Dawn O'Hara, The Girl Who Laughed
Part 2 out of 5
from; hands that spelled power and reserve. I looked at
them, fascinated, as I often had done before, and thought
that I never had seen such SANE hands.
"You have done me the honor to include me in this
little family conclave," began Ernst von Gerhard. "I am
going to take advantage of your trust. I shall give you
some advice--a thing I usually keep for unpleasant
professional occasions. Do not go back to New York."
"But I know New York. And New York --the newspaper
part of it--knows me. Where else can I go?"
"You have your book to finish. You could never
finish it there, is it not so?"
I'm afraid I shrugged my shoulders. It was all so
much harder than I had expected. What did they want me
to do? I asked myself, bitterly.
Von Gerhard went on. "Why not go where the newspaper
work will not be so nerve-racking? where you still might
find time for this other work that is dear to you, and
that may bring its reward in time." He reached out and
took my hand, into his great, steady clasp. "Come to the
happy, healthy, German town called Milwaukee, yes? Ach,
you may laugh. But newspaper work is newspaper work the
world over, because men and women are just men and women
the world over. But there you could live sanely, and
work not too hard, and there would be spare hours for the
book that is near your heart. And I--I will speak of you
to Norberg, of the Post. And on Sundays, if you are
good, I may take you along the marvelous lake drives in
my little red runabout, yes? Aber wunderbar, those
drives are! So."
Then--"Milwaukee!" shrieked Max and Norah and I,
together. "After New York--Milwaukee!"
"Laugh," said Von Gerhard, quite composedly. "I give
you until to-morrow morning to stop laughing. At the end
of that time it will not seem quite so amusing. No joke
is so funny after one has contemplated it for twelve
The voice of Norah, the temptress, sounded close to
my ear. "Dawn dear, just think how many million miles
nearer you would be to Max, and me, and home."
"Oh, you have all gone mad! The thing is impossible.
I shan't go back to a country sheet in my old age. I
suppose that in two more years I shall be editing a
mothers' column on an agricultural weekly."
"Norberg would be delighted to get you," mused Von
Gerhard, "and it would be day work instead of night
"And you would send me a weekly bulletin on Dawn's
health, wouldn't you, Ernst?" pleaded Norah. "And you'd
teach her to drink beer and she shall grow so fat that
the Spalpeens won't know their auntie."
At last--"How much do they pay?" I asked, in
desperation. And the thing that had appeared so absurd
at first began to take on the shape of reality.
Von Gerhard did speak to Norberg of the Post. And
I am to go to Milwaukee next week. The skeleton of the
book manuscript is stowed safely away in the bottom of my
trunk and Norah has filled in the remaining space with
sundry flannels, and hot water bags and medicine flasks,
so that I feel like a schoolgirl on her way to
boarding-school, instead of like a seasoned old newspaper
woman with a capital PAST and a shaky future. I wish
that I were chummier with the Irish saints. I need them
STEEPED IN GERMAN
I am living at a little private hotel just across from
the court house square with its scarlet geraniums and its
pretty fountain. The house is filled with German civil
engineers, mechanical engineers, and Herr Professors from
the German academy. On Sunday mornings we have
Pfannkuchen with currant jelly, and the Herr Professors
come down to breakfast in fearful flappy German slippers.
I'm the only creature in the place that isn't just over
from Germany. Even the dog is a dachshund. It is so
unbelievable that every day or two I go down to Wisconsin
Street and gaze at the stars and stripes floating from
the government building, in order to convince myself that
this is America. It needs only a Kaiser or so, and a bit
of Unter den Linden to be quite complete.
The little private hotel is kept by Herr and Frau
Knapf. After one has seen them, one quite understands why
the place is steeped in a German atmosphere up to its
I never would have found it myself. It was Doctor
von Gerhard who had suggested Knapf's, and who had paved
the way for my coming here.
"You will find it quite unlike anything you have ever
tried before," he warned me. "Very German it is, and
very, very clean, and most inexpensive. Also I think you
will find material there--how is it you call it?--copy,
yes? Well, there should be copy in plenty; and types!
But you shall see."
From the moment I rang the Knapf doorbell I saw. The
dapper, cheerful Herr Knapf, wearing a disappointed
Kaiser Wilhelm mustache, opened the door. I scarcely had
begun to make my wishes known when he interrupted with a
large wave of the hand, and an elaborate German bow.
"Ach yes! You would be the lady of whom the Herr
Doktor has spoken. Gewiss! Frau Orme, not? But so a
young lady I did not expect to see. A room we have saved
for you--aber wunderhubsch! It makes me much pleasure to
show. Folgen Sie mir, bitte."
"You--you speak English?" I faltered, with visions of
my evenings spent in expressing myself in the sign language.
"Englisch? But yes. Here in Milwaukee it gives aber
mostly German. And then too, I have been only twenty
years in this country. And always in Milwaukee. Here is
it gemutlich--and mostly it gives German."
I tried not to look frightened, and followed him up
to the "but wonderfully beautiful" room. To my joy I
found it high-ceilinged, airy, and huge, with a great
vault of a clothes closet bristling with hooks, and
boasting an unbelievable number of shelves. My trunk was
swallowed up in it. Never in all my boarding-house
experience have I seen such a room, or such a closet.
The closet must have been built for a bride's trousseau
in the days of hoop-skirts and scuttle bonnets. There
was a separate and distinct hook for each and every one
of my most obscure garments. I tried to spread them out.
I used two hooks to every petticoat, and three for my
kimono, and when I had finished there were rows of hooks
to spare. Tiers of shelves yawned for hat-boxes which I
possessed not. Bluebeard's wives could have held a
family reunion in that closet and invited all of
Solomon's spouses. Finally, in desperation, I gathered
all my poor garments together and hung them in a sociable
bunch on the hooks nearest the door. How I should have
loved to have shown that closet to a select circle of New
York boarding-house landladies!
After wrestling in vain with the forest of hooks, I
turned my attention to my room. I yanked a towel thing
off the center table and replaced it with a scarf that
Peter had picked up in the Orient. I set up my
typewriter in a corner near a window and dug a gay
cushion or two and a chafing-dish out of my trunk. I
distributed photographs of Norah and Max and the
Spalpeens separately, in couples, and in groups. Then I
bounced up and down in a huge yellow brocade chair and
found it unbelievably soft and comfortable. Of course,
I reflected, after the big veranda, and the apple tree at
Norah's, and the leather-cushioned comfort of her
library, and the charming tones of her Oriental rugs and
"Oh, stop your carping, Dawn!" I told myself. "You
can't expect charming tones, and Oriental do-dads and
apple trees in a German boarding-house. Anyhow there's
running water in the room. For general utility purposes
that's better than a pink prayer rug."
There was a time when I thought that it was the
luxuries that made life worth living. That was in
the old Bohemian days.
"Necessities!" I used to laugh, "Pooh! Who cares
about the necessities! What if the dishpan does leak?
It is the luxuries that count."
Bohemia and luxuries! Half a dozen lean
boarding-house years have steered me safely past that.
After such a course in common sense you don't stand back
and examine the pictures of a pink Moses in a nest of
purple bullrushes, or complain because the bureau does
not harmonize with the wall paper. Neither do you
criticize the blue and saffron roses that form the rug
pattern. 'Deedy not! Instead you warily punch the
mattress to see if it is rock-stuffed, and you snoop into
the clothes closet; you inquire the distance to the
nearest bath room, and whether the payments are weekly or
monthly, and if there is a baby in the room next door.
Oh, there's nothing like living in a boarding-house for
cultivating the materialistic side.
But I was to find that here at Knapf's things were
quite different. Not only was Ernst von Gerhard right in
saying that it was "very German, and very, very clean;"
he recognized good copy when he saw it. Types! I never
dreamed that such faces existed outside of the old German
woodcuts that one sees illustrating time-yellowed books.
I had thought myself hardened to strange
boarding-house dining rooms, with their batteries of
cold, critical women's eyes. I had learned to walk
unruffled in the face of the most carping, suspicious and
the fishiest of these batteries. Therefore on my first
day at Knapf's I went down to dinner in the evening,
quite composed and secure in the knowledge that my collar
was clean and that there was no flaw to find in the fit
of my skirt in the back.
As I opened the door of my room I heard sounds as of
a violent altercation in progress downstairs. I leaned
over the balusters and listened. The sounds rose and
fell and swelled and boomed. They were German sounds
that started in the throat, gutturally, and spluttered
their way up. They were sounds such as I had not heard
since the night I was sent to cover a Socialist meeting
in New York. I tip-toed down the stairs, although I
might have fallen down and landed with a thud without
having been heard. The din came from the direction of
the dining room. Well, come what might, I would not
falter. After all, it could not be worse than that awful
time when I had helped cover the teamsters' strike. I
peered into the dining room.
The thunder of conversation went on as before. But
there was no bloodshed. Nothing but men and women
sitting at small tables, eating and talking. When I say
eating and talking I do not mean that those acts were
carried on separately. Not at all. The eating and the
talking went on simultaneously, neither interrupting the
other. A fork full of food and a mouthful of
ten-syllabled German words met, wrestled, and passed one
another, unscathed. I stood in the doorway, fascinated,
until Herr Knapf spied me, took a nimble skip in my
direction, twisted the discouraged mustaches into
temporary sprightliness, and waved me toward a table in
the center of the room.
Then a frightful thing happened. When I think of it
now I turn cold. The battery was not that of women's
eyes, but of men's. And conversation ceased! The uproar
and the booming of vowels was hushed. The silence was
appalling. I looked up in horror to find that what
seemed to be millions of staring blue eyes were fixed on
me. The stillness was so thick that you could cut it
with a knife. Such men! Immediately I dubbed them the
aborigines, and prayed that I might find adjectives with
which to describe their foreheads.
It appeared that the aborigines were especially
favored in that they were all placed at one long, untidy
table at the head of the room. The rest of us sat at
small tables. Later I learned that they were all
engineers. At meals they discuss engineering problems in
the most awe-inspiring German. After supper they smoke
impossible German pipes and dozens of cigarettes. They
have bulging, knobby foreheads and bristling pompadours,
and some of the rawest of them wear wild-looking beards,
and thick spectacles, and cravats and trousers that Lew
Fields never even dreamed of. They are all graduates of
high-sounding foreign universities and are horribly
learned and brilliant, but they are the worst mannered
lot I ever saw.
In the silence that followed my entrance a
red-cheeked maid approached me and asked what I would
have for supper. Supper? I asked. Was not dinner served
in the evening? The aborigines nudged each other and
sniggered like fiendish little school-boys.
The red-cheeked maid looked at me pityingly. Dinner
was served in the middle of the day, naturlich. For
supper there was Wienerschnitzel, and kalter Aufschnitt,
also Kartoffel Salat, and fresh Kaffeekuchen.
The room hung breathless on my decision. I wrestled
with a horrible desire to shriek and run. Instead I
managed to mumble an order. The aborigines turned to one
"Was hat sie gesagt?" they asked. "What did she
say?" Whereupon they fell to discussing my hair and
teeth and eyes and complexion in German as crammed with
adjectives as was the rye bread over which I was choking
with caraway. The entire table watched me with
wide-eyed, unabashed interest while I ate, and I advanced
by quick stages from red-faced confusion to purple mirth.
It appeared that my presence was the ground for a heavy
German joke in connection with the youngest of the
aborigines. He was a very plump and greasy looking
aborigine with a doll-like rosiness of cheek and a scared
and bristling pompadour and very small pig-eyes. The
other aborigines clapped him on the back and roared:
"Ai Fritz! Jetzt brauchst du nicht zu weinen! Deine
Lena war aber nicht so huebsch, eh? "
Later I learned that Fritz was the newest arrival and
that since coming to this country he had been rather low
in spirits in consequence of a certain flaxen-haired Lena
whom he had left behind in the fatherland.
An examination of the dining room and its other
occupants served to keep my mind off the hateful long
table. The dining room was a double one, the floor
carpetless and clean. There was a little platform at one
end with hardy-looking plants in pots near the windows.
The wall was ornamented with very German pictures of very
plump, bare-armed German girls being chucked under the
chin by very dashing, mustachioed German lieutenants. It
was all very bare, and strange and foreign to my eyes,
and yet there was something bright and comfortable about
it. I felt that I was going to like it, aborigines and
all. The men drink beer with their supper and read the
Staats-Zeitung and the Germania and foreign papers
that I never heard of. It is uncanny, in these United
States. But it is going to be bully for my German.
After my first letter home Norah wrote frantically,
demanding to know if I was the only woman in the house.
I calmed her fears by assuring her that, while the men
were interesting and ugly with the fascinating ugliness
of a bulldog, the women were crushed looking and
uninteresting and wore hopeless hats. I have
written Norah and Max reams about this household, from
the aborigines to Minna, who tidies my room and serves my
meals, and admires my clothes. Minna is related to Frau
Knapf, whom I have never seen. Minna is inordinately
fond of dress, and her remarks anent my own garments are
apt to be a trifle disconcerting, especially when she
intersperses her recital of dinner dishes with admiring
adjectives directed at my blouse or hat. Thus:
"Wir haben roast beef, und spareribs mit Sauerkraut,
und schicken--ach, wie schon, Frau Orme! Aber ganz
prachtvoll!" Her eyes and hands are raised toward
"What's prachtful? " I ask, startled. "The
"Nein; your waist. Selbst gemacht?"
I am even becoming hardened to the manners of the
aborigines. It used to fuss me to death to meet one of
them in the halls. They always stopped short, brought
heels together with a click, bent stiffly from the waist,
and thundered: "Nabben', Fraulein!"
I have learned to take the salutation quite calmly,
and even the wildest, most spectacled and knobby-browed
aborigine cannot startle me. Nonchalantly I reply,
"Nabben'," and wish that Norah could but see me in the
When I told Ernst von Gerhard about them, he laughed
a little and shrugged his shoulders and said:
"Na, you should not look so young, and so pretty, and
so unmarried. In Germany a married woman brushes her
hair quite smoothly back, and pins it in a hard knob.
And she knows nothing of such bewildering collars and
fluffy frilled things in the front of the blouse. How do
you call them--jabots?"
Von Gerhard has not behaved at all nicely. I did not
see him until two weeks after my arrival in Milwaukee,
although he telephoned twice to ask if there was anything
that he could do to make me comfortable.
"Yes," I had answered the last time that I heard his
voice over the telephone. "It would be a whole heap of
comfort to me just to see you. You are the nearest thing
to Norah that there is in this whole German town, and
goodness knows you're far from Irish."
He came. The weather had turned suddenly cold and he
was wearing a fur-lined coat with a collar of fur. He
looked most amazingly handsome and blond and splendidly
healthy. The clasp of his hands was just as big and sure
"You have no idea how glad I am to see
you," I told him. "If you had, you would have been here
days ago. Aren't you rather ill-mannered and neglectful,
considering that you are responsible for my being here?"
"I did not know whether you, a married woman, would
care to have me here," he said, in his composed way. "In
a place like this people are not always kind enough to
take the trouble to understand. And I would not have
them raise their eyebrows at you, not for--"
"Married!" I laughed, some imp of willfulness seizing
me, "I'm not married. What mockery to say that I am
married simply because I must write madam before my name!
I am not married, and I shall talk to whom I please."
And then Von Gerhard did a surprising thing. He took
two great steps over to my chair, and grasped my hands
and pulled me to my feet. I stared up at him like a
silly creature. His face was suffused with a dull red,
and his eyes were unbelievably blue and bright. He had
my hands in his great grip, but his voice was very quiet
"You are married," he said. "Never forget that for
a moment. You are bound, hard and fast and tight. And
you are for no man. You are married as much as though
that poor creature in the mad house were here working for
you, instead of the case being reversed as it is. So."
"What do you mean!" I cried, wrenching myself away
indignantly. "What right have you to talk to me like
this? You know what my life has been, and how I have
tried to smile with my lips and stay young in my heart!
I thought you understood. Norah thought so too, and
"I do understand. I understand so well that I would
not have you talk as you did a moment ago. And I said
what I said not so much for your sake, as for mine. For
see, I too must remember that you write madam before your
name. And sometimes it is hard for me to remember."
"Oh," I said, like a simpleton, and stood staring
after him as he quietly gathered up his hat and gloves
and left me standing there.
I did not write Norah about Von Gerhard. After all, I
told myself, there was nothing to write. And so I was
the first to break the solemn pact that we had made.
"You will write everything, won't you, Dawn dear?"
Norah had pleaded, with tears, in her pretty eyes.
"Promise me. We've been nearer to each other in these
last few months than we have been since we were girls.
And I've loved it so. Please don't do as you did during
those miserable years in New York, when you were fighting
your troubles alone and we knew nothing of it. You wrote
only the happy things. Promise me you'll write the
unhappy ones too--though the saints forbid that there
should be any to write! And Dawn, don't you dare to
forget your heavy underwear in November. Those lake
breezes!--Well, some one has to tell you, and I can't
leave those to Von Gerhard. He has promised to act as
monitor over your health."
And so I promised. I crammed my letters with
descriptions of the Knapf household. I assured her that
I was putting on so much weight that the skirts which
formerly hung about me in limp, dejected folds now
refused to meet in the back, and all the hooks and eyes
were making faces at each other. My cheeks, I told her,
looked as if I were wearing plumpers, and I was beginning
to waddle and puff as I walked.
Norah made frantic answer:
"For mercy's sake child, be careful or you'll be
To which I replied: "Don't care if I am. Rather be
hunky and healthy than skinny and sick. Have tried
It is impossible to avoid becoming round-cheeked when
one is working on a paper that allows one to shut one's
desk and amble comfortably home for dinner at least five
days in the week. Everybody is at least plump in this
comfortable, gemutlich town, where everybody placidly
locks his shop or office and goes home at noon to dine
heavily on soup and meat and vegetables and pudding,
washed down by the inevitable beer and followed by forty
winks on the dining room sofa with the German Zeitung
spread comfortably over the head as protection against
There is a fascination about the bright little city.
There is about it something quaint and foreign, as though
a cross-section of the old world had been dumped bodily
into the lap of Wisconsin. It does not seem at all
strange to hear German spoken everywhere--in the streets,
in the shops, in the theaters, in the street cars. One
day I chanced upon a sign hung above the doorway of a
little German bakery over on the north side. There were
Hornchen and Kaffeekuchen in the windows, and a brood of
flaxen-haired and sticky children in the back of the
shop. I stopped, open-mouthed, to stare at the worn sign
tacked over the door.
"Hier wird Englisch gesprochen," it announced.
I blinked. Then I read it again. I shut my eyes,
and opened them again suddenly. The fat German letters
spoke their message as before--"English spoken here."
On reaching the office I told Norberg, the city
editor, about my find. He was not impressed. Norberg
never is impressed. He is the most soul-satisfying and
theatrical city editor that I have ever met. He is fat,
and unbelievably nimble, and keen-eyed, and untiring. He
says, "Hell!" when things go wrong; he smokes innumerable
cigarettes, inhaling the fumes and sending out the thin
wraith of smoke with little explosive sounds between
tongue and lips; he wears blue shirts, and no collar to
speak of, and his trousers are kept in place only by a
miracle and an inefficient looking leather belt.
When he refused to see the story in the little German
bakery sign I began to argue.
"But man alive, this is America! I think I know a
story when I see it. Suppose you were traveling in
Germany, and should come across a sign over a shop,
saying: `Hier wird Deutsch gesprochen.' Wouldn't you
think you were dreaming?"
Norberg waved an explanatory hand. "This isn't
America. This is Milwaukee. After you've lived here a
year or so you'll understand what I mean. If we should
run a story of that sign, with a two-column cut,
Milwaukee wouldn't even see the joke."
But it was not necessary that I live in Milwaukee a
year or so in order to understand its peculiarities, for
I had a personal conductor and efficient guide in the new
friend that had come into my life with the first day of
my work on the Post. Surely no woman ever had a stronger
friend than little "Blackie" Griffith, sporting editor of
the Milwaukee Post. We became friends, not step by
step, but in one gigantic leap such as sometimes triumphs
over the gap between acquaintance and liking.
I never shall forget my first glimpse of him. He
strolled into the city room from his little domicile
across the hall. A shabby, disreputable, out-at-elbows
office coat was worn over his ultra-smart street clothes,
and he was puffing at a freakish little pipe in the shape
of a miniature automobile. He eyed me a moment from the
doorway, a fantastic, elfin little figure. I thought
that I had never seen so strange and so ugly a face as
that of this little brown Welshman with his lank, black
hair and his deep-set, uncanny black eyes. Suddenly he
trotted over to me with a quick little step. In the
doorway he had looked forty. Now a smile illumined the
many lines of his dark countenance, and in some
miraculous way he looked twenty.
"Are you the New York importation?" he, asked, his
great black eyes searching my face.
"I'm what's left of it," I replied, meekly.
"I understand you've been in for repairs. Must of met
up with somethin' on the road. They say the goin' is full
of bumps in N' York."
"Bumps!" I laughed, "it's uphill every bit of the
road, and yet you've got to go full speed to get
anywhere. But I'm running easily again, thank you."
He waved away a cloud of pipe-smoke, and knowingly
squinted through the haze. "We don't speed up much here.
And they ain't no hill climbin' t' speak of. But say, if
you ever should hit a nasty place on the route, toot your
siren for me and I'll come. I'm a regular little human
garage when it comes to patchin' up those aggravatin'
screws that need oilin'. And, say, don't let Norberg
bully you. My name's Blackie. I'm goin' t' like you.
Come on over t' my sanctum once in a while and I'll show
you my scrapbook and let you play with the office
And so it happened that I had not been in Milwaukee
a month before Blackie and I were friends.
Norah was horrified. My letters were full of him.
I told her that she might get a more complete mental
picture of him if she knew that he wore the pinkest
shirts, and the purplest neckties, and the blackest and
whitest of black-and-white checked vests that ever
aroused the envy of an office boy, and beneath them all,
the gentlest of hearts. And therefore one loves him.
There is a sort of spell about the illiterate little
slangy, brown Welshman. He is the presiding genius of
the place. The office boys adore him. The Old Man
takes his advice in selecting a new motor car; the
managing editor arranges his lunch hour to suit Blackie's
and they go off to the Press club together, arm in arm.
It is Blackie who lends a sympathetic ear to the society
editor's tale of woe. He hires and fires the office boys;
boldly he criticizes the news editor's makeup; he receives
delegations of tan-coated, red-faced prizefighting-looking
persons; he gently explains to the photographer why that
last batch of cuts make their subjects look as if afflicted
with the German measles; he arbitrates any row that the
newspaper may have with such dignitaries as the mayor or the
chief of police; he manages boxing shows; he skims about in a
smart little roadster; he edits the best sporting page in
the city; and at four o'clock of an afternoon he likes to
send around the corner for a chunk of devil's food cake
with butter filling from the Woman's Exchange. Blackie
never went to school to speak of. He doesn't know was
from were. But he can "see" a story quicker, and farther
and clearer than any newspaper man I ever knew--excepting
There is a legend about to the effect that one day
the managing editor, who is Scotch and without a sense of
humor, ordered that Blackie should henceforth be
addressed by his surname of Griffith, as being a more
dignified appellation for the use of fellow reporters,
hangers-on, copy kids, office boys and others about the
The day after the order was issued the managing
editor summoned a freckled youth and thrust a sheaf of
galley proofs into his hand.
"Take those to Mr. Griffith," he ordered without
"To Mr. Griffith," said the managing editor,
laboriously, and scowling a bit.
The boy took three unwilling steps toward the door.
Then he turned a puzzled face toward the managing editor.
"Say, honest, I ain't never heard of dat guy. He
must be a new one. W'ere'll I find him?"
"Oh, damn! Take those proofs to Blackie!" roared the
managing editor. And thus ended Blackie's enforced
flight into the realms of dignity.
All these things, and more, I wrote to the
scandalized Norah. I informed her that he wore more
diamond rings and scarf pins and watch fobs than a
railroad conductor, and that his checked top-coat
shrieked to Heaven.
There came back a letter in which every third word
was underlined, and which ended by asking what the morals
of such a man could be.
Then I tried to make Blackie more real to Norah who,
in all her sheltered life, had never come in contact with
a man like this.
" . . . As for his morals--or what you would consider
his morals, Sis--they probably are a deep crimson; but
I'll swear there is no yellow streak. I never have heard
anything more pathetic than his story. Blackie sold
papers on a down-town corner when he was a baby six years
old. Then he got a job as office boy here, and he used
to sharpen pencils, and run errands, and carry copy.
After office hours he took care of some horses in an
alley barn near by, and after that work was done he was
employed about the pressroom of one of the old German
newspaper offices. Sometimes he would be too weary to
crawl home after working half the night, and so he would
fall asleep, a worn, tragic little figure, on a pile of
old papers and sacks in a warm corner near the presses.
He was the head of a household, and every penny counted.
And all the time he was watching things, and learning.
Nothing escaped those keen black eyes. He used to help
the photographer when there was a pile of plates to
develop, and presently he knew more about photography
than the man himself. So they made him staff
photographer. In some marvelous way he knew more ball
players, and fighters and horsemen than the sporting
editor. He had a nose for news that was nothing short of
wonderful. He never went out of the office without
coming back with a story. They used to use him in the
sporting department when a rush was on. Then he became
one of the sporting staff; then assistant sporting
editor; then sporting editor. He knows this paper from
the basement up. He could operate a linotype or act as
managing editor with equal ease.
"No, I'm afraid that Blackie hasn't had much time for
morals. But, Norah dear, I wish that you could hear him
when he talks about his mother. He may follow doubtful
paths, and associate with questionable people, and wear
restless clothes, but I wouldn't exchange his friendship
for that of a dozen of your ordinary so-called good men.
All these years of work and suffering have made an old
man of little Blackie, although he is young in years. But
they haven't spoiled his heart any. He is able to
distinguish between sham and truth because he has been
obliged to do it ever since he was a child selling papers
on the corner. But he still clings to the office that gave
him his start, although he makes more money in a single week
outside the office than his salary would amount to in half a
year. He says that this is a job that does not interfere
with his work."
Such is Blackie. Surely the oddest friend a woman
ever had. He possesses a genius for friendship, and a
wonderful understanding of suffering, born of those years
of hardship and privation. Each learned the other's
story, bit by bit, in a series of confidences exchanged
during that peaceful, beatific period that follows just
after the last edition has gone down. Blackie's little
cubby-hole of an office is always blue with smoke, and
cluttered with a thousand odds and ends--photographs,
souvenirs, boxing-gloves, a litter of pipes and tobacco,
a wardrobe of dust-covered discarded coats and hats, and
Blackie in the midst of it all, sunk in the depths of his
swivel chair, and looking like an amiable brown gnome, or
a cheerful little joss-house god come to life. There is
in him an uncanny wisdom which only the streets can
teach. He is one of those born newspaper men who could
not live out of sight of the ticker-tape, and the
copy-hook and the proof-sheet.
"Y' see, girl, it's like this here," Blackie
explained one day. "W're all workin' for some good
reason. A few of us are workin' for the glory of it, and
most of us are workin' t' eat, and lots of us are
pluggin' an' savin' in the hopes that some day we'll have
money enough to get back at some people we know; but
there is some few workin' for the pure love of the
work--and I guess I'm one of them fools. Y' see, I
started in at this game when I was such a little runt
that now it's a ingrowing habit, though it is comfortin'
t' know you got a place where you c'n always come in out
of the rain, and where you c'n have your mail sent."
"This newspaper work is a curse," I remarked. "Show
me a clever newspaper man and I'll show you a failure.
There is nothing in it but the glory--and little of that.
We contrive and scheme and run about all day getting a
story. And then we write it at fever heat, searching our
souls for words that are cleancut and virile. And then
we turn it in, and what is it? What have we to show for
our day's work? An ephemeral thing, lacking the first
breath of life; a thing that is dead before
it is born. Why, any cub reporter, if he were to put
into some other profession the same amount of nerve, and
tact, and ingenuity and finesse, and stick-to-it-iveness
that he expends in prying a single story out of some
unwilling victim, could retire with a fortune in no
Blackie blew down the stem of his pipe, preparatory
to re-filling the bowl. There was a quizzical light in
his black eyes. The little heap of burned matches at his
elbow was growing to kindling wood proportions. It was
common knowledge that Blackie's trick of lighting pipe or
cigarette and then forgetting to puff at it caused his
bill for matches to exceed his tobacco expense account.
"You talk," chuckled Blackie, "like you meant it.
But sa-a-ay, girl, it's a lonesome game, this retirin'
with a fortune. I've noticed that them guys who retire
with a barrel of money usually dies at the end of the
first year, of a kind of a lingerin' homesickness. You
c'n see their pictures in th' papers, with a pathetic
story of how they was just beginnin' t' enjoy life when
along comes the grim reaper an' claims 'em."}
Blackie slid down in his chair and blew a column of
"I knew a guy once--newspaper man, too--who retired
with a fortune. He used to do the city hall for us.
Well, he got in soft with the new administration before
election, and made quite a pile in stocks that was tipped
off to him by his political friends. His wife was crazy
for him to quit the newspaper game. He done it. An'
say, that guy kept on gettin' richer and richer till even
his wife was almost satisfied. But sa-a-ay, girl, was
that chap lonesome! One day he come up here looking like
a dog that's run off with the steak. He was just dyin'
for a kind word, an' he sniffed the smell of the ink and
the hot metal like it was June roses. He kind of wanders
over to his old desk and slumps down in the chair, and
tips it back, and puts his feet on the desk, with his hat
tipped back, and a bum stogie in his mouth. And along
came a kid with a bunch of papers wet from the presses
and sticks one in his hand, and--well, girl, that fellow,
he just wriggled he was so happy. You know as well as I
do that every man on a morning paper spends his day off
hanging around the office wishin' that a mob or a fire or
somethin' big would tear lose so he could get back into
the game. I guess I told you about the time Von Gerhard
sent me abroad, didn't I?"
"Von Gerhard!" I repeated, startled. "Do you know
"Well, he ain't braggin' about it none," Blackie
admitted. "Von Gerhard, he told me I had about five
years or so t' live, about two, three years ago. He
don't approve of me. Pried into my private life, old Von
Gerhard did, somethin' scand'lous. I had sort of went to
pieces about that time, and I went t' him to be patched
up. He thumps me fore 'an' aft, firing a volley of
questions, lookin' up the roof of m' mouth, and squintin'
at m' finger nails an' teeth like I was a prize horse for
sale. Then he sits still, lookin' at me for about half
a minute, till I begin t' feel uncomfortable. Then he
says, slow: `Young man, how old are you?'
"`O, twenty-eight or so,' I says, airy.
"`My Gawd!' said he. `You've crammed twice those
years into your life, and you'll have to pay for it. Now
you listen t' me. You got t' quit workin', an' smokin',
and get away from this. Take a ocean voyage,' he says,
`an' try to get four hours sleep a night, anyway.'
"Well say, mother she was scared green. So I tucked
her under m' arm, and we hit it up across the ocean.
Went t' Germany, knowin' that it would feel homelike
there, an' we took in all the swell baden, and chased up
the Jungfrau -- sa-a-ay, that's a classy little mountain,
that Jungfrau. Mother, she had some swell time I guess.
She never set down except for meals, and she wrote picture
postals like mad. But sa-a-ay, girl, was I lonesome! Maybe
that trip done me good. Anyway, I'm livin' yet. I stuck it
out for four months, an' that ain't so rotten for a guy who
just grew up on printer's ink ever since he was old
enough to hold a bunch of papers under his arm. Well,
one day mother an' me was sittin' out on one of them
veranda cafes they run to over there, w'en somebody hits
me a crack on the shoulder, an' there stands old Ryan who
used t' do A. P. here. He was foreign correspondent for
some big New York syndicate papers over there.
"`Well if it ain't Blackie!' he says. `What in Sam
Hill are you doing out of your own cell when Milwaukee's
just got four more games t' win the pennant?'
"Sa-a-a-ay, girl, w'en I got through huggin' him
around the neck an' buyin' him drinks I knew it was me
for the big ship. `Mother,' I says, `if you got anybody
on your mind that you neglected t' send picture postals
to, now's' your last chance. 'F I got to die I'm going
out with m' scissors in one mitt, and m' trusty paste-pot
by m' side!' An' we hits it up for old Milwaukee. I
ain't been away since, except w'en I was out with the
ball team, sending in sportin' extry dope for the pink
sheet. The last time I was in at Baumbach's in comes Von
"Who are Baumbach's?" I interrupted.
Blackie regarded me pityingly. "You ain't never been
to Baumbach's? Why girl, if you don't know Baumbach's,
you ain't never been properly introduced to Milwaukee.
No wonder you ain't hep to the ways of this little
community. There ain't what the s'ciety editor would
call the proper ontong cordyal between you and the
natives if you haven't had coffee at Baumbach's. It
ain't hardly legal t' live in Milwaukee all this time
without ever having been inside of B--"
"Stop! If you do not tell me at once just where this
wonderful place may be found, and what one does when one
finds it, and how I happened to miss it, and why it is so
necessary to the proper understanding of the city--"
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Blackie, grinning,
"I'll romp you over there to-morrow afternoon at four
o'clock. Ach Himmel! What will that for a grand time
"Blackie, you're a dear to be so polite to an old
married cratur' like me. Did you notice--that is, does
Ernst von Gerhard drop in often at Baumbach's? "
KAFFEE AND KAFFEEKUCHEN
I have visited Baumbach's. I have heard Milwaukee
drinking its afternoon Kaffee.
O Baumbach's, with your deliciously crumbling butter
cookies and your kaffee kuchen, and your thick cream, and
your thicker waitresses and your cockroaches, and your
dinginess and your dowdy German ladies and your black,
black Kaffee,where in this country is there another like
Blackie, true to his promise, had hailed me from the
doorway on the afternoon of the following day. In the
rush of the day's work I had quite forgotten about
Blackie and Baumbach's.
"Come, Kindchen!" he called. "Get your bonnet on.
We will by Baumbach's go, no?"
Ruefully I gazed at the grimy cuffs of my blouse, and
felt of my dishevelled hair. "Oh, I'm afraid I can't go.
I look so mussy. Haven't had time to brush up."
"Brush up!" scoffed Blackie, "the only thing
about you that will need brushin' up is your German. I
was goin' t' warn you to rumple up your hair a little so
you wouldn't feel overdressed w'en you got there. Come
And so I came. And oh, I'm so glad I came!
I must have passed it a dozen times without once
noticing it--just a dingy little black shop nestling
between two taller buildings, almost within the shadow of
the city hall. Over the sidewalk swung a shabby black
sign with gilt letters that spelled, "Franz Baumbach."
Blackie waved an introductory hand in the direction
of the sign. "There he is. That's all you'll ever see
"Dead? " asked I, regretfully, as we entered the
"No; down in the basement baking Kaffeekuchen."
Two tiny show-windows faced the street--such queer,
old-fashioned windows in these days of plate glass. At
the back they were quite open to the shop, and in one of
them reposed a huge, white, immovable structure--a
majestic, heavy, nutty, surely indigestible birthday
cake. Around its edge were flutings and scrolls of white
icing, and on its broad breast reposed cherries, and
stout butterflies of jelly, and cunning traceries of
colored sugar. It was quite the dressiest cake I had
ever beheld. Surely no human hand could be wanton enough
to guide a knife through all that magnificence. But in
the center of all this splendor was an inscription in
heavy white letters of icing: "Charlottens
Reluctantly I tore my gaze from this imposing example
of the German confectioner's art, for Blackie was tugging
impatiently at my sleeve.
"But Blackie," I marveled, "do you honestly suppose
that that structure is intended for some Charlotte's
"In Milwaukee," explained Blackie, "w'en you got a
birthday you got t' have a geburtstag cake, with your
name on it, and all the cousins and aunts and members of
the North Side Frauen Turner Verein Gesellchaft, in for
the day. It ain't considered decent if you don't. Are
you ready to fight your way into the main tent?"
It was holiday time, and the single narrow aisle of
the front shop was crowded. It was not easy to elbow
one's way through the packed little space. Men and women
were ordering recklessly of the cakes of every
description that were heaped in cases and on shelves.
Cakes! What a pale; dry name to apply to those
crumbling, melting, indigestible German
confections! Blackie grinned with enjoyment while I
gazed. There were cakes the like of which I had never
seen and of which I did not even know the names. There
were little round cup cakes made of almond paste that
melts in the mouth; there were Schnecken glazed with a
delicious candied brown sugar; there were Bismarcks
composed of layer upon layer of flaky crust inlaid with
an oozy custard that evades the eager consumer at the
first bite, and that slides down one's collar when chased
with a pursuing tongue. There were Pfeffernusse; there,
were Lebkuchen; there were cheese-kuchen; plum-kuchen,
peach-kuchen, Apfelkuchen, the juicy fruit stuck thickly
into the crust, the whole dusted over with powdered
sugar. There were Torten, and Hornchen, and butter
Blackie touched my arm, and I tore my gaze from a
cherry-studded Schaumtorte that was being reverently
packed for delivery.
"My, what a greedy girl! Now get your mind all made
up. This is your chance. You know you're supposed t'
take a slant at th' things an' make up your mind w'at you
want before you go back w'ere th' tables are. Don't
fumble this thing. When Olga or Minna comes waddlin' up
t' you an' says: `Nu, Fraulein?' you gotta tell her
whether your heart says plum-kuchen oder Nusstorte, or
both, see? Just like that. Now make up your mind. I'd
hate t' have you blunder. Have you decided?"
"Decided! How can I?" I moaned, watching a
black-haired, black-eyed Alsatian girl behind the counter
as she rolled a piece of white paper into a cone and
dipped a spoonful of whipped cream from a great brown
bowl heaped high with the snowy stuff. She filled the
paper cone, inserted the point of it into one end of a
hollow pastry horn, and gently squeezed. Presto! A
"Oh, Blackie!" I gasped. "Come on. I want to go in
As we elbowed our way to the rear room separated from
the front shop only by a flimsy wooden partition, I
expected I know not what.
But surely this was not Blackie's much-vaunted
Baumbach's! This long, narrow, dingy room, with its bare
floor and its iron-legged tables whose bare marble tops
were yellow with age and use! I said nothing as we
seated ourselves. Blackie was watching me out of the
tail of his eye. My glance wandered about the shabby,
smoke-filled room, and slowly and surely the charm of
that fusty, dingy little cafe came upon me.
A huge stove glowed red in one corner. On
the wall behind the stove was suspended a wooden rack,
black with age, its compartments holding German, Austrian
and Hungarian newspapers. Against the opposite wall
stood an ancient walnut mirror, and above it hung a
colored print of Bismarck, helmeted, uniformed, and
fiercely mustached. The clumsy iron-legged tables stood
in two solemn rows down the length of the narrow room.
Three or four stout, blond girls plodded back and forth,
from tables to front shop, bearing trays of cakes and
steaming cups of coffee. There was a rumble and clatter
of German. Every one seemed to know every one else. A
game of chess was in progress at one table, and between
moves each contestant would refresh himself with a
long-drawn, sibilant mouthful of coffee. There was
nothing about the place or its occupants to remind one of
America. This dim, smoky, cake-scented cafe was Germany.
"Time!" said Blackie. "Here comes Rosie to take our
order. You can take your choice of coffee or chocolate.
That's as fancy as they get here."
An expansive blond girl paused at our table smiling
a broad welcome at Blackie.
"Wie geht's, Roschen?" he greeted her. Roschen's
smile became still more pervasive, so that her blue eyes
disappeared in creases of good humor. She wiped the
marble table top with a large and careless gesture that
precipitated stray crumbs into our laps. "Gut!" murmured
she, coyly, and leaned one hand on a portly hip in an
attitude of waiting.
"Coffee?" asked Blackie, turning to me. I nodded.
"Zweimal Kaffee?" beamed Roschen, grasping the idea.
"Now's your time to speak up," urged Blackie. "Go
ahead an' order all the cream gefillte things that looked
good to you out in front."
But I leaned forward, lowering my voice discreetly.
"Blackie, before I plunge in too recklessly, tell me, are
their prices very--"
"Sa-a-ay, child, you just can't spend half a dollar
here if you try. The flossiest kind of thing they got is
only ten cents a order. They'll smother you in whipped
cream f'r a quarter. You c'n come in here an' eat an'
eat an' put away piles of cakes till you feel like a
combination of Little Jack Horner an' old Doc Johnson.
An' w'en you're all through, they hand yuh your check,
an', say--it says forty-five cents. You can't beat it,
so wade right in an' spoil your complexion."
With enthusiasm I turned upon the patient Rosie. "O,
bring me some of those cunning little round things with
the cream on 'em, you know--two of those, eh Blackie?
And a couple of those with the flaky crust and the
custard between, and a slice of that fluffy-looking cake
and some of those funny cocked-hat shaped cookies--"
But a pall of bewilderment was slowly settling over
Rosie's erstwhile smiling face. Her plump shoulders went
up in a helpless shrug, and she turned her round blue
eyes appealingly to Blackie.
"Was meint sie alles?" she asked.
So I began all over again, with the assistance of
Blackie. We went into minute detail. We made elaborate
gestures. We drew pictures of our desired goodies on the
marble-topped table, using a soft-lead pencil. Rosie's
countenance wore a distracted look. In desperation I was
about to accompany her to the crowded shop, there to
point out my chosen dainties when suddenly, as they would
put it here, a light went her over.
"Ach, yes-s-s-s! Sie wollten vielleicht abgeruhrter
Gugelhopf haben, und auch Schaumtorte, und Bismarcks, und
Hornchen mit cream gefullt, nicht?"
"Certainly," I murmured, quite crushed. Roschen
waddled merrily off to the shop.
Blackie was rolling a cigarette. He ran his funny
little red tongue along the edge of the paper and glanced
up at me in glee. "Don't bother about me," he generously
observed. "Just set still and let the atmosphere soak
But already I was lost in contemplation of a
red-faced, pompadoured German who was drinking coffee and
reading the Fliegende Blatter at a table just across
the way. There were counterparts of my aborigines at
Knapf's--thick spectacled engineers with high foreheads--
actors and actresses from the German stock company--
reporters from the English and German newspapers--
business men with comfortable German consciences--
long-haired musicians--dapper young lawyers--a giggling
group of college girls and boys--a couple of smartly
dressed women nibbling appreciatively at slices of
Nusstorte--low-voiced lovers whose coffee cups stood
untouched at their elbows, while no fragrant cloud of
steam rose to indicate that there was warmth within.
Their glances grow warmer as the neglected Kaffee grows
colder. The color comes and goes in the girl's face and
I watch it, a bit enviously, marveling that the old story
still should be so new.
At a large square table near the doorway a group of
eight men were absorbed in an animated political
discussion, accompanied by much waving of arms, and
thundering of gutturals. It appeared to be a table of
importance, for the high-backed bench that ran along one
side was upholstered in worn red velvet, and every
newcomer paused a moment to nod or to say a word in
greeting. It was not of American politics that they
talked, but of the politics of Austria and Hungary.
Finally the argument resolved itself into a duel of words
between a handsome, red-faced German whose rosy skin
seemed to take on a deeper tone in contrast to the
whiteness of his hair and mustache, and a swarthy young
fellow whose thick spectacles and heavy mane of black
hair gave him the look of a caricature out of an
illustrated German weekly. The red-faced man argued
loudly, with much rapping of bare knuckles on the table
top. But the dark man spoke seldom, and softly, with a
little twisted half-smile on his lips; and whenever he
spoke the red-faced man grew redder, and there came a
huge laugh from the others who sat listening.
"Say, wouldn't it curdle your English?" Blackie
Solemnly I turned to him. "Blackie Griffith,
these people do not even realize that there is anything
unusual about this."
"Sure not; that's the beauty of it. They don't need
to make no artificial atmosphere for this place; it just
grows wild, like dandelions. Everybody comes here for
their coffee because their aunts an' uncles and
Grossmutters and Grosspapas used t' come, and come yet,
if they're livin'! An', after all, what is it but a
little German bakery?"
"But O, wise Herr Baumbach down in the kitchen! O,
subtle Frau Baumbach back of the desk!" said I. "Others
may fit their shops with mirrors, and cut-glass
chandeliers and Oriental rugs and mahogany, but you sit
serenely by, and you smile, and you change nothing. You
let the brown walls grow dimmer with age; you see the
marble-topped tables turning yellow; you leave bare your
wooden floor, and you smile, and smile, and smile."
"Fine!" applauded Blackie. "You're on. And here
Rosie, the radiant, placed on the table cups and
saucers of an unbelievable thickness. She set them down
on the marble surface with a crash as one who knows well
that no mere marble or granite could shatter the solidity
of those stout earthenware receptacles. Napkins there
were none. I was to learn that fingers were rid of any
clinging remnants of cream or crumb by the simple
expedient of licking them.
Blackie emptied his pitcher of cream into his cup of
black, black coffee, sugared it, stirred, tasted, and
then, with a wicked gleam in his black eyes he lifted the
heavy cup to his lips and took a long, gurgling mouthful.
"Blackie," I hissed, "if you do that again I shall
refuse to speak to you!"
"Do what?" demanded he, all injured innocence.
"Snuffle up your coffee like that."
"Why, girl, that's th' proper way t' drink coffee
here. Listen t' everybody else." And while I glared he
wrapped his hand lovingly about his cup, holding the
spoon imprisoned between first and second fingers, and
took another sibilant mouthful. "Any more of your back
talk and I'll drink it out of m' saucer an' blow on it
like the hefty party over there in the earrings is doin'.
Calm yerself an' try a Bismarck."
I picked up one of the flaky confections and eyed it
in despair. There were no plates except that on which
the cakes reposed.
"How does one eat them?" I inquired.
"Yuh don't really eat 'em. The motion is
more like inhalin'. T' eat 'em successful you really
ought t' get into a bath-tub half-filled with water,
because as soon's you bite in at one end w'y the custard
stuff slides out at the other, an' no human mouth c'n be
two places at oncet. Shut your eyes girl, an' just wade
I waded. In silence I took a deep delicious bite,
nimbly chased the coy filling around a corner with my
tongue, devoured every bit down to the last crumb and
licked the stickiness off my fingers. Then I
investigated the interior of the next cake.
"I'm coming here every day," I announced.
"Better not. Ruin your complexion and turn all your
lines into bumps. Look at the dame with the earrings.
I've been keepin' count an' I've seen her eat three
Schnecken, two cream puffs, a Nusshornchen and a slice of
Torte with two cups of coffee. Ain't she a horrible
example! And yet she's got th' nerve t' wear a princess
"I don't care," I replied, recklessly, my voice
choked with whipped cream and butteriness. "I can just
feel myself getting greasy. Haven't I done beautifully
for a new hand? Now tell me about some of these people.
Who is the funny little man in the checked suit with the
black braid trimming, and the green cravat, and the
white spats, and the tan hat and the eyeglasses?"
"Ain't them th' dizzy habiliments? "A note of envy
crept into Blackie's voice. "His name is Hugo Luders.
Used t' be a reporter on the Germania, but he's
reformed and gone into advertisin', where there's real
money. Some say he wears them clo'es on a bet, and some
say his taste in dress is a curse descended upon him from
Joseph, the guy with the fancy coat, but I think he
wears'em because he fancies 'em. He's been coming here
ever' afternoon for twelve years, has a cup of coffee,
game of chess, and a pow-wow with a bunch of cronies. If
Baumbach's ever decide to paint the front of their shop
or put in cut glass fixtures and handpainted china, Hugo
Luders would serve an injunction on 'em. Next!"
"Who's the woman with the leathery complexion and the
belt to match, and the untidy hair and the big feet? I
like her face. And why does she sit at a table with all
those strange-looking men? And who are all the men? And
who is the fur-lined grand opera tenor just coming in--
Blackie glanced over his shoulder just as the tall
man in the doorway turned his face toward us. "That?
Why, girl, that's Von Gerhard, the man who gives me one
more year t' live. Look at everybody kowtowing to him.
He don't favor Baumbach's often. Too busy patching up the
nervous wrecks that are washed up on his shores."
The tall figure in the doorway was glancing from
table to table, nodding here and there to an
acquaintance. His eyes traveled the length of the room.
Now they were nearing us. I felt a sudden, inexplicable
tightening at heart and throat, as though fingers were
clutching there. Then his eyes met mine, and I felt the
blood rushing to my face as he came swiftly over to our
table and took my hand in his.
"So you have discovered Baumbach's," he said. "May
I have my coffee and cigar here with you? "
"Blackie here is responsible for my being initiated
into the sticky mysteries of Baumbach's. I never should
have discovered it if he had not offered to act as
personal conductor. You know one another, I believe?"
The two men shook hands across the table. There was
something forced and graceless about the act. Blackie
eyed Von Gerhard through a misty curtain of cigarette
smoke. Von Gerhard gazed at Blackie through narrowed
lids as he lighted his cigar.
"I'm th' gink you killed off two or three years back,"
"I remember you perfectly," Von Gerhard returned,
courteously. "I rejoice to see that I was mistaken."
"Well," drawled Blackie, a wicked gleam in his black
eyes, "I'm some rejoiced m'self, old top. Angel wings
and a white kimono, worn bare-footy, would go some rotten
with my Spanish style of beauty, what? Didn't know that
you and m'dame friend here was acquainted. Known each
I felt myself flushing again.
"I knew Dr. von Gerhard back home. I've scarcely
seen him since I have been here. Famous specialists
can't be bothered with middle-aged relatives of their
college friends, can they, Herr Doktor?"
And now it was Von Gerhard's face that flushed a deep
and painful crimson. He looked at me, in silence, and I
felt very little, and insignificant, and much like an
impudent child who has stuck out its tongue at its
elders. Silent men always affect talkative women in that
"You know that what you say is not true," he said,
"Well, we won't quibble. We--we were just about to
leave, weren't we Blackie?"
"Just," said Blackie, rising. "Sorry t' see you
drinkin' Baumbach's coffee, Doc. It ain't fair t' your
"Quite right," replied Von Gerhard; and rose with us.
"I shall not drink it. I shall walk home with Mrs. Orme
instead, if she will allow me. That will be more
stimulating than coffee, and twice as dangerous, perhaps,
"You know how I hate that sort of thing," I said,
coldly, as we passed from the warmth of the little front
shop where the plump girls were still filling pasteboard
boxes with holiday cakes, to the brisk chill of the
winter street. The little black-and-gilt sign swung and
creaked in the wind. Whimsically, and with the memory of
that last cream-filled cake fresh in my mind, I saluted
the letters that spelled "Franz Baumbach."
Blackie chuckled impishly. "Just the, same, try a
pinch of soda bicarb'nate when you get home, Dawn," he
advised. "Well, I'm off to the factory again. Got t'
make up for time wasted on m' lady friend. Auf
And the little figure in the checked top-coat trotted
"But he called you--Dawn," broke from Von Gerhard.
"Mhum," I agreed. "My name's Dawn."
"Surely not to him. You have known him but a few
weeks. I would not have presumed--"
"Blackie never presumes," I laughed. "Blackie's
just--Blackie. Imagine taking offense at him! He knows
every one by their given name, from Jo, the boss of the
pressroom, to the Chief, who imports his office coats
from London. Besides, Blackie and I are newspaper men.
And people don't scrape and bow in a newspaper office--
especially when they're fond of one another. You
As I looked at Von Gerhard in the light of the street
lamp I saw a tense, drawn look about the little group of
muscles which show when the teeth are set hard. When he
spoke those muscles had relaxed but little.
"One man does not talk ill of another. But this is
different. I want to ask you--do you know what manner of
man this--this Blackie is? I ask you because I would
have you safe and sheltered always from such as he--
"Safe! From Blackie? Now listen. There never was
a safer, saner, truer, more generous friend. Oh, I know
what his life has been. But what else could it have been,
beginning as he did? I have no wish to reform him. I
tried my hand at reforming one man, and made a glorious
mess of it. So I'll just take Blackie as he is, if you
please--slang, wickedness, pink shirt, red necktie,
diamond rings and all. If there's any bad in him, we
all know it, for it's right down on the table, face up.
You're just angry because he called you Doc."
"Small one," said Von Gerhard, in his quaint German
idiom, "we will not quarrel, you and I. If I have been
neglectful it was because edged tools were never a chosen
plaything of mine. Perhaps your little Blackie realizes
that he need have no fear of such things, for the Great
Fear is upon him."
"The Great Fear! You mean!--"
"I mean that there are too many fine little lines
radiating from the corners of the sunken eyes, and that
his hand-clasp leaves a moisture in the palm. Ach! you
may laugh. Come, we will change the subject to something
more cheerful, yes? Tell me, how grows the book?"
"By inches. After working all day on a bulletin
paper whose city editor is constantly shouting: `Boil it
now, fellows! Keep it down! We're crowded!' it is too
much of a wrench to find myself seated calmly before my
own typewriter at night, privileged to write one hundred
thousand words if I choose. I can't get over the habit of
crowding the story all into the first paragraph. Whenever
I flower into a descriptive passage I glance nervously
over my shoulder, expecting to find Norberg stationed
behind me, scissors and blue pencil in hand.
Consequently the book, thus far, sounds very much like a
police reporter's story of a fire four minutes before the
paper is due to go to press."
Von Gerhard's face was unsmiling. "So," he said,
slowly. "You burn the candle at both ends. All day you
write, is it not so? And at night you come home to write
still more? Ach, Kindchen!--Na, we shall change all
that. We will be better comrades, we two, yes? You
remember that gay little walk of last autumn, when we
explored the Michigan country lane at dusk? I shall be
your Sunday Schatz, and there shall be more rambles like
that one, to bring the roses into your cheeks. We shall
be good Kameraden, as you and this little Griffith are--
what is it they say--good fellows? That is it--good
fellows, yes? So, shall we shake hands on it? "
But I snatched my hand away. "I don't
want to be a good fellow," I cried. "I'm tired of being
a good fellow. I've been a good fellow for years and
years, while every other married woman in the world has
been happy in her own home, bringing up her babies. When
I am old I want some sons to worry me, too, and to stay
awake nights for, and some daughters to keep me young,
and to prevent me from doing my hair in a knob and
wearing bonnets! I hate good-fellow women, and so do
you, and so does every one else! I--I--"
"Dawn!" cried Von Gerhard. But I ran up the steps
and into the house and slammed the door behind me,
leaving him standing there.
THE LADY FROM VIENNA
Two more aborigines have appeared. One of them is a
lady aborigine. They made their entrance at supper and
I forgot to eat, watching them. The new-comers are from
Vienna. He is an expert engineer and she is a woman of
noble birth, with a history. Their combined appearance
is calculated to strike terror to the heart. He is
daringly ugly, with a chin that curves in under his lip
and then out in a peak, like pictures of Punch. She wore
a gray gown of a style I never had seen before and never
expect to see again. It was fastened with huge black
buttons all the way down the breathlessly tight front,
and the upper part was composed of that pre-historic
garment known as a basque. She curved in where she
should have curved out, and she bulged where she should
have had "lines." About her neck was suspended a string
of cannon-ball beads that clanked as she walked. On her
forehead rested a sparse fringe.
"Mein Himmel!" thought I. "Am I dreaming? This
isn't Wisconsin. This is Nurnberg, or Strassburg, with
a dash of Heidelberg and Berlin thrown in. Dawn, old
girl, it's going to be more instructive than a Cook's
That turned out to be the truest prophecy I ever
The first surprising thing that the new-comers did
was to seat themselves at the long table with the other
aborigines, the lady aborigine being the only woman among
the twelve men. It was plain that they had known one
another previous to this meeting, for they became very
good friends at once, and the men grew heavily humorous
about there being thirteen at table.
At that the lady aborigine began to laugh.
Straightway I forgot the outlandish gown, forgot the
cannon-ball beads, forgot the sparse fringe, forgave the
absence of "lines." Such a voice! A lilting, melodious
thing. She broke into a torrent of speech, with
bewildering gestures, and I saw that her hands were
exquisitely formed and as expressive as her voice. Her
German was the musical tongue of the Viennese, possessing
none of the gutturals and sputterings. When she crowned
it with the gay little trilling laugh my views on the
language underwent a lightning change. It seemed the most
natural thing in the world to see her open the flat,
silver case that dangled at the end of the cannon-ball
chain, take out a cigarette, light it, and smoke it there
in that little German dining room. She wore the most
gracefully nonchalant air imaginable as she blew little
rings and wreaths, and laughed and chatted brightly with
her husband and the other men. Occasionally she broke
into French, her accent as charmingly perfect as it had
been in her native tongue. There was a moment of
breathless staring on the part of the respectable
middle-class Frauen at the other tables. Then they
shrugged their shoulders and plunged into their meal
again. There was a certain little high-born air of
assurance about that cigarette-smoking that no amount of
staring could ruffle.
Watching the new aborigines grew to be a sort of
game. The lady aborigine of the golden voice, and the
ugly husband of the peaked chin had a strange fascination
for me. I scrambled downstairs at meal time in order not
to miss them, and I dawdled over the meal so that I need
not leave before they. I discovered that when the lady
aborigine was animated, her face was that of a young woman,
possessing a certain high-bred charm, but that when in
repose the face of the lady aborigine was that of a very
old and tired woman indeed. Also that her husband
bullied her, and that when he did that she looked at him
Then one evening, a week or so after the appearance
of the new aborigines, there came a clumping at my door.
I was seated at my typewriter and the book was balkier
than usual, and I wished that the clumper at the door
would go away.
"Come!" I called, ungraciously enough. Then, on
second thought: "Herein!"
The knob turned slowly, and the door opened just
enough to admit the top of a head crowned with a tight,
moist German knob of hair. I searched my memory to
recognize the knob, failed utterly and said again, this
time with mingled curiosity and hospitality:
"Won't you come in?"
The apparently bodiless head thrust itself forward a
bit, disclosing an apologetically smiling face, with high
check bones that glistened with friendliness and
"Nabben', Fraulein," said the head.
"Nabben'," I replied, more mystified than ever.
"Howdy do! Is there anything--"
The head thrust itself forward still more, showing a
pair of plump shoulders as its support. Then the plump
shoulders heaved into the room, disclosing a stout,
starched gingham body.
"Ich bin Frau Knapf," announced the beaming vision.
Now up to this time Frau Knapf had maintained a Mrs.
Harris-like mysteriousness. I had heard rumors of her,
and I had partaken of certain crispy dishes of German
extraction, reported to have come from her deft hands,
but I had not even caught a glimpse of her skirts
whisking around a corner.
Therefore: "Frau Knapf!" I repeated. "Nonsense!
There ain't no sich person--that is, I'm glad to see you.
Won't you come in and sit down?"
"Ach, no!" smiled the substantial Frau Knapf,
clinging tightly to the door knob. "I got no time. It
gives much to do to-night yet. Kuchen dough I must set,
und ich weiss nicht was. I got no time."
Bustling, red-cheeked Frau Knapf! This was why I had
never had a glimpse of her. Always, she got no time.
For while Herr Knapf, dapper and genial, welcomed
new-comers, chatted with the diners, poured a glass
of foaming Doppel-brau for Herr Weber or, dexterously
carved fowl for the aborigines' table, Frau Knapf was
making the wheels go round. I discovered that it was she
who bakes the melting, golden German Pfannkuchen on
Sunday mornings; she it is who fries the crisp and
hissing Wienerschnitzel; she it is who prepares the plump
ducklings, and the thick gravies, and the steaming lentil
soup and the rosy sausages nestling coyly in their bed of
sauerkraut. All the week Frau Knapf bakes and broils and
stews, her rosy cheeks taking on a twinkling crimson from
the fire over which she bends. But on Sunday night Frau
Knapf sheds her huge apron and rolls down the sleeves
from her plump arms. On Sunday evening she leaves pots
and pans and cooking, and is a transformed Frau Knapf.
Then does she don a bright blue silk waist and a velvet
coat that is dripping with jet, and a black bonnet on
which are perched palpitating birds and weary-looking
plumes. Then she and Herr Knapf walk comfortably down to
the Pabst theater to see the German play by the German
stock company. They applaud their favorite stout, blond,
German comedienne as she romps through the acts of a
sprightly German comedy, and after the play they go to
their favorite Wein-stube around the corner. There they
have sardellen and cheese sandwiches and a great deal of
beer, and for one charmed evening Frau Knapf forgets all
about the insides of geese and the thickening for gravies,
and is happy.
Many of these things Frau Knapf herself told me,
standing there by the door with the Kuchen heavy on her
mind. Some of them I got from Ernst von Gerhard when I
told him about my visitor and her errand. The errand was
not disclosed until Frau Knapf had caught me casting a
despairing glance at my last typewritten page.
"Ach, see! you got no time for talking to, ain't it?"
"Heaps of time," I politely assured her, "don't
hurry. But why not have a chair and be comfortable?"
Frau Knapf was not to be deceived. "I go in a
minute. But first it is something I like to ask you.
You know maybe Frau Nirlanger?"
I shook my head.
"But sure you must know. From Vienna she is, with
such a voice like a bird."
"And the beads, and the gray gown, and the fringe,
and the cigarettes?"
"And the oogly husband," finished Frau Knapf, nodding.
"Oogly," I agreed, "isn't the name for it. And so
she is Frau Nirlanger? I thought there would be a Von at
the very least."
Whereupon my visitor deserted the doorknob, took half
a dozen stealthy steps in my direction and lowered her
voice to a hissing whisper of confidence.
"It is more as a Von. I will tell you. Today comes
Frau Nirlanger by me and she says: `Frau Knapf, I wish
to buy clothes, aber echt Amerikanische. Myself, I do
not know what is modish, and I cannot go alone to buy.'"
"That's a grand idea," said I, recalling the gray
basque and the cannon-ball beads.
"Ja, sure it is," agreed Frau Knapf. "Soo-o-o, she
asks me was it some lady who would come with her by the
stores to help a hat and suit and dresses to buy.
Stylish she likes they should be, and echt Amerikanisch.
So-o-o-o, I say to her, I would go myself with you, only
so awful stylish I ain't, and anyway I got no time. But
a lady I know who is got such stylish clothes!" Frau
Knapf raised admiring hands and eyes toward heaven.
"Such a nice lady she is, and stylish, like anything!
And her name is Frau Orme."
"Oh, really, Frau Knapf--" I murmured in blushing
"Sure, it is so," insisted Frau Knapf, coming a step
nearer, and sinking her, voice one hiss lower. "You
shouldn't say I said it, but Frau Nirlanger likes she
should look young for her husband. He is much younger as
she is--aber much. Anyhow ten years. Frau Nirlanger
does not tell me this, but from other people I have found
out." Frau Knapf shook her head mysteriously a great
many times. "But maybe you ain't got such an interest in
Frau Nirlanger, yes?"
"Interest! I'm eaten up with curiosity. You shan't
leave this room alive until you've told me!"
Frau Knapf shook with silent mirth. "Now you make
jokings, ain't? Well, I tell you. In Vienna, Frau
Nirlanger was a widow, from a family aber hoch edel--very
high born. From the court her family is, and friends
from the Emperor, und alles. Sure! Frau Nirlanger, she
is different from the rest. Books she likes, und
meetings, und all such komisch things. And what you
"I don't know," I gasped, hanging on her words, "what
DO I think?"
"She meets this here Konrad Nirlanger, and
falls with him in love. Und her family is mad! But
schrecklich mad! Forty years old she is, and from a
noble family, and Konrad Nirlanger is only a student from
a university, and he comes from the Volk. Sehr gebildet
he is, but not high born. So-o-o-o-o, she runs with him
away and is married."
Shamelessly I drank it all in. "You don't mean it!
Well, then what happened? She ran away with him--with
that chin! and then what?"
Frau Knapf was enjoying it as much as I. She drew a
long breath, felt of the knob of hair, and plunged once
more into the story.
"Like a story-book it is, nicht? Well, Frau
Nirlanger, she has already a boy who is ten years old,
and a fine sum of money that her first husband left her.
Aber when she runs with this poor kerl away from her
family, and her first husband's family is so schrecklich
mad that they try by law to take from her her boy and her
money, because she has her highborn family disgraced, you
see? For a year they fight in the courts, and then it
stands that her money Frau Nirlanger can keep, but her
boy she cannot have. He will be taken by her highborn
family and educated, and he must forget all about his
mamma. To cry it is, ain't it? Das arme Kind! Well,
she can stand it no longer to live where her boy is,
and not to see him. So-o-o-o, Konrad Nirlanger he gets
a chance to come by Amerika where there is a big
engineering plant here in Milwaukee, and she begs her
husband he should come, because this boy she loves very
much--Oh, she loves her young husband too, but different,
"Oh, yes," I agreed, remembering the gay little
trilling laugh, and the face that was so young when
animated, and so old and worn in repose. "Oh, yes.
Quite, quite different."
Frau Knapf smoothed her spotless skirt and shook her
head slowly and sadly. "So-o-o-o, by Amerika they come.
And Konrad Nirlanger he is maybe a little cross and so,
because for a year they have been in the courts, and it
might have been the money they would lose, and for money
Konrad Nirlanger cares--well, you shall see. But Frau
Nirlanger must not mourn and cry. She must laugh and
sing, and be gay for her husband. But Frau Nirlanger has
no grand clothes, for first she runs away with Konrad
Nirlanger, and then her money is tied in the law. Now
she has again her money, and she must be young--but
With a gesture that expressed a world of pathos and
futility Frau Knapf flung out her arms. "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. First, she gives up her old
life, and her friends and her family for this man, and
then she must do all things to keep him. Men, they are
but children, after all," spake the wise Frau Knapf in
conclusion. "They war and cry and plead for that which
they would have, and when they have won, then see! They
are amused for a moment, and the new toy is thrown
"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! How, does one select clothes
for a woman of forty who would not weary her husband?
That is a task for a French modiste, a wizard, and a
fairy godmother all rolled into one."
"But you will do it, yes?" urged Frau Knapf.
"I'll do it," I agreed, a bit ruefully, "if only to
see the face of the oogly husband when his bride is
properly corseted and shod."
Whereupon Frau Knapf, in a panic, remembered the
unset Kuchen dough and rushed away, with her hand on her
lips and her eyes big with secrecy. And I sat staring at
the last typewritten page stuck in my typewriter and I
found that the little letters on the white page were
swimming in a dim purple haze.
A TRAGEDY OF GOWNS
From husbands in general, and from oogly German husbands
in particular may Hymen defend me! Never again will I
attempt to select "echt Amerikanische" clothes for a
woman who must not weary her young husband. But how was
I to know that the harmless little shopping expedition
would resolve itself into a domestic tragedy, with Herr
Nirlanger as the villain, Frau Nirlanger as the
persecuted heroine, and I as--what is it in tragedy that
corresponds to the innocent bystander in real life? That
would be my role.
The purchasing of the clothes was a real joy. Next
to buying pretty things for myself there is nothing I
like better than choosing them for some one else. And
when that some one else happens to be a fascinating
little foreigner who coos over the silken stuffs in a
delightful mixture of German and English; and especially
when that some one else must be made to look so charming
that she will astonish her oogly husband, then does the
selecting of those pretty things cease to be a task, and
become an art.
It was to be a complete surprise to Herr Nirlanger.
He was to know nothing of it until everything was
finished and Frau Nirlanger, dressed in the prettiest of
the pretty Amerikanisch gowns, was ready to astound him
when he should come home from the office of the vast
plant where he solved engineering problems.
"From my own money I buy all this," Frau Nirlanger
confided to me, with a gay little laugh of excitement, as
we started out. "From Vienna it comes. Always I have
given it at once to my husband, as a wife should.
Yesterday it came, but I said nothing, and when my
husband said to me, `Anna, did not the money come as
usual to-day? It is time,' I told a little lie--but a
little one, is it not? Very amusing it was. Almost I
did laugh. Na, he will not be cross when he see how his
wife like the Amerikanische ladies will look. He admires
very much the ladies of Amerika. Many times he has said
("I'll wager he has--the great, ugly boor!" I
thought, in parenthesis.) "We'll show him!" I said,
aloud. "He won't know you. Such a lot of beautiful
clothes as we can buy with all this money. Oh, dear Frau
Nirlanger, it's going to be slathers of fun! I feel as
excited about it as though it were a trousseau we were
"So it is," she replied, a little shadow of sadness
falling across the brightness of her face. "I had no
proper clothes when we were married--but nothing! You
know perhaps my story. In America, everyone knows
everything. It is wonderful. When I ran away to marry
Konrad Nirlanger I had only the dress which I wore; even
that I borrowed from one of the upper servants, on a
pretext, so that no one should recognize me. Ach Gott!
I need not have worried. So! You see, it will be after
all a trousseau."
Why, oh, why should a woman with her graceful
carriage and pretty vivacity have been cursed with such
an ill-assorted lot of features! Especially when certain
boorish young husbands have expressed an admiration for
pink-and-white effects in femininity.
"Never mind, Mr. Husband, I'll show yez!" I resolved
as the elevator left us at the floor where waxen ladies
in shining glass cases smiled amiably all the day.
There must be no violent pinks or blues. Brown was
too old. She was not young enough for black. Violet was
too trying. And so the gowns began to strew tables and
chairs and racks, and still I shook my head, and Frau
Nirlanger looked despairing, and the be-puffed and real
Irish-crocheted saleswoman began to develop a baleful
gleam about the eyes.
And then we found it! It was a case of love at first
sight. The unimaginative would have called it gray. The
thoughtless would have pronounced it pink. It was
neither, and both; a soft, rosily-gray mixture of the
two, like the sky that one sometimes sees at winter
twilight, the pink of the sunset veiled by the gray of
the snow clouds. It was of a supple, shining cloth,
simple in cut, graceful in lines.
"There! We've found it. Let's pray that it will not
require too much altering."
But when it had been slipped over her head we groaned
at the inadequacy of her old-fashioned stays. There
followed a flying visit to the department where hips were
whisked out of sight in a jiffy, and where lines
miraculously took the place of curves. Then came the
gown once more, over the new stays this time. The effect
was magical. The Irish-crocheted saleswoman and I
clasped hands and fell back in attitudes of admiration.
Frau Nirlanger turned this way and that before the long
mirror and chattered like a pleased child. Her
adjectives grew into words of six syllables. She cooed
over the soft-shining stuff in little broken exclamations
in French and German.
Then came a straight and simple street suit of blue
cloth, a lingerie gown of white, hats, shoes and even a
couple of limp satin petticoats. The day was gone before
we could finish.
I bullied them into promising the pinky-gray gown for
the next afternoon.
"Sooch funs!" giggled Frau Nirlanger, "and how it
makes one tired. So kind you were, to take this trouble
for me. Me, I could never have warred with that Fraulein
who served us--so haughty she was, nicht? But it is good
again pretty clothes to have. Pretty gowns I lofe--you
"Indeed I do lofe 'em. But my money comes to me in
a yellow pay envelope, and it is spent before it reaches
me, as a rule. It doesn't leave much of a margin for
A tiny sigh came from Frau Nirlanger. "There will be
little to give to Konrad this time. So much money they
cost, those clothes! But Konrad, he will not care when
he sees the so beautiful dresses, is it not so?"
"Care!" I cried with a great deal of bravado,
although a tiny inner voice spake in doubt. "Certainly
not. How could he?"
Next day the boxes came, and we smuggled them into my
room. The unwrapping of the tissue paper folds was a
ceremony. We reveled in the very crackle of it. I had
scuttled home from the office as early as decency would
permit, in order to have plenty of time for the
dressing. It must be quite finished before Herr
Nirlanger should arrive. Frau Nirlanger had purchased
three tickets for the German theater, also as a surprise,
and I was to accompany the happily surprised husband and
the proud little wife of the new Amerikanische clothes.
I coaxed her to let me do things to her hair.
Usually she wore a stiff and ugly coiffure that could
only be described as a chignon. I do not recollect
ever having seen a chignon, but I know that it must
look like that. I was thankful for my Irish deftness of
fingers as I stepped back to view the result of my
labors. The new arrangement of the hair gave her
features a new softness and dignity.
We came to the lacing of the stays, with their
exaggerated length. "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
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