The Goose Girl (Chapter 4, page 1 of 9)

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Chapter 4

The Black Eagle (Zum Schwartzen Adler) in the Adlergasse was a prosperous tavern of the second rate. The house was two hundred years old and had been in the Bauer family all that time.

Had Fräu Bauer, or Fräu-Wirtin, as she was familiarly called, been masculine, she would have been lightly dubbed Bauer VII. She was a widow, and therefore uncrowned. She had been a widow for many a day, for the novelty of being her own manager had not yet worn off. She was thirty-eight, plump, pretty in a free-hand manner, and wise. It was useless to loll about the English bar where she kept the cash-drawer; it was useless to whisper sweet nothings into her ear; it was more than useless, it was foolish.

"Go along with you, Herr; I wouldn't marry the best man living. I can add the accounts, I can manage. Why should I marry?"

"But marriage is the natural state!"

"Herr, I crossed the frontier long ago, but having recrossed it, never again shall I go back. One crown-forty, if you please. Thank you."

This retort had become almost a habit with the Fräu-Wirtin; and when a day went by without a proposal, she went to bed with the sense that the day had not been wholly successful.

To-night the main room of the tavern swam in a blue haze of smoke, which rose to the blackened rafters, hung with many and various sausages, cheeses, and dried vegetables. Dishes clattered, there was a buzzing of voices, a scraping of feet and chairs, a banging of tankards, altogether noisy and cheerful. The Fräu-Wirtin preferred waitresses, and this preference was shared by her patrons. They were quicker, cleaner; they remembered an order better; they were not always surreptitiously emptying the dregs of tankards on the way to the bar, as men invariably did. Besides, the barmaid was an English institution, and the Fräu-Wirtin greatly admired that race, though no one knew why. The girls fully able to defend themselves, and were not at all diffident in boxing a smart fellow's ears. They had a rough wit and could give and take. If a man thought this an invitation and tried to take a kiss, he generally had his face slapped for his pains, and the Fräu-Wirtin was always on the side of her girls.

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