fontane > Trials and Tribulations > Chapter XII
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Theodor Fontane (1819–1898).  Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
  
Chapter XII
  
IT was already growing dark as they landed.   1
  “Let us take this table,” said Botho, as they stepped on to the veranda again: “You will fell no draught here and I will order you some grog or a hot claret cup, shall I not? I see you are chilly.”   2
  He offered several other things, but Lena bagged to be allowed to go up to her room, and said that by and by when he came up she would be perfectly well again. She only felt a trifle poorly and did not need anything and if she could only rest a little, it would pass off.   3
  Therewith she excused herself and went up to the gable room which has been prepared in the meantime. The hostess, who was indulging in all sorts of mistaken conjectures, accompanied her, and immediately asked with much curiosity, “what really was the matter,” and without waiting for an answer, she went right on: yes, it was always so with young women, she had had just such a time. It just rushed her eldest was born (she now had four and would have had five, but the middle one had come too soon and did not live), she had had just such a time. It just rushed over one so, and one felt ready to die. But a cup of balm tea, that is to say, the genuine monastery balm, would give a quick relief and one would fell like a fish in the water and quite set up and merry and affectionate too. “Yes, yes, gracious lady, when one has four, without counting the little angle.…”   4
  Lena had some difficulty in concealing her embarrassment and asked, for the sake of saying something, for a cup of the monastery balm tea, of which she had already heard.   5
  
  While this conversation was going on up in the gable room, Botho had taken a seat, not in the sheltered veranda, but at a primitive wooden table that was nailed on four posts in front of the veranda and afforded a fine view. He planned to take his evening meal here. He ordered fish, and as the “tench and dill” for which the tavern was famous was brought, the host came to ask what kind of wine the Herr Baron desired? (He gave him this title by mere chance.)   6
  “I think,” said Botho, “Brauneberger, or let us say rather Rudesheimer would suit the delicate fish best, and to show guest and drink some of your own wine.”   7
  The host bowed smilingly and soon came back with a dusty bottle, while the maid, a pretty Wendin in a woolen gown and a black head-kerchief, brought the glasses on a tray.   8
  “Now let us see,” said Botho. “The bottle promise all sorts of good qualities. Too much dust and cobweb is always suspicious, but this … Ah, superb! This is the vintage of ’70, is it not? And now we must drink, but to what? To the prosperity of Hankel Ablage.”   9
  The host was evidently delighted, and Botho, who saw what a good impression he was making, went on speaking in his own gentle and friendly way: “I find it charming here, and there is only one thing to be said against Hankel’s Ablage: its name”  10
  “Yes,” agreed the host, “the name might be better and it is really unfortunate for us. And yet there is a reason for the name, Hankle’s Ablage really was an Albage, and so it is still called.”  11
  “Very good. But this brings us no further forward than before. Why is it called an Ablage? And what is an Ablage?”  12
  “Well, it is as much as to say a place for loading and unloading. The whole stretch of land hereabouts (and he pointed backward) was, in fact, always one great domain, and was called under Old Fritz and even earlier under the warrior kings the domain Wusterhausen. And the thirty villages as well as the forest and moorland all belonged to it. Now you see the thirty villages naturally had to obtain and use many things, or what amounts to the same thing, they had to have egress and ingress, and for both they needed from the beginning a harbor or a place to buy and sell, and the only doubt would have been what place they should choose for the purpose. They actually chose this place; this bay became a harbor, a mart, an “Ablage” for all that came and went, and since the fisher who lived here at that time was my grandfather Hankel, the place become “Hankel’s Ablage.”  13
  “It is a pity,” said Botho, “that this cannot be so well and clearly explained to everyone,” and the host who felt encouraged by the interest shown was about to continue. But before he could begin, the cry of a bird was heard high in the air, and as Botho looked up curiously, he saw that two large, powerful birds, scarcely recognizable in the twilight, were flying above the water.  14
  “Were those wild geese?”  15
  “No, herons. The whole forest hereabouts is full of them. For that matter, it is regular hunting ground. There are huge numbers of wild boar and deer and woodcock, and among the reeds and rushes here ducks, and snipe.”  16
  “Delightful,” said Botho, in whom the hunter was waking up. “Do you know snipe, woodcocks! One could almost wish to be in such pleasant circumstances also. Only it must be lonely here, too lonely.”  17
  The host smiled to himself and Botho, who noticed this, became curious and said: “You laugh. But is it not so? For half an hour I have heard nothing but the water gurgling under the pier, and just now the call of the herons. I call that lonely, however beautiful it may be. And now and them a couple of big sailboats glide by, but they are all alike, or oat least they look very similar. And really each one seems to be a phantom ship. It is an still as death.”  18
  “Certainly,” said the host. But, that is only as long as it lasts.”  19
  “How so?”  20
  “Yes,” repeated the host, “as long as it lasts. You speak of solitude, Here Baron, and for days together it is truly lonely here. And it might be so for weeks. But scarcely has the ice broken up and the spring come when we have guests and the Berliner has arrived.”  21
  “When does he come?”  22
  “Incredibly early. All in a moment there they are. See here, Here Baron, while I, who am hardened to the weather, am still staying indoors because the east wind blows and the March sun scorches, the Berliner already sits out of doors, lays his summer overcoat on the chair and orders pale ale. For if only the sun shines the Berliner speaks of beautiful weather. It is all the same to him if there is inflammation of the lungs or diptheria in every wind that blows. It is then that the he best likes to play grace-hoops, blistered from the reflected sunlight, my heart really aches for them, for there is not one among them whose skin will not peel off at least by the following day.”  23
  Botho laughed. “Yes, indeed, the Berliners! And that reminds me, your Spree hereabouts must be the place where the oarsmen and yachtsmen meet to hold their regattas.”  24
  “Certainly.” said the host. “But that is not saying very much. If there are good many, there may be fifty or perhaps a hundred. And then all is still again, and the water sports are over for weeks and months. No, club members are comfortable to deal with; by comparison they are endurable. But in June when the steamers come, it is bad. And then it will continue all summer, or at any rate a long, long time …”  25
  “I believe you,” said Botho.  26
  “Then a telegram comes every evening. ’Early to-morrow morning at nine o’clock we shall arrive by the steamer Alse. Party to send the day. 240 persons’. And then follow the names of those who have gotten up the affair. It does well enough for once. But the trouble is, it lasts so long. For how do such parties spend their time? They are out in the woods and field until it is growing dark, and then comes their dinner, and then they dance till eleven. Now you will say, ’That is nothing much,’ and it would not be anything much if the following day were a holiday. But the second day is like the first, and the third is like the second. Every evening at about eleven a steamer leaves with two hundred and forty person and every morning at nine a steamer arrives with just as many on board. And between whiles everything must be cleared away and tidied up. And so the night passes in airing, polishing and scrubbing, and when one counts up his receipts towards midnight one is already arriving. Naturally, everything has its good side, knows what he has been toiling for. “From nothing you get nothing,” says the proverb and it is quite true, and if I were to fill all the punch bowels that have been drunk here I should have to get a Heidelberg tun. It brings something in, certainly, and is quite right and proper. But according as one moves forward he also moves backward and pays with the best that he has, with his life and health. For what is life without sleep?”  27
  “True, I already see,” said Botho, ”no happiness is complete. But then comes winter, and then you sleep like the seven sleepers.”  28
  “Yes, if it does not happen to be New Year’s or Twelfth Night or Carnival. And these holidays come oftener than the calendar shows. You ought to see the life here when they arrive in sleighs or on skates from all the ten villages, and gather in the great hall that hands and chambermaids we don’t see one citified face among them, and the Berliners leave us in peace, but the farm hands and chambermaids have their day. Then we see otter skin caps and corduroy jackets with silver buttons, and all kinds of soldiers who are on leave are there also: Schwedter Dragoons and Furstenwald Uhlans, or perhaps Potsdam Hussars. And everyone is jealous and quarrelsome, and one cannot tell which they like best, dancing or fighting, and on the slightest pretext the villages are arrayed against each other in battle. And so with noise and turbulent sports they pass the whole long night and whole mountains of pancakes disappear, and only at dawn do they leave for home over the frozen river or over the snow.”  29
  “Now I see plainly,” said Botho, “that you have not very much solitude or deathly stillness. But it is fortunate that I knew nothing about all this, or else I should not to have seen such a beautiful spot.… But as you said before; what is life without sleep? and I fell that you are right. I am tired, although it is still early; I think it must be the effect of the air and the water. And then I must go and see… Your good wife has taken so much trouble … Good night, I have talked quite enough.”  30
  And thereupon he rose and went into the house, which had now grown very quite.  31
  
  Lena had lain down on the bed with feet on a chair at the bedside and had drunk a cup of the tea that the hostess had brought her. The rest and the warmth did her good, the little attack passed off, and some little time ago she could have gone down to the veranda to join in the conversation of Botho and the landlord. But she was not in a talkative mood, and so she only got up to look around the room, in which she had thus far taken no interest.  32
  And the room was well worth her attention. The timbers and the plastered walls had been allowed to remain since former times, and the whitewashed ceiling was so low that one could reach it with one’s hand. But whatever could be improved had been improved. Instead of the small panes which one still saw on the ground floor, a large window reaching nearly down to the floor had been set in, which afforded, as the host had said, a beautiful view of the scenery, both woods and water. But the large window was not all that has been accomplished here in the way of modern comfort. A few good pictures, very likely bought at some auction, hung on the old irregular plastered walls, and where the projecting window gable joined the sloping roof of the room itself stood a pair of handsome toilet tables facing each other. Everything showed that the character of the fisherman’s and boatman’s tavern had been carefully kept, while at the same time the place had been turned into a pleasing hotel for the rich sportsmen of the yacht club.  33
  Lena was much pleased with all that she saw, and began to examine the pictures that hung in board frames to the right and felt of the bed. They were engravings, the subjects of which interested her keenly, and so she wanted to read the inscriptions under each, One was inscribed “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and the other. “The Last Hour at Trafalgar.” But she could get no further than merely to decipher the syllables, and although it was a very small matter, it gave her pang, because it emphasised the chasm that divided her from Botho. He was, indeed, in the habit of making fun of learning and education, but she was clever enough to know what to think of such jesting.  34
  Close to the entrance door, above a rococo table, on which stood some red glasses and a water carafe, hung a gay colored lithograph with an inscription in three languages: “Si jeunesse savait”—a picture which Lena remembered having seen at the Dörrs’. Dörr loved such things. When she saw it here again, she shivered and felt distressed. Her fine sensibility was hurt by the sensual quality of the picture as if it were a distortion of her own feeling, and so, in order to shake off the impression, she went to the window and opened both sashes to let in the night air. Oh, how refreshing it was! She seated herself on the window-sill, which was only a couple of hands’ breadth from the floor, threw her left arm around the middle bar and listened to hear what was happening on the veranda. But she heard nothing. Deep stillness reigned, except that in the old elm there was a stirring and rustling, and any discomfort that might have lingered in her mind disappeared at once, as she gazed with ever-growing delight on the picture spread out before her. The water flowed gently, wood and meadow lay in the dim evening light, and the thin crescent of the new moon cast its light on the stream and showed the tremulous motion of the rippling waves.  35
  “How beautiful,” said Lena, drawing deep breath, “And I am so happy,” she added.  36
  She could hardly bear to leave the view. But at last she rose, placed a chair before the glass and began to let down her beautiful hair and braid it. While she was thus occupied. Botho came in.  37
  “Lena, still up! I thought that I should have to wake you with a kiss.”  38
  “You are too early for that, however late you came”.  39
  And she rose and went to him. “My dearest Botho, How long you stayed away…”  40
  “And your fever? And your little attack?”  41
  “It has passed off and I have felt well again for the last half hour. And I have been waiting for you all that time.” And she led him over to the open window: “Only look. Would not the beauty of that view fill any poor human heart with longing?”  42
  And she clung to him and just as she was closing her eyes, she looked up at him with an expression of rapture.  43

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