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Early Sorrow
by [?]

The PRINCIPAL dish at dinner had been croquettes made of turnip greens. So there follows a trifle, concocted out of one of those dessert powders we use nowadays, that taste like almond soap. Xaver, the youthful manservant, in his outgrown striped jacket, white woollen gloves, and yellow sandals, hands it round, and the ” big folk ” take this opportunity to remind their father, tactfully, that company is coming today.

The ” big folk ” are two, Ingrid and Bert. Ingrid is brown-eyed, eighteen, and perfectly delightful. She is on the eve of her exams, and will probably pass them, if only because she knows how to wind masters, and even headmasters, round her finger. She does not, however, mean to use her certificate once she gets it; having leanings towards the stage, on the ground of her ingratiating smile, her equally ingratiating voice, and a marked and irresistible talent for burlesque. Bert is blond and seventeen. He intends to get done with school somehow, anyhow, and fling himself into the arms of life. He will be a dancer, or a cabaret actor, possibly even a waiter – but not a waiter anywhere else save at the Cairo, the night-club, whither he has once already taken flight, at five in the morning, and been brought back crestfallen. Bert bears a strong resemblance to the youthful manservant Xavcr Kleinsgutl, of about the same age as himself; not because he looks common – in features he is strikingly like his father, Professor Cornelius – but by reason of an approximation of types, due in its turn to far-reaching compromises in matters of dress and bearing generally. Both lads wear their heavy hair very long on top, with a cursory parting in the middle, and give their heads the same characteristic toss to throw it off the forehead. When one of them leaves the house, by the garden gate, bareheaded in all weathers, in a blouse rakishly girt with a leather strap, and sheers off bent well over with his head on one side; or else mounts his push-bike – Xaver makes free with his employers’, of both sexes, or even, in acutely irresponsible mood, with the Professor’s own-Dr. Cornelius from his bedroom window cannot, for the life of him tell whether he is looking at his son or his servant. Both, he thinks, look like young moujiks. And both are impassioned cigarettesmokers, though Bert has not the means to compete with Xaver, who smokes as many as thirty a day, of a brand named after a popular cinema star. The big folk call their fatherand mother the ” old folk “-not behind their backs, but as a form of address and in all affection: ” Hullo, old folks,” they will say; though Cornelius is only forty-seven years old and his wife eight years younger. And the Professor’s parents, who lead in his household the humble and hesitant life of the really old, are on the big folk’s lips the ” ancients.” As for the ” little folk,” Ellie and Snapper, who take their meals upstairs with blue-faced Ann -so-called because of her prevailing facial hue — Ellie and Snapper follow their mother’s example and address their father by his first name, Abel. Unutterably comic it sounds, in its pert, confiding familiarity; particularly on the lips, in the sweet accents, of five-year-old Eleanor, who is the image of Frau Cornelius’s baby pictures and whom the Professor loves above everything else in the world.

” Darling old thing,” says Ingrid affably, laying her large but shapely hand on his, as he presides in proper middle-class sty If over the family table, with her on his left and the mother opposite: “Parent mine, may I ever so gently jog your memory, for you have probably forgotten: this is the afternoon we were to have our little jollification, our turkey-trot with eats to match. You haven’t a thing to do but just bear up and not funk it; everything will be over by nine o’clock.”