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0100_005E Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Steeped In German

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After wrestling in vain with the forest of hooks, I turned my attention to my room. I yanked a towel thing off the center table and replaced it with a scarf that Peter had picked up in the Orient. I set up my typewriter in a corner near a window and dug a gay cushion or two and a chafing-dish out of my trunk. I distributed photographs of Norah and Max and the Spalpeens separately, in couples, and in groups. Then I bounced up and down in a huge yellow brocade chair and found it unbelievably soft and comfortable. Of course, I reflected, after the big veranda, and the apple tree at Norah's, and the leather-cushioned comfort of her library, and the charming tones of her Oriental rugs and hangings--

"Oh, stop your carping, Dawn!" I told myself. "You can't expect charming tones, and Oriental do-dads and apple trees in a German boarding-house. Anyhow there's running water in the room. For general utility purposes that's better than a pink prayer rug."

There was a time when I thought that it was the luxuries that made life worth living. That was in the old Bohemian days.

"Necessities!" I used to laugh, "Pooh! Who cares about the necessities! What if the dishpan does leak? It is the luxuries that count."

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Bohemia and luxuries! Half a dozen lean boarding-house years have steered me safely past that. After such a course in common sense you don't stand back and examine the pictures of a pink Moses in a nest of purple bullrushes, or complain because the bureau does not harmonize with the wall paper. Neither do you criticize the blue and saffron roses that form the rug pattern. 'Deedy not! Instead you warily punch the mattress to see if it is rock-stuffed, and you snoop into the clothes closet; you inquire the distance to the nearest bath room, and whether the payments are weekly or monthly, and if there is a baby in the room next door. Oh, there's nothing like living in a boarding-house for cultivating the materialistic side.

But I was to find that here at Knapf's things were quite different. Not only was Ernst von Gerhard right in saying that it was "very German, and very, very clean;" he recognized good copy when he saw it. Types! I never dreamed that such faces existed outside of the old German woodcuts that one sees illustrating time-yellowed books.

I had thought myself hardened to strange boarding-house dining rooms, with their batteries of cold, critical women's eyes. I had learned to walk unruffled in the face of the most carping, suspicious and the fishiest of these batteries. Therefore on my first day at Knapf's I went down to dinner in the evening, quite composed and secure in the knowledge that my collar was clean and that there was no flaw to find in the fit of my skirt in the back.

As I opened the door of my room I heard sounds as of a violent altercation in progress downstairs. I leaned over the balusters and listened. The sounds rose and fell and swelled and boomed. They were German sounds that started in the throat, gutturally, and spluttered their way up. They were sounds such as I had not heard since the night I was sent to cover a Socialist meeting in New York. I tip-toed down the stairs, although I might have fallen down and landed with a thud without having been heard. The din came from the direction of the dining room. Well, come what might, I would not falter. After all, it could not be worse than that awful time when I had helped cover the teamsters' strike. I peered into the dining room.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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