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The Hearing Ear
by [?]

“Look here, you fellows,” he said quietly, “in spite of this war and all the rest of it, there are some good things in German.”

“What,” they cried, “you, a fire-eater, stand up for the Kaiser and his language? Damn him!”

“With all my heart,” assented Mitchell. “But the language isn’t his. It existed a long while before he was born. It isn’t very pretty, I’ll admit. But there are lots of fine things in it. Kant and Lessing, Goethe and Schiller and Heine–they all loved liberty and made it shine out in their work. Do you mean to say that I must give them up and throw my German overboard because these modern Potsdammers have acted like brutes?”

“Yes,” cried Phipps-Herrick and Rosenlaube, nodding at each other, “that’s what we mean, and that’s what America means. The German language must go!”

“Look here,” said Phipps-Herrick, “you admit that modern education must be useful? Well, there won’t be any more use for German, because we are going to shut Germany out of the international trades-union. She has betrayed the principles of the new era. We are going to boycott her.”

“Won’t that be rather difficult?” queried Mitchell, shaking his head. “Seventy or eighty million people–hard to shut them out of the world, eh?”

“Nonsense, dear Phil,” drawled Rosenlaube; “it will be easy enough. But I don’t agree with Phipps-Herrick about the reason or method. We are going to have a new era after the war. But it will not be a utilitarian age. It will be a return to beauty and form and culture–not with a ‘k.’ First of all, we are going to kill a great many Germans. Then we are going to Berlin to knock down all the ugly statues in the Sieges-Allee and smash the parvenu German Empire. Then we shall have a new age on classic lines. People will still use French and English and Italian because there is some beauty in those languages. But nobody outside of Germany will speak or read German. It is a barbarous tongue–shapeless and hideous–used by barbarians who gobble and snort when they talk. Sorry for Kant and Goethe and Heine and all that crowd, but their time is up; they’ve got to go out with their beastly language!”

“Yes,” said Phipps-Herrick, “out with them, bag and baggage. Think what the German spies and propagandists have done in America. Schools full of pacifist and pro-German teachers; text-books full of praise of the German Empire and the Hohenzollern Highbinders; newspapers full of treason, printed in the German language. Why, it’s only a piece of self-defense to clean it all out, root and branch. No more German taught or spoken, printed or read, in the United States. Forget it! Twenty-three for the Hun language!”

“Noble,” gently murmured Mitchell, shaking his head again; “very noble! But not very easy and perhaps not entirely wise. Why should I throw away something that has been useful to me, and may be again? Why forget the little German that I know and burn my Goethe and refuse to listen to Beethoven’s music? I won’t do it, that’s all.”

“Our little friend is a concealed Kaiserite,” said Rosenlaube. “He wants to Germanize America.”

“No, Rosy,” said Mitchell, thoughtfully running his hand over some nicks on the butt of his rifle in the corner; “you know I’m not a Kaiserite of any kind. I’ve got seven scored against him already, and I’m going to get some more. But the language question seems to me different. Cut out the German newspapers and the German schools in America by all means! No more teaching of the primary branches in any language but English! Make it absolutely necessary for
everybody in the U. S. A. to learn the language of the country the first thing. Then in the high schools and universities let German be studied like any other foreign language, by those who want it–chemists, and philosophers, and historians, and electrical engineers, and so on. We could censor the text-books and keep out all complimentary allusions to the Hohenzollern family.”

“Oh, shut up, Phil,” growled Phipps-Herrick. “You’re too soft, you old easy-mark! You don’t go half far enough. We may not decide to exterminate the Hun race in Europe. But we have decided to exterminate their language in America.”