Buddenbrooks Chapter Two

Early in the summer, sometimes as early as May or June, Tony Buddenbrook always went on a visit to her grandparents, who lived outside the Castle Gate. This was a great pleasure.

For life was delightful out there in the country, in the luxurious villa with its many outbuildings, servants’ quarters and stables, and its great parterres, orchards, and kitchen-gardens, which ran steeply down to the river Trave. The Krögers lived in the grand style; there was a difference between their brilliant establishment and the solid, somewhat heavy comfort of the paternal home, which was obvious at a glance, and which impressed very much the young Demoiselle Buddenbrook.

Here there was no thought of duties in house or kitchen. In the Mengstrasse, though her Mother and Grandfather did not seem to think it important, her Father and her Grandmother were always telling her to remember her dusting, and holding up Clothilde as an example. The old feudal feeling of her Mother’s side of the family came out strongly in the little maid: one could see how she issued her orders to the footman or the abigail—and to her Grandmother’s servants and her Grandfather’s coachman as well.

Say what you will, it is pleasant to awake every morning in a large, gaily tapestried bed-chamber, and with one’s first movements to feel the soft satin of the coverlet under one’s hand; to take early breakfast in the balcony room, with the sweet fresh air coming up from the garden through the open glass door; to drink, instead of coffee, a cup of chocolate handed one on a tray—yes, proper birthday chocolate, with a thick slice of fresh cup-cake! True, she had to eat her breakfast alone, except on Sundays, for her grandparents never came down until long after she had gone to school. When she had munched her cake and drunk her chocolate, she would snatch up her satchel and trip down the terrace and through the well-kept front garden.

She was very dainty, this little Tony Buddenbrook. Under her straw hat curled a wealth of blond hair, slowly darkening with the years. Lively grey-blue eyes and a pouting upper lip gave her fresh face a roguish look, borne out by the poise of her graceful little figure; even the slender legs, in their immaculate white stockings, trotted along over the ground with an unmistakable air of ease and assurance. People knew and greeted the young daughter of Consul Buddenbrook as she came out of the garden gate and up the chestnut-bordered avenue. Perhaps an old market-woman, driving her little cart in from the village, would nod her head in its big flat straw hat with its light green ribbons, and call out “Mornin’, little missy!” Or Matthiesen the porter, in his wide knee-breeches, white hose, and buckled shoes, would respectfully take off his hat as she passed.

Tony always waited for her neighbour, little Julie Hagenström; the two children went to school together. Julie was a high-shouldered child, with large, staring black eyes, who lived close by in a vine-covered house. Her people had not been long in the neighbourhood. The father, Herr Hagenström, had married a wife from Hamburg, with thick, heavy black hair and larger diamonds in her ears than any one had ever seen before. Her name was Semlinger. Hagenström was partner in the export firm of Strunck and Hagenström. He showed great zeal and ambition in municipal affairs, and was always acting on boards and committees and administrative bodies. But he was not very popular. His marriage had rather affronted the rigid traditions of the older families, like the Möllendorpfs, Langhals, and Buddenbrooks; and, for another thing, he seemed to enjoy thwarting their ideas at every turn—he would go to work in an underhand way to oppose their interests, in order to show his own superior foresight and energy. “Hinrich Hagenström makes trouble the whole time,” the Consul would say. “He seems to take a personal pleasure in thwarting me. To-day he made a scene at the sitting of the Central Paupers’ Deputation; and a few days ago in the Finance Department.…” “The old skunk!” Johann Buddenbrook interjected. Another time, father and son sat down to table angry and depressed. What was the matter? Oh, nothing. They had lost a big consignment of rye for Holland: Strunck and Hagenström had snapped it up under their noses. He was a fox, Hinrich Hagenström.

Tony had often heard such remarks, and she was not too well disposed toward Julie Hagenström; the two children walked together because they were neighbours, but usually they quarrelled.

“My Father owns a thousand thalers,” said Julchen. She thought she was uttering the most terrible falsehood. “How much does yours?”

Tony was speechless with envy and humiliation. Then she said, with a quiet, off-hand manner: “My chocolate tasted delicious this morning. What do you have for breakfast, Julie?”

“Before I forget it,” Julie would rejoin, “would you like one of my apples? Well, I won’t give you any!” She pursed up her lips, and her black eyes watered with satisfaction.

Sometimes Julie’s brother Hermann went to school at the same time with the two girls. There was another brother too, named Moritz, but he was sickly and did his lessons at home. Hermann was fair-haired and snub-nosed. He breathed through his mouth and was always smacking his lips.

“Stuff and nonsense!” he would say. “Papa has a lot more than a thousand thaler.” He interested Tony because of the luncheon he took to school: not bread, but a soft sort of lemon bun with currants in it, and sausage or smoked goose between. It seemed to be his favourite luncheon. Tony had never seen anything like it before. Lemon bun, with smoked goose—it must be wonderful! He let her look into his box, and she asked if she might have some. Hermann said: “Not to-day, Tony, because I can’t spare any. But to-morrow I’ll bring another piece for you, if you’ll give me something.”

Next morning, Tony came out into the avenue, but there was no Julie. She waited five minutes, but there was no sign. Another minute—there came Hermann alone, swinging his lunch-box by the strap and smacking his lips.

“Now,” he said, “here’s a bun, with some goose between—all lean; there’s not a bit of fat to it. What will you give me for it?”

“A shilling?” suggested Tony. They were standing in the middle of the avenue.

“A shilling?” repeated Hermann. Then he gave a gulp and said, “No, I want something else.”

“What?” demanded Tony; for she was prepared to pay a good price for the dainty.

“A kiss!” shouted Hermann Hagenström. He flung his arms around Tony, and began kissing at random, never once touching her face, for she flung her head back with surprising agility, pushed him back with her left hand—it was holding her satchel—against his breast, while with her right hand she dealt him three or four blows in the face with all her strength. He stumbled backward; but at that moment sister Julie appeared from behind a tree, like a little black demon, and, falling upon Tony, tore off her hat and scratched her cheeks unmercifully. After this affair, naturally, the friendship was about at an end.

It was hardly out of shyness that Tony had refused the kiss. She was on the whole a forward damsel, and had given the Consul no little disquiet with her tomboy ways. She had a good little head, and did as well in the school as one could desire; but her conduct in other ways was far from satisfactory. Things even went so far that one day the schoolmistress, a certain Fräulein Agathe Vermehren, felt obliged to call upon the Frau Consul, and, flushed with embarrassment, to suggest with all due politeness that the child should receive a paternal admonition. It seemed that Tony, despite frequent correction, had been guilty, not for the first time, of creating a disturbance in the street!

There was, of course, no harm in the fact that the child knew everybody in town. The Consul quite approved of this, and argued that it displayed love of one’s neighbour, a sense of human fellowship, and a lack of snobbishness. So Tony, on her way through the streets, chattered with all and sundry. She and Tom would clamber about in the granaries on the water-side, among the piles of oats and wheat, prattling to the labourers and the clerks in the dark little ground-floor offices; they would even help haul up the sacks of grain. She knew the butchers with their trays and aprons, when she met them in Broad Street; she accosted the dairy women when they came in from the country, and made them take her a little way in their carts. She knew the grey-bearded craftsmen who sat in the narrow goldsmiths’ shops built into the arcades in the market square; and she knew the fish-wives, the fruit- and vegetable-women, and the porters that stood on the street corners chewing their tobacco.

So far, this was very well. But it was not all.

There was a pale, beardless man, of no particular age, who was often seen wandering up and down Broad Street with a wistful smile on his face. This man was so nervous that he jumped every time he heard a sudden noise behind him; and Tony delighted in making him jump every time she set eyes on him. Then there was an odd, tiny little woman with a large head, who put up a huge tattered umbrella at every sign of a storm. Tony would harass this poor soul with cries of “Mushroom!” whenever she had the chance. Moreover, she and two or three more of her ilk would go to the door of a tiny house in an alley off John Street, where there lived an old woman who did a tiny trade in worsted dolls; they would ring the bell and, when the old dame appeared, inquire with deceptive courtesy, if Herr and Frau Spittoon were at home—and then run away screaming with laughter. All these ragamuffinly tricks Tony Buddenbrook was guilty of—indeed, she seemed to perform them with the best conscience in the world. If one of her victims threatened her, she would step back a pace or two, toss her pretty head, pout with her pretty lip, and say “Pooh!” in a half mocking, half angry tone which meant: “Try it if you like. I am Consul Buddenbrook’s daughter, if you don’t know!”

Thus she went about in the town like a little queen; and like a queen, she was kind or cruel to her subjects, as the whim seized her.