The Entire March Family Trilogy
William Dean Howells
Part 19 out of 21
"Then you think he was really serious about her?"
"Now my dear! He was so serious that I suppose he was never so
completely taken aback in his life as when he met Kenby in Wurzburg and
saw how she received him. Of course, that put an end to the fight."
"Yes--that Mrs. Adding and Agatha were keeping up to prevent his offering
"Oh! And how do you know that they were keeping up the fight together?"
"How do I? Didn't you see yourself what friends they were? Did you tell
him what Stoller had, said about Burnamy?"
"I had no chance. I don't know that I should have done it, anyway. It
wasn't my affair."
"Well, then, I think you might. It would have been everything for that
poor child; it would have completely justified her in her own eyes."
"Perhaps your telling her will serve the same purpose."
"Yes, I did tell her, and I am glad of it. She had a right to know it."
"Did she think Stoller's willingness to overlook Burnamy's performance
had anything to do with its moral quality?"
Mrs. March was daunted for the moment, but she said, "I told her you
thought that if a person owned to a fault they disowned it, and put it
away from them just as if it had never been committed; and that if a
person had taken their punishment for a wrong they had done, they had
expiated it so far as anybody else was concerned. And hasn't poor
Burnamy done both?"
As a moralist March was flattered to be hoist with his own petard, but as
a husband he was not going to come down at once. "I thought probably you
had told her that. You had it pat from having just been over it with me.
When has she heard from him?"
"Why, that's the strangest thing about it. She hasn't heard at all. She
doesn't know where he is. She thought we must know. She was terribly
"How did she show it?"
"She didn't show it. Either you want to tease, or you've forgotten how
such things are with young people--or at least girls."
"Yes, it's all a long time ago with me, and I never was a girl. Besides,
the frank and direct behavior of Kenby and Mrs. Adding has been very
obliterating to my early impressions of love-making."
"It certainly hasn't been ideal," said Mrs. March with a sigh.
"Why hasn't it been ideal?" he asked. "Kenby is tremendously in love
with her; and I believe she's had a fancy for him from the beginning.
If it hadn't been for Rose she would have accepted him at once; and now
he's essential to them both in their helplessness. As for Papa Triscoe
and his Europeanized scruples, if they have any reality at all they're
the residuum of his personal resentment, and Kenby and Mrs. Adding have
nothing to do with their unreality. His being in love with her is no
reason why he shouldn't be helpful to her when she needs him, and every
reason why he should. I call it a poem, such as very few people have the
luck to live out together."
Mrs. March listened with mounting fervor, and when he stopped, she cried
out, "Well, my dear, I do believe you are right! It is ideal, as you
say; it's a perfect poem. And I shall always say--"
She stopped at the mocking light which she caught in his look, and
perceived that he had been amusing himself with her perennial enthusiasm
for all sorts of love-affairs. But she averred that she did not care;
what he had said was true, and she should always hold him to it.
They were again in the wedding-journey sentiment in which they had left
Carlsbad, when they found themselves alone together after their escape
from the pressure of others' interests. The tide of travel was towards
Frankfort, where the grand parade was to take place some days later.
They were going to Weimar, which was so few hours out of their way that
they simply must not miss it; and all the way to the old literary capital
they were alone in their compartment, with not even a stranger, much less
a friend to molest them. The flying landscape without was of their own
early autumnal mood, and when the vineyards of Wurzburg ceased to purple
it, the heavy after-math of hay and clover, which men, women, and
children were loading on heavy wains, and driving from the meadows
everywhere, offered a pastoral and pleasing change. It was always the
German landscape; sometimes flat and fertile, sometimes hilly and poor;
often clothed with dense woods, but always charming, with castled tops in
ruin or repair, and with levels where Gothic villages drowsed within
their walls, and dreamed of the mediaeval past, silent, without apparent
life, except for some little goose-girl driving her flock before her as
she sallied out into the nineteenth century in search of fresh pasturage.
As their train mounted among the Thuringian uplands they were aware of a
finer, cooler air through their open window. The torrents foamed white
out of the black forests of fir and pine, and brawled along the valleys,
where the hamlets roused themselves in momentary curiosity as the train
roared into them from the many tunnels. The afternoon sunshine had the
glister of mountain sunshine everywhere, and the travellers had a
pleasant bewilderment in which their memories of Switzerland and the
White Mountains mixed with long-dormant emotions from Adirondack
sojourns. They chose this place and that in the lovely region where they
lamented that they had not come at once for the after-cure, and they
appointed enough returns to it in future years to consume all the summers
they had left to live.
It was falling night when they reached Weimar, where they found at the
station a provision of omnibuses far beyond the hotel accommodations.
They drove first to the Crown-Prince, which was in a promising state of
reparation, but which for the present could only welcome them to an
apartment where a canvas curtain cut them off from a freshly plastered
wall. The landlord deplored the fact, and sent hospitably out to try and
place them at the Elephant. But the Elephant was full, and the Russian
Court was full too. Then the landlord of the Crown-Prince bethought
himself of a new hotel, of the second class, indeed, but very nice, where
they might get rooms, and after the delay of an hour, they got a carriage
and drove away from the Crown-Prince, where the landlord continued to the
last as benevolent as if they had been a profit instead of a loss to him.
The streets of the town at nine o'clock were empty and quiet, and they
instantly felt the academic quality of the place. Through the pale night
they could see that the architecture was of the classic sentiment which
they were destined to feel more and more; at one point they caught a
fleeting glimpse of two figures with clasped hands and half embraced,
which they knew for the statues of Goethe and Schiller; and when they
mounted to their rooms at the Grand-Duke of Saxe-Weimar, they passed
under a fresco representing Goethe and four other world-famous poets,
Shakspere, Milton, Tasso, and Schiller. The poets all looked like
Germans, as was just, and Goethe was naturally chief among them; he
marshalled the immortals on their way, and Schiller brought up the rear
and kept them from going astray in an Elysium where they did not speak
the language. For the rest, the hotel was brand-new, of a quite American
freshness, and was pervaded by a sweet smell as of straw matting, and
provided with steam-radiators. In the sense of its homelikeness the
Marches boasted that they were never going away from it.
In the morning they discovered that their windows looked out on the
grand-ducal museum, with a gardened space before and below its
classicistic bulk, where, in a whim of the weather, the gay flowers were
full of sun. In a pleasant illusion of taking it unawares, March
strolled up through the town; but Weimar was as much awake at that hour
as at any of the twenty-four, and the tranquillity of its streets, where
he encountered a few passers several blocks apart, was their habitual
mood. He came promptly upon two objects which he would willingly have
shunned: a 'denkmal' of the Franco-German war, not so furiously bad as
most German monuments, but antipathetic and uninteresting, as all
patriotic monuments are; and a woman-and-dog team. In the shock from
this he was sensible that he had not seen any woman-and-dog teams for
some time, and he wondered by what civic or ethnic influences their
distribution was so controlled that they should have abounded in Hamburg,
Leipsic, and Carlsbad, and wholly ceased in Nuremberg, Ansbach, and
Wurzburg, to reappear again in Weimar, though they seemed as
characteristic of all Germany as the ugly denkmals to her victories over
The Goethe and Schiller monument which he had glimpsed the night before
was characteristic too, but less offensively so. German statues at the
best are conscious; and the poet-pair, as the inscription calls them,
have the air of showily confronting posterity with their clasped hands,
and of being only partially rapt from the spectators. But they were more
unconscious than any other German statues that March had seen, and he
quelled a desire to ask Goethe, as he stood with his hand on Schiller's
shoulder, and looked serenely into space far above one of the typical
equipages of his country, what he thought of that sort of thing. But
upon reflection he did not know why Goethe should be held personally
responsible for the existence of the woman-and-dog team. He felt that he
might more reasonably attribute to his taste the prevalence of classic
profiles which he began to note in the Weimar populace. This could be a
sympathetic effect of that passion for the antique which the poet brought
back with him from his sojourn in Italy; though many of the people,
especially the children, were bow-legged. Perhaps the antique had: begun
in their faces, and had not yet got down to their legs; in any case they
were charming children, and as a test of their culture, he had a mind to
ask a little girl if she could tell him where the statue of Herder was,
which he thought he might as well take in on his ramble, and so be done
with as many statues as he could. She answered with a pretty regret in
her tender voice, "That I truly cannot," and he was more satisfied than
if she could, for he thought it better to be a child and honest, than to
know where any German statue was.
He easily found it for himself in the place which is called the Herder
Platz after it. He went into the Peter and Paul Church there; where
Herder used to preach sermons, sometimes not at all liked by the nobility
and gentry for their revolutionary tendency; the sovereign was shielded
from the worst effects of his doctrine by worshipping apart from other
sinners in a glazed gallery. Herder is buried in the church, and when
you ask where, the sacristan lifts a wooden trap-door in the pavement,
and you think you are going down into the crypt, but you are only to see
Herder's monumental stone, which is kept covered so to save it from
passing feet. Here also is the greatest picture of that great soul Luke
Kranach, who had sincerity enough in his paining to atone for all the
swelling German sculptures in the world. It is a crucifixion, and the
cross is of a white birch log, such as might have been cut out of the
Weimar woods, shaved smooth on the sides, with the bark showing at the
edges. Kranach has put himself among the spectators, and a stream of
blood from the side of the Savior falls in baptism upon the painter's
head. He is in the company of John the Baptist and Martin Luther; Luther
stands with his Bible open, and his finger on the line, "The blood of
Jesus cleanseth us."
Partly because he felt guilty at doing all these things without his wife,
and partly because he was now very hungry, March turned from them and got
back to his hotel, where she was looking out for him from their open
window. She had the air of being long domesticated there, as she laughed
down at seeing him come; and the continued brilliancy of the weather
added to the illusion of home.
It was like a day of late spring in Italy or America; the sun in that
gardened hollow before the museum was already hot enough to make him glad
of the shelter of the hotel. The summer seemed to have come back to
oblige them, and when they learned that they were to see Weimar in a
festive mood because this was Sedan Day, their curiosity, if not their
sympathy, accepted the chance gratefully. But they were almost moved to
wish that the war had gone otherwise when they learned that all the
public carriages were engaged, and they must have one from a stable if
they wished to drive after breakfast. Still it was offered them for such
a modest number of marks, and their driver proved so friendly and
conversable, that they assented to the course of history, and were more
and more reconciled as they bowled along through the grand-ducal park
beside the waters of the classic Ilm.
The waters of the classic Ilm are sluggish and slimy in places, and in
places clear and brooklike, but always a dull dark green in color. They
flow in the shadow of pensive trees, and by the brinks of sunny meadows,
where the after-math wanders in heavy windrows, and the children sport
joyously over the smooth-mown surfaces in all the freedom that there is
in Germany. At last, after immemorial appropriation the owners of the
earth are everywhere expropriated, and the people come into the pleasure
if not the profit of it. At last, the prince, the knight, the noble
finds, as in his turn the plutocrat will find, that his property is not
for him, but for all; and that the nation is to enjoy what he takes from
it and vainly thinks to keep from it. Parks, pleasaunces, gardens, set
apart for kings, are the play-grounds of the landless poor in the Old
World, and perhaps yield the sweetest joy of privilege to some state-sick
ruler, some world-weary princess, some lonely child born to the solitude
of sovereignty, as they each look down from their palace windows upon the
leisure of overwork taking its little holiday amidst beauty vainly
created for the perpetual festival of their empty lives.
March smiled to think that in this very Weimar, where sovereignty had
graced and ennobled itself as nowhere else in the world by the
companionship of letters and the arts, they still were not hurrying first
to see the palace of a prince, but were involuntarily making it second to
the cottage of a poet. But in fact it is Goethe who is forever the
prince in Weimar. His greatness blots out its history, his name fills
the city; the thought of him is its chiefest imitation and largest
hospitality. The travellers remembered, above all other facts of the
grand-ducal park, that it was there he first met Christiane Vulpius,
beautiful and young, when he too was beautiful and young, and took her
home to be his love, to the just and lasting displeasure of Fran von
Stein, who was even less reconciled when, after eighteen years of due
reflection, the love of Goethe and Christiane became their marriage.
They, wondered just where it was he saw the young girl coming to meet him
as the Grand-Duke's minister with an office-seeking petition from her
brother, Goethe's brother author, long famed and long forgotten for his
romantic tale of "Rinaldo Rinaldini."
They had indeed no great mind, in their American respectability, for that
rather matter-of-fact and deliberate liaison, and little as their
sympathy was for the passionless intellectual intrigue with the Frau von
Stein, it cast no halo of sentiment about the Goethe cottage to suppose
that there his love-life with Christiane began. Mrs. March even resented
the fact, and when she learned later that it was not the fact at all, she
removed it from her associations with the pretty place almost
In spite of our facile and multiple divorces we Americans are worshipers
of marriage, and if a great poet, the minister of a prince, is going to
marry a poor girl, we think he had better not wait till their son is
almost of age. Mrs. March would not accept as extenuating circumstances
the Grand-Duke's godfatherhood, or Goethe's open constancy to Christiane,
or the tardy consecration of their union after the French sack of,
Weimar, when the girl's devotion had saved him from the rudeness of the
marauding soldiers. For her New England soul there were no degrees in
such guilt; and, perhaps there are really not so many as people have
tried to think, in their deference to Goethe's greatness. But certainly
the affair was not so simple for a grand-ducal minister of world-wide
renown, and he might well have felt its difficulties, for he could not
have been proof against the censorious public opinion of Weimar, or the
yet more censorious private opinion of Fran von Stein.
On that lovely Italo-American morning no ghost of these old dead
embarrassments lingered within or without the Goethe garden-house.
The trees which the poet himself planted flung a sun-shot shadow upon it,
and about its feet basked a garden of simple flowers, from which the
sweet lame girl who limped through the rooms and showed them, gathered a
parting nosegay for her visitors. The few small livingrooms were above
the ground-floor, with kitchen and offices below in the Italian fashion;
in one of the little chambers was the camp-bed which Goethe carried with
him on his journeys through Italy; and in the larger room at the front
stood the desk where he wrote, with the chair before it from which he
might just have risen.
All was much more livingly conscious of the great man gone than the proud
little palace in the town, which so abounds with relics and memorials of
him. His library, his study, his study table, with everything on it just
as he left it when
"Cadde la stanca mana."
are there, and there is the death-chair facing the window, from which he
gasped for "more light" at last. The handsome, well-arranged rooms are
full of souvenirs of his travel, and of that passion for Italy which he
did so much to impart to all German hearts, and whose modern waning
leaves its records here of an interest pathetically, almost amusingly,
faded. They intimate the classic temper to which his mind tended more
and more, and amidst the multitude of sculptures, pictures, prints,
drawings, gems, medals, autographs, there is the sense of the many-
mindedness, the universal taste, for which he found room in little
Weimar, but not in his contemporaneous Germany. But it is all less
keenly personal, less intimate than the simple garden-house, or else,
with the great troop of people going through it, and the custodians
lecturing in various voices and languages to the attendant groups, the
Marches had it less to themselves, and so imagined him less in it.
All palaces have a character of tiresome unlivableness which is common to
them everywhere, and very probably if one could meet their proprietors in
them one would as little remember them apart afterwards as the palaces
themselves. It will not do to lift either houses or men far out of the
average; they become spectacles, ceremonies; they cease to have charm, to
have character, which belong to the levels of life, where alone there are
ease and comfort, and human nature may be itself, with all the little
delightful differences repressed in those who represent and typify.
As they followed the custodian through the grand-ducal Residenz at
Weimar, March felt everywhere the strong wish of the prince who was
Goethe's friend to ally himself with literature, and to be human at least
in the humanities. He came honestly by his passion for poets; his mother
had known it in her time, and Weimar was the home of Wieland and of
Herder before the young Grand-Duke came back from his travels bringing
Goethe with him, and afterwards attracting Schiller. The story of that
great epoch is all there in the Residenz, told as articulately as a
There are certain Poets' Rooms, frescoed with illustrations of Goethe,
Schiller, and Wieland; there is the room where Goethe and the Grand-Duke
used to play chess together; there is the conservatory opening from it
where they liked to sit and chat; everywhere in the pictures and
sculptures, the engraving and intaglios, are the witnesses of the tastes
they shared, the love they both had for Italy, and for beautiful Italian
things. The prince was not so great a prince but that he could very
nearly be a man; the court was perhaps the most human court that ever
was; the Grand-Duke and the grand poet were first boon companions, and
then monarch and minister working together for the good of the country;
they were always friends, and yet, as the American saw in the light of
the New World, which he carried with him, how far from friends! At best
it was make-believe, the make-believe of superiority and inferiority, the
make-believe of master and man, which could only be the more painful and
ghastly for the endeavor of two generous spirits to reach and rescue each
other through the asphyxiating unreality; but they kept up the show of
equality faithfully to the end. Goethe was born citizen of a free
republic, and his youth was nurtured in the traditions of liberty; he was
one of the greatest souls of any time, and he must have known the
impossibility of the thing they pretended; but he died and made no sign,
and the poet's friendship with the prince has passed smoothly into
history as one of the things that might really be. They worked and
played together; they dined and danced, they picnicked and poetized, each
on his own side of the impassable gulf; with an air of its not being
there which probably did not deceive their contemporaries so much as
A part of the palace was of course undergoing repair; and in the gallery
beyond the conservatory a company of workmen were sitting at a table
where they had spread their luncheon. They were somewhat subdued by the
consciousness of their august environment; but the sight of them was
charming; they gave a kindly interest to the place which it had wanted
before; and which the Marches felt again in another palace where the
custodian showed them the little tin dishes and saucepans which the
German Empress Augusta and her sisters played with when they were
children. The sight of these was more affecting even than the withered
wreaths which they had left on the death-bed of their mother, and which
are still mouldering there.
This was in the Belvedere, the country house on the height overlooking
Weimar, where the grand-ducal family spend the month of May, and where
the stranger finds himself amid overwhelming associations of Goethe,
although the place is so full of relics and memorials of the owners.
It seemed in fact to be a storehouse for the wedding-presents of the
whole connection, which were on show in every room; Mrs. March hardly
knew whether they heightened the domestic effect or took from it; but
they enabled her to verify with the custodian's help certain royal
intermarriages which she had been in doubt about before.
Her zeal for these made such favor with him that he did not spare them a
portrait of all those which March hoped to escape; he passed them over,
scarcely able to stand, to the gardener, who was to show them the open-
air theatre where Goethe used to take part in the plays.
The Natur-Theater was of a classic ideal, realized in the trained vines
and clipped trees which formed the coulisses. There was a grassy space
for the chorus and the commoner audience, and then a few semicircular
gradines cut in the turf, one alcove another, where the more honored
spectators sat. Behind the seats were plinths bearing the busts of
Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Herder. It was all very pretty, and if
ever the weather in Weimar was dry enough to permit a performance, it
must have been charming to see a play in that open day to which the drama
is native, though in the late hours it now keeps in the thick air of
modern theatres it has long forgotten the fact. It would be difficult to
be Greek under a German sky, even when it was not actually raining, but
March held that with Goethe's help it might have been done at Weimar, and
his wife and he proved themselves such enthusiasts for the Natur-Theater
that the walnut-faced old gardener who showed it put together a sheaf of
the flowers that grew nearest it and gave them to Mrs. March for a
They went for a cup of tea to the cafe which looks, as from another
eyebrow of the hill, out over lovely little Weimar in the plain below.
In a moment of sunshine the prospect was very smiling; but their spirits
sank over their tea when it came; they were at least sorry they had not
asked for coffee. Most of the people about them were taking beer,
including the pretty girls of a young ladies' school, who were there with
their books and needle-work, in the care of one of the teachers,
apparently for the afternoon.
Mrs. March perceived that they were not so much engaged with their books
or their needle-work but they had eyes for other things, and she followed
the glances of the girls till they rested upon the people at a table
somewhat obliquely to the left. These were apparently a mother and
daughter, and they were listening to a young man who sat with his back to
Mrs. March, and leaned low over the table talking to them. They were
both smiling radiantly, and as the girl smiled she kept turning herself
from the waist up, and slanting her face from this side to that, as if to
make sure that every one saw her smiling.
Mrs. March felt her husband's gaze following her own, and she had just
time to press her finger firmly on his arm and reduce his cry of
astonishment to the hoarse whisper in which he gasped, "Good gracious!
It's the pivotal girl!"
At the same moment the girl rose with her mother, and with the young man,
who had risen too, came directly toward the Marches on their way out of
the place without noticing them, though Burnamy passed so near that Mrs.
March could almost have touched him.
She had just strength to say, "Well, my dear! That was the cut direct."
She said this in order to have her husband reassure her. "Nonsense! He
never saw us. Why didn't you speak to him?"
"Speak to him? I never shall speak to him again. No! This is the last
of Mr. Burnamy for me. I shouldn't have minded his not recognizing us,
for, as you say, I don't believe he saw us; but if he could go back to
such a girl as that, and flirt with her, after Miss Triscoe, that's all I
wish to know of him. Don't you try to look him up, Basil! I'm glad-
yes, I'm glad he doesn't know how Stoller has come to feel about him; he
deserves to suffer, and I hope he'll keep on suffering: You were quite
right, my dear--and it shows how true your instinct is in such things (I
don't call it more than instinct)--not to tell him what Stoller said, and
I don't want you ever should."
She had risen in her excitement, and was making off in such haste that
she would hardly give him time to pay for their tea, as she pulled him
impatiently to their carriage.
At last he got a chance to say, "I don't think I can quite promise that;
my mind's been veering round in the other direction. I think I shall
"What! After you've seen him flirting with that girl? Very well, then,
you won't, my dear; that's all! He's behaving very basely to Agatha."
"What's his flirtation with all the girls in the universe to do with my
duty to him? He has a right to know what Stoller thinks. And as to his
behaving badly toward Miss Triscoe, how has he done it? So far as you
know, there is nothing whatever between them. She either refused him
outright, that last night in Carlsbad, or else she made impossible
conditions with him. Burnamy is simply consoling himself, and I don't
"Consoling himself with a pivotal girl!" cried Mrs. March.
"Yes, with a pivotal girl. Her pivotality may be a nervous idiosyncrasy,
or it may be the effect of tight lacing; perhaps she has to keep turning
and twisting that way to get breath. But attribute the worst motive: say
it is to make people look at her! Well, Burnamy has a right to look with
the rest; and I am not going to renounce him because he takes refuge with
one pretty girl from another. It's what men have been doing from the
beginning of time."
"Oh, I dare say!"
"Men," he went on, "are very delicately constituted; very peculiarly.
They have been known to seek the society of girls in general, of any
girl, because some girl has made them happy; and when some girl has made
them unhappy, they are still more susceptible. Burnamy may be merely
amusing himself, or he may be consoling himself; but in either case I
think the pivotal girl has as much right to him as Miss Triscoe. She had
him first; and I'm all for her."
Burnamy came away from seeing the pivotal girl and her mother off on the
train which they were taking that evening for Frankfort and Hombourg, and
strolled back through the Weimar streets little at ease with himself.
While he was with the girl and near her he had felt the attraction by
which youth impersonally draws youth, the charm which mere maid has for
mere man; but once beyond the range of this he felt sick at heart and
ashamed. He was aware of having used her folly as an anodyne for the
pain which was always gnawing at him, and he had managed to forget it in
her folly, but now it came back, and the sense that he had been reckless
of her rights came with it. He had done his best to make her think him
in love with her, by everything but words; he wondered how he could be
such an ass, such a wicked ass, as to try making her promise to write to
him from Frankfort; he wished never to see her again, and he wished still
less to hear from her. It was some comfort to reflect that she had not
promised, but it was not comfort enough to restore him to such
fragmentary self-respect as he had been enjoying since he parted with
Agatha Triscoe in Carlsbad; he could not even get back to the resentment
with which he had been staying himself somewhat before the pivotal girl
unexpectedly appeared with her mother in Weimar.
It was Sedan Day, but there was apparently no official observance of the
holiday, perhaps because the Grand-Duke was away at the manoeuvres, with
all the other German princes. Burnamy had hoped for some voluntary
excitement among the people, at least enough to warrant him in making a
paper about Sedan Day in Weimar, which he could sell somewhere; but the
night was falling, and there was still no sign of popular rejoicing over
the French humiliation twenty-eight years before, except in the multitude
of Japanese lanterns which the children were everywhere carrying at the
ends of sticks. Babies had them in their carriages, and the effect of
the floating lights in the winding, up-and-down-hill streets was charming
even to Burnamy's lack-lustre eyes. He went by his hotel and on to a
cafe with a garden, where there was a patriotic, concert promised; he
supped there, and then sat dreamily behind his beer, while the music
banged and brayed round him unheeded.
Presently he heard a voice of friendly banter saying in English, "May I
sit at your table?" and he saw an ironical face looking down on him.
"There doesn't seem any other place."
"Why, Mr. March!" Burnamy sprang up and wrung the hand held out to him,
but he choked with his words of recognition; it was so good to see this
faithful friend again, though he saw him now as he had seen him last,
just when he had so little reason to be proud of himself.
March settled his person in the chair facing Burnamy, and then glanced
round at the joyful jam of people eating and drinking, under a firmament
of lanterns. "This is pretty," he said, "mighty pretty. I shall make
Mrs. March sorry for not coming, when I go back."
"Is Mrs. March--she is--with you--in Weimar?" Burnamy asked stupidly.
March forbore to take advantage of him. "Oh, yes. We saw you out at
Belvedere this afternoon. Mrs. March thought for a moment that you meant
not to see us. A woman likes to exercise her imagination in those little
"I never dreamed of your being there--I never saw--" Burnamy began.
"Of course not. Neither did Mrs. Etkins, nor Miss Etkins; she was
looking very pretty. Have you been here some time?"
"Not long. A week or so. I've been at the parade at Wurzburg."
"At Wurzburg! Ah, how little the world is, or how large Wurzburg is!
We were there nearly a week, and we pervaded the place. But there was a
great crowd for you to hide in from us. What had I better take?"
A waiter had come up, and was standing at March's elbow. "I suppose I
mustn't sit here without ordering something?"
"White wine and selters," said Burnamy vaguely.
"The very thing! Why didn't I think of it? It's a divine drink: it
satisfies without filling. I had it a night or two before we left home,
in the Madison Square Roof Garden. Have you seen 'Every Other Week'
"No," said Burnamy, with more spirit than he had yet shown.
"We've just got our mail from Nuremberg. The last number has a poem in
it that I rather like." March laughed to see the young fellow's face
light up with joyful consciousness. "Come round to my hotel, after
you're tired here, and I'll let you see it. There's no hurry. Did you
notice the little children with their lanterns, as you came along? It's
the gentlest effect that a warlike memory ever came to. The French
themselves couldn't have minded those innocents carrying those soft
lights on the day of their disaster. You ought to get something out of
that, and I've got a subject in trust for you from Rose Adding. He and
his mother were at Wurzburg; I'm sorry to say the poor little chap didn't
seem very well. They've gone to Holland for the sea air." March had
been talking for quantity in compassion of the embarrassment in which
Burnamy seemed bound; but he questioned how far he ought to bring comfort
to the young fellow merely because he liked him. So far as he could make
out, Burnamy had been doing rather less than nothing to retrieve himself
since they had met; and it was by an impulse that he could not have
logically defended to Mrs. March that he resumed. "We found another
friend of yours in Wurzburg: Mr. Stoller."
"Mr. Stoller?" Burnamy faintly echoed.
"Yes; he was there to give his daughters a holiday during the manoeuvres;
and they made the most of it. He wanted us to go to the parade with his
family but we declined. The twins were pretty nearly the death of
Again Burnamy echoed him. "General Triscoe?"
"Ah, yes: I didn't tell you. General Triscoe and his daughter had come
on with Mrs. Adding and Rose. Kenby--you remember Kenby, On the
Norumbia?--Kenby happened to be there, too; we were quite a family party;
and Stoller got the general to drive out to the manoeuvres with him and
Now that he was launched, March rather enjoyed letting himself go. He
did not know what he should say to Mrs. March when he came to confess
having told Burnamy everything before she got a chance at him; he pushed
on recklessly, upon the principle, which probably will not hold in
morals, that one may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. "I have a
message for you from Mr. Stoller."
"For me?" Burnamy gasped.
"I've been wondering how I should put it, for I hadn't expected to see
you. But it's simply this: he wants you to know--and he seemed to want
me to know--that he doesn't hold you accountable in the way he did. He's
thought it all over, and he's decided that he had no right to expect you
to save him from his own ignorance where he was making a show of
knowledge. As he said, he doesn't choose to plead the baby act. He says
that you're all right, and your place on the paper is open to you."
Burnamy had not been very prompt before, but now he seemed braced for
instant response. "I think he's wrong," he said, so harshly that the
people at the next table looked round. "His feeling as he does has
nothing to do with the fact, and it doesn't let me out."
March would have liked to take him in his arms; he merely said, "I think
you're quite right, as to that. But there's such a thing as forgiveness,
you know. It doesn't change the nature of what you've done; but as far
as the sufferer from it is concerned, it annuls it."
"Yes, I understand that. But I can't accept his forgiveness if I hate
"But perhaps you won't always hate him. Some day you may have a chance
to do him a good turn. It's rather banale; but there doesn't seem any
other way. Well, I have given you his message. Are you going with me to
get that poem?"
When March had given Burnamy the paper at his hotel, and Burnamy had put
it in his pocket, the young man said he thought he would take some
coffee, and he asked March to join him in the dining-room where they had
"No, thank you," said the elder, "I don't propose sitting up all night,
and you'll excuse me if I go to bed now. It's a little informal to leave
"You're not leaving a guest! I'm at home here. I'm staying in this
March said, "Oh!" and then he added abruptly, "Good-night," and went up
stairs under the fresco of the five poets.
"Whom were you talking with below?" asked Mrs. March through the door
opening into his room from hers.
"Burnamy," he answered from within. "He's staying in this house. He let
me know just as I was going to turn him out for the night. It's one of
those little uncandors of his that throw suspicion on his honesty in
"Oh! Then you've been telling him," she said, with a mental bound high
above and far beyond the point.
"About Stoller, too?"
"About Stoller and his daughters, and Mrs. Adding and Rose and Kenby and
General Triscoe--and Agatha."
"Very well. That's what I call shabby. Don't ever talk to me again
about the inconsistencies of women. But now there's something perfectly
"What is it?"
"A letter from Miss Triscoe came after you were gone, asking us to find
rooms in some hotel for her and her father to-morrow. He isn't well, and
they're coming. And I've telegraphed them to come here. Now what do you
They could see no way out of the trouble, and Mrs. March could not resign
herself to it till her husband suggested that she should consider it
providential. This touched the lingering superstition in which she had
been ancestrally taught to regard herself as a means, when in a very
tight place, and to leave the responsibility with the moral government of
the universe. As she now perceived, it had been the same as ordered that
they should see Burnamy under such conditions in the afternoon that they
could not speak to him, and hear where he was staying; and in an inferior
degree it had been the same as ordered that March should see him in the
evening and tell him everything, so that she should know just how to act
when she saw him in the morning. If he could plausibly account for the
renewal of his flirtation with Miss Elkins, or if he seemed generally
worthy apart from that, she could forgive him.
It was so pleasant when he came in at breakfast with his well-remembered
smile, that she did not require from him any explicit defence. While
they talked she was righting herself in an undercurrent of drama with
Miss Triscoe, and explaining to her that they could not possibly wait
over for her and her father in Weimar, but must be off that day for
Berlin, as they had made all their plans. It was not easy, even in drama
where one has everything one's own way, to prove that she could not
without impiety so far interfere with the course of Providence as to
prevent Miss Triscoe's coming with her father to the same hotel where
Burnamy was staying. She contrived, indeed, to persuade her that she had
not known he was staying there when she telegraphed them where to come,
and that in the absence of any open confidence from Miss Triscoe she was
not obliged to suppose that his presence would be embarrassing.
March proposed leaving her with Burnamy while he went up into the town
and interviewed the house of Schiller, which he had not done yet; and as
soon as he got himself away she came to business, breaking altogether
from the inner drama with Miss Triscoe and devoting herself to Burnamy.
They had already got so far as to have mentioned the meeting with the
Triscoes in Wurzburg, and she said: "Did Mr. March tell you they were
coming here? Or, no! We hadn't heard then. Yes, they are coming to-
morrow. They may be going to stay some time. She talked of Weimar when
we first spoke of Germany on the ship." Burnamy said nothing, and she
suddenly added, with a sharp glance, "They wanted us to get them rooms,
and we advised their coming to this house." He started very
satisfactorily, and "Do you think they would be comfortable, here?" she
"Oh, yes, very. They can have my room; it's southeast; I shall be going
into other quarters." She did not say anything; and "Mrs. March," he
began again, "what is the use of my beating about the bush? You must
know what I went back to Carlsbad for, that night--"
"No one ever told--"
"Well, you must have made a pretty good guess. But it was a failure. I
ought to have failed, and I did. She said that unless her father liked
it--And apparently he hasn't liked it." Burnamy smiled ruefully.
"How do you know? She didn't know where you were!"
"She could have got word to me if she had had good news for me. They've
forwarded other letters from Pupp's. But it's all right; I had no
business to go back to Carlsbad. Of course you didn't know I was in this
house when you told them to come; and I must clear out. I had better
clear out of Weimar, too."
"No, I don't think so; I have no right to pry into your affairs, but--"
"Oh, they're wide enough open!"
"And you may have changed your mind. I thought you might, when I saw you
yesterday at Belvedere--"
"I was only trying to make bad worse."
"Then I think the situation has changed entirely through what Mr. Stoller
said to Mr. March."
"I can't see how it has. I committed an act of shabby treachery, and I'm
as much to blame as if he still wanted to punish me for it."
"Did Mr. March say that to you?"
"No; I said that to Mr. March; and he couldn't answer it, and you can't.
You're very good, and very kind, but you can't answer it."
"I can answer it very well," she boasted, but she could find nothing
better to say than, "It's your duty to her to see her and let her know."
"Doesn't she know already?"
"She has a right to know it from you. I think you are morbid, Mr.
Burnamy. You know very well I didn't like your doing that to Mr.
Stoller. I didn't say so at the time, because you seemed to feel it
enough yourself. But I did like your owning up to it," and here Mrs.
March thought it time to trot out her borrowed battle-horse again. "My
husband always says that if a person owns up to an error, fully and
faithfully, as you've always done, they make it the same in its
consequences to them as if it had never been done."
"Does Mr. March say that?" asked Burnamy with a relenting smile.
"Indeed he does!"
Burnamy hesitated; then he asked, gloomily again:
"And what about the consequences to the, other fellow?"
"A woman," said Mrs. March, "has no concern with them. And besides, I
think you've done all you could to save Mr. Stoller from the
"I haven't done anything."
"No matter. You would if you could. I wonder," she broke off, to
prevent his persistence at a point where her nerves were beginning to
give way, "what can be keeping Mr. March?"
Nothing much more important, it appeared later, than the pleasure of
sauntering through the streets on the way to the house of Schiller, and
looking at the pretty children going to school, with books under their
arms. It was the day for the schools to open after the long summer
vacation, and there was a freshness of expectation in the shining faces
which, if it could not light up his own graybeard visage, could at least
touch his heart:
When he reached the Schiller house he found that it was really not the
Schiller house, but the Schiller flat, of three or four rooms, one flight
up, whose windows look out upon the street named after the poet. The
whole place is bare and clean; in one corner of the large room fronting
the street stands Schiller's writing-table, with his chair before it;
with the foot extending toward this there stands, in another corner, the
narrow bed on which he died; some withered wreaths on the pillow frame a
picture of his deathmask, which at first glance is like his dead face
lying there. It is all rather tasteless, and all rather touching, and
the place with its meagre appointments, as compared with the rich Goethe
house, suggests that personal competition with Goethe in which Schiller
is always falling into the second place. Whether it will be finally so
with him in literature it is too early to ask of time, and upon other
points eternity will not be interrogated. "The great, Goethe and the
good Schiller," they remain; and yet, March reasoned, there was something
good in Goethe and something great, in Schiller.
He was so full of the pathos of their inequality before the world that he
did not heed the warning on the door of the pastry-shop near the Schiller
house, and on opening it he bedaubed his hand with the fresh paint on it.
He was then in such a state, that he could not bring his mind to bear
upon the question of which cakes his wife would probably prefer, and he
stood helplessly holding up his hand till the good woman behind the
counter discovered his plight, and uttered a loud cry of compassion.
She ran and got a wet napkin, which she rubbed with soap, and then she
instructed him by word and gesture to rub his hand upon it, and she did
not leave him till his rescue was complete. He let her choose a variety
of the cakes for him, and came away with a gay paper bag full of them,
and with the feeling that he had been in more intimate relations with the
life of Weimar than travellers are often privileged to be. He argued
from the instant and intelligent sympathy of the pastry woman a high
grade of culture in all classes; and he conceived the notion of
pretending to Mrs. March that he had got these cakes from, a descendant
His deceit availed with her for the brief moment in which she always,
after so many years' experience of his duplicity, believed anything he
told her. They dined merrily together at their hotel, and then Burnamy
came down to the station with them and was very comfortable to March in
helping him to get their tickets and their baggage registered. The train
which was to take them to Halle, where they were to change for Berlin,
was rather late, and they had but ten minutes after it came in before it
would start again. Mrs. March was watching impatiently at the window of
the waiting-room for the dismounting passengers to clear the platform and
allow the doors to be opened; suddenly she gave a cry, and turned and ran
into the passage by which the new arrivals were pouring out toward the
superabundant omnibuses. March and Burnamy, who had been talking apart,
mechanically rushed after her and found her kissing Miss Triscoe and
shaking hands with the general amidst a tempest of questions and answers,
from which it appeared that the Triscoes had got tired of staying in
Wurzburg, and had simply come on to Weimar a day sooner than they had
The, general was rather much bundled up for a day which was mild for a
German summer day, and he coughed out an explanation that he had taken an
abominable cold at that ridiculous parade, and had not shaken it off yet.
He had a notion that change of air would be better for him; it could not
He seemed a little vague as to Burnamy, rather than inimical. While the
ladies were still talking eagerly together in proffer and acceptance of
Mrs. March's lamentations that she should be going away just as Miss
Triscoe was coming, he asked if the omnibus for their hotel was there.
He by no means resented Burnamy's assurance that it was, and he did not
refuse to let him order their baggage, little and large, loaded upon it.
By the time this was done, Mrs. March and Miss Triscoe had so far
detached themselves from each other that they could separate after one
more formal expression of regret and forgiveness. With a lament into
which she poured a world of inarticulate emotions, Mrs. March wrenched
herself from the place, and suffered herself, to be pushed toward her
train. But with the last long look which she cast over her shoulder,
before she vanished into the waiting-room, she saw Miss Triscoe and
Burnamy transacting the elaborate politenesses of amiable strangers with
regard to the very small bag which the girl had in her hand. He
succeeded in relieving her of it; and then he led the way out of the
station on the left of the general, while Miss Triscoe brought up the
From the window of the train as it drew out Mrs. March tried for a
glimpse of the omnibus in which her proteges were now rolling away
together. As they were quite out of sight in the omnibus, which was
itself out of sight, she failed, but as she fell back against her seat
she treated the recent incident with a complexity and simultaneity of
which no report can give an idea. At the end one fatal conviction
remained: that in everything she had said she had failed to explain to
Miss Triscoe how Burnamy happened to be in Weimar and how he happened to
be there with them in the station. She required March to say how she had
overlooked the very things which she ought to have mentioned first, and
which she had on the point of her tongue the whole time. She went over
the entire ground again to see if she could discover the reason why she
had made such an unaccountable break, and it appeared that she was led to
it by his rushing after her with Burnamy before she had had a chance to
say a word about him; of course she could not say anything in his
presence. This gave her some comfort, and there was consolation in the
fact that she had left them together without the least intention or
connivance, and now, no matter what happened, she could not accuse
herself, and he could not accuse her of match-making.
He said that his own sense of guilt was so great that he should not dream
of accusing her of anything except of regret that now she could never
claim the credit of bringing the lovers together under circumstances so
favorable. As soon as they were engaged they could join in renouncing
her with a good conscience, and they would probably make this the basis
of their efforts to propitiate the general.
She said she did not care, and with the mere removal of the lovers in
space, her interest in them began to abate. They began to be of a minor
importance in the anxieties of the change of trains at Halle, and in the
excitement of settling into the express from Frankfort there were moments
when they were altogether forgotten. The car was of almost American
length, and it ran with almost American smoothness; when the conductor
came and collected an extra fare for their seats, the Marches felt that
if the charge had been two dollars instead of two marks they would have
had every advantage of American travel.
On the way to Berlin the country was now fertile and flat, and now
sterile and flat; near the capital the level sandy waste spread almost to
its gates. The train ran quickly through the narrow fringe of suburbs,
and then they were in one of those vast Continental stations which put
our outdated depots to shame. The good 'traeger' who took possession of
them and their hand-bags, put their boxes on a baggage-bearing drosky,
and then got them another drosky for their personal transportation. This
was a drosky of the first-class, but they would not have thought it so,
either from the vehicle itself, or from the appearance of the driver and
his horses. The public carriages of Germany are the shabbiest in the
world; at Berlin the horses look like old hair trunks and the drivers
like their moth-eaten contents.
The Marches got no splendor for the two prices they paid, and their
approach to their hotel on Unter den Linden was as unimpressive as the
ignoble avenue itself. It was a moist, cold evening, and the mean,
tiresome street, slopped and splashed under its two rows of small trees,
to which the thinning leaves clung like wet rags, between long lines of
shops and hotels which had neither the grace of Paris nor the grandiosity
of New York. March quoted in bitter derision:
"Bees, bees, was it your hydromel,
Under the Lindens?"
and his wife said that if Commonwealth Avenue in Boston could be imagined
with its trees and without their beauty, flanked by the architecture of
Sixth Avenue, with dashes of the west side of Union Square, that would be
the famous Unter den Linden, where she had so resolutely decided that
they would stay while in Berlin.
They had agreed upon the hotel, and neither could blame the other because
it proved second-rate in everything but its charges. They ate a poorish
table d'hote dinner in such low spirits that March had no heart to get a
rise from his wife by calling her notice to the mouse which fed upon the
crumbs about their feet while they dined. Their English-speaking waiter
said that it was a very warm evening, and they never knew whether this
was because he was a humorist, or because he was lonely and wished to
talk, or because it really was a warm evening, for Berlin. When they had
finished, they went out and drove about the greater part of the evening
looking for another hotel, whose first requisite should be that it was
not on Unter den Linden. What mainly determined Mrs. March in favor of
the large, handsome, impersonal place they fixed upon was the fact that
it was equipped for steam-heating; what determined March was the fact
that it had a passenger-office where when he wished to leave, he could
buy his railroad tickets and have his baggage checked without the
maddening anxiety, of doing it at the station. But it was precisely in
these points that the hotel which admirably fulfilled its other functions
fell short. The weather made a succession of efforts throughout their
stay to clear up cold; it merely grew colder without clearing up, but
this seemed to offer no suggestion of steam for heating their bleak
apartment and the chilly corridors to the management. With the help of a
large lamp which they kept burning night and day they got the temperature
of their rooms up to sixty; there was neither stove nor fireplace, the
cold electric bulbs diffused a frosty glare; and in the vast, stately
dining-room with its vaulted roof, there was nothing to warm them but
their plates, and the handles of their knives and forks, which, by a
mysterious inspiration, were always hot. When they were ready to go,
March experienced from the apathy of the baggage clerk and the reluctance
of the porters a more piercing distress than any he had known at the
railroad stations; and one luckless valise which he ordered sent after
him by express reached his bankers in Paris a fortnight overdue, with an
accumulation of charges upon it outvaluing the books which it contained.
But these were minor defects in an establishment which had many merits,
and was mainly of the temperament and intention of the large English
railroad hotels. They looked from their windows down into a gardened
square, peopled with a full share of the superabounding statues of Berlin
and frequented by babies and nurse maids who seemed not to mind the cold
any more than the stone kings and generals. The aspect of this square,
like the excellent cooking of the hotel and the architecture of the
imperial capital, suggested the superior civilization of Paris. Even the
rows of gray houses and private palaces of Berlin are in the French
taste, which is the only taste there is in Berlin. The suggestion of
Paris is constant, but it is of Paris in exile, and without the chic
which the city wears in its native air. The crowd lacks this as much as
the architecture and the sculpture; there is no distinction among the men
except for now and then a military figure, and among the women no style
such as relieves the commonplace rash of the New York streets. The
Berliners are plain and ill dressed, both men and women, and even the
little children are plain. Every one is ill dressed, but no one is
ragged, and among the undersized homely folk of the lower classes there
is no such poverty-stricken shabbiness as shocks and insults the sight in
New York. That which distinctly recalls our metropolis is the lofty
passage of the elevated trains intersecting the prospectives of many
streets; but in Berlin the elevated road is carried on massive brick
archways and not lifted upon gay, crazy iron ladders like ours.
When you look away from this, and regard Berlin on its aesthetic, side
you are again in that banished Paris, whose captive art-soul is made to
serve, so far as it may be enslaved to such an effect, in the celebration
of the German triumph over France. Berlin has never the presence of a
great capital, however, in spite of its perpetual monumental insistence.
There is no streaming movement in broad vistas; the dull looking
population moves sluggishly; there is no show of fine equipages. The
prevailing tone of the city and the sky is gray; but under the cloudy
heaven there is no responsive Gothic solemnity in the architecture.
There are hints of the older German cities in some of the remote and
observe streets, but otherwise all is as new as Boston, which in fact the
actual Berlin hardly antedates.
There are easily more statues in Berlin than in any other city in the
world, but they only unite in failing to give Berlin an artistic air.
They stand in long rows on the cornices; they crowd the pediments; they
poise on one leg above domes and arches; they shelter themselves in
niches; they ride about on horseback; they sit or lounge on street
corners or in garden walks; all with a mediocrity in the older sort which
fails of any impression. If they were only furiously baroque they would
be something, and it may be from a sense of this that there is a self-
assertion in the recent sculptures, which are always patriotic, more
noisy and bragging than anything else in perennial brass. This offensive
art is the modern Prussian avatar of the old German romantic spirit, and
bears the same relation to it that modern romanticism in literature bears
to romance. It finds its apotheosis in the monument to Kaiser Wilhelm
I., a vast incoherent group of swelling and swaggering bronze,
commemorating the victory of the first Prussian Emperor in the war with
the last French Emperor, and avenging the vanquished upon the victors by
its ugliness. The ungainly and irrelevant assemblage of men and animals
backs away from the imperial palace, and saves itself too soon from
plunging over the border of a canal behind it, not far from Rauch's great
statue of the great Frederic. To come to it from the simplicity and
quiet of that noble work is like passing from some exquisite masterpiece
of naturalistic acting to the rant and uproar of melodrama; and the
Marches stood stunned and bewildered by its wild explosions.
When they could escape they found themselves so convenient to the
imperial palace that they judged best to discharge at once the obligation
to visit it which must otherwise weigh upon them. They entered the court
without opposition from the sentinel, and joined other strangers
straggling instinctively toward a waiting-room in one corner of the
building, where after they had increased to some thirty, a custodian took
charge of them, and led them up a series of inclined plains of brick to
the state apartments. In the antechamber they found a provision of
immense felt over-shoes which they were expected to put on for their
passage over the waxed marquetry of the halls. These roomy slippers were
designed for the accommodation of the native boots; and upon the mixed
company of foreigners the effect was in the last degree humiliating. The
women's skirts some what hid their disgrace, but the men were openly put
to shame, and they shuffled forward with their bodies at a convenient
incline like a company of snow-shoers. In the depths of his own
abasement March heard a female voice behind him sighing in American
accents, "To think I should be polishing up these imperial floors with my
The protest expressed the rebellion which he felt mounting in his own
heart as they advanced through the heavily splendid rooms, in the
historical order of the family portraits recording the rise of the
Prussian sovereigns from Margraves to Emperors. He began to realize here
the fact which grew open him more and more that imperial Germany is not
the effect of a popular impulse but of a dynastic propensity. There is
nothing original in the imperial palace, nothing national; it embodies
and proclaims a powerful personal will, and in its adaptations of French
art it appeals to no emotion in the German witness nobler than his pride
in the German triumph over the French in war. March found it tiresome
beyond the tiresome wont of palaces, and he gladly shook off the sense of
it with his felt shoes. "Well," he confided to his wife when they were
fairly out-of-doors, "if Prussia rose in the strength of silence, as
Carlyle wants us to believe, she is taking it out in talk now, and tall
"Yes, isn't she!" Mrs. March assented, and with a passionate desire for
excess in a bad thing, which we all know at times, she looked eagerly
about her for proofs of that odious militarism of the empire, which ought
to have been conspicuous in the imperial capital; but possibly because
the troops were nearly all away at the manoeuvres, there were hardly more
in the streets than she had sometimes seen in Washington. Again the
German officers signally failed to offer her any rudeness when she met
them on the side-walks. There were scarcely any of them, and perhaps
that might have been the reason why they were not more aggressive; but a
whole company of soldiers marching carelessly up to the palace from the
Brandenburg gate, without music, or so much style as our own militia
often puts on, regarded her with inoffensive eyes so far as they looked
at her. She declared that personally there was nothing against the
Prussians; even when in uniform they were kindly and modest-looking men;
it was when they got up on pedestals, in bronze or marble, that they,
began to bully and to brag.
The dinner which the Marches got at a restaurant on Unter den Linden
almost redeemed the avenue from the disgrace it had fallen into with
them. It was, the best meal they had yet eaten in Europe, and as to fact
and form was a sort of compromise between a French dinner and an English
dinner which they did not hesitate to pronounce Prussian. The waiter who
served it was a friendly spirit, very sensible of their intelligent
appreciation of the dinner; and from him they formed a more respectful
opinion of Berlin civilization than they had yet held. After the manner
of strangers everywhere they judged the country they were visiting from
such of its inhabitants as chance brought them in contact with; and it
would really be a good thing for nations that wish to stand well with the
world at large to look carefully to the behavior of its cabmen and car
conductors, its hotel clerks and waiters, its theatre-ticket sellers and
ushers, its policemen and sacristans, its landlords and salesmen; for by
these rather than by its society women and its statesmen and divines, is
it really judged in the books of travellers; some attention also should
be paid to the weather, if the climate is to be praised. In the railroad
cafe at Potsdam there was a waiter so rude to the Marches that if they
had not been people of great strength of character he would have undone
the favorable impression the soldiers and civilians of Berlin generally
had been at such pains to produce in them; and throughout the week of
early September which they passed there, it rained so much and so
bitterly, it was so wet and so cold, that they might have come away
thinking it's the worst climate in the world, if it had not been for a
man whom they saw in one of the public gardens pouring a heavy stream
from his garden hose upon the shrubbery already soaked and shuddering in
the cold. But this convinced them that they were suffering from weather
and not from the climate, which must really be hot and dry; and they went
home to their hotel and sat contentedly down in a temperature of sixty
degrees. The weather, was not always so bad; one day it was dry cold
instead of wet cold, with rough, rusty clouds breaking a blue sky;
another day, up to eleven in the forenoon, it was like Indian summer;
then it changed to a harsh November air; and then it relented and ended
so mildly, that they hired chairs in the place before the imperial palace
for five pfennigs each, and sat watching the life before them. Motherly
women-folk were there knitting; two American girls in chairs near them
chatted together; some fine equipages, the only ones they saw in Berlin,
went by; a dog and a man (the wife who ought to have been in harness was
probably sick, and the poor fellow was forced to take her place)passed
dragging a cart; some schoolboys who had hung their satchels upon the low
railing were playing about the base of the statue of King William III.
in the joyous freedom of German childhood.
They seemed the gayer for the brief moments of sunshine, but to the
Americans, who were Southern by virtue of their sky, the brightness had a
sense of lurking winter in it, such as they remembered feeling on a sunny
day in Quebec. The blue heaven looked sad; but they agreed that it fitly
roofed the bit of old feudal Berlin which forms the most ancient wing of
the Schloss. This was time-blackened and rude, but at least it did not
try to be French, and it overhung the Spree which winds through the city
and gives it the greatest charm it has. In fact Berlin, which is
otherwise so grandiose without grandeur and so severe without
impressiveness, is sympathetic wherever the Spree opens it to the sky.
The stream is spanned by many bridges, and bridges cannot well be
unpicturesque, especially if they have statues to help them out. The
Spree abounds in bridges, and it has a charming habit of slow hay-laden
barges; at the landings of the little passenger-steamers which ply upon
it there are cafes and summer-gardens, and these even in the inclement
air of September suggested a friendly gayety.
The Marches saw it best in the tour of the elevated road in Berlin which
they made in an impassioned memory of the elevated road in New York. The
brick viaducts which carry this arch the Spree again and again in their
course through and around the city, but with never quite such spectacular
effects as our spidery tressels, achieve. The stations are pleasant,
sometimes with lunch-counters and news-stands, but have not the comic-
opera-chalet prettiness of ours, and are not so frequent. The road is
not so smooth, the cars not so smooth-running or so swift. On the other
hand they are comfortably cushioned, and they are never overcrowded. The
line is at times above, at times below the houses, and at times on a
level with them, alike in city and in suburbs. The train whirled out of
thickly built districts, past the backs of the old houses, into outskirts
thinly populated, with new houses springing up without order or
continuity among the meadows and vegetable-gardens, and along the ready-
made, elm-planted avenues, where wooden fences divided the vacant lots.
Everywhere the city was growing out over the country, in blocks and
detached edifices of limestone, sandstone, red and yellow brick, larger
or smaller, of no more uniformity than our suburban dwellings, but never
of their ugliness or lawless offensiveness.
In an effort for the intimate life of the country March went two
successive mornings for his breakfast to the Cafe Bauer, which has some
admirable wall-printings, and is the chief cafe on Unter den Linden; but
on both days there were more people in the paintings than out of them.
The second morning the waiter who took his order recognized him and
asked, "Wie gestern?" and from this he argued an affectionate constancy
in the Berliners, and a hospitable observance of the tastes of strangers.
At his bankers, on the other hand, the cashier scrutinized his signature
and remarked that it did not look like the signature in his letter of
credit, and then he inferred a suspicious mind in the moneyed classes of
Prussia; as he had not been treated with such unkind doubt by Hebrew
bankers anywhere, he made a mental note that the Jews were politer than
the Christians in Germany. In starting for Potsdam he asked a traeger
where the Potsdam train was and the man said, "Dat train dare," and in
coming back he helped a fat old lady out of the car, and she thanked him
in English. From these incidents, both occurring the same day in the
same place, the inference of a widespread knowledge of our language in
all classes of the population was inevitable.
In this obvious and easy manner he studied contemporary civilization in
the capital. He even carried his researches farther, and went one rainy
afternoon to an exhibition of modern pictures in a pavilion of the
Thiergarten, where from the small attendance he inferred an indifference
to the arts which he would not ascribe to the weather. One evening at a
summer theatre where they gave the pantomime of the 'Puppenfee' and the
operetta of 'Hansel and Gretel', he observed that the greater part of the
audience was composed of nice plain young girls and children, and he
noted that there was no sort of evening dress; from the large number of
Americans present he imagined a numerous colony in Berlin, where they
mast have an instinctive sense of their co-nationality, since one of them
in the stress of getting his hat and overcoat when they all came out,
confidently addressed him in English. But he took stock of his
impressions with his wife, and they seemed to him so few, after all, that
he could not resist a painful sense of isolation in the midst of the
They made a Sunday excursion to the Zoological Gardens in the
Thiergarten, with a large crowd of the lower classes, but though they had
a great deal of trouble in getting there by the various kinds of
horsecars and electric cars, they did not feel that they had got near to
the popular life. They endeavored for some sense of Berlin society by
driving home in a drosky, and on the way they passed rows of beautiful
houses, in French and Italian taste, fronting the deep, damp green park
from the Thiergartenstrasse, in which they were confident cultivated and
delightful people lived; but they remained to the last with nothing but
their unsupported conjecture.
Their excursion to Potsdam was the cream of their sojourn in Berlin.
They chose for it the first fair morning, and they ran out over the flat
sandy plains surrounding the capital, and among the low hills surrounding
Potsdam before it actually began to rain.
They wished immediately to see Sans Souci for the great Frederick's sake,
and they drove through a lively shower to the palace, where they waited
with a horde of twenty-five other tourists in a gusty colonnade before
they were led through Voltaire's room and Frederick's death chamber.
The French philosopher comes before the Prussian prince at Sans Souci
even in the palatial villa which expresses the wilful caprice of the
great Frederick as few edifices have embodied the whims or tastes of
their owners. The whole affair is eighteenth-century French, as the
Germans conceived it. The gardened terrace from which the low, one-story
building, thickly crusted with baroque sculptures, looks down into a
many-colored parterre, was luxuriantly French, and sentimentally French
the colonnaded front opening to a perspective of artificial ruins, with
broken pillars lifting a conscious fragment of architrave against the
sky. Within, all again was French in the design, the decoration and the
furnishing. At that time there, was in fact no other taste, and
Frederick, who despised and disused his native tongue, was resolved upon
French taste even in his intimate companionship. The droll story of his
coquetry with the terrible free spirit which he got from France to be his
guest is vividly reanimated at Sans Souci, where one breathes the very
air in which the strangely assorted companions lived, and in which they
parted so soon to pursue each other with brutal annoyance on one side,
and with merciless mockery on the other. Voltaire was long ago revenged
upon his host for all the indignities he suffered from him in their
comedy; he left deeply graven upon Frederick's fame the trace of those
lacerating talons which he could strike to the quick; and it is the
singular effect of this scene of their brief friendship that one feels
there the pre-eminence of the wit in whatever was most important to
The rain had lifted a little and the sun shone out on the bloom of the
lovely parterre where the Marches profited by a smiling moment to wander
among the statues and the roses heavy with the shower. Then they walked
back to their carriage and drove to the New Palace, which expresses in
differing architectural terms the same subjection to an alien ideal of
beauty. It is thronged without by delightfully preposterous rococco
statues, and within it is rich in all those curiosities and memorials of
royalty with which palaces so well know how to fatigue the flesh and
spirit of their visitors.
The Marches escaped from it all with sighs and groans of relief, and
before they drove off to see the great fountain of the Orangeries, they
dedicated a moment of pathos to the Temple of Friendship which Frederick
built in memory of unhappy Wilhelmina of Beyreuth, the sister he loved in
the common sorrow of their wretched home, and neglected when he came to
his kingdom. It is beautiful in its rococco way, swept up to on its
terrace by most noble staircases, and swaggered over by baroque
allegories of all sorts: Everywhere the statues outnumbered the visitors,
who may have been kept away by the rain; the statues naturally did not
Sometime in the midst of their sight-seeing the Marches had dinner in a
mildewed restaurant, where a compatriotic accent caught their ear in a
voice saying to the waiter, "We are in a hurry." They looked round and
saw that it proceeded from the pretty nose of a young American girl, who
sat with a party of young American girls at a neighboring table. Then
they perceived that all the people in that restaurant were Americans,
mostly young girls, who all looked as if they were in a hurry. But
neither their beauty nor their impatience had the least effect with the
waiter, who prolonged the dinner at his pleasure, and alarmed the Marches
with the misgiving that they should not have time for the final palace on
This was the palace where the father of Frederick, the mad old Frederick
William, brought up his children with that severity which Solomon urged
but probably did not practise. It is a vast place, but they had time for
it all, though the custodian made the most of them as the latest comers
of the day, and led them through it with a prolixity as great as their
waiter's. He was a most friendly custodian, and when he found that they
had some little notion of what they wanted to see, he mixed zeal with his
patronage, and in a manner made them his honored guests. They saw
everything but the doorway where the faithful royal father used to lie in
wait for his children and beat them, princes and princesses alike, with
his knobby cane as they came through. They might have seen this doorway
without knowing it; but from the window overlooking the parade-ground
where his family watched the manoeuvres of his gigantic grenadiers, they
made sure of just such puddles as Frederick William forced his family to
sit with their feet in, while they dined alfresco on pork and cabbage;
and they visited the room of the Smoking Parliament where he ruled his
convives with a rod of iron, and made them the victims of his bad jokes.
The measuring-board against which he took the stature of his tall
grenadiers is there, and one room is devoted to those masterpieces which
he used to paint in the agonies of gout. His chef d'oeuvre contains a
figure with two left feet, and there seemed no reason why it might not.
have had three. In another room is a small statue of Carlyle, who did so
much to rehabilitate the house which the daughter of it, Wilhelmina, did
so much to demolish in the regard of men.
The palace is now mostly kept for guests, and there is a chamber where
Napoleon slept, which is not likely to be occupied soon by any other
self-invited guest of his nation. It is perhaps to keep the princes of
Europe humble that hardly a palace on the Continent is without the
chamber of this adventurer, who, till he stooped to be like them, was
easily their master. Another democracy had here recorded its invasion in
the American stoves which the custodian pointed out in the corridor when
Mrs, March, with as little delay as possible, had proclaimed their
country. The custodian professed an added respect for them from the
fact, and if he did not feel it, no doubt he merited the drink money
which they lavished on him at parting.
Their driver also was a congenial spirit, and when he let them out of his
carriage at the station, he excused the rainy day to them. He was a
merry fellow beyond the wont of his nation, and he-laughed at the bad
weather, as if it had been a good joke on them.
His gayety, and the red sunset light, which shone on the stems of the
pines on the way back to Berlin, contributed to the content in which they
reviewed their visit to Potsdam. They agreed that the place was
perfectly charming, and that it was incomparably expressive of kingly
will and pride. These had done there on the grand scale what all the
German princes and princelings had tried to do in imitation and emulation
of French splendor. In Potsdam the grandeur, was not a historical growth
as at Versailles, but was the effect of family genius, in which there was
often the curious fascination of insanity.
They felt this strongly again amidst the futile monuments of the
Hohenzollern Museum, in Berlin, where all the portraits, effigies,
personal belongings and memorials of that gifted, eccentric race are
gathered and historically disposed. The princes of the mighty line who
stand out from the rest are Frederick the Great and his infuriate.
father; and in the waxen likeness of the son, a small thin figure,
terribly spry, and a face pitilessly alert, appears something of the
madness which showed in the life of the sire.
They went through many rooms in which the memorials of the kings and
queens, the emperors and empresses were carefully ordered, and felt no
kindness except before the relics relating to the Emperor Frederick and
his mother. In the presence of the greatest of the dynasty they
experienced a kind of terror which March expressed, when they were safely
away, in the confession of his joy that those people were dead.
The rough weather which made Berlin almost uninhabitable to Mrs. March
had such an effect with General Triscoe at Weimar that under the orders
of an English-speaking doctor he retreated from it altogether and went to
bed. Here he escaped the bronchitis which had attacked him, and his
convalesence left him so little to complain of that he could not always
keep his temper. In the absence of actual offence, either from his
daughter or from Burnamy, his sense of injury took a retroactive form; it
centred first in Stoller and the twins; then it diverged toward Rose
Adding, his mother and Kenby, and finally involved the Marches in the
same measure of inculpation; for they had each and all had part, directly
or indirectly, in the chances that brought on his cold.
He owed to Burnamy the comfort of the best room in the hotel, and he was
constantly dependent upon his kindness; but he made it evident that he
did not over-value Burnamy's sacrifice and devotion, and that it was not
an unmixed pleasure, however great a convenience, to have him about. In
giving up his room, Burnamy had proposed going out of the hotel
altogether; but General Triscoe heard of this with almost as great
vexation as he had accepted the room. He besought him not to go, but so
ungraciously that his daughter was ashamed, and tried to atone for his
manner by the kindness of her own.
Perhaps General Triscoe would not have been without excuse if he were not
eager to have her share with destitute merit the fortune which she had
hitherto shared only with him. He was old, and certain luxuries had
become habits if not necessaries with him. Of course he did not say this
to himself; and still less did he say it to her. But he let her see that
he did not enjoy the chance which had thrown them again in such close
relations with Burnamy, and he did pot hide his belief that the Marches
were somehow to blame for it. This made it impossible for her to write
at once to Mrs. March as she had promised; but she was determined that it
should not make her unjust to Burnamy. She would not avoid him; she
would not let anything that had happened keep her from showing that she
felt his kindness and was glad of his help.
Of course they knew no one else in Weimar, and his presence merely as a
fellow-countryman would have been precious. He got them a doctor,
against General Triscoe's will; he went for his medicines; he lent him
books and papers; he sat with him and tried to amuse him. But with the
girl he attempted no return to the situation at Carlsbad; there is
nothing like the delicate pride of a young man who resolves to forego
unfair advantage in love.
The day after their arrival, when her father was making up for the sleep
he had lost by night, she found herself alone in the little reading-room
of the hotel with Burnamy for the first time, and she said: "I suppose
you must have been all over Weimar by this time."
"Well, I've been here, off and on, almost a month. It's an interesting
place. There's a good deal of the old literary quality left."
"And you enjoy that! I saw"--she added this with a little unnecessary
flush--"your poem in the paper you lent papa."
"I suppose I ought to have kept that back. But I couldn't." He laughed,
and she said:
"You must find a great deal of inspiration in such a literary place."
"It isn't lying about loose, exactly." Even in the serious and
perplexing situation in which he found himself he could not help being
amused with her unliterary notions of literature, her conventional and
commonplace conceptions of it. They had their value with him as those of
a more fashionable world than his own, which he believed was somehow a
greater world. At the same time he believed that she was now interposing
them between the present and the past, and forbidding with them any
return to the mood of their last meeting in Carlsbad. He looked at her
ladylike composure and unconsciousness, and wondered if she could be the
same person and the same person as they who lost themselves in the crowd
that night and heard and said words palpitant with fate. Perhaps there
had been no such words; perhaps it was all a hallucination. He must
leave her to recognize that it was reality; till she did so, he felt
bitterly that there was nothing for him but submission and patience; if
she never did so, there was nothing for him but acquiescence.
In this talk and in the talks they had afterwards she seemed willing
enough to speak of what had happened since: of coming on to Wurzburg with
the Addings and of finding the Marches there; of Rose's collapse, and of
his mother's flight seaward with him in the care of Kenby, who was so
fortunately going to Holland, too. He on his side told her of going to
Wurzburg for the manoeuvres, and they agreed that it was very strange
they had not met.
She did not try to keep their relations from taking the domestic
character which was inevitable, and it seemed to him that this in itself
was significant of a determination on her part that was fatal to his
hopes. With a lover's indefinite power of blinding himself to what is
before his eyes, he believed that if she had been more diffident of him,
more uneasy in his presence, he should have had more courage; but for her
to breakfast unafraid with him, to meet him at lunch and dinner in the
little dining-room where they were often the only guests, and always the
only English-speaking guests, was nothing less than prohibitive.
In the hotel service there was one of those men who are porters in this
world, but will be angels in the next, unless the perfect goodness of
their looks, the constant kindness of their acts, belies them. The
Marches had known and loved the man in their brief stay, and he had been
the fast friend of Burnamy from the moment they first saw each other at
the station. He had tenderly taken possession of General Triscoe on his
arrival, and had constituted himself the nurse and keeper of the
irascible invalid, in the intervals of going to the trains, with a zeal
that often relieved his daughter and Burnamy. The general in fact
preferred him to either, and a tacit custom grew up by which when August
knocked at his door, and offered himself in his few words of serviceable
English, that one of them who happened to be sitting with the general
gave way, and left him in charge. The retiring watcher was then apt to
encounter the other watcher on the stairs, or in the reading-room, or in
the tiny, white-pebbled door-yard at a little table in the shade of the
wooden-tubbed evergreens. From the habit of doing this they one day
suddenly formed the habit of going across the street to that gardened
hollow before and below the Grand-Ducal Museum. There was here a bench
in the shelter of some late-flowering bush which the few other
frequenters of the place soon recognized as belonging to the young
strangers, so that they would silently rise and leave it to them when
they saw them coming. Apparently they yielded not only to their right,
but to a certain authority which resides in lovers, and which all other
men, and especially all other women, like to acknowledge and respect.
In the absence of any civic documents bearing upon the affair it is
difficult to establish the fact that this was the character in which
Agatha and Burnamy were commonly regarded by the inhabitants of Weimar.
But whatever their own notion of their relation was, if it was not that
of a Brant and a Brautigam, the people of Weimar would have been puzzled
to say what it was. It was known that the gracious young lady's father,
who would naturally have accompanied them, was sick, and in the fact that
they were Americans much extenuation was found for whatever was
phenomenal in their unencumbered enjoyment of each other's society.
If their free American association was indistinguishably like the peasant
informality which General Triscoe despised in the relations of Kenby and
Mrs. Adding, it is to be said in his excuse that he could not be fully
cognizant of it, in the circumstances, and so could do nothing to prevent
it. His pessimism extended to his health; from the first he believed
himself worse than the doctor thought him, and he would have had some
other physician if he had not found consolation in their difference of
opinion and the consequent contempt which he was enabled to cherish for
the doctor in view of the man's complete ignorance of the case. In proof
of his own better understanding of it, he remained in bed some time after
the doctor said he might get up.
Nearly ten days had passed before he left his room, and it was not till
then that he clearly saw how far affairs had gone with his daughter and
Burnamy, though even then his observance seemed to have anticipated
theirs. He found them in a quiet acceptance of the fortune which had
brought them together, so contented that they appeared to ask nothing
more of it. The divine patience and confidence of their youth might
sometimes have had almost the effect of indifference to a witness who had
seen its evolution from the moods of the first few days of their reunion
in Weimar. To General Triscoe, however, it looked like an understanding
which had been made without reference to his wishes, and had not been
directly brought to his knowledge.
"Agatha," he said, after due note of a gay contest between her and
Burnamy over the pleasure and privilege of ordering his supper sent to
his room when he had gone back to it from his first afternoon in the open
air, "how long is that young man going to stay in Weimar?"
"Why, I don't know!" she answered, startled from her work of beating the
sofa pillows into shape, and pausing with one of them in her hand.
"I never asked him." She looked down candidly into his face where he sat
in an easy-chair waiting for her arrangement of the sofa. "What makes
He answered with another question. "Does he know that we had thought of
"Why, we've always talked of that, haven't we? Yes, he knows it. Didn't
you want him to know it, papa? You ought to have begun on the ship,
then. Of course I've asked him what sort of place it was. I'm sorry if
you didn't want me to."
"Have I said that? It's perfectly easy to push on to Paris. Unless--"
"Unless what?" Agatha dropped the pillow, and listened respectfully. But
in spite of her filial attitude she could not keep her youth and strength
and courage from quelling the forces of the elderly man.
He said querulously, "I don't see why you take that tone with me. You
certainly know what I mean. But if you don't care to deal openly with
me, I won't ask you." He dropped his eyes from her face, and at the same
time a deep blush began to tinge it, growing up from her neck to her
forehead. "You must know--you're not a child," he continued, still with
averted eyes, "that this sort of thing can't go on... It must be
something else, or it mustn't be anything at all. I don't ask you for
your confidence, and you know that I've never sought to control you."
This was not the least true, but Agatha answered, either absently or
"And I don't seek to do so now. If you have nothing that you wish to
He waited, and after what seemed a long time, she asked as if she had not
heard him, "Will you lie down a little before your supper, papa?"
"I will lie down when I feel like it," he answered. "Send August with
the supper; he can look after me."
His resentful tone, even more than his words, dismissed her, but she left
him without apparent grievance, saying quietly, "I will send August."
Agatha did not come down to supper with Burnamy. She asked August, when
she gave him her father's order, to have a cup of tea sent to her room,
where, when it came, she remained thinking so long that it was rather
tepid by the time she drank it.
Then she went to her window, and looked out, first above and next below.
Above, the moon was hanging over the gardened hollow before the Museum
with the airy lightness of an American moon. Below was Burnamy behind
the tubbed evergreens, sitting tilted in his chair against the house
wall, with the spark of his cigar fainting and flashing like an American
firefly. Agatha went down to the door, after a little delay, and seemed
surprised to find him there; at least she said, "Oh!" in a tone of
Burnamy stood up, and answered, "Nice night."
"Beautiful!" she breathed. "I didn't suppose the sky in Germany could
ever be so clear."
"It seems to be doing its best."
"The flowers over there look like ghosts in the light," she said
"They're not. Don't you want to get your hat and wrap, and go over and
expose the fraud?"
"Oh," she answered, as if it were merely a question of the hat and wrap,
"I have them."
They sauntered through the garden walks for a while, long enough to have
ascertained that there was not a veridical phantom among the flowers, if
they had been looking, and then when they came to their accustomed seat,
they sat down, and she said, "I don't know that I've seen the moon so
clear since we left Carlsbad." At the last word his heart gave a jump
that seemed to lodge it in his throat and kept him from speaking, so that
she could resume without interruption, "I've got something of yours, that
you left at the Posthof. The girl that broke the dishes found it, and
Lili gave it to Mrs. March for you." This did not account for Agatha's
having the thing, whatever it was; but when she took a handkerchief from
her belt, and put out her hand with it toward him, he seemed to find that
her having it had necessarily followed. He tried to take it from her,
but his own hand trembled so that it clung to hers, and he gasped, "Can't
you say now, what you wouldn't say then?"
The logical sequence was no more obvious than be fore; but she apparently
felt it in her turn as he had felt it in his. She whispered back, "Yes,"
and then she could not get out anything more till she entreated in a
half-stifled voice, "Oh, don't!" `
"No, no!" he panted. "I won't--I oughtn't to have done it--I beg your
pardon--I oughtn't to have spoken,--even--I--"
She returned in a far less breathless and tremulous fashion, but still
between laughing and crying, "I meant to make you. And now, if you're
ever sorry, or I'm ever too topping about anything, you can be perfectly
free to say that you'd never have spoken if you hadn't seen that I wanted
"But I didn't see any such thing," he protested. "I spoke because I
couldn't help it any longer."
She laughed triumphantly. "Of course you think so! And that shows that
you are only a man after all; in spite of your finessing. But I am going
to have the credit of it. I knew that you were holding back because you
were too proud, or thought you hadn't the right, or something. Weren't
you?" She startled him with the sudden vehemence of her challenge: "If
you pretend, that you weren't I shall never forgive you!"
"But I was! Of course I was. I was afraid--"
"Isn't that what I said?" She triumphed over him with another laugh, and
cowered a little closer to him, if that could be.
They were standing, without knowing how they had got to their feet; and
now without any purpose of the kind, they began to stroll again among the
garden paths, and to ask and to answer questions, which touched every
point of their common history, and yet left it a mine of inexhaustible
knowledge for all future time. Out of the sweet and dear delight of this
encyclopedian reserve two or three facts appeared with a present
distinctness. One of these was that Burnamy had regarded her refusal to
be definite at Carlsbad as definite refusal, and had meant never to see
her again, and certainly never to speak again of love to her. Another
point was that she had not resented his coming back that last night, but
had been proud and happy in it as proof of his love, and had always meant
somehow to let him know that she was torched by his trusting her enough
to come back while be was still under that cloud with Mr. Stoller. With
further logic, purely of the heart, she acquitted him altogether of wrong
in that affair, and alleged in proof, what Mr. Stoller had said of it to
Mr. March. Burnamy owned that he knew what Stoller had said, but even in
his present condition he could not accept fully her reading of that
obscure passage of his life. He preferred to put the question by, and
perhaps neither of them cared anything about it except as it related to
the fact that they were now each other's forever.
They agreed that they must write to Mr. and Mrs. March at once; or at
least, Agatha said, as soon as she had spoken to her father. At her
mention of her father she was aware of a doubt, a fear, in Burnamy which
expressed itself by scarcely more than a spiritual consciousness from his
arm to the hands which she had clasped within it. "He has always
appreciated you," she said courageously, "and I know he will see it in
the right light."
She probably meant no more than to affirm her faith in her own ability
finally to bring her father to a just mind concerning it; but Burnamy
accepted her assurance with buoyant hopefulness, and said he would see
General Triscoe the first thing in the morning.
"No, I will see him," she said, "I wish to see him first; he will expect
it of me. We had better go in, now," she added, but neither made any
motion for the present to do so. On the contrary, they walked in the
other direction, and it was an hour after Agatha declared their duty in
the matter before they tried to fulfil it.
Then, indeed, after they returned to the hotel, she lost no time in going
to her father beyond that which must be given to a long hand-pressure
under the fresco of the five poets on the stairs landing, where her ways
and Burnamy's parted. She went into her own room, and softly opened the
door into her father's and listened.
"Well?" he said in a sort of challenging voice.
"Have you been asleep?" she asked.
"I've just blown out my light. What has kept you?"
She did not reply categorically. Standing there in the sheltering dark,
she said, "Papa, I wasn't very candid with you, this afternoon. I am
engaged to Mr. Burnamy."
"Light the candle," said her father. "Or no," he added before she could
do so. "Is it quite settled?"
"Quite," she answered in a voice that admitted of no doubt. "That is, as
far as it can be, without you."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Agatha," said the general. "And let me try to get
to sleep. You know I don't like it, and you know I can't help it."
"Yes," the girl assented.
"Then go to bed," said the general concisely.
Agatha did not obey her father. She thought she ought to kiss him, but
she decided that she had better postpone this; so she merely gave him a
tender goodnight, to which he made no response, and shut herself into her
own room, where she remained sitting and staring out into the moonlight,
with a smile that never left her lips.
When the moon sank below the horizon, the sky was pale with the coming
day, but before it was fairly dawn, she saw something white, not much
greater than some moths, moving before her window. She pulled the valves
open and found it a bit of paper attached to a thread dangling from
above. She broke it loose and in the morning twilight she read the great
central truth of the universe:
"I love you. L. J. B."
She wrote under the tremendous inspiration:
"So do I. Don't be silly. A. T."
She fastened the paper to the thread again, and gave it a little twitch.
She waited for the low note of laughter which did not fail to flutter
down from above; then she threw herself upon the bed, and fell asleep.
It was not so late as she thought when she woke, and it seemed, at
breakfast, that Burnamy had been up still earlier. Of the three involved
in the anxiety of the night before General Triscoe was still respited
from it by sleep, but he woke much more haggard than either of the young
people. They, in fact, were not at all haggard; the worst was over, if
bringing their engagement to his knowledge was the worst; the formality
of asking his consent which Burnamy still had to go through was
unpleasant, but after all it was a formality. Agatha told him everything
that had passed between herself and her father, and if it had not that
cordiality on his part which they could have wished it was certainly not
They agreed at breakfast that Burnamy had better have it over as quickly
as possible, and he waited only till August came down with the general's
tray before going up to his room. The young fellow did not feel more at
his ease than the elder meant he should in taking the chair to which the
general waved him from where he lay in bed; and there was no talk wasted
upon the weather between them.
"I suppose I know what you have come for, Mr. Burnamy," said General
Triscoe in a tone which was rather judicial than otherwise, "and I
suppose you know why you have come." The words certainly opened the way
for Burnamy, but he hesitated so long to take it that the general had
abundant time to add, "I don't pretend that this event is unexpected, but
I should like to know what reason you have for thinking I should wish you
to marry my daughter. I take it for granted that you are attached to
each other, and we won't waste time on that point. Not to beat about the
bush, on the next point, let me ask at once what your means of supporting
her are. How much did you earn on that newspaper in Chicago?"
"Fifteen hundred dollars," Burnamy answered, promptly enough.
"Did you earn anything more, say within the last year?"
"I got three hundred dollars advance copyright for a book I sold to a
publisher." The glory had not yet faded from the fact in Burnamy's mind.
"Eighteen hundred. What did you get for your poem in March's book?"
"That's a very trifling matter: fifteen dollars."
"And your salary as private secretary to that man Stoller?"
"Thirty dollars a week, and my expenses. But I wouldn't take that,
General Triscoe," said Burnamy.
General Triscoe, from his 'lit de justice', passed this point in silence.
"Have you any one dependent on you?"
"My mother; I take care of my mother," answered Burnamy, proudly.
"Since you have broken with Stoller, what are your prospects?"
"I have none."
"Then you don't expect to support my daughter; you expect to live upon
"I expect to do nothing of the kind!" cried Burnamy. "I should be
ashamed--I should feel disgraced--I should--I don't ask you--I don't ask
her till I have the means to support her--"
"If you were very fortunate," continued the general, unmoved by the young
fellow's pain, and unperturbed by the fact that he had himself lived upon
his wife's means as long as she lived, and then upon his daughter's, "if
you went back to Stoller--"
"I wouldn't go back to him. I don't say he's knowingly a rascal, but
he's ignorantly a rascal, and he proposed a rascally thing to me. I
behaved badly to him, and I'd give anything to undo the wrong I let him
do himself; but I'll never go back to him."
"If you went back, on your old salary," the general persisted pitilessly,
"you would be very fortunate if you brought your earnings up to twenty-
five hundred a year."
"And how far do you think that would go in supporting my daughter on the
scale she is used to? I don't speak of your mother, who has the first
claim upon you."
Burnamy sat dumb; and his head which he had lifted indignantly when the
question was of Stoller, began to sink.
The general went on. "You ask me to give you my daughter when you
haven't money enough to keep her in gowns; you ask me to give her to a
"Not quite a stranger, General Triscoe," Burnamy protested. "You have
known me for three months at least, and any one who knows me in Chicago
will tell you--"
"A stranger, and worse than a stranger," the general continued, so
pleased with the logical perfection of his position that he almost
smiled, and certainly softened toward Burnamy. "It isn't a question of
liking you, Mr. Burnamy, but of knowing you; my daughter likes you; so do
the Marches; so does everybody who has met you. I like you myself.
You've done me personally a thousand kindnesses. But I know very little
of you, in spite of our three months' acquaintance; and that little is--
But you shall judge for yourself! You were in the confidential employ of
a man who trusted you, and you let him betray himself."
"I did. I don't excuse it. The thought of it burns like fire. But it
wasn't done maliciously; it wasn't done falsely; it was done
inconsiderately; and when it was done, it seemed irrevocable. But it
wasn't; I could have prevented, I could have stooped the mischief; and I
didn't! I can never outlive that."
"I know," said the general relentlessly, "that you have never attempted
any defence. That has been to your credit with me. It inclined me to
overlook your unwarranted course in writing to my daughter, when you told
her you would never see her again. What did you expect me to think,
after that, of your coming back to see her? Or didn't you expect me to
"I expected you to know it; I knew she would tell you. But I don't
excuse that, either. It was acting a lie to come back. All I can say is
that I had to see her again for one last time."
"And to make sure that it was to be the last time, you offered yourself
"I couldn't help doing that."
"I don't say you could. I don't judge the facts at all. I leave them
altogether to you; and you shall say what a man in my position ought to
say to such a man as you have shown yourself."
"No, I will say." The door into the adjoining room was flung open, and
Agatha flashed in from it.
Her father looked coldly at her impassioned face. "Have you been
listening?" he asked.
"I have been hearing--"
"Oh!" As nearly as a man could, in bed, General Triscoe shrugged.
"I suppose I had, a right to be in my own room. I couldn't help hearing;
and I was perfectly astonished at you, papa, the cruel way you went on,
after all you've said about Mr. Stoller, and his getting no more than he
"That doesn't justify me," Burnamy began, but she cut him short almost as
severely as she--had dealt with her father.
"Yes, it does! It justifies you perfectly! And his wanting you to
falsify the whole thing afterwards, more than justifies you."
Neither of the men attempted anything in reply to her casuistry; they
both looked equally posed by it, for different reasons; and Agatha went
on as vehemently as before, addressing herself now to one and now to the
"And besides, if it didn't justify you, what you have done yourself
would; and your never denying it, or trying to excuse it, makes it the
same as if you hadn't done it, as far as you are concerned; and that is
all I care for." Burnamy started, as if with the sense of having heard
something like this before, and with surprise at hearing it now; and she
flushed a little as she added tremulously, "And I should never, never
blame you for it, after that; it's only trying to wriggle out of things
which I despise, and you've never done that. And he simply had to come
back," she turned to her father, "and tell me himself just how it was.
And you said yourself, papa--or the same as said--that he had no right to
suppose I was interested in his affairs unless he--unless--And I should
never have forgiven him, if he hadn't told me then that he that he had
come back because he--felt the way he did. I consider that that
exonerated him for breaking his word, completely. If he hadn't broken
his word I should have thought he had acted very cruelly and--and
strangely. And ever since then, he has behaved so nobly, so honorably,
so delicately, that I don't believe he would ever have said anything
again--if I hadn't fairly forced him. Yes! Yes, I did!" she cried at a
movement of remonstrance from Burnamy. "And I shall always be proud of
you for it." Her father stared steadfastly at her, and he only lifted
his eyebrows, for change of expression, when she went over to where
Burnamy stood, and put her hand in his with a certain childlike
impetuosity. "And as for the rest," she declared, "everything I have is
his; just as everything of his would be mine if I had nothing. Or if he
wishes to take me without anything, then he can have me so, and I sha'n't
be afraid but we can get along somehow." She added, "I have managed
without a maid, ever since I left home, and poverty has no terrors for
General Triscoe submitted to defeat with the patience which soldiers
learn. He did not submit amiably; that would have been out of character,
and perhaps out of reason; but Burnamy and Agatha were both so amiable
that they supplied good-humor for all. They flaunted their rapture in
her father's face as little as they could, but he may have found their
serene satisfaction, their settled confidence in their fate, as hard to
bear as a more boisterous happiness would have been.
It was agreed among them all that they were to return soon to America,
and Burnamy was to find some sort of literary or journalistic employment
in New York. She was much surer than he that this could be done with
perfect ease; but they were of an equal mind that General Triscoe was not
to be disturbed in any of his habits, or vexed in the tenor of his
living; and until Burnamy was at least self-supporting there must be no
talk of their being married.
The talk of their being engaged was quite enough for the time. It
included complete and minute auto-biographies on both sides, reciprocal
analyses of character, a scientifically exhaustive comparison of tastes,
ideas and opinions; a profound study of their respective chins, noses,
eyes, hands, heights, complexions, moles and freckles, with some account
of their several friends.
In this occupation, which was profitably varied by the confession of what
they had each thought and felt and dreamt concerning the other at every
instant since they met, they passed rapidly the days which the persistent
anxiety of General Triscoe interposed before the date of their leaving
Weimar for Paris, where it was arranged that they should spend a month
before sailing for New York. Burnamy had a notion, which Agatha
approved, of trying for something there on the New York-Paris Chronicle;
and if he got it they might not go home at once. His gains from that
paper had eked out his copyright from his book, and had almost paid his
expenses in getting the material which he had contributed to it. They
were not so great, however, but that his gold reserve was reduced to less
than a hundred dollars, counting the silver coinages which had remained
to him in crossing and recrossing frontiers. He was at times dimly
conscious of his finances, but he buoyantly disregarded the facts, as
incompatible with his status as Agatha's betrothed, if not unworthy of
his character as a lover in the abstract.
The afternoon before they were to leave Weimar, they spent mostly in the
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