Part 5 out of 7
now a sort of combination of her two earlier selves: in religious loyalty
and subjection she is Zoe: in triviality of character and shallowness of
judgement--together with a touch of vanity in dress--she is Phoebe.
After a lapse of years she appears in the fourth act as Nymphas, a
beautiful boy, in whose character the previous incarnations are
And after another stretch of years all these heredities are joined in the
Zenobia of the fifth act--a person of gravity, dignity, sweetness, with a
heart filled with compassion for all who suffer, and a hand prompt to put
into practical form the heart's benignant impulses.
There are a number of curious and interesting features in this piece.
For instance, its hero, Appelles, young, handsome, vigorous, in the first
act, remains so all through the long flight of years covered by the five
acts. Other men, young in the firs act, are touched with gray in the
second, are old and racked with infirmities in the third; in the fourth,
all but one are gone to their long home, and this one is a blind and
helpless hulk of ninety or a hundred years. It indicates that the
stretch of time covered by the piece is seventy years or more. The
scenery undergoes decay, too--the decay of age assisted and perfected by
a conflagration. The fine new temples and palaces of the second act are
by-and-by a wreck of crumbled walls and prostrate columns, mouldy, grass-
grown, and desolate; but their former selves are still recognisable in
their ruins. The ageing men and the ageing scenery together convey a
profound illusion of that long lapse of time: they make you live it
yourself! You leave the theatre with the weight of a century upon you.
Another strong effect: Death, in person, walks about the stage in every
act. So far as I could make out, he was supposably not visible to any
excepting two persons--the one he came for and Appelles. He used various
costumes: but there was always more black about them than any other tint;
and so they were always sombre. Also they were always deeply impressive
and, indeed, awe-inspiring. The face was not subjected to changes, but
remained the same first and last--a ghastly white. To me he was always
welcome, he seemed so real--the actual Death, not a play-acting
artificiality. He was of a solemn and stately carriage; and he had a
deep voice, and used it with a noble dignity. Wherever there was a
turmoil of merry-making or fighting or feasting or chaffing or
quarreling, or a gilded pageant, or other manifestation of our trivial
and fleeting life, into it drifted that black figure with the corpse-
face, and looked its fateful look and passed on; leaving its victim
shuddering and smitten. And always its coming made the fussy human pack
seem infinitely pitiful and shabby, and hardly worth the attention of
either saving or damning.
In the beginning of the first act the young girl Zoe appears by some
great rocks in the desert, and sits down exhausted, to rest. Presently
arrive a pauper couple stricken with age and infirmities; and they begin
to mumble and pray to the Spirit of Life, who is said to inhabit that
spot. The Spirit of Life appears; also Death--uninvited. They are
(supposably) invisible. Death, tall, black-robed, corpse-faced, stands
motionless and waits. The aged couple pray to the Spirit of Life for a
means to prop up their existence and continue it. Their prayer fails.
The Spirit of Life prophesies Zoe's martyrdom; it will take place before
night. Soon Appelles arrives, young and vigorous and full of enthusiasm:
he has led a host against the Persians and won the battle; he is the pet
of fortune, rich, honoured, believed, 'Master of Palmyra'. He has heard
that whoever stretches himself out on one of those rocks there and asks
for a deathless life can have his wish. He laughs at the tradition, but
wants to make the trial anyway. The invisible Spirit of Life warns him!
'Life without end can be regret without end.' But he persists: let him
keep his youth, his strength, and his mental faculties unimpaired, and he
will take all the risks. He has his desire.
From this time forth, act after act, the troubles and sorrows and
misfortunes and humiliations of life beat upon him without pity or
respite; but he will not give up, he will not confess his mistake.
Whenever he meets Death he still furiously defies him--but Death
patiently waits. He, the healer of sorrows, is man's best friend: the
recognition of this will come. As the years drag on, and on, and on, the
friends of the Master's youth grow old; and one by one they totter to the
grave: he goes on with his proud fight, and will not yield. At length he
is wholly alone in the world; all his friends are dead; last of all, his
darling of darlings, his son, the lad Nymphas, who dies in his arms. His
pride is broken now; and he would welcome Death, if Death would come, if
Death would hear his prayers and give him peace. The closing act is fine
and pathetic. Appelles meets Zenobia, the helper of all who suffer, and
tells her his story, which moves her pity. By common report she is
endowed with more than earthly powers; and since he cannot have the boon
of death, he appeals to her to drown his memory in forgetfulness of his
griefs--forgetfulness 'which is death's equivalent'. She says (roughly
translated), in an exaltation of compassion:
'Come to me!
Kneel; and may the power be granted me
To cool the fires of this poor tortured brain,
And bring it peace and healing.'
He kneels. From her hand, which she lays upon his head, a mysterious
influence steals through him; and he sinks into a dreamy tranquility.
'Oh, if I could but so drift
Through this soft twilight into the night of peace,
Never to wake again!
(Raising his hand, as if in benediction.)
O mother earth, farewell!
Gracious thou were to me. Farewell!
Appelles goes to rest.'
Death appears behind him and encloses the uplifted hand in his. Appelles
shudders, wearily and slowly turns, and recognises his life-long
adversary. He smiles and puts all his gratitude into one simple and
touching sentence, 'Ich danke dir,' and dies.
Nothing, I think, could be more moving, more beautiful, than this close.
This piece is just one long, soulful, sardonic laugh at human life. Its
title might properly be 'Is Life a Failure?' and leave the five acts to
play with the answer. I am not at all sure that the author meant to
laugh at life. I only notice that he has done it. Without putting into
words any ungracious or discourteous things about life, the episodes in
the piece seem to be saying all the time, inarticulately: 'Note what a
silly poor thing human life is; how childish its ambitions, how
ridiculous its pomps, how trivial its dignities, how cheap its heroisms,
how capricious its course, how brief its flight, how stingy in
happinesses, how opulent in miseries, how few its prides, how
multitudinous its humiliations, how comic its tragedies, how tragic its
comedies, how wearisome and monotonous its repetition of its stupid
history through the ages, with never the introduction of a new detail;
how hard it has tried, from the Creation down, to play itself upon its
possessor as a boon and has never proved its case in a single instance!'
Take note of some of the details of the piece. Each of the five acts
contains an independent tragedy of its own. In each act someone's
edifice of hope, or of ambition, or of happiness, goes down in ruins.
Even Appelles' perennial youth is only a long tragedy, and his life a
failure. There are two martyrdoms in the piece; and they are curiously
and sarcastically contrasted. In the first act the pagans persecute Zoe,
the Christian girl, and a pagan mob slaughters her. In the fourth act
those same pagans--now very old and zealous--are become Christians, and
they persecute the pagans; a mob of them slaughters the pagan youth,
Nymphas, who is standing up for the old gods of his fathers. No remark
is made about this picturesque failure of civilisation; but there it
stands, as an unworded suggestion that civilisation, even when
Christianised, was not able wholly to subdue the natural man in that old
day--just as in our day the spectacle of a shipwrecked French crew
clubbing women and children who tried to climb into the lifeboats
suggests that civilisation has not succeeded in entirely obliterating the
natural man even yet. Common sailors a year ago, in Paris, at a fire,
the aristocracy of the same nation clubbed girls and women out of the way
to save themselves. Civilisation tested at top and bottom both, you see.
And in still another panic of fright we have this same tough civilisation
saving its honour by condemning an innocent man to multiform death, and
hugging and whitewashing the guilty one.
In the second act a grand Roman official is not above trying to blast
Appelles' reputation by falsely charging him with misappropriating public
moneys. Appelles, who is too proud to endure even the suspicion of
irregularity, strips himself to naked poverty to square the unfair
account, and his troubles begin: the blight which is to continue and
spread strikes his life; for the frivolous, pretty creature whom he
brought from Rome has no taste for poverty and agrees to elope with a
more competent candidate. Her presence in the house has previously
brought down the pride and broken the heart of Appelles' poor old mother;
and her life is a failure. Death comes for her, but is willing to trade
her for the Roman girl; so the bargain is struck with Appelles, and the
mother is spared for the present.
No one's life escapes the blight. Timoleus, the gay satirist of the
first two acts, who scoffed at the pious hypocrisies and money-grubbing
ways of the great Roman lords, is grown old and fat and blear-eyed and
racked with disease in the third, has lost his stately purities, and
watered the acid of his wit. His life has suffered defeat. Unthinkingly
he swears by Zeus--from ancient habit--and then quakes with fright; for a
fellow-communicant is passing by. Reproached by a pagan friend of his
youth for his apostasy, he confesses that principle, when unsupported by
an assenting stomach, has to climb down. One must have bread; and 'the
bread is Christian now.' Then the poor old wreck, once so proud of his
iron rectitude, hobbles away, coughing and barking.
In that same act Appelles give his sweet young Christian daughter and her
fine young pagan lover his consent and blessing, and makes them utterly
happy--for five minutes. Then the priest and the mob come, to tear them
apart and put the girl in a nunnery; for marriage between the sects is
forbidden. Appelles' wife could dissolve the rule; and she wants to do
it; but under priestly pressure she wavers; then, fearing that in
providing happiness for her child she would be committing a sin dangerous
to her own, she goes over to the opposition, and throws the casting vote
for the nunnery. The blight has fallen upon the young couple, and their
life is a failure.
In the fourth act, Longinus, who made such a prosperous and enviable
start in the first act, is left alone in the desert, sick, blind,
helpless, incredibly old, to die: not a friend left in the world--another
ruined life. And in that act, also, Appelles' worshipped boy, Nymphas,
done to death by the mob, breathes out his last sigh in his father's
arms--one more failure. In the fifth act, Appelles himself dies, and is
glad to do it; he who so ignorantly rejoiced, only four acts before, over
the splendid present of an earthly immortality--the very worst failure of
Now I approach my project. Here is the theatre list for Saturday, May 7,
1898, cut from the advertising columns of a New York paper:
Now I arrive at my project, and make my suggestion. From the look of
this lightsome feast, I conclude that what you need is a tonic. Send for
'The Master of Palmyra.' You are trying to make yourself believe that
life is a comedy, that its sole business is fun, that there is nothing
serious in it. You are ignoring the skeleton in your closet. Send for
'The Master of Palmyra.' You are neglecting a valuable side of your
life; presently it will be atrophied. You are eating too much mental
sugar; you will bring on Bright's disease of the intellect. You need a
tonic; you need it very much. Send for 'The Master of Palmyra.' You
will not need to translate it; its story is as plain as a procession of
I have made my suggestion. Now I wish to put an annex to it. And that
is this: It is right and wholesome to have those light comedies and
entertaining shows; and I shouldn't wish to see them diminished. But
none of us is always in the comedy spirit; we have our graver moods; they
come to us all; the lightest of us cannot escape them. These moods have
their appetites--healthy and legitimate appetites--and there ought to be
some way of satisfying them. It seems to me that New York ought to have
one theatre devoted to tragedy. With her three millions of population,
and seventy outside millions to draw upon, she can afford it, she can
support it. America devotes more time, labour, money and attention to
distributing literary and musical culture among the general public than
does any other nation, perhaps; yet here you find her neglecting what is
possibly the most effective of all the breeders and nurses and
disseminators of high literary taste and lofty emotion--the tragic stage.
To leave that powerful agency out is to haul the culture-wagon with a
crippled team. Nowadays, when a mood comes which only Shakespeare can
set to music, what must we do? Read Shakespeare ourselves! Isn't it
pitiful? It is playing an organ solo on a jew's-harp. We can't read.
None but the Booths can do it.
Thirty years ago Edwin Booth played 'Hamlet' a hundred nights in New
York. With three times the population, how often is 'Hamlet' played now
in a year? If Booth were back now in his prime, how often could he play
it in New York? Some will say twenty-five nights. I will say three
hundred, and say it with confidence. The tragedians are dead; but I
think that the taste and intelligence which made their market are not.
What has come over us English-speaking people? During the first half of
this century tragedies and great tragedians were as common with us as
farce and comedy; and it was the same in England. Now we have not a
tragedian, I believe, and London, with her fifty shows and theatres, has
but three, I think. It is an astonishing thing, when you come to
consider it. Vienna remains upon the ancient basis: there has been no
change. She sticks to the former proportions: a number of rollicking
comedies, admirably played, every night; and also every night at the Burg
Theatre--that wonder of the world for grace and beauty and richness and
splendour and costliness--a majestic drama of depth and seriousness, or a
standard old tragedy. It is only within the last dozen years that men
have learned to do miracles on the stage in the way of grand and
enchanting scenic effects; and it is at such a time as this that we have
reduced our scenery mainly to different breeds of parlours and varying
aspects of furniture and rugs. I think we must have a Burg in New York,
and Burg scenery, and a great company like the Burg company. Then, with
a tragedy-tonic once or twice a month, we shall enjoy the comedies all
the better. Comedy keeps the heart sweet; but we all know that there is
wholesome refreshment for both mind and heart in an occasional climb
among the solemn pomps of the intellectual snow-summits built by
Shakespeare and those others. Do I seem to be preaching? It is out of
my life: I only do it because the rest of the clergy seem to be on
TRAVELLING WITH A REFORMER
Last spring I went out to Chicago to see the Fair, and although I did not
see it my trip was not wholly lost--there were compensations. In New
York I was introduced to a Major in the regular army who said he was
going to the Fair, and we agreed to go together. I had to go to Boston
first, but that did not interfere; he said he would go along and put in
the time. He was a handsome man and built like a gladiator. But his
ways were gentle, and his speech was soft and persuasive. He was
companionable, but exceedingly reposeful. Yes, and wholly destitute of
the sense of humour. He was full of interest in everything that went on
around him, but his serenity was indestructible; nothing disturbed him,
nothing excited him.
But before the day was done I found that deep down in him somewhere he
had a passion, quiet as he was--a passion for reforming petty public
abuses. He stood for citizenship--it was his hobby. His idea was that
every citizen of the republic ought to consider himself an unofficial
policeman, and keep unsalaried watch and ward over the laws and their
execution. He thought that the only effective way of preserving and
protecting public rights was for each citizen to do his share in
preventing or punishing such infringements of them as came under his
It was a good scheme, but I thought it would keep a body in trouble all
the time; it seemed to me that one would be always trying to get
offending little officials discharged, and perhaps getting laughed at for
all reward. But he said no, I had the wrong idea: that there was no
occasion to get anybody discharged; that in fact you mustn't get anybody
discharged; that that would itself be a failure; no, one must reform the
man--reform him and make him useful where he was.
'Must one report the offender and then beg his superior not to discharge
him, but reprimand him and keep him?'
'No, that is not the idea; you don't report him at all, for then you risk
his bread and butter. You can act as if you are going to report him--
when nothing else will answer. But that's an extreme case. That is a
sort of force, and force is bad. Diplomacy is the effective thing. Now
if a man has tact--if a man will exercise diplomacy--'
For two minutes we had been standing at a telegraph wicket, and during
all this time the Major had been trying to get the attention of one of
the young operators, but they were all busy skylarking. The Major spoke
now, and asked one of them to take his telegram. He got for reply:
'I reckon you can wait a minute, can't you?' And the skylarking went on.
The Major said yes, he was not in a hurry. Then he wrote another
'President Western Union Tel. Co.:
'Come and dine with me this evening. I can tell you how business is
conducted in one of your branches.'
Presently the young fellow who had spoken so pertly a little before
reached out and took the telegram, and when he read it he lost colour and
began to apologise and explain. He said he would lose his place if this
deadly telegram was sent, and he might never get another. If he could be
let off this time he would give no cause of complaint again. The
compromise was accepted.
As we walked away, the Major said:
'Now, you see, that was diplomacy--and you see how it worked. It
wouldn't do any good to bluster, the way people are always doing. That
boy can always give you as good as you send, and you'll come out defeated
and ashamed of yourself pretty nearly always. But you see he stands no
chance against diplomacy. Gentle words and diplomacy--those are the
tools to work with.'
'Yes, I see: but everybody wouldn't have had your opportunity. It isn't
everybody that is on those familiar terms with the President of the
'Oh, you misunderstand. I don't know the President--I only use him
diplomatically. It is for his good and for the public good. There's no
harm in it.'
I said with hesitation and diffidence:
'But is it ever right or noble to tell a lie?'
He took no note of the delicate self-righteousness of the question, but
answered with undisturbed gravity and simplicity:
'Yes, sometimes. Lies told to injure a person and lies told to profit
yourself are not justifiable, but lies told to help another person, and
lies told in the public interest--oh, well, that is quite another matter.
Anybody knows that. But never mind about the methods: you see the
result. That youth is going to be useful now, and well-behaved. He had
a good face. He was worth saving. Why, he was worth saving on his
mother's account if not his own. Of course, he has a mother--sisters,
too. Damn these people who are always forgetting that! Do you know,
I've never fought a duel in my life--never once--and yet have been
challenged, like other people. I could always see the other man's
unoffending women folks or his little children standing between him and
me. They hadn't done anything--I couldn't break their hearts, you know.'
He corrected a good many little abuses in the course of the day, and
always without friction--always with a fine and dainty 'diplomacy' which
left no sting behind; and he got such happiness and such contentment out
of these performances that I was obliged to envy him his trade--and
perhaps would have adopted it if I could have managed the necessary
deflections from fact as confidently with my mouth as I believe I could
with a pen, behind the shelter of print, after a little practice.
Away late that night we were coming up-town in a horse-car when three
boisterous roughs got aboard, and began to fling hilarious obscenities
and profanities right and left among the timid passengers, some of whom
were women and children. Nobody resisted or retorted; the conductor
tried soothing words and moral suasion, but the toughs only called him
names and laughed at him. Very soon I saw that the Major realised that
this was a matter which was in his line; evidently he was turning over
his stock of diplomacy in his mind and getting ready. I felt that the
first diplomatic remark he made in this place would bring down a
landslide of ridicule upon him, and maybe something worse; but before I
could whisper to him and check him he had begun, and it was too late. He
said, in a level and dispassionate tone:
'Conductor, you must put these swine out. I will help you.'
I was not looking for that. In a flash the three roughs plunged at him.
But none of them arrived. He delivered three such blows as one could not
expect to encounter outside the prize-ring, and neither of the men had
life enough left in him to get up from where he fell. The Major dragged
them out and threw them off the car, and we got under way again.
I was astonished: astonished to see a lamb act so; astonished at the
strength displayed, and the clean and comprehensive result; astonished at
the brisk and business-like style of the whole thing. The situation had
a humorous side to it, considering how much I had been hearing about mild
persuasion and gentle diplomacy all day from this pile-driver, and I
would have liked to call his attention to that feature and do some
sarcasms about it; but when I looked at him I saw that it would be of no
use--his placid and contented face had no ray of humour in it; he would
not have understood. When we left the car, I said:
'That was a good stroke of diplomacy--three good strokes of diplomacy, in
'That? That wasn't diplomacy. You are quite in the wrong. Diplomacy is
a wholly different thing. One cannot apply it to that sort; they would
not understand it. No, that was not diplomacy; it was force.'
'Now that you mention it, I--yes, I think perhaps you are right.'
'Right? Of course I am right. It was just force.'
'I think, myself, it had the outside aspect of it. Do you often have to
reform people in that way?'
'Far from it. It hardly ever happens. Not oftener than once in half a
year, at the outside.'
'Those men will get well?'
'Get well? Why, certainly they will. They are not in any danger. I
know how to hit and where to hit. You noticed that I did not hit them
under the jaw. That would have killed them.'
I believed that. I remarked--rather wittily, as I thought--that he had
been a lamb all day, but now had all of a sudden developed into a ram--
battering-ram; but with dulcet frankness and simplicity he said no, a
battering-ram was quite a different thing, and not in use now. This was
maddening, and I came near bursting out and saying he had no more
appreciation of wit than a jackass--in fact, I had it right on my tongue,
but did not say it, knowing there was no hurry and I could say it just as
well some other time over the telephone.
We started to Boston the next afternoon. The smoking compartment in the
parlour-car was full, and he went into the regular smoker. Across the
aisle in the front seat sat a meek, farmer-looking old man with a sickly
pallor in his face, and he was holding the door open with his foot to get
the air. Presently a big brakeman came rushing through, and when he got
to the door he stopped, gave the farmer an ugly scowl, then wrenched the
door to with such energy as to almost snatch the old man's boot off.
Then on he plunged about his business. Several passengers laughed, and
the old gentleman looked pathetically shamed and grieved.
After a little the conductor passed along, and the Major stopped him and
asked him a question in his habitually courteous way:
'Conductor, where does one report the misconduct of a brakeman? Does one
report to you?'
'You can report him at New Haven if you want to. What has he been
The Major told the story. The conductor seemed amused. He said, with
just a touch of sarcasm in his bland tones:
'As I understand you, the brakeman didn't say anything?'
'No, he didn't say anything.'
'But he scowled, you say?'
'And snatched the door loose in a rough way?'
'That's the whole business, is it?'
'Yes, that is the whole of it.'
The conductor smiled pleasantly, and said:
'Well, if you want to report him, all right, but I don't quite make out
what it's going to amount to. You'll say--as I understand you--that the
brakeman insulted this old gentleman. They'll ask you what he said.
You'll say he didn't say anything at all. I reckon they'll say, How are
you going to make out an insult when you acknowledge yourself that he
didn't say a word?'
There was a murmur of applause at the conductor's compact reasoning, and
it gave him pleasure--you could see it in his face. But the Major was
not disturbed. He said:
'There--now you have touched upon a crying defect in the complaint
system. The railway officials--as the public think and as you also seem
to think--are not aware that there are any insults except spoken ones.
So nobody goes to headquarters and reports insults of manner, insults of
gesture, look, and so forth; and yet these are sometimes harder to bear
than any words. They are bitter hard to bear because there is nothing
tangible to take hold of; and the insulter can always say, if called
before the railway officials, that he never dreamed of intending any
offence. It seems to me that the officials ought to specially and
urgently request the public to report unworded affronts and
The conductor laughed, and said:
'Well, that would be trimming it pretty fine, sure!'
'But not too fine, I think. I will report this matter at New Haven, and
I have an idea that I'll be thanked for it.'
The conductor's face lost something of its complacency; in fact, it
settled to a quite sober cast as the owner of it moved away. I said:
'You are not really going to bother with that trifle, are you?'
'It isn't a trifle. Such things ought always to be reported. It is a
public duty and no citizen has a right to shirk it. But I sha'n't' have
to report this case.'
'It won't be necessary. Diplomacy will do the business. You'll see.'
Presently the conductor came on his rounds again, and when he reached the
Major he leaned over and said:
'That's all right. You needn't report him. He's responsible to me, and
if he does it again I'll give him a talking to.'
The Major's response was cordial:
'Now that is what I like! You mustn't think that I was moved by any
vengeful spirit, for that wasn't the case. It was duty--just a sense of
duty, that was all. My brother-in-law is one of the directors of the
road, and when he learns that you are going to reason with your brakeman
the very next time he brutally insults an unoffending old man it will
please him, you may be sure of that.'
The conductor did not look as joyous as one might have thought he would,
but on the contrary looked sickly and uncomfortable. He stood around a
little; then said:
'I think something ought to be done to him now. I'll discharge him.'
'Discharge him! What good would that do? Don't you think it would be
better wisdom to teach him better ways and keep him?'
'Well, there's something in that. What would you suggest?'
'He insulted the old gentleman in presence of all these people. How
would it do to have him come and apologise in their presence?'
'I'll have him here right off. And I want to say this: If people would
do as you've done, and report such things to me instead of keeping mum
and going off and blackguarding the road, you'd see a different state of
things pretty soon. I'm much obliged to you.'
The brakeman came and apologised. After he was gone the Major said:
'Now you see how simple and easy that was. The ordinary citizen would
have accomplished nothing--the brother-in-law of a directory can
accomplish anything he wants to.'
'But are you really the brother-in-law of a director?'
'Always. Always when the public interests require it. I have a brother-
in-law on all the boards--everywhere. It saves me a world of trouble.'
'It is a good wide relationship.'
'Yes. I have over three hundred of them.'
'Is the relationship never doubted by a conductor?'
'I have never met with a case. It is the honest truth--I never have.'
'Why didn't you let him go ahead and discharge the brakeman, in spite of
your favourite policy. You know he deserved it.'
The Major answered with something which really had a sort of distant
resemblance to impatience:
'If you would stop and think a moment you wouldn't ask such a question as
that. Is a brakeman a dog, that nothing but dogs' methods will do for
him? He is a man and has a man's fight for life. And he always has a
sister, or a mother, or wife and children to support. Always--there are
no exceptions. When you take his living away from him you take theirs
away too--and what have they done to you? Nothing. And where is the
profit in discharging an uncourteous brakeman and hiring another just
like him? It's unwisdom. Don't you see that the rational thing to do is
to reform the brakeman and keep him? Of course it is.'
Then he quoted with admiration the conduct of a certain division
superintendent of the Consolidated road, in a case where a switchman of
two years' experience was negligent once and threw a train off the track
and killed several people. Citizens came in a passion to urge the man's
dismissal, but the superintendent said:
'No, you are wrong. He has learned his lesson, he will throw no more
trains off the track. He is twice as valuable as he was before. I shall
We had only one more adventure on the train. Between Hartford and
Springfield the train-boy came shouting with an armful of literature, and
dropped a sample into a slumbering gentleman's lap, and the man woke up
with a start. He was very angry, and he and a couple of friends
discussed the outrage with much heat. They sent for the parlour-car
conductor and described the matter, and were determined to have the boy
expelled from his situation. The three complainants were wealthy Holyoke
merchants, and it was evident that the conductor stood in some awe of
them. He tried to pacify them, and explained that the boy was not under
his authority, but under that of one of the news companies; but he
Then the Major volunteered some testimony for the defence. He said:
'I saw it all. You gentlemen have not meant to exaggerate the
circumstances, but still that is what you have done. The boy has done
nothing more than all train-boys do. If you want to get his ways
softened down and his manners reformed, I am with you and ready to help,
but it isn't fair to get him discharged without giving him a chance.'
But they were angry, and would hear of no compromise. They were well
acquainted with the President of the Boston and Albany, they said, and
would put everything aside next day and go up to Boston and fix that boy.
The Major said he would be on hand too, and would do what he could to
save the boy. One of the gentlemen looked him over and said:
'Apparently it is going to be a matter of who can wield the most
influence with the President. Do you know Mr. Bliss personally?'
The Major said, with composure:
'Yes; he is my uncle.'
The effect was satisfactory. There was an awkward silence for a minute
or more; then the hedging and the half-confessions of over-haste and
exaggerated resentment began, and soon everything was smooth and friendly
and sociable, and it was resolved to drop the matter and leave the boy's
bread and butter unmolested.
It turned out as I had expected: the President of the road was not the
Major's uncle at all--except by adoption, and for this day and train
We got into no episodes on the return journey. Probably it was because
we took a night train and slept all the way.
We left New York Saturday night by the Pennsylvania road. After
breakfast the next morning we went into the parlour-car, but found it a
dull place and dreary. There were but few people in it and nothing going
on. Then we went into the little smoking compartment of the same car and
found three gentlemen in there. Two of them were grumbling over one of
the rules of the road--a rule which forbade card-playing on the trains on
Sunday. They had started an innocent game of high-low-jack and had been
stopped. The Major was interested. He said to the third gentleman:
'Did you object to the game?'
'Not at all. I am a Yale professor and a religious man, but my
prejudices are not extensive.'
Then the Major said to the others:
'You are at perfect liberty to resume your game, gentlemen; no one here
One of them declined the risk, but the other one said he would like to
begin again if the Major would join him. So they spread an overcoat over
their knees and the game proceeded. Pretty soon the parlour-car
conductor arrived, and said, brusquely:
'There, there, gentlemen, that won't do. Put up the cards--it's not
The Major was shuffling. He continued to shuffle, and said:
'By whose order is it forbidden?'
'It's my order. I forbid it.'
The dealing began. The Major asked:
'Did you invent the idea?'
'The idea of forbidding card-playing on Sunday.'
'No--of course not.'
'Then it isn't your order, after all, but the company's. Is that it?'
'Yes. But you don't stop playing! I have to require you to stop playing
'Nothing is gained by hurry, and often much is lost. Who authorised the
company to issue such an order?'
'My dear sir, that is a matter of no consequence to me, and--'
'But you forget that you are not the only person concerned. It may be a
matter of consequence to me. It is, indeed, a matter of very great
importance to me. I cannot violate a legal requirement of my country
without dishonouring myself; I cannot allow any man or corporation to
hamper my liberties with illegal rules--a thing which railway companies
are always trying to do--without dishonouring my citizenship. So I come
back to that question: By whose authority has the company issued this
'I don't know. That's their affair.'
'Mine, too. I doubt if the company has any right to issue such a rule.
This road runs through several States. Do you know what State we are in
now, and what its laws are in matters of this kind?'
'Its laws do not concern me, but the company's orders do. It is my duty
to stop this game, gentlemen, and it must be stopped.'
'Possibly; but still there is no hurry. In hotels they post certain
rules in the rooms, but they always quote passages from the State law as
authority for these requirements. I see nothing posted here of this
sort. Please produce your authority and let us arrive at a decision, for
you see yourself that you are marring the game.'
'I have nothing of the kind, but I have my orders, and that is
sufficient. They must be obeyed.'
'Let us not jump to conclusions. It will be better all around to examine
into the matter without heat or haste, and see just where we stand before
either of us makes a mistake--for the curtailing of the liberties of a
citizen of the United States is a much more serious matter than you and
the railroads seem to think, and it cannot be done in my person until the
curtailer proves his right to do so. Now--'
'My dear sir, will you put down those cards?'
'All in good time, perhaps. It depends. You say this order must be
obeyed. Must. It is a strong word. You see yourself how strong it is.
A wise company would not arm you with so drastic an order as this, of
course, without appointing a penalty for its infringement. Otherwise it
runs the risk of being a dead letter and a thing to laugh at. What is
the appointed penalty for an infringement of this law?'
'Penalty? I never heard of any.'
'Unquestionably you must be mistaken. Your company orders you to come
here and rudely break up an innocent amusement, and furnishes you no way
to enforce the order! Don't you see that that is nonsense? What do you
do when people refuse to obey this order? Do you take the cards away
'Do you put the offender off at the next station?'
'Well, no--of course we couldn't if he had a ticket.'
'Do you have him up before a court?'
The conductor was silent and apparently troubled. The Major started a
new deal, and said:
'You see that you are helpless, and that the company has placed you in a
foolish position. You are furnished with an arrogant order, and you
deliver it in a blustering way, and when you come to look into the matter
you find you haven't any way of enforcing obedience.'
The conductor said, with chill dignity:
'Gentlemen, you have heard the order, and my duty is ended. As to
obeying it or not, you will do as you think fit.' And he turned to
'But wait. The matter is not yet finished. I think you are mistaken
about your duty being ended; but if it really is, I myself have a duty to
'How do you mean?'
'Are you going to report my disobedience at headquarters in Pittsburg?'
'No. What good would that do?'
'You must report me, or I will report you.'
'Report me for what?'
'For disobeying the company's orders in not stopping this game. As a
citizen it is my duty to help the railway companies keep their servants
to their work.'
'Are you in earnest?'
'Yes, I am in earnest. I have nothing against you as a man, but I have
this against you as an officer--that you have not carried out that order,
and if you do not report me I must report you. And I will.'
The conductor looked puzzled, and was thoughtful a moment; then he burst
'I seem to be getting myself into a scrape! It's all a muddle; I can't
make head or tail of it; it never happened before; they always knocked
under and never said a word, and so I never saw how ridiculous that
stupid order with no penalty is. I don't want to report anybody, and I
don't want to be reported--why, it might do me no end of harm! No do go
on with the game--play the whole day if you want to--and don't let's have
any more trouble about it!'
'No, I only sat down here to establish this gentleman's rights--he can
have his place now. But before won't you tell me what you think the
company made this rule for? Can you imagine an excuse for it? I mean a
rational one--an excuse that is not on its face silly, and the invention
of an idiot.?'
'Why, surely I can. The reason it was made is plain enough. It is to
save the feelings of the other passengers--the religious ones among them,
I mean. They would not like it to have the Sabbath desecrated by card-
playing on the train.'
'I just thought as much. They are willing to desecrate it themselves by
travelling on Sunday, but they are not willing that other people--'
'By gracious, you've hit it! I never thought of that before. The fact
is, it is a silly rule when you come to look into it.'
At this point the train conductor arrived, and was going to shut down the
game in a very high-handed fashion, but the parlour-car conductor stopped
him, and took him aside to explain. Nothing more was heard of the
I was ill in bed eleven days in Chicago and got no glimpse of the Fair,
for I was obliged to return East as soon as I was able to travel. The
Major secured and paid for a state-room in a sleeper the day before we
left, so that I could have plenty of room and be comfortable; but when we
arrived at the station a mistake had been made and our car had not been
put on. The conductor had reserved a section for us--it was the best he
could do, he said. But Major said we were not in a hurry, and would wait
for the car to be put on. The conductor responded, with pleasant irony:
'It may be that you are not in a hurry, just as you say, but we are.
Come, get aboard, gentlemen, get aboard--don't keep us waiting.'
But the Major would not get aboard himself nor allow me to do it. He
wanted his car, and said he must have it. This made the hurried and
perspiring conductor impatient, and he said:
'It's the best we can do--we can't do impossibilities. You will take the
section or go without. A mistake has been made and can't be rectified at
this late hour. It's a thing that happens now and then, and there is
nothing for it but to put up with it and make the best of it. Other
'Ah, that is just it, you see. If they had stuck to their rights and
enforced them you wouldn't be trying to trample mine underfoot in this
bland way now. I haven't any disposition to give you unnecessary
trouble, but it is my duty to protect the next man from this kind of
imposition. So I must have my car. Otherwise I will wait in Chicago and
sue the company for violating its contract.'
'Sue the company?--for a thing like that!'
'Do you really mean that?'
'Indeed, I do.'
The conductor looked the Major over wonderingly, and then said:
'It beats me--it's bran-new--I've never struck the mate to it before.
But I swear I think you'd do it. Look here, I'll send for the station-
When the station-master came he was a good deal annoyed--at the Major,
not at the person who had made the mistake. He was rather brusque, and
took the same position which the conductor had taken in the beginning;
but he failed to move the soft-spoken artilleryman, who still insisted
that he must have his car. However, it was plain that there was only one
strong side in this case, and that that side was the Major's. The
station-master banished his annoyed manner, and became pleasant and even
half-apologetic. This made a good opening for a compromise, and the
Major made a concession. He said he would give up the engaged state-
room, but he must have a state-room. After a deal of ransacking, one was
found whose owner was persuadable; he exchanged it for our section, and
we got away at last. The conductor called on us in the evening, and was
kind and courteous and obliging, and we had a long talk and got to be
good friends. He said he wished the public would make trouble oftener--
it would have a good effect. He said that the railroads could not be
expected to do their whole duty by the traveller unless the traveller
would take some interest in the matter himself.
I hoped that we were done reforming for the trip now, but it was not so.
In the hotel car, in the morning, the Major called for broiled chicken.
The waiter said:
'It's not in the bill of fare, sir; we do not serve anything but what is
in the bill.'
'That gentleman yonder is eating a broiled chicken.'
'Yes, but that is different. He is one of the superintendents of the
'Then all the more must I have broiled chicken. I do not like these
discriminations. Please hurry--bring me a broiled chicken.'
The waiter brought the steward, who explained in a low and polite voice
that the thing was impossible--it was against the rule, and the rule was
'Very well, then, you must either apply it impartially or break it
impartially. You must take that gentleman's chicken away from him or
bring me one.'
The steward was puzzled, and did not quite know what to do. He began an
incoherent argument, but the conductor came along just then, and asked
what the difficulty was. The steward explained that here was a gentleman
who was insisting on having a chicken when it was dead against the rule
and not in the bill. The conductor said:
'Stick by your rules--you haven't any option. Wait a moment--is this the
gentleman?' Then he laughed and said: 'Never mind your rules--it's my
advice, and sound: give him anything he wants--don't get him started on
his rights. Give him whatever he asks for; and it you haven't got it,
stop the train and get it.'
The Major ate the chicken, but said he did it from a sense of duty and to
establish a principle, for he did not like chicken.
I missed the Fair it is true, but I picked up some diplomatic tricks
which I and the reader may find handy and useful as we go along.
DIPLOMATIC PAY AND CLOTHES
VIENNA, January 5--I find in this morning's papers the statement that the
Government of the United States has paid to the two members of the Peace
Commission entitled to receive money for their services 100,000 dollars
each for their six weeks' work in Paris.
I hope that this is true. I will allow myself the satisfaction of
considering that it is true, and of treating it as a thing finished and
It is a precedent; and ought to be a welcome one to our country. A
precedent always has a chance to be valuable (as well as the other way);
and its best chance to be valuable (or the other way) is when it takes
such a striking form as to fix a whole nation's attention upon it. If it
come justified out of the discussion which will follow, it will find a
career ready and waiting for it.
We realise that the edifice of public justice is built of precedents,
from the ground upward; but we do not always realise that all the other
details of our civilisation are likewise built of precedents. The
changes also which they undergo are due to the intrusion of new
precedents, which hold their ground against opposition, and keep their
place. A precedent may die at birth, or it may live--it is mainly a
matter of luck. If it be imitated once, it has a chance; if twice a
better chance; if three times it is reaching a point where account must
be taken of it; if four, five, or six times, it has probably come to
stay--for a whole century, possibly. If a town start a new bow, or a new
dance, or a new temperance project, or a new kind of hat, and can get the
precedent adopted in the next town, the career of that precedent is
begun; and it will be unsafe to bet as to where the end of its journey is
going to be. It may not get this start at all, and may have no career;
but, if a crown prince introduce the precedent, it will attract vast
attention, and its chances for a career are so great as to amount almost
to a certainty.
For a long time we have been reaping damage from a couple of disastrous
precedents. One is the precedent of shabby pay to public servants
standing for the power and dignity of the Republic in foreign lands; the
other is a precedent condemning them to exhibit themselves officially in
clothes which are not only without grace or dignity, but are a pretty
loud and pious rebuke to the vain and frivolous costumes worn by the
other officials. To our day an American ambassador's official costume
remains under the reproach of these defects. At a public function in a
European court all foreign representatives except ours wear clothes which
in some way distinguish them from the unofficial throng, and mark them as
standing for their countries. But our representative appears in a plain
black swallow-tail, which stands for neither country, nor people. It has
no nationality. It is found in all countries; it is as international as
a night-shirt. It has no particular meaning; but our Government tries to
give it one; it tries to make it stand for Republican Simplicity, modesty
and unpretentiousness. Tries, and without doubt fails, for it is not
conceivable that this loud ostentation of simplicity deceives any one.
The statue that advertises its modesty with a fig-leaf really brings its
modesty under suspicion. Worn officially, our nonconforming swallow-tail
is a declaration of ungracious independence in the matter of manners, and
is uncourteous. It says to all around: 'In Rome we do not choose to do
as Rome does; we refuse to respect your tastes and your traditions; we
make no sacrifices to anyone's customs and prejudices; we yield no jot to
the courtesies of life; we prefer our manners, and intrude them here.'
That is not the true American spirit, and those clothes misrepresent us.
When a foreigner comes among us and trespasses against our customs and
our code of manners, we are offended, and justly so; but our Government
commands our ambassadors to wear abroad an official dress which is an
offence against foreign manners and customers; and the discredit of it
falls upon the nation.
We did not dress our public functionaries in undistinguished raiment
before Franklin's time; and the change would not have come if he had been
an obscurity. But he was such a colossal figure in the world that
whatever he did of an unusual nature attracted the world's attention,
and became a precedent. In the case of clothes, the next representative
after him, and the next, had to imitate it. After that, the thing was
custom; and custom is a petrifaction: nothing but dynamite can dislodge
it for a century. We imagine that our queer official costumery was
deliberately devised to symbolise our Republican Simplicity--a quality
which we have never possessed, and are too old to acquire now, if we had
any use for it or any leaning toward it. But it is not so; there was
nothing deliberate about it; it grew naturally and heedlessly out of the
precedent set by Franklin.
If it had been an intentional thing, and based upon a principle, it would
not have stopped where it did: we should have applied it further.
Instead of clothing our admirals and generals, for courts-martial and
other public functions, in superb dress uniforms blazing with colour and
gold, the Government would put them in swallow-tails and white cravats,
and make them look like ambassadors and lackeys. If I am wrong in making
Franklin the father of our curious official clothes, it is no matter--he
will be able to stand it.
It is my opinion--and I make no charge for the suggestion--that, whenever
we appoint an ambassador or a minister, we ought to confer upon him the
temporary rank of admiral or general, and allow him to wear the
corresponding uniform at public functions in foreign countries. I would
recommend this for the reason that it is not consonant with the dignity
of the United States of America that her representative should appear
upon occasions of state in a dress which makes him glaringly conspicuous;
and that is what his present undertaker-outfit does when it appears, with
its dismal smudge, in the midst of the butterfly splendours of a
Continental court. It is a most trying position for a shy man, a modest
man, a man accustomed to being like other people. He is the most
striking figure present; there is no hiding from the multitudinous eyes.
It would be funny, if it were not such a cruel spectacle, to see the
hunted creature in his solemn sables scuffling around in that sea of
vivid colour, like a mislaid Presbyterian in perdition. We are all aware
that our representative's dress should not compel too much attention; for
anybody but an Indian chief knows that that is a vulgarity. I am saying
these things in the interest of our national pride and dignity. Our
representative is the flag. He is the Republic. He is the United States
of America. And when these embodiments pass by, we do not want them
scoffed at; we desire that people shall be obliged to concede that they
are worthily clothed, and politely.
Our Government is oddly inconsistent in this matter of official dress.
When its representative is a civilian who has not been a solider, it
restricts him to the black swallow-tail and white tie; but if he is a
civilian who has been a solider, it allows him to wear the uniform of his
former rank as an official dress. When General Sickles was minister to
Spain, he always wore, when on official duty, the dress uniform of a
major-general. When General Grant visited foreign courts, he went
handsomely and properly ablaze in the uniform of a full general, and was
introduced by diplomatic survivals of his own Presidential
Administration. The latter, by official necessity, went in the meek and
lowly swallow-tail--a deliciously sarcastic contrast: the one dress
representing the honest and honourable dignity of the nation; the other,
the cheap hypocrisy of the Republican Simplicity tradition. In Paris our
present representative can perform his official functions reputably
clothed; for he was an officer in the Civil War. In London our late
ambassador was similarly situated; for he, also, was an officer in the
Civil War. But Mr. Choate must represent the Great Republic--even at
official breakfasts at seven in the morning--in that same old funny
Our Government's notions about proprieties of costume are indeed very,
very odd--as suggested by that last fact. The swallow-tail is recognised
the world over as not wearable in the daytime; it is a night-dress, and a
night-dress only--a night-shirt is not more so. Yet, when our
representative makes an official visit in the morning, he is obliged by
his Government to go in that night-dress. It makes the very cab-horses
The truth is, that for awhile during the present century, and up to
something short of forty years ago, we had a lucid interval, and dropped
the Republican Simplicity sham, and dressed our foreign representatives
in a handsome and becoming official costume. This was discarded by-and-
by, and the swallow-tail substituted. I believe it is not now known
which statesman brought about this change; but we all know that, stupid
as he was as to diplomatic proprieties in dress, he would not have sent
his daughter to a state ball in a corn-shucking costume, nor to a corn-
shucking in a state-ball costume, to be harshly criticised as an ill-
mannered offender against the proprieties of custom in both places. And
we know another thing, viz. that he himself would not have wounded the
tastes and feelings of a family of mourners by attending a funeral in
their house in a costume which was an offence against the dignities and
decorum prescribed by tradition and sanctified by custom. Yet that man
was so heedless as not to reflect that all the social customs of
civilised peoples are entitled to respectful observance, and that no man
with a right spirit of courtesy in him ever has any disposition to
transgress these customs.
There is still another argument for a rational diplomatic dress--a
business argument. We are a trading nation; and our representative is a
business agent. If he is respected, esteemed, and liked where he is
stationed, he can exercise an influence which can extend our trade and
forward our prosperity. A considerable number of his business activities
have their field in his social relations; and clothes which do not offend
against local manners and customers and prejudices are a valuable part of
his equipment in this matter--would be, if Franklin had died earlier.
I have not done with gratis suggestions yet. We made a great deal of
valuable advance when we instituted the office of ambassador. That lofty
rank endows its possessor with several times as much influence,
consideration, and effectiveness as the rank of minister bestows. For
the sake of the country's dignity and for the sake of her advantage
commercially, we should have ambassadors, not ministers, at the great
courts of the world.
But not at present salaries! No; if we are to maintain present salaries,
let us make no more ambassadors; and let us unmake those we have already
made. The great position, without the means of respectably maintaining
it--there could be no wisdom in that. A foreign representative, to be
valuable to his country, must be on good terms with the officials of the
capital and with the rest of the influential folk. He must mingle with
this society; he cannot sit at home--it is not business, it butters no
commercial parsnips. He must attend the dinners, banquets, suppers,
balls, receptions, and must return these hospitalities. He should return
as good as he gets, too, for the sake of the dignity of his country, and
for the sake of Business. Have we ever had a minister or an ambassador
who could do this on his salary? No--not once, from Franklin's time to
ours. Other countries understand the commercial value of properly lining
the pockets of their representatives; but apparently our Government has
not learned it. England is the most successful trader of the several
trading nations; and she takes good care of the watchmen who keep guard
in her commercial towers. It has been a long time, now, since we needed
to blush for our representatives abroad. It has become custom to send
our fittest. We send men of distinction, cultivation, character--our
ablest, our choicest, our best. Then we cripple their efficiency through
the meagreness of their pay. Here is a list of salaries for English and
American ministers and ambassadors:
Paris $17,500 $45,000
Berlin 17,500 40,000
Vienna 12,000 40,000
Constantinople 10,000 40,000
St. Petersburg 17,500 39,000
Rome 12,000 35,000
Washington -- 32,500
Sir Julian Pauncefote, the English ambassador at Washington, has a very
fine house besides--at no damage to his salary.
English ambassadors pay no house rent; they live in palaces owned by
England. Our representatives pay house-rent out of their salaries. You
can judge by the above figures what kind of houses the United States of
America has been used to living in abroad, and what sort of return-
entertaining she has done. There is not a salary in our list which would
properly house the representative receiving it, and, in addition, pay
$3,000 toward his family's bacon and doughnuts--the strange but
economical and customary fare of the American ambassador's household,
except on Sundays, when petrified Boston crackers are added.
The ambassadors and ministers of foreign nations not only have generous
salaries, but their Governments provide them with money wherewith to pay
a considerable part of their hospitality bills. I believe our Government
pays no hospitality bills except those incurred by the navy. Through
this concession to the navy, that arm is able to do us credit in foreign
parts; and certainly that is well and politic. But why the Government
does not think it well and politic that our diplomats should be able to
do us like credit abroad is one of those mysterious inconsistencies which
have been puzzling me ever since I stopped trying to understand baseball
and took up statesmanship as a pastime.
To return to the matter of house-rent. Good houses, properly furnished,
in European capitals, are not to be had at small figures. Consequently,
our foreign representatives have been accustomed to live in garrets--
sometimes on the roof. Being poor men, it has been the best they could
do on the salary which the Government has paid them. How could they
adequately return the hospitalities shown them? It was impossible. It
would have exhausted the salary in three months. Still, it was their
official duty to entertain their influentials after some sort of fashion;
and they did the best they could with their limited purse. In return for
champagne they furnished lemonade; in return for game they furnished ham;
in return for whale they furnished sardines; in return for liquors they
furnished condensed milk; in return for the battalion of liveried and
powdered flunkeys they furnished the hired girl; in return for the fairy
wilderness of sumptuous decorations they draped the stove with the
American flag; in return for the orchestra they furnished zither and
ballads by the family; in return for the ball--but they didn't return the
ball, except in cases where the United States lived on the roof and had
Is this an exaggeration? It can hardly be called that. I saw nearly the
equivalent of it, a good many years ago. A minister was trying to create
influential friends for a project which might be worth ten millions a
year to the agriculturists of the Republic; and our Government had
furnished him ham and lemonade to persuade the opposition with. The
minister did not succeed. He might not have succeeded if his salary had
been what it ought to have been--$50,000 or $60,00 a year--but his
chances would have been very greatly improved. And in any case, he and
his dinners and his country would not have been joked about by the hard-
hearted and pitied by the compassionate.
Any experienced 'drummer' will testify that, when you want to do
business, there is no economy in ham and lemonade. The drummer takes his
country customer to the theatre, the opera, the circus; dines him, wines
him, entertains him all the day and all the night in luxurious style; and
plays upon his human nature in all seductive ways. For he knows, by old
experience, that this is the best way to get a profitable order out of
him. He has this reward. All Governments except our own play the same
policy, with the same end in view; and they, also, have their reward.
But ours refuses to do business by business ways, and sticks to ham and
lemonade. This is the most expensive diet known to the diplomatic
service of the world.
Ours is the only country of first importance that pays its foreign
representatives trifling salaries. If we were poor, we could not find
great fault with these economies, perhaps--at least one could find a sort
of plausible excuse for them. But we are not poor; and the excuse fails.
As shown above, some of our important diplomatic representatives receive
$12,000; others, $17,500. These salaries are all ham and lemonade, and
unworthy of the flag. When we have a rich ambassador in London or Paris,
he lives as the ambassador of a country like ours ought to live, and it
costs him $100,000 a year to do it. But why should we allow him to pay
that out of his private pocket? There is nothing fair about it; and the
Republic is no proper subject for any one's charity. In several cases
our salaries of $12,000 should be $50,000; and all of the salaries of
$17,500 ought to be $75,000 or $100,000, since we pay no representative's
house-rent. Our State Department realises the mistake which we are
making, and would like to rectify it, but it has not the power.
When a young girl reaches eighteen she is recognised as being a woman.
She adds six inches to her skirt, she unplaits her dangling braids and
balls her hair on top of her head, she stops sleeping with her little
sister and has a room to herself, and becomes in many ways a thundering
expense. But she is in society now; and papa has to stand it. There is
no avoiding it. Very well. The Great Republic lengthened her skirts
last year, balled up her hair, and entered the world's society. This
means that, if she would prosper and stand fair with society, she must
put aside some of her dearest and darlingest young ways and
superstitions, and do as society does. Of course, she can decline if she
wants to; but this would be unwise. She ought to realise, now that she
has 'come out,' that this is a right and proper time to change a part of
her style. She is in Rome; and it has long been granted that when one is
in Rome it is good policy to do as Rome does. To advantage Rome? No--to
If our Government has really paid representatives of ours on the Paris
Commission $100,000 apiece for six weeks' work, I feel sure that it is
the best cash investment the nation has made in many years. For it seems
quite impossible that, with that precedent on the books, the Government
will be able to find excuses for continuing its diplomatic salaries at
the present mean figure.
P.S.--VIENNA, January 10.--I see, by this morning's telegraphic news,
that I am not to be the new ambassador here, after all. This--well, I
hardly know what to say. I--well, of course, I do not care anything
about it; but it is at least a surprise. I have for many months been
using my influence at Washington to get this diplomatic see expanded into
an ambassadorship, with the idea, of course th--But never mind. Let it
go. It is of no consequence. I say it calmly; for I am calm. But at
the same time--However, the subject has no interest for me, and never
had. I never really intended to take the place, anyway--I made up my
mind to it months and months ago, nearly a year. But now, while I am
calm, I would like to say this--that so long as I shall continue to
possess an American's proper pride in the honour and dignity of his
country, I will not take any ambassadorship in the gift of the flag at a
salary short of $75,000 a year. If I shall be charged with wanting to
live beyond my country's means, I cannot help it. A country which cannot
afford ambassador's wages should be ashamed to have ambassadors.
Think of a Seventeen-thousand-five-hundred-dollar ambassador!
Particularly for America. Why it is the most ludicrous spectacle, the
most inconsistent and incongruous spectable, contrivable by even the most
diseased imagination. It is a billionaire in a paper collar, a king in a
breechclout, an archangel in a tin halo. And, for pure sham and
hypocrisy, the salary is just the match of the ambassador's official
clothes--that boastful advertisement of a Republican Simplicity which
manifests itself at home in Fifty-thousand-dollar salaries to insurance
presidents and railway lawyers, and in domestic palaces whose fittings
and furnishings often transcend in costly display and splendour and
richness the fittings and furnishings of the palaces of the sceptred
masters of Europe; and which has invented and exported to the Old World
the palace-car, the sleeping-car, the tram-car, the electric trolley, the
best bicycles, the best motor-cars, the steam-heater, the best and
smartest systems of electric calls and telephonic aids to laziness and
comfort, the elevator, the private bath-room (hot and cold water on tap),
the palace-hotel, with its multifarious conveniences, comforts, shows,
and luxuries, the--oh, the list is interminable! In a word, Republican
Simplicity found Europe with one shirt on her back, so to speak, as far
as real luxuries, conveniences, and the comforts of life go, and has
clothed her to the chin with the latter. We are the lavishest and
showiest and most luxury-loving people on the earth; and at our masthead
we fly one true and honest symbol, the gaudiest flag the world has ever
seen. Oh, Republican Simplicity, there are many, many humbugs in the
world, but none to which you need take off your hat!
[NOTE.--This is not a fancy sketch. I got it from a clergyman who was
an instructor at Woolwich forty years ago, and who vouched for its truth.
It was at a banquet in London in honour of one of the two or three
conspicuously illustrious English military names of this generation.
For reasons which will presently appear, I will withhold his real name
and titles, and call him Lieutenant-General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C.,
K.C.B., etc., etc., etc. What a fascination there is in a renowned name!
There say the man, in actual flesh, whom I had heard of so many thousands
of times since that day, thirty years before, when his name shot suddenly
to the zenith from a Crimean battle-field, to remain for ever celebrated.
It was food and drink to me to look, and look, and look at that demigod;
scanning, searching, noting: the quietness, the reserve, the noble
gravity of his countenance; the simple honesty that expressed itself all
over him; the sweet unconsciousness of his greatness--unconsciousness of
the hundreds of admiring eyes fastened upon him, unconsciousness of the
deep, loving, sincere worship welling out of the breasts of those people
and flowing toward him.
The clergyman at my left was an old acquaintance of mine--clergyman now,
but had spent the first half of his life in the camp and field, and as an
instructor in the military school at Woolwich. Just at the moment I have
been talking about, a veiled and singular light glimmered in his eyes,
and he leaned down and muttered confidentially to me--indicating the hero
of the banquet with a gesture,--'Privately--his glory is an accident--
just a product of incredible luck.'
This verdict was a great surprise to me. If its subject had been
Napoleon, or Socrates, or Solomon, my astonishment could not have been
Some days later came the explanation of this strange remark, and this is
what the Reverend told me.
About forty years ago I was an instructor in the military academy at
Woolwich. I was present in one of the sections when young Scoresby
underwent his preliminary examination. I was touched to the quick with
pity; for the rest of the class answered up brightly and handsomely,
while he--why, dear me, he didn't know anything, so to speak. He was
evidently good, and sweet, and lovable, and guileless; and so it was
exceedingly painful to see him stand there, as serene as a graven image,
and deliver himself of answers which were veritably miraculous for
stupidity and ignorance. All the compassion in me was aroused in his
behalf. I said to myself, when he comes to be examined again, he will be
flung over, of course; so it will be simple a harmless act of charity to
ease his fall as much as I can.
I took him aside, and found that he knew a little of Caesar's history;
and as he didn't know anything else, I went to work and drilled him like
a galley-slave on a certain line of stock questions concerning Caesar
which I knew would be used. If you'll believe me, he went through with
flying colours on examination day! He went through on that purely
superficial 'cram', and got compliments, too, while others, who knew a
thousand times more than he, got plucked. By some strangely lucky
accident--an accident not likely to happen twice in a century--he was
asked no question outside of the narrow limits of his drill.
It was stupefying. Well, although through his course I stood by him,
with something of the sentiment which a mother feels for a crippled
child; and he always saved himself--just by miracle, apparently.
Now of course the thing that would expose him and kill him at last was
mathematics. I resolved to make his death as easy as I could; so I
drilled him and crammed him, and crammed him and drilled him, just on the
line of questions which the examiner would be most likely to use, and
then launched him on his fate. Well, sir, try to conceive of the result:
to my consternation, he took the first prize! And with it he got a
perfect ovation in the way of compliments.
Sleep! There was no more sleep for me for a week. My conscience
tortured me day and night. What I had done I had done purely through
charity, and only to ease the poor youth's fall--I never had dreamed of
any such preposterous result as the thing that had happened. I felt as
guilty and miserable as the creator of Frankenstein. Here was a wooden-
head whom I had put in the way of glittering promotions and prodigious
responsibilities, and but one thing could happen: he and his
responsibilities would all go to ruin together at the first opportunity.
The Crimean war had just broken out. Of course there had to be a war, I
said to myself: we couldn't have peace and give this donkey a chance to
die before he is found out. I waited for the earthquake. It came. And
it made me reel when it did come. He was actually gazetted to a
captaincy in a marching regiment! Better men grow old and gray in the
service before they climb to a sublimity like that. And who could ever
have foreseen that they would go and put such a load of responsibility on
such green and inadequate shoulders? I could just barely have stood it
if they had made him a cornet; but a captain--think of it! I thought my
hair would turn white.
Consider what I did--I who so loved repose and inaction. I said to
myself, I am responsible to the country for this, and I must go along
with him and protect the country against him as far as I can. So I took
my poor little capital that I had saved up through years of work and
grinding economy, and went with a sigh and bought a cornetcy in his
regiment, and away we went to the field.
And there--oh dear, it was awful. Blunders? why, he never did anything
but blunder. But, you see, nobody was in the fellow's secret--everybody
had him focused wrong, and necessarily misinterpreted his performance
every time--consequently they took his idiotic blunders for inspirations
of genius; they did honestly! His mildest blunders were enough to make a
man in his right mind cry; and they did make me cry--and rage and rave
too, privately. And the thing that kept me always in a sweat of
apprehension was the fact that every fresh blunder he made increased the
lustre of his reputation! I kept saying to myself, he'll get so high
that when discovery does finally come it will be like the sun falling out
of the sky.
He went right along up, from grade to grade, over the dead bodies of his
superiors, until at last, in the hottest moment of the battle of....
down went our colonel, and my heart jumped into my mouth, for Scoresby
was next in rank! Now for it, said I; we'll all land in Sheol in ten
The battle was awfully hot; the allies were steadily giving way all over
the field. Our regiment occupied a position that was vital; a blunder
now must be destruction. At this critical moment, what does this
immortal fool do but detach the regiment from its place and order a
charge over a neighbouring hill where there wasn't a suggestion of an
enemy! 'There you go!' I said to myself; 'this is the end at last.'
And away we did go, and were over the shoulder of the hill before the
insane movement could be discovered and stopped. And what did we find?
An entire and unsuspected Russian army in reserve! And what happened?
We were eaten up? That is necessarily what would have happened in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. But no; those Russians argued that
no single regiment would come browsing around there at such a time. It
must be the entire English army, and that the sly Russian game was
detected and blocked; so they turned tail, and away they went, pell-mell,
over the hill and down into the field, in wild confusion, and we after
them; they themselves broke the solid Russia centre in the field, and
tore through, and in no time there was the most tremendous rout you ever
saw, and the defeat of the allies was turned into a sweeping and splendid
victory! Marshal Canrobert looked on, dizzy with astonishment,
admiration, and delight; and sent right off for Scoresby, and hugged him,
and decorated him on the field in presence of all the armies!
And what was Scoresby's blunder that time? Merely the mistaking his
right hand for his left--that was all. An order had come to him to fall
back and support our right; and instead he fell forward and went over the
hill to the left. But the name he won that day as a marvellous military
genius filled the world with his glory, and that glory will never fade
while history books last.
He is just as good and sweet and lovable and unpretending as a man can
be, but he doesn't know enough to come in when it rains. He has been
pursued, day by day and year by year, by a most phenomenal and
astonishing luckiness. He has been a shining soldier in all our wars for
half a generation; he has littered his military life with blunders, and
yet has never committed one that didn't make him a knight or a baronet or
a lord or something. Look at his breast; why, he is just clothed in
domestic and foreign decorations. Well, sir, every one of them is a
record of some shouting stupidity or other; and, taken together, they are
proof that the very best thing in all this world that can befall a man is
to be born lucky.
THE CAPTAIN'S STORY
There was a good deal of pleasant gossip about old Captain 'Hurricane'
Jones, of the Pacific Ocean--peace to his ashes! Two or three of us
present had known him; I, particularly well, for I had made four sea-
voyages with him. He was a very remarkable man. He was born on a ship;
he picked up what little education he had among his ship-mates; he began
life in the forecastle, and climbed grade by grade to the captaincy.
More than fifty years of his sixty-five were spent at sea. He had sailed
all oceans, seen all lands, and borrowed a tint from all climates. When
a man has been fifty years at sea, he necessarily knows nothing of men,
nothing of the world but its surface, nothing of the world's thought,
nothing of the world's learning but it's a B C, and that blurred and
distorted by the unfocussed lenses of an untrained mind. Such a man is
only a gray and bearded child. That is what old Hurricane Jones was--
simply an innocent, lovable old infant. When his spirit was in repose he
was as sweet and gentle as a girl; when his wrath was up he was a
hurricane that made his nickname seem tamely descriptive. He was
formidable in a fight, for he was of powerful build and dauntless
courage. He was frescoed from head to heel with pictures and mottoes
tattooed in red and blue India ink. I was with him one voyage when he
got his last vacant space tattooed; this vacant space was around his left
ankle. During three days he stumped about the ship with his ankle bare
and swollen, and this legend gleaming red and angry out from a clouding
of India ink: 'Virtue is its own R'd.' (There was a lack of room.) He
was deeply and sincerely pious, and swore like a fish-woman. He
considered swearing blameless, because sailors would not understand an
order unillumined by it. He was a profound Biblical scholar--that is, he
thought he was. He believed everything in the Bible, but he had his own
methods of arriving at his beliefs. He was of the 'advanced' school of
thinkers, and applied natural laws to the interpretation of all miracles,
somewhat on the plan of the people who make the six days of creation six
geological epochs, and so forth. Without being aware of it, he was a
rather severe satirist on modern scientific religionists. Such a man as
I have been describing is rabidly fond of disquisition and argument; one
knows that without being told it.
One trip the captain had a clergyman on board, but did not know he was a
clergyman, since the passenger list did not betray the fact. He took a
great liking to this Rev. Mr. Peters, and talked with him a great deal:
told him yarns, gave him toothsome scraps of personal history, and wove a
glittering streak of profanity through his garrulous fabric that was
refreshing to a spirit weary of the dull neutralities of undecorated
speech. One day the captain said, 'Peters, do you ever read the Bible?'
'I judge it ain't often, by the way you say it. Now, you tackle it in
dead earnest once, and you'll find it'll pay. Don't you get discouraged,
but hang right on. First you won't understand it; but by-and-by things
will begin to clear up, and then you wouldn't lay it down to ^^^ear.'
'Yes, I have heard that said.'
'And it's so too. There ain't a book that begins with it. It lays over
'em all, Peters. There's some pretty tough things in it--there ain't any
getting around that--but you stick to them and think them out, and when
once you get on the inside everything's plain as day.'
'The miracles, too, captain?'
'Yes, sir! the miracles, too. Every one of them. Now, there's that
business with the prophets of Baal; like enough that stumped you?'
'Well, I don't know but--'
'Own up, now; it stumped you. Well, I don't wonder. You hadn't any
experience in ravelling such things out, and naturally it was too many
for you. Would you like to have me explain that thing to you, and show
you how to get at the meat of these matters?'
'Indeed, I would, captain, if you don't mind.'
Then the captain proceeded as follows: 'I'll do it with pleasure. First,
you see, I read and read, and thought and thought, till I got to
understand what sort of people they were in the old Bible times, and then
after that it was clear and easy. Now, this was the way I put it up,
concerning Isaac and the prophets of Baal. There was some mighty
sharp men amongst the public characters of that old ancient day, and
Isaac was one of them. Isaac had his failings--plenty of them, too; it
ain't for me to apologise for Isaac; he played a cold deck on the
prophets of Baal, and like enough he was justifiable, considering the
odds that was against him. No, all I say it, 't' wa'n't any miracle, and
that I'll show you so's 't you can see it yourself.
'Well, times had been getting rougher and rougher for prophets--that is,
prophets of Isaac's denomination. There were four hundred and fifty
prophets of Baal in the community, and only one Presbyterian; that is, if
Isaac was a Presbyterian, which I reckon he was, but it don't say.
Naturally, the prophets of Baal took all the trade. Isaac was pretty low
spirited, I reckon, but he was a good deal of a man, and no doubt he went
a-prophesying around, letting on to be doing a land-office business, but
't' wa'n't any use; he couldn't run any opposition to amount to anything.
By-and-by things got desperate with him; he sets his head to work and
thinks it all out, and then what does he do? Why he begins to throw out
hints that the other parties are this and that and t'other,--nothing very
definite, may be, but just kind of undermining their reputation in a
quiet way. This made talk, of course, and finally got to the King. The
King asked Isaac what he meant by his talk. Says Isaac, "Oh, nothing
particular; only, can they pray down fire from heaven on an altar? It
ain't much, maybe, your majesty, only can they do it? That's the idea."
So the King was a good deal disturbed, and he went to the prophets of
Baal, and they said, pretty airy, that if he had an altar ready, they
were ready; and they intimated he better get it insured, too.
'So next morning all the Children of Israel and their parents and the
other people gathered themselves together. Well, here was that great
crowd of prophets of Baal packed together on one side, and Isaac walking
up and down all alone on the other, putting up his job. When time was
called, Isaac let on to be comfortable and indifferent; told the other
team to take the first innings. So they went at it, the whole four
hundred and fifty, praying around the altar, very hopefully, and doing
their level best. They prayed an hour--two hours--three hours--and so
on, plumb till noon. It wa'n't any use; they hadn't took a trick. Of
course they felt kind of ashamed before all those people, and well they
might. Now, what would a magnanimous man do? Keep still, wouldn't he?
Of course. What did Isaac do? He graveled the prophets of Baal every
way he could think of. Says he, "You don't speak up loud enough; your
god's asleep, like enough, or may be he's taking a walk; you want to
holler, you know," or words to that effect; I don't recollect the exact
language. Mind I don't apologise for Isaac; he had his faults.
'Well, the prophets of Baal prayed along the best they knew how all the
afternoon, and never raised a spark. At last, about sundown, they were
all tuckered out, and they owned up and quit.
'What does Isaac do, now? He steps up and says to some friends of his,
there, "Pour four barrels of water on the altar!" Everybody was
astonished; for the other side had prayed at it dry, you know, and got
whitewashed. They poured it on. Says he, "Heave on four more barrels."
Then he says, "Heave on four more." Twelve barrels, you see, altogether.
The water ran all over the altar, and all down the sides, and filled up a
trench around it that would hold a couple of hogsheads--"measures," it
says: I reckon it means about a hogshead. Some of the people were going
to put on their things and go, for they allowed he was crazy. They
didn't know Isaac. Isaac knelt down and began to pray: he strung along,
and strung along, about the heathen in distant lands, and about the
sister churches, and about the state and the country at large, and about
those that's in authority in the government, and all the usual programme,
you know, till everybody had got tired and gone to thinking about
something else, and then, all of a sudden, when nobody was noticing, he
outs with a match and rakes it on the under side of his leg, and pff! up
the whole thing blazes like a house afire! Twelve barrels of water?
Petroleum, sir, PETROLEUM! that's what it was!'
'Yes, sir; the country was full of it. Isaac knew all about that. You
read the Bible. Don't you worry about the tough places. They ain't
tough when you come to think them out and throw light on them. There
ain't a thing in the Bible but what is true; all you want is to go
prayerfully to work and cipher out how 'twas done.'
 This is the captain's own mistake.
STIRRING TIMES IN AUSTRIA
I. THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FRYING-PAN.
Here in Vienna in these closing days of 1897 one's blood gets no chance
to stagnate. The atmosphere is brimful of political electricity. All
conversation is political; every man is a battery, with brushes overworn,
and gives out blue sparks when you set him going on the common topic.
Everybody has an opinion, and lets you have it frank and hot, and out of
this multitude of counsel you get merely confusion and despair. For no
one really understands this political situation, or can tell you what is
going to be the outcome of it.
Things have happened here recently which would set any country but
Austria on fire from end to end, and upset the Government to a certainty;
but no one feels confident that such results will follow here. Here,
apparently, one must wait and see what will happen, then he will know,
and not before; guessing is idle; guessing cannot help the matter. This
is what the wise tell you; they all say it; they say it every day, and it
is the sole detail upon which they all agree.
There is some approach to agreement upon another point: that there will
be no revolution. Men say: 'Look at our history, revolutions have not
been in our line; and look at our political map, its construction is
unfavourable to an organised uprising, and without unity what could a
revolt accomplish? It is disunion which has held our empire together for
centuries, and what it has done in the past it may continue to do now and
in the future.'
The most intelligible sketch I have encountered of this unintelligible
arrangement of things was contributed to the 'Traveller's Record' by Mr.
Forrest Morgan, of Hartford, three years ago. He says:
'The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is the patchwork-quilt, the Midway
Plaisance, the national chain-gang of Europe; a state that is not a
nation, but a collection of nations, some with national memories and
aspirations and others without, some occupying distinct provinces
almost purely their own, and others mixed with alien races, but each
with a different language, and each mostly holding the others
foreigners as much as if the link of a common government did not
exist. Only one of its races even now comprises so much as one-
fourth of the whole, and not another so much as one-sixth; and each
has remained for ages as unchanged in isolation, however mingled
together in locality, as globules of oil in water. There is nothing
else in the modern world that is nearly like it, though there have
been plenty in past ages; it seems unreal and impossible even though
we know it is true; it violates all our feeling as to what a country
should be in order to have a right to exist; and it seems as though
it was too ramshackle to go on holding together any length of time.
Yet it has survived, much in its present shape, two centuries of
storms that have swept perfectly unified countries from existence
and others that have brought it to the verge of ruin, has survived
formidable European coalitions to dismember it, and has steadily
gained force after each; forever changing in its exact make-up,
losing in the West but gaining in the East, the changes leave the
structure as firm as ever, like the dropping off and adding on of
logs in a raft, its mechanical union of pieces showing all the
vitality of genuine national life.'
That seems to confirm and justify the prevalent Austrian faith that in
this confusion of unrelated and irreconcilable elements, this condition
of incurable disunion, there is strength--for the Government. Nearly
every day some one explains to me that a revolution would not succeed
here. 'It couldn't, you know. Broadly speaking, all the nations in the
empire hate the Government--but they all hate each other too, and with
devoted and enthusiastic bitterness; no two of them can combine; the
nation that rises must rise alone; then the others would joyfully join
the Government against her, and she would have just a fly's chance
against a combination of spiders. This Government is entirely
independent. It can go its own road, and do as it pleases; it has
nothing to fear. In countries like England and America, where there is
one tongue and the public interests are common, the Government must take
account of public opinion; but in Austria-Hungary there are nineteen
public opinions--one for each state. No--two or three for each state,
since there are two or three nationalities in each. A Government cannot
satisfy all these public opinions; it can only go through the motions of
trying. This Government does that. It goes through the motions, and
they do not succeed; but that does not worry the Government much.'
The next man will give you some further information. 'The Government has
a policy--a wise one--and sticks to it. This policy is--tranquillity:
keep this hive of excitable nations as quiet as possible; encourage them
to amuse themselves with things less inflammatory that politics. To this
end it furnishes them an abundance of Catholic priests to teach them to
be docile and obedient, and to be diligent in acquiring ignorance about
things here below, and knowledge about the kingdom of heaven, to whose
historic delights they are going to add the charm of their society by-
and-by; and further--to this same end--it cools off the newspapers every
morning at five o'clock, whenever warm events are happening.' There is a
censor of the press, and apparently he is always on duty and hard at
work. A copy of each morning paper is brought to him at five o'clock.
His official wagons wait at the doors of the newspaper offices and scud
to him with the first copies that come from the press. His company of
assistants read every line in these papers, and mark everything which
seems to have a dangerous look; then he passes final judgment upon these
markings. Two things conspire to give to the results a capricious and
unbalanced look: his assistants have diversified notions as to what is
dangerous and what isn't; he can't get time to examine their criticisms
in much detail; and so sometimes the very same matter which is suppressed
in one paper fails to be damned in another one, and gets published in
full feather and unmodified. Then the paper in which it was suppressed
blandly copies the forbidden matter into its evening edition--provokingly
giving credit and detailing all the circumstances in courteous and
inoffensive language--and of course the censor cannot say a word.
Sometimes the censor sucks all the blood out of a newspaper and leaves it
colourless and inane; sometimes he leaves it undisturbed, and lets it
talk out its opinions with a frankness and vigour hardly to be surpassed,
I think, in the journals of any country. Apparently the censor sometimes
revises his verdicts upon second thought, for several times lately he has
suppressed journals after their issue and partial distribution. The
distributed copies are then sent for by the censor and destroyed. I have
two of these, but at the time they were sent for I could not remember
what I had done with them.
If the censor did his work before the morning edition was printed, he
would be less of an inconvenience than he is; but, of course, the papers
cannot wait many minutes after five o'clock to get his verdict; they
might as well go out of business as do that; so they print and take their
chances. Then, if they get caught by a suppression, they must strike out
the condemned matter and print the edition over again. That delays the
issue several hours, and is expensive besides. The Government gets the
suppressed edition for nothing. If it bought it, that would be joyful,
and would give great satisfaction. Also, the edition would be larger.
Some of the papers do not replace the condemned paragraphs with other
matter; they merely snatch they out and leave blanks behind--mourning
blanks, marked 'Confiscated'.
The Government discourages the dissemination of newspaper information in
other ways. For instance, it does not allow newspapers to be sold on the
streets: therefore the newsboy is unknown in Vienna. And there is a
stamp duty of nearly a cent upon each copy of a newspaper's issue. Every
American paper that reaches me has a stamp upon it, which has been pasted
there in the post-office or downstairs in the hotel office; but no matter
who put it there, I have to pay for it, and that is the main thing.
Sometimes friends send me so many papers that it takes all I can earn
that week to keep this Government going.
I must take passing notice of another point in the Government's measures
for maintaining tranquillity. Everybody says it does not like to see any
individual attain to commanding influence in the country, since such a
man can become a disturber and an inconvenience. 'We have as much talent
as the other nations,' says the citizen, resignedly, and without
bitterness, 'but for the sake of the general good of the country, we are
discouraged from making it over-conspicuous; and not only discouraged,
but tactfully and skillfully prevented from doing it, if we show too much
persistence. Consequently we have no renowned men; in centuries we have
seldom produced one--that is, seldom allowed one to produce himself. We
can say to-day what no other nation of first importance in the family of
Christian civilisations can say--that there exists no Austrian who has
made an enduring name for himself which is familiar all around the globe.
Another helper toward tranquillity is the army. It is as pervasive as
the atmosphere. It is everywhere. All the mentioned creators,
promoters, and preservers of the public tranquillity do their several
shares in the quieting work. They make a restful and comfortable
serenity and reposefulness. This is disturbed sometimes for a little
while: a mob assembles to protest against something; it gets noisy--
noisier--still noisier--finally too noisy; then the persuasive soldiery
comes charging down upon it, and in a few minutes all is quiet again, and
there is no mob.
There is a Constitution and there is a Parliament. The House draws its
membership of 425 deputies from the nineteen or twenty states heretofore
mentioned. These men represent peoples who speak eleven different
languages. That means eleven distinct varieties of jealousies,
hostilities, and warring interests. This could be expected to furnish
forth a parliament of a pretty inharmonious sort, and make legislation
difficult at times--and it does that. The Parliament is split up into
many parties--the Clericals, the Progressists, the German Nationalists,
the Young Czechs, the Social Democrats, the Christian Socialists, and
some others--and it is difficult to get up working combinations among
them. They prefer to fight apart sometimes.
The recent troubles have grown out of Count Badeni's necessities. He
could not carry on his Government without a majority vote in the House at
his back, and in order to secure it he had to make a trade of some sort.
He made it with the Czechs--the Bohemians. The terms were not easy for
him: he must issue an ordinance making the Czech tongue the official
language in Bohemia in place of the German. This created a storm. All
the Germans in Austria were incensed. In numbers they form but a fourth
part of the empire's population, but they urge that the country's public
business should be conducted in one common tongue, and that tongue a
world language--which German is.
However, Badeni secured his majority. The German element in Parliament
was apparently become helpless. The Czech deputies were exultant.
Then the music began. Badeni's voyage, instead of being smooth, was
disappointingly rough from the start. The Government must get the
Ausgleich through. It must not fail. Badeni's majority was ready to
carry it through; but the minority was determined to obstruct it and
delay it until the obnoxious Czech-language measure should be shelved.
The Ausgleich is an Adjustment, Arrangement, Settlement, which holds
Austria and Hungary together. It dates from 1867, and has to be renewed
every ten years. It establishes the share which Hungary must pay toward
the expenses of the imperial Government. Hungary is a kingdom (the
Emperor of Austria is its King), and has its own Parliament and
governmental machinery. But it has no foreign office, and it has no
army--at least its army is a part of the imperial army, is paid out of
the imperial treasury, and is under the control of the imperial war
The ten-year arrangement was due a year ago, but failed to connect. At
least completely. A year's compromise was arranged. A new arrangement
must be effected before the last day of this year. Otherwise the two
countries become separate entities. The Emperor would still be King of
Hungary--that is, King of an independent foreign country. There would be
Hungarian custom-houses on the Austrian border, and there would be a
Hungarian army and a Hungarian foreign office. Both countries would be
weakened by this, both would suffer damage.
The Opposition in the House, although in the minority, had a good weapon
to fight with in the pending Ausgleich. If it could delay the Ausgleich
a few weeks, the Government would doubtless have to withdraw the hated
language ordinance or lose Hungary.
The Opposition began its fight. Its arms were the Rules of the House.
It was soon manifest that by applying these Rules ingeniously it could
make the majority helpless, and keep it so as long as it pleased. It
could shut off business every now and then with a motion to adjourn. It
could require the ayes and noes on the motion, and use up thirty minutes
on that detail. It could call for the reading and verification of the
minutes of the preceding meeting, and use up half a day in that way. It
could require that several of its members be entered upon the list of
permitted speakers previously to the opening of a sitting; and as there
is no time-limit, further delays could thus be accomplished.
These were all lawful weapons, and the men of the Opposition (technically
called the Left) were within their rights in using them. They used them
to such dire purpose that all parliamentary business was paralysed. The
Right (the Government side) could accomplish nothing. Then it had a
saving idea. This idea was a curious one. It was to have the President
and the Vice-Presidents of the Parliament trample the Rules under foot
This, for a profoundly embittered minority constructed out of fire and
gun-cotton! It was time for idle strangers to go and ask leave to look
down out of a gallery and see what would be the result of it.
II. A MEMORABLE SITTING.
And now took place that memorable sitting of the House which broke two
records. It lasted the best part of two days and a night, surpassing by
half an hour the longest sitting known to the world's previous
parliamentary history, and breaking the long-speech record with Dr.
Lecher's twelve-hour effort, the longest flow of unbroken talk that ever
came out of one mouth since the world began.
At 8.45 on the evening of the 28th of October, when the House had been
sitting a few minutes short of ten hours, Dr. Lecher was granted the
floor. It was a good place for theatrical effects. I think that no
other Senate House is so shapely as this one, or so richly and showily
decorated. Its plan is that of an opera-house. Up toward the straight
side of it--the stage side--rise a couple of terraces of desks for the
ministry, and the official clerks or secretaries--terraces thirty feet
long, and each supporting about half a dozen desks with spaces between
them. Above these is the President's terrace, against the wall. Along
it are distributed the proper accommodations for the presiding officer
and his assistants. The wall is of richly coloured marble highly
polished, its paneled sweep relieved by fluted columns and pilasters of
distinguished grace and dignity, which glow softly and frostily in the
electric light. Around the spacious half-circle of the floor bends the
great two-storied curve of the boxes, its frontage elaborately ornamented
and sumptuously gilded. On the floor of the House the 425 desks radiate
fanwise from the President's tribune.
The galleries are crowded on this particular evening, for word has gone
about that the Ausgleich is before the House; that the President, Ritter
von Abrahamowicz, has been throttling the Rules; that the Opposition are
in an inflammable state in consequence, and that the night session is
likely to be of an exciting sort.
The gallery guests are fashionably dressed, and the finery of the women
makes a bright and pretty show under the strong electric light. But down
on the floor there is no costumery.
The deputies are dressed in day clothes; some of the clothes neat and
trim, others not; there may be three members in evening dress, but not
more. There are several Catholic priests in their long black gowns, and
with crucifixes hanging from their necks. No member wears his hat. One
may see by these details that the aspects are not those of an evening
sitting of an English House of Commons, but rather those of a sitting of
our House of Representatives.
In his high place sits the President, Abrahamowicz, object of the
Opposition's limitless hatred. He is sunk back in the depths of his arm-
chair, and has his chin down. He brings the ends of his spread fingers
together, in front of his breast, and reflectively taps them together,
with the air of one who would like to begin business, but must wait, and
be as patient as he can. It makes you think of Richelieu. Now and then
he swings his head up to the left or to the right and answers something
which some one has bent down to say to him. Then he taps his fingers
again. He looks tired, and maybe a trifle harassed. He is a gray-
haired, long, slender man, with a colourless long face, which, in repose,
suggests a death-mask; but when not in repose is tossed and rippled by a
turbulent smile which washes this way and that, and is not easy to keep
up with--a pious smile, a holy smile, a saintly smile, a deprecating
smile, a beseeching and supplicating smile; and when it is at work the
large mouth opens, and the flexible lips crumple, and unfold, and crumple
again, and move around in a genial and persuasive and angelic way, and
expose large glimpses of the teeth; and that interrupts the sacredness of
the smile and gives it momentarily a mixed worldly and political and
satanic cast. It is a most interesting face to watch. And then the long
hands and the body--they furnish great and frequent help to the face in
the business of adding to the force of the statesman's words.
To change the tense. At the time of which I have just been speaking the
crowds in the galleries were gazing at the stage and the pit with rapt
interest and expectancy. One half of the great fan of desks was in
effect empty, vacant; in the other half several hundred members were
bunched and jammed together as solidly as the bristles in a brush; and
they also were waiting and expecting. Presently the Chair delivered this
'Dr. Lecher has the floor.'
Then burst out such another wild and frantic and deafening clamour as has
not been heard on this planet since the last time the Comanches surprised
a white settlement at night. Yells from the Left, counter-yells from the
Right, explosions of yells from all sides at once, and all the air sawed
and pawed and clawed and cloven by a writhing confusion of gesturing arms
and hands. Out of the midst of this thunder and turmoil and tempest rose
Dr. Lecher, serene and collected, and the providential length of his
enabled his head to show out of it. He began his twelve-hour speech. At
any rate, his lips could be seen to move, and that was evidence. On high
sat the President, imploring order, with his long hands put together as
in prayer, and his lips visibly but not hearably speaking. At intervals
he grasped his bell and swung it up and down with vigour, adding its keen
clamour to the storm weltering there below.
Dr. Lecher went on with his pantomime speech, contented, untroubled.
Here and there and now and then powerful voices burst above the din, and
delivered an ejaculation that was heard. Then the din ceased for a
moment or two, and gave opportunity to hear what the Chair might answer;
then the noise broke out again. Apparently the President was being
charged with all sorts of illegal exercises of power in the interest of
the Right (the Government side): among these, with arbitrarily closing an
Order of Business before it was finished; with an unfair distribution of
the right to the floor; with refusal of the floor, upon quibble and
protest, to members entitled to it; with stopping a speaker's speech upon
quibble and protest; and with other transgressions of the Rules of the
House. One of the interrupters who made himself heard was a young fellow
of slight build and neat dress, who stood a little apart from the solid
crowd and leaned negligently, with folded arms and feet crossed, against
a desk. Trim and handsome; strong face and thin features; black hair
roughed up; parsimonious moustache; resonant great voice, of good tone
and pitch. It is Wolf, capable and hospitable with sword and pistol;
fighter of the recent duel with Count Badeni, the head of the Government.
He shot Badeni through the arm and then walked over in the politest way
and inspected his game, shook hands, expressed regret, and all that. Out
of him came early this thundering peal, audible above the storm:
'I demand the floor. I wish to offer a motion.'
In the sudden lull which followed, the President answered, 'Dr. Lecher
has the floor.'