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|Dawn O'Hara||Edna Ferber|
The Lady From Vienna
|Page 3 of 5||
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?" she apologized.
"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 confusion.
"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 think!"
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