“Yes, naturally I’ve been playing a comedy! Comedy! A fine word! What other consolation remained for an old widowed father? Tell me—and while you’re answering be my still living son—what else was left to me in my back room, persecuted by a disloyal staff, old right down into to my bones? And my son goes merrily through the world, finishing off business deals which I had set up, falling over himself with delight, and walking away from your father with the tight-lipped face of an honourable gentleman! Do you think I didn’t love you, me, the one from whom you came?”
“Now he’ll bend forward,” thought George. “What if he falls and breaks apart!” These words hissed through his head.
His father leaned forward but did not fall over. When George did not come closer, as he had expected, he straightened himself up again.
“Stay where you are. I don’t need you! You think you still have the strength to come here and are holding yourself back only because that’s what you want. But what if you’re wrong! I am still much stronger than you. Perhaps all on my own I would have to have had to back off, but your mother gave me so much of her strength that I’ve established a splendid relationship with your friend and I have your customers here in my pocket!”
“He even has pockets in his shirt!” said George to himself and thought with this comment he could make his father look ridiculous to the whole world. He thought this for only a moment, because he constantly forgot everything.
“Just link arms with your fiancée and cross my path! I’ll sweep her right from your side—you have no idea how!”
George made a grimace, as if he didn’t believe that. The father merely nodded towards George’s corner, emphasizing the truth of what he’d said.
“How you amused me today when you came and asked whether you should write to your friend about the engagement. For he knows everything, you stupid boy, he already knows everything! I’ve been writing to him, because you forgot to take my writing things away from me. That’s why he hasn’t come for years. He knows everything a hundred times better than you do yourself. He crumples up your letters unread in his left hand, while in his right hand he holds my letters up to read.”
In his enthusiasm he swung his arm over his head. “He knows everything a thousand times better,” he shouted.
“Ten thousand times,” said George, in order to make his father appear foolish, but in his mouth the phrase had already acquired a deathly tone.
“For years now I’ve been watching out for you to come with this question! Do you think I’m concerned about anything else? Do you think I read the newspapers? There!” and he threw a newspaper page which had somehow been carried into the bed right at George—an old newspaper, the name of which was completely unknown to George.
“ How long you’ve waited before reaching maturity! Your mother had to die. She could not experience the joyous day.