"Oh, I'm not his only ideal," March protested. "He adores Kenby too, and every now and then he brings me to book with a text from Kenby's gospel."
Mrs. March caught her breath. "Kenby! Do you really think, then, that she—"
"Oh, hold on, now! It isn't a question of Mrs. Adding; and I don't say Rose had an eye on poor old Kenby as a step-father. I merely want you to understand that I'm the object of a divided worship, and that when I'm off duty as an ideal I don't see why I shouldn't have the fun of making Mrs. Adding laugh. You can't pretend she isn't wrapped up in the boy. You've said that yourself."
"Yes, she's wrapped up in him; she'd give her life for him; but she is so light. I didn't suppose she was so light; but it's borne in upon me more and more."
They were constantly seeing Rose and his mother, in the sort of abeyance the Triscoes had fallen into. One afternoon the Addings came to Mrs. March's room to look from her windows at a parade of bicyclers' clubs from the neighboring towns. The spectacle prospered through its first half-hour, with the charm which German sentiment and ingenuity, are able to lend even a bicycle parade. The wheelmen and wheelwomen filed by on machines wreathed with flowers and ribbons, and decked with streaming banners. Here and there one sat under a moving arch of blossoms, or in a bower of leaves and petals, and they were all gay with their club costumes and insignia. In the height of the display a sudden mountain shower gathered and broke upon them. They braved it till it became a drenching down-pour; then they leaped from their machines and fled to any shelter they could find, under trees and in doorways. The men used their greater agility to get the best places, and kept them; the women made no appeal for them by word or look, but took the rain in the open as if they expected nothing else.
Rose watched the scene with a silent intensity which March interpreted. "There's your chance, Rose. Why don't you go down and rebuke those fellows?"
Rose blushed and shrank away without answer, and Mrs. March promptly attacked her husband in his behalf. "Why don't you go and rebuke them yourself?"
Well, for one thing, there isn't any conversation in my phrase-book Between an indignant American Herr and a Party of German Wheelmen who have taken Shelter from the Rain and are keeping the Wheelwomen out in the Wet." Mrs. Adding shrieked her delight, and he was flattered into going on. "For another thing, I think it's very well for you ladies to realize from an object-lesson of this sort what spoiled children of our civilization you are. It ought to make you grateful for your privileges."
"There is something in that," Mrs. Adding joyfully consented.
"Oh, there is no civilization but ours," said Mrs. March, in a burst of vindictive patriotism. "I am more and more convinced of it the longer I stay in Europe."
"Perhaps that's why we like to stay so long in Europe; it strengthens us in the conviction that America is the only civilized country in the world," said March.
The shower passed as quickly as it had gathered, and the band which it had silenced for a moment burst forth again in the music which fills the Carlsbad day from dawn till dusk. Just now, it began to play a pot pourri of American airs; at the end some unseen Americans under the trees below clapped and cheered.
"That was opportune of the band," said March. "It must have been a telepathic impulse from our patriotism in the director. But a pot pourri of American airs is like that tablet dedicating the American Park up here on the Schlossberg, which is signed by six Jews and one Irishman. The only thing in this medley that's the least characteristic or original is Dixie; and I'm glad the South has brought us back into the Union."
"You don't know one note from another, my dear," said his wife.
"I know the 'Washington Post.'"
"And don't you call that American?"
"Yes, if Sousa is an American name; I should have thought it was Portuguese."
"Now that sounds a little too much like General Triscoe's pessimism," said Mrs. March; and she added: "But whether we have any national melodies or not, we don't poke women out in the rain and keep them soaking!"
"No, we certainly don't," he assented, with such a well-studied effect of yielding to superior logic that Mrs. Adding screamed for joy.
The boy had stolen out of the room, and he said, "I hope Rose isn't acting on my suggestion?"
"I hate to have you tease him, dearest," his wife interposed.
"Oh, no," the mother said, laughing still, but with a note of tenderness in her laugh, which dropped at last to a sigh. "He's too much afraid of lese-majesty, for that. But I dare say he couldn't stand the sight. He's queer."
"He's beautiful!" said Mrs. March.
"He's good," the mother admitted. "As good as the day's long. He's never given me a moment's trouble—but he troubles me. If you can understand!"
"Oh, I do understand!" Mrs. March returned. "By his innocence, you mean. That is the worst of children. Their innocence breaks our hearts and makes us feel ourselves such dreadful old things."
"His innocence, yes," pursued Mrs. Adding, "and his ideals." She began to laugh again. "He may have gone off for a season of meditation and prayer over the misbehavior of these bicyclers. His mind is turning that way a good deal lately. It's only fair to tell you, Mr. March, that he seems to be giving up his notion of being an editor. You mustn't be disappointed."
"I shall be sorry," said the editor. "But now that you mention it, I think I have noticed that Rose seems rather more indifferent to periodical literature. I supposed he might simply have exhausted his questions—or my answers."
"No; it goes deeper than that. I think it's Europe that's turned his mind in the direction of reform. At any rate he thinks now he will be a reformer."
"Really! What kind of one? Not religious, I hope?"
"No. His reform has a religious basis, but its objects are social. I don't make it out, exactly; but I shall, as soon as Rose does. He tells me everything, and sometimes I don't feel equal to it, spiritually or even intellectually."
"Don't laugh at him, Mrs. Adding!" Mrs. March entreated.
"Oh, he doesn't mind my laughing," said the mother, gayly. Rose came shyly back into the room, and she said, "Well, did you rebuke those bad bicyclers?" and she laughed again.
"They're only a custom, too, Rose,", said March, tenderly. "Like the man resting while the women worked, and the Emperor, and all the rest of it."
"Oh, yes, I know," the boy returned.
"They ride modern machines, but they live in the tenth century. That's what we're always forgetting when we come to Europe and see these barbarians enjoying all our up-to-date improvements."
There, doesn't that console you?" asked his mother, and she took him away with her, laughing back from the door. "I don't believe it does, a bit!"
"I don't believe she understands the child," said Mrs. March. "She is very light, don't you think? I don't know, after all, whether it wouldn't be a good thing for her to marry Kenby. She is very easygoing, and she will be sure to marry somebody."
She had fallen into a tone of musing censure, and he said, "You might put these ideas to her."
With the passage of the days and weeks, the strange faces which had familiarized themselves at the springs disappeared; even some of those which had become the faces of acquaintance began to go. In the diminishing crowd the smile of Otterson was no longer to be seen; the sad, severe visage of Major Eltwin, who seemed never to have quite got his bearings after his error with General Triscoe, seldom showed itself. The Triscoes themselves kept out of the Marches' way, or they fancied so; Mrs. Adding and Rose alone remained of their daily encounter.
It was full summer, as it is everywhere in mid-August, but at Carlsbad the sun was so late getting up over the hills that as people went to their breakfasts at the cafes up the valley of the Tepl they found him looking very obliquely into it at eight o'clock in the morning. The yellow leaves were thicker about the feet of the trees, and the grass was silvery gray with the belated dews. The breakfasters were fewer than they had been, and there were more little barefooted boys and girls with cups of red raspberries which they offered to the passers with cries of "Himbeeren! Himbeeren!" plaintive as the notes of birds left songless by the receding summer.
March was forbidden the fruit, but his wife and Mrs. Adding bought recklessly of it, and ate it under his eyes with their coffee and bread, pouring over it pots of clotted cream that the 'schone' Lili brought them. Rose pretended an indifference to it, which his mother betrayed was a sacrifice in behalf of March's inability.
Lili's delays in coming to be paid had been such that the Marches now tried to pay her when she brought their breakfast, but they sometimes forgot, and then they caught her whenever she came near them. In this event she liked to coquet with their impatience; she would lean against their table, and say: "Oh, no. You stay a little. It is so nice." One day after such an entreaty, she said, "The queen is here, this morning."
Mrs. March started, in the hope of highhotes. "The queen!"
"Yes; the young lady. Mr. Burnamy was saying she was a queen. She is there with her father." She nodded in the direction of a distant corner, and the Marches knew that she meant Miss Triscoe and the general. "She is not seeming so gayly as she was being."
March smiled. "We are none of us so gayly as we were being, Lili. The summer is going."
"But Mr. Burnamy will be returning, not true?" the girl asked, resting her tray on the corner of the table.
"No, I'm afraid he won't," March returned sadly.
"He was very good. He was paying the proprietor for the dishes that Augusta did break when she was falling down. He was paying before he went away, when he was knowing that the proprietor would make Augusta to pay."
"Ah!" said March, and his wife said, "That was like him!" and she eagerly explained to Mrs. Adding how good and great Burnamy had been in this characteristic instance, while Lili waited with the tray to add some pathetic facts about Augusta's poverty and gratitude. "I think Miss Triscoe ought to know it. There goes the wretch, now!" she broke off. "Don't look at him!" She set her husband the example of averting his face from the sight of Stoller sullenly pacing up the middle aisle of the grove, and looking to the right and left for a vacant table. "Ugh! I hope he won't be able to find a single place."
Mrs. Adding gave one of her pealing laughs, while Rose watched March's face with grave sympathy. "He certainly doesn't deserve one. Don't let us keep you from offering Miss Triscoe any consolation you can." They got up, and the boy gathered up the gloves, umbrella, and handkerchief which the ladies let drop from their laps.
"Have you been telling?" March asked his wife.
"Have I told you anything?" she demanded of Mrs. Adding in turn. "Anything that you didn't as good as know, already?"
"Not a syllable!" Mrs. Adding replied in high delight. "Come, Rose!"
"Well, I suppose there's no use saying anything," said March, after she left them.
"She had guessed everything, without my telling her," said his wife.
"Well-no. I did tell her that part, but that was nothing. It was about Burnamy and Agatha that she knew. She saw it from the first."
"I should have thought she would have enough to do to look after poor old Kenby."
"I'm not sure, after all, that she cares for him. If she doesn't, she oughtn't to let him write to her. Aren't you going over to speak to the Triscoes?"
"No, certainly not. I'm going back to the hotel. There ought to be some steamer letters this morning. Here we are, worrying about these strangers all the time, and we never give a thought to our own children on the other side of the ocean."
"I worry about them, too," said the mother, fondly. "Though there is nothing to worry about," she added.
"It's our duty to worry," he insisted.
At the hotel the portier gave them four letters. There was one from each of their children: one very buoyant, not to say boisterous, from the daughter, celebrating her happiness in her husband, and the loveliness of Chicago as a summer city ("You would think she was born out there!" sighed her mother); and one from the son, boasting his well-being in spite of the heat they were having ("And just think how cool it is here!" his mother upbraided herself), and the prosperity of 'Every Other Week'. There was a line from Fulkerson, praising the boy's editorial instinct, and ironically proposing March's resignation in his favor.
"I do believe we could stay all winter, just as well as not," said Mrs. March, proudly. "What does 'Burnamy say?"
"How do you know it's from him?"
"Because you've been keeping your hand on it! Give it here."
"When I've read it."
The letter was dated at Ansbach, in Germany, and dealt, except for some messages of affection to Mrs. March, with a scheme for a paper which Burnamy wished to write on Kaspar Hauser, if March thought he could use it in 'Every Other Week'. He had come upon a book about that hapless foundling in Nuremberg, and after looking up all his traces there he had gone on to Ansbach, where Kaspar Hauser met his death so pathetically. Burnamy said he could not give any notion of the enchantment of Nuremberg; but he besought March, if he was going to the Tyrol for his after-cure, not to fail staying a day or so in the wonderful place. He thought March would enjoy Ansbach too, in its way.
"And, not a word—not a syllable—about Miss Triscoe!" cried Mrs. March. "Shall you take his paper?"
"It would be serving him right, if I refused it, wouldn't it?"
They never knew what it cost Burnamy to keep her name out of his letter, or by what an effort of the will he forbade himself even to tell of his parting interview with Stoller. He had recovered from his remorse for letting Stoller give himself away; he was still sorry for that, but he no longer suffered; yet he had not reached the psychological moment when he could celebrate his final virtue in the matter. He was glad he had been able to hold out against the temptation to retrieve himself by another wrong; but he was humbly glad, and he felt that until happier chance brought him and his friends together he must leave them to their merciful conjectures. He was young, and he took the chance, with an aching heart. If he had been older, he might not have taken it.
The birthday of the Emperor comes conveniently, in late August, in the good weather which is pretty sure to fall then, if ever in the Austrian summer. For a week past, at Carlsbad, the workmen had been building a scaffolding for the illumination in the woods on a height overlooking the town, and making unobtrusive preparations at points within it.
The day was important as the last of March's cure, and its pleasures began for him by a renewal of his acquaintance in its first kindliness with the Eltwins. He had met them so seldom that at one time he thought they must have gone away, but now after his first cup he saw the quiet, sad old pair, sitting together on a bench in the Stadt Park, and he asked leave to sit down with them till it was time for the next. Eltwin said that this was their last day, too; and explained that his wife always came with him to the springs, while he took the waters.
"Well," he apologized, "we're all that's left, and I suppose we like to keep together." He paused, and at the look in March's face he suddenly went on. "I haven't been well for three or four years; but I always fought against coming out here, when the doctors wanted me to. I said I couldn't leave home; and, I don't suppose I ever should. But my home left me."
As he spoke his wife shrank tenderly near him, and March saw her steal her withered hand into his.
"We'd had a large family, but they'd all died off, with one thing or another, and here in the spring we lost our last daughter. Seemed perfectly well, and all at once she died; heart-failure, they called it. It broke me up, and mother, here, got at me to go. And so we're here." His voice trembled; and his eyes softened; then they flashed up, and March heard him add, in a tone that astonished him less when he looked round and saw General Triscoe advancing toward them, "I don't know what it is always makes me want to kick that man."
The general lifted his hat to their group, and hoped that Mrs. Eltwin was well, and Major Eltwin better. He did not notice their replies, but said to March, "The ladies are waiting for you in Pupp's readingroom, to go with them to the Posthof for breakfast."
"Aren't you going, too?" asked March.
"No, thank you," said the general, as if it were much finer not; "I shall breakfast at our pension." He strolled off with the air of a man who has done more than his duty.
"I don't suppose I ought to feel that way," said Eltwin, with a remorse which March suspected a reproachful pressure of his wife's hand had prompted in him. "I reckon he means well."
"Well, I don't know," March said, with a candor he could not wholly excuse.
On his way to the hotel he fancied mocking his wife for her interest in the romantic woes of her lovers, in a world where there was such real pathos as these poor old people's; but in the company of Miss Triscoe he could not give himself this pleasure. He tried to amuse her on the way from Pupp's, with the doubt he always felt in passing the Cafe Sans- Souci, whether he should live to reach the Posthof where he meant to breakfast. She said, "Poor Mr. March!" and laughed inattentively; when he went on to philosophize the commonness of the sparse company always observable at the Sans-Souci as a just effect of its Laodicean situation between Pupp's and the Posthof, the girl sighed absently, and his wife frowned at him.
The flower-woman at the gate of her garden had now only autumnal blooms for sale in the vases which flanked the entrance; the windrows of the rowen, left steeping in the dews overnight, exhaled a faint fragrance; a poor remnant of the midsummer multitudes trailed itself along to the various cafes of the valley, its pink paper bags of bread rustling like sere foliage as it moved.
At the Posthof the 'schone' Lili alone was as gay, as in the prime of July. She played archly about the guests she welcomed to a table in a sunny spot in the gallery. "You are tired of Carlsbad?" she said caressingly to Miss Triscoe, as she put her breakfast before her.
"Not of the Posthof," said the girl, listlessly.
"Posthof, and very little Lili?" She showed, with one forefinger on another, how very little she was.
Miss Triscoe laughed, not cheerily, and Lili said to Mrs. March, with abrupt seriousness, "Augusta was finding a handkerchief under the table, and she was washing it and ironing it before she did bring it. I have scolded her, and I have made her give it to me."
She took from under her apron a man's handkerchief, which she offered to Mrs. March. It bore, as she saw Miss Triscoe saw, the initials L. J. B. But, "Whose can it be?" they asked each other.
"Why, Burnamy's," said March; and Lili's eyes danced. "Give it here!"
His wife caught it farther away. "No, I'm going to see whose it is, first; if it's his, I'll send it to him myself."
She tried to put it into the pocket which was not in her dress by sliding it down her lap; then she handed it to the girl, who took it with a careless air, but kept it after a like failure to pocket it.
Mrs. March had come out in her India-rubber sandals, but for once in Carlsbad the weather was too dry for them, and she had taken them off and was holding them in her lap. They fell to the ground when she now rose from breakfast, and she stooped to pick them up. Miss Triscoe was too quick for her.
"Oh, let me carry them for you!" she entreated, and after a tender struggle she succeed in enslaving herself to them, and went away wearing them through the heel-bands like manacles on her wrist. She was not the kind of girl to offer such pretty devotions, and Mrs. March was not the kind of woman to suffer them; but they played the comedy through, and let March go off for his last hill-climb with the promise to meet him in the Stadt Park when he came to the Kurhaus for his last mineral bath.
Mrs. March in the mean time went about some final shopping, and invited the girl's advice with a fondness which did not prevent her rejecting it in every case, with Miss Triscoe's eager approval. In the Stadt Park they sat down and talked; from time to time Mrs. March made polite feints of recovering her sandals, but the girl kept them with increased effusion.
When they rose, and strolled away from the bench where they had been sitting, they seemed to be followed. They looked round and saw no one more alarming than a very severe-looking old gentleman, whose hat brim in spite of his severity was limp with much lifting, as all Austrian hat brims are. He touched it, and saying haughtily in German, "Something left lying," passed on.
They stared at each other; then, as women do, they glanced down at their skirts to see if there was anything amiss with them, and Miss Triscoe perceived her hands empty of Mrs. March's sandals and of Burnamy's handkerchief.
"Oh, I put it in one of the toes!" she lamented, and she fled back to their bench, alarming in her course the fears of a gendarme for the public security, and putting a baby in its nurse's arms into such doubts of its personal safety that it burst into a desolate cry. She laughed breathlessly as she rejoined Mrs. March. "That comes of having no pocket; I didn't suppose I could forget your sandals, Mrs. March! Wasn't it absurd?"
"It's one of those things," Mrs. March said to her husband afterwards, "that they can always laugh over together."
"They? And what about Burnamy's behavior to Stoller?"
"Oh, I don't call that anything but what will come right. Of course he can make it up to him somehow. And I regard his refusal to do wrong when Stoller wanted him to as quite wiping out the first offence."
"Well, my dear, you have burnt your ships behind you. My only hope is that when we leave here tomorrow, her pessimistic papa's poison will neutralize yours somehow."
One of the pleasantest incidents of March's sojourn in Carlsbad was his introduction to the manager of the municipal theatre by a common friend who explained the editor in such terms to the manager that he conceived of him as a brother artist. This led to much bowing and smiling from the manager when the Marches met him in the street, or in their frequent visits to the theatre, with which March felt that it might well have ended, and still been far beyond his desert. He had not thought of going to the opera on the Emperor's birthnight, but after dinner a box came from the manager, and Mrs. March agreed with him that they could not in decency accept so great a favor. At the same time she argued that they could not in decency refuse it, and that to show their sense of the pleasure done them, they must adorn their box with all the beauty and distinction possible; in other words, she said they must ask Miss Triscoe and her father.
"And why not Major Eltwin and his wife? Or Mrs. Adding and Rose?"
She begged him, simply in his own interest, not to be foolish; and they went early, so as to be in their box when their guests came. The foyer of the theatre was banked with flowers, and against a curtain of evergreens stood a high-pedestalled bust of the paternal Caesar, with whose side-whiskers a laurel crown comported itself as well as it could. At the foot of the grand staircase leading to the boxes the manager stood in evening dress, receiving his friends and their felicitations upon the honor which the theatre was sure to do itself on an occasion so august. The Marches were so cordial in their prophecies that the manager yielded to an artist's impulse and begged his fellow-artist to do him the pleasure of coming behind the scenes between the acts of the opera; he bowed a heart-felt regret to Mrs. March that he could not make the invitation include her, and hoped that she would not be too lonely while her husband was gone.
She explained that they had asked friends, and she should not be alone, and then he entreated March to bring any gentleman who was his guest with him. On the way up to their box, she pressed his arm as she used in their young married days, and asked him if it was not perfect. "I wish we were going to have it all to ourselves; no one else can appreciate the whole situation. Do you think we have made a mistake in having the Triscoes?"
"We!" be retorted. "Oh, that's good! I'm going to shirk him, when it comes to going behind the scenes."
"No, no, dearest," she entreated. "Snubbing will only make it worse. We must stand it to the bitter end, now."
The curtain rose upon another laurelled bust of the Emperor, with a chorus of men formed on either side, who broke into the grave and noble strains of the Austrian Hymn, while every one stood. Then the curtain fell again, and in the interval before the opera could begin, General Triscoe and his daughter came in.
Mrs. March took the splendor in which the girl appeared as a tribute to her hospitality. She had hitherto been a little disappointed of the open homage to American girlhood which her readings of international romance had taught her to expect in Europe, but now her patriotic vanity feasted full. Fat highhotes of her own sex levelled their lorgnettes at Miss Triscoe all around the horseshoe, with critical glances which fell blunted from her complexion and costume; the house was brilliant with the military uniforms, which we have not yet to mingle with our unrivalled millinery, and the ardent gaze of the young officers dwelt on the perfect mould of her girlish arms and neck, and the winning lines of her face. The girl's eyes shone with a joyful excitement, and her little head, defined by its dark hair, trembled as she slowly turned it from side to side, after she removed the airy scarf which had covered it. Her father, in evening dress, looked the Third Emperor complaisant to a civil occasion, and took a chair in the front of the box without resistance; and the ladies disputed which should yield the best place to the other, till Miss Triscoe forced Mrs. March fondly into it for the first act at least.
The piece had to be cut a good deal to give people time for the illuminations afterwards; but as it was it gave scope to the actress who, 'als Gast' from a Viennese theatre, was the chief figure in it. She merited the distinction by the art which still lingered, deeply embedded in her massive balk, but never wholly obscured.
"That is grand, isn't it?" said March, following one of the tremendous strokes by which she overcame her physical disadvantages. "It's fine to see how her art can undo, for one splendid instant, the work of all those steins of beer, those illimitable licks of sausage, those boundless fields of cabbage. But it's rather pathetic."
"It's disgusting," said his wife; and at this General Triscoe, who had been watching the actress through his lorgnette, said, as if his contrary-mindedness were irresistibly invoked:
"Well, I don't know. It's amusing. Do you suppose we shall see her when we go behind, March?"
He still professed a desire to do so when the curtain fell, and they hurried to the rear door of the theatre. It was slightly ajar, and they pulled it wide open, with the eagerness of their age and nation, and began to mount the stairs leading up from it between rows of painted dancing-girls, who had come out for a breath of air, and who pressed themselves against the walls to make room for the intruders. With their rouged faces, and the stare of their glassy eyes intensified by the coloring of their brows and lashes, they were like painted statues, as they stood there with their crimsoned lips parted in astonished smiles.
"This is rather weird," said March, faltering at the sight. "I wonder if we might ask these young ladies where to go?" General Triscoe made no answer, and was apparently no more prepared than himself to accost the files of danseuses, when they were themselves accosted by an angry voice from the head of the stairs with a demand for their business. The voice belonged to a gendarme, who descended toward them and seemed as deeply scandalized at their appearance as they could have been at that of the young ladies.
March explained, in his ineffective German, with every effect of improbability, that they were there by appointment of the manager, and wished to find his room.
The gendarme would not or could not make anything out of it. He pressed down upon them, and laying a rude hand on a shoulder of either, began to force them back to the door. The mild nature of the editor might have yielded to his violence, but the martial spirit of General Triscoe was roused. He shrugged the gendarme's hand from his shoulder, and with a voice as furious as his own required him, in English, to say what the devil he meant. The gendarme rejoined with equal heat in German; the general's tone rose in anger; the dancing-girls emitted some little shrieks of alarm, and fled noisily up the stairs. From time to time March interposed with a word of the German which had mostly deserted him in his hour of need; but if it had been a flow of intelligible expostulation, it would have had no effect upon the disputants. They grew more outrageous, till the manager himself, appeared at the head of the stairs, and extended an arresting hand over the hubbub. As soon as the situation clarified itself he hurried down to his visitors with a polite roar of apology and rescued them from the gendarme, and led them up to his room and forced them into arm-chairs with a rapidity of reparation which did not exhaust itself till he had entreated them with every circumstance of civility to excuse an incident so mortifying to him. But with all his haste he lost so much time in this that he had little left to show them through the theatre, and their presentation to the prima donna was reduced to the obeisances with which they met and parted as she went upon the stage at the lifting of the curtain. In the lack of a common language this was perhaps as well as a longer interview; and nothing could have been more honorable than their dismissal at the hands of the gendarme who had received them so stormily. He opened the door for them, and stood with his fingers to his cap saluting, in the effect of being a whole file of grenadiers.
At the same moment Burnamy bowed himself out of the box where he had been sitting with the ladies during the absence of the gentlemen. He had knocked at the door almost as soon as they disappeared, and if he did not fully share the consternation which his presence caused, he looked so frightened that Mrs. March reserved the censure which the sight of him inspired, and in default of other inspiration treated his coming simply as a surprise. She shook hands with him, and then she asked him to sit down, and listened to his explanation that he had come back to Carlsbad to write up the birthnight festivities, on an order from the Paris-New York Chronicle; that he had seen them in the box and had ventured to took in. He was pale, and so discomposed that the heart of justice was softened more and more in Mrs. March's breast, and she left him to the talk that sprang up, by an admirable effect of tact in the young lady, between him and Miss Triscoe.
After all, she decided, there was nothing criminal in his being in Carlsbad, and possibly in the last analysis there was nothing so very wicked in his being in her box. One might say that it was not very nice of him after he had gone away under such a cloud; but on the other hand it was nice, though in a different way, if he longed so much to see Miss Triscoe that he could not help coming. It was altogether in his favor that he was so agitated, though he was momently becoming less agitated; the young people were beginning to laugh at the notion of Mr. March and General Triscoe going behind the scenes. Burnamy said he envied them the chance; and added, not very relevantly, that he had come from Baireuth, where he had seen the last of the Wagner performances. He said he was going back to Baireuth, but not to Ansbach again, where he had finished looking up that Kaspar Hauser business. He seemed to think Mrs. March would know about it, and she could not help saying; Oh, yes, Mr. March was so much interested. She wondered if she ought to tell him about his handkerchief; but she remembered in time that she had left it in Miss Triscoe's keeping. She wondered if the girl realized how handsome he was. He was extremely handsome, in his black evening dress, with his Tuxedo, and the pallor of his face repeated in his expanse of shirt front.
At the bell for the rising of the curtain he rose too, and took their offered hands. In offering hers Mrs. March asked if he would not stay and speak with Mr. March and the general; and now for the first time he recognized anything clandestine in his visit. He laughed nervously, and said, "No, thank you!" and shut himself out.
"We must tell them," said Mrs. March, rather interrogatively, and she was glad that the girl answered with a note of indignation.
"Why, certainly, Mrs. March."
They could not tell them at once, for the second act had begun when March and the general came back; and after the opera was over and they got out into the crowded street there was no chance, for the general was obliged to offer his arm to Mrs. March, while her husband followed with his daughter.
The facades of the theatre and of the hotels were outlined with thickly set little lamps, which beaded the arches of the bridges spanning the Tepl, and lighted the casements and portals of the shops. High above all, against the curtain of black woodland on the mountain where its skeleton had been growing for days, glittered the colossal effigy of the doubleheaded eagle of Austria, crowned with the tiara of the Holy Roman Empire; in the reflected splendor of its myriad lamps the pale Christ looked down from the mountain opposite upon the surging multitudes in the streets and on the bridges.
They were most amiable multitudes, March thought, and they responded docilely to the entreaties of the policemen who stood on the steps of the bridges, and divided their encountering currents with patient appeals of "Bitte schon! Bitte schon!" He laughed to think of a New York cop saying "Please prettily! Please prettily!" to a New York crowd which he wished to have go this way or that, and then he burned with shame to think how far our manners were from civilization, wherever our heads and hearts might be, when he heard a voice at his elbow:
"A punch with a club would start some of these fellows along quicker."
It was Stoller, and March turned from him to lose his disgust in the sudden terror of perceiving that Miss Triscoe was no longer at his side. Neither could he see his wife and General Triscoe, and he began to push frantically about in the crowd looking for the girl. He had an interminable five or ten minutes in his vain search, and he was going to call out to her by name, when Burnamy saved him from the hopeless absurdity by elbowing his way to him with Miss. Triscoe on his arm.
"Here she is, Mr. March," he said, as if there were nothing strange in his having been there to find her; in fact he had followed them all from the theatre, and at the moment he saw the party separated, and Miss Triscoe carried off helpless in the human stream, had plunged in and rescued her. Before March could formulate any question in his bewilderment, Burnamy was gone again; the girl offered no explanation for him, and March had not yet decided to ask any when he caught sight of his wife and General Triscoe standing tiptoe in a doorway and craning their necks upward and forward to scan the crowd in search of him and his charge. Then he looked round at her and opened his lips to express the astonishment that filled him, when be was aware of an ominous shining of her eyes and trembling of her hand on his arm.
She pressed his arm nervously, and he understood her to beg him to forbear at once all question of her and all comment on Burnamy's presence to her father.
It would not have been just the time for either. Not only Mrs. March was with the general, but Mrs. Adding also; she had called to them from that place, where she was safe with Rose when she saw them eddying about in the crowd. The general was still, expressing a gratitude which became more pressing the more it was disclaimed; he said casually at sight of his daughter, "Ah; you've found us, have you?" and went on talking to Mrs. Adding, who nodded to them laughingly, and asked, "Did you see me beckoning?"
"Look here, my dear!" March said to his wife as soon as they parted from the rest, the general gallantly promising that his daughter and he would see Mrs. Adding safe to her hotel, and were making their way slowly home alone. "Did you know that Burnamy was in Carlsbad?"
"He's going away on the twelve-o'clock train tonight," she answered, firmly.
"What has that got to do with it? Where did you see him?"
"In the box, while you were behind the scenes."
She told him all about it, and he listened in silent endeavor for the ground of censure from which a sense of his own guilt forced him. She asked suddenly, "Where did you see him?" and he told her in turn.
He added severely, "Her father ought to know. Why didn't you tell him?"
"Why didn't you?" she retorted with great reason.
"Because I didn't think he was just in the humor for it." He began to laugh as he sketched their encounter with the gendarme, but she did not seem to think it amusing; and he became serious again. "Besides, I was afraid she was going to blubber, any way."
"She wouldn't have blubbered, as you call it. I don't know why you need be so disgusting! It would have given her just the moral support she needed. Now she will have to tell him herself, and he will blame us. You ought to have spoken; you could have done it easily and naturally when you came up with her. You will have yourself to thank for all the trouble that comes of it, now, my dear."
He shouted in admiration of her skill in shifting the blame on him. "All right! I should have had to stand it, even if you hadn't behaved with angelic wisdom."
"Why," she said, after reflection, "I don't see what either of us has done. We didn't get Burnamy to come here, or connive at his presence in any way."
"Oh! Make Triscoe believe that! He knows you've done all you could to help the affair on."
"Well, what if I have? He began making up to Mrs. Adding himself as soon as he saw her, to-night. She looked very pretty."
"Well, thank Heaven! we're off to-morrow morning, and I hope we've seen the last of them. They've done what they could to spoil my cure, but I'm not going to have them spoil my aftercure."
Mrs. March had decided not to go to the Posthof for breakfast, where they had already taken a lavish leave of the 'schone' Lili, with a sense of being promptly superseded in her affections. They found a place in the red-table-cloth end of the pavilion at Pupp's, and were served by the pretty girl with the rose-bud mouth whom they had known only as Ein-und- Zwanzig, and whose promise of "Komm' gleich, bitte schon!" was like a bird's note. Never had the coffee been so good, the bread so aerially light, the Westphalian ham so tenderly pink. A young married couple whom they knew came by, arm in arm, in their morning walk, and sat down with them, like their own youth, for a moment.
"If you had told them we were going, dear," said Mrs. March, when the couple were themselves gone, "we should have been as old as ever. Don't let us tell anybody, this morning, that we're going. I couldn't bear it."
They had been obliged to take the secretary of the hotel into their confidence, in the process of paying their bill. He put on his high hat and came out to see them off. The portier was already there, standing at the step of the lordly two-spanner which they had ordered for the long drive to the station. The Swiss elevator-man came to the door to offer them a fellow-republican's good wishes for their journey; Herr Pupp himself appeared at the last moment to hope for their return another summer. Mrs. March bent a last look of interest upon the proprietor as their two-spanner whirled away.
"They say that he is going to be made a count."
"Well, I don't object," said March. "A man who can feed fourteen thousand people, mostly Germans, in a day, ought to be made an archduke."
At the station something happened which touched them even more than these last attentions of the hotel. They were in their compartment, and were in the act of possessing themselves of the best places by putting their bundles and bags on them, when they heard Mrs. March's name called.
They turned and saw Rose Adding at the door, his thin face flushed with excitement and his eyes glowing. "I was afraid I shouldn't get here in time," he panted, and he held up to her a huge bunch of flowers.
"Why Rose! From your mother?"
"From me," he said, timidly, and he was slipping out into the corridor, when she caught him and his flowers to her in one embrace. "I want to kiss you," she said; and presently, when he had waved his hand to them from the platform outside, and the train had started, she fumbled for her handkerchief. "I suppose you call it blubbering; but he is the sweetest child!"
"He's about the only one of our Carlsbad compatriots that I'm sorry to leave behind," March assented. "He's the only unmarried one that wasn't in danger of turning up a lover on my hands; if there had been some rather old girl, or some rather light matron in our acquaintance, I'm not sure that I should have been safe even from Rose. Carlsbad has been an interruption to our silver wedding journey, my dear; but I hope now that it will begin again."
"Yes," said his wife, "now we can have each other all to ourselves."
"Yes. It's been very different from our first wedding journey in that. It isn't that we're not so young now as we were, but that we don't seem so much our own property. We used to be the sole proprietors, and now we seem to be mere tenants at will, and any interloping lover may come in and set our dearest interests on the sidewalk. The disadvantage of living along is that we get too much into the hands of other people."
"Yes, it is. I shall be glad to be rid of them all, too."
"I don't know that the drawback is serious enough to make us wish we had died young—or younger," he suggested.
"No, I don't know that it is," she assented. She added, from an absence where he was sufficiently able to locate her meaning, "I hope she'll write and tell me what her father says and does when she tells him that he was there."
There were many things, in the weather, the landscape, their sole occupancy of an unsmoking compartment, while all the smoking compartments round overflowed with smokers, which conspired to offer them a pleasing illusion of the past; it was sometimes so perfect that they almost held each other's hands. In later life there are such moments when the youthful emotions come back, as certain birds do in winter, and the elderly heart chirps and twitters to itself as if it were young. But it is best to discourage this fondness; and Mrs. March joined her husband in mocking it, when he made her observe how fit it was that their silver wedding journey should be resumed as part of his after-cure. If he had found the fountain of youth in the warm, flat, faintly nauseous water of the Felsenquelle, he was not going to call himself twenty-eight again till his second month of the Carlsbad regimen was out, and he had got back to salad and fruit.
At Eger they had a memorable dinner, with so much leisure for it that they could form a life-long friendship for the old English-speaking waiter who served them, and would not suffer them to hurry themselves. The hills had already fallen away, and they ran along through a cheerful country, with tracts of forest under white clouds blowing about in a blue sky, and gayly flinging their shadows down upon the brown ploughed land, and upon the yellow oat-fields, where women were cutting the leisurely harvest with sickles, and where once a great girl with swarthy bare arms unbent herself from her toil, and rose, a statue of rude vigor and beauty, to watch them go by. Hedges of evergreen enclosed the yellow oat-fields, where slow wagons paused to gather the sheaves of the week before, and then loitered away with them. Flocks of geese waddled in sculpturesque relief against the close-cropt pastures, herded by little girls with flaxen pigtails, whose eyes, blue as corn-flowers, followed the flying train. There were stretches of wild thyme purpling long barren acreages, and growing up the railroad banks almost to the rails themselves. From the meadows the rowen, tossed in long loose windrows, sent into their car a sad autumnal fragrance which mingled with the tobacco smoke, when two fat smokers emerged into the narrow corridor outside their compartments and tried to pass each other. Their vast stomachs beat together in a vain encounter.
"Zu enge!" said one, and "Ja, zu enge!" said the other, and they laughed innocently in each other's' faces, with a joy in their recognition of the corridor's narrowness as great as if it had been a stroke of the finest wit.
All the way the land was lovely, and as they drew near Nuremberg it grew enchanting, with a fairy quaintness. The scenery was Alpine, but the scale was toy-like, as befitted the region, and the mimic peaks and valleys with green brooks gushing between them, and strange rock forms recurring in endless caprice, seemed the home of children's story. All the gnomes and elves might have dwelt there in peaceful fellowship with the peasants who ploughed the little fields, and gathered the garlanded hops, and lived in the farmsteads and village houses with those high timber-laced gables.
"We ought to have come here long ago with the children, when they were children," said March.
"No," his wife returned; "it would have been too much for them. Nobody but grown people could bear it."
The spell which began here was not really broken by anything that afterwards happened in Nuremberg, though the old toy-capital was trolley- wired through all its quaintness, and they were lodged in a hotel lighted by electricity and heated by steam, and equipped with an elevator which was so modern that it came down with them as well as went up. All the things that assumed to be of recent structure or invention were as nothing against the dense past, which overwhelmed them with the sense of a world elsewhere outlived. In Nuremberg it is not the quaint or the picturesque that is exceptional; it is the matter-of-fact and the commonplace. Here, more than anywhere else, you are steeped in the gothic spirit which expresses itself in a Teutonic dialect of homely sweetness, of endearing caprice, of rude grotesqueness, but of positive grace and beauty almost never. It is the architectural speech of a strenuous, gross, kindly, honest people's fancy; such as it is it was inexhaustible, and such as it is it was bewitching for the travellers.
They could hardly wait till they had supper before plunging into the ancient town, and they took the first tram-car at a venture. It was a sort of transfer, drawn by horses, which delivered them a little inside. of the city gate to a trolley-car. The conductor with their fare demanded their destination; March frankly owned that they did not know where they wanted to go; they wanted to go anywhere the conductor chose; and the conductor, after reflection, decided to put them down at the public garden, which, as one of the newest things in the city, would make the most favorable impression upon strangers. It was in fact so like all other city gardens, with the foliage of its trimly planted alleys, that it sheltered them effectually from the picturesqueness of Nuremberg, and they had a long, peaceful hour on one of its benches, where they rested from their journey, and repented their hasty attempt to appropriate the charm of the city.
The next morning it rained, according to a custom which the elevator-boy (flown with the insolent recollection of a sunny summer in Milan) said was invariable in Nuremberg; but after the one-o'clock table d'hote they took a noble two-spanner carriage, and drove all round the city. Everywhere the ancient moat, thickly turfed and planted with trees and shrubs, stretched a girdle of garden between their course and the wall beautifully old, with knots of dead ivy clinging to its crevices, or broad meshes of the shining foliage mantling its blackened masonry. A tile-roofed open gallery ran along the top, where so many centuries of sentries had paced, and arched the massive gates with heavily moulded piers, where so countlessly the fierce burgher troops had sallied forth against their besiegers, and so often the leaguer hosts had dashed themselves in assault. The blood shed in forgotten battles would have flooded the moat where now the grass and flowers grew, or here and there a peaceful stretch of water stagnated.
The drive ended in a visit to the old Burg, where the Hapsburg Kaisers dwelt when they visited their faithful imperial city. From its ramparts the incredible picturesqueness of Nuremberg best shows itself, and if one has any love for the distinctive quality of Teutonic architecture it is here that more than anywhere else one may feast it. The prospect of tower and spire and gable is of such a mediaeval richness, of such an abounding fulness, that all incidents are lost in it. The multitudinous roofs of red-brown tiles, blinking browsily from their low dormers, press upon one another in endless succession; they cluster together on a rise of ground and sink away where the street falls, but they nowhere disperse or scatter, and they end abruptly at the other rim of the city, beyond which looms the green country, merging in the remoter blue of misty uplands.
A pretty young girl waited at the door of the tower for the visitors to gather in sufficient number, and then led them through the terrible museum, discanting in the same gay voice and with the same smiling air on all the murderous engines and implements of torture. First in German and then in English she explained the fearful uses of the Iron Maiden, she winningly illustrated the action of the racks and wheels on which men had been stretched and broken, and she sweetly vaunted a sword which had beheaded eight hundred persons. When she took the established fee from March she suggested, with a demure glance, "And what more you please for saying it in English."
"Can you say it in Russian?" demanded a young man, whose eyes he had seen dwelling on her from the beginning. She laughed archly, and responded with some Slavic words, and then delivered her train of sight-seers over to the custodian who was to show them through the halls and chambers of the Burg. These were undergoing the repairs which the monuments of the past are perpetually suffering in the present, and there was some special painting and varnishing for the reception of the Kaiser, who was coming to Nuremberg for the military manoeuvres then at hand. But if they had been in the unmolested discomfort of their unlivable magnificence, their splendor was such as might well reconcile the witness to the superior comfort of a private station in our snugger day. The Marches came out owning that the youth which might once have found the romantic glories of the place enough was gone from them. But so much of it was left to her that she wished to make him stop and look at the flirtation which had blossomed out between that pretty young girl and the Russian, whom they had scarcely missed from their party in the Burg. He had apparently never parted from the girl, and now as they sat together on the threshold of the gloomy tower, he most have been teaching her more Slavic words, for they were both laughing as if they understood each other perfectly.
In his security from having the affair in any wise on his hands, March would have willingly lingered, to see how her education got on; but it began to rain, The rain did not disturb the lovers, but it obliged the elderly spectators to take refuge in their carriage; and they drove off to find the famous Little Goose Man. This is what every one does at Nuremberg; it would be difficult to say why. When they found the Little Goose Man, he was only a mediaeval fancy in bronze, who stood on his pedestal in the market-place and contributed from the bill of the goose under his arm a small stream to the rainfall drenching the wet wares of the wet market-women round the fountain, and soaking their cauliflowers and lettuce, their grapes and pears, their carrots and turnips, to the watery flavor of all fruits and vegetables in Germany.
The air was very raw and chill; but after supper the clouds cleared away, and a pleasant evening tempted the travellers out. The portier dissembled any slight which their eagerness for the only amusement he could think of inspired, and directed them to a popular theatre which was giving a summer season at low prices to the lower classes, and which they surprised, after some search, trying to hide itself in a sort of back square. They got the best places at a price which ought to have been mortifyingly cheap, and found themselves, with a thousand other harmless bourgeois folk, in a sort of spacious, agreeable barn, of a decoration by no means ugly, and of a certain artless comfort. Each seat fronted a shelf at the back of the seat before it, where the spectator could put his hat; there was a smaller shelf for his stein of the beer passed constantly throughout the evening; and there was a buffet where he could stay himself with cold ham and other robust German refreshments.
It was "The Wedding Journey to Nuremberg" upon which they had oddly chanced, and they accepted as a national tribute the character of an American girl in it. She was an American girl of the advanced pattern, and she came and went at a picnic on the arm of a head waiter. She seemed to have no office in the drama except to illustrate a German conception of American girlhood, but even in this simple function she seemed rather to puzzle the German audience; perhaps because of the occasional English words which she used.
To the astonishment of her compatriots, when they came out of the theatre it was not raining; the night was as brilliantly starlit as a night could be in Germany, and they sauntered home richly content through the narrow streets and through the beautiful old Damenthor, beyond which their hotel lay. How pretty, they said, to call that charming port the Ladies' Gate! They promised each other to find out why, and they never did so, but satisfied themselves by assigning it to the exclusive use of the slim maidens and massive matrons of the old Nuremberg patriciate, whom they imagined trailing their silken splendors under its arch in perpetual procession.
The life of the Nuremberg patriciate, now extinct in the control of the city which it builded so strenuously and maintained so heroically, is still insistent in all its art. This expresses their pride at once and their simplicity with a childish literality. At its best it is never so good as the good Italian art, whose influence is always present in its best. The coloring of the great canvases is Venetian, but there is no such democracy of greatness as in the painting at Venice; in decoration the art of Nuremberg is at best quaint, and at the worst puerile. Wherever it had obeyed an academic intention it seemed to March poor and coarse, as in the bronze fountain beside the Church of St. Lawrence. The water spins from the pouted breasts of the beautiful figures in streams that cross and interlace after a fancy trivial and gross; but in the base of the church there is a time-worn Gethsemane, exquisitely affecting in its simple-hearted truth. The long ages have made it even more affecting than the sculptor imagined it; they have blurred the faces and figures in passing till their features are scarcely distinguishable; and the sleeping apostles seem to have dreamed themselves back into the mother- marble. It is of the same tradition and impulse with that supreme glory of the native sculpture, the ineffable tabernacle of Adam Krafft, which climbs a column of the church within, a miracle of richly carven story; and no doubt if there were a Nuremberg sculptor doing great things today, his work would be of kindred inspiration.
The descendants of the old patrician who ordered the tabernacle at rather a hard bargain from the artist still worship on the floor below, and the descendants of his neighbor patricians have their seats in the pews about, and their names cut in the proprietary plates on the pew-tops. The vergeress who showed the Marches through the church was devout in the praise of these aristocratic fellow-citizens of hers. "So simple, and yet so noble!" she said. She was a very romantic vergeress, and she told them at unsparing length the legend of the tabernacle, how the artist fell asleep in despair of winning his patron's daughter, and saw in a vision the master-work with the lily-like droop at top, which gained him her hand. They did not realize till too late that it was all out of a novel of Georg Ebers's, but added to the regular fee for the church a gift worthy of an inedited legend.
Even then they had a pleasure in her enthusiasm rarely imparted by the Nuremberg manner. They missed there the constant, sweet civility of Carlsbad, and found themselves falling flat in their endeavors for a little cordiality. They indeed inspired with some kindness the old woman who showed them through that cemetery where Albert Durer and Hans Sachs and many other illustrious citizens lie buried under monumental brasses of such beauty:
"That kings to have the like, might wish to die."
But this must have been because they abandoned themselves so willingly to the fascination of the bronze skull on the tomb of a fourteenth-century patrician, which had the uncommon advantage of a lower jaw hinged to the upper. She proudly clapped it up and down for their astonishment, and waited, with a toothless smile, to let them discover the bead of a nail artfully figured in the skull; then she gave a shrill cackle of joy, and gleefully explained that the wife of this patrician had killed him by driving a nail into his temple, and had been fitly beheaded for the murder.
She cared so much for nothing else in the cemetery, but she consented to let them wonder at the richness of the sculpture in the level tombs, with their escutcheons and memorial tablets, overrun by the long grass and the matted ivy; she even consented to share their indignation at the destruction of some of the brasses and the theft of others. She suffered more reluctantly their tenderness for the old, old crucifixion figured in sculpture at one corner of the cemetery, where the anguish of the Christ had long since faded into the stone from which it had been evoked, and the thieves were no longer distinguishable in their penitence or impenitence; but she parted friends with them when she saw how much they seemed taken with the votive chapel of the noble Holzschuh family, where a line of wooden shoes puns upon the name in the frieze, like the line of dogs which chase one another, with bones in their mouths, around the Canossa palace at Verona. A sense of the beautiful house by the Adige was part of the pleasing confusion which possessed them in Nuremberg whenever they came upon the expression of the gothic spirit common both to the German and northern Italian art. They knew that it was an effect which had passed from Germany into Italy, but in the liberal air of the older land it had come to so much more beauty that now, when they found it in its home, it seemed something fetched from over the Alps and coarsened in the attempt to naturalize it to an alien air.
In the Germanic Museum they fled to the Italian painters from the German pictures they had inspired; in the great hall of the Rathhaus the noble Processional of Durer was the more precious, because his Triumph of Maximilian somehow suggested Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar. There was to be a banquet in the hall, under the mighty fresco, to welcome the German Emperor, coming the next week, and the Rathhaus was full of work-people furbishing it up against his arrival, and making it difficult for the custodian who had it in charge to show it properly to strangers. She was of the same enthusiastic sisterhood as the vergeress of St. Lawrence and the guardian of the old cemetery, and by a mighty effort she prevailed over the workmen so far as to lead her charges out through the corridor where the literal conscience of the brothers Kuhn has wrought in the roof to an exact image of a tournament as it was in Nuremberg four hundred years ago. In this relief, thronged with men and horses, the gala-life of the past survives in unexampled fulness; and March blamed himself after enjoying it for having felt in it that toy-figure quality which seems the final effect of the German gothicism in sculpture.
On Sunday Mrs. March partially conformed to an earlier New England ideal of the day by ceasing from sight-seeing. She could not have understood the sermon if she had gone to church, but she appeased the lingering conscience she had on this point by not going out till afternoon. Then she found nothing of the gayety which Sunday afternoon wears in Catholic lands. The people were resting from their week-day labors, but they were not playing; and the old churches, long since converted to Lutheran uses, were locked against tourist curiosity.
It was as it should be; it was as it would be at home; and yet in this ancient city, where the past was so much alive in the perpetual picturesqueness, the Marches felt an incongruity in it; and they were fain to escape from the Protestant silence and seriousness of the streets to the shade of the public garden they had involuntarily visited the evening of their arrival.
On a bench sat a quiet, rather dejected man, whom March asked some question of their way. He answered in English, and in the parley that followed they discovered that they were all Americans. The stranger proved to be an American of the sort commonest in Germany, and he said he had returned to his native country to get rid of the ague which he had taken on Staten Island. He had been seventeen years in New York, and now a talk of Tammany and its chances in the next election, of pulls and deals, of bosses and heelers, grew up between the civic step-brothers, and joined them is a common interest. The German-American said he was bookkeeper in some glass-works which had been closed by our tariff, and he confessed that he did not mean to return to us, though he spoke of German affairs with the impartiality of an outsider. He said that the Socialist party was increasing faster than any other, and that this tacitly meant the suppression of rank and the abolition of monarchy. He warned March against the appearance of industrial prosperity in Germany; beggary was severely repressed, and if poverty was better clad than with us, it was as hungry and as hopeless in Nuremberg as in New York. The working classes were kindly and peaceable; they only knifed each other quietly on Sunday evenings after having too much beer.
Presently the stranger rose and bowed to the Marches for good-by; and as he walked down the aisle of trees in which they had been fitting together, he seemed to be retreating farther and farther from such Americanism as they had in common. He had reverted to an entirely German effect of dress and figure; his walk was slow and Teutonic; he must be a type of thousands who have returned to the fatherland without wishing to own themselves its children again, and yet out of heart with the only country left them.
"He was rather pathetic, my dear," said March, in the discomfort he knew his wife must be feeling as well as himself. "How odd to have the lid lifted here, and see the same old problems seething and bubbling in the witch's caldron we call civilization as we left simmering away at home! And how hard to have our tariff reach out and snatch the bread from the mouths of those poor glass-workers!"
"I thought that was hard," she sighed. "It must have been his bread, too."
"Let's hope it was not his cake, anyway. I suppose," he added, dreamily, "that what we used to like in Italy was the absence of all the modern activities. The Italians didn't repel us by assuming to be of our epoch in the presence of their monuments; they knew how to behave as pensive memories. I wonder if they're still as charming."
"Oh, no," she returned, "nothing is as charming as it used to be. And now we need the charm more than ever."
He laughed at her despair, in the tacit understanding they had lived into that only one of them was to be desperate at a time, and that they were to take turns in cheering each other up. "Well, perhaps we don't deserve it. And I'm not sure that we need it so much as we did when we were young. We've got tougher; we can stand the cold facts better now. They made me shiver once, but now they give me a sort of agreeable thrill. Besides, if, life kept up its pretty illusions, if it insisted upon being as charming as it used to be, how could we ever bear to die? We've got that to consider." He yielded to the temptation of his paradox, but he did not fail altogether of the purpose with which he began, and they took the trolley back to their hotel cheerful in the intrepid fancy that they had confronted fate when they had only had the hardihood to face a phrase.
They agreed that now he ought really to find out something about the contemporary life of Nuremberg, and the next morning he went out before breakfast, and strolled through some of the simpler streets, in the hope of intimate impressions. The peasant women, serving portions of milk from house to house out of the cans in the little wagons which they drew themselves, were a touch of pleasing domestic comedy; a certain effect of tragedy imparted itself from the lamentations of the sucking-pigs jolted over the pavements in handcarts; a certain majesty from the long procession of yellow mail-wagons, with drivers in the royal Bavarian blue, trooping by in the cold small rain, impassibly dripping from their glazed hat-brims upon their uniforms. But he could not feel that these things were any of them very poignantly significant; and he covered his retreat from the actualities of Nuremberg by visiting the chief book- store and buying more photographs of the architecture than he wanted, and more local histories than be should ever read. He made a last effort for the contemporaneous life by asking the English-speaking clerk if there were any literary men of distinction living in Nuremberg, and the clerk said there was not one.
He went home to breakfast wondering if be should be able to make his meagre facts serve with his wife; but he found her far from any wish to listen to them. She was intent upon a pair of young lovers, at a table near her own, who were so absorbed in each other that they were proof against an interest that must otherwise have pierced them through. The bridegroom, as he would have called himself, was a pretty little Bavarian lieutenant, very dark and regular, and the bride was as pretty and as little, but delicately blond. Nature had admirably mated them, and if art had helped to bring them together through the genius of the bride's mother, who was breakfasting with them, it had wrought almost as fitly. Mrs. March queried impartially who they were, where they met, and how, and just when they were going to be married; and March consented, in his personal immunity from their romance, to let it go on under his eyes without protest. But later, when they met the lovers in the street, walking arm in arm, with the bride's mother behind them gloating upon their bliss, he said the woman ought, at her time of life, to be ashamed of such folly. She must know that this affair, by nine chances out of ten, could not fail to eventuate at the best in a marriage as tiresome as most other marriages, and yet she was abandoning herself with those ignorant young people to the illusion that it was the finest and sweetest thing in life.
"Well, isn't it?" his wife asked.
"Yes, that's the worst of it. It shows how poverty-stricken life really is. We want somehow to believe that each pair of lovers will find the good we have missed, and be as happy as we expected to be."
"I think we have been happy enough, and that we've had as much good as was wholesome for us," she returned, hurt.
"You're always so concrete! I meant us in the abstract. But if you will be personal, I'll say that you've been as happy as you deserve, and got more good than you had any right to."
She laughed with him, and then they laughed again to perceive that they were walking arm in arm too, like the lovers, whom they were insensibly following.
He proposed that while they were in the mood they should go again to the old cemetery, and see the hinged jaw of the murdered Paumgartner, wagging in eternal accusation of his murderess. "It's rather hard on her, that he should be having the last word, that way," he said. "She was a woman, no matter what mistakes she had committed."
"That's what I call 'banale'," said Mrs. March.
"It is, rather," he confessed. "It makes me feel as if I must go to see the house of Durer, after all."
"Well, I knew we should have to, sooner or later."
It was the thing that they had said would not do, in Nuremberg, because everybody did it; but now they hailed a fiacre, and ordered it driven to Durer's house, which they found in a remote part of the town near a stretch of the city wall, varied in its picturesqueness by the interposition of a dripping grove; it was raining again by the time they reached it. The quarter had lapsed from earlier dignity, and without being squalid, it looked worn and hard worked; otherwise it could hardly have been different in Durer's time. His dwelling, in no way impressive outside, amidst the environing quaintness, stood at the corner of a narrow side-hill street that sloped cityward; and within it was stripped bare of all the furniture of life below-stairs, and above was none the cozier for the stiff appointment of a show-house. It was cavernous and cold; but if there had been a fire in the kitchen, and a table laid in the dining-room, and beds equipped for nightmare, after the German fashion, in the empty chambers, one could have imagined a kindly, simple, neighborly existence there. It in no wise suggested the calling of an artist, perhaps because artists had not begun in Durer's time to take themselves so objectively as they do now, but it implied the life of a prosperous citizen, and it expressed the period.
The Marches wrote their names in the visitors' book, and paid the visitor's fee, which also bought them tickets in an annual lottery for a reproduction of one of Durer's pictures; and then they came away, by no means dissatisfied with his house. By its association with his sojourns in Italy it recalled visits to other shrines, and they had to own that it was really no worse than Ariosto's house at Ferrara, or Petrarch's at Arqua, or Michelangelo's at Florence. "But what I admire," he said, "is our futility in going to see it. We expected to surprise some quality of the man left lying about in the house because he lived and died in it; and because his wife kept him up so close there, and worked him so hard to save his widow from coming to want."
"Who said she did that?"
"A friend of his who hated her. But he had to allow that she was a God- fearing woman, and had a New England conscience."
"Well, I dare say Durer was easy-going."
"Yes; but I don't like her laying her plans to survive him; though women always do that."
They were going away the next day, and they sat down that evening to a final supper in such good-humor with themselves that they were willing to include a young couple who came to take places at their table, though they would rather have been alone. They lifted their eyes for their expected salutation, and recognized Mr. and Mrs. Leffers, of the Norumbia.
The ladies fell upon each other as if they had been mother and daughter; March and the young man shook hands, in the feeling of passengers mutually endeared by the memories of a pleasant voyage. They arrived at the fact that Mr. Leffers had received letters in England from his partners which allowed him to prolong his wedding journey in a tour of the continent, while their wives were still exclaiming at their encounter in the same hotel at Nuremberg; and then they all sat down to have, as the bride said, a real Norumbia time.
She was one of those young wives who talk always with their eyes submissively on their husbands, no matter whom they are speaking to; but she was already unconsciously ruling him in her abeyance. No doubt she was ruling him for his good; she had a livelier, mind than he, and she knew more, as the American wives of young American business men always do, and she was planning wisely for their travels. She recognized her merit in this devotion with an artless candor, which was typical rather than personal. March was glad to go out with Leffers for a little stroll, and to leave Mrs. March to listen to Mrs. Leffers, who did not let them go without making her husband promise to wrap up well, and not get his feet wet. She made March promise not to take him far, and to bring him back early, which he found himself very willing to do, after an exchange of ideas with Mr. Leffers. The young man began to talk about his wife, in her providential, her almost miraculous adaptation to the sort of man he was, and when he had once begun to explain what sort of man he was, there was no end to it, till they rejoined the ladies in the reading-room.
The young couple came to the station to see the Marches off after dinner the next day; and the wife left a bank of flowers on the seat beside Mrs. March, who said, as soon as they were gone, "I believe I would rather meet people of our own age after this. I used to think that you could keep young by being with young people; but I don't, now. There world is very different from ours. Our world doesn't really exist any more, but as long as we keep away from theirs we needn't realize it. Young people," she went on, "are more practical-minded than we used to be; they're quite as sentimental; but I don't think they care so much for the higher things. They're not so much brought up on poetry as we were," she pursued. "That little Mrs. Leffers would have read Longfellow in our time; but now she didn't know of his poem on Nuremberg; she was intelligent enough about the place, but you could see that its quaintness was not so precious as it was to us; not so sacred." Her tone entreated him to find more meaning in her words than she had put into them. "They couldn't have felt as we did about that old ivied wall and that grassy, flowery moat under it; and the beautiful Damenthor and that pile-up of the roofs from the Burg; and those winding streets with their Gothic facades all, cobwebbed with trolley wires; and that yellow, aguish- looking river drowsing through the town under the windows of those overhanging houses; and the market-place, and the squares before the churches, with their queer shops in the nooks and corners round them!"
"I see what you mean. But do you think it's as sacred to us as it would have been twenty-five years ago? I had an irreverent feeling now and then that Nuremberg was overdoing Nuremberg."
"Oh, yes; so had I. We're that modern, if we're not so young as we were."
"We were very simple, in those days."
"Well, if we were simple, we knew it!"
"Yes; we used to like taking our unconsciousness to pieces and looking at it."
"We had a good time."
"Too good. Sometimes it seems as if it would have lasted longer if it had not been so good. We might have our cake now if we hadn't eaten it."
"It would be mouldy, though."
"I wonder," he said, recurring to the Lefferses; "how we really struck them."
"Well, I don't believe they thought we ought to be travelling about alone, quite, at our age."
"Oh, not so bad as that! "After a moment he said, "I dare say they don't go round quarrelling on their wedding journey, as we did."
"Indeed they do! They had an awful quarrel just before they got to Nuremberg: about his wanting to send some of the baggage to Liverpool by express that she wanted to keep with them. But she said it had been a lesson, and they were never going to quarrel again." The elders looked at each other in the light of experience, and laughed. "Well," she ended, "that's one thing we're through with. I suppose we've come to feel more alike than we used to."
"Or not to feel at all. How did they settle it about the baggage?"
"Oh! He insisted on her keeping it with her." March laughed again, but this time he laughed alone, and after a while she said: "Well, they gave just the right relief to Nuremberg, with their good, clean American philistinism. I don't mind their thinking us queer; they must have thought Nuremberg was queer."
"Yes. We oldsters are always queer to the young. We're either ridiculously lively and chirpy, or we're ridiculously stiff and grim; they never expect to be like us, and wouldn't, for the world. The worst of it is, we elderly people are absurd to one another; we don't, at the bottom of our hearts, believe we're like that, when we meet. I suppose that arrogant old ass of a Triscoe looks upon me as a grinning dotard."
"I wonder," said Mrs. March, "if she's told him yet," and March perceived that she was now suddenly far from the mood of philosophic introspection; but he had no difficulty in following her.
"She's had time enough. But it was an awkward task Burnamy left to her."
"Yes, when I think of that, I can hardly forgive him for coming back in that way. I know she is dead in love with him; but she could only have accepted him conditionally."
"Conditionally to his making it all right with Stoller?"
"Stoller? No! To her father's liking it."
"Ah, that's quite as hard. What makes you think she accepted him at all?"
"What do you think she was crying about?"
"Well, I have supposed that ladies occasionally shed tears of pity. If she accepted him conditionally she would have to tell her father about it." Mrs. March gave him a glance of silent contempt, and he hastened to atone for his stupidity. "Perhaps she's told him on the instalment plan. She may have begun by confessing that Burnamy had been in Carlsbad. Poor old fellow, I wish we were going to find him in Ansbach! He could make things very smooth for us."
"Well, you needn't flatter yourself that you'll find him in Ansbach. I'm sure I don't know where he is."
"You might write to Miss Triscoe and ask."
"I think I shall wait for Miss Triscoe to write to me," she said, with dignity.
"Yes, she certainly owes you that much, after all your suffering for her. I've asked the banker in Nuremberg to forward our letters to the poste restante in Ansbach. Isn't it good to see the crows again, after those ravens around Carlsbad?"
She joined him in looking at the mild autumnal landscape through the open window. The afternoon was fair and warm, and in the level fields bodies of soldiers were at work with picks and spades, getting the ground ready for the military manoeuvres; they disturbed among the stubble foraging parties of crows, which rose from time to time with cries of indignant protest. She said, with a smile for the crows, "Yes. And I'm thankful that I've got nothing on my conscience, whatever happens," she added in dismissal of the subject of Burnamy.
"I'm thankful too, my dear. I'd much rather have things on my own. I'm more used to that, and I believe I feel less remorse than when you're to blame."
They might have been carried near this point by those telepathic influences which have as yet been so imperfectly studied. It was only that morning, after the lapse of a week since Burnamy's furtive reappearance in Carlsbad, that Miss Triscoe spoke to her father about it, and she had at that moment a longing for support and counsel that might well have made its mystical appeal to Mrs. March.
She spoke at last because she could put it off no longer, rather than because the right time had come. She began as they sat at breakfast. "Papa, there is something that I have got to tell yon. It is something that you ought to know; but I have put off telling you because—"
She hesitated for the reason, and "Well!" said her father, looking up at her from his second cup of coffee. "What is it?"
Then she answered, "Mr. Burnamy has been here."
"In Carlsbad? When was he here?"
"The night of the Emperor's birthday. He came into the box when you were behind the scenes with Mr. March; afterwards I met him in the crowd."
"I thought you ought to know. Mrs. March said I ought to tell you."
"Did she say you ought to wait a week?" He gave way to an irascibility which he tried to check, and to ask with indifference, "Why did he come back?"
"He was going to write about it for that paper in Paris." The girl had the effect of gathering her courage up for a bold plunge. She looked steadily at her father, and added: "He said he came back because he couldn't help it. He—wished to speak with me, He said he knew he had no right to suppose I cared anything about what had happened with him and Mr. Stoller. He wanted to come back and tell me—that."
Her father waited for her to go on, but apparently she was going to leave the word to him, now. He hesitated to take it, but he asked at last with a mildness that seemed to surprise her, "Have you heard anything from him since?"
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. I told him I could not say what he wished; that I must tell you about it."
The case was less simple than it would once have been for General Triscoe. There was still his affection for his daughter, his wish for her happiness, but this had always been subordinate to his sense of his own interest and comfort, and a question had recently arisen which put his paternal love and duty in a new light. He was no more explicit with himself than other men are, and the most which could ever be said of him without injustice was that in his dependence upon her he would rather have kept his daughter to himself if she could not have been very prosperously married. On the other hand, if he disliked the man for whom she now hardly hid her liking, he was not just then ready to go to extremes concerning him.
"He was very anxious," she went on, "that you should know just how it was. He thinks everything of your judgment and—and—opinion." The general made a consenting noise in his throat. "He said that he did not wish me to 'whitewash' him to you. He didn't think he had done right; he didn't excuse himself, or ask you to excuse him unless you could from the stand-point of a gentleman."
The general made a less consenting noise in his throat, and asked, "How do you look at it, yourself, Agatha?"
"I don't believe I quite understand it; but Mrs. March—"
"Oh, Mrs. March!" the general snorted.
"—says that Mr. March does not think so badly of it as Mr. Burnamy does."
"I doubt it. At any rate, I understood March quite differently."
"She says that he thinks he behaved very nobly afterwards when Mr. Stoller wanted him to help him put a false complexion on it; that it was all the more difficult for him to do right then, because of his remorse for what he had done before." As she spoke on she had become more eager.
"There's something in that," the general admitted, with a candor that he made the most of both to himself and to her. "But I should like to know what Stoller had to say of it all. Is there anything," he inquired, "any reason why I need be more explicit about it, just now?"
"N—no. Only, I thought—He thinks so much of your opinion that—if—"
"Oh, he can very well afford to wait. If he values my opinion so highly he can give me time to make up my mind."
"And I'm not responsible," the general continued, significantly, "for the delay altogether. If you had told me this before—Now, I don't know whether Stoller is still in town."
He was not behaving openly with her; but she had not behaved openly with him. She owned that to herself, and she got what comfort she could from his making the affair a question of what Burnamy had done to Stoller rather than of what Burnamy had said to her, and what she had answered him. If she was not perfectly clear as to what she wanted to do, or wished to have happen, there was now time and place in which she could delay and make sure. The accepted theory of such matters is that people know their minds from the beginning, and that they do not change them. But experience seems to contradict this theory, or else people often act contrary to their convictions and impulses. If the statistics were accessible, it might be found that many potential engagements hovered in a doubtful air, and before they touched the earth in actual promise were dissipated by the play of meteorological chances.
When General Triscoe put down his napkin in rising he said that he would step round to Pupp's and see if Stoller were still there. But on the way he stepped up to Mrs. Adding's hotel on the hill, and he came back, after an interval which he seemed not to have found long, to report rather casually that Stoller had left Carlsbad the day before. By this time the fact seemed not to concern Agatha herself very vitally.
He asked if the Marches had left any address with her, and she answered that they had not. They were going to spend a few days in Nuremberg, and then push on to Holland for Mr. March's after-cure. There was no relevance in his question unless it intimated his belief that she was in confidential correspondence with Mrs. March, and she met this by saying that she was going to write her in care of their bankers; she asked whether he wished to send any word.
"No. I understand," he intimated, "that there is nothing at all in the nature of a—a—an understanding, then, with—"
"Hm!" The general waited a moment. Then he ventured, "Do you care to say—do you wish me to know—how he took it?"
The tears came into the girl's eyes, but she governed herself to say, "He—he was disappointed."
"He had no right to be disappointed."
It was a question, and she answered: "He thought he had. He said—that he wouldn't—trouble me any more."
The general did not ask at once, "And you don't know where he is now—you haven't heard anything from him since?"
Agatha flashed through her tears, "Papa!"
"Oh! I beg your pardon. I think you told me."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Americans are hungrier for royalty than anybody else Effort to get on common ground with an inferior He buys my poverty and not my will Honest selfishness Intrepid fancy that they had confronted fate Less intrusive than if he had not been there Monologue to which the wives of absent-minded men resign Only one of them was to be desperate at a time Reconciliation with death which nature brings to life at last Voting-cattle whom they bought and sold We don't seem so much our own property We get too much into the hands of other people
THEIR SILVER WEDDING JOURNEY
At the first station where the train stopped, a young German bowed himself into the compartment with the Marches, and so visibly resisted an impulse to smoke that March begged him to light his cigarette. In the talk which this friendly overture led to between them he explained that he was a railway architect, employed by the government on that line of road, and was travelling officially. March spoke of Nuremberg; he owned the sort of surfeit he had suffered from its excessive mediaevalism, and the young man said it was part of the new imperial patriotism to cherish the Gothic throughout Germany; no other sort of architecture was permitted in Nuremberg. But they would find enough classicism at Ansbach, he promised them, and he entered with sympathetic intelligence into their wish to see this former capital when March told him they were going to stop there, in hopes of something typical of the old disjointed Germany of the petty principalities, the little paternal despotisms now extinct.