The Angel and the Author HTML version
[Man and his Master.]
There is one thing that the Anglo-Saxon does better than the "French, or Turk, or
Rooshian," to which add the German or the Belgian. When the Anglo-Saxon appoints an
official, he appoints a servant: when the others put a man in uniform, they add to their
long list of masters. If among your acquaintances you can discover an American, or
Englishman, unfamiliar with the continental official, it is worth your while to accompany
him, the first time he goes out to post a letter, say. He advances towards the post-office a
breezy, self- confident gentleman, borne up by pride of race. While mounting the steps he
talks airily of "just getting this letter off his mind, and then picking up Jobson and going
on to Durand's for lunch."
He talks as if he had the whole day before him. At the top of the steps he attempts to push
open the door. It will not move. He looks about him, and discovers that is the door of
egress, not of ingress. It does not seem to him worth while redescending the twenty steps
and climbing another twenty. So far as he is concerned he is willing to pull the door,
instead of pushing it. But a stern official bars his way, and haughtily indicates the proper
entrance. "Oh, bother," he says, and down he trots again, and up the other flight.
"I shall not be a minute," he remarks over his shoulder. "You can wait for me outside."
But if you know your way about, you follow him in. There are seats within, and you have
a newspaper in your pocket: the time will pass more pleasantly. Inside he looks round,
bewildered. The German post-office, generally speaking, is about the size of the Bank of
England. Some twenty different windows confront your troubled friend, each one bearing
its own particular legend. Starting with number one, he sets to work to spell them out. It
appears to him that the posting of letters is not a thing that the German post- office
desires to encourage. Would he not like a dog licence instead? is what one window
suggests to him. "Oh, never mind that letter of yours; come and talk about bicycles,"
pleads another. At last he thinks he has found the right hole: the word "Registration" he
distinctly recognizes. He taps at the glass.
Nobody takes any notice of him. The foreign official is a man whose life is saddened by a
public always wanting something. You read it in his face wherever you go. The man who
sells you tickets for the theatre! He is eating sandwiches when you knock at his window.
He turns to his companion:
"Good Lord!" you can see him say, "here's another of 'em. If there has been one man
worrying me this morning there have been a hundred. Always the same story: all of 'em
want to come and see the play. You listen now; bet you anything he's going to bother me
for tickets. Really, it gets on my nerves sometimes."
At the railway station it is just the same.