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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Steeped In German

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I am living at a little private hotel just across from the court house square with its scarlet geraniums and its pretty fountain. The house is filled with German civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and Herr Professors from the German academy. On Sunday mornings we have Pfannkuchen with currant jelly, and the Herr Professors come down to breakfast in fearful flappy German slippers. I'm the only creature in the place that isn't just over from Germany. Even the dog is a dachshund. It is so unbelievable that every day or two I go down to Wisconsin Street and gaze at the stars and stripes floating from the government building, in order to convince myself that this is America. It needs only a Kaiser or so, and a bit of Unter den Linden to be quite complete.

The little private hotel is kept by Herr and Frau Knapf. After one has seen them, one quite understands why the place is steeped in a German atmosphere up to its eyebrows.

I never would have found it myself. It was Doctor von Gerhard who had suggested Knapf's, and who had paved the way for my coming here.

"You will find it quite unlike anything you have ever tried before," he warned me. "Very German it is, and very, very clean, and most inexpensive. Also I think you will find material there--how is it you call it?--copy, yes? Well, there should be copy in plenty; and types! But you shall see."

From the moment I rang the Knapf doorbell I saw. The dapper, cheerful Herr Knapf, wearing a disappointed Kaiser Wilhelm mustache, opened the door. I scarcely had begun to make my wishes known when he interrupted with a large wave of the hand, and an elaborate German bow.

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"Ach yes! You would be the lady of whom the Herr Doktor has spoken. Gewiss! Frau Orme, not? But so a young lady I did not expect to see. A room we have saved for you--aber wunderhubsch! It makes me much pleasure to show. Folgen Sie mir, bitte."

"You--you speak English?" I faltered, with visions of my evenings spent in expressing myself in the sign language.

"Englisch? But yes. Here in Milwaukee it gives aber mostly German. And then too, I have been only twenty years in this country. And always in Milwaukee. Here is it gemutlich--and mostly it gives German."

I tried not to look frightened, and followed him up to the "but wonderfully beautiful" room. To my joy I found it high-ceilinged, airy, and huge, with a great vault of a clothes closet bristling with hooks, and boasting an unbelievable number of shelves. My trunk was swallowed up in it. Never in all my boarding-house experience have I seen such a room, or such a closet. The closet must have been built for a bride's trousseau in the days of hoop-skirts and scuttle bonnets. There was a separate and distinct hook for each and every one of my most obscure garments. I tried to spread them out. I used two hooks to every petticoat, and three for my kimono, and when I had finished there were rows of hooks to spare. Tiers of shelves yawned for hat-boxes which I possessed not. Bluebeard's wives could have held a family reunion in that closet and invited all of Solomon's spouses. Finally, in desperation, I gathered all my poor garments together and hung them in a sociable bunch on the hooks nearest the door. How I should have loved to have shown that closet to a select circle of New York boarding-house landladies!

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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