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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 5. How Roses Are Inoculated
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 5. How Roses Are Inoculated Post by :AnnMur Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :2735

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 5. How Roses Are Inoculated


The same day, after luncheon, Countess Flamma turned to me with the question--

"Would you mind teaching me the process of inoculation? I am greatly interested in roses, and should like to see how the scion is set into the stock."

"With ever so much pleasure," I said, pleased that the pale, silent girl showed an interest in my favourites, the roses, and turned to me for a favour. Countess Diodora gave the required permission for the lesson, which was to be given and taken while the others were playing lawn-tennis on the adjacent grounds. Flamma was a bad player, anyhow, so she might take to horticulture meanwhile.

When the whole company were on the grounds, Flamma and I stepped up to the rose-beds, and I began to explain to her how, in the first place, a T-shaped incision has to be made on the stock, when presently she said, in a low whisper, "Take care of yourself."

I thought she meant that I should cut my fingers with the knife, when she repeated her warning again, mid more explicitly, "Take care; they mean to play a bad joke on you."

I looked up amazed. What could she mean?

"Who?" I asked.

"Don't look at me, but continue the explanation and demonstration. Never forget I am taking a lesson, for we are closely watched."

"Thank you. So now we take a carefully chosen scion. Tell me, pray, who wants to play that jest on me?"

"This scion is beautifully developed, let us take it--Siegfried."

"Siegfried? What does he intend to do?"

"Keep your hands busy, and do not look surprised. That clandestine marriage, of which you are to be a witness, is a comedy. The Capuchin monk, who is to perform the ceremony, is Seestern, the famous German actor, who is here under an assumed name, as he does not want to be pestered to play or amuse the others."

My hands trembled, but I kept on and said--

"Siegfried has sworn to me that he is madly in love with Countess Cenni, and that he will marry her, come what may."

"What for?"

"What a question! For love, and--because--he wants the million florins of her grandfather's which the countess has."

"Hand me the knife, for you will assuredly cut your finger, and give me that scion, so that I may try to insert it. Cenni is no countess at all, but the niece of Leestern and daughter of an actress, who at one time did my aunt a great service, and, when dying, made Aunt Diodora promise to take care of her little girl. Aunt gave her at confirmation the name of Cenerentola, which we have shortened to Cenni. Her real name is Klara. She has no other money or dower but what Aunt Diodora will give her, which will not be much, for in money matters she is not very liberal, and Cenni is called 'comtesse' because it suits Aunt Diodora's whims. That million of which Siegfried spoke exists; but it is mine, and not Cenni's. Is this scion well inserted?"

"No. I will show you the whole process again. What is Siegfried's object in the deception?"

"You show too much agitation. Show me how to cut out the germ properly. This is the plan. After the ceremony, on the day when Diodora is confined to her room and I am with her, a festival banquet will be spread in the shooting-box. It will be a noisy, dissolute company that meets there, and Siegfried will drink most, be the loudest and least well-behaved of the set. The bride will pretend to be afraid of the groom, and at last she will break away from his hands, and ask the protection of the only sober, sensible, and decent man present, namely, yourself. The bridegroom will have lost all self-control through drink. He will swear, and use all sorts of bad language, and the bride will sob and entreat you to take her away, protesting that she hated the sight of the vulgar wretch she had just married, but had been forced to do his will, although he knew well that in reality she loved you, and you alone. At last, growing desperate, she will attempt to leap out of the window to escape from this place, even at the risk of her life. You will take pity on her; her tears and charms will conquer your resistance, and you will tell her to dispose of you for ever, and take shelter in your own castle from the ruffian who was not worthy of the treasure he had obtained. You will order your carriage, and take Cenni with you; but, as soon as you have left, the fellow-plotters will mount their horses, and, by a short cross-cut, arrive there before you, discover the intended elopement of the bride, and carry off you and her as criminals. You will of course offer to fight every one of them, until all, the bride included, will burst out into Olympian laughter, and you stand stunned and bewildered. But, pray, show me how to insert the germ properly into the T-shape?"

My whole frame trembled with excitement.

"What is his object in all this?" I asked.

"To give you the usual 'jump,' as they call it in our set. If, for instance, a member of some other class of society--in your case a simple nobleman--is pushing his way into high aristocracy, he must be 'jumped,' each in his own different way. One is made to drink until he makes himself obnoxious even to his nearest friends; another is made to gamble until he either wins or loses a fortune, generally the latter; but all must 'jump,' and if they break their necks, well and good! It was proposed to 'jump' you in courtship; you refused to aspire to Diodora. In a duel you are not afraid of a fight, and so this course was decided on. You had been 'jumped' already--at the election--but the triumph and your downfall were not complete. Your vanity--don't start--was not yet wounded to death, and you will have to 'jump' once more--once in private and once at a second election. But this time you will not rise again. Hopp! Hopp! That's the design. Don't look at me--that's all!"

I was fairly choked with emotion. "But why do they play that trick on me? I did not want to enter their society; in fact, never valued it at all; but I cared for Siegfried, and he lured me on with protestations of friendship. What was his reason for that? What have I done to him to merit this?"

"What have you done? You have provoked him--called him out. You said you could not believe in the existence of a spiritual or corporal being who would do mischief without a material motive, simply for the sake of mischief and the pleasure he found in the despair of a fellow-being: you did not believe that there are men who will afflict the innocent with pain and sorrow, who will degrade, socially and morally humiliate you, and then laugh you in the face and make game of you. Stay here, move in our society, and you will find out your mistake! Why, what a sight it will be to have the great debater, the candidate-elect, the sage and learned doctor, and heir of old Diogenes caught in the act of robbing another man of his bride! They will have a painter there to take a sketch of the fine situation '_en plein air_.'"

At that moment one of the lawn-tennis players throw the ball just in front of my feet, and Siegfried came running to fetch it.

"Well, have you profited at all by this lesson on inoculating?" he asked the girl, and he added a remark which was so vulgar and impertinent that he would not have dared to use the expression in a variety theatre or any other low place of common entertainment.

"I have," said the girl, with low emphasis, and laid down the knife.

I was in such a state of anguish that I did not know for certain whether the spot I was standing on belonged to this earth or was part of the infernal kingdom, for the soil actually burned my feet. Countess Mamma thanked me for the horticultural lesson I had given her, and I was so much embarrassed that I repeated her own words verbally, instead of giving her a courteous reply. Siegfried laughed.

"What an exemplary, bashful young fellow you are! Evidently you are not used to teach young ladies such delicate lessons. Come! come! Don't blush. Try your hand at lawn tennis."

And I went with him and played.

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