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April 17 , 2008

Our Little Austrian Cousin


Friday morning Frau Müller and Ferdinand jumped into a fiaker and drove to the railroad station to meet Teresa Runkel. She was a fine-looking child, with round, rosy cheeks; quite tall, with the fair complexion, sunny hair, and soft, Austrian blue eyes that makes the women of that land famed for their beauty. She was overjoyed at this unexpected pleasure of spending a day or two in the city of Vienna, which she had never seen, although she had passed through several times on her way to and from the convent. She enjoyed the brisk drive to the tall apartment house in the Schwanengasse, and she fairly bubbled with chatter. "After luncheon, my dear," observed Frau Müller, "we shall have Herr Müller take you about our city; for Vienna is vastly different from Linz." Herr Müller joined the party at luncheon at eleven o'clock, which was really the breakfast hour, because Austrian families take only coffee and cakes or rolls in the early morning, eating their hearty breakfast toward the middle of the day, after which they rest for an hour or two, before beginning their afternoon duties. At two o'clock the three were ready for the walk, for Frau Müller was not to accompany them. Joseph, the portier, an important personage in Viennese life, nodded "A-b-e-n-d" to them, as they passed out the front door of the building, over which he presided as a sort of turnkey. No one may pass in or out without encountering the wary eye of Joseph, who must answer to the police for the inmates of the building, as also for the visitors. And this is a curious custom, not only in Vienna, but other European cities, that immediately upon one's arrival at an hotel, or even a private home, the police are notified, unawares to the visitor, of his movements and his object in being in the city, which reduces chances of crime to a minimum; burglary being almost unknown, picking pockets on the open streets taking its place in most part.
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