Edward Edgeworth.

Human German online

. (page 5 of 20)
Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 5 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

we saw Schwiglewski no more. '' He circulate,"
said Herr Bublitz, " in lawful societies ; he go
mostly house of Herr Justice-Councillor Herms, for
there he pick up utilious things about practice in
Courts of Administration."

Through the autumn of 1912 Herr Bublitz paid
us two visits weekly. His earnestness won us. Also
he argued, and Letitia loves arguing. Instead of


drawling like a vapid young Briton about record
shots at golf, he plunged straight into the profundi-
ties of life. He talked more than he listened. Indeed,
with other young men his ceaseless " my views,"
" your views," " Herr Professor Anton Jellahk's
wrong views," would have seemed presumptuous.
But there was no conscious vanity about Herr
Bublitz ; he blushed like a girl ; and his droll English
— though it rapidly bettered — gave a charm to his
most banal thoughts. ** As a Jacobean poet," said
Letitia, *' however poor in wit, is by virtue of his
quaint language stately." And Herr Bublitz never
repeated. At every visit he raised some subject
new; it was: "Do you think. Mister Edge worth, that
Austria's tries at Parhamentarism . . . ? " ; "I am
sure. Mistress Edge worth, that the followers of Edward
von Hartmann ..." *' Mister Edge worth, how do
you pronounce C-h-o-l-m-o-n-d-e-l-e-y ? " He often
asked us little questions about English ; and we
were charmed to help ; and approved his remark
that men should not waste their time ; but should
frequent a society which not only gives recreation,
but also increases their stock of knowledge and fit-
ness for communion with fellow- men. So, with every
visit, we got to hke Herr Bublitz more and more ;
and his English, we noted with pleasure, got better
and better.

Of course he met our Enghsh friends. He took


to them as he had taken to us. And they to him.
No day passed without our learning that Bubhtz
had been at the Lambtons' dinner ; that Bubhtz
had joined the Burtons' picnic in the Grunewald ;
that he had been at the British Embassy charity
theatricals ; that he had telephoned to Keswell
asking if he were going to Grosslarms' concert, as,
if so, he, Herr Bublitz, would go also. It would be
so nice to have a schat. At every visit he surprised
us by mentioning names of Englishmen he had met ;
he had all the news worth having of the Berlin
Colony ; and in two months he knew more Britons
than we. His zeal and passion for collecting English-
men puzzled me and others ; but it burned daily
fiercer and fiercer ; and soon wherever we went we
heard remarks of Herr Bublitz as emphatically the
most English Prussian in Prussia.

And all said nice things about Herr Bublitz ; and
marvelled at his progress in English. He progressed
indeed. He loved, and no longer loaved England :
when he praised her charms, he said that he had
lunched with a landlord ; lodged at Eastbourne
with a landlady ; and on a walking tour in Sussex
admired the hawthorn hedges. People daily paid
him compliments over his English, which Bublitz,
with the blush which won so many, said he did not
deserve. His modesty was wrong. He spoke,
though not without accent, with remarkable pre-


cision ; and with a finish and mastery over con-
struction and vocabulary which native Enghshmen
very seldom attain.

And then we went for a month to Bozen ; and
when we got back to Berlin-Schoneberg our society
had broken up. Friends had dispersed. Herr
BubUtz did not appear. As Letitia thought he did
not know of our return I wrote him a little note.
Next day he called. He looked the complete English-
man now ; and he spoke in such correct and oratori-
cal style that I judged he must have spent all his
time in practice.

But I noticed that Herr Bubhtz was embarrassed.
He looked not his old self. He reddened even before
I said the obvious thing about his English ; he
hesitated ; he stammered ; he talked absent-
mindedly ; and he said good-bye twice and then
came back. He eyed Letitia. And as it was growing
plain that the poor young fellow had something on
his soul, and perhaps a woman's presence prevented
him asking for help, I looked significantly at Letitia,
and Letitia left us alone. I felt sure now that some
intriguing minx was the cause of it ; and I pre-
pared to say the banal consolatory : " Why,
that happens to everyone. When I was two-and-
twenty ..."

But Herr Bublitz for long said nothing. He
merely got redder and redder. At last, as I was on


the point of asking him bluntly what was the matter,
the mystery came out. He put his hand sacra-
mentally to his breast, drew out a letter-case, and
produced a paper. ** The minx's blackmail letter ! "
so I guessed. But I recognised my own note of
invitation. Herr Bublitz opened the note, laid it
on the table, got redder than ever, and said with a
hoarse voice and comically unnatural solemnity :

" Is that a split infinitive ? "

And, bending down, he pointed to the last passage
of the note, where stood out in ungrammatical
shamelessness the irredeemable sentence : " You
ought to certainly come."

Having done this Herr Bublitz broke down. He
began a long and incoherent speech of which the
main propositions were that I had always been kind
to him : that Mrs. Edge worth had always been kind
to him ; that he had been with Keswell to a concert ;
that he loved the English ; and that he hoped that
I would certainly pardon. . . . And he explained
that for weeks he had been pained and tormented
over irregular grammar and orthography which he
had seen in English newspapers. . . . And that he
was beginning to wonder if all his study was wrong,
if he spoke too pedantically, if . . . And again he
asked for pardon. And when I reassured him . . .
told him that he spoke in a rarely expressive blend
of science and colloquial rakishness, he smiled and


said : " Now that you have forgiven me I shall
further exploit your kindness."

** By all means."

" Are you sure you're not offended ? "

" Not at all."

Herr Bublitz again bent his back, took up the
letter gingerly as if it were on fire, and said with
double his original gravity :

" Am I correct in assuming the intrusion of a
superfluous * have ' ? "

And he pointed to the reprobate sentence :
" Keswell expected to have seen you."

He said good-bye.

For months after that we saw nothing of Herr
Bublitz. Letitia feared he thought I was offended.
That was not so. On the 4th of August business
took me to the Chilian Consul in Mauerstrasse.
A fierce argument in Spanish echoed from the
Consul's room. As I entered I gasped with surprise.
With hat on back of head, feet on the screen of the
radiator, and cigarette in mouth — talking in easy
Spanish over his shoulder — was our young friend
Herr Adolph Bublitz ; Herr Adolph, who when I
saw him last had not a word of Spanish. He was
delighted to see me. He seemed to be on easy,
familiar relations with the Consul and the Consul's
secretary ; and when an Argentine lawyer and three
other Spaniards came in to talk of emigration and


ankles they slapped Herr Bublitz on the back. Our
Anglomaniac friend seemed, in fact, to be a hero in
the Spanish colony, as much at home in Spanish
tongue and culture as any grandee of Castile. We
left together.

" You're not so keen as formerly on English
things . . ."I said quizzically.

" On the contrary . . . more than ever. . . .
But you understand. . . . You won't be offended.
The fact is I am now in with a crowd of Spaniards
... it is extremely nice of them. ... I am study-
ing Spanish. ... Do you know I could tell you
something really remarkable, but I believe you
wouldn't believe it. . . ."

And he hesitated for a second ; and said with
pleasure and pride :

" I have picked up my Spanish and Enghsh
without ever taking a single, solitary lesson."

And an automobile bore him off. When it got to
the corner of Friedrichstrasse it stopped ; and out
hopped Herr Bublitz and ran back towards me.
The customary pleasant blush was on his boyish face ;
and in his old charming, nervous way he hailed me :

" You have always been so good. . . . And Mrs.
Edgeworth. ... I have a favour. ... I know you
won't be offended. . . . But could you give me an
introduction to Herr Cuza-Slavici . . . the Jassy
artist at the Kaiserhof, I saw you talking ..."


" With pleasure. Come over on Monday. . . .
But tell me . . . explain to me how it is that you're
hunting for new acquaintances when you say you've
no time to keep up with old ? "

Herr Bublitz got as red as on the day he quarrelled
with the split infinitive.

" Oh, nothing," he said, with embarrassment.
** I've got a craze for Roumanians. I mean, I don't
know why. Yesterday father wrote me a letter
telhng me to begin learning the language. . . .
Roumanians, I'm told, are a delightful people. . . .
L' esprit latin ! . . . There's a Roumanian lady
named Stefanescu in Rankestrasse. . , . Do you
think Mrs. Edge worth could get me an introduction ? "

When I told Herr Gamradt of Herr Bublitz he
said there is a real humanity in the German youth,
who nowise, happily, resembles the humourless
parodies of perfection which appear in the British
teutonological Press. The human German youth is
adequately human. He has weaknesses. Weak-
nesses for everything. For beer, like Dr. Gamradt 's
nephew Helmut ; for unfruitful The Footballplay
(das Fusshallspiel), and The Rowingsport, like
Helmut's brother Emmerich ; for skat, like Em-
merich's brother Eberhard ; for golf and loose
cosmopolitan gossip, like Adolph Bublitz. Herr
Gamradt even read remarks by Herr Field-Marshal
von der Goltz Pasha on the ruin by levity of Prussia's


youth ; and wails from the Stamp Fiscal on betting
ravages in Prussian land. The pasha thinks that
levity and luxury ruin the soul ; the Stamp Fiscal
thinks that betting empties the treasury. And the
sour Radical People's Party backs both up, and
says that the Human Infant is going swiftly to
perdition as result of the once exclusively British
vice of backing horses that lose.

Herr Dr. Ing. Gamradt puts this down to the
Totalisator, which drives men and youths, he says,
to bet with rascals. The Totalisator is the only
lawful system ; and when Germans brought it from
France in 1872 they brought a revanche in itself.
Anything deadlier than the Totalisator no French-
man could dream of. You march phlegmatically
to a shed with pigeon-holes, stake your marks on
the horse you fancy, at odds you do not know.
Only when the race is run are the odds decided.
The money laid on losing horses is shared between
backers of winners pro rata of their stakes ; and if
nobody backs a loser the backer of winners gets
nothing. Indeed, less than nothing. For the pigeon-
holed shed deducts i6f per cent of its intake ; and
of this gives two-thirds to the Stamp Fiscal, and
keeps the rest for the race-course. The Totalisator
has virtues. It does not cheat. Its vices are that
it is without humanity and humour ; that you
cannot avenge your losing by casting it in a pond.


The result is that the " savage bookmaker " — der
wilde Buchmacher — who lurks unlawfully in every
tobacco shop, is preferred by the excitement-loving
human youth. The Stamp Fiscal loses because the
savage pays no tax ; and the human youth loses
because the savage cannot have a recognised address,
and when he makes off with the money no one can
track him down.

Berlin tobacconists' shops are mostly betting dens,
where you ma}^ back not only horses for Grunewald,
but also remote thoroughbreds with no chances
of winning at Auteuil and Goodwood. Scores of
human young Germans will give you tips for the
Cesarewitch. The bookies accept thankfully modest
stakes ; and owing to the judicious subdivision of
coinage into pfennigs, each worth half a farthing,
you can stake your halfpenny even when odds are
on. Why bets and tobacco trade go together no
man knows. But women guess. Letitia, whose
humour is humanly unpretentious, says the bookie
waits till his backers light a Flor Biilow from Ham-
burg ; and as they shake under the first over-
whelming inhalations, offers three to one against
Koniggratz when the fair odds are fifty.

And now the Radicals have had their way ; and a
Bill lies in the Imperial Office of the Interior which
aims at driving savage bookmakers to hunger.
The State will lay odds itself. It will appoint every-


where State-concessioned bookmakers, who will
compete with the savages. The number of State
bookmakers will be based on population. The State
will appropriate six per cent of the turnover ; and
the bookmaker will deduct from winnings a further
tax, rising to ten per cent, for benefit of the race-
course. The State bookmakers' odds will be at
fixed prices, or at Totalisator prices. There will be
no wager of less than five shillings. That is the
weakness of the plan. The savage bookmakers bet
gratefully in halfpennies ; and who will compete in
this ? Authority, says Herr Dr. Ing. Gamradt,
must keep up its dignity ; and a concessioned
bureaucrat bookmaker chasing milk-boys' half-
pennies would not enhance the high consideration
of the State.

Prejudice against betting is strong in suburban
and provincial circles ; things are said from the
pulpit ; and newspapers tell of brave attempts to
banish betting corruption. And horse-racing itself.
The tales of the Wives of Weissenbach, cut from the
Lokal-Anzeiger, show this, not without success.

Seven brief miles from this unsleeping city, amid
flowering meadows, dream the sister suburbs of
Weissenbach and New Weissenbach. Pretty rococo
villas, also awkward five-staged flat-barracks, rise
cliff -like from the flowering meadows. There is a
round, translucid lake edged with daisies ; a park ;


a toppling Schloss ; neat little avenues fringed with
innocent plane-trees ; and pleasing, deep-sea-eyed
children. And happy homes innumerable. At
least, so people imagined. But as Eden had snakes,
and the Hesperian Gardens their dragon, so the
sister Weissenbachs were plagued by the ancient foe
of virtuous men, who laid ingenious snares to bring
them to a fall.

His Sulphurity laid out near Weissenbach an
excellent race-course, and offered handsome prizes
for speedy trotters. The honest Weissenbachers
had seen no races before ; and they viewed with
just suspicion the Evil One's device. But sport
burns in the blood ; and Weissenbach fell. It began
to attend the matches. At first it attended fur-
tively in twos and threes, with hats covering eyes,
in dark blue goggles. But as seduction waxed,
shame insensibly waned. Weissenbach came in tens
and twenties ; then in hundreds ; and at last
wholesale, so that every male over twelve in the
sister villages spent Sundays and hohdays watching
the delirious sport. Churches were void. Skittles
were sneered at. There ceased the idyllic walks
with wives and sweethearts down the plane-tree
avenues ; and tears over absent fathers rose in the
children's deep-sea eyes.

The fact is, sport did no harm to Weissenbach.
But Weissenbach betted — and lost. Abjuring the


legal Totalisator which robs you honestly, they laid
their money with savage betting men from Baby-
lonian Berlin, who unlawfully made books on Eng-
lish principles ; and started home each evening with
beaming faces and hypertrophied purses. Very
different were faces — and purses — in Weissenbach.
Gloom darkened thresholds. Everyone was poor.
Husbands had no money for innocent pleasures ;
children played without toys ; the umbrageous beer-
garden closed ; and summer headgear dwindled like
Encke's comet. " Business," said husbands, " has
gone to the dogs." What was worse, in the savages'
wake came ethereal beings from Berlin, who smiled
to the gambling husbands ; and it was seen that
as Weissenbach's headgear shrank, the hats on
the ethereal heads waxed in radius and radiance.
Things were approaching a crisis.

It was the fault of the Devil, his race-course, and
the corruptions of a Babylonian capital. Griselda
would have lost patience. But the hour of deliver-
ance was nigh.

The wives of Weissenbach met in council for self-
defence. Dissensions were laid down ; hands were
shook ; ladies who never exchanged salutes kissed
one another's cheeks. What was to be done ?
Expostulations, cozenings, curtain-lectures, threats
— all had signally failed. But Frau Sanitary Coun-
cillor Dr. Leiner found a remedy. As the husbands,


she reasoned, had succumbed not to harmless
trotters, but to the allurement of savage betting, the
one unfaihng remedy was to get the savages in gaol.

" If the police can't catch the bookmakers, how
can we ? " said jealous Frau Upper-Lieutenant

" The police can't suckle babes . . . but we . . .
at least, I can," snapped Frau Sanitary Councillor
Leiner. And the meeting, she counselled, should
elect a Permanent Watch Committee, track down
the savage bookmakers, and, for the baser act of
physical apprehension, call in the pohce. The
meeting first gasped its surprise ; then it wavered ;
next it beat into shape the unparalleled proposal ;
and lastly every woman in Weissenbach swore to

Beginning was hardest. There were no clues.
But the resourceful wives enlisted young Herr
Cand. Theol. Kompatzki, who had been but once on
the race-course, and was not wholly lost. He was
neck-high in love with Frau Leiner's rosebud Milli ;
and with one of those overwhelming caresses for
which rich men pledge their souls and poor men
their breeches, Fraulein Leiner won him for the
plot. From him came the needed basic facts.
Sharp-eyed wives found others. At night, when
•noring husbands dreamed of backing Siegfried for
a miUion, their angels rose ; copied ambiguous


names in pocket-books ; and carefully puzzled out
suspicious words. If they found clues to the ethereal
ladies from Berlin, they suffered in silence. The
Cause consoled. This went on unsuspected ; the
identity of the savages was thoroughly known ; and
after two months of labour the blow thunderously

A secret petition, signed by seventy wives and
virgins of Weissenbach, reached the police, with
names, addresses, and birth-marks of the savage
bookmakers, and lists of their crimes. Next Sunday
the race-course was thronged. In addition to men
of Weissenbach, and five thousand shameless Ber-
liners, there were twenty sharp-faced strangers, who
zealously hunted for bookmakers, accepting any
odds. As Siegfried trotted victoriously to the
winning-post fifty fierce - whiskered constables
marched on the course ; and *' You better had
come quietly " was the epitaph of savage book-
making in Weissenbach and New Weissenbach.

Gossiping, sporting, gambling are not the sole
things to which German youth shows humanity ;
and redeems itself from the shame of perfection
imputed by our teutonologists. Even in public
policy youth is human ; and millions of young men
who ought to be drilling, reading, thinking in the
cause of the universal State, are sadly given to
interests in which their country has no share.


Letitia has been reading Mr. Blatchford's sore
contrast between the lounging, sneakish Enghsh
corner-boy, whose one passion is to see his fellows
kicked at football, and the manly, bold-eyed,
patriotic, God-fearing German lad. After a pair of
tears on the pHght of her country, Letitia took up
Ideas of the Modern Working Youth, and unearthed
instructive matter about the manly, bold-eyed,
patriotic. God-fearing German lad. The Rev. W.
Ilgenstein, the author, shows how manly, bold-eyed
young Germans are entirely under the thumb of
an anti-patriotic Social-Democratic propagandist
organisation which runs Socialist boys' journals,
Socialist lectures, and Socialist country trips, all
with the aim of teaching the manly, bold-eyed idea
to shoot S.-D. -wards. The propaganda powerfully
influences adolescent souls by means of verse ; and
Herr Ilgenstein prints efforts of the S.-D. Muse,
with effective choruses, compounded hke Amurrican
'Varsity yells :

Jupheidi, heidi, heida !

Jupheidi, jupheida !
Jupheidi, heidi, heida !

Jupheidi, heida !

Socialist lyrists produce ingenious parodies of
patriotic and religious songs. Translators are
traitors, said Alfieri ; and Letitia is a clumsy
rhymer ; but duty bids her Anglicise the best songs
of the manly, bold-eyed. On German Christmas


Eve around Christmas trees many millions of children
sing, to the music of Haydn, the agreeable verses,
** Stilly Night." But when these children reach the
cigarette and corset age they chant this Christmas
carol as paraphrased by Socialist poets :

Villainous night, hideous night !

That brings no peace and no delight

To the inconsolable masses

Who starve on the wage of the upper classes. . . .

The manly, bold-eyed, etc.'s, songs are God-
fearing. In the Social-Democratic " Youth's Song-
Book " are some effective verses headed " Mittel
wider Schlaflosigkeit : A Means Against Insomnia."
They begin :

All night I have not slept a wink,
Growled Ursula on Sabbath's brink,

I feel as sour as an apple.

But there's comfort in chapel,
For there I can nod like a pink !

Social-Democrat mentors view loyalty as a slavish
baseness ; and they impart this moral verity to the
manly, bold-eyed in verse which is a parody of
*' The Song of German Loyalty " :

The loyalist creature is the cur,

He follows without chain ;
You thrash him till his bones are sore,

He fawns and licks the cane.
And if at times his teeth are bared.

He'll quail before your eye :
O cur, thou splendid emblem of

Our German loyalty !


The Socialist Muse sings of budding Womanhood.
There is a promising " Song of the Workgirls,"
possibly brewed in Clement's Inn, for it opens :
" Spricht nicht vom schwdcheren Geschlechte ! " —
" Call us no more the Weaker Sex ! " But this poem
of trumpet opening ends unworthily. The Socialist
Horace, it seems, has superficially skimmed the
Workgirls' deep souls ; for he makes them pusillani-
mously abjure their sacred aspirations :

It's not our aim to be great dames ;

To pose as beauties without a care,
To be gaudy pictures in gilded frames,

To don rich robes and deck our hair ;
It's not our aim. . . .

" Isn't it ? " asked Letitia, as Socialist Hedwig
came for market orders in a purple mantle and
Scotch tartan stockings.



Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion . . .
the city of the great King {Psalm xlviii.).

j4 GES before Berlin was heard of by foreigners,
/_% a Crown Prince Wilhelm, under thumb of
X jLhis Anglophile wife, prayed that the half-
born city be built in British way. He begged the
town-planners to drop their plan to build a city like
I Paris. Instead of broad, gardenless streets of five-
story flat-barracks, he wanted mean streets with
low, one-family houses in the way of Mayfair and
Bermondse}^ They would have English gardens in
place of French courtyards. . . . '' That is the
English way. . . . The death-rate would certainly
. . ." " That is true," said the town-planners.
" Such a BerHn might be pleasant. But it would
not be metropolitan. Small houses are not welt-
st'adtisch — not world-city ish. A great state's capital
must inevitably. . . . For the impressive, the im-
posing, the architectonic, at least five stories are
essential." And they built Berlin with five stories,
with imposing flat-barracks holding eighty men



each, with impressive inconveniences, and archi-
tectonic rate of death.

That was the human, all too human way. It
sprang from the instinct, diagnosed in The Human
Comedy, of newly rich men to gather about them the
things which most impressed in youth. Provincial
Berlin was impressed in youth with the high houses
of Vienna and Paris ; and nothing would drive from
its head that high houses are the essence of metro-
politanism. High houses meant a world-city (eine
Weltstadt !) . And to be a world-city is the passion
of Berlin. That the town be healthy, or graceful, or
romantic matters less ; it exists to impose ; to
flaunt its world-cityism on mediaeval villages ; to
make a staggering impression on raw farmers from
Stolp, on raw American tourists from Mo. and Va.

Apart from sky-high houses, Berlin has precise
notions of a world-city. It is a place of sound, crush,

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 5 of 20)