The story I am about to tell took place some fifty years ago . . . His name was Adam and her name was Eve. You will not believe it, but it is the literal truth. This really is how they were baptized. If you persist in doubting, you can and should consult the parish registry in Rainegg. His full name was Adam Pichler and he was a chancery clerk at the county court in Raineck. She was the eldest daughter of the widowed watchmaker Mr. Gabl in the above-mentioned small town, and assisted her father in the shop.
He was a respectable bachelor who, although no longer young, was not yet too old to marry, and still appeared quite smart. She was also no longer afflicted by youth, but no one noticed the age of the brisk, lively 35-year-old maiden. In the chancery office he was unsurpassable, and was not only valued by his superiors, but was often distinguished by special praise. He turned out mountains of documents, all so neatly and correctly written and registered, and so attractively fitted out with headings that the sharpest eye of an inspector had no fault to find with them. He was highly skilled in official communications. Official language, or rather legal language, flowed not only from his pen but also from his tongue, so that he was never at a loss for words. However, in private communications, that is, in all the words and deeds of daily life, he was as clumsy and awkward as a drake in a field. Unfortunately, he was completely unversed in the language of the common man. He weighed and considered his words so long that they finally died on his lips, and were swallowed and lost forever. For this reason, he had never got to the point of going courting, and at the age of forty was still single. In order to remedy this unfortunate situation, a pendulum wall clock finally came to his aid.
The clerk Adam Pichler was punctuality itself. At the beginning of the working day, at the first stroke of the hour he unlocked the chancery office, and before the sound of the last stroke had died away he was already sitting at his desk, scratching his pen across the paper. However, two clocks were chiefly responsible for his punctuality a pocket watch and a pendulum wall clock. The chancery clerk ascertained that during a whole month the former varied from the correct time by exactly a thirtieth of a minute, and the latter by at most a thirtieth of a second. Now it happened that the very accurate wall clock contracted a rheumatism which caused it to lose five or ten minutes a day. Appalled at this, the chancery clerk brought the sufferer to Master Gabl, the clock doctor. The latter declared that this was not an ordinary rheumatism or congestion, but a serious illness which had long lain at the heart of the old timepiece, and necessitated a protracted cure . . . The treatment lasted two weeks, and clerk Pichler ran to the clockmakers shop twice a day to enquire after the patient. In this way he became acquainted with Miss Eve, the clockmakers daughter. She attracted him more and more each day, so that he ended by losing his forty-year-old heart to her. He had never been able to converse so well with anyone as with Miss Gabl, and what pleased him the most about their conversations was that he never, or almost never, had to speak. By the time he had uttered five words, the young lady had already spoken five hundred. Only after fourteen days, when the sick clock was completely cured and back in his room, swinging its pendulum more briskly than ever, did he realize he had lost something at the clockmakers shop. To his great regret, he no longer had any occasion to visit the shop to look for what he had lost. Then it occurred to him that it could do no harm for his pocket watch to have a thorough overhaul. No sooner said than done. However his pocket watch was completely cured in only three days, and in this short interval Mr. Adam Pichler not only failed to find his lost heart, but lost his head as well. He now bought a broken alarm clock and a rusty Black Forest clock from his cleaning lady, and a cuckoo clock, a discarded pendulum clock, an antique musical clock and a very old-fashioned Nuremberg pocket watch from other acquaintances. He brought these at short intervals one after another to the clockmaker, Mr. Gabl, who restored the troublesome timepieces to working order. Master Gabl shook his head more and more thoughtfully, and began to have not unfounded suspicions that the gears in Adam Pichlers brain had come loose. To his daughter he expressed the fear that the chancery clerk was suffering from an incurable clock fever. One day, as Mr. Adam came into the shop with another clock that was blackened with age, he found the young lady alone in the shop. She stared at him wide-eyed, and then said laughingly:
For heavens sake, Mr. Pichler, do you have a clock store at home? How is it that you have so many clocks?
I have a great fondness for clocks, he declared, and for everything related to clocks.
This was the first tender remark, with which he hoped to acquaint the young lady with his feelings toward her.
What is related to clocks? Do you mean the striking mechanism? asked the young lady in amazement.
No no, God help me! he stammered, their striking mechanism does not attract me.
You have a passion for antiques, havent you? Thats why you are always searching out old clocks.
There you are mistaken, Madam. I prefer middle-aged ones or, rather, young ones.
This was intended as another tender remark, and Mr. Adam closely observed the young ladys expression, to see the effect of his compliments. However he saw only that she gazed at him with quite a bewildered, almost anxious expression. At this point the clockmaker entered the shop, and the tender conversation came to an end.
During the next few days Mr. Adam Pichler realized that he need not buy up all the young, middle-aged and old clocks in the town; but on the other hand, without the clockmakers daughter, his life was scarcely worth living. He therefore resolved on taking a bold step. One evening, he remained at the chancery office after office hours. He took a fine white sheet of legal paper, folded it in the middle, dated and signed it neatly and correctly, and then wrote the following petition:
To Rudolf Gabl, Esq., highly respected Master Clockmaker of Rainegg,
The undersigned, your obedient servant, hereby takes the liberty of respectfully presenting to you this humble petition. After long and mature deliberation the writer has decided to exchange the single for the married state. To this end, Sir, he earnestly implores you to grant him the hand of your daughter, the highly esteemed Miss Eve. He bases his petition on the following grounds:
a) The petitioner has reached an age which enables him to fulfill the requirements for a prosperous marriage, but which no longer allows him to postpone such a marriage.
b) He draws a monthly salary of 70 florins, i.e. seventy gulden in Austrian currency, and in addition, possesses an inheritance from his father of 5000 gulden; based on his financial situation, proof of which can be furnished at any time, he believes himself capable of supporting a family.
c) The petitioner has been so much attracted, not only by the physical, but still more by the moral and domestic qualities of Miss Eve Gabl that he can never marry another, and in the event of a negative decision must relinquish any thought of marriage.
d) As the last, admittedly less weighty argument, the writer feels he may be allowed to mention that the names of the two prospective marriage candidates Adam and Eve may be a favourable omen that they could make one another happy.
Finally, the petitioner takes the liberty of adding his personal, humble opinion that you, Sir, are sufficiently well acquainted with him to credit his assertion, upon his honour, that he wishes to be at all times a faithful, attentive husband and a most obedient and respectful son-in-law.
Based upon the arguments brought forward above, and upon his declaration on his word of honour, the writer awaits a favourable consideration of his petition, such as to facilitate his marriage, and signs himself with expressions of the highest esteem
your most obedient servant,
Adam Pichler, Chancery Clerk
The master clockmaker Rudolf Gabl was not only skilled in his trade, but was also quite a prankster. When he received this document in the mail and read it through, he doubled up with laughter. He reflected for a while, and then began to laugh even more uncontrollably. Then he sat down at his desk and wrote the following reply to the legalistic suitor.
To the respected Adam Pichler, Esq., County Court Chancery Clerk in Rainegg,
Your respectful petition, dated the 15th inst., which I now have in hand, the 16th inst., does honour to the undersigned at the same time that it excites his amazement. However, it unfortunately cannot be granted, because the arguments tendered are not weighty enough, and for the most part are not sound. To wit:
a) You have failed to consider the age of my daughter, which may well be too advanced for a prosperous marriage.
b) Since the writer must also provide for six other children, his daughter Eve can expect no, or only a very small dowry, greatly disproportionate to the dazzling financial situation of her suitor.
c) You have known my daughter Eve too briefly, and too superficially, to be able to form an opinion of her physical, moral and domestic qualities.
d) The writer cannot view the given names of the presumptive marriage candidates as a good omen, since, as you must be aware, an Adam once experienced great misfortune with an Eve.
Apart from all of these counter-arguments, the writer is completely ignorant of the inclination of his daughter with respect to your application, and is unable, i.e. does not have sufficient authorization to intervene decisively in her life, for which reason he has no choice but to refuse your request.
To counter this decision, you have the recourse, Sir, of appealing to the next higher authority, which is my daughter Eve. However, this petition is not to be made in writing, but must be submitted orally, and that within four weeks from the present day. Presenting this for your perusal, with expressions of particular esteem
yours most respectfully,
Rudolf Gabl, Master Clockmaker
This answer to his humble petition created mixed feelings in the heart of the suitor. At first he was alarmed, then he hesitated, and finally he regained his optimistic mood. Appeals (submitting legal rebuttals) had always been his strong point. He had already successfully prepared dozens of appeals, and no one understood better than the chancery clerk Adam Pichler how to draw up faultless petitions with convincing arguments and telling counter-arguments. The only unfortunate and unpleasant aspect of the present case was that he must submit the appeal not in writing, but orally. However he did not hesitate long. The Kaisers birthday was in two days time. He would have to dress in his best then in any case, and all of the office workers had a holiday; thus, it was the ideal day to accomplish the great work. Early in the afternoon, when the shops were the least likely to be crowded with customers and the clockmaker Rudolf Gabl was accustomed to take his afternoon nap, Mr. Adam appeared in tails and top hat in the clockmakers shop. The arguments, supporting arguments and counter-arguments were all cleverly worked out in his mind and carefully prepared for his tongue. As he had expected, he found the clockmakers daughter alone in the shop. He took off his hat, put it under his arm, and made a stiff bow, which made the young lady laugh. But then she cried out:
Why, Mr. Pichler, you are so smartly turned out today! Have you just come from a wedding?
No, its not time to talk of weddings yet, he replied. Today is only His Majestys birthday.
Oh yes, right. But you are so elegantly dressed. Today you look ten years younger.
And you, Miss Gabl, according to your birth certificate are a twentieth of a century younger than I, so you are still in the prime of youth.
I had no idea that Mr. Pichler was so adept at flattery, laughed the young lady, but to tell the truth, I myself still feel quite young.
Aaah, I am glad to hear that, he sighed with relief.
Thank goodness, the first obstacle was already cleared away. Now for the second. However, this had completely disappeared from the mind of Mr. Adam, so that he could no longer find it. Then the young lady again unwittingly came to his aid, as she said:
You will take me for a vain, conceited creature.
No, never, never! he declared heatedly. I have known you long enough to be able to say that I consider you to be a woman blessed with the most excellent qualities, in all respects, in every regard.
I can only be grateful to you for having such a good opinion of me.
Now the second obstacle had been removed. Everything was smooth sailing. Now to hurry on to the third point. However although Mr. Adam racked his brains, he could no longer find any trace of it in his memory. He swallowed and made stilted conversation, and scratched behind his ears. If only he had written down a couple of notes, or a few short keywords! . . . Then the young lady asked:
No doubt you would like to pick up your Nuremberg pocket watch? Unfortunately it is not yet . . .
As far as I am concerned, the watch can stay here another half year or longer, he assured her. Having been informed that my suit is bankrupt, today I want to register, or rather submit my appeal.
Whaat? You are suing for bankruptcy? cried the young lady in dismay.
You misunderstand me, Miss Gabl. It is not a bankruptcy suit, it is an appeal, that is, a petition.
A petition? What do you mean?
I made a petition to your father, which was rejected. Your father will have told you about it.
He has told me nothing! Not a word! declared the young lady.
What? What? What? . . . He said nothing? . . . I dont understand it . . . He ought to have told you, stammered Mr. Adam in shock and confusion. . . . That . . . that . . . that . . . I am terribly embarrassed.
The young lady, with the word bankrupt still ringing in her ears, thought nothing less than that the chancery clerk had plunged into debt through collecting clocks and antiques, and was now in a state of extreme financial embarrassment. She looked sympathetically at the man, with his pitiful demeanour, and admonished him:
Mr. Pichler, dont take it amiss but I dont think you should throw away your good money on useless clocks and antiques, you should cut back a little in these things.
Yes, yes, Madam, I will be guided by your wishes at all times, he assured her. You have only to say your will; I will always submit to it.
The main thing now is to help you out of your embarrassment. I will speak to my father.
No, that is no use. Your father has already rejected my petition. The only course left to me is to appeal to your kind heart.
My God, I am a poor girl it is because there are so many children in our family , my whole fortune consists of two hundred gulden, which I have inherited from my mother.
Madam, that is quite sufficient. Two hundred gulden is a fine sum of money. And in any case, you dont need money.
You can never tell what you will need. And then then you might not be able to repay the capital for some time.
Repay? Repay? he replied, taken aback. Any time in one month, in fourteen days tomorrow today whenever you like! You dont need to provide a single kreuzer. I dont demand any dowry.
Then the clockmakers daughter turned beet red, scarlet, fire red from the neck to the ears. Her mouth and eyes opened as wide as those of the sundial on the church wall, and she cried:
Mr. Pichler, I apologize a hundred thousand times! But it is your own fault, with your foolish beating about the bush, that I got the idea you were financially embarrassed and wanted a loan from me.
No, many thanks. My finances are quite in order, in fact so satisfactory that I can easily support a family.
The young lady blushed again, however no longer beet red, but only brick red, and asked shyly:
What do you actually want from me, Mr. Pichler?
I would like to ask you kindly if you could convince your father that two people can be happy together, even though their names are Adam and Eve.
You, you Mr. Pichler, you! stammered the young lady, you are not as stupid as you . . . excuse me, you are no fool, you are a sly one.
Miss Gabl, can you fulfill my request?
Yes, yes . . . with pleasure if you think I am good enough for you. But you shouldnt have beat about the bush so long, you should have said at once what brought you here, then we would have understood one another more quickly.
She gave him her hand, which he pressed warmly.
Miss Gabl, I thank you a hundred thousand times, he cried. Now everything is all right. Now I am happy again, and I dont need to buy any more old clocks.
Four weeks later they were married. One year later, Mrs. Eve had initiated Mr. Adam so thoroughly into the transactions of private life and the colloquial speech associated with worldly affairs that he could hold his own with any horse dealer. And the fact that the marriage was a very happy one can be attested by the dozen children who sprang from it, and who are still alive today.