Irvin S. Cobb
Part 2 out of 5
sidewalk; the kiosks for advertising, all thickly plastered over
with posters, half of which should have been in an art gallery and
the other half in a garbage barrel; a well-dressed pair, kissing
in the full glare of a street light; an imitation art student, got
up to look like an Apache, and--no doubt--plenty of real Apaches
got up to look like human beings; a silk-hatted gentleman, stopping
with perfect courtesy to help a bloused workman lift a baby-laden
baby carriage over an awkward spot in the curbing, and the workingman
returning thanks with the same perfect courtesy; our own driver,
careening along in a manner suggestive of what certain East Side
friends of mine would call the Chariot Race from Ben Hirsch; and
a stout lady of the middle class sitting under a cafe awning
caressing her pet mole.
To the Belgian belongs the credit of domesticating the formerly
ferocious Belgian hare, and the East Indian fakir makes a friend
and companion of the king cobra; but it remained for those ingenious
people, the Parisians, to tame the mole, which other races have
always regarded as unbeautiful and unornamental, and make a cunning
little companion of it and spend hours stroking its fleece. This
particular mole belonging to the stout middle-aged lady in question
was one of the largest moles and one of the curliest I ever saw.
It was on the side of her nose.
You see a good deal of mole culture going on here. Later, with
the reader's permission, we shall return to Paris and look its
inhabitants over at more length; but for the time being I think
it well for us to be on our travels. In passing I would merely
state that on leaving a Paris hotel you will tip everybody on the
Oh, yes--but you will!
Let us move southward. Let us go to Sunny Italy, which is called
Sunny Italy for the same reason that the laughing hyena is called
the laughing hyena--not because he laughs so frequently, but because
he laughs so seldom. Let us go to Rome, the Eternal City, sitting
on her Seven Hills, remembering as we go along that the currency
has changed and we no longer compute sums of money in the franc
but in the lira. I regret the latter word is not pronounced as
spelled--it would give me a chance to say that the common coin of
Italy is a lira, and that nearly everybody in Rome is one also.
Thence On and On to Verbotenland
Ah, Rome--the Roma of the Ancients--the Mistress of the Olden
World--the Sacred City! Ah, Rome, if only your stones could speak!
It is customary for the tourist, taking his cue from the guidebooks,
to carry on like this, forgetting in his enthusiasm that, even if
they did speak, they would doubtless speak Italian, which would
leave him practically where he was before. And so, having said
it myself according to formula, I shall proceed to state the actual
If, coming forth from a huge and dirty terminal, you emerge on a
splendid plaza, miserably paved, and see a priest, a soldier and
a beggar; a beautiful child wearing nothing at all to speak of,
and a hideous old woman with the eyes of a Madonna looking out of
a tragic mask of a face; a magnificent fountain, and nobody using
the water, and a great, overpowering smell--yes, you can see a
Roman smell; a cart mule with ten dollars' worth of trappings on
him, and a driver with ten cents' worth on him; a palace like a
dream of stone, entirely surrounded by nightmare hovels; a new,
shiny, modern apartment house, and shouldering up against it a
cankered rubbish heap that was once the playhouse of a Caesar, its
walls bearded like a pard's face with tufted laurel and splotched
like a brandy drunkard's with red stains; a church that is a dismal
ruin without and a glittering Aladdin's Cave of gold and gems and
porphyry and onyx within; a wide and handsome avenue starting from
one festering stew of slums and ending in another festering stew
of slums; a grimed and broken archway opening on a lovely hidden
courtyard where trees are green and flowers bloom, and in the
center there stands a statue which is worth its weight in minted
silver and which carries more than its weight in dirt--if in
addition everybody in sight is smiling and good-natured and happy,
and is trying to sell you something or wheedle you out of something,
or pick your pocket of something--you need not, for confirmatory
evidence, seek the vast dome of St. Peter's rising yonder in the
distance, or the green tops of the cedars and the dusky clumps of
olive groves on the hillsides beyond--you know you are in Rome.
To get the correct likeness of Naples we merely reduce the priests
by one-half and increase the beggars by two-thirds; we richen the
color masses, thicken the dirt, raise the smells to the Nth degree,
and set half the populace to singing. We establish in every second
doorway a mother with her offspring tucked between her knees and
forcibly held there while the mother searches the child's head for
a flea; anyhow, it is more charitable to say it is a flea; and we
add a special touch of gorgeousness to the street pictures.
For here a cart is a glory of red tires and blue shafts, and green
hubs and pink body and purple tailgate, with a canopy on it that
would have suited Sheba's Queen; and the mule that draws the cart
is caparisoned in brass and plumage like a circus pony; and the
driver wears a broad red sash, part of a shirt, and half of a pair
of pants--usually the front half. With an outfit such as that,
you feel he should be peddling aurora borealises, or, at the very
least, rainbows. It is a distinct shock to find he has only chianti
or cheeses or garbage in stock.
In Naples, also, there is, even in the most prosaic thing, a sight
to gladden your eye if you but hold your nose while you look on
it. On the stalls of the truckvenders the cauliflowers and the
cabbages are racked up with an artistic effect we could scarcely
equal if we had roses and orchids to work with; the fishmonger's
cart is a study in still life, and the tripe is what artists call
a harmonious interior.
Nearly all the hotels in Italy are converted palaces. They may
have been successes as palaces, but, with their marble floors and
their high ceilings, and their dank, dark corridors, they distinctly
fail to qualify as hotels. I should have preferred them remaining
unsaved and sinful. I likewise observed a peculiarity common to
hotelkeepers in Italy--they all look like cats. The proprietor
of the converted palace where we stopped in Naples was the very
image of a tomcat we used to own, named Plutarch's Lives, which
was half Maltese and half Mormon. He was a cat that had a fine
carrying voice--though better adapted for concert work than parlor
singing--and a sweetheart in every port. This hotelkeeper might
have been the cat's own brother with clothes on--he had Plute's
roving eye and his bristling whiskers and his sharp white teeth,
and Plute's silent, stealthy tread, and his way of purring softly
until he had won your confidence and then sticking his claw into
you. The only difference was, he stuck you with a bill instead
of a claw.
Another interesting idiosyncrasy of the Italian hotelkeeper is
that he invariably swears to you his town is the only honest town
in Italy, but begs you to beware of the next town which, he assures
you with his hand on the place where his heart would be if he had
a heart, is full of thieves and liars and counterfeit money and
pickpockets. Half of what he tells you is true--the latter half.
The tourist agencies issue pamphlets telling how you may send money
or jewelry by registered mail in Italy, and then append a footnote
warning you against sending money or jewelry by registered mail
in Italy. Likewise you are constantly being advised against
carrying articles of value in your trunk, unless it is most carefully
locked, bolted and strapped. It is good advice too.
An American I met on the boat coming home told me he failed to
take such precautions while traveling in Italy; and he said that
when he reached the Swiss border his trunk was so light he had to
sit on it to keep it from blowing off the bus on the way from the
station to the hotel, and so empty that when he opened it at both
ends the draft whistling through it gave him a bad cold. However,
he may have exaggerated slightly.
If you can forget that you are paying first-class prices for
fourth-rate accommodations--forget the dirt in the carriages and
the smells in the compartments--a railroad journey through the
Italian Peninsula is a wonderful experience. I know it was a
wonderful experience for me.
I shall not forget the old walled towns of stone perched precariously
on the sloping withers of razorbacked mountains--towns that were
old when the Saviour was born; or the ancient Roman aqueducts, all
pocked and pecked with age, looping their arches across the land
for miles on miles; or the fields, scored and scarified by three
thousand years of unremitting, relentless, everlasting agriculture;
or the wide-horned Italian cattle that browsed in those fields; or
yet the woman who darted to the door of every signal-house we
passed and came to attention, with a long cudgel held flat against
her shoulder like a sentry's musket.
I do not know why a woman should exhibit an overgrown broomstick
when an Italian train passes a flag station, any more than I know
why, when a squad of Paris firemen march out of the engine house
for exercise, they should carry carbines and knapsacks. I only
know that these things are done.
In Tuscany the vineyards make a fine show, for the vines are trained
to grow up from the ground and then are bound into streamers and
draped from one fruit tree or one shade tree to another, until a
whole hillside becomes one long, confusing vista of leafy festoons.
The thrifty owner gets the benefit of his grapes and of his trees,
and of the earth below, too, for there he raises vegetables and
grains, and the like. Like everything else in this land, the
system is an old one. I judge it was old enough to be hackneyed
when Horace wrote of it:
Now each man, basking on his slopes,
Weds to his widowed tree the vine;
Then, as he gayly quaffs his wine,
Salutes thee god of all his hopes.
Classical quotations interspersed here and there are wonderful
helps to a guide book, don't you think?
In rural Italy there are two other scenic details that strike the
American as being most curious--one is the amazing prevalence of
family washing, and the other is the amazing scarcity of birdlife.
To himself the traveler says:
"What becomes of all this intimate and personal display of family
apparel I see fluttering from the front windows of every house in
this country? Everybody is forever washing clothes but nobody ever
wears it after it is washed. And what has become of all the birds?"
For the first puzzle there is no key, but the traveler gets the
answer to the other when he passes a meat-dealer's shop in the
town and sees spread on the stalls heaps of pitiably small starlings
and sparrows and finches exposed for sale. An Italian will cook
and eat anything he can kill that has wings on it, from a cassowary
to a katydid.
Thinking this barbarity over, I started to get indignant; but just
in time I remembered what we ourselves have done to decimate the
canvas-back duck and the wild pigeon and the ricebird and the
red-worsted pulse-warmer, and other pleasing wild creatures of the
earlier days in America, now practically or wholly extinct. And
I felt that before I could attend to the tomtits in my Italian
brother's eye I must needs pluck a few buffaloes out of my own;
so I decided, in view of those things, to collect myself and
endeavor to remain perfectly calm.
We came into Venice at the customary hour--to wit, eleven P.M.
--and had a real treat as our train left the mainland and went
gliding far out, seemingly right through the placid Adriatic, to
where the beaded lights of Venice showed like a necklace about the
withered throat of a long-abandoned bride, waiting in the rags of
her moldered wedding finery for a bridegroom who comes not.
Better even than this was the journey by gondola from the terminal
through narrow canals and under stone bridges where the water
lapped with little mouthing tongues at the walls, and the tall,
gloomy buildings almost met overhead, so that only a tiny strip
of star-buttoned sky showed between. And from dark windows high
up came the tinkle of guitars and the sound of song pouring from
throats of silver. And so we came to our hotel, which was another
converted palace; but baptism is not regarded as essential to
salvation in these parts.
On the whole, Venice did not impress me as it has impressed certain
other travelers. You see, I was born and raised in one of those
Ohio Valley towns where the river gets emotional and temperamental
every year or two. In my youth I had passed through several of
these visitations, when the family would take the family plate and
the family cow, and other treasures, and retire to the attic floor
to wait for the spring rise to abate; and when really the most
annoying phase of the situation for a housekeeper, sitting on the
top landing of his staircase watching the yellow wavelets lap inch
by inch over the keys of the piano, and inch by inch climb up the
new dining-room wallpaper, was to hear a knocking at a front window
upstairs and go to answer it and find that Moscoe Burnett had come
in a john-boat to collect the water tax.
The Grand Canal did not stir me as it has stirred some--so far
back as '84 I could remember when Jefferson Street at home looked
almost exactly like that.
Going through the Austrian Tyrol, between Vienna and Venice, I met
two old and dear friends in their native haunts--the plush hat and
the hot dog. When such a thing as this happens away over on the
other side of the globe it helps us to realize how small a place
this world is after all, and how closely all peoples are knitted
together in common bonds of love and affection. The hot dog, as
found here, is just as we know him throughout the length and breadth
of our own land--a dropsical Wienerwurst entombed in the depths
of a rye-bread sandwich, with a dab of horse-radish above him to
mark his grave; price, creation over, five cents the copy.
The woolly plush hat shows no change either, except that if anything
it is slightly woollier in the Alps than among us. As transplanted,
the dinky little bow at the back is an affectation purely--but in
these parts it is logical and serves a practical and a utilitarian
purpose, because the mountain byways twist and turn and double, and
the local beverages are potent brews; and the weary mountaineer,
homeward-bound afoot at the close of a market day, may by the simple
expedient of reaching up and fingering his bow tell instantly whether
he is going or coming.
This is also a great country for churches. Every group of chalets
that calls itself a village has at least one long-spired gray
church in its midst, and frequently more than one. In one sweep
of hillside view from our car window I counted seven church steeples.
I do not think it was a particularly good day for churches either;
I wished I might have passed through on a Sunday, when they would
naturally be thicker.
Along this stretch of railroad the mountaineers come to the stations
wearing the distinctive costume of their own craggy and slabsided
hills--the curling pheasant feather in the hatbrim; the tight-fitting
knee-breeches; the gaudy stockings; and the broad-suspendered belt
with rows of huge brass buttons spangling it up and down and
crosswise. Such is your pleasure at finding these quaint habiliments
still in use amid settings so picturesque that you buy freely of
the fancy-dressed individual's wares--for he always has something
And then as your train pulls out, if by main force and awkwardness
you jam a window open, as I did, and cast your eyes rearward for
a farewell peek, as I did, you will behold him, as I did, pulling
off his parade clothes and climbing into the blue overalls and the
jean jumpers of prosaic civilization, to wait until the next carload
lot of foreign tourists rolls in. The European peasant is indeed
a simple, guileless creature--if you are careless about how you
In this district and on beyond, the sight of women doing the bulk
of the hard and dirty farmwork becomes common. You see women
plowing; women hoeing; women carrying incredibly huge bundles of
fagots and fodder on their heads; women hauling heavy carts,
sometimes with a straining, panting dog for a teammate, sometimes
unaccompanied except by a stalwart father or husband, or brother
or son, who, puffing a china-bowled pipe, walks alongside to see
that the poor human draft-animals do not shirk or balk, or shy
over the traces.
To one coming from a land where no decent man raises his hand
against a woman--except, of course, in self-defense--this is indeed
a startling sight to see; but worse is in store for him when he
reaches Bohemia, on the upper edge of the Austrian Empire. In
Bohemia, if there is a particularly nasty and laborious job to be
done, such as spading up manure in the rain or grubbing sugar-beets
out of the half-frozen earth, they wish it on the dear old
grandmother. She always seemed to me to be a grandmother--or old
enough for one anyway. Perhaps, though, it is the life they lead,
and not the years, that bends the backs of these women and thickens
their waists and mats their hair and turns their feet into clods
and their hands into swollen, red monstrosities.
Surely the Walrus, in Alice in Wonderland, had Germany in mind
when he said the time had come to speak of cabbages and kings
--because Germany certainly does lead the known world in those two
commodities. Everywhere in Germany you see them--the cabbages by
the millions and the billions, growing rank and purple in the
fields and giving promise of the time when they will change from
vegetable to vine and become the fragrant and luscious trailing
sauerkraut; but the kings, in stone or bronze, stand up in the
marketplace or the public square, or on the bridge abutment, or
just back of the brewery, in every German city and town along the
By these surface indications alone the most inexperienced traveler
would know he had reached Germany, even without the halt at the
custom house on the border; or the crossing watchman in trim uniform
jumping to attention at every roadcrossing; or the beautifully
upholstered, handswept state forests; or the hedges of willow trees
along the brooks, sticking up their stubby, twiggy heads like so
many disreputable hearth-brooms; or the young grain stretching in
straight rows crosswise of the weedless fields and looking, at a
distance, like fair green-printed lines evenly spaced on a wide
brown page. Also, one observes everywhere surviving traces that
are unmistakable of the reign of that most ingenious and wideawake
of all the earlier rulers of Germany, King Verboten the Great.
In connection with the life and works of this distinguished ruler
is told an interesting legend well worthy of being repeated here.
It would seem that King Verboten was the first crowned head of
Europe to learn the value of keeping his name constantly before
the reading public. Rameses the Third of Egypt--that enterprising
old constant advertiser who swiped the pyramids of all his
predecessors and had his own name engraved thereon--had been dead
for many centuries and was forgotten when Verboten mounted the
throne, and our own Teddy Roosevelt would not be born for many
centuries yet to come; so the idea must have occurred to King
Verboten spontaneously, as it were. Therefore he took counsel
with himself, saying:
"I shall now erect statues to myself. Dynasties change and wars
rage, and folks grow fickle and tear down statues. None of that
for your Uncle Dudley K. Verboten! No; this is what I shall do:
On every available site in the length and breadth of this my realm
I shall stick up my name; and, wherever possible, near to it I
shall engrave or paint the names of my two favorite sons, Ausgang
and Eingang--to the end that, come what may, we shall never be
forgotten in the land of our birth."
And then he went and did it; and it was a thorough job--so thorough
a job that, to this good year of our Lord you may still see the
name of that wise king everywhere displayed in Germany--on railroad
stations and in railroad trains; on castle walls and dead walls
and brewery walls, and the back fence of the Young Ladies' High
School. And nearly always, too, you will find hard by, over doors
and passageways, the names of his two sons, each accompanied or
underscored by the heraldic emblem of their house--a barbed and
feathered arrow pointing horizontally.
And so it was that King Verboten lived happily ever after and in
the fullness of time died peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his
wives, his children and his courtiers; and all of them sorrowed
greatly and wept, but the royal signpainter sorrowed most of all.
I know that certain persons will contest the authenticity of this
passage of history; they will claim Verboten means in our tongue
Forbidden, and that Ausgang means Outgoing, and Eingang means
Incoming--or, in other words, Exit and Entrance; but surely this
could not be so. If so many things were forbidden, a man in Germany
would be privileged only to die--and probably not that, unless he
died according to a given formula; and certainly no human being
with the possible exception of the comedian who used to work the
revolving-door trick in Hanlon's Fantasma, could go out of and
come into a place so often without getting dizzy in the head. No
--the legend stands as stated.
Even as it is, there are rules enough in Germany, rules to regulate
all things and all persons. At first, to the stranger, this seems
an irksome arrangement--this posting of rules and orders and
directions and warnings everywhere--but he finds that everyone,
be he high or low, must obey or go to jail; there are no exceptions
and no evasions; so that what is a duty on all is a burden on none.
Take the trains, for example. Pretty much all over the Continent
the railroads are state-owned and state-run, but only in Germany
are they properly run. True, there are so many uniformed officials
aboard a German train that frequently there is barely room for the
paying travelers to squeeze in; but the cars are sanitary and the
schedule is accurately maintained, and the attendants are honest
and polite and cleanly of person--wherein lies another point of
dissimilarity between them and those scurvy, musty, fusty brigands
who are found managing and operating trains in certain nearby
I remember a cup of coffee I had while going from Paris to Berlin.
It was made expressly for me by an invalided commander-in-chief
of the artillery corps of the imperial army--so I judged him to
be by his costume, air and general deportment--who was in charge
of our carriage and also of the small kitchen at the far end of it.
He came into our compartment and bowed and clicked his heels
together and saluted, and wanted to know whether I would take
coffee. Recklessly I said I would. He filled in several blanks
of a printed form, and went and cooked the coffee and brought it
back, pausing at intervals as he came along to fill in other blanks.
Would I take cream in my coffee? I would; so he filled in a couple
of blanks. Would I take sugar? I said I would take two lumps.
He put in two lumps and filled in another blank.
I really prefer my coffee with three lumps in it; but I noticed
that his printed form was now completely filled in, and I hated
to call for a third lump and put him to the trouble of starting
his literary labors all over again. Besides, by that time the
coffee would be cold. So I took it as it was--with two lumps
only--and it was pretty fair coffee for European coffee. It tasted
slightly of the red tape and the chicory, but it was neatly prepared
and promptly served.
And so, over historic streams no larger than creeks would be in
America, and by castles and cabbages and kings and cows, we came
to Berlin; and after some of the other Continental cities Berlin
seemed a mighty restful spot to be in, and a good one to tarry in
awhile. It has few historical associations, has Berlin, but we
were loaded to the gills with historical associations by now. It
does not excel greatly in Old Masters, but we had already gazed
with a languid eye upon several million Old Masters of all ages,
including many very young ones. It has no ancient monuments and
tombs either, which is a blessing. Most of the statuary in Berlin
is new and shiny and provided with all the modern conveniences
--the present kaiser attended competently to that detail. Wherever,
in his capital, there was space for a statue he has stuck up one
in memory of a member of his own dynasty, beginning with a statue
apiece for such earlier rulers as Otho the Oboe-Player, and Joachim,
surnamed the Half-a-Ton--let some one correct me if I have the
names wrong--and finishing up with forty or fifty for himself.
That is, there were forty or fifty of him when I was there. There
are probably more now.
In its essentials Berlin suggests a progressive American city,
with Teutonic trimmings. Conceive a bit of New York, a good deal
of Chicago, a scrap of Denver, a slice of Hoboken, and a whole lot
of Milwaukee; conceive this combination as being scoured every day
until it shines; conceive it as beautifully though somewhat profusely
governed, and laid out with magnificent drives, and dotted with
big, handsome public buildings, and full of reasonably honest and
more than reasonably kindly people--and you have Berlin.
It was in Berlin that I picked up the most unique art treasure I
found anywhere on my travels--a picture of the composer Verdi that
looked exactly like Uncle Joe Cannon, without the cigar; whereas
Uncle Joe Cannon does not look a thing in the world like Verdi,
and probably wouldn't if he could.
I have always regretted that our route through the German Empire
took us across the land of the Hessians after dark, for I wanted
to see those people. You will recollect that when George the
Third, of England, first put into actual use the doctrine of Hands
Across the Sea he used the Hessians.
They were hired hands.
A Tale of a String-bean
It was at a small dinner party in a home out in Passy--which is
to Paris what Flatbush is to Brooklyn--that the event hereinafter
set forth came to pass. Our host was an American who had lived
abroad a good many years; and his wife, our hostess, was a French
woman as charming as she was pretty and as pretty as she could be.
The dinner was going along famously. We had hors-d'oeuvres, the
soup and the hare--all very tasty to look on and very soothing to
the palate. Then came the fowl, roasted, of course--the roast
fowl is the national bird of France--and along with the fowl
something exceedingly appetizing in the way of hearts of lettuce
garnished with breasts of hothouse tomatoes cut on the bias.
When we were through with this the servants removed the debris and
brought us hot plates. Then, with the air of one conferring a
real treat on us, the butler bore around a tureen arrangement full
of smoking-hot string-beans. When it came my turn I helped myself
--copiously--and waited for what was to go with the beans. A
pause ensued--to my imagination an embarrassed pause. Seeking a
cue I glanced down the table and back again. There did not appear
to be anything to go with the beans. The butler was standing at
ease behind his master's chair--ease for a butler, I mean--and the
other guests, it seemed to me, were waiting and watching. To
myself I said:
"Well, sir, that butler certainly has made a J. Henry Fox Pass of
himself this trip! Here, just when this dinner was getting to be
one of the notable successes of the present century, he has to go
and derange the whole running schedule by serving the salad when
he should have served the beans, and the beans when he should have
served the salad. It's a sickening situation; but if I can save
it I'll do it. I'll be well bred if it takes a leg!"
So, wearing the manner of one who has been accustomed all his life
to finishing off his dinner with a mess of string-beans, I used my
putting-iron; and from the edge of the fair green I holed out in
three. My last stroke was a dandy, if I do say it myself. The
others were game too--I could see that. They were eating beans
as though beans were particularly what they had come for. Out of
the tail of my eye I glanced at our hostess, sitting next to me
on the left. She was placid, calm, perfectly easy. Again addressing
myself mentally I said:
"There's a thoroughbred for you! You take a woman who got prosperous
suddenly and is still acutely suffering from nervous culture, and
if such a shipwreck had occurred at her dinner table she'd be
utterly prostrated by now--she'd be down and out--and we'd all be
standing back to give her air; but when they're born in the purple
it shows in these big emergencies. Look at this woman now--not a
ripple on the surface--balmy as a summer evening! But in about one
hour from now, Central European time, I can see her accepting that
fool butler's resignation before he's had time to offer it!"
After the beans had been cleared off the right-of-way we had the
dessert and the cheese and the coffee and the rest of it. And,
as we used to say in the society column down home when the wife
of the largest advertiser was entertaining, "at a suitable hour
those present dispersed to their homes, one and all voting the
affair to have been one of the most enjoyable occasions among like
events of the season." We all knew our manners--we had proved that.
Personally I was very proud of myself for having carried the thing
off so well but after I had survived a few tables d'hote in France
and a few more in Austria and a great many in Italy, where they
do not have anything at the hotels except tables d'hote, I did not
feel quite so proud. For at this writing in those parts the
slender, sylphlike string-bean is not playing a minor part, as
with us. He has the best spot on the evening bill--he is a
headliner. So is the cauliflower; so is the Brussels sprout; so
is any vegetable whose function among our own people is largely
Therefore I treasured the memory of this incident and brought it
back with me; and I tell it here at some length of detail because
I know how grateful my countrywomen will be to get hold of it--I
know how grateful they always are when they learn about a new
gastronomical wrinkle. Mind you, I am not saying that the notion
is an absolute novelty here. For all I know to the contrary,
prominent hostesses along the Gold Coast of the United States
--Bar Harbor to Palm Beach inclusive--may have been serving one
lone vegetable as a separate course for years and years; but I
feel sure that throughout the interior the disclosure will come
as a pleasant surprise.
The directions for executing this coup are simple and all the
deadlier because they are so simple. The main thing is to invite
your chief opponent as a smart entertainer; you know the one I
mean--the woman who scored such a distinct social triumph in the
season of 1912-13 by being the first woman in town to serve tomato
bisque with whipped cream on it. Have her there by all means.
Go ahead with your dinner as though naught sensational and
revolutionary were about to happen. Give them in proper turn the
oysters, the fish, the entree, the bird, the salad. And then, all
by itself, alone and unafraid, bring on a dab of string-beans.
Wait until you see the whites of their eyes, and aim and fire at
will. Settle back then, until the first hushed shock has somewhat
abated--until your dazed and suffering rival is glaring about in
a well-bred but flustered manner, looking for something to go with
the beans. Hold her eye while you smile a smile that is compounded
of equal parts--superior wisdom, and gentle contempt for her
ignorance--and then slowly, deliberately, dip a fork into the beans
on your plate and go to it.
Believe me, it cannot lose. Before breakfast time the next morning
every woman who was at that dinner will either be sending out
invitations for a dinner of her own and ordering beans, or she
will be calling up her nearest and best friend on the telephone
to spread the tidings. I figure that the intense social excitement
occasioned in this country a few years ago by the introduction of
Russian salad dressing will be as nothing in comparison.
This stunt of serving the vegetable as a separate course was one
of the things I learned about food during our flittings across
Europe, but it was not the only thing I learned--by a long shot
it was not. For example I learned this--and I do not care what
anybody else may say to the contrary either--that here in America
we have better food and more different kinds of food, and food
better cooked and better served than the effete monarchies of the
Old World ever dreamed of. And, quality and variety considered,
it costs less here, bite for bite, than it costs there.
Food in Germany is cheaper than anywhere else almost, I reckon;
and, selected with care and discrimination, a German dinner is an
excellently good dinner. Certain dishes in England--and they are
very certain, for you get them at every meal--are good, too, and
not overly expensive. There are some distinctive Austrian dishes
that are not without their attractions either. Speaking by and
large, however, I venture the assertion that, taking any first-rate
restaurant in any of the larger American cities and balancing it
off against any establishment of like standing in Europe, the
American restaurant wins on cuisine, service, price, flavor and
Centuries of careful and constant press-agenting have given French
cookery much of its present fame. The same crafty processes of
publicity, continued through a period of eight or nine hundred
years, have endowed the European scenic effects with a glamour and
an impressiveness that really are not there, if you can but forget
the advertising and consider the proposition on its merits.
Take their rivers now--their historic rivers, if you please. You
are traveling--heaven help you--on a Continental train. Between
spells of having your ticket punched or torn apart, or otherwise
mutilated; and getting out at the border to see your trunks
ceremoniously and solemnly unloaded and unlocked, and then as
ceremoniously relocked and reloaded after you have conferred largess
on everybody connected with the train, the customs regulations
being mainly devised for the purpose of collecting not tariff but
tips--between these periods, which constitute so important a feature
of Continental travel--you come, let us say, to a stream.
It is a puny stream, as we are accustomed to measure streams, boxed
in by stone walls and regulated by stone dams, and frequently it
is mud-colored and, more frequently still, runs between muddy
banks. In the West it would probably not even be dignified with
a regular name, and in the East it would be of so little importance
that the local congressman would not ask an annual appropriation
of more than half a million dollars for the purposes of dredging,
deepening and diking it. But even as you cross it you learn that
it is the Tiber or the Arno, the Elbe or the Po; and, such is the
force of precept and example, you immediately get all excited and
worked up over it.
English rivers are beautiful enough in a restrained, well-managed,
landscape-gardened sort of way; but Americans do not enthuse over
an English river because of what it is in itself, but because it
happens to be the Thames or the Avon--because of the distinguished
characters in history whose names are associated with it.
Hades gets much of its reputation the same way.
I think of one experience I had while touring through what we had
learned to call the Dachshund District. Our route led us alongside
a most inconsequential-looking little river. Its contents seemed
a trifle too liquid for mud and a trifle too solid for water. On
the nearer bank was a small village populated by short people and
long dogs. Out in midstream, making poor headway against the
semi-gelid current, was a little flutter-tailed steamboat panting
and puffing violently and kicking up a lather of lacy spray with
its wheelbuckets in a manner to remind you of a very warm small
lady fanning herself with a very large gauze fan, and only getting
hotter at the job.
In America that stream would have been known as Mink Creek or
Cassidy's Run, or by some equally poetic title; but when I found
out it was the Danube--no less--I had a distinct thrill. On closer
examination I discovered it to be a counterfeit thrill; but
nevertheless, I had it.
What applies in the main to the scenery applies in the main to the
food. France has the reputation of breeding the best cooks in the
world--and maybe she does; but when you are calling in France you
find most of them out. They have emigrated to America, where a
French chef gets more money in one year for exercising his art
--and gets it easier--than he could get in ten years at home--and
is given better ingredients to cook with than he ever had at home.
The hotel in Paris at which we stopped served good enough meals,
all of them centering, of course, round the inevitable poulet roti;
but it took the staff an everlastingly long time to bring the food
to you. If you grew reckless and ordered anything that was not
on the bill it upset the entire establishment; and before they
calmed down and relayed it in to you it was time for the next meal.
Still, I must say we did not mind the waiting; near at hand a
fascinating spectacle was invariably on exhibition.
At the next table sat an Italian countess. Anyhow they told me
she was an Italian countess, and she wore jewelry enough for a
dozen countesses. Every time I beheld her, with a big emerald
earring gleaming at either side of her head, I thought of a Lenox
Avenue local in the New York Subway. However, it was not so much
her jewelry that proved such a fascinating sight as it was her
pleasing habit of fetching out a gold-mounted toothpick and exploring
the most remote and intricate dental recesses of herself in full
view of the entire dining room, meanwhile making a noise like
somebody sicking a dog on.
The Europeans have developed public toothpicking beyond anything
we know. They make an outdoor pastime and function of it, whereas
we pursue this sport more or less privately. Over there, a toothpick
is a family heirloom and is handed down from one generation to
another, and is operated in company ostentatiously. In its use
some Europeans are absolutely gifted. But then we beat the world
at open-air gum-chewing--so I reckon the honors are about even.
This particular hotel, in common with all other first-class hotels
in Paris, was forgetful about setting forth on its menu the prices
of its best dishes and its special dishes. I take it this arrangement
was devised for the benefit of currency-quilted Americans. A
Frenchman asks the waiter the price of an unpriced dish and then
orders something else; but the American, as a rule, is either too
proud or too foolish to inquire into these details. At home he
is beset by a hideous fear that some waiter will think he is of a
mercenary nature; and when he is abroad this trait in him is
accentuated. So, in his carefree American way, he orders a portion
of a dish of an unspecified value; whereupon the head waiter slips
out to the office and ascertains by private inquiry how large a
letter of credit the American is carrying with him, and comes back
and charges him all the traffic will bear.
As for the keeper of a fashionable cafe on a boulevard or in the
Rue de la Paix--well, alongside of him the most rapacious restaurant
proprietor on Broadway is a kindly, Christian soul who is in
business for his health--and not feeling very healthy at that.
When you dine at one of the swagger boulevard places the head
waiter always comes, just before you have finished, and places a
display of fresh fruit before you, with a winning smile and a bow
and a gesture, which, taken together, would seem to indicate that
he is extending the compliments of the season and that the fruit
will be on the house; but never did one of the intriguing scoundrels
deceive me. Somewhere, years before, I had read statistics on the
cost of fresh fruit in a Paris restaurant, and so I had a care.
The sight of a bunch of hothouse grapes alone was sufficient to
throw me into a cold perspiration right there at the table; and
as for South African peaches, I carefully walked around them,
getting farther away all the time. A peach was just the same as
a pesthouse to me, in Paris.
Alas though! no one had warned me about French oysters, and
once--just once--I ate some, which made two mistakes on my part,
one financial and the other gustatory. They were not particularly
flavorous oysters as we know oysters on this side of the ocean.
The French oyster is a small, copper-tinted proposition, and he
tastes something like an indisposed mussel and something like a
touch of biliousness; but he is sufficiently costly for all purposes.
The cafe proprietor cherishes him so highly that he refuses to
vulgarize him by printing the asking price on the same menu. A
person in France desirous of making a really ostentatious display
of his affluence, on finding a pearl in an oyster, would swallow
the pearl and wear the oyster on his shirtfront. That would stamp
him as a person of wealth.
However, I am not claiming that all French cookery is ultra-exorbitant
in price or of excessively low grade. We had one of the surprises
of our lives when, by direction of a friend who knew Paris, we
went to a little obscure cafe that was off the tourist route and
therefore--as yet--unspoiled and uncommercialized. This place
was up a back street near one of the markets; a small and smellsome
place it was, decorated most atrociously. In the front window,
in close juxtaposition, were a platter of French snails and a
platter of sticky confections full of dark spots. There was no
mistaking the snails for anything except snails; but the other
articles were either currant buns or plain buns that had been made
in an unscreened kitchen.
Within were marble-topped tables of the Louie-Quince period and
stuffy wall-seats of faded, dusty red velvet; and a waiter in his
shirtsleeves was wandering about with a sheaf of those long French
loaves tucked under his arm like golf sticks, distributing his
loaves among the diners. But somewhere in its mysterious and
odorous depths that little bourgeois cafe harbored an honest-to-goodness
cook. He knew a few things about grilling a pig's knuckle--that
worthy person. He could make the knuckle of a pig taste like the
wing of an angel; and what he could do with a skillet, a pinch of
herbs and a calf's sweetbread passed human understanding.
Certain animals in Europe do have the most delicious diseases
anyway--notably the calf and the goose, particularly the goose of
Strasburg, where the pate de foie gras comes from. The engorged
liver of a Strasburg goose must be a source of joy to all--except
its original owner!
Several times we went back to the little restaurant round the
corner from the market, and each time we had something good. The
food we ate there helped to compensate for the terrific disillusionment
awaiting us when we drove out of Paris to a typical roadside inn,
to get some of that wonderful provincial cookery that through all
our reading days we had been hearing about. You will doubtless
recall the description, as so frequently and graphically dished
up by the inspired writers of travelogue stuff--the picturesque,
tumbledown place, where on a cloth of coarse linen--white like
snow--old Marie, her wrinkled face abeam with hospitality and
kindness, places the delicious omelet she has just made, and brings
also the marvelous salad and the perfect fowl, and the steaming
hot coffee fragrant as breezes from Araby the Blest, and the vin
ordinaire that is even as honey and gold to the thirsty throat.
You must know that passage?
We went to see for ourselves. At a distance of half a day's
automobile run from Paris we found an establishment answering to
the plans and specifications. It was shoved jam-up against the
road, as is the French custom; and it was surrounded by a high,
broken wall, on which all manner of excrescences in the shape of
tiny dormers and misshapen little towers hung, like Texas ticks
on the ears of a quarantined steer. Within the wall the numerous
ruins that made up the inn were thrown together any fashion, some
facing one way, some facing the other way, and some facing all
ways at once; so that, for the housefly, so numerously encountered
on these premises, it was but a short trip and a merry one from
the stable to the dining room and back again.
Sure enough, old Marie was on the job. Not desiring to be unkind
or unduly critical I shall merely state that as a cook old Marie
was what we who have been in France and speak the language fluently
would call la limite! The omelet she turned out for us was a thing
that was very firm and durable, containing, I think, leather
findings, with a sprinkling of chopped henbane on the top. The
coffee was as feeble a counterfeit as chicory usually is when it
is masquerading as coffee, and the vin ordinaire had less of the
vin to it and more of the ordinaire than any we sampled elsewhere.
Right here let me say this for the much-vaunted vin ordinaire of
Europe: In the end it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an
adder--not like the ordinary Egyptian adder, but like a patent
adder in the office of a loan shark, which is the worst stinger
of the whole adder family. If consumed with any degree of freedom
it puts a downy coat on your tongue next morning that causes you
to think you inadvertently swallowed the pillow in your sleep.
Good domestic wine costs as much in Europe as good domestic wine
costs in America--possibly more than as much.
The souffle potatoes of old Marie were not bad to look on, but I
did not test them otherwise. Even in my own country I do not care
to partake of souffle potatoes unless I know personally the person
who blew them up. So at the conclusion of the repast we nibbled
tentatively at the dessert, which was a pancake with jelly, done
in the image of a medicated bandage but not so tasty as one. And
then I paid the check, which was of august proportions, and we
came sadly away, realizing that another happy dream of youth had
been shattered to bits. Only the tablecloth had been as advertised.
It was coarse, but white like snow--like snow three days old in
Yet I was given to understand that was a typical rural French inn
and fully up to the standards of such places; but if the manager
of a roadhouse within half a day's ride of New York or Boston or
Philadelphia served such food to his patrons, at such prices, the
sheriff would have him inside of two months; and everybody would
be glad of it too--except the sheriff. Also, no humane man in
this country would ask a self-respecting cow to camp overnight in
such outbuildings as abutted on the kitchen of this particular
I am not denying that we have in America some pretty bad country
hotels, where good food is most barbarously mistreated and good
beds are rare to find, but we admit our shortcomings in this regard
and we deplore them--we do not shellac them over with a glamour of
bogus romance, with intent to deceive the foreign visitor to our
shores. We warn him in advance of what he may expect and urge him
to carry his rations with him.
It is almost unnecessary to add that old Marie gave us veal and
poulet roti. According to the French version of the story of the
Flood only two animals emerged from the Ark when the waters
receded--one was an immature hen and the other was an adolescent
calf. At every meal except breakfast--when they do not give you
anything at all--the French give you veal and poulet roti. If at
lunch you had the poulet roti first and afterward the veal, why,
then at dinner they provide a pleasing variety by bringing on the
veal first and the poulet roti afterward.
The veal is invariably stringy and coated over with weird sauces,
and the poulet never appears at the table in her recognizable
members--such as wings and drumsticks--but is chopped up with a
cleaver into cross sections, and strange-looking chunks of the
wreckage are sent to you. Moreover they cook the chicken in such
a way as to destroy its original taste, and the veal in such a way
as to preserve its original taste, both being inexcusable errors.
Nowhere in the larger Italian cities, except by the exercise of a
most tremendous determination, can you get any real Italian cooking
or any real Italian dishes. At the hotels they feed you on a pale,
sad table-d'hote imitation of French cooking, invariably buttressed
with the everlasting veal and the eternal poulet roti. At the
finish of a meal the waiter brings you, on one plate, two small
withered apples and a bunch of fly-specked sour grapes; and, on
another plate, the mortal remains of some excessively deceased
cheese wearing a tinfoil shroud and appropriately laid out in a
small, white, coffin-shaped box.
After this had happened to me several times I told the waiter with
gentle irony that he might as well screw the lid back on the casket
and proceed with the obsequies. I told him I was not one of those
morbid people who love to look on the faces of the strange dead.
The funeral could not get under way too soon to suit me. It seemed
to me that this funeral was already several days overdue. That
was what I told him.
In my travels the best place I ever found to get Italian dishes
was a basement restaurant under an old brownstone house on
Forty-seventh Street, in New York. There you might find the typical
dishes of Italy--I defy you to find them in Italy without a
search-warrant. However, while in Italy the tourist may derive
much entertainment and instruction from a careful study of table
In our own land we produce some reasonably boisterous trenchermen,
and some tolerably careless ones too. Several among us have yet
to learn how to eat corn on the ear and at the same time avoid
corn in the ear. A dish of asparagus has been known to develop
fine acoustic properties, and in certain quarters there is a crying
need for a sound-proof soup; but even so, and admitting these
things as facts, we are but mere beginners in this line when
compared with our European brethren.
In the caskets of memory I shall ever cherish the picture of a
particularly hairy gentleman, apparently of Russian extraction,
who patronized our hotel in Venice one evening. He was what you
might call a human hazard--a golf-player would probably have
thought of him in that connection. He was eating flour dumplings,
using his knife for a niblick all the way round; and he lost every
other shot in a concealed bunker on the edge of the rough; and he
could make more noise sucking his teeth than some people could
make playing on a fife.
There is a popular belief to the effect that the Neapolitan eats
his spaghetti by a deft process of wrapping thirty or forty inches
round the tines of his fork and then lifting it inboard, an ell
at a time. This is not correct. The true Neapolitan does not eat
his spaghetti at all--he inhales it. He gathers up a loose strand
and starts it down his throat. He then respires from the diaphragm,
and like a troupe of trained angleworms that entire mass of spaghetti
uncoils itself, gets up off the plate and disappears inside him--en
masse, as it were--and making him look like a man who is chinning
himself over a set of bead portieres. I fear we in America will
never learn to siphon our spaghetti into us thus. It takes a
nation that has practiced deep breathing for centuries.
The Deadly Poulet Routine
Under the head of European disillusionments I would rate, along
with the vin ordinaire of the French vineyard and inkworks, the
barmaid of Britain. From what you have heard on this subject you
confidently expect the British barmaid to be buxom, blond, blooming,
billowy, buoyant--but especially blond. On the contrary she is
generally brunette, frequently middle-aged, in appearance often
fair-to-middling homely, and in manner nearly always abounding
with a stiffness and hauteur that would do credit to a belted earl,
if the belting had just taken place and the earl was still groggy
from the effects of it. Also, she has the notion of personal
adornment that is common in more than one social stratum of women
in England. If she has a large, firm, solid mound of false hair
overhanging her brow like an impending landslide, and at least
three jingly bracelets on each wrist, she considers herself well
dressed, no matter what else she may or may not be wearing.
Often this lady is found presiding over an American bar, which is
an institution now commonly met with in all parts of London. The
American bar of London differs from the ordinary English bar of
London in two respects, namely--there is an American flag draped
over the mirror, and it is a place where they sell all the English
drinks and are just out of all the American ones. If you ask for
a Bronx the barmaid tells you they do not carry seafood in stock
and advises you to apply at the fishmongers'--second turning to
the right, sir, and then over the way, sir--just before you come
to the bottom of the road, sir. If you ask for a Mamie Taylor she
gets it confused in her mind with a Sally Lunn and sends out for
yeastcake and a cookbook; and while you are waiting she will give
you a genuine Yankee drink, such as a brandy and soda--or she will
suggest that you smoke something and take a look at the evening
If you do smoke something, beware--oh, beware!--of the native
English cigar. When rolled between the fingers it gives off a
dry, rustling sound similar to a shuck mattress. For smoking
purposes it is also open to the same criticisms that a shuck
mattress is. The flames smolder in the walls and then burst through
in unexpected places, and the smoke sucks up the airshaft and
mushrooms on your top floor; then the deadly back draft comes and
the fatal firedamp, and when the firemen arrive you are a ruined
tenement. Except the German, the French, the Belgian, the Austrian
and the Italian cigar, the English cigar is the worst cigar I ever
saw. I did not go to Spain; they tell me, though, the Spanish
cigar has the high qualifications of badness. Spanish cigars are
not really cigars at all, I hear; they fall into the classification
of defective flues.
Likewise beware of the alleged American cocktail occasionally
dispensed, with an air of pride and accomplished triumph, by the
British barmaid of an American bar. If for purposes of experiment
and research you feel that you must take one, order with it, instead
of the customary olive or cherry, a nice boiled vegetable marrow.
The advantage to be derived from this is that the vegetable marrow
takes away the taste of anything else and does not have any taste
of its own.
In the eating line the Englishman depends on the staples. He
sticks to the old standbys. What was good enough for his fathers
is good enough for him--in some cases almost too good. Monotony
of victuals does not distress him. He likes his food to be humdrum;
the humdrummer the better.
Speaking with regard to the whole country, I am sure we have better
beef uniformly in America than in England; but there is at least
one restaurant on the Strand where the roast beef is just a little
bit superior to any other roast beef on earth. English mutton is
incomparable, too, and English breakfast bacon is a joy forever.
But it never seems to occur to an Englishman to vary his diet. I
submit samples of the daily menu:
Roast Beef Boiled Mutton
Boiled Mutton Roast Beef
Potatoes, Boiled Cabbage, Boiled
Cabbage, Boiled Potatoes, Boiled
Jam Tart Custard
Custard Jam Tart
I know now why an Englishman dresses for dinner--it enables him
to distinguish dinner from lunch.
His regular desserts are worthy of a line. The jam tart is a
death-mask that went wrong and in coiisequence became morose and
heavy of spirit, and the custard is a soft-boiled egg which started
out in life to be a soft-boiled egg and at the last moment--when
it was too late--changed its mind and tried to be something else.
In the City, where lunching places abound, the steamer works
overtime and the stewpan never rests. There is one place, well
advertised to American visitors, where they make a specialty of
their beefsteak-and-kidney pudding. This is a gummy concoction
containing steak, kidney, mushroom, oyster, lark--and sometimes
W and Y. Doctor Johnson is said to have been very fond of it;
this, if true, accounts for the doctor's disposition. A helping
of it weighs two pounds before you eat it and ten pounds afterward.
The kidney is its predominating influence. The favorite flower
of the English is not the primrose. It is the kidney. Wherever
you go, among the restaurants, there is always somebody operating
on a steamed flour dumpling for kidney trouble.
The lower orders are much addicted to a dish known--if I remember
the name aright--by the euphonious title of Toad in the Hole.
Toad in the Hole consists of a full-grown and fragrant sheep's
kidney entombed in an excavated retreat at the heart of a large
and powerful onion, and then cooked in a slow and painful manner,
so that the onion and the kidney may swap perfumes and flavors.
These people do not use this combination for a weapon or for a
disinfectant, or for anything else for which it is naturally
purposed; they actually go so far as to eat it. You pass a cabmen's
lunchroom and get a whiff of a freshly opened Toad in the Hole
--and you imagine it is the German invasion starting and wonder
why they are not removing the women and children to a place of
safety. All England smells like something boiling, just as all
France smells like something that needs boiling.
Seemingly the only Londoners who enjoy any extensive variety in
their provender are the slum-dwellers. Out Whitechapel-way the
establishment of a tripe dresser and draper is a sight wondrous
to behold, and will almost instantly eradicate the strongest
appetite; but it is not to be compared with an East End meatshop,
where there are skinned sheep faces on slabs, and various vital
organs of various animals disposed about in clumps and clusters.
I was reminded of one of those Fourteenth Street museums of
anatomy--tickets ten cents each; boys under fourteen not admitted.
The East End butcher is not only a thrifty but an inquiring soul.
Until I viewed his shop I had no idea that a sheep could be so
untidy inside; and as for a cow--he finds things in a cow she
didn't know she had.
Breakfast is the meal at which the Englishman rather excels; in
fact England is the only country in Europe where the natives have
the faintest conception of what a regular breakfast is, or should
be. Moreover, it is now possible in certain London hotels for an
American to get hot bread and ice-water at breakfast, though the
English round about look on with undisguised horror as he consumes
them, and the manager only hopes that he will have the good taste
not to die on the premises.
It is true that, in lieu of the fresh fruit an American prefers,
the waiter brings at least three kinds of particularly sticky
marmalade and, in accordance with a custom that dates back to the
time of the Druids, spangles the breakfast cloth over with a large
number of empty saucers and plates, which fulfill no earthly purpose
except to keep getting in the way. The English breakfast bacon,
however, is a most worthy article, and the broiled kipper is juicy
and plump, and does not resemble a dried autumn leaf, as our kipper
often does. And the fried sole, on which the Englishman banks his
breakfast hopes, invariably repays one for one's undivided attention.
The English boast of their fish; but, excusing the kipper, they
have but three of note--the turbot, the plaice and the sole. And
the turbot tastes like turbot, and the plaice tastes like fish;
but the sole, when fried, is most appetizing.
I have been present when the English gooseberry and the English
strawberry were very highly spoken of, too, but with me this is
merely hearsay evidence; we reached England too late for berries.
Happily, though, we came in good season for the green filbert,
which is gathered in the fall of the year, being known then as the
Kentish cobnut. The Kentish cob beats any nut we have except the
paper-shell pecan. The English postage stamp is also much tastier
than ours. The space for licking is no larger, if as large--but
the flavor lasts.
As I said before, the Englishman has no great variety of things
to eat, but he is always eating them; and when he is not eating
them he is swigging tea. Yet in these regards the German excels
him. The Englishman gains a lap at breakfast; but after that first
hour the German leaves him, hopelessly distanced, far in the rear.
It is due to his talents in this respect that the average Berliner
has a double chin running all the way round, and four rolls of fat
on the back of his neck, all closely clipped and shaved, so as to
bring out their full beauty and symmetry, and a figure that makes
him look as though an earthquake had shaken loose everything on
the top floor and it all fell through into his dining room.
Your true Berliner eats his regular daily meals--four in number
and all large ones; and in between times he now and then gathers
a bite. For instance, about ten o'clock in the morning he knocks
off for an hour and has a few cups of hard-boiled coffee and some
sweet, sticky pastry with whipped cream on it. Then about four
in the afternoon he browses a bit, just to keep up his appetite
for dinner. This, though, is but a snack--say, a school of Bismarck
herring and a kraut pie, some more coffee and more cake, and one
thing and another--merely a preliminary to the real food, which
will be coming along a little later on. Between acts at the theater
he excuses himself and goes out and prepares his stomach for supper,
which will follow at eleven, by drinking two or three steins of
thick Munich beer, and nibbling on such small tidbits as a rosary
of German sausage or the upper half of a raw Westphalia ham. There
are forty-seven distinct and separate varieties of German sausage
and three of them are edible; but the Westphalia ham, in my judgment,
is greatly overrated. It is pronounced Westfailure with the accent
on the last part, where it belongs.
In Germany, however, there is a pheasant agreeably smothered in
young cabbage which is delicious and in season plentiful. The
only drawback to complete enjoyment of this dish is that the
grasping and avaricious German restaurant keeper has the confounded
nerve to charge you, in our money, forty cents for awhole pheasant
and half a peck of cabbage--say, enough to furnish a full meal
for two tolerably hungry adults and a growing child.
The Germans like to eat and they love a hearty eater. There should
never be any trouble about getting a suitable person to serve us
at the Kaiser's court if the Administration at Washington will but
harken to the voice of experience. To the Germans the late Doctor
Tanner would have been a distinct disappointment in an ambassadorial
capacity; but there was a man who used to live in my congressional
district who could qualify in a holy minute if he were still alive.
He was one of Nature's noblemen, untutored but naturally gifted,
and his name was John Wesley Bass. He was the champion eater of
the world, specializing particularly in eggs on the shell, and
cove oysters out of the can, with pepper sauce on them, and soda
crackers on the side.
I regret to be compelled to state, however, that John Wesley is
no more. At one of our McCracken County annual fairs, a few years
back, he succumbed to overambition coupled with a mistake in
judgment. After he had established a new world's record by eating
at one sitting five dozen raw eggs he rashly rode on the steam
merry-go-round. At the end of the first quarter of an hour he
fainted and fell off a spotted wooden horse and never spoke again,
but passed away soon after being removed to his home in an unconscious
condition. I have forgotten what the verdict of the coroner's
jury was--the attending physician gave it some fancy Latin name--but
among laymen the general judgment was that our fellow townsman had
just naturally been scrambled to death. It was a pity, too--the
German people would have cared for John Wesley as an ambassador.
He would have eaten his way right into their affections.
We have the word of history for it that Vienna was originally
settled by the Celts, but you would hardly notice it now. On first
impressions you would say that about Vienna there was a noticeable
suggestion--a perceptible trace--of the Teutonic; and this applies
to the Austrian food in the main. I remember a kind of Wiener-schnitzel,
breaded, that I had in Vienna; in fact for the moment I do not
seem to recall much else about Vienna. Life there was just one
Wiener-schnitzel after another.
In order to spread sweetness and light, and to the end, furthermore,
that the ignorant people across the salted seas might know something
of a land of real food and much food, and plenty of it and plenty
of variety to it, I would that I might bring an expedition of
Europeans to America and personally conduct it up and down our
continent and back and forth crosswise of it.
And if I had the money of a Carnegie or a Rockefeller I would do
it, too, for it would be a greater act of charity than building
public libraries or endowing public baths. I would include in my
party a few delegates from England, where every day is All Soles'
Day; and a few sausage-surfeited Teutons; and some Gauls, wearied
and worn by the deadly poulet routine of their daily life, and a
scattering representation from all the other countries over there.
In especial I would direct the Englishman's attention to the broiled
pompano of New Orleans; the kingfish filet of New York; the sanddab
of Los Angeles; the Boston scrod of the Massachusetts coast; and
that noblest of all pan fish--the fried crappie of Southern Indiana.
To these and to many another delectable fishling, would I introduce
the poor fellow; and to him and his fellows I fain would offer a
dozen apiece of Smith Island oysters on the half shell.
And I would take all of them to New England for baked beans and
brown bread and codfish balls; but on the way we would visit the
shores of Long Island for a kind of soft clam which first is steamed
and then is esteemed. At Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they should
each have a broiled lobster measuring thirty inches from tip to
tip, fresh caught out of the Piscataqua River.
Vermont should come to them in hospitality and in pity, offering
buckwheat cakes and maple sirup. But Rhode Island would bring a
genuine Yankee blueberry pie and directions for the proper consumption
of it, namely--discarding knife and fork, to raise a crusty,
dripping wedge of blueberry pie in your hand to your mouth, and
to take a first bite, which instantly changes the ground-floor
plan of that pie from a triangle to a crescent; and then to take
a second bite, and then to lick your fingers--and then there isn't
any more pie.
Down in Kentucky I should engage Mandy Berry, colored, to fry for
them some spring chickens and make for them a few pones of real
cornbread. In Creole Louisiana they should sample crawfish gumbo;
and in Georgia they should have 'possum baked with sweet potatoes;
and in Tidewater Maryland, terrapin and canvasback; and in Illinois,
young gray squirrels on toast; and in South Carolina, boiled rice
with black-eyed peas; and in Colorado, cantaloupes; and in Kansas,
young sweet corn; and in Virginia, country hams, not cured with
chemicals but with hickory smoke and loving hands; and in Tennessee,
jowl and greens.
And elsewhere they should have their whacking fill of prairie hen
and suckling pig and barbecued shote, and sure-enough beefsteak,
and goobers hot from the parching box; and scrapple, and yams
roasted in hot wood-ashes; and hotbiscuit and waffles and Parker
house rolls--and the thousand and one other good things that may
be found in this our country, and which are distinctively and
uniquely of this country.
Finally I would bring them back by way of Richmond, and there I
would give them each an eggnog compounded with fresh cream and
made according to a recipe older than the Revolution. If I had
my way about it no living creature should be denied the right to
bury his face in a brimming tumbler of that eggnog--except a man
with a drooping red mustache.
By the time those gorged and converted pilgrims touched the Eastern
seaboard again any one of them, if he caught fire, would burn for
about four days with a clear blue flame, and many valuable
packing-house by-products could be gleaned from his ruins. It
would bind us all, foreigner and native alike, in closer ties of
love and confidence, and it would turn the tide of travel westward
from Europe, instead of eastward from America.
Let's do it sometime--and appoint me conductor of the expedition!
Modes of the Moment; a Fashion Article
Among the furbearing races the adult male of the French species
easily excels. Some fine peltries are to be seen in Italy, and
there is a type of farming Englishman who wears a stiff set of
burnishers projecting out round his face in a circular effect
suggestive of a halo that has slipped down. In connection with
whiskers I have heard the Russians highly commended. They tell
me that, from a distance, it is very hard to distinguish a muzhik
from a bosky dell, whereas a grand duke nearly always reminds one
of something tasty and luxuriant in the line of ornamental arborwork.
The German military man specializes in mustaches, preference being
given to the Texas longhorn mustache, and the walrus and kitty-cat
styles. A dehorned German officer is rarely found and a muley one
is practically unknown. But the French lead all the world in
whiskers--both the wildwood variety and the domesticated kind
trained on a trellis. I mention this here at the outset because
no Frenchman is properly dressed unless he is whiskered also;
such details properly appertain to a chapter on European dress.
Probably every freeborn American citizen has at some time in his
life cherished the dream of going to England and buying himself
an outfit of English clothes--just as every woman has had hopes
of visiting Paris and stocking up with Parisian gowns on the spot
where they were created, and where--so she assumes--they will
naturally be cheaper than elsewhere. Those among us who no longer
harbor these fancies are the men and women who have tried these
After she has paid the tariff on them a woman is pained to note
that her Paris gowns have cost her as much as they would cost her
in the United States--so I have been told by women who have invested
extensively in that direction. And though a man, by the passion
of the moment, may be carried away to the extent of buying English
clothes, he usually discovers on returning to his native land that
they are not adapted to withstand the trying climatic conditions
and the critical comments of press and public in this country.
What was contemplated as a triumphal reentrance becomes a footrace
to the nearest ready-made clothing store.
English clothes are not meant for Americans, but for Englishmen
to wear: that is a great cardinal truth which Americans would do
well to ponder. Possibly you have heard that an Englishman's
clothes fit him with an air. They do so; they fit him with a lot
of air around the collar and a great deal of air adjacent to the
waistband and through the slack of the trousers; frequently they
fit him with such an air that he is entirely surrounded by space,
as in the case of a vacuum bottle. Once there was a Briton whose
overcoat collar hugged the back of his neck; so they knew by that
he was no true Briton, but an impostor--and they put him out of
the union. In brief, the kind of English clothes best suited for
an American to wear is the kind Americans make.
I knew these things in advance--or, anyway, I should have known
them; nevertheless I felt our trip abroad would not be complete
unless I brought back some London clothes. I took a look at the
shop-windows and decided to pass up the ready-made things. The
coat shirt; the shaped sock; the collar that will fit the neckband
of a shirt, and other common American commodities, seemed to be
practically unknown in London.
The English dress shirt has such a dinky little bosom on it that
by rights you cannot refer to it as a bosom at all; it comes nearer
to being what women used to call a guimpe. Every show-window where
I halted was jammed to the gunwales with thick, fuzzy, woolen
articles and inflammatory plaid waistcoats, and articles in crash
for tropical wear--even through the glass you could note each
individual crash with distinctness. The London shopkeeper adheres
steadfastly to this arrangement. Into his window he puts everything
he has in his shop except the customer. The customer is in the
rear, with all avenues of escape expertly fenced off from him by
the proprietor and the clerks; but the stock itself is in the
There are just two department stores in London where, according
to the American viewpoint, the windows are attractively dressed.
One of these stores is owned by an American, and the other, I
believe, is managed by an American. In Paris there are many shops
that are veritable jewel-boxes for beauty and taste; but these are
the small specialty shops, very expensive and highly perfumed.
The Paris department stores are worse jumbles even than the English
department stores. When there is a special sale under way the
bargain counters are rigged up on the sidewalks. There, in the
open air, buyer and seller will chaffer and bicker, and wrangle
and quarrel, and kiss and make up again--for all the world to see.
One of the free sights of Paris is a frugal Frenchman, with his
face extensively haired over, pawing like a Skye terrier through a
heap of marked-down lingerie; picking out things for the female
members of his household to wear--now testing some material with
his tongue; now holding a most personal article up in the sunlight
to examine the fabric--while the wife stands humbly, dumbly by,
waiting for him to complete his selections. So far as London was
concerned, I decided to deny myself any extensive orgy in
haberdashery. From similar motives I did not invest in the lounge
suit to which an Englishman is addicted. I doubted whether it
would fit the lounge we have at home--though, with stretching, it
might, at that. My choice finally fell on an English raincoat and
a pair of those baggy knee breeches such as an Englishman wears
when he goes to Scotland for the moor shooting, or to the National
Gallery, or any other damp, misty, rheumatic place.
I got the raincoat first. It was built to my measure; at least
that was the understanding; but you give an English tailor an inch
and he takes an ell. This particular tailor seemed to labor under
the impression that I was going to use my raincoat for holding
large public assemblies or social gatherings in--nothing that I
could say convinced him that I desired it for individual use; so
he modeled it on a generous spreading design, big at the bottom
and sloping up toward the top like a pagoda. Equipped with guy
ropes and a centerpole it would make a first-rate marquee for a
garden party--in case of bad weather the refreshments could be
served under it; but as a raincoat I did not particularly fancy
it. When I put it on I sort of reminded myself of a covered wagon.
Nothing daunted by this I looked up the address of a sporting tailor
in a side street off Regent Street, whose genius was reputed to
find an artistic outlet in knee breeches. Before visiting his
shop I disclosed my purpose to my traveling companion, an individual
in whose judgment and good taste I have ordinarily every confidence,
and who has a way of coming directly to the meat of a subject.
"What do you want with a pair of knee breeches?" inquired this
"Why--er--for general sporting occasions," I replied.
"For instance, what occasions?"
"For golfing," I said, "and for riding, you know. And if I should
go West next year they would come in very handy for the shooting."
"To begin with," said my companion, "you do not golf. The only
extensive riding I have ever heard of your doing was on railway
trains. And if these knee breeches you contemplate buying are
anything like the knee breeches I have seen here in London, and
if you should wear them out West among the impulsive Western people,
there would undoubtedly be a good deal of shooting; but I doubt
whether you would enjoy it--they might hit you!"
"Look here!" I said. "Every man in America who wears duck pants
doesn't run a poultry farm. And the presence of a sailor hat in
the summertime does not necessarily imply that the man under it
owns a yacht. I cannot go back home to New York and face other
and older members of the When-I-Was-in-London Club without some
sartorial credentials to show for my trip. I am firmly committed
to this undertaking. Do not seek to dissuade me, I beg of you.
My mind is set on knee breeches and I shan't be happy until I get
So saying I betook myself to the establishment of this sporting
tailor in the side street off Regent Street; and there, without
much difficulty, I formed the acquaintance of a salesman of suave
and urbane manners. With his assistance I picked out a distinctive,
not to say striking, pattern in an effect of plaids. The goods,
he said, were made of the wool of a Scotch sheep in the natural
colors. They must have some pretty fancy-looking sheep in Scotland!
This done, the salesman turned me over to a cutter, who took me
to a small room where incompleted garments were hanging all about
like the quartered carcasses of animals in a butcher shop. The
cutter was a person who dropped his H's and then, catching
himself, gathered them all up again and put them back in his
speech--in the wrong places. He surveyed me extensively with a
square and a measuring line, meantime taking many notes, and told
me to come back on the next day but one.
On the day named and at the hour appointed I was back. He had the
garments ready for me. As, with an air of pride, he elevated them
for my inspection, they seemed commodious--indeed, voluminous. I
had told him, when making them, to take all the latitude he needed;
but it looked now as though he had got it confused in his mind
with longitude. Those breeches appeared to be constructed for
cargo rather than speed.
With some internal misgivings I lowered my person into them while
he held them in position, and when I had descended as far as I
could go without entirely immuring myself, he buttoned the dewdabs
at the knees; then he went round behind me and cinched them in
abruptly, so that of a sudden they became quite snug at the
waistline; the only trouble was that the waistline had moved close
up under my armpits, practically eliminating about a foot and a
half of me that I had always theretofore regarded as indispensable
to the general effect. Right in the middle of my back, up between
my shoulder blades there was a stiff, hard clump of something that
bored into my spine uncomfortably. I could feel it quite
plainly--lumpy and rough.
"Ow's that, sir?" he cheerily asked me, over my shoulder; but it
seemed to me there was a strained, nervous note in his voice. "A
bit of all right--eh, sir?"
"Well," I said, standing on tiptoe in an effort to see over the
top, "you've certainly behaved very generously toward me--I'll say
that much. Midships there appears to be about four or five yards
of material I do not actually need in my business, being, as it
happens, neither a harem favorite nor a professional sackracer.
And they come up so high I'm afraid people will think the gallant
coast-guards have got me in a lifebuoy and are bringing me ashore
through the surf."
"You'll be wanting them a bit loose, sir, you know," he interjected,
still snuggling close behind me. "All our gentlemen like them
"Oh, very well," I said; "perhaps these things are mere details.
However, I would be under deep obligations to you if you'd change
'em from barkentine to schooner rig, and lower away this gaff-topsail
which now sticks up under my chin, so that I can luff and come up
in the wind without capsizing. And say, what is that hard lump
between my shoulders?"
"Nothing at all, sir," he said hastily; and now I knew he was
flurried. "I can fix that, sir--in a jiffy, sir."
"Anyhow, please come round here in front where I can converse more
freely with you on the subject," I said. I was becoming suspicious
that all was not well with me back there where he was lingering.
He came reluctantly, still half-embracing me with one arm.
Petulantly I wrestled my form free, and instantly those breeches
seemed to leap outward in all directions away from me. I grabbed
for them, and barely in time I got a grip on the yawning top hem.
Peering down the cavelike orifice that now confronted me I beheld
two spectral white columns, and recognized them as my own legs.
In the same instant, also, I realized what that hard clump against
my spine was, because when he took his hand away the clump was
gone. He had been standing back there with some eight or nine
inches of superfluous waistband bunched up in his fist.
The situation was embarrassing, and it would have been still more
embarrassing had I elected to go forth wearing my breeches in their
then state, because, to avoid talk, he would have had to go along
too, walking immediately behind me and holding up the slack. And
such a spectacle, with me filling the tonneau and he back behind
on the rumble, would have caused comment undoubtedly.
That pantsmaker was up a stump! He looked reproachfully at me,
chidingly at the breeches and sternly at the tapemeasure--which
he wore draped round his neck like a pet snake--as though he felt
convinced one of us was at fault, but could not be sure which one.
"I'm afraid, sir," he said, "that your figure is changing."
"I guess you're right," I replied with a soft sigh. "As well as
I can judge I'm not as tall as I was day before yesterday by at
least eighteen inches. And I've mislaid my diaphragm somewhere,
"'Ave them off, please, sir," he said resignedly. "I'll 'ave to
alter them to conform, sir. Come back to-morrow."
I had them off and he altered them to conform, and I went back on
the morrow; in fact I went back so often that after a while I
became really quite attached to the place. I felt almost like a
member of the firm. Between calls from me the cutter worked on
those breeches. He cut them up and he cut them down; he sheared
the back away and shingled the front, and shifted the buttons to
Still, even after all this, they were not what I should term an
unqualified success. When I sat down in them they seemed to climb
up on me so high, fore and aft, that I felt as short-waisted as a
crush hat in a state of repose. And the only way I could get my
hands into the hip pockets of those breeches was to take the
breeches off first. As ear muffs they were fair but as hip pockets
they were failures. Finally I told him to send my breeches, just
as they were, to my hotel address--and I paid the bill.
I brought them home with me. On the day after my arrival I took
them to my regular tailor and laid the case before him. I tried
them on for him and asked him to tell me, as man to man, whether
anything could be done to make those garments habitable. He called
his cutter into consultation and they went over me carefully,
meantime uttering those commiserating clucking sounds one tailor
always utters when examining another tailor's handiwork. After
this my tailor took a lump of chalk and charted out a kind of Queen
Rosamond's maze of crossmarks on my breeches and said I might leave
them, and that if surgery could save them he would operate. At
any rate he guaranteed to cut them away sufficiently to admit of
my breast bone coming out into the open once more.
In a week--about--he called me on the telephone and broke the sad
news to me. My English riding pants would never ride me again.
In using the shears he had made a fatal slip and had irreparably
damaged them in an essential location. However, he said I need
not worry, because it might have been worse; from what he had
already cut out of them he had garnered enough material to make
me a neat outing coat, and by scrimping he thought he might get a
waistcoat to match.
I have my English raincoat; it is still in a virgin state so far
as wearing it is concerned. I may yet wear it and I may not. If
I wear it and you meet me on the street--and we are strangers--you
should experience no great difficulty in recognizing me. Just
start in at almost any spot on the outer orbit and walk round and
round as though you were circling a sideshow tent looking for a
chance to crawl under the canvas and see the curiosities for
nothing; and after a while, if you keep on walking as directed,
you will come to a person with a plain but subsantial face, and
that will be me in my new English raincoat. Then again I may wear
it to a fancy-dress ball sometime. In that case I shall stencil
Pike's Peak or Bust! on the sidebreadth and go as a prairie schooner.
If I can succeed in training a Missouri hound-dog to trail along
immediately behind me the illusion will be perfect.
After these two experiences with the English tailor I gave up.
Instead of trying to wear the apparel of the foreigner I set myself
to the study of it. I would avoid falling into the habit of making
comparisons between European institutions and American institutions
that are forever favorable to the American side of the argument.
To my way of thinking there is oniy one class of tourist-Americans
to be encountered abroad worse than the class who go into hysterical
rapture over everything they see merely because it is European,
and that is the class who condemn offhand everything they see and
find fault with everything merely because it is not American. But
I must say that in the matter of outer habiliments the American
man wins the decision on points nearly every whack.
In his evening garb, which generally fits him, but which generally
is not pressed as to trouserlegs and coatsleeves, the Englishman
makes anexceedingly good appearance. The swallow-tailed coat was
created for the Englishman andhe for it; but on all other occasions
the well-dressed American leads him--leads the world, for that
matter. When a Frenchman attires himself in his fanciest regalia
he merely succeeds in looking effeminate; whereas a German, under
similar circumstances, bears a wadded-in, bulged-out, stuffed-up
appearance. I never saw a German in Germany whose hat was not too
small for him--just as I never saw a Japanese in Occidental garb
whose hat was not too large for him--if it was a derby hat. If a
German has on a pair of trousers that flare out at the bottom and
a coat with angel sleeves--I think that is the correct technical
term--and if the front of his coat is spangled over with the
largest-sized horn buttons obtainable he regards himself as being
dressed to the minute.
As for the women, I believe even the super-critical mantuamakers
of Paris have begun to concede that, as a nation, the American
women are the best-dressed women on earth. The French women have
a way of arranging their hair and of wearing their hats and of
draping their furs about their throats that is artistic beyond
comparison. There may be a word insome folks' dictionaries fitly
to describe it--there is no such word in mine; but when you have
said that much you have said all there is to say. A French woman's
feet are not shod well. French shoes, like all European shoes,
are clumsy and awkward looking.
English children are well dressed because they are simply dressed;
and the children themselves, in contrast to the overdressed, overly
aggressive youngsters so frequently encountered in America, are
mannerly and self-effacing, and have sane, simple, childish tastes.
Young English girls are fresh and natural, but frequently frumpy;
and the English married woman is generally dressed in poor taste
and appears to have a most limited wardrobe. Apparently the husband
buys all he wants, and then, if there is any money left over, the
wife gets it to spend on herself.
Venturing one morning into a London chapel I saw a dowdy little
woman of this type kneeling in a pew, chanting the responses to
the service. Her blouse gaped open all the way down her back and
she was saying with much fervor, "We have left undone those things
which we ought to have done." She had too, but she didn't know it,
as she knelt there unconsciously supplying a personal illustration
for the spoken line.
The typical highborn English woman has pale blue eyes, a fine
complexion and a clear-cut, rather expressionless face with a
profile suggestive of the portraits seen on English postage stamps
of the early Victorian period; but in the arranging of her hair
any French shopgirl could give her lessons, and any smart American
woman could teach her a lot about the knack of wearing clothes
In England, that land of caste which is rigid enough to be cast
iron, all men, with the exception of petty tradespeople, dress to
match the vocations they follow. In America no man stays put--he
either goes forward to a circle above the one into which he was
born or he slips back into a lower one; and so he dresses to suit
himself or his wife or his tailor. But in England the professional
man advertises his calling by his clothes. Extreme stage types
are ordinary types in London. No Southern silver-tongued orator
of the old-time, string-tied, slouch-hatted, long- haired variety
ever clung more closely to his official makeup than the English
barrister clings to his spats, his shad-bellied coat and his
eye-glass dangling on a cord. At a glance one knows the medical
man or the journalist, the military man in undress or the gentleman
farmer; also, by the same easy method, one may know the workingman
and the penny postman. The workingman has a cap on his head and
a neckerchief about his throat, and the legs of his corduroy
trousers are tied up below the knees with strings--else he is no
When we were in London the postmen were threatening to go on strike.
From the papers I gathered that the points in dispute had to do
with better hours and better pay; but if they had been striking
against having to wear the kind of cap the British Government makes
a postman wear, their cause would have had the cordial support and
intense sympathy of every American in town.
It remains for the English clerk to be the only Englishman who
seeks, by the clothes he wears in his hours of ease, to appear as
something more than what he really is. Off duty he fair1y dotes
on the high hat of commerce. Frequently he sports it in connection
with an exceedingly short and bobby sackcoat, and trousers that
are four or five inches too short in the legs for him. The Parisian
shopman harbors similar ambitions--only he expresses them with
more attention to detail. The noon hour arriving, the French
shophand doffs his apron and his air of deference. He puts on a
high hat and a frock coat that have been on a peg behind the door
all the morning, gathers up his cane and his gloves; and, becoming
on the instant a swagger and a swaggering boulevardier, he saunters
to his favorite sidewalk cafe for a cordial glassful of a pink or
green or purple drink. When his little hour of glory is over and
done with he returns to his counter, sheds his grandeur and is
once more your humble and ingratiating servitor.
In residential London on a Sunday afternoon one beholds some weird
and wonderful costumes. On a Sunday afternoon in a sub-suburb of
a Kensington suburb I saw, passing through a drab, sad side street,
a little Cockney man with the sketchy nose and unfinished features
of his breed. He was presumably going to church, for he carried
a large Testament under his arm. He wore, among other things, a
pair of white spats, a long-tailed coat and a high hat. It was
not a regular high hat, either, but one of those trick-performing
hats which, on signal, will lie doggo or else sit up and beg. And
he was riding a bicycle of an ancient vintage!
The most impressively got-up civilians in England--or in the world,
either, for that matter--are the assistant managers and the deputy
cashiers of the big London hotels. Compared with them the lilies
of the field are as lilies in the bulb. Their collars are higher,
their ties are more resplendent, their frock coats more floppy as
to the tail and more flappy as to the lapel, than it is possible
to imagine until you have seen it all with your own wondering eyes.
They are haughty creatures, too, austere and full of a starchy
dignity; but when you come to pay your bill you find at least one
of them lined up with the valet and the waiter, the manservant and
the maidservant, the ox and the ass, hand out and palm open to get
his tip. Having tipped him you depart feeling ennobled and uplifted
--as though you had conferred a purse of gold on a marquis.
Dressed to Kill
With us it is the dress of the women that gives life and color to
the shifting show of street life. In Europe it is the soldier,
and in England the private soldier particularly. The German private
soldier is too stiff, and the French private soldier is too limber,
and the Italian private soldier has been away from the dry-cleanser's
too long; but the British Tommy Atkins is a perfect piece of work
--what with his dinky cap tilted over one eye, and his red tunic
that fits him without blemish or wrinkle, and his snappy little
swagger stick flirting the air. As a picture of a first-class
fighting man I know of but one to match him, and that is a khaki-clad,
service-hatted Yankee regular--long may he wave!
There may be something finer in the way of a military spectacle
than the change of horse-guards at Whitehall or the march of the
foot-guards across the green in St. James' Park on a fine, bright
morning--but I do not know what it is. One day, passing Buckingham
Palace, I came on a footguard on duty in one of the little sentry
boxes just outside the walls. He did not look as though he were
alive. He looked as though he had been stuffed and mounted by a
most expert taxidermist. From under his bearskin shako and from
over his brazen chin-strap his face stared out unwinking and solemn
and barren of thought.
I said to myself: "It is taking a long chance, but I shall ascertain
whether this party has any human emotions." So I halted directly
in front of him and began staring fixedly at his midriff as though
I saw a button unfastened there or a buckle disarranged. For a
space of minutes I kept my gaze on him without cessation.
Finally the situation grew painful; but it was not that British
grenadier who grew embarrassed and fidgety--it was the other party
to the transaction. His gaze never shifted, his eyes never
wavered--but I came away feeling all wriggly.
In no outward regard whatsoever do the soldiers on the Continent
compare with the soldiers of the British archipelago. When he is
not on actual duty the German private is always going somewhere
in a great hurry with something belonging to his superior
officer--usually a riding horse or a specially heavy valise. On
duty and off he wears that woodenness of expression--or, rather,
that wooden lack of expression--which is found nowhere in such
flower of perfection as on the faces of German soldiers and German
The Germans prove they have a sense of humor by requiring their
soldiers to march on parade with the goose step; and the French
prove they have none at all by incasing the defenseless legs of
their soldiers in those foolish red-flannel pants that are
manufactured in such profusion up at the Pantheon.
In the event of another war between the two nations I anticipate
a frightful mortality among pants--especially if the French forces
should be retreating. The German soldier is not a particularly
good marksman as marksmen go, but he would have to be the worst
shot in the world to miss a pair of French pants that were going
away from him at the time.
Still, when all is said and done, there is something essentially
Frenchy about those red pants. There is something in their length
that instinctively suggests Toulon, something in their breadth
that makes you think of Toulouse. I realize that this joke, as
it stands, is weak and imperfect. If there were only another
French seaport called Toubagge I could round it out and improve
If the English private soldier is the trimmest, the Austrian officer
is the most beautiful to look on. An Austrian officer is gaudier
than the door-opener of a London cafe or the porter of a Paris
hotel. He achieves effects in gaudiness which even time Italian
officer cannot equal.
The Italian officer is addicted to cock feathers and horsetails
on his helmet, to bits of yellow and blue let into his clothes,
to tufts of red and green hung on him in unexpected and unaccountable
spots. Either the design of bottled Italian chianti is modeled
after the Italian officer or the Italian officer is modeled after
the bottle of chianti--which, though, I am not prepared to say
without further study of the subject.
But the Austrian officer is the walking sunset effect of creation.
For color schemes I know of nothing in Nature to equal him except
the Grand Canon of the Colorado. Circus parades are unknown in
Austria--they are not missed either; after an Austrian officer a
street parade would seem a colorless and commonplace thing. In
his uniform he runs to striking contrasts--canary yellow, with
light blue facings; silvers and grays; bright greens with scarlet
slashings--and so on.
His collar is the very highest of all high collars and the heaviest
with embroidery; his cloak is the longest and the widest; his boots
the most varnished; his sword-belt the broadest and the shiniest;
and the medals on his bosom are the most numerous and the most
glittering. Alf Ringling and John Philip Sousa would take one
look at him--and then, mutually filled with an envious despair,
they would go apart and hold a grand lodge of sorrow together.
Also, he constantly wears his spurs and his sword; he wears them
even when he is in a cafe in the evening listening to the orchestra,
drinking beer and allowing an admiring civilian to pay the check
--and that apparently is every evening.
There was one Austrian colonel who came one night into a cafe in
Vienna where we were and sat down at the table next to us; and he
put our eyes right out and made all the lights dim and flickery.
His epaulets were two hairbrushes of augmented size, gold-mounted;
his Plimsoll marks were outlined in bullion, and along his garboard
strake ran lines of gold braid; but strangest of all to observe
was the locality where he wore what appeared to be his service
stripes. Instead of being on his sleeves they were at the extreme
southern exposure of his coattails; I presume an Austrian officer
acquires merit by sitting down.
This particular officer's saber kept jingling, and so did his
spurs, and so did his bracelet. I almost forgot the bracelet.
It was an ornate affair of gold links fastened on his left wrist
with a big gold locket, and it kept slipping down over his hand
and rattling against his cuff. The chain bracelet locked on the
left wrist is very common among Austrian officers; it adds just
the final needed touch. I did not see any of them carrying
lorgnettes or shower bouquets, but I think, in summer they wear
One opportunity is afforded the European who is neither a soldier
nor a hotel cashier to dress himself up in comic-opera clothes
--and that is when he a-hunting goes. An American going hunting
puts on his oldest and most serviceable clothes--a European his
giddiest, gayest, gladdest regalia. We were so favored by gracious
circumstances as to behold several Englishmen suitably attired for
the chase, and we noted that the conventional morning costume of
an English gentleman expecting to call informally on a pheasant
or something during the course of the forenoon consisted, in the
main, of a perfect dear of a Norfolk jacket, all over plaits and
pockets, with large leather buttons like oak-galls adhering thickly
to it, with a belt high up under the arms and a saucy tail sticking
out behind; knee-breeches; a high stock collar; shin-high leggings
of buff or white, and a special hat--a truly adorable confection
by the world's leading he-milliner.
If you dared to wear such an outfit afield in America the very
dickeybirds would fall into fits as you passed--the chipmunks would
lean out of the trees and just naturally laugh you to death! But
in a land where the woodlands are well-kept groves, and the
undergrowth, instead of being weedy and briery, is sweet-scented
fern and gorse and bracken, I suppose it is all eminently correct.
Thus appareled the Englishman goes to Scotland to shoot the grouse,
the gillie, the heather cock, the niblick, the haggis and other
Scotch game. Thus appareled he ranges the preserves of his own
fat, fair shires in ardent pursuit of the English rabbit, which
pretty nearly corresponds to the guinea pig, but is not so ferocious;
and the English hare, which is first cousin to our molly cottontail;
and the English pheasant--but particularly the pheasant.
There was great excitement while we were in England concerning the
pheasants. Either the pheasants were preying on the mangel-wurzels
or the mangel-wurzels were preying on the pheasants. At any rate
it had something to do with the Land Bill--practically everything
that happens in England has something to do with the Land Bill--and
Lloyd George was in a free state of perspiration over it; and the
papers were full of it and altogether there was a great pother
We saw pheasants by the score. We saw them first from the windows
of our railroad carriage--big, beautiful birds nearly as large as
barnyard fowls and as tame, feeding in the bare cabbage patches,
regardless of the train chugging by not thirty yards away; and
later we saw them again at still closer range as we strolled along
the haw-and-holly-lined roads of the wonderful southern counties.
They would scuttle on ahead of us, weaving in and out of the
hedgerows; and finally, when we insisted on it and flung pebbles
at them to emphasize our desires, they would get up, with a great
drumming of wings and a fine comet-like display of flowing
tailfeathers on the part of the cock birds, and go booming away
to what passes in Sussex and Kent for dense cover--meaning by that
thickets such as you may find in the upper end of Central Park.
They say King George is one of the best pheasant-shots in England.
He also collects postage stamps when not engaged in his regular
regal duties, such as laying cornerstones for new workhouses and
receiving presentation addresses from charity children. I have
never shot pheasants; but, having seen them in their free state
as above described, and having in my youth collected postage stamps
intermittently, I should say, speaking offhand, that of the two
pursuits postage-stamp collecting is infinitely the more exciting
Through the closed season the keepers mind the pheasants, protecting
them from poachers and feeding them on selected grain; but a day
comes in October when the hunters go forth and take their stands
at spaced intervals along a cleared aisle flanking the woods; then
the beaters dive into the woods from the opposite side, and when
the tame and trusting creatures come clustering about their feet
expecting provender the beaters scare them up, by waving their
umbrellas at them, I think, and the pheasants go rocketing into
the air--rocketing is the correct sporting term--go rocketing into
the air like a flock of Sunday supplements; and the gallant gunner
downs them in great multitudes, always taking due care to avoid
mussing his clothes. For after all the main question is not "What
did he kill?" but "How does he look?"
At that, I hold no brief for the pheasant--except when served with
breadcrumb dressing and currant jelly he is no friend of mine.
It ill becomes Americans, with our own record behind us, to chide
other people for the senseless murder of wild things; and besides,
speaking personally, I have a reasonably open mind on the subject
of wild-game shooting. Myself, I shot a wild duck once. He was
not flying at the time. He was, as the stockword goes, setting.
I had no self-reproaches afterward however. As between that duck
and myself I regarded it as an even break--as fair for one as for
the other--because at the moment I myself was, as we say, setting
too. But if, in the interests of true sportsmanship, they must
have those annual massacres I certainly should admire to see what
execution a picked half dozen of American quail hunters, used to
snap-shooting in the cane jungles and brier patches of Georgia and
Arkansas, could accomplish among English pheasants, until such
time as their consciences mastered them and they desisted from
Be that as it may, pheasant shooting is the last word in the English
sporting calendar. It is a sport strictly for the gentry. Except
in the capacity of innocent bystanders the lower orders do not
share in it. It is much too good for them; besides, they could
not maintain the correct wardrobe for it. The classes derive one
substantial benefit from the institution however. The sporting
instinct of the landed Englishman has led to the enactment of laws
under which an ordinary person goes smack to jail if he is caught
sequestrating a clandestine pheasant bird; but it does not militate
against the landowner's peddling off his game after he has destroyed
it. British thrift comes in here. And so in carload lots it is
sold to the marketmen. The result is that in the fall of the year
pheasants are cheaper than chickens; and any person who can afford
poultry on his dinner table can afford pheasants.
The Continental hunter makes an even more spectacular appearance
than his British brother. No self-respecting German or French
sportsman would think of faring forth after the incarnate brown
hare or the ferocious wood pigeon unless he had on a green hat
with a feather in it; and a green suit to match the hat; and swung
about his neck with a cord a natty fur muff to keep his hands in
between shots; and a swivel chair to sit in while waiting for the
wild boar to come along and be bowled over.
Being hunted with a swivel chair is what makes the German wild
boar wild. On occasion, also, the hunter wears, suspended from
his belt, a cute little hanger like a sawed-off saber, with which
to cut the throats of his spoil. Then, when it has spoiled some
more, they will serve it at a French restaurant.
It was our fortune to be in France on the famous and ever-memorable
occasion when the official stag of the French Republic met a tragic
and untimely end, under circumstances acutely distressing to all
who believe in the divinity bestowed prerogatives of the nobility.
The Paris edition of the Herald printed the lamentable tale on its
front page and I clipped the account. I offer it here in exact
reproduction, including the headline:
HUNTING INCIDENT SAID TO BE DUE TO CONSPIRACY
Further details are given in this morning's Figaro of the incident
between Prince Murat and M. Dauchis, the mayor of Saint-Felix,
near Clermont, which was briefly reported in yesterday's Herald.
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