Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


The ship that brought Theodore Brandeis to America was the last of its kind to leave German ports for years. The day after he sailed from Bremen came the war. Fanny Brandeis was only one of the millions of Americans who refused to accept the idea of war. She took it as a personal affront. It was uncivilized, it was old fashioned, it was inconvenient. Especially inconvenient. She had just come from Europe, where she had negotiated a million-dollar deal. War would mean that she could not get the goods ordered. Consequently there could be no war.

Theodore landed the first week in August. Fanny stole two days from the ravenous bins to meet him in New York. I think she must have been a very love-hungry woman in the years since her mother's death. She had never admitted it. But only emotions denied to the point of starvation could have been so shaken now at the thought of the feast before them. She had trained herself to think of him as Theodore the selfish, Theodore the callous, Theodore the voracious. "An unsuccessful genius," she told herself. "He'll be impossible. They're bad enough when they're successful."

But now her eyes, her thoughts, her longings, her long-pent emotions were straining toward the boat whose great prow was looming toward her, a terrifying bulk. The crowd awaiting the ship was enormous. A dramatic enough scene at any time, the great Hoboken pier this morning was filled with an unrehearsed mob, anxious, thrilled, hysterical. The morning papers had carried wireless news that the ship had been chased by a French gunboat and had escaped only through the timely warning of the Dresden, a German gunboat. That had added the last fillip to an already tense situation. Tears were streaming down half the faces upturned toward the crowded decks. And from every side:

"Do you see her?"

"That's Jessie. There she is! Jessie!"

"Heh! Jim, old boy! Come on down!"

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