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A Tramp Abroad

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CHAPTER XXI. [Insolent Shopkeepers and Gabbling Americans]

Baden-Baden sits in the lap of the hills, and the natural and artificial beauties of the surroundings are combined effectively and charmingly. The level strip of ground which stretches through and beyond the town is laid out in handsome pleasure grounds, shaded by noble trees and adorned at intervals with lofty and sparkling fountain-jets. Thrice a day a fine band makes music in the public promenade before the Conversation House, and in the afternoon and evening that locality is populous with fashionably dressed people of both sexes, who march back and forth past the great music-stand and look very much bored, though they make a show of feeling otherwise. It seems like a rather aimless and stupid existence. A good many of these people are there for a real purpose, however; they are racked with rheumatism, and they are there to stew it out in the hot baths. These invalids looked melancholy enough, limping about on their canes and crutches, and apparently brooding over all sorts of cheerless things. People say that Germany, with her damp stone houses, is the home of rheumatism. If that is so, Providence must have foreseen that it would be so, and therefore filled the land with the healing baths. Perhaps no other country is so generously supplied with medicinal springs as Germany. Some of these baths are good for one ailment, some for another; and again, peculiar ailments are conquered by combining the individual virtues of several different baths. For instance, for some forms of disease, the patient drinks the native hot water of Baden-Baden, with a spoonful of salt from the Carlsbad springs dissolved in it. That is not a dose to be forgotten right away.

They don’t sell this hot water; no, you go into the great Trinkhalle, and stand around, first on one foot and then on the other, while two or three young girls sit pottering at some sort of ladylike sewing-work in your neighborhood and can’t seem to see you—polite as three-dollar clerks in government offices.

By and by one of these rises painfully, and “stretches”—stretches fists and body heavenward till she raises her heels from the floor, at the same time refreshing herself with a yawn of such comprehensiveness that the bulk of her face disappears behind her upper lip and one is able to see how she is constructed inside—then she slowly closes her cavern, brings down her fists and her heels, comes languidly forward, contemplates you contemptuously, draws you a glass of hot water and sets it down where you can get it by reaching for it. You take it and say:

“How much?”—and she returns you, with elaborate indifference, a beggar’s answer:

“Nach beliebe” (what you please.)

This thing of using the common beggar’s trick and the common beggar’s shibboleth to put you on your liberality when you were expecting a simple straightforward commercial transaction, adds a little to your prospering sense of irritation. You ignore her reply, and ask again:

“How much?”

—and she calmly, indifferently, repeats:

“Nach Beliebe.”

You are getting angry, but you are trying not to show it; you resolve to keep on asking your question till she changes her answer, or at least her annoyingly indifferent manner. Therefore, if your case be like mine, you two fools stand there, and without perceptible emotion of any kind, or any emphasis on any syllable, you look blandly into each other’s eyes, and hold the following idiotic conversation:

“How much?”

“Nach beliebe.”

“How much?”

“Nach beliebe.”

“How much?”

“NACH BELIEBE.”

“How much?”

“Nach beliebe.”

“How much?”

“Nach beliebe.”

“How much?”

“Nach beliebe.”

I do not know what another person would have done, but at this point I gave up; that cast-iron indifference, that tranquil contemptuousness, conquered me, and I struck my colors. Now I knew she was used to receiving about a penny from manly people who care nothing about the opinions of scullery-maids, and about tuppence from moral cowards; but I laid a silver twenty-five cent piece within her reach and tried to shrivel her up with this sarcastic speech:

“If it isn’t enough, will you stoop sufficiently from your official dignity to say so?”

She did not shrivel. Without deigning to look at me at all, she languidly lifted the coin and bit it!—to see if it was good. Then she turned her back and placidly waddled to her former roost again, tossing the money into an open till as she went along. She was victor to the last, you see.

I have enlarged upon the ways of this girl because they are typical; her manners are the manners of a goodly number of the Baden-Baden shopkeepers. The shopkeeper there swindles you if he can, and insults you whether he succeeds in swindling you or not. The keepers of baths also take great and patient pains to insult you. The frowsy woman who sat at the desk in the lobby of the great Friederichsbad and sold bath tickets, not only insulted me twice every day, with rigid fidelity to her great trust, but she took trouble enough to cheat me out of a shilling, one day, to have fairly entitled her to ten. Baden-Baden’s splendid gamblers are gone, only her microscopic knaves remain.

An English gentleman who had been living there several years, said:

“If you could disguise your nationality, you would not find any insolence here. These shopkeepers detest the English and despise the Americans; they are rude to both, more especially to ladies of your nationality and mine. If these go shopping without a gentleman or a man-servant, they are tolerably sure to be subjected to petty insolences—insolences of manner and tone, rather than word, though words that are hard to bear are not always wanting. I know of an instance where a shopkeeper tossed a coin back to an American lady with the remark, snappishly uttered, ‘We don’t take French money here.’ And I know of a case where an English lady said to one of these shopkeepers, ‘Don’t you think you ask too much for this article?’ and he replied with the question, ‘Do you think you are obliged to buy it?’ However, these people are not impolite to Russians or Germans. And as to rank, they worship that, for they have long been used to generals and nobles. If you wish to see what abysses servility can descend, present yourself before a Baden-Baden shopkeeper in the character of a Russian prince.”

It is an inane town, filled with sham, and petty fraud, and snobbery, but the baths are good. I spoke with many people, and they were all agreed in that. I had the twinges of rheumatism unceasingly during three years, but the last one departed after a fortnight’s bathing there, and I have never had one since. I fully believe I left my rheumatism in Baden-Baden. Baden-Baden is welcome to it. It was little, but it was all I had to give. I would have preferred to leave something that was catching, but it was not in my power.

There are several hot springs there, and during two thousand years they have poured forth a never-diminishing abundance of the healing water. This water is conducted in pipe to the numerous bath-houses, and is reduced to an endurable temperature by the addition of cold water. The new Friederichsbad is a very large and beautiful building, and in it one may have any sort of bath that has ever been invented, and with all the additions of herbs and drugs that his ailment may need or that the physician of the establishment may consider a useful thing to put into the water. You go there, enter the great door, get a bow graduated to your style and clothes from the gorgeous portier, and a bath ticket and an insult from the frowsy woman for a quarter; she strikes a bell and a serving-man conducts you down a long hall and shuts you into a commodious room which has a washstand, a mirror, a bootjack, and a sofa in it, and there you undress at your leisure.

The room is divided by a great curtain; you draw this curtain aside, and find a large white marble bathtub, with its rim sunk to the level of the floor, and with three white marble steps leading down to it. This tub is full of water which is as clear as crystal, and is tempered to 28 degrees Re’aumur (about 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Sunk into the floor, by the tub, is a covered copper box which contains some warm towels and a sheet. You look fully as white as an angel when you are stretched out in that limpid bath. You remain in it ten minutes, the first time, and afterward increase the duration from day to day, till you reach twenty-five or thirty minutes. There you stop. The appointments of the place are so luxurious, the benefit so marked, the price so moderate, and the insults so sure, that you very soon find yourself adoring the Friederichsbad and infesting it.

We had a plain, simple, unpretending, good hotel, in Baden-Baden—the Hôtel de France—and alongside my room I had a giggling, cackling, chattering family who always went to bed just two hours after me and always got up two hours ahead of me. But this is common in German hotels; the people generally go to bed long after eleven and get up long before eight. The partitions convey sound like a drum-head, and everybody knows it; but no matter, a German family who are all kindness and consideration in the daytime make apparently no effort to moderate their noises for your benefit at night. They will sing, laugh, and talk loudly, and bang furniture around in a most pitiless way. If you knock on your wall appealingly, they will quiet down and discuss the matter softly among themselves for a moment—then, like the mice, they fall to persecuting you again, and as vigorously as before. They keep cruelly late and early hours, for such noisy folk.

Of course, when one begins to find fault with foreign people’s ways, he is very likely to get a reminder to look nearer home, before he gets far with it. I open my note-book to see if I can find some more information of a valuable nature about Baden-Baden, and the first thing I fall upon is this:

“Baden-Baden (no date). Lot of vociferous Americans at breakfast this morning. Talking at everybody, while pretending to talk among themselves. On their first travels, manifestly. Showing off. The usual signs—airy, easy-going references to grand distances and foreign places. ‘Well good-by, old fellow—if I don’t run across you in Italy, you hunt me up in London before you sail.’”

The next item which I find in my note-book is this one:

“The fact that a band of 6,000 Indians are now murdering our frontiersmen at their impudent leisure, and that we are only able to send 1,200 soldiers against them, is utilized here to discourage emigration to America. The common people think the Indians are in New Jersey."

This is a new and peculiar argument against keeping our army down to a ridiculous figure in the matter of numbers. It is rather a striking one, too. I have not distorted the truth in saying that the facts in the above item, about the army and the Indians, are made use of to discourage emigration to America. That the common people should be rather foggy in their geography, and foggy as to the location of the Indians, is a matter for amusement, maybe, but not of surprise.

There is an interesting old cemetery in Baden-Baden, and we spent several pleasant hours in wandering through it and spelling out the inscriptions on the aged tombstones. Apparently after a man has laid there a century or two, and has had a good many people buried on top of him, it is considered that his tombstone is not needed by him any longer. I judge so from the fact that hundreds of old gravestones have been removed from the graves and placed against the inner walls of the cemetery. What artists they had in the old times! They chiseled angels and cherubs and devils and skeletons on the tombstones in the most lavish and generous way—as to supply—but curiously grotesque and outlandish as to form. It is not always easy to tell which of the figures belong among the blest and which of them among the opposite party. But there was an inscription, in French, on one of those old stones, which was quaint and pretty, and was plainly not the work of any other than a poet. It was to this effect:

Here Reposes in God, Caroline de Clery, a Religieuse of St. Denis aged 83 years—and blind. The light was restored to her in Baden the 5th of January, 1839

We made several excursions on foot to the neighboring villages, over winding and beautiful roads and through enchanting woodland scenery. The woods and roads were similar to those at Heidelberg, but not so bewitching. I suppose that roads and woods which are up to the Heidelberg mark are rare in the world.

Once we wandered clear away to La Favorita Palace, which is several miles from Baden-Baden. The grounds about the palace were fine; the palace was a curiosity. It was built by a Margravine in 1725, and remains as she left it at her death. We wandered through a great many of its rooms, and they all had striking peculiarities of decoration. For instance, the walls of one room were pretty completely covered with small pictures of the Margravine in all conceivable varieties of fanciful costumes, some of them male.

The walls of another room were covered with grotesquely and elaborately figured hand-wrought tapestry. The musty ancient beds remained in the chambers, and their quilts and curtains and canopies were decorated with curious handwork, and the walls and ceilings frescoed with historical and mythological scenes in glaring colors. There was enough crazy and rotten rubbish in the building to make a true brick-a-bracker green with envy. A painting in the dining-hall verged upon the indelicate—but then the Margravine was herself a trifle indelicate.

It is in every way a wildly and picturesquely decorated house, and brimful of interest as a reflection of the character and tastes of that rude bygone time.

In the grounds, a few rods from the palace, stands the Margravine’s chapel, just as she left it—a coarse wooden structure, wholly barren of ornament. It is said that the Margravine would give herself up to debauchery and exceedingly fast living for several months at a time, and then retire to this miserable wooden den and spend a few months in repenting and getting ready for another good time. She was a devoted Catholic, and was perhaps quite a model sort of a Christian as Christians went then, in high life.

Tradition says she spent the last two years of her life in the strange den I have been speaking of, after having indulged herself in one final, triumphant, and satisfying spree. She shut herself up there, without company, and without even a servant, and so abjured and forsook the world. In her little bit of a kitchen she did her own cooking; she wore a hair shirt next the skin, and castigated herself with whips—these aids to grace are exhibited there yet. She prayed and told her beads, in another little room, before a waxen Virgin niched in a little box against the wall; she bedded herself like a slave.

In another small room is an unpainted wooden table, and behind it sit half-life-size waxen figures of the Holy Family, made by the very worst artist that ever lived, perhaps, and clothed in gaudy, flimsy drapery. [1] The margravine used to bring her meals to this table and dine with the holy family. What an idea that was! What a grisly spectacle it must have been! Imagine it: Those rigid, shock-headed figures, with corpsy complexions and fish glass eyes, occupying one side of the table in the constrained attitudes and dead fixedness that distinguish all men that are born of wax, and this wrinkled, smoldering old fire-eater occupying the other side, mumbling her prayers and munching her sausages in the ghostly stillness and shadowy indistinctness of a winter twilight. It makes one feel crawly even to think of it.

[1] The Savior was represented as a lad of about fifteen years of age. This figure had lost one eye.

In this sordid place, and clothed, bedded, and fed like a pauper, this strange princess lived and worshiped during two years, and in it she died. Two or three hundred years ago, this would have made the poor den holy ground; and the church would have set up a miracle-factory there and made plenty of money out of it. The den could be moved into some portions of France and made a good property even now.





CHAPTER XXII. [The Black Forest and Its Treasures]

From Baden-Baden we made the customary trip into the Black Forest. We were on foot most of the time. One cannot describe those noble woods, nor the feeling with which they inspire him. A feature of the feeling, however, is a deep sense of contentment; another feature of it is a buoyant, boyish gladness; and a third and very conspicuous feature of it is one’s sense of the remoteness of the work-day world and his entire emancipation from it and its affairs.

Those woods stretch unbroken over a vast region; and everywhere they are such dense woods, and so still, and so piney and fragrant. The stems of the trees are trim and straight, and in many places all the ground is hidden for miles under a thick cushion of moss of a vivid green color, with not a decayed or ragged spot in its surface, and not a fallen leaf or twig to mar its immaculate tidiness. A rich cathedral gloom pervades the pillared aisles; so the stray flecks of sunlight that strike a trunk here and a bough yonder are strongly accented, and when they strike the moss they fairly seem to burn. But the weirdest effect, and the most enchanting is that produced by the diffused light of the low afternoon sun; no single ray is able to pierce its way in, then, but the diffused light takes color from moss and foliage, and pervades the place like a faint, green-tinted mist, the theatrical fire of fairyland. The suggestion of mystery and the supernatural which haunts the forest at all times is intensified by this unearthly glow.

We found the Black Forest farmhouses and villages all that the Black Forest stories have pictured them. The first genuine specimen which we came upon was the mansion of a rich farmer and member of the Common Council of the parish or district. He was an important personage in the land and so was his wife also, of course.

His daughter was the “catch” of the region, and she may be already entering into immortality as the heroine of one of Auerbach’s novels, for all I know. We shall see, for if he puts her in I shall recognize her by her Black Forest clothes, and her burned complexion, her plump figure, her fat hands, her dull expression, her gentle spirit, her generous feet, her bonnetless head, and the plaited tails of hemp-colored hair hanging down her back.

The house was big enough for a hotel; it was a hundred feet long and fifty wide, and ten feet high, from ground to eaves; but from the eaves to the comb of the mighty roof was as much as forty feet, or maybe even more. This roof was of ancient mud-colored straw thatch a foot thick, and was covered all over, except in a few trifling spots, with a thriving and luxurious growth of green vegetation, mainly moss. The mossless spots were places where repairs had been made by the insertion of bright new masses of yellow straw. The eaves projected far down, like sheltering, hospitable wings. Across the gable that fronted the road, and about ten feet above the ground, ran a narrow porch, with a wooden railing; a row of small windows filled with very small panes looked upon the porch. Above were two or three other little windows, one clear up under the sharp apex of the roof. Before the ground-floor door was a huge pile of manure. The door of the second-story room on the side of the house was open, and occupied by the rear elevation of a cow. Was this probably the drawing-room? All of the front half of the house from the ground up seemed to be occupied by the people, the cows, and the chickens, and all the rear half by draught-animals and hay. But the chief feature, all around this house, was the big heaps of manure.

We became very familiar with the fertilizer in the Forest. We fell unconsciously into the habit of judging of a man’s station in life by this outward and eloquent sign. Sometimes we said, “Here is a poor devil, this is manifest.” When we saw a stately accumulation, we said, “Here is a banker.” When we encountered a country-seat surrounded by an Alpine pomp of manure, we said, “Doubtless a duke lives here.”

The importance of this feature has not been properly magnified in the Black Forest stories. Manure is evidently the Black-Forester’s main treasure—his coin, his jewel, his pride, his Old Master, his ceramics, his bric-a-brac, his darling, his title to public consideration, envy, veneration, and his first solicitude when he gets ready to make his will. The true Black Forest novel, if it is ever written, will be skeletoned somewhat in this way:

SKELETON FOR A BLACK FOREST NOVEL

Rich old farmer, named Huss.

Has inherited great wealth of manure, and by diligence has added to it. It is double-starred in Baedeker. [1] The Black forest artist paints it—his masterpiece. The king comes to see it. Gretchen Huss, daughter and heiress. Paul Hoch, young neighbor, suitor for Gretchen’s hand—ostensibly; he really wants the manure.

Hoch has a good many cart-loads of the Black Forest currency himself, and therefore is a good catch; but he is sordid, mean, and without sentiment, whereas Gretchen is all sentiment and poetry. Hans Schmidt, young neighbor, full of sentiment, full of poetry, loves Gretchen, Gretchen loves him. But he has no manure. Old Huss forbids him in the house. His heart breaks, he goes away to die in the woods, far from the cruel world—for he says, bitterly, “What is man, without manure?”

1. When Baedeker’s guide-books mention a thing and put two stars (**) after it, it means well worth visiting. M.T.

[Interval of six months.]

Paul Hoch comes to old Huss and says, “I am at last as rich as you required—come and view the pile.” Old Huss views it and says, “It is sufficient—take her and be happy,”—meaning Gretchen.

[Interval of two weeks.]

Wedding party assembled in old Huss’s drawing-room. Hoch placid and content, Gretchen weeping over her hard fate. Enter old Huss’s head bookkeeper. Huss says fiercely, “I gave you three weeks to find out why your books don’t balance, and to prove that you are not a defaulter; the time is up—find me the missing property or you go to prison as a thief.” Bookkeeper: “I have found it.” “Where?” Bookkeeper (sternly—tragically): “In the bridegroom’s pile!—behold the thief—see him blench and tremble!” [Sensation.] Paul Hoch: “Lost, lost!”—falls over the cow in a swoon and is handcuffed. Gretchen: “Saved!” Falls over the calf in a swoon of joy, but is caught in the arms of Hans Schmidt, who springs in at that moment. Old Huss: “What, you here, varlet? Unhand the maid and quit the place.” Hans (still supporting the insensible girl): “Never! Cruel old man, know that I come with claims which even you cannot despise."

Huss: “What? Name them.”

Hans: “Listen then. The world has forsaken me, I forsook the world, I wandered in the solitude of the forest, longing for death but finding none. I fed upon roots, and in my bitterness I dug for the bitterest, loathing the sweeter kind. Digging, three days agone, I struck a manure mine!—a Golconda, a limitless Bonanza, of solid manure! I can buy you all, and have mountain ranges of manure left! Ha-ha, now thou smilest a smile!” [Immense sensation.] Exhibition of specimens from the mine. Old Huss (enthusiastically): “Wake her up, shake her up, noble young man, she is yours!” Wedding takes place on the spot; bookkeeper restored to his office and emoluments; Paul Hoch led off to jail. The Bonanza king of the Black Forest lives to a good old age, blessed with the love of his wife and of his twenty-seven children, and the still sweeter envy of everybody around.

We took our noon meal of fried trout one day at the Plow Inn, in a very pretty village (Ottenhoefen), and then went into the public room to rest and smoke. There we found nine or ten Black Forest grandees assembled around a table. They were the Common Council of the parish. They had gathered there at eight o’clock that morning to elect a new member, and they had now been drinking beer four hours at the new member’s expense.

They were men of fifty or sixty years of age, with grave good-natured faces, and were all dressed in the costume made familiar to us by the Black Forest stories; broad, round-topped black felt hats with the brims curled up all round; long red waistcoats with large metal buttons, black alpaca coats with the waists up between the shoulders. There were no speeches, there was but little talk, there were no frivolities; the Council filled themselves gradually, steadily, but surely, with beer, and conducted themselves with sedate decorum, as became men of position, men of influence, men of manure.

We had a hot afternoon tramp up the valley, along the grassy bank of a rushing stream of clear water, past farmhouses, water-mills, and no end of wayside crucifixes and saints and Virgins. These crucifixes, etc., are set up in memory of departed friends, by survivors, and are almost as frequent as telegraph-poles are in other lands.

We followed the carriage-road, and had our usual luck; we traveled under a beating sun, and always saw the shade leave the shady places before we could get to them. In all our wanderings we seldom managed to strike a piece of road at its time for being shady. We had a particularly hot time of it on that particular afternoon, and with no comfort but what we could get out of the fact that the peasants at work away up on the steep mountainsides above our heads were even worse off than we were. By and by it became impossible to endure the intolerable glare and heat any longer; so we struck across the ravine and entered the deep cool twilight of the forest, to hunt for what the guide-book called the “old road.”

We found an old road, and it proved eventually to be the right one, though we followed it at the time with the conviction that it was the wrong one. If it was the wrong one there could be no use in hurrying; therefore we did not hurry, but sat down frequently on the soft moss and enjoyed the restful quiet and shade of the forest solitudes. There had been distractions in the carriage-road—school-children, peasants, wagons, troops of pedestrianizing students from all over Germany—but we had the old road to ourselves.

Now and then, while we rested, we watched the laborious ant at his work. I found nothing new in him—certainly nothing to change my opinion of him. It seems to me that in the matter of intellect the ant must be a strangely overrated bird. During many summers, now, I have watched him, when I ought to have been in better business, and I have not yet come across a living ant that seemed to have any more sense than a dead one. I refer to the ordinary ant, of course; I have had no experience of those wonderful Swiss and African ones which vote, keep drilled armies, hold slaves, and dispute about religion. Those particular ants may be all that the naturalist paints them, but I am persuaded that the average ant is a sham. I admit his industry, of course; he is the hardest-working creature in the world—when anybody is looking—but his leather-headedness is the point I make against him. He goes out foraging, he makes a capture, and then what does he do? Go home? No—he goes anywhere but home. He doesn’t know where home is. His home may be only three feet away—no matter, he can’t find it. He makes his capture, as I have said; it is generally something which can be of no sort of use to himself or anybody else; it is usually seven times bigger than it ought to be; he hunts out the awkwardest place to take hold of it; he lifts it bodily up in the air by main force, and starts; not toward home, but in the opposite direction; not calmly and wisely, but with a frantic haste which is wasteful of his strength; he fetches up against a pebble, and instead of going around it, he climbs over it backward dragging his booty after him, tumbles down on the other side, jumps up in a passion, kicks the dust off his clothes, moistens his hands, grabs his property viciously, yanks it this way, then that, shoves it ahead of him a moment, turns tail and lugs it after him another moment, gets madder and madder, then presently hoists it into the air and goes tearing away in an entirely new direction; comes to a weed; it never occurs to him to go around it; no, he must climb it; and he does climb it, dragging his worthless property to the top—which is as bright a thing to do as it would be for me to carry a sack of flour from Heidelberg to Paris by way of Strasburg steeple; when he gets up there he finds that that is not the place; takes a cursory glance at the scenery and either climbs down again or tumbles down, and starts off once more—as usual, in a new direction. At the end of half an hour, he fetches up within six inches of the place he started from and lays his burden down; meantime he has been over all the ground for two yards around, and climbed all the weeds and pebbles he came across. Now he wipes the sweat from his brow, strokes his limbs, and then marches aimlessly off, in as violently a hurry as ever. He does not remember to have ever seen it before; he looks around to see which is not the way home, grabs his bundle and starts; he goes through the same adventures he had before; finally stops to rest, and a friend comes along. Evidently the friend remarks that a last year’s grasshopper leg is a very noble acquisition, and inquires where he got it.

Evidently the proprietor does not remember exactly where he did get it, but thinks he got it “around here somewhere.” Evidently the friend contracts to help him freight it home. Then, with a judgment peculiarly antic (pun not intended), they take hold of opposite ends of that grasshopper leg and begin to tug with all their might in opposite directions. Presently they take a rest and confer together. They decide that something is wrong, they can’t make out what. Then they go at it again, just as before. Same result. Mutual recriminations follow. Evidently each accuses the other of being an obstructionist. They lock themselves together and chew each other’s jaws for a while; then they roll and tumble on the ground till one loses a horn or a leg and has to haul off for repairs. They make up and go to work again in the same old insane way, but the crippled ant is at a disadvantage; tug as he may, the other one drags off the booty and him at the end of it. Instead of giving up, he hangs on, and gets his shins bruised against every obstruction that comes in the way. By and by, when that grasshopper leg has been dragged all over the same old ground once more, it is finally dumped at about the spot where it originally lay, the two perspiring ants inspect it thoughtfully and decide that dried grasshopper legs are a poor sort of property after all, and then each starts off in a different direction to see if he can’t find an old nail or something else that is heavy enough to afford entertainment and at the same time valueless enough to make an ant want to own it.

There in the Black Forest, on the mountainside, I saw an ant go through with such a performance as this with a dead spider of fully ten times his own weight. The spider was not quite dead, but too far gone to resist. He had a round body the size of a pea. The little ant—observing that I was noticing—turned him on his back, sunk his fangs into his throat, lifted him into the air and started vigorously off with him, stumbling over little pebbles, stepping on the spider’s legs and tripping himself up, dragging him backward, shoving him bodily ahead, dragging him up stones six inches high instead of going around them, climbing weeds twenty times his own height and jumping from their summits—and finally leaving him in the middle of the road to be confiscated by any other fool of an ant that wanted him. I measured the ground which this ass traversed, and arrived at the conclusion that what he had accomplished inside of twenty minutes would constitute some such job as this—relatively speaking—for a man; to wit: to strap two eight-hundred-pound horses together, carry them eighteen hundred feet, mainly over (not around) boulders averaging six feet high, and in the course of the journey climb up and jump from the top of one precipice like Niagara, and three steeples, each a hundred and twenty feet high; and then put the horses down, in an exposed place, without anybody to watch them, and go off to indulge in some other idiotic miracle for vanity’s sake.

Science has recently discovered that the ant does not lay up anything for winter use. This will knock him out of literature, to some extent. He does not work, except when people are looking, and only then when the observer has a green, naturalistic look, and seems to be taking notes. This amounts to deception, and will injure him for the Sunday-schools. He has not judgment enough to know what is good to eat from what isn’t. This amounts to ignorance, and will impair the world’s respect for him. He cannot stroll around a stump and find his way home again. This amounts to idiocy, and once the damaging fact is established, thoughtful people will cease to look up to him, the sentimental will cease to fondle him. His vaunted industry is but a vanity and of no effect, since he never gets home with anything he starts with. This disposes of the last remnant of his reputation and wholly destroys his main usefulness as a moral agent, since it will make the sluggard hesitate to go to him any more. It is strange, beyond comprehension, that so manifest a humbug as the ant has been able to fool so many nations and keep it up so many ages without being found out.

The ant is strong, but we saw another strong thing, where we had not suspected the presence of much muscular power before. A toadstool—that vegetable which springs to full growth in a single night—had torn loose and lifted a matted mass of pine needles and dirt of twice its own bulk into the air, and supported it there, like a column supporting a shed. Ten thousand toadstools, with the right purchase, could lift a man, I suppose. But what good would it do?

All our afternoon’s progress had been uphill. About five or half past we reached the summit, and all of a sudden the dense curtain of the forest parted and we looked down into a deep and beautiful gorge and out over a wide panorama of wooded mountains with their summits shining in the sun and their glade-furrowed sides dimmed with purple shade. The gorge under our feet—called Allerheiligen—afforded room in the grassy level at its head for a cozy and delightful human nest, shut away from the world and its botherations, and consequently the monks of the old times had not failed to spy it out; and here were the brown and comely ruins of their church and convent to prove that priests had as fine an instinct seven hundred years ago in ferreting out the choicest nooks and corners in a land as priests have today.

A big hotel crowds the ruins a little, now, and drives a brisk trade with summer tourists. We descended into the gorge and had a supper which would have been very satisfactory if the trout had not been boiled. The Germans are pretty sure to boil a trout or anything else if left to their own devices. This is an argument of some value in support of the theory that they were the original colonists of the wild islands of the coast of Scotland. A schooner laden with oranges was wrecked upon one of those islands a few years ago, and the gentle savages rendered the captain such willing assistance that he gave them as many oranges as they wanted. Next day he asked them how they liked them. They shook their heads and said:

“Baked, they were tough; and even boiled, they warn’t things for a hungry man to hanker after.”

We went down the glen after supper. It is beautiful—a mixture of sylvan loveliness and craggy wildness. A limpid torrent goes whistling down the glen, and toward the foot of it winds through a narrow cleft between lofty precipices and hurls itself over a succession of falls. After one passes the last of these he has a backward glimpse at the falls which is very pleasing—they rise in a seven-stepped stairway of foamy and glittering cascades, and make a picture which is as charming as it is unusual.






CHAPTER XXIII. [Nicodemus Dodge and the Skeleton]

We were satisfied that we could walk to Oppenau in one day, now that we were in practice; so we set out the next morning after breakfast determined to do it. It was all the way downhill, and we had the loveliest summer weather for it. So we set the pedometer and then stretched away on an easy, regular stride, down through the cloven forest, drawing in the fragrant breath of the morning in deep refreshing draughts, and wishing we might never have anything to do forever but walk to Oppenau and keep on doing it and then doing it over again.

Now, the true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk. It is no matter whether one talks wisdom or nonsense, the case is the same, the bulk of the enjoyment lies in the wagging of the gladsome jaw and the flapping of the sympathetic ear.

And what motley variety of subjects a couple of people will casually rake over in the course of a day’s tramp! There being no constraint, a change of subject is always in order, and so a body is not likely to keep pegging at a single topic until it grows tiresome. We discussed everything we knew, during the first fifteen or twenty minutes, that morning, and then branched out into the glad, free, boundless realm of the things we were not certain about.

Harris said that if the best writer in the world once got the slovenly habit of doubling up his “haves” he could never get rid of it while he lived. That is to say, if a man gets the habit of saying “I should have liked to have known more about it” instead of saying simply and sensibly, “I should have liked to know more about it,” that man’s disease is incurable. Harris said that his sort of lapse is to be found in every copy of every newspaper that has ever been printed in English, and in almost all of our books. He said he had observed it in Kirkham’s grammar and in Macaulay. Harris believed that milk-teeth are commoner in men’s mouths than those “doubled-up haves.”

I do not know that there have not been moments in the course of the present session when I should have been very glad to have accepted the proposal of my noble friend, and to have exchanged parts in some of our evenings of work.—[From a Speech of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, August, 1879.]

That changed the subject to dentistry. I said I believed the average man dreaded tooth-pulling more than amputation, and that he would yell quicker under the former operation than he would under the latter. The philosopher Harris said that the average man would not yell in either case if he had an audience. Then he continued:

“When our brigade first went into camp on the Potomac, we used to be brought up standing, occasionally, by an ear-splitting howl of anguish. That meant that a soldier was getting a tooth pulled in a tent. But the surgeons soon changed that; they instituted open-air dentistry. There never was a howl afterward—that is, from the man who was having the tooth pulled. At the daily dental hour there would always be about five hundred soldiers gathered together in the neighborhood of that dental chair waiting to see the performance—and help; and the moment the surgeon took a grip on the candidate’s tooth and began to lift, every one of those five hundred rascals would clap his hand to his jaw and begin to hop around on one leg and howl with all the lungs he had! It was enough to raise your hair to hear that variegated and enormous unanimous caterwaul burst out!

With so big and so derisive an audience as that, a sufferer wouldn’t emit a sound though you pulled his head off. The surgeons said that pretty often a patient was compelled to laugh, in the midst of his pangs, but that they had never caught one crying out, after the open-air exhibition was instituted.”

Dental surgeons suggested doctors, doctors suggested death, death suggested skeletons—and so, by a logical process the conversation melted out of one of these subjects and into the next, until the topic of skeletons raised up Nicodemus Dodge out of the deep grave in my memory where he had lain buried and forgotten for twenty-five years. When I was a boy in a printing-office in Missouri, a loose-jointed, long-legged, tow-headed, jeans-clad countrified cub of about sixteen lounged in one day, and without removing his hands from the depths of his trousers pockets or taking off his faded ruin of a slouch hat, whose broken rim hung limp and ragged about his eyes and ears like a bug-eaten cabbage leaf, stared indifferently around, then leaned his hip against the editor’s table, crossed his mighty brogans, aimed at a distant fly from a crevice in his upper teeth, laid him low, and said with composure:

“Whar’s the boss?”

“I am the boss,” said the editor, following this curious bit of architecture wonderingly along up to its clock-face with his eye.

“Don’t want anybody fur to learn the business, ’tain’t likely?”

“Well, I don’t know. Would you like to learn it?"

“Pap’s so po’ he cain’t run me no mo’, so I want to git a show somers if I kin, ’taint no diffunce what—I’m strong and hearty, and I don’t turn my back on no kind of work, hard nur soft.”

“Do you think you would like to learn the printing business?”

“Well, I don’t re’ly k’yer a durn what I do learn, so’s I git a chance fur to make my way. I’d jist as soon learn print’n’s anything.”

“Can you read?”

“Yes—middlin’.”

“Write?”

“Well, I’ve seed people could lay over me thar.”

“Cipher?”

“Not good enough to keep store, I don’t reckon, but up as fur as twelve-times-twelve I ain’t no slouch. ’Tother side of that is what gits me.”

“Where is your home?”

“I’m f’m old Shelby.”

“What’s your father’s religious denomination?”

“Him? Oh, he’s a blacksmith.”

“No, no—I don’t mean his trade. What’s his religious denomination?”

“Oh—I didn’t understand you befo’. He’s a Freemason.”

“No, no, you don’t get my meaning yet. What I mean is, does he belong to any church?”

“Now you’re talkin’! Couldn’t make out what you was a-tryin’ to git through yo’ head no way. B’long to a church! Why, boss, he’s ben the pizenest kind of Free-will Babtis’ for forty year. They ain’t no pizener ones ’n what he is. Mighty good man, pap is. Everybody says that. If they said any diffrunt they wouldn’t say it whar I wuz—not much they wouldn’t.”

“What is your own religion?”

“Well, boss, you’ve kind o’ got me, there—and yit you hain’t got me so mighty much, nuther. I think ’t if a feller he’ps another feller when he’s in trouble, and don’t cuss, and don’t do no mean things, nur noth’n’ he ain’ no business to do, and don’t spell the Saviour’s name with a little g, he ain’t runnin’ no resks—he’s about as saift as he b’longed to a church.”

“But suppose he did spell it with a little g—what then?”

“Well, if he done it a-purpose, I reckon he wouldn’t stand no chance—he oughtn’t to have no chance, anyway, I’m most rotten certain ’bout that.”

“What is your name?”

“Nicodemus Dodge.”

“I think maybe you’ll do, Nicodemus. We’ll give you a trial, anyway.”

“All right.”

“When would you like to begin?”

“Now.”

So, within ten minutes after we had first glimpsed this nondescript he was one of us, and with his coat off and hard at it.

Beyond that end of our establishment which was furthest from the street, was a deserted garden, pathless, and thickly grown with the bloomy and villainous “jimpson” weed and its common friend the stately sunflower. In the midst of this mournful spot was a decayed and aged little “frame” house with but one room, one window, and no ceiling—it had been a smoke-house a generation before. Nicodemus was given this lonely and ghostly den as a bedchamber.

The village smarties recognized a treasure in Nicodemus, right away—a butt to play jokes on. It was easy to see that he was inconceivably green and confiding. George Jones had the glory of perpetrating the first joke on him; he gave him a cigar with a firecracker in it and winked to the crowd to come; the thing exploded presently and swept away the bulk of Nicodemus’s eyebrows and eyelashes. He simply said:

“I consider them kind of seeg’yars dangersome,”—and seemed to suspect nothing. The next evening Nicodemus waylaid George and poured a bucket of ice-water over him.

One day, while Nicodemus was in swimming, Tom McElroy “tied” his clothes. Nicodemus made a bonfire of Tom’s by way of retaliation.

A third joke was played upon Nicodemus a day or two later—he walked up the middle aisle of the village church, Sunday night, with a staring handbill pinned between his shoulders. The joker spent the remainder of the night, after church, in the cellar of a deserted house, and Nicodemus sat on the cellar door till toward breakfast-time to make sure that the prisoner remembered that if any noise was made, some rough treatment would be the consequence. The cellar had two feet of stagnant water in it, and was bottomed with six inches of soft mud.

But I wander from the point. It was the subject of skeletons that brought this boy back to my recollection. Before a very long time had elapsed, the village smarties began to feel an uncomfortable consciousness of not having made a very shining success out of their attempts on the simpleton from “old Shelby.” Experimenters grew scarce and chary. Now the young doctor came to the rescue. There was delight and applause when he proposed to scare Nicodemus to death, and explained how he was going to do it. He had a noble new skeleton—the skeleton of the late and only local celebrity, Jimmy Finn, the village drunkard—a grisly piece of property which he had bought of Jimmy Finn himself, at auction, for fifty dollars, under great competition, when Jimmy lay very sick in the tan-yard a fortnight before his death. The fifty dollars had gone promptly for whiskey and had considerably hurried up the change of ownership in the skeleton. The doctor would put Jimmy Finn’s skeleton in Nicodemus’s bed!

This was done—about half past ten in the evening. About Nicodemus’s usual bedtime—midnight—the village jokers came creeping stealthily through the jimpson weeds and sunflowers toward the lonely frame den. They reached the window and peeped in. There sat the long-legged pauper, on his bed, in a very short shirt, and nothing more; he was dangling his legs contentedly back and forth, and wheezing the music of “Camptown Races” out of a paper-overlaid comb which he was pressing against his mouth; by him lay a new jewsharp, a new top, and solid india-rubber ball, a handful of painted marbles, five pounds of “store” candy, and a well-gnawed slab of gingerbread as big and as thick as a volume of sheet-music. He had sold the skeleton to a traveling quack for three dollars and was enjoying the result!

Just as we had finished talking about skeletons and were drifting into the subject of fossils, Harris and I heard a shout, and glanced up the steep hillside. We saw men and women standing away up there looking frightened, and there was a bulky object tumbling and floundering down the steep slope toward us. We got out of the way, and when the object landed in the road it proved to be a boy. He had tripped and fallen, and there was nothing for him to do but trust to luck and take what might come.

When one starts to roll down a place like that, there is no stopping till the bottom is reached. Think of people farming on a slant which is so steep that the best you can say of it—if you want to be fastidiously accurate—is, that it is a little steeper than a ladder and not quite so steep as a mansard roof. But that is what they do. Some of the little farms on the hillside opposite Heidelberg were stood up “edgeways.” The boy was wonderfully jolted up, and his head was bleeding, from cuts which it had got from small stones on the way.

Harris and I gathered him up and set him on a stone, and by that time the men and women had scampered down and brought his cap.

Men, women, and children flocked out from neighboring cottages and joined the crowd; the pale boy was petted, and stared at, and commiserated, and water was brought for him to drink and bathe his bruises in. And such another clatter of tongues! All who had seen the catastrophe were describing it at once, and each trying to talk louder than his neighbor; and one youth of a superior genius ran a little way up the hill, called attention, tripped, fell, rolled down among us, and thus triumphantly showed exactly how the thing had been done.

Harris and I were included in all the descriptions; how we were coming along; how Hans Gross shouted; how we looked up startled; how we saw Peter coming like a cannon-shot; how judiciously we got out of the way, and let him come; and with what presence of mind we picked him up and brushed him off and set him on a rock when the performance was over. We were as much heroes as anybody else, except Peter, and were so recognized; we were taken with Peter and the populace to Peter’s mother’s cottage, and there we ate bread and cheese, and drank milk and beer with everybody, and had a most sociable good time; and when we left we had a handshake all around, and were receiving and shouting back leb’ wohl’s until a turn in the road separated us from our cordial and kindly new friends forever.

We accomplished our undertaking. At half past eight in the evening we stepped into Oppenau, just eleven hours and a half out of Allerheiligen—one hundred and forty-six miles. This is the distance by pedometer; the guide-book and the Imperial Ordinance maps make it only ten and a quarter—a surprising blunder, for these two authorities are usually singularly accurate in the matter of distances.





CHAPTER XXIV. [I Protect the Empress of Germany]

That was a thoroughly satisfactory walk—and the only one we were ever to have which was all the way downhill. We took the train next morning and returned to Baden-Baden through fearful fogs of dust. Every seat was crowded, too; for it was Sunday, and consequently everybody was taking a “pleasure” excursion. Hot! the sky was an oven—and a sound one, too, with no cracks in it to let in any air. An odd time for a pleasure excursion, certainly!

Sunday is the great day on the continent—the free day, the happy day. One can break the Sabbath in a hundred ways without committing any sin.

We do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it; the Germans do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it. We rest on Sunday, because the commandment requires it; the Germans rest on Sunday because the commandment requires it. But in the definition of the word “rest” lies all the difference. With us, its Sunday meaning is, stay in the house and keep still; with the Germans its Sunday and week-day meanings seem to be the same—rest the tired part, and never mind the other parts of the frame; rest the tired part, and use the means best calculated to rest that particular part. Thus: If one’s duties have kept him in the house all the week, it will rest him to be out on Sunday; if his duties have required him to read weighty and serious matter all the week, it will rest him to read light matter on Sunday; if his occupation has busied him with death and funerals all the week, it will rest him to go to the theater Sunday night and put in two or three hours laughing at a comedy; if he is tired with digging ditches or felling trees all the week, it will rest him to lie quiet in the house on Sunday; if the hand, the arm, the brain, the tongue, or any other member, is fatigued with inanition, it is not to be rested by addeding a day’s inanition; but if a member is fatigued with exertion, inanition is the right rest for it. Such is the way in which the Germans seem to define the word “rest”; that is to say, they rest a member by recreating, recuperating, restoring its forces. But our definition is less broad. We all rest alike on Sunday—by secluding ourselves and keeping still, whether that is the surest way to rest the most of us or not. The Germans make the actors, the preachers, etc., work on Sunday. We encourage the preachers, the editors, the printers, etc., to work on Sunday, and imagine that none of the sin of it falls upon us; but I do not know how we are going to get around the fact that if it is wrong for the printer to work at his trade on Sunday it must be equally wrong for the preacher to work at his, since the commandment has made no exception in his favor. We buy Monday morning’s paper and read it, and thus encourage Sunday printing. But I shall never do it again.

The Germans remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy, by abstaining from work, as commanded; we keep it holy by abstaining from work, as commanded, and by also abstaining from play, which is not commanded. Perhaps we constructively break the command to rest, because the resting we do is in most cases only a name, and not a fact.

These reasonings have sufficed, in a measure, to mend the rent in my conscience which I made by traveling to Baden-Baden that Sunday. We arrived in time to furbish up and get to the English church before services began. We arrived in considerable style, too, for the landlord had ordered the first carriage that could be found, since there was no time to lose, and our coachman was so splendidly liveried that we were probably mistaken for a brace of stray dukes; why else were we honored with a pew all to ourselves, away up among the very elect at the left of the chancel? That was my first thought. In the pew directly in front of us sat an elderly lady, plainly and cheaply dressed; at her side sat a young lady with a very sweet face, and she also was quite simply dressed; but around us and about us were clothes and jewels which it would do anybody’s heart good to worship in.

I thought it was pretty manifest that the elderly lady was embarrassed at finding herself in such a conspicuous place arrayed in such cheap apparel; I began to feel sorry for her and troubled about her. She tried to seem very busy with her prayer-book and her responses, and unconscious that she was out of place, but I said to myself, “She is not succeeding—there is a distressed tremulousness in her voice which betrays increasing embarrassment.” Presently the Savior’s name was mentioned, and in her flurry she lost her head completely, and rose and courtesied, instead of making a slight nod as everybody else did. The sympathetic blood surged to my temples and I turned and gave those fine birds what I intended to be a beseeching look, but my feelings got the better of me and changed it into a look which said, “If any of you pets of fortune laugh at this poor soul, you will deserve to be flayed for it.” Things went from bad to worse, and I shortly found myself mentally taking the unfriended lady under my protection. My mind was wholly upon her. I forgot all about the sermon. Her embarrassment took stronger and stronger hold upon her; she got to snapping the lid of her smelling-bottle—it made a loud, sharp sound, but in her trouble she snapped and snapped away, unconscious of what she was doing. The last extremity was reached when the collection-plate began its rounds; the moderate people threw in pennies, the nobles and the rich contributed silver, but she laid a twenty-mark gold piece upon the book-rest before her with a sounding slap! I said to myself, “She has parted with all her little hoard to buy the consideration of these unpitying people—it is a sorrowful spectacle.” I did not venture to look around this time; but as the service closed, I said to myself, “Let them laugh, it is their opportunity; but at the door of this church they shall see her step into our fine carriage with us, and our gaudy coachman shall drive her home."

Then she rose—and all the congregation stood while she walked down the aisle. She was the Empress of Germany!

No—she had not been so much embarrassed as I had supposed. My imagination had got started on the wrong scent, and that is always hopeless; one is sure, then, to go straight on misinterpreting everything, clear through to the end. The young lady with her imperial Majesty was a maid of honor—and I had been taking her for one of her boarders, all the time.

This is the only time I have ever had an Empress under my personal protection; and considering my inexperience, I wonder I got through with it so well. I should have been a little embarrassed myself if I had known earlier what sort of a contract I had on my hands.

We found that the Empress had been in Baden-Baden several days. It is said that she never attends any but the English form of church service.

I lay abed and read and rested from my journey’s fatigues the remainder of that Sunday, but I sent my agent to represent me at the afternoon service, for I never allow anything to interfere with my habit of attending church twice every Sunday.

There was a vast crowd in the public grounds that night to hear the band play the “Fremersberg.” This piece tells one of the old legends of the region; how a great noble of the Middle Ages got lost in the mountains, and wandered about with his dogs in a violent storm, until at last the faint tones of a monastery bell, calling the monks to a midnight service, caught his ear, and he followed the direction the sounds came from and was saved. A beautiful air ran through the music, without ceasing, sometimes loud and strong, sometimes so soft that it could hardly be distinguished—but it was always there; it swung grandly along through the shrill whistling of the storm-wind, the rattling patter of the rain, and the boom and crash of the thunder; it wound soft and low through the lesser sounds, the distant ones, such as the throbbing of the convent bell, the melodious winding of the hunter’s horn, the distressed bayings of his dogs, and the solemn chanting of the monks; it rose again, with a jubilant ring, and mingled itself with the country songs and dances of the peasants assembled in the convent hall to cheer up the rescued huntsman while he ate his supper. The instruments imitated all these sounds with a marvelous exactness. More than one man started to raise his umbrella when the storm burst forth and the sheets of mimic rain came driving by; it was hardly possible to keep from putting your hand to your hat when the fierce wind began to rage and shriek; and it was not possible to refrain from starting when those sudden and charmingly real thunder-crashes were let loose.

I suppose the “Fremersberg” is a very low-grade music; I know, indeed, that it must be low-grade music, because it delighted me, warmed me, moved me, stirred me, uplifted me, enraptured me, that I was full of cry all the time, and mad with enthusiasm. My soul had never had such a scouring out since I was born. The solemn and majestic chanting of the monks was not done by instruments, but by men’s voices; and it rose and fell, and rose again in that rich confusion of warring sounds, and pulsing bells, and the stately swing of that ever-present enchanting air, and it seemed to me that nothing but the very lowest of low-grade music could be so divinely beautiful. The great crowd which the “Fremersberg” had called out was another evidence that it was low-grade music; for only the few are educated up to a point where high-grade music gives pleasure. I have never heard enough classic music to be able to enjoy it. I dislike the opera because I want to love it and can’t.

I suppose there are two kinds of music—one kind which one feels, just as an oyster might, and another sort which requires a higher faculty, a faculty which must be assisted and developed by teaching. Yet if base music gives certain of us wings, why should we want any other? But we do. We want it because the higher and better like it. We want it without giving it the necessary time and trouble; so we climb into that upper tier, that dress-circle, by a lie; we pretend we like it. I know several of that sort of people—and I propose to be one of them myself when I get home with my fine European education.

And then there is painting. What a red rag is to a bull, Turner’s “Slave Ship” was to me, before I studied art. Mr. Ruskin is educated in art up to a point where that picture throws him into as mad an ecstasy of pleasure as it used to throw me into one of rage, last year, when I was ignorant. His cultivation enables him—and me, now—to see water in that glaring yellow mud, and natural effects in those lurid explosions of mixed smoke and flame, and crimson sunset glories; it reconciles him—and me, now—to the floating of iron cable-chains and other unfloatable things; it reconciles us to fishes swimming around on top of the mud—I mean the water. The most of the picture is a manifest impossibility—that is to say, a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find truth in a lie. But it enabled Mr. Ruskin to do it, and it has enabled me to do it, and I am thankful for it. A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes. In my then uneducated state, that went home to my non-cultivation, and I thought here is a man with an unobstructed eye. Mr. Ruskin would have said: This person is an ass. That is what I would say, now.

Months after this was written, I happened into the National Gallery in London, and soon became so fascinated with the Turner pictures that I could hardly get away from the place. I went there often, afterward, meaning to see the rest of the gallery, but the Turner spell was too strong; it could not be shaken off. However, the Turners which attracted me most did not remind me of the Slave Ship.

However, our business in Baden-Baden this time, was to join our courier. I had thought it best to hire one, as we should be in Italy, by and by, and we did not know the language. Neither did he. We found him at the hotel, ready to take charge of us. I asked him if he was “all fixed.” He said he was. That was very true. He had a trunk, two small satchels, and an umbrella. I was to pay him fifty-five dollars a month and railway fares. On the continent the railway fare on a trunk is about the same it is on a man. Couriers do not have to pay any board and lodging. This seems a great saving to the tourist—at first. It does not occur to the tourist that somebody pays that man’s board and lodging. It occurs to him by and by, however, in one of his lucid moments.





CHAPTER XXV. [Hunted by the Little Chamois]

Next morning we left in the train for Switzerland, and reached Lucerne about ten o’clock at night. The first discovery I made was that the beauty of the lake had not been exaggerated. Within a day or two I made another discovery. This was, that the lauded chamois is not a wild goat; that it is not a horned animal; that it is not shy; that it does not avoid human society; and that there is no peril in hunting it.

The chamois is a black or brown creature no bigger than a mustard seed; you do not have to go after it, it comes after you; it arrives in vast herds and skips and scampers all over your body, inside your clothes; thus it is not shy, but extremely sociable; it is not afraid of man, on the contrary, it will attack him; its bite is not dangerous, but neither is it pleasant; its activity has not been overstated—if you try to put your finger on it, it will skip a thousand times its own length at one jump, and no eye is sharp enough to see where it lights. A great deal of romantic nonsense has been written about the Swiss chamois and the perils of hunting it, whereas the truth is that even women and children hunt it, and fearlessly; indeed, everybody hunts it; the hunting is going on all the time, day and night, in bed and out of it. It is poetic foolishness to hunt it with a gun; very few people do that; there is not one man in a million who can hit it with a gun. It is much easier to catch it than it is to shoot it, and only the experienced chamois-hunter can do either. Another common piece of exaggeration is that about the “scarcity” of the chamois. It is the reverse of scarce. Droves of one hundred million chamois are not unusual in the Swiss hotels. Indeed, they are so numerous as to be a great pest. The romancers always dress up the chamois-hunter in a fanciful and picturesque costume, whereas the best way to hunt this game is to do it without any costume at all.

The article of commerce called chamois-skin is another fraud; nobody could skin a chamois, it is too small. The creature is a humbug in every way, and everything which has been written about it is sentimental exaggeration. It was no pleasure to me to find the chamois out, for he had been one of my pet illusions; all my life it had been my dream to see him in his native wilds some day, and engage in the adventurous sport of chasing him from cliff to cliff. It is no pleasure to me to expose him, now, and destroy the reader’s delight in him and respect for him, but still it must be done, for when an honest writer discovers an imposition it is his simple duty to strip it bare and hurl it down from its place of honor, no matter who suffers by it; any other course would render him unworthy of the public confidence.

Lucerne is a charming place. It begins at the water’s edge, with a fringe of hotels, and scrambles up and spreads itself over two or three sharp hills in a crowded, disorderly, but picturesque way, offering to the eye a heaped-up confusion of red roofs, quaint gables, dormer windows, toothpick steeples, with here and there a bit of ancient embattled wall bending itself over the ridges, worm-fashion, and here and there an old square tower of heavy masonry. And also here and there a town clock with only one hand—a hand which stretches across the dial and has no joint in it; such a clock helps out the picture, but you cannot tell the time of day by it. Between the curving line of hotels and the lake is a broad avenue with lamps and a double rank of low shade trees. The lake-front is walled with masonry like a pier, and has a railing, to keep people from walking overboard. All day long the vehicles dash along the avenue, and nurses, children, and tourists sit in the shade of the trees, or lean on the railing and watch the schools of fishes darting about in the clear water, or gaze out over the lake at the stately border of snow-hooded mountain peaks. Little pleasure steamers, black with people, are coming and going all the time; and everywhere one sees young girls and young men paddling about in fanciful rowboats, or skimming along by the help of sails when there is any wind. The front rooms of the hotels have little railed balconies, where one may take his private luncheon in calm, cool comfort and look down upon this busy and pretty scene and enjoy it without having to do any of the work connected with it.

Most of the people, both male and female, are in walking costume, and carry alpenstocks. Evidently, it is not considered safe to go about in Switzerland, even in town, without an alpenstock. If the tourist forgets and comes down to breakfast without his alpenstock he goes back and gets it, and stands it up in the corner. When his touring in Switzerland is finished, he does not throw that broomstick away, but lugs it home with him, to the far corners of the earth, although this costs him more trouble and bother than a baby or a courier could. You see, the alpenstock is his trophy; his name is burned upon it; and if he has climbed a hill, or jumped a brook, or traversed a brickyard with it, he has the names of those places burned upon it, too.

Thus it is his regimental flag, so to speak, and bears the record of his achievements. It is worth three francs when he buys it, but a bonanza could not purchase it after his great deeds have been inscribed upon it. There are artisans all about Switzerland whose trade it is to burn these things upon the alpenstock of the tourist. And observe, a man is respected in Switzerland according to his alpenstock. I found I could get no attention there, while I carried an unbranded one. However, branding is not expected, so I soon remedied that. The effect upon the next detachment of tourists was very marked. I felt repaid for my trouble.

Half of the summer horde in Switzerland is made up of English people; the other half is made up of many nationalities, the Germans leading and the Americans coming next. The Americans were not as numerous as I had expected they would be.

The seven-thirty table d’hôte at the great Schweitzerhof furnished a mighty array and variety of nationalities, but it offered a better opportunity to observe costumes than people, for the multitude sat at immensely long tables, and therefore the faces were mainly seen in perspective; but the breakfasts were served at small round tables, and then if one had the fortune to get a table in the midst of the assemblage he could have as many faces to study as he could desire. We used to try to guess out the nationalities, and generally succeeded tolerably well. Sometimes we tried to guess people’s names; but that was a failure; that is a thing which probably requires a good deal of practice. We presently dropped it and gave our efforts to less difficult particulars. One morning I said:

“There is an American party.”

Harris said:

“Yes—but name the state.”

I named one state, Harris named another. We agreed upon one thing, however—that the young girl with the party was very beautiful, and very tastefully dressed. But we disagreed as to her age. I said she was eighteen, Harris said she was twenty. The dispute between us waxed warm, and I finally said, with a pretense of being in earnest:

“Well, there is one way to settle the matter—I will go and ask her."

Harris said, sarcastically, “Certainly, that is the thing to do. All you need to do is to use the common formula over here: go and say, ’I’m an American!’ Of course she will be glad to see you.”

Then he hinted that perhaps there was no great danger of my venturing to speak to her.

I said, “I was only talking—I didn’t intend to approach her, but I see that you do not know what an intrepid person I am. I am not afraid of any woman that walks. I will go and speak to this young girl.”

The thing I had in my mind was not difficult. I meant to address her in the most respectful way and ask her to pardon me if her strong resemblance to a former acquaintance of mine was deceiving me; and when she should reply that the name I mentioned was not the name she bore, I meant to beg pardon again, most respectfully, and retire. There would be no harm done. I walked to her table, bowed to the gentleman, then turned to her and was about to begin my little speech when she exclaimed:

“I knew I wasn’t mistaken—I told John it was you! John said it probably wasn’t, but I knew I was right. I said you would recognize me presently and come over; and I’m glad you did, for I shouldn’t have felt much flattered if you had gone out of this room without recognizing me. Sit down, sit down—how odd it is—you are the last person I was ever expecting to see again."

This was a stupefying surprise. It took my wits clear away, for an instant. However, we shook hands cordially all around, and I sat down. But truly this was the tightest place I ever was in. I seemed to vaguely remember the girl’s face, now, but I had no idea where I had seen it before, or what name belonged with it. I immediately tried to get up a diversion about Swiss scenery, to keep her from launching into topics that might betray that I did not know her, but it was of no use, she went right along upon matters which interested her more:

“Oh dear, what a night that was, when the sea washed the forward boats away—do you remember it?”

“Oh, don’t I!” said I—but I didn’t. I wished the sea had washed the rudder and the smoke-stack and the captain away—then I could have located this questioner.

“And don’t you remember how frightened poor Mary was, and how she cried?”

“Indeed I do!” said I. “Dear me, how it all comes back!”

I fervently wished it would come back—but my memory was a blank. The wise way would have been to frankly own up; but I could not bring myself to do that, after the young girl had praised me so for recognizing her; so I went on, deeper and deeper into the mire, hoping for a chance clue but never getting one. The Unrecognizable continued, with vivacity:

“Do you know, George married Mary, after all?”

“Why, no! Did he?”

“Indeed he did. He said he did not believe she was half as much to blame as her father was, and I thought he was right. Didn’t you?”

“Of course he was. It was a perfectly plain case. I always said so.”

“Why, no you didn’t!—at least that summer.”

“Oh, no, not that summer. No, you are perfectly right about that. It was the following winter that I said it.”

“Well, as it turned out, Mary was not in the least to blame—it was all her father’s fault—at least his and old Darley’s.”

It was necessary to say something—so I said:

“I always regarded Darley as a troublesome old thing.”

“So he was, but then they always had a great affection for him, although he had so many eccentricities. You remember that when the weather was the least cold, he would try to come into the house.”

I was rather afraid to proceed. Evidently Darley was not a man—he must be some other kind of animal—possibly a dog, maybe an elephant. However, tails are common to all animals, so I ventured to say:

“And what a tail he had!”

“One! He had a thousand!”

This was bewildering. I did not quite know what to say, so I only said:

“Yes, he was rather well fixed in the matter of tails.”

“For a negro, and a crazy one at that, I should say he was,” said she.

It was getting pretty sultry for me. I said to myself, “Is it possible she is going to stop there, and wait for me to speak? If she does, the conversation is blocked. A negro with a thousand tails is a topic which a person cannot talk upon fluently and instructively without more or less preparation. As to diving rashly into such a vast subject—”

But here, to my gratitude, she interrupted my thoughts by saying:

“Yes, when it came to tales of his crazy woes, there was simply no end to them if anybody would listen. His own quarters were comfortable enough, but when the weather was cold, the family were sure to have his company—nothing could keep him out of the house. But they always bore it kindly because he had saved Tom’s life, years before. You remember Tom?

“Oh, perfectly. Fine fellow he was, too.”

“Yes he was. And what a pretty little thing his child was!”

“You may well say that. I never saw a prettier child.”

“I used to delight to pet it and dandle it and play with it.”

“So did I.”

“You named it. What was that name? I can’t call it to mind.”

It appeared to me that the ice was getting pretty thin, here. I would have given something to know what the child’s was. However, I had the good luck to think of a name that would fit either sex—so I brought it out:

“I named it Frances.”

“From a relative, I suppose? But you named the one that died, too—one that I never saw. What did you call that one?”

I was out of neutral names, but as the child was dead and she had never seen it, I thought I might risk a name for it and trust to luck. Therefore I said:

“I called that one Thomas Henry.”

She said, musingly:

“That is very singular ... very singular.”

I sat still and let the cold sweat run down. I was in a good deal of trouble, but I believed I could worry through if she wouldn’t ask me to name any more children. I wondered where the lightning was going to strike next. She was still ruminating over that last child’s title, but presently she said:

“I have always been sorry you were away at the time—I would have had you name my child.”

“Your child! Are you married?”

“I have been married thirteen years.”

“Christened, you mean.”

`"No, married. The youth by your side is my son.”

“It seems incredible—even impossible. I do not mean any harm by it, but would you mind telling me if you are any over eighteen?—that is to say, will you tell me how old you are?”

“I was just nineteen the day of the storm we were talking about. That was my birthday.”

That did not help matters, much, as I did not know the date of the storm. I tried to think of some non-committal thing to say, to keep up my end of the talk, and render my poverty in the matter of reminiscences as little noticeable as possible, but I seemed to be about out of non-committal things. I was about to say, “You haven’t changed a bit since then”—but that was risky. I thought of saying, “You have improved ever so much since then”—but that wouldn’t answer, of course. I was about to try a shy at the weather, for a saving change, when the girl slipped in ahead of me and said:

“How I have enjoyed this talk over those happy old times—haven’t you?”

“I never have spent such a half-hour in all my life before!” said I, with emotion; and I could have added, with a near approach to truth, “and I would rather be scalped than spend another one like it.” I was holily grateful to be through with the ordeal, and was about to make my good-bys and get out, when the girl said:

“But there is one thing that is ever so puzzling to me.”

“Why, what is that?”

“That dead child’s name. What did you say it was?”

Here was another balmy place to be in: I had forgotten the child’s name; I hadn’t imagined it would be needed again. However, I had to pretend to know, anyway, so I said:

“Joseph William.”

The youth at my side corrected me, and said:

“No, Thomas Henry.”

I thanked him—in words—and said, with trepidation:

“O yes—I was thinking of another child that I named—I have named a great many, and I get them confused—this one was named Henry Thompson—”

“Thomas Henry,” calmly interposed the boy.

I thanked him again—strictly in words—and stammered out:

“Thomas Henry—yes, Thomas Henry was the poor child’s name. I named him for Thomas—er—Thomas Carlyle, the great author, you know—and Henry—er—er—Henry the Eighth. The parents were very grateful to have a child named Thomas Henry.”

“That makes it more singular than ever,” murmured my beautiful friend.

“Does it? Why?”

“Because when the parents speak of that child now, they always call it Susan Amelia.”

That spiked my gun. I could not say anything. I was entirely out of verbal obliquities; to go further would be to lie, and that I would not do; so I simply sat still and suffered—sat mutely and resignedly there, and sizzled—for I was being slowly fried to death in my own blushes. Presently the enemy laughed a happy laugh and said:

“I have enjoyed this talk over old times, but you have not. I saw very soon that you were only pretending to know me, and so as I had wasted a compliment on you in the beginning, I made up my mind to punish you. And I have succeeded pretty well. I was glad to see that you knew George and Tom and Darley, for I had never heard of them before and therefore could not be sure that you had; and I was glad to learn the names of those imaginary children, too. One can get quite a fund of information out of you if one goes at it cleverly. Mary and the storm, and the sweeping away of the forward boats, were facts—all the rest was fiction. Mary was my sister; her full name was Mary ———. Now do you remember me?”

“Yes,” I said, “I do remember you now; and you are as hard-headed as you were thirteen years ago in that ship, else you wouldn’t have punished me so. You haven’t changed your nature nor your person, in any way at all; you look as young as you did then, you are just as beautiful as you were then, and you have transmitted a deal of your comeliness to this fine boy. There—if that speech moves you any, let’s fly the flag of truce, with the understanding that I am conquered and confess it.”

All of which was agreed to and accomplished, on the spot. When I went back to Harris, I said:

“Now you see what a person with talent and address can do.”

“Excuse me, I see what a person of colossal ignorance and simplicity can do. The idea of your going and intruding on a party of strangers, that way, and talking for half an hour; why I never heard of a man in his right mind doing such a thing before. What did you say to them?"

“I never said any harm. I merely asked the girl what her name was.”

“I don’t doubt it. Upon my word I don’t. I think you were capable of it. It was stupid in me to let you go over there and make such an exhibition of yourself. But you know I couldn’t really believe you would do such an inexcusable thing. What will those people think of us? But how did you say it?—I mean the manner of it. I hope you were not abrupt.”

“No, I was careful about that. I said, ‘My friend and I would like to know what your name is, if you don’t mind.’”

“No, that was not abrupt. There is a polish about it that does you infinite credit. And I am glad you put me in; that was a delicate attention which I appreciate at its full value. What did she do?”

“She didn’t do anything in particular. She told me her name.”

“Simply told you her name. Do you mean to say she did not show any surprise?”

“Well, now I come to think, she did show something; maybe it was surprise; I hadn’t thought of that—I took it for gratification.”

“Oh, undoubtedly you were right; it must have been gratification; it could not be otherwise than gratifying to be assaulted by a stranger with such a question as that. Then what did you do?”

“I offered my hand and the party gave me a shake.”

“I saw it! I did not believe my own eyes, at the time. Did the gentleman say anything about cutting your throat?”

“No, they all seemed glad to see me, as far as I could judge.”

“And do you know, I believe they were. I think they said to themselves, ‘Doubtless this curiosity has got away from his keeper—let us amuse ourselves with him.’ There is no other way of accounting for their facile docility. You sat down. Did they ask you to sit down?”

“No, they did not ask me, but I suppose they did not think of it.”

“You have an unerring instinct. What else did you do? What did you talk about?”

“Well, I asked the girl how old she was.”

“Undoubtedly. Your delicacy is beyond praise. Go on, go on—don’t mind my apparent misery—I always look so when I am steeped in a profound and reverent joy. Go on—she told you her age?”

“Yes, she told me her age, and all about her mother, and her grandmother, and her other relations, and all about herself.”

“Did she volunteer these statistics?”

“No, not exactly that. I asked the questions and she answered them.”

“This is divine. Go on—it is not possible that you forgot to inquire into her politics?”

“No, I thought of that. She is a democrat, her husband is a republican, and both of them are Baptists.”

“Her husband? Is that child married?”

“She is not a child. She is married, and that is her husband who is there with her.”

“Has she any children.”

“Yes—seven and a half.”

“That is impossible.”

“No, she has them. She told me herself.”

“Well, but seven and a half? How do you make out the half? Where does the half come in?”

“There is a child which she had by another husband—not this one but another one—so it is a stepchild, and they do not count in full measure.”

“Another husband? Has she another husband?”

“Yes, four. This one is number four.”

“I don’t believe a word of it. It is impossible, upon its face. Is that boy there her brother?”

“No, that is her son. He is her youngest. He is not as old as he looked; he is only eleven and a half.”

“These things are all manifestly impossible. This is a wretched business. It is a plain case: they simply took your measure, and concluded to fill you up. They seem to have succeeded. I am glad I am not in the mess; they may at least be charitable enough to think there ain’t a pair of us. Are they going to stay here long?”

“No, they leave before noon.”

“There is one man who is deeply grateful for that. How did you find out? You asked, I suppose?”

“No, along at first I inquired into their plans, in a general way, and they said they were going to be here a week, and make trips round about; but toward the end of the interview, when I said you and I would tour around with them with pleasure, and offered to bring you over and introduce you, they hesitated a little, and asked if you were from the same establishment that I was. I said you were, and then they said they had changed their mind and considered it necessary to start at once and visit a sick relative in Siberia.”

“Ah, me, you struck the summit! You struck the loftiest altitude of stupidity that human effort has ever reached. You shall have a monument of jackasses’ skulls as high as the Strasburg spire if you die before I do. They wanted to know I was from the same ‘establishment’ that you hailed from, did they? What did they mean by ‘establishment’?”

“I don’t know; it never occurred to me to ask.”

“Well I know. They meant an asylum—an idiot asylum, do you understand? So they do think there’s a pair of us, after all. Now what do you think of yourself?”

“Well, I don’t know. I didn’t know I was doing any harm; I didn’t mean to do any harm. They were very nice people, and they seemed to like me.”

Harris made some rude remarks and left for his bedroom—to break some furniture, he said. He was a singularly irascible man; any little thing would disturb his temper.

I had been well scorched by the young woman, but no matter, I took it out on Harris. One should always “get even” in some way, else the sore place will go on hurting.