Sunday, 4 May 2014

...of chary

The Hoeller children were well brought up by their parents, they were as unspoiled and open to everything as one might wish, incidentally I had noticed immediately that the girl took more after her father, the son more after his mother, what it was I didn't know, they just reached up to their parents' shoulders in height, they were full of curiosity and watching me all the time, they seemed wholly intent upon the new man so suddenly among them, they ate and drank exactly like their parents and were, while they ate, just as silent as their parents. They too would never have said a word to me unless I encouraged them, just like their mother, and for the longest time I found it impossible, for whatever reason, to say anything to the children, or to Hoeller's wife, I probably wanted the experience of this meal taken in absolute silence to have its effect on me, I should have said something to Hoeller's wife or to the children right at the start, I thought, but I said nothing and they did not dare to say anything, because Hoeller had not encouraged them to speak, Hoeller had come in from his workshop, had washed his hands and had sat down at the table, as I saw him doing when I walked in, the children were already seated at the table when I came in and was invited by Hoeller, not by his wife, to take the window seat from which I had the best view of the whole room and everything going on in it, this seat was probably Roithamer's seat too, I thought, knowing Roithamer as I do, this very seat where I have just sat down must have been his seat, how often he had told me about the meals in Hoeller's family room, suddenly not reported but told, it was the sort of thing that made a story, not a report, he told me how these meals were conducted, always the same way, always in silence, just as it was now in my experience, again I compared Roithamer's story with my own observations made just now, and again Roithamer's stories (about mealtimes in Hoeller's family room) and my observations coincided, and I thought that Roithamer always sat like this with his back to the wall in every room, it was characteristic of him, the moment he entered a room he looked for a seat where his back would be to the wall and never sat anywhere but where he could have his back to the wall and keep his eye on the whole room, I also had the same habit, I had not picked it up from Roithamer, this tendency always to sit back-to-the-wall especially in restaurants or coffee shops had been characteristic of me always and long before I noticed it in Roithamer, so I was now thinking that this window seat facing the door, opposite Hoeller's wife, would have been the appropriate choice for Roithamer and I wanted to ask whether Roithamer had also sat where I had sat down, but I didn't ask, the time for such a question had not yet come, everything in the room was already, at this time, against such a question and so I did not pose that question, nor any of the other questions that had suddenly arisen in my mind, I ate and drank and watched and was watched and I mean I was watched if not openly watched, the children for example were watching me every minute even when they did not look at me directly, just as Hoeller's wife was watching me every minute even though she did not look at me, she looked down at the table and watched me and Hoeller did exactly the same. Conversation at meal-times is unknown in these homes, I thought, though just now it was probably my doing that no one said anything, all I had to do was to say something and they would speak up too, but the fact that they were all eating and drinking in silence and that this silence could be prolonged by my own silence made me go on eating and drinking as silently as they, they were all waiting for a word from me, I thought, but I said not a word.

[Correction, Bernhard, T.]

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