This etext was prepared by David Widger
The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 2
I should not like to ask an indulgent and idle public to saunter about with me under a misapprehension. It would be more agreeable to invite it to go nowhere than somewhere; for almost every one has been somewhere, and has written about it. The only compromise I can suggest is, that we shall go somewhere, and not learn anything about it. The instinct of the public against any thing like information in a volume of this kind is perfectly justifiable; and the reader will perhaps discover that this is illy adapted for a text-book in schools, or for the use of competitive candidates in the civil-service examinations.
Years ago, people used to saunter over the Atlantic, and spend weeks in filling journals with their monotonous emotions. That is all changed now, and there is a misapprehension that the Atlantic has been practically subdued; but no one ever gets beyond the rolling forties” without having this impression corrected.
I confess to have been deceived about this Atlantic, the roughest and windiest of oceans. If you look at it on the map, it does n’t appear to be much, and, indeed, it is spoken of as a ferry. What with the eight and nine days’ passages over it, and the laying of the cable, which annihilates distance, I had the impression that its tedious three thousand and odd miles had been, somehow, partly done away with; but they are all there. When one has sailed a thousand miles due east and finds that he is then nowhere in particular, but is still out, pitching about on an uneasy sea, under an inconstant sky, and that a thousand miles more will not make any perceptible change, he begins to have some conception of the unconquerable ocean. Columbus rises in my estimation.
I was feeling uncomfortable that nothing had been done for the memory of Christopher Columbus, when I heard some months ago that thirty- seven guns had been fired off for him in Boston. It is to be hoped that they were some satisfaction to him. They were discharged by countrymen of his, who are justly proud that he should have been able, after a search of only a few weeks, to find a land where the hand-organ had never been heard. The Italians, as a people, have not profited much by this discovery; not so much, indeed, as the Spaniards, who got a reputation by it which even now gilds their decay. That Columbus was born in Genoa entitles the Italians to celebrate the great achievement of his life; though why they should discharge exactly thirty-seven guns I do not know. Columbus did not discover the United States: that we partly found ourselves, and partly bought, and gouged the Mexicans out of. He did not even appear to know that there was a continent here. He discovered the West Indies, which he thought were the East; and ten guns would be enough for them. It is probable that he did open the way to the discovery of the New World. If he had waited, however, somebody else would have discovered it,–perhaps some Englishman; and then we might have been spared all the old French and Spanish wars. Columbus let the Spaniards into the New World; and their civilization has uniformly been a curse to it. If he had brought Italians, who neither at that time showed, nor since have shown, much inclination to come, we should have had the opera, and made it a paying institution by this time. Columbus was evidently a person who liked to sail about, and did n’t care much for consequences.
Perhaps it is not an open question whether Columbus did a good thing in first coming over here, one that we ought to celebrate with salutes and dinners. The Indians never thanked him, for one party. The Africans had small ground to be gratified for the market he opened for them. Here are two continents that had no use for him. He led Spain into a dance of great expectations, which ended in her gorgeous ruin. He introduced tobacco into Europe, and laid the foundation for more tracts and nervous diseases than the Romans had in a thousand years. He introduced the potato into Ireland indirectly; and that caused such a rapid increase of population, that the great famine was the result, and an enormous emigration to New York–hence Tweed and the constituency of the Ring. Columbus is really responsible for New York. He is responsible for our whole tremendous experiment of democracy, open to all comers, the best three in five to win. We cannot yet tell how it is coming out, what with the foreigners and the communists and the women. On our great stage we are playing a piece of mingled tragedy and comedy, with what denouement we cannot yet say. If it comes out well, we ought to erect a monument to Christopher as high as the one at Washington expects to be; and we presume it is well to fire a salute occasionally to keep the ancient mariner in mind while we are trying our great experiment. And this reminds me that he ought to have had a naval salute.
There is something almost heroic in the idea of firing off guns for a man who has been stone-dead for about four centuries. It must have had a lively and festive sound in Boston, when the meaning of the salute was explained. No one could hear those great guns without a quicker beating of the heart in gratitude to the great discoverer who had made Boston possible. We are trying to “realize” to ourselves the importance of the 12th of October as an anniversary of our potential existence. If any one wants to see how vivid is the gratitude to Columbus, let him start out among our business-houses with a subscription-paper to raise money for powder to be exploded in his honor. And yet Columbus was a well-meaning man; and if he did not discover a perfect continent, he found the only one that was left.
Columbus made voyaging on the Atlantic popular, and is responsible for much of the delusion concerning it. Its great practical use in this fast age is to give one an idea of distance and of monotony.
I have listened in my time with more or less pleasure to very rollicking songs about the sea, the flashing brine, the spray and the tempest’s roar, the wet sheet and the flowing sea, a life on the ocean wave, and all the rest of it. To paraphrase a land proverb, let me write the songs of the sea, and I care not who goes to sea and sings ’em. A square yard of solid ground is worth miles of the pitching, turbulent stuff. Its inability to stand still for one second is the plague of it. To lie on deck when the sun shines, and swing up and down, while the waves run hither and thither and toss their white caps, is all well enough to lie in your narrow berth and roll from side to side all night long; to walk uphill to your state-room door, and, when you get there, find you have got to the bottom of the hill, and opening the door is like lifting up a trap-door in the floor; to deliberately start for some object, and, before you know it, to be flung against it like a bag of sand; to attempt to sit down on your sofa, and find you are sitting up; to slip and slide and grasp at everything within reach, and to meet everybody leaning and walking on a slant, as if a heavy wind were blowing, and the laws of gravitation were reversed; to lie in your berth, and hear all the dishes on the cabin-table go sousing off against the wall in a general smash; to sit at table holding your soup-plate with one hand, and watching for a chance to put your spoon in when it comes high tide on your side of the dish; to vigilantly watch, the lurch of the heavy dishes while holding your glass and your plate and your knife and fork, and not to notice it when Brown, who sits next you, gets the whole swash of the gravy from the roast-beef dish on his light-colored pantaloons, and see the look of dismay that only Brown can assume on such an occasion; to see Mrs. Brown advance to the table, suddenly stop and hesitate, two waiters rush at her, with whom she struggles wildly, only to go down in a heap with them in the opposite corner; to see her partially recover, but only to shoot back again through her state-room door, and be seen no more;–all this is quite pleasant and refreshing if you are tired of land, but you get quite enough of it in a couple of weeks. You become, in time, even a little tired of the Jew who goes about wishing “he vas a veek older;” and the eccentric man, who looks at no one, and streaks about the cabin and on deck, without any purpose, and plays shuffle-board alone, always beating himself, and goes on the deck occasionally through the sky-light instead of by the cabin door, washes himself at the salt-water pump, and won’t sleep in his state-room, saying he is n’t used to sleeping in a bed,–as if the hard narrow, uneasy shelf of a berth was anything like a bed!–and you have heard at last pretty nearly all about the officers, and their twenty and thirty years of sea-life, and every ocean and port on the habitable globe where they have been. There comes a day when you are quite ready for land, and the scream of the “gull” is a welcome sound.
Even the sailors lose the vivacity of the first of the voyage. The first two or three days we had their quaint and half-doleful singing in chorus as they pulled at the ropes: now they are satisfied with short ha-ho’s, and uncadenced grunts. It used to be that the leader sang, in ever-varying lines of nonsense, and the chorus struck in with fine effect, like this:
“I wish I was in Liverpool town.
Handy-pan, handy O!
O captain! where ‘d you ship your crew Handy-pan, handy O!
Oh! pull away, my bully crew,
Handy-pan, handy O!”
There are verses enough of this sort to reach across the Atlantic; and they are not the worst thing about it either, or the most tedious. One learns to respect this ocean, but not to love it; and he leaves it with mingled feelings about Columbus.
And now, having crossed it,–a fact that cannot be concealed,–let us not be under the misapprehension that we are set to any task other than that of sauntering where it pleases us.
PARIS AND LONDON
SURFACE CONTRASTS OF PARIS AND LONDON
I wonder if it is the Channel? Almost everything is laid to the Channel: it has no friends. The sailors call it the nastiest bit of water in the world. All travelers anathematize it. I have now crossed it three times in different places, by long routes and short ones, and have always found it as comfortable as any sailing anywhere, sailing being one of the most tedious and disagreeable inventions of a fallen race. But such is not the usual experience: most people would make great sacrifices to avoid the hour and three quarters in one of those loathsome little Channel boats,–they always call them loathsome, though I did n’t see but they are as good as any boats. I have never found any boat that hasn’t a detestable habit of bobbing round. The Channel is hated: and no one who has much to do with it is surprised at the projects for bridging it and for boring a hole under it; though I have scarcely ever met an Englishman who wants either done,–he does not desire any more facile communication with the French than now exists. The traditional hatred may not be so strong as it was, but it is hard to say on which side is the most ignorance and contempt of the other.
It must be the Channel: that is enough to produce a physical disagreement even between the two coasts; and there cannot be a greater contrast in the cultivated world than between the two lands lying so close to each other; and the contrast of their capitals is even more decided,–I was about to say rival capitals, but they have not enough in common to make them rivals. I have lately been over to London for a week, going by the Dieppe and New Haven route at night, and returning by another; and the contrasts I speak of were impressed upon me anew. Everything here in and about Paris was in the green and bloom of spring, and seemed to me very lovely; but my first glance at an English landscape made it all seem pale and flat. We went up from New Haven to London in the morning, and feasted our eyes all the way. The French foliage is thin, spindling, sparse; the grass is thin and light in color–in contrast. The English trees are massive, solid in substance and color; the grass is thick, and green as emerald; the turf is like the heaviest Wilton carpet. The whole effect is that of vegetable luxuriance and solidity, as it were a tropical luxuriance, condensed and hardened by northern influences. If my eyes remember well, the French landscapes are more like our own, in spring tone, at least; but the English are a revelation to us strangers of what green really is, and what grass and trees can be. I had been told that we did well to see England before going to the Continent, for it would seem small and only pretty afterwards. Well, leaving out Switzerland, I have seen nothing in that beauty which satisfies the eye and wins the heart to compare with England in spring. When we annex it to our sprawling country which lies out-doors in so many climates, it will make a charming little retreat for us in May and June, a sort of garden of delight, whence we shall draw our May butter and our June roses. It will only be necessary to put it under glass to make it pleasant the year round.
When we passed within the hanging smoke of London town, threading our way amid numberless railway tracks, sometimes over a road and sometimes under one, now burrowing into the ground, and now running along among the chimney-pots,–when we came into the pale light and the thickening industry of a London day, we could but at once contrast Paris. Unpleasant weather usually reduces places to an equality of disagreeableness. But Paris, with its wide streets, light, handsome houses, gay windows and smiling little parks and fountains, keeps up a tolerably pleasant aspect, let the weather do its worst. But London, with its low, dark, smutty brick houses and insignificant streets, settles down hopelessly into the dumps when the weather is bad. Even with the sun doing its best on the eternal cloud of smoke, it is dingy and gloomy enough, and so dirty, after spick-span, shining Paris. And there is a contrast in the matter of order and system; the lack of both in London is apparent. You detect it in public places, in crowds, in the streets. The “social evil” is bad enough in its demonstrations in Paris: it is twice as offensive in London. I have never seen a drunken woman in Paris: I saw many of them in the daytime in London. I saw men and women fight in the streets,–a man kick and pound a woman; and nobody interfered. There is a brutal streak in the Anglo-Saxon, I fear,–a downright animal coarseness, that does not exhibit itself the other side of the Channel. It is a proverb, that the London policemen are never at hand. The stout fellows with their clubs look as if they might do service; but what a contrast they are to the Paris sergents de ville! The latter, with his dress-coat, cocked hat, long rapier, white gloves, neat, polite, attentive, alert,–always with the manner of a jesuit turned soldier,–you learn to trust very much, if not respect; and you feel perfectly secure that he will protect you, and give you your rights in any corner of Paris. It does look as if he might slip that slender rapier through your body in a second, and pull it out and wipe it, and not move a muscle; but I don’t think he would do it unless he were directly ordered to. He would not be likely to knock you down and drag you out, in mistake for the rowdy who was assaulting you.
A great contrast between the habits of the people of London and Paris is shown by their eating and drinking. Paris is brilliant with cafes: all the world frequents them to sip coffee (and too often absinthe), read the papers, and gossip over the news; take them away, as all travelers know, and Paris would not know itself. There is not a cafe in London: instead of cafes, there are gin-mills; instead of light wine, there is heavy beer. The restaurants and restaurant life are as different as can be. You can get anything you wish in Paris: you can live very cheaply or very dearly, as you like. The range is more limited in London. I do not fancy the usual run of Paris restaurants. You get a great deal for your money, in variety and quantity; but you don’t exactly know what it is: and in time you tire of odds and ends, which destroy your hunger without exactly satisfying you. For myself, after a pretty good run of French cookery (and it beats the world for making the most out of little), when I sat down again to what the eminently respectable waiter in white and black calls “a dinner off the Joint, sir,” with what belongs to it, and ended up with an attack on a section of a cheese as big as a bass-drum, not to forget a pewter mug of amber liquid, I felt as if I had touched bottom again,–got something substantial, had what you call a square meal. The English give you the substantials, and better, I believe, than any other people. Thackeray used to come over to Paris to get a good dinner now and then. I have tried his favorite restaurant here, the cuisine of which is famous far beyond the banks of the Seine; but I think if he, hearty trencher-man that he was, had lived in Paris, he would have gone to London for a dinner oftener than he came here.
And as for a lunch,–this eating is a fascinating theme,–commend me to a quiet inn of England. We happened to be out at Kew Gardens the other afternoon. You ought to go to Kew, even if the Duchess of Cambridge is not at home. There is not such a park out of England, considering how beautiful the Thames is there. What splendid trees it has! the horse-chestnut, now a mass of pink-and-white blossoms, from its broad base, which rests on the ground, to its high rounded dome; the hawthorns, white and red, in full flower; the sweeps and glades of living green,–turf on which you walk with a grateful sense of drawing life directly from the yielding, bountiful earth,–a green set out and heightened by flowers in masses of color (a great variety of rhododendrons, for one thing), to say nothing of magnificent greenhouses and outlying flower-gardens. Just beyond are Richmond Hill and Hampton Court, and five or six centuries of tradition and history and romance. Before you enter the garden, you pass the green. On one side of it are cottages, and on the other the old village church and its quiet churchyard. Some boys were playing cricket on the sward, and children were getting as intimate with the turf and the sweet earth as their nurses would let them. We turned into a little cottage, which gave notice of hospitality for a consideration; and were shown, by a pretty maid in calico, into an upper room,–a neat, cheerful, common room, with bright flowers in the open windows, and white muslin curtains for contrast. We looked out on the green and over to the beautiful churchyard, where one of England’s greatest painters, Gainsborough, lies in rural repose. It is nothing to you, who always dine off the best at home, and never encounter dirty restaurants and snuffy inns, or run the gauntlet of Continental hotels, every meal being an experiment of great interest, if not of danger, to say that this brisk little waitress spread a snowy cloth, and set thereon meat and bread and butter and a salad: that conveys no idea to your mind. Because you cannot see that the loaf of wheaten bread was white and delicate, and full of the goodness of the grain; or that the butter, yellow as a guinea, tasted of grass and cows, and all the rich juices of the verdant year, and was not mere flavorless grease; or that the cuts of roast beef, fat and lean, had qualities that indicate to me some moral elevation in the cattle,–high-toned, rich meat; or that the salad was crisp and delicious, and rather seemed to enjoy being eaten, at least, did n’t disconsolately wilt down at the prospect, as most salad does. I do not wonder that Walter Scott dwells so much on eating, or lets his heroes pull at the pewter mugs so often. Perhaps one might find a better lunch in Paris, but he surely couldn’t find this one.
PARIS IN MAY–FRENCH GIRLS–THE EMPEROR AT LONGCHAMPS
It was the first of May when we came up from Italy. The spring grew on us as we advanced north; vegetation seemed further along than it was south of the Alps. Paris was bathed in sunshine, wrapped in delicious weather, adorned with all the delicate colors of blushing spring. Now the horse-chestnuts are all in bloom) and so is the hawthorn; and in parks and gardens there are rows and alleys of trees, with blossoms of pink and of white; patches of flowers set in the light green grass; solid masses of gorgeous color, which fill all the air with perfume; fountains that dance in the sunlight as if just released from prison; and everywhere the soft suffusion of May. Young maidens who make their first communion go into the churches in processions of hundreds, all in white, from the flowing veil to the satin slipper; and I see them everywhere for a week after the ceremony, in their robes of innocence, often with bouquets of flowers, and attended by their friends; all concerned making it a joyful holiday, as it ought to be. I hear, of course, with what false ideas of life these girls are educated; how they are watched before marriage; how the marriage is only one of arrangement, and what liberty they eagerly seek afterwards. I met a charming Paris lady last winter in Italy, recently married, who said she had never been in the Louvre in her life; never had seen any of the magnificent pictures or world-famous statuary there, because girls were not allowed to go there, lest they should see something that they ought not to see. I suppose they look with wonder at the young American girls who march up to anything that ever was created, with undismayed front.
Another Frenchwoman, a lady of talent and the best breeding, recently said to a friend, in entire unconsciousness that she was saying anything remarkable, that, when she was seventeen, her great desire was to marry one of her uncles (a thing not very unusual with the papal dispensation), in order to keep all the money in the family! That was the ambition of a girl of seventeen.
I like, on these sunny days, to look into the Luxembourg Garden: nowhere else is the eye more delighted with life and color. In the afternoon, especially, it is a baby-show worth going far to see. The avenues are full of children, whose animated play, light laughter, and happy chatter, and pretty, picturesque dress, make a sort of fairy grove of the garden; and all the nurses of that quarter bring their charges there, and sit in the shade, sewing, gossiping, and comparing the merits of the little dears. One baby differs from another in glory, I suppose; but I think on such days that they are all lovely, taken in the mass, and all in sweet harmony with the delicious atmosphere, the tender green, and the other flowers of spring. A baby can’t do better than to spend its spring days in the Luxembourg Garden.
There are several ways of seeing Paris besides roaming up and down before the blazing shop-windows, and lounging by daylight or gaslight along the crowded and gay boulevards; and one of the best is to go to the Bois de Boulogne on a fete-day, or when the races are in progress. This famous wood is very disappointing at first to one who has seen the English parks, or who remembers the noble trees and glades and avenues of that at Munich. To be sure, there is a lovely little lake and a pretty artificial cascade, and the roads and walks are good; but the trees are all saplings, and nearly all the “wood” is a thicket of small stuff. Yet there is green grass that one can roll on, and there is a grove of small pines that one can sit under. It is a pleasant place to drive toward evening; but its great attraction is the crowd there. All the principal avenues are lined with chairs, and there people sit to watch the streams of carriages.
I went out to the Bois the other day, when there were races going on; not that I went to the races, for I know nothing about them, per se, and care less. All running races are pretty much alike. You see a lean horse, neck and tail, flash by you, with a jockey in colors on his back; and that is the whole of it. Unless you have some money on it, in the pool or otherwise, it is impossible to raise any excitement. The day I went out, the Champs Elysees, on both sides, its whole length, was crowded with people, rows and ranks of them sitting in chairs and on benches. The Avenue de l’Imperatrice, from the Arc de l’Etoile to the entrance of the Bois, was full of promenaders; and the main avenues of the Bois, from the chief entrance to the race-course, were lined with people, who stood or sat, simply to see the passing show. There could not have been less than ten miles of spectators, in double or triple rows, who had taken places that afternoon to watch the turnouts of fashion and rank. These great avenues were at all times, from three till seven, filled with vehicles; and at certain points, and late in the day, there was, or would have been anywhere else except in Paris, a jam. I saw a great many splendid horses, but not so many fine liveries as one will see on a swell-day in London. There was one that I liked. A handsome carriage, with one seat, was drawn by four large and elegant black horses, the two near horses ridden by postilions in blue and silver,–blue roundabouts, white breeches and topboots, a round- topped silver cap, and the hair, or wig, powdered, and showing just a little behind. A footman mounted behind, seated, wore the same colors; and the whole establishment was exceedingly tonnish.
The race-track (Longchamps, as it is called), broad and beautiful springy turf, is not different from some others, except that the inclosed oblong space is not flat, but undulating just enough for beauty, and so framed in by graceful woods, and looked on by chateaux and upland forests, that I thought I had never seen a sweeter bit of greensward. St. Cloud overlooks it, and villas also regard it from other heights. The day I saw it, the horse-chestnuts were in bloom; and there was, on the edges, a cloud of pink and white blossoms, that gave a soft and charming appearance to the entire landscape. The crowd in the grounds, in front of the stands for judges, royalty, and people who are privileged or will pay for places, was, I suppose, much as usual,–an excited throng of young and jockey-looking men, with a few women-gamblers in their midst, making up the pool; a pack of carriages along the circuit of the track, with all sorts of people, except the very good; and conspicuous the elegantly habited daughters of sin and satin, with servants in livery, as if they had been born to it; gentlemen and ladies strolling about, or reclining on the sward, and a refreshment-stand in lively operation.
When the bell rang, we all cleared out from the track, and I happened to get a position by the railing. I was looking over to the Pavilion, where I supposed the Emperor to be, when the man next to me cried, “Voila!” and, looking up, two horses brushed right by my face, of which I saw about two tails and one neck, and they were gone. Pretty soon they came round again, and one was ahead, as is apt to be the case; and somebody cried, “Bully for Therise!” or French to that effect, and it was all over. Then we rushed across to the Emperor’s Pavilion, except that I walked with all the dignitV consistent with rapidity, and there, in the midst of his suite, sat the Man of December, a stout, broad, and heavy-faced man as you know, but a man who impresses one with a sense of force and purpose,–sat, as I say, and looked at us through his narrow, half-shut eyes, till he was satisfied that I had got his features through my glass, when he deliberately arose and went in.
All Paris was out that day,–it is always out, by the way, when the sun shines, and in whatever part of the city you happen to be; and it seemed to me there was a special throng clear down to the gate of the Tuileries, to see the Emperor and the rest of us come home. He went round by the Rue Rivoli, but I walked through the gardens. The soldiers from Africa sat by the gilded portals, as usual,–aliens, and yet always with the port of conquerors here in Paris. Their nonchalant indifference and soldierly bearing always remind me of the sort of force the Emperor has at hand to secure his throne. I think the blouses must look askance at these satraps of the desert. The single jet fountain in the basin was springing its highest,–a quivering pillar of water to match the stone shaft of Egypt which stands close by. The sun illuminated it, and threw a rainbow from it a hundred feet long, upon the white and green dome of chestnut-trees near. When I was farther down the avenue, I had the dancing column of water, the obelisk, and the Arch of Triumph all in line, and the rosy sunset beyond.
AN IMPERIAL REVIEW
The Prince and Princess of Wales came up to Paris in the beginning of May, from Italy, Egypt, and alongshore, stayed at a hotel on the Place Vendome, where they can get beef that is not horse, and is rare, and beer brewed in the royal dominions, and have been entertained with cordiality by the Emperor. Among the spectacles which he has shown them is one calculated to give them an idea of his peaceful intentions,-a grand review of cavalry and artillery at the Bois de Boulogne. It always seems to me a curious comment upon the state of our modern civilization,
when one prince visits another here in Europe, the first thing that the visited does, by way of hospitality is to get out his troops, and show his rival how easily he could “lick” him, if it came to that. It is a little puerile. At any rate, it is an advance upon the old fashion of getting up a joust at arms, and inviting the guest to come out and have his head cracked in a friendly way.
The review, which had been a good deal talked about, came off in the afternoon; and all the world went to it. The avenues of the Bois were crowded with carriages, and the walks with footpads. Such a constellation of royal personages met on one field must be seen; for, besides the imperial family and Albert Edward and his Danish beauty, there was to be the Archduke of Austria) and no end of titled personages besides. At three o’clock the royal company, in the Emperor’s carriages, drove upon the training-ground of the Bois, where the troops awaited them. All the party, except the Princess of Wales, then mounted horses, and rode along the lines, and afterwards retired to a wood-covered knoll at one end to witness the evolutions. The training-ground is a noble, slightly undulating piece of greensward, perhaps three quarters of a mile long and half that in breadth, hedged about with graceful trees, and bounded on one side by the Seine. Its borders were rimmed that day with thousands of people on foot and in carriages,–a gay sight, in itself, of color and fashion. A more brilliant spectacle than the field presented cannot well be imagined. Attention was divided between the gentle eminence where the imperial party stood,–a throng of noble persons backed by the gay and glittering Guard of the Emperor, as brave a show as chivalry ever made,–and the field of green, with its long lines in martial array; every variety of splendid uniforms, the colors and combinations that most dazzle and attract, with shining brass and gleaming steel, and magnificent horses of war, regiments of black, gray, and bay.
The evolutions were such as to stir the blood of the most sluggish. A regiment, full front, would charge down upon a dead run from the far field, men shouting, sabers flashing, horses thundering along, so that the ground shook, towards the imperial party, and, when near, stop suddenly, wheel to right and left, and gallop back. Others would succeed them rapidly, coming up the center while their predecessors filed down the sides; so that the whole field was a moving mass of splendid color and glancing steel. Now and then a rider was unhorsed in the furious rush, and went scrambling out of harm, while the steed galloped off with free rein. This display was followed by that of the flying artillery, battalion after battalion, which came clattering and roaring along, in double lines stretching half across the field, stopped and rapidly discharged its pieces, waking up all the region with echoes, filling the plain with the smoke of gunpowder, and starting into rearing activity all the carriage-horses in the Bois. How long this continued I do not know, nor how many men participated in the review, but they seemed to pour up from the far end in unending columns. I think the regiments must have charged over and over again. It gave some people the impression that there were a hundred thousand troops on the ground. I set it at fifteen to twenty thousand. Gallignani next morning said there were only six thousand! After the charging was over, the reviewing party rode to the center of the field, and the troops galloped round them; and the Emperor distributed decorations. We could recognize the Emperor and Empress; Prince Albert in huzzar uniform, with a green plume in his cap; and the Prince Imperial, in cap and the uniform of a lieutenant, on horseback in front; while the Princess occupied a carriage behind them.
There was a crush of people at the entrance to see the royals make their exit. Gendarmes were busy, and mounted guards went smashing through the crowd to clear a space. Everybody was on the tiptoe of expectation. There is a portion of the Emperor’s guard; there is an officer of the household; there is an emblazoned carriage; and, quick, there! with a rush they come, driving as if there was no crowd, with imperial haste, postilions and outriders and the imperial carriage. There is a sensation, a cordial and not loud greeting, but no Yankee-like cheers. That heavy gentleman in citizen’s dress, who looks neither to right nor left, is Napoleon III.; that handsome woman, grown full in the face of late, but yet with the bloom of beauty and the sweet grace of command, in hat and dark riding-habit, bowing constantly to right and left, and smiling, is the Empress Eugenie. And they are gone. As we look for something more, there is a rout in the side avenue; something is coming, unexpected, from another quarter: dragoons dash through the dense mass, shouting and gesticulating, and a dozen horses go by, turning the corner like a small whirlwind, urged on by whip and spur, a handsome boy riding in the midst,–a boy in cap and simple uniform, riding gracefully and easily and jauntily, and out of sight in a minute. It is the boy Prince Imperial and his guard. It was like him to dash in unexpectedly, as he has broken into the line of European princes. He rides gallantly, and Fortune smiles on him to-day; but he rides into a troubled future. There was one more show,–a carriage of the Emperor, with officers, in English colors and side-whiskers, riding in advance and behind: in it the future King of England, the heavy, selfish-faced young man, and beside him his princess, popular wherever she shows her winning face,–a fair, sweet woman, in light and flowing silken stuffs of spring, a vision of lovely youth and rank, also gone in a minute.
These English visitors are enjoying the pleasures of the French capital. On Sunday, as I passed the Hotel Bristol, a crowd, principally English, was waiting in front of it to see the Prince and Princess come out, and enter one of the Emperor’s carriages in waiting. I heard an Englishwoman, who was looking on with admiration “sticking out” all over, remark to a friend in a very loud whisper, “I tell you, the Prince lives every day of his life.” The princely pair came out at length, and drove away, going to visit Versailles. I don’t know what the Queen would think of this way of spending Sunday; but if Albert Edward never does anything worse, he does n’t need half the praying for that he gets every Sunday in all the English churches and chapels.
THE LOW COUNTRIES AND RHINELAND
AMIENS AND QUAINT OLD BRUGES
They have not yet found out the secret in France of banishing dust from railway-carriages. Paris, late in June, was hot, but not dusty: the country was both. There is an uninteresting glare and hardness in a French landscape on a sunny day. The soil is thin, the trees are slender, and one sees not much luxury or comfort. Still, one does not usually see much of either on a flying train. We spent a night at Amiens, and had several hours for the old cathedral, the sunset light on its noble front and towers and spire and flying buttresses, and the morning rays bathing its rich stone. As one stands near it in front, it seems to tower away into heaven, a mass of carving and sculpture,–figures of saints and martyrs who have stood in the sun and storm for ages, as they stood in their lifetime, with a patient waiting. It was like a great company, a Christian host, in attitudes of praise and worship. There they were, ranks on ranks, silent in stone, when the last of the long twilight illumined them; and there in the same impressive patience they waited the golden day. It required little fancy to feel that they had lived, and now in long procession came down the ages. The central portal is lofty, wide, and crowded with figures. The side is only less rich than the front. Here the old Gothic builders let their fancy riot in grotesque gargoyles,–figures of animals, and imps of sin, which stretch out their long necks for waterspouts above. From the ground to the top of the unfinished towers is one mass of rich stone-work, the creation of genius that hundreds of years ago knew no other way to write its poems than with the chisel. The interior is very magnificent also, and has some splendid stained glass. At eight o’clock, the priests were chanting vespers to a larger congregation than many churches have on Sunday: their voices were rich and musical, and, joined with the organ notes, floated sweetly and impressively through the dim and vast interior. We sat near the great portal, and, looking down the long, arched nave and choir to the cluster of candles burning on the high altar, before which the priests chanted, one could not but remember how many centuries the same act of worship had been almost uninterrupted within, while the apostles and martyrs stood without, keeping watch of the unchanging heavens.
When I stepped in, early in the morning, the first mass was in progress. The church was nearly empty. Looking within the choir, I saw two stout young priests lustily singing the prayers in deep, rich voices. One of them leaned back in his seat, and sang away, as if he had taken a contract to do it, using, from time to time, an enormous red handkerchief, with which and his nose he produced a trumpet obligato. As I stood there, a poor dwarf bobbled in and knelt on the bare stones, and was the only worshiper, until, at length, a half-dozen priests swept in from the sacristy, and two processions of young school-girls entered from either side. They have the skull of John the Baptist in this cathedral. I did not see it, although I suppose I could have done so for a franc to the beadle: but I saw a very good stone imitation of it; and his image and story fill the church. It is something to have seen the place that contains his skull.
The country becomes more interesting as one gets into Belgium. Windmills are frequent: in and near Lille are some six hundred of them; and they are a great help to a landscape that wants fine trees. At Courtrai, we looked into Notre Dame, a thirteenth century cathedral, which has a Vandyke (“The Raising of the Cross”), and the chapel of the Counts of Flanders, where workmen were uncovering some frescoes that were whitewashed over in the war-times. The town hall has two fine old chimney-pieces carved in wood, with quaint figures,- -work that one must go to the Netherlands to see. Toward evening we came into the ancient town of Bruges. The country all day has been mostly flat, but thoroughly cultivated. Windmills appear to do all the labor of the people,–raising the water, grinding the grain, sawing the lumber; and they everywhere lift their long arms up to the sky. Things look more and more what we call “foreign.” Harvest is going on, of hay and grain; and men and women work together in the fields. The gentle sex has its rights here. We saw several women acting as switch-tenders. Perhaps the use of the switch comes natural to them. Justice, however, is still in the hands of the men. We saw a Dutch court in session in a little room in the town hall at Courtrai. The justice wore a little red cap, and sat informally behind a cheap table. I noticed that the witnesses were treated with unusual consideration, being allowed to sit down at the table opposite the little justice, who interrogated them in a loud voice. At the stations to-day we see more friars in coarse, woolen dresses, and sandals, and the peasants with wooden sabots.
As the sun goes to the horizon, we have an effect sometimes produced by the best Dutch artists,–a wonderful transparent light, in which the landscape looks like a picture, with its church-spires of stone, its windmills, its slender trees, and red-roofed houses. It is a good light and a good hour in which to enter Bruges, that city of the past. Once the city was greater than Antwerp; and up the Rege came the commerce of the East, merchants from the Levant, traders in jewels and silks. Now the tall houses wait for tenants, and the streets have a deserted air. After nightfall, as we walked in the middle of the roughly paved streets, meeting few people, and hearing only the echoing clatter of the wooden sabots of the few who were abroad, the old spirit of the place came over us. We sat on a bench in the market-place, a treeless square, hemmed in by quaint, gabled houses, late in the evening, to listen to the chimes from the belfry. The tower is less than four hundred feet high, and not so high by some seventy feet as the one on Notre Dame near by; but it is very picturesque, in spite of the fact that it springs out of a rummagy- looking edifice, one half of which is devoted to soldiers’ barracks, and the other to markets. The chimes are called the finest in Europe. It is well to hear the finest at once, and so have done with the tedious things. The Belgians are as fond of chimes as the Dutch are of stagnant water. We heard them everywhere in Belgium; and in some towns they are incessant, jangling every seven and a half minutes. The chimes at Bruges ring every quarter hour for a minute, and at the full hour attempt a tune. The revolving machinery grinds out the tune, which is changed at least once a year; and on Sundays a musician, chosen by the town, plays the chimes. In so many bells (there are forty-eight), the least of which weighs twelve pounds, and the largest over eleven thousand, there must be soft notes and sonorous tones; so sweet jangled sounds were showered down: but we liked better than the confused chiming the solemn notes of the great bell striking the hour. There is something very poetical about this chime of bells high in the air, flinging down upon the hum and traffic of the city its oft-repeated benediction of peace; but anybody but a Lowlander would get very weary of it. These chimes, to be sure, are better than those in London, which became a nuisance; but there is in all of them a tinkling attempt at a tune, which always fails, that is very annoying.
Bruges has altogether an odd flavor. Piles of wooden sabots are for sale in front of the shops; and this ugly shoe, which is mysteriously kept on the foot, is worn by all the common sort. We see long, slender carts in the street, with one horse hitched far ahead with rope traces, and no thills or pole.
The women-nearly every one we saw-wear long cloaks of black cloth with a silk hood thrown back. Bruges is famous of old for its beautiful women, who are enticingly described as always walking the streets with covered faces, and peeping out from their mantles. They are not so handsome now they show their faces, I can testify. Indeed, if there is in Bruges another besides the beautiful girl who showed us the old council-chamber in the Palace of justice, she must have had her hood pulled over her face.
Next morning was market-day. The square was lively with carts, donkeys, and country people, and that and all the streets leading to it were filled with the women in black cloaks, who flitted about as numerous as the rooks at Oxford, and very much like them, moving in a winged way, their cloaks outspread as they walked, and distended with the market-basket underneath. Though the streets were full, the town did not seem any less deserted; and the early marketers had only come to life for a day, revisiting the places that once they thronged. In the shade of the tall houses in the narrow streets sat red-cheeked girls and women making lace, the bobbins jumping under their nimble fingers. At the church doors hideous beggars crouched and whined,– specimens of the fifteen thousand paupers of Bruges. In the fishmarket we saw odd old women, with Rembrandt colors in faces and costume; and while we strayed about in the strange city, all the time from the lofty tower the chimes fell down. What history crowds upon us! Here in the old cathedral, with its monstrous tower of brick, a portion of it as old as the tenth century, Philip the Good established, in 1429, the Order of the Golden Fleece, the last chapter of which was held by Philip the Bad in 1559, in the rich old Cathedral of St. Bavon, at Ghent. Here, on the square, is the site of the house where the Emperor Maximilian was imprisoned by his rebellious Flemings; and next it, with a carved lion, that in which Charles II. of England lived after the martyrdom of that patient and virtuous ruler, whom the English Prayerbook calls that “blessed martyr, Charles the First.” In Notre Dame are the tombs of Charles the Bold and Mary his daughter.
We begin here to enter the portals of Dutch painting. Here died Jan van Eyck, the father of oil painting; and here, in the hospital of St. John, are the most celebrated pictures of Hans Memling. The most exquisite in color and finish is the series painted on the casket made to contain the arm of St. Ursula, and representing the story of her martyrdom. You know she went on a pilgrimage to Rome, with her lover, Conan, and eleven thousand virgins; and, on their return to Cologne, they were all massacred by the Huns. One would scarcely believe the story, if he did not see all their bones at Cologne.
GHENT AND ANTWERP
What can one do in this Belgium but write down names, and let memory recall the past? We came to Ghent, still a hand some city, though one thinks of the days when it was the capital of Flanders, and its merchants were princes. On the shabby old belfry-tower is the gilt dragon which Philip van Artevelde captured, and brought in triumph from Bruges. It was originally fetched from a Greek church in Constantinople by some Bruges Crusader; and it is a link to recall to us how, at that time, the merchants of Venice and the far East traded up the Scheldt, and brought to its wharves the rich stuffs of India and Persia. The old bell Roland, that was used to call the burghers together on the approach of an enemy, hung in this tower. What fierce broils and bloody fights did these streets witness centuries ago! There in the Marche au Vendredi, a large square of old-fashioned houses, with a statue of Jacques van Artevelde, fifteen hundred corpses were strewn in a quarrel between the hostile guilds of fullers and brewers; and here, later, Alva set blazing the fires of the Inquisition. Near the square is the old cannon, Mad Margery, used in 1382 at the siege of Oudenarde,–a hammered-iron hooped affair, eighteen feet long. But why mention this, or the magnificent town hall, or St. Bavon, rich in pictures and statuary; or try to put you back three hundred years to the wild days when the iconoclasts sacked this and every other church in the Low Countries?
Up to Antwerp toward evening. All the country flat as the flattest part of Jersey, rich in grass and grain, cut up by canals, picturesque with windmills and red-tiled roofs, framed with trees in rows. It has been all day hot and dusty. The country everywhere seems to need rain; and dark clouds are gathering in the south for a storm, as we drive up the broad Place de Meir to our hotel, and take rooms that look out to the lace-like spire of the cathedral, which is sharply defined against the red western sky.
Antwerp takes hold of you, both by its present and its past, very strongly. It is still the home of wealth. It has stately buildings, splendid galleries of pictures, and a spire of stone which charms more than a picture, and fascinates the eye as music does the ear. It still keeps its strong fortifications drawn around it, to which the broad and deep Scheldt is like a string to a bow, mindful of the unstable state of Europe. While Berlin is only a vast camp of soldiers, every less city must daily beat its drums, and call its muster-roll. From the tower here one looks upon the cockpit of Europe. And yet Antwerp ought to have rest: she has had tumult enough in her time. Prosperity seems returning to her; but her old, comparative splendor can never come back. In the sixteenth century there was no richer city in Europe.
We walked one evening past the cathedral spire, which begins in the richest and most solid Gothic work, and grows up into the sky into an exquisite lightness and grace, down a broad street to the Scheldt. What traffic have not these high old houses looked on, when two thousand and five hundred vessels lay in the river at one time, and the commerce of Europe found here its best mart. Along the stream now is a not very clean promenade for the populace; and it is lined with beer-houses, shabby theaters, and places of the most childish amusements. There is an odd liking for the simple among these people. In front of the booths, drums were beaten and instruments played in bewildering discord. Actors in paint and tights stood without to attract the crowd within. On one low balcony, a copper-colored man, with a huge feather cap and the traditional dress of the American savage, was beating two drums; a burnt-cork black man stood beside him; while on the steps was a woman, in hat and shawl, making an earnest speech to the crowd. In another place, where a crazy band made furious music, was an enormous “go-round” of wooden ponies, like those in the Paris gardens, only here, instead of children, grown men and women rode the hobby-horses, and seemed delighted with the sport. In the general Babel, everybody was good-natured and jolly. Little things suffice to amuse the lower classes, who do not have to bother their heads with elections and mass meetings.
In front of the cathedral is the well, and the fine canopy of iron-work, by Quentin Matsys, the blacksmith of Antwerp, some of whose pictures we saw in the Museum, where one sees, also some of the finest pictures of the Dutch school,–the “Crucifixion” of Rubens, the “Christ on the Cross” of Vandyke; paintings also by Teniers, Otto Vennius, Albert Cuyp, and others, and Rembrandt’s portrait of his wife,–a picture whose sweet strength and wealth of color draws one to it with almost a passion of admiration. We had already seen “The Descent from the Cross” and “The Raising of the Cross” by Rubens, in the cathedral. With all his power and rioting luxuriance of color, I cannot come to love him as I do Rembrandt. Doubtless he painted what he saw; and we still find the types of his female figures in the broad-hipped, ruddy-colored women of Antwerp. We walked down to his house, which remains much as it was two hundred and twenty-five years ago. From the interior court, an entrance in the Italian style leads into a pleasant little garden full of old trees and flowers, with a summer-house embellished with plaster casts, and having the very stone table upon which Rubens painted. It is a quiet place, and fit for an artist; but Rubens had other houses in the city, and lived the life of a man who took a strong hold of the world.
The rail from Antwerp north was through a land flat and sterile. After a little, it becomes a little richer; but a forlorner land to live in I never saw. One wonders at the perseverance of the Flemings and Dutchmen to keep all this vast tract above water when there is so much good solid earth elsewhere unoccupied. At Moerdjik we changed from the cars to a little steamer on the Maas, which flows between high banks. The water is higher than the adjoining land, and from the deck we look down upon houses and farms. At Dort, the Rhine comes in with little promise of the noble stream it is in the highlands. Everywhere canals and ditches dividing the small fields instead of fences; trees planted in straight lines, and occasionally trained on a trellis in front of the houses, with the trunk painted white or green; so that every likeness of nature shall be taken away. >From Rotterdam, by cars, it is still the same. The Dutchman spends half his life, apparently, in fighting the water. He has to watch the huge dikes which keep the ocean from overwhelming him, and the river-banks, which may break, and let the floods of the Rhine swallow him up. The danger from within is not less than from without. Yet so fond is he of his one enemy, that, when he can afford it, he builds him a fantastic summer-house over a stagnant pool or a slimy canal, in one corner of his garden, and there sits to enjoy the aquatic beauties of nature; that is, nature as he has made it. The river-banks are woven with osiers to keep them from washing; and at intervals on the banks are piles of the long withes to be used in emergencies when the swollen streams threaten to break through.
And so we come to Amsterdam, the oddest city of all,–a city wholly built on piles, with as many canals as streets, and an architecture so quaint as to even impress one who has come from Belgium. The whole town has a wharf-y look; and it is difficult to say why the tall brick houses, their gables running by steps to a peak, and each one leaning forward or backward or sideways, and none perpendicular, and no two on a line, are so interesting. But certainly it is a most entertaining place to the stranger, whether he explores the crowded Jews’ quarter, with its swarms of dirty people, its narrow streets, and high houses hung with clothes, as if every day were washing-day; or strolls through the equally narrow streets of rich shops; or lounges upon the bridges, and looks at the queer boats with clumsy rounded bows, great helms’ painted in gay colors, with flowers in the cabin windows,–boats where families live; or walks down the Plantage, with the zoological gardens on the one hand and rows of beer-gardens on the other; or round the great docks; or saunters at sunset by the banks of the Y, and looks upon flat North Holland and the Zuyder Zee.
The palace on the Dam (square) is a square, stately edifice, and the only building that the stranger will care to see. Its interior is richer and more fit to live in than any palace we have seen. There is nothing usually so dreary as your fine Palace. There are some good frescoes, rooms richly decorated in marble, and a magnificent hall, or ball-room, one hundred feet in height, without pillars. Back of it is, of course, a canal, which does not smell fragrantly in the summer; and I do not wonder that William III. and his queen prefer to stop away. From the top is a splendid view of Amsterdam and all the flat region. I speak of it with entire impartiality, for I did not go up to see it. But better than palaces are the picture-galleries, three of which are open to the sightseer. Here the ancient and modern Dutch painters are seen at their best, and I know of no richer feast of this sort. Here Rembrandt is to be seen in his glory; here Van der Helst, Jan Steen, Gerard Douw, Teniers the younger, Hondekoeter, Weenix, Ostade, Cuyp, and other names as familiar. These men also painted what they saw, the people, the landscapes, with which they were familiar. It was a strange pleasure to meet again and again in the streets of the town the faces, or types of them, that we had just seen on canvas so old.
In the Low Countries, the porters have the grand title of commissionaires. They carry trunks and bundles, black boots, and act as valets de place. As guides, they are quite as intolerable in Amsterdam as their brethren in other cities. Many of them are Jews; and they have a keen eye for a stranger. The moment he sallies from his hotel, there is a guide. Let him hesitate for an instant in his walk, either to look at something or to consult his map, or let him ask the way, and he will have a half dozen of the persistent guild upon him; and they cannot easily be shaken off. The afternoon we arrived, we had barely got into our rooms at Brack’s Oude Doelan, when a gray-headed commissionaire knocked at our door, and offered his services to show us the city. We deferred the pleasure of his valuable society. Shortly, when we came down to the street, a smartly dressed Israelite took off his hat to us, and offered to show us the city. We declined with impressive politeness, and walked on. The Jew accompanied us, and attempted conversation, in which we did not join. He would show us everything for a guilder an hour,–for half a guilder. Having plainly told the Jew that we did not desire his attendance, he crossed to the other side of the street, and kept us in sight, biding his opportunity. At the end of the street, we hesitated a moment whether to cross the bridge or turn up by the broad canal. The Jew was at our side in a moment, having divined that we were on the way to the Dam and the palace. He obligingly pointed the way, and began to walk with us, entering into conversation. We told him pointedly, that we did not desire his services, and requested him to leave us. He still walked in our direction, with the air of one much injured, but forgiving, and was more than once beside us with a piece of information. When we finally turned upon him with great fierceness, and told him to begone, he regarded us with a mournful and pitying expression; and as the last act of one who returned good for evil, before he turned away, pointed out to us the next turn we were to make. I saw him several times afterward; and I once had occasion to say to him, that I had already told him I would not employ him; and he always lifted his hat, and looked at me with a forgiving smile. I felt that I had deeply wronged him. As we stood by the statue, looking up at the eastern pediment of the palace, another of the tribe (they all speak a little English) asked me if I wished to see the palace. I told him I was looking at it, and could see it quite distinctly. Half a dozen more crowded round, and proffered their aid. Would I like to go into the palace ? They knew, and I knew, that they could do nothing more than go to the open door, through which they would not be admitted, and that I could walk across the open square to that, and enter alone. I asked the first speaker if he wished to go into the palace. Oh, yes! he would like to go. I told him he had better go at once,- -they had all better go in together and see the palace,–it was an excellent opportunity. They seemed to see the point, and slunk away to the other side to wait for another stranger.
I find that this plan works very well with guides: when I see one approaching, I at once offer to guide him. It is an idea from which he does not rally in time to annoy us. The other day I offered to show a persistent fellow through an old ruin for fifty kreuzers: as his price for showing me was forty-eight, we did not come to terms. One of the most remarkable guides, by the way, we encountered at Stratford-on-Avon. As we walked down from the Red Horse Inn to the church, a full-grown boy came bearing down upon us in the most wonderful fashion. Early rickets, I think, had been succeeded by the St. Vitus’ dance. He came down upon us sideways, his legs all in a tangle, and his right arm, bent and twisted, going round and round, as if in vain efforts to get into his pocket, his fingers spread out in impotent desire to clutch something. There was great danger that he would run into us, as he was like a steamer with only one side-wheel and no rudder. He came up puffing and blowing, and offered to show us Shakespeare’s tomb. Shade of the past, to be accompanied to thy resting-place by such an object! But he fastened himself on us, and jerked and hitched along in his side-wheel fashion. We declined his help. He paddled on, twisting himself into knots, and grinning in the most friendly manner. We told him to begone. “I am,” said he, wrenching himself into a new contortion, “I am what showed Artemus Ward round Stratford.” This information he repeated again and again, as if we could not resist him after we had comprehended that. We shook him off; but when we returned at sundown across the fields, from a visit to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, we met the sidewheeler cheerfully towing along a large party, upon whom he had fastened.
The people of Amsterdam are only less queer than their houses. The men dress in a solid, old-fashioned way. Every one wears the straight, high-crowned silk hat that went out with us years ago, and the cut of clothing of even the most buckish young fellows is behind the times. I stepped into the Exchange, an immense interior, that will hold five thousand people, where the stock-gamblers meet twice a day. It was very different from the terrible excitement and noise of the Paris Bourse. There were three or four thousand brokers there, yet there was very little noise and no confusion. No stocks were called, and there was no central ring for bidding, as at the Bourse and the New York Gold Room; but they quietly bought and sold. Some of the leading firms had desks or tables at the side, and there awaited orders. Everything was phlegmatically and decorously done.
In the streets one still sees peasant women in native costume. There was a group to-day that I saw by the river, evidently just crossed over from North Holland. They wore short dresses, with the upper skirt looped up, and had broad hips and big waists. On the head was a cap with a fall of lace behind; across the back of the head a broad band of silver (or tin) three inches broad, which terminated in front and just above the ears in bright pieces of metal about two inches square, like a horse’s blinders, Only flaring more from the head; across the forehead and just above the eyes a gilt band, embossed; on the temples two plaits of hair in circular coils; and on top of all a straw hat, like an old-fashioned bonnet) stuck on hindside before. Spiral coils of brass wire, coming to a point in front, are also worn on each side of the head by many. Whether they are for ornament or defense, I could not determine.
Water is brought into the city now from Haarlem, and introduced into the best houses; but it is still sold in the streets by old men and women, who sit at the faucets. I saw one dried-up old grandmother, who sat in her little caboose, fighting away the crowd of dirty children who tried to steal a drink when her back was turned, keeping count of the pails of water carried away with a piece of chalk on the iron pipe, and trying to darn her stocking at the same time. Odd things strike you at every turn. There is a sledge drawn by one poor horse, and on the front of it is a cask of water pierced with holes, so that the water squirts out and wets the stones, making it easier sliding for the runners. It is an ingenious people!
After all, we drove out five miles to Broek, the clean village; across the Y, up the canal, over flatness flattened. Broek is a humbug, as almost all show places are. A wooden little village on a stagnant canal, into which carriages do not drive, and where the front doors of the houses are never open; a dead, uninteresting place, neat but not specially pretty, where you are shown into one house got up for the purpose, which looks inside like a crockery shop, and has a stiff little garden with box trained in shapes of animals and furniture. A roomy-breeched young Dutchman, whose trousers went up to his neck, and his hat to a peak, walked before us in slow and cow-like fashion, and showed us the place; especially some horrid pleasure-grounds, with an image of an old man reading in a summer-house, and an old couple in a cottage who sat at a table and worked, or ate, I forget which, by clock-work; while a dog barked by the same means. In a pond was a wooden swan sitting on a stick, the water having receded, and left it high and dry. Yet the trip is worth while for the view of the country and the people on the way: men and women towing boats on the canals; the red-tiled houses painted green, and in the distance the villages, with their spires and pleasing mixture of brown, green, and red tints, are very picturesque. The best thing that I saw, however, was a traditional Dutchman walking on the high bank of a canal, with soft hat, short pipe, and breeches that came to the armpits above, and a little below the knees, and were broad enough about the seat and thighs to carry his no doubt numerous family. He made a fine figure against the sky.
COLOGNE AND ST. URSULA
It is a relief to get out of Holland and into a country nearer to hills. The people also seem more obliging. In Cologne, a brown-cheeked girl pointed us out the way without waiting for a kreuzer. Perhaps the women have more to busy themselves about in the cities, and are not so curious about passers-by. We rarely see a reflector to exhibit us to the occupants of the second-story windows. In all the cities of Belgium and Holland the ladies have small mirrors, with reflectors, fastened to their windows; so that they can see everybody who passes, without putting their heads out. I trust we are not inverted or thrown out of shape when we are thus caught up and cast into my lady’s chamber. Cologne has a cheerful look, for the Rhine here is wide and promising; and as for the “smells,” they are certainly not so many nor so vile as those at Mainz.
Our windows at the hotel looked out on the finest front of the cathedral. If the Devil really built it, he is to be credited with one good thing, and it is now likely to be finished, in spite of him. Large as it is, it is on the exterior not so impressive as that at Amiens; but within it has a magnificence born of a vast design and the most harmonious proportions, and the grand effect is not broken by any subdivision but that of the choir. Behind the altar and in front of the chapel, where lie the remains of the Wise Men of the East who came to worship the Child, or, as thev are called, the Three Kings of Cologne, we walked over a stone in the pavement under which is the heart of Mary de Medicis: the remainder of her body is in St. Denis near Paris. The beadle in red clothes, who stalks about the cathedral like a converted flamingo, offered to open for us the chapel; but we declined a sight of the very bones of the Wise Men. It was difficult enough to believe they were there, without seeing them. One ought not to subject his faith to too great a strain at first in Europe. The bones of the Three Kings, by the way, made the fortune of the cathedral. They were the greatest religious card of the Middle Ages, and their fortunate possession brought a flood of wealth to this old Domkirche. The old feudal lords would swear by the Almighty Father, or the Son, or Holy Ghost, or by everything sacred on earth, and break their oaths as they would break a wisp of straw: but if you could get one of them to swear by the Three Kings of Cologne, he was fast; for that oath he dare not disregard.
The prosperity of the cathedral on these valuable bones set all the other churches in the neighborhood on the same track; and one can study right here in this city the growth of relic worship. But the most successful achievement was the collection of the bones of St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins, and their preservation in the church on the very spot where they suffered martyrdom. There is probably not so large a collection of the bones of virgins elsewhere in the world; and I am sorry to read that Professor Owen has thought proper to see and say that many of them are the bones of lower orders of animals. They are built into the walls of the church, arranged about the choir, interred in stone coffins, laid under the pavements; and their skulls grin at you everywhere. In the chapel the bones are tastefully built into the wall and overhead, like rustic wood-work; and the skulls stand in rows, some with silver masks, like the jars on the shelves of an apothecary’s shop. It is a cheerful place. On the little altar is the very skull of the saint herself, and that of Conan, her ]over, who made the holy pilgrimage to Rome with her and her virgins, and also was slain by the Huns at Cologne. There is a picture of the eleven thousand disembarking from one boat on the Rhine, which is as wonderful as the trooping of hundreds of spirits out of a conjurer’s bottle. The right arm of St. Ursula is preserved here: the left is at Bruges. I am gradually getting the hang of this excellent but somewhat scattered woman, and bringing her together in my mind. Her body, I believe, lies behind the altar in this same church. She must have been a lovely character, if Hans Memling’s portrait of her is a faithful one. I was glad to see here one of the jars from the marriage-supper in Cana. We can identify it by a piece which is broken out; and the piece is in Notre Dame in Paris. It has been in this church five hundred years. The sacristan, a very intelligent person, with a shaven crown and his hair cut straight across his forehead, who showed us the church, gave us much useful information about bones, teeth, and the remains of the garments that the virgins wore; and I could not tell from his face how much he expected us to believe. I asked the little fussy old guide of an English party who had joined us, how much he believed of the story. He was a Protestant, and replied, still anxious to keep up the credit of his city, “Tousands is too many; some hundreds maybe; tousands is too many.”
A GLIMPSE OF THE RHINE
You have seen the Rhine in pictures; you have read its legends. You know, in imagination at least, how it winds among craggy hills of splendid form, turning so abruptly as to leave you often shut in with no visible outlet from the wall of rock and forest; how the castles, some in ruins so as to be as unsightly as any old pile of rubbish, others with feudal towers and battlements, still perfect, hang on the crags, or stand sharp against the sky, or nestle by the stream or on some lonely island. You know that the Rhine has been to Germans what the Nile was to the Egyptians,–a delight, and the theme of song and story. Here the Roman eagles were planted; here were the camps of Drusus; here Caesar bridged and crossed the Rhine; here, at every turn, a feudal baron, from his high castle, levied toll on the passers; and here the French found a momentary halt to their invasion of Germany at different times. You can imagine how, in a misty morning, as you leave Bonn, the Seven Mountains rise up in their veiled might, and how the Drachenfels stands in new and changing beauty as you pass it and sail away. You have been told that the Hudson is like the Rhine. Believe me, there is no resemblance; nor would there be if the Hudson were lined with castles, and Julius Caesar had crossed it every half mile. The Rhine satisfies you, and you do not recall any other river. It only disappoints you as to its “vine-clad hills.” You miss trees and a covering vegetation, and are not enamoured of the patches of green vines on wall-supported terraces, looking from the river like hills of beans or potatoes. And, if you try the Rhine wine on the steamers, you will wholly lose your faith in the vintage. We decided that the wine on our boat was manufactured in the boiler.
There is a mercenary atmosphere about hotels and steamers on the Rhine, a watering-place, show sort of feeling, that detracts very much from one’s enjoyment. The old habit of the robber barons of levying toll on all who sail up and down has not been lost. It is not that one actually pays so much for sightseeing, but the charm of anything vanishes when it is made merchandise. One is almost as reluctant to buy his “views” as he is to sell his opinions. But one ought to be weeks on the Rhine before attempting to say anything about it.
One morning, at Bingen,–I assure you it was not six o’clock,–we took a big little rowboat, and dropped down the stream, past the Mouse Tower, where the cruel Bishop Hatto was eaten up by rats, under the shattered Castle of Ehrenfels, round the bend to the little village of Assmannshausen, on the hills back of which is grown the famous red wine of that name. On the bank walked in line a dozen peasants, men and women, in picturesque dress, towing, by a line passed from shoulder to shoulder, a boat filled with marketing for Rudesheim. We were bound up the Niederwald, the mountain opposite Bingen, whose noble crown of forest attracted us. At the landing, donkeys awaited us; and we began the ascent, a stout, good-natured German girl acting as guide and driver. Behind us, on the opposite shore, set round about with a wealth of foliage, was the Castle of Rheinstein, a fortress more pleasing in its proportions and situation than any other. Our way was through the little town which is jammed into the gorge; and as we clattered up the pavement, past the church, its heavy bell began to ring loudly for matins, the sound reverberating in the narrow way, and following us with its benediction when we were far up the hill, breathing the fresh, inspiring morning air. The top of the Niederwald is a splendid forest of trees, which no impious Frenchman has been allowed to trim, and cut into allees of arches, taking one in thought across the water to the free Adirondacks. We walked for a long time under the welcome shade, approaching the brow of the hill now and then, where some tower or hermitage is erected, for a view of the Rhine and the Nahe, the villages below, and the hills around; and then crossed the mountain, down through cherry orchards, and vine yards, walled up, with images of Christ on the cross on the angles of the walls, down through a hot road where wild flowers grew in great variety, to the quaint village of Rudesheim, with its queer streets and ancient ruins. Is it
possible that we can have too many ruins? “Oh dear!” exclaimed the jung-frau as we sailed along the last day, “if there is n’t another castle!”
If you come to Heidelberg, you will never want to go away. To arrive here is to come into a peaceful state of rest and content. The great hills out of which the Neckar flows, infold the town in a sweet security; and yet there is no sense of imprisonment, for the view is always wide open to the great plains where the Neckar goes to join the Rhine, and where the Rhine runs for many a league through a rich and smiling land. One could settle down here to study, without a desire to go farther, nor any wish to change the dingy, shabby old buildings of the university for anything newer and smarter. What the students can find to fight their little duels about I cannot see; but fight they do, as many a scarred cheek attests. The students give life to the town. They go about in little caps of red, green, and blue, many of them embroidered in gold, and stuck so far on the forehead that they require an elastic, like that worn by ladies, under the back hair, to keep them on; and they are also distinguished by colored ribbons across the breast. The majority of them are well-behaved young gentlemen, who carry switch-canes, and try to keep near the fashions, like students at home. Some like to swagger about in their little skull-caps, and now and then one is attended by a bull-dog.
I write in a room which opens out upon a balcony. Below it is a garden, below that foliage, and farther down the town with its old speckled roofs, spires, and queer little squares. Beyond is the Neckar, with the bridge, and white statues on it, and an old city gate at this end, with pointed towers. Beyond that is a white road with a wall on one side, along which I see peasant women walking with large baskets balanced on their heads. The road runs down the river to Neuenheim. Above it on the steep hillside are vineyards; and a winding path goes up to the Philosopher’s Walk, which runs along for a mile or more, giving delightful views of the castle and the glorious woods and hills back of it. Above it is the mountain of Heiligenberg, from the other side of which one looks off toward Darmstadt and the famous road, the Bergstrasse. If I look down the stream, I see the narrow town, and the Neckar flowing out of it into the vast level plain, rich with grain and trees and grass, with many spires and villages; Mannheim to the northward, shining when the sun is low; the Rhine gleaming here and there near the horizon; and the Vosges Mountains, purple in the last distance: on my right, and so near that I could throw a stone into them, the ruined tower and battlements of the northwest corner of the castle, half hidden in foliage, with statues framed in ivy, and the garden terrace, built for Elizabeth Stuart when she came here the bride of the Elector Frederick, where giant trees grow. Under the walls a steep path goes down into the town, along which little houses cling to the hillside. High above the castle rises the noble Konigstuhl, whence the whole of this part of Germany is visible, and, in a clear day, Strasburg Minster, ninety miles away.
I have only to go a few steps up a narrow, steep street, lined with the queerest houses, where is an ever-running pipe of good water, to which all the neighborhood resorts, and I am within the grounds of the castle. I scarcely know where to take you; for I never know where to go myself, and seldom do go where I intend when I set forth. We have been here several days; and I have not yet seen the Great Tun, nor the inside of the show-rooms, nor scarcely anything that is set down as a “sight.” I do not know whether to wander on through the extensive grounds, with splendid trees, bits of old ruin, overgrown, cozy nooks, and seats where, through the foliage, distant prospects open into quiet retreats that lead to winding walks up the terraced hill, round to the open terrace overlooking the Neckar, and giving the best general view of the great mass of ruins. If we do, we shall be likely to sit in some delicious place, listening to the band playing in the “Restauration,” and to the nightingales, till the moon comes up. Or shall we turn into the garden through the lovely Arch of the Princess Elizabeth, with its stone columns cut to resemble tree-trunks twined with ivy? Or go rather through the great archway, and under the teeth of the portcullis, into the irregular quadrangle, whose buildings mark the changing style and fortune of successive centuries, from 1300 down to the seventeenth century? There is probably no richer quadrangle in Europe: there is certainly no other ruin so vast, so impressive, so ornamented with carving, except the Alhambra. And from here we pass out upon the broad terrace of masonry, with a splendid flanking octagon tower, its base hidden in trees, a rich facade for a background, and below the town the river, and beyond,the plain and floods of golden sunlight. What shall we do? Sit and dream in the Rent Tower under the lindens that grow in its top? The day passes while one is deciding how to spend it, and the sun over Heiligenberg goes down on his purpose.
ENTERING SWITZERLAND BERNE ITS BEAUTIES AND BEARS
If you come to Bale, you should take rooms on the river, or stand on the bridge at evening, and have a sunset of gold and crimson streaming down upon the wide and strong Rhine, where it rushes between the houses built plumb up to it, or you will not care much for the city. And yet it is pleasant on the high ground, where are some stately buildings, and where new gardens are laid out, and where the American consul on the Fourth of July flies our flag over the balcony of a little cottage smothered in vines and gay with flowers. I had the honor of saluting it that day, though I did not know at the time that gold had risen two or three per cent. under its blessed folds at home. Not being a shipwrecked sailor, or a versatile and accomplished but impoverished naturalized citizen, desirous of quick transit to the land of the free, I did not call upon the consul, but left him under the no doubt correct impression that he was doing a good thing by unfolding the flag on the Fourth.
You have not journeyed far from Bale before you are aware that you are in Switzerland. It was showery the day we went down; but the ride filled us with the most exciting expectations. The country recalled New England, or what New England might be, if it were cultivated and adorned, and had good roads and no fences. Here at last, after the dusty German valleys, we entered among real hills, round which and through which, by enormous tunnels, our train slowly went: rocks looking out of foliage; sweet little valleys, green as in early spring; the dark evergreens in contrast; snug cottages nestled in the hillsides, showing little else than enormous brown roofs that come nearly to the ground, giving the cottages the appearance of huge toadstools; fine harvests of grain; thrifty apple-trees, and cherry- trees purple with luscious fruit. And this shifting panorama continues until, towards evening, behold, on a hill, Berne, shining through showers, the old feudal round tower and buildings overhanging the Aar, and the tower of the cathedral over all. From the balcony of our rooms at the Bellevue, the long range of the Bernese Oberland shows its white summits for a moment in the slant sunshine, and then the clouds shut down, not to lift again for two days. Yet it looks warmer on the snow-peaks than in Berne, for summer sets in in Switzerland with a New England chill and rigor.
The traveler finds no city with more flavor of the picturesque and quaint than Berne; and I think it must have preserved the Swiss characteristics better than any other of the large towns in Helvetia. It stands upon a peninsula, round which the Aar, a hundred feet below, rapidly flows; and one has on nearly every side very pretty views of the green basin of hills which rise beyond the river. It is a most comfortable town on a rainy day; for all the principal streets have their houses built on arcades, and one walks under the low arches, with the shops on one side and the huge stone pillars on the other. These pillars so stand out toward the street as to give the house-fronts a curved look. Above are balconies, in which, upon red cushions, sit the daughters of Berne, reading and sewing, and watching their neighbors; and in nearly every window are quantities of flowers of the most brilliant colors. The gray stone of the houses, which are piled up from the streets, harmonizes well with the colors in the windows and balconies, and the scene is quite Oriental as one looks down, especially if it be upon a market morning, when the streets are as thronged as the Strand. Several terraces, with great trees, overlook the river, and command prospects of the Alps. These are public places; for the city government has a queer notion that trees are not hideous, and that a part of the use of living is the enjoyment of the beautiful. I saw an elegant bank building, with carved figures on the front, and at each side of the entrance door a large stand of flowers,–oleanders, geraniums, and fuchsias; while the windows and balconies above bloomed with a like warmth of floral color. Would you put an American bank president in the Retreat who should so decorate his banking-house? We all admire the tasteful display of flowers in foreign towns: we go home, and carry nothing with us but a recollection. But Berne has also fountains everywhere; some of them grotesque, like the ogre that devours his own children, but all a refreshment and delight. And it has also its clock-tower, with one of those ingenious pieces of mechanism, in which the sober people of this region take pleasure. At the hour, a procession of little bears goes round, a jolly figure strikes the time, a cock flaps his wings and crows, and a solemn Turk opens his mouth to announce the flight of the hours. It is more grotesque, but less elaborate, than the equally childish toy in the cathedral at Strasburg.
We went Sunday morning to the cathedral; and the excellent woman who guards the portal–where in ancient stone the Last Judgment is enacted, and the cheerful and conceited wise virgins stand over against the foolish virgins, one of whom has been in the penitential attitude of having a stone finger in her eye now for over three hundred years–refused at first to admit us to the German Lutheran service, which was just beginning. It seems that doors are locked, and no one is allowed to issue forth until after service. There seems to be an impression that strangers go only to hear the organ, which is a sort of rival of that at Freiburg, and do not care much for the well-prepared and protracted discourse in Swiss-German. We agreed to the terms of admission; but it did not speak well for former travelers that the woman should think it necessary to say, “You must sit still, and not talk.” It is a barn-like interior. The women all sit on hard, high-backed benches in the center of the church, and the men on hard, higher-backed benches about the sides, inclosing and facing the women, who are more directly under the droppings of the little pulpit, hung on one of the pillars,–a very solemn and devout congregation, who sang very well, and paid strict attention to the sermon.
I noticed that the names of the owners, and sometimes their coats-of- arms, were carved or painted on the backs of the seats, as if the pews were not put up at yearly auction. One would not call it a dressy congregation, though the homely women looked neat in black waists and white puffed sleeves and broadbrimmed hats.
The only concession I have anywhere seen to women in Switzerland, as the more delicate sex, was in this church: they sat during most of the service, but the men stood all the time, except during the delivery of the sermon. The service began at nine o’clock, as it ought to with us in summer. The costume of the peasant women in and about Berne comes nearer to being picturesque than in most other parts of Switzerland, where it is simply ugly. You know the sort of thing in pictures,–the broad hat, short skirt) black, pointed stomacher, with white puffed sleeves, and from each breast a large silver chain hanging, which passes under the arm and fastens on the shoulder behind,–a very favorite ornament. This costume would not be unbecoming to a pretty face and figure: whether there are any such native to Switzerland, I trust I may not be put upon the witness- stand to declare. Some of the peasant young men went without coats, and with the shirt sleeves fluted; and others wore butternut-colored suits, the coats of which I can recommend to those who like the swallow-tailed variety. I suppose one would take a man into the opera in London, where he cannot go in anything but that sort. The buttons on the backs of these came high up between the shoulders, and the tails did not reach below the waistband. There is a kind of rooster of similar appearance. I saw some of these young men from the country, with their sweethearts, leaning over the stone parapet, and looking into the pit of the bear-garden, where the city bears walk round, or sit on their hind legs for bits of bread thrown to them, or douse themselves in the tanks, or climb the dead trees set up for their gambols. Years ago they ate up a British officer who fell in; and they walk round now ceaselessly, as if looking for another. But one cannot expect good taste in a bear.
If you would see how charming a farming country can be, drive out on the highway towards Thun. For miles it is well shaded with giant trees of enormous trunks, and a clean sidewalk runs by the fine road. On either side, at little distances from the road, are picturesque cottages and rambling old farmhouses peeping from the trees and vines and flowers. Everywhere flowers, before the house, in the windows, at the railway stations. But one cannot stay forever even in delightful Berne, with its fountains and terraces, and girls on red cushions in the windows, and noble trees and flowers, and its stately federal Capitol, and its bears carved everywhere in stone and wood, and its sunrises, when all the Bernese Alps lie like molten silver in the early light, and the clouds drift over them, now hiding, now disclosing, the enchanting heights.
HEARING THE FREIBURG ORGAN–FIRST SIGHT OF LAKE LEMAN
Freiburg, with its aerial suspension-bridges, is also on a peninsula, formed by the Sarine; with its old walls, old watch-towers, its piled-up old houses, and streets that go upstairs, and its delicious cherries, which you can eat while you sit in the square by the famous linden-tree, and wait for the time when the organ will be played in the cathedral. For all the world stops at Freiburg to hear and enjoy the great organ,–all except the self-satisfied English clergyman, who says he does n’t care much for it, and would rather go about town and see the old walls; and the young and boorish French couple, whose refined amusement in the railway-carriage consisted in the young man’s catching his wife’s foot in the window-strap, and hauling it up to the level of the window, and who cross themselves and go out after the first tune; and the two bread-and-butter English young ladies, one of whom asks the other in the midst of the performance, if she has thought yet to count the pipes,–a thoughtful verification of Murray, which is very commendable in a young woman traveling for the improvement of her little mind.
One has heard so much of this organ, that he expects impossibilities, and is at first almost disappointed, although it is not long in discovering its vast compass, and its wonderful imitations, now of a full orchestra, and again of a single instrument. One has not to wait long before he is mastered by its spell. The vox humana stop did not strike me as so perfect as that of the organ in the Rev. Mr. Hale’s church in Boston, though the imitation of choir-voices responding to the organ was very effective. But it is not in tricks of imitation that this organ is so wonderful: it is its power of revealing, by all its compass, the inmost part of any musical composition.
The last piece we heard was something like this: the sound of a bell, tolling at regular intervals, like the throbbing of a life begun; about it an accompaniment of hopes, inducements, fears, the flute, the violin, the violoncello, promising, urging, entreating, inspiring; the life beset with trials, lured with pleasures, hesitating, doubting, questioning; its purpose at length grows more certain and fixed, the bell tolling becomes a prolonged undertone, the flow of a definite life; the music goes on, twining round it, now one sweet instrument and now many, in strife or accord, all the influences of earth and heaven and the base underworld meeting and warring over the aspiring soul; the struggle becomes more earnest, the undertone is louder and clearer; the accompaniment indicates striving, contesting passion, an agony of endeavor and resistance, until at length the steep and rocky way is passed, the world and self are conquered, and, in a burst of triumph from a full orchestra, the soul attains the serene summit. But the rest is only for a moment. Even in the highest places are temptations. The sunshine fails, clouds roll up, growling of low, pedal thunder is heard, while sharp lightning-flashes soon break in clashing peals about the peaks. This is the last Alpine storm and trial. After it the sun bursts out again, the wide, sunny valleys are disclosed, and a sweet evening hymn floats through all the peaceful air. We go out from the cool church into the busy streets of the white, gray town awed and comforted.
And such a ride afterwards! It was as if the organ music still continued. All the world knows the exquisite views southward from Freiburg; but such an atmosphere as we had does not overhang them many times in a season. First the Moleross, and a range of mountains bathed in misty blue light,–rugged peaks, scarred sides, white and tawny at once, rising into the clouds which hung large and soft in the blue; soon Mont Blanc, dim and aerial, in the south; the lovely valley of the River Sense; peasants walking with burdens on the white highway; the quiet and soft-tinted mountains beyond; towns perched on hills, with old castles and towers; the land rich with grass, grain, fruit, flowers; at Palezieux a magnificent view of the silver, purple, and blue mountains, with their chalky seams and gashed sides, near at hand; and at length, coming through a long tunnel, as if we had been shot out into the air above a country more surprising than any in dreams, the most wonderful sight burst upon us,–the low-lying, deep-blue Lake Leman, and the gigantic mountains rising from its shores, and a sort of mist, translucent, suffused with sunlight, like the liquid of the golden wine the Steinberger poured into the vast basin. We came upon it out of total darkness, without warning; and we seemed, from our great height, to be about to leap into the splendid gulf of tremulous light and color.
This Lake of Geneva is said to combine the robust mountain grandeur of Luzerne with all the softness of atmosphere of Lake Maggiore. Surely, nothing could exceed the loveliness as we wound down the hillside, through the vineyards, to Lausanne, and farther on, near the foot of the lake, to Montreux, backed by precipitous but tree-clad hills, fronted by the lovely water, and the great mountains which run away south into Savoy, where Velan lifts up its snows. Below us, round the curving bay, lies white Chillon; and at sunset we row down to it over the bewitched water, and wait under its grim walls till the failing light brings back the romance of castle and prisoner. Our garcon had never heard of the prisoner; but he knew about the gendarmes who now occupy the castle.
OUR ENGLISH FRIENDS
Not the least of the traveler’s pleasure in Switzerland is derived from the English people who overrun it: they seem to regard it as a kind of private park or preserve belonging to England; and they establish themselves at hotels, or on steamboats and diligences, with a certain air of ownership that is very pleasant. I am not very fresh in my geology; but it is my impression that Switzerland was created especially for the English, about the year of the Magna Charta, or a little later. The Germans who come here, and who don’t care very much what they eat, or how they sleep, provided they do not have any fresh air in diningroom or bedroom, and provided, also, that the bread is a little sour, growl a good deal about the English, and declare that they have spoiled Switzerland. The natives, too, who live off the English, seem to thoroughly hate them; so that one is often compelled, in self-defense, to proclaim his nationality, which is like running from Scylla upon Charybdis; for, while the American is more popular, it is believed that there is no bottom to his pocket.
There was a sprig of the Church of England on the steamboat on Lake Leman, who spread himself upon a center bench, and discoursed very instructively to his friends,–a stout, fat-faced young man in a white cravat, whose voice was at once loud and melodious, and whom our manly Oxford student set down as a man who had just rubbed through the university, and got into a scanty living.
“I met an American on the boat yesterday,” the oracle was saying to his friends, “who was really quite a pleasant fellow. He–ah really was, you know, quite a sensible man. I asked him if they had anything like this in America; and he was obliged to say that they had n’t anything like it in his country; they really had n’t. He was really quite a sensible fellow; said he was over here to do the European tour, as he called it.”
Small, sympathetic laugh from the attentive, wiry, red-faced woman on the oracle’s left, and also a chuckle, at the expense of the American, from the thin Englishman on his right, who wore a large white waistcoat, a blue veil on his hat, and a face as red as a live coal.
“Quite an admission, was n’t it, from an American? But I think they have changed since the wah, you know.”
At the next landing, the smooth and beaming churchman was left by his friends; and he soon retired to the cabin, where I saw him self-sacrificingly denying himself the views on deck, and consoling himself with a substantial lunch and a bottle of English ale.
There is one thing to be said about the English abroad: the variety is almost infinite. The best acquaintances one makes will be English,–people with no nonsense and strong individuality; and one gets no end of entertainment from the other sort. Very different from the clergyman on the boat was the old lady at table-d’hote in one of the hotels on the lake. One would not like to call her a delightfully wicked old woman, like the Baroness Bernstein; but she had her own witty and satirical way of regarding the world. She had lived twenty-five years at Geneva, where people, years ago, coming over the dusty and hot roads of France, used to faint away when they first caught sight of the Alps. Believe they don’t do it now. She never did; was past the susceptible age when she first came; was tired of the people. Honest? Why, yes, honest, but very fond of money. Fine Swiss wood-carving? Yes. You’ll get very sick of it. It’s very nice, but I ‘m tired of it. Years ago, I sent some of it home to the folks in England. They thought everything of it; and it was not very nice, either,–a cheap sort. Moral ideas? I don’t care for moral ideas: people make such a fuss about them lately (this in reply to her next neighbor, an eccentric, thin man, with bushy hair, shaggy eyebrows, and a high, falsetto voice, who rallied the witty old lady all dinner-time about her lack of moral ideas, and accurately described the thin wine on the table as “water- bewitched”). Why did n’t the baroness go back to England, if she was so tired of Switzerland? Well, she was too infirm now; and, besides, she did n’t like to trust herself on the railroads. And there were so many new inventions nowadays, of which she read. What was this nitroglycerine, that exploded so dreadfully? No: she thought she should stay where she was.
There is little risk of mistaking the Englishman, with or without his family, who has set out to do Switzerland. He wears a brandy-flask, a field-glass, and a haversack. Whether he has a silk or soft hat, he is certain to wear a veil tied round it. This precaution is adopted when he makes up his mind to come to Switzerland, I think, because he has read that a veil is necessary to protect the eyes from the snow-glare. There is probably not one traveler in a hundred who gets among the ice and snow-fields where he needs a veil or green glasses: but it is well to have it on the hat; it looks adventurous. The veil and the spiked alpenstock are the signs of peril. Everybody–almost everybody–has an alpenstock. It is usually a round pine stick, with an iron spike in one end. That, also, is a sign of peril. We saw a noble young Briton on the steamer the other day, who was got up in the best Alpine manner. He wore a short sack,–in fact, an entire suit of light gray flannel, which closely fitted his lithe form. His shoes were of undressed leather, with large spikes in the soles; and on his white hat he wore a large quantity of gauze, which fell in folds down his neck. I am sorry to say that he had a red face, a shaven chin, and long side-whiskers. He carried a formidable alpenstock; and at the little landing where we first saw him, and afterward on the boat, he leaned on it in a series of the most graceful and daring attitudes that I ever saw the human form assume. Our Oxford student knew the variety, and guessed rightly that he was an army man. He had his face burned at Malta. Had he been over the Gemmi? Or up this or that mountain? asked another English officer. “No, I have not.” And it turned out that he had n’t been anywhere, and did n’t seem likely to do anything but show himself at the frequented valley places. And yet I never saw one whose gallant bearing I so much admired. We saw him afterward at Interlaken, enduring all the hardships of that fashionable place. There was also there another of the same country, got up for the most dangerous Alpine climbing, conspicuous in red woolen stockings that came above his knees. I could not learn that he ever went up anything higher than the top of a diligence.
THE DILIGENCE TO CHAMOUNY
The greatest diligence we have seen, one of the few of the old-fashioned sort, is the one from Geneva to Chamouny. It leaves early in the morning; and there is always a crowd about it to see the mount and start. The great ark stands before the diligence-office, and, for half an hour before the hour of starting, the porters are busy stowing away the baggage, and getting the passengers on board. On top, in the banquette, are seats for eight, besides the postilion and guard; in the coup6, under the postilion’s seat and looking upon the horses, seats for three; in the interior, for three; and on top, behind, for six or eight. The baggage is stowed in the capacious bowels of the vehicle. At seven, the six horses are brought out and hitched on, three abreast. We climb up a ladder to the banquette: there is an irascible Frenchman, who gets into the wrong seat; and before he gets right there is a terrible war of words between him and the guard and the porters and the hostlers, everybody joining in with great vivacity; in front of us are three quiet Americans, and a slim Frenchman with a tall hat and one eye-glass. The postilion gets up to his place. Crack, crack, crack, goes the whip; and, amid “sensation” from the crowd, we are off at a rattling pace, the whip cracking all the time like Chinese fireworks. The great passion of the drivers is noise; and they keep the whip going all day. No sooner does a fresh one mount the box than he gives a half-dozen preliminary snaps; to which the horses pay no heed, as they know it is only for the driver’s amusement. We go at a good gait, changing horses every six miles, till we reach the Baths of St. Gervais, where we dine, from near which we get our first glimpse of Mont Blanc through clouds,–a section of a dazzlingly white glacier, a very exciting thing to the imagination. Thence we go on in small carriages, over a still excellent but more hilly road, and begin to enter the real mountain wonders; until, at length, real glaciers pouring down out of the clouds nearly to the road meet us, and we enter the narrow Valley of Chamouny, through which we drive to the village in a rain.
Everybody goes to Chamouny, and up the Flegere, and to Montanvert, and over the Mer de Glace; and nearly everybody down the Mauvais Pas to the Chapeau, and so back to the village. It is all easy to do; and yet we saw some French people at the Chapeau who seemed to think they had accomplished the most hazardous thing in the world in coming down the rocks of the Mauvais Pas. There is, as might be expected, a great deal of humbug about the difficulty of getting about in the Alps, and the necessity of guides. Most of the dangers vanish on near approach. The Mer de Glace is inferior to many other glaciers, and is not nearly so fine as the Glacier des Bossons: but it has a reputation, and is easy of access; so people are content to walk over the dirty ice. One sees it to better effect from below, or he must ascend it to the Jardin to know that it has deep crevasses, and is as treacherous as it is grand. And yet no one will be disappointed at the view from Montanvert, of the upper glacier, and the needles of rock and snow which rise beyond.
We met at the Chapeau two jolly young fellows from Charleston, S. C. who had been in the war, on the wrong side. They knew no language but American, and were unable to order a cutlet and an omelet for breakfast. They said they believed they were going over the Tete Noire. They supposed they had four mules waiting for them somewhere, and a guide; but they couldn’t understand a word he said, and he couldn’t understand them. The day before, they had nearly perished of thirst, because they could n’t make their guide comprehend that they wanted water. One of them had slung over his shoulder an Alpine horn, which he blew occasionally, and seemed much to enjoy. All this while we sit on a rock at the foot of the Mauvais Pas, looking out upon the green glacier, which here piles itself up finely, and above to the Aiguilles de Charmoz and the innumerable ice-pinnacles that run up to the clouds, while our muleteer is getting his breakfast. This is his third breakfast this morning.
The day after we reached Chamouny, Monseigneur the bishop arrived there on one of his rare pilgrimages into these wild valleys. Nearly all the way down from Geneva, we had seen signs of his coming, in preparations as for the celebration of a great victory. I did not know at first but the Atlantic cable had been laid; or rather that the decorations were on account of the news of it reaching this region. It was a holiday for all classes; and everybody lent a hand to the preparations. First, the little church where the confirmations were to take place was trimmed within and without; and an arch of green spanned the gateway. At Les Pres, the women were sweeping the road, and the men were setting small evergreen-trees on each side. The peasants were in their best clothes; and in front of their wretched hovels were tables set out with flowers. So cheerful and eager were they about the bishop, that they forgot to beg as we passed: the whole valley was in a fever of expectation. At one hamlet on the mulepath over the Tete Noire, where the bishop was that day expected, and the women were sweeping away all dust and litter from the road, I removed my hat, and gravely thanked them for their thoughtful preparation for our coming. But they only stared a little, as if we were not worthy to be even forerunners of Monseigneur.
I do not care to write here how serious a drawback to the pleasures of this region are its inhabitants. You get the impression that half of them are beggars. The other half are watching for a chance to prey upon you in other ways. I heard of a woman in the Zermatt Valley who refused pay for a glass of milk; but I did not have time to verify the report. Besides the beggars, who may or may not be horrid-looking creatures, there are the grinning Cretins, the old women with skins of parchment and the goitre, and even young children with the loathsome appendage, the most wretched and filthy hovels, and the dirtiest, ugliest people in them. The poor women are the beasts of burden. They often lead, mowing in the hayfield; they carry heavy baskets on their backs; they balance on their heads and carry large washtubs full of water. The more appropriate load of one was a cradle with a baby in it, which seemed not at all to fear falling. When one sees how the women are treated, he does not wonder that there are so many deformed, hideous children. I think the pretty girl has yet to be born in Switzerland.
This is not much about the Alps? Ah, well, the Alps are there. Go read your guide-book, and find out what your emotions are. As I said, everybody goes to Chamouny. Is it not enough to sit at your window, and watch the clouds when they lift from the Mont Blanc range, disclosing splendor after splendor, from the Aiguille de Goute to the Aiguille Verte,–white needles which pierce the air for twelve thousand feet, until, jubilate! the round summit of the monarch himself is visible, and the vast expanse of white snow-fields, the whiteness of which is rather of heaven than of earth, dazzles the eyes, even at so great a distance? Everybody who is patient and waits in the cold and inhospitable-looking valley of the Chamouny long enough, sees Mont Blanc; but every one does not see a sunset of the royal order. The clouds breaking up and clearing, after days of bad weather, showed us height after height, and peak after peak, now wreathing the summits, now settling below or hanging in patches on the sides, and again soaring above, until we had the whole range lying, far and brilliant, in the evening light. The clouds took on gorgeous colors, at length, and soon the snow caught the hue, and whole fields were rosy pink, while uplifted peaks glowed red, as with internal fire. Only Mont Blanc, afar off, remained purely white, in a kind of regal inaccessibility. And, afterward, one star came out over it, and a bright light shone from the hut on the Grand Mulets, a rock in the waste of snow, where a Frenchman was passing the night on his way to the summit.
Shall I describe the passage of the Tete Noire? My friend, it is twenty-four miles, a road somewhat hilly, with splendid views of Mont Blanc in the morning, and of the Bernese Oberland range in the afternoon, when you descend into Martigny,–a hot place in the dusty Rhone Valley, which has a comfortable hotel, with a pleasant garden, in which you sit after dinner and let the mosquitoes eat you.
THE MAN WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH
It was eleven o’clock at night when we reached Sion, a dirty little town at the end of the Rhone Valley Railway, and got into the omnibus for the hotel; and it was also dark and rainy. They speak German in this part of Switzerland, or what is called German. There were two very pleasant Americans, who spoke American, going on in the diligence at half-past five in the morning, on their way over the Simplex. One of them was accustomed to speak good, broad English very distinctly to all races; and he seemed to expect that he must be understood if he repeated his observations in a louder tone, as he always did. I think he would force all this country to speak English in two months. We all desired to secure places in the diligence, which was likely to be full, as is usually the case when a railway discharges itself into a postroad.
We were scarcely in the omnibus, when the gentleman said to the conductor:
“I want two places in the coupe of the diligence in the morning. Can I have them? “
“Yah” replied the good-natured German, who did n’t understand a word.
“Two places, diligence, coupe, morning. Is it full?”
“Yah,” replied the accommodating fellow. “Hotel man spik English.”
I suggested the banquette as desirable, if it could be obtained, and the German was equally willing to give it to us. Descending from the omnibus at the hotel, in a drizzling rain, and amidst a crowd of porters and postilions and runners, the “man who spoke English” immediately presented himself; and upon him the American pounced with a torrent of questions. He was a willing, lively little waiter, with his moony face on the top of his head; and he jumped round in the rain like a parching pea, rolling his head about in the funniest manner.
The American steadied the little man by the collar, and began, “I want to secure two seats in the coupe of the diligence in the. morning.”
“Yaas,” jumping round, and looking from one to another. “Diligence, coupe, morning.”
“I–want–two seats–in–coupe. If I can’t get them, two–in– banquette.”
“Yaas banquette, coupe,–yaas, diligence.”
“Do you understand? Two seats, diligence, Simplon, morning. Will you get them?”
“Oh, yaas! morning, diligence. Yaas, sirr.”
“Hang the fellow! Where is the office? “And the gentleman left the spry little waiter bobbing about in the middle of the street, speaking English, but probably comprehending nothing that was said to him. I inquired the way to the office of the conductor: it was closed, but would soon be open, and I waited; and at length the official, a stout Frenchman, appeared, and I secured places in the interior, the only ones to be had to Visp. I had seen a diligence at the door with three places in the coupe, and one perched behind; no banquette. The office is brightly lighted; people are waiting to secure places; there is the usual crowd of loafers, men and women, and the Frenchman sits at his desk. Enter the American.
“I want two places in coupe, in the morning. Or banquette. Two places, diligence.” The official waves him off, and says something.
“What does he say?”
“He tells you to sit down on that bench till he is ready.”
Soon the Frenchman has run over his big waybills, and turns to us.
“I want two places in the diligence, coupe,” etc, etc, says the American.
This remark being lost on the official, I explain to him as well as I can what is wanted, at first,–two places in the coupe.
“One is taken,” is his reply.
“The gentleman will take two,” I said, having in mind the diligence in the yard, with three places in the coupe.
“One is taken,” he repeats.
“Then the gentleman will take the other two.”
“One is taken! “he cries, jumping up and smiting the table,–” one is taken, I tell you!”
“How many are there in the coupe?”
“Oh! then the gentleman will take the one remaining in the coupe and the one on top.”
So it is arranged. When I come back to the hotel, the Americans are explaining to the lively waiter “who speaks English” that they are to go in the diligence at half-past five, and that they are to be called at half-past four and have breakfast. He knows all about it,– “Diligence, half-past four breakfast, Oh, yaas!” While I have been at the diligence-office, my companions have secured room and gone to them; and I ask the waiter to show m to my room. First, however, I tell him that we three two ladies and myself, who came together, are going in the diligence at half-past five, and want to be called and have breakfaSt. Did he comprehend?
“Yaas,” rolling his face about on the top of his head violently. “You three gentleman want breakfast. What you have?”
I had told him before what we would I have, an now I gave up all hope of keeping our parties separate in his mind; so I said, “Five persons want breakfast at five o’clock. Five persons, five hours. Call all of them at half-past four.” And I repeated it, and