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Herr Knoblauch, the marriage arranger, turned his head away from Henry, and looked out of his window across the rooftops towards the tower of Frankfurt’s Katharinenkirche. As he watched some crows wheeling over the steep tiled roofs, he murmured:

“So, you have a successful general store … with a branch in a neighbouring town …you are a landowner … director of a bank … you have a fine, palatial home … ah ha! ah ha! And also … you have recently become a town councillor … a man of position in society … a man of substance … ah ha! ah ha!”

He scratched the side of his nose and fiddled with his ill-fitting spectacles before continuing:

“‘Olival Nort’ … who ever heard of such a place? Well … a bank is a bank … even if it’s in a town that cannot be found on a map. It may not be in Frankfurt …but … ah ha … it’s a bank, and that should be enough to impress. … No one will have ever heard of you or your Frontier Bank.”

Henry smiled, and said:

“Once upon a time, no one had heard of Meyer Amschel Rothschild.”

“Yes, very good, very good!  Yes, and as the saying goes, from little acorns big oak trees … Your achievements will count for much in the Judengasse, Mr Bergmann… ah ha! ah ha!”

Knoblauch blew his nose noisily, before asking:

“Where did you say that your parents reside?”

“Ichenhausen … in Bavaria”

Ach … not a place that I know … Your father is a prosperous hat maker. That may be something in Ichenheim: was that the name of the place? But, it won’t impress anyone here.”


Knoblauch scratched around inside his left nostril, wiped his nose on his sleeve, flicked something on the floor, rummaged amongst the papers on his desk, and then said:

“Ah … but his piety and observance will count for much in the right circles. Come back in a couple of days after I have … ah ha … made a few visits … made some enquiries.”

Henry stood up to leave. Knoblauch chuckled pointlessly, saying:

“I won’t disappoint you. You will see … I will live up to my name …ah ha! …  I’ll add a bit of flavour to your future!”


Knoblauch was in a good mood when Henry returned two days later.

“Well, Herr Bergmann, I have not been idle. You are … ah ha!  … If I may put it in this way … ah ha! … an interesting commodity! During my rounds, I have discovered that you are a desirable kind of son-in-law, but …”


“Many of the families with whom I have spoken are unhappy about sending their daughters so far from home  to such  … ah ha … a wild place … of course, that’s not the way I would describe your home … it’s just that they believe Africa to be so. Snakes, tigers, and savages … ah ha! ah ha! … you know the sort of thing that goes through people’s heads!”

Henry looked dismayed.

“However, this view is not shared by all. There are a few houses that I suggest you visit soon. You are expected, and will need no introduction if you call … just mention my name … ah ha! Ah ha! Knoblauch opens doors … ah ha! ah ha!”


Knoblauch laughed at his own joke, which made no sense to Henry, and handed him a piece of paper with a number of addresses on it, saying:

“One of the young ladies that you will meet is … ah ha! ah ha! … a widow with a child. Tragic story really, but a pretty girl.”

Heinrich gave Knoblauch a questioning glance.

“Yes, a widow. You heard me right.”

Knoblauch made a dreadful sound in his throat whilst he shifted a particularly annoying lump of phlegm. He explained:

“Widows are not to be sniffed at, especially if they are young, wealthy, and if they have shown themselves to be … ah ha! ah ha! … able to have children … how can I best put it? Hmmm … tried and tested.”

“I understand you well, Herr Knoblauch.”

“The other three young ladies have yet … ah ha … to prove themselves.”

Knoblauch chuckled to himself, and then vigorously blew his nose into a grubby handkerchief with lace trimming. His face turned red with the effort. Looking directly at Henry, he said:

“Each of the girls that I want you to meet comes from a wealthy family, and will be provided with … ah ha … a handsome dowry. You need not worry about that. My advice to you is to be guided solely by what your heart tells you. They will all make good wives, so follow your innermost feelings … your … ah ha, ah ha … future happiness depends on that. You are not choosing a horse or a carriage, or … even … ah ha, ah ha … a new hat. You are making a decision that will affect the rest of your life.”

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