Buddenbrooks Chapter Nine

Dora the cook, about whose honesty Tony had had her doubts, was busy in the dining-room.

“Ask Madame Grünlich to come down,” ordered the Consul. “Get yourself ready, my child,” he said as Tony appeared. He went with her into the salon. “Get ready as soon as possible, and get Erica ready too. We are going to the city. We shall sleep to-night in a hotel and travel home to-morrow.”

“Yes, Papa,” Tony said. Her face was red; she was distracted and bewildered. She made unnecessary and hurried motions about her waist, as if not knowing where to begin and not grasping the actuality of the occasion.

“What shall I take, Papa?” she asked distractedly. “Everything? All our clothes? One trunk or two? Is Grünlich really bankrupt? Oh, my God! But can I take my jewelry, then? Papa, the servants must leave—I cannot pay them. Grünlich was to have given me housekeeping money to-day or to-morrow.”

“Never mind, my child; things will all be arranged here. Just take what is necessary in a small trunk. They can send your own things after you. Hurry, do you hear?”

Just then the portières were parted and Herr Grünlich came into the salon. With quick steps, his arms outstretched, his head on one side, with the bearing of a man who says: “Here I am; kill me if you will,” he hurried to his wife and sank down on his knees right in front of her. His appearance was pitiable. His golden whiskers were dishevelled, his coat crumpled, his neck-cloth askew, his collar open; little drops stood upon his forehead.

“Antonie!” he said. “Have you a heart that can feel? Hear me. You see before you a man who will be utterly ruined, if—yes, who will die of grief, if you deny him your love. Here I lie; can you find it in your heart to say to me: ‘I despise you—I am leaving you’?”

Tony wept. It was just the same as that time in the landscape room. Once more she saw his anguished face, his imploring eyes directed upon her; again she saw, and was moved to see, that this pleading, this anguish, were real and unfeigned.

“Get up, Grünlich,” she said, sobbing. “Please, please get up.” She tried to raise his shoulders. “I do not despise you. How can you say such a thing?” Without knowing what else she should say, she turned helplessly to her father. The Consul took her hand, bowed to his son-in-law, and moved with her toward the hall door.

“You are going?” cried Herr Grünlich, springing to his feet.

“I have told you already,” said the Consul, “that I cannot be responsible for leaving my innocent child in misfortune—and I might add that you cannot, either. No, sir, you have misprized the possession of my daughter. You may thank your Creator that the child’s heart is so pure and unsuspicious that she parts from you without repulsion. Farewell.”

But here Herr Grünlich lost his head. He could have borne to hear of a brief parting—of a return and a new life and perhaps the saving of the inheritance. But this was too much for his powers of self-command, his shrewdness and resource. He might have taken the large bronze plaque that stood on the étagère, but he seized instead a thin painted vase with flowers that stood next it, and threw it on the ground so that it smashed into a thousand bits.

“Ha, good, good!” he screamed. “Get along with you! Did you think I’d whine after you, you goose? You are very much mistaken, my darling. I only married you for your money; and it was not nearly enough, so you may as well go home. I’m through with you—through—through—through!”

Johann Buddenbrook ushered his daughter silently out. Then he turned, went up to Herr Grünlich, who was standing in the window with his hands behind his back staring out at the rain, touched him softly on the shoulder, and spoke with soft admonishment. “Pull yourself together. Pray!”