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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Lady From Vienna

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"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, yes?"

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"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 young!"

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 aside."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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