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were safely aboard, without telling them to step lively, or pulling them
up the steps; or knuckling them in the back to make them move forward. He
let them get fairly seated before he started the car, and so lost the fun
of seeing them lurch and stagger violently, and wildly clutch each other
for support. The Germans have so little sense of humor that probably no
one in the car would have been amused to see the strangers flung upon the
floor. No one apparently found it droll that the conductor should touch
his cap to them when he asked for their fare; no one smiled at their
efforts to make him understand where they wished to go, and he did not
wink at the other passengers in trying to find out. Whenever the car
stopped he descended first, and did not remount till the dismounting
passenger had taken time to get well away from it. When the Marches got
into the wrong car in coming home, and were carried beyond their street,
the conductor would not take their fare.

The kindly civility which environed them went far to alleviate the
inclemency of the climate; it began to rain as soon as they left the
shelter of the car, but a citizen of whom they asked the nearest way to
the Circus Renz was so anxious to have them go aright that they did not
mind the wet, and the thought of his goodness embittered March's
self-reproach for under-tipping the sort of gorgeous heyduk, with a staff
like a drum-major's, who left his place at the circus door to get their
tickets. He brought them back with a magnificent bow, and was then as
visibly disappointed with the share of the change returned to him as a
child would have been.

They went to their places with the sting of his disappointment rankling
in their hearts. "One ought always to overpay them," March sighed, "and I
will do it from this time forth; we shall not be much the poorer for it.
That heyduk is not going to get off with less than a mark when we come
out." As an earnest of his good faith he gave the old man who showed them
to their box a tip that made him bow double, and he bought every
conceivable libretto and play-bill offered him at prices fixed by his
remorse.

"One ought to do it," he said. "We are of the quality of good geniuses to
these poor souls; we are Fortune in disguise; we are money found in the
road. It is an accursed system, but they are more its victims than we."
His wife quite agreed with him, and with the same good conscience between
them they gave themselves up to the pure joy which the circus, of all
modern entertainments, seems alone to inspire. The house was full from
floor to roof when they came ins and every one was intent upon the two
Spanish clowns, Lui-Lui and Soltamontes, whose drolleries spoke the
universal language of circus humor, and needed no translation into either
German or English. They had missed by an event or two the more patriotic
attraction of "Miss Darlings, the American Star," as she was billed in
English, but they were in time for one of those equestrian performances
which leave the spectator almost exanimate from their prolixity, and the
pantomimic piece which closed the evening.

This was not given until nearly the whole house had gone out and stayed
itself with beer and cheese and ham and sausage, in the restaurant which
purveys these light refreshments in the summer theatres all over Germany.
When the people came back gorged to the throat, they sat down in the
right mood to enjoy the allegory of "The Enchanted Mountain's Fantasy;
the Mountain episodes; the High-interesting Sledges-Courses on the Steep
Acclivities; the Amazing-Up-rush of the thence plunging-Four Trains,
which arrive with Lightnings-swiftness at the Top of the
over-40-feet-high Mountain-the Highest Triumph of the To-day's
Circus-Art; the Sledge-journey in the Wizard-mountain, and the Fairy
Ballet in the Realm of the Ghost-prince, with Gold and Silver, Jewel,
Bloomghosts, Gnomes, Gnomesses, and Dwarfs, in never-till-now-seen
Splendor of Costume." The Marches were happy in this allegory, and
happier in the ballet, which is everywhere delightfully innocent, and
which here appealed with the large flat feet and the plain good faces of
the 'coryphees' to all that was simplest and sweetest in their natures.
They could not have resisted, if they had wished, that environment, of
good-will; and if it had not been for the disappointed heyduk, they would
have got home from their evening at the Circus Renz without a pang.

They looked for him everywhere when they came out, but he had vanished,
and they were left with a regret which, if unavailing, was not too
poignant. In spite of it they had still an exhilaration in their release
from the companionship of their fellow-voyagers which they analyzed as
the psychical revulsion from the strain of too great interest in them.
Mrs. March declared that for the present, at least, she wanted Europe
quite to themselves; and she said that not even for the pleasure of
seeing Burnamy and Miss Triscoe come into their box together world she
have suffered an American trespass upon their exclusive possession of the
Circus Renz.

In the audience she had seen German officers for the first time in
Hamburg, and she meant, if unremitting question could bring out the
truth, to know why she had not met any others. She had read much of the
prevalence and prepotence of the German officers who would try to push
her off the sidewalk, till they realized that she was an American woman,
and would then submit to her inflexible purpose of holding it. But she
had been some seven or eight hours in Hamburg, and nothing of the kind
had happened to her, perhaps because she had hardly yet walked a block in
the city streets, but perhaps also because there seemed to be very few
officers or military of any kind in Hamburg.




XXI.

Their absence was plausibly explained, the next morning, by the young
German friend who came in to see the Marches at breakfast. He said
Hamburg had been so long a free republic that the presence of a large
imperial garrison was distasteful to the people, and as a matter of fact
there were very few soldiers quartered there, whether the authorities
chose to indulge the popular grudge or not. He was himself in a joyful
flutter of spirits, for he had just the day before got his release from
military service. He gave them a notion of what the rapture of a man
reprieved from death might be, and he was as radiantly happy in the ill
health which had got him his release as if it had been the greatest
blessing of heaven. He bubbled over with smiling regrets that he should
be leaving his home for the first stage of the journey which he was to
take in search of strength, just as they had come, and he pressed them to
say if there were not something that he could do for them.

"Yes," said Mrs. March, with a promptness surprising to her husband, who
could think of nothing; "tell us where Heinrich Heine lived when he was
in Hamburg. My husband has always had a great passion for him and wants
to look him up everywhere."

March had forgotten that Heine ever lived in Hamburg, and the young man
had apparently never known it. His face fell; he wished to make Mrs.
March believe that it was only Heine's uncle who had lived there; but she
was firm; and when he had asked among the hotel people he came back
gladly owning that he was wrong, and that the poet used to live in
Konigstrasse, which was very near by, and where they could easily know
the house by his bust set in its front. The portier and the head waiter
shared his ecstasy in so easily obliging the friendly American pair, and
joined him in minutely instructing the driver when they shut them into
their carriage.

They did not know that his was almost the only laughing face they should
see in the serious German Empire; just as they did not know that it
rained there every day. As they drove off in the gray drizzle with the
unfounded hope that sooner or later the weather would be fine, they bade
their driver be very slow in taking them through Konigstrasse, so that he
should by no means Miss Heine's dwelling, and he duly stopped in front of
a house bearing the promised bust. They dismounted in order to revere it
more at their ease, but the bust proved, by an irony bitterer than the
sick, heart-breaking, brilliant Jew could have imagined in his cruelest
moment, to be that of the German Milton, the respectable poet Klopstock,
whom Heine abhorred and mocked so pitilessly.

In fact it was here that the good, much-forgotten Klopstock dwelt, when
he came home to live with a comfortable pension from the Danish
government; and the pilgrims to the mistaken shrine went asking about
among the neighbors in Konigstrasse, for some manner of house where Heine
might have lived; they would have been willing to accept a flat, or any
sort of two-pair back. The neighbors were somewhat moved by the anxiety
of the strangers; but they were not so much moved as neighbors in Italy
would have been. There was no eager and smiling sympathy in the little
crowd that gathered to see what was going on; they were patient of
question and kind in their helpless response, but they were not gay. To a
man they had not heard of Heine; even the owner of a sausage and
blood-pudding shop across the way had not heard of him; the clerk of a
stationer-and-bookseller's next to the butcher's had heard of him, but he
had never heard that he lived in Konigstrasse; he never had heard where
he lived in Hamburg.

The pilgrims to the fraudulent shrine got back into their carriage, and
drove sadly away, instructing their driver with the rigidity which their
limited German favored, not to let any house with a bust in its front
escape him. He promised, and took his course out through Konigstrasse,
and suddenly they found themselves in a world of such eld and quaintness
that they forgot Heine as completely as any of his countrymen had done.
They were in steep and narrow streets, that crooked and turned with no
apparent purpose of leading anywhere, among houses that looked down upon
them with an astonished stare from the leaden-sashed windows of their
timber-laced gables. The facades with their lattices stretching in bands
quite across them, and with their steep roofs climbing high in
successions of blinking dormers, were more richly mediaeval than anything
the travellers had ever dreamt of before, and they feasted themselves
upon the unimagined picturesqueness with a leisurely minuteness which
brought responsive gazers everywhere to the windows; windows were set
ajar; shop doors were darkened by curious figures from within, and the
traffic of the tortuous alleys was interrupted by their progress. They
could not have said which delighted them more - the houses in the
immediate foreground, or the sharp high gables in the perspectives and
the background; but all were like the painted scenes of the stage, and
they had a pleasant difficulty in realizing that they were not persons in
some romantic drama.

The illusion remained with them and qualified the impression which
Hamburg made by her much-trolleyed Bostonian effect; by the decorous
activity and Parisian architecture of her business streets; by the
turmoil of her quays, and the innumerable masts and chimneys of her
shipping. At the heart of all was that quaintness, that picturesqueness
of the past, which embodied the spirit of the old Hanseatic city, and
seemed the expression of the home-side of her history. The sense of this
gained strength from such slight study of her annals as they afterwards
made, and assisted the digestion of some morsels of tough statistics. In
the shadow of those Gothic houses the fact that Hamburg was one of the
greatest coffee marts and money marts of the world had a romantic
glamour; and the fact that in the four years from 1870 till 1874 a
quarter of a million emigrants sailed on her ships for the United States
seemed to stretch a nerve of kindred feeling from those mediaeval streets
through the whole shabby length of Third Avenue.

It was perhaps in this glamour, or this feeling of commercial solidarity,
that March went to have a look at the Hamburg Bourse, in the beautiful
new Rathhaus. It was not undergoing repairs, it was too new for that; but
it was in construction, and so it fulfilled the function of a public
edifice, in withholding its entire interest from the stranger. He could
not get into the Senate Chamber; but the Bourse was free to him, and when
he stepped within, it rose at him with a roar of voices and of feet like
the New York Stock Exchange. The spectacle was not so frantic; people
were not shaking their fists or fingers in each other's noses; but they
were all wild in the tamer German way, and he was glad to mount from the
Bourse to the poor little art gallery upstairs, and to shut out its
clamor. He was not so glad when he looked round on these, his first,
examples of modern German art. The custodian led him gently about and
said which things were for sale, and it made his heart ache to see how
bad they were, and to think that, bad as they were, he could not buy any
of them.




XXII.

In the start from Cuxhaven the passengers had the irresponsible ease of
people ticketed through, and the steamship company had still the charge
of their baggage. But when the Marches left Hamburg for Leipsic (where
they had decided to break the long pull to Carlsbad), all the anxieties
of European travel, dimly remembered from former European days, offered
themselves for recognition. A porter vanished with their hand-baggage
before they could note any trait in him for identification; other porters
made away with their trunks; and the interpreter who helped March buy his
tickets, with a vocabulary of strictly railroad English, had to help him
find the pieces in the baggage-room, curiously estranged in a mountain of
alien boxes. One official weighed them; another obliged him to pay as
much in freight as for a third passenger, and gave him an illegible scrap
of paper which recorded their number and destination. The interpreter and
the porters took their fees with a professional effect of
dissatisfaction, and he went to wait with his wife amidst the smoking and
eating and drinking in the restaurant. They burst through with the rest
when the doors were opened to the train, and followed a glimpse of the
porter with their hand-bags, as he ran down the platform, still bent upon
escaping them, and brought him to bay at last in a car where he had got
very good seats for them, and sank into their places, hot and humiliated
by their needless tumult.

As they cooled, they recovered their self-respect, and renewed a youthful
joy in some of the long-estranged facts. The road was rougher than the
roads at home; but for much less money they had the comfort, without the
unavailing splendor, of a Pullman in their second-class carriage. Mrs.
March had expected to be used with the severity on the imperial railroads
which she had failed to experience from the military on the Hamburg
sidewalks, but nothing could be kindlier than the whole management toward
her. Her fellow-travellers were not lavish of their rights, as Americans
are; what they got, that they kept; and in the run from Hamburg to
Leipsic she had several occasions to observe that no German, however
young or robust, dreams of offering a better place, if he has one, to a
lady in grace to her sex or age; if they got into a carriage too late to
secure a forward-looking seat, she rode backward to the end of that
stage. But if they appealed to their fellow-travellers for information
about changes, or stops, or any of the little facts that they wished to
make sure of, they were enlightened past possibility of error. At the
point where they might have gone wrong the explanations were renewed with
a thoughtfulness which showed that their anxieties had not been
forgotten. She said she could not see how any people could be both so
selfish and so sweet, and her husband seized the advantage of saying
something offensive:

"You women are so pampered in America that you are astonished when you
are treated in Europe like the mere human beings you are."

She answered with unexpected reasonableness:

"Yes, there's something in that; but when the Germans have taught us how
despicable we are as women, why do they treat us so well as human
beings?"

This was at ten o'clock, after she had ridden backward a long way, and at
last, within an hour of Leipsic, had got a seat confronting him. The
darkness had now hidden the landscape, but the impression of its few
simple elements lingered pleasantly in their sense: long levels, densely
wooded with the precise, severely disciplined German forests, and
checkered with fields of grain and grass, soaking under the thin rain
that from time to time varied the thin sunshine.

The villages and peasants' cottages were notably few; but there was here
and there a classic or a gothic villa, which, at one point, an
English-speaking young lady turned from her Tauchnitz novel to explain as
the seat of some country gentleman; the land was in large holdings, and
this accounted for the sparsity of villages and cottages.

She then said that she was a German teacher of English, in Hamburg, and
was going home to Potsdam for a visit. She seemed like a German girl out
of 'The Initials', and in return for this favor Mrs. March tried to
invest herself with some romantic interest as an American. She failed to
move the girl's fancy, even after she had bestowed on her an immense
bunch of roses which the young German friend in Hamburg had sent to them
just before they left their hotel. She failed, later, on the same ground
with the pleasant-looking English woman who got into their carriage at
Magdeburg, and talked over the 'London Illustrated News' with an
English-speaking Fraulein in her company; she readily accepted the fact
of Mrs. March's nationality, but found nothing wonderful in it,
apparently; and when she left the train she left Mrs. March to recall
with fond regret the old days in Italy when she first came abroad, and
could make a whole carriage full of Italians break into ohs and ahs by
saying that she was an American, and telling how far she had come across
the sea.

"Yes," March assented, "but that was a great while ago, and Americans
were much rarer than they are now in Europe. The Italians are so much
more sympathetic than the Germans and English, and they saw that you
wanted to impress them. Heaven knows how little they cared! And then, you
were a very pretty young girl in those days; or at least I thought so."

"Yes," she sighed, "and now I'm a plain old woman."

"Oh, not quite so bad as that."

"Yes, I am! Do you think they would have cared more if it had been Miss
Triscoe?"

"Not so much as if it had been the pivotal girl. They would have found
her much more their ideal of the American woman; and even she would have
had to have been here thirty years ago."

She laughed a little ruefully. "Well, at any rate, I should like to know
how Miss Triscoe would have affected them."

"I should much rather know what sort of life that English woman is living
here with her German husband; I fancied she had married rank. I could
imagine how dull it must be in her little Saxon town, from the way she
clung to her Illustrated News, and explained the pictures of the
royalties to her friend. There is romance for you!"

They arrived at Leipsic fresh and cheerful after their five hours'
journey, and as in a spell of their travelled youth they drove up through
the academic old town, asleep under its dimly clouded sky, and silent
except for the trolley-cars that prowled its streets with their feline
purr, and broke at times into a long, shrill caterwaul. A sense of the
past imparted itself to the well-known encounter with the portier and the
head waiter at the hotel door, to the payment of the driver, to the
endeavor of the secretary to have them take the most expensive rooms in
the house, and to his compromise upon the next most, where they found
themselves in great comfort, with electric lights and bells, and a quick
succession of fee-taking call-boys in dress-coats too large for them. The
spell was deepened by the fact, which March kept at the bottom of his
consciousness for the present, that one of their trunks was missing. This
linked him more closely to the travel of other days, and he spent the
next forenoon in a telegraphic search for the estray, with emotions
tinged by the melancholy of recollection, but in the security that since
it was somewhere in the keeping of the state railway, it would be finally
restored to him.




XXIII.

Their windows, as they saw in the morning, looked into a large square of
aristocratic physiognomy, and of a Parisian effect in architecture, which
afterwards proved characteristic of the town, if not quite so
characteristic as to justify the passion of Leipsic for calling itself
Little Paris. The prevailing tone was of a gray tending to the pale
yellow of the Tauchnitz editions with which the place is more familiarly
associated in the minds of English-speaking travellers. It was rather
more sombre than it might have been if the weather had been fair; but a
quiet rain was falling dreamily that morning, and the square was provided
with a fountain which continued to dribble in the rare moments when the
rain forgot itself. The place was better shaded than need be in that
sunless land by the German elms that look like ours and it was
sufficiently stocked with German statues, that look like no others. It
had a monument, too, of the sort with which German art has everywhere
disfigured the kindly fatherland since the war with France. These
monuments, though they are so very ugly, have a sort of pathos as records
of the only war in which Germany unaided has triumphed against a foreign
foe, but they are as tiresome as all such memorial pomps must be. It is
not for the victories of a people that any other people can care. The
wars come and go in blood and tears; but whether they are bad wars, or
what are comically called good wars, they are of one effect in death and
sorrow, and their fame is an offence to all men not concerned in them,
till time has softened it to a memory

"Of old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago."

It was for some such reason that while the Marches turned with instant
satiety from the swelling and strutting sculpture which celebrated the
Leipsic heroes of the war of 1870, they had heart for those of the war of
1813; and after their noonday dinner they drove willingly, in a pause of
the rain, out between yellowing harvests of wheat and oats to the field
where Napoleon was beaten by the Russians, Austrians and Prussians (it
always took at least three nations to beat the little wretch) fourscore
years before. Yet even there Mrs. March was really more concerned for the
sparsity of corn-flowers in the grain, which in their modern character of
Kaiserblumen she found strangely absent from their loyal function; and
March was more taken with the notion of the little gardens which his
guide told him the citizens could have in the suburbs of Leipsic and
enjoy at any trolley-car distance from their homes. He saw certain of
these gardens in groups, divided by low, unenvious fences, and sometimes
furnished with summer-houses, where the tenant could take his pleasure in
the evening air, with his family. The guide said he had such a garden
himself, at a rent of seven dollars a year, where he raised vegetables
and flowers, and spent his peaceful leisure; and March fancied that on
the simple domestic side of their life, which this fact gave him a
glimpse of, the Germans were much more engaging than in their character
of victors over either the First or the Third Napoleon. But probably they
would not have agreed with him, and probably nations will go on making
themselves cruel and tiresome till humanity at last prevails over
nationality.

He could have put the case to the guide himself; but though the guide was
imaginably liberated to a cosmopolitan conception of things by three
years' service as waiter in English hotels, where he learned the
language, he might not have risen to this. He would have tried, for he
was a willing and kindly soul, though he was not a 'valet de place' by
profession. There seemed in fact but one of that useless and amusing race
(which is everywhere falling into decay through the rivalry of the
perfected Baedeker,) left in Leipsic, and this one was engaged, so that
the Marches had to devolve upon their ex-waiter, who was now the keeper
of a small restaurant. He gladly abandoned his business to the care of


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Online LibraryWilliam Dean HowellsTheir Silver Wedding Journey — Volume 1 → online text (page 8 of 10)