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SKETCHES MADE IN GERMANY
It was seven o'clock. Marion Carr was a punctual woman. She lingered for a moment in the dark and narrow corridor just to touch her hair before a mirror, while a maid waited with her hand on the door of the salon to usher the Englishwoman into the presence of the gnädige Frau..
Marion bowed to a pretty girlish presence that had once been graceful and now was veiled in voluptuous drapery. The bow was affably returned, but with considerable matronly dignity and not a little youthful condescension, and with just a little play about the corners of a too complacent mouth. Uttering a few commonplaces, Frau Bankier Stein motioned the English woman to a seat, resuming her own easy-chair, and taking up a baby's sock, which she began knitting
Dead silence ensued. Marion Carr moaned within herself, then took a header' into the icy waters of formal dialogue at so many marks the hour.
'I assume you understand English, Frau St-Frau Bankier?'
Frau Bankier Stein smiled quickly, as though the question amused her; as, indeed, it did. She lifted her well-defined brown eyebrows, and still looking down upon her knitting answered :
"Oh, yes; very well, quite well. I learnt English in the pension ; there were many English girls in the school, and an English teacher who lived in the house.'
* And will you not repeat that in English ?'
But you wish to learn, I believe ?'
Frau Bankier pursed her red youthsul lips with an expression which seemed to imply complete and utter indifference upon the point.
Perhaps you have forgotten much?
Oh, no'-this was quickly said with a little toss of the head. never forget anything; I have a remarkable memory.' Vor, XLI-No. 240
I would say.
Certainly those pension days were not so long ago, Frau Bankier. There was no flattery in the words.
'Indeed no. I am very young. I married when I had eighteen years. But I was not well taught in the pension—in English subjects
The English teacher was neither a lady nor an educated
She did not know her own language, and often could not spell. I could not learn of her—none of the girls could learn of her. The English are bad teachers.'
“So I am told-in Germany,' said Marion Carr, dryly. “I think I can tell you why, Frau Bankier.'
'Yes ? ' Frau Bankier Stein smiled interrogatively and lifted her eyes, then glanced at the clock in a casual way.
Cultivated Englishwomen, Frau Bankier, who have a title to teach-in schools are on the whole too well off in their own country to risk banishment to German schools and pensions of various grades, on terms which would barely satisfy the demands of English domestic servants.'
*This is Germany,' was the frigid reply. We do not give so large salaries as are given in England.'
I am aware of the fact, Frau Bankier,' said Marion Carr coolly, and if the English language is often ill taught and ill spoken in certain German educational institutions, the heads of those institutions have only themselves to blame for it. This does not prove that the English are bad teachers, but only that the German heads of certain schools and pensions pay badly; they desire the services of cultivated gentlewomen, but are unwilling to pay for the same, and are then surprised at the result.'
Frau Bankier Stein listened with an alert, intelligent expression, which seemed to imply absolute non-conviction. In talking with this important and complacent little lady, Marion Carr was sensible of something barring the way to anything like a true and fair and candid exchange of opinion. She was like a blind wall, raising an obstruction without opening or light.
And again the conversation lagged. Frau Bankier Stein seemed to enjoy the situation and the silence. Her mouth smiled at the corners, and she breathed quickly through her mouth. Also she knitted industriously, as though she had no other aim in life, and looked upon conversation with the Englishwoman as a frivolous loss of time.
* Then why does she take English lessons ?' Marion Carr mused. 'Surely she is inconsistent, and I thought consistency was the fetich of German minds.' And, as though to propound the riddle, Marion Carr asked :
* Are you fond of the study of languages, Frau Bankier ?'
Frau Bankier Stein looked up and smiled, and then down again, and knitted rapidly, changing her needles. Oh, yes, I am not stupid; But my
they said in the pension that I was quick. I speak French quite fuently, every day with my husband. I speak also Italian.'
* Have you been in England, may I ask ?' Frau Bankier Stein looked slightly indignant.
Oh, no,' she coldly said. “I have no inclination to go. husband has been in America.'
* There are many Americans in this town.' “Yes, they are very charming.'
• The English you find—not quite so charming, I believe.' Marion Carr made the remark with an impersonal air, as she smoothed her gloves.
Frau Bankier Stein ceased smiling for the first time in the uncomfortable interview. She gave the Englishwoman a sudden rapier-like glance, and was silent for a moment or two. Then she said with sudden malice prepense, and a disagreeable whetting of the tongue :
*I dislike the English.'
It is a pity—a misfortune for England,' said Marion Carr, regretfully.
You are ironic, Mrs. Carr.'
* Really, Frau Bankier, I am sometimes compelled to be. Not a day goes by, not a lesson, that it is not thrust upon me, in no very kindly and generous spirit, that Germany and the German people have not only no love for England, but a hatred of my country people. This, I repeat, is a pity. But-and you will excuse me for saying so-England will not break her heart about it.'
'I am no politician,' said Frau Bankier, haughtily.
Marion Carr could not repress a merry laugh. “Neither am I, Frau Bankier. But I am a patriot, and it is not in my nature to sit still and listen to unkindly remarks upon my country people. You will forgive my plain speaking, but in my daily life and work I am constantly attacked by this spirit of- what shall I call it ?-I will give it a negative term, and call it a lack of magnanimity on the part of your country people. To-day I have had no less than three different arguments, have been forced to stand on the defensive three different times, in three different lessons, on the subject of Germany's dislike for the English people, English manners, and English enterprise. In each case my services had been ostensibly retained for the purpose of giving a lesson in English grammar.'
* You ought to have been a man, Mrs. Carr. Surely you have missed your calling. Frau Bankier spoke with a sneer.
• My calling !' Marion Carr repeated in more softened tones and with
startled expression. Oh, no, Frau Bankier, I am all woman. . . . Is love of country incompatible with the calling of a woman? Is hatred of prejudice, intolerance, injustice, malevolence, incompatible with the calling of a woman ? ... That I have a stronger love of my country than many women, and perhaps a more passionate way of showing it, is due to the fact that I have had to fight a man's fight in woman's apparel, and have known the sickness and the longing of the exile.'
• Many women must suffer exile,' said Frau Bankier Stein, ruminatively. There are many Germans in England.'
. Granted, Frau Bankier. But England is—England, and Germany—Germany. And between both rolls a sea of racial differences wider than the German Ocean. England is the land of freedom. Germany. . . quiet observation and study of the laws and institutions of other countries have taught me how to estimate the privilege of being born on English soil. And it is this English spirit, Frau Bankier, which enables me to support at all expatriation in this cold unkindly land.'
Frau Bankier Stein raised her head and regarded the English
Marion Carr continued quietly: 'I am the last woman in the world to obtrude my opinions upon others, Frau Bankier, but there are times when not to assert self would be an act of cowardice. And I must beg you to remember that I am not in your house this evening for the purpose of justifying myself, or vindicating my country, but for the purpose of giving an English lesson. . . . Were you at the opera last night, Frau Bankier ? Marie Schneider sang divinely.'
*Oh, no,' said Frau Bankier Stein, smiling.
Oh, yes. All Germans love music. But I cannot leave my home and young
children. I am a Hausfrau. There are no Hausfraus in England, I am told.' Marion Carr made a gesture of impatience.
Whoever told you so, Frau Bankier, told you what is most untrue. We have innumerable Hausfraus in England ... wives and mothers, too, beginning with our own beloved Queen, who is a woman of brilliant domestic virtues first and a sovereign afterwards.
And this is a main reason why she not only governs, but lives and reigns in the heart of the English nation.
But how can Englishwomen make good wives and mothers ? ' Frau Bankier Stein inquired. “The Englishwomen in this town seem to do nothing but play lawn-tennis from morning till evening. Have English girls no household duties? no domestic work? Do they never cook, or do needlework? And you must own, Mrs. Carr, that the same faces are to be seen night after night at the opera.'
Naturally, Frau Bankier, they come to Germany for music and a holiday, and they leave their kitchens and their storerooms behind them. It is not the custom for German girls to travel for pleasure. Here you are many years behind the English and the Americans.
German wives and daughters may cook in the kitchen, but they may not travel, may do little but dance a domestic marionette dance all their lives.'
Marion Carr spoke with more warmth than discretion. Frau Bankier Stein looked considerably astonished, and not a little indignant. She let her hands fall in her lap.
* You are very—rash, Mrs. Carr. And you are a teacher. Do you think it expedient-prudent to be so indifferent to your own interests?'
Marion Carr smiled proudly. 'I am a woman first and a teacher afterwards, Frau Bankier. I do not undertake to gain my end at the sacrifice of all independence. I would prefer to starve. And I am a teacher only for the time being, and just so long as my patience kolds out. It is a matter of pride with me that I have not yet begged or advertised in any one manner for pupils ?
'I do not think you will get on--in Germany, Mrs. Carr.'
'I have not the slightest intention of “getting on " in Germany, Frau Bankier. Success in this country would be failure in the land of my birth-failure in my most cherished plans.'
Frau Bankier Stein looked baffled.
I do not think I quite understand you, Mrs. Carr.'
'I beg your pardon. Do I speak too quickly? I really must compliment you on your grasp of the English language. I have been speaking very quickly.'
* But not too quickly. I understand very well indeed. But-you do not seem to like Germany, Mrs. Carr. Why?'
Frau Bankier Stein spoke with a ruffled expression and knitted more slowly as she listened.
My own experience in Germany Frau Bankier has furnished me with some instructive lessons which I admit are destructive of sympathy, and which can only ke learned when one has settled down here and entered into your ways of daily life.'
Frau Bankier Stein smiled and knitted with renewed zeal. Presently she looked up:
You have children, Mrs. Carr?'
Very sad. I have five children, three boys and two girls; they give me much to do.'
• You are fond of children?'
And then the door opened, and a good-looking young man entered, rather awkwardly and blushing boyishly.
Frau Bankier Stein shot her husband a look, then bent her eyes over her knitting and said laconically, with a toss of the head: