While staying with her aunt at a fashionable spa, Else receives an unexpected telegram from her mother, begging her to save her father from debtor's jail. The only way out, it seems, is to approach an elderly acquaintance in order to borrow money from him. Through this telegram, Else is forced into the reality of a world entirely at odds with her romantic imagination – with horrific consequences.
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About the Author
Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) was born in Vienna, the son of a prominent Jewish doctor, and studied medicine at the University of Vienna. In later years he devoted his life to writing and was successful as a novelist, dramatist and short story writer—His novels Dying and Casanova’s Return to Venice are also available from Pushkin Press. Schnitzler's work shows a remarkable ability to create atmosphere and a profound understanding of human motives.
Read an Excerpt
By Arthur Schnitzler, F. H. Lyon
Steerforth PressCopyright © 2012 Arthur Schnitzler
All rights reserved.
"Won't you really play any more, Else?"
"No, Paul, I can't play any more. Good-bye. Good-bye, gnädige Frau."
"But, Else, call me Frau Cissy — or better still, just Cissy."
"Good-bye, Frau Cissy."
"But why are you going already, Else? There are two whole hours before dinner."
"Please play your single with Paul, Frau Cissy. It's really no fun playing with me today."
"Leave her alone, gnädige Frau, she's in one of her moods today ... As a matter of fact, Else, being in a bad mood is very becoming to you. And your red jersey is still more so."
"I hope you'll find me better-tempered in blue, Paul."
That was quite a good exit. I hope those two don't think I'm jealous ... I'll swear there's something between Cousin Paul and Cissy Mohr. Nothing in the world troubles me less ... Now I'll turn round again and wave to them. Wave and smile. Do I look gracious now? Oh Lord, they're playing again. I really play better than Cissy Mohr, and Paul isn't exactly a champion, but he looks nice with his open collar and that naughty boy face. If only he weren't so affected. You needn't worry, Aunt Emma ...
What a wonderful evening! It would have been the right weather today for a trip to the Rosetta Hut. How gorgeously the Cimone towers up into the sky! ... We should have started at five. Of course I should have felt miserable at first, as usual. But that wears off ... There's nothing more delightful than walking in the early morning ... That one-eyed American at the Rosetta looked like a prize-fighter. Perhaps someone knocked his eye out in a fight. I'd rather like to be married in America, but not to an American. Or I'll marry an American and we'll live in Europe. A villa on the Riviera, with marble steps going down into the sea. I'd lie on the marble with nothing on ... How long is it since we were at Menton? Seven or eight years. I was thirteen or fourteen. Ah, yes, we were better off in those days ...
It really was silly to put off the trip. We'd have been back by now at any rate ... At four o'clock, when I went out to play tennis, the express letter which Mother telegraphed to say she was sending still hadn't come. I wonder if it's come now. I could quite well have played another set ... Why do these two young men take off their hats to me? I don't know them. They've been staying at the hotel since yesterday and sit on the left-hand side of the room at meals, where the Dutch people used to sit. Did I bow ungraciously? Or even haughtily? I'm not really haughty. What was it Fred said on the way home from Coriolanus? High-spirited: you're high-spirited, Else, not haughty. Nice words. He always finds nice words ...
Why am I walking so slowly? Can I be afraid of Mother's letter? Well, what there is in it can hardly be pleasant. An express letter! Perhaps I've got to go home. How wretched! What a life, in spite of a red silk jersey and silk stockings — three pairs! The poor relation invited by the rich aunt. I'm sure she's sorry she asked me already. Dear Aunt, shall I put it in writing for you that I don't think of Paul even in my dreams? I don't think of anybody. I'm not in love. Not with anybody. I never have been in love. I wasn't in love even with Albert, though I imagined I was for a week. I don't think I'm capable of falling in love. That's really curious, for I'm certainly sensual. But high-spirited and ungracious too, thank Heaven! Perhaps the only time I really was in love was when I was thirteen. With Van Dyck ... and still more with the Abbé was sixteen, at the Wörthersee ... No, that was nothing. Why am I reminiscing like this? I'm not writing my memoirs. I don't even keep a diary like Bertha. I like Fred — nothing more. Perhaps, if he had a little more style. Yes, I'm a snob. Father says I am, and laughs at me. Oh, dear father, you give me a lot of worry. I wonder if he's ever been unfaithful to Mother. I'm sure he has. Often. Mother is rather stupid. She knows nothing about me at all. No more do other people. Fred, perhaps? Well, a very little.
A heavenly evening. How splendid the hotel looks. One feels that all the people there are well-off and have no worries. I, for example. Ha, ha! It's bad luck. I was born for a care-free life. It might have been so delightful. It's bad luck ... There's a red glow over the Cimone. Paul would call it an Alpine glow. It's beautiful enough to make one cry. Oh, why have I got to go back to town?
"Good evening, Fräulein Else."
"Küss' die Hand, gnädige Frau."
"Been playing tennis?"
She can see I have, why does she ask?
"Yes, gnädige Frau. We've been playing for nearly three hours. Are you going for a walk?"
"Yes, my usual evening walk Along the Rolleweg. It's such a pretty walk through the meadows; it's almost too sunny in the daytime."
"Yes, the meadows here are lovely. Especially from my window, by moonlight."
Good evening, Fräulein Else."
"Küss' die Hand, gnädige Frau. Good evening, Herr von Dorsday."
"Been playing tennis, Fräulein Else?"
"How observant you are, Herr von Dorsday!"
"Don't make fun of me, Else."
Why doesn't he say 'Fräulein Else'?
"Anyone who looks so charming with a racquet is justified in carrying it, to a certain extent, as an adornment."
The ass! I won't answer that at all.
"We've been playing all the afternoon. Unfortunately we were only three — Paul, Frau Mohr and I."
"I used to be a very keen tennis-player."
"And aren't you now?"
"No, I'm too old now."
"Old? Why, at Marienlyst there was a Swede who was sixty-five, and he played every evening from six till eight. And the year before he actually played in a tournament."
"Well, I'm not sixty-five yet, thank Heaven, but, unfortunately, I'm not a Swede either."
Why unfortunately? I suppose he thinks that's funny. The best thing to do is to smile politely and go.
"Küss' die Hand, gnädige Frau. Good-bye, Herr von Dorsday."
How low he bows and what eyes he makes! Calf's eyes. Perhaps I hurt his feelings by talking about the Swede of sixty-five. It doesn't matter. Frau Winawer must have an unhappy life. She's certainly getting on for fifty. What tear-sacks she's got ... as if she cried a lot. Oh, how awful it must be to be so old! Herr von Dorsday pays a lot of attention to her. There he is walking beside her. He's still quite nice-looking with his pointed beard, going grey. But I don't like him. He's a social climber. What good does your first-class tailor do you, Herr von Dorsday? Dorsday! I'm sure your name used to be something else ... Here comes that sweet little girl of Cissy's with her Fräulein.
"Hello, Fritzi. Bon soir, Mademoiselle. Vous allez bien?"
"Merci, Mademoiselle. Et vous?"
"Why, Fritzi, you've got an alpenstock. Are you going up the Cimone?"
"Oh, no, I'm not allowed to go as high as that yet."
"You'll be allowed to next year all right. So long, Fritzi. A bientôt, Mademoiselle."
"Bon soir, Mademoiselle."
A pretty girl. I wonder why she's a nurse — and Cissy's into the bargain. A hard fate. Oh well I may come to that too. No, I'll certainly find something better to do. Better? ... What a lovely evening! 'The air is like champagne,' Dr Waldberg said yesterday. And the day before yesterday someone else said it ... Why do people sit in the lounge in this wonderful weather? I can't understand it. Or are they all waiting for express letters? The porter has seen me. If there'd been an express letter for me he'd have brought it to me at once. So there isn't one. Thank Heaven! I'll lie down for a bit before dinner. 'Dinner' — why does Cissy use the English word? Silly affectation. They're a good match, Cissy and Paul ... Oh, I wish the letter was here. It'll probably come during dinner. And if it doesn't come I shall have a bad night. I slept so wretchedly last night, too. I'll take some veronal tonight ... No, my dear Fred, you mustn't worry about me. One ought to try everything, even hashish. That young naval officer, Brandel, has brought some with him — from China, I think. Does one drink hashish or smoke it? It's supposed to give one marvellous visions. Brandel invited me to drink — or smoke — hashish with him. A cheeky boy. But nice-looking.
"A letter for you, Fräulein."
The porter! Now for it. I turn round quite casually. It might be a letter from Caroline, or from Bertha, or from Fred, or Miss Jackson ...
Yes, it is from Mother — an express letter. Why didn't he say it was an express letter?
"Oh, an express letter!"
I shan't open it till I get to my room and then I'll read it all by myself ... The Marchesa. How young she looks in the half-light. I'm sure she's forty-five. Where shall I be at forty-five? Dead, perhaps. I hope so. She smiles at me as pleasantly as she always does. I'll let her pass with a slight nod; I mustn't let her think I feel specially honoured by being smiled at by a Marchesa ...
She says buona sera to me. Now I must bow at any rate. Was my bow too deep? She is so much older. How splendidly she carries herself. I wonder if she's divorced. I carry myself well, too, but — I know. That's what makes the difference ...
An Italian might be dangerous to me. It's a pity the dark man with the Roman head left so soon. Paul said he looked a rascal. Suppose he is? I've nothing against rascals. Quite the opposite ... Well, here I am at number 77. A lucky number. It's a pretty room. Pinewood furniture. There stands my virginal bed ... now it's a real Alpine glow. But I shan't admit it to Paul. You know, Paul's shy. A doctor — a woman's doctor! Perhaps that's just why. The day before yesterday in the woods, when we were so far ahead, he might have been a bit more enterprising. Not that it would have done him any good. No one has ever been really enterprising with me. Except perhaps at the Wörthersee three years ago, when we were bathing. Enterprising? No, he was simply objectionable. But how handsome. An Apollo Belvedere. I really didn't understand anything then. After all, I was only sixteen ... My heavenly meadow! Mine! I wish I could take it back to Vienna. A light mist. Autumn? Well, it's the 3rd of September, and we're high up in the mountains.
Well now, Fräulein Else, can't you make up your mind to read that letter? It needn't have anything to do with Father. Mightn't it be something about my brother? Perhaps he's got engaged to one of his flames. A chorus girl or a girl in a glove shop. Oh no, he's got too much sense for that. As a matter of fact, I don't know much about him. When I was sixteen and he was twenty-one we were really good friends for a time. He told me a great deal about someone called Lotte; then all of a sudden he stopped. Lotte must have done something to him. And since then he's never told me anything more ... Why, the letter's open, and I never noticed that I was opening it. I'll sit down on the windowsill and read it. I must take care I don't fall out ... According to a telegram from San Martino, an unfortunate accident has occurred at the Hotel Fratazza. Fräulein Else T., a beautiful girl of nineteen, daughter of the well-known lawyer ... Of course they'd say I'd killed myself because I was crossed in love, or because I was expecting ... Crossed in love — no.
"My dear child" ... I'll look at the end first ... "So once more, don't be angry with us, my darling child, and be a thousand times –" good Heavens, they haven't killed themselves! No, if they had I'd have had a telegram from Rudi ... "My dear child, you can understand how sorry I am to burst into your pleasant holiday time" — as if it wasn't always holiday time for me, worse luck — "with such unpleasant news" ... Mother does write a fearful style ... "But after mature consideration I have really no other choice. To cut it short, Father's situation has become acute. I don't know what to think or do" ... Why all this talk? ... "The sum in question is a comparatively trivial one, thirty thousand gulden" — trivial? — "which must be forthcoming in three days, or all is lost" ... Heavens, what does she mean? "Imagine, my dear, Baron Höning" — what, the Public Prosecutor? — "sent for Father this morning. You know how highly the Baron thinks of Father, how fond he is of him, indeed. A year and a half ago, when things hung by a thread, he spoke to the principal creditors in person and put things straight at the last moment. But this time absolutely nothing can be done if the money is not forthcoming. And quite apart from our all being ruined, there will be such a scandal as there never was before. Think of it — a lawyer, a famous lawyer, who — no, I cannot write it down. I am fighting with my tears all the time I write. You know, my dear, for you are intelligent, we have been in a situation like this several times before, and the family has always helped us out. Last time it was a question of 120,000 gulden. But then Father had to sign an undertaking never to approach our relations again, especially Uncle Bernhard" ... Well, go on, go on, what's she driving at? What can I do about it? ... "The only one of whom I can think as a last resort is Uncle Victor, but unfortunately he is on a trip to the North Cape or Scotland" — yes, he's well off, the horrid creature — "and is absolutely unreachable, at least for the time being. Father's colleagues are out of the question, especially Dr Sch., who has often helped Father out before," — good Heavens, how do we stand with him? — "now that he has married again" ... Well, what what, what do you want me to do? ... "And now your letter has come, my dear child, in which you mention among other people Dorsday, who is also staying at the Fratazza, and it seemed to us like the hand of providence. You know how often Dorsday used to come to our house in years gone by" ... Yes, very often ... "It is the merest chance that we have seen less of him in the last two or three years; he is supposed to be deeply entangled — nothing very grand between ourselves" ... Why 'between ourselves'? ... "Father still plays whist with him every Thursday at the Residenzklub, and last winter he saved him a big sum of money in an action against another art-dealer. Besides, why shouldn't you know it, he helped Father once before" ... I thought as much ... "It was only a very small sum that time — eight thousand gulden — but, after all, thirty is nothing to Dorsday. So I wondered whether you could not do us a kindness and speak to Dorsday" ... What? ... "He has always been particularly fond of you" ... I haven't noticed it. He stroked my cheek once, when I was twelve or thirteen, and said 'Quite a grown-up young lady already' ... "And as Father, luckily, has not approached him again since the eight thousand, he will probably not refuse to do him this favour. He is supposed to have made eighty thousand quite lately on a Rubens which he sold to America. Of course you mustn't mention this" — do you take me for a fool, Mother? — "but otherwise you can talk to him quite frankly. You might also mention, if occasion arises, that Baron Höning has sent for Father, and that if we get thirty thousand the worst will be averted, not only for the time being, but, God willing, for ever" — do you really think so, Mother? — "for the Erbesheimer case, which is going on splendidly, will certainly bring Father in a hundred thousand, but of course he cannot ask the Erbesheimers for anything at the present stage of the case. So I beg you, my dear child, to speak to Dorsday. I assure you there is no harm in it. Father could simply have telegraphed to him — we seriously considered doing so — but it is quite a different matter, dear, when one talks to a person face to face. The money must be here on the 5th, at noon. Dr F." — who is Dr F.? oh yes, Fiala — "is inexorable. Of course personal rancour enters into the matter, but as, unfortunately, trust money is concerned" — good God, Father, what have you done? — "there is nothing to be done. And if the money is not in Fiala's hands by twelve noon on the 5th, a warrant will be issued; Baron Höning will keep it back till then. So Dorsday would have to telegraph the sum to Dr F. through his bank. Then we shall be saved. Otherwise God knows what will happen. Believe me, you will not be lowering yourself in the least, my darling child. Father had scruples at first. He even made efforts in two further directions. But he came home quite desperate" — can Father ever be desperate? — "not so much, perhaps, because of the money as because people behave so shamefully to him. One of them was once Father's best friend. You can guess whom I mean" ... I can't guess at all. Father has had so many best friends, and in reality not one. Warnsdorf, perhaps? ... "Father came home at one o'clock and now it is four in the morning. He is asleep at last, thank God" ... It would be the best thing for him if he never woke up ... "I shall post this letter myself as early as possible, express, so that you will get it on the morning of the 3rd" ... What made Mother think that? She never knows anything about such things. "So speak to Dorsday at once, I beseech you, and telegraph at once how it goes. Don't let Aunt Emma notice anything, for Heaven's sake. It is sad that in a case like this one cannot turn to one's own sister, but one might just as well speak to a stone. My dear, dear child, I am so sorry that you should have to go through such things in your youth, but-believe me, Father himself is the last to blame" ... Who is then, Mother? ... "Let us hope that the Erbesheimer casewill mean the turning of a new leaf in our existence in every respect. We have only to get through these few weeks. It would surely be an irony of Fate if a catastrophe happened over the thirty thousand gulden. ... She doesn't seriously mean that Father would commit ... but wouldn't ... the other thing be even worse? ... "Now I must stop, dear. I hope that in any case" — in any case? — "you will be able to stay at San Martina until the 9th or 10th at least. You must certainly not return on our account. Give my love to your Aunt; go on being nice to her. So once more, don't be angry with us my darling child, and be a thousand times –" ... Yes, I know that bit.
Excerpted from Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler, F. H. Lyon. Copyright © 2012 Arthur Schnitzler. Excerpted by permission of Steerforth Press.
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