Buddenbrooks Chapter Six

And now came, in two great cut-glass dishes, the “Plettenpudding.” It was made of layers of macaroons, raspberries, lady-fingers, and custard. At the same time, at the other end of the table, appeared the blazing plum-pudding which was the children’s favourite sweet.

“Thomas, my son, come here a minute,” said Johann Buddenbrook, taking his great bunch of keys from his trousers pocket. “In the second cellar to the right, the second bin, behind the red Bordeaux, two bottles—you understand?” Thomas, to whom such orders were familiar, ran off and soon came back with the two bottles, covered with dust and cobwebs; and the little dessert-glasses were filled with sweet, golden-yellow malmsey from these unsightly receptacles. Now the moment came when Pastor Wunderlich rose, glass in hand, to propose a toast; and the company fell silent to listen. He spoke in the pleasant, conversational tone which he liked to use in the pulpit; his head a little on one side, a subtle, humorous smile on his pale face, gesturing easily with his free hand. “Come, my honest friends, let us honour ourselves by drinking a glass of this excellent liquor to the health of our host and hostess in their beautiful new home. Come, then—to the health of the Buddenbrook family, present and absent! May they live long and prosper!”

“Absent?” thought the Consul to himself, bowing as the company lifted their glasses. “Is he referring to the Frankfort Buddenbrooks, or perhaps the Duchamps in Hamburg—or did old Wunderlich really mean something by that?” He stood up and clinked glasses with his father, looking him affectionately in the eye.

Broker Gratjens got up next, and his speech was rather long-winded; he ended by proposing in his high-pitched voice a health to the firm of Johann Buddenbrook, that it might continue to grow and prosper and do honour to the town.

Johann Buddenbrook thanked them all for their kindness, first as head of the family and then as senior partner of the firm—and sent Thomas for another bottle of Malmsey. It had been a mistake to suppose that two would be enough.

Lebrecht Kröger spoke too. He took the liberty of remaining seated, because it looked less formal, and gestured with his head and hands most charmingly as he proposed a toast to the two ladies of the family, Madame Antoinette and the Frau Consul. As he finished, the Plettenpudding was nearly consumed, and the Malmsey nearing its end; and then, to a universal, long-drawn “Ah-h!” Jean Jacques Hoffstede rose up slowly, clearing his throat. The children clapped their hands with delight.

“Excusez! I really couldn’t help it,” he began. He put his finger to his long sharp nose and drew a paper from his coat pocket. … A profound silence reigned throughout the room.

His paper was gaily parti-coloured. On the outside of it was written, in an oval border surrounded by red flowers and a profusion of gilt flourishes:

“On the occasion of my friendly participation in a delightful house-warming party given by the Buddenbrook family. October 1835.”

He read this aloud first; then turning the paper over, he began, in a voice that was already somewhat tremulous:

Honoured friends, my modest lay

Hastes to greet you in these walls:

May kind Heaven grant to-day

Blessing on their spacious halls.

Thee, my friend with silver hair,

And thy faithful, loving spouse,

And your children young and fair—

I salute you, and your house.

Industry and beauty chaste

See we linked in marriage band:

Venus Anadyomene

And cunning Vulcan’s busy hand.

May no future storms dismay

With unkind blast the joyful hour;

May each new returning day

Blessings on your pathway shower.

Ceaselessly shall I rejoice

O’er the fortune that is yours :

As to-day I lift my voice,

May I still, while life endures.

In your splendid walls live well,

And cherish with affection true

Him who in his humble cell

Penned to-day these lines for you.

He bowed to a unanimous outburst of applause.

“Charming, Hoffstede,” cried old Buddenbrook. “It was too charming for words. I drink your health.”

But when the Frau Consul touched glasses with the poet, a delicate blush mantled her cheek; for she had seen the courtly bow he made in her direction when he came to the port about the Venus Anadyomene.