"Yes," she sighed, "and now I'm a plain old woman."
"Oh, not quite so bad as that."
"Yes, I am! Do you think they would have cared more if it had been Miss Triscoe?"
"Not so much as if it had been the pivotal girl. They would have found her much more their ideal of the American woman; and even she would have had to have been here thirty years ago."
She laughed a little ruefully. "Well, at any rate, I should like to know how Miss Triscoe would have affected them."
"I should much rather know what sort of life that English woman is living here with her German husband; I fancied she had married rank. I could imagine how dull it must be in her little Saxon town, from the way she clung to her Illustrated News, and explained the pictures of the royalties to her friend. There is romance for you!"
They arrived at Leipsic fresh and cheerful after their five hours' journey, and as in a spell of their travelled youth they drove up through the academic old town, asleep under its dimly clouded sky, and silent except for the trolley-cars that prowled its streets with their feline purr, and broke at times into a long, shrill caterwaul. A sense of the past imparted itself to the well-known encounter with the portier and the head waiter at the hotel door, to the payment of the driver, to the endeavor of the secretary to have them take the most expensive rooms in the house, and to his compromise upon the next most, where they found themselves in great comfort, with electric lights and bells, and a quick succession of fee-taking call-boys in dress-coats too large for them. The spell was deepened by the fact, which March kept at the bottom of his consciousness for the present, that one of their trunks was missing. This linked him more closely to the travel of other days, and he spent the next forenoon in a telegraphic search for the estray, with emotions tinged by the melancholy of recollection, but in the security that since it was somewhere in the keeping of the state railway, it would be finally restored to him.
Their windows, as they saw in the morning, looked into a large square of aristocratic physiognomy, and of a Parisian effect in architecture, which afterwards proved characteristic of the town, if not quite so characteristic as to justify the passion of Leipsic for calling itself Little Paris. The prevailing tone was of a gray tending to the pale yellow of the Tauchnitz editions with which the place is more familiarly associated in the minds of English-speaking travellers. It was rather more sombre than it might have been if the weather had been fair; but a quiet rain was falling dreamily that morning, and the square was provided with a fountain which continued to dribble in the rare moments when the rain forgot itself. The place was better shaded than need be in that sunless land by the German elms that look like ours and it was sufficiently stocked with German statues, that look like no others. It had a monument, too, of the sort with which German art has everywhere disfigured the kindly fatherland since the war with France. These monuments, though they are so very ugly, have a sort of pathos as records of the only war in which Germany unaided has triumphed against a foreign foe, but they are as tiresome as all such memorial pomps must be. It is not for the victories of a people that any other people can care. The wars come and go in blood and tears; but whether they are bad wars, or what are comically called good wars, they are of one effect in death and sorrow, and their fame is an offence to all men not concerned in them, till time has softened it to a memory
"Of old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago."
It was for some such reason that while the Marches turned with instant satiety from the swelling and strutting sculpture which celebrated the Leipsic heroes of the war of 1870, they had heart for those of the war of 1813; and after their noonday dinner they drove willingly, in a pause of the rain, out between yellowing harvests of wheat and oats to the field where Napoleon was beaten by the Russians, Austrians and Prussians (it always took at least three nations to beat the little wretch) fourscore years before. Yet even there Mrs. March was really more concerned for the sparsity of corn-flowers in the grain, which in their modern character of Kaiserblumen she found strangely absent from their loyal function; and March was more taken with the notion of the little gardens which his guide told him the citizens could have in the suburbs of Leipsic and enjoy at any trolley-car distance from their homes. He saw certain of these gardens in groups, divided by low, unenvious fences, and sometimes furnished with summer-houses, where the tenant could take his pleasure in the evening air, with his family. The guide said he had such a garden himself, at a rent of seven dollars a year, where he raised vegetables and flowers, and spent his peaceful leisure; and March fancied that on the simple domestic side of their life, which this fact gave him a glimpse of, the Germans were much more engaging than in their character of victors over either the First or the Third Napoleon. But probably they would not have agreed with him, and probably nations will go on making themselves cruel and tiresome till humanity at last prevails over nationality.
He could have put the case to the guide himself; but though the guide was imaginably liberated to a cosmopolitan conception of things by three years' service as waiter in English hotels, where he learned the language, he might not have risen to this. He would have tried, for he was a willing and kindly soul, though he was not a 'valet de place' by profession. There seemed in fact but one of that useless and amusing race (which is everywhere falling into decay through the rivalry of the perfected Baedeker,) left in Leipsic, and this one was engaged, so that the Marches had to devolve upon their ex-waiter, who was now the keeper of a small restaurant. He gladly abandoned his business to the care of his wife, in order to drive handsomely about in his best clothes, with strangers who did not exact too much knowledge from him. In his zeal to do something he possessed himself of March's overcoat when they dismounted at their first gallery, and let fall from its pocket his prophylactic flask of brandy, which broke with a loud crash on the marble floor in the presence of several masterpieces, and perfumed the whole place. The masterpieces were some excellent works of Luke Kranach, who seemed the only German painter worth looking at when there were any Dutch or Italian pictures near, but the travellers forgot the name and nature of the Kranachs, and remembered afterwards only the shattered fragments of the brandy-flask, just how they looked on the floor, and the fumes, how they smelt, that rose from the ruin.
It might have been a warning protest of the veracities against what they were doing; but the madness of sight-seeing, which spoils travel, was on them, and they delivered themselves up to it as they used in their ignorant youth, though now they knew its futility so well. They spared themselves nothing that they had time for, that day, and they felt falsely guilty for their omissions, as if they really had been duties to art and history which must be discharged, like obligations to one's maker and one's neighbor.
They had a touch of genuine joy in the presence of the beautiful old Rathhaus, and they were sensible of something like a genuine emotion in passing the famous and venerable university; the very air of Leipsic is redolent of printing and publication, which appealed to March in his quality of editor, and they could not fail of an impression of the quiet beauty of the town, with its regular streets of houses breaking into suburban villas of an American sort, and intersected with many canals, which in the intervals of the rain were eagerly navigated by pleasure boats, and contributed to the general picturesqueness by their frequent bridges, even during the drizzle. There seemed to be no churches to do, and as it was a Sunday, the galleries were so early closed against them that they were making a virtue as well as a pleasure of the famous scene of Napoleon's first great defeat.
By a concert between their guide and driver their carriage drew up at the little inn by the road-side, which is also a museum stocked with relics from the battle-field, and with objects of interest relating to it. Old muskets, old swords, old shoes and old coats, trumpets, drums, gun- carriages, wheels, helmets, cannon balls, grape-shot, and all the murderous rubbish which battles come to at last, with proclamations, autographs, caricatures and likenesses of Napoleon, and effigies of all the other generals engaged, and miniatures and jewels of their womenkind, filled room after room, through which their owner vaunted his way, with a loud pounding voice and a bad breath. When he wished them to enjoy some gross British satire or clumsy German gibe at Bonaparte's expense, and put his face close to begin the laugh, he was something so terrible that March left the place with a profound if not a reasoned regret that the French had not won the battle of Leipsic. He walked away musing pensively upon the traveller's inadequacy to the ethics of history when a breath could so sway him against his convictions; but even after he had cleansed his lungs with some deep respirations he found himself still a Bonapartist in the presence of that stone on the rising ground where Napoleon sat to watch the struggle on the vast plain, and see his empire slipping through his blood-stained fingers. It was with difficulty that he could keep from revering the hat and coat which are sculptured on the stone, but it was well that he succeeded, for he could not make out then or afterwards whether the habiliments represented were really Napoleon's or not, and they might have turned out to be Barclay de Tolly's.
While he stood trying to solve this question of clothes he was startled by the apparition of a man climbing the little slope from the opposite quarter, and advancing toward them. He wore the imperial crossed by the pointed mustache once so familiar to a world much the worse for them, and March had the shiver of a fine moment in which he fancied the Third Napoleon rising to view the scene where the First had looked his coming ruin in the face.
"Why, it's Miss Triscoe!" cried his wife, and before March had noticed the approach of another figure, the elder and the younger lady had rushed upon each other, and encountered with a kiss. At the same time the visage of the last Emperor resolved itself into the face of General Triscoe, who gave March his hand in a more tempered greeting.
The ladies began asking each other of their lives since their parting two days before, and the men strolled a few paces away toward the distant prospect of Leipsic, which at that point silhouettes itself in a noble stretch of roofs and spires and towers against the horizon.
General Triscoe seemed no better satisfied with Germany than he had been on first stepping ashore at Cuxhaven. He might still have been in a pout with his own country, but as yet he had not made up with any other; and he said, "What a pity Napoleon didn't thrash the whole dunderheaded lot! His empire would have been a blessing to them, and they would have had some chance of being civilized under the French. All this unification of nationalities is the great humbug of the century. Every stupid race thinks it's happy because it's united, and civilization has been set back a hundred years by the wars that were fought to bring the unions about; and more wars will have to be fought to keep them up. What a farce it is! What's become of the nationality of the Danes in Schleswig-Holstein, or the French in the Rhine Provinces, or the Italians in Savoy?"
March had thought something like this himself, but to have it put by General Triscoe made it offensive. "I don't know. Isn't it rather quarrelling with the course of human events to oppose accomplished facts? The unifications were bound to be, just as the separations before them were. And so far they have made for peace, in Europe at least, and peace is civilization. Perhaps after a great many ages people will come together through their real interests, the human interests; but at present it seems as if nothing but a romantic sentiment of patriotism can unite them. By-and-by they may find that there is nothing in it."
"Perhaps," said the general, discontentedly. "I don't see much promise of any kind in the future."
"Well, I don't know. When you think of the solid militarism of Germany, you seem remanded to the most hopeless moment of the Roman Empire; you think nothing can break such a force; but my guide says that even in Leipsic the Socialists outnumber all the other parties, and the army is the great field of the Socialist propaganda. The army itself may be shaped into the means of democracy—even of peace."
"You're very optimistic," said Triscoe, curtly. "As I read the signs, we are not far from universal war. In less than a year we shall make the break ourselves in a war with Spain." He looked very fierce as he prophesied, and he dotted March over with his staccato glances.
"Well, I'll allow that if Tammany comes in this year, we shall have war with Spain. You can't ask more than that, General Triscoe?"
Mrs. March and Miss Triscoe had not said a word of the 'battle of Leipsic', or of the impersonal interests which it suggested to the men. For all these, they might still have been sitting in their steamer chairs on the promenade of the Norumbia at a period which seemed now of geological remoteness. The girl accounted for not being in Dresden by her father's having decided not to go through Berlin but to come by way of Leipsic, which he thought they had better see; they had come without stopping in Hamburg. They had not enjoyed Leipsic much; it had rained the whole day before, and they had not gone out. She asked when Mrs. March was going on to Carlsbad, and Mrs. March answered, the next morning; her husband wished to begin his cure at once.
Then Miss Triscoe pensively wondered if Carlsbad would do her father any good; and Mrs. March discreetly inquired General Triscoe's symptoms.
"Oh, he hasn't any. But I know he can't be well—with his gloomy opinions."
"They may come from his liver," said Mrs. March. "Nearly everything of that kind does. I know that Mr. March has been terribly depressed at times, and the doctor said it was nothing but his liver; and Carlsbad is the great place for that, you know."
"Perhaps I can get papa to run over some day, if he doesn't like Dresden. It isn't very far, is it?"
They referred to Mrs. March's Baedeker together, and found that it was five hours.
"Yes, that is what I thought," said Miss Triscoe, with a carelessness which convinced Mrs. March she had looked up the fact already.
"If you decide to come, you must let us get rooms for you at our hotel. We're going to Pupp's; most of the English and Americans go to the hotels on the Hill, but Pupp's is in the thick of it in the lower town; and it's very gay, Mr. Kenby says; he's been there often. Mr. Burnamy is to get our rooms."
"I don't suppose I can get papa to go," said Miss Triscoe, so insincerely that Mrs. March was sure she had talked over the different routes; to Carlsbad with Burnamy—probably on the way from Cuxhaven. She looked up from digging the point of her umbrella in the ground. "You didn't meet him here this morning?"
Mrs. March governed herself to a calm which she respected in asking, "Has Mr. Burnamy been here?"
"He came on with Mr. and Mrs. Eltwin, when we did, and they all decided to stop over a day. They left on the twelve-o'clock train to-day."
Mrs. March perceived that the girl had decided not to let the facts betray themselves by chance, and she treated them as of no significance.
"No, we didn't see him," she said, carelessly.
The two men came walking slowly towards them, and Miss Triscoe said, "We're going to Dresden this evening, but I hope we shall meet somewhere, Mrs. March."
"Oh, people never lose sight of each other in Europe; they can't; it's so little!"
"Agatha," said the girl's father, "Mr. March tells me that the museum over there is worth seeing."
"Well," the girl assented, and she took a winning leave of the Marches, and moved gracefully away with her father.
"I should have thought it was Agnes," said Mrs. March, following them with her eyes before she turned upon her husband. "Did he tell you Burnamy had been here? Well, he has! He has just gone on to Carlsbad. He made, those poor old Eltwins stop over with him, so he could be with her."
"Did she say that?"
"No, but of course he did."
"Then it's all settled?"
"No, it isn't settled. It's at the most interesting point."
"Well, don't read ahead. You always want to look at the last page."
"You were trying to look at the last page yourself," she retorted, and she would have liked to punish him for his complex dishonesty toward the affair; but upon the whole she kept her temper with him, and she made him agree that Miss Triscoe's getting her father to Carlsbad was only a question of time.
They parted heart's-friends with their ineffectual guide, who was affectionately grateful for the few marks they gave him, at the hotel door; and they were in just the mood to hear men singing in a farther room when they went down to supper. The waiter, much distracted from their own service by his duties to it, told them it was the breakfast party of students which they had heard beginning there about noon. The revellers had now been some six hours at table, and he said they might not rise before midnight; they had just got to the toasts, which were apparently set to music.
The students of right remained a vivid color in the impression of the university town. They pervaded the place, and decorated it with their fantastic personal taste in coats and trousers, as well as their corps caps of green, white, red, and blue, but above all blue. They were not easily distinguishable from the bicyclers who were holding one of the dull festivals of their kind in Leipsic that day, and perhaps they were sometimes both students and bicyclers. As bicyclers they kept about in the rain, which they seemed not to mind; so far from being disheartened, they had spirits enough to take one another by the waist at times and waltz in the square before the hotel. At one moment of the holiday some chiefs among them drove away in carriages; at supper a winner of prizes sat covered with badges and medals; another who went by the hotel streamed with ribbons; and an elderly man at his side was bespattered with small knots and ends of them, as if he had been in an explosion of ribbons somewhere. It seemed all to be as exciting for them, and it was as tedious for the witnesses, as any gala of students and bicyclers at home.
Mrs. March remained with an unrequited curiosity concerning their different colors and different caps, and she tried to make her husband find out what they severally meant; he pretended a superior interest in the nature of a people who had such a passion for uniforms that they were not content with its gratification in their immense army, but indulged it in every pleasure and employment of civil life. He estimated, perhaps not very accurately, that only one man out of ten in Germany wore citizens' dress; and of all functionaries he found that the dogs of the women-and-dog teams alone had no distinctive dress; even the women had their peasant costume.
There was an industrial fair open at Leipsic which they went out of the city to see after supper, along with a throng of Leipsickers, whom an hour's interval of fine weather tempted forth on the trolley; and with the help of a little corporal, who took a fee for his service with the eagerness of a civilian, they got wheeled chairs, and renewed their associations with the great Chicago Fair in seeing the exposition from them. This was not, March said, quite the same as being drawn by a woman-and-dog team, which would have been the right means of doing a German fair; but it was something to have his chair pushed by a slender young girl, whose stalwart brother applied his strength to the chair of the lighter traveller; and it was fit that the girl should reckon the common hire, while the man took the common tip. They made haste to leave the useful aspects of the fair, and had themselves trundled away to the Colonial Exhibit, where they vaguely expected something like the agreeable corruptions of the Midway Plaisance. The idea of her colonial progress with which Germany is trying to affect the home-keeping imagination of her people was illustrated by an encampment of savages from her Central-African possessions. They were getting their supper at the moment the Marches saw them, and were crouching, half naked, around the fires under the kettles, and shivering from the cold, but they were not very characteristic of the imperial expansion, unless perhaps when an old man in a red blanket suddenly sprang up with a knife in his hand and began to chase a boy round the camp. The boy was lighter-footed, and easily outran the sage, who tripped at times on his blanket. None of the other Central Africans seemed to care for the race, and without waiting for the event, the American spectators ordered themselves trundled away to another idle feature of the fair, where they hoped to amuse themselves with the image of Old Leipsic.
This was so faithfully studied from the past in its narrow streets and Gothic houses that it was almost as picturesque as the present epoch in the old streets of Hamburg. A drama had just begun to be represented on a platform of the public square in front of a fourteenth-century beer- house, with people talking from the windows round, and revellers in the costume of the period drinking beer and eating sausages at tables in the open air. Their eating and drinking were genuine, and in the midst of it a real rain began, to pour down upon them, without affecting them any more than if they had been Germans of the nineteenth century. But it drove the Americans to a shelter from which they could not see the play, and when it held up, they made their way back to their hotel.
Their car was full of returning pleasurers, some of whom were happy beyond the sober wont of the fatherland. The conductor took a special interest in his tipsy passengers, trying to keep them in order, and genially entreating them to be quiet when they were too obstreperous. From time to time he got some of them off, and then, when he remounted the car, he appealed to the remaining passengers for their sympathy with an innocent smile, which the Americans, still strange to the unjoyous physiognomy of the German Empire, failed to value at its rare worth.
Before he slept that night March tried to assemble from the experiences and impressions of the day some facts which he would not be ashamed of as a serious observer of life in Leipsic, and he remembered that their guide had said house-rent was very low. He generalized from the guide's content with his fee that the Germans were not very rapacious; and he became quite irrelevantly aware that in Germany no man's clothes fitted him, or seemed expected to fit him; that the women dressed somewhat better, and were rather pretty sometimes, and that they had feet as large as the kind hearts of the Germans of every age and sex. He was able to note, rather more freshly, that with all their kindness the Germans were a very nervous people, if not irritable, and at the least cause gave way to an agitation, which indeed quickly passed, but was violent while it lasted. Several times that day he had seen encounters between the portier and guests at the hotel which promised violence, but which ended peacefully as soon as some simple question of train-time was solved. The encounters always left the portier purple and perspiring, as any agitation must with a man so tight in his livery. He bemoaned himself after one of them as the victim of an unhappy calling, in which he could take no exercise. "It is a life of excitements, but not of movements," he explained to March; and when he learned where he was going, he regretted that he could not go to Carlsbad too. "For sugar?" he asked, as if there were overmuch of it in his own make.
March felt the tribute, but he had to say, "No; liver."
"Ah!" said the portier, with the air of failing to get on common ground with him.
The next morning was so fine that it would have been a fine morning in America. Its beauty was scarcely sullied, even subjectively, by the telegram which the portier sent after the Marches from the hotel, saying that their missing trunk had not yet been found, and their spirits were as light as the gay little clouds which blew about in the sky, when their train drew out in the sunshine, brilliant on the charming landscape all the way to Carlsbad. A fatherly 'traeger' had done his best to get them the worst places in a non-smoking compartment, but had succeeded so poorly that they were very comfortable, with no companions but a mother and daughter, who spoke German in soft low tones together. Their compartment was pervaded by tobacco fumes from the smokers, but as these were twice as many as the non-smokers, it was only fair, and after March had got a window open it did not matter, really.
He asked leave of the strangers in his German, and they consented in theirs; but he could not master the secret of the window-catch, and the elder lady said in English, "Let me show you," and came to his help.
The occasion for explaining that they were Americans and accustomed to different car windows was so tempting that Mrs. March could not forbear, and the other ladies were affected as deeply as she could wish. Perhaps they were the more affected because it presently appeared that they had cousins in New York whom she knew of, and that they were acquainted with an American family that had passed the winter in Berlin. Life likes to do these things handsomely, and it easily turned out that this was a family of intimate friendship with the Marches; the names, familiarly spoken, abolished all strangeness between the travellers; and they entered into a comparison of tastes, opinions, and experiences, from which it seemed that the objects and interests of cultivated people in Berlin were quite the same as those of cultivated people in New York. Each of the parties to the discovery disclaimed any superiority for their respective civilizations; they wished rather to ascribe a greater charm and virtue to the alien conditions; and they acquired such merit with one another that when the German ladies got out of the train at Franzensbad, the mother offered Mrs. March an ingenious folding footstool which she had admired. In fact, she left her with it clasped to her breast, and bowing speechless toward the giver in a vain wish to express her gratitude.
"That was very pretty of her, my dear," said March. "You couldn't have done that."
"No," she confessed; "I shouldn't have had the courage. The courage of my emotions," she added, thoughtfully.
"Ah, that's the difference! A Berliner could do it, and a Bostonian couldn't. Do you think it so much better to have the courage of your convictions?"
"I don't know. It seems to me that I'm less and less certain of everything that I used to be sure of."
He laughed, and then he said, "I was thinking how, on our wedding journey, long ago, that Gray Sister at the Hotel Dieu in Quebec offered you a rose."
"That was to your pretty youth. Now the gracious stranger gives you a folding stool."
"To rest my poor old feet. Well, I would rather have it than a rose, now."
"You bent toward her at just the slant you had when you took the flower that time; I noticed it. I didn't see that you looked so very different. To be sure the roses in your cheeks have turned into rosettes; but rosettes are very nice, and they're much more permanent; I prefer them; they will keep in any climate."
She suffered his mockery with an appreciative sigh. "Yes, our age caricatures our youth, doesn't it?"
"I don't think it gets much fun out of it," he assented.
"No; but it can't help it. I used to rebel against it when it first began. I did enjoy being young."
"You did, my dear," he said, taking her hand tenderly; she withdrew it, because though she could bear his sympathy, her New England nature could not bear its expression. "And so did I; and we were both young a long time. Travelling brings the past back, don't you think? There at that restaurant, where we stopped for dinner—"
"Yes, it was charming! Just as it used to be! With that white cloth, and those tall shining bottles of wine, and the fruit in the centre, and the dinner in courses, and that young waiter who spoke English, and was so nice! I'm never going home; you may, if you like."
"You bragged to those ladies about our dining-cars; and you said that our railroad restaurants were quite as good as the European."
"I had to do that. But I knew better; they don't begin to be."
"Perhaps not; but I've been thinking that travel is a good deal alike everywhere. It's the expression of the common civilization of the world. When I came out of that restaurant and ran the train down, and then found that it didn't start for fifteen minutes, I wasn't sure whether I was at home or abroad. And when we changed cars at Eger, and got into this train which had been baking in the sun for us outside the station, I didn't know but I was back in the good old Fitchburg depot. To be sure, Wallenstein wasn't assassinated at Boston, but I forgot his murder at Eger, and so that came to the same thing. It's these confounded fifty- odd years. I used to recollect everything."
He had got up and was looking out of the window at the landscape, which had not grown less amiable in growing rather more slovenly since they had crossed the Saxon bolder into Bohemia. All the morning and early afternoon they had run through lovely levels of harvest, where men were cradling the wheat and women were binding it into sheaves in the narrow fields between black spaces of forest. After they left Eger, there was something more picturesque and less thrifty in the farming among the low hills which they gradually mounted to uplands, where they tasted a mountain quality in the thin pure air. The railroad stations were shabbier; there was an indefinable touch of something Southern in the scenery and the people. Lilies were rocking on the sluggish reaches of the streams, and where the current quickened, tall wheels were lifting water for the fields in circles of brimming and spilling pockets. Along the embankments, where a new track was being laid, barefooted women were at work with pick and spade and barrow, and little yellow-haired girls were lugging large white-headed babies, and watching the train go by. At an up grade where it slowed in the ascent he began to throw out to the children the pfennigs which had been left over from the passage in Germany, and he pleased himself with his bounty, till the question whether the children could spend the money forced itself upon him. He sat down feeling less like a good genius than a cruel magician who had tricked them with false wealth; but he kept his remorse to himself, and tried to interest his wife in the difference of social and civic ideal expressed in the change of the inhibitory notices at the car windows, which in Germany had strongliest forbidden him to outlean himself, and now in Austria entreated him not to outbow himself. She refused to share in the speculation, or to debate the yet nicer problem involved by the placarded prayer in the washroom to the Messrs. Travellers not to take away the soap; and suddenly he felt himself as tired as she looked, with that sense of the futility of travel which lies in wait for every one who profits by travel.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Bad wars, or what are comically called good wars Calm of those who have logic on their side Decided not to let the facts betray themselves by chance Explained perhaps too fully Futility of travel Humanity may at last prevail over nationality Impertinent prophecies of their enjoying it so much Less certain of everything that I used to be sure of Life of the ship, like the life of the sea: a sodden monotony Life was like the life at a sea-side hotel, but more monotonous Madness of sight-seeing, which spoils travel Night so bad that it was worse than no night at all Our age caricatures our youth Prices fixed by his remorse Recipes for dishes and diseases Reckless and culpable optimism Repeated the nothings they had said already She cares for him: that she was so cold shows that She could bear his sympathy, but not its expression Suffering under the drip-drip of his innocent egotism They were so near in age, though they were ten years apart Unfounded hope that sooner or later the weather would be fine Wilful sufferers Woman harnessed with a dog to a cart Wooded with the precise, severely disciplined German forests Work he was so fond of and so weary of
THEIR SILVER WEDDING JOURNEY
They found Burnamy expecting them at the station in Carlsbad, and she scolded him like a mother for taking the trouble to meet them, while she kept back for the present any sign of knowing that he had staid over a day with the Triscoes in Leipsic. He was as affectionately glad to see her and her husband as she could have wished, but she would have liked it better if he had owned up at once about Leipsic. He did not, and it seemed to her that he was holding her at arm's-length in his answers about his employer. He would not say how he liked his work, or how he liked Mr. Stoller; he merely said that they were at Pupp's together, and that he had got in a good day's work already; and since he would say no more, she contented herself with that.
The long drive from the station to the hotel was by streets that wound down the hill-side like those of an Italian mountain town, between gay stuccoed houses, of Southern rather than of Northern architecture; and the impression of a Latin country was heightened at a turn of the road which brought into view a colossal crucifix planted against a curtain of dark green foliage on the brow of one of the wooded heights that surrounded Carlsbad. When they reached the level of the Tepl, the hill- fed torrent that brawls through the little city under pretty bridges within walls of solid masonry, they found themselves in almost the only vehicle on a brilliant promenade thronged with a cosmopolitan world. Germans in every manner of misfit; Polish Jews in long black gabardines, with tight corkscrew curls on their temples under their black velvet derbys; Austrian officers in tight corsets; Greek priests in flowing robes and brimless high hats; Russians in caftans and Cossacks in Astrakhan caps, accented the more homogeneous masses of western Europeans, in which it would have been hard to say which were English, French or Italians. Among the vividly dressed ladies, some were imaginably Parisian from their chic costumes, but they might easily have been Hungarians or Levantines of taste; some Americans, who might have passed unknown in the perfection of their dress, gave their nationality away in the flat wooden tones of their voices, which made themselves heard above the low hum of talk and the whisper of the innumerable feet.
The omnibus worked its way at a slow walk among the promenaders going and coming between the rows of pollard locusts on one side and the bright walls of the houses on the other. Under the trees were tables, served by pretty bareheaded girls who ran to and from the restaurants across the way. On both sides flashed and glittered the little shops full of silver, glass, jewelry, terracotta figurines, wood-carvings, and all the idle frippery of watering-place traffic: they suggested Paris, and they suggested Saratoga, and then they were of Carlsbad and of no place else in the world, as the crowd which might have been that of other cities at certain moments could only have been of Carlsbad in its habitual effect.
"Do you like it?" asked Burnamy, as if he owned the place, and Mrs. March saw how simple-hearted he was in his reticence, after all. She was ready to bless him when they reached the hotel and found that his interest had got them the only rooms left in the house. This satisfied in her the passion for size which is at the bottom of every American heart, and which perhaps above all else marks us the youngest of the peoples. We pride ourselves on the bigness of our own things, but we are not ungenerous, and when we go to Europe and find things bigger than ours, we are magnanimously happy in them. Pupp's, in its altogether different way, was larger than any hotel at Saratoga or at Niagara; and when Burnamy told her that it sometimes fed fifteen thousand people a day in the height of the season, she was personally proud of it.
She waited with him in the rotunda of the hotel, while the secretary led March off to look at the rooms reserved for them, and Burnamy hospitably turned the revolving octagonal case in the centre of the rotunda where the names of the guests were put up. They were of all nations, but there were so many New Yorkers whose names ended in berg, and thal, and stern, and baum that she seemed to be gazing upon a cyclorama of the signs on Broadway. A large man of unmistakable American make, but with so little that was of New England or New York in his presence that she might not at once have thought him American, lounged toward them with a quill toothpick in the corner of his mouth. He had a jealous blue eye, into which he seemed trying to put a friendly light; his straight mouth stretched into an involuntary smile above his tawny chin-beard, and he wore his soft hat so far back from his high forehead (it showed to the crown when he took his hat off) that he had the effect of being uncovered.
At his approach Burnamy turned, and with a flush said: "Oh! Let me introduce Mr. Stoller, Mrs. March."
Stoller took his toothpick out of his mouth and bowed; then he seemed to remember, and took off his hat. "You see Jews enough, here to make you feel at home?" he asked; and he added: "Well, we got some of 'em in Chicago, too, I guess. This young man"—he twisted his head toward Burnamy" found you easy enough?"
"It was very good of him to meet us," Mrs. March began. "We didn't expect—"
"Oh, that's all right," said Stoller, putting his toothpick back, and his hat on. "We'd got through for the day; my doctor won't let me work all I want to, here. Your husband's going to take the cure, they tell me. Well, he wants to go to a good doctor, first. You can't go and drink these waters hit or miss. I found that out before I came."
"Oh, no!" said Mrs. March, and she wished to explain how they had been advised; but he said to Burnamy:
"I sha'n't want you again till ten to-morrow morning. Don't let me interrupt you," he added patronizingly to Mrs. March. He put his hand up toward his hat, and sauntered away out of the door.
Burnamy did not speak; and she only asked at last, to relieve the silence, "Is Mr. Stoller an American?"
"Why, I suppose so," he answered, with an uneasy laugh. "His people were German emigrants who settled in Southern Indiana. That makes him as much American as any of us, doesn't it?"
Burnamy spoke with his mind on his French-Canadian grandfather, who had come down through Detroit, when their name was Bonami; but Mrs. March answered from her eight generations of New England ancestry. "Oh, for the West, yes, perhaps," and they neither of them said anything more about Stoller.
In their room, where she found March waiting for her amidst their arriving baggage, she was so full of her pent-up opinions of Burnamy's patron that she, would scarcely speak of the view from their windows of the wooded hills up and down the Tepl. "Yes, yes; very nice, and I know I shall enjoy it ever so much. But I don't know what you will think of that poor young Burnamy!"
"Why, what's happened to him?"
"Happened? Stoller's happened."
"Oh, have you seen him, already? Well?"
"Well, if you had been going to pick out that type of man, you'd have rejected him, because you'd have said he was too pat. He's like an actor made up for a Western millionaire. Do you remember that American in 'L'Etranger' which Bernhardt did in Boston when she first came? He, looks exactly like that, and he has the worst manners. He stood talking to me with his hat on, and a toothpick in his mouth; and he made me feel as if he had bought me, along with Burnamy, and had paid too much. If you don't give him a setting down, Basil, I shall never speak to you; that's all. I'm sure Burnamy is in some trouble with him; he's got some sort of hold upon him; what it could be in such a short time, I can't imagine; but if ever a man seemed to be, in a man's power, he does, in his!
"Now," said March, "your pronouns have got so far beyond me that I think we'd better let it all go till after supper; perhaps I shall see Stoller myself by that time."
She had been deeply stirred by her encounter with Stoller, but she entered with impartial intensity into the fact that the elevator at Pupp's had the characteristic of always coming up and never going down with passengers. It was locked into its closet with a solid door, and there was no bell to summon it, or any place to take it except on the ground-floor; but the stairs by which she could descend were abundant and stately; and on one landing there was the lithograph of one of the largest and ugliest hotels in New York; how ugly it was, she said she should never have known if she had not seen it there.
The dining-room was divided into the grand saloon, where they supped amid rococo sculptures and frescoes, and the glazed veranda opening by vast windows on a spread of tables without, which were already filling up for the evening concert. Around them at the different tables there were groups of faces and figures fascinating in their strangeness, with that distinction which abashes our American level in the presence of European inequality.
"How simple and unimpressive we are, Basil," she said, "beside all these people! I used to feel it in Europe when I was young, and now I'm certain that we must seem like two faded-in old village photographs. We don't even look intellectual! I hope we look good."
"I know I do," said March. The waiter went for their supper, and they joined in guessing the different nationalities in the room. A French party was easy enough; a Spanish mother and daughter were not difficult, though whether they were not South-American remained uncertain; two elderly maiden ladies were unmistakably of central Massachusetts, and were obviously of a book-club culture that had left no leaf unturned; some Triestines gave themselves away by their Venetian accent; but a large group at a farther table were unassignable in the strange language which they clattered loudly together, with bursts of laughter. They were a family party of old and young, they were having a good time, with a freedom which she called baronial; the ladies wore white satin, or black lace, but the men were in sack-coats; she chose to attribute them, for no reason but their outlandishness, to Transylvania. March pretended to prefer a table full of Germans, who were unmistakably bourgeois, and yet of intellectual effect. He chose as his favorite a middle-aged man of learned aspect, and they both decided to think of him as the Herr Professor, but they did not imagine how perfectly the title fitted him till he drew a long comb from his waistcoat pocket and combed his hair and beard with it above the table.
The wine wrought with the Transylvanians, and they all jargoned together at once, and laughed at the jokes passing among them. One old gentleman had a peculiar fascination from the infantile innocence of his gums when he threw his head back to laugh, and showed an upper jaw toothless except for two incisors, standing guard over the chasm between. Suddenly he choked, coughed to relieve himself, hawked, held his napkin up before him, and—
"Noblesse oblige," said March, with the tone of irony which he reserved for his wife's preoccupations with aristocracies of all sorts. "I think I prefer my Hair Professor, bourgeois, as he is."
The ladies attributively of central Massachusetts had risen from their table, and were making for the door without having paid for their supper. The head waiter ran after them; with a real delicacy for their mistake he explained that though in most places the meals were charged in the bill, it was the custom in Carlsbad to pay for them at the table; one could see that he was making their error a pleasant adventure to them which they could laugh over together, and write home about without a pang.
"And I," said Mrs. March, shamelessly abandoning the party of the aristocracy, "prefer the manners of the lower classes."
"Oh, yes," he admitted. "The only manners we have at home are black ones. But you mustn't lose courage. Perhaps the nobility are not always so baronial."
"I don't know whether we have manners at home," she said, "and I don't believe I care. At least we have decencies."
"Don't be a jingo," said her husband.
Though Stoller had formally discharged Burnamy from duty for the day, he was not so full of resources in himself, and he had not so general an acquaintance in the hotel but he was glad to have the young fellow make up to him in the reading-room, that night. He laid down a New York paper ten days old in despair of having left any American news in it, and pushed several continental Anglo-American papers aside with his elbow, as he gave a contemptuous glance at the foreign journals, in Bohemian, Hungarian, German, French, and Italian, which littered the large table.
"I wonder," he said, "how long it'll take'em, over here, to catch on to our way of having pictures?"
Burnamy had come to his newspaper work since illustrated journalism was established, and he had never had any shock from it at home, but so sensitive is youth to environment that, after four days in Europe, the New York paper Stoller had laid down was already hideous to him. From the politic side of his nature, however, he temporized with Stoller's preference. "I suppose it will be some time yet."
"I wish," said Stoller, with a savage disregard of expressed sequences and relevancies, "I could ha' got some pictures to send home with that letter this afternoon: something to show how they do things here, and be a kind of object-lesson." This term had come up in a recent campaign when some employers, by shutting down their works, were showing their employees what would happen if the employees voted their political opinions into effect, and Stoller had then mastered its meaning and was fond of using it. "I'd like 'em to see the woods around here, that the city owns, and the springs, and the donkey-carts, and the theatre, and everything, and give 'em some practical ideas."
Burnamy made an uneasy movement.
"I'd 'a' liked to put 'em alongside of some of our improvements, and show how a town can be carried on when it's managed on business principles. "Why didn't you think of it?"
"Really, I don't know," said Burnamy, with a touch of impatience.
They had not met the evening before on the best of terms. Stoller had expected Burnamy twenty-four hours earlier, and had shown his displeasure with him for loitering a day at Leipsic which he might have spent at Carlsbad; and Burnamy had been unsatisfactory in accounting for the delay. But he had taken hold so promptly and so intelligently that by working far into the night, and through the whole forenoon, he had got Stoller's crude mass of notes into shape, and had sent off in time for the first steamer the letter which was to appear over the proprietor's name in his paper. It was a sort of rough but very full study of the Carlsbad city government, the methods of taxation, the municipal ownership of the springs and the lands, and the public control in everything. It condemned the aristocratic constitution of the municipality, but it charged heavily in favor of the purity, beneficence, and wisdom of the administration, under which there was no poverty and no idleness, and which was managed like any large business.
Stoller had sulkily recurred to his displeasure, once or twice, and Burnamy suffered it submissively until now. But now, at the change in Burnamy's tone, he changed his manner a little.
"Seen your friends since supper?" he asked.
"Only a moment. They are rather tired, and they've gone to bed."
That the fellow that edits that book you write for?"
"Yes; he owns it, too."
The notion of any sort of ownership moved Stoller's respect, and he asked more deferentially, "Makin' a good thing out of it?"
"A living, I suppose. Some of the high-class weeklies feel the competition of the ten-cent monthlies. But 'Every Other Week' is about the best thing we've got in the literary way, and I guess it's holding its own."
"Have to, to let the editor come to Carlsbad," Stoller said, with a return to the sourness of his earlier mood. "I don't know as I care much for his looks; I seen him when he came in with you. No snap to him." He clicked shut the penknife he had been paring his nails with, and started up with the abruptness which marked all his motions, mental and physical; as he walked heavily out of the room he said, without looking at Burnamy, "You want to be ready by half past ten at the latest."
Stoller's father and mother were poor emigrants who made their way to the West with the instinct for sordid prosperity native to their race and class; and they set up a small butcher shop in the little Indiana town where their son was born, and throve in it from the start. He could remember his mother helping his father make the sausage and head-cheese and pickle the pigs' feet, which they took turns in selling at as great a price as they could extort from the townspeople. She was a good and tender mother, and when her little Yawcup, as the boys called Jacob in mimicry after her, had grown to the school-going age, she taught him to fight the Americans, who stoned him when he came out of his gate, and mobbed his home-coming; and mocked and tormented him at play-time till they wore themselves into a kindlier mind toward him through the exhaustion of their invention. No one, so far as the gloomy, stocky, rather dense little boy could make out, ever interfered in his behalf; and he grew up in bitter shame for his German origin, which entailed upon him the hard fate of being Dutch among the Americans. He hated his native speech so much that he cried when he was forced to use it with his father and mother at home; he furiously denied it with the boys who proposed to parley with him in it on such terms as "Nix come arouce in de Dytchman's house." He disused it so thoroughly that after his father took him out of school, when he was old enough to help in the shop, he could not get back to it. He regarded his father's business as part of his national disgrace, and at the cost of leaving his home he broke away from it, and informally apprenticed himself to the village blacksmith and wagon-maker. When it came to his setting up for himself in the business he had chosen, he had no help from his father, who had gone on adding dollar to dollar till he was one of the richest men in the place.
Jacob prospered too; his old playmates, who had used him so cruelly, had many of them come to like him; but as a Dutchman they never dreamt of asking him to their houses when they were young people, any more than when they were children. He was long deeply in love with an American girl whom he had never spoken to, and the dream of his life was to marry an American. He ended by marrying the daughter of Pferd the brewer, who had been at an American school in Indianapolis, and had come home as fragilely and nasally American as anybody. She made him a good, sickly, fretful wife; and bore him five children, of whom two survived, with no visible taint of their German origin.
In the mean time Jacob's father had died and left his money to his son, with the understanding that he was to provide for his mother, who would gladly have given every cent to him and been no burden to him, if she could. He took her home, and cared tenderly for her as long as she lived; and she meekly did her best to abolish herself in a household trying so hard to be American. She could not help her native accent, but she kept silence when her son's wife had company; and when her eldest granddaughter began very early to have American callers, she went out of the room; they would not have noticed her if she had staid.
Before this Jacob had come forward publicly in proportion to his financial importance in the community. He first commended himself to the Better Element by crushing out a strike in his Buggy Works, which were now the largest business interest of the place; and he rose on a wave of municipal reform to such a height of favor with the respectable classes that he was elected on a citizens' ticket to the Legislature. In the reaction which followed he was barely defeated for Congress, and was talked of as a dark horse who might be put up for the governorship some day; but those who knew him best predicted that he would not get far in politics, where his bull-headed business ways would bring him to ruin sooner or later; they said, "You can't swing a bolt like you can a strike."
When his mother died, he surprised his old neighbors by going to live in Chicago, though he kept his works in the place where he and they had grown up together. His wife died shortly after, and within four years he lost his three eldest children; his son, it was said, had begun to go wrong first. But the rumor of his increasing wealth drifted back from Chicago; he was heard of in different enterprises and speculations; at last it was said that he had bought a newspaper, and then his boyhood friends decided that Jake was going into politics again.
In the wider horizons and opener atmosphere of the great city he came to understand better that to be an American in all respects was not the best. His mounting sense of importance began to be retroactive in the direction of his ancestral home; he wrote back to the little town near Wurzburg which his people had come from, and found that he had relatives still living there, some of whom had become people of substance; and about the time his health gave way from life-long gluttony, and he was ordered to Carlsbad, he had pretty much made up his mind to take his younger daughters and put them in school for a year or two in Wurzburg, for a little discipline if not education. He had now left them there, to learn the language, which he had forgotten with such heart-burning and shame, and music, for which they had some taste.
The twins loudly lamented their fate, and they parted from their father with open threats of running away; and in his heart he did not altogether blame them. He came away from Wurzburg raging at the disrespect for his money and his standing in business which had brought him a more galling humiliation there than anything he had suffered in his boyhood at Des Vaches. It intensified him in his dear-bought Americanism to the point of wishing to commit lese majesty in the teeth of some local dignitaries who had snubbed him, and who seemed to enjoy putting our eagle to shame in his person; there was something like the bird of his step-country in Stoller's pale eyes and huge beak.
March sat with a company of other patients in the anteroom of the doctor, and when it came his turn to be prodded and kneaded, he was ashamed at being told he was not so bad a case as he had dreaded. The doctor wrote out a careful dietary for him, with a prescription of a certain number of glasses of water at a certain spring and a certain number of baths, and a rule for the walks he was to take before and after eating; then the doctor patted him on the shoulder and pushed him caressingly out of his inner office. It was too late to begin his treatment that day, but he went with his wife to buy a cup, with a strap for hanging it over his shoulder, and he put it on so as to be an invalid with the others at once; he came near forgetting the small napkin of Turkish towelling which they stuffed into their cups, but happily the shopman called him back in time to sell it to him.
At five the next morning he rose, and on his way to the street exchanged with the servants cleaning the hotel stairs the first of the gloomy 'Guten Morgens' which usher in the day at Carlsbad. They cannot be so finally hopeless as they sound; they are probably expressive only of the popular despair of getting through with them before night; but March heard the salutations sorrowfully groaned out on every hand as he joined the straggling current of invalids which swelled on the way past the silent shops and cafes in the Alte Wiese, till it filled the street, and poured its thousands upon the promenade before the classic colonnade of the Muhlbrunn. On the other bank of the Tepl the Sprudel flings its steaming waters by irregular impulses into the air under a pavilion of iron and glass; but the Muhlbrunn is the source of most resort. There is an instrumental concert somewhere in Carlsbad from early rising till bedtime; and now at the Muhlbrunn there was an orchestra already playing; and under the pillared porch, as well as before it, the multitude shuffled up and down, draining their cups by slow sips, and then taking each his place in the interminable line moving on to replenish them at the spring.
A picturesque majority of Polish Jews, whom some vice of their climate is said peculiarly to fit for the healing effects of Carlsbad, most took his eye in their long gabardines of rusty black and their derby hats of plush or velvet, with their corkscrew curls coming down before their ears. They were old and young, they were grizzled and red and black, but they seemed all well-to-do; and what impresses one first and last at Carlsbad is that its waters are mainly for the healing of the rich. After the Polish Jews, the Greek priests of Russian race were the most striking figures. There were types of Latin ecclesiastics, who were striking in their way too; and the uniforms of certain Austrian officers and soldiers brightened the picture. Here and there a southern face, Italian or Spanish or Levantine, looked passionately out of the mass of dull German visages; for at Carlsbad the Germans, more than any other gentile nation, are to the fore. Their misfits, their absence of style, imparted the prevalent effect; though now and then among the women a Hungarian, or Pole, or Parisian, or American, relieved the eye which seeks beauty and grace rather than the domestic virtues. There were certain faces, types of discomfort and disease, which appealed from the beginning to the end. A young Austrian, yellow as gold, and a livid South-American, were of a lasting fascination to March.
What most troubled him, in his scrutiny of the crowd, was the difficulty of assigning people to their respective nations, and he accused his years of having dulled his perceptions; but perhaps it was from their long disuse in his homogeneous American world. The Americans themselves fused with the European races who were often so hard to make out; his fellow- citizens would not be identified till their bad voices gave them away; he thought the women's voices the worst.
At the springs, a line of young girls with a steady mechanical action dipped the cups into the steaming source, and passed them impersonally up to their owners. With the patients at the Muhlbrunn it was often a half- hour before one's turn carne, and at all a strict etiquette forbade any attempt to anticipate it. The water was merely warm and flat, and after the first repulsion one could forget it. March formed a childish habit of counting ten between the sips, and of finishing the cup with a gulp which ended it quickly; he varied his walks between cups by going sometimes to a bridge at the end of the colonnade where a group of Triestines were talking Venetian, and sometimes to the little Park beyond the Kurhaus, where some old women were sweeping up from the close sward the yellow leaves which the trees had untidily dropped overnight. He liked to sit there and look at the city beyond the Tepl, where it climbed the wooded heights in terraces till it lost its houses in the skirts and folds of the forest. Most mornings it rained, quietly, absent-mindedly, and this, with the chili in the air, deepened a pleasant illusion of Quebec offered by the upper town across the stream; but there were sunny mornings when the mountains shone softly through a lustrous mist, and the air was almost warm.
Once in his walk he found himself the companion of Burnamy's employer, whom he had sometimes noted in the line at the Muhlbrunn, waiting his turn, cup in hand, with a face of sullen impatience. Stoller explained that though you could have the water brought to you at your hotel, he chose to go to the spring for the sake of the air; it was something you had got to live through; before he had that young Burnamy to help him he did not know what to do with his time, but now, every minute he was not eating or sleeping he was working; his cure did not oblige him to walk much. He examined March, with a certain mixture of respect and contempt, upon the nature of the literary life, and how it differed from the life of a journalist. He asked if he thought Burnamy would amount to anything as a literary man; he so far assented to March's faith in him as to say, "He's smart." He told of leaving his daughters in school at Wurzburg; and upon the whole he moved March with a sense of his pathetic loneliness without moving his liking, as he passed lumberingly on, dangling his cup.
March gave his own cup to the little maid at his spring, and while she gave it to a second, who dipped it and handed it to a third for its return to him, he heard an unmistakable fellow-countryman saying good-, morning to them all in English. "Are you going to teach them United States?" he asked of a face with which he knew such an appeal would not fail.
"Well," the man admitted, "I try to teach them that much. They like it. You are an American? I am glad of it. I have 'most lost the use of my lungs, here. I'm a great talker, and I talk to my wife till she's about dead; then I'm out of it for the rest of the day; I can't speak German."
His manner was the free, friendly manner of the West. He must be that sort of untravelled American whom March had so seldom met, but he was afraid to ask him if this was his first time at Carlsbad, lest it should prove the third or fourth. "Are you taking the cure?" he asked instead.
"Oh, no. My wife is. She'll be along directly; I come down here and drink the waters to encourage her; doctor said to. That gets me in for the diet, too. I've e't more cooked fruit since I been here than I ever did in my life before. Prunes? My Lord, I'm full o' prunes! Well, it does me good to see an American, to know him. I couldn't 'a' told you, it you hadn't have spoken."
"Well," said March, "I shouldn't have been so sure of you, either, by your looks."
"Yes, we can't always tell ourselves from these Dutch. But they know us, and they don't want us, except just for one thing, and that's our money. I tell you, the Americans are the chumps over here. Soon's they got all our money, or think they have, they say, "Here, you Americans, this is my country; you get off; and we got to get. Ever been over before?"
"A great while ago; so long that I can hardly believe it."
"It's my first time. My name's Otterson: I'm from out in Iowa."
March gave him his name, and added that he was from New York.
"Yes. I thought you was Eastern. But that wasn't an Eastern man you was just with?"
"No; he's from Chicago. He's a Mr. Stoller."
"Not the buggy man?"
"I believe he makes buggies."
"Well, you do meet everybody here." The Iowan was silent for a moment, as if, hushed by the weighty thought. "I wish my wife could have seen him. I just want her to see the man that made our buggy. I don't know what's keeping her, this morning," he added, apologetically. "Look at that fellow, will you, tryin' to get away from those women!" A young officer was doing his best to take leave of two ladies, who seemed to be mother and daughter; they detained him by their united arts, and clung to him with caressing words and looks. He was red in the face with his polite struggles when he broke from them at last. "How they do hang on to a man, over here!" the Iowa man continued. "And the Americans are as bad as any. Why, there's one ratty little Englishman up at our place, and our girls just swarm after him; their mothers are worse. Well, it's so, Jenny," he said to the lady who had joined them and whom March turned round to see when he spoke to her. "If I wanted a foreigner I should go in for a man. And these officers! Put their mustaches up at night in curl-papers, they tell me. Introduce you to Mrs. Otterson, Mr. March. Well, had your first glass, yet, Jenny? I'm just going for my second tumbler."
He took his wife back to the spring, and began to tell her about Stoller; she made no sign of caring for him; and March felt inculpated. She relented a little toward him as they drank together; when he said he must be going to breakfast with his wife, she asked where he breakfasted, and said, "Why, we go to the Posthof, too." He answered that then they should be sure some time to meet there; he did not venture further; he reflected that Mrs. March had her reluctances too; she distrusted people who had amused or interested him before she met them.
Burnamy had found the Posthof for them, as he had found most of the other agreeable things in Carlsbad, which he brought to their knowledge one by one, with such forethought that March said he hoped he should be cared for in his declining years as an editor rather than as a father; there was no tenderness like a young contributor's.
Many people from the hotels on the hill found at Pupp's just the time and space between their last cup of water and their first cup of coffee which are prescribed at Carlsbad; but the Marches were aware somehow from the beginning that Pupp's had not the hold upon the world at breakfast which it had at the mid-day dinner, or at supper on the evenings when the concert was there. Still it was amusing, and they were patient of Burnamy's delay till he could get a morning off from Stoller and go with them to the Posthof. He met Mrs. March in the reading-room, where March was to join them on his way from the springs with his bag of bread. The earlier usage of buying the delicate pink slices of Westphalia ham, which form the chief motive of a Carlsbad breakfast, at a certain shop in the town, and carrying them to the cafe with you, is no longer of such binding force as the custom of getting your bread at the Swiss bakery. You choose it yourself at the counter, which begins to be crowded by half past seven, and when you have collected the prescribed loaves into the basket of metallic filigree given you by one of the baker's maids, she puts it into a tissue-paper bag of a gay red color, and you join the other invalids streaming away from the bakery, their paper bags making a festive rustling as they go.
Two roads lead out of the town into the lovely meadow-lands, a good mile up the brawling Tepl, before they join on the right side of the torrent, where the Posthof lurks nestled under trees whose boughs let the sun and rain impartially through upon its army of little tables. By this time the slow omnibus plying between Carlsbad and some villages in the valley beyond has crossed from the left bank to the right, and keeps on past half a dozen other cafes, where patients whose prescriptions marshal them beyond the Posthof drop off by the dozens and scores.
The road on the left bank of the Tepl is wild and overhung at points with wooded steeps, when it leaves the town; but on the right it is bordered with shops and restaurants a great part of its length. In leafy nooks between these, uphill walks begin their climb of the mountains, from the foot of votive shrines set round with tablets commemorating in German, French, Russian, Hebrew, Magyar and Czech, the cure of high-well-borns of all those races and languages. Booths glittering with the lapidary's work in the cheaper gems, or full of the ingenious figures of the toy- makers, alternate with the shrines and the cafes on the way to the Posthof, and with their shoulders against the overhanging cliff, spread for the passing crowd a lure of Viennese jewelry in garnets, opals, amethysts, and the like, and of such Bohemian playthings as carrot-eating rabbits, worsted-working cats, dancing-bears, and peacocks that strut about the feet of the passers and expand their iridescent tails in mimic pride.
Burnamy got his charges with difficulty by the shrines in which they felt the far-reflected charm of the crucifixes of the white-hot Italian highways of their early travel, and by the toyshops where they had a mechanical, out-dated impulse to get something for the children, ending in a pang for the fact that they were children no longer. He waited politely while Mrs. March made up her mind that she would not buy any laces of the motherly old women who showed them under pent-roofs on way- side tables; and he waited patiently at the gate of the flower-gardens beyond the shops where March bought lavishly of sweetpease from the businesslike flower-woman, and feigned a grateful joy in her because she knew no English, and gave him a chance of speaking his German.
"You'll find," he said, as they crossed the road again, "that it's well to trifle a good deal; it makes the time pass. I should still be lagging along in my thirties if it hadn't been for fooling, and here I am well on in my fifties, and Mrs. March is younger than ever."
They were at the gate of the garden and grounds of the cafe at last, and a turn of the path brought them to the prospect of its tables, under the trees, between the two long glazed galleries where the breakfasters take refuge at other tables when it rains; it rains nearly always, and the trunks of the trees are as green with damp as if painted; but that morning the sun was shining. At the verge of the open space a group of pretty serving-maids, each with her name on a silver band pinned upon her breast, met them and bade them a 'Guten Morgen' of almost cheerful note, but gave way, to an eager little smiling blonde, who came pushing down the path at sight of Burnamy, and claimed him for her own.
"Ah, Lili! We want an extra good table, this morning. These are some American Excellencies, and you must do your best for them."
"Oh, yes," the girl answered in English, after a radiant salutation of the Marches; "I get you one."
"You are a little more formerly, to-day, and I didn't had one already."
She ran among the tables along the edge of the western edge of the gallery, and was far beyond hearing his protest that he was not earlier than usual when she beckoned him to the table she had found. She had crowded it in between two belonging to other girls, and by the time her breakfasters came up she was ready for their order, with the pouting pretence that the girls always tried to rob her of the best places. Burnamy explained proudly, when she went, that none of the other girls ever got an advantage of her; she had more custom than any three of them, and she had hired a man to help her carry her orders. The girls were all from the neighboring villages, he said, and they lived at home in the winter on their summer tips; their wages were nothing, or less, for sometimes they paid for their places.
"What a mass of information!" said March. "How did you come by it?"
"Newspaper habit of interviewing the universe."
"It's not a bad habit, if one doesn't carry it too far. How did Lili learn her English?"
"She takes lessons in the winter. She's a perfect little electric motor. I don't believe any Yankee girl could equal her."
"She would expect to marry a millionaire if she did. What astonishes one over here is to see how contentedly people prosper along on their own level. And the women do twice the work of the men without expecting to equal them in any other way. At Pupp's, if we go to one end of the out- door restaurant, it takes three men to wait on us: one to bring our coffee or tea, another to bring our bread and meat, and another to make out our bill, and I have to tip all three of them. If we go to the other end, one girl serves us, and I have to give only one fee; I make it less than the least I give any three of the men waiters."
"You ought to be ashamed of that," said his wife.
"I'm not. I'm simply proud of your sex, my dear."
"Women do nearly everything, here," said Burnamy, impartially. "They built that big new Kaiserbad building: mixed the mortar, carried the hods, and laid the stone."
"That makes me prouder of the sex than ever. But come, Mr. Burnamy! Isn't there anybody of polite interest that you know of in this crowd?"
"Well, I can't say," Burnamy hesitated.
The breakfasters had been thronging into the grove and the galleries; the tables were already filled, and men were bringing other tables on their heads, and making places for them, with entreaties for pardon everywhere; the proprietor was anxiously directing them; the pretty serving-girls were running to and from the kitchen in a building apart with shrill, sweet promises of haste. The morning sun fell broken through the leaves on the gay hats and dresses of the ladies, and dappled the figures of the men with harlequin patches of light and shade. A tall woman, with a sort of sharpened beauty, and an artificial permanency of tint in her cheeks and yellow hair, came trailing herself up the sun-shot path, and found, with hardy insistence upon the publicity, places for the surly-looking, down-faced young man behind her, and for her maid and her black poodle; the dog was like the black poodle out of Faust. Burnamy had heard her history; in fact, he had already roughed out a poem on it, which he called Europa, not after the old fable, but because it seemed to him that she expressed Europe, on one side of its civilization, and had an authorized place in its order, as she would not have had in ours. She was where she was by a toleration of certain social facts which corresponds in Europe to our reverence for the vested interests. In her history there, had been officers and bankers; even foreign dignitaries; now there was this sullen young fellow . . . . Burnamy had wondered if it would do to offer his poem to March, but the presence of the original abashed him, and in his mind he had torn the poem up, with a heartache for its aptness.
"I don't believe," he said, "that I recognize-any celebrities here."
"I'm sorry," said March. "Mrs. March would have been glad of some Hoheits, some Grafs and Grafins, or a few Excellenzes, or even some mere well-borns. But we must try to get along with the picturesqueness."
"I'm satisfied with the picturesqueness," said his wife. "Don't worry about me, Mr. Burnamy. "Why can't we have this sort of thing at home?"
"We're getting something like it in the roof-gardens," said March." We couldn't have it naturally because the climate is against it, with us. At this time in the morning over there, the sun would be burning the life out of the air, and the flies would be swarming on every table. At nine A. M. the mosquitoes would be eating us up in such a grove as this. So we have to use artifice, and lift our Posthof above the fly-line and the mosquito-line into the night air. I haven't seen a fly since I came to Europe. I really miss them; it makes me homesick."
"There are plenty in Italy," his wife suggested.
"We must get down there before we go home."
"But why did nobody ever tell us that there were no flies in Germany? Why did no traveller ever put it in his book? When your stewardess said so on the steamer, I remember that you regarded it as a bluff." He turned to Burnamy, who was listening with the deference of a contributor: "Isn't Lili rather long? I mean for such a very prompt person. Oh, no!"
But Burnamy got to his feet, and shouted "Fraulein!" to Lili; with her hireling at her heels she was flying down a distant aisle between the tables. She called back, with a face laughing over her shoulder, "In a minute!" and vanished in the crowd.
"Does that mean anything in particular? There's really no hurry."
"Oh, I think she'll come now," said Burnamy. March protested that he had only been amused at Lili's delay; but his wife scolded him for his impatience; she begged Burnamy's pardon, and repeated civilities passed between them. She asked if he did not think some of the young ladies were pretty beyond the European average; a very few had style; the mothers were mostly fat, and not stylish; it was well not to regard the fathers too closely; several old gentlemen were clearing their throats behind their newspapers, with noises that made her quail. There was no one so effective as the Austrian officers, who put themselves a good deal on show, bowing from their hips to favored groups; with the sun glinting from their eyeglasses, and their hands pressing their sword-hilts, they moved between the tables with the gait of tight-laced women.
"They all wear corsets," Burnamy explained.
"How much you know already!" said Mrs. March. "I can see that Europe won't be lost on you in anything. Oh, who's that?" A lady whose costume expressed saris at every point glided up the middle aisle of the grove with a graceful tilt. Burnamy was silent. "She must be an American. Do you know who she is?"
"Yes." He hesitated, a little to name a woman whose tragedy had once filled the newspapers.
Mrs. March gazed after her with the fascination which such tragedies inspire. "What grace! Is she beautiful?"
"Very." Burnamy had not obtruded his knowledge, but somehow Mrs. March did not like his knowing who she was, and how beautiful. She asked March to look, but he refused.
"Those things are too squalid," he said, and she liked him for saying it; she hoped it would not be lost upon Burnamy.
One of the waitresses tripped on the steps near them and flung the burden off her tray on the stone floor before her; some of the dishes broke, and the breakfast was lost. Tears came into the girl's eyes and rolled down her hot cheeks. "There! That is what I call tragedy," said March. "She'll have to pay for those things."
"Oh, give her the money, dearest!"
"How can I?"
The girl had just got away with the ruin when Lili and her hireling behind her came bearing down upon them with their three substantial breakfasts on two well-laden trays. She forestalled Burnamy's reproaches for her delay, laughing and bridling, while she set down the dishes of ham and tongue and egg, and the little pots of coffee and frothed milk.
"I could not so soon I wanted, because I was to serve an American princess."
Mrs. March started with proud conjecture of one of those noble international marriages which fill our women with vainglory for such of their compatriots as make them.
"Oh, come now, Lili!" said Burnamy. "We have queens in America, but nothing so low as princesses. This was a queen, wasn't it?"
She referred the case to her hireling, who confirmed her. "All people say it is princess," she insisted.
"Well, if she's a princess we must look her up after breakfast," said Burnamy. "Where is she sitting?"
She pointed at a corner so far off on the other side that no one could be distinguished, and then was gone, with a smile flashed over her shoulder, and her hireling trying to keep up with her.
"We're all very proud of Lili's having a hired man," said Burnamy. "We think it reflects credit on her customers."
March had begun his breakfast with-the voracious appetite of an early- rising invalid. "What coffee!"
He drew a long sigh after the first draught.
"It's said to be made of burnt figs," said Burnamy, from the inexhaustible advantage of his few days' priority in Carlsbad.
"Then let's have burnt figs introduced at home as soon as possible. But why burnt figs? That seems one of those doubts which are much more difficult than faith."
It's not only burnt figs," said Burnamy, with amiable superiority, "if it is burnt figs, but it's made after a formula invented by a consensus of physicians, and enforced by the municipality. Every cafe in Carlsbad makes the same kind of coffee and charges the same price."
"You are leaving us very little to find out for ourselves," sighed March.
"Oh, I know a lot more things. Are you fond of fishing?"
"You can get a permit to catch trout in the Tepl, but they send an official with you who keeps count, and when you have had your sport, the trout belong to the municipality just as they did before you caught them."
"I don't see why that isn't a good notion: the last thing I should want to do would be to eat a fish that I had caught, and that I was personally acquainted with. Well, I'm never going away from Carlsbad. I don't wonder people get their doctors to tell them to come back."
Burnamy told them a number of facts he said Stoller had got together about the place, and had given him to put in shape. It was run in the interest of people who had got out of order, so that they would keep coming to get themselves in order again; you could hardly buy an unwholesome meal in the town; all the cooking was 'kurgemass'. He won such favor with his facts that he could not stop in time: he said to March, "But if you ever should have a fancy for a fish of your personal acquaintance, there's a restaurant up the Tepl, where they let you pick out your trout in the water; then they catch him and broil him for you, and you know what you are eating."
"Is it a municipal restaurant?"
"Semi-municipal," said Burnamy, laughing.
"We'll take Mrs. March," said her husband, and in her gravity Burnamy felt the limitations of a woman's sense of humor, which always define themselves for men so unexpectedly.
He did what he could to get back into her good graces by telling her what he knew about distinctions and dignities that he now saw among the breakfasters. The crowd had now grown denser till the tables were set together in such labyrinths that any one who left the central aisle was lost in them. The serving-girls ran more swiftly to and fro, responding with a more nervous shrillness to the calls of "Fraulein! Fraulein!" that followed them. The proprietor, in his bare head, stood like one paralyzed by his prosperity, which sent up all round him the clash of knives and crockery, and the confusion of tongues. It was more than an hour before Burnamy caught Lili's eye, and three times she promised to come and be paid before she came. Then she said, "It is so nice, when you stay a little," and when he told her of the poor Fraulein who had broken the dishes in her fall near them, she almost wept with tenderness; she almost winked with wickedness when he asked if the American princess was still in her place.
"Do go and see who it can be!" Mrs. March entreated. "We'll wait here," and he obeyed. "I am not sure that I like him," she said, as soon as he was out of hearing. "I don't know but he's coarse, after all. Do you approve of his knowing so many people's 'taches' already?"
"Would it be any better later?" he asked in tern. "He seemed to find you interested."
"It's very different with us; we're not young," she urged, only half seriously.
Her husband laughed. "I see you want me to defend him. Oh, hello!" he cried, and she saw Burnamy coming toward them with a young lady, who was nodding to them from as far as she could see them. "This is the easy kind of thing that makes you Blush for the author if you find it in a novel."
Mrs. March fairly took Miss Triscoe in her arms to kiss her. "Do you know I felt it must be you, all the time! When did you come? Where is your father? What hotel are you staying at?"
It appeared, while Miss Triscoe was shaking hands with March, that it was last night, and her father was finishing his breakfast, and it was one of the hotels on the hill. On the way back to her father it appeared that he wished to consult March's doctor; not that there was anything the matter.
The general himself was not much softened by the reunion with his fellow- Americans; he confided to them that his coffee was poisonous; but he seemed, standing up with the Paris-New York Chronicle folded in his hand, to have drunk it all. Was March going off on his forenoon tramp? He believed that was part of the treatment, which was probably all humbug, though he thought of trying it, now he was there. He was told the walks were fine; he looked at Burnamy as if he had been praising them, and Burnamy said he had been wondering if March would not like to try a mountain path back to his hotel; he said, not so sincerely, that he thought Mrs. March would like it.
"I shall like your account of it," she answered. "But I'll walk back on a level, if you please."
"Oh, yes," Miss Triscoe pleaded, "come with us!"
She played a little comedy of meaning to go back with her father so gracefully that Mrs. March herself could scarcely have told just where the girl's real purpose of going with Burnamy began to be evident, or just how she managed to make General Triscoe beg to have the pleasure of seeing Mrs. March back to her hotel.
March went with the young people across the meadow behind the Posthof and up into the forest, which began at the base of the mountain. At first they tried to keep him in the range of their talk; but he fell behind more and more, and as the talk narrowed to themselves it was less and less possible to include him in it. When it began to concern their common appreciation of the Marches, they even tried to get out of his hearing.
"They're so young in their thoughts," said Burnamy, "and they seem as much interested in everything as they could have been thirty years ago. They belong to a time when the world was a good deal fresher than it is now; don't you think? I mean, in the eighteen-sixties."
"Oh, yes, I can see that."
"I don't know why we shouldn't be born older in each generation than people were in the last. Perhaps we are," he suggested.
"I don't know how you mean," said the girl, keeping vigorously up with him; she let him take the jacket she threw off, but she would not have his hand at the little steeps where he wanted to give it.
"I don't believe I can quite make it out myself. But fancy a man that began to act at twenty, quite unconsciously of course, from the past experience of the whole race—"
"He would be rather a dreadful person, wouldn't he?"
"Rather monstrous, yes," he owned, with a laugh. "But that's where the psychological interest would come in."
As if she did not feel the notion quite pleasant she turned from it. "I suppose you've been writing all sorts of things since you came here."
"Well, it hasn't been such a great while as it's seemed, and I've had Mr. Stoller's psychological interests to look after."
"Oh, yes! Do you like him?"
"I don't know. He's a lump of honest selfishness. He isn't bad. You know where to have him. He's simple, too."
"You mean, like Mr. March?"
"I didn't mean that; but why not? They're not of the same generation, but Stoller isn't modern."
"I'm very curious to see him," said the girl.
"Do you want me to introduce him?"
"You can introduce him to papa."
They stopped and looked across the curve of the mounting path, down on March, who had sunk on a way-side seat, and was mopping his forehead. He saw them, and called up: "Don't wait for me. I'll join you, gradually."
"I don't want to lose you," Burnamy called back, but he kept on with Miss Triscoe. "I want to get the Hirschensprung in," he explained. "It's the cliff where a hunted deer leaped down several hundred feet to get away from an emperor who was after him."
"Oh, yes. They have them everywhere."
"Do they? Well, anyway, there's a noble view up there."
There was no view on the way up. The Germans' notion of a woodland is everywhere that of a dense forest such as their barbarous tribes primevally herded in. It means the close-set stems of trees, with their tops interwoven in a roof of boughs and leaves so densely that you may walk dry through it almost as long as a German shower lasts. When the sun shines there is a pleasant greenish light in the aisles, shot here and there with the gold that trickles through. There is nothing of the accident of an American wood in these forests, which have been watched and weeded by man ever since they burst the soil. They remain nurseries, but they have the charm which no human care can alienate. The smell of their bark and their leaves, and of the moist, flowerless earth about their roots, came to March where he sat rich with the memories of his country-bred youth, and drugged all consciousness of his long life in cities since, and made him a part of nature, with dulled interests and dimmed perspectives, so that for the moment he had the enjoyment of exemption from care. There was no wild life to penetrate his isolation; no birds, not a squirrel, not an insect; an old man who had bidden him good-morning, as he came up, kept fumbling at the path with his hoe, and was less intrusive than if he had not been there.
March thought of the impassioned existence of these young people playing the inevitable comedy of hide and seek which the youth of the race has played from the beginning of time. The other invalids who haunted the forest, and passed up and down before him in fulfilment of their several prescriptions, had a thin unreality in spite of the physical bulk that prevailed among them, and they heightened the relief that the forest- spirit brought him from the strenuous contact of that young drama. He had been almost painfully aware that the persons in it had met, however little they knew it, with an eagerness intensified by their brief separation, and he fancied it was the girl who had unconsciously operated their reunion in response to the young man's longing, her will making itself electrically felt through space by that sort of wireless telegraphy which love has long employed, and science has just begun to imagine.
He would have been willing that they should get home alone, but he knew that his wife would require an account of them from him, and though he could have invented something of the kind, if it came to the worst, he was aware that it would not do for him to arrive without them. The thought goaded him from his seat, and he joined the upward procession of his fellow-sick, as it met another procession straggling downward; the ways branched in all directions, with people on them everywhere, bent upon building up in a month the health which they would spend the rest of the year in demolishing.
He came upon his charges unexpectedly at a turn of the path, and Miss Triscoe told him that he ought to have been with them for the view from the Hirschensprung. It was magnificent, she said, and she made Burnamy corroborate her praise of it, and agree with her that it was worth the climb a thousand times; he modestly accepted the credit she appeared willing to give him, of inventing the Hirschensprung.
Between his work for Stoller and what sometimes seemed the obstructiveness of General Triscoe, Burnamy was not very much with Miss Triscoe. He was not devout, but he went every Sunday to the pretty English church on the hill, where he contributed beyond his means to the support of the English clergy on the Continent, for the sake of looking at her back hair during the service, and losing himself in the graceful lines which defined, the girl's figure from the slant of her flowery hat to the point where the pewtop crossed her elastic waist. One happy morning the general did not come to church, and he had the fortune to walk home with her to her pension, where she lingered with him a moment, and almost made him believe she might be going to ask him to come in.
The next evening, when he was sauntering down the row of glittering shops beside the Tepl, with Mrs. March, they overtook the general and his daughter at a place where the girl was admiring some stork-scissors in the window; she said she wished she were still little, so that she could get them. They walked home with the Triscoes, and then he hurried Mrs. March back to the shop. The man had already put up his shutters, and was just closing his door, but Burnamy pushed in, and asked to look at the stork-scissors they had seen in the window. The gas was out, and the shopman lighted a very dim candle, to show them.
"I knew you wanted to get them for her, after what she said, Mrs. March," he laughed, nervously, "and you must let me lend you the money."
"Why, of course!" she answered, joyfully humoring his feint. "Shall I put my card in for the man to send home to her with them?"
"Well—no. No. Not your card—exactly. Or, yes! Yes, you must, I suppose."
They made the hushing street gay with their laughter; the next evening Miss Triscoe came upon the Marches and Burnamy where they sat after supper listening to the concert at Pupp's, and thanked Mrs. March for the scissors. Then she and Burnamy had their laugh again, and Miss Triscoe joined them, to her father's frowning mystification. He stared round for a table; they were all taken, and he could not refuse the interest Burnamy made with the waiters to bring them one and crowd it in. He had to ask him to sup with them, and Burnamy sat down and heard the concert through beside Miss Triscoe.
"What is so tremendously amusing in a pair of stork-scissors?" March demanded, when his wife and he were alone.
"Why, I was wanting to tell you, dearest," she began, in a tone which he felt to be wheedling, and she told the story of the scissors.
"Look here, my dear! Didn't you promise to let this love-affair alone?"
"That was on the ship. And besides, what would you have done, I should like to know? Would you have refused to let him buy them for her?" She added, carelessly, "He wants us to go to the Kurhaus ball with him."
"Oh, does he!"
"Yes. He says he knows that she can get her father to let her go if we will chaperon them. And I promised that you would."
"That I would?"
"It will do just as well if you go. And it will be very amusing; you can see something of Carlsbad society."
"But I'm not going!" he declared. "It would interfere with my cure. The sitting up late would be bad enough, but I should get very hungry, and I should eat potato salad and sausages, and drink beer, and do all sorts of unwholesome things."
"Nonsense! The refreshments will be 'kurgemass', of course."
"You can go yourself," he said.
A ball is not the same thing for a woman after fifty as it is before twenty, but still it has claims upon the imagination, and the novel circumstance of a ball in the Kurhaus in Carlsbad enhanced these for Mrs. March. It was the annual reunion which is given by municipal authority in the large hall above the bathrooms; it is frequented with safety and pleasure by curious strangers, and now, upon reflection, it began to have for Mrs. March the charm of duty; she believed that she could finally have made March go in her place, but she felt that she ought really to go in his, and save him from the late hours and the late supper.