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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Steeped In German

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"Ai Fritz! Jetzt brauchst du nicht zu weinen! Deine Lena war aber nicht so huebsch, eh? "

Later I learned that Fritz was the newest arrival and that since coming to this country he had been rather low in spirits in consequence of a certain flaxen-haired Lena whom he had left behind in the fatherland.

An examination of the dining room and its other occupants served to keep my mind off the hateful long table. The dining room was a double one, the floor carpetless and clean. There was a little platform at one end with hardy-looking plants in pots near the windows. The wall was ornamented with very German pictures of very plump, bare-armed German girls being chucked under the chin by very dashing, mustachioed German lieutenants. It was all very bare, and strange and foreign to my eyes, and yet there was something bright and comfortable about it. I felt that I was going to like it, aborigines and all. The men drink beer with their supper and read the Staats-Zeitung and the Germania and foreign papers that I never heard of. It is uncanny, in these United States. But it is going to be bully for my German.

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After my first letter home Norah wrote frantically, demanding to know if I was the only woman in the house. I calmed her fears by assuring her that, while the men were interesting and ugly with the fascinating ugliness of a bulldog, the women were crushed looking and uninteresting and wore hopeless hats. I have written Norah and Max reams about this household, from the aborigines to Minna, who tidies my room and serves my meals, and admires my clothes. Minna is related to Frau Knapf, whom I have never seen. Minna is inordinately fond of dress, and her remarks anent my own garments are apt to be a trifle disconcerting, especially when she intersperses her recital of dinner dishes with admiring adjectives directed at my blouse or hat. Thus:

"Wir haben roast beef, und spareribs mit Sauerkraut, und schicken--ach, wie schon, Frau Orme! Aber ganz prachtvoll!" Her eyes and hands are raised toward heaven.

"What's prachtful? " I ask, startled. "The chicken?"

"Nein; your waist. Selbst gemacht?"

I am even becoming hardened to the manners of the aborigines. It used to fuss me to death to meet one of them in the halls. They always stopped short, brought heels together with a click, bent stiffly from the waist, and thundered: "Nabben', Fraulein!"

I have learned to take the salutation quite calmly, and even the wildest, most spectacled and knobby-browed aborigine cannot startle me. Nonchalantly I reply, "Nabben'," and wish that Norah could but see me in the act.

When I told Ernst von Gerhard about them, he laughed a little and shrugged his shoulders and said:

"Na, you should not look so young, and so pretty, and so unmarried. In Germany a married woman brushes her hair quite smoothly back, and pins it in a hard knob. And she knows nothing of such bewildering collars and fluffy frilled things in the front of the blouse. How do you call them--jabots?"

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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