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Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia

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"Member of the firm of Samuel Weinberger and Sons of Bruenn," supplemented Papa Loeffler, not without a touch of solemnity and benevolence.

The gentlemen shook hands politely. Friedrich noted that Mr. Weinberger of Bruenn had a decided squint and very damp palms. He was not sorry, because these characteristics banished the thought that had flashed into his mind as he entered the room. Ernestine and a man like that-simply impossible! She was enchanting as she stood there-slender, graceful, her lovely head a little bent. Friedrich feasted his eyes on her, but had to make room for other guests. Mr. Weinberger of Bruenn, however, kept somewhat obtrusively and persistently by her side.

Friedrich turned inquiringly to Schiffmann. "This Mr. Weinberger is probably an old family friend?"

"Oh, no. They know him only a fortnight, but he is a fine cloth firm."

"What is fine, Mr. Schiffmann-the cloth or the firm?" asked Friedrich, now elated and reassured. Certainly an acquaintance of a fortnight could not be a fiance.

"Both," replied Schiffmann. "Samuel Weinberger and Sons can borrow all the money they want at four per cent. First rate....Things are very elegant here tonight. Look over there. That lean man with the staring eyes is Schlesinger, the confidential representative of Baron Goldstein. He is obnoxious, but very popular."

"Why?"

"Why ask, 'why'? Because he is the agent of Baron Goldstein....Do you know that gray mutton-chop whisker? Not him, either? Where do you come from? That's Laschner, one of the most important men on the stock exchange-a large speculator. He'll stake you a couple of thousand shares as if they were nothing at all. Just now he is very rich. Wish I had his money! Whether he'll have a penny this time next year, I don't know. Just now his wife has larger diamonds than any other woman. ... They all envy her. ..."

Mrs. Laschner sat in a corner with some equally overdressed women passionately discussing millinery. The other groups were still in the reserved ante-prandial mood. Some of the guests, who seemed to be informed as to the nature of the impending surprise, whispered discreetly to one another. Friedrich felt uneasy, without exactly knowing why. Next to Schiffmann, he was the most insignificant guest of the evening. He had never before felt ill at ease in this circle because Ernestine had always kept him by her. But tonight she gave him not a word or glance. This Mr. Weinberger of Bruenn must be a very entertaining companion. Friedrich was suffering from an additional humiliation imposed on him by an unkind Fate. He and Schiffmann were conspicuous by their lack of formal evening costume-a circumstance that marked them as the social pariahs of the gathering. He would have preferred to run away, but lacked courage.

The large drawing room was crowded, but the hosts seemed still to be waiting for someone. Friedrich turned questioningly to his companion in misery. Schiffmann knew the answer, having just overheard a remark by the hostess. "They are waiting for Gruen and Blau."

"Who are they?"

"What! Don't you know Gruen and Blau? The two wittiest men in Vienna. No reception, no wedding, no betrothal party or anything else comes off without them. Some think Gruen the wittier; others prefer Blau. Gruen has more of a tendency toward puns, and Blau pokes fun at people. Blau's had his face slapped more than once, but that never upsets him. He has the kind of face that never reddens when it's slapped. Both these men are very popular in the higher circles of Jewish society. Of course, being rivals, they hate each other."

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