The World is a Jungle

by Gabriel Timar

Table of Contents
Book One: The Pleasant Jungle

The Mystery of the Boots and Underwear

Gabriel Timar recounts stories and anecdotes from his family history and his adventures around the world. Some of the names, dates and places may have been changed, but the essence is a true memoir.


By the early twentieth century, the family still could not boast great generals, scientists, scholars, or politicians apart from Francis. Although his career was undistinguished, after reaching the sublime rank of colonel in the Fifth Hussars and fathering three sons, he retired to a small house in Grinzing, on the outskirts of Vienna, and decided to have good time.

A widower, he managed to live quite well, supplementing his pension and the income from the estate by doing what he liked doing very much: training horses for dressage. However, his favorite pastime was the chasing of women in the imperial court and in the theatres of Vienna.

His oldest son Sigmund became the postmaster in Farkashida and managed the estate. Steven was studying in Rome with the intention of becoming the first Hungarian Pope, but he only managed the parsonage of a village in Northern Hungary. The youngest, Andrew, became an artillerist.

Society overlooked the gallant adventures of the colonel, but his death raised many eyebrows. The mystery surrounding Francis’s passing instantly became the main topic of conversation in the ladies’ coffee circuit, which met regularly in the shadow of the Burg, the Imperial Palace. And in the lavish cafés on Kaertner Strasse, the ladies talked about the demise of Francis.

Sitting just under the crystal chandelier across the ornate Venetian mirror in the Café of the Hotel Sacher, the widow of Major Waldhoffer told her friends, “Can you imagine Colonel von Farkashida dying in the bedchambers of Angelica, Doctor Deroff’s twenty-year old daughter?”

“If my memory serves me right, he was sixty-five years old,” Frau Schoenfeld, the wife of a bank manager replied. She picked at the Sachertorte with her fork.

“You ought to know, my dear,” Mrs. Waldhoffer said with a sardonic smile.

“Angelica was an artist. Francis’ appreciation of fine arts, old wine, and young women was well known. Imagine, he tried to seduce my cousin, Sonja,” added Erica Lang, the retired headmistress of an exclusive girl’s school.

Anybody could seduce her, Mrs. Waldhoffer thought. She thoughtfully sipped her coffee, smiled, and declared: “According to Mrs. Deroff, the colonel wished to view the etchings of their daughter. Francis was known for sponsoring budding female artists.”

“Very nice of him,” said Frau Schoenfeld.

“He always had something else in mind, I am sure. Actually, Francis was not rich enough to support an artist for very long,” Mrs. Waldhoffer suggested.

“Maybe,” Erica Lang added.

“When they took him to the undertaker, Francis was wearing a full dress uniform, but for some unknown reason he had removed his boots,” said Frau Schoenfeld.

“It is not a prerequisite of art appreciation,” remarked Erica Lang.

Mrs. Waldhoffer smiled meaningfully and remarked: “I think some hanky-panky was going on in the bedchambers besides the viewing of the etchings.”

The plot thickened. On the following week, the colonel’s obituary appeared in the papers, and the three friends discussed the matter further over their coffee and Schwartzwalder cakes.

“According to my maid, Putzy, the undertaker took the body for embalming, removed the colonel’s uniform, and found Francis not wearing underpants,” Frau Schoenfeld said.

“Where did she hear that?” Erica Lang asked. “I know the mortician, Herr Stauss well. He is a discreet person. even if it were true, he would not have divulged it.”

“It is hard to believe a officer going out in a January snowstorm wearing full dress uniform and greatcoat, but no underpants,” Mrs. Waldhoffer mused.

“I am sure it is true. Putzy is most reliable. She’s second cousin to the undertaker’s assistant. I am sure he mentioned the lack of underwear because he knew that Putzy would keep it a secret. Of course she mentioned if only to me, because she knew I would not gossip,” Frau Schoenfeld said.

Alas, the controversy somehow reached the tabloids; arguments raged about the underwear and the boots, but eventually, the ladies’ coffeehouse circuit accepted the contrived explanations of Angelica’s parents.

“One cannot doubt the word of a respected physician of the Emperor, like Doctor Deroff,” Erica Lang declared.

“Regardless, I have doubts about the virtue of Angelica,” Mrs. Waldhoffer mused.

Although the storm over the boots and the underwear subsided, the circumstances surrounding Francis’ death became the most enduring legend within the family.


Copyright © 2009 by Gabriel Timar

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