Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


If Fanny Brandeis, the deliberately selfish, the calculatingly ambitious, was aghast at the trick fate had played her, she kept her thoughts to herself. Knowing her, I think she must have been grimly amused at finding herself saddled with a helpless baby, a bewildered peasant woman, and an artist brother both helpless and bewildered.

It was out of the question to house them in her small apartment. She found a furnished apartment near her own, and installed them there, with a working housekeeper in charge. She had a gift for management, and she arranged all these details with a brisk capability that swept everything before it. A sunny bedroom for Mizzi. But then, a bright living room, too, for Theodore's hours of practice. No noise. Chicago's roar maddened him. Otti shied at every new contrivance that met her eye. She had to be broken in to elevators, electric switches, hot and cold faucets, radiators.

"No apartment ever built could cover all the requirements," Fanny confided to Fenger, after the first harrowing week. "What they really need is a combination palace, houseboat, sanatorium, and creche."

"Look here," said Fenger. "If I can help, why--" a sudden thought struck him. "Why don't you bring 'em all down to my place in the country? We're not there half the time. It's too cool for my wife in September. Just the thing for the child, and your brother could fiddle his head off."

The Fengers had a roomy, wide-verandaed house near Lake Forest; one of the many places of its kind that dot the section known as the north shore. Its lawn sloped gently down to the water's edge. The house was gay with striped awnings, and scarlet geraniums, and chintz-covered chairs. The bright, sparkling, luxurious little place seemed to satisfy a certain beauty-sense in Fenger, as did the etchings on the walls in his office. Fanny had spent a week-end there in July, with three or four other guests, including Fascinating Facts. She had been charmed with it, and had announced that her energies thereafter would be directed solely toward the possession of just such a house as this, with a lawn that was lipped by the lake, awnings and geraniums to give it a French cafe air; books and magazines enough to belie that.

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