In a German Pension

In a German Pension

第17章 AT LEHMANN'S.(3)

But he had gone,and she ran over to Anna and shook her by the shoulder.

"The Frau--the baby--Herr Lehmann for the nurse,"she stuttered.

"Name of God!"said Anna,flinging herself out of bed.

No complaints to-day.Importance--enthusiasm in Anna's whole bearing.

"You run downstairs and light the oven.Put on a pan of water"--speaking to an imaginary sufferer as she fastened her blouse--"Yes,yes,I know--we must be worse before we are better--I'm coming--patience."It was dark all that day.Lights were turned on immediately the cafe opened,and business was very brisk.Anna,turned out of the Frau's room by the nurse,refused to work,and sat in a corner nursing herself,listening to sounds overhead.Hans was more sympathetic than Sabina.He also forsook work,and stood by the window,picking his nose.

"But why must I do everything?"said Sabina,washing glasses."I can't help the Frau;she oughtn't to take such a time about it.""Listen,"said Anna,"they've moved her into the back bedroom above here,so as not to disturb the people.That was a groan--that one!""Two small beers,"shouted Herr Lehmann through the slide.

"One moment,one moment."

At eight o'clock the cafe was deserted.Sabina sat down in the corner without her sewing.Nothing seemed to have happened to the Frau.A doctor had come--that was all.

"Ach,"said Sabina."I think no more of it.I listen no more.Ach,Iwould like to go away--I hate this talk.I will not hear it.No,it is too much."She leaned both elbows on the table--cupped her face in her hands and pouted.

But the outer door suddenly opening,she sprang to her feet and laughed.

It was the Young Man again.He ordered more port,and brought no book this time.

"Don't go and sit miles away,"he grumbled."I want to be amused.And here,take my coat.Can't you dry it somewhere?--snowing again.""There's a warm place--the ladies'cloak-room,"she said."I'll take it in there--just by the kitchen."She felt better,and quite happy again.

"I'll come with you,"he said."I'll see where you put it."And that did not seem at all extraordinary.She laughed and beckoned to him.

"In here,"she cried."Feel how warm.I'll put more wood on that oven.

It doesn't matter,they're all busy upstairs."She knelt down on the floor,and thrust the wood into the oven,laughing at her own wicked extravagance.

The Frau was forgotten,the stupid day was forgotten.Here was someone beside her laughing,too.They were together in the little warm room stealing Herr Lehmann's wood.It seemed the most exciting adventure in the world.She wanted to go on laughing--or burst out crying--or--or--catch hold of the Young Man.

"What a fire,"she shrieked,stretching out her hands.

"Here's a hand;pull up,"said the Young Man."There,now,you'll catch it to-morrow."They stood opposite to each other,hands still clinging.And again that strange tremor thrilled Sabina.

"Look here,"he said roughly,"are you a child,or are you playing at being one?""I--I--"

Laughter ceased.She looked up at him once,then down at the floor,and began breathing like a frightened little animal.

He pulled her closer still and kissed her mouth.

"Na,what are you doing?"she whispered.

He let go her hands,he placed his on her breasts,and the room seemed to swim round Sabina.Suddenly,from the room above,a frightful,tearing shriek.

She wrenched herself away,tightened herself,drew herself up.

"Who did that--who made that noise?"

In the silence the thin wailing of a baby.

"Achk!"shrieked Sabina,rushing from the room.

Katherine Mansfield