Part 2 out of 3
those silly flies. I've had to promise not to touch a fiddle for the
first week I'm away, and during the second week not to work more than
two hours a day, and then I may come back if I feel quite well again.
He says he'll be at Heringsdorf, which is a seaside place not very far
away from where I shall be, for ten days himself, and will come over
and see if I'm being good. He says the Koseritz's country place isn't
far from where I shall be, so I shan't feel as if I didn't know a soul
anywhere. The Koseritz party at which I was to play never came off. I
was glad of that. I didn't a bit want to play at it, or bother about
it, or anything else. The hot weather drove the Grafin into the
country, Herr von Inster told me, He too seems to think I ought to go
away. I saw him this afternoon after being with Kloster, and he says
he'll go down to his aunt's--that is Grafin Koseritz--while I'm in the
neighbourhood, and will ride over and see me. I'm sure you'd like him
very much. My address will be:
_bei Herrn Oberforster Bornsted
Reg. Bez. Stettin_.
I don't know what Reg. Bez. means. I've copied it from a card Kloster
gave me, and I expect you had better put it on the envelope. I'll
write and tell you directly I get there. Don't worry about me, little
mother; Kloster says they are fearfully kind people, and it's the
healthiest place, in the heart of the forest, away on the edge of a
thing they call the Haff, which is water. He says that in a week I
shall be leaping about like a young roe on the hill side; and he tries
to lash me to enthusiasm by talking of all the wild strawberries there
are there, and all the cream.
My heart's love, darling mother.
Your confused and rather hustled Chris.
_Oberforsterei, Schuppenfelde, July 11th, 1914_.
My own little mother,
Here I am, and it is lovely. I must just tell you about it before I go
to bed. We're buried in forest, eight miles from the nearest station,
and that's only a Kleinbahn station, a toy thing into which a small
train crawls twice a day, having been getting to it for more than three
hours from Stettin. The Oberforster met me in a high yellow carriage,
drawn by two long-tailed horses who hadn't been worried with much drill
judging from their individualistic behaviour, and we lurched over
forest tracks that were sometimes deep sand and sometimes all roots,
and the evening air was so delicious after the train, so full of
different scents and freshness, that I did nothing but lift up my nose
and sniff with joy.
The Oberforster thought I had a cold, without at the same time having a
handkerchief; and presently, after a period of uneasiness on my behalf,
offered me his. "It is not quite clean," he said, "but it is better
than none." And he shouted, because I was a foreigner and therefore
would understand better if he shouted.
I explained as well as I could, which was not very, that my sniffs were
sniffs of exultation.
"_Ach so_," he said, indulgent with the indulgence one feels towards a
newly arrived guest, before one knows what they are really like.
We drove on in silence after that. Our wheels made hardly any noise on
the sandy track, and I suddenly discovered how long it is since I've
heard any birds. I wish you had come with me here, little mother; I
wish you had been on that drive this evening. There were jays, and
magpies, and woodpeckers, and little tiny birds like finches that kept
on repeating in a monotonous sweet pipe the opening bar of the
Beethoven C minor Symphony No. 5. We met nobody the whole way except a
man with a cartload of wood, who greeted the Oberforster with immense
respect, and some dilapidated little children picking wild
strawberries. I wanted to remark on their dilapidation, which seemed
very irregular in this well-conducted country, but thought I had best
leave reasoned conversation alone till I've had time to learn more
German, which I'm going to do diligently here, and till the Oberforster
has discovered he needn't shout in order to make me understand.
Sitting so close to my ear, when he shouted into it it was exactly as
though some one had hit me, and hurt just as much.
He is a huge rawboned man, with the flat-backed head and protruding
ears so many Germans have. What is it that is left out of their heads,
I wonder? His moustache is like the Kaiser's, and he looks rather a
fine figure of a man in his grey-green forester's uniform and becoming
slouch hat with a feather stuck in it. Without his hat he is less
impressive, because of his head. I suppose he has to have a head, but
if he didn't have to he'd be very good-looking.
This is such a sweet place, little mother. I've got the dearest little
clean bare bedroom, so attractive after the grim splendours of my
drawingroom-bedroom at Frau Berg's. You can't think how lovely it is
being here after the long hot journey. It's no fun travelling alone in
Germany if you're a woman. I was elbowed about and pushed out of the
way at stations by any men and boys there were as if I had been an
ownerless trunk. Either that, or they stared incredibly, and said
things. One little boy--he couldn't have been more than ten--winked at
me and whispered something about kissing. The station at Stettin was
horrible, much worse than the Berlin one. I don't know where they all
came from, the crowds of hooligan boys, just below military age, and
extraordinarily disreputable and insolent. To add to the confusion on
the platform there were hundreds of Russians and Poles with their
families and bundles--I asked my porter who they were, and he told
me--being taken from one place where they had been working in the
fields to another place, shepherded by a German overseer with a fierce
dog and a revolver; very poor and ragged, all of them, but gentle, and,
compared to the Germans, of beautiful manners; and there were a good
many officers--it was altogether the most excited station I've seen, I
think--and they stared too, but I'm certain that if I had been in a
difficulty and wanted help they would have walked away. Kloster told
me Germans divide women into two classes: those they want to kiss, and
those they want to kick, who are all those they don't want to kiss.
One can be kissed and kicked in lots of ways besides actually, I think,
and I felt as if I had been both on that dreadful platform at Stettin.
So you can imagine how heavenly it was to get into this beautiful
forest, away from all that, into the quiet, the _holiness_. Frau
Bornsted, who learned English at school, told me all the farms,
including hers, are worked by Russians and Poles who are fetched over
every spring in thousands by German overseers. "It is a good
arrangement," she said. "In case of war we would not permit their
departure, and so would our fields continue to be tilled." In case of
war! Always that word on their tongues. Even in this distant corner
The Oberforsterei is a low white house with a clearing round it in
which potatoes have been planted, and a meadow at the back going down
to a stream, and a garden in front behind a low paling, full of pinks
and larkspurs and pansies. A pair of antlers is nailed over the door,
proud relic of an enormous stag the Oberforster shot on an unusually
lucky day, and Frau Bornsted was sewing in the porch beneath
honeysuckle when we arrived. It was just like the Germany one had in
one's story books in the schoolroom days. It seemed too good to be
true after the Lutzowstrasse. Frau Bornsted is quite a pretty young
woman, flat rather than slender, tall, with lovely deep blue eyes and
long black eyelashes. She would be very pretty if it occurred to her
that she is pretty, but evidently it doesn't, or else it isn't proper
to be pretty here; I think this is the real explanation of the way her
hair is scraped hack into a little hard knob, and her face shows signs
of being scrubbed every day with the same soap and the same energy she
uses for the kitchen table. She has no children, and isn't, I suppose,
more than twenty five, but she looks as thirty five, or even forty,
looks in England.
I love it all. It is really just like a story book. We had supper out
in the porch, prepared, spread, and fetched by Frau Bornsted, and it
was a milk soup--very nice and funny, and I lapped it up like a thirsty
kitten--and cold meat, and fried potatoes, and curds and whey, and wild
strawberries and cream. They have an active cow who does all the curds
and whey and cream and butter and milk-soup, besides keeping on having
calves without a murmur,--"She is an example," said Frau Bornsted, who
wants to talk English all the time, which will play havoc, I'm afraid,
with my wanting to talk German.
She took me to a window and showed me the cow, pasturing, like David,
beside still waters. "And without rebellious thoughts unsuited to her
sex," said Frau Bornsted, turning and looking at me. She showed what
she was thinking of by adding, "I hope you are not a suffragette?"
The Oberforster put on a thin green linen coat for supper, which he
left unbuttoned to mark that he was off duty, and we sat round the
table till it was starlight. Owls hooted in the forest across the
road, and bats darted about our heads. Also there were mosquitoes. A
great _many_ mosquitoes. Herr Bornsted told me I wouldn't mind them
after a while. "_Herrlich_," I said, with real enthusiasm.
And now I'm going to bed. Kloster was right to send me here. I've
been leaning out of my window. The night tonight is the most beautiful
thing, a great dark cave of softness. I'm at the back of the house
where the meadow is and the good cow, and beyond the meadow there's
another belt of forest, and then just over the tops of the pines, which
are a little more softly dark than the rest of the soft darkness,
there's a pale line of light that is the star-lit water of the Haff.
Frogs are croaking down by the stream, every now and then an owl hoots
somewhere in the distance, and the air comes up to my face off the long
grass cool and damp. I can't tell you the effect the blessed silence,
the blessed peace has on me after the fret of Berlin. It feels like
getting back to God. It feels like being home again in heaven after
having been obliged to spend six weeks in hell. And yet here, even
here in the very lap of peace, as we sat in the porch after supper the
Oberforster talked ceaselessly of Weltpolitik. The very sound of that
word now makes me wince; for translated into plain English, what it
means when you've pulled all the trimmings off and look at it squarely,
is just taking other people's belongings, beginning with their blood.
I must learn enough German to suggest that to the Oberforster: Murder,
as a preliminary to Theft. I'm afraid he would send me straight back
in disgrace to Frau Berg.
Good night darling mother. I'll write oftener now. My rules don't
count this fortnight. Bless you, beloved little mother.
_Schuppenfelde, Monday, July 13th_.
I got your letter from Switzerland forwarded on this morning, and like
to feel you're by so much nearer me than you were a week ago. At
least, I try to persuade myself that it's a thing to like, but I know
in my heart it makes no earthly difference. If you're only a mile away
and I mayn't see you, what's the good? You might as well be a
thousand. The one thing that will get me to you again is accomplished
work. I want to work, to be quick; and here I am idle, precious days
passing, each of which not used for working means one day longer away
from you. And I'm so well. There's no earthly reason why I shouldn't
start practising again this very minute. A day yesterday in the forest
has cured me completely. By the time I've lived through my week of
promised idleness I shall be kicking my loose box to pieces! And then
for another whole week there'll only be two hours of my violin allowed.
Why, I shall fall on those miserable two hours like a famished beggar
on a crust.
Well, I'm not going to grumble. It's only that I love you so, and miss
you so very much. You know how I always missed you on Sunday in
Berlin, because then I had time to feel, to remember; and here it is
all Sundays. I've had two of them already, yesterday and today, and I
don't know what it will be like by the time I've had the rest. I
walked miles yesterday, and the more beautiful it was the more I missed
you. What's the good of having all this loveliness by oneself? I want
somebody with me to see it and feel it too. If you were here how happy
we should be!
I wish you knew Herr von Inster, for I know you'd like him. I do think
he's unusual, and you like unusual people. I had a letter from him
today, sent with a book he thought I'd like, but I've read it,--it is
Selma Lagerlof's Jerusalem; do you remember our reading it together
that Easter in Cornwall? But wasn't it very charming of him to send
it? He says he is coming this way the end of the week and will call on
me and renew his acquaintance with the Oberforster, with whom he says
he has gone shooting sometimes when he has been staying at Koseritz.
His Christian name is Bernd. Doesn't it sound nice and _honest_.
I suppose by the end of the week he means Saturday, which is a very
long way off. Saturdays used to seem to come rushing on to the very
heels of Mondays in Berlin when I was busy working. Little mother, you
can take it from me, from your wise, smug daughter, that work is the
key to every happiness. Without it happiness won't come unlocked.
What do people do who don't do anything, I wonder?
Koseritz is only five miles away, and as he'll stay there, I suppose,
with his relations, he won't have very far to come. He'll ride over, I
expect. He looks so nice on a horse. I saw him once in the
Thiergarten, riding. I'd love to ride on these forest roads,--the
sandy ones are perfect for riding; but when I asked the Oberforster
today, after I got Herr von Inster's letter, whether he could lend me a
horse while I was here, what do you think I found out? That Kloster,
suspecting I might want to ride, had written him instructions on no
account to allow me to. Because I might tumble off, if you please, and
sprain either of my precious wrists. Did you ever. I believe Kloster
regards me only as a vessel for carrying about music to other people,
not as a human being at all. It is like the way jockeys are kept,
strict and watched, before a race.
Frau Bornsted gazed at me with her large serious eyes, and said, "Do
you play the violin, then, so well?"
"No," I snapped. "I don't." And I drummed with my fingers on the
windowpane and felt as rebellious as six years old.
But of course I'm going to be good. I won't do anything that may delay
my getting home to you.
The Bornsteds say Koseritz is a very beautiful place, on the very edge
of the Haff. They talk with deep respectfulness of the Herr Graf, and
the Frau Grafin, and the _junge_ Komtesse. It's wonderful how
respectful Germans are towards those definitely above them. And so
uncritical. Kloster says that it is drill does it. You never get over
the awe, he says, for the sergeant, for the lieutenant, for whoever, as
you rise a step, is one step higher. I told the Bornsteds I had met
the Koseritzes in Berlin, and they looked at me with a new interest,
and Frau Bornsted, who has been very prettily taking me in hand and
endeavouring to root out the opinions she takes for granted that I
hold, being an _Englanderin_, came down for a while more nearly to my
level, and after having by questioning learned that I had lunched with
the Koseritzes, and having endeavoured to extract, also by questioning,
what we had had to eat, which I couldn't remember except the whipped
cream I spilt on the floor, she remarked, slowly nodding her head, "It
must have been very agreeable for you to be with the _grafliche
"And for them to be with me," I said, moved to forwardness by being
full of forest air, which goes to my head.
I suppose this was what they call disrespectful without being funny,
for Frau Bornsted looked at me in silence, and Herr Bornsted, who
doesn't understand English, asked in German, seeing his wife solemn,
"What does she say?" And when she told him he said, "_Ach_," and
showed his disapproval by absorbing himself in the _Deutsche
It's wonderful how easy it is to be disrespectful in Germany. You've
only got to be the least bit cheerful and let some of it out, and
you've done it.
"Why are the English always so like that?" Frau Bornsted asked
presently, after having marked her regret at my behaviour by not saying
anything for five minutes.
"So--so without reverence. And yet you are a religious people. You
send out missionaries."
"Yes, and support bishops," I said. "You haven't got any bishops."
"You are the first nation in the world as regards missionaries," she
said, gazing at me thoughtfully and taking no notice of the bishops.
"My father"--her father is a pastor--"has a great admiration for your
missionaries. How is it you have so many missionaries and at the same
time so little reverence ?"
"Perhaps that _is_ why," I said; and started off explaining, while she
looked at me with beautiful uncomprehending eyes, that the reaction
from the missionaries and from the kind of spirit that prompts their
raising and export might conceivably produce a desire to be irreverent
and laugh, and that life more and more seemed to me like a pendulum,
and that it needs must swing both ways.
Frau Bornsted sat twisting her wedding ring on her finger till I was
quiet again. She does this whenever I emit anything that can be called
an idea. It reminds her that she is married, and that I, as she says,
am _nur ein junges Madchen_, and therefore not to be taken seriously.
When I had finished about the pendulum, she said, "All this will be
cured when you have a husband."
There was a tea party here yesterday afternoon. At least, it was
coffee. I thought there were no neighbours, and when I came back late
from having been all day in the forest, missing with an indifference
that amazed Frau Bornsted the lure of her Sunday dinner, and taking
some plum-cake and two Bibles with me, English and German, because I'm
going to learn German that way among other ways while I'm here, and I
think it's a very good way, and it immensely impressed Frau Bornsted to
see me take two Bibles out for a walk,--when I got back about five,
untidy and hot and able to say off a whole psalm in perfect Lutheran
German, I found several high yellow carriages, like the one I was
fetched in on Saturday, in front of the paling, with nosebags and rugs
on the horses, and indoors in the parlour a number of other foresters
and their wives, besides Frau Bornsted's father and mother and younger
sister, and the local doctor and his wife, and the Herr Lehrer, a tall
young man in spectacles who teaches in the village school two miles
I was astonished, for I imagined complete isolation here. Frau
Bornsted says, though, that this only happens on Sundays. They were
sitting round the remnants of coffee and cake, the men smoking and
talking together apart from the women, the women with their
bonnet-strings untied and hanging over their bosoms, of which there
seemed to be many and much, telling each other, while they fanned
themselves with immense handkerchiefs, what they had had for their
I would have slunk away when I heard the noise of voices, and gone
round to the peaceful company of the cow, but Frau Bornsted saw me
coming up the path and called me in.
I went in reluctantly, and on my appearing there was a dead silence,
which would have unnerved me if I hadn't still had my eyes so full of
sunlight that I hardly saw anything in the dark room, and stood there
"_Unsere junge Englanderin," said Frau Bornsted, presenting me.
"Schuhlerin von_ Kloster--_grosses Talent_,--" I heard her adding,
handing round the bits of information as though it was cake.
They all said _Ach so_, and _Wirklich_, and somebody asked if I liked
Germany, and I said, still not seeing much, "_Es ist wundervoll_,"
which provoked a murmur of applause, as the newspapers say.
I found I was expected to sit in a corner with Frau Bornsted's sister,
who with the Lehrer and myself, being all of us unmarried, represented
what the others spoke of as _die Jugend_, and that I was to answer
sweetly and modestly any question I was asked by the others, but not to
ask any myself, or indeed not to speak at all unless in the form of
answering. I gathered this from the behaviour of Frau Bornsted's
sister; but I do find it very hard not to be natural, and it's natural
to me, as you know to your cost, don't you, little mother, to ask what
things mean and why.
There was a great silence while I was given a cup of coffee and some
cake by Frau Bornsted, helped by her sister. The young man, the third
in our trio of youth, sat motionless in the chair next to me while this
was done. I wanted to fetch my cup myself, rather than let Frau
Bornsted wait on me, but she pressed me down into my chair again with
firmness and the pained look of one who is witnessing the committing of
a solecism. "_Bitte_--take place again," she said, her English giving
way in the stress of getting me to behave as I should.
The women looked on with open interest and curiosity, examining my
clothes and hair and hands and the Bibles I was clutching and the
flowers I had stuck in where the Psalms are, because I never can find
the Psalms right off. The men looked too, but with caution. I was
fearfully untidy. You would have been shocked. But I don't know how
one is to lie about on moss all day and stay neat, and nobody told me I
was going to tumble into the middle of a party.
The first to disentangle himself from the rest and come and speak to me
was Frau Bornsted's father, Pastor Wienicke. He came and stood in
front of me, his legs apart and a cigar in his mouth, and he took the
cigar out to tell me, what I already knew, that I was English. "_Sie
sind englisch_," said Herr Pastor Wienicke.
"Ja," said I, as modestly as I could, which wasn't very.
There was something about the party that made me sit up on the edge of
my chair with my feet neatly side by side, and hold my cup as carefully
as if I had been at a school treat and expecting the rector every
minute. "England," said the pastor, while everybody else listened,--he
spoke in German--"is, I think I may say, still a great country."
"_Ja_?" said I politely, tilting up the _ja_ a little at its end, which
was meant to suggest not only a deferential, "If you say so it must be
so" attitude, but also a courteous doubt as to whether any country
could properly be called great in a world in which the standard of
greatness was set by so splendid an example of it as his own country.
And it did suggest this, for he said, "_Oh doch_," balancing himself on
his heels and toes alternately, as though balancing himself into exact
justice. "_Oh doch._ I think one may honestly say she still is a
great country, But--" and he raised his voice and his forefinger at
me,--"let her beware of her money bags. That is my word to England:
Beware of thy money bags."
There was a sound of approval in the room, and they all nodded their
He looked at me, and as I supposed he might be expecting an answer I
thought I had better say _ja_ again, so I did.
"England," he then continued, "is our cousin, our blood-relation.
Therefore is it that we can and must tell her the truth, even if it is
"_Ja_," I said, as he paused again; only there were several little
things I would have liked to have said about that, if I had been able
to talk German properly. But I had nothing but my list of exclamations
and the psalms I had learnt ready. So I said _Ja_, and tried to look
modest and intelligent.
"Her love of money, her materialism--these are her great dangers," he
said. "I do not like to contemplate, and I ask my friends here--" he
turned slowly round on his heels and back again--"whether they would
like to contemplate a day when the sun of the British Empire, that
Empire which, after all, has upheld the cause of religion with
faithfulness and persistence for so long, shall be seen at last
descending, to rise no more, in an engulfing ocean of over-indulged
"_Ja_," I said; and then perceiving it was the wrong word, hastily
amended in English, "I mean _nein_."
He looked at me for a moment more carefully. Then deciding that all
was well he went on.
"England," he said, "is our natural ally. She is of the same blood,
the same faith, and the same colour. Behold the other races of the
world, and they are either partly, chiefly, or altogether black. The
blonde races are, like the dawn, destined to drive away the darkness.
They must stand together shoulder to shoulder in any discord that may,
in the future, gash the harmony of the world."
"_Ja_," I said, as one who should, at the conclusion of a Psalm, be
"We live in serious times," he said. "They may easily become more
serious. Round us stand the Latins and the Slavs, armed to the teeth,
bursting with envy of our goods, of our proud calm, and watching for
the moment when they can fall upon us with criminal and murderous
intent. Is it not so, my Fraulein?"
"_Ja_" said I, forced to agree because of my unfortunate emptiness of
The only thing I could have reeled off at him was the Psalm I had
learnt, and I did long to, because it was the one asking why the
heathen so furiously rage together; but you see, little mother, though
I longed to I couldn't have followed it up, and having fired it off I'd
have sat there defenceless while he annihilated me.
But I don't know what they all mean by this constant talk of envious
nations crouching ready to spring at them. They talk and talk about
it, and their papers write and write about it, till they inflame each
other into a fever of pugnaciousness. I've never been anywhere in the
least like it in my life. In England people talked of a thousand
things, and hardly ever of war. When we were in Italy, and that time
in Paris, we hardly heard it mentioned. Directly my train got into
Germany at Goch coming from Flushing, and Germans began to get in,
there in the very train this everlasting talk of war and the
enviousness of other nations began, and it has never left off since.
The Archduke's murder didn't start it; it was going on weeks before
that, when first I came. It has been going on, Kloster says, growing
in clamour, for years, ever since the present Kaiser succeeded to the
throne. Kloster says the nation thinks it feels all this, but it is
merely being stage-managed by the group of men at the top, headed by S.
M. So well stage-managed is it, so carefully taught by such slow
degrees, that it is absolutely convinced it has arrived at its opinions
and judgments by itself. I wonder if these people are mad. Is it
possible for a whole nation to go mad at once? It is they who seem to
have the enviousness, to be torn with desire to get what isn't theirs.
"The disastrous crime of Sarajevo," continued Pastor Wienicke, "cannot
in this connection pass unnoticed. To smite down a God's Anointed!"
He held up his hands. "Not yet, it is true, an actually Anointed, but
set aside by God for future use. It is typical of the world outside
our Fatherland. Lawlessness and its companion Sacrilege stalk at
large. Women emerge from the seclusion God has arranged for them, and
rear their heads in shameless competition with men. Our rulers, whom
God has given us so that they shall guide and lead us and in return be
reverently taken care of, are blasphemously bombed." He flung both his
arms heavenwards. "Arise, Germany!" he cried. "Arise and show
thyself! Arise in thy might, I say, and let our enemies be scattered!"
Then he wiped his forehead, looked round in recognition of the _sehr
guts_ and _ausserordentlich schon gesagts_ that were being flung about,
re-lit his cigar with the aid of the Herr Lehrer, who sprang
obsequiously forward with a match, and sat down.
Wasn't it a good thing he sat down. I felt so much happier. But just
as it was at the meals at Frau Berg's so it was at the coffee party
here,--I was singled out and talked to, or at, by the entire company.
The concentration of curiosity of Germans is terrible. But it's more
than curiosity, it's a kind of determination to crush what I'm thinking
out of me and force what they're thinking into me. I shall see as they
do; I shall think as they do; they'll shout at me till I'm forced to.
That's what I feel. I don't a bit know if it isn't quite a wrong idea
I've got, but somehow my very bones feel it.
Would you believe it, they stayed to supper, all of them, and never
went away till ten o'clock. Frau Bornsted says one always does that in
the country here when invited to afternoon coffee. I won't tell you
any more of what they said, because it was all on exactly the same
lines, the older men singling me out one by one and very loudly telling
me variations of Pastor Wienicke's theme, the women going for me in
twos and threes, more definitely bloodthirsty than the men, more like
Frau Berg on the subject of blood-letting, more openly greedy. They
were all disconcerted and uneasy because nothing more has been heard of
the Austrian assassination. The silence from Vienna worries them, I
gather, very much. They are afraid, actually they are afraid, Austria
may be going to do nothing except just punish the murderers, and so
miss the glorious opportunity for war. I wonder if you can the least
realize, you sane mother in a sane place, the state they're in here,
the sort of boiling and straining. I'm sure the whole of Germany is
the same,--lashed by the few behind the scenes into a fury of
aggressive patriotism. They call it patriotism, but it is just
blood-lust and loot-lust.
I helped Frau Bornsted get supper ready, and was glad to escape into
the peace of the kitchen and stand safely frying potatoes. She was
very sweet in her demure Sunday frock of plain black, and high up round
her ears a little white frill. The solemnity and youth and quaintness
of her are very attractive, and I could easily love her if it weren't
for this madness about Deutschland. She is as mad as any of them, and
in her it is much more disconcerting. We will be discoursing together
gravely--she is always grave, and never knows how funny we both are
being really--about amusing things like husbands and when and if I'm
ever going to get one, and she, full of the dignity and wisdom of the
married, will be giving me much sage counsel with sobriety and
gentleness, when something starts her off about Deutschland. Oh, they
are _intolerable_ about their Deutschland!
The Oberforster is calling for this--he's driving to the post, so
good-bye little darling mother, little beloved and precious one.
_Schuppenfelde, Thursday, July 16, 1914_.
My blessed mother,
Here's Thursday evening in my week of nothing to do, and me meaning to
write every day to you, and I haven't done it since Monday. It's
because I've had so much time. Really it's because I've been in a sort
of sleep of loveliness. I've been doing nothing except be happy. Not
a soul has been near us since Sunday, and Frau Bornsted says not a soul
will, till next Sunday. Each morning I've come down to a perfect
world, with the sun shining through roses on to our breakfast-table in
the porch, and after breakfast I've crossed the road and gone into the
forest and not come back till late afternoon.
Frau Bornsted has been sweet about it, giving me a little parcel of
food and sending me off with many good wishes for a happy day. I
wanted to help her do her housework, but except my room she won't let
me, having had orders from Kloster that I was to be completely idle.
And it _is_ doing me good. I feel so perfectly content these last
three days. There's nothing fretful about me any more; I feel
harmonized, as if I were so much a part of the light and the air and
the forest that I don't know now where they leave off and I begin. I
sit and watch the fine-weather clouds drifting slowly across the
tree-tops, and wonder if heaven is any better. I go down to the edge
of the Haff, and lie on my face in the long grass, and push up my
sleeves, and slowly stir the shallow golden water about among the
rushes. I pick wild strawberries to eat with my lunch, and after lunch
I lie on the moss and learn the Psalm for the day, first in English and
then in German. About five I begin to go home, walking slowly through
the hot scents of the afternoon forest, feeling as solemn and as
exulting as I suppose a Catholic does when he comes away, shriven and
blest, from confession. In the evening we sit out, and the little
garden grows every minute more enchanted. Frau Bornsted rests after
her labours, with her hands in her lap, and agrees with what the
Oberforster every now and then takes his pipe out of his mouth to say,
and I lie back in my chair and stare at the stars, and I think and
think, and wonder and wonder. And what do you suppose I think and
wonder about, little mother? You and love. I don't know why I say you
and love, for it's the same thing. And so is all this beauty of summer
in the woods, and so is music, and my violin when it gets playing to
me; and the future is full of it, and oh, I do so badly want to say
thank you to some one!
Good night my most precious mother.
Schuppenfelde, Friday, July 17,1914.
This morning when I came down to breakfast, sweet mother, there at the
foot of the stairs was Herr von Inster. He didn't say anything, but
watched me coming down with the contented look he has I like so much.
I was frightfully pleased to see him, and smiled all over myself.
"Oh," I exclaimed, "so you've come."
He held out his hand and helped me down the last steps. He was in
green shooting clothes, like the Oberforster's, but without the
official buttons, and looked very nice. You'd like him, I'm sure.
You'd like what he looks like, and like what he is.
He had been in the forest since four this morning, shooting with his
colonel, who came down with him to Koseritz last night. The colonel
and Graf Koseritz, who came down from Berlin with them, were both
breakfasting, attended by the Bornsteds, and it shows how soundly I
sleep here that I hadn't heard anything.
"And aren't you having any breakfast?" I asked.
"I will now," he said. "I was listening for your door to open,"
I think you'd like him _very_ much, little mother.
The colonel, whose name is Graf Hohenfeld, was being very pleasant to
Frau Bornsted, watching her admiringly as she brought him things to
eat. He was very pleasant to me too, and got up and put his heels
together and said, "Old England for ever" when I appeared, and asked
the Graf whether Frau Bornsted and I didn't remind him of a nosegay of
flowers. Obviously we didn't. The Graf doesn't look as if anybody
ever reminded him of anything. He greeted me briefly, and then sat
staring abstractedly at the tablecloth, as he did in Berlin. The
Colonel did all the talking. Both he and the Graf had on those pretty
green shooting things they wear in Germany, with the becoming soft hats
and little feathers. He was very jovial indeed, seemed fond and proud
of his lieutenant, Herr von Inster, slapped the Oberforster every now
and then on the back, which made him nearly faint with joy each time,
and wished it weren't breakfast and only coffee, because he would have
liked to drink our healths,--"The healths of these two delightful young
roses," he said, bowing to Frau Bornsted and me, "the Rose of
England--long live England, which produces such flowers--and the Rose
of Germany, our own wild forest rose."
I laughed, and Frau Bornsted looked sedately indulgent,--I suppose
because he is a great man, this staff officer, who helps work out all
the wonderful plans that are some day to make Germany able to conquer
the world; but, as she explained to me the other day when I said
something about her eyelashes being so long and pretty, prettiness is
out of place in her position, and she prefers it not mentioned. "What
has the wife of an Oberforster to do with prettiness?" she asked.
"It is good for a _junges Madchen_, who has still to find a husband,
but once she has him why be pretty? To be pretty when you are a
married woman is only an undesirability. It exposes one easily to
comment, and might cause, if one had not a solid character, an
ever-afterwards-to-be-regretted expenditure on clothes."
The men were going to shoot with the Oberforster after breakfast and be
all day in the forest, and the Colonel was going back to Berlin by the
night train. He said he was leaving his lieutenant at Koseritz for a
few days, but that he himself had to get back into harness at
once,--"While the young one plays around," he said, slapping Herr von
Inster on the back this time instead of the Oberforster, "among the
varied and delightful flora of our old German forests. Here this
nosegay," he said, sweeping his arm in our direction, "and there at
Koseritz--" sweeping his arm in the other direction, "a nosegay no less
charming but more hot-house,--the _schone_ Helena and her young lady
I asked Herr von Inster after breakfast, when we were alone for a
moment in the garden, what his Colonel was like after dinner, if even
breakfast made him so jovial.
"He is very clever," he said. "He is one of our cleverest officers on
the Staff, and this is how he hides it."
"Oh," I said; for I thought it a funny explanation. Why hide it?
Perhaps that is what's the matter with the Graf,--he's hiding how
clever _he_ is.
But that Colonel certainly does seem clever. He asked where we live in
England; a poser, rather, considering we don't at present live at all;
but I told him where we did live, when Dad was alive.
"Ah," he said, "that is in Sussex. Very pretty just there. Which
house was your home?"
I stared a little, for it seemed waste of time to describe it, but I
said it was an old house on an open green.
"Yes," he said, nodding, "on the common. A very nice, roomy old house,
with good outbuildings. But why do you not straighten out those
corners on the road to Petworth? They are death traps."
"You've been there, then?" I said, astonished at the extreme smallness
of the world.
"Never," he said, laughing. "But I study. We study, don't we, Inster
my boy, at the old General Staff. And tell your Sussex County Council,
beautiful English lady, to straighten out those corners, for they are
very awkward indeed, and might easily cause serious accidents some day
when the roads have to be used for real traffic."
"It is very good of you," I said politely, "to take such an interest in
"I not only take the greatest interest in you, charming young lady, and
in your country, but I have an orderly mind and would be really pleased
to see those corners straightened out. Use your influence, which I am
sure must be great, with that shortsighted body of gentlemen, your
"I shall not fail," I said, more politely than ever, "to inform them of
"Ah, but she is delightful,--delightful, your little _Englanderin_," he
said gaily to Frau Bornsted, who listened to his _badinage_ with grave
and respectful indulgence; and he said a lot more things about England
and its products and exports, meaning compliments to me--what can he be
like after dinner?--and went off, jovial to the last, clicking his
heels and kissing first Frau Bornsted's hand and then mine, in spite,
as he explained, of its being against the rules to kiss the hand of a
_junges Madchen_, but his way was never to take any notice of rules, he
said, if they got between him and a charming young lady. And so he
went off, waving his green hat to us and calling out _Auf Wiedersehen_
till the forest engulfed him.
Herr von Inster and the Graf went too, but quietly. The Graf went
exceedingly quietly. He hadn't said a word to anybody, as far as I
could see, and no rallyings on the part of the Colonel could make him.
He didn't even react to being told what I gather is the German
equivalent for a sly dog.
Herr von Inster said, when he could get a word in, that he is coming
over to-morrow to drive me about the forest. His attitude while his
Colonel rattled on was very interesting: his punctilious attention, his
apparent obligation to smile when there were sallies demanding that
form of appreciation, his carefulness not to miss any indication of a
"Why do you do it?" I asked, when the Colonel was engaged for a moment
with the Oberforster indoors. "Isn't your military service enough?
Are you drilled even to your smiles?"
"To everything," he said. "Including our enthusiasms. We're like the
_claque_ at a theatre."
Then he turned and looked at me with those kind, surprising eyes of
his,--they're so reassuring, somehow, after his stern profile--and
said, "To-morrow I shall be a human being again, and forget all
this,--forget everything except the beautiful things of life."
Now I must leave off, because I want to iron out my white linen skirt
and muslin blouse for to-morrow, as it's sure to be hot and I may as
well look as clean as I can, so good-bye darling little mother. Oh, I
forgot to say how glad I am you like being at Glion. I did mean to
answer a great many things in your last letter, my little loved one,
but I will tomorrow. It isn't that I don't read and reread your
darling letters, it's that one has such heaps to say oneself to you.
Each time I write to you I seem to empty the whole contents of the days
I've lived since I last wrote into your lap. But to-morrow I'll answer
all your questions,--to-morrow evening, after my day with Herr von
Inster, then I can tell you all about it.
Good-bye till then, sweet mother.
_Koseritz, Saturday evening, July 18, 1914.
My darling little mother,
See where I've got to! Who'd have thought it? Life is really very
exciting, isn't it. The Grafin drove over to Schuppenfelde this
afternoon, and took me away with her here. She said Kloster was coming
for Sunday from Heringsdorf to them, and she knew he would want to see
me and would go off to the Oberforsterei after me and leave her by
herself if I were at the Bornsteds', and anyhow she wanted to see
something of me before I went back to Berlin, and I couldn't refuse to
give an old lady--she isn't a bit old--pleasure, and heaps of gracious
things like that. Herr von Inster had brought a note from her in the
morning, preparing my mind, and added his persuasions to hers. Not
that I wanted persuading,--I thought it a heavenly idea, and didn't
even mind Helena, because I felt that in a big house there'd be more
room for her to stare at me in. And Herr von Inster is going to stay
another week, taking his summer leave now instead of later, and he says
he will see me safe to Berlin when I go next Saturday.
So we had the happiest morning wandering about the forest, he driving
and letting the horses go as slowly as they liked while we talked, and
after our sandwiches he took me back to the Bornsteds, and I showed
Frau Bornsted the Grafin's letter.
If it hadn't been a Koseritz taking me away she would have been
dreadfully offended at my wanting to go when only half my fortnight was
over, but it was like a royal command to her, and she looked at me with
greatly increased interest as the object of these high attentions. She
had been inclined to warn me against Herr von Inster as a person
removed by birth from my sphere--I suppose that's because I play the
violin--and also against drives in forests generally if the parties
were both unmarried; and she had been extraordinarily dignified when I
laughed, and had told me it was all very well for me to laugh, being
only an ignorant _junges Madchen_, but she doubted whether my mother
would laugh; and she watched our departure for our picnic very stiffly
and unsmilingly from the porch. But after reading the Grafin's letter
I was treated more nearly as an equal, and she became all interest and
co-operation. She helped me pack, while Herr von Inster, who has a
great gift for quiet patience, waited downstairs; and she told me how
fortunate I was to be going to spend some days with Komtesse Helena,
from whom I could learn, she said, what the real perfect _junges
Madchen_ was like; and by the time the Grafin herself drove up in her
little carriage with the pretty white ponies, she was so much melted
and stirred by a house-guest of hers being singled out for such an
honour that she put her arm round my neck when I said good-bye, and
whispered that though it wasn't really fit for a _junges Madchen_ to
hear, she must tell me, as she probably wouldn't see me again, that she
hoped shortly after Christmas to enrich the world by yet one more
I laughed and kissed her.
"It is no laughing matter," she said, with solemn eyes.
"No," I said, suddenly solemn too, remembering how Agatha Trent died.
And I took her face in both my hands and kissed her again, but with the
seriousness of a parting blessing. For all her dignity, she has to
reach up to me when I kiss her.
She put my hair tidy with a gentle hand, and said, "You are not at all
what a _junges Madchen_ generally is, but you are very nice. Please
wish that my child may be a boy, so that I shall become the mother of a
I kissed her again, and got out of it that way, for I don't wish
anything of the sort, and with that we parted.
Meanwhile the Grafin had been sitting very firmly in her carriage,
having refused all Frau Bornsted's entreaties to come in. It was
wonderful to see how affable she was and yet how firm, and wonderful to
see the gulf her affability put between the Bornsteds--he was at the
gate too, bowing--and herself.
And now here I am, and it's past eleven, and my window opens right on
to the Haff, and far away across the water I can see the lights of
Swinemunde twinkling where the Haff joins the open sea. It is a most
beautiful old house, centuries old, and we had a romantic
evening,--first at supper in a long narrow pannelled room lit by
candles, and then on the terrace beneath my window, where larkspurs
grow against the low wall along the water's edge. There is nobody here
except the Koseritzes, and Herr von Inster, and two girl-friends of
Helena's, very pretty and smart-looking, and an old lady who was once
the Grafin's governess and comes here every summer to enjoy what she
called, speaking English to me, the Summer Fresh.
It was like a dream. The water made lovely little soft noises along
the wall of the terrace. It was so still that we could hear the throb
of a steamer far away on the Haff, crossing from Stettin to Swinemunde.
The Graf, as usual, said nothing,--"He has much to think of," the
Grafin whispered to me. The girls talked together in undertones, which
would have made me feel shy and out of it if I hadn't somehow not
minded a bit, and they did look exactly what the Colonel had said they
were, in their pale evening frocks,--a nosegay of very delicate and
well cared-for hothouse flowers. I had on my evening frock for the
first time since I left England, and after the weeks of high blouses
felt conspicuously and terribly overdressed up in my bedroom and till I
saw the frocks the others had on, and then I felt the exact opposite.
Herr von Inster hardly spoke, and not to me at all, but I didn't mind,
I had so much in my head that he had talked about this morning. I feel
so completely natural with him, so content; and I think it is because
he is here at Koseritz that I'm so comfortable, and not in the least
shy, as I was that day at luncheon. I simply take things as they come,
and don't think about myself at all. When I came down to supper
to-night he was waiting in the hall, to show me the way, he said; and
he watched me coming down the stairs with that look in his eyes that is
such a contrast to the smart, alert efficiency of his figure and
manner,--it is so gentle, so kind. I went into the room where they all
were with a funny feeling of being safe. I don't even know whether
To-morrow the Klosters come over, and are going to stay the night, and
to-morrow I may play my fiddle again. I've faithfully kept my promise
and not touched it. Really, as it's a quarter to twelve now and at
midnight my week's fasting will be over, I might begin and play it
quite soon. I wonder what would happen if I sat on my window-sill and
played Ravel to the larkspurs and the stars! I believe it would make
even the Graf say something. But I won't do anything so unlike, as
Frau Bornsted would say, what a _junges Madchen_ generally does, but go
to bed instead, into the prettiest bed I've slept in since I had a
frilly cot in the nursery,--all pink silk coverlet and lace-edged
sheets. The room is just like an English country-house bedroom; in
fact the Grafin told me she got all her chintzes in London! It's so
funny after my room at Frau Berg's, and my little unpainted wooden
attic at the Oberforsterei.
Good night, my blessed mother. There are two owls somewhere calling to
each other in the forest. Not another sound. Such utter peace.
_Koseritz, Sunday evening, July 19, 1914_.
My own darling mother,
I don't know what you'll say, but I'm engaged to Bernd. That's Herr
von Inster. You know his name is Bernd? I don't know what to say to
it myself. I can't quite believe it. This time last night I was
writing to you in this very room, with no thought of anything in the
world but just ordinary happiness with kind friends and one specially
kind and understanding friend, and here I am twenty-four hours later
done with ordinary happiness, taken into my lover's heart for ever.
It was so strange. I don't believe any girl ever got engaged in quite
that way before. I'm sure everybody thinks we're insane, except
Kloster. Kloster doesn't. He understands.
It was after supper. Only three hours ago. I wonder if it wasn't a
dream. We were all on the terrace, as we were last night. The
Klosters had come early in the afternoon. There wasn't a leaf
stirring, and not a sound except that lapping water against the bottom
of the wall where the larkspurs are. You know how sometimes when
everybody has been talking together without stopping there's a sudden
hush. That happened to-night, and after what seemed a long while of
silence the Grafin said to Kloster, "I suppose, Master, it would be too
much to ask you to play to us?"
"Here?" he said. "Out here?"
"Why not?" she said.
I hung breathless on what he would say. Suppose he played, out there
in the dusk, with the stars and the water and the forest all round us,
what would it be like?
He got up without a word and went indoors.
The Grafin looked uneasy. "I hope," she said to Frau Kloster, "my
asking has not offended him?"
But Bernd knew--Bernd, still at that moment only Herr von Inster for
me. "He is going to play," he said.
And presently he came out again with his Strad, and standing on the
step outside the drawingroom window he played.
I thought, This is the most wonderful moment of my life. But it
wasn't; there was a more wonderful one coming.
We sat there in the great brooding night, and the music told us the
things about love and God that we know but can never say. When he had
done nobody spoke. He stood on the step for a minute in silence, then
he came down to where I was sitting on the low wall by the water and
put the Strad into my hands. "Now you," he said.
Nobody spoke. I felt as though I were asleep.
He took my hand and made me stand up. "Play what you like," he said;
and left me there, and went and sat down again on the steps by the
I don't know what I played. It was the violin that played while I held
it and listened. I forgot everybody,--forgot Kloster critically noting
what I did wrong, and forgot, so completely that I might have been
unconscious, myself. I was _listening_; and what I heard were secrets,
secrets strange and exquisite; noble, and so courageous that suffering
didn't matter, didn't touch,--all the secrets of life. I can't
explain. It wasn't like anything one knows really. It was like
something very important, very beautiful that one _used_ to know, but
Presently the sounds left off. I didn't feel as though I had had
anything to do with their leaving off. There was dead silence. I
stood wondering rather confusedly, as one wonders when first one wakes
from a dream and sees familiar things again and doesn't quite
Kloster got up and came and took the Strad from me. I could see his
face in the dusk, and thought it looked queer. He lifted up my hands
one after the other, and kissed them.
But Bernd got up from where he was sitting away from the others, and
took me in his arms and kissed my eyes.
And that's how we were engaged. I think they said something. I don't
know what it was, but there was a murmur, but I seemed very far away
and very safe; and he turned round when they murmured, and took my
hand, and said, "This is my wife." And he looked at me and said, "Is
it not so?" And I said "Yes." And I don't remember what happened next,
and perhaps it was all a dream. I'm so tired,--so tired and heavy with
happiness that I could drop in a heap on the floor and go to sleep like
that. Beloved mother--bless your Chris.
_Koseritz, Monday, July 20_.
My own darling mother,
I'm too happy,--too happy to write, or think, or remember, or do
anything except be happy. You'll forgive me, my own ever-understanding
mother, because the minutes I have to take for other things seem so
snatched away and lost, snatched from the real thing, the one real
thing, which is my lover. Oh, I expect I'm shameless, and I don't
care. Ought I to simper, and pretend I don't feel particularly much?
Be ladylike, and hide how I adore him? Telegraph to me--telegraph your
blessing. I must be blessed by you. Till I have been, it's like not
having had my crown put on, and standing waiting, all ready in my
beautiful clothes of happiness except for that. I don't care if I'm
silly. I don't care about anything. I don't know what they think of
our engagement here. I imagine they deplore it on Bernd's
account,--he's an officer and a Junker and an only son and a person of
promise, and altogether heaps of important things besides the important
thing, which is that he's Bernd. And you see, little mother, I'm only
a woman who is going to have a profession, and that's an impossible
thing from the Junker point of view. It's queer how nothing matters,
no criticism or disapproval, how one can't be touched directly one
loves somebody and is loved back. It is like being inside a magic ring
of safety. Why, I don't think that there's anything that could hurt me
so long as we love each other. We've had a wonderful morning walking
in the forest. It's all quite true what happened last night. It
wasn't a dream. We are engaged. I've hardly seen the others. They
congratulated us quite politely. Kloster was very kind, but anxious
lest I should let love, as he says, spoil art. We laughed at that.
Bernd, who would have been a musician but for his family and his
obligations, is going to be it vicariously through me. I shall work
all the harder with him to help me. How right you were about a lover
being the best of all things in the world! I don't know how anybody
gets on without one. I can't think how I did. It amazes me to
remember that I used to think I was happy. Bless me, little
mother--bless us. Send a telegram. I can't wait.
_Koseritz, Thursday, July 23_.
My own mother,
Thank you so much for your telegram of blessing, darling one, which I
have just had. It seems to set the seal of happiness on me. I know
you will love Bernd, and understand directly you see him why I do. We
are so placid here these beautiful summer days. Everybody accepts us
now resignedly as a _fait accompli_, and though they remain
unenthusiastic they are polite and tolerant. And whenever I play to
them they all grow kind. It's rather like being Orpheus with his lute,
and they the mountain tops that freeze. I've discovered I can melt
them by just making music. Helena really does love music. It was
quite true what her mother said. Since I played that first wonderful
night of my engagement she has been quite different to me. She still
is silent, because that's her nature, and she still stares; but now she
stares in a sort of surprise, with a question in her eyes. And
wherever she may be in the house or garden, if she hears me beginning
to play she creeps near on tiptoe and listens.
Kloster has gone. He and his wife were both very kind to us, but
Kloster is worried because I've fallen in love. I'm not to go back to
Berlin till Monday, as Bernd can stay on here till then, and there's no
point in spending a Sunday in Berlin unless one has to. Kloster is
going to give me three lessons a week instead of two, and I shall work
now with such renewed delight! He says I won't, but I know better.
Everything I do seems to be touched now with delight. How funny that
room at Frau Berg's will look and feel after being here. But I don't
mind going back to it one little half a scrap. Bernd will be in
Berlin; he'll be writing to me, seeing me, walking with me. With him
there it will be, every bit of it, perfect.
"When I come back to town in October," the Grafin said to me, "you must
stay with us. It is not fitting that Bernd's betrothed should live in
that boarding-house of Frau Berg's. Will not your mother soon join
It is very kind of her, I think. It appears that a girl who is engaged
has to be chaperoned even more than a girl who isn't. What funny
ancient stuff these conventions are. I wonder how long more we shall
have of them. Of course Frau Berg and her boarders are to the Junker
dreadful beyond words.
But her question about you set me thinking. Won't you come, little
mother? As it is such an unusual and never-to-be-repeated occurrence
in our family that its one and only child should be going to marry?
And yet I can't quite see you in August in lodgings in Berlin, come
down from your beautiful mountain, away from your beautiful lake.
After all, I've only got four more months of it, and then I'm finished
and can go back to you. What is going to happen then, exactly, I don't
know. Bernd says, Marry, and that you'll come and live with us in
Germany. That's all very well, but what about, if I marry so soon,
starting my public career, which was to have begun this next winter?
Kloster says impatiently. Oh marry, and get done with it, and that
then | I'll be sensible again and able to arrange my debut as a
violinist with the calm, I gather he thinks, of the disillusioned.
"I'm perfectly sensible," I said.
"You are not. You are in love. A woman should never be an artist.
Again I say, Mees Chrees, what I have said to you before, that it is
sheer malice on the part of Providence to have taken you, a woman, as
the vessel which is to carry this great gift about the world. A man,
gifted to the extent you so unluckily are, falls in love and is
inspired by it. Indeed, it is in that condition that he does his best
work; which is why the man artist is so seldom a faithful husband, for
the faithful husband is precluded from being in love."
"Why can't he be in love?" I asked, husbands now having become very
interesting to me.
"Because he is a faithful husband."
"But he can be in love with his wife."
"No," said Kloster, "he cannot. And he cannot for the same reason that
no man can go on wanting his dinner who has had it. Whereas," he went
on louder, because I had opened my mouth and was going to say
something, "a woman artist who falls in love neglects everything and
merely loves. Merely loves," he repeated, looking me up and down with
great severity and disfavour.
"You'll see how I'll work," I said.
"Nonsense," he said, waving that aside impatiently. "Which is why," he
continued, "I urge you to marry quickly. Then the woman, so
unfortunately singled out by Providence to be something she is not
fitted for, having married and secured her husband, prey, victim. Or
whatever you prefer to call him--"
"I prefer to call him husband," I said.
"--if she succeeds in steering clear of detaining and delaying objects
like cradles, is cured and can go back with proper serenity to that
which alone matters. Art and the work necessary to produce it. But
she will have wasted time," he said, shaking his head. "She will most
sadly have wasted time."
In my turn I said Nonsense, and laughed with that heavenly, glorious
security one has when one has a lover.
I expect there are some people who may be as Kloster says, but we're
not like them, Bernd and I. We're not going to waste a minute. He
adores my music, and his pride in it inspires me and makes me glow with
longing to do better and better for his sake, so as to see him moved,
to see him with that dear look of happy triumph in his eyes. Why, I
feel lifted high up above any sort of difficulty or obstacle life can
try to put in my way. I'm going to work when I get to Berlin as I
never did before.
I said something like this to Kloster, who replied with great tartness
that I oughtn't to want to do anything for the sake of producing a
certain look in somebody's eyes. "That is not Art, Mees Chrees. That
is nothing that will ever be any good. You are, you see, just the
veriest woman; and here--" he almost cried--"is this gift, this
precious immortal gift, placed in such shaky small hands as yours."
"I'm very sorry," I said, feeling quite ashamed that I had it, he was
so much annoyed.
"No, no," he said, relenting a little, "do not be sorry--marry. Marry
quickly. Then there may be recovery."
And when he was saying good-bye--I tell you this because it will amuse
you--he said with a kind of angry grief that if Providence were
determined in its unaccountable freakishness to place a gift which
should be so exclusively man's in the shell or husk (I forget which he
called it, but anyhow it sounded contemptuous), of a woman, it might at
least have selected an ugly woman. "It need not," he said angrily,
"have taken one who was likely in any case to be selected for purposes
of love-making, and given her, besides the ordinary collection of
allurements provided by nature to attract the male, a _Beethovenkopf_.
Never should that wide sweep of brow and those deep set eyes, the whole
noble thoughtfulness of such a head,"--you mustn't think me vain,
little mother, he positively said all these things and was so
angry--"have been combined with the rubbish, in this case irrelevant
and actually harmful, that goes to make up the usual pretty young face.
Mees Chrees, I could have wished you some minor deformity, such as many
spots, for then you would not now be in this lamentable condition of
being loved and responding to it. And if," he said as a parting shot,
"Providence was determined to commit this folly, it need not have
crowned it by choosing an Englishwoman."
"What?" I said, astonished, following him out on to the steps, for he
has always seemed to like and admire us.
"The English are not musical," he said, climbing into the car that was
to take him to the station, and in which Frau Kloster had been
patiently waiting. "They are not, they never were, and they never will
be. Purcell? A fig for your Purcell. You cannot make a great gallery
of art out of one miniature, however perfect. And as for your moderns,
your Parrys and Stanfords and Elgars and the rest, why, what stuff are
they? Very nice, very good, very conscientious: the translation into
musical notation of respectable English gentlemen in black coats and
silk hats. They are the British Stock Exchange got into music. No,
no," he said, tucking the dust-cover round himself and his wife, "the
English are not musicians. And you," he called back as the car was
moving, "You, Mees Chrees, are a freak,--nothing whatever but a freak
and an accident."
We turned away to go indoors. The Grafin said she considered he might
have wished her good-bye. "After all," she remarked, "I was his
She looked thoughtfully at me and Bernd as we stood arm-in-arm aside at
the door to let her pass. "These geniuses," she said, laying her hand
a moment on Bernd's shoulder, "are interesting but difficult."
I think, little mother, she meant me, and was feeling a little sorry
Isn't it queer how people don't understand. Anyhow, when she had gone
in we looked at each other and laughed, and Bernd took my hands and
kissed them one after the other, and said something so sweet, so
dear,--but I can't tell you what it was. That's the worst of this
having a lover,--all the most wonderful, beautiful things that are
being said to me by him are things I can't tell you, my mother, my
beloved mother whom I've always told everything to all my life. Just
the things you'd love most to hear, the things that crown me with glory
and pride, I can't tell you. It is because they're sacred. Sacred and
holy to him and to me. You must imagine them, my precious one; imagine
the very loveliest things you'd like said to your Chris, and they won't
be half as lovely as what is being said to her. I must go now, because
Bernd and I are going sailing on the Haff in a fishing boat there is.
We're taking tea, and are going to be away till the evening. The
fishing boat has orange-coloured sails, and is quite big,--I mean you
can walk about on her and she doesn't tip up. We're going to run her
nose into the rushes along the shore when we're tired of sailing, and
Bernd is going to hear me say my German psalms and read Heine to me.
Good-bye then for the moment, my little darling one. How very heavenly
it is being engaged, and having the right to go off openly for hours
with the one person you want to be with, and nobody can say, "No, you
mustn't." Do you know Bernd has to have the Kaiser's permission to
marry? All officers have to, and he quite often says no. The girl has
to prove she has an income of her own of at least 5000 marks--that's
250 pounds a year--and be of demonstrably decent birth. Well, the
birth part is all right--I wonder if the Kaiser knows how to pronounce
Cholmondeley--and of course once I get playing at concerts I shall earn
heaps more than the 250 pounds; so I expect we shall be able to arrange
that. Kloster will give me a certificate of future earning powers, I'm
sure. But marrying seems so far off, such a dreamy thing, that I've
not begun really to think of it. Being engaged is quite lovely enough
to go on with. There's Bernd calling.
I've just come in. It's ten o'clock. I've had the most perfect day.
Little mother, what an amazingly beautiful world it is. Everything is
combining to make this summer the most wonderful of summers for me.
How I shall think of it when I am old, and laugh for joy. The weather
is so perfect, people are so kind, my playing prospects are so
encouraging; and there's Bernd. Did you ever know such a lot of lovely
things for one girl? All my days are filled with sunshine and love.
Everywhere I look there's nothing but kindness. Do you think the world
is getting really kinder, or is it only that I'm so happy? I can't
help thinking that all that talk I heard in Berlin, all that
restlessness and desire to hit out at somebody, anybody,--the
knock-him-down-and-rob him idea they seemed obsessed with, was simply
because it was drawing near the holiday time of year, and every one was
overworked and nervy after a year's being cooped up in offices; and
then the great heat came and finished them. They were cross, like
overtired children, cross and quarrelsome. How cross I was too,
tormented by those flies! After this month, when everybody has been
away at the sea and in the forests, they'll be different, and as full
of kindliness and gentleness as these gentle kind skies are, and the
morning and the evening, and the placid noons. I don't believe anybody
who has watched cows pasturing in golden meadows, as Bernd and I have
for hours this afternoon, or heard water lapping among reeds, or seen
eagles shining far up in the blue above the pine trees, and drawn in
with every breath the sweetness, the extraordinary warm sweetness, of
this summer in places in the forests and by the sea,--I don't believe
people who had done that could for at least another year want to
quarrel and fight. And by the time they did want to, having got jumpy
in the course of months of uninterrupted herding together, it will be
time for them to go for holidays again, back to the blessed country to
be soothed and healed. And each year we shall grow wiser, each year
more grown-up, less like naughty children, nearer to God. All we want
is time,--time to think and understand. I feel religious now.
Happiness has made me so religious that I would satisfy even Aunt
Edith. I'm sure happiness brings one to God much quicker than ways of
grief. Indeed it's the only right way of being brought, I think. You
know, little mother, I've always hated the idea of being kicked to God,
of getting on to our knees because we've been beaten till we can't
stand. I think if I were to lose what I love,--you, Bernd, or be hurt
in my hands so that I couldn't play,--it wouldn't make me good, it
would make me bad. I'd go all hard, and defy and rebel. And really
God ought to like that best. It's at least a square and manly
attitude. Think how we would despise any creature who fawned on us,
and praised and thanked us because we had been cruel. And why should
God be less fine than we are? Oh well, I must go to bed. One can't
settle God in the tail-end of a letter. But I'm going to say prayers
tonight, real prayers of gratitude, real uplifting of the heart in
thanks and praise. I think I was always happy, little mother. I don't
remember anything else; but it wasn't this secure happiness. I used to
be anxious sometimes. I knew we were poor, and that you were so very
precious. Now I feel safe, safe about you as well as myself. I can
look life in the eyes, quite confident, almost careless. I have such
faith in Bernd! Two together are so strong, if one of the two is Bernd.
Good night my blessed mother of my heart. I'm going to say
thank-prayers now, for you, for him, for the whole beautifulness of the
world. My windows are wide open on to the Haff. There's no sound at
all, except that little plop, plop, of the water against the terrace
wall. Sometimes a bird flutters for a moment in the trees of the
forest on either side of the garden, turning over in its sleep, I
suppose, and then everything is still again, so still; just as if some
great cool hand were laid gently on the hot forehead of the world and
was hushing it to sleep.
Your Chris who loves you.
_Koseritz, Friday, July 25th, 1914_.
Bernd was telegraphed for this afternoon from headquarters to go back
at once to Berlin, and he's gone. I'm rubbing my eyes to see if I'm
awake, it has been so sudden. The whole house seemed changed in an
instant. The Graf went too. The newspaper doesn't get here till we
are at lunch, and is always brought in and laid by the Graf, and today
there was the Austrian ultimatum to Servia in it, and when the Graf saw
that in the headlines of the _Tageszeitung_ he laid it down without a
word and got up and left the room. Bernd reached over for the paper to
see what had happened, and it was that. He read it out to us. "This
means war," he said, and the Grafin said, "Hush," very quickly; I
suppose because she couldn't bear to hear the word. Then she got up
too, and went after the Graf, and we were left, Helena and the
governess, and the children, and Bernd, and I at a confused and untidy
table, everybody with a question in their eyes, and the servants' hands
not very steady as they held the dishes. The menservants would all
have to go and fight if there were war. No wonder the dishes shook a
little, for they can't but feel excited.
As soon as we could get away from the diningroom Bernd and I went out
into the garden--the Graf and Grafin hadn't reappeared--and he said
that though for a moment he had thought Austria's ultimatum would mean
war, it was only just the first moment, but that he believed Servia
would agree to everything, and the crisis would blow over in the way so
many of them had blown over before.
I asked him what would happen if it didn't; I wanted things explained
to me clearly, for positively I'm not quite clear about which nations
would be fighting; and he said why talk about hateful things like war
as long as there wasn't a war. He said that as long as his chief left
him peacefully at Koseritz and didn't send for him to Berlin I might be
sure it was going to be just a local quarrel, for his being sent for
would mean that all officers on leave were being sent for, and that the
Government was at least uneasy. Then at four o'clock came the
telegram. The Government is, accordingly, at least uneasy.
I saw hardly any more of him. He got his things together with a
quickness that astonished me, and he and the Graf, who was going to
Berlin by the same train, motored to Stettin to catch the last express.
Just before they left he caught hold of my hand and pulled me into the
library where no one was, and told me how he thanked God I was English.
"Chris, if you had been French or Russian,"--he said, looking as though
the very thought filled him with horror. He laid his face against
mine. "I'd have loved you just the same," he said, "I could have done
nothing else but love you, and think, think what it would have meant--"
"Then it will be Germany as well, if there's war?" I said, "Germany as
well as Austria, and France and Russia--what, almost all Europe?" I
exclaimed, incredulous of such a terror.
"Except England," he said; and whispered, "Oh, thank God, except
England." Somebody opened the door an inch and told him he must come
at once. I whispered in his ear that I would go back to Berlin
tomorrow and be near him. He went out so quickly that by the time I
got into the hall after him the car was tearing down the avenue, and I
only caught a flash of the sun on his helmet as he disappeared round
It has all been so quick. I can't believe it quite. I don't know what
to think, and nobody says anything here. The Grafin, when I ask her
what she thinks, says soothingly that I needn't worry my little
head--my little head! As though I were six, and made of sugar--and
that everything will settle down again. "Europe is in an excited
state," she says placidly, "and suspects danger round every corner, and
when it has reached the corner and looked round it, it finds nothing
there after all. It has happened often before, and will no doubt
happen again. Go to bed, my child, and forget politics. Leave them to
older and more experienced heads. Always our Kaiser has been on the
side of peace, and we can trust him to smooth down Austria's ruffled
Greatly doubting her Kaiser, after all I've heard of him at Kloster's,
I was too polite to be anything but silent, and came up to my room
obediently. If there is war, then Bernd--oh well, I'm tired. I don't
think I'll write any more tonight. But I do love you so very much,
What a mercy that mothers are women, and needn't go away and fight.
Wouldn't it have been too awful if they had been men!
_Koseritz, Saturday, July 25th, 1914.
You know, my beloved one, I'd much rather be at Frau Berg's in Berlin
and independent, and able to see Bernd whenever he can come, without
saying dozens of thank you's and may I's to anybody each time, and I
had arranged to go today, and now the Grafin won't let me. She says
she'll take me up on Monday when she and Helena go. They're going for
a short time because they want to be nearer any news there is than they
are here, and she says it wouldn't be right for her, so nearly my aunt,
to allow me, so nearly her niece, to stay by myself in a pension while
she is in her house in the next street. What would people say? she
asked--_was wurden die Leute sagen_, as every German before doing or
refraining from doing a thing invariably inquires. They all from top
to bottom seem to walk in terror of _die Leute_ and what they would
_sagen_. So I'm to go to her house in the Sommerstrasse, and live in
chaperoned splendour for as long as she is there. She says she is
certain my mother would wish it. I'm not a hit certain, I who know my
mother and know how beautifully empty she is of conventions and how
divinely indifferent to _die Leute_; but as I'm going to marry a German
of the Junker class I suppose I must appease his relations,--at any
rate till I've got them, by gentle and devious methods, a little more
used to me. So I gave in sullenly. Don't be afraid,--only sullenly
inside, not outside. Outside I was so well-bred and pleased, you can't
think. It really is very kind of the Grafin, and her want of
enthusiasm, which was marked, only makes it all the kinder. On that
principle, too, my gratefulness, owing to an equal want of enthusiasm,
is all the more grateful.
I don't want to wait here till Monday. I'd like to have gone
today,--got through all the miles of slow forest that lie between us
and the nearest railway station, the miles of forest news has to crawl
through by slow steps, dragged towards us in a cart at a walking pace
once a day. Nearly all today and quite all tomorrow we shall sit here
in this sunny emptiness. It is a wonderful day again, but to me it's
like a body with the soul gone, like the meaningless smile of a
handsome idiot. Evidently, little mother, your unfortunate Chris is
very seriously in love. I don't believe it is news I want to be nearer
to: it's Bernd.
As for news, the papers today seem to think things will arrange
themselves. They're rather unctuous about it, but then they're always
unctuous,--as though, if they had eyes, they would be turned up to
heaven with lots of the pious whites showing. They point out the awful
results there would be to the whole world if Servia, that miserable
small criminal, should dare not satisfy the just demands of Germany's
outraged and noble ally Austria. But of course Servia will. They take
that for granted. Impossible that she shouldn't. The Kaiser is
cruising in his yacht somewhere up round Norway, and His Majesty has
shown no signs, they say, of interrupting his holiday. As long as he
stays away, they remark, nothing serious can happen. What an
indictment of S. M.! As long as he stays away, playing about, there
will be peace. How excellent it would be, then, if he stayed away and
I wanted to say this to the Grafin when she read the papers aloud to us
at lunch, and I wonder what would have happened to me if I had. Well,
though I've got to stay with her and be polite in the Sommerstrasse, I
shall escape every other day to that happy, rude place, Kloster's flat,
and can say what I like. I think I told you he is going to give me
three lessons a week now.
I practised most of the morning. I wrote to Bernd, and told him about
Monday, and told him--oh, lots of little things I just happened to
think of. I went out after lunch and lay in the meadow by the water's
edge with a book I didn't read, the same meadow Bernd and I anchored
our fishing boat at only the day before yesterday, but really ten years
ago, and I lay so quiet that the cows forgot me, and came and scrunched
away at the grass quite close to my head. We had tea as usual on the
terrace in the shady angle of the south-west walls, and the Grafin
discoursed placidly on the political situation. She was most
instructive; calmly imparting knowledge to Helena and me; calmly
embroidering a little calm-looking shirt for her married daughter's
baby, with calm, cool white fingers. She seemed very content with the
world, and the way it is behaving. She looked as unruffled as one of
the swans on the Haff. All the sedition and heretical opinions she
must have heard Kloster fling about have slid off her without leaving a
mark. Evidently she pays no attention to anything he thinks, on the
ground that he is a genius. Geniuses are privileged lunatics. I
gather that is rather how she feels. She was quite interesting about
Germany,--her talk was all of Germany. She knows a great deal of its
history and I think she must have told us all she knew. By the time
the servants came to take away the tea-things I had a distinct vision
of Germany as the most lovable of little lambs with a blue ribbon round
its neck, standing knee-deep in daisies and looking about the world
with kind little eyes.
Good-bye darling mother. Saturday is nearly over now. By this time
the time limit for Servia has expired. I wonder what has happened. I
wonder what you in Switzerland are feeling about it. You know, my
dearest one, I'll interrupt my lessons and come to Switzerland if you
have the least shred of a wish that I should; and perhaps if Bernd
really had to go away--supposing the unlikely were to happen after all
and there were war--I'd want to come creeping back close to you till he
is safe again. And yet I don't know. Surely the right thing would be
to go on, whatever happens, quietly working with Kloster till October
as we had planned. But you've only got to lift your little finger, and
I'll come. I mean, if you get thinking things and feeling worried.
_Koseritz, Sunday evening, July 26th_.
I've packed, and I'm ready. We start early tomorrow. The newspapers,
for some reason, perhaps excitement and disorganization, didn't come
today, but the Graf telephoned from Berlin about the Austro-Hungarian
minister having asked the Servian government for his passports and left
Belgrade. You'll know about this today too. The Grafin, still placid,
says Austria will now very properly punish Servia, both for the murder
and for the insolence of refusing her, Austria's, just demands. The
Graf merely telephoned that Servia had refused. It did seem
incredible. I did think Servia would deserve her punishing.
Yesterday's papers said the demands were most reasonable considering
what had been done. I hadn't read the Austrian note, because of the
confusion of Bernd's sudden going away, and I was full of indignation
at Servia's behaviour, piling insult on injury in this way and risking
setting Europe by the ears, but was pulled up short and set thinking by
the Grafin's looking pleased at my expressions of indignation, and her
coming over to me to pat my cheek and say, "This child will make an
excellent little German."
Then I thought I'd better wait and know more before sweeping Servia out
of my disgusted sight. There are probably lots of other things to
know. Kloster will tell me. I find I have a profound distrust really
of these people. I don't mean of particular people, like the
Koseritzes and the Klosters and their friends, but of Germans in the
mass. It is a sort of deep-down discomfort of spirit, the discomfort
of disagreement in fundamentals.
"Then there'll be war?" I said to the Grafin, staring at her placid
face, and not a bit pleased about being going to be an excellent little
"Oh, a punitive expedition only," she said.
"Bernd thought it would mean Russia and France and you as well," I said.
"Oh, Bernd--he is in love," said the Grafin, smiling.
"I don't quite see--" I began.
"Lovers always exaggerate," she said. "Russia and France will not
interfere in so just a punishment."
"But is it just?" I asked.
She gazed at me critically at this. It was not, she evidently
considered, a suitable remark for one whose business it was to turn
into an excellent little German. "Dear child," she said, "you cannot
suppose that our ally, the Kaiser's ally, would make demands that are
"Do you think Friday's papers are still anywhere about?" was my answer.
"I'd like to read the Austrian note, and think it over for myself. I
The Grafin smiled at this, and rang the bell. "I expect
Dorner"--Dorner is the butler--"has them," she said. "But do not worry
your little head this hot weather too much."
"It won't melt," I said, resenting that my head should be regarded as
so very small and also made of sugar,--she said something like this the
other day, and I resented that too.
"There are people whose business it is to think these high matters out
for us," she said, "and in their hands we can safely leave them."
"As if they were God," I remarked.
She looked at me critically again. "Precisely," she said. "Loyal
subjects, true Christians, are alike in their unquestioning trust and
obedience to authority."
I came upstairs then, in case I shouldn't be able to keep from saying
something truthful and rude.
What a misfortune it is that truth always is so rude. So that a person
who, like myself, for reasons that I can't help thinking are on the
whole base, is anxious to hang on to being what servants call a real
lady, is accordingly constantly forced into a regrettable want of
candour. I wish Bernd weren't a Junker. It is a great blot on his
perfection. I'd much rather he were a navvy, a stark, swearing navvy,
and we could go in for stark, swearing candour, and I needn't be a lady
any more. It's so middle-class being a lady. These German aristocrats
are hopelessly middle-class.
I know when I get to Berlin, and only want to keep abreast of the real
things that may be going to happen, which will take me all my time, for
I haven't been used to big events, it will be very annoying to be
caught and delayed at every turn by small nets of politenesses and
phrases and considerations, by having to remember every blessed one of
the manners they go in for so terribly here. I've never met so _much_
manners as in Germany. The protestations you have to make! The
elaborateness and length of every acceptance or refusal! And it's all
so much fluff and wind, signifying nothing, nothing at all unless it's
fear; fear, again, their everlasting haunting spectre; fear of the
other person's being offended if he is stronger than you, higher
up,--because then he'll hurt you, punish you somehow; ten to one, if
you're a man, he'll fight you.
I've read the Austrian Note. I don't wonder very much at Servia's
refusing to accept it, and yet surely it would have been wiser if she
had accepted it, anyhow as much of it as she _possibly_ could.
"Much wiser," said the Grafin, smiling gently when I said this at
dinner tonight. "At least, wiser for Servia. But it is well so." And
she smiled again.
I've come to the conclusion that the Grafin too wants war,---a big
European war, so that Germany, who is so longing to get that tiresome
rattling sword of hers out of the scabbard, can seize the excuse and
rush in. One only has to have stayed here, lived among them and heard
them talk, to _know_ that they're all on tiptoe for an excuse to start
their attacking. They've been working for years for the moment when
they can safely attack. It has been the Kaiser's one idea, Kloster
says, during the whole of his reign. Of course it's true it has been a
peaceful reign,--they're always pointing that out here when
endeavouring to convince a foreigner that the last thing their immense
preparations mean is war; of course a reign is peaceful up to the
moment when it isn't. They've edged away carefully up to now from any
possible quarrel, because they weren't ready for the almighty smash
they mean to have when they are ready. They've prepared to the
smallest detail. Bernd told me that the men who can't fight, the old
and unfit, each have received instructions for years and years past
every autumn, secret exact instructions, as to what they are to do,
when war is declared, to help in the successful killing of their
brothers,--their brothers, little mother, for whom, too, Christ died.
Each of these aged or more or less diseased Germans, the left-overs who
really can't possibly fight, has his place allotted to him in these
secret orders in the nearest town to where he lives, a place
supervising the stores or doing organizing work. Every other man,
except those who have the luck to be idiots or dying--what a world to
have to live in, when this is luck--will fight. The women, and the
thousands of imported Russians and Poles, will look after the farms for
the short time the men will be away, for it is to be a short war, a few
weeks only, as short as the triumphant war of 1870. Did you ever know
anything so horrifying, so evil, as this minute concentration, year in
year out, for decades, on killing--on successful, triumphant killing,
just so that you can grab something that doesn't belong to you. It is
no use dressing it up in big windy words like _Deutschthum_ and the
rest of the stuff the authorities find it convenient to fool their
slaves with,--it comes to exactly that. I always, you see, think of
Germany as the grabber, the attacker. Anything else, now that I've
lived here, is simply inconceivable. A defensive war in which she
should have to defend her homes from wanton attack is inconceivable.
There is no wantonness now in the civilized nations. We have outgrown
the blood stage. We are sober peoples, sober and civilian,--grown up,
in fact. And the semi-civilized peoples would be afraid to attack a
nation so strong as Germany. She is training and living, and has been
training and living for years and years, simply to attack. What is the
use of their protesting? One has only to listen to their points of
view to brush aside the perfunctory protestations they put in every now
and then, as if by order, whenever they remember not to be natural.
Oh, I know this is very different from what I was writing and feeling
two or three days ago, but I've been let down with a jerk, I'm being
reminded of the impressions I got in Berlin, they've come up sharply
again, and I'm not so confident that what was the matter with the
people there was only heat and overwork. There was an eagerness about
them, a kind of fever to begin their grabbing. I told you, I think,
how Berlin made me think when first I got there of something _seething_.
Darling mother, forgive me if I'm shrill. I wouldn't be shrill, I'm
certain I wouldn't, if I could believe in the necessity, the justice of
such a war, if Germany weren't going to war but war were coming to
Germany. And I'm afraid,--afraid because of Bernd. Suppose he--Well,
perhaps by the time we get to Berlin things will have calmed down, and
the Grafin will be able to come back straight here, which God grant,
and I shall go back to Frau Berg and my flies. I shall regard those
flies now with the utmost friendliness. I shan't mind anything they do.
Good night blessed mother. I'm so thankful these two days are over.
It is this silence here, this absurd peaceful sunshine, and the placid
Grafin, and the bland unconsciousness of nature that I find hard to
_Berlin, Wednesday, July 29th_.
My own little mother,
It is six o'clock in the morning, and I'm in my dressing-gown writing
to you, because if I don't do it now I shall be swamped with people and
things, as I was all yesterday and the day before, and not get a
moment's quiet. You see, there is going to be war, almost to a dead
certainty, and the Germans have gone mad. The effect even on this
house is feverish, so that getting up very early will be my only chance
of writing to you.
You never saw anything like the streets yesterday. They seemed full of
drunken people, shouting up and down with red faces all swollen with
excitement. It is of course intensely interesting and new to me, who
have never been closer to such a thing as war than history lessons at
school, but what do they all think they're going to get, what do they
all think it's really _for_, these poor creatures bellowing and
strutting, and waving their hats and handkerchiefs, and even their
babies, high over their heads whenever a _konigliche Hoheit_ dashes
past in a motor, which happens every five minutes because there are
such a lot of them. Our drive from Koseritz to Stettin on Monday,
which now seems so remote that it is as if it was another life, was the
last beautiful ordinary thing that happened. Since then it has been
one great noise and ugliness. I can't forget the look of the country
as we passed through it on Monday, so lovely in its summer
peacefulness, the first rye being cut in the fields, the hedges full of
Traveler's Joy. I didn't notice how beautiful it was at the time, I
only wanted to get on, to get away, to get the news; but now I'm here I
remember it as something curiously _innocent_, and I'm so glad we had a
puncture that made us stop for ten minutes in a bit of the road where
there were great cornfields as far as one could see, and a great
stretch of sky with peaceful little white clouds that hardly moved, and
only the sound of poplars by the roadside rustling their leaves with
that lovely liquid sound they make, and larks singing. It comforts me
to call this up again, to hide in it for a minute away from the
shouting of _Deutschland uber Alles_, and the _hochs_ and yellings.
Then we got to Stettin; and since then I have lived in ugliness.
The Kaiser came back on Monday. He had arrived in Berlin by the time
we got here, and the Grafin's triumphant calm visibly increased when
the footman who met us at the station eagerly told her the news. For
this, as the papers said that evening, hardly able to conceal their joy
beneath their pious hopes that the horrors of war may even yet be
spared the world, reveals the full seriousness of the situation. I
like the "even yet," don't you? Bernd was at the station, and drove
with us to the Sommerstrasse. We went along the Dorotheenstrasse, at
the back of Unter den Linden, as the Lindens were choked with people.
It was impossible to get through them. They were a living wedge of
people, with frantic mounted policemen trying to get them to go
Bernd was so dear, and oh it was such a blessing to be near him again!
But he was solemn, and didn't smile at all except when he looked at me.
Then that dear smile that is so full of goodness changed his whole
face. "Oh Bernd, I do love you so _much_," I couldn't help whispering,
leaning forward to do it regardless of Helena who sat next to him; and
seeing by Helena's stare that she had heard, and feeling recklessly
cheerful at having got back to him, I turned on her and said, "Well, he
shouldn't smile at me in that darling way."
The Grafin laughed gently, so I knew she thought my manners bad. I've
learned that when she laughs gently she disapproves, just as I've
learned that when she says with a placid sigh that war is terrible and
must be avoided, all her hopes are bound up in its not being avoided.
Her only son is in the Cuirassiers, and is, Kloster says, a naturally
unsuccessful person. War is his chance of promotion, of making a
career. It is also his chance of death or maiming, as I said to Helena
on Sunday at Koseritz when she was talking about her brother and his
chances if there is war to the pastor, who was calling hat in hand and
very full of bows.
She stared at me, and so did the pastor. I'm afraid I plumped into the
"I had sooner," said Helena, "that Werner were dead or maimed for life
than that he should not make a career. One's brother must not, cannot
be a failure."
And the pastor bowed and exclaimed, "That is well and finely said.
That is full of pride, of the true German patrician pride."
Helena, you see, forgot, as Germans sometimes do, not to be natural.
She said straight but it was a career she wanted for her brother. She
forgot the usual talk of patriotism and the glory of being mangled on
behalf of Hohenzollerns.
Yesterday the menservants disappeared, and women waited on us. There
was no jolt in the machinery. It went on as smoothly as though the
change had been weeks ago. Even the butler, who certainly is too old
to fight, vanished.
Bernd comes in whenever he can. Luckily we're quite close to the
General Staff Headquarters here, and he has his meals with us. He
persists that the war will be kept rigidly to Austria and Servia, and
therefore will be over in a week or two. He says Sir Edward Grey has
soothed bellicose governments before now, and will be able to do so
again. He talks of the madness of war, and of how no Government
nowadays would commit such a sheer stupidity as starting it. I listen
to him, and am convinced and comforted; then I go back to the others,
and my comfort slips away again. For the others are so sure. There's
no question for them, no doubt. They don't say so, any of them,
neither the Graf, nor the Grafin, nor the son Werner who was here
yesterday nor Bernd's Colonel who dined here last night, nor any of the
other people. Government officials who come to see the Graf, and women
friends who come to see the Grafin. They don't say war is certain, but
each one of them has the look of satisfaction and relief people have
when they get something they've wanted very much for a very long time
and sigh out "At last!" Some of them let out their satisfaction more
than others,--Bernd's Colonel, for instance, who seems particularly
hilarious. He was very hilarious last night, though not ostensibly
about war. If the possibility of war is mentioned, as of course it
constantly is, they at once all shake their heads as if to order, and
look serious, and say God grant it may even now be avoided, or
something like that; just as the newspapers do. And last night at
dinner somebody added a hope, expressed with a very grave face, that
the people of Germany wouldn't get out of hand and force war upon the
Government against its judgment.
I thought that rather funny. Especially after two hours in the morning
with Kloster, who explained that the Government is arranging everything
that is happening, managing public opinion, creating the exact amount
of enthusiasm and aggressiveness it wishes to have behind it, just as
it did in 1870 when it wanted to bring about the war with France. I
know it isn't proper for a _junges Madchen_ to talk at dinner unless
she is asked a question, and I know she mustn't have an opinion about
anything except bonbons and flowers, and I also know that a _junges
Madchen_ who is betrothed is expected to show on all occasions such
extreme modesty, such a continuous downcast eye, that it almost amounts
to being ashamed of herself; yet I couldn't resist leaning across the
table to the man who said that, a high official in the _Ministerium des
Innern_, and saying "But your public is so disciplined and your
Government so almighty--" and was going on to ask him what grounds he
had for his fears that a public in that condition would force the
Government's hand, for I was interested and wanted dreadfully to hear
what he would say, when the Grafin slipped in, smiling gently.
"My dear new niece," she said, looking round the table at everybody,
"promises to become a most excellent little German. See how she
already recognizes and admires our restraint on the one hand, and on
the other, our power."
The Colonel, who was sitting on one side of me, laughed, raised his
glass, and begged me to permit him to drink my health and the health of
that luckiest of young men, Lieutenant von Inster. "Old England
forever!" he exclaimed, bowing over his glass to me, "The England that
raises such fair flowers and allows Germany to pluck them. Long may
she continue these altruistic activities. Long may the homes of
Germany be decorated with England's fairest products."
By this time he was on his feet, and they were toasting England and me.
They were all quite enthusiastic, and I felt so proud and pleased, with
Bernd sitting beside me looking so proud and pleased. "England!" they
called out, lifting their glasses, "England and the new alliance!" And
they bowed and smiled to me, and came round one by one and clinked
their glasses against mine.
Then Bernd had to make a little speech and thank the Colonel, and you
can't think how beautifully he speaks, and not a bit shy, and saying
exactly the right things. Then the Graf actually got up and said
something--I expect etiquette forced him to or he never would have--but
once he was in for it he did it with the same unfaltering fluency and
appropriateness that Bernd had surprised me with. He said they--the
Koseritzes and Insters--welcomed the proposed marriage between Bernd
and myself, not alone for the many graces, virtues, and, above all
gifts--(picture the abstracted Graf reeling off these compliments! You
should have seen my open mouth)--that so happily adorned the young
lady, great and numerous though they were, but also because such a
marriage would still further cement the already close union existing
between two great countries of the same faith, the same blood, and the
same ideals. "Long may these two countries," he said, "who carry in
their hands the blazing torches of humanity and civilization, march
abreast down the pages of history, writing it in glorious letters as
they march." Then he sat down, and instantly relapsed into silence and
abstraction. It was as if a candle had been blown out.
They're all certainly very kind to me, the people I've met here, and
say the nicest things about England. They're in love with her, as I
used to tell Frau Berg's boarders, but openly and enthusiastically, not
angrily and reluctantly as the boarders were. I've not heard so many
nice things about England ever as I did yesterday. I loved hearing
them, and felt all lit up.
We went out on the balcony overlooking the Thiergarten after dinner.
The Graf's chief had sent for him, and Bernd and some of the men had
gone away too, but more people kept dropping in and joining us on the
balcony watching the crowds. The Brandenburger Thor is close on our
left, and the Reichstag is a stone's throw across the road on our
right. When the crowd saw the officers in our group, they yelled for
joy and flung their hats in the air. The Colonel, in his staff
officer's uniform, was the chief attraction. He seemed unaware that
there was a crowd, and talked to me in much the same hilarious and
flowery strain he had talked at the Oberforsterei, saying a great
number of things about hair and eyes and such. I know I've got hair
and eyes; I've had them all my life, so what's the use of wasting time
telling me about them? I tried all I knew to get him to talk about
what he really thought of the chances of war, but quite in vain.
Do you know what time it is? Nearly eight, and the _Deutschland uber
Alles_ business has already started in the streets. There are little
crowds of people, looking so tiny and black, not a bit as if they were
real, and had blood in them and could be hurt, already on the steps of
the Reichstag eagerly reading the morning papers. I must get dressed
and go down and hear if anything fresh has happened. Good-bye my own
loved mother,--I'll write whenever I get a moment. And don't forget,
mother darling, that if you're worried about my being here I'll start
straight off for Switzerland. But if you're not worried I wouldn't
like to interrupt my lessons. They really are very important things
for our future.
_Berlin, Friday afternoon, July 31st_.
My sweetest mother,
Your letters have been following me about, to Koseritz and to Frau
Berg's, where of course you didn't know I wouldn't be. I went to Frau
Berg's today and found your last two. I love you, my precious mother,
and thank you for all your dearness and sweet unselfish understanding
about Bernd and me. You have always been my closest, dearest friend,
as well as my own darling mother. I seem now to be living in a sort of
bath of love. Can anything more ever be added to it? I feel as if I
had reached the very innermost heart of happiness. Wonderful how one
carries about such a precious consciousness. It's like something magic
and hidden that takes care of one, keeping one untouched and unharmed;
while outside, day and night, there's this terrible noise of a people
You wrote to me last sitting under a cherry tree, you said, in the
orchard at the back of your hotel at Glion, and you talked of the
colour of the lake far down below through the leaves of walnut trees,
and of the utter peace. Here day and night, day and night, since
Wednesday, soldiers in new grey uniforms pass through the Brandenburger
Thor down the broad road to Charlottenburg. Their tramp never stops.
I can see them from my window tramping, tramping away down the great
straight road; and crowds that don't seem to change or dwindle watch
them and shout. Where do the soldiers all come from? I never dreamed
there could be so many in the world, let alone in Berlin; and Germany
isn't even at war! But it's no use asking questions, or trying to talk
about it. I've found the word "Why?" in this house is not only useless
but improper. Nobody will talk about anything; I suppose they don't
need to, for they all seem perfectly to _know_. They're in the inner
circle in this house. They're not the public. The public is that
shouting, perspiring mob out there watching the soldiers, and Frau Berg
and her boarders are the public, and so are the soldiers themselves.
The public here are all the people who obey, and pay, and don't know;
an immense multitude of slaves,--abject, greedy, pitiful. I don't
think I ever could have imagined a thing so pitiful to see as these
respectable middle-aged Berlin citizens, fathers of families, careful
livers on small incomes, clerks, pastors, teachers, professors, drunk
and mad out there publicly on the pavement, dancing with joy because
they think the great moment they've been taught to wait for has come,
and they're going to get suddenly rich, scoop in wealth from Russia and
France, get up to the top of the world and be able to kick it. That's
what I saw over and over again today as I somehow got through to Frau
Berg's to fetch your letters. An ordinary person from an ordinary
country wants to cover these heated elderly gentlemen up, and hide them
out of sight, so shocking are they to one's sense of respect and
reverence for human beings. Imagine decent citizens, paunchy and soft
with beer and sitting in offices, wearing cheap straw hats and
carefully mended and brushed black coats, _dancing_ with excitement on
the pavement; and nobody thinking it anything but fine and creditable,
at the prospect of their children's blood going to be shed, and
everybody's children's blood, except the blood of those safe children,
the children of the Hohenzollerns!
The weather is fiercely hot. There's a brassy sky without a cloud, and
all the leaves of the trees in the Thiergarten are shiny and motionless
as if they were cut out of metal. A little haze of dust hangs
perpetually along the Lindens and the road to Charlottenburg,--not much
of it, because the roads are too well kept, but enough to show that the
troops never leave off tramping. And all down where they pass, on each
side, are the perspiring crowds of people, red and apoplectic with
excitement and heat, women and children and babies mixed up in one
heaving, frantic mass. The windows of the houses on each side of the
Brandenburger Thor are packed with people all day long, and the noise
of patriotism doesn't leave off for an instant.
It's a very ugly noise. The only place where I can get away from
it--and I do hate noise, it really _hurts_ my ears--is the bathroom
here, which is a dark cupboard with no window, in the very middle of