Part 1 out of 3
E-text prepared by Al Haines
My daughter Christine, who wrote me these letters, died at a hospital
in Stuttgart on the morning of August 8th, 1914, of acute double
pneumonia. I have kept the letters private for nearly three years,
because, apart from the love in them that made them sacred things in
days when we each still hoarded what we had of good, they seemed to me,
who did not know the Germans and thought of them, as most people in
England for a long while thought, without any bitterness and with a
great inclination to explain away and excuse, too extreme and sweeping
in their judgments. Now, as the years have passed, and each has been
more full of actions on Germany's part difficult to explain except in
one way and impossible to excuse, I feel that these letters, giving a
picture of the state of mind of the German public immediately before
the War, and written by some one who went there enthusiastically ready
to like everything and everybody, may have a certain value in helping
to put together a small corner of the great picture of Germany which it
will be necessary to keep clear and naked before us in the future if
the world is to be saved.
I am publishing the letters just as they came to me, leaving out
nothing. We no longer in these days belong to small circles, to
limited little groups. We have been stripped of our secrecies and of
our private hoards. We live in a great relationship. We share our
griefs; and anything there is of love and happiness, any smallest
expression of it, should be shared too. This is why I am leaving out
nothing in the letters.
The war killed Christine, just as surely as if she had been a soldier
in the trenches. I will not write of her great gift, which was
extraordinary. That too has been lost to the world, broken and thrown
away by the war.
I never saw her again. I had a telegram saying she was dead. I tried
to go to Stuttgart, but was turned back at the frontier. The two last
letters, the ones from Halle and from Wurzburg, reached me after I knew
that she was dead.
London, May, 1917.
The Publishers have considered it best to alter some of the personal
names in the following pages.
_Lutzowstrasse 49, Berlin,
Thursday, May 28th, 1914_.
My blessed little mother,
Here I am safe, and before I unpack or do a thing I'm writing you a
little line of love. I sent a telegram at the station, so that you'll
know at once that nobody has eaten me on the way, as you seemed rather
to fear. It is wonderful to be here, quite on my own, as if I were a
young man starting his career. I feel quite solemn, it's such a great
new adventure, Kloster can't see me till Saturday, but the moment I've
had a bath and tidied up I shall get out my fiddle and see if I've
forgotten how to play it between London and Berlin. If only I can be
sure you aren't going to be too lonely! Beloved mother, it will only
be a year, or even less if I work fearfully hard and really get on, and
once it is over a year is nothing. Oh, I know you'll write and tell me
you don't mind a bit and rather like it, but you see your Chris hasn't
lived with you all her life for nothing; she knows you very well
now,--at least, as much of your dear sacred self that you will show
her. Of course I know you're going to be brave and all that, but one
can be very unhappy while one is being brave, and besides, one isn't
brave unless one is suffering. The worst of it is that we're so poor,
or you could have come with me and we'd have taken a house and set up
housekeeping together for my year of study. Well, we won't be poor for
ever, little mother. I'm going to be your son, and husband, and
everything else that loves and is devoted, and I'm going to earn both
our livings for us, and take care of you forever. You've taken care of
me till now, and now it's my turn. You don't suppose I'm a great
hulking person of twenty two, and five foot ten high, and with this
lucky facility in fiddling, for nothing? It's a good thing it is
summer now, or soon will be, and you can work away in your garden, for
I know that is where you are happiest; and by the time it's winter
you'll be used to my not being there, and besides there'll be the
spring to look forward to, and in the spring I come home, finished.
Then I'll start playing and making money, and we'll have the little
house we've dreamed of in London, as well as our cottage, and we'll be
happy ever after. And after all, it is really a beautiful arrangement
that we only have each other in the world, because so we each get the
other's concentrated love. Else it would be spread out thin over a
dozen husbands and brothers and people. But for all that I do wish
dear Dad were still alive and with you.
This pension is the top fiat of a four-storied house, and there isn't a
lift, so I arrived breathless, besides being greatly battered and all
crooked after my night sitting up in the train; and Frau Berg came and
opened the door herself when I rang, and when she saw me she threw up
two immense hands and exclaimed, "_Herr Gott_!"
"_Nicht wahr_?" I said, agreeing with her, for I knew I must be looking
She then said, while I stood holding on to my violin-case and umbrella
and coat and a paper bag of ginger biscuits I had been solacing myself
with in the watches of the night, that she hadn't known when exactly to
expect me, so she had decided not to expect me at all, for she had
observed that the things you do not expect come to you, and the things
you do expect do not; besides, she was a busy woman, and busy women
waste no time expecting anything in any case; and then she said, "Come
"_Seien Sie willkommen, mein Fraulein_," she continued, with a sort of
stern cordiality, when I was over the threshold, holding out both her
hands in massive greeting; and as both mine were full she caught hold
of what she could, and it was the bag of biscuits, and it burst.
"_Herr Gott_!" cried Frau Berg again, as they rattled away over the
wooden floor of the passage, "_Herr Gott, die schonen Kakes_!" And she
started after them; so I put down my things on a chair and started
after them too, and would you believe it the biscuits came out of the
corners positively cleaner than when they went in. The floor cleaned
the biscuits instead of, as would have happened in London, the biscuits
cleaning the floor, so you can be quite happy about its being a clean
It is a good thing I learned German in my youth, for even if it is so
rusty at present that I can only say things like _Nicht wahr_, I can
understand everything, and I'm sure I'll get along very nicely for at
least a week on the few words that somehow have stuck in my memory.
I've discovered they are:
And the only one with the faintest approach to contentiousness, or
acidity, or any of the qualities that don't endear the stranger to the
indigenous, is _doch_.
My bedroom looks very clean, and is roomy and comfortable, and I shall
be able to work very happily in it, I'm sure. I can't tell you how
much excited I am at getting here and going to study under the great
Kloster! You darling one, you beloved mother, stinting yourself,
scraping your own life bare, so as to give me this chance. _Won't_ I
work. And _work_. _And_ work. And in a year--no, we won't call it a
year, we'll say in a few months--I shall come back to you for good,
carrying my sheaves with me. Oh, I hope there will be sheaves,--big
ones, beautiful ones, to lay at your blessed feet! Now I'll run down
and post this. I saw a letter-box a few yards down the street. And
then I'll have a bath and go to bed for a few hours, I think. It is
still only nine o'clock in the morning, so I have hours and hours of
today before me, and can practise this afternoon and write to you again
this evening. So good-bye for a few hours, my precious mother.
Your happy Chris.
_May 28th. Evening_.
It's very funny here, but quite comfortable. You needn't give a
thought to my comforts, mother darling. There's a lot to eat, and if
I'm not in clover I'm certainly in feathers,--you should see the
immense sackful of them in a dark red sateen bag on my bed! As you
have been in Germany trying to get poor Dad well in all those
_Kurorten_, you'll understand how queer my bedroom looks, like a very
solemn and gloomy drawingroom into which it has suddenly occurred to
somebody to put a bed. It is a tall room: tall of ceiling, which is
painted at the corners with blue clouds and pink cherubim--unmistakable
Germans--and tall of door, of which there are three, and tall of
window, of which there are two. The windows have long dark curtains of
rep or something woolly, and long coffee-coloured lace curtains as
well; and there's a big green majolica stove in one corner; and there's
a dark brown wall-paper with gilt flowers on it; and an elaborate
chandelier hanging from a coloured plaster rosette in the middle of the
ceiling, all twisty and gilt, but it doesn't light,--Wanda, the maid of
all work, brings me a petroleum lamp with a green glass shade to it
when it gets dusk. I've got a very short bed with a dark red sateen
quilt on to which my sheet is buttoned a11 round, a pillow propped up
so high on a wedge stuck under the mattress that I shall sleep sitting
up almost straight, and then as a crowning glory the sack of feathers,
which will do beautifully for holding me down when I'm having a
nightmare. In a corner, with an even greater air of being an
afterthought than the bed, there's a very tiny washstand, and pinned on
the wall behind it over the part of the wallpaper I might splash on
Sunday mornings when I'm supposed really to wash, is a strip of grey
linen with a motto worked on it in blue wool:
Ist Goldes Werth
which is a rhyme if you take it in the proper spirit, and isn't if you
don't. But I love the sentiment, don't you? It seems peculiarly sound
when one is in a room like this in a strange country. And what I'm
here for and am going to work for _is_ an _eigener Heerd_, with you and
me one each side of it warming our happy toes on our very own fender.
Oh, won't it be too lovely, mother darling, to be together again in our
very own home! Able to shut ourselves in, shut our front door in the
face of the world, and just say to the world, "There now."
There's a little looking-glass on a nail up above the _eigener Heerd_
motto, so high that if it hadn't found its match in me I'd only be able
to see my eyebrows in it. As it is, I do see as far as my chin. What
goes on below that I shall never know while I continue to dwell in the
Lutzowstrasse. Outside, a very long way down, for the house has high
rooms right through and I'm at the top, trams pass almost constantly
along the street, clanging their bells. They sound much more
aggressive than other trams I have heard, or else it is because my ears
are tired tonight. There are double windows, though, which will shut
out the noise while I'm practising--and also shut it in. I mean to
practise eight hours every day if Kloster will let me,--twelve if needs
be, so I've made up my mind only to write to you on Sundays; for if I
don't make a stern rule like that I shall be writing to you every day,
and then what would happen to the eight hours? I'm going to start them
tomorrow, and try and get as ready as I can for the great man on
Saturday. I'm fearfully nervous and afraid, for so much depends on it,
and in spite of knowing that somehow from somewhere I've got a kind of
gift for fiddling. Heaven knows where that little bit of luck came
from, seeing that up to now, though you're such a perfect listener, you
haven't developed any particular talent for playing anything, have you
mother darling; and poor Dad positively preferred to be in a room where
music wasn't. Do you remember how he used to say he couldn't think
which end of a violin the noises came out of, and whichever it was he
wished they wouldn't? But what a mercy, what a real mercy and solution
of our difficulties, that I've got this one thing that perhaps I shall
be able to do really well, I do thank God on my knees for this.
There are four other boarders here,--three Germans and one Swede, and
the Swede and two of the Germans are women; and five outside people
come in for the midday dinner every day, all Germans, and four of them
are men. They have what they call _Abonnementskarten_ for their
dinners, so much a month. Frau Berg keeps an Open Midday Table--it is
written up on a board on the street railing--and charges 1 mark 25
pfennigs a dinner if a month's worth of them is taken, and 1 mark 50
pfennigs if they're taken singly. So everybody takes the month's
worth, and it is going to be rather fun, I think. Today I was solemnly
presented to the diners, first collectively by Frau Berg as _Unser
junge englische Gast_, Mees--no, I can't write what she made of
Cholmondeley, but some day I'll pronounce it for you; and really it is
hard on her that her one English guest, who might so easily have been
Evans, or Dobbs, or something easy, should have a name that looks a
yard long and sounds an inch short--and then each of them to me singly
by name. They all made the most beautiful stiff bows. Some of them
are students, I gathered; some, I imagine, are staying here because
they have no homes,--wash-ups on the shores of life; some are clerks
who come in for dinner from their offices near by; and one, the oldest
of the men and the most deferred to, is a lawyer called Doctor
something. I suppose my being a stranger made them silent, for they
were all very silent and stiff, but they'll get used to me quite soon I
expect, for didn't you once rebuke me because everybody gets used to me
much too soon? Being the newest arrival I sat right at the end of the
table in the darkness near the door, and looking along it towards the
light it was really impressive, the concentration, the earnestness, the
thoroughness, the skill, with which the two rows of guests dealt with
things like gravy on their plates,--elusive, mobile things that are not
caught without a struggle. Why, if I can manage to apply myself to
fiddling with half that skill and patience I shall be back home again
in six months!
I'm so sleepy, I must leave off and go to bed. I did sleep this
morning, but only for an hour or two; I was too much excited, I think,
at having really got here to be able to sleep. Now my eyes are
shutting, but I do hate leaving off, for I'm not going to write again
till Sunday, and that is two whole days further ahead, and you know my
precious mother it's the only time I shall feel near you, when I'm
talking to you in letters. But I simply can't keep my eyes open any
longer, so goodnight and good-bye my own blessed one, till Sunday. All
my heart's love to you.
We have supper at eight, and tonight it was cold herrings and fried
potatoes and tea. Do you think after a supper like that I shall be
able to dream of anybody like you?
_Sunday, May 31st, 1914.
I've been dying to write you at least six times a day since I posted my
letter to you the day before yesterday, but rules are rules, aren't
they, especially if one makes them oneself, because then the poor
little things are so very helpless, and have to be protected. I
couldn't have looked myself in the face if I'd started off by breaking
my own rule, but I've been thinking of you and loving you all the
time--oh, so much!
Well, I'm _very_ happy. I'll say that first, so as to relieve your
darling mind. I've seen Kloster, and played to him, and he was
fearfully kind and encouraging. He said very much what Ysaye said in
London, and Joachim when I was little and played my first piece to him
standing on the dining-room table in Eccleston Square and staring
fascinated, while I played, at the hairs of his beard, because I'd
never been as close as that to a beard before. So I've been walking on
clouds with my chin well in the air, as who wouldn't? Kloster is a
little round, red, bald man, the baldest man I've ever seen; quite
bald, with hardly any eyebrows, and clean-shaven as well. He's the
funniest little thing till you join him to a violin, and then--! A
year with him ought to do wonders for me. He says so too; and when I
had finished playing--it was the G minor Bach--you know,--the one with
the fugue beginning:
[Transcriber's note: A Lilypond rendition of the music fragment can be
found at the end of this e-text.]
he solemnly shook hands with me and said--what do you think he
said?--"My Fraulein, when you came in I thought, 'Behold yet one more
well-washed, nice-looking, foolish, rich, nothing-at-all English Mees,
who is going to waste my time and her money with lessons.' I now
perceive that I have to do with an artist. My Fraulein _ich
gratuliere_." And he made me the funniest little solemn bow. I
thought I'd die of pride.
I don't know why he thought me rich, seeing how ancient all my clothes
are, and especially my blue jersey, which is what I put on because I
can play so comfortably in it; except that, as I've already noticed,
people here seem persuaded that everybody English is rich,--anyhow that
they have more money than is good for them. So I told him of our
regrettable financial situation, and said if he didn't mind looking at
my jersey it would convey to him without further words how very
necessary it is that I should make some money. And I told him I had a
mother in just such another jersey, only it is a black one, and
therefore somebody had to give her a new one before next winter, and
there wasn't anybody to do it except me.
He made me another little bow--(he talks English, so I could say a lot
of things)--and he said, "My Fraulein, you need be in no anxiety. Your
Frau Mamma will have her jersey. Those fingers of yours are full of
that which turns instantly into gold."
So now. What do you think of that, my precious one? He says I've got
to turn to and work like a slave, practise with a _sozusagen
verteufelte Unermudlichkeit_, as he put it, and if I rightly develop
what he calls my unusual gift,--(I'm telling you exactly, and you know
darling mother it isn't silly vainness makes me repeat these
things,--I'm past being vain; I'm just bewildered with gratitude that I
should happen to be able to fiddle)--at the end of a year, he declares,
I shall be playing all over Europe and earning enough to make both you
and me never have to think of money again. Which will be a very
blessed state to get to.
You can picture the frame of mind in which I walked down his stairs and
along the Potsdamerstrasse home. I felt I could defy everybody now.
Perhaps that remark will seem odd to you, but having given you such
glorious news and told you how happy I am, I'll not conceal from you
that I've been feeling a little forlorn at Frau Berg's. Lonely. Left
out. Darkly suspecting that they don't like me.
You see, Kloster hadn't been able to have me go to him till yesterday,
which was Saturday, and not then till the afternoon, so that I had had
all Friday and most of Saturday to be at a loose end in, except for
practising, and though I had got here prepared to find everybody very
charming and kind it was somehow gradually conveyed to me, though for
ages I thought it must be imagination, that Frau Berg and the other
boarders and the _Mittagsgaste_ dislike me. Well, I would have
accepted it with a depressed resignation as the natural result of being
unlikeable, and have tried by being pleasanter and pleasanter--wouldn't
it have been a dreadful sight to see me screwing myself up more and
more tightly to an awful pleasantness--to induce them to like me, but
the people in the streets don't seem to like me either. They're not
friendly. In fact they're rude. And the people in the streets can't
really personally dislike me, because they don't know me, so I can't
imagine why they're so horrid.
Of course one's ideal when one is in the streets is to be invisible,
not to be noticed at all. That's the best thing. And the next best is
to be behaved to kindly, with the patient politeness of the London
policemen, or indeed of anybody one asks one's way of in England or
Italy or France. The Berlin man as he passes mutters the word
_Englanderin_ as though it were a curse, or says into one's ear--they
seem fond of saying or rather hissing this, and seem to think it both
crushing and funny,--"_Ros bif_," and the women stare at one all over
and also say to each other _Englanderin_.
You never told me Germans were rude; or is it only in Berlin that they
are, I wonder. After my first expedition exploring through the
Thiergarten and down Unter den Linden to the museums last Friday
between my practisings, I preferred getting lost to asking anybody my
way. And as for the policemen, to whom I naturally turned when I
wanted help, having been used to turning to policemen ever since I can
remember for comfort and guidance, they simply never answered me at
all. They just stood and stared with a sort of mocking. And of course
they understood, for I got my question all ready beforehand. I longed
to hit them,--I who don't ever want to hit anybody, I whom you've so
often reprimanded for being too friendly. But the meekest lamb, a lamb
dripping with milk and honey, would turn into a lion if its polite
approaches were met with such wanton rudeness. I was so indignantly
certain that these people, any of them, policemen or policed, would
have answered the same question with the most extravagant politeness if
I had been an officer, or with an officer. They grovel if an officer
comes along; and a woman with an officer might walk on them if she
wanted to. They were rude simply because I was alone and a woman. And
that being so, though I spoke with the tongue of angels, as St. Paul
saith, and as I as a matter of fact did, if what that means is immense
mellifluousness, it would avail me nothing.
So when I was out, and being made so curiously to feel conspicuous and
disliked, the knowledge that the only alternative was to go back to the
muffled unfriendliness at Frau Berg's did make me feel a little
forlorn. I can tell you now, because of the joy I've had since. I
don't mind any more. I'm raised up and blessed now. Indeed I feel
I've got much more by a long way than my share of good things, and with
what Kloster said hugged secretly to my heart I'm placed outside the
ordinary toiling-moiling that life means for most women who have got to
wring a living out of it without having anything special to wring with.
It's the sheerest, wonderfullest, most radiant luck that I've got this.
Won't I just work. Won't this funny frowning bedroom of mine become a
temple of happiness. I'm going to play Bach to it till it turns
I don't know why I always think of Bach first when I write about music.
I think of him first as naturally when I think of music as I think of
Wordsworth first when I think of poetry. I know neither of them is the
greatest, though Bach is the equal of the greatest, but they are the
ones I love best. What a world it is, my sweetest little mother! It
is so full of beauty. And then there's the hard work that makes
everything taste so good. You have to have the hard work; I've found
that out. I do think it's a splendid world,--full of glory created in
the past and lighting us up while we create still greater glory. One
has only got to shut out the parts of the present one doesn't like, to
see this all clear and feel so happy. I shut myself up in this
bedroom, this ugly dingy bedroom with its silly heavy trappings, and
get out my violin, and instantly it becomes a place of light, a place
full of sound,--shivering with light and sound, the light and sound of
the beautiful gracious things great men felt and thought long ago. Who
cares then about Frau Berg's boarders not speaking to one, and the
Berlin streets and policemen being unkind? Actually I forget the long
miles and hours I am away from you, the endless long miles and hours
that reach from me here to you there, and am happy, oh happy,--so happy
that I could cry out for joy. And so I would, I daresay, if it
wouldn't spoil the music.
There's Wanda coming to tell me dinner is ready. She just bumps the
soup-tureen against my door as she carries it down the passage to the
diningroom, and calls out briefly, "_Essen_."
I'll finish this tonight.
I just want to say goodnight, and tell you, in case you shouldn't have
noticed it, how much your daughter loves you. I mayn't practise on
Sundays, because of the _Hausruhe_, Frau Berg says, and so I have time
to think; and I'm astonished, mother darling, at the emptiness of life
without you. It is as though most of me had somehow got torn off, and
I have to manage as best I can with a fragment. What a good thing I
feel it so much, for so I shall work all the harder to shorten the
time. Hard work is the bridge across which I'll get back to you. You
see, you're the one human being I've got in the world who loves me, the
only one who is really, deeply, interested in me, who minds if I am
hurt and is pleased if I am happy. That's a watery word,--pleased; I
should have said exults. It is so wonderful, your happiness in my
being happy,--so touching. I'm all melted with love and gratitude when
I think of it, and of the dear way you let me do this, come away here
and realize my dream of studying with Kloster, when you knew it meant
for you such a long row of dreary months alone. Forgive me if I sound
sentimental. I know you will, so I needn't bother to ask. That's what
I so love about you,--you always understand, you never mind. I can
talk to you; and however idiotic I am, and whatever sort of a
fool,--blind, unkind, ridiculous, obstinate or wilful--take your
choice, little sweet mother, you'll remember occasions that were
fitted by each of these--you look at me with those shrewd sweet eyes
that always somehow have a laugh in them, and say some little thing
that shows you are brushing aside all the ugly froth of nonsense,
and are intelligently and with perfect detachment searching for the
reason. And having found the reason you understand and forgive; for
of course there always _is_ a reason when ordinary people, not born
fiends, are disagreeable. I'm sure that's why we've been so happy
together,--because you've never taken anything I've done or said that
was foolish or unkind personally. You've always known it was just so
much irrelevant rubbish, just an excrescence, a passing sickness;
never, never your real Chris who loves you.
Good-bye, my own blessed mother. It's long past bedtime. Tomorrow I'm
to have my first regular lesson with Kloster. And tomorrow I ought to
get a letter from you. You will take care of yourself, won't you? You
wouldn't like me to be anxious all this way off, would you? Anxious,
and not sure?
_Berlin, Tuesday, June 2nd, 1914_.
Darling mother, I've just got your two letters, two lovely long ones at
once, and I simply can't wait till next Sunday to tell you how I
rejoiced over them, so I'm going to squander 20 pfennigs just on that.
I'm not breaking my rule and writing on a day that isn't Sunday,
because I'm not really writing. This isn't a letter, it's a kiss. How
glad I am you're so well and getting on so comfortably. And I'm well
and happy too, because I'm so busy,--you can't think how busy. I'm
working harder than I've ever done in my life, and Kloster is pleased
with me. So now that I've had letters from you there seems very little
left in the world to want, and I go about on the tips of my toes.
Good-bye my beloved one, till Sunday.
Oh, I must just tell you that at my lesson yesterday I played the Ernst
F sharp minor concerto,---the virtuoso, firework thing, you know, with
Kloster putting in bits of the orchestra part on the piano every now
and then because he wanted to see what I could do in the way of
gymnastics. He laughed when I had finished, and patted my shoulder,
and said, "Very good acrobatics. Now we will do no more of them. We
will apply ourselves to real music." And he said I was to play him
what I could of the Bach Chaconne.
I was so happy, little mother. Kloster leading me about among the
wonders of Bach, was like being taken by the hand by some great angel
and led through heaven.
_Berlin, Sunday, June 7th, 1914_.
On Sunday mornings, darling mother, directly I wake I remember it is my
day for being with you. I can hardly be patient with breakfast, and
the time it takes to get done with those thick cups of coffee that are
so thick that, however deftly I drink, drops always trickle down what
would be my beard if I had one. And I choke over the rolls, and I
spill things in my hurry to run away and talk to you. I got another
letter from you yesterday, and Hilda Seeberg, a girl boarding here and
studying painting, said when she met me in the passage after I had been
reading it in my room, "You have had a letter from your _Frau Mutter,
nicht_?" So you see your letters shine in my face.
Don't be afraid I won't take enough exercise. I go for an immense walk
directly after dinner every day, a real quick hot one through the
Thiergarten. The weather is fine, and Berlin I suppose is at its best,
but I don't think it looks very nice after London. There's no mystery
about it, no atmosphere; it just blares away at you. It has everything
in it that a city ought to have,--public buildings, statues, fountains,
parks, broad streets; and it is about as comforting and lovable as the
latest thing in workhouses. It looks disinfected; it has just that
kind of rather awful cleanness.
At dinner they talk of its beauty and its perfections till I nearly go
to sleep. You know how oddly sleepy one gets when one isn't
interested. They've left off being silent now, and have gone to the
other extreme, and from not talking to me at all have jumped to talking
to me all together. They tell me over and over again that I'm in the
most beautiful city in the world. You never knew such eagerness and
persistence as these German boarders have when it comes to praising
what is theirs, and also when it comes to criticizing what isn't
theirs. They're so funny and personal. They say, for instance, London
is too hideous for words, and then they look at me defiantly, as though
they had been insulting some personal defect of mine and meant to
brazen it out. They point out the horrors of the slums to me as though
the slums were on my face. They tell me pityingly what they look like,
what terrible blots and deformities they are, and how I--they say
England, but no one could dream from their manner that it wasn't
me--can never hope to be regarded as fit for self-respecting European
society while these spots and sore places are not purged away.
The other day they assured me that England as a nation is really unfit
for any decent other nation to know politically, but they added, with
stiff bows in my direction, that sometimes the individual inhabitant of
that low-minded and materialistic country is not without amiability,
especially if he or she is by some miracle without the lofty,
high-nosed manner that as a rule so regrettably characterizes the
unfortunate people. "_Sie sind so hochnasig_," the bank clerk who sits
opposite me had shouted out, pointing an accusing finger at me; and for
a moment I was so startled that I thought something disastrous had
happened to my nose, and my anxious hand flew up to it. Then they
laughed; and it was after that that they made the speech conceding
individual amiability here and there.
I sit neatly in my chair while this sort of talk goes on--and it goes
on at every meal now that they have got over the preliminary stage of
icy coldness towards me--and I try to be sprightly, and bandy my six
German words about whenever they seem appropriate. Imagine your poor
Chris trying to be sprightly with eleven Germans--no, ten Germans, for
the eleventh is a Swede and doesn't say anything. And the ten Germans,
including Frau Berg, all fix their eyes reproachfully on me while as
one man they tell me how awful my country is. Do people in London
boarding houses tell the German boarders how awful Germany is, I
wonder? I don't believe they do. And I wish they would leave me alone
about the Boer war. I've tried to explain my extreme youth at the time
it was going on, but they still appear to hold me directly responsible
for it. The fingers that have been pointed at me down that table on
account of the Boer war! They raise them at me, and shake them, and
tell me of the terrible things the English did, and when I ask them how
they know, they say it was in the newspapers; and when I ask them what
newspapers, they say theirs; and when I ask them how they know it was
true, they say they know because it was in the newspapers. So there we
are, stuck. I take to English when the worst comes to the worst, and
they flounder in after me.
It is the funniest thing, their hostility to England, and the queer,
reluctant, and yet passionate admiration that goes With it. It is like
some girl who can't get a man she admires very much to notice her. He
stays indifferent, while she gets more exasperated the more indifferent
he stays; exasperated with the bitterness of thwarted love. One day at
dinner, when they had all been thumping away at me, this flashed across
me as the explanation, and I exclaimed in English, "Why, you're in love
Twenty round eyes stared at me, sombrely at first, not understanding,
and then with horror slowly growing in them.
"In love with you? In love with England?" cried Frau Berg, the carving
knife suspended in the air while she stared at me. "_Nein, aber so
was_!" And she let down her heavy fists, knife and all, with a thud on
I thought I had best stand up to them, having started off so
recklessly, and tried to lash myself into bravery by remembering how
full I was of the blood of all the Cholmondeleys, let alone those
relations of yours alleged to have fought alongside the Black Prince;
so though I wished there were several of me rather than only one, I
said with courage and obstinacy, "Passionately."
You can't think how seriously they took it. They all talked at once,
very loud. They were all extremely angry. I wished I had kept quiet,
for I couldn't elaborate my idea in my limping German, and it was quite
difficult to go on smiling and behaving as though they were all not
being rude, for I don't think they mean to be rude, and I was afraid,
if I showed a trace of thinking they were that they might notice they
were, and then they would have felt so uncomfortable, and the situation
would have become, as they say, _peinlich_.
Four of the Daily Dinner Guests are men, and one of the boarders is a
man; and these five men and Frau Berg were the vociferous ones. They
exclaimed things like "_Nein, so was_!" and, "_Diese englische
Hochmut_!" and single words like _unerhort_; and then one of them
called Herr Doctor Krummlaut, who is a lawyer and a widower and much
esteemed by the rest, detached himself from them and made me a
carefully patient speech, in which he said how sorry they all were to
see so young and gifted a lady,--(he bowed, and I bowed)--oh yes, he
said, raising his hand as though to ward off any modest objections I
might be going to make, only I wasn't going to make any, he had heard
that I was undoubtedly gifted, and not only gifted but also, he would
not be deterred from saying, and he felt sure his colleagues at the
table would not be deterred from saying either if they were in his
place, a lady of personal attractions,--(he bowed and I bowed,)--how
sorry they all were to see a young Fraulein with these advantages,
filled at the same time with opinions and views that were not only
highly unsuitable to her sex but were also, in any sex, so terribly
wrong. Every lady, he said, should have some knowledge of history, and
sufficient acquaintance with the three kinds of politics,--_Politik_,
_Weltpolitik_, and _Realpolitik_, to enable her to avoid wrong and
frivolous conclusions such as the one the young Fraulein had just
informed them she had reached, and to listen intelligently to her
husband or son when they discuss these matters. He said a great deal
more, about a woman knowing these things just enough but not too well,
for her intelligence must not be strained because of her supreme
function of being the cradle of the race; and the cradle part of her, I
gather, isn't so useful if she is allowed to develop the other part of
her beyond what is necessary for making an agreeable listener.
It was no use even trying to explain what I had meant about Germany
really being in love with England, because I hadn't got words enough;
but that is exactly the impression I've received from my brief
experiences of one corner of its life. In this small corner of it,
anyhow, it behaves exactly like a woman who is so unlucky as to love
somebody who doesn't care about her. She naturally, I imagine,--for I
can only guess at these enslavements,--is very much humiliated and
angry, and all the more because the loved and hated one--isn't it
possible to love and hate at the same time, little mother? I can
imagine it quite well--is so indifferent as to whether she loves or
hates. And whichever she does, he is polite,--"Always gentleman," as
the Germans say. Which is, naturally, maddening.
Do you know I wrote to you the whole morning? I wrote and wrote, with
no idea how time was passing, and was astonished and indignant, for I
haven't half told you all I want to, when I was called to dinner. It
seemed like shutting a door on you and leaving you outside without any
dinner, to go away and have it without you.
If it weren't for its being my day with you I don't know what I'd do
with Sundays. I would hate them. I'm not allowed to play on Sundays,
because practising is forbidden on that day, and, as Frau Berg said,
how is she to know if I am practising or playing? Besides, it would
disturb the others, which of course is true, for they all rest on
Sundays, getting up late, sleeping after dinner, and not going out till
they have had coffee about five. Today, when I hoped they had all gone
out, I had such a longing to play a little that I muted my strings and
played to myself in a whisper what I could remember of a very beautiful
thing of Ravel's that Kloster showed me the other day,--the most
haunting, exquisite thing; and I hummed the weird harmonies as I went
along, because they are what is so particularly wonderful about it.
Well, it really was a whisper, and I had to bend my head right over the
violin to hear it at all whenever a tram passed, yet in five minutes
Frau Berg appeared, unbuttoned and heated from her _Mittagsruhe_, and
requested me to have some consideration for others as well as for the
I was very much ashamed of myself, besides feeling as though I were
fifteen and caught at school doing something wicked. I didn't mind not
having consideration for the day, because I think Ravel being played on
it can't do Sunday anything but good, but I did mind having disturbed
the other people in the flat. I could only say I was sorry, and
wouldn't do it again,--just like an apologetic schoolgirl. But what do
you think I wanted to do, little mother? Run to Frau Berg, and put my
arms round her neck, and tell her I was lonely and wanting you, and
would she mind just pretending she was fond of me for a moment? She
did look so comfortable and fat and kind, standing there filling up the
doorway, and she wasn't near enough for me to see her eyes, and it is
her eyes that make one not want to run to her.
But of course I didn't run. I knew too well that she wouldn't
understand. And indeed I don't know why I should have felt such a
longing to run into somebody's arms. Perhaps it was because writing to
you brings you so near to me that I realize how far away you are.
During the week I work, and while I work I forget; and there's the
excitement of my lessons, and the joy of hearing Kloster appreciate and
encourage. But on Sundays the day is all you, and then I feel what
months can mean when they have to be lived through each in turn and day
by day before one gets back to the person one loves. Why are you so
dear, my darling mother? If you were an ordinary mother I'd be so much
more placid. I wouldn't mind not being with an ordinary mother. When
I look at other people's mothers I think I'd rather like not being with
them. But having known what it is to live in love and understanding
with you, it wants a great deal of persistent courage, the sort that
goes on steadily with no intervals, to make one able to do without it.
Now please don't think I am fretting, will you, because I'm not. It's
only that I love you. We're such _friends_. You always understand,
you are never shocked. I can say whatever comes into my head to you.
It is as good as saying one's prayers. One never stops in those to
wonder whether one is shocking God, and that is what one loves God
for,--because we suppose he always understands, and therefore forgives;
and how much more--is this very wicked?--one loves one's mother who
understands, because, you see, there she is, and one can kiss her as
well. There's a great virtue in kissing, I think; an amazing comfort
in just _touching_ the person one loves. Goodnight, most blessed
little mother, and good-bye for a week. Your Chris.
Perhaps I might write a little note--not a letter, just a little
note,--on Wednesdays? What do you think? It would be nothing more,
really, than a postcard, except that it would be in an envelope.
_Berlin, Sunday, June 14th, 1914_.
Well, I didn't write on Wednesday, I resisted. (Good morning, darling
mother.) I knew quite well it wouldn't be a postcard, or anything even
remotely related to the postcard family. It would be a letter. A long
letter. And presently I'd be writing every day, and staying all soft;
living in the past, instead of getting on with my business, which is
the future. That is what I've got to do at this moment: not think too
much of you and home, but turn my face away from both those sweet,
desirable things so that I may get back to them quicker. It's true we
haven't got a home, if a home is a house and furniture; but home to
your Chris is where you are. Just simply anywhere and everywhere you
are. It's very convenient, isn't it, to have it so much concentrated
and so movable. Portable, I might say, seeing how little you are and
how big I am.
But you know, darling mother, it makes it easier for me to harden and
look ahead with my chin in the air rather than over my shoulder back at
you when I see, as I do see all day long, the extreme sentimentality of
the Germans. It is very surprising. They're the oddest mixture of
what really is a brutal hardness, the kind of hardness that springs
from real fundamental differences from ours in their attitude towards
life, and a squashiness that leaves one with one's mouth open. They
can't bear to let a single thing that has happened to them ever,
however many years ago, drop away into oblivion and die decently in its
own dust. They hold on to it, and dig it out that day year and that
day every year, for years apparently,--I expect for all their lives.
When they leave off really feeling about it--which of course they do,
for how can one go on feeling about a thing forever?--they start
pretending that they feel. Conceive going through life clogged like
that, all one's pores choked with the dust of old yesterdays. I
picture the Germans trailing through life more and more heavily as they
grow old, hauling an increasing number of anniversaries along with
them, rolling them up as they go, dragging at each remove a lengthening
chain, as your dear Goldsmith says,--and if he didn't, or it wasn't,
you'll rebuke me and tell me who did and what it was, for you know I've
no books here, except those two that are married as securely on one's
tongue as Tennyson and Browning, or Arnold Bennet and his, I imagine
reluctant, bride, H. G. Wells,--I mean Shakespeare and the Bible.
I went into Hilda Seeberg's room the other day to ask her for some
pins, and found her sitting in front of a photograph of her father, a
cross-looking old man with a twirly moustache and a bald head; and she
had put a wreath of white roses round the frame and tied it with a
black bow, and there were two candles lit in front of it, and Hilda had
put on a black dress, and was just sitting there gazing at it with her
hands in her lap. I begged her pardon, and was going away again
quickly, but she called me back.
"I celebrate," she said.
"Oh," said I politely, but without an idea what she meant.
"It is my Papa's birthday today," she said, pointing to the photograph.
"Is it?" I said, surprised, for I thought I remembered she had told me
he was dead. "But didn't you say--"
"Yes. Certainly I told you Papa was dead since five years."
"But _liebes Fraulein_, he still continues to have birthdays," she
said, staring at me in real surprise, while I stared back at her in at
least equally real surprise.
"Every year," she said, "the day comes round on which Papa was born.
Shall he, then, merely because he is with God, not have it celebrated?
And what would people think if I did not? They would think I had no
After that I began to hope there would be a cake, for they have lovely
birthday cakes here, and it is the custom to give a slice of them to
every one who comes near you. So I looked round the room out of the
corners of my eyes, discreetly, lest I should seem to be as greedy as I
was, and I lifted my nose a little and waved it cautiously about, but I
neither saw nor smelt a cake. Frau Berg had a birthday three days ago,
and there was a heavenly cake at it, a great flat thing with cream in
it, that one loved so that first one wanted to eat it and then to sit
on it and see all the cream squash out at the sides; but evidently the
cake is the one thing you don't have for your birthday after you are
dead. I don't want to laugh, darling mother, and I know well enough
what it is to lose one's beloved Dad, but you see Hilda had shown me
her family photographs only the other day, for we are making friends in
a sort of flabby, hesitating way, and when she got to the one of her
father she said with perfect frankness that she hadn't liked him, and
that it had been an immense relief when he died. "He prevented my
doing anything," she said, frowning at the photograph, "except that
which increased his comforts."
I asked Kloster about anniversaries when I went for my lesson on
Friday. He is a very human little man, full of sympathy,---the sort of
comprehending sympathy that laughs and understands together, yet his
genius seems to detach him from other Germans, for he criticizes them
with a dispassionate thoroughness that is surprising. The remarks he
makes about the Kaiser, for instance, whom he irreverently alludes to
as S. M.--(short and rude for _Seine Majestat_)--simply make me shiver
in this country of _lese majeste_. In England, where we can say what
we like, I have never heard anybody say anything disrespectful about
the King. Here, where you go to prison if you laugh even at officials,
even at a policeman, at anything whatever in buttons, for that is the
punishable offence of Beamtenbeleidigung--haven't they got heavenly
words--Kloster and people I have come across in his rooms say what they
like; and what they like is very rude indeed about that sacred man the
Kaiser, who doesn't appear to be at all popular. But then Kloster
belongs to the intelligents, and his friends are all people of
intelligence, and that sort of person doesn't care very much, I think,
for absolute monarchs. Kloster says they're anachronisms, that the
world is too old for them, too grown-up for pretences and decorations.
And when I went for my lesson on Friday I found his front door wreathed
with evergreens and paper flowers,--pretences and decorations crawling
even round Kloster--and I went in very reluctantly, not knowing what
sort of a memorial celebration I was going to tumble into. But it was
only that his wife--I didn't know he had a wife, he seemed altogether
so happily unmarried--was coming home. She had been away for three
weeks; not nearly long enough, you and I and others of our
self-depreciatory and self-critical country would think, to deserve an
evergreen garland round our door on coming back. He laughed when I
told him I had been afraid to come in lest I should disturb
"We are still so near, my dear Mees Chrees," he said, shrugging a fat
shoulder--he asked me what I was called at home, and I said you called
me Chris, and he said he would, with my permission, also call me
Chrees, but with Mees in front of it to show that though he desired to
be friendly he also wished to remain respectful--"we are still so near
as a nation to the child and to the savage. To the clever child, and
the powerful savage. We like simple and gross emotions and plenty of
them; obvious tastes in our food and our pleasures, and a great deal of
it; fat in our food, and fat in our women. And, like the child, when
we mourn we mourn to excess, and enjoy ourselves in that excess; and,
like the savage, we are afraid, and therefore hedge ourselves about
with observances, celebrations, cannon, kings. In no other country is
there more than one king. In ours we find three and an emperor
necessary. The savage who fears all things does not fear more than we
Germans. We fear other nations, we fear other people, we fear public
opinion to an extent incredible, and tremble before the opinion of our
servants and tradespeople; we fear our own manners and therefore are
obliged to preserve the idiotic practice of duelling, in which as often
as not the man whose honour is being satisfied is the one who is
killed; we fear all those above us, of whom there are invariably a
great many; we fear all officials, and our country drips with
officials. The only person we do not fear is God."
"But--" I began, remembering their motto, bestowed on them by Bismarck,
"Yes, yes, I know," he interrupted. "It is not, however, true. The
contrary is the truth. We Germans fear not God, but everything else in
the world. It is only fear that makes us polite, fear of the duel;
for, like the child and the savage, we have not had time to acquire the
habit of good manners, the habit which makes manners inevitable and
invariable, and it is not natural to us to be polite. We are polite
only by the force of fear. Consequently--for all men must have their
relaxations--whenever we meet the weak, the beneath us, the momentarily
helpless, we are brutal. It is an immense relief to be for a moment
natural. Every German welcomes even the smallest opportunity."
You would be greatly interested in Kloster, I'm certain. He sits
there, his fiddle on his fat little knees, his bow punctuating his
sentences with quivers and raps, his shiny bald head reflecting the
light from the window behind him, and his eyes coming very much out of
his face, which is excessively red. He looks like an amiable prawn;
not in the least like a person with an active and destructive mind, not
in the least like a great musician. He has the very opposite of the
bushy eyebrows and overhanging forehead and deep set eyes and lots of
hair you're supposed to have if you've got much music in you. He came
over to me the other day after I had finished playing, and stretched
up--he's a good bit smaller than I am--and carefully drew his finger
along my eyebrows, each in turn. I couldn't think what he was doing.
"My finger is clean, Mees Chrees," he said, seeing me draw back. "I
have just wiped it, Be not, therefore, afraid. But you have the real
Beethoven brow--the very shape--and I must touch it. I regret if it
incommodes you, but I must touch it. I have seen no such resemblance
to the brow of the Master. You might be his child."
I needn't tell you, darling mother, that I went back to the boarders
and the midday guests not minding them much. If I only could talk
German properly I would have loved to have leant across the table to
Herr Mannfried, an unwholesome looking young man who comes in to dinner
every day from a bank in the Potsdamerstrasse, and is very full of that
hatred which is really passion for England, and has pale hair and a
mouth exactly like two scarlet slugs--I'm sorry to be so horrid, but it
_is_ like two scarlet slugs--and said,--"Have you noticed that I have a
_Beethovenkopf_? What do you think of me, an _Englanderin_, having
such a thing? One of your own great men says so, so it must be true."
We are studying the Bach Chaconne now. He is showing me a different
reading of it, his idea. He is going to play it at the Philarmonie
here next week. I wish you could hear him. He was intending to go to
London this season and play with a special orchestra of picked players,
but has changed his mind. I asked him why, and he shrugged his
shoulder and said his agent, who arranges these things, seemed to think
he had better not. I asked him why again--you know my persistency--for
I can't conceive why it should be better not for London to have such a
joy and for him to give it, but he only shrugged his shoulder again,
and said he always did what his agent told him to do. "My agent knows
his business, my dear Mees Chrees," he said. "I put my affairs in his
hands, and having done so I obey him. It saves trouble. Obedience is
a comfortable thing."
"Then why--" I began, remembering the things he says about kings and
masters and persons in authority; but he picked up his violin and began
to play a bit. "See," he said, "this is how--"
And when he plays I can only stand and listen. It is like a spell.
One stands there, and forgets. . . .
I've been reading your last darling letter again, so full of love, so
full of thought for me, out in a corner of the Thiergarten this
afternoon, and I see that while I'm eagerly writing and writing to you,
page after page of the things I want to tell you, I forget to tell you
the things you want to know. I believe I never answer _any_ of your
questions! It's because I'm so all right, so comfortable as far as my
body goes, that I don't remember to say so. I have heaps to eat, and
it is very satisfying food, being German, and will make me grow
sideways quite soon, I should think, for Frau Berg fills us up daily
with dumplings, and I'm certain they must end by somehow showing; and I
haven't had a single cold since I've been here, so I'm outgrowing them
at last; and I'm not sitting up late reading,--I couldn't if I tried,
for Wanda, the general servant, who is general also in her person
rather than particular--aren't I being funny--comes at ten o'clock each
night on her way to bed and takes away my lamp.
"Rules," said Frau Berg briefly, when I asked if it wasn't a little
early to leave me in the dark. "And you are not left in the dark.
Have I not provided a candle and matches for the chance infirmities of
But the candle is cheap and dim, so I don't sit up trying to read by
that. I preserve it wholly for the infirmities.
I've been in the Thiergarten most of the afternoon, sitting in a green
corner I found where there is some grass and daisies down by a pond and
away from a path, and accordingly away from the Sunday crowds. I
watched the birds, and read the Winter's Tale, and picked some daisies,
and felt very happy. The daisies are in a saucer before me at this
moment. Everything smelt so good,--so warm, and sweet, and young, with
the leaves on the oaks still little and delicate. Life is an admirable
arrangement, isn't it, little mother. It is so clever of it to have a
June in every year and a morning in every day, let alone things like
birds, and Shakespeare, and one's work. You've sometimes told me, when
I was being particularly happy, that there were even greater happiness
ahead for me,--when I have a lover, you said; when I have a husband;
when I have a child. I suppose you know, my wise, beloved mother; but
the delight of work, of doing the work well that one is best fitted
for, will be very hard to beat. It is an exultation, a rapture, that
manifest progress to better and better results through one's own
effort. After all, being obliged on Sundays to do nothing isn't so
bad, because then I have time to think, to step back a little and look
See what a quiet afternoon sunning myself among daisies has done for
me. A week ago I was measuring the months to be got through before
being with you again, in dismay. Now I feel as if I were very happily
climbing up a pleasant hill, just steep enough to make me glad I can
climb well, and all the way is beautiful and safe, and on the top there
is you. To get to the top will be perfect joy, but the getting there
is very wonderful too. You'll judge, from all this that I've had a
happy week, that work is going well, and that I'm hopeful and
confident. I mustn't be too confident, I know, but confidence is a
great thing to work on. I've never done anything good on days of
Goodnight, dear mother. I feel so close to you tonight, just as if you
were here in the room with me, and I had only to put out my finger and
touch Love. I don't believe there's much in this body business. It is
only spirit that matters really; and nothing can stop your spirit and
mine being together.
Still, a body is a great comfort when it comes to wanting to kiss one's
_Berlin, Sunday, June 2lst, 1914_.
My precious mother,
The weeks fly by, full of work and _Weltpolitik_. They talk of nothing
here at meals but this _Weltpolitik_. I've just been having a dose of
it at breakfast. To say that the boarders are interested in it is to
speak feebly: they blaze with interest, they explode with it, they
scorch and sizzle. And they are so pugnacious! Not to each other, for
contrary to the attitude at Kloster's they are knit together by the
toughest band of uncritical and obedient admiration for everything
German, but they are pugnacious to the Swede girl and myself.
Especially to myself. There is a holy calm about the Swede girl that
nothing can disturb. She has an enviable gift for getting on with her
meals and saying nothing. I wish I had it. Directly I have learned a
new German word I want to say it. I accumulate German words every day,
of course, and there's something in my nature and something in the way
I'm talked at and to at Frau Berg's table that makes me want to say all
the words I've got as quickly as possible. And as I can't string them
into sentences my conversation consists of single words, which produce
a very odd effect, quite unintended, of detached explosions. When I've
come to the end of them I take to English, and the boarders plunge in
after me, and swim or drown in it according to their several ability.
It's queer, the atmosphere here,--in this house, in the streets,
wherever one goes. They all seem to be in a condition of tension--of
intense, tightly-strung waiting, very like that breathless expectancy
in the last act of "Tristan" when Isolde's ship is sighted and all the
violins hang high up on to a shrill, intolerably eager note. There's a
sort of fever. And the big words! I thought Germans were stolid,
quiet people. But how they talk! And always in capital letters. They
talk in tremendous capitals about what they call the _deutscke
Standpunkt_; and the _deutsche Standpunkt_ is the most wonderful thing
you ever came across. Butter wouldn't melt in its mouth. It is too
great and good, almost, they give one to understand, for a world so far
behind in high qualities to appreciate. No other people has anything
approaching it. As far as I can make out, stripped of its decorations
its main idea is that what Germans do is right and what other people do
is wrong. Even when it is exactly the same thing. And also, that
wrong becomes right directly it has anything to do with Germans. Not
with _a_ German. The individual German can and does commit every sort
of wrong, just as other individuals do in other countries, and he gets
punished for them with tremendous harshness; Kloster says with
unfairness. But directly he is in the plural and becomes _Wir
Deutschen_, as they are forever saying, his crimes become virtues. As
a body he purifies, he has a purging quality. Today they were saying
at breakfast that if a crime is big enough, if it is on a grand scale,
it leaves off being a crime, for then it is a success, and success is
always virtue,--that is, I gather, if it is a German success; if it is
a French one it is an outrage. You mustn't rob a widow, for instance,
they said, because that is stupid; the result is small and you may be
found out and be cut by your friends. But you may rob a great many
widows and it will be a successful business deal. No one will say
anything, because you have been clever and successful.
I know this view is not altogether unknown in other countries, but they
don't hold it deliberately as a whole nation. Among other things that
Hilda Seeberg's father did which roused her unforgiveness was just
this,--to rob too few widows, come to grief over it, and go bankrupt
for very little. She told me about it in an outburst of dark
confidence. Just talking of it made her eyes black with anger. It was
so terrible, she said, to smash for a small amount,--such an
overwhelming shame for the Seeberg family, whose poverty thus became
apparent and unhideable. If one smashes, she said, one does it for
millions, otherwise one doesn't smash. There is something so chic
about millions, she said, that whether you make them or whether you
lose them you are equally well thought-of and renowned.
"But it is better to--well, disappoint few widows than many," I
suggested, picking my words.
"For less than a million marks," she said, eyeing me sternly, "it is a
disgrace to fail."
They're funny, aren't they. I'm greatly interested. They remind me
more and more of what Kloster says they are, clever children. They
have the unmoral quality of children. I listen--they treat me as if I
were the audience, and they address themselves in a bunch to my
corner--and I put in one of my words now and then, generally with an
unfortunate effect, for they talk even louder after that, and then
presently the men get up and put their heels together and make a stiff
inclusive bow and disappear, and Frau Berg folds up her napkin and
brushes the crumbs out of her creases and says, "_Ja, ja_," with a
sigh, as a sort of final benediction on the departed conversation, and
then rises slowly and locks up the sugar, and then treads heavily away
down the passage and has a brief skirmish in the kitchen with Wanda,
who daily tries to pretend there hadn't been any pudding left over, and
then treads heavily back again to her bedroom, and shuts herself in
till four o'clock for her _Mittagsruhe_; and the other boarders drift
away one by one, and I run out for a walk to get unstiffened after
having practised all the morning, and as I walk I think over what
they've been saying, and try to see things from their angle, and simply
On Tuesdays and Fridays I have my lesson, and tell Kloster about them.
He says they're entirely typical of the great bulk of the nation.
"_Wir Deutschen_," he says, and laughs, "are the easiest people in the
world to govern, because we are obedient and inflammable. We have that
obedience of mind so convenient to Authority, and we are inflammable
because we are greedy. Any prospect held out to us of getting
something belonging to some one else sets us instantly alight. Dangle
some one else's sausage before our eyes, and we will go anywhere after
it. Wonderful material for S. M." And he adds a few irreverences.
Last Wednesday was his concert at the Philarmonie. He played like an
angel. It was so strange, the fat, red, more than commonplace-looking
little bald man, with his quite expressionless face, his wilfully
stupid face--for I believe he does it on purpose, that blankness, that
bulgy look of one who never thinks and only eats--and then the heavenly
music. It was as strange and arresting as that other mixture, that
startling one of the men who sell flowers in the London streets and the
flowers they sell. What does it look like, those poor ragged men
shuffling along the kerb, and in their arms, rubbing against their
dirty shoulders, great baskets of beauty, baskets heaped up with
charming aristocrats, gracious and delicate purities of shape and
colour and scent. The strangest effect of all is when they happen,
round about Easter, to be selling only lilies, and the unearthly purity
of the lilies shines on the passersby from close to the seller's
terrible face. Christ must often have looked like that, when he sat
close up to Pharisees.
But although Kloster's music was certainly as beautiful as the lilies,
he himself wasn't like those tragic sellers. It was only that he was
so very ordinary,--a little man compact, apparently, of grossness, and
the music he was making was so divine. It was that marvellous French
and Russian stuff. I must play it to you, and play it to you, till you
love it. It's like nothing there has ever been. It is of an exquisite
youth,--untouched, fearless, quite heedless of tradition, going its own
way straight through and over difficulties and prohibitions that for
centuries have been supposed final. People like Wagner and Strauss and
the rest seem so much sticky and insanitary mud next to these exquisite
young ones, and so very old; and not old and wonderful like the great
men, Beethoven and Bach and Mozart, but uglily old like a noisy old
lady in a yellow wig.
The audience applauded, but wasn't quite sure. Such a master as
Kloster, and one of their own flesh and blood, is always applauded, but
I think the irregularity, the utter carelessness of the music, its
apparently accidental beauty, was difficult for them. Germans have to
have beauty explained to them and accounted for,--stamped first by an
official, authorized, before they can be comfortable with it. I sat in
a corner and cried, it was so lovely. I couldn't help it. I hid away
and pulled my hat over my face and tried not to, for there was a German
in eyeglasses near me, who, perceiving I wanted to hide, instantly
spent his time staring at me to find out why. The music held all
things in it that I have known or guessed, all the beauty, the wonder,
of life and death and love. I _recognised_ it. I almost called out,
"Yes--of course--_I_ know that too."
Afterwards I would have liked best to go home and to sleep with the
sound of it still in my heart, but Kloster sent round a note saying I
was to come to supper and meet some people who would be useful for me
to know. One of his pupils, who brought the note, had been ordered to
pilot me safely to the house, it being late, and as we walked and
Kloster drove in somebody's car he was there already when we arrived,
busy opening beer bottles and looking much more appropriate than he had
done an hour earlier. I can't tell you how kindly he greeted me, and
with what charming little elucidatory comments he presented me to his
wife and the other guests. He actually seemed proud of me. Think how
I must have glowed.
"This is Mees Chrees," he said, taking my hand and leading me into the
middle of the room. "I will not and cannot embark on her family name,
for it is one of those English names that a prudent man avoids. Nor
does it matter. For in ten years--nay, in five--all Europe will have
learned it by heart."
There were about a dozen people, and we had beer and sandwiches and
were very happy. Kloster sat eating sandwiches and staring
benevolently at us all, more like an amiable and hospitable prawn than
ever. You don't know, little mother, how wonderful it is that he
should say these praising things of me, for I'm told by other pupils
that he is dreadfully severe and disagreeable if he doesn't think one
is getting on. It was immensely kind of him to ask me to supper, for
there was somebody there, a Grafin Koseritz, whose husband is in the
ministry, and who is herself very influential and violently interested
in music. She pulls most of the strings at Bayreuth, Kloster says,
more of them even than Frau Cosima now that she is old, and gets one
into anything she likes if she thinks one is worth while. She was very
amiable and gracious, and told me I must marry a German! Because, she
said, all good music is by rights, by natural rights, the property of
I wanted to say what about Debussy, and Ravel, and Stravinski, but I
She said how much she enjoyed these informal evenings at Kloster's, and
that she had a daughter about my age who was devoted, too, to music,
and a worshipper of Kloster's.
I asked if she was there, for there was a girl away in a corner, but
she looked shocked, and said "Oh no"; and after a pause she said again,
"Oh no. One doesn't bring one's daughter here."
"But I'm a daughter." I said,--I admit tactlessly; and she skimmed away
over that to things that sounded wise but weren't really, about violins
and the technique of fiddling.
Not that I haven't already felt it, the cleavage here in the classes;
but this was my first experience of the real thing, the real Junker
lady--the Koseritzes are Prussians. She, being married and mature, can
dabble if she likes in other sets, can come down as a bright patroness
from another world and clean her feathers in a refreshing mud bath, as
Kloster put it, commenting on his supper party at my lesson last
Friday; but she would carefully keep her young daughter out of it.
They made me play after supper. Actually Kloster brought out his Strad
and said I should play on that. It was evident he thought it important
for me to play to these particular people, so though I was dreadfully
taken aback and afraid I was going to disgrace my master, I was so much
touched by this kindness and care for my future that I obeyed without a
word. I played the Kreutzer Sonata, and an officer played the
accompaniment, a young man who looked so fearfully smart and correct
and wooden that I wondered why he was there till he began to play, and
then I knew; and as soon as I started I forgot the people sitting round
so close to me, so awkwardly and embarrassingly near. The Strad
fascinated me. It seemed to be playing by itself, singing to me,
telling me strange and beautiful secrets. I stood there just listening
They were all very kind and enthusiastic, and talked eagerly to each
other of a new star, a _trouvaille_. Think of your Chris, only the
other day being put in a corner by you in just expiation of her
offensiveness--it really feels as if it were yesterday--think of her
being a new, or anything else, star! But I won't be too proud, because
people are always easily kind after supper, and besides they had been
greatly stirred all the evening at the concert by Kloster's playing.
He was pleased too, and said some encouraging and delightful things.
The Junker lady was very kind, and asked me to lunch with her, and I'm
going tomorrow. The young man who played the accompaniment bowed,
clicked his heels together, caught up my hand, and kissed it. He
didn't say anything. Kloster says he is passionately devoted to music,
and so good at it that he would easily have been a first-rate musician
if he hadn't happened to have been born a Junker, and therefore has to
be an officer. It's a tragedy, apparently, for Kloster says he hates
soldiering, and is ill if he is kept away long from music. He went
away soon after that.
Grafin Koseritz brought me back in her car and dropped me at Frau
Berg's on her way home. She lives in the Sommerstrasse, next to the
Brandenburger Thor, so she isn't very far from me. She shuddered when
she looked up at Frau Berg's house. It did look very dismal.
I'm so sleepy, precious mother, so sleepy that I must go straight to
bed. I can't hold my head up or my eyes open. I think it's the
weather--it was very hot today. Good night and bless you, my sweetest
Your own Chris who loves you.
_Berlin, Sunday, June 28th. Evening_.
Beloved little mother,
I didn't write this morning, but went for a whole day into the woods,
because it was such a hot day and I longed to get away from Berlin.
I've been wandering about Potsdam. It is only half an hour away in the
train, and is full of woods and stretches of water, as well as palaces.
Palaces weren't the mood I was in. I wanted to walk and walk, and get
some of the pavement stiffness out of my legs, and when I was tired sit
down under a tree and eat the bread and chocolate I took with me and
stare at the sky through leaves. So I did.
I've had a most beautiful day, the best since I left you. I didn't
speak to a soul all day, and found a place up behind Sans Souci on the
edge of a wood looking out over a ryefield to an old windmill, and
there I sat for hours; and after I had finished remembering what I
could of the Scholar Gypsy, which is what one generally does when one
sits in summer on the edge of a cornfield, I sorted out my thoughts.
They've been getting confused lately in the rush of work day after day,
as confused as the drawer I keep my gloves and ribbons in, thrusting
them in as I take them off and never having time to tidy. Life tears
along, and I have hardly time to look at my treasures. I'm going to
look at them and count them up on Sundays. As the summer goes on I'll
pilgrimage out every Sunday to the woods, as regularly as the pious go
to church, and for much the same reason,--to consider, and praise, and
I took your two letters with me, reading them again in the woods. They
seemed even more dear out there where it was beautiful. You sound so
content, darling mother, about me, and so full of belief in me. You
may be very sure that if a human being, by trying and working, can
justify your dear belief it's your Chris. The snapshot of the border
full of Canterbury bells makes me able to picture you. Do you wear the
old garden hat I loved you so in when you garden? Tell me, because I
want to think of you _exactly_. It makes my mouth water, those
Canterbury bells. I can see their lovely colours, their pink and blue
and purple, with the white Sweet Williams and the pale lilac violas you
write about. Well, there's nothing of that in the Lutzowstrasse. No
wonder I went away from it this morning to go out and look for June in
the woods. The woods were a little thin and austere, for there has
been no rain lately, but how enchanting after the barren dustiness of
my Berlin street! I did love it so. And I felt so free and glorious,
coming off on my own for my hard-earned Sunday outing, just like any
other young man.
The train going down was full of officers, and they all looked very
smart and efficient and satisfied with themselves and life. In my
compartment they were talking together eagerly all the way, talking
shop with unaffected appetite, as though shop were so interesting that
even on Sundays they couldn't let it be, and poring together over maps.
No trace of stolidity. But where is this stolidity one has heard
about? Compared to the Germans I've seen, it is we who are stolid;
stolid, and slow, and bored. The last thing these people are is bored.
On the contrary, the officers had that same excitement about them, that
same strung-upness, that the men boarders at Frau Berg's have.
Potsdam is charming, and swarms with palaces and parks. If it hadn't
been woods I was after I would have explored it with great interest.
Do you remember when you read Carlyle's Frederick to me that winter you
were trying to persuade me to learn to sew? And, bribing me to sew,
you read aloud? I didn't learn to sew, but I did learn a great deal
about Potsdam and Hohenzollerns, and some Sunday when it isn't quite so
fine I shall go down and visit Sans Souci, and creep back into the past
again. But today I didn't want walls and roofs, I wanted just to walk
and walk. It was very crowded in the train coming back, full of people
who had been out for the day, and weary little children were crying,
and we all sat heaped up anyhow. I know I clutched two babies on my
lap, and that they showed every sign of having no self-control. They
were very sweet, though, and I wouldn't have minded it a bit if I had
had lots of skirts; but when you only have two!
Wanda was very kind, and brought me some secret coffee and bread and
butter to my room when I told her I had walked at least ten miles and
was too tired to go into supper. She cried out "_Herr Je_!"--which I'm
afraid is short for Lord Jesus, and is an exclamation dear to her--and
seized the coffee pot at once and started heating it up. I remembered
afterwards that German miles are three times the size of English ones,
so no wonder she said _Herr Je_. But just think: I haven't seen a
single boarder for a whole day. I do feel so much refreshed.
You know I told you in my last letter I was going to lunch with the
Koseritzes on Monday, and so I did, and the chief thing that happened
there, was that I was shy. Imagine it. So shy that I blushed and
dropped things. For years I haven't thought of what I looked like when
I've been with other people, because for years other people have been
so absorbingly interesting that I forgot I was there too; but at the
Koseritzes I suddenly found myself remembering, greatly to my horror,
that I have a face, and that it goes about with me wherever I go, and
that parts of it are--well, I don't like them. And I remembered that
my hair had been done in a hurry, and that the fingers of my left hand
have four hard lumps on their tips where they press the strings of my
fiddle, and that they're very ugly, but then one can't have things both
ways, can one. Also I became aware of my clothes, and we know how
fatal that is when they are weak clothes like mine, don't we, little
mother? You used to exhort me to put them on with care and
concentration, and then leave them to God. Such sound advice! And
I've followed it so long that I do completely forget them; but last
Monday I didn't. They were urged on my notice by Grafin Koseritz's
daughter, whose eyes ran over me from head to foot and then back again
when I came in. She was the neatest thing--_aus dem Ei gegossen_, as
they express perfect correctness of appearance. I suddenly knew, what
I have always suspected, that I was blowsy,--blowsy and loose-jointed,
with legs that are too long and not the right sort of feet. I hated my
_Beethovenkopf_ and all its hair. I wanted to have less hair, and for
it to be drawn neatly high off my face and brushed and waved in
beautiful regular lines. And I wanted a spotless lacy blouse, and a
string of pearls round my throat, and a perfectly made blue serge skirt
without mud on it,--it was raining, and I had walked. Do you know what
I felt like? A _goodnatured_ thing. The sort of creature people say
generously about afterwards, "Oh, but she's so goodnatured."
Grafin Koseritz was terribly kind to me, and that made me shyer than
ever, for I knew she was trying to put me at my ease, and you can
imagine how shy _that_ made me. I blushed and dropped things, and the
more I blushed and dropped things the kinder she was. And all the time
my contemporary, Helena, looked at me with the same calm eyes. She has
a completely emotionless face. I saw no trace of a passion for music
or for anything else in it. She made no approaches of any sort to me,
she just calmly looked at me. Her mother talked with the extreme
vivacity of the hostess who has a difficult party on hand. There was a
silent governess between two children. Junkerlets still in the
school-room, who stared uninterruptedly at me and seemed unsuccessfully
endeavouring to place me; there was a young lady cousin who talked
during the whole meal in an undertone to Helena; and there was Graf
Koseritz, an abstracted man who came in late, muttered something vague
on being introduced to me and told I was a new genius Kloster had
unearthed, sat down to his meal from which he did not look up again,
and was monosyllabic when his wife tried to draw him in and make the
conversation appear general. And all the time, while lending an ear to
her cousin's murmur of talk, Helena's calm eyes lingered on one portion
after the other of your poor vulnerable Chris.
Actually I found myself hoping hotly that I hadn't forgotten to wash my
ears that morning in the melee of getting up. I have to wash myself in
bits, one at a time, because at Frau Berg's I'm only given a very small
tin tub, the bath being used for keeping extra bedding in. It is
difficult and distracting, and sometimes one forgets little things like
ears, little extra things like that; and when Helena's calm eyes, which
appeared to have no sort of flicker in them, or hesitation, or blink,
settled on one of my ears and hung there motionless, I became so much
unnerved that I upset the spoon out of the whipped-cream dish that was
just being served to me, on to the floor. It was a parquet floor, and
the spoon made such a noise, and the cream made such a mess. I was so
wretched, because I had already upset a pepper thing earlier in the
meal, and spilt some water. The white-gloved butler advanced in a sort
of stately goose-step with another spoon, which he placed on the dish
being handed to me, and a third menial of lesser splendour but also
white-gloved brought a cloth and wiped up the mess, and the Grafin
became more terribly and volubly kind than ever. Helena's eyes never
wavered. They were still on my ear. A little more and I would have
reached that state the goaded shy get to when they suddenly in their
agony say more striking things than the boldest would dream of saying,
but Herr von Inster came in.
He is the young man I told you about who played my accompaniment the
other night. We had got to the coffee, and the servants were gone, and
the Graf had lit a cigar and was gazing in deep abstraction at the
tablecloth while the Grafin assured me of his keen interest in music
and its interpretation by the young and promising, and Helena's eyes
were resting on a spot there is on my only really nice blouse,--I can't
think how it got there, mother darling, and I'm fearfully sorry, and
I've tried to get it out with benzin and stuff, but it is better to
wear a blouse with spots on it than not to wear a blouse at all, isn't
it. I had pinned some flowers on it too, to hide it, and so they did
at first, but they were fading and hanging down, and there was the
spot, and Helena found it. Well, Herr von Inster came in, and put us
all right. He looks like nothing but a smart young officer, very
beautiful and slim in his Garde-Uhlan uniform, but he is really a lot
of other things besides. He is the Koseritz's cousin, and Helena says
_Du_ to him. He was very polite, said the right things to everybody,
explained he had had his luncheon, but thought, as he was passing, he
would look in. He would not deny, be said, that he had heard I was
coming--he made me a little bow across the table and smiled--and that
he had hopes I might perhaps be persuaded to play.
Not having a fiddle I couldn't do that. I wish I could have, for I'm
instantly natural and happy when I get playing; but the Grafin said she
hoped I would play to some of her friends one evening as soon as she
could arrange it,--friends interested in youthful geniuses, as she put
I said I would love to, and that it was so kind of her, but privately I
thought I would inquire of Kloster first; for if her friends are all as
deeply interested in music as the Graf and Helena, then I would be
doing better and more profitably by going to bed at ten o'clock as
usual, rather than emerge bedizened from my lair to go and flaunt in
these haunts of splendid virtue.
After Herr von Inster came I began faintly to enjoy myself, for he
talked all round, and greatly and obviously relieved his aunt by doing
so. Helena let go of my ear and looked at him. Once she very nearly
smiled. The other girl left off murmuring, and talked about things I
could talk about too, such as England and Germany--they're never tired
of that--and Strauss and Debussy. Only the Graf sat mute, his eyes
fixed on the tablecloth.
"My husband is dying to hear you play," said the Grafin, when he got up
presently to go back to his work. "Absolutely _dying_," she said,
recklessly padding out the leanness of his very bald good-bye to me.
He said nothing even to that. He just went. He didn't seem to be
Herr von luster walked back with me. He is very agreeable-looking,
with kind eyes that are both shrewd and sad. He talks English very
well, and so did everybody at the Koseritzes who talked at all. He is
pathetically keen on music. Kloster says he would have been a really
great player, but being a Junker settles him for ever. It is tragic to
be forced out of one's natural bent, and he says he hates soldiering.
People in the street were very polite, and made way for me because I
was with an officer. I wasn't pushed off the pavement once.
Good night my own mother. I've had a happy week. I put my arms round
you and kiss you with all that I have of love.
Wanda came in in great excitement to fetch my tray just now, and said a
prince has been assassinated. She heard the _Herrschaften_ saying so
at supper. She thought they said it was an Austrian, but whatever
prince it was it was _Majestatsbeleidigung_ to get killing him, and she
marvelled how any one had dared. Then Frau Berg herself came to tell
me. By this time I was in bed,--pig-tailed, and ready to go to sleep.
She was tremendously excited, and I felt a cold shiver down my back
watching her. She was so much excited that I caught it from her and
was excited too. Well, it is very dreadful the way these king-people
get bombed out of life. She said it was the Austrian heir to the
throne and his wife, both of them. But of course you'll know all about
it by the time you get this. She didn't know any details, but there
had been extra editions of the Sunday papers, and she said it would
"War?" I echoed.
"War," she repeated; and began to tread heavily about the room saying,
"But who with?" I asked, watching her fascinated, sitting up in bed
holding on to my knees.
"It will come," said Frau Berg, treading about like some huge Judaic
prophetess who sniffs blood. "It must come. There will be no quiet in
the world till blood has been let."
"But what blood?" I asked, rather tremulously, for her voice and
behaviour curdled me.
"The blood of all those evil-doers who are responsible," she said; and
she paused a moment at the foot of my bed and folded her arms across
her chest--they could hardly reach, and the word chest sounds much too
flat--and added, "Of whom there are many."
Then she began to walk about again, and each time a foot went down the
room shook. "All, all need punishing," she said as she walked. "There
will be, there must be, punishment for this. Great and terrible.
Blood will, blood must flow in streams before such a crime can be
regarded as washed out. Such evil-doers must be emptied of all their
And then luckily she went away, for I was beginning to freeze to the
sheets with horror.
I got out of bed to write this. You'll be shocked too, I know. The
way royalties are snuffed out one after the other! How glad I am I'm
not one and you're not one, and we can live safely and fruitfully
outside the range of bombs. Poor things. It is very horrible. Yet
they never seem to abdicate or want not to be royalties, so that I
suppose they think it worth it on the whole. But Frau Berg was
terrible. What a bloodthirsty woman. I wonder if the other boarders
will talk like that. I do pray not, for I hate the very word blood.
And why does she say there'll be war? They will catch the murderers
and punish them as they've done before, and there'll be an end of it.
There wasn't war when the Empress of Austria was killed, or the King
and Queen of Servia. I think Frau Berg wanted to make me creep. She
has a fixed idea that English people are every one of them much too
comfortable, and should at all costs be made to know what being
uncomfortable is like. For their good, I suppose.
_Berlin, Tuesday, June 30th, 1914_.
How splendid that you're going to Switzerland next month with the
Cunliffes. I do think it is glorious, and it will make you so strong
for the winter. And think how much nearer you'll be to me! I always
suspected Mrs. Cunliffe of being secretly an angel, and now I know it.
Your letter has just come and I simply had to tell you how glad I am.
This isn't a letter, it's a cry of joy.
_Berlin, Sunday, July 5th, 1914_.
My blessed little mother,
It has been so hot this week. We've been sweltering up here under the
roof. If you are having it anything like this at Chertsey the sooner
you persuade the Cunliffes to leave for Switzerland the better. Just
the sight of snow on the mountains out of your window would keep you
cool. You know I told you my bedroom looks onto the Lutzowstrasse and
the sun beats on it nearly all day, and flies in great numbers have
taken to coming up here and listening to me play, and it is difficult
to practise satisfactorily while they walk about enraptured on my neck.
I can't swish them away, because both my hands are busy. I wish I had
Frau Berg says there never used to be flies in this room, and suggests
with some sternness that I brought them with me,--the eggs, I suppose,
in my luggage. She is inclined to deny that they're here at all, on
the ground chiefly that nothing so irregular as a fly out of its proper
place, which is, she says, a manure heap, is possible in Germany. It
is too well managed, is Germany, she says. I said I supposed she knew
that because she had seen it in the newspapers. I was snappy, you see.
The hot weather makes me disposed, I'm afraid, to impatience with Frau
Berg. She is so large, and she seems to soak up what air there is, and
whenever she has sat on a chair it keeps warm afterwards for hours. If
only some clever American with inventions rioting in his brain would
come here and adapt her to being an electric fan! I want one so badly,
and she would be beautiful whirling round, and would make an immense
volume of air, I'm sure.
Well, darling one, you see I'm peevish. It's because I'm so hot, and
it doesn't get cool at night. And the food is so hot too and so
greasy, and the pallid young man with the red mouth who sits opposite
me at dinner melts visibly and continuously all the time, and Wanda
coming round with the dishes is like the coming of a blast of hot air.
Kloster says I'm working too much, and wants me to practise less. I
said I didn't see that practising less would make Wanda and the young
man cooler. I did try it one day when my head ached, and you've no
idea what a long day it seemed. So empty. Nothing to do. Only
Berlin. And one feels more alone in Berlin than anywhere in the world,
I think. Kloster says it's because I'm working too much, but I don't
see how working less would make Berlin more companionable. Of course
I'm not a bit alone really, for there is Kloster, who takes a very real
and lively interest in me and is the most delightful of men, and there
is Herr von Inster, who has been twice to see me since that day I
lunched at his aunt's, and everybody in this house talks to me
now,--more to me, I think, than to any other of the boarders, because
I'm English and they seem to want to educate me out of it. And Hilda
Seeberg has actually got as far in friendship as a cautious invitation
to have chocolate with her one afternoon some day in the future at
Wertheim's; and the pallid young man has suggested showing me the
Hohenzollern museum some Sunday, where he can explain to me, by means
of relics, the glorious history of that high family, as he put it; and
Frau Berg, though she looks like some massive Satan, isn't really
satanic I expect; and Dr. Krummlaut says every day as he comes into the
diningroom rubbing his hands and passes my chair, "_Na, was macht
England_?" which is a sign he is being gracious. It is only a feeling,
this of being completely alone. But I've got it, and the longer I'm
here and the better I know people the greater it becomes. It's an
_uneasiness_. I feel as if my _spirit_ were alone,--the real, ultimate
and only bit of me that is me and that matters.
If I go on like this you too, my little mother, will begin echoing
Kloster and tell me that I'm working too much. Dear England. Dear,
dear England. To find out how much one loves England all one has to do
is to come to Germany.
Of course they talk of nothing else at every meal here now but the
Archduke's murder. It's the impudence of the Servians that chiefly
makes them gasp. That they should dare! Dr. Krummlaut says they never
would have dared if they hadn't been instigated to this deed of
atrocious blasphemy by Russia,--Russia bursting with envy of the
Germanic powers and encouraging every affront to them. The whole
table, except the Swede who eats steadily on, sees red at the word
affront. Frau Berg reiterates that the world needs blood-letting
before there can be any real calm again, but it isn't German blood she
wants to let. Germany is surrounded by enormously wicked people, I
gather, all swollen with envy, hatred and malice, and all of gigantic
size. In the middle of these monsters browses Germany, very white and
woolly-haired and loveable, a little lamb among the nations, artlessly
only wanting to love and be loved, weak physically compared to its
towering neighbours, but strong in simplicity and the knowledge of its
_gute Recht_. And when they say these things they all turn to me for
endorsement and approval--they've given up seeking response from the
Swede, because she only eats--and I hastily run over my best words and
pick out the most suitable one, which is generally _herrlich_, or else
_ich gratuliere_. The gigantic, the really cosmic cynicism I fling
into it glances off their comfortable thick skins unnoticed.
I think Kloster is right, and they haven't grown up yet. People like
the Koseritzes, people of the world, don't show how young they are in
the way these middle-class Germans do, but I daresay they are just the
same really. They have the greediness of children too,--I don't mean
in things to eat, though they have that too, and take the violent
interest of ten years old in what there'll be for dinner--I mean greed
for other people's possessions. In all their talk, all their
expoundings of _deutsche Idealen_, I have found no trace of
consideration for others, or even of any sort of recognition that other
nations too may have rights and virtues. I asked Kloster whether I
hadn't chanced on a little group of people who were exceptions in their
way of looking at life, and he said No, they were perfectly typical of
the Prussians, and that the other classes, upper and lower, thought in
the same way, the difference lying only in their manner of expressing
"All these people, Mees Chrees," he said, "have been drilled. Do not
forget that great fact. Every man of every class has spent some of the
most impressionable years of his life being drilled. He never gets
over it. Before that, he has had the nursery and the schoolroom:
drill, and very thorough drill, in another form. He is drilled into
what the authorities find it most convenient that he should think from
the moment he can understand words. By the time he comes to his
military service his mind is already squeezed into the desired shape.
Then comes the finishing off,--the body drilled to match the mind, and
you have the perfect slave. And it is because he is a slave that when
he has power--and every man has power over some one--he is so great a
"But you must have been drilled too," I said, "and you're none of these
He looked at me in silence for a moment, with his funny protruding
eyes. Then he said, "I am told, and I believe it, that no man ever
really gets over having been imprisoned."
I feel greatly refreshed, for what do you think I've been doing since I
left off writing this morning? Motoring out into the country,--the
sweet and blessed country, the home of God's elect, as the hymn says,
only the hymn meant Jerusalem, and the golden kind of Jerusalem, which
can't be half as beautiful as just plain grass and daisies. Herr von
Inster appeared up here about twelve. Wanda came to my door and banged
on it with what sounded like a saucepan, and I daresay was, for she
wouldn't waste time leaving off stirring the pudding while she went to
open the front door, and she called out very loud, "_Der Herr Offizier
ist schon wieder da_."
All the flat must have heard her, and so did Herr von Inster.
"Here I am, _schon meeder da_" he said, clicking his heels together
when I came into the diningroom where he was waiting among the _debris_
of the first spasms of Wanda's table-laying; and we both laughed.
He said the Master--so he always speaks of Kloster, and with such
affection and admiration in his voice--and his wife were downstairs in
his car, and wanted him to ask me to join them so that he might drive
us all into the country on such a fine day.
You can imagine how quickly I put on my hat.
"It is doing you good already," he said, looking at me as we went down
the four nights of stairs,--so Kloster had been telling him, too, that
story about too much work.
Herr von Inster drove, and we three sat on the back seat, because he
had his soldier chauffeur with him, so I didn't get as much talk with
him as I had hoped, for I like him _very_ much, and so would you,
little mother. There is nothing of the aggressive swashbuckler about
him. I'm sure he doesn't push a woman off the pavement when there
isn't room for him.
I don't think I've told you about Frau Kloster, but that is because one
keeps on forgetting she is there. Perhaps that quality of beneficent
invisibleness is what an artist most needs in a wife. She never says
anything, except things that require no answering. It's a great
virtue, I should think, in a wife. From time to time, when Kloster has
_lese majestated_ a little too much, she murmurs _Aber_ Adolf; or she
announces placidly that she has just killed a mosquito; or that the sky
is blue; and Kloster's talk goes on on the top of this little
undercurrent without taking the least notice of it. They seem very
happy. She tends him as carefully as one would tend a baby,--one of
those quite new pink ones that can't stand anything hardly without
crumpling up,--and competently clears life round him all empty and
free, so that he has room to work. I wish I had a wife.
We drove out through Potsdam in the direction of Brandenburg, and
lunched in the woods at Potsdam by the lake the Marmor Palais is on.
Kloster stared at this across the water while he ate, and the sight of
it tinged his speech regrettably. Herr von Inster, as an officer of
the King, ought really to have smitten him with the flat side of his
sword, but he didn't; he listened and smiled. Perhaps he felt as the
really religious do about God, that the Hohenzollerns are so high up
that criticism can't harm them, but I doubt it; or perhaps he regards
Kloster indulgently, as a gifted and wayward child, but I doubt that
too. He happens to be intelligent, and is not to be persuaded that a
spade is anything but a spade, however much it may be got up to look
like the Ark of the Covenant or anything else archaic and
bedizened--God forbid, little mother, that you should suppose I meant
that dreadful pun.
Frau Kloster had brought food with her, part of which was cherries, and
they slid down one's hot dry throat like so many cool little blessings.
I could hardly believe that I had really escaped the Sunday dinner at
the pension. We were very content, all of us I think, sitting on the
grass by the water's edge, a tiny wind stirring our hair--except
Kloster's, because he so happily hasn't got any, which must be
delicious in hot weather,--and rippling along the rushes.
"She grows less pale every hour," Kloster said to Herr von Inster,
fixing his round eyes on me.
Herr von Inster looked at me with his grave shrewd ones, and said
"We brought out a windflower," said Kloster, "and behold we will return
with a rose. At present, Mees Chrees, you are a cross between the two.
You have ceased to be a windflower, and are not yet a rose. I wager
that by five o'clock the rose period will have set in."
They were both so kind to me all day, you can't think little mother,
and so was Frau Kloster, only one keeps on forgetting her. Herr von
Inster didn't talk much, but he looked quite as content as the rest of
us. It is strange to remember that only this morning I was writing
about feeling so lonely and by myself in spirit. And so I was; and so
I have been all this week. But I don't feel like that now. You see
how the company of one righteous man, far more than his prayers,
availeth much. And the company of two of them availeth exactly double.
Kloster is certainly a righteous man, which I take it means a man who
is both intelligent and good, and so I am sure is Herr von Inster. If
he were not, he, a Junker and an officer, would think being with people
so outside his world as the Klosters intolerable. But of course then
he wouldn't be with them. It wouldn't interest him. It is so funny to
watch his set, regular, wooden profile, and then when he turns and
looks at one to see his eyes. The difference just eyes can make! His
face is the face of the drilled, of the perfect unthinking machine, the
correct and well-born Oberleutnant; and out of it look the eyes of a
human being who knows, or will know I'm certain before life has done
with him, what exultations are, and agonies, and love, and man's
unconquerable mind. He really is very nice. I'm sure you'd like him.
After lunch, and after Kloster had said some more regrettable things,
being much moved, it appeared, by the palace facing him and by some
personal recollections he had of the particular Hohenzollern it
contained, while I lay looking up along the smooth beech-trunks to
their bright leaves glancing against the wonderful blue of the sky--oh
it was so lovely, little mother!--and Frau Kloster sometimes said
_Aber_ Adolf, and occasionally announced that she had slain another
mosquito, we motored on towards Brandenburg, along the chain of lakes
formed by the Havel. It was like heaven after the Lutzowstrasse. And
at four o'clock we stopped at a Gasthaus in the pinewoods and had
coffee and wild strawberries, and Herr von Inster paddled me out on the
Havel in an old punt we found moored among the rushes.
It looked so queer to see an officer in full Sunday splendour punting,
but there are a few things which seem to us ridiculous that Germans do
with great simplicity. It was rather like being punted on the Thames
by somebody in a top hat and a black coat. He looked like a bright
dragon-fly in his lean elegance, balancing on the rotten little board
across the end of the punt; or like Siegfried, made up to date, on his
journey down the Rhine,--made very much up to date, his gorgeous
barbaric boat and fine swaggering body that ate half a sheep at a
sitting and made large love to lusty goddesses wittled away by the
centuries to this old punt being paddled about slowly by a lean man
with thoughtful eyes.
I told him he was like Siegfried in the second act of the
Gotterdammerung, but worn a little thin by the passage of the ages, and
he laughed and said that he at least had got Brunnhilde safe in the
boat with him, and wasn't going to have to climb through fire to fetch
her. He says he thinks Wagner's music and Strauss's intimately
characteristic of modern Germany: the noise, the sugary sentimentality
making the public weep tears of melted sugar, he said, the brutal
glorification of force, the all-conquering swagger, the exaggeration of
emotions, the big gloom. They were the natural expression, he said, of
the phase Germany was passing through, and Strauss is its latest
flowering,--even noisier, even more bloody, of a bigger gloom. In that
immense noise, he said, was all Germany as it is now, as it will go on
being till it wakes up from the nightmare dream of conquest that has
possessed it ever since the present emperor came to the throne.
"I'm sure you're saying things you oughtn't to," I said.
"Of course," he said. "One always is in Germany. Everything being
forbidden, there is nothing left but to sin. I have yet to learn that
a multiplicity of laws makes people behave. Behave, I mean, in the way
"But Kloster says you're a nation of slaves, and that the drilling you
get _does_ make you behave in the way Authority wishes."
He said it was true they were slaves, but that slaves were of two
kinds,--the completely cowed, who gave no further trouble, and the
furtive evaders, who consoled themselves for their outward conformity
to regulations by every sort of forbidden indulgence in thought and
speech. "This is the kind that only waits for an opportunity to flare
out and free itself," he said. "Mind, thinking, can't be chained up.
Authority knows this, and of all things in the world fears thought."
He talked about the Sarajevo assassinations, and said, he was afraid
they would not be settled very easily. He said Germany is
seething,--seething, he said emphatically, with desire to fight; that
it is almost impossible to have a great army at such a pitch of
perfection as the German army is now and not use it; that if a thing
like that isn't used it will fester inwardly and set up endless
internal mischief and become a danger to the very Crown that created
it. To have it hanging about idle in this ripe state, he said, is like
keeping an unexercised young horse tied up in the stable on full feed;
it would soon kick the stable to pieces, wouldn't it, he said.
"I hate armies," I said. "I hate soldiering, and all it stands for of
aggression, and cruelty, and crime on so big a scale that it's
"Great God, and don't I!" He exclaimed, with infinite fervour.
He told me something that greatly horrified me. He says that children
kill themselves in Germany. They commit suicide, schoolchildren and
even younger ones, in great numbers every year. He says they're driven
to it by the sheer cruelty of the way they are overworked and made to
feel that if they are not moved up in the school at the set time they
and their parents are for ever disgraced and their whole career
blasted. Imagine the misery a wretched child must suffer before it
reaches the stage of _preferring_ to kill itself! No other nation has
this blot on it.
"Yes," he said, nodding in agreement with the expression on my face,
"yes, we are mad. It is in this reign that we've gone mad, mad with
the obsession to get at all costs and by any means to the top of the
world. We must outstrip; outstrip at whatever cost of happiness and
life. We must be better trained, more efficient, quicker at grabbing
than other nations, and it is the children who must do it for us. Our
future rests on their brains. And if they fail, if they can't stand
the strain, we break them. They're of no future use. Let them go.
Who cares if they kill themselves? So many fewer inefficients, that's
all. The State considers that they are better dead."
And all the while, while he was telling me these things, on the shore
lay Kloster and his wife, neatly spread out side by side beneath a tree
asleep with their handkerchiefs over their faces. That's the idea
we've got in England of Germany,--multitudes of comfortable couples,
kindly and sleepy, snoozing away the afternoon hours in gardens or pine
forests. That's the idea the Government wants to keep before Europe,
Herr von Inster says, this idea of benevolent, beery harmlessness. It
doesn't want other nations to know about the children, the dead, flung
aside children, the ruthless breaking up of any material that will not
help in the driving of their great machine of destruction, because then
the other nations would know, he says, before Germany is ready for it
to be known, that she will stick at nothing.
Wanda has just taken away my lamp, Good night my own sweet mother.
_Berlin, Wednesday, July 8th, 1914_.
Kloster says I'm to go into the country this very week and not come
back for a whole fortnight. This is just a line to tell you this, and
that he has written to a forester's family he knows living in the
depths of the forests up beyond Stettin. They take in summer-boarders,
and have had pupils of his before, and he is arranging with them for me
to go there this very next Saturday.
Do you mind, darling mother? I mean, my doing something so suddenly
without asking you first? But I'm like the tail being wagged by the
dog, obliged to wag whether it wants to or not. I'm very unhappy at
being shovelled off like this, away from my lessons for two solid
weeks, but it's no use my protesting. One can't protest with Kloster.
He says he won't teach me any more if I don't go. He was quite angry
at last when I begged, and said it wouldn't be worth his while to go on
teaching any one so stale with over-practising when they weren't fit to
practise, and that if I didn't stop, all I'd ever be able to do would
be to play in the second row of violins--(not even the first!)--at a
pantomime. That shrivelled me up into silence. Horror-stricken
silence. Then he got kind again, and said I had this precious
gift--God, he said, alone knew why I had got it, I a woman; what, he
asked, staring prawnishly, is the good of a woman's having such a
stroke of luck?--and that it was a great responsibility, and I wasn't
to suppose it was my gift only, to spoil and mess up as I chose, but
that it belonged to the world. When he said that, cold shivers
trickled down my spine. He looked so solemn, and he made me feel so
solemn, as though I were being turned, like Wordsworth in The Prelude,
into a dedicated spirit.
But I expect he is right, and it is time I went where it is cooler for
a little while. I've been getting steadily angrier at nothing all the
week, and more and more fretted by the flies, and one day--would you
believe it--I actually sat down and cried with irritation because of