Dr. Fisher from Geneva, or Dinner with a bomb
The story takes place in Switzerland, where the main character lives, the Englishman Alfred Jones, on whose behalf the narrative is based. Jones tells us about his acquaintance with Dr. Fischer and his daughter, Anne-Louise.
The meeting between Jones and Anne-Louise was absolutely random, because in fact they were separated by a whole world. Anna Louise, a lovely young lady who was not even 21 years old, and her millionaire father lived in a large white palace on the shore of a picturesque lake, in the environs of Geneva. Dr. Fischer earned a fortune on the invention of “Bouquet of Zubolyub” – a toothpaste supposedly protecting against caries (however, Fisher himself did not use his invention,
Alfred Jones at the beginning of history was already over fifty; in 1940, during the bombing of London, he lost his left hand, at the same time his mother and father, a minor official in the diplomatic service, were killed. Jones’ first wife died during childbirth twenty years ago, taking her child with her. In Switzerland, Jones worked as an interpreter and a clerk at a chocolate factory in Vevey; his meager disability pension and salary were hardly equal to Dr. Fisher’s income for half an hour.
There were strange and ominous rumors about Doctor Fischer and his dinners, talked about his arrogance, contempt for everything in the world, cruelty. The only people he tolerated were the so-called “friends”, whom Anna-Louise called “toads” (“greedy”). The toad was five: The movie actor Richard Dean is an alcoholic, an egoist, a womanizer and a complete lack of talent,
All the frogs settled in the environs of Geneva solely in order not to pay taxes in their own countries. Dr. Fisher was richer than all toads, he ruled them with a whip and a carrot. All the toads were very wealthy, but they were too attracted to carrots! Only because of them did they tolerate Dr. Fisher’s vile suppers, where the guests were first humiliated and then presented. In the end, they learned to laugh even earlier than they played a joke; moreover, they considered themselves elected.
Jones first met with Anna Louise in a cafe for sandwiches: she mistakenly took his table, and then the waitress mixed up their orders. And suddenly a young girl and an elderly man “felt like two friends who met after a long separation.” Then there was a month of fleeting encounters before they realized that they fell in love. What could attract Anna-Louise in man for fifty? Perhaps she was looking for a gentle father in him, a real family that she never had.
On the very first night of their real date, Jones made an offer to Anne-Louise, to which she agreed. The only thing that confused Jones – the reaction of Dr. Fisher, suddenly he would be against such a misalliance. But Anna Louisa, said that, most likely, the doctor is absolutely indifferent; she returned to her white palace, packed her suitcase and, without telling anyone, moved to Jones’ modest, meagerly furnished apartment.
But Fischer’s indifferent silence troubled Jones, so he decided to visit the doctor and tell him about the engagement, despite Anne-Louise’s warnings. With great reluctance, Jones was admitted to the house of Dr. Fisher, where he met the first two toads, Mrs. Montgomery and Kipsom. Mrs. Montgomery hypocritically stated that their “close company” simply adores Dr. Fischer and his “wonderful sense of humor.” But it was only on the next visit that Jones managed to meet with Dr. Fischer. On the announcement of the wedding, Dr. Fischer replied that he did not care that this news would be easier to communicate by letter.
A week later, Alfred Jones and Anna-Louise Fisher were married in the City Hall. There was no news from Dr. Fischer, only in the back of the room was a very tall, thin man with sunken cheeks and a tick on his left eye. It was the third toad, Monsieur Belmont, who handed Jones an envelope with a standard dinner invitation to Dr. Fisher. Anna Louise initially persuaded her husband to reject the invitation (“he wants you to become one of the frogs”), but then changed her mind: “I know that you are not a toad, but you will not know it unless you go to his accursed dinner… Maybe he will spare you. “He did not spare my mother.” Anne-Louise said that her mother loved music that her father hated – music word teased him by being inaccessible to him.
Mother began to run away alone to the concerts and on one of them met a man who shared her love for music. They even began to buy plates together and listen to them secretly at his house. There was no physical affinity between them…
Then Dr. Fischer found out about everything. He began to interrogate her, and she told him the truth, and he did not believe the truth, although, perhaps, he believed, but he did not care, she betrayed him with a man or with Mozart’s plate. His jealousy acted on her so much that she felt herself guilty of something, although she did not know what it was. She asked for forgiveness, was humiliated, and he said that he forgives her, and this only exacerbated the sense of guilt (which meant that there was something to forgive), but he also said that he could never forget her treason…
Fischer found out the name of her friend, an innocuous little music lover, went to his master, Mr. Kips, and gave fifty thousand francs to be dismissed without recommendation… What happened to this man Anna-Louise’s mother did not find out, after a few years she died, forced herself to die.
Dr. Fischer insanely insulted that his “rival” was just a clerk! He would not be offended if it was a millionaire. Fischer did not recover from this blow. Then he also learned to hate and despise people, then he began to arrange his “dinners.”
The first victim was Mr Kips, in a sense “accomplice” of Dr. Fisher. Mr. Kips had a spinal defect, his figure resembled the figure of 7. Fisher hired a well-known children’s writer and a very good cartoonist, and together they created the book “The Adventures of Mr. Kips in Search of the Dollar.” The book turned out to be very funny and very cruel, it was released on Christmas days in a huge edition and exhibited in all the windows of all bookstores. And at the first of the invited “dinners” Mr. Kipsu, instead of the usual luxurious gift, they were handed a package with a copy of this book specially woven into a red morocco. “The rich do not have pride, they are proud only of their fortune.” It is necessary to be greeted with the poor, “said Dr. Fischer.
“You’re not Mr. Kips, you’re not rich, and we’re not dependent on him,” said Anna-Louise. “We are free, remember this, we are too small people to offend us.”
On the day of “dinner” Jones arrived at the residence of Fisher. At the entrance he was met by five expensive cars, and in the living room a society that was brilliant in every respect. Jones literally felt physically the waves of hostility directed at him: by his appearance he had lowered the “high level” of the meeting.
During the aperitif, Dr. Fischer let go of humiliating jokes about the audience, who laughed as if on command. During the “fun” Jones was told that each participant at the end of the dinner receives a small but very valuable gift. It is necessary only not to contradict the small “whims” of the owner. Sometimes he can serve live lobsters and bowls of boiling water – everyone had to catch and cook his lobster (“Cancer Dinner”). Another time they offered live quail (“Quail’s dinner”). Refused to perform the task was deprived of the gift.
The guests were invited to a richly decorated table. Fischer offered a toast to the memory of Madame Faverjon, who committed suicide two years ago. In his speech, Fischer observed that of all the people at this table she was the richest and most greedy; she is ready to endure anything, just to deserve a gift, although she could freely buy herself and more expensive. The second toast was for M. Grozely. Fischer noticed that if he knew that Grozeli was suffering from cancer, he would never have invited him – Grozeli died too soon and did not allow the doctor to have a lot of fun.
A servant came in with a large jar of caviar, which he placed in front of the master; guests were quickened in anticipation of a luxurious dinner. However, guests were brought… a cold, absolutely inedible oatmeal. The guests were shocked by the treat, but after a hint of gifts greedily began to eat the first and then the second portion. Jones watched with curiosity and disgust what was happening-no gift in the world would have made him eat oatmeal.
Doctor Fisher, overlapping himself with caviar, noticed that for many years now he was studying the greed of the rich. Promised after dinner gifts, they could easily buy themselves, but they are ready for anything, just to get them for free. And there is no limit to this greed, they gladly, like Krupp, would sit down at the table with Hitler and in the aspiration of mercy would share with him any meal.
Fischer himself is greedy, too, but his greed is of a different kind. It is like the greed of God. And let some believe that God is greedy for love; love in the understanding of Dr. Fischer is just a stilted image in a stupid novel, and all women are potential deceivers. God is greedy for the humiliation of his “defective”, imperfect creatures, ineptly molded “in the image and likeness.” And that the humble do not fall into despair, God occasionally throws “gifts” (for example, an old man and a cripple Jones he threw Anna Louise).
At the end of the dinner, the guests attacked everyone, except Mr. Kips, who was sick of eating oatmeal. And all the guests were angry at Jones, because he witnessed their “game”, and the fact that none of the guests dared to interrupt her.
More invitations to “dinners” were not followed. Jones and Anne-Louise were left alone. And they were happy, making plans for the future, dreaming of a child.
Winter came. Anna-Louise was a good skier (her mother put her on skis in four years), so the weekend the family spent in the mountains. While Anna-Louise was skiing, Jones was waiting for her in a cafe.
Although Dr. Fischer did not make any further impression, the thought of him was always hidden somewhere in Jones’s subconscious. And one day he saw a dream: Dr. Fisher, all in tears, stands on the edge of an open grave. “Maybe it was my mother’s grave,” said Anna-Louise. And the next day they went to the music store. The salesman, an elderly man of short stature and timid kind, did not take his eyes off Anne-Louise. Jones suddenly realized who this man was – a small clerk, the “lover” of Dr. Fischer’s wife, Mr. Steyner. And when Jones said it was Dr. Fischer’s daughter from Geneva, Steiner had a heart attack.
Jones visited Steiner in the hospital. Steiner looked broken, he admitted that he loved Anna, the wife of Dr. Fisher, but Anna did not like him. He was not a rival of Fisher, their connection was practically platonic. Steyner suffered all his life for Anna, but his will was not strong enough to die; he admitted that he saw how Dr. Fisher cried at his wife’s funeral.
It was Christmas. On Christmas Eve Anna-Louise and Jones went to mass at the ancient abbey in Saint-Maurice. There was a romantic atmosphere, they were happy. But at the exit they were waiting for Monsieur Belmont, one of the toads. Monsieur Belmont shoved a envelope with an invitation into Jones’s hands. Then there was Mrs. Montgomery, followed by a “general”, and an actor swelling up from drunkenness on the arm with a girl. The evening was ruined.
But the next morning, in a rainbow mood, the family as usual went to the mountains, so that Anna-Louise could ski. On this occasion, she wore a new sweater – from thick white wool with a broad red stripe on her chest. And Jones, as always, was waiting for his wife in a cafe.
Suddenly there was a bustle and a funicular, two people carried a stretcher. Jones dropped the book and went out of curiosity to see what happened. The stretcher was not clearly visible, Jones could see that there was a gray-haired woman in a red sweater. Then he realized that she was not gray – her head was bandaged before carrying down. The crowd parted, and Jones noticed with horror that in the stretcher Anna-Louise, and the sweater was red with blood.
There has been an accident. The boy sprained his ankle on a track that was too difficult for him. Anna Louise went down, it was difficult for him to go round. She unsuccessfully turned, slipped on a treacherous nast and crashed into a tree. In the ambulance, Jones and Anne-Louise were taken to the hospital, where she, without regaining consciousness, died. Jones from the hospital tried to call Dr. Fischer and report the tragedy, but Dr. Fischer did not want to talk to him (he was busy preparing a dinner party) and suggested “writing the case in writing.”
Jones sent a letter to Dr. Fischer, where he gave a dry account of the circumstances of his daughter’s death and reported the date and place of the funeral. Dr. Fisher did not come to the funeral.
After the death of Anne-Louise, Jones was in despair. He decided to commit suicide: drink a quarter of a liter of whiskey with aspirin. Just got ready – there was a phone call. Mrs. Montgomery passed the invitation of Dr. Fischer, it was about inheritance. Jones said nothing, hung up the phone and drained the glass in one gulp.
He slept for eighteen hours – the suicide attempt failed. Jones was sick of grief, he wanted to humiliate Dr. Fisher, wanted to make him suffer, because he decided to come to the White Palace.
Dr. Fisher was businesslike and was not in mourning. He “comforted” Jones, saying that sooner or later Anna-Louise would have left him anyway, because women “like to humiliate us.” And after the collapse of all hopes there is contempt, and if this happens, it is necessary to take revenge for it. The word “forgiveness” is not from Dr. Fischer’s vocabulary. Love is the word from the novel, only money matters, for them people will go to everything, even to death. Dr. Fischer offered Jones money – small incomes, bequeathed to Anne-Louise by her mother. But what does money mean before irretrievable loneliness? After hearing the refusal of the inheritance, Dr. Fischer invited Jones to dinner – the last dinner: “I want you to be present and see for yourself what they will achieve.”
Jones did not abandon the idea of suicide. The problem was that not all the options were right: it took courage to venture on some of them. Jones lived in a fog, automatically, not realizing himself. Why he accepted Dr. Fischer’s invitation is unknown. Perhaps because it made it possible for an hour or two not to think about suicide without much pain or great trouble for others. He decided to commit suicide after a dinner party with Fischer.
It was frosty on the day of dinner. Perhaps on this dinner was served on the lawn, surrounded by flaming fires. All the frogs were assembled, Dr. Fisher was standing by the big barrel of bran, in which six crackers were hidden. In five crackers laid the same piece of paper – checks. The guests were unpleasantly surprised by the lack of gifts: checks looked like a bribe, humiliated their dignity, but then quickly forgot about it, because each check was for two million francs.
In the sixth cracker, a bomb was hidden.
Mr. Kips at once refused to play on such terms and left. The guests were worried about the fate of Mr. Kips’s check, the owner reassured – the check will be divided into all. Mrs. Montgomery and Belmon cynically estimated the amount of “winnings”, given that one does not exactly survive.
Fischer offered to go first to Dean, but while he was going with the spirit, getting used to the image of the once-gallant soldier, Mrs. Montgomery, shouting: “The lad is let forward!” ran to the barrel, probably figured out the odds for a happy outcome. Mrs. Montgomery determinedly tugged at the tongue of the cracker and grabbed the check and squealed with delight. Then she ran greedily to the table, to quickly put her name in the check.
Drunk Dean was still standing, as at the counter “quietly”, so Belmont also had the opportunity to run up to the barrel. He hesitated before pulling out his cracker, smiled smugly, winked and tugged at the tongue. In the cracker was a check.
Dean did not move. Dr. Fisher suggested Jones try his luck, but Jones said he would go last. “You are a boring, stupid type,” said Dr. Fisher, “what a virtue to go to death if you want to die.”
Meanwhile, Dean, after drinking a couple more glasses of port wine for courage, famously saluted and walked to the barrel of bran, rummaged in it, pulled out the cracker, pulled… and fell to the ground next to the cylinder and a check. “Dead drunk,” said Dr. Fischer, and ordered the gardeners to carry him to the house.
Meanwhile the divisional commander was dying of fear, and Mrs. Montgomery and Belmont, in a pleasant excitement, chose how to raise two million francs more highly. As the general did not move, Jones went to the barrel. He quietly took a cracker in his hand, expecting that the death of the bomb could bring him closer to Anne-Louise. The general approached the barrel. Mrs. Montgomery and Belmont were cowardly zasobiralsya home, they did not want to become witnesses of a dubious incident, especially since they already received their gifts.
The general closed his eyes, lowered his hand into the barrel, groped for his cracker, but still hesitantly continued to stand. Then he took out the cracker and went to the table, giving Jones a chance to risk first. The general looked hopefully at the attempt of the one-armed Jones to pull out the tongue of the cracker, probably he was telling the god: “I beg you, good God, blow it up!”
There was a check in the cracker.
Fischer was ecstatic, he mocked Jones’ disappointment and the fear of a general who almost cried. Jones again put his hand into the barrel and pulled out the last cracker, pulled the tongue.
There was a check in the cracker.
Jones took both checks and went to the table. One check he threw Fischer, the other left himself. Fisher was delighted: “And you know, Jones, I have a hope that in the end you will not spoil the whole picture… Take the money from the bank tomorrow, put it on well, and I’m sure that soon you will have the same feelings I can even arrange my suppers again, at least to see how your greed develops: Mrs. Montgomery, Belmont, Kips and Dean – all of them were, in general, the same when I met them, but you created me that way. Just like God created Adam “The general cried.
“How you must be despising yourself,” Jones told Dr. Fischer, then turned to the general: “I’ll buy your cracker for two million francs.” “No. No,” the general said, barely audible, but did not resist when Jones took the cracker from his fingers.
Jones went down to the lake and for the third time, with complete confidence in the outcome, yanked the tongue – there was a foolish, feeble cotton.
There was a sound of steps – Steiner came up. He came, desperate and exhausted, to spit in the face of his tormentor, the murderer of his beloved, “the all-powerful god.” But then Dr. Fischer himself went down to the lake. Steyner said who he is. All three stood in silence, in the dark, in the snow. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something, but no one knew what it would be. It was a minute when Steiner was supposed to do what he had planned.
Fisher admitted to Jones that he did not want to humiliate him. Fischer admitted that he despised the whole world, despised himself, and this contempt began when Steiner entered his life. Then he stood for a minute, thinking, and walked along the lake until he was out of sight.
Steiner told Jones that he had not fulfilled his plan, because he hated Dr. Fischer. Do not be afraid of hatred, it is not contagious, but when a person begins to despise, he ends up in despising the whole world. Then he admitted that he just felt sorry for Fischer.
Sharp cotton interrupted the conversation. When Jones and Steiner ran to the sound, they found Dr. Fisher on the dead body – he shot himself.
Jones ends his story by admitting that he did not have enough courage to commit suicide. There was no point in following Anna Louise, if the road leads to nothing. Because while we are alive, we can at least remember…
Sometimes Jones drinks coffee with Monsieur Steiner, and while Steyner talks about Anna Louise’s mother, and Jones thinks about Anna-Louise herself. The toads still live in Geneva, but at the meeting they try not to notice Jones. Only Mrs. Montgomery called out to him: “It can not be, it’s you, Mr. Smith!” But now Jones pretended not to hear.