The Great Keinplatz Experiment

The Great Keinplatz Experiment

“Gentlemen,” said the Professor, standing up, albeit somewhat totteringly, at the end of the table, and balancing his high old-fashioned wine glass in his bony hand, “I must now explain to you what is the cause of this festivity.”

“Hear! hear! ” roared the students, hammering their beer glasses against the table; “a speech, a speech! — silence for a speech!”

“The fact is, my friends,” said the Professor, beaming through his spectacles, “I hope very soon to be married.”

“Married!” cried a student, bolder than the others “Is Madame dead, then?”

“Madame who?”

“Why, Madame von Baumgarten, of course.”

“Ha, ha!” laughed the Professor; “I can see, then, that you know all about my former difficulties. No, she is not dead, but I have reason to believe that she will not oppose my marriage.”

“That is very accommodating of her,” remarked one of the company.

“In fact,” said the Professor, “I hope that she will now be induced to aid me in getting a wife. She and I never took to each other very much; but now I hope all that may be ended, and when I marry she will come and stay with me.”

“What a happy family!” exclaimed some wag.

“Yes, indeed; and I hope you will come to my wedding, all of you. I won’t mention names, but here is to my little bride!” and the Professor waved his glass in the air.

“Here’s to his little bride!” roared the roysterers, with shouts of laughter. “Here’s her health. Sie soll leben — Hoch!” And so the fun waxed still more fast and furious, while each young fellow followed the Professor’s example, and drank a toast to the girl of his heart.

While all this festivity had been going on at the Graner Mann, a very different scene had been enacted elsewhere. Young Fritz von Hartmann, with a solemn face and a reserved manner, had, after the experiment, consulted and adjusted some mathematical instruments; after which, with a few peremptory words to the janitors, he had walked out into the street and wended his way slowly in the direction of the house of the Professor. As he walked he saw Von Althaus, the professor of anatomy, in front of him, and quickening his pace he overtook him.

“I say, Von Althaus,” he exclaimed, tapping him on the sleeve, “you were asking me for some information the other day concerning the middle coat of the cerebral arteries. Now I find — — ”

“Donnerwetter!” shouted Von Althaus, who was a peppery old fellow. “What the deuce do you mean by your impertinence! I’ll have you up before the Academical Senate for this, sir; “with which threat he turned on his heel and hurried away. Von Hartmann was much surprised at this reception. “It’s on account of this failure of my experiment,” he said to himself, and continued moodily on his way.

Fresh surprises were in store for him, however. He was hurrying along when he was overtaken by two students. These youths, instead of raising their caps or showing any other sign of respect, gave a wild whoop of deligilt the instant that they saw him, and rushing at him, seized him by each arm and commenced dragging him along with them.

“Gott in himmel!” roared Von Hartmann. “What is the meaning of this unparalleled insult? Where are you taking me?”

“To crack a bottle of wine with us,” said the two students. “Come along! That is an invitation which you have never refused.”

“I never heard of such insolence in my life!” cried Von Hartmann. “Let go my arms! I shall certainly have you rusticated for this. Let me go, I say!” and he kicked furiously at his captors.

“Oh, if you choose to turn ill-tempered, you may go where you like,” the students said, releasing him. “We can do very well without you.”

“I know you. I’ll pay you out,” said Von Hartmann furiously, and continued in the direction which he imagined to be his own home, much incensed at the two episodes which had occurred to him on the way.

Now, Madame von Baumgarten, who was looking out of the window and wondering why her husband was late for dinner, was considerably astonished to see the young student come stalking down the road. As already remarked, she had a great antipathy to him, and if ever he ventured into the house it was on sufferance, and under the protection of the Professor. Still more astonished was she, therefore, when she beheld him undo the wicket-gate and stride up the garden path with the air of one who is master of the situation. She could hardly believe her eyes, and hastened to the door with all her maternal instincts up in arms. From the upper windows the fair Elise had also observed this daring move upon the part of her lover, and her heart beat quick with mingled pride and consternation.

“Good day, sir,” Madame Baumgarten remarked to the intruder, as she stood in gloomy majesty in the open doorway.

“A very fine day indeed, Martha,” returned the other. “Now, don’t stand there like a statue of Juno, but bustle about and get the dinner ready, for I am well-nigh starved.”

“Martha! Dinner!” ejaculated the lady, falling back in astonishment.

“Yes, dinner, Martha, dinner!” howled Von Hartmann, who was becoming irritable. “Is there anything wonderful in that request when a man has been out all day? I’ll wait in the dining-room. Anything will do. Schinken, and sausage, and prunes — any little thing that happens to be about. There you are, standing staring again. Woman, will you or will you not stir your legs?”

This last address, delivered with a perfect shriek of rage, had the effect of sending good Madame Baumgarten flying along the passage and through the kitchen, where she locked herself up in the scullery and went into violent hysterics. In the meantime Von Hartmann strode into the room and threw himself down upon the sofa in the worst of tempers.

“Elise!” he shouted. “Confound the girl! Elise!”

Thus roughly summoned, the young lady came timidly downstairs and into the presence of her lover. “Dearest!” she cried, throwing her arms round him, “I know this is all done for my sake! It is a ruse in order to see me.”

Von Hartmann’s indignation at this fresh attack upon him was so great that he became speechless for a minute from rage, and could only glare and shake his fists, while he struggled in her embrace. When he at last regained his utterance, he indulged in such a bellow of passion that the young lady dropped back, petrified with fear, into an armchair.

“Never have I passed such a day in my life,” Von Hartmann cried, stamping upon the floor. “My experiment has failed. Von Althaus has insulted me. Two students have dragged me along the public road. My wife nearly faints when I ask her for dinner, and my daughter flies at me and hugs me like a grizzly bear.”

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