Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Clare Boothby, Ben Harris and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: THE FAMOUS RELIEF OF CLEOPATRA AT TEMPLE OF DENDERAH]
As Seen By Me
* * * * *
By LILIAN BELL.
THE INSTINCT OF STEP-FATHERHOOD. A Novel. 16mo, Cloth, $1.25.
A LITTLE SISTER TO THE WILDERNESS. A Novel. 16mo, Cloth, $1.25.
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF AN OLD MAID. 16mo, Cloth, $1.25.
THE UNDER SIDE OF THINGS. 16mo, Cloth, $1.25.
FROM A GIRL'S POINT OF VIEW. 16mo, Cloth, $1.25.
* * * * *
THAT MOST INTERESTING SPECK OF HUMANITY, ALL PERPETUAL MOTION AND
KINDLING INTELLIGENCE AND SWEETNESS UNSPEAKABLE, MY LITTLE NEPHEW
ABSENCE FROM WHOM RACKED MY SPIRIT WITH ITS MOST UNAPPEASABLE PANGS OF
HOMESICKNESS, AND WHOSE CONSTANT PRESENCE IN MY STUDY SINCE MY RETURN
HAS SPARED THE PUBLIC NO SMALL AMOUNT OF PAIN
The frank conceit of the title to this book will, I hope, not
prejudice my friends against it, and will serve not only to excuse my
being my own Boswell, but will fasten the blame of all inaccuracies,
if such there be, upon the offender--myself. This is not a continuous
narrative of a continuous journey, but covers two years of travel over
some thirty thousand miles, and presents peoples and things, not as
you saw them, perhaps, or as they really are, but only As Seen By Me.
I. FIRST LETTER--ON THE WAY
IV. ON BOARD THE YACHT "HELA"
V. VILNA, RUSSIA
VI. ST. PETERSBURG
XI. THE NILE
FIRST LETTER--ON THE WAY
In this day and generation, when everybody goes to Europe, it is
difficult to discover the only person who never has been there. But I
am that one, and therefore the stir it occasioned in the bosom of my
amiable family when I announced that I, too, was about to join the
vast majority, is not easy to imagine. But if you think that I at once
became a person of importance it only goes to show that you do not
know the family. My mother, to be sure, hovered around me the way she
does when she thinks I am going into typhoid fever. I never have had
typhoid fever, but she is always on the watch for it, and if it ever
comes it will not catch her napping. She will meet it half-way. And
lest it elude her watchfulness, she minutely questions every pain
which assails any one of us, for fear, it may be her dreaded foe. Yet
when my sister's blessed lamb baby had it before he was a year old,
and after he had got well and I was not afraid he would be struck dead
for my wickedness, I said to her, "Well, mamma, you must have taken
solid comfort out of the first real chance you ever had at your pet
fever," she said I ought to be ashamed of myself.
My father began to explain international banking to me as his share in
my preparations, but I utterly discouraged him by asking the
difference between a check and a note. He said I reminded him of the
juryman who asked the difference between plaintiff and defendant. I
soothed him by assuring him that I knew I would always find somebody
to go to the bank with me.
"Most likely 'twill be Providence, then, as He watches over children
and fools," said my cousin, with what George Eliot calls "the brutal
candor of a near relation."
My brother-in-law lent me ten Baedekers, and offered his hampers and
French trunks to me with such reckless generosity that I had to get my
sister to stop him so that I wouldn't hurt his feelings by refusing.
My sister said, "I am perfectly sure, mamma, that if I don't go with
her, she will go about with an ecstatic smile on her face, and let
herself get cheated and lost, and she would just as soon as not tell
everybody that she had never been abroad before. She has no pride."
"Then you had better come along and take care of me and see that I
don't disgrace you," I urged.
"Really, mamma, I do think I had better go," said my sister. So she
actually consented to leave husband and baby in order to go and take
care of me. I do assure you, however, that I have bought all the
tickets, and carried the common purse, and got her through the
custom-houses, and arranged prices thus far. But she does pack my
trunks and make out the laundry lists--I will say that for her.
My brother's contribution to my comfort was in this wise: He said,
"You must have a few more lessons on your wheel before you go, and
I'll take you out for a lesson to-morrow if you'll get up and go at
six o'clock in the morning--that is, if you'll wear gloves. But you
mortify me half to death riding without gloves."
"Nobody sees me but milkmen," I said, humbly.
"Well, what will the milkmen think?" said my brother.
"Mercy on us, I never thought of that," I said. "My gloves are all
pretty tight when one has to grip one's handle-bars as fiercely as I
do. But I'll get large ones. What tint do you think milkmen care the
"Well, I'll go and I'll wear gloves," I said, "but if I fall off,
remember it will be on account of the gloves."
"You always do fall off," he said, with patient resignation. "I've
seen you fall off that wheel in more different directions than it has
"I don't exactly fall," I explained, carefully. "I feel myself going
and then I get off."
I was ready at six the next morning, and I wore gloves.
"Now, don't ride into the holes in the street"--one is obliged to give
such instructions in Chicago--"and don't look at anything you see.
Don't be afraid. You're all right. Now, then! You're off!"
"Oh, Teddy, don't ride so close to me," I quavered.
"I'm forty feet away from you," he said.
"Then double it," I said. "You're choking me by your proximity."
"Let's cross the railroad tracks just for practice," he said, when it
was too late for me to expostulate. "Stand up on your pedals and ride
"Hold on, please do," I shrieked. "I'm falling off. Get out of my way.
I seem to be turning--"
He scorched ahead, and I headed straight for the switchman's hut,
rounded it neatly, and leaned myself and my wheel against the side of
it, helpless with laughter.
A red Irish face, with a short black pipe in its mouth, thrust itself
out of the tiny window just in front of me, and a voice with a rich
"As purty a bit of riding as iver Oi see!"
"Wasn't it?" I cried. "You couldn't do it."
"Oi wouldn't thry! Oi'd rather tackle a railroad train going at full
spheed thin wan av thim runaway critturs."
"Get down from there," hissed my brother so close to my ear that it
made me bite my tongue.
I obediently scrambled down. Ted's face was very red.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to enter into immediate
conversation with a man like that. What do you suppose that man
thought of you?"
"Oh, perhaps he saw my gloves and took me for a lady," I pleaded.
Ted grinned and assisted me to mount.
When I successfully turned the corner by making Ted fall back out of
sight, we rode away along the boulevard in silence for a while, for my
conversation when I am on a wheel is generally limited to shrieks,
ejaculations, and snatches of prayer. I never talk to be amusing.
"I say," said my brother, hesitatingly, "I wear a No. 8 glove and a
No. 10 stocking."
"I've always thought you had large hands and feet," I said, ignoring
"No, now, really. I wish you'd write that down somewhere. You can get
those things so cheap in Paris."
"You are supposing the case of my return, or of Christmas intervening,
or--a present of some kind, I suppose."
"Well, no; not exactly. Although you know I am always broke--"
"Don't I, though?"
"And that I am still in debt--"
"Because papa insists upon your putting some money in the bank every
"Yes, and the result is that I never get my head above water. I owe
you twenty now."
"Which I never expect to recover, because you know I always get silly
about Christmas and 'forgive thee thy debts.'"
"You're awful good--" he began.
"But I'll be better if I bring you gloves and silk stockings."
"I'll give you the money!" he said, heroically. "Will you borrow it of
me or of mamma?" I asked, with a chuckle at the family financiering
which always goes on in this manner.
"Now don't make fun of me! _You_ don't know what it is to be hard up."
"Don't I, though?" I said, indignantly. "Oh--oh! Catch me!"
He seized my handle-bar and righted me before I fell off.
"See what you did by saying I never was hard up," I said. "I'll tell
you what, Teddy. You needn't give me the money. I'll bring you some
gloves and stockings!"
"Oh, I say, honest? Oh, but you're the right kind of a sister! I'll
never forget that as long as I live. You do look so nice on your
wheel. You sit so straight and--"
I saw a milkman coming. We three were the only objects in sight, yet I
headed for him.
"Get out of my way," I shrieked at him. "I'm a beginner. Turn off!"
He lashed his horse and cut down a side street.
"What a narrow escape," I sighed. "How glad I am I happened to think
I looked up pleasantly at Ted. He was biting his lips and he looked
"You are the most hopeless girl I ever saw!" he burst out. "I wish you
didn't own a wheel."
"I don't," I said. "The wheel owns me."
"You haven't the manners of--"
"Stockings," I said, looking straight ahead. "Silk stockings with
polka dots embroidered on them, No. 10."
Ted looked sheepish.
"I ride so well," I proceeded. "I sit up so straight and look so
"Gloves," I went on, still without looking at him. "White and pearl
ones for evening, and russet gloves for the street, No. 8."
"Oh, quit, won't you? I'm sorry I said that. But if you only knew how
you mortify me."
"Cheer up, Tedcastle. I am going away, you know. And when I come back
you will either have got over caring so much or I will be more of a
"I'm sorry you are going," said my brother. "But as you are going,
perhaps you will let me use your rooms while you are gone. Your bed is
the best one I ever slept in, and your study would be bully for the
boys when they come to see me."
I was too stunned to reply. He went on, utterly oblivious of my
"And I am going to use your wheel while you are gone, if you don't
mind, to take the girls out on. I know some awfully nice girls who can
ride, but their wheels are last year's make, and they won't ride them.
I'd rather like to be able to offer them a new wheel."
"I am not going to take all my party dresses. Have you any use for
them?" I said.
"Why, what's the matter? Won't you let me have your rooms?"
"Merciful heavens, child! I should say not!"
"Why, I haven't asked you for much," said my small, modest brother.
"Well, just wait till I offer the rest. But I'll tell you what I will
do, Ted. If you will promise not to go into my rooms and rummage once
while I am gone, and not to touch my wheel, I'll buy you a tandem, and
then you can take the girls on that."
"I'd rather have you bring me some things from Europe," said my
"All right. I'll do that, but let me off this thing. I am so tired I
can't move. You'll have to walk it back and give me five cents to ride
home on the car."
I crawled in to breakfast more dead than alive.
"What's the matter, dearie? Did you ride too far?" asked mamma.
"I don't know whether I rode too far or whether it was Ted's asking if
he couldn't use my rooms while I was gone, but something has made me
tired. What's that? Whom is papa talking to over the telephone?"
Papa came in fuming and fretting.
"Who was it this time?" I questioned, with anticipation. Inquiries
over the telephone were sure to be interesting to me just now.
"Somebody who wanted to know what train you were going on, but would
not give his name. He was inquiring for a friend, he said, and
wouldn't give his friend's name either."
"Didn't you tell him?" I cried, in distress.
"Certainly not. I told him nobody but an idiot would withhold his
Papa calls such a variety of men idiots.
"Oh, but it was probably only flowers or candy. Why didn't you tell
him? Have you no sentiment?"
"I won't have you receiving anonymous communications," he retorted,
with the liberty fathers have a little way of taking with their
"But flowers," I pleaded. "It is no harm to send flowers without a
card. Don't you see?" Oh, how hard it is to explain a delicate point
like that to one's father--in broad daylight! "I am supposed to know
who sent them!"
"But would you know?" asked my practical ancestor.
"Not--not exactly. But it would be almost sure to be one of them."
Ted shouted. But there was nothing funny in what I said. Boys are so
"Anyway, I am sorry you didn't tell him," I said.
"Well, I'm not," declared papa.
The rest of the day fairly flew. The last night came, and the baby was
put to bed. I undressed him, which he regarded as such a joke that he
worked himself into a fever of excitement. He loves to scrub like
Josie, the cook. I had bought him a little red pail, and I gave it to
him that night when he was partly undressed, and he was so enchanted
with it that he scampered around hugging it, and saying, "Pile!
pile!" like a little Cockney. He gave such squeals of ecstasy that
everybody came into the nursery to find him scrubbing his crib with a
nail-brush and little red pail.
"Who gave you the pretty pail, Billy?" asked Aunt Lida, who was
sitting by the crib.
"Tattah," said Billy, in a whisper. He always whispers my name.
"Then go and kiss dear auntie. She is going away on the big boat to
stay such a long time."
Billy's face sobered. Then he dropped his precious pail, and came and
licked my face like a little dog, which is his way of kissing.
I squeezed him until he yelled.
"Don't let him forget me," I wailed. "Talk to him about me every day.
And buy him a toy out of my money often, and tell him Tattah sent it
to him. Oh, oh, he'll be grown up when I come home!"
"Don't cry, dearie," said Aunt Lida, handing me her handkerchief.
"I'll see that your grave is kept green."
My sister appeared at the door. She was all ready to start. She even
had her veil on.
"What do you mean by exciting Billy so at this time of night?" she
said. "Go out, all of you. We'll lose the train. Hush, somebody's at
the telephone. Papa's talking to that same man again." I jumped up and
"Let me answer it, papa dear! Yes, yes, yes, certainly. To-night on
the Pennsylvania. You're quite welcome. Not at all." I hung up the
I could hear papa in the nursery:
"She actually told him--after all I said this morning! I never heard
of anything like it."
Two or three voices were raised in my defence. Ted slipped out into
"Bully for you," he whispered. "You'll get the flowers all right at
the train. Who do you s'pose they're from? Another box just came for
you. Say, couldn't you leave that smallest box of violets in the
silver box? I want to give them to a girl, and you've got such loads
"Don't ask her for those," answered my dear sister, "they are the most
precious of all!"
"I can't give you any of mine," I said, "but I'll buy you a box for
her--a small box," I added hastily.
"The carriages have come, dears," quavered grandmamma, coming out of
the nursery, followed by the family, one after the other.
"Get her satchels, Teddy. Her hat is upstairs. Her flowers are in the
hall. She left her ulster on my bed, and her books are on the
window-sill," said mamma. She wouldn't look at me. "Remember, dearie,
your medicines are all labelled, and I put needles in your work-box
all threaded. Don't sit in draughts and don't read in a dim light.
Have a good time and study hard and come back soon. Good--bye, my
girlie. God bless you!"
By this time no handkerchief would have sufficed for my tears. I
reached out blindly, and Ted handed me a towel.
"I've got a sheet when you've sopped that," he said. Boys are such
Aunt Lida said, "Good-bye, my dearest. You are my favorite niece. You
know I love you the best."
I giggled, for she tells my sister the same thing always.
"Nobody seems to care much that I am going," said Bee, mournfully.
"But you are coming back so soon, and she is going to stay so long,"
exclaimed grandmamma, patting Bee.
"I'll bet she doesn't stay a year," cried Ted.
"I'll expect her home by Christmas," said papa.
"I'll bet she is here to eat Thanksgiving dinner," cried my
"No, she is sure to stay as long as she has said she would," said
Mothers are the brace of the universe. The family trailed down to the
front door. Everybody was carrying something. There were two
carriages, for they were all going to the station with us.
"For all the world like a funeral, with loads of flowers and everybody
crying," said my brother, cheerfully.
I never shall forget that drive to the station; nor the last few
moments, when Bee and I stood on the car-steps and talked to those who
were on the platform of the station. Can anybody else remember how she
felt at going to Europe for the first time and leaving everybody she
loved at home? Bee grieved because there were no flowers at the train
after all. But the next morning they appeared, a tremendous box,
arranged as a surprise.
Telegrams came popping in at all the big stations along the way,
enlivening our gloom, and at the steamer there were such loads of
things that we might almost have set up as a florist, or fruiterer, or
bookseller. Such a lapful of steamer letters and telegrams! I read a
few each morning, and some of them I read every morning!
I don't like ocean travel. They sent grapefruit and confections to my
state-room, which I tossed out of the port-hole. You know there are
some people who think you don't know what you want. I travelled
horizontally most of the way, and now people roar when I say I wasn't
ill. Well, I wasn't, you know. We--well, Teddy would not like me to be
more explicit. I own to a horrible headache which never left me. I
deny everything else. Let them laugh. I was there, and I know.
The steamer I went on allows men to smoke on all the decks, and they
all smoked in my face. It did not help me. I must say that I was
unspeakably thankful to get my foot on dry ground once more. When we
got to the dock a special train of toy cars took us through the
greenest of green landscapes, and suddenly, almost before we knew it,
we were at Waterloo Station, and knew that London was at our door.
People said to me, "What are you going to London for?" I said, "To
get an English point of view." "Very well," said one of the knowing
ones, who has lived abroad the larger part of his life, "then you must
go to 'The Insular,' in Piccadilly. That is not only the smartest
hotel in London, but it is the most typically British. The rooms are
let from season to season to the best country families. There you will
find yourself plunged headlong into English life with not an American
environment to bless yourself with, and you will soon get your English
point of view."
"Ah-h," responded the simpleton who goes by my name, "that is what we
want. We will go to 'The Insular.'"
We wrote at once for rooms, and then telegraphed for them from
The steamer did not land her passengers until the morning of the ninth
day, which shows the vast superiority of going on a fast boat, which
gets you in fully as much as fifteen or twenty minutes ahead of the
Our luggage would not go on even a four-wheeler, so we took a dear
little private bus and proceeded to put our mountainous American
trunks on it. We filled the top of this bus as full as it would hold,
and put everything else inside. After stowing ourselves in there would
not have been room even for another umbrella.
In this fashion we reached "The Insular," where we were received by
four or five gorgeous creatures in livery, the head one of whom said,
"Miss Columbia?" I admitted it, and we were ushered in, where we were
met by more belonging to this tribe of gorgeousness, another of whom
said, "Miss Columbia?"
"Yes," I said, firmly, privately wondering if they were trying to trip
me into admitting that I was somebody else.
"The housekeeper will be here presently," said this person. "She is
Forth came the housekeeper.
"Miss Columbia?" she said.
Once again I said "Yes," patiently, standing on my other foot.
"If you will be good enough to come with me I will show you your
A door opened outward, disclosing a little square place with two
cane-bottomed chairs. A man bounced out so suddenly that I nearly
annihilated my sister, who was back of me. I could not imagine what
this little cubbyhole was, but as there seemed to be nowhere else to
go, I went in. The others followed, then the man who had bounced out.
He closed the door and shut us in, where we stood in solemn silence.
About a quarter of an hour afterwards I thought I saw something
through the glass moving slowly downward, and then an infinitesimal
thrill in the soles of my feet led me to suspect the truth.
"Is this thing an elevator?" I whispered to my sister.
"No, they call it a lift over here," she whispered back.
"I know that," I murmured, impatiently. "But is this thing it? Are we
moving? Are we going anywhere?"
"Why, of course, my dear. They are slower than ours, that's all."
I listened to her with some misgivings, for her information is not
always to be wholly trusted, but this time it happened that she was
right, for after a while we came to the fourth floor, where our rooms
I wish you could have seen the size of them. I shall not attempt to
describe them, for you would not believe me. I had engaged "two rooms
and a bath." The two rooms were there. "Where is the bath?" I said.
The housekeeper lovingly, removed a gigantic crash towel from a
hideous tin object, and proudly exposed to my vision that object which
is next dearest to his silk hat to an Englishman's heart--a hip-bath
tub. Her manner said, "Beat that if you can."
My sister prodded me in the back with her umbrella, which in our sign
language means, "Don't make a scene."
"Very well," I said, rather meekly. "Have our trunks sent up."
"Very good, madam."
She went away, and then we rang the bell and began to order what were
to us the barest necessities of life. We were tired and lame and
sleepy from a night spent at the pier landing the luggage, and we
wanted things with which to make ourselves comfortable.
There was a pocket edition of a fireplace, and they brought us a
hatful of the vilest soft coal, which peppered everything in the rooms
We climbed over our trunks to sit by this imitation of a fire, only to
find that there was nothing to sit on but the most uncompromising of
We groaned as we took in the situation. To our poor, racked frames a
coal-hod would not have suggested more discomfort. We dragged up our
hampers, packed with steamer-rugs and pillows, and my sister sat on
hers while I took another turn at the bell. While the maid is
answering this bell I shall have plenty of time to tell you what we
afterwards discovered the process of bell-ringing in an English hotel
We rang our bell. Presently we heard the most horrible gong, such as
we use on our patrol wagons and fire-engines at home. This clanged
four times. Then a second bell down the hall answered it. Then feet
flew by our door. At this juncture my sister and I prepared to let
ourselves down the fire-escape. But we soon discovered that those
flying feet belonged to the poor maid, whom that gong had signalled
that she was wanted on the fourth floor. She flew to a speaking-tube
and asked who on the fourth floor wanted her. She was then given the
number of our room, when she rang a bell to signify that our call was
answered, by which time she was at liberty, and knocked at our door,
saying, in her soft English voice, "Did you ring, miss?"
We told her we wanted rocking-chairs. She said there was not one in
the house. Then easy-chairs, we said, or anything cushioned or low or
comfortable. She said the housekeeper had no easier chairs.
We sat down on our hampers, and my sister leaned against the corner of
the wardrobe with a pillow at her back to keep from being cut in two.
I propped my back against the wash-stand, which did very well, except
that the wash-stand occasionally slid away from me.
"This," said my sister, impressively, "is England."
We had been here only half an hour, but I had already got my point of
"Let's go out and look up a hotel where they take Americans," I said.
"I feel the need of ice-water."
Our drinking-water at "The Insular" was on the end of the wash-stand
nearest the fire.
So, feeling a little timid and nervous, but not in the least homesick,
we went downstairs. One of our gorgeous retinue called a cab and we
"Where shall we go?" asked my sister.
"I feel like saying to the first hotel we see," I said.
Just then we raised our eyes and they rested simultaneously upon a
sign, "The Empire Hotel for Cats and Dogs." This simple solution of
our difficulty put us in such high good humor that we said we wouldn't
look up a hotel just yet--we would take a drive.
Under these circumstances we took our first drive down Piccadilly, and
Europe to me dates from that moment. The ship, the landing, the
custom-house, the train, the hotel--all these were mere preliminaries
to the Europe, which began then. People told me in America how my
heart would swell at this, and how I would thrill at that, but it was
not so. My first real thrill came to me in Piccadilly. It went all
over me in little shivers and came out at the ends of my fingers, and
then began once more at the base of my brain and did it all over
But what is the use of describing one's first view of London streets
and traffic to the initiated? Can they, who became used to it as
children, appreciate it? Can they look back and recall how it struck
them? No. When I try to tell Americans over here they look at me
curiously and say, "Dear me, how odd!" The way they say it leaves me
to draw any one of three conclusions: either they are not
impressionable, and are therefore honest in denying the feeling; or
they think it vulgar to admit it; or I am the only grown person in
America who never has been to Europe before.
But I am indifferent to their opinion. People are right in saying this
great tremendous rush of feeling can come but once. It is like being
in love for the first time. You like it and yet you don't like it. You
wish it would go away, yet you fear that it will go all too soon. It
gets into your head and makes you dizzy, and you want to shut your
eyes, but you are afraid if you do that you will miss something. You
cannot eat and you cannot sleep, and you feel that you have two
consciousnesses: one which belongs to the life you have lived
hitherto, and which still is going on, somewhere in the world,
unmindful of you, and you unmindful of it; and the other is this new
bliss which is beating in your veins and sounding in your ears and
shining before your eyes, which no one knows and no one dreams of, but
which keeps a smile on your lips--a smile which has in it nothing of
humor, nothing from the great without, but which-comes from the secret
recesses of your own inner consciousness, where the heart of the
I remember nothing definite about that first drive. I, for my part,
saw with unseeing eyes. My sister had seen it all before, so she had
the power of speech. Occasionally she prodded me and cried, "Look, oh!
look quickly." But I never swerved. "I can't look. If I do I shall
miss something. You attend to your own window and I'll attend to mine.
Coming back I will see your side."
When we got beyond the shops I said to the cabman:
"Do you know exactly the way you have come?"
"Yes, miss," he said.
"Then go back precisely the same way."
"Have you lost something, miss?" he inquired.
"Yes," I said, "I have lost an impression, and I must look till I find
"Very good, miss," he said.
If I had said, "I have carelessly let fall my cathedral," or, "I have
lost my orang-outang. Look for him!" an imperturbable British cabby
would only touch his cap and say, "Very good, miss!"
So we followed our own trail back to "The Insular." "In this way," I
said to my sister, "we both get a complete view. To-morrow we will do
it all over again."
But we found that we could not wait for the morrow. We did it all over
again that afternoon, and that second time I was able in a measure to
detach myself from the hum and buzz and the dizzying effect of foreign
faces, and I began to locate impressions. My first distinct
recollections are of the great numbers of high hats on the men, the
ill-hanging skirts and big feet of the women, the unsteadying effect
of all those thousands of cabs, carriages, and carts all going to the
left, which kept me constantly wishing to shriek out, "Go to the right
or we'll all be killed," the absolutely perfect manner in which
traffic was managed, and the majestic authority of the London police.
I have seen the Houses of Parliament and the Tower and Westminster
Abbey, and the World's Fair, but the most impressive sight I ever
beheld is the upraised hand of a London policeman. I never heard one
of them speak except when spoken to. But let one little blue-coated
man raise his forefinger and every vehicle on wheels stops, and stops
instantly; stops in obedience to law and order; stops without swearing
or gesticulating or abuse; stops with no underhanded trying to drive
out of line and get by on the other side; just stops, that is the end
of it. And why? Because the Queen of England is behind that raised
finger. A London policeman has more power than our President.
Even the Queen's coachmen obey that forefinger. Not long ago she
dismissed one who dared to drive even the royal carriage on in
defiance of it. Understanding how to obey, that is what makes liberty.
I am the most flamboyant of Americans, the most hopelessly addicted to
my own country, but I must admit that I had my first real taste of
liberty in England.
I will tell you why. In America nobody obeys anybody. We make our
laws, and then most industriously set about studying out a plan by
which we may evade them. America is suffering, as all republics must
of necessity suffer, from liberty in the hands of the multitude. The
multitude are ignorant, and liberty in the hands of the ignorant is
In America, the land of the free, whom do we fear? The President? No,
God bless him. There is not a true American in the world who would not
stand up as a man or a woman and go into his presence without fear.
Are we afraid of our Senators, our chief rulers? No. But we are afraid
of our servants, of our street-car conductors. We are afraid of
sleeping-car porters, and the drivers of huge trucks. We are afraid
they will drive over us in the streets, and if we dare to assert our
rights and hold them in check we are afraid of what they will say to
us, in the name of liberty, and of the way they will look at us, in
the name of liberty.
English servants, I have discovered, have no more respect for
Americans than the old-time negro of the Southern aristocracy has for
Northerners. I once asked an old black mammy in Georgia why the
negroes had so little respect for the white ladies of the North. "Case
dey don' know how to treat black folks, honey." "Why don't they?" I
persisted. "Are they not kind to you?" "Umph," she responded (and no
one who has never heard a fat old negress say "Umph" knows the
eloquence of it). "Umph. Dat's it. Dey's too kin'. Dey don' know how
to mek us min'." And that is just the trouble with Americans here. An
English servant takes orders, not requests.
I had such a time to learn that. We could not understand why we were
obeyed so well at first, and presently, without any outward
disrespect, our wants were simply ignored until all the English people
had been attended to.
My sister had told me I was too polite, but one never believes one's
sister, so I questioned our sweet English friends, and they, with much
delicacy and many apologies, and the prettiest hesitation in the
world--considering the situation--told us the reason.
"But," I gasped, "if I should speak to our servants in that manner
they would leave. They would not stay over night." Our English friends
tried not to smile in a superior way, and they succeeded, only I knew
the smile was there, and said, "Oh, no, our servants never leave us.
They apologize for having done it wrong."
On the way home I plucked up courage. "I am going to try it," I said,
firmly. My sister laughed in derision.
"Now I could do it," she said, complaisantly. And so she could. My
sister never plumes herself on a quality she does not possess.
"Are you going to use the tone and everything?" I said, somewhat
"You wait and see."
She hesitated some time, I noticed, before she rang the bell, and she
looked at herself in the glass and cleared her throat. I knew she was
"I'll ring the bell if you like," I said, politely.
She gave one look at me and then rang the bell herself with a firm
"And I'll get behind you with a poker in One hand and a pitcher of hot
water in the other. Speak when you need either."
"You feel very funny when you don't have to do it yourself," she said,
"You'll never put it through. You'll back down and say 'please' before
you have finished," I said, and just then the maid knocked at the
I never heard anything like it. My sister was superb. I doubt if
Bernhardt at her best ever inspired me with more awe. How that maid
flew around. How humble she was. How she apologized. And how, every
time my sister said, "Look sharp, now," the maid said, "Thank you." I
thought I should die. I was so much interested in the dramatic
possibilities of my cherished sister that when the door closed behind
the maid we simply looked at each other a moment, then simultaneously
made a bound for the bed, where we choked with laughter among the
pillows. Presently we sat up with flushed faces and rumpled hair. I
reached over and shook hands with her.
"How was that?" she asked.
"'Twas grand," I said. "The Queen couldn't have done it more to the
My sister accepted my compliments complaisantly, as one who should
say, "'Tis no more than my deserts."
"How firm you were," I said, admiringly.
"Wasn't I, though?"
"How humble she was."
"You were quite as disagreeable and determined as a real Englishwoman
would have been."
"So I was."
A pause full of intense admiration on my part. Then she said, "You
couldn't have done it."
"I know that."
"You are so deadly civil."
"Not to everybody, only to servants." I said this apologetically.
"You never keep a steady hand. You either grovel at their feet or snap
their heads off."
"Quite true," I admitted, humbly.
"But it was grand, wasn't it?" she said.
And for Americans it was.
We were still at "The Insular," when one day I took up a handful of
what had once been a tight bodice, and said to my sister:
"See how thin I've grown! I believe I am starving to death."
"No wonder," she answered, gloomily, "with this awful English cooking!
I'm nearly dead from your experiment of getting an English point of
view. I want something to eat--something that I _like_. I want a
beefsteak, with mushrooms, and some potatoes _au gratin_, like those
we have in America. I hate the stuff we get here. I wish I could never
see another chop as long as I live."
"'The Insular' is considered very good," I remarked, pensively.
"Considered!" cried she. "Whose consideration counts, I should like to
know, when you are always hungry for something you can't get?"
"I know it; and we are paying such prices, too. Who, except ostriches,
could eat their nasty preserves for breakfast when they are having
grape-fruit at home? And then their vile aspic jellies and potted
meats for luncheon, which look like sausage congealed in cold gravy,
and which taste like gum arabic."
"Let's move," said my sister. "Not into another hotel--that wouldn't
be much better. But lot's take lodgings. I've heard that they were
lovely. Then we can order what we like. Besides, it will be very much
"I didn't come over here to economize," I said.
"Well, I wouldn't say a word if we were getting anything for our
money, but we are not. Besides, when you get to Paris you will wish
you hadn't been so extravagant here."
"Are the Paris shops more fascinating than those in Regent Street?" I
"More alluring, than Bond Street?"
"More so than any in the world," she affirmed, with the religious
fervor which always characterizes her tone when she speaks of Paris.
The very leather of her purse fairly squeaks with ecstasy when she
thinks of Paris.
"Heavens!" I murmured, with awe, for whenever she won't go to Du
Maurier's grave with me, and when I won't do the crown jewels in the
Tower with her, we always compromise amiably on Bond Street, and come
home beaming with joy.
"We might go now just to look," I said. "I have the addresses of some
very good lodgings."
"We'll take a cab by the hour," said she, putting her hat on before
the mirror, and turning her head on one side to view her completed
"Now take off that watch and that belt and that chatelaine if you
don't want these harpies to think we are 'rich Americans' (how I have
come to hate that phrase over here!), because they will charge
She looked at me with genuine admiration.
"Do you know, dear, you are really clever at times?"
I colored with pleasure. It is so seldom that she finds anything
practical in me to praise.
"Now mind, we are just going to look," she cautioned, as we rang a
bell. "We must not do anything in a hurry."
We came out half an hour afterwards and got into the cab without
looking at each other.
"It was very unbusinesslike," said she, severely. "You never do
"But it was so gloriously impudent of us," I urged. "First, we wanted
lodgings. This was a boarding-house. Second, we wanted two bed-rooms
and a drawing-room. They had only one drawing-room in the house; could
we have that? Yes, we could. So we took their whole first floor, and
made them promise to serve our breakfasts in bed, and our other meals
in their best drawing-room, and turned a boarding-house into a
lodging-house, all inside of half an hour. It was lovely!"
"It was bad business," said she. "We could have got it for less, but
you are always in such a hurry. If you like a thing, and anybody says
you may have it for fifty, you always say, 'I'll give you
seventy-five,' You're so afraid to think a thing over."
"Second thoughts are never as much fun as first thoughts," I urged.
"Second thoughts are always so sensible and reasonable and approved
"How do you know?" asked my sister, witheringly. "You never waited for
The next day we moved. Everybody said our rooms were charming, and
that they were cheap, for I told how much we paid, much to my sister's
disgust. She is _such_ a lady.
"We have cut down our expenses so much," I said, looking around on the
drab walls and the dun-colored carpets, "don't you think we might have
a few flowers?"
"I believe you took this place for the balcony, so that you could put
daisies around the edge and in the window-boxes!" she cried.
"No, I didn't. But the houses in London are so pretty with their
flowers. Don't you think we might have a few?"
"Well, go and get them. I've got to write the home letter to-day if it
is to catch the Southampton boat."
I came home with six huge palms, two June roses, some pink heather, a
jar of marguerites, and I had ordered the balcony and window-boxes
filled. My sister helped me to place them, but when her back was
turned I arranged them over again. I can't tie a veil on the way she
can, but I can arrange flowers to look--well, I won't boast.
Our landladies were two middle-aged, comfortable sisters. We called
them "The Tabbies," meaning no disrespect to cats, either. I thought
they took rather too violent an interest in our affairs, but I said
nothing until one day after we had been settled nearly a week. I was
seated in my own private room trying to write. My sister came in,
evidently disturbed by something.
"Do you know," she said, "that our landlady just asked me how much you
paid for those strawberries? And when I told her she said that that
made them come to fourpence apiece, and that they were very dear. Now,
how did she know that they were strawberries, or how many were in each
box, I'd like to know?"
"Probably she opened the package," I said.
"Exactly what I think. Now I won't stand that. And then she asked me
not to set things on the mahogany tables. It's just because we are
Americans! She never would dare treat English people that way. She has
not sufficient respect for us."
"Then tell her to be more respectful; tell her we are very highly
thought of at home."
"She wouldn't care for that."
"Then tell her we have a few rich relations and quite a number of
"And if that does not fetch her, there is nothing left to do but to be
quite rude to her, and then she will know that we belong to the very
highest society. But what do you care what a middle-class landlady
thinks, just so she lets you alone?"
My sister meditated, and I added:
"If you would just snub her once, in your most ladylike way, it would
settle her. As for me, I am satisfied to think we are paying much
less, and we are twice as comfortable as we were at the hotel; and we
get such good things to eat that our skeletons are filling out, and
once more our clothes fit."
"That is so," said she, letting her thoughts wander to the number of
hooks in her closet. "We do have more room, and I think our
drawing-room with its palms and flowers will look lovely to-morrow."
"Do you think it was wise," she added, "to ask all those men to come
"Oh yes; let them all come together, then we can weed them out
afterwards. You never can have too many men."
"I am glad you have asked in a few women."
"Why?" I demanded. "Are you insinuating that we are not equal to a
handful of Englishmen? Recall the Boston tea-party. We will give them
the first strawberries of the season, and plenty of tea. Feed them;
that's the main thing," I said, firmly, taking up my pen and looking
steadily at her.
"I'll go," she said, hastily. "Do you have to go to the bank to-day?
You know to-morrow we must pay our weekly bill."
"It won't be much," I said, cheerfully; "I am sure I have enough."
The next day the bill came. Our landlady sent it up on the
breakfast-tray. I opened it, then shrieked for my sister. It covered
four pages of note-paper.
"For heaven's sake! what is the matter?" she cried. "Has anything
happened to Billy?"
"Billy! This thing is not an American letter. It is the bill for our
cheap lodgings. Look at it! Look at the extras--gas, coals, washing
bed--linen, washing table--linen, washing towels, kitchen fires,
service, oil for three lamps, afternoon tea, and three shillings for
sundries on the fourth page! What can sundries include? She hasn't
skipped anything but pew-rent."
My sister looked at the total, and buried her face in the pillows to
smother a groan.
"Ring the bell," I said; "I want the maid."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to find out what 'sundries' are."
She gave the bell-cord such a pull that she broke the wire, and it
fell down on her head.
"That, too, will go in the bill. Wrap your handkerchief around your
hand and give the wire a jerk. Give it a good one. I don't care if it
brings the police."
The maid came.
"Martha, present my compliments to Mrs. Black, and ask her what
Martha came back smiling.
"Please, miss, Mrs. Black's compliments, and 'sundries' means that you
complained that the coffee was muddy, and after that she cleared it
with an egg. 'Sundries' means the eggs."
"Martha," I said, weakly, "give me those Crown salts. No, no, I
forgot; those are Mrs. Black's salts. Take them out and tell her I
only smelled them once."
"Martha," said my sister, dragging my purse out from under my pillow,
"here is sixpence not to tell Mrs. Black anything." Then when Martha
disappeared she said, "How often have I told you not to jest with
"I forgot," I said, humbly. "But Martha has a sense of humor, don't
"I never thought anything about it. But what are you going to do about
"I'm going to argue about it, and declare I won't pay it, and then pay
it like a true American. Would you have me upset the traditions? But
I've got to go to the bank first."
I did just as I said. I argued to no avail. Mrs. Black was quite
haughty, and made me feel like a chimney-sweep. I paid her in full,
and when I came up I said:
"You are quite right. She has a poor opinion of us. When I asked her
how long it would take to drive to a house in West End, she said, 'Why
do you want to know?' I said I 'wanted to see the house.'"
"Didn't you tell her we were _invited_ there?" asked my sister,
"No; I said I had heard a good deal about the house, and she said it
was open to the public on Fridays. So I said we'd go then."
"I think you are horrid!" cried Bee. "The insolence of that woman! And
you actually think it is funny! You think _everything_ is funny."
I soothed her by pointing out some of the things which I considered
sad, notably English people trying to enjoy themselves. Then the men
began to drop in for tea, and that succeeded in making her forget her
Reggie and the Duke arrived together. My sister at once took charge of
the Duke, while Reggie said to me, "I say, what sort of creature is
the old girl below?"
"Not a very good sort, I am afraid. Why? What has she done now?"
"Why, she stopped Abingdon and me and asked us to wipe our shoes."
"She asked the Duke of Abingdon to wipe his shoes?" I gasped, in a
"Yes; and Freddie, who was just ahead of us, turned back and said, 'My
good woman, was the cab very dirty, do you think?'"
"Oh, don't tell my sister! She has almost died of Mrs. Black already
to-day; this would finish her completely."
"Well, you must give your woman a talking to--a regular going over,
d'ye know? Tell her you'll be the mistress of the whole blooming house
or you'll tear it to pieces. That's the way to talk to 'em. I told my
landlady in Edinburgh once that I'd chuck her out of the window if she
spoke to me until she was spoken to. She came up and rapped on the
door one Saturday night at ten o'clock, when I had some fellows there,
and told me to send those men home and go to bed."
"Then she isn't taking advantage of us because we are Americans, the
way the cabmen do?"
"Oh yes, I dare say she is; but you must stand up to her. They're a
set of thieves, the whole of 'em. I say, that's a pretty picture
you've got pinned up there."
"That's to hide a hole in the lace curtain," I explained,
gratuitously. Then I remembered, and glanced apprehensively at my
sister, but fortunately she had not heard me. "That is one of the
pictures from _Truth_, an American magazine. I always save the middle
picture when it is pretty, and pin it up on the wall."
"That is one thing where the States are away ahead of us--in their
"Don't say 'the States!' I've told you before. I didn't know you ever
admitted that anything was better in America."
Reggie only smiled affably. He ignored my offer of battle, and said:
"Abingdon is asking your sister to dine. I'm asked, and Freddie and
his wife, and I think you will enjoy it."
When they were all gone I marched downstairs to Mrs. Black without
saying a word to any one. When I came up I found my sister hanging
over the banisters.
"What is the matter? What have you done? I knew you were angry by the
way you looked."
"It was lovely!" I said. "I sent for Mrs. Black, and said, 'Mrs.
Black, do you know the name of the gentleman whom you asked to wipe
his shoes to-day?' 'No,' said she. 'It was the Duke of Abingdon,' I
said, sternly, well knowing the unspeakable reverence which the
middle-class English have for a title. She turned purple. She fell
back against the wall, muttering, 'The Duke of Abingdon! The Duke of
Abingdon!' I believe she is still leaning up against the wall
muttering that holy name. A title to Mrs. Black!"
The next day both the Tabbies were curtsying in the hall when we
started out. We were going on a coach to Richmond with Julia and her
husband, and another American girl, and then Julia's husband was going
to row us up the Thames to Hampton Court for tea, and they were all
going to dine with us at Scott's when we got home.
It was a lovely day. The trees were a mass of bloom, and everybody
ought to have enjoyed himself. We were having a very good time of it
among ourselves reading the absurd signs, until we noticed the three
girls who sat opposite to us. They had serious faces, and long,
consumptive teeth, which they never succeeded in completely hiding. I
knew just how they would look when they were dead; I knew that those
two long front teeth would still-- They listened to all we said
without a flicker of the eyelashes. Occasionally they looked down at
the size of the American girl's little feet and then involuntarily
drew their own back out of sight.
Presently I espied a sign, "Funerals, for this week only, at half
price." I seized Julia's hand. "Stop, oh, stop the coach and let's get
a funeral! We may never have an opportunity to get a bargain in
funerals again. And the sale lasts only one week. Everybody told me
before I came away to get what I wanted at the moment I saw it; not to
wait, thinking I would come back. So unless we order one now we may
have to pay the full price. And a funeral would be such a good
investment; it would keep forever. You'd never feel like using it
before you actually needed it. Do let me get one now!"
Of course, Julia, my sister, and Julia's husband were in gales of
laughter; but what finished me off was to see three serious creatures
opposite rise as if pulled by one string, look in an anxious way at me
and then at the sign, while the teeth began to say to each other:
"What did she say? What does she mean? What does she want a funeral
We had a lovely day, but everybody we met on the river looked very
unhappy, and nobody seemed to be at all glad that we were there or
that we were rising to the occasion. When we got home I was too tired
to notice things, but my sister, who sees everything, whispered:
"I verily believe they've put down a new stair-carpet to-day."
The next morning such a sight met our astonished eyes. There was a new
carpet on the hall. There were new curtains in our drawing-room. All
the covers had been removed from their sacred furniture. Brass
andirons replaced the old ones. The piano had a new cover. There was a
rocking-chair for each (we had only one before), and while we were
still speechless with amazement Mrs. Black came in with our bill.
"I have been thinking this over since yesterday, and I have decided
that as long as you did not understand about the extras, it would be
no more than right that I should take them off. So I owe you this."
I took the money, and it dropped from my nerveless fingers. Mrs. Black
picked it up and put it on the table--the mahogany table.
"You see I propped your palms for you in your absence, and I repotted
four of them. I thought they would grow better. Here are some
periodicals I sent to the library for, thinking you might like to look
at them, and I put my new calendar over your writing-desk. Now, is
there any little delicacy you would like for your luncheon?"
While Bee was getting rid of her I made a few rapid mental
"Bee," I said, "we are going to stay over here two years. Let's buy
the Duke and take him with us."
* * * * *
The reaction has come. I knew it would. It always does. It is a
mortification to be obliged to admit it in the face of London,
and all that we have had done for us, but the fact is we are
homesick--wretchedly, bitterly homesick. I remember how, when other
people have been here and written that they were homesick, I have
sniffed with contempt and have said to myself, "What poor taste! Just
wait until _my_ turn comes to go to Europe! I'll show them what it is
to enjoy every moment of my stay!"
But now--dear me, I can remember that I have made invidious remarks
about New York, and have objected to the odors in Chicago, and have
hated the Illinois Central turnstiles. But if I could be back in
America I would not mind being caught in a turnstile all day. Dear
America! Dear Lake Michigan! Dear Chicago!
I have talked the matter over with my sister, and we have decided that
it must be the people, for certainly the novelty is not yet worn off
of this marvellous London. We like individually nearly every one whom
we have met, but as a nation the English are to me an acquired
taste--just like olives and German opera.
To explain. My friendly, volatile American feelings are constantly
being shocked at the massed and consolidated indifference of English
men and women to each other. They care for nobody but themselves. In a
certain sense this indifference to other people's opinions is very
satisfactory. It makes you feel that no matter how outrageous you
wanted to be you could not cause a ripple of excitement or
interest--unless Royalty noticed your action. Then London would tread
itself to death in its efforts to see and hear you. But if an
Englishman entered a packed theatre on his hands with his feet in the
air, and thus proceeded to make the rounds of the house, the audience
would only give one glance, just to make sure that it was nothing more
abnormal than a man in evening dress, carrying his crush-hat between
his feet and walking on his hands, and then they would return to their
exciting conversation of where they were "going to show after the
play." Even the maids who usher would not smile, but would stoop and
put his programme between his teeth for him, and turn to the next
The English mind their own business, and we Americans are so used to
interfering with each other, and minding everybody's business as well
as our own, it makes us very homesick indeed, to find that we can do
precisely as we please and be let entirely alone.
The English who have been in America, or those who have a single
blessed drop of Irish or Scotch blood in their veins, will quite
understand what I mean. Fortunately for us we have found a few of
these different sorts, and they have kept us from suicide. They warned
us of the differences we would find. One man said to me: "We English
do not understand the meaning of the word hospitality compared to you
Americans. Now in the States--"
"Stop right there, if you please," I begged, "and say 'America.' It
offends me to be called 'the States' quite as much as if you called me
'the Colonies' or 'the Provinces!'"
"You speak as if you were America," he said.
"I am," I replied.
"Now that is just it. You Americans come over here nationally. We
English travel individually."
I was so startled at this acute analysis from a man whom I had always
regarded as an Englishman that I forgot my manners and I said, "Good
heavens, you are not all English, are you?"
"My father was Irish," he said.
"I knew it!" I cried with joy. "Please shake hands with me again. I
knew you weren't entirely English after that speech!"
"I will shake hands with you, of course. But I am a typical Britisher.
Please believe that."
"I shall not. You are not typical. That was really a clever
distinction and quite true."
He looked as if he were going to argue the point with me, so I hurried
on. I always get the worst of an argument, so I tried to take his mind
off his injury. "Now please go on," I urged. "It sounded so
"Well, I was only going to say that in America you are, as hosts,
quite sincere in wishing us to enjoy ourselves and to like America.
Here we will only do our duty by you if you bring letters to us, and
we don't care a hang whether you like England or not. We like it, and
"I see," I said, with cold chills of aversion for England as a nation
creeping over my enthusiasm.
"Now in America," he proceeded, "your host sends his carriage for you,
or calls for you, takes you with him, stays by you, introduces you to
the people he thinks you would most care to meet, and tells them who
and what you are; sees that you have everything that's going, and that
you see everything that's going, and then takes you back to your
"Then he asks you if you have had a good time, and if you like
America!" I supplemented.
"Oh, Lord, yes! He asks you that all the time, and so does everybody
else," he said, with a groan.
"Now, you were unkind if you didn't tell him all he wanted you to, for
I do assure you it was pure American kindness of heart which made him
take all that trouble for you. I know, too, without your telling me,
that he introduced you to all the prettiest girls, and gave you a
chance to talk to each of them, and only hovered around waiting to
take you on to the next one, as soon as he could catch you with ease."
"He did just that. How did you know?"
"Because he was a typical American host, God bless him, and that is
the way we do things over there."
"Now here," he went on, "we consider our duty done if we take a man to
dine, and then to some reception, where we turn him loose after one or
"What a hateful way of doing!" I said, politely.
"It is. It must seem barbarous to you."
"Or if you are a woman we send our carriages to let you drive where
you like. Or we send you invitations to go to needlework exhibitions
where you have to pay five shillings admission."
I said nothing, and he laughed.
"I know they have done that to you," he exclaimed. "Haven't they?"
"I have been delightfully entertained at luncheons and dinners and
teas, and I have been introduced to as charming people in London as I
ever hope to meet anywhere," I said, stolidly.
"But you won't tell about the needlework. Oh, I say, but that's jolly!
Fancy what you said when you began to get those beastly things!" And
he laughed again.
"I didn't say anything," I said. Then he roared. Yet he claimed to be
a "typical Britisher."
"We mean kindly," he went on. "You mustn't lay it up against us."
"Oh, we don't. We are having a lovely time."
There are times when the truth would be brutal.
Then this oasis of a man, this "typical Britisher," went away, and my
sister and I dressed for the theatre. A friend had sent us her box,
and assured us that it was perfectly proper for us to go alone. So we
went. Up to this time we had not hinted to each other that we were
homesick. The play was most amusing, yet we couldn't help watching the
audience. Such a bored-looking set, the women with frizzled hair held
down by invisible nets, mingling with their eyebrows, and done
hideously in the back. Low-necked gowns, exhibiting the most beautiful
shoulders in the world. Gorgeous jewels in their hair and gleaming all
over their bodices, but among half a dozen emerald, turquoise, and
diamond bracelets there would appear a silver-watch bracelet which
cost not over ten dollars, and spoiled the effect of all the others.
English women as a race are the worst-dressed women in the world. I
saw thousands of them in Piccadilly and Regent Street, and at Church
Parade in the Park, with high, French-heeled slippers over colored
stockings. And as to sizes, I should say nines were the average. There
are some smaller, but the most are larger.
The Prince of Wales was in the box opposite to ours, and when we were
not looking at him we gazed at the impassive faces of the audience.
They never smiled. They never laughed. The subtlest points in the play
went unnoticed, yet it is one which has had a record run and bids fair
to keep the boards for the rest of the season.
Suddenly my sister, although we had not spoken of the homesickness
that was weighing us down, touched my arm and said, "Look quick!
"Down there just in front of the pit, talking to that bald-headed
idiot with the monocle."
"Do you think she is American?" I said, dubiously. I couldn't see her
feet. "She might be French. She talks all over."
"No. She is an American girl. See how thin she is. The French are
short and fat."
"Look at her face," I said, enviously. "How animated it is. See how it
seems to stand out among all the other faces."
"Yet she is only amusing herself. See how stolid that creature looks
that she is wasting all her vitality on."
"She has told him some joke and she is laughing at it. He has put his
monocle in his other eye in his effort to see the point. He will get
it by the next boat. Wish she'd come and tell that joke to me. I'd
laugh at it."
My sister eyed me critically.
"You don't look as if you could laugh," she said.
"I wonder what would happen if I should fall dead and drop over into
the lap of that fat elephant in pink silk with the red neck," I said,
"She wouldn't even wink," said my sister, laughingly. "But if you
struck her just right you would bounce clear up here again and I could
"It is just four o'clock in Chicago," I said.
My sister promptly turned her back on me.
"And Billy has just wakened from his nap, and Katy is giving him his
food," I went on. (Billy is my sister's baby.) "And then mamma will
come into the nursery presently and take him while Katy gets his
carriage out, and she will show him my picture and ask him who it is
(because she wrote me she always did it at this time), and then he
will say, 'Tattah,' which is the sweetest baby word for 'Auntie' I
ever heard from mortal lips, and then he will kiss it of his own
accord. Mamma wrote that he had blistered it with his kisses, and it's
one of the big ones, but I don't care; I'll order a dozen more if he
will blister them all. And then she will say, 'Where did mamma and
Tattah go?' and he will wave his precious little square hand and say,
'Big boat,' and she says he tries to say, 'Way off'--and, oh, dear,
we are 'way off'--"
"Stop talking, you fiend," said my sister, from the depths of her
handkerchief. "You know I look like a fright when I cry."
"Boo-hoo," was my only reply. And once started, I couldn't stop. That
deadly English atmosphere of indifference--and, oh--and everything!
Have you ever been homesick when you couldn't get home? Have you ever
wanted to see your mother so that every bone in your body ached? Have
you ever been in the state where to see the baby for five minutes you
would give everything on earth you had? That was the way I felt about
Billy that grewsome night at this amusing play in an English theatre.
I had on my best clothes, but after my handkerchief ceased to avail
the tears slopped down on my satin gown, and the blisters will remain
as a lasting tribute to the contagion of a company of English people
out enjoying themselves.
My sister's stern sense of decorum caused her to contain herself until
she got home, but I am free to confess that after I once loosed my
hold over myself and found what a relief it was, I realized the truth
of what our old negro cook used to say when I was a child in the
South, and asked her why she howled and cried in such an alarming
manner when she "got religion." She used to say, "Lawd, chile, you
don't know how soovin' it is to jest bust out awn 'casions lake dese!"
Happy negroes! Happy children, who can "bust out" when their feelings
get the better of them! Civilization robs us of many of our acutest
That night on the way home from the theatre I learned something.
Nobody had ever told me that it is the custom to give the cabby an
extra sixpence when one takes a cab late at night, so, on alighting in
front of our flower-trimmed lodgings, I reached up, deposited my
shilling in his hand, and was turning away, when my footsteps were
arrested by my cabby's voice.
Turning, I saw him tossing the despised shilling in his curved palm
"A shillin'! Twelve o'clock at night! Two ladies in evenin' dress!
_You_ ought to 'a' gone in a 'bus! A cab's too expensive for _you_!
_I_ wish you'd 'a' _walked_ and I wish it had _rained_!"
With that parting shot he gathered up the lines and drove off, while I
leaned up against the door shaking with a laughter which my sister in
no wise shared with me. Poor Bee! Things like that jar her so that she
can't get any amusement out of them. To her it was terrifying
impudence. To me it was a heart-to-heart talk with a London cabby!
Oh, the sweet viciousness of that "_I_ wish it had _rained_!" I wonder
if that man beats his wife, or if he just converses with her as he
does with a recreant fare! Anyway, I loved him.
But if I have discovered nothing else in the brief time since I left
my native land, it is worth while to realize the truth of all the
poetry and song written on foreign shores about home.
To one accustomed to travel only in America, and to feel at home with
all the different varieties of one's countrymen, such sentiments are
no more than _vers de societe_. _But_ now I know what _Heimweh_
is--the home-pain. I can understand that the Swiss really die of it
sometimes. The home-pain! Neuralgia, you know, and most other acute
pains, attack only one set of nerves. But _Heimweh_ hurts all over.
There is not a muscle of the body, nor the most remote fibre of the
brain, nor a tissue of the heart that does not ache with it. You can't
eat. You can't sleep. You can't read or write or talk. It begins with
the protoplasm of your soul--and reaches forward to the end of time,
and aches every step of the way along. You want to hide your face in a
pillow away from everybody and do nothing but weep, but even that does
not cure. It seems to be too private to help materially. The only
thing I can recommend is to "bust out."
Homesickness is an inexplicable thing. I have heard brides relate how
it attacked them unmercifully and without cause in the midst of their
honeymoon. Girl students, whose sole aim in life has been to come
abroad to study, and who, in finally coming, have fondly dreamed that
the gates of Paradise had swung open before their delighted eyes, have
been among its earliest and most acutely afflicted victims. No
success, no realized ambitions ward it off. Like death, it comes to
high and low alike. One woman, whose name became famous with her first
concert, told me that she spent the first year over here in tears.
Nothing that friends can do, no amount of kindness or hospitality
avails as a preventive. You can take bromides and cure insomnia. You
can take chloroform, and enough of it will prevent seasickness, but
nothing avails for _Heimweh_. And like pride, "let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall." I have been in the midst of an
animated, recital of how homesick I had been the day before,
ridiculing myself and my malady with unctuous freedom, when suddenly
Billy's little face would seem to rise out of the flowers on the
dinner-table, or the patter of his little flying feet as they used to
sound in my ear as he fluttered down the long hall to my study, or the
darling way he used to ran towards me when I held out my arms and
said, "Come, Billy, let Tattah show you the doves," with such an
expectant face, and that little scarlet mouth opened to kiss me--oh,
it is nothing to anybody else, but it is home to me, and I was only
recalled to London and my dinner party when a fresh attack was made on
America, and I was called once more to battle for my country.
I have "fought, bled, and died" for home and country more times than I
can count since I have been here. I ought to come home with honorable
scars and the rank of field-marshal, at least. I never knew how many
objectionable features America presented to Englishmen until I became
their guest and broke bread at their tables. I cannot eat very much at
their dinner parties--I am too busy thinking how to parry their
attacks on my America, and especially my Chicago, and my West
generally. The English adore Americans, but they loathe America, and
I, for one, will not accept a divided allegiance. "Love me, love my
dog," is my motto. I go home from their dinners as hungry as a wolf,
but covered with Victoria crosses. I am puzzled to know if they really
hate Chicago more than any other spot on earth, or if they simply love
to hear me fight for it, or if their manners need improving.
I myself may complain of the horrors of our filthy streets, or of the
way we tear up whole blocks at once (here in London they only mend a
teaspoonful of pavement at a time), or of our beastly winds which tear
your soul from your body, but I hope never to sink so low as to permit
a lot of foreigners to do it. For even as a Parisian loves his Paris,
and as a New Yorker loves his London, so do I love my Chicago.
It was a fortunate thing, after all, that I went to London first, and
had my first great astonishment there. It broke Paris to me gently.
For a month I have been in this city of limited republicanism; this
extraordinary example of outward beauty and inward uncleanness; this
bewildering cosmopolis of cheap luxuries and expensive necessities;
this curious city of contradictions, where you might eat your
breakfast from the streets--they are so clean--but where you must
close your eyes to the spectacles of the curbstones; this beautiful,
whited sepulchre, where exists the unwritten law, "Commit any offence
you will, provided you submerge it in poetry and flowers"; this
exponent of outward observances, where a gentleman will deliberately
push you into the street if he wishes to pass you in a crowd, but
where his action is condoned by his inexpressible manner of raising
his hat to you, and the heartfelt sincerity of his apology; where one
man will run a mile to restore a lost franc, but if you ask him to
change a gold piece he will steal five; where your eyes are ravished
with the beauty, and the greenness, and the smoothness and apparent
ease of living of all its inhabitants; where your mind is filled with
the pictures, the music, the art, the general atmosphere of culture
and wit; where the cooking is so good but so elusive, and where the
shops are so bewitching that you have spent your last dollar without
thinking, and you are obliged to cable for a new letter of credit from
home before you know it--this is Paris.
Paris is very educational. I can imagine its influence broadening some
people so much that their own country could never be ample enough to
cover them again. I can imagine it narrowing others so that they would
return to America more of Puritans than ever. It is amusing, it is
fascinating, it is exciting, it is corrupting. The French must be the
most curious people on earth. How could even heavenly ingenuity create
a more uncommon or bewildering contradiction and combination? Make up
your mind that they are as simple as children when you see their
innocent picnicking along the boulevards and in the parks with their
whole families, yet you dare not trust yourself to hear what they are
saying. Believe that they are cynical, and _fin de siecle_, and
skeptical of all women when you hear two men talk, and the next day
you hear that one of them has shot himself on the grave of his
sweetheart. Believe that politeness is the ruling characteristic of
the country because a man kisses your hand when he takes leave of you.
But marry him, and no insult as regards other women is too low for him
to heap upon you. Believe that the French men are sympathetic because
they laugh and cry openly at the theatre. But appeal to their
chivalry, and they will rescue you from one discomfort only to offer
you a worse. The French have sentimentality, but not sentiment. They
have gallantry, but not chivalry. They have vanity, but not pride.
They have religion, but not morality. They are a combination of the
wildest extravagance and the strictest parsimony. They cultivate the
ground so close to the railroad tracks that the trains almost run over
their roses, and yet they leave a Place de la Concorde in the heart of
You can buy the wing of a chicken at a butcher's and take it home to
cook it. But your bill at a restaurant will appall you. Water is the
most precious and exclusive drink you can order in Paris. Imagine
that--you who let the water run to cool it! In Paris they actually pay
for water in their houses by the quart.
Artichokes, and truffles, and mushrooms, and silk stockings, and kid
gloves are so cheap here that it makes you blink your eyes. But eggs,
and cream, and milk are luxuries. Silks and velvets are bewilderingly
inexpensive. But cotton stuffs are from America, and are
extravagances. They make them up into "costumes," and trim them with
velvet ribbon. Never by any chance could you be supposed to send
cotton frocks to be washed every week. The luxury of fresh, starched
muslin dresses and plenty of shirt-waists is unknown.
I never shall overcome the ecstasies of laughter which assail me when
I see varieties of coal exhibited in tiny shop windows, set forth in
high glass dishes, as we exploit chocolates at home. But well they may
respect it, for it is really very much cheaper to freeze to death than
to buy coal in Paris.
The reason of all this is the city tax on every chicken, every carrot,
every egg brought into Paris. Every mouthful of food is taxed. This
produces an enormous revenue, and this is why the streets are so
clean; it is why the asphalt is as smooth as a ballroom floor; it is
why the whole of Paris is as beautiful as a dream.
In fact, the city has ideas of cleanliness which its middle-class
inhabitants do not share. On a rainy day in Paris the absurdly hoisted
dresses will expose to your view all varieties of trimmed, ruffled,
and lace petticoats, which would undeniably be benefited by a bath.
All the _lingerie_ has ribbons in it, and sometimes I think they are
never intended to be taken out.
When I was at the chateau of a friend not long ago she overheard her
maid apologizing to two sisters of charity, for the presence of a
bath-tub in her mistress's dressing-room: "You must not blame madame
la marquise for bathing every day. She is not more untidy than I, and
I, God knows, wash myself but twice a year. It is just a habit of hers
which she caught from the English."
My friend called to her sharply, and told her she need not apologize
for her bathing, to which the maid replied, in a tone of meek
justification, "But if madame la marquise only knew how she was
regarded by the people for this habit of hers!"
I like the way the French take their amusements. At the theatre they
laugh and applaud the wit of the hero and hiss the villain. They shout
their approval of a duel and weep aloud over the death of the aged
mother. When they drive in the Bois they smile and have an air of
enjoyment quite at variance with the bored expression of English and
Americans who have enough money to own carriages. We drove in Hyde
Park in London the day before we came to Paris, and nearly wept with
sympathy for the unspoken grief in the faces of the unfortunate rich
who were at such pains to enjoy themselves.
The second day from that we had a delightful drive in the Bois in
"How glad everybody seems to be we have come!" I said to my sister.
"See how pleased they all look."
I was enchanted at their gay faces. I felt like bowing right and left
to them, the way queens and circus girls do.
I never saw such handsome men as I saw in London. I never saw such
beautiful women as I see in Paris.
The Bois has never been so smart as it was the past season, for the
horrible fire of the Bazar de la Charite put an end to the Paris
season, and left those who were not personally bereaved no solace but
the Bois. Consequently, the costumes one saw between five and seven on
that one beautiful boulevard were enough to set one wild. I always
wished that my neck turned on a pivot and that I had eyes set like a
coronet all around my head. My sister and I were in a constant state
of ecstasy and of clutching each other's gowns, trying to see every
one who passed. But it was of no use. Although they drove slowly on
purpose to be seen, if you tried to focus your glance on each one it
seemed as if they drove like lightning, and you got only astigmatism
for your pains. I always came home from the Bois with a headache and a
I never dreamed of such clothes even in my dreams of heaven. But the
French are an extravagant race. There was hardly a gown worn last
season which was not of the most delicate texture, garnished with
chiffon and illusion and tulle--the most crushable, airy, inflammable,
unserviceable material one can think of. Now, I am a utilitarian. When
I see a white gown I always wonder if it will wash. If I see lace on
the foot ruffle of a dress I think how it will sound when the wearer
steps on it going up-stairs. But anything would be serviceable to wear
driving in a victoria in the Bois between five and seven, and as that
is where I have seen the most beautiful costumes I have no right to
complain, or to thrust at them my American ideas of usefulness. This
rage of theirs for beauty is what makes a perpetual honeymoon for the
eyes of every inch of France. The way they study color and put greens
together in their landscape gardening makes one think with horror of
our prairies and sagebrush.
The eye is ravished with beauty all over Paris. The clean streets, the
walks between rows of trees for pedestrians, the lanes for bicyclists,
the paths through tiny forests, right in Paris, for equestrians, and
on each side the loveliest trees--trees everywhere except where there
are fountains--but what is the use of trying to describe a beauty
which has staggered braver pens than mine, and which, after all, you
must see to appreciate?
The Catholic observances one sees everywhere in Paris are most
interesting. When a funeral procession passes, every man takes off his
hat and stands watching it with the greatest respect.
In May the streets are full of sweet-faced little girls on their way
to their first communion. They were all in white, bareheaded, except
for their white veils, white shoes, white gloves, and the dearest look
of importance on their earnest little faces. It was most touching.
In all months, however, one sees the comical sight of a French bride
and bridegroom, in all the glory of their bridal array--white satin,
veil, and orange blossoms--driving through the streets in open cabs,
and hugging and kissing each other with an unctuous freedom which is
apt to throw a conservative American into a spasm of laughter. Indeed,
the frank and candid way that love-making goes on in public among the
lower classes is so amazing that at first you think you never in this
world will become accustomed to it, but you get accustomed to a great
many strange sights in Paris. If a kiss explodes with unusual violence
in a cab near mine it sometimes scares the horse, but it no longer
disturbs me in the least. My nervousness over that sort of thing has
entirely worn off.
I have had but one adventure, and that was of a simple and primitive
character, which seemed to excite no one but myself. They say that
there is no drunkenness in France. If that is so then this cabman of
mine had a fit of some kind. Perhaps, though, he was only a beast.
Most of the cabmen here are beasts. They beat their poor horses so
unmercifully that I spend quite a good portion of my time standing up
in the cab and arguing with them. But the only efficacious argument I
have discovered is to tell them that they will get no _pourboire_ if
they beat the horse. That seems to infuse more humanity into them than
any number of Scripture texts.
On this occasion my cabman, for no reason whatever, suddenly began to
beat his horse in the hatefulest way, leaning down with his whip and
striking the horse underneath, as we were going downhill on the Rue de
Freycinet. I screamed at him, but he pretended not to hear. The cab
rocked from side to side, the horse was galloping, and this brute
beating him like a madman. It made me wild. I was being bounced around
like corn in a popper and in imminent danger of being thrown to the
People saw my danger, but nobody did anything--just looked, that was
all. I saw that I must save myself if there was any saving going to be
done. So with one last trial of my lungs I shrieked at the cabman, but
the cobblestones were his excuse, and he kept on. So I just stood up
and knocked his hat off with my parasol!--his big, white, glazed hat.
It was glorious! He turned around in a fury and pulled up his horse,
with a torrent of French abuse and impudence which scared me nearly to
death. I thought he might strike me.
So I pulled my twitching lips into a distortion which passed muster
with a Paris cabman for a smile, and begged his pardon so profusely
that he relented and didn't kill me.
I often blush for the cheap Americans with loud voices and provincial
speech, and general commonness, whom one meets over here; but with all
their faults they cannot approach the vulgarities at table which I
have seen in Paris. In all America we have no such vulgar institution
as their _rince-bouche_--an affair resembling a two-part finger-bowl,
with the water in a cup in the middle. At fashionable tables, men and
women in gorgeous clothes, who speak four or five languages, actually
rinse their mouths and gargle at the table, and then slop the water
thus used back into these bowls. The first time I saw this I do assure
you I would not have been more astonished if the next course had been
And as for the toothpick habit! Let no one ever tell me that that
atrocity is American! Here it goes with every course, and without the
pretended decency of holding one's _serviette_ before one's mouth,
which, in my opinion, is a mere affectation, and aggravates the
But the most shameless thing in all Europe is the marriage question.
To talk with intelligent, clever, thinking men and women, who know the
secret history of all the famous international marriages, as well as
the high contracting parties, who will relate the price paid for the
husband, and who the intermediary was, and how much commission he or
she received, is to make you turn faint and sick at the mere thought,
especially if you happen to come from a country where they once fought
to abolish the buying and selling of human beings. But our black
slaves were above buying and selling themselves or their children. It
remains for civilized Europe of our time to do this, and the highest
and proudest of her people at that.
It is not so shocking to read about it in glittering generalities. I
knew of it in a vague way, just as I knew the history of the massacre
of Saint Bartholomew. I thought it was too bad that so many people
were killed, and I also thought it a pity that Frenchmen never married
without a _dot_. But when it comes to meeting the people who had thus
bargained, and the moment their gorgeous lace and satin backs were
turned to hear some one say, "You are always so interested in that
sort of thing, have you heard what a scandal was caused by the
marriage of those two?"--then it ceases to be history; then it becomes
almost a family affair.
"How could a marriage between two unattached young people cause a
scandal?" I asked, with my stupid, primitive American ideas.
"Oh, the bride's mother refused to pay the commission to the
intermediary," was the airy reply. "It came near getting into the
At the Jubilee garden party at Lady Monson's I saw the most beautiful
French girl I have seen in Paris. She was superb. In America she would
have been a radiant, a triumphant beauty, and probably would have
acquired the insolent manners of some of our spoiled beauties. Instead
of that, however, she was modest, even timid-looking, except for her
queenly carriage. Her gown was a dream, and a dream of a dress at a
Paris garden party means something.
"What a tearing beauty!" I said to my companion. "Who is she?"
"Yes, poor girl!" he said. "She is the daughter of the Comtesse N----.
One of the prettiest girls in Paris. Not a sou, however; consequently
she will never marry. She will probably go into a convent."
"But why? Why won't she marry? Why aren't all the men crazy about her?
Why don't you marry her?"
"Marry a girl without a _dot_? Thank you, mademoiselle. I am an
expense to myself. My wife must not be an additional encumbrance."
"But surely," I said, "somebody will want to marry her, if no nobleman
"Ah, yes, but she is of noble blood, and she must not marry beneath
her. No one in her own class will marry her, so"--a shrug--"the
convent! See, her chances are quite gone. She has been out five years
I could have cried. Every word of it was quite true. I thought of the
dozens of susceptible and rich American men I knew who would have gone
through fire and water for her, and who, although they have no title
to give her, would have made her adoring and adorable husbands, and I
seriously thought of offering a few of them to her for consideration!
But alas, there are so many ifs and ands, and--well, I didn't.
I only sighed and said, "Well, I suppose such things are common in
France, but I do assure you such things are impossible in America."
"Such things as what, mademoiselle?"
"This cold-blooded bartering," I said. "American men are above it."
"Are American girls above selling themselves, mademoiselle? Do you see
that poor, pitifully plain little creature there, in that dress which
cost a fortune? Do you see how ill she carries it? Do you see her
unformed, uncertain manner? Her husband is the one I just had the
honor of presenting to you, who is now talking to the beauty you so
"He shows good taste in spite of his marriage," I said.
"Certainly. But his wife is your countrywoman. That is the last famous
international marriage, and the most vulgar of the whole lot. Listen,
mademoiselle, and I will tell you the exact truth of the whole affair.