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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Farewell To Knapfs'

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Consternation has corrugated the brows of the aborigines. Consternation twice confounded had added a wrinkle or two to my collection. We are homeless. That is, we are Knapfless--we, to whom the Knapfs spelled home.

Herr Knapf, mustache aquiver, and Frau Knapf, cheek bones glistening, broke the news to us one evening just a week after the exciting day which so changed Bennie's life. "Es thut uns sehr, sehr leid," Herr Knapf had begun. And before he had finished, protesting German groans mingled with voluble German explanations. The aborigines were stricken down. They clapped pudgy fists to knobby foreheads; they smote their breasts, and made wild gestures with their arms. If my protests were less frenzied than theirs, it was only because my knowledge of German stops at words of six syllables.

Out of the chaos of ejaculations and interrogation the reason for our expulsion at last was made clear. The little German hotel had not been remunerative. Our host and hostess were too hospitable and too polite to state the true reason for this state of affairs. Perhaps rents were too high. Perhaps, thought I, Frau Knapf had been too liberal with the butter in the stewed chicken. Perhaps there had been too many golden Pfannkuchen with real eggs and milk stirred into them, and with toothsome little islands of ruddy currant jelly on top. Perhaps there had been too much honest, nourishing food, and not enough boarding-house victuals. At any rate, the enterprise would have to be abandoned.

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It was then that the bare, bright little dining room, with its queer prints of chin-chucking lieutenants, and its queerer faces, and its German cookery became very dear to me. I had grown to like Frau Knapf, of the shining cheek bones, and Herr Knapf, of the heavy geniality. A close bond of friendship had sprung up between Frau Nirlanger and me. I would miss her friendly visits, and her pretty ways, and her sparkling conversation. She and I had held many kimonoed pow-wows, and sometimes--not often--she had given me wonderful glimpses of that which she had left--of Vienna, the opera, the court, the life which had been hers. She talked marvelously well, for she had all the charm and vivacity of the true Viennese. Even the aborigines, bristling pompadours, thick spectacles, terrifying manner, and all, became as dear as old friends, now that I knew I must lose them.

The great, high-ceilinged room upstairs had taken on the look of home. The Blue-beard closet no longer appalled me. The very purpleness of the purple roses in the rug had grown beautiful in my eyes because they were part of that little domain which spelled peace and comfort and kindness. How could I live without the stout yellow brocade armchair! Its plethoric curves were balm for my tired bones. Its great lap admitted of sitting with knees crossed, Turk-fashion. Its cushioned back stopped just at the point where the head found needed support. Its pudgy arms offered rest for tired elbows; its yielding bosom was made for tired backs. Given the padded comfort of that stout old chair--a friendly, time-tried book between my fingers--a dish of ruddy apples twinkling in the fire-light; my mundane soul snuggled in content. And then, too, the book-in-the-making had grown in that room. It had developed from a weak, wobbling uncertainty into a lusty full-blooded thing that grew and grew until it promised soon to become mansize.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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