GERMANS AT MEAT
by Katherine Mansfield
Bread soup was placed upon the table. "Ah,"
said the Herr Rat, leaning upon the table
as he peered into the tureen, "that is
what I need. My Magen has not been in
order for several days. Bread soup, and
just the right consistency. I am a good
cook myself"--he turned to me.
"How interesting," I said, attempting to
infuse just the right amount of enthusiasm
into my voice.
"Oh yes--when one is not married it is
necessary. As for me, I have had all I
wanted from women without marriage." He
tucked his napkin into his collar and blew
upon his soup as he spoke. "Now at nine
o'clock I make myself an English breakfast,
but not much. Four slices of bread, two
eggs, two slices of cold ham, one plate
of soup, two cups of tea--that is nothing
He asserted the fact so vehemently that
I had not the courage to refute it.
All eyes were suddenly turned upon me. I
felt I was bearing the burden of the nation's
preposterous breakfast--I who drank a cup
of coffee while buttoning my blouse in the
"Nothing at all," cried Herr Hoffmann from
Berlin. "Ach, when I was in England in the
morning I used to eat."
He turned up his eyes and his moustache,
wiping the soup drippings from his coat
"Do they really eat so much?" asked Fraulein
Stiegelauer. "Soup and baker's bread and
pig's flesh, and tea and coffee and stewed
fruit, and honey and eggs, and cold fish
and kidneys, and hot fish and liver? All
the ladies eat, too, especially the ladies."
"Certainly. I myself have noticed it,
when I was living in a hotel in Leicester
Square," cried the Herr Rat. "It was a
good hotel, but they could not make tea--now--"
"Ah, that's one thing I can do," said I,
laughing brightly. "I can make very good
tea. The great secret is to warm the teapot."
"Warm the teapot," interrupted the Herr Rat,
pushing away his soup
plate. "What do you warm the teapot for?
Ha! ha! that's very good! One does not
eat the teapot, I suppose?"
He fixed his cold blue eyes upon me with
an expression which suggested a thousand
"So that is the great secret of your English
tea? All you do is to warm the teapot."
I wanted to say that was only the preliminary
canter, but could not translate it, and so
The servant brought in veal, with sauerkraut
"I eat sauerkraut with great pleasure," said
the Traveller from North Germany, "but now I
have eaten so much of it that I cannot retain
it. I am immediately forced to--"
"A beautiful day," I cried, turning to
Fraulein Stiegelauer. "Did you get up early?"
"At five o'clock I walked for ten minutes
in the wet grass. Again in bed. At half-past
five I fell asleep, and woke at seven, when
I made an 'overbody' washing! Again in bed.
At eight o'clock I had a cold-water poultice,
and at half past eight I drank a cup of mint
tea. At nine I drank some malt coffee, and
began my 'cure.' Pass me the sauerkraut,
please. You do not eat it?"
"No, thank you. I still find it a little
"Is it true," asked the Widow, picking her
teeth with a hairpin as she spoke, "that
you are a vegetarian?"
"Why, yes; I have not eaten meat for three
"Im--possible! Have you any family?"
"There now, you see, that's what you're
coming to! Who ever heard of having children
upon vegetables? It is not possible. But
you never have large families in England
now; I suppose you are too busy with your
suffragetting. Now I have had nine children,
and they are all alive, thank God. Fine,
healthy babies--though after the first one
was born I had to--"
"How wonderful!" I cried.
"Wonderful," said the Widow contemptuously,
replacing the hairpin in the knob which was
balanced on the top of her head. "Not at
all! A friend of mine had four at the same
time. Her husband was so pleased he gave
a supper-party and had them placed on the
table. Of course she was very proud."
"Germany," boomed the Traveller, biting
round a potato which he had speared with
his knife, "is the home of the Family."
Followed an appreciative silence.
The dishes were changed for beef, red
currants and spinach. They wiped their
forks upon black bread and started again.
"How long are you remaining here?" asked
the Herr Rat.
"I do not know exactly. I must be back
in London in September."
"Of course you will visit Munchen?"
"I am afraid I shall not have time. You
see, it is important not to break into
"But you must go to Munchen. You have not
seen Germany if you have not been to Munchen.
All the Exhibitions, all the Art and Soul
life of Germany are in Munchen. There is
the Wagner Festival in August, and Mozart
and a Japanese collection of pictures--and
there is the beer! You do not know what
good beer is until you have been to Munchen.
Why, I see fine ladies every afternoon, but
fine ladies, I tell you, drinking glasses
so high." He measured a good washstand
pitcher in height, and I smiled.
"If I drink a great deal of Munchen beer
I sweat so," said Herr Hoffmann. "When I
am here, in the fields or before my baths,
I sweat, but I enjoy it; but in the town
it is not at all the same thing."
Prompted by the thought, he wiped his neck
and face with his dinner napkin and carefully
cleaned his ears.
A glass dish of stewed apricots was placed
upon the table.
"Ah, fruit!" said Fraulein Stiegelauer,
"that is so necessary to health. The doctor
told me this morning that the more fruit
I could eat the better."
She very obviously followed the advice.
Said the Traveller: "I suppose you are
frightened of an invasion, too, eh? Oh,
that's good. I've been reading all about
your English play in a newspaper. Did
you see it?"
"Yes." I sat upright. "I assure you we
are not afraid."
"Well, then, you ought to be," said the
Herr Rat. "You have got no army at all--a
few little boys with their veins full of
"Don't be afraid," Herr Hoffmann said.
"We don't want England. If we did we
would have had her long ago. We really
do not want you."
He waved his spoon airily, looking across
at me as though I were a little child
whom he would keep or dismiss as he pleased.
"We certainly do not want Germany," I
"This morning I took a half bath. Then
this afternoon I must take a knee bath
and an arm bath," volunteered the Herr Rat;
"then I do my exercises for an hour, and
my work is over. A glass of wine and a
couple of rolls with some sardines--"
They were handed cherry cake with whipped
"What is your husband's favourite meat?"
asked the Widow.
"I really do not know," I answered.
"You really do not know? How long have
you been married?"
"But you cannot be in earnest! You would
not have kept house as his wife for a week
without knowing that fact."
"I really never asked him; he is not at
all particular about his food."
A pause. They all looked at me, shaking
their heads, their mouths full of cherry
"No wonder there is a repetition in England
of that dreadful state of things in Paris,"
said the Widow, folding her dinner napkin.
"How can a woman expect to keep her husband
if she does not know his favourite food
after three years?"
I closed the door after me.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~