The Norumbia was off the Banks, and the second day of fog was cold as if icebergs were haunting the opaque pallor around her. In the ranks of steamer chairs people lay like mummies in their dense wrappings; in the music-room the little children of travel discussed the different lines of steamers on which they had crossed, and babes of five and seven disputed about the motion on the Cunarders and White Stars; their nurses tried in vain to still them in behalf of older passengers trying to write letters there.
By the next morning the ship had run out of the fog; and people who could keep their feet said they were glad of the greater motion which they found beyond the Banks. They now talked of the heat of the first days out, and how much they had suffered; some who had passed the night on board before sailing tried to impart a sense of their misery in trying to sleep.
A day or two later a storm struck the ship, and the sailors stretched canvas along the weather promenade and put up a sheathing of boards across the bow end to keep off the rain. Yet a day or two more and the sea had fallen again and there was dancing on the widest space of the lee promenade.
The little events of the sea outside the steamer offered themselves in their poor variety. Once a ship in the offing, with all its square sails set, lifted them like three white towers from the deep. On the rim of the ocean the length of some westward liner blocked itself out against the horizon, and swiftly trailed its smoke out of sight. A few tramp steamers, lounging and lunging through the trough of the sea, were overtaken and left behind; an old brigantine passed so close that her rusty iron sides showed plain, and one could discern the faces of the people on board.
The steamer was oftenest without the sign of any life beyond her. One day a small bird beat the air with its little wings, under the roof of the promenade, and then flittered from sight over the surface, of the waste; a school of porpoises, stiff and wooden in their rise, plunged clumsily from wave to wave. The deep itself had sometimes the unreality, the artificiality of the canvas sea of the theatre. Commonly it was livid and cold in color; but there was a morning when it was delicately misted, and where the mist left it clear, it was blue and exquisitely iridescent under the pale sun; the wrinkled waves were finely pitted by the falling spray. These were rare moments; mostly, when it was not like painted canvas, is was hard like black rock, with surfaces of smooth cleavage. Where it met the sky it lay flat and motionless, or in the rougher weather carved itself along the horizon in successions of surges.
If the sun rose clear, it was overcast in a few hours; then the clouds broke and let a little sunshine through, to close again before the dim evening thickened over the waters. Sometimes the moon looked through the ragged curtain of vapors; one night it seemed to shine till morning, and shook a path of quicksilver from the horizon to the ship. Through every change, after she had left the fog behind, the steamer drove on with the pulse of her engines (that stopped no more than a man's heart stops) in a course which had nothing to mark it but the spread of the furrows from her sides, and the wake that foamed from her stern to the western verge of the sea.
The life of the ship, like the life of the sea, was a sodden monotony, with certain events which were part of the monotony. In the morning the little steward's bugle called the passengers from their dreams, and half an hour later called them to their breakfast, after such as chose had been served with coffee by their bedroom-stewards. Then they went on deck, where they read, or dozed in their chairs, or walked up and down, or stood in the way of those who were walking; or played shuffleboard and ring-toss; or smoked, and drank whiskey and aerated waters over their cards and papers in the smoking-room; or wrote letters in the saloon or the music-room. At eleven o'clock they spoiled their appetites for lunch with tea or bouillon to the music of a band of second-cabin stewards; at one, a single blast of the bugle called them to lunch, where they glutted themselves to the torpor from which they afterwards drowsed in their berths or chairs. They did the same things in the afternoon that they had done in the forenoon; and at four o'clock the deck-stewards came round with their cups and saucers, and their plates of sandwiches, again to the music of the band. There were two bugle-calls for dinner, and after dinner some went early to bed, and some sat up late and had grills and toast. At twelve the lights were put out in the saloons and the smoking-rooms.
There were various smells which stored themselves up in the consciousness to remain lastingly relative to certain moments and places: a whiff of whiskey and tobacco that exhaled from the door of the smoking-room; the odor of oil and steam rising from the open skylights over the engine- room; the scent of stale bread about the doors of the dining-saloon.
The life was like the life at a sea-side hotel, only more monotonous. The walking was limited; the talk was the tentative talk of people aware that there was no refuge if they got tired of one another. The flirting itself, such as there was of it, must be carried on in the glare of the pervasive publicity; it must be crude and bold, or not be at all.
There seemed to be very little of it. There were not many young people on board of saloon quality, and these were mostly girls. The young men were mainly of the smoking-room sort; they seldom risked themselves among the steamer chairs. It was gayer in the second cabin, and gayer yet in the steerage, where robuster emotions were operated by the accordion. The passengers there danced to its music; they sang to it and laughed to it unabashed under the eyes of the first-cabin witnesses clustered along the rail above the pit where they took their rude pleasures.
With March it came to his spending many hours of each long, swift day in his berth with a book under the convenient electric light. He was safe there from the acquaintances which constantly formed themselves only to fall into disintegration, and cling to him afterwards as inorganic particles of weather-guessing, and smoking-room gossip about the ship's run.
In the earliest hours of the voyage he thought that he saw some faces of the great world, the world of wealth and fashion; but these afterward vanished, and left him to wonder where they hid themselves. He did not meet them even in going to and from his meals; he could only imagine them served in those palatial state-rooms whose interiors the stewards now and then rather obtruded upon the public. There were people whom he encountered in the promenades when he got up for the sunrise, and whom he never saw at other times; at midnight he met men prowling in the dark whom he never met by day. But none of these were people of the great world. Before six o'clock they were sometimes second-cabin passengers, whose barrier was then lifted for a little while to give them the freedom of the saloon promenade.
From time to time he thought he would look up his Ohioan, and revive from a closer study of him his interest in the rare American who had never been to Europe. But he kept with his elderly wife, who had the effect of withholding him from March's advances. Young Mr. and Mrs. Leffers threw off more and more their disguise of a long-married pair, and became frankly bride and groom. They seldom talked with any one else, except at table; they walked up and down together, smiling into each others faces; they sat side by side in their steamer chairs; one shawl covered them both, and there was reason to believe that they were holding each other's hands under it.
Mrs. Adding often took the chair beside Mrs. March when her husband was straying about the ship or reading in his berth; and the two ladies must have exchanged autobiographies, for Mrs. March was able to tell him just how long Mrs. Adding had been a widow, what her husband died of, and what had been done to save him; how she was now perfectly wrapt up in her boy, and was taking him abroad, with some notion of going to Switzerland, after the summer's travel, and settling down with him at school there. She and Mrs. March became great friends; and Rose, as his mother called him, attached himself reverently to March, not only as a celebrity of the first grade in his quality of editor of 'Every Other Week', but as a sage of wisdom and goodness, with whom he must not lose the chance of counsel upon almost every hypothesis and exigency of life.
March could not bring himself to place Burnamy quite where he belonged in contemporary literature, when Rose put him very high in virtue of the poem which he heard Burnamy was going to have printed in 'Every Other Week', and of the book which he was going to have published; and he let the boy bring to the young fellow the flattery which can come to any author but once, in the first request for his autograph that Burnamy confessed to have had. They were so near in age, though they were ten years apart, that Rose stood much more in awe of Burnamy than of others much more his seniors. He was often in the company of Kenby, whom he valued next to March as a person acquainted with men; he consulted March upon Kenby's practice of always taking up the language of the country he visited, if it were only for a fortnight; and he conceived a higher opinion of him from March's approval.
Burnamy was most with Mrs. March, who made him talk about himself when he supposed he was talking about literature, in the hope that she could get him to talk about the Triscoes; but she listened in vain as he poured out-his soul in theories of literary art, and in histories of what he had written and what he meant to write. When he passed them where they sat together, March heard the young fellow's perpetually recurring I, I, I, my, my, my, me, me, me; and smiled to think how she was suffering under the drip-drip of his innocent egotism.
She bore in a sort of scientific patience his attentions to the pivotal girl, and Miss Triscoe's indifference to him, in which a less penetrating scrutiny could have detected no change from meal to meal. It was only at table that she could see them together, or that she could note any break in the reserve of the father and daughter. The signs of this were so fine that when she reported them March laughed in scornful incredulity. But at breakfast the third day out, the Triscoes, with the authority of people accustomed to social consideration, suddenly turned to the Marches, and began to make themselves agreeable; the father spoke to March of 'Every Other Week', which he seemed to know of in its relation to him; and the young girl addressed herself to Mrs. March's motherly sense not the less acceptably because indirectly. She spoke of going out with her father for an indefinite time, as if it were rather his wish than hers, and she made some inquiries about places in Germany; they had never been in Germany. They had some idea of Dresden; but the idea of Dresden with its American colony seemed rather tiresome; and did Mrs. March know anything about Weimar?
Mrs. March was obliged to say that she knew nothing about anyplace in Germany; and she explained perhaps too fully where and why she was going with her husband. She fancied a Boston note in that scorn for the tiresomeness of Dresden; but the girl's style was of New York rather than of Boston, and her accent was not quite of either place. Mrs. March began to try the Triscoes in this place and in that, to divine them and to class them. She had decided from the first that they were society people, but they were cultivated beyond the average of the few swells whom she had met; and there had been nothing offensive in their manner of holding themselves aloof from the other people at the table; they had a right to do that if they chose.
When the young Lefferses came in to breakfast, the talk went on between these and the Marches; the Triscoes presently left the table, and Mrs. March rose soon after, eager for that discussion of their behavior which March knew he should not be able to postpone.
He agreed with her that they were society people, but she could not at once accept his theory that they had themselves been the objects of an advance from them because of their neutral literary quality, through which they were of no social world, but potentially common to any. Later she admitted this, as she said, for the sake of argument, though what she wanted him to see, now, was that this was all a step of the girl's toward finding out something about Burnamy.
The same afternoon, about the time the deck-steward was making his round with his cups, Miss Triscoe abruptly advanced upon her from a neighboring corner of the bulkhead, and asked, with the air of one accustomed to have her advances gratefully received, if she might sit by her. The girl took March's vacant chair, where she had her cup of bouillon, which she continued to hold untasted in her hand after the first sip. Mrs. March did the same with hers, and at the moment she had got very tired of doing it, Burnamy came by, for the hundredth time that day, and gave her a hundredth bow with a hundredth smile. He perceived that she wished to get rid of her cup, and he sprang to her relief.
"May I take yours too?" he said very passively to Miss Triscoe.
"You are very good." she answered, and gave it.
Mrs. March with a casual air suggested, "Do you know Mr. Burnamy, Miss Triscoe? "The girl said a few civil things, but Burnamy did not try to make talk with her while he remained a few moments before Mrs. March. The pivotal girl came in sight, tilting and turning in a rare moment of isolation at the corner of the music-room, and he bowed abruptly, and hurried off to join her.
Miss Triscoe did not linger; she alleged the necessity of looking up her father, and went away with a smile so friendly that Mrs. March might easily have construed it to mean that no blame attached itself to her in Miss Triscoe's mind.
"Then you don't feel that it was a very distinct success?" her husband asked on his return.
"Not on the surface," she said.
"Better let ill enough alone," he advised.
She did not heed him. "All the same she cares for him. The very fact that she was so cold shows that."
"And do you think her being cold will make him care for her?"
"If she wants it to."
At dinner that day the question of 'The Maiden Knight' was debated among the noises and silences of the band. Young Mrs. Leffers had brought the book to the table with her; she said she had not been able to lay it down before the last horn sounded; in fact she could have been seen reading it to her husband where he sat under the same shawl, the whole afternoon.
"Don't you think it's perfectly fascinating," she asked Mrs. Adding, with her petted mouth.
"Well," said the widow, doubtfully, "it's nearly a week since I read it, and I've had time to get over the glow."
"Oh, I could just read it forever!" the bride exclaimed.
"I like a book," said her husband, "that takes me out of myself. I don't want to think when I'm reading."
March was going to attack this ideal, but he reflected in time that Mr. Leffers had really stated his own motive in reading. He compromised. "Well, I like the author to do my thinking for me."
"Yes," said the other, "that is what I mean."
"The question is whether 'The Maiden Knight' fellow does it," said Kenby, taking duck and pease from the steward at his shoulder.
"What my wife likes in it is to see what one woman can do and be single- handed," said March.
"No," his wife corrected him, "what a man thinks she can."
"I suppose," said Mr. Triscoe, unexpectedly, "that we're like the English in our habit of going off about a book like a train of powder."
"If you'll say a row of bricks," March assented, "I'll agree with you. It's certainly Anglo-Saxon to fall over one another as we do, when we get going. It would be interesting to know just how much liking there is in the popularity of a given book."
"It's like the run of a song, isn't it?" Kenby suggested. "You can't stand either, when it reaches a given point."
He spoke to March and ignored Triscoe, who had hitherto ignored the rest of the table.
"It's very curious," March said. "The book or the song catches a mood, or feeds a craving, and when one passes or the other is glutted—"
"The discouraging part is," Triscoe put in, still limiting himself to the Marches, "that it's never a question of real taste. The things that go down with us are so crude, so coarsely spiced; they tickle such a vulgar palate—Now in France, for instance," he suggested.
"Well, I don't know," returned the editor. "After all, we eat a good deal of bread, and we drink more pure water than any other people. Even when we drink it iced, I fancy it isn't so bad as absinthe."
The young bride looked at him gratefully, but she said, "If we can't get ice-water in Europe, I don't know what Mr. Leffers will do," and the talk threatened to pass among the ladies into a comparison of American and European customs.
Burnamy could not bear to let it. "I don't pretend to be very well up in French literature," he began, "but I think such a book as 'The Maiden Knight' isn't such a bad piece of work; people are liking a pretty well- built story when they like it. Of course it's sentimental, and it begs the question a good deal; but it imagines something heroic in character, and it makes the reader imagine it too. The man who wrote that book may be a donkey half the time, but he's a genius the other half. By-and-by he'll do something—after he's come to see that his 'Maiden Knight' was a fool—that I believe even you won't be down on, Mr. March, if he paints a heroic type as powerfully as he does in this book."
He spoke with the authority of a journalist, and though he deferred to March in the end, he deferred with authority still. March liked him for coming to the defence of a young writer whom he had not himself learned to like yet. "Yes," he said, "if he has the power you say, and can keep it after he comes to his artistic consciousness!"
Mrs. Leffers, as if she thought things were going her way, smiled; Rose Adding listened with shining eyes expectantly fixed on March; his mother viewed his rapture with tender amusement. The steward was at Kenby's shoulder with the salad and his entreating "Bleace!" and Triscoe seemed to be questioning whether he should take any notice of Burnamy's general disagreement. He said at last: "I'm afraid we haven't the documents. You don't seem to have cared much for French books, and I haven't read 'The Maiden Knight'." He added to March: "But I don't defend absinthe. Ice-water is better. What I object to is our indiscriminate taste both for raw whiskey—and for milk-and-water."
No one took up the question again, and it was Kenby who spoke next. "The doctor thinks, if this weather holds, that we shall be into Plymouth Wednesday morning. I always like to get a professional opinion on the ship's run."
In the evening, as Mrs. March was putting away in her portfolio the journal-letter which she was writing to send back from Plymouth to her children, Miss Triscoe drifted to the place where she sat at their table in the dining-room by a coincidence which they both respected as casual.
"We had quite a literary dinner," she remarked, hovering for a moment near the chair which she later sank into. "It must have made you feel very much at home. Or perhaps you're so tired of it at home that you don't talk about books."
"We always talk shop, in some form or other," said Mrs. March. "My husband never tires of it. A good many of the contributors come to us, you know."
"It must be delightful," said the girl. She added as if she ought to excuse herself for neglecting an advantage that might have been hers if she had chosen, "I'm sorry one sees so little of the artistic and literary set. But New York is such a big place."
New York people seem to be very fond of it," said Mrs. March. "Those who have always lived there."
"We haven't always lived there," said the girl. "But I think one has a good time there—the best time a girl can have. It's all very well coming over for the summer; one has to spend the summer somewhere. Are you going out for a long time?"
"Only for the summer. First to Carlsbad."
"Oh, yes. I suppose we shall travel about through Germany, and then go to Paris. We always do; my father is very fond of it."
"You must know it very well," said Mrs. March, aimlessly.
"I was born there,—if that means knowing it. I lived there—till I was eleven years old. We came home after my mother died."
"Oh!" said Mrs. March.
The girl did not go further into her family history; but by one of those leaps which seem to women as logical as other progressions, she arrived at asking, "Is Mr. Burnamy one of the contributors?"
Mrs. March laughed. "He is going to be, as soon as his poem is printed."
"Yes. Mr. March thinks it's very good."
"I thought he spoke very nicely about 'The Maiden Knight'. And he has been very nice to papa. You know they have the same room."
"I think Mr. Burnamy told me," Mrs. March said.
The girl went on. "He had the lower berth, and he gave it up to papa; he's done everything but turn himself out of doors."
"I'm sure he's been very glad," Mrs. March ventured on Burnamy's behalf, but very softly, lest if she breathed upon these budding confidences they should shrink and wither away.
"I always tell papa that there's no country like America for real unselfishness; and if they're all like that, in Chicago!" The girl stopped, and added with a laugh, "But I'm always quarrelling with papa about America."
"We have a daughter living in Chicago," said Mrs. March, alluringly.
But Miss Triscoe refused the bait, either because she had said all she meant, or because she had said all she would, about Chicago, which Mrs. March felt for the present to be one with Burnamy. She gave another of her leaps. "I don't see why people are so anxious to get it like Europe, at home. They say that there was a time when there were no chaperons before hoops, you know." She looked suggestively at Mrs. March, resting one slim hand on the table, and controlling her skirt with the other, as if she were getting ready to rise at any moment. "When they used to sit on their steps."
"It was very pleasant before hoops—in every way," said Mrs. March. "I was young, then; and I lived in Boston, where I suppose it was always simpler than in New York. I used to sit on our steps. It was delightful for girls—the freedom."
"I wish I had lived before hoops," said Miss Triscoe.
"Well, there must be places where it's before hoops yet: Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, for all I know," Mrs. March suggested. "And there must be people in that epoch everywhere."
"Like that young lady who twists and turns?" said Miss Triscoe, giving first one side of her face and then the other. "They have a good time. I suppose if Europe came to us in one way it had to come in another. If it came in galleries and all that sort of thing, it had to come in chaperons. You'll think I'm a great extremist, Mrs. March; but sometimes I wish there was more America instead of less. I don't believe it's as bad as people say. Does Mr. March," she asked, taking hold of the chair with one hand, to secure her footing from any caprice of the sea, while she gathered her skirt more firmly into the other, as she rose, "does he think that America is going—all wrong?"
"All wrong? How?"
"Oh, in politics, don't you know. And government, and all that. And bribing. And the lower classes having everything their own way. And the horrid newspapers. And everything getting so expensive; and no regard for family, or anything of that kind."
Mrs. March thought she saw what Miss Triscoe meant, but she answered, still cautiously, "I don't believe he does always. Though there are times when he is very much disgusted. Then he says that he is getting too old—and we always quarrel about that—to see things as they really are. He says that if the world had been going the way that people over fifty have always thought it was going, it would have gone to smash in the time of the anthropoidal apes."
"Oh, yes: Darwin," said Miss Triscoe, vaguely. "Well, I'm glad he doesn't give it up. I didn't know but I was holding out just because I had argued so much, and was doing it out of—opposition. Goodnight!" She called her salutation gayly over her shoulder, and Mrs. March watched her gliding out of the saloon with a graceful tilt to humor the slight roll of the ship, and a little lurch to correct it, once or twice, and wondered if Burnamy was afraid of her; it seemed to her that if she were a young man she should not be afraid of Miss Triscoe.
The next morning, just after she had arranged herself in her steamer chair, he approached her, bowing and smiling, with the first of his many bows and smiles for the day, and at the same time Miss Triscoe came toward her from the opposite direction. She nodded brightly to him, and he gave her a bow and smile too; he always had so many of them to spare.
"Here is your chair!" Mrs. March called to her, drawing the shawl out of the chair next her own. "Mr. March is wandering about the ship somewhere."
"I'll keep it for him," said Miss Triscoe, and as Burnamy offered to take the shawl that hung in the hollow of her arm, she let it slip into his hand with an "Oh; thank you," which seemed also a permission for him to wrap it about her in the chair.
He stood talking before the ladies, but he looked up and down the promenade. The pivotal girl showed herself at the corner of the music- room, as she had done the day before. At first she revolved there as if she were shedding her light on some one hidden round the corner; then she moved a few paces farther out and showed herself more obviously alone. Clearly she was there for Burnamy to come and walk with her; Mrs. March could see that, and she felt that Miss Triscoe saw it too. She waited for her to dismiss him to his flirtation; but Miss Triscoe kept chatting on, and he kept answering, and making no motion to get away. Mrs. March began to be as sorry for her as she was ashamed for him. Then she heard him saying, "Would you like a turn or two?" and Miss Triscoe answering, "Why, yes, thank you," and promptly getting out of her chair as if the pains they had both been at to get her settled in it were all nothing.
She had the composure to say, "You can leave your shawl with me, Miss Triscoe," and to receive her fervent, "Oh, thank you," before they sailed off together, with inhuman indifference to the girl at the corner of the music-room. Then she sank into a kind of triumphal collapse, from which she roused herself to point her husband to the chair beside her when he happened along.
He chose to be perverse about her romance. "Well, now, you had better let them alone. Remember Kendricks." He meant one of their young friends whose love-affair they had promoted till his happy marriage left them in lasting doubt of what they had done. "My sympathies are all with the pivotal girl. Hadn't she as much right to him, for the time being, or for good and all, as Miss Triscoe?"
"That depends upon what you think of Burnamy."
"Well, I don't like to see a girl have a young man snatched away from her just when she's made sure of him. How do you suppose she is feeling now?"
"She isn't feeling at all. She's letting her revolving light fall upon half a dozen other young men by this time, collectively or consecutively. All that she wants to make sure of is that they're young men—or old ones, even."
March laughed, but not altogether at what his wife said. "I've been having a little talk with Papa Triscoe, in the smoking-room."
"You smell like it," said his wife, not to seem too eager: "Well?"
"Well, Papa Triscoe seems to be in a pout. He doesn't think things are going as they should in America. He hasn't been consulted, or if he has, his opinion hasn't been acted upon."
"I think he's horrid," said Mrs. March. "Who are they?"
"I couldn't make out, and I couldn't ask. But I'll tell you what I think."
"That there's no chance for, Burnamy. He's taking his daughter out to marry her to a crowned head."
It was this afternoon that the dance took place on the south promenade. Everybody came and looked, and the circle around the waltzers was three or four deep. Between the surrounding heads and shoulders, the hats of the young ladies wheeling and whirling, and the faces of the men who were wheeling and whirling them, rose and sank with the rhythm of their steps. The space allotted to the dancing was walled to seaward with canvas, and was prettily treated with German, and American flags: it was hard to go wrong with flags, Miss Triscoe said, securing herself under Mrs. March's wing.
Where they stood they could see Burnamy's face, flashing and flushing in the dance; at the end of the first piece he came to them, and remained talking and laughing till the music began again.
"Don't you want to try it?" he asked abruptly of Miss Triscoe.
"Isn't it rather—public?" she asked back.
Mrs. March could feel the hand which the girl had put through her arm thrill with temptation; but Burnamy could not.
"Perhaps it is rather obvious," he said, and he made a long glide over the deck to the feet of the pivotal girl, anticipating another young man who was rapidly advancing from the opposite quarter. The next moment her hat and his face showed themselves in the necessary proximity to each other within the circle.
"How well she dances!" said Miss Triscoe.
"Do you think so? She looks as if she had been wound up and set going."
"She's very graceful," the girl persisted.
The day ended with an entertainment in the saloon for one of the marine charities which address themselves to the hearts and pockets of passengers on all steamers. There were recitations in English and German, and songs from several people who had kindly consented, and ever more piano performance. Most of those who took part were of the race gifted in art and finance; its children excelled in the music, and its fathers counted the gate-money during the last half of the programme, with an audible clinking of the silver on the table before them.
Miss Triscoe was with her father, and Mrs. March was herself chaperoned by Mr. Burnamy: her husband had refused to come to the entertainment. She hoped to leave Burnamy and Miss Triscoe together before the evening ended; but Miss Triscoe merely stopped with her father, in quitting the saloon, to laugh at some features of the entertainment, as people who take no part in such things do; Burnamy stood up to exchange some unimpassioned words with her, and then they said good-night.
The next morning, at five o'clock, the Norumbia came to anchor in the pretty harbor of Plymouth. In the cool early light the town lay distinct along the shore, quaint with its small English houses, and stately with come public edifices of unknown function on the uplands; a country-seat of aristocratic aspect showed itself on one of the heights; on another the tower of a country church peered over the tree-tops; there were lines of fortifications, as peaceful, at their distance, as the stone walls dividing the green fields. The very iron-clads in the harbor close at hand contributed to the amiable gayety of the scene under the pale blue English sky, already broken with clouds from which the flush of the sunrise had not quite faded. The breath of the land came freshly out over the water; one could almost smell the grass and the leaves. Gulls wheeled and darted over the crisp water; the tones of the English voices on the tender were pleasant to the ear, as it fussed and scuffled to the ship's side. A few score of the passengers left her; with their baggage they formed picturesque groups on the tender's deck, and they set out for the shore waving their hands and their handkerchiefs to the friends they left clustering along the rail of the Norumbia. Mr. and Mrs. Leffers bade March farewell, in the final fondness inspired by his having coffee with them before they left the ship; they said they hated to leave.
The stop had roused everybody, and the breakfast tables were promptly filled, except such as the passengers landing at Plymouth had vacated; these were stripped of their cloths, and the remaining commensals placed at others. The seats of the Lefferses were given to March's old Ohio friend and his wife. He tried to engage them in the tally which began to be general in the excitement of having touched land; but they shyly held aloof.
Some English newspapers had come aboard from the tug, and there was the usual good-natured adjustment of the American self-satisfaction, among those who had seen them, to the ever-surprising fact that our continent is apparently of no interest to Europe. There were some meagre New York stock-market quotations in the papers; a paragraph in fine print announced the lynching of a negro in Alabama; another recorded a coal- mining strike in Pennsylvania.
"I always have to get used to it over again," said Kenby. "This is the twentieth time I have been across, and I'm just as much astonished as I was the first, to find out that they don't want to know anything about us here."
"Oh," said March, "curiosity and the weather both come from the west. San Francisco wants to know about Denver, Denver about Chicago, Chicago about New York, and New York about London; but curiosity never travels the other way any more than a hot wave or a cold wave."
"Ah, but London doesn't care a rap about Vienna," said Kenby.
"Well, some pressures give out before they reach the coast, on our own side. It isn't an infallible analogy."
Triscoe was fiercely chewing a morsel, as if in haste to take part in the discussion. He gulped it, and broke out. "Why should they care about us, anyway?"
March lightly ventured, "Oh, men and brothers, you know."
"That isn't sufficient ground. The Chinese are men and brothers; so are the South-Americans and Central-Africans, and Hawaiians; but we're not impatient for the latest news about them. It's civilization that interests civilization."
"I hope that fact doesn't leave us out in the cold with the barbarians?" Burnamy put in, with a smile.
"Do you think we are civilized?" retorted the other.
"We have that superstition in Chicago," said Burnamy. He added, still smiling, "About the New-Yorkers, I mean."
"You're more superstitious in Chicago than I supposed. New York is an anarchy, tempered by vigilance committees."
"Oh, I don't think you can say that," Kenby cheerfully protested, "since the Reformers came in. Look at our streets!"
"Yes, our streets are clean, for the time being, and when we look at them we think we have made a clean sweep in our manners and morals. But how long do you think it will be before Tammany will be in the saddle again?"
"Oh, never in the world!" said the optimistic head of the table.
"I wish I had your faith; or I should if I didn't feel that it is one of the things that help to establish Tammanys with us. You will see our Tammany in power after the next election." Kenby laughed in a large- hearted incredulity; and his laugh was like fuel to the other's flame. "New York is politically a mediaeval Italian republic, and it's morally a frontier mining-town. Socially it's—" He stopped as if he could not say what.
"I think it's a place where you have a very nice time, papa," said his daughter, and Burnamy smiled with her; not because he knew anything about it.
Her father went on as if he had not heard her. "It's as vulgar and crude as money can make it. Nothing counts but money, and as soon as there's enough, it counts for everything. In less than a year you'll have Tammany in power; it won't be more than a year till you'll have it in society."
"Oh no! Oh no!" came from Kenby. He did not care much for society, but he vaguely respected it as the stronghold of the proprieties and the amenities.
"Isn't society a good place for Tammany to be in?" asked March in the pause Triscoe let follow upon Kenby's laugh.
"There's no reason why it shouldn't be. Society is as bad as all the rest of it. And what New York is, politically, morally, and socially, the whole country wishes to be and tries to be."
There was that measure of truth in the words which silences; no one could find just the terms of refutation.
"Well," said Kenby at last, "it's a good thing there are so many lines to Europe. We've still got the right to emigrate."
"Yes, but even there we don't escape the abuse of our infamous newspapers for exercising a man's right to live where he chooses. And there is no country in Europe—except Turkey, or Spain—that isn't a better home for an honest man than the United States."
The Ohioan had once before cleared his throat as if he were going to speak. Now, he leaned far enough forward to catch Triscoe's eve, and said, slowly and distinctly: "I don't know just what reason you have to feel as you do about the country. I feel differently about it myself— perhaps because I fought for it."
At first, the others were glad of this arrogance; it even seemed an answer; but Burnamy saw Miss Triscoe's cheek, flush, and then he doubted its validity.
Triscoe nervously crushed a biscuit in his hand, as if to expend a violent impulse upon it. He said, coldly, "I was speaking from that stand-point."
The Ohioan shrank back in his seat, and March felt sorry for him, though he had put himself in the wrong. His old hand trembled beside his plate, and his head shook, while his lips formed silent words; and his shy wife was sharing his pain and shame.
Kenby began to talk about the stop which the Norumbia was to make at Cherbourg, and about what hour the next day they should all be in Cuxhaven. Miss Triscoe said they had never come on the Hanseatic Line before, and asked several questions. Her father did not speak again, and after a little while he rose without waiting for her to make the move from table; he had punctiliously deferred to her hitherto. Eltwin rose at the same time, and March feared that he might be going to provoke another defeat, in some way.
Eltwin lifted his voice, and said, trying to catch Triscoe's eye, "I think I ought to beg your pardon, sir. I do beg your pardon."
March perceived that Eltwin wished to make the offer of his reparation as distinct as his aggression had been; and now he quaked for Triscoe, whose daughter he saw glance apprehensively at her father as she swayed aside to let the two men come together.
"That is all right, Colonel—"
"Major," Eltwin conscientiously interposed.
"Major," Triscoe bowed; and he put out his hand and grasped the hand which had been tremulously rising toward him. "There can't be any doubt of what we did, no matter what we've got."
"No, no!" said the other, eagerly. "That was what I meant, sir. I don't think as you do; but I believe that a man who helped to save the country has a right to think what he pleases about it."
Triscoe said, "That is all right, my dear sir. May I ask your regiment?"
The Marches let the old fellows walk away together, followed by the wife of the one and the daughter of the other. They saw the young girl making some graceful overtures of speech to the elder woman as they went.
"That was rather fine, my dear," said Mrs. March.
"Well, I don't know. It was a little too dramatic, wasn't it? It wasn't what I should have expected of real life."
"Oh, you spoil everything! If that's the spirit you're going through Europe in!"
"It isn't. As soon as I touch European soil I shall reform."
That was not the first time General Triscoe had silenced question of his opinions with the argument he had used upon Eltwin, though he was seldom able to use it so aptly. He always found that people suffered, his belief in our national degeneration much more readily when they knew that he had left a diplomatic position in Europe (he had gone abroad as secretary of a minor legation) to come home and fight for the Union. Some millions of other men had gone into the war from the varied motives which impelled men at that time; but he was aware that he had distinction, as a man of property and a man of family, in doing so. His family had improved as time passed, and it was now so old that back of his grandfather it was lost in antiquity. This ancestor had retired from the sea and become a merchant in his native Rhode Island port, where his son established himself as a physician, and married the daughter of a former slave-trader whose social position was the highest in the place; Triscoe liked to mention his maternal grandfather when he wished a listener to realize just how anomalous his part in a war against slavery was; it heightened the effect of his pose.
He fought gallantly through the war, and he was brevetted Brigadier- General at the close. With this honor, and with the wound which caused an almost imperceptible limp in his gait, he won the heart of a rich New York girl, and her father set him up in a business, which was not long in going to pieces in his hands. Then the young couple went to live in Paris, where their daughter was born, and where the mother died when the child was ten years old. A little later his father-in-law died, and Triscoe returned to New York, where he found the fortune which his daughter had inherited was much less than he somehow thought he had a right to expect.
The income from her fortune was enough to live on, and he did not go back to Paris, where, in fact, things were not so much to his mind under the Republic as they had been under the Second Empire. He was still willing to do something for his country, however, and he allowed his name to be used on a citizen's ticket in his district; but his provision-man was sent to Congress instead. Then he retired to Rhode Island and attempted to convert his shore property into a watering-place; but after being attractively plotted and laid out with streets and sidewalks, it allured no one to build on it except the birds and the chipmonks, and he came back to New York, where his daughter had remained in school.
One of her maternal aunts made her a coming-out tea, after she left school; and she entered upon a series of dinners, dances, theatre parties, and receptions of all kinds; but the tide of fairy gold pouring through her fingers left no engagement-ring on them. She had no duties, but she seldom got out of humor with her pleasures; she had some odd tastes of her own, and in a society where none but the most serious books were ever seriously mentioned she was rather fond of good ones, and had romantic ideas of a life that she vaguely called bohemian. Her character was never tested by anything more trying than the fear that her father might take her abroad to live; he had taken her abroad several times for the summer.
The dreaded trial did not approach for several years after she had ceased to be a bud; and then it came when her father was again willing to serve his country in diplomacy, either at the Hague, or at Brussels, or even at Berne. Reasons of political geography prevented his appointment anywhere, but General Triscoe having arranged his affairs for going abroad on the mission he had expected, decided to go without it. He was really very fit for both of the offices he had sought, and so far as a man can deserve public place by public service, he had deserved it. His pessimism was uncommonly well grounded, and if it did not go very deep, it might well have reached the bottom of his nature.
His daughter had begun to divine him at the early age when parents suppose themselves still to be mysteries to their children. She did not think it necessary ever to explain him to others; perhaps she would not have found it possible; and now after she parted from Mrs. Eltwin and went to sit down beside Mrs. March she did not refer to her father. She said how sweet she had found the old lady from Ohio; and what sort of place did Mrs. March suppose it was where Mrs. Eltwin lived? They seemed to have everything there, like any place. She had wanted to ask Mrs. Eltwin if they sat on their steps; but she had not quite dared.
Burnamy came by, slowly, and at Mrs. March's suggestion he took one of the chairs on her other side, to help her and Miss Triscoe look at the Channel Islands and watch the approach of the steamer to Cherbourg, where the Norumbia was to land again. The young people talked across Mrs. March to each other, and said how charming the islands were, in their gray-green insubstantiality, with valleys furrowing them far inward, like airy clefts in low banks of clouds. It seemed all the nicer not to know just which was which; but when the ship drew nearer to Cherbourg, he suggested that they could see better by going round to the other side of the ship. Miss Triscoe, as at the other times when she had gone off with Burnamy, marked her allegiance, to Mrs. March by leaving a wrap with her.
Every one was restless in breaking with the old life at sea. There had been an equal unrest when the ship first sailed; people had first come aboard in the demoralization of severing their ties with home, and they shrank from forming others. Then the charm of the idle, eventless life grew upon them, and united them in a fond reluctance from the inevitable end.
Now that the beginning of the end had come, the pangs of disintegration were felt in all the once-more-repellant particles. Burnamy and Miss Triscoe, as they hung upon the rail, owned to each other that they hated to have the voyage over. They had liked leaving Plymouth and being at sea again; they wished that they need not be reminded of another debarkation by the energy of the crane in hoisting the Cherbourg baggage from the hold.
They approved of the picturesqueness of three French vessels of war that passed, dragging their kraken shapes low through the level water. At Cherbourg an emotional French tender came out to the ship, very different in her clamorous voices and excited figures from the steady self-control of the English tender at Plymouth; and they thought the French fortifications much more on show than the English had been. Nothing marked their youthful date so much to the Marches, who presently joined them, as their failure to realize that in this peaceful sea the great battle between the Kearsarge and the Alabama was fought. The elder couple tried to affect their imaginations with the fact which reanimated the spectre of a dreadful war for themselves; but they had to pass on and, leave the young people unmoved.
Mrs. March wondered if they noticed the debarkation of the pivotal girl, whom she saw standing on the deck of the tender, with her hands at her waist, and giving now this side and now that side of her face to the young men waving their hats to her from the rail of the ship. Burnamy was not of their number, and he seemed not to know that the girl was leaving him finally to Miss Triscoe. If Miss Triscoe knew it she did nothing the whole of that long, last afternoon to profit by the fact. Burnamy spent a great part of it in the chair beside Mrs. March, and he showed an intolerable resignation to the girl's absence.
"Yes," said March, taking the place Burnamy left at last, "that terrible patience of youth!"
"Patience? Folly! Stupidity! They ought to be together every instant! Do they suppose that life is full of such chances? Do they think that fate has nothing to do but—"
She stopped for a fit climax, and he suggested, "Hang round and wait on them?"
"Yes! It's their one chance in a life-time, probably."
"Then you've quite decided that they're in love?" He sank comfortably back, and put up his weary legs on the chair's extension with the conviction that love had no such joy as that to offer.
"I've decided that they're intensely interested in each other."
"Then what more can we ask of them? And why do you care what they do or don't do with their chance? Why do you wish their love well, if it's that? Is marriage such a very certain good?"
"It isn't all that it might be, but it's all that there is. What would our lives have been without it?" she retorted.
"Oh, we should have got on. It's such a tremendous risk that we, ought to go round begging people to think twice, to count a hundred, or a nonillion, before they fall in love to the marrying-point. I don't mind their flirting; that amuses them; but marrying is a different thing. I doubt if Papa Triscoe would take kindly to the notion of a son-in-law he hadn't selected himself, and his daughter doesn't strike me as a young lady who has any wisdom to throw away on a choice. She has her little charm; her little gift of beauty, of grace, of spirit, and the other things that go with her age and sex; but what could she do for a fellow like Burnamy, who has his way to make, who has the ladder of fame to climb, with an old mother at the bottom of it to look after? You wouldn't want him to have an eye on Miss Triscoe's money, even if she had money, and I doubt if she has much. It's all very pretty to have a girl like her fascinated with a youth of his simple traditions; though Burnamy isn't altogether pastoral in his ideals, and he looks forward to a place in the very world she belongs to. I don't think it's for us to promote the affair."
"Well, perhaps you're right," she sighed. "I will let them alone from this out. Thank goodness, I shall not have them under my eyes very long."
"Oh, I don't think there's any harm done yet," said her husband, with a laugh.
At dinner there seemed so little harm of the kind he meant that she suffered from an illogical disappointment. The young people got through the meal with no talk that seemed inductive; Burnamy left the table first, and Miss Triscoe bore his going without apparent discouragement; she kept on chatting with March till his wife took him away to their chairs on deck.
There were a few more ships in sight than there were in mid-ocean; but the late twilight thickened over the North Sea quite like the night after they left New York, except that it was colder; and their hearts turned to their children, who had been in abeyance for the week past, with a remorseful pang. "Well, she said, "I wish we were going to be in New York to-morrow, instead of Hamburg."
"Oh, no! Oh, no!" he protested. "Not so bad as that, my dear. This is the last night, and it's hard to manage, as the last night always is. I suppose the last night on earth—"
"Basil!" she implored.
"Well, I won't, then. But what I want is to see a Dutch lugger. I've never seen a Dutch lugger, and—"
She suddenly pressed his arm, and in obedience to the signal he was silent; though it seemed afterwards that he ought to have gone on talking as if he did not see Burnamy and Miss Triscoe swinging slowly by. They were walking close together, and she was leaning forward and looking up into his face while he talked.
"Now," Mrs. March whispered, long after they were out of hearing, "let us go instantly. I wouldn't for worlds have them see us here when they get found again. They would feel that they had to stop and speak, and that would spoil everything. Come!"
Burnamy paused in a flow of autobiography, and modestly waited for Miss Triscoe's prompting. He had not to wait long.
"And then, how soon did you think of printing your things in a book?"
"Oh, about as soon as they began to take with the public."
"How could you tell that they were-taking?"
"They were copied into other papers, and people talked about them."
"And that was what made Mr. Stoller want you to be his secretary?"
"I don't believe it was. The theory in the office was that he didn't think much of them; but he knows I can write shorthand, and put things into shape."
"Oh—ideas. He has a notion of trying to come forward in politics. He owns shares in everything but the United States Senate—gas, electricity, railroads, aldermen, newspapers—and now he would like some Senate. That's what I think."
She did not quite understand, and she was far from knowing that this cynic humor expressed a deadlier pessimism than her father's fiercest accusals of the country. "How fascinating it is!" she said, innocently.
"And I suppose they all envy your coming out?"
"In the office?"
"Yes. I should envy, them—staying."
Burnamy laughed. "I don't believe they envy me. It won't be all roses for me—they know that. But they know that I can take care of myself if it isn't." He remembered something one of his friends in the office had said of the painful surprise the Bird of Prey would feel if he ever tried his beak on him in the belief that he was soft.
She abruptly left the mere personal question. "And which would you rather write: poems or those kind of sketches?"
"I don't know," said Burnamy, willing to talk of himself on any terms. "I suppose that prose is the thing for our time, rather more; but there are things you can't say in prose. I used to write a great deal of verse in college; but I didn't have much luck with editors till Mr. March took this little piece for 'Every Other Week'."
"Little? I thought it was a long poem!"
Burnamy laughed at the notion. "It's only eight lines."
"Oh!" said the girl. "What is it about?"
He yielded to the temptation with a weakness which he found incredible in a person of his make. "I can repeat it if you won't give me away to Mrs. March."
"Oh, no indeed!" He said the lines over to her very simply and well." They are beautiful—beautiful!"
"Do you think so?" he gasped, in his joy at her praise.
"Yes, lovely. Do you know, you are the first literary man—the only literary man—I ever talked with. They must go out—somewhere! Papa must meet them at his clubs. But I never do; and so I'm making the most of you."
"You can't make too much of me, Miss Triscoe," said Burnamy.
She would not mind his mocking. "That day you spoke about 'The Maiden Knight', don't you know, I had never heard any talk about books in that way. I didn't know you were an author then."
"Well, I'm not much of an author now," he said, cynically, to retrieve his folly in repeating his poem to her.
"Oh, that will do for you to say. But I know what Mrs. March thinks."
He wished very much to know what Mrs. March thought, too; 'Every Other Week' was such a very good place that he could not conscientiously neglect any means of having his work favorably considered there; if Mrs. March's interest in it would act upon her husband, ought not he to know just how much she thought of him as a writer? "Did she like the poem."
Miss Triscoe could not recall that Mrs. March had said anything about the poem, but she launched herself upon the general current of Mrs. March's liking for Burnamy. "But it wouldn't do to tell you all she said!" This was not what he hoped, but be was richly content when she returned to his personal history. "And you didn't know any one when, you went up to Chicago from—"
"Tippecanoe? Not exactly that. I wasn't acquainted with any one in the office, but they had printed somethings of mine, and they were willing to let me try my hand. That was all I could ask."
"Of course! You knew you could do the rest. Well, it is like a romance. A woman couldn't have such an adventure as that!" sighed the girl.
"But women do!" Burnamy retorted. "There is a girl writing on the paper now—she's going to do the literary notices while I'm gone—who came to Chicago from Ann Arbor, with no more chance than I had, and who's made her way single-handed from interviewing up."
"Oh," said Miss Triscoe, with a distinct drop in her enthusiasm. "Is she nice?"
"She's mighty clever, and she's nice enough, too, though the kind of journalism that women do isn't the most dignified. And she's one of the best girls I know, with lots of sense."
"It must be very interesting," said Miss Triscoe, with little interest in the way she said it. "I suppose you're quite a little community by yourselves."
"On the paper?"
"Well, some of us know one another, in the office, but most of us don't. There's quite a regiment of people on a big paper. If you'd like to come out," Burnamy ventured, "perhaps you could get the Woman's Page to do."
"Oh, fashion; and personal gossip about society leaders; and recipes for dishes and diseases; and correspondence on points of etiquette."
He expected her to shudder at the notion, but she merely asked, "Do women write it?"
He laughed reminiscently. "Well, not always. We had one man who used to do it beautifully—when he was sober. The department hasn't had any permanent head since."
He was sorry he had said this, but it did not seem to shock her, and no doubt she had not taken it in fully. She abruptly left the subject. "Do you know what time we really get in to-morrow?"
"About one, I believe—there's a consensus of stewards to that effect, anyway." After a pause he asked, "Are you likely to be in Carlsbad?"
"We are going to Dresden, first, I believe. Then we may go on down to Vienna. But nothing is settled, yet."
"Are you going direct to Dresden?"
"I don't know. We may stay in Hamburg a day or two."
"I've got to go straight to Carlsbad. There's a sleeping-car that will get me there by morning: Mr. Stoller likes zeal. But I hope you'll let me be of use to you any way I can, before we part tomorrow."
"You're very kind. You've been very good already—to papa." He protested that he had not been at all good. "But he's used to taking care of himself on the other side. Oh, it's this side, now!"
"So it is! How strange that seems! It's actually Europe. But as long as we're at sea, we can't realize it. Don't you hate to have experiences slip through your fingers?"
"I don't know. A girl doesn't have many experiences of her own; they're always other people's."
This affected Burnamy as so profound that he did not question its truth. He only suggested, "Well; sometimes they make other people have the experiences."
Whether Miss Triscoe decided that this was too intimate or not she left the question. "Do you understand German?"
"A little. I studied it at college, and I've cultivated a sort of beer- garden German in Chicago. I can ask for things."
"I can't, except in French, and that's worse than English, in Germany, I hear."
"Then you must let me be your interpreter up to the last moment. Will you?"
She did not answer. "It must be rather late, isn't it?" she asked. He let her see his watch, and she said, "Yes, it's very late," and led the way within. "I must look after my packing; papa's always so prompt, and I must justify myself for making him let me give up my maid when we left home; we expect to get one in Dresden. Good-night!"
Burnamy looked after her drifting down their corridor, and wondered whether it would have been a fit return for her expression of a sense of novelty in him as a literary man if he had told her that she was the first young lady he had known who had a maid. The fact awed him; Miss Triscoe herself did not awe him so much.
The next morning was merely a transitional period, full of turmoil and disorder, between the broken life of the sea and the untried life of the shore. No one attempted to resume the routine of the voyage. People went and came between their rooms and the saloons and the decks, and were no longer careful to take their own steamer chairs when they sat down for a moment.
In the cabins the berths were not made up, and those who remained below had to sit on their hard edges, or on the sofas, which were cumbered with, hand-bags and rolls of shawls. At an early hour after breakfast the bedroom stewards began to get the steamer trunks out and pile them in the corridors; the servants all became more caressingly attentive; and people who had left off settling the amount of the fees they were going to give, anxiously conferred together. The question whether you ought ever to give the head steward anything pressed crucially at the early lunch, and Kenby brought only a partial relief by saying that he always regarded the head steward as an officer of the ship. March made the experiment of offering him six marks, and the head steward took them quite as if he were not an officer of the ship. He also collected a handsome fee for the music, which is the tax levied on all German ships beyond the tolls exacted on the steamers of other nations.
After lunch the flat shore at Cuxhaven was so near that the summer cottages of the little watering-place showed through the warm drizzle much like the summer cottages of our own shore, and if it had not been for the strange, low sky, the Americans might easily have fancied themselves at home again.
Every one waited on foot while the tender came out into the stream where the Norumbia had dropped anchor. People who had brought their hand- baggage with them from their rooms looked so much safer with it that people who had left theirs to their stewards had to go back and pledge them afresh not to forget it. The tender came alongside, and the transfer of the heavy trunks began, but it seemed such an endless work that every one sat down in some other's chair. At last the trunks were all on the tender, and the bareheaded stewards began to run down the gangways with the hand-baggage. "Is this Hoboken?" March murmured in his wife's ear, with a bewildered sense of something in the scene like the reversed action of the kinematograph.
On the deck of the tender there was a brief moment of reunion among the companions of the voyage, the more intimate for their being crowded together under cover from the drizzle which now turned into a dashing rain. Burnamy's smile appeared, and then Mrs. March recognized Miss Triscoe and her father in their travel dress; they were not far from Burnamy's smile, but he seemed rather to have charge of the Eltwins, whom he was helping look after their bags and bundles. Rose Adding was talking with Kenby, and apparently asking his opinion of something; Mrs. Adding sat near them tranquilly enjoying her son.
Mrs. March made her husband identify their baggage, large and small, and after he had satisfied her, he furtively satisfied himself by a fresh count that it was all there. But he need not have taken the trouble; their long, calm bedroom-steward was keeping guard over it; his eyes expressed a contemptuous pity for their anxiety, whose like he must have been very tired of. He brought their handbags into the customs-room at the station where they landed; and there took a last leave and a last fee with unexpected cordiality.
Again their companionship suffered eclipse in the distraction which the customs inspectors of all countries bring to travellers; and again they were united during the long delay in the waiting-room, which was also the restaurant. It was full of strange noises and figures and odors—the shuffling of feet, the clash of crockery, the explosion of nervous German voices, mixed with the smell of beer and ham, and the smoke of cigars. Through it all pierced the wail of a postman standing at the door with a letter in his hand and calling out at regular intervals, "Krahnay, Krahnay! "When March could bear it no longer he went up to him and shouted, "Crane! Crane!" and the man bowed gratefully, and began to cry, "Kren! Kren!" But whether Mr. Crane got his letter or not, he never knew.
People were swarming at the window of the telegraph-office, and sending home cablegrams to announce their safe arrival; March could not forbear cabling to his son, though he felt it absurd. There was a great deal of talking, but no laughing, except among the Americans, and the girls behind the bar who tried to understand, what they wanted, and then served them with what they chose for them. Otherwise the Germans, though voluble, were unsmiling, and here on the threshold of their empire the travellers had their first hint of the anxious mood which seems habitual with these amiable people.
Mrs. Adding came screaming with glee to March where he sat with his wife, and leaned over her son to ask, "Do you know what lese-majesty is? Rose is afraid I've committed it!"
"No, I don't," said March. "But it's the unpardonable sin. What have you been doing?"
"I asked the official at the door when our train would start, and when he said at half past three, I said, 'How tiresome!' Rose says the railroads belong to the state here, and that if I find fault with the time-table, it's constructive censure of the Emperor, and that's lese-majesty." She gave way to her mirth, while the boy studied March's face with an appealing smile.
"Well, I don't think you'll be arrested this time, Mrs. Adding; but I hope it will be a warning to Mrs. March. She's been complaining of the coffee."
"Indeed I shall say what I like," said Mrs. March. "I'm an American."
"Well, you'll find you're a German, if you like to say anything disagreeable about the coffee in the restaurant of the Emperor's railroad station; the first thing you know I shall be given three months on your account."
Mrs. Adding asked: "Then they won't punish ladies? There, Rose! I'm safe, you see; and you're still a minor, though you are so wise for your years."
She went back to her table, where Kenby came and sat down by her.
"I don't know that I quite like her playing on that sensitive child,", said Mrs. March. "And you've joined with her in her joking. Go and speak, to him!"
The boy was slowly following his mother, with his head fallen. March overtook him, and he started nervously at the touch of a hand on his shoulder, and then looked gratefully up into the man's face. March tried to tell him what the crime of lese-majesty was, and he said: "Oh, yes. I understood that. But I got to thinking; and I don't want my mother to take any risks."
"I don't believe she will, really, Rose. But I'll speak to her, and tell her she can't be too cautious."
"Not now, please!" the boy entreated.
"Well, I'll find another chance," March assented. He looked round and caught a smiling nod from Burnamy, who was still with the Eltwins; the Triscoes were at a table by themselves; Miss Triseoe nodded too, but her father appeared not to see March. "It's all right, with Rose," he said, when he sat down again by his wife; "but I guess it's all over with Burnamy," and he told her what he had seen. "Do you think it came to any displeasure between them last night? Do you suppose he offered himself, and she—"
"What nonsense!" said Mrs. March, but she was not at peace. "It's her father who's keeping her away from him."
"I shouldn't mind that. He's keeping her away from us, too." But at that moment Miss Triscoe as if she had followed his return from afar, came over to speak to his wife. She said they were going on to Dresden that evening, and she was afraid they might have no chance to see each other on the train or in Hamburg. March, at this advance, went to speak with her father; he found him no more reconciled to Europe than America.
"They're Goths," he said of the Germans. "I could hardly get that stupid brute in the telegraph-office to take my despatch."
On his way back to his wife March met Miss Triscoe; he was not altogether surprised to meet Burnamy with her, now. The young fellow asked if he could be of any use to him, and then he said he would look him up in the train. He seemed in a hurry, but when he walked away with Miss Triscoe he did not seem in a hurry.
March remarked upon the change to his wife, and she sighed, "Yes, you can see that as far as they're concerned."
"It's a great pity that there should be parents to complicate these affairs," he said. "How simple it would be if there were no parties to them but the lovers! But nature is always insisting upon fathers and mothers, and families on both sides."
The long train which they took at last was for the Norumbia's people alone, and it was of several transitional and tentative types of cars. Some were still the old coach-body carriages; but most were of a strange corridor arrangement, with the aide at the aide, and the seats crossing from it, with compartments sometimes rising to the roof, and sometimes rising half-way. No two cars seemed quite alike, but all were very comfortable; and when the train began to run out through the little sea- side town into the country, the old delight of foreign travel began. Most of the houses were little and low and gray, with ivy or flowering vines covering their walls to their browntiled roofs; there was here and there a touch of Northern Gothic in the architecture; but usually where it was pretentious it was in the mansard taste, which was so bad with us a generation ago, and is still very bad in Cuxhaven.
The fields, flat and wide, were dotted with familiar shapes of Holstein cattle, herded by little girls, with their hair in yellow pigtails. The gray, stormy sky hung low, and broke in fitful rains; but perhaps for the inclement season of mid-summer it was not very cold. Flowers were blooming along the embankments and in the rank green fields with a dogged energy; in the various distances were groups of trees embowering cottages and even villages, and always along the ditches and watercourses were double lines of low willows. At the first stop the train made, the passengers flocked to the refreshment-booth, prettily arranged beside the station, where the abundance of the cherries and strawberries gave proof that vegetation was in other respects superior to the elements. But it was not of the profusion of the sausages, and the ham which openly in slices or covertly in sandwiches claimed its primacy in the German affections; every form of this was flanked by tall glasses of beer.
A number of the natives stood by and stared unsmiling at the train, which had broken out in a rash of little American flags at every window. This boyish display, which must have made the Americans themselves laugh, if their sense of humor had not been lost in their impassioned patriotism, was the last expression of unity among the Norumbia's passengers, and they met no more in their sea-solidarity. Of their table acquaintance the Marches saw no one except Burnamy, who came through the train looking for them. He said he was in one of the rear cars with the Eltwins, and was going to Carlsbad with them in the sleeping-car train leaving Hamburg at seven. He owned to having seen the Triscoes since they had left Cuxhaven; Mrs. March would not suffer herself to ask him whether they were in the same carriage with the Eltwins. He had got a letter from Mr. Stoller at Cuxhaven, and he begged the Marches to let him engage rooms for them at the hotel where he was going to stay with him.
After they reached Hamburg they had flying glimpses of him and of others in the odious rivalry to get their baggage examined first which seized upon all, and in which they no longer knew one another, but selfishly struggled for the good-will of porters and inspectors. There was really no such haste; but none could govern themselves against the general frenzy. With the porter he secured March conspired and perspired to win the attention of a cold but not unkindly inspector. The officer opened one trunk, and after a glance at it marked all as passed, and then there ensued a heroic strife with the porter as to the pieces which were to go to the Berlin station for their journey next day, and the pieces which were to go to the hotel overnight. At last the division was made; the Marches got into a cab of the first class; and the porter, crimson and steaming at every pore from the physical and intellectual strain, went back into the station.
They had got the number of their cab from the policeman who stands at the door of all large German stations and supplies the traveller with a metallic check for the sort of vehicle he demands. They were not proud, but it seemed best not to risk a second-class cab in a strange city, and when their first-class cab came creaking and limping out of the rank, they saw how wise they had been, if one of the second class could have been worse.
As they rattled away from the station they saw yet another kind of turnout, which they were destined to see more and more in the German lands. It was that team of a woman harnessed with a dog to a cart which the women of no other country can see without a sense of personal insult. March tried to take the humorous view, and complained that they had not been offered the choice of such an equipage by the policeman, but his wife would not be amused. She said that no country which suffered such a thing could be truly civilized, though he made her observe that no city in the world, except Boston or Brooklyn, was probably so thoroughly trolleyed as Hamburg. The hum of the electric car was everywhere, and everywhere the shriek of the wires overhead; batlike flights of connecting plates traversed all the perspectives through which they drove to the pleasant little hotel they had chosen.
On one hand their windows looked toward a basin of the Elbe, where stately white swans were sailing; and on the other to the new Rathhaus, over the trees that deeply shaded the perennial mud of a cold, dim public garden, where water-proof old women and impervious nurses sat, and children played in the long twilight of the sour, rain-soaked summer of the fatherland. It was all picturesque, and within-doors there was the novelty of the meagre carpets and stalwart furniture of the Germans, and their beds, which after so many ages of Anglo-Saxon satire remain immutably preposterous. They are apparently imagined for the stature of sleepers who have shortened as they broadened; their pillows are triangularly shaped to bring the chin tight upon the breast under the bloated feather bulk which is meant for covering, and which rises over the sleeper from a thick substratum of cotton coverlet, neatly buttoned into the upper sheet, with the effect of a portly waistcoat.
The hotel was illumined by the kindly splendor of the uniformed portier, who had met the travellers at the door, like a glowing vision of the past, and a friendly air diffused itself through the whole house. At the dinner, which, if not so cheap as they had somehow hoped, was by no means bad, they took counsel with the English-speaking waiter as to what entertainment Hamburg could offer for the evening, and by the time they had drunk their coffee they had courage for the Circus Renz, which seemed to be all there was.
The conductor of the trolley-car, which they hailed at the street corner, stopped it and got off the platform, and stood in the street until they were safely aboard, without telling them to step lively, or pulling them up the steps; or knuckling them in the back to make them move forward. He let them get fairly seated before be started the car, and so lost the fun of seeing them lurch and stagger violently, and wildly clutch each other for support. The Germans have so little sense of humor that probably no one in the car would have been amused to see the strangers flung upon the floor. No one apparently found it droll that the conductor should touch his cap to them when he asked for their fare; no one smiled at their efforts to make him understand where they wished to go, and he did not wink at the other passengers in trying to find out. Whenever the car stopped he descended first, and did not remount till the dismounting passenger had taken time to get well away from it. When the Marches got into the wrong car in coming home, and were carried beyond their street, the conductor would not take their fare.
The kindly civility which environed them went far to alleviate the inclemency of the climate; it began to rain as soon as they left the shelter of the car, but a citizen of whom they asked the nearest way to the Circus Renz was so anxious to have them go aright that they did not mind the wet, and the thought of his goodness embittered March's self- reproach for under-tipping the sort of gorgeous heyduk, with a staff like a drum-major's, who left his place at the circus door to get their tickets. He brought them back with a magnificent bow, and was then as visibly disappointed with the share of the change returned to him as a child would have been.
They went to their places with the sting of his disappointment rankling in their hearts. "One ought always to overpay them," March sighed, "and I will do it from this time forth; we shall not be much the poorer for it. That heyduk is not going to get off with less than a mark when we come out." As an earnest of his good faith he gave the old man who showed them to their box a tip that made him bow double, and he bought every conceivable libretto and play-bill offered him at prices fixed by his remorse.
"One ought to do it," he said. "We are of the quality of good geniuses to these poor souls; we are Fortune in disguise; we are money found in the road. It is an accursed system, but they are more its victims than we." His wife quite agreed with him, and with the same good conscience between them they gave themselves up to the pure joy which the circus, of all modern entertainments, seems alone to inspire. The house was full from floor to roof when they came ins and every one was intent upon the two Spanish clowns, Lui-Lui and Soltamontes, whose drolleries spoke the universal language of circus humor, and needed no translation into either German or English. They had missed by an event or two the more patriotic attraction of "Miss Darlings, the American Star," as she was billed in English, but they were in time for one of those equestrian performances which leave the spectator almost exanimate from their prolixity, and the pantomimic piece which closed the evening.
This was not given until nearly the whole house had gone out and stayed itself with beer and cheese and ham and sausage, in the restaurant which purveys these light refreshments in the summer theatres all over Germany. When the people came back gorged to the throat, they sat down in the right mood to enjoy the allegory of "The Enchanted Mountain's Fantasy; the Mountain episodes; the High-interesting Sledges-Courses on the Steep Acclivities; the Amazing-Up-rush of the thence plunging-Four Trains, which arrive with Lightnings-swiftness at the Top of the over-40-feet- high Mountain-the Highest Triumph of the To-day's Circus-Art; the Sledge- journey in the Wizard-mountain, and the Fairy Ballet in the Realm of the Ghost-prince, with Gold and Silver, Jewel, Bloomghosts, Gnomes, Gnomesses, and Dwarfs, in never-till-now-seen Splendor of Costume." The Marches were happy in this allegory, and happier in the ballet, which is everywhere delightfully innocent, and which here appealed with the large flat feet and the plain good faces of the 'coryphees' to all that was simplest and sweetest in their natures. They could not have resisted, if they had wished, that environment, of good-will; and if it had not been for the disappointed heyduk, they would have got home from their evening at the Circus Renz without a pang.
They looked for him everywhere when they came out, but he had vanished, and they were left with a regret which, if unavailing, was not too poignant. In spite of it they had still an exhilaration in their release from the companionship of their fellow-voyagers which they analyzed as the psychical revulsion from the strain of too great interest in them. Mrs. March declared that for the present, at least, she wanted Europe quite to themselves; and she said that not even for the pleasure of seeing Burnamy and Miss Triscoe come into their box together world she have suffered an American trespass upon their exclusive possession of the Circus Renz.
In the audience she had seen German officers for the first time in Hamburg, and she meant, if unremitting question could bring out the truth, to know why she had not met any others. She had read much of the prevalence and prepotence of the German officers who would try to push her off the sidewalk, till they realized that she was an American woman, and would then submit to her inflexible purpose of holding it. But she had been some seven or eight hours in Hamburg, and nothing of the kind had happened to her, perhaps because she had hardly yet walked a block in the city streets, but perhaps also because there seemed to be very few officers or military of any kind in Hamburg.
Their absence was plausibly explained, the next morning, by the young German friend who came in to see the Marches at breakfast. He said Hamburg had been so long a free republic that the presence of a large imperial garrison was distasteful to the people, and as a matter of fact there were very few soldiers quartered there, whether the authorities chose to indulge the popular grudge or not. He was himself in a joyful flutter of spirits, for he had just the day before got his release from military service. He gave them a notion of what the rapture of a man reprieved from death might be, and he was as radiantly happy in the ill health which had got him his release as if it had been the greatest blessing of heaven. He bubbled over with smiling regrets that he should be leaving his home for the first stage of the journey which he was to take in search of strength, just as they had come, and he pressed them to say if there were not something that he could do for them.
"Yes," said Mrs. March, with a promptness surprising to her husband, who could think of nothing; "tell us where Heinrich Heine lived when he was in Hamburg. My husband has always had a great passion for him and wants to look him up everywhere."
March had forgotten that Heine ever lived in Hamburg, and the young man had apparently never known it. His face fell; he wished to make Mrs. March believe that it was only Heine's uncle who had lived there; but she was firm; and when he had asked among the hotel people he came back gladly owning that he was wrong, and that the poet used to live in Konigstrasse, which was very near by, and where they could easily know the house by his bust set in its front. The portier and the head waiter shared his ecstasy in so easily obliging the friendly American pair, and joined him in minutely instructing the driver when they shut them into their carriage.
They did not know that his was almost the only laughing face they should see in the serious German Empire; just as they did not know that it rained there every day. As they drove off in the gray drizzle with the unfounded hope that sooner or later the weather would be fine, they bade their driver be very slow in taking them through Konigstrasse, so that he should by no means miss Heine's dwelling, and he duly stopped in front of a house bearing the promised bust. They dismounted in order to revere it more at their ease, but the bust proved, by an irony bitterer than the sick, heart-breaking, brilliant Jew could have imagined in his cruelest moment, to be that of the German Milton, the respectable poet Klopstock, whom Heine abhorred and mocked so pitilessly.
In fact it was here that the good, much-forgotten Klopstock dwelt, when he came home to live with a comfortable pension from the Danish government; and the pilgrims to the mistaken shrine went asking about among the neighbors in Konigstrasse, for some manner of house where Heine might have lived; they would have been willing to accept a flat, or any sort of two-pair back. The neighbors were somewhat moved by the anxiety of the strangers; but they were not so much moved as neighbors in Italy would have been. There vas no eager and smiling sympathy in the little crowd that gathered to see what was going on; they were patient of question and kind in their helpless response, but they were not gay. To a man they had not heard of Heine; even the owner of a sausage and blood-pudding shop across the way had not heard of him; the clerk of a stationer-and-bookseller's next to the butcher's had heard of him, but he had never heard that he lived in Konigstrasse; he never had heard where he lived in Hamburg.
The pilgrims to the fraudulent shrine got back into their carriage, and drove sadly away, instructing their driver with the rigidity which their limited German favored, not to let any house with a bust in its front escape him. He promised, and took his course out through Konigstrasse, and suddenly they found themselves in a world of such eld and quaintness that they forgot Heine as completely as any of his countrymen had done. They were in steep and narrow streets, that crooked and turned with no apparent purpose of leading anywhere, among houses that looked down upon them with an astonished stare from the leaden-sashed windows of their timber-laced gables. The facades with their lattices stretching in bands quite across them, and with their steep roofs climbing high in successions of blinking dormers, were more richly mediaeval than anything the travellers had ever dreamt of before, and they feasted themselves upon the unimagined picturesqueness with a leisurely minuteness which brought responsive gazers everywhere to the windows; windows were set ajar; shop doors were darkened by curious figures from within, and the traffic of the tortuous alleys was interrupted by their progress. They could not have said which delighted them more—the houses in the immediate foreground, or the sharp high gables in the perspectives and the background; but all were like the painted scenes of the stage, and they had a pleasant difficulty in realizing that they were not persons in some romantic drama.
The illusion remained with them and qualified the impression which Hamburg made by her much-trolleyed Bostonian effect; by the decorous activity and Parisian architecture of her business streets; by the turmoil of her quays, and the innumerable masts and chimneys of her shipping. At the heart of all was that quaintness, that picturesqueness of the past, which embodied the spirit of the old Hanseatic city, and seemed the expression of the home-side of her history. The sense of this gained strength from such slight study of her annals as they afterwards made, and assisted the digestion of some morsels of tough statistics. In the shadow of those Gothic houses the fact that Hamburg was one of the greatest coffee marts and money marts of the world had a romantic glamour; and the fact that in the four years from 1870 till 1874 a quarter of a million emigrants sailed on her ships for the United States seemed to stretch a nerve of kindred feeling from those mediaeval streets through the whole shabby length of Third Avenue.
It was perhaps in this glamour, or this feeling of commercial solidarity, that March went to have a look at the Hamburg Bourse, in the beautiful new Rathhaus. It was not undergoing repairs, it was too new for that; but it was in construction, and so it fulfilled the function of a public edifice, in withholding its entire interest from the stranger. He could not get into the Senate Chamber; but the Bourse was free to him, and when he stepped within, it rose at him with a roar of voices and of feet like the New York Stock Exchange. The spectacle was not so frantic; people were not shaking their fists or fingers in each other's noses; but they were all wild in the tamer German way, and he was glad to mount from the Bourse to the poor little art gallery upstairs, and to shut out its clamor. He was not so glad when he looked round on these, his first, examples of modern German art. The custodian led him gently about and said which things were for sale, and it made his heart ache to see how bad they were, and to think that, bad as they were, he could not buy any of them.
In the start from Cuxhaven the passengers had the irresponsible ease of people ticketed through, and the steamship company had still the charge of their baggage. But when the Marches left Hamburg for Leipsic (where they had decided to break the long pull to Carlsbad), all the anxieties of European travel, dimly remembered from former European days, offered themselves for recognition. A porter vanished with their hand-baggage before they could note any trait in him for identification; other porters made away with their trunks; and the interpreter who helped March buy his tickets, with a vocabulary of strictly railroad English, had to help him find the pieces in the baggage-room, curiously estranged in a mountain of alien boxes. One official weighed them; another obliged him to pay as much in freight as for a third passenger, and gave him an illegible scrap of paper which recorded their number and destination. The interpreter and the porters took their fees with a professional effect of dissatisfaction, and he went to wait with his wife amidst the smoking and eating and drinking in the restaurant. They burst through with the rest when the doors were opened to the train, and followed a glimpse of the porter with their hand-bags, as he ran down the platform, still bent upon escaping them, and brought him to bay at last in a car where he had got very good seats for them, and sank into their places, hot and humiliated by their needless tumult.
As they cooled, they recovered their self-respect, and renewed a youthful joy in some of the long-estranged facts. The road was rougher than the roads at home; but for much less money they had the comfort, without the unavailing splendor, of a Pullman in their second-class carriage. Mrs. March had expected to be used with the severity on the imperial railroads which she had failed to experience from the military on the Hamburg sidewalks, but nothing could be kindlier than the whole management toward her. Her fellow-travellers were not lavish of their rights, as Americans are; what they got, that they kept; and in the run from Hamburg to Leipsic she had several occasions to observe that no German, however young or robust, dreams of offering a better place, if he has one, to a lady in grace to her sex or age; if they got into a carriage too late to secure a forward-looking seat, she rode backward to the end of that stage. But if they appealed to their fellow-travellers for information about changes, or stops, or any of the little facts that they wished to make sure of, they were enlightened past possibility of error. At the point where they might have gone wrong the explanations were renewed with a thoughtfulness which showed that their anxieties had not been forgotten. She said she could not see how any people could be both so selfish and so sweet, and her husband seized the advantage of saying something offensive:
"You women are so pampered in America that you are astonished when you are treated in Europe like the mere human beings you are."
She answered with unexpected reasonableness:
"Yes, there's something in that; but when the Germans have taught us how despicable we are as women, why do they treat us so well as human beings?"
This was at ten o'clock, after she had ridden backward a long way, and at last, within an hour of Leipsic, had got a seat confronting him. The darkness had now hidden the landscape, but the impression of its few simple elements lingered pleasantly in their sense: long levels, densely wooded with the precise, severely disciplined German forests, and checkered with fields of grain and grass, soaking under the thin rain that from time to time varied the thin sunshine.
The villages and peasants' cottages were notably few; but there was here and there a classic or a gothic villa, which, at one point, an English- speaking young lady turned from her Tauchnitz novel to explain as the seat of some country gentleman; the land was in large holdings, and this accounted for the sparsity of villages and cottages.
She then said that she was a German teacher of English, in Hamburg, and was going home to Potsdam for a visit. She seemed like a German girl out of 'The Initials', and in return for this favor Mrs. March tried to invest herself with some romantic interest as an American. She failed to move the girl's fancy, even after she had bestowed on her an immense bunch of roses which the young German friend in Hamburg had sent to them just before they left their hotel. She failed, later, on the same ground with the pleasant-looking English woman who got into their carriage at Magdeburg, and talked over the 'London Illustrated News' with an English- speaking Fraulein in her company; she readily accepted the fact of Mrs. March's nationality, but found nothing wonderful in it, apparently; and when she left the train she left Mrs. March to recall with fond regret the old days in Italy when she first came abroad, and could make a whole carriage full of Italians break into ohs and ahs by saying that she was an American, and telling how far she had come across the sea.
"Yes," March assented, "but that was a great while ago, and Americans were much rarer than they are now in Europe. The Italians are so much more sympathetic than the Germans and English, and they saw that you wanted to impress them. Heaven knows how little they cared! And then, you were a very pretty young girl in those days; or at least I thought so."