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LOULOU


BY THOMAS MANN

THERE are some marriagesand not even an imagination fed upon novels can explain how they came about. They must simply be acceptedthe waywe accept a juxtaposition of opposing qualities on the stagesuch asold-and-stupid over against beautiful-and-full-of-life -- which are presupposedtaken for granted as the basis for erecting a farce with the proper mathematics.

As to the wife of Herr Jacobyattorney at lawshe was young and lovelyanunusually prepossessing woman. Let us say about thirty years agoshe had beenbaptized Anna Margaret Rose Ameliabut since then she was called nothing butAmrafrom her four initials. This had an exotic twang which was peculiarlysuited to her character. For although the darkness of her strong soft hairwhich she wore parted in the middle and brushed on either side away from her lowforeheadwas only the brownness of a chestnut kernelstill her skin wassouthern in its subdued flat olive. And this skin was stretched over curveswhich likewise seemed ripened by a southern sunrecalling a sultana with theirindolent and vegetative luxuriance. This impressionwhich was heightened byevery one of her covetously sluggish motionscorresponded with the fact that inall probability her head was less master than her heart. To know thatyou hadonly to be looked at out of her stupid brown eyeswhile she wrinkled her almostastonishingly low forehead in a way of her own. But she was not too simple torealize this herself. She avoided exposing herself by the mere contrivance ofspeaking seldomand making that seldom brief. And no one can object to a womanwho is lovely and says nothing. No"simple" was not the best word todescribe her. Her expression was not merely stupidbut also had a certain eagershrewdness about it. And it was easy to see how this woman was not toorestricted to create trouble. . . . Beyond thatperhaps her nose in profile wasa little

 

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too full and aggressive; but her rich wide mouth was completely beautifuleventhough it had no other expression than that of plain sensuality.

This disquieting womanthenwas the wife of a man about fortyHerr Jacobyattorney at law -- and whoever saw him was astonished. The attorney wascorpulent; nohe was more than corpulenthe was the very colossus of a man!His legswhich stuck in ash-grey trousersreminded one of an elephant's intheir pillar-like formlessness; vaulted with bolsters of fathis back was thatof a bear; and over the vast bulge of his stomach was the queer jacket ofgreenish grey which he usually woreand which was so painfully fastened withone button that it would snap back around his shoulders if ever the button wasunloosened. But on this massive trunkalmost without the transition of a necksat a comparatively little headwith small watery eyesa short compressed noseand cheeks that hung down under their own weight. A tiny mouth with miserablydrooping corners was lost in the cheeks. His round pateas well as his upperlipwas sprinkled with hard little bristlesa light blondwhich allowed thebare skin to shine through the way it does with an over-fed dog. . . . Ah! itmust have been evident to any one that the attorney's corpulence was not of ahealthy nature. His latitudinally and longitudinally prodigious body was allmuscleless fat. And often a sudden excess of blood would pump up into hisswollen faceto give place almost immediately to a sallow palenesswhile hismouth was distorted with a sour expression.

The attorney's practice was quite limited; but since he and his wife togetherhad a reasonable amount of moneythis childless pair kept up a comfortableapartment in the Kaiserstrasse and quite a lively bit of social doings. Thisofcoursewas due more to Amra than to himsince it is hardly possible that theattorneywho seemed at best to be only half-hearted in the matterwould behappy in such a state of things. This corpulent gentleman's character was of thestrangest. Nobody could have been more politemore considerate or compliant;but without realizing it clearlyperhapsa person would be unpleasantlytouched by the feeling that his flattering over-friendly manner was forced forsome reason or otherthat it rested on self-belittlement and some inneruncertainty. There is no eye so unpleasant as that of a man who despises himselfbut who is nevertheless trying out of cowardice and vanity to

 

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be amiable with people. In my opinionthis is exactly the way things stood withthe attorney; he went too far with his almost grovelling self-belittlement toretain the necessary personal dignity. It was not beyond him to say to a womanhe was about to escort to the table"Pardon meI am hardly an alluringsortbut would you be so kind . . ." And he would say this without anytalent for self-despisalwith a sorry show of good humourrepugnant in itstorment. . . . The following anecdote about him is also founded on fact. One daywhile out walkinga gruff chap with a pushcart ran one of the wheels over hisfoot. The man stopped his wagon too lateturned around -- whereupon theattorneyquite beside himselfwith his cheeks gone pale and tremblingraisedhis hat and stammered"I beg your pardon." Things of that sort aredisgusting. This peculiar colossus seemed continually to be tortured by a badconscience. If he appeared with his wife on the Lerchenbergthe main promenadeof the cityhe would keep casting tremulous side-glances at Amra as she sprangforward with her remarkable elasticityand he would greet everyone with toomuch eagernesswith an air of anxious diligence. It was as though he feltcalled upon to bow humbly before every lieutenantand apologize that hehe ofall peopleshould be in possession of this beautiful woman. And thebeseechingly friendly expression about his mouth seemed to be begging everyonenot to laugh at him.

 

II

As has already been pointed outthere is no way of tellingjust why Amra married Herr Jacoby the attorney. But for his parthe loved herand with a love indeed that was too fervent to be met with often in people ofhis build. He loved her with all the anxiety and humility corresponding to therest of him. Late in the eveningwhen Amra had gone to bed in her large bedroomwith its highthickly curtained windowsthe attorney would often come in sosoftly that his footsteps were inaudiblethat she could hear nothing but thesteady shaking of the floor and the furniture. He would kneel beside her heavybedand take her hand with infinite caution. At such times Amra would draw hereyebrows until there were little perpendicular wrinkles in her forehead.Silentlywith an expression

 

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of sensual maliceshe would observe her prodigious husband lying there in thepale light of the night-lamp. He would stroke the cover back carefully from herarm with his plumpquivering handsand place his miserably wide face againstthis full brown arm -- therewhere the tiny blue veins showed against thedarker tint. Then he would begin speakingthe way a man of good common sensewould never speak of ordinary matters. "Amra!" he would whisper;"my dear Amra! Am I disturbing you? Are you asleep yet? O GodI have beenthinking all day long how beautiful you are and how much I love you! . . .Listenwhat I have to say to you -- it is so hard to express. I love you somuch that often my heart seems to get tight and I don't know what to do; I loveyou more than I can bear! You can't understand all thisbut you will believemeand you must say just once that you will be a little bit grateful to mefordon't you know that such a love as mine for you is worth something in this world. . . and that you will never betray me or do anything underhandedeven if youcannot love mebut out of gratitudesimply out of gratitude. . . . I came hereto beg that of youas hardas earnestly as I can. . . ." Such speechesusually ended by the attorney's finding everything unchangedand breaking intoa softbitter weeping. But then Amra would be moved somewhatwould run herhand over her husband's bristlesand talk to him in the drawledencouragingand teasing tone one uses to a dog that is licking his shoes"Yesyesyou're a nice fellow. . . ."

Amra's conduct was certainly not that of a respectable woman. Furtherit istime enough that I unburdened myself of the truth which I have been holdingbackthe truth namely that she was not honest with her husband; yesI will sayitthat she actually deceived him -- in the company of a young man calledAlfred Läutner. He was a gifted young musician whose clever little pieces hadalready acquired him a reputation at twenty-seven. Slenderwith a distinct snapto himcareless blond hairand a sunny smile in his eyes that was quite awareof itself. He belonged to that cut of present-day lesser artists who don't asktoo much of themselveswish first of all to be happy and amiableutilize theircomfortably small talent to enhance their personal appealand play the naïvegenius in society. Intentionally childlikeunscrupulousbeyond moralityenjoying everythingand contented with themselves as they are

 

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they are healthy enough to enjoy their little illnesses; and their vanity is inreality quite delightful so long as it is not wounded. But woe to these lessermimes and their amusementsif they meet with some serious misfortunesomesorrow that can't be toyed with and in which they can find no self-contentment!They will fail at being properly miserable; they will not know how to approachtheir sorrow; they will go all to pieces . . . but that is a story of its own.Herr Läutner composed pleasant trifleswaltzes and mazurkas for the most part.But their appealso far as I am a judge of such thingswas a bit too popularfor them to be counted as Music. Stillevery one of these compositions had itslittle spot of originalitya modulationa bit of accompanimentan harmonictwistsome slight nervous effect which betrayed cleverness and ingenuity. Allhis pieces seemed to have been made for this one elementwhatever it wasandbecame interesting to the more earnest connoisseur. Often these two simplerhythms had something remarkably far-off and melancholy about them which wouldrise out of the piece for an instantand then vanish again in the generalenthusiasm of the dance.

Amrathenhad burned with a guilty interest in this young manand he forhis part was not troubled enough with matters of morality to resist her advances.They met in one placemet again somewhere elseuntil by now they had beenbound for some time in their unpleasant relationship. A relationshipby thewaywhich the whole city knew ofand which the whole city discussed behind theattorney's back. And as to him? Amra was too dull to betray herself with a badconscience. It must be definitely established that the attorney could harbour nodistinct suspicion against his wifehowever much he might be disturbed with hisvague anxieties.

 

III

At presentspring had swept over the land to make everyonehappyand Amra had hit upon an excellent idea.

"Christian" she said -- the attorney's name was Christian; "whynot have a partya big partyto celebrate the spring brewing? It could bequite simpleof coursejust cold roast vealbut with a good manypeople."

 

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"Certainly" the attorney answered; "but couldn't we put itoff a while longer?"

Amra made no answer to thisbut plunged on into the details immediately."There will be so many peopleyou seethat this place will be too small;we'll have to hire some sort of affaira garden or a dance-hallin order tohave enough room and enough air. The first place I can think of is that big hallof Wendelin'sat the foot of the Lerchenberg. It is off by itself; only alittle passage-way connects it with the café and the brewery. It could bedecorated upprovided with long tablesand we could serve the new beer. Wecould have music and dancingand perhaps some sort of playfor I know there isa small stage there; in factthat's one of the best things in its favour. Verywell thenwe'll give something that's quite originaland have a marveloustime."

During all thisthe attorney's face had turned a pale yellow and the cornersof his mouth began to droop. "It all appeals to me tremendouslyAmra dear.But of courseI can leave everything to your management. By all meansgo aheadwith your preparations. . . ."

 

IV

And Amra went ahead with her preparations. She held severalconsultationssaw personally to the hiring of Wendelin's big hallandorganized a kind of committee of the people who either were asked or had offeredof their own accordto help get up the accessory entertainments. This committeewas composed exclusively of menwith the exception of one opera singerthewife of Hildebrandt the actor at the Hoftheater. Among the others were HerrHildebrandt himselfan Assessor Witznagela young painterand also HerrAlfred Läutnerbesides a few students who were proposed by the Assessor andwere to give an exhibition of negro dancing.

Within eight days of the time when Amra had made her decisionthis committeewas assembled for discussion in the Kaiserstrassein Amra's library. It was awarm little roomwith a good many things in itfurnished with a heavy carpeta divan covered with cushionsa large palmEnglish leather-back chairsand amahogany table with carved legs on which there was a plush throw and a number ofornaments. There was also a fireplacewith a small fire

 

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still burning; a few plates were lying on the black hearthwith some lightlybuttered toastglassesand two decanters of sherry. . . . Her knees crossedeasilyAmra was leaning back among the cushions of the divanhalf in theshadow of the palmand as lovely as a mild night. She had on a waist of abrightsoft silkalthough her coat was of a heavy materialdarkand withlarge embroidered flowers. Now and then she would raise one hand to brush herchestnut hair away from her low forehead. Frau Hildebrandtthe singerwassitting on the divan beside her. She had red hairand was in her riding habit.In front of the two women the men had arranged themselves in a restrictedhalf-circle. In their midst was the attorney; he had a very low chairandseemed unutterably miserable. Occasionally he would draw a deep breath andswallowas though he were fighting against some growing illness. Herr AlfredLäutnerin a tennis outfithad renounced a chair altogether and was leaningcontentedly and decoratively against the mantlepiececlaiming that he could notsit still so long.

Herr Hildebrandt was discussing English songs in a voice that rang pleasantly.He was a powerfully built mandressed in blackwith an assertive step and thehead of a lion -- an actor of culturegood tasteand knowledge well digested.He loved to pass serious judgements against IbsenZolaand Tolstoywho wereall going in the same destructive direction; but to-day he was confining himselfquite amiably to this minor matter.

"Do you perhaps all of you know that corking songThat's Maria!"he was saying; "it is a bit daringbut quite surprisingly effective. Thenperhaps the famous . . ." and he proposed other songs which were finallyagreed onand which Frau Hildebrandt was willing to sing. The young painteragentleman with pronouncedly drooping shoulders and a blond imperialwas to givea magician actwhile Herr Hildebrandt intended to imitate some celebrities . .. in shorteverything was going along excellently and the programme seemed tobe already completewhen Assessor Witznagelwho had the advantage of a flowinggesture and a good many fencing scarssuddenly renewed the discussion.

"Very good. All that certainly promises to be entertaining. StillImight add one more word. It seems to me there is still something lackingandthat something is the big numberthe drawing cardthe featurethe climax . .. something quite uniquequite startlingsomething funny enough to bring theamusement

 

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to a point . . . but to be briefI confess I have no definite idea; yetto myway of thinking . . ."

"That is radically true!" Herr Läutner let his tenor be heard fromthe mantelpiece; "Witznagel is right. An opening and a closing number wouldbe just the thing. Let's see if we can't . . ." And pulling his red beltinto place with a few quick tugshe looked about him searchingly. Theexpression on his face was indeed lovely.

"Well" said Herr Hildebrandt; "if you don't think thecelebrities could be taken as a climax . . ."

Everyone agreed with the Assessor. An exceptionally amusing number was needed.Even the attorney nodded and ventured mildly"Quite right . . . somethingoverpoweringly funny . . ." They all set to thinking.

And at the close of this pausewhich had lasted about a minuteand wasinterrupted only by little cries of deliberationa peculiar thing occurred.Amra was lying back among the cushions of the divanchewing as busily as amouse at the pointed nail of her little fingerwhile her face took on anunusual expression. A smile lay about the corners of her mouthan absentalmost insane smilewhich bespoke a lasciviousness that was at once pained andcruel. Her eyesnow glazed and wide opentraveled slowly to the mantelpiecewhere they rested for a moment on the young musician. Then with a jerksheturned the whole upper part of her body toward her husbandthe attorney; herhands resting in her lapshe stared clinchingly and suckingly into his facewhile she herself became visibly whiter. Then she spoke in a voice that was fulland measured"ChristianI suggest that for the final act you appear as alittle girl dressed up in baby-clothesand sing and dance for us."

The effect of these few words was enormous. Only the young painter attempteda good-natured laugh. Herr Hilderbrandt [sic] brushed something from his sleevewith a face as cold as stone. The students coughedand used their handkerchiefswith unnecessary loudness. Frau Hildebrandt blushed painfullya thing whichdidn't often happen. And Assessor Witznagel simply moved awayto get himselfsome toast. The attorney sat in a pained heap on his low chair; he looked abouthim with an anxious smile and a yellow facestammering"But my God . . .I . . . hardly capable . . . not as if . . . but I beg pardon . . ."

 

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Alfred Läutner had lost his carefree expression. He looked as though hemight have blushed a bit; with his head stretched forwardhe was staringuncomfortably into Amra's eyes. He was bewilderedand questioning.

But as for Amrawithout changing her point of attack in the leastshe wenton speaking in the same heavy accent"Herr Läutner could compose a songfor you to singChristianand he will accompany you on the piano. That wouldcertainly be the feature of the evening."

A pause arosean oppressive pause. But thenquite suddenly and unexpectedlyHerr Läutner became infected likewiseexcited and carried along with Amra. Hetook a step forward and began speaking hastilywhile he trembled with some sortof violent inspiration"By GodHerr JacobyI am willingI declaremyself willingto compose something for you. . . . You must sing it and danceto it. . . . It is the only conceivable climax. . . . You will seereally -- itwill be the best thing I have ever done and ever shall do. . . . In red silkbaby-clothes! Ahyour wife is an artista true artistI insist! Otherwise shecould not have hit upon such an idea! I beg of youjust say that you arewilling! I'll do something worth whileyou'll see if I don't. . . ."

Now everything was unloosenedeverything broke into motion. Out of eithermalice or politenessthey began storming the attorney with coaxing. FrauHildebrandt even went so far as to say quite loudly in her Brünnhilde-voice"But Herr Jacobyyou are such a funny manand so amusing!" But nowthe attorney found wordsand began speakingstill somewhat yellowbut with astrong front of determination"Kindly hear me a momentladies andgentlemen -- what should I say to you? Believe meI am not fitting. I have nogift for being funny at alland besides . . . nounfortunately that isimpossible."

He insisted obstinately on this refusal. Since Amra had dropped out of theconversation and was lying back with quite a far-off lookand since HerrLäutner began staring at a design in the carpet without another wordHerrHildebrandt contrived to give a new turn to the conversation. Soon after thisthe company broke up without having reached a decision on this last question.

In the evening of the same dayhoweverwhen Amra had gone to bed and waslying with her eyes openher husband entered heavily. He drew a little stoolover to the bed and sat down. Then

 

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he spoke softly and with hesitation"ListenAmra. To be open with youIhave been very much disturbed. If I was too curt with those ladies and gentlemento-dayif I insulted them to their faceGod knows it was not what I intended!But tell medo you really think . . ."

Amra was silent a momentlifting her eyebrows slowly. Then she shrugged hershoulders and said"I don't know what to tell youmy dear. You acted in amanner I never expected of you. You refused flatly to do your part in making theplays a successeven though they all felt that you were neededwhich ought tohave been downright flattering to you. To put the thing mildlyyou have greatlydisillusioned everyoneand you have put a crimp in the whole party with yourcrude unpleasantnesswhile it should have been your duty as a host . . ."

The attorney had let his head sink; he was breathing with difficulty."NoAmrabelieve meI didn't want to be unpleasant. I shouldn't like tohurt any one's feelings or be thought poorly of. And if I have acted uglyI amready to make everything right again. The whole affair is simply a jokea bitof buffooneryan innocent amusement -- why shouldn't I? I don't want to spoilthe evening. I am willing. . . ."

The next afternoon Amra drove out once more "to tend to some matters."She stopped in the HolzstrasseNumber 78and went up to the second floorwhere someone was waiting for her. Tightened and relaxed with loveshe pressedhis head against her breastand whispered a passionate"Do you hear memake it for two pianos! You and I both will accompany himwhile he sings anddances. I'll see to the costume. . . ."

And a queer shuddera suppressedcramped laughterwent through their twobodies.

 

V

To any one who wishes to give any sort of festivityespecially an open-air entertainment in the grand styleHerr Wendelin'sestablishment near the Lerchenberg is to be most highly recommended. From thestreet with its agreeable suburban elementthe entrance to the parklike gardenis through a latticed door. In the middle of this garden runs the extensivehall. This hall is connected

 

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only by a small passage with the restaurantthe kitchenand the brewery. It isbuilt of a gaily coloured wood in a clever mixture of the Chinese andRenaissance. It has large folding doorswhich can be opened in good weather toadmit the wind as it blows from the trees. And it offers accommodations for agreat many people.

This evening the approaching carriages were greeted even at a distance by theshimmer of coloured lightsince all the latticethe trees of the gardenandthe hall itself were decorated with variegated lanterns; and as to the interiorof the hallit was a really appealing spectacle. Thick streamers were fastenedalong underneath the ceiling with numerous paper lanterns fastened to them. Inadditionthe room was brilliantly illuminated with electric lightsscatteredin among the decorations on the wallsthe flagsshrubsand artificial flowers.At one end was the stagewith ferns on either side of itand a red curtain onwhich a guardian-angel was painted with outspread wings. But from the other endof the roomthe long tables extended almost to the stage. They were trimmedwith flowers; and here Attorney Jacoby's guests were gathered to enjoy thespring beer and the roast veal. Juristsofficersmerchantsartistsprominentofficials with their wives and daughters -- easily more than a hundred and fiftyladies and gentle-men in all. Everyone was dressed quite simplydark coats withsome element of a brighter spring outfitsince ease and enjoyment was to be thelaw. The men carried their pitchers themselves to the large kegs lined along theside-walls. Throughout the widecheerfuland well-lighted room with itsthickly sweet smell of pinesflowerspeoplebeerand foodthe noise buzzedand mumbled. An over-loud conversation without pretension was kept upand thelaughter of all these people was shrill -- politelivelyand unconcerned. . .. The attorney was sitting in a helpless heap at the end of a table near thestage. He was not drinking muchand directed a laborious word now and then athis neighbourthe wife of the minister Havermann. He was breathing painfullythe corners of his mouth droopingwhile he looked steadfastly out of swollenwatery eyes at all this brilliant commotion. He observed it with a sort ofunhappy estrangementas if this festivitythis noisy amusementcontainedsomething unspeakably sad and incomprehensible. . . .

 

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Soon the large tarts were handed aroundwhereupon everybody began drinkingsweet wine and the speech-making commenced. Herr Hildebrandtthe actor from theHoftheatercommemorated the spring beer in an address which consisted almostentirely of classical quotationsyeseven from the Greek; Assessor Witznagelemployed his most flowing gestures and his most delicate manner in toasting thewomentaking a handful of flowers from the nearest vase and comparing somewoman with each of them. But Amra Jacobywho sat opposite him dressed in a thinyellow silkwas named "the more beautiful sister of the tea rose."

She immediately brushed a hand over her soft hairraised her eyebrowsandnodded earnestly to her husband -- whereupon the heavy man arose and nearlyspoiled the whole flavour of the thing by stammering painfully a few meagerwords with his ugly smile. Only a few artificial bravos followedand for amoment there was an oppressive silence. Then the general good cheer regained theupper hand. Smokingand reasonably unsteadyeverybody began shoving the tablesnoisily out of the hallsince it was time to dance.

By eleven o'clock the carefree spirit was at its height. Part of the guestshad streamed out for fresh air into the gaily lighted gardenwhile othersremained in the hallstanding about in groupssmokingchattingdrawing beerand drinking it where they stood. Suddenly a trumpet-blast rang out from thestage to assemble every one in the hall. Musicians -- violins and brasses -- hadalready appearedand were arranging themselves in front of the curtain. Rows ofchairs had been brought ineach with a red programme lying on it. The womentook seatswhile the men ranged behind them all along the walls. There was anexpectant silence.

The little orchestra played a rousing overturethe curtain opened . . . andlo! there was a number of hideous negroesin shrieking costumes and blood-redlips; they began grinning and setting up a barbaric howl. . . . These plays werecertainly the biggest success of Amra's entertainment. Enthusiastic applausebroke loose as the cleverly arranged programme progressed number after number.Frau Hildebrandt appeared in a powdered wigknocked on the floor with a longcaneand sang overly loudThat's Maria! A magician came on in a dress-coatcovered with medalsand managed to do wonders. Herr Hildebrandt impersonatedGoetheBismarck

 

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and Napoleon frightfully welland the editorDr Wiesensprungundertook at thelast moment a humorous essay on the theme Spring Beer and its SocialSignificance. But towards the endexpectancy ran at its highestsince the lastnumber was now duethis mysterious number which was framed on the programmewith a wreath of laurel and read simply: Loulou. Song and Dance. Music by AlfredLäutner.

A movement went through the hall and a number of glances met as the musiciansput their instruments aside and Herr Läutnerwho had been leaning in silenceagainst a door with a cigarette hanging carelessly from his lipstook his placealongside of Amra Jacoby in the middle of the stage before the curtain. His facewas flushedand he kept turning the sheets of his score nervously. Amrawho onthe contrary had become a bit palesupported one arm on the back of her chairand was looking critically out at the audience. Then the sharp little signalrang outand everyone stretched his neck to see. Herr Läutner and Amra playeda few bars of introductionthe curtain slid back . . . Loulou appeared . . .

A start of astonishment and fascination went through the crowd of onlookersas this miserablehideously dressed up mass danced across the stage with thepainful effort of a bear. It was the attorney. His formless body was coveredwith a broadsmooth dress of crimson silk which reached to his feet. This dresshad been cut to expose his unpleasant neck with its coating of powder. Alsohissleeves were pulled back in a puff around his shouldersalthough he had longlight yellow gloves over his fat and muscleless arms. There were light curls thecolour of wheat rolls standing out from his headwith a green feather wavingback and forth. But from underneath this wig a yellowswollen face looked out.It was plainly miserablebut was smiling desperately. Its cheeks were shakingup and down pitifullyand its smallred-rimmed eyes were staring steadfastlyat the floor without seeing a thing. The heavy man was shifting himselflaboriously from one foot to the otherwhile he either held his dress with bothhands or held up two index fingers with his helpless arms -- he knew no othergestures. In a strainedwheezing voice he sang his stupid song to the tones ofthe piano.

Could it be true that some cold breath of misery flowed out of this wretchedfigure and killed all spontaneous enjoymentcame

 

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inevitably down over the whole audience like some disquieting and oppressivediscord? The same horror lay at the bottom of all these countless eyes; asthough a spell were on themthey kept looking at this picture . . . the twohere at the piano and the husband up there. The silentunheard scandalcontinued for fully five minutes.

Then the moment occurred which no one who was present will forget as long ashe lives. . . . But let us get everything straightjust as it happened in thatfrightfulcomplicated little space of time.

The trifling quatrains that pass under the name of Loulou are quite wellknownand no doubt the lines can be recalled which run:



"Den Walzertanz und auch die Polke
Hat keine nochwie ichvollführt;
Ich bin Luischen aus dem Volke
Die manches Männerherz gerührt . . ."

these rather bald and facile lines which form the refrain to the threereasonably long stanzas. In the re-setting of these words to musicAlfredLäutner had attained his master-work. Here he had brought to the highestperfection his method of illuminating a vulgar and amusing bit of hack by asudden trick of the best music. The melodyin C sharp majorhad remainedreasonably pretty and thoroughly banal all through the first stanza. At thebeginning of the refrain quoted abovethe tempo became swifterand thereoccurred a sequence of dissonances in which the continually growing emphasis onB led on to expect a change of key to F sharp major. These disharmonies becamemore involved up to the word vollführt; and after the Ich binwhich brought the development and suspense to a finishthere should havefollowed the resolution to F sharp major. Instead of thatthere was a greatsurprise. With a vicious twista freakish abruptness that was almost a bit ofgeniusthe key changed here to F major; this new elementwhich developed outof the use of both pedals for the long drawn out second syllable of the word Luischenhad an indescribablean unheard of effectiveness! It was a completeastonishmenta rough shaking of the nerves that made chills go down the spine.It was a marvelous piece of worka discoverya denudation that was almostterrible in its suddennessa curtain that is snatched away. . . .

 

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And with this chord in F sharpthe attorney stopped dancing. He stood stillstood in the middle of the stage as though he were rooted thereboth indexfingers still held upwith one a little lower than the other. The i of Luischendied in his mouth; he was silent. Almost at the same time the accompanimentbroke off sharplyand this picturesquedetestably ridiculous apparition stoodup there with its head shoved forward like an animaland staring with blazingeyes. He stared out into the livelybrilliant hall with its mass of people;scandal seemed to float on the air almostlike some emanation from theaudience. He stared into all these lifted facessaw them distorted and stronglyilluminated; he looked into these hundreds of eyes that were all turned with thesame knowing expression on the two down there in front of him and on himself.While an unbroken silence rested over everyonehe let his widened eyes wanderslowly and inhumanly from them to the audienceand from the audience back tothe two of them. . . . Suddenly a look of understanding seemed to come over hisface; the rush of blood made it as red as his silk dress; then he was left awaxen yellow -- and the big man fellso that the floor groaned.

For a moment the silence continued. Then cries were heardan uproar starteda few courageous men sprang from the orchestra up to the stageamong them ayoung physician; the curtain was drawn.

Amra Jacoby and Alfred Läutner were still sitting at the pianoeach turnedaway somewhat from the other. With his head downhe seemed to be stilllistening to his transition into F major. Sheincapable of grasping with hersparrow-brain what was happening in front of hersat gazing around emptily.

Soon after this the young physician appeared in the hall againa slightJewish gentleman with a serious face and a black pointed beard. With a shrug ofhis shouldershe answered the men and women that had gathered about the door:"Done for."

THERE are some marriagesand not even an imagination fed up on novels canexplain how they came about. They must simply be acceptedthe way we accept ajuxtaposition of opposing qualities on the stagesuch as old-and-stupid overagainst beautiful-and-full-of-life -- which are presupposedtaken for grantedas the basis for erecting a farce with the proper mathematics.

As to the wife of Herr Jacobyattorney at lawshe was young and lovelyanunusually prepossessing woman. Let us say about thirty years agoshe had beenbaptized Anna Margaret Rose Ameliabut since then she was called nothing butAmrafrom her four initials. This had an exotic twang which was peculiarlysuited to her character. For although the darkness of her strong soft hairwhich she wore parted in the middle and brushed on either side away from her lowforeheadwas only the brownness of a chestnut kernelstill her skin wassouthern in its subdued flat olive. And this skin was stretched over curveswhich likewise seemed ripened by a southern sunrecalling a sultana with theirindolent and vegetative luxuriance. This impressionwhich was heightened byevery one of her covetously sluggish motionscorresponded with the fact that inall probability her head was less master than her heart. To know thatyou hadonly to be looked at out of her stupid brown eyeswhile she wrinkled her almostastonishingly low forehead in a way of her own. But she was not too simple torealize this herself. She avoided exposing herself by the mere contrivance ofspeaking seldomand making that seldom brief. And no one can object to a womanwho is lovely and says nothing. No"simple" was not the best word todescribe her. Her expression was not merely stupidbut also had a certain eagershrewdness about it. And it was easy to see how this woman was not toorestricted to create trouble. . . . Beyond thatperhaps her nose in profile wasa little

 

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too full and aggressive; but her rich wide mouth was completely beautifuleventhough it had no other expression than that of plain sensuality.

This disquieting womanthenwas the wife of a man about fortyHerr Jacobyattorney at law -- and whoever saw him was astonished. The attorney wascorpulent; nohe was more than corpulenthe was the very colossus of a man!His legswhich stuck in ash-grey trousersreminded one of an elephant's intheir pillar-like formlessness; vaulted with bolsters of fathis back was thatof a bear; and over the vast bulge of his stomach was the queer jacket ofgreenish grey which he usually woreand which was so painfully fastened withone button that it would snap back around his shoulders if ever the button wasunloosened. But on this massive trunkalmost without the transition of a necksat a comparatively little headwith small watery eyesa short compressed noseand cheeks that hung down under their own weight. A tiny mouth with miserablydrooping corners was lost in the cheeks. His round pateas well as his upperlipwas sprinkled with hard little bristlesa light blondwhich allowed thebare skin to shine through the way it does with an over-fed dog. . . . Ah! itmust have been evident to any one that the attorney's corpulence was not of ahealthy nature. His latitudinally and longitudinally prodigious body was allmuscleless fat. And often a sudden excess of blood would pump up into hisswollen faceto give place almost immediately to a sallow palenesswhile hismouth was distorted with a sour expression.

The attorney's practice was quite limited; but since he and his wife togetherhad a reasonable amount of moneythis childless pair kept up a comfortableapartment in the Kaiserstrasse and quite a lively bit of social doings. Thisofcoursewas due more to Amra than to himsince it is hardly possible that theattorneywho seemed at best to be only half-hearted in the matterwould behappy in such a state of things. This corpulent gentleman's character was of thestrangest. Nobody could have been more politemore considerate or compliant;but without realizing it clearlyperhapsa person would be unpleasantlytouched by the feeling that his flattering over-friendly manner was forced forsome reason or otherthat it rested on self-belittlement and some inneruncertainty. There is no eye so unpleasant as that of a man who despises himselfbut who is nevertheless trying out of cowardice and vanity to

 

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be amiable with people. In my opinionthis is exactly the way things stood withthe attorney; he went too far with his almost grovelling self-belittlement toretain the necessary personal dignity. It was not beyond him to say to a womanhe was about to escort to the table"Pardon meI am hardly an alluringsortbut would you be so kind . . ." And he would say this without anytalent for self-despisalwith a sorry show of good humourrepugnant in itstorment. . . . The following anecdote about him is also founded on fact. One daywhile out walkinga gruff chap with a pushcart ran one of the wheels over hisfoot. The man stopped his wagon too lateturned around -- whereupon theattorneyquite beside himselfwith his cheeks gone pale and tremblingraisedhis hat and stammered"I beg your pardon." Things of that sort aredisgusting. This peculiar colossus seemed continually to be tortured by a badconscience. If he appeared with his wife on the Lerchenbergthe main promenadeof the cityhe would keep casting tremulous side-glances at Amra as she sprangforward with her remarkable elasticityand he would greet everyone with toomuch eagernesswith an air of anxious diligence. It was as though he feltcalled upon to bow humbly before every lieutenantand apologize that hehe ofall peopleshould be in possession of this beautiful woman. And thebeseechingly friendly expression about his mouth seemed to be begging everyonenot to laugh at him.

II

As has already been pointed outthere is no way of tellingjust why Amra married Herr Jacoby the attorney. But for his parthe loved herand with a love indeed that was too fervent to be met with often in people ofhis build. He loved her with all the anxiety and humility corresponding to therest of him. Late in the eveningwhen Amra had gone to bed in her large bedroomwith its highthickly curtained windowsthe attorney would often come in sosoftly that his footsteps were inaudiblethat she could hear nothing but thesteady shaking of the floor and the furniture. He would kneel beside her heavybedand take her hand with infinite caution. At such times Amra would draw hereyebrows until there were little perpendicular wrinkles in her forehead.Silentlywith an expression

 

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of sensual maliceshe would observe her prodigious husband lying there in thepale light of the night-lamp. He would stroke the cover back carefully from herarm with his plumpquivering handsand place his miserably wide face againstthis full brown arm -- therewhere the tiny blue veins showed against thedarker tint. Then he would begin speakingthe way a man of good common sensewould never speak of ordinary matters. "Amra!" he would whisper;"my dear Amra! Am I disturbing you? Are you asleep yet? O GodI have beenthinking all day long how beautiful you are and how much I love you! . . .Listenwhat I have to say to you -- it is so hard to express. I love you somuch that often my heart seems to get tight and I don't know what to do; I loveyou more than I can bear! You can't understand all thisbut you will believemeand you must say just once that you will be a little bit grateful to mefordon't you know that such a love as mine for you is worth something in this world. . . and that you will never betray me or do anything underhandedeven if youcannot love mebut out of gratitudesimply out of gratitude. . . . I came hereto beg that of youas hardas earnestly as I can. . . ." Such speechesusually ended by the attorney's finding everything unchangedand breaking intoa softbitter weeping. But then Amra would be moved somewhatwould run herhand over her husband's bristlesand talk to him in the drawledencouragingand teasing tone one uses to a dog that is licking his shoes"Yesyesyou're a nice fellow. . . ."

Amra's conduct was certainly not that of a respectable woman. Furtherit istime enough that I unburdened myself of the truth which I have been holdingbackthe truth namely that she was not honest with her husband; yesI will sayitthat she actually deceived him -- in the company of a young man calledAlfred Läutner. He was a gifted young musician whose clever little pieces hadalready acquired him a reputation at twenty-seven. Slenderwith a distinct snapto himcareless blond hairand a sunny smile in his eyes that was quite awareof itself. He belonged to that cut of present-day lesser artists who don't asktoo much of themselveswish first of all to be happy and amiableutilize theircomfortably small talent to enhance their personal appealand play the naïvegenius in society. Intentionally childlikeunscrupulousbeyond moralityenjoying everythingand contented with themselves as they are

 

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they are healthy enough to enjoy their little illnesses; and their vanity is inreality quite delightful so long as it is not wounded. But woe to these lessermimes and their amusementsif they meet with some serious misfortunesomesorrow that can't be toyed with and in which they can find no self-contentment!They will fail at being properly miserable; they will not know how to approachtheir sorrow; they will go all to pieces . . . but that is a story of its own.Herr Läutner composed pleasant trifleswaltzes and mazurkas for the most part.But their appealso far as I am a judge of such thingswas a bit too popularfor them to be counted as Music. Stillevery one of these compositions had itslittle spot of originalitya modulationa bit of accompanimentan harmonictwistsome slight nervous effect which betrayed cleverness and ingenuity. Allhis pieces seemed to have been made for this one elementwhatever it wasandbecame interesting to the more earnest connoisseur. Often these two simplerhythms had something remarkably far-off and melancholy about them which wouldrise out of the piece for an instantand then vanish again in the generalenthusiasm of the dance.

Amrathenhad burned with a guilty interest in this young manand he forhis part was not troubled enough with matters of morality to resist heradvances. They met in one placemet again somewhere elseuntil by now they hadbeen bound for some time in their unpleasant relationship. A relationshipbythe waywhich the whole city knew ofand which the whole city discussed behindthe attorney's back. And as to him? Amra was too dull to betray herself with abad conscience. It must be definitely established that the attorney couldharbour no distinct suspicion against his wifehowever much he might bedisturbed with his vague anxieties.

 

III

At presentspring had swept over the land to make everyonehappyand Amra had hit upon an excellent idea.

"Christian" she said -- the attorney's name was Christian;"why not have a partya big partyto celebrate the spring brewing? Itcould be quite simpleof coursejust cold roast vealbut with a good manypeople."

 

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"Certainly" the attorney answered; "but couldn't we put itoff a while longer?"

Amra made no answer to thisbut plunged on into the details immediately."There will be so many peopleyou seethat this place will be too small;we'll have to hire some sort of affaira garden or a dance-hallin order tohave enough room and enough air. The first place I can think of is that big hallof Wendelin'sat the foot of the Lerchenberg. It is off by itself; only alittle passage-way connects it with the café and the brewery. It could bedecorated upprovided with long tablesand we could serve the new beer. Wecould have music and dancingand perhaps some sort of playfor I know there isa small stage there; in factthat's one of the best things in its favour. Verywell thenwe'll give something that's quite originaland have a marveloustime."

During all thisthe attorney's face had turned a pale yellow and the cornersof his mouth began to droop. "It all appeals to me tremendouslyAmra dear.But of courseI can leave everything to your management. By all meansgo aheadwith yourpreparations. . . ."

 

IV

And Amra went ahead with her preparations. She held severalconsultationssaw personally to the hiring of Wendelin's big hallandorganized a kind of committee of the people who either were asked or had offeredof their own accordto help get up the accessory entertainments. This committeewas composed exclusively of menwith the exception of one opera singerthewife of Hildebrandt the actor at the Hoftheater. Among the others were HerrHildebrandt himselfan Assessor Witznagela young painterand also HerrAlfred Läutnerbesides a few students who were proposed by the Assessor andwere to give an exhibition of negro dancing.

Within eight days of the time when Amra had made her decisionthis committeewas assembled for discussion in the Kaiserstrassein Amra's library. It was awarm little roomwith a good many things in itfurnished with a heavy carpeta divan covered with cushionsa large palmEnglish leather-back chairsand amahogany table with carved legs on which there was a plush throw and a number ofornaments. There was also a fireplacewith a small fire

 

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still burning; a few plates were lying on the black hearthwith some lightlybuttered toastglassesand two decanters of sherry. . . . Her knees crossedeasilyAmra was leaning back among the cushions of the divanhalf in theshadow of the palmand as lovely as a mild night. She had on a waist of abrightsoft silkalthough her coat was of a heavy materialdarkand withlarge embroidered flowers. Now and then she would raise one hand to brush herchestnut hair away from her low forehead. Frau Hildebrandtthe singerwassitting on the divan beside her. She had red hairand was in her riding habit.In front of the two women the men had arranged themselves in a restrictedhalf-circle. In their midst was the attorney; he had a very low chairandseemed unutterably miserable. Occasionally he would draw a deep breath andswallowas though he were fighting against some growing illness. Herr AlfredLäutnerin a tennis outfithad renounced a chair altogether and was leaningcontentedly and decoratively against the mantlepiececlaiming that he could notsit still so long.

Herr Hildebrandt was discussing English songs in a voice that rangpleasantly. He was a powerfully built mandressed in blackwith an assertivestep and the head of a lion -- an actor of culturegood tasteand knowledgewell digested. He loved to pass serious judgements against IbsenZolaandTolstoywho were all going in the same destructive direction; but to-day he wasconfining himself quite amiably to this minor matter.

"Do you perhaps all of you know that corking songThat's Maria!"he was saying; "it is a bit daringbut quite surprisingly effective. Thenperhaps the famous . . ." and he proposed other songs which were finallyagreed onand which Frau Hildebrandt was willing to sing. The young painteragentleman with pronouncedly drooping shoulders and a blond imperialwas to givea magician actwhile Herr Hildebrandt intended to imitate some celebrities . .. in shorteverything was going along excellently and the programme seemed tobe already completewhen Assessor Witznagelwho had the advantage of a flowinggesture and a good many fencing scarssuddenly renewed the discussion.

"Very good. All that certainly promises to be entertaining. StillImight add one more word. It seems to me there is still something lackingandthat something is the big numberthe drawing cardthe featurethe climax . .. something quite uniquequite startlingsomething funny enough to bring theamusement

 

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to a point . . . but to be briefI confess I have no definite idea; yetto myway of thinking . . ."

"That is radically true!" Herr Läutner let his tenor be heard fromthe mantelpiece; "Witznagel is right. An opening and a closing number wouldbe just the thing. Let's see if we can't . . ." And pulling his red beltinto place with a few quick tugshe looked about him searchingly. Theexpression on his face was indeed lovely.

"Well" said Herr Hildebrandt; "if you don't think thecelebrities could be taken as a climax . . ."

Everyone agreed with the Assessor. An exceptionally amusing number wasneeded. Even the attorney nodded and ventured mildly"Quite right . . .something overpoweringly funny . . ." They all set to thinking.

And at the close of this pausewhich had lasted about a minuteand wasinterrupted only by little cries of deliberationa peculiar thing occurred.Amra was lying back among the cushions of the divanchewing as busily as amouse at the pointed nail of her little fingerwhile her face took on anunusual expression. A smile lay about the corners of her mouthan absentalmost insane smilewhich bespoke a lasciviousness that was at once pained andcruel. Her eyesnow glazed and wide opentraveled slowly to the mantelpiecewhere they rested for a moment on the young musician. Then with a jerksheturned the whole upper part of her body toward her husbandthe attorney; herhands resting in her lapshe stared clinchingly and suckingly into his facewhile she herself became visibly whiter. Then she spoke in a voice that was fulland measured"ChristianI suggest that for the final act you appear as alittle girl dressed up in baby-clothesand sing and dance for us."

The effect of these few words was enormous. Only the young painter attempteda good-natured laugh. Herr Hilderbrandt [sic] brushed something from his sleevewith a face as cold as stone. The students coughedand used their handkerchiefswith unnecessary loudness. Frau Hildebrandt blushed painfullya thing whichdidn't often happen. And Assessor Witznagel simply moved awayto get himselfsome toast. The attorney sat in a pained heap on his low chair; he looked abouthim with an anxious smile and a yellow facestammering"But my God . . .I . . . hardly capable . . . not as if . . . but I beg pardon . . ."

 

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Alfred Läutner had lost his carefree expression. He looked as though hemight have blushed a bit; with his head stretched forwardhe was staringuncomfortably into Amra's eyes. He was bewilderedand questioning.

But as for Amrawithout changing her point of attack in the leastshe wenton speaking in the same heavy accent"Herr Läutner could compose a songfor you to singChristianand he will accompany you on the piano. That wouldcertainly be the feature of the evening."

A pause arosean oppressive pause. But thenquite suddenly andunexpectedlyHerr Läutner became infected likewiseexcited and carried alongwith Amra. He took a step forward and began speaking hastilywhile he trembledwith some sort of violent inspiration"By GodHerr JacobyI am willingI declare myself willingto compose something for you. . . . You must sing itand dance to it. . . . It is the only conceivable climax. . . . You will seereally -- it will be the best thing I have ever done and ever shall do. . . . Inred silk baby-clothes! Ahyour wife is an artista true artistI insist!Otherwise she could not have hit upon such an idea! I beg of youjust say thatyou are willing! I'll do something worth whileyou'll see if I don't. . .."

Now everything was unloosenedeverything broke into motion. Out of eithermalice or politenessthey began storming the attorney with coaxing. FrauHildebrandt even went so far as to say quite loudly in her Brünnhilde-voice"But Herr Jacobyyou are such a funny manand so amusing!" But nowthe attorney found wordsand began speakingstill somewhat yellowbut with astrong front of determination"Kindly hear me a momentladies andgentlemen -- what should I say to you? Believe meI am not fitting. I have nogift for being funny at alland besides . . . nounfortunately that isimpossible."

He insisted obstinately on this refusal. Since Amra had dropped out of theconversation and was lying back with quite a far-off lookand since HerrLäutner began staring at a design in the carpet without another wordHerrHildebrandt contrived to give a new turn to the conversation. Soon after thisthe company broke up without having reached a decision on this last question.

In the evening of the same dayhoweverwhen Amra had gone to bed and waslying with her eyes openher husband entered heavily. He drew a little stoolover to the bed and sat down. Then

 

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he spoke softly and with hesitation"ListenAmra. To be open with youIhave been very much disturbed. If I was too curt with those ladies and gentlemento-dayif I insulted them to their faceGod knows it was not what I intended!But tell medo you really think . . ."

Amra was silent a momentlifting her eyebrows slowly. Then she shrugged hershoulders and said"I don't know what to tell youmy dear. You acted in amanner I never expected of you. You refused flatly to do your part in making theplays a successeven though they all felt that you were neededwhich ought tohave been downright flattering to you. To put the thing mildlyyou have greatlydisillusioned everyoneand you have put a crimp in the whole party with yourcrude unpleasantnesswhile it should have been your duty as a host . . ."

The attorney had let his head sink; he was breathing with difficulty."NoAmrabelieve meI didn't want to be unpleasant. I shouldn't like tohurt any one's feelings or be thought poorly of. And if I have acted uglyI amready to make everything right again. The whole affair is simply a jokea bitof buffooneryan innocent amusement -- why shouldn't I? I don't want to spoilthe evening. I am willing. . . ."

The next afternoon Amra drove out once more "to tend to somematters." She stopped in the HolzstrasseNumber 78and went up to thesecond floorwhere someone was waiting for her. Tightened and relaxed withloveshe pressed his head against her breastand whispered a passionate"Do you hear memake it for two pianos! You and I both will accompany himwhile he sings and dances. I'll see to the costume. . . ."

And a queer shuddera suppressedcramped laughterwent V

To any one who wishes to give any sort of festivityespecially an open-air entertainment in the grand styleHerr Wendelin'sestablishment near the Lerchenberg is to be most highly recommended. From thestreet with its agreeable suburban elementthe entrance to the parklike gardenis through a latticed door. In the middle of this garden runs the extensivehall. This hall is connected

 

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only by a small passage with the restaurantthe kitchenand the brewery. It isbuilt of a gaily coloured wood in a clever mixture of the Chinese andRenaissance. It has large folding doorswhich can be opened in good weather toadmit the wind as it blows from the trees. And it offers accommodations for agreat many people.

This evening the approaching carriages were greeted even at a distance by theshimmer of coloured lightsince all the latticethe trees of the gardenandthe hall itself were decorated with variegated lanterns; and as to the interiorof the hallit was a really appealing spectacle. Thick streamers were fastenedalong underneath the ceiling with numerous paper lanterns fastened to them. Inadditionthe room was brilliantly illuminated with electric lightsscatteredin among the decorations on the wallsthe flagsshrubsand artificialflowers. At one end was the stagewith ferns on either side of itand a redcurtain on which a guardian-angel was painted with outspread wings. But from theother end of the roomthe long tables extended almost to the stage. They weretrimmed with flowers; and here Attorney Jacoby's guests were gathered to enjoythe spring beer and the roast veal. Juristsofficersmerchantsartistsprominent officials with their wives and daughters -- easily more than a hundredand fifty ladies and gentle-men in all. Everyone was dressed quite simplydarkcoats with some element of a brighter spring outfitsince ease and enjoymentwas to be the law. The men carried their pitchers themselves to the large kegslined along the side-walls. Throughout the widecheerfuland well-lighted roomwith its thickly sweet smell of pinesflowerspeoplebeerand foodthenoise buzzed and mumbled. An over-loud conversation without pretension was keptupand the laughter of all these people was shrill -- politelivelyandunconcerned. . . . The attorney was sitting in a helpless heap at the end of atable near the stage. He was not drinking muchand directed a laborious wordnow and then at his neighbourthe wife of the minister Havermann. He wasbreathing painfullythe corners of his mouth droopingwhile he lookedsteadfastly out of swollenwatery eyes at all this brilliant commotion. Heobserved it with a sort of unhappy estrangementas if this festivitythisnoisy amusementcontained something unspeakably sad and incomprehensible. . . .

 

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Soon the large tarts were handed aroundwhereupon everybody began drinkingsweet wine and the speech-making commenced. Herr Hildebrandtthe actor from theHoftheatercommemorated the spring beer in an address which consisted almostentirely of classical quotationsyeseven from the Greek; Assessor Witznagelemployed his most flowing gestures and his most delicate manner in toasting thewomentaking a handful of flowers from the nearest vase and comparing somewoman with each of them. But Amra Jacobywho sat opposite him dressed in athinyellow silkwas named "the more beautiful sister of the tearose."

She immediately brushed a hand over her soft hairraised her eyebrowsandnodded earnestly to her husband -- whereupon the heavy man arose and nearlyspoiled the whole flavour of the thing by stammering painfully a few meagerwords with his ugly smile. Only a few artificial bravos followedand for amoment there was an oppressive silence. Then the general good cheer regained theupper hand. Smokingand reasonably unsteadyeverybody began shoving the tablesnoisily out of the hallsince it was time to dance.

By eleven o'clock the carefree spirit was at its height. Part of the guestshad streamed out for fresh air into the gaily lighted gardenwhile othersremained in the hallstanding about in groupssmokingchattingdrawing beerand drinking it where they stood. Suddenly a trumpet-blast rang out from thestage to assemble every one in the hall. Musicians -- violins and brasses -- hadalready appearedand were arranging themselves in front of the curtain. Rows ofchairs had been brought ineach with a red programme lying on it. The womentook seatswhile the men ranged behind them all along the walls. There was anexpectant silence.

The little orchestra played a rousing overturethe curtain opened . . . andlo! there was a number of hideous negroesin shrieking costumes and blood-redlips; they began grinning and setting up a barbaric howl. . . . These plays werecertainly the biggest success of Amra's entertainment. Enthusiastic applausebroke loose as the cleverly arranged programme progressed number after number.Frau Hildebrandt appeared in a powdered wigknocked on the floor with a longcaneand sang overly loudThat's Maria! A magician came on in a dress-coatcovered with medalsand managed to do wonders. Herr Hildebrandt impersonatedGoetheBismarck

 

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and Napoleon frightfully welland the editorDr Wiesensprungundertook at thelast moment a humorous essay on the theme Spring Beer and its SocialSignificance. But towards the endexpectancy ran at its highestsince the lastnumber was now duethis mysterious number which was framed on the programmewith a wreath of laurel and read simply: Loulou. Song and Dance. Music by AlfredLäutner.

A movement went through the hall and a number of glances met as the musiciansput their instruments aside and Herr Läutnerwho had been leaning in silenceagainst a door with a cigarette hanging carelessly from his lipstook his placealongside of Amra Jacoby in the middle of the stage before the curtain. His facewas flushedand he kept turning the sheets of his score nervously. Amrawho onthe contrary had become a bit palesupported one arm on the back of her chairand was looking critically out at the audience. Then the sharp little signalrang outand everyone stretched his neck to see. Herr Läutner and Amra playeda few bars of introductionthe curtain slid back . . . Loulou appeared . . .

A start of astonishment and fascination went through the crowd of onlookersas this miserablehideously dressed up mass danced across the stage with thepainful effort of a bear. It was the attorney. His formless body was coveredwith a broadsmooth dress of crimson silk which reached to his feet. This dresshad been cut to expose his unpleasant neck with its coating of powder. Alsohissleeves were pulled back in a puff around his shouldersalthough he had longlight yellow gloves over his fat and muscleless arms. There were light curls thecolour of wheat rolls standing out from his headwith a green feather wavingback and forth. But from underneath this wig a yellowswollen face looked out.It was plainly miserablebut was smiling desperately. Its cheeks were shakingup and down pitifullyand its smallred-rimmed eyes were staring steadfastlyat the floor without seeing a thing. The heavy man was shifting himselflaboriously from one foot to the otherwhile he either held his dress with bothhands or held up two index fingers with his helpless arms -- he knew no othergestures. In a strainedwheezing voice he sang his stupid song to the tones ofthe piano.

Could it be true that some cold breath of misery flowed out of this wretchedfigure and killed all spontaneous enjoymentcame

 

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inevitably down over the whole audience like some disquieting and oppressivediscord? The same horror lay at the bottom of all these countless eyes; asthough a spell were on themthey kept looking at this picture . . . the twohere at the piano and the husband up there. The silentunheard scandalcontinued for fully five minutes.

Then the moment occurred which no one who was present will forget as long ashe lives. . . . But let us get everything straightjust as it happened in thatfrightfulcomplicated little space of time.

The trifling quatrains that pass under the name of Loulou are quite wellknownand no doubt the lines can be recalled which run:



"Den Walzertanz und auch die Polke
Hat keine nochwie ichvollführt;
Ich bin Luischen aus dem Volke
Die manches Männerherz gerührt . . ."

these rather bald and facile lines which form the refrain to the threereasonably long stanzas. In the re-setting of these words to musicAlfredLäutner had attained his master-work. Here he had brought to the highestperfection his method of illuminating a vulgar and amusing bit of hack by asudden trick of the best music. The melodyin C sharp majorhad remainedreasonably pretty and thoroughly banal all through the first stanza. At thebeginning of the refrain quoted abovethe tempo became swifterand thereoccurred a sequence of dissonances in which the continually growing emphasis onB led on to expect a change of key to F sharp major. These disharmonies becamemore involved up to the word vollführt; and after the Ich binwhich brought the development and suspense to a finishthere should havefollowed the resolution to F sharp major. Instead of thatthere was a greatsurprise. With a vicious twista freakish abruptness that was almost a bit ofgeniusthe key changed here to F major; this new elementwhich developed outof the use of both pedals for the long drawn out second syllable of the word Luischenhad an indescribablean unheard of effectiveness! It was a completeastonishmenta rough shaking of the nerves that made chills go down the spine.It was a marvelous piece of worka discoverya denudation that was almostterrible in its suddennessa curtain that is snatched away. . . .

 

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And with this chord in F sharpthe attorney stopped dancing. He stood stillstood in the middle of the stage as though he were rooted thereboth indexfingers still held upwith one a little lower than the other. The i of Luischendied in his mouth; he was silent. Almost at the same time the accompanimentbroke off sharplyand this picturesquedetestably ridiculous apparition stoodup there with its head shoved forward like an animaland staring with blazingeyes. He stared out into the livelybrilliant hall with its mass of people;scandal seemed to float on the air almostlike some emanation from theaudience. He stared into all these lifted facessaw them distorted and stronglyilluminated; he looked into these hundreds of eyes that were all turned with thesame knowing expression on the two down there in front of him and on himself.While an unbroken silence rested over everyonehe let his widened eyes wanderslowly and inhumanly from them to the audienceand from the audience back tothe two of them. . . . Suddenly a look of understanding seemed to come over hisface; the rush of blood made it as red as his silk dress; then he was left awaxen yellow -- and the big man fellso that the floor groaned.

For a moment the silence continued. Then cries were heardan uproar starteda few courageous men sprang from the orchestra up to the stageamong them ayoung physician; the curtain was drawn.

Amra Jacoby and Alfred Läutner were still sitting at the pianoeach turnedaway somewhat from the other. With his head downhe seemed to be stilllistening to his transition into F major. Sheincapable of grasping with hersparrow-brain what was happening in front of hersat gazing around emptily.

Soon after this the young physician appeared in the hall againa slightJewish gentleman with a serious face and a black pointed beard. With a shrug ofhis shouldershe answered the men and women that had gathered about the door:"Done for."