As they talked on, partly in German and partly in English, their purpose in visiting Ansbach appeared to the Marches more meditated than it was. In fact it was somewhat accidental; Ansbach was near Nuremberg; it was not much out of the way to Holland. They took more and more credit to themselves for a reasoned and definite motive, in the light of their companion's enthusiasm for the place, and its charm began for them with the drive from the station through streets whose sentiment was both Italian and French, and where there was a yellowish cast in the gray of the architecture which was almost Mantuan. They rested their sensibilities, so bruised and fretted by Gothic angles and points, against the smooth surfaces of the prevailing classicistic facades of the houses as they passed, and when they arrived at their hotel, an old mansion of Versailles type, fronting on a long irregular square planted with pollard sycamores, they said that it might as well have been Lucca.
The archway and stairway of the hotel were draped with the Bavarian colors, and they were obscurely flattered to learn that Prince Leopold, the brother of the Prince-Regent of the kingdom, had taken rooms there, on his way to the manoeuvres at Nuremberg, and was momently expected with his suite. They realized that they were not of the princely party, however, when they were told that he had sole possession of the dining- room, and they went out to another hotel, and had their supper in keeping delightfully native. People seemed to come there to write their letters and make up their accounts, as well as to eat their suppers; they called for stationery like characters in old comedy, and the clatter of crockery and the scratching of pens went on together; and fortune offered the Marches a delicate reparation for their exclusion from their own hotel in the cold popular reception of the prince which they got back just in time to witness. A very small group of people, mostly women and boys, had gathered to see him arrive, but there was no cheering or any sign of public interest. Perhaps he personally merited none; he looked a dull, sad man, with his plain, stubbed features; and after he had mounted to his apartment, the officers of his staff stood quite across the landing, and barred the passage of the Americans, ignoring even Mrs. March's presence, as they talked together.
"Well, my dear," said her husband, "here you have it at last. This is what you've been living for, ever since we came to Germany. It's a great moment."
"Yes. What are you going to do?"
"Who? I? Oh, nothing! This is your affair; it's for you to act."
If she had been young, she might have withered them with a glance; she doubted now if her dim eyes would have any such power; but she advanced steadily upon them, and then the officers seemed aware of her, and stood aside.
March always insisted that they stood aside apologetically, but she held as firmly that they stood aside impertinently, or at least indifferently, and that the insult to her American womanhood was perfectly ideal. It is true that nothing of the kind happened again during their stay at the hotel; the prince's officers were afterwards about in the corridors and on the stairs, but they offered no shadow of obstruction to her going and coming, and the landlord himself was not so preoccupied with his highhotes but he had time to express his grief that she had been obliged to go out for supper.
They satisfied the passion for the little obsolete capital which had been growing upon them by strolling past the old Resident at an hour so favorable for a first impression. It loomed in the gathering dusk even vaster than it was, and it was really vast enough for the pride of a King of France, much more a Margrave of Ansbach. Time had blackened and blotched its coarse limestone walls to one complexion with the statues swelling and strutting in the figure of Roman legionaries before it, and standing out against the evening sky along its balustraded roof, and had softened to the right tint the stretch of half a dozen houses with mansard roofs and renaissance facades obsequiously in keeping with the Versailles ideal of a Resident. In the rear, and elsewhere at fit distance from its courts, a native architecture prevailed; and at no great remove the Marches found themselves in a simple German town again. There they stumbled upon a little bookseller's shop blinking in a quiet corner, and bought three or four guides and small histories of Ansbach, which they carried home, and studied between drowsing and waking. The wonderful German syntax seems at its most enigmatical in this sort of literature, and sometimes they lost themselves in its labyrinths completely, and only made their way perilously out with the help of cumulative declensions, past articles and adjectives blindly seeking their nouns, to long-procrastinated verbs dancing like swamp-fires in the distance. They emerged a little less ignorant than they went in, and better qualified than they would otherwise have been for their second visit to the Schloss, which they paid early the next morning.
They were so early, indeed, that when they mounted from the great inner court, much too big for Ansbach, if not for the building, and rung the custodian's bell, a smiling maid who let them into an ante-room, where she kept on picking over vegetables for her dinner, said the custodian was busy, and could not be seen till ten o'clock. She seemed, in her nook of the pretentious pile, as innocently unconscious of its history as any hen-sparrow who had built her nest in some coign of its architecture; and her friendly, peaceful domesticity remained a wholesome human background to the tragedies and comedies of the past, and held them in a picturesque relief in which they were alike tolerable and even charming.
The history of Ansbach strikes its roots in the soil of fable, and above ground is a gnarled and twisted growth of good and bad from the time of the Great Charles to the time of the Great Frederick. Between these times she had her various rulers, ecclesiastical and secular, in various forms of vassalage to the empire; but for nearly four centuries her sovereignty was in the hands of the margraves, who reigned in a constantly increasing splendor till the last sold her outright to the King of Prussia in 1791, and went to live in England on the proceeds. She had taken her part in the miseries and glories of the wars that desolated Germany, but after the Reformation, when she turned from the ancient faith to which she owed her cloistered origin under St. Gumpertus, her people had peace except when their last prince sold them to fight the battles of others. It is in this last transaction that her history, almost in the moment when she ceased to have a history of her own, links to that of the modern world, and that it came home to the Marches in their national character; for two thousand of those poor Ansbach mercenaries were bought up by England and sent to put down a rebellion in her American colonies.
Humanly, they were more concerned for the Last Margrave, because of certain qualities which made him the Best Margrave, in spite of the defects of his qualities. He was the son of the Wild Margrave, equally known in the Ansbach annals, who may not have been the Worst Margrave, but who had certainly a bad trick of putting his subjects to death without trial, and in cases where there was special haste, with his own hand. He sent his son to the university at Utrecht because he believed that the republican influences in Holland would be wholesome for him, and then he sent him to travel in Italy; but when the boy came home looking frail and sick, the Wild Margrave charged his official travelling companion with neglect, and had the unhappy Hofrath Meyer hanged without process for this crime. One of the gentlemen of his realm, for a pasquinade on the Margrave, was brought to the scaffold; he had, at various times, twenty-two of his soldiers shot with arrows and bullets or hanged for desertion, besides many whose penalties his clemency commuted to the loss of an ear or a nose; a Hungarian who killed his hunting-dog, he had broken alive on the wheel. A soldier's wife was hanged for complicity in a case of desertion; a young soldier who eloped with the girl he loved was brought to Ansbach from a neighboring town, and hanged with her on the same gallows. A sentry at the door of one of the Margrave's castles amiably complied with the Margrave's request to let him take his gun for a moment, on the pretence of wishing to look at it. For this breach of discipline the prince covered him with abuse and gave him over to his hussars, who bound him to a horse's tail and dragged him through the streets; he died of his injuries. The kennel-master who had charge of the Margrave's dogs was accused of neglecting them: without further inquiry the Margrave rode to the man's house and shot him down on his own threshold. A shepherd who met the Margrave on a shying horse did not get his flock out of the way quickly enough; the Margrave demanded the pistols of a gentleman in his company, but he answered that they were not loaded, and the shepherd's life was saved. As they returned home the gentleman fired them off. "What does that mean?" cried the Margrave, furiously. "It means, gracious lord, that you will sleep sweeter tonight, for not having heard my pistols an hour sooner."
From this it appears that the gracious lord had his moments of regret; but perhaps it is not altogether strange that when he died, the whole population "stormed through the streets to meet his funeral train, not in awe-stricken silence to meditate on the fall of human grandeur, but to unite in an eager tumult of rejoicing, as if some cruel brigand who had long held the city in terror were delivered over to them bound and in chains." For nearly thirty years this blood-stained miscreant had reigned over his hapless people in a sovereign plenitude of power, which by the theory of German imperialism in our day is still a divine right.
They called him the Wild Margrave, in their instinctive revolt from the belief that any man not untamably savage could be guilty of his atrocities; and they called his son the Last Margrave, with a touch of the poetry which perhaps records a regret for their extinction as a state. He did not harry them as his father had done; his mild rule was the effect partly of the indifference and distaste for his country bred, by his long sojourns abroad; but doubtless also it was the effect of a kindly nature. Even in the matter of selling a few thousands of them to fight the battles of a bad cause on the other side of the world, he had the best of motives, and faithfully applied the proceeds to the payment of the state debt and the embellishment of the capital.
His mother was a younger sister of Frederick the Great, and was so constantly at war with her husband that probably she had nothing to do with the marriage which the Wild Margrave forced upon their son. Love certainly had nothing to do with it, and the Last Margrave early escaped from it to the society of Mlle. Clairon, the great French tragedienne, whom he met in Paris, and whom he persuaded to come and make her home with him in Ansbach. She lived there seventeen years, and though always an alien, she bore herself with kindness to all classes, and is still remembered there by the roll of butter which calls itself a Klarungswecke in its imperfect French.
No roll of butter records in faltering accents the name of the brilliant and disdainful English lady who replaced this poor tragic muse in the Margrave's heart, though the lady herself lived to be the last Margravine of Ansbach, where everybody seems to have hated her with a passion which she doubtless knew how to return. She was the daughter of the Earl of Berkeley, and the wife of Lord Craven, a sufficiently unfaithful and unworthy nobleman by her account, from whom she was living apart when the Margrave asked her to his capital. There she set herself to oust Mlle. Clairon with sneers and jests for the theatrical style which the actress could not outlive. Lady Craven said she was sure Clairon's nightcap must be a crown of gilt paper; and when Clairon threatened to kill herself, and the Margrave was alarmed, "You forget," said Lady Craven, "that actresses only stab themselves under their sleeves."
She drove Clairon from Ansbach, and the great tragedienne returned to Paris, where she remained true to her false friend, and from time to time wrote him letters full of magnanimous counsel and generous tenderness. But she could not have been so good company as Lady Craven, who was a very gifted person, and knew how to compose songs and sing them, and write comedies and play them, and who could keep the Margrave amused in many ways. When his loveless and childless wife died he married the English woman, but he grew more and more weary of his dull little court and his dull little country, and after a while, considering the uncertain tenure sovereigns had of their heads since the French King had lost his, and the fact that he had no heirs to follow him in his principality, he resolved to cede it for a certain sum to Prussia. To this end his new wife's urgence was perhaps not wanting. They went to England, where she outlived him ten years, and wrote her memoirs.
The custodian of the Schloss came at last, and the Marches saw instantly that he was worth waiting for. He was as vainglorious of the palace as any grand-monarching margrave of them all. He could not have been more personally superb in showing their different effigies if they had been his own family portraits, and he would not spare the strangers a single splendor of the twenty vast, handsome, tiresome, Versailles-like rooms he led them through. The rooms were fatiguing physically, but so poignantly interesting that Mrs. March would not have missed, though she perished of her pleasure, one of the things she saw. She had for once a surfeit of highhoting in the pictures, the porcelains, the thrones and canopies, the tapestries, the historical associations with the margraves and their marriages, with the Great Frederick and the Great Napoleon. The Great Napoleon's man Bernadotte made the Schloss his headquarters when he occupied Ansbach after Austerlitz, and here he completed his arrangements for taking her bargain from Prussia and handing it over to Bavaria, with whom it still remains. Twice the Great Frederick had sojourned in the palace; visiting his sister Louise, the wife of the Wild Margrave, and more than once it had welcomed her next neighbor and sister Wilhelmina, the Margravine of Baireuth, whose autobiographic voice, piercingly plaintive and reproachful, seemed to quiver in the air. Here, oddly enough, the spell of the Wild Margrave weakened in the presence of his portrait, which signally failed to justify his fame of furious tyrant. That seems, indeed, to have been rather the popular and historical conception of him than the impression he made upon his exalted contemporaries. The Margravine of Baireuth at any rate could so far excuse her poor blood-stained brother-in-law as to say: "The Margrave of Ansbach . . . was a young prince who had been very badly educated. He continually ill-treated my sister; they led the life of cat and dog. My sister, it is true, was sometimes in fault . . . . Her education had been very bad. . . She was married at fourteen."
At parting, the custodian told the Marches that he would easily have known them for Americans by the handsome fee they gave him; they came away flown with his praise; and their national vanity was again flattered when they got out into the principal square of Ansbach. There, in a bookseller's window, they found among the pamphlets teaching different languages without a master, one devoted to the Amerikanische Sprache as distinguished from the Englische Sprache. That there could be no mistake, the cover was printed with colors in a German ideal of the star- spangled banner; and March said he always knew that we had a language of our own, and that now he was going in to buy that pamphlet and find out what it was like. He asked the young shop-woman how it differed from English, which she spoke fairly well from having lived eight years in Chicago. She said that it differed from the English mainly in emphasis and pronunciation. "For instance, the English say 'HALF past', and the Americans 'Half PAST'; the English say 'laht' and the Americans say 'late'."
The weather had now been clear quite long enough, and it was raining again, a fine, bitter, piercing drizzle. They asked the girl if it always rained in Ansbach; and she owned that it nearly always did. She said that sometimes she longed for a little American summer; that it was never quite warm in Ansbach; and when they had got out into the rain, March said: "It was very nice to stumble on Chicago in an Ansbach book- store. You ought to have told her you had a married daughter in Chicago. Don't miss another such chance."
"We shall need another bag if we keep on buying books at this rate," said his wife with tranquil irrelevance; and not to give him time for protest; she pushed him into a shop where the valises in the window perhaps suggested her thought. March made haste to forestall her there by saying they were Americans, but the mistress of the shop seemed to have her misgivings, and "Born Americans, perhaps?" she ventured. She had probably never met any but the naturalized sort, and supposed these were the only sort. March re-assured her, and then she said she had a son living in Jersey City, and she made March take his address that he might tell him he had seen his mother; she had apparently no conception what a great way Jersey City is from New York.
Mrs. March would not take his arm when they came out. "Now, that is what I never can get used to in you, Basil, and I've tried to palliate it for twenty-seven years. You know you won't look up that poor woman's son! Why did you let her think you would?"
"How could I tell her I wouldn't? Perhaps I shall."
"No, no! You never will. I know you're good and kind, and that's why I can't understand your being so cruel. When we get back, how will you ever find time to go over to Jersey City?"
He could not tell, but at last he said: "I'll tell you what! You must keep me up to it. You know how much you enjoy making me do my duty, and this will be such a pleasure!"
She laughed forlornly, but after a moment she took his arm; and he began, from the example of this good mother, to philosophize the continuous simplicity and sanity of the people of Ansbach under all their civic changes. Saints and soldiers, knights and barons, margraves, princes, kings, emperors, had come and gone, and left their single-hearted, friendly subjectfolk pretty much what they found them. The people had suffered and survived through a thousand wars, and apparently prospered on under all governments and misgovernments. When the court was most French, most artificial, most vicious, the citizen life must have remained immutably German, dull, and kind. After all, he said, humanity seemed everywhere to be pretty safe, and pretty much the same.
"Yes, that is all very well," she returned, "and you can theorize interestingly enough; but I'm afraid that poor mother, there, had no more reality for you than those people in the past. You appreciate her as a type, and you don't care for her as a human being. You're nothing but a dreamer, after all. I don't blame you," she went on. "It's your temperament, and you can't change, now."
"I may change for the worse," he threatened. "I think I have, already. I don't believe I could stand up to Dryfoos, now, as I did for poor old Lindau, when I risked your bread and butter for his. I look back in wonder and admiration at myself. I've steadily lost touch with life since then. I'm a trifler, a dilettante, and an amateur of the right and the good as I used to be when I was young. Oh, I have the grace to be troubled at times, now, and once I never was. It never occurred to me then that the world wasn't made to interest me, or at the best to instruct me, but it does, now, at times."
She always came to his defence when he accused himself; it was the best ground he could take with her. "I think you behaved very well with Burnamy. You did your duty then."
"Did I? I'm not so sure. At any rate, it's the last time I shall do it. I've served my term. I think I should tell him that he was all right in that business with Stoller, if I were to meet him, now."
"Isn't it strange," she said, provisionally, "that we don't come upon a trace of him anywhere in Ansbach?"
"Ah, you've been hoping he would turn up!"
"Yes. I don't deny it. I feel very unhappy about him."
"I don't. He's too much like me. He would have been quite capable of promising that poor woman to look up her son in Jersey City. When I think of that, I have no patience with Burnamy."
"I am going to ask the landlord about him, now he's got rid of his highhotes," said Mrs. March.
They went home to their hotel for their midday dinner, and to the comfort of having it nearly all to themselves. Prince Leopold had risen early, like all the hard-working potentates of the continent, and got away to the manoeuvres somewhere at six o'clock; the decorations had been removed, and the court-yard where the hired coach and pair of the prince had rolled in the evening before had only a few majestic ducks waddling about in it and quacking together, indifferent to the presence of a yellow mail-wagon, on which the driver had been apparently dozing till the hour of noon should sound. He sat there immovable, but at the last stroke of the clock he woke up and drove vigorously away to the station.
The dining-room which they had been kept out of by the prince the night before was not such as to embitter the sense of their wrong by its splendor. After all, the tastes of royalty must be simple, if the prince might have gone to the Schloss and had chosen rather to stay at this modest hotel; but perhaps the Schloss was reserved for more immediate royalty than the brothers of prince-regents; and in that case he could not have done better than dine at the Golden Star. If he paid no more than two marks, he dined as cheaply as a prince could wish, and as abundantly. The wine at Ansbach was rather thin and sour, but the bread, March declared, was the best bread in the whole world, not excepting the bread of Carlsbad.
After dinner the Marches had some of the local pastry, not so incomparable as the bread, with their coffee, which they had served them in a pavilion of the beautiful garden remaining to the hotel from the time when it was a patrician mansion. The garden had roses in it and several sorts of late summer flowers, as well as ripe cherries, currants, grapes, and a Virginia-creeper red with autumn, all harmoniously contemporaneous, as they might easily be in a climate where no one of the seasons can very well know itself from the others. It had not been raining for half an hour, and the sun was scalding hot, so that the shelter of their roof was very grateful, and the puddles of the paths were drying up with the haste which puddles have to make in Germany, between rains, if they are ever going to dry up at all.
The landlord came out to see if they were well served, and he was sincerely obliging in the English he had learned as a waiter in London. Mrs. March made haste to ask him if a young American of the name of Burnamy had been staying with him a few weeks before; and she described Burnamy's beauty and amiability so vividly that the landlord, if he had been a woman, could not have failed to remember him. But he failed, with a real grief, apparently, and certainly a real politeness, to recall either his name or his person. The landlord was an intelligent, good- looking young fellow; he told them that he was lately married, and they liked him so much that they were sorry to see him afterwards privately boxing the ears of the piccolo, the waiter's little understudy. Perhaps the piccolo deserved it, but they would rather not have witnessed his punishment; his being in a dress-coat seemed to make it also an indignity.
In the late afternoon they went to the cafe in the old Orangery of the Schloss for a cup of tea, and found themselves in the company of several Ansbach ladies who had brought their work, in the evident habit of coming there every afternoon for their coffee and for a dish of gossip. They were kind, uncomely, motherly-looking bodies; one of them combed her hair at the table; and they all sat outside of the cafe with their feet on the borders of the puddles which had not dried up there in the shade of the building.
A deep lawn, darkened at its farther edge by the long shadows of trees, stretched before them with the sunset light on it, and it was all very quiet and friendly. The tea brought to the Marches was brewed from some herb apparently of native growth, with bits of what looked like willow leaves in it, but it was flavored with a clove in each cup, and they sat contentedly over it and tried to make out what the Ansbach ladies were, talking about. These had recognized the strangers for Americans, and one of them explained that Americans spoke the same language as the English and yet were not quite the same people.
"She differs from the girl in the book-store," said March, translating to his wife. "Let us get away before she says that we are not so nice as the English," and they made off toward the avenue of trees beyond the lawn.
There were a few people walking up and down in the alley, making the most of the moment of dry weather. They saluted one another like acquaintances, and three clean-shaven, walnut-faced old peasants bowed in response to March's stare, with a self-respectful civility. They were yeomen of the region of Ansbach, where the country round about is dotted with their cottages, and not held in vast homeless tracts by the nobles as in North Germany.
The Bavarian who had imparted this fact to March at breakfast, not without a certain tacit pride in it to the disadvantage of the Prussians, was at the supper table, and was disposed to more talk, which he managed in a stout, slow English of his own. He said he had never really spoken English with an English-speaking person before, or at all since he studied it in school at Munich.
"I should be afraid to put my school-boy German against your English," March said, and, when he had understood, the other laughed for pleasure, and reported the compliment to his wife in their own parlance. "You Germans certainly beat us in languages."
"Oh, well," he retaliated, "the Americans beat us in some other things," and Mrs. March felt that this was but just; she would have liked to mention a few, but not ungraciously; she and the German lady kept smiling across the table, and trying detached vocables of their respective tongues upon each other.
The Bavarian said he lived in Munich still, but was in Ansbach on an affair of business; he asked March if he were not going to see the manoeuvres somewhere. Till now the manoeuvres had merely been the interesting background of their travel; but now, hearing that the Emperor of Germany, the King of Saxony, the Regent of Bavaria, and the King of Wurtemberg, the Grand-Dukes of Weimar and Baden, with visiting potentates of all sorts, and innumerable lesser highhotes, foreign and domestic, were to be present, Mrs. March resolved that they must go to at least one of the reviews.
"If you go to Frankfort, you can see the King of Italy too," said the Bavarian, but he owned that they probably could not get into a hotel there, and he asked why they should not go to Wurzburg, where they could see all the sovereigns except the King of Italy.
"Wurzburg? Wurzburg?" March queried of his wife. "Where did we hear of that place?"
"Isn't it where Burnamy said Mr. Stoller had left his daughters at school?"
"So it is! And is that on the way to the Rhine?" he asked the Bavarian.
"No, no! Wurzburg is on the Main, about five hours from Ansbach. And it is a very interesting place. It is where the good wine comes from."
"Oh, yes," said March, and in their rooms his wife got out all their guides and maps and began to inform herself and to inform him about Wurzburg. But first she said it was very cold and he must order some fire made in the tall German stove in their parlor. The maid who came said "Gleich," but she did not come back, and about the time they were getting furious at her neglect, they began getting warm. He put his hand on the stove and found it hot; then he looked down for a door in the stove where he might shut a damper; there was no door.
"Good heavens!" he shouted. "It's like something in a dream," and he ran to pull the bell for help.
"No, no! Don't ring! It will make us ridiculous. They'll think Americans don't know anything. There must be some way of dampening the stove; and if there isn't, I'd rather suffocate than give myself away." Mrs. March ran and opened the window, while her husband carefully examined the stove at every point, and explored the pipe for the damper in vain. "Can't you find it?" The night wind came in raw and damp, and threatened to blow their lamp out, and she was obliged to shut the window.
"Not a sign of it. I will go down and ask the landlord in strict confidence how they dampen their stoves in Ansbach."
"Well, if you must. It's getting hotter every moment." She followed him timorously into the corridor, lit by a hanging lamp, turned low for the night.
He looked at his watch; it was eleven o'clock. "I'm afraid they're all in bed."
"Yes; you mustn't go! We must try to find out for ourselves. What can that door be for?"
It was a low iron door, half the height of a man, in the wall near their room, and it yielded to his pull. "Get a candle," he whispered, and when she brought it, he stooped to enter the doorway.
"Oh, do you think you'd better?" she hesitated.
"You can come, too, if you're afraid. You've always said you wanted to die with me."
"Well. But you go first."
He disappeared within, and then came back to the doorway. "Just come in here, a moment." She found herself in a sort of antechamber, half the height of her own room, and following his gesture she looked down where in one corner some crouching monster seemed showing its fiery teeth in a grin of derision. This grin was the damper of their stove, and this was where the maid had kindled the fire which had been roasting them alive, and was still joyously chuckling to itself. "I think that Munich man was wrong. I don't believe we beat the Germans in anything. There isn't a hotel in the United States where the stoves have no front doors, and every one of them has the space of a good-sized flat given up to the convenience of kindling a fire in it."
After a red sunset of shameless duplicity March was awakened to a rainy morning by the clinking of cavalry hoofs on the pavement of the long- irregular square before the hotel, and he hurried out to see the passing of the soldiers on their way to the manoeuvres. They were troops of all arms, but mainly infantry, and as they stumped heavily through the groups of apathetic citizens in their mud-splashed boots, they took the steady downpour on their dripping helmets. Some of them were smoking, but none smiling, except one gay fellow who made a joke to a serving-maid on the sidewalk. An old officer halted his staff to scold a citizen who had given him a mistaken direction. The shame of the erring man was great, and the pride of a fellow-citizen who corrected him was not less, though the arrogant brute before whom they both cringed used them with equal scorn; the younger officers listened indifferently round on horseback behind the glitter of their eyeglasses, and one of them amused himself by turning the silver bangles on his wrist.
Then the files of soldier slaves passed on, and March crossed the bridge spanning the gardens in what had been the city moat, and found his way to the market-place, under the walls of the old Gothic church of St. Gumpertus. The market, which spread pretty well over the square, seemed to be also a fair, with peasants' clothes and local pottery for sale, as well as fruits and vegetables, and large baskets of flowers, with old women squatting before them. It was all as picturesque as the markets used to be in Montreal and Quebec, and in a cloudy memory of his wedding journey long before, he bought so lavishly of the flowers to carry back to his wife that a little girl, who saw his arm-load from her window as he returned, laughed at him, and then drew shyly back. Her laugh reminded him how many happy children he had seen in Germany, and how freely they seemed to play everywhere, with no one to make them afraid. When they grow up the women laugh as little as the men, whose rude toil the soldiering leaves them to.
He got home with his flowers, and his wife took them absently, and made him join her in watching the sight which had fascinated her in the street under their windows. A slender girl, with a waist as slim as a corseted officer's, from time to time came out of the house across the way to the firewood which had been thrown from a wagon upon the sidewalk there. Each time she embraced several of the heavy four-foot logs and disappeared with them in-doors. Once she paused from her work to joke with a well-dressed man who came by; and seemed to find nothing odd in her work; some gentlemen lounging at the window over head watched her with no apparent sense of anomaly.
"What do you think of that?" asked Mrs. March. "I think it's good exercise for the girl, and I should like to recommend it to those fat fellows at the window. I suppose she'll saw the wood in the cellar, and then lug it up stairs, and pile it up in the stoves' dressing-rooms."
"Don't laugh! It's too disgraceful."
"Well, I don't know! If you like, I'll offer these gentlemen across the way your opinion of it in the language of Goethe and Schiller."
"I wish you'd offer my opinion of them. They've been staring in here with an opera-glass."
"Ah, that's a different affair. There isn't much going on in Ansbach, and they have to make the most of it."
The lower casements of the houses were furnished with mirrors set at right angles with them, and nothing which went on in the streets was lost. Some of the streets were long and straight, and at rare moments they lay full of sun. At such times the Marches were puzzled by the sight of citizens carrying open umbrellas, and they wondered if they had forgotten to put them down, or thought it not worth while in the brief respites from the rain, or were profiting by such rare occasions to dry them; and some other sights remained baffling to the last. Once a man with his hands pinioned before him, and a gendarme marching stolidly after him with his musket on his shoulder, passed under their windows; but who he was, or what he, had done, or was to suffer, they never knew. Another time a pair went by on the way to the railway station: a young man carrying an umbrella under his arm, and a very decent-looking old woman lugging a heavy carpet bag, who left them to the lasting question whether she was the young man's servant in her best clothes, or merely his mother.
Women do not do everything in Ansbach, however, the sacristans being men, as the Marches found when they went to complete their impression of the courtly past of the city by visiting the funeral chapel of the margraves in the crypt of St. Johannis Church. In the little ex-margravely capital there was something of the neighborly interest in the curiosity of strangers which endears Italian witness. The white-haired street-sweeper of Ansbach, who willingly left his broom to guide them to the house of the sacristan, might have been a street-sweeper in Vicenza; and the old sacristan, when he put his velvet skull-cap out of an upper window and professed his willingness to show them the chapel, disappointed them by saying "Gleich!" instead of "Subito!" The architecture of the houses was a party to the illusion. St. Johannis, like the older church of St. Gumpertus, is Gothic, with the two unequal towers which seem distinctive of Ansbach; at the St. Gumpertus end of the place where they both stand the dwellings are Gothic too, and might be in Hamburg; but at the St. Johannis end they seem to have felt the exotic spirit of the court, and are of a sort of Teutonized renaissance.
The rococo margraves and margravines used of course to worship in St. Johannis Church. Now they all, such as did not marry abroad, lie in the crypt of the church, in caskets of bronze and copper and marble, with draperies of black samite, more and more funereally vainglorious to the last. Their courtly coffins are ranged in a kind of hemicycle, with the little coffins of the children that died before they came to the knowledge of their greatness. On one of these a kneeling figurine in bronze holds up the effigy of the child within; on another the epitaph plays tenderly with the fate of a little princess, who died in her first year.
In the Rose-month was this sweet Rose taken. For the Rose-kind hath she earth forsaken. The Princess is the Rose, that here no longer blows. From the stem by death's hand rudely shaken. Then rest in the Rose-house. Little Princess-Rosebud dear! There life's Rose shall bloom again In Heaven's sunshine clear.
While March struggled to get this into English words, two German ladies, who had made themselves of his party, passed reverently away and left him to pay the sacristan alone.
"That is all right," he said, when he came out. "I think we got the most value; and they didn't look as if they could afford it so well; though you never can tell, here. These ladies may be the highest kind of highhotes practising a praiseworthy economy. I hope the lesson won't be lost on us. They have saved enough by us for their coffee at the Orangery. Let us go and have a little willow-leaf tea!"
The Orangery perpetually lured them by what it had kept of the days when an Orangery was essential to the self-respect of every sovereign prince, and of so many private gentlemen. On their way they always passed the statue of Count Platen, the dull poet whom Heine's hate would have delivered so cruelly over to an immortality of contempt, but who stands there near the Schloss in a grass-plot prettily planted with flowers, and ignores his brilliant enemy in the comfortable durability of bronze; and there always awaited them in the old pleasaunce the pathos of Kaspar Hauser's fate; which his murder affixes to it with a red stain.
After their cups of willow leaves at the cafe they went up into that nook of the plantation where the simple shaft of church-warden's Gothic commemorates the assassination on the spot where it befell. Here the hapless youth, whose mystery will never be fathomed on earth, used to come for a little respite from his harsh guardian in Ansbach, homesick for the kindness of his Nuremberg friends; and here his murderer found him and dealt him the mortal blow.
March lingered upon the last sad circumstance of the tragedy in which the wounded boy dragged himself home, to suffer the suspicion and neglect of his guardian till death attested his good faith beyond cavil. He said this was the hardest thing to bear in all his story, and that he would like to have a look into the soul of the dull, unkind wretch who had so misread his charge. He was going on with an inquiry that pleased him much, when his wife pulled him abruptly away.
"Now, I see, you are yielding to the fascination of it, and you are wanting to take the material from Burnamy!"
"Oh, well, let him have the material; he will spoil it. And I can always reject it, if he offers it to 'Every Other Week'."
"I could believe, after your behavior to that poor woman about her son in Jersey City, you're really capable of it."
"What comprehensive inculpation! I had forgotten about that poor woman."
The letters which March had asked his Nuremberg banker to send them came just as they were leaving Ansbach. The landlord sent them down to the station, and Mrs. March opened them in the train, and read them first so that she could prepare him if there were anything annoying in them, as well as indulge her livelier curiosity.
"They're from both the children," she said, without waiting for him to ask. "You can look at them later. There's a very nice letter from Mrs. Adding to me, and one from dear little Rose for you." Then she hesitated, with her hand on a letter faced down in her lap. "And there's one from Agatha Triscoe, which I wonder what you'll think of." She delayed again, and then flashed it open before him, and waited with a sort of impassioned patience while he read it.
He read it, and gave it back to her. "There doesn't seem to be very much in it."
"That's it! Don't you think I had a right to there being something in it, after all I did for her?"
"I always hoped you hadn't done anything for her, but if you have, why should she give herself away on paper? It's a very proper letter."
"It's a little too proper, and it's the last I shall have to do with her. She knew that I should be on pins and needles till I heard how her father had taken Burnamy's being there, that night, and she doesn't say a word about it."
"The general may have had a tantrum that she couldn't describe. Perhaps she hasn't told him, yet."
"She would tell him instantly!" cried Mrs. March who began to find reason in the supposition, as well as comfort for the hurt which the girl's reticence had given her. "Or if she wouldn't, it would be because she was waiting for the best chance."
"That would be like the wise daughter of a difficult father. She may be waiting for the best chance to say how he took it. No, I'm all for Miss Triscoe, and I hope that now, if she's taken herself off our hands, she'll keep off."
"It's altogether likely that he's made her promise not to tell me anything about it," Mrs. March mused aloud.
"That would be unjust to a person who had behaved so discreetly as you have," said her husband.
They were on their way to Wurzburg, and at the first station, which was a junction, a lady mounted to their compartment just before the train began to move. She was stout and middle-aged, and had never been pretty, but she bore herself with a kind of authority in spite of her thread gloves, her dowdy gray travelling-dress, and a hat of lower middle-class English tastelessness. She took the only seat vacant, a backward-riding place beside a sleeping passenger who looked like a commercial traveller, but she seemed ill at ease in it, and March offered her his seat. She accepted it very promptly, and thanked him for it in the English of a German, and Mrs. March now classed her as a governess who had been teaching in England and had acquired the national feeling for dress. But in this character she found her interesting, and even a little pathetic, and she made her some overtures of talk which the other met eagerly enough. They were now running among low hills, not so picturesque as those between Eger and Nuremberg, but of much the same toylike quaintness in the villages dropped here and there in their valleys. One small town, completely walled, with its gray houses and red roofs, showed through the green of its trees and gardens so like a colored print in a child's story-book that Mrs. March cried out for joy in it, and then accounted for her rapture by explaining to the stranger that they were Americans and had never been in Germany before. The lady was not visibly affected by the fact, she said casually that she had often been in that little town, which she named; her uncle had a castle in the country back of it, and she came with her husband for the shooting in the autumn. By a natural transition she spoke of her children, for whom she had an English governess; she said she had never been in England, but had learnt the language from a governess in her own childhood; and through it all Mrs. March perceived that she was trying to impress them with her consequence. To humor her pose, she said they had been looking up the scene of Kaspar Hauser's death at Ansbach; and at this the stranger launched into such intimate particulars concerning him, and was so familiar at first hands with the facts of his life, that Mrs. March let her run on, too much amused with her pretensions to betray any doubt of her. She wondered if March were enjoying it all as much, and from time to time she tried to catch his eye, while the lady talked constantly and rather loudly, helping herself out with words from them both when her English failed her. In the safety of her perfect understanding of the case, Mrs. March now submitted farther, and even suffered some patronage from her, which in another mood she would have met with a decided snub.
As they drew in among the broad vine-webbed slopes of the Wurzburg, hills, the stranger said she was going to change there, and take a train on to Berlin. Mrs. March wondered whether she would be able to keep up the comedy to the last; and she had to own that she carried it off very easily when the friends whom she was expecting did not meet her on the arrival of their train. She refused March's offers of help, and remained quietly seated while he got out their wraps and bags. She returned with a hardy smile the cold leave Mrs. March took of her; and when a porter came to the door, and forced his way by the Marches, to ask with anxious servility if she, were the Baroness von——-, she bade the man get them. a 'traeger', and then come back for her. She waved them a complacent adieu before they mixed with the crowd and lost sight of her.
"Well, my dear," said March, addressing the snobbishness in his wife which he knew to be so wholly impersonal, "you've mingled with one highhote, anyway. I must say she didn't look it, any more than the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, and yet she's only a baroness. Think of our being three hours in the same compartment, and she doing all she could to impress us and our getting no good of it! I hoped you were feeling her quality, so that we should have it in the family, anyway, and always know what it was like. But so far, the highhotes have all been terribly disappointing."
He teased on as they followed the traeger with their baggage out of the station; and in the omnibus on the way to their hotel, he recurred to the loss they had suffered in the baroness's failure to dramatize her nobility effectually. "After all, perhaps she was as much disappointed in us. I don't suppose we looked any more like democrats than she looked like an aristocrat."
"But there's a great difference," Mrs. March returned at last. "It isn't at all a parallel case. We were not real democrats, and she was a real aristocrat."
"To be sure. There is that way of looking at it. That's rather novel; I wish I had thought of that myself. She was certainly more to blame than we were."
The square in front of the station was planted with flag-poles wreathed in evergreens; a triumphal arch was nearly finished, and a colossal allegory in imitation bronze was well on the way to completion, in honor of the majesties who were coming for the manoeuvres. The streets which the omnibus passed through to the Swan Inn were draped with the imperial German and the royal Bavarian colors; and the standards of the visiting nationalities decked the fronts of the houses where their military attaches were lodged; but the Marches failed to see our own banner, and were spared for the moment the ignominy of finding it over an apothecary shop in a retired avenue. The sun had come out, the sky overhead was of a smiling blue; and they felt the gala-day glow and thrill in the depths of their inextinguishable youth.
The Swan Inn sits on one of the long quays bordering the Main, and its windows look down upon the bridges and shipping of the river; but the traveller reaches it by a door in the rear, through an archway into a back street, where an odor dating back to the foundation of the city is waiting to welcome him.
The landlord was there, too, and he greeted the Marches so cordially that they fully partook his grief in being able to offer them rooms on the front of the house for two nights only. They reconciled themselves to the necessity of then turning out for the staff of the King of Saxony, the more readily because they knew that there was no hope of better things at any other hotel.
The rooms which they could have for the time were charming, and they came down to supper in a glazed gallery looking out on the river picturesque with craft of all fashions: with row-boats, sail-boats, and little steamers, but mainly with long black barges built up into houses in the middle, and defended each by a little nervous German dog. Long rafts of logs weltered in the sunset red which painted the swift current, and mantled the immeasurable vineyards of the hills around like the color of their ripening grapes. Directly in face rose a castled steep, which kept the ranging walls and the bastions and battlements of the time when such a stronghold could have defended the city from foes without or from tumult within. The arches of a stately bridge spanned the river sunsetward, and lifted a succession of colossal figures against the crimson sky.
"I guess we have been wasting our time, my dear," said March, as they, turned from this beauty to the question of supper. "I wish we had always been here!"
Their waiter had put them at a table in a division of the gallery beyond that which they entered, where some groups of officers were noisily supping. There was no one in their room but a man whose face was indistinguishable against the light, and two young girls who glanced at them with looks at once quelled and defiant, and then after a stare at the officers in the gallery beyond, whispered together with suppressed giggling. The man fed on without noticing them, except now and then to utter a growl that silenced the whispering and giggling for a moment. The Marches, from no positive evidence of any sense, decided that they were Americans.
"I don't know that I feel responsible for them as their fellow- countryman; I should, once," he said.
"It isn't that. It's the worry of trying to make out why they are just what they are," his wife returned.
The girls drew the man's attention to them and he looked at them for the first time; then after a sort of hesitation he went on with his supper. They had only begun theirs when he rose with the two girls, whom Mrs. March now saw to be of the same size and dressed alike, and came heavily toward them.
"I thought you was in Carlsbad," he said bluntly to March, with a nod at Mrs. March. He added, with a twist of his head toward the two girls, "My daughters," and then left them to her, while he talked on with her husband. "Come to see this foolery, I suppose. I'm on my way to the woods for my after-cure; but I thought I might as well stop and give the girls a chance; they got a week's vacation, anyway." Stoller glanced at them with a sort of troubled tenderness in his strong dull face.
"Oh, yes. I understood they were at school here," said March, and he heard one of them saying, in a sweet, high pipe to his wife:
"Ain't it just splendid? I ha'n't seen anything equal to it since the Worrld's Fairr." She spoke with a strong contortion of the Western r, and her sister hastened to put in:
"I don't think it's to be compared with the Worrld's Fairr. But these German girls, here, just think it's great. It just does me good to laff at 'em, about it. I like to tell 'em about the electric fountain and the Courrt of Iionorr when they get to talkin' about the illuminations they're goun' to have. You goun' out to the parade? You better engage your carriage right away if you arre. The carrs'll be a perfect jam. Father's engaged ourrs; he had to pay sixty marrks forr it."
They chattered on without shyness and on as easy terms with a woman of three times their years as if she had been a girl of their own age; they willingly took the whole talk to themselves, and had left her quite outside of it before Stoller turned to her.
"I been telling Mr. March here that you better both come to the parade with us. I guess my twospanner will hold five; or if it won't, we'll make it. I don't believe there's a carriage left in Wurzburg; and if you go in the cars, you'll have to walk three or four miles before you get to the parade-ground. You think it over," he said to March. "Nobody else is going to have the places, anyway, and you can say yes at the last minute just as well as now."
He moved off with his girls, who looked over their shoulders at the officers as they passed on through the adjoining room.
"My dear!" cried Mrs. March. "Didn't you suppose he classed us with Burnamy in that business? Why should he be polite to us?"
"Perhaps he wants you to chaperon his daughters. He's probably heard of your performance at the Kurhaus ball. But he knows that I thought Burnamy in the wrong. This may be Stoller's way of wiping out an obligation. Wouldn't you like to go with him?"
"The mere thought of his being in the same town is prostrating. I'd far rather he hated us; then he would avoid us."
"Well, he doesn't own the town, and if it comes to the worst, perhaps we can avoid him. Let us go out, anyway, and see if we can't."
"No, no; I'm too tired; but you go. And get all the maps and guides you can; there's so very little in Baedeker, and almost nothing in that great hulking Bradshaw of yours; and I'm sure there must be the most interesting history of Wurzburg. Isn't it strange that we haven't the slightest association with the name?"
"I've been rummaging in my mind, and I've got hold of an association at last," said March. "It's beer; a sign in a Sixth Avenue saloon window Wurzburger Hof-Brau."
"No matter if it is beer. Find some sketch of the history, and we'll try to get away from the Stollers in it. I pitied those wild girls, too. What crazy images of the world must fill their empty minds! How their ignorant thoughts must go whirling out into the unknown! I don't envy their father. Do hurry back! I shall be thinking about them every instant till you come."
She said this, but in their own rooms it was so soothing to sit looking through the long twilight at the lovely landscape that the sort of bruise given by their encounter with the Stollers had left her consciousness before March returned. She made him admire first the convent church on a hill further up the river which exactly balanced the fortress in front of them, and then she seized upon the little books he had brought, and set him to exploring the labyrinths of their German, with a mounting exultation in his discoveries. There was a general guide to the city, and a special guide, with plans and personal details of the approaching manoeuvres and the princes who were to figure in them; and there was a sketch of the local history: a kind of thing that the Germans know how to write particularly, well, with little gleams of pleasant humor blinking through it. For the study of this, Mrs. March realized, more and more passionately, that they were in the very most central and convenient point, for the history of Wurzburg might be said to have begun with her prince-bishops, whose rule had begun in the twelfth century, and who had built, on a forgotten Roman work, the fortress of the Marienburg on that vineyarded hill over against the Swan Inn. There had of course been history before that, but 'nothing so clear, nothing so peculiarly swell, nothing that so united the glory of this world and the next as that of the prince-bishops. They had made the Marienburg their home, and kept it against foreign and domestic foes for five hundred years. Shut within its well-armed walls they had awed the often-turbulent city across the Main; they had held it against the embattled farmers in the Peasants' War, and had splendidly lost it to Gustavus Adolphus, and then got it back again and held it till Napoleon took it from them. He gave it with their flock to the Bavarians, who in turn briefly yielded it to the Prussians in 1866, and were now in apparently final possession of it.
Before the prince-bishops, Charlemagne and Barbarossa had come and gone, and since the prince-bishops there had been visiting thrones and kingdoms enough in the ancient city, which was soon to be illustrated by the presence of imperial Germany, royal, Wirtemberg and Saxony, grand-ducal Baden and Weimar, and a surfeit of all the minor potentates among those who speak the beautiful language of the Ja.
But none of these could dislodge the prince-bishops from that supreme place which they had at once taken in Mrs. March's fancy. The potentates were all going to be housed in the vast palace which the prince-bishops had built themselves in Wurzburg as soon as they found it safe to come down from their stronghold of Marienburg, and begin to adorn their city, and to confirm it in its intense fidelity to the Church. Tiepolo had come up out of Italy to fresco their palace, where he wrought year after year, in that worldly taste which has somehow come to express the most sovereign moment of ecclesiasticism. It prevailed so universally in Wurzburg that it left her with the name of the Rococo City, intrenched in a period of time equally remote from early Christianity and modern Protestantism. Out of her sixty thousand souls, only ten thousand are now of the reformed religion, and these bear about the same relation to the Catholic spirit of the place that the Gothic architecture bears to the baroque.
As long as the prince-bishops lasted the Wurzburgers got on very well with but one newspaper, and perhaps the smallest amount of merrymaking known outside of the colony of Massachusetts Bay at the same epoch. The prince-bishops had their finger in everybody's pie, and they portioned out the cakes and ale, which were made according to formulas of their own. The distractions were all of a religious character; churches, convents, monasteries, abounded; ecclesiastical processions and solemnities were the spectacles that edified if they did not amuse the devout population.
It seemed to March an ironical outcome of all this spiritual severity that one of the greatest modern scientific discoveries should have been made in Wurzburg, and that the Roentgen rays should now be giving her name a splendor destined to eclipse the glories of her past.
Mrs. March could not allow that they would do so; or at least that the name of Roentgen would ever lend more lustre to his city than that of Longfellow's Walther von der Vogelweide. She was no less surprised than pleased to realize that this friend of the birds was a Wurzburger, and she said that their first pilgrimage in the morning should be to the church where he lies buried.
March went down to breakfast not quite so early as his wife had planned, and left her to have her coffee in her room. He got a pleasant table in the gallery overlooking the river, and he decided that the landscape, though it now seemed to be rather too much studied from a drop-certain, had certainly lost nothing of its charm in the clear morning light. The waiter brought his breakfast, and after a little delay came back with a card which he insisted was for March. It was not till he put on his glasses and read the name of Mr. R. M. Kenby that he was able at all to agree with the waiter, who stood passive at his elbow.
"Well," he said, "why wasn't this card sent up last night?"
The waiter explained that the gentleman had just, given him his card, after asking March's nationality, and was then breakfasting in the next room. March caught up his napkin and ran round the partition wall, and Kenby rose with his napkin and hurried to meet him.
"I thought it must be you," he called out, joyfully, as they struck their extended hands together, "but so many people look alike, nowadays, that I don't trust my eyes any more."
Kenby said he had spent the time since they last met partly in Leipsic and partly in Gotha, where he had amused himself in rubbing up his rusty German. As soon as he realized that Wurzburg was so near he had slipped down from Gotha for a glimpse of the manoeuvres. He added that he supposed March was there to see them, and he asked with a quite unembarrassed smile if they had met Mr. Adding in Carlsbad, and without heeding March's answer, he laughed and added: "Of course, I know she must have told Mrs. March all about it."
March could not deny this; he laughed, too; though in his wife's absence he felt bound to forbid himself anything more explicit.
"I don't give it up, you know," Kenby went on, with perfect ease. "I'm not a young fellow, if you call thirty-nine old."
"At my age I don't," March put in, and they roared together, in men's security from the encroachments of time.
"But she happens to be the only woman I've ever really wanted to marry, for more than a few days at a stretch. You know how it is with us."
"Oh, yes, I know," said March, and they shouted again.
"We're in love, and we're out of love, twenty times. But this isn't a mere fancy; it's a conviction. And there's no reason why she shouldn't marry me."
March smiled gravely, and his smile was not lost upon Kenby. "You mean the boy," he said. "Well, I like Rose," and now March really felt swept from his feet. "She doesn't deny that she likes me, but she seems to think that her marrying again will take her from him; the fact is, it will only give me to him. As for devoting her whole life to him, she couldn't do a worse thing for him. What the boy needs is a man's care, and a man's will—Good heavens! You don't think I could ever be unkind to the little soul?" Kenby threw himself forward over the table.
"My dear fellow!" March protested.
"I'd rather cut off my right hand! "Kenby pursued, excitedly, and then he said, with a humorous drop: "The fact is, I don't believe I should want her so much if I couldn't have Rose too. I want to have them both. So far, I've only got no for an answer; but I'm not going to keep it. I had a letter from Rose at Carlsbad, the other day; and—"
The waiter came forward with a folded scrap of paper on his salver, which March knew must be from his wife. "What is keeping you so?" she wrote. "I am all ready." "It's from Mrs. March," he explained to Kenby. "I am going out with her on some errands. I'm awfully glad to see you again. We must talk it all over, and you must—you mustn't—Mrs. March will want to see you later—I—Are you in the hotel?"
"Oh yes. I'll see you at the one-o'clock table d'hote, I suppose."
March went away with his head whirling in the question whether he should tell his wife at once of Kenby's presence, or leave her free for the pleasures of Wurzburg, till he could shape the fact into some safe and acceptable form. She met him at the door with her guide-books, wraps and umbrellas, and would hardly give him time to get on his hat and coat.
"Now, I want you to avoid the Stollers as far as you can see them. This is to be a real wedding-journey day, with no extraneous acquaintance to bother; the more strangers the better. Wurzburg is richer than anything I imagined. I've looked it all up; I've got the plan of the city, so that we can easily find the way. We'll walk first, and take carriages whenever we get tired. We'll go to the cathedral at once; I want a good gulp of rococo to begin with; there wasn't half enough of it at Ansbach. Isn't it strange how we've come round to it?"
She referred to that passion for the Gothic which they had obediently imbibed from Ruskin in the days of their early Italian travel and courtship, when all the English-speaking world bowed down to him in devout aversion from the renaissance, and pious abhorrence of the rococo.
"What biddable little things we were!" she went on, while March was struggling to keep Kenby in the background of his consciousness. "The rococo must have always had a sneaking charm for us, when we were pinning our faith to pointed arches; and yet I suppose we were perfectly sincere. Oh, look at that divinely ridiculous Madonna!" They were now making their way out of the crooked footway behind their hotel toward the street leading to the cathedral, and she pointed to the Blessed Virgin over the door of some religious house, her drapery billowing about her feet; her body twisting to show the sculptor's mastery of anatomy, and the halo held on her tossing head with the help of stout gilt rays. In fact, the Virgin's whole figure was gilded, and so was that of the child in her arms. "Isn't she delightful?"
"I see what you mean," said March, with a dubious glance at the statue, "but I'm not sure, now, that I wouldn't like something quieter in my Madonnas."
The thoroughfare which they emerged upon, with the cathedral ending the prospective, was full of the holiday so near at hand. The narrow sidewalks were thronged with people, both soldiers and civilians, and up the middle of the street detachments of military came and went, halting the little horse-cars and the huge beer-wagons which otherwise seemed to have the sole right to the streets of Wurzburg; they came jingling or thundering out of the aide streets and hurled themselves round the corners reckless of the passers, who escaped alive by flattening themselves like posters against the house walls. There were peasants, men and women, in the costume which the unbroken course of their country life had kept as quaint as it was a hundred years before; there were citizens in the misfits of the latest German fashions; there were soldiers of all arms in their vivid uniforms, and from time to time there were pretty young girls in white dresses with low necks, and bare arms gloved to the elbows, who were following a holiday custom of the place in going about the streets in ball costume. The shop windows were filled with portraits of the Emperor and the Empress, and the Prince-Regent and the ladies of his family; the German and Bavarian colors draped the facades of the houses and festooned the fantastic Madonnas posing above so many portals. The modern patriotism included the ancient piety without disturbing it; the rococo city remained ecclesiastical through its new imperialism, and kept the stamp given it by the long rule of the prince-bishops under the sovereignty of its King and the suzerainty of its Kaiser.
The Marches escaped from the present, when they entered the cathedral, as wholly as if they had taken hold of the horns of the altar, though they were far from literally doing this in an interior so grandiose. There area few rococo churches in Italy, and perhaps more in Spain, which approach the perfection achieved by the Wurzburg cathedral in the baroque style. For once one sees what that style can do in architecture and sculpture, and whatever one may say of the details, one cannot deny that there is a prodigiously effective keeping in it all. This interior came together, as the decorators say, with a harmony that the travellers had felt nowhere in their earlier experience of the rococo. It was, unimpeachably perfect in its way, "Just," March murmured to his wife, "as the social and political and scientific scheme of the eighteenth century was perfected in certain times and places. But the odd thing is to find the apotheosis of the rococo away up here in Germany. I wonder how much the prince-bishops really liked it. But they had become rococo, too! Look at that row of their statues on both sides of the nave! What magnificent swell! How they abash this poor plain Christ, here; he would like to get behind the pillar; he knows that he could never lend himself to the baroque style. It expresses the eighteenth century, though. But how you long for some little hint of the thirteenth, or even the nineteenth."
"I don't," she whispered back. "I'm perfectly wild with Wurzburg. I like to have a thing go as far as it can. At Nuremberg I wanted all the Gothic I could get, and in Wurzburg I want all the baroque I can get. I am consistent."
She kept on praising herself to his disadvantage, as women do, all the way to the Neumunster Church, where they were going to revere the tomb of Walther yon der Vogelweide, not so much for his own sake as for Longfellow's. The older poet lies buried within, but his monument is outside the church, perhaps for the greater convenience of the sparrows, which now represent the birds he loved. The cenotaph is surmounted by a broad vase, and around this are thickly perched the effigies of the Meistersinger's feathered friends, from whom the canons of the church, as Mrs. March read aloud from her Baedeker, long ago directed his bequest to themselves. In revenge for their lawless greed the defrauded beneficiaries choose to burlesque the affair by looking like the four- and-twenty blackbirds when the pie was opened.
She consented to go for a moment to the Gothic Marienkapelle with her husband in the revival of his mediaeval taste, and she was rewarded amidst its thirteenth-century sincerity by his recantation. "You are right! Baroque is the thing for Wurzburg; one can't enjoy Gothic here any more than one could enjoy baroque in Nuremberg."
Reconciled in the rococo, they now called a carriage, and went to visit the palace of the prince-bishops who had so well known how to make the heavenly take the image and superscription of the worldly; and they were jointly indignant to find it shut against the public in preparation for the imperialities and royalties coining to occupy it. They were in time for the noon guard-mounting, however, and Mrs. March said that the way the retiring squad kicked their legs out in the high martial step of the German soldiers was a perfect expression of the insolent militarism of their empire, and was of itself enough to make one thank Heaven that one was an American and a republican. She softened a little toward their system when it proved that the garden of the palace was still open, and yet more when she sank down upon a bench between two marble groups representing the Rape of Proserpine and the Rape of Europa. They stood each in a gravelled plot, thickly overrun by a growth of ivy, and the vine climbed the white naked limbs of the nymphs, who were present on a pretence of gathering flowers, but really to pose at the spectators, and clad them to the waist and shoulders with an effect of modesty never meant by the sculptor, but not displeasing. There was an old fountain near, its stone rim and centre of rock-work green with immemorial mould, and its basin quivering between its water-plants under the soft fall of spray. At a waft of fitful breeze some leaves of early autumn fell from the trees overhead upon the elderly pair where they sat, and a little company of sparrows came and hopped about their feet. Though the square without was so all astir with festive expectation, there were few people in the garden; three or four peasant women in densely fluted white skirts and red aprons and shawls wandered by and stared at the Europa and at the Proserpine.
It was a precious moment in which the charm of the city's past seemed to culminate, and they were loath to break it by speech.
"Why didn't we have something like all this on our first wedding journey?" she sighed at last. "To think of our battening from Boston to Niagara and back! And how hard we tried to make something of Rochester and Buffalo, of Montreal and Quebec!"
"Niagara wasn't so bad," he said, "and I will never go back on Quebec."
"Ah, but if we could have had Hamburg and Leipsic, and Carlsbad and Nuremberg, and Ansbach and Wurzburg! Perhaps this is meant as a compensation for our lost youth. But I can't enjoy it as I could when I was young. It's wasted on my sere and yellow leaf. I wish Burnamy and Miss Triscoe were here; I should like to try this garden on them."
"They wouldn't care for it," he replied, and upon a daring impulse he added, "Kenby and Mrs. Adding might." If she took this suggestion in good part, he could tell her that Kenby was in Wurzburg.
"Don't speak of them! They're in just that besotted early middle-age when life has settled into a self-satisfied present, with no past and no future; the most philistine, the most bourgeois, moment of existence. Better be elderly at once, as far as appreciation of all this goes." She rose and put her hand on his arm, and pushed him away in the impulsive fashion of her youth, across alleys of old trees toward a balustraded terrace in the background which had tempted her.
"It isn't so bad, being elderly," he said. "By that time we have accumulated enough past to sit down and really enjoy its associations. We have got all sorts of perspectives and points of view. We know where we are at."
"I don't mind being elderly. The world's just as amusing as ever, and lots of disagreeable things have dropped out. It's the getting more than elderly; it's the getting old; and then—"
They shrank a little closer together, and walked on in silence till he said, "Perhaps there's something else, something better—somewhere."
They had reached the balustraded terrace, and were pausing for pleasure in the garden tops below, with the flowery spaces, and the statued fountains all coming together. She put her hand on one of the fat little urchin-groups on the stone coping. "I don't want cherubs, when I can have these putti. And those old prince-bishops didn't, either!"
"I don't suppose they kept a New England conscience," he said, with a vague smile. "It would be difficult in the presence of the rococo."
They left the garden through the beautiful gate which the old court ironsmith Oegg hammered out in lovely forms of leaves and flowers, and shaped laterally upward, as lightly as if with a waft of his hand, in gracious Louis Quinze curves; and they looked back at it in the kind of despair which any perfection inspires. They said how feminine it was, how exotic, how expressive of a luxurious ideal of life which art had purified and left eternally charming. They remembered their Ruskinian youth, and the confidence with which they would once have condemned it; and they had a sense of recreance in now admiring it; but they certainly admired it, and it remained for them the supreme expression of that time- soul, mundane, courtly, aristocratic, flattering, which once influenced the art of the whole world, and which had here so curiously found its apotheosis in a city remote from its native place and under a rule sacerdotally vowed to austerity. The vast superb palace of the prince bishops, which was now to house a whole troop of sovereigns, imperial, royal, grand ducal and ducal, swelled aloft in superb amplitude; but it did not realize their historic pride so effectively as this exquisite work of the court ironsmith. It related itself in its aerial beauty to that of the Tiepolo frescoes which the travellers knew were swimming and soaring on the ceilings within, and from which it seemed to accent their exclusion with a delicate irony, March said. "Or iron-mongery," he corrected himself upon reflection.
He had forgotten Kenby in these aesthetic interests, but he remembered him again when he called a carriage, and ordered it driven to their hotel. It was the hour of the German mid-day table d'hote, and they would be sure to meet him there. The question now was how March should own his presence in time to prevent his wife from showing her ignorance of it to Kenby himself, and he was still turning the question hopelessly over in his mind when the sight of the hotel seemed to remind her of a fact which she announced.
"Now, my dear, I am tired to death, and I am not going to sit through a long table d'hote. I want you to send me up a simple beefsteak and a cup of tea to our rooms; and I don't want you to come near for hours; because I intend to take a whole afternoon nap. You can keep all the maps and plans, and guides, and you had better go and see what the Volksfest is like; it will give you some notion of the part the people are really taking in all this official celebration, and you know I don't care. Don't come up after dinner to see how I am getting along; I shall get along; and if you should happen to wake me after I had dropped off—"
Kenby had seen them arrive from where he sat at the reading-room window, waiting for the dinner hour, and had meant to rush out and greet Mrs. March as they passed up the corridor. But she looked so tired that he had decided to spare her till she came down to dinner; and as he sat with March at their soup, he asked if she were not well.
March explained, and he provisionally invented some regrets from her that she should not see Kenby till supper.
Kenby ordered a bottle of one of the famous Wurzburg wines for their mutual consolation in her absence, and in the friendliness which its promoted they agreed to spend the afternoon together. No man is so inveterate a husband as not to take kindly an occasional release to bachelor companionship, and before the dinner was over they agreed that they would go to the Volksfest, and get some notion of the popular life and amusements of Wurzburg, which was one of the few places where Kenby had never been before; and they agreed that they would walk.
Their way was partly up the quay of the Main, past a barrack full of soldiers. They met detachments of soldiers everywhere, infantry, artillery, cavalry.
"This is going to be a great show," Kenby said, meaning the manoeuvres, and he added, as if now he had kept away from the subject long enough and had a right to recur to it, at least indirectly, "I should like to have Rose see it, and get his impressions."
"I've an idea he wouldn't approve of it. His mother says his mind is turning more and more to philanthropy."
Kenby could not forego such a chance to speak of Mrs. Adding. "It's one of the prettiest things to see how she understands Rose. It's charming to see them together. She wouldn't have half the attraction without him."
"Oh, yes," March assented. He had often wondered how a man wishing to marry a widow managed with the idea of her children by another marriage; but if Kenby was honest; it was much simpler than he had supposed. He could not say this to him, however, and in a certain embarrassment he had with the conjecture in his presence he attempted a diversion. "We're promised something at the Volksfest which will be a great novelty to us as Americans. Our driver told us this morning that one of the houses there was built entirely of wood."
When they reached the grounds of the Volksfest, this civil feature of the great military event at hand, which the Marches had found largely set forth in the programme of the parade, did not fully keep the glowing promises made for it; in fact it could not easily have done so. It was in a pleasant neighborhood of new villas such as form the modern quarter of every German city, and the Volksfest was even more unfinished than its environment. It was not yet enclosed by the fence which was to hide its wonders from the non-paying public, but March and Kenby went in through an archway where the gate-money was as effectually collected from them as if they were barred every other entrance.
The wooden building was easily distinguishable from the other edifices because these were tents and booths still less substantial. They did not make out its function, but of the others four sheltered merry-go-rounds, four were beer-gardens, four were restaurants, and the rest were devoted to amusements of the usual country-fair type. Apparently they had little attraction for country people. The Americans met few peasants in the grounds, and neither at the Edison kinematograph, where they refreshed their patriotism with some scenes of their native life, nor at the little theatre where they saw the sports of the arena revived, in the wrestle of a woman with a bear, did any of the people except tradesmen and artisans seem to be taking part in the festival expression of the popular pleasure.
The woman, who finally threw the bear, whether by slight, or by main strength, or by a previous understanding with him, was a slender creature, pathetically small and not altogether plain; and March as they walked away lapsed into a pensive muse upon her strange employ. He wondered how she came to take it up, and whether she began with the bear when they were both very young, and she could easily throw him.
"Well, women have a great deal more strength than we suppose," Kenby began with a philosophical air that gave March the hope of some rational conversation. Then his eye glazed with a far-off look, and a doting smile came into his face. "When we went through the Dresden gallery together, Rose and I were perfectly used up at the end of an hour, but his mother kept on as long as there was anything to see, and came away as fresh as a peach."
Then March saw that it was useless to expect anything different from him, and he let him talk on about Mrs. Adding all the rest of the way back to the hotel. Kenby seemed only to have begun when they reached the door, and wanted to continue the subject in the reading-room.
March pleaded his wish to find how his wife had got through the afternoon, and he escaped to her. He would have told her now that Kenby was in the house, but he was really so sick of the fact himself that he could not speak of it at once, and he let her go on celebrating all she had seen from the window since she had waked from her long nap. She said she could never be glad enough that they had come just at that time. Soldiers had been going by the whole afternoon, and that made it so feudal.
Yes," he assented. "But aren't you coming up to the station with me to see the Prince-Regent arrive? He's due at seven, you know."
"I declare I had forgotten all about it. No, I'm not equal to it. You must go; you can tell me everything; be sure to notice how the Princess Maria looks; the last of the Stuarts, you know; and some people consider her the rightful Queen of England; and I'll have the supper ordered, and we can go down as soon as you've got back."
March felt rather shabby stealing away without Kenby; but he had really had as much of Mrs. Adding as he could stand, for one day, and he was even beginning to get sick of Rose. Besides, he had not sent back a line for 'Every Other Week' yet, and he had made up his mind to write a sketch of the manoeuvres. To this end he wished to receive an impression of the Prince-Regent's arrival which should not be blurred or clouded by other interests. His wife knew the kind of thing he liked to see, and would have helped him out with his observations, but Kenby would have got in the way, and would have clogged the movement of his fancy in assigning the facts to the parts he would like them to play in the sketch.
At least he made some such excuses to himself as he hurried along toward the Kaiserstrasse. The draught of universal interest in that direction had left the other streets almost deserted, but as he approached the thoroughfare he found all the ways blocked, and the horse-cars, ordinarily so furiously headlong, arrested by the multiple ranks of spectators on the sidewalks. The avenue leading from the railway station to the palace was decorated with flags and garlands, and planted with the stems of young firs and birches. The doorways were crowded, and the windows dense with eager faces peering out of the draped bunting. The carriageway was kept clear by mild policemen who now and then allowed one of the crowd to cross it.
The crowd was made up mostly of women and boys, and when March joined them, they had already been waiting an hour for the sight of the princes who were to bless them with a vision of the faery race which kings always are to common men. He thought the people looked dull, and therefore able to bear the strain of expectation with patience better than a livelier race. They relieved it by no attempt at joking; here and there a dim smile dawned on a weary face, but it seemed an effect of amiability rather than humor. There was so little of this, or else it was so well bridled by the solemnity of the occasion, that not a man, woman, or child laughed when a bareheaded maid-servant broke through the lines and ran down between them with a life-size plaster bust of the Emperor William in her arms: she carried it like an overgrown infant, and in alarm at her conspicuous part she cast frightened looks from side to side without arousing any sort of notice. Undeterred by her failure, a young dog, parted from his owner, and seeking him in the crowd, pursued his search in a wild flight down the guarded roadway with an air of anxiety that in America would have won him thunders of applause, and all sorts of kindly encouragements to greater speed. But this German crowd witnessed his progress apparently without interest, and without a sign of pleasure. They were there to see the Prince-Regent arrive, and they did not suffer themselves to be distracted by any preliminary excitement. Suddenly the indefinable emotion which expresses the fulfilment of expectation in a waiting crowd passed through the multitude, and before he realized it March was looking into the friendly gray-bearded face of the Prince- Regent, for the moment that his carriage allowed in passing. This came first preceded by four outriders, and followed by other simple equipages of Bavarian blue, full of highnesses of all grades. Beside the Regent sat his daughter-in-law, the Princess Maria, her silvered hair framing a face as plain and good as the Regent's, if not so intelligent.
He, in virtue of having been born in Wurzburg, is officially supposed to be specially beloved by his fellow townsmen; and they now testified their affection as he whirled through their ranks, bowing right and left, by what passes in Germany for a cheer. It is the word Hoch, groaned forth from abdominal depths, and dismally prolonged in a hollow roar like that which the mob makes behind the scenes at the theatre before bursting in visible tumult on the stage. Then the crowd dispersed, and March came away wondering why such a kindly-looking Prince-Regent should not have given them a little longer sight of himself; after they had waited so patiently for hours to see him. But doubtless in those countries, he concluded, the art of keeping the sovereign precious by suffering him to be rarely and briefly seen is wisely studied.