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Книга Three Men on the Bummel. Содержание - Chapter XIV

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"It is somewhat difficult to say," returned Mr. X. "You see these students, they are a wild lot, and when they get together-And then, I believe, a good many toasts are drunk. I don't know how it will affect me. If I can see an opportunity I shall come away early, that is if I can do so without giving offence; but if not-"

Said Mrs. X., who, as I remarked before, was a sensible woman: "You had better get the people here to lend you a latchkey. I shall sleep with Dolly, and then you won't disturb me whatever time it may be."

"I think that an excellent idea of yours," agreed Mr. X. "I should hate disturbing you. I shall just come in quietly, and slip into bed."

Some time in the middle of the night, or maybe towards the early morning, Dolly, who was Mrs. X.'s sister, sat up in bed and listened.

"Jenny," said Dolly, "are you awake?"

"Yes, dear," answered Mrs. X. "It's all right. You go to sleep again."

"But whatever is it?" asked Dolly. "Do you think it's fire?"

"I expect," replied Mrs. X., "that it's Percy. Very possibly he has stumbled over something in the dark. Don't you worry, dear; you go to sleep."

But so soon as Dolly had dozed off again, Mrs. X., who was a good wife, thought she would steal off softly and see to it that Percy was all right. So, putting on a dressing-gown and slippers, she crept along the passage and into her own room. To awake the gentleman on the bed would have required an earthquake. She lit a candle and stole over to the bedside.

It was not Percy; it was not anyone like Percy. She felt it was not the man that ever could have been her husband, under any circumstances. In his present condition her sentiment towards him was that of positive dislike. Her only desire was to get rid of him.

But something there was about him which seemed familiar to her. She went nearer, and took a closer view. Then she remembered. Surely it was Mr. Y., a gentleman at whose flat she and Percy had dined the day they first arrived in Berlin.

But what was he doing here? She put the candle on the table, and taking her head between her hands sat down to think. The explanation of the thing came to her with a rush. It was with this Mr. Y. that Percy had gone to the Kneipe. A mistake had been made. Mr. Y. had been brought back to Percy's address. Percy at this very moment —

The terrible possibilities of the situation swam before her. Returning to Dolly's room, she dressed herself hastily, and silently crept downstairs. Finding, fortunately, a passing night— cab, she drove to the address of Mrs. Y. Telling the man to wait, she flew upstairs and rang persistently at the bell. It was opened as before by Mrs. Y., still in her tea-gown, and with her book still in her hand.

"Mrs. X.!" exclaimed Mrs. Y. "Whatever brings you here?"

"My husband!" was all poor Mrs. X. could think to say at the moment, "is he here?"

"Mrs. X.," returned Mrs. Y., drawing herself up to her full height, "how dare you?"

"Oh, please don't misunderstand me!" pleaded Mrs. X. "It's all a terrible mistake. They must have brought poor Percy here instead of to our place, I'm sure they must. Do please look and see."

"My dear," said Mrs. Y., who was a much older woman, and more motherly, "don't excite yourself. They brought him here about half an hour ago, and, to tell you the truth, I never looked at him. He is in here. I don't think they troubled to take off even his boots. If you keep cool, we will get him downstairs and home without a soul beyond ourselves being any the wiser.

Indeed, Mrs. Y. seemed quite eager to help Mrs. X.

She pushed open the door, and Mrs. X, went in. The next moment she came out with a white, scared face.

"It isn't Percy," she said. "Whatever am I to do?"

"I wish you wouldn't make these mistakes," said Mrs. Y., moving to enter the room herself.

Mrs. X. stopped her. "And it isn't your husband either."

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Y.

"It isn't really," persisted Mrs. X. "I know, because I have just left him, asleep on Percy's bed."

"What's he doing there?" thundered Mrs. Y.

"They brought him there, and put him there," explained Mrs. X., beginning to cry. "That's what made me think Percy must be here."

The two women stood and looked at one another; and there was silence for awhile, broken only by the snoring of the gentleman the other side of the half-open door.

"Then who is that, in there?" demanded Mrs. Y., who was the first to recover herself.

"I don't know," answered Mrs. X., "I have never seen him before. Do you think it is anybody you know?"

But Mrs. Y. only banged to the door.

"What are we to do?" said Mrs. X.

"I know what I am going to do," said Mrs. Y. "I'm coming back with you to fetch my husband."

"He's very sleepy," explained Mrs. X.

"I've known him to be that before," replied Mrs. Y., as she fastened on her cloak.

"But where's Percy?" sobbed poor little Mrs. X., as they descended the stairs together.

"That my dear," said Mrs. Y., "will be a question for you to ask HIM."

"If they go about making mistakes like this," said Mrs. X., "it is impossible to say what they may not have done with him."

"We will make enquiries in the morning, my dear," said Mrs. Y., consolingly.

"I think these Kneipes are disgraceful affairs," said Mrs. X. "I shall never let Percy go to another, never-so long as I live."

"My dear," remarked Mrs. Y., "if you know your duty, he will never want to." And rumour has it that he never did.

But, as I have said, the mistake was in pinning the card to the tablecloth instead of to the coat. And error in this world is always severely punished.

Chapter XIV

Which is serious: as becomes a parting chapter-The German from the Anglo-Saxon's point of view-Providence in buttons and a helmet-Paradise of the helpless idiot-German conscience: its aggressiveness-How they hang in Germany, very possibly-What happens to good Germans when they die?-The military instinct: is it all-sufficient?-The German as a shopkeeper-How he supports life-The New Woman, here as everywhere-What can be said against the Germans, as a people-The Bummel is over and done.

"Anybody could rule this country," said George; "I could rule it."

We were seated in the garden of the Kaiser Hof at Bonn, looking down upon the Rhine. It was the last evening of our Bummel; the early morning train would be the beginning of the end.

"I should write down all I wanted the people to do on a piece of paper," continued George; "get a good firm to print off so many copies, have them posted about the towns and villages; and the thing would be done."

In the placid, docile German of to-day, whose only ambition appears to be to pay his taxes, and do what he is told to do by those whom it has pleased Providence to place in authority over him, it is difficult, one must confess, to detect any trace of his wild ancestor, to whom individual liberty was as the breath of his nostrils; who appointed his magistrates to advise, but retained the right of execution for the tribe; who followed his chief, but would have scorned to obey him. In Germany to-day one hears a good deal concerning Socialism, but it is a Socialism that would only be despotism under another name. Individualism makes no appeal to the German voter. He is willing, nay, anxious, to be controlled and regulated in all things. He disputes, not government, but the form of it. The policeman is to him a religion, and, one feels, will always remain so. In England we regard our man in blue as a harmless necessity. By the average citizen he is employed chiefly as a signpost, though in busy quarters of the town he is considered useful for taking old ladies across the road. Beyond feeling thankful to him for these services, I doubt if we take much thought of him. In Germany, on the other hand, he is worshipped as a little god and loved as a guardian angel. To the German child he is a combination of Santa Clans and the Bogie Man. All good things come from him: Spielplatze to play in, furnished with swings and giant-strides, sand heaps to fight around, swimming baths, and fairs. All misbehaviour is punished by him. It is the hope of every well-meaning German boy and girl to please the police. To be smiled at by a policeman makes it conceited. A German child that has been patted on the head by a policeman is not fit to live with; its self-importance is unbearable.

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