"next." victorine, the youngest girl, was next. she stayed in her seat. "go ahead and pick for me."
"very well." miss prue took a paper from each of the hats. "ridiculous." this got a big laugh all around. victorine blushed. "yes, " said miss prue, "that means you need only write the most ridiculous thing you can think of. and your author is - kafka. "
"that's not a bad pick," said dorine. "i wouldn't have minded getting it." victorine blushed again.
the awakening of a silly girl
by victorine de valois
illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas
special thanks to Prof. Dan Leo for his editing efforts
dora d----- was a young woman of a very compliant and easy-going nature, and when her aunt grunhilde informed her that she, dora, had been betrothed to a lieutenant h-----, from the province of m-------, a gentleman whose existence she had hitherto been unaware of, she not only assented without a murmur but was not so ill-bred as to inquire as to any qualities he might possess.
she went on sewing a motto into a handkerchief without missing a stitch. the handkerchief was very white, and she was inscribing in bright blue thread the motto "the brave rush to meet the future".
this and the other handkerchiefs she was inscribing would be distributed to the officers and men of the ------th hussars, which her uncle gustaf was commanding officer of. dora had become quite adept at sewing such mottoes into handkerchiefs, spent part of every day except sunday doing it, and enjoyed it as much as she could be said to enjoy anything.
"i wonder," dora said aloud after a while, "if my life will be any different when i am married."
"i am sure it will be," answered aunt grunhilde evenly. "in some small ways. you will have to take a larger share in directing the servants, for one thing. and you will have to learn to take a more decisive tone with them. "
"of course," dora replied absently.
"was there something else you had in mind?"
"i was wondering if i will still be embroidering these handkerchiefs when i am married."
"i do not see why not. your husband will not take up so much of your time as all that. i expect that he will be kept quite busy in his post as adjutant in your uncle's regiment." aunt grunhilde stared directly at dora. "as adjutant he will be kept very busy indeed with the preparations for the coming war."
"ah. then i expect i shall be embroidering even more handkerchiefs."
"oh? and why is that?"
"because some of the soldiers will be killed, and i imagine i will have to embroider new ones for those who take their places."
"what a morbid thought! " aunt grunhilde was shocked. "my dear, do not let your uncle hear you talking in such a manner, or your husband either, either before or after you are married."
"i am sorry, aunt, i did not mean any harm."
"do not speak in that manner again."
"i am sorry. i will not."
aunt grunhilde nodded, satisfied. she had always found dora to keep her word when promising not to do something.
dora continued to embroider and aunt grunhilde nodded off. presently they were joined by great-aunt delphine, who slept late, took long naps and was not very talkative. she was followed by hans, the obsequious and meddlesome butler. grunhilde snapped her eyes open at their approach, and hans handed her a card, which she glanced at and tossed onto the table in front of her.
"dora is to be married," grunhilde informed delphine.
"about time, i should think," delphine replied as she settled into her chair. and then, after a while, "is everything arranged?"
"i should certainly hope so."
"has she obtained a license?"
"yes, a marriage license."
"i am sure it has been taken care of. we do have people to arrange such things. i am sure the army will take care of it."
"she is not to be married by the army but by the civil authorities. the un-civil authorities, i call them. no, she has to go to the bureau herself and obtain one, as does the groom. and she has to pass a physical exam."
at this dora looked up for the first time since delphine had entered.
"nonsense," grunhilde insisted. "there was no such thing in my day. or yours."
"ah, but that was before the socialists brought the fatherland to its knees." despite her somnolent nature, delphine read the newspapers and took an interest in politics, perhaps more than was seemly for a woman.
dora almost never ventured to speak to her elders without being spoken to first, but she got up her courage to ask delphine, "please, aunt, what is this about a physical examination?"
delphine laughed. "oh, it is nothing. a mere formality. for a young woman of good family like yourself, a doctor will simply make a mark on a piece of paper and you will be done with it. then you take the paper to the marriage bureau in another part of the building and they give you a license. for a fee, of course, to line some socialist rascal's pocket."
"oh. and when must this be done?"
"well, my dear, i would do it as soon as possible and be done with it."
"why not? it is quite a nice day, a ride in the coach will put some color in your cheeks."
dora turned to aunt grunhilde, "will you come with me, aunt? i am sure i shall get lost if i go by myself."
"i am expected at the countess of g---------'s afternoon luncheon. it would never do, to disappoint the countess."
dora then asked delphine, "what of you, aunt?"
"oh dear, i don't feel nearly strong enough to go out. perhaps hans can go with you."
hans had been hovering discreetly in the background. "it is wednesday, madame. i have wednesday afternoons off."
"yes, of course" aunt grunhilde answered. "well, i do not see why she can not go by herself. with adelaide, of course. after all, she will be a real woman soon enough, not a silly little girl. what do you say?" she asked dora. "you can look at it as quite an adventure. "
"yes, aunt." dora was still absorbing the ominous words "a real woman ... not a silly little girl." "and will adelaide know the way?"
"adelaide could not find her way across the street," delphine told her. "but i am sure all the coachmen know the way. it is the main administrative building, just past the imperial palace. and if you can not find the correct entrance, i am sure some kind stranger will assist you."
"oh," replied dora, "and are the streets filled with kind strangers?"
"i should hope so. the socialists have not brought us so low as that yet. this is not paris or rome, where the most insolent blackguards are allowed the run of the streets." seeing dora's slightly alarmed expression, delphine added, "i am sure anyone you encounter will be polite, at least, to a young woman of good family. and of course once you get inside the building everyone will be more than polite."
"well then," said grunhilde. "that is settled. shall we have luncheon?"
"i thought you were lunching at the countess of g--------'s," delphine observed.
"the countess provides agreeable conversation and a brisk game of whist. sustenance is not the first law of her land."
"she does not have the strongest constitution herself, and is inclined to ascribe her maladies to her guests."
"yes, i feel for her. we can not all have the appetites of drayhorses."
dora's mind drifted away from the aunts' conversation. she looked out the window. it was a beautiful day.