As Seen By Me
Part 2 out of 4
"She came over here with letters to Paris friends, and when it became
known that one of the richest heiresses in America was here, naturally
all the mammas with marriageable sons were anxious to see her. She was
invited everywhere, but as she could not speak French, and as she was
as you see her, her success could not be said to be great. No, but
that made no difference. The Duchesse de Z---- was determined that her
son should marry the rich heiress. As she expected to remain here a
year or more, and the young Duc de Z---- made a wry face, she did not
press the matter. Then the heiress went into a convent to learn
French, and the Duchesse went to see her very often and took her to
drive, and did her son's part as well as she could.
"Suddenly, to the amazement of everybody, the heiress sailed for
America without a word of warning. The Duchesse was furious. 'You must
follow her,' she said to her son. 'We cannot let so much money
escape.' The son said he would be hanged if he went to America, or if
he would marry such a monkey, and as for her money, she could go
anywhere she pleased with it, or words to that effect. So that ended
the affair of the Duc de Z----. When the other impecunious young
nobles heard that the Duchesse no longer had any claims upon the
American's money they got together and said, 'Somebody must marry her
and divide with the rest. We can't all marry her, but we can all have
a share from whoever does. Now we will draw lots to see who must go to
America and marry her.' The lot fell to the Baron de X----, but he had
no money for the journey. So all the others raised what money they
could and loaned it to him, and took his notes for it, with enormous
interest, payable after his marriage. He sailed away, and within eight
months he had married her, but he has not paid those notes because his
wife won't give him the money! And these gentlemen are furious! Good
joke, I call it."
"What a shameful thing!" I said. "I wonder if that girl knew how she
was being married!"
"Of course she knew! At least, she might have known. She was rich and
she was plain. How could she hope to gain one of the proudest titles
in France without buying it?"
"I wonder if she could have known!" I said, again.
"It would not have prevented the marriage, would it, mademoiselle, if
"Indeed it would!" I said (but I don't know whether it would or not).
He shrugged his shoulders.
"America is very different from Europe, then, mademoiselle. Here it
would have made no difference. When a great amount of money is to be
placed, one must not have too many scruples."
"If she did know," I said, with a fervor which was lost upon him,
"believe this, whether you can understand it or not: she was not a
typical American girl."
I had, as usual, many more words which he deserved to have had said to
him, but education along this line takes too much time. I ought to
have begun this great work with his great-grandparents.
* * * * *
What any one can see about Dinard to like is a mystery to me! Is it
possible that one who has spent a month there could ever be lured back
again? There is a beautiful journey from Paris across France
southwesterly to the coast, through odd little French villages,
vineyards, poppy-fields, and rose-gardens, across shining rivulets and
through an undulating landscape, all so lovely that it is no wonder
that one expects all this beauty to lead up to a climax. But what a
disappointment Dinard is to one's enthusiastic anticipations! This
famous watering-place has to my mind not one solitary redeeming
feature. It has no excuse for being famous. It has not even one happy
accident about it as a peg to hang its fame upon, like some writers'
first novels. Dinard simply goes on being famous, nobody knows why.
And to go there, after reading pages about it in the papers and
hearing people speak of Dinard as Mohammedans whisper sacredly of
Mecca, is like meeting celebrities. You wonder what under the
sun--what in the world--how in the name of Heaven such ugly, stupid,
uninteresting, heavy, dull, and insufferably ordinary persons are
allowed to become famous by an overruling and beneficent Providence! I
have met many celebrities, and I have been to Dinard. I have had my
share of disappointments.
To begin with, Dinard is not sufficiently picturesque. There are but
one or two pretty vistas and three or four points of view. Then it is
not typically French. It is inhabited partly by English families who
cross the Channel yearly from Southampton and Portsmouth, and who take
with them their nine uninteresting daughters, with long front teeth
and ill-hanging duck skirts, and partly by Americans who go to Dinard
as they go to the Eiffel Tower; not that either is particularly
interesting, but they had heard of these places before they came over.
The only really interesting thing within five miles of Dinard is that,
off St. Malo, on the island of Grand Be, Chateaubriand is buried. But
as this really belongs more to the attractions of St. Malo than to
Dinard, and nobody who spends summers at Dinard ever mentioned
Chateaubriand in my presence, or honored his tomb by a visit, it is
pure charity on my part to ascribe this solitary point of real
interest to Dinard. For, after all, Chateaubriand does not belong to
it. Which logic reminds me forcibly of the plea entered by the defence
in a suit for borrowing a kettle: "In the first place, I never
borrowed his kettle; in the second place, it was whole when I returned
it; and, in the third place, it was cracked when I got it."
So with Chateaubriand and Dinard. Then Dinard has none of the dash and
go of other watering-places. There is nothing to do except to bathe
mornings and watch the people win or lose two francs at _petits
chevaux_ in the evenings. Not wildly exciting, that. Consequently, you
soon begin to stagnate with the rest.
You grow more and more stupid as the weeks pass, and at the end of a
month you cease to think. From that time on you do not have such a bad
time--that is to say, you do not suffer so acutely, because you have
now got down to the level of the people who go back to Dinard the next
We came away. The hotels are among the worst on earth--musty,
old-fashioned, and villainously expensive--and one of the happiest
moments in my life was the day when I left Dinard for Mont St. Michel.
Mont St. Michel is one of the most out-of-the-way, un-get-at-able
places I found in all Europe; but, oh, how it rewards one who arrives!
Mont St. Michel is too well known to need a description. But to go
from Dinard requires, first of all, that one must go by boat over to
St. Malo, thence by train; change cars, and alight finally at a lonely
little station, behind which stands a sort of vehicle--a cross between
a London omnibus and a hay-wagon. You scramble to the top of this as
best you may. Nobody helps you. The Frenchman behind you crowds
forward and climbs up ahead of you and holds you back with his
umbrella while he hauls his fat wife up beside him. Then you clamber
up by the hub of the wheel and by sundry awkward means which remind
you of climbing a stone wall when you were a child. You take any seat
left, which the Frenchmen do not want, the horses are put to, and away
you go over a smooth sandy road for eleven miles, with the sea
crawling up on each side of you over the dunes.
Suddenly, without warning, you come squarely upon Mont St. Michel,
rising solidly five hundred feet from nowhere. There is a whole town
in this fortress, built upon this rock, street above street, like a
flight of stairs, and house piled up behind house, until on the very
top there is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world; and as
you thread its maze of vaulted chambers and dungeons and come to its
gigantic tower you are lost in absolute wonder at the building of it.
Where did they get the material? And when got, what human ingenuity
could raise those enormous blocks of stone to that vast height? How
those cannon swept all approach by land or sea as far as the eye could
reach! It would require superb courage in an enemy to come within
reach of that grim sentinel of France, manned by her warrior monks.
What secrets those awful dungeons might relate! Here political crimes
were avenged with all the cruelty of Siberian exile. Here prisoners
wore their lives away in black solitude, no ray of light penetrating
The story is told that one poor wretch was eaten alive by gigantic
rats, and they have a ghastly reproduction of it in wax, which makes
you creepy for a week after you have seen it. Nowhere in all Europe
did I see a place which impressed its wonder and its history of horror
upon me as did the cathedral dungeon of Mont St. Michel. Its situation
was so impregnable, its capacity so vast, its silence and isolation
from the outer world so absolute.
All Russia does not boast a situation so replete with possible and
probable misery and anguish such as were suggested to my mind here.
But the wonder and charm of the compact little town which clings like
a limpet to its base are more than can be expressed on the written
page. It is like climbing the uneven stairs of some vast and roofless
ancient palace, upon each floor of which dwell families who have come
in and roofed over the suites of rooms and made houses out of them.
The stairs lead you, not from floor to floor, but from bakery to
carpenter-shop, from the blacksmith's to the telegraph-office.
The streets are paved with large cobblestones, to prevent cart-wheels
from slipping, and are so narrow that I often had to stand up at
afternoon tea with my cup in one hand and my chair in the other, to
let a straining, toiling little donkey pass me, gallantly hauling his
load of fagots up an incline of forty-five degrees.
The famous inn here is kept by Madame Poularde, who can cook so
marvellously that she is one of the wonders of Normandy. Her kitchen
faces the main street; you simply step over the threshold as you hear
the beating of eggs, and there, over an immense open fire, which roars
gloriously up the chimney, are the fowls twirling on their strings and
dripping deliciously into the pans which sizzle complainingly on the
Presently the roaring ceases, the fresh coals are flattened down, and
into a skillet, with a handle five feet long, is dropped the butter,
which melts almost instantly. A fat little red-faced boy pushes the
skillet back and forth to keep the butter from burning. The frantic
beating of eggs comes nearer and nearer. The shrill voice of Madame
Poularde screams voluble French at her assistants. She boxes
somebody's ears, snatches the eggs, gives them one final puffy
beating, which causes them to foam up and overflow, and at that
exciting moment out they bubble into the smoking skillet, the handle
of which she seizes at the identical moment that she lets go of the
empty bowl with one hand and pushes the red-faced boy over backward
with the other. It is legerdemain! But then, _how_ she manages that
skillet! How her red cheeks flush, her black eyes sparkle, and her
plump hands guide that ship of state!
We are all so excited that we get horribly in her way and almost fall
into the fire in our anxiety. She stirs and coaxes and coquettes with
the lovely foamy mass until it becomes as light as the yellow down on
a fledgling's wings. She calls it an omelette, but she is scrambling
those eggs! Then when it is almost done she screams at us to take our
places. The red-faced boy rings a huge bell, and we all tumble madly
up the narrow stairs to the dining-room, where a score of assorted
tourists are seated. _They_ get that first omelette because they
behaved better than we did, and were more orderly. There are half a
dozen little maids who attend us. They give us bread and bring our
wine and get our plates all ready, for, behold, we can hear below the
beating of the eggs and the sizzling of the butter, and presently
Madame Poularde's scream and slap, and we know that our omelette is on
There were scores of bridal parties there when we were, for Mont St.
Michel seems to be the Niagara of France, and really one could hardly
imagine a more charming place for a honeymoon. Indeed, for a newly
married couple, for boy and girl, for spinsters and bachelors, ay,
even for Darby and Joan, Mont St. Michel has attractions. All sorts
and conditions of men here find the most romantic and interesting spot
to be found in the whole of France.
While here we got telegrams telling us of the assembling of our
friends at a house-party at a chateau in the south of France which
once had belonged to Charles VII. So without waiting for anything more
we wired a joyful acceptance and set out. We did, however, stop over a
few hours at Blois, in order to see the chateau there. We really did
Blois in a spirit of Baedeker, for we were crazy to see Velor, in
order not to miss an inch of the good times which we knew would riot
there. But virtue was its own reward, for as we were looking into the
depths of the first real oubliette which I ever had seen, and I was
just shivering with the vision of that fiendish Catharine de' Medici
who used to drop people into these holes every morning before
breakfast, just as an appetizer, we heard a most blood-curdling
shriek, and there stood that wretched Jimmie watching us from an open
door, waving his Baedeker at us, with Mrs. Jimmie's lovely Madonna
smile seen over his shoulder.
No one who has not felt the awful pangs of homesickness abroad has any
idea of the joy with which one greets intimate friends in Europe. I
believe that travel in Europe has done more toward the riveting of
lukewarm American friendships than any other thing in the world.
The Jimmies have often appeared upon my pathway like angels of light,
and at Blois we simply loved them, for Blois is not only gloomy, but
it has a most ghastly history. The murder of the Duc de Guise and his
brother, by order of King Henry III., took place here. They show one
the rooms where the murder was committed, the door through which the
murderer entered, and the private _cabinet de travail_ where the king
waited for the news.
Here, also, Margaret of Valois married Henry of Navarre, and Charles,
Duc d'Alencon, married Margaret of Anjou. But one hardly ever thinks
of the weddings which occurred here for the horrors which overshadow
them. How fitting that Marie de' Medici should have been imprisoned
here, and my ancient enemy, Catharine, that queen-mother who perched
her children on thrones as carelessly and as easily as did Napoleon
and Queen Louise of Denmark--that Catharine should have died here,
"unregretted and unlamented," was too lovely!
Then we left the magnificent old castle and took the train for
Port-Boulet, where the Marquise met us with her little private
omnibus, holding eight, drawn by handsome American horses. They were
new horses and young, and the Marquise said that Charles found them
quite unmanageable. Jimmie watched him drive them around a moment or
two before they could be made to stand, then he broke out laughing.
The Marquise was so disgusted at the way they see-sawed that she said
she was going to sell them.
"Sell them!" cried Jimmie. "Why, all in the world that's the matter
with those poor brutes is that they don't speak French! Let _me_ drive
So the Marquise saved Charles's vanity by saying that monsieur wished
to try the new horses. Jimmie climbed upon the box, and gathered up
the reins, saying, "So, old boy, you don't like the dratted language
any better than I do. Steady now, boy! _Giddap_!" Whereat the pretty
creatures pricked up their ears, pranced a little, then sprang into
their collars, and we were off along the lovely river road at a
spanking pace and with as smooth and even a gait as the most
We could hear Charles's polite compliments to Jimmie on his driving,
and Jimmie's awful French, as he assured Charles that the horses were
all right, "_tres gentils_" and "_tres jolis_." "_Ne dites jamais
'doucement' aux chevaux americains. Dites 'whoa,' et ils arreteront,
et quand vous dites 'Giddap,' ils marcheront bien. Savez?_" At which
Charles obediently practised "Whoa!" and "Giddap!" while we felt
ourselves pulled up and started off, as the object-lesson demanded,
but amid shrieks of laughter which quite upset Charles's dignity.
Finally, we whirled in across the moat and under the great gate to the
chateau, and found ourselves in the billiard-room of Velor, with a big
open fire, in front of which lay a pile of dogs and around which we
all gathered shiveringly, for the day was chilly.
That charming billiard-room at Velor! It is not so grand as the rest
of the chateau, but everybody loves it best of all. It is on the
ground floor, and it has a writing-desk and two or three little
work-tables and several sofas and heaps of easy-chairs, and here
everybody came to read or write or sew or play billiards. And as to
afternoon tea! Not one of us could have been hired to drink it in the
salons up-stairs. In fact, so many of us insisted upon being in the
billiard-room that there never was room for a free play of one's cue,
for somebody was always in the way, and it was rather discouraging to
hear a woman doing embroidery say, "Don't hit this ball. Take some
other stroke, can't you? Your cue will strike me in the eye."
Dunham, the eighteen-year-old son of the Marquise, was teaching me
billiards, but his manners were so beautiful that he always pretended
that to stick to one's own ball was a mere arbitrary rule of the game,
so he permitted me to play with either ball, which made it easiest for
me, or which caused least discomfort to those sitting uncomfortably
near the table. A dear boy, that Dunham! He had but one fault, and
that was that he _would_ wear cerise and scarlet cravats, and his hair
was red--so uncompromisingly red, of such an obstinate and determined
red, that his mother often said, "Come here, Dunham, dear, and light
up this corner of the room with your sunny locks. It is too dark to
see how to thread my needle!" Such was his amiability that I am sure
he enjoyed it, for he always went promptly, and called her "_Mon
amour_," and slyly kissed her when he thought we were not looking.
All our remarks upon his red ties fell upon unheeding ears, until one
day I bribed his man to bring me every one of them. These I
distributed among the women guests, and when, the next morning, Dunham
came in complaining that he couldn't find any of his red ties, lo!
every woman in the room was wearing one; and to our credit be it
spoken that he failed to get any of them back, and never, to my
knowledge at least, wore a scarlet tie again.
Velor is historic. After it passed out of the hands of Charles VII.--I
have slept in his room, but I must say that he was unpleasantly short
if that bed fitted him!--it was bought by the old miser Nivelau, whose
daughter, Eugenie Belmaison, was the girl Balzac wished to marry. In a
rage at being rejected by her father he wrote _Eugenie Grandet_, and
several of the articles, such as her work-box, of which Balzac makes
mention, are in the possession of the Marquise.
Every available room in the Velor was filled with our party. Each day
we drove in the brake to visit some ancient chateau, such as
Azay-le-Rideau, Islette, Chinon, or the Abbey of Fontevreault, finding
the roads and scenery in Touraine the most delightful one can imagine.
Fontevreault was originally an abbey, and a most powerful one, being
presided over by daughters of kings or women of none but the highest
rank, and these noble women held the power of life and death over all
the country which was fief to Fontevreault.
Velor was once fief to Fontevreault, but the abbey is now turned into
They took away our cameras before they allowed us to enter, but we saw
some of the prisoners, of whom there were one thousand. The real
object of our visit, however, was to see the tombs of Henry II. and of
my beloved Richard the Lion-hearted, who are both buried at
Fontevreault. To go to Fontevreault, we were obliged to cross the
river Vienne on the most curious little old ferry, which was only a
raft with the edges turned up. Charles drove the brake on to this
raft, but we preferred, after one look into the eyes of the American
horses, to climb down and trust to our own two feet.
We gave and attended breakfasts with the owners of neighboring
chateaux, drove into Saumur to the theatre or to dine with the
officers of the regiment stationed there, and had altogether a perfect
visit. I have made many visits and have been the guest of many
hostesses, most of them charming ones, hence it is no discourtesy to
them and but a higher compliment to the Marquise when I assert that
she is one of the most perfect hostesses I ever met.
A thorough woman of the world, having been presented at three courts
and speaking five languages, yet her heart is as untouched by the
taint of worldliness, her nature as unembittered by her sorrows, as if
she were a child just opening her eyes to society. One of the
cleverest of women, she is both humorous and witty, with a gift of
mimicry which would have made her a fortune on the stage.
Her servants idolize her, manage the chateau to suit themselves, which
fortunately means to perfection, and look upon her as a beloved child
who must be protected from all the minor trials of life. She has
rescued the most of them from some sort of discomfort, and their
gratitude is boundless. Like the majority of the nobility, the
peasants of France are royalists. The middle class, the _bourgeoisie_,
are the backbone of the republic.
The servants are stanch Catholics and long for a monarchy again. The
Marquise apologized to them for our being heretics, and told them that
while we were not Christians (Catholics), yet we tried to be good, and
in the main turned out a fair article, but she entreated their
clemency and their prayers for her guests. So we had the satisfaction
of being ardently prayed for all the time we were there, and of being
complimented occasionally by her maid, Marie, an old Normandie peasant
seventy years old, for an act on our part now and then which savored
of real Christianity. And once when we had private theatricals, and I
dressed as a nun, Marie never found out for half the evening that I
was not one of the Sisters who frequently came to the chateau, but
kept crossing herself whenever she saw me; and when she discovered me
she told me, with tears in her eyes, it really was a thousand pities
that I would not renounce the world and become a Christian, because I
looked so much like a "religieuse."
We went in oftenest to Chinon--always on market day; some of us on
horseback, some on wheels, while the rest drove. Chinon is the
fortress chateau where Jeanne d'Arc came to see Charles VII. to try to
interest him in her plans. Its ruins stand high up on a bluff
overlooking the town, and beneath it in an open square is the very
finest and most spirited equestrian statue I ever saw. It is of Jeanne
d'Arc, and I only regret that the photograph I took of it is too small
to show its fire and spirit and the mad rush of the horse, and the
glorious, generous pose of the noble martyr's outstretched arms, as
she seems to be in the act of sacrificing her life to her country.
There is the divinest patriotism in every line of it.
We saw it on a beautiful crisp day in November. It was our
Thanksgiving day at home. We drove along the lovely river-road from
Chinon to Velor, and upon our arrival we discovered that the Marquise
had arranged an American Thanksgiving dinner for us, sending even to
America for certain delicacies appropriate to the season. It was a
most gorgeous Thanksgiving dinner, for, aside from the turkey, lo!
there appeared a peacock in all its magnificent plumage, sitting there
looking so dressy with all his feathers on that we quite blushed for
the state of the turkey.
A month of Paris, and then I long for fresh fields and pastures new.
Of course there is nowhere like Paris for clothes or to eat. But when
one has got all the clothes one can afford and is no longer hungry,
having acquired a chronic indigestion from too intimate a knowledge of
Marguery's and Ledoyen's, what is there to do but to leave?
Paris is essentially a holiday town, but I get horribly tired of too
long a holiday, and after the newness is worn off one discovers that
it is the superficiality of it all that palls. The people are
superficial; their amusements are feathery--even the beauty of it all
is "only skin deep."
Therefore, after one glimpse of Poland, the pagan in my nature called
me to the East, and six months of Paris have only intensified my
longing to get away--to get to something solid; to find myself once
more with the serious thinkers of the world.
In the mean time Bee has deserted me for the more interesting society
of Billy, and now she writes me long letters so filled with his
sayings and doings that I must move on or I shall die of homesickness.
I have decided on Russia and the Nile, taking intermediate countries
by the way. This is entirely Billy's fault.
When I first decided to go to Russia, I supposed, of course, that I
could induce the Jimmies to go with me, but, to my consternation, they
revolted, and gently but firmly expressed their determination to go to
Egypt by way of Italy. So I have taken a companion, and if all goes
well we shall meet the Jimmies on the terrace of Shepheard's in
I packed three trunks in my very best style, only to have Mrs. Jimmie
regard my work with a face so full of disapproval that it reminded me
of Bee's. She then proceeded to put "everything any mortal could
possibly want" into one trunk, with what seemed to me supernatural
skill and common-sense, calmly sending the other two to be stored at
Munroe's. I don't like to disparage Mrs. Jimmie's idea of what I need,
but it does seem to me that nearly everything I have wanted here in
Berlin is "stored at Munroe's."
My companion and I, with faultless arithmetic, calculated our expenses
and drew out what we considered "plenty of French money to get us to
the German frontier." Then Jimmie took my companion and Mrs. Jimmie
took me to the train.
Their cab got to the station first, and when we came up Jimmie was
grinning, and my companion looked rather sheepish.
"I didn't have enough money to pay the extra luggage," she whispered.
"I had to borrow of Mr. Jimmie."
"That's just like you," I said, severely. "Now _I_ drew more than you
Just then Jimmie came up with _my_ little account.
"Forty-nine francs extra luggage," he announced.
"What?" I gasped, "on that _one_ trunk?" How grateful I was at that
moment for the two stored at Munroe's!
"Oh, Jimmie," I cried, "I haven't got _near_ enough! You'll _have_ to
lend me twenty francs!"
My companion smiled in sweet revenge, and has been almost impossible
to travel with since then, but we are one in our rage against paying
extra luggage. Just think of buying your clothes once and then paying
for them over and over again in every foreign country you travel
through! Our clothes will be priceless heirlooms by the time we get
home. We can never throw them away. They will be too valuable.
The Jimmies have been so kind to us that we nearly choked over leaving
them, but we consoled ourselves after the train left, and proceeded to
draw the most invidious comparisons between French sleeping-cars and
the rolling palaces we are accustomed to at home. I am ashamed to
think that I have made unpleasant remarks upon the discomforts of
travel in America. Oh, how ungrateful I have been for past mercies!
My companion is very patient, as a rule, but I heard her restlessly
tossing around in her berth, and I said, "What's the matter?"
"Oh, nothing much. But don't you think they have arranged the knobs in
these mattresses in very curious places?"'
Well, it _was_ a little like sleeping on a wood-pile during a
continuous earthquake. But that was nothing compared to the news
broken to us about eleven o'clock that our luggage would be examined
at the German frontier at five o'clock in the morning. That meant
being wakened at half past four. But it was quite unnecessary, for we
were not asleep.
It was cold and raining. I got up and dressed for the day. But my
companion put her seal-skin on over her dressing-gown, and perched her
hat on top of that hair of hers, and looked ready to cope with Diana
"They'll ruin my things if they unpack them," I said.
"You just keep still and let me manage things," she answered. So I
did. I made myself as small as possible and watched her. She selected
her victim and smiled on him most charmingly. He was tearing open the
trunk of a fat American got up in gray flannel and curl-papers. He
dropped her tray and hurried up to my companion.
"Have you anything to declare, madam?" he asked.
"Tell him absolutely nothing," she whispered to me. I obeyed, but he
never took his eyes from her. She was tugging at the strap of her
trunk in apparently wild eagerness to get it open. She frowned and
panted a little to show how hard it was, and he bounded forward to
help her. Then she smiled at him, and he blinked his eyes and tucked
the strap in and chalked her trunk, with a shrug. He hadn't opened it.
She kept her eye on him and pointed to my trunk, and he chalked that.
Then seven pieces of hand luggage, and he chalked them all. Then she
smiled on him again, and I thanked him, but he didn't seem to hear me,
and she nodded her thanks and pulled me down a long stone corridor to
the dining-room where we could get some coffee.
At the door I looked back. The customs officer was still looking after
my companion, but she never even saw it.
The dining-room was full of smoke, but the coffee and my first taste
of zwieback were delicious. Then we went out through a narrow doorway
to the train, where we were jostled by Frenchmen with their habitual
"_Pardon!_" (which partially reconciles you to being walked on), and
knocked into by monstrous Germans, who sent us spinning without so
much as a look of apology, and both of whom puffed their tobacco smoke
directly in our faces. It was still dark and the rain was whimpering
down on the car-roof, and, take it all in all, the situation was far
from pleasant, but we are hard to depress, and our spirits remain
It was so stuffy in our compartment that I stood in the doorway for a
few moments near an open window. My companion was lying down in my
berth. We still had nineteen hours of travel before us with no
prospect of sleep, for sleep in those berths and over such a rough
road was absolutely out of the question.
Near me (and spitting in the saddest manner out of the open window)
stood the meek little American husband of the gray flannel and
curl-papers, whose fury at my companion for her quick work with the
customs officer knew no bounds.
The gray flannel had gone to bed again in the compartment next to
The precision of this gentleman's aim as he expectorated through the
open window, and the marvellous rapidity with which he managed his
diversion, led me to watch him. He looked tired and cold and ill. It
was still dark outside, and the jolting of the train was almost
unbearable. He had not once looked at me, but with his gaze still on
the darkness he said, slowly,
"They can have the whole blamed country for all of me! _I_ don't want
It was so exactly the way I felt that even though he said something
worse than "blamed," I gave a shriek of delight, and my companion
pounded the pillow in her cooperation of the sentiment.
"You are an American and you are Southern," I said.
"Yes'm. How did you know?"
"By your accent."
"Yes'm, I was born in Virginia. I was in the Southern army four years,
and I love my country. I hate these blamed foreigners and their
blamed churches and their infernal foreign languages. I am over
here for my health, my wife says. But I have walked more miles in
picture-galleries than I ever marched in the army. I've seen more
pictures by Raphael than he could have painted if he'd 'a' had ten
arms and painted a thousand years without stopping to eat or sleep.
I've seen more 'old masters,' as they call 'em, but _I_ call 'em
_daubs_, all varnished till they are so slick that a fly would slip on
'em and break his neck. And the stone floors are so cold that I get
cold clean up to my knees, and I don't get warm for a week. Yet I am
over here for my health! Then the way they rob you--these blamed
French! Lord, if I ever get back to America, where one price includes
everything and your hotel bill isn't sent in on a ladder, and where I
can keep warm, won't I just be _too_ thankful."
Just then the gray-flannel door banged open and a hand reached out and
jerked the poor little old man inside, and we heard him say, "But I
was only blaming the French. I ain't happy over here." And a sharp
voice said, "Well, you've said enough. Don't talk any more at all."
Then she let him out again, but he did not find me in the corridor. He
found his open window, and he leaned against our closed door and again
aimed at the flying landscape, as he pondered over the disadvantages
The sun was just rising over the cathedral as we reached Cologne.
"Let's get out here and have our breakfast comfortably, see the
cathedral, and take the next train to Berlin," I said to my companion.
She is the courier and I am the banker. She hastily consulted her
_indicateur_ and assented. We only had about two seconds in which to
"Let's throw these bags out of the window," she said. "I've seen other
people do it, and the porters catch them."
"Don't _throw_ them," I urged. "You will break my toilet bottles. Poke
them out gently."
She did so, and we hopped off the train just at daybreak, perfectly
delighted at doing something we had not planned.
A more lovely sight than the Cologne cathedral, with the rising sun
gilding its numerous pinnacles and spires, would be difficult to
imagine. The narrow streets were still comparatively dark, and when we
arrived we heard the majestic notes of the organ in a Bach fugue, and
found ourselves at early mass, with rows of humble worshippers
kneeling before the high altar, and the twinkle of many candles in the
soft gloom. As we stood and watched and listened, the smell of incense
floated down to us, and gradually the first rays of the sun crept
downward through the superb colored-glass windows and stained the
marble statues in their niches into gorgeous hues of purple and
scarlet and amber.
And as the priests intoned and the fresh young voices of an invisible
choir floated out and the magnificent rumble of the organ shook the
very foundation of the cathedral, we forgot that we were there to
visit a sight of Cologne, we forgot our night of discomfort, we forgot
everything but the spirit of worship, and we came away without
* * * * *
From Cologne to Dresden is stupid. We went through a country
punctuated with myriads of tall chimneys of factories, which reminded
us why so many things in England and America are stamped "Made in
We arrived at Dresden at five o'clock, and decided to stop there and
go to the opera that night. The opera begins in Dresden at seven
o'clock and closes at ten. The best seats are absurdly cheap, and
whole families, whole schools, whole communities, I should say, were
there together. I never saw so many children at an opera in my life.
Coming straight from Paris, from the theatrical, vivacious,
enthusiastic French audiences, with their abominable _claqueurs_, this
first German audience seemed serious, thoughtful, appreciative, but
unenthusiastic. They use more judgment about applause than the French.
They never interrupt a scene or even a musical phrase with misplaced
applause because the soprano has executed a flamboyant cadenza or the
tenor has reached a higher note than usual. Their appreciation is slow
but hearty and always worthily disposed. The French are given to
exaggerating an emotion and to applauding an eccentricity. Even their
subtlety is overdone.
The German drama is much cleaner than the French, the family tie is
made more of, sentiment is encouraged instead of being ridiculed, as
it too often is in America; but the German point of view of Americans
is quite as much distorted as the French. That statement is severe,
but true. For instance, it would be utterly impossible for the
American girl to be more exquisitely misunderstood than by French and
Berlin is so full of electric cars that it seemed much more familiar
at first sight than Paris. It is a lovely city, although we ought to
have seen it before Paris in order fully to appreciate it. Its
Brandenburg Gate is most impressive, and I wanted to make some
demonstration every time we drove under it and realized that the
statue above it has been returned. Their statue of Victory in the
Thiergarten is so hideous, however, that I was reminded of General
Sherman's remark when he saw the Pension Office in Washington, "And
they tell me the ---- thing is fireproof!"
The streets are filled with beautiful things, mostly German officers.
The only trouble is that they themselves seem to know it only too
well, and as they will not give us any of the sidewalk, we are obliged
to admire them from the gutters. The only way you can keep Germans
from knocking you into the middle of the street is to walk sideways
and pretend you are examining the shop windows.
In the eyes of men, women are of little account in England compared to
the way we are treated in America; of less in France; and of still
less in Germany. We have not got to Russia yet.
Paris seems a city of leisure, Berlin a city of war. The streets of
Paris are quite as full of soldiers as Berlin, but French soldiers
look to me like mechanical toys. I have sent Billy a box of them for
Christmas--of mechanical soldiers, I mean. The chief difference I
noticed was that Billy's were smaller than the live ones, although
French soldiers are small enough. That portion of the French army
which I have seen--at Longchamps, Chalons-sur-Marne, Saumur, and at
various other places--are, as a rule, undersized, badly dressed, and
badly groomed. They do not look neat, nor even clean, if you want the
truth. The uniform is very ugly, and was evidently designed for men
thirteen feet high; so that on those comical little toy Frenchmen it
is grotesque in the extreme.
Their trousers are always much too long, and so ample in width that
they seem to need only a belt at the ankle to turn them into perfect
Russian blouses. But English and German soldiers not only appear, but
_are_, in perfect condition, as though they could go to war at a
moment's notice, and would be glad of the chance.
I am keeping my eyes open to see how America bears comparison with
other nations in all particulars. In point of appearance the English
army stands first, the German second, the American third, and the
French fourth. I put the American third only because our uniforms are
less impressive. In everything else, except in numbers, they might
easily stand first. But uniforms and gold lace, and bright scarlet and
waving plumes, make a vast difference in appearance, and every country
in the world recognizes this, except America. I wish that everybody in
the United States who boasts of democracy and Jeffersonian simplicity
could share my dissatisfaction in seeing our ambassadors at Court
balls and diplomatic receptions in deacons' suits of modest black,
without even a medal or decoration of any kind, except perhaps that
gorgeous and overpowering insignia known as the Loyal Legion button,
while every little twopenny kingdom of a mile square sends a
representative in a uniform as brilliant as a peony and stiff with
No matter how magnificent a man, personally, our ambassador may be, no
matter how valuable his public services, no matter how unimpeachable
his private character, I wish you could see how small and miserable
and mean is the appearance he presents at Court functions, where every
man there, except the representative of seventy millions of people, is
in some sort of uniform. If it really were Thomas Jefferson whose
administration inaugurated the disgusting simplicity which goes by his
name, I wish the words had stuck in his throat and strangled him.
"Jeffersonian simplicity!" How I despise it! Thomas Jefferson, I
believe, was the first Populist. We had had gentlemen for Presidents
before him, but he was the first one who rooted for votes with the
common herd by catering to the gutter instead of to the skyline, and
the tail end of his policy is to be seen in the mortifying appearance
of our highest officials and representatives. _Hinc illae lachrymae_!
I looked at the servant who announced our names in Paris at General
Porter's first official reception, and even he was much more gorgeous
in dress than the master of the house, the Ambassador Extraordinary
and Minister Plenipotentiary representing seventy millions of people!
Not even in his uniform of a general! The only man in the room in
plain black. The United States ought to treat her representatives
better. When Mr. White at Berlin was received by the Emperor, he, too,
was the only man in plain black.
No wonder we are taken no account of socially when we don't even give
our ambassador a house, as all the other countries do, and when his
salary is so inadequate. Every other ambassador except the American
has a furnished house given him, and a salary sufficient to entertain
as becomes the representative of a great country. All except _ours_!
Yet none of them is obliged to entertain as continuously as our
ambassador, because _only_ Americans travel unremittingly, and _only_
Americans expect their ambassador to be their host.
"O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
Of course I notice such things immensely more in Berlin than in Paris,
because the glory of a Court is much more than the twinkle of a
I have worked myself into such a towering rage over this subject that
there is no getting down to earth gracefully or gradually. I have not
polished off the matter by any manner of means. I have only just
started in, but a row of stars will cool me off.
* * * * *
Before I came to Berlin I heard so much about Unter den Linden, that
magnificent street of the city, that I could scarcely wait to get to
it. I pictured it lined on both sides with magnificent linden-trees,
gigantic, imposing, impressive. I had had no intimate acquaintance
with linden-trees--and I wouldn't know one now if I should see it--but
I had an idea from the name--linden, linden--that it was grand and
waving; not so grand as an oak nor so waving as a willow, but a cross
between the two. I knew that I should see these great monarchs making
a giant arch over this broad avenue and mingling their tossing
What I found when I arrived was a broad, handsome street. But those
lindens! They are consumptive, stunted little saplings without
sufficient energy to grow into real trees. They are set so far apart
that you have time to forget one before you come to another, and as to
their appearance--we have some just like them in Chicago where there
is a leak in the gas-pipes near their roots.
On the day before Christmas we felt very low in our minds. We had the
doleful prospect ahead of us of eating Christmas dinner alone in a
strange country, and in a hotel at that, so we started out shopping.
Not that we needed a thing, but it is our rule, "When you have the
blues, go shopping." It always cures you to spend money.
Berlin shop-windows are much more fascinating even than those of
Paris, because in Berlin there are so many more things that you can
afford to buy that Paris seems expensive in comparison. We became so
much interested in the Christmas display that we did not notice the
flight of time. When we had bought several heavy things to weigh our
trunks down a little more and to pay extra luggage on, I happened to
glance at the sun, and it was just above the horizon. It looked to be
about four o'clock in the afternoon, and we had had nothing to eat
since nine o'clock, and even then only a cup of coffee. I felt myself
suddenly grow faint and weak. "Heavens!" I said, "see what time it is!
We have shopped all day and we have forgotten to get our luncheon."
My companion glanced at her watch.
"It's only half past eleven o'clock by my watch. I couldn't have wound
it last night. No, it is going."
"Perhaps the hands stick. They do on mine. Whenever I wind it, I have
to hit it with the hair-brush to start it; and even then it loses time
"Let's take them both to a jeweller," she said. "We can't travel with
watches which act this way."
So we left them to be repaired, and as we came out, I said, "It will
take us half an hour to get back to the hotel. Don't you think we
ought to go in somewhere and get just a little something to sustain
"Of course we ought," she said, in a weak voice. So we went in and got
a light luncheon. Then we went back to the hotel, intending to lie
down and rest after such an arduous day.
"We must not do this again," I said, firmly. "Mamma told me
particularly not to overdo."
My companion did not answer. She was looking at the clock. It was just
"Why, _that_ clock has stopped too," she said.
But as we looked into the reading-room _that_ clock struck twelve.
Then it dawned on me, and I dropped into a chair and nearly had
"It's because we are so far _north_!" I cried. "Our watches were all
right and the sun's all right. That is as high as it can get!"
She was too much astonished to laugh.
"And you had to go in and get luncheon because you felt so faint," she
said, in a tone of gentle sarcasm.
"Well, you confessed to a fearful sense of goneness yourself."
"Don't tell anybody," she said.
"I should think not!" I retorted, with dignity. "I hope I have _some_
"Have you presented your letter to the ambassador?" she asked.
"Yes, but it's so near Christmas that I suppose he won't bother about
two waifs like us until after it's over."
"My! but you _are_ blue," she said. "I never heard you refer to
yourself as a waif before."
"I am a worm of the dust. I wish there wasn't such a thing as
Christmas! I wonder what Billy will say when he sees his tree."
"You might cable and find out," she said. "It only costs about three
marks a word. 'What did Billy say when he saw his tree?'--nine
words--it would cost you about eight dollars, without counting the
Dead silence. I didn't think she was at all funny.
"Don't you think we ought to have champagne to-morrow?" she asked.
"What for? I hate the stuff. It makes me ill. Do _you_ want it?"
"No, only I thought that, being Christmas, and very expensive, perhaps
it would do you good to spend--"
A knock on the door made us both jump.
"His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States to see the
It was, indeed, Mr. White and Mrs. White, and Lieutenant Allen, the
"Oh, those blessed angels!" I cried, buckling my belt and dashing for
the wash-stand, thereby knocking the comb and hand-glass from the
grasp of my companion.
They had come within an hour of the presentation of my letter, and
they brought with them an invitation from Mrs. Allen for us to join
them at Christmas dinner the next day, as Mrs. White said they could
not bear to think of our dining alone.
I had many beautiful things done for me during my thirty thousand
miles travel in Europe, but nothing stands out in my mind with more
distinctness than the affectionate welcome I received into the homes
of our representatives in Berlin. And, in passing, let me say this, I
am distinctly proud of them, one and all. I say this because one hears
many humiliating anecdotes of the mistakes made by the men and women
sent to foreign Courts, appointed because they had earned some
recognition for political services. Those of us who have strong
national pride and a sense of the eternal fitness of things, are
obliged to hear such things in shamed silence, and offer no retort,
for there can be no possible excuse for mortifying lapses of
etiquette. And these things will continue until our government
establishes a school of diplomacy and makes a diplomatic career
possible to a man.
As long as it is possible for an ex-coroner or sheriff to be appointed
to a secretaryship of a foreign legation--a man who does not speak the
language and whose wife understands better how to cope with croup and
measles than with wives of foreign diplomats who have been properly
trained for this vocation, just so long shall we be obliged to bear
the ridicule heaped upon us over here, which our government never
hears, and wouldn't care if it did!
Imagine the relief with which I met our Berlin representatives! At the
end of four years there will be no sly anecdotes whispered behind fans
at _their_ expense, for they have all held the same office before and
are well equipped by training, education, and native tact to bear
themselves with a proud front at one of the most difficult Courts of
Europe. I look back upon that little group of Americans with feelings
of unmixed pride.
Mr. White invited us to go with him that afternoon to see the tombs of
the kings at Charlottenburg; and when his gorgeous-liveried footman
came to announce his presence, the hotel proprietor and about forty of
his menials nearly crawled on their hands and knees before us, so
great is their deference to pomp and power.
I wish to associate Berlin with this beautiful mausoleum. It is
circular in shape, and the light falls from above through lovely
colored-glass windows upon those recumbent marble statues. The
dignity, the still, solemn beauty of those pale figures lying there in
their eternal repose, fill the soul with a sense of the great majesty
When we got back to the hotel we found that the same good fortune
which had attended us so far had ordained that the American mail
should arrive that day, and behold! there were all our Christmas
letters timed as accurately as if they had only gone from Chicago to
Christmas letters! How they go to the heart when one is five thousand
miles away! How we tore up to our rooms, and oh! how long it seemed to
get the doors unlocked and the electric light turned up, and to plant
ourselves in the middle of the bed to read and laugh and cry and
interrupt each other, and to read out paragraphs of Billy's funny
While we were still discussing them, the proprietor came up to
announce to us that there was to be a Christmas Eve entertainment in
the main dining-room that evening, and would the American ladies do
him the honor to come down? The American ladies would.
When we went down we found that the enormous dining-room was packed
with people, all standing around a table which ran around two sides of
the room. A row of Christmas trees, covered with cotton to represent
snow, occupied the middle of the room, and at one end was a space
reserved for the lady guests, and in each chair was a handsome bouquet
of violets and lilies-of-the-valley.
This entertainment was for the servants of the hotel, of whom there
were three hundred and fifty.
First they sang a Lutheran hymn, very slowly, as if it were a dirge.
Then there was a short sermon. Then another hymn. Then the manager
made a little speech and called, for three cheers for the proprietor,
and they gave them with a fervor that nearly split the ears of the
Then a signal was given, and in less than one minute three hundred and
fifty paper bags were produced, and three hundred and fifty plates
full of oranges, apples, buns, and sweetened breads were emptied into
them. The table looked as if a plague of grasshoppers had swept over
Then each servant presented a number and received a present from the
tree, and that ended the festivity. But so typical of the fatherland,
so paternal, so like one great family!
Participating in this simple festival brought a little of the
Christmas feeling home to us and made us almost happy. We knew that
our American parcels would not be delivered until the next day, so we
had but just time to reread our precious letters when the clock struck
twelve, and with much solemnity my companion and I presented each
other with our modest Christmas present--which each had announced that
she wanted and had helped to select! But, then, who would not rather
select one's own Christmas presents, and so be sure of getting things
that one wants?
On Christmas morning registered packages began to arrive for both of
us. The first ten presents to arrive for my companion were
pocket-handkerchiefs. My first ten were all books. Evidently the dear
family had thought that American books would be most acceptable over
here, and I could see, with a feeling that warmed my heart, how
carefully they had consulted my taste, and had tried to remember to
send those I wanted. But I am of a frugal mind, and thoughts of the
extra luggage to be paid on bound books would intrude themselves.
However, I made no remark over the first ten, but before the day was
over I had received twenty-two books and one pen-wiper, and my
vocabulary was exhausted. My companion continued to receive
handkerchiefs until the room was full of them. Take it all together,
there was a good deal of sameness about our presents, but they have
been useful as dinner anecdotes ever since. Now that I have sent all
mine to be stored at Munroe's, together with all my other necessities,
I feel lighter and more buoyant both in mind and trunk.
A Christmas dinner in a foreign land, in the midst of the diplomatic
corps, is the most undiplomatic thing in the world, for that is the
one time when you can cease to be diplomatic and dare to criticise the
government and make personal remarks to your heart's content.
It was a beautiful dinner, and after it was over we were all invited
to the children's entertainment at Mrs. Squiers's. She had gathered
about fifty of the American colony for Christmas carols and a tree.
Immediately after the ambassador arrived the children marched in and
recited in chorus the verses about the birth of Christ, beginning,
"Now in the days of Herod the King." Then they sang their carols, and
then "Stille Nacht," and they sang them beautifully, in their sweet,
After these exercises the doors were thrown open, and the most
beautiful Christmas-tree I ever beheld burst upon the view of those
children, who nearly went wild with delight.
After everybody had gone home except "the diplomatic family," which
for the time being included us, we picnicked on the remains of the
Christmas turkey for supper, and there was as little ceremony about it
as if it had been at an army post on the frontier. We had a beautiful
time, and everybody seemed to like everybody very much and to be
Then Mr. and Mrs. White escorted us back to our hotel, which wasn't at
all necessary, but which illustrates the way in which they treated us
all the time we were there.
This ended a truly beautiful Christmas, for, aside from being
unexpected and in striking contrast to the forlornness we had
anticipated, we had been taken into the families of beautiful people,
whose home life was an honor and an inspiration to share.
On New Year's day we started early and went to Potsdam to visit the
palace of Sans Souci.
A most curious and interesting little old man who had been a guide
there for thirty years showed us through the grounds, where the King's
greyhounds are buried, and where he pleaded to be buried with them.
The guide had no idea that he possessed a certain dramatic genius for
pathos, for, parrot-like, he was repeating the story he had told
perhaps a thousand times before. But when he showed us the graves of
the greyhounds which ate the poisoned food which had been prepared for
the King, he said:
"And they lie here. Not there with the other dogs, the favorites of
the King, but here, alone, disgraced, without even a headstone.
Without even their names, although they saved the great King from
death and gave their lives for his. Yet they lie here, and the others
lie there. It is the way of the world, ladies."
Then he took us to the top of the terrace facing the palace, and,
pointing to the entrance, he said:
"In the left wing were the chambers of the King's guests. In the right
wing were his own. Therefore, he placed a comma between those two
words 'Sans' and 'Souci,' to indicate that those at the left were
'without,' while with himself was--'Care.'"
While we were there the Emperor drove by and spoke to our cabman,
saying, "How is business?" Seeing how much pleasure it gave the poor
fellow to repeat it, we kept asking him to tell vis what the Kaiser
said to him.
First my companion would say:
"When was it and what happened?"
And when he had quite finished, I would say:
"It wasn't the Emperor himself, was it? It must have been the coachman
who spoke to you."
"No, not so, ladies. It was the great Kaiser himself. He said to me--"
And then we would get the whole thing over again. It was charming to
see his pleasure.
When we returned home we entered the hotel between rows of palms, and
we dropped money into each of them. It seemed to me that fifty
servants were between me and the elevators. However, it was New
Year's, and we tried not to be bored by it.
People talk so much of the expense of foreign travel, but to my mind
the greatest expenditures are in paying for extra luggage and in fees.
Otherwise, I fancy that travel is much the same if one travels
luxuriously, and that in the long run things would be about equal. The
great difference is that in America all travel luxuries are given to
you for the price of your ticket, and here you pay for each separate
necessity, to say nothing of luxury, and your ticket only permits you
to breathe. But the annoyance of this continuous habit of feeing makes
life a burden. One pays for everything. It is the custom of the
country, and no matter if you arrange to have "service included," it
is in the air, in the eyes of the servants, in the whole mental
atmosphere, and you fee, you fee, you fee until you are nearly dead
from the bother of it. In Germany they raise their hats and rise to
their feet every time you pass, even if you pass every seven minutes,
and when the time comes for you to go, you have to pay for the wear
and tear of these hats.
In Paris, at the theatre, you fee the woman who shows you to your
seat, you fee the woman who opens the door and the woman who takes
your wraps. One night in midsummer we stepped across from the Grand
Hotel to the opera without even a scarf for a wrap, and the woman was
so disappointed that we were handed from one attendant to another some
half dozen times as "three ladies without wraps." And the next one
would look us over from head to foot and repeat the words, "Three
ladies without wraps," until we laughed in their faces.
French servants are the cleverest in the world if you want
versatility, but they are absolutely shameless in their greed, and
look at the size of your coin before they thank you. In fact, the
words in which they thank you indicate whether your fee was not
enough, only modest, or handsome.
"It is not too much, madam," or "thanks, madam," or "I thank you a
thousand times" show your status in their estimation.
If you are an American they reserve the right to rob you by the
impudence of their demands, until rather than have a scene, you give
them all they ask. I have followed in the footsteps of a French woman
and given exactly what she did, and had my money flung in derision
upon the pavement.
German servants seem to have more self-respect, for while they expect
it quite as much, they smile and thank you and never look at the coin
before your eyes. Perhaps they know from the feeling of it, but even
if you place it upon the table behind them they thank you and never
look at it or take it until you turn away.
However, you fee unmercifully here too. You fee the man at the bank
who cashes your checks, you fee the street-car conductor who takes
your fare, you fee every uniformed hireling of the government, whether
he has done anything for you or not.
The only persons whom I have neglected to fee so far are the
But then, they do not wear uniforms!
ON BOARD THE YACHT "HELA"
I am just able to sit up, and I couldn't think of a thing I wanted to
eat if I thought a week. I came on this yachting trip because my
friends begged me to. They said it would be an experience for me. It
The _Hela_ started out with a party of ten on board, who were on
pleasure bent. We have come up the English Channel from Dinard to
Ostend, but before we had been out an hour we struck a gale, to which
veterans on seasickness will refer for many a long day as "that
fearful time on the Channel."
On the whole, I don't know but that I myself might be considered a
veteran on seasickness. I have averaged crossing the Channel once a
month ever since I've been over here. I have got into the habit of
crossing the Channel, and I can't seem to stop. It always appears that
I am in the wrong place for whatever is going on, for just as sure as
I go to London somebody sends for me to come to Paris, and I rush for
the Channel, and I have no sooner unpacked my trunks in Paris, and
bargained that service and electric lights shall be included, than
somebody discovers that I am imperatively needed in England, and I
make for the Channel again. The Channel is like Jordan. It always
But even in crossing the Channel there is everything in knowing how. I
have discarded the private state-room. It is too expensive, and I am
not a bit less uncomfortable than when occupying six feet of the
settee in the ladies' cabin, with my feet in the flowers of another
woman's hat. In fact, I prefer the latter. The other woman is always
too ill to protest or to move. I have now, by long and patient
practice, proved to my own satisfaction what serves me best in case of
seasickness. I will not stay on deck. I will not eat or drink anything
to cure it. I will not take anything to prevent it. I will not sit up,
and I will not keep my hat on. When I go on board of a Channel steamer
my first act is to shake hands with my friends and to go below. There
I present the stewardess with a modest testimonial of my regard. I
also give her my ticket. Then I select the most desirable portion of
the settee, near a port-hole, from which I can get fresh air. I take
off my hat and lie down. The steamer may not start for an hour. No
matter. There I am, and there I stay. The Channel may be as smooth as
glass, but I travel better flat. Like manuscript, I am not to be
rolled. Sometimes I am not ill at all, but I freely confess that those
times are infrequent and disappointing.
Now, of course, this is always to be expected in crossing the Channel,
but my friends said in going up the Channel we would not get those
choppy waves, and that I would find that the _Hela_ swam like a duck.
In analyzing that statement since, with a view to classifying it as
truth or otherwise, I have studied my recollections of ducks, and I
have come to the conclusion that in a rough sea a duck has every right
to be seasick, for she wobbles like everything else that floats. For
real comfort, give me something that's anchored. Nevertheless, I was
persuaded to join the party.
Everybody came down at Dinard to see us off, and quite a number even
went over to St. Malo with us in the electric launch, for the _Hela_
drew too much water to enter the harbor at Dinard at low tide.
We were a merry party for the first hour on board the _Hela_--until we
struck the gale. It has seemed to me since that our evil genius was
hovering over us from the first, and simply waited until it would be
out of the question to turn back before emptying the vials of her
wrath on our devoted heads. It did not rain. The sun kept a malevolent
eye upon us all the time. It simply blew just one straight,
unrelenting, unswerving gale. And it came so suddenly. We were all
sitting on deck as happy as angels, when, without a word of warning,
the _Hela_ simply turned over on her side and threw us all out of our
chairs. I caught at a mast as I went by and clung like a limpet. There
was tar on the mast. It isn't there any more. It is on the front of my
new white serge yachting dress. Jimmie coasted across the deck, and
landed on his hands and knees against the gunwale. If he had persisted
in standing up he would have gone overboard. The women all shrieked
and remained in a tangled heap of chairs, and rugs, and petticoats,
waiting for the yacht to right herself, and for the men to come and
pick them up. But the yacht showed no intention of righting herself.
She continued to careen in the position of a cab going round
Piccadilly Circus on one wheel. The sailors were all running around
like ants on an ant-hill, and the captain was shouting orders, and
even lending a hand with the ropes himself. I don't know the nautical
terms, but they were taking down the middle sail--the mainsail, that's
it. It did not look dangerous, because the sun kept shining, and I
never thought of being frightened. I just clung to the mast, watching
the other people right themselves, and laughing, when suddenly
everything ceased to be funny. The decks of the _Hela_ took on a wavy
motion, and I blinked my eyes in order to see better, for everything
was getting very indistinct, and there were green spots on the sun.
Suddenly I realized that I was a long way from home, and that I was
even a long way from my state-room. I only had just about sense enough
left to remember that the mast was my very best friend and that I must
After that, I remember that somebody came up behind me and pried my
hands loose from the mast.
The doctor's voice said, "Can you walk?"
I smiled feebly and said, "I used to know how." But evidently my
efforts were not highly successful, for he picked me up, white serge,
tar, green spots on the sun, and all, and carried me below, a limp and
humiliated bit of humanity.
Mrs. Jimmie and Commodore Strossi followed with more anxiety than the
Then Mrs. Jimmie sent the men away, and I felt pillows under my head,
and camphor under my nose, and hot-water bags about me; and I must
have gone to sleep or died, or something, for I don't remember
anything more until the next day.
They were very nice to me, for I was such a cheerful invalid. It
seemed to surprise them that I could even pretend to be happy. I knew
that it must be an uncommon gale from the way Commodore Strossi
studied the charts, and because even his wife, for whom the yacht was
named, was ill, and she had spent half her life on the sea. The poor
little French cabin-boy was ill, too, and went around, with a
Nile-green countenance, waiting on people, before he was obliged to
retire from active service.
The pitching of the yacht was something so terrible that it got to be
hysterically funny. It couldn't seem dangerous with the sun streaming
down the companion-way and past my state-room windows. About five
o'clock on the second day they began to tack, and then I heard shrieks
of laughter and the crash of china, and groans from the saloon settee,
where young Bashforth was lying ghastly ill.
At the first lurch my trunk tipped over, and all the bottles on the
wash-stand bounded across to the bed, and most of them struck me on
the head. It frightened me so that I shrieked, and Jimmie came running
down to see if I was killed.
As I raised my head I saw his horrified gaze fairly riveted to my
face, and I felt something softly trickling down. I touched it, and
then looked at my hand and discovered that it was wet and red.
"Good heavens, your face is all cut open," gasped Jimmie, in a voice
that revealed his terror.
Mrs. Jimmie was just behind him, and I saw her turn pale. In a flash I
saw myself disfigured for life, and probably having to be sewed up.
The pain in my face became excruciating, and I began to think yachting
rather serious business.
"Run for the doctor, Jimmie," said his wife. Jimmie obediently ran.
"Does it hurt very much, dear?" she said, sitting on the edge of the
"Awfully," I murmured.
The doctor came, followed by Francois, with a basin of hot water and
sponges, and a nasty-looking little case of instruments. Mrs. Jimmie
held my hand. They turned on the electric lights and opened the
windows. Jimmie had my salts. The doctor carefully wet a sponge and
tenderly bathed my cheek, and I held my breath ready to shriek if he
hurt me. Commodore Strossi stood at the door with an anxious face.
Suddenly the doctor reached for a broken bottle half hidden under my
"Oh, what is it, doctor?" asked Mrs. Jimmie. "What makes you look so
"This is iodine on her face. Her bottle has emptied itself. That is
We gazed at each other for a moment or two, then I nearly went into
hysterics. Jimmie's face was a study.
"You said it was blood, Jimmie," I said.
"Well, you said it hurt," he retorted.
"Well, it did. When you said I was covered with blood it hurt
The doctor went out much chagrined that he had not been called upon to
sew up a wound. I had a relapse, brought on by young Bashforth's
jeering remarks as he frantically clung to the handles of the locker
which formed the back of the settee where he lay prostrate.
I was too utterly done up to reply, for two days' violent seasickness
rather takes the mental ginger out of one's make-up. But Fate avenged
me in this wise. The door of my state-room opened into the
dining-room, and my bed faced the door. Opposite to me was the settee
on which Bashforth was coiled, and back of him was the locker for the
tinned mushrooms, sardines, lobster, shrimp, caviar, deviled ham, and
all the things which well people can eat. This locker had brass
handles let into the mahogany, and to these handles the poor fellow
clung when the yacht lurched.
His cruel words of derision had hardly left his pale lips before they
tacked again. He was not holding on, but he hastily snatched at the
handles. He was too late, however, for he was tossed from the settee
to the legs of the dining-room table (which, fortunately, were
anchored) without touching the floor at all. He described a perfect
parabola. It was just the way I should have tossed him had I been
Destiny. He gripped the table-legs like a vise, coiling himself around
them like a poor navy-blue python with a green face. He thought the
worst was over, but in his last clutch at the locker he had
accidentally opened it, and at the next lurch of the yacht all the
cans bounded out and battered his unprotected back like a shower of
grape-shot. The yacht lurched again and the cans rolled back. She
pitched forward, and again the mushrooms and deviled ham aimed for
him. The noise brought everybody, and at first nobody tried to help
him. They just couldn't see because of the tears in their eyes from
laughing. As for me, I managed to crawl to the foot of the bed and
cling to a post, so weak I couldn't wipe the tears away, but laying up
an amount of enjoyment which will enrich my old age.
Finally, Jimmie got sorry for him, and went and tried to pick him up.
But he was laughing so, he dropped him.
"Oh, Jimmie," I pleaded. "Don't drop anybody who is seasick. Drop well
people if you must. But put him on the settee carefully."
"I'll put him there," said Jimmie, wiping his eyes on his coat-sleeve.
"But I don't say I'll do it the first time I try. I'll get him there
by dinner-time--I hope."
It was dangerous to ridicule anybody in that gale, for the doctor in
the companion-way was leaning in at my window and laughing in his big
English voice, when the _Hela_ lurched and pitched him half-way into
my state-room. There he balanced with his hands on my trunk.
He was rather a tight fit, which interested Jimmie more than young
Bashforth, so he left the boy and came around and pried the doctor
back into the companion-way.
The _Hela_ was a fickle jade, for no sooner would she shake us up in
such an alarming manner than she would seem to regret her violence,
and would skim like a bird for an hour or so, with no perceptible
motion. She would not even flap her big white wings, but she cut
through the water with a whir and a rush which exhilarated me as
flying must stir the heart of a sea-gull.
She behaved so well after five o'clock that they decided to try to eat
dinner from the dinner-table--a thing they had not done since we
started. There were only four of them able to appear--Mr. and Mrs.
Jimmie, the doctor, and the Commodore.
They put the racks up and took every precaution. The only mistake they
made was in using the yacht's lovely china, which bore the Strossi
crest under the _Hela's_ private flag.
Jimmie and his wife sat opposite each other. I put three pillows under
my head, the better to watch them, when suddenly the yacht tilted Mrs.
Jimmie and her chair over backward. Jimmie saw her going and reached
to save her. But he forgot to set down his soup-plate. The result was
that she got Jimmie's soup in her face, and that he slid clear across
the table on his hands and knees, taking china and table-cloth with
him, and they all landed on top of poor Mrs. Jimmie (who, even as I
write, is in her stateroom having her hair washed).
Her chief wail, when she could speak, was not that her head ached from
the blow, or that she was half strangled with tepid soup, but that
Jimmie had broken all the china. She could not be comforted until the
Commodore proved that some of the china had been broken previously, by
showing her the fragments wrecked on the first day out.
That last catastrophe has apparently settled things. Everybody has
turned in to repair damages, and, perhaps, afterwards to sleep.
The Commodore is studying the charts on the dining-room table, and the
captain, an American, has just put his head in at the door and said:
"She's sailing twelve knots an hour under just the fores'l, sir, and
she's running like a scairt dog."
* * * * *
Americans are so accustomed to outrageous distances that a journey of
fifty hours is mere play. But I sincerely believe that no other trait
of ours causes the European to regard our nation with such suspicion
as our utter unconcern of long journeys. Nothing short of accession to
a title or to escape being caught by the police would induce the
Continental to travel over a few hours. So when I decided to go to
Poland in order to be a member of a gorgeous house-party, I might as
well have robbed a bank and given my friends something to be
suspicious of. They never believed that I would do such a fatiguing
and unheard-of thing until I really left.
But Poland has always beckoned me like a friend--a friend which
combined all the poetry, romance, fascination, nobility, and honor of
a first love. If the Pole is proud, he has something to be proud of.
His honor has dignity. His country's sorrows touch the heart. Polish
literature has sentiment, her music has fire, her men of genius stand
out like heroes, her women are adorable. Balzac describes not only one
but a not infrequent type when he dedicates _Modeste Mignon_ "To a
Polish Lady" in the most exquisite apostrophe which ever graced the
entrance-hall to one of the noblest novels of this inimitable master.
"Daughter of an enslaved land, angel through love, witch through
fancy, child by faith, aged by experience, man in brain, woman in
heart, giant by hope, mother through sorrow, poet in thy dreams, to
Thee belongs this book, in which thy love, thy fancy, thy experience,
thy sorrow, thy hope, thy dreams, are the warp through which is shot a
woof less brilliant than the poesy of thy soul, whose expression when
it shines upon thy countenance is, to those who love thee, what the
characters of a lost language are to scholars."
Such a tribute as this would of itself be sufficient to turn the heart
expectantly towards Poland, to say nothing of the interest her history
has for the brain. The history of Poland is one long struggle for home
and country. The Pole is a patriot by inheritance. His patriotism,
goes deeper than his love.
His country comes first in his soul, and for that reason the Poles
have in me an enthusiastic ally, an ardent admirer, and a sympathetic
In speaking of the story of Poland with a cold-blooded reader of
history I expressed my appreciation of the noble proportions of their
struggles and my sympathy for their present unfortunate plight, to
which she replied: "Yes, but it is so entirely their own fault. They
are so fiery, so precipitate, so romantic. They got _themselves_ into
it! Their poesy and romance and folly make them charming as
individuals, but ridiculous as a nation. I like the Poles, but I have
no patience with Poland." How exactly the world's verdict on the
artistic temperament! There is a round hole, and, lo and behold! all
squares must be forced into it!
Suppose that everything resolved itself into the commonplace; where
would be your imagination, your fancy, your rich experience of the
heart and soul? Poland furnishes just this element in history. Her
struggles are so romantic, her follies so charmingly natural to a
high-strung nation, her despair so profound, her frequent revolutions
so buoyant in hope, that she reminds me of a brilliant woman striving
to make dull women understand her, and failing as persistently and
completely as the artistic temperament always fails.
A frog spat at a glowworm. "Why do you spit at me?" said the glowworm.
"Why do you shine so?" said the frog.
Poland's singers have voices so piercingly sweet; her novelists have
pens touched with such divine fire; her actors portray so much of the
soul; her patriots have always shown such reckless and inspiring
bravery; and now, in her desolation and subjection, there is still so
much pride, such noble dignity under her losses, that of all the
countries in the world Poland holds both the heart and mind by a
fascination of which she herself is unconscious, marking a noble
simplicity of soul which is in itself an added indication of her
Julia Marlowe in her _Countess Valeska_ is a Pole to her finger-tips.
Her acting is superb. Cleopatra herself never felt nor inspired a
diviner passion than Valeska; but when it came to a question of her
love or her country she rose above self with an almost superhuman
effort and saved her country at the expense of her love.
No American who has not the same awful passion of patriotism; no one
who is not a lover of his country above home or friends or wife or
children; who does not love his America second only to his God; whose
blood does not prickle in his veins at the sound of "The Star-Spangled
Banner," and whose eyes do not fill with tears at the sight of "Old
Glory" floating anywhere, can understand of what patriotism the Pole
Nor can one who has not the foolish, romantic, nervous, high-strung,
artistic temperament understand from within Poland's national history.
For that reason one is apt to find famous places in Europe which have
only an historical significance somewhat disappointing. One fails to
find in a battle fought for the sake of conquest by an overweening
ambition such soul-stirring pathos as in the leading of a forlorn hope
from the spirit of patriotism, or of a woman's pleadings where a man's
arguments have failed. For that reason Austerlitz touches one not so
nearly as the struggle around Memel. As we drew near Memel things
began to look lonely and foreign and queer, and its picturesque
features were enhanced by recollection of Napoleon and Queen Louise.
Memel is near Tilsit, and the river Niemen, or Memel, empties into the
Baltic just below here. The conference on the raft appeals to me as
one of the most thrilling and yet pitiably human events in all
Its sickening anticlimax to poor Queen Louise was so exactly in
keeping with the smaller disappointments which assail her more humble
sister women in every walk of life that it takes on the air of a heart
tragedy. I tried to imagine the feelings of the Queen when _she_
journeyed to Memel to hold her famous interview with Napoleon. How her
pride must have suffered at the thought of lowering herself to plead
for her husband and her country at Napoleon's hands! How she hated him
before she saw him! How she more than hated him after she left him!
How she must have scorned the beauty upon which Napoleon commented so
idly when a nation's honor was at stake! A typical act of the emperor
of the French nation! Napoleon proved by that one episode that he was
more French than Corsican.
In the Queen's illness at Memel she was so poorly housed that long
lines of snow sifted in through the roof and fell across her bed. But
that was as nothing to her mental disquiet while the fate of her
beloved Prussia hung in the balance.
There is a bridge across the Memel at the exact spot where the famous
raft conference is said to have taken place. As we crossed this bridge
it seemed so far removed from those stormy days of strife that it was
difficult to imagine the magnificent spectacle of the immense armies
of Napoleon and Alexander drawn up on either bank, while these two
powerful monarchs were rowed out to the raft to decide the fate of
Frederick William and his lovely queen.
And although to them Prussia was the issue of the hour, how like the
history of individual lives was this conference! For Prussia's fate
was almost ignored, while the conversation originally intended to
consume but a few moments lengthened into hours, and Napoleon and
Alexander, having sworn eternal friendship, proceeded to divide up
Europe between them, and parted with mutual expressions of esteem and
admiration, having quite forgotten a trifle like the King and Queen of
Prussia and their rage of anxiety.
But all these memories of Napoleon and Prussia gave way before the
vital fact that we were to visit a lovely Polish princess and see some
of her charming home life. I had been duly informed by my friends of
the various ceremonies which I would encounter, and which, I must
confess, rendered me rather timid. I only hoped my wits would not
desert me at the crucial moment.
For instance, if the archbishop were there I must give him my hand and
then lean forward and kiss his sleeve just below the shoulder. I only
hoped my chattering teeth would not meet in his robe. So when I saw
the state carriage of the princess at the station of Memel, drawn by
four horses, and with numbers of servants in such queer liveries to
attend to my luggage, I simply breathed a prayer that I would get
through it all successfully; and if not, that they would lay any
lapses at the door of my own eccentricities, and not to the ignorance
of Americans in general, for I never wish to disgrace my native land.
The servants wore an odd flat cap, like a tam-o'-shanter with a visor.
Their coats were of bright blue, with the coat-of-arms of the princess
on the brass buttons. This coat reached nearly to their feet, and in
the back it was gathered full and stiffened with canvas, for all the
world like a woman's pannier. I thought I should die the first time I
got a side view of those men.
It was late Friday afternoon when we left the train, and we drove at a
tremendous pace through lonely forests which we were only too happy to
leave behind us. Suddenly we came upon the little village of Kretynga,
whose streets were paved with cobblestones the size of a man's two
To drive slowly over cobblestones is not a joy, but to drive four
Russian horses at a gallop over such cobblestones as those was
something to make you bite your tongue and to break your teeth and to
shake your very soul from its socket.
The town is inhabited by Polish Jews, and a filthy, greasy, nauseating
set they are, both men and women. The men wear two or three long,
oily, tight curls in front of their ears. Their noses are hooked like
a parrot's. Their countenances are sinister, and I believe they have
not washed since the Flood. The women, when they marry, shave their
heads. Then they either wear huge wigs, which they use to wipe their
hands on without the ceremony of washing them first, or else they wear
a black or white or gray satin hood-piece with a line to imitate the
parting of the hair embroidered on it.
Nothing is clean about them. I no longer wonder that Jews are expelled
from Russia. It makes one rather respect Russia as a clean country. As
it was Friday night, one window-sill in each house was filled with a
row of lighted candles representing each member of the family who was
either absent or dead.
Being so far away from home myself, this appealed to me as such a
touching custom that it made my eyes smart.
Presently a clearing in the forest revealed the famous monastery of
Kretynga--a monastery famous for being peopled with priests and monks
whom the Tzar has exiled because they took too much interest in
politics for his nerves. Then soon after passing this monastery we
entered the grounds of the castle. Still the longest part of the drive
lay before us, for this one of the many estates of the Princess lies
between the Memel and the Baltic Sea, and covers a large territory.
But finally, after driving through an avenue of trees which are worth
a dictionary of words all to themselves, we came to the castle, a huge
structure, which seemed to spread out before us interminably, for it
was too dark to see anything but its majestic outlines.
The Princess in her own home was even lovelier than she had been in
Paris, and charitably allowed us to have one night's rest before
meeting the family.
About three o'clock in the morning I was awakened by a mournful chant,
all in minor, which began beneath my windows and receded, growing
fainter and fainter, until at last it died away. It was the hymn which
the peasants always sing as they go forth to their work in the fields;
but its mournful cadence haunted me. The next morning the largeness of
the situation dawned upon me. The size of the rooms and their majestic
furnishings were almost barbaric in their splendor. The tray upon
which my breakfast was served was of massive silver. The coffee-pot,
sugar-bowl, and plates were of repousse silver, exquisitely wrought,
but so large that one could hardly lift them.
In a great openwork basket of silver were any number of sweetened
breads and small cakes and buns, all made by the baker in the castle,
who all day long does nothing but bake bread and pastry. They do not
serve hot milk with coffee, for which I blessed them from the bottom
of my soul, but they have little brown porcelain jugs which they fill
with cream so thick that you have to take it out with a spoon--it
won't pour,--and these they heat in ovens, and so serve you hot cream
for your coffee.
I call the gods from Olympus to testify to the quality of the nectar
this combination produces. Some of those little porcelain jugs are
going on their travels soon.
Meeting the various members of the Princess's charming family and
remembering their titles was not an ordeal at all--at least it was not
after it was over. They were quite like other people, except that
their manners were unusually good. There was to be a hunt that
morning--an amusing, luxurious sort of hunt quite in my line; one
where I could go in a carriage and see the animals caught, but where I
need not see them killed.
They were to hunt a mischievous little burrowing animal something like
our badger, which is as great a pest to Poland as the rabbits are to
Australia. They destroy the crops by eating their roots, so every
little while a hunt is organized to destroy them in large numbers. The
foresters had been sent out the night before to discover a favorite
haunt of theirs, and to fill up all the entrances to their burrows; so
all that we had to do was to drive to the scene of action.
It sounds simple enough, but I most solemnly assure you that it was
anything but a simple drive to one fresh from the asphalt of Paris,
for, like Jehu, they drove furiously.
Their horses are all wild, runaway beasts, and they drive them at an
uneven gallop resembling the gait of our fire-engine horses at home,
except that ours go more slowly. Sometimes the horses fall down when
they drive across country, as they stop only for stone walls or moats.
The carriages must be built of iron, for the front wheels drop a few
feet into a burrow every now and then, and at such times an unwary
American is liable to be pitched over the coachman's head. "Hold on
with both hands, shut your eyes, and keep your tongue from between
your teeth," would be my instructions to one about to "take a drive"
When we came to the place we found the foresters watching the
_dachshunde_. These I discovered to be long, flat, shallow dogs with
stumpy legs--a dog which an American has described as "looking as if
he was always coming out from under a bureau." Very cautiously here
and there the foresters uncovered a burrow, and a _dachshund_
disappeared. Then from below ground came the sounds of fighting. The
_dachshunde_ had found their prey. The foresters ran about, stooping
to locate the sound. When they discovered the spot a dozen of them at
once began to dig as fast as they could.
Presently a writhing, rolling, barking bunch of fur and flying sand
came into view, when a forester with a long forked stick caught the
animal just back of its head and flung it into a coarse sack, which
was then tied up and thrown aside, and the hunt went on. After we all
went home the foresters gathered up these bags and killed the poor
little animals somehow--mercifully, I hope.
The dinner, which came at two o'clock, was so much of a function, on
account of the number of guests in the house, that it impressed itself
upon my memory.
First in the salon there were small tables set, containing _hors
d'oeuvres_. There were large decanters containing _vodke_, a liquor
something like Chinese rice-brandy. There were smoked goose, smoked
bear, and salmon, white and black bread, all sorts of sausages,
anchovies and caviar, of course. After these had been tasted largely
by the guests who were not Americans, and who knew that a formidable
dinner yet had to be discussed, we were all seated at a table in the
There were a hundred of us, and the table held enough for twice that
many. We began with a hot soup made of fermented beet-juice. This we
found to be delicious, but I seemed to be eating transparent red ink
with parsley in it. This was followed by a cold soup made of sour
cream and cucumbers, with _ecrevisse_, a small and delicious lobster.
There was ice in this.
Cucumbers and sour cream! Let me see, wasn't it President Taylor who
died of eating cherries and milk?
Then came a salad of chicken and lettuce, and then huge roasts
garnished with exquisite French skill.
After the sweets came the fruit, such fruits as even our own
California cannot produce, with white raspberries of a size and taste
quite indescribable. When dinner is over comes a very pretty custom.
The hostess, whose seat is nearest the door, rises, and each guest
kisses her hand or her arm as he passes out, and thanks her in a
phrase for her hospitality. Sometimes it is only "Thank you,
princess"; sometimes "Many thanks for your beautiful dinner," or
anything you like. They speak Polish to each other and to their
servants, but they are such wonderful linguists that they always
address a guest in his own language. To their peasants, however, who
speak an unlearnable dialect, they are obliged always to have an
At six o'clock came tea from samovars four feet high and of the most
gorgeous repousse silver. Melons, fruit, and all sorts of bread are
served with this. Then at eight a supper, very heavy, very sumptuous,
The whole day had been charming, exhilarating, different from anything
we had ever seen before; but there was to follow something which
impressed itself upon my excitable nerves with a fascination so
bewildering that I can think of but one thing which would give me the
same amount of heavenly satisfaction. This would be to have Theodore
Thomas conduct the Chicago orchestra in the "Tannhaeuser" overture in
the Court of Honor at the World's Fair some night with a full moon.
But to return. The Princess excused herself to her Protestant guests
after supper, and then her family, with the servants and all the
guests who wished, assembled in the winter garden to sing hymns to the
Virgin. The winter garden is like a gigantic conservatory four stories
high. It connects the two wings of the castle on the ground floor, and
all the windows and galleries of the floors above overlook it.
It is the most beautiful spot even in the daytime that I ever saw
connected with any house built for man. But at night to look down upon
its beauty, with its palms, its tall ferns, its growing, climbing,
waving vines and flowering shrubs, with its divine odors and
fragrances and sweet dampnesses from mosses and lovely, moist, green,
growing things, is to have one's soul filled with a poetry undreamed
of on the written page.
The candles dotting the soft gloom, the spray from the fountains
blowing in the air and tinkling into their marble basins, the tones of
the grand organ rumbling and soaring up to us, the moonlight pouring
through the great glass dome and filtering through the waving green
leaves, dimpling on the marble statues and making trembling shades and
shadows upon the earnest faces of the worshippers, the penetrating
sadness of their minor hymns--all the sights and sounds and fragrances
of this winter garden made of that hour "one to be forever marked with
a white stone."
We met our first real discourtesy in Berlin at the hands of a German,
and although he was only the manager of an hotel, we lay it up against
him and cannot forgive him for it. It happened in this wise:
My companion, being the courier, bought our tickets straight through
to St. Petersburg, with the privilege of stopping a week in Vilna,
where we were to be the guests of a Polish nobleman. When she sent the
porter to check our trunks she told him in faultless German to check
them only to Vilna on those tickets. But as her faultless German
generally brings us soap when she orders coffee, and hot water when
she calls for ice, I am not so severe upon the stupidity of the porter
as she is. However, when he came back and asked for fifty-five marks
extra luggage to St. Petersburg we gave a wail, and explained to the
manager, who spoke English, that we were not going to St. Petersburg,
and that we were not particularly eager to pay out fifty-five marks
for the mere fun of spending money. If the choice were left to us we
felt that we could invest it more to our satisfaction in belts and
He was very big and handsome, this German, and doubtless some meek
_fraeulein_ loves him, but we do not, and, moreover, we pity her,
whoever and wherever she may be, for we know by experience that if
they two are ever to be made one he will be that one. He said he was
sorry, but that, doubtless, when we got to the Russian frontier we
could explain matters and get our trunks. But we could not speak
Russian, we told him, and we wanted things properly arranged then and
there. He clicked his heels together and bowed in a superb manner, and
we were sure our eloquence and our distress had fetched him, so to
speak, when to our amazement he simply reiterated his statements.
"But surely you are not going to let two American women leave your
hotel all alone at eleven o'clock at night with their luggage checked
to the wrong town?" I said, in wide-eyed astonishment.
Again he clicked those heels of his. Again that silk hat came off.
Again that superb bow. He was very sorry, but he could do nothing.
Doubtless we could arrange things at the frontier. It was within ten
minutes of train time, and we were surrounded by no fewer than thirty
German men--guests, porters, hall-boys--who listened curiously, and
offered no assistance.
I looked at my companion, and she looked at me, and ground her teeth.
"Then you absolutely refuse us the courtesy of walking across the
street with us and mending matters, do you?" I said.
Again those heels, that hat, that bow. I could have killed him. I am
sorry now that I didn't. I missed a glorious opportunity.
So off we started alone at eleven o'clock at night for Poland, with
our trunks safely checked through to St. Petersburg, and fifty-five
marks lighter in pocket.
My companion kept saying, "Well, I never!" A pause. And again, "Well,
I never!" And again, "Did you ever in all your life!" Yet there was no
sameness in my ears to her remarks, for it was all that I, too, wanted
to say. It covered the ground completely.
I was speechless with surprise. It kept recurring to my mind that my
friends in America who had lived in Germany had told me that I need
expect nothing at the hands of German men on account of being a woman.
I couldn't seem to get it through my head. But now that it had
happened to me--now that a man had deliberately refused to cross the
street--no farther, mind you!--to get us out of such a mess! Why, in
America, there isn't a man from the President to a chimney-sweep, from
a major-general to the blackest nigger in the cotton fields, who
wouldn't do ten times that much for _any_ woman!
I shall never get over it.
With the courage of despair I accosted every man and woman on the
platform with the words, "Do you speak English?" But not one of them
did. Nor French either. So with heavy hearts we got on the train, feed
the porter four marks for getting us into this dilemma (and
incidentally carrying our hand-luggage), and when he had the
impertinence to demand more I turned on him and assured him that if he
dared to speak another word to us we would report him to His
Excellency the American Ambassador, who was on intimate terms with the
Kaiser; and that I would use my influence to have him put in prison
for life. He fled in dismay, although I know he did not understand one
word. My manner, however, was not affable. Then I cast myself into my
berth in a despairing heap, and broke two of the wings in my hat.
My companion was almost in tears. "Never mind," she said. "It was all
my fault. But we may get our trunks, anyway. And if not, perhaps we
can get along without them."
"Impossible!" I said. "How can we spend a week as guests in a house
without a change of clothes?"
In order not to let her know how worried I was, I told her that if we
couldn't get our trunks off the train at Vilna we would give up our
visit and telegraph our excuses and regrets to our expectant hostess,
or else come back from St. Petersburg after we had got our precious
trunks once more within our clutches.
All the next day we tried to find some one who spoke English or
French, but to no avail. We spent, therefore, a dreary day. By letting
my companion manage the customs officers in patomime we got through
the frontier without having to unlock anything, although it is
considered the most difficult one in Europe.
The trains in Russia fairly crawl. Instead of coal they use wood in
their engines, which sends back thousands of sparks like the tail of a
comet. It grew dark about two o'clock in the afternoon, and we found
ourselves promenading through the bleakest of winter landscapes. Tiny
cottages, emitting a bright red glow from infinitesimal windows,
crouched in the snow, and silent fir-trees silhouetted themselves
against the moonlit sky. It only needed the howl of wolves to make it
the loneliest picture the mind could conceive.
When we were within an hour of Vilna I heard in the distance my
companion's familiar words, "Pardon me, sir, but do you speak
English?" And a deep voice, which I knew without seeing him came from
a big man, replied in French, "For the first time in my life I regret
that I do not."
At the sound of French I hurried to the door of our compartment, and
there stood a tall Russian officer in his gray uniform and a huge
fur-lined pelisse which came to his feet.
When my companion wishes to be amusing she says that as soon as I
found that the man spoke French I whirled her around by the arm and
sent her spinning into the corner among the valises. But I don't
remember even touching her. I only remembered that here was some one
to whom I could talk, and in two minutes this handsome Russian had
untangled my incoherent explanations, had taken our luggage receipt,
and had assured us that he himself would not pause until he had seen
our trunks taken from the train at Vilna. If I should live a thousand
years I never shall forget nor cease to be grateful to that superb
Russian. He was so very much like an American gentleman.
We were met at the station by our Polish friends, our precious trunks
were put into sledges, we were stowed into the most comfortable of
equipages, and in an hour we were installed in one of the most
delightful homes it was ever my good fortune to enter.
I never realized before what people can suffer at the hands of a
conquering government, and were it not that the young Tzar of Russia
has done away, either by public ukase or private advice, with the
worst of the wrongs his father permitted to be put upon the Poles, I
could not bear to listen to their recitals.
Politics, as a rule, make little impression upon me. Guide-books are a
bore, and histories are unattractive, they are so dry and accurate. My
father's grief at my lack of essential knowledge is perennial and
deep-seated. But, somehow, facts are the most elusive things I have to
contend with. I can only seem to get a firm grasp on the imaginary. Of
course, I know the historical facts in this case, but it does not
sound personally pathetic to read that Russia, Prussia, and Austria
divided Poland between them.
But to be here in Russia, in what was once Poland, visiting the
families of the Polish nobility; to see their beautiful home-life,
their marvellous family affection, the respect they pay to their
women; to feel all the charm of their broad culture and noble
sympathy for all that makes for the general good, and then to hear the
story of their oppression, is to feel a personal ache in the heart for
their national burdens.
It does not sound as if a grievous hardship were being put upon a
conquered people to read in histories or guide-books that Prussia is
colonizing her part of Poland with Germans--selling them land for
almost nothing in order to infuse German blood, German language,
German customs into a conquered land. It does not touch one's
sympathies very much to know that Austria is the only one of the three
to give Poland the most of her rights, and in a measure to restore her
self-respect by allowing her representation in the Reichstag and by
permitting Poles to hold office.
But when you come to Russian Poland and know that in the province of
Lithuania--which was a separate and distinct province until a prince
of Lithuania fell in love with and married a queen of Poland, and the
two countries were joined--Poles are not allowed to buy one foot of
land in the country where they were born and bred, are not permitted
to hold office even when elected, are prohibited from speaking their
own language in public, are forbidden to sing their Polish hymns, or
to take children in from the streets and teach them in anything but
Russian, and that every one is taught the Greek religion, then this
colonization becomes a burning question. Then you know how to
appreciate America, where we have full, free, and unqualified liberty.
The young Tzar has greatly endeared himself to his Polish subjects by
several humane and generous acts. One was to remove the tax on all
estates (over and above the ordinary taxes), which Poles were obliged
to pay annually to the Russian government. Another was to release
school-children from the necessity of attending the Greek church on
all Russian feast-days. These two were by public ukase, and as the
Poles are passionately grateful for any act of kindness, one hears
nothing but good words for the Tzar, and there is the utmost feeling
of loyalty to him among them. I hear it constantly said that if he
continue in this generous policy Russia need never apprehend another
Polish revolution. And while by a revolution they could never hope to
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