Friday, November 9, 2007



By Mark Twain
(Samuel L. Clemens)
First published in 1880
* * * * * *
[The Knighted Knave of Bergen]
One day it occurred to me that it had been many years
since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man
adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Europe
on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was
a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle.
So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.
I looked about me for the right sort of person to
accompany me in the capacity of agent, and finally
hired a Mr. Harris for this service.
It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe.
Mr. Harris was in sympathy with me in this. He was as much
of an enthusiast in art as I was, and not less anxious
to learn to paint. I desired to learn the German language;
so did Harris.
Toward the middle of April we sailed in the HOLSATIA,
Captain Brandt, and had a very peasant trip, indeed.
After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for
a long pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather,
but at the last moment we changed the program,
for private reasons, and took the express-train.
We made a short halt at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and found
it an interesting city. I would have liked to visit
the birthplace of Gutenburg, but it could not be done,
as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept.
So we spent an hour in the Goethe mansion instead.
The city permits this house to belong to private parties,
instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor
of possessing and protecting it.
Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have
the distinction of being the place where the following
incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons
(as HE said), or being chased by them (as THEY said),
arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog.
The enemy were either before him or behind him;
but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly.
He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to
be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young,
approach the water. He watched her, judging that she
would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over,
and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or
defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate
the episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there,
which he named Frankfort--the ford of the Franks.
None of the other cities where this event happened were
named for it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was
the first place it occurred at.
Frankfort has another distinction--it is the birthplace
of the German alphabet; or at least of the German word
for alphabet --BUCHSTABEN. They say that the first movable
types were made on birch sticks--BUCHSTABE--hence the name.
I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort.
I had brought from home a box containing a thousand
very cheap cigars. By way of experiment, I stepped
into a little shop in a queer old back street, took four
gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars,
and laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave
me 43 cents change.
In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes, and I think we
noticed that this strange thing was the case in Hamburg, too,
and in the villages along the road. Even in the narrowest
and poorest and most ancient quarters of Frankfort neat
and clean clothes were the rule. The little children
of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into
a body's lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers,
they were newness and brightness carried to perfection.
One could never detect a smirch or a grain of dust
upon them. The street-car conductors and drivers wore
pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox,
and their manners were as fine as their clothes.
In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book
which has charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled
by F. J. Kiefer; translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A.
All tourists MENTION the Rhine legends--in that sort of way
which quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar
with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly
be ignorant of them--but no tourist ever TELLS them.
So this little book fed me in a very hungry place; and I,
in my turn, intend to feed my reader, with one or two
little lunches from the same larder. I shall not mar
Garnharn's translation by meddling with its English;
for the most toothsome thing about it is its quaint
fashion of building English sentences on the German plan--
and punctuating them accordingly to no plan at all.
In the chapter devoted to "Legends of Frankfort,"
I find the following:
"In Frankfort at the Romer was a great mask-ball, at
the coronation festival, and in the illuminated saloon,
the clanging music invited to dance, and splendidly
appeared the rich toilets and charms of the ladies,
and the festively costumed Princes and Knights.
All seemed pleasure, joy, and roguish gaiety, only one of the
numerous guests had a gloomy exterior; but exactly the black
armor in which he walked about excited general attention,
and his tall figure, as well as the noble propriety of
his movements, attracted especially the regards of the ladies.
Who the Knight was? Nobody could guess, for his Vizier
was well closed, and nothing made him recognizable.
Proud and yet modest he advanced to the Empress; bowed on
one knee before her seat, and begged for the favor of a
waltz with the Queen of the festival. And she allowed
his request. With light and graceful steps he danced
through the long saloon, with the sovereign who thought
never to have found a more dexterous and excellent dancer.
But also by the grace of his manner, and fine conversation
he knew to win the Queen, and she graciously accorded him
a second dance for which he begged, a third, and a fourth,
as well as others were not refused him. How all regarded
the happy dancer, how many envied him the high favor;
how increased curiosity, who the masked knight could be.
"Also the Emperor became more and more excited with curiosity,
and with great suspense one awaited the hour, when according
to mask-law, each masked guest must make himself known.
This moment came, but although all other unmasked;
the secret knight still refused to allow his features
to be seen, till at last the Queen driven by curiosity,
and vexed at the obstinate refusal; commanded him to open
his Vizier. He opened it, and none of the high ladies
and knights knew him. But from the crowded spectators,
2 officials advanced, who recognized the black dancer,
and horror and terror spread in the saloon, as they said who
the supposed knight was. It was the executioner of Bergen.
But glowing with rage, the King commanded to seize the
criminal and lead him to death, who had ventured to dance,
with the queen; so disgraced the Empress, and insulted
the crown. The culpable threw himself at the Emperor,
and said--
"'Indeed I have heavily sinned against all noble guests
assembled here, but most heavily against you my sovereign
and my queen. The Queen is insulted by my haughtiness
equal to treason, but no punishment even blood, will not
be able to wash out the disgrace, which you have suffered
by me. Therefore oh King! allow me to propose a remedy,
to efface the shame, and to render it as if not done.
Draw your sword and knight me, then I will throw down
my gauntlet, to everyone who dares to speak disrespectfully
of my king.'
"The Emperor was surprised at this bold proposal,
however it appeared the wisest to him; 'You are a knave
he replied after a moment's consideration, however your
advice is good, and displays prudence, as your offense
shows adventurous courage. Well then, and gave him the
knight-stroke so I raise you to nobility, who begged for
grace for your offense now kneels before me, rise as knight;
knavish you have acted, and Knave of Bergen shall you
be called henceforth, and gladly the Black knight rose;
three cheers were given in honor of the Emperor,
and loud cries of joy testified the approbation with
which the Queen danced still once with the Knave of Bergen."
[Landing a Monarch at Heidelberg]
We stopped at a hotel by the railway-station. Next morning,
as we sat in my room waiting for breakfast to come up,
we got a good deal interested in something which was
going on over the way, in front of another hotel.
First, the personage who is called the PORTIER (who is
not the PORTER, but is a sort of first-mate of a hotel)
[1. See Appendix A] appeared at the door in a spick-and-span
new blue cloth uniform, decorated with shining brass buttons,
and with bands of gold lace around his cap and wristbands;
and he wore white gloves, too. He shed an official glance
upon the situation, and then began to give orders.
Two women-servants came out with pails and brooms
and brushes, and gave the sidewalk a thorough scrubbing;
meanwhile two others scrubbed the four marble steps
which led up to the door; beyond these we could see some
men-servants taking up the carpet of the grand staircase.
This carpet was carried away and the last grain of dust
beaten and banged and swept our of it; then brought back
and put down again. The brass stair-rods received an
exhaustive polishing and were returned to their places.
Now a troop of servants brought pots and tubs
of blooming plants and formed them into a beautiful
jungle about the door and the base of the staircase.
Other servants adorned all the balconies of the various
stories with flowers and banners; others ascended
to the roof and hoisted a great flag on a staff there.
Now came some more chamber-maids and retouched the sidewalk,
and afterward wiped the marble steps with damp cloths
and finished by dusting them off with feather brushes.
Now a broad black carpet was brought out and laid down the
marble steps and out across the sidewalk to the curbstone.
The PORTIER cast his eye along it, and found it was not
absolutely straight; he commanded it to be straightened;
the servants made the effort--made several efforts,
in fact--but the PORTIER was not satisfied. He finally
had it taken up, and then he put it down himself and got
it right.
At this stage of the proceedings, a narrow bright
red carpet was unrolled and stretched from the top
of the marble steps to the curbstone, along the center
of the black carpet. This red path cost the PORTIER
more trouble than even the black one had done. But he
patiently fixed and refixed it until it was exactly right
and lay precisely in the middle of the black carpet.
In New York these performances would have gathered a mighty
crowd of curious and intensely interested spectators;
but here it only captured an audience of half a dozen
little boys who stood in a row across the pavement,
some with their school-knapsacks on their backs and their
hands in their pockets, others with arms full of bundles,
and all absorbed in the show. Occasionally one of them
skipped irreverently over the carpet and took up a position
on the other side. This always visibly annoyed the PORTIER.
Now came a waiting interval. The landlord, in plain clothes,
and bareheaded, placed himself on the bottom marble step,
abreast the PORTIER, who stood on the other end of the
same steps; six or eight waiters, gloved, bareheaded,
and wearing their whitest linen, their whitest cravats,
and their finest swallow-tails, grouped themselves
about these chiefs, but leaving the carpetway clear.
Nobody moved or spoke any more but only waited.
In a short time the shrill piping of a coming train was heard,
and immediately groups of people began to gather in the street.
Two or three open carriages arrived, and deposited some
maids of honor and some male officials at the hotel.
Presently another open carriage brought the Grand Duke
of Baden, a stately man in uniform, who wore the handsome
brass-mounted, steel-spiked helmet of the army on his head.
Last came the Empress of Germany and the Grand Duchess
of Baden in a closed carriage; these passed through the
low-bowing groups of servants and disappeared in the hotel,
exhibiting to us only the backs of their heads, and then
the show was over.
It appears to be as difficult to land a monarch as it
is to launch a ship.
But as to Heidelberg. The weather was growing pretty warm,
--very warm, in fact. So we left the valley and took
quarters at the Schloss Hotel, on the hill, above the Castle.
Heidelberg lies at the mouth of a narrow gorge--a gorge
the shape of a shepherd's crook; if one looks up it he
perceives that it is about straight, for a mile and a half,
then makes a sharp curve to the right and disappears.
This gorge--along whose bottom pours the swift Neckar--
is confined between (or cloven through) a couple of long,
steep ridges, a thousand feet high and densely wooded
clear to their summits, with the exception of one section
which has been shaved and put under cultivation.
These ridges are chopped off at the mouth of the gorge
and form two bold and conspicuous headlands, with Heidelberg
nestling between them; from their bases spreads away
the vast dim expanse of the Rhine valley, and into this
expanse the Neckar goes wandering in shining curves and is
presently lost to view.
Now if one turns and looks up the gorge once more, he will
see the Schloss Hotel on the right perched on a precipice
overlooking the Neckar--a precipice which is so sumptuously
cushioned and draped with foliage that no glimpse of the
rock appears. The building seems very airily situated.
It has the appearance of being on a shelf half-way up
the wooded mountainside; and as it is remote and isolated,
and very white, it makes a strong mark against the lofty
leafy rampart at its back.
This hotel had a feature which was a decided novelty,
and one which might be adopted with advantage by any house
which is perched in a commanding situation. This feature
may be described as a series of glass-enclosed parlors
and every bed-chamber and drawing-room. They are like long,
narrow, high-ceiled bird-cages hung against the building.
My room was a corner room, and had two of these things,
a north one and a west one.
From the north cage one looks up the Neckar gorge;
from the west one he looks down it. This last affords
the most extensive view, and it is one of the loveliest
that can be imagined, too. Out of a billowy upheaval of
vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge
ruin of Heidelberg Castle, [2. See Appendix B] with empty window
ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers--the Lear of
inanimate nature--deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms,
but royal still, and beautiful. It is a fine sight to see
the evening sunlight suddenly strike the leafy declivity
at the Castle's base and dash up it and drench it as with
a luminous spray, while the adjacent groves are in deep shadow.
Behind the Castle swells a great dome-shaped hill,
forest-clad, and beyond that a nobler and loftier one.
The Castle looks down upon the compact brown-roofed town;
and from the town two picturesque old bridges span
the river. Now the view broadens; through the gateway
of the sentinel headlands you gaze out over the wide
Rhine plain, which stretches away, softly and richly tinted,
grows gradually and dreamily indistinct, and finally melts
imperceptibly into the remote horizon.
I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene
and satisfying charm about it as this one gives.
The first night we were there, we went to bed and to
sleep early; but I awoke at the end of two or three hours,
and lay a comfortable while listening to the soothing
patter of the rain against the balcony windows.
I took it to be rain, but it turned out to be only the
murmur of the restless Neckar, tumbling over her dikes
and dams far below, in the gorge. I got up and went
into the west balcony and saw a wonderful sight.
Away down on the level under the black mass of the Castle,
the town lay, stretched along the river, its intricate
cobweb of streets jeweled with twinkling lights;
there were rows of lights on the bridges; these flung
lances of light upon the water, in the black shadows
of the arches; and away at the extremity of all this
fairy spectacle blinked and glowed a massed multitude
of gas-jets which seemed to cover acres of ground;
it was as if all the diamonds in the world had been spread
out there. I did not know before, that a half-mile
of sextuple railway-tracks could be made such an adornment.
One thinks Heidelberg by day--with its surroundings--
is the last possibility of the beautiful; but when he
sees Heidelberg by night, a fallen Milky Way, with that
glittering railway constellation pinned to the border,
he requires time to consider upon the verdict.
One never tires of poking about in the dense woods that
clothe all these lofty Neckar hills to their beguiling
and impressive charm in any country; but German legends
and fairy tales have given these an added charm.
They have peopled all that region with gnomes, and dwarfs,
and all sorts of mysterious and uncanny creatures.
At the time I am writing of, I had been reading so much
of this literature that sometimes I was not sure but I
was beginning to believe in the gnomes and fairies
as realities.
One afternoon I got lost in the woods about a mile from
the hotel, and presently fell into a train of dreamy thought
about animals which talk, and kobolds, and enchanted folk,
and the rest of the pleasant legendary stuff; and so,
by stimulating my fancy, I finally got to imagining I
glimpsed small flitting shapes here and there down the
columned aisles of the forest. It was a place which was
peculiarly meet for the occasion. It was a pine wood,
with so thick and soft a carpet of brown needles that one's
footfall made no more sound than if he were treading
on wool; the tree-trunks were as round and straight
and smooth as pillars, and stood close together;
they were bare of branches to a point about twenty-five
feet above-ground, and from there upward so thick with
boughs that not a ray of sunlight could pierce through.
The world was bright with sunshine outside, but a deep
and mellow twilight reigned in there, and also a deep
silence so profound that I seemed to hear my own breathings.
When I had stood ten minutes, thinking and imagining,
and getting my spirit in tune with the place, and in the
right mood to enjoy the supernatural, a raven suddenly
uttered a horse croak over my head. It made me start;
and then I was angry because I started. I looked up,
and the creature was sitting on a limb right over me,
looking down at me. I felt something of the same sense
of humiliation and injury which one feels when he finds
that a human stranger has been clandestinely inspecting
him in his privacy and mentally commenting upon him.
I eyed the raven, and the raven eyed me. Nothing was said
during some seconds. Then the bird stepped a little way
along his limb to get a better point of observation,
lifted his wings, stuck his head far down below his
shoulders toward me and croaked again--a croak with a
distinctly insulting expression about it. If he had
spoken in English he could not have said any more plainly
that he did say in raven, "Well, what do YOU want here?"
I felt as foolish as if I had been caught in some mean act
by a responsible being, and reproved for it. However, I
made no reply; I would not bandy words with a raven.
The adversary waited a while, with his shoulders still lifted,
his head thrust down between them, and his keen bright eye
fixed on me; then he threw out two or three more insults,
which I could not understand, further than that I
knew a portion of them consisted of language not used
in church.
I still made no reply. Now the adversary raised his head
and called. There was an answering croak from a little
distance in the wood--evidently a croak of inquiry.
The adversary explained with enthusiasm, and the other raven
dropped everything and came. The two sat side by side
on the limb and discussed me as freely and offensively
as two great naturalists might discuss a new kind of bug.
The thing became more and more embarrassing. They called
in another friend. This was too much. I saw that they
had the advantage of me, and so I concluded to get out
of the scrape by walking out of it. They enjoyed my
defeat as much as any low white people could have done.
They craned their necks and laughed at me (for a raven
CAN laugh, just like a man), they squalled insulting remarks
after me as long as they could see me. They were nothing
but ravens--I knew that--what they thought of me could
be a matter of no consequence--and yet when even a raven
shouts after you, "What a hat!" "Oh, pull down your vest!"
and that sort of thing, it hurts you and humiliates you,
and there is no getting around it with fine reasoning and
pretty arguments.
Animals talk to each other, of course. There can be no
question about that; but I suppose there are very few
people who can understand them. I never knew but one man
who could. I knew he could, however, because he told
me so himself. He was a middle-aged, simple-hearted
miner who had lived in a lonely corner of California,
among the woods and mountains, a good many years,
and had studied the ways of his only neighbors, the beasts
and the birds, until he believed he could accurately
translate any remark which they made. This was Jim Baker.
According to Jim Baker, some animals have only a
limited education, and some use only simple words,
and scarcely ever a comparison or a flowery figure;
whereas, certain other animals have a large vocabulary,
a fine command of language and a ready and fluent delivery;
consequently these latter talk a great deal; they like it;
they are so conscious of their talent, and they enjoy
"showing off." Baker said, that after long and careful
observation, he had come to the conclusion that the bluejays
were the best talkers he had found among birds and beasts. Said
"There's more TO a bluejay than any other creature.
He has got more moods, and more different kinds
of feelings than other creatures; and, mind you,
whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language.
And no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling,
out-and-out book-talk--and bristling with metaphor,
too--just bristling! And as for command of language--why
YOU never see a bluejay get stuck for a word. No man
ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing:
I've noticed a good deal, and there's no bird, or cow,
or anything that uses as good grammar as a bluejay.
You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat
does--but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat
get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights,
and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw.
Ignorant people think it's the NOISE which fighting
cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so;
it's the sickening grammar they use. Now I've never heard
a jay use bad grammar but very seldom; and when they do,
they are as ashamed as a human; they shut right down
and leave.
"You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure--
but he's got feathers on him, and don't belong to no church,
perhaps; but otherwise he is just as much human as you be.
And I'll tell you for why. A jay's gifts, and instincts,
and feelings, and interests, cover the whole ground.
A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman.
A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive,
a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay
will go back on his solemnest promise. The sacredness
of an obligation is such a thing which you can't cram
into no bluejay's head. Now, on top of all this,
there's another thing; a jay can out-swear any gentleman
in the mines. You think a cat can swear. Well, a cat can;
but you give a bluejay a subject that calls for his
reserve-powers, and where is your cat? Don't talk to ME--I
know too much about this thing; in the one little particular
of scolding--just good, clean, out-and-out scolding--
a bluejay can lay over anything, human or divine.
Yes, sir, a jay is everything that a man is. A jay can cry,
a jay can laugh, a jay can feel shame, a jay can reason
and plan and discuss, a jay likes gossip and scandal,
a jay has got a sense of humor, a jay knows when he is
an ass just as well as you do--maybe better. If a jay
ain't human, he better take in his sign, that's all.
Now I'm going to tell you a perfectly true fact about
some bluejays.
Baker's Bluejay Yarn
[What Stumped the Blue Jays]
"When I first begun to understand jay language correctly,
there was a little incident happened here. Seven years ago,
the last man in this region but me moved away. There stands
his house--been empty ever since; a log house, with a plank
roof--just one big room, and no more; no ceiling--nothing
between the rafters and the floor. Well, one Sunday
morning I was sitting out here in front of my cabin,
with my cat, taking the sun, and looking at the blue hills,
and listening to the leaves rustling so lonely in the trees,
and thinking of the home away yonder in the states,
that I hadn't heard from in thirteen years, when a bluejay
lit on that house, with an acorn in his mouth, and says,
'Hello, I reckon I've struck something.' When he spoke,
the acorn dropped out of his mouth and rolled down the roof,
of course, but he didn't care; his mind was all on the
thing he had struck. It was a knot-hole in the roof.
He cocked his head to one side, shut one eye and put the
other one to the hole, like a possum looking down a jug;
then he glanced up with his bright eyes, gave a wink
or two with his wings--which signifies gratification,
you understand--and says, 'It looks like a hole,
it's located like a hole--blamed if I don't believe it IS
a hole!'
"Then he cocked his head down and took another look;
he glances up perfectly joyful, this time; winks his wings
and his tail both, and says, 'Oh, no, this ain't no fat thing,
I reckon! If I ain't in luck! --Why it's a perfectly
elegant hole!' So he flew down and got that acorn,
and fetched it up and dropped it in, and was just tilting
his head back, with the heavenliest smile on his face,
when all of a sudden he was paralyzed into a listening
attitude and that smile faded gradually out of his
countenance like breath off'n a razor, and the queerest
look of surprise took its place. Then he says, 'Why, I
didn't hear it fall!' He cocked his eye at the hole again,
and took a long look; raised up and shook his head;
stepped around to the other side of the hole and took
another look from that side; shook his head again.
He studied a while, then he just went into the Details--
walked round and round the hole and spied into it from every
point of the compass. No use. Now he took a thinking
attitude on the comb of the roof and scratched the back
of his head with his right foot a minute, and finally says,
'Well, it's too many for ME, that's certain; must be
a mighty long hole; however, I ain't got no time to fool
around here, I got to "tend to business"; I reckon it's
all right--chance it, anyway.'
"So he flew off and fetched another acorn and dropped
it in, and tried to flirt his eye to the hole quick
enough to see what become of it, but he was too late.
He held his eye there as much as a minute; then he raised
up and sighed, and says, 'Confound it, I don't seem
to understand this thing, no way; however, I'll tackle
her again.' He fetched another acorn, and done his level
best to see what become of it, but he couldn't. He says,
'Well, I never struck no such a hole as this before;
I'm of the opinion it's a totally new kind of a hole.'
Then he begun to get mad. He held in for a spell,
walking up and down the comb of the roof and shaking
his head and muttering to himself; but his feelings got
the upper hand of him, presently, and he broke loose
and cussed himself black in the face. I never see a bird
take on so about a little thing. When he got through he
walks to the hole and looks in again for half a minute;
then he says, 'Well, you're a long hole, and a deep hole,
and a mighty singular hole altogether--but I've started
in to fill you, and I'm damned if I DON'T fill you, if it
takes a hundred years!'
"And with that, away he went. You never see a bird work
so since you was born. He laid into his work like a nigger,
and the way he hove acorns into that hole for about
two hours and a half was one of the most exciting and
astonishing spectacles I ever struck. He never stopped
to take a look anymore--he just hove 'em in and went
for more. Well, at last he could hardly flop his wings,
he was so tuckered out. He comes a-dropping down, once more,
sweating like an ice-pitcher, dropped his acorn in and says,
'NOW I guess I've got the bulge on you by this time!'
So he bent down for a look. If you'll believe me,
when his head come up again he was just pale with rage.
He says, 'I've shoveled acorns enough in there to keep
the family thirty years, and if I can see a sign of one
of 'em I wish I may land in a museum with a belly full
of sawdust in two minutes!'
"He just had strength enough to crawl up on to the
comb and lean his back agin the chimbly, and then he
collected his impressions and begun to free his mind.
I see in a second that what I had mistook for profanity
in the mines was only just the rudiments, as you may say.
"Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions,
and stops to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him
the whole circumstance, and says, 'Now yonder's the hole,
and if you don't believe me, go and look for yourself.'
So this fellow went and looked, and comes back and says,
"How many did you say you put in there?' 'Not any less
than two tons,' says the sufferer. The other jay went
and looked again. He couldn't seem to make it out, so he
raised a yell, and three more jays come. They all examined
the hole, they all made the sufferer tell it over again,
then they all discussed it, and got off as many leather-headed
opinions about it as an average crowd of humans could
have done.
"They called in more jays; then more and more, till pretty
soon this whole region 'peared to have a blue flush about it.
There must have been five thousand of them; and such
another jawing and disputing and ripping and cussing,
you never heard. Every jay in the whole lot put his
eye to the hole and delivered a more chuckle-headed
opinion about the mystery than the jay that went there
before him. They examined the house all over, too.
The door was standing half open, and at last one old jay
happened to go and light on it and look in. Of course,
that knocked the mystery galley-west in a second.
There lay the acorns, scattered all over the floor..
He flopped his wings and raised a whoop. 'Come here!'
he says, 'Come here, everybody; hang'd if this fool hasn't
been trying to fill up a house with acorns!' They all came
a-swooping down like a blue cloud, and as each fellow
lit on the door and took a glance, the whole absurdity
of the contract that that first jay had tackled hit him
home and he fell over backward suffocating with laughter,
and the next jay took his place and done the same.
"Well, sir, they roosted around here on the housetop
and the trees for an hour, and guffawed over that thing
like human beings. It ain't any use to tell me a bluejay
hasn't got a sense of humor, because I know better.
And memory, too. They brought jays here from all over
the United States to look down that hole, every summer
for three years. Other birds, too. And they could all
see the point except an owl that come from Nova Scotia
to visit the Yo Semite, and he took this thing in on
his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny
in it. But then he was a good deal disappointed about
Yo Semite, too."
Student Life
[The Laborious Beer King]
The summer semester was in full tide; consequently the
most frequent figure in and about Heidelberg was
the student. Most of the students were Germans,
of course, but the representatives of foreign lands
were very numerous. They hailed from every corner
of the globe--for instruction is cheap in Heidelberg,
and so is living, too. The Anglo-American Club,
composed of British and American students, had twenty-five
members, and there was still much material left to draw from.
Nine-tenths of the Heidelberg students wore no badge
or uniform; the other tenth wore caps of various colors,
and belonged to social organizations called "corps." There
were five corps, each with a color of its own; there were
white caps, blue caps, and red, yellow, and green ones.
The famous duel-fighting is confined to the "corps" boys.
The "KNEIP" seems to be a specialty of theirs, too.
Kneips are held, now and then, to celebrate great occasions,
like the election of a beer king, for instance.
The solemnity is simple; the five corps assemble at night,
and at a signal they all fall loading themselves with beer,
out of pint-mugs, as fast as possible, and each man keeps
his own count--usually by laying aside a lucifer match
for each mud he empties. The election is soon decided.
When the candidates can hold no more, a count is instituted
and the one who has drank the greatest number of pints is
proclaimed king. I was told that the last beer king elected
by the corps--or by his own capabilities--emptied his mug
seventy-five times. No stomach could hold all that quantity
at one time, of course--but there are ways of frequently
creating a vacuum, which those who have been much at sea
will understand.
One sees so many students abroad at all hours, that he
presently begins to wonder if they ever have any
working-hours. Some of them have, some of them haven't.
Each can choose for himself whether he will work or play;
for German university life is a very free life;
it seems to have no restraints. The student does not live
in the college buildings, but hires his own lodgings,
in any locality he prefers, and he takes his meals when
and where he pleases. He goes to bed when it suits him,
and does not get up at all unless he wants to.
He is not entered at the university for any particular
length of time; so he is likely to change about.
He passes no examinations upon entering college.
He merely pays a trifling fee of five or ten dollars,
receives a card entitling him to the privileges of
the university, and that is the end of it. He is now ready
for business--or play, as he shall prefer. If he elects
to work, he finds a large list of lectures to choose from.
He selects the subjects which he will study, and enters
his name for these studies; but he can skip attendance.
The result of this system is, that lecture-courses upon
specialties of an unusual nature are often delivered
to very slim audiences, while those upon more practical
and every-day matters of education are delivered to very
large ones. I heard of one case where, day after day,
the lecturer's audience consisted of three students--and always
the same three. But one day two of them remained away.
The lecturer began as usual --
"Gentlemen," --then, without a smile, he corrected himself,
saying --
"Sir," --and went on with his discourse.
It is said that the vast majority of the Heidelberg students
are hard workers, and make the most of their opportunities;
that they have no surplus means to spend in dissipation,
and no time to spare for frolicking. One lecture follows
right on the heels of another, with very little time
for the student to get out of one hall and into the next;
but the industrious ones manage it by going on a trot.
The professors assist them in the saving of their time
by being promptly in their little boxed-up pulpits when the
hours strike, and as promptly out again when the hour finishes.
I entered an empty lecture-room one day just before the
clock struck. The place had simple, unpainted pine desks
and benches for about two hundred persons.
About a minute before the clock struck, a hundred
and fifty students swarmed in, rushed to their seats,
immediately spread open their notebooks and dipped their
pens in ink. When the clock began to strike, a burly
professor entered, was received with a round of applause,
moved swiftly down the center aisle, said "Gentlemen,"
and began to talk as he climbed his pulpit steps; and by
the time he had arrived in his box and faced his audience,
his lecture was well under way and all the pens were going.
He had no notes, he talked with prodigious rapidity and
energy for an hour--then the students began to remind
him in certain well-understood ways that his time was up;
he seized his hat, still talking, proceeded swiftly down
his pulpit steps, got out the last word of his discourse
as he struck the floor; everybody rose respectfully,
and he swept rapidly down the aisle and disappeared.
An instant rush for some other lecture-room followed,
and in a minute I was alone with the empty benches
once more.
Yes, without doubt, idle students are not the rule.
Out of eight hundred in the town, I knew the faces of only
about fifty; but these I saw everywhere, and daily.
They walked about the streets and the wooded hills,
they drove in cabs, they boated on the river, they sipped
beer and coffee, afternoons, in the Schloss gardens.
A good many of them wore colored caps of the corps.
They were finely and fashionably dressed, their manners
were quite superb, and they led an easy, careless,
comfortable life. If a dozen of them sat together and a lady
or a gentleman passed whom one of them knew and saluted,
they all rose to their feet and took off their caps.
The members of a corps always received a fellow-member
in this way, too; but they paid no attention to members
of other corps; they did not seem to see them. This was not
a discourtesy; it was only a part of the elaborate and rigid
corps etiquette.
There seems to be no chilly distance existing between the
German students and the professor; but, on the contrary,
a companionable intercourse, the opposite of chilliness
and reserve. When the professor enters a beer-hall
in the evening where students are gathered together,
these rise up and take off their caps, and invite the old
gentleman to sit with them and partake. He accepts,
and the pleasant talk and the beer flow for an hour or two,
and by and by the professor, properly charged and comfortable,
gives a cordial good night, while the students stand
bowing and uncovered; and then he moves on his happy
way homeward with all his vast cargo of learning afloat
in his hold. Nobody finds fault or feels outraged;
no harm has been done.
It seemed to be a part of corps etiquette to keep a dog
or so, too. I mean a corps dog--the common property of
the organization, like the corps steward or head servant;
then there are other dogs, owned by individuals.
On a summer afternoon in the Castle gardens, I have
seen six students march solemnly into the grounds,
in single file, each carrying a bright Chinese parasol
and leading a prodigious dog by a string. It was a very
imposing spectacle. Sometimes there would be as many
dogs around the pavilion as students; and of all breeds
and of all degrees of beauty and ugliness. These dogs
had a rather dry time of it; for they were tied to the
benches and had no amusement for an hour or two at a time
except what they could get out of pawing at the gnats,
or trying to sleep and not succeeding. However, they got
a lump of sugar occasionally--they were fond of that.
It seemed right and proper that students should indulge in dogs;
but everybody else had them, too--old men and young ones,
old women and nice young ladies. If there is one spectacle
that is unpleasanter than another, it is that of an
elegantly dressed young lady towing a dog by a string.
It is said to be the sign and symbol of blighted love.
It seems to me that some other way of advertising it might
be devised, which would be just as conspicuous and yet
not so trying to the proprieties.
It would be a mistake to suppose that the easy-going
pleasure-seeking student carries an empty head.
Just the contrary. He has spent nine years in the gymnasium,
under a system which allowed him no freedom, but vigorously
compelled him to work like a slave. Consequently, he has
left the gymnasium with an education which is so extensive
and complete, that the most a university can do for it
is to perfect some of its profounder specialties.
It is said that when a pupil leaves the gymnasium, he not
only has a comprehensive education, but he KNOWS what he
knows--it is not befogged with uncertainty, it is burnt
into him so that it will stay. For instance, he does not
merely read and write Greek, but speaks it; the same with
the Latin. Foreign youth steer clear of the gymnasium;
its rules are too severe. They go to the university
to put a mansard roof on their whole general education;
but the German student already has his mansard roof, so he
goes there to add a steeple in the nature of some specialty,
such as a particular branch of law, or diseases of the eye,
or special study of the ancient Gothic tongues.
So this German attends only the lectures which belong
to the chosen branch, and drinks his beer and tows his dog
around and has a general good time the rest of the day.
He has been in rigid bondage so long that the large liberty
of the university life is just what he needs and likes
and thoroughly appreciates; and as it cannot last forever,
he makes the most of it while it does last, and so lays
up a good rest against the day that must see him put on
the chains once more and enter the slavery of official
or professional life.
At the Students' Dueling-Ground
[Dueling by Wholesale]
One day in the interest of science my agent obtained
permission to bring me to the students' dueling-place. We
crossed the river and drove up the bank a few hundred yards,
then turned to the left, entered a narrow alley, followed it
a hundred yards and arrived at a two-story public house;
we were acquainted with its outside aspect, for it was
visible from the hotel. We went upstairs and passed into
a large whitewashed apartment which was perhaps fifty feet
long by thirty feet wide and twenty or twenty-five high.
It was a well-lighted place. There was no carpet.
Across one end and down both sides of the room extended a row
of tables, and at these tables some fifty or seventy-five
students [1. See Appendix C] were sitting.
Some of them were sipping wine, others were playing cards,
others chess, other groups were chatting together,
and many were smoking cigarettes while they waited for
the coming duels. Nearly all of them wore colored caps;
there were white caps, green caps, blue caps, red caps,
and bright-yellow ones; so, all the five corps were
present in strong force. In the windows at the vacant
end of the room stood six or eight, narrow-bladed swords
with large protecting guards for the hand, and outside
was a man at work sharpening others on a grindstone.
He understood his business; for when a sword left his hand
one could shave himself with it.
It was observable that the young gentlemen neither bowed
to nor spoke with students whose caps differed in color
from their own. This did not mean hostility, but only an
armed neutrality. It was considered that a person could
strike harder in the duel, and with a more earnest interest,
if he had never been in a condition of comradeship with
his antagonist; therefore, comradeship between the corps
was not permitted. At intervals the presidents of the five
corps have a cold official intercourse with each other,
but nothing further. For example, when the regular
dueling-day of one of the corps approaches, its president
calls for volunteers from among the membership to
offer battle; three or more respond--but there must not
be less than three; the president lays their names before
the other presidents, with the request that they furnish
antagonists for these challengers from among their corps.
This is promptly done. It chanced that the present
occasion was the battle-day of the Red Cap Corps.
They were the challengers, and certain caps of other colors
had volunteered to meet them. The students fight duels
in the room which I have described, TWO DAYS IN EVERY WEEK
This custom had continued in Germany two hundred and fifty years.
To return to my narrative. A student in a white cap
met us and introduced us to six or eight friends of his
who also wore white caps, and while we stood conversing,
two strange-looking figures were led in from another room.
They were students panoplied for the duel. They were bareheaded;
their eyes were protected by iron goggles which projected
an inch or more, the leather straps of which bound
their ears flat against their heads were wound around
and around with thick wrappings which a sword could not
cut through; from chin to ankle they were padded thoroughly
against injury; their arms were bandaged and rebandaged,
layer upon layer, until they looked like solid black logs.
These weird apparitions had been handsome youths,
clad in fashionable attire, fifteen minutes before,
but now they did not resemble any beings one ever sees
unless in nightmares. They strode along, with their arms
projecting straight out from their bodies; they did
not hold them out themselves, but fellow-students walked
beside them and gave the needed support.
There was a rush for the vacant end of the room, now,
and we followed and got good places. The combatants were
placed face to face, each with several members of his own
corps about him to assist; two seconds, well padded,
and with swords in their hands, took their stations;
a student belonging to neither of the opposing corps
placed himself in a good position to umpire the combat;
another student stood by with a watch and a memorandum-book
to keep record of the time and the number and nature of
the wounds; a gray-haired surgeon was present with his lint,
his bandages, and his instruments. After a moment's pause
the duelists saluted the umpire respectfully, then one
after another the several officials stepped forward,
gracefully removed their caps and saluted him also,
and returned to their places. Everything was ready now;
students stood crowded together in the foreground,
and others stood behind them on chairs and tables.
Every face was turned toward the center of attraction.
The combatants were watching each other with alert eyes;
a perfect stillness, a breathless interest reigned.
I felt that I was going to see some wary work. But not so.
The instant the word was given, the two apparitions
sprang forward and began to rain blows down upon each
other with such lightning rapidity that I could not quite
tell whether I saw the swords or only flashes they made
in the air; the rattling din of these blows as they struck
steel or paddings was something wonderfully stirring,
and they were struck with such terrific force that I could
not understand why the opposing sword was not beaten
down under the assault. Presently, in the midst of the
sword-flashes, I saw a handful of hair skip into the air
as if it had lain loose on the victim's head and a breath
of wind had puffed it suddenly away.
The seconds cried "Halt!" and knocked up the combatants'
swords with their own. The duelists sat down; a student
official stepped forward, examined the wounded head
and touched the place with a sponge once or twice;
the surgeon came and turned back the hair from the wound--
and revealed a crimson gash two or three inches long,
and proceeded to bind an oval piece of leather and a bunch
of lint over it; the tally-keeper stepped up and tallied
one for the opposition in his book.
Then the duelists took position again; a small stream of
blood was flowing down the side of the injured man's head,
and over his shoulder and down his body to the floor,
but he did not seem to mind this. The word was given,
and they plunged at each other as fiercely as before;
once more the blows rained and rattled and flashed;
every few moments the quick-eyed seconds would notice
that a sword was bent--then they called "Halt!" struck up
the contending weapons, and an assisting student straightened
the bent one.
The wonderful turmoil went on--presently a bright spark
sprung from a blade, and that blade broken in several pieces,
sent one of its fragments flying to the ceiling.
A new sword was provided and the fight proceeded.
The exercise was tremendous, of course, and in time
the fighters began to show great fatigue. They were
allowed to rest a moment, every little while; they got
other rests by wounding each other, for then they could
sit down while the doctor applied the lint and bandages.
The laws is that the battle must continue fifteen minutes
if the men can hold out; and as the pauses do not count,
this duel was protracted to twenty or thirty minutes,
I judged. At last it was decided that the men were too much
wearied to do battle longer. They were led away drenched
with crimson from head to foot. That was a good fight,
but it could not count, partly because it did not last
the lawful fifteen minutes (of actual fighting), and
partly because neither man was disabled by his wound.
It was a drawn battle, and corps law requires that drawn
battles shall be refought as soon as the adversaries are
well of their hurts.
During the conflict, I had talked a little, now and then,
with a young gentleman of the White Cap Corps, and he
had mentioned that he was to fight next--and had also
pointed out his challenger, a young gentleman who was
leaning against the opposite wall smoking a cigarette
and restfully observing the duel then in progress.
My acquaintanceship with a party to the coming contest
had the effect of giving me a kind of personal interest
in it; I naturally wished he might win, and it was
the reverse of pleasant to learn that he probably
would not, because, although he was a notable swordsman,
the challenger was held to be his superior.
The duel presently began and in the same furious way
which had marked the previous one. I stood close by,
but could not tell which blows told and which did not,
they fell and vanished so like flashes of light. They all
seemed to tell; the swords always bent over the opponents'
heads, from the forehead back over the crown, and seemed
to touch, all the way; but it was not so--a protecting
blade, invisible to me, was always interposed between.
At the end of ten seconds each man had struck twelve
or fifteen blows, and warded off twelve or fifteen,
and no harm done; then a sword became disabled, and a short
rest followed whilst a new one was brought. Early in the
next round the White Corps student got an ugly wound on
the side of his head and gave his opponent one like it.
In the third round the latter received another bad wound
in the head, and the former had his under-lip divided.
After that, the White Corps student gave many severe wounds,
but got none of the consequence in return. At the end
of five minutes from the beginning of the duel the surgeon
stopped it; the challenging party had suffered such
injuries that any addition to them might be dangerous.
These injuries were a fearful spectacle, but are better
left undescribed. So, against expectation, my acquaintance
was the victor.
[A Sport that Sometimes Kills]
The third duel was brief and bloody. The surgeon stopped
it when he saw that one of the men had received such bad
wounds that he could not fight longer without endangering
his life.
The fourth duel was a tremendous encounter; but at the end
of five or six minutes the surgeon interfered once more:
another man so severely hurt as to render it unsafe to add
to his harms. I watched this engagement as I watched
the others--with rapt interest and strong excitement,
and with a shrink and a shudder for every blow that laid
open a cheek or a forehead; and a conscious paling of my
face when I occasionally saw a wound of a yet more shocking
nature inflicted. My eyes were upon the loser of this
duel when he got his last and vanquishing wound--it
was in his face and it carried away his--but no matter,
I must not enter into details. I had but a glance, and then
turned quickly, but I would not have been looking at all if I
had known what was coming. No, that is probably not true;
one thinks he would not look if he knew what was coming,
but the interest and the excitement are so powerful that
they would doubtless conquer all other feelings; and so,
under the fierce exhilaration of the clashing steel,
he would yield and look after all. Sometimes spectators
of these duels faint--and it does seem a very reasonable
thing to do, too.
Both parties to this fourth duel were badly hurt so much
that the surgeon was at work upon them nearly or quite an
hour--a fact which is suggestive. But this waiting interval
was not wasted in idleness by the assembled students.
It was past noon, therefore they ordered their landlord,
downstairs, to send up hot beefsteaks, chickens, and such things,
and these they ate, sitting comfortable at the several tables,
whilst they chatted, disputed and laughed. The door to
the surgeon's room stood open, meantime, but the cutting,
sewing, splicing, and bandaging going on in there in
plain view did not seem to disturb anyone's appetite.
I went in and saw the surgeon labor awhile, but could
not enjoy; it was much less trying to see the wounds
given and received than to see them mended; the stir
and turmoil, and the music of the steel, were wanting
here--one's nerves were wrung by this grisly spectacle,
whilst the duel's compensating pleasurable thrill was lacking.
Finally the doctor finished, and the men who were to fight
the closing battle of the day came forth. A good many
dinners were not completed, yet, but no matter, they could
be eaten cold, after the battle; therefore everybody
crowded forth to see. This was not a love duel, but a
"satisfaction" affair. These two students had quarreled,
and were here to settle it. They did not belong to any of
the corps, but they were furnished with weapons and armor,
and permitted to fight here by the five corps as a courtesy.
Evidently these two young men were unfamiliar with the
dueling ceremonies, though they were not unfamiliar with
the sword. When they were placed in position they thought
it was time to begin--and then did begin, too, and with
a most impetuous energy, without waiting for anybody
to give the word. This vastly amused the spectators,
and even broke down their studied and courtly gravity
and surprised them into laughter. Of course the seconds
struck up the swords and started the duel over again.
At the word, the deluge of blows began, but before long
the surgeon once more interfered--for the only reason
which ever permits him to interfere--and the day's
war was over. It was now two in the afternoon, and I
had been present since half past nine in the morning.
The field of battle was indeed a red one by this time;
but some sawdust soon righted that. There had been one
duel before I arrived. In it one of the men received
many injuries, while the other one escaped without
a scratch.
I had seen the heads and faces of ten youths gashed
in every direction by the keen two-edged blades, and yet
had not seen a victim wince, nor heard a moan, or detected
any fleeting expression which confessed the sharp pain
the hurts were inflicting. This was good fortitude,
indeed. Such endurance is to be expected in savages
and prize-fighters, for they are born and educated to it;
but to find it in such perfection in these gently bred
and kindly natured young fellows is matter for surprise.
It was not merely under the excitement of the sword-play
that this fortitude was shown; it was shown in the surgeon's
room where an uninspiring quiet reigned, and where there
was no audience. The doctor's manipulations brought
out neither grimaces nor moans. And in the fights
it was observable that these lads hacked and slashed
with the same tremendous spirit, after they were covered
with streaming wounds, which they had shown in the beginning.
The world in general looks upon the college duels as very
farcical affairs: true, but considering that the college
duel is fought by boys; that the swords are real swords;
and that the head and face are exposed, it seems to me
that it is a farce which had quite a grave side to it.
People laugh at it mainly because they think the student
is so covered up with armor that he cannot be hurt.
But it is not so; his eyes are ears are protected,
but the rest of his face and head are bare. He can not only
be badly wounded, but his life is in danger; and he would
sometimes lose it but for the interference of the surgeon.
It is not intended that his life shall be endangered.
Fatal accidents are possible, however. For instance,
the student's sword may break, and the end of it fly
up behind his antagonist's ear and cut an artery which
could not be reached if the sword remained whole.
This has happened, sometimes, and death has resulted
on the spot. Formerly the student's armpits were not
protected--and at that time the swords were pointed,
whereas they are blunt, now; so an artery in the armpit
was sometimes cut, and death followed. Then in the days
of sharp-pointed swords, a spectator was an occasional
victim--the end of a broken sword flew five or ten
feet and buried itself in his neck or his heart,
and death ensued instantly. The student duels in Germany
occasion two or three deaths every year, now, but this
arises only from the carelessness of the wounded men;
they eat or drink imprudently, or commit excesses in the
way of overexertion; inflammation sets in and gets such
a headway that it cannot be arrested. Indeed, there is
blood and pain and danger enough about the college duel
to entitle it to a considerable degree of respect.
All the customs, all the laws, all the details,
pertaining to the student duel are quaint and naive.
The grave, precise, and courtly ceremony with which the
thing is conducted, invests it with a sort of antique charm.
This dignity and these knightly graces suggest the tournament,
not the prize-fight. The laws are as curious as they
are strict. For instance, the duelist may step forward
from the line he is placed upon, if he chooses, but never
back of it. If he steps back of it, or even leans back,
it is considered that he did it to avoid a blow or contrive
an advantage; so he is dismissed from his corps in disgrace.
It would seem natural to step from under a descending
sword unconsciously, and against one's will and intent--yet
this unconsciousness is not allowed. Again: if under the
sudden anguish of a wound the receiver of it makes a grimace,
he falls some degrees in the estimation of his fellows;
his corps are ashamed of him: they call him "hare foot,"
which is the German equivalent for chicken-hearted.
[How Bismark Fought]
In addition to the corps laws, there are some corps
usages which have the force of laws.
Perhaps the president of a corps notices that one of the
membership who is no longer an exempt--that is a freshman--
has remained a sophomore some little time without volunteering
to fight; some day, the president, instead of calling
for volunteers, will APPOINT this sophomore to measure
swords with a student of another corps; he is free
to decline--everybody says so--there is no compulsion.
This is all true--but I have not heard of any student
who DID decline; to decline and still remain in the corps
would make him unpleasantly conspicuous, and properly so,
since he knew, when he joined, that his main business,
as a member, would be to fight. No, there is no law
against declining--except the law of custom, which is
confessedly stronger than written law, everywhere.
The ten men whose duels I had witnessed did not go away
when their hurts were dressed, as I had supposed they would,
but came back, one after another, as soon as they were free
of the surgeon, and mingled with the assemblage in the
dueling-room. The white-cap student who won the second
fight witnessed the remaining three, and talked with us
during the intermissions. He could not talk very well,
because his opponent's sword had cut his under-lip in two,
and then the surgeon had sewed it together and overlaid it
with a profusion of white plaster patches; neither could
he eat easily, still he contrived to accomplish a slow
and troublesome luncheon while the last duel was preparing.
The man who was the worst hurt of all played chess
while waiting to see this engagement. A good part of
his face was covered with patches and bandages, and all
the rest of his head was covered and concealed by them.
It is said that the student likes to appear on the street
and in other public places in this kind of array,
and that this predilection often keeps him out when
exposure to rain or sun is a positive danger for him.
Newly bandaged students are a very common spectacle
in the public gardens of Heidelberg. It is also said
that the student is glad to get wounds in the face,
because the scars they leave will show so well there;
and it is also said that these face wounds are so prized
that youths have even been known to pull them apart
from time to time and put red wine in them to make
them heal badly and leave as ugly a scar as possible.
It does not look reasonable, but it is roundly asserted
and maintained, nevertheless; I am sure of one thing--scars
are plenty enough in Germany, among the young men;
and very grim ones they are, too. They crisscross the face
in angry red welts, and are permanent and ineffaceable.
Some of these scars are of a very strange and dreadful aspect;
and the effect is striking when several such accent
the milder ones, which form a city map on a man's face;
they suggest the "burned district" then. We had often
noticed that many of the students wore a colored silk
band or ribbon diagonally across their breasts.
It transpired that this signifies that the wearer has
fought three duels in which a decision was reached--duels
in which he either whipped or was whipped--for drawn
battles do not count. [1] After a student has received
his ribbon, he is "free"; he can cease from fighting,
without reproach--except some one insult him; his president
cannot appoint him to fight; he can volunteer if he
wants to, or remain quiescent if he prefers to do so.
Statistics show that he does NOT prefer to remain quiescent.
They show that the duel has a singular fascination about
it somewhere, for these free men, so far from resting upon
the privilege of the badge, are always volunteering.
A corps student told me it was of record that Prince
Bismarck fought thirty-two of these duels in a single summer
term when he was in college. So he fought twenty-nine
after his badge had given him the right to retire from
the field.
1. FROM MY DIARY.--Dined in a hotel a few miles up the Neckar,
in a room whose walls were hung all over with framed
portrait-groups of the Five Corps; some were recent,
but many antedated photography, and were pictured in
lithography--the dates ranged back to forty or fifty
years ago. Nearly every individual wore the ribbon across
his breast. In one portrait-group representing (as each
of these pictures did) an entire Corps, I took pains
to count the ribbons: there were twenty-seven members,
and twenty-one of them wore that significant badge.
The statistics may be found to possess interest in
several particulars. Two days in every week are devoted
to dueling. The rule is rigid that there must be three
duels on each of these days; there are generally more,
but there cannot be fewer. There were six the day
I was present; sometimes there are seven or eight.
It is insisted that eight duels a week--four for each
of the two days--is too low an average to draw a
calculation from, but I will reckon from that basis,
preferring an understatement to an overstatement of the case.
This requires about four hundred and eighty or five hundred
duelists a year--for in summer the college term is about
three and a half months, and in winter it is four months
and sometimes longer. Of the seven hundred and fifty
students in the university at the time I am writing of,
only eighty belonged to the five corps, and it is only
these corps that do the dueling; occasionally other
students borrow the arms and battleground of the five corps
in order to settle a quarrel, but this does not happen
every dueling-day. [2] Consequently eighty youths furnish
the material for some two hundred and fifty duels a year.
This average gives six fights a year to each of the eighty.
This large work could not be accomplished if the badge-holders
stood upon their privilege and ceased to volunteer.
2. They have to borrow the arms because they could not
get them elsewhere or otherwise. As I understand it,
the public authorities, all over Germany, allow the five
Corps to keep swords, but DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO USE THEM.
This is law is rigid; it is only the execution of it that
is lax.
Of course, where there is so much fighting, the students
make it a point to keep themselves in constant practice
with the foil. One often sees them, at the tables in the
Castle grounds, using their whips or canes to illustrate
some new sword trick which they have heard about;
and between the duels, on the day whose history I
have been writing, the swords were not always idle;
every now and then we heard a succession of the keen
hissing sounds which the sword makes when it is being
put through its paces in the air, and this informed us
that a student was practicing. Necessarily, this unceasing
attention to the art develops an expert occasionally.
He becomes famous in his own university, his renown spreads
to other universities. He is invited to Go"ttingen,
to fight with a Go"ttingen expert; if he is victorious,
he will be invited to other colleges, or those colleges will
send their experts to him. Americans and Englishmen often
join one or another of the five corps. A year or two ago,
the principal Heidelberg expert was a big Kentuckian;
he was invited to the various universities and left
a wake of victory behind him all about Germany;
but at last a little student in Strasburg defeated him.
There was formerly a student in Heidelberg who had picked
up somewhere and mastered a peculiar trick of cutting up
under instead of cleaving down from above. While the trick
lasted he won in sixteen successive duels in his university;
but by that time observers had discovered what his charm was,
and how to break it, therefore his championship ceased.
A rule which forbids social intercourse between members
of different corps is strict. In the dueling-house, in
the parks, on the street, and anywhere and everywhere that
the students go, caps of a color group themselves together.
If all the tables in a public garden were crowded
but one, and that one had two red-cap students at it
and ten vacant places, the yellow-caps, the blue-caps,
the white caps, and the green caps, seeking seats,
would go by that table and not seem to see it, nor seem
to be aware that there was such a table in the grounds.
The student by whose courtesy we had been enabled to visit
the dueling-place, wore the white cap--Prussian Corps.
He introduced us to many white caps, but to none of
another color. The corps etiquette extended even to us,
who were strangers, and required us to group with the white
corps only, and speak only with the white corps, while we
were their guests, and keep aloof from the caps of the
other colors. Once I wished to examine some of the swords,
but an American student said, "It would not be quite polite;
these now in the windows all have red hilts or blue;
they will bring in some with white hilts presently,
and those you can handle freely. "When a sword was broken
in the first duel, I wanted a piece of it; but its hilt
was the wrong color, so it was considered best and politest
to await a properer season. It was brought to me after
the room was cleared, and I will now make a "life-size"
sketch of it by tracing a line around it with my pen,
to show the width of the weapon. [Figure 1] The length of
these swords is about three feet, and they are quite heavy.
One's disposition to cheer, during the course of the
duels or at their close, was naturally strong, but corps
etiquette forbade any demonstrations of this sort.
However brilliant a contest or a victory might be,
no sign or sound betrayed that any one was moved.
A dignified gravity and repression were maintained at
all times.
When the dueling was finished and we were ready to go,
the gentlemen of the Prussian Corps to whom we had been
introduced took off their caps in the courteous German way,
and also shook hands; their brethren of the same order
took off their caps and bowed, but without shaking hands;
the gentlemen of the other corps treated us just as
they would have treated white caps--they fell apart,
apparently unconsciously, and left us an unobstructed pathway,
but did not seem to see us or know we were there.
If we had gone thither the following week as guests of
another corps, the white caps, without meaning any offense,
would have observed the etiquette of their order and ignored
our presence.
[How strangely are comedy and tragedy blended in this life!
I had not been home a full half-hour, after witnessing
those playful sham-duels, when circumstances made it
necessary for me to get ready immediately to assist
personally at a real one--a duel with no effeminate
limitation in the matter of results, but a battle
to the death. An account of it, in the next chapter,
will show the reader that duels between boys, for fun,
and duels between men in earnest, are very different affairs.]
The Great French Duel
[I Second Gambetta in a Terrific Duel]
Much as the modern French duel is ridiculed by certain
smart people, it is in reality one of the most dangerous
institutions of our day. Since it is always fought in the
open air, the combatants are nearly sure to catch cold.
M. Paul de Cassagnac, the most inveterate of the French
duelists, had suffered so often in this way that he is at
last a confirmed invalid; and the best physician in Paris
has expressed the opinion that if he goes on dueling for
fifteen or twenty years more--unless he forms the habit
of fighting in a comfortable room where damps and draughts
cannot intrude--he will eventually endanger his life.
This ought to moderate the talk of those people who are
so stubborn in maintaining that the French duel is the
most health-giving of recreations because of the open-air
exercise it affords. And it ought also to moderate that
foolish talk about French duelists and socialist-hated
monarchs being the only people who are immoral.
But it is time to get at my subject. As soon as I heard
of the late fiery outbreak between M. Gambetta and M. Fourtou
in the French Assembly, I knew that trouble must follow.
I knew it because a long personal friendship with
M. Gambetta revealed to me the desperate and implacable
nature of the man. Vast as are his physical proportions,
I knew that the thirst for revenge would penetrate
to the remotest frontiers of his person.
I did not wait for him to call on me, but went at once
to him. As I had expected, I found the brave fellow
steeped in a profound French calm. I say French calm,
because French calmness and English calmness have points
of difference. He was moving swiftly back and forth
among the debris of his furniture, now and then staving
chance fragments of it across the room with his foot;
grinding a constant grist of curses through his set teeth;
and halting every little while to deposit another handful
of his hair on the pile which he had been building of it on
the table.
He threw his arms around my neck, bent me over his stomach
to his breast, kissed me on both cheeks, hugged me four
or five times, and then placed me in his own arm-chair.
As soon as I had got well again, we began business at once.
I said I supposed he would wish me to act as his second,
and he said, "Of course." I said I must be allowed
to act under a French name, so that I might be shielded
from obloquy in my country, in case of fatal results.
He winced here, probably at the suggestion that dueling was
not regarded with respect in America. However, he agreed
to my requirement. This accounts for the fact that in all
the newspaper reports M. Gambetta's second was apparently
a Frenchman.
First, we drew up my principal's will. I insisted upon this,
and stuck to my point. I said I had never heard of a man
in his right mind going out to fight a duel without
first making his will. He said he had never heard
of a man in his right mind doing anything of the kind.
When he had finished the will, he wished to proceed
to a choice of his "last words." He wanted to know
how the following words, as a dying exclamation, struck me:
"I die for my God, for my country, for freedom of speech,
for progress, and the universal brotherhood of man!"
I objected that this would require too lingering a death;
it was a good speech for a consumptive, but not suited
to the exigencies of the field of honor. We wrangled
over a good many ante-mortem outburts, but I finally got
him to cut his obituary down to this, which he copied
into his memorandum-book, purposing to get it by heart:
I said that this remark seemed to lack relevancy; but he
said relevancy was a matter of no consequence in last words,
what you wanted was thrill.
The next thing in order was the choice of weapons.
My principal said he was not feeling well, and would leave
that and the other details of the proposed meeting to me.
Therefore I wrote the following note and carried it to
M. Fourtou's friend:
Sir: M. Gambetta accepts M. Fourtou's challenge,
and authorizes me to propose Plessis-Piquet as the place
of meeting; tomorrow morning at daybreak as the time;
and axes as the weapons.
I am, sir, with great respect,
Mark Twain.
M. Fourtou's friend read this note, and shuddered.
Then he turned to me, and said, with a suggestion of
severity in his tone:
"Have you considered, sir, what would be the inevitable
result of such a meeting as this?"
"Well, for instance, what WOULD it be?"
"That's about the size of it," I said. "Now, if it is
a fair question, what was your side proposing to shed?"
I had him there. He saw he had made a blunder, so he hastened
to explain it away. He said he had spoken jestingly.
Then he added that he and his principal would enjoy axes,
and indeed prefer them, but such weapons were barred
by the French code, and so I must change my proposal.
I walked the floor, turning the thing over in my mind,
and finally it occurred to me that Gatling-guns at fifteen
paces would be a likely way to get a verdict on the field
of honor. So I framed this idea into a proposition.
But it was not accepted. The code was in the way again.
I proposed rifles; then double-barreled shotguns;
then Colt's navy revolvers. These being all rejected,
I reflected awhile, and sarcastically suggested brickbats
at three-quarters of a mile. I always hate to fool away
a humorous thing on a person who has no perception of humor;
and it filled me with bitterness when this man went soberly
away to submit the last proposition to his principal.
He came back presently and said his principal was charmed
with the idea of brickbats at three-quarters of a mile,
but must decline on account of the danger to disinterested
parties passing between them. Then I said:
"Well, I am at the end of my string, now. Perhaps YOU
would be good enough to suggest a weapon? Perhaps you
have even had one in your mind all the time?"
His countenance brightened, and he said with alacrity:
"Oh, without doubt, monsieur!"
So he fell to hunting in his pockets--pocket after pocket,
and he had plenty of them--muttering all the while,
"Now, what could I have done with them?"
At last he was successful. He fished out of his vest pocket
a couple of little things which I carried to the light
and ascertained to be pistols. They were single-barreled
and silver-mounted, and very dainty and pretty.
I was not able to speak for emotion. I silently hung
one of them on my watch-chain, and returned the other.
My companion in crime now unrolled a postage-stamp
containing several cartridges, and gave me one of them.
I asked if he meant to signify by this that our men were
to be allowed but one shot apiece. He replied that the
French code permitted no more. I then begged him to go
and suggest a distance, for my mind was growing weak
and confused under the strain which had been put upon it.
He named sixty-five yards. I nearly lost my patience.
I said:
"Sixty-five yards, with these instruments? Squirt-guns
would be deadlier at fifty. Consider, my friend,
you and I are banded together to destroy life, not make
it eternal."
But with all my persuasions, all my arguments, I was only
able to get him to reduce the distance to thirty-five yards;
and even this concession he made with reluctance,
and said with a sigh, "I wash my hands of this slaughter;
on your head be it."
There was nothing for me but to go home to my old
lion-heart and tell my humiliating story. When I entered,
M. Gambetta was laying his last lock of hair upon the altar.
He sprang toward me, exclaiming:
"You have made the fatal arrangements--I see it in your eye!"
"I have."
His face paled a trifle, and he leaned upon the table
for support. He breathed thick and heavily for a moment
or two, so tumultuous were his feelings; then he hoarsely
"The weapon, the weapon! Quick! what is the weapon?"
"This!" and I displayed that silver-mounted thing.
He cast but one glance at it, then swooned ponderously
to the floor.
When he came to, he said mournfully:
"The unnatural calm to which I have subjected myself
has told upon my nerves. But away with weakness!
I will confront my fate like a man and a Frenchman."
He rose to his feet, and assumed an attitude which
for sublimity has never been approached by man,
and has seldom been surpassed by statues. Then he said,
in his deep bass tones:
"Behold, I am calm, I am ready; reveal to me the distance."
"Thirty-five yards." ...
I could not lift him up, of course; but I rolled him over,
and poured water down his back. He presently came to,
and said:
"Thirty-five yards--without a rest? But why ask? Since
murder was that man's intention, why should he palter
with small details? But mark you one thing: in my fall
the world shall see how the chivalry of France meets death."
After a long silence he asked:
"Was nothing said about that man's family standing
up with him, as an offset to my bulk? But no matter;
I would not stoop to make such a suggestion; if he is
not noble enough to suggest it himself, he is welcome
to this advantage, which no honorable man would take."
He now sank into a sort of stupor of reflection,
which lasted some minutes; after which he broke silence with:
"The hour--what is the hour fixed for the collision?"
"Dawn, tomorrow."
He seemed greatly surprised, and immediately said:
"Insanity! I never heard of such a thing. Nobody is
abroad at such an hour."
"That is the reason I named it. Do you mean to say you
want an audience?"
"It is no time to bandy words. I am astonished that M. Fourtou
should ever have agreed to so strange an innovation.
Go at once and require a later hour."
I ran downstairs, threw open the front door, and almost
plunged into the arms of M. Fourtou's second. He said:
"I have the honor to say that my principal strenuously
objects to the hour chosen, and begs you will consent
to change it to half past nine."
"Any courtesy, sir, which it is in our power to extend
is at the service of your excellent principal. We agree
to the proposed change of time."
"I beg you to accept the thanks of my client." Then he
turned to a person behind him, and said, "You hear, M. Noir,
the hour is altered to half past nine. " Whereupon
M. Noir bowed, expressed his thanks, and went away.
My accomplice continued:
"If agreeable to you, your chief surgeons and ours shall
proceed to the field in the same carriage as is customary."
"It is entirely agreeable to me, and I am obliged
to you for mentioning the surgeons, for I am afraid
I should not have thought of them. How many shall
I want? I supposed two or three will be enough?"
"Two is the customary number for each party. I refer
to 'chief' surgeons; but considering the exalted positions
occupied by our clients, it will be well and decorous
that each of us appoint several consulting surgeons,
from among the highest in the profession. These will
come in their own private carriages. Have you engaged
a hearse?"
"Bless my stupidity, I never thought of it!" I will attend
to it right away. I must seem very ignorant to you;
but you must try to overlook that, because I have never
had any experience of such a swell duel as this before.
I have had a good deal to do with duels on the Pacific coast,
but I see now that they were crude affairs. A hearse--sho!
we used to leave the elected lying around loose, and let
anybody cord them up and cart them off that wanted to.
Have you anything further to suggest?"
"Nothing, except that the head undertakers shall ride together,
as is usual. The subordinates and mutes will go on foot,
as is also usual. I will see you at eight o'clock
in the morning, and we will then arrange the order
of the procession. I have the honor to bid you a good day."
I returned to my client, who said, "Very well;
at what hour is the engagement to begin?"
"Half past nine."
"Very good indeed.; Have you sent the fact to the newspapers?"
"SIR! If after our long and intimate friendship you can
for a moment deem me capable of so base a treachery--"
"Tut, tut! What words are these, my dear friend? Have I
wounded you? Ah, forgive me; I am overloading you with labor.
Therefore go on with the other details, and drop this
one from your list. The bloody-minded Fourtou will be
sure to attend to it. Or I myself--yes, to make certain,
I will drop a note to my journalistic friend, M. Noir--"
"Oh, come to think of it, you may save yourself the trouble;
that other second has informed M. Noir."
"H'm! I might have known it. It is just like that Fourtou,
who always wants to make a display."
At half past nine in the morning the procession approached
the field of Plessis-Piquet in the following order: first
came our carriage--nobody in it but M. Gambetta and myself;
then a carriage containing M. Fourtou and his second;
then a carriage containing two poet-orators who did
not believe in God, and these had MS. funeral orations
projecting from their breast pockets; then a carriage
containing the head surgeons and their cases of instruments;
then eight private carriages containing consulting surgeons;
then a hack containing a coroner; then the two hearses;
then a carriage containing the head undertakers;
then a train of assistants and mutes on foot; and after
these came plodding through the fog a long procession
of camp followers, police, and citizens generally.
It was a noble turnout, and would have made a fine display
if we had had thinner weather.
There was no conversation. I spoke several times to
my principal, but I judge he was not aware of it, for he
always referred to his note-book and muttered absently,
"I die that France might live."
"Arrived on the field, my fellow-second and I paced off
the thirty-five yards, and then drew lots for choice
of position. This latter was but an ornamental ceremony,
for all the choices were alike in such weather.
These preliminaries being ended, I went to my principal
and asked him if he was ready. He spread himself out
to his full width, and said in a stern voice, "Ready! Let
the batteries be charged."
The loading process was done in the presence of duly
constituted witnesses. We considered it best to perform
this delicate service with the assistance of a lantern,
on account of the state of the weather. We now placed
our men.
At this point the police noticed that the public had massed
themselves together on the right and left of the field;
they therefore begged a delay, while they should put
these poor people in a place of safety.
The request was granted.
The police having ordered the two multitudes to take
positions behind the duelists, we were once more ready.
The weather growing still more opaque, it was agreed between
myself and the other second that before giving the fatal
signal we should each deliver a loud whoop to enable
the combatants to ascertain each other's whereabouts.
I now returned to my principal, and was distressed
to observe that he had lost a good deal of his spirit.
I tried my best to hearten him. I said, "Indeed, sir,
things are not as bad as they seem. Considering the character
of the weapons, the limited number of shots allowed,
the generous distance, the impenetrable solidity of the fog,
and the added fact that one of the combatants is one-eyed
and the other cross-eyed and near-sighted, it seems to me
that this conflict need not necessarily be fatal. There are
chances that both of you may survive. Therefore, cheer up;
do not be downhearted."
This speech had so good an effect that my principal
immediately stretched forth his hand and said, "I am
myself again; give me the weapon."
I laid it, all lonely and forlorn, in the center of the vast
solitude of his palm. He gazed at it and shuddered.
And still mournfully contemplating it, he murmured in a
broken voice:
"Alas, it is not death I dread, but mutilation."
I heartened him once more, and with such success that he
presently said, "Let the tragedy begin. Stand at my back;
do not desert me in this solemn hour, my friend."
I gave him my promise. I now assisted him to point
his pistol toward the spot where I judged his adversary
to be standing, and cautioned him to listen well and
further guide himself by my fellow-second's whoop.
Then I propped myself against M. Gambetta's back,
and raised a rousing "Whoop-ee!" This was answered from
out the far distances of the fog, and I immediately shouted:
Two little sounds like SPIT! SPIT! broke upon my ear,
and in the same instant I was crushed to the earth under
a mountain of flesh. Bruised as I was, I was still able
to catch a faint accent from above, to this effect:
"I die for... for ... perdition take it,
what IS it I die for? ... oh, yes--FRANCE! I die
that France may live!"
The surgeons swarmed around with their probes in
their hands, and applied their microscopes to the whole
area of M. Gambetta's person, with the happy result of
finding nothing in the nature of a wound. Then a scene
ensued which was in every way gratifying and inspiriting.
The two gladiators fell upon each other's neck, with floods
of proud and happy tears; that other second embraced me;
the surgeons, the orators, the undertakers, the police,
everybody embraced, everybody congratulated, everybody cried,
and the whole atmosphere was filled with praise and with
joy unspeakable.
It seems to me then that I would rather be a hero
of a French duel than a crowned and sceptered monarch.
When the commotion had somewhat subsided, the body
of surgeons held a consultation, and after a good deal
of debate decided that with proper care and nursing there
was reason to believe that I would survive my injuries.
My internal hurts were deemed the most serious, since it
was apparent that a broken rib had penetrated my left lung,
and that many of my organs had been pressed out so far
to one side or the other of where they belonged, that it
was doubtful if they would ever learn to perform their
functions in such remote and unaccustomed localities.
They then set my left arm in two places, pulled my right
hip into its socket again, and re-elevated my nose.
I was an object of great interest, and even admiration;
and many sincere and warm-hearted persons had themselves
introduced to me, and said they were proud to know
the only man who had been hurt in a French duel in
forty years.
I was placed in an ambulance at the very head of the procession;
and thus with gratifying 'ECLAT I was marched into Paris,
the most conspicuous figure in that great spectacle,
and deposited at the hospital.
The cross of the Legion of Honor has been conferred
upon me. However, few escape that distinction.
Such is the true version of the most memorable private
conflict of the age.
I have no complaints to make against any one. I acted
for myself, and I can stand the consequences.
Without boasting, I think I may say I am not afraid
to stand before a modern French duelist, but as long
as I keep in my right mind I will never consent to stand
behind one again.
[What the Beautiful Maiden Said]
One day we took the train and went down to Mannheim
to see "King Lear" played in German. It was a mistake.
We sat in our seats three whole hours and never understood
anything but the thunder and lightning; and even that
was reversed to suit German ideas, for the thunder came
first and the lightning followed after.
The behavior of the audience was perfect. There were
no rustlings, or whisperings, or other little disturbances;
each act was listened to in silence, and the applauding
was done after the curtain was down. The doors opened at
half past four, the play began promptly at half past five,
and within two minutes afterward all who were coming were
in their seats, and quiet reigned. A German gentleman
in the train had said that a Shakespearian play was an
appreciated treat in Germany and that we should find the
house filled. It was true; all the six tiers were filled,
and remained so to the end--which suggested that it is
not only balcony people who like Shakespeare in Germany,
but those of the pit and gallery, too.
Another time, we went to Mannheim and attended a shivaree--
otherwise an opera--the one called "Lohengrin." The
banging and slamming and booming and crashing were
something beyond belief. The racking and pitiless
pain of it remains stored up in my memory alongside
the memory of the time that I had my teeth fixed.
There were circumstances which made it necessary for me
to stay through the hour hours to the end, and I stayed;
but the recollection of that long, dragging, relentless season
of suffering is indestructible. To have to endure it
in silence, and sitting still, made it all the harder.
I was in a railed compartment with eight or ten strangers,
of the two sexes, and this compelled repression;
yet at times the pain was so exquisite that I could hardly
keep the tears back. At those times, as the howlings
and wailings and shrieking of the singers, and the ragings
and roarings and explosions of the vast orchestra rose
higher and higher, and wilder and wilder, and fiercer
and fiercer, I could have cried if I had been alone.
Those strangers would not have been surprised to see
a man do such a thing who was being gradually skinned,
but they would have marveled at it here, and made remarks
about it no doubt, whereas there was nothing in the
present case which was an advantage over being skinned.
There was a wait of half an hour at the end of the first act,
and I could not trust myself to do it, for I felt that I
should desert to stay out. There was another wait
of half an hour toward nine o'clock, but I had gone
through so much by that time that I had no spirit left,
and so had no desire but to be let alone.
I do not wish to suggest that the rest of the people there
were like me, for, indeed, they were not. Whether it
was that they naturally liked that noise, or whether it
was that they had learned to like it by getting used to it,
I did not at the time know; but they did like--this was
plain enough. While it was going on they sat and looked
as rapt and grateful as cats do when one strokes their backs;
and whenever the curtain fell they rose to their feet,
in one solid mighty multitude, and the air was snowed thick
with waving handkerchiefs, and hurricanes of applause
swept the place. This was not comprehensible to me.
Of course, there were many people there who were not
under compulsion to stay; yet the tiers were as full at
the close as they had been at the beginning. This showed
that the people liked it.
It was a curious sort of a play. In the manner
of costumes and scenery it was fine and showy enough;
but there was not much action. That is to say,
there was not much really done, it was only talked about;
and always violently. It was what one might call a
narrative play. Everybody had a narrative and a grievance,
and none were reasonable about it, but all in an offensive
and ungovernable state. There was little of that sort
of customary thing where the tenor and the soprano stand
down by the footlights, warbling, with blended voices,
and keep holding out their arms toward each other and drawing
them back and spreading both hands over first one breast
and then the other with a shake and a pressure--no,
it was every rioter for himself and no blending.
Each sang his indictive narrative in turn, accompanied by
the whole orchestra of sixty instruments, and when this had
continued for some time, and one was hoping they might come
to an understanding and modify the noise, a great chorus
composed entirely of maniacs would suddenly break forth,
and then during two minutes, and sometimes three, I lived
over again all that I suffered the time the orphan asylum burned
We only had one brief little season of heaven and heaven's
sweet ecstasy and peace during all this long and diligent
and acrimonious reproduction of the other place.
This was while a gorgeous procession of people marched around
and around, in the third act, and sang the Wedding Chorus.
To my untutored ear that was music--almost divine music.
While my seared soul was steeped in the healing balm
of those gracious sounds, it seemed to me that I could
almost resuffer the torments which had gone before,
in order to be so healed again. There is where the deep
ingenuity of the operatic idea is betrayed. It deals so
largely in pain that its scattered delights are prodigiously
augmented by the contrasts. A pretty air in an opera is
prettier there than it could be anywhere else, I suppose,
just as an honest man in politics shines more than he
would elsewhere.
I have since found out that there is nothing the Germans
like so much as an opera. They like it, not in a mild
and moderate way, but with their whole hearts.
This is a legitimate result of habit and education.
Our nation will like the opera, too, by and by, no doubt.
One in fifty of those who attend our operas likes
it already, perhaps, but I think a good many of the other
forty-nine go in order to learn to like it, and the
rest in order to be able to talk knowingly about it.
The latter usually hum the airs while they are being sung,
so that their neighbors may perceive that they have been
to operas before. The funerals of these do not occur
often enough.
A gentle, old-maidish person and a sweet young girl
of seventeen sat right in front of us that night at the
Mannheim opera. These people talked, between the acts,
and I understood them, though I understood nothing
that was uttered on the distant stage. At first they
were guarded in their talk, but after they had heard
my agent and me conversing in English they dropped their
reserve and I picked up many of their little confidences;
no, I mean many of HER little confidences--meaning
the elder party--for the young girl only listened,
and gave assenting nods, but never said a word. How pretty
she was, and how sweet she was! I wished she would speak.
But evidently she was absorbed in her own thoughts,
her own young-girl dreams, and found a dearer pleasure
in silence. But she was not dreaming sleepy dreams--no,
she was awake, alive, alert, she could not sit still
a moment. She was an enchanting study. Her gown was
of a soft white silky stuff that clung to her round
young figure like a fish's skin, and it was rippled
over with the gracefulest little fringy films of lace;
she had deep, tender eyes, with long, curved lashes;
and she had peachy cheeks, and a dimpled chin, and such
a dear little rosebud of a mouth; and she was so dovelike,
so pure, and so gracious, so sweet and so bewitching.
For long hours I did mightily wish she would speak.
And at last she did; the red lips parted, and out leaps her
thought--and with such a guileless and pretty enthusiasm,
too: "Auntie, I just KNOW I've got five hundred fleas
on me!"
That was probably over the average. Yes, it must have been
very much over the average. The average at that time
in the Grand Duchy of Baden was forty-five to a young
person (when alone), according to the official estimate
of the home secretary for that year; the average for older
people was shifty and indeterminable, for whenever a
wholesome young girl came into the presence of her elders
she immediately lowered their average and raised her own.
She became a sort of contribution-box. This dear young
thing in the theater had been sitting there unconsciously
taking up a collection. Many a skinny old being in our
neighborhood was the happier and the restfuler for her coming.
In that large audience, that night, there were eight very
conspicuous people. These were ladies who had their hats
or bonnets on. What a blessed thing it would be if a lady
could make herself conspicuous in our theaters by wearing
her hat. It is not usual in Europe to allow ladies
and gentlemen to take bonnets, hats, overcoats, canes,
or umbrellas into the auditorium, but in Mannheim this
rule was not enforced because the audiences were largely
made up of people from a distance, and among these were
always a few timid ladies who were afraid that if they had
to go into an anteroom to get their things when the play
was over, they would miss their train. But the great mass
of those who came from a distance always ran the risk
and took the chances, preferring the loss of a train
to a breach of good manners and the discomfort of being
unpleasantly conspicuous during a stretch of three or four hours.
[How Wagner Operas Bang Along]
Three or four hours. That is a long time to sit in one place,
whether one be conspicuous or not, yet some of Wagner's
operas bang along for six whole hours on a stretch!
But the people sit there and enjoy it all, and wish it
would last longer. A German lady in Munich told me
that a person could not like Wagner's music at first,
but must go through the deliberate process of learning
to like it--then he would have his sure reward;
for when he had learned to like it he would hunger
for it and never be able to get enough of it. She said
that six hours of Wagner was by no means too much.
She said that this composer had made a complete revolution
in music and was burying the old masters one by one.
And she said that Wagner's operas differed from all others
in one notable respect, and that was that they were not
merely spotted with music here and there, but were ALL music,
from the first strain to the last. This surprised me.
I said I had attended one of his insurrections, and found
hardly ANY music in it except the Wedding Chorus.
She said "Lohengrin" was noisier than Wagner's other operas,
but that if I would keep on going to see it I would find
by and by that it was all music, and therefore would
then enjoy it. I COULD have said, "But would you advise
a person to deliberately practice having a toothache
in the pit of his stomach for a couple of years in order
that he might then come to enjoy it?" But I reserved
that remark.
This lady was full of the praises of the head-tenor
who had performed in a Wagner opera the night before,
and went on to enlarge upon his old and prodigious fame,
and how many honors had been lavished upon him by the
princely houses of Germany. Here was another surprise.
I had attended that very opera, in the person of my agent,
and had made close and accurate observations. So I
"Why, madam, MY experience warrants me in stating
that that tenor's voice is not a voice at all,
but only a shriek--the shriek of a hyena."
"That is very true," she said; "he cannot sing now;
it is already many years that he has lost his voice,
but in other times he sang, yes, divinely! So whenever
he comes now, you shall see, yes, that the theater
will not hold the people. JAWOHL BEI GOTT! his voice
is WUNDERSCHO"N in that past time."
I said she was discovering to me a kindly trait in the
Germans which was worth emulating. I said that over
the water we were not quite so generous; that with us,
when a singer had lost his voice and a jumper had lost
his legs, these parties ceased to draw. I said I had been
to the opera in Hanover, once, and in Mannheim once,
and in Munich (through my authorized agent) once, and this
large experience had nearly persuaded me that the Germans
PREFERRED singers who couldn't sing. This was not such
a very extravagant speech, either, for that burly Mannheim
tenor's praises had been the talk of all Heidelberg for
a week before his performance took place--yet his voice
was like the distressing noise which a nail makes when you
screech it across a window-pane. I said so to Heidelberg
friends the next day, and they said, in the calmest and
simplest way, that that was very true, but that in earlier
times his voice HAD been wonderfully fine. And the tenor
in Hanover was just another example of this sort.
The English-speaking German gentleman who went with me
to the opera there was brimming with enthusiasm over that tenor.
He said:
"ACH GOTT! a great man! You shall see him. He is so celebrate
in all Germany--and he has a pension, yes, from the government.
He not obliged to sing now, only twice every year;
but if he not sing twice each year they take him his pension
Very well, we went. When the renowned old tenor appeared,
I got a nudge and an excited whisper:
"Now you see him!"
But the "celebrate" was an astonishing disappointment to me.
If he had been behind a screen I should have supposed
they were performing a surgical operation on him.
I looked at my friend--to my great surprise he seemed
intoxicated with pleasure, his eyes were dancing
with eager delight. When the curtain at last fell,
he burst into the stormiest applause, and kept it up--as
did the whole house--until the afflictive tenor had
come three times before the curtain to make his bow.
While the glowing enthusiast was swabbing the perspiration
from his face, I said:
"I don't mean the least harm, but really, now, do you
think he can sing?"
"Him? NO! GOTT IM HIMMEL, ABER, how he has been able to
sing twenty-five years ago?" [Then pensively.] "ACH, no,
NOW he not sing any more, he only cry. When he think
he sing, now, he not sing at all, no, he only make
like a cat which is unwell."
Where and how did we get the idea that the Germans
are a stolid, phlegmatic race? In truth, they are
widely removed from that. They are warm-hearted,
emotional, impulsive, enthusiastic, their tears come
at the mildest touch, and it is not hard to move them
to laughter. They are the very children of impulse.
We are cold and self-contained, compared to the Germans.
They hug and kiss and cry and shout and dance and sing;
and where we use one loving, petting expressions they pour
out a score. Their language is full of endearing diminutives;
nothing that they love escapes the application of a petting
diminutive--neither the house, nor the dog, nor the horse,
nor the grandmother, nor any other creature, animate or
In the theaters at Hanover, Hamburg, and Mannheim,
they had a wise custom. The moment the curtain went up,
the light in the body of the house went down.
The audience sat in the cool gloom of a deep twilight,
which greatly enhanced the glowing splendors of the stage.
It saved gas, too, and people were not sweated to death.
When I saw "King Lear" played, nobody was allowed to see
a scene shifted; if there was nothing to be done but slide
a forest out of the way and expose a temple beyond, one did
not see that forest split itself in the middle and go
shrieking away, with the accompanying disenchanting spectacle
of the hands and heels of the impelling impulse--no,
the curtain was always dropped for an instant--one heard
not the least movement behind it--but when it went up,
the next instant, the forest was gone. Even when the
stage was being entirely reset, one heard no noise.
During the whole time that "King Lear" was playing
the curtain was never down two minutes at any one time.
The orchestra played until the curtain was ready to go up
for the first time, then they departed for the evening.
Where the stage waits never each two minutes there is no
occasion for music. I had never seen this two-minute
business between acts but once before, and that was when
the "Shaughraun" was played at Wallack's.
I was at a concert in Munich one night, the people
were streaming in, the clock-hand pointed to seven,
the music struck up, and instantly all movement in
the body of the house ceased--nobody was standing,
or walking up the aisles, or fumbling with a seat,
the stream of incomers had suddenly dried up at its source.
I listened undisturbed to a piece of music that was fifteen
minutes long--always expecting some tardy ticket-holders
to come crowding past my knees, and being continuously and
pleasantly disappointed--but when the last note was struck,
here came the stream again. You see, they had made
those late comers wait in the comfortable waiting-parlor
from the time the music had begin until it was ended.
It was the first time I had ever seen this sort of
criminals denied the privilege of destroying the comfort
of a house full of their betters. Some of these were
pretty fine birds, but no matter, they had to tarry
outside in the long parlor under the inspection of
a double rank of liveried footmen and waiting-maids
who supported the two walls with their backs and held
the wraps and traps of their masters and mistresses on their
We had no footmen to hold our things, and it was not
permissible to take them into the concert-room; but there
were some men and women to take charge of them for us.
They gave us checks for them and charged a fixed price,
payable in advance--five cents.
In Germany they always hear one thing at an opera
which has never yet been heard in America, perhaps--I
mean the closing strain of a fine solo or duet.
We always smash into it with an earthquake of applause.
The result is that we rob ourselves of the sweetest
part of the treat; we get the whiskey, but we don't get
the sugar in the bottom of the glass.
Our way of scattering applause along through an act seems
to me to be better than the Mannheim way of saving it
all up till the act is ended. I do not see how an actor
can forget himself and portray hot passion before a cold
still audience. I should think he would feel foolish.
It is a pain to me to this day, to remember how that old
German Lear raged and wept and howled around the stage,
with never a response from that hushed house, never a
single outburst till the act was ended. To me there was
something unspeakably uncomfortable in the solemn dead
silences that always followed this old person's tremendous
outpourings of his feelings. I could not help putting
myself in his place--I thought I knew how sick and flat
he felt during those silences, because I remembered a case
which came under my observation once, and which--but I
will tell the incident:
One evening on board a Mississippi steamboat, a boy of ten
years lay asleep in a berth--a long, slim-legged boy,
he was, encased in quite a short shirt; it was the first
time he had ever made a trip on a steamboat, and so he
was troubled, and scared, and had gone to bed with his
head filled with impending snaggings, and explosions,
and conflagrations, and sudden death. About ten o'clock
some twenty ladies were sitting around about the ladies'
saloon, quietly reading, sewing, embroidering, and so on,
and among them sat a sweet, benignant old dame with round
spectacles on her nose and her busy knitting-needles
in her hands. Now all of a sudden, into the midst of this
peaceful scene burst that slim-shanked boy in the brief shirt,
wild-eyed, erect-haired, and shouting, "Fire, fire!
TO LOSE!" All those ladies looked sweetly up and smiled,
nobody stirred, the old lady pulled her spectacles down,
looked over them, and said, gently:
"But you mustn't catch cold, child. Run and put on
your breastpin, and then come and tell us all about it."
It was a cruel chill to give to a poor little devil's
gushing vehemence. He was expecting to be a sort of
hero--the creator of a wild panic--and here everybody
sat and smiled a mocking smile, and an old woman made
fun of his bugbear. I turned and crept away--for I
was that boy--and never even cared to discover whether
I had dreamed the fire or actually seen it.
I am told that in a German concert or opera, they hardly
ever encore a song; that though they may be dying to hear
it again, their good breeding usually preserves them
against requiring the repetition.
Kings may encore; that is quite another matter;
it delights everybody to see that the King is pleased;
and as to the actor encored, his pride and gratification
are simply boundless. Still, there are circumstances
in which even a royal encore--
But it is better to illustrate. The King of Bavaria is
a poet, and has a poet's eccentricities--with the advantage
over all other poets of being able to gratify them,
no matter what form they may take. He is fond of opera,
but not fond of sitting in the presence of an audience;
therefore, it has sometimes occurred, in Munich,
that when an opera has been concluded and the players
were getting off their paint and finery, a command has
come to them to get their paint and finery on again.
Presently the King would arrive, solitary and alone,
and the players would begin at the beginning and do the
entire opera over again with only that one individual
in the vast solemn theater for audience. Once he took
an odd freak into his head. High up and out of sight,
over the prodigious stage of the court theater is a maze
of interlacing water-pipes, so pierced that in case
of fire, innumerable little thread-like streams of
water can be caused to descend; and in case of need,
this discharge can be augmented to a pouring flood.
American managers might want to make a note of that.
The King was sole audience. The opera proceeded,
it was a piece with a storm in it; the mimic thunder
began to mutter, the mimic wind began to wail and sough,
and the mimic rain to patter. The King's interest rose
higher and higher; it developed into enthusiasm. He cried
"It is very, very good, indeed! But I will have real
rain! Turn on the water!"
The manager pleaded for a reversal of the command; said it
would ruin the costly scenery and the splendid costumes,
but the King cried:
"No matter, no matter, I will have real rain! Turn
on the water!"
So the real rain was turned on and began to descend in
gossamer lances to the mimic flower-beds and gravel walks
of the stage. The richly dressed actresses and actors
tripped about singing bravely and pretending not to mind it.
The King was delighted--his enthusiasm grew higher.
He cried out:
"Bravo, bravo! More thunder! more lightning! turn
on more rain!"
The thunder boomed, the lightning glared, the storm-winds raged,
the deluge poured down. The mimic royalty on the stage,
with their soaked satins clinging to their bodies,
slopped about ankle-deep in water, warbling their sweetest
and best, the fiddlers under the eaves of the state sawed
away for dear life, with the cold overflow spouting down
the backs of their necks, and the dry and happy King sat
in his lofty box and wore his gloves to ribbons applauding.
"More yet!" cried the King; "more yet--let loose all
the thunder, turn on all the water! I will hang the man
that raises an umbrella!"
When this most tremendous and effective storm that had
ever been produced in any theater was at last over,
the King's approbation was measureless. He cried:
"Magnificent, magnificent! ENCORE! Do it again!"
But the manager succeeded in persuading him to recall
the encore, and said the company would feel sufficiently
rewarded and complimented in the mere fact that the
encore was desired by his Majesty, without fatiguing
him with a repetition to gratify their own vanity.
During the remainder of the act the lucky performers
were those whose parts required changes of dress;
the others were a soaked, bedraggled, and uncomfortable lot,
but in the last degree picturesque. The stage scenery
was ruined, trap-doors were so swollen that they wouldn't
work for a week afterward, the fine costumes were spoiled,
and no end of minor damages were done by that remarkable storm.
It was royal idea--that storm--and royally carried out.
But observe the moderation of the King; he did not
insist upon his encore. If he had been a gladsome,
unreflecting American opera-audience, he probably would
have had his storm repeated and repeated until he drowned
all those people.
[I Paint a "Turner"]
The summer days passed pleasantly in Heidelberg.
We had a skilled trainer, and under his instructions we
were getting our legs in the right condition for the
contemplated pedestrian tours; we were well satisfied
with the progress which we had made in the German language,
[1. See Appendix D for information concerning this
fearful tongue.] and more than satisfied with what we had
accomplished in art. We had had the best instructors in
drawing and painting in Germany--Ha"mmerling, Vogel, Mu"ller,
Dietz, and Schumann. Ha"mmerling taught us landscape-painting.
Vogel taught us figure-drawing, Mu"ller taught us to do
still-life, and Dietz and Schumann gave us a finishing
course in two specialties--battle-pieces and shipwrecks.
Whatever I am in Art I owe to these men. I have something
of the manner of each and all of them; but they all said that I
had also a manner of my own, and that it was conspicuous.
They said there was a marked individuality about my
style--insomuch that if I ever painted the commonest
type of a dog, I should be sure to throw a something
into the aspect of that dog which would keep him from
being mistaken for the creation of any other artist.
Secretly I wanted to believe all these kind sayings,
but I could not; I was afraid that my masters'
partiality for me, and pride in me, biased their judgment.
So I resolved to make a test. Privately, and unknown
to any one, I painted my great picture, "Heidelberg Castle
Illuminated"--my first really important work in oils--and
had it hung up in the midst of a wilderness of oil-pictures
in the Art Exhibition, with no name attached to it. To my
great gratification it was instantly recognized as mine.
All the town flocked to see it, and people even came from
neighboring localities to visit it. It made more stir than
any other work in the Exhibition. But the most gratifying
thing of all was, that chance strangers, passing through,
who had not heard of my picture, were not only drawn to it,
as by a lodestone, the moment they entered the gallery,
but always took it for a "Turner."
Apparently nobody had ever done that. There were ruined
castles on the overhanging cliffs and crags all the way;
these were said to have their legends, like those on the Rhine,
and what was better still, they had never been in print.
There was nothing in the books about that lovely region;
it had been neglected by the tourist, it was virgin soil for
the literary pioneer.
Meantime the knapsacks, the rough walking-suits and the stout
walking-shoes which we had ordered, were finished and brought
to us. A Mr. X and a young Mr. Z had agreed to go with us.
We went around one evening and bade good-by to our friends,
and afterward had a little farewell banquet at the hotel.
We got to bed early, for we wanted to make an early start,
so as to take advantage of the cool of the morning.
We were out of bed at break of day, feeling fresh
and vigorous, and took a hearty breakfast, then plunged
down through the leafy arcades of the Castle grounds,
toward the town. What a glorious summer morning it was,
and how the flowers did pour out their fragrance,
and how the birds did sing! It was just the time for a
tramp through the woods and mountains.
We were all dressed alike: broad slouch hats, to keep the
sun off; gray knapsacks; blue army shirts; blue overalls;
leathern gaiters buttoned tight from knee down to ankle;
high-quarter coarse shoes snugly laced. Each man had
an opera-glass, a canteen, and a guide-book case slung
over his shoulder, and carried an alpenstock in one hand
and a sun-umbrella in the other. Around our hats were
wound many folds of soft white muslin, with the ends
hanging and flapping down our backs--an idea brought
from the Orient and used by tourists all over Europe.
Harris carried the little watch-like machine called
a "pedometer," whose office is to keep count of a man's
steps and tell how far he has walked. Everybody stopped
to admire our costumes and give us a hearty "Pleasant march
to you!"
When we got downtown I found that we could go by rail to
within five miles of Heilbronn. The train was just starting,
so we jumped aboard and went tearing away in splendid spirits.
It was agreed all around that we had done wisely,
because it would be just as enjoyable to walk DOWN the Neckar
as up it, and it could not be needful to walk both ways.
There were some nice German people in our compartment.
I got to talking some pretty private matters presently,
and Harris became nervous; so he nudged me and said:
"Speak in German--these Germans may understand English."
I did so, it was well I did; for it turned out that there
was not a German in that party who did not understand
English perfectly. It is curious how widespread our language
is in Germany. After a while some of those folks got out
and a German gentleman and his two young daughters got in.
I spoke in German of one of the latter several times,
but without result. Finally she said:
that effect. That is, "I don't understand any language
but German and English."
And sure enough, not only she but her father and sister
spoke English. So after that we had all the talk we wanted;
and we wanted a good deal, for they were agreeable people.
They were greatly interested in our customs; especially
the alpenstocks, for they had not seen any before.
They said that the Neckar road was perfectly level, so we
must be going to Switzerland or some other rugged country;
and asked us if we did not find the walking pretty fatiguing
in such warm weather. But we said no.
We reached Wimpfen--I think it was Wimpfen--in about
three hours, and got out, not the least tired; found a
good hotel and ordered beer and dinner--then took
a stroll through the venerable old village. It was very
picturesque and tumble-down, and dirty and interesting.
It had queer houses five hundred years old in it,
and a military tower 115 feet high, which had stood there
more than ten centuries. I made a little sketch of it.
I kept a copy, but gave the original to the Burgomaster.
I think the original was better than the copy, because it
had more windows in it and the grass stood up better and had
a brisker look. There was none around the tower, though;
I composed the grass myself, from studies I made in a field
by Heidelberg in Ha"mmerling's time. The man on top,
looking at the view, is apparently too large, but I found
he could not be made smaller, conveniently. I wanted
him there, and I wanted him visible, so I thought out a
way to manage it; I composed the picture from two points
of view; the spectator is to observe the man from bout
where that flag is, and he must observe the tower itself
from the ground. This harmonizes the seeming discrepancy.
[Figure 2]
Near an old cathedral, under a shed, were three crosses
of stone--moldy and damaged things, bearing life-size
stone figures. The two thieves were dressed in the fanciful
court costumes of the middle of the sixteenth century,
while the Saviour was nude, with the exception of a cloth
around the loins.
We had dinner under the green trees in a garden belonging
to the hotel and overlooking the Neckar; then, after a smoke,
we went to bed. We had a refreshing nap, then got up
about three in the afternoon and put on our panoply.
As we tramped gaily out at the gate of the town,
we overtook a peasant's cart, partly laden with odds and
ends of cabbages and similar vegetable rubbish, and drawn
by a small cow and a smaller donkey yoked together.
It was a pretty slow concern, but it got us into Heilbronn
before dark--five miles, or possibly it was seven.
We stopped at the very same inn which the famous old
robber-knight and rough fighter Go"tz von Berlichingen,
abode in after he got out of captivity in the Square Tower
of Heilbronn between three hundred and fifty and four hundred
years ago. Harris and I occupied the same room which he
had occupied and the same paper had not quite peeled off
the walls yet. The furniture was quaint old carved stuff,
full four hundred years old, and some of the smells
were over a thousand. There was a hook in the wall,
which the landlord said the terrific old Go"tz used to
hang his iron hand on when he took it off to go to bed.
This room was very large--it might be called immense--
and it was on the first floor; which means it was in
the second story, for in Europe the houses are so high
that they do not count the first story, else they
would get tired climbing before they got to the top.
The wallpaper was a fiery red, with huge gold figures in it,
well smirched by time, and it covered all the doors.
These doors fitted so snugly and continued the figures
of the paper so unbrokenly, that when they were closed
one had to go feeling and searching along the wall
to find them. There was a stove in the corner--one
of those tall, square, stately white porcelain things
that looks like a monument and keeps you thinking
of death when you ought to be enjoying your travels.
The windows looked out on a little alley, and over that
into a stable and some poultry and pig yards in the rear
of some tenement-houses. There were the customary two beds
in the room, one in one end, the other in the other,
about an old-fashioned brass-mounted, single-barreled
pistol-shot apart. They were fully as narrow as the usual
German bed, too, and had the German bed's ineradicable
habit of spilling the blankets on the floor every time
you forgot yourself and went to sleep.
A round table as large as King Arthur's stood in the
center of the room; while the waiters were getting
ready to serve our dinner on it we all went out to see
the renowned clock on the front of the municipal buildings.
[What the Wives Saved]
The RATHHAUS, or municipal building, is of the quaintest
and most picturesque Middle-Age architecture. It has a
massive portico and steps, before it, heavily balustraded,
and adorned with life-sized rusty iron knights in
complete armor. The clock-face on the front of the building
is very large and of curious pattern. Ordinarily, a gilded
angel strikes the hour on a big bell with a hammer;
as the striking ceases, a life-sized figure of Time raises
its hour-glass and turns it; two golden rams advance
and butt each other; a gilded cock lifts its wings;
but the main features are two great angels, who stand
on each side of the dial with long horns at their lips;
it was said that they blew melodious blasts on these
horns every hour--but they did not do it for us.
We were told, later, than they blew only at night,
when the town was still.
Within the RATHHAUS were a number of huge wild boars'
heads, preserved, and mounted on brackets along the wall;
they bore inscriptions telling who killed them and how many
hundred years ago it was done. One room in the building
was devoted to the preservation of ancient archives.
There they showed us no end of aged documents; some were
signed by Popes, some by Tilly and other great generals,
and one was a letter written and subscribed by Go"tz von
Berlichingen in Heilbronn in 1519 just after his release
from the Square Tower.
This fine old robber-knight was a devoutly and sincerely
religious man, hospitable, charitable to the poor,
fearless in fight, active, enterprising, and possessed
of a large and generous nature. He had in him a
quality of being able to overlook moderate injuries,
and being able to forgive and forget mortal ones as
soon as he had soundly trounced the authors of them.
He was prompt to take up any poor devil's quarrel and risk
his neck to right him. The common folk held him dear,
and his memory is still green in ballad and tradition.
He used to go on the highway and rob rich wayfarers;
and other times he would swoop down from his high castle
on the hills of the Neckar and capture passing cargoes
of merchandise. In his memoirs he piously thanks the
Giver of all Good for remembering him in his needs and
delivering sundry such cargoes into his hands at times
when only special providences could have relieved him.
He was a doughty warrior and found a deep joy in battle.
In an assault upon a stronghold in Bavaria when he was
only twenty-three years old, his right hand was shot away,
but he was so interested in the fight that he did not
observe it for a while. He said that the iron hand
which was made for him afterward, and which he wore for
more than half a century, was nearly as clever a member
as the fleshy one had been. I was glad to get a facsimile
of the letter written by this fine old German Robin Hood,
though I was not able to read it. He was a better artist
with his sword than with his pen.
We went down by the river and saw the Square Tower.
It was a very venerable structure, very strong,
and very ornamental. There was no opening near the ground.
They had to use a ladder to get into it, no doubt.
We visited the principal church, also--a curious
old structure, with a towerlike spire adorned with all
sorts of grotesque images. The inner walls of the church
were placarded with large mural tablets of copper,
bearing engraved inscriptions celebrating the merits
of old Heilbronn worthies of two or three centuries ago,
and also bearing rudely painted effigies of themselves
and their families tricked out in the queer costumes of
those days. The head of the family sat in the foreground,
and beyond him extended a sharply receding and diminishing
row of sons; facing him sat his wife, and beyond
her extended a low row of diminishing daughters.
The family was usually large, but the perspective bad.
Then we hired the hack and the horse which Go"tz von
Berlichingen used to use, and drove several miles into
the country to visit the place called WEIBERTREU--Wife's
Fidelity I suppose it means. It was a feudal castle
of the Middle Ages. When we reached its neighborhood we
found it was beautifully situated, but on top of a mound,
or hill, round and tolerably steep, and about two hundred
feet high. Therefore, as the sun was blazing hot,
we did not climb up there, but took the place on trust,
and observed it from a distance while the horse leaned up
against a fence and rested. The place has no interest
except that which is lent it by its legend, which is
a very pretty one--to this effect:
In the Middle Ages, a couple of young dukes, brothers,
took opposite sides in one of the wars, the one fighting
for the Emperor, the other against him. One of them
owned the castle and village on top of the mound which I
have been speaking of, and in his absence his brother
came with his knights and soldiers and began a siege.
It was a long and tedious business, for the people
made a stubborn and faithful defense. But at last
their supplies ran out and starvation began its work;
more fell by hunger than by the missiles of the enemy.
They by and by surrendered, and begged for charitable terms.
But the beleaguering prince was so incensed against them
for their long resistance that he said he would spare none
but the women and children--all men should be put to the
sword without exception, and all their goods destroyed.
Then the women came and fell on their knees and begged for
the lives of their husbands.
"No," said the prince, "not a man of them shall escape alive;
you yourselves shall go with your children into houseless
and friendless banishment; but that you may not starve
I grant you this one grace, that each woman may bear
with her from this place as much of her most valuable
property as she is able to carry."
Very well, presently the gates swung open and out filed
those women carrying their HUSBANDS on their shoulders.
The besiegers, furious at the trick, rushed forward
to slaughter the men, but the Duke stepped between and
"No, put up your swords--a prince's word is inviolable."
When we got back to the hotel, King Arthur's Round Table
was ready for us in its white drapery, and the head waiter
and his first assistant, in swallow-tails and white cravats,
brought in the soup and the hot plates at once.
Mr. X had ordered the dinner, and when the wine came on,
he picked up a bottle, glanced at the label, and then turned
to the grave, the melancholy, the sepulchral head waiter
and said it was not the sort of wine he had asked for.
The head waiter picked up the bottle, cast his undertaker-eye
on it and said:
"It is true; I beg pardon." Then he turned on his
subordinate and calmly said, "Bring another label."
At the same time he slid the present label off with his hand
and laid it aside; it had been newly put on, its paste
was still wet. When the new label came, he put it on;
our French wine being now turned into German wine,
according to desire, the head waiter went blandly about his
other duties, as if the working of this sort of miracle
was a common and easy thing to him.
Mr. X said he had not known, before, that there were
people honest enough to do this miracle in public,
but he was aware that thousands upon thousands of labels
were imported into America from Europe every year,
to enable dealers to furnish to their customers in a quiet
and inexpensive way all the different kinds of foreign
wines they might require.
We took a turn around the town, after dinner, and found
it fully as interesting in the moonlight as it had been
in the daytime. The streets were narrow and roughly paved,
and there was not a sidewalk or a street-lamp anywhere.
The dwellings were centuries old, and vast enough for hotels.
They widened all the way up; the stories projected
further and further forward and aside as they ascended,
and the long rows of lighted windows, filled with little bits
of panes, curtained with figured white muslin and adorned
outside with boxes of flowers, made a pretty effect.
The moon was bright, and the light and shadow very strong;
and nothing could be more picturesque than those curving
streets, with their rows of huge high gables leaning
far over toward each other in a friendly gossiping way,
and the crowds below drifting through the alternating blots
of gloom and mellow bars of moonlight. Nearly everybody
was abroad, chatting, singing, romping, or massed in lazy
comfortable attitudes in the doorways.
In one place there was a public building which was
fenced about with a thick, rusty chain, which sagged
from post to post in a succession of low swings.
The pavement, here, was made of heavy blocks of stone.
In the glare of the moon a party of barefooted children
were swinging on those chains and having a noisy good time.
They were not the first ones who have done that;
even their great-great-grandfathers had not been the first
to do it when they were children. The strokes of the bare
feet had worn grooves inches deep in the stone flags;
it had taken many generations of swinging children to
accomplish that. Everywhere in the town were the mold
and decay that go with antiquity, and evidence of it;
but I do not know that anything else gave us so vivid
a sense of the old age of Heilbronn as those footworn
grooves in the paving-stones.
[My Long Crawl in the Dark]
When we got back to the hotel I wound and set the
pedometer and put it in my pocket, for I was to carry
it next day and keep record of the miles we made.
The work which we had given the instrument to do during
which had just closed had not fatigued it perceptibly.
We were in bed by ten, for we wanted to be up and away on
our tramp homeward with the dawn. I hung fire, but Harris
went to sleep at once. I hate a man who goes to sleep
at once; there is a sort of indefinable something about it
which is not exactly an insult, and yet is an insolence;
and one which is hard to bear, too. I lay there fretting
over this injury, and trying to go to sleep; but the harder
I tried, the wider awake I grew. I got to feeling very lonely
in the dark, ith no company but an undigested dinner.
My mind got a start by and by, and began to consider the
beginning of every subject which has ever been thought of;
but it never went further than the beginning; it was touch
and go; it fled from topic to topic with a frantic speed.
At the end of an hour my head was in a perfect whirl and I
was dead tired, fagged out.
The fatigue was so great that it presently began to make some
head against the nervous excitement; while imagining myself
wide awake, I would really doze into momentary unconsciousness,
and come suddenly out of it with a physical jerk which nearly
wrenched my joints apart--the delusion of the instant
being that I was tumbling backward over a precipice.
After I had fallen over eight or nine precipices and thus
found out that one half of my brain had been asleep eight
or nine times without the wide-awake, hard-working other
half suspecting it, the periodical unconsciousnesses
began to extend their spell gradually over more of my
brain-territory, and at last I sank into a drowse which
grew deeper and deeper and was doubtless just on the very
point of being a solid, blessed dreamless stupor, when--what was
My dulled faculties dragged themselves partly back to life
and took a receptive attitude. Now out of an immense,
a limitless distance, came a something which grew and grew,
and approached, and presently was recognizable as a sound--
it had rather seemed to be a feeling, before. This sound
was a mile away, now--perhaps it was the murmur of a storm;
and now it was nearer--not a quarter of a mile away;
was it the muffled rasping and grinding of distant
machinery? No, it came still nearer; was it the measured
tramp of a marching troop? But it came nearer still,
and still nearer--and at last it was right in the room: it
was merely a mouse gnawing the woodwork. So I had held my
breath all that time for such a trifle.
Well, what was done could not be helped; I would go
to sleep at once and make up the lost time. That was
a thoughtless thought. Without intending it--hardly
knowing it--I fell to listening intently to that sound,
and even unconsciously counting the strokes of the mouse's
nutmeg-grater. Presently I was deriving exquisite suffering
from this employment, yet maybe I could have endured
it if the mouse had attended steadily to his work;
but he did not do that; he stopped every now and then,
and I suffered more while waiting and listening for
him to begin again than I did while he was gnawing.
Along at first I was mentally offering a reward
of five--six--seven--ten--dollars for that mouse;
but toward the last I was offering rewards which were
entirely beyond my means. I close-reefed my ears--
that is to say, I bent the flaps of them down and furled
them into five or six folds, and pressed them against
the hearing-orifice--but it did no good: the faculty
was so sharpened by nervous excitement that it was become
a microphone and could hear through the overlays without trouble.
My anger grew to a frenzy. I finally did what all persons
before me have done, clear back to Adam,--resolved to
throw something. I reached down and got my walking-shoes,
then sat up in bed and listened, in order to exactly locate
the noise. But I couldn't do it; it was as unlocatable
as a cricket's noise; and where one thinks that that is,
is always the very place where it isn't. So I presently
hurled a shoe at random, and with a vicious vigor.
It struck the wall over Harris's head and fell down on him;
I had not imagined I could throw so far. It woke Harris,
and I was glad of it until I found he was not angry;
then I was sorry. He soon went to sleep again,
which pleased me; but straightway the mouse began again,
which roused my temper once more. I did not want to wake
Harris a second time, but the gnawing continued until I
was compelled to throw the other shoe. This time I broke
a mirror--there were two in the room--I got the largest one,
of course. Harris woke again, but did not complain,
and I was sorrier than ever. I resolved that I would
suffer all possible torture before I would disturb him a
third time.
The mouse eventually retired, and by and by I was sinking
to sleep, when a clock began to strike; I counted till
it was done, and was about to drowse again when another
clock began; I counted; then the two great RATHHAUS clock
angels began to send forth soft, rich, melodious blasts
from their long trumpets. I had never heard anything
that was so lovely, or weird, or mysterious--but when they
got to blowing the quarter-hours, they seemed to me to be
overdoing the thing. Every time I dropped off for the moment,
a new noise woke me. Each time I woke I missed my coverlet,
and had to reach down to the floor and get it again.
At last all sleepiness forsook me. I recognized the fact
that I was hopelessly and permanently wide awake.
Wide awake, and feverish and thirsty. When I had lain
tossing there as long as I could endure it, it occurred
to me that it would be a good idea to dress and go out in
the great square and take a refreshing wash in the fountain,
and smoke and reflect there until the remnant of the night
was gone.
I believed I could dress in the dark without waking Harris.
I had banished my shoes after the mouse, but my slippers
would do for a summer night. So I rose softly, and gradually
got on everything--down to one sock. I couldn't seem
to get on the track of that sock, any way I could fix it.
But I had to have it; so I went down on my hands and knees,
with one slipper on and the other in my hand, and began to
paw gently around and rake the floor, but with no success.
I enlarged my circle, and went on pawing and raking.
With every pressure of my knee, how the floor creaked!
and every time I chanced to rake against any article,
it seemed to give out thirty-five or thirty-six times
more noise than it would have done in the daytime.
In those cases I always stopped and held my breath till I
was sure Harris had not awakened--then I crept along again.
I moved on and on, but I could not find the sock;
I could not seem to find anything but furniture.
I could not remember that there was much furniture
in the room when I went to bed, but the place was alive
with it now --especially chairs--chairs everywhere--
had a couple of families moved in, in the mean time? And
I never could seem to GLANCE on one of those chairs,
but always struck it full and square with my head.
My temper rose, by steady and sure degrees, and as I
pawed on and on, I fell to making vicious comments under
my breath.
Finally, with a venomous access of irritation, I said I
would leave without the sock; so I rose up and made straight
for the door--as I supposed--and suddenly confronted my
dim spectral image in the unbroken mirror. It startled
the breath out of me, for an instant; it also showed me
that I was lost, and had no sort of idea where I was.
When I realized this, I was so angry that I had to sit
down on the floor and take hold of something to keep
from lifting the roof off with an explosion of opinion.
If there had been only one mirror, it might possibly have
helped to locate me; but there were two, and two were as
bad as a thousand; besides, these were on opposite sides
of the room. I could see the dim blur of the windows,
but in my turned-around condition they were exactly
where they ought not to be, and so they only confused me
instead of helping me.
I started to get up, and knocked down an umbrella;
it made a noise like a pistol-shot when it struck
that hard, slick, carpetless floor; I grated my teeth
and held my breath--Harris did not stir. I set the
umbrella slowly and carefully on end against the wall,
but as soon as I took my hand away, its heel slipped
from under it, and down it came again with another bang.
I shrunk together and listened a moment in silent fury--
no harm done, everything quiet. With the most painstaking
care and nicety, I stood the umbrella up once more,
took my hand away, and down it came again.
I have been strictly reared, but if it had not been
so dark and solemn and awful there in that lonely,
vast room, I do believe I should have said something
then which could not be put into a Sunday-school book
without injuring the sale of it. If my reasoning powers
had not been already sapped dry by my harassments,
I would have known better than to try to set an umbrella
on end on one of those glassy German floors in the dark;
it can't be done in the daytime without four failures
to one success. I had one comfort, though--Harris was
yet still and silent--he had not stirred.
The umbrella could not locate me--there were four
standing around the room, and all alike. I thought I
would feel along the wall and find the door in that way.
I rose up and began this operation, but raked down
a picture. It was not a large one, but it made noise
enough for a panorama. Harris gave out no sound, but I
felt that if I experimented any further with the pictures
I should be sure to wake him. Better give up trying to
get out. Yes, I would find King Arthur's Round Table once
more--I had already found it several times--and use it
for a base of departure on an exploring tour for my bed;
if I could find my bed I could then find my water pitcher;
I would quench my raging thirst and turn in. So I started
on my hands and knees, because I could go faster that way,
and with more confidence, too, and not knock down things.
By and by I found the table--with my head--rubbed the
bruise a little, then rose up and started, with hands
abroad and fingers spread, to balance myself. I found
a chair; then a wall; then another chair; then a sofa;
then an alpenstock, then another sofa; this confounded me,
for I had thought there was only one sofa. I hunted
up the table again and took a fresh start; found some
more chairs.
It occurred to me, now, as it ought to have done before,
that as the table was round, it was therefore of no
value as a base to aim from; so I moved off once more,
and at random among the wilderness of chairs and sofas--
wandering off into unfamiliar regions, and presently knocked
a candlestick and knocked off a lamp, grabbed at the lamp
and knocked off a water pitcher with a rattling crash,
and thought to myself, "I've found you at last--I
judged I was close upon you." Harris shouted "murder,"
and "thieves," and finished with "I'm absolutely drowned."
The crash had roused the house. Mr. X pranced in,
in his long night-garment, with a candle, young Z after him
with another candle; a procession swept in at another door,
with candles and lanterns--landlord and two German guests
in their nightgowns and a chambermaid in hers.
I looked around; I was at Harris's bed, a Sabbath-day's
journey from my own. There was only one sofa; it was against
the wall; there was only one chair where a body could get
at it--I had been revolving around it like a planet,
and colliding with it like a comet half the night.
I explained how I had been employing myself, and why.
Then the landlord's party left, and the rest of us set
about our preparations for breakfast, for the dawn was
ready to break. I glanced furtively at my pedometer,
and found I had made 47 miles. But I did not care, for I
had come out for a pedestrian tour anyway.
[Rafting Down the Neckar]
When the landlord learned that I and my agents were artists,
our party rose perceptibly in his esteem; we rose still
higher when he learned that we were making a pedestrian
tour of Europe.
He told us all about the Heidelberg road, and which
were the best places to avoid and which the best ones
to tarry at; he charged me less than cost for the things
I broke in the night; he put up a fine luncheon for us
and added to it a quantity of great light-green plums,
the pleasantest fruit in Germany; he was so anxious to do us
honor that he would not allow us to walk out of Heilbronn,
but called up Go"tz von Berlichingen's horse and cab
and made us ride.
I made a sketch of the turnout. It is not a Work, it is only
what artists call a "study"--a thing to make a finished
picture from. This sketch has several blemishes in it;
for instance, the wagon is not traveling as fast as the
horse is. This is wrong. Again, the person trying to get
out of the way is too small; he is out of perspective,
as we say. The two upper lines are not the horse's back,
they are the reigns; there seems to be a wheel missing--
this would be corrected in a finished Work, of course.
This thing flying out behind is not a flag, it is a curtain.
That other thing up there is the sun, but I didn't get
enough distance on it. I do not remember, now, what that
thing is that is in front of the man who is running,
but I think it is a haystack or a woman. This study
was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1879, but did not
take any medal; they do not give medals for studies.
[Figure 3]
We discharged the carriage at the bridge. The river was
full of logs--long, slender, barkless pine logs--and we
leaned on the rails of the bridge, and watched the men put
them together into rafts. These rafts were of a shape
and construction to suit the crookedness and extreme
narrowness of the Neckar. They were from fifty to one
hundred yards long, and they gradually tapered from a
nine-log breadth at their sterns, to a three-log breadth
at their bow-ends. The main part of the steering is done
at the bow, with a pole; the three-log breadth there
furnishes room for only the steersman, for these little logs
are not larger around than an average young lady's waist.
The connections of the several sections of the raft are
slack and pliant, so that the raft may be readily bent
into any sort of curve required by the shape of the river.
The Neckar is in many places so narrow that a person
can throw a dog across it, if he has one; when it is
also sharply curved in such places, the raftsman has
to do some pretty nice snug piloting to make the turns.
The river is not always allowed to spread over its whole
bed--which is as much as thirty, and sometimes forty yards
wide--but is split into three equal bodies of water,
by stone dikes which throw the main volume, depth, and current
into the central one. In low water these neat narrow-edged
dikes project four or five inches above the surface,
like the comb of a submerged roof, but in high water
they are overflowed. A hatful of rain makes high water
in the Neckar, and a basketful produces an overflow.
There are dikes abreast the Schloss Hotel, and the current
is violently swift at that point. I used to sit for hours
in my glass cage, watching the long, narrow rafts slip
along through the central channel, grazing the right-bank
dike and aiming carefully for the middle arch of the stone
bridge below; I watched them in this way, and lost all this
time hoping to see one of them hit the bridge-pier and wreck
itself sometime or other, but was always disappointed.
One was smashed there one morning, but I had just stepped
into my room a moment to light a pipe, so I lost it.
While I was looking down upon the rafts that morning
in Heilbronn, the daredevil spirit of adventure came
suddenly upon me, and I said to my comrades:
"_I_ am going to Heidelberg on a raft. Will you venture
with me?"
Their faces paled a little, but they assented with as
good a grace as they could. Harris wanted to cable his
mother--thought it his duty to do that, as he was all
she had in this world--so, while he attended to this,
I went down to the longest and finest raft and hailed
the captain with a hearty "Ahoy, shipmate!" which put us
upon pleasant terms at once, and we entered upon business.
I said we were on a pedestrian tour to Heidelberg,
and would like to take passage with him. I said this
partly through young Z, who spoke German very well,
and partly through Mr. X, who spoke it peculiarly. I can
UNDERSTAND German as well as the maniac that invented it,
but I TALK it best through an interpreter.
The captain hitched up his trousers, then shifted
his quid thoughtfully. Presently he said just what I
was expecting he would say--that he had no license
to carry passengers, and therefore was afraid the law
would be after him in case the matter got noised about
or any accident happened. So I CHARTERED the raft
and the crew and took all the responsibilities on myself.
With a rattling song the starboard watch bent to their
work and hove the cable short, then got the anchor home,
and our bark moved off with a stately stride, and soon
was bowling along at about two knots an hour.
Our party were grouped amidships. At first the talk was
a little gloomy, and ran mainly upon the shortness of life,
the uncertainty of it, the perils which beset it, and the
need and wisdom of being always prepared for the worst;
this shaded off into low-voiced references to the dangers
of the deep, and kindred matters; but as the gray east
began to redden and the mysterious solemnity and silence
of the dawn to give place to the joy-songs of the birds,
the talk took a cheerier tone, and our spirits began to
rise steadily.
Germany, in the summer, is the perfection of the beautiful,
but nobody has understood, and realized, and enjoyed
the utmost possibilities of this soft and peaceful
beauty unless he has voyaged down the Neckar on a raft.
The motion of a raft is the needful motion; it is gentle,
and gliding, and smooth, and noiseless; it calms down
all feverish activities, it soothes to sleep all nervous
hurry and impatience; under its restful influence all the
troubles and vexations and sorrows that harass the mind
vanish away, and existence becomes a dream, a charm,
a deep and tranquil ecstasy. How it contrasts with hot
and perspiring pedestrianism, and dusty and deafening
railroad rush, and tedious jolting behind tired horses
over blinding white roads!
We went slipping silently along, between the green and
fragrant banks, with a sense of pleasure and contentment
that grew, and grew, all the time. Sometimes the banks
were overhung with thick masses of willows that wholly
hid the ground behind; sometimes we had noble hills on
one hand, clothed densely with foliage to their tops,
and on the other hand open levels blazing with poppies,
or clothed in the rich blue of the corn-flower;
sometimes we drifted in the shadow of forests, and sometimes
along the margin of long stretches of velvety grass,
fresh and green and bright, a tireless charm to the eye.
And the birds!--they were everywhere; they swept back
and forth across the river constantly, and their jubilant
music was never stilled.
It was a deep and satisfying pleasure to see the sun
create the new morning, and gradually, patiently,
lovingly, clothe it on with splendor after splendor,
and glory after glory, till the miracle was complete.
How different is this marvel observed from a raft,
from what it is when one observes it through the dingy
windows of a railway-station in some wretched village
while he munches a petrified sandwich and waits for the train.
Down the River
[Charming Waterside Pictures]
Men and women and cattle were at work in the dewy fields
by this time. The people often stepped aboard the raft,
as we glided along the grassy shores, and gossiped with us
and with the crew for a hundred yards or so, then stepped
ashore again, refreshed by the ride.
Only the men did this; the women were too busy.
The women do all kinds of work on the continent. They dig,
they hoe, they reap, they sow, they bear monstrous burdens
on their backs, they shove similar ones long distances
on wheelbarrows, they drag the cart when there is no dog
or lean cow to drag it--and when there is, they assist
the dog or cow. Age is no matter--the older the woman
the stronger she is, apparently. On the farm a woman's
duties are not defined--she does a little of everything;
but in the towns it is different, there she only does
certain things, the men do the rest. For instance,
a hotel chambermaid has nothing to do but make beds and
fires in fifty or sixty rooms, bring towels and candles,
and fetch several tons of water up several flights of stairs,
a hundred pounds at a time, in prodigious metal pitchers.
She does not have to work more than eighteen or twenty hours
a day, and she can always get down on her knees and scrub
the floors of halls and closets when she is tired and needs
a rest.
As the morning advanced and the weather grew hot, we took
off our outside clothing and sat in a row along the edge
of the raft and enjoyed the scenery, with our sun-umbrellas
over our heads and our legs dangling in the water.
Every now and then we plunged in and had a swim.
Every projecting grassy cape had its joyous group
of naked children, the boys to themselves and the girls
to themselves, the latter usually in care of some motherly
dame who sat in the shade of a tree with her knitting.
The little boys swam out to us, sometimes, but the little
maids stood knee-deep in the water and stopped their splashing
and frolicking to inspect the raft with their innocent
eyes as it drifted by. Once we turned a corner suddenly
and surprised a slender girl of twelve years or upward,
just stepping into the water. She had not time to run,
but she did what answered just as well; she promptly
drew a lithe young willow bough athwart her white body
with one hand, and then contemplated us with a simple and
untroubled interest. Thus she stood while we glided by.
She was a pretty creature, and she and her willow bough
made a very pretty picture, and one which could not
offend the modesty of the most fastidious spectator.
Her white skin had a low bank of fresh green willows for
background and effective contrast--for she stood against
them--and above and out of them projected the eager faces
and white shoulders of two smaller girls.
Toward noon we heard the inspiring cry:
"Sail ho!"
"Where away?" shouted the captain.
"Three points off the weather bow!"
We ran forward to see the vessel. It proved to be
a steamboat--for they had begun to run a steamer up
the Neckar, for the first time in May. She was a tug,
and one of a very peculiar build and aspect. I had
often watched her from the hotel, and wondered how she
propelled herself, for apparently she had no propeller
or paddles. She came churning along, now, making a deal
of noise of one kind or another, and aggravating it every
now and then by blowing a hoarse whistle. She had nine
keel-boats hitched on behind and following after her
in a long, slender rank. We met her in a narrow place,
between dikes, and there was hardly room for us both in the
cramped passage. As she went grinding and groaning by,
we perceived the secret of her moving impulse. She did
not drive herself up the river with paddles or propeller,
she pulled herself by hauling on a great chain.
This chain is laid in the bed of the river and is only
fastened at the two ends. It is seventy miles long.
It comes in over the boat's bow, passes around a drum,
and is payed out astern. She pulls on that chain,
and so drags herself up the river or down it. She has
neither bow or stern, strictly speaking, for she has a
long-bladed rudder on each end and she never turns around.
She uses both rudders all the time, and they are powerful
enough to enable her to turn to the right or the left
and steer around curves, in spite of the strong resistance
of the chain. I would not have believed that that impossible
thing could be done; but I saw it done, and therefore I
know that there is one impossible thing which CAN be done.
What miracle will man attempt next?
We met many big keel-boats on their way up, using sails,
mule power, and profanity--a tedious and laborious business.
A wire rope led from the foretopmast to the file of mules
on the tow-path a hundred yards ahead, and by dint
of much banging and swearing and urging, the detachment
of drivers managed to get a speed of two or three miles
an hour out of the mules against the stiff current.
The Neckar has always been used as a canal, and thus
has given employment to a great many men and animals;
but now that this steamboat is able, with a small crew
and a bushel or so of coal, to take nine keel-boats farther
up the river in one hour than thirty men and thirty mules
can do it in two, it is believed that the old-fashioned
towing industry is on its death-bed. A second steamboat
began work in the Neckar three months after the first one
was put in service. [Figure 4]
At noon we stepped ashore and bought some bottled beer
and got some chickens cooked, while the raft waited;
then we immediately put to sea again, and had our
dinner while the beer was cold and the chickens hot.
There is no pleasanter place for such a meal than a raft
that is gliding down the winding Neckar past green meadows
and wooded hills, and slumbering villages, and craggy
heights graced with crumbling towers and battlements.
In one place we saw a nicely dressed German gentleman
without any spectacles. Before I could come to anchor
he had got underway. It was a great pity. I so wanted
to make a sketch of him. The captain comforted me
for my loss, however, by saying that the man was without
any doubt a fraud who had spectacles, but kept them
in his pocket in order to make himself conspicuous.
Below Hassmersheim we passed Hornberg, Go"tz von Berlichingen's
old castle. It stands on a bold elevation two hundred feet
above the surface of the river; it has high vine-clad walls
enclosing trees, and a peaked tower about seventy-five
feet high. The steep hillside, from the castle clear
down to the water's edge, is terraced, and clothed thick
with grape vines. This is like farming a mansard roof.
All the steeps along that part of the river which furnish
the proper exposure, are given up to the grape. That region
is a great producer of Rhine wines. The Germans are
exceedingly fond of Rhine wines; they are put up in tall,
slender bottles, and are considered a pleasant beverage.
One tells them from vinegar by the label.
The Hornberg hill is to be tunneled, and the new railway
will pass under the castle.
Two miles below Hornberg castle is a cave in a low cliff,
which the captain of the raft said had once been occupied
by a beautiful heiress of Hornberg--the Lady Gertrude--
in the old times. It was seven hundred years ago.
She had a number of rich and noble lovers and one poor
and obscure one, Sir Wendel Lobenfeld. With the native
chuckleheadedness of the heroine of romance, she preferred
the poor and obscure lover. With the native sound judgment
of the father of a heroine of romance, the von Berlichingen
of that day shut his daughter up in his donjon keep,
or his oubliette, or his culverin, or some such place,
and resolved that she should stay there until she selected
a husband from among her rich and noble lovers. The latter
visited her and persecuted her with their supplications,
but without effect, for her heart was true to her poor
despised Crusader, who was fighting in the Holy Land.
Finally, she resolved that she would endure the attentions
of the rich lovers no longer; so one stormy night she escaped
and went down the river and hid herself in the cave on
the other side. Her father ransacked the country for her,
but found not a trace of her. As the days went by,
and still no tidings of her came, his conscience began
to torture him, and he caused proclamation to be made
that if she were yet living and would return, he would
oppose her no longer, she might marry whom she would.
The months dragged on, all hope forsook the old man,
he ceased from his customary pursuits and pleasures,
he devoted himself to pious works, and longed for the
deliverance of death.
Now just at midnight, every night, the lost heiress stood
in the mouth of her cave, arrayed in white robes, and sang
a little love ballad which her Crusader had made for her.
She judged that if he came home alive the superstitious
peasants would tell him about the ghost that sang in the cave,
and that as soon as they described the ballad he would know
that none but he and she knew that song, therefore he would
suspect that she was alive, and would come and find her.
As time went on, the people of the region became sorely
distressed about the Specter of the Haunted Cave.
It was said that ill luck of one kind or another always
overtook any one who had the misfortune to hear that song.
Eventually, every calamity that happened thereabouts was
laid at the door of that music. Consequently, no boatmen
would consent to pass the cave at night; the peasants
shunned the place, even in the daytime.
But the faithful girl sang on, night after night,
month after month, and patiently waited; her reward
must come at last. Five years dragged by, and still,
every night at midnight, the plaintive tones floated out
over the silent land, while the distant boatmen and peasants
thrust their fingers into their ears and shuddered out a prayer.
And now came the Crusader home, bronzed and battle-scarred,
but bringing a great and splendid fame to lay at the feet
of his bride. The old lord of Hornberg received him as
his son, and wanted him to stay by him and be the comfort
and blessing of his age; but the tale of that young
girl's devotion to him and its pathetic consequences
made a changed man of the knight. He could not enjoy
his well-earned rest. He said his heart was broken,
he would give the remnant of his life to high deeds
in the cause of humanity, and so find a worthy death
and a blessed reunion with the brave true heart whose
love had more honored him than all his victories in war.
When the people heard this resolve of his, they came and told
him there was a pitiless dragon in human disguise in the
Haunted Cave, a dread creature which no knight had yet been
bold enough to face, and begged him to rid the land of its
desolating presence. He said he would do it. They told
him about the song, and when he asked what song it was,
they said the memory of it was gone, for nobody had been
hardy enough to listen to it for the past four years and more.
Toward midnight the Crusader came floating down the river
in a boat, with his trusty cross-bow in his hands.
He drifted silently through the dim reflections of the
crags and trees, with his intent eyes fixed upon the low
cliff which he was approaching. As he drew nearer,
he discerned the black mouth of the cave. Now--is that
a white figure? Yes. The plaintive song begins to well
forth and float away over meadow and river--the cross-bow
is slowly raised to position, a steady aim is taken,
the bolt flies straight to the mark--the figure sinks down,
still singing, the knight takes the wool out of his ears,
and recognizes the old ballad--too late! Ah, if he had
only not put the wool in his ears!
The Crusader went away to the wars again, and presently
fell in battle, fighting for the Cross. Tradition says
that during several centuries the spirit of the unfortunate
girl sang nightly from the cave at midnight, but the music
carried no curse with it; and although many listened
for the mysterious sounds, few were favored, since only
those could hear them who had never failed in a trust.
It is believed that the singing still continues, but it is
known that nobody has heard it during the present century.
An Ancient Legend of the Rhine
[The Lorelei]
The last legend reminds one of the "Lorelei"--a legend
of the Rhine. There is a song called "The Lorelei."
Germany is rich in folk-songs, and the words and airs of
several of them are peculiarly beautiful--but "The Lorelei"
is the people's favorite. I could not endure it at first,
but by and by it began to take hold of me, and now there
is no tune which I like so well.
It is not possible that it is much known in America, else I
should have heard it there. The fact that I never heard
it there, is evidence that there are others in my country
who have fared likewise; therefore, for the sake of these,
I mean to print the words and music in this chapter.
And I will refresh the reader's memory by printing the legend
of the Lorelei, too. I have it by me in the LEGENDS OF
THE RHINE, done into English by the wildly gifted Garnham,
Bachelor of Arts. I print the legend partly to refresh
my own memory, too, for I have never read it before.
Lore (two syllables) was a water nymph who used to sit
on a high rock called the Ley or Lei (pronounced like our
word LIE) in the Rhine, and lure boatmen to destruction
in a furious rapid which marred the channel at that spot.
She so bewitched them with her plaintive songs and her
wonderful beauty that they forgot everything else to gaze
up at her, and so they presently drifted among the broken
reefs and were lost.
In those old, old times, the Count Bruno lived in a great
castle near there with his son, the Count Hermann, a youth
of twenty. Hermann had heard a great deal about the
beautiful Lore, and had finally fallen very deeply in love
with her without having seen her. So he used to wander
to the neighborhood of the Lei, evenings, with his Zither
and "Express his Longing in low Singing," as Garnham says.
On one of these occasions, "suddenly there hovered around
the top of the rock a brightness of unequaled clearness
and color, which, in increasingly smaller circles thickened,
was the enchanting figure of the beautiful Lore.
"An unintentional cry of Joy escaped the Youth, he let
his Zither fall, and with extended arms he called out
the name of the enigmatical Being, who seemed to stoop
lovingly to him and beckon to him in a friendly manner;
indeed, if his ear did not deceive him, she called his
name with unutterable sweet Whispers, proper to love.
Beside himself with delight the youth lost his Senses
and sank senseless to the earth."
After that he was a changed person. He went dreaming about,
thinking only of his fairy and caring for naught else
in the world. "The old count saw with affliction this
changement in his son," whose cause he could not divine,
and tried to divert his mind into cheerful channels,
but to no purpose. Then the old count used authority.
He commanded the youth to betake himself to the camp.
Obedience was promised. Garnham says:
"It was on the evening before his departure, as he
wished still once to visit the Lei and offer to the
Nymph of the Rhine his Sighs, the tones of his Zither,
and his Songs. He went, in his boat, this time accompanied
by a faithful squire, down the stream. The moon shed
her silvery light over the whole country; the steep
bank mountains appeared in the most fantastical shapes,
and the high oaks on either side bowed their Branches
on Hermann's passing. As soon as he approached the Lei,
and was aware of the surf-waves, his attendant was seized
with an inexpressible Anxiety and he begged permission
to land; but the Knight swept the strings of his Guitar
and sang:
"Once I saw thee in dark night, In supernatural Beauty bright;
Of Light-rays, was the Figure wove, To share its light,
locked-hair strove.
"Thy Garment color wave-dove By thy hand the sign of love,
Thy eyes sweet enchantment, Raying to me, oh! enchantment.
"O, wert thou but my sweetheart, How willingly thy love
to part! With delight I should be bound To thy rocky
house in deep ground."
That Hermann should have gone to that place at all,
was not wise; that he should have gone with such a song
as that in his mouth was a most serious mistake. The Lorelei
did not "call his name in unutterable sweet Whispers"
this time. No, that song naturally worked an instant
and thorough "changement" in her; and not only that,
but it stirred the bowels of the whole afflicted region
around about there--for--
"Scarcely had these tones sounded, everywhere there
began tumult and sound, as if voices above and below
the water. On the Lei rose flames, the Fairy stood above,
at that time, and beckoned with her right hand clearly
and urgently to the infatuated Knight, while with a staff
in her left hand she called the waves to her service.
They began to mount heavenward; the boat was upset,
mocking every exertion; the waves rose to the gunwale,
and splitting on the hard stones, the Boat broke into Pieces.
The youth sank into the depths, but the squire was thrown on
shore by a powerful wave."
The bitterest things have been said about the Lorelei
during many centuries, but surely her conduct upon this
occasion entitles her to our respect. One feels drawn
tenderly toward her and is moved to forget her many crimes
and remember only the good deed that crowned and closed
her career.
"The Fairy was never more seen; but her enchanting tones have
often been heard. In the beautiful, refreshing, still nights
of spring, when the moon pours her silver light over the Country,
the listening shipper hears from the rushing of the waves,
the echoing Clang of a wonderfully charming voice,
which sings a song from the crystal castle, and with sorrow
and fear he thinks on the young Count Hermann, seduced by the
Here is the music, and the German words by Heinrich Heine.
This song has been a favorite in Germany for forty years,
and will remain a favorite always, maybe. [Figure 5]
I have a prejudice against people who print things
in a foreign language and add no translation.
When I am the reader, and the author considers me
able to do the translating myself, he pays me quite
a nice compliment--but if he would do the translating
for me I would try to get along without the compliment.
If I were at home, no doubt I could get a translation of
this poem, but I am abroad and can't; therefore I will make
a translation myself. It may not be a good one, for poetry
is out of my line, but it will serve my purpose--which is,
to give the unGerman young girl a jingle of words to hang
the tune on until she can get hold of a good version,
made by some one who is a poet and knows how to convey
a poetical thought from one language to another.
I cannot divine what it meaneth, This haunting nameless
pain: A tale of the bygone ages Keeps brooding through
my brain:
The faint air cools in the glooming, And peaceful flows
the Rhine, The thirsty summits are drinking The sunset's
flooding wine;
The loveliest maiden is sitting High-throned in yon blue air,
Her golden jewels are shining, She combs her golden hair;
She combs with a comb that is golden, And sings a weird
refrain That steeps in a deadly enchantment The list'ner's
ravished brain:
The doomed in his drifting shallop, Is tranced with
the sad sweet tone, He sees not the yawning breakers,
He sees but the maid alone:
The pitiless billows engulf him!--So perish sailor and bark;
And this, with her baleful singing, Is the Lorelei's
gruesome work.
I have a translation by Garnham, Bachelor of Arts,
in the LEGENDS OF THE RHINE, but it would not answer
the purpose I mentioned above, because the measure is too
nobly irregular; it don't fit the tune snugly enough;
in places it hangs over at the ends too far, and in other
places one runs out of words before he gets to the end
of a bar. Still, Garnham's translation has high merits,
and I am not dreaming of leaving it out of my book.
I believe this poet is wholly unknown in America and England;
I take peculiar pleasure in bringing him forward because I
consider that I discovered him:
Translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A.
I do not know what it signifies. That I am so sorrowful?
A fable of old Times so terrifies, Leaves my heart
so thoughtful.
The air is cool and it darkens, And calmly flows the Rhine;
The summit of the mountain hearkens In evening sunshine line.
The most beautiful Maiden entrances Above wonderfully there,
Her beautiful golden attire glances, She combs her
golden hair.
With golden comb so lustrous, And thereby a song sings,
It has a tone so wondrous, That powerful melody rings.
The shipper in the little ship It effects with woe sad might;
He does not see the rocky slip, He only regards dreaded height.
I believe the turbulent waves Swallow the last shipper
and boat; She with her singing craves All to visit her
magic moat.
No translation could be closer. He has got in all
the facts; and in their regular order, too. There is not
a statistic wanting. It is as succinct as an invoice.
That is what a translation ought to be; it should exactly
reflect the thought of the original. You can't SING "Above
wonderfully there," because it simply won't go to the tune,
without damaging the singer; but it is a most clingingly exact
translation of DORT OBEN WUNDERBAR--fits it like a blister.
Mr. Garnham's reproduction has other merits--a hundred
of them--but it is not necessary to point them out.
They will be detected.
No one with a specialty can hope to have a monopoly of it.
Even Garnham has a rival. Mr. X had a small pamphlet
with him which he had bought while on a visit to Munich.
and was written in a peculiar kind of English. Here are
a few extracts:
"It is not permitted to make use of the work
in question to a publication of the same contents
as well as to the pirated edition of it."
"An evening landscape. In the foreground near a pond
and a group of white beeches is leading a footpath
animated by travelers."
"A learned man in a cynical and torn dress holding an open
book in his hand."
"St. Bartholomew and the Executioner with the knife
to fulfil the martyr."
"Portrait of a young man. A long while this picture
was thought to be Bindi Altoviti's portrait; now somebody
will again have it to be the self-portrait of Raphael."
"Susan bathing, surprised by the two old man.
In the background the lapidation of the condemned."
("Lapidation" is good; it is much more elegant than
"St. Rochus sitting in a landscape with an angel who looks
at his plague-sore, whilst the dog the bread in his mouth
attents him."
"Spring. The Goddess Flora, sitting. Behind her a fertile
valley perfused by a river."
"A beautiful bouquet animated by May-bugs, etc."
"A warrior in armor with a gypseous pipe in his hand leans
against a table and blows the smoke far away of himself."
"A Dutch landscape along a navigable river which perfuses
it till to the background."
"Some peasants singing in a cottage. A woman lets drink
a child out of a cup."
"St. John's head as a boy--painted in fresco on a brick."
(Meaning a tile.)
"A young man of the Riccio family, his hair cut off
right at the end, dressed in black with the same cap.
Attributed to Raphael, but the signation is false."
"The Virgin holding the Infant. It is very painted
in the manner of Sassoferrato."
"A Larder with greens and dead game animated by a cook-maid
and two kitchen-boys."
However, the English of this catalogue is at least
as happy as that which distinguishes an inscription
upon a certain picture in Rome--to wit:
"Revelations-View. St. John in Patterson's Island."
But meanwhile the raft is moving on.
[Why Germans Wear Spectacles]
A mile or two above Eberbach we saw a peculiar ruin projecting
above the foliage which clothed the peak of a high and
very steep hill. This ruin consisted of merely a couple
of crumbling masses of masonry which bore a rude resemblance
to human faces; they leaned forward and touched foreheads,
and had the look of being absorbed in conversation. This ruin
had nothing very imposing or picturesque about it, and there
was no great deal of it, yet it was called the "Spectacular
The captain of the raft, who was as full of history as he
could stick, said that in the Middle Ages a most prodigious
fire-breathing dragon used to live in that region,
and made more trouble than a tax-collector. He was as long
as a railway-train, and had the customary impenetrable
green scales all over him. His breath bred pestilence
and conflagration, and his appetite bred famine. He ate
men and cattle impartially, and was exceedingly unpopular.
The German emperor of that day made the usual offer:
he would grant to the destroyer of the dragon, any one
solitary thing he might ask for; for he had a surplusage
of daughters, and it was customary for dragon-killers
to take a daughter for pay.
So the most renowned knights came from the four corners
of the earth and retired down the dragon's throat one after
the other. A panic arose and spread. Heroes grew cautious.
The procession ceased. The dragon became more destructive
than ever. The people lost all hope of succor, and fled
to the mountains for refuge.
At last Sir Wissenschaft, a poor and obscure knight,
out of a far country, arrived to do battle with the monster.
A pitiable object he was, with his armor hanging in rags
about him, and his strange-shaped knapsack strapped
upon his back. Everybody turned up their noses at him,
and some openly jeered him. But he was calm. He simply
inquired if the emperor's offer was still in force.
The emperor said it was--but charitably advised him to go
and hunt hares and not endanger so precious a life as his
in an attempt which had brought death to so many of the
world's most illustrious heroes.
But this tramp only asked--"Were any of these heroes
men of science?" This raised a laugh, of course,
for science was despised in those days. But the tramp
was not in the least ruffled. He said he might be a
little in advance of his age, but no matter--science
would come to be honored, some time or other. He said
he would march against the dragon in the morning.
Out of compassion, then, a decent spear was offered him,
but he declined, and said, "spears were useless to men
of science." They allowed him to sup in the servants'
hall, and gave him a bed in the stables.
When he started forth in the morning, thousands were
gathered to see. The emperor said:
"Do not be rash, take a spear, and leave off your knapsack."
But the tramp said:
"It is not a knapsack," and moved straight on.
The dragon was waiting and ready. He was breathing forth
vast volumes of sulphurous smoke and lurid blasts of flame.
The ragged knight stole warily to a good position,
then he unslung his cylindrical knapsack--which was simply
the common fire-extinguisher known to modern times--
and the first chance he got he turned on his hose and shot
the dragon square in the center of his cavernous mouth.
Out went the fires in an instant, and the dragon curled up
and died.
This man had brought brains to his aid. He had reared
dragons from the egg, in his laboratory, he had watched
over them like a mother, and patiently studied them
and experimented upon them while they grew. Thus he had
found out that fire was the life principle of a dragon;
put out the dragon's fires and it could make steam
no longer, and must die. He could not put out a fire
with a spear, therefore he invented the extinguisher.
The dragon being dead, the emperor fell on the hero's neck
and said:
"Deliverer, name your request," at the same time beckoning
out behind with his heel for a detachment of his daughters
to form and advance. But the tramp gave them no observance.
He simply said:
"My request is, that upon me be conferred the monopoly
of the manufacture and sale of spectacles in Germany."
The emperor sprang aside and exclaimed:
"This transcends all the impudence I ever heard! A
modest demand, by my halidome! Why didn't you ask
for the imperial revenues at once, and be done with it?"
But the monarch had given his word, and he kept it.
To everybody's surprise, the unselfish monopolist immediately
reduced the price of spectacles to such a degree that a
great and crushing burden was removed from the nation.
The emperor, to commemorate this generous act, and to
testify his appreciation of it, issued a decree commanding
everybody to buy this benefactor's spectacles and wear them,
whether they needed them or not.
So originated the wide-spread custom of wearing
spectacles in Germany; and as a custom once established
in these old lands is imperishable, this one remains
universal in the empire to this day. Such is the legend
of the monopolist's once stately and sumptuous castle,
now called the "Spectacular Ruin."
On the right bank, two or three miles below the Spectacular
Ruin, we passed by a noble pile of castellated buildings
overlooking the water from the crest of a lofty elevation.
A stretch of two hundred yards of the high front wall
was heavily draped with ivy, and out of the mass of
buildings within rose three picturesque old towers.
The place was in fine order, and was inhabited by a
family of princely rank. This castle had its legend,
too, but I should not feel justified in repeating
it because I doubted the truth of some of its minor details.
Along in this region a multitude of Italian laborers
were blasting away the frontage of the hills to make
room for the new railway. They were fifty or a hundred
feet above the river. As we turned a sharp corner they
began to wave signals and shout warnings to us to look
out for the explosions. It was all very well to warn us,
but what could WE do? You can't back a raft upstream,
you can't hurry it downstream, you can't scatter out
to one side when you haven't any room to speak of,
you won't take to the perpendicular cliffs on the other
shore when they appear to be blasting there, too.
Your resources are limited, you see. There is simply
nothing for it but to watch and pray.
For some hours we had been making three and a half or four
miles an hour and we were still making that. We had been
dancing right along until those men began to shout;
then for the next ten minutes it seemed to me that I had
never seen a raft go so slowly. When the first blast went
off we raised our sun-umbrellas and waited for the result.
No harm done; none of the stones fell in the water.
Another blast followed, and another and another.
Some of the rubbish fell in the water just astern
of us.
We ran that whole battery of nine blasts in a row, and it
was certainly one of the most exciting and uncomfortable
weeks I ever spent, either aship or ashore. Of course
we frequently manned the poles and shoved earnestly
for a second or so, but every time one of those spurts
of dust and debris shot aloft every man dropped his pole
and looked up to get the bearings of his share of it.
It was very busy times along there for a while.
It appeared certain that we must perish, but even that was
not the bitterest thought; no, the abjectly unheroic nature
of the death--that was the sting--that and the bizarre
wording of the resulting obituary: "SHOT WITH A ROCK,
ON A RAFT." There would be no poetry written about it.
None COULD be written about it. Example:
NOT by war's shock, or war's shaft,--SHOT, with a rock,
on a raft.
No poet who valued his reputation would touch such a
theme as that. I should be distinguished as the only
"distinguished dead" who went down to the grave unsonneted,
in 1878.
But we escaped, and I have never regretted it.
The last blast was peculiarly strong one, and after
the small rubbish was done raining around us and we
were just going to shake hands over our deliverance,
a later and larger stone came down amongst our little
group of pedestrians and wrecked an umbrella. It did
no other harm, but we took to the water just the same.
It seems that the heavy work in the quarries and the
new railway gradings is done mainly by Italians.
That was a revelation. We have the notion in our country
that Italians never do heavy work at all, but confine
themselves to the lighter arts, like organ-grinding,
operatic singing, and assassination. We have blundered,
that is plain.
All along the river, near every village, we saw little
station-houses for the future railway. They were
finished and waiting for the rails and business.
They were as trim and snug and pretty as they could be.
They were always of brick or stone; they were of graceful
shape, they had vines and flowers about them already,
and around them the grass was bright and green,
and showed that it was carefully looked after. They were
a decoration to the beautiful landscape, not an offense.
Wherever one saw a pile of gravel or a pile of broken stone,
it was always heaped as trimly and exactly as a new grave
or a stack of cannon-balls; nothing about those stations
or along the railroad or the wagon-road was allowed
to look shabby or be unornamental. The keeping a country
in such beautiful order as Germany exhibits, has a wise
practical side to it, too, for it keeps thousands of people
in work and bread who would otherwise be idle and mischievous.
As the night shut down, the captain wanted to tie up,
but I thought maybe we might make Hirschhorn, so we went on.
Presently the sky became overcast, and the captain came
aft looking uneasy. He cast his eye aloft, then shook
his head, and said it was coming on to blow. My party
wanted to land at once--therefore I wanted to go on.
The captain said we ought to shorten sail anyway,
out of common prudence. Consequently, the larboard watch
was ordered to lay in his pole. It grew quite dark,
now, and the wind began to rise. It wailed through
the swaying branches of the trees, and swept our decks
in fitful gusts. Things were taking on an ugly look.
The captain shouted to the steersman on the forward
"How's she landing?"
The answer came faint and hoarse from far forward:
"Nor'-east-and-by-nor'--east-by-east, half-east, sir."
"Let her go off a point!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"What water have you got?"
"Shoal, sir. Two foot large, on the stabboard,
two and a half scant on the labboard!"
"Let her go off another point!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"Forward, men, all of you! Lively, now! Stand by to crowd
her round the weather corner!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
Then followed a wild running and trampling and hoarse shouting,
but the forms of the men were lost in the darkness and
the sounds were distorted and confused by the roaring
of the wind through the shingle-bundles. By this time
the sea was running inches high, and threatening every
moment to engulf the frail bark. Now came the mate,
hurrying aft, and said, close to the captain's ear,
in a low, agitated voice:
"Prepare for the worst, sir--we have sprung a leak!"
"Heavens! where?"
"Right aft the second row of logs."
"Nothing but a miracle can save us! Don't let the men know,
or there will be a panic and mutiny! Lay her in shore
and stand by to jump with the stern-line the moment
she touches. Gentlemen, I must look to you to second
my endeavors in this hour of peril. You have hats--go
forward and bail for your lives!"
Down swept another mighty blast of wind, clothed in
spray and thick darkness. At such a moment as this,
came from away forward that most appalling of all cries
that are ever heard at sea:
The captain shouted:
"Hard a-port! Never mind the man! Let him climb aboard
or wade ashore!"
Another cry came down the wind:
"Breakers ahead!"
"Where away?"
"Not a log's length off her port fore-foot!"
We had groped our slippery way forward, and were now
bailing with the frenzy of despair, when we heard
the mate's terrified cry, from far aft:
"Stop that dashed bailing, or we shall be aground!"
But this was immediately followed by the glad shout:
"Land aboard the starboard transom!"
"Saved!" cried the captain. "Jump ashore and take a turn
around a tree and pass the bight aboard!"
The next moment we were all on shore weeping and embracing
for joy, while the rain poured down in torrents.
The captain said he had been a mariner for forty years
on the Neckar, and in that time had seen storms to make
a man's cheek blanch and his pulses stop, but he had never,
never seen a storm that even approached this one.
How familiar that sounded! For I have been at sea a good
deal and have heard that remark from captains with a
frequency accordingly.
We framed in our minds the usual resolution of thanks
and admiration and gratitude, and took the first
opportunity to vote it, and put it in writing and
present it to the captain, with the customary speech.
We tramped through the darkness and the drenching summer
rain full three miles, and reached "The Naturalist Tavern"
in the village of Hirschhorn just an hour before midnight,
almost exhausted from hardship, fatigue, and terror.
I can never forget that night.
The landlord was rich, and therefore could afford to be
crusty and disobliging; he did not at all like being
turned out of his warm bed to open his house for us.
But no matter, his household got up and cooked a quick
supper for us, and we brewed a hot punch for ourselves,
to keep off consumption. After supper and punch we
had an hour's soothing smoke while we fought the naval
battle over again and voted the resolutions; then we
retired to exceedingly neat and pretty chambers upstairs
that had clean, comfortable beds in them with heirloom
pillowcases most elaborately and tastefully embroidered
by hand.
Such rooms and beds and embroidered linen are as frequent
in German village inns as they are rare in ours.
Our villages are superior to German villages in
more merits, excellences, conveniences, and privileges
than I can enumerate, but the hotels do not belong in the list.
"The Naturalist Tavern" was not a meaningless name; for all
the halls and all the rooms were lined with large glass
cases which were filled with all sorts of birds and animals,
glass-eyed, ably stuffed, and set up in the most natural
eloquent and dramatic attitudes. The moment we were abed,
the rain cleared away and the moon came out. I dozed off
to sleep while contemplating a great white stuffed owl
which was looking intently down on me from a high perch
with the air of a person who thought he had met me before,
but could not make out for certain.
But young Z did not get off so easily. He said that as he was
sinking deliciously to sleep, the moon lifted away the shadows
and developed a huge cat, on a bracket, dead and stuffed,
but crouching, with every muscle tense, for a spring,
and with its glittering glass eyes aimed straight at him.
It made Z uncomfortable. He tried closing his own eyes,
but that did not answer, for a natural instinct kept
making him open them again to see if the cat was still
getting ready to launch at him--which she always was.
He tried turning his back, but that was a failure;
he knew the sinister eyes were on him still. So at
last he had to get up, after an hour or two of worry
and experiment, and set the cat out in the hall. So he won,
that time.
[The Kindly Courtesy of Germans]
In the morning we took breakfast in the garden,
under the trees, in the delightful German summer fashion.
The air was filled with the fragrance of flowers
and wild animals; the living portion of the menagerie
of the "Naturalist Tavern" was all about us. There were
great cages populous with fluttering and chattering
foreign birds, and other great cages and greater wire pens,
populous with quadrupeds, both native and foreign.
There were some free creatures, too, and quite sociable
ones they were. White rabbits went loping about the place,
and occasionally came and sniffed at our shoes and shins;
a fawn, with a red ribbon on its neck, walked up and
examined us fearlessly; rare breeds of chickens and
doves begged for crumbs, and a poor old tailless raven
hopped about with a humble, shamefaced mein which said,
"Please do not notice my exposure--think how you would
feel in my circumstances, and be charitable." If he
was observed too much, he would retire behind something
and stay there until he judged the party's interest had
found another object. I never have seen another dumb
creature that was so morbidly sensitive. Bayard Taylor,
who could interpret the dim reasonings of animals,
and understood their moral natures better than most men,
would have found some way to make this poor old chap forget
his troubles for a while, but we have not his kindly art,
and so had to leave the raven to his griefs.
After breakfast we climbed the hill and visited the ancient
castle of Hirschhorn, and the ruined church near it.
There were some curious old bas-reliefs leaning against
the inner walls of the church--sculptured lords of
Hirschhorn in complete armor, and ladies of Hirschhorn
in the picturesque court costumes of the Middle Ages.
These things are suffering damage and passing to decay,
for the last Hirschhorn has been dead two hundred years,
and there is nobody now who cares to preserve the family relics.
In the chancel was a twisted stone column, and the captain
told us a legend about it, of course, for in the matter
of legends he could not seem to restrain himself; but I
do not repeat his tale because there was nothing plausible
about it except that the Hero wrenched this column into its
present screw-shape with his hands --just one single wrench.
All the rest of the legend was doubtful.
But Hirschhorn is best seen from a distance, down the river.
Then the clustered brown towers perched on the green hilltop,
and the old battlemented stone wall, stretching up and over
the grassy ridge and disappearing in the leafy sea beyond,
make a picture whose grace and beauty entirely satisfy
the eye.
We descended from the church by steep stone stairways
which curved this way and that down narrow alleys
between the packed and dirty tenements of the village.
It was a quarter well stocked with deformed, leering,
unkempt and uncombed idiots, who held out hands or caps
and begged piteously. The people of the quarter were not
all idiots, of course, but all that begged seemed to be,
and were said to be.
I was thinking of going by skiff to the next town,
Necharsteinach; so I ran to the riverside in advance of
the party and asked a man there if he had a boat to hire.
I suppose I must have spoken High German--Court German--I
intended it for that, anyway--so he did not understand me.
I turned and twisted my question around and about,
trying to strike that man's average, but failed.
He could not make out what I wanted. Now Mr. X arrived,
faced this same man, looked him in the eye, and emptied
this sentence on him, in the most glib and confident way:
"Can man boat get here?"
The mariner promptly understood and promptly answered.
I can comprehend why he was able to understand that
particular sentence, because by mere accident all the
words in it except "get" have the same sound and the same
meaning in German that they have in English; but how he
managed to understand Mr. X's next remark puzzled me.
I will insert it, presently. X turned away a moment,
and I asked the mariner if he could not find a board,
and so construct an additional seat. I spoke in the
purest German, but I might as well have spoken in the
purest Choctaw for all the good it did. The man tried
his best to understand me; he tried, and kept on trying,
harder and harder, until I saw it was really of no use,
and said:
"There, don't strain yourself--it is of no consequence."
Then X turned to him and crisply said:
"MACHEN SIE a flat board."
I wish my epitaph may tell the truth about me if the man
did not answer up at once, and say he would go and borrow
a board as soon as he had lit the pipe which he was filling.
We changed our mind about taking a boat, so we did not have
to go. I have given Mr. X's two remarks just as he made them.
Four of the five words in the first one were English,
and that they were also German was only accidental,
not intentional; three out of the five words in the second
remark were English, and English only, and the two German
ones did not mean anything in particular, in such a connection.
X always spoke English to Germans, but his plan was
to turn the sentence wrong end first and upside down,
according to German construction, and sprinkle in a German
word without any essential meaning to it, here and there,
by way of flavor. Yet he always made himself understood.
He could make those dialect-speaking raftsmen understand
him, sometimes, when even young Z had failed with them;
and young Z was a pretty good German scholar. For one thing,
X always spoke with such confidence--perhaps that helped.
And possibly the raftsmen's dialect was what is called
PLATT-DEUTSCH, and so they found his English more familiar
to their ears than another man's German. Quite indifferent
students of German can read Fritz Reuter's charming
platt-Deutch tales with some little facility because many
of the words are English. I suppose this is the tongue
which our Saxon ancestors carried to England with them.
By and by I will inquire of some other philologist.
However, in the mean time it had transpired that the men
employed to calk the raft had found that the leak was not
a leak at all, but only a crack between the logs--a crack
that belonged there, and was not dangerous, but had been
magnified into a leak by the disordered imagination of
the mate. Therefore we went aboard again with a good degree
of confidence, and presently got to sea without accident.
As we swam smoothly along between the enchanting shores,
we fell to swapping notes about manners and customs
in Germany and elsewhere.
As I write, now, many months later, I perceive that each of us,
by observing and noting and inquiring, diligently and day
by day, had managed to lay in a most varied and opulent
stock of misinformation. But this is not surprising;
it is very difficult to get accurate details in any country.
For example, I had the idea once, in Heidelberg,
to find out all about those five student-corps. I started
with the White Cap corps. I began to inquire of this
and that and the other citizen, and here is what I found
1. It is called the Prussian Corps, because none
but Prussians are admitted to it.
2. It is called the Prussian Corps for no particular reason.
It has simply pleased each corps to name itself after
some German state.
3. It is not named the Prussian Corps at all, but only
the White Cap Corps.
4. Any student can belong to it who is a German by birth.
5. Any student can belong to it who is European by birth.
6. Any European-born student can belong to it, except he
be a Frenchman.
7. Any student can belong to it, no matter where he
was born.
8. No student can belong to it who is not of noble blood.
9. No student can belong to it who cannot show three full
generations of noble descent.
10. Nobility is not a necessary qualification.
11. No moneyless student can belong to it.
12. Money qualification is nonsense--such a thing has
never been thought of.
I got some of this information from students themselves--
students who did not belong to the corps.
I finally went to headquarters--to the White Caps--where I
would have gone in the first place if I had been acquainted.
But even at headquarters I found difficulties; I perceived
that there were things about the White Cap Corps which
one member knew and another one didn't. It was natural;
for very few members of any organization know ALL that can
be known about it. I doubt there is a man or a woman
in Heidelberg who would not answer promptly and confidently
three out of every five questions about the White Cap Corps
which a stranger might ask; yet it is a very safe bet
that two of the three answers would be incorrect every time.
There is one German custom which is universal--the bowing
courteously to strangers when sitting down at table or
rising up from it. This bow startles a stranger out of his
self-possession, the first time it occurs, and he is likely
to fall over a chair or something, in his embarrassment,
but it pleases him, nevertheless. One soon learns to expect
this bow and be on the lookout and ready to return it;
but to learn to lead off and make the initial bow
one's self is a difficult matter for a diffident man.
One thinks, "If I rise to go, and tender my box,
and these ladies and gentlemen take it into their heads
to ignore the custom of their nation, and not return it,
how shall I feel, in case I survive to feel anything."
Therefore he is afraid to venture. He sits out the dinner,
and makes the strangers rise first and originate the bowing.
A table d'ho^te dinner is a tedious affair for a man
who seldom touches anything after the three first courses;
therefore I used to do some pretty dreary waiting
because of my fears. It took me months to assure myself
that those fears were groundless, but I did assure myself
at last by experimenting diligently through my agent.
I made Harris get up and bow and leave; invariably his bow
was returned, then I got up and bowed myself and retired.
Thus my education proceeded easily and comfortably for me,
but not for Harris. Three courses of a table d'ho^te
dinner were enough for me, but Harris preferred thirteen.
Even after I had acquired full confidence, and no longer needed
the agent's help, I sometimes encountered difficulties.
Once at Baden-Baden I nearly lost a train because I could
not be sure that three young ladies opposite me at table
were Germans, since I had not heard them speak; they might
be American, they might be English, it was not safe to venture
a bow; but just as I had got that far with my thought,
one of them began a German remark, to my great relief
and gratitude; and before she got out her third word,
our bows had been delivered and graciously returned,
and we were off.
There is a friendly something about the German character
which is very winning. When Harris and I were making
a pedestrian tour through the Black Forest, we stopped at
a little country inn for dinner one day; two young ladies
and a young gentleman entered and sat down opposite us.
They were pedestrians, too. Our knapsacks were strapped
upon our backs, but they had a sturdy youth along to carry
theirs for them. All parties were hungry, so there was
no talking. By and by the usual bows were exchanged,
and we separated.
As we sat at a late breakfast in the hotel at Allerheiligen,
next morning, these young people and took places
near us without observing us; but presently they saw
us and at once bowed and smiled; not ceremoniously,
but with the gratified look of people who have found
acquaintances where they were expecting strangers.
Then they spoke of the weather and the roads. We also
spoke of the weather and the roads. Next, they said they
had had an enjoyable walk, notwithstanding the weather.
We said that that had been our case, too. Then they said
they had walked thirty English miles the day before,
and asked how many we had walked. I could not lie, so I
told Harris to do it. Harris told them we had made thirty
English miles, too. That was true; we had "made" them,
though we had had a little assistance here and there.
After breakfast they found us trying to blast some
information out of the dumb hotel clerk about routes,
and observing that we were not succeeding pretty well,
they went and got their maps and things, and pointed
out and explained our course so clearly that even a New
York detective could have followed it. And when we
started they spoke out a hearty good-by and wished us
a pleasant journey. Perhaps they were more generous
with us than they might have been with native wayfarers
because we were a forlorn lot and in a strange land;
I don't know; I only know it was lovely to be treated so.
Very well, I took an American young lady to one of the fine
balls in Baden-Baden, one night, and at the entrance-door
upstairs we were halted by an official--something about Miss
Jones's dress was not according to rule; I don't remember
what it was, now; something was wanting--her back hair,
or a shawl, or a fan, or a shovel, or something.
The official was ever so polite, and every so sorry,
but the rule was strict, and he could not let us in.
It was very embarrassing, for many eyes were on us.
But now a richly dressed girl stepped out of the ballroom,
inquired into the trouble, and said she could fix it in
a moment. She took Miss Jones to the robing-room, and soon
brought her back in regulation trim, and then we entered
the ballroom with this benefactress unchallenged.
Being safe, now, I began to puzzle through my sincere
but ungrammatical thanks, when there was a sudden mutual
recognition --the benefactress and I had met at Allerheiligen.
Two weeks had not altered her good face, and plainly
her heart was in the right place yet, but there was such
a difference between these clothes and the clothes I
had seen her in before, when she was walking thirty miles
a day in the Black Forest, that it was quite natural
that I had failed to recognize her sooner. I had on MY
other suit, too, but my German would betray me to a person
who had heard it once, anyway. She brought her brother
and sister, and they made our way smooth for that evening.
Well--months afterward, I was driving through the streets
of Munich in a cab with a German lady, one day, when she
"There, that is Prince Ludwig and his wife, walking along there."
Everybody was bowing to them--cabmen, little children,
and everybody else--and they were returning all the bows
and overlooking nobody, when a young lady met them and made
a deep courtesy.
"That is probably one of the ladies of the court,"
said my German friend.
I said:
"She is an honor to it, then. I know her. I don't know
her name, but I know HER. I have known her at Allerheiligen
and Baden-Baden. She ought to be an Empress, but she
may be only a Duchess; it is the way things go in this way."
If one asks a German a civil question, he will be quite
sure to get a civil answer. If you stop a German in the
street and ask him to direct you to a certain place,
he shows no sign of feeling offended. If the place be
difficult to find, ten to one the man will drop his own
matters and go with you and show you.
In London, too, many a time, strangers have walked several
blocks with me to show me my way.
There is something very real about this sort of politeness.
Quite often, in Germany, shopkeepers who could not furnish
me the article I wanted have sent one of their employees
with me to show me a place where it could be had.
[The Deadly Jest of Dilsberg]
However, I wander from the raft. We made the port
of Necharsteinach in good season, and went to the hotel
and ordered a trout dinner, the same to be ready
against our return from a two-hour pedestrian excursion
to the village and castle of Dilsberg, a mile distant,
on the other side of the river. I do not mean that we
proposed to be two hours making two miles--no, we meant
to employ most of the time in inspecting Dilsberg.
For Dilsberg is a quaint place. It is most quaintly
and picturesquely situated, too. Imagine the beautiful
river before you; then a few rods of brilliant green sward
on its opposite shore; then a sudden hill--no preparatory
gently rising slopes, but a sort of instantaneous hill--
a hill two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet high,
as round as a bowl, with the same taper upward that an
inverted bowl has, and with about the same relation
of height to diameter that distinguishes a bowl of good
honest depth--a hill which is thickly clothed with
green bushes--a comely, shapely hill, rising abruptly
out of the dead level of the surrounding green plains,
visible from a great distance down the bends of the river,
and with just exactly room on the top of its head
for its steepled and turreted and roof-clustered cap
of architecture, which same is tightly jammed and compacted
within the perfectly round hoop of the ancient village wall.
There is no house outside the wall on the whole hill,
or any vestige of a former house; all the houses are
inside the wall, but there isn't room for another one.
It is really a finished town, and has been finished
a very long time. There is no space between the wall
and the first circle of buildings; no, the village wall
is itself the rear wall of the first circle of buildings,
a nd the roofs jut a little over the wall a nd thus
furnish it with eaves. The general level of the massed
roofs is gracefully broken and relieved by the dominating
towers of the ruined castle and the tall spires of a
couple of churches; so, from a distance Dilsberg has
rather more the look of a king's crown than a cap.
That lofty green eminence and its quaint coronet form
quite a striking picture, you may be sure, in the flush
of the evening sun.
We crossed over in a boat and began the ascent by a narrow,
steep path which plunged us at once into the leafy deeps
of the bushes. But they were not cool deeps by any means,
for the sun's rays were weltering hot and there was
little or no breeze to temper them. As we panted up
the sharp ascent, we met brown, bareheaded and barefooted
boys and girls, occasionally, and sometimes men;
they came upon us without warning, they gave us good day,
flashed out of sight in the bushes, and were gone as
suddenly and mysteriously as they had come. They were
bound for the other side of the river to work. This path
had been traveled by many generations of these people.
They have always gone down to the valley to earn their bread,
but they have always climbed their hill again to eat it,
and to sleep in their snug town.
It is said the the Dilsbergers do not emigrate much;
they find that living up there above the world, in their
peaceful nest, is pleasanter than living down in the
troublous world. The seven hundred inhabitants are all
blood-kin to each other, too; they have always been blood-kin
to each other for fifteen hundred years; they are simply
one large family, and they like the home folks better than
they like strangers, hence they persistently stay at home.
It has been said that for ages Dilsberg has been merely
a thriving and diligent idiot-factory. I saw no idiots there,
but the captain said, "Because of late years the government
has taken to lugging them off to asylums and otherwheres;
and government wants to cripple the factory, too, and is
trying to get these Dilsbergers to marry out of the family,
but they don't like to."
The captain probably imagined all this, as modern science
denies that the intermarrying of relatives deteriorates
the stock.
Arrived within the wall, we found the usual village
sights and life. We moved along a narrow, crooked lane
which had been paved in the Middle Ages. A strapping,
ruddy girl was beating flax or some such stuff in a little
bit of a good-box of a barn, and she swung her flail
with a will--if it was a flail; I was not farmer enough
to know what she was at; a frowsy, barelegged girl was
herding half a dozen geese with a stick--driving them
along the lane and keeping them out of the dwellings;
a cooper was at work in a shop which I know he did not make
so large a thing as a hogshead in, for there was not room.
In the front rooms of dwellings girls and women were
cooking or spinning, and ducks and chickens were waddling
in and out, over the threshold, picking up chance crumbs
and holding pleasant converse; a very old and wrinkled man
sat asleep before his door, with his chin upon his breast
and his extinguished pipe in his lap; soiled children
were playing in the dirt everywhere along the lane,
unmindful of the sun.
Except the sleeping old man, everybody was at work,
but the place was very still and peaceful, nevertheless;
so still that the distant cackle of the successful hen smote
upon the ear but little dulled by intervening sounds.
That commonest of village sights was lacking here--the
public pump, with its great stone tank or trough of
limpid water, and its group of gossiping pitcher-bearers;
for there is no well or fountain or spring on this tall hill;
cisterns of rain-water are used.
Our alpenstocks and muslin tails compelled attention,
and as we moved through the village we gathered a considerable
procession of little boys and girls, and so went in some
state to the castle. It proved to be an extensive pile of
crumbling walls, arches, and towers, massive, properly grouped
for picturesque effect, weedy, grass-grown, and satisfactory.
The children acted as guides; they walked us along the top
of the highest walls, then took us up into a high tower
and showed us a wide and beautiful landscape, made up
of wavy distances of woody hills, and a nearer prospect
of undulating expanses of green lowlands, on the one hand,
and castle-graced crags and ridges on the other,
with the shining curves of the Neckar flowing between.
But the principal show, the chief pride of the children,
was the ancient and empty well in the grass-grown court
of the castle. Its massive stone curb stands up three
or four feet above-ground, and is whole and uninjured.
The children said that in the Middle Ages this well was
four hundred feet deep, and furnished all the village
with an abundant supply of water, in war and peace.
They said that in the old day its bottom was below the level
of the Neckar, hence the water-supply was inexhaustible.
But there were some who believed it had never been a well
at all, and was never deeper than it is now--eighty feet;
that at that depth a subterranean passage branched from it
and descended gradually to a remote place in the valley,
where it opened into somebody's cellar or other hidden recess,
and that the secret of this locality is now lost.
Those who hold this belief say that herein lies the
explanation that Dilsberg, besieged by Tilly and many
a soldier before him, was never taken: after the longest
and closest sieges the besiegers were astonished to
perceive that the besieged were as fat and hearty as ever,
and were well furnished with munitions of war--therefore
it must be that the Dilsbergers had been bringing these
things in through the subterranean passage all the time.
The children said that there was in truth a subterranean
outlet down there, and they would prove it. So they set
a great truss of straw on fire and threw it down the well,
while we leaned on the curb and watched the glowing
mass descend. It struck bottom and gradually burned out.
No smoke came up. The children clapped their hands and
"You see! Nothing makes so much smoke as burning straw--now
where did the smoke go to, if there is no subterranean outlet?"
So it seemed quite evident that the subterranean outlet
indeed existed. But the finest thing within the ruin's
limits was a noble linden, which the children said was
four hundred years old, and no doubt it was. It had
a mighty trunk and a mighty spread of limb and foliage.
The limbs near the ground were nearly the thickness
of a barrel.
That tree had witnessed the assaults of men in mail--
how remote such a time seems, and how ungraspable is the
fact that real men ever did fight in real armor!--and it
had seen the time when these broken arches and crumbling
battlements were a trim and strong and stately fortress,
fluttering its gay banners in the sun, and peopled with vigorous
humanity--how impossibly long ago that seems!--and here
it stands yet, and possibly may still be standing here,
sunning itself and dreaming its historical dreams,
when today shall have been joined to the days called "ancient."
Well, we sat down under the tree to smoke, and the captain
delivered himself of his legend:
It was to this effect. In the old times there was once
a great company assembled at the castle, and festivity
ran high. Of course there was a haunted chamber
in the castle, and one day the talk fell upon that.
It was said that whoever slept in it would not wake again
for fifty years. Now when a young knight named Conrad
von Geisberg heard this, he said that if the castle were
his he would destroy that chamber, so that no foolish
person might have the chance to bring so dreadful
a misfortune upon himself and afflict such as loved
him with the memory of it. Straightway, the company
privately laid their heads together to contrive some
way to get this superstitious young man to sleep in that chamber.
And they succeeded--in this way. They persuaded
his betrothed, a lovely mischievous young creature,
niece of the lord of the castle, to help them in their plot.
She presently took him aside and had speech with him.
She used all her persuasions, but could not shake him;
he said his belief was firm, that if he should sleep
there he would wake no more for fifty years, and it made
him shudder to think of it. Catharina began to weep.
This was a better argument; Conrad could not out against it.
He yielded and said she should have her wish if she would only
smile and be happy again. She flung her arms about his neck,
and the kisses she gave him showed that her thankfulness
and her pleasure were very real. Then she flew to tell
the company her success, and the applause she received
made her glad and proud she had undertaken her mission,
since all alone she had accomplished what the multitude had
failed in.
At midnight, that night, after the usual feasting,
Conrad was taken to the haunted chamber and left there.
He fell asleep, by and by.
When he awoke again and looked about him, his heart
stood still with horror! The whole aspect of the chamber
was changed. The walls were moldy and hung with
ancient cobwebs; the curtains and beddings were rotten;
the furniture was rickety and ready to fall to pieces.
He sprang out of bed, but his quaking knees sunk under
him and he fell to the floor.
"This is the weakness of age," he said.
He rose and sought his clothing. It was clothing no longer.
The colors were gone, the garments gave way in many places
while he was putting them on. He fled, shuddering,
into the corridor, and along it to the great hall. Here he
was met by a middle-aged stranger of a kind countenance,
who stopped and gazed at him with surprise. Conrad said:
"Good sir, will you send hither the lord Ulrich?"
The stranger looked puzzled a moment, then said:
"The lord Ulrich?"
"Yes--if you will be so good."
The stranger called--"Wilhelm!" A young serving-man came,
and the stranger said to him:
"Is there a lord Ulrich among the guests?"
"I know none of the name, so please your honor."
Conrad said, hesitatingly:
"I did not mean a guest, but the lord of the castle, sir."
The stranger and the servant exchanged wondering glances.
Then the former said:
"I am the lord of the castle."
"Since when, sir?"
"Since the death of my father, the good lord Ulrich
more than forty years ago."
Conrad sank upon a bench and covered his face with his
hands while he rocked his body to and fro and moaned.
The stranger said in a low voice to the servant:
"I fear me this poor old creature is mad. Call some one."
In a moment several people came, and grouped themselves about,
talking in whispers. Conrad looked up and scanned
the faces about him wistfully.
Then he shook his head and said, in a grieved voice:
"No, there is none among ye that I know. I am old and alone
in the world. They are dead and gone these many years
that cared for me. But sure, some of these aged ones I see
about me can tell me some little word or two concerning them."
Several bent and tottering men and women came nearer
and answered his questions about each former friend
as he mentioned the names. This one they said had been
dead ten years, that one twenty, another thirty.
Each succeeding blow struck heavier and heavier.
At last the sufferer said:
"There is one more, but I have not the courage to--O
my lost Catharina!"
One of the old dames said:
"Ah, I knew her well, poor soul. A misfortune overtook
her lover, and she died of sorrow nearly fifty years ago.
She lieth under the linden tree without the court."
Conrad bowed his head and said:
"Ah, why did I ever wake! And so she died of grief for me,
poor child. So young, so sweet, so good! She never wittingly
did a hurtful thing in all the little summer of her life.
Her loving debt shall be repaid--for I will die of grief
for her."
His head drooped upon his breast. In the moment there
was a wild burst of joyous laughter, a pair of round
young arms were flung about Conrad's neck and a sweet
voice cried:
"There, Conrad mine, thy kind words kill me--the farce
shall go no further! Look up, and laugh with us--'twas
all a jest!"
And he did look up, and gazed, in a dazed wonderment--
for the disguises were stripped away, and the aged
men and women were bright and young and gay again.
Catharina's happy tongue ran on:
"'Twas a marvelous jest, and bravely carried out.
They gave you a heavy sleeping-draught before you went
to bed, and in the night they bore you to a ruined chamber
where all had fallen to decay, and placed these rags
of clothing by you. And when your sleep was spent and you
came forth, two strangers, well instructed in their parts,
were here to meet you; and all we, your friends,
in our disguises, were close at hand, to see and hear,
you may be sure. Ah, 'twas a gallant jest! Come, now,
and make thee ready for the pleasures of the day.
How real was thy misery for the moment, thou poor lad!
Look up and have thy laugh, now!"
He looked up, searched the merry faces about him
in a dreamy way, then sighed and said:
"I am aweary, good strangers, I pray you lead me to her grave."
All the smile vanished away, every cheek blanched,
Catharina sunk to the ground in a swoon.
All day the people went about the castle with troubled faces,
and communed together in undertones. A painful hush
pervaded the place which had lately been so full of
cheery life. Each in his turn tried to arouse Conrad
out of his hallucination and bring him to himself;
but all the answer any got was a meek, bewildered stare,
and then the words:
"Good stranger, I have no friends, all are at rest these
many years; ye speak me fair, ye mean me well, but I know
ye not; I am alone and forlorn in the world--prithee
lead me to her grave."
During two years Conrad spent his days, from the
early morning till the night, under the linden tree,
mourning over the imaginary grave of his Catharina.
Catharina was the only company of the harmless madman.
He was very friendly toward her because, as he said,
in some ways she reminded him of his Catharina whom he had
lost "fifty years ago." He often said:
"She was so gay, so happy-hearted--but you never smile;
and always when you think I am not looking, you cry."
When Conrad died, they buried him under the linden,
according to his directions, so that he might rest
"near his poor Catharina." Then Catharina sat under
the linden alone, every day and all day long, a great
many years, speaking to no one, and never smiling;
and at last her long repentance was rewarded with death,
and she was buried by Conrad's side.
Harris pleased the captain by saying it was good legend;
and pleased him further by adding:
"Now that I have seen this mighty tree, vigorous with
its four hundred years, I feel a desire to believe
the legend for ITS sake; so I will humor the desire,
and consider that the tree really watches over those poor
hearts and feels a sort of human tenderness for them."
We returned to Necharsteinach, plunged our hot heads
into the trough at the town pump, and then went to the
hotel and ate our trout dinner in leisurely comfort,
in the garden, with the beautiful Neckar flowing at our feet,
the quaint Dilsberg looming beyond, and the graceful
towers and battlements of a couple of medieval castles
(called the "Swallow's Nest" [1] and "The Brothers.")
assisting the rugged scenery of a bend of the river
down to our right. We got to sea in season to make the
eight-mile run to Heidelberg before the night shut down.
We sailed by the hotel in the mellow glow of sunset,
and came slashing down with the mad current into the narrow
passage between the dikes. I believed I could shoot the
bridge myself, and I went to the forward triplet of logs
and relieved the pilot of his pole and his responsibility.
1. The seeker after information is referred to Appendix
E for our captain's legend of the "Swallow's Nest"
and "The Brothers."
We went tearing along in a most exhilarating way, and I
performed the delicate duties of my office very well indeed
for a first attempt; but perceiving, presently, that I
really was going to shoot the bridge itself instead
of the archway under it, I judiciously stepped ashore.
The next moment I had my long-coveted desire: I saw
a raft wrecked. It hit the pier in the center and went
all to smash and scatteration like a box of matches
struck by lightning.
I was the only one of our party who saw this grand sight;
the others were attitudinizing, for the benefit of the long
rank of young ladies who were promenading on the bank,
and so they lost it. But I helped to fish them out of
the river, down below the bridge, and then described it
to them as well as I could.
They were not interested, though. They said they were
wet and felt ridiculous and did not care anything for
descriptions of scenery. The young ladies, and other people,
crowded around and showed a great deal of sympathy,
but that did not help matters; for my friends said they
did not want sympathy, they wanted a back alley and solitude.
[My Precious, Priceless Tear-Jug]
Next morning brought good news--our trunks had arrived
from Hamburg at last. Let this be a warning to the reader.
The Germans are very conscientious, and this trait makes
them very particular. Therefore if you tell a German you
want a thing done immediately, he takes you at your word;
he thinks you mean what you say; so he does that thing
immediately--according to his idea of immediately--
which is about a week; that is, it is a week if it refers
to the building of a garment, or it is an hour and a half
if it refers to the cooking of a trout. Very well; if you
tell a German to send your trunk to you by "slow freight,"
he takes you at your word; he sends it by "slow freight,"
and you cannot imagine how long you will go on enlarging
your admiration of the expressiveness of that phrase
in the German tongue, before you get that trunk.
The hair on my trunk was soft and thick and youthful,
when I got it ready for shipment in Hamburg; it was baldheaded
when it reached Heidelberg. However, it was still sound,
that was a comfort, it was not battered in the least;
the baggagemen seemed to be conscientiously careful,
in Germany, of the baggage entrusted to their hands.
There was nothing now in the way of our departure, therefore we
set about our preparations.
Naturally my chief solicitude was about my collection
of Ceramics. Of course I could not take it with me,
that would be inconvenient, and dangerous besides.
I took advice, but the best brick-a-brackers were divided
as to the wisest course to pursue; some said pack the
collection and warehouse it; others said try to get it
into the Grand Ducal Museum at Mannheim for safe keeping.
So I divided the collection, and followed the advice of
both parties. I set aside, for the Museum, those articles
which were the most frail and precious.
Among these was my Etruscan tear-jug. I have made a little
sketch of it here; [Figure 6] that thing creeping up
the side is not a bug, it is a hole. I bought this
tear-jug of a dealer in antiquities for four hundred
and fifty dollars. It is very rare. The man said the
Etruscans used to keep tears or something in these things,
and that it was very hard to get hold of a broken one, now.
I also set aside my Henri II. plate. See sketch
from my pencil; [Figure 7] it is in the main correct,
though I think I have foreshortened one end of it a little
too much, perhaps. This is very fine and rare; the shape
is exceedingly beautiful and unusual. It has wonderful
decorations on it, but I am not able to reproduce them.
It cost more than the tear-jug, as the dealer said
there was not another plate just like it in the world.
He said there was much false Henri II ware around,
but that the genuineness of this piece was unquestionable.
He showed me its pedigree, or its history, if you please;
it was a document which traced this plate's movements
all the way down from its birth--showed who bought it,
from whom, and what he paid for it--from the first buyer
down to me, whereby I saw that it had gone steadily up
from thirty-five cents to seven hundred dollars. He said
that the whole Ceramic world would be informed that it
was now in my possession and would make a note of it,
with the price paid. [Figure 8]
There were Masters in those days, but, alas--it is not so now.
Of course the main preciousness of this piece lies in its color;
it is that old sensuous, pervading, ramifying, interpolating,
transboreal blue which is the despair of modern art.
The little sketch which I have made of this gem cannot
and does not do it justice, since I have been obliged
to leave out the color. But I've got the expression, though.
However, I must not be frittering away the reader's time
with these details. I did not intend to go into any
detail at all, at first, but it is the failing of the
true ceramiker, or the true devotee in any department
of brick-a-brackery, that once he gets his tongue or his
pen started on his darling theme, he cannot well stop
until he drops from exhaustion. He has no more sense
of the flight of time than has any other lover when talking
of his sweetheart. The very "marks" on the bottom
of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into
a gibbering ecstasy; and I could forsake a drowning
relative to help dispute about whether the stopple
of a departed Buon Retiro scent-bottle was genuine or spurious.
Many people say that for a male person, bric-a-brac hunting
is about as robust a business as making doll-clothes,
or decorating Japanese pots with decalcomanie butterflies
would be, and these people fling mud at the elegant Englishman,
Byng, who wrote a book called THE BRIC-A-BRAC HUNTER,
and make fun of him for chasing around after what they choose
to call "his despicable trifles"; and for "gushing" over
these trifles; and for exhibiting his "deep infantile delight"
in what they call his "tuppenny collection of beggarly
trivialities"; and for beginning his book with a picture
of himself seated, in a "sappy, self-complacent attitude,
in the midst of his poor little ridiculous bric-a-brac junk
It is easy to say these things; it is easy to revile us,
easy to despise us; therefore, let these people rail on;
they cannot feel as Byng and I feel--it is their loss,
not ours. For my part I am content to be a brick-a-bracker
and a ceramiker--more, I am proud to be so named.
I am proud to know that I lose my reason as immediately
in the presence of a rare jug with an illustrious mark
on the bottom of it, as if I had just emptied that jug.
Very well; I packed and stored a part of my collection,
and the rest of it I placed in the care of the Grand Ducal
Museum i n Mannheim, by permission. My Old Blue China
Cat remains there yet. I presented it to that excellent
I had but one misfortune with my things. An egg which I
had kept back from breakfast that morning, was broken
in packing. It was a great pity. I had shown it to the
best connoisseurs in Heidelberg, and they all said it
was an antique. We spent a day or two in farewell visits,
and then left for Baden-Baden. We had a pleasant
trip to it, for the Rhine valley is always lovely.
The only trouble was that the trip was too short.
If I remember rightly it only occupied a couple of hours,
therefore I judge that the distance was very little,
if any, over fifty miles. We quitted the train at Oos,
and walked the entire remaining distance to Baden-Baden,
with the exception of a lift of less than an hour which we
got on a passing wagon, the weather being exhaustingly warm.
We came into town on foot.
One of the first persons we encountered, as we walked
up the street, was the Rev. Mr. ------, an old friend
from America--a lucky encounter, indeed, for his is
a most gentle, refined, and sensitive nature, and his
company and companionship are a genuine refreshment.
We knew he had been in Europe some time, but were not
at all expecting to run across him. Both parties burst
forth into loving enthusiasms, and Rev. Mr. ------said:
"I have got a brimful reservoir of talk to pour out
on you, and an empty one ready and thirsting to receive
what you have got; we will sit up till midnight
and have a good satisfying interchange, for I leave
here early in the morning." We agreed to that, of course.
I had been vaguely conscious, for a while, of a person
who was walking in the street abreast of us; I had glanced
furtively at him once or twice, and noticed that he
was a fine, large, vigorous young fellow, with an open,
independent countenance, faintly shaded with a pale
and even almost imperceptible crop of early down,
and that he was clothed from head to heel in cool and
enviable snow-white linen. I thought I had also noticed
that his head had a sort of listening tilt to it.
Now about this time the Rev. Mr. ------said:
"The sidewalk is hardly wide enough for three, so I will
walk behind; but keep the talk going, keep the talk going,
there's no time to lose, and you may be sure I will do
my share." He ranged himself behind us, and straightway that
stately snow-white young fellow closed up to the sidewalk
alongside him, fetched him a cordial slap on the shoulder
with his broad palm, and sung out with a hearty cheeriness:
"AMERICANS for two-and-a-half and the money up! HEY?"
The Reverend winced, but said mildly:
"Yes--we are Americans."
"Lord love you, you can just bet that's what _I_ am,
every time! Put it there!"
He held out his Sahara of his palm, and the Reverend laid
his diminutive hand in it, and got so cordial a shake
that we heard his glove burst under it.
"Say, didn't I put you up right?"
"Oh, yes."
"Sho! I spotted you for MY kind the minute I heard
your clack. You been over here long?"
"About four months. Have you been over long?"
"LONG? Well, I should say so! Going on two YEARS,
by geeminy! Say, are you homesick?"
"No, I can't say that I am. Are you?"
"Oh, HELL, yes!" This with immense enthusiasm.
The Reverend shrunk a little, in his clothes, and we
were aware, rather by instinct than otherwise, that he
was throwing out signals of distress to us; but we did
not interfere or try to succor him, for we were quite happy.
The young fellow hooked his arm into the Reverend's, now,
with the confiding and grateful air of a waif who has
been longing for a friend, and a sympathetic ear,
and a chance to lisp once more the sweet accents of the
mother-tongue--and then he limbered up the muscles
of his mouth and turned himself loose--and with such a
relish! Some of his words were not Sunday-school words,
so I am obliged to put blanks where they occur.
"Yes indeedy! If _I_ ain't an American there AIN'T
any Americans, that's all. And when I heard you fellows
gassing away in the good old American language, I'm ------
if it wasn't all I could do to keep from hugging you! My
tongue's all warped with trying to curl it around these
------forsaken wind-galled nine-jointed German words here;
now I TELL you it's awful good to lay it over a Christian
word once more and kind of let the old taste soak it.
I'm from western New York. My name is Cholley Adams.
I'm a student, you know. Been here going on two years.
I'm learning to be a horse-doctor! I LIKE that part of it,
you know, but ------these people, they won't learn a fellow
in his own language, they make him learn in German; so before
I could tackle the horse-doctoring I had to tackle this
miserable language.
"First off, I thought it would certainly give me
the botts, but I don't mind now. I've got it where the
hair's short, I think; and dontchuknow, they made me
learn Latin, too. Now between you and me, I wouldn't
give a ------for all the Latin that was ever jabbered;
and the first thing _I_ calculate to do when I get through,
is to just sit down and forget it. 'Twon't take me long,
and I don't mind the time, anyway. And I tell you what!
the difference between school-teaching over yonder and
school-teaching over here--sho! WE don't know anything
about it! Here you're got to peg and peg and peg and there
just ain't any let-up--and what you learn here, you've got
to KNOW, dontchuknow --or else you'll have one of these
------spavined, spectacles, ring-boned, knock-kneed old
professors in your hair. I've been here long ENOUGH,
and I'm getting blessed tired of it, mind I TELL you.
The old man wrote me that he was coming over in June,
and said he'd take me home in August, whether I was done
with my education or not, but durn him, he didn't come;
never said why; just sent me a hamper of Sunday-school
books, and told me to be good, and hold on a while.
I don't take to Sunday-school books, dontchuknow--I
don't hanker after them when I can get pie--but I
READ them, anyway, because whatever the old man tells
me to do, that's the thing that I'm a-going to DO,
or tear something, you know. I buckled in and read
all those books, because he wanted me to; but that kind
of thing don't excite ME, I like something HEARTY.
But I'm awful homesick. I'm homesick from ear-socket
to crupper, and from crupper to hock-joint; but it ain't
any use, I've got to stay here, till the old man drops
the rag and give the word--yes, SIR, right here in this
------country I've got to linger till the old man says
COME!--and you bet your bottom dollar, Johnny, it AIN'T
just as easy as it is for a cat to have twins!"
At the end of this profane and cordial explosion he
fetched a prodigious "WHOOSH!" to relieve his lungs
and make recognition of the heat, and then he straightway
dived into his narrative again for "Johnny's" benefit,
beginning, "Well, ------it ain't any use talking,
some of those old American words DO have a kind
of a bully swing to them; a man can EXPRESS himself
with 'em--a man can get at what he wants to SAY, dontchuknow."
When we reached our hotel and it seemed that he was
about to lose the Reverend, he showed so much sorrow,
and begged so hard and so earnestly that the Reverend's heart
was not hard enough to hold out against the pleadings--
so he went away with the parent-honoring student, like a
right Christian, and took supper with him in his lodgings,
and sat in the surf-beat of his slang and profanity
till near midnight, and then left him--left him pretty
well talked out, but grateful "clear down to his frogs,"
as he expressed it. The Reverend said it had transpired
during the interview that "Cholley" Adams's father
was an extensive dealer in horses in western New York;
this accounted for Cholley's choice of a profession.
The Reverend brought away a pretty high opinion of
Cholley as a manly young fellow, with stuff in him for
a useful citizen; he considered him rather a rough gem,
but a gem, nevertheless.
[Insolent Shopkeepers and Gabbling Americans]
Baden-Baden sits in the lap of the hills, and the natural
and artificial beauties of the surroundings are combined
effectively and charmingly. The level strip of ground
which stretches through and beyond the town is laid
out in handsome pleasure grounds, shaded by noble trees
and adorned at intervals with lofty and sparkling
fountain-jets. Thrice a day a fine band makes music
in the public promenade before the Conversation House,
and in the afternoon and evening that locality is populous
with fashionably dressed people of both sexes, who march
back and forth past the great music-stand and look very
much bored, though they make a show of feeling otherwise.
It seems like a rather aimless and stupid existence.
A good many of these people are there for a real
purpose, however; they are racked with rheumatism,
and they are there to stew it out in the hot baths.
These invalids looked melancholy enough, limping about on
their canes and crutches, and apparently brooding over
all sorts of cheerless things. People say that Germany,
with her damp stone houses, is the home of rheumatism.
If that is so, Providence must have foreseen that it
would be so, and therefore filled the land with the
healing baths. Perhaps no other country is so generously
supplied with medicinal springs as Germany. Some of
these baths are good for one ailment, some for another;
and again, peculiar ailments are conquered by combining
the individual virtues of several different baths.
For instance, for some forms of disease, the patient drinks
the native hot water of Baden-Baden, with a spoonful
of salt from the Carlsbad springs dissolved in it.
That is not a dose to be forgotten right away.
They don't SELL this hot water; no, you go into the
great Trinkhalle, and stand around, first on one foot
and then on the other, while two or three young girls
sit pottering at some sort of ladylike sewing-work
in your neighborhood and can't seem to see you --polite
as three-dollar clerks in government offices.
By and by one of these rises painfully, and
fists and body heavenward till she raises her heels from
the floor, at the same time refreshing herself with a yawn
of such comprehensiveness that the bulk of her face disappears
behind her upper lip and one is able to see how she is
constructed inside--then she slowly closes her cavern,
brings down her fists and her heels, comes languidly forward,
contemplates you contemptuously, draws you a glass of hot water
and sets it down where you can get it by reaching for it. You
take it and say:
"How much?"--and she returns you, with elaborate indifference,
a beggar's answer:
"NACH BELIEBE" (what you please.)
This thing of using the common beggar's trick and the common
beggar's shibboleth to put you on your liberality when you
were expecting a simple straightforward commercial transaction,
adds a little to your prospering sense of irritation.
You ignore her reply, and ask again:
"How much?"
--and she calmly, indifferently, repeats:
You are getting angry, but you are trying not to show it;
you resolve to keep on asking your question till she changes
her answer, or at least her annoyingly indifferent manner.
Therefore, if your case be like mine, you two fools
stand there, and without perceptible emotion of any kind,
or any emphasis on any syllable, you look blandly into each
other's eyes, and hold the following idiotic conversation:
"How much?"
"How much?"
"How much?"
"How much?"
"How much?"
"How much?"
I do not know what another person would have done,
but at this point I gave up; that cast-iron indifference,
that tranquil contemptuousness, conquered me, and I struck
my colors. Now I knew she was used to receiving about a
penny from manly people who care nothing about the opinions
of scullery-maids, and about tuppence from moral cowards;
but I laid a silver twenty-five cent piece within her
reach and tried to shrivel her up with this sarcastic
"If it isn't enough, will you stoop sufficiently from
your official dignity to say so?"
She did not shrivel. Without deigning to look at me at all,
she languidly lifted the coin and bit it!--to see if it
was good. Then she turned her back and placidly waddled
to her former roost again, tossing the money into an open
till as she went along. She was victor to the last,
you see.
I have enlarged upon the ways of this girl because they
are typical; her manners are the manners of a goodly
number of the Baden-Baden shopkeepers. The shopkeeper
there swindles you if he can, and insults you whether
he succeeds in swindling you or not. The keepers of
baths also take great and patient pains to insult you.
The frowsy woman who sat at the desk in the lobby
of the great Friederichsbad and sold bath tickets,
not only insulted me twice every day, with rigid fidelity
to her great trust, but she took trouble enough to cheat
me out of a shilling, one day, to have fairly entitled
her to ten. Baden-Baden's splendid gamblers are gone,
only her microscopic knaves remain.
An English gentleman who had been living there
several years, said:
"If you could disguise your nationality, you would not
find any insolence here. These shopkeepers detest the
English and despise the Americans; they are rude to both,
more especially to ladies of your nationality and mine.
If these go shopping without a gentleman or a man-servant,
they are tolerably sure to be subjected to petty insolences--
insolences of manner and tone, rather than word,
though words that are hard to bear are not always wanting.
I know of an instance where a shopkeeper tossed a coin back
to an American lady with the remark, snappishly uttered,
'We don't take French money here.' And I know of a case
where an English lady said to one of these shopkeepers,
'Don't you think you ask too much for this article?'
and he replied with the question, 'Do you think you are
obliged to buy it?' However, these people are not impolite
to Russians or Germans. And as to rank, they worship that,
for they have long been used to generals and nobles.
If you wish to see what abysses servility can descend,
present yourself before a Baden-Baden shopkeeper in the
character of a Russian prince."
It is an inane town, filled with sham, and petty fraud,
and snobbery, but the baths are good. I spoke with
many people, and they were all agreed in that. I had
the twinges of rheumatism unceasingly during three years,
but the last one departed after a fortnight's bathing there,
and I have never had one since. I fully believe I left my
rheumatism in Baden-Baden. Baden-Baden is welcome to it.
It was little, but it was all I had to give. I would
have preferred to leave something that was catching,
but it was not in my power.
There are several hot springs there, and during two
thousand years they have poured forth a never-diminishing
abundance of the healing water. This water is conducted
in pipe to the numerous bath-houses, and is reduced to
an endurable temperature by the addition of cold water.
The new Friederichsbad is a very large and beautiful building,
and in it one may have any sort of bath that has ever
been invented, and with all the additions of herbs and
drugs that his ailment may need or that the physician
of the establishment may consider a useful thing to put
into the water. You go there, enter the great door,
get a bow graduated to your style and clothes from the
gorgeous portier, and a bath ticket and an insult from
the frowsy woman for a quarter; she strikes a bell and a
serving-man conducts you down a long hall and shuts you
into a commodious room which has a washstand, a mirror,
a bootjack, and a sofa in it, and there you undress
at your leisure.
The room is divided by a great curtain; you draw this
curtain aside, and find a large white marble bathtub,
with its rim sunk to the level of the floor,
and with three white marble steps leading down to it.
This tub is full of water which is as clear as crystal,
and is tempered to 28 degrees Re'aumur (about 95 degrees
Fahrenheit). Sunk into the floor, by the tub, is a covered
copper box which contains some warm towels and a sheet.
You look fully as white as an angel when you are stretched
out in that limpid bath. You remain in it ten minutes,
the first time, and afterward increase the duration from
day to day, till you reach twenty-five or thirty minutes.
There you stop. The appointments of the place are
so luxurious, the benefit so marked, the price so moderate,
and the insults so sure, that you very soon find yourself
adoring the Friederichsbad and infesting it.
We had a plain, simple, unpretending, good hotel,
in Baden-Baden--the Ho^tel de France--and alongside my room
I had a giggling, cackling, chattering family who always
went to bed just two hours after me and always got up two
hours ahead of me. But this is common in German hotels;
the people generally go to bed long after eleven and get
up long before eight. The partitions convey sound
like a drum-head, and everybody knows it; but no matter,
a German family who are all kindness and consideration
in the daytime make apparently no effort to moderate
their noises for your benefit at night. They will sing,
laugh, and talk loudly, and bang furniture around in a most
pitiless way. If you knock on your wall appealingly,
they will quiet down and discuss the matter softly among
themselves for a moment--then, like the mice, they fall
to persecuting you again, and as vigorously as before.
They keep cruelly late and early hours, for such noisy folk.
Of course, when one begins to find fault with foreign
people's ways, he is very likely to get a reminder to look
nearer home, before he gets far with it. I open my note-book
to see if I can find some more information of a valuable
nature about Baden-Baden, and the first thing I fall upon is
"BADEN-BADEN (no date). Lot of vociferous Americans
at breakfast this morning. Talking AT everybody,
while pretending to talk among themselves. On their
first travels, manifestly. Showing off. The usual
signs--airy, easy-going references to grand distances
and foreign places. 'Well GOOD-by, old fellow--
if I don't run across you in Italy, you hunt me up in
London before you sail.'"
The next item which I find in my note-book is this one:
"The fact that a band of 6,000 Indians are now murdering
our frontiersmen at their impudent leisure, and that we
are only able to send 1,200 soldiers against them,
is utilized here to discourage emigration to America.
The common people think the Indians are in New Jersey."
This is a new and peculiar argument against keeping our army
down to a ridiculous figure in the matter of numbers.
It is rather a striking one, too. I have not distorted
the truth in saying that the facts in the above item,
about the army and the Indians, are made use of to
discourage emigration to America. That the common
people should be rather foggy in their geography,
and foggy as to the location of the Indians, is a matter
for amusement, maybe, but not of surprise.
There is an interesting old cemetery in Baden-Baden, and
we spent several pleasant hours in wandering through it
and spelling out the inscriptions on the aged tombstones.
Apparently after a man has laid there a century or two,
and has had a good many people buried on top of him,
it is considered that his tombstone is not needed by him
any longer. I judge so from the fact that hundreds
of old gravestones have been removed from the graves
and placed against the inner walls of the cemetery.
What artists they had in the old times! They chiseled angels
and cherubs and devils and skeletons on the tombstones
in the most lavish and generous way--as to supply--but
curiously grotesque and outlandish as to form. It is not
always easy to tell which of the figures belong among
the blest and which of them among the opposite party.
But there was an inscription, in French, on one of those
old stones, which was quaint and pretty, and was plainly
not the work of any other than a poet. It was to this
Here Reposes in God, Caroline de Clery, a Religieuse
of St. Denis aged 83 years--and blind. The light
was restored to her in Baden the 5th of January, 1839
We made several excursions on foot to the neighboring villages,
over winding and beautiful roads and through enchanting
woodland scenery. The woods and roads were similar to those
at Heidelberg, but not so bewitching. I suppose that roads
and woods which are up to the Heidelberg mark are rare in the
Once we wandered clear away to La Favorita Palace,
which is several miles from Baden-Baden. The grounds
about the palace were fine; the palace was a curiosity.
It was built by a Margravine in 1725, and remains as she
left it at her death. We wandered through a great many
of its rooms, and they all had striking peculiarities
of decoration. For instance, the walls of one room were
pretty completely covered with small pictures of the
Margravine in all conceivable varieties of fanciful costumes,
some of them male.
The walls of another room were covered with grotesquely
and elaborately figured hand-wrought tapestry.
The musty ancient beds remained in the chambers,
and their quilts and curtains and canopies were decorated
with curious handwork, and the walls and ceilings frescoed
with historical and mythological scenes in glaring colors.
There was enough crazy and rotten rubbish in the building
to make a true brick-a-bracker green with envy.
A painting in the dining-hall verged upon the indelicate--
but then the Margravine was herself a trifle indelicate.
It is in every way a wildly and picturesquely decorated house,
and brimful of interest as a reflection of the character
and tastes of that rude bygone time.
In the grounds, a few rods from the palace, stands the
Margravine's chapel, just as she left it--a coarse
wooden structure, wholly barren of ornament. It is said
that the Margravine would give herself up to debauchery
and exceedingly fast living for several months at a time,
and then retire to this miserable wooden den and spend
a few months in repenting and getting ready for another
good time. She was a devoted Catholic, and was perhaps
quite a model sort of a Christian as Christians went then,
in high life.
Tradition says she spent the last two years of her life in the
strange den I have been speaking of, after having indulged
herself in one final, triumphant, and satisfying spree.
She shut herself up there, without company, and without
even a servant, and so abjured and forsook the world.
In her little bit of a kitchen she did her own cooking;
she wore a hair shirt next the skin, and castigated herself
with whips--these aids to grace are exhibited there yet.
She prayed and told her beads, in another little room,
before a waxen Virgin niched in a little box against the wall;
she bedded herself like a slave.
In another small room is an unpainted wooden table,
and behind it sit half-life-size waxen figures of the
Holy Family, made by the very worst artist that ever
lived, perhaps, and clothed in gaudy, flimsy drapery.
[1] The margravine used to bring her meals to this table
and DINE WITH THE HOLY FAMILY. What an idea that was!
What a grisly spectacle it must have been! Imagine it:
Those rigid, shock-headed figures, with corpsy complexions
and fish glass eyes, occupying one side of the table
in the constrained attitudes and dead fixedness that
distinquish all men that are born of wax, and this wrinkled,
smoldering old fire-eater occupying the other side,
mumbling her prayers and munching her sausages in the ghostly
stillness and shadowy indistinctness of a winter twilight.
It makes one feel crawly even to think of it.
1. The Savior was represented as a lad of about fifteen
years of age. This figure had lost one eye.
In this sordid place, and clothed, bedded, and fed like
a pauper, this strange princess lived and worshiped during
two years, and in it she died. Two or three hundred
years ago, this would have made the poor den holy ground;
and the church would have set up a miracle-factory there
and made plenty of money out of it. The den could be moved
into some portions of France and made a good property even now.
[The Black Forest and Its Treasures]
From Baden-Baden we made the customary trip into the
Black Forest. We were on foot most of the time. One cannot
describe those noble woods, nor the feeling with which they
inspire him. A feature of the feeling, however, is a deep
sense of contentment; another feature of it is a buoyant,
boyish gladness; and a third and very conspicuous feature
of it is one's sense of the remoteness of the work-day
world and his entire emancipation from it and its affairs.
Those woods stretch unbroken over a vast region;
and everywhere they are such dense woods, and so still,
and so piney and fragrant. The stems of the trees are trim
and straight, and in many places all the ground is hidden
for miles under a thick cushion of moss of a vivid green color,
with not a decayed or ragged spot in its surface, and not
a fallen leaf or twig to mar its immaculate tidiness.
A rich cathedral gloom pervades the pillared aisles;
so the stray flecks of sunlight that strike a trunk
here and a bough yonder are strongly accented,
and when they strike the moss they fairly seem to burn.
But the weirdest effect, and the most enchanting is that
produced by the diffused light of the low afternoon sun;
no single ray is able to pierce its way in, then, but the
diffused light takes color from moss and foliage,
and pervades the place like a faint, greet-tinted mist,
the theatrical fire of fairyland. The suggestion of mystery
and the supernatural which haunts the forest at all times
is intensified by this unearthly glow.
We found the Black Forest farmhouses and villages
all that the Black Forest stories have pictured them.
The first genuine specimen which we came upon was
the mansion of a rich farmer and member of the Common
Council of the parish or district. He was an important
personage in the land and so was his wife also,
of course. His daughter was the "catch" of the region,
and she may be already entering into immortality as the
heroine of one of Auerbach's novels, for all I know.
We shall see, for if he puts her in I shall recognize her
by her Black Forest clothes, and her burned complexion,
her plump figure, her fat hands, her dull expression,
her gentle spirit, her generous feet, her bonnetless head,
and the plaited tails of hemp-colored hair hanging down
her back.
The house was big enough for a hotel; it was a hundred
feet long and fifty wide, and ten feet high, from ground
to eaves; but from the eaves to the comb of the mighty roof
was as much as forty feet, or maybe even more. This roof
was of ancient mud-colored straw thatch a foot thick,
and was covered all over, except in a few trifling spots,
with a thriving and luxurious growth of green vegetation,
mainly moss. The mossless spots were places where
repairs had been made by the insertion of bright new
masses of yellow straw. The eaves projected far down,
like sheltering, hospitable wings. Across the gable that
fronted the road, and about ten feet above the ground,
ran a narrow porch, with a wooden railing; a row of
small windows filled with very small panes looked upon
the porch. Above were two or three other little windows,
one clear up under the sharp apex of the roof.
Before the ground-floor door was a huge pile of manure.
The door of the second-story room on the side of the house
was open, and occupied by the rear elevation of a cow.
Was this probably the drawing-room? All of the front
half of the house from the ground up seemed to be
occupied by the people, the cows, and the chickens,
and all the rear half by draught-animals and hay.
But the chief feature, all around this house, was the big
heaps of manure.
We became very familiar with the fertilizer in the Forest.
We fell unconsciously into the habit of judging of a man's
station in life by this outward and eloquent sign.
Sometimes we said, "Here is a poor devil, this is manifest."
When we saw a stately accumulation, we said, "Here is
a banker." When we encountered a country-seat surrounded
by an Alpine pomp of manure, we said, "Doubtless a duke
lives here."
The importance of this feature has not been properly
magnified in the Black Forest stories. Manure is evidently
the Black-Forester's main treasure--his coin, his jewel,
his pride, his Old Master, his ceramics, his bric-a-brac,
his darling, his title to public consideration,
envy, veneration, and his first solicitude when he gets
ready to make his will. The true Black Forest novel,
if it is ever written, will be skeletoned somewhat in this way:
Rich old farmer, named Huss. Has inherited great wealth
of manure, and by diligence has added to it. It is
double-starred in Baedeker. [1] The Black forest artist
paints it--his masterpiece. The king comes to see it.
Gretchen Huss, daughter and heiress. Paul Hoch,
young neighbor, suitor for Gretchen's hand--ostensibly;
he really wants the manure. Hoch has a good many cart-loads
of the Black Forest currency himself, and therefore is a
good catch; but he is sordid, mean, and without sentiment,
whereas Gretchen is all sentiment and poetry.
Hans Schmidt, young neighbor, full of sentiment,
full of poetry, loves Gretchen, Gretchen loves him.
But he has no manure. Old Huss forbids him in the house.
His heart breaks, he goes away to die in the woods,
far from the cruel world--for he says, bitterly, "What is man,
without manure?"
1. When Baedeker's guide-books mention a thing and put
two stars (**) after it, it means well worth visiting.
[Interval of six months.]
Paul Hoch comes to old Huss and says, "I am at last
as rich as you required--come and view the pile."
Old Huss views it and says, "It is sufficient--take
her and be happy,"--meaning Gretchen.
[Interval of two weeks.]
Wedding party assembled in old Huss's drawing-room. Hoch
placid and content, Gretchen weeping over her hard fate.
Enter old Huss's head bookkeeper. Huss says fiercely,
"I gave you three weeks to find out why your books
don't balance, and to prove that you are not a defaulter;
the time is up--find me the missing property or you go
to prison as a thief." Bookkeeper: "I have found it."
"Where?" Bookkeeper (sternly--tragically): "In the bridegroom's
pile!--behold the thief--see him blench and tremble!"
[Sensation.] Paul Hoch: Lost, lost!"--falls over the cow
in a swoon and is handcuffed. Gretchen: "Saved!" Falls
over the calf in a swoon of joy, but is caught in the arms
of Hans Schmidt, who springs in at that moment. Old Huss:
"What, you here, varlet? Unhand the maid and quit the place."
Hans (still supporting the insensible girl): "Never! Cruel
old man, know that I come with claims which even you
cannot despise."
Huss: "What, YOU? name them."
Hans: "Listen then. The world has forsaken me, I forsook
the world, I wandered in the solitude of the forest,
longing for death but finding none. I fed upon roots,
and in my bitterness I dug for the bitterest,
loathing the sweeter kind. Digging, three days agone,
I struck a manure mine!--a Golconda, a limitless Bonanza,
of solid manure! I can buy you ALL, and have mountain
ranges of manure left! Ha-ha, NOW thou smilest a smile!"
[Immense sensation.] Exhibition of specimens from the mine.
Old Huss (enthusiastically): "Wake her up, shake her up,
noble young man, she is yours!" Wedding takes place on
the spot; bookkeeper restored to his office and emoluments;
Paul Hoch led off to jail. The Bonanza king of the Black
Forest lives to a good old age, blessed with the love of his
wife and of his twenty-seven children, and the still sweeter
envy of everybody around.
We took our noon meal of fried trout one day at the Plow Inn,
in a very pretty village (Ottenho"fen), and then went into
the public room to rest and smoke. There we found nine
or ten Black Forest grandees assembled around a table.
They were the Common Council of the parish. They had
gathered there at eight o'clock that morning to elect
a new member, and they had now been drinking beer four
hours at the new member's expense. They were men of fifty
or sixty years of age, with grave good-natures faces,
and were all dressed in the costume made familiar to us
by the Black Forest stories; broad, round-topped black felt
hats with the brims curled up all round; long red waistcoats
with large metal buttons, black alpaca coats with the
waists up between the shoulders. There were no speeches,
there was but little talk, there were no frivolities;
the Council filled themselves gradually, steadily, but surely,
with beer, and conducted themselves with sedate decorum,
as became men of position, men of influence, men of manure.
We had a hot afternoon tramp up the valley, along the grassy
bank of a rushing stream of clear water, past farmhouses,
water-mills, and no end of wayside crucifixes and saints
and Virgins. These crucifixes, etc., are set up in
memory of departed friends, by survivors, and are almost
as frequent as telegraph-poles are in other lands.
We followed the carriage-road, and had our usual luck;
we traveled under a beating sun, and always saw the shade
leave the shady places before we could get to them.
In all our wanderings we seldom managed to strike
a piece of road at its time for being shady. We had a
particularly hot time of it on that particular afternoon,
and with no comfort but what we could get out of the fact
that the peasants at work away up on the steep mountainsides
above our heads were even worse off than we were.
By and by it became impossible to endure the intolerable
glare and heat any longer; so we struck across the ravine
and entered the deep cool twilight of the forest, to hunt
for what the guide-book called the "old road."
We found an old road, and it proved eventually to be the
right one, though we followed it at the time with the conviction
that it was the wrong one. If it was the wrong one there
could be no use in hurrying; therefore we did not hurry,
but sat down frequently on the soft moss and enjoyed
the restful quiet and shade of the forest solitudes.
There had been distractions in the carriage-road--
school-children, peasants, wagons, troops of
pedestrianizing students from all over Germany--
but we had the old road to ourselves.
Now and then, while we rested, we watched the laborious
ant at his work. I found nothing new in him--certainly
nothing to change my opinion of him. It seems to me that
in the matter of intellect the ant must be a strangely
overrated bird. During many summers, now, I have watched him,
when I ought to have been in better business, and I have
not yet come across a living ant that seemed to have any
more sense than a dead one. I refer to the ordinary ant,
of course; I have had no experience of those wonderful
Swiss and African ones which vote, keep drilled armies,
hold slaves, and dispute about religion. Those particular
ants may be all that the naturalist paints them,
but I am persuaded that the average ant is a sham.
I admit his industry, of course; he is the hardest-working
creature in the world--when anybody is looking--but his
leather-headedness is the point I make against him.
He goes out foraging, he makes a capture, and then what
does he do? Go home? No--he goes anywhere but home.
He doesn't know where home is. His home may be only
three feet away--no matter, he can't find it. He makes
his capture, as I have said; it is generally something
which can be of no sort of use to himself or anybody else;
it is usually seven times bigger than it ought to be;
he hunts out the awkwardest place to take hold of it;
he lifts it bodily up in the air by main force, and starts;
not toward home, but in the opposite direction; not calmly
and wisely, but with a frantic haste which is wasteful
of his strength; he fetches up against a pebble, and instead
of going around it, he climbs over it backward dragging
his booty after him, tumbles down on the other side,
jumps up in a passion, kicks the dust off his clothes,
moistens his hands, grabs his property viciously, yanks it
this way, then that, shoves it ahead of him a moment,
turns tail and lugs it after him another moment, gets madder
and madder, then presently hoists it into the air and goes
tearing away in an entirely new direction; comes to a weed;
it never occurs to him to go around it; no, he must climb it;
and he does climb it, dragging his worthless property
to the top--which is as bright a thing to do as it would
be for me to carry a sack of flour from Heidelberg to Paris
by way of Strasburg steeple; when he gets up there he
finds that that is not the place; takes a cursory glance
at the scenery and either climbs down again or tumbles down,
and starts off once more--as usual, in a new direction.
At the end of half an hour, he fetches up within six inches
of the place he started from and lays his burden down;
meantime he as been over all the ground for two yards around,
and climbed all the weeds and pebbles he came across.
Now he wipes the sweat from his brow, strokes his limbs,
and then marches aimlessly off, in as violently a hurry
as ever. He does not remember to have ever seen it before;
he looks around to see which is not the way home, grabs his
bundle and starts; he goes through the same adventures he
had before; finally stops to rest, and a friend comes along.
Evidently the friend remarks that a last year's grasshopper
leg is a very noble acquisition, and inquires where he
got it. Evidently the proprietor does not remember
exactly where he did get it, but thinks he got it "around
here somewhere." Evidently the friend contracts to help
him freight it home. Then, with a judgment peculiarly
antic (pun not intended), then take hold of opposite ends
of that grasshopper leg a nd begin to tug with all their
might in opposite directions. Presently they take a rest
and confer together. They decide that something is wrong,
they can't make out what. Then they go at it again,
just as before. Same result. Mutual recriminations follow.
Evidently each accuses the other of being an obstructionist.
They lock themselves together and chew each other's jaws
for a while; then they roll and tumble on the ground till
one loses a horn or a leg and has to haul off for repairs.
They make up and go to work again in the same old insane way,
but the crippled ant is at a disadvantage; tug as he may,
the other one drags off the booty and him at the end of it.
Instead of giving up, he hangs on, and gets his shins
bruised against every obstruction that comes in the way.
By and by, when that grasshopper leg has been dragged
all over the same old ground once more, it is finally
dumped at about the spot where it originally lay,
the two perspiring ants inspect it thoughtfully and decide
that dried grasshopper legs are a poor sort of property
after all, and then each starts off in a different
direction to see if he can't find an old nail or something
else that is heavy enough to afford entertainment and at
the same time valueless enough to make an ant want to own it.
There in the Black Forest, on the mountainside,
I saw an ant go through with such a performance as this
with a dead spider of fully ten times his own weight.
The spider was not quite dead, but too far gone to resist.
He had a round body the size of a pea. The little ant--
observing that I was noticing--turned him on his back,
sunk his fangs into his throat, lifted him into the air and
started vigorously off with him, stumbling over little pebbles,
stepping on the spider's legs and tripping himself up,
dragging him backward, shoving him bodily ahead, dragging him
up stones six inches high instead of going around them,
climbing weeds twenty times his own height and jumping
from their summits--and finally leaving him in the middle
of the road to be confiscated by any other fool of an
ant that wanted him. I measured the ground which this
ass traversed, and arrived at the conclusion that what he
had accomplished inside of twenty minutes would constitute
some such job as this--relatively speaking--for a man;
to wit: to strap two eight-hundred-pound horses together,
carry them eighteen hundred feet, mainly over (not around)
boulders averaging six feet high, and in the course
of the journey climb up and jump from the top of one
precipice like Niagara, and three steeples, each a hundred
and twenty feet high; and then put the horses down,
in an exposed place, without anybody to watch them,
and go off to indulge in some other idiotic miracle for
vanity's sake.
Science has recently discovered that the ant does not
lay up anything for winter use. This will knock him
out of literature, to some extent. He does not work,
except when people are looking, and only then when the
observer has a green, naturalistic look, and seems to be
taking notes. This amounts to deception, and will injure
him for the Sunday-schools. He has not judgment enough
to know what is good to eat from what isn't. This amounts
to ignorance, and will impair the world's respect for him.
He cannot stroll around a stump and find his way home again.
This amounts to idiocy, and once the damaging fact
is established, thoughtful people will cease to look
up to him, the sentimental will cease to fondle him.
His vaunted industry is but a vanity and of no effect,
since he never gets home with anything he starts with.
This disposes of the last remnant of his reputation
and wholly destroys his main usefulness as a moral agent,
since it will make the sluggard hesitate to go to him
any more. It is strange, beyond comprehension, that so
manifest a humbug as the ant has been able to fool so
many nations and keep it up so many ages without being
found out.
The ant is strong, but we saw another strong thing,
where we had not suspected the presence of much muscular
power before. A toadstool--that vegetable which springs
to full growth in a single night--had torn loose and
lifted a matted mass of pine needles and dirt of twice
its own bulk into the air, and supported it there,
like a column supporting a shed. Ten thousand toadstools,
with the right purchase, could lift a man, I suppose.
But what good would it do?
All our afternoon's progress had been uphill. About five
or half past we reached the summit, and all of a sudden
the dense curtain of the forest parted and we looked
down into a deep and beautiful gorge and out over a
wide panorama of wooded mountains with their summits
shining in the sun and their glade-furrowed sides dimmed
with purple shade. The gorge under our feet--called
Allerheiligen--afforded room in the grassy level at its
head for a cozy and delightful human nest, shut away
from the world and its botherations, and consequently
the monks of the old times had not failed to spy it out;
and here were the brown and comely ruins of their church
and convent to prove that priests had as fine an instinct
seven hundred years ago in ferreting out the choicest
nooks and corners in a land as priests have today.
A big hotel crowds the ruins a little, now, and drives
a brisk trade with summer tourists. We descended
into the gorge and had a supper which would have been
very satisfactory if the trout had not been boiled.
The Germans are pretty sure to boil a trout or anything
else if left to their own devices. This is an argument
of some value in support of the theory that they were
the original colonists of the wild islands of the coast
of Scotland. A schooner laden with oranges was wrecked
upon one of those islands a few years ago, and the gentle
savages rendered the captain such willing assistance
that he gave them as many oranges as they wanted.
Next day he asked them how they liked them. They shook
their heads and said:
"Baked, they were tough; and even boiled, they warn't
things for a hungry man to hanker after."
We went down the glen after supper. It is beautiful--a
mixture of sylvan loveliness and craggy wildness.
A limpid torrent goes whistling down the glen, and toward
the foot of it winds through a narrow cleft between lofty
precipices and hurls itself over a succession of falls.
After one passes the last of these he has a backward
glimpse at the falls which is very pleasing--they rise
in a seven-stepped stairway of foamy and glittering cascades,
and make a picture which is as charming as it is unusual.
[Nicodemus Dodge and the Skeleton]
We were satisfied that we could walk to Oppenau in
one day, now that we were in practice; so we set out
the next morning after breakfast determined to do it.
It was all the way downhill, and we had the loveliest
summer weather for it. So we set the pedometer and then
stretched away on an easy, regular stride, down through
the cloven forest, drawing in the fragrant breath
of the morning in deep refreshing draughts, and wishing
we might never have anything to do forever but walk
to Oppenau and keep on doing it and then doing it over again.
Now, the true charm of pedestrianism does not lie
in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking.
The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by,
and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active;
the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon
a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace
to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes
from the talk. It is no matter whether one talks wisdom
or nonsense, the case is the same, the bulk of the enjoyment
lies in the wagging of the gladsome jaw and the flapping
of the sympathetic ear.
And what motley variety of subjects a couple of people will
casually rake over in the course of a day's tramp! There
being no constraint, a change of subject is always in order,
and so a body is not likely to keep pegging at a single
topic until it grows tiresome. We discussed everything
we knew, during the first fifteen or twenty minutes,
that morning, and then branched out into the glad, free,
boundless realm of the things we were not certain about.
Harris said that if the best writer in the world once got
the slovenly habit of doubling up his "haves" he could
never get rid of it while he lived. That is to say,
if a man gets the habit of saying "I should have liked
to have known more about it" instead of saying simply
and sensibly, "I should have liked to know more about it,"
that man's disease is incurable. Harris said that his sort
of lapse is to be found in every copy of every newspaper
that has ever been printed in English, and in almost all
of our books. He said he had observed it in Kirkham's
grammar and in Macaulay. Harris believed that milk-teeth
are commoner in men's mouths than those "doubled-up haves." [1]
1. I do not know that there have not been moments in the
course of the present session when I should have been
very glad to have accepted the proposal of my noble friend,
and to have exchanged parts in some of our evenings
of work.--[From a Speech of the English Chancellor
of the Exchequer, August, 1879.]
That changed the subject to dentistry. I said I believed
the average man dreaded tooth-pulling more than amputation,
and that he would yell quicker under the former operation
than he would under the latter. The philosopher Harris
said that the average man would not yell in either case
if he had an audience. Then he continued:
"When our brigade first went into camp on the Potomac,
we used to be brought up standing, occasionally, by an
ear-splitting howl of anguish. That meant that a soldier
was getting a tooth pulled in a tent. But the surgeons
soon changed that; they instituted open-air dentistry.
There never was a howl afterward--that is, from the man
who was having the tooth pulled. At the daily dental
hour there would always be about five hundred soldiers
gathered together in the neighborhood of that dental chair
waiting to see the performance--and help; and the moment
the surgeon took a grip on the candidate's tooth and began
to lift, every one of those five hundred rascals would
clap his hand to his jaw and begin to hop around on one
leg and howl with all the lungs he had! It was enough
to raise your hair to hear that variegated and enormous
unanimous caterwaul burst out! With so big and so derisive
an audience as that, a suffer wouldn't emit a sound though
you pulled his head off. The surgeons said that pretty
often a patient was compelled to laugh, in the midst
of his pangs, but that had never caught one crying out,
after the open-air exhibition was instituted."
Dental surgeons suggested doctors, doctors suggested death,
death suggested skeletons--and so, by a logical process
the conversation melted out of one of these subjects
and into the next, until the topic of skeletons raised up
Nicodemus Dodge out of the deep grave in my memory where he
had lain buried and forgotten for twenty-five years.
When I was a boy in a printing-office in Missouri,
a loose-jointed, long-legged, tow-headed, jeans-clad
countrified cub of about sixteen lounged in one day,
and without removing his hands from the depths
of his trousers pockets or taking off his faded ruin
of a slouch hat, whose broken rim hung limp and ragged
about his eyes and ears like a bug-eaten cabbage leaf,
stared indifferently around, then leaned his hip
against the editor's table, crossed his mighty brogans,
aimed at a distant fly from a crevice in his upper teeth,
laid him low, and said with composure:
"Whar's the boss?"
"I am the boss," said the editor, following this curious
bit of architecture wonderingly along up to its clock-face
with his eye.
"Don't want anybody fur to learn the business, 'tain't likely?"
"Well, I don't know. Would you like to learn it?"
"Pap's so po' he cain't run me no mo', so I want to git
a show somers if I kin, 'taint no diffunce what--I'm strong
and hearty, and I don't turn my back on no kind of work,
hard nur soft."
"Do you think you would like to learn the printing business?"
"Well, I don't re'ly k'yer a durn what I DO learn,
so's I git a chance fur to make my way. I'd jist as soon
learn print'n's anything."
"Can you read?"
"Well, I've seed people could lay over me thar."
"Not good enough to keep store, I don't reckon,
but up as fur as twelve-times-twelve I ain't no slouch.
'Tother side of that is what gits me."
"Where is your home?"
"I'm f'm old Shelby."
"What's your father's religious denomination?"
"Him? Oh, he's a blacksmith."
"No, no--I don't mean his trade. What's his RELIGIOUS
"OH--I didn't understand you befo'. He's a Freemason."
"No, no, you don't get my meaning yet. What I mean is,
does he belong to any CHURCH?"
"NOW you're talkin'! Couldn't make out what you was a-tryin'
to git through yo' head no way. B'long to a CHURCH! Why,
boss, he's ben the pizenest kind of Free-will Babtis'
for forty year. They ain't no pizener ones 'n what HE is.
Mighty good man, pap is. Everybody says that. If they
said any diffrunt they wouldn't say it whar _I_ wuz--
not MUCH they wouldn't."
"What is your own religion?"
"Well, boss, you've kind o' got me, there--and yit
you hain't got me so mighty much, nuther. I think 't
if a feller he'ps another feller when he's in trouble,
and don't cuss, and don't do no mean things, nur noth'n'
he ain' no business to do, and don't spell the Saviour's
name with a little g, he ain't runnin' no resks--he's
about as saift as he b'longed to a church."
"But suppose he did spell it with a little g--what then?"
"Well, if he done it a-purpose, I reckon he wouldn't
stand no chance--he OUGHTN'T to have no chance, anyway,
I'm most rotten certain 'bout that."
"What is your name?"
"Nicodemus Dodge."
"I think maybe you'll do, Nicodemus. We'll give you
a trial, anyway."
"All right."
"When would you like to begin?"
So, within ten minutes after we had first glimpsed this
nondescript he was one of us, and with his coat off
and hard at it.
Beyond that end of our establishment which was furthest
from the street, was a deserted garden, pathless,
and thickly grown with the bloomy and villainous "jimpson"
weed and its common friend the stately sunflower.
In the midst of this mournful spot was a decayed and aged
little "frame" house with but one room, one window, and no
ceiling--it had been a smoke-house a generation before.
Nicodemus was given this lonely and ghostly den as a bedchamber.
The village smarties recognized a treasure in Nicodemus,
right away--a butt to play jokes on. It was easy to see
that he was inconceivably green and confiding. George Jones
had the glory of perpetrating the first joke on him;
he gave him a cigar with a firecracker in it and winked
to the crowd to come; the thing exploded presently and swept
away the bulk of Nicodemus's eyebrows and eyelashes.
He simply said:
"I consider them kind of seeg'yars dangersome,"--and
seemed to suspect nothing. The next evening Nicodemus
waylaid George and poured a bucket of ice-water over him.
One day, while Nicodemus was in swimming, Tom McElroy
"tied" his clothes. Nicodemus made a bonfire of Tom's
by way of retaliation.
A third joke was played upon Nicodemus a day or two later--he
walked up the middle aisle of the village church, Sunday night,
with a staring handbill pinned between his shoulders.
The joker spent the remainder of the night, after church,
in the cellar of a deserted house, and Nicodemus sat on
the cellar door till toward breakfast-time to make sure
that the prisoner remembered that if any noise was made,
some rough treatment would be the consequence. The cellar
had two feet of stagnant water in it, and was bottomed
with six inches of soft mud.
But I wander from the point. It was the subject of
skeletons that brought this boy back to my recollection.
Before a very long time had elapsed, the village smarties
began to feel an uncomfortable consciousness of not having
made a very shining success out of their attempts on the
simpleton from "old Shelby." Experimenters grew scarce
and chary. Now the young doctor came to the rescue.
There was delight and applause when he proposed to scare
Nicodemus to death, and explained how he was going to do it.
He had a noble new skeleton--the skeleton of the late
and only local celebrity, Jimmy Finn, the village
drunkard--a grisly piece of property which he had bought
of Jimmy Finn himself, at auction, for fifty dollars,
under great competition, when Jimmy lay very sick in
the tan-yard a fortnight before his death. The fifty
dollars had gone promptly for whiskey and had considerably
hurried up the change of ownership in the skeleton.
The doctor would put Jimmy Finn's skeleton in Nicodemus's
This was done--about half past ten in the evening.
About Nicodemus's usual bedtime--midnight--the village
jokers came creeping stealthily through the jimpson
weeds and sunflowers toward the lonely frame den.
They reached the window and peeped in. There sat the
long-legged pauper, on his bed, in a very short shirt,
and nothing more; he was dangling his legs contentedly
back and forth, and wheezing the music of "Camptown Races"
out of a paper-overlaid comb which he was pressing
against his mouth; by him lay a new jewsharp, a new top,
and solid india-rubber ball, a handful of painted marbles,
five pounds of "store" candy, and a well-gnawed slab of
gingerbread as big and as thick as a volume of sheet-music.
He had sold the skeleton to a traveling quack for three
dollars and was enjoying the result!
Just as we had finished talking about skeletons and were
drifting into the subject of fossils, Harris and I heard
a shout, and glanced up the steep hillside. We saw men
and women standing away up there looking frightened,
and there was a bulky object tumbling and floundering
down the steep slope toward us. We got out of the way,
and when the object landed in the road it proved to be a boy.
He had tripped and fallen, and there was nothing for him
to do but trust to luck and take what might come.
When one starts to roll down a place like that, there is
no stopping till the bottom is reached. Think of people
FARMING on a slant which is so steep that the best you can
say of it--if you want to be fastidiously accurate--is,
that it is a little steeper than a ladder and not quite
so steep as a mansard roof. But that is what they do.
Some of the little farms on the hillside opposite Heidelberg
were stood up "edgeways." The boy was wonderfully jolted up,
and his head was bleeding, from cuts which it had got from
small stones on the way.
Harris and I gathered him up and set him on a stone,
and by that time the men and women had scampered down
and brought his cap.
Men, women, and children flocked out from neighboring
cottages and joined the crowd; the pale boy was petted,
and stared at, and commiserated, and water was
brought for him to drink and bathe his bruises in.
And such another clatter of tongues! All who had seen
the catastrophe were describing it at once, and each
trying to talk louder than his neighbor; and one youth
of a superior genius ran a little way up the hill,
called attention, tripped, fell, rolled down among us,
and thus triumphantly showed exactly how the thing had been done.
Harris and I were included in all the descriptions;
how we were coming along; how Hans Gross shouted;
how we looked up startled; how we saw Peter coming like
a cannon-shot; how judiciously we got out of the way,
and let him come; and with what presence of mind we
picked him up and brushed him off and set him on a rock
when the performance was over. We were as much heroes
as anybody else, except Peter, and were so recognized;
we were taken with Peter and the populace to Peter's
mother's cottage, and there we ate bread and cheese,
and drank milk and beer with everybody, and had a most
sociable good time; and when we left we had a handshake
all around, and were receiving and shouting back LEB'
WOHL's until a turn in the road separated us from our
cordial and kindly new friends forever.
We accomplished our undertaking. At half past eight
in the evening we stepped into Oppenau, just eleven
hours and a half out of Allerheiligen--one hundred
and forty-six miles. This is the distance by pedometer;
the guide-book and the Imperial Ordinance maps make
it only ten and a quarter--a surprising blunder,
for these two authorities are usually singularly accurate
in the matter of distances.
[I Protect the Empress of Germany]
That was a thoroughly satisfactory walk--and the only
one we were ever to have which was all the way downhill.
We took the train next morning and returned to Baden-Baden
through fearful fogs of dust. Every seat was crowded, too;
for it was Sunday, and consequently everybody was taking
a "pleasure" excursion. Hot! the sky was an oven--and
a sound one, too, with no cracks in it to let in any air.
An odd time for a pleasure excursion, certainly!
Sunday is the great day on the continent--the free day,
the happy day. One can break the Sabbath in a hundred
ways without committing any sin.
We do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it;
the Germans do not work on Sunday, because the commandment
forbids it. We rest on Sunday, because the commandment
requires it; the Germans rest on Sunday because the
commandment requires it. But in the definition
of the word "rest" lies all the difference. With us,
its Sunday meaning is, stay in the house and keep still;
with the Germans its Sunday and week-day meanings seem
to be the same--rest the TIRED PART, and never mind the
other parts of the frame; rest the tired part, and use
the means best calculated to rest that particular part.
Thus: If one's duties have kept him in the house all the week,
it will rest him to be out on Sunday; if his duties
have required him to read weighty and serious matter all
the week, it will rest him to read light matter on Sunday;
if his occupation has busied him with death and funerals
all the week, it will rest him to go to the theater Sunday
night and put in two or three hours laughing at a comedy;
if he is tired with digging ditches or felling trees
all the week, it will rest him to lie quiet in the house
on Sunday; if the hand, the arm, the brain, the tongue,
or any other member, is fatigued with inanition,
it is not to be rested by added a day's inanition;
but if a member is fatigued with exertion, inanition is
the right rest for it. Such is the way in which the Germans
seem to define the word "rest"; that is to say, they rest
a member by recreating, recuperating, restore its forces.
But our definition is less broad. We all rest alike
on Sunday--by secluding ourselves and keeping still,
whether that is the surest way to rest the most of us
or not. The Germans make the actors, the preachers,
etc., work on Sunday. We encourage the preachers,
the editors, the printers, etc., to work on Sunday,
and imagine that none of the sin of it falls upon us;
but I do not know how we are going to get around the fact
that if it is wrong for the printer to work at his trade
on Sunday it must be equally wrong for the preacher to
work at his, since the commandment has made no exception
in his favor. We buy Monday morning's paper and read it,
and thus encourage Sunday printing. But I shall never do
it again.
The Germans remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy,
by abstaining from work, as commanded; we keep it
holy by abstaining from work, as commanded, and by
also abstaining from play, which is not commanded.
Perhaps we constructively BREAK the command to rest,
because the resting we do is in most cases only a name,
and not a fact.
These reasonings have sufficed, in a measure, to mend
the rent in my conscience which I made by traveling to
Baden-Baden that Sunday. We arrived in time to furbish
up and get to the English church before services began.
We arrived in considerable style, too, for the landlord
had ordered the first carriage that could be found,
since there was no time to lose, and our coachman was
so splendidly liveried that we were probably mistaken
for a brace of stray dukes; why else were we honored
with a pew all to ourselves, away up among the very elect
at the left of the chancel? That was my first thought.
In the pew directly in front of us sat an elderly lady,
plainly and cheaply dressed; at her side sat a young
lady with a very sweet face, and she also was quite
simply dressed; but around us and about us were clothes
and jewels which it would do anybody's heart good to
worship in.
I thought it was pretty manifest that the elderly lady
was embarrassed at finding herself in such a conspicuous
place arrayed in such cheap apparel; I began to feel sorry
for her and troubled about her. She tried to seem very busy
with her prayer-book and her responses, and unconscious
that she was out of place, but I said to myself, "She is
not succeeding--there is a distressed tremulousness
in her voice which betrays increasing embarrassment."
Presently the Savior's name was mentioned, and in her flurry
she lost her head completely, and rose and courtesied,
instead of making a slight nod as everybody else did.
The sympathetic blood surged to my temples and I turned and gave
those fine birds what I intended to be a beseeching look,
but my feelings got the better of me and changed it into
a look which said, "If any of you pets of fortune laugh
at this poor soul, you will deserve to be flayed for it."
Things went from bad to worse, and I shortly found myself
mentally taking the unfriended lady under my protection.
My mind was wholly upon her. I forgot all about the sermon.
Her embarrassment took stronger and stronger hold upon her;
she got to snapping the lid of her smelling-bottle--it
made a loud, sharp sound, but in her trouble she snapped
and snapped away, unconscious of what she was doing.
The last extremity was reached when the collection-plate
began its rounds; the moderate people threw in pennies,
the nobles and the rich contributed silver, but she laid
a twenty-mark gold piece upon the book-rest before her
with a sounding slap! I said to myself, "She has parted
with all her little hoard to buy the consideration of these
unpitying people--it is a sorrowful spectacle." I did not
venture to look around this time; but as the service closed,
I said to myself, "Let them laugh, it is their opportunity;
but at the door of this church they shall see her step
into our fine carriage with us, and our gaudy coachman
shall drive her home."
Then she rose--and all the congregation stood while she
walked down the aisle. She was the Empress of Germany!
No--she had not been so much embarrassed as I had supposed.
My imagination had got started on the wrong scent, and that
is always hopeless; one is sure, then, to go straight
on misinterpreting everything, clear through to the end.
The young lady with her imperial Majesty was a maid of
honor--and I had been taking her for one of her boarders,
all the time.
This is the only time I have ever had an Empress under
my personal protection; and considering my inexperience,
I wonder I got through with it so well. I should have
been a little embarrassed myself if I had known earlier
what sort of a contract I had on my hands.
We found that the Empress had been in Baden-Baden
several days. It is said that she never attends
any but the English form of church service.
I lay abed and read and rested from my journey's fatigues
the remainder of that Sunday, but I sent my agent to represent
me at the afternoon service, for I never allow anything
to interfere with my habit of attending church twice every
There was a vast crowd in the public grounds that night
to hear the band play the "Fremersberg." This piece tells
one of the old legends of the region; how a great noble
of the Middle Ages got lost in the mountains, and wandered
about with his dogs in a violent storm, until at last
the faint tones of a monastery bell, calling the monks
to a midnight service, caught his ear, and he followed
the direction the sounds came from and was saved.
A beautiful air ran through the music, without ceasing,
sometimes loud and strong, sometimes so soft that it
could hardly be distinguished--but it was always there;
it swung grandly along through the shrill whistling
of the storm-wind, the rattling patter of the rain,
and the boom and crash of the thunder; it wound soft
and low through the lesser sounds, the distant ones,
such as the throbbing of the convent bell, the melodious
winding of the hunter's horn, the distressed bayings
of his dogs, and the solemn chanting of the monks;
it rose again, with a jubilant ring, and mingled itself
with the country songs and dances of the peasants assembled
in the convent hall to cheer up the rescued huntsman
while he ate his supper. The instruments imitated all
these sounds with a marvelous exactness. More than one
man started to raise his umbrella when the storm burst
forth and the sheets of mimic rain came driving by;
it was hardly possible to keep from putting your hand
to your hat when the fierce wind began to rage and shriek;
and it was NOT possible to refrain from starting when
those sudden and charmingly real thunder-crashes were
let loose.
I suppose the "Fremersberg" is a very low-grade music;
I know, indeed, that it MUST be low-grade music, because it
delighted me, warmed me, moved me, stirred me, uplifted me,
enraptured me, that I was full of cry all the time,
and mad with enthusiasm. My soul had never had such a
scouring out since I was born. The solemn and majestic
chanting of the monks was not done by instruments,
but by men's voices; and it rose and fell, and rose again
in that rich confusion of warring sounds, and pulsing bells,
and the stately swing of that ever-present enchanting air,
and it seemed to me that nothing but the very lowest
of low-grade music COULD be so divinely beautiful.
The great crowd which the "Fremersberg" had called out was
another evidence that it was low-grade music; for only
the few are educated up to a point where high-grade music
gives pleasure. I have never heard enough classic music
to be able to enjoy it. I dislike the opera because I want
to love it and can't.
I suppose there are two kinds of music--one kind which
one feels, just as an oyster might, and another sort
which requires a higher faculty, a faculty which must
be assisted and developed by teaching. Yet if base music
gives certain of us wings, why should we want any other?
But we do. We want it because the higher and better
like it. We want it without giving it the necessary
time and trouble; so we climb into that upper tier,
that dress-circle, by a lie; we PRETEND we like it.
I know several of that sort of people--and I propose
to be one of them myself when I get home with my fine
European education.
And then there is painting. What a red rag is to a bull,
Turner's "Slave Ship" was to me, before I studied art.
Mr. Ruskin is educated in art up to a point where that
picture throws him into as mad an ecstasy of pleasure
as it used to throw me into one of rage, last year,
when I was ignorant. His cultivation enables him--and me,
now--to see water in that glaring yellow mud, and natural
effects in those lurid explosions of mixed smoke and flame,
and crimson sunset glories; it reconciles him--and me,
now--to the floating of iron cable-chains and other
unfloatable things; it reconciles us to fishes swimming
around on top of the mud--I mean the water. The most of
the picture is a manifest impossibility--that is to say,
a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find
truth in a lie. But it enabled Mr. Ruskin to do it,
and it has enabled me to do it, and I am thankful for it.
A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave
Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds
and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell
cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes. In my then
uneducated state, that went home to my non-cultivation,
and I thought here is a man with an unobstructed eye.
Mr. Ruskin would have said: This person is an ass.
That is what I would say, now. [1]
1. Months after this was written, I happened into the National
Gallery in London, and soon became so fascinated with the
Turner pictures that I could hardly get away from the place.
I went there often, afterward, meaning to see the rest
of the gallery, but the Turner spell was too strong;
it could not be shaken off. However, the Turners
which attracted me most did not remind me of the Slave Ship.
However, our business in Baden-Baden this time,
was to join our courier. I had thought it best
to hire one, as we should be in Italy, by and by,
and we did not know the language. Neither did he.
We found him at the hotel, ready to take charge of us.
I asked him if he was "all fixed." He said he was.
That was very true. He had a trunk, two small satchels,
and an umbrella. I was to pay him fifty-five dollars
a month and railway fares. On the continent the railway
fare on a trunk is about the same it is on a man.
Couriers do not have to pay any board and lodging.
This seems a great saving to the tourist--at first.
It does not occur to the tourist that SOMEBODY pays that
man's board and lodging. It occurs to him by and by,
however, in one of his lucid moments.
[Hunted by the Little Chamois]
Next morning we left in the train for Switzerland,
and reached Lucerne about ten o'clock at night.
The first discovery I made was that the beauty of the lake
had not been exaggerated. Within a day or two I made
another discovery. This was, that the lauded chamois
is not a wild goat; that it is not a horned animal;
that it is not shy; that it does not avoid human society;
and that there is no peril in hunting it. The chamois is
a black or brown creature no bigger than a mustard seed;
you do not have to go after it, it comes after you;
it arrives in vast herds and skips and scampers all over
your body, inside your clothes; thus it is not shy,
but extremely sociable; it is not afraid of man, on the
contrary, it will attack him; its bite is not dangerous,
but neither is it pleasant; its activity has not been
overstated --if you try to put your finger on it,
it will skip a thousand times its own length at one jump,
and no eye is sharp enough to see where it lights.
A great deal of romantic nonsense has been written
about the Swiss chamois and the perils of hunting it,
whereas the truth is that even women and children
hunt it, and fearlessly; indeed, everybody hunts it;
the hunting is going on all the time, day and night,
in bed and out of it. It is poetic foolishness to hunt
it with a gun; very few people do that; there is not
one man in a million who can hit it with a gun.
It is much easier to catch it that it is to shoot it,
and only the experienced chamois-hunter can do either.
Another common piece of exaggeration is that about the
"scarcity" of the chamois. It is the reverse of scarce.
Droves of one hundred million chamois are not unusual
in the Swiss hotels. Indeed, they are so numerous
as to be a great pest. The romancers always dress up
the chamois-hunter in a fanciful and picturesque costume,
whereas the best way to hut this game is to do it without
any costume at all. The article of commerce called
chamois-skin is another fraud; nobody could skin a chamois,
it is too small. The creature is a humbug in every way,
and everything which has been written about it is
sentimental exaggeration. It was no pleasure to me to find
the chamois out, for he had been one of my pet illusions;
all my life it had been my dream to see him in his native
wilds some day, and engage in the adventurous sport
of chasing him from cliff to cliff. It is no pleasure
to me to expose him, now, and destroy the reader's delight
in him and respect for him, but still it must be done,
for when an honest writer discovers an imposition it
is his simple duty to strip it bare and hurl it down
from its place of honor, no matter who suffers by it;
any other course would render him unworthy of the public
Lucerne is a charming place. It begins at the water's edge,
with a fringe of hotels, and scrambles up and spreads
itself over two or three sharp hills in a crowded,
disorderly, but picturesque way, offering to the eye
a heaped-up confusion of red roofs, quaint gables,
dormer windows, toothpick steeples, with here and there
a bit of ancient embattled wall bending itself over
the ridges, worm-fashion, and here and there an old square
tower of heavy masonry. And also here and there a town
clock with only one hand--a hand which stretches across
the dial and has no joint in it; such a clock helps out
the picture, but you cannot tell the time of day by it.
Between the curving line of hotels and the lake is a broad
avenue with lamps and a double rank of low shade trees.
The lake-front is walled with masonry like a pier,
and has a railing, to keep people from walking overboard.
All day long the vehicles dash along the avenue, and nurses,
children, and tourists sit in the shade of the trees,
or lean on the railing and watch the schools of fishes
darting about in the clear water, or gaze out over the lake
at the stately border of snow-hooded mountains peaks.
Little pleasure steamers, black with people, are coming
and going all the time; and everywhere one sees young
girls and young men paddling about in fanciful rowboats,
or skimming along by the help of sails when there is any wind.
The front rooms of the hotels have little railed balconies,
where one may take his private luncheon in calm,
cool comfort and look down upon this busy and pretty
scene and enjoy it without having to do any of the work
connected with it.
Most of the people, both male and female, are in walking
costume, and carry alpenstocks. Evidently, it is not
considered safe to go about in Switzerland, even in town,
without an alpenstock. If the tourist forgets and
comes down to breakfast without his alpenstock he goes
back and gets it, and stands it up in the corner.
When his touring in Switzerland is finished, he does not
throw that broomstick away, but lugs it home with him,
to the far corners of the earth, although this costs him
more trouble and bother than a baby or a courier could.
You see, the alpenstock is his trophy; his name
is burned upon it; and if he has climbed a hill,
or jumped a brook, or traversed a brickyard with it,
he has the names of those places burned upon it, too.
Thus it is his regimental flag, so to speak, and bears
the record of his achievements. It is worth three francs
when he buys it, but a bonanza could not purchase it
after his great deeds have been inscribed upon it.
There are artisans all about Switzerland whose trade it is
to burn these things upon the alpenstock of the tourist.
And observe, a man is respected in Switzerland according
to his alpenstock. I found I could get no attention there,
while I carried an unbranded one. However, branding is
not expected, so I soon remedied that. The effect
upon the next detachment of tourists was very marked.
I felt repaid for my trouble.
Half of the summer horde in Switzerland is made up of
English people; the other half is made up of many nationalities,
the Germans leading and the Americans coming next.
The Americans were not as numerous as I had expected
they would be.
The seven-thirty table d'ho^te at the great Schweitzerhof
furnished a mighty array and variety of nationalities,
but it offered a better opportunity to observe costumes
than people, for the multitude sat at immensely long tables,
and therefore the faces were mainly seen in perspective;
but the breakfasts were served at small round tables,
and then if one had the fortune to get a table in the
midst of the assemblage he could have as many faces
to study as he could desire. We used to try to guess out
the nationalities, and generally succeeded tolerably well.
Sometimes we tried to guess people's names; but that was
a failure; that is a thing which probably requires a good
deal of practice. We presently dropped it and gave our
efforts to less difficult particulars. One morning I
"There is an American party."
Harris said:
"Yes--but name the state."
I named one state, Harris named another. We agreed upon
one thing, however--that the young girl with the party
was very beautiful, and very tastefully dressed.
But we disagreed as to her age. I said she was eighteen,
Harris said she was twenty. The dispute between us
waxed warm, and I finally said, with a pretense of being
in earnest:
"Well, there is one way to settle the matter--I will go
and ask her."
Harris said, sarcastically, "Certainly, that is the thing
to do. All you need to do is to use the common formula
over here: go and say, 'I'm an American!' Of course she
will be glad to see you."
Then he hinted that perhaps there was no great danger
of my venturing to speak to her.
I said, "I was only talking--I didn't intend to approach her,
but I see that you do not know what an intrepid person
I am. I am not afraid of any woman that walks.
I will go and speak to this young girl."
The thing I had in my mind was not difficult.
I meant to address her in the most respectful way and ask
her to pardon me if her strong resemblance to a former
acquaintance of mine was deceiving me; and when she should
reply that the name I mentioned was not the name she bore,
I meant to beg pardon again, most respectfully, and retire.
There would be no harm done. I walked to her table,
bowed to the gentleman, then turned to her and was about
to begin my little speech when she exclaimed:
"I KNEW I wasn't mistaken--I told John it was you!
John said it probably wasn't, but I knew I was right.
I said you would recognize me presently and come over;
and I'm glad you did, for I shouldn't have felt much flattered
if you had gone out of this room without recognizing me.
Sit down, sit down--how odd it is--you are the last person I
was ever expecting to see again."
This was a stupefying surprise. It took my wits
clear away, for an instant. However, we shook hands
cordially all around, and I sat down. But truly this
was the tightest place I ever was in. I seemed to vaguely
remember the girl's face, now, but I had no idea where I
had seen it before, or what named belonged with it.
I immediately tried to get up a diversion about Swiss scenery,
to keep her from launching into topics that might
betray that I did not know her, but it was of no use,
she went right along upon matters which interested her more:
"Oh dear, what a night that was, when the sea washed
the forward boats away--do you remember it?"
"Oh, DON'T I!" said I--but I didn't. I wished the sea
had washed the rudder and the smoke-stack and the captain
away--then I could have located this questioner.
"And don't you remember how frightened poor Mary was,
and how she cried?"
"Indeed I do!" said I. "Dear me, how it all comes back!"
I fervently wished it WOULD come back--but my memory was
a blank. The wise way would have been to frankly own up;
but I could not bring myself to do that, after the young
girl had praised me so for recognizing her; so I went on,
deeper and deeper into the mire, hoping for a chance clue
but never getting one. The Unrecognizable continued,
with vivacity:
"Do you know, George married Mary, after all?"
"Why, no! Did he?"
"Indeed he did. He said he did not believe she was half
as much to blame as her father was, and I thought he
was right. Didn't you?"
"Of course he was. It was a perfectly plain case.
I always said so."
"Why, no you didn't!--at least that summer."
"Oh, no, not that summer. No, you are perfectly right
about that. It was the following winter that I said it."
"Well, as it turned out, Mary was not in the least
to blame --it was all her father's fault--at least
his and old Darley's."
It was necessary to say something--so I said:
"I always regarded Darley as a troublesome old thing."
"So he was, but then they always had a great affection
for him, although he had so many eccentricities.
You remember that when the weather was the least cold,
he would try to come into the house."
I was rather afraid to proceed. Evidently Darley wa not
a man--he must be some other kind of animal--possibly
a dog, maybe an elephant. However, tails are common
to all animals, so I ventured to say:
"And what a tail he had!"
"ONE! He had a thousand!"
This was bewildering. I did not quite know what to say,
so I only said:
"Yes, he WAS rather well fixed in the matter of tails."
"For a negro, and a crazy one at that, I should say he was,"
said she.
It was getting pretty sultry for me. I said to myself,
"Is it possible she is going to stop there, and wait for
me to speak? If she does, the conversation is blocked.
A negro with a thousand tails is a topic which a person
cannot talk upon fluently and instructively without more
or less preparation. As to diving rashly into such a
vast subject--"
But here, to my gratitude, she interrupted my thoughts
by saying:
"Yes, when it came to tales of his crazy woes, there was
simply no end to them if anybody would listen. His own
quarters were comfortable enough, but when the weather
was cold, the family were sure to have his company--nothing
could keep him out of the house. But they always bore it
kindly because he had saved Tom's life, years before.
You remember Tom?
"Oh, perfectly. Fine fellow he was, too."
"Yes he was. And what a pretty little thing his child was!"
"You may well say that. I never saw a prettier child."
"I used to delight to pet it and dandle it and play
with it."
"So did I."
"You named it. What WAS that name? I can't call it
to mind."
It appeared to me that the ice was getting pretty
thin, here. I would have given something to know
what the child's was. However, I had the good luck
to think of a name that would fit either sex--so I brought it
"I named it Frances."
"From a relative, I suppose? But you named the one that died,
too--one that I never saw. What did you call that one?"
I was out of neutral names, but as the child was dead
and she had never seen it, I thought I might risk a name
for it and trust to luck. Therefore I said:
"I called that one Thomas Henry."
She said, musingly:
"That is very singular ... very singular."
I sat still and let the cold sweat run down. I was
in a good deal of trouble, but I believed I could worry
through if she wouldn't ask me to name any more children.
I wondered where the lightning was going to strike next.
She was still ruminating over that last child's title,
but presently she said:
"I have always been sorry you were away at the time--I
would have had you name my child."
"YOUR child! Are you married?"
"I have been married thirteen years."
"Christened, you mean."
`"No, married. The youth by your side is my son."
"It seems incredible--even impossible. I do not mean
any harm by it, but would you mind telling me if you
are any over eighteen?--that is to say, will you tell
me how old you are?"
"I was just nineteen the day of the storm we were
talking about. That was my birthday."
That did not help matters, much, as I did not know
the date of the storm. I tried to think of some
non-committal thing to say, to keep up my end of the talk,
and render my poverty in the matter of reminiscences
as little noticeable as possible, but I seemed to be
about out of non-committal things. I was about to say,
"You haven't changed a bit since then"--but that was risky.
I thought of saying, "You have improved ever so much
since then"--but that wouldn't answer, of course.
I was about to try a shy at the weather, for a saving change,
when the girl slipped in ahead of me and said:
"How I have enjoyed this talk over those happy old times--
haven't you?"
"I never have spent such a half-hour in all my life before!"
said I, with emotion; and I could have added, with a
near approach to truth, "and I would rather be scalped
than spend another one like it." I was holily grateful
to be through with the ordeal, and was about to make
my good-bys and get out, when the girl said:
"But there is one thing that is ever so puzzling to me."
"Why, what is that?"
"That dead child's name. What did you say it was?"
Here was another balmy place to be in: I had forgotten the
child's name; I hadn't imagined it would be needed again.
However, I had to pretend to know, anyway, so I said:
"Joseph William."
The youth at my side corrected me, and said:
"No, Thomas Henry."
I thanked him--in words--and said, with trepidation:
"O yes--I was thinking of another child that I named--I
have named a great many, and I get them confused--this
one was named Henry Thompson--"
"Thomas Henry," calmly interposed the boy.
I thanked him again--strictly in words--and stammered
"Thomas Henry--yes, Thomas Henry was the poor child's name.
I named him for Thomas--er--Thomas Carlyle, the great author,
you know--and Henry--er--er--Henry the Eight. The parents
were very grateful to have a child named Thomas Henry."
"That makes it more singular than ever," murmured my
beautiful friend.
"Does it? Why?"
"Because when the parents speak of that child now,
they always call it Susan Amelia."
That spiked my gun. I could not say anything. I was entirely
out of verbal obliquities; to go further would be to lie,
and that I would not do; so I simply sat still and suffered
--sat mutely and resignedly there, and sizzled--for I
was being slowly fried to death in my own blushes.
Presently the enemy laughed a happy laugh and said:
"I HAVE enjoyed this talk over old times, but you have not.
I saw very soon that you were only pretending to know me,
and so as I had wasted a compliment on you in the beginning,
I made up my mind to punish you. And I have succeeded
pretty well. I was glad to see that you knew George and Tom
and Darley, for I had never heard of them before and therefore
could not be sure that you had; and I was glad to learn
the names of those imaginary children, too. One can get
quite a fund of information out of you if one goes at
it cleverly. Mary and the storm, and the sweeping away
of the forward boats, were facts--all the rest was fiction.
Mary was my sister; her full name was Mary ------. NOW
do you remember me?"
"Yes," I said, "I do remember you now; and you are as
hard-headed as you were thirteen years ago in that ship,
else you wouldn't have punished me so. You haven't
change your nature nor your person, in any way at all;
you look as young as you did then, you are just as beautiful
as you were then, and you have transmitted a deal
of your comeliness to this fine boy. There--if that
speech moves you any, let's fly the flag of truce,
with the understanding that I am conquered and confess it."
All of which was agreed to and accomplished, on the spot.
When I went back to Harris, I said:
"Now you see what a person with talent and address can do."
"Excuse me, I see what a person of colossal ignorance and
simplicity can do. The idea of your going and intruding
on a party of strangers, that way, and talking for half
an hour; why I never heard of a man in his right mind
doing such a thing before. What did you say to them?"
I never said any harm. I merely asked the girl what her
name was."
"I don't doubt it. Upon my word I don't. I think you
were capable of it. It was stupid in me to let you go
over there and make such an exhibition of yourself.
But you know I couldn't really believe you would do such
an inexcusable thing. What will those people think
of us? But how did you say it?--I mean the manner of it.
I hope you were not abrupt."
"No, I was careful about that. I said, 'My friend and I
would like to know what your name is, if you don't mind.'"
"No, that was not abrupt. There is a polish about it that
does you infinite credit. And I am glad you put me in;
that was a delicate attention which I appreciate at its
full value. What did she do?"
"She didn't do anything in particular. She told me
her name."
"Simply told you her name. Do you mean to say she did
not show any surprise?"
"Well, now I come to think, she did show something;
maybe it was surprise; I hadn't thought of that--I took
it for gratification."
"Oh, undoubtedly you were right; it must have been gratification;
it could not be otherwise than gratifying to be assaulted
by a stranger with such a question as that. Then what did you
"I offered my hand and the party gave me a shake."
"I saw it! I did not believe my own eyes, at the time.
Did the gentleman say anything about cutting your throat?"
"No, they all seemed glad to see me, as far as I could judge."
"And do you know, I believe they were. I think they said
to themselves, 'Doubtless this curiosity has got away from
his keeper--let us amuse ourselves with him.' There is
no other way of accounting for their facile docility.
You sat down. Did they ASK you to sit down?"
"No, they did not ask me, but I suppose they did not think
of it."
"You have an unerring instinct. What else did you do?
What did you talk about?"
"Well, I asked the girl how old she was."
"UNdoubtedly. Your delicacy is beyond praise. Go on,
go on--don't mind my apparent misery--I always look
so when I am steeped in a profound and reverent joy.
Go on--she told you her age?"
"Yes, she told me her age, and all about her mother,
and her grandmother, and her other relations, and all
about herself."
"Did she volunteer these statistics?"
"No, not exactly that. I asked the questions and she
answered them."
"This is divine. Go on--it is not possible that you
forgot to inquire into her politics?"
"No, I thought of that. She is a democrat, her husband
is a republican, and both of them are Baptists."
"Her husband? Is that child married?"
"She is not a child. She is married, and that is her
husband who is there with her."
"Has she any children."
"Yes--seven and a half."
"That is impossible."
"No, she has them. She told me herself."
"Well, but seven and a HALF? How do you make out the half?
Where does the half come in?"
"There is a child which she had by another husband--
not this one but another one--so it is a stepchild,
and they do not count in full measure."
"Another husband? Has she another husband?"
"Yes, four. This one is number four."
"I don't believe a word of it. It is impossible,
upon its face. Is that boy there her brother?"
"No, that is her son. He is her youngest. He is not
as old as he looked; he is only eleven and a half."
"These things are all manifestly impossible. This is a
wretched business. It is a plain case: they simply took
your measure, and concluded to fill you up. They seem
to have succeeded. I am glad I am not in the mess;
they may at least be charitable enough to think there
ain't a pair of us. Are they going to stay here long?"
"No, they leave before noon."
"There is one man who is deeply grateful for that.
How did you find out? You asked, I suppose?"
"No, along at first I inquired into their plans, in a
general way, and they said they were going to be here
a week, and make trips round about; but toward the end
of the interview, when I said you and I would tour around
with them with pleasure, and offered to bring you over
and introduce you, they hesitated a little, and asked
if you were from the same establishment that I was.
I said you were, and then they said they had changed
their mind and considered it necessary to start at once
and visit a sick relative in Siberia."
"Ah, me, you struck the summit! You struck the loftiest
altitude of stupidity that human effort has ever reached.
You shall have a monument of jackasses' skulls as high
as the Strasburg spire if you die before I do.
They wanted to know I was from the same 'establishment'
that you hailed from, did they? What did they mean by
"I don't know; it never occurred to me to ask."
"Well _I_ know. they meant an asylum--an IDIOT asylum,
do you understand? So they DO think there's a pair of us,
after all. Now what do you think of yourself?"
"Well, I don't know. I didn't know I was doing any harm;
I didn't MEAN to do any harm. They were very nice people,
and they seemed to like me."
Harris made some rude remarks and left for his bedroom--
to break some furniture, he said. He was a singularly
irascible man; any little thing would disturb his temper.
I had been well scorched by the young woman, but no matter,
I took it out on Harris. One should always "get even"
in some way, else the sore place will go on hurting.
[The Nest of the Cuckoo-clock]
The Hofkirche is celebrated for its organ concerts.
All summer long the tourists flock to that church about six
o'clock in the evening, and pay their franc, and listen
to the noise. They don't stay to hear all of it, but get up
and tramp out over the sounding stone floor, meeting late
comers who tramp in in a sounding and vigorous way.
This tramping back and forth is kept up nearly all the time,
and is accented by the continuous slamming of the door,
and the coughing and barking and sneezing of the crowd.
Meantime, the big organ is booming and crashing and
thundering away, doing its best to prove that it is
the biggest and best organ in Europe, and that a tight
little box of a church is the most favorable place
to average and appreciate its powers in. It is true,
there were some soft and merciful passages occasionally,
but the tramp-tramp of the tourists only allowed one to get
fitful glimpses of them, so to speak. Then right away
the organist would let go another avalanche.
The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the
souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals,
photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings.
I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the
Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them.
But they are libels upon him, every one of them.
There is a subtle something about the majestic pathos
of the original which the copyist cannot get. Even the sun
fails to get it; both the photographer and the carver give
you a dying lion, and that is all. The shape is right,
the attitude is right, the proportions are right, but that
indescribable something which makes the Lion of Lucerne
the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world,
is wanting.
The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low
cliff--for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff.
His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. How head
is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder,
his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France.
Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear
stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base,
and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored,
among the water-lilies.
Around about are green trees and grass. The place is
a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise
and stir and confusion--and all this is fitting, for lions
do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals
in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings.
The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere,
but nowhere so impressive as where he is.
Martyrdom is the luckiest fate that can befall some people.
Louis XVI did not die in his bed, consequently history is
very gentle with him; she is charitable toward his failings,
and she finds in him high virtues which are not usually
considered to be virtues when they are lodged in kings.
She makes him out to be a person with a meek and modest
spirit, the heart of a female saint, and a wrong head.
None of these qualities are kingly but the last.
Taken together they make a character which would have fared
harshly at the hands of history if its owner had had the ill
luck to miss martyrdom. With the best intentions to do
the right thing, he always managed to do the wrong one.
Moreover, nothing could get the female saint out of him.
He knew, well enough, that in national emergencies he must
not consider how he ought to act, as a man, but how he
ought to act as a king; so he honestly tried to sink
the man and be the king--but it was a failure, he only
succeeded in being the female saint. He was not instant
in season, but out of season. He could not be persuaded
to do a thing while it could do any good--he was iron,
he was adamant in his stubbornness then--but as soon as
the thing had reached a point where it would be positively
harmful to do it, do it he would, and nothing could
stop him. He did not do it because it would be harmful,
but because he hoped it was not yet too late to achieve
by it the good which it would have done if applied earlier.
His comprehension was always a train or two behindhand.
If a national toe required amputating, he could not see
that it needed anything more than poulticing; when others
saw that the mortification had reached the knee, he first
perceived that the toe needed cutting off--so he cut it off;
and he severed the leg at the knee when others saw that the
disease had reached the thigh. He was good, and honest,
and well meaning, in the matter of chasing national diseases,
but he never could overtake one. As a private man,
he would have been lovable; but viewed as a king, he was
strictly contemptible.
His was a most unroyal career, but the most pitiable
spectacle in it was his sentimental treachery to his
Swiss guard on that memorable 10th of August, when he
allowed those heroes to be massacred in his cause,
and forbade them to shed the "sacred French blood"
purporting to be flowing in the veins of the red-capped
mob of miscreants that was raging around the palace.
He meant to be kingly, but he was only the female saint
once more. Some of his biographers think that upon this
occasion the spirit of Saint Louis had descended upon him.
It must have found pretty cramped quarters. If Napoleon
the First had stood in the shoes of Louis XVI that day,
instead of being merely a casual and unknown looker-on,
there would be no Lion of Lucerne, now, but there would
be a well-stocked Communist graveyard in Paris which would
answer just as well to remember the 10th of August by.
Martyrdom made a saint of Mary Queen of Scots three
hundred years ago, and she has hardly lost all of her
saintship yet. Martyrdom made a saint of the trivial
and foolish Marie Antoinette, and her biographers still
keep her fragrant with the odor of sanctity to this day,
while unconsciously proving upon almost every page they write
that the only calamitous instinct which her husband lacked,
she supplied--the instinct to root out and get rid of
an honest, able, and loyal official, wherever she found him.
The hideous but beneficent French Revolution would have
been deferred, or would have fallen short of completeness,
or even might not have happened at all, if Marie
Antoinette had made the unwise mistake of not being born.
The world owes a great deal to the French Revolution,
and consequently to its two chief promoters, Louis the
Poor in Spirit and his queen.
We did not buy any wooden images of the Lion, nor any ivory
or ebony or marble or chalk or sugar or chocolate ones,
or even any photographic slanders of him. The truth is,
these copies were so common, so universal, in the shops
and everywhere, that they presently became as intolerable
to the wearied eye as the latest popular melody usually
becomes to the harassed ear. In Lucerne, too, the wood
carvings of other sorts, which had been so pleasant to look
upon when one saw them occasionally at home, soon began
to fatigue us. We grew very tired of seeing wooden quails
and chickens picking and struting around clock-faces,
and still more tired of seeing wooden images of the alleged
chamois skipping about wooden rocks, or lying upon them
in family groups, or peering alertly up from behind them.
The first day, I would have bought a hundred and fifty
of these clocks if I had the money--and I did buy three--
but on the third day the disease had run its course,
I had convalesced, and was in the market once more--trying
to sell. However, I had no luck; which was just as well,
for the things will be pretty enough, no doubt, when I get
them home.
For years my pet aversion had been the cuckoo clock;
now here I was, at last, right in the creature's home;
so wherever I went that distressing "HOO'hoo! HOO'hoo!
HOO'hoo!" was always in my ears. For a nervous man,
this was a fine state of things. Some sounds are hatefuler
than others, but no sound is quite so inane, and silly,
and aggravating as the "HOO'hoo" of a cuckoo clock, I think.
I bought one, and am carrying it home to a certain person;
for I have always said that if the opportunity ever happened,
I would do that man an ill turn. What I meant, was, that I
would break one of his legs, or something of that sort;
but in Lucerne I instantly saw that I could impair his mind.
That would be more lasting, and more satisfactory every way.
So I bought the cuckoo clock; and if I ever get home
with it, he is "my meat," as they say in the mines.
I thought of another candidate--a book-reviewer whom
I could name if I wanted to--but after thinking
it over, I didn't buy him a clock. I couldn't injure
his mind.
We visited the two long, covered wooden bridges which span
the green and brilliant Reuss just below where it goes
plunging and hurrahing out of the lake. These rambling,
sway-backed tunnels are very attractive things, with their
alcoved outlooks upon the lovely and inspiriting water.
They contain two or three hundred queer old pictures,
by old Swiss masters--old boss sign-painters, who flourished
before the decadence of art.
The lake is alive with fishes, plainly visible to the eye,
for the water is very clear. The parapets in front of the
hotels were usually fringed with fishers of all ages.
One day I thought I would stop and see a fish caught.
The result brought back to my mind, very forcibly,
a circumstance which I had not thought of before for
twelve years. This one:
When my odd friend Riley and I were newspaper correspondents
in Washington, in the winter of '67, we were coming down
Pennsylvania Avenue one night, near midnight, in a driving
storm of snow, when the flash of a street-lamp fell upon a man
who was eagerly tearing along in the opposite direction.
This is lucky! You are Mr. Riley, ain't you?"
Riley was the most self-possessed and solemnly deliberate
person in the republic. He stopped, looked his man
over from head to foot, and finally said:
"I am Mr. Riley. Did you happen to be looking for me?"
"That's just what I was doing," said the man, joyously,
"and it's the biggest luck in the world that I've found you.
My name is Lykins. I'm one of the teachers of the high
school--San Francisco. As soon as I heard the San Francisco
postmastership was vacant, I made up my mind to get it--and here
I am."
"Yes," said Riley, slowly, "as you have remarked ...
Mr. Lykins ... here you are. And have you got it?"
"Well, not exactly GOT it, but the next thing to it.
I've brought a petition, signed by the Superintendent
of Public Instruction, and all the teachers, and by more
than two hundred other people. Now I want you, if you'll
be so good, to go around with me to the Pacific delegation,
for I want to rush this thing through and get along home."
"If the matter is so pressing, you will prefer that we
visit the delegation tonight," said Riley, in a voice
which had nothing mocking in it--to an unaccustomed ear.
"Oh, tonight, by all means! I haven't got any time to
fool around. I want their promise before I go to bed--
I ain't the talking kind, I'm the DOING kind!"
"Yes ... you've come to the right place for that.
When did you arrive?"
"Just an hour ago."
"When are you intending to leave?"
"For New York tomorrow evening--for San Francisco
next morning."
"Just so.... What are you going to do tomorrow?"
"DO! Why, I've got to go to the President with the petition
and the delegation, and get the appointment, haven't I?"
"Yes ... very true ... that is correct. And then what?"
"Executive session of the Senate at 2 P.M.--got to get
the appointment confirmed--I reckon you'll grant that?"
"Yes ... yes," said Riley, meditatively, "you are
right again. Then you take the train for New York in
the evening, and the steamer for San Francisco next morning?"
"That's it--that's the way I map it out!"
Riley considered a while, and then said:
"You couldn't stay ... a day ... well, say two
days longer?"
"Bless your soul, no! It's not my style. I ain't a man
to go fooling around--I'm a man that DOES things,
I tell you."
The storm was raging, the thick snow blowing in gusts.
Riley stood silent, apparently deep in a reverie,
during a minute or more, then he looked up and said:
"Have you ever heard about that man who put up at Gadsby's,
once? ... But I see you haven't."
He backed Mr. Lykins against an iron fence, buttonholed him,
fastened him with his eye, like the Ancient Mariner,
and proceeded to unfold his narrative as placidly
and peacefully as if we were all stretched comfortably
in a blossomy summer meadow instead of being persecuted
by a wintry midnight tempest:
"I will tell you about that man. It was in Jackson's time.
Gadsby's was the principal hotel, then. Well, this man
arrived from Tennessee about nine o'clock, one morning,
with a black coachman and a splendid four-horse carriage and
an elegant dog, which he was evidently fond of and proud of;
he drove up before Gadsby's, and the clerk and the landlord
and everybody rushed out to take charge of him, but he said,
'Never mind,' and jumped out and told the coachman
to wait--said he hadn't time to take anything to eat,
he only had a little claim against the government to collect,
would run across the way, to the Treasury, and fetch
the money, and then get right along back to Tennessee,
for he was in considerable of a hurry.
"Well, about eleven o'clock that night he came back
and ordered a bed and told them to put the horses
up--said he would collect the claim in the morning.
This was in January, you understand--January, 1834--
the 3d of January--Wednesday.
"Well, on the 5th of February, he sold the fine carriage,
and bought a cheap second-hand one--said it would answer
just as well to take the money home in, and he didn't care
for style.
"On the 11th of August he sold a pair of the fine horses--
said he'd often thought a pair was better than four,
to go over the rough mountain roads with where a body
had to be careful about his driving--and there wasn't
so much of his claim but he could lug the money home
with a pair easy enough.
"On the 13th of December he sold another horse--said
two warn't necessary to drag that old light vehicle
with--in fact, one could snatch it along faster than
was absolutely necessary, now that it was good solid
winter weather and the roads in splendid condition.
"On the 17th of February, 1835, he sold the old carriage
and bought a cheap second-hand buggy--said a buggy
was just the trick to skim along mushy, slushy early
spring roads with, and he had always wanted to try
a buggy on those mountain roads, anyway.
"On the 1st August he sold the buggy and bought the
remains of an old sulky--said he just wanted to see
those green Tennesseans stare and gawk when they saw
him come a-ripping along in a sulky--didn't believe
they'd ever heard of a sulky in their lives.
"Well, on the 29th of August he sold his colored
coachman--said he didn't need a coachman for a sulky--
wouldn't be room enough for two in it anyway--and,
besides, it wasn't every day that Providence sent a man
a fool who was willing to pay nine hundred dollars for
such a third-rate negro as that--been wanting to get
rid of the creature for years, but didn't like to THROW him away.
"Eighteen months later--that is to say, on the 15th
of February, 1837--he sold the sulky and bought
a saddle--said horseback-riding was what the doctor
had always recommended HIM to take, and dog'd if he
wanted to risk HIS neck going over those mountain roads
on wheels in the dead of winter, not if he knew himself.
"On the 9th of April he sold the saddle--said he wasn't
going to risk HIS life with any perishable saddle-girth
that ever was made, over a rainy, miry April road,
while he could ride bareback and know and feel he was
safe--always HAD despised to ride on a saddle, anyway.
"On the 24th of April he sold his horse--said 'I'm just
fifty-seven today, hale and hearty--it would be a PRETTY
howdy-do for me to be wasting such a trip as that and such
weather as this, on a horse, when there ain't anything
in the world so splendid as a tramp on foot through
the fresh spring woods and over the cheery mountains,
to a man that IS a man--and I can make my dog carry my
claim in a little bundle, anyway, when it's collected.
So tomorrow I'll be up bright and early, make my little
old collection, and mosey off to Tennessee, on my own
hind legs, with a rousing good-by to Gadsby's.'
"On the 22d of June he sold his dog--said 'Dern a dog,
anyway, where you're just starting off on a rattling bully
pleasure tramp through the summer woods and hills--perfect
nuisance--chases the squirrels, barks at everything,
goes a-capering and splattering around in the fords--
man can't get any chance to reflect and enjoy nature--
and I'd a blamed sight ruther carry the claim myself,
it's a mighty sight safer; a dog's mighty uncertain
in a financial way- -always noticed it--well, GOOD-by,
boys--last call--I'm off for Tennessee with a good
leg and a gay heart, early in the morning.'"
There was a pause and a silence--except the noise
of the wind and the pelting snow. Mr. Lykins said,
Riley said:
"Well,--that was thirty years ago."
"Very well, very well--what of it?"
"I'm great friends with that old patriarch. He comes
every evening to tell me good-by. I saw him an hour ago--
he's off for Tennessee early tomorrow morning--as usual;
said he calculated to get his claim through and be off
before night-owls like me have turned out of bed.
The tears were in his eyes, he was so glad he was going
to see his old Tennessee and his friends once more."
Another silent pause. The stranger broke it:
"Is that all?"
"That is all."
"Well, for the TIME of night, and the KIND of night,
it seems to me the story was full long enough. But what's
it all FOR?"
"Oh, nothing in particular."
"Well, where's the point of it?"
"Oh, there isn't any particular point to it. Only, if you
are not in TOO much of a hurry to rush off to San Francisco
with that post-office appointment, Mr. Lykins, I'd advise
you to 'PUT UP AT GADSBY'S' for a spell, and take it easy.
Good-by. GOD bless you!"
So saying, Riley blandly turned on his heel and left
the astonished school-teacher standing there, a musing
and motionless snow image shining in the broad glow
of the street-lamp.
He never got that post-office.
To go back to Lucerne and its fishers, I concluded,
after about nine hours' waiting, that the man who proposes
to tarry till he sees something hook one of those well-fed
and experienced fishes will find it wisdom to "put up
at Gadsby's" and take it easy. It is likely that a fish
has not been caught on that lake pier for forty years;
but no matter, the patient fisher watches his cork there
all the day long, just the same, and seems to enjoy it.
One may see the fisher-loafers just as thick and contented
and happy and patient all along the Seine at Paris,
but tradition says that the only thing ever caught there
in modern times is a thing they don't fish for at all--the
recent dog and the translated cat.
[I Spare an Awful Bore]
Close by the Lion of Lucerne is what they call the
"Glacier Garden"--and it is the only one in the world.
It is on high ground. Four or five years ago,
some workmen who were digging foundations for a house
came upon this interesting relic of a long-departed age.
Scientific men perceived in it a confirmation of their
theories concerning the glacial period; so through
their persuasions the little tract of ground was bought
and permanently protected against being built upon.
The soil was removed, and there lay the rasped and guttered
track which the ancient glacier had made as it moved
along upon its slow and tedious journey. This track
was perforated by huge pot-shaped holes in the bed-rock,
formed by the furious washing-around in them of boulders
by the turbulent torrent which flows beneath all glaciers.
These huge round boulders still remain in the holes;
they and the walls of the holes are worn smooth by
the long-continued chafing which they gave each other
in those old days. It took a mighty force to churn
these big lumps of stone around in that vigorous way.
The neighboring country had a very different shape,
at that time--the valleys have risen up and become hills,
since, and the hills have become valleys. The boulders
discovered in the pots had traveled a great distance,
for there is no rock like them nearer than the distant
Rhone Glacier.
For some days we were content to enjoy looking at the blue
lake Lucerne and at the piled-up masses of snow-mountains
that border it all around--an enticing spectacle,
this last, for there is a strange and fascinating beauty
and charm about a majestic snow-peak with the sun blazing
upon it or the moonlight softly enriching it--but finally
we concluded to try a bit of excursioning around on
a steamboat, and a dash on foot at the Rigi. Very well,
we had a delightful trip to Fluelen, on a breezy, sunny day.
Everybody sat on the upper deck, on benches, under an awning;
everybody talked, laughed, and exclaimed at the wonder scenery;
in truth, a trip on that lake is almost the perfection
of pleasuring. The mountains were a never-ceasing marvel.
Sometimes they rose straight up out of the lake,
and towered aloft and overshadowed our pygmy steamer
with their prodigious bulk in the most impressive way.
Not snow-clad mountains, these, yet they climbed high
enough toward the sky to meet the clouds and veil their
foreheads in them. They were not barren and repulsive,
but clothed in green, and restful and pleasant to the eye.
And they were so almost straight-up-and-down, sometimes,
that one could not imagine a man being able to keep
his footing upon such a surface, yet there are paths,
and the Swiss people go up and down them every day.
Sometimes one of these monster precipices had the slight
inclination of the huge ship-houses in dockyards--
then high aloft, toward the sky, it took a little
stronger inclination, like that of a mansard roof--and
perched on this dizzy mansard one's eye detected little
things like martin boxes, and presently perceived that
these were the dwellings of peasants--an airy place
for a home, truly. And suppose a peasant should walk
in his sleep, or his child should fall out of the front
yard?--the friends would have a tedious long journey down
out of those cloud-heights before they found the remains.
And yet those far-away homes looked ever so seductive,
they were so remote from the troubled world, they dozed
in such an atmosphere of peace and dreams--surely no one
who has learned to live up there would ever want
to live on a meaner level.
We swept through the prettiest little curving arms
of the lake, among these colossal green walls,
enjoying new delights, always, as the stately panorama
unfolded itself before us and rerolled and hid itself
behind us; and now and then we had the thrilling surprise
of bursting suddenly upon a tremendous white mass like the
distant and dominating Jungfrau, or some kindred giant,
looming head and shoulders above a tumbled waste of lesser Alps.
Once, while I was hungrily taking in one of these surprises,
and doing my best to get all I possibly could of it while it
should last, I was interrupted by a young and care-free voice:
"You're an American, I think--so'm I."
He was about eighteen, or possibly nineteen; slender and
of medium height; open, frank, happy face; a restless
but independent eye; a snub nose, which had the air
of drawing back with a decent reserve from the silky
new-born mustache below it until it should be introduced;
a loosely hung jaw, calculated to work easily in the sockets.
He wore a low-crowned, narrow-brimmed straw hat,
with a broad blue ribbon around it which had a white
anchor embroidered on it in front; nobby short-tailed
coat, pantaloons, vest, all trim and neat and up with
the fashion; red-striped stockings, very low-quarter
patent-leather shoes, tied with black ribbon; blue ribbon
around his neck, wide-open collar; tiny diamond studs;
wrinkleless kids; projecting cuffs, fastened with large
oxidized silver sleeve-buttons, bearing the device
of a dog's face--English pug. He carries a slim cane,
surmounted with an English pug's head with red glass eyes.
Under his arm he carried a German grammar--Otto's. His hair
was short, straight, and smooth, and presently when he turned
his head a moment, I saw that it was nicely parted behind.
He took a cigarette out of a dainty box, stuck it into
a meerschaum holder which he carried in a morocco case,
and reached for my cigar. While he was lighting, I said:
"Yes--I am an American."
"I knew it--I can always tell them. What ship did you
come over in?"
"We came in the BATAVIA--Cunard, you know. What kind
of passage did you have?"
"Tolerably rough."
"So did we. Captain said he'd hardly ever seen it rougher.
Where are you from?"
"New England."
"So'm I. I'm from New Bloomfield. Anybody with you?"
"Yes--a friend."
"Our whole family's along. It's awful slow, going around
alone--don't you think so?"
"Rather slow."
"Ever been over here before?"
"I haven't. My first trip. But we've been all around--Paris
and everywhere. I'm to enter Harvard next year.
Studying German all the time, now. Can't enter till I
know German. I know considerable French--I get along
pretty well in Paris, or anywhere where they speak French.
What hotel are you stopping at?"
"No! is that so? I never see you in the reception-room.
I go to the reception-room a good deal of the time,
because there's so many Americans there. I make lots
of acquaintances. I know an American as soon as I see
him--and so I speak to him and make his acquaintance.
I like to be always making acquaintances--don't you?"
"Lord, yes!"
"You see it breaks up a trip like this, first rate.
I never got bored on a trip like this, if I can
make acquaintances and have somebody to talk to.
But I think a trip like this would be an awful bore,
if a body couldn't find anybody to get acquainted with
and talk to on a trip like this. I'm fond of talking,
ain't you?
"Have you felt bored, on this trip?"
"Not all the time, part of it."
"That's it!--you see you ought to go around and get acquainted,
and talk. That's my way. That's the way I always do--I
just go 'round, 'round, 'round and talk, talk, talk--I
never get bored. You been up the Rigi yet?"
"I think so."
"What hotel you going to stop at?"
"I don't know. Is there more than one?"
"Three. You stop at the Schreiber--you'll find it full
of Americans. What ship did you say you came over in?"
"German, I guess. You going to Geneva?"
"What hotel you going to stop at?"
"Hotel de l''Ecu de G'en`eve."
"Don't you do it! No Americans there! You stop at one
of those big hotels over the bridge--they're packed
full of Americans."
"But I want to practice my Arabic."
"Good gracious, do you speak Arabic?"
"Yes--well enough to get along."
"Why, hang it, you won't get along in Geneva--THEY don't
speak Arabic, they speak French. What hotel are you
stopping at here?"
"Hotel Pension-Beaurivage."
"Sho, you ought to stop at the Schweitzerhof. Didn't you
know the Schweitzerhof was the best hotel in Switzerland?--
look at your Baedeker."
"Yes, I know--but I had an idea there warn't any
Americans there."
"No Americans! Why, bless your soul, it's just alive with
them! I'm in the great reception-room most all the time.
I make lots of acquaintances there. Not as many as I did
at first, because now only the new ones stop in there--
the others go right along through. Where are you from?"
"Is that so? I'm from New England--New Bloomfield's my town
when I'm at home. I'm having a mighty good time today,
ain't you?"
"That's what I call it. I like this knocking around,
loose and easy, and making acquaintances and talking.
I know an American, soon as I see him; so I go and speak
to him and make his acquaintance. I ain't ever bored,
on a trip like this, if I can make new acquaintances and talk.
I'm awful fond of talking when I can get hold of the right
kind of a person, ain't you?"
"I prefer it to any other dissipation."
"That's my notion, too. Now some people like to take
a book and sit down and read, and read, and read, or moon
around yawping at the lake or these mountains and things,
but that ain't my way; no, sir, if they like it, let 'em do it,
I don't object; but as for me, talking's what _I_ like.
You been up the Rigi?"
"What hotel did you stop at?"
"That's the place!--I stopped there too. FULL of Americans,
WASN'T it? It always is--always is. That's what they say.
Everybody says that. What ship did you come over in?"
"French, I reckon. What kind of a passage did ... excuse me
a minute, there's some Americans I haven't seen before."
And away he went. He went uninjured, too--I had the murderous
impulse to harpoon him in the back with my alpenstock,
but as I raised the weapon the disposition left me;
I found I hadn't the heart to kill him, he was such
a joyous, innocent, good-natured numbskull.
Half an hour later I was sitting on a bench inspecting,
with strong interest, a noble monolith which we were
skimming by--a monolith not shaped by man, but by Nature's
free great hand--a massy pyramidal rock eighty feet high,
devised by Nature ten million years ago against the day
when a man worthy of it should need it for his monument.
The time came at last, and now this grand remembrancer
bears Schiller's name in huge letters upon its face.
Curiously enough, this rock was not degraded or defiled
in any way. It is said that two years ago a stranger let
himself down from the top of it with ropes and pulleys,
and painted all over it, in blue letters bigger than those in
Schiller's name, these words:
"Try Sozodont;" "Buy Sun Stove Polish;" "Helmbold's Buchu;"
"Try Benzaline for the Blood."
He was captured and it turned out that he was an American.
Upon his trial the judge said to him:
"You are from a land where any insolent that wants to is
privileged to profane and insult Nature, and, through her,
Nature's God, if by so doing he can put a sordid penny
in his pocket. But here the case is different. Because you
are a foreigner and ignorant, I will make your sentence light;
if you were a native I would deal strenuously with you.
Hear and obey: --You will immediately remove every trace
of your offensive work from the Schiller monument; you pay
a fine of ten thousand francs; you will suffer two years'
imprisonment at hard labor; you will then be horsewhipped,
tarred and feathered, deprived of your ears, ridden on a
rail to the confines of the canton, and banished forever.
The severest penalties are omitted in your case--not as
a grace to you, but to that great republic which had the
misfortune to give you birth."
The steamer's benches were ranged back to back across
the deck. My back hair was mingling innocently with
the back hair of a couple of ladies. Presently they
were addressed by some one and I overheard this conversation:
"You are Americans, I think? So'm I."
"Yes--we are Americans."
"I knew it--I can always tell them. What ship did you
come over in?"
"Oh, yes--Inman line. We came in the BATAVIA--Cunard
you know. What kind of a passage did you have?"
"Pretty fair."
"That was luck. We had it awful rough. Captain said
he'd hardly seen it rougher. Where are you from?"
"New Jersey."
"So'm I. No--I didn't mean that; I'm from New England.
New Bloomfield's my place. These your children?--belong
to both of you?"
"Only to one of us; they are mine; my friend is not married."
"Single, I reckon? So'm I. Are you two ladies traveling alone?"
"No--my husband is with us."
"Our whole family's along. It's awful slow, going around
alone--don't you think so?"
"I suppose it must be."
"Hi, there's Mount Pilatus coming in sight again.
Named after Pontius Pilate, you know, that shot the apple
off of William Tell's head. Guide-book tells all about it,
they say. I didn't read it--an American told me. I don't
read when I'm knocking around like this, having a good time.
Did you ever see the chapel where William Tell used
to preach?"
"I did not know he ever preached there."
"Oh, yes, he did. That American told me so. He don't
ever shut up his guide-book. He knows more about this lake
than the fishes in it. Besides, they CALL it 'Tell's
Chapel'--you know that yourself. You ever been over here
"I haven't. It's my first trip. But we've been all around
--Paris and everywhere. I'm to enter Harvard next year.
Studying German all the time now. Can't enter till I
know German. This book's Otto's grammar. It's a mighty
good book to get the ICH HABE GEHABT HABEN's out of.
But I don't really study when I'm knocking around this way.
If the notion takes me, I just run over my little
--kind of 'Now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep' fashion, you know,
and after that, maybe I don't buckle to it for three days.
It's awful undermining to the intellect, German is;
you want to take it in small doses, or first you know
your brains all run together, and you feel them sloshing
around in your head same as so much drawn butter.
But French is different; FRENCH ain't anything. I ain't
any more afraid of French than a tramp's afraid of pie; I can
rattle off my little J'AI, TU AS, IL A, and the rest of it,
just as easy as a-b-c. I get along pretty well in Paris,
or anywhere where they speak French. What hotel are you
stopping at?"
"The Schweitzerhof."
"No! is that so? I never see you in the big reception-room.
I go in there a good deal of the time, because there's
so many Americans there. I make lots of acquaintances.
You been up the Rigi yet?"
"We think of it."
"What hotel you going to stop at?"
"I don't know."
"Well, then you stop at the Schreiber--it's full of Americans.
What ship did you come over in?"
"Oh, yes, I remember I asked you that before. But I
always ask everybody what ship they came over in, and so
sometimes I forget and ask again. You going to Geneva?"
"What hotel you going to stop at?"
"We expect to stop in a pension."
"I don't hardly believe you'll like that; there's very few
Americans in the pensions. What hotel are you stopping
at here?"
"The Schweitzerhof."
"Oh, yes. I asked you that before, too. But I always
ask everybody what hotel they're stopping at, and so I've
got my head all mixed up with hotels. But it makes talk,
and I love to talk. It refreshes me up so--don't it
you--on a trip like this?"
"Well, it does me, too. As long as I'm talking I never
feel bored--ain't that the way with you?"
"Yes--generally. But there are exception to the rule."
"Oh, of course. _I_ don't care to talk to everybody, MYSELF.
If a person starts in to jabber-jabber-jabber about scenery,
and history, and pictures, and all sorts of tiresome things,
I get the fan-tods mighty soon. I say 'Well, I must be going
now--hope I'll see you again'--and then I take a walk. Where you
"New Jersey."
"Why, bother it all, I asked you THAT before, too.
Have you seen the Lion of Lucerne?"
"Not yet."
"Nor I, either. But the man who told me about
Mount Pilatus says it's one of the things to see.
It's twenty-eight feet long. It don't seem reasonable,
but he said so, anyway. He saw it yesterday; said it
was dying, then, so I reckon it's dead by this time.
But that ain't any matter, of course they'll stuff it.
Did you say the children are yours--or HERS?"
"Oh, so you did. Are you going up the ... no, I asked
you that. What ship ... no, I asked you that, too.
What hotel are you ... no, you told me that.
Let me see ... um .... Oh, what kind of voy ... no,
we've been over that ground, too. Um ... um ... well,
I believe that is all. BONJOUR--I am very glad to have
made your acquaintance, ladies. GUTEN TAG."
[The Jodel and Its Native Wilds]
The Rigi-Kulm is an imposing Alpine mass, six thousand
feet high, which stands by itself, and commands a mighty
prospect of blue lakes, green valleys, and snowy mountains--
a compact and magnificent picture three hundred miles
in circumference. The ascent is made by rail, or horseback,
or on foot, as one may prefer. I and my agent panoplied
ourselves in walking-costume, one bright morning,
and started down the lake on the steamboat; we got ashore
at the village of Wa"ggis; three-quarters of an hour distant
from Lucerne. This village is at the foot of the mountain.
We were soon tramping leisurely up the leafy mule-path,
and then the talk began to flow, as usual. It was
twelve o'clock noon, and a breezy, cloudless day;
the ascent was gradual, and the glimpses, from under
the curtaining boughs, of blue water, and tiny sailboats,
and beetling cliffs, were as charming as glimpses of dreamland.
All the circumstances were perfect--and the anticipations,
too, for we should soon be enjoying, for the first time,
that wonderful spectacle, an Alpine sunrise--the object
of our journey. There was (apparently) no real need
for hurry, for the guide-book made the walking-distance
from Wa"ggis to the summit only three hours and a quarter.
I say "apparently," because the guide-book had already
fooled us once--about the distance from Allerheiligen
to Oppenau--and for aught I knew it might be getting ready
to fool us again. We were only certain as to the altitudes--
we calculated to find out for ourselves how many hours
it is from the bottom to the top. The summit is six
thousand feet above the sea, but only forty-five hundred
feet above the lake. When we had walked half an hour,
we were fairly into the swing and humor of the undertaking,
so we cleared for action; that is to say, we got a boy whom
we met to carry our alpenstocks and satchels and overcoats
and things for us; that left us free for business.
I suppose we must have stopped oftener to stretch out
on the grass in the shade and take a bit of a smoke
than this boy was used to, for presently he asked if it
had been our idea to hire him by the job, or by the year?
We told him he could move along if he was in a hurry.
He said he wasn't in such a very particular hurry,
but he wanted to get to the top while he was young.
We told him to clear out, then, and leave the things at
the uppermost hotel and say we should be along presently.
He said he would secure us a hotel if he could, but if they
were all full he would ask them to build another one
and hurry up and get the paint and plaster dry against
we arrived. Still gently chaffing us, he pushed ahead,
up the trail, and soon disappeared. By six o'clock we
were pretty high up in the air, and the view of lake
and mountains had greatly grown in breadth and interest.
We halted awhile at a little public house, where we
had bread and cheese and a quart or two of fresh milk,
out on the porch, with the big panorama all before us--and
then moved on again.
Ten minutes afterward we met a hot, red-faced man plunging
down the mountain, making mighty strides, swinging his
alpenstock ahead of him, and taking a grip on the ground
with its iron point to support these big strides.
He stopped, fanned himself with his hat, swabbed the
perspiration from his face and neck with a red handkerchief,
panted a moment or two, and asked how far to Wa"ggis.
I said three hours. He looked surprised, and said:
"Why, it seems as if I could toss a biscuit into the lake
from here, it's so close by. Is that an inn, there?"
I said it was.
"Well," said he, "I can't stand another three hours,
I've had enough today; I'll take a bed there."
I asked:
"Are we nearly to the top?"
"Nearly to the TOP?" Why, bless your soul, you haven't
really started, yet."
I said we would put up at the inn, too. So we turned
back and ordered a hot supper, and had quite a jolly
evening of it with this Englishman.
The German landlady gave us neat rooms and nice beds,
and when I and my agent turned in, it was with the resolution
to be up early and make the utmost of our first Alpine sunrise.
But of course we were dead tired, and slept like policemen;
so when we awoke in the morning and ran to the window it
was already too late, because it was half past eleven.
It was a sharp disappointment. However, we ordered
breakfast and told the landlady to call the Englishman,
but she said he was already up and off at daybreak--and
swearing like mad about something or other. We could not
find out what the matter was. He had asked the landlady
the altitude of her place above the level of the lake,
and she told him fourteen hundred and ninety-five feet.
That was all that was said; then he lost his temper.
He said that between ------fools and guide-books, a man
could acquire ignorance enough in twenty-four hours in a
country like this to last him a year. Harris believed
our boy had been loading him up with misinformation;
and this was probably the case, for his epithet described
that boy to a dot.
We got under way about the turn of noon, and pulled out
for the summit again, with a fresh and vigorous step.
When we had gone about two hundred yards, and stopped
to rest, I glanced to the left while I was lighting my pipe,
and in the distance detected a long worm of black smoke
crawling lazily up the steep mountain. Of course that was
the locomotive. We propped ourselves on our elbows at once,
to gaze, for we had never seen a mountain railway yet.
Presently we could make out the train. It seemed incredible
that that thing should creep straight up a sharp slant
like the roof of a house--but there it was, and it was doing
that very miracle.
In the course of a couple hours we reached a fine breezy
altitude where the little shepherd huts had big stones
all over their roofs to hold them down to the earth when
the great storms rage. The country was wild and rocky
about here, but there were plenty of trees, plenty of moss,
and grass.
Away off on the opposite shore of the lake we could
see some villages, and now for the first time we could
observe the real difference between their proportions
and those of the giant mountains at whose feet they slept.
When one is in one of those villages it seems spacious,
and its houses seem high and not out of proportion to the
mountain that overhands them--but from our altitude,
what a change! The mountains were bigger and grander
than ever, as they stood there thinking their solemn
thoughts with their heads in the drifting clouds,
but the villages at their feet--when the painstaking
eye could trace them up and find them--were so reduced,
almost invisible, and lay so flat against the ground,
that the exactest simile I can devise is to compare
them to ant-deposits of granulated dirt overshadowed
by the huge bulk of a cathedral. The steamboats skimming
along under the stupendous precipices were diminished
by distance to the daintiest little toys, the sailboats
and rowboats to shallops proper for fairies that keep
house in the cups of lilies and ride to court on the backs
of bumblebees.
Presently we came upon half a dozen sheep nibbling grass
in the spray of a stream of clear water that sprang
from a rock wall a hundred feet high, and all at once
our ears were startled with a melodious "Lul ...
l ... l l l llul-lul-LAhee-o-o-o!" pealing joyously
from a near but invisible source, and recognized that we
were hearing for the first time the famous Alpine JODEL
in its own native wilds. And we recognized, also,
that it was that sort of quaint commingling of baritone
and falsetto which at home we call "Tyrolese warbling."
The jodeling (pronounced yOdling--emphasis on the O)
continued, and was very pleasant and inspiriting to hear.
Now the jodeler appeared--a shepherd boy of sixteen--
and in our gladness and gratitude we gave him a franc
to jodel some more. So he jodeled and we listened.
We moved on, presently, and he generously jodeled us
out of sight. After about fifteen minutes we came across
another shepherd boy who was jodeling, and gave him half
a franc to keep it up. He also jodeled us out of sight.
After that, we found a jodeler every ten minutes;
we gave the first one eight cents, the second one
six cents, the third one four, the fourth one a penny,
contributed nothing to Nos. 5, 6, and 7, and during
the remainder of the day hired the rest of the jodelers,
at a franc apiece, not to jodel any more. There is somewhat
too much of the jodeling in the Alps.
About the middle of the afternoon we passed through
a prodigious natural gateway called the Felsenthor,
formed by two enormous upright rocks, with a third lying
across the top. There was a very attractive little
hotel close by, but our energies were not conquered yet,
so we went on.
Three hours afterward we came to the railway-track. It
was planted straight up the mountain with the slant
of a ladder that leans against a house, and it seemed
to us that man would need good nerves who proposed
to travel up it or down it either.
During the latter part of the afternoon we cooled our
roasting interiors with ice-cold water from clear streams,
the only really satisfying water we had tasted since we
left home, for at the hotels on the continent they
merely give you a tumbler of ice to soak your water in,
and that only modifies its hotness, doesn't make it cold.
Water can only be made cold enough for summer comfort by
being prepared in a refrigerator or a closed ice-pitcher.
Europeans say ice-water impairs digestion. How do they
know?--they never drink any.
At ten minutes past six we reached the Kaltbad station,
where there is a spacious hotel with great verandas which
command a majestic expanse of lake and mountain scenery.
We were pretty well fagged out, now, but as we did
not wish to miss the Alpine sunrise, we got through our
dinner as quickly as possible and hurried off to bed.
It was unspeakably comfortable to stretch our weary limbs
between the cool, damp sheets. And how we did sleep!--for
there is no opiate like Alpine pedestrianism.
In the morning we both awoke and leaped out of bed at the
same instant and ran and stripped aside the window-curtains;
but we suffered a bitter disappointment again: it
was already half past three in the afternoon.
We dressed sullenly and in ill spirits, each accusing
the other of oversleeping. Harris said if we had brought
the courier along, as we ought to have done, we should
not have missed these sunrises. I said he knew very well
that one of us would have to sit up and wake the courier;
and I added that we were having trouble enough to take
care of ourselves, on this climb, without having to take
care of a courier besides.
During breakfast our spirits came up a little, since we
found by this guide-book that in the hotels on the summit
the tourist is not left to trust to luck for his sunrise,
but is roused betimes by a man who goes through the halls
with a great Alpine horn, blowing blasts that would
raise the dead. And there was another consoling thing:
the guide-book said that up there on the summit the guests
did not wait to dress much, but seized a red bed blanket
and sailed out arrayed like an Indian. This was good;
this would be romantic; two hundred and fifty people
grouped on the windy summit, with their hair flying and
their red blankets flapping, in the solemn presence of the
coming sun, would be a striking and memorable spectacle.
So it was good luck, not ill luck, that we had missed
those other sunrises.
We were informed by the guide-book that we were now
3,228 feet above the level of the lake--therefore
full two-thirds of our journey had been accomplished.
We got away at a quarter past four, P.M.; a hundred yards
above the hotel the railway divided; one track went
straight up the steep hill, the other one turned square
off to the right, with a very slight grade. We took
the latter, and followed it more than a mile, turned a
rocky corner, and came in sight of a handsome new hotel.
If we had gone on, we should have arrived at the summit,
but Harris preferred to ask a lot of questions--as usual,
of a man who didn't know anything--and he told us to go
back and follow the other route. We did so. We could ill
afford this loss of time.
We climbed and climbed; and we kept on climbing; we reached about
forty summits, but there was always another one just ahead.
It came on to rain, and it rained in dead earnest.
We were soaked through and it was bitter cold. Next a
smoky fog of clouds covered the whole region densely,
and we took to the railway-ties to keep from getting lost.
Sometimes we slopped along in a narrow path on the left-hand
side of the track, but by and by when the fog blew as aside
a little and we saw that we were treading the rampart
of a precipice and that our left elbows were projecting
over a perfectly boundless and bottomless vacancy,
we gasped, and jumped for the ties again.
The night shut down, dark and drizzly and cold.
About eight in the evening the fog lifted and showed us
a well-worn path which led up a very steep rise to the left.
We took it, and as soon as we had got far enough from the
railway to render the finding it again an impossibility,
the fog shut down on us once more.
We were in a bleak, unsheltered place, now, and had
to trudge right along, in order to keep warm, though we
rather expected to go over a precipice, sooner or later.
About nine o'clock we made an important discovery--
that we were not in any path. We groped around a while
on our hands and knees, but we could not find it;
so we sat down in the mud and the wet scant grass to wait.
We were terrified into this by being suddenly confronted
with a vast body which showed itself vaguely for an instant
and in the next instant was smothered in the fog again.
It was really the hotel we were after, monstrously magnified
by the fog, but we took it for the face of a precipice,
and decided not to try to claw up it.
We sat there an hour, with chattering teeth and quivering bodies,
and quarreled over all sorts of trifles, but gave most
of our attention to abusing each other for the stupidity
of deserting the railway-track. We sat with our backs
to the precipice, because what little wind there was
came from that quarter. At some time or other the fog
thinned a little; we did not know when, for we were facing
the empty universe and the thinness could not show;
but at last Harris happened to look around, and there stood
a huge, dim, spectral hotel where the precipice had been.
One could faintly discern the windows and chimneys,
and a dull blur of lights. Our first emotion was deep,
unutterable gratitude, our next was a foolish rage,
born of the suspicion that possibly the hotel had been
visible three-quarters of an hour while we sat there
in those cold puddles quarreling.
Yes, it was the Rigi-Kulm hotel--the one that occupies
the extreme summit, and whose remote little sparkle
of lights we had often seen glinting high aloft among
the stars from our balcony away down yonder in Lucerne.
The crusty portier and the crusty clerks gave us the surly
reception which their kind deal out in prosperous times,
but by mollifying them with an extra display of obsequiousness
and servility we finally got them to show us to the room
which our boy had engaged for us.
We got into some dry clothing, and while our supper was
preparing we loafed forsakenly through a couple of vast
cavernous drawing-rooms, one of which had a stove in it.
This stove was in a corner, and densely walled around
with people. We could not get near the fire, so we moved
at large in the artic spaces, among a multitude of people
who sat silent, smileless, forlorn, and shivering--thinking
what fools they were to come, perhaps. There were some
Americans and some Germans, but one could see that the
great majority were English.
We lounged into an apartment where there was a great crowd,
to see what was going on. It was a memento-magazine.
The tourists were eagerly buying all sorts and styles of
paper-cutters, marked "Souvenir of the Rigi," with handles
made of the little curved horn of the ostensible chamois;
there were all manner of wooden goblets and such things,
similarly marked. I was going to buy a paper-cutter, but I
believed I could remember the cold comfort of the Rigi-Kulm
without it, so I smothered the impulse.
Supper warmed us, and we went immediately to bed--but first,
as Mr. Baedeker requests all tourists to call his attention
to any errors which they may find in his guide-books, I
dropped him a line to inform him he missed it by just
about three days. I had previously informed him of his
mistake about the distance from Allerheiligen to Oppenau,
and had also informed the Ordnance Depart of the German
government of the same error in the imperial maps.
I will add, here, that I never got any answer to those letters,
or any thanks from either of those sources; and, what is still
more discourteous, these corrections have not been made,
either in the maps or the guide-books. But I will write
again when I get time, for my letters may have miscarried.
We curled up in the clammy beds, and went to sleep without
We were so sodden with fatigue that we never stirred nor
turned over till the blooming blasts of the Alpine horn
aroused us. It may well be imagined that we did not lose
any time. We snatched on a few odds and ends of clothing,
cocooned ourselves in the proper red blankets, and plunged
along the halls and out into the whistling wind bareheaded.
We saw a tall wooden scaffolding on the very peak
of the summit, a hundred yards away, and made for it.
We rushed up the stairs to the top of this scaffolding,
and stood there, above the vast outlying world, with hair
flying and ruddy blankets waving and cracking in the fierce
"Fifteen minutes too late, at last!" said Harris,
in a vexed voice. "The sun is clear above the horizon."
"No matter," I said, "it is a most magnificent spectacle,
and we will see it do the rest of its rising anyway."
In a moment we were deeply absorbed in the marvel before us,
and dead to everything else. The great cloud-barred disk
of the sun stood just above a limitless expanse of tossing
white-caps--so to speak--a billowy chaos of massy mountain
domes and peaks draped in imperishable snow, and flooded
with an opaline glory of changing and dissolving splendors,
while through rifts in a black cloud-bank above the sun,
radiating lances of diamond dust shot to the zenith.
The cloven valleys of the lower world swam in a tinted
mist which veiled the ruggedness of their crags and ribs
and ragged forests, and turned all the forbidding region
into a soft and rich and sensuous paradise.
We could not speak. We could hardly breathe.
We could only gaze in drunken ecstasy and drink in it.
Presently Harris exclaimed:
"Why--nation, it's going DOWN!"
Perfectly true. We had missed the MORNING hornblow,
and slept all day. This was stupefying.
Harris said:
"Look here, the sun isn't the spectacle--it's US--stacked
up here on top of this gallows, in these idiotic blankets,
and two hundred and fifty well-dressed men and women down
here gawking up at us and not caring a straw whether the sun
rises or sets, as long as they've got such a ridiculous
spectacle as this to set down in their memorandum-books.
They seem to be laughing their ribs loose, and there's
one girl there at appears to be going all to pieces.
I never saw such a man as you before. I think you are
the very last possibility in the way of an ass."
"What have _I_ done?" I answered, with heat.
"What have you done?" You've got up at half past seven
o'clock in the evening to see the sun rise, that's what
you've done."
"And have you done any better, I'd like to know? I've
always used to get up with the lark, till I came under
the petrifying influence of your turgid intellect."
"YOU used to get up with the lark--Oh, no doubt--
you'll get up with the hangman one of these days.
But you ought to be ashamed to be jawing here like this,
in a red blanket, on a forty-foot scaffold on top
of the Alps. And no end of people down here to boot;
this isn't any place for an exhibition of temper."
And so the customary quarrel went on. When the sun
was fairly down, we slipped back to the hotel in the
charitable gloaming, and went to bed again. We had
encountered the horn-blower on the way, and he had tried
to collect compensation, not only for announcing the sunset,
which we did see, but for the sunrise, which we had
totally missed; but we said no, we only took our solar
rations on the "European plan"--pay for what you get.
He promised to make us hear his horn in the morning,
if we were alive.
[Looking West for Sunrise]
He kept his word. We heard his horn and instantly got up.
It was dark and cold and wretched. As I fumbled around
for the matches, knocking things down with my quaking hands,
I wished the sun would rise in the middle of the day,
when it was warm and bright and cheerful, and one
wasn't sleepy. We proceeded to dress by the gloom of a
couple sickly candles, but we could hardly button anything,
our hands shook so. I thought of how many happy people
there were in Europe, Asia, and America, and everywhere,
who were sleeping peacefully in their beds, and did not
have to get up and see the Rigi sunrise--people who did
not appreciate their advantage, as like as not, but would
get up in the morning wanting more boons of Providence.
While thinking these thoughts I yawned, in a rather ample way,
and my upper teeth got hitched on a nail over the door,
and while I was mounting a chair to free myself, Harris drew
the window-curtain, and said:
"Oh, this is luck! We shan't have to go out at all--
yonder are the mountains, in full view."
That was glad news, indeed. It made us cheerful right away.
One could see the grand Alpine masses dimly outlined
against the black firmament, and one or two faint stars
blinking through rifts in the night. Fully clothed,
and wrapped in blankets, and huddled ourselves up,
by the window, with lighted pipes, and fell into chat,
while we waited in exceeding comfort to see how an Alpine
sunrise was going to look by candlelight. By and by
a delicate, spiritual sort of effulgence spread itself
by imperceptible degrees over the loftiest altitudes of
the snowy wastes--but there the effort seemed to stop.
I said, presently:
"There is a hitch about this sunrise somewhere.
It doesn't seem to go. What do you reckon is the matter
with it?"
"I don't know. It appears to hang fire somewhere.
I never saw a sunrise act like that before. Can it be
that the hotel is playing anything on us?"
"Of course not. The hotel merely has a property interest
in the sun, it has nothing to do with the management of it.
It is a precarious kind of property, too; a succession
of total eclipses would probably ruin this tavern.
Now what can be the matter with this sunrise?"
Harris jumped up and said:
"I've got it! I know what's the matter with it! We've
been looking at the place where the sun SET last night!"
"It is perfectly true! Why couldn't you have thought of
that sooner? Now we've lost another one! And all through
your blundering. It was exactly like you to light a pipe
and sit down to wait for the sun to rise in the west."
"It was exactly like me to find out the mistake, too.
You never would have found it out. I find out all the mistakes."
"You make them all, too, else your most valuable faculty
would be wasted on you. But don't stop to quarrel,
now--maybe we are not too late yet."
But we were. The sun was well up when we got to the
On our way up we met the crowd returning--men and women
dressed in all sorts of queer costumes, and exhibiting
all degrees of cold and wretchedness in their gaits
and countenances. A dozen still remained on the ground
when we reached there, huddled together about the scaffold
with their backs to the bitter wind. They had their red
guide-books open at the diagram of the view, and were
painfully picking out the several mountains and trying
to impress their names and positions on their memories.
It was one of the saddest sights I ever saw.
Two sides of this place were guarded by railings,
to keep people from being blown over the precipices.
The view, looking sheer down into the broad valley,
eastward, from this great elevation--almost a perpendicular
mile--was very quaint and curious. Counties, towns,
hilly ribs and ridges, wide stretches of green meadow,
great forest tracts, winding streams, a dozen blue lakes,
a block of busy steamboats--we saw all this little
world in unique circumstantiality of detail--saw it
just as the birds see it--and all reduced to the smallest
of scales and as sharply worked out and finished as a
steel engraving. The numerous toy villages, with tiny
spires projecting out of them, were just as the children
might have left them when done with play the day before;
the forest tracts were diminished to cushions of moss;
one or two big lakes were dwarfed to ponds, the smaller
ones to puddles--though they did not look like puddles,
but like blue eardrops which had fallen and lodged
in slight depressions, conformable to their shapes,
among the moss-beds and the smooth levels of dainty
green farm-land; the microscopic steamboats glided along,
as in a city reservoir, taking a mighty time to cover
the distance between ports which seemed only a yard apart;
and the isthmus which separated two lakes looked as if
one might stretch out on it and lie with both elbows
in the water, yet we knew invisible wagons were toiling
across it and finding the distance a tedious one.
This beautiful miniature world had exactly the appearance
of those "relief maps" which reproduce nature precisely,
with the heights and depressions and other details graduated
to a reduced scale, and with the rocks, trees, lakes,
etc., colored after nature.
I believed we could walk down to Wa"ggis or Vitznau
in a day, but I knew we could go down by rail in about
an hour, so I chose the latter method. I wanted to see
what it was like, anyway. The train came along about
the middle of the afternoon, and an odd thing it was.
The locomotive-boiler stood on end, and it and the whole
locomotive-boiler stood on end, and it and the whole
locomotive were tiled sharply backward. There were
two passenger-cars, roofed, but wide open all around.
These cars were not tilted back, but the seats were;
this enables the passenger to sit level while going down a
steep incline.
There are three railway-tracks; the central one is cogged;
the "lantern wheel" of the engine grips its way along
these cogs, and pulls the train up the hill or retards its
motion on the down trip. About the same speed--three miles
an hour--is maintained both ways. Whether going up or down,
the locomotive is always at the lower end of the train.
It pushes in the one case, braces back in the other.
The passenger rides backward going up, and faces forward
going down.
We got front seats, and while the train moved along
about fifty yards on level ground, I was not the
least frightened; but now it started abruptly downstairs,
and I caught my breath. And I, like my neighbors,
unconsciously held back all I could, and threw my weight
to the rear, but, of course, that did no particular good.
I had slidden down the balusters when I was a boy,
and thought nothing of it, but to slide down the balusters
in a railway-train is a thing to make one's flesh creep.
Sometimes we had as much as ten yards of almost level
ground, and this gave us a few full breaths in comfort;
but straightway we would turn a corner and see a long steep
line of rails stretching down below us, and the comfort
was at an end. One expected to see the locomotive pause,
or slack up a little, and approach this plunge cautiously,
but it did nothing of the kind; it went calmly on, and went
it reached the jumping-off place it made a sudden bow,
and went gliding smoothly downstairs, untroubled by
the circumstances.
It was wildly exhilarating to slide along the edge of
the precipices, after this grisly fashion, and look straight
down upon that far-off valley which I was describing a while ago.
There was no level ground at the Kaltbad station;
the railbed was as steep as a roof; I was curious
to see how the stop was going to be managed.
But it was very simple; the train came sliding down,
and when it reached the right spot it just stopped--that
was all there was "to it"--stopped on the steep incline,
and when the exchange of passengers and baggage had
been made, it moved off and went sliding down again.
The train can be stopped anywhere, at a moment's notice.
There was one curious effect, which I need not take the
trouble to describe--because I can scissor a description
of it out of the railway company's advertising pamphlet,
and say my ink:
"On the whole tour, particularly at the Descent, we undergo
an optical illusion which often seems to be incredible.
All the shrubs, fir trees, stables, houses, etc., seem to be bent
in a slanting direction, as by an immense pressure of air.
They are all standing awry, so much awry that the chalets
and cottages of the peasants seem to be tumbling down.
It is the consequence of the steep inclination of the line.
Those who are seated in the carriage do not observe that they
are doing down a declivity of twenty to twenty-five degrees
(their seats being adapted to this course of proceeding
and being bent down at their backs). They mistake their
carriage and its horizontal lines for a proper measure
of the normal plain, and therefore all the objects outside
which really are in a horizontal position must show a
disproportion of twenty to twenty-five degrees declivity,
in regard to the mountain."
By the time one reaches Kaltbad, he has acquired confidence
in the railway, and he now ceases to try to ease the
locomotive by holding back. Thenceforth he smokes his
pipe in serenity, and gazes out upon the magnificent
picture below and about him with unfettered enjoyment.
There is nothing to interrupt the view or the breeze;
it is like inspecting the world on the wing. However--to be
exact--there is one place where the serenity lapses for a while;
this is while one is crossing the Schnurrtobel Bridge,
a frail structure which swings its gossamer frame down
through the dizzy air, over a gorge, like a vagrant
One has no difficulty in remembering his sins while
the train is creeping down this bridge; and he repents
of them, too; though he sees, when he gets to Vitznau,
that he need not have done it, the bridge was perfectly safe.
So ends the eventual trip which we made to the Rigi-Kulm
to see an Alpine sunrise.
[Harris Climbs Mountains for Me]
An hour's sail brought us to Lucerne again. I judged
it best to go to bed and rest several days, for I knew
that the man who undertakes to make the tour of Europe
on foot must take care of himself.
Thinking over my plans, as mapped out, I perceived that
they did not take in the Furka Pass, the Rhone Glacier,
the Finsteraarhorn, the Wetterhorn, etc. I immediately
examined the guide-book to see if these were important,
and found they were; in fact, a pedestrian tour of Europe
could not be complete without them. Of course that decided
me at once to see them, for I never allow myself to do
things by halves, or in a slurring, slipshod way.
I called in my agent and instructed him to go without delay
and make a careful examination of these noted places,
on foot, and bring me back a written report of the result,
for insertion in my book. I instructed him to go to Hospenthal
as quickly as possible, and make his grand start from there;
to extend his foot expedition as far as the Giesbach fall,
and return to me from thence by diligence or mule.
I told him to take the courier with him.
He objected to the courier, and with some show of reason,
since he was about to venture upon new and untried ground;
but I thought he might as well learn how to take care of
the courier now as later, therefore I enforced my point.
I said that the trouble, delay, and inconvenience
of traveling with a courier were balanced by the deep
respect which a courier's presence commands, and I must
insist that as much style be thrown into my journeys
as possible.
So the two assumed complete mountaineering costumes
and departed. A week later they returned, pretty well
used up, and my agent handed me the following
Official Report
About seven o'clock in the morning, with perfectly
fine weather, we started from Hospenthal, and arrived at
the MAISON on the Furka in a little under QUATRE hours.
The want of variety in the scenery from Hospenthal made
the KAHKAHPONEEKA wearisome; but let none be discouraged;
no one can fail to be completely R'ECOMPENS'EE for
his fatigue, when he sees, for the first time, the monarch
of the Oberland, the tremendous Finsteraarhorn. A moment
before all was dullness, but a PAS further has placed us
on the summit of the Furka; and exactly in front of us,
at a HOPOW of only fifteen miles, this magnificent mountain
lifts its snow-wreathed precipices into the deep blue sky.
The inferior mountains on each side of the pass form
a sort of frame for the picture of their dread lord,
and close in the view so completely that no other prominent
feature in the Oberland is visible from this BONG-A-BONG;
nothing withdraws the attention from the solitary grandeur
of the Finsteraarhorn and the dependent spurs which form
the abutments of the central peak.
With the addition of some others, who were also bound
for the Grimsel, we formed a large XHVLOJ as we descended
the STEG which winds round the shoulder of a mountain
toward the Rhone Glacier. We soon left the path and took
to the ice; and after wandering amongst the crevices UN PEU,
to admire the wonders of these deep blue caverns, and hear
the rushing of waters through their subglacial channels,
we struck out a course toward L'AUTRE CO^T'E and crossed
the glacier successfully, a little above the cave from
which the infant Rhone takes its first bound from under
the grand precipice of ice. Half a mile below this
we began to climb the flowery side of the Meienwand.
One of our party started before the rest, but the HITZE
was so great, that we found IHM quite exhausted,
and lying at full length in the shade of a large GESTEIN.
We sat down with him for a time, for all felt the heat
exceedingly in the climb up this very steep BOLWOGGOLY,
and then we set out again together, and arrived at last
near the Dead Man's Lake, at the foot of the Sidelhorn.
This lonely spot, once used for an extempore burying-place,
after a sanguinary BATTUE between the French and Austrians,
is the perfection of desolation; there is nothing in sight
to mark the hand of man, except the line of weather-beaten
whitened posts, set up to indicate the direction of the pass
in the OWDAWAKK of winter. Near this point the footpath joins
the wider track, which connects the Grimsel with the head
of the Rhone SCHNAWP; this has been carefully constructed,
and leads with a tortuous course among and over LES PIERRES,
down to the bank of the gloomy little SWOSH-SWOSH, which
almost washes against the walls of the Grimsel Hospice.
We arrived a little before four o'clock at the end
of our day's journey, hot enough to justify the step,
taking by most of the PARTIE, of plunging into the crystal
water of the snow-fed lake.
The next afternoon we started for a walk up the Unteraar glacier,
with the intention of, at all events, getting as far
as the HU"TTE which is used as a sleeping-place by most
of those who cross the Strahleck Pass to Grindelwald.
We got over the tedious collection of stones and DE'BRIS
which covers the PIED of the GLETCHER, and had walked
nearly three hours from the Grimsel, when, just as
we were thinking of crossing over to the right,
to climb the cliffs at the foot of the hut, the clouds,
which had for some time assumed a threatening appearance,
suddenly dropped, and a huge mass of them, driving toward
us from the Finsteraarhorn, poured down a deluge of
HABOOLONG and hail. Fortunately, we were not far from
a very large glacier-table; it was a huge rock balanced
on a pedestal of ice high enough to admit of our all
creeping under it for GOWKARAK. A stream of PUCKITTYPUKK
had furrowed a course for itself in the ice at its base,
and we were obliged to stand with one FUSS on each side
of this, and endeavor to keep ourselves CHAUD by cutting
steps in the steep bank of the pedestal, so as to get
a higher place for standing on, as the WASSER rose rapidly
in its trench. A very cold BZZZZZZZZEEE accompanied
the storm, and made our position far from pleasant;
and presently came a flash of BLITZEN, apparently in the
middle of our little party, with an instantaneous clap
of YOKKY, sounding like a large gun fired close to our ears;
the effect was startling; but in a few seconds our attention
was fixed by the roaring echoes of the thunder against
the tremendous mountains which completely surrounded us.
This was followed by many more bursts, none of WELCHE,
however, was so dangerously near; and after waiting a long
DEMI-hour in our icy prison, we sallied out to talk through
a HABOOLONG which, though not so heavy as before, was quite
enough to give us a thorough soaking before our arrival at the
The Grimsel is CERTAINEMENT a wonderful place; situated at
the bottom of a sort of huge crater, the sides of which
are utterly savage GEBIRGE, composed of barren rocks
which cannot even support a single pine ARBRE, and afford
only scanty food for a herd of GMWKWLLOLP, it looks as
if it must be completely BEGRABEN in the winter snows.
Enormous avalanches fall against it every spring,
sometimes covering everything to the depth of thirty
or forty feet; and, in spite of walls four feet thick,
and furnished with outside shutters, the two men who stay here
when the VOYAGEURS are snugly quartered in their distant homes
can tell you that the snow sometimes shakes the house to its
Next morning the HOGGLEBUMGULLUP still continued bad,
but we made up our minds to go on, and make the best of it.
Half an hour after we started, the REGEN thickened unpleasantly,
and we attempted to get shelter under a projecting rock,
but being far to NASS already to make standing at all
AGRE'ABLE, we pushed on for the Handeck, consoling ourselves
with the reflection that from the furious rushing
of the river Aar at our side, we should at all events
Nor were we NAPPERSOCKET in our expectation; the water
was roaring down its leap of two hundred and fifty feet
in a most magnificent frenzy, while the trees which cling
to its rocky sides swayed to and fro in the violence of the
hurricane which it brought down with it; even the stream,
which falls into the main cascade at right angles,
and TOUTEFOIS forms a beautiful feature in the scene,
was now swollen into a raging torrent; and the violence
of this "meeting of the waters," about fifty feet below
the frail bridge where we stood, was fearfully grand.
While we were looking at it, GLU"CKLICHEWEISE a gleam
of sunshine came out, and instantly a beautiful rainbow
was formed by the spray, and hung in mid-air suspended over
the awful gorge.
On going into the CHALET above the fall, we were
informed that a BRU"CKE had broken down near Guttanen,
and that it would be impossible to proceed for some time;
accordingly we were kept in our drenched condition for
EIN STUNDE, when some VOYAGEURS arrived from Meiringen,
and told us that there had been a trifling accident,
ABER that we could now cross. On arriving at the spot,
I was much inclined to suspect that the whole story was a ruse
to make us SLOWWK and drink the more at the Handeck Inn,
for only a few planks had been carried away, and though
there might perhaps have been some difficulty with mules,
the gap was certainly not larger than a MMBGLX might cross
with a very slight leap. Near Guttanen the HABOOLONG
happily ceased, and we had time to walk ourselves tolerably
dry before arriving at Reichenback, WO we enjoyed a good DINE'
at the Hotel des Alps.
Next morning we walked to Rosenlaui, the BEAU ID'EAL
of Swiss scenery, where we spent the middle of the day
in an excursion to the glacier. This was more beautiful
than words can describe, for in the constant progress
of the ice it has changed the form of its extremity
and formed a vast cavern, as blue as the sky above,
and rippled like a frozen ocean. A few steps cut
in the WHOOPJAMBOREEHOO enabled us to walk completely
under this, and feast our eyes upon one of the loveliest
objects in creation. The glacier was all around divided
by numberless fissures of the same exquisite color,
and the finest wood-ERDBEEREN were growing in abundance
but a few yards from the ice. The inn stands in a CHARMANT
spot close to the C^OTE DE LA RIVIE`RE, which, lower down,
forms the Reichenbach fall, and embosomed in the richest
of pine woods, while the fine form of the Wellhorn
looking down upon it completes the enchanting BOPPLE.
In the afternoon we walked over the Great Scheideck
to Grindelwald, stopping to pay a visit to the Upper
glacier by the way; but we were again overtaken by bad
HOGGLEBUMGULLUP and arrived at the hotel in a SOLCHE
a state that the landlord's wardrobe was in great request.
The clouds by this time seemed to have done their worst,
for a lovely day succeeded, which we determined to devote
to an ascent of the Faulhorn. We left Grindelwald just as
a thunder-storm was dying away, and we hoped to find GUTEN
WETTER up above; but the rain, which had nearly ceased,
began again, and we were struck by the rapidly increasing
FROID as we ascended. Two-thirds of the way up were
completed when the rain was exchanged for GNILLIC,
with which the BODEN was thickly covered, and before we
arrived at the top the GNILLIC and mist became so thick
that we could not see one another at more than twenty
POOPOO distance, and it became difficult to pick our way over
the rough and thickly covered ground. Shivering with cold,
we turned into bed with a double allowance of clothes,
and slept comfortably while the wind howled AUTOUR DE
LA MAISON; when I awoke, the wall and the window looked
equally dark, but in another hour I found I could just
see the form of the latter; so I jumped out of bed,
and forced it open, though with great difficulty from
the frost and the quantities of GNILLIC heaped up against it.
A row of huge icicles hung down from the edge of the roof,
and anything more wintry than the whole ANBLICK could
not well be imagined; but the sudden appearance of the
great mountains in front was so startling that I felt no
inclination to move toward bed again. The snow which had
collected upon LA FENE^TRE had increased the FINSTERNISS
ODER DER DUNKELHEIT, so that when I looked out I was
surprised to find that the daylight was considerable,
and that the BALRAGOOMAH would evidently rise before long.
Only the brightest of LES E'TOILES were still shining;
the sky was cloudless overhead, though small curling
mists lay thousands of feet below us in the valleys,
wreathed around the feet of the mountains, and adding
to the splendor of their lofty summits. We were soon
dressed and out of the house, watching the gradual approach
of dawn, thoroughly absorbed in the first near view
of the Oberland giants, which broke upon us unexpectedly
after the intense obscurity of the evening before.
as that grand summit gleamed with the first rose of dawn;
and in a few moments the double crest of the Schreckhorn
followed its example; peak after peak seemed warmed
with life, the Jungfrau blushed even more beautifully
than her neighbors, and soon, from the Wetterhorn in the
east to the Wildstrubel in the west, a long row of fires
glowed upon mighty altars, truly worthy of the gods.
The WLGW was very severe; our sleeping-place could
hardly be DISTINGUEE' from the snow around it, which had
fallen to a depth of a FLIRK during the past evening,
and we heartily enjoyed a rough scramble EN BAS to the
Giesbach falls, where we soon found a warm climate.
At noon the day before Grindelwald the thermometer could
not have stood at less than 100 degrees Fahr. in the sun;
and in the evening, judging from the icicles formed,
and the state of the windows, there must have been at least
twelve DINGBLATTER of frost, thus giving a change of 80
degrees during a few hours.
I said:
"You have done well, Harris; this report is concise,
compact, well expressed; the language is crisp,
the descriptions are vivid and not needlessly elaborated;
your report goes straight to the point, attends strictly
to business, and doesn't fool around. It is in many
ways an excellent document. But it has a fault--it
is too learned, it is much too learned. What is 'DINGBLATTER'?
"'DINGBLATTER' is a Fiji word meaning 'degrees.'"
"You knew the English of it, then?"
"Oh, yes."
"What is 'GNILLIC'?
"That is the Eskimo term for 'snow.'"
"So you knew the English for that, too?"
"Why, certainly."
"What does 'MMBGLX' stand for?"
"That is Zulu for 'pedestrian.'"
"'While the form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it
completes the enchanting BOPPLE.' What is 'BOPPLE'?"
"'Picture.' It's Choctaw."
"What is 'SCHNAWP'?"
"'Valley.' That is Choctaw, also."
"What is 'BOLWOGGOLY'?"
"That is Chinese for 'hill.'"
"'Ascent.' Choctaw."
"'But we were again overtaken by bad HOGGLEBUMGULLUP.'
What does 'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' mean?"
"That is Chinese for 'weather.'"
"Is 'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' better than the English word? Is
it any more descriptive?"
"No, it means just the same."
and 'SCHNAWP'--are they better than the English words?"
"No, they mean just what the English ones do."
"Then why do you use them? Why have you used all this
Chinese and Choctaw and Zulu rubbish?"
"Because I didn't know any French but two or three words,
and I didn't know any Latin or Greek at all."
"That is nothing. Why should you want to use foreign words,
"They adorn my page. They all do it."
"Who is 'all'?"
"Everybody. Everybody that writes elegantly. Anybody has
a right to that wants to."
"I think you are mistaken." I then proceeded in the following
scathing manner. "When really learned men write books
for other learned men to read, they are justified in using
as many learned words as they please--their audience
will understand them; but a man who writes a book for the
general public to read is not justified in disfiguring
his pages with untranslated foreign expressions.
It is an insolence toward the majority of the purchasers,
for it is a very frank and impudent way of saying,
'Get the translations made yourself if you want them,
this book is not written for the ignorant classes.' There are
men who know a foreign language so well and have used it
so long in their daily life that they seem to discharge whole
volleys of it into their English writings unconsciously,
and so they omit to translate, as much as half the time.
That is a great cruelty to nine out of ten of the
man's readers. What is the excuse for this? The writer
would say he only uses the foreign language where the
delicacy of his point cannot be conveyed in English.
Very well, then he writes his best things for the tenth man,
and he ought to warn the nine other not to buy his book.
However, the excuse he offers is at least an excuse;
but there is another set of men who are like YOU;
they know a WORD here and there, of a foreign language,
or a few beggarly little three-word phrases, filched from
the back of the Dictionary, and these are continually
peppering into their literature, with a pretense of
knowing that language--what excuse can they offer? The
foreign words and phrases which they use have their exact
equivalents in a nobler language--English; yet they think
they 'adorn their page' when they say STRASSE for street,
and BAHNHOF for railway-station, and so on--flaunting
these fluttering rags of poverty in the reader's face
and imagining he will be ass enough to take them for the
sign of untold riches held in reserve. I will let your
'learning' remain in your report; you have as much right,
I suppose, to 'adorn your page' with Zulu and Chinese
and Choctaw rubbish as others of your sort have to adorn
theirs with insolent odds and ends smouched from half
a dozen learned tongues whose A-B ABS they don't even know."
When the musing spider steps upon the red-hot shovel,
he first exhibits a wild surprise, then he shrivels up.
Similar was the effect of these blistering words upon the
tranquil and unsuspecting Agent. I can be dreadfully rough
on a person when the mood takes me.
[Alp-scaling by Carriage]
We now prepared for a considerable walk--from Lucerne
to Interlaken, over the Bru"nig Pass. But at the last moment
the weather was so good that I changed my mind and hired
a four-horse carriage. It was a huge vehicle, roomy, as easy
in its motion as a palanquin, and exceedingly comfortable.
We got away pretty early in the morning, after a hot breakfast,
and went bowling over a hard, smooth road, through the summer
loveliness of Switzerland, with near and distant lakes
and mountains before and about us for the entertainment
of the eye, and the music of multitudinous birds to charm
the ear. Sometimes there was only the width of the road
between the imposing precipices on the right and the clear
cool water on the left with its shoals of uncatchable
fish skimming about through the bars of sun and shadow;
and sometimes, in place of the precipices, the grassy land
stretched away, in an apparently endless upward slant,
and was dotted everywhere with snug little chalets,
the peculiarly captivating cottage of Switzerland.
The ordinary chalet turns a broad, honest gable end
to the road, and its ample roof hovers over the home
in a protecting, caressing way, projecting its sheltering
eaves far outward. The quaint windows are filled with
little panes, and garnished with white muslin curtains,
and brightened with boxes of blooming flowers.
Across the front of the house, and up the spreading eaves
and along the fanciful railings of the shallow porch,
are elaborate carvings--wreaths, fruits, arabesques,
verses from Scripture, names, dates, etc. The building
is wholly of wood, reddish brown in tint, a very
pleasing color. It generally has vines climbing over it.
Set such a house against the fresh green of the hillside,
and it looks ever so cozy and inviting and picturesque,
and is a decidedly graceful addition to the landscape.
One does not find out what a hold the chalet has taken
upon him, until he presently comes upon a new house--
a house which is aping the town fashions of Germany
and France, a prim, hideous, straight-up-and-down thing,
plastered all over on the outside to look like stone,
and altogether so stiff, and formal, and ugly, and forbidding,
and so out of tune with the gracious landscape, and so deaf
and dumb and dead to the poetry of its surroundings,
that it suggests an undertaker at a picnic, a corpse at
a wedding, a puritan in Paradise.
In the course of the morning we passed the spot where Pontius
Pilate is said to have thrown himself into the lake.
The legend goes that after the Crucifixion his conscience
troubled him, and he fled from Jerusalem and wandered
about the earth, weary of life and a prey to tortures of
the mind. Eventually, he hid himself away, on the heights
of Mount Pilatus, and dwelt alone among the clouds and
crags for years; but rest and peace were still denied him,
so he finally put an end to his misery by drowning himself.
Presently we passed the place where a man of better odor
was born. This was the children's friend, Santa Claus,
or St. Nicholas. There are some unaccountable reputations
in the world. This saint's is an instance. He has
ranked for ages as the peculiar friend of children,
yet it appears he was not much of a friend to his own.
He had ten of them, and when fifty years old he left them,
and sought out as dismal a refuge from the world as possible,
and became a hermit in order that he might reflect upon
pious themes without being disturbed by the joyous and other
noises from the nursery, doubtless.
Judging by Pilate and St. Nicholas, there exists no rule
for the construction of hermits; they seem made out of all
kinds of material. But Pilate attended to the matter of
expiating his sin while he was alive, whereas St. Nicholas
will probably have to go on climbing down sooty chimneys,
Christmas eve, forever, and conferring kindness on other
people's children, to make up for deserting his own.
His bones are kept in a church in a village (Sachseln)
which we visited, and are naturally held in great reverence.
His portrait is common in the farmhouses of the region,
but is believed by many to be but an indifferent likeness.
During his hermit life, according to legend, he partook
of the bread and wine of the communion once a month,
but all the rest of the month he fasted.
A constant marvel with us, as we sped along the bases
of the steep mountains on this journey, was, not that
avalanches occur, but that they are not occurring all
the time. One does not understand why rocks and landslides
do not plunge down these declivities daily. A landslip
occurred three quarters of a century ago, on the route
from Arth to Brunnen, which was a formidable thing.
A mass of conglomerate two miles long, a thousand feet broad,
and a hundred feet thick, broke away from a cliff three
thousand feet high and hurled itself into the valley below,
burying four villages and five hundred people, as in a grave.
We had such a beautiful day, and such endless pictures
of limpid lakes, and green hills and valleys,
and majestic mountains, and milky cataracts dancing
down the steeps and gleaming in the sun, that we could
not help feeling sweet toward all the world; so we tried
to drink all the milk, and eat all the grapes and apricots
and berries, and buy all the bouquets of wild flowers
which the little peasant boys and girls offered for sale;
but we had to retire from this contract, for it was too heavy.
At short distances--and they were entirely too short--all
along the road, were groups of neat and comely children,
with their wares nicely and temptingly set forth
in the grass under the shade trees, and as soon as we
approached they swarmed into the road, holding out their
baskets and milk bottles, and ran beside the carriage,
barefoot and bareheaded, and importuned us to buy.
They seldom desisted early, but continued to run and
insist--beside the wagon while they could, and behind
it until they lost breath. Then they turned and chased
a returning carriage back to their trading-post again.
After several hours of this, without any intermission,
it becomes almost annoying. I do not know what we
should have done without the returning carriages to draw
off the pursuit. However, there were plenty of these,
loaded with dusty tourists and piled high with luggage.
Indeed, from Lucerne to Interlaken we had the spectacle,
among other scenery, of an unbroken procession of
fruit-peddlers and tourists carriages.
Our talk was mostly anticipatory of what we should see
on the down-grade of the Bru"nig, by and by, after we
should pass the summit. All our friends in Lucerne had
said that to look down upon Meiringen, and the rushing
blue-gray river Aar, and the broad level green valley;
and across at the mighty Alpine precipices that rise
straight up to the clouds out of that valley; and up
at the microscopic chalets perched upon the dizzy eaves
of those precipices and winking dimly and fitfully
through the drifting veil of vapor; and still up and up,
at the superb Oltschiback and the other beautiful cascades
that leap from those rugged heights, robed in powdery spray,
ruffled with foam, and girdled with rainbows--to look upon
these things, they say, was to look upon the last possibility
of the sublime and the enchanting. Therefore, as I say,
we talked mainly of these coming wonders; if we were conscious
of any impatience, it was to get there in favorable season;
if we felt any anxiety, it was that the day might
remain perfect, and enable us to see those marvels at their best.
As we approached the Kaiserstuhl, a part of the harness gave way.
We were in distress for a moment, but only a moment.
It was the fore-and-aft gear that was broken--the thing
that leads aft from the forward part of the horse and is
made fast to the thing that pulls the wagon. In America
this would have been a heavy leathern strap; but, all over
the continent it is nothing but a piece of rope the size
of your little finger--clothes-line is what it is.
Cabs use it, private carriages, freight-carts and wagons,
all sorts of vehicles have it. In Munich I afterward saw
it used on a long wagon laden with fifty-four half-barrels
of beer; I had before noticed that the cabs in Heidelberg
used it--not new rope, but rope that had been in use
since Abraham's time --and I had felt nervous, sometimes,
behind it when the cab was tearing down a hill. But I
had long been accustomed to it now, and had even become
afraid of the leather strap which belonged in its place.
Our driver got a fresh piece of clothes-line out of his
locker and repaired the break in two minutes.
So much for one European fashion. Every country has its
own ways. It may interest the reader to know how they "put
horses to" on the continent. The man stands up the horses
on each side of the thing that projects from the front end
of the wagon, and then throws the tangled mess of gear
forward through a ring, and hauls it aft, and passes the
other thing through the other ring and hauls it aft on the
other side of the other horse, opposite to the first one,
after crossing them and bringing the loose end back,
and then buckles the other thing underneath the horse,
and takes another thing and wraps it around the thing I spoke
of before, and puts another thing over each horse's head,
with broad flappers to it to keep the dust out of his eyes,
and puts the iron thing in his mouth for him to grit his
teeth on, uphill, and brings the ends of these things aft
over his back, after buckling another one around under
his neck to hold his head up, and hitching another thing
on a thing that goes over his shoulders to keep his head
up when he is climbing a hill, and then takes the slack
of the thing which I mentioned a while ago, and fetches it
aft and makes it fast to the thing that pulls the wagon,
and hands the other things up to the driver to steer with.
I never have buckled up a horse myself, but I do not think
we do it that way.
We had four very handsome horses, and the driver was very proud
of his turnout. He would bowl along on a reasonable trot,
on the highway, but when he entered a village he did it on
a furious run, and accompanied it with a frenzy of ceaseless
whip-crackings that sounded like volleys of musketry.
He tore through the narrow streets and around the sharp
curves like a moving earthquake, showering his volleys
as he went, and before him swept a continuous tidal wave
of scampering children, ducks, cats, and mothers clasping
babies which they had snatched out of the way of the
coming destruction; and as this living wave washed aside,
along the walls, its elements, being safe, forgot their fears
and turned their admiring gaze upon that gallant driver
till he thundered around the next curve and was lost to sight.
He was a great man to those villagers, with his gaudy
clothes and his terrific ways. Whenever he stopped
to have his cattle watered and fed with loaves of bread,
the villagers stood around admiring him while he
swaggered about, the little boys gazed up at his face with
humble homage, and the landlord brought out foaming mugs
of beer and conversed proudly with him while he drank.
Then he mounted his lofty box, swung his explosive whip,
and away he went again, like a storm. I had not seen
anything like this before since I was a boy, and the
stage used to flourish the village with the dust flying
and the horn tooting.
When we reached the base of the Kaiserstuhl, we took
two more horses; we had to toil along with difficulty
for an hour and a half or two hours, for the ascent
was not very gradual, but when we passed the backbone
and approached the station, the driver surpassed all
his previous efforts in the way of rush and clatter.
He could not have six horses all the time, so he made
the most of his chance while he had it.
Up to this point we had been in the heart of the William
Tell region. The hero is not forgotten, by any means,
or held in doubtful veneration. His wooden image,
with his bow drawn, above the doors of taverns, was a
frequent feature of the scenery.
About noon we arrived at the foot of the Bru"nig Pass,
and made a two-hour stop at the village hotel, another of
those clean, pretty, and thoroughly well-kept inns which are
such an astonishment to people who are accustomed to hotels
of a dismally different pattern in remote country-towns.
There was a lake here, in the lap of the great mountains,
the green slopes that rose toward the lower crags
were graced with scattered Swiss cottages nestling
among miniature farms and gardens, and from out a leafy
ambuscade in the upper heights tumbled a brawling cataract.
Carriage after carriage, laden with tourists and trunks,
arrived, and the quiet hotel was soon populous.
We were early at the table d'ho^te and saw the people
all come in. There were twenty-five, perhaps. They were
of various nationalities, but we were the only Americans.
Next to me sat an English bride, and next to her sat her
new husband, whom she called "Neddy," though he was big
enough and stalwart enough to be entitled to his full name.
They had a pretty little lovers' quarrel over what wine
they should have. Neddy was for obeying the guide-book
and taking the wine of the country; but the bride said:
"What, that nahsty stuff!"
"It isn't nahsty, pet, it's quite good."
"It IS nahsty."
"No, it ISN'T nahsty."
"It's Oful nahsty, Neddy, and I shahn't drink it."
Then the question was, what she must have. She said he
knew very well that she never drank anything but champagne.
She added:
"You know very well papa always has champagne on his table,
and I've always been used to it."
Neddy made a playful pretense of being distressed about
the expense, and this amused her so much that she nearly
exhausted herself with laughter--and this pleased HIM
so much that he repeated his jest a couple of times,
and added new and killing varieties to it. When the bride
finally recovered, she gave Neddy a love-box on the arm
with her fan, and said with arch severity:
"Well, you would HAVE me--nothing else would do--
so you'll have to make the best of a bad bargain.
DO order the champagne, I'm Oful dry."
So with a mock groan which made her laugh again,
Neddy ordered the champagne.
The fact that this young woman had never moistened
the selvedge edge of her soul with a less plebeian
tipple than champagne, had a marked and subduing effect
on Harris. He believed she belonged to the royal family.
But I had my doubts.
We heard two or three different languages spoken by
people at the table and guessed out the nationalities
of most of the guests to our satisfaction, but we
failed with an elderly gentleman and his wife and a
young girl who sat opposite us, and with a gentleman
of about thirty-five who sat three seats beyond Harris.
We did not hear any of these speak. But finally the
last-named gentleman left while we were not noticing,
but we looked up as he reached the far end of the table.
He stopped there a moment, and made his toilet with a
pocket comb. So he was a German; or else he had lived
in German hotels long enough to catch the fashion.
When the elderly couple and the young girl rose to leave,
they bowed respectfully to us. So they were Germans, too.
This national custom is worth six of the other one,
for export.
After dinner we talked with several Englishmen, and they
inflamed our desire to a hotter degree than ever,
to see the sights of Meiringen from the heights of
the Bru"nig Pass. They said the view was marvelous,
and that one who had seen it once could never forget it.
They also spoke of the romantic nature of the road over
the pass, and how in one place it had been cut through
a flank of the solid rock, in such a way that the mountain
overhung the tourist as he passed by; and they furthermore
said that the sharp turns in the road and the abruptness
of the descent would afford us a thrilling experience,
for we should go down in a flying gallop and seem to be
spinning around the rings of a whirlwind, like a drop
of whiskey descending the spirals of a corkscrew.
I got all the information out of these gentlemen that we
could need; and then, to make everything complete, I asked
them if a body could get hold of a little fruit and milk
here and there, in case of necessity. They threw up their
hands in speechless intimation that the road was simply paved
with refreshment-peddlers. We were impatient to get away,
now, and the rest of our two-hour stop rather dragged.
But finally the set time arrived and we began the ascent.
Indeed it was a wonderful road. It was smooth, and compact,
and clean, and the side next the precipices was guarded
all along by dressed stone posts about three feet high,
placed at short distances apart. The road could not have
been better built if Napoleon the First had built it.
He seems to have been the introducer of the sort of roads
which Europe now uses. All literature which describes
life as it existed in England, France, and Germany up
to the close of the last century, is filled with pictures
of coaches and carriages wallowing through these three
countries in mud and slush half-wheel deep; but after
Napoleon had floundered through a conquered kingdom he
generally arranged things so that the rest of the world
could follow dry-shod.
We went on climbing, higher and higher, and curving hither
and thither, in the shade of noble woods, and with a rich
variety and profusion of wild flowers all about us;
and glimpses of rounded grassy backbones below us occupied
by trim chalets and nibbling sheep, and other glimpses
of far lower altitudes, where distance diminished the
chalets to toys and obliterated the sheep altogether;
and every now and then some ermined monarch of the Alps
swung magnificently into view for a moment, then drifted
past an intervening spur and disappeared again.
It was an intoxicating trip altogether; the exceeding
sense of satisfaction that follows a good dinner added
largely to the enjoyment; the having something especial
to look forward to and muse about, like the approaching
grandeurs of Meiringen, sharpened the zest. Smoking was
never so good before, solid comfort was never solider;
we lay back against the thick cushions silent, meditative,
steeped in felicity.
I rubbed my eyes, opened them, and started. I had been
dreaming I was at sea, and it was a thrilling surprise to wake
up and find land all around me. It took me a couple seconds
to "come to," as you may say; then I took in the situation.
The horses were drinking at a trough in the edge of a town,
the driver was taking beer, Harris was snoring at my side,
the courier, with folded arms and bowed head, was sleeping
on the box, two dozen barefooted and bareheaded children
were gathered about the carriage, with their hands
crossed behind, gazing up with serious and innocent
admiration at the dozing tourists baking there in the sun.
Several small girls held night-capped babies nearly
as big as themselves in their arms, and even these fat
babies seemed to take a sort of sluggish interest in us.
We had slept an hour and a half and missed all the scenery!
I did not need anybody to tell me that. If I had been
a girl, I could have cursed for vexation. As it was,
I woke up the agent and gave him a piece of my mind.
Instead of being humiliated, he only upbraided me for being
so wanting in vigilance. He said he had expected to improve
his mind by coming to Europe, but a man might travel to the
ends of the earth with me and never see anything, for I
was manifestly endowed with the very genius of ill luck.
He even tried to get up some emotion about that poor courier,
who never got a chance to see anything, on account of
my heedlessness. But when I thought I had borne about
enough of this kind of talk, I threatened to make Harris
tramp back to the summit and make a report on that scenery,
and this suggestion spiked his battery.
We drove sullenly through Brienz, dead to the seductions
of its bewildering array of Swiss carvings and the
clamorous HOO-hooing of its cuckoo clocks, and had not
entirely recovered our spirits when we rattled across
a bridge over the rushing blue river and entered the
pretty town of Interlaken. It was just about sunset,
and we had made the trip from Lucerne in ten hours.
[The Jungfrau, the Bride, and the Piano]
We located ourselves at the Jungfrau Hotel, one of those
huge establishments which the needs of modern travel
have created in every attractive spot on the continent.
There was a great gathering at dinner, and, as usual,
one heard all sorts of languages.
The table d'ho^te was served by waitresses dressed
in the quaint and comely costume of the Swiss peasants.
This consists of a simple gros de laine, trimmed with ashes
of roses, with overskirt of scare bleu ventre saint gris,
cut bias on the off-side, with facings of petit polonaise
and narrow insertions of pa^te de foie gras backstitched
to the mise en sce`ne in the form of a jeu d'esprit. It gives
to the wearer a singularly piquant and alluring aspect.
One of these waitresses, a woman of forty,
had side-whiskers reaching half-way down her jaws.
They were two fingers broad, dark in color, pretty thick,
and the hairs were an inch long. One sees many women on
the continent with quite conspicuous mustaches, but this
was the only woman I saw who had reached the dignity of whiskers.
After dinner the guests of both sexes distributed themselves
about the front porches and the ornamental grounds belonging
to the hotel, to enjoy the cool air; but, as the twilight
deepened toward darkness, they gathered themselves together
in that saddest and solemnest and most constrained of
all places, the great blank drawing-room which is the chief
feature of all continental summer hotels. There they
grouped themselves about, in couples and threes, and mumbled
in bated voices, and looked timid and homeless and forlorn.
There was a small piano in this room, a clattery, wheezy,
asthmatic thing, certainly the very worst miscarriage
in the way of a piano that the world has seen. In turn,
five or six dejected and homesick ladies approached
it doubtingly, gave it a single inquiring thump, and retired
with the lockjaw. But the boss of that instrument was
to come, nevertheless; and from my own country--from Arkansaw.
She was a brand-new bride, innocent, girlish, happy in herself
and her grave and worshiping stripling of a husband; she was
about eighteen, just out of school, free from affections,
unconscious of that passionless multitude around her;
and the very first time she smote that old wreck one
recognized that it had met its destiny. Her stripling
brought an armful of aged sheet-music from their room--
for this bride went "heeled," as you might say--and bent
himself lovingly over and got ready to turn the pages.
The bride fetched a swoop with her fingers from one end
of the keyboard to the other, just to get her bearings,
as it were, and you could see the congregation set their teeth
with the agony of it. Then, without any more preliminaries,
she turned on all the horrors of the "Battle of Prague,"
that venerable shivaree, and waded chin-deep in the blood
of the slain. She made a fair and honorable average
of two false notes in every five, but her soul was in arms
and she never stopped to correct. The audience stood it
with pretty fair grit for a while, but when the cannonade
waxed hotter and fiercer, and the discord average
rose to four in five, the procession began to move.
A few stragglers held their ground ten minutes longer,
but when the girl began to wring the true inwardness out
of the "cries of the wounded," they struck their colors
and retired in a kind of panic.
There never was a completer victory; I was the only
non-combatant left on the field. I would not have
deserted my countrywoman anyhow, but indeed I had no
desires in that direction. None of us like mediocrity,
but we all reverence perfection. This girl's music
was perfection in its way; it was the worst music that
had ever been achieved on our planet by a mere human being.
I moved up close, and never lost a strain. When she
got through, I asked her to play it again. She did it
with a pleased alacrity and a heightened enthusiasm.
She made it ALL discords, this time. She got an amount
of anguish into the cries of the wounded that shed a new
light on human suffering. She was on the war-path all
the evening. All the time, crowds of people gathered on
the porches and pressed their noses against the windows
to look and marvel, but the bravest never ventured in.
The bride went off satisfied and happy with her young fellow,
when her appetite was finally gorged, and the tourists
swarmed in again.
What a change has come over Switzerland, and in fact
all Europe, during this century! Seventy or eighty years
ago Napoleon was the only man in Europe who could really
be called a traveler; he was the only man who had devoted
his attention to it and taken a powerful interest in it;
he was the only man who had traveled extensively;
but now everybody goes everywhere; and Switzerland,
and many other regions which were unvisited and unknown
remotenesses a hundred years ago, are in our days
a buzzing hive of restless strangers every summer.
But I digress.
In the morning, when we looked out of our windows,
we saw a wonderful sight. Across the valley,
and apparently quite neighborly and close at hand,
the giant form of the Jungfrau rose cold and white into
the clear sky, beyond a gateway in the nearer highlands.
It reminded me, somehow, of one of those colossal billows
which swells suddenly up beside one's ship, at sea,
sometimes, with its crest and shoulders snowy white, and the
rest of its noble proportions streaked downward with creamy foam.
I took out my sketch-book and made a little picture
of the Jungfrau, merely to get the shape. [Figure 9]
I do not regard this as one of my finished works, in fact I
do not rank it among my Works at all; it is only a study;
it is hardly more than what one might call a sketch.
Other artists have done me the grace to admire it; but I
am severe in my judgments of my own pictures, and this
one does not move me.
It was hard to believe that that lofty wooded rampart on
the left which so overtops the Jungfrau was not actually
the higher of the two, but it was not, of course.
It is only two or three thousand feet high, and of course
has no snow upon it in summer, whereas the Jungfrau is not
much shorter of fourteen thousand feet high and therefore
that lowest verge of snow on her side, which seems nearly
down to the valley level, is really about seven thousand feet
higher up in the air than the summit of that wooded rampart.
It is the distance that makes the deception. The wooded
height is but four or five miles removed from us,
but the Jungfrau is four or five times that distance away.
Walking down the street of shops, in the fore-noon, I
was attracted by a large picture, carved, frame and all,
from a single block of chocolate-colored wood.
There are people who know everything. Some of these had
told us that continental shopkeepers always raise their
prices on English and Americans. Many people had told
us it was expensive to buy things through a courier,
whereas I had supposed it was just the reverse.
When I saw this picture, I conjectured that it was worth
more than the friend I proposed to buy it for would
like to pay, but still it was worth while to inquire;
so I told the courier to step in and ask the price, as if he
wanted it for himself; I told him not to speak in English,
and above all not to reveal the fact that he was a courier.
Then I moved on a few yards, and waited.
The courier came presently and reported the price.
I said to myself, "It is a hundred francs too much,"
and so dismissed the matter from my mind. But in
the afternoon I was passing that place with Harris,
and the picture attracted me again. We stepped in,
to see how much higher broken German would raise the price.
The shopwoman named a figure just a hundred francs lower
than the courier had named. This was a pleasant surprise.
I said I would take it. After I had given directions as to
where it was to be shipped, the shipped, the shopwoman said,
"If your please, do not let your courier know you bought it."
This was an unexpected remark. I said:
"What makes you think I have a courier?"
"Ah, that is very simple; he told me himself."
"He was very thoughtful. But tell me--why did you charge
him more than you are charging me?"
"That is very simple, also: I do not have to pay you
a percentage."
"Oh, I begin to see. You would have had to pay the courier
a percentage."
"Undoubtedly. The courier always has his percentage.
In this case it would have been a hundred francs."
"Then the tradesman does not pay a part of it--
the purchaser pays all of it?"
"There are occasions when the tradesman and the courier
agree upon a price which is twice or thrice the value of
the article, then the two divide, and both get a percentage."
"I see. But it seems to me that the purchaser does
all the paying, even then."
"Oh, to be sure! It goes without saying."
"But I have bought this picture myself; therefore why
shouldn't the courier know it?"
The woman exclaimed, in distress:
"Ah, indeed it would take all my little profit! He would
come and demand his hundred francs, and I should have
to pay."
"He has not done the buying. You could refuse."
"I could not dare to refuse. He would never bring
travelers here again. More than that, he would denounce me
to the other couriers, they would divert custom from me,
and my business would be injured."
I went away in a thoughtful frame of mind. I began to see why
a courier could afford to work for fifty-five dollars a month
and his fares. A month or two later I was able to understand
why a courier did not have to pay any board and lodging,
and why my hotel bills were always larger when I had him
with me than when I left him behind, somewhere, for a few days.
Another thing was also explained, now, apparently.
In one town I had taken the courier to the bank to do
the translating when I drew some money. I had sat
in the reading-room till the transaction was finished.
Then a clerk had brought the money to me in person,
and had been exceedingly polite, even going so far as to
precede me to the door and holding it open for me and bow
me out as if I had been a distinguished personage.
It was a new experience. Exchange had been in my favor
ever since I had been in Europe, but just that one time.
I got simply the face of my draft, and no extra francs,
whereas I had expected to get quite a number of them.
This was the first time I had ever used the courier at
the bank. I had suspected something then, and as long
as he remained with me afterward I managed bank matters
by myself.
Still, if I felt that I could afford the tax, I would
never travel without a courier, for a good courier is
a convenience whose value cannot be estimated in dollars
and cents. Without him, travel is a bitter harassment,
a purgatory of little exasperating annoyances, a ceaseless
and pitiless punishment--I mean to an irascible man
who has no business capacity and is confused by details.
Without a courier, travel hasn't a ray of pleasure
in it, anywhere; but with him it is a continuous and
unruffled delight. He is always at hand, never has to be
sent for; if your bell is not answered promptly--and it
seldom is--you have only to open the door and speak,
the courier will hear, and he will have the order attended
to or raise an insurrection. You tell him what day
you will start, and whither you are going--leave all
the rest to him. You need not inquire about trains,
or fares, or car changes, or hotels, or anything else.
At the proper time he will put you in a cab or an omnibus,
and drive you to the train or the boat; he has packed your
luggage and transferred it, he has paid all the bills.
Other people have preceded you half an hour to scramble
for impossible places and lose their tempers, but you can
take your time; the courier has secured your seats for you,
and you can occupy them at your leisure.
At the station, the crowd mash one another to pulp in the
effort to get the weigher's attention to their trunks;
they dispute hotly with these tyrants, who are cool
and indifferent; they get their baggage billets, at last,
and then have another squeeze and another rage over the
disheartening business of trying to get them recorded and
paid for, and still another over the equally disheartening
business of trying to get near enough to the ticket
office to buy a ticket; and now, with their tempers gone
to the dogs, they must stand penned up and packed together,
laden with wraps and satchels and shawl-straps, with the
weary wife and babies, in the waiting-room, till the doors
are thrown open--and then all hands make a grand final
rush to the train, find it full, and have to stand on
the platform and fret until some more cars are put on.
They are in a condition to kill somebody by this time.
Meantime, you have been sitting in your car, smoking,
and observing all this misery in the extremest comfort.
On the journey the guard is polite and watchful--won't
allow anybody to get into your compartment--tells them
you are just recovering from the small-pox and do not
like to be disturbed. For the courier has made everything
right with the guard. At way-stations the courier comes
to your compartment to see if you want a glass of water,
or a newspaper, or anything; at eating-stations he sends
luncheon out to you, while the other people scramble
and worry in the dining-rooms. If anything breaks about
the car you are in, and a station-master proposes to pack
you and your agent into a compartment with strangers,
the courier reveals to him confidentially that you are
a French duke born deaf and dumb, and the official comes
and makes affable signs that he has ordered a choice car
to be added to the train for you.
At custom-houses the multitude file tediously through,
hot and irritated, and look on while the officers
burrow into the trunks and make a mess of everything;
but you hand your keys to the courier and sit still.
Perhaps you arrive at your destination in a rain-storm
at ten at night--you generally do. The multitude
spend half an hour verifying their baggage and getting
it transferred to the omnibuses; but the courier puts
you into a vehicle without a moment's loss of time,
and when you reach your hotel you find your rooms have been
secured two or three days in advance, everything is ready,
you can go at once to bed. Some of those other people will
have to drift around to two or three hotels, in the rain,
before they find accommodations.
I have not set down half of the virtues that are
vested in a good courier, but I think I have set down
a sufficiency of them to show that an irritable man
who can afford one and does not employ him is not a
wise economist. My courier was the worst one in Europe,
yet he was a good deal better than none at all.
It could not pay him to be a better one than he was,
because I could not afford to buy things through him.
He was a good enough courier for the small amount he
got out of his service. Yes, to travel with a courier
is bliss, to travel without one is the reverse.
I have had dealings with some very bad couriers; but I have also
had dealings with one who might fairly be called perfection.
He was a young Polander, named Joseph N. Verey. He spoke
eight languages, and seemed to be equally at home in all
of them; he was shrewd, prompt, posted, and punctual;
he was fertile in resources, and singularly gifted in
the matter of overcoming difficulties; he not only knew
how to do everything in his line, but he knew the best ways
and the quickest; he was handy with children and invalids;
all his employer needed to do was to take life easy
and leave everything to the courier. His address is,
care of Messrs. Gay & Son, Strand, London; he was formerly
a conductor of Gay's tourist parties. Excellent couriers
are somewhat rare; if the reader is about to travel,
he will find it to his advantage to make a note of this one.
[We Climb Far--by Buggy]
The beautiful Giesbach Fall is near Interlaken, on the
other side of the lake of Brienz, and is illuminated
every night with those gorgeous theatrical fires whose
name I cannot call just at this moment. This was said
to be a spectacle which the tourist ought by no means
to miss. I was strongly tempted, but I could not go
there with propriety, because one goes in a boat.
The task which I had set myself was to walk over Europe
on foot, not skim over it in a boat. I had made a tacit
contract with myself; it was my duty to abide by it.
I was willing to make boat trips for pleasure, but I could
not conscientiously make them in the way of business.
It cost me something of a pang to lose that fine sight,
but I lived down the desire, a nd gained in my self-respect
through the triumph. I had a finer and a grander sight,
however, where I was. This was the mighty dome of the Jungfrau
softly outlined against the sky and faintly silvered by
the starlight. There was something subduing in the influence
of that silent and solemn and awful presence; one seemed
to meet the immutable, the indestructible, the eternal,
face to face, and to feel the trivial and fleeting nature
of his own existence the more sharply by the contrast.
One had the sense of being under the brooding contemplation
of a spirit, not an inert mass of rocks and ice--a spirit
which had looked down, through the slow drift of the ages,
upon a million vanished races of men, and judged them;
and would judge a million more--and still be there,
watching, unchanged and unchangeable, after all life
should be gone and the earth have become a vacant desolation.
While I was feeling these things, I was groping,
without knowing it, toward an understanding of what the
spell is which people find in the Alps, and in no other
mountains--that strange, deep, nameless influence, which,
once felt, cannot be forgotten--once felt, leaves always
behind it a restless longing to feel it again--a longing
which is like homesickness; a grieving, haunting yearning
which will plead, implore, and persecute till it has its will.
I met dozens of people, imaginative and unimaginative,
cultivated and uncultivated, who had come from far countries
and roamed through the Swiss Alps year after year--they
could not explain why. They had come first, they said,
out of idle curiosity, because everybody talked about it;
they had come since because they could not help it, and they
should keep on coming, while they lived, for the same reason;
they had tried to break their chains and stay away,
but it was futile; now, they had no desire to break them.
Others came nearer formulating what they felt; they said they
could find perfect rest and peace nowhere else when they
were troubled: all frets and worries and chafings sank to
sleep in the presence of the benignant serenity of the Alps;
the Great Spirit of the Mountain breathed his own peace
upon their hurt minds and sore hearts, and healed them;
they could not think base thoughts or do mean and sordid
things here, before the visible throne of God.
Down the road a piece was a Kursaal--whatever that may be--
and we joined the human tide to see what sort of enjoyment
it might afford. It was the usual open-air concert,
in an ornamental garden, with wines, beer, milk, whey,
grapes, etc.--the whey and the grapes being necessaries
of life to certain invalids whom physicians cannot repair,
and who only continue to exist by the grace of whey
or grapes. One of these departed spirits told me,
in a sad and lifeless way, that there is no way for him
to live but by whey, and dearly, dearly loved whey,
he didn't know whey he did, but he did. After making
this pun he died--that is the whey it served him.
Some other remains, preserved from decomposition
by the grape system, told me that the grapes were of
a peculiar breed, highly medicinal in their nature,
and that they were counted out and administered by the
grape-doctors as methodically as if they were pills.
The new patient, if very feeble, began with one grape
before breakfast, took three during breakfast, a couple
between meals, five at luncheon, three in the afternoon,
seven at dinner, four for supper, and part of a grape
just before going to bed, by way of a general regulator.
The quantity was gradually and regularly increased,
according to the needs and capacities of the patient,
until by and by you would find him disposing of his one
grape per second all the day long, and his regular barrel
per day.
He said that men cured in this way, and enabled to discard
the grape system, never afterward got over the habit
of talking as if they were dictating to a slow amanuensis,
because they always made a pause between each two words
while they sucked the substance out of an imaginary grape.
He said these were tedious people to talk with.
He said that men who had been cured by the other process
were easily distinguished from the rest of mankind
because they always tilted their heads back, between every
two words, and swallowed a swig of imaginary whey.
He said it was an impressive thing to observe two men,
who had been cured by the two processes, engaged in
conversation--said their pauses and accompanying movements
were so continuous and regular that a stranger would think
himself in the presence of a couple of automatic machines.
One finds out a great many wonderful things, by traveling,
if he stumbles upon the right person.
I did not remain long at the Kursaal; the music was
good enough, but it seemed rather tame after the cyclone
of that Arkansaw expert. Besides, my adventurous spirit
had conceived a formidable enterprise--nothing less
than a trip from Interlaken, by the Gemmi and Visp,
clear to Zermatt, on foot! So it was necessary to plan
the details, and get ready for an early start. The courier
(this was not the one I have just been speaking of)
thought that the portier of the hotel would be able
to tell us how to find our way. And so it turned out.
He showed us the whole thing, on a relief-map, and we could
see our route, with all its elevations and depressions,
its villages and its rivers, as clearly as if we were sailing
over it in a balloon. A relief-map is a great thing.
The portier also wrote down each day's journey and the
nightly hotel on a piece of paper, and made our course
so plain that we should never be able to get lost without
high-priced outside help.
I put the courier in the care of a gentleman who was
going to Lausanne, and then we went to bed, after laying
out the walking-costumes and putting them into condition
for instant occupation in the morning.
However, when we came down to breakfast at 8 A.M., it
looked so much like rain that I hired a two-horse top-buggy
for the first third of the journey. For two or three hours
we jogged along the level road which skirts the beautiful
lake of Thun, with a dim and dreamlike picture of watery
expanses and spectral Alpine forms always before us,
veiled in a mellowing mist. Then a steady downpour
set in, and hid everything but the nearest objects.
We kept the rain out of our faces with umbrellas, and away
from our bodies with the leather apron of the buggy;
but the driver sat unsheltered and placidly soaked the weather
in and seemed to like it. We had the road to ourselves,
and I never had a pleasanter excursion.
The weather began to clear while we were driving up
a valley called the Kienthal, and presently a vast black
cloud-bank in front of us dissolved away and uncurtained
the grand proportions and the soaring loftiness of the
Blumis Alp. It was a sort of breath-taking surprise;
for we had not supposed there was anything behind
that low-hung blanket of sable cloud but level valley.
What we had been mistaking for fleeting glimpses of sky
away aloft there, were really patches of the Blumis's
snowy crest caught through shredded rents in the drifting
pall of vapor.
We dined in the inn at Frutigen, and our driver ought
to have dined there, too, but he would not have had
time to dine and get drunk both, so he gave his mind
to making a masterpiece of the latter, and succeeded.
A German gentleman and his two young-lady daughters had
been taking their nooning at the inn, and when they left,
just ahead of us, it was plain that their driver was
as drunk as ours, and as happy and good-natured, too,
which was saying a good deal. These rascals overflowed
with attentions and information for their guests, and with
brotherly love for each other. They tied their reins,
and took off their coats and hats, so that they might
be able to give unencumbered attention to conversation
and to the gestures necessary for its illustration.
The road was smooth; it led up and over and down a continual
succession of hills; but it was narrow, the horses were
used to it, and could not well get out of it anyhow;
so why shouldn't the drivers entertain themselves and us?
The noses of our horses projected sociably into the rear
of the forward carriage, and as we toiled up the long
hills our driver stood up and talked to his friend,
and his friend stood up and talked back to him, with his
rear to the scenery. When the top was reached and we
went flying down the other side, there was no change in
the program. I carry in my memory yet the picture of that
forward driver, on his knees on his high seat, resting his
elbows on its back, and beaming down on his passengers,
with happy eye, and flying hair, and jolly red face,
and offering his card to the old German gentleman while he
praised his hack and horses, and both teams were whizzing
down a long hill with nobody in a position to tell whether
we were bound to destruction or an undeserved safety.
Toward sunset we entered a beautiful green valley dotted
with chalets, a cozy little domain hidden away from the busy
world in a cloistered nook among giant precipices topped
with snowy peaks that seemed to float like islands above
the curling surf of the sea of vapor that severed them from
the lower world. Down from vague and vaporous heights,
little ruffled zigzag milky currents came crawling,
and found their way to the verge of one of those tremendous
overhanging walls, whence they plunged, a shaft of silver,
shivered to atoms in mid-descent and turned to an air puff
of luminous dust. Here and there, in grooved depressions
among the snowy desolations of the upper altitudes,
one glimpsed the extremity of a glacier, with its sea-green
and honeycombed battlements of ice.
Up the valley, under a dizzy precipice, nestled the
village of Kandersteg, our halting-place for the night.
We were soon there, and housed in the hotel. But the waning
day had such an inviting influence that we did not remain
housed many moments, but struck out and followed a roaring
torrent of ice-water up to its far source in a sort of
little grass-carpeted parlor, walled in all around by vast
precipices and overlooked by clustering summits of ice.
This was the snuggest little croquet-ground imaginable;
it was perfectly level, and not more than a mile long
by half a mile wide. The walls around it were so gigantic,
and everything about it was on so mighty a scale that it
was belittled, by contrast, to what I have likened it
to--a cozy and carpeted parlor. It was so high above
the Kandersteg valley that there was nothing between it
and the snowy-peaks. I had never been in such intimate
relations with the high altitudes before; the snow-peaks
had always been remote and unapproachable grandeurs,
hitherto, but now we were hob-a-nob--if one may use
such a seemingly irreverent expression about creations
so august as these.
We could see the streams which fed the torrent we
had followed issuing from under the greenish ramparts
of glaciers; but two or three of these, instead of flowing
over the precipices, sank down into the rock and sprang
in big jets out of holes in the mid-face of the walls.
The green nook which I have been describing is called
the Gasternthal. The glacier streams gather and flow through
it in a broad and rushing brook to a narrow cleft between
lofty precipices; here the rushing brook becomes a mad torrent
and goes booming and thundering down toward Kandersteg,
lashing and thrashing its way over and among monster boulders,
and hurling chance roots and logs about like straws.
There was no lack of cascades along this route.
The path by the side of the torrent was so narrow
that one had to look sharp, when he heard a cow-bell,
and hunt for a place that was wide enough to accommodate
a cow and a Christian side by side, and such places were
not always to be had at an instant's notice. The cows
wear church-bells, and that is a good idea in the cows,
for where that torrent is, you couldn't hear an ordinary
cow-bell any further than you could hear the ticking of a watch.
I needed exercise, so I employed my agent in setting
stranded logs and dead trees adrift, and I sat on a
boulder and watched them go whirling and leaping head
over heels down the boiling torrent. It was a wonderfully
exhilarating spectacle. When I had had enough exercise,
I made the agent take some, by running a race with one
of those logs. I made a trifle by betting on the log.
After dinner we had a walk up and down the Kandersteg valley,
in the soft gloaming, with the spectacle of the dying lights
of day playing about the crests and pinnacles of the still
and solemn upper realm for contrast, and text for talk.
There were no sounds but the dulled complaining of the
torrent and the occasional tinkling of a distant bell.
The spirit of the place was a sense of deep, pervading peace;
one might dream his life tranquilly away there, and not miss
it or mind it when it was gone.
The summer departed with the sun, and winter came with
the stars. It grew to be a bitter night in that little hotel,
backed up against a precipice that had no visible top to it,
but we kept warm, and woke in time in the morning to find
that everybody else had left for Gemmi three hours before--
so our little plan of helping that German family (principally
the old man) over the pass, was a blocked generosity.
[The World's Highest Pig Farm]
We hired the only guide left, to lead us on our way.
He was over seventy, but he could have given me nine-tenths
of his strength and still had all his age entitled him to.
He shouldered our satchels, overcoats, and alpenstocks,
and we set out up the steep path. It was hot work.
The old man soon begged us to hand over our coats
and waistcoats to him to carry, too, and we did it;
one could not refuse so little a thing to a poor old man
like that; he should have had them if he had been a hundred
and fifty.
When we began that ascent, we could see a microscopic
chalet perched away up against heaven on what seemed
to be the highest mountain near us. It was on our right,
across the narrow head of the valley. But when we got
up abreast it on its own level, mountains were towering
high above on every hand, and we saw that its altitude
was just about that of the little Gasternthal which we had
visited the evening before. Still it seemed a long way up
in the air, in that waste and lonely wilderness of rocks.
It had an unfenced grass-plot in front of it which seemed
about as big as a billiard-table, and this grass-plot
slanted so sharply downward, and was so brief, and ended
so exceedingly soon at the verge of the absolute precipice,
that it was a shuddery thing to think of a person's venturing
to trust his foot on an incline so situated at all.
Suppose a man stepped on an orange peel in that yard;
there would be nothing for him to seize; nothing could
keep him from rolling; five revolutions would bring him
to the edge, and over he would go. What a frightful distance
he would fall!--for there are very few birds that fly
as high as his starting-point. He would strike and bounce,
two or three times, on his way down, but this would be
no advantage to him. I would as soon taking an airing
on the slant of a rainbow as in such a front yard.
I would rather, in fact, for the distance down would be about
the same, and it is pleasanter to slide than to bounce.
I could not see how the peasants got up to that chalet--
the region seemed too steep for anything but a balloon.
As we strolled on, climbing up higher and higher, we were
continually bringing neighboring peaks into view and lofty
prominence which had been hidden behind lower peaks before;
so by and by, while standing before a group of these giants,
we looked around for the chalet again; there it was,
away down below us, apparently on an inconspicuous ridge
in the valley! It was as far below us, now, as it had been
above us when we were beginning the ascent.
After a while the path led us along a railed precipice,
and we looked over--far beneath us was the snug parlor again,
the little Gasternthal, with its water jets spouting
from the face of its rock walls. We could have dropped
a stone into it. We had been finding the top of the world
all along--and always finding a still higher top stealing
into view in a disappointing way just ahead; when we looked
down into the Gasternthal we felt pretty sure that we
had reached the genuine top at last, but it was not so;
there were much higher altitudes to be scaled yet.
We were still in the pleasant shade of forest trees,
we were still in a region which was cushioned with beautiful
mosses and aglow with the many-tinted luster of innumerable
wild flowers.
We found, indeed, more interest in the wild flowers
than in anything else. We gathered a specimen or two
of every kind which we were unacquainted with; so we
had sumptuous bouquets. But one of the chief interests
lay in chasing the seasons of the year up the mountain,
and determining them by the presence of flowers and
berries which we were acquainted with. For instance,
it was the end of August at the level of the sea;
in the Kandersteg valley at the base of the pass,
we found flowers which would not be due at the sea-level
for two or three weeks; higher up, we entered October,
and gathered fringed gentians. I made no notes, and have
forgotten the details, but the construction of the floral
calendar was very entertaining while it lasted.
In the high regions we found rich store of the splendid
red flower called the Alpine rose, but we did not find
any examples of the ugly Swiss favorite called Edelweiss.
Its name seems to indicate that it is a noble flower
and that it is white. It may be noble enough,
but it is not attractive, and it is not white.
The fuzzy blossom is the color of bad cigar ashes,
and appears to be made of a cheap quality of gray plush.
It has a noble and distant way of confining itself to the
high altitudes, but that is probably on account of its looks;
it apparently has no monopoly of those upper altitudes,
however, for they are sometimes intruded upon by some
of the loveliest of the valley families of wild flowers.
Everybody in the Alps wears a sprig of Edelweiss in his hat.
It is the native's pet, and also the tourist's.
All the morning, as we loafed along, having a good time,
other pedestrians went staving by us with vigorous strides,
and with the intent and determined look of men who were
walking for a wager. These wore loose knee-breeches, long
yarn stockings, and hobnailed high-laced walking-shoes.
They were gentlemen who would go home to England or Germany
and tell how many miles they had beaten the guide-book
every day. But I doubted if they ever had much real fun,
outside of the mere magnificent exhilaration of the
tramp through the green valleys and the breezy heights;
for they were almost always alone, and even the finest
scenery loses incalculably when there is no one to enjoy
it with.
All the morning an endless double procession of mule-mounted
tourists filed past us along the narrow path--the one
procession going, the other coming. We had taken
a good deal of trouble to teach ourselves the kindly
German custom of saluting all strangers with doffed hat,
and we resolutely clung to it, that morning, although it
kept us bareheaded most of the time a nd was not always
responded to. Still we found an interest in the thing,
because we naturally liked to know who were English
and Americans among the passers-by. All continental
natives responded of course; so did some of the English
and Americans, but, as a general thing, these two races
gave no sign. Whenever a man or a woman showed us
cold neglect, we spoke up confidently in our own tongue
and asked for such information as we happened to need,
and we always got a reply in the same language.
The English and American folk are not less kindly than
other races, they are only more reserved, and that comes
of habit and education. In one dreary, rocky waste,
away above the line of vegetation, we met a procession
of twenty-five mounted young men, all from America.
We got answering bows enough from these, of course,
for they were of an age to learn to do in Rome as Rome does,
without much effort.
At one extremity of this patch of desolation, overhung by bare
and forbidding crags which husbanded drifts of everlasting
snow in their shaded cavities, was a small stretch
of thin and discouraged grass, and a man and a family
of pigs were actually living here in some shanties.
Consequently this place could be really reckoned as
"property"; it had a money value, and was doubtless taxed.
I think it must have marked the limit of real estate
in this world. It would be hard to set a money value
upon any piece of earth that lies between that spot
and the empty realm of space. That man may claim the
distinction of owning the end of the world, for if there
is any definite end to the world he has certainly found it.
From here forward we moved through a storm-swept
and smileless desolation. All about us rose gigantic
masses, crags, and ramparts of bare and dreary rock,
with not a vestige or semblance of plant or tree or
flower anywhere, or glimpse of any creature that had life.
The frost and the tempests of unnumbered ages had battered
and hacked at these cliffs, with a deathless energy,
destroying them piecemeal; so all the region about
their bases was a tumbled chaos of great fragments
which had been split off and hurled to the ground.
Soiled and aged banks of snow lay close about our path.
The ghastly desolation of the place was as tremendously
complete as if Dor'e had furnished the working-plans
for it. But every now and then, through the stern
gateways around us we caught a view of some neighboring
majestic dome, sheathed with glittering ice, and displaying
its white purity at an elevation compared to which
ours was groveling and plebeian, and this spectacle
always chained one's interest and admiration at once,
and made him forget there was anything ugly in the world.
I have just said that there was nothing but death
and desolation in these hideous places, but I forgot.
In the most forlorn and arid and dismal one of all,
where the racked and splintered debris was thickest,
where the ancient patches of snow lay against the very path,
where the winds blew bitterest and the general aspect was
mournfulest and dreariest, and furthest from any suggestion
of cheer or hope, I found a solitary wee forget-me-not
flourishing away, not a droop about it anywhere,
but holding its bright blue star up with the prettiest
and gallantest air in the world, the only happy spirit,
the only smiling thing, in all that grisly desert.
She seemed to say, "Cheer up!--as long as we are here,
let us make the best of it." I judged she had earned
a right to a more hospitable place; so I plucked her up
and sent her to America to a friend who would respect
her for the fight she had made, all by her small self,
to make a whole vast despondent Alpine desolation stop
breaking its heart over the unalterable, and hold up its
head and look at the bright side of things for once.
We stopped for a nooning at a strongly built little inn
called the Schwarenbach. It sits in a lonely spot among
the peaks, where it is swept by the trailing fringes
of the cloud-rack, and is rained on, and snowed on,
and pelted and persecuted by the storms, nearly every day
of its life. It was the only habitation in the whole
Gemmi Pass.
Close at hand, now, was a chance for a blood-curdling
Alpine adventure. Close at hand was the snowy mass
of the Great Altels cooling its topknot in the sky
and daring us to an ascent. I was fired with the idea,
and immediately made up my mind to procure the necessary
guides, ropes, etc., and undertake it. I instructed
Harris to go to the landlord of the inn and set him
about our preparations. Meantime, I went diligently
to work to read up and find out what this much-talked-of
mountain-climbing was like, and how one should go about
it--for in these matters I was ignorant. I opened
Mr. Hinchliff's SUMMER MONTHS AMONG THE ALPS (published
1857), and selected his account of his ascent of Monte Rosa.
It began:
"It is very difficult to free the mind from excitement
on the evening before a grand expedition--"
I saw that I was too calm; so I walked the room a while
and worked myself into a high excitement; but the book's
next remark --that the adventurer must get up at two
in the morning--came as near as anything to flatting it
all out again. However, I reinforced it, and read on,
about how Mr. Hinchliff dressed by candle-light and was "soon
down among the guides, who were bustling about in the passage,
packing provisions, and making every preparation for the start";
and how he glanced out into the cold clear night and saw that--
"The whole sky was blazing with stars, larger and brighter
than they appear through the dense atmosphere breathed
by inhabitants of the lower parts of the earth.
They seemed actually suspended from the dark vault
of heaven, and their gentle light shed a fairylike gleam
over the snow-fields around the foot of the Matterhorn,
which raised its stupendous pinnacle on high, penetrating to
the heart of the Great Bear, and crowning itself with a
diadem of his magnificent stars. Not a sound disturbed
the deep tranquillity of the night, except the distant
roar of streams which rush from the high plateau of the
St. Theodule glacier, and fall headlong over precipitous
rocks till they lose themselves in the mazes of
the Gorner glacier."
He took his hot toast and coffee, and then about
half past three his caravan of ten men filed away
from the Riffel Hotel, and began the steep climb.
At half past five he happened to turn around, and "beheld
the glorious spectacle of the Matterhorn, just touched
by the rosy-fingered morning, and looking like a huge
pyramid of fire rising out of the barren ocean of ice
and rock around it." Then the Breithorn and the Dent
Blanche caught the radiant glow; but "the intervening
mass of Monte Rosa made it necessary for us to climb many
long hours before we could hope to see the sun himself,
yet the whole air soon grew warmer after the splendid
birth of the day."
He gazed at the lofty crown of Monte Rosa and the wastes
of snow that guarded its steep approaches, and the chief
guide delivered the opinion that no man could conquer
their awful heights and put his foot upon that summit.
But the adventurers moved steadily on, nevertheless.
They toiled up, and up, and still up; they passed
the Grand Plateau; then toiled up a steep shoulder
of the mountain, clinging like flies to its rugged face;
and now they were confronted by a tremendous wall from
which great blocks of ice and snow were evidently in the
habit of falling. They turned aside to skirt this wall,
and gradually ascended until their way was barred by a "maze
of gigantic snow crevices,"--so they turned aside again,
and "began a long climb of sufficient steepness to make
a zigzag course necessary."
Fatigue compelled them to halt frequently, for a moment
or two. At one of these halts somebody called out,
"Look at Mont Blanc!" and "we were at once made aware
of the very great height we had attained by actually seeing
the monarch of the Alps and his attendant satellites
right over the top of the Breithorn, itself at least
14,000 feet high!"
These people moved in single file, and were all tied
to a strong rope, at regular distances apart, so that if
one of them slipped on those giddy heights, the others
could brace themselves on their alpenstocks and save him
from darting into the valley, thousands of feet below.
By and by they came to an ice-coated ridge which was tilted
up at a sharp angle, and had a precipice on one side of it.
They had to climb this, so the guide in the lead cut
steps in the ice with his hatchet, and as fast as he
took his toes out of one of these slight holes, the toes
of the man behind him occupied it.
"Slowly and steadily we kept on our way over this dangerous
part of the ascent, and I dare say it was fortunate for
some of us that attention was distracted from the head
by the paramount necessity of looking after the feet;
"Great caution, therefore, was absolutely necessary,
and in this exposed situation we were attacked by all
the fury of that grand enemy of aspirants to Monte
Rosa--a severe and bitterly cold wind from the north.
The fine powdery snow was driven past us in the clouds,
penetrating the interstices of our clothes, and the pieces
of ice which flew from the blows of Peter's ax were
whisked into the air, and then dashed over the precipice.
We had quite enough to do to prevent ourselves from being
served in the same ruthless fashion, and now and then,
in the more violent gusts of wind, were glad to stick our
alpenstocks into the ice and hold on hard."
Having surmounted this perilous steep, they sat down and
took a brief rest with their backs against a sheltering
rock and their heels dangling over a bottomless abyss;
then they climbed to the base of another ridge--a more
difficult and dangerous one still:
"The whole of the ridge was exceedingly narrow, and the
fall on each side desperately steep, but the ice in some
of these intervals between the masses of rock assumed
the form of a mere sharp edge, almost like a knife;
these places, though not more than three or four short
paces in length, looked uncommonly awkward; but, like the
sword leading true believers to the gates of Paradise,
they must needs be passed before we could attain to
the summit of our ambition. These were in one or two
places so narrow, that in stepping over them with toes
well turned out for greater security, ONE END OF THE
On these occasions Peter would take my hand, and each
of us stretching as far as we could, he was thus enabled
to get a firm footing two paces or rather more from me,
whence a spring would probably bring him to the rock
on the other side; then, turning around, he called
to me to come, and, taking a couple of steps carefully,
I was met at the third by his outstretched hand ready
to clasp mine, and in a moment stood by his side.
The others followed in much the same fashion. Once my
right foot slipped on the side toward the precipice,
but I threw out my left arm in a moment so that it caught
the icy edge under my armpit as I fell, and supported
me considerably; at the same instant I cast my eyes
down the side on which I had slipped, and contrived
to plant my right foot on a piece of rock as large as a
cricket-ball, which chanced to protrude through the ice,
on the very edge of the precipice. Being thus anchored
fore and aft, as it were, I believe I could easily have
recovered myself, even if I had been alone, though it must
be confessed the situation would have been an awful one;
as it was, however, a jerk from Peter settled the matter
very soon, and I was on my legs all right in an instant.
The rope is an immense help in places of this kind."
Now they arrived at the base of a great knob or dome
veneered with ice and powdered with snow--the utmost,
summit, the last bit of solidity between them and the hollow
vault of heaven. They set to work with their hatchets,
and were soon creeping, insectlike, up its surface, with their
heels projecting over the thinnest kind of nothingness,
thickened up a little with a few wandering shreds and
films of cloud moving in a lazy procession far below.
Presently, one man's toe-hold broke and he fell! There he
dangled in mid-air at the end of the rope, like a spider,
till his friends above hauled him into place again.
A little bit later, the party stood upon the wee pedestal
of the very summit, in a driving wind, and looked out
upon the vast green expanses of Italy and a shoreless
ocean of billowy Alps.
When I had read thus far, Harris broke into the room
in a noble excitement and said the ropes and the guides
were secured, and asked if I was ready. I said I
believed I wouldn't ascend the Altels this time.
I said Alp-climbing was a different thing from what I had
supposed it was, and so I judged we had better study its
points a little more before we went definitely into it.
But I told him to retain the guides and order them to
follow us to Zermatt, because I meant to use them there.
I said I could feel the spirit of adventure beginning
to stir in me, and was sure that the fell fascination
of Alp-climbing would soon be upon me. I said he could
make up his mind to it that we would do a deed before we
were a week older which would make the hair of the timid
curl with fright.
This made Harris happy, and filled him with ambitious
anticipations. He went at once to tell the guides to
follow us to Zermatt and bring all their paraphernalia
with them.
[Swindling the Coroner]
A great and priceless thing is a new interest! How
it takes possession of a man! how it clings to him,
how it rides him! I strode onward from the Schwarenback
hostelry a changed man, a reorganized personality.
I walked into a new world, I saw with new eyes.
I had been looking aloft at the giant show-peaks only as
things to be worshiped for their grandeur and magnitude,
and their unspeakable grace of form; I looked up at
them now, as also things to be conquered and climbed.
My sense of their grandeur and their noble beauty
was neither lost nor impaired; I had gained a new
interest in the mountains without losing the old ones.
I followed the steep lines up, inch by inch, with my eye,
and noted the possibility or impossibility of following
them with my feet. When I saw a shining helmet of ice
projecting above the clouds, I tried to imagine I saw
files of black specks toiling up it roped together with a
gossamer thread.
We skirted the lonely little lake called the Daubensee,
and presently passed close by a glacier on the right--
a thing like a great river frozen solid in its flow
and broken square off like a wall at its mouth.
I had never been so near a glacier before.
Here we came upon a new board shanty, and found some men
engaged in building a stone house; so the Schwarenback was
soon to have a rival. We bought a bottle or so of beer here;
at any rate they called it beer, but I knew by the price
that it was dissolved jewelry, and I perceived by the
taste that dissolved jewelry is not good stuff to drink.
We were surrounded by a hideous desolation. We stepped
forward to a sort of jumping-off place, and were confronted
by a startling contrast: we seemed to look down into fairyland.
Two or three thousand feet below us was a bright green level,
with a pretty town in its midst, and a silvery stream
winding among the meadows; the charming spot was walled
in on all sides by gigantic precipices clothed with pines;
and over the pines, out of the softened distances,
rose the snowy domes and peaks of the Monte Rosa region.
How exquisitely green and beautiful that little valley
down there was! The distance was not great enough to
obliterate details, it only made them little, and mellow,
and dainty, like landscapes and towns seen through the
wrong end of a spy-glass.
Right under us a narrow ledge rose up out of the valley,
with a green, slanting, bench-shaped top, and grouped
about upon this green-baize bench were a lot of black
and white sheep which looked merely like oversized worms.
The bench seemed lifted well up into our neighborhood,
but that was a deception--it was a long way down to it.
We began our descent, now, by the most remarkable road I
have ever seen. It wound it corkscrew curves down the face
of the colossal precipice--a narrow way, with always
the solid rock wall at one elbow, and perpendicular
nothingness at the other. We met an everlasting procession
of guides, porters, mules, litters, and tourists climbing
up this steep and muddy path, and there was no room
to spare when you had to pass a tolerably fat mule.
I always took the inside, when I heard or saw the
mule coming, and flattened myself against the wall.
I preferred the inside, of course, but I should have had
to take it anyhow, because the mule prefers the outside.
A mule's preference--on a precipice--is a thing to
be respected. Well, his choice is always the outside.
His life is mostly devoted to carrying bulky panniers
and packages which rest against his body--therefore he
is habituated to taking the outside edge of mountain paths,
to keep his bundles from rubbing against rocks or banks
on the other. When he goes into the passenger business he
absurdly clings to his old habit, and keeps one leg of his
passenger always dangling over the great deeps of the lower
world while that passenger's heart is in the highlands,
so to speak. More than once I saw a mule's hind foot
cave over the outer edge and send earth and rubbish into
the bottom abyss; and I noticed that upon these occasions
the rider, whether male or female, looked tolerably unwell.
There was one place where an eighteen-inch breadth of
light masonry had been added to the verge of the path,
and as there was a very sharp turn here, a panel of fencing
had been set up there at some time, as a protection.
This panel was old and gray and feeble, and the light
masonry had been loosened by recent rains. A young
American girl came along on a mule, and in making the turn
the mule's hind foot caved all the loose masonry and one
of the fence-posts overboard; the mule gave a violent lurch
inboard to save himself, and succeeded in the effort,
but that girl turned as white as the snows of Mont Blanc
for a moment.
The path was simply a groove cut into the face of
the precipice; there was a four-foot breadth of solid rock
under the traveler, and four-foot breadth of solid rock
just above his head, like the roof of a narrow porch;
he could look out from this gallery and see a sheer
summitless and bottomless wall of rock before him,
across a gorge or crack a biscuit's toss in width--
but he could not see the bottom of his own precipice
unless he lay down and projected his nose over the edge.
I did not do this, because I did not wish to soil my clothes.
Every few hundred yards, at particularly bad places,
one came across a panel or so of plank fencing; but they
were always old and weak, and they generally leaned
out over the chasm and did not make any rash promises
to hold up people who might need support. There was one
of these panels which had only its upper board left;
a pedestrianizing English youth came tearing down the path,
was seized with an impulse to look over the precipice,
and without an instant's thought he threw his weight
upon that crazy board. It bent outward a foot! I never
made a gasp before that came so near suffocating me.
The English youth's face simply showed a lively surprise,
but nothing more. He went swinging along valleyward again,
as if he did not know he had just swindled a coroner by the
closest kind of a shave.
The Alpine litter is sometimes like a cushioned box
made fast between the middles of two long poles,
and sometimes it is a chair with a back to it and a support
for the feet. It is carried by relays of strong porters.
The motion is easier than that of any other conveyance.
We met a few men and a great many ladies in litters;
it seemed to me that most of the ladies looked pale
and nauseated; their general aspect gave me the idea
that they were patiently enduring a horrible suffering.
As a rule, they looked at their laps, and left the scenery
to take care of itself.
But the most frightened creature I saw, was a led horse
that overtook us. Poor fellow, he had been born and reared
in the grassy levels of the Kandersteg valley and had
never seen anything like this hideous place before.
Every few steps he would stop short, glance wildly out from
the dizzy height, and then spread his red nostrils wide
and pant as violently as if he had been running a race;
and all the while he quaked from head to heel as with
a palsy. He was a handsome fellow, and he made a fine
statuesque picture of terror, but it was pitiful to see
him suffer so.
This dreadful path has had its tragedy. Baedeker, with his
customary overterseness, begins and ends the tale thus:
"The descent on horseback should be avoided.
In 1861 a Comtesse d'Herlincourt fell from her saddle
over the precipice and was killed on the spot."
We looked over the precipice there, and saw the monument
which commemorates the event. It stands in the bottom
of the gorge, in a place which has been hollowed out of
the rock to protect it from the torrent and the storms.
Our old guide never spoke but when spoken to, and then
limited himself to a syllable or two, but when we asked
him about this tragedy he showed a strong interest
in the matter. He said the Countess was very pretty,
and very young--hardly out of her girlhood, in fact.
She was newly married, and was on her bridal tour.
The young husband was riding a little in advance; one guide
was leading the husband's horse, another was leading the
The old man continued:
"The guide that was leading the husband's horse happened
to glance back, and there was that poor young thing sitting
up staring out over the precipice; and her face began
to bend downward a little, and she put up her two hands
slowly and met it--so,--and put them flat against her
eyes--so--and then she sank out of the saddle, with a
sharp shriek, and one caught only the flash of a dress,
and it was all over."
Then after a pause:
"Ah, yes, that guide saw these things--yes, he saw them all.
He saw them all, just as I have told you."
After another pause:
"Ah, yes, he saw them all. My God, that was ME.
I was that guide!"
This had been the one event of the old man's life; so one
may be sure he had forgotten no detail connected with it.
We listened to all he had to say about what was done and what
happened and what was said after the sorrowful occurrence,
and a painful story it was.
When we had wound down toward the valley until we were about
on the last spiral of the corkscrew, Harris's hat blew
over the last remaining bit of precipice--a small cliff
a hundred or hundred and fifty feet high--and sailed down
toward a steep slant composed of rough chips and fragments
which the weather had flaked away from the precipices.
We went leisurely down there, expecting to find it without
any trouble, but we had made a mistake, as to that.
We hunted during a couple of hours--not because the old
straw hat was valuable, but out of curiosity to find out
how such a thing could manage to conceal itself in open
ground where there was nothing left for it to hide behind.
When one is reading in bed, and lays his paper-knife down,
he cannot find it again if it is smaller than a saber;
that hat was as stubborn as any paper-knife could have been,
and we finally had to give it up; but we found a fragment
that had once belonged to an opera-glass, and by digging
around and turning over the rocks we gradually collected
all the lenses and the cylinders and the various odds
and ends that go to making up a complete opera-glass.
We afterward had the thing reconstructed, and the owner
can have his adventurous lost-property by submitting
proofs and paying costs of rehabilitation. We had hopes
of finding the owner there, distributed around amongst
the rocks, for it would have made an elegant paragraph;
but we were disappointed. Still, we were far from
being disheartened, for there was a considerable area
which we had not thoroughly searched; we were satisfied he
was there, somewhere, so we resolved to wait over a day at
Leuk and come back and get him.
Then we sat down to polish off the perspiration and
arrange about what we would do with him when we got him.
Harris was for contributing him to the British Museum;
but I was for mailing him to his widow. That is the difference
between Harris and me: Harris is all for display, I am
all for the simple right, even though I lose money by it.
Harris argued in favor of his proposition against mine,
I argued in favor of mine and against his. The discussion
warmed into a dispute; the dispute warmed into a quarrel.
I finally said, very decidedly:
"My mind is made up. He goes to the widow."
Harris answered sharply:
"And MY mind is made up. He goes to the Museum."
I said, calmly:
"The museum may whistle when it gets him."
Harris retorted:
"The widow may save herself the trouble of whistling,
for I will see that she never gets him."
After some angry bandying of epithets, I said:
"It seems to me that you are taking on a good many airs
about these remains. I don't quite see what YOU'VE got
to say about them?"
"I? I've got ALL to say about them. They'd never have
been thought of if I hadn't found their opera-glass. The
corpse belongs to me, and I'll do as I please with him."
I was leader of the Expedition, and all discoveries
achieved by it naturally belonged to me. I was entitled
to these remains, and could have enforced my right;
but rather than have bad blood about the matter,
I said we would toss up for them. I threw heads and won,
but it was a barren victory, for although we spent all
the next day searching, we never found a bone. I cannot
imagine what could ever have become of that fellow.
The town in the valley is called Leuk or Leukerbad.
We pointed our course toward it, down a verdant slope
which was adorned with fringed gentians and other flowers,
and presently entered the narrow alleys of the outskirts
and waded toward the middle of the town through liquid
"fertilizer." They ought to either pave that village or
organize a ferry.
Harris's body was simply a chamois-pasture; his person
was populous with the little hungry pests; his skin,
when he stripped, was splotched like a scarlet-fever patient's;
so, when we were about to enter one of the Leukerbad inns,
and he noticed its sign, "Chamois Hotel," he refused
to stop there. He said the chamois was plentiful enough,
without hunting up hotels where they made a specialty of it.
I was indifferent, for the chamois is a creature that will
neither bite me nor abide with me; but to calm Harris,
we went to the Ho^tel des Alpes.
At the table d'ho^te, we had this, for an incident.
A very grave man--in fact his gravity amounted to solemnity,
and almost to austerity--sat opposite us and he was
"tight," but doing his best to appear sober. He took up
a CORKED bottle of wine, tilted it over his glass awhile,
then set it out of the way, with a contented look, and went
on with his dinner.
Presently he put his glass to his mouth, and of course
found it empty. He looked puzzled, and glanced furtively
and suspiciously out of the corner of his eye at a
benignant and unconscious old lady who sat at his right.
Shook his head, as much as to say, "No, she couldn't have
done it." He tilted the corked bottle over his glass again,
meantime searching around with his watery eye to see
if anybody was watching him. He ate a few mouthfuls,
raised his glass to his lips, and of course it was
still empty. He bent an injured and accusing side-glance
upon that unconscious old lady, which was a study to see.
She went on eating and gave no sign. He took up his glass
and his bottle, with a wise private nod of his head,
and set them gravely on the left-hand side of his plate--
poured himself another imaginary drink--went to work
with his knife and fork once more--presently lifted
his glass with good confidence, and found it empty,
as usual.
This was almost a petrifying surprise. He straightened
himself up in his chair and deliberately and sorrowfully
inspected the busy old ladies at his elbows, first one and
then the other. At last he softly pushed his plate away,
set his glass directly in front of him, held on to it
with his left hand, and proceeded to pour with his right.
This time he observed that nothing came. He turned the
bottle clear upside down; still nothing issued from it;
a plaintive look came into his face, and he said, as if
to himself,
" 'IC! THEY'VE GOT IT ALL!" Then he set the bottle down,
resignedly, and took the rest of his dinner dry.
It was at that table d'ho^te, too, that I had under inspection
the largest lady I have ever seen in private life.
She was over seven feet high, and magnificently proportioned.
What had first called my attention to her, was my stepping
on an outlying flange of her foot, and hearing, from up
toward the ceiling, a deep "Pardon, m'sieu, but you encroach!"
That was when we were coming through the hall, and the place
was dim, and I could see her only vaguely. The thing
which called my attention to her the second time was,
that at a table beyond ours were two very pretty girls,
and this great lady came in and sat down between them
and me and blotted out my view. She had a handsome face,
and she was very finely formed--perfected formed,
I should say. But she made everybody around her look trivial
and commonplace. Ladies near her looked like children,
and the men about her looked mean. They looked like failures;
and they looked as if they felt so, too. She sat with
her back to us. I never saw such a back in my life.
I would have so liked to see the moon rise over it.
The whole congregation waited, under one pretext or another,
till she finished her dinner and went out; they wanted to see
her at full altitude, and they found it worth tarrying for.
She filled one's idea of what an empress ought to be,
when she rose up in her unapproachable grandeur and moved
superbly out of that place.
We were not at Leuk in time to see her at her heaviest weight.
She had suffered from corpulence and had come there to get
rid of her extra flesh in the baths. Five weeks of soaking--
five uninterrupted hours of it every day--had accomplished
her purpose and reduced her to the right proportions.
Those baths remove fat, and also skin-diseases. The
patients remain in the great tanks for hours at a time.
A dozen gentlemen and ladies occupy a tank together,
and amuse themselves with rompings and various games.
They have floating desks and tables, and they read or lunch
or play chess in water that is breast-deep. The tourist
can step in and view this novel spectacle if he chooses.
There's a poor-box, and he will have to contribute.
There are several of these big bathing-houses, and you can
always tell when you are near one of them by the romping
noises and shouts of laughter that proceed from it.
The water is running water, and changes all the time,
else a patient with a ringworm might take the bath with only
a partial success, since, while he was ridding himself of
the ringworm, he might catch the itch.
The next morning we wandered back up the green valley,
leisurely, with the curving walls of those bare and
stupendous precipices rising into the clouds before us.
I had never seen a clean, bare precipice stretching up
five thousand feet above me before, and I never shall
expect to see another one. They exist, perhaps, but not
in places where one can easily get close to them.
This pile of stone is peculiar. From its base to the
soaring tops of its mighty towers, all its lines and
all its details vaguely suggest human architecture.
There are rudimentary bow-windows, cornices, chimneys,
demarcations of stories, etc. One could sit and stare up
there and study the features and exquisite graces of this
grand structure, bit by bit, and day after day, and never
weary his interest. The termination, toward the town,
observed in profile, is the perfection of shape.
It comes down out of the clouds in a succession of rounded,
colossal, terracelike projections--a stairway for the gods;
at its head spring several lofty storm-scarred towers,
one after another, with faint films of vapor curling
always about them like spectral banners. If there were
a king whose realms included the whole world, here would
be the place meet and proper for such a monarch. He would
only need to hollow it out and put in the electric light.
He could give audience to a nation at a time under its roof.
Our search for those remains having failed, we inspected with
a glass the dim and distant track of an old-time avalanche
that once swept down from some pine-grown summits behind
the town and swept away the houses and buried the people;
then we struck down the road that leads toward the Rhone,
to see the famous Ladders. These perilous things are
built against the perpendicular face of a cliff two or
three hundred feet high. The peasants, of both sexes,
were climbing up and down them, with heavy loads on
their backs. I ordered Harris to make the ascent, so I
could put the thrill and horror of it in my book, and he
accomplished the feat successfully, though a subagent,
for three francs, which I paid. It makes me shudder yet
when I think of what I felt when I was clinging there
between heaven and earth in the person of that proxy.
At times the world swam around me, and I could hardly keep
from letting go, so dizzying was the appalling danger.
Many a person would have given up and descended, but I stuck
to my task, and would not yield until I had accomplished it.
I felt a just pride in my exploit, but I would not
have repeated it for the wealth of the world. I shall
break my neck yet with some such foolhardy performance,
for warnings never seem to have any lasting effect on me.
When the people of the hotel found that I had been
climbing those crazy Ladders, it made me an object of
considerable attention.
Next morning, early, we drove to the Rhone valley and took
the train for Visp. There we shouldered our knapsacks
and things, and set out on foot, in a tremendous rain,
up the winding gorge, toward Zermatt. Hour after hour we
slopped along, by the roaring torrent, and under noble
Lesser Alps which were clothed in rich velvety green
all the way up and had little atomy Swiss homes perched
upon grassy benches along their mist-dimmed heights.
The rain continued to pour and the torrent to boom, and we
continued to enjoy both. At the one spot where this torrent
tossed its white mane highest, and thundered loudest,
and lashed the big boulders fiercest, the canton had done
itself the honor to build the flimsiest wooden bridge
that exists in the world. While we were walking over it,
along with a party of horsemen, I noticed that even
the larger raindrops made it shake. I called Harris's
attention to it, and he noticed it, too. It seemed
to me that if I owned an elephant that was a keepsake,
and I thought a good deal of him, I would think twice
before I would ride him over that bridge.
We climbed up to the village of St. Nicholas, about half
past four in the afternoon, waded ankle-deep through
the fertilizer-juice, and stopped at a new and nice hotel
close by the little church. We stripped and went to bed,
and sent our clothes down to be baked. And the horde
of soaked tourists did the same. That chaos of clothing
got mixed in the kitchen, and there were consequences.
I did not get back the same drawers I sent down, when our
things came up at six-fifteen; I got a pair on a new plan.
They were merely a pair of white ruffle-cuffed absurdities,
hitched together at the top with a narrow band, and they did
not come quite down to my knees. They were pretty enough,
but they made me feel like two people, and disconnected
at that. The man must have been an idiot that got himself
up like that, to rough it in the Swiss mountains.
The shirt they brought me was shorter than the drawers,
and hadn't any sleeves to it--at least it hadn't anything
more than what Mr. Darwin would call "rudimentary" sleeves;
these had "edging" around them, but the bosom was
ridiculously plain. The knit silk undershirt they brought
me was on a new plan, and was really a sensible thing;
it opened behind, and had pockets in it to put your
shoulder-blades in; but they did not seem to fit mine,
and so I found it a sort of uncomfortable garment.
They gave my bobtail coat to somebody else, and sent me
an ulster suitable for a giraffe. I had to tie my collar on,
because there was no button behind on that foolish little shirt
which I described a while ago.
When I was dressed for dinner at six-thirty, I was too loose
in some places and too tight in others, and altogether I
felt slovenly and ill-conditioned. However, the people
at the table d'ho^te were no better off than I was;
they had everybody's clothes but their own on. A long
stranger recognized his ulster as soon as he saw the tail
of it following me in, but nobody claimed my shirt or
my drawers, though I described them as well as I was able.
I gave them to the chambermaid that night when I went
to bed, and she probably found the owner, for my own
things were on a chair outside my door in the morning.
There was a lovable English clergyman who did
not get to the table d'ho^te at all. His breeches
had turned up missing, and without any equivalent.
He said he was not more particular than other people,
but he had noticed that a clergyman at dinner without
any breeches was almost sure to excite remark.
[The Fiendish Fun of Alp-climbing]
We did not oversleep at St. Nicholas. The church-bell
began to ring at four-thirty in the morning, and from
the length of time it continued to ring I judged that it
takes the Swiss sinner a good while to get the invitation
through his head. Most church-bells in the world
are of poor quality, and have a harsh and rasping
sound which upsets the temper and produces much sin,
but the St. Nicholas bell is a good deal the worst one
that has been contrived yet, and is peculiarly maddening
in its operation. Still, it may have its right and its
excuse to exist, for the community is poor and not every
citizen can afford a clock, perhaps; but there cannot be
any excuse for our church-bells at home, for their is no
family in America without a clock, and consequently there
is no fair pretext for the usual Sunday medley of dreadful
sounds that issues from our steeples. There is much more
profanity in America on Sunday than is all in the other six
days of the week put together, and it is of a more bitter
and malignant character than the week-day profanity, too.
It is produced by the cracked-pot clangor of the cheap
We build our churches almost without regard to cost;
we rear an edifice which is an adornment to the town, and we
gild it, and fresco it, and mortgage it, and do everything
we can think of to perfect it, and then spoil it all by
putting a bell on it which afflicts everybody who hears it,
giving some the headache, others St. Vitus's dance,
and the rest the blind staggers.
An American village at ten o'clock on a summer Sunday is
the quietest and peacefulest and holiest thing in nature;
but it is a pretty different thing half an hour later.
Mr. Poe's poem of the "Bells" stands incomplete to this day;
but it is well enough that it is so, for the public reciter
or "reader" who goes around trying to imitate the sounds
of the various sorts of bells with his voice would find
himself "up a stump" when he got to the church-bell--
as Joseph Addison would say. The church is always trying
to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea
to reform itself a little, by way of example. It is still
clinging to one or two things which were useful once,
but which are not useful now, neither are they ornamental.
One is the bell-ringing to remind a clock-caked town
that it is church-time, and another is the reading from
the pulpit of a tedious list of "notices" which everybody
who is interested has already read in the newspaper.
The clergyman even reads the hymn through--a relic
of an ancient time when hymn-books are scarce and costly;
but everybody has a hymn-book, now, and so the public reading
is no longer necessary. It is not merely unnecessary,
it is generally painful; for the average clergyman could
not fire into his congregation with a shotgun and hit a worse
reader than himself, unless the weapon scattered shamefully.
I am not meaning to be flippant and irreverent, I am only
meaning to be truthful. The average clergyman, in all
countries and of all denominations, is a very bad reader.
One would think he would at least learn how to read
the Lord's Prayer, by and by, but it is not so. He races
through it as if he thought the quicker he got it in,
the sooner it would be answered. A person who does not
appreciate the exceeding value of pauses, and does not know
how to measure their duration judiciously, cannot render
the grand simplicity and dignity of a composition like
that effectively.
We took a tolerably early breakfast, and tramped off
toward Zermatt through the reeking lanes of the village,
glad to get away from that bell. By and by we had a fine
spectacle on our right. It was the wall-like butt end of a
huge glacier, which looked down on us from an Alpine height
which was well up in the blue sky. It was an astonishing
amount of ice to be compacted together in one mass.
We ciphered upon it and decided that it was not less than
several hundred feet from the base of the wall of solid
ice to the top of it--Harris believed it was really
twice that. We judged that if St. Paul's, St. Peter's,
the Great Pyramid, the Strasburg Cathedral and the Capitol
in Washington were clustered against that wall, a man
sitting on its upper edge could not hang his hat on the top
of any one of them without reaching down three or four
hundred feet--a thing which, of course, no man could do.
To me, that mighty glacier was very beautiful. I did
not imagine that anybody could find fault with it; but I
was mistaken. Harris had been snarling for several days.
He was a rabid Protestant, and he was always saying:
"In the Protestant cantons you never see such poverty
and dirt and squalor as you do in this Catholic one;
you never see the lanes and alleys flowing with foulness;
you never see such wretched little sties of houses;
you never see an inverted tin turnip on top of a church
for a dome; and as for a church-bell, why, you never hear
a church-bell at all."
All this morning he had been finding fault, straight along.
First it was with the mud. He said, "It ain't muddy in a
Protestant canton when it rains." Then it was with the dogs:
"They don't have those lop-eared dogs in a Protestant canton."
Then it was with the roads: "They don't leave the roads
to make themselves in a Protestant canton, the people make
them--and they make a road that IS a road, too." Next it
was the goats: "You never see a goat shedding tears
in a Protestant canton--a goat, there, is one of the
cheerfulest objects in nature." Next it was the chamois:
"You never see a Protestant chamois act like one of these--
they take a bite or two and go; but these fellows camp
with you and stay." Then it was the guide-boards: "In
a Protestant canton you couldn't get lost if you wanted to,
but you never see a guide-board in a Catholic canton."
Next, "You never see any flower-boxes in the windows,
here--never anything but now and then a cat--a torpid one;
but you take a Protestant canton: windows perfectly lovely
with flowers--and as for cats, there's just acres of them.
These folks in this canton leave a road to make itself,
and then fine you three francs if you 'trot' over it--
as if a horse could trot over such a sarcasm of a road."
Next about the goiter: "THEY talk about goiter!--I haven't
seen a goiter in this whole canton that I couldn't put
in a hat."
He had growled at everything, but I judged it would puzzle
him to find anything the matter with this majestic glacier.
I intimated as much; but he was ready, and said with surly
discontent: "You ought to see them in the Protestant cantons."
This irritated me. But I concealed the feeling, and asked:
"What is the matter with this one?"
"Matter? Why, it ain't in any kind of condition.
They never take any care of a glacier here. The moraine
has been spilling gravel around it, and got it all dirty."
"Why, man, THEY can't help that."
"THEY? You're right. That is, they WON'T. They could
if they wanted to. You never see a speck of dirt
on a Protestant glacier. Look at the Rhone glacier.
It is fifteen miles long, and seven hundred feet think.
If this was a Protestant glacier you wouldn't see it looking
like this, I can tell you."
"That is nonsense. What would they do with it?"
"They would whitewash it. They always do."
I did not believe a word of this, but rather than have
trouble I let it go; for it is a waste of breath to argue
with a bigot. I even doubted if the Rhone glacier WAS
in a Protestant canton; but I did not know, so I could
not make anything by contradicting a man who would
probably put me down at once with manufactured evidence.
About nine miles from St. Nicholas we crossed a bridge
over the raging torrent of the Visp, and came to a log
strip of flimsy fencing which was pretending to secure
people from tumbling over a perpendicular wall forty feet
high and into the river. Three children were approaching;
one of them, a little girl, about eight years old,
was running; when pretty close to us she stumbled and fell,
and her feet shot under the rail of the fence and for a
moment projected over the stream. It gave us a sharp shock,
for we thought she was gone, sure, for the ground slanted
steeply, and to save herself seemed a sheer impossibility;
but she managed to scramble up, and ran by us laughing.
We went forward and examined the place and saw the long
tracks which her feet had made in the dirt when they
darted over the verge. If she had finished her trip she
would have struck some big rocks in the edge of the water,
and then the torrent would have snatched her downstream
among the half-covered boulders and she would have been
pounded to pulp in two minutes. We had come exceedingly
near witnessing her death.
And now Harris's contrary nature and inborn selfishness
were striking manifested. He has no spirit of self-denial.
He began straight off, and continued for an hour,
to express his gratitude that the child was not destroyed.
I never saw such a man. That was the kind of person he was;
just so HE was gratified, he never cared anything about
anybody else. I had noticed that trait in him, over and
over again. Often, of course, it was mere heedlessness,
mere want of reflection. Doubtless this may have been
the case in most instances, but it was not the less hard
to bar on that account--and after all, its bottom,
its groundwork, was selfishness. There is no avoiding
that conclusion. In the instance under consideration,
I did think the indecency of running on in that way might
occur to him; but no, the child was saved and he was glad,
that was sufficient--he cared not a straw for MY feelings,
or my loss of such a literary plum, snatched from my
very mouth at the instant it was ready to drop into it.
His selfishness was sufficient to place his own gratification
in being spared suffering clear before all concern for me,
his friend. Apparently, he did not once reflect upon the
valuable details which would have fallen like a windfall
to me: fishing the child out--witnessing the surprise of
the family and the stir the thing would have made among the
peasants--then a Swiss funeral--then the roadside monument,
to be paid for by us and have our names mentioned in it.
And we should have gone into Baedeker and been immortal.
I was silent. I was too much hurt to complain. If he could
act so, and be so heedless and so frivolous at such a time,
and actually seem to glory in it, after all I had done for him,
I would have cut my hand off before I would let him see
that I was wounded.
We were approaching Zermatt; consequently, we were
approaching the renowned Matterhorn. A month before,
this mountain had been only a name to us, but latterly
we had been moving through a steadily thickening double
row of pictures of it, done in oil, water, chromo, wood,
steel, copper, crayon, and photography, and so it had at
length become a shape to us--and a very distinct, decided,
and familiar one, too. We were expecting to recognize
that mountain whenever or wherever we should run across it.
We were not deceived. The monarch was far away when we
first saw him, but there was no such thing as mistaking him.
He has the rare peculiarity of standing by himself;
he is peculiarly steep, too, and is also most oddly shaped.
He towers into the sky like a colossal wedge, with the
upper third of its blade bent a little to the left.
The broad base of this monster wedge is planted upon
a grand glacier-paved Alpine platform whose elevation
is ten thousand feet above sea-level; as the wedge itself
is some five thousand feet high, it follows that its
apex is about fifteen thousand feet above sea-level.
So the whole bulk of this stately piece of rock, this
sky-cleaving monolith, is above the line of eternal snow.
Yet while all its giant neighbors have the look of being
built of solid snow, from their waists up, the Matterhorn
stands black and naked and forbidding, the year round,
or merely powdered or streaked with white in places,
for its sides are so steep that the snow cannot stay there.
Its strange form, its august isolation, and its majestic
unkinship with its own kind, make it--so to speak--the Napoleon
of the mountain world. "Grand, gloomy, and peculiar,"
is a phrase which fits it as aptly as it fitted the great
Think of a monument a mile high, standing on a pedestal
two miles high! This is what the Matterhorn is--a monument.
Its office, henceforth, for all time, will be to keep
watch and ward over the secret resting-place of the young
Lord Douglas, who, in 1865, was precipitated from the
summit over a precipice four thousand feet high, and never
seen again. No man ever had such a monument as this before;
the most imposing of the world's other monuments are
but atoms compared to it; and they will perish, and their
places will pass from memory, but this will remain. [1]
1. The accident which cost Lord Douglas his life (see
Chapter xii) also cost the lives of three other men.
These three fell four-fifths of a mile, and their bodies
were afterward found, lying side by side, upon a glacier,
whence they were borne to Zermatt and buried in the
The remains of Lord Douglas have never been found.
The secret of his sepulture, like that of Moses, must remain
a mystery always.
A walk from St. Nicholas to Zermatt is a wonderful experience.
Nature is built on a stupendous plan in that region.
One marches continually between walls that are piled
into the skies, with their upper heights broken into
a confusion of sublime shapes that gleam white and cold
against the background of blue; and here and there one
sees a big glacier displaying its grandeurs on the top
of a precipice, or a graceful cascade leaping and flashing
down the green declivities. There is nothing tame,
or cheap, or trivial--it is all magnificent. That short
valley is a picture-gallery of a notable kind, for it
contains no mediocrities; from end to end the Creator
has hung it with His masterpieces.
We made Zermatt at three in the afternoon, nine hours out
from St. Nicholas. Distance, by guide-book, twelve miles;
by pedometer seventy-two. We were in the heart and home
of the mountain-climbers, now, as all visible things
testified. The snow-peaks did not hold themselves aloof,
in aristocratic reserve; they nestled close around,
in a friendly, sociable way; guides, with the ropes and
axes and other implements of their fearful calling slung
about their persons, roosted in a long line upon a stone
wall in front of the hotel, and waited for customers;
sun-burnt climbers, in mountaineering costume, and followed
by their guides and porters, arrived from time to time,
from breakneck expeditions among the peaks and glaciers
of the High Alps; male and female tourists, on mules,
filed by, in a continuous procession, hotelward-bound from
wild adventures which would grow in grandeur very time
they were described at the English or American fireside,
and at last outgrow the possible itself.
We were not dreaming; this was not a make-believe home
of the Alp-climber, created by our heated imaginations;
no, for here was Mr. Girdlestone himself, the famous
Englishman who hunts his way to the most formidable Alpine
summits without a guide. I was not equal to imagining
a Girdlestone; it was all I could do to even realize him,
while looking straight at him at short range. I would rather
face whole Hyde Parks of artillery than the ghastly forms
of death which he has faced among the peaks and precipices
of the mountains. There is probably no pleasure equal
to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is
a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can
find pleasure in it. I have not jumped to this conclusion;
I have traveled to it per gravel-train, so to speak.
I have thought the thing all out, and am quite sure I
am right. A born climber's appetite for climbing is hard
to satisfy; when it comes upon him he is like a starving
man with a feast before him; he may have other business
on hand, but it must wait. Mr. Girdlestone had had
his usual summer holiday in the Alps, and had spent it
in his usual way, hunting for unique chances to break
his neck; his vacation was over, and his luggage packed
for England, but all of a sudden a hunger had come upon
him to climb the tremendous Weisshorn once more, for he
had heard of a new and utterly impossible route up it.
His baggage was unpacked at once, and now he and a friend,
laden with knapsacks, ice-axes, coils of rope, and canteens
of milk, were just setting out. They would spend
the night high up among the snows, somewhere, and get
up at two in the morning and finish the enterprise.
I had a strong desire to go with them, but forced it down--
a feat which Mr. Girdlestone, with all his fortitude,
could not do.
Even ladies catch the climbing mania, and are unable to
throw it off. A famous climber, of that sex, had attempted
the Weisshorn a few days before our arrival, and she
and her guides had lost their way in a snow-storm high up
among the peaks and glaciers and been forced to wander
around a good while before they could find a way down.
When this lady reached the bottom, she had been on her
feet twenty-three hours!
Our guides, hired on the Gemmi, were already at Zermatt
when we reached there. So there was nothing to interfere
with our getting up an adventure whenever we should
choose the time and the object. I resolved to devote
my first evening in Zermatt to studying up the subject
of Alpine climbing, by way of preparation.
I read several books, and here are some of the things
I found out. One's shoes must be strong and heavy,
and have pointed hobnails in them. The alpenstock
must be of the best wood, for if it should break,
loss of life might be the result. One should carry an ax,
to cut steps in the ice with, on the great heights.
There must be a ladder, for there are steep bits of rock
which can be surmounted with this instrument--or this
utensil--but could not be surmounted without it;
such an obstruction has compelled the tourist to waste
hours hunting another route, when a ladder would have
saved him all trouble. One must have from one hundred
and fifty to five hundred feet of strong rope, to be used
in lowering the party down steep declivities which are
too steep and smooth to be traversed in any other way.
One must have a steel hook, on another rope--a very
useful thing; for when one is ascending and comes to a low
bluff which is yet too high for the ladder, he swings
this rope aloft like a lasso, the hook catches at the top
of the bluff, and then the tourist climbs the rope,
hand over hand--being always particular to try and forget
that if the hook gives way he will never stop falling
till he arrives in some part of Switzerland where they
are not expecting him. Another important thing--there
must be a rope to tie the whole party together with,
so that if one falls from a mountain or down a bottomless
chasm in a glacier, the others may brace back on the rope
and save him. One must have a silk veil, to protect
his face from snow, sleet, hail and gale, and colored
goggles to protect his eyes from that dangerous enemy,
snow-blindness. Finally, there must be some porters,
to carry provisions, wine and scientific instruments,
and also blanket bags for the party to sleep in.
I closed my readings with a fearful adventure which
Mr. Whymper once had on the Matterhorn when he was prowling
around alone, five thousand feet above the town of Breil.
He was edging his way gingerly around the corner of a
precipice where the upper edge of a sharp declivity
of ice-glazed snow joined it. This declivity swept
down a couple of hundred feet, into a gully which curved
around and ended at a precipice eight hundred feet high,
overlooking a glacier. His foot slipped, and he fell.
He says:
"My knapsack brought my head down first, and I pitched into
some rocks about a dozen feet below; they caught something,
and tumbled me off the edge, head over heels, into the gully;
the baton was dashed from my hands, and I whirled downward
in a series of bounds, each longer than the last; now over ice,
now into rocks, striking my head four or five times,
each time with increased force. The last bound sent me
spinning through the air in a leap of fifty or sixty feet,
from one side of the gully to the other, and I struck
the rocks, luckily, with the whole of my left side.
They caught my clothes for a moment, and I fell back on
to the snow with motion arrested. My head fortunately
came the right side up, and a few frantic catches brought
me to a halt, in the neck of the gully and on the verge
of the precipice. Baton, hat, and veil skimmed by
and disappeared, and the crash of the rocks--which I had
started--as they fell on to the glacier, told how narrow
had been the escape from utter destruction. As it was,
I fell nearly two hundred feet in seven or eight bounds.
Ten feet more would have taken me in one gigantic leaps
of eight hundred feet on to the glacier below.
"The situation was sufficiently serious. The rocks could
not be let go for a moment, and the blood was spurting
out of more than twenty cuts. The most serious ones were
in the head, and I vainly tried to close them with one hand,
while holding on with the other. It was useless;
the blood gushed out in blinding jets at each pulsation.
At last, in a moment of inspiration, I kicked out a big
lump of snow and struck it as plaster on my head.
The idea was a happy one, and the flow of blood diminished.
Then, scrambling up, I got, not a moment too soon, to a
place of safety, and fainted away. The sun was setting
when consciousness returned, and it was pitch-dark before
the Great Staircase was descended; but by a combination
of luck and care, the whole four thousand seven hundred
feet of descent to Breil was accomplished without a slip,
or once missing the way."
His wounds kept him abed some days. Then he got up
and climbed that mountain again. That is the way with
a true Alp-climber; the more fun he has, the more he wants.
[Our Imposing Column Starts Upward]
After I had finished my readings, I was no longer myself;
I was tranced, uplifted, intoxicated, by the almost
incredible perils and adventures I had been following
my authors through, and the triumphs I had been sharing
with them. I sat silent some time, then turned to Harris
and said:
"My mind is made up."
Something in my tone struck him: and when he glanced
at my eye and read what was written there, his face
paled perceptibly. He hesitated a moment, then said:
I answered, with perfect calmness:
"I will ascend the Riffelberg."
If I had shot my poor friend he could not have fallen from
his chair more suddenly. If I had been his father he could
not have pleaded harder to get me to give up my purpose.
But I turned a deaf ear to all he said. When he perceived
at last that nothing could alter my determination,
he ceased to urge, and for a while the deep silence was
broken only by his sobs. I sat in marble resolution,
with my eyes fixed upon vacancy, for in spirit I was already
wrestling with the perils of the mountains, and my friend
sat gazing at me in adoring admiration through his tears.
At last he threw himself upon me in a loving embrace and
exclaimed in broken tones:
"Your Harris will never desert you. We will die together."
I cheered the noble fellow with praises, and soon his
fears were forgotten and he was eager for the adventure.
He wanted to summon the guides at once and leave at
two in the morning, as he supposed the custom was;
but I explained that nobody was looking at that hour;
and that the start in the dark was not usually made from
the village but from the first night's resting-place
on the mountain side. I said we would leave the village
at 3 or 4 P.M. on the morrow; meantime he could notify
the guides, and also let the public know of the attempt
which we proposed to make.
I went to bed, but not to sleep. No man can sleep when he
is about to undertake one of these Alpine exploits.
I tossed feverishly all night long, and was glad enough
when I heard the clock strike half past eleven and knew it
was time to get up for dinner. I rose, jaded and rusty,
and went to the noon meal, where I found myself the center
of interest and curiosity; for the news was already abroad.
It is not easy to eat calmly when you are a lion; but it is
very pleasant, nevertheless.
As usual, at Zermatt, when a great ascent is about to
be undertaken, everybody, native and foreign, laid aside
his own projects and took up a good position to observe
the start. The expedition consisted of 198 persons,
including the mules; or 205, including the cows.
As follows:
Myself 1 Veterinary Surgeon Mr. Harris 1 Butler 17
Guides 12 Waiters 4 Surgeons 1 Footman 1 Geologist 1
Barber 1 Botanist 1 Head Cook 3 Chaplains 9 Assistants
15 Barkeepers 1 Confectionery Artist 1 Latinist
27 Porters 3 Coarse Washers and Ironers 44 Mules 1 Fine
ditto 44 Muleteers 7 Cows 2 Milkers
Total, 154 men, 51 animals. Grand Total, 205.
16 Cases Hams 25 Spring Mattresses 2 Barrels Flour 2
Hair ditto 22 Barrels Whiskey Bedding for same 1 Barrel
Sugar 2 Mosquito-nets 1 Keg Lemons 29 Tents 2,000 Cigars
Scientific Instruments 1 Barrel Pies 97 Ice-axes 1 Ton
of Pemmican 5 Cases Dynamite 143 Pair Crutches 7 Cans
Nitroglycerin 2 Barrels Arnica 22 40-foot Ladders 1 Bale
of Lint 2 Miles of Rope 27 Kegs Paregoric 154 Umbrellas
It was full four o'clock in the afternoon before my cavalcade
was entirely ready. At that hour it began to move.
In point of numbers and spectacular effect, it was the most
imposing expedition that had ever marched from Zermatt.
I commanded the chief guide to arrange the men and animals
in single file, twelve feet apart, and lash them all
together on a strong rope. He objected that the first
two miles was a dead level, with plenty of room, and that
the rope was never used except in very dangerous places.
But I would not listen to that. My reading had taught
me that many serious accidents had happened in the Alps
simply from not having the people tied up soon enough;
I was not going to add one to the list. The guide then
obeyed my order.
When the procession stood at ease, roped together,
and ready to move, I never saw a finer sight. It was 3,122
feet long--over half a mile; every man and me was on foot,
and had on his green veil and his blue goggles, and his
white rag around his hat, and his coil of rope over one
shoulder and under the other, and his ice-ax in his belt,
and carried his alpenstock in his left hand, his umbrella
(closed) in his right, and his crutches slung at his back.
The burdens of the pack-mules and the horns of the cows
were decked with the Edelweiss and the Alpine rose.
I and my agent were the only persons mounted. We were
in the post of danger in the extreme rear, and tied
securely to five guides apiece. Our armor-bearers carried
our ice-axes, alpenstocks, and other implements for us.
We were mounted upon very small donkeys, as a measure
of safety; in time of peril we could straighten our legs
and stand up, and let the donkey walk from under.
Still, I cannot recommend this sort of animal--at least
for excursions of mere pleasure--because his ears interrupt
the view. I and my agent possessed the regulation
mountaineering costumes, but concluded to leave them behind.
Out of respect for the great numbers of tourists of both
sexes who would be assembled in front of the hotels
to see us pass, and also out of respect for the many
tourists whom we expected to encounter on our expedition,
we decided to make the ascent in evening dress.
We watered the caravan at the cold stream which rushes
down a trough near the end of the village, and soon
afterward left the haunts of civilization behind us.
About half past five o'clock we arrived at a bridge which
spans the Visp, and after throwing over a detachment to see
if it was safe, the caravan crossed without accident.
The way now led, by a gentle ascent, carpeted with
fresh green grass, to the church at Winkelmatten.
Without stopping to examine this edifice, I executed
a flank movement to the right and crossed the bridge
over the Findelenbach, after first testing its strength.
Here I deployed to the right again, and presently entered
an inviting stretch of meadowland which was unoccupied save
by a couple of deserted huts toward the furthest extremity.
These meadows offered an excellent camping-place. We
pitched our tents, supped, established a proper grade,
recorded the events of the day, and then went to bed.
We rose at two in the morning and dressed by candle-light. It
was a dismal and chilly business. A few stars were shining,
but the general heavens were overcast, and the great shaft
of the Matterhorn was draped in a cable pall of clouds.
The chief guide advised a delay; he said he feared it
was going to rain. We waited until nine o'clock, and then
got away in tolerably clear weather.
Our course led up some terrific steeps, densely wooded with
larches and cedars, and traversed by paths which the rains
had guttered and which were obstructed by loose stones.
To add to the danger and inconvenience, we were constantly
meeting returning tourists on foot and horseback,
and as constantly being crowded and battered by ascending
tourists who were in a hurry and wanted to get by.
Our troubles thickened. About the middle of the afternoon
the seventeen guides called a halt and held a consultation.
After consulting an hour they said their first suspicion
remained intact--that is to say, they believed they
were lost. I asked if they did not KNOW it? No, they said,
they COULDN'T absolutely know whether they were lost or not,
because none of them had ever been in that part of the
country before. They had a strong instinct that they
were lost, but they had no proofs--except that they
did not know where they were. They had met no tourists
for some time, and they considered that a suspicious sign.
Plainly we were in an ugly fix. The guides were naturally
unwilling to go alone and seek a way out of the difficulty;
so we all went together. For better security we moved
slow and cautiously, for the forest was very dense.
We did not move up the mountain, but around it, hoping to
strike across the old trail. Toward nightfall, when we
were about tired out, we came up against a rock as big
as a cottage. This barrier took all the remaining spirit
out of the men, and a panic of fear and despair ensued.
They moaned and wept, and said they should never see
their homes and their dear ones again. Then they began
to upbraid me for bringing them upon this fatal expedition.
Some even muttered threats against me.
Clearly it was no time to show weakness. So I made
a speech in which I said that other Alp-climbers had been
in as perilous a position as this, and yet by courage
and perseverance had escaped. I promised to stand by them,
I promised to rescue them. I closed by saying we had plenty
of provisions to maintain us for quite a siege--and did they
suppose Zermatt would allow half a mile of men and mules
to mysteriously disappear during any considerable time,
right above their noses, and make no inquiries? No,
Zermatt would send out searching-expeditions and we should be
This speech had a great effect. The men pitched the tents
with some little show of cheerfulness, and we were snugly
under cover when the night shut down. I now reaped
the reward of my wisdom in providing one article which is
not mentioned in any book of Alpine adventure but this.
I refer to the paregoric. But for that beneficent drug,
would have not one of those men slept a moment during that
fearful night. But for that gentle persuader they must
have tossed, unsoothed, the night through; for the whiskey
was for me. Yes, they would have risen in the morning
unfitted for their heavy task. As it was, everybody slept
but my agent and me--only we and the barkeepers.
I would not permit myself to sleep at such a time.
I considered myself responsible for all those lives.
I meant to be on hand and ready, in case of avalanches
up there, but I did not know it then.
We watched the weather all through that awful night,
and kept an eye on the barometer, to be prepared for
the least change. There was not the slightest change
recorded by the instrument, during the whole time.
Words cannot describe the comfort that that friendly,
hopeful, steadfast thing was to me in that season
of trouble. It was a defective barometer, and had no hand
but the stationary brass pointer, but I did not know that
until afterward. If I should be in such a situation again,
I should not wish for any barometer but that one.
All hands rose at two in the morning and took breakfast,
and as soon as it was light we roped ourselves together
and went at that rock. For some time we tried the hook-rope
and other means of scaling it, but without success--that is,
without perfect success. The hook caught once, and Harris
started up it hand over hand, but the hold broke and if
there had not happened to be a chaplain sitting underneath
at the time, Harris would certainly have been crippled.
As it was, it was the chaplain. He took to his crutches,
and I ordered the hook-rope to be laid aside.
It was too dangerous an implement where so many people
are standing around.
We were puzzled for a while; then somebody thought of
the ladders. One of these was leaned against the rock,
and the men went up it tied together in couples.
Another ladder was sent up for use in descending.
At the end of half an hour everybody was over, and that rock
was conquered. We gave our first grand shout of triumph.
But the joy was short-lived, for somebody asked how we were
going to get the animals over.
This was a serious difficulty; in fact, it was an impossibility.
The courage of the men began to waver immediately; once more
we were threatened with a panic. But when the danger
was most imminent, we were saved in a mysterious way.
A mule which had attracted attention from the beginning
by its disposition to experiment, tried to eat a five-pound
can of nitroglycerin. This happened right alongside
the rock. The explosion threw us all to the ground,
and covered us with dirt and debris; it frightened
us extremely, too, for the crash it made was deafening,
and the violence of the shock made the ground tremble.
However, we were grateful, for the rock was gone.
Its place was occupied by a new cellar, about thirty
feet across, by fifteen feet deep. The explosion was
heard as far as Zermatt; and an hour and a half afterward,
many citizens of that town were knocked down and quite
seriously injured by descending portions of mule meat,
frozen solid. This shows, better than any estimate
in figures, how high the experimenter went.
We had nothing to do, now, but bridge the cellar and proceed
on our way. With a cheer the men went at their work.
I attended to the engineering, myself. I appointed a strong
detail to cut down trees with ice-axes and trim them for
piers to support the bridge. This was a slow business,
for ice-axes are not good to cut wood with. I caused
my piers to be firmly set up in ranks in the cellar,
and upon them I laid six of my forty-foot ladders,
side by side, and laid six more on top of them.
Upon this bridge I caused a bed of boughs to be spread,
and on top of the boughs a bed of earth six inches deep.
I stretched ropes upon either side to serve as railings,
and then my bridge was complete. A train of elephants
could have crossed it in safety and comfort. By nightfall
the caravan was on the other side and the ladders were
taken up.
Next morning we went on in good spirits for a while,
though our way was slow and difficult, by reason of the
steep and rocky nature of the ground and the thickness
of the forest; but at last a dull despondency crept into
the men's faces and it was apparent that not only they,
but even the guides, were now convinced that we were lost.
The fact that we still met no tourists was a circumstance
that was but too significant. Another thing seemed to
suggest that we were not only lost, but very badly lost;
for there must surely be searching-parties on the road
before this time, yet we had seen no sign of them.
Demoralization was spreading; something must be done,
and done quickly, too. Fortunately, I am not unfertile
in expedients. I contrived one now which commended itself
to all, for it promised well. I took three-quarters
of a mile of rope and fastened one end of it around
the waist of a guide, and told him to go find the road,
while the caravan waited. I instructed him to guide himself
back by the rope, in case of failure; in case of success,
he was to give the rope a series of violent jerks,
whereupon the Expedition would go to him at once.
He departed, and in two minutes had disappeared among
the trees. I payed out the rope myself, while everybody
watched the crawling thing with eager eyes. The rope
crept away quite slowly, at times, at other times with
some briskness. Twice or thrice we seemed to get the signal,
and a shout was just ready to break from the men's lips
when they perceived it was a false alarm. But at last,
when over half a mile of rope had slidden away, it stopped
gliding and stood absolutely still--one minute--two
minutes--three--while we held our breath and watched.
Was the guide resting? Was he scanning the country from
some high point? Was he inquiring of a chance mountaineer?
Stop,--had he fainted from excess of fatigue and anxiety?
This thought gave us a shock. I was in the very first act
of detailing an Expedition to succor him, when the cord
was assailed with a series of such frantic jerks that I
could hardly keep hold of it. The huzza that went up,
then, was good to hear. "Saved! saved!" was the word
that rang out, all down the long rank of the caravan.
We rose up and started at once. We found the route to be
good enough for a while, but it began to grow difficult,
by and by, and this feature steadily increased. When we
judged we had gone half a mile, we momently expected
to see the guide; but no, he was not visible anywhere;
neither was he waiting, for the rope was still moving,
consequently he was doing the same. This argued that he
had not found the road, yet, but was marching to it
with some peasant. There was nothing for us to do but
plod along--and this we did. At the end of three hours
we were still plodding. This was not only mysterious,
but exasperating. And very fatiguing, too; for we had
tried hard, along at first, to catch up with the guide,
but had only fagged ourselves, in vain; for although he
was traveling slowly he was yet able to go faster than the
hampered caravan over such ground.
At three in the afternoon we were nearly dead with
exhaustion--and still the rope was slowly gliding out.
The murmurs against the guide had been growing steadily,
and at last they were become loud and savage.
A mutiny ensued. The men refused to proceed. They declared
that we had been traveling over and over the same ground
all day, in a kind of circle. They demanded that our
end of the rope be made fast to a tree, so as to halt
the guide until we could overtake him and kill him.
This was not an unreasonable requirement, so I gave the order.
As soon as the rope was tied, the Expedition moved
forward with that alacrity which the thirst for
vengeance usually inspires. But after a tiresome march
of almost half a mile, we came to a hill covered thick
with a crumbly rubbish of stones, and so steep that no
man of us all was now in a condition to climb it.
Every attempt failed, and ended in crippling somebody.
Within twenty minutes I had five men on crutches.
Whenever a climber tried to assist himself by the rope,
it yielded and let him tumble backward. The frequency
of this result suggested an idea to me. I ordered
the caravan to 'bout face and form in marching order;
I then made the tow-rope fast to the rear mule, and gave
the command:
"Mark time--by the right flank--forward--march!"
The procession began to move, to the impressive strains
of a battle-chant, and I said to myself, "Now, if the rope
don't break I judge THIS will fetch that guide into the camp."
I watched the rope gliding down the hill, and presently
when I was all fixed for triumph I was confronted
by a bitter disappointment; there was no guide tied
to the rope, it was only a very indignant old black ram.
The fury of the baffled Expedition exceeded all bounds.
They even wanted to wreak their unreasoning vengeance on this
innocent dumb brute. But I stood between them and their prey,
menaced by a bristling wall of ice-axes and alpenstocks,
and proclaimed that there was but one road to this murder,
and it was directly over my corpse. Even as I spoke I
saw that my doom was sealed, except a miracle supervened
to divert these madmen from their fell purpose. I see
the sickening wall of weapons now; I see that advancing
host as I saw it then, I see the hate in those cruel eyes;
I remember how I drooped my head upon my breast,
I feel again the sudden earthquake shock in my rear,
administered by the very ram I was sacrificing myself to save;
I hear once more the typhoon of laughter that burst from
the assaulting column as I clove it from van to rear
like a Sepoy shot from a Rodman gun.
I was saved. Yes, I was saved, and by the merciful instinct
of ingratitude which nature had planted in the breast
of that treacherous beast. The grace which eloquence
had failed to work in those men's hearts, had been wrought
by a laugh. The ram was set free and my life was spared.
We lived to find out that that guide had deserted us as soon
as he had placed a half-mile between himself and us.
To avert suspicion, he had judged it best that the line
should continue to move; so he caught that ram, and at
the time that he was sitting on it making the rope fast
to it, we were imagining that he was lying in a swoon,
overcome by fatigue and distress. When he allowed the ram
to get up it fell to plunging around, trying to rid itself
of the rope, and this was the signal which we had risen
up with glad shouts to obey. We had followed this ram
round and round in a circle all day--a thing which was
proven by the discovery that we had watered the Expedition
seven times at one and same spring in seven hours.
As expert a woodman as I am, I had somehow failed to notice
this until my attention was called to it by a hog.
This hog was always wallowing there, and as he was the
only hog we saw, his frequent repetition, together with
his unvarying similarity to himself, finally caused me
to reflect that he must be the same hog, and this led
me to the deduction that this must be the same spring,
also--which indeed it was.
I made a note of this curious thing, as showing
in a striking manner the relative difference between
glacial action and the action of the hog. It is now
a well-established fact that glaciers move; I consider
that my observations go to show, with equal conclusiveness,
that a hog in a spring does not move. I shall be glad
to receive the opinions of other observers upon this point.
To return, for an explanatory moment, to that guide,
and then I shall be done with him. After leaving the ram
tied to the rope, he had wandered at large a while,
and then happened to run across a cow. Judging that
a cow would naturally know more than a guide, he took
her by the tail, and the result justified his judgment.
She nibbled her leisurely way downhill till it was near
milking-time, then she struck for home and towed him
into Zermatt.
[I Conquer the Gorner Grat]
We went into camp on that wild spot to which that ram
had brought us. The men were greatly fatigued.
Their conviction that we were lost was forgotten in the cheer
of a good supper, and before the reaction had a chance
to set in, I loaded them up with paregoric and put them to bed.
Next morning I was considering in my mind our desperate
situation and trying to think of a remedy, when Harris
came to me with a Baedeker map which showed conclusively
that the mountain we were on was still in Switzerland--yes,
every part of it was in Switzerland. So we were not lost,
after all. This was an immense relief; it lifted the weight
of two such mountains from my breast. I immediately
had the news disseminated and the map was exhibited.
The effect was wonderful. As soon as the men saw with
their own eyes that they knew where they were, and that it
was only the summit that was lost and not themselves,
they cheered up instantly and said with one accord,
let the summit take care of itself.
Our distresses being at an end, I now determined to rest
the men in camp and give the scientific department of the
Expedition a chance. First, I made a barometric observation,
to get our altitude, but I could not perceive that there
was any result. I knew, by my scientific reading,
that either thermometers or barometers ought to be boiled,
to make them accurate; I did not know which it was,
so I boiled them both. There was still no result;
so I examined these instruments and discovered that they
possessed radical blemishes: the barometer had no hand
but the brass pointer and the ball of the thermometer was
stuffed with tin-foil. I might have boiled those things
to rags, and never found out anything.
I hunted up another barometer; it was new and perfect.
I boiled it half an hour in a pot of bean soup which
the cooks were making. The result was unexpected: the
instrument was not affecting at all, but there was such
a strong barometer taste to the soup that the head cook,
who was a most conscientious person, changed its name
in the bill of fare. The dish was so greatly liked by all,
that I ordered the cook to have barometer soup every day.
It was believed that the barometer might eventually
be injured, but I did not care for that. I had demonstrated
to my satisfaction that it could not tell how high
a mountain was, therefore I had no real use for it.
Changes in the weather I could take care of without it;
I did not wish to know when the weather was going to be good,
what I wanted to know was when it was going to be bad,
and this I could find out from Harris's corns. Harris had
had his corns tested and regulated at the government
observatory in Heidelberg, and one could depend upon them
with confidence. So I transferred the new barometer to
the cooking department, to be used for the official mess.
It was found that even a pretty fair article of soup could
be made from the defective barometer; so I allowed that one
to be transferred to the subordinate mess.
I next boiled the thermometer, and got a most excellent result;
the mercury went up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the opinion of the other scientists of the Expedition,
this seemed to indicate that we had attained the extraordinary
altitude of two hundred thousand feet above sea-level.
Science places the line of eternal snow at about ten thousand
feet above sea-level. There was no snow where we were,
consequently it was proven that the eternal snow-line
ceases somewhere above the ten-thousand-foot level and
does not begin any more. This was an interesting fact,
and one which had not been observed by any observer before.
It was as valuable as interesting, too, since it would open
up the deserted summits of the highest Alps to population
and agriculture. It was a proud thing to be where we were,
yet it caused us a pang to reflect that but for that ram we
might just as well been two hundred thousand feet higher.
The success of my last experiment induced me to try an
experiment with my photographic apparatus. I got it out,
and boiled one of my cameras, but the thing was a failure;
it made the wood swell up and burst, and I could not see
that the lenses were any better than they were before.
I now concluded to boil a guide. It might improve him,
it could not impair his usefulness. But I was not
allowed to proceed. Guides have no feeling for science,
and this one would not consent to be made uncomfortable
in its interest.
In the midst of my scientific work, one of those
needless accidents happened which are always occurring
among the ignorant and thoughtless. A porter shot
at a chamois and missed it and crippled the Latinist.
This was not a serious matter to me, for a Latinist's
duties are as well performed on crutches as otherwise--
but the fact remained that if the Latinist had not
happened to be in the way a mule would have got
that load. That would have been quite another matter,
for when it comes down to a question of value there is
a palpable difference between a Latinist and a mule.
I could not depend on having a Latinist in the right
place every time; so, to make things safe, I ordered
that in the future the chamois must not be hunted within
limits of the camp with any other weapon than the forefinger.
My nerves had hardly grown quiet after this affair when
they got another shake-up--one which utterly unmanned
me for a moment: a rumor swept suddenly through the camp
that one of the barkeepers had fallen over a precipice!
However, it turned out that it was only a chaplain.
I had laid in an extra force of chaplains, purposely to
be prepared for emergencies like this, but by some
unaccountable oversight had come away rather short-handed
in the matter of barkeepers.
On the following morning we moved on, well refreshed and in
good spirits. I remember this day with peculiar pleasure,
because it saw our road restored to us. Yes, we found
our road again, and in quite an extraordinary way.
We had plodded along some two hours and a half, when we came
up against a solid mass of rock about twenty feet high.
I did not need to be instructed by a mule this time.
I was already beginning to know more than any mule in
the Expedition. I at once put in a blast of dynamite,
and lifted that rock out of the way. But to my surprise
and mortification, I found that there had been a chalet
on top of it.
I picked up such members of the family as fell in my vicinity,
and subordinates of my corps collected the rest.
None of these poor people were injured, happily, but they
were much annoyed. I explained to the head chaleteer
just how the thing happened, and that I was only searching
for the road, and would certainly have given him timely
notice if I had known he was up there. I said I had
meant no harm, and hoped I had not lowered myself in
his estimation by raising him a few rods in the air.
I said many other judicious things, and finally when I
offered to rebuild his chalet, and pay for the breakages,
and throw in the cellar, he was mollified and satisfied.
He hadn't any cellar at all, before; he would not have
as good a view, now, as formerly, but what he had lost
in view he had gained in cellar, by exact measurement.
He said there wasn't another hole like that in the mountains--
and he would have been right if the late mule had not tried
to eat up the nitroglycerin.
I put a hundred and sixteen men at work, and they rebuilt
the chalet from its own debris in fifteen minutes.
It was a good deal more picturesque than it was before,
too. The man said we were now on the Feil-Stutz, above
the Schwegmatt--information which I was glad to get,
since it gave us our position to a degree of particularity
which we had not been accustomed to for a day or so.
We also learned that we were standing at the foot
of the Riffelberg proper, and that the initial chapter
of our work was completed.
We had a fine view, from here, of the energetic Visp,
as it makes its first plunge into the world from under a huge
arch of solid ice, worn through the foot-wall of the great
Gorner Glacier; and we could also see the Furggenbach,
which is the outlet of the Furggen Glacier.
The mule-road to the summit of the Riffelberg passed right
in front of the chalet, a circumstance which we almost
immediately noticed, because a procession of tourists was
filing along it pretty much all the time. [1] The chaleteer's
business consisted in furnishing refreshments to tourists.
My blast had interrupted this trade for a few minutes,
by breaking all the bottles on the place; but I gave
the man a lot of whiskey to sell for Alpine champagne,
and a lot of vinegar which would answer for Rhine wine,
consequently trade was soon as brisk as ever.
1. "Pretty much" may not be elegant English, but it is
high time it was. There is no elegant word or phrase
which means just what it means.--M.T.
Leaving the Expedition outside to rest, I quartered myself
in the chalet, with Harris, proposing to correct my journals
and scientific observations before continuing the ascent.
I had hardly begun my work when a tall, slender, vigorous
American youth of about twenty-three, who was on his
way down the mountain, entered and came toward me with
that breeze self-complacency which is the adolescent's
idea of the well-bred ease of the man of the world.
His hair was short and parted accurately in the middle,
and he had all the look of an American person who would
be likely to begin his signature with an initial,
and spell his middle name out. He introduced himself,
smiling a smirky smile borrowed from the courtiers
of the stage, extended a fair-skinned talon, and while
he gripped my hand in it he bent his body forward
three times at the hips, as the stage courtier does,
and said in the airiest and most condescending
and patronizing way--I quite remember his exact language:
"Very glad to make your acquaintance, 'm sure; very glad indeed,
assure you. I've read all your little efforts and greatly
admired them, and when I heard you were here, I ..."
I indicated a chair, and he sat down. This grandee was
the grandson of an American of considerable note in his day,
and not wholly forgotten yet--a man who came so near
being a great man that he was quite generally accounted
one while he lived.
I slowly paced the floor, pondering scientific problems,
and heard this conversation:
GRANDSON. First visit to Europe?
HARRIS. Mine? Yes.
G.S. (With a soft reminiscent sigh suggestive of bygone
joys that may be tasted in their freshness but once.)
Ah, I know what it is to you. A first visit!--ah,
the romance of it! I wish I could feel it again.
H. Yes, I find it exceeds all my dreams. It is enchantment.
I go...
G.S. (With a dainty gesture of the hand signifying "Spare
me your callow enthusiasms, good friend.") Yes, _I_ know,
I know; you go to cathedrals, and exclaim; and you drag
through league-long picture-galleries and exclaim; and you
stand here, and there, and yonder, upon historic ground,
and continue to exclaim; and you are permeated with
your first crude conceptions of Art, and are proud
and happy. Ah, yes, proud and happy--that expresses it.
Yes-yes, enjoy it--it is right--it is an innocent revel.
H. And you? Don't you do these things now?
G.S. I! Oh, that is VERY good! My dear sir, when you
are as old a traveler as I am, you will not ask such
a question as that. _I_ visit the regulation gallery,
moon around the regulation cathedral, do the worn round
of the regulation sights, YET?--Excuse me!
H. Well, what DO you do, then?
G.S. Do? I flit--and flit--for I am ever on the wing--but I
avoid the herd. Today I am in Paris, tomorrow in Berlin,
anon in Rome; but you would look for me in vain in the
galleries of the Louvre or the common resorts of the
gazers in those other capitals. If you would find me,
you must look in the unvisited nooks and corners where
others never think of going. One day you will find me
making myself at home in some obscure peasant's cabin,
another day you will find me in some forgotten castle
worshiping some little gem or art which the careless eye
has overlooked and which the unexperienced would despise;
again you will find me as guest in the inner sanctuaries
of palaces while the herd is content to get a hurried
glimpse of the unused chambers by feeing a servant.
H. You are a GUEST in such places?
G.S. And a welcoming one.
H. It is surprising. How does it come?
G.S. My grandfather's name is a passport to all the courts
in Europe. I have only to utter that name and every
door is open to me. I flit from court to court at my
own free will and pleasure, and am always welcome.
I am as much at home in the palaces of Europe as you are
among your relatives. I know every titled person in Europe,
I think. I have my pockets full of invitations all the time.
I am under promise to go to Italy, where I am to be the
guest of a succession of the noblest houses in the land.
In Berlin my life is a continued round of gaiety in the
imperial palace. It is the same, wherever I go.
H. It must be very pleasant. But it must make Boston
seem a little slow when you are at home.
G.S. Yes, of course it does. But I don't go home much.
There's no life there--little to feed a man's higher nature.
Boston's very narrow, you know. She doesn't know it, and you
couldn't convince her of it--so I say nothing when I'm
there: where's the use? Yes, Boston is very narrow, but she
has such a good opinion of herself that she can't see it.
A man who has traveled as much as I have, and seen as much
of the world, sees it plain enough, but he can't cure it,
you know, so the best is to leave it and seek a sphere
which is more in harmony with his tastes and culture.
I run across there, one a year, perhaps, when I have
nothing important on hand, but I'm very soon back again.
I spend my time in Europe.
H. I see. You map out your plans and ...
G.S. No, excuse me. I don't map out any plans. I simply
follow the inclination of the day. I am limited by no ties,
no requirements, I am not bound in any way. I am too old
a traveler to hamper myself with deliberate purposes.
I am simply a traveler--an inveterate traveler--a man of
the world, in a word--I can call myself by no other name.
I do not say, "I am going here, or I am going there"--I
say nothing at all, I only act. For instance, next week
you may find me the guest of a grandee of Spain, or you
may find me off for Venice, or flitting toward Dresden.
I shall probably go to Egypt presently; friends will say
to friends, "He is at the Nile cataracts"--and at that
very moment they will be surprised to learn that I'm away
off yonder in India somewhere. I am a constant surprise
to people. They are always saying, "Yes, he was in Jerusalem
when we heard of him last, but goodness knows where he
is now."
Presently the Grandson rose to leave--discovered he
had an appointment with some Emperor, perhaps. He did
his graces over again: gripped me with one talon,
at arm's-length, pressed his hat against his stomach
with the other, bent his body in the middle three times,
"Pleasure, 'm sure; great pleasure, 'm sure. Wish you
much success."
Then he removed his gracious presence. It is a great
and solemn thing to have a grandfather.
I have not purposed to misrepresent this boy in any way,
for what little indignation he excited in me soon
passed and left nothing behind it but compassion.
One cannot keep up a grudge against a vacuum.
I have tried to repeat this lad's very words;
if I have failed anywhere I have at least not failed
to reproduce the marrow and meaning of what he said.
He and the innocent chatterbox whom I met on the Swiss
lake are the most unique and interesting specimens of
Young America I came across during my foreign tramping.
I have made honest portraits of them, not caricatures.
The Grandson of twenty-three referred to himself five
or six times as an "old traveler,"and as many as three
times (with a serene complacency which was maddening)
as a "man of the world." There was something very delicious
about his leaving Boston to her "narrowness," unreproved
and uninstructed.
I formed the caravan in marching order, presently,
and after riding down the line to see that it was
properly roped together, gave the command to proceed.
In a little while the road carried us to open, grassy land.
We were above the troublesome forest, now, and had an
uninterrupted view, straight before us, of our summit--
the summit of the Riffelberg.
We followed the mule-road, a zigzag course, now to the right,
now to the left, but always up, and always crowded and
incommoded by going and coming files of reckless tourists
who were never, in a single instance, tied together.
I was obliged to exert the utmost care and caution,
for in many places the road was not two yards wide,
and often the lower side of it sloped away in slanting
precipices eight and even nine feet deep. I had to
encourage the men constantly, to keep them from giving
way to their unmanly fears.
We might have made the summit before night, but for a
delay caused by the loss of an umbrella. I was allowing
the umbrella to remain lost, but the men murmured,
and with reason, for in this exposed region we stood
in peculiar need of protection against avalanches;
so I went into camp and detached a strong party to go
after the missing article.
The difficulties of the next morning were severe,
but our courage was high, for our goal was near.
At noon we conquered the last impediment--we stood
at last upon the summit, and without the loss of a
single man except the mule that ate the glycerin.
Our great achievement was achieved--the possibility of
the impossible was demonstrated, and Harris and I walked
proudly into the great dining-room of the Riffelberg
Hotel and stood our alpenstocks up in the corner.
Yes, I had made the grand ascent; but it was a mistake
to do it in evening dress. The plug hats were battered,
the swallow-tails were fluttering rags, mud added no grace,
the general effect was unpleasant and even disreputable.
There were about seventy-five tourists at the hotel--
mainly ladies and little children--and they gave us
an admiring welcome which paid us for all our privations
and sufferings. The ascent had been made, and the names
and dates now stand recorded on a stone monument there
to prove it to all future tourists.
I boiled a thermometer and took an altitude, with a most
Suspecting that I had made an important discovery,
I prepared to verify it. There happened to be a still
higher summit (called the Gorner Grat), above the hotel,
and notwithstanding the fact that it overlooks a glacier
from a dizzy height, and that the ascent is difficult
and dangerous, I resolved to venture up there and boil
a thermometer. So I sent a strong party, with some
borrowed hoes, in charge of two chiefs of service, to dig
a stairway in the soil all the way up, and this I ascended,
roped to the guides. This breezy height was the summit
proper--so I accomplished even more than I had originally
purposed to do. This foolhardy exploit is recorded on
another stone monument.
I boiled my thermometer, and sure enough, this spot,
which purported to be two thousand feet higher than the
locality of the hotel, turned out to be nine thousand
feet LOWER. Thus the fact was clearly demonstrated that,
THE LOWER IT ACTUALLY IS. Our ascent itself was a
great achievement, but this contribution to science was
an inconceivably greater matter.
Cavilers object that water boils at a lower and lower
temperature the higher and higher you go, and hence the
apparent anomaly. I answer that I do not base my theory
upon what the boiling water does, but upon what a boiled
thermometer says. You can't go behind the thermometer.
I had a magnificent view of Monte Rosa, and apparently
all the rest of the Alpine world, from that high place.
All the circling horizon was piled high with a mighty
tumult of snowy crests. One might have imagined he
saw before him the tented camps of a beleaguering host
of Brobdingnagians.
But lonely, conspicuous, and superb, rose that wonderful
upright wedge, the Matterhorn. Its precipitous sides were
powdered over with snow, and the upper half hidden in thick
clouds which now and then dissolved to cobweb films and gave
brief glimpses of the imposing tower as through a veil.
[2] A little later the Matterhorn took to himself the
semblance of a volcano; he was stripped naked to his apex--
around this circled vast wreaths of white cloud which strung
slowly out and streamed away slantwise toward the sun,
a twenty-mile stretch of rolling and tumbling vapor,
and looking just as if it were pouring out of a crater.
Later again, one of the mountain's sides was clean and clear,
and another side densely clothed from base to summit in
thick smokelike cloud which feathered off and flew around
the shaft's sharp edge like the smoke around the corners of
a burning building. The Matterhorn is always experimenting,
and always gets up fine effects, too. In the sunset,
when all the lower world is palled in gloom, it points
toward heaven out of the pervading blackness like a finger
of fire. In the sunrise--well, they say it is very fine
in the sunrise.
2. NOTE.--I had the very unusual luck to catch one little
momentary glimpse of the Matterhorn wholly unencumbered
by clouds. I leveled my photographic apparatus at it
without the loss of an instant, and should have got
an elegant picture if my donkey had not interfered.
It was my purpose to draw this photograph all by myself
for my book, but was obliged to put the mountain part
of it into the hands of the professional artist because
I found I could not do landscape well.
Authorities agree that there is no such tremendous "layout"
of snowy Alpine magnitude, grandeur, and sublimity to be
seen from any other accessible point as the tourist may see
from the summit of the Riffelberg. Therefore, let the
tourist rope himself up and go there; for I have shown
that with nerve, caution, and judgment, the thing can be done.
I wish to add one remark, here--in parentheses, so to speak
--suggested by the word "snowy," which I have just used.
We have all seen hills and mountains and levels with snow
on them, and so we think we know all the aspects and
effects produced by snow. But indeed we do not until
we have seen the Alps. Possibly mass and distance add
something--at any rate, something IS added. Among other
noticeable things, there is a dazzling, intense whiteness
about the distant Alpine snow, when the sun is on it,
which one recognizes as peculiar, and not familiar to
the eye. The snow which one is accustomed to has a tint
to it--painters usually give it a bluish cast--but there
is no perceptible tint to the distant Alpine snow when it
is trying to look its whitest. As to the unimaginable
splendor of it when the sun is blazing down on it--well,
it simply IS unimaginable.
[We Travel by Glacier]
A guide-book is a queer thing. The reader has just seen
what a man who undertakes the great ascent from Zermatt
to the Riffelberg Hotel must experience. Yet Baedeker
makes these strange statements concerning this matter:
1. Distance--3 hours.
2. The road cannot be mistaken.
3. Guide unnecessary.
4. Distance from Riffelberg Hotel to the Gorner Grat,
one hour and a half.
5. Ascent simple and easy. Guide unnecessary.
6. Elevation of Zermatt above sea-level, 5,315 feet.
7. Elevation of Riffelberg Hotel above sea-level,
8,429 feet.
8. Elevation of the Gorner Grat above sea-level, 10,289 feet.
I have pretty effectually throttled these errors by sending
him the following demonstrated facts:
1. Distance from Zermatt to Riffelberg Hotel, 7 days.
2. The road CAN be mistaken. If I am the first that did it,
I want the credit of it, too.
3. Guides ARE necessary, for none but a native can read
those finger-boards.
4. The estimate of the elevation of the several localities
above sea-level is pretty correct--for Baedeker.
He only misses it about a hundred and eighty or ninety
thousand feet.
I found my arnica invaluable. My men were suffering
excruciatingly, from the friction of sitting down so much.
During two or three days, not one of them was able to do
more than lie down or walk about; yet so effective was
the arnica, that on the fourth all were able to sit up.
I consider that, more than to anything else, I owe the
success of our great undertaking to arnica and paregoric.
My men are being restored to health and strength,
my main perplexity, now, was how to get them down
the mountain again. I was not willing to expose the
brave fellows to the perils, fatigues, and hardships
of that fearful route again if it could be helped.
First I thought of balloons; but, of course, I had to
give that idea up, for balloons were not procurable.
I thought of several other expedients, but upon
consideration discarded them, for cause. But at last
I hit it. I was aware that the movement of glaciers
is an established fact, for I had read it in Baedeker;
so I resolved to take passage for Zermatt on the great
Gorner Glacier.
Very good. The next thing was, how to get down the
glacier comfortably--for the mule-road to it was long,
and winding, and wearisome. I set my mind at work,
and soon thought out a plan. One looks straight down
upon the vast frozen river called the Gorner Glacier,
from the Gorner Grat, a sheer precipice twelve hundred
feet high. We had one hundred and fifty-four umbrellas--
and what is an umbrella but a parachute?
I mentioned this noble idea to Harris, with enthusiasm,
and was about to order the Expedition to form on the
Gorner Grat, with their umbrellas, and prepare for
flight by platoons, each platoon in command of a guide,
when Harris stopped me and urged me not to be too hasty.
He asked me if this method of descending the Alps had
ever been tried before. I said no, I had not heard
of an instance. Then, in his opinion, it was a matter
of considerable gravity; in his opinion it would not be
well to send the whole command over the cliff at once;
a better way would be to send down a single individual,
first, and see how he fared.
I saw the wisdom in this idea instantly. I said as much,
and thanked my agent cordially, and told him to take
his umbrella and try the thing right away, and wave
his hat when he got down, if he struck in a soft place,
and then I would ship the rest right along.
Harris was greatly touched with this mark of confidence,
and said so, in a voice that had a perceptible tremble in it;
but at the same time he said he did not feel himself worthy
of so conspicuous a favor; that it might cause jealousy
in the command, for there were plenty who would not hesitate
to say he had used underhanded means to get the appointment,
whereas his conscience would bear him witness that he
had not sought it at all, nor even, in his secret heart,
desired it.
I said these words did him extreme credit, but that he must not
throw away the imperishable distinction of being the first man
to descend an Alp per parachute, simply to save the feelings
of some envious underlings. No, I said, he MUST accept
the appointment--it was no longer an invitation, it was a
He thanked me with effusion, and said that putting
the thing in this form removed every objection.
He retired, and soon returned with his umbrella, his eye
flaming with gratitude and his cheeks pallid with joy.
Just then the head guide passed along. Harris's expression
changed to one of infinite tenderness, and he said:
"That man did me a cruel injury four days ago, and I
said in my heart he should live to perceive and confess
that the only noble revenge a man can take upon his enemy
is to return good for evil. I resign in his favor.
Appoint him."
I threw my arms around the generous fellow and said:
"Harris, you are the noblest soul that lives. You shall
not regret this sublime act, neither shall the world
fail to know of it. You shall have opportunity far
transcending this one, too, if I live--remember that."
I called the head guide to me and appointed him on
the spot. But the thing aroused no enthusiasm in him.
He did not take to the idea at all.
He said:
"Tie myself to an umbrella and jump over the Gorner
Grat! Excuse me, there are a great many pleasanter roads
to the devil than that."
Upon a discussion of the subject with him, it appeared that he
considered the project distinctly and decidedly dangerous.
I was not convinced, yet I was not willing to try the
experiment in any risky way--that is, in a way that might
cripple the strength and efficiency of the Expedition.
I was about at my wits' end when it occurred to me to try
it on the Latinist.
He was called in. But he declined, on the plea
of inexperience, diffidence in public, lack of curiosity,
and I didn't know what all. Another man declined
on account of a cold in the head; thought he ought
to avoid exposure. Another could not jump well--never
COULD jump well--did not believe he could jump so far
without long and patient practice. Another was afraid it
was going to rain, and his umbrella had a hole in it.
Everybody had an excuse. The result was what the reader
has by this time guessed: the most magnificent idea
that was ever conceived had to be abandoned, from sheer
lack of a person with enterprise enough to carry it out.
Yes, I actually had to give that thing up--while doubtless
I should live to see somebody use it and take all the credit from
Well, I had to go overland--there was no other way.
I marched the Expedition down the steep and tedious mule-path
and took up as good a position as I could upon the middle
of the glacier--because Baedeker said the middle part
travels the fastest. As a measure of economy, however,
I put some of the heavier baggage on the shoreward parts,
to go as slow freight.
I waited and waited, but the glacier did not move.
Night was coming on, the darkness began to gather--still we
did not budge. It occurred to me then, that there might
be a time-table in Baedeker; it would be well to find out
the hours of starting. I called for the book--it could not
be found. Bradshaw would certainly contain a time-table;
but no Bradshaw could be found.
Very well, I must make the best of the situation. So I
pitched the tents, picketed the animals, milked the cows,
had supper, paregoricked the men, established the watch,
and went to bed--with orders to call me as soon as we came
in sight of Zermatt.
I awoke about half past ten next morning, and looked around.
We hadn't budged a peg! At first I could not understand it;
then it occurred to me that the old thing must be aground.
So I cut down some trees and rigged a spar on the starboard
and another on the port side, and fooled away upward of
three hours trying to spar her off. But it was no use.
She was half a mile wide and fifteen or twenty miles long,
and there was no telling just whereabouts she WAS aground.
The men began to show uneasiness, too, and presently they
came flying to me with ashy faces, saying she had sprung
a leak.
Nothing but my cool behavior at this critical time saved us
from another panic. I order them to show me the place.
They led me to a spot where a huge boulder lay in a deep
pool of clear and brilliant water. It did look like
a pretty bad leak, but I kept that to myself. I made
a pump and set the men to work to pump out the glacier.
We made a success of it. I perceived, then, that it was not
a leak at all. This boulder had descended from a precipice
and stopped on the ice in the middle of the glacier,
and the sun had warmed it up, every day, and consequently
it had melted its way deeper and deeper into the ice,
until at last it reposed, as we had found it, in a deep
pool of the clearest and coldest water.
Presently Baedeker was found again, and I hunted eagerly
for the time-table. There was none. The book simply said
the glacier was moving all the time. This was satisfactory,
so I shut up the book and chose a good position to view
the scenery as we passed along. I stood there some time
enjoying the trip, but at last it occurred to me that we did
not seem to be gaining any on the scenery. I said to myself,
"This confounded old thing's aground again, sure,"--and
opened Baedeker to see if I could run across any remedy
for these annoying interruptions. I soon found a sentence
which threw a dazzling light upon the matter. It said,
"The Gorner Glacier travels at an average rate of a little
less than an inch a day." I have seldom felt so outraged.
I have seldom had my confidence so wantonly betrayed.
I made a small calculation: One inch a day, say thirty
feet a year; estimated distance to Zermatt, three and
one-eighteenth miles. Time required to go by glacier,
A LITTLE OVER FIVE HUNDRED YEARS! I said to myself, "I can
WALK it quicker--and before I will patronize such a fraud
as this, I will do it."
When I revealed to Harris the fact that the passenger part
of this glacier--the central part--the lightning-express part,
so to speak--was not due in Zermatt till the summer
of 2378, and that the baggage, coming along the slow edge,
would not arrive until some generations later, he burst
out with:
"That is European management, all over! An inch a day--think
of that! Five hundred years to go a trifle over three miles!
But I am not a bit surprised. It's a Catholic glacier.
You can tell by the look of it. And the management."
I said, no, I believed nothing but the extreme end of it
was in a Catholic canton.
"Well, then, it's a government glacier," said Harris.
"It's all the same. Over here the government runs
everything--so everything's slow; slow, and ill-managed. But
with us, everything's done by private enterprise--and then
there ain't much lolling around, you can depend on it.
I wish Tom Scott could get his hands on this torpid old
slab once--you'd see it take a different gait from this."
I said I was sure he would increase the speed, if there
was trade enough to justify it.
"He'd MAKE trade," said Harris. "That's the difference
between governments and individuals. Governments don't care,
individuals do. Tom Scott would take all the trade;
in two years Gorner stock would go to two hundred,
and inside of two more you would see all the other glaciers
under the hammer for taxes." After a reflective pause,
Harris added, "A little less than an inch a day; a little
less than an INCH, mind you. Well, I'm losing my reverence
for glaciers."
I was feeling much the same way myself. I have traveled
by canal-boat, ox-wagon, raft, and by the Ephesus and
Smyrna railway; but when it comes down to good solid
honest slow motion, I bet my money on the glacier.
As a means of passenger transportation, I consider
the glacier a failure; but as a vehicle of slow freight,
I think she fills the bill. In the matter of putting
the fine shades on that line of business, I judge she
could teach the Germans something.
I ordered the men to break camp and prepare for the land
journey to Zermatt. At this moment a most interesting
find was made; a dark object, bedded in the glacial ice,
was cut out with the ice-axes, and it proved to be a piece
of the undressed skin of some animal--a hair trunk, perhaps;
but a close inspection disabled the hair-trunk theory,
and further discussion and examination exploded it
entirely--that is, in the opinion of all the scientists
except the one who had advanced it. This one clung
to his theory with affectionate fidelity characteristic
of originators of scientific theories, and afterward won
many of the first scientists of the age to his view,
by a very able pamphlet which he wrote, entitled, "Evidences
going to show that the hair trunk, in a wild state,
belonged to the early glacial period, and roamed the wastes
of chaos in the company with the cave-bear, primeval man,
and the other Oo"litics of the Old Silurian family."
Each of our scientists had a theory of his own, and put
forward an animal of his own as a candidate for the skin.
I sided with the geologist of the Expedition in the
belief that this patch of skin had once helped to cover
a Siberian elephant, in some old forgotten age--but we
divided there, the geologist believing that this discovery
proved that Siberia had formerly been located where
Switzerland is now, whereas I held the opinion that it
merely proved that the primeval Swiss was not the dull
savage he is represented to have been, but was a being
of high intellectual development, who liked to go to the
We arrived that evening, after many hardships and adventures,
in some fields close to the great ice-arch where the mad
Visp boils and surges out from under the foot of the
great Gorner Glacier, and here we camped, our perils over
and our magnificent undertaking successfully completed.
We marched into Zermatt the next day, and were received
with the most lavish honors and applause. A document,
signed and sealed by the authorities, was given to me
which established and endorsed the fact that I had made
the ascent of the Riffelberg. This I wear around my neck,
and it will be buried with me when I am no more.
[Piteous Relics at Chamonix]
I am not so ignorant about glacial movement, now, as I
was when I took passage on the Gorner Glacier.
I have "read up" since. I am aware that these vast
bodies of ice do not travel at the same rate of speed;
while the Gorner Glacier makes less than an inch a day,
the Unter-Aar Glacier makes as much as eight; and still
other glaciers are said to go twelve, sixteen, and even
twenty inches a day. One writer says that the slowest
glacier travels twenty-give feet a year, and the fastest
four hundred.
What is a glacier? It is easy to say it looks like a
frozen river which occupies the bed of a winding gorge
or gully between mountains. But that gives no notion
of its vastness. For it is sometimes six hundred
feet thick, and we are not accustomed to rivers six hundred
feet deep; no, our rivers are six feet, twenty feet,
and sometimes fifty feet deep; we are not quite able
to grasp so large a fact as an ice-river six hundred feet deep.
The glacier's surface is not smooth and level, but has
deep swales and swelling elevations, and sometimes has
the look of a tossing sea whose turbulent billows were
frozen hard in the instant of their most violent motion;
the glacier's surface is not a flawless mass, but is a river
with cracks or crevices, some narrow, some gaping wide.
Many a man, the victim of a slip or a misstep, has plunged
down on of these and met his death. Men have been
fished out of them alive; but it was when they did not
go to a great depth; the cold of the great depths would
quickly stupefy a man, whether he was hurt or unhurt.
These cracks do not go straight down; one can seldom see
more than twenty to forty feet down them; consequently men
who have disappeared in them have been sought for,
in the hope that they had stopped within helping distance,
whereas their case, in most instances, had really been
hopeless from the beginning.
In 1864 a party of tourists was descending Mont Blanc,
and while picking their way over one of the mighty glaciers
of that lofty region, roped together, as was proper,
a young porter disengaged himself from the line and
started across an ice-bridge which spanned a crevice.
It broke under him with a crash, and he disappeared.
The others could not see how deep he had gone, so it might
be worthwhile to try and rescue him. A brave young guide
named Michel Payot volunteered.
Two ropes were made fast to his leather belt and he bore
the end of a third one in his hand to tie to the victim
in case he found him. He was lowered into the crevice,
he descended deeper and deeper between the clear blue
walls of solid ice, he approached a bend in the crack
and disappeared under it. Down, and still down, he went,
into this profound grave; when he had reached a depth
of eighty feet he passed under another bend in the crack,
and thence descended eighty feet lower, as between
perpendicular precipices. Arrived at this stage of one
hundred and sixty feet below the surface of the glacier,
he peered through the twilight dimness and perceived
that the chasm took another turn and stretched away at
a steep slant to unknown deeps, for its course was lost
in darkness. What a place that was to be in--especially
if that leather belt should break! The compression
of the belt threatened to suffocate the intrepid fellow;
he called to his friends to draw him up, but could not make
them hear. They still lowered him, deeper and deeper.
Then he jerked his third cord as vigorously as he could;
his friends understood, and dragged him out of those icy jaws
of death.
Then they attached a bottle to a cord and sent it down
two hundred feet, but it found no bottom. It came up
covered with congelations--evidence enough that even if
the poor porter reached the bottom with unbroken bones,
a swift death from cold was sure, anyway.
A glacier is a stupendous, ever-progressing, resistless plow.
It pushes ahead of its masses of boulders which are
packed together, and they stretch across the gorge,
right in front of it, like a long grave or a long,
sharp roof. This is called a moraine. It also shoves
out a moraine along each side of its course.
Imposing as the modern glaciers are, they are not so
huge as were some that once existed. For instance,
Mr. Whymper says:
"At some very remote period the Valley of Aosta was occupied
by a vast glacier, which flowed down its entire length from
Mont Blanc to the plain of Piedmont, remained stationary,
or nearly so, at its mouth for many centuries, and deposited
there enormous masses of debris. The length of this
glacier exceeded EIGHTY MILES, and it drained a basin
twenty-five to thirty-five miles across, bounded by the
highest mountains in the Alps. The great peaks rose
several thousand feet above the glaciers, and then, as now,
shattered by sun and frost, poured down their showers of
rocks and stones, in witness of which there are the immense
piles of angular fragments that constitute the moraines of Ivrea.
"The moraines around Ivrea are of extraordinary dimensions.
That which was on the left bank of the glacier is
about THIRTEEN MILES long, and in some places rises
above the floor of the valley! The terminal moraines
(those which are pushed in front of the glaciers)
cover something like twenty square miles of country.
At the mouth of the Valley of Aosta, the thickness of
the glacier must have been at least TWO THOUSAND feet,
and its width, at that part, FIVE MILES AND A QUARTER."
It is not easy to get at a comprehension of a mass of ice
like that. If one could cleave off the butt end of such
a glacier--an oblong block two or three miles wide
by five and a quarter long and two thousand feet thick--
he could completely hide the city of New York under it,
and Trinity steeple would only stick up into it relatively
as far as a shingle-nail would stick up into the bottom
of a Saratoga trunk.
"The boulders from Mont Blanc, upon the plain below Ivrea,
assure us that the glacier which transported them existed
for a prodigious length of time. Their present distance from
the cliffs from which they were derived is about 420,000 feet,
and if we assume that they traveled at the rate of 400 feet
per annum, their journey must have occupied them no less
than 1,055 years! In all probability they did not travel so
Glaciers are sometimes hurried out of their characteristic
snail-pace. A marvelous spectacle is presented then.
Mr. Whymper refers to a case which occurred in Iceland
in 1721:
"It seems that in the neighborhood of the mountain Kotlugja,
large bodies of water formed underneath, or within
the glaciers (either on account of the interior heat of
the earth, or from other causes), and at length acquired
irresistible power, tore the glaciers from their mooring on
the land, and swept them over every obstacle into the sea.
Prodigious masses of ice were thus borne for a distance
of about ten miles over land in the space of a few hours;
and their bulk was so enormous that they covered the sea
for seven miles from the shore, and remained aground
in six hundred feet of water! The denudation of the land
was upon a grand scale. All superficial accumulations were
swept away, and the bedrock was exposed. It was described,
in graphic language, how all irregularities and depressions
were obliterated, and a smooth surface of several miles'
area laid bare, and that this area had the appearance
of having been PLANED BY A PLANE."
The account translated from the Icelandic says that the
mountainlike ruins of this majestic glacier so covered
the sea that as far as the eye could reach no open water
was discoverable, even from the highest peaks. A monster
wall or barrier of ice was built across a considerable
stretch of land, too, by this strange irruption:
"One can form some idea of the altitude of this barrier
of ice when it is mentioned that from Hofdabrekka farm,
which lies high up on a fjeld, one could not see
Hjorleifshofdi opposite, which is a fell six hundred and
forty feet in height; but in order to do so had to clamber
up a mountain slope east of Hofdabrekka twelve hundred feet
These things will help the reader to understand why it is
that a man who keeps company with glaciers comes to feel
tolerably insignificant by and by. The Alps and the glaciers
together are able to take every bit of conceit out of a man
and reduce his self-importance to zero if he will only
remain within the influence of their sublime presence long
enough to give it a fair and reasonable chance to do its work.
The Alpine glaciers move--that is granted, now, by everybody.
But there was a time when people scoffed at the idea;
they said you might as well expect leagues of solid rock
to crawl along the ground as expect leagues of ice to do it.
But proof after proof as furnished, and the finally the
world had to believe.
The wise men not only said the glacier moved, but they
timed its movement. They ciphered out a glacier's gait,
and then said confidently that it would travel just
so far in so many years. There is record of a striking
and curious example of the accuracy which may be attained
in these reckonings.
In 1820 the ascent of Mont Blanc was attempted by a Russian
and two Englishmen, with seven guides. They had reached
a prodigious altitude, and were approaching the summit,
when an avalanche swept several of the party down a
sharp slope of two hundred feet and hurled five of them
(all guides) into one of the crevices of a glacier.
The life of one of the five was saved by a long barometer
which was strapped to his back--it bridged the crevice
and suspended him until help came. The alpenstock
or baton of another saved its owner in a similar way.
Three men were lost--Pierre Balmat, Pierre Carrier,
and Auguste Tairraz. They had been hurled down into the
fathomless great deeps of the crevice.
Dr. Forbes, the English geologist, had made frequent visits
to the Mont Blanc region, and had given much attention
to the disputed question of the movement of glaciers.
During one of these visits he completed his estimates
of the rate of movement of the glacier which had swallowed
up the three guides, and uttered the prediction that the
glacier would deliver up its dead at the foot of the
mountain thirty-five years from the time of the accident,
or possibly forty.
A dull, slow journey--a movement imperceptible to any eye--
but it was proceeding, nevertheless, and without cessation.
It was a journey which a rolling stone would make in a
few seconds--the lofty point of departure was visible
from the village below in the valley.
The prediction cut curiously close to the truth;
forty-one years after the catastrophe, the remains
were cast forth at the foot of the glacier.
I find an interesting account of the matter in the
HISTOIRE DU MONT BLANC, by Stephen d'Arve. I will
condense this account, as follows:
On the 12th of August, 1861, at the hour of the close of mass,
a guide arrived out of breath at the mairie of Chamonix,
and bearing on his shoulders a very lugubrious burden.
It was a sack filled with human remains which he had gathered
from the orifice of a crevice in the Glacier des Bossons.
He conjectured that these were remains of the victims
of the catastrophe of 1820, and a minute inquest,
immediately instituted by the local authorities,
soon demonstrated the correctness of his supposition.
The contents of the sack were spread upon a long table,
and officially inventoried, as follows:
Portions of three human skulls. Several tufts of black and
blonde hair. A human jaw, furnished with fine white teeth.
A forearm and hand, all the fingers of the latter intact.
The flesh was white and fresh, and both the arm and hand
preserved a degree of flexibility in the articulations.
The ring-finger had suffered a slight abrasion, and the
stain of the blood was still visible and unchanged after
forty-one years. A left foot, the flesh white and fresh.
Along with these fragments were portions of waistcoats, hats,
hobnailed shoes, and other clothing; a wing of a pigeon,
with black feathers; a fragment of an alpenstock;
a tin lantern; and lastly, a boiled leg of mutton,
the only flesh among all the remains that exhaled an
unpleasant odor. The guide said that the mutton had no
odor when he took it from the glacier; an hour's exposure
to the sun had already begun the work of decomposition upon it.
Persons were called for, to identify these poor pathetic relics,
and a touching scene ensured. Two men were still living
who had witnessed the grim catastrophe of nearly half
a century before--Marie Couttet (saved by his baton)
and Julien Davouassoux (saved by the barometer). These aged
men entered and approached the table. Davouassoux, more than
eighty years old, contemplated the mournful remains mutely
and with a vacant eye, for his intelligence and his memory
were torpid with age; but Couttet's faculties were still
perfect at seventy-two, and he exhibited strong emotion. He
"Pierre Balmat was fair; he wore a straw hat. This bit of skull,
with the tuft of blond hair, was his; this is his hat.
Pierre Carrier was very dark; this skull was his, and this
felt hat. This is Balmat's hand, I remember it so well!"
and the old man bent down and kissed it reverently,
then closed his fingers upon it in an affectionate grasp,
crying out, "I could never have dared to believe that
before quitting this world it would be granted me to
press once more the hand of one of those brave comrades,
the hand of my good friend Balmat."
There is something weirdly pathetic about the picture
of that white-haired veteran greeting with his loving
handshake this friend who had been dead forty years.
When these hands had met last, they were alike in the
softness and freshness of youth; now, one was brown and
wrinkled and horny with age, while the other was still
as young and fair and blemishless as if those forty years
had come and gone in a single moment, leaving no mark
of their passage. Time had gone on, in the one case;
it had stood still in the other. A man who has not seen
a friend for a generation, keeps him in mind always as he
saw him last, and is somehow surprised, and is also shocked,
to see the aging change the years have wrought when he
sees him again. Marie Couttet's experience, in finding
his friend's hand unaltered from the image of it which he
had carried in his memory for forty years, is an experience
which stands alone in the history of man, perhaps.
Couttet identified other relics:
"This hat belonged to Auguste Tairraz. He carried
the cage of pigeons which we proposed to set free upon
the summit. Here is the wing of one of those pigeons.
And here is the fragment of my broken baton; it was by
grace of that baton that my life was saved. Who could
have told me that I should one day have the satisfaction
to look again upon this bit of wood that supported me above
the grave that swallowed up my unfortunate companions!"
No portions of the body of Tairraz, other than a piece
of the skull, had been found. A diligent search was made,
but without result. However, another search was
instituted a year later, and this had better success.
Many fragments of clothing which had belonged to the lost
guides were discovered; also, part of a lantern, and a
green veil with blood-stains on it. But the interesting
feature was this:
One of the searchers came suddenly upon a sleeved arm
projecting from a crevice in the ice-wall, with the hand
outstretched as if offering greeting! "The nails of this white
hand were still rosy, and the pose of the extended fingers
seemed to express an eloquent welcome to the long-lost light of
The hand and arm were alone; there was no trunk.
After being removed from the ice the flesh-tints quickly
faded out and the rosy nails took on the alabaster
hue of death. This was the third RIGHT hand found;
therefore, all three of the lost men were accounted for,
beyond cavil or question.
Dr. Hamel was the Russian gentleman of the party which
made the ascent at the time of the famous disaster.
He left Chamonix as soon as he conveniently could after
the descent; and as he had shown a chilly indifference
about the calamity, and offered neither sympathy nor
assistance to the widows and orphans, he carried with
him the cordial execrations of the whole community.
Four months before the first remains were found,
a Chamonix guide named Balmat--a relative of one of
the lost men--was in London, and one day encountered
a hale old gentleman in the British Museum, who said:
"I overheard your name. Are you from Chamonix,
Monsieur Balmat?"
"Yes, sir."
"Haven't they found the bodies of my three guides,
yet? I am Dr. Hamel."
"Alas, no, monsieur."
"Well, you'll find them, sooner or later."
"Yes, it is the opinion of Dr. Forbes and Mr. Tyndall,
that the glacier will sooner or later restore to us the
remains of the unfortunate victims."
"Without a doubt, without a doubt. And it will be a great
thing for Chamonix, in the matter of attracting tourists.
You can get up a museum with those remains that will draw!"
This savage idea has not improved the odor of Dr. Hamel's
name in Chamonix by any means. But after all, the man
was sound on human nature. His idea was conveyed
to the public officials of Chamonix, and they gravely
discussed it around the official council-table. They
were only prevented from carrying it into execution by
the determined opposition of the friends and descendants
of the lost guides, who insisted on giving the remains
Christian burial, and succeeded in their purpose.
A close watch had to be kept upon all the poor remnants
and fragments, to prevent embezzlement. A few accessory
odds and ends were sold. Rags and scraps of the coarse
clothing were parted with at the rate equal to about
twenty dollars a yard; a piece of a lantern and one or
two other trifles brought nearly their weight in gold;
and an Englishman offered a pound sterling for a single
[The Fearful Disaster of 1865]
One of the most memorable of all the Alpine catastrophes
was that of July, 1865, on the Matterhorn--already
sighted referred to, a few pages back. The details
of it are scarcely known in America. To the vast
majority of readers they are not known at all.
Mr. Whymper's account is the only authentic one.
I will import the chief portion of it into this book,
partly because of its intrinsic interest, and partly
because it gives such a vivid idea of what the perilous
pastime of Alp-climbing is. This was Mr. Whymper's
NINTH attempt during a series of years, to vanquish
that steep and stubborn pillar or rock; it succeeded,
the other eight were failures. No man had ever accomplished
the ascent before, though the attempts had been numerous.
We started from Zermatt on the 13th of July, at half
past five, on a brilliant and perfectly cloudless morning.
We were eight in number--Croz (guide), old Peter
Taugwalder (guide) and his two sons; Lord F. Douglas,
Mr. Hadow, Rev. Mr. Hudson, and I. To insure steady
motion, one tourist and one native walked together.
The youngest Taugwalder fell to my share. The wine-bags
also fell to my lot to carry, and throughout the day,
after each drink, I replenished them secretly with water,
so that at the next halt they were found fuller than
before! This was considered a good omen, and little short
of miraculous.
On the first day we did not intend to ascend to any
great height, and we mounted, accordingly, very leisurely.
Before twelve o'clock we had found a good position
for the tent, at a height of eleven thousand feet.
We passed the remaining hours of daylight--some basking
in the sunshine, some sketching, some collecting;
Hudson made tea, I coffee, and at length we retired,
each one to his blanket bag.
We assembled together before dawn on the 14th
and started directly it was light enough to move.
One of the young Taugwalders returned to Zermatt.
In a few minutes we turned the rib which had intercepted
the view of the eastern face from our tent platform.
The whole of this great slope was now revealed, rising for
three thousand feet like a huge natural staircase.
Some parts were more, and others were less easy, but we
were not once brought to a halt by any serious impediment,
for when an obstruction was met in front it could always
be turned to the right or to the left. For the greater part
of the way there was no occasion, indeed, for the rope,
and sometimes Hudson led, sometimes myself. At six-twenty we
had attained a height of twelve thousand eight hundred feet,
and halted for half an hour; we then continued the ascent
without a break until nine-fifty-five, when we stopped
for fifty minutes, at a height of fourteen thousand feet.
We had now arrived at the foot of that part which, seen from
the Riffelberg, seems perpendicular or overhanging.
We could no longer continue on the eastern side. For a little
distance we ascended by snow upon the ARE^TE--that is,
the ridge--then turned over to the right, or northern side.
The work became difficult, and required caution. In some places
there was little to hold; the general slope of the mountain
was LESS than forty degrees, and snow had accumulated in,
and had filled up, the interstices of the rock-face, leaving
only occasional fragments projecting here and there.
These were at times covered with a thin film of ice.
It was a place which any fair mountaineer might pass
in safety. We bore away nearly horizontally for about four
hundred feet, then ascended directly toward the summit
for about sixty feet, then doubled back to the ridge
which descends toward Zermatt. A long stride round
a rather awkward corner brought us to snow once more.
That last doubt vanished! The Matterhorn was ours! Nothing
but two hundred feet of easy snow remained to be surmounted.
The higher we rose, the more intense became the excitement.
The slope eased off, at length we could be detached,
and Croz and I, dashed away, ran a neck-and-neck race,
which ended in a dead heat. At 1:40 P.M., the world was at
our feet, and the Matterhorn was conquered!
The others arrived. Croz now took the tent-pole, and
planted it in the highest snow. "Yes," we said, "there is
the flag-staff, but where is the flag?" "Here it is,"
he answered, pulling off his blouse and fixing it to the stick.
It made a poor flag, and there was no wind to float it out,
yet it was seen all around. They saw it at Zermatt--at
the Riffel--in the Val Tournanche... .
We remained on the summit for one hour--
One crowded hour of glorious life.
It passed away too quickly, and we began to prepare
for the descent.
Hudson and I consulted as to the best and safest arrangement
of the party. We agreed that it was best for Croz
to go first, and Hadow second; Hudson, who was almost
equal to a guide in sureness of foot, wished to be third;
Lord Douglas was placed next, and old Peter, the strongest
of the remainder, after him. I suggested to Hudson
that we should attach a rope to the rocks on our arrival
at the difficult bit, and hold it as we descended,
as an additional protection. He approved the idea,
but it was not definitely decided that it should be done.
The party was being arranged in the above order while I
was sketching the summit, and they had finished,
and were waiting for me to be tied in line, when some one
remembered that our names had not been left in a bottle.
They requested me to write them down, and moved off
while it was being done.
A few minutes afterward I tied myself to young Peter,
ran down after the others, and caught them just as they
were commencing the descent of the difficult part.
Great care was being taken. Only one man was moving at a time;
when he was firmly planted the next advanced, and so on.
They had not, however, attached the additional rope
to rocks, and nothing was said about it. The suggestion
was not made for my own sake, and I am not sure that it
ever occurred to me again. For some little distance we
two followed the others, detached from them, and should
have continued so had not Lord Douglas asked me, about 3
P.M., to tie on to old Peter, as he feared, he said,
that Taugwalder would not be able to hold his ground if a
slip occurred.
A few minutes later, a sharp-eyed lad ran into the Monte
Rosa Hotel, at Zermatt, saying that he had seen an avalanche
fall from the summit of the Matterhorn onto the Matterhorn
glacier. The boy was reproved for telling idle stories;
he was right, nevertheless, and this was what he saw.
Michel Croz had laid aside his ax, and in order to give
Mr. Hadow greater security, was absolutely taking
hold of his legs, and putting his feet, one by one,
into their proper positions. As far as I know, no one
was actually descending. I cannot speak with certainty,
because the two leading men were partially hidden
from my sight by an intervening mass of rock, but it
is my belief, from the movements of their shoulders,
that Croz, having done as I said, was in the act
of turning round to go down a step or two himself;
at this moment Mr. Hadow slipped, fell against him,
and knocked him over. I heard one startled exclamation
from Croz, then saw him and Mr. Hadow flying downward;
in another moment Hudson was dragged from his steps,
and Lord Douglas immediately after him. All this was the
work of a moment. Immediately we heard Croz's exclamation,
old Peter and I planted ourselves as firmly as the rocks
would permit; the rope was taut between us, and the jerk
came on us both as on one man. We held; but the rope
broke midway between Taugwalder and Lord Francis Douglas.
For a few seconds we saw our unfortunate companions sliding
downward on their backs, and spreading out their hands,
endeavoring to save themselves. They passed from our
sight uninjured, disappeared one by one, and fell from the
precipice to precipice onto the Matterhorn glacier below,
a distance of nearly four thousand feet in height.
From the moment the rope broke it was impossible to help them.
So perished our comrades!
For more than two hours afterward I thought almost every
moment that the next would be my last; for the Taugwalders,
utterly unnerved, were not only incapable of giving assistance,
but were in such a state that a slip might have been
expected from them at any moment. After a time we were able
to do that which should have been done at first, and fixed
rope to firm rocks, in addition to being tied together.
These ropes were cut from time to time, and were left behind.
Even with their assurance the men were afraid to proceed,
and several times old Peter turned, with ashy face
and faltering limbs, and said, with terrible emphasis,
About 6 P.M., we arrived at the snow upon the ridge
descending toward Zermatt, and all peril was over.
We frequently looked, but in vain, for traces of our
unfortunate companions; we bent over the ridge and cried
to them, but no sound returned. Convinced at last that
they were neither within sight nor hearing, we ceased
from our useless efforts; and, too cast down for speech,
silently gathered up our things, and the little effects
of those who were lost, and then completed the descent.
Such is Mr. Whymper's graphic and thrilling narrative.
Zermatt gossip darkly hints that the elder Taugwalder
cut the rope, when the accident occurred, in order
to preserve himself from being dragged into the abyss;
but Mr. Whymper says that the ends of the rope showed
no evidence of cutting, but only of breaking. He adds
that if Taugwalder had had the disposition to cut the rope,
he would not have had time to do it, the accident was so
sudden and unexpected.
Lord Douglas' body has never been found. It probably
lodged upon some inaccessible shelf in the face of the
mighty precipice. Lord Douglas was a youth of nineteen.
The three other victims fell nearly four thousand feet,
and their bodies lay together upon the glacier when found
by Mr. Whymper and the other searchers the next morning.
Their graves are beside the little church in Zermatt.
[Chillon has a Nice, Roomy Dungeon]
Switzerland is simply a large, humpy, solid rock,
with a thin skin of grass stretched over it. Consequently,
they do not dig graves, they blast them out with power
and fuse. They cannot afford to have large graveyards,
the grass skin is too circumscribed and too valuable.
It is all required for the support of the living.
The graveyard in Zermatt occupies only about one-eighth
of an acre. The graves are sunk in the living rock, and are
very permanent; but occupation of them is only temporary;
the occupant can only stay till his grave is needed
by a later subject, he is removed, then, for they do not
bury one body on top of another. As I understand it,
a family owns a grave, just as it owns a house. A man dies
and leaves his house to his son--and at the same time,
this dead father succeeds to his own father's grave.
He moves out of the house and into the grave, and his
predecessor moves out of the grave and into the cellar
of the chapel. I saw a black box lying in the churchyard,
with skull and cross-bones painted on it, and was told that
this was used in transferring remains to the cellar.
In that cellar the bones and skulls of several hundred of
former citizens were compactly corded up. They made a pile
eighteen feet long, seven feet high, and eight feet wide.
I was told that in some of the receptacles of this kind
in the Swiss villages, the skulls were all marked,
and if a man wished to find the skulls of his ancestors
for several generations back, he could do it by these marks,
preserved in the family records.
An English gentleman who had lived some years in this region,
said it was the cradle of compulsory education.
But he said that the English idea that compulsory
education would reduce bastardy and intemperance was an
error--it has not that effect. He said there was more
seduction in the Protestant than in the Catholic cantons,
because the confessional protected the girls. I wonder
why it doesn't protect married women in France and Spain?
This gentleman said that among the poorer peasants in the Valais,
it was common for the brothers in a family to cast lots
to determine which of them should have the coveted privilege
of marrying, and his brethren--doomed bachelors--heroically
banded themselves together to help support the new family.
We left Zermatt in a wagon--and in a rain-storm, too--
for St. Nicholas about ten o'clock one morning.
Again we passed between those grass-clad prodigious cliffs,
specked with wee dwellings peeping over at us from
velvety green walls ten and twelve hundred feet high.
It did not seem possible that the imaginary chamois
even could climb those precipices. Lovers on opposite
cliffs probably kiss through a spy-glass, and correspond
with a rifle.
In Switzerland the farmer's plow is a wide shovel,
which scrapes up and turns over the thin earthy skin of his
native rock--and there the man of the plow is a hero.
Now here, by our St. Nicholas road, was a grave, and it
had a tragic story. A plowman was skinning his farm
one morning--not the steepest part of it, but still
a steep part--that is, he was not skinning the front
of his farm, but the roof of it, near the eaves--when he
absent-mindedly let go of the plow-handles to moisten
his hands, in the usual way; he lost his balance and fell
out of his farm backward; poor fellow, he never touched
anything till he struck bottom, fifteen hundred feet below.
[1] We throw a halo of heroism around the life of the
soldier and the sailor, because of the deadly dangers they
are facing all the time. But we are not used to looking
upon farming as a heroic occupation. This is because we
have not lived in Switzerland.
1. This was on a Sunday.--M.T.
From St. Nicholas we struck out for Visp--or Vispach--on foot.
The rain-storms had been at work during several days,
and had done a deal of damage in Switzerland and Savoy.
We came to one place where a stream had changed its
course and plunged down a mountain in a new place,
sweeping everything before it. Two poor but precious farms
by the roadside were ruined. One was washed clear away,
and the bed-rock exposed; the other was buried out of sight
under a tumbled chaos of rocks, gravel, mud, and rubbish.
The resistless might of water was well exemplified.
Some saplings which had stood in the way were bent to the ground,
stripped clean of their bark, and buried under rocky debris.
The road had been swept away, too.
In another place, where the road was high up on the mountain's
face, and its outside edge protected by flimsy masonry,
we frequently came across spots where this masonry had
carved off and left dangerous gaps for mules to get over;
and with still more frequency we found the masonry
slightly crumbled, and marked by mule-hoofs, thus showing
that there had been danger of an accident to somebody.
When at last we came to a badly ruptured bit of masonry,
with hoof-prints evidencing a desperate struggle
to regain the lost foothold, I looked quite hopefully
over the dizzy precipice. But there was nobody down there.
They take exceedingly good care of their rivers in Switzerland
and other portions of Europe. They wall up both banks
with slanting solid stone masonry--so that from end
to end of these rivers the banks look like the wharves
at St. Louis and other towns on the Mississippi River.
It was during this walk from St. Nicholas, in the shadow
of the majestic Alps, that we came across some little
children amusing themselves in what seemed, at first,
a most odd and original way--but it wasn't; it was in
simply a natural and characteristic way. They were roped
together with a string, they had mimic alpenstocks and
ice-axes, and were climbing a meek and lowly manure-pile
with a most blood-curdling amount of care and caution.
The "guide" at the head of the line cut imaginary steps,
in a laborious and painstaking way, and not a monkey
budged till the step above was vacated. If we had waited
we should have witnessed an imaginary accident, no doubt;
and we should have heard the intrepid band hurrah when they
made the summit and looked around upon the "magnificent view,"
and seen them throw themselves down in exhausted attitudes
for a rest in that commanding situation.
In Nevada I used to see the children play at silver-mining.
Of course, the great thing was an accident in a mine,
and there were two "star" parts; that of the man
who fell down the mimic shaft, and that of the daring
hero who was lowered into the depths to bring him up.
I knew one small chap who always insisted on playing
BOTH of these parts--and he carried his point.
He would tumble into the shaft and die, and then come
to the surface and go back after his own remains.
It is the smartest boy that gets the hero part everywhere;
he is head guide in Switzerland, head miner in Nevada,
head bull-fighter in Spain, etc.; but I knew a preacher's son,
seven years old, who once selected a part for himself compared
to which those just mentioned are tame and unimpressive.
Jimmy's father stopped him from driving imaginary
horse-cars one Sunday--stopped him from playing captain
of an imaginary steamboat next Sunday--stopped him
from leading an imaginary army to battle the following
Sunday--and so on. Finally the little fellow said:
"I've tried everything, and they won't any of them do.
What CAN I play?"
"I hardly know, Jimmy; but you MUST play only things
that are suitable to the Sabbath-day."
Next Sunday the preacher stepped softly to a back-room
door to see if the children were rightly employed.
He peeped in. A chair occupied the middle of the room,
and on the back of it hung Jimmy's cap; one of his little
sisters took the cap down, nibbled at it, then passed it
to another small sister and said, "Eat of this fruit,
for it is good." The Reverend took in the situation--alas,
they were playing the Expulsion from Eden! Yet he found
one little crumb of comfort. He said to himself, "For once
Jimmy has yielded the chief role--I have been wronging him,
I did not believe there was so much modesty in him;
I should have expected him to be either Adam or Eve."
This crumb of comfort lasted but a very little while;
he glanced around and discovered Jimmy standing in an
imposing attitude in a corner, with a dark and deadly frown
on his face. What that meant was very plain--HE WAS
IMPERSONATING THE DEITY! Think of the guileless sublimity of
that idea.
We reached Vispach at 8 P.M., only about seven hours
out from St. Nicholas. So we must have made fully
a mile and a half an hour, and it was all downhill,
too, and very muddy at that. We stayed all night at
the Ho^tel de Soleil; I remember it because the landlady,
the portier, the waitress, and the chambermaid were not
separate persons, but were all contained in one neat and
chipper suit of spotless muslin, and she was the prettiest
young creature I saw in all that region. She was the
landlord's daughter. And I remember that the only native
match to her I saw in all Europe was the young daughter
of the landlord of a village inn in the Black Forest.
Why don't more people in Europe marry and keep hotel?
Next morning we left with a family of English friends
and went by train to Brevet, and thence by boat across
the lake to Ouchy (Lausanne).
Ouchy is memorable to me, not on account of its beautiful
situation and lovely surroundings--although these would
make it stick long in one's memory--but as the place
where _I_ caught the London TIMES dropping into humor.
It was NOT aware of it, though. It did not do it on purpose.
An English friend called my attention to this lapse,
and cut out the reprehensible paragraph for me. Think of
encountering a grin like this on the face of that grim
ERRATUM.--We are requested by Reuter's Telegram Company
to correct an erroneous announcement made in their Brisbane
telegram of the 2d inst., published in our impression of the 5th
inst., stating that "Lady Kennedy had given birth to twins,
the eldest being a son." The Company explain that the message
they received contained the words "Governor of Queensland,
TWINS FIRST SON." Being, however, subsequently informed
that Sir Arthur Kennedy was unmarried and that there
must be some mistake, a telegraphic repetition was at
once demanded. It has been received today (11th inst.)
and shows that the words really telegraphed by Reuter's
agent were "Governor Queensland TURNS FIRST SOD,"
alluding to the Maryborough-Gympic Railway in course
of construction. The words in italics were mutilated by
the telegraph in transmission from Australia, and reaching
the company in the form mentioned above gave rise to the mistake.
I had always had a deep and reverent compassion
for the sufferings of the "prisoner of Chillon,"
whose story Byron had told in such moving verse; so I took
the steamer and made pilgrimage to the dungeons of the
Castle of Chillon, to see the place where poor Bonnivard
endured his dreary captivity three hundred years ago.
I am glad I did that, for it took away some of the pain
I was feeling on the prisoner's account. His dungeon
was a nice, cool, roomy place, and I cannot see why he
should have been dissatisfied with it. If he had been
imprisoned in a St. Nicholas private dwelling, where the
fertilizer prevails, and the goat sleeps with the guest,
and the chickens roost on him and the cow comes in and
bothers him when he wants to muse, it would have been
another matter altogether; but he surely could not have
had a very cheerless time of it in that pretty dungeon.
It has romantic window-slits that let in generous bars
of light, and it has tall, noble columns, carved apparently
from the living rock; and what is more, they are written
all over with thousands of names; some of them--like
Byron's and Victor Hugo's--of the first celebrity.
Why didn't he amuse himself reading these names? Then
there are the couriers and tourists--swarms of them every
day--what was to hinder him from having a good time
with them? I think Bonnivard's sufferings have been overrated.
Next, we took the train and went to Martigny, on the way
to Mont Blanc. Next morning we started, about eight
o'clock, on foot. We had plenty of company, in the way
of wagon-loads and mule-loads of tourists--and dust.
This scattering procession of travelers was perhaps a
mile long. The road was uphill--interminable uphill--and
tolerably steep. The weather was blisteringly hot,
and the man or woman who had to sit on a creeping mule,
or in a crawling wagon, and broil in the beating sun,
was an object to be pitied. We could dodge among the bushes,
and have the relief of shade, but those people could not.
They paid for a conveyance, and to get their money's worth
they rode.
We went by the way of the Te^te Noir, and after we
reached high ground there was no lack of fine scenery.
In one place the road was tunneled through a shoulder
of the mountain; from there one looked down into a gorge
with a rushing torrent in it, and on every hand was a
charming view of rocky buttresses and wooded heights.
There was a liberal allowance of pretty waterfalls, too,
on the Te^te Noir route.
About half an hour before we reached the village of
Argentie`re a vast dome of snow with the sun blazing on it
drifted into view and framed itself in a strong V-shaped
gateway of the mountains, and we recognized Mont Blanc,
the "monarch of the Alps." With every step, after that,
this stately dome rose higher and higher into the blue sky,
and at last seemed to occupy the zenith.
Some of Mont Blanc's neighbors--bare, light-brown, steeplelike
rocks--were very peculiarly shaped. Some were whittled
to a sharp point, and slightly bent at the upper end,
like a lady's finger; one monster sugar-loaf resembled
a bishop's hat; it was too steep to hold snow on its sides,
but had some in the division.
While we were still on very high ground, and before
the descent toward Argentie`re began, we looked up
toward a neighboring mountain-top, and saw exquisite
prismatic colors playing about some white clouds which
were so delicate as to almost resemble gossamer webs.
The faint pinks and greens were peculiarly beautiful;
none of the colors were deep, they were the lightest shades.
They were bewitching commingled. We sat down to study and
enjoy this singular spectacle. The tints remained during
several minutes--fitting, changing, melting into each other;
paling almost away for a moment, then reflushing--a shifting,
restless, unstable succession of soft opaline gleams,
shimmering over that air film of white cloud, and turning
it into a fabric dainty enough to clothe an angel with.
By and by we perceived what those super-delicate colors,
and their continuous play and movement, reminded us of;
it is what one sees in a soap-bubble that is drifting along,
catching changes of tint from the objects it passes.
A soap-bubble is the most beautiful thing, and the
most exquisite, in nature; that lovely phantom fabric
in the sky was suggestive of a soap-bubble split open,
and spread out in the sun. I wonder how much it would take
to buy a soap-bubble, if there was only one in the world?
One could buy a hatful of Koh-i-Noors with the same money,
no doubt.
We made the tramp from Martigny to Argentie`re in eight hours.
We beat all the mules and wagons; we didn't usually do that.
We hired a sort of open baggage-wagon for the trip down
the valley to Chamonix, and then devoted an hour to dining.
This gave the driver time to get drunk. He had a friend
with him, and this friend also had had time to get drunk.
When we drove off, the driver said all the tourists had
arrived and gone by while we were at dinner; "but," said he,
impressively, "be not disturbed by that--remain tranquil--give
yourselves no uneasiness--their dust rises far before us--
rest you tranquil, leave all to me--I am the king of drivers.
Down came his whip, and away we clattered. I never had such
a shaking up in my life. The recent flooding rains had
washed the road clear away in places, but we never stopped,
we never slowed down for anything. We tore right along,
over rocks, rubbish, gullies, open fields--sometimes with
one or two wheels on the ground, but generally with none.
Every now and then that calm, good-natured madman would
bend a majestic look over his shoulder at us and say,
"Ah, you perceive? It is as I have said --I am the
king of drivers." Every time we just missed going
to destruction, he would say, with tranquil happiness,
"Enjoy it, gentlemen, it is very rare, it is very unusual--
it is given to few to ride with the king of drivers--
and observe, it is as I have said, _I_ am he."
He spoke in French, and punctuated with hiccoughs.
His friend was French, too, but spoke in German--using
the same system of punctuation, however. The friend
called himself the "Captain of Mont Blanc," and wanted us
to make the ascent with him. He said he had made more
ascents than any other man--forty seven--and his brother
had made thirty-seven. His brother was the best guide
in the world, except himself--but he, yes, observe him
well--he was the "Captain of Mont Blanc"--that title
belonged to none other.
The "king" was as good as his word--he overtook that long
procession of tourists and went by it like a hurricane.
The result was that we got choicer rooms at the hotel
in Chamonix than we should have done if his majesty
had been a slower artist--or rather, if he hadn't most
providentially got drunk before he left Argentie`re.
[My Poor Sick Friend Disappointed]
Everybody was out-of-doors; everybody was in the
principal street of the village--not on the sidewalks,
but all over the street; everybody was lounging, loafing,
chatting, waiting, alert, expectant, interested--for it
was train-time. That is to say, it was diligence-time--
the half-dozen big diligences would soon be arriving
from Geneva, and the village was interested, in many ways,
in knowing how many people were coming and what sort of
folk they might be. It was altogether the livest-looking
street we had seen in any village on the continent.
The hotel was by the side of a booming torrent, whose music
was loud and strong; we could not see this torrent, for it
was dark, now, but one could locate it without a light.
There was a large enclosed yard in front of the hotel,
and this was filled with groups of villagers waiting to see
the diligences arrive, or to hire themselves to excursionists
for the morrow. A telescope stood in the yard, with its
huge barrel canted up toward the lustrous evening star.
The long porch of the hotel was populous with tourists,
who sat in shawls and wraps under the vast overshadowing
bulk of Mont Blanc, and gossiped or meditated.
Never did a mountain seem so close; its big sides seemed
at one's very elbow, and its majestic dome, and the lofty
cluster of slender minarets that were its neighbors,
seemed to be almost over one's head. It was night
in the streets, and the lamps were sparkling everywhere;
the broad bases and shoulders of the mountains were in
a deep gloom, but their summits swam in a strange rich
glow which was really daylight, and yet had a mellow
something about it which was very different from the hard
white glare of the kind of daylight I was used to.
Its radiance was strong and clear, but at the same time
it was singularly soft, and spiritual, and benignant.
No, it was not our harsh, aggressive, realistic daylight;
it seemed properer to an enchanted land--or to heaven.
I had seen moonlight and daylight together before, but I
had not seen daylight and black night elbow to elbow before.
At least I had not seen the daylight resting upon an object
sufficiently close at hand, before, to make the contrast
startling and at war with nature.
The daylight passed away. Presently the moon rose up
behind some of those sky-piercing fingers or pinnacles
of bare rock of which I have spoken--they were a little
to the left of the crest of Mont Blanc, and right over
our heads--but she couldn't manage to climb high
enough toward heaven to get entirely above them.
She would show the glittering arch of her upper third,
occasionally, and scrape it along behind the comblike row;
sometimes a pinnacle stood straight up, like a statuette
of ebony, against that glittering white shield, then seemed
to glide out of it by its own volition and power,
and become a dim specter, while the next pinnacle glided
into its place and blotted the spotless disk with the black
exclamation-point of its presence. The top of one pinnacle
took the shapely, clean-cut form of a rabbit's head,
in the inkiest silhouette, while it rested against the moon.
The unillumined peaks and minarets, hovering vague and
phantom-like above us while the others were painfully
white and strong with snow and moonlight, made a peculiar effect.
But when the moon, having passed the line of pinnacles,
was hidden behind the stupendous white swell of Mont Blanc,
the masterpiece of the evening was flung on the canvas.
A rich greenish radiance sprang into the sky from behind
the mountain, and in this same airy shreds and ribbons of vapor
floated about, and being flushed with that strange tint,
went waving to and fro like pale green flames. After a while,
radiating bars--vast broadening fan-shaped shadows--grew up
and stretched away to the zenith from behind the mountain.
It was a spectacle to take one's breath, for the wonder of it,
and the sublimity.
Indeed, those mighty bars of alternate light and shadow
streaming up from behind that dark and prodigious form
and occupying the half of the dull and opaque heavens,
was the most imposing and impressive marvel I had ever
looked upon. There is no simile for it, for nothing
is like it. If a child had asked me what it was,
I should have said, "Humble yourself, in this presence,
it is the glory flowing from the hidden head of the Creator."
One falls shorter of the truth than that, sometimes,
in trying to explain mysteries to the little people.
I could have found out the cause of this awe-compelling
miracle by inquiring, for it is not infrequent at Mont
Blanc,--but I did not wish to know. We have not the
reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has,
because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we
gained by prying into the matter.
We took a walk down street, a block or two, and a
place where four streets met and the principal shops
were clustered, found the groups of men in the roadway
thicker than ever--for this was the Exchange of Chamonix.
These men were in the costumes of guides and porters,
and were there to be hired.
The office of that great personage, the Guide-in-Chief
of the Chamonix Guild of Guides, was near by. This guild
is a close corporation, and is governed by strict laws.
There are many excursion routes, some dangerous and
some not, some that can be made safely without a guide,
and some that cannot. The bureau determines these things.
Where it decides that a guide is necessary, you are
forbidden to go without one. Neither are you allowed to be
a victim of extortion: the law states what you are to pay.
The guides serve in rotation; you cannot select the man
who is to take your life into his hands, you must take
the worst in the lot, if it is his turn. A guide's fee
ranges all the way up from a half-dollar (for some trifling
excursion of a few rods) to twenty dollars, according to
the distance traversed and the nature of the ground.
A guide's fee for taking a person to the summit of Mont
Blanc and back, is twenty dollars--and he earns it.
The time employed is usually three days, and there is
enough early rising in it to make a man far more "healthy
and wealthy and wise" than any one man has any right to be.
The porter's fee for the same trip is ten dollars.
Several fools--no, I mean several tourists--usually go together,
and divide up the expense, and thus make it light;
for if only one f--tourist, I mean--went, he would have
to have several guides and porters, and that would make the
matter costly.
We went into the Chief's office. There were maps
of mountains on the walls; also one or two lithographs
of celebrated guides, and a portrait of the scientist
De Saussure.
In glass cases were some labeled fragments of boots
and batons, and other suggestive relics and remembrances
of casualties on Mount Blanc. In a book was a record of all
the ascents which have ever been made, beginning with Nos.
1 and 2--being those of Jacques Balmat and De Saussure,
in 1787, and ending with No. 685, which wasn't cold yet.
In fact No. 685 was standing by the official table waiting
to receive the precious official diploma which should prove
to his German household and to his descendants that he had once
been indiscreet enough to climb to the top of Mont Blanc.
He looked very happy when he got his document; in fact,
he spoke up and said he WAS happy.
I tried to buy a diploma for an invalid friend at home
who had never traveled, and whose desire all his life has
been to ascend Mont Blanc, but the Guide-in-Chief rather
insolently refused to sell me one. I was very much offended.
I said I did not propose to be discriminated against on
the account of my nationality; that he had just sold
a diploma to this German gentleman, and my money was
a good as his; I would see to it that he couldn't keep
his shop for Germans and deny his produce to Americans;
I would have his license taken away from him at the dropping
of a handkerchief; if France refused to break him, I would
make an international matter of it and bring on a war;
the soil should be drenched with blood; and not only that,
but I would set up an opposition show and sell diplomas
at half price.
For two cents I would have done these things, too;
but nobody offered me two cents. I tried to move that
German's feelings, but it could not be done; he would
not give me his diploma, neither would he sell it to me.
I TOLD him my friend was sick and could not come himself,
but he said he did not care a VERDAMMTES PFENNIG,
he wanted his diploma for himself--did I suppose he was
going to risk his neck for that thing and then give it
to a sick stranger? Indeed he wouldn't, so he wouldn't.
I resolved, then, that I would do all I could to injure
Mont Blanc.
In the record-book was a list of all the fatal accidents
which happened on the mountain. It began with the one
in 1820 when the Russian Dr. Hamel's three guides were
lost in a crevice of the glacier, and it recorded the
delivery of the remains in the valley by the slow-moving
glacier forty-one years later. The latest catastrophe
bore the date 1877.
We stepped out and roved about the village awhile.
In front of the little church was a monument to the memory
of the bold guide Jacques Balmat, the first man who ever
stood upon the summit of Mont Blanc. He made that wild
trip solitary and alone. He accomplished the ascent
a number of times afterward. A stretch of nearly half
a century lay between his first ascent and his last one.
At the ripe old age of seventy-two he was climbing
around a corner of a lofty precipice of the Pic du
Midi--nobody with him--when he slipped and fell.
So he died in the harness.
He had grown very avaricious in his old age, and used to go
off stealthily to hunt for non-existent and impossible
gold among those perilous peaks and precipices.
He was on a quest of that kind when he lost his life.
There was a statue to him, and another to De Saussure,
in the hall of our hotel, and a metal plate on the door
of a room upstairs bore an inscription to the effect
that that room had been occupied by Albert Smith.
Balmat and De Saussure discovered Mont Blanc--so to
speak--but it was Smith who made it a paying property.
His articles in BLACKWOOD and his lectures on Mont Blanc
in London advertised it and made people as anxious to see it
as if it owed them money.
As we strolled along the road we looked up and saw a red
signal-light glowing in the darkness of the mountainside.
It seemed but a trifling way up--perhaps a hundred yards,
a climb of ten minutes. It was a lucky piece of sagacity
in us that we concluded to stop a man whom we met and get
a light for our pipes from him instead of continuing the climb
to that lantern to get a light, as had been our purpose.
The man said that that lantern was on the Grands Mulets,
some sixty-five hundred feet above the valley! I know
by our Riffelberg experience, that it would have taken us
a good part of a week to go up there. I would sooner not
smoke at all, than take all that trouble for a light.
Even in the daytime the foreshadowing effect of this
mountain's close proximity creates curious deceptions.
For instance, one sees with the naked eye a cabin up
there beside the glacier, and a little above and beyond
he sees the spot where that red light was located;
he thinks he could throw a stone from the one place to
the other. But he couldn't, for the difference between
the two altitudes is more than three thousand feet.
It looks impossible, from below, that this can be true,
but it is true, nevertheless.
While strolling around, we kept the run of the moon all
the time, and we still kept an eye on her after we got back
to the hotel portico. I had a theory that the gravitation
of refraction, being subsidiary to atmospheric compensation,
the refrangibility of the earth's surface would emphasize
this effect in regions where great mountain ranges occur,
and possibly so even-handed impact the odic and idyllic
forces together, the one upon the other, as to prevent
the moon from rising higher than 12,200 feet above
sea-level. This daring theory had been received with frantic
scorn by some of my fellow-scientists, and with an eager
silence by others. Among the former I may mention
Prof. H----y; and among the latter Prof. T----l. Such
is professional jealousy; a scientist will never show
any kindness for a theory which he did not start himself.
There is no feeling of brotherhood among these people.
Indeed, they always resent it when I call them brother.
To show how far their ungenerosity can carry them, I will
state that I offered to let Prof. H----y publish my great
theory as his own discovery; I even begged him to do it;
I even proposed to print it myself as his theory.
Instead of thanking me, he said that if I tried to
fasten that theory on him he would sue me for slander.
I was going to offer it to Mr. Darwin, whom I understood
to be a man without prejudices, but it occurred to me
that perhaps he would not be interested in it since it did
not concern heraldry.
But I am glad now, that I was forced to father my intrepid
theory myself, for, on the night of which I am writing,
it was triumphantly justified and established. Mont Blanc
is nearly sixteen thousand feet high; he hid the moon utterly;
near him is a peak which is 12,216 feet high; the moon slid
along behind the pinnacles, and when she approached that
one I watched her with intense interest, for my reputation
as a scientist must stand or fall by its decision.
I cannot describe the emotions which surged like tidal
waves through my breast when I saw the moon glide behind
that lofty needle and pass it by without exposing more
than two feet four inches of her upper rim above it;
I was secure, then. I knew she could rise no higher,
and I was right. She sailed behind all the peaks and
never succeeded in hoisting her disk above a single one
of them.
While the moon was behind one of those sharp fingers,
its shadow was flung athwart the vacant heavens--
a long, slanting, clean-cut, dark ray--with a streaming
and energetic suggestion of FORCE about it, such as the
ascending jet of water from a powerful fire-engine affords.
It was curious to see a good strong shadow of an earthly
object cast upon so intangible a field as the atmosphere.
We went to bed, at last, and went quickly to sleep, but I
woke up, after about three hours, with throbbing temples,
and a head which was physically sore, outside and in.
I was dazed, dreamy, wretched, seedy, unrefreshed.
I recognized the occasion of all this: it was that torrent.
In the mountain villages of Switzerland, and along the roads,
one has always the roar of the torrent in his ears.
He imagines it is music, and he thinks poetic things
about it; he lies in his comfortable bed and is lulled
to sleep by it. But by and by he begins to notice
that his head is very sore--he cannot account for it;
in solitudes where the profoundest silence reigns,
he notices a sullen, distant, continuous roar in his ears,
which is like what he would experience if he had sea-shells
pressed against them--he cannot account for it; he is
drowsy and absent-minded; there is no tenacity to his mind,
he cannot keep hold of a thought and follow it out;
i f he sits down to write, his vocabulary is empty,
no suitable words will come, he forgets what he started to do,
and remains there, pen in hand, head tilted up, eyes closed,
listening painfully to the muffled roar of a distant train
in his ears; in his soundest sleep the strain continues,
he goes on listening, always listening intently, anxiously,
and wakes at last, harassed, irritable, unrefreshed.
He cannot manage to account for these things.
Day after day he feels as if he had spent his nights
in a sleeping-car. It actually takes him weeks to find
out that it is those persecuting torrents that have been
making all the mischief. It is time for him to get out
of Switzerland, then, for as soon as he has discovered
the cause, the misery is magnified several fold. The roar
of the torrent is maddening, then, for his imagination
is assisting; the physical pain it inflicts is exquisite.
When he finds he is approaching one of those streams,
his dread is so lively that he is disposed to fly the track
and avoid the implacable foe.
Eight or nine months after the distress of the torrents
had departed from me, the roar and thunder of the
streets of Paris brought it all back again. I moved
to the sixth story of the hotel to hunt for peace.
About midnight the noises dulled away, and I was
sinking to sleep, when I heard a new and curious sound;
I listened: evidently some joyous lunatic was softly
dancing a "double shuffle" in the room over my head.
I had to wait for him to get through, of course. Five long,
long minutes he smoothly shuffled away--a pause followed,
then something fell with a thump on the floor.
I said to myself "There--he is pulling off his boots--
thank heavens he is done." Another slight pause--he went
to shuffling again! I said to myself, "Is he trying to see
what he can do with only one boot on?" Presently came
another pause and another thump on the floor. I said
"Good, he has pulled off his other boot--NOW he is done."
But he wasn't. The next moment he was shuffling again.
I said, "Confound him, he is at it in his slippers!"
After a little came that same old pause, and right after
it that thump on the floor once more. I said, "Hang him,
he had on TWO pair of boots!" For an hour that magician
went on shuffling and pulling off boots till he had shed
as many as twenty-five pair, and I was hovering on the verge
of lunacy. I got my gun and stole up there. The fellow
was in the midst of an acre of sprawling boots, and he had
a boot in his hand, shuffling it--no, I mean POLISHING it.
The mystery was explained. He hadn't been dancing.
He was the "Boots" of the hotel, and was attending
to business.
[I Scale Mont Blanc--by Telescope]
After breakfast, that next morning in Chamonix, we went
out in the yard and watched the gangs of excursioning
tourists arriving and departing with their mules and guides
and porters; they we took a look through the telescope
at the snowy hump of Mont Blanc. It was brilliant
with sunshine, and the vast smooth bulge seemed hardly
five hundred yards away. With the naked eye we could
dimly make out the house at the Pierre Pointue, which is
located by the side of the great glacier, and is more
than three thousand feet above the level of the valley;
but with the telescope we could see all its details.
While I looked, a woman rode by the house on a mule, and I
saw her with sharp distinctness; I could have described
her dress. I saw her nod to the people of the house,
and rein up her mule, and put her hand up to shield
her eyes from the sun. I was not used to telescopes;
in fact, I had never looked through a good one before;
it seemed incredible to me that this woman could be
so far away. I was satisfied that I could see all
these details with my naked eye; but when I tried it,
that mule and those vivid people had wholly vanished,
and the house itself was become small and vague. I tried
the telescope again, and again everything was vivid.
The strong black shadows of the mule and the woman were
flung against the side of the house, and I saw the mule's
silhouette wave its ears.
The telescopulist--or the telescopulariat--I do not know
which is right--said a party were making a grand ascent,
and would come in sight on the remote upper heights,
presently; so we waited to observe this performance.
Presently I had a superb idea. I wanted to stand with
a party on the summit of Mont Blanc, merely to be able
to say I had done it, and I believed the telescope
could set me within seven feet of the uppermost man.
The telescoper assured me that it could. I then asked
him how much I owed him for as far as I had got? He said,
one franc. I asked him how much it would cost to make
the entire ascent? Three francs. I at once determined
to make the entire ascent. But first I inquired
if there was any danger? He said no--not by telescope;
said he had taken a great many parties to the summit,
and never lost a man. I asked what he would charge to let
my agent go with me, together with such guides and porters
as might be necessary. He said he would let Harris go
for two francs; and that unless we were unusually timid,
he should consider guides and porters unnecessary;
it was not customary to take them, when going by telescope,
for they were rather an encumbrance than a help.
He said that the party now on the mountain were approaching
the most difficult part, and if we hurried we should
overtake them within ten minutes, and could then join them
and have the benefit of their guides and porters without
their knowledge, and without expense to us.
I then said we would start immediately. I believe I
said it calmly, though I was conscious of a shudder
and of a paling cheek, in view of the nature of the
exploit I was so unreflectingly engaged in. But the old
daredevil spirit was upon me, and I said that as I
had committed myself I would not back down; I would
ascend Mont Blanc if it cost me my life. I told the man
to slant his machine in the proper direction and let us be off.
Harris was afraid and did not want to go, but I heartened
him up and said I would hold his hand all the way; so he
gave his consent, though he trembled a little at first.
I took a last pathetic look upon the pleasant summer scene
about me, then boldly put my eye to the glass and prepared
to mount among the grim glaciers and the everlasting snows.
We took our way carefully and cautiously across the great
Glacier des Bossons, over yawning and terrific crevices
and among imposing crags and buttresses of ice which were
fringed with icicles of gigantic proportions. The desert
of ice that stretched far and wide about us was wild and
desolate beyond description, and the perils which beset us
were so great that at times I was minded to turn back.
But I pulled my pluck together and pushed on.
We passed the glacier safely and began to mount
the steeps beyond, with great alacrity. When we
were seven minutes out from the starting-point, we
reached an altitude where the scene took a new aspect;
an apparently limitless continent of gleaming snow was
tilted heavenward before our faces. As my eye followed
that awful acclivity far away up into the remote skies,
it seemed to me that all I had ever seen before of sublimity
and magnitude was small and insignificant compared to this.
We rested a moment, and then began to mount with speed.
Within three minutes we caught sight of the party ahead of us,
and stopped to observe them. They were toiling up a long,
slanting ridge of snow--twelve persons, roped together some
fifteen feet apart, marching in single file, and strongly
marked against the clear blue sky. One was a woman.
We could see them lift their feet and put them down;
we saw them swing their alpenstocks forward in unison,
like so many pendulums, and then bear their weight
upon them; we saw the lady wave her handkerchief.
They dragged themselves upward in a worn and weary way,
for they had been climbing steadily from the Grand Mulets,
on the Glacier des Dossons, since three in the morning,
and it was eleven, now. We saw them sink down in the
snow and rest, and drink something from a bottle.
After a while they moved on, and as they approached the final
short dash of the home-stretch we closed up on them and
joined them.
Presently we all stood together on the summit! What a view
was spread out below! Away off under the northwestern horizon
rolled the silent billows of the Farnese Oberland, their snowy
crests glinting softly in the subdued lights of distance;
in the north rose the giant form of the Wobblehorn,
draped from peak to shoulder in sable thunder-clouds;
beyond him, to the right, stretched the grand processional
summits of the Cisalpine Cordillera, drowned in a
sensuous haze; to the east loomed the colossal masses
of the Yodelhorn, the Fuddelhorn, and the Dinnerhorn,
their cloudless summits flashing white and cold in the sun;
beyond them shimmered the faint far line of the Ghauts
of Jubbelpore and the Aigulles des Alleghenies; in the
south towered the smoking peak of Popocatapetl and the
unapproachable altitudes of the peerless Scrabblehorn;
in the west-south the stately range of the Himalayas
lay dreaming in a purple gloom; and thence all around
the curving horizon the eye roved over a troubled sea
of sun-kissed Alps, and noted, here and there, the noble
proportions and the soaring domes of the Bottlehorn,
and the Saddlehorn, and the Shovelhorn, and the Powderhorn,
all bathed in the glory of noon and mottled with softly
gliding blots, the shadows flung from drifting clouds.
Overcome by the scene, we all raised a triumphant,
tremendous shout, in unison. A startled man at my elbow
"Confound you, what do you yell like that for, right here
in the street?"
That brought me down to Chamonix, like a flirt.
I gave that man some spiritual advice and disposed of him,
and then paid the telescope man his full fee, and said
that we were charmed with the trip and would remain down,
and not reascend and require him to fetch us down by telescope.
This pleased him very much, for of course we could have
stepped back to the summit and put him to the trouble
of bringing us home if we wanted to.
I judged we could get diplomas, now, anyhow; so we
went after them, but the Chief Guide put us off,
with one pretext or another, during all the time we stayed
in Chamonix, and we ended by never getting them at all.
So much for his prejudice against people's nationality.
However, we worried him enough to make him remember
us and our ascent for some time. He even said, once,
that he wished there was a lunatic asylum in Chamonix.
This shows that he really had fears that we were going
to drive him mad. It was what we intended to do,
but lack of time defeated it.
I cannot venture to advise the reader one way or the other,
as to ascending Mont Blanc. I say only this: if he is at
all timid, the enjoyments of the trip will hardly make up
for the hardships and sufferings he will have to endure.
But, if he has good nerve, youth, health, and a bold,
firm will, and could leave his family comfortably provided
for in case the worst happened, he would find the ascent
a wonderful experience, and the view from the top a vision
to dream about, and tell about, and recall with exultation
all the days of his life.
While I do not advise such a person to attempt the ascent,
I do not advise him against it. But if he elects to attempt it,
let him be warily careful of two things: chose a calm,
clear day; and do not pay the telescope man in advance.
There are dark stories of his getting advance payers on
the summit and then leaving them there to rot.
A frightful tragedy was once witnessed through the
Chamonix telescopes. Think of questions and answers
like these, on an inquest:
CORONER. You saw deceased lose his life?
C. Where was he, at the time?
W. Close to the summit of Mont Blanc.
C. Where were you?
W. In the main street of Chamonix.
C. What was the distance between you?
W. A LITTLE OVER FIVE MILES, as the bird flies.
This accident occurred in 1866, a year and a month after the
disaster on the Matterhorn. Three adventurous English gentlemen,
[1] of great experience in mountain-climbing, made up their
minds to ascend Mont Blanc without guides or porters.
All endeavors to dissuade them from their project failed.
Powerful telescopes are numerous in Chamonix. These huge
brass tubes, mounted on their scaffoldings and pointed
skyward from every choice vantage-ground, have the
formidable look of artillery, and give the town the general
aspect of getting ready to repel a charge of angels.
The reader may easily believe that the telescopes
had plenty of custom on that August morning in 1866,
for everybody knew of the dangerous undertaking which was
on foot, and all had fears that misfortune would result.
All the morning the tubes remained directed toward the
mountain heights, each with its anxious group around it;
but the white deserts were vacant.
1. Sir George Young and his brothers James and Albert.
At last, toward eleven o'clock, the people who were
looking through the telescopes cried out "There they
are!"--and sure enough, far up, on the loftiest terraces
of the Grand Plateau, the three pygmies appeared,
climbing with remarkable vigor and spirit. They disappeared
in the "Corridor," and were lost to sight during an hour.
Then they reappeared, and were presently seen standing together
upon the extreme summit of Mont Blanc. So, all was well.
They remained a few minutes on that highest point of land
in Europe, a target for all the telescopes, and were then
seen to begin descent. Suddenly all three vanished.
An instant after, they appeared again, TWO THOUSAND FEET
Evidently, they had tripped and been shot down an almost
perpendicular slope of ice to a point where it joined
the border of the upper glacier. Naturally, the distant
witness supposed they were now looking upon three corpses;
so they could hardly believe their eyes when they presently saw
two of the men rise to their feet and bend over the third.
During two hours and a half they watched the two busying
themselves over the extended form of their brother,
who seemed entirely inert. Chamonix's affairs stood still;
everybody was in the street, all interest was centered
upon what was going on upon that lofty and isolated stage
five miles away. Finally the two--one of them walking
with great difficulty--were seen to begin descent,
abandoning the third, who was no doubt lifeless.
Their movements were followed, step by step, until they
reached the "Corridor" and disappeared behind its ridge.
Before they had had time to traverse the "Corridor"
and reappear, twilight was come, and the power of the
telescope was at an end.
The survivors had a most perilous journey before
them in the gathering darkness, for they must get
down to the Grands Mulets before they would find
a safe stopping-place--a long and tedious descent,
and perilous enough even in good daylight. The oldest
guides expressed the opinion that they could not succeed;
that all the chances were that they would lose their lives.
Yet those brave men did succeed. They reached the Grands
Mulets in safety. Even the fearful shock which their nerves
had sustained was not sufficient to overcome their coolness
and courage. It would appear from the official account
that they were threading their way down through those
dangers from the closing in of twilight until two o'clock
in the morning, or later, because the rescuing party from
Chamonix reached the Grand Mulets about three in the morning
and moved thence toward the scene of the disaster under
the leadership of Sir George Young, "who had only just arrived."
After having been on his feet twenty-four hours,
in the exhausting work of mountain-climbing, Sir George
began the reascent at the head of the relief party
of six guides, to recover the corpse of his brother.
This was considered a new imprudence, as the number
was too few for the service required. Another relief
party presently arrived at the cabin on the Grands
Mulets and quartered themselves there to await events.
Ten hours after Sir George's departure toward the summit,
this new relief were still scanning the snowy altitudes
above them from their own high perch among the ice
deserts ten thousand feet above the level of the sea,
but the whole forenoon had passed without a glimpse of any
living thing appearing up there.
This was alarming. Half a dozen of their number set out,
then early in the afternoon, to seek and succor Sir George
and his guides. The persons remaining at the cabin saw
these disappear, and then ensued another distressing wait.
Four hours passed, without tidings. Then at five
o'clock another relief, consisting of three guides,
set forward from the cabin. They carried food and
cordials for the refreshment of their predecessors;
they took lanterns with them, too; night was coming on,
and to make matters worse, a fine, cold rain had begun
to fall.
At the same hour that these three began their dangerous ascent,
the official Guide-in-Chief of the Mont Blanc region
undertook the dangerous descent to Chamonix, all alone,
to get reinforcements. However, a couple of hours later,
at 7 P.M., the anxious solicitude came to an end,
and happily. A bugle note was heard, and a cluster
of black specks was distinguishable against the snows
of the upper heights. The watchers counted these specks
eagerly--fourteen--nobody was missing. An hour and a half
later they were all safe under the roof of the cabin.
They had brought the corpse with them. Sir George Young
tarried there but a few minutes, and then began the long
and troublesome descent from the cabin to Chamonix.
He probably reached there about two or three o'clock
in the morning, after having been afoot among the rocks
and glaciers during two days and two nights. His endurance
was equal to his daring.
The cause of the unaccountable delay of Sir George and
the relief parties among the heights where the disaster
had happened was a thick fog--or, partly that and partly
the slow and difficult work of conveying the dead body
down the perilous steeps.
The corpse, upon being viewed at the inquest, showed
no bruises, and it was some time before the surgeons
discovered that the neck was broken. One of the surviving
brothers had sustained some unimportant injuries,
but the other had suffered no hurt at all. How these men
could fall two thousand feet, almost perpendicularly,
and live afterward, is a most strange and unaccountable thing.
A great many women have made the ascent of Mont Blanc.
An English girl, Miss Stratton, conceived the daring idea,
two or three years ago, of attempting the ascent in the
middle of winter. She tried it--and she succeeded.
Moreover, she froze two of her fingers on the way up,
she fell in love with her guide on the summit,
and she married him when she got to the bottom again.
There is nothing in romance, in the way of a striking
"situation," which can beat this love scene in midheaven
on an isolated ice-crest with the thermometer at zero
and an Artic gale blowing.
The first woman who ascended Mont Blanc was a girl aged
twenty-two--Mlle. Maria Paradis--1809. Nobody was
with her but her sweetheart, and he was not a guide.
The sex then took a rest for about thirty years,
when a Mlle. d'Angeville made the ascent --1838. In
Chamonix I picked up a rude old lithograph of that day
which pictured her "in the act."
However, I value it less as a work of art than as a
fashion-plate. Miss d'Angeville put on a pair of men's
pantaloons to climb it, which was wise; but she cramped
their utility by adding her petticoat, which was idiotic.
One of the mournfulest calamities which men's disposition
to climb dangerous mountains has resulted in,
happened on Mont Blanc in September 1870. M. D'Arve
tells the story briefly in his HISTOIRE DU MONT BLANC.
In the next chapter I will copy its chief features.
A Catastrophe Which Cost Eleven Lives
[Perished at the Verge of Safety]
On the 5th of September, 1870, a caravan of eleven persons
departed from Chamonix to make the ascent of Mont Blanc.
Three of the party were tourists; Messrs. Randall and Bean,
Americans, and Mr. George Corkindale, a Scotch gentleman;
there were three guides and five porters. The cabin
on the Grands Mulets was reached that day; the ascent
was resumed early the next morning, September 6th.
The day was fine and clear, and the movements of the party
were observed through the telescopes of Chamonix; at two
o'clock in the afternoon they were seen to reach the summit.
A few minutes later they were seen making the first steps
of the descent; then a cloud closed around them and hid
them from view.
Eight hours passed, the cloud still remained, night came,
no one had returned to the Grands Mulets. Sylvain Couttet,
keeper of the cabin there, suspected a misfortune,
and sent down to the valley for help. A detachment of
guides went up, but by the time they had made the tedious
trip and reached the cabin, a raging storm had set in.
They had to wait; nothing could be attempted in such
a tempest.
The wild storm lasted MORE THAN A WEEK, without ceasing;
but on the 17th, Couttet, with several guides, left the
cabin and succeeded in making the ascent. In the snowy
wastes near the summit they came upon five bodies,
lying upon their sides in a reposeful attitude which
suggested that possibly they had fallen asleep there,
while exhausted with fatigue and hunger and benumbed with cold,
and never knew when death stole upon them. Couttet moved
a few steps further and discovered five more bodies.
The eleventh corpse--that of a porter--was not found,
although diligent search was made for it.
In the pocket of Mr. Bean, one of the Americans, was found
a note-book in which had been penciled some sentences
which admit us, in flesh and spirit, as it were, to the
presence of these men during their last hours of life,
and to the grisly horrors which their fading vision looked
upon and their failing consciousness took cognizance of:
TUESDAY, SEPT. 6. I have made the ascent of Mont Blanc,
with ten persons--eight guides, and Mr. Corkindale
and Mr. Randall. We reached the summit at half past 2.
Immediately after quitting it, we were enveloped in clouds
of snow. We passed the night in a grotto hollowed
in the snow, which afforded us but poor shelter, and I
was ill all night.
SEPT. 7--MORNING. The cold is excessive. The snow falls
heavily and without interruption. The guides take no rest.
EVENING. My Dear Hessie, we have been two days on
Mont Blanc, in the midst of a terrible hurricane of snow,
we have lost our way, and are in a hole scooped in the snow,
at an altitude of 15,000 feet. I have no longer any hope
of descending.
They had wandered around, and around, in the blinding
snow-storm, hopelessly lost, in a space only a hundred
yards square; and when cold and fatigue vanquished them
at last, they scooped their cave and lay down there
to life and safety as that, and did not suspect it.
The thought of this gives the sharpest pang that the tragic
story conveys.
The author of the HISTOIRE DU MONT BLANC introduced
the closing sentences of Mr. Bean's pathetic record thus:
"Here the characters are large and unsteady; the hand
which traces them is become chilled and torpid;
but the spirit survives, and the faith and resignation
of the dying man are expressed with a sublime simplicity."
Perhaps this note-book will be found and sent to you.
We have nothing to eat, my feet are already frozen,
and I am exhausted; I have strength to write only a few
words more. I have left means for C's education; I know
you will employ them wisely. I die with faith in God,
and with loving thoughts of you. Farewell to all.
We shall meet again, in Heaven. ... I think of
you always.
It is the way of the Alps to deliver death to their victims
with a merciful swiftness, but here the rule failed.
These men suffered the bitterest death that has been
recorded in the history of those mountains, freighted as
that history is with grisly tragedies.
[Meeting a Hog on a Precipice]
Mr. Harris and I took some guides and porters and ascended
to the Ho^tel des Pyramides, which is perched on the
high moraine which borders the Glacier des Bossons.
The road led sharply uphill, all the way, through grass
and flowers and woods, and was a pleasant walk,
barring the fatigue of the climb.
From the hotel we could view the huge glacier at very
close range. After a rest we followed down a path
which had been made in the steep inner frontage
of the moraine, and stepped upon the glacier itself.
One of the shows of the place was a tunnel-like cavern,
which had been hewn in the glacier. The proprietor
of this tunnel took candles and conducted us into it.
It was three or four feet wide and about six feet high.
Its walls of pure and solid ice emitted a soft and rich
blue light that produced a lovely effect, and suggested
enchanted caves, and that sort of thing. When we had
proceeded some yards and were entering darkness, we turned
about and had a dainty sunlit picture of distant woods
and heights framed in the strong arch of the tunnel and seen
through the tender blue radiance of the tunnel's atmosphere.
The cavern was nearly a hundred yards long, and when we
reached its inner limit the proprietor stepped into a branch
tunnel with his candles and left us buried in the bowels
of the glacier, and in pitch-darkness. We judged his
purpose was murder and robbery; so we got out our matches
and prepared to sell our lives as dearly as possible
by setting the glacier on fire if the worst came to the
worst--but we soon perceived that this man had changed
his mind; he began to sing, in a deep, melodious voice,
and woke some curious and pleasing echoes. By and by he
came back and pretended that that was what he had gone
behind there for. We believed as much of that as we wanted to.
Thus our lives had been once more in imminent peril,
but by the exercise of the swift sagacity and cool courage
which had saved us so often, we had added another escape
to the long list. The tourist should visit that ice-cavern,
by all means, for it is well worth the trouble; but I would
advise him to go only with a strong and well-armed force.
I do not consider artillery necessary, yet it would not be
unadvisable to take it along, if convenient. The journey,
going and coming, is about three miles and a half, three of
which are on level ground. We made it in less than a day,
but I would counsel the unpracticed--if not pressed
for time--to allow themselves two. Nothing is gained
in the Alps by over-exertion; nothing is gained by crowding
two days' work into one for the poor sake of being able
to boast of the exploit afterward. It will be found
much better, in the long run, to do the thing in two days,
and then subtract one of them from the narrative.
This saves fatigue, and does not injure the narrative.
All the more thoughtful among the Alpine tourists
do this.
We now called upon the Guide-in-Chief, and asked for a squadron
of guides and porters for the ascent of the Montanvert.
This idiot glared at us, and said:
"You don't need guides and porters to go to the Montanvert."
"What do we need, then?"
"Such as YOU?--an ambulance!"
I was so stung by this brutal remark that I took
my custom elsewhere.
Betimes, next morning, we had reached an altitude of five
thousand feet above the level of the sea. Here we camped
and breakfasted. There was a cabin there--the spot is
called the Caillet--and a spring of ice-cold water.
On the door of the cabin was a sign, in French, to the effect
that "One may here see a living chamois for fifty centimes."
We did not invest; what we wanted was to see a dead one.
A little after noon we ended the ascent and arrived at the
new hotel on the Montanvert, and had a view of six miles,
right up the great glacier, the famous Mer de Glace.
At this point it is like a sea whose deep swales and long,
rolling swells have been caught in mid-movement and
frozen solid; but further up it is broken up into wildly
tossing billows of ice.
We descended a ticklish path in the steep side of the moraine,
and invaded the glacier. There were tourists of both
sexes scattered far and wide over it, everywhere, and it
had the festive look of a skating-rink.
The Empress Josephine came this far, once. She ascended
the Montanvert in 1810--but not alone; a small army
of men preceded her to clear the path--and carpet it,
perhaps--and she followed, under the protection
of SIXTY-EIGHT guides.
Her successor visited Chamonix later, but in far different style.
It was seven weeks after the first fall of the Empire,
and poor Marie Louise, ex-Empress was a fugitive.
She came at night, and in a storm, with only two attendants,
and stood before a peasant's hut, tired, bedraggled,
soaked with rain, "the red print of her lost crown still
girdling her brow, " and implored admittance--and was
refused! A few days before, the adulations and applauses
of a nation were sounding in her ears, and now she was come to
We crossed the Mer de Glace in safety, but we had misgivings.
The crevices in the ice yawned deep and blue and mysterious,
and it made one nervous to traverse them. The huge
round waves of ice were slippery and difficult to climb,
and the chances of tripping and sliding down them and
darting into a crevice were too many to be comfortable.
In the bottom of a deep swale between two of the biggest
of the ice-waves, we found a fraud who pretended
to be cutting steps to insure the safety of tourists.
He was "soldiering" when we came upon him, but he hopped
up and chipped out a couple of steps about big enough
for a cat, and charged us a franc or two for it.
Then he sat down again, to doze till the next party
should come along. He had collected blackmail from two
or three hundred people already, that day, but had not
chipped out ice enough to impair the glacier perceptibly.
I have heard of a good many soft sinecures, but it seems
to me that keeping toll-bridge on a glacier is the softest
one I have encountered yet.
That was a blazing hot day, and it brought a persistent
and persecuting thirst with it. What an unspeakable luxury
it was to slake that thirst with the pure and limpid
ice-water of the glacier! Down the sides of every great rib
of pure ice poured limpid rills in gutters carved by their
own attrition; better still, wherever a rock had lain,
there was now a bowl-shaped hole, with smooth white sides
and bottom of ice, and this bowl was brimming with water
of such absolute clearness that the careless observer would
not see it at all, but would think the bowl was empty.
These fountains had such an alluring look that I often
stretched myself out when I was not thirsty and dipped my
face in and drank till my teeth ached. Everywhere among
the Swiss mountains we had at hand the blessing--not
to be found in Europe EXCEPT in the mountains--of water
capable of quenching thirst. Everywhere in the Swiss
highlands brilliant little rills of exquisitely cold water
went dancing along by the roadsides, and my comrade and I
were always drinking and always delivering our deep gratitude.
But in Europe everywhere except in the mountains, the water
is flat and insipid beyond the power of words to describe.
It is served lukewarm; but no matter, ice could not help it;
it is incurably flat, incurably insipid. It is only good
to wash with; I wonder it doesn't occur to the average
inhabitant to try it for that. In Europe the people
say contemptuously, "Nobody drinks water here." Indeed,
they have a sound and sufficient reason. In many places
they even have what may be called prohibitory reasons.
In Paris and Munich, for instance, they say, "Don't drink
the water, it is simply poison."
Either America is healthier than Europe, notwithstanding her
"deadly" indulgence in ice-water, or she does not keep
the run of her death-rate as sharply as Europe does.
I think we do keep up the death statistics accurately;
and if we do, our cities are healthier than the cities
of Europe. Every month the German government tabulates
the death-rate of the world and publishes it. I scrap-booked
these reports during several months, and it was curious
to see how regular and persistently each city repeated
its same death-rate month after month. The tables might
as well have been stereotyped, they varied so little.
These tables were based upon weekly reports showing the
average of deaths in each 1,000 population for a year.
Munich was always present with her 33 deaths in each
1,000 of her population (yearly average), Chicago was
as constant with her 15 or 17, Dublin with her 48--and
so on.
Only a few American cities appear in these tables, but they
are scattered so widely over the country that they furnish
a good general average of CITY health in the United States;
and I think it will be granted that our towns and villages
are healthier than our cities.
Here is the average of the only American cities reported
in the German tables:
Chicago, deaths in 1,000 population annually,
16; Philadelphia, 18; St. Louis, 18; San Francisco,
19; New York (the Dublin of America), 23.
See how the figures jump up, as soon as one arrives
at the transatlantic list:
Paris, 27; Glasgow, 27; London, 28; Vienna, 28;
Augsburg, 28; Braunschweig, 28; K:onigsberg, 29;
Cologne, 29; Dresden, 29; Hamburg, 29; Berlin, 30;
Bombay, 30; Warsaw, 31; Breslau, 31; Odessa, 32;
Munich, 33; Strasburg, 33, Pesth, 35; Cassel, 35;
Lisbon, 36; Liverpool, 36; Prague, 37; Madras, 37;
Bucharest, 39; St. Petersburg, 40; Trieste, 40;
Alexandria (Egypt), 43; Dublin, 48; Calcutta, 55.
Edinburgh is as healthy as New York--23; but there
is no CITY in the entire list which is healthier,
except Frankfort-on-the-Main--20. But Frankfort is not
as healthy as Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, or Philadelphia.
Perhaps a strict average of the world might develop the fact
that where one in 1,000 of America's population dies,
two in 1,000 of the other populations of the earth succumb.
I do not like to make insinuations, but I do think
the above statistics darkly suggest that these people
over here drink this detestable water "on the sly."
We climbed the moraine on the opposite side of the glacier,
and then crept along its sharp ridge a hundred yards or so,
in pretty constant danger of a tumble to the glacier below.
The fall would have been only one hundred feet, but it
would have closed me out as effectually as one thousand,
therefore I respected the distance accordingly, and was
glad when the trip was done. A moraine is an ugly thing
to assault head-first. At a distance it looks like an endless
grave of fine sand, accurately shaped and nicely smoothed;
but close by, it is found to be made mainly of rough
boulders of all sizes, from that of a man's head to that of
a cottage.
By and by we came to the Mauvais Pas, or the Villainous Road,
to translate it feelingly. It was a breakneck path
around the face of a precipice forth or fifty feet high,
and nothing to hang on to but some iron railings.
I got along, slowly, safely, and uncomfortably, and finally
reached the middle. My hopes began to rise a little,
but they were quickly blighted; for there I met a hog--a
long-nosed, bristly fellow, that held up his snout
and worked his nostrils at me inquiringly. A hog on
a pleasure excursion in Switzerland--think of it! It is
striking and unusual; a body might write a poem about it.
He could not retreat, if he had been disposed to do it.
It would have been foolish to stand upon our dignity
in a place where there was hardly room to stand upon
our feet, so we did nothing of the sort. There were
twenty or thirty ladies and gentlemen behind us; we all
turned about and went back, and the hog followed behind.
The creature did not seem set up by what he had done;
he had probably done it before.
We reached the restaurant on the height called the Chapeau
at four in the afternoon. It was a memento-factory, and
the stock was large, cheap, and varied. I bought the usual
paper-cutter to remember the place by, and had Mont Blanc,
the Mauvais Pas, and the rest of the region branded on
my alpenstock; then we descended to the valley and walked
home without being tied together. This was not dangerous,
for the valley was five miles wide, and quite level.
We reached the hotel before nine o'clock. Next
morning we left for Geneva on top of the diligence,
under shelter of a gay awning. If I remember rightly,
there were more than twenty people up there.
It was so high that the ascent was made by ladder.
The huge vehicle was full everywhere, inside and out.
Five other diligences left at the same time, all full.
We had engaged our seats two days beforehand, to make sure,
and paid the regulation price, five dollars each; but the
rest of the company were wiser; they had trusted Baedeker,
and waited; consequently some of them got their seats
for one or two dollars. Baedeker knows all about hotels,
railway and diligence companies, and speaks his mind freely.
He is a trustworthy friend of the traveler.
We never saw Mont Blanc at his best until we were many
miles away; then he lifted his majestic proportions
high into the heavens, all white and cold and solemn,
and made the rest of the world seem little and plebeian,
and cheap and trivial.
As he passed out of sight at last, an old Englishman
settled himself in his seat and said:
"Well, I am satisfied, I have seen the principal features
of Swiss scenery--Mont Blanc and the goiter--now for home!"
[Queer European Manners]
We spent a few pleasant restful days at Geneva,
that delightful city where accurate time-pieces are made
for all the rest of the world, but whose own clocks
never give the correct time of day by any accident.
Geneva is filled with pretty shops, and the shops are
filled with the most enticing gimacrackery, but if one
enters one of these places he is at once pounced upon,
and followed up, and so persecuted to buy this, that,
and the other thing, that he is very grateful to get
out again, and is not at all apt to repeat his experiment.
The shopkeepers of the smaller sort, in Geneva,
are as troublesome and persistent as are the salesmen
of that monster hive in Paris, the Grands Magasins du
Louvre--an establishment where ill-mannered pestering,
pursuing, and insistence have been reduced to a science.
In Geneva, prices in the smaller shops are very elastic--
that is another bad feature. I was looking in at a window
at a very pretty string of beads, suitable for a child.
I was only admiring them; I had no use for them; I hardly
ever wear beads. The shopwoman came out and offered
them to me for thirty-five francs. I said it was cheap,
but I did not need them.
"Ah, but monsieur, they are so beautiful!"
I confessed it, but said they were not suitable for one
of my age and simplicity of character. She darted in and
brought them out and tried to force them into my hands,
"Ah, but only see how lovely they are! Surely monsieur will
take them; monsieur shall have them for thirty francs.
There, I have said it--it is a loss, but one must live."
I dropped my hands, and tried to move her to respect
my unprotected situation. But no, she dangled the beads
in the sun before my face, exclaiming, "Ah, monsieur
CANNOT resist them!" She hung them on my coat button,
folded her hand resignedly, and said: "Gone,--and for
thirty francs, the lovely things--it is incredible!--but
the good God will sanctify the sacrifice to me."
I removed them gently, returned them, and walked away,
shaking my head and smiling a smile of silly embarrassment
while the passers-by halted to observe. The woman leaned
out of her door, shook the beads, and screamed after me:
"Monsieur shall have them for twenty-eight!"
I shook my head.
"Twenty-seven! It is a cruel loss, it is ruin--
but take them, only take them."
I still retreated, still wagging my head.
"MON DIEU, they shall even go for twenty-six! There,
I have said it. Come!"
I wagged another negative. A nurse and a little English girl
had been near me, and were following me, now. The shopwoman
ran to the nurse, thrust the beads into her hands, and said:
"Monsieur shall have them for twenty-five! Take them
to the hotel--he shall send me the money tomorrow--
next day--when he likes." Then to the child: "When thy
father sends me the money, come thou also, my angel,
and thou shall have something oh so pretty!"
I was thus providentially saved. The nurse refused
the beads squarely and firmly, and that ended the matter.
The "sights" of Geneva are not numerous. I made one
attempt to hunt up the houses once inhabited by those
two disagreeable people, Rousseau and Calvin, but I had
no success. Then I concluded to go home. I found it was
easier to propose to do that than to do it; for that town
is a bewildering place. I got lost in a tangle of narrow
and crooked streets, and stayed lost for an hour or two.
Finally I found a street which looked somewhat familiar,
and said to myself, "Now I am at home, I judge." But I
was wrong; this was "HELL street." Presently I found
another place which had a familiar look, and said to myself,
"Now I am at home, sure." It was another error. This was
"PURGATORY street." After a little I said, "NOW I've got the
right place, anyway ... no, this is 'PARADISE street';
I'm further from home than I was in the beginning."
Those were queer names--Calvin was the author of them,
likely. "Hell" and "Purgatory" fitted those two streets
like a glove, but the "Paradise" appeared to be sarcastic.
I came out on the lake-front, at last, and then I knew
where I was. I was walking along before the glittering
jewelry shops when I saw a curious performance.
A lady passed by, and a trim dandy lounged across the walk
in such an apparently carefully timed way as to bring
himself exactly in front of her when she got to him;
he made no offer to step out of the way; he did not apologize;
he did not even notice her. She had to stop still and let
him lounge by. I wondered if he had done that piece
of brutality purposely. He strolled to a chair and seated
himself at a small table; two or three other males were
sitting at similar tables sipping sweetened water.
I waited; presently a youth came by, and this fellow got
up and served him the same trick. Still, it did not seem
possible that any one could do such a thing deliberately.
To satisfy my curiosity I went around the block, and,
sure enough, as I approached, at a good round speed, he got
up and lounged lazily across my path, fouling my course
exactly at the right moment to receive all my weight.
This proved that his previous performances had not
been accidental, but intentional.
I saw that dandy's curious game played afterward, in Paris,
but not for amusement; not with a motive of any sort, indeed,
but simply from a selfish indifference to other people's
comfort and rights. One does not see it as frequently
in Paris as he might expect to, for there the law says,
in effect, "It is the business of the weak to get out of
the way of the strong." We fine a cabman if he runs over
a citizen; Paris fines the citizen for being run over.
At least so everybody says--but I saw something which
caused me to doubt; I saw a horseman run over an old woman
one day--the police arrested him and took him away.
That looked as if they meant to punish him.
It will not do for me to find merit in American manners--
for are they not the standing butt for the jests
of critical and polished Europe? Still, I must venture
to claim one little matter of superiority in our manners;
a lady may traverse our streets all day, going and coming
as she chooses, and she will never be molested by any man;
but if a lady, unattended, walks abroad in the streets
of London, even at noonday, she will be pretty likely
to be accosted and insulted--and not by drunken sailors,
but by men who carry the look and wear the dress of gentlemen.
It is maintained that these people are not gentlemen,
but are a lower sort, disguised as gentlemen. The case
of Colonel Valentine Baker obstructs that argument,
for a man cannot become an officer in the British army
except he hold the rank of gentleman. This person,
finding himself alone in a railway compartment with
an unprotected girl--but it is an atrocious story,
and doubtless the reader remembers it well enough.
London must have been more or less accustomed to Bakers,
and the ways of Bakers, else London would have been
offended and excited. Baker was "imprisoned"--in a parlor;
and he could not have been more visited, or more overwhelmed
with attentions, if he had committed six murders and then--
while the gallows was preparing--"got religion"--after
the manner of the holy Charles Peace, of saintly memory.
Arkansaw--it seems a little indelicate to be trumpeting forth
our own superiorities, and comparisons are always odious,
but still--Arkansaw would certainly have hanged Baker.
I do not say she would have tried him first, but she would have
hanged him, anyway.
Even the most degraded woman can walk our streets unmolested,
her sex and her weakness being her sufficient protection.
She will encounter less polish than she would in the
old world, but she will run across enough humanity to make
up for it.
The music of a donkey awoke us early in the morning,
and we rose up and made ready for a pretty formidable
walk--to Italy; but the road was so level that we took
the train.. We lost a good deal of time by this, but it
was no matter, we were not in a hurry. We were four
hours going to Chamb`ery. The Swiss trains go upward
of three miles an hour, in places, but they are quite safe.
That aged French town of Chamb`ery was as quaint and crooked
as Heilbronn. A drowsy reposeful quiet reigned in the back
streets which made strolling through them very pleasant,
barring the almost unbearable heat of the sun.
In one of these streets, which was eight feet wide,
gracefully curved, and built up with small antiquated houses,
I saw three fat hogs lying asleep, and a boy (also asleep)
taking care of them. From queer old-fashioned windows
along the curve projected boxes of bright flowers, and over
the edge of one of these boxes hung the head and shoulders
of a cat--asleep. The five sleeping creatures were the
only living things visible in that street. There was not
a sound; absolute stillness prevailed. It was Sunday;
one is not used to such dreamy Sundays on the continent.
In our part of the town it was different that night.
A regiment of brown and battered soldiers had arrived home
from Algiers, and I judged they got thirsty on the way.
They sang and drank till dawn, in the pleasant open air.
We left for Turin at ten the next morning by a railway which
was profusely decorated with tunnels. We forgot to take
a lantern along, consequently we missed all the scenery.
Our compartment was full. A ponderous tow-headed Swiss woman,
who put on many fine-lady airs, but was evidently more
used to washing linen than wearing it, sat in a corner
seat and put her legs across into the opposite one,
propping them intermediately with her up-ended valise.
In the seat thus pirated, sat two Americans, greatly incommoded
by that woman's majestic coffin-clad feet. One of them
begged, politely, to remove them. She opened her wide eyes
and gave him a stare, but answered nothing. By and by he
preferred his request again, with great respectfulness.
She said, in good English, and in a deeply offended tone,
that she had paid her passage and was not going to be
bullied out of her "rights" by ill-bred foreigners,
even if she was alone and unprotected.
"But I have rights, also, madam. My ticket entitles me
to a seat, but you are occupying half of it."
"I will not talk with you, sir. What right have you
to speak to me? I do not know you. One would know
you came from a land where there are no gentlemen.
No GENTLEMAN would treat a lady as you have treated me."
"I come from a region where a lady would hardly give me
the same provocation."
"You have insulted me, sir! You have intimated that I am
not a lady--and I hope I am NOT one, after the pattern
of your country."
"I beg that you will give yourself no alarm on that head,
madam; but at the same time I must insist--always
respectfully--that you let me have my seat."
Here the fragile laundress burst into tears and sobs.
"I never was so insulted before! Never, never! It
is shameful, it is brutal, it is base, to bully and abuse
an unprotected lady who has lost the use of her limbs
and cannot put her feet to the floor without agony!"
"Good heavens, madam, why didn't you say that at first! I
offer a thousand pardons. And I offer them most sincerely.
I did not know--I COULD not know--anything was the matter.
You are most welcome to the seat, and would have been
from the first if I had only known. I am truly sorry it
all happened, I do assure you."
But he couldn't get a word of forgiveness out of her.
She simply sobbed and sniffed in a subdued but wholly
unappeasable way for two long hours, meantime crowding
the man more than ever with her undertaker-furniture
and paying no sort of attention to his frequent and
humble little efforts to do something for her comfort.
Then the train halted at the Italian line and she hopped
up and marched out of the car with as firm a leg as any
washerwoman of all her tribe! And how sick I was, to see
how she had fooled me.
Turin is a very fine city. In the matter of roominess
it transcends anything that was ever dreamed of before,
I fancy. It sits in the midst of a vast dead-level, and one
is obliged to imagine that land may be had for the asking,
and no taxes to pay, so lavishly do they use it.
The streets are extravagantly wide, the paved squares
are prodigious, the houses are huge and handsome,
and compacted into uniform blocks that stretch away as
straight as an arrow, into the distance. The sidewalks
are about as wide as ordinary European STREETS, and are
covered over with a double arcade supported on great stone
piers or columns. One walks from one end to the other
of these spacious streets, under shelter all the time,
and all his course is lined with the prettiest of shops
and the most inviting dining-houses.
There is a wide and lengthy court, glittering with the
most wickedly enticing shops, which is roofed with glass,
high aloft overhead, and paved with soft-toned marbles
laid in graceful figures; and at night when the place
is brilliant with gas and populous with a sauntering
and chatting and laughing multitude of pleasure-seekers,
it is a spectacle worth seeing.
Everything is on a large scale; the public buildings,
for instance--and they are architecturally imposing,
too, as well as large. The big squares have big bronze
monuments in them. At the hotel they gave us rooms
that were alarming, for size, and parlor to match.
It was well the weather required no fire in the parlor,
for I think one might as well have tried to warm a park.
The place would have a warm look, though, in any weather,
for the window-curtains were of red silk damask,
and the walls were covered with the same fire-hued
goods--so, also, were the four sofas and the brigade
of chairs. The furniture, the ornaments, the chandeliers,
the carpets, were all new and bright and costly.
We did not need a parlor at all, but they said it belonged
to the two bedrooms and we might use it if we chose.
Since it was to cost nothing, we were not averse to using it,
of course.
Turin must surely read a good deal, for it has more
book-stores to the square rod than any other town I
know of. And it has its own share of military folk.
The Italian officers' uniforms are very much the most
beautiful I have ever seen; and, as a general thing,
the men in them were as handsome as the clothes. They were
not large men, but they had fine forms, fine features,
rich olive complexions, and lustrous black eyes.
For several weeks I had been culling all the information
I could about Italy, from tourists. The tourists were
all agreed upon one thing--one must expect to be cheated
at every turn by the Italians. I took an evening walk
in Turin, and presently came across a little Punch and Judy
show in one of the great squares. Twelve or fifteen
people constituted the audience. This miniature theater
was not much bigger than a man's coffin stood on end;
the upper part was open and displayed a tinseled
parlor--a good-sized handkerchief would have answered
for a drop-curtain; the footlights consisted of a couple
of candle-ends an inch long; various manikins the size
of dolls appeared on the stage and made long speeches at
each other, gesticulating a good deal, and they generally
had a fight before they got through. They were worked
by strings from above, and the illusion was not perfect,
for one saw not only the strings but the brawny hand
that manipulated them--and the actors and actresses all
talked in the same voice, too. The audience stood in front
of the theater, and seemed to enjoy the performance heartily.
When the play was done, a youth in his shirt-sleeves started
around with a small copper saucer to make a collection.
I did not know how much to put in, but thought I would
be guided by my predecessors. Unluckily, I only had two
of these, and they did not help me much because they
did not put in anything. I had no Italian money,
so I put in a small Swiss coin worth about ten cents.
The youth finished his collection trip and emptied
the result on the stage; he had some very animated talk
with the concealed manager, then he came working his
way through the little crowd--seeking me, I thought.
I had a mind to slip away, but concluded I wouldn't;
I would stand my ground, and confront the villainy,
whatever it was. The youth stood before me and held
up that Swiss coin, sure enough, and said something.
I did not understand him, but I judged he was requiring
Italian money of me. The crowd gathered close,
to listen. I was irritated, and said--in English,
of course:
"I know it's Swiss, but you'll take that or none.
I haven't any other."
He tried to put the coin in my hand, and spoke again.
I drew my hand away, and said:
"NO, sir. I know all about you people. You can't play
any of your fraudful tricks on me. If there is a discount
on that coin, I am sorry, but I am not going to make
it good. I noticed that some of the audience didn't pay
you anything at all. You let them go, without a word,
but you come after me because you think I'm a stranger
and will put up with an extortion rather than have a scene.
But you are mistaken this time--you'll take that Swiss
money or none."
The youth stood there with the coin in his fingers,
nonplused and bewildered; of course he had not understood
a word. An English-speaking Italian spoke up, now, and said:
"You are misunderstanding the boy. He does not mean any harm.
He did not suppose you gave him so much money purposely,
so he hurried back to return you the coin lest you
might get away before you discovered your mistake.
Take it, and give him a penny--that will make everything
smooth again."
I probably blushed, then, for there was occasion.
Through the interpreter I begged the boy's pardon,
but I nobly refused to take back the ten cents. I said
I was accustomed to squandering large sums in that way--
it was the kind of person I was. Then I retired to make
a note to the effect that in Italy persons connected
with the drama do not cheat.
The episode with the showman reminds me of a dark chapter
in my history. I once robbed an aged and blind beggar-woman
of four dollars--in a church. It happened this way.
When I was out with the Innocents Abroad, the ship
stopped in the Russian port of Odessa and I went ashore,
with others, to view the town. I got separated from the rest,
and wandered about alone, until late in the afternoon,
when I entered a Greek church to see what it was like.
When I was ready to leave, I observed two wrinkled old
women standing stiffly upright against the inner wall,
near the door, with their brown palms open to receive alms.
I contributed to the nearer one, and passed out.
I had gone fifty yards, perhaps, when it occurred to me
that I must remain ashore all night, as I had heard
that the ship's business would carry her away at four
o'clock and keep her away until morning. It was a little
after four now. I had come ashore with only two pieces
of money, both about the same size, but differing largely
in value--one was a French gold piece worth four dollars,
the other a Turkish coin worth two cents and a half.
With a sudden and horrified misgiving, I put my hand in
my pocket, now, and sure enough, I fetched out that Turkish
Here was a situation. A hotel would require pay in
advance --I must walk the street all night, and perhaps
be arrested as a suspicious character. There was but one
way out of the difficulty--I flew back to the church,
and softly entered. There stood the old woman yet,
and in the palm of the nearest one still lay my gold piece.
I was grateful. I crept close, feeling unspeakably mean;
I got my Turkish penny ready, and was extending a trembling
hand to make the nefarious exchange, when I heard a cough
behind me. I jumped back as if I had been accused,
and stood quaking while a worshiper entered and passed up
the aisle.
I was there a year trying to steal that money; that is,
it seemed a year, though, of course, it must have been
much less. The worshipers went and came; there were hardly
ever three in the church at once, but there was always one
or more. Every time I tried to commit my crime somebody
came in or somebody started out, and I was prevented;
but at last my opportunity came; for one moment there
was nobody in the church but the two beggar-women and me.
I whipped the gold piece out of the poor old pauper's palm
and dropped my Turkish penny in its place. Poor old thing,
she murmured her thanks--they smote me to the heart.
Then I sped away in a guilty hurry, and even when I was a mile
from the church I was still glancing back, every moment,
to see if I was being pursued.
That experience has been of priceless value and benefit
to me; for I resolved then, that as long as I lived I
would never again rob a blind beggar-woman in a church;
and I have always kept my word. The most permanent lessons
in morals are those which come, not of booky teaching,
but of experience.
[Beauty of Women--and of Old Masters]
In Milan we spent most of our time in the vast and
beautiful Arcade or Gallery, or whatever it is called.
Blocks of tall new buildings of the most sumptuous sort,
rich with decoration and graced with statues, the streets
between these blocks roofed over with glass at a great height,
the pavements all of smooth and variegated marble,
arranged in tasteful patterns--little tables all over these
marble streets, people sitting at them, eating, drinking,
or smoking--crowds of other people strolling by--such
is the Arcade. I should like to live in it all the time.
The windows of the sumptuous restaurants stand open,
and one breakfasts there and enjoys the passing show.
We wandered all over the town, enjoying whatever was going
on in the streets. We took one omnibus ride, and as I
did not speak Italian and could not ask the price, I held
out some copper coins to the conductor, and he took two.
Then he went and got his tariff card and showed me that he
had taken only the right sum. So I made a note--Italian
omnibus conductors do not cheat.
Near the Cathedral I saw another instance of probity.
An old man was peddling dolls and toy fans. Two small
American children and one gave the old man a franc
and three copper coins, and both started away; but they
were called back, and the franc and one of the coppers
were restored to them. Hence it is plain that in Italy,
parties connected with the drama and the omnibus and the toy
interests do not cheat.
The stocks of goods in the shops were not extensive, generally.
In the vestibule of what seemed to be a clothing store,
we saw eight or ten wooden dummies grouped together,
clothed in woolen business suits and each marked with its price.
One suit was marked forty-five francs--nine dollars.
Harris stepped in and said he wanted a suit like that.
Nothing easier: the old merchant dragged in the dummy,
brushed him off with a broom, stripped him, and shipped
the clothes to the hotel. He said he did not keep two
suits of the same kind in stock, but manufactured a second
when it was needed to reclothe the dummy.
In another quarter we found six Italians engaged
in a violent quarrel. They danced fiercely about,
gesticulating with their heads, their arms, their legs,
their whole bodies; they would rush forward occasionally
with a sudden access of passion and shake their fists
in each other's very faces. We lost half an hour there,
waiting to help cord up the dead, but they finally embraced
each other affectionately, and the trouble was over.
The episode was interesting, but we could not have afforded
all the time to it if we had known nothing was going
to come of it but a reconciliation. Note made--in Italy,
people who quarrel cheat the spectator.
We had another disappointment afterward. We approached
a deeply interested crowd, and in the midst of it
found a fellow wildly chattering and gesticulating
over a box on the ground which was covered with a piece
of old blanket. Every little while he would bend down
and take hold of the edge of the blanket with the extreme
tips of his fingertips, as if to show there was no
deception--chattering away all the while--but always,
just as I was expecting to see a wonder feat of legerdemain,
he would let go the blanket and rise to explain further.
However, at last he uncovered the box and got out a spoon
with a liquid in it, and held it fair and frankly around,
for people to see that it was all right and he was taking
no advantage--his chatter became more excited than ever.
I supposed he was going to set fire to the liquid and
swallow it, so I was greatly wrought up and interested.
I got a cent ready in one hand and a florin in the other,
intending to give him the former if he survived and the
latter if he killed himself--for his loss would be my gain
in a literary way, and I was willing to pay a fair price
for the item --but this impostor ended his intensely
moving performance by simply adding some powder to the
liquid and polishing the spoon! Then he held it aloft,
and he could not have shown a wilder exultation if he
had achieved an immortal miracle. The crowd applauded
in a gratified way, and it seemed to me that history
speaks the truth when it says these children of the south
are easily entertained.
We spent an impressive hour in the noble cathedral, where long
shafts of tinted light were cleaving through the solemn
dimness from the lofty windows and falling on a pillar here,
a picture there, and a kneeling worshiper yonder.
The organ was muttering, censers were swinging, candles were
glinting on the distant altar and robed priests were
filing silently past them; the scene was one to sweep all
frivolous thoughts away and steep the soul in a holy calm.
A trim young American lady paused a yard or two from me,
fixed her eyes on the mellow sparks flecking the far-off altar,
bent her head reverently a moment, then straightened up,
kicked her train into the air with her heel, caught it
deftly in her hand, and marched briskly out.
We visited the picture-galleries and the other regulation
of Milan--not because I wanted to write about them again,
but to see if I had learned anything in twelve years.
I afterward visited the great galleries of Rome and
Florence for the same purpose. I found I had learned
one thing. When I wrote about the Old Masters before,
I said the copies were better than the originals.
That was a mistake of large dimensions. The Old Masters
were still unpleasing to me, but they were truly divine
contrasted with the copies. The copy is to the original
as the pallid, smart, inane new wax-work group is to
the vigorous, earnest, dignified group of living men
and women whom it professes to duplicate. There is a
mellow richness, a subdued color, in the old pictures,
which is to the eye what muffled and mellowed sound
is to the ear. That is the merit which is most loudly
praised in the old picture, and is the one which the copy
most conspicuously lacks, and which the copyist must
not hope to compass. It was generally conceded by the
artists with whom I talked, that that subdued splendor,
that mellow richness, is imparted to the picture by AGE.
Then why should we worship the Old Master for it,
who didn't impart it, instead of worshiping Old Time,
who did? Perhaps the picture was a clanging bell,
until Time muffled it and sweetened it.
In conversation with an artist in Venice, I asked: "What
is it that people see in the Old Masters? I have been in the
Doge's palace and I saw several acres of very bad drawing,
very bad perspective, and very incorrect proportions.
Paul Veronese's dogs to not resemble dogs; all the horses
look like bladders on legs; one man had a RIGHT leg on
the left side of his body; in the large picture where
the Emperor (Barbarossa?) is prostrate before the Pope,
there are three men in the foreground who are over
thirty feet high, if one may judge by the size of a
kneeling little boy in the center of the foreground;
and according to the same scale, the Pope is seven feet
high and the Doge is a shriveled dwarf of four feet."
The artist said:
"Yes, the Old Masters often drew badly; they did not
care much for truth and exactness in minor details;
but after all, in spite of bad drawing, bad perspective,
bad proportions, and a choice of subjects which no longer
appeal to people as strongly as they did three hundred
years ago, there is a SOMETHING about their pictures
which is divine--a something which is above and beyond
the art of any epoch since--a something which would be
the despair of artists but that they never hope or expect
to attain it, and therefore do not worry about it."
That is what he said--and he said what he believed;
and not only believed, but felt.
Reasoning--especially reasoning, without technical
knowledge--must be put aside, in cases of this kind.
It cannot assist the inquirer. It will lead him,
in the most logical progression, to what, in the eyes
of artists, would be a most illogical conclusion.
Thus: bad drawing, bad proportion, bad perspective,
indifference to truthful detail, color which gets its
merit from time, and not from the artist--these things
constitute the Old Master; conclusion, the Old Master
was a bad painter, the Old Master was not an Old Master
at all, but an Old Apprentice. Your friend the artist
will grant your premises, but deny your conclusion;
he will maintain that notwithstanding this formidable
list of confessed defects, there is still a something
that is divine and unapproachable about the Old Master,
and that there is no arguing the fact away by any system of
reasoning whatsoever.
I can believe that. There are women who have an
indefinable charm in their faces which makes them
beautiful to their intimates, but a cold stranger
who tried to reason the matter out and find this beauty
would fail. He would say to one of these women: This
chin is too short, this nose is too long, this forehead
is too high, this hair is too red, this complexion is
too pallid, the perspective of the entire composition
is incorrect; conclusion, the woman is not beautiful.
But her nearest friend might say, and say truly,
"Your premises are right, your logic is faultless,
but your conclusion is wrong, nevertheless; she is an Old
Master--she is beautiful, but only to such as know her;
it is a beauty which cannot be formulated, but it is there, just
the same."
I found more pleasure in contemplating the Old Masters
this time than I did when I was in Europe in former years,
but still it was a calm pleasure; there was nothing
overheated about it. When I was in Venice before,
I think I found no picture which stirred me much,
but this time there were two which enticed me to the Doge's
palace day after day, and kept me there hours at a time.
One of these was Tintoretto's three-acre picture in the
Great Council Chamber. When I saw it twelve years ago I
was not strongly attracted to it--the guide told me it
was an insurrection in heaven--but this was an error.
The movement of this great work is very fine. There are
ten thousand figures, and they are all doing something.
There is a wonderful "go" to the whole composition.
Some of the figures are driving headlong downward,
with clasped hands, others are swimming through the
cloud-shoals--some on their faces, some on their backs--great
processions of bishops, martyrs, and angels are pouring swiftly
centerward from various outlying directions--everywhere
is enthusiastic joy, there is rushing movement everywhere.
There are fifteen or twenty figures scattered here and there,
with books, but they cannot keep their attention on
their reading--they offer the books to others, but no
one wishes to read, now. The Lion of St. Mark is there
with his book; St. Mark is there with his pen uplifted;
he and the Lion are looking each other earnestly in the face,
disputing about the way to spell a word--the Lion
looks up in rapt admiration while St. Mark spells.
This is wonderfully interpreted by the artist.
It is the master-stroke of this imcomparable painting.
[Figure 10]
I visited the place daily, and never grew tired of
looking at that grand picture. As I have intimated,
the movement is almost unimaginable vigorous; the figures
are singing, hosannahing, and many are blowing trumpets.
So vividly is noise suggested, that spectators who become
absorbed in the picture almost always fall to shouting
comments in each other's ears, making ear-trumpets of their
curved hands, fearing they may not otherwise be heard.
One often sees a tourist, with the eloquent tears pouring
down his cheeks, funnel his hands at his wife's ear,
and hears him roar through them, "OH, TO BE THERE AND
None but the supremely great in art can produce effects
like these with the silent brush.
Twelve years ago I could not have appreciated this picture.
One year ago I could not have appreciated it. My study
of Art in Heidelberg has been a noble education to me.
All that I am today in Art, I owe to that.
The other great work which fascinated me was Bassano's
immortal Hair Trunk. This is in the Chamber of the Council
of Ten. It is in one of the three forty-foot pictures
which decorate the walls of the room. The composition
of this picture is beyond praise. The Hair Trunk is not
hurled at the stranger's head--so to speak--as the chief
feature of an immortal work so often is; no, it is
carefully guarded from prominence, it is subordinated,
it is restrained, it is most deftly and cleverly held
in reserve, it is most cautiously and ingeniously led up to,
by the master, and consequently when the spectator reaches
it at last, he is taken unawares, he is unprepared,
and it bursts upon him with a stupefying surprise.
One is lost in wonder at all the thought and care which
this elaborate planning must have cost. A general glance
at the picture could never suggest that there was a hair
trunk in it; the Hair Trunk is not mentioned in the title
even--which is, "Pope Alexander III. and the Doge Ziani,
the Conqueror of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa";
you see, the title is actually utilized to help
divert attention from the Trunk; thus, as I say,
nothing suggests the presence of the Trunk, by any hint,
yet everything studiedly leads up to it, step by step.
Let us examine into this, and observe the exquisitely
artful artlessness of the plan.
At the extreme left end of the picture are a couple of women,
one of them with a child looking over her shoulder at
a wounded man sitting with bandaged head on the ground.
These people seem needless, but no, they are there
for a purpose; one cannot look at them without seeing
the gorgeous procession of grandees, bishops, halberdiers,
and banner-bearers which is passing along behind them;
one cannot see the procession without feeling the curiosity
to follow it and learn whither it is going; it leads him
to the Pope, in the center of the picture, who is talking
with the bonnetless Doge--talking tranquilly, too,
although within twelve feet of them a man is beating a drum,
and not far from the drummer two persons are blowing horns,
and many horsemen are plunging and rioting about--indeed,
twenty-two feet of this great work is all a deep and
happy holiday serenity and Sunday-school procession,
and then we come suddenly upon eleven and one-half feet
of turmoil and racket and insubordination. This latter
state of things is not an accident, it has its purpose.
But for it, one would linger upon the Pope and the Doge,
thinking them to be the motive and supreme feature of
the picture; whereas one is drawn along, almost unconsciously,
to see what the trouble is about. Now at the very END
of this riot, within four feet of the end of the picture,
and full thirty-six feet from the beginning of it,
the Hair Trunk bursts with an electrifying suddenness
upon the spectator, in all its matchless perfection,
and the great master's triumph is sweeping and complete.
From that moment no other thing in those forty feet of canvas
has any charm; one sees the Hair Trunk, and the Hair Trunk
only--and to see it is to worship it. Bassano even placed
objects in the immediate vicinity of the Supreme Feature
whose pretended purpose was to divert attention from it yet
a little longer and thus delay and augment the surprise;
for instance, to the right of it he has placed a stooping
man with a cap so red that it is sure to hold the eye
for a moment--to the left of it, some six feet away,
he has placed a red-coated man on an inflated horse,
and that coat plucks your eye to that locality the next
moment--then, between the Trunk and the red horseman he
has intruded a man, naked to his waist, who is carrying
a fancy flour-sack on the middle of his back instead
of on his shoulder--this admirable feat interests you,
of course--keeps you at bay a little longer, like a sock
or a jacket thrown to the pursuing wolf--but at last,
in spite of all distractions and detentions, the eye
of even the most dull and heedless spectator is sure
to fall upon the World's Masterpiece, and in that
moment he totters to his chair or leans upon his guide
for support.
Descriptions of such a work as this must necessarily
be imperfect, yet they are of value. The top of the Trunk
is arched; the arch is a perfect half-circle, in the Roman
style of architecture, for in the then rapid decadence
of Greek art, the rising influence of Rome was already
beginning to be felt in the art of the Republic.
The Trunk is bound or bordered with leather all around
where the lid joins the main body. Many critics consider
this leather too cold in tone; but I consider this
its highest merit, since it was evidently made so to
emphasize by contrast the impassioned fervor of the hasp.
The highlights in this part of the work are cleverly managed,
the MOTIF is admirably subordinated to the ground tints,
and the technique is very fine. The brass nail-heads
are in the purest style of the early Renaissance.
The strokes, here, are very firm and bold--every nail-head
is a portrait. The handle on the end of the Trunk has
evidently been retouched--I think, with a piece of chalk--
but one can still see the inspiration of the Old Master
in the tranquil, almost too tranquil, hang of it. The hair
of this Trunk is REAL hair--so to speak--white in patched,
brown in patches. The details are finely worked out;
the repose proper to hair in a recumbent and inactive
attitude is charmingly expressed. There is a feeling
about this part of the work which lifts it to the highest
altitudes of art; the sense of sordid realism vanishes
away--one recognizes that there is SOUL here.
View this Trunk as you will, it is a gem, it is a marvel,
it is a miracle. Some of the effects are very daring,
approaching even to the boldest flights of the rococo,
the sirocco, and the Byzantine schools--yet the master's hand
never falters--it moves on, calm, majestic, confident--and,
with that art which conceals art, it finally casts over
the TOUT ENSEMBLE, by mysterious methods of its own,
a subtle something which refines, subdues, etherealizes the
arid components and endures them with the deep charm
and gracious witchery of poesy.
Among the art-treasures of Europe there are pictures
which approach the Hair Trunk--there are two which may
be said to equal it, possibly--but there is none that
surpasses it. So perfect is the Hair Trunk that it moves
even persons who ordinarily have no feeling for art.
When an Erie baggagemaster saw it two years ago, he could
hardly keep from checking it; and once when a customs
inspector was brought into its presence, he gazed upon
it in silent rapture for some moments, then slowly
and unconsciously placed one hand behind him with the
palm uppermost, and got out his chalk with the other.
These facts speak for themselves.
[Hanged with a Golden Rope]
One lingers about the Cathedral a good deal, in Venice.
There is a strong fascination about it--partly because
it is so old, and partly because it is so ugly.
Too many of the world's famous buildings fail of one
chief virtue--harmony; they are made up of a methodless
mixture of the ugly and the beautiful; this is bad;
it is confusing, it is unrestful. One has a sense
of uneasiness, of distress, without knowing why. But one
is calm before St. Mark's, one is calm in the cellar;
for its details are masterfully ugly, no misplaced
and impertinent beauties are intruded anywhere; and the
consequent result is a grand harmonious whole, of soothing,
entrancing, tranquilizing, soul-satisfying ugliness.
One's admiration of a perfect thing always grows,
never declines; and this is the surest evidence to him
that it IS perfect. St. Mark's is perfect. To me it
soon grew to be so nobly, so augustly ugly, that it was
difficult to stay away from it, even for a little while.
Every time its squat domes disappeared from my view,
I had a despondent feeling; whenever they reappeared,
I felt an honest rapture--I have not known any happier hours
than those I daily spent in front of Florian's, looking
across the Great Square at it. Propped on its long row
of low thick-legged columns, its back knobbed with domes,
it seemed like a vast warty bug taking a meditative walk.
St. Mark's is not the oldest building in the world, of course,
but it seems the oldest, and looks the oldest--especially inside.
When the ancient mosaics in its walls become damaged,
they are repaired but not altered; the grotesque old
pattern is preserved. Antiquity has a charm of its own,
and to smarten it up would only damage it. One day I
was sitting on a red marble bench in the vestibule looking
up at an ancient piece of apprentice-work, in mosaic,
illustrative of the command to "multiply and replenish
the earth." The Cathedral itself had seemed very old;
but this picture was illustrating a period in history
which made the building seem young by comparison.
But I presently found an antique which was older than either
the battered Cathedral or the date assigned to the piece
of history; it was a spiral-shaped fossil as large as
the crown of a hat; it was embedded in the marble bench,
and had been sat upon by tourists until it was worn smooth.
Contrasted with the inconceivable antiquity of this
modest fossil, those other things were flippantly
modern--jejune--mere matters of day-before-yesterday.
The sense of the oldness of the Cathedral vanished away
under the influence of this truly venerable presence.
St. Mark's is monumental; it is an imperishable remembrancer
of the profound and simply piety of the Middle Ages.
Whoever could ravish a column from a pagan temple,
did it and contributed his swag to this Christian one.
So this fane is upheld by several hundred acquisitions
procured in that peculiar way. In our day it would be
immoral to go on the highway to get bricks for a church,
but it was no sin in the old times. St. Mark's was itself
the victim of a curious robbery once. The thing is set
down in the history of Venice, but it might be smuggled
into the Arabian Nights and not seem out of place
Nearly four hundred and fifty years ago, a Candian
named Stammato, in the suite of a prince of the house
of Este, was allowed to view the riches of St. Mark's.
His sinful eye was dazzled and he hid himself behind
an altar, with an evil purpose in his heart, but a priest
discovered him and turned him out. Afterward he got
in again--by false keys, this time. He went there,
night after night, and worked hard and patiently, all alone,
overcoming difficulty after difficulty with his toil,
and at last succeeded in removing a great brick of the marble
paneling which walled the lower part of the treasury;
this block he fixed so that he could take it out and put
it in at will. After that, for weeks, he spent all
his midnights in his magnificent mine, inspecting it
in security, gloating over its marvels at his leisure,
and always slipping back to his obscure lodgings before dawn,
with a duke's ransom under his cloak. He did not need
to grab, haphazard, and run--there was no hurry.
He could make deliberate and well-considered selections;
he could consult his esthetic tastes. One comprehends
how undisturbed he was, and how safe from any danger
of interruption, when it is stated that he even carried off
a unicorn's horn--a mere curiosity--which would not pass
through the egress entire, but had to be sawn in two--
a bit of work which cost him hours of tedious labor.
He continued to store up his treasures at home until his
occupation lost the charm of novelty and became monotonous;
then he ceased from it, contented. Well he might be;
for his collection, raised to modern values, represented nearly
fifty million dollars!
He could have gone home much the richest citizen of his country,
and it might have been years before the plunder was missed;
but he was human--he could not enjoy his delight alone,
he must have somebody to talk about it with. So he
exacted a solemn oath from a Candian noble named Crioni,
then led him to his lodgings and nearly took his breath
away with a sight of his glittering hoard. He detected
a look in his friend's face which excited his suspicion,
and was about to slip a stiletto into him when Crioni
saved himself by explaining that that look was only
an expression of supreme and happy astonishment.
Stammato made Crioni a present of one of the state's
principal jewels--a huge carbuncle, which afterward
figured in the Ducal cap of state--and the pair parted.
Crioni went at once to the palace, denounced the criminal,
and handed over the carbuncle as evidence.
Stammato was arrested, tried, and condemned, with the
old-time Venetian promptness. He was hanged between
the two great columns in the Piazza--with a gilded rope,
out of compliment to his love of gold, perhaps. He got
no good of his booty at all--it was ALL recovered.
In Venice we had a luxury which very seldom fell to our lot
on the continent--a home dinner with a private family.
If one could always stop with private families,
when traveling, Europe would have a charm which it
now lacks. As it is, one must live in the hotels,
of course, and that is a sorrowful business.
A man accustomed to American food and American domestic
cookery would not starve to death suddenly in Europe;
but I think he would gradually waste away, and eventually die.
He would have to do without his accustomed morning meal.
That is too formidable a change altogether; he would
necessarily suffer from it. He could get the shadow,
the sham, the base counterfeit of that meal; but it would
do him no good, and money could not buy the reality.
To particularize: the average American's simplest and
commonest form of breakfast consists of coffee and beefsteak;
well, in Europe, coffee is an unknown beverage. You can
get what the European hotel-keeper thinks is coffee, but it
resembles the real thing as hypocrisy resembles holiness.
It is a feeble, characterless, uninspiring sort of stuff,
and almost as undrinkable as if it had been made in an
American hotel. The milk used for it is what the French
call "Christian" milk--milk which has been baptized.
After a few months' acquaintance with European "coffee,"
one's mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins
to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with its clotted
layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream,
after all, and a thing which never existed.
Next comes the European bread--fair enough, good enough,
after a fashion, but cold; cold and tough, and unsympathetic;
and never any change, never any variety--always the same
tiresome thing.
Next, the butter--the sham and tasteless butter; no salt
in it, and made of goodness knows what.
Then there is the beefsteak. They have it in Europe, but they
don't know how to cook it. Neither will they cut it right.
It comes on the table in a small, round pewter platter.
It lies in the center of this platter, in a bordering
bed of grease-soaked potatoes; it is the size, shape,
and thickness of a man's hand with the thumb and fingers
cut off. It is a little overdone, is rather dry,
it tastes pretty insipidly, it rouses no enthusiasm.
Imagine a poor exile contemplating that inert thing;
and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better
land and setting before him a mighty porterhouse steak an
inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle;
dusted with a fragrant pepper; enriched with little
melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness
and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling
out and joining the gravy, archipelagoed with mushrooms;
a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing
an outlying district of this ample county of beefsteak;
the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the
tenderloin still in its place; and imagine that the angel
also adds a great cup of American home-made coffee,
with a cream a-froth on top, some real butter, firm and
yellow and fresh, some smoking hot-biscuits, a plate
of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup--could
words describe the gratitude of this exile?
The European dinner is better than the European breakfast,
but it has its faults and inferiorities; it does not satisfy.
He comes to the table eager and hungry; he swallows his
soup--there is an undefinable lack about it somewhere;
thinks the fish is going to be the thing he wants--
eats it and isn't sure; thinks the next dish is perhaps
the one that will hit the hungry place--tries it,
and is conscious that there was a something wanting
about it, also. And thus he goes on, from dish to dish,
like a boy after a butterfly which just misses getting
caught every time it alights, but somehow doesn't get caught
after all; and at the end the exile and the boy have fared
about alike; the one is full, but grievously unsatisfied,
the other has had plenty of exercise, plenty of interest,
and a fine lot of hopes, but he hasn't got any butterfly.
There is here and there an American who will say he can remember
rising from a European table d'ho^te perfectly satisfied;
but we must not overlook the fact that there is also here
and there an American who will lie.
The number of dishes is sufficient; but then it is such
a monotonous variety of UNSTRIKING dishes. It is an inane
dead-level of "fair-to-middling." There is nothing to
ACCENT it. Perhaps if the roast of mutton or of beef--a big,
generous one--were brought on the table and carved in full
view of the client, that might give the right sense of
earnestness and reality to the thing; but they don't do that,
they pass the sliced meat around on a dish, and so you
are perfectly calm, it does not stir you in the least.
Now a vast roast turkey, stretched on the broad of his back,
with his heels in the air and the rich juices oozing
from his fat sides ... but I may as well stop there,
for they would not know how to cook him. They can't
even cook a chicken respectably; and as for carving it,
they do that with a hatchet.
This is about the customary table d'ho^te bill in summer:
Soup (characterless).
Fish--sole, salmon, or whiting--usually tolerably good.
Roast--mutton or beef--tasteless--and some last year's potatoes.
A pa^te, or some other made dish--usually good--"considering."
One vegetable--brought on in state, and all alone--usually
insipid lentils, or string-beans, or indifferent asparagus.
Roast chicken, as tasteless as paper.
Lettuce-salad--tolerably good.
Decayed strawberries or cherries.
Sometimes the apricots and figs are fresh, but this is
no advantage, as these fruits are of no account anyway.
The grapes are generally good, and sometimes there
is a tolerably good peach, by mistake.
The variations of the above bill are trifling. After a
fortnight one discovers that the variations are only apparent,
not real; in the third week you get what you had the first,
and in the fourth the week you get what you had the second.
Three or four months of this weary sameness will kill
the robustest appetite.
It has now been many months, at the present writing,
since I have had a nourishing meal, but I shall soon
have one--a modest, private affair, all to myself.
I have selected a few dishes, and made out a little bill
of fare, which will go home in the steamer that precedes me,
and be hot when I arrive--as follows:
Radishes. Baked apples, with Brook-trout, from
Sierra cream. Nevadas. Fried oysters; stewed oysters.
Lake-trout, from Tahoe. Frogs. Sheepshead and croakers
from American coffee, with real cream. New Orleans.
American butter. Black-bass from the Mississippi.
Fried chicken, Southern style. American roast beef.
Porterhouse steak. Roast turkey, Thanksgiving Saratoga
potatoes. style. Broiled chicken, American style.
Cranberry sauce. Celery. Hot biscuits, Southern style.
Roast wild turkey. Woodcock. Hot wheat-bread, Southern
Canvasback-duck, from style. Baltimore. Hot buckwheat cakes.
Prairie-hens, from Illinois. American toast. Clear maple
Missouri partridges, broiled. syrup. Possum. Coon.
Virginia bacon, broiled. Boston bacon and beans.
Blue points, on the half shell. Bacon and greens,
Southern style. Cherry-stone clams. Hominy. Boiled onions.
San Francisco mussels, steamed. Turnips. Oyster soup.
Clam soup. Pumpkin. Squash. Asparagus. Philadelphia
Terrapin soup. Butter-beans. Sweet-potatoes. Oysters
roasted in shell--Lettuce. Succotash. Northern style.
String-beans. Soft-shell crabs. Connecticut Mashed potatoes.
Catsup. shad. Boiled potatoes, in their skins.
Baltimore perch. New potatoes, minus the skins.
Early Rose potatoes, roasted in Hot egg-bread, Southern style.
the ashes, Southern style, Hot light-bread, Southern style.
served hot. Buttermilk. Iced sweet milk. Sliced tomatoes,
with sugar or Apple dumplings, with real vinegar.
Stewed tomatoes. cream. Green corn, cut from the ear and
Apple pie. Apple fritters. served with butter and pepper.
Apple puffs, Southern style. Green corn, on the ear.
Peach cobbler, Southern style. Hot corn-pone, with chitlings,
Peach pie. American mince pie. Southern style.
Pumpkin pie. Squash pie. Hot hoe-cake, Southern style.
All sorts of American pastry.
Fresh American fruits of all sorts, including strawberries,
which are not to be doled out as if they were jewelry,
but in a more liberal way.
Ice-water--not prepared in the ineffectual goblet,
but in the sincere and capable refrigerator.
Americans intending to spend a year or so in European hotels,
will do well to copy this bill and carry it along. They will
find it an excellent thing to get up an appetite with,
in the dispiriting presence of the squalid table d'ho^te.
Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we
can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made,
not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired;
but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say,
"Where's your haggis?" and the Fijian would sigh and say,
"Where's your missionary?"
I have a neat talent in matters pertaining to nourishment.
This has met with professional recognition. I have often
furnished recipes for cook-books. Here are some designs
for pies and things, which I recently prepared for a
friend's projected cook-book, but as I forgot to furnish
diagrams and perspectives, they had to be left out,
of course.
Take a lot of water and add to it a lot of coarse
Indian-meal and about a quarter of a lot of salt.
Mix well together, knead into the form of a "pone," and let
the pone stand awhile--not on its edge, but the other way.
Rake away a place among the embers, lay it there,
and cover it an inch deep with hot ashes. When it
is done, remove it; blow off all the ashes but one layer;
butter that one and eat.
N.B.--No household should ever be without this talisman.
It has been noticed that tramps never return for another
To make this excellent breakfast dish, proceed as
follows: Take a sufficiency of water and a sufficiency
of flour, and construct a bullet-proof dough.
Work this into the form of a disk, with the edges turned
up some three-fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry
in a couple days in a mild but unvarying temperature.
Construct a cover for this redoubt in the same way and
of the same material. Fill with stewed dried apples;
aggravate with cloves, lemon-peel, and slabs of citron;
add two portions of New Orleans sugars, then solder
on the lid and set in a safe place till it petrifies.
Serve cold at breakfast and invite your enemy.
Take a barrel of water and bring it to a boil; rub a chicory
berry against a coffee berry, then convey the former
into the water. Continue the boiling and evaporation
until the intensity of the flavor and aroma of the coffee
and chicory has been diminished to a proper degree;
then set aside to cool. Now unharness the remains of a
once cow from the plow, insert them in a hydraulic press,
and when you shall have acquired a teaspoon of that
pale-blue juice which a German superstition regards
as milk, modify the malignity of its strength in a bucket
of tepid water and ring up the breakfast. Mix the
beverage in a cold cup, partake with moderation, and keep
a wet rag around your head to guard against over-excitement.
Use a club, and avoid the joints.
[Titian Bad and Titian Good]
I wonder why some things are? For instance, Art is allowed
as much indecent license today as in earlier times--
but the privileges of Literature in this respect have been
sharply curtailed within the past eighty or ninety years.
Fielding and Smollett could portray the beastliness
of their day in the beastliest language; we have plenty
of foul subjects to deal with in our day, but we are
not allowed to approach them very near, even with nice
and guarded forms of speech. But not so with Art.
The brush may still deal freely with any subject,
however revolting or indelicate. It makes a body ooze
sarcasm at every pore, to go about Rome and Florence and see
what this last generation has been doing with the statues.
These works, which had stood in innocent nakedness for ages,
are all fig-leaved now. Yes, every one of them.
Nobody noticed their nakedness before, perhaps; nobody can
help noticing it now, the fig-leaf makes it so conspicuous.
But the comical thing about it all, is, that the fig-leaf
is confined to cold and pallid marble, which would be still
cold and unsuggestive without this sham and ostentatious
symbol of modesty, whereas warm-blood paintings which do
really need it have in no case been furnished with it.
At the door of the Uffizzi, in Florence, one is confronted
by statues of a man and a woman, noseless, battered, black with
accumulated grime--they hardly suggest human beings--
yet these ridiculous creatures have been thoughtfully and
conscientiously fig-leaved by this fastidious generation.
You enter, and proceed to that most-visited little
gallery that exists in the world--the Tribune--and there,
against the wall, without obstructing rag or leaf,
you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest,
the obscenest picture the world possesses--Titian's Venus.
It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed--no,
it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I
ventured to describe that attitude, there would be a fine
howl--but there the Venus lies, for anybody to gloat
over that wants to--and there she has a right to lie,
for she is a work of art, and Art has its privileges.
I saw young girls stealing furtive glances at her; I saw
young men gaze long and absorbedly at her; I saw aged,
infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest.
How I should like to describe her--just to see what a holy
indignation I could stir up in the world--just to hear
the unreflecting average man deliver himself about my
grossness and coarseness, and all that. The world says
that no worded description of a moving spectacle is
a hundredth part as moving as the same spectacle seen
with one's own eyes--yet the world is willing to let its
son and its daughter and itself look at Titian's beast,
but won't stand a description of it in words.
Which shows that the world is not as consistent as it
might be.
There are pictures of nude women which suggest no impure
thought--I am well aware of that. I am not railing
at such. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that
Titian's Venus is very far from being one of that sort.
Without any question it was painted for a bagnio and it
was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong.
In truth, it is too strong for any place but a public
Art Gallery. Titian has two Venuses in the Tribune;
persons who have seen them will easily remember which one I am
referring to.
In every gallery in Europe there are hideous pictures
of blood, carnage, oozing brains, putrefaction--pictures
portraying intolerable suffering--pictures alive
with every conceivable horror, wrought out in dreadful
detail--and similar pictures are being put on the canvas
every day and publicly exhibited--without a growl from
anybody--for they are innocent, they are inoffensive,
being works of art. But suppose a literary artist ventured
to go into a painstaking and elaborate description
of one of these grisly things--the critics would skin
him alive. Well, let it go, it cannot be helped;
Art retains her privileges, Literature has lost hers.
Somebody else may cipher out the whys and the wherefores
and the consistencies of it--I haven't got time.
Titian's Venus defiles and disgraces the Tribune, there is
no softening that fact, but his "Moses" glorifies it.
The simple truthfulness of its noble work wins the heart
and the applause of every visitor, be he learned or ignorant.
After wearying one's self with the acres of stuffy,
sappy, expressionless babies that populate the canvases
of the Old Masters of Italy, it is refreshing to stand
before this peerless child and feel that thrill which tells
you you are at last in the presence of the real thing.
This is a human child, this is genuine. You have seen him
a thousand times--you have seen him just as he is here--
and you confess, without reserve, that Titian WAS a Master.
The doll-faces of other painted babes may mean one thing,
they may mean another, but with the "Moses" the case
is different. The most famous of all the art-critics
has said, "There is no room for doubt, here--plainly this
child is in trouble."
I consider that the "Moses" has no equal among the works
of the Old Masters, except it be the divine Hair Trunk
of Bassano. I feel sure that if all the other Old Masters
were lost and only these two preserved, the world would
be the gainer by it.
My sole purpose in going to Florence was to see this
immortal "Moses," and by good fortune I was just in time,
for they were already preparing to remove it to a more
private and better-protected place because a fashion
of robbing the great galleries was prevailing in Europe
at the time.
I got a capable artist to copy the picture; Pannemaker,
the engraver of Dor'e's books, engraved it for me,
and I have the pleasure of laying it before the reader
in this volume.
We took a turn to Rome and some other Italian cities--
then to Munich, and thence to Paris--partly for exercise,
but mainly because these things were in our projected program,
and it was only right that we should be faithful to it.
From Paris I branched out and walked through Holland and Belgium,
procuring an occasional lift by rail or canal when tired,
and I had a tolerably good time of it "by and large."
I worked Spain and other regions through agents to save
time and shoe-leather.
We crossed to England, and then made the homeward
passage in the Cunarder GALLIA, a very fine ship.
I was glad to get home--immeasurably glad; so glad,
in fact, that it did not seem possible that anything
could ever get me out of the country again. I had not
enjoyed a pleasure abroad which seemed to me to compare
with the pleasure I felt in seeing New York harbor again.
Europe has many advantages which we have not, but they
do not compensate for a good many still more valuable
ones which exist nowhere but in our own country.
Then we are such a homeless lot when we are over
there! So are Europeans themselves, for the matter.
They live in dark and chilly vast tombs--costly enough,
maybe, but without conveniences. To be condemned to live
as the average European family lives would make life
a pretty heavy burden to the average American family.
On the whole, I think that short visits to Europe are
better for us than long ones. The former preserve us from
becoming Europeanized; they keep our pride of country intact,
and at the same time they intensify our affection for our
country and our people; whereas long visits have the effect
of dulling those feelings--at least in the majority
of cases. I think that one who mixes much with Americans
long resident abroad must arrive at this conclusion.
APPENDIX ----------
Nothing gives such weight and dignity to a book
as an Appendix. HERODOTUS
The Portier
Omar Khay'am, the poet-prophet of Persia, writing more
than eight hundred years ago, has said:
"In the four parts of the earth are many that are able
to write learned books, many that are able to lead armies,
and many also that are able to govern kingdoms and empires;
but few there be that can keep a hotel."
A word about the European hotel PORTIER. He is a most
admirable invention, a most valuable convenience.
He always wears a conspicuous uniform; he can always
be found when he is wanted, for he sticks closely to
his post at the front door; he is as polite as a duke;
he speaks from four to ten languages; he is your surest
help and refuge in time of trouble or perplexity.
He is not the clerk, he is not the landlord; he ranks above
the clerk, and represents the landlord, who is seldom seen.
Instead of going to the clerk for information, as we do at home,
you go to the portier. It is the pride of our average
hotel clerk to know nothing whatever; it is the pride
of the portier to know everything. You ask the portier
at what hours the trains leave--he tells you instantly;
or you ask him who is the best physician in town; or what
is the hack tariff; or how many children the mayor has;
or what days the galleries are open, and whether a permit
is required, and where you are to get it, and what you
must pay for it; or when the theaters open and close,
what the plays are to be, and the price of seats;
or what is the newest thing in hats; or how the bills
of mortality average; or "who struck Billy Patterson."
It does not matter what you ask him: in nine cases
out of ten he knows, and in the tenth case he will find
out for you before you can turn around three times.
There is nothing he will not put his hand to. Suppose you
tell him you wish to go from Hamburg to Peking by the way
of Jericho, and are ignorant of routes and prices--
the next morning he will hand you a piece of paper with
the whole thing worked out on it to the last detail.
Before you have been long on European soil, you find
yourself still SAYING you are relying on Providence,
but when you come to look closer you will see that in reality
you are relying on the portier. He discovers what is
puzzling you, or what is troubling you, or what your need is,
before you can get the half of it out, and he promptly says,
"Leave that to me." Consequently, you easily drift into
the habit of leaving everything to him. There is a certain
embarrassment about applying to the average American
hotel clerk, a certain hesitancy, a sense of insecurity
against rebuff; but you feel no embarrassment in your
intercourse with the portier; he receives your propositions
with an enthusiasm which cheers, and plunges into their
accomplishment with an alacrity which almost inebriates.
The more requirements you can pile upon him, the better he
likes it. Of course the result is that you cease from doing
anything for yourself. He calls a hack when you want one;
puts you into it; tells the driver whither to take you;
receives you like a long-lost child when you return;
sends you about your business, does all the quarreling
with the hackman himself, and pays him his money out
of his own pocket. He sends for your theater tickets,
and pays for them; he sends for any possible article
you can require, be it a doctor, an elephant, or a
postage stamp; and when you leave, at last, you will
find a subordinate seated with the cab-driver who will
put you in your railway compartment, buy your tickets,
have your baggage weighed, bring you the printed tags,
and tell you everything is in your bill and paid for.
At home you get such elaborate, excellent, and willing
service as this only in the best hotels of our large cities;
but in Europe you get it in the mere back country-towns just
as well.
What is the secret of the portier's devotion? It is
very simple: he gets FEES, AND NO SALARY. His fee
is pretty closely regulated, too. If you stay a week,
you give him five marks--a dollar and a quarter, or about
eighteen cents a day. If you stay a month, you reduce
this average somewhat. If you stay two or three months
or longer, you cut it down half, or even more than half.
If you stay only one day, you give the portier a mark.
The head waiter's fee is a shade less than the portier's;
the Boots, who not only blacks your boots and brushes
your clothes, but is usually the porter and handles your
baggage, gets a somewhat smaller fee than the head waiter;
the chambermaid's fee ranks below that of the Boots.
You fee only these four, and no one else. A German
gentleman told me that when he remained a week in a hotel,
he gave the portier five marks, the head waiter four,
the Boots three, and the chambermaid two; and if he
stayed three months he divided ninety marks among them,
in about the above proportions. Ninety marks make
None of these fees are ever paid until you leave the hotel,
though it be a year--except one of these four servants
should go away in the mean time; in that case he will
be sure to come and bid you good-by and give you the
opportunity to pay him what is fairly coming to him.
It is considered very bad policy to fee a servant while you
are still to remain longer in the hotel, because if you
gave him too little he might neglect you afterward,
and if you gave him too much he might neglect somebody
else to attend to you. It is considered best to keep his
expectations "on a string" until your stay in concluded.
I do not know whether hotel servants in New York get any
wages or not, but I do know that in some of the hotels there
the feeing system in vogue is a heavy burden. The waiter
expects a quarter at breakfast--and gets it. You have
a different waiter at luncheon, and so he gets a quarter.
Your waiter at dinner is another stranger--consequently
he gets a quarter. The boy who carries your satchel
to your room and lights your gas fumbles around and hangs
around significantly, and you fee him to get rid of him.
Now you may ring for ice-water; and ten minutes later
for a lemonade; and ten minutes afterward, for a cigar;
and by and by for a newspaper--and what is the result? Why,
a new boy has appeared every time and fooled and fumbled
around until you have paid him something. Suppose you
boldly put your foot down, and say it is the hotel's
business to pay its servants? You will have to ring your
bell ten or fifteen times before you get a servant there;
and when he goes off to fill your order you will grow old
and infirm before you see him again. You may struggle nobly
for twenty-four hours, maybe, if you are an adamantine
sort of person, but in the mean time you will have been
so wretchedly served, and so insolently, that you will
haul down your colors, and go to impoverishing yourself
with fees.
It seems to me that it would be a happy idea to import
the European feeing system into America. I believe it
would result in getting even the bells of the Philadelphia
hotels answered, and cheerful service rendered.
The greatest American hotels keep a number of clerks
and a cashier, and pay them salaries which mount up
to a considerable total in the course of a year.
The great continental hotels keep a cashier on a trifling
salary, and a portier WHO PAYS THE HOTEL A SALARY.
By the latter system both the hotel and the public
save money and are better served than by our system.
One of our consuls told me that a portier of a great Berlin
hotel paid five thousand dollars a year for his position,
and yet cleared six thousand dollars for himself.
The position of portier in the chief hotels of Saratoga,
Long Branch, New York, and similar centers of resort,
would be one which the holder could afford to pay even more
than five thousand dollars for, perhaps.
When we borrowed the feeing fashion from Europe a dozen
years ago, the salary system ought to have been discontinued,
of course. We might make this correction now, I should think.
And we might add the portier, too. Since I first began
to study the portier, I have had opportunities to observe
him in the chief cities of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy;
and the more I have seen of him the more I have wished
that he might be adopted in America, and become there,
as he is in Europe, the stranger's guardian angel.
Yes, what was true eight hundred years ago, is just
as true today: "Few there be that can keep a hotel."
Perhaps it is because the landlords and their subordinates
have in too many cases taken up their trade without first
learning it. In Europe the trade of hotel-keeper is taught.
The apprentice begins at the bottom of the ladder
and masters the several grades one after the other.
Just as in our country printing-offices the apprentice
first learns how to sweep out and bring water;
then learns to "roll"; then to sort "pi"; then to set type;
and finally rounds and completes his education with
job-work and press-work; so the landlord-apprentice serves
as call-boy; then as under-waiter; then as a parlor waiter;
then as head waiter, in which position he often has
to make out all the bills; then as clerk or cashier;
then as portier. His trade is learned now, and by and
by he will assume the style and dignity of landlord,
and be found conducting a hotel of his own.
Now in Europe, the same as in America, when a man has
kept a hotel so thoroughly well during a number of years
as to give it a great reputation, he has his reward.
He can live prosperously on that reputation. He can let
his hotel run down to the last degree of shabbiness and
yet have it full of people all the time. For instance,
there is the Ho^tel de Ville, in Milan. It swarms with mice
and fleas, and if the rest of the world were destroyed
it could furnish dirt enough to start another one with.
The food would create an insurrection in a poorhouse;
and yet if you go outside to get your meals that hotel
makes up its loss by overcharging you on all sorts
of trifles--and without making any denials or excuses
about it, either. But the Ho^tel de Ville's old excellent
reputation still keeps its dreary rooms crowded with travelers
who would be elsewhere if they had only some wise friend
to warn them.
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle must have been very beautiful before
the French battered and bruised and scorched it two hundred
years ago. The stone is brown, with a pinkish tint,
and does not seem to stain easily. The dainty and elaborate
ornamentation upon its two chief fronts is as delicately
carved as if it had been intended for the interior of a
drawing-room rather than for the outside of a house.
Many fruit and flower clusters, human heads and grim
projecting lions' heads are still as perfect in every detail
as if they were new. But the statues which are ranked
between the windows have suffered. These are life-size
statues of old-time emperors, electors, and similar
grandees, clad in mail and bearing ponderous swords.
Some have lost an arm, some a head, and one poor fellow
is chopped off at the middle. There is a saying that if
a stranger will pass over the drawbridge and walk across
the court to the castle front without saying anything,
he can made a wish and it will be fulfilled. But they
say that the truth of this thing has never had a chance
to be proved, for the reason that before any stranger can
walk from the drawbridge to the appointed place, the beauty
of the palace front will extort an exclamation of delight from
A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective.
This one could not have been better placed. It stands
upon a commanding elevation, it is buried in green words,
there is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary,
there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks
down through shining leaves into profound chasms and
abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.
Nature knows how to garnish a ruin to get the best effect.
One of these old towers is split down the middle, and one
half has tumbled aside. It tumbled in such a way as to
establish itself in a picturesque attitude. Then all it
lacked was a fitting drapery, and Nature has furnished that;
she has robed the rugged mass in flowers and verdure,
and made it a charm to the eye. The standing half
exposes its arched and cavernous rooms to you, like open,
toothless mouths; there, too, the vines and flowers have
done their work of grace. The rear portion of the tower
has not been neglected, either, but is clothed with a
clinging garment of polished ivy which hides the wounds
and stains of time. Even the top is not left bare, but is
crowned with a flourishing group of trees and shrubs.
Misfortune has done for this old tower what it has done
for the human character sometimes--improved it.
A gentleman remarked, one day, that it might have been
fine to live in the castle in the day of its prime,
but that we had one advantage which its vanished
inhabitants lacked--the advantage of having a charming
ruin to visit and muse over. But that was a hasty idea.
Those people had the advantage of US. They had the fine
castle to live in, and they could cross the Rhine valley
and muse over the stately ruin of Trifels besides.
The Trifels people, in their day, five hundred years ago,
could go and muse over majestic ruins that have vanished,
now, to the last stone. There have always been ruins,
no doubt; and there have always been pensive people to sigh
over them, and asses to scratch upon them their names
and the important date of their visit. Within a hundred
years after Adam left Eden, the guide probably gave
the usual general flourish with his hand and said: "Place
where the animals were named, ladies and gentlemen;
place where the tree of the forbidden fruit stood;
exact spot where Adam and Eve first met; and here,
ladies and gentlemen, adorned and hallowed by the names
and addresses of three generations of tourists, we have
the crumbling remains of Cain's altar--fine old ruin!"
Then, no doubt, he taxed them a shekel apiece and let
them go.
An illumination of Heidelberg Castle is one of the
sights of Europe. The Castle's picturesque shape;
its commanding situation, midway up the steep and
wooded mountainside; its vast size--these features combine
to make an illumination a most effective spectacle.
It is necessarily an expensive show, and consequently
rather infrequent. Therefore whenever one of these exhibitions
is to take place, the news goes about in the papers and
Heidelberg is sure to be full of people on that night.
I and my agent had one of these opportunities, and improved it.
About half past seven on the appointed evening we
crossed the lower bridge, with some American students,
in a pouring rain, and started up the road which borders
the Neunheim side of the river. This roadway was densely
packed with carriages and foot-passengers; the former
of all ages, and the latter of all ages and both sexes.
This black and solid mass was struggling painfully onward,
through the slop, the darkness, and the deluge.
We waded along for three-quarters of a mile, and finally
took up a position in an unsheltered beer-garden directly
opposite the Castle. We could not SEE the Castle--or
anything else, for that matter--but we could dimly
discern the outlines of the mountain over the way,
through the pervading blackness, and knew whereabouts
the Castle was located. We stood on one of the hundred
benches in the garden, under our umbrellas; the other
ninety-nine were occupied by standing men and women,
and they also had umbrellas. All the region round about,
and up and down the river-road, was a dense wilderness of
humanity hidden under an unbroken pavement of carriage tops
and umbrellas. Thus we stood during two drenching hours.
No rain fell on my head, but the converging whalebone
points of a dozen neighboring umbrellas poured little
cooling steams of water down my neck, and sometimes into
my ears, and thus kept me from getting hot and impatient.
I had the rheumatism, too, and had heard that this was
good for it. Afterward, however, I was led to believe
that the water treatment is NOT good for rheumatism.
There were even little girls in that dreadful place.
A men held one in his arms, just in front of me, for as much
as an hour, with umbrella-drippings soaking into her clothing
all the time.
In the circumstances, two hours was a good while for us
to have to wait, but when the illumination did at last come,
we felt repaid. It came unexpectedly, of course--things
always do, that have been long looked and longed for.
With a perfectly breath-taking suddenness several mast
sheaves of varicolored rockets were vomited skyward out
of the black throats of the Castle towers, accompanied by
a thundering crash of sound, and instantly every detail of
the prodigious ruin stood revealed against the mountainside
and glowing with an almost intolerable splendor of fire
and color. For some little time the whole building was
a blinding crimson mass, the towers continued to spout
thick columns of rockets aloft, and overhead the sky
was radiant with arrowy bolts which clove their way to
the zenith, paused, curved gracefully downward, then burst
into brilliant fountain-sprays of richly colored sparks.
The red fires died slowly down, within the Castle,
and presently the shell grew nearly black outside;
the angry glare that shone out through the broken arches
and innumerable sashless windows, now, reproduced the
aspect which the Castle must have borne in the old time
when the French spoilers saw the monster bonfire which
they had made there fading and spoiling toward extinction.
While we still gazed and enjoyed, the ruin was suddenly
enveloped in rolling and rumbling volumes of vaporous
green fire; then in dazzling purple ones; then a mixture
of many colors followed, then drowned the great fabric
in its blended splendors. Meantime the nearest bridge
had been illuminated, and from several rafts anchored
in the river, meteor showers of rockets, Roman candles,
bombs, serpents, and Catharine wheels were being discharged
in wasteful profusion into the sky--a marvelous sight indeed
to a person as little used to such spectacles as I was.
For a while the whole region about us seemed as bright as day,
and yet the rain was falling in torrents all the time.
The evening's entertainment presently closed, and we
joined the innumerable caravan of half-drowned strangers,
and waded home again.
The Castle grounds are very ample and very beautiful;
and as they joined the Hotel grounds, with no fences
to climb, but only some nobly shaded stone stairways
to descend, we spent a part of nearly every day in
idling through their smooth walks and leafy groves.
There was an attractive spot among the trees where were
a great many wooden tables and benches; and there one could
sit in the shade and pretend to sip at his foamy beaker
of beer while he inspected the crowd. I say pretend,
because I only pretended to sip, without really sipping.
That is the polite way; but when you are ready to go,
you empty the beaker at a draught. There was a brass band,
and it furnished excellent music every afternoon.
Sometimes so many people came that every seat was occupied,
every table filled. And never a rough in the assemblace--all
nicely dressed fathers and mothers, young gentlemen
and ladies and children; and plenty of university
students and glittering officers; with here and there
a gray professor, or a peaceful old lady with her knitting;
and always a sprinkling of gawky foreigners.
Everybody had his glass of beer before him, or his cup
of coffee, or his bottle of wine, or his hot cutlet
and potatoes; young ladies chatted, or fanned themselves,
or wrought at their crocheting or embroidering;
the students fed sugar to their dogs, or discussed duels,
or illustrated new fencing tricks with their little canes;
and everywhere was comfort and enjoyment, and everywhere
peace and good-will to men. The trees were jubilant
with birds, and the paths with rollicking children.
One could have a seat in that place and plenty of music,
any afternoon, for about eight cents, or a family ticket
for the season for two dollars.
For a change, when you wanted one, you could stroll
to the Castle, and burrow among its dungeons, or climb
about its ruined towers, or visit its interior shows--the
great Heidelberg Tun, for instance. Everybody has heard
of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it,
no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some
traditions say it holds eighteen thousand bottles, and other
traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels.
I think it likely that one of these statements is
a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere
matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence,
since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty,
history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could
excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom
in building a monster cask to hoard up emptiness in,
when you can get a better quality, outside, any day,
free of expense. What could this cask have been
built for? The more one studies over that, the more
uncertain and unhappy he becomes. Some historians say
that thirty couples, some say thirty thousand couples,
can dance on the head of this cask at the same time.
Even this does not seem to me to account for the building
of it. It does not even throw light on it. A profound
and scholarly Englishman--a specialist--who had made
the great Heidelberg Tun his sole study for fifteen years,
told me he had at last satisfied himself that the ancients
built it to make German cream in. He said that the average
German cow yielded from one to two and half teaspoons of milk,
when she was not worked in the plow or the hay-wagon
more than eighteen or nineteen hours a day. This milk
was very sweet and good, and a beautiful transparent
bluish tint; but in order to get cream from it in the
most economical way, a peculiar process was necessary.
Now he believed that the habit of the ancients was to collect
several milkings in a teacup, pour it into the Great Tun,
fill up with water, and then skim off the cream from
time to time as the needs of the German Empire demanded.
This began to look reasonable. It certainly began
to account for the German cream which I had encountered
and marveled over in so many hotels and restaurants.
But a thought struck me--
"Why did not each ancient dairyman take his own teacup
of milk and his own cask of water, and mix them,
without making a government matter of it?'
"Where could he get a cask large enough to contain
the right proportion of water?"
Very true. It was plain that the Englishman had studied
the matter from all sides. Still I thought I might catch
him on one point; so I asked him why the modern empire
did not make the nation's cream in the Heidelberg Tun,
instead of leaving it to rot away unused. But he answered
as one prepared--
"A patient and diligent examination of the modern German cream
had satisfied me that they do not use the Great Tun now,
because they have got a BIGGER one hid away somewhere.
Either that is the case or they empty the spring milkings
into the mountain torrents and then skim the Rhine
all summer."
There is a museum of antiquities in the Castle, and among
its most treasured relics are ancient manuscripts connected
with German history. There are hundreds of these,
and their dates stretch back through many centuries.
One of them is a decree signed and sealed by the hand
of a successor of Charlemagne, in the year 896.
A signature made by a hand which vanished out of this life
near a thousand years ago, is a more impressive thing than
even a ruined castle. Luther's wedding-ring was shown me;
also a fork belonging to a time anterior to our era,
and an early bookjack. And there was a plaster cast
of the head of a man who was assassinated about sixty
years ago. The stab-wounds in the face were duplicated
with unpleasant fidelity. One or two real hairs
still remained sticking in the eyebrows of the cast.
That trifle seemed to almost change the counterfeit into
a corpse.
There are many aged portraits--some valuable, some worthless;
some of great interest, some of none at all. I bought a
couple--one a gorgeous duke of the olden time, and the other
a comely blue-eyed damsel, a princess, maybe. I bought
them to start a portrait-gallery of my ancestors with.
I paid a dollar and a half for the duke and a half
for the princess. One can lay in ancestors at even
cheaper rates than these, in Europe, if he will mouse
among old picture shops and look out for chances.
The College Prison
It seems that the student may break a good many of the public
laws without having to answer to the public authorities.
His case must come before the University for trial
and punishment. If a policeman catches him in an unlawful
act and proceeds to arrest him, the offender proclaims that
he is a student, and perhaps shows his matriculation card,
whereupon the officer asks for his address, then goes
his way, and reports the matter at headquarters. If the
offense is one over which the city has no jurisdiction,
the authorities report the case officially to the University,
and give themselves no further concern about it.
The University court send for the student, listen to
the evidence, and pronounce judgment. The punishment
usually inflicted is imprisonment in the University prison.
As I understand it, a student's case is often tried
without his being present at all. Then something
like this happens: A constable in the service of the
University visits the lodgings of the said student,
knocks, is invited to come in, does so, and says politely--
"If you please, I am here to conduct you to prison."
"Ah," says the student, "I was not expecting it.
What have I been doing?"
"Two weeks ago the public peace had the honor to be
disturbed by you."
"It is true; I had forgotten it. Very well: I have been
complained of, tried, and found guilty--is that it?"
"Exactly. You are sentenced to two days' solitary confinement
in the College prison, and I am sent to fetch you."
STUDENT. "O, I can't go today."
OFFICER. "If you please--why?"
STUDENT. "Because I've got an engagement."
OFFICER. "Tomorrow, then, perhaps?"
STUDENT. "No, I am going to the opera, tomorrow."
OFFICER. "Could you come Friday?"
STUDENT. (Reflectively.) "Let me see--Friday--Friday.
I don't seem to have anything on hand Friday."
OFFICER. "Then, if you please, I will expect you on Friday."
STUDENT. "All right, I'll come around Friday."
OFFICER. "Thank you. Good day, sir."
STUDENT. "Good day."
So on Friday the student goes to the prison of his
own accord, and is admitted.
It is questionable if the world's criminal history can
show a custom more odd than this. Nobody knows, now,
how it originated. There have always been many noblemen
among the students, and it is presumed that all students
are gentlemen; in the old times it was usual to mar
the convenience of such folk as little as possible;
perhaps this indulgent custom owes its origin to this.
One day I was listening to some conversation upon this
subject when an American student said that for some time he
had been under sentence for a slight breach of the peace
and had promised the constable that he would presently
find an unoccupied day and betake himself to prison.
I asked the young gentleman to do me the kindness to go
to jail as soon as he conveniently could, so that I might
try to get in there and visit him, and see what college
captivity was like. He said he would appoint the very
first day he could spare.
His confinement was to endure twenty-four hours. He shortly
chose his day, and sent me word. I started immediately.
When I reached the University Place, I saw two gentlemen
talking together, and, as they had portfolios under
their arms, I judged they were tutors or elderly students;
so I asked them in English to show me the college jail.
I had learned to take it for granted that anybody in Germany
who knows anything, knows English, so I had stopped
afflicting people with my German. These gentlemen seemed
a trifle amused--and a trifle confused, too--but one
of them said he would walk around the corner with me
and show me the place. He asked me why I wanted to get
in there, and I said to see a friend--and for curiosity.
He doubted if I would be admitted, but volunteered to put
in a word or two for me with the custodian.
He rang the bell, a door opened, and we stepped into a paved
way and then up into a small living-room, where we were
received by a hearty and good-natured German woman of fifty.
She threw up her hands with a surprised "ACH GOTT,
HERR PROFESSOR!" and exhibited a mighty deference for my
new acquaintance. By the sparkle in her eye I judged
she was a good deal amused, too. The "Herr Professor"
talked to her in German, and I understood enough of it
to know that he was bringing very plausible reasons to bear
for admitting me. They were successful. So the Herr
Professor received my earnest thanks and departed.
The old dame got her keys, took me up two or three flights
of stairs, unlocked a door, and we stood in the presence
of the criminal. Then she went into a jolly and eager
description of all that had occurred downstairs, and what
the Herr Professor had said, and so forth and so on.
Plainly, she regarded it as quite a superior joke that I had
waylaid a Professor and employed him in so odd a service.
But I wouldn't have done it if I had known he was a Professor;
therefore my conscience was not disturbed.
Now the dame left us to ourselves. The cell was not a roomy one;
still it was a little larger than an ordinary prison cell.
It had a window of good size, iron-grated; a small stove;
two wooden chairs; two oaken tables, very old and
most elaborately carved with names, mottoes, faces,
armorial bearings, etc.--the work of several generations
of imprisoned students; and a narrow wooden bedstead
with a villainous straw mattress, but no sheets, pillows,
blankets, or coverlets--for these the student must furnish
at his own cost if he wants them. There was no carpet, of
The ceiling was completely covered with names, dates,
and monograms, done with candle-smoke. The walls were
thickly covered with pictures and portraits (in profile),
some done with ink, some with soot, some with a pencil,
and some with red, blue, and green chalks; and whenever
an inch or two of space had remained between the pictures,
the captives had written plaintive verses, or names
and dates. I do not think I was ever in a more elaborately
frescoed apartment.
Against the wall hung a placard containing the prison laws.
I made a note of one or two of these. For instance:
The prisoner must pay, for the "privilege" of entering,
a sum equivalent to 20 cents of our money; for the privilege
of leaving, when his term had expired, 20 cents; for every
day spent in the prison, 12 cents; for fire and light,
12 cents a day. The jailer furnishes coffee, mornings,
for a small sum; dinners and suppers may be ordered
from outside if the prisoner chooses--and he is allowed
to pay for them, too.
Here and there, on the walls, appeared the names
of American students, and in one place the American
arms and motto were displayed in colored chalks.
With the help of my friend I translated many of the inscriptions.
Some of them were cheerful, others the reverse.
I will give the reader a few specimens:
"In my tenth semester (my best one), I am cast here
through the complaints of others. Let those who follow
me take warning."
he had a curiosity to know what prison life was like;
so he made a breach in some law and got three days for it.
It is more than likely that he never had the same
curiosity again.
(TRANSLATION.) "E. Glinicke, four days for being too eager
a spectator of a row."
"F. Graf Bismarck--27-29, II, '74." Which means that
Count Bismarck, son of the great statesman, was a prisoner
two days in 1874.
(TRANSLATION.) "R. Diergandt--for Love--4 days."
Many people in this world have caught it heavier than
for the same indiscretion.
This one is terse. I translate:
the sufferer had explained a little more fully.
A four-week term is a rather serious matter.
There were many uncomplimentary references, on the walls,
to a certain unpopular dignitary. One sufferer had got
three days for not saluting him. Another had "here two days
slept and three nights lain awake," on account of this
same "Dr. K." In one place was a picture of Dr. K. hanging
on a gallows.
Here and there, lonesome prisoners had eased the heavy time
by altering the records left by predecessors. Leaving the
name standing, and the date and length of the captivity,
they had erased the description of the misdemeanor,
and written in its place, in staring capitals, "FOR THEFT!"
or "FOR MURDER!" or some other gaudy crime. In one place,
all by itself, stood this blood-curdling word:
"Rache!" [1]
1. "Revenge!"
There was no name signed, and no date. It was an
inscription well calculated to pique curiosity.
One would greatly like to know the nature of the wrong
that had been done, and what sort of vengeance was wanted,
and whether the prisoner ever achieved it or not.
But there was no way of finding out these things.
Occasionally, a name was followed simply by the remark,
"II days, for disturbing the peace," and without comment
upon the justice or injustice of the sentence.
In one place was a hilarious picture of a student of the
green cap corps with a bottle of champagne in each hand;
and below was the legend: "These make an evil fate endurable."
There were two prison cells, and neither had space left on
walls or ceiling for another name or portrait or picture.
The inside surfaces of the two doors were completely
covered with CARTES DE VISITE of former prisoners,
ingeniously let into the wood and protected from dirt
and injury by glass.
I very much wanted one of the sorry old tables which
the prisoners had spent so many years in ornamenting
with their pocket-knives, but red tape was in the way.
The custodian could not sell one without an order from
a superior; and that superior would have to get it from
HIS superior; and this one would have to get it from
a higher one--and so on up and up until the faculty
should sit on the matter and deliver final judgment.
The system was right, and nobody could find fault with it;
but it did not seem justifiable to bother so many people,
so I proceeded no further. It might have cost me more than
I could afford, anyway; for one of those prison tables,
which was at the time in a private museum in Heidelberg,
was afterward sold at auction for two hundred and fifty dollars.
It was not worth more than a dollar, or possibly a dollar
and half, before the captive students began their work
on it. Persons who saw it at the auction said it was
so curiously and wonderfully carved that it was worth
the money that was paid for it.
Among them many who have tasted the college prison's
dreary hospitality was a lively young fellow from one
of the Southern states of America, whose first year's
experience of German university life was rather peculiar.
The day he arrived in Heidelberg he enrolled his name
on the college books, and was so elated with the fact
that his dearest hope had found fruition and he was
actually a student of the old and renowned university,
that he set to work that very night to celebrate the event
by a grand lark in company with some other students.
In the course of his lark he managed to make a wide
breach in one of the university's most stringent laws.
Sequel: before noon, next day, he was in the college
prison--booked for three months. The twelve long weeks
dragged slowly by, and the day of deliverance came at last.
A great crowd of sympathizing fellow-students received
him with a rousing demonstration as he came forth,
and of course there was another grand lark--in the course
of which he managed to make a wide breach of the CITY'S
most stringent laws. Sequel: before noon, next day,
he was safe in the city lockup--booked for three months.
This second tedious captivity drew to an end in the course
of time, and again a great crowd of sympathizing fellow
students gave him a rousing reception as he came forth;
but his delight in his freedom was so boundless that he
could not proceed soberly and calmly, but must go hopping
and skipping and jumping down the sleety street from sheer
excess of joy. Sequel: he slipped and broke his leg,
and actually lay in the hospital during the next three
When he at last became a free man again, he said he believed
he would hunt up a brisker seat of learning; the Heidelberg
lectures might be good, but the opportunities of attending
them were too rare, the educational process too slow;
he said he had come to Europe with the idea that the
acquirement of an education was only a matter of time,
but if he had averaged the Heidelberg system correctly,
it was rather a matter of eternity.
The Awful German Language
A little learning makes the whole world kin.
--Proverbs xxxii, 7.
I went often to look at the collection of curiosities
in Heidelberg Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper
of it with my German. I spoke entirely in that language.
He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while
he said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique";
and wanted to add it to his museum.
If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art,
he would also have known that it would break any
collector to buy it. Harris and I had been hard at
work on our German during several weeks at that time,
and although we had made good progress, it had been
accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance,
for three of our teachers had died in the mean time.
A person who has not studied German can form no idea
of what a perplexing language it is.
Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod
and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp.
One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most
helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured
a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid
the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech,
he turns over the page and reads, "Let the pupil make
careful note of the following EXCEPTIONS." He runs his
eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the
rule than instances of it. So overboard he goes again,
to hunt for another Ararat and find another quicksand.
Such has been, and continues to be, my experience.
Every time I think I have got one of these four confusing
"cases" where I am master of it, a seemingly insignificant
preposition intrudes itself into my sentence, clothed with
an awful and unsuspected power, and crumbles the ground
from under me. For instance, my book inquires after
a certain bird--(it is always inquiring after things
which are of no sort of no consequence to anybody): "Where
is the bird?" Now the answer to this question--according
to the book--is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith
shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would
do that, but then you must stick to the book. Very well,
I begin to cipher out the German for that answer. I begin
at the wrong end, necessarily, for that is the German idea.
I say to myself, "REGEN (rain) is masculine--or maybe it
is feminine--or possibly neuter--it is too much trouble
to look now. Therefore, it is either DER (the) Regen,
or DIE (the) Regen, or DAS (the) Regen, according to which
gender it may turn out to be when I look. In the interest
of science, I will cipher it out on the hypothesis that it
is masculine. Very well--then THE rain is DER Regen,
if it is simply in the quiescent state of being MENTIONED,
without enlargement or discussion--Nominative case;
but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general
way on the ground, it is then definitely located,
it is DOING SOMETHING--that is, RESTING (which is one
of the German grammar's ideas of doing something), and
this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it
DEM Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is
doing something ACTIVELY,--it is falling--to interfere
with the bird, likely--and this indicates MOVEMENT,
which has the effect of sliding it into the Accusative case
and changing DEM Regen into DEN Regen." Having completed
the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up
confidently and state in German that the bird is staying
in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) DEN Regen."
Then the teacher lets me softly down with the remark
that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence,
it ALWAYS throws that subject into the GENITIVE case,
regardless of consequences--and therefore this bird stayed in
the blacksmith shop "wegen DES Regens."
N.B.--I was informed, later, by a higher authority,
that there was an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen
DEN Regen" in certain peculiar and complex circumstances,
but that this exception is not extended to anything
BUT rain.
There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome.
An average sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime
and impressive curiosity; it occupies a quarter of a column;
it contains all the ten parts of speech--not in regular order,
but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed
by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any
dictionary--six or seven words compacted into one,
without joint or seam--that is, without hyphens;
it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects,
each enclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and
there extra parentheses, making pens with pens: finally,
all the parentheses and reparentheses are massed together
between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed
in the first line of the majestic sentence and the other
in the middle of the last line of it--AFTER WHICH COMES
THE VERB, and you find out for the first time what the man
has been talking about; and after the verb--merely by way
of ornament, as far as I can make out--the writer shovels
or words to that effect, and the monument is finished.
I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of the
flourish to a man's signature--not necessary, but pretty.
German books are easy enough to read when you hold them
before the looking-glass or stand on your head--so as
to reverse the construction--but I think that to learn
to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing
which must always remain an impossibility to a foreigner.
Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks
of the Parenthesis distemper--though they are usually so mild
as to cover only a few lines, and therefore when you at
last get down to the verb it carries some meaning to your
mind because you are able to remember a good deal of what
has gone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular
and excellent German novel--which a slight parenthesis
in it. I will make a perfectly literal translation,
and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens
for the assistance of the reader--though in the original
there are no parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader
is left to flounder through to the remote verb the best way he
"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-coverednow-
government counselor's wife MET," etc., etc. [1]
1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide
gehu"llten jetz sehr ungenirt nach der neusten mode
gekleideten Regierungsrathin begegnet.
That is from THE OLD MAMSELLE'S SECRET, by Mrs. Marlitt.
And that sentence is constructed upon the most approved
German model. You observe how far that verb is from
the reader's base of operations; well, in a German
newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page;
and I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the
exciting preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two,
they get in a hurry and have to go to press without getting
to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left
in a very exhausted and ignorant state.
We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one
may see cases of it every day in our books and newspapers:
but with us it is the mark and sign of an unpracticed
writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with the Germans
it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen
and of the presence of that sort of luminous intellectual
fog which stands for clearness among these people.
For surely it is NOT clearness--it necessarily can't
be clearness. Even a jury would have penetration enough
to discover that. A writer's ideas must be a good
deal confused, a good deal out of line and sequence,
when he starts out to say that a man met a counselor's
wife in the street, and then right in the midst of this
so simple undertaking halts these approaching people
and makes them stand still until he jots down an inventory
of the woman's dress. That is manifestly absurd.
It reminds a person of those dentists who secure your instant
and breathless interest in a tooth by taking a grip on it
with the forceps, and then stand there and drawl through
a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk.
Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad taste.
The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they
make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it
at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the OTHER
HALF at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything
more confusing than that? These things are called
"separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered
all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two
portions of one of them are spread apart, the better
the author of the crime is pleased with his performance.
A favorite one is REISTE AB--which means departed.
Here is an example which I culled from a novel and reduced
to English:
"The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his
mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom
his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin,
with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich
brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale
from the terror and excitement of the past evening,
but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again
upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than
life itself, PARTED."
However, it is not well to dwell too much on the
separable verbs. One is sure to lose his temper early;
and if he sticks to the subject, and will not be warned,
it will at last either soften his brain or petrify it.
Personal pronouns and adjectives are a fruitful nuisance
in this language, and should have been left out.
For instance, the same sound, SIE, means YOU, and it means SHE,
and it means HER, and it means IT, and it means THEY,
and it means THEM. Think of the ragged poverty of a
language which has to make one word do the work of six--and
a poor little weak thing of only three letters at that.
But mainly, think of the exasperation of never knowing
which of these meanings the speaker is trying to convey.
This explains why, whenever a person says SIE to me,
I generally try to kill him, if a stranger.
Now observe the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity
would have been an advantage; therefore, for no other reason,
the inventor of this language complicated it all he could.
When we wish to speak of our "good friend or friends,"
in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form and have
no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German
tongue it is different. When a German gets his hands
on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on declining
it until the common sense is all declined out of it.
It is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:
Nominative--Mein gutER Freund, my good friend.
Genitives--MeinES GutEN FreundES, of my good friend.
Dative--MeinEM gutEN Freund, to my good friend.
Accusative--MeinEN gutEN Freund, my good friend.
N.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends. G.--MeinER gutEN
FreundE, of my good friends. D.--MeinEN gutEN FreundEN,
to my good friends. A.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends.
Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize
those variations, and see how soon he will be elected.
One might better go without friends in Germany than take
all this trouble about them. I have shown what a bother
it is to decline a good (male) friend; well this is
only a third of the work, for there is a variety of new
distortions of the adjective to be learned when the object
is feminine, and still another when the object is neuter.
Now there are more adjectives in this language than there
are black cats in Switzerland, and they must all be as
elaborately declined as the examples above suggested.
Difficult?--troublesome?--these words cannot describe it.
I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of
his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks
than one German adjective.
The inventor of the language seems to have taken pleasure
in complicating it in every way he could think of.
For instance, if one is casually referring to a house,
HAUS, or a horse, PFERD, or a dog, HUND, he spells these
words as I have indicated; but if he is referring to them
in the Dative case, he sticks on a foolish and unnecessary
E and spells them HAUSE, PFERDE, HUNDE. So, as an added
E often signifies the plural, as the S does with us,
the new student is likely to go on for a month making
twins out of a Dative dog before he discovers his mistake;
and on the other hand, many a new student who could ill
afford loss, has bought and paid for two dogs and only
got one of them, because he ignorantly bought that dog
in the Dative singular when he really supposed he was
talking plural--which left the law on the seller's side,
of course, by the strict rules of grammar, and therefore
a suit for recovery could not lie.
In German, all the Nouns begin with a capital letter.
Now that is a good idea; and a good idea, in this language,
is necessarily conspicuous from its lonesomeness. I consider
this capitalizing of nouns a good idea, because by reason
of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the minute
you see it. You fall into error occasionally, because you
mistake the name of a person for the name of a thing,
and waste a good deal of time trying to dig a meaning
out of it. German names almost always do mean something,
and this helps to deceive the student. I translated
a passage one day, which said that "the infuriated tigress
broke loose and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest"
(Tannenwald). When I was girding up my loins to doubt this,
I found out that Tannenwald in this instance was a
man's name.
Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system
in the distribution; so the gender of each must be
learned separately and by heart. There is no other way.
To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book.
In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.
Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip,
and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it
looks in print--I translate this from a conversation
in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:
"Gretchen. Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
"Wilhelm. She has gone to the kitchen.
"Gretchen. Where is the accomplished and beautiful English
Wilhelm. It has gone to the opera."
To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds
are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless,
dogs are male, cats are female--tomcats included, of course;
a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet,
and body are of the male sex, and his head is male
or neuter according to the word selected to signify it,
and NOT according to the sex of the individual who wears
it--for in Germany all the women either male heads or
sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast,
hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair,
ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience
haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language
probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.
Now, by the above dissection, the reader will see that in
Germany a man may THINK he is a man, but when he comes to look
into the matter closely, he is bound to have his doubts;
he finds that in sober truth he is a most ridiculous mixture;
and if he ends by trying to comfort himself with the
thought that he can at least depend on a third of this
mess as being manly and masculine, the humiliating second
thought will quickly remind him that in this respect
he is no better off than any woman or cow in the land.
In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor
of the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife (Weib)
is not--which is unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex;
she is neuter; so, according to the grammar, a fish
is HE, his scales are SHE, but a fishwife is neither.
To describe a wife as sexless may be called under-description;
that is bad enough, but over-description is surely worse.
A German speaks of an Englishman as the ENGLA"NDER; to change
the sex, he adds INN, and that stands for Englishwoman--
ENGLA"NDERINN. That seems descriptive enough, but still
it is not exact enough for a German; so he precedes the
word with that article which indicates that the creature
to follow is feminine, and writes it down thus: "die
Engla"nderinn,"--which means "the she-Englishwoman."
I consider that that person is over-described.
Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great
number of nouns, he is still in a difficulty, because he
finds it impossible to persuade his tongue to refer
to things as "he" and "she," and "him" and "her," which
it has been always accustomed to refer to it as "it."
When he even frames a German sentence in his mind,
with the hims and hers in the right places, and then works
up his courage to the utterance-point, it is no use--
the moment he begins to speak his tongue files the track
and all those labored males and females come out as "its."
And even when he is reading German to himself, he always
calls those things "it," where as he ought to read in this way:
2. I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and
ancient English) fashion.
It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail,
how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along,
and of the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife,
it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket
of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales
as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale
has even got into its Eye. and it cannot get her out.
It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes
out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm.
And now a Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she
will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a Fin,
she holds her in her Mouth--will she swallow her? No,
the Fishwife's brave Mother-dog deserts his Puppies and
rescues the Fin--which he eats, himself, as his Reward.
O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fish-basket;
he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the
doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue; now she
attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot--she burns him up,
all but the big Toe, and even SHE is partly consumed;
and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues;
she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys IT; she attacks
its Hand and destroys HER also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg
and destroys HER also; she attacks its Body and consumes HIM;
she wreathes herself about its Heart and IT is consumed;
next about its Breast, and in a Moment SHE is a Cinder;
now she reaches its Neck--He goes; now its Chin--
IT goes; now its Nose--SHE goes. In another Moment,
except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more.
Time presses--is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy,
joy, with flying Feet the she-Englishwoman comes! But alas,
the generous she-Female is too late: where now is
the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings,
it has gone to a better Land; all that is left of it
for its loved Ones to lament over, is this poor smoldering
Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him
up tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear
him to his long Rest, with the Prayer that when he rises
again it will be a Realm where he will have one good square
responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of
having a mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him
in Spots.
There, now, the reader can see for himself that this pronoun
business is a very awkward thing for the unaccustomed tongue.
I suppose that in all languages the similarities of look
and sound between words which have no similarity in meaning
are a fruitful source of perplexity to the foreigner.
It is so in our tongue, and it is notably the case in
the German. Now there is that troublesome word VERMA"HLT:
to me it has so close a resemblance--either real or
fancied--to three or four other words, that I never know
whether it means despised, painted, suspected, or married;
until I look in the dictionary, and then I find it means
the latter. There are lots of such words and they are
a great torment. To increase the difficulty there are
words which SEEM to resemble each other, and yet do not;
but they make just as much trouble as if they did.
For instance, there is the word VERMIETHEN (to let,
to lease, to hire); and the word VERHEIRATHEN (another way
of saying to marry). I heard of an Englishman who knocked
at a man's door in Heidelberg and proposed, in the best
German he could command, to "verheirathen" that house.
Then there are some words which mean one thing when you
emphasize the first syllable, but mean something very
different if you throw the emphasis on the last syllable.
For instance, there is a word which means a runaway,
or the act of glancing through a book, according to the
placing of the emphasis; and another word which signifies
to ASSOCIATE with a man, or to AVOID him, according to
where you put the emphasis--and you can generally depend
on putting it in the wrong place and getting into trouble.
There are some exceedingly useful words in this language.
SCHLAG, for example; and ZUG. There are three-quarters
of a column of SCHLAGS in the dictonary, and a column
and a half of ZUGS. The word SCHLAG means Blow, Stroke,
Dash, Hit, Shock, Clap, Slap, Time, Bar, Coin, Stamp, Kind,
Sort, Manner, Way, Apoplexy, Wood-cutting, Enclosure,
Field, Forest-clearing. This is its simple and EXACT
meaning--that is to say, its restricted, its fettered meaning;
but there are ways by which you can set it free,
so that it can soar away, as on the wings of the morning,
and never be at rest. You can hang any word you please
to its tail, and make it mean anything you want to.
You can begin with SCHLAG-ADER, which means artery,
and you can hang on the whole dictionary, word by word,
clear through the alphabet to SCHLAG-WASSER, which means
bilge-water--and including SCHLAG-MUTTER, which means
Just the same with ZUG. Strictly speaking, ZUG means Pull,
Tug, Draught, Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction,
Expedition, Train, Caravan, Passage, Stroke, Touch, Line,
Flourish, Trait of Character, Feature, Lineament, Chess-move,
Organ-stop, Team, Whiff, Bias, Drawer, Propensity, Inhalation,
Disposition: but that thing which it does NOT mean--when
all its legitimate pennants have been hung on, has not been
discovered yet.
One cannot overestimate the usefulness of SCHLAG and ZUG.
Armed just with these two, and the word ALSO, what cannot
the foreigner on German soil accomplish? The German word
ALSO is the equivalent of the English phrase "You know,"
and does not mean anything at all--in TALK, though it
sometimes does in print. Every time a German opens his
mouth an ALSO falls out; and every time he shuts it he bites
one in two that was trying to GET out.
Now, the foreigner, equipped with these three noble words,
is master of the situation. Let him talk right along,
fearlessly; let him pour his indifferent German forth,
and when he lacks for a word, let him heave a SCHLAG into
the vacuum; all the chances are that it fits it like a plug,
but if it doesn't let him promptly heave a ZUG after it;
the two together can hardly fail to bung the hole; but if,
by a miracle, they SHOULD fail, let him simply say ALSO!
and this will give him a moment's chance to think of the
needful word. In Germany, when you load your conversational
gun it is always best to throw in a SCHLAG or two and a ZUG
or two, because it doesn't make any difference how much
the rest of the charge may scatter, you are bound to bag
something with THEM. Then you blandly say ALSO, and load
up again. Nothing gives such an air of grace and elegance
and unconstraint to a German or an English conversation
as to scatter it full of "Also's" or "You knows."
In my note-book I find this entry:
July 1.--In the hospital yesterday, a word of thirteen
syllables was successfully removed from a patient--a
North German from near Hamburg; but as most unfortunately
the surgeons had opened him in the wrong place, under the
impression that he contained a panorama, he died.
The sad event has cast a gloom over the whole community.
That paragraph furnishes a text for a few remarks about
one of the most curious and notable features of my
subject--the length of German words. Some German words
are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these
These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions.
And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper
at any time and see them marching majestically across
the page--and if he has any imagination he can see
the banners and hear the music, too. They impart
a martial thrill to the meekest subject. I take a
great interest in these curiosities. Whenever I come
across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum.
In this way I have made quite a valuable collection.
When I get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors,
and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here rare
some specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale
of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:
Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes
stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles
that literary landscape--but at the same time it is a great
distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way;
he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel
through it. So he resorts to the dictionary for help,
but there is no help there. The dictionary must draw
the line somewhere--so it leaves this sort of words out.
And it is right, because these long things are hardly
legitimate words, but are rather combinations of words,
and the inventor of them ought to have been killed.
They are compound words with the hyphens left out.
The various words used in building them are in the dictionary,
but in a very scattered condition; so you can hunt
the materials out, one by one, and get at the meaning
at last, but it is a tedious and harassing business.
I have tried this process upon some of the above examples.
"Freundshaftsbezeigungen" seems to be "Friendship
which is only a foolish and clumsy way of saying "demonstrations
of friendship." "Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen" seems
to be "Independencedeclarations," which is no improvement
upon "Declarations of Independence," so far as I can see.
"Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen" seems to be
"General-statesrepresentativesmeetings," as nearly as I
can get at it--a mere rhythmical, gushy euphuism for
"meetings of the legislature," I judge. We used to have
a good deal of this sort of crime in our literature,
but it has gone out now. We used to speak of a things as a
"never-to-be-forgotten" circumstance, instead of cramping
it into the simple and sufficient word "memorable" and then
going calmly about our business as if nothing had happened.
In those days we were not content to embalm the thing
and bury it decently, we wanted to build a monument over it.
But in our newspapers the compounding-disease lingers
a little to the present day, but with the hyphens left out,
in the German fashion. This is the shape it takes:
instead of saying "Mr. Simmons, clerk of the county and
district courts, was in town yesterday," the new form put
it thus: "Clerk of the County and District Courts Simmons
was in town yesterday." This saves neither time nor ink,
and has an awkward sound besides. One often sees a remark
like this in our papers: "MRS. Assistant District Attorney
Johnson returned to her city residence yesterday for the season."
That is a case of really unjustifiable compounding;
because it not only saves no time or trouble, but confers
a title on Mrs. Johnson which she has no right to.
But these little instances are trifles indeed, contrasted
with the ponderous and dismal German system of piling
jumbled compounds together. I wish to submit the following
local item, from a Mannheim journal, by way of illustration:
"In the daybeforeyesterdayshortlyaftereleveno'clock Night,
the inthistownstandingtavern called 'The Wagoner' was downburnt.
When the fire to the onthedownburninghouseresting Stork's
Nest reached, flew the parent Storks away. But when
the bytheraging, firesurrounded Nest ITSELF caught Fire,
straightway plunged the quickreturning Mother-Stork into
the Flames and died, her Wings over her young ones outspread."
Even the cumbersome German construction is not able to
take the pathos out of that picture--indeed, it somehow
seems to strengthen it. This item is dated away back
yonder months ago. I could have used it sooner, but I
was waiting to hear from the Father-stork. I am still waiting.
"ALSO!" If I had not shown that the German is a
difficult language, I have at least intended to do so.
I have heard of an American student who was asked how he
was getting along with his German, and who answered
promptly: "I am not getting along at all. I have worked
at it hard for three level months, and all I have got
to show for it is one solitary German phrase--'ZWEI GLAS'"
(two glasses of beer). He paused for a moment, reflectively;
then added with feeling: "But I've got that SOLID!"
And if I have not also shown that German is a harassing
and infuriating study, my execution has been at fault,
and not my intent. I heard lately of a worn and sorely
tried American student who used to fly to a certain German
word for relief when he could bear up under his aggravations
no longer--the only word whose sound was sweet and
precious to his ear and healing to his lacerated spirit.
This was the word DAMIT. It was only the SOUND that
helped him, not the meaning; [3] and so, at last, when he
learned that the emphasis was not on the first syllable,
his only stay and support was gone, and he faded away
and died.
3. It merely means, in its general sense, "herewith."
I think that a description of any loud, stirring,
tumultuous episode must be tamer in German than in English.
Our descriptive words of this character have such
a deep, strong, resonant sound, while their German
equivalents do seem so thin and mild and energyless.
Boom, burst, crash, roar, storm, bellow, blow, thunder,
explosion; howl, cry, shout, yell, groan; battle, hell.
These are magnificent words; the have a force and magnitude
of sound befitting the things which they describe.
But their German equivalents would be ever so nice to sing
the children to sleep with, or else my awe-inspiring ears
were made for display and not for superior usefulness
in analyzing sounds. Would any man want to die in a
battle which was called by so tame a term as a SCHLACHT?
Or would not a comsumptive feel too much bundled up,
who was about to go out, in a shirt-collar and a seal-ring,
into a storm which the bird-song word GEWITTER was employed
to describe? And observe the strongest of the several
German equivalents for explosion--AUSBRUCH. Our word
Toothbrush is more powerful than that. It seems to me
that the Germans could do worse than import it into their
language to describe particularly tremendous explosions with.
The German word for hell--Ho"lle--sounds more like HELLY
than anything else; therefore, how necessary chipper,
frivolous, and unimpressive it is. If a man were told
in German to go there, could he really rise to thee
dignity of feeling insulted?
Having pointed out, in detail, the several vices of
this language, I now come to the brief and pleasant task
of pointing out its virtues. The capitalizing of the nouns
I have already mentioned. But far before this virtue stands
another--that of spelling a word according to the sound of it.
After one short lesson in the alphabet, the student can tell
how any German word is pronounced without having to ask;
whereas in our language if a student should inquire of us,
"What does B, O, W, spell?" we should be obliged to reply,
"Nobody can tell what it spells when you set if off by itself;
you can only tell by referring to the context and finding
out what it signifies--whether it is a thing to shoot
arrows with, or a nod of one's head, or the forward end of a
There are some German words which are singularly
and powerfully effective. For instance, those which
describe lowly, peaceful, and affectionate home life;
those which deal with love, in any and all forms,
from mere kindly feeling and honest good will toward
the passing stranger, clear up to courtship; those which
deal with outdoor Nature, in its softest and loveliest
aspects--with meadows and forests, and birds and flowers,
the fragrance and sunshine of summer, and the moonlight
of peaceful winter nights; in a word, those which deal with
any and all forms of rest, respose, and peace; those also
which deal with the creatures and marvels of fairyland;
and lastly and chiefly, in those words which express pathos,
is the language surpassingly rich and affective. There are
German songs which can make a stranger to the language cry.
That shows that the SOUND of the words is correct--it
interprets the meanings with truth and with exactness;
and so the ear is informed, and through the ear, the heart.
The Germans do not seem to be afraid to repeat a word
when it is the right one. they repeat it several times,
if they choose. That is wise. But in English, when we
have used a word a couple of times in a paragraph,
we imagine we are growing tautological, and so we are weak
enough to exchange it for some other word which only
approximates exactness, to escape what we wrongly fancy
is a greater blemish. Repetition may be bad, but surely
inexactness is worse.
There are people in the world who will take a great
deal of trouble to point out the faults in a religion
or a language, and then go blandly about their business
without suggesting any remedy. I am not that kind
of person. I have shown that the German language
needs reforming. Very well, I am ready to reform it.
At least I am ready to make the proper suggestions.
Such a course as this might be immodest in another; but I
have devoted upward of nine full weeks, first and last,
to a careful and critical study of this tongue, and thus
have acquired a confidence in my ability to reform it
which no mere superficial culture could have conferred
upon me.
In the first place, I would leave out the Dative case.
It confuses the plurals; and, besides, nobody ever knows
when he is in the Dative case, except he discover it
by accident--and then he does not know when or where it
was that he got into it, or how long he has been in it,
or how he is going to get out of it again. The Dative case
is but an ornamental folly--it is better to discard it.
In the next place, I would move the Verb further up
to the front. You may load up with ever so good a Verb,
but I notice that you never really bring down a subject
with it at the present German range--you only cripple it.
So I insist that this important part of speech should be
brought forward to a position where it may be easily seen
with the naked eye.
Thirdly, I would import some strong words from the English
tongue--to swear with, and also to use in describing
all sorts of vigorous things in a vigorous ways. [4]
4. "Verdammt," and its variations and enlargements,
are words which have plenty of meaning, but the SOUNDS
are so mild and ineffectual that German ladies can use
them without sin. German ladies who could not be induced
to commit a sin by any persuasion or compulsion, promptly rip
out one of these harmless little words when they tear their
dresses or don't like the soup. It sounds about as wicked
as our "My gracious." German ladies are constantly saying,
"Ach! Gott!" "Mein Gott!" "Gott in Himmel!" "Herr Gott"
"Der Herr Jesus!" etc. They think our ladies have the
same custom, perhaps; for I once heard a gentle and lovely
old German lady say to a sweet young American girl:
"The two languages are so alike--how pleasant that is;
we say 'Ach! Gott!' you say 'Goddamn.'"
Fourthly, I would reorganizes the sexes, and distribute
them accordingly to the will of the creator. This as
a tribute of respect, if nothing else.
Fifthly, I would do away with those great long
compounded words; or require the speaker to deliver
them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments.
To wholly do away with them would be best, for ideas are
more easily received and digested when they come one at
a time than when they come in bulk. Intellectual food
is like any other; it is pleasanter and more beneficial
to take it with a spoon than with a shovel.
Sixthly, I would require a speaker to stop when he is done,
and not hang a string of those useless "haven sind gewesen
gehabt haben geworden seins" to the end of his oration.
This sort of gewgaws undignify a speech, instead of adding
a grace. They are, therefore, an offense, and should
be discarded.
Seventhly, I would discard the Parenthesis. Also the
the re-reparenthesis, and the re-re-re-re-re-reparentheses,
and likewise the final wide-reaching all-enclosing
king-parenthesis. I would require every individual,
be he high or low, to unfold a plain straightforward tale,
or else coil it and sit on it and hold his peace.
Infractions of this law should be punishable with death.
And eighthly, and last, I would retain ZUG and SCHLAG,
with their pendants, and discard the rest of the vocabulary.
This would simplify the language.
I have now named what I regard as the most necessary
and important changes. These are perhaps all I could
be expected to name for nothing; but there are other
suggestions which I can and will make in case my proposed
application shall result in my being formally employed
by the government in the work of reforming the language.
My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person
ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing)
in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German
in thirty years. It seems manifest, then, that the
latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired.
If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently
and reverently set aside among the dead languages,
for only the dead have time to learn it.
Gentlemen: Since I arrived, a month ago, in this
old wonderland, this vast garden of Germany, my English
tongue has so often proved a useless piece of baggage
to me, and so troublesome to carry around, in a country
where they haven't the checking system for luggage, that I
finally set to work, and learned the German language.
Also! Es freut mich dass dies so ist, denn es muss,
in ein haupts:achlich degree, h:oflich sein, dass man
auf ein occasion like this, sein Rede in die Sprache des
Landes worin he boards, aussprechen soll. Daf:ur habe ich,
aus reinische Verlegenheit--no, Vergangenheit--no, I
mean Hoflichkeit--aus reinishe Hoflichkeit habe ich
resolved to tackle this business in the German language,
um Gottes willen! Also! Sie mu"ssen so freundlich sein,
und verzeih mich die interlarding von ein oder zwei
Englischer Worte, hie und da, denn ich finde dass die
deutsche is not a very copious language, and so when
you've really got anything to say, you've got to draw
on a language that can stand the strain.
Wenn haber man kann nicht meinem Rede Verstehen, so werde
ich ihm sp:ater dasselbe :ubersetz, wenn er solche Dienst
verlangen wollen haben werden sollen sein h:atte. (I don't
know what wollen haben werden sollen sein ha"tte means,
but I notice they always put it at the end of a German
sentence--merely for general literary gorgeousness,
I suppose.)
This is a great and justly honored day--a day which is
worthy of the veneration in which it is held by the true
patriots of all climes and nationalities--a day which
offers a fruitful theme for thought and speech; und meinem
Freunde--no, meinEN FreundEN--meinES FreundES--well,
take your choice, they're all the same price; I don't
know which one is right--also! ich habe gehabt haben
worden gewesen sein, as Goethe says in his Paradise
Lost--ich--ich--that is to say--ich--but let us change cars.
Also! Die Anblich so viele Grossbrittanischer und Amerikanischer
hier zusammengetroffen in Bruderliche concord, ist zwar
a welcome and inspiriting spectacle. And what has moved you
to it? Can the terse German tongue rise to the expression of
this impulse? Is it Freundschaftsbezeigungenstadtverordnetenversammlungenfamilieneigenth:
umlichkeiten? Nein,
o nein! This is a crisp and noble word, but it fails
to pierce the marrow of the impulse which has gathered
this friendly meeting and produced diese Anblick--eine
Anblich welche ist gut zu sehen--gut fu"r die Augen
in a foreign land and a far country--eine Anblick solche
als in die gew:ohnliche Heidelberger phrase nennt man ein
"scho"nes Aussicht!" Ja, freilich natu"rlich wahrscheinlich
ebensowohl! Also! Die Aussicht auf dem K:onigsstuhl
mehr gr:osser ist, aber geistlische sprechend nicht so
scho"n, lob' Gott! Because sie sind hier zusammengetroffen,
in Bruderlichem concord, ein grossen Tag zu feirn,
whose high benefits were not for one land and one locality,
but have conferred a measure of good upon all lands
that know liberty today, and love it. Hundert Jahre
voru"ber, waren die Engla"nder und die Amerikaner Feinde;
aber heut sind sie herzlichen Freunde, Gott sei Dank!
May this good-fellowship endure; may these banners here
blended in amity so remain; may they never any more wave
over opposing hosts, or be stained with blood which
was kindred, is kindred, and always will be kindred,
until a line drawn upon a map shall be able to say:
"THIS bars the ancestral blood from flowing in the veins
of the descendant!"
Legend of the Castles
Called the "Swallow's Nest" and "The Brothers,"
as Condensed from the Captain's Tale
In the neighborhood of three hundred years ago the Swallow's
Nest and the larger castle between it and Neckarsteinach
were owned and occupied by two old knights who were
twin brothers, and bachelors. They had no relatives.
They were very rich. They had fought through the wars
and retired to private life--covered with honorable scars.
They were honest, honorable men in their dealings,
but the people had given them a couple of nicknames which
were very suggestive--Herr Givenaught and Herr Heartless.
The old knights were so proud of these names that if
a burgher called them by their right ones they would
correct them.
The most renowned scholar in Europe, at the time, was the
Herr Doctor Franz Reikmann, who lived in Heidelberg.
All Germany was proud of the venerable scholar, who lived
in the simplest way, for great scholars are always poor.
He was poor, as to money, but very rich in his sweet
young daughter Hildegarde and his library. He had been
all his life collecting his library, book and book,
and he lived it as a miser loves his hoarded gold.
He said the two strings of his heart were rooted,
the one in his daughter, the other in his books; and that
if either were severed he must die. Now in an evil hour,
hoping to win a marriage portion for his child, this simple
old man had entrusted his small savings to a sharper to be
ventured in a glittering speculation. But that was not
the worst of it: he signed a paper--without reading it.
That is the way with poets and scholars; they always sign
without reading. This cunning paper made him responsible
for heaps of things. The rest was that one night he
found himself in debt to the sharper eight thousand
pieces of gold!--an amount so prodigious that it simply
stupefied him to think of it. It was a night of woe in
that house.
"I must part with my library--I have nothing else.
So perishes one heartstring," said the old man.
"What will it bring, father?" asked the girl.
"Nothing! It is worth seven hundred pieces of gold;
but by auction it will go for little or nothing."
"Then you will have parted with the half of your heart
and the joy of your life to no purpose, since so mighty
of burden of debt will remain behind."
"There is no help for it, my child. Our darlings must
pass under the hammer. We must pay what we can."
"My father, I have a feeling that the dear Virgin will
come to our help. Let us not lose heart."
"She cannot devise a miracle that will turn NOTHING into
eight thousand gold pieces, and lesser help will bring
us little peace."
"She can do even greater things, my father. She will
save us, I know she will."
Toward morning, while the old man sat exhausted and asleep
in his chair where he had been sitting before his books
as one who watches by his beloved dead and prints the
features on his memory for a solace in the aftertime
of empty desolation, his daughter sprang into the room
and gently woke him, saying--
"My presentiment was true! She will save us.
Three times has she appeared to me in my dreams, and said,
'Go to the Herr Givenaught, go to the Herr Heartless,
ask them to come and bid.' There, did I not tell you she
would save us, the thrice blessed Virgin!"
Sad as the old man was, he was obliged to laugh.
"Thou mightest as well appeal to the rocks their
castles stand upon as to the harder ones that lie
in those men's breasts, my child. THEY bid on books
writ in the learned tongues!--they can scarce read their own."
But Hildegarde's faith was in no wise shaken.
Bright and early she was on her way up the Neckar road,
as joyous as a bird.
Meantime Herr Givenaught and Herr Heartless were having
an early breakfast in the former's castle--the Sparrow's
Nest--and flavoring it with a quarrel; for although
these twins bore a love for each other which almost
amounted to worship, there was one subject upon which they
could not touch without calling each other hard names--
and yet it was the subject which they oftenest touched upon.
"I tell you," said Givenaught, "you will beggar yourself
yet with your insane squanderings of money upon
what you choose to consider poor and worthy objects.
All these years I have implored you to stop this foolish
custom and husband your means, but all in vain.
You are always lying to me about these secret benevolences,
but you never have managed to deceive me yet. Every time
a poor devil has been set upon his feet I have detected
your hand in it--incorrigible ass!"
"Every time you didn't set him on his feet yourself,
you mean. Where I give one unfortunate a little private lift,
you do the same for a dozen. The idea of YOUR swelling
around the country and petting yourself with the nickname
of Givenaught--intolerable humbug! Before I would be
such a fraud as that, I would cut my right hand off.
Your life is a continual lie. But go on, I have tried MY
best to save you from beggaring yourself by your riotous
charities--now for the thousandth time I wash my hands
of the consequences. A maundering old fool! that's
what you are."
"And you a blethering old idiot!" roared Givenaught,
springing up.
"I won't stay in the presence of a man who has no more
delicacy than to call me such names. Mannerless swine!"
So saying, Herr Heartless sprang up in a passion.
But some lucky accident intervened, as usual, to change
the subject, and the daily quarrel ended in the customary
daily living reconciliation. The gray-headed old
eccentrics parted, and Herr Heartless walked off to his
own castle.
Half an hour later, Hildegarde was standing in the presence
of Herr Givenaught. He heard her story, and said--
"I am sorry for you, my child, but I am very poor,
I care nothing for bookish rubbish, I shall not be there."
He said the hard words kindly, but they nearly broke poor
Hildegarde's heart, nevertheless. When she was gone
the old heartbreaker muttered, rubbing his hands--
"It was a good stroke. I have saved my brother's pocket
this time, in spite of him. Nothing else would have
prevented his rushing off to rescue the old scholar,
the pride of Germany, from his trouble. The poor child
won't venture near HIM after the rebuff she has received
from his brother the Givenaught."
But he was mistaken. The Virgin had commanded,
and Hildegarde would obey. She went to Herr Heartless
and told her story. But he said coldly--
"I am very poor, my child, and books are nothing to me.
I wish you well, but I shall not come."
When Hildegarde was gone, he chuckled and said--
"How my fool of a soft-headed soft-hearted brother would
rage if he knew how cunningly I have saved his pocket.
How he would have flown to the old man's rescue! But the
girl won't venture near him now."
When Hildegarde reached home, her father asked her how she
had prospered. She said--
"The Virgin has promised, and she will keep her word;
but not in the way I thought. She knows her own ways,
and they are best."
The old man patted her on the head, and smiled a doubting
smile, but he honored her for her brave faith, nevertheless.
Next day the people assembled in the great hall
of the Ritter tavern, to witness the auction--for
the proprietor had said the treasure of Germany's most
honored son should be bartered away in no meaner place.
Hildegarde and her father sat close to the books,
silent and sorrowful, and holding each other's hands.
There was a great crowd of people present. The bidding began--
"How much for this precious library, just as it stands,
all complete?" called the auctioneer.
"Fifty pieces of gold!"
"A hundred!"
"Two hundred."
"Five hundred!"
"Five twenty-five."
A brief pause.
"Five forty!"
A longer pause, while the auctioneer redoubled his persuasions.
A heavy drag--the auctioneer persuaded, pleaded,
implored--it was useless, everybody remained silent--
"Well, then--going, going--one--two--"
"Five hundred and fifty!"
This in a shrill voice, from a bent old man, all hung
with rags, and with a green patch over his left eye.
Everybody in his vicinity turned and gazed at him.
It was Givenaught in disguise. He was using a disguised
voice, too.
"Good!" cried the auctioneer. "Going, going--one--two--"
"Five hundred and sixty!"
This, in a deep, harsh voice, from the midst of the
crowd at the other end of the room. The people near
by turned, and saw an old man, in a strange costume,
supporting himself on crutches. He wore a long white beard,
and blue spectacles. It was Herr Heartless, in disguise,
and using a disguised voice.
"Good again! Going, going--one--"
"Six hundred!"
Sensation. The crowd raised a cheer, and some one
cried out, "Go it, Green-patch!" This tickled the audience
and a score of voices shouted, "Go it, Green-patch!"
"Going--going--going--third and last call--one--two--"
"Seven hundred!"
"Huzzah!--well done, Crutches!" cried a voice. The crowd
took it up, and shouted altogether, "Well done, Crutches!"
"Splendid, gentlemen! you are doing magnificently.
Going, going--"
"A thousand!"
"Three cheers for Green-patch! Up and at him, Crutches!"
"Two thousand!"
And while the people cheered and shouted, "Crutches" muttered,
"Who can this devil be that is fighting so to get these
useless books?--But no matter, he sha'n't have them.
The pride of Germany shall have his books if it beggars
me to buy them for him."
"Going, going, going--"
"Three thousand!"
"Come, everybody--give a rouser for Green-patch!"
And while they did it, "Green-patch" muttered, "This cripple
is plainly a lunatic; but the old scholar shall have
his books, nevertheless, though my pocket sweat for it."
"Four thousand!"
"Five thousand!"
"Six thousand!"
"Seven thousand!"
"EIGHT thousand!"
"We are saved, father! I told you the Holy Virgin
would keep her word!" "Blessed be her sacred name!"
said the old scholar, with emotion. The crowd roared,
"Huzza, huzza, huzza--at him again, Green-patch!"
"TEN thousand!" As Givenaught shouted this, his excitement
was so great that he forgot himself and used his
natural voice. He brother recognized it, and muttered,
under cover of the storm of cheers--
"Aha, you are there, are you, besotted old fool? Take
the books, I know what you'll do with them!"
So saying, he slipped out of the place and the auction was
at an end. Givenaught shouldered his way to Hildegarde,
whispered a word in her ear, and then he also vanished.
The old scholar and his daughter embraced, and the former said,
"Truly the Holy Mother has done more than she promised,
child, for she has give you a splendid marriage portion--
think of it, two thousand pieces of gold!"
"And more still," cried Hildegarde, "for she has give
you back your books; the stranger whispered me that he
would none of them--'the honored son of Germany must
keep them,' so he said. I would I might have asked
his name and kissed his hand and begged his blessing;
but he was Our Lady's angel, and it is not meet that we
of earth should venture speech with them that dwell above."
German Journals
The daily journals of Hamburg, Frankfort, Baden, Munich,
and Augsburg are all constructed on the same general plan.
I speak of these because I am more familiar with them
than with any other German papers. They contain no
"editorials" whatever; no "personals"--and this is rather
a merit than a demerit, perhaps; no funny-paragraph column;
no police-court reports; no reports of proceedings
of higher courts; no information about prize-fights
or other dog-fights, horse-races, walking-machines,
yachting-contents, rifle-matches, or other sporting
matters of any sort; no reports of banquet speeches;
no department of curious odds and ends of floating fact
and gossip; no "rumors" about anything or anybody;
no prognostications or prophecies about anything or anybody;
no lists of patents granted or sought, or any reference
to such things; no abuse of public officials, big or little,
or complaints against them, or praises of them; no religious
columns Saturdays, no rehash of cold sermons Mondays;
no "weather indications"; no "local item" unveiling of
what is happening in town--nothing of a local nature,
indeed, is mentioned, beyond the movements of some prince,
or the proposed meeting of some deliberative body.
After so formidable a list of what one can't find
in a German daily, the question may well be asked,
What CAN be found in it? It is easily answered: A child's
handful of telegrams, mainly about European national and
international political movements; letter-correspondence about
the same things; market reports. There you have it.
That is what a German daily is made of. A German
daily is the slowest and saddest and dreariest of the
inventions of man. Our own dailies infuriate the reader,
pretty often; the German daily only stupefies him.
Once a week the German daily of the highest class lightens
up its heavy columns--that is, it thinks it lightens
them up--with a profound, an abysmal, book criticism;
a criticism which carries you down, down, down into
the scientific bowels of the subject--for the German
critic is nothing if not scientific--and when you come
up at last and scent the fresh air and see the bonny
daylight once more, you resolve without a dissenting voice
that a book criticism is a mistaken way to lighten up
a German daily. Sometimes, in place of the criticism,
the first-class daily gives you what it thinks is a gay
and chipper essay--about ancient Grecian funeral customs,
or the ancient Egyptian method of tarring a mummy,
or the reasons for believing that some of the peoples
who existed before the flood did not approve of cats.
These are not unpleasant subjects; they are not
uninteresting subjects; they are even exciting subjects--
until one of these massive scientists gets hold of them.
He soon convinces you that even these matters can
be handled in such a way as to make a person low-spirited.
As I have said, the average German daily is made up
solely of correspondences--a trifle of it by telegraph,
the rest of it by mail. Every paragraph has the side-head,
"London," "Vienna," or some other town, and a date.
And always, before the name of the town, is placed a letter
or a sign, to indicate who the correspondent is, so that
the authorities can find him when they want to hang him.
Stars, crosses, triangles, squares, half-moons, suns--
such are some of the signs used by correspondents.
Some of the dailies move too fast, others too slowly.
For instance, my Heidelberg daily was always twenty-four
hours old when it arrived at the hotel; but one of my
Munich evening papers used to come a full twenty-four hours
before it was due.
Some of the less important dailies give one a tablespoonful
of a continued story every day; it is strung across
the bottom of the page, in the French fashion.
By subscribing for the paper for five years I judge that
a man might succeed in getting pretty much all of the story.
If you ask a citizen of Munich which is the best Munich
daily journal, he will always tell you that there is
only one good Munich daily, and that it is published
in Augsburg, forty or fifty miles away. It is like saying
that the best daily paper in New York is published out
in New Jersey somewhere. Yes, the Augsburg ALLGEMEINE
ZEITUNG is "the best Munich paper," and it is the one I
had in my mind when I was describing a "first-class
German daily" above. The entire paper, opened out, is not
quite as large as a single page of the New York HERALD.
It is printed on both sides, of course; but in such large
type that its entire contents could be put, in HERALD type,
upon a single page of the HERALD--and there would still
be room enough on the page for the ZEITUNG's "supplement"
and some portion of the ZEITUNG's next day's contents.
Such is the first-class daily. The dailies actually printed
in Munich are all called second-class by the public.
If you ask which is the best of these second-class
papers they say there is no difference; one is as good
as another. I have preserved a copy of one of them;
it is called the MU"NCHENER TAGES-ANZEIGER, and bears
date January 25, 1879. Comparisons are odious,
but they need not be malicious; and without any malice
I wish to compare this journals of other countries.
I know of no other way to enable the reader to "size"
the thing.
A column of an average daily paper in America contains
from 1,800 to 2,500 words; the reading-matter in a
single issue consists of from 25,000 to 50,000 words.
The reading-matter in my copy of the Munich journal
consists of a total of 1,654 words --for I counted them.
That would be nearly a column of one of our dailies.
A single issue of the bulkiest daily newspaper in the
world--the London TIMES--often contains 100,000 words
of reading-matter. Considering that the DAILY ANZEIGER
issues the usual twenty-six numbers per month, the reading
matter in a single number of the London TIMES would keep it
in "copy" two months and a half.
The ANZEIGER is an eight-page paper; its page is one
inch wider and one inch longer than a foolscap page;
that is to say, the dimensions of its page are somewhere
between those of a schoolboy's slate and a lady's
pocket handkerchief. One-fourth of the first page is
taken up with the heading of the journal; this gives it
a rather top-heavy appearance; the rest of the first page
is reading-matter; all of the second page is reading-matter;
the other six pages are devoted to advertisements.
The reading-matter is compressed into two hundred
and five small-pica lines, and is lighted up with eight
pica headlines. The bill of fare is as follows: First,
under a pica headline, to enforce attention and respect,
is a four-line sermon urging mankind to remember that,
although they are pilgrims here below, they are yet heirs
of heaven; and that "When they depart from earth they soar
to heaven." Perhaps a four-line sermon in a Saturday paper
is the sufficient German equivalent of the eight or ten
columns of sermons which the New-Yorkers get in their
Monday morning papers. The latest news (two days old)
follows the four-line sermon, under the pica headline
"Telegrams"--these are "telegraphed" with a pair of
scissors out of the AUGSBURGER ZEITUNG of the day before.
These telegrams consist of fourteen and two-thirds lines
from Berlin, fifteen lines from Vienna, and two and five-eights
lines from Calcutta. Thirty-three small-pica lines news
in a daily journal in a King's Capital of one hundred and
seventy thousand inhabitants is surely not an overdose.
Next we have the pica heading, "News of the Day,"
under which the following facts are set forth: Prince
Leopold is going on a visit to Vienna, six lines;
Prince Arnulph is coming back from Russia, two lines;
the Landtag will meet at ten o'clock in the morning and
consider an election law, three lines and one word over;
a city government item, five and one-half lines;
prices of tickets to the proposed grand Charity Ball,
twenty-three lines--for this one item occupies almost
one-fourth of the entire first page; there is to be
a wonderful Wagner concert in Frankfurt-on-the-Main,
with an orchestra of one hundred and eight instruments,
seven and one-half lines. That concludes the first page.
Eighty-five lines, altogether, on that page,
including three headlines. About fifty of those lines,
as one perceives, deal with local matters; so the reporters
are not overworked.
Exactly one-half of the second page is occupied with
an opera criticism, fifty-three lines (three of them
being headlines), and "Death Notices," ten lines.
The other half of the second page is made up of two
paragraphs under the head of "Miscellaneous News."
One of these paragraphs tells about a quarrel between the Czar
of Russia and his eldest son, twenty-one and a half lines;
and the other tells about the atrocious destruction of a
peasant child by its parents, forty lines, or one-fifth
of the total of the reading-matter contained in the paper.
Consider what a fifth part of the reading-matter of an American
daily paper issued in a city of one hundred and seventy
thousand inhabitants amounts to! Think what a mass it is.
Would any one suppose I could so snugly tuck away such a
mass in a chapter of this book that it would be difficult
to find it again in the reader lost his place? Surely not.
I will translate that child-murder word for word,
to give the reader a realizing sense of what a fifth
part of the reading-matter of a Munich daily actually
is when it comes under measurement of the eye:
"From Oberkreuzberg, January 21st, the DONAU ZEITUNG
receives a long account of a crime, which we shortened
as follows: In Rametuach, a village near Eppenschlag,
lived a young married couple with two children, one of which,
a boy aged five, was born three years before the marriage.
For this reason, and also because a relative at Iggensbach
had bequeathed M400 ($100) to the boy, the heartless
father considered him in the way; so the unnatural
parents determined to sacrifice him in the cruelest
possible manner. They proceeded to starve him slowly
to death, meantime frightfully maltreating him--as the
village people now make known, when it is too late.
The boy was shut in a hole, and when people passed
by he cried, and implored them to give him bread.
His long-continued tortures and deprivations destroyed
him at last, on the third of January. The sudden (sic)
death of the child created suspicion, the more so as the
body was immediately clothed and laid upon the bier.
Therefore the coroner gave notice, and an inquest was held
on the 6th. What a pitiful spectacle was disclosed then!
The body was a complete skeleton. The stomach and intestines
were utterly empty; they contained nothing whatsoever.
The flesh on the corpse was not as thick as the back of
a knife, and incisions in it brought not one drop of blood.
There was not a piece of sound skin the size of a dollar
on the whole body; wounds, scars, bruises, discolored
extravasated blood, everywhere--even on the soles of
the feet there were wounds. The cruel parents asserted
that the boy had been so bad that they had been obliged
to use severe punishments, and that he finally fell over
a bench and broke his neck. However, they were arrested
two weeks after the inquest and put in the prison at Deggendorf."
Yes, they were arrested "two weeks after the inquest."
What a home sound that has. That kind of police briskness
rather more reminds me of my native land than German
journalism does.
I think a German daily journal doesn't do any good to
speak of, but at the same time it doesn't do any harm.
That is a very large merit, and should not be lightly
weighted nor lightly thought of.
The German humorous papers are beautifully printed upon
fine paper, and the illustrations are finely drawn,
finely engraved, and are not vapidly funny, but deliciously so.
So also, generally speaking, are the two or three terse
sentences which accompany the pictures. I remember one
of these pictures: A most dilapidated tramp is ruefully
contemplating some coins which lie in his open palm.
He says: "Well, begging is getting played out. Only about
five marks ($1.25) for the whole day; many an official
makes more!" And I call to mind a picture of a commercial
traveler who is about to unroll his samples:
MERCHANT (pettishly).--NO, don't. I don't want to buy anything!
DRUMMER.--If you please, I was only going to show you--
MERCHANT.--But I don't wish to see them!
DRUMMER (after a pause, pleadingly).--But do you you mind
letting ME look at them! I haven't seen them for three weeks!

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