Part 3 out of 3
drove the Americans to a shelter from which they could not see the play,
and when it held up, they made their way back to their hotel.
Their car was full of returning pleasurers, some of whom were happy
beyond the sober wont of the fatherland. The conductor took a special
interest in his tipsy passengers, trying to keep them in order, and
genially entreating them to be quiet when they were too obstreperous.
From time to time he got some of them off, and then, when he remounted
the car, he appealed to the remaining passengers for their sympathy with
an innocent smile, which the Americans, still strange to the unjoyous
physiognomy of the German Empire, failed to value at its rare worth.
Before he slept that night March tried to assemble from the experiences
and impressions of the day some facts which he would not be ashamed of as
a serious observer of life in Leipsic, and he remembered that their guide
had said house-rent was very low. He generalized from the guide's
content with his fee that the Germans were not very rapacious; and he
became quite irrelevantly aware that in Germany no man's clothes fitted
him, or seemed expected to fit him; that the women dressed somewhat
better, and were rather pretty sometimes, and that they had feet as large
as the kind hearts of the Germans of every age and sex. He was able to
note, rather more freshly, that with all their kindness the Germans were
a very nervous people, if not irritable, and at the least cause gave way
to an agitation, which indeed quickly passed, but was violent while it
lasted. Several times that day he had seen encounters between the
portier and guests at the hotel which promised violence, but which ended
peacefully as soon as some simple question of train-time was solved.
The encounters always left the portier purple and perspiring, as any
agitation must with a man so tight in his livery. He bemoaned himself
after one of them as the victim of an unhappy calling, in which he could
take no exercise. "It is a life of excitements, but not of movements,"
he explained to March; and when he learned where he was going, he
regretted that he could not go to Carlsbad too. "For sugar?" he asked,
as if there were overmuch of it in his own make.
March felt the tribute, but he had to say, "No; liver."
"Ah!" said the portier, with the air of failing to get on common ground
The next morning was so fine that it would have been a fine morning in
America. Its beauty was scarcely sullied, even subjectively, by the
telegram which the portier sent after the Marches from the hotel, saying
that their missing trunk had not yet been found, and their spirits were
as light as the gay little clouds which blew about in the sky, when their
train drew out in the sunshine, brilliant on the charming landscape all
the way to Carlsbad. A fatherly 'traeger' had done his best to get them
the worst places in a non-smoking compartment, but had succeeded so
poorly that they were very comfortable, with no companions but a mother
and daughter, who spoke German in soft low tones together. Their
compartment was pervaded by tobacco fumes from the smokers, but as these
were twice as many as the non-smokers, it was only fair, and after March
had got a window open it did not matter, really.
He asked leave of the strangers in his German, and they consented in
theirs; but he could not master the secret of the window-catch, and the
elder lady said in English, "Let me show you," and came to his help.
The occasion for explaining that they were Americans and accustomed to
different car windows was so tempting that Mrs. March could not forbear,
and the other ladies were affected as deeply as she could wish. Perhaps
they were the more affected because it presently appeared that they had
cousins in New York whom she knew of, and that they were acquainted with
an American family that had passed the winter in Berlin. Life likes to
do these things handsomely, and it easily turned out that this was a
family of intimate friendship with the Marches; the names, familiarly
spoken, abolished all strangeness between the travellers; and they
entered into a comparison of tastes, opinions, and experiences, from
which it seemed that the objects and interests of cultivated people in
Berlin were quite the same as those of cultivated people in New York.
Each of the parties to the discovery disclaimed any superiority for their
respective civilizations; they wished rather to ascribe a greater charm
and virtue to the alien conditions; and they acquired such merit with one
another that when the German ladies got out of the train at Franzensbad,
the mother offered Mrs. March an ingenious folding footstool which she
had admired. In fact, she left her with it clasped to her breast, and
bowing speechless toward the giver in a vain wish to express her
"That was very pretty of her, my dear," said March. "You couldn't have
"No," she confessed; "I shouldn't have had the courage. The courage of
my emotions," she added, thoughtfully.
"Ah, that's the difference! A Berliner could do it, and a Bostonian
couldn't. Do you think it so much better to have the courage of your
"I don't know. It seems to me that I'm less and less certain of
everything that I used to be sure of."
He laughed, and then he said, "I was thinking how, on our wedding
journey, long ago, that Gray Sister at the Hotel Dieu in Quebec offered
you a rose."
"That was to your pretty youth. Now the gracious stranger gives you a
"To rest my poor old feet. Well, I would rather have it than a rose,
"You bent toward her at just the slant you had when you took the flower
that time; I noticed it. I didn't see that you looked so very different.
To be sure the roses in your cheeks have turned into rosettes; but
rosettes are very nice, and they're much more permanent; I prefer them;
they will keep in any climate."
She suffered his mockery with an appreciative sigh. "Yes, our age
caricatures our youth, doesn't it?"
"I don't think it gets much fun out of it," he assented.
"No; but it can't help it. I used to rebel against it when it first
began. I did enjoy being young."
"You did, my dear," he said, taking her hand tenderly; she withdrew it,
because though she could bear his sympathy, her New England nature could
not bear its expression. "And so did I; and we were both young a long
time. Travelling brings the past back, don't you think? There at that
restaurant, where we stopped for dinner--"
"Yes, it was charming! Just as it used to be! With that white cloth,
and those tall shining bottles of wine, and the fruit in the centre, and
the dinner in courses, and that young waiter who spoke English, and was
so nice! I'm never going home; you may, if you like."
"You bragged to those ladies about our dining-cars; and you said that our
railroad restaurants were quite as good as the European."
"I had to do that. But I knew better; they don't begin to be."
"Perhaps not; but I've been thinking that travel is a good deal alike
everywhere. It's the expression of the common civilization of the world.
When I came out of that restaurant and ran the train down, and then found
that it didn't start for fifteen minutes, I wasn't sure whether I was at
home or abroad. And when we changed cars at Eger, and got into this
train which had been baking in the sun for us outside the station, I
didn't know but I was back in the good old Fitchburg depot. To be sure,
Wallenstein wasn't assassinated at Boston, but I forgot his murder at
Eger, and so that came to the same thing. It's these confounded fifty-
odd years. I used to recollect everything."
He had got up and was looking out of the window at the landscape, which
had not grown less amiable in growing rather more slovenly since they had
crossed the Saxon bolder into Bohemia. All the morning and early
afternoon they had run through lovely levels of harvest, where men were
cradling the wheat and women were binding it into sheaves in the narrow
fields between black spaces of forest. After they left Eger, there was
something more picturesque and less thrifty in the farming among the low
hills which they gradually mounted to uplands, where they tasted a
mountain quality in the thin pure air. The railroad stations were
shabbier; there was an indefinable touch of something Southern in the
scenery and the people. Lilies were rocking on the sluggish reaches of
the streams, and where the current quickened, tall wheels were lifting
water for the fields in circles of brimming and spilling pockets. Along
the embankments, where a new track was being laid, barefooted women were
at work with pick and spade and barrow, and little yellow-haired girls
were lugging large white-headed babies, and watching the train go by.
At an up grade where it slowed in the ascent he began to throw out to the
children the pfennigs which had been left over from the passage in
Germany, and he pleased himself with his bounty, till the question
whether the children could spend the money forced itself upon him. He
sat down feeling less like a good genius than a cruel magician who had
tricked them with false wealth; but he kept his remorse to himself, and
tried to interest his wife in the difference of social and civic ideal
expressed in the change of the inhibitory notices at the car windows,
which in Germany had strongliest forbidden him to outlean himself, and
now in Austria entreated him not to outbow himself. She refused to share
in the speculation, or to debate the yet nicer problem involved by the
placarded prayer in the washroom to the Messrs. Travellers not to take
away the soap; and suddenly he felt himself as tired as she looked, with
that sense of the futility of travel which lies in wait for every one who
profits by travel.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Bad wars, or what are comically called good wars
Calm of those who have logic on their side
Decided not to let the facts betray themselves by chance
Explained perhaps too fully
Futility of travel
Humanity may at last prevail over nationality
Impertinent prophecies of their enjoying it so much
Less certain of everything that I used to be sure of
Life of the ship, like the life of the sea: a sodden monotony
Life was like the life at a sea-side hotel, but more monotonous
Madness of sight-seeing, which spoils travel
Night so bad that it was worse than no night at all
Our age caricatures our youth
Prices fixed by his remorse
Recipes for dishes and diseases
Reckless and culpable optimism
Repeated the nothings they had said already
She cares for him: that she was so cold shows that
She could bear his sympathy, but not its expression
Suffering under the drip-drip of his innocent egotism
They were so near in age, though they were ten years apart
Unfounded hope that sooner or later the weather would be fine
Woman harnessed with a dog to a cart
Wooded with the precise, severely disciplined German forests
Work he was so fond of and so weary of