Irvin S. Cobb
Part 1 out of 5
Prepared by Kirk Pearson , with help from the
volunteers at the Distributed Proofreaders project.
by Irvin S. Cobb
To My Small Daughter
Who bade me shed a tear at the tomb of Napoleon, which I was very
glad to do, because when I got there my feet certainly were hurting
The picture on page 81 purporting to show the undersigned leaping
head first into a German feather-bed does the undersigned a
cruel injustice. He has a prettier figure than that--oh, oh, much
The reader is earnestly entreated not to look at the picture on
page 81. It is the only blot on the McCutcheon of this book.
We Are Going Away From Here
Foreword.--It has always seemed to me that the principal drawback
about the average guidebook is that it is over-freighted with
facts. Guidebooks heretofore have made a specialty of facts--have
abounded in them; facts to be found on every page and in every
paragraph. Reading such a work, you imagine that the besotted
author said to himself, "I will just naturally fill this thing
chock-full of facts"--and then went and did so to the extent of a
Now personally I would be the last one in the world to decry facts
as such. In the abstract I have the highest opinion of them. But
facts, as someone has said, are stubborn things; and stubborn
things, like stubborn people, are frequently tiresome. So it
occurred to me that possibly there might be room for a guidebook
on foreign travel which would not have a single indubitable fact
concealed anywhere about its person. I have even dared to hope
there might be an actual demand on the part of the general public
for such a guidebook. I shall endeavor to meet that desire--if
While we are on the subject I wish to say there is probably not a
statement made by me here or hereafter which cannot readily be
controverted. Communications from parties desiring to controvert
this or that assertion will be considered in the order received.
The line forms on the left and parties will kindly avoid crowding.
Triflers and professional controverters save stamps.
With these few introductory remarks we now proceed to the first
subject, which is The Sea: Its Habits and Peculiarities, and the
Quaint Creatures Found upon Its Bosom.
From the very start of this expedition to Europe I labored under
a misapprehension. Everybody told me that as soon as I had got
my sea legs I would begin to love the sea with a vast and passionate
love. As a matter of fact I experienced no trouble whatever in
getting my sea legs. They were my regular legs, the same ones I
use on land. It was my sea stomach that caused all the bother.
First I was afraid I should not get it, and that worried me no
little. Then I got it and was regretful. However, that detail
will come up later in a more suitable place. I am concerned now
with the departure.
Somewhere forward a bugle blares; somewhere rearward a bell jangles.
On the deck overhead is a scurry of feet. In the mysterious
bowels of the ship a mighty mechanism opens its metal mouth and
speaks out briskly. Later it will talk on steadily, with a measured
and a regular voice; but now it is heard frequently, yet intermittently,
like the click of a blind man's cane. Beneath your feet the ship,
which has seemed until this moment as solid as a rock, stirs the
least little bit, as though it had waked up. And now a shiver
runs all through it and you are reminded of that passage from
Pygmalion and Galatea where Pygmalion says with such feeling:
She starts; she moves; she seems to feel the thrill of life along
You are under way. You are finally committed to the great adventure.
The necessary good-bys have already been said. Those who in the
goodness of their hearts came to see you off have departed for
shore, leaving sundry suitable and unsuitable gifts behind. You
have examined your stateroom, with its hot and cold decorations,
its running stewardess, its all-night throb service, and its windows
overlooking the Hudson--a stateroom that seemed so large and
commodious until you put one small submissive steamer trunk and
two scared valises in it. You are tired, and yon white bed, with
the high mudguards on it, looks mighty good to you; but you feel
that you must go on deck to wave a fond farewell to the land you
love and the friends you are leaving behind.
You fight your way to the open through companionways full of
frenzied persons who are apparently trying to travel in every
direction at once. On the deck the illusion persists that it is
the dock that is moving and the ship that is standing still. All
about you your fellow passengers crowd the rails, waving and
shouting messages to the people on the dock; the people on the
dock wave back and shout answers. About every other person is
begging somebody to tell auntie to be sure to write. You gather
that auntie will be expected to write weekly, if not oftener.
As the slice of dark water between boat and dock widens, those who
are left behind begin running toward the pierhead in such numbers
that each wide, bright-lit door-opening in turn suggests a flittering
section of a moving-picture film. The only perfectly calm person
in sight is a gorgeous, gold-laced creature standing on the outermost
gunwale of the dock, wearing the kind of uniform that a rear admiral
of the Swiss navy would wear--if the Swiss had any navy--and holding
a speaking trumpet in his hand. This person is not excited, for
he sends thirty-odd-thousand-ton ships off to Europe at frequent
intervals, and so he is impressively and importantly blase about
it; but everybody else is excited. You find yourself rather that
way. You wave at persons you know and then at persons you do not
You continue to wave until the man alongside you, who has spent
years of his life learning to imitate a siren whistle with his
face, suddenly twines his hands about his mouth and lets go a
terrific blast right in your ear. Something seems to warn you
that you are not going to care for this man.
The pier, ceasing to be a long, outstretched finger, seems to fold
back into itself, knuckle-fashion, and presently is but a part
of the oddly foreshortened shoreline, distinguishable only by the
black dot of watchers clustered under a battery of lights, like a
swarm of hiving bees. Out in midstream the tugs, which have been
convoying the ship, let go of her and scuttle off, one in this
direction and one in that, like a brace of teal ducks getting out
of a walrus' way.
Almost imperceptibly her nose straightens down the river and soon
on the starboard quarter--how quickly one picks up these nautical
terms!--looming through the harbor mists, you behold the statue
of Miss Liberty, in her popular specialty of enlightening the
world. So you go below and turn in. Anyway, that is what I did;
for certain of the larger ships of the Cunard line sail at midnight
or even later, and this was such a ship.
For some hours I lay awake, while above me and below me and all
about me the boat settled down to her ordained ship's job, and
began drawing the long, soothing snores that for five days and
nights she was to continue drawing without cessation. There were
so many things to think over. I tried to remember all the
authoritative and conflicting advice that hadbeen offered to me
by traveled friends and well-wishers.
Let's see, now: On shipboard I was to wear only light clothes,
because nobody ever caught cold at sea. I was to wear the heaviest
clothes I had, because the landlubber always caught cold at sea.
I was to tip only those who served me. I was to tip all hands in
moderation, whether they served me or not. If I felt squeamish I
was to do the following things: Eat something. Quit eating. Drink
something. Quit drinking. Stay on deck. Go below and lie perfectly
flat. Seek company. Avoid same. Give it up. Keep it down.
There was but one point on which all of them were agreed. On no
account should I miss Naples; I must see Naples if I did not see
another solitary thing in Europe. Well, I did both--I saw Naples;
and now I should not miss Naples if I never saw it again, and I
do not think I shall. As regards the other suggestions these
friends of mine gave me, I learned in time that all of them were
right and all of them were wrong.
For example, there was the matter of a correct traveling costume.
Between seasons on the Atlantic one wears what best pleases one.
One sees at the same time women in furs and summer boys in white
ducks. Tweed-enshrouded Englishmen and linen-clad American girls
promenade together, giving to the decks that pleasing air of variety
and individuality of apparel only to be found in southern California
during the winter, and in those orthodox pictures in the book of
Robinson Crusoe, where Robinson is depicted as completely wrapped
up in goatskins, while Man Friday is pirouetting round as nude as
a raw oyster and both of them are perfectly comfortable. I used
to wonder how Robinson and Friday did it. Since taking an ocean
trip I understand perfectly. I could do it myself now.
There certainly were a lot of things to think over. I do not
recall now exactly the moment when I ceased thinking them over.
A blank that was measurable by hours ensued. I woke from a dream
about a scrambled egg, in which I was the egg, to find that morning
had arrived and the ship was behaving naughtily.
Here was a ship almost as long as Main Street is back home, and
six stories high, with an English basement; with restaurants and
elevators and retail stores in her; and she was as broad as a
courthouse; and while lying at the dock she had appeared to be
about the most solid and dependable thing in creation--and yet in
just a few hours' time she had altered her whole nature, and was
rolling and sliding and charging and snorting like a warhorse. It
was astonishing in the extreme, and you would not have expected it
Even as I focused my mind on this phenomenon the doorway was
stealthily entered by a small man in a uniform that made him look
something like an Eton schoolboy and something like a waiter in a
dairy lunch. I was about to have the first illuminating experience
with an English manservant. This was my bedroom steward, by name
Lubly--William Lubly. My hat is off to William Lubly--to him and
to all his kind. He was always on duty; he never seemed to sleep;
he was always in a good humor, and he always thought of the very
thing you wanted just a moment or two before you thought of it
yourself, and came a-running and fetched it to you. Now he was
softly stealing in to close my port. As he screwed the round,
brass-faced window fast he glanced my way and caught my apprehensive
"Good morning, sir," he said, and said it in such a way as to
convey a subtle compliment.
"Is it getting rough outside?" I said--I knew about the inside.
"Thank you," he said; "the sea 'as got up a bit, sir--thank you,
I was gratified--nay more, I was flattered. And it was so delicately
done too. I really did not have the heart to tell him that I was
not solely responsible--that I had, so to speak, collaborators;
but Lubly stood ready always to accord me a proper amount of
recognition for everything that happened on that ship. Only the
next day, I think it was, I asked him where we were. This occurred
on deck. He had just answered a lady who wanted to know whether
we should have good weather on the day we landed at Fishguard and
whether we should get in on time. Without a moment's hesitation
he told her; and then he turned to me with the air of giving credit
where credit is due, and said:
"Thank you, sir--we are just off the Banks, thank you."
Lubly ran true to form. The British serving classes are ever like
that, whether met with at sea or on their native soil. They are
a great and a noble institution. Give an English servant a kind
word and he thanks you. Give him a harsh word and he still thanks
you. Ask a question of a London policeman--he tells you fully and
then he thanks you. Go into an English shop and buy something--the
clerk who serves you thanks you with enthusiasm. Go in and fail
to buy something--he still thanks you, but without the
One kind of Englishman says Thank you, sir; and one kind--the
Cockney who has been educated--says Thenks; but the majority brief
it into a short but expressive expletive and merely say: Kew. Kew
is the commonest word in the British Isles. Stroidinary runs it
a close second, but Kew comes first. You hear it everywhere.
Hence Kew Gardens; they are named for it.
All the types that travel on a big English-owned ship were on ours.
I take it that there is a requirement in the maritime regulations
to the effect that the set must be complete before a ship may put
to sea. To begin with, there was a member of a British legation
from somewhere going home on leave, for a holiday, or a funeral.
At least I heard it was a holiday, but I should have said he was
going home for the other occasion. He wore an Honorable attached
to the front of his name and carried several extra initials behind
in the rumble; and he was filled up with that true British reserve
which a certain sort of Britisher always develops while traveling
in foreign lands. He was upward of seven feet tall, as the crow
flies, and very thin and rigid.
Viewing him, you got the impression that his framework all ran
straight up and down, like the wires in a bird cage, with barely
enough perches extending across from side to side to keep him from
caving in and crushing the canaries to death. On second thought
I judge I had better make this comparison in the singular number
--there would not have been room in him for more than one canary.
Every morning for an hour, and again every afternoon for an hour,
he marched solemnly round and round the promenade deck, always
alone and always with his mournful gaze fixed on the far horizon.
As I said before, however, he stood very high in the air, and it
may have been he feared, if he ever did look down at his feet, he
should turn dizzy and be seized with an uncontrollable desire to
leap off and end all; so I am not blaming him for that.
He would walk his hour out to the sixtieth second of the sixtieth
minute and then he would sit in his steamer chair, as silent as a
glacier and as inaccessible as one. If it were afternoon he would
have his tea at five o'clock and then, with his soul still full
of cracked ice, he would go below and dress for dinner; but he
never spoke to anyone. His steamer chair was right-hand chair to
mine and often we practically touched elbows; but he did not see
I had a terrible thought. Suppose now, I said to myself--just
suppose that this ship were to sink and only we two were saved;
and suppose we were cast away on a desert island and spent years
and years there, never knowing each other's name and never mingling
together socially until the rescue ship came along--and not even
then unless there was some mutual acquaintance aboard her to
introduce us properly! It was indeed a frightful thought! It made
Among our company was a younger son going home after a tour of the
Colonies--Canada and Australia, and all that sort of bally rot.
I believe there is always at least one younger son on every
well-conducted English boat; the family keeps him on a remittance
and seems to feel easier in its mind when he is traveling. The
British statesman who said the sun never sets on British possessions
spoke the truth, but the reporters in committing his memorable
utterance to paper spelt the keyword wrong--undoubtedly he meant
the other kind--the younger kind.
This particular example of the species was in every way up to grade
and sample. A happy combination of open air, open pores and open
casegoods gave to his face the exact color of a slice of rare roast
beef; it also had the expression of one. With a dab of English
mustard in the lobe of one ear and a savory bit of watercress stuck
in his hair for a garnish, he could have passed anywhere for a
slice of cold roast beef.
He was reasonably exclusive too. Not until the day we landed did
he and the Honorable member of the legation learn--quite by chance
--that they were third cousins--or something of that sort--to one
another. And so, after the relationship had been thoroughly
established through the kindly offices of a third party, they
fraternized to the extent of riding up to London on the same
boat-train, merely using different compartments of different
carriages. The English aristocrat is a tolerably social animal
when traveling; but, at the same time, he does not carry his
sociability to an excess. He shows restraint.
Also, we had with us the elderly gentleman of impaired disposition,
who had crossed thirty times before and was now completing his
thirty-first trip, and getting madder and madder about it every
minute. I saw him only with his clothes on; but I should say,
speaking offhand, that he had at least fourteen rattles and a
button. His poison sacs hung 'way down. Others may have taken
them for dewlaps, but I knew better; they were poison sacs.
It was quite apparent that he abhorred the very idea of having to
cross to Europe on the same ocean with the rest of us, let alone
on the same ship. And for persons who were taking their first
trip abroad his contempt was absolutely unutterable; he choked at
the bare mention of such a criminal's name and offense. You would
hear him communing with himself and a Scotch and soda.
"Bah!" he would say bitterly, addressing the soda-bottle. "These
idiots who've never been anywhere talking about this being rough
weather! Rough weather, mind you! Bah! People shouldn't be allowed
to go to sea until they know something about it. Bah!"
By the fourth day out his gums were as blue as indigo, and he was
so swelled up with his own venom he looked dropsical. I judged
his bite would have caused death in from twelve to fourteen minutes,
preceded by coma and convulsive rigors. We called him old Colonel
Gila Monster or Judge Stinging Lizard, for short.
There was the spry and conversational gentleman who looked like
an Englishman, but was of the type commonly denominated in our own
land as breezy. So he could not have been an Englishman. Once
in a while there comes along an Englishman who is windy, and
frequently you meet one who is drafty; but there was never a breezy
With that interest in other people's business which the close
communion of a ship so promptly breeds in most of us, we fell to
wondering who and what he might be; but the minute the suspect
came into the salon for dinner the first night out I read his
secret at a glance. He belonged to a refined song-and-dance team
doing sketches in vaudeville. He could not have been anything
else--he had jet buttons on his evening clothes.
There was the young woman--she had elocutionary talents, it turned
out afterward, and had graduated with honors from a school of
expression--who assisted in getting up the ship's concert and then
took part in it, both of those acts being mistakes on her part,
as it proved.
And there was the official he-beauty of the ship. He was without
a wrinkle in his clothes--or his mind either; and he managed to
maneuver so that when he sat in the smoking room he always faced
a mirror. That was company enough for him. He never grew lonely
or bored then. Only one night he discovered something wrong about
one of his eyebrows. He gave a pained start; and then, oblivious
of those of us who hovered about enjoying the spectacle, he spent
a long time working with the blemish. The eyebrow was stubborn,
though, and he just couldn't make it behave; so he grew petulant
and fretful, and finally went away to bed in a huff. Had it not
been for fear of stopping his watch, I am sure he would have slapped
himself on the wrist.
This fair youth was one of the delights of the voyage. One felt
that if he had merely a pair of tweezers and a mustache comb and
a hand glass he would never, never be at a loss for a solution of
the problem that worries so many writers for the farm journals--a
way to spend the long winter evenings pleasantly.
My Bonny Lies over the Ocean--Lies and Lies and Lies
Of course, we had a bridal couple and a troupe of professional
deep-sea fishermen aboard. We just naturally had to have them.
Without them, I doubt whether the ship could have sailed. The
bridal couple were from somewhere in the central part of Ohio and
they were taking their honeymoon tour; but, if I were a bridal
couple from the central part of Ohio and had never been to sea
before, as was the case in this particular instance, I should take
my honeymoon ashore and keep it there. I most certainly should!
This couple of ours came aboard billing and cooing to beat the
lovebirds. They made it plain to all that they had just been
married and were proud of it. Their baggage was brand-new, and
the groom's shoes were shiny with that pristine shininess which,
once destroyed, can never be restored; and the bride wore her
Just prior to sailing and on the morning after they were all over
the ship. Everywhere you went you seemed to meet them and they
were always wrestling. You entered a quiet side passage--there
they were, exchanging a kiss--one of the long-drawn, deep-siphoned,
sirupy kind. You stepped into the writing room thinking to find
it deserted, and at sight of you they broke grips and sprang apart,
eyeing you like a pair of startled fawns surprised by the cruel
huntsman in a forest glade. At all other times, though, they had
eyes but for each other.
A day came, however--and it was the second day out--when they were
among the missing. For two days and two nights, while the good
ship floundered on the tempestuous bosom of the overwrought ocean,
they were gone from human ken. On the afternoon of the third day,
the sea being calmer now, but still sufficiently rough to satisfy
the most exacting, a few hardy and convalescent souls sat in a
shawl-wrapped row on the lee side of the ship.
There came two stewards, bearing with them pillows and blankets
and rugs. These articles were disposed to advantage in two steamer
chairs. Then the stewards hurried away; but presently they
reappeared, dragging the limp and dangling forms of the bridal
couple from the central part of Ohio. But oh, my countrymen, what
a spectacle! And what a change from what had been!
The going-away gown was wrinkled, as though worn for a period of
time by one suddenly and sorely stricken in the midst of health.
The bride's once well-coifed hair hung in lank disarray about a
face that was the color of prime old sage cheese--yellow, with a
fleck of green here and there--and in her wan and rolling eye was
the hunted look of one who hears something unpleasant stirring a
long way off and fears it is coming this way.
Side by side the stewards stretched them prone on their chairs and
tucked them in. Her face was turned from him. For some time
both of them lay there without visible signs of life--just two
muffled, misery-stricken heaps. Then, slowly and languidly, the
youth stretched forth an arm from his wrappings and fingered the
swaddling folds that enveloped the form of his beloved.
It may have been he thought it was about time to begin picking the
coverlid, or it may have been the promptings of reawakened romance,
once more feebly astir within his bosom. At any rate, gently and
softly, his hand fell on the rug about where her shoulder ought
to be. She still had life enough left in her to shake it off--and
she did. Hurt, he waited a moment, then caressed her again. "Stop
that!" she cried in a low but venomous tone. "Don't you dare touch
So he touched her no more, but only lay there mute and motionless;
and from his look one might plumb the sorrows of his soul and know
how shocked he was, and how grieved and heartstricken! Love's
young dream was o'er! He had thought she loved him, but now he
knew better. Their marriage had been a terrible mistake and he
would give her back her freedom; he would give it back to her as
soon as he was able to sit up. Thus one interpreted his
On the day we landed, however, they were seen again. We were
nosing northward through a dimpled duckpond of a sea, with the
Welsh coast on one side and Ireland just over the way. People who
had not been seen during the voyage came up to breathe, wearing
the air of persons who had just returned from the valley of the
shadow and were mighty glad to be back; and with those others came
our bridal couple.
I inadvertently stumbled on them in an obscure companionway. Their
cheeks again wore the bloom of youth and health, and they were in
a tight clinch; it was indeed a pretty sight. Love had returned
on roseate pinions and the honeymoon had been resumed at the point
where postponed on account of bad weather.
They had not been seasick, though. I heard them say so. They had
been indisposed, possibly from something they had eaten; but they
had not been seasick. Well, I had my own periods of indisposition
going over; and if it had been seasickness I should not hesitate
a moment about coming right out and saying so. In these matters
I believe in being absolutely frank and aboveboard. For the life
of me I cannot understand why people will dissemble and lie about
this thing of being seasick. To me their attitude is a source of
On land the average person is reasonably proud of having been
sick--after he begins to get better. It gives him something to
talk about. The pale and interesting invalid invariably commands
respect ashore. In my own list of acquaintances I number several
persons--mainly widowed ladies with satisfactory incomes--who
never feel well unless they are ill. In the old days they would
have had resort to patent medicines and the family lot at Laurel
Grove Cemetery; but now they go in for rest cures and sea voyages,
and the baths at Carlsbad and specialists, these same being main
contributing causes to the present high cost of living, and also
helping to explain what becomes of some of those large life-insurance
policies you read about. Possibly you know the type I am
describing--the lady who, when planning where she will spend the
summer, sends for catalogues from all the leading sanatoriums.
We had one such person with us.
She had been surgically remodeled so many times that she dated
everything from her last operation. At least six times in her
life she had been down with something that was absolutely incurable,
and she was now going to Homburg to have one of the newest and
most fatal German diseases in its native haunts, where it would
be at its best. She herself said that she was but a mere shell;
and for the first few meals she ate like one--like a large, empty
shell with plenty of curves inside it.
However, when, after a subsequent period of seclusion, she emerged
from her stateroom wearing the same disheveled look that Jonah
must have worn when he and the whale parted company, do you think
she would confess she had been seasick? Not by any means! She said
she had had a raging headache. But she could not fool me. She
had the stateroom next to mine and I had heard what I had heard.
She was from near Boston and she had the near-Boston accent; and
she was the only person I ever met who was seasick with the broad
Personally I abhor those evasions, which deceive no one. If I had
been seasick I should not deny it here or elsewhere. For a time
I thought I was seasick. I know now I was wrong--but I thought
so. There was something about the sardels served at lunch--their
look or their smell or something--which seemed to make them
distasteful to me; and I excused myself from the company at the
table and went up and out into the open air. But the deck was
unpleasantly congested with great burly brutes--beefy, carnivorous,
overfed creatures, gorged with victuals and smoking disgustingly
strong black cigars, and grinning in an annoying and meaning sort
of way every time they passed a body who preferred to lie quiet.
The rail was also moving up and down in a manner that was annoying
and wearisome for the eye to watch--first tipping up and up and up
until half the sky was hidden, then dipping down and down and down
until the gray and heaving sea seemed ready to leap over the side
and engulf us. So I decided to go below and jot down a few notes.
On arriving at my quarters I changed my mind again. I decided to
let the notes wait a while and turn in.
It is my usual custom when turning in to remove the left shoe as
well as the right one and to put on my pajamas; but the pajamas
were hanging on a hook away over on the opposite side of the
stateroom, which had suddenly grown large and wide and full of
great distances; and besides, I thought it was just as well to
have the left shoe where I could put my hand on it when I needed
it again. So I retired practically just as I was and endeavored,
as per the admonitions of certain friends, to lie perfectly flat.
No doubt this thing of lying flat is all very well for some people
--but suppose a fellow has not that kind of a figure?
Nevertheless, I tried. I lay as flat as I could, but the indisposition
persisted; in fact, it increased materially. The manner in which
my pajamas, limp and pendent from that hook, swayed and swung back
and forth became extremely distasteful to me; and if by mental
treatment I could have removed them from there I should assuredly
have done so. But that was impossible.
Along toward evening I began to think of food. I thought of it
not from its gastronomic aspect, but rather in the capacity of
ballast. I did not so much desire the taste of it as the feel of
it. So I summoned Lubly--he, at least, did not smile at me in
that patronizing, significant way--and ordered a dinner that
included nearly everything on the dinner card except Lubly's thumb.
The dinner was brought to me in relays and I ate it--ate it all!
This step I know now was ill-advised. It is true that for a short
time I felt as I imagine a python in a zoo feels when he is full
of guinea-pigs--sort of gorged, you know, and sluggish, and only
Then ensued the frightful denouement. It ensued almost without
warning. At the time I felt absolutely positive that I was seasick.
I would have sworn to it. If somebody had put a Bible on my chest
and held it there I would cheerfully have laid my right hand on
it and taken a solemn oath that I was seasick. Indeed,I believed
I was so seasick that I feared--hoped, rather--I might never
recover from it. All I desired at the moment was to get it over
with as quickly and as neatly as possible.
As in the case of drowning persons, there passed in review before
my eyes several of the more recent events of my past life--meals
mostly. I shall, however, pass hastily over these distressing
details, merely stating in parentheses, so to speak, that I did
not remember those string-beans at all. I was positive then, and
am yet, that I had not eaten string-beans for nearly a week. But
enough of this!
I was sure I was seasick; and I am convinced any inexperienced
bystander, had there been one there, would have been misled by my
demeanor into regarding me as a seasick person--but it was a wrong
diagnosis. The steward told me so himself when he called the next
morning. He came and found me stretched prone on the bed of
affliction; and he asked me how I felt, to which I replied with a
low and hollow groan--tolerably low and exceedingly hollow. It
could not have been any hollower if I had been a megaphone.
So he looked me over and told me that I had climate fever. We
were passing through the Gulf Stream, where the water was warmer
than elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and I had a touch of climate
fever. It was a very common complaint in that latitude; many
persons suffered from it. The symptoms were akin to seasickness,
it was true; yet the two maladies were in no way to be confused.
As soon as we passed out of the Gulf Stream he felt sure I would
be perfectly well. Meantime he would recommend that I get Lubly
to take the rest of my things off and then remain perfectly quiet.
He was right about it too.
Regardless of what one may think oneself, one is bound to accept
the statement of an authority on this subject; and if a steward
on a big liner, who has traveled back and forth across the ocean
for years, is not an authority on climate fever, who is? I looked
at it in that light. And sure enough, when we had passed out of
the Gulf Stream and the sea had smoothed itself out, I made a
speedy and satisfactory recovery; but if it had been seasickness
I should have confessed it in a minute. I have no patience with
those who quibble and equivocate in regard to their having been
I had one relapse--a short one, but painful. In an incautious
moment, when I wist not wot I wotted, I accepted an invitation
from the chief engineer to go below. We went below--miles and
miles, I think--to where, standing on metal runways that were hot
to the foot, overalled Scots ministered to the heart and the lungs
and the bowels of that ship. Electricity spat cracklingly in our
faces, and at our sides steel shafts as big as the pillars of a
temple spun in coatings of spumy grease; and through the double
skin of her we could hear, over our heads, a mighty Niagaralike
churning as the slew-footed screws kicked us forward twenty-odd
knots an hour. Someone raised the cover of a vat, and peering
down into the opening we saw a small, vicious engine hard at work,
entirely enveloped in twisty, coily, stewy depths of black oil,
like a devil-fish writhing in sea-ooze and cuttle-juice.
So then we descended another mile or two to an inferno, full of
naked, sooty devils forever feeding sulphurous pitfires in the
nethermost parlors of the damned; but they said this was the
stokehole; and I was in no condition to argue with them, for I
had suddenly begun to realize that I was far from being a well
person. As one peering through a glass darkly, I saw one of the
attendant demons sluice his blistered bare breast with cold water,
so that the sweat and grime ran from him in streams like ink; and
peering in at a furnace door I saw a great angry sore of coals all
scabbed and crusted over. Then another demon, wielding a nine-foot
bar daintily as a surgeon wields a scalpel, reached in and stabbed
it in the center, so that the fire burst through and gushed up red
and rich, like blood from a wound newly lanced.
I had seen enough and to spare; but my guide brought me back by
way of the steerage, in order that I might know how the other half
lives. There was nothing here, either of smell or sight, to upset
the human stomach--third class is better fed and better quartered
now on those big ships than first class was in those good old early
days--but I had held in as long as I could and now I relapsed. I
relapsed in a vigorous manner--a whole-souled, boisterous manner.
People halfway up the deck heard me relapsing, and I will warrant
some of them were fooled too--they thought I was seasick.
It was due to my attack of climate fever that I missed the most
exciting thing which happened on the voyage. I refer to the
incident of the professional gamblers and the youth from Jersey
City. From the very first there was one passenger who had been
picked out by all the knowing passengers as a professional gambler;
for he was the very spit-and-image of a professional gambler as
we have learned to know him in story books. Did he not dress in
plain black, without any jewelry? He certainly did. Did he not
have those long, slender, flexible fingers? Such was, indeed, the
correct description of those fingers. Was not his eye a keen
steely-blue eye that seemed to have the power of looking right
through you? Steely-blue was the right word, all right. Well,
then, what more could you ask?
Behind his back sinister yet fascinating rumors circulated. He
was the brilliant but unscrupulous scion of a haughty house in
England. He had taken a first degree at Oxford, over there, and
the third one at police headquarters, over here. Women simply
could not resist him. Let him make up his mind to win a woman and
she was a gone gosling. His picture was to be found in rogues'
galleries and ladies' lockets. And sh-h-h! Listen! Everybody knew
he was the identical crook who, disguised in woman's clothes,
escaped in the last lifeboat that left the sinking Titanic. Who
said so? Why--er--everybody said so!
It came as a grievous disappointment to all when we found out the
truth, which was that he was the booking agent for a lyceum bureau,
going abroad to sign up some foreign talent for next season's
Chautauquas; and the only gambling he had ever done was on the
chance of whether the Tyrolian Yodelers would draw better than our
esteemed secretary of state--or vice versa.
Meantime the real professionals had established themselves cozily
and comfortably aboard, had rigged the trap and cheese-baited it,
and were waiting for the coming of one of the class that is born
so numerously in this country. If you should be traveling this
year on one of the large trans-Atlantic ships, and there should
come aboard two young well-dressed men and shortly afterward a
middle-aged well-dressed man with a flat nose, who was apparently
a stranger to the first two; and if on the second night out in the
smoking room, while the pool on the next day's run was being
auctioned, one of the younger men, whom we will call Mr. Y, should
appear to be slightly under the influence of malt, vinous or
spirituous liquors--or all three of them at once--and should,
without seeming provocation, insist on picking a quarrel with the
middle-aged stranger, whom we will call Mr. Z; and if further along
in the voyage Mr. Z should introduce himself to you and suggest a
little game of auction bridge for small stakes in order to while
away the tedium of travel; and if it should so fall out that Mr.
Y and his friend Mr. X chanced to be the only available candidates
for a foursome at this fascinating pursuit; and if Mr. Z, being
still hostile toward the sobered and repentant Mr. Y, should decline
to take on either Mr. Y or his friend X as a partner, but chose
you instead; and if on the second or third deal you picked up your
cards and found you had an apparently unbeatable hand and should
bid accordingly; and Mr. X should double you; and Mr. Z, sitting
across from you should come gallantly right back and redouble it;
and Mr. Y, catching the spirit of the moment, should double again
--and so on and so forth until each point, instead of being worth
only a paltry cent or two, had accumulated a value of a good many
cents--if all these things or most of them should befall in the
order enumerated--why, then, if I were you, gentle reader, I would
have a care. And I should leave that game and go somewhere else
to have it too--lest a worse thing befall you as it befell the
guileless young Jerseyman on our ship. After he had paid out a
considerable sum on being beaten--by just one card--upon the playing
of his seemingly unbeatable hand and after the haunting and elusive
odor of eau de rodent had become plainly perceptible all over the
ship, he began, as the saying goes, to smell a rat himself, and
straightway declined to make good his remaining losses, amounting
to quite a tidy amount. Following this there were high words,
meaning by that low ones, and accusations and recriminations, and
at eventide when the sunset was a welter of purple and gold, there
was a sudden smashing of glassware in the smoking room and a flurry
of arms and legs in a far corner, and a couple of pained stewards
scurrying about saying, "Ow, now, don't do that, sir, if you please,
sir, thank you, sir!" And one of the belligerents came forth from
the melee wearing a lavender eye with saffron trimmings, as though
to match the sunset, and the other with a set of skinned knuckles,
emblematic of the skinning operations previously undertaken. And
through all the ship ran the hissing tongues of scandal and gossip.
Out of wild rumor and cross-rumor, certain salient facts were
eventually precipitated like sediment from a clouded solution.
It seemed that the engaging Messrs. X, Y and Z had been induced,
practically under false pretenses to book passage, they having
read in the public prints that the prodigal and card-foolish son
of a cheese-paring millionaire father meant to take the ship too;
but he had grievously disappointed them by not coming aboard at
all. Then, when in an effort to make their traveling expenses
back, they uncorked their newest trick and device for inspiring
confidence in gudgeons, the particular gudgeon of their choosing
had refused to pay up. Naturally they were fretful and peevish
in the extreme. It spoiled the whole trip for them.
Except for this one small affair it was, on the whole, a pleasant
voyage. We had only one storm and one ship's concert, and at the
finish most of us were strong enough to have stood another storm.
And the trip had been worth a lot to us--at least it had been worth
a lot to me, for I had crossed the ocean on one of the biggest
hotels afloat. I had amassed quite a lot of nautical terms that
would come in very handy for stunning the folks at home when I got
back. I had had my first thrill at the sight of foreign shores.
And just by casual contact with members of the British aristocracy,
I had acquired such a heavy load of true British hauteur that in
parting on the landing dock I merely bowed distantly toward those
of my fellow Americans to whom I had not been introduced; and they,
having contracted the same disease, bowed back in the same haughty
and distant manner.
When some of us met again, however, in Vienna, the insulation had
been entirely rubbed off and we rushed madly into one another's
arms and exchanged names and addresses; and, babbling feverishly
the while, we told one another what our favorite flower was, and
our birthstone and our grandmother's maiden name, and what we
thought of a race of people who regarded a cup of ostensible coffee
and a dab of honey as constituting a man's-size breakfast. And,
being pretty tolerably homesick by that time, we leaned in toward
a common center and gave three loud, vehement cheers for the land
of the country sausage and the home of the buckwheat cake--and,
as giants refreshed, went on our ways rejoicing.
That, though, was to come later. At present we are concerned with
the trip over and what we had severally learned from it. I
personally had learned, among other things, that the Atlantic
Ocean, considered as such, is a considerably overrated body.
Having been across it, even on so big and fine and well-ordered a
ship as this ship was, the ocean, it seemed to me, was not at all
what it had been cracked up to be.
During the first day out it is a novelty and after that a
monotony--except when it is rough; and then it is a doggoned
nuisance. Poets without end have written of the sea, but I take
it they stayed at home to do their writing. They were not on the
bounding billow when they praised it; if they had been they might
have decorated the billow, but they would never have praised it.
As the old song so happily put it: My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean!
And a lot of others have lied over it too; but I will not--at least
not just yet. Perhaps later on I may feel moved to do so; but at
this moment I am but newly landed from it and my heart is full of
rankling resentment toward the ocean and all its works.
I speak but a sober conviction when I say that the chief advantage
to be derived from taking an ocean voyage is not that you took it,
but that you have it to talk about afterward. And, to my mind,
the most inspiring sight to bewitnessed on a trip across the
Atlantic is the Battery--viewed from the ocean side, coming back.
Do I hear any seconds to that motion?
Bathing Oneself on the Other Side
My first experience with the bathing habits of the native Aryan
stocks of Europe came to pass on the morning after the night of
our arrival in London.
London disappointed me in one regard--when I opened my eyes that
morning there was no fog. There was not the slightest sign of a
fog. I had expected that my room would be full of fog of about
the consistency of Scotch stage dialect--soupy, you know, and thick
and bewildering. I had expected that servants with lighted tapers
in their hands would be groping their way through corridors like
caves, and that from the street without, would come the hoarse-voiced
cries of cabmen lost in the enshrouding gray. You remember Dickens
always had them hoarse-voiced.
This was what I confidently expected. Such, however, was not to
be. I woke to a consciousness that the place was flooded with
indubitable and undoubted sunshine. To be sure, it was not the
sharp, hard sunshine we have in America, which scours and bleaches
all it touches, until the whole world has the look of having just
been clear-starched and hot-ironed. It was a softened, smoke-edged,
pastel-shaded sunshine; nevertheless it was plainly recognizable
as the genuine article.
Nor was your London shadow the sharply outlined companion in black
who accompanies you when the weather is fine in America. Your
shadow in London was rather a dim and wavery gentleman who caught
up with you as you turned out of the shaded by-street; who went
with you a distance and then shyly vanished, but was good company
while he stayed, being restful, as your well-bred Englishman nearly
always is, and not overly aggressive.
There was no fog that first morning, or the next morning, or any
morning of the twenty-odd we spent in England. Often the weather
was cloudy, and occasionally it was rainy; and then London would
be drenched in that wonderful gray color which makes it, scenically
speaking, one of the most fascinating spots on earth; but it was
never downright foggy and never downright cold. English friends
used to speak to me about it. They apologized for good weather
at that season of the year, just as natives of a Florida winter
resort will apologize for bad.
"You know, old dear," they would say, "this is most unusual--most
stroidinary, in fact. It ought to be raw and nasty and foggy at
this time of the year, and here the cursed weather is perfectly
fine--blast it!" You could tell they were grieved about it, and
disappointed too. Anything that is not regular upsets Englishmen
frightfully. Maybe that is why they enforce their laws so rigidly
and obey them so beautifully.
Anyway I woke to find the fog absent, and I rose and prepared to
take my customary cold bath. I am much given to taking a cold
bath in the morning and speaking of it afterward. People who take
a cold bath every day always like to brag about it, whether they
take it or not.
The bathroom adjoined the bedroom, but did not directly connect
with it, being reached by means of a small semi-private hallway.
It was a fine, noble bathroom, white tiled and spotless; and one
side of it was occupied by the longest, narrowest bathtub I ever
saw. Apparently English bathtubs are constructed on the principle
that every Englishman who bathes is nine feet long and about
eighteen inches wide, whereas the approximate contrary is frequently
the case. Draped over a chair was the biggest, widest, softest
bathtowel ever made. Shem, Ham and Japhet could have dried
themselves on that bathtowel, and there would still have been
enough dry territory left for some of the animals--not the large,
woolly animals like the Siberian yak, but the small, slick, porous
animals such as the armadillo and the Mexican hairless dog.
So I wedged myself into the tub and had a snug-fitting but most
luxurious bath; and when I got back to my room the maid had arrived
with the shaving water. There was a knock at the door, and when
I opened it there stood a maid with a lukewarm pint of water in a
long-waisted, thin-lipped pewter pitcher. There was plenty of hot
water to be had in the bathroom, with faucets and sinks all handy
and convenient, and a person might shave himself there in absolute
comfort; but long before the days of pipes and taps an Englishman
got his shaving water in a pewter ewer, and he still gets it so.
It is one of the things guaranteed him under Magna Charta and he
demands it as a right; but I, being but a benighted foreigner,
left mine in the pitcher, and that evening the maid checked me up.
"You didn't use the shaving water I brought you to-day, sir!" she
said. "It was still in the jug when I came in to tidy up, sir."
Her tone was grieved; so, after that, to spare her feelings, I
used to pour it down the sink. But if I were doing the trip over
again I would drink it for breakfast instead of the coffee the
waiter brought me--the shaving water being warmish and containing,
so far as I could tell, no deleterious substances. And if the
bathroom were occupied at the time I would shave myself with the
coffee. I judge it might work up into a thick and durable lather.
It is certainly not adapted for drinking purposes.
The English, as a race, excel at making tea and at drinking it
after it is made; but among them coffee is still a mysterious and
murky compound full of strange by-products. By first weakening
it and wearing it down with warm milk one may imbibe it; but it
is not to be reckoned among the pleasures of life. It is a solemn
and a painful duty.
On the second morning I was splashing in my tub, gratifying that
amphibious instinct which has come down to us from the dim
evolutionary time when we were paleozoic polliwogs, when I made
the discovery that there were no towels in the bathroom. I glanced
about keenly, seeking for help and guidance in such an emergency.
Set in the wall directly above the rim of the tub was a brass
plate containing two pushbuttons. One button, the uppermost one,
was labeled Waiter--the other was labeled Maid.
This was disconcerting. Even in so short a stay under the roof
of an English hotel I had learned that at this hour the waiter
would be hastening from room to room, ministering to Englishmen
engaged in gumming their vital organs into an impenetrable mass
with the national dish of marmalade; and that the maid would also
be busy carrying shaving water to people who did not need it.
Besides, of all the classes I distinctly do not require when I am
bathing, one is waiters and the other is maids. For some minutes
I considered the situation, without making any headway toward a
suitable solution of it; meantime I was getting chilled. So I
dried myself--sketchily--with a toothbrush and the edge of the
window-shade; then I dressed, and in a still somewhat moist state
I went down to interview the management about it. I first visited
the information desk and told the youth in charge there I wished
to converse with some one in authority on the subject of towels.
After gazing at me a spell in a puzzled manner he directed me to
go across the lobby to the cashier's department. Here I found a
gentleman of truly regal aspect. His tie was a perfect dream of
a tie, and he wore a frock coat so slim and long and black it made
him look as though he were climbing out of a smokestack. Presenting
the case as though it were a supposititious one purely, I said to
"Presuming now that one of your guests is in a bathtub and finds
he has forgotten to lay in any towels beforehand--such a thing
might possibly occur, you know--how does he go about summoning the
man-servant or the valet with a view to getting some?"
"Oh, sir," he replied, "that's very simple. You noticed two
pushbuttons in your bathroom, didn't you?"
"I did," I said, "and that's just the difficulty. One of them is
for the maid and the other is for the waiter."
"Quite so, sir," he said, "quite so. Very well, then, sir: You
ring for the waiter or the maid--or, if you should charnce to be
in a hurry, for both of them; because, you see, one of them might
charnce to be en--"
"One moment," I said. "Let me make my position clear in this
matter: This Lady Susanna--I do not know her last name, but you
will doubtless recall the person I mean, because I saw several
pictures of her yesterday in your national art gallery--this Lady
Susanna may have enjoyed taking a bath with a lot of snoopy old
elders lurking round in the background; but I am not so constituted.
I was raised differently from that. With me, bathing has ever
been a solitary pleasure. This may denote selfishness on my part;
but such is my nature and I cannot alter it. All my folks feel
about it as I do. We are a very peculiar family that way. When
bathing we do not invite an audience. Nor do I want one. A crowd
would only embarrass me. I merely desire a little privacy and,
here and there, a towel."
"Ah, yes! Quite so, sir," he said; "but you do not understand me.
As I said before, you ring for the waiter or the maid. When one
of them comes you tell them to send you the manservant on your
floor; and when he comes you tell him you require towels, and he
goes to the linen cupboard and gets them and fetches them to you,
sir. It's very simple, sir."
"But why," I persisted, "why do this thing by a relay system? I
don't want any famishing gentleman in this place to go practically
unmarmaladed at breakfast because I am using the waiter to conduct
preliminary negotiations with a third party in regard to a bathtowel."
"But it is so very simple, sir," he repeated patiently. "You ring
for the waiter or the ma--"
I checked him with a gesture. I felt that I knew what he meant
to say; I also felt that if any word of mine might serve to put
this establishment on an easy-running basis they could have it and
"Listen!" I said. "You will kindly pardon the ignorance of a poor,
red, partly damp American who has shed his eagle feathers but still
has his native curiosity with him! Why not put a third button in
that bathroom labeled Manservant or Valet or Towel Boy, or something
of that general nature? And then when a sufferer wanted towels,
and wanted 'em quick, he could get them without blocking the wheels
of progress and industry. We may still be shooting Mohawk Indians
and the American bison in the streets of Buffalo, New York; and
we may still be saying: 'By Geehosaphat, I swan to calculate!
--aanyway, I note that we still say that in all your leading comic
papers; but when a man in my land goes a-toweling, he goes a-toweling
--and that is all there is to it, positively! In our secret lodges
it may happen that the worshipful master calls the august swordbearer
to him and bids him communicate with the grand outer guardian and
see whether the candidate is suitably attired for admission; but
in ordinary life we cut out the middleman wherever possible. Do
you get my drift?"
"Oh, yes, sir," he said; "but I fear you do not understand me.
As I told you, it's very simple--so very simple, sir. We've never
found it necessary to make a change. You ring for the waiter or
for the maid, and you tell them to tell the manservant--"
"All right," I said, breaking in. I could see that his arguments
were of the circular variety that always came back to the starting
point. "But, as a favor to me, would you kindly ask the proprietor
to request the head cook to communicate with the carriage starter
and have him inform the waiter that when in future I ring the
bathroom bell in a given manner--to wit: one long, determined ring
followed by three short, passionate rings--it may be regarded as
a signal for towels?"
So saying, I turned on my heel and went away, for I could tell he
was getting ready to begin all over again. Later on I found out
for myself that, in this particular hotel, when you ring for the
waiter or the maid the bell sounds in the service room, where those
functionaries are supposed to be stationed; but when you ring for
the manservant a small arm-shaped device like a semaphore drops
down over your outer door. But what has the manservant done that
he should be thus discriminated against? Why should he not have a
bell of his own? So far as I might judge, the poor fellow has few
enough pleasures in life as it is. Why should he battle with the
intricacies of a block-signal system when everybody else round the
place has a separate bell? And why all this mystery and mummery
over so simple and elemental a thing as a towel?
To my mind, it merely helps to prove that among the English the
art of bathing is still in its infancy. The English claim to have
discovered the human bath and they resent mildly the assumption
that any other nation should become addicted to it; whereas I argue
that the burden of the proof shows we do more bathing to the square
inch of surface than the English ever did. At least, we have
superior accommodations for it.
The day is gone in this country when Saturday night was the big
night for indoor aquatic sports and pastimes; and no gentleman as
was a gentleman would call on his ladylove and break up her plans
for the great weekly ceremony. There may have been a time in
certain rural districts when the bathing season for males practically
ended on September fifteenth, owing to the water in the horsepond
becoming chilled; but that time has passed. Along with every
modern house that is built to-day, in country or town, we expect
bathrooms and plenty of them. With us the presence of a few
bathtubs more or less creates no great amount of excitement--nor
does the mere sight of open plumbing particularly stir our people;
whereas in England a hotelkeeper who has bathrooms on the premises
advertises the fact on his stationery.
If in addition to a few bathrooms a Continental hotelkeeper has a
decrepit elevator he makes more noise over it than we do over a
Pompeian palmroom or an Etruscan roofgarden; he hangs a sign above
his front door testifying to his magnificent enterprise in this
regard. The Continental may be a born hotelkeeper, as has been
frequently claimed for him; but the trouble is he usually has no
hotel to keep. It is as though you set an interior decorator to
run a livery stable and expected him to make it attractive. He
may have the talents, but he is lacking in the raw material.
It was in a London apartment house, out Maida Vale way, that I
first beheld the official bathtub of an English family establishment.
It was one of those bathtubs that flourished in our own land at
about the time of the Green-back craze--a coffin-shaped, boxed-in
affair lined with zinc; and the zinc was suffering from tetter or
other serious skin trouble and was peeling badly. There was a
current superstition about the place to the effect that the bathroom
and the water supply might on occasion be heated with a device
known in the vernacular as a geezer.
The geezer was a sheet-iron contraption in the shape of a pocket
inkstand, and it stood on a perch in the corner, like a Russian
icon, with a small blue flame flickering beneath it. It looked
as though its sire might have been a snare-drum and its dam a dark
lantern, and that it got its looks from its father and its heating
powers from the mother's side of the family. And the plumbing
fixtures were of the type that passed out of general use on the
American side of the water with the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.
I was given to understand that this was a fair sample of the
average residential London bathroom--though the newer apartment
houses that are going up have better ones, they told me.
In English country houses the dearth of bathing appliances must
be even more dearthful. I ran through the columns of the leading
English fashion journal and read the descriptions of the large
country places that were there offered for sale or lease. In many
instances the advertisements were accompanied by photographic
reproductions in half tone showing magnificent old places, with
Queen Anne fronts and Tudor towers and Elizabethan entails and
Georgian mortgages, and what not.
Seeing these views I could conjure up visions of rooks cawing in
the elms; of young curates in flat hats imbibing tea on green
lawns; of housekeepers named Meadows or Fleming, in rustling black
silk; of old Giles--fifty years, man and boy, on the place--wearing
a smock frock and leaning on a pitchfork, with a wisp of hay caught
in the tines, lamenting that the 'All 'asn't been the same, zur,
since the young marster was killed ridin' to 'ounds; and then
pensively wiping his eyes on a stray strand of the hay.
With no great stretch of the imagination I could picture a gouty,
morose old lord with a secret sorrow and a brandy breath; I could
picture a profligate heir going deeper and deeper in debt, but
refusing to the bitter end to put the ax to the roots of the
ancestral oaks. I could imagine these parties readily, because I
had frequently read about both of them in the standard English
novels; and I had seen them depicted in all the orthodox English
dramas I ever patronized. But I did not notice in the appended
descriptions any extended notice of heating arrangements; most of
the advertisements seemed to slur over that point altogether.
And, as regards bathing facilities in their relation to the
capacities of these country places, I quote at random from the
figures given: Eighteen rooms and one bath; sixteen rooms and two
baths; fourteen rooms and one bath; twenty-one rooms and two baths;
eleven rooms and one bath; thirty-four rooms and two baths.
Remember that by rooms bedrooms were meant; the reception rooms
and parlors and dining halls and offices, and the like, were listed
I asked a well-informed Englishman how he could reconcile this
discrepancy between bedrooms and bathrooms with the current belief
that the English had a practical monopoly of the habit of bathing.
After considering the proposition at some length he said I should
understand there was a difference in England between taking a bath
and taking a tub--that, though an Englishman might not be particularly
addicted to a bath, he must have his tub every morning. But I
submit that the facts prove this explanation to have been but a
Let us, for an especially conspicuous example, take the house that
has thirty-four sleeping chambers and only two baths. Let us
imagine the house to be full of guests, with every bedroom occupied;
and, if it is possible to do so without blushing, let us further
imagine a couple of pink-and-white English gentlemen in the two
baths. If preferable, members of the opposite sex may imagine two
ladies. Very well, then; this leaves the occupants of thirty-two
bedrooms all to be provided with large tin tubs at approximately
the same hour of the morning. Where would any household muster
the crews to man all those portable tin tubs? And where would the
proprietor keep his battery of thirty-two tubs when they were not
in use? Not in the family picture gallery, surely!
From my readings of works of fiction describing the daily life of
the English upper classes I know full well that the picture gallery
is lined with family portraits; that each canvased countenance
there shows the haughtily aquiline but slightly catarrhal nose,
which is a heritage of this house; that each pair of dark and
brooding eyes hide in their depths the shadow of that dread Nemesis
which, through all the fateful centuries, has dogged this brave
but ill-starred race until now, alas! the place must be let,
furnished, to some beastly creature in trade, such as an American
Here at this end we have the founder of the line, dubbed a knight
on the gory field of Hastings; and there at that end we have the
present heir, a knighted dub. We know they cannot put the tubs
in the family picture gallery; there is no room. They need an
armory for that outfit, and no armory is specified in the
So I, for one, must decline to be misled or deceived by specious
generalities. If you are asking me my opinion I shall simply say
that the bathing habit of Merrie England is a venerable myth, and
likewise so is the fresh-air fetish. The error an Englishman makes
is that he mistakes cold air for fresh air.
In cold weather an Englishman arranges a few splintered jackstraws,
kindling fashion, in an open grate somewhat resembling in size and
shape a wallpocket for bedroom slippers. On this substructure he
gently deposits one or more carboniferous nodules the size of a
pigeon egg, and touches a match to the whole. In the more fortunate
instances the result is a small, reddish ember smoking intermittently.
He stands by and feeds the glow with a dessert-spoonful of fuel
administered at half-hour intervals, and imagines he really has a
fire and that he is really being warmed.
Why the English insist on speaking of coal in the plural when they
use it only in the singular is more than I can understand. Conceded
that we overheat our houses and our railroad trains and our hotel
lobbies in America, nevertheless we do heat them. In winter their
interiors are warmer and less damp than the outer air--which is
more than can be said for the lands across the sea, where you have
to go outdoors to thaw.
If there are any outdoor sleeping porches in England I missed them
when I was there; but as regards the ventilation of an English
hotel I may speak with authority, having patronized one. To begin
with, the windows have heavy shades. Back of these in turn are
folding blinds; then long, close curtains of muslin; then, finally,
thick, manifolding, shrouding draperies of some airproof woolen
stuff. At nighttime the maid enters your room, seals the windows,
pulls down the shades, locks the shutters, closes the curtains,
draws the draperies--and then, I think, calks all the cracks with
oakum. When the occupant of that chamber retires to rest he is
as hermetic as old Rameses the First, safe in his tomb, ever dared
to hope to be. That reddish aspect of the face noted in connection
with the average Englishman is not due to fresh air, as has been
popularly supposed; it is due to the lack of it. It is caused by
congestion. For years he has been going along, trying to breathe
without having the necessary ingredients at hand.
At that, England excels the rest of Europe in fresh air, just as
it excels it in the matter of bathing facilities. There is some
fresh air left in England--an abundant supply in warm weather, and
a stray bit here and there in cold. On the Continent there is
none to speak of.
Jacques, the Forsaken
In Germany the last fresh air was used during the Thirty Years'
War, and there has since been no demand for any. Austria has no
fresh air at all--never did have any, and therefore has never felt
the need of having any. Italy--the northern part of it anyhow--is
also reasonably shy of this commodity.
In the German-speaking countries all street cars and all railway
trains sail with battened hatches. In their palmiest days the
Jimmy Hope gang could not have opened a window in a German sleeping
car--not without blasting; and trying to open a window in the
ordinary first or second class carriage provides healthful exercise
for an American tourist, while affording a cheap and simple form
of amusement for his fellow passengers. If, by superhuman efforts
and at the cost of a fingernail or two, he should get one open,
somebody else in the compartment as a matter of principle, immediately
objects; and the retired brigadier-general, who is always in charge
of a German train, comes and seals it up again, for that is the
rule and the law; and then the natives are satisfied and sit in
sweet content together, breathing a line of second-handed air that
would choke a salamander.
Once, a good many years ago--in the century before the last I think
it was--a member of the Teutonic racial stock was accidentally
caught out in the fresh air and some of it got into his lungs.
And, being a strange and a foreign influence to which the lungs
were unused, it sickened him; in fact I am not sure but that it
killed him on the spot. So the emperors of Germany and Austria
got together and issued a joint ukase on the subject and, so far
as the traveling public was concerned, forever abolished those
dangerous experiments. Over there they think a draft is deadly,
and I presume it is if you have never tampered with one. They
have a saying: A little window is a dangerous thing.
As with fresh air on the Continent, so also with baths--except
perhaps more so. In deference to the strange and unaccountable
desires of their English-speaking guests the larger hotels in Paris
are abundantly equipped with bathrooms now, but the Parisian
boulevardiers continue to look with darkling suspicion on a party
who will deliberately immerse his person in cold water; their
beings seem to recoil in horror from the bare prospect of such a
thing. It is plainly to be seen they think his intelligence has
been attainted by cold water externally applied; they fear that
through a complete undermining of his reason he may next be
committing these acts of violence on innocent bystanders rather
than on himself, as in the present distressing stages of his mania.
Especially, I would say, is this the attitude of the habitue of
I can offer no visual proof to back my word; but by other testimony
I venture the assertion that when a boulevardier feels the need
of a bath he hangs a musk bag round his neck--and then, as the
saying is, the warmer the sweeter. His companion of the gentler
sex apparently has the same idea of performing daily ablutions
that a tabby cat has. You recall the tabby-cat system, do you
not?--two swipes over the brow with the moistened paw, one forward
swipe over each ear, a kind of circular rubbing effect across the
face--and call it a day! Drowning must be the most frightful death
that a Parisian sidewalk favorite can die. It is not so much the
death itself--it is the attendant circumstances.
Across the river, in the older quarters of Paris, there is excitement
when anybody on the block takes a bath--not so much excitement as
for a fire, perhaps, but more than for a funeral. On the eve of
the fatal day the news spreads through the district that to-morrow
poor Jacques is going to take a bath! A further reprieve has been
denied him. He cannot put it off for another month, or even for
another two weeks. His doom is nigh at hand; there is no
Kindly old Angeline, the midwife, shakes her head sadly as she
goes about her simple duties.
On the morrow the condemned man rises early and sees his spiritual
adviser. He eats a hearty breakfast, takes an affectionate leave
of his family and says he is prepared for the worst. At the
appointed hour the tumbrel enters the street, driven by the paid
executioner--a descendant of the original Sanson--and bearing the
dread instrument of punishment, a large oblong tin tub.
The rumble of the heavy wheels over the cobbles seems to wake an
agonized chord in every bosom. To-day this dread visitation
descends on Jacques; but who can tell--so the neighbors say to
themselves--when the same fate may strike some other household now
happily unconscious! All along the narrow way sorrow-drooped heads
protrude in rows; from every casement dangle whiskers, lank and
stringy with sympathy--for in this section every true Frenchman
has whiskers, and if by chance he has not his wife has; so that
there are whiskers for all.
From the window of the doomed wretch's apartments a derrick
protrudes--a crossarm with a pulley and a rope attached. It bears
a grimly significant resemblance to a gallows tree. Under the
direction of the presiding functionary the tub is made fast to the
tackle and hoisted upward as pianos and safes are hoisted in
American cities. It halts at the open casement. It vanishes
within. The whole place resounds with low murmurs of horror and
Ah, the poor Jacques--how he must suffer! Hark to that low, sickening
thud! 'Tis the accursed soap dropping from his nerveless grasp.
Hist to that sound--like unto a death rattle! It is the water
gurgling in the tub. And what means that low, poignant, smothered
gasp? It is the last convulsive cry of Jacques descending into the
depths. All is over! Let us pray!
The tub, emptied but stained, is lowered to the waiting cart. The
executioner kisses the citizen who has held his horse for him
during his absence and departs; the whole district still hums with
ill-suppressed excitement. Questions fly from tongue to tongue.
Was the victim brave at the last? Was he resigned when the dread
moment came? And how is the family bearing up? It is hours before
the place settles down again to that calm which will endure for
another month, until somebody else takes a bath on a physician's
Even in the sanctity of a Paris hotel a bath is more or less a
public function unless you lock your door. All sorts of domestic
servitors drift in, filled with a morbid curiosity to see how a
foreigner deports himself when engaged in this strange, barbaric
rite. On the occasion of my first bath on French soil, after
several of the hired help had thus called on me informally, causing
me to cower low in my porcelain retreat, I took advantage of a
moment of comparative quiet to rise drippingly and draw the latch.
I judged the proprietor would be along next, and I was not dressed
for him. The Lady Susanna of whom mention has previously been
made must have stopped at a French hotel at some time of her life.
This helps us to understand why she remained so calm when the
elders happened in.
Even as now practiced, bathing still remains a comparative novelty
in the best French circles, I imagine. I base this presumption
on observations made during a visit to Versailles. I went to
Versailles; I trod with reverent step those historic precincts
adorned with art treasures uncountable, with curios magnificent,
with relics invaluable. I visited the little palace and the big;
I ventured deep into that splendid forest where, in the company
of ladies regarding whom there has been a good deal of talk
subsequently, France's Grandest and Merriest Monarch disported
himself. And I found out what made the Merriest Monarch merry--so
far as I could see, there was not a bathroom on the place. He was
a true Frenchman--was Louis the Fourteenth.
In Berlin, at the Imperial Palace, our experience was somewhat
similar. Led by a guide we walked through acres of state drawing
rooms and state dining rooms and state reception rooms and state
picture rooms; and we were told that most of them--or, at least,
many of them--were the handiwork of the late Andreas Schluter.
The deceased Schluter was an architect, a painter, a sculptor, a
woodcarver, a decorator, all rolled into one. He was the George
M. Cohan of his time; and I think he also played the clarinet,
being a German.
We traversed miles of these Schluter masterpieces. Eventually we
heard sounds of martial music without, and we went to a window
overlooking a paved courtyard; and from that point we presently
beheld a fine sight. For the moment the courtyard was empty,
except that in the center stood a great mass of bronze--by Schluter,
I think--a heroic equestrian statue of Saint George in the act of
destroying the first adulterated German sausage. But in a minute
the garrison turned out; and then in through an arched gateway
filed the relief guard headed by a splendid band, with bell-hung
standards jingling at the head of the column and young officers
stalking along as stiff as ramrods, and soldiers marching with the
In the German army the private who raises his knee the highest and
sticks his shank out ahead of him the straightest, and slams his
foot down the hardest and jars his brain the painfulest, is promoted
to be a corporal and given a much heavier pair of shoes, so that
he may make more noise and in time utterly destroy his reason.
The goosestep would be a great thing for destroying grasshoppers
or cutworms in a plague year in a Kansas wheatfield.
At the Kaiser's palace we witnessed all these sights, but we did
not run across any bathrooms or any bathtubs. However, we were
in the public end of the establishment and I regard it as probable
that in the other wing, where the Kaiser lives when at home, there
are plenty of bathrooms. I did not investigate personally. The
Kaiser was out at Potsdam and I did not care to call in his absence.
Bathrooms are plentiful at the hotel where we stopped at Berlin.
I had rather hoped to find the bedroom equipped with an old-fashioned
German feather bed. I had heard that one scaled the side of a
German bed on a stepladder and then fell headlong into its smothering
folds like a gallant fireman invading a burning rag warehouse; but
this hotel happened to be the best hotel that I ever saw outside
the United States. It had been built and it was managed on American
lines, plus German domestic service--which made an incomparable
combination--and it was furnished with modern beds and provided
with modern bathrooms.
Probably as a delicate compliment to the Kaiser, the bathtowels
were starched until the fringes at the ends bristled up stiffly
a-curl, like the ends of His Imperial Majesty's equally imperial
mustache. Just once--and once only--I made the mistake of rubbing
myself with one of those towels just as it was. I should have
softened it first by a hackling process, as we used to hackle the
hemp in Kentucky; but I did not. For two days I felt like an
etching. I looked something like one too.
In Vienna we could not get a bedroom with a bathroom attached
--they did not seem to have any--but we were told there was a
bathroom just across the hall which we might use with the utmost
freedom. This bathroom was a large, long, loftly, marble-walled
vault. It was as cold as a tomb and as gloomy as one, and very
smelly. Indeed it greatly resembled the pictures I have seen of
the sepulcher of an Egyptian king--only I would have said that
this particular king had been skimpily embalmed by the royal
undertakers in the first place, and then imperfectly packed. The
bathtub was long and marked with scars, and it looked exactly like
a rifled mummy case with the lid missing, which added greatly to
the prevalent illusion.
We used this bathroom ad lib.: but when I went to pay the bill I
found an official had been keeping tabs on us, and that all baths
taken had been charged up at the rate of sixty cents apiece. I
had provided my own soap too! For that matter the traveler provides
his own soap everywhere in Europe, outside of England. In some
parts soap is regarded as an edible and in some as a vice common
to foreigners; but everywhere except in the northern countries it
is a curio.
So in Vienna they made us furnish our own soap and then charged
us more for a bath than they did for a meal. Still, by their
standards, I dare say they were right. A meal is a necessity, but
a bath is an exotic luxury; and, since they have no extensive
tariff laws in Austria, it is but fair that the foreigner should
pay the tax. I know I paid mine, one way or another.
Speaking of bathing reminds me of washing; and speaking of washing
reminds me of an adventure I had in Vienna in connection with a
white waistcoat--or, as we would call it down where I was raised,
a dress vest. This vest had become soiled through travel and wear
across Europe. At Vienna I intrusted it to the laundry along with
certain other garments. When the bundle came back my vest was
among the missing.
The maid did not seem to be able to comprehend the brand of German
I use in casual conversation; so, through an interpreter, I explained
to her that I was shy one white vest. For two days she brought
all sorts of vests and submitted them to me on approval--thin ones
and thick ones; old ones and new ones; slick ones and woolly ones;
fringed ones and frayed ones. I think the woman had a private
vest mine somewhere, and went and tapped a fresh vein on my account
every few minutes; but it never was the right vest she brought me.
Finally I told her in my best German, meantime accompanying myself
with appropriate yet graceful gestures, that she need not concern
herself further with the affair; she could just let the matter
drop and I would interview the manager and put in a claim for the
value of the lost garment. She looked at me dazedly a moment
while I repeated the injunction more painstakingly than before;
and, at that, understanding seemed to break down the barriers of
her reason and she said, "Ja! Ja!" Then she nodded emphatically
several times, smiled and hurried away and in twenty minutes was
back, bringing with her a begging friar of some monastic order or
I would take it as a personal favor if some student of the various
Teutonic tongues and jargons would inform me whether there is any
word in Viennese for white vest that sounds like Catholic priest!
However, we prayed together--that brown brother and I. I do not
know what he prayed for, but I prayed for my vest.
I never got it though. I doubt whether my prayer ever reached
heaven--it had such a long way to go. It is farther from Vienna
to heaven than from any other place in the world, I guess--unless
it is Paris. That vest is still wandering about the damp-filled
corridors of that hotel, mooing in a plaintive manner for its mate
--which is myself. It will never find a suitable adopted parent.
It was especially coopered to my form by an expert clothing
contractor, and it will not fit anyone else. No; it will wander
on and on, the starchy bulge of its bosom dimly phosphorescent in
the gloaming, its white pearl buttons glimmering spectrally; and
after a while the hotel will get the reputation of being haunted
by the ghost of a flour barrel, and will have a bad name and lose
custom. I hope so anyway. It looks to be my one chance of getting
even with the owner for penalizing me in the matter of baths.
From Vienna we went southward into the Tyrolese Alps. It was a
wonderful ride--that ride through the Semmering and on down to
Northern Italy. Our absurdly short little locomotive, drawing our
absurdly long train, went boring in and out of a wrinkly shoulder-seam
of the Tyrols like a stubby needle going through a tuck. I think
in thirty miles we threaded thirty tunnels; after that I was
practically asphyxiated and lost count.
If I ever take that journey again I shall wear a smoke helmet and
be comfortable. But always between tunnels there were views to
be seen that would have revived one of the Seven Sleepers. Now,
on the great-granddaddy-longlegs of all the spidery trestles that
ever were built, we would go roaring across a mighty gorge, its
sides clothed with perpendicular gardens and vineyards, and with
little gray towns clustering under the ledges on its sheer walls
like mud-daubers' nests beneath an eave. Now, perched on a ridgy
outcrop of rock like a single tooth in a snaggled reptilian jaw,
would be a deserted tower, making a fellow think of the good old
feudal days when the robber barons robbed the traveler instead of
as at present, when the job is so completely attended to by the
pirates who weigh and register baggage in these parts.
Then--whish, roar, eclipse, darkness and sulphureted hydrogen!--we
would dive into another tunnel and out again--gasping--on a
breathtaking panorama of mountains. Some of them would be standing
up against the sky like the jagged top of a half-finished cutout
puzzle, and some would be buried so deeply in clouds that only their
peaked blue noses showed sharp above the featherbed mattresses of
mist in which they were snuggled, as befitted mountains of Teutonic
extraction. And nearly every eminence was crowned with a ruined
castle or a hotel. It was easy to tell a hotel from a ruin--it
had a sign over the door.
At one of those hotels I met up with a homesick American. He was
marooned there in the rain, waiting for the skies to clear, so he
could do some mountain climbing; and he was beginning to get moldy
from the prevalent damp. By now the study of bathing habits had
become an obsession with me; I asked him whether he had encountered
any bathtubs about the place. He said a bathtub in those altitudes
was as rare as a chamois, and the chamois was entirely extinct;
so I might make my own calculations. But he said he could show
me something that was even a greater curiosity than a bathtub, and
he led me to where a moonfaced barometer hung alongside the front
entrance of the hotel.
He said he had been there a week now and had about lost hope; but
every time he threatened to move on, the proprietor would take him
out there and prove that they were bound to have clearing weather
within a few hours, because the barometer registered fair. At
that moment streams of chilly rain-water were coursing down across
the dial of the barometer, but it registered fair even then. He
said--the American did--that it was the most stationary barometer
he had ever seen, and the most reliable--not vacillating and given
to moods, like most barometers, but fixed and unchangeable in its
I matched it, though, with a thermometer I saw in the early spring
of 1913 at a coast resort in southern California. An Eastern
tourist would venture out on the windswept and drippy veranda, of
a morning after breakfast. He would think he was cold. He would
have many of the outward indications of being cold. His teeth
would be chattering like a Morse sounder, and inside his white-duck
pants his knees would be knocking together with a low, muffled
sound. He would be so prickled with gooseflesh that he felt like
Saint Sebastian; but he would take a look at the thermometer
--sixty-one in the shade! And such was the power of mercury and
mind combined over matter that he would immediately chirk up and
Not a hundred yards away, at a drug store, was one of those
fickle-minded, variable thermometers, showing a temperature that
ranged from fifty-five on downward to forty; but the hotel thermometer
stood firm at sixty-one, no matter what happened. In a season of
trying climatic conditions it was a great comfort--a boon really
--not only to its owner but to his guests. Speaking personally,
however, I have no need to consult the barometer's face to see
what the weather is going to do, or the thermometer's tube to see
what it has done. No person needs to do so who is favored naturally
as I am. I have one of the most dependable soft corns in the
Rome is full of baths--vast ruined ones erected by various emperors
and still bearing their names--such as Caracalla's Baths and Titus'
Baths, and so on. Evidently the ancient Romans were very fond of
Other striking dissimilarities between the ancient Romans and the
modern Romans are perceptible at a glance.
When the Seven A.M. Tut-tut leaves for Anywhere
Being desirous of tendering sundry hints and observations to such
of my fellow countrymen as may contemplate trips abroad I shall,
with their kindly permission, devote this chapter to setting forth
briefly the following principles, which apply generally to railroad
travel in the Old World.
First--On the Continent all trains leave at or about seven A.M.
and reach their destination at or about eleven P.M. You may be
going a long distance or a short one--it makes no difference; you
leave at seven and you arrive at eleven. The few exceptions to
this rule are of no consequence and do not count.
Second--A trunk is the most costly luxury known to European travel.
If I could sell my small, shrinking and flat-chested steamer trunk
--original value in New York eighteen dollars and seventy-five
cents--for what it cost me over on the other side in registration
fees, excess charges, mental wear and tear, freightage, forwarding
and warehousing bills, tips, bribes, indulgences, and acts of
barratry and piracy, I should be able to laugh in the income tax's
face. In this connection I would suggest to the tourist who is
traveling with a trunk that he begin his land itinerary in Southern
Italy and work northward; thereby, through the gradual shrinkage
in weight, he will save much money on his trunk, owing to the
pleasing custom among the Italian trainhands of prying it open and
making a judicious selection from its contents for personal use
and for gifts to friends and relatives.
Third--For the sake of the experience, travel second class once;
after that travel first class--and try to forget the experience.
With the exception of two or three special-fare, so-called de-luxe
trains, first class over there is about what the service was on an
accommodation, mixed-freight-and-passenger train in Arkansas
immediately following the close of the Civil War.
Fourth--When buying a ticket for anywhere you will receive a cunning
little booklet full of detachable leaves, the whole constituting
a volume about the size and thickness of one of those portfolios
of views that came into popularity with us at the time of the
Philadelphia Centennial. Surrender a sheet out of your book on
demand of the uniformed official who will come through the train
at from five to seven minute intervals. However, he will collect
only a sheet every other trip; on the alternate trips he will
merely examine your ticket with the air of never having seen it
before, and will fold it over, and perforate it with his punching
machine and return it to you. By the time you reach your destination
nothing will be left but the cover; but do not cast this carelessly
aside; retain it until you are filing out of the terminal, when
it will be taken up by a haughty voluptuary with whiskers. If you
have not got it you cannot escape. You will have to go back and
live on the train, which is, indeed, a frightful fate to contemplate.
Fifth--Reach the station half an hour before the train starts and
claim your seat; then tip the guard liberally to keep other
passengers out of your compartment. He has no intention of doing
so, but it is customary for Americans to go through this pleasing
formality--and it is expected of them.
Sixth--Tip everybody on the train who wears a uniform. Be not
afraid of hurting some one's feelings by offering a tip to the
wrong person. There will not be any wrong person. A tip is the
one form of insult that anybody in Europe will take.
Seventh--Before entering the train inhale deeply several times.
This will be your last chance of getting any fresh air until you
reach your destination. For self-defense against the germ life
prevailing in the atmosphere of the unventilated compartments,
smoke a German cigar. A German cigar keeps off any disease except
the cholera; it gives you the cholera.
Eighth--Do not linger on the platform, waiting for the locomotive
whistle to blow, or the bell to ring, or somebody to yell "All
aboard!" If you do this you will probably keep on lingering until
the following morning at seven. As a starting signal the presiding
functionary renders a brief solo on a tiny tin trumpet. One puny
warning blast from this instrument sets the whole train in motion.
It makes you think of Gabriel bringing on the Day of Judgment by
tootling on a penny whistle. Another interesting point: The engine
does not say Choo-choo as in our country--it says Tut-tut.
Ninth--In England, for convenience in claiming your baggage, change
your name to Xenophon or Zymology--there are always about the
baggage such crowds of persons who have the commoner initials,
such as T for Thompson, J for Jones, and S for Smith. When next
I go to England my name will be Zoroaster--Quintus P. Zoroaster.
Tenth--If possible avoid patronizing the so-called refreshment
wagons or dining cars, which are expensive and uniformly bad.
Live off the country. Remember, the country is living off you.
La Belle France Being the First Stop
Except eighty or ninety other things the British Channel was the
most disappointing thing we encountered in our travels. All my
reading on this subject had led me to expect that the Channel would
be very choppy and that we should all be very seasick. Nothing
of the sort befell. The channel may have been suetty but it was
not choppy. The steamer that ferried us over ran as steadily as
a clock and everybody felt as fine as a fiddle.
A friend of mine whom I met six weeks later in Florence had better
luck. He crossed on an occasion when a test was being made of a
device for preventing seasickness. A Frenchman was the inventor
and also the experimenter. This Frenchman had spent valuable years
of his life perfecting his invention. It resembled a hammock swung
between uprights. The supports were to be bolted to the deck of
the ship, and when the Channel began to misbehave the squeamish
passenger would climb into the hammock and fasten himself in; and
then, by a system of reciprocating oscillations, the hammock would
counteract the motion of the ship and the occupant would rest in
perfect comfort no matter how high she pitched or how deep she
rolled. At least such was the theory of the inventor; and to prove
it he offered himself as the subject for the first actual demonstration.
The result was unexpected. The sea was only moderately rough; but
that patent hammock bucked like a kicking bronco. The poor Frenchman
was the only seasick person aboard--but he was sick enough for the
whole crowd. He was seasick with a Gallic abandon; he was seasick
both ways from the jack, and other ways too. He was strapped down
so he could not get out, which added no little to the pleasure of
the occasion for everybody except himself. When the steamer landed
the captain of the boat told the distressed owner that, in his
opinion, the device was not suited for steamer use. He advised
him to rent it to a riding academy.
In crossing from Dover to Calais we had thought we should be going
merely from one country to another; we found we had gone from one
world to another. That narrow strip of uneasy water does not
separate two countries--it separates two planets.
Gone were the incredible stiffness and the incurable honesty of
the race that belonged over yonder on those white chalk cliffs
dimly visible along the horizon. Gone were the phlegm and stolidity
of those people who manifest emotion only on the occasions when
they stand up to sing their national anthem:
God save the King!
The Queen is doing well!
Gone were the green fields of Sussex, which looked as though they
had been taken in every night and brushed and dry-cleaned and then
put down again in the morning. Gone were the trees that Maxfield
Parrish might have painted, so vivid were they in their burnished
green-and-yellow coloring, so spectacular in their grouping.
Gone was the five-franc note which I had intrusted to a sandwich
vender on the railroad platform in the vain hope that he would
come back with the change. After that clincher there was no doubt
about it--we were in La Belle France all right, all right!
Everything testified to the change. From the pier where we landed,
a small boy, in a long black tunic belted in at his waist, was
fishing; he hooked a little fingerling. At the first tentative
tug on his line he set up a shrill clamor. At that there came
running a fat, kindly looking old priest in a long gown and a
shovel hat; and a market woman came, who had arms like a wrestler
and skirts that stuck out like a ballet dancer's; and a soldier
in baggy red pants came; and thirty or forty others of all ages
and sizes came--and they gathered about that small boy and gave
him advice at the top of their voices. And when he yanked out
the shining little silver fish there could not have been more
animation and enthusiasm and excitement if he had landed a full-grown
They were still congratulating him when we pulled out and went
tearing along on our way to Paris, scooting through quaint,
stone-walled cities, each one dominated by its crumbly old cathedral;
sliding through open country where the fields were all diked and
ditched with small canals and bordered with poplars trimmed so
that each tree looked like a set of undertaker's whiskers pointing
the wrong way.
And in these fields were peasants in sabots at work, looking as
though they had just stepped out of one of Millet's pictures.
Even the haystacks and the scarecrows were different. In England
the haystacks had been geometrically correct in their dimensions
--so square and firm and exact that sections might be sliced off
them like cheese, and doors and windows might be carved in them;
but these French haystacks were devil-may-care haystacks wearing
tufts on their polls like headdresses. The windmills had a rakish
air; and the scarecrows in the truck gardens were debonair and
cocky, tilting themselves back on their pins the better to enjoy
the view and fluttering their ragged vestments in a most jaunty
fashion. The land though looked poor--it had a driven, overworked
look to it.
Presently, above the clacking voice of our train, we heard a whining
roar without; and peering forth we beheld almost over our heads a
big monoplane racing with us. It seemed a mighty, winged Thunder
Lizard that had come back to link the Age of Stone with the Age
of Air. On second thought I am inclined to believe the Thunder
Lizard did not flourish in the Stone Age; but if you like the
simile as much as I like it we will just let it stand.
Three times on that trip we saw from the windows of our train
aviators out enjoying the cool of the evening in their airships;
and each time the natives among the passengers jammed into the
passageway that flanked the compartments and speculated regarding
the identity of the aviators and the make of their machines, and
argued and shrugged their shoulders and quarreled and gesticulated.
The whole thing was as Frenchy as tripe in a casserole.
I was wrong, though, a minute ago when I said there remained nothing
to remind us of the right little, tight little island we had just
quit; for we had two Englishmen in our compartment--fit and proper
representatives of a certain breed of Englishman. They were tall
and lean, and had the languid eyes and the long, weary faces and
the yellow buck teeth of weary cart-horses, and they each wore a
fixed expression of intense gloom. You felt sure it was a fixed
expression because any person with such an expression would change
it if he could do so by anything short of a surgical operation.
And it was quite evident they had come mentally prepared to
disapprove of all things and all people in a foreign clime.
Silently, but none the less forcibly, they resented the circumstance
that others should be sharing the same compartment with them--or
sharing the same train, either, for that matter. The compartment
was full, too, which made the situation all the more intolerable:
an elderly English lady with a placid face under a mid-Victorian
bonnet; a young, pretty woman who was either English or American;
the two members of my party, and these two Englishmen.
And when, just as the train was drawing out of Calais, they
discovered that the best two seats, which they had promptly
preempted, belonged to others, and that the seats for which they
held reservations faced rearward, so that they must ride with their
backs to the locomotive--why, that irked them sore and more. I
imagine they wrote a letter to the London Times about it afterward.
As is the pleasing habit of traveling Englishmen, they had brought
with them everything portable they owned. Each one had four or
five large handbags, and a carryall, and a hat box, and his
tea-caddy, and his plaid blanket done up in a shawlstrap, and his
framed picture of the Death of Nelson--and all the rest of it; and
they piled those things in the luggage racks until both the racks
were chock-full; so the rest of us had to hold our baggage in our
laps or sit on it. One of them was facing me not more than five
or six feet distant. He never saw me though. He just gazed
steadily through me, studying the pattern of the upholstery on the
seat behind me; and I could tell by his look that he did not care
for the upholstering--as very naturally he would not, it being
We had traveled together thus for some hours when one of them began
to cloud up for a sneeze. He tried to sidetrack it, but it would
not be sidetracked. The rest of us, looking on, seemed to hear
that sneeze coming from a long way off. It reminded me of a
musical-sketch team giving an imitation of a brass band marching
down Main Street playing the Turkish Patrol--dim and faint at
first, you know, and then growing louder and stronger, and gathering
volume until it bursts right in your face.
Fascinated, we watched his struggles. Would he master it or would
it master him? But he lost, and it was probably a good thing he
did. If he had swallowed that sneeze it would have drowned him.
His nose jibed and went about; his head tilted back farther and
farther; his countenance expressed deep agony, and then the log
jam at the bend in his nose went out with a roar and he let loose
the moistest, loudest kerswoosh! that ever was, I reckon.
He sneezed eight times. The first sneeze unbuttoned his waistcoat,
the second unparted his hair, and the third one almost pulled his
shoes off; and after that they grew really violent, until the last
sneeze shifted his cargo and left him with a list to port and his
lee scuppers awash. It made a ruin of him--the Prophet Isaiah
could not have remained dignified wrestling with a sneezing bee
of those dimensions--but oh, how it did gladden the rest of us to
behold him at the mercy of the elements and to note what a sodden,
waterlogged wreck they made of him!
It was not long after that before we had another streak of luck.
The train jolted over something and a hat fell down from the topmost
pinnacle of the mountain of luggage above and hit his friend on
the nose. We should have felt better satisfied if it had been a
coal scuttle; but it was a reasonably hard and heavy hat and it
hit him brim first on the tenderest part of his nose and made his
eyes water, and we were grateful enough for small blessings. One
should not expect too much of an already overworked Providence.
The rest of us were still warm and happy in our souls when, without
any whistle-tooting or bell-clanging or station-calling, we slid
silently, almost surreptitiously, into the Gare du Nord, at Paris.
Neither in England nor on the mainland does anyone feel called
on to notify you that you have reached your destination.
It is like the old formula for determining the sex of a pigeon--you
give the suspected bird some corn, and if he eats it he is a he;
but if she eats it she is a she. In Europe if it is your destination
you get off, and if it is not your destination you stay on. On
this occasion we stayed on, feeling rather forlorn and helpless,
until we saw that everyone else had piled off. We gathered up our
belongings and piled off too.
By that time all the available porters had been engaged; so we
took up our luggage and walked. We walked the length of the
trainshed--and then we stepped right into the recreation hall of
the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane, at Matteawan, New York.
I knew the place instantly, though the decorations had been changed
since I was there last. It was a joy to come on a home institution
so far from home--joysome, but a trifle disconcerting too, because
all the keepers had died or gone on strike or something; and the
lunatics, some of them being in uniform and some in civilian dress,
were leaping from crag to crag, uttering maniacal shrieks.
Divers lunatics, who had been away and were just getting back, and
sundry lunatics who were fixing to go away and apparently did not
expect ever to get back, were dashing headlong into the arms of
still other lunatics, kissing and hugging them, and exchanging
farewells and sacre-bleuing with them in the maddest fashion
imaginable. From time to time I laid violent hands on a flying,
flitting maniac and detained him against his will, and asked him
for some directions; but the persons to whom I spoke could not
understand me, and when they answered I could not understand them;
so we did not make much headway by that. I could not get out of
that asylum until I had surrendered the covers of our ticket books
and claimed our baggage and put it through the customs office. I
knew that; the trouble was I could not find the place for attending
to these details. On a chance I tried a door, but it was distinctly
the wrong place; and an elderly female on duty there got me out by
employing the universal language known of all peoples. She shook
her skirts at me and said Shoo! So I got out, still toting five or
six bags and bundles of assorted sizes and shapes, and tried all
the other doors in sight.
Finally, by a process of elimination and deduction, I arrived at
the right one. To make it harder for me they had put it around a
corner in an elbow-shaped wing of the building and had taken the
sign off the door. This place was full of porters and loud cries.
To be on the safe side I tendered retaining fees to three of the
porters; and thus by the time I had satisfied the customs officials
that I had no imported spirits or playing cards or tobacco or soap,
or other contraband goods, and had cleared our baggage and started
for the cabstand, we amounted to quite a stately procession and
attracted no little attention as we passed along. But the tips I
had to hand out before the taxi started would stagger the human
imagination if I told you the sum total.
There are few finer things than to go into Paris for the first
time on a warm, bright Saturday night. At this moment I can think
of but one finer thing--and that is when, wearied of being short-changed
and bilked and double-charged, and held up for tips or tribute
at every step, you are leaving Paris on a Saturday night--or, in
fact, any night.
Those first impressions of the life on the boulevards are going
to stay in my memory a long, long time--the people, paired off at
the tables of the sidewalk cafes, drinking drinks of all colors;
a little shopgirl wearing her new, cheap, fetching hat in such a
way as to center public attention on her head and divert it from
her feet, which were shabby; two small errand boys in white aprons,
standing right in the middle of the whirling, swirling traffic,
in imminent peril of their lives, while one lighted his cigarette
butt from the cigarette butt of his friend; a handful of roistering
soldiers, singing as they swept six abreast along the wide, rutty
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