There was an expression of the most lively regret on her energetic, intelligent face. She pushed aside all the other letters that were still waiting to be dealt with and went to the women’s ward for surgical cases. As always, the ward nurse was very busy in this room, but left her work to go to one of the large room windows and speak to her superior there.
The beds in the hall were so far from the windows that the sick could not hear anything of the conversation between the two deaconesses.
“What do you think, Sister Albertine,” began the Countess, after the sister had read the lieutenant’s letter, “who could we send?”
The old, seasoned nurse definitely shook her head. “Nobody, Frau Oberin,” she said calmly. “All the beds in the house are occupied, I’ve already hired three nurses to meet all requirements. We can’t To do without sister; on the contrary, I want to be happy when the blessing has taken place again, we don’t have enough sisters. ”
“I know that, it won’t be any different for the time being. I am being asked from all sides to hand over young workers whom we have trained to new institutions. Forty nurses are required of me this quarter, and I have only received two registrations from young girls who want to train. ”
Sister Albertine sighed deeply. “May the Lord enlighten and bless the hearts of Christian virgins that they may come in flocks to help their poor brethren in his name.”
“I had hoped to be able to set a few free beds in the near future,” said the matron, “consider that Frau von Möbius is the daughter of a very wealthy banker, if the family were interested in our institution it would be great Cheap.”
“The gentleman will help so that we can arrange the free beds that way too,” said Sister Albertine. But the matron seemed to take a more practical standpoint than the good old sister.
“It’s probably only a few days, sister; I’m not copying, I’ll get advice, send Sister Elisabeth to my study, “she decided after a moment’s thought.
The sister did not allow herself to argue. She went back to her work in silence, and the countess, straightened upright, left the room with swift steps.
She was still holding the letter from Herr von Möbius in her hand. She wanted to grant his wish and was looking for ways to make it possible. In the wide corridor in front of her room she met one of the doctors of the institution. The young man greeted the distinguished woman with a deep, respectful bow.
She stepped up to him quickly. “I am urgent to express my sympathy with you in the death of your father, Herr Doctor Ehrhardt.” She held out her hand in a friendly manner.
The doctor lightly touched the full white hand she gave him with his lips. “Mother Superior are very kind,” he said, somewhat embarrassed. “My poor papa was very suffering in recent years, he often longed for the death that has now released him easily and painlessly.”
“He was suffering for a long time, was that? I wasn’t even aware of that. Who looked after him in his illness? As far as I know, your wife’s mother died years ago? ”
“Of course, madam, but I have a sister, a healthy, strong girl of twenty-two years. It was perfectly suitable for taking care of my father. ”
The countess became attentive. “I never Heard from your Fraulein Sister, she must live very withdrawn. ”
“She has peculiar tendencies and stays away from her contemporaries. We brothers and sisters are now alone in the world; I shall be obliged to look for a suitable position for my sister. ”
“It will be difficult for you, dear Doctor; the supply of educated women for domestic positions is extraordinarily large, while the demand is directed more towards less educated workers who lend a hand in the daily work. ”
“Frau Oberin think that higher servants are wanted, and travel companions, companions and governesses are available.”
‘This fact cannot be denied; it is a separate chapter of the social question, the question of women, or really virgins. But here with us this question has been resolved. You know how much demand in our profession exceeds supply. Bring your sister to me, Herr Doctor, she is strong and healthy, as you say, is just the right age and has already proven herself in home nursing. The motherhouse sees a dear daughter in every new sister and gives her a warm welcome. There is a wide field of work there, help me to give it new strength. ”
“You are right, Mother Superior, I want to speak to my sister. She has no fortune is by no means pretty, so marriage is unlikely to be provided for. Perhaps she will thank God if she is welcomed here in a friendly manner. ”
“You can be assured of this, the orphan and the sister of a doctor are doubly welcome to us.”
The countess nodded benevolently to the young man and went into her room. Doctor Ehrhardt looked after her for a long time. The pious lady’s suggestion was entirely in keeping with his wishes. If only his sister would let go of her rugged, self-willed nature and listen to him once, only once, and submit to his wishes!
Cecilia had never shown a soft feminine feeling, she had never known how to give in. All of the brother’s acquaintances, repulsed by their unwomanly nature, had restricted traffic in Ehrhardt’s house wherever they could; and yet Otto knew that his sister pursued a serious endeavor. She despised the superficial existence of pleasure-seeking childish girls. She saw how one of these girls after the other, all of their former schoolmates, got engaged and married and had only a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders for the men who drew these beings to her side. She wanted to be more, something different – something higher. She could be now. Suddenly it seemed to the brother that they would accept the matron’s suggestion with enthusiasm would. She was called, she was needed, why should she hesitate to come!
Completely fulfilled by his wish and almost convinced that it would be fulfilled, he hurried home.
A moving van was standing in front of the door, and strangers met him in his own home. It only occurred to him now that the voluntary auction of his father’s estate had taken place this morning.
Neither he nor his sister were able to rent an apartment for all the furniture, beds, books, pictures and so on. The objects which had witnessed their existence for as long as he could remember through the whole childhood of the siblings were scattered to the wind to-day. The home was dissolved – given up voluntarily. Now it was time to go hiking, buy a new home, face the struggle with life.
Otto went into his father’s study. The scientific books, insofar as they were not out of date, and the instruments of the old Medicinalrath were still lying around there, disorganized, but fortunately untouched. How little feeling Cäcilie had shown that she had not carefully put together and packed these mementos of the deceased, which the son wished to keep. He wanted to see his sister now, but he forcibly suppressed the bitter word about her lack of piety. It was now a matter of directing all her thoughts to the goal towards which he intended to lead them.
He found her in a barren, cleared room, between suitcases and boxes. There was packing straw, hay, paper and thick dust everywhere. A female being in this room should above all have felt the desire to establish order and at least some cleanliness. But Cäcilie Ehrhardt felt nothing of it.
The broad, bony figure of the girl was sitting on a box, her arms rested on the windowsill, regardless of the black sleeves of the simple mourning dress. The head with the cropped hair was bent over a book. She didn’t look up when the brother entered.
“If you can interrupt your reading, Cecilia, I would like to ask you to speak to me about an important question.”
She put down the Greek grammar she had read. A brief, questioning look caught him through the sparkling glasses of her glasses.
“I have little good news to tell you,” said she. “The auction of the old household brought almost nothing. As you know, there were no luxury items. The auctionator will submit our bill tomorrow. ”
He nodded painfully. “I didn’t expect anything from the auction, but we have to get rid of the ballast. We cannot yet afford the luxury of pious memories. ”
“Don’t win,” she said gruffly, and got up.
The lips on the yellow face were wide and raised, a sinister expression lay between the black eyebrows, the nose was short and ordinary; the whole face would have been ugly without the look of outstanding intelligence that animated it.
“At least I will certainly not blame you,” he replied, “but I wanted to talk to you about my future. My existence is instantly in your hands. ”
“Please explain yourself more clearly.”
“I’m already doing it. Father has not practiced for years. We couldn’t live on his interest; we used up the capital. If I calculate the remainder, deduct the expenses, add the auction, I think we’ll be left with a barren remainder of four thousand marks. ”
“Little enough, but it has to be enough, we have to settle down, we both have to get along with it until we have worked our way freely.”
Lively astonishment was painted on the young man’s fine, handsome face.
“You seem to think that very simply,” he said at last. “But please at least listen to what my life plans have been.”
She nodded and sat down on the box again. She stretched her feet far from her and apparently looked attentively at her big, tough draft boots.
He twisted his mustache, almost in embarrassment. He wanted to demand a sacrifice from her – he wanted to bend the stubborn head with the short male hair under the most feminine of all costumes, under the simple hood of the deaconess. He looked down fearfully at the short black bristles. But at last he began to speak.
“I cannot stay at the deaconess house forever, you have to see that, Cäcilie.”
“I see – continue.”
“I’ll stay there until I find a volunteer position at a gynecologist, I want to become a specialist.”
“Also good – continue.”
“I’ll work as an assistant for about two years, then I’ll try to start my own business. First of all, I have to wait for patients and set up a practice for myself. If I have it, I set up a private clinic, hire a former deaconess and, if I’m lucky, can make a nice fortune. ”
“I want to wish you that.”
“You should do more than I wish.”
“Ah – I would be eager.”
“Yes, I wanted to ask you to let me have your inheritance. As a volunteer, I have to support myself. As soon as I start my own business, I don’t have any earnings at first. I can’t take over a private clinic without a fortune either. But the whole estate of our father would suffice to keep me afloat and to feed me modestly until my hopes have come to fruition. Then I will start saving and give you double the amount you are giving me now. ”
“And I can rent myself out as the housewife’s support for the next twenty years, with the tempting prospect of receiving four thousand marks from my generous brother at the end of this period, the interest of which I will then be able to live a real milk-filled life in my old days – not true?”
Malicious mockery disfigured her mouth, she laughed bitterly, her cheeks glowed, she was indignant at her brother’s naive egoism.
“No, you shouldn’t hire yourself out to support the housewife; I have a supply for you that you only need to accept in order to be able to decide my fate favorably and happily. ”
“I don’t want your supplies. According to the egoism that you have just revealed, I do not ask for the alms of a male protection. Tomorrow we will divide; I go my way and you go yours, that’s how it stays. ”
“Cecilia, I never get up. The medical profession is a free trade; the competition is ruthlessly tough. It is a struggle for life and bread. Make it easier for me, work as a sister by my side. Give me the means I need to get my way. Maybe in five or six years I will call you over and take care of you. ”
“I’m supposed to be your cook, then? Thanks for the honor. ”
“Cäcilie, the Mother Superior told me today that the demand for young deaconesses is so extraordinarily great. She asked me directly to bring you to her. You have a certain interest in medicine. You are suitable to be a sister. Go there, get a training, and then go to a women’s clinic too. Learn, work, and as soon as I have a permanent position as a gynecologist, come to me to found a private clinic with me. You know a man can’t do it alone. One is dependent on a female colleague, and a suitable personality can only be found with the greatest financial sacrifice. Be my allies dear sister, let us strive together, acquire together. ”
He held out his hand and looked at her pleadingly.
“You still seem very generous in your male egoism,” she scoffed. “So I’m supposed to be a pious sister now, should I duck under bigwigs and priests, should I sing hymns and clean windows?” Do any rough work for Christ’s sake? Roll your eyes, pretend, serve – ha, ha, ha, and all that so that I am trained later when you are ready to call me! Then you want to be the doctor in charge of an institution, make orders, give orders, and as a serving nurse I am just good enough to – – obey you! «-
He stepped back, startled, at the anger that he, without wanting to, had caused this outburst.
“Why don’t you want to carry out medical orders as a nurse?” He asked, astonished. “Do you think you can act more freely and independently as a teacher or in any other female profession?”
“Who tells you that I will choose a so-called” female “profession? Isn’t the medical profession, as you yourself say, a free trade – isn’t it just as open to me as it is to you? ”
“I thought you were wiser, Cecilia.”
She laughed out loud. “Yes, smart enough to wash bloody bandages, but not smart enough to wield the knife yourself. That is the sacred tradition of all men. The woman is more than welcome to work as a handyman, but in order to see her as an equal professional, the gentlemen do not deign to be so easily! «
Otto Ehrhardt did not try at all to dissuade his sister from her conviction of full equality between the sexes. She had never yet subordinated her view; on this question of life she would do it least. He therefore only appealed to her, as he knew, strongly developed practical sense.
“The last tax assessment,” he began slowly, “showed, as you perhaps know, that the greater half of all doctors in Berlin had a professional income of less than three thousand marks. When the doctors even further, are to continue to live under the external living conditions of the higher classes, this income must not be depressed any further; do you admit that? “