Книга Three Men on the Bummel. Содержание - Chapter VII

Upon reflection, I am not sure that wall-eyed old brute had not sense on its side. Anyhow, I know there have been occasions, with a guide, when I would have been glad of its interference.

But one is apt to "sin one's mercies," as the Scotch say, and at the time we cursed that horse instead of blessing it.

Chapter VII

George wonders-German love of order-"The Band of the Schwarzwald Blackbirds will perform at seven"-The china dog-Its superiority over all other dogs-The German and the solar system-A tidy country-The mountain valley as it ought to be, according to the German idea-How the waters come down in Germany-The scandal of Dresden-Harris gives an entertainment-It is unappreciated-George and the aunt of him-George, a cushion, and three damsels.

At a point between Berlin and Dresden, George, who had, for the last quarter of an hour or so, been looking very attentively out of the window, said:

"Why, in Germany, is it the custom to put the letter-box up a tree? Why do they not fix it to the front door as we do? I should hate having to climb up a tree to get my letters. Besides, it is not fair to the postman. In addition to being most exhausting, the delivery of letters must to a heavy man, on windy nights, be positively dangerous work. If they will fix it to a tree, why not fix it lower down, why always among the topmost branches? But, maybe, I am misjudging the country," he continued, a new idea occurring to him. "Possibly the Germans, who are in many matters ahead of us, have perfected a pigeon post. Even so, I cannot help thinking they would have been wiser to train the birds, while they were about it, to deliver the letters nearer the ground. Getting your letters out of those boxes must be tricky work even to the average middle-aged German."

I followed his gaze out of window. I said:

"Those are not letter-boxes, they are birds' nests. You must understand this nation. The German loves birds, but he likes tidy birds. A bird left to himself builds his nest just anywhere. It is not a pretty object, according to the German notion of prettiness. There is not a bit of paint on it anywhere, not a plaster image all round, not even a flag. The nest finished, the bird proceeds to live outside it. He drops things on the grass; twigs, ends of worms, all sorts of things. He is indelicate. He makes love, quarrels with his wife, and feeds the children quite in public. The German householder is shocked. He says to the bird:

"'For many things I like you. I like to look at you. I like to hear you sing. But I don't like your ways. Take this little box, and put your rubbish inside where I can't see it. Come out when you want to sing; but let your domestic arrangements be confined to the interior. Keep to the box, and don't make the garden untidy.'"

In Germany one breathes in love of order with the air, in Germany the babies beat time with their rattles, and the German bird has come to prefer the box, and to regard with contempt the few uncivilised outcasts who continue to build their nests in trees and hedges. In course of time every German bird, one is confident, will have his proper place in a full chorus. This promiscuous and desultory warbling of his must, one feels, be irritating to the precise German mind; there is no method in it. The music-loving German will organise him. Some stout bird with a specially well— developed crop will be trained to conduct him, and, instead of wasting himself in a wood at four o'clock in the morning, he will, at the advertised time, sing in a beer garden, accompanied by a piano. Things are drifting that way.

Your German likes nature, but his idea of nature is a glorified Welsh Harp. He takes great interest in his garden. He plants seven rose trees on the north side and seven on the south, and if they do not grow up all the same size and shape it worries him so that he cannot sleep of nights. Every flower he ties to a stick. This interferes with his view of the flower, but he has the satisfaction of knowing it is there, and that it is behaving itself. The lake is lined with zinc, and once a week he takes it up, carries it into the kitchen, and scours it. In the geometrical centre of the grass plot, which is sometimes as large as a tablecloth and is generally railed round, he places a china dog. The Germans are very fond of dogs, but as a rule they prefer them of china. The china dog never digs holes in the lawn to bury bones, and never scatters a flower-bed to the winds with his hind legs. From the German point of view, he is the ideal dog. He stops where you put him, and he is never where you do not want him. You can have him perfect in all points, according to the latest requirements of the Kennel Club; or you can indulge your own fancy and have something unique. You are not, as with other dogs, limited to breed. In china, you can have a blue dog or a pink dog. For a little extra, you can have a double-headed dog.

On a certain fixed date in the autumn the German stakes his flowers and bushes to the earth, and covers them with Chinese matting; and on a certain fixed date in the spring he uncovers them, and stands them up again. If it happens to be an exceptionally fine autumn, or an exceptionally late spring, so much the worse for the unfortunate vegetable. No true German would allow his arrangements to be interfered with by so unruly a thing as the solar system. Unable to regulate the weather, he ignores it.

Among trees, your German's favourite is the poplar. Other disorderly nations may sing the charms of the rugged oak, the spreading chestnut, or the waving elm. To the German all such, with their wilful, untidy ways, are eyesores. The poplar grows where it is planted, and how it is planted. It has no improper rugged ideas of its own. It does not want to wave or to spread itself. It just grows straight and upright as a German tree should grow; and so gradually the German is rooting out all other trees, and replacing them with poplars.

Your German likes the country, but he prefers it as the lady thought she would the noble savage-more dressed. He likes his walk through the wood-to a restaurant. But the pathway must not be too steep, it must have a brick gutter running down one side of it to drain it, and every twenty yards or so it must have its seat on which he can rest and mop his brow; for your German would no more think of sitting on the grass than would an English bishop dream of rolling down One Tree Hill. He likes his view from the summit of the hill, but he likes to find there a stone tablet telling him what to look at, find a table and bench at which he can sit to partake of the frugal beer and "belegte Semmel" he has been careful to bring with him. If, in addition, he can find a police notice posted on a tree, forbidding him to do something or other, that gives him an extra sense of comfort and security.

Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not too wild. But if he consider it too savage, he sets to work to tame it. I remember, in the neighbourhood of Dresden, discovering a picturesque and narrow valley leading down towards the Elbe. The winding roadway ran beside a mountain torrent, which for a mile or so fretted and foamed over rocks and boulders between wood-covered banks. I followed it enchanted until, turning a corner, I suddenly came across a gang of eighty or a hundred workmen. They were busy tidying up that valley, and making that stream respectable. All the stones that were impeding the course of the water they were carefully picking out and carting away. The bank on either side they were bricking up and cementing. The overhanging trees and bushes, the tangled vines and creepers they were rooting up and trimming down. A little further I came upon the finished work-the mountain valley as it ought to be, according to German ideas. The water, now a broad, sluggish stream, flowed over a level, gravelly bed, between two walls crowned with stone coping. At every hundred yards it gently descended down three shallow wooden platforms. For a space on either side the ground had been cleared, and at regular intervals young poplars planted. Each sapling was protected by a shield of wickerwork and bossed by an iron rod. In the course of a couple of years it is the hope of the local council to have "finished" that valley throughout its entire length, and made it fit for a tidy-minded lover of German nature to walk in. There will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every hundred, and a restaurant every half-mile.

© 2012-2016 Электронная библиотека booklot.ru