Project Gutenberg's A Tramp Abroad, Part 7, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: A Tramp Abroad, Part 7 Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Release Date: June 18, 2004 [EBook #5788] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A TRAMP ABROAD, PART 7 *** Produced by David Widger (Illustrated HTML version)
1. PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR|
2. TITIAN'S MOSES
285. STREET IN CHAMONIX
286. THE PROUD GERMAN
287. THE INDIGNANT TOURIST
288. MUSIC OF SWITZERLAND
289. ONLY A MISTAKE
290. A BROAD VIEW
291. PREPARING TO START
292. ASCENT OF MONT BLANC
293. "WE ALL RAISED A TREMENDOUS SHOUT"
294. THE GRANDE MULETS
295. CABIN ON THE GRANDE MULETS
296. KEEPING WARM
297. TAIL PIECE
298. TAKE IT EASY
299. THE MER DE GLACE (MONT BLANC)
300. TAKING TOLL
301. A DESCENDING TOURIST
302. LEAVING BY DILIGENCE
303. THE SATISFIED ENGLISHMAN
301. HIGH PRESSURE
305. NO APOLOGY
307. A LIVELY STREET
308. HAVING HER FULL RIGHTS
309. HOW SHE FOOLED US
310. "YOU'LL TAKE THAT OR NONE"
311. ROBBING A BEGGAR
312. DISHONEST ITALY
313. STOCK IN TRADE
315. SPECIMENS FROM OLD MASTERS
316. AN OLD MASTER
317. THE LION OF ST MARK
318. OH TO BE AT RRST!
319. THE WORLD'S MASTERPIECE
320. TAIL PIECE
321. AESTHETIC TASTES
322. A PRIVATE FAMILY BREAKFAST
323. EUROPEAN CARVING
323. A TWENTY-FOUR HOUR FIGHT
325. GREAT HEIDELBERG TUN
326. BISMARCK IN PRISON
327. TAIL PIECE 600
328. A COMPLETE WORD
Chamonix—Contrasts—Magnificent Spectacle—The Guild of Guides—The Guide—in—Chief—The Returned Tourist—Getting Diploma—Rigid Rules—Unsuccessful Efforts to Procure a Diploma—The Record-Book—The Conqueror of Mont Blanc—Professional Jealousy —Triumph of Truth—Mountain Music—Its Effect—A Hunt for a Nuisance
Looking at Mont Blanc—Telescopic Effect—A Proposed Trip—Determination and Courage—The Cost all counted——Ascent of Mont Blanc by Telescope—Safe and Rapid Return—Diplomas Asked for and Refused—Disaster of 1866—The Brave Brothers—Wonderful Endurance and Pluck—Love Making on Mont Blanc—First Ascent of a Woman—Sensible Attire
A Catastrophe which Cost Eleven Lives—Accident of 1870—A Party of Eleven—A Fearful Storm—Note-books of the Victims—Within Five Minutes of Safety—Facing Death Resignedly
The Hotel des Pyramids—The Glacier des Bossons—One of the Shows—Premeditated Crime—Saved Again—Tourists Warned—Advice to Tourists—The Two Empresses—The Glacier Toll Collector—Pure Ice Water—Death Rate of the World—Of Various Cities—A Pleasure Excursionist—A Diligence Ride—A Satisfied Englishman
Geneva—Shops of Geneva—Elasticity of Prices—Persistency of Shop-Women—The High Pressure System—How a Dandy was brought to Grief—American Manners—Gallantry—Col Baker of London—Arkansaw Justice—Safety of Women in America—Town of Chambery—A Lively Place—At Turin—A Railroad Companion—An Insulted Woman—City of Turin—Italian Honesty—A Small Mistake —Robbing a Beggar Woman
In Milan—The Arcade—Incidents we Met With—The Pedlar—Children—The Honest Conductor—Heavy Stocks of Clothing—The Quarrelsome Italians—Great Smoke and Little Fire—The Cathedral—Style in Church—The Old Masters—Tintoretto's great Picture—Emotional Tourists—Basson's Famed Picture—The Hair Trunk
In Venice—St Mark's Cathedral—Discovery of an Antique—The Riches of St Mark's—A Church Robber—Trusting Secrets to a Friend —The Robber Hanged—A Private Dinner—European Food
Why Some things Are—Art in Rome and Florence—The Fig Leaf Mania—Titian's Venus—Difference between Seeing and Describing A Real work of Art—Titian's Moses—Home
A—The Portier analyzed
B—Hiedelberg Castle Described
C—The College Prison and Inmates
D—The Awful German Language
E—Legends of the Castle
F—The Journals of Germany
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;
if 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
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; then 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 said:
"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?
WITNESS. I did.
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,  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 BELOW!
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.
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 die by inches, UNAWARE THAT FIVE STEPS MORE WOULD HAVE BROUGHT THEM INTO THE TRUTH PATH. They were so near 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.
Mr. Harris and I took some guides and porters and ascended to the Hotel 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
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 this!
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 forty 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!"
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, saying:
"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
proferred 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 penny!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 there:
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'hote 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'hote bill in summer:
Fish—sole, salmon, or whiting—usually tolerably good.
Roast—mutton or beef—tasteless—and some last year's potatoes.
A pate, 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.
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 cream
Fried oysters; stewed oysters. Frogs.
American coffee, with real cream.
Fried chicken, Southern style.
Broiled chicken, American style.
Hot biscuits, Southern style.
Hot wheat-bread, Southern style.
Hot buckwheat cakes.
American toast. Clear maple syrup.
Virginia bacon, broiled.
Blue points, on the half shell.
San Francisco mussels, steamed.
Oyster soup. Clam Soup.
Philadelphia Terapin soup.
Oysters roasted in shell-Northern style.
Soft-shell crabs. Connecticut shad.
Brook trout, from Sierra Nevadas.
Lake trout, from Tahoe.
Sheep-head and croakers, from New Orleans.
Black bass from the Mississippi.
American roast beef.
Roast turkey, Thanksgiving style.
Cranberry sauce. Celery.
Roast wild turkey. Woodcock.
Canvas-back-duck, from Baltimore.
Prairie liens, from Illinois.
Missouri partridges, broiled.
Boston bacon and beans.
Bacon and greens, Southern style.
Hominy. Boiled onions. Turnips.
Pumpkin. Squash. Asparagus.
Butter beans. Sweet potatoes.
Lettuce. Succotash. String beans.
Mashed potatoes. Catsup.
Boiled potatoes, in their skins.
New potatoes, minus the skins.
Early rose potatoes, roasted in the ashes, Southern style, served hot.
Sliced tomatoes, with sugar or vinegar. Stewed tomatoes.
Green corn, cut from the ear and served with butter and pepper.
Green corn, on the ear.
Hot corn-pone, with chitlings, Southern style.
Hot hoe-cake, Southern style.
Hot egg-bread, Southern style.
Hot light-bread, Southern style.
Buttermilk. Iced sweet milk.
Apple dumplings, with real cream.
Apple pie. Apple fritters.
Apple puffs, Southern style.
Peach cobbler, Southern style
Peach pie. American mince pie.
Pumpkin pie. Squash pie.
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'hote.
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 ash-cake.
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.
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.
Nothing gives such weight and dignity to a book as an Appendix. HERODOTUS
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 $22.50.
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 is 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
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 Hotel 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 Hotel 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 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 him.
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 assemblage—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 bootjack. 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.
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 course.
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."
"III TAGE OHNE GRUND ANGEBLICH AUS NEUGIERDE." Which is to say, 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:
"Four weeks for MISINTERPRETED GALLANTRY." I wish 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:
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 months!
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.
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 in "HABEN SIND GEWESEN GEHABT HAVEN GEWORDEN SEIN," 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 can:
"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor's wife MET," etc., etc. 
1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide gehuellten 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 maiden?
"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 ENGLAENDER; to change the sex, he adds INN, and that stands for Englishwoman—ENGLAENDERINN. 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 Englaenderinn,"—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:
TALE OF THE FISHWIFE AND ITS SAD FATE 
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 VERMAEHLT: 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 mother-in-law.
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 examples:
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 demonstrations," 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 euphemism 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;  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—Hoelle—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 boat."
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, repose, 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. "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 reparenthesis, 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.
A FOURTH OF JULY ORATION IN THE GERMAN TONGUE, DELIVERED AT A BANQUET OF THE ANGLO-AMERICAN CLUB OF STUDENTS BY THE AUTHOR OF THIS BOOK
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 hauptsaechlich degree, hoeflich sein, dass man auf ein occasion like this, sein Rede in die Sprache des Landes worin he boards, aussprechen soll. Dafuer 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 muessen 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 spaeter dasselbe uebersetz, wenn er solche Dienst verlangen wollen haben werden sollen sein haette. (I don't know what wollen haben werden sollen sein haette 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 Freundschaftsbezeigungenstadtverordnetenversammlungenfamilieneigenthuemlichkeiten? 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 fuer die Augen
in a foreign land and a far country—eine Anblick solche
als in die gewoehnliche Heidelberger phrase nennt man ein
"schoenes Aussicht!" Ja, freilich natuerlich wahrscheinlich
ebensowohl! Also! Die Aussicht auf dem Koenigsstuhl
mehr groesser ist, aber geistlische sprechend nicht so
schoen, 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
vorueber, waren die Englaender 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!"
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 brief pause.
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—"
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—"
"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—"
"Three cheers for Green-patch! Up and at him, Crutches!"
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—"
"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."
"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."
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 MUENCHENER 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!