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Dame Care by Sudermann, Hermann, 1857-1928

Dame Care by Sudermann, Hermann, 1857-1928

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dame Care, by Hermann Sudermann

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Title: Dame Care
Author: Hermann Sudermann
Release Date: July, 2005 [EBook #8487]

[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]

[This file was first posted on July 15, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Ted Garvin, David Widger
and the Distributed Proofreading Team


Just when Meyerhofer's estate was to be sold by auction, his third son Paul
was born.
That was a hard time indeed.

Frau Elsbeth, with her haggard face and melancholy smile, lay in her big
four-post bed, with the cradle of the new-born child near her, and listened
to every noise that reached her in her sad sickroom from the yard and the

At each suspicious sound she started up, and each time, when a strange man's voice was heard, or a vehicle came driving along with a rolling sound, she asked, clinging with great anxiety to the bedposts:

"Has it come to the worst? Has it come to the worst?"

Nobody answered her. The doctor had given strict orders to keep every
excitement from her, but little he thought, good man, that this constant
suspense would torment her a thousand times more than the most terrible

One morning, the fifth day after her child's birth, she heard her husband, whom she had scarcely seen during this trying time, pacing up and down in the next room, swearing and sighing. She could only understand one word, only one; that he repeated over and over again: the word "Homeless."

Then she knew. It had come to the worst.
She put her feeble hand on the little head of the new-born child, who with
his little serious face was quietly dozing, hid her face in her pillow and

After a while she said to the servant who attended the little one,
"Tell your master I want to speak to him."
And he came. With loud steps he approached the bed of the sick woman, and

looked at her with a face that seemed doubly distorted and desperate in his
endeavor to look unconcerned.
"Max," she said, timidly, for she always feared him--"Max, don't hide

anything from me; I am prepared for the worst, anyhow."
"Are you?" he asked, distrustfully, for he remembered the doctor's warning.
"When have we to go?"
As he saw that she took their misfortune so calmly, he thought it no longer

necessary to be careful, and broke out, with an oath:

"To-day--to-morrow--just as it pleases the new owner. By his charity only we are still here, and, if it pleased him, we might have to lodge in the streets this very night."

"It won't be as bad as that, Max," she said, painfully striving to keep her
composure, "if he hears that, only a few days ago, a little one arrived--"

"Oh, I suppose I shall have to beg of him--shall I?"
"Oh no; he will do it without that. Who is it?"
"Douglas, he is called. He comes from Insterburg. He seemed to swagger very

much, this gentleman--very much. I should have liked to have driven him
from the premises."

"Is anything left us?" she asked, softly, looking hesitatingly down on
the new-born child, for his young, tender life might be depending on the

He broke out into a hard laugh. "Yes; a wretched pittance: full two
thousand thalers."
She sighed with relief, for she almost felt as if she had already heard
that terrible "Nothing" hissed from his lips.

"What good are two thousand thalers to us?" he continued, "after we have
thrown fifty thousand into the swamp? Perhaps I shall open a public-house
in the town, or trade in buttons and ribbons. Perhaps you might help me,
if you were to do the sewing in some aristocratic houses; and the children
might sell matches in the streets. Ha, ha, ha!"

He thrust his hand through his gray and bushyhair, and inadvertently
kicked the cradle with his foot, so that it swayed to and fro violently.

"Why has this brat been born?" he murmured, gloomily. He knelt down near
the cradle and buried the tiny little fists in his big red hands, and
talked to his child: "If you had known, my boy, how bad and vile this world
is, how impudence triumphs, and honesty goes to ruin in it, you would
really have stayed where you were. What fate will yours be? Your father is
a sort of vagabond, a ruined man, who has to roam about the streets with
his wife and his three children till he has found a place where he can
completely ruin himself and his family."

"Max, do not speak thus; you break my heart!" called out Frau Elsbeth,
crying, and stretching out her hand to lay it round her husband's neck; but
her hand sank down without strength ere it had reached its destination.

He sprang up. "You are right; enough of these lamentations. Yes; if I were
alone now--a bachelor, as in former days--I should go to America, or the
Russian Steppes--there one can get rich; or I should speculate on the
Exchange--to-day up, to-morrow down. Oh, there one could earn money; but so
tied as one is!" He threw a lamentable glance at his wife and child; then
he pointed with his hand towards the yard, from whence resounded the
laughing voices of the two elder children.

"Yes; I know we must be a burden to you now," said the woman, meekly.

"Don't talk to me of burdens," he answered, gruffly; "what I said was not
meant angrily. I love you, and that's enough. Now the question only is,
Where to go? If at least this baby had not come, the chance of an uncertain
existence might be borne for some time. But now, you ill, the child
requiring careful nursing, the end of it is there is nothing for it but to
buy a farm, and to give the two thousand thalers for a premium. Hurrah!
that will be a nice sort of life: I with the beggar's wallet, you with the
knapsack; I with the spade, you with the milk-pail."

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