Diary of a Pilgrimage
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 2 out of 3
middle of the road. Eight of them were cursing the goat, four were
cursing the dog, and two of them were cursing the old man for
keeping the goat, one of these two, and the more violent one, being
the man's own wife.
The train left at this juncture. We entreated the railway officials
to let us stop and see the show out. The play was becoming quite
interesting. It was so full of movement. But they said that we
were half-an-hour late as it was, and that they dared not.
We leaned out of the window, and watched for as long as we could;
and after the village was lost to view in the distance, we could
still, by listening carefully, hear the thuds, as one after another
of the inhabitants sat down and began to swear.
At about eleven o'clock we had some beer--you can generally obtain
such light refreshment as bottled beer and coffee and rolls from the
guard on a through long-distance train in Germany--took off our
boots, and saying "Good-night" to each other, made a great show of
going to sleep. But we never succeeded in getting there. They
wanted to see one's ticket too often for one to get fairly off.
Every few minutes, so it seemed to me, though in reality the
intervals may perhaps have been longer, a ghostly face would appear
at the carriage-window, and ask to see our tickets.
Whenever a German railway-guard feels lonesome, and does not know
what else to do with himself, he takes a walk round the train, and
gets the passengers to show him their tickets, after which he
returns to his box cheered and refreshed. Some people rave about
sunsets and mountains and old masters; but to the German railway-
guard the world can show nothing more satisfying, more inspiring,
than the sight of a railway-ticket.
Nearly all the German railway officials have this same craving for
tickets. If only they get somebody to show them a railway-ticket,
they are happy. It seemed a harmless weakness of theirs, and B. and
I decided that it would be only kind to humour them in it during our
Accordingly, whenever we saw a German railway official standing
about, looking sad and weary, we went up to him and showed him our
tickets. The sight was like a ray of sunshine to him; and all his
care was immediately forgotten. If we had not a ticket with us at
the time, we went and bought one. A mere single third to the next
station would gladden him sufficiently in most cases; but if the
poor fellow appeared very woe-begone, and as if he wanted more than
ordinary cheering up, we got him a second-class return.
For the purpose of our journey to Ober-Ammergau and back, we each
carried with us a folio containing some ten or twelve first-class
tickets between different towns, covering in all a distance of some
thousand miles; and one afternoon, at Munich, seeing a railway
official, a cloak-room keeper, who they told us had lately lost his
aunt, and who looked exceptionally dejected, I proposed to B. that
we should take this man into a quiet corner, and both of us show him
all our tickets at once--the whole twenty or twenty-four of them--
and let him take them in his hand and look at them for as long as he
liked. I wanted to comfort him.
B., however, advised against the suggestion. He said that even if
it did not turn the man's head (and it was more than probable that
it would), so much jealousy would be created against him among the
other railway people throughout Germany, that his life would be made
a misery to him.
So we bought and showed him a first-class return to the next station
but one; and it was quite pathetic to watch the poor fellow's face
brighten up at the sight, and to see the faint smile creep back to
the lips from which it had so long been absent.
But at times, one wishes that the German railway official would
control his passion for tickets--or, at least, keep it within due
Even the most kindly-hearted man grows tired of showing his ticket
all day and night long, and the middle of a wearisome journey is not
the proper time for a man to come to the carriage-window and clamour
to see your "billet."
You are weary and sleepy. You do not know where your ticket is.
You are not quite sure that you have got a ticket; or if you ever
had one, somebody has taken it away from you. You have put it by
very carefully, thinking that it would not be wanted for hours, and
have forgotten where.
There are eleven pockets in the suit you have on, and five more in
the overcoat on the rack. Maybe, it is in one of those pockets. If
not, it is possibly in one of the bags--somewhere, or in your
pocket-book, if you only knew where that was, or your purse.
You begin a search. You stand up and shake yourself. Then you have
another feel all over. You look round in the course of the
proceedings; and the sight of the crowd of curious faces watching
you, and of the man in uniform waiting with his eye fixed severely
upon you, convey to you, in your then state of confusion, the
momentary idea that this is a police-court scene, and that if the
ticket is found upon you, you will probably get five years.
Upon this you vehemently protest your innocence.
"I tell you I haven't got it!" you exclaim;--"never seen the
gentleman's ticket. You let me go! I--"
Here the surprise of your fellow-passengers recalls you to yourself,
and you proceed on your exploration. You overhaul the bags, turning
everything out on to the floor, muttering curses on the whole
railway system of Germany as you do so. Then you feel in your
boots. You make everybody near you stand up to see if they are
sitting upon it, and you go down on your knees and grovel for it
under the seat.
"You didn't throw it out of the window with your sandwiches, did
you?" asks your friend.
"No! Do you think I'm a fool?" you answer, irritably. "What should
I want to do that for?"
On going systematically over yourself for about the twentieth time,
you discover it in your waistcoat pocket, and for the next half-hour
you sit and wonder how you came to miss it on the previous nineteen
Meanwhile, during this trying scene, the conduct of the guard has
certainly not tended to allay your anxiety and nervousness. All the
time that you have been looking for your ticket, he has been doing
silly tricks on the step outside, imperilling his life by every
means that experience and ingenuity can suggest.
The train is going at the rate of thirty miles an hour, the express
speed in Germany, and a bridge comes in sight crossing over the
line. On seeing this bridge, the guard, holding on by the window,
leans his body as far back as ever it will go. You look at him, and
then at the rapidly-nearing bridge, and calculate that the arch will
just take his head off without injuring any other part of him
whatever, and you wonder whether the head will be jerked into the
carriage or will fall outside.
When he is three inches off the bridge, he pulls himself up
straight, and the brickwork, as the train dashes through, kills a
fly that was trespassing on the upper part of his right ear.
Then, when the bridge is passed, and the train is skirting the very
edge of a precipice, so that a stone dropped just outside the window
would tumble straight down 300 feet, he suddenly lets go, and,
balancing himself on the foot-board without holding on to anything,
commences to dance a sort of Teutonic cellar-flap, and to warm his
body by flinging his arms about in the manner of cabmen on a cold
The first essential to comfortable railway travelling in Germany is
to make up your mind not to care a rap whether the guard gets killed
in the course of the journey or not. Any tender feeling towards the
guard makes railway travelling in the Fatherland a simple torture.
At five a.m. (how fair and sweet and fresh the earth looks in the
early morning! Those lazy people who lie in bed till eight or nine
miss half the beauty of the day, if they but knew it. It is only we
who rise early that really enjoy Nature properly) I gave up trying
to get to sleep, and made my way to the dressing-room at the end of
the car, and had a wash.
It is difficult to wash in these little places, because the cars
shake so; and when you have got both your hands and half your head
in the basin, and are unable to protect yourself, the sides of the
room, and the water-tap and the soap-dish, and other cowardly
things, take a mean advantage of your helplessness to punch you as
hard as ever they can; and when you back away from these, the door
swings open and slaps you from behind.
I succeeded, however, in getting myself fairly wet all over, even if
I did nothing else, and then I looked about for a towel. Of course,
there was no towel. That is the trick. The idea of the railway
authorities is to lure the passenger, by providing him with soap and
water and a basin, into getting himself thoroughly soaked, and then
to let it dawn upon him that there is no towel. That is their
notion of fun!
I thought of the handkerchiefs in my bag, but to get to them I
should have to pass compartments containing ladies, and I was only
in early morning dress.
So I had to wipe myself with a newspaper which I happened to have in
my pocket, and a more unsatisfactory thing to dry oneself upon I
I woke up B. when I got back to the carriage, and persuaded him to
go and have a wash; and in listening to the distant sound of his
remarks when he likewise discovered that there was no towel, the
recollection of my own discomfiture passed gently away.
Ah! how true it is, as good people tell us, that in thinking of the
sorrows of others, we learn to forget our own!
For fifty miles before one reaches Munich, the land is flat, stale,
and apparently very unprofitable, and there is little to interest
the looker-out. He sits straining his eyes towards the horizon,
eagerly longing for some sign of the city to come in sight.
It lies very low, however, and does all it can to escape
observation; and it is not until he is almost within its streets
that he discovers it.
THE REST OF SUNDAY, THE 25TH
We Seek Breakfast.--I Air My German.--The Art of Gesture.--The
Intelligence of the Premiere Danseuse.--Performance of English
Pantomime in the Pyrenees.--Sad Result Therefrom.--The "German
Conversation" Book.--Its Narrow-minded View of Human Wants and
Aspirations.--Sunday in Munich.--Hans and Gretchen.--High Life v.
Low Life.--"A Beer-Cellar."
At Munich we left our luggage at the station, and went in search of
breakfast. Of course, at eight o'clock in the morning none of the
big cafes were open; but at length, beside some gardens, we found an
old-fashioned looking restaurant, from which came a pleasant odour
of coffee and hot onions; and walking through and seating ourselves
at one of the little tables, placed out under the trees, we took the
bill of fare in our hands, and summoned the waiter to our side.
I ordered the breakfast. I thought it would be a good opportunity
for me to try my German. I ordered coffee and rolls as a
groundwork. I got over that part of my task very easily. With the
practice I had had during the last two days, I could have ordered
coffee and rolls for forty. Then I foraged round for luxuries, and
ordered a green salad. I had some difficulty at first in convincing
the man that it was not a boiled cabbage that I wanted, but
succeeded eventually in getting that silly notion out of his head.
I still had a little German left, even after that. So I ordered an
"Tell him a savoury one," said B., "or he will be bringing us
something full of hot jam and chocolate-creams. You know their
"Oh, yes," I answered. "Of course. Yes. Let me see. What is the
German for savoury?"
"Savoury?" mused B. "Oh! ah! hum! Bothered if I know! Confound
the thing--I can't think of it!"
I could not think of it either. As a matter of fact, I never knew
it. We tried the man with French. We said:
"Une omelette aux fines herbes."
As he did not appear to understand that, we gave it him in bad
English. We twisted and turned the unfortunate word "savoury" into
sounds so quaint, so sad, so unearthly, that you would have thought
they might have touched the heart of a savage. This stoical Teuton,
however, remained unmoved. Then we tried pantomime.
Pantomime is to language what marmalade, according to the label on
the pot, is to butter, "an excellent (occasional) substitute." But
its powers as an interpreter of thought are limited. At least, in
real life they are so. As regards a ballet, it is difficult to say
what is not explainable by pantomime. I have seen the bad man in a
ballet convey to the premiere danseuse by a subtle movement of the
left leg, together with some slight assistance from the drum, the
heartrending intelligence that the lady she had been brought up to
believe was her mother was in reality only her aunt by marriage.
But then it must be borne in mind that the premiere danseuse is a
lady whose quickness of perception is altogether unique. The
premiere danseuse knows precisely what a gentleman means when he
twirls round forty-seven times on one leg, and then stands on his
head. The average foreigner would, in all probability, completely
misunderstand the man.
A friend of mine once, during a tour in the Pyrenees, tried to
express gratitude by means of pantomime. He arrived late one
evening at a little mountain inn, where the people made him very
welcome, and set before him their best; and he, being hungry,
appreciated their kindness, and ate a most excellent supper.
Indeed, so excellent a meal did he make, and so kind and attentive
were his hosts to him, that, after supper, he felt he wanted to
thank them, and to convey to them some idea of how pleased and
satisfied he was.
He could not explain himself in language. He only knew enough
Spanish to just ask for what he wanted--and even to do that he had
to be careful not to want much. He had not got as far as sentiment
and emotion at that time. Accordingly he started to express himself
in action. He stood up and pointed to the empty table where the
supper had been, then opened his mouth and pointed down his throat.
Then he patted that region of his anatomy where, so scientific
people tell us, supper goes to, and smiled.
He has a rather curious smile, has my friend. He himself is under
the impression that there is something very winning in it, though,
also, as he admits, a touch of sadness. They use it in his family
for keeping the children in order.
The people of the inn seemed rather astonished at his behaviour.
They regarded him, with troubled looks, and then gathered together
among themselves and consulted in whispers.
"I evidently have not made myself sufficiently clear to these simple
peasants," said my friend to himself. "I must put more vigour into
Accordingly he rubbed and patted that part of himself to which I
have previously alluded--and which, being a modest and properly
brought-up young man, nothing on earth shall induce me to mention
more explicitly--with greater energy than ever, and added another
inch or two of smile; and he also made various graceful movements
indicative, as he thought, of friendly feeling and contentment.
At length a ray of intelligence burst upon the faces of his hosts,
and they rushed to a cupboard and brought out a small black bottle.
"Ah! that's done it," thought my friend. "Now they have grasped my
meaning. And they are pleased that I am pleased, and are going to
insist on my drinking a final friendly bumper of wine with them, the
good old souls!"
They brought the bottle over, and poured out a wineglassful, and
handed it to him, making signs that he should drink it off quickly.
"Ah!" said my friend to himself, as he took the glass and raised it
to the light, and winked at it wickedly, "this is some rare old
spirit peculiar to the district--some old heirloom kept specially
for the favoured guest."
And he held the glass aloft and made a speech, in which he wished
long life and many grand-children to the old couple, and a handsome
husband to the daughter, and prosperity to the whole village. They
could not understand him, he knew; but he thought there might be
that in his tones and gestures from which they would gather the
sense of what he was saying, and understand how kindly he felt
towards them all. When he had finished, he put his hand upon his
heart and smiled some more, and then tossed the liquor off at a
Three seconds later he discovered that it was a stringent and
trustworthy emetic that he had swallowed. His audience had mistaken
his signs of gratitude for efforts on his part to explain to them
that he was poisoned, or, at all events, was suffering from acute
and agonising indigestion, and had done what they could to comfort
The drug that they had given him was not one of those common, cheap
medicines that lose their effect before they have been in the system
half-an-hour. He felt that it would be useless to begin another
supper then, even if he could get one, and so he went to bed a good
deal hungrier and a good deal less refreshed than when he arrived at
Gratitude is undoubtedly a thing that should not be attempted by the
"Savoury" is another. B. and I very nearly did ourselves a serious
internal injury, trying to express it. We slaved like cab-horses at
it--for about five minutes, and succeeded in conveying to the mind
of the waiter that we wanted to have a game at dominoes.
Then, like a beam of sunlight to a man lost in some dark, winding
cave, came to me the reflection that I had in my pocket a German
How stupid of me not to have thought of it before. Here had we been
racking our brains and our bodies, trying to explain our wants to an
uneducated German, while, all the time, there lay to our hands a
book specially written and prepared to assist people out of the very
difficulty into which we had fallen--a book carefully compiled with
the express object of enabling English travellers who, like
ourselves, only spoke German in a dilettante fashion, to make their
modest requirements known throughout the Fatherland, and to get out
of the country alive and uninjured.
I hastily snatched the book from my pocket, and commenced to search
for dialogues dealing with the great food question. There were
There were lengthy and passionate "Conversations with a laundress"
about articles that I blush to remember. Some twenty pages of the
volume were devoted to silly dialogues between an extraordinarily
patient shoemaker and one of the most irritating and
constitutionally dissatisfied customers that an unfortunate shop-
keeper could possibly be cursed with; a customer who, after
twaddling for about forty minutes, and trying on, apparently, every
pair of boots in the place, calmly walks out with:
"Ah! well, I shall not purchase anything to-day. Good-morning!"
The shopkeeper's reply, by-the-by, is not given. It probably took
the form of a boot-jack, accompanied by phrases deemed useless for
the purposes of the Christian tourist.
There was really something remarkable about the exhaustiveness of
this "conversation at the shoemaker's." I should think the book
must have been written by someone who suffered from corns. I could
have gone to a German shoemaker with this book and have talked the
man's head off.
Then there were two pages of watery chatter "on meeting a friend in
the street"--"Good-morning, sir (or madam)." "I wish you a merry
Christmas." "How is your mother?" As if a man who hardly knew
enough German to keep body and soul together, would want to go about
asking after the health of a foreign person's mother.
There were also "conversations in the railway carriage,"
conversations between travelling lunatics, apparently, and dialogues
"during the passage." "How do you feel now?" "Pretty well as yet;
but I cannot say how long it will last." "Oh, what waves! I now
feel very unwell and shall go below. Ask for a basin for me."
Imagine a person who felt like that wanting to know the German for
At the end of the book were German proverbs and "Idiomatic Phrases,"
by which latter would appear to be meant in all languages, "phrases
for the use of idiots": --"A sparrow in the hand is better than a
pigeon on the roof."--"Time brings roses."--"The eagle does not
catch flies."--"One should not buy a cat in a sack,"--as if there
were a large class of consumers who habitually did purchase their
cats in that way, thus enabling unscrupulous dealers to palm off
upon them an inferior cat, and whom it was accordingly necessary to
advise against the custom.
I skimmed through all this nonsense, but not a word could I discover
anywhere about a savoury omelette. Under the head of "Eating and
Drinking," I found a short vocabulary; but it was mainly concerned
with "raspberries" and "figs" and "medlars" (whatever they may be; I
never heard of them myself), and "chestnuts," and such like things
that a man hardly ever wants, even when he is in his own country.
There was plenty of oil and vinegar, and pepper and salt and mustard
in the list, but nothing to put them on. I could have had a hard-
boiled egg, or a slice of ham; but I did not want a hard-boiled egg,
or a slice of ham. I wanted a savoury omelette; and that was an
article of diet that the authors of this "Handy Little Guide," as
they termed it in their preface, had evidently never heard of.
Since my return home, I have, out of curiosity, obtained three or
four "English-German Dialogues" and "Conversation Books," intended
to assist the English traveller in his efforts to make himself
understood by the German people, and I have come to the conclusion
that the work I took out with me was the most sensible and practical
of the lot.
Finding it utterly hopeless to explain ourselves to the waiter, we
let the thing go, and trusted to Providence; and in about ten
minutes the man brought us a steaming omelette, with about a pound
of strawberry jam inside, and powdered sugar all over the outside.
We put a deal of pepper and salt on it to try and counteract the
flavour of the sweets, but we did not really enjoy it even then.
After breakfast we got a time-table, and looked out for a train to
Ober-Ammergau. I found one which started at 3.10. It seemed a very
nice train indeed; it did not stop anywhere. The railway
authorities themselves were evidently very proud of it, and had
printed particulars of it in extra thick type. We decided to
To pass away the time, we strolled about the city. Munich is a
fine, handsome, open town, full of noble streets and splendid
buildings; but in spite of this and of its hundred and seventy
thousand inhabitants, an atmosphere of quiet and provincialism
hovers over it. There is but little traffic on ordinary occasions
along its broad ways, and customers in its well-stocked shops are
few and far between. This day being Sunday, it was busier than
usual, and its promenades were thronged with citizens and country
folk in holiday attire, among whom the Southern peasants, wearing
their quaint, centuries-old costume, stood out in picturesque
relief. Fashion, in its world-wide crusade against variety and its
bitter contest with form and colour, has recoiled, defeated for the
present from the mountain fastnesses of Bavaria. Still, as Sunday
or gala-day comes round, the broad-shouldered, sunburnt shepherd of
the Oberland dons his gay green-embroidered jacket over his snowy
shirt, fastens his short knee-breeches with a girdle round his
waist, claps his high, feather-crowned hat upon his waving curls,
and with bare legs, shod in mighty boots, strides over the hill-
sides to his Gretchen's door.
She is waiting for him, you may be sure, ready dressed; and a very
sweet, old-world picture she makes, standing beneath the great
overhanging gables of the wooden chalet. She, too, favours the
national green; but, as relief, there is no lack of bonny red
ribbons, to flutter in the wind, and, underneath the ornamented
skirt, peeps out a bright-hued petticoat. Around her ample breast
she wears a dark tight-fitting bodice, laced down the front. (I
think this garment is called a stomacher, but I am not sure, as I
have never liked to ask.) Her square shoulders are covered with the
whitest of white linen. Her sleeves are also white; and being very
full, and of some soft lawnlike material, suggest the idea of folded
wings. Upon her flaxen hair is perched a saucy round green hat.
The buckles of her dainty shoes, the big eyes in her pretty face,
are all four very bright. One feels one would like much to change
places for the day with Hans.
Arm-in-arm, looking like some china, but exceedingly substantial
china, shepherd and shepherdess, they descend upon the town. One
rubs one's eyes and stares after them as they pass. They seem to
have stepped from the pictured pages of one of those old story-books
that we learnt to love, sitting beside the high brass guard that
kept ourselves and the nursery-fire from doing each other any
serious injury, in the days when the world was much bigger than it
is now, and much more real and interesting.
Munich and the country round about it make a great exchange of
peoples every Sunday. In the morning, trainload after trainload of
villagers and mountaineers pour into the town, and trainload after
trainload of good and other citizens steam out to spend the day in
wood and valley, and upon lake and mountain-side.
We went into one or two of the beer-halls--not into the swell cafes,
crowded with tourists and Munich masherdom, but into the low-
ceilinged, smoke-grimed cellars where the life of the people is to
The ungenteel people in a country are so much more interesting than
the gentlefolks. One lady or gentleman is painfully like every
other lady or gentleman. There is so little individuality, so
little character, among the upper circles of the world. They talk
like each other, they think and act like each other, they dress like
each other, and look very much like each other. We gentlefolks only
play at living. We have our rules and regulations for the game,
which must not be infringed. Our unwritten guide-books direct us
what to do and what to say at each turn of the meaningless sport.
To those at the bottom of the social pyramid, however, who stand
with their feet upon the earth, Nature is not a curious phenomenon
to be looked down at and studied, but a living force to be obeyed.
They front grim, naked Life, face to face, and wrestle with it
through the darkness; and, as did the angel that strove with Jacob,
it leaves its stamp upon them.
There is only one type of a gentleman. There are five hundred types
of men and women. That is why I always seek out and frequent the
places where the common people congregate, in preference to the
haunts of respectability. I have to be continually explaining all
this to my friends, to account to them for what they call my love of
With a mug of beer before me, and a pipe in my mouth, I could sit
for hours contentedly, and watch the life that ebbs and flows into
and out of these old ale-kitchens.
The brawny peasant lads bring in their lasses to treat them to the
beloved nectar of Munich, together with a huge onion. How they
enjoy themselves! What splendid jokes they have! How they laugh
and roar and sing! At one table sit four old fellows, playing
cards. How full of character is each gnarled face. One is eager,
quick, vehement. How his eyes dance! You can read his every
thought upon his face. You know when he is going to dash down the
king with a shout of triumph on the queen. His neighbour looks
calm, slow, and dogged, but wears a confident expression. The game
proceeds, and you watch and wait for him to play the winning cards
that you feel sure he holds. He must intend to win. Victory is
written in his face. No! he loses. A seven was the highest card in
his hand. Everyone turns to him, surprised. He laughs--A difficult
man to deal with, that, in other matters besides cards. A man whose
thoughts lie a good deal below his skin.
Opposite, a cross-looking old woman clamours for sausages, gets
them, and seems crosser than ever. She scowls round on everyone,
with a malignant expression that is quite terrifying. A small dog
comes and sits down in front of her, and grins at her. Still, with
the same savage expression of hatred towards all living things, she
feeds him with sausage at the end of a fork, regarding him all the
while with an aspect of such concentrated dislike, that one wonders
it does not interfere with his digestion. In a corner, a stout old
woman talks incessantly to a solemn-looking man, who sits silent and
drinks steadily. It is evident that he can stand her conversation
just so long as he has a mug of beer in front of him. He has
brought her in here to give her a treat. He will let her have her
talk out while he drinks. Heavens! how she does talk! She talks
without movement, without expression; her voice never varies, it
flows on, and on, and on, like a great resistless river. Four young
artisans come clamping along in their hob-nailed boots, and seating
themselves at one of the rude wooden tables, call for beer. With
their arms round the waist of the utterly indifferent Fraulein, they
shout and laugh and sing. Nearly all the young folks here are
laughing--looking forward to life. All the old folks are talking,
What grand pictures some of these old, seared faces round us would
make, if a man could only paint them--paint all that is in them, all
the tragedy--and comedy that the great playwright, Life, has written
upon the withered skins! Joys and sorrows, sordid hopes and fears,
child-like strivings to be good, mean selfishness and grand
unselfishness, have helped to fashion these old wrinkled faces. The
curves of cunning and kindliness lurk round these fading eyes. The
lines of greed hover about these bloodless lips, that have so often
been tight-pressed in patient heroism.
We Dine.--A Curious Dish.--"A Feeling of Sadness Comes O'er Me."--
The German Cigar.--The Handsomest Match in Europe.--"How Easy 'tis
for Friends to Drift Apart," especially in a place like Munich
Railway Station.--The Victim of Fate.--A Faithful Bradshaw.--Among
the Mountains.--Prince and Pauper.--A Modern Romance.--Arrival at
Oberau.--Wise and Foolish Pilgrims.--An Interesting Drive.--Ettal
and its Monastery.--We Reach the Goal of our Pilgrimage.
At one o'clock we turned into a restaurant for dinner. The Germans
themselves always dine in the middle of the day, and a very
substantial meal they make of it. At the hotels frequented by
tourists table d'hote is, during the season, fixed for about six or
seven, but this is only done to meet the views of foreign customers.
I mention that we had dinner, not because I think that the
information will prove exciting to the reader, but because I wish to
warn my countrymen, travelling in Germany, against undue indulgence
in Liptauer cheese.
I am fond of cheese, and of trying new varieties of cheese; so that
when I looked down the cheese department of the bill of fare, and
came across "liptauer garnit," an article of diet I had never before
heard of, I determined to sample it.
It was not a tempting-looking cheese. It was an unhealthy, sad-
looking cheese. It looked like a cheese that had seen trouble. In
appearance it resembled putty more than anything else. It even
tasted like putty--at least, like I should imagine putty would
taste. To this hour I am not positive that it was not putty. The
garnishing was even more remarkable than the cheese. All the way
round the plate were piled articles that I had never before seen at
a dinner, and that I do not ever want to see there again. There was
a little heap of split-peas, three or four remarkably small
potatoes--at least, I suppose they were potatoes; if not, they were
pea-nuts boiled soft,--some caraway-seeds, a very young-looking
fish, apparently of the stickleback breed, and some red paint. It
was quite a little dinner all to itself.
What the red paint was for, I could not understand. B. thought that
it was put there for suicidal purposes. His idea was that the
customer, after eating all the other things in the plate, would wish
he were dead, and that the restaurant people, knowing this, had
thoughtfully provided him with red paint for one, so that he could
poison himself off and get out of his misery.
I thought, after swallowing the first mouthful, that I would not eat
any more of this cheese. Then it occurred to me that it was a pity
to waste it after having ordered it, and, besides, I might get to
like it before I had finished. The taste for most of the good
things of this world has to be acquired. I can remember the time
when I did not like beer.
So I mixed up everything on the plate all together--made a sort of
salad of it, in fact--and ate it with a spoon. A more disagreeable
dish I have never tasted since the days when I used to do Willie
Evans's "dags," by walking twice through a sewer, and was
subsequently, on returning home, promptly put to bed, and made to
eat brimstone and treacle.
I felt very sad after dinner. All the things I have done in my life
that I should not have done recurred to me with painful vividness.
(There seemed to be a goodish number of them, too.) I thought of
all the disappointments and reverses I had experienced during my
career; of all the injustice that I had suffered, and of all the
unkind things that had been said and done to me. I thought of all
the people I had known who were now dead, and whom I should never
see again, of all the girls that I had loved, who were now married
to other fellows, while I did not even know their present addresses.
I pondered upon our earthly existence, upon how hollow, false, and
transient it is, and how full of sorrow. I mused upon the
wickedness of the world and of everybody in it, and the general
cussedness of all things.
I thought how foolish it was for B. and myself to be wasting our
time, gadding about Europe in this silly way. What earthly
enjoyment was there in travelling--being jolted about in stuffy
trains, and overcharged at uncomfortable hotels?
B. was cheerful and frivolously inclined at the beginning of our
walk (we were strolling down the Maximilian Strasse, after dinner);
but as I talked to him, I was glad to notice that he gradually grew
more serious and subdued. He is not really bad, you know, only
B. bought some cigars and offered me one. I did not want to smoke.
Smoking seemed to me, just then, a foolish waste of time and money.
As I said to B.:
"In a few more years, perhaps before this very month is gone, we
shall be lying in the silent tomb, with the worms feeding on us. Of
what advantage will it be to us then that we smoked these cigars to-
"Well, the advantage it will be to me now is, that if you have a
cigar in your mouth I shan't get quite so much of your chatty
conversation. Take one, for my sake."
To humour him, I lit up.
I do not admire the German cigar. B. says that when you consider
they only cost a penny, you cannot grumble. But what I say is, that
when you consider they are dear at six a half-penny, you can
grumble. Well boiled, they might serve for greens; but as smoking
material they are not worth the match with which you light them,
especially not if the match be a German one. The German match is
quite a high art work. It has a yellow head and a magenta or green
stem, and can certainly lay claim to being the handsomest match in
We smoked a good many penny cigars during our stay in Germany, and
that we were none the worse for doing so I consider as proof of our
splendid physique and constitution. I think the German cigar test
might, with reason, be adopted by life insurance offices.--Question:
"Are you at present, and have you always been, of robust health?"
Answer: "I have smoked a German cigar, and still live." Life
Towards three o'clock we worked our way round to the station, and
began looking for our train. We hunted all over the place, but
could not find it anywhere. The central station at Munich is an
enormous building, and a perfect maze of passages and halls and
corridors. It is much easier to lose oneself in it, than to find
anything in it one may happen to want. Together and separately B.
and I lost ourselves and each other some twenty-four times. For
about half an hour we seemed to be doing nothing else but rushing up
and down the station looking for each other, suddenly finding each
other, and saying, "Why, where the dickens have you been? I have
been hunting for you everywhere. Don't go away like that," and then
immediately losing each other again.
And what was so extraordinary about the matter was that every time,
after losing each other, we invariably met again--when we did meet--
outside the door of the third-class refreshment room.
We came at length to regard the door of the third-class refreshment
room as "home," and to feel a thrill of joy when, in the course of
our weary wanderings through far-off waiting-rooms and lost-luggage
bureaus and lamp depots, we saw its old familiar handle shining in
the distance, and knew that there, beside it, we should find our
loved and lost one.
When any very long time elapsed without our coming across it, we
would go up to one of the officials, and ask to be directed to it.
"Please can you tell me," we would say, "the nearest way to the door
of the third-class refreshment room?"
When three o'clock came, and still we had not found the 3.10 train,
we became quite anxious about the poor thing, and made inquiries
"The 3.10 train to Ober-Ammergau," they said. "Oh, we've not
thought about that yet."
"Haven't thought about it!" we exclaimed indignantly. "Well, do for
heaven's sake wake up a bit. It is 3.5 now!"
"Yes," they answered, "3.5 in the afternoon; the 3.10 is a night
train. Don't you see it's printed in thick type? All the trains
between six in the evening and six in the morning are printed in fat
figures, and the day trains in thin. You have got plenty of time.
Look around after supper."
I do believe I am the most unfortunate man at a time-table that ever
was born. I do not think it can be stupidity; for if it were mere
stupidity, I should occasionally, now and then when I was feeling
well, not make a mistake. It must be fate.
If there is one train out of forty that goes on "Saturdays only" to
some place I want to get to, that is the train I select to travel by
on a Friday. On Saturday morning I get up at six, swallow a hasty
breakfast, and rush off to catch a return train that goes on every
day in the week "except Saturdays."
I go to London, Brighton and South Coast Railway-stations and
clamour for South-Eastern trains. On Bank Holidays I forget it is
Bank Holiday, and go and sit on draughty platforms for hours,
waiting for trains that do not run on Bank Holidays.
To add to my misfortunes, I am the miserable possessor of a demon
time-table that I cannot get rid of, a Bradshaw for August, 1887.
Regularly, on the first of each month, I buy and bring home with me
a new Bradshaw and a new A.B.C. What becomes of them after the
second of the month, I do not know. After the second of the month,
I never see either of them again. What their fate is, I can only
guess. In their place is left, to mislead me, this wretched old
For three years I have been trying to escape from it, but it will
not leave me.
I have thrown it out of the window, and it has fallen on people's
heads, and those people have picked it up and smoothed it out, and
brought it back to the house, and members of my family--"friends"
they call themselves--people of my own flesh and blood--have thanked
them and taken it in again!
I have kicked it into a dozen pieces, and kicked the pieces all the
way downstairs and out into the garden, and persons--persons, mind
you, who will not sew a button on the back of my shirt to save me
from madness--have collected the pieces and stitched them carefully
together, and made the book look as good as new, and put it back in
It has acquired the secret of perpetual youth, has this time-table.
Other time-tables that I buy become dissipated-looking wrecks in
about a week. This book looks as fresh and new and clean as it did
on the day when it first lured me into purchasing it. There is
nothing about its appearance to suggest to the casual observer that
it is not this month's Bradshaw. Its evident aim and object in life
is to deceive people into the idea that it is this month's Bradshaw.
It is undermining my moral character, this book is. It is
responsible for at least ten per cent. of the bad language that I
use every year. It leads me into drink and gambling. I am
continually finding myself with some three or four hours to wait at
dismal provincial railway stations. I read all the advertisements
on both platforms, and then I get wild and reckless, and plunge into
the railway hotel and play billiards with the landlord for threes of
I intend to have that Bradshaw put into my coffin with me when I am
buried, so that I can show it to the recording angel and explain
matters. I expect to obtain a discount of at least five-and-twenty
per cent. off my bill of crimes for that Bradshaw.
The 3.10 train in the morning was, of course, too late for us. It
would not get us to Ober-Ammergau until about 9 a.m. There was a
train leaving at 7.30 (I let B. find out this) by which we might
reach the village some time during the night, if only we could get a
conveyance from Oberau, the nearest railway-station. Accordingly,
we telegraphed to Cook's agent, who was at Ober-Ammergau (we all of
us sneer at Mr. Cook and Mr. Gaze, and such-like gentlemen, who
kindly conduct travellers that cannot conduct themselves properly,
when we are at home; but I notice most of us appeal, on the quiet,
to one or the other of them the moment we want to move abroad), to
try and send a carriage to meet us by that train; and then went to
an hotel, and turned into bed until it was time to start.
We had another grand railway-ride from Munich to Oberau. We passed
by the beautiful lake of Starnberg just as the sun was setting and
gilding with gold the little villages and pleasant villas that lie
around its shores. It was in the lake of Starnberg, near the lordly
pleasure-house that he had built for himself in that fair vale, that
poor mad Ludwig, the late King of Bavaria, drowned himself. Poor
King! Fate gave him everything calculated to make a man happy,
excepting one thing, and that was the power of being happy. Fate
has a mania for striking balances. I knew a little shoeblack once
who used to follow his profession at the corner of Westminster
Bridge. Fate gave him an average of sixpence a day to live upon and
provide himself with luxuries; but she also gave him a power of
enjoying that kept him jolly all day long. He could buy as much
enjoyment for a penny as the average man could for a ten-pound note-
-more, I almost think. He did not know he was badly off, any more
than King Ludwig knew he was well off; and all day long he laughed
and played, and worked a little--not more than he could help--and
ate and drank, and gambled. The last time I saw him was in St.
Thomas's Hospital, into which he had got himself owing to his fatal
passion for walking along outside the stone coping of Westminster
Bridge. He thought it was "prime," being in the hospital, and told
me that he was living like a fighting-cock, and that he did not mean
to go out sooner than he could help. I asked him if he were not in
pain, and he said "Yes," when he "thought about it."
Poor little chap! he only managed to live like a "fighting-cock" for
three days more. Then he died, cheerful up to the last, so they
told me, like the plucky little English game-cock he was. He could
not have been more than twelve years old when he crowed his last.
It had been a short life for him, but a very merry one.
Now, if only this little beggar and poor old Ludwig could have gone
into partnership, and so have shared between them the shoeblack's
power of enjoying and the king's stock of enjoyments, what a good
thing it would have been for both of them--especially for King
Ludwig. He would never have thought of drowning himself then--life
would have been too delightful.
But that would not have suited Fate. She loves to laugh at men, and
to make of life a paradox. To the one, she played ravishing
strains, having first taken the precaution to make him stone-deaf.
To the other, she piped a few poor notes on a cracked tin-whistle,
and he thought it was music, and danced!
A few years later on, at the very same spot where King Ludwig threw
back to the gods their gift of life, a pair of somewhat foolish
young lovers ended their disappointments, and, finding they could
not be wedded together in life, wedded themselves together in death.
The story, duly reported in the newspapers as an item of foreign
intelligence, read more like some old Rhine-legend than the record
of a real occurrence in this prosaic nineteenth century.
He was a German Count, if I remember rightly, and, like most German
Counts, had not much money; and her father, as fathers will when
proposed to by impecunious would-be sons-in-law, refused his
consent. The Count then went abroad to try and make, or at all
events improve, his fortune. He went to America, and there he
prospered. In a year or two he came back, tolerably rich--to find,
however, that he was too late. His lady, persuaded of his death,
had been urged into a marriage with a rich somebody else. In
ordinary life, of course, the man would have contented himself with
continuing to make love to the lady, leaving the rich somebody else
to pay for her keep. This young couple, however, a little lighter
headed, or a little deeper hearted than the most of us, whichever it
may have been, and angry at the mocking laughter with which the air
around them seemed filled, went down one stormy night together to
the lake, and sobered droll Fate for an instant by turning her grim
comedy into a somewhat grimmer tragedy.
Soon after losing sight of Starnberg's placid waters, we plunged
into the gloom of the mountains, and began a long, winding climb
among their hidden recesses. At times, shrieking as if in terror,
we passed some ghostly hamlet, standing out white and silent in the
moonlight against the shadowy hills; and, now and then, a dark,
still lake, or mountain torrent whose foaming waters fell in a long
white streak across the blackness of the night.
We passed by Murnau in the valley of the Dragon, a little town which
possessed a Passion Play of its own in the olden times, and which,
until a few years ago, when the railway-line was pushed forward to
Partenkirchen, was the nearest station to Ober-Ammergau. It was a
tolerably steep climb up the road from Murnau, over Mount Ettal, to
Ammergau--so steep, indeed, that one stout pilgrim not many years
ago, died from the exertion while walking up. Sturdy-legged
mountaineer and pulpy citizen both had to clamber up side by side,
for no horses could do more than drag behind them the empty vehicle.
Every season, however, sees the European tourist more and more
pampered, and the difficulties and consequent pleasure and interest
of his journey more and more curtailed and spoilt. In a few years'
time, he will be packed in cotton-wool in his own back-parlour,
labelled for the place he wants to go to, and unpacked and taken out
when he gets there. The railway now carries him round Mount Ettal
to Oberau, from which little village a tolerably easy road, as
mountain roadways go, of about four or five English miles takes him
up to the valley of the Ammer.
It was midnight when our train landed us at Oberau station; but the
place was far more busy and stirring than on ordinary occasions it
is at mid-day. Crowds of tourists and pilgrims thronged the little
hotel, wondering, as also did the landlord, where they were all
going to sleep; and wondering still more, though this latter
consideration evidently did not trouble their host, how they were
going to get up to Ober-Ammergau in the morning in time for the
play, which always begins at 8 a.m.
Some were engaging carriages at fabulous prices to call for them at
five; and others, who could not secure carriages, and who had
determined to walk, were instructing worried waiters to wake them at
2.30, and ordering breakfast for a quarter-past three sharp. (I had
no idea there were such times in the morning!)
We were fortunate enough to find our land-lord, a worthy farmer,
waiting for us with a tumble-down conveyance, in appearance
something between a circus-chariot and a bath-chair, drawn by a
couple of powerful-looking horses; and in this, after a spirited
skirmish between our driver and a mob of twenty or so tourists, who
pretended to mistake the affair for an omnibus, and who would have
clambered into it and swamped it, we drove away.
Higher and higher we climbed, and grander and grander towered the
frowning moon-bathed mountains round us, and chillier and chillier
grew the air. For most of the way we crawled along, the horses
tugging us from side to side of the steep road; but, wherever our
coachman could vary the monotony of the pace by a stretch-gallop--
as, for instance, down the precipitous descents that occasionally
followed upon some extra long and toilsome ascent--he thoughtfully
did so. At such times the drive became really quite exciting, and
all our weariness was forgotten.
The steeper the descent, the faster, of course, we could go. The
rougher the road, the more anxious the horses seemed to be to get
over it quickly. During the gallop, B. and I enjoyed, in a
condensed form, all the advantages usually derived from crossing the
Channel on a stormy day, riding on a switchback railway, and being
tossed in a blanket--a hard, nobbly blanket, full of nasty corners
and sharp edges. I should never have thought that so many different
sensations could have been obtained from one machine!
About half-way up we passed Ettal, at the entrance to the Valley of
the Ammer. The great white temple, standing, surrounded by its
little village, high up amid the mountain solitudes, is a famous
place of pilgrimage among devout Catholics. Many hundreds of years
ago, one of the early Bavarian kings built here a monastery as a
shrine for a miraculous image of the Virgin that had been sent down
to him from Heaven to help him when, in a foreign land, he had stood
sore in need, encompassed by his enemies. Maybe the stout arms and
hearts of his Bavarian friends were of some service in the crisis
also; but the living helpers were forgotten. The old church and
monastery, which latter was a sort of ancient Chelsea Hospital for
decayed knights, was destroyed one terrible night some hundred and
fifty years ago by a flash of lightning; but the wonder-working
image was rescued unhurt, and may still be seen and worshipped
beneath the dome of the present much less imposing church which has
been reared upon the ruins of its ancestor.
The monastery, which was also rebuilt at the same time, now serves
the more useful purpose of a brewery.
From Ettal the road is comparatively level, and, jolting swiftly
over it, we soon reached Ober-Ammergau. Lights were passing to and
fro behind the many windows of the square stone houses, and dark,
strange-looking figures were moving about the streets, busy with
preparations for the great business that would commence with the
We rattled noisily through the village, our driver roaring out "Good
Night!" to everyone he passed in a voice sufficient to wake up
everybody who might be sleeping within a mile, charged light-
heartedly round half-a-dozen corners, trotted down the centre path
of somebody's front garden, squeezed our way through a gate, and
drew up at an open door, through which the streaming light poured
out upon two tall, comely lasses, our host's daughters, who were
standing waiting for us in the porch. They led us into a large,
comfortably furnished room, where a tempting supper of hot veal-
chops (they seem to live on veal in Germany) and white wine was
standing ready. Under ordinary circumstances I should have been
afraid that such a supper would cause me to be more eager for change
and movement during the ensuing six hours than for sleep; but I felt
that to-night it would take a dozen half-baked firebricks to keep me
awake five seconds after I had got my head on the pillow--or what
they call a pillow in Germany; and so, without hesitation, I made a
very satisfactory meal.
After supper our host escorted us to our bedroom, an airy apartment
adorned with various highly-coloured wood-carvings of a pious but
somewhat ghastly character, calculated, I should say, to exercise a
disturbing influence upon the night's rest of a nervous or sensitive
"Mind that we are called at proper time in the morning," said B. to
the man. "We don't want to wake up at four o'clock in the afternoon
and find that we have missed the play, after coming all this way to
"Oh! that will be all right," answered the old fellow. "You won't
get much chance of oversleeping yourself. We shall all be up and
about, and the whole village stirring, before five; and besides, the
band will be playing at six just beneath the window here, and the
cannon on the Kofel goes off at--"
"Look here," I interrupted, "that won't do for me, you know. Don't
you think that I am going to be woke up by mere riots outside the
window, and brass-band contests, and earthquakes, and explosions,
and those sort of things, because it can't be done that way.
Somebody's got to come into this room and haul me out of bed, and
sit down on the bed and see that I don't get into it again, and that
I don't go to sleep on the floor. That will be the way to get me up
to-morrow morning. Don't let's have any nonsense about stirring
villages and guns and German bands. I know what all that will end
in, my going back to England without seeing the show. I want to be
roused in the morning, not lulled off to sleep again."
B. translated the essential portions of this speech to the man, and
he laughed and promised upon his sacred word of honour that he would
come up himself and have us both out; and as he was a stalwart and
determined-looking man, I felt satisfied, and wished him "Good-
night," and made haste to get off my boots before I fell asleep.
TUESDAY, THE 27TH
A Pleasant Morning.--What can one Say about the Passion Play?--B.
Lectures.--Unreliable Description of Ober-Ammergau.--Exaggerated
Description of its Weather.--Possibly Untruthful Account of how the
Passion Play came to be Played.--A Good Face.--The Cultured
Schoolboy and his Ignorant Relations.
I am lying in bed, or, to speak more truthfully, I am sitting up on
a green satin, lace-covered pillow, writing these notes. A green
satin, lace-covered bed is on the floor beside me. It is about
eleven o'clock in the morning. B. is sitting up in his bed a few
feet off, smoking a pipe. We have just finished a light repast of--
what do you think? you will never guess--coffee and rolls. We
intend to put the week straight by stopping in bed all day, at all
events until the evening. Two English ladies occupy the bedroom
next to ours. They seem to have made up their minds to also stay
upstairs all day. We can hear them walking about their room,
muttering. They have been doing this for the last three-quarters of
an hour. They seem troubled about something.
It is very pleasant here. An overflow performance is being given in
the theatre to-day for the benefit of those people who could not
gain admittance yesterday, and, through the open windows, we can
hear the rhythmic chant of the chorus. Mellowed by the distance,
the wailing cadence of the plaintive songs, mingled with the shrill
Haydnistic strains of the orchestra, falls with a mournful sweetness
on our ears.
We ourselves saw the play yesterday, and we are now discussing it.
I am explaining to B. the difficulty I experience in writing an
account of it for my diary. I tell him that I really do not know
what to say about it.
He smokes for a while in silence, and then, taking the pipe from his
lips, he says:
"Does it matter very much what you say about it?"
I find much relief in that thought. It at once lifts from my
shoulders the oppressive feeling of responsibility that was weighing
me down. After all, what does it matter what I say? What does it
matter what any of us says about anything? Nobody takes much notice
of it, luckily for everybody. This reflection must be of great
comfort to editors and critics. A conscientious man who really felt
that his words would carry weight and influence with them would be
almost afraid to speak at all. It is the man who knows that it will
not make an ounce of difference to anyone what he says, that can
grow eloquent and vehement and positive. It will not make any
difference to anybody or anything what I say about the Ober-Ammergau
Passion Play. So I shall just say what I want to.
But what do I want to say? What can I say that has not been said,
and said much better, already? (An author must always pretend to
think that every other author writes better than he himself does.
He does not really think so, you know, but it looks well to talk as
though he did.) What can I say that the reader does not know, or
that, not knowing, he cares to know? It is easy enough to talk
about nothing, like I have been doing in this diary hitherto. It is
when one is confronted with the task of writing about SOMEthing,
that one wishes one were a respectable well-to-do sweep--a sweep
with a comfortable business of his own, and a pony--instead of an
"Well, why not begin by describing Ober-Ammergau."
I say it has been described so often.
"So has the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and the Derby Day, but
people go on describing them all the same, and apparently find other
people to read their descriptions. Say that the little village,
clustered round its mosque-domed church, nestles in the centre of a
valley, surrounded by great fir-robed hills, which stand, with the
cross-crowned Kofel for their chief, like stern, strong sentinels
guarding its old-world peace from the din and clamour of the outer
world. Describe how the square, whitewashed houses are sheltered
beneath great overhanging gables, and are encircled by carved wooden
balconies and verandahs, where, in the cool of the evening, peasant
wood-carver and peasant farmer sit to smoke the long Bavarian pipe,
and chat about the cattle and the Passion Play and village politics;
and how, in gaudy colours above the porch, are painted glowing
figures of saints and virgins and such-like good folk, which the
rains have sadly mutilated, so that a legless angel on one side of
the road looks dejectedly across at a headless Madonna on the other,
while at an exposed corner some unfortunate saint, more cruelly
dealt with by the weather than he ever was even by the heathen, has
been deprived of everything that he could call his own, with the
exception of half a head and a pair of extra-sized feet.
"Explain how all the houses are numbered according to the date they
were built, so that number sixteen comes next to number forty-seven,
and there is no number one because it has been pulled down. Tell
how unsophisticated visitors, informed that their lodgings are at
number fifty-three, go wandering for days and days round fifty-two,
under the not unreasonable impression that their house must be next
door, though, as a matter of fact, it is half a mile off at the
other end of the village, and are discovered one sunny morning,
sitting on the doorstep of number eighteen, singing pathetic
snatches of nursery rhymes, and trying to plat their toes into door-
mats, and are taken up and carried away screaming, to end their
lives in the madhouse at Munich.
"Talk about the weather. People who have stayed here for any length
of time tell me that it rains at Ober-Ammergau three days out of
every four, the reason that it does not rain on the fourth day being
that every fourth day is set apart for a deluge. They tell me,
also, that while it will be pouring with rain just in the village
the sun will be shining brightly all round about, and that the
villagers, when the water begins to come in through their roofs,
snatch up their children and hurry off to the nearest field, where
they sit and wait until the storm is over."
"Do you believe them--the persons that you say tell you these
tales?" I ask.
"Personally I do not," he replies. "I think people exaggerate to me
because I look young and innocent, but no doubt there is a ground-
work of truth in their statements. I have myself left Ober-Ammergau
under a steady drenching rain, and found a cloudless sky the other
side of the Kofel.
"Then," he continues, "you can comment upon the hardihood of the
Bavarian peasant. How he or she walks about bare-headed and bare-
footed through the fiercest showers, and seems to find the rain only
pleasantly cooling. How, during the performance of the Passion
Play, they act and sing and stand about upon the uncovered stage
without taking the slightest notice of the downpour of water that is
soaking their robes and running from their streaming hair, to make
great pools upon the boards; and how the audience, in the cheaper,
unroofed portion of the theatre, sit with equal stoicism, watching
them, no one ever dreaming even of putting up an umbrella--or, if he
does dream of doing so, experiencing a very rude awakening from the
sticks of those behind."
B. stops to relight his pipe at this point, and I hear the two
ladies in the next room fidgeting about and muttering worse than
ever. It seems to me they are listening at the door (our room and
theirs are connected by a door); I do wish that they would either
get into bed again or else go downstairs. They worry me.
"And what shall I say after I have said all that?" I ask B. when at
last he has started his pipe again.
"Oh! well, after that," he replies, "you can give the history of the
Passion Play; how it came to be played."
"Oh, but so many people have done that already," I say again.
"So much the better for you," is his reply. Having previously heard
precisely the same story from half a dozen other sources, the public
will be tempted to believe you when you repeat the account. Tell
them that during the thirty year's war a terrible plague (as if half
a dozen different armies, marching up and down their country,
fighting each other about the Lord only knows what, and living on
them while doing it, was not plague enough) swept over Bavaria,
devastating each town and hamlet. Of all the highland villages,
Ober-Ammergau by means of a strictly enforced quarantine alone kept,
for a while, the black foe at bay. No soul was allowed to leave the
village; no living thing to enter it.
"But one dark night Caspar Schuchler, an inhabitant of Ober-
Ammergau, who had been working in the plague-stricken neighbouring
village of Eschenlohe, creeping low on his belly, passed the drowsy
sentinels, and gained his home, and saw what for many a day he had
been hungering for--a sight of his wife and bairns. It was a
selfish act to do, and he and his fellow-villagers paid dearly for
it. Three days after he had entered his house he and all his family
lay dead, and the plague was raging through the valley, and nothing
seemed able to stay its course.
"When human means fail, we feel it is only fair to give Heaven a
chance. The good people who dwelt by the side of the Ammer vowed
that, if the plague left them, they would, every ten years, perform
a Passion Play. The celestial powers seem to have at once closed
with this offer. The plague disappeared as if by magic, and every
recurring tenth year since, the Ober-Ammergauites have kept their
promise and played their Passion Play. They act it to this day as a
pious observance. Before each performance all the characters gather
together on the stage around their pastor, and, kneeling, pray for a
blessing upon the work then about to commence. The profits that are
made, after paying the performers a wage that just compensates them
for their loss of time--wood-carver Maier, who plays the Christ,
only receives about fifty pounds for the whole of the thirty or so
performances given during the season, to say nothing of the winter's
rehearsals--is put aside, part for the temporal benefit of the
community, and the rest for the benefit of the Church. From
burgomaster down to shepherd lad, from the Mary and the Jesus down
to the meanest super, all work for the love of their religion, not
for money. Each one feels that he is helping forward the cause of
"And I could also speak," I add, "of grand old Daisenberger, the
gentle, simple old priest, 'the father of the valley,' who now lies
in silence among his children that he loved so well. It was he, you
know, that shaped the rude burlesque of a coarser age into the
impressive reverential drama that we saw yesterday. That is a
portrait of him over the bed. What a plain, homely, good face it
is! How pleasant, how helpful it is to come across a good face now
and then! I do not mean a sainted face, suggestive of stained glass
and marble tombs, but a rugged human face that has had the grit, and
rain, and sunshine of life rubbed into it, and that has gained its
expression, not by looking up with longing at the stars, but by
looking down with eyes full of laughter and love at the human things
"Yes," assented B. "You can put in that if you like. There is no
harm in it. And then you can go on to speak of the play itself, and
give your impressions concerning it. Never mind their being silly.
They will be all the better for that. Silly remarks are generally
more interesting than sensible ones."
"But what is the use of saying anything about it at all?" I urge.
"The merest school-boy must know all about the Ober-Ammergau Passion
Play by this time."
"What has that to do with you?" answers B. "You are not writing for
cultured school-boys. You are writing for mere simple men and
women. They will be glad of a little information on the subject,
and then when the schoolboy comes home for his holiday they will be
able, so far as this topic, at all events, is concerned, to converse
with him on his own level and not appear stupid.
"Come," he says, kindly, trying to lead me on, "what did you think
"Well," I reply, after musing for a while, "I think that a play of
eighteen acts and some forty scenes, which commences at eight
o'clock in the morning, and continues, with an interval of an hour
and a half for dinner, until six o'clock in the evening, is too
long. I think the piece wants cutting. About a third of it is
impressive and moving, and what the earnest student of the drama at
home is for ever demanding that a play should be--namely, elevating;
but I consider that the other two-thirds are tiresome."
"Quite so," answers B. "But then we must remember that the
performance is not intended as an entertainment, but as a religious
service. To criticise any part of it as uninteresting, is like
saying that half the Bible might very well have been omitted, and
that the whole story could have been told in a third of the space."
TUESDAY, THE 27TH--CONTINUED
We talk on.--An Argument.--The Story that Transformed the World.
"And now, as to the right or wrong of the performance as a whole.
Do you see any objection to the play from a religious point of
"No," I reply, "I do not; nor do I understand how anybody else, and
least of all a really believing Christian, can either. To argue as
some do, that Christianity should be treated as a sacred mystery, is
to argue against the whole scheme of Christianity. It was Christ
himself that rent the veil of the Temple, and brought religion down
into the streets and market-places of the world. Christ was a
common man. He lived a common life, among common men and women. He
died a common death. His own methods of teaching were what a
Saturday reviewer, had he to deal with the case, would undoubtedly
term vulgar. The roots of Christianity are planted deep down in the
very soil of life, amid all that is commonplace, and mean, and
petty, and everyday. Its strength lies in its simplicity, its
homely humanness. It has spread itself through the world by
speaking to the hearts, rather than to the heads of men. If it is
still to live and grow, it must be helped along by such methods as
these peasant players of Ober-Ammergau employ, not by high-class
essays and the learned discussions of the cultured.
"The crowded audience that sat beside us in the theatre yesterday
saw Christ of Nazareth nearer than any book, however inspired, could
bring him to them; clearer than any words, however eloquent, could
show him. They saw the sorrow of his patient face. They heard his
deep tones calling to them. They saw him in the hour of his so-
called triumph, wending his way through the narrow streets of
Jerusalem, the multitude that thronged round him waving their
branches of green palms and shouting loud hosannas.
"What a poor scene of triumph!--a poor-clad, pale-faced man, mounted
upon the back of a shuffling, unwilling little grey donkey, passing
slowly through the byways of a city, busy upon other things. Beside
him, a little band of worn, anxious men, clad in thread-bare
garments--fishermen, petty clerks, and the like; and, following, a
noisy rabble, shouting, as crowds in all lands and in all times
shout, and as dogs bark, they know not why--because others are
shouting, or barking. And that scene marks the highest triumph won
while he lived on earth by the village carpenter of Galilee, about
whom the world has been fighting and thinking and talking so hard
for the last eighteen hundred years.
"They saw him, angry and indignant, driving out the desecrators from
the temple. They saw the rabble, who a few brief moments before had
followed him, shouting 'Hosanna,' slinking away from him to shout
with his foes.
"They saw the high priests in their robes of white, with the rabbis
and doctors, all the great and learned in the land, sitting late
into the night beneath the vaulted roof of the Sanhedrin's council-
hall, plotting his death.
"They saw him supping with his disciples in the house of Simon.
They saw poor, loving Mary Magdalen wash his feet with costly
ointment, that might have been sold for three hundred pence, and the
money given to the poor--'and us.' Judas was so thoughtful for the
poor, so eager that other people should sell all they had, and give
the money to the poor--'and us.' Methinks that, even in this
nineteenth century, one can still hear from many a tub and platform
the voice of Judas, complaining of all waste, and pleading for the
"They were present at the parting of Mary and Jesus by Bethany, and
it will be many a day before the memory of that scene ceases to
vibrate in their hearts. It is the scene that brings the humanness
of the great tragedy most closely home to us. Jesus is going to
face sorrow and death at Jerusalem. Mary's instinct tells her that
this is so, and she pleads to him to stay.
"Poor Mary! To others he is the Christ, the Saviour of mankind,
setting forth upon his mighty mission to redeem the world. To
loving Mary Mother, he is her son: the baby she has suckled at her
breast, the little one she has crooned to sleep upon her lap, whose
little cheek has lain against her heart, whose little feet have made
sweet music through the poor home at Bethany: he is her boy, her
child; she would wrap her mother's arms around him and hold him safe
against all the world, against even heaven itself.
"Never, in any human drama, have I witnessed a more moving scene
than this. Never has the voice of any actress (and I have seen some
of the greatest, if any great ones are living) stirred my heart as
did the voice of Rosa Lang, the Burgomaster's daughter. It was not
the voice of one woman, it was the voice of Motherdom, gathered
together from all the world over.
"Oliver Wendell Holmes, in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, I
think, confesses to having been bewitched at different times by two
women's voices, and adds that both these voices belonged to German
women. I am not surprised at either statement of the good doctor's.
I am sure if a man did fall in love with a voice, he would find, on
tracing it to its source, that it was the voice of some homely-
looking German woman. I have never heard such exquisite soul-
drawing music in my life, as I have more than once heard float from
the lips of some sweet-faced German Fraulein when she opened her
mouth to speak. The voice has been so pure, so clear, so deep, so
full of soft caressing tenderness, so strong to comfort, so gentle
to soothe, it has seemed like one of those harmonies musicians tell
us that they dream of, but can never chain to earth.
"As I sat in the theatre, listening to the wondrous tones of this
mountain peasant-woman, rising and falling like the murmur of a sea,
filling the vast sky-covered building with their yearning notes,
stirring like a great wind stirs Aeolian strings, the thousands of
trembling hearts around her, it seemed to me that I was indeed
listening to the voice of the 'mother of the world,' of mother
"They saw him, as they had often seen him in pictures, sitting for
the last time with his disciples at supper. But yesterday they saw
him, not a mute, moveless figure, posed in conventional, meaningless
attitude, but a living, loving man, sitting in fellowship with the
dear friends that against all the world had believed in him, and had
followed his poor fortunes, talking with them for the last sweet
time, comforting them.
"They heard him bless the bread and wine that they themselves to
this day take in remembrance of him.
"They saw his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the human shrinking
from the cup of pain. They saw the false friend, Judas, betray him
with a kiss. (Alas! poor Judas! He loved Jesus, in a way, like the
rest did. It was only his fear of poverty that made him betray his
Master. He was so poor--he wanted the money so badly! We cry out
in horror against Judas. Let us pray rather that we are never
tempted to do a shameful action for a few pieces of silver. The
fear of poverty ever did, and ever will, make scamps of men. We
would like to be faithful, and noble, and just, only really times
are so bad that we cannot afford it! As Becky Sharp says, it is so
easy to be good and noble on five thousand a year, so very hard to
be it on the mere five. If Judas had only been a well-to-do man, he
might have been Saint Judas this day, instead of cursed Judas. He
was not bad. He had only one failing--the failing that makes the
difference between a saint and a villain, all the world over--he was
a coward; he was afraid of being poor.)
"They saw him, pale and silent, dragged now before the priests of
his own countrymen, and now before the Roman Governor, while the
voice of the people--the people who had cried 'Hosanna' to him--
shouted 'Crucify him! crucify him!' They saw him bleeding from the
crown of thorns. They saw him, still followed by the barking mob,
sink beneath the burden of his cross. They saw the woman wipe the
bloody sweat from off his face. They saw the last, long, silent
look between the mother and the son, as, journeying upward to his
death, he passed her in the narrow way through which he once had
ridden in brief-lived triumph. They heard her low sob as she turned
away, leaning on Mary Magdalen. They saw him nailed upon the cross
between the thieves. They saw the blood start from his side. They
heard his last cry to his God. They saw him rise victorious over
"Few believing Christians among the vast audience but must have
passed out from that strange playhouse with their belief and love
strengthened. The God of the Christian, for his sake, became a man,
and lived and suffered and died as a man; and, as a man, living,
suffering, dying among other men, he had that day seen him.
"The man of powerful imagination needs no aid from mimicry, however
excellent, however reverent, to unroll before him in its simple
grandeur the great tragedy on which the curtain fell at Calvary some
eighteen and a half centuries ago.
"A cultivated mind needs no story of human suffering to win or hold
it to a faith.
"But the imaginative and cultured are few and far between, and the
peasants of Ober-Ammergau can plead, as their Master himself once
pleaded, that they seek not to help the learned but the lowly.
"The unbeliever, also, passes out into the village street full of
food for thought. The rude sermon preached in this hillside temple
has shown to him, clearer than he could have seen before, the secret
wherein lies the strength of Christianity; the reason why, of all
the faiths that Nature has taught to her children to help them in
their need, to satisfy the hunger of their souls, this faith, born
by the Sea of Galilee, has spread the farthest over the world, and
struck its note the deepest into human life. Not by his doctrines,
not even by his promises, has Christ laid hold upon the hearts of
men, but by the story of his life."
TUESDAY, THE 27TH--CONTINUED
We Discuss the Performance.--A Marvellous Piece of Workmanship.--
The Adam Family.--Some Living Groups.--The Chief Performers.--A Good
Man, but a Bad Judas.--Where the Histrionic Artist Grows Wild.--An
"And what do you think of the performance AS a performance?" asks B.
"Oh, as to that," I reply, "I think what everyone who has seen the
play must think, that it is a marvellous piece of workmanship.
"Experienced professional stage-managers, with all the tricks and
methods of the theatre at their fingers' ends, find it impossible,
out of a body of men and women born and bred in the atmosphere of
the playhouse, to construct a crowd that looks like anything else
except a nervous group of broken-down paupers waiting for soup.
"At Ober-Ammergau a few village priests and representative
householders, who have probably never, any one of them, been inside
the walls of a theatre in their lives, dealing with peasants who
have walked straight upon the stage from their carving benches and
milking-stools, produce swaying multitudes and clamouring mobs and
dignified assemblages, so natural and truthful, so realistic of the
originals they represent, that you feel you want to leap upon the
stage and strangle them.
"It shows that earnestness and effort can very easily overtake and
pass mere training and technical skill. The object of the Ober-
Ammergau 'super' is, not to get outside and have a drink, but to
help forward the success of the drama.
"The groupings, both in the scenes of the play itself and in the
various tableaux that precede each act, are such as I doubt if any
artist could improve upon. The tableau showing the life of Adam and
Eve after their expulsion from Eden makes a beautiful picture.
Father Adam, stalwart and sunbrowned, clad in sheepskins, rests for
a moment from his delving, to wipe the sweat from his brow. Eve,
still looking fair and happy--though I suppose she ought not to,--
sits spinning and watching the children playing at 'helping father.'
The chorus from each side of the stage explained to us that this
represented a scene of woe, the result of sin; but it seemed to me
that the Adam family were very contented, and I found myself
wondering, in my common, earthly way, whether, with a little trouble
to draw them closer together, and some honest work to keep them from
getting into mischief, Adam and Eve were not almost better off than
they would have been mooning about Paradise with nothing to do but
"In the tableau representing the return of the spies from Canaan,
some four or five hundred men, women and children are most
effectively massed. The feature of the foreground is the sample
bunch of grapes, borne on the shoulders of two men, which the spies
have brought back with them from the promised land. The sight of
this bunch of grapes, we are told, astonished the children of
Israel. I can quite understand its doing so. The picture of it
used to astonish me, too, when I was a child.
"The scene of Christ's entry into Jerusalem surrounded by the
welcoming multitude, is a wonderful reproduction of life and
movement, and so also is the scene, towards the end, showing his
last journey up to Calvary. All Jerusalem seems to have turned out
to see him pass and to follow him, the many laughing, the few sad.
The people fill the narrow streets to overflowing, and press round
the spears of the Roman Guard.
"They throng the steps and balconies of every house, they strain to
catch a sight of Christ above each other's heads. They leap up on
each other's backs to gain a better vantage-ground from which to
hurl their jeers at him. They jostle irreverently against their
priests. Each individual man, woman, and child on the stage acts,
and acts in perfect harmony with all the rest.
"Of the chief members of the cast--Maier, the gentle and yet kingly
Christ; Burgomaster Lang, the stern, revengeful High Priest; his
daughter Rosa, the sweet-faced, sweet-voiced Virgin; Rendl, the
dignified, statesman-like Pilate; Peter Rendl, the beloved John,
with the purest and most beautiful face I have ever seen upon a man;
old Peter Hett, the rugged, loving, weak friend, Peter; Rutz, the
leader of the chorus (no sinecure, his post); and Amalie Deschler,
the Magdalen--it would be difficult to speak in terms of too high
praise. Themselves mere peasants--There are those two women again,
spying round our door; I am sure of it!" I exclaim, breaking off,
and listening to the sounds that come from the next room. "I wish
they would go downstairs; I am beginning to get quite nervous."
"Oh, I don't think we need worry," answers B. "They are quite old
ladies, both of them. I met them on the stairs yesterday. I am
sure they look harmless enough."
"Well, I don't know," I reply. "We are all by ourselves, you know.
Nearly everyone in the village is at the theatre, I wish we had got
B. reassures me, however, and I continue:
"Themselves mere peasants," I repeat, "they represent some of the
greatest figures in the world's history with as simple a dignity and
as grand a bearing as could ever have been expected from the
originals themselves. There must be a natural inborn nobility in
the character of these highlanders. They could never assume or act
that manner au grand seigneur with which they imbue their parts.
"The only character poorly played was that of Judas. The part of
Judas is really THE part of the piece, so far as acting is
concerned; but the exemplary householder who essayed it seemed to
have no knowledge or experience of the ways and methods of bad men.
There seemed to be no side of his character sufficiently in sympathy
with wickedness to enable him to understand and portray it. His
amateur attempts at scoundrelism quite irritated me. It sounds
conceited to say so, but I am convinced I could have given a much
more truthful picture of the blackguard myself.
"'Dear, dear me,' I kept on saying under my breath, 'he is doing it
all wrong. A downright unmitigated villain would never go on like
that; he would do so and so, he would look like this, and speak like
that, and act like the other. I know he would. My instinct tells
"This actor was evidently not acquainted with even the rudiments of
knavery. I wanted to get up and instruct him in them. I felt that
there were little subtleties of rascaldom, little touches of
criminality, that I could have put that man up to, which would have
transformed his Judas from woodenness into breathing life. As it
was, with no one in the village apparently who was worth his salt as
a felon to teach him, his performance was unconvincing, and Judas
became a figure to laugh rather than to shudder at.
"With that exception, the whole company, from Maier down to the
donkey, seemed to be fitted to their places like notes into a
master's melody. It would appear as though, on the banks of the
Ammer, the histrionic artist grew wild."
"They are real actors, all of them," murmurs B. enthusiastically,
"the whole village full; and they all live happily together in one
small valley, and never try to kill each other. It is marvellous!"
At this point, we hear a sharp knock at the door that separates the
before-mentioned ladies' room from our own. We both start and turn
pale, and then look at each other. B. is the first to recover his
presence of mind. Eliminating, by a strong effort, all traces of
nervousness from his voice, he calls out in a tone of wonderful
"Yes, what is it?"
"Are you in bed?" comes a voice from the other side of the door.
"Yes," answers B. "Why?"
"Oh! Sorry to disturb you, but we shall be so glad when you get up.
We can't go downstairs without coming through your room. This is
the only door. We have been waiting here for two hours, and our
train goes at three."
Great Scott! So that is why the poor old souls have been hanging
round the door, terrifying us out of our lives.
"All right, we'll be out in five minutes. So sorry. Why didn't you
call out before?"
FRIDAY, 30TH, OR SATURDAY, I AM NOT SURE WHICH
Troubles of a Tourist Agent.--His Views on Tourists.--The English
Woman Abroad.--And at Home.--The Ugliest Cathedral in Europe.--Old
Masters and New.--Victual-and-Drink-Scapes.--The German Band.--A
"Beer Garden."--Not the Women to Turn a Man's Head.--Difficulty of
Dining to Music.--Why one should Keep one's Mug Shut.
I think myself it is Saturday. B. says it is only Friday; but I am
positive I have had three cold baths since we left Ober-Ammergau,
which we did on Wednesday morning. If it is only Friday, then I
have had two morning baths in one day. Anyhow, we shall know to-
morrow by the shops being open or shut.
We travelled from Oberau with a tourist agent, and he told us all
his troubles. It seems that a tourist agent is an ordinary human
man, and has feelings just like we have. This had never occurred to
me before. I told him so.
"No," he replied, "it never does occur to you tourists. You treat
us as if we were mere Providence, or even the Government itself. If
all goes well, you say, what is the good of us, contemptuously; and
if things go wrong, you say, what is the good of us, indignantly. I
work sixteen hours a day to fix things comfortably for you, and you
cannot even look satisfied; while if a train is late, or a hotel
proprietor overcharges, you come and bully ME about it. If I see
after you, you mutter that I am officious; and if I leave you alone,
you grumble that I am neglectful. You swoop down in your hundreds
upon a tiny village like Ober-Ammergau without ever letting us know
even that you are coming, and then threaten to write to the Times
because there is not a suite of apartments and a hot dinner waiting
ready for each of you.
"You want the best lodgings in the place, and then, when at a
tremendous cost of trouble, they have been obtained for you, you
object to pay the price asked for them. You all try and palm
yourselves off for dukes and duchesses, travelling in disguise. You
have none of you ever heard of a second-class railway carriage--
didn't know that such things were made. You want a first-class
Pullman car reserved for each two of you. Some of you have seen an
omnibus in the distance, and have wondered what it was used for. To
suggest that you should travel in such a plebeian conveyance, is to
give you a shock that takes you two days to recover from. You
expect a private carriage, with a footman in livery, to take you
through the mountains. You, all of you, must have the most
expensive places in the theatre. The eight-mark and six-mark places
are every bit as good as the ten-mark seats, of which there are only
a very limited number; but you are grossly insulted if it is hinted
that you should sit in anything but the dearest chairs. If the
villagers would only be sensible and charge you ten marks for the
eight-mark places you would be happy; but they won't."
I must candidly confess that the English-speaking people one meets
with on the Continent are, taken as a whole, a most disagreeable
contingent. One hardly ever hears the English language spoken on
the Continent, without hearing grumbling and sneering.
The women are the most objectionable. Foreigners undoubtedly see
the very poorest specimens of the female kind we Anglo-Saxons have
to show. The average female English or American tourist is rude and
self-assertive, while, at the same time, ridiculously helpless and
awkward. She is intensely selfish, and utterly inconsiderate of
others; everlastingly complaining, and, in herself, drearily
uninteresting. We travelled down in the omnibus from Ober-Ammergau
with three perfect specimens of the species, accompanied by the
usual miserable-looking man, who has had all the life talked out of
him. They were grumbling the whole of the way at having been put to
ride in an omnibus. It seemed that they had never been so insulted
in their lives before, and they took care to let everybody in the
vehicle know that they had paid for first-class, and that at home
they kept their own carriage. They were also very indignant because
the people at the house where they had lodged had offered to shake
hands with them at parting. They did not come to Ober-Ammergau to
be treated on terms of familiarity by German peasants, they said.
There are many women in the world who are in every way much better
than angels. They are gentle and gracious, and generous and kind,
and unselfish and good, in spite of temptations and trials to which
mere angels are never subjected. And there are also many women in
the world who, under the clothes, and not unfrequently under the
title of a lady, wear the heart of an underbred snob. Having no
natural dignity, they think to supply its place with arrogance.
They mistake noisy bounce for self-possession, and supercilious
rudeness as the sign of superiority. They encourage themselves in
sleepy stupidity under the impression that they are acquiring
aristocratic "repose." They would appear to have studied "attitude"
from the pages of the London Journal, coquetry from barmaids--the
commoner class of barmaids, I mean--wit from three-act farces, and
manners from the servants'-hall. To be gushingly fawning to those
above them, and vulgarly insolent to everyone they consider below
them, is their idea of the way to hold and improve their position,
whatever it may be, in society; and to be brutally indifferent to
the rights and feelings of everybody else in the world is, in their
opinion, the hall-mark of gentle birth.
They are the women you see at private views, pushing themselves in
front of everybody else, standing before the picture so that no one
can get near it, and shouting out their silly opinions, which they
evidently imagine to be brilliantly satirical remarks, in strident
tones: the women who, in the stalls of the theatre, talk loudly all
through the performance; and who, having arrived in the middle of
the first act, and made as much disturbance as they know how, before
settling down in their seats, ostentatiously get up and walk out
before the piece is finished: the women who, at dinner-party and
"At Home"--that cheapest and most deadly uninteresting of all deadly
uninteresting social functions--(You know the receipt for a
fashionable "At Home," don't you? Take five hundred people, two-
thirds of whom do not know each other, and the other third of whom
cordially dislike each other, pack them, on a hot day, into a room
capable of accommodating forty, leave them there to bore one another
to death for a couple of hours with drawing-room philosophy and
second-hand scandal; then give them a cup of weak tea, and a piece
of crumbly cake, without any plate to eat it on; or, if it is an
evening affair, a glass of champagne of the you-don't-forget-you've-
had-it-for-a-week brand, and a ham-sandwich, and put them out into
the street again)--can do nothing but make spiteful remarks about
everybody whose name and address they happen to know: the women
who, in the penny 'bus (for, in her own country, the lady of the new
school is wonderfully economical and business-like), spreads herself
out over the seat, and, looking indignant when a tired little
milliner gets in, would leave the poor girl standing with her bundle
for an hour, rather than make room for her--the women who write to
the papers to complain that chivalry is dead!
B., who has been looking over my shoulder while I have been writing
the foregoing, after the manner of a Family Herald story-teller's
wife in the last chapter (fancy a man having to write the story of
his early life and adventures with his wife looking over his
shoulder all the time! no wonder the tales lack incident), says that
I have been living too much on sauerkraut and white wine; but I
reply that if anything has tended to interfere for a space with the
deep-seated love and admiration that, as a rule, I entertain for all
man and woman-kind, it is his churches and picture-galleries.
We have seen enough churches and pictures since our return to Munich
to last me for a very long while. I shall not go to church, when I
get home again, more than twice a Sunday, for months to come.
The inhabitants of Munich boast that their Cathedral is the ugliest
in Europe; and, judging from appearances, I am inclined to think
that the claim must be admitted. Anyhow, if there be an uglier one,
I hope I am feeling well and strong when I first catch sight of it.
As for pictures and sculptures, I am thoroughly tired of them. The
greatest art critic living could not dislike pictures and sculptures
more than I do at this moment. We began by spending a whole morning
in each gallery. We examined each picture critically, and argued
with each other about its "form" and "colour" and "treatment" and
"perspective" and "texture" and "atmosphere." I generally said it
was flat, and B. that it was out of drawing. A stranger overhearing
our discussions would have imagined that we knew something about
painting. We would stand in front of a canvas for ten minutes,
drinking it in. We would walk round it, so as to get the proper
light upon it and to better realise the artist's aim. We would back
away from it on to the toes of the people behind, until we reached
the correct "distance," and then sit down and shade our eyes, and
criticise it from there; and then we would go up and put our noses
against it, and examine the workmanship in detail.
This is how we used to look at pictures in the early stages of our
Munich art studies. Now we use picture galleries to practise spurts
I did a hundred yards this morning through the old Pantechnicon in
twenty-two and a half seconds, which, for fair heel-and-toe walking,
I consider very creditable. B. took five-eighths of a second longer
for the same distance; but then he dawdled to look at a Raphael.
The "Pantechnicon," I should explain, is the name we have, for our
own purposes, given to what the Munichers prefer to call the
Pinakothek. We could never pronounce Pinakothek properly. We
called it "Pynniosec," "Pintactec," and the "Happy Tack." B. one
day after dinner called it the "Penny Cock," and then we both got
frightened, and agreed to fix up some sensible, practical name for
it before any mischief was done. We finally decided on
"Pantechnicon," which begins with a "P," and is a dignified, old-
established name, and one that we can both pronounce. It is quite
as long, and nearly as difficult to spell, before you know how, as
the other, added to which it has a homely sound. It seemed to be
the very word.
The old Pantechnicon is devoted to the works of the old masters; I
shall not say anything about these, as I do not wish to disturb in
any way the critical opinion that Europe has already formed
concerning them. I prefer that the art schools of the world should
judge for themselves in the matter. I will merely remark here, for
purposes of reference, that I thought some of the pictures very
beautiful, and that others I did not care for.
What struck me as most curious about the exhibition was the number
of canvases dealing with food stuffs. Twenty-five per cent. of the
pictures in the place seem to have been painted as advertisements
for somebody's home-grown seeds, or as coloured supplements to be
given away with the summer number of the leading gardening journal
of the period.
"What could have induced these old fellows," I said to B., "to
choose such very uninteresting subjects? Who on earth cares to look
at the life-sized portrait of a cabbage and a peck of peas, or at
these no doubt masterly representations of a cut from the joint with
bread and vegetables? Look at that 'View in a ham-and-beef shop,'
No. 7063, size sixty feet by forty. It must have taken the artist a
couple of years to paint. Who did he expect was going to buy it?
And that Christmas-hamper scene over in the corner; was it painted,
do you think, by some poor, half-starved devil, who thought he would
have something to eat in the house, if it were only a picture of
B. said he thought that the explanation was that the ancient patrons
of art were gentry with a very strong idea of the fitness of things.
For "their churches and cathedrals," said B., "they had painted all
those virgins and martyrs and over-fed angels that you see
everywhere about Europe. For their bedrooms, they ordered those--
well, those bedroom sort of pictures, that you may have noticed here
and there; and then I expect they used these victual-and-drink-
scapes for their banqueting halls. It must have been like a gin-
and-bitters to them, the sight of all that food."
In the new Pantechnicon is exhibited the modern art of Germany.
This appeared to me to be exceedingly poor stuff. It seemed to
belong to the illustrated Christmas number school of art. It was
good, sound, respectable work enough. There was plenty of colour
about it, and you could tell what everything was meant for. But
there seemed no imagination, no individuality, no thought, anywhere.
Each picture looked as though it could have been produced by anyone
who had studied and practised art for the requisite number of years,
and who was not a born fool. At all events, this is my opinion;
and, as I know nothing whatever about art, I speak without
One thing I have enjoyed at Munich very much, and that has been the
music. The German band that you hear in the square in London while
you are trying to compose an essay on the civilising influence of
music, is not the sort of band that you hear in Germany. The German
bands that come to London are bands that have fled from Germany, in
order to save their lives. In Germany, these bands would be
slaughtered at the public expense and their bodies given to the poor
for sausages. The bands that the Germans keep for themselves are
Munich of all places in the now united Fatherland, has, I suppose,
the greatest reputation for its military bands, and the citizens are
allowed, not only to pay for them, but to hear them. Two or three
times a day in different parts of the city one or another of them
will be playing pro bono publico, and, in the evening, they are
loaned out by the authorities to the proprietors of the big beer-
"Go" and dash are the chief characteristics of their method; but,
when needed, they can produce from the battered, time-worn trumpets,
which have been handed down from player to player since the regiment
was first formed, notes as soft and full and clear as any that could
start from the strings of some old violin.
The German band in Germany has to know its business to be listened
to by a German audience. The Bavarian artisan or shopkeeper
understands and appreciates good music, as he understands and
appreciates good beer. You cannot impose upon him with an inferior
article. A music-hall audience in Munich are very particular as to
how their beloved Wagner is rendered, and the trifles from Mozart
and Haydn that they love to take in with their sausages and salad,
and which, when performed to their satisfaction, they will
thunderously applaud, must not be taken liberties with, or they will
know the reason why.
The German beer-garden should be visited by everyone who would see
the German people as well as their churches and castles. It is here
that the workers of all kinds congregate in the evening. Here,
after the labours of the day, come the tradesman with his wife and
family, the young clerk with his betrothed and--also her mother,
alack and well-a-day!--the soldier with his sweetheart, the students
in twos and threes, the little grisette with her cousin, the shop-
boy and the workman.
Here come grey-haired Darby and Joan, and, over the mug of beer they
share between them, they sit thinking of the children--of little
Lisa, married to clever Karl, who is pushing his way in the far-off
land that lies across the great sea; of laughing Elsie, settled in
Hamburg, who has grandchildren of her own now; of fair-haired Franz,
his mother's pet, who fell in sunny France, fighting for the
fatherland. At the next table sits a blushing, happy little maid,
full of haughty airs and graces, such as may be excused to a little
maid who has just saved a no doubt promising, but at present
somewhat awkward-looking, youth from lifelong misery, if not madness
and suicide (depend upon it, that is the alternative he put before
her), by at last condescending to give him the plump little hand,
that he, thinking nobody sees him, holds so tightly beneath the
table-cloth. Opposite, a family group sit discussing omelettes and
a bottle of white wine. The father contented, good-humoured, and
laughing; the small child grave and solemn, eating and drinking in
business-like fashion; the mother smiling at both, yet not
forgetting to eat.
I think one would learn to love these German women if one lived
among them for long. There is something so sweet, so womanly, so
genuine about them. They seem to shed around them, from their
bright, good-tempered faces, a healthy atmosphere of all that is
homely, and simple, and good. Looking into their quiet, steadfast
eyes, one dreams of white household linen, folded in great presses;
of sweet-smelling herbs; of savoury, appetising things being cooked
for supper; of bright-polished furniture; of the patter of tiny
feet; of little high-pitched voices, asking silly questions; of
quiet talks in the lamp-lit parlour after the children are in bed,
upon important questions of house management and home politics,
while long stockings are being darned.
They are not the sort of women to turn a man's head, but they are
the sort of women to lay hold of a man's heart--very gently at
first, so that he hardly knows that they have touched it, and then,
with soft, clinging tendrils that wrap themselves tighter and
tighter year by year around it, and draw him closer and closer--
till, as, one by one, the false visions and hot passions of his
youth fade away, the plain homely figure fills more and more his
days--till it grows to mean for him all the better, more lasting,
true part of life--till he feels that the strong, gentle mother-
nature that has stood so long beside him has been welded firmly into
his own, and that they twain are now at last one finished whole.
We had our dinner at a beer-garden the day before yesterday. We
thought it would be pleasant to eat and drink to the accompaniment
of music, but we found that in practice this was not so. To dine
successfully to music needs a very strong digestion--especially in
The band that performs at a Munich beer-garden is not the sort of
band that can be ignored. The members of a Munich military band are
big, broad-chested fellows, and they are not afraid of work. They
do not talk much, and they never whistle. They keep all their
breath to do their duty with. They do not blow their very hardest,
for fear of bursting their instruments; but whatever pressure to the
square inch the trumpet, cornet, or trombone, as the case may be, is
calculated to be capable of sustaining without permanent injury (and
they are tolerably sound and well-seasoned utensils), that pressure
the conscientious German bandsman puts upon each square inch of the
trumpet, cornet, or trombone, as the case may be.
If you are within a mile of a Munich military band, and are not
stone deaf, you listen to it, and do not think of much else. It
compels your attention by its mere noise; it dominates your whole
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