Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Please note date is approximate:
Before the Babe and his family returned to Vienna the Princess invited, as she did once a year, Uncle Pista, Aunt Sharolta, and their daughter, with the Oberstuhlrichter and his wife, to dine at Schloss K . Their annual dinner at the Schloss was an exciting event in the quiet lives of these simple people, and they looked forward to it like children in pleased anticipation. On this occasion I heard the wheels of their carriages as they arrived, long before I had finished dressing, and in a few moments Claire, looking, if possible, lovelier than ever in a last year’s Callot dress, burst into my room almost hysterical with laughter, saying, as she threw herself into a chair
“You lucky wretch ! To think that you may always dress like that, while we…” and she shrieked with laughter. At length, in reply to my questions, she managed to gasp out, ” Oh, can’t you understand? Here we are, every one of us, in Paris gowns, and they’ve come in brand new garments from Berlin . . . Berlin, Jerry! You’ve never dreamed of anything so funny in your life. Do be quick and come down, for Billy and the Babe are disgracing us all, and father and mother won’t really stand the strain of it much longer. Does one’s patriotism oblige one to praise such clothes?”
“Mine does,” I chuckled ; “if people order clothes from Berlin they deserve to wear them, and I’ll do all I can to make them wear them ; it’s the only chance I’ve had so far of ‘ doing my bit ‘ for my country.”
By the time I appeared in the drawing-room Billy had completely collapsed over the end of a sofa, with her back to the company ; but she raised her head as I passed to say in English, which none of the guests understood: “Behold us in the garb of patriotism!”
The garb of patriotism emphatically merited Claire’s laughter not only was the texture gross and the colouring hideous, but the heraldic twists of the outline were appalling in their clumsiness. Even the General was behaving badly and kept saying, “Donnerwetter!” and “Jesus Maria” very audibly, as the glories of the Berlin creations dazzled him anew. The ladies took almost tragic pride in their abominable garments, and I had no difficulty in persuading them that there would no longer be any need for Germans and Austrians to patronise London, Paris, or even Vienna, when Berlin fashions were so beautiful and so becoming. The Prince, who saw that the younger people were likely to become uproarious, cut short my praises and took me, amid many little explosions and gurgles, to the other end of the room where, under pretence of showing me a bit of old Halics pottery he had bought, he kept me till dinner was announced, and all had regained some measure of composure. It was a wonderful evening throughout, and poor old Uncle Pista was almost pathetic when he informed us, as he said good night, that he had never seen us so bright or so happy, and he was glad that we could keep up our spirits in spite of the war. So Berlin clothes have their uses !