Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


Theodore had been gone six years. His letters, all too brief, were events in the lives of the two women. They read and reread them. Fanny unconsciously embellished them with fascinating details made up out of her own imagination.

"They're really triumphs of stupidity and dullness," she said one day in disgust, after one of Theodore's long-awaited letters had proved particularly dry and sparse. "Just think of it! Dresden, Munich, Leipsic, Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt! And from his letters you would never know he had left Winnebago. I don't believe he actually sees anything of these cities--their people, and the queer houses, and the streets. I suppose a new city means nothing to him but another platform, another audience, another piano, all intended as a background for his violin. He could travel all over the world and it wouldn't touch him once. He's got his mental fingers crossed all the time."

Theodore had begun to play in concert with some success, but he wrote that there was no real money in it yet. He was not well enough known. It took time. He would have to get a name in Europe before he could attempt an American tour. Just now every one was mad over Greinert. He was drawing immense audiences. He sent them a photograph at which they gasped, and then laughed, surprisedly. He looked so awfully German, so different, somehow.

"It's the way his hair is clipped, I suppose," said Fanny. "High, like that, on the temples. And look at his clothes! That tie! And his pants! And that awful collar! Why, his very features look German, don't they? I suppose it's the effect of that haberdashery."

A month after the photograph, came a letter announcing his marriage. Fanny's quick eye, leaping ahead from line to line, took in the facts that her mind seemed unable to grasp. Her name was Olga Stumpf. (In the midst of her horror some imp in Fanny's brain said that her hands would be red, and thick, with a name like that.) An orphan. She sang. One of the Vienna concert halls, but so different from the other girls. And he was so happy. And he hated to ask them for it, but if they could cable a hundred or so. That would help. And here was her picture.

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