Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Chapters 61-63

The theatre of Pumpernickel is known and famous in that quarter of Germany. It languished a little when the present Duke in his youth insisted upon having his own operas played there, and it is said one day, in a fury, from his place in the orchestra, when he attended a rehearsal, broke a bassoon on the head of the Chapel Master, who was conducting, and led too slow; and during which time the Duchess Sophia wrote domestic comedies, which must have been very dreary to witness. But the Prince executes his music in private now, and the Duchess only gives away her plays to the foreigners of distinction who visit her kind little Court.

It is conducted with no small comfort and splendour. When there are balls, though there may be four hundred people at supper, there is a servant in scarlet and lace to attend upon every four, and every one is served on silver. There are festivals and entertainments going continually on, and the Duke has his chamberlains and equerries, and the Duchess her mistress of the wardrobe and ladies of honour, just like any other and more potent potentates.

The Constitution is or was a moderate despotism, tempered by a Chamber that might or might not be elected. I never certainly could hear of its sitting in my time at Pumpernickel. The Prime Minister had lodgings in a second floor, and the Foreign Secretary occupied the comfortable lodgings over Zwieback's Conditorey. The army consisted of a magnificent band that also did duty on the stage, where it was quite pleasant to see the worthy fellows marching in Turkish dresses with rouge on and wooden scimitars, or as Roman warriors with ophicleides and trombones — to see them again, I say, at night, after one had listened to them all the morning in the Aurelius Platz, where they performed opposite the cafe where we breakfasted. Besides the band, there was a rich and numerous staff of officers, and, I believe, a few men. Besides the regular sentries, three or four men, habited as hussars, used to do duty at the Palace, but I never saw them on horseback, and au fait, what was the use of cavalry in a time of profound peace? — and whither the deuce should the hussars ride?

Everybody — everybody that was noble of course, for as for the bourgeois we could not quite be expected to take notice of THEM — visited his neighbour. H. E. Madame de Burst received once a week, H. E. Madame de Schnurrbart had her night — the theatre was open twice a week, the Court graciously received once, so that a man's life might in fact be a perfect round of pleasure in the unpretending Pumpernickel way.

That there were feuds in the place, no one can deny. Politics ran very high at Pumpernickel, and parties were very bitter. There was the Strumpff faction and the Lederlung party, the one supported by our envoy and the other by the French Charge d'Affaires, M. de Macabau. Indeed it sufficed for our Minister to stand up for Madame Strumpff, who was clearly the greater singer of the two, and had three more notes in her voice than Madame Lederlung her rival — it sufficed, I say, for our Minister to advance any opinion to have it instantly contradicted by the French diplomatist.

Everybody in the town was ranged in one or other of these factions. The Lederlung was a prettyish little creature certainly, and her voice (what there was of it) was very sweet, and there is no doubt that the Strumpff was not in her first youth and beauty, and certainly too stout; when she came on in the last scene of the Sonnambula, for instance, in her night-chemise with a lamp in her hand, and had to go out of the window, and pass over the plank of the mill, it was all she could do to squeeze out of the window, and the plank used to bend and creak again under her weight — but how she poured out the finale of the opera! and with what a burst of feeling she rushed into Elvino's arms — almost fit to smother him! Whereas the little Lederlung — but a truce to this gossip — the fact is that these two women were the two flags of the French and the English party at Pumpernickel, and the society was divided in its allegiance to those two great nations.

We had on our side the Home Minister, the Master of the Horse, the Duke's Private Secretary, and the Prince's Tutor; whereas of the French party were the Foreign Minister, the Commander-in-Chief's Lady, who had served under Napoleon, and the Hof-Marschall and his wife, who was glad enough to get the fashions from Pans, and always had them and her caps by M. de Macabau's courier. The Secretary of his Chancery was little Grignac, a young fellow, as malicious as Satan, and who made caricatures of Tapeworm in all the-albums of the place.

Their headquarters and table d'hote were established at the Pariser Hof, the other inn of the town; and though, of course, these gentlemen were obliged to be civil in public, yet they cut at each other with epigrams that were as sharp as razors, as I have seen a couple of wrestlers in Devonshire, lashing at each other's shins and never showing their agony upon a muscle of their faces. Neither Tapeworm nor Macabau ever sent home a dispatch to his government without a most savage series of attacks upon his rival. For instance, on our side we would write, "The interests of Great Britain in this place, and throughout the whole of Germany, are perilled by the continuance in office of the present French envoy; this man is of a character so infamous that he will stick at no falsehood, or hesitate at no crime, to attain his ends. He poisons the mind of the Court against the English minister, represents the conduct of Great Britain in the most odious and atrocious light, and is unhappily backed by a minister whose ignorance and necessities are as notorious as his influence is fatal." On their side they would say, "M. de Tapeworm continues his system of stupid insular arrogance and vulgar falsehood against the greatest nation in the world. Yesterday he was heard to speak lightly of Her Royal Highness Madame the Duchess of Berri; on a former occasion he insulted the heroic Duke of Angouleme and dared to insinuate that H.R.H. the Duke of Orleans was conspiring against the august throne of the lilies. His gold is prodigated in every direction which his stupid menaces fail to frighten. By one and the other, he has won over creatures of the Court here — and, in fine, Pumpernickel will not be quiet, Germany tranquil, France respected, or Europe content until this poisonous viper be crushed under heel": and so on. When one side or the other had written any particularly spicy dispatch, news of it was sure to slip out.

Before the winter was far advanced, it is actually on record that Emmy took a night and received company with great propriety and modesty. She had a French master, who complimented her upon the purity of her accent and her facility of learning; the fact is she had learned long ago and grounded herself subsequently in the grammar so as to be able to teach it to George; and Madam Strumpff came to give her lessons in singing, which she performed so well and with such a true voice that the Major's windows, who had lodgings opposite under the Prime Minister, were always open to hear the lesson. Some of the German ladies, who are very sentimental and simple in their tastes, fell in love with her and began to call her du at once. These are trivial details, but they relate to happy times. The Major made himself George's tutor and read Caesar and mathematics with him, and they had a German master and rode out of evenings by the side of Emmy's carriage — she was always too timid, and made a dreadful outcry at the slightest disturbance on horse- back. So she drove about with one of her dear German friends, and Jos asleep on the back-seat of the barouche.

He was becoming very sweet upon the Grafinn Fanny de Butterbrod, a very gentle tender-hearted and unassuming young creature, a Canoness and Countess in her own right, but with scarcely ten pounds per year to her fortune, and Fanny for her part declared that to be Amelia's sister was the greatest delight that Heaven could bestow on her, and Jos might have put a Countess's shield and coronet by the side of his own arms on his carriage and forks; when — when events occurred, and those grand fetes given upon the marriage of the Hereditary Prince of Pumpernickel with the lovely Princess Amelia of Humbourg- Schlippenschloppen took place.

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