and transposed it onto a humorous situation actually make it more witty? I believe the latter. What do you think?
I certainly agree. It also shows that he was well read. I do not even try to guess how many contemporary Polish generals ever moved beyond Sienkiewicz's novels. But he was of course more than a soldier. Well, he actually translated the novel "General Lasalle" by Marcel Dupont.
However, when duty called, General stayed away from alcohol and fun. When he was forced to take over the embassy in Rome, he had to tone down, but at the same time he felt terribly bored. All he really wanted was to forever remain a colonel, commander of chevau-léger (szwoleżer, the Light Horse). He often said that in the cavalry one can do foolish things but not dirty tricks, while in diplomacy, one can, and sometimes must, do dirty tricks but is not permitted to do stupidities.Outshining the Sea Shaman
Adolf Ardschuller, an assistant officer in our liner "Kosciuszko" should fall into the group of the greatest linguists of the world. Adolf quickly advanced thanks to his great sense of humor, instant reaction and two meters of height, so that his conversations with captain Eustazy Borkowski were always up at the same level.
One of the spectacular roles, captain Eustazy liked to play, was demonstration of number of languages he spoke. The data on this subject varied - depending on his humor, fantasy and circumstances.
On the eve of departure on one of "Kosciuszko" Atlantic Ocean crossings in 1932-1934, captain Eustazy Borkowski was entertaining a number of outstanding persons in the Ship's bar.The more outstanding personalities he hosted the greater was his desire to demonstrate his unusual and sometimes bizarre abilities as a captain of the Ship.
After letting the guests know about his heavy duties and obligations related to dealing with the Ship's daily correspondence - but for which he did not want to part with his "beloved and dearest" guests - the captain decided on the spur to conjure up a wonderful scene of dictation of stenographic letters. The weakest point of the intended show was his inability to notify and prepare up front the second actor of the show, an assistant officer, Adolf Ardschuller. Summoned by the steward, according to the order of the captain, Adolf reported to the bar with WRITING UTENSILS.
Ardschuller - urgently needed at this moment by the captain to play a key role of the great linguist - was of course "my deared" by the captain, which he heard spoken directly from Eustazy lisps:
- My DEAR, I could not part with such a good company, and therefore I called you here. I will dictate you a few letters, and you will quickly shorthand them, to deal with them in the shortest time, as they are very urgent.
Adolf Ardschuller had no stenographic skills, but after serving so long under captain Eustazy Borkowski, he has already learned many things, and above all - not to oppose any EVIL resulting from the unexpected and bizarre whims of the inspired captain.
The captain of course knew that Adolf, although speaking fluent German and English, had no knowledge of stenography, and therefore he feared of outbreak of Adolf's mindless sincerity. Despite this, he ordered:
- My DEAR begin shorthanding!
And he began to quickly dictate, in his nasal speech, a letter in German to Hamburg, regarding a tender for new anchors. In the flood of galloping words the captain would occasionally interject a question in Polish:
- MY DEAR, did you get it?
Adolf's sparse head hair bristled at first at the news that he supposed to shorthand the letter, and he was about to apologize for lack of stenographic skills, but this moment of stupor, spotted in time by the captain, was overflowed with a stream of quick German, which Adolf spoke fluently. Ardschuller knew that the matters of this kind are taken care by the inspectorate of the Ship Line, without the participation of the either the ship or the captain - and in addition, in Denmark - so he realized that he was expected to play a role of a great stenographer and that the scene with the letters was a MIRAGE created by his boss.
- MY DEAR, add that the case should be treated as very urgent. Adolf has already fallen into rhythm of his captain and, like an echo repeated in Polish - Yes sir, as very urgent - stressing it again more strongly in German.
A blissful smile of satisfaction passed across the face of captain Eustazy. Ardschuller found himself in his allotted role.
- Now the second letter, MY DEAR.
The addressee was a shipyard in France, where the captain wanted to dock "Kosciuszko" in the near future, during this trip. Ardschuller had very foggy idea about French but the marks he placed on the paper could as well contain the French text, like any other one. He even drew them faster than the captain dictated. The only word he understood from this letter was: CHERBOURG. It was there that the captain decided to dock "Kosciuszko", although it was known that the docking would actually take place in Gdańsk.
- Write down, MY DEAR: TREAT THE CASE AS EXTREMELY URGENT.
An epistle to Seville no longer caused any internal resistance of Adolf. Since he did not understand a single word pronounced by the captain, he could - while applying stenography - wholeheartedly devote himself to writing down the most sophisticated characters. When the captain paused - giving him thereby a hint that he should acknowledge the letter - Ardschuller said: "Yes sir: EXTREMELY URGENT."
After a while he noted with delight and wrote it down with the help of several "worms" a new address: ILUSTRISSIMO SENHOR DOCTOR FREDERICO DE OLIYIERA. TRAYESSA, SANTA CATARINA. TRINTA SETĘ LISBOA PORTUGAL.
And then: EXCELENTISSIMO SENHOR DOCTOR!
He knew now that he was writing a letter in Portuguese, and - with his newly acquired knowledge of stenography - put down the marks efficient and surely - reproducing, previously seen, Arabic script and Sanskrit.
Between the toasts raised from time in honour of the "dearest" and "beloved" guests Adolf was able to fish the familiar word, STOCKHOLM. He knew then that he was handwriting in Swedish. To enliven the monotony of worm-making he asked the captain the question:
- Is this letter, sir, also to be regarded as URGENT?
- MY DEAR, how can you ask such things? You see it for yourself, following the wording of the letter. In any case - if it was not so urgent - we would not be boring our dear guests with this correspondence.
Next, from the graceful and melodic Italian speech Adolf picked up a city name of Genova La Superba. Other than that he had no problems with the letter.
In a letter to Halifax, Canada, the captain appointed a committee of experts to verify the decision on damages occurred during a storm in a previous trip, because some informality was found in the previous investigation - and which had to be clarified in the next trip. Writing this down, Ardschuller could remember neither the storm nor the committee in Halifax - yet he admired the spirit and inventiveness of captain Eustazy. And again he chanted in the appropriate moment: - Yes sir, VERY URGENT.
It was hard to guess how many more such urgent letters captain Eustazy had in store. After this last letter, however, the "dear guests" - before whom the captain was demonstrating his linguistic abilities - became seized with general astonishment. Their astonishment, however, focused on a different direction. Visitors knew that the captain knows a dozen languages, but the ability of a clerk to be familiar with as many languages, combined with his skill of stenography, put him in some an unprecedented position of unique linguistic and fame. The acclaims of distinguished guests were consistent and unanimous that the clerk of such exceptional abilities wastes his life working on this ship, rather than playing a dominant role as a diplomat somewhere. What's worse, some guests have already begun showing some signs of their designs towards Adolf.
Such unexpected change of their of interest forced the captain to the immediate response. Instead of a new letter in a different language, Ardschuller heard the order in Polish, given in fairly clear, non-nasal voice.
- MY DEAR, start typing these letters immediately now, with copies to the Directorate in Warsaw, for the Office of the Port of Gdynia and to the Ship. Report when they are ready to be signed.
Yes, sir! Report when they are ready to be signed.
Adolf came back from the bar, pale and nervous. Questioned by fellow officers, he initially did not answer. After a while, he whispered to himself:
- He will fire me for sure, as two times two is four!
- For what? - asked a friend with concern in his voice.
- For what? For the fact that I out-shined him. During only dozen of minutes he taught me French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish and Italian. He taught me the art of fast note taking in those languages - as well as in German and English! But he does not know the stenography, so I out-shined him in front of his guests. He will fire me!
He was not fired. In this case, captain Eustazy proved to be generous and for that stenographic performance he gave Adolf a carton of cigarettes "Lucky Strike". And the linguistic-stenographic abilities of Adolf Ardschuller, an assistant clerk on the "Kosciuszko", were often the subject of admiration in the messes of our "Transatlantics".
- Translated from: Szaman Morski by Karol Olgierd Borchardt