"The Name of Kuchenberger"

The Kiote February 1898 Cover

“The Name of Kuchenberger”


            We first heard the name of Kuchenberger the second week that Lottchen was with us. Some one rapped hesitatingly at the kitchen door.  We heard reluctant steps over the floor, then, in a man’s voice, heavy, speaking in slow guttural tones and tentatively,

            ”Good morning, Lottchen.”

            For a few moments there was calm dialogue.  In the heavy voice there came a note of protest, but the answering voice remained firm.  Then we saw Lottchen’s caller move slowly away.  I asked Lottchen about him a few moments later.

            “It wass only that ole Kuchenberger,” she said cheerfully.  “I didn’t wandt him boddering aroundt, so I chust tole him, Lottchen, she was not at home today.”

            I do not know how I looked on hearing this.  She was smiling and complacent.  I ventured another question soon, for I had liked his appearance.

            “Why do you call him old, Lottchen?  To me he seemed quite young and well looking.”

            She said, still smiling, “I call him ole because I chust don’dt like him.”

            I said no more about Kuchenberger, nor did I see him come again until the next Sunday.  Then he brought her a silver thimble, which she did not accept; but she let him sit, barely tolerated, in the kitchen for half an hour, and talk to her as best he could.

            “What makes you treat him so?” I asked her when she told me.  “Why didn’t you take the thimble?”

            “He’s chust too stingy, that’s why I didn’t wandt the timble.  He’d feel badt aboudt it next minute.  I chust don’dt like him.  He’s stingy, als stingy als-”  A simile failed her.

            “Perhaps that’s a virtue in him?  Perhaps he ought to be?”

            “He iss more well off als any odder man I know,” she said quickly and with a faint note of pride.  “He owns a feedt store and some house and lot.  But he’s chust stingy.”

            It was not long before the persistence of Kuchenberger won our sympathy, but on Lottchen he made no impression.  She continued to treat impassively the others who hung about her at intervals and occasionally escorted her from church gatherings or dances; but Kuchenberger she rebuffed harder than all, though I failed to see any symptoms of his stinginess.  Once he sent her a dress pattern, which she showed me.  The material was not very pretty, but it was serviceable and of good quality.  She scoffed at it, however, and sent it back.

            “Besser als that was the one I came in from Germany over,” she said.  The same day she unlocked her usual reticence enough to tell me, “Kuchenberger, he’s madt because I talk yesterday to Jakey Schmidtbauer and young Brandt.”

            The end came one day when he intruded upon her as she was polishing the kitchen floor.  He was luckless enough to choose this occasion for further pressing of his suit, else his last dismissal might have been milder.  She told him ‘She chust didn’t like him.  He hadt been boddering aroundt long enough.  She chust didn’t wandt to see him any more.  He might go.’

            That was the last time Kuchenberger was ever at our house.

            Lottchen was with us some time longer, and shook off with indifference the attentions of the German milkman and a delivery boy, and of “Mr.” Glottgraber whom she met one night at a German dance.  Then she wished a vacation, and we engaged an acquaintance whom she recommended in her place.

            We saw or heard nothing more of Lottchen until one day about six months afterward, when she reappeared at our house and announced cheerfully that she had decided to be married.  This was so unexpected that I questioned her with curiosity.

            “Is it any one I have seen, Lottchen?”

            “Oh ja, you have seen him.”

            “Is it ‘Mr.’ Glottgraber?”

            “Ach no, he was too stuck up.”

            “Jakey Schmidtbauer?”

            She shook her head.

            “That young Brandt?”

            “No,” she said scornfully.  “Can’t you guess? It’s ole Kuchenberger, of course.”  There was supreme indifference in her voice as she said “ole Kuchenberger.”

            “I thought he was too stingy,” I exclaimed.

            “He iss, chust too stingy.”

            “And that you didn’t like him.”

            “I don’dt,” she said, smiling and complacent.  “But he iss good enough man, and he hass feedt store and some house and lot.  I tink I get along, may be.”

            “I shouldn’t think you would marry him if you don’t like him.”

            “I don’dt like him, hardly at all.  I’ve tought aboudt it.  But I guess I’ll chust marry him.  I’ll not have to see him all the time.  I do not wandt to work out no more.  If he issn’t chust too stingy, may be I can standt him.”

            Lottchen was married in the church, with Father Kersenbender, the priest, officiating, and had what was probably, in the chroniclings of her circle, the most elegant wedding of the year.  We sent her a present, and though we did not of course attend ourselves, we were told by our new servant the details of the event, and what fine things Kuchenberger gave his bride.  A gold watch, a pair of earrings, and a lamp that was sehr schön.  From what we could learn Lottchen was her usual collected self during the ceremony, while Kuchenberger was nervous and unsteady, and she had to smile at him encouragingly at times to soothe him.

            Soon after the wedding they moved to another town, and we should never have known how Lottchen’s matrimonial step turned out, had she not written later to her friend.  She said, omitting many vagaries of spelling, for LOttchen was not fluent with her pen:

            “Kuchenberger he iss not one bit stingy.  I like him chust lots more, now I married him. Kuchenberger he iss chust first rate.”

            In this satisfactory manner, Lottchen passed out of our horizon.


Louise Pound

The Kiote, February 1898

The Name of Kuchenberger