A Story of German Family Life
NEW YORK E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY 681 FIFTH AVENUE
COPYRIGHT 1920, BY E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Pat and Anna
IN LOVING TOKEN OF OUR WINTER'S CONVERSATIONS ON THE GERMANS
This narrative offers a gentle but permanent answer to the problem presented to humanity by the German people. It seeks to go beyond the stage of indemnities, diplomatic or trade control, peace by armed preponderance. These agencies do not take into account Teuton nature, character, manner of living, beliefs.
Unless the Germans are changed, the world will live at swords' points with them both in theory and in practice. Whether they are characteristically Huns or not, it should be tragically realized that something ought to be done to alter their type. Their minds, hearts, souls, should be touched in a direct, personal, intimate way. There should be a natural relationship of good feeling, an intelligent and lived mutual experience, worked up, brought about. A League of Nations, of Peace, inevitably based on some sort of force, should be followed by a truly human programme leading to the amicable conversion of that race, if it is at heart unrepentant, crafty, murderous.
In the absence of any particular heed being paid to this underlying, fundamental subject, the present pages suggest for it a vital solution that seems both easy and practical and would promise to relieve anxiety as to an indefinitely uncertain, ugly future ahead of harassed mankind.
How shall the German be treated in the present century and beyond?
To try to answer this aright, it is obviously necessary to know what the German is—what he is really like. To know him at his best, in his truest colors, is to live with him in his most normal condition, and that is at his fireside, surrounded by his family. This aspect has been the least fully presented during the war. What the Teuton military and political chieftains, clergymen, professors, captains of industry, editors and other men of position have said, how they have conducted themselves toward the rest of humanity, is notoriously and distressingly familiar. But what the ordinary, educated German of peaceful pursuits, staying by his hearthstone far behind and safe from the battle line, thought and wished to say, has been beyond our ken. There has been no way to get at him or hear from him as to what lay frankly in his mind.
His leaders loudly proclaimed themselves to be as terrifying as Huns and unblushingly gloried in this profession. Has he agreed or has he silently disagreed? Has he too wished this or has he been unwilling? Is he essentially a Hun, are his family essentially Huns, or are they in reality good and kindly people like our people? Are they temporarily misled?
The humble German families of education who are hospitable, who sing and weep over sentimental songs in their homes, whose duties are modest and revenues small, who have never been out of their provinces, who have had no relations with foreigners and could have no personal cause for hatred—have they been so bloodthirsty about killing and pillaging in alien lands?
Villa Elsa contains a family immune from any foreign influence and matured in the most regular and unsuspecting Teuton way. The German household is the most thoroughly instructed of all households. Its members are disciplined to do most things well. How can it then be Hun in any considerable degree? Impossible, said the nations, and so they remained illy prepared against a frenzied onslaught. But a shocked public has beheld how readily the most erudite of mankind, as the Germans were generally held to be, could officially, deliberately and repeatedly as soldiers, singly and en masse, act like their ancestors—the barbarians of the days of Attila.
These are all puzzling queries which this story attempts to illuminate and solve by its pictures and observations of the life of such a modest and typical Teuton home in 1913 and 1914. Admittedly too much light, too much study, cannot be given to the greatest issue civilization as a whole has faced.
Villa Elsa is but Germany in miniature. In the significant character, habits and activities of this household may be found the true pith and essence of real Germanism as normally developed. This Germanism appears ready to continue after the War to be the malignant and would-be assassin of other civilizations. It is, therefore, tragically important to find and act on the right answer to the question:
Is there any possible way to make the Germans become true, peace-loving friends with us—with the rest of mankind?
I. TRIUMPHANT GERMANY IN 1913 1
II. DEUTSCHLAND UEBER ALLES 6
III. GARD KIRTLEY 11
IV. VILLA ELSA 19
V. FAMILY LIFE 29
VI. THE HOME 36
VII. GERMAN LOVING 46
VIII. GERMAN COURTSHIP 54
IX. A JOURNALIST 64
X. SPIES AND WAR 71
XI. GERMAN WAYS 78
XII. HABITS AND CHILDREN 86
XIII. DOWN WITH AMERICA! 94
XIV. AFTERMATH 106
XV. MILITARY BLOCKHEADS 113
XVI. A LIVELY MUSICIAN 120
XVII. IMMORALITY AND OBSCENITY 125
XVIII. THE NAKED CULT 134
XIX. JIM DEMING OF ERIE, PAY 145
XX. AN AMERICAN VICTORY 152
XXI. A PEOPLE PECULIAR OR PAGAN? 160
XXII. MAKING FOR WAR 168
XXIII. SOCIAL ETIQUETTE 178
XXIV. THE COURT BALL 186
XXV. FRITZI AND ANOTHER CONVERSATION 192
XXVI. SOME OF THE LESS KNOWN EFFICIENCY 200
XXVII. THE IMPERIAL SECRET SERVICE 210
XXVIII. JIM DEMING'S FATE 218
XXIX. WINTER AND SPRING 229
XXX. VILLA ELSA OUTDOORS 238
XXXI. A CASUAL TRAGEDY 247
XXXII. A GERMAN MARRIAGE PROPOSAL 256
XXXIII. A WAITRESS DANCE 263
XXXIV. CHAMPAGNE 272
XXXV. RECUPERATION 279
XXXVI. THE GERMAN PROBLEM. AN ANSWER 285
XXXVII. A GERMAN "GOTT BE WITH YE" 294
XXXVIII. A JOURNEY 302
XXXIX. THE TOMB OF CHARLEMAGNE 313
XL. THE END OF A LITTLE GAME 323
XLI. ARE THEY HUNS? 329
XLII. THE ANTI-CHRISTIANS? 336
XLIII. THE TEUTON PROBLEM. A SOLUTION 347
TRIUMPHANT GERMANY IN 1913
In the late summer of 1913 a quiet American college man of twenty-three, tall, lean, somewhat listless in bearing, who had been idling on a trip in Germany without a thought of adventure, was observing, without being able to define or understand, one of the most remarkable conditions of national and racial exhilaration that ever blessed a country in time of ripest peace.
He had never been out of America, and supposed his Yankee people, with all their wide liberty, contemplated life with as much enjoyment as any other. But in that land which is governed with iron, where (as Bismarck said) a man cannot even get up out of his bed and walk to a window without breaking a law, Gard Kirtley was finding something different, strange, wonderful, in the way of marked happiness. It pulsated everywhere, in every man, woman and child. It seemed to be a sensation of victory, yet there had been no victory. It appeared to reflect some mighty distinctive human achievement or event of which a whole race could be proud in unison. There had been nothing of the sort.
And yet it was there, a certain exuberance. The people, with heads carried high, quickly moving feet and pockets full of money, were enlivened by a public joyousness because they were humans and, above all, because they were Germans. It seemed a joy of human prestige, of wholesale well-being, of an assuredly auspicious future. Multitudes of toasts were being drunk. The marching and counter-marching of soldiers looked excessive even for Germany. A season of patriotic holidays was apparently at hand. Festivals, public rites, celebrated the widespread exultation. The whole country conducted itself as on parade, en fete.
Wages were higher and comforts greater than ever known there. For the first time chambermaids often drank champagne and wore on their heads lop-sided creations of expensive millinery with confident awkwardness—creations which they said came from Paris. The chimney sweeps had high hats and smoked good tobacco which they may have thought came from London. For the imported was the high water mark of plenty in Germany as always elsewhere, though she claimed to make the best goods.
The scene should not be painted in too high colors—colors too fixed. To the careless observer it doubtless appeared little different from the annual flowering forth of the German race in its short summer season. Always at that time were the open gardens lively, the roses blooming with the crude, dense hues that the Teutons like, and all the folk pursuing their busy tasks and vigorous pleasures with a sort of goose-step alacrity.
But the closer, more sensitive onlooker felt something more in 1913—something widely organized, unified, puissant, imperial indeed, such as, he may have imagined, had not existed since the days of the great emperors in Rome. What the Germans told all comers was that they had the best of governments, and that no nation had been so thoroughly, soundly and extensively prosperous.
For each citizen read in his daily paper of successful and growing Teuton activities in the most distant parts of the earth—in ports, regions and among peoples whose names he had never heard before and could not pronounce. At breakfast his capacious paunch and his wife's fat, flowing bosom expanded with pride in hearing of some new far-off passenger route carrying the flag, of the Made in Germany brand sweeping the markets of the world, and perhaps of the Kaiser's safe return to his palace, bronzed with the cast of health and strength. Never had investments brought the German such high rates. Never had speculation been so rife and withal so uniformly profitable.
As for industry, Deutschland was a colossal beehive. If Frederick the Great started the beehive, William the Second was increasing its size to unbelievable proportions. Insignificant villages everywhere contained millions of dollars' worth of machinery, manufacturing goods of untold value. Not an ounce of energy, not a second of time, seemed to be lost in the Empire. Every German was a busy cog fitted precisely into the whole national plant.
It was as if the Teuton knew that other races must soon stand with their backs to the wall and that now was the moment to redouble effort to capture still more trade and reduce the rest of the world to an acknowledged state of submission.
DEUTSCHLAND UEBER ALLES
Thus the Germans, in 1913, felt how supreme their country was or was speedily becoming. Not only their newspapers but their educators, their pastors and, more than all, their military and political leaders told them that a place above the rest of mankind had been reached. The pride, the assurance, pervading the land was the stiff and hardy efflorescence of this universal conclusion. And the Teutons had earned and therefore merited it all, for no one, nothing, scarcely even Nature, had lent a helping hand.
German women knew they were the best housekeepers, wives, mothers, dressers, dancers. Never had they been so to the fore. Never had they had so much money to spend for clothes. Never had they promenaded so proudly to martial music or waltzed so perspiringly with the fashion-plate officers whom they adored.
The children were paragons of diligence and promise. In their school books and college text books everything German was lauded in the superlative; everything foreign was decried as inferior, undesirable. Nearly every human discovery, invention, improvement, was somehow traced to a Teuton origin. Even characteristic German vices were held to be better than many virtues in other lands.
The young person grew up to believe that the Rhine was the finest of rivers, the mountains of the Fatherland were the most celebrated in song and story, its lakes the most picturesque, its soil the best tilled. He was properly stuffed with the indomitable conviction, the aggressive obsession, that the fittest civilization must prevail.
And the army! Always the army—that bulwark, that invincible force! Hundreds of thousands of civilians apparently regretted they were not back in the barracks, following the noblest of occupations as soldiers for the supreme War Lord. The army represented admitted perfection. Foreign observers were united in naively attesting its impeccableness. It was ready to the last shoe button, to the last twist of its waxed mustache. But ready for what? Few outside of Germany appeared to think of asking. The army was taken to be simply Teuton life and of no more ulterior significance than the national beer.
The admission was also general at home and abroad that the German Government was the most free from graft and the most thorough. In Germany the kings and princes were paid homage as models of wisdom and virtue, and the Kaiser was believed to be walking with God, hand in hand, palm to palm. In token of the mystic union between Emperor and people, Hohenzollern monuments were seen rising in all parts of the Empire in greater quantity, amid greater thanksgivings. These Denkmals were growing huger, more thunderous in appearance, and served the double purpose of keeping the populace in a state of admiring, unquestioning awe and expressing fulminating Bewares! to other races. In every home, factory, retail shop, public place, was the Kaiser's picture, with his trellised mustache, and his devout eyes cast with a chummy comradeship up to heaven.
All the foregoing explanations accounted in part for a glorious increase in noise among a people that does everything loudly. The national noisiness was harmonized somewhat by innumerable bands and orchestras. Public balls seemed to have become the order of the night, and the famous forests by day were filled by echoes of the horns of the bloody chase—the cors de chasse of the legendary Roland and knights of the Nibelungen. Humble civilians grew fonder of the habit of donning their military or hunting uniforms and big marching boots, and sticking cock's feathers in their hats at rakish angles, recalling the war of 1870 or reviving dreams of the sporting Tyrol. They drank daily more pints of beer and swallowed the hot-headed Rhine wines as if thus renewing their blood in that of their fiery ancestors. Meals mounted to seven or eight a day, for it was proper to gorge themselves like the human gods they were. Even the most servile took on a conscious air of being of a regal species.
In this wise, the German, like Cain, the competent iron-worker, was treading the earth with resounding footsteps. Over his bullneck and under his spiked hat he had naturally come to look upon himself as a super-being. While the American watched ball games, the Englishman played golf and the Frenchman wrote to his loved one, the Teuton was keeping himself hardened for war, and toiling like the systematic beaver in up-building national industries that were so swiftly dominating all others. To say the least, this intense people were strenuously perfecting an intensive and powerful civilization such as never had been seen.
So—as Gard Kirtley was finding and yet failing to explain to himself—expectancy, undescribable and splendid, was in the air beyond the Rhine. And there was one special toast drunk to it all with ever more loudly clinking glasses—Der Tag! Such was triumphant Germany, the triumphant Vaterland, in 1913—foretasting a portentous future; pregnant with colossal success; swollen with a hundred years of victories and growth; as sure of its prowess and might as were the swaggering gods of its Valhallas.
Imperial Deutschland ueber Alles!
Into this Triumphant Germany young Kirtley had come to recuperate from the sadness over the loss, the previous year, of his parents and from a siege of sickness. Still somewhat pale, somewhat weak, he showed the shock he had undergone. He had toured across southern Germany and up to Berlin where he had bidden good-by to his chance American traveling companion, Jim Deming, who was knocking about Italy and Teutonland. They had exchanged final addresses.
Kirtley, clean-shaven, with pleasant brown eyes, and brown hair brushed down flat, giving his head the appearance of smallness, looked very lank and Yankeeish among the robust, fat Teutons of the Saxon capital. He was entering Dresden on a late afternoon brown with German sunshine. The school year had begun, but a loitering summer-time brightened city and countryside. As he made his way slowly through the throng at the station, he gave evidence of a rather shy way of looking up and about, an apologetic readiness to step aside, to yield place, not characteristic of the speedy American in Europe. He had not, as we have said, come to Germany for adventure. He had not come merely to idle for the winter. And certainly he little mistrusted he was finally to figure as a modest hero in a curious and dangerous experience that linked itself up with the beginning of the war of which he, like the world at large, felt not the slightest premonition.
His German teacher had been his favorite in his eastern college where he had one season been a very fair halfback. His better showing had exhibited itself in his ability to throw from left field to home plate on the ball team. This American preceptor of German parentage had taken an interest in Kirtley with the insistent way of Teutonic pedagogues. Always commending with a uniform vigor the Germans and German fashions of living, he had gradually filled Gard full of the idea of their excelling merits.
Kirtley heard of the tonic of the nutritious Teuton beer and Teuton music in overflowing measures. In the Kaiser's realm, it appeared, the digestions are always good. How desirable it would be for Gard to take on some flesh in the German manner! In that climate, Professor Rebner claimed with assurance, although he had never been abroad, one can eat and drink his fill without causing the human system to rebel as it is apt to in our dry, high-strung America. His pupil's appetite would come back. Hearty meals of robust cheese and sausages would be craved with an honest, clamorous hunger that meant foolish indelicacy here at home.
Rebner also urged that Gard could in Deutschland improve his German which, notwithstanding his affection for his preceptor, was indifferent. Its gutturalness grated on his nerves, antagonized him. But he criticized himself for this, not the language. Had not his old mentor always sung of the superiorities of that tongue?
Kirtley could improve, too, his fingering on the piano by familiarizing himself with the noble melodies that flooded the German land. Two hairy hands would go up in exultation,
"To hear Beethoven and Wagner in their own country, filling the atmosphere with their glories! And then Goethe and Schiller. Those mighty deities. To read them in their own home!"
But the greatest thing, to the old professor's mind, would be to behold the German people themselves, study them, profit by them in their preeminence. What an example, what an inspiration, what a grand symphony of concentrated harmony! Germany was the source of Protestantism and therefore of modern morals—honest, uncompromising morals. German discipline would have a bracing, solidifying effect on a typically casual, slack American youth like Gard, whose latent capabilities were never likely to be fully called upon in the comparatively hit-and-miss organization of Yankee life.
For he had not yet begun to find himself. He had not even decided on a calling at an age when the German is almost a full-fledged citizen, shouldering all the accompanying obligations. Kirtley's exemplary conduct and the gravity cast over him by the death of his loved ones, had led him to think a little of Rebner's suggestions about the ministry. And for this, Luther's country would be expected to be sublime.
The loudly reiterated praise of Germany and the Germans had at last produced the desired effect on Gard. He was prevailed upon to break away from the old associations, go abroad for a year and get a fresh and stout hold on the future. Rebner, through his connections, had been able to arrange for a home in Saxony for his pupil's sojourn. It was in "a highly estimable and well-informed family" who had never taken a paying guest. Although a new experience for them, they had urgently insisted that they would do everything they could to make his stay agreeable and beneficial. This was deemed most lucky. For the real German character and existence could there be observed and lived with the best profit, uncontaminated by the intermixture of doubtful foreign associations.
And so Gard had arrived in Dresden, in whose attractive suburb of Loschwitz, on the gently rising banks of the Elbe, the worthy Buchers were domiciled. As his limping German did not give him confidence about the up-and-down variety of the Saxon dialect, he did not venture this afternoon to find his way by tram to the house. The blind German script in which his hosts' solicitous and minute instructions were couched, and the funny singsong of the natives talking blatantly about him, made him feel still more helpless. He sought refuge in an open droschke. He could then, too, enjoy the drive across the city.
The Saxon capital sits capaciously like a comfortable old dowager fully dressed in stuffs of a richly dull color. Her thick skirts are spread about her with a contented dignity which does not interfere with her eating large sandwiches openly and vigorously at the opera. To-day the mellow sunlight crowned her ancient nobleness with a becoming hue, as Gard was jogged along in a roundabout way through the city. Here at the left were the august bridges and great park, all famed in Napoleon's battles. Over there were the dowdy royal palaces. There, too, was the house of the sacred Sistine. Her sweet lineaments shone down in almost every American parlor Gard knew.
The dingy baroque architecture, whose general tastelessness was heavily banked up by a multitude of towers, gables and high copings, suggested an old-fashioned residential city of the days of urban fortifications. The uniform arrays of buildings, all pretending to the effect of sumptuousness thickened by weighty proportions and blasphemed by rococo hesitations and doubts, seemed constructed to exalt the doughty glory of Augustus the Strong—Dresden's local Thor, its chief heroic figure in the favorite Teuton galaxy of muscled Titans. Somber medieval squares, blocked away quaintly from the world, were relieved by the celebrated Bruehl Terrace, enlivened by gilded statuary and by historic and literary memories.
Through all this metropolis of formidable and dun respectability curved the Elbe as if to round off the massive imitations of something better somewhere else. Hither coursed the smooth brown stream from Bohemia, not far away, through the high fastnesses of the Erz range and the groomed vistas of Saxon Switzerland, and past the frowning old fortress of Koenigstein, towering near a thousand feet above its untroubled bosom. Kirtley was to find the river, with its carefully tended shores, a companion in many an hour.
Such in brief was the scene that stretched out around him and enveloped his attention and interest. There was not majesty that would offend, but rather a cosy formality that is the absence of style. It cured somewhat the homesick inclinations that quite naturally haunted him after a wearying day of travel and as nightfall drew down about his loneliness. He was bound for the home of a strange family, speaking a tongue in which he was far from glib. It had been written, though, that the Bucher young people had learned English pretty well at school.
Kirtley reached his destination to find that the parents were waiting expectantly to receive him. With German consciousness, they were stuffily attired for this novel and important event. After staunch greetings he was led into the house past a big angry dog that stood guard tempestuously at the door. Gard found later that such savage barking was quite a feature of the Teuton threshold, and might be considered one bristling aspect or cause of the ungenial development of the social spirit in Germany. Cave canem can hardly be called a suitable first attraction toward the spread of hospitality. He feared he was going to be bitten and wished his welcome had not been complicated with shudders.
The entrance to Villa Elsa consisted of a hallway swimming in heady odors from the strong cooking in the adjacent kitchen. Kirtley stood for a moment stifled. But he was to become more used to the lusty smells that roam about, presumptuous and fortifying, in German households and of which, indeed, all German existence is resolutely redolent. Strength, whether in barking dogs or fumes or what-not, appeals to the race.
In the passage-way, too, Gard was struck by the presence of various weapons, and shields, hunting horns, sundry pairs of large boots, military or shooting garments, belts loaded with cartridges. It seemed almost like the combative entry to some museum of armor. Taken together with the embattled dog, it suggested a defended fortress rather than a peaceful fireside.
"How pugnacious!" Gard declared to himself.
In the entry Ernst was called, and he came promptly forth, a smiling lad of fifteen, with a musing face, his thick light hair thrown back and run through meditatively by his fingers. He conducted Gard up two flights to a good-sized but snug room where he was to abide. A linden tree courted the window panes with its green branches.
Just the place for a fellow who wants to get away from the world and read!—Kirtley thought.
On his nightstand lay, with characteristic Teuton foresight, the names and addresses of a language teacher and of a music teacher who were duly "recommending themselves" to him in the German idiom. Lists of purchasable text books and musical editions from houses which, in the thoroughly informed Teuton manner, had got wind of his coming, also opened before him.
"They evidently expect me to begin to-morrow morning. No loss of time." He laughed to himself.
His trunk and satchel were in his room in a few minutes with all the certainty and punctuality of the imperial-royal service. "Essen fertig!" was soon vociferated up the stairway by the cook Tekla, whose bulky young form Gard had glimpsed in the kitchen. Not sure of being summoned he did not emerge until Ernst tapped on the door—
"Meester Kirtley, please come to eating."
At table the elder son was introduced—Rudolph, called Rudi, a youth of about Gard's age. There was an unseemly scar on his face and something oblique in his look. Engineering was given as his profession, but he affected the German military strut and was forward and crammed with ready-made conclusions on most subjects. But Herr Bucher reigned here as elsewhere about Villa Elsa as absolute master. He alone spoke with authority. Reverence was first of all due him. Gard soon saw how the wife and children, notwithstanding their stirring presences, were on a secondary plane. How different in the land where he had come from where they are quite free to rule in the house! The sturdy Frau was submissive, energetically helpful. But in her husband's absence she assumed his stentorian command.
The manner of eating was frankly informal and ungainly. Evidences of sharp discipline one moment; the next, awkward short-cuts. The Germans have never been able to harmonize these extremes into a medium of easy formality or sightly smoothness. At the Bucher table each one reached across for the food with scarce an apology—a plan jerkily interrupted at times by Tekla, who stuck things at Gard as if she were going to hit him. The strong provender heaped up in abundance, rank in smell and usually unappetizing in color, interfered at first with his hunger. And the drinking was, of course, of a copiousness he had little dreamed of.
The whole effect created a distinctly unsympathetic impression. It ran full tilt against Gard's anticipations. Rebner had led him to expect always the best among the Germans. Were they not the most advanced of humans? Were they not the patterns whom he should model himself after in the laudatory desire for self-improvement? He was naturally curious to see the young lady of the household, all the more as he wondered how she would blend into this blunt picture. She did not appear and he heard no reference to her. But there was a vacant place.
Much struggling occurred over the mutual endeavors to carry on conversation. With the English which the sons had learned and with Gard's German which he found a strange article on its native ground, headway was made after a fashion. His bloodless American college variety of the language was very weak to buffet about in these billows of idioms and colloquialisms.
The family, in its emphatic substantiality, was most friendly and eager to please. They urged food and fluid upon him in a way that would have dismayed his Yankee doctor. He found himself eating and drinking to an extent he had never imagined. This sort of thing, he concluded half-despairingly, would either be the making of him or kill him. At home the general fear was about too much. Here satiety, over-satiety, seemed to be the rule as at all German firesides. While he dreaded to think what his abstemious digestive apparatus would do, his new friends took not amiss the bountiful spilling of edibles and liquids upon their napkins spread conspicuously over their breasts. Laundering must be cheap in Germany. That was one good thing.
Gard did not forget that this was represented to be a highly instructed and cultivated circle. The members had graduated from the best schools or held degrees from standard universities. He kept asking himself in what guises the much advertised German excellence was yet to appear in this domestic group whose culture and virtues had been so extolled. If these manners and habits were part of its perfect ripened fruit, then American education and life were indeed obviously blighted. He could not help noticing that all hands had not been necessarily washed before meal-time, and that finger nails were unblushingly uncleaned and unkempt. An accidental glimpse under the immense flowing white beard of his host revealed the absence of a shirt collar, and the neck evidently relied on its untrimmed hairiness as an excuse for not being customarily washed.
It became apparent to Kirtley after a month that personal cleanness and neatness in Germany were not particularly considered as next to godliness. The gold braid, spick and span uniforms and other showy gear, were apt to cover dirty bodies and soiled underwear. Alas, the Germans could not wash in beer. He wondered why his old enthusiastic mentor had never given him a hint of these things. Likely he did not know. Distance often increases eloquence in proportion as it breeds ignorance.
With the exhilaration of the bounteous meal, however, Gard's spirits rose to a height he had not known in a long time. If conversation languished over the stony roads of the duality of expression, glasses were clinked together again and a new topic was hopefully started. When it seemed proper to him that the end of the repast should be in sight, a new course would be brought in, usually accompanied boisterously by the two family dogs, including the ferocious beast who had given Gard the shivers. The animals conducted themselves with a ravenous freedom around the board, alternately being petted and fed and allowed to lick plates, only to be in turn kicked out and shrieked after, with a chair occasionally upset in the rumpus. This habit of kicking animals, things and persons Gard later observed was prevalent among the Teutons, whose appropriate fondness for conveniently big boots and large stout shoes at the same time discourages any vanity about small feet. It is a part of their military predilection.
At the end of a couple of hours dinner was brought to a close. Fraeulein had not yet put in an appearance, and it now came out that she was "at lesson." She must have stayed for another class. After his gastronomic feat Gard did not know whether he felt sick or never better in his life. What's more, he did not seem to care, his senses were so pleasantly numbed.
On his way up to his room, in the dim hall, he caught sight of a young woman hanging up her wrap. Mussed strands of straw-colored hair shone down her shoulders and sent a sudden thrill of gladness through his veins. He had never seen but one Wagner opera and that was "The Twilight of the Gods," with its aureate Rhine maidens bathing in that delicious revelry of divine music. The arrival at last of the daughter of the house, as he assumed this was, brought back a flash of all that golden loveliness.
In his sleep that first night, vast trenchers of food and tankards of drink disported in happy confusion with goddesses blond and magical.
The matter of much eating and drinking had first to be, if possible, disposed of. It was exacting and the most important affair. Kirtley did not want to be discourteous or appear unappreciative. He had come to Germany to do as the superior Germans do. His digestive tract was on the narrow-gage American plan. Theirs was broad-gage, with their surpassing organisms.
At the Buchers Gard had manfully to face six meals a day. Must he be swamped in order to put the desirable adipose tissue on his bones? By all the laws of American dieting and Prohibition the German race should have been destroyed by indigestion and drunkenness centuries ago. But here they were more flourishing than ever—the generally acknowledged nation of masters!
And his bed—the German bed. He could not remember whether Mark Twain ever described it, but he should have. Gard's haven of rest appeared to lie on solid foundations. It was constructed with German stability. There were as many blankets in summer as in winter.
Worst of all, two immense feather pillows lay across its middle. The only place for them seemed to be on his sorely tried stomach or on the floor. In a month an attack of insomnia resulted. For hours at night he lay awake, listening to the frequent rain on the roof or the wind whining Teutonically in the leaves of his linden.
In his initial troubles and anxieties he went to a German doctor. This spectacled wise man prescribed more beer. German physicians seemed to be in league with the brewers. Gard was of the kind who would suffer rather than complain. So he worried along.
He did not fall in with the urgent, conscientious assumption of the Buchers that he would at once want to begin driving away at "lessons." His hosts reminded him openly at times that his prospective teachers were still waiting, still recommending themselves. Responsibility was evidently felt for his programme of work. He realized that he was somewhat disappointing, for instruction, education, is such a pushing, unceasing business with the Germans. It may be said they never finish school.
Yet he wished first to take a good look at the historic city, its celebrated art treasures. He wanted to make a few excursions in the environs before the winter set in with its dampness and gloom. Besides, he never before had had a chance at fine opera, at fine symphonies and music recitals.
"But ought not Herr Kirtley at least begin with the free evening lectures?"—with which Dresden shone through the illuminations of many profound and oracular professors in lofty pulpits. He submitted that his German was too feeble of wing to enable him to soar into the heights of such wisdom.
The zest in Germany for learning and accomplishments was truly wonderful to him. Half his life of instruction now quickly seemed to have been idling. As far as industriousness, drilling, well-defined ambitiousness, were concerned, the young German had many advantages.
The modest Bucher household was run educationally with the dynamic regularity of military establishments. It was, of course, no exception. Lessons and lectures commenced mornings at eight, with Sundays partly included. This routine begins with the German child at six.
Evenings, too, had their busy duties. No baseball, no tennis, no lazy days of swimming and fishing. Playtime was spent in martial exercise, in evenings at the opera or seeing the classical dramas of all races and epochs on the stage. Gard became aware that the Bucher children had carried six or seven studies at an age when he had thought he was abused, overburdened, with four.
Besides, their courses were more mature. And yet he had come to Germany, despite Rebner's eulogiums of the Germans, with the complacent idea that, as he was the respectable American average, he could look the other youth of the world in the face unashamed, asking no odds.
Little Ernst at fifteen was studying, among numerous things, philosophy and didactic religion. The way he could cite facts and carry on a discussion on these and similar subjects!
"What part do philosophy and religion play in our system of instruction for the young?" Gard asked himself with a deprecatory smile. "Is it a miracle that the Germans can teach us desirable knowledge and morals, as Rebner insists?"
Kirtley readily perceived that he had scarcely sufficient precise information to discuss intelligently general topics with this boy. The latter could always quote some acknowledged and ponderous authority—German, of course, and all the more awe-inspiring, but of whom Gard had not heard. For it usually came down to the question, Who are your authorities? He rarely could tell who his were. They promptly faded away before all the weight and definiteness Ernst could bring to bear.
While Rudolph and Ernst were so far along as a result of a busy adolescence, Fraeulein Elsa, as Gard discovered, was in her way not behind. She knew English and French pretty well and was quite an accomplished musician, able to play from memory on the winged Pleyel almost whole books of classic music. She could paint fairly well in oil and was now taking up etching with enthusiastic assiduity. She could sew, cook, run the house. In brief, her days were as full as her brothers' in propelling tasks. She, apparently, did not have "boys on the brain."
Kirtley threw up his hands in imitation of his venerated professor. This was just an ordinary German miss. He had scarcely dreamed of such things in a girl.
It was all illustrated by Gard's piano playing, which was cheap and meaningless strumming. He could rattle through a lot of popular tunes and stumble through a few short simple school-girl salon pieces. The Buchers were a real orchestra. With the ladies at the piano, the old Herr at the flute, Ernst at the violin and Rudi at the 'cello, they could play a dozen programmes and furnish enjoyment for the listener.
And always salutary, enlightened, cultivated music. The house reverberated with a multitude of choice enduring arias, sung, hummed or whistled, and this made Villa Elsa almost take on a charm for Gard. He had not known how his melodious soul was starved.
Why should not the Germans be expected to have noble souls with all the wealth of distinguished, inspiring music flowing through their lives? Should it not give them necessarily a strong, desirable spirit, fortify them in healthy aspirations, encourage them to get the best out of existence? This incentive and pleasureableness, making for the good, the true and the beautiful—must it not contribute a deep richness and righteousness to the Teuton heart?
And is it to be wondered at—the Germans' big supply of red blood? For the strength of the Teuton's body, Gard observed, was built up, maintained, in equal measure with his other training. The military drilling and strenuous gymnastics provided him with straight shoulders, a full chest, a sound spine, strength of limb—in short, good, presentable health.
The Bucher fireside had no doctor, no adored specialists, hanging about. It had been taught to handle simple complaints itself. Medical and surgical bills did not upset its modest financial equilibrium. The family were extraordinarily well. Their brawn, energetically looked after as well as the brain, accounted partly for their marvelous appetites.
So nothing seemed to Gard to be missed in this potent scheme of instruction and Kultur.
Often when he peeked down from his attic window he spied the shining bald head of the very elderly Herr Bucher surrounded by the mass of lively colors of his rose garden. He loved to spend hours there in the sunshine with his posies, tying up their branches, clipping choice specimens with which he was fond of decorating the members of Villa Elsa, its dining table, its living room. Roses, roses, everywhere.
It was his hobby, this spot of blossoms, and in it his short, bulky form, so whitened by his Jovian beard meerschaumed by the stains from his huge, curving German pipe, was often almost lost to view. He was like some droll gnome waddling about in a flower patch. Frequently someone had to be sent to find him among all those pets which he knew so well by their Latin and popular names and by their characteristics. While he grumbled and so often stormed about in the house, speaking always in gruff tones of command, he was quite sunny out there in his plot, although still guttural and dictatorial.
He was a retired professor of phonetics and diction, but now and then prepared a pupil. This was how he had met his wife a long, long time before, when she was a young singer. She was twenty years his junior and had become so completely a housewife that you could scarcely associate her with any art. She was fat, harsh, homely, masculine in the way of German women, an occasional long hair sticking from her face in emulation of a beard.
Devoid of any graces of seduction, putting out her heavy fists in every direction she exhibited a bearish kindness toward Gard that seemed calculated at first to frighten him. She was loud-voiced, iron-jawed. One of her favorite boasts was that she had never been to a dentist. She pulled out her rarely aching teeth, or some one of the family pulled them for her.
The Herr could be smoother and he assumed a fatherly solicitude over Gard, looking out for his advantages, anxious that he should make progress. But Bucher evidently was annoyed at times by not having authority in the matter of the slow way in which his young guest set about with his "studies." Kirtley had not come to study, had not been trained to study, in the German sense. It would have been difficult to make the old man see any virtue in such desultoriness. It doubtless proved to his mind that Americans are only half trained, half tamed, half domesticated.
The couple surrounded Kirtley with a protection, an honesty, a reliability, a zeal, that was as surprising as it was, on the whole, gratifying. He felt a security he had hardly known in his own home. If he were cheated or otherwise imposed upon anywhere in Dresden—and this did not often happen—the Buchers were violently up in arms about it and never ceased pursuit of the recreant until the wrong was righted.
"The good German name must not be tarnished."
In a word, they tried to treat him like a son; and so forceful and constant were their efforts in this direction that he sometimes wished their well-meant attentions were less formidable. The easy American "forget it," "why bother," "never again," were expressions of a mood unfamiliar to them. They visibly had small patience with such slackness which only, to their minds, encouraged lawlessness.
The setting for Gard's approaching German love affair was appropriately picturesque and propitious. A tight little meadow, with a grassy path wandering through by the Elbe, lay near at hand, and beyond, at the right, a pine wood—the Waldpark—with neat graveled walks and rustic seats where the tonic air was often to brace his musings.
Adjacent was the small summer house, still poetically standing, where Schiller wrote "Don Carlos" a century and a quarter before. A leafy lane led from the meadow to the walled garden inclosure of Villa Elsa, whose branches, vines and flowering bushes insisted on making it almost a hidden retreat. The spot could not be more gemuetlich—that familiar expressive word which Kirtley soon learned to rely on amid the scant artillery of his defensive weapons of conversational German.
Through a swinging gate in the wall, and usually to the clanging of a bell that announced you, you entered the house on a level with the ground. On this floor were the kitchen and dining room. Next came the belle etage, with the salon and music room opening into each other, and with another apartment or two. Above, the chambers. And still above, the two attic rooms. All was plain but substantial.
The garden furnished not only flowers but vegetables. And in one corner stood a table and chairs for afternoon tea with cakes or beer with cheese. Here the ever-busy sewing and knitting mainly went on in summer, and a forgotten book, half read, was usually left by some one of the young folks. There was a drowsy, old-fashioned air about the premises that recalled illustrations in some of the editions of Grimm's fairy tales.
Aside from the abundance of bound music, Gard had been far from expecting that fine examples of art and literature would be so meagerly represented in this representative German home. There were poor pictures of Bismarck, of William the Second, and of his grandfather aping the appearance of Gambrinus.
Prominent also were steel engravings of Saxon and Prussian kings of whom Kirtley had never heard. But there they were, conspicuous household gods, with fierce, epic miens and lordly bodies, surrounded by wreaths of glory and Latin texts, and supported by cannon pointed at the observer with menaces of angry welcome. And not to be forgotten were the august thrones, avenging swords of royalty, and the dark swirling clouds suggesting the German Olympus.
"It all harmonizes with the arsenal down in the entrance," muttered Gard.
As for books, he was taken at an angle still more unexpected and significant. Goethe and Schiller and the other old Teuton classics, breathing of liberalness and freedom—figures that had always stood out in the world as leading exponents and guardians of a cultured enlightenment—were only present in the Bucher home in the form of musty, unused volumes.
These authors, who were so loved, advocated and expounded in American colleges and whom Kirtley had come to Germany to know better and to worship, were scarcely ever mentioned. He was astonished to find that the Germans thought little of them. And Heine likewise, that naughty child of the Vaterland! At the Buchers the presentable red and gilt edition of his poems was kept in Fraeulein's escritoire in her room.
American education, Gard began to realize, was somehow on the wrong track here. It was trying to cultivate a Germany that no longer seemed to exist. It was diligently teaching and acclaiming Teutons who were repudiated in their own land. It was separating the spirit and taste of the two peoples instead of bringing them together.
The books that were in evidence in Villa Elsa were a new lot, excepting the great and formidable Nietschke. Kirtley had never heard of the Treitschkes and Bernhardis and Hartmanns, whom the Buchers were reading and quoting.
From what he made out, these and similar authorities were insisting mightily on German conceptions and prerogatives—some exalting the Teuton supremacy of will, others urging and preparing the mental ground for an armed attack on the world for a German dictatorship. This militant literature was introduced here by Rudolph, who was armed with strategic plans, diagrams, military maps, which the family frequently of an evening pored over with the enthusiasm of a parlor game. First it was Russia to be assaulted, then Belgium, and always France.
"Italy is already as good as conquered," Rudi proclaimed, "and England simply needs to be tilted off her worm-eaten perch by a sudden shock."
Kirtley rubbed his eyes. What a widespread, horrible butchery was being nursed and nourished here in this obscure family of peace? Surely this good folk did not appreciate the meaning of it all. Was it not merely something awfully exciting to talk about, argue about, puzzle over, in the prosaic humdrum at this respectable hearthstone?
Such a strange form of social entertainment! The "arsenal" below always came to Gard's mind. These people acted as if they were actually thinking of capturing the whole Eastern Hemisphere, speaking as if they were going to rule it like conquerors, going to enforce at the point of the blade German "might," "will," "rights." These were the common expressions used. Kirtley thought the household must be unbalanced on this topic.
He said to himself, "No one else whom I have read or heard of is contemplating such a campaign. Other races are holding forth on the benefits and glories of peace. These Dresden Germans are talking of the benefits and glories of war!"
This example in these simple, every-day Buchers was most pointed. Their lines were furthest from the military. Teaching diction and phonetics to women and male singers, studying engineering, religion and the gentle arts, had nothing to do with such proposed bloody belligerence.
Only Rudi could be called somewhat martial. Hydraulics was his branch, and his frequent absences on missions about which he assumed an important and mystifying air, such as is, for that matter, usual in bumptious young men, never caused any comment or visible interest on the part of the others. He gave himself out to be close to the militaire, familiar with its secrets, as he freely blew his cigarette smoke across the meal table; and to him the family deferred on these subjects. Surely all this was to Gard very foreign and interesting.
"What a different race of beings! What a curious revelation to observe, what a doughty complex to comprehend!"
He was more confounded by the attitude of the women. They were even fiercer than the men. To them the other Europeans were a wholly bad lot. Those neighbors were so much in the way of the good, all-worthy Germans. But it was on the English that this feminine hatred vented itself most turbulently. Frau Bucher shouted that she would be more than glad—she would be hilarious—if war came.
"I would wear my last rag for years, see my two boys dead on the battle front, if Gross Britain could be knocked into the bottom of the sea."
Was all this a part of that national gladness Gard was observing in Germany and could not gage, could not yet give an explicit and sufficient reason for? Those old-time Teuton liberals, masters of prose and verse—how would they feel at home in this modern Rhineland of hysterical spleen and arms provocative? Was it possible he had really come on a sort of fool's errand?
Fraeulein Elsa was a blooming, almost blue-eyed young woman of twenty. Such a fresh, strawberry and cream complexion under a plenteous harvest of flaxen hair would not be associated in America with anyone very serious. There she would have been thought arrayed by Nature as a tearing blonde, suitable for the equivocal light stage, or as a frivolous artist's model, or as promenade girl in a suit and cloak house. But in Fraeulein the extraordinary combination of volatile comeliness and unimpeachable earnestness daily worked growing wonders in Kirtley.
It is a luckless young traveler who does not find himself or herself engaged in some romance, permanent or transient, which ever after sweetens or gilds the memories of the tour. Moreover Gard was at an age when youthful susceptibilities were softened by the lackadaisicalness of his returning state of health and hope.
So his difficulties with the German language, feasting, sleeping and redoubtable ways in general, were to be complicated by German loving. The shining object of his tenderness—how she was to lend brightness to the short dismal days and long black nights of the Teuton winter! At first he had asked himself:
"Is a campaign of the heart in Deutschland as portentous, dreadfully systematic, a proceeding as the other undertakings? Do the Germans go at that sort of thing, too, hammer and tongs?"
The glowing Fraeulein was able-bodied, full-chested, with every golden promise of a rich maternityhood. Did American girls have any bosoms to speak of? Gard seemed now to have never noticed that feature in them. Yet bounding breasts are the unashamed pride of German girls.
While the Yankee miss is often to be identified by complaints of a physical nature, Elsa had no aches or pains to talk about. She had a strength competent to support all her energetic, meritorious endeavors. A thoroughly well woman—what an exceptional being, a god-send! It is not the fashion with maids beyond the Rhine to be ailing. Weak backs, nervous prostration, indigestion and similar indispositions were not topics at the Buchers'. To be coquettishly delicate or romantically ill is a liability to the Germans. Health, unenchanting as it may be, is a prime asset. That the Teuton women are gormands—what is that compared with their willingness to mother six or more sturdy youngsters?
Had Frau Bucher been an Elsa at twenty? Yes, in the main, yet impossible to conceive. Would Elsa become at fifty-five like her parent? Heaven forbid! But Youth ignores such deterrent probabilities.
The daughter and her manifold achievements easily bowled Gard over. Was he in love or did he merely imagine he was? Was he filling with the divine fire or only being smitten? Who could ever tell? And what is, in fact, the practical difference? Kindly old Rebner had hinted that it would not be amiss in Gard to bring home one of the excellent German maedchens with her brimming stock of health and efficiency.
"She would be an answer to our American servant girl question, flood your fireside with invigorating music, and rear a house full of robust children. It would be a novel and commendable experiment and experience for you, Kirtley."
Of course Heine is the approved route with a German girl. Gard borrowed from Fraeulein an old copy of the "Buch der Lieder." Very obliging at times like the rest of the family in the business of improving his accent, she urged that if he would commit some of those little prized poems to heart, she would supervise his intonations. He eagerly betook himself to this charming exercise, and it was not long before he was inviting her to walk along that alluring path through the meadow by the persuasive water. Here he repeated over and over to her the very pertinent lines,
Thou'rt like unto a flower,
Thou lov'st me not, thou lov'st me not,
under the conscientious reproofs of her engaging diction.
But never more than for half an hour at a time. This was all she could spare him. Her days were very strictly divided by her pressing concerns. A sightly young woman so tremendously busy—it was almost exasperating.
And he could not establish any tender quality of relationship that would warm a delectable exchange of rosy intimations or tentative expressions of budding feelings of delight. It was teacher and pupil. She unsuspectingly insisted on following her role of preceptress and very earnest was she about it, too.
She saw nothing comical in his frequent linguistic stumblings that would naturally lead to melting moods. As the Germans have, of course, little humor, she found in these faulty exhibitions only causes for disappointed glances and reprimands approaching severity. Often you would have thought he was a boy of ten reciting his lesson at her knee.
"Now Thursday by half past ten, you must have that line right or I will scold you." And she would sometimes laugh a little in her discouragement.
She looked upon it as a duty, a voluntary drudgery, but which, she assured him, she was most pleased to do. For she loved Heine—raved about him, like sentimental German maids. She could never go over his verse often enough. And so she encouraged Gard to keep on. It was a reflected part of her normal disciplined life of acquisition.
After a month of these tactics he realized he was making no headway toward—he did not acknowledge what. Young men as a type did not seem to Elsa of special interest any more than a hundred other objects on earth. And then the cold weather before long put an end to the little promenades of rime by the shore, and Gard had to try other lines of attack on this radiant and beflowered German fortress.
The park of fir trees lay quite beyond the meadow. It was a silent, evocative spot, unfrequented except for a peasant now and then trudging along under a bundle of wood or a weather-beaten basket of provisions. Kirtley had managed to stray that far once with Elsa, but learned that the mother was expected to accompany at such distances. It provoked his silent comment,
"As nearly as I can estimate, about a half a mile from home is all that is allowed a German miss unchaperoned."
It was the same when he invited Fraeulein to the opera or theater. The parent must attend. As she was equally occupied, it did not appear easy for him to arrange for the two. Besides, Frau Bucher killed everything under these confounding and confounded circumstances. She sat between him and her daughter and ruled the conversation. It was little better than taking her alone, so he abandoned also these enterprises.
In the talk at table the family, with Teuton tactlessness, now and then cried out the surpassing merits of the German young man. Unquestionably he led all others. Gard met no success in stemming the tide, miffed as he was about this social seclusion of the daughter. He soon saw his mistake in feeling personally hurt, as if insulted. It was but the custom. Could it be indeed a fact that German youths were such moral reprobates that girls could not be trusted to their unguarded companionship? The question had no meaning to his hosts. It was useless to hint of such an idea, burning as he often was to launch it upon the waves of discussion. To them, chaperoning signified the highest morals.
They exploded with, "It may very well be as you say in America! That is to be expected. Are there any morals in the United States? We have heard awful things. There are the Mormons. There is co-education. And young girls of the best families go around loose with men day and night. What could be the result? Free love. And free love means cheap love or no love at all. Admittedly pretty low conditions for virtue. What else can be looked for in a country where all sorts of people come promiscuously from everywhere? Divorces, voting females, slatterns, homelessness, neglected, poorly educated children."
If, in passing, America and Americans were referred to in the family, and this was rare, Elsa, Gard noticed, kept silent. Yet she could be very wrought up about other Europeans. This nursed his fancies. He interpreted it in terms of promise. Elsa, he decided, was a good girl in a hedge-hog environment of unbelievable traits, of warring contrasts.
Once during the winter he tried on her a course of flirtation which he had learned very well in his Sophomore year. But German girls do not flirt. His arrows sank in feebly, impotently, as if her attention had the despairing resistance of a sandbag. Unperturbed she made nothing of it. He felt that she thought he was silly or had the rickets. So he speedily gave this up.
Thus he became aware how vastly different are courtship and other relations between young men and young women in America and in Germany. He asked himself.
"Are the German ways more civilized?" Certainly, to the Teuton, they represent a more creditable and becoming evolution. He always stoutly favors his own customs, and finds little here to discuss. Even if a rotten morality in his young gods is to be assumed, this would be proper as in the young gods of the mythologies.
The Teuton marriage refers plainly to property. The language has prominent terms indicating how espousal means goods with a woman attached to them. There is scarcely an equivalent in English. Courtship in the form of natural little raptures that disport in and beautify enamored companionship in youth, the pure, unfettered, mystic attraction between the sexes in blossoming time, are practically unknown to the German social life. The full gloss of fancy, the velveting of manners, the felicitous fabrication of innocent emotions into a blessed garment of many colors, find their development outside the domain of Thor. Such associations have there no charming playtime, but forthwith make for permanent good or permanent evil.
Accordingly, for Gard, in his fond inclinations, there was no experience with Cupids about the Bucher flower garden. Only, as it were, a sort of rough sledding on broken, jolting ice! And he noted the comparative absence of such delicate sentiment in German literature. Aside from Heine, who became French, German letters have relatively little to offer on this score. The very language discourages love-making. Since Heine's exile a century ago, the increasing might of the armored Hohenzollerns had finally almost killed all this.
Gard was thrown out of gear in another way. Fraeulein's lack not only of amatory complaisance but of social polish or even facility kept him dubious and disconcerted. She brusquely alternated between a sisterly tenderness of familiarity, almost exaggerated, only to follow it by a sudden, disquieting flop over on the side of a formality as stiff as buckram. She would be as distant as if they were two boarders having a tiff in a pension. These detachments were not because of anything Kirtley had done or said. They formed a natural example of Gothic undevelopedness in human relations, the rude unevenness of beginners.
But, then, he forgave her for this.
"Is she not extremely occupied—full of pursuits? How admirable!"
It shamed him, spurred him on not a little. For days he would only see her at the generous meals where she exclaimed over her dread of getting fat. That usually furnishes a German with an excuse for being helped to more. She dutifully played of an evening in the family orchestra, yet this was a musical, not a social, happening. The severe if rich harmonies that were favored, largely with the idea of drill, created generally an atmosphere of austerity.
She could not understand Gard's offers to carry her umbrella over her to a class or to bring her a storm coat in case of need. Such attentiveness meant intrusions almost to be resented. She appeared to frown upon any kindly little considerations that should have been agreeable to her or at any rate convenient. She had been brought up to do everything for herself. There was nothing of the clinging vine about her. Young German women are not expected to lean upon men in this wise.
Presents of candy or what-not are looked upon with an inquisitive or doubtful eye, especially by the parents. For the German girl has no charming secrets from her father and mother. They must know all, with immediate conjectures about marriage. Troubling gifts, consequently, became rather out of the question with Gard.
He feared that Fraeulein Elsa might reflect sometimes the feeling of unfriendliness which he was aware of in the supercilious Rudi. The latter exhibited a negligent attitude of indifference toward Gard, though it was cloaked under casualness. There was a sinister air about the young engineer, and she would be bound to follow submissively anyone breathing the military ozone.
Under all these unsettling circumstances, Kirtley's uncertain attachment for the German language did not increase by Peter Schlemihl strides. Besides, his regular teacher was something like a wild boar. He had proceeded to dragoon Gard as if he were a lad. And Herr Keller's person was offensive. He exhaled a smell unpleasant if scholastic. Dressed in a soiled, shiny, black garb, and with a bristly mustache and beard which often showed egg of a morning, he talked blatantly of having been in Paris as a soldier in '70. It was his one excursion out of Saxony.
Even the German language at such a cost was not very inviting. Finally Gard received a curt note to the effect that if he were not more assiduous, the lessons would better end. Herr Keller did not want to be bothered with triflers.
"Bounced from school!" Kirtley exclaimed. It was the first time. He took advantage of this opportunity to discontinue.
He could see that his hosts did not blame the professor. Why, he was capable of forcibly drilling the Teuton language and literature into a post hole. This doubtless confirmed Kirtley's failure as a student in their eyes. And this was to be looked for in Americans who think that they can acquire knowledge and know life by gadding about and "observing," instead of by book study. The awful German language seemed doomed to blast Gard's affectionate hopes.
While his burgeoning amorousness met with such blighting encouragement in the direction of Fraeulein Elsa, it encountered unexpectedly an immense and yearning bosom in another quarter. Fraeulein Wasserhaus, next door, clamored for a mate. With cowlike simpleness she almost bellowed out for love. Of an age verging on the precarious she waddled into and out from Villa Elsa with bulging breasts so bared, under the transparent pretenses of white gauze, that Frau Bucher declared herself shocked. She said that the Wasserhaus was trying to be a part of the disgraceful Naked Kultur that had been assailing Germany.
When this bovine soul came to know of Kirtley's presence, she fastened her consuming desires upon him. She had a brother in America and actively developed a hankering to go there and be near him. Yoking up with a Yankee would be a most natural and fitting state in which to negotiate the Atlantic.
As the Bucher wall was too high for her to hang over in her languishing ardors, she hung over her gate to offer a book or a tiger lily to Gard as he passed. Several times when the pachydermatous Tekla banged her way upstairs with an armful of utensils in her work, a bouncing compote or other unabashed delicacy would be tumbling about on a dustpan or a slop basin, bound for the attic room by the linden tree. Twice a belabored missive accompanied these little couriers, anxiously quoting some anguishing sentimentality from one of the household poets writhing amid the pages of the affecting Gartenlaube.
It was at first so bothersome that Gard contemplated leaving the neighborhood. Even the Buchers, truest of prosy Germans, could grasp the ridiculousness of this situation, and it was the one item of noisy fun they could fall back upon when they wished to be especially entertaining.
"Mein Gott!" the Frau would cry out when going over her troubles and arduous occupations. "And I've got to get a husband for the Wasserhaus yet!" The Herr often went into a deafening rage about it.
"Is there no way to keep that lachrymose female out of my house with her belated calf-love? She annoys the good Herr Kirtley." And he would toddle out, slamming the door like a clap of thunder.
The family assumed a very self-conscious behavior when the lorn maiden was mentioned, and were anxious Gard should know that, while unfortunately she was their neighbor, she was not at all of their stratum.
"Poor girl!" Gard mused. There were nearly half again as many women as men in Saxony.
At last he came to know there seemed to be a mystery about Fraeulein Elsa—something which was hidden from him. And a new and deeper interest was summoned forth from within his breast. Occasionally at table she was silent as a mile stone. Some days she did not appear to his sight at all. And then, when he did see her, she evidently wanted to avoid him. Very true it was that she often pored over the little volume of Heine in her room without a word to anyone. But, of a sudden, she would become frankly in evidence again—a floral and quite superb girl, resolutely "making good," as was her wont.
"What is it?" Gard wondered.
None of the family ever referred to it. Even in his intimate talks with her mother, whom Gard now and then practiced his German upon as she was plying her needle, nothing was divulged. There was no young German coming to the house with regularity. Consequently, could it be love difficulties? Yet something was wrong. It lent respect to Elsa, threw enhancement about her.
Gard concluded that the roughness of the Bucher family life mortified her. It was often well-nigh outlandish. How could she have so ardently studied the beautiful in music and colors without realizing this?
But he had not been long enough in Germany to be advised that knowledge is not expected there to enter into the inner life. What one is has little in common with what one knows or can dexterously do. Study does not pass into character. The German, with all his acquirements, does not look for moral or esthetic effect upon the heart or soul.
German women esteem the strong fighter, the rugged accomplisher the boisterous enthusiast, among their men. Whether these are atheistic, immoral, boorish, cruel, are considerations of secondary importance. The daughters marry them with little hesitation. Men are men, supreme, to be adored. Women are to be tolerated, stepped on, sat upon. Man is the master, woman is the willing servant.
Gard's experience in perfecting himself in German met with another rebuff. Under the prompting of his parental friends in Villa Elsa he concluded at length to attend a course of lectures given by a celebrated professor who was, however, known to be of an exceptionally cantankerous disposition. Kirtley had become aware of the querulous restrictions and exactions attending the most peaceful German activities and made sure of his ground at the class room, whither he went one morning with encouraging expectations. He asked the janitor if the hearings were free and public. They were.
It was the usual amphitheater and Gard entered to find only a few regular students down in the front rows. He decided on a seat alone in the center. Herr Professor, be-spectacled, soon clambered up on the rostrum and squatted dumpily. Blear-eyed he scanned the place and blurted out:
"There is a stranger in the room. The lecture will not proceed until he departs." Gard, having been assured by the janitor, could not imagine that he himself was meant. The man of prodigious learning shouted angrily, throwing out his arm toward Kirtley:
"Must I repeat that there is a foreigner in the audience? I shall not begin until his presence has been removed."
Gard went away, incensed. Surely, he swore to himself, Teuton erudition acts so often like a mad bear ready to claw away at men and things. He never attended another day lecture.
But he had to get on with his German. He decided to put an advertisement for an instructor in the Dresden Nachrichten. At its bureau he ran counter to a lot of ifs and ands at the hands of a surly young clerk. A German, naturally gruff, only needs a small position to increase his acerbity. His newspapers display, likewise, a disagreeable officiousness, being nearly always, to some extent, bureaucratic organs. They are lords, not servants, of the public. They do not appear to want your business, your money.
Gard's imperfect German balked him, too. After he had been back and forth to the little window three or four times, trying to alter his "ad" to suit the rasping individual whose face Gard could scarcely catch a glimpse of by stooping down to the aperture, an American stepped forward. He was a steel gray man of about sixty and was inserting a notice. He said he was familiar with all the rigors of such a proceeding, being a correspondent for the Chicago Gazette.
"Perhaps I can help," volunteered Miles Anderson. "After having had scraps and fights about this sort of thing around this country for seven years—though the Germans won't fight—I've finally got the hang of it. You can save three or four words by a different jargon. I can see you are an American because you take up more room about this than necessary. German economy, you must remember."
Gard was glad to find a friend of his race. And after the advertisement was disposed of, they repaired to a neighboring beer hall to refresh and relieve their feelings. Anderson was smooth-shaven, with piercing gray eyes under bushy eyebrows, his head presenting the appearance of just having been in a barber's chair. With the insistent curiosity of a practiced interviewer he wanted to know why Kirtley had come to this godless land; where he was hanging out; and all about the Buchers.
A bachelor, Anderson had become toughened by hotel and pension. He thought Kirtley very fortunate in getting right into a family where the veritable German bloom had not been rubbed off by foreigners, by boarders. It would be a most fragrant experience. Here Kirtley would see on the native heath the genuine German of the great middle class that makes up the might of the nation.
"Can you read German comfortably?" asked Anderson. "What do you make of it? I've been studying it for seven years and sometimes it seems as if I hadn't got much further than the verb to hate."
"You can't give me any short cuts about it, then?" laughed Gard.
"Yes, I can—yes, I can. Here's a little compilation and analysis of the irregular verbs," explained his new acquaintance, pulling a green brochure from his pocket. "Only costs a mark. You can get a second-hand one at the book stalls by the Augustus bridge. I always carry it with me and con it over and over. Good for the pronunciation. If you get the irregular verbs of a language well fed into your system, you've got the language by the windpipe.
"Then buy Simplicissimus. You'll pick up a good deal from that—the popular expressions, the phrases and exclamations that are going. If you learn to use the exclamations, it makes you interesting and well-liked. It gives the other fellow the chance to do the talking. Simplicissimus and that kind of thing are better than the dry, stilted German classics—'Ekkehard,' 'Nathan der Weise' and all that discarded stuff. But remember that esprit was not given the Germans, because it would hide their Boeotian stupidity."
"I haven't yet seen—I suppose I shall see"—said Kirtley, "why the general American student like me is so persistently encouraged to come to Germany. Why is it?"
"Because we are damn fools," heartily rejoined Anderson. "The Germans don't have education. They have instruction. The one makes gentlemen. The other makes experts. It is hard for an expert to be a gentleman. They don't have gentlemen in Germany. No such word in their language. It is a nation of experts, but that's precisely the reason it should be feared. Why, education would teach a German not to slobber at his meals.
"It is his strenuous ingrowing instruction that cultivates his extreme national egotism until it has become like a boil. His racial egoism helps obscure the obscure sunlight here in Germany and blinds him. He has to wear spectacles. It is a natural cry, his cry for a place in the sun."
"Should I have gone to England or France?" suggested Gard.
"Yes. At any rate, not here. The German procedure roughens the fiber and lowers the moral standards of the general student. Instruction here is along mental and manual lines. The Teuton is meant to be a specialist. He is competent but not refined."
The two compatriots gossiped along about this and that.
"I'm having a devil of a time sleeping on my bed," confessed Gard. "You ought to know about German beds. How do you get on with them?"
"The German bed helps to give the German his bad disposition. I put two beds side by side and sleep across the middle. That's one way to fool the German bed. If I saw yours I might be able to suggest something."
Anderson frankly expressed a desire to visit the Loschwitz home. So on Gard's invitation they had lunch and went out to his suburb.
SPIES AND WAR
They took off the bed clothes, including the two huge feather bolsters in the center.
"These bolsters are for the gingerbread effect that the German likes everywhere," explained the visitor. They examined the remaining construction. It was narrow and short. It suggested a granite-like base.
"Rock of Ages!" commented Anderson. "As you can't ask for an additional bed, all I can see is for you to swill beer and then you don't care where you sleep. That's the way the Germans do."
The journalist appeared disappointed in not meeting any of the family that first day. Frau was overwhelmed in kitchen duties and not presentable. The other members were away, working, working. Anderson had to be contented with Gard's description of them, after the latter had passed the cigars.
"Who's the spy in your family?" abruptly asked the elder.
"Yes, the spy. Every well-regulated German family should have a spy in it."
"What for?" queried Kirtley in surprise.
"Why, for the Kaiser, of course. Who else? The Teutons call him euphemistically the Government. But without Wilhelm there wouldn't be any German Government."
"Why should he want spies in his own German families?" interrogated Gard innocently.
"Didn't every medieval feudal lord keep close tab on his subjects—the people he owned? The Kaiser wants to know of any signs of disloyalty. If a household harbors any foreigners, as your family is doing, he wants to know what they are up to."
"Do you mean to say that the Government knows about me—that I'm being watched?"
"They are at least ready to watch you. Mind you, Germany is a real block-house, and the elaborate spy system is an integral part of it. I should say, from what you tell me of the Buchers, that young Rudolph is the sleuth here."
"Yes. He's doubtless keeping an eye on you and reporting to the authorities if there's anything suspicious about you and your actions."
And then the journalist, pleased to have a fresh listener, launched upon his pet idea.
"The Kaiser is preparing an abysmal pitfall for the world and it won't take heed. I tell you, Kirtley—and I want you to mark my words—Deutschland is going to spring at Europe like a tiger. The army and navy are ready for the onslaught. When they spring, it will be farewell to civilization—except the German—unless something like a miracle supervenes. The French army is being moth-eaten by the Socialists, the British navy has dry rot. I look to see Wilhelm practically the ruler of the earth. If not, he will cause it to pay a cost that will make the next fifty years groggy."
Kirtley thought this was jesting. He later learned that the "old man" was regarded as "cracked" on this topic. Every spring he prophesied war, but it had not come. The Kaiser failed to rush to Paris and there dictate terms to an astounded and cowed universe. People politely laughed in their sleeves. Yes, Anderson was a fine fellow, but they wearied of his dismal forebodings that came to naught. Some said it was because German had been hard for him to learn. He had taken it up when more than fifty and had become tangled in its snarling roots—its beer-drunken syntax. "He had got mad at the language." It was natural that he should get mad at the people.
Gard saw a light.
"Perhaps," he said, "that's what the Buchers really mean about the German army conquering everybody whenever it wants to."
"That's it, that's it!" Anderson was gratified by the confirmation. He went on with grave seriousness.
"I'm a journalist. I have opportunities to see behind the curtain, haven't I? I have been at the army maneuvers, at the officers' messes and dinners, when they were sober and when they were drunk. Beer loosened their tongues and they did not care. They talk of it, boast of it, and the civilian, too. I'm telling no secrets. They are very frank about it. Don't you hear the Buchers openly discussing it? They all give us warning and we say it's a fine day. Did you ever read any of the Kaiser's speeches in German? There you find it all. But he's crazy, they say. Crazy or not, he has the most thoroughly organized and powerful nation behind him that the globe ever saw. And behind him to a man."
"Why don't you write it up, then—tell people over home?" Gard ventured, somewhat impressed.
"Write it up? Tell people? That's what I have been doing for five years. But what's the use of shouting to a world of fools? No one will pay any attention to it. My paper sends my stuff back and says it don't want war talk—it wants peace talk. Americans are happy and they don't want to be disturbed. They only want to hear about what they want to believe. So it seems to be everywhere."
"I guess you are right about that," Gard testified. "I have been a pretty fair reader of our papers and periodicals and have never been made to feel there was any need for alarm."
"Exactly," Anderson scolded. "Why, look at our Exchange professors. They are coming over here, ready to swallow the Germans whole. The Kaiser invites them to lunch on his yacht, gives them a pat on the shoulder blade, and they are his. While the Germans plainly despise us, our educators go home crying Great is Germany! How superior are her people! Let us send our sons over there to drink of her wisdom and grandeur! What inanity! Bah!"
"And so here I am," Gard smiled. "But I have bunted into you almost the first thing."
"Couldn't do better—couldn't do better," repeated Anderson with a cheering turn. "I'll tell you what to do. I'll give you a little practical advice—free."
"It won't be worth much if it's free, will it?"
"Well, it's worth this rotten German cigar you've given me. Read the editorials and correspondence in the Dresden papers. They're a good sample. There you'll see what the German attitude toward us is officially, and what German hatred feeds on day by day. The trouble with Americans over here is they don't read anything serious. Of course our students study their text books. But generally our people just fly around, hear music, drink beer in the cafes, but they don't read. Too nervous—afraid of being bored. So they don't learn much."
Anderson ran on into other subjects.
"One great thing about the German system is that it would make such people work to some purpose. We don't. It also makes its plodders work. This Government recognizes frankly that most of its population, like all populations, are plodders, and it gives them something regularly to do and sees that they do it. This converts this dull element into an organized strength—a source of power. The Germans practice their wonderful economies with respect to the poorest kind of human energy. They kick something into their drones. So they are such a mighty nation in a small land.