The Countess Lurlena von Apfelesser, known as Lulu to her friends took steps to fire Mr. Grogonia the teacher of Old Slavonic because she believed he was seducing her daughter by means of homework assignments. For example:
Homework for tomorrow. Translate the following sentence into Slavonic.
1.Inflamed by the odor of the pineapple the bear did great damage to the vacation hut of the sub-adjutant.
Why would Lily, Lulu’s daughter, at the tender age of seventeen need to translate statements about untrammeled lusts and destructive desires? Was it not clear that in his allegory the lecherous Grogonia had figured male lasciviousness by a bear, and her own daughter’s winsome chastity ripe for plucking by a pineapple fruit?
The Countess grabbed the assignment from her daughter’s hand and over coffee perorated her friends, Taffi and Deshie.
Is this not the essence of the debauched culture of the Slavones, which made them an uneasy addition to the empire? For the Countess could talk of reproduction without smirking — she could call a knob a “knob” and a purse a “purse”. But she and her mother and her Grandmother the Arch-Countess of Old Saxony did not call the knob a weasel, a bear, a hussar or a burning fire, and did not call the purse a rose, a grotto, a maelstrom or a dream. And her daughter should not either.
The formidable Lulu spoke to Mr. Dax the headmaster who spoke to the Slavonic teacher. He promised to do better — he needed a job — and the next homework assignment was from the Holy Books of the Slavonic Church.
Translate into Slavonic:
- Ignore the body and keep your eyes on heaven for the pleasures of the body are fleeting and misleading, like snows in spring, like the smiles of dreams on the lips of the unfortunate.
“I will not be mocked by a schoolteacher!” railed the Countess after school.
“But Countess, it is scripture.” implored Grogonio. “It offers arguments for a chaste life, which is most appropriate for the young lady.”
“I am not a fool. Do you think I was born yesterday not to realize that the quickest path to sweetening a fruit is the forbidding of it? Am I a lamb for you to shear me, or a pony for you to ride me, or a bee for you to squeeze honey from my hindquarters? Do you think I don’t realize that to describe pleasures as fleeting like the snow in spring is turning the syllables of language into a waltz to set my daughter’s heart racing.”
“I apologize. I am a simple man.”
“Sometimes the simple are the masks for the complicated, as purity and honesty are the subtlest stratagems of vice. You are warned, school master. I will read my daughter’s homework assignment tomorrow and if all is not proper and free from innuendo I will crash myself upon your wretched life. Like thunder.”
“Countess, you will be pleased.”
The third homework assignment read:
Translate into Slavonic.
A newspaper article in the Galicianer Zeitung read that overcome by nervous exhaustion the Countess threw herself to her death into a gorge. Her husband, Count Von Apfelesser,upon hearing the news, challenged their daughter’s teacher to a duel and ran him through with a rapier. It was an extremely passionate scandal to afflict such a well-revered house. Everyone talked about it throughout the rest of the spring and well into the summer.
Taffi asked Deshie at the funeral how it could have happened that their friend had given everything up for love. Deshie wondered whether way, way back, many generations ago, one member of the house of Apfelfesser had not, perhaps, been Slavonic.