Part 3 out of 4
As Bee leaned back in the railway carriage with one glove missing, I
looked to see her very low in her mind, but to my surprise she was
"You don't seem to mind leaving them very much," I observed, curiously.
"I haven't left them for long," she replied, drawing her face into
complacent lines. "They are both coming to Vienna on leave."
"On _leave_?" I cried.
If Americans continue to flock to Europe in such numbers, the whole
country will in time be as Americanised as the hotels are becoming.
Vienna, with her beautiful Hotel Bristol, is such an advance in modern
comfort from the best of her accommodations for travellers of a few
years ago that she affords an excellent example, although for every
steam-heater, modern lift, and American comfort you gain, you lose a
quaintness and picturesqueness, the like of which makes Europe so worth
while. The whole of civilised Europe is now engaged in a flurried debate
as to the propriety of remodelling its travelled portions for the
benefit of ease-loving American millionaires.
It was not the season when we arrived in Vienna, but we had letters to
the old Countess von Schimpfurmann, who had been lady-in-waiting to the
Empress Elizabeth when she first came to the court of Austria, a mere
slip of a girl, with that marvellous hair of hers whose length was the
wonder of Europe, dressed high for the first time, but oftenest flowing
silkily to the hem of her skirt. The countess was something of an
invalid, and happened to be in town when we arrived. Her husband, the
old count, had been a very distinguished man in his day, standing high
in the Emperor's favour, and died full of years and honour, and more
appreciated, so rumour had it, by his wife in his death than in his
We also had letters from a lady whose friendship Mrs. Jimmie made at
Ischl, to her daughter-in-law, Baroness von Schumann, the baron being
attached to an Austrian commission then in Italy; to several officers
who were friends of our officers in Ischl, and, last but not least, to a
little Hungarian, to whom I had a letter from America, who was so kind,
so attentive, so fatherly to us, that he went by the name of "Little
Papa"--a soubriquet which seemed to give him no end of pleasure.
Thus well equipped, we prepared to fall in love with Vienna, and we
found it an easy task, for in spite of it being out of season, we were
vastly entertained, and in all likelihood obtained a more intimate
knowledge of the inner life of our Vienna friends than we could have
done if we had arrived in the season of formal and more elaborate
The opera was there, and, with all due respect to Mr. Grau, I must admit
that we saw the most perfect production of "Faust" in Vienna than I ever
saw on any stage.
The carnival was going on, where no Viennese lady, so the baroness
declared, would _think_ of being seen, because confetti-throwing was
only resorted to by the _canaille_ (and officers and husbands of
high-born ladies, who went there with their little friends of the ballet
and chorus), but where we _did_ go, contrary to all precedent,
persuading the baroness to make up a smart party and "go slumming." Her
husband being in Italy, she had no fear of meeting _him_ there, and she
took good care to send an invitation to any one who might have been
inclined to be critical, to be of the party, which, after one mighty
protest as to the propriety of it, they one and all accepted with
It was not so very amusing. It consisted of merely walking along a broad
avenue lined with booths, and flinging confetti into people's faces.
More rude than lively or even amusing, it seemed to me, and my curiosity
was so easily satisfied that I was ready to go after a quarter of an
hour. But do you think we could persuade the other ladies to give it up?
Indeed, no! Like mischievous children, with Americans for an excuse,
they remained until the last ones, laughing immoderately when they
encountered men they knew. But as these men always claimed that they had
heard we were coming, and immediately attached themselves to our party
as a sort of sheet armour of protection against possible tales out of
school, our supper party afterward was quite large. A carnival like that
in America would end in a fight, if not in murder, for the American
loses sight of the fact that it is simply rude play, and when he sees a
handful of coloured paper flung in his wife's face, it might as well be
water or pebbles for the stirring effect it has on his fighting blood.
The baroness had such a beautiful evening that she quite sighed when it
"Don't you ever have this in America?" she asked Bee.
"No, indeed," said Bee. "And if we did, we wouldn't go to it. We reserve
such frolics for Europe."
"Exactly as it is with us," declared the baroness; "Carl and I always go
in Paris and Nice, but here--well, we had to have you for an excuse. I
must thank you for giving us such an amusing evening!" she added, gaily.
"After all, it is so much more diverting to catch one's friends in
mischief than strangers whom no one cares about!"
I suppose, in showing Vienna to us, we showed more of Vienna to the
baroness and her friends than they ever had seen before. We went into
all the booths and shows; we were in St. Stephen's Church at sunset to
see the light filter through those marvels of stained-glass windows.
Instead of stately drives in the Prater, we took little excursions into
the country and dined at blissful open-air restaurants, with views of
the Danube and distant Vienna, which they never had seen before. They
became quite enthusiastic over seeking out new diversions for us, and,
through their court influence, I feel sure that few Americans could have
got a more intimate knowledge of Vienna than we.
An amusing coincidence happened while we were there, concerning the gown
Mrs. Jimmie was to be painted in. The baroness's brother, Count Georg
Brunow, was an authority on dress, and, as he designed all the gowns for
his cousin, who was also in the Emperor's suite, he begged permission to
design Mrs. Jimmie's. His English was a little queer, so this is what he
said after an anxious scrutiny of Mrs. Jimmie's beauty:
"You must have a gown of white--soft white chiffon or mull over a white
satin slip. It must be very full and fluffy around the foot, and be
looped up on the skirt and around the decollete corsage with festoons of
small pink considerations."
"Considerations?" said Mrs. Jimmie.
"Carnations, you mean," said Bee.
"Yes, thank you. My English is so rusty. I mean pink carnations."
Mrs. Jimmie thanked him, and we all discussed it approvingly. Still,
she told me privately that she would not decide until she got back to
Paris to her own man, who knew her taste and style.
"You know, for a portrait," said Count Georg, "you do not want anything
pronounced. It must be quite simple, so that in fifty years it will
still be beautiful."
When we got back to Paris, we presented ourselves before Mrs. Jimmie's
dressmaker, who has dressed her ever since she was sixteen. She told him
to design a gown for a full-length portrait. He looked at her carefully
and said, slowly:
"I would suggest a gown of soft white over a white satin slip. It should
be cut low in the corsage, and have no sleeves. A touch of colour in the
shape of loops of small pink roses at the foot, heading a triple flounce
of white, and on the shoulders and around the top of the bodice. You
know for a portrait, madame, you want no epoch-making effect. It should
be quite simple, so that in the years to come it may still please the
eye as a work of art and not a creation of the dressmaker's skill."
Bee and I nearly had to be removed in an ambulance, and even Mrs.
Jimmie looked startled.
"Order it," I whispered. "Plainly, Providence has a hand in this design.
It might be dangerous to flout such a sign from heaven."
All of which goes to prove that the eye of the artist is true the world
over. Or, at least, that is the deduction I drew. Bee is more skeptical.
The Countess von Schimpfurmann lived in a marvellous old house, to which
we were invited again and again, her dear old politeness causing her to
give three handsome entertainments for us, so that each could be a guest
of honour at least once, and be distinguished by a seat on the sofa. The
Emperor being at Ischl, we were permitted all sorts of intimate
privileges with the Imperial Residenz, the court stables and private
views not ordinarily shown to travellers, which were more interesting
from being personally conducted than by the marvels we saw, for several
years of continuous travel rather blunt one's ecstasy and effectively
wear out one's adjectives.
Again, as in Munich, we were never tired of the picture-galleries, the
whole school of German and Austrian art being quite to our taste, while
if there exists anywhere else a more wonderful collection of original
drawings of such masters as Raphael, Durer, Rubens, and Rembrandt which
comprise the Albertina in the palace of the Archduke Albert, I do not
know of it.
The old countess had numerous anecdotes to tell of the beautiful
Empress, all of which confirmed and strengthened my belief that she was
most of all a glorious woman gloriously misunderstood by her nearest and
dearest. What other prince or princess of Europe in all history turned
to so noble a pursuit as culture, learning, and travel to cure a broken
heart and a wrecked existence in the majestic manner of this silent,
haughty, noble soul? The excesses, dissipation, and intrigue which
served to divert other bruised royal hearts were as far beneath this
imperial nature as if they did not exist. Her life, in its crystal
purity and its scorn of intrigue, is unique in royal history. Yet she,
this blameless princess, this woman of imperial beauty, this noblest of
all empresses, was marked to be stricken down by the red hand of
anarchy, to whose crime, and poison, and danger we open our national
ports with an unwisdom which is criminal stupidity, and of which we
shall inevitably reap the benefit. America cannot warm the asp of
anarchy in her bosom without expecting it to turn and sting her.
The deference paid to royalty is so difficult of comprehension to the
republican mind that every time we encountered it it gave us a separate
shock of surprise. At least, it gave it to me. I have an idea from the
way events finally shaped themselves that Bee and Mrs. Jimmie were a
little more alive to its possibilities than I was.
The Bristol was quite full when we arrived and Jimmie could not get
communicating rooms, nor very good ones. I did not particularly notice
it at the time, but I remembered afterward that Bee kept urging him to
change them, and Jimmie made two or three endeavours, but seemed to
obtain no favour at the hands of the proprietor.
One morning, however, when Jimmie started to leave the sitting-room, he
opened the door and closed it again suddenly. We were sitting there
waiting for breakfast to be served, and we were all three struck by the
expression on his face.
"What's the matter, Jimmie?"
He looked at us queerly.
"What have you three been up to?" he asked.
"Nothing. Honestly and truly!" we cried. "What's out in the hall? Or are
you just pretending?"
"The hall is full of menials and officials and gold lace and brass
buttons. I hope you haven't done anything to be arrested for!"
Bee began to look knowing, and just then came a knock at the door.
"If you please," said the interpreter, bowing at every other word, "here
is one of the Emperor's couriers just from Ischl, with despatches from
the court of his Imperial Majesty for the ladies if they are ready to
receive them. The courier had orders not to disturb their sleep. He
waited here in the corridor until he heard voices. Will the excellent
ladies be pleased to receive them? His orders are to wait for answers."
Jimmie signified that we would receive them, when forth stepped a man
in the imperial liveries and handed him a packet on a silver tray.
Jimmie had the wit to lay a gold piece on the tray, at which the courier
almost knelt to express his thanks. The other attendants drew long
The door was shut, and Mrs. Jimmie and Bee opened their letters. Both
were from Count Andreae von Engel, saying that he and Von Furzmann,
rendered desperate by the near departure of his Majesty for the
manoeuvres, had resolved to risk dismissal from his suite by absence
without leave. The letter said that on that day--the day on which it was
written--they had both attended his Majesty on a hunt, and as he seldom
hunted with the same officers two days in succession, they bade fair not
to be on duty after noon the next day. Therefore, if we heard nothing to
the contrary, they would leave Ischl on the one o'clock train in
uniform, as if on official business. Their servants would board the
train at Gmund with citizens' clothes, and they would be with us soon
after seven that night. They begged leave to dine with us in our
private dining-room that evening, and would we be so gracious as to
receive them until midnight, when they must take train for Ischl, and be
on duty in uniform by seven in the morning.
I simply shrieked, as I looked at Jimmie's perplexed face.
"What shall we do?" he said. "We can't have 'em here! We must stop 'em!
Get a telegraph blank, Bee! We haven't any private dining-room, anyhow,
and if they got caught we might be dragged into it! Well, what is it?"
He turned to the door half savagely, and there stood the proprietor,
with some ten or twelve servants at his heels.
"You were speaking to me the other day about better rooms? Will it
please you to look at some on the second floor, which have never been
occupied since they were done over? There are five rooms _en
suite_--just about what your Excellency desires."
Jimmie turned to us with a sickly grin.
We all waited for Mrs. Jimmie to speak.
"Jimmie, dear," she said at last, "if you don't object, I think it would
be very nice to take those rooms, and entertain the gentlemen this
evening. Of course, they cannot be seen in the public dining-room, and,
after all, they _are_ gentlemen and in the Emperor's suite, so their
attentions to us, while a little more pronounced than we are accustomed
to, _are_ an honour."
Jimmie said nothing, but went to the door and signified that we would
look at the rooms.
We did look; we took them, and before noon every handsome piece of
furniture from all over the house had been placed in our suite; flowers
were everywhere, and servants fairly swarmed at our commands.
Jimmie, in reality, was not at all pleased by any of this, but he has
such a blissful sense of humour that he could not help seeing the
pitiful front it put upon human nature, both Austrian and American. He
permitted himself, however, only one remark. This was now done with his
wife's sanction, and loyalty to her closed his lips. But he beckoned me
over to the window, and, handing me a paper-knife, he turned up the sole
of his shoe, saying:
"Scrape 'em off!"
"Scrape what off, Jimmie?"
"The servants! I haven't been able to step to-day without crushing a
dozen of 'em!"
As I turned away he called out:
"There aren't any on the shoes I wore yesterday!"
A rumour somewhat near the truth had swept through the hotel, for
wherever we appeared we found ourselves the object of the deepest
attention, not only by the slavish minions of the hotel from the
proprietor down, but from the other guests.
It was so pronounced that my feeble spirit quaked, so to borrow some of
my sister's soul-sustaining joy, I went into her room and said:
"Bee, what does all this mean, anyhow? Where will it land us?"
Bee's eyes gleamed.
"If you aren't actually blind to opportunity," she said, slowly, "you
certainly are hopelessly near-sighted. Don't you understand how nobody
can do anything or be anybody without royal approval? Haven't you seen
enough here to-day, to say nothing of the attentions we had from women
in Ischl, to know what all this counts for?"
"Yes, I know," I hastened to say. "But what of these men? You know what
they will think; they are Austrians, Russians, and Hungarians, remember,
"A man is a man," she said, sententiously. "Don't worry for fear the
poor dears' hearts will be broken. Now I'll tell you something. Mrs.
Jimmie's sincere indifference and my silent eye-homage have stirred
these blase officers out of their usual calm. There you have the whole
thing. Von Engel thinks Mrs. Jimmie's indifference is assumed, and both
Von Engel and Von Furzmann are determined that my silence shall voice
itself. I have no doubt that they would like to have me _write_ it, so
that they could boast of it afterward to their fellow officers. Now, as
Jimmie would say in his frightful slang, 'I'm going to give them a run
for their money.' Von Engel will probably beseech you to arrange to keep
Jimmie at your side, so that he can have a few words with Mrs. Jimmie.
Von Furzmann will plead with you to permit him a word with me. I need
hardly tell you that your role to-night is to make yourself as
disagreeable as possible to both of them by keeping the conversation
general, and by cutting in at any attempt at a _tete-a-tete_."
I felt limp and weak. "And all this display, this dinner, this added
"Part of the game, my dear!"
"And the end of it all? When they come back from the manoeuvres?"
"We shall be gone! Without a word!"
"Then this _isn't_ a flirtation?"
"Only on their parts. They are after our scalps. But we are actuated by
the true missionary spirit."
We leaned over and shook hands solemnly. I do _love_ Bee!
That night--shall I ever forget it? Those stunning men dashed into our
rooms muffled in military cloaks, which they tossed aside with such
grace that they nearly secured _my_ scalp, for all they were after Bee's
and Mrs. Jimmie's. They were in velveteen hunting costumes; we in the
smartest of evening dress. Jimmie had given his fancy free rein in
ordering the dinner, but, to his amazement and indignation, the little
game being played by the rest of us so surprised and baffled our guests
that Jimmie's delicacies were removed with course after course untasted.
The officers searched the brilliant room with their eyes, hoping for a
quiet nook, or balcony. There was none, and their disguise effectually
prevented them from suggesting to go out. I saw that, finally, they
pinned their hopes to me, and the way I clung to Jimmie to prevent their
speaking to me almost roused his suspicions that I was in love with him.
We stuck doggedly to the table, even after dinner was over and the
servants dismissed. Finally, Von Furzmann, who spoke English rather
well, rose in a determined manner, and quite forgetful of our proximity,
said to Bee in a loud, distinct tone:
"My heart is on fire!"
It was too much. Jimmie and I led the way in a general shout of
laughter, and then, as a happy family party, we adjourned to the single
salon, where we grouped ourselves together, and, strive as they might,
the officers could not outwit my sister nor upset her plan.
Toward midnight, when the hour of parting drew near, they grew so
desperate I almost feared that they would say something rash. But they
were diplomats and game. Occasionally a gleam of suspicion would appear
on their countenances--it was so very unusual, I imagined, for their
plans so persistently to miscarry--but both Bee and I have an extremely
guiltless and innocent eye, and we used an unwinking gaze of genial
friendliness which disarmed them.
At last they flung their cloaks around them, as their servants announced
their carriage for the third time.
"_Such_ an evening!" moaned Von Engel.
It might mean anything!
Bee bit her lip.
"I was never more loath to leave. Promise that you will be here when we
return. It will only be ten days! Promise us!"
"I hardly think--" began Jimmie, but Bee trod on his foot.
"Ouch!" said Jimmie, fiercely.
"I beg your pardon, Jimmie, dear!" murmured Bee. "It is possible," said
Bee to Von Engel. "We never make plans, you know. We go whenever we are
bored, or when we have nothing pleasant to look forward to."
"Oh, then, pray remain! We shall _fly_ to see you the moment we are
"That surely is an inducement," said Bee, with a little laugh, which
caused Von Engel to colour.
Von Engel's servant, under pretext of arranging the collar of his
master's cloak, here whispered peremptorily to him, and the officer
started with a hurried "Yes, yes!" to his servant.
They bent and kissed our hands, and Von Furzmann, in the violence of his
emotion, flung his arms around Jimmie and kissed him on the cheek. Then
they dashed away down the long corridor, looking back and waving their
hands to us.
Jimmie came into the room with his hand on the spot where Von Furzmann
had kissed him.
"Well, I'll be damned!" he said. "That was all _your_ fault," he added,
looking at Bee.
"I've always said somebody would steal you, Jimmie!" I said.
"Did you enjoy yourself, dear?" asked Mrs. Jimmie kindly of Bee.
Bee stood up yawning.
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "These officers try to be so impressive.
They urge you to take a little more pepper in the same tone that they
would ask you to elope."
Jimmie beamed on her.
When Bee and I were alone, I dropped limply on the bed. Bee turned to
the light and read a crumpled note which Von Furzmann had thrust into
her hand at parting. She handed it to me:
"I shall write every day, and shall count the hours until I see you
again!" it read. I could just hear him shouting, "My heart is on fire!"
"Well, did you enjoy it?" I asked her.
"Enjoy it? Certainly not!"
"Why, I thought you were having the time of your life!" I cried.
"Oh, yes, in a way it was amusing. But did it ever occur to you that it
wasn't very flattering for those two unmarried officers to select the
two married women in our party for their attentions when you, being
unmarried, were the only legitimate object of their interest?"
I said nothing. To tell the truth I had _not_ thought of it.
"No, these officers need just a few kinks taken out of their brains
concerning women, and I propose to do it. I told Jimmie to-day that if
he would be handsome about to-night, I would start to-morrow for Moscow.
Mrs. Jimmie is perfectly willing, and I know you are dying to get on to
Tolstoy. I've only stayed over for to-night. I knew this was coming when
we were in Ischl, and I wanted them to see how lightly we viewed their
risking dismissal from his Majesty's service for us. We have paid up all
our indebtedness to everybody else, so nothing but farewell calls need
"And the officers?" I stammered. "How will they know?"
"I'll get Jimmie to send them a wire saying we have gone. They won't
know where. Hurry up and turn out the lights. They hurt my eyes."
MY FIRST INTERVIEW WITH TOLSTOY
At the critical point of relating the difficulty attending my first
audience with Tolstoy, I am constrained to mention a few of the
obstacles encountered by a person bearing indifferent letters of
introduction, and if by so doing I persuade any man or woman to write
one worthy letter introducing one strange man or woman in a foreign
country to a foreign host, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain.
No one, who has not travelled abroad unknown and depending for all
society upon written introductions, can form any idea of the utter
inadequacy of the ordinary letter of introduction. When I first
announced my intention of several years' travel in Europe, I accepted
the generously offered letters of friends and acquaintances, and, in
some instances, of kind persons who were almost total strangers to me,
careless of the wording of these letters and only grateful for the
goodness of heart they evinced.
In one instance, a man who had lived in Berlin sent me a dozen of his
visiting-cards, on the reverse side of which were written the names of
his German friends and under them the scanty words, "Introducing Miss
So-and-So." He took pains also to call upon me several times, and to ask
as a special favour that I would present these letters. Forgetful of the
fact that his German acquaintances would have no idea who I was, that
there was no explanation upon the card, and without thinking that he
would not take the trouble to write letters of explanation beforehand, I
presented these twelve cards without the least reluctance, simply
because I had given my word. Out of the twelve, ten returned my calls
and we discussed nothing more important than the weather. We knew
nothing of each other except our names, and all of these I dare say were
mispronounced. Two out of the twelve entertained me at dinner, and three
years afterward, when I returned to America, I received a letter of the
sincerest apology from one, saying that she had learned more of me
through the ambassador, and reproaching me for not having volunteered
information about myself, which might have led at least to conversation
of a more intimate nature.
I was armed at that time with many of these visiting-cards of
introduction, and after this instance I filed them with great care in
the waste-basket. I then examined my other letters. It is idle to
describe to those who have never depended upon such documents in foreign
countries the inadequacy of half of them. In spite of the kindest
intentions, they were really worthless.
It was only after I got to Poland and Russia, where the hospitality
springs from the heart, that my introductions began to bear fruit
satisfactory to a sensitive mind. It is, therefore, with feelings of the
liveliest appreciation that I look back on the letter given me by
Ambassador White in Berlin to Count Leo Tolstoy. A lifetime of
diplomacy, added to the sincerest and most generous appreciation of what
an ideal hospitality should be, have served to make this representative
of the American people perfect in details of kindness, which can only
be fully appreciated when one is far from home. Nothing short of the
completeness and yet brevity of this letter would have served to obtain
an audience with that great author, who must needs protect himself from
the idle and curious, and the only drawback to my first interview with
Tolstoy was the fact that I had to part company with this precious
letter. It was so kind, so generous, so appreciative, that up to the
time I relinquished it, I cured the worst attacks of homesickness simply
by reading it over, and from the lowest depths of despair it not only
brought me back my self-respect, but so exquisitely tickled my vanity
that I was proud of my own acquaintance with myself.
My introduction to Princess Sophy Golitzin, in Moscow, was of such a
sort that we at once received an invitation from her to meet her
choicest friends, at her house the next day. When we arrived, we found
some thirty or forty charming Russians in a long, handsomely furnished
salon, all speaking their own language. But upon our approach, every one
began speaking English, and so continued during our stay. Twice,
however, little groups fell into French and German at the advent of one
or two persons who spoke no English.
Russians do not show off at their best in foreign environments. I have
met them in Germany, France, England, Italy, and America, and while
their culture is always complete, their distinguishing trait is their
hospitality, generous and free beyond any I have ever known, which, of
course, is best exploited in their own country and among their own
At the Princess Golitzin's, I was told that the Countess Tolstoy and her
daughter had been there earlier in the afternoon, but, owing to the
distance at which they lived, they had been obliged to leave early.
They, however, left their compliments for all of us, and asked the
princess to say that they had remained as long as they had dared, hoping
for the pleasure of meeting us.
Being only a modest American, I confess that I opened my eyes with
wonder that a personage of such renown as the Countess Tolstoy, the wife
of the greatest living man of letters, should take the trouble to leave
so kind a message for me.
When Bee and Mrs. Jimmie heard it, they treated me with almost the same
respect as when they discovered that I knew the head waiter at
Baden-Baden. But not quite.
As, however, our one ambition in coming to Russia had been to see
Tolstoy himself, we at once began to ask questions of the princess as to
how we might best accomplish our object, but to our disappointment her
answers were far from encouraging. He was, I was told by everybody, ill,
cross as a bear, and in the throes of composition. Could there be a
worse possible combination for my purpose?
So much was said discouraging our project that Jimmie was for giving it
up, but I think one man never received three such simultaneously
contemptuous glances as we three levelled at Jimmie for his craven
suggestion. So it happened that one Sunday morning we took a carriage,
and, having invited the consul, who spoke Russian, we drove to Tolstoy's
town house, some little distance out of Moscow.
We gave the letter and our visiting-cards to the consul, and he
explained our wish to see Tolstoy to the footman who answered our ring.
Having evidently received instructions to admit no one, he not only
refused us admittance, but declined to take our cards. The consul
translated his refusal, and seemed vanquished, but I urged him to make
another attempt, and he did so, which was followed by the announcement
that the countess was asleep, and the count was out. This being
translated to me, I announced, in cheerful English which the footman
could not understand, that both of these statements were lies, and for
my part I had no doubt that the footman was a direct descendant of
"Tell him that you know better," I said. "Tell him that we know the
count is too ill to leave the house, and that the countess could not
possibly be asleep at this time of day. Tell him if he expects us to
believe him, to make up a better one than that."
"Say something," urged Bee. "Get us inside the house, if no more."
"Tell him how far we have come, and how anxious we are to see the
count," said Mrs. Jimmie.
"Oh, better give it up," said Jimmie, "and come on home."
The consul obligingly made the desired effort, evidently combining all
of our instructions, politely softened by his own judgment. The
footman's face betrayed no yielding, and in order the better to refuse
to take our cards he put his hands behind him.
"You see, it's no use," said the consul. "Hadn't we better give it up?"
"He won't let you in," said Jimmie, "so don't make a fuss."
"I shall make no fuss," I said, quietly. "But I'll get in, and I'll see
Tolstoy, and I'll get all the rest of you in. Give me those cards."
I took two rubles from my purse, and, taking the cards and letter, I
handed them all to the footman, saying in lucid English:
"We are coming in, and you are to take these cards to Count Tolstoy."
At the same time, I pointed a decisive forefinger in the direction in
which I thought the count was concealed. The obsequious menial took our
cards, bowed low, and invited us to enter with true servant's
In all Russian houses, as, doubtless, everybody knows, the first floor
is given up to an _antechambre_, where guests remove their wraps and
goloshes, and behind this room are the kitchen and servants' quarters.
All the living-rooms of the family are generally on the floor above.
Having once entered this _antechambre_, my Bob Acres courage began to
"Now, I am not going to be rude," I said. "We'll just pretend to be
taking off our wraps until we find whether we can be received. I don't
mind forcing myself on a servant, but I do object to inconveniencing the
master of the house.
"You're weakening," said Jimmie, derisively. "You're scared!"
"I am not," I declared, indignantly. "I am only trying to be polite, and
it's a hard pull, I can tell you, when I want anything as much as I want
to see Tolstoy. If he won't see us after he reads that letter, I can at
least go away knowing that I put forth my best efforts to see him, but
if I had taken a servant's refusal, I should feel myself a coward."
I looked anxiously at my friends for approval. Jimmie and the consul
looked dubious, but Bee and Mrs. Jimmie patted me on the back and said I
had done just right.
While we were engaged in this conversation, and while the man was still
up-stairs, the door from the kitchen burst open, and in came a handsome
young fellow of about eighteen, whistling. Now my brother whistles and
slams doors just like this young Russian. So my understanding of boys
made me feel friendly with this one at once. Seeing us, he stopped and
"Good morning," I said, cheerfully. "We are Americans, and we have
travelled five thousand miles for the purpose of seeing Count Tolstoy,
and when we got here this morning the servant wouldn't even let us in
until I made him, and we are waiting to see if the count will receive
"Why, I am just sure papa will see you," said the boy in perfect
English. "How disgusting of Dmitri. He is a blockhead, that Dmitri. I
shall tell mamma how he treated you. The idea of leaving you standing
down here while he took your cards up."
"It is partly our fault," I said, defending Dmitri. "We sent him up to
"Nevertheless, he should have had you wait in the salon. Dmitri is a
"His manner wasn't very cordial," I admitted, as we followed him
up-stairs and into a large well-furnished, but rather plain, room
containing no ornaments.
"But as I had a letter from the ambassador," I went on, "I felt that I
must at least present it."
The boy turned back, as he started to leave the room, and said:
"Oh! From Mr. White? Your ambassador wrote about you, and also some
friends of ours from Petersburg. Papa has been expecting you this long
time. He would have been so annoyed if he had failed to see you. I'll
tell him how badly Dmitri treated you. What must you think of the
He said all this hurrying to the door to find his father. We sat down
and regarded each other in silence. Jimmie and the consul looked into
their hats with a somewhat sheepish countenance. Bee cleared her throat
with pleasure, and Mrs. Jimmie carefully assumed an attitude of
unstudied grace, smoothing her silk dress over her knee with her gloved
hand, and involuntarily looking at her glove the way we do in America.
Then the door opened and Count Tolstoy came in.
To begin with, he speaks perfect English, and his cordial welcome,
beginning as he entered the door, continued while he traversed the
length of the long room, holding out both hands to me, in one of which
was my letter from the ambassador. He examined our party with as much
curiosity and interest as we studied him. He wore the ordinary peasant's
costume. His blue blouse and white under-garment, which showed around
the neck, had brown stains on it which might be from either coffee or
tobacco. His eyes were set widely apart and were benignant and kind in
expression. His brow was benevolent, and counteracted the lower part of
his face, which in itself would be pugnacious. His nose was short,
broad, and thick. His jaw betrayed the determination of the bulldog. The
combination made an exceedingly interesting study. His coarse clothes
formed a curious contrast to the elegance of his speech and the grace of
his manner. He was simple, unaffected, gentle, and possessed, in common
with all his race, the trait upon which I have remarked before, a keen,
intelligent interest in America and Americans.
While he was still welcoming us and apologising for the behaviour of his
servant, the countess came in, followed by the young countess, their
daughter. The Countess Tolstoy has one of the sweetest faces I ever saw,
and, although she has had thirteen children, she looks as if she were
not over forty-three years old. Her smooth brown hair had not one silver
thread, and its gloss might be envied by many a girl of eighteen. Her
eyes were brown, alert, and fun-loving, her manner quick, and her speech
enthusiastic. Her plain silk gown was well made, and its richness was in
strange contrast to the peasant's costume of her illustrious husband.
The little countess had short red brown hair parted on the side like a
boy's and softly waving about her face, red brown eyes, and a skin so
delicate that little freckles showed against its clearness. Her modest,
quiet manner gave her at once an air of breeding. Her manner was older
and more subdued than that of her mother, from whom the cares and
anxieties of her large family and varied interests had evidently rolled
softly and easily, leaving no trace behind.
All three of them began questioning us about our plans, our homes, our
families, wondering at the ease with which we took long journeys,
envying our leisure to enjoy ourselves, and constantly interrupting
themselves with true expressions of welcome.
It is, perhaps, only a fair example of the bountiful hospitality we
received all through Poland and Russia to chronicle here that Count
Tolstoy invited us to his house in the country, whither they expected to
go shortly, to remain several months, and, as he afterward explained it,
"for as long as you can be happy with us."
His book on "What is Art?" was then attracting a great deal of
attention, but he was deeply engaged in the one which has since
appeared, first under the title of "The Awakening," and afterward
called "Resurrection." It is said that he wrote this book twelve years
ago, and only rewrote it at the instance of the publishers, but no one
who has met Tolstoy and become acquainted with him can doubt that he has
been collecting material, thinking, planning, and writing on that book
for a lifetime.
Many consider Tolstoy a _poseur_, but he sincerely believes in himself.
He had only the day before worked all day in the shop of a peasant,
making shoes for which he had been paid fifty copecks, and we were told
that not infrequently he might be seen working in the forest or field,
bending his back to the same burdens as his peasants, sharing their
hardships, and receiving no more pay than they.
It was a wonderful experience to sit opposite him, to look into his
eyes, and to hear him talk.
"It is a great country, yours," he said. "To me the most interesting in
the world just at present. What are you going to do with your problems?
How are you going to deal with anarchy and the Indian and negro
questions? You have a blessed liberty in your country."
"If you will excuse me for saying so, I think we have a very _un_blessed
liberty in our country! Too much liberty is what has brought about the
very conditions of anarchy and the race problem which now threaten us."
"Do you think the negroes ought not to have been given the franchise?"
"That is a difficult question," I said. "Let me answer it by giving you
another. Is it a good thing to turn loose on a young republic a mass of
consolidated ignorance, such as the average negro represented at the
close of the war, and put votes into their hands with not one
restraining influence to counteract it? You continentals can form no
idea of the Southern negro. The case of your serfs is by no means a
parallel. But it is too late now. You cannot take the franchise away
from them. They must work out their own salvation."
"Would you take it away from them, if you could?" asked Tolstoy.
"Most certainly I would," I answered, "although my opinion is of no
value, and I am only wasting your time by expressing it. I would take
away the franchise from the negroes and from all foreigners until they
had lived in our country twenty-one years, as our American men must do,
and I would establish a property and educational qualification for every
voter. I would not permit a man to vote upon property issues unless he
were a property owner."
"Would you enfranchise the women?" asked the countess.
"I would, but under the same conditions."
"But would your best element of women exercise the privilege?" asked the
"Not all of them at first, and some of them never, I suppose; but when
once our country awakens to the meaning of patriotism, and our women
understand that they are citizens exactly as the men are citizens, they
will do their duty, and do it more conscientiously than the men."
"It is a very interesting subject," said the count; "and your
suggestions open up many possibilities. Women do vote in several of your
States, I am told."
"How I would love to see a woman who had voted," cried the countess,
clasping her hands with all the vivacity of a French woman.
"Why, I have voted," said Bee, laughing. "I voted for President McKinley
in the State of Colorado, and my sister and Mrs. Jimmie voted for school
trustee in Illinois." All three of the Tolstoys turned eagerly toward
"Do tell me about it," said the count.
"There is very little to tell. I simply went and stood in line and cast
"But was there no shooting, no bribery, no excitement?" cried the
countess. "Do they go dressed as you are now?"
"No, I dressed much better. I wore my best Paris gown, and drove down in
my victoria. While I was in the line half a dozen gentlemen, who
attended my receptions, came up and chatted with me, showed me how to
fold my ballot, and attended me as if we were at a concert. When I came
away, I took a street-car home, and sent my carriage for several ladies
who otherwise would not have come."
"And you," said the countess, turning to Mrs. Jimmie.
"It was in a barber shop," she said, laughing. "When I went in, the men
had their feet on the table, their hats on their heads, and they were
all smoking, but at my entrance all these things changed. Hats came off,
cigars were laid down, and feet disappeared. I was politely treated, and
enjoyed it immensely."
"How very interesting," said Tolstoy. "But are there not societies for
and against suffrage? Why do your women combine against it?"
"Because American women have not awakened to the meaning of good
citizenship, and they prefer chivalry to justice, regardless of the love
of country. I never belonged to any suffrage society, never wrote or
spoke or talked about it. I think the responsibility of voting would be
heavy and often disagreeable, but, if the women were enfranchised, I
would vote from a sense of duty, just as I think many others would; and,
as to the good which might accrue, I think you will agree with me that
women's standards are higher than men's. There would be far less
bribery in politics than there is now."
"Is there much bribery?" asked Tolstoy.
"Unfortunately, I suppose there is. Have you heard how the ex-Speaker of
the House of Representatives, Tom Reed, defines an honest man in
politics? 'An honest man is a man that will stay bought!'"
There is no use in denying the truth. Tolstoy is always the teacher and
the author. I could not imagine him the husband and the father. He
seemed in the act of getting copy, and had a way of asking a question,
and then scrutinising both the question and the answer as one who had
set a mechanical toy in motion by winding it up. Tolstoy would make an
excellent reporter for an American newspaper. He could obtain an
interview with the most reticent politician. But I had a feeling that
his methods were as the methods of Goethe.
His wife evidently does not share his own opinion of himself. She
listened with obvious impatience to the conversation, then she drew Bee
and Mrs. Jimmie aside, and they were soon in the midst of an animated
discussion of the Rue de la Paix.
Tolstoy overheard snatches of their talk without a sign of disapproval.
I have seen a big Newfoundland watch the graceful antics of a kitten
with the same air of indifference with which Tolstoy regarded his wife's
humanity and naturalness. Tolstoy takes himself with profound
seriousness, but, in spite of his influence on Russia and the outside
world, the great teacher has been unable to cure his wife's interest in
Nordau told me in Paris that Tolstoy was a combination of genius and
insanity. Undoubtedly Tolstoy is actuated by a genuine desire to free
Russia, but the idea was unmistakably imbedded in my mind that his
Christianity was like Napoleon's description of a Russian. Scratch it
and you would find Tartar fanaticism under it,--the fanaticism of the
ascetic who would drive his own flesh and blood into the flames to save
the soul of his domestics. This impression grew as I watched the
attitude of the countess toward her husband. What must a wife think of
such a husband's views of marriage when she is the mother of thirteen of
his children? What must she think of insincerity when he refuses to
copyright his books because he thinks it wrong to take money for
teaching, yet permits _her_ to copyright them and draw the royalties for
the support of the family?
Her opinion of her famous husband lies beneath her manner, covered
lightly by a charming and graceful impatience,--the impatience of a
When we got into the carriage I said:
"Well," said our friend the consul, who had not spoken during the
interview, "he is the queerest man I ever met. But how he pumped you!"
"We are all 'copy' to him," said Jimmie. "He wanted information at first
"Sometime he may succeed in convincing his daughter," said Mrs. Jimmie,
"but never his wife. She knows him too well."
"Yet he seemed interested in you and Jimmie," said Bee, ruefully. Then
more cheerfully, "but we're asked to come again!"
"We are living documents; that's why."
"What do you think of him?" said Jimmie to me with a grin of
"I don't know. My impressions have got to settle and be skimmed and
drained off before I know."
"Well, we'll go to their reception anyway," said Bee, comfortably, with
the air of one who had no problems to wrestle with.
"What are you going to wear?"
To be sure! That was the main question after all. What were we going to
AT ONE OF THE TOLSTOY RECEPTIONS
When we arrived the next evening, it was to find a curious situation.
The Countess Tolstoy and her daughter and young son, in European
costume,--the countess in velvet and lace, and the little countess in a
pretty taffeta silk,--were receiving their guests in the main salon, and
later served them to a magnificent supper with champagne. The count, we
were told, was elsewhere receiving his guests, who would not join us.
Later he came in, still in his peasant's costume, and refused all
refreshment. He was exceedingly civil to all his guests, but signalled
out the Americans in a manner truly flattering.
It was a charming evening, and we met agreeable people, but, although
they stayed late, we remained, at Tolstoy's request, still later, and
when the last guest had departed, we sat down, drawing our chairs quite
close together after the manner of a cheerful family party.
After inquiring how we had spent our day, and giving us some valuable
hints about different points of interest for the morrow, Tolstoy plunged
at once into the conversation which had been broken off the day before.
It was evident that he had been thinking about our country, and was
eager for more information.
"I became very well acquainted with your ambassador, Mr. White, while he
was in this country," he began. "I found him a man of wide experience,
of great culture, and of much originality in thought. I learned a great
deal about America from him. It must be wonderful to live in a country
where there is no Orthodox Church, where one can worship as one pleases,
and where every one's vote is counted."
Jimmie coughed politely, and looked at me.
"It encourages individuality," he added. "Do you not find your own
countrymen more individual than those of any other nation?" he added,
addressing Jimmie directly for the first time.
"I think I do," said Jimmie, carefully weighing out his words as if on
invisible scales. Jimmie is largely imbued with that absurd fear of a
man who has written books, which is to me so inexplicable.
"Your country appeals to Russians, strongly," pursued the count,
evidently bent upon drawing Jimmie out.
"I have often wondered why," said Jimmie. "It couldn't have been the
"No, not entirely the wheat, although the news of your generosity spread
like wildfire through all classes of society, and served to open the
hearts of the peasants toward America as they are opened toward no other
country in the world. The word 'Amerikanski' is an _open sesame_ all
through Russia. Have you noticed it?"
"Often," said Jimmie. "And often wondered at it. But that wheat was a
small enterprise to gain a nation's gratitude. It is the more surprising
to us because it was not a national gift, but the result of the
generosity and large-mindedness of a handful of men, who pushed it
through so quietly and unostentatiously that millions of people in
America to this day do not know that it was ever done, but over here we
have not met a single Russian who has not spoken of it immediately."
"The Russians are a grateful people," observed Mrs. Jimmie, "but it
seems a little strange to me to discover such ardent gratitude among the
nobility for assistance which reached people hundreds of miles away from
them, and in whose welfare they could have only a general interest,
prompted by humanity."
"Ah! but madame, Russians are more keenly alive to the problem of our
serfs than any other. Many of our wealthy people are doing all that they
can to assist them, and, when a crisis like the famine comes, it is
heart-breaking not to be able to relieve their suffering. Consequently,
the sending of that wheat touched every heart."
"Then, too, we are not divided,--the North against the South, as you
were on your negro question," said the little countess. "The peasant
problem stretches from one end of Russia to the other."
"We are a diffuse people," I said. "Perhaps that is the result of our
mixed blood and the individuality that you spoke of, but your books are
so widely read in America that I believe people in the North are quite
as well informed and quite as much interested in the problem of the
Russian serf as in our own negro problem."
Bee gave me a look which in sign language meant, "And that isn't saying
half as much as it sounds."
"Undoubtedly there is a strong point of sympathy between our two
countries. Like you, we have many mixed strains of blood, and, though we
are so much older, we have civilised more slowly, so that we are both in
youthful stages of progress. Your great prairies correspond in a large
measure to our steppes. America and Russia are the greatest
wheat-growing countries in the world. Our internal resources are the
only ones vast enough to support us without assistance from other
"Is that true of Russia?" Jimmie cut in, his commercial instinct getting
the better of his awe of Tolstoy. "Where would you get your coal?"
"True," said Tolstoy, "we could not do it as completely as you, and
your very resources are one reason for our admiration of America."
"In case of war, now,--" went on Jimmie. He stopped speaking, and looked
down in deep embarrassment, remembering Tolstoy's hatred of war.
"Yes," said Tolstoy, kindly. "In case the whole civilised world waged
war on the United States, I dare say you could still remain a tolerably
"At any rate," said Jimmie, recovering himself, "it would be a good many
years before we would be a hungry nation, and, in the meantime, we could
practically starve out the enemy by cutting off their food supply, and
disable their fleets and commerce for want of coal, so there is hardly
any danger, from the prudent point of view, of the world combining
"If the diplomacy at Washington continues in its present trend, under
your great President McKinley, your country will not allow herself to be
dragged into the quarrels of Europe. We older nations might well learn
a lesson from your present government."
"Oh!" I cried, "how good of you to say that. It is the first time in all
Europe that I have heard our government praised for its diplomacy, and
coming from you, I am so grateful."
Jimmie and the consul also beamed at Tolstoy's complimentary comment.
"Now, about your men of letters?" said Tolstoy. "It is some time since I
have had such direct news from America. What are the great names among
At this juncture Countess Tolstoy drew nearer to Bee and Mrs. Jimmie,
and our groups somewhat separated.
"Our great names?" I repeated. "Either we have no great names now, or we
are too close to them to realise how great they are. We seem to be
between generations. We have lost our Lowell, and Longfellow, and Poe,
and Hawthorne, and Emerson, and we have no others to take their places."
"But a young school will spring up, some of whom may take their places,"
"It has already sprung up," I said, "and is well on the way to manhood.
One great drawback, however, I find in mentioning the names of all of
them to a European, or even to an Englishman, is the fact that so many
of our characteristic American authors write in a dialect which is all
that we Americans can do to understand. For instance, take the negro
stories, which to me are like my mother tongue, brought up as I was in
the South. Thousands of Northern people who have never been South are
unable to read it, and to them it holds no humour and no pathos. To the
ordinary Englishman, it is like so much Greek, and to the continental
English-speaking person it is like Sanskrit. In the same way the New
England stories, which are written in Yankee dialect, cannot be
understood by people in the South who have never been North. How then
can we expect Europeans to manage them?"
"How extraordinary," said Tolstoy. "And both are equally typical, I
"Equally so," I replied.
"The reason she understands them both," broke in Jimmie, "is because her
mother comes from the northernmost part of the northernmost State in
the Union, and her father from a point almost equally in the South.
There is but one State between his birthplace and the Gulf of Mexico."
"About the same distance," said Tolstoy, "as if your mother came from
Petersburg and your father from Odessa."
"But there are others who write English which is not distorted in its
spelling. James Lane Alien and Henry B. Fuller are particularly noted
for their lucid English and literary style; Cable writes Creole stories
of Louisiana; Mary Hartwell Catherwood, stories of French Canadians and
the early French settlers in America; Bret Harte, stories of California
mining camps; Mary Hallock Foote, civil engineering stories around the
Rocky Mountains; Weir Mitchell, Quaker stories of Pennsylvania; and
Charles Egbert Craddock lays her plots in the Tennessee mountains. Of
all these authors, each has written at least two books along the lines I
have indicated, and I mention them, thinking they would be particularly
interesting to you as descriptive of portions of the United States."
"All these," said Tolstoy, meditatively, "in one country."
"Not only that," I said, "but no two alike, and most of them as widely
different as if one wrote in French and the other in German."
"A wonderful country," murmured Tolstoy again. "I have often thought of
going there, but now I am too old."
"There is no one in the world," I answered him, "in the realm of letters
or social economics, whom the people of America would rather see than
He bowed gracefully, and only answered again:
"No, I am too old now. I wish I had gone there when I could. But tell
me," he added, "have you no authors who write universally?"
"Universally," I repeated. "That is a large word. Yes, we have Mark
Twain. He is our most eminent literary figure at present."
"Ah! Mark Twain," repeated Tolstoy. "I have heard of him."
"Have you indeed? I thought no one was known in Europe, except Fenimore
Cooper. He is supposed to have written universally of America, because
he never wrote anything but Indian stories! In France, they know of Poe,
and like him because they tell me that he was like themselves."
"He was insane, was he not?" said Tolstoy, innocently.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing, for Tolstoy had not perpetrated that
as a jest.
"But many of our most whimsical and most delicious authors could not be
appreciated by Europe in general, because Europeans are all so ignorant
of us. There is Frank Stockton, whose humour continentals would be sure
to take seriously, and then Thomas Nelson Page writes most effectively
when he uses negro dialect. His story 'Marse Chan,' which made him
famous, I consider the best short story ever written in America.
Hopkinson Smith, too, has written a book which deserves to live for
ever, depicting as it does a phase of the reconstruction period, when
Southern gentlemen of the old school came into contact with the Northern
business methods. Books like these would seem trivial to a European,
because they represent but a single step in our curious history."
"I understand," said Tolstoy, sympathetically. "Of course it is
difficult for us to realise that America is not one nation, but an
amalgamation of all nations. To the casual thinker, America is an
off-shoot of England."
"Perfectly true," said Jimmie, "and that barring the fact that we speak
a language which is, in some respects, similar to the English, no
nations are more foreign to each other than the United States and
England. It would be better for the English if they had a few more
Bryces among them."
"If it weren't for the dialects," said Tolstoy, "I think more Europeans
would be interested in American literature."
"That is true," I said, "and yet, without dialects, you wouldn't get the
United States as it really is. There are heaps and heaps of Americans
who won't read dialect themselves, but they miss a great deal. Take, for
instance, James Whitcomb Riley, a poet who, to my mind, possesses
absolute genius,--the genius of the commonplace. His best things are
all in dialect, which a great many find difficult, and yet, when he
gives public readings from his own poems, he draws audiences which test
the capacity of the largest halls. I myself have seen him recalled
"America and Russia are growing closer together every day," said
Tolstoy. "Every year we use more of your American machinery; your plows,
and threshers, and mowing-machines, and all agricultural implements are
coming into use here. Every year some Americans settle in Russia from
business interests, and we are rapidly becoming dependent on you for our
coal. If you had a larger merchant marine, it would benefit our mutual
interests wonderfully. Is your country as much interested in Russia as
we are in you?"
"Equally so," I said. "Russian literature is very well understood in
America. We read all your books. We know Pushkin and Tourguenieff. Your
Russian music is played by our orchestras, and your Russian painter,
Verestchagin, exhibited his paintings in all the large cities, and made
us familiar with his genius."
"All art, all music has a moral effect upon the soul. Verestchagin
paints war--hideous war! Moral questions should be talked about and
discussed, and a remedy found for them. In America you will not discuss
many questions. Even in the translations of my books, parts which seem
important to me are left out. Why is that? It limits you, does it not?"
"I suppose the demand creates the supply," I ventured. "We may be
prudish, but as yet the moral questions you speak of have not such a
hold on our young republic that they need drastic measures. When we
become more civilised, and society more cancerous, doubtless the public
mind will permit these questions to be discussed."
"The time for repentance is in advance of the crime," said Tolstoy.
"American prudery is narrowing in its effect on our art," I ventured,
"Is that the reason for many of your artists and authors living abroad?"
"It may be. We certainly are not encouraged in America to depict life as
it is. That is one reason I think why foreign authors sell their books
by the thousands in America, and by the hundreds in their own country."
"Then the taste is there, is it?" asked Tolstoy.
"The common sense is there," I said, bluntly,--"the common sense to know
that our authors are limited to depicting a phase instead of the whole
life, and then, if you are going to get the whole life, you must read
foreign authors. It's just as if a sculptor should confine himself to
shaping fingers, and toes, and noses, and ears because the public
refuses to take a finished study."
"But why, why is it?" said Tolstoy, with a touch of impatience. "If you
will read the whole thing when written by foreign authors, why do you
not encourage your own?"
"I am sure I don't know," I said, "unless it is on the simple principle
that many men enjoy the ballet scene in opera, while they would not
permit their wives and daughters to take part in it."
"America is the protector of the family," said Jimmie, regarding me
with a hostile eye.
Tolstoy tactfully changed the subject out of deference to Jimmie's
"Do many Russians visit America?" asked Tolstoy.
"Oh, yes, quite a number, and they are among our most agreeable
visitors. Prince Serge Wolkonsky travelled so much and made so many
addresses that he made Russia more popular than ever."
"Do you know how popular you are in America?" said Jimmie, blushing at
his own temerity.
"I know how many of my books are sold there, and I get many kind letters
"Isn't he considered the greatest living man of letters in America?"
said Jimmie, appealingly to me boyishly.
"Undoubtedly," I replied, smiling, because Tolstoy smiled.
"Whom do you consider the greatest living author?" asked Jimmie.
"Mrs. Humphrey Ward," said Tolstoy, decisively.
This was a thunderbolt which stopped the conversation of the other
members of the party.
"And one of your greatest Americans," went on Tolstoy, "was Henry
"From a literary point of view, or--"
"From the point of view of humanity and of the Christian."
Jimmie and I leaned back involuntarily. Judged by these standards, we
were none of us either Christians or human, in our party at least.
The Countess Tolstoy, who seemed to be in not the slightest awe of her
illustrious husband, having become somewhat impatient during this
conversation, now turned to me and said:
"It has been so interesting to talk with your sister and Mrs. Jimmie
about Paris fashions. We see so little here that is not second hand, and
your journey is so fascinating. It seems incredible that you can be
travelling simply for pleasure and over such a number of countries!
Where do you go next?"
"We have come from everywhere," I said, laughing, "and we are going
The countess clasped her hands and said:
"How I envy you, but doesn't it cost you a great deal of money?"
"I suppose it does," I said, regretfully. "I am going to travel as long
as my money holds out, but the rest are not so hampered."
"Alas, if I could only go with you," said the countess, "but we are
under such heavy expense now. It used to be easier when we had three or
four children nearer of an age who could be educated together. Then it
cost less. But now this boy, my youngest, necessitates different tutors
for everything, and it costs as much to educate this last one of
thirteen as it did any four of the others."
"But then you educate so thoroughly," I said. "Russians always speak
five or six, sometimes ten languages, including dialects. With us our
wealthy people generally send their children to a good private school
and afterward prepare them by tutor for college. Then the richest send
them for a trip around the world, or perhaps a year abroad, and that
ends it. But the ordinary American has only a public school education.
Americans are not linguists naturally."
"Ah! but here we are obliged to be linguists, because, if we travel at
all, we must speak other languages, and, if we entertain at all, we meet
people who cannot speak ours, which is very difficult to learn. But
languages are easy."
"Oh! _are_ they?" said Jimmie, involuntarily, and everybody laughed.
"Jimmie's languages are unique," said Bee.
"Are you going to Italy?" said the countess.
"Yes, we hope to spend next spring in Italy, beginning with Sicily and
working slowly northward."
"How delightful! How charming!" cried the countess. "How I wish, how I
_wish_ I could go with you."
"Go with us?" I cried in delight. "Could you manage it? We should be so
flattered to have your company."
"Oh, if I could! I shall ask. It will do no harm to ask."
We had all stood up to go and had begun to shake hands when she cried
across to her husband:
"Leo, Leo, may I go--"
Then seeing she had not engaged her husband's attention, who was
talking to Jimmie about single tax, she went over and pulled his sleeve.
"Leo, may I go with them to Italy in the spring? Please, dear Leo, say
He shook his head gravely, and the little countess smiled at her
"It would cost too much," said Tolstoy, "besides, I cannot spare you. I
"You need me!" cried the countess in gay derision. Then pleadingly, "Do
let me go."
"I cannot," said Tolstoy, turning to Jimmie again.
The countess came back to us with a face full of disappointment.
"He doesn't need me at all," she whispered. "I'd go anyway if I had the
As I said before, Russia and America are very much alike.
As we left the house my mind recurred to Max Nordau, whose personality
and methods I have so imperfectly presented. The contrast to Tolstoy
would intrude itself. In all the conversations I ever had with Max
Nordau, he spent most of the time in trying to be a help and a benefit
to me. The physician in him was always at the front. His aim was
healing, and I only regret that their intimate personality prevents me
from relating them word for word, as they would interest and benefit
others quite as much as they did me.
The difference between these two great leaders of thought--these two
great reformers, Nordau and Tolstoy--is the theme of many learned
discussions, and admits many different points of view.
To me they present this aspect: Tolstoy, like Goethe, is an interesting
combination of genius and hypocrisy. He preaches unselfishness, while
himself the embodiment of self. Max Nordau is his antithesis. Nordau
gives with generous enthusiasm--of his time, his learning, his genius,
most of all, of himself. Tolstoy fastens himself upon each newcomer
politely, like a courteous leech, sucks him dry, and then writes.
Max Nordau, like Shakespeare, absorbs humanity as a whole. Tolstoy
considers the Bible the most dramatic work ever written, and turns this
knowledge of the world's demand for religion to theatrical account.
Tolstoy is outwardly a Christian, Nordau outwardly a pagan. Tolstoy
openly acknowledges God, but exemplifies the ideas of man, while Max
Nordau's private life embodies the noble teachings of the Christ whom he
It was not until months afterward, we were back in London in fact, when
Jimmie's opinion of Tolstoy seemed to have crystallised. He came to me
one morning and said:
"I've read everything, since we left Moscow, that Tolstoy has written.
Now you know I don't pretend to know anything about literary style and
all that rot that you're so keen about, but I do know something about
human nature, and I do know a grand-stand play when I see one. Now
Tolstoy is a genius, there's no gainsaying that, but it's all covered up
and smothered in that religious rubbish that he has caught the ear of
the world with. If you want to be admired while you are alive, write a
religious novel and let the hoi polloi snivel over you and give you gold
dollars while you can enjoy 'em and spend 'em. That's where Tolstoy is a
fox. So is Mrs. Humphrey Ward. She's a fox, too. They are getting all
the fun _now_. But it's all gallery play with both of 'em."
I said nothing, and he smoked in silence for a moment. Then he added:
"But I _say_, what a ripper Tolstoy could write if he'd just cut loose
from religion for a minute and write a novel that didn't have any damned
_purpose_ in it!"
Verily, Jimmie is no fool.
In going to Europe timid persons often cover their real design by
claiming the intention of taking German baths, of "doing" Switzerland,
or of learning languages. But everybody knows that the real reason why
most women go abroad is to shop. What cathedral can bring such a look of
rapture to a woman's face as New Bond Street or what scenery such
ecstasy as the Rue de la Paix?
Therefore, as I believe my lot in shopping to be the common lot of all,
let me tell my tale, so that to all who have suffered the same agonies
and delights this may come as a personal reminiscence of their own,
while to you who have Europe yet to view for that blissful first time,
which is the best of all, this is what you will go through.
When I first went to Europe I had all of the average American woman's
timidity about asserting herself in the face of a shopgirl or salesman.
Many years of shopping in America had thoroughly broken a spirit which
was once proud. I therefore suffered unnecessary annoyance during my
first shopping in London, because I was overwhelmingly polite and
affable to the man behind the counter. I said "please," and "If you
don't mind," and "I would like to see," instead of using the martial
command of the ordinary Englishwoman, who marches up to the show-case in
flat-heeled boots and says in a tone of an officer ordering "Shoulder
arms," "Show me your gauze fans!" I used to listen to them standing next
me at a counter, momentarily expecting to see them knocked down by the
indignant salesman and carried to a hospital in an ambulance.
My own tones were so conversational when I said, "Will you please show
me your black satin ribbon?" that, while I did not say it, my voice
implied such questions as "How are your father and mother?" and "I hope
the baby is better?" and "Doesn't that draught there on your back annoy
you?" and "Don't you get very tired standing up all day?"
It was Bee, as usual, who gave me my first lesson in the insolent
bearing which alone obtains the best results from the average British
Still without having thoroughly asserted myself, not having been to that
particular manner born, I went next to Paris, where my politeness met
with the just reward which virtue is always supposed to get and seldom
I consider shopping in Paris one of the greatest pleasures to be found
in this vale of tears. The shops, with the exception of the Louvre, the
Bon Marche, and one or two of the large department stores of similar
scope, are all small--tiny, in fact, and exploit but one or two things.
A little shop for fans will be next to a milliner who makes a specialty
of nothing but gauze theatre bonnets. Perhaps next will come a linen
store, where the windows will have nothing but the most fascinating
embroidery, handkerchiefs, and neckware. Then comes the man who sells
belts of every description, and parasol handles. Perhaps your next
window will have such a display of diamond necklaces as would justify
you in supposing that his stock would make Tiffany choke with envy, but
if you enter, you will find yourself in an aperture in the wall, holding
an iron safe, a two-by-four show-case, and three chairs, and you will
find that everything of value he has, except the clothes he wears, are
all in his window.
As long as these shops are all crowded together and so small, to shop in
Paris is really much more convenient than in one of our large department
stores at home, with the additional delight of having smiling interested
service. The proprietor himself enters into your wants, and uses all his
quickness and intelligence to supply your demands. He may be, very
likely he is, doubling the price on you, because you are an American,
but, if your bruised spirit is like mine, you will be perfectly willing
to pay a little extra for politeness.
It is a truth that I have brought home with me no article from Paris
which does not carry with it pleasant recollections of the way I bought
it. Can any woman who has shopped only in America bring forward a
All this changes, however, when once you get into the clutches of the
average French dressmaker. By his side, Barabbas would appear a
gentleman of exceptional honesty. I have often, in idle moments,
imagined myself a cannibal, and, in preparing my daily menu, my first
dish would be a fricassee of French dressmakers. Perhaps in that I am
unjust. In thinking it over, I will amend it by saying a fricassee of
_all_ dressmakers. It would be unfair to limit it to the French.
There is one thing particularly noticeable about the charm which French
shop-windows in one of the smart streets like the rue de la Paix
exercises upon the American woman, and that is that it very soon wears
off, and she sees that most of the things exploited are beyond her
means, or are totally unsuited to her needs. I defy any woman to walk
down one of these brilliant shop-lined streets of Paris for the first
time, and not want to buy every individual thing she sees, and she will
want to do it a second time and a third time, and, if she goes away from
Paris and stays two months, the first time she sees these things on her
return all the old fascination is there. To overcome it, to stamp it out
of the system, she must stay long enough in Paris to live it down, for,
if she buys rashly while under the influence of this first glamour, she
is sure to regret it.
Dresden and Berlin differ materially from Paris in this respect. Their
shop-windows exploit things less expensive, more suitable to your
every-day needs, and equally unattainable at home. So that if you have
gained some experience by your mistakes in Paris, your outlay in these
German cities will be much more rational.
Leather goods in Germany are simply distracting. There are shops in
Dresden where no woman who appreciates bags, satchels, card-cases,
photograph-frames, book-covers, and purses could refrain from buying
without disastrous results. I remember my first pilgrimage through the
streets of Dresden. Between the porcelains and toilet sets, the
Madonnas, the belts, and card-cases, I nearly lost my mind. The modest
prices of the coveted articles were each time a separate shock of joy.
If these sturdy Germans had wished to take advantage of my indiscreet
expressions of surprise and delight, they might easily have raised their
prices without our ever having discovered it. But day after day we
returned, not only to find that the prices remained the same, but that,
in many instances, if we bought several articles, they voluntarily took
off a mark or two on account of the generosity of our purchases.
Dresden is a city where works of art are most cunningly copied. You can
order, if you like, copies of any but the most intricate of the
treasures of the Green Vaults, and you will not be disappointed with the
results. You can order copies of any of the most famous pictures in the
Dresden galleries, and have them executed with like exquisite skill. Nor
is there any city in all Europe where it is so satisfactory to buy a
souvenir of a town, which you will not want to throw away when you get
home and try to find a place for it. Because souvenirs of Dresden appeal
to your love of art and the highest in your nature. Leather you will
find elsewhere, but the Dresden works of art are peculiarly its own.
In Austria manners differ considerably both from those of Paris and
upper Germany. I should say they were a cross between the two. We
shopped in Ischl, which has shops quite out of proportion to its size on
account of being the summer home of the Emperor, and there we met with a
politeness which was delightful.
In Vienna we had occasion to accompany Jimmie and "Little Papa" on
business expeditions which led him into the wholesale district. There it
was universal for all the clerks to be seated at their work,
particularly in the jeweller's shops. At our entrance, every man and
woman there, from the proprietor to the errand boys, rose to their feet,
bowed, and said "Good day."
When we finished our purchases, or even if we only looked and came away
without buying, this was all repeated, which sometimes gave me the
sensation of having been to a court function.
Vienna fashions are very elegant. Being the seat of the court, there is
a great deal of dress. There is wealth, and the shops are magnificent.
Personally, I much prefer the fashions of Vienna to those of Paris.
Prices are perhaps a little more moderate, but the truly Paris creation
generally has the effect of making one think it would be beautiful on
somebody else. I can go to Worth, Felix, and Doucet, and half a dozen
others equally as smart, and not see ten models that I would like to
own. In Vienna there were Paris clothes, of course, but the Viennese
have modified them, producing somewhat the same effect as American
influence on Paris fashions. To my mind they are more elegant, having
more of reserve and dignity in their style, and a distinct morality.
Paris clothes generally look immoral when you buy them, and feel immoral
when you get them on. There is a distinct spiritual atmosphere about
clothes. In Vienna this was very noticeable. I speak more of clothes in
Paris and Vienna, as there are only four cities in the world where one
would naturally buy clothes,--Paris, Vienna, London, and New York. In
other cities you buy other things, articles perhaps distinctive of the
When you get to St. Petersburg, in your shopping experiences, you will
find a mixture of Teuton and Slav which is very perplexing. We were
particularly anxious to get some good specimens of Russian enamel, which
naturally one supposes to be more inexpensive in the country which
creates them, but to our distress we discovered Avenue de l'Opera prices
on everything we wished. Each time that we went back the price was
different. The market seemed to fluctuate. One blue enamelled belt, upon
which I had set my heart, varied in price from one to three dollars each
time I looked at it. Finally, one day I hit upon a plan. I asked my
friend, Mile, de Falk, to follow me into this shop and not speak to me,
but to notice the particular belt I held in my hand. I then went out
without purchasing, and the next day my friend sent her sister, who
speaks nothing but Russian and French, to this shop. She purchased the
belt for ten dollars less than it had been offered to me. She ordered a
different lining made for it, and the shopkeeper said in guileless
Russian, "How strange it is that ladies all over the world are alike.
For a week two American young ladies have been in here looking at this
belt, and by a strange coincidence they also wished this same lining."
For once I flatter myself that I "did" a Russian Jew, but his
companions in crime have so thoroughly "done" me in other corners of the
world that I need not plume myself unnecessarily. He is more than even
All through Russia we contented ourselves with buying Russian
engravings, which are among the finest in the world. Perhaps some of
their charm is in the subject portrayed, which, being unfamiliar,
arouses curiosity. Russian operas, paintings, theatricals, the national
ballet, the interior of churches and mosques are different from those of
every other country. There is in the churches such a strange admixture
of the spiritual and the theatrical. So that the engravings of these
things have for me at least more interest than anything else.
Occasionally we were betrayed into buying a peasant's costume, an ikon,
or an enamel, but in Moscow and Kief, the only way that we could
reproduce to our friends at home the glories and splendours of these two
beautiful cities was by photographs, in which the brilliancy of their
colours brings back the sensations of delight which we experienced.
Shopping in Constantinople is not shopping as we Americans understand
it, unless you happen to be an Indian trader by profession. I am not.
Therefore, the system of bargaining, of going away from a bazaar and
pretending you never intended buying, never wanted it anyhow, of coming
back to sit down and take a cup of coffee, was like acting in private
theatricals. By nature I am not a diplomat, but if I had stayed longer
in the Orient, I think I would have learned to be as tricky as Chinese
We were given, by several of our Turkish friends, two or three rules
which should govern conduct when shopping in the Orient. One is to look
bored; the second, never to show interest in what pleases you; the
third, never to let your robber salesman have an idea of what you really
intend to buy. This comes hard at first, but after you have once learned
it, to go shopping is one of the most exciting experiences that I can
remember. I have always thought that burglary must be an exhilarating
profession, second only to that of the detective who traps him. In
shopping in the Orient, the bazaars are dens of thieves, and you, the
purchaser, are the detective. We found in Constantinople little
opportunity to exercise our new-found knowledge, because we were
accompanied by our Turkish friends, who saw to it that we made no
indiscreet purchases. On several occasions they made us send things back
because we had been overcharged, and they found us better articles at
less price. Of course we bought a fez, embroidered capes, bolero
jackets, embroidered curtains, and rugs, but we, ourselves, were waiting
to get to Smyrna for the real purchase of rugs, and it was there that I
personally first brought into play the guile that I had learned of the
I remember Smyrna with particular delight. The quay curves in like a
giant horseshoe of white cement. The piers jut out into the sapphire
blue of this artificial bay, and are surrounded by myriads of tiny
rowing shells, in which you must trust yourself to get to land, as your
big ship anchors a mile or more from shore.
It was the brightest, most brilliant Mediterranean sunshine which
irradiated the scene the morning on which we arrived at Smyrna. A score
of gaily clad boatmen, whose very patches on their trousers were as
picturesque as the patches on Italian sails, held out their hands to
enable us to step from one cockle-shell to another, to reach the pier.
In the way the boats touch each other in the harbour at Smyrna, I was
reminded of the Thames in Henley week. We climbed through perhaps a
dozen of these boats before we landed on the pier, and in three minutes'
walk we were in the rug bazaars of Smyrna. Such treasures as we saw!
We were received by the smiling merchants as if we were long-lost
daughters suddenly restored, but we practised our newly acquired
diplomacy on them to such an extent that their faces soon began to
betray the most comic astonishment. These people are like children, and
exhibit their emotions in a manner which seems almost infantile to the
Caucasian. Alas, we were not the prey they had hoped for. We sneered at
their rugs; we laughed at their embroideries; we turned up our noses at
their jewelled weapons; we drank their coffee, and walked out of their
shops without buying. They followed us into the street, and there
implored us to come back, but we pretended to be returning to our ship.
On our way back through this same street, every proprietor was out in
front of his shop, holding up some special rug or embroidery which he
had hastily dug out of his secret treasures in the vain hope of
compelling our respect. Some of these were Persian silk rugs worth from
one to three thousand dollars each. Although we would have committed any
crime in order to possess these treasures, having got thoroughly into
the spirit of the thing, we turned these rugs on their backs and
pretended to find flaws in them, jeered at their colouring, and went on
our way, followed by a jabbering, excited, perplexed, and nettled horde,
who recklessly slaughtered their prices and almost tore up their mud
floors in their wild anxiety to prove that they had
something--anything--which we would buy. They called upon Allah to
witness that they never had been treated so in their lives, but would we
not stop just once more again to cast our eyes on their unworthy stock?
Having had all the amusement we wanted, and it being nearly time for
luncheon, we went in, and in half an hour we had bought all that we had
intended to buy from the first moment our eyes were cast upon them, and
at about one-half the price they were offered to us three hours before.
Now, if that isn't what you call enjoying yourself, I should like to ask
what you expect.
Ephesus, the graves of the Seven Sleepers, the tomb of St. Luke, the
ruins of the Temple of Diana ("Great is Diana of the Ephesians"), the
prison of St. Paul, are only a part of my vivid experiences in Smyrna.
In Athens we bought nothing modern, but found several antique shops with
Byzantine treasures, also silver ornaments, ancient curios, more
beautiful than anything we found in Italy, and ancient sacred brass
candlesticks of the Greek Church, which bore the test of being
transplanted to an American setting.
In truth, some of my richest experiences have been in exploring with
Jimmie tiny second-hand shops, pawn-shops, and dark, almost squalid
corners, where, amid piles of rubbish, we found some really exquisite
treasures. Mrs. Jimmie and Bee would have been afraid they would catch
leprosy if they had gone with us on some of our expeditions, but Jimmie
and I trusted in that Providence which always watches over children and
fools, and even in England we found bits of old silver, china, and
porcelain which amply repaid us for all the risk we ran. We often
encountered shopkeepers who spoke a language utterly unknown to us and
who understood not one word of English, and with whom we communicated by
writing down the figures on paper which we would pay, or showing them
the money in our hands. Perhaps we were cheated now and then--in fact,
in our secret hearts we are guiltily sure of it, but what difference
does that make?
When you get to Cairo, it being the jumping-off place, you naturally
expect the most curious admixture of stuffs for sale that your mind can
imagine, but, after having passed through the first stages of
bewilderment, you soon see that there are only a few things that you
really care for. For instance, you can't resist the turquoises. If you
go home from Egypt without buying any you will be sorry all the rest of
your lives. Nor ought you to hold yourself back from your natural
leaning toward crude ostrich feathers from the ostrich farms, and to
bottle up your emotion at seeing uncut amber in pieces the size of a
lump of chalk is to render yourself explosive and dangerous to your
friends. Shirt studs, long chains for your vinaigrette or your fan, cuff
buttons, antique belts of curious stones (generally clumsy and
unbecoming to the waist, but not to be withstood), carved ostrich eggs,
jewelled fly-brushes, carved brass coffee-pots and finger bowls, cigar
sets of brilliant but rude enamel, to say nothing of the rugs and
embroideries, are some of the things which I defy you to refrain from
buying. To be sure, there are thousands of other attractions, which, if
you are strong-minded, you can leave alone, but these things I have
enumerated you will find that you cannot live without. Of course, I mean
by this that these things are within reach of your purse, and cheaper
than you can get them anywhere else, unless perhaps you go into the
adjacent countries from which they come.
As you go up the Nile, your shopping becomes more primitive. On the mud
banks, at the stations at which your boat stops, Arabians, Nubians, and
Egyptians sit squatting on the caked mud with their gaudy clothes,
brilliant embroideries, and rugs piled around them all within arm's
reach. Here also you must bring the guile which I have described into
It may be that at Assuan, near the first cataract, I really got into
some little danger. I never knew why, but in the bazaars there I
developed an awful, insatiable desire to make a complete collection of
Abyssinian weapons of warfare. For this purpose, one day, I got on my
donkey and took with me only a little Scotchman, who had presented me
with countless bead necklaces and so many baskets all the way up the
Nile that at night I was obliged to put them overboard in order to get
into my stateroom, and who wore, besides his goggles, a green veil over
his face. We made our way across the sand, into which our donkeys' feet
sank above their fetlocks, to the bazaars of Assuan.
These bazaars deserve more than a passing mention, as they are unlike
any that I ever saw. They are all under one roof on both sides of tiny
streets or broad aisles, just as you choose to call them, and through
these aisles your donkey is privileged to go, while you sit calmly on
his back, bargaining with the cross-legged merchants, who scream at you
as you pass, thrusting their wares into your face, and, even if you
attempt to pass on, they stop your donkey by pulling his tail. On this
particular day I left my donkey at the door and made my way on foot, as
I was eager to make my purchases.
Perhaps I was careless and ought to have taken better care of my
Scotchman, because he was so little and so far from home, but I regret
to say that I lost him soon after I went into the bazaar, and I didn't
see him again for three hours. Never shall I forget those three hours.
In Smyrna, Turkey, and Egypt the bargaining language is about the same.
"What you give, lady?"
"I won't give anything! I don't want it! What! Do you think I would
carry that back home?"
"But you take hold of him; you feel him silk; I think you want to buy.
Ver' cheap, only four pound!"
"Four pounds!" I say in French. "Oh, you don't want to sell. You want to
keep it. And at such a price you will keep it."
"Keep it!" in a shrill scream. "Not want to sell? Me? I _here_ to sell!
I sell you everything you see! I sell you the _shop_!" and then more
wheedlingly, "You give me forty francs?"
"No," in English again. "I'll give you two dollars."
"America! Liberty!" he cries, having cunningly established my
nationality, and flattering my country with Oriental guile.
"Exactly," I say, "liberty for such as you if you go there. None for me.
Liberty in America is only free to the lower classes. The others are
obliged to _buy_ theirs."
He shakes his head uncomprehendingly. "How much you give for him? Last
price now! Six dollars!"
We haggle over "last prices" for a quarter of an hour more, and after
two cups of coffee, amiably taken together, and some general
conversation, I buy the thing for three dollars.
Bee says my tastes are low, but at any rate I can truthfully say that I
get on uncommonly well with the common herd. I got about thirty of these
jargon-speaking merchants so excited with my spirited method of not
buying what they wanted me to that a large Englishman and a tall, gaunt
Australian, thinking there was a fight going on, came to where I sat
drinking coffee, and found that the screams, gesticulations, appeals to
Allah, smiting of foreheads, brandishing of fists, and the general
uproar were all caused by a quiet and well-behaved American girl sitting
in their midst, while no less than four of them held a fold of her
skirt, twitching it now and then to call attention to their particular
howl of resentment. They rescued me, loaded my purchases on my donkey
boy, and found my donkey for me, beside which, sitting patiently on the
ground and humbly waiting my return, I found my little Scotchman.
With all this cumulative experience, as Jimmie says, "of how to
misbehave in shops," we got back to London, where I could bring it into
play, and in a manner avenge myself for past slights.
I was so grateful to Jimmie for the King Arthur that he gave me at
Innsbruck that I decided to surprise him by something really handsome on
When we got to Paris, there seemed to be an epidemic of gun-metal
ornaments set with tiny pearls, diamonds, or sapphires. Of these I
noticed that Jimmie admired the pearl-studded cigar-cases and
match-safes most, but for some reason I waited to make my purchase in
London, which was one of the most foolish things I ever have done in all
my foolish career, and right here let me say that there is nothing so
unsatisfactory as to postpone a purchase, thinking either that you will
come back to the same place or that you will see better further along,
for in nine cases out of ten you never see it again.
When we got to London, Bee and I put on our best street clothes and
started out to buy Jimmie his birthday present. We searched everywhere,
but found that all gun-metal articles in London were either plain or
studded with diamonds. We couldn't find a pearl. Finally in one shop I
explained my search to a tall, heavy man, evidently the proprietor, who
had small green eyes set quite closely together, a florid complexion,
and hay-coloured side-whiskers. His whiskers irritated me quite as much
as the fact that he hadn't what I wanted. Perhaps my hat vexed him, but
at any rate he looked as though he were glad he didn't have the pearls,
and he finally permitted his annoyance, or his general British rudeness,
to voice itself in this way:
"Pardon me, madame," he said, "but you will never find cigar-cases of
gun-metal studded with pearls, no matter how much you may desire it, for
it is not good taste."
I was warm, irritated, and my dress was too tight in the belt, so I just
leaned my two elbows on that show-case, and I said to him:
"Do you mean to have the impertinence, my good man, to tell two American
ladies that what they are looking for is not in good taste, simply
because you are so stupid and insular as not to keep it in stock? Do you
presume to express your opinion on taste when you are wearing a green
satin necktie with a pink shirt? If you had ever been off this little
island, and had gone to a land where taste in dress, and particularly in
jewels, is understood, you would realise the impertinence of criticising
the taste of an American woman, who is trying to find something worth
while buying in so hopelessly British a shop as this. Now, my good man,"
I added, taking up my parasol and purse, "I shall not report your
rudeness to the proprietor, because doubtless you have a family to
support, and I don't wish to make you lose your place, but let this be a
warning to you never to be so insolent again," and with that, I simply
swept out of his shop. I seldom sweep out. Bee says I generally crawl
out, but this time I was so inflated with an unholy joy that I
recklessly cabled to Paris for Jimmie's pearls, and to this day I
rejoice at the way that man covered his green satin tie with his large
hairy red hand, and at the ecstatic smiles on the faces of two clerks
standing near, for I _knew_ he was the proprietor when I called him "My
If you want to open an account in London, you have to be vouched for by
another commercial house. They won't take your personal friends, no
matter how wealthy, no matter if they are titled. Your bank's opinion of
you is no good. Neither does it avail you how well and favourably you
are known at your hotel for paying your bill promptly. This, and the
custom in several large department stores of never returning your money
if you take back goods, but making you spend it, not in the store, but
in the department in which you have bought, makes shopping for dry goods
excessively annoying to Americans.
I took back two silk blouses out of five that I bought at a large shop
in Regent Street much frequented by Americans, which carries on a store
near by under the same name, exclusively for mourning goods. To my
astonishment, I discovered that I must buy three more blouses, or else
lose all the money I paid for them. In my thirst for information, I
asked the reason for this. In America, a lady would consider the reason
they gave an insult. The shopwoman told me that ladies' maids are so
expert at copying that many ladies have six or eight garments sent home,
kept a few days, copied by their maids and returned, and that this
became so much the custom that they were finally forced to make that
I have heard complaints made in America by proprietors of large
importing houses that women who keep accounts frequently order a
handsome gown, wrap, or hat sent home on approval, wear it, and return
it the next day. If this is the custom among decent self-respecting
American women, who masquerade in society in the guise of women of
refinement and culture, no wonder that shopkeepers are obliged to
protect themselves. There is nowhere that the saying, "the innocent must
suffer with the guilty," obtains with so much force as in shopping,
particularly in London.
It is a characteristic difference between the clever American and the
insular British shopkeeper that in America, when a thing such as I have
mentioned is suspected, the saleswoman or a private detective is sent to
shadow the suspect, and ascertain if she really wore the garment in
question. In such cases, the garment is returned to her with a note,
saying that she was seen wearing it, when it is generally paid for
without a word. If not, the shop is in danger of losing one otherwise
valuable customer, as she is placed on what is known as the "blacklist,"
which means that a double scrutiny is placed on all her purchases, as
she is suspected of trickery.
In this same shop in Regent Street, of which I have been speaking, we
submitted to several petty annoyances of this description without
complaint, the last and pettiest of which was when Mrs. Jimmie, being
captivated by an exquisite hundred-guinea gown of pale gray, embroidered
in pink silk roses, and veiled with black Chantilly lace, bought it and
ordered it altered to her figure. For this they charged her two pounds
ten in addition to that frightful price for about an hour's work about
the collar. Mrs. Jimmie seldom resents anything, and in her gentleness
is easily governed, so this time I persuaded her to protest, and
dictated a furious letter of remonstrance to the proprietor, citing only
this one case of extortion. Jimmie sat by, smoking and encouraging me,
as I paced up and down the room with my hands behind my back, giving
vent to sentences which, when copied down in Mrs. Jimmie's ladylike
handwriting, made Jimmie scream with joy. I think Mrs. Jimmie never had
any intention of sending the letter, having written it down as a
safety-valve for my rather explosive nature, but Jimmie was so carried
away by the artistic incongruities of the situation that he whipped a
stamp on it and mailed it before his wife could wink.
To his delight, Mrs. Jimmie received, three days later, a letter from
the astonished proprietor, which showed in every line of it the jolt
that my letter must have been to his stolid British nerveless system. He
began by thanking her for having reported the matter to him, apologised
humbly, as a British tradesman always does apologise to the bloated
power of wealth, and said that her letter had been sent to all the
various heads of departments for their perusal. He declared that for
five years he had been endeavouring to bring the directors to see that,
if they were to possess the coveted American patronage for which they
always strove, they must accommodate themselves to certain American
prejudices, one of which was the unalterable distaste Americans
displayed in paying for refitting handsome gowns. He was delighted to
say that her letter had been couched in such firm, decisive, and
righteously indignant language, such as he himself never would have been
capable of commanding, had carried such weight, and had been productive
of such definite results with the directors that he was pleased to
announce that henceforward a radical change would appear in the
government of their house, and that never again would an extra charge be
made for refitting any garment costing over ten pounds. He thanked her
again for her letter, but could not resist saying at the close that it
was the most astonishing letter he had ever received in his life, and he
begged to enclose the two pounds ten overcharge.
Jimmie fairly howled for joy as he read this letter aloud; Bee looked
very much mortified; Mrs. Jimmie exceedingly perplexed, as if uncertain
what to think, but I confess that all my irritation against British
shopkeepers fell away from me as a cast-off garment. I blush to say that
I shared Jimmie's delight, and when he solemnly made me a present of the
two pounds ten I had so heroically earned, I soothed my ladylike
sister's refined resentment by inviting all three to have broiled