Buddenbrooks Chapter Thirteen

Then came the ferry, and Israelsdorf Avenue, Jerusalem Hill, the Castle Field. The wagon passed the Castle Gate, with the walls of the prison rising on the right, and rolled along Castle Street and over the Koberg. Tony looked at the grey gables, the oil lamps hung across the streets, Holy Ghost Hospital with the already almost bare lindens in front of it. Oh, how everything was exactly as it had been! It had been standing here, in immovable dignity, while she had thought of it as a dream worthy only to be forgotten. These grey gables were the old, the accustomed, the traditional, to which she was returning, in the midst of which she must live. She wept no more. She looked about curiously. The pain of parting was almost dulled at the sight of these well-known streets and faces. At that moment—the wagon was rolling through Broad Street—the porter Matthiesen passed and took off his stove-pipe hat so obsequiously that it seemed he must be thinking, “Bow, you dog of a porter—you can’t bow low enough.”

The equipage turned into the Mengstrasse, and the fat brown horses stood snorting and stamping before the Buddenbrook door. Tom was very attentive in helping his sister out, while Anton and Line hastened up to unfasten the trunk. But they had to wait before they could enter the house. Three great lorries were being driven through, one close behind another, piled high with full corn sacks, with the firm name written on them in big black letters. They jolted along over the great boards and down the shallow steps to the cart-yard with a heavy rumbling noise. Part of the corn was evidently to be unloaded at the back of the house and the rest taken to the “Walrus,” the “Lion,” or the “Oak.”

The Consul came out of the office with his pen behind his ear as the brother and sister reached the entry, and stretched out his arms to his daughter.

“Welcome home, my dear Tony!”

She kissed him, looking a little shame-faced, her eyes still red with weeping. But he was very tactful; he made no allusions; he only said: “It is late, but we waited with the second breakfast.”

The Frau Consul, Christian, Clothilde, Clara, and Ida Jungmann stood above on the landing to greet her.

Tony slept soundly and well the first night in Mengstrasse. She rose the next morning, the twenty-second of September, refreshed and calmed, and went down into the breakfast-room. It was still quite early, hardly seven o’clock. Only Mamsell Jungmann was there, making the morning coffee.

“Well, well, Tony, my little child,” she said, looking round with her small, blinking brown eyes. “Up so early?”

Tony sat down at the open desk, clasped her hands behind her head, and looked for a while at the pavement of the court, gleaming black with wet, and at the damp, yellow garden. Then she began to rummage curiously among the visiting-cards and letters on the desk. Close by the inkstand lay the well-known large copy-book with the stamped cover, gilt edges, and leaves of various qualities and colours. It must have been used the evening before, and it was strange that Papa had not put it back in its leather portfolio and laid it in its special drawer.

She took it and turned over the pages, began to read, and became absorbed. What she read were mostly simple facts well known to her; but each successive writer had followed his predecessor in a stately but simple chronicle style which was no bad mirror of the family attitude, its modest but honourable self-respect, and its reverence for tradition and history. The book was not new to Tony; she had sometimes been allowed to read in it. But its contents had never made the impression upon her that they made this morning. She was thrilled by the reverent particularity with which the simplest facts pertinent to the family were here treated. She propped herself on her elbows and read with growing absorption, seriousness and pride.

No point in her own tiny past was lacking. Her birth, her childish illnesses, her first school, her boarding-school days at Mademoiselle Weichbrodt’s, her confirmation—everything was carefully entered, with an almost reverent observation of facts, in the Consul’s small, flowing business hand; for was not the least of them the will and work of God, who wonderfully guided the destinies of the family? What, she mused, would there he entered here in the future after her name, which she had received from her grandmother Antoinette? All that was yet to be written there would be conned by later members of the family with a piety equal to her own.

She leaned back sighing; her heart beat solemnly. She was filled with reverence for herself: the familiar feeling of personal importance possessed her, heightened by all she had been reading. She felt thrilled and shuddery. “Like a link in a chain,” Papa had written. Yes, yes. She was important precisely as a link in this chain. Such was her significance and her responsibility, such her task: to share by deed and word in the history of her family.

She turned back to the end of the great volume, where on a rough folio page was entered the genealogy of the whole Buddenbrook family, with parentheses and rubrics, indicated in the Consul’s hand, and all the dates set down: from the marriage of the earliest scion of the family with Brigitta Schuren, the pastor’s daughter, down to the wedding of Consul Johann Buddenbrook with Elizabeth Kröger in 1825. From this marriage, it said, four children had resulted: whereupon these were all entered, with the days and years of their birth, and their baptismal names, one after another. Under that of the eldest son it was recorded that he had entered as apprentice in his father’s business in the Easter of 1842.

Tony looked a long time at her name and at the blank space next it. Then, suddenly, with a jerk, with a nervous, feverish accompaniment of sobbing breaths and quick-moving lips—she clutched the pen, plunged it rather than dipped it into the ink, and wrote, with her forefinger crooked, her hot head bent far over on her shoulder, in her awkward handwriting that climbed up the page from left to right: “Betrothed, on Sept. 22, 1845, to Herr Bendix Grünlich, Merchant, of Hamburg.”