His wife was away in Italy and it had been arranged that he came for a German lesson on his own. I had never seen him without his wife before. When he arrived, I was busy hanging up washing. I waved to him casually and we entered the living-room from the garden.
We sat next to one another on the settee – the number of people this settee has seen! – and I showed him an interesting book I was reading. Jeremy is a scientist, and the book’s title was “The Decline and Fall of Science”. The author, a clever lady from Oxford, claimed that humanity hadn’t changed since Galileo, only their dogmas have, and that the majority of scientists, if not all, moved within the well-defined systems of their personal beliefs, all the while claiming to be the true authorities on most issues, in particular deciding which issues were worthwhile and which not, always conscious of the importance of the approval of society at large, because where would finance come from otherwise? And a number of other points. Jeremy took a polite interest and tried to read the notes about the author. But he had forgotten his glasses and his arms were barely long enough. He did manage to read one of her aphorisms and rashly professed disagreement. I begged him to look at it more closely and he couldn’t deny, there was a certain truth in it. As for her description of marriage being a “painful way of committing suicide”, he was surprized and we didn’t pursue this point.
After that we began our language studies and by means of a brochure and a few postcards he told me about their holiday in Iceland. We then looked at his homework which he had done satisfactorily and I gave him more work for next time: write a story about a series of pictures in one of his books, a love story in fact, because that was the heading for the pictures. He laughed, and I said his wife could do the same; but I wanted two different stories altogether. Time was up and we stepped out onto the terrace. He looked at me from under his dense blond eyelashes, thanked me for the lesson – it had been a good one, we both thought – and kissed me on my cheek. I kissed him back and said “Pleasure!”. “See you next week.”
It was interesting to see the two essays they had produced the week after. There were nine pictures, the main characters being a young man and his girlfriend, separated from one another by means of three hundred kilometres. The young man, in the middle of a university course, has received a letter from her as a result of which he defies his professor, braves the worst weather imaginable and hitchhikes to where she lives, greatly to her mother’s surprize who opens the door.
Jeremy’s wife’s essay culminated in the observation that the young man must love his girl very much indeed to have gone through all this hardship.
Jeremy turned out to be more practically-minded. In his view, the girl must have said something important in her letter, like agreeing to marry him. This would make him undertake this tiresome journey. Arrived at his destination, the girl’s mother might well agree to the young people’s plans on condition that he first finishes his university course properly. Jeremy’s wife laughed when he had read out his essay. They have two daughters themselves, but he doesn’t seem to be able to have his way with one of them.