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In a German Pension

Katherine Mansfield

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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 to you."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 morning.

"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 and waistcoat.

"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 premeditated invasions.

"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 was silent.

The servant brought in veal,with sauerkraut and potatoes.

"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 Idrank 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 strong.""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 years.""Im--possible!Have you any family?"