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Chapter 2

Jena, Nov. 7th.

Dear Roger,—You left on Tuesday night—that's yesterday—and you'll get to London on Thursday morning—that's to-morrow—and first you'll want to wash yourself, and have breakfast—please notice my extreme reasonableness—and it will be about eleven before you are able to begin to write to me. I shan't get the letter till Saturday, and today is only Wednesday, so how can I stop myself from writing to you again, I should like to know? I simply can't. Besides, I want to tell you all the heaps of important things I would have told you yesterday, if there had been time when you asked me in that amazing sudden way if I'd marry you.

Do you know I'm poor? Of course you do. You couldn't have lived with us a year and not seen by the very sort of puddings we have that we are poor. Do you think that anybody who can help it would have dicker Reis three times a week? And then if we were not, my step-mother would never bother to take in English young men who want to study German; she would do quite different sorts of things, and we should have different sorts of puddings,—proud ones, with Schlagsahne on their tops—and two servants instead of one, and I would never have met you. Well, you know then that we are poor; but I don't believe you know how poor. When girls here marry, their parents give them, as a matter-of-course, house-linen enough to last them all their lives, furniture enough to furnish all their house, clothes enough for several generations, and so much a year besides. Then, greatly impoverished, they spend the evenings of their days doing without things and congratulating themselves on having married off their daughter. The man need give only himself.

You've heard that my own mother, who died ten years ago, was English? Yes, I remember I told you that, when you were so much surprised at what you called, in politest German, my colossally good English. From her I know that people in England do not buy their son-in-law's carpets and saucepans, but confine their helpfulness to suggesting Maple. It is the husband, they think, who should, like the storks of the Fatherland, prepare and beautify the nest for the wife. If the girl has money, so much the better; but if she has not, said my mother, it doesn't put an absolute stop to her marrying.

Here, it does; and I belong here. My mother had some money, or my father would never have let himself fall in love with her—I believe you can nip these things in the bud if you see the bud in time—and you know my father is not a mercenary man; he only, like the rest of us, could not get away altogether from his bringing-up and the points of view he had been made to stare from ever since he stared at all. It was a hundred a year (pounds, thank heaven, not marks), and it is all we have except what he gets for his books, when he does get anything, which is never, and what my step-mother has, which is an annuity of a hundred and fifty pounds. So the hundred a year will be the whole sum of my riches, for I have no aunts. What I want you to consider is the awfulness of marrying a woman absolutely without saucepans. Not a single towel will she be able to add to your linen-room, not a single pot to your kitchen. All Jena when it hears of it will say, 'Poor, infatuated young man,' and if I had sisters all England would refuse in future to send its sons to my step-mother. Why, if you were making a decently suitable marriage do you suppose your Braut would have to leave off writing to you at this point, in the very middle of luminous prophecy, and hurry into the kitchen and immerse herself in the preparation of potato soup? Yet that is exactly what your Braut, who has caught sight of the clock, is about to do. So good-by.

Your poor, but infinitely honest,


See how wise and practical I am today. I believe my letter last night was rather aflame. Now comes morning with its pails of cold water, and drenches me back into discretion. Thank God, say I, for mornings.

Elizabeth von Arnim