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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Lady From Vienna

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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 scrubbing.

"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."

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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.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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