“It’s a shame,” she said softly, shaking her head. “I can’t make any sense of it, no one can.” She turned to look out the café window, watching the Saturday street as her companion waited in silence. “Did you see the front page of the Neue Freie Presse yesterday?” she continued. “Noble not only by birth but in spirit, it said. And then all of his accomplishments, his work with children after the war… frankly the tone of the thing left one with the impression that he’d quite sensibly left the sinking ship of Austria by dying when he did. But what can you do.”
“I heard the Reichspost blamed it on gas poisoning – a faulty heating system, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I heard that too, but no. Elli found them. Clemens sent her and the maid out for a film over in Leopoldstadt, and by the time they returned, it was over and not even the best doctors in Vienna could do anything to bring them back. Marie had been ill. When I visited them last month on Alserstrasse, she mentioned she was having a minor procedure, but maybe there was more to it, I don’t know; we’d been friends for years but she didn’t say. She looked worried, yes, but not this…and Clemens wasn’t like that, even after the political disappointment.”
Dr. Clemens Peter Freiherr von Pirquet, some twenty years after coining the term ‘allergy,’ committed suicide with his wife by ingesting cyanide on a late winter evening.