he?" I said. "And why does he sit always alone, with his
whispered the Frau Oberregierungsrat, "he is a BARON."
She looked at
me very solemnly, and yet with the slightest possible
soul, he cannot help it," I said. "Surely that unfortunate
ought not to debar him from the pleasures of intellectual intercourse."
If it had not
been for her fork I think she would have crossed herself.
you cannot understand. He is one of the First Barons."
More than a
little unnerved, she turned and spoke to the Frau Doktor on her
is empty--EMPTY," she protested, "and this is the third
I looked at
the First of the Barons. He was eating salad--taking a whole
lettuce leaf on his fork and absorbing it slowly, rabbit-wise--a
fascinating process to watch.
Small and slight,
with scanty black hair and beard and yellow-toned
complexion, he invariably wore black serge clothes, a rough linen
black sandals, and the largest black-rimmed spectacles that I had
The Herr Oberlehrer,
who sat opposite me, smiled benignantly.
be very interesting for you, gnadige Frau, to be able to watch....
of course this is a VERY FINE HOUSE. There was a lady from the Spanish
Court here in the summer; she had a liver. We often spoke together."
I looked gratified
England, in your 'boarding 'ouse', one does not find the First
Class, as in Germany."
I replied, still hypnotised by the Baron, who looked like a
little yellow silkworm.
comes every year," went on the Herr Oberlehrer, "for his
He has never spoken to any of the guests--YET! A smile crossed his
I seemed to see his visions of some splendid upheaval of that silence--a
dazzling exchange of courtesies in a dim future, a splendid sacrifice
newspaper to this Exalted One, a "danke schon" to be handed
down to future
At that moment
the postman, looking like a German army officer, came in
with the mail. He threw my letters into my milk pudding, and then
to a waitress and whispered. She retired hastily. The manager of
pension came in with a little tray. A picture post card was deposited
it, and reverently bowing his head, the manager of the pension carried
to the Baron.
Myself, I felt
disappointed that there was not a salute of twenty-five
At the end of
the meal we were served with coffee. I noticed the Baron
took three lumps of sugar, putting two in his cup and wrapping up
in a corner of his pocket-handkerchief. He was always the first
the dining-room and the last to leave; and in a vacant chair beside
placed a little black leather bag.
In the afternoon,
leaning from my window, I saw him pass down the street,
walking tremulously and carrying the bag. Each time he passed a
he shrank a little, as though expecting it to strike him, or maybe
sense of plebeian contamination...
I wondered where
he was going, and why he carried the bag. Never had I
seen him at the Casino or the Bath Establishment. He looked forlorn,
feet slipped in his sandals. I found myself pitying the Baron.
a party of us were gathered in the salon discussing the day's
"kur" with feverish animation. The Frau Oberregierungsrat
sat by me
knitting a shawl for her youngest of nine daughters, who was in
interesting, frail condition..."But it is bound to be quite
she said to me. "The dear married a banker--the desire of her
There must have
been eight or ten of us gathered together, we who were
married exchanging confidences as to the underclothing and peculiar
characteristics of our husbands, the unmarried discussing the over-clothing
and peculiar fascinations of Possible Ones.
them myself," I heard the Frau Lehrer cry, "of thick grey
wears one a month, with two soft collars."
whispered Fraulein Lisa, "he said to me, 'Indeed you please
I shall, perhaps, write to your mother.'"
that we were a little violently excited, a little
door opened and admitted the Baron.
Followed a complete
and deathlike silence.
He came in slowly,
hesitated, took up a toothpick from a dish on the top of
the piano, and went out again.
When the door
was closed we raised a triumphant cry! It was the first time
he had ever been known to enter the salon. Who could tell what the
into weeks. Still we were together, and still the solitary
little figure, head bowed as though under the weight of the spectacles,
haunted me. He entered with the black bag, he retired with the black
bag--and that was all.
At last the
manager of the pension told us the Baron was leaving the next
I thought, "surely he cannot drift into obscurity--be lost
one word! Surely he will honour the Frau Oberregierungsrat of the
Feldleutnantswitwe ONCE before he goes."
In the evening
of that day it rained heavily. I went to the post office,
and as I stood on the steps, umbrellaless, hesitating before plunging
the slushy road, a little, hesitating voice seemed to come from
I looked down.
It was the First of the Barons with the black bag and an
umbrella. Was I mad? Was I sane? He was asking me to share the latter.
But I was exceedingly nice, a trifle diffident, appropriately reverential.
Together we walked through the mud and slush.
Now, there is
something peculiarly intimate in sharing an umbrella.
It is apt to
put one on the same footing as brushing a man's coat for
him--a little daring, naive.
I longed to
know why he sat alone, why he carried the bag, what he did all
day. But he himself volunteered some information.
he said, "that my luggage will be damp. I invariably carry
with me in this bag--one requires so little--for servants are
idea," I answered. And then: "Why have you denied us the
alone that I may eat more," said the Baron, peering into the
"my stomach requires a great deal of food. I order double portions,
eat them in peace."
do you do all day?"
nourishment in my room," he replied, in a voice that closed
conversation and almost repented of the umbrella.
When we arrived
at the pension there was very nearly an open riot.
I ran half way
up the stairs, and thanked the Baron audibly from the
replied: "Not at all!"
It was very
friendly of the Herr Oberlehrer to have sent me a bouquet that
evening, and the Frau Oberregierungsrat asked me for my pattern
of a baby's
Next day the
Baron was gone.
gloria German mundi.