Edward Edgeworth.

Human German online

. (page 13 of 20)
Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 13 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


While these problems puzzle you, changing the
guard is done. The seven-and-twenty corner-boys
disperse ; the post card sellers carry off their post
cards ; the Americans carry off their chests. Alone
the spectacled sentry stands unchanged. He looks
more professorial than ever. He looks as if he is
pondering a System of Peaceful War ; with gunners
so blind that they could not hit a haystack; with
the sight of each Dreadnought gun so spoiled by
studv that the foe would feel no dread.



That horrid profession which he had chosen to adopt {Thackeray).

YESTERDAY all the evening we talked of
business men. It was the fruit of a visit
to Schauder's shop in the Leipzigerstrasse,
and of an adventure that there occurred. We
took with us as usual Aeroplane, who barked
excessively in the Underground ; and brought
remonstrances from broad Frau Pastor Zimkat,
who got in at Nollendorfplatz. Frau Zimkat is
unreasonably fat ; she has a low forehead, and
flat feet : Letitia calls her " The Earth." " Why
so, gracious lady ? " asked Herr Gamradt. " She's
an oblate spheroid," said Letitia. And now in
the Underground Frau Zimkat looked angrily at
Aeroplane. " Please read the notice," said she.
** * Only small dogs are admitted that may be taken
on the lap.' Is yours a lap dog ? " " That depends
on the lap," said Letitia, looking towards the Equator.
Our adventure at Schauder's in the Leipziger-
strasse was due to enterprise by Aeroplane, whom

we left chained up in the porch. We made pur-



chases, slipped twice on the stairs, got wrong change
as usual, and made for the main entry. We came
on a tumultuous tumult. A dozen persons — " all
men," said Letitia sneeringly — were screaming and
gesticulating ; one was stopping blood from a yellow
nose ; the hall-porter Fritz was explaining some-
thing inexplicable ; and a policeman, hysterical
from excitement, was bidding the crowd keep calm.
We guessed immediately that Aeroplane had bitten
a nose. But his offence was much more grave.

You are aware that human Prussians, being
super-scot tish by nature, haste to waste cigars.
And as it's against police regulations to smoke
inside, the larger shops provide temporary retreats
for cigars. The retreat is in the porch. It is a
handsome brazen rack with numerous numbered
grooves. The hall-porter keeps watch. As you
enter the shop you drop your cigar in, say. Number
Eleven ; and as you leave you reclaim it, rehght it ;
and — after the first momentary faintness, walk
away. If you forget your number . . . Letitia says
that no sane man having once surrendered a Prussian
cigar . . . But Letitia is ignorant of life ; and more
ignorant still is Letitia of the all-too-human nature
of Aeroplane.

Whether Aeroplane hoped to pose as a shopper,
or was piqued by the all-too-human fragrance, no
man knows ; but later facts are plain. While Herr


Hall-porter-Cigar-guardian Fritz was tumbling a
shopper's parcels into her motor-car, Aeroplane flew
to the cigar-retreat, and rose on his hind-paws.
He sniffed superciliously cigar six ; ignored cigars
seven and eight ; and when he drew near a brown
number thirteen, put forth his paw ; and swept a
dozen cigars from their restful grooves to the
ground. When Herr Fritz returned he found the
ejected cigars smoking with anguish in the dust.

Had Herr Fritz been a porter of character he
would have picked them up, laid them in-
discriminately in a row, explained the tragedy,
and bid the owners choose their favourites by nose,
vision, taste, or luck. But Fritz faltered and pal-
tered. He restored the cigars to twelve empty
grooves, and prayed the smokers might not taste
the difference.

Fritz's prayer seemed granted. The first shopper
to come out took from groove seventeen a cigar
which properly belonged to groove twenty-two,
struck a match, and went off puffing. Plainly he
had insensitive gums. But the second shopper !
The second shopper, who had left in twenty-two a
generous Havana, was faced by a fierce Flor Biilow
from Hamburg ; and at once made off after shopper
number one, who was trailing clouds of glory which
should have been numbered twenty-two. He had
hardly dodged a blow from the robber of twenty-


two, when other shopper-smokers came out of
Schauder's. Each panted to regain the cigar which
he rightly held was earth's best and brightest ;
and each got instead what he was absolutely certain
was incomparably earth's worst. Such things
cause trouble. Within forty seconds the porch of
Schauder's was thronged with well-dressed, angrily
protesting, physically violent men. After insults had
flown like kites, and Herr Policeman Schneip had
tried to intervene with as much success as Europe
had in the Balkans — ^the smokers turned like one
man on Herr Porter Fritz, and expressed their
conviction that he had smoked the cigars, and care-
lessly mixed them up. This Fritz denied ; he
adjured them to listen ; swore he would buy each
man as good a cigar as he'd lost ; and blurted out
the explanation. " 'Twas not I, meine Herren.
No one could have smoked your cigars but the dog
of the Englishman inside."

In originality and intellectual plasticity German
tradesmen stand ahead of British. We get this idea
not from Schauder's cigar-retreat ; but from daily
dealings with minor tradesmen and workers near
home. For instance, from our deahngs with Herr
House-porter Hiibsch, whose primary function is
to work the hft and answer the door-bell at the
house where Keswell hves. Herr Hiibsch's sphere
is infinite. He paints, makes shelves, hangs curtains.


rubs parquets, mends bells, plants flowers, prints
photographs. He is interested in a dairy. He is
the incarnation of efficiency, order, and honesty.
He is further — for his humble class — ^reasonably
cultured ; and though not above Shakespeare in
Greek, he can fire off his Virgil and Moliere with
the best.

His weakness is that he flatly declines to be
paid. No man excels him in modesty. He spends
hour after hour at your flat, while three streets off
in his own house angry callers prod at the door-bell,
and clamour to be taken up in the lift. But whether
you offer him fifty marks or fifty pfennigs, he vows
it's absurdly too much, and with a grateful iimeo
Danaos thrusts back half in your hand. The least
you can do in return is to recommend him to friends.

We lately discovered that Herr Hiibsch is enabled
to be thus moderate by his extensive connection
as agent for matrimony. His clients are maid-
servants in Schoneberg houses. In the case of
servants classed as " ordinary " he charges five
marks a husband ; but where servants have saved
£50 or over he finds a husband for half that, the
labour being considerably fighter. If the bridegroom
has £100 or more, the bride pays him £1. The
prices are high, but brides agree that bridegrooms
are worth the money. These marriage enterprises
put householders to considerable cost ; and since


the 4th of April we and our friends have ceased to
employ Herr Hiibsch.

The fact is, all servants left to get married,
Letitia long puzzled in vain ; even when she chose
a nursemaid with one glass eye and no savings,
this nursemaid was wed in a month. An accident
led to a clearing up of the mystery. We discovered
that Herr Hiibsch's favourite homo homini lupus
was no thoughtless joke. While melting glue, he
had the run of the kitchen ; and he began by chuck-
ing the servants under the chin, and then by offering
to get them husbands for considerations. This
proved costly ; for although Herr Hubsch charged
only ten pfennigs for printing a photograph, the
loss of a series of servants cost us pounds. Re-
proaches poured in from friends, who asked : " Why
did you recommend Herr House-porter Hiibsch ?
He found a husband for our cook Patricia, the
only woman in Prussia that can grill a chop." Soon
the climax came. Our flaxen, Saxon Hedwig,
whose head incomparably matched the Bieder-
meier chairs, gave notice to leave.

Some days later a well-printed card, inscribed
" Herr House-porter Hiibsch," was handed in by
Hedwig. We received Herr Hiibsch coolly, but with
the respect imposed by success.

" I am told, Herr," he said, " that your Hedwig is


" Indeed ? "

" If you want to keep her, Herr, you could easily
fix up . . ."

" How do you come in ? "

" Well, I have influence. ... I know. . . . That
is ... La donna e mobile. . . . Les extremes se
touchent. ..."

And with a stammer, but without a blush, he
explained that Hedwig had paid him five marks to
find her a husband ; and that if twelve or even eight
marks were bid on the other side he could bring the
match to naught. Next day we learned that Herr
House-porter Hiibsch is sleeping partner in a servants'
registry office ; agent for a firm that hires out
broughams ; and tout for Landrock's Baby Food.
He gets paid for finding servants places ; next for
finding servants husbands ; next for finding servants
to replace them ; next for hiring out white-satin-
lined broughams ; and a year or so afterwards. . . .
So much for the specious epigram : a jack-of-all
trades, master of none.

Domestic exigencies make many as queer pro-
fessions as Hiibsch s ; sometimes professions which
cause more disturbance still. Our friend Bernal
Harley can tell of that. Seldom in Germany have
Britons cause for panic ; but all last fortnight
Bernal's hands have so trembled that his type-
writer (No. 189,773) hops. It happened at ten


o'clock on a Monday. Bernal was writing alone in
his flat ; his wife and seven children had gone to
Grunewald ; and his servants had gone to find
bridegrooms. There was an emphatic ring, a later
imperative ring, and at last a ring which Bernal
calls a ring minatory and monitory. As protest
against being asked to open doors Bernal ignored
the rings. But the third ring frightened. Perhaps
the house was on fire. The night before he had
dreamed of eating smoked sigue off an ash-tray ;
and such dreams seldom portend good. So he
went to the door. Before it stood an unfamiliar,
muscular, decently dressed stranger. He looked
for a moment inquisitorially round the hall, hesi-
tated, rubbed his nose, and put the portentous
question : " Have you got any Frenchmen and
Russians ? "

'' Haben Sie Franzosen und Russen P " Bernal,
who is normally cautious, ought to have answered
evasively, or learned the aim of this unexampled
query before committing himself. But under the
catastrophic suggestions he lost his presence of
mind, and blurted out miserably, '' Of course not ! "
The stranger's manner here confirmed the worst of
fears. He looked, indeed, neither surprised nor
angry ; he seemed to expect an untruthful answer ;
he had the cold, professional way of the practised
detective trapping a helpless criminal. He crossed


the threshold, saying v^^th plain increduHty, " It's
my business to see." And he entered the kitchen.

At first poor Bernal stood rooted to the ground.
What was the import of this domiciliary search ?
Unluckily, though details were doubtful, the general
import was too plain. When a German, certainly
a detective, enters a Briton's house and hunts for
Frenchmen and Russians, that of necessity means
pohtics. Germany . . . the Dual Alhance . . . the
Triple Entente. . . . Probably Bernal was accused
of harbouring French and Russian spies. But
there were other explanations. Suppose that,
unknown to a retiring journalist, relations were
broken off. Suppose that our British Government
had boldly again proclaimed that the countrymen
of Shakespeare and Goethe could never fight ; and
thus made war inevitable. And suppose French
and Russian soldiers were hiding disguised in Berlin.
Perhaps with explosives. Where on earth should
they hide if not in the flat of Teutonophobe scribbhng
Bernal ?

The detective had entered the kitchen. That
confirmed the diagnosis. Soldiers — Frenchmen and
Russians — would inevitably hide within reach of
food and maids. And this reasoning led to thoughts
of alarming possibihties. Suppose that, unknown
to their master, Agnes the cook and Lucie the
amorous housemaid had secreted their French and


Russian lovers. What court martial would believe
the householder's obvious lie that he didn't know
they were there ?

Resolved to know the worst, ashen-faced Bernal
trembled into the kitchen. The detective was at
work. He opened vigorously the pantry door and
slapped the bottom shelf. He examined the ice-
chest. He then went into the passage behind the
kitchen, banged a dusty clothes-basket, saying
savagely, " Come out, you brutes ! " And next he
did something amazing, something absurd. He
returned to the kitchen, lay on his stomach, and
peered under the range. Now the range stands
only four inches above the floor ; and not the
skinniest Frenchman, much less a clod-shaped
muzhik, could possibly squeeze underneath. The
detective was evidently not so smart as he seemed.
But at this critical moment there was a significant
" Ah ! " *' Come out, you brute ! " repeated the
detective. And he thrust his hand far under the
range ; and dragged out and displayed to thunder-
struck Bernal, an unarmed, undisciphned cock-

All's well that ends well. " There are Frenchmen
and Russians," said the detective, " in every house."
And he explained that " Frenchmen and Russians "
is Berlinese for cockroaches ; and that he was sent
round by landlords whom the law compels to rid


their houses of pests. He'd been told, he added,
that in Russia cockroaches are called Prusaki,
which means Prussians, but he didn't know whether
they were called Prussiens in France. The tragedy
arose through Bernal's ignorance of German. Next
morning he bought a Dictionary of Slang, and he will
avoid such happenings. But it will be many days
before his hands cease to tremble ; and his type-
writer (No. 189,773) to hop.

Though Prussians, as this tale shows, are ingenious
in finding professions, Herr Knoblauch of Strassburg
in Alsace, says Frenchmen are cleverer still. Herr
Knoblauch keeps a beer-shop, a Kneipe, where
university students foregather to swill from bottom-
less tankards seas of Munich beer. Swilliest of all
these swilUng students, despite his Gallic parents, is
the Alsatian Ren^ Bouillebaise, of the Faculty of
Philosophy. M. Bouillebaise lately swilled till he
owed Herr Knoblauch 32 marks 80 pfennigs ; and
when Knoblauch asked him for payment, he said
with derisive tenderness, " Ask papa."

As Knoblauch unexpectedly threatened to take
this counsel the student felt disturbed. For though
M. Bouillebaise, Senior, is the richest butcher in
Colmar, he had a fortnight before paid for his son
thirteen unreasonable bills, and had further advanced
him Marks 200, which lovesick M. Bouillebaise gave
to a barmaid in Bar — that means in Enghsh, cash.


To dispel his troubles the student of philosophy
invented a rich maiden aunt, settled, he told Herr
Knoblauch, at Toul, who had promised that when
he paid her his belated visit she would pay off his
belated debts.

After inventing his aunt, M. Bouillebaise, Junior,
wrote to Colonel Ducis de Montesquieu, Officer in
charge of the Toul recruiting staff, saying that
hopeless love was driving him to enhst in the Foreign
Legion, on condition that he was sent at once to
Morocco, where he might die a hero's death. He
signed the letter ''Pierre Knoblauch, agede2$ ans" ;
and added in postscript that as he spoke no French,
he would bring as interpreter a young Alsatian, who
had written his letter, the excellent linguist M.
Bouillebaise. Next day he met Herr Knoblauch
with the announcement that he was going at last to
see his aunt at Toul ; and he asked Herr Knoblauch
to accompany him, and receive the 32 marks 80
pfennigs on the spot. And as Toul is only half an
hour from the frontier, Herr Knoblauch agreed.

*' Toul is an attractive town and a well-planned
fortress,'' said M. Bouillebaise as the train steamed
in. He spoke with the instructive voice of a philo-
sophy student grounded in Baedecker. " The popu-
lation is fourteen thousand (three hundred Jews).
You captured it from us in '70. It's a bit early to
see my aunt ; let's look around." And seeing a


prim, unpicturesque building near the station, he
dashed into it alone, and returned with the report
that it was a veteran's home. He had met by good
luck the governor, a charming militaire of the old
school, who offered to show the tourists the whole
institution. And he dragged Herr Knoblauch

The militaire sat at a table with many papers in
front, and an uncommonly wiry sergeant behind.
He received the tourists with courtesy, but somewhat
formally ; and began to rain upon perplexed Herr
Knoblauch innumerable questions. M. Bouillebaise
interpreted. He told the innkeeper that the officer
was asking about Strassburg, whether it still pro-
duced the incomparable pate, what was the illegiti-
macy rate, and cognate questions which rightly
interest soldiers. At last the militaire ceased to
fire off questions, and pushed a filled-up form across
the table. " What's that ? " asked Herr Knoblauch.

" A form for the visitors' records," said Bouille-
baise. " Sign it, and he'll show us the veterans."
Herr Knoblauch signed.

M. Bouillebaise smiled diabohcally. With the
excuse, "I shall now enquire if Auntie dear is up,"
he vanished down the stairs. He did not return.
And when anxious Herr Knoblauch turned to follow,
the sergeant's hand fell imperatively on his shoulder.
Incensed Herr Knoblauch slapped the sergeant's


jaw. In a second he found himself on his back with
vicious army handcuffs enclosing his wrists.

Thereon began explanations. The militaire made
clear (but only after another interpreter had been
found) that Herr Knoblauch had signed an under-
taking to serve in the Foreign Legion, on condition
he was sent at once to Morocco where he might die
a hero's death. Only after a day's negotiations
with the aid of a Consul, three more interpreters,
who quarrelled fiercely over the meaning of the
present subjunctive of mourir, and a doctor who
swore that Herr Knoblauch was dying of consump-
tion (of beer), was the foreign legionary released.

When he appeared that evening in his beer-shop
an uproarious chorus greeted him : " How goes it,
Boniface, in Casablanca ? " The chorus came from
the students who owed him nothing. Their debtful
comrades — at least a dozen of the twenty — hid their
faces in their tankards and wept.


Uxori nubere nolo meae {Martial).

HERR GAMRADT says that the Reichstag
is "trembling in its elastic boots." Not
because of the daily dilemma, Finance;
the Finance of making extra army corps ; supple-
menting sergeant-majors' rations ; docking Dread-
noughts, salaries, or beards. But because of the
wails of the Allied Imperial Matrimonial Agents, led
by Herr Hiibsch, whom inconsiderate laws — again
the meddling State — have driven to beg their bread.
Because of Paragraph 656. Before it — as, source
of all our joy and all our woe they merited — the
agents flourished. And then Paragraph 656 forbade
them to sue for fees, on the ground, " against
good manners " ; and the agents can't make a

This is not for lack of chents. Agents in Prussia
always have clients ; for right-thinking men look
on marriage as a means of keeping them idle, or

getting them out of a hole. The dot — the Mitgift —



is universal. Marriage is the last resource of
millions ; even patriot Herr Gamradt, in reply
to Letitia's " Englishmen before they marry fall
in love," answered with unaccustomed cynicism,
" Germans before they marry fall in debt."

The agents' trouble is exposed in fourteen peti-
tions. Since Par. 656, men married by agencies won't
pay. They sign contracts to pay, but make mental
reservations, or find excuses. One — says the fifth
Reichstag petition — bound himself to pay M. 200,000
for a wife worth M. 1,000,000 ; and then *' out of
charity, for the law is with me," paid M.500 :
another, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, shirked
payment because though the wife's fortune, as
promised, consisted of interest-bearing papers, her
bust proved built of papers which had no interest
at all. And he offered to pay the half if the agent
who found him the wife would find him a co-
respondent. In Berlin, says the Reichstag member
Erzberger, co-respondent is a profession. News-
papers say that names of titled and even famous
men stand in the petition lists ; and, of course, at
such exposures all richly wedded deputies squirm
uneasily on their chairs.

This little interlude in Reichstag tedium throws
bright, desirable light on the study of the Human
Woman. It helps you to see that Germany is
essentially the land of higher Man ; that Man here,


is first, alone, and last. France, says Dr. Gamradt,
is governed — and ably governed — by ministers'
mistresses ; America — intermediately — by steel mag-
nates' wives ; and in Russia the Woman Cult
is so high that the honestest tchinovnik will steal a
million if only it helps him to steal a kiss. And
England . . . The feature in those countries, and
others, is that woman is integral and an entity ;
and the feature in Germany, says Herr Gamradt,
is that she is fractional and auxiliary. There are
fifty illustrative stories to make this clear ; but the
Frankfurter Zeitung makes it plain with a flash, for
every day it glows with advertisements headed


Einheirat, the dictionary says, means " marriage
into " ; and it adds the verbal einheiraten, " to
marry into ... to get into by marriage." The
Frankfurter Zeitung shows that to marry into, to
get into by marriage, is the immediate ambition of
every marriageable German. Where the fortune-
hunting Frenchman prates about amour eternel ;
and the swindling Briton advertises for "a graceful
figure " when he means a graceful five figures, the
honest German makes clear from the first that he
wants to marry a factory or farm ; to marry, that is,
the widow or daughter of some captain of industry ;
and he words his Frankfurter Zeitung advertisement
thus :




a thoroughly solid undertaking- which needs good
management more than capital is sought by an
intelligent technician, about 40 years old, with capital,
mostly self-saved, of M. 20,000. He desires a domesti-
cated lady whose ambition is happiness and a good
turn-over rather than social distractions. Photograph
of lady and precise description of business to U.3837,
to Steinbruck und Tipphauer, A.G., Elberfeld.

Herr Gamradt, when shown by Letitia a Frank-
furter Zeitung with ten such advertisements, says
that indeed the position of Woman is not great ;
and he produced Herr Merkau's brochure The
Superfluity {Der Ueberfluss), which tells you why.
The Empire, says The Superfluity, has 930,433 more
single women than single men ; and there are
1,576,093 women widowed and divorced, who pant
for husbands as passionately as do virgins. The
sum of husbandless is two millions and a half. In
the Dresden districts, which have the highest
average assessments, there are 150 women to 100
men ; and in Kurfiirstendamm, Berlin, there are
179 to 100. That is one reason why here more than
anywhere women chase after men, while men chase
after thoroughly solid undertakings which need good
management more than capital.

In the external relation of German women to men

you see strong proof that prices depend on the

relation of demand to supply. In clothing and pin-


money women here are as dear as anywhere ; but
in relation to men they are cheap. Man is distant,
famiUar, rude, rudely polite, condescending, con-
ceited, contemptuously chivalrous ; and Woman is
eye-uplifted, adoring, servile, thank-Heaven-he-sees-
me. That is the attitude of Man to Woman —
rather of Woman to Man, for magnificently passive
Man needs no attitude. You see this in the wealthy
West-Berhner who goes second-class on the Under-
ground ; and in the plain working-man and maid
when they go walking out. On the stage when Herr
Assessor v. Jasnicki takes out a cigar, it is red-
haired Fraulein Hertha who flies for a match, and,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 13 of 20)