The Magic Mountain Breakfast

“MORNING,” Joachim said. “Well, that was your first night up here. How did you find it?”

He was dressed for out-of-doors, in sports clothes and stout boots, and carried his ulster over his arm. The outline of the flat bottle could be seen on the side pocket. As yesterday, he wore no hat.

“Thanks,” responded Hans Castorp, “it was well enough, I won’t try to judge yet. I’ve had all sorts of mixed-up dreams, and this building seems to possess the disadvantage of being porous—the sound goes straight through it. It’s annoying.—

Who is that dark woman down in the garden?”

Joachim knew at once whom he meant.

“Oh,” he said, “that’s Tous-les-deux. We all call her that up here, because it’s the only thing she says. Mexican, you know; doesn’t know a word of German and hardly any French, just a few scraps. She has been here for five weeks with her eldest son, a hopeless case, without much longer to go. He has it all over, tubercular through and through, you might say. Behrens says it is much like typhus, at the end—horrible for all concerned. Well, two weeks ago the second son came up, to see his brother before the end—handsome as a picture; both of them were that, with eyes like live coals—

they fluttered the dovecots, I can tell you. He had been coughing a bit down below, but otherwise quite lively. Well, he no sooner gets up here than he begins to run a temperature, high fever, you know, 103.1°. They put him to bed—and if he gets up again, Behrens says, it will be more good luck than good management. But it was high time he came, in any case, Behrens says.—Well, and since then the mother goes about—whenever she is not sitting with them—and if you speak to her, she just says:

‘Tous les deux!’ She can’t say any more, and for the moment there is no one up here who understands Spanish.”

“So that’s it,” Hans Castorp said. “Will she say it to me, when I get to know her, do you think? That will be queer—funny and weird at the same time, I mean.” His eyes looked as they had yesterday, they felt hot and heavy, as if tired with weeping, and yet brilliant too, with the gleam that had been kindled in them yesterday at the sound of that strange, new cough on the part of the gentleman rider. He had the feeling that he had been out of touch with yesterday since waking, and had only now picked up the threads again where he laid them down. He told his cousin he was ready, sprinkling a few drops of lavender-water on his handkerchief as he spoke and dabbing his face with it, on the brow and under the eyes. “If you like, we can go to breakfast, tous les deux,” he recklessly joked. Joachim looked with mildness at him, then smiled his enigmatic smile of mingled melancholy and mockery—or so it seemed, for he did not express himself otherwise.

After looking to his supply of cigars Hans Castorp took coat and stick, also, rather defiantly, his hat—he was far too sure of himself and his station in life to alter his ways and acquire new ones for a mere three weeks’ visit—and they went out and down the steps. In the corridor Joachim pointed to this and that door and gave the names of the occupants—there were German names, but also all sorts of foreign ones—with brief comments on them and the seriousness of their cases.

They met people already coming back from breakfast, and when Joachim said good-morning, Hans Castorp courteously lifted his hat. He was tense and nervous, as a young man is when about to present himself before strangers—when, that is, he is conscious that his eyes are heavy and his face red. The last, however, was only true in part, for he was rather pale than otherwise.

“Before I forget it,” he said abruptly, “you may introduce me to the lady in the garden if you like, I mean if it happens that way, I have no objection. She would just say: ‘Tous les deux’ to me, and I shouldn’t mind it, being prepared, and knowing what it means—I should know how to look. But I don’t wish to know the Russian pair, do you hear? I expressly don’t wish it. They are a very ill-behaved lot. If I must live for three weeks next door to them, and nothing else could be arranged, at least I needn’t know them. I am justified in that, and I simply and explicitly decline.”

“Very good,” Joachim said. “Did they disturb you? Yes, they are barbarians, more or less; uncivilized, I told you so before. He comes to the table in a leather jacket, very shabby, I always wonder Behrens doesn’t make a row. And she isn’t the cleanest in this world, with her feather hat. You may make yourself quite easy, they sit at the

‘bad’ Russian table, a long way off us—there is a ‘good’ Russian table, too, you see, where the nicer Russians sit—and there is not much chance of you coming into contact with them, even if you wanted to. It is not very easy to make acquaintance here, partly from the fact that there are so many foreigners. Personally, as long as I’ve been here, I know very few.”

“Which of the two is ill?” Hans Castrop asked. “He or she?”

“The man I think. Yes, only the man,” Joachim answered, absently. They passed among the hat-and coat-racks and entered the light, low-vaulted hall, where there was a buzzing of voices, a clattering of dishes, and a running to and fro of waitresses with steaming jugs.

There were seven tables, all but two of them standing lengthwise of the room. They were good-sized, seating each ten persons, though not all of them were at present full. A few steps diagonally into the room, and they stood at their places; Hans Castorp’s was at the end of a table placed between the two crosswise ones. Erect behind his chair, he bowed stiffly but amiably to each table-mate in turn, as Joachim formally presented him; hardly seeing them, much less having their names penetrate his mind. He caught but a single name and person—Frau Stöhr, whom he perceived to have a red face and greasy ash-blond hair. Looking at her he could quite credit the malapropisms Joachim told of. Her face expressed nothing but ill-nature and ignorance. He sat down, observing as he did so that early breakfast was taken seriously up here.

There were pots of marmalade and honey, basins of rice and oatmeal porridge, dishes of cold meat and scrambled eggs; a plenitude of butter, a Gruyère cheese dropping moisture under a glass bell. A bowl of fresh and dried fruits stood in the centre of the table. A waitress in black and white asked Hans Castorp whether he would drink coffee, cocoa or tea. She was small as a child, with a long, oldish face—a dwarf, he realized with a start. He looked at his cousin, who only shrugged indifferently with brows and shoulders, as though to say: “Well, what of it?” So he adjusted himself as speedily as possible to the fact that he was being served by a dwarf, and put special consideration into his voice as he asked for tea. Then he began eating rice with cinnamon and sugar, his eyes roving over the table full of other inviting viands, and over the guests at the six remaining tables, Joachim’s companions and fellow victims, who were all inwardly infected, and now sat there breakfasting. The hall was done in that modern style which knows how to give just the right touch of individuality to something in reality very simple. It was rather shallow in proportion to its length, and opened in great arched bays into a sort of lobby surrounding it, in which serving-tables were placed. The pillars were faced halfway up with wood finished to look like sandalwood, the upper part white-enamelled, like the ceiling and upper half of the walls. They were stenciled in gay-coloured bands of simple and lively designs which were repeated on the girders of the vaulted ceiling. The room was further enlivened by several electric chandeliers in bright brass, consisting of three rings placed horizontally one over the other and held together by delicate woven work, the lowest ring set with globes of milky glass like little moons. There were four glass doors, two on the opposite wall, opening on the verandah, a third at the bottom of the room on the left, leading into the front hall, and a fourth, by which Hans Castorp had entered through a vestibule, as Joachim had brought him down a different stair from the one they had used yesterday evening.

He had on his right a plain-looking woman in black, with a dull flush on her cheeks, the skin of which was downy-looking, as an older person’s often is. She looked to him like a seamstress or home dressmaker, the idea being suggested by the fact that she took only coffee and buttered rolls for breakfast; since his childhood he had always somehow associated dressmakers with coffee and buttered rolls. On his left sat an English spinster, also well on in years, very ugly, with frozen, withered-looking fingers. She sat reading her home letters, which were written in round hand, and drinking tea the colour of blood. Next her was Joachim, and then Frau Stöhr, in a woollen blouse of Scotch plaid. She held her left hand doubled up in a fist near her cheek as she ate, and drew her upper lip back from her long, narrow, rodent-like teeth when she spoke, obviously trying to make an impression of culture and refinement. A young man with thin moustaches sat next beyond. His facial expression was of one with something bad-tasting in his mouth, and he ate without a word. He had come in after Hans Castorp was already seated, with his chin sunk on his breast; and sat down so, without even lifting his head in greeting, seeming by his bearing plumply to decline being made acquainted with the new guest. He was, perhaps, too ill to have thought of or care for appearances, or even to take any interest in his surroundings. Opposite him there had sat for a short time a very lean, light-blonde girl who emptied a bottle of yogurt on her plate, ladled it up with a spoon, and took herself off. The conversation at table was not lively. Joachim talked politely with Frau Stöhr, inquired after her condition and heard with proper solicitude that it was unsatisfactory. She complained of relaxation. “I feel so relaxed,” she said with a drawl and an underbred, affected manner. And she had had 99.1° when she got up that morning—

what was she likely to have by afternoon? The dressmaker confessed to the same temperature, but she on the contrary felt excited, tense, and restless, as though some important event were about to happen, which was certainly not the case; the excitation was purely physical, quite without emotional grounds. Hans Castorp thought to himself that she could not be a dressmaker after all; she spoke too correctly, even pedantically. He found her excitation, or rather the expression of it, somehow unsuitable, almost offensive, in so homely and insignificant a creature. He asked her and Frau Stöhr, one after the other, how long they had been up here, and found that one had five, the other seven months to her credit. Then he mustered his English to inquire of his neighbour on the right what sort of tea she was drinking (it was made of rose-hips) and if it tasted good, which she almost passionately affirmed; then he watched people coming and going in the room; the first breakfast, it appeared, was not regarded as a regular meal, in any strict sense.

He had been a little afraid of unpleasant impressions, but found himself agreeably disappointed. The room was lively, one had not the least feeling of being in a place of suffering. Tanned young people of both sexes came in humming, spoke to the

waitresses, and fell to upon the viands with robust appetite. There were older people, married couples, a whole family with children, speaking Russian, and half-grown lads. The women wore chiefly close-fitting jackets of wool or silk—the so-called sweater—in white or colours, with turnover collars and side pockets; they would stand with hands thrust deep in these pockets, and talk—it looked very pretty. At some tables photographs were being handed about—amateur photography, no doubt—at another stamps were being exchanged. The talk was of the weather, of how one had slept, of what one had “measured in the mouth” on rising. Nearly everybody seemed in good spirits, probably on no other grounds than that they were in numerous company and had no immediate cares. Here and there, indeed, sat someone who rested his head on his hand and stared before him. They let him stare, and paid no heed.

Hans Castorp gave a sudden angry start. A door was slammed—it was the one on the left, leading into the hall, and someone had let it fall shut, or even banged it, a thing he detested; he had never been able to endure it. Whether from his upbringing, or out of a natural idiosyncrasy, he loathed the slamming of doors, and could have struck the guilty person. In this case, the door was filled in above with small glass panes, which augmented the shock with their ringing and rattling. “Oh, come,” he thought angrily, “what kind of damned carelessness was that?” But at the same time the seamstress addressed him with a remark, and he had no time to see who the transgressor had been. Deep creases furrowed his blond brows, and his face was contorted as he turned to reply to his neighbour.

Joachim asked whether the doctors had come through. Yes, someone answered, they had been there once and left the room just as the cousins entered. Then it would be better not to wait, Joachim thought. An opportunity for introducing his cousin would surely come in the course of the day. But at the door they nearly ran into Hofrat Behrens, as he entered with hasty steps, followed by Dr. Krokowski.

“Hullo-ullo there! Take care, gentlemen! That might have been rough on all of our corns!” He spoke with a strong low-Saxon accent, broad and mouthingly. “Oh, so here you are,” he addressed Hans Castorp, whom Joachim, heels together, presented.

“Well, glad to see you.” He reached the young man a hand the size of a shovel. He was some three heads taller than Dr. Krokowski; a bony man, his hair already quite white; his neck stuck out, his large, goggling bloodshot blue eyes were swimming in tears; he had a snub nose, and a close-trimmed little moustache, which made a crooked line because his upper lip was drawn up on one side. What Joachim had said about his cheeks was fully borne out; they were really purple, and set off his head garishly against the white surgeon’s coat he wore, a belted smock of more than kneelength, beneath which showed striped trousers and a pair of enormous feet in rather worn yellow laced boots. Dr. Krokowski too was in professional garb; but his smock was of some shiny black stuff and made like a shirt, with elastic bands at the wrists. It contrasted sharply with the pallor of his skin. His manner suggested that he was present solely in his capacity as assistant; he took no part in the greeting, but a certain expression at the corners of his mouth betrayed the fact that he felt the strain of his subordinate position.

“Cousins?” the Hofrat asked, motioning with his hand from one to the other of the two young men and looking at them with his bloodshot eyes. “Is he going to follow the drums like you?” he addressed Joachim, jerking his head at Hans Castorp. “God forbid, eh? I could tell as soon as I saw you”—he spoke now directly to the young man—“that you were a layman; there’s something civilian and comfortable about you, not like our sabre-rattling corporal here! You’d be a better patient than he is, I’ll wager. I can tell by looking at people, you know, whether they’ll make good patients or not; it takes talent, everything takes talent—and this myrmidon here hasn’t a spark. Maybe he shows up on the parade-ground, for aught I know; but he’s no good a’

being ill. Will you believe it, he’s always wanting to clear out! Badgers me all the time, simply can’t wait to get down there and be skinned alive. There’s doggedness for you! Won’t give us even a measly half-a-year! And yet it’s quite pretty up here; I leave it to you if it isn’t, Ziemssen, what? … Well, your cousin will appreciate us, even if you don’t. He’ll get some fun out of it. There’s no shortage in the lady market here, either; we have the most charming females. At least, some of them are very picturesque on the outside. But you ought to have better colour yourself, you know, if you want to please the sex. ‘The golden tree of life is green,’ as the poet says—but it’s a poor colour for the complexion, all the same. Totally anæmic, of course,” he broke off, and without more ado put up his index and middle fingers and drew down Hans Castorp’s eyelid. “Precisely! Totally anæmic, as I was saying. You know it wasn’t such a bad idea of yours to let your native Hamburg shift for itself awhile. Great institution, Hamburg—simply revels in humidity—sends us a tidy contingent every year. But if I may take the occasion to give you the benefit of my poor opinion— sine pecunia, you understand, quite sine pecunia—I would suggest that you do just as your cousin does, while you are up here. You couldn’t turn a better trick than to behave for the time as though you had a slight tuberculosis pulmonum, and put on a little flesh. It’s curious about the metabolism of protein with us up here. Although the process of combustion is heightened, yet the body at the same time puts on flesh.—Well, Ziemssen, slept pretty well, what?. . . Splendid! Then get on with the out-of-doors exercise—but not more than half an hour, you hear? And afterwards stick the quicksilver cigar in your face, eh? And be good and write it down, Ziemssen! That’s a conscientious lad! Saturday I’ll look at the curve. Your cousin better measure too. Measuring can’t hurt anybody. Morning, gentlemen. Have a good time—morning—

morning—” Krokowski joined him as he sailed off down the hall, swinging his arms palms backward, directing to right and left the question about sleeping well, which was answered on all sides in the affirmative.