|A German Landlady||1|
|The Valley of Gastein||34|
|The Ampezzo Pass and the House of the Star of Gold||62|
|A May-Day in Albano||82|
|An Afternoon in Memoriam, in Salzburg||89|
|The Returned Veterans’ Fest in Salzburg||95|
|A Morning in the Etruscan Museum in the Vatican||103|
|A Sunday Morning in Venice||117|
|The Convent of San Lazzaro, in Venice||124|
I am very glad that the many friends my good has made for herself in America can now see her face.
I have only recently received this picture with its affectionate greeting in her delicious broken English, and I make haste to share the pleasure that it has given me.
Newport, R. I., May 7, 1873.
|A German Landlady||Frontispiece.|
|Valley and Village of Gastein||Page 50|
my good Fraulein
text unchanged; elsewhere I’ve assumed “Fraulein” for “Fräulein” is a mistake, but here there is no point of comparison
Gastein, Page 50
[Like the picture of Fräulein Hahlreiner, this illustration was absent from the first (1872) edition. I’ve moved it down to match a slight break in the text.]
It was by one of those predestinations which men call lucky chances that I came to know the Fräulein Hahlreiner. An idle question put to a railway acquaintance, and in a moment more had been spoken the name which will stand in my memory forever, calling up a picture of the best, dearest, jolliest landlady in all Germany.
Up two such flights of stairs as only victims of monarchies would consent to climb we toiled to find her. There was a breeze of good cheer in the first opening of her door.
“Is the Fräulein Hahlreiner in?”
“I are she,” laughed out of the broad red lips and twinkled in the pretty brown eyes. The rooms were just what we wanted. Who could have believed that, while we were journeying sadly away from beloved Tyrol, there stood waiting in the heart of Munich just the beds, the sunny windows, the cheerful parlor, that would fit us? The readiness of one’s habitations is a perpetual marvel in the traveller’s life; it is strange we can be so faithless about accommodations in the next 2 world, when we are so well taken care of in this. It took few words to make our bargain, and few hours to move in; in a day we were at home, and the big, motherly Fräulein understood us as if she had nursed us in our cradles. How her presence pervaded that whole floor! There were thirteen rooms. A German baron with wife and two children, to whom he whistled and sang and shouted twelve hours a day, like a giant bobolink in a meadow, had some of the rooms. Two mysterious Hungarian women, who were secret and stately and still, and gave dinners, lived on the corner; and we had all the rest, except what was kitchen, or cupboard, or the Fräulein’s bedroom.
It is wonderful how soon it seems proper to have kitchen opposite parlor, unknown neighbors the other side of your bedroom wall, dishes washed on the hall table, and charcoal and company coming in at same door. When we learn to do this in New York, there will be fewer deaths from breaking of bloodvessels in the effort to be respectable.
No artist has ever taken a photograph of the Fräulein Hahlreiner which could be recognized. Neither can I photograph her. I can say that she was five feet seven inches high, and fat to the degree of fatness which Rubens loved to paint; that she was fifty-two years old, and did not look as if she were more than forty; that she had hazel brown eyes, perpetually laughing, a high white forehead, two dimples in her left cheek which were never still, and hair, as free as the dimples, too long to be called short, too short to be called long, always floating back in the air as she came towards you: on great occasions she had it curled by a hair-dresser,—the only weakness I ever discovered in the Fräulein; but it was such a short-lived one, one easily forgave it, for the curl never stayed in more than two hours. I can say that, in spite of her fatness, her step was elastic and light, and her hands and feet delicately shaped; I can say that her broken English was 3 the most deliciously comic and effectively eloquent language I have ever heard spoken; I can say that she cooked our dinner for us at two, went shopping for or with us at five, threw us into fits of laughter at eight by some unexpected bit of mimicry or droll story, and then tucked us up at bedtime with an affectionate “Good night. Sleep well!” But after all this is told, I have told only outside truths, and given little suggestion of the charm of atmosphere that there was about our dear Fräulein and everything she did or said.
The Munich days went by too quickly,—days in the Pinakothek, days in the Glyptothek, days in the Art Exposition, with its two thousand pictures. We had climbed into the head of the statue of Bavaria, roamed through the king’s chambers at the Nymphenburg, seen one hundred thousand men on the Teresina meadows, and the king giving prizes for the horse-races; and now the day came on which we must leave Munich and each other.
My route lay to the north,—Nuremberg, Rhine, Rotterdam, London. For many days I had been in search of a maid to go with me as far as Rotterdam. The voluble Madame Marksteller, who supports a family of ten children, and keeps them all in kid gloves and poodles by means of an intelligence office, swept daily into my room, accompanied by applicants of all degrees of unsuitability. It grew disheartening. Finally I was reduced to the choice between a pretty and young woman, who would go with me only on condition of being my bosom companion, and an ugly old woman, who was a simpleton. In this crisis I appealed to the Fräulein.
“Dear Fräulein, why could not you go with me to Rotterdam?”
“O my dear lady, you make me go to be like fool, to think of so nice journey,” said she, clapping one hand to her head, snapping the fingers of the other, and pirouetting on her fat legs.4
But all sorts of lions were in the way: lodgers, whose dinners must be cooked.
“I will pay the wages of a cook to take your place, my Fräulein.”
A country cousin was coming to make a visit; a cousin whom she had not seen for twenty-five years. She might stay a week.
“Very well. I will wait till your cousin’s visit is over.”
“But, my lady, I fear I make stupid thing for you. I knows not how to do on so great journey.”
“Ha!” thought I, “I only wish I were as safe from stupidities and blunderings for the rest of my life as I shall be while I am in your charge, you quick-witted, bright-eyed old dear!”
The country cousin, I fear, was hurried off a little sooner than she liked.
“I tell she she must go. My lady cannot wait so long. Six days in Munich are enough for she,” said the Fräulein, with a shrug of the shoulders which it would have cut the country cousin to the heart to see.
On a windy noon, such as only Munich knows, we set out for Nuremberg. If I had had any misgivings about the Fräulein’s capacity as courier, they would have been set at rest in the first half-hour at the railroad station. It was evident that anything she did not know she would find out by a word and a smile from the nearest person: all were conciliated the minute they looked into her ruddy face. And as for me, never in my life had I felt so well presented as by the affectionate tone in which she said “My lady.”
Trusting to Murray, I had telegraphed to the Würtemberger Hof for rooms. At nine o’clock of a dark night the German crowd in the Nuremberg station lifted up its voice, and said there was no Würtemberger Hof.
“There must be,” said I, brandishing my red Murray, with my thumb on the spot. Crowd chuckled, and said there was not.5
“O my lady, wait you here while I go and see,” said the Fräulein, bundling me into a chair as if I had been a baby. Presently she came back with, “My lady, she do not exist these now four years, the Würtemberger Hof. We go to the Nuremberger Hof, which are near, and he have our telegram.”
Out into the darkness we trudged, following a small boy with a glass of beer, and found, as the Fräulein had said, that the Nuremberger Hof had received our telegram, and had prepared for us two of the cleanest of its very dirty rooms. How well I came to know my Fräulein before the end of that rainy day in Nuremberg!
“O my lady, am I to go where you go and see all?” she exclaimed in the morning, when I told her to be ready at nine to drive with me. “O, never did I think to see so much.” She had evidently had in the outset a fear that she would see little except at the railway stations and hotels. She little knew how much pleasure I anticipated in her companionship.
They are cruel who tell you that a day is time enough to see Nuremberg. It is a place to spend two weeks in; to lounge on doorsteps, and peer into shadowy places; to study old stones inch by inch, and grow slowly wonted to all its sombre picturesqueness.
As we stood looking at Peter Vischer’s exquisite carvings on the shrine of St. Sebald’s, I pointed out to the Fräulein the bass-relief representing St. Sebald’s miracle with the icicle. She looked with cold, steady eyes at the finely chiselled fire which was represented curling upward from the little pile of broken icicle, and then said, “Do you believe, my lady?”
“O no, Fräulein,” said I; “I can’t quite believe that icicles ever made so good a fire as that, even for a saint. But I suppose you believe it, do you not?”
“O no, I not. The Church ask too much to believe. If one would believe all, one cannot do,” said she, in a tone of timidity and hesitation quite unusual for her; 6 and a moment later, still more hesitatingly, “Have you read Renan, my lady?”
I started. Was this my German landlady, who spent most of her time over her cooking-stove, asking me if I read Renan? “Yes,” I said, “I have read most of his books. Have you?”
“O yes, and I like so much. My confessor he say he no more give me—” (here she halted: the long word “absolution” was too much for her, and she made a sweeping gesture of benediction to indicate it),—“he no more give me—so—if I not put away that book; so I go not to him, now, two year, because I will not make lie.”
“But then you are excommunicated, are you not, if you have not been to confession for two years?”
“Yes, I think,” cheerily, quite reassured now that I must be as much of a heretic as she, since I too read Renan; “but I will not make lie. I will have my Renan. Then I read, too, the book against Renan; and he say St. Paul say this, and St. Peter say the other, but he go not to my heart. I love the Jesu Christ more by Renan as in what the Church say for him.”
Strange enough it was to walk through the still aisles of these old churches, and, looking up at the dusty stone saints, to whom incense is burned no longer, hear this simple soul repeat over and over, with great emphasis, “I love the Jesu Christ more by Renan as in what the Church say for him.”
Then we went down into the old dungeons under the Rathhaus, through chilly winding galleries, into stone chamber after stone chamber, rayless, airless, pitiless, awful. The Fräulein grew white with horror. She had never believed the stories she had read of torture-chambers and dungeons.
“Ach, mein Gott! mein Gott! and this is what might be to-day if Father —— had the way; and they tell us we lose the good old times. I will 7 tell to all peoples I know I have seen the good old times under the ground of this Nürnberg!”
When we came out again into the open air, she was so pale I feared she would be ill. She sat down trembling on the stone stairs, and drew a long breath: “Ach Gott! but I am thanks to see once more the overworld.”
It was almost wicked, after this, to take her to the still worse dungeons under the city walls, which are literally hung and set full of instruments of torture, and in the last of which is kept the famous Iron Virgin. In the first chambers were milder instruments for punishments of common offences, many of which have been used in Nuremberg within seventy years,—grotesque masks to be worn on the street by men and women convicted of slanderous speaking (“Ha, ha!” laughed the Fräulein, “there could not be made enough such masks to be weared in Munich”); and a curious oblong board with a round hole at each end, into which husbands and wives who quarrelled were obliged to put their heads, and live thus yoked for days at a time. This pleased the Fräulein greatly. “Think you, my lady, this would be good?” she said, sticking her fat fist through one of the holes, and opening and shutting it,—“think you they would love theirselves (each other) more?”
But her smiles soon died away, and she was paler than in the Rathhaus dungeons. This great hearty woman, usually ruddy as a frost-bitten apple in December, and stronger than most men, grew white and trembling at the first look at the horrible instruments of torture with which the other chambers were filled. Indeed, it was a sight hard to bear,—racks and wheels and pulleys and weights and thumb-screws, helmets and cradles and chairs set thick with iron spikes, and at last, in the lowest dungeon of all, the Iron Virgin. I held the poor Fräulein’s hand. For the minute I was the protector, and not she. The woman who was our 8 guide recited her story with such glib professional facility, and pulled out bars, and shoved back the doors, and showed the sharp spikes, all with such a cheery smile, that to me it robbed the cruel stone statue of much of its atmosphere of the horrible. I even felt a morbid impulse to step into the image’s embrace and let the spiked doors be partly shut on me; but for the Fräulein’s sake I forbore, and hurried her out as quickly as possible into her “overworld.”
“O, never would I live in this Nürnberg, my lady,” she said; “at each step I see ghost; and see color of that water,” she added, pointing to the sluggish river: “it are black with the old sins.”
How she laughed the Nuremberg jewellers into selling me oxidized silver cheaper than they meant to! How she persuaded the stolid Nuremberg “cocher” to drive faster, at least ten times faster, than was his wont! And how, most marvellous of all, she convinced the keeper of the Nuremberg cemetery where Albert Dürer was buried, that it could do no harm for me to bring away a big bunch of bright sumac leaves from one of the trees! I should as soon have thought of appealing to one of the carved Baumgartner burghers on their stone slabs to give me permission; but the Fräulein was too much for the keeper. He turned his back, so as not to seem to condone the offence, and satisfied his conscience by calling out, “Enough, enough, you have taken enough,” several times before we were ready to stop picking. How quickly she saw and how keenly she felt the best things! Not a line of Adam Kraft’s or Peter Vischer’s carving was lost on her. Not a single picturesque face or group escaped her. Much more I saw, in that one day of Nuremberg, for having her by my side; and very short I found the next day’s railroad ride to Mayence, by help of her droll comments on all that happened.
Curled up in one corner were a fat old German and his wife, and opposite them an officer with his young 9 bride. The officer and the burgher talked incessantly with great vehemence. I saw that the Fräulein listened with keenest attention; it was evidently all she could do to keep quiet. At the first opportunity she said to me:—
“O my lady, he are ultramontane, the fat man; he are Senator; they talk always about our government. I like so much to hear what they say; but the fat man, he are such fool.”
The Senator’s wife looked like a man in woman’s clothes,—hard-featured, bony, hideous. As night came on she proceeded to make her toilet; she took off her boots, and put on huge worsted shoes, bound with scarlet; on her head she put a knit cap, of cranberry red; above that, the hood of her gray waterproof; above all this, a white silk handkerchief, tied tight under her chin; on top of all, her round hat. The effect was like nothing in earth but a great woollen gargoyle. The Senator looked on as complacently as if it were the adorning of Venus herself.
“O my lady, have you seen what she make for mouth when she speak?” said the Fräulein. I had not, for we were on the same side of the carriage. “My lady, you must see. I will make that she speak for you,” said the malicious Fräulein, drawing nearer to the unsuspecting victim, and asking some question in the friendliest of voices. I forgave the unchristian trick, however, at sight of the mouth in motion.
After the Senator and the officer had both left the carriage, the Fräulein told me the substance of their discussion; political questions seemed familiar to her; she had her own opinion of every candidate; and O, how she did hate the ultramontanes! “O my lady, this Senator he wish to have for president a man who make always his walk backwards. Never he go forwards.”
It took me some seconds to comprehend that this 10 was the Fräulein’s English for a conservative, the thing she hated with her whole heart.
The sun shone brightly on the fields and woods. She exclaimed with delight at each new mile: “O, how I like to see smoke go up from house!”
“O, find you not the world nice, my lady? I find so nice, I could kiss the world. Always people say, this world are bad world. The world are good world. It are mens that are bad.”
Then she would startle me again by farmer-like comments on the country.
“O, here are all such poor wood country; I would cut down such poor wood, and make land for other thing.
“Now begin to be more good stone, here.
“O look, my lady, what nice farm with much meadow for coos.” (Never could I persuade the Fräulein to say cows.)
At last I said to her: , you talk like a farmer.”
“Ach, my lady,” and her face grew clouded, “I make farm for eleven year. I am great farmer. That is all what I love. O, I could die, some time, I such hungry have for my beautiful farm.”
By this time I was prepared to hear that my Fräulein had at one time or another in her life filled every office for which German towns have an opening, from burgomaster down; but that she had been a farmer I never suspected.
“You must tell me, Fräulein, all about it, when we are on the Rhine. We can talk quietly there.”
“Yes, my lady, I tell you. It are like story in book.”
For a few moments she looked dreamily and sadly out of the window; but her nature had no room for continued melancholy. Soon she began to laugh again, at sight of the slow, ditch-like Main, on which unwieldy boats and sloops were wriggling along.11
“O my lady, this river go all the way as if he think each minute, ‘I go no farther.’”
Match that who can for a hit at a sluggish river.
At one of the stations I saw her talking with a conductor on another train bound back to Nuremberg.
“I ask for my cousin. He are ober-conductor on that train. I send him note. He can see me when I come back. He will be in Heaven when he get my note.” And her face twinkled more like the face of fifteen than of fifty. I looked inquiringly.
“He are my cousin; but I love he not; but he write me every year, for tirteen year, ‘Will you marry me?’ and I write to he: ‘Thank you, thank you, but I think not to marry you, nor any other man. Live well, live well.’ And he speak no more, till come same time next year; but always he say to all peoples, that he will me marry. He wait till I be glad of he. But I think he wait till I die. And his mother she hate me, because she wish that he had wife to take he out of her house. He make her cry so much, so much. He is so—how do you say, my lady, when peoples is all time like this?” and in an instant she had utterly transformed her face, so that she could have passed any police officer in the world, however he had been searching for her, so cross, so glum, so hateful did she become from eyebrows to chin. Never off the stage, and rarely on it, have I seen such power of mimicry as had this wonderful old Fräulein.
“He are always like that, my lady, all time, morning, noon, night, all year; and he say every day to his mother, ‘Hold tongue! I will not have wife, if I cannot have Caroline.’” This last sentence she pronounced with a slow, sullen, dogged drawl, which would have made the fortune of an actress.
“O Fräulein,” I said, “you ought to have been an actress.”
“Yes, my lady, I think,” she replied, as simply as a child, with no shade of vanity in her manner. “I 12 would be rich woman now. When I was a child, a great manager in Augsburg he ask my grandfather to give me to study with his daughter. He say I make good, and be great player; but in those days no people liked artists like to-day, and my grandfather he are so angry, and he say, ‘Go away; come no more in my house.’”
Thus laughing and listening, and looking out on the pleasant meadows of the Main, we came to Mayence, and at Mayence took boat to go down the Rhine. This was the Fräulein’s first sight of the Rhine. All the tenderness and pride and romance of her true German soul were in her eyes, as the boat swung slowly round from the pier, and began to glide down the river. And now began a new series of surprises. From Mayence to Cologne there was not a ruin of which my Fräulein did not know the story. Baedeker was superseded, except for the names of places; as soon as I mentioned them to her she invariably replied, “O yes, I know; and have you read, my lady, how,” etc. The Johannisberg Castle, given to Metternich by his Emperor, the cruel Hatto’s Tower, the Devil’s Ladder, the Seven Virgins, the Lurley, the Brothers, Rolandseck and Nonnenwerth,—she knew them all by heart; and for the sake of hearing the time-worn old stories, in her delicious broken English, I pretended to have forgotten all the legends. Nothing moved her so much as the sight of the two rocky peaks on which the two brothers had lived, and looked down on the Bornhofen Convent in which their beloved Hildegarde was shut up.
“O, each brother, he could see her if she walk in that garden,” she said, with tears in her eyes, “Now, it come no more that a man love so much, so long, so true.”
Just beyond the Brothers we passed the great Marienburg water-cure. Reading from Baedeker, I said: “Fräulein, that would be a cheap place to live; only twelve thalers a week for board and lodging and medical attendance.”13
“O no, my dear lady. It are not cheap, for there be nothing to eat. At end of eight day the man from Wassercure he shall be so thin, so thin, it shall shine the sun through him.”
Throughout our whole journey the Fräulein’s astonishment was unbounded at the poor fare and the high prices. In her beautiful goodness, she had supposed that all landlords were content, as she, with moderate profits, and anxious, as she, to give to their guests the best food.
“O my lady, find you this chicken good?”
“Not very, Fräulein. What is the matter with it?”
“O, the bad man, the bad man, to ask for this chicken one gulden. He are old chicken, my lady, and he are boiled before he are in oven. O, I know very well. O, I win much money by this journey; never before had I courage to give old chicken. Now I give!”
Much I fear me that from this time henceforth the lodgers in my dear Fräulein’s house will not find it such a marvel of cheap comfort as we did.
“O my lady,” she said one day, “if you come again to me, you shall all have as before. But to other peoples, I no more give beefsteak for fifteen kreutzers. I will be more rich, I have been ass.”
By dint of the Cologne and Düsseldorf line of steamboats, and the Netherland steamship line, and endless questioning and unlading and lading, the Fräulein and I and the trunks at last came to land at Rotterdam. We had a day at Cologne, a night at Düsseldorf, and one never-to-be-forgotten night on the river. At Düsseldorf, we wandered about the streets for an hour and a half seeking where to lay our heads. Here the poor Fräulein had on her hands, besides me, an English barrister and his wife, who could speak no German, and who drifted very naturally into our wake. What a procession we were at eleven o’clock of the darkest sort of night, nobody knowing just were he was going, 14 each person thinking somebody else was taking the lead! Suddenly the porters ahead of us plumped our trunks down in the middle of the street at the feet of two men with lanterns.
“Really, aw, now this is, aw, the most extraordinary place for a custom-house, aw, ’pon my honor,” said the English barrister, whose name was not Dundreary.
“Have you meat or sausages?” said the biggest man, flashing his lantern-light full into our dismayed faces. “O mercy, no!” shouted we with bursts of laughter, and such evident honesty, that he let us go, contenting himself with punching the sides of all the carpet-bags.
“O Fräulein, did you tell that man you had no sausages?” said I, sure she could not have eaten up the six I saw her buy at Cologne.
“My dear lady, he say, ‘Have you meat or sausage?’ and I say, ‘No, I have no meat.’ I not make lie, I make diplomatique.”
From Düsseldorf to Rotterdam it was a day and a night and half a day. The Rhine stretched broader and broader. The shores of Holland seemed slowly going under water, and the windmill arms beat the air wildly like struggling arms of drowning monsters. It was as cold as winter in the cabin: and it rained pitilessly on the deck. The poor Fräulein read all the magazines which I had bought for her in Cologne, and an old comic almanac which she borrowed from the steward, and at last curled herself up in a corner and went to sleep in despair. The night differed from the day only in being a little colder and darker, and in the Fräulein’s having a red-flannel petticoat over her head. When I waked up and saw her pleasant great face in this ruddy halo of fiery flannel, I felt as comforted as if it had been a noonday sun.
It was at noon of a Thursday that we came, as I said, to land at Rotterdam; but this is hardly the 15 proper phrase in which to describe arriving at a place which is nine parts water. Venice seems high and dry in comparison with it; and the fact that you go about in boats at Venice, and in cabs at Rotterdam, only serves to make the wateriness of Rotterdam more noticeable.
“O my lady, it are all one bridge from one water to another water,” said Fräulein, as we drove up and down and across canal after canal to find the house of Moses Ezekiel, the Jew, who is a money-changer. It rained dismally, but the Dutchwomen were out on all the doorsteps, with pails of water, scrubbing and wiping and brushing and rinsing, with cloths and mops and brooms, as if they were enchanted by some soap-and-watery demon. Windows shone like mirrors; door-handles glittered like jewels.
“O, how they do are clean, these Dutch!” said the Fräulein, taking account with a housekeeper’s eye of all this spotlessness.
How sorry I grew as the hour came for me to say good by to this dear, honest, droll, loving woman I cannot tell. The last thing she did for me was to look at the sheets in the dreary little berth in which must be spent my one night between Rotterdam and London, and to say with great indignation to the surprised stewardess. “Call you those sheets clean, in English? Never my lady sleep in such sheets, from Munich to Rotterdam. O, but I think a steamschiff (boat) are place for bad peoples to be punish for sin!”
Then she cried over me a little and went away. I watched her till she had shut the cab door, and was being whirled off to take the early train for Munich. Then I too shed a few tears, saying to myself, “God bless the old darling! I shall never see her like again.”
The story of the Fräulein’s life I feel a hesitancy about telling. It stands out so in my memory in its quaint, picturesque, eloquent broken English, that to try to reproduce it is like trying to describe one of 16 Teniers’s pictures of peasant life. But nothing, not even the dulness of grammatical speech, can rob it of all its flavor of romance, and no one but myself will know how much it loses in my hands.
Her father was a Suabian hunter, and one of the king’s rangers. Her mother was a daughter of a subaltern officer. There were ten children, of which my Fräulein and her twin brother were the youngest. They were poor but gay, living a free life in the woods, with venison for dinner every day. When the little Caroline—for now I must give her her name—was three years old her father died; but she never forgot him, remembering to this day, she says, more vividly than almost anything else in her life, how he used to come home in his ranger’s uniform, and taking her on one arm and her twin brother on the other, toss them both up in the air, calling her his little “rusty angel,” in affectionate jest at her freckled skin.
One year later the mother died, and the ten children, left with very little money, were scattered here and there, in houses of friends and relatives. Caroline was sent to her paternal grandfather, who was a government advocate in Augsburg. The grandmother had written that she would take the handsomest of the six little girls, and the lot fell on Caroline. O, what a picture it was she drew of her arrival, late at night, at the fine house in Augsburg! She was carried, a poor little frozen bundle of baby, into a great parlor, where her grandparents with a small party of friends were playing whist. The servant set her on the piano while they unrolled her wrappings, one after another, for it was a cold winter night.
“Then at last out came I; and they stand me up on the piano, and my grandmother she say, ‘Mein Gott! 17 if this be the handsome, what are the rest?’ And one old servant,—and she I hate all my life,—she put both her hands high, and she say, ‘Mein Gott, she have red hair and rusty skin!’”
In a few days, however, the little red-haired, rusty-skinned child became the pet of the whole house; and from this time till her grandmother’s death Caroline was happy. But before she was six she had become such an unmanageable little hoyden, that her grandparents, in despair, shut her up in a convent school in Augsburg, only allowing her to come home for Saturdays and Sundays and the vacations. In this school she spent seven years, and came out, at thirteen, a full-grown woman, knowing a little of many things, but no one thing well, and too full of animal life to be held with any bonds. That very year came her first lover, asking to marry her.
“My grandfather, he send for me, and I come, like I go always on one foot, jumping like cat for bird; and there sit this man I know not; and my grandfather he point to me, and he say, ‘You think to marry that child? Look at her!’” I am sure that the Fräulein was too modest to tell me how beautiful she was as a young girl. But I can easily make the picture for myself. She was above the medium height, and very slender; her cheeks were red, her forehead high and white; her eyes the brightest and wickedest hazel, and her mouth and chin piquant and wilful and tender and strong, altogether. Not often does the world see just such a face as she must have had in her youth.
The next year the grandmother died, and now began dark days for Caroline. Two of her aunts, who had not loved her father, came to keep her grandfather’s house. They locked up her piano. They took away the pretty clothes her grandmother had given her. They gave her more and more hard work to do, until in one short year she was like a servant in the house. Then they sent her away to another aunt’s 18 house, on pretence of a visit, and kept her there three months; and when she returned, she found that her grandfather, who was now very old and imbecile, had married a new wife.
“Now came for me the worst of all the time. My grandfather’s wife, she say, ‘You must not stay here, I will not have, you are too fine lady. You can go earn your bread like others.’ And I say, ‘O, what can I do? I nothing know, where can I go?’ And, my lady, I are only fifteen when she tell me to go make living for myself.”
The grandfather was too old and feeble to interfere, and moreover had been prejudiced against Caroline by his wife and daughters. So the child went out into the world, with a little bundle of clothes and a few gulden in her pocket. She had about one hundred dollars a year from her father’s estate, which luckily was in the hands of a trustee, or the cruel aunts would have robbed her of that. A kind neighbor took her in, and tried to cheer her; but her heart was broken. “All day, my lady, I cry and I cry, till I look so ugly nobody would take such ugly girl to live in house for servant. My face get quite another shape.”
At last the good neighbor came home one day in great delight, and told Caroline that the Baroness —— had seen her in church, and liked her face so much that she had asked her name, and now sent to know if she would come and live with her as nurse for her three little children.
“This are like help from Heaven, my lady; and when I go to Baroness, she take me by chin, and she say, ‘Would you like to live in my house?’ And I cry so, I can no more speak, and I say, ‘O, I glad of any house, so I have home.’”
For three years she lived with the Baroness, who proved a kind and wise mistress. The little children were sweet and lovable, and “I think I stay in that house till my time come to be died,” said the 19 Fräulein, with tender wet eyes. But one day came a sharp, authoritative letter from her grandfather, ordering her to return home at once.
“I get great afraid, I think he wish to me kill, and I would not go; but the Baroness say, ‘No, he are your grandfather, you must go.’ So I go, and my grandfather he look at me with such angry eyes I am sick, I cannot stand up; and he say, ‘The Baron love you too much. You are vile, bad girl. You go no more to his house. I will you shut up.’”
Cruel, idle tongues had done poor Caroline this harm. Probably the scandal rose from the careless jest of some thoughtless man or woman, who had observed the beautiful face of the young nursery-maid in the Baron’s house. “I should make lie, my lady,” said the Fräulein here, “if I say that the Baron speak ever to me one word not like my father. He good man.”
After a few wretched weeks in the grand father’s house Caroline found a second home in the family of the Countess —— of Augsburg. Here she lived for seven years as lady’s-maid to the old Countess, who loved her much. “But the young Countess, she love me not. She hate me. It are like cat see dog always when we see each other, we so hate; but my old Countess, she say always to me, ‘O Caroline, have patient, have patient; for my sake go you not away.’” At last came a day when, for some trifling provocation, the young Countess took Caroline’s two ears in her noble hands, and jerked her head violently back and forth, until the girl could hardly see.
“Many time, my lady, I say to her, ‘Take your hands away, I will not from any man this bear’; and at last, my lady, I make so,” said the Fräulein, hitting out from the shoulder with a great thrust which a prize-fighter might admire, “and she 20 go back against the wall; and the old Count, he come flying and scream, ‘You kill my daughter, you shall to prison go.’ And he put his hand on me, and I make so again, my lady, that he go back against the other wall. O, I was strong like one hundred men! And my poor old Countess she come with her two hands tight, and she cry, ‘Caroline, Caroline, be not like this; go not away from me.’ And I say to her, ‘My dear lady, I no more can bear. I go away to-night’; and I go to my room, and in middle of my angry I stop to laugh, to see the old Count like he pinned to the wall where I put him with my one arm, and the young Countess like she pinned to the other wall, where I put her with my other arm.”
In an hour Caroline had packed her boxes, and was ready to leave the house, but she found herself a prisoner in her room. The door was firmly locked, and to all her cries she could get no answer. All night long she walked up and down with her bonnet and cloak on. At eight in the morning the bell rang as usual for her to go to the Countess. “Ha!” say I, “the old Count he think I go to my lady, for her I so love. But I open my door, I have heard he come like cat and unlock with key; and I go straight to big door of great hall; and at door stand old Count, and he say, ‘What mean you? Go to the Countess.’ And I say, ‘No, I go no more to Countess, I go to And I look at he so he no more dare move. I think,” with a chuckle of delight at the memory, “he no more wish to feel how heavy are my hand, for he are poor little man. I could him kill, like chicken, and so he know very well.”
Straight to the burgomaster the excited Caroline went, and told her story. For once a burgomaster was on the side of right; reprimanded the Count severely, and compelled him to give up all Caroline’s 21 boxes, and pay her the full sum due of her wages. Now she was, for the first time for many years, thoroughly happy. She had saved money in her seven years’ service, and she had become a skilful dress-maker. She hired a little apartment, and sent for an old servant who had been fond of her in her childhood.
Old Monika was only too glad to come and live once more with her young mistress; and as for Caroline, after ten years of serving, to be once more independent, to have an affectionate waiting-woman ready to do her bidding,—“it was like Heaven, my lady. In morning, Monika she bring me my bath, like I lady again; and she say, ‘Fräulein, my Fräulein.’ And I make my eyes like I sleep, sleep, so that I can hear her say ‘my Fräulein’ many times, it so me please. Then she be fear that I died; and she come close and take me by shoulder; and then I give jump quick out of bed, and make her great fright and great laugh. But always I eat with my Monika, as if I not lady, for I say, I too have been servant; and I cannot eat by self; I have not hungry; and I love my old Monika very much.”
The good Countess sent all her friends to Caroline, and in a short time she had more dressmaking than she could do, even with Monika’s help; but she would not employ workwomen. She tried the experiment once, and had a seamstress for three months, but she could not endure the trouble and annoyance of it. “O my lady, I get in such great angry with she, she make so stupid things. I send she away. I think I be died with angry, if she not go.”
It was, after all, but a bare living that one woman’s hands could earn with a needle in Augsburg, in those days. Caroline and her Monika had only about two hundred dollars a year.
“How could you live on so little money, dear Fräulein?” said I.22
“O my lady, in those time all are so cheap, I get pound of meat for nine kreutzers, now it are twenty. I get quart milk for three kreutzers, now it are five. I get nine eggs for four kreutzers, now I must pay two kreutzers for one egg; and in Augsburg then I buy for one kreutzer all vegetable Monika and I eat for two day, and now in my house in Munich I give six kreutzers for what I must give one person at one time.”
Even at these low prices they had to live sparingly: one half-pound of meat three times a week; never anything but coffee and bread for breakfast; once a week a glass of wine. But Caroline was happy and content, “Never did I think to ask God for more than I have. I are so glad with my Monika; and I sing at my sew all day.”
But fate was spinning a new tint into Caroline’s life. In the spring of her third year of dress-making she found herself seized with a sudden ambition to go to Munich and get new fashions.
“It are great journey for me to take alone; and I had not money that Monika go too; I know I need not to go; but I cannot be free night nor day from thinking I will to Munich go, and get fashion for my ladies.”
On the fourth day after her arrival in Munich the poor solitary Augsburg dress-maker was taken ill with a terrible fever. In great fright, the lodging-house keeper had her carried to the hospital, and gave herself no further concern about the friendless stranger. There poor Caroline lay in a crowded ward, so delirious with fever that she could not speak intelligently, and yet, by one of those inexplicable mental freaks sometimes seen in such cases, quite aware of all which was passing about her. She heard the doctors pronounce her case hopeless; she knew when they cut off her beautiful hair, but she tried in vain to speak, or to refrain from speaking when the mad raving impulse seized her.
At length one night, the third night, between twelve 23 and one o’clock, she suddenly opened her eyes, and saw a tall man bending over her bed, with a candle in one hand.
“O my lady, never can I tell what I saw in his face; never, my lady, have you seen so beautiful face. I say to myself, ‘O, I think I be died, and this are the Jesu Christ; or if I not be died, this are my darling for all my life.’ And he smile and say, ‘Are you better?’ And I shut my eyes, and I say to myself, ‘I will not speak. It are Jesu Christ.’”
This was the young Dr. Anton ——, who had been, from the moment Caroline was brought into the hospital, so untiring a watcher at her bedside, that all his fellow-students persecuted him with raillery.
“But my Anton he say to them, ‘I do not know what it are, I think that beautiful girl’ (for, my lady, all peoples did call me beautiful; you would not now think, now I am such ugly, thick, old woman),—‘I think that beautiful girl die. But if she not die, she are my wife. You can laugh, all you; but I have no other wife in this world.’”
It was in very few words that my Fräulein told me this part of her story. But we were two women, looking into each other’s wet eyes, and I knew all she did not say.
They could not be married, Anton and Caroline; for the paternal government of Bavaria, not liking to have too large pauper families left on its hands, forbids men to marry until they can deposit a certain sum in government trust for the support of their families, if they die. Anton had not a cent in the world: neither had Caroline. For four years they worked and waited, he getting slowly but surely into practice; she, laying by a gulden at a time out of her earnings. Once in four weeks he came to Augsburg to see her, sometimes to stay a day, sometimes only a few hours. “It took so much money for journey, he could not more often come. But he say, ‘My liebling, I may die before we can 24 marry; I will make sure to kiss you once in four week.’”
There was, perhaps, a prophetic instinct in Anton’s heart. Before the end of the fourth year his health failed, and he was obliged to leave Munich, and go home to his mother’s house. For six months Caroline did not see him. Week by week came sadder and sadder letters. Anton was dying of consumption. At last his mother wrote, “If you want to see Anton alive, come.”
At sight of Caroline he revived, so much so that the physicians said, if he had no return of hemorrhage, he might possibly live three months; longer than that he could not hold out.
O cruel, paternal government of Bavaria! Here were this man and woman, held apart from each other, even in the valley of the shadow of death, by the humane law providing against pauper children.
The one desire left in Anton’s heart was to be moved to Augsburg, and die in Caroline’s house. He and his mother were not in sympathy; the family was large and poor; he was in the way. Then Caroline said, “Come.”
“O my lady, you think not it was harm. His mother she go on knees to me, and say, ‘Take Anton with you.’ And I know I can keep him alive many weeks in my house; he will be so glad when he are alone with me, he will not die so soon. No one could speak harm of me, for this man I lead like little child, and lift in my arms, he are so sick.”
So Caroline gave up her apartment in Augsburg, hired a little farm-house just out of the city, and took her lover home to die. The farm was just large enough for her to keep two cows and raise a few vegetables. The house had but one good room, and that was fitted up for Anton. Caroline and Monika slept in two little closets which opened from the kitchen. Before daylight Monika went into the city to sell milk and vegetables; while she was gone Caroline took care of the 25 stable and the animals, and worked in the garden. Not one kreutzer’s worth of work did they hire. The two women’s hands did all.
In the sweet country air and in the sight of Caroline, Anton grew daily stronger, until at the end of three months he could walk a few rods without leaning on her arm, and hope sprang up once more in their hearts.
Then, lured by that illusive dream, which has cost so many dying men and women so dear, they started for Italy to escape the severe winter winds of Augsburg. They went in a little one-horse wagon, journeying a few miles a day, resting at farm-houses, where the brave Caroline took care of her own horse, like a man, and then paid for their lodging by a day’s dress-making for the women of the family. In this way they spent two months; but Anton grew feebler instead of better, and when they reached home Caroline lifted him in her arms, and carried him from the wagon to the bed.
“When I lay him down, he look up in my face with such look, and he say, ‘Liebling, it are no use. I have spent all my money for nothing. Now I die.’”
The journey, cheaply as they had made it, had used up every kreutzer of the earnings which had been put by towards their marriage. Now they had nothing, except what Caroline could earn, with now and then a little help from Anton’s mother. But Caroline’s heart never failed her; she thought of but one thing, the keeping Anton alive.
“All day, my lady, it are as if I see Death stand at door; and I look at him in eyes, and I say, ‘You go away! I give not Anton to you yet. Jesu Christ, let me keep my Anton one day the more.’”
And she kept him day by day, until the doctors said his life was a miracle; and Anton himself said to her sometimes, “O liebling, let me go; it is better for you that I die.”
At last the day came, but it was nearly at the end of the second year. It was late in the spring. Anton 26 had not left his room for weeks; but one morning he said to her that he thought he would like to sit under the trees once more.
“And, my lady, the minute he say that, I know he think it are his last day. So I dress him in warm clothes, and I carry him out in my arms, and put him in big chair I make myself out of old died tree; and the sun it shine, shine, so warm; and I read to him out of book he like. But I see he no more hear, and very quick he say, ‘Come close to me’; and I go close, and he put his two hands on my face and say, ‘Liebling, I think God be always good to you for your good to me.’ And then he point with finger that I take him in house; and Monika and I we have but just get him in bed, when he fall back, and are died in one minute; and, my lady, I can say true, that in the first minute I was glad for my Anton that he have no more pain.”
Soon after Anton was buried came Anton’s second cousin, Herr Bridmacher, to see Caroline. The Herr Bridmacher owned a great farm of seven hundred acres near Starnberg. By this time all Anton’s friends, far and near, had heard of the faithful and beautiful Caroline, who had so well administered the little farm, and made Anton’s last months so comfortable. Herr Bridmacher offered her good wages and absolute control of the farm. It was the very life she most liked, and it offered an escape from Augsburg, the very air of which had become insupportable to her. She accepted the offer immediately, and at the end of a week was walking by Herr Bridmacher’s side, up the broad road of Brentonrede farm.
“O my lady, my heart he go down in me when I see that farm. The Herr Bridmacher he have been fool. He have the same thing in the same field all his life, till the ground be no more good; and he are so mean, he have on that seven hundred acre only seven servant; he have four coos, three horse, and two pair oxen, and one are lame. And the house, it be shame to 27 see such house; it let water come in in many place; and the floor it go up, and it go down, like the cellar are all of hills. And I say to him, ‘It are well for you, Herr Bridmacher, that I not see your fine farm before I come. But I have my word given, and I go not back. I stay.’ Then he begin to make great compliment to me, how he think I do all well. But I say, ‘O, thank you, I not wish to hear. You think to journey, you have me told. The sooner you go, the better I like. Good night, sir.’ So I go to my bed; but all night the wind he blow my windows so I cannot to sleep; but I say to myself, ‘Caroline, if only that fool go away, here are splendid farm for you,’ So I am quite quiet. And in the morning, Herr Bridmacher he say, ‘Good morning, good morning. I start to Italy to-morrow’; and I say, ‘I very glad to hear that. You stay two years, I hope.’ And when he go down the road I stand at door, and I snap my two hands after he, and I say, ‘Long journey to you, my master.’”
With short intervals of interruption and annoyance from Herr Bridmacher, Caroline had the management of Brentonrede farm for eleven years. At end of that time Brentonrede owned seventy-five cows, eight horses, eight pairs of oxen, twenty-four calves, and two hundred chickens. There were twenty-five work-people,—seventeen men and eight women. The house was in perfect repair, and the place had more than doubled in value. Just before Caroline came to him the poor silly Herr Bridmacher had offered it for sale for sixty thousand gulden (about twenty-five thousand dollars); after she left him he sold it for one hundred and forty thousand gulden.
It would be impossible to reproduce the Fräulein’s graphic and picturesque story of her life during this time. She had no neighbors, but she was never lonely. Her whole soul was in her work. At three o’clock every morning she rose, and gave the laborers their first meal at four. Five times a day they were fed, the 28 Brentonrede people: at four in the morning, bread, soup, and potatoes; at eight, bread and milk, or bread and beer; at eleven, knoedels,* with which they had either meat, pudding, or curds; at four, bread and beer; and at six or eight, bread and soup.
* Knoedels are dumplings made of flour, chopped herbs, and sometimes a little ham. They are the common food of farmers throughout Germany.
One of her greatest troubles in the outset was the religiousness of her work-people;—the number of Paternosters they insisted on saying every morning in the little chapel on the place.
“O my lady,” she said, “I wish you could see that chapel. Such a Mother Goddess never did I see in my life. She look so like fool, that when I go first in I make that I drop something on floor I cannot find, so I put my face close to floor, that they not see me laugh. But I make she all clean; and I make chapel all clean; and then I say to men, ‘Very well; if you need pray fourteen Paternosters on week-day, you need pray fourteen Paternosters on Sunday. So many as you pray on week-day, it are my order that you pray on Sunday, if you work at Brentonrede.’ Then they grumble, and they tell the priest. They like not to take time that are their own time on Sunday to say fourteen Paternosters; but they like better to say Paternosters in my time than to dig in field. So the priest he put on his big hat, and he come to door, and knock, knock; and I go; and he say, ‘Are you the Fräulein of Brentonrede?’ And I say, ‘Yes, Father, I are she.’ And then he begin to say, ‘Now, my daughter,’ with long face; and then he tell me that he are told I have pigs in the chapel, and that I will not let the people to pray. And I say, ‘O no, that are not true.’ And I take he to chapel, and show how clean it are; and only I have in corner two big bottle of vitriol, which I have afraid to keep in house, because it are such danger; and I tell him I think Holy Mother Goddess 29 will be so good to keep it safe, that it blow not up the house. And he say that are no harm, but why do I not let the people to pray. And I tell him that I say not the people shall not pray. I say they shall pray fourteen Paternoster on Sunday, if they pray fourteen Paternoster on week-day; and since then they pray but one Paternoster on week-day, so that they take not time from their Sunday. And he scratch his head very hard, and know not what to say me to that; and then I give him good bottle wine and a cheese, and I say, ‘Now, Father, it cannot be in this world that we believe all what are telled. I do not believe what are telled of you, and do you not believe any more what are telled of me.’ And he get red in the face, for he know all peoples say his housekeeper are wife to he; and so he shake my hand, and he go away. And always I hear after that he say, ‘The Fräulein of Brentonrede she are good woman; she are good Catholic.’ But he know in his heart I laugh at he.”
How she gloated over some of her harvest memories,—of wonderful afternoons in which more loads of hay were piled up in Brentonrede barns than had ever been known to be got in in one afternoon before. One particular wheat harvest, I remember, she mentioned. She had seen at noon that a heavy storm was coming up. Whole acres of wheat were lying cut, ready to be made up into sheaves. “Then I call all the men and women, and I say, ‘If all the wheat are in before dark, I give you one cask beer, and two cheese, and all bread you can eat, and a dance.’ I think not it could be; but I work with them myself, and I tie up with the straw till my hands they bleed, O, so much; but I nothing care. And the wheat it are all in, my lady, before nine o’clock,—twenty-five wagon-loads in one afternoon; and in all the country they tell it for one great story that it was done in Brentonrede.”
The Brentonrede farm soon became well known in the whole region about Starnberg. Herr Bridmacher’s 30 friends used to make it a stopping-place in their drives; and the Fräulein often entertained parties of them at tea or luncheon. She was very proud of doing the honors of Brentonrede; and to these parties, and to her two years of close intercourse with the invalid Anton, she owed a certain savoir faire, which, added to her native gracefulness and quickness of comprehension, would prevent her ever being embarrassed, I think, in any situation.
In the tenth year of her Brentonrede life came a burgomaster from a neighboring town to ask her to marry him. By this time her love for Anton had taken the healthful shape of tender, regretful memory, which made no sorrow in her active, useful life, and set no barrier between her and other men. But her heart was wedded to Brentonrede farm. So, like a true diplomatist, she told Herr Bridmacher of this offer and asked his advice.
“I know very well he not like that I leave farm. He know he cannot make farm by heself. I think he will marry me heself, to keep me for farm. I not love he. O no, my lady, I love no man after my Anton. But I know he go on journey every year, sometimes for two three year, and I think I like very well to be his wife, and stay on farm while he go.”
The Herr Bridmacher took the same view of it that Caroline did. Of course he could not have her leave the farm: so he said he would marry her when he came back from Italy,—from a year’s journey on which he was about starting. The burgomaster was sent away, and Caroline went contentedly on with her farming for another year. When Herr Bridmacher returned, and their marriage was again discussed, the question of settlements came up, and upon this they fell out. Caroline was firm in her demand that Brentonrede should be settled on her and her children.
“I know very well, my lady, that all his people fine people. They think I am only poor work-girl who can 31 make farm. Never I wish to go as his wife into one of their house. It are only for love of farm that I marry he; if he die, and I not have farm, what I do then?”
But Herr Bridmacher was equally firm. He would settle money on her, but not Brentonrede. Money Caroline would not have, not even if it were enough to buy another farm. It was Brentonrede she loved, and she did not in the least love Herr Bridmacher. “I know all the time he are fool, and like mule, beside,” she said; adding with the gravest simplicity, “But I know he have been for ten year the most time away from Brentonrede, and I think when I are his wife he like it not even so much than before.”
So Caroline and Herr Bridmacher parted in great anger. With her savings she bought a little house in the suburbs of Munich. But the city air oppressed her. Her occupation was gone. At end of a year she sold the house for two thousand gulden more than she gave for it, and bought another, farther out of the city, with a few acres of ground about it. Here she lived as she had in Augsburg, keeping one servant, three cows, hens and chickens, and working all day in a vegetable and flower garden.
“O my lady, it are like one picture, when I have work there one year. Not one inch in all my place but have a fine green leaf or flower growing on he; all peoples that drive by from Munich, they stop and they look and they look, and I are so proud when I hear them say, ‘It are all one woman that do this with her own hands.’”
One afternoon as the Fräulein sat alone in her little sunny parlor, there was a ring at the door.
“I go, and I see, O such nice Englishman! I have he seen before, many times, stands to look in my garden. He are priest I know by his dress,—priest of your church, my lady. Then he say, ‘Do you live here alone?’ And I say, ‘Yes.’ And then he try to 32 say more, but he cannot German speak, and I no English understand. So he laugh, and he say, ‘I come again with my wife. She can all say in German.’”
The next day he came back with his wife, and the thing they had to say was no more nor less than to tell the Fräulein they were coming to spend the summer in her house. Her face and the face of her garden had been such magnets to them, that their hearts were set on coming to live for six months where they could see both every day.
“I say, ‘But I know not how to do for high people. I cannot make that you have comfortable.’ But they say, ‘We will you show all. We want little.’ And so they come. They take my two rooms up stairs; and they sit all day in my garden; and the lady, she grow so fat, and she say she are never so happy in all her life, as in my house; and they are, now these seven years, my best friends in the world.”
These best friends of the Fräulein’s were an English clergyman and his wife; and her acquaintance with them was one of the crises in her romantic life. In the autumn when it was necessary for them to go back to Munich, they persuaded her to sell her little farm (which was not so profitable as pretty) and take part of a house in the city, and rent apartments. She entered with many misgivings on this untried experiment; but her shrewd, sagacious nature was as successful here as in remodelling Herr Bridmacher’s exhausted farm. She has lived in Munich for seven years. Her apartment has never, for one month, stood empty, and she is only waiting for the opportunity to add to it another whole floor. She has nearly paid for her furniture, which is all thoroughly good and satisfactory, and she says, “If I spare (save) very much and spend not on nothings, I think in six year I have enough money to go live as I like in country, and have garden.” She yearns for green fields, and the smell of the earth. I am not sure 33 that the English clergyman did well to transplant her within the city walls.
As for Herr Bridmacher, he came to grief, as might have been predicted, soon after parting with Caroline. After several unsuccessful attempts to find some one to fill her place, he sold his farm for one hundred and forty thousand gulden, put most of the money into a commercial speculation and lost it.
The good Caroline, hearing a short time ago that he was seen in Munich looking very shabby and out at elbows, wrote asking him to come to her house.
“I could not bear, my lady, to think that I so comfortable in this nice house by the money he pay me, and he have not money enough to go like gentleman as he always go before; and now I are old woman, I can ask to my house if I like.”
But Herr Bridmacher was too proud to come.
“He hate me. I hear from friend that know, that he hate me, O so much! He say I are reason for all his trouble. But I think he are reason heself. Except for he had been one mule, I are in his house today, and Brentonrede are worth three hundred thousand gulden, and he have six children to make that he are no more sorry.”
Poor Herr Bridmacher! From my heart I pity him, when I think what he has lost. But I have almost more resentment than pity, when I think that, but for his foolish pride and obstinacy, my Fräulein would have been to-day the loving mother of children, and the gracious Lady of Brentonrede.
Original publication (both parts): The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 26, October 1870.
two such flights of stairs as only victims of monarchies would consent to climb
[I believe the stairs at Monticello have also come under criticism.]
“I are she,”
[Most of the Fräulein’s linguistic quirks are direct calques from German. This recurring usage—“it are”, “I are”—intrigues me because it’s more characteristic of a Scandinavian accent.]
the king’s chambers at the Nymphenburg
[The castle of Neuschwanstein, which is much more fun, was still under construction at time of writing. It wouldn’t be open to the public until after the king’s death—coincidentally also in 1885.]
trusting to Murray
[Murray was also the name of Helen Hunt’s first son, who died in infancy. It must have felt odd, having to write the name over and over again.]
At last I said to her: “Fräulein, you talk like a farmer.”
open quote missing
the English barrister, whose name was not Dundreary
[A scene-stealing secondary character in the play Our American Cousin, by Tom Taylor, and its sequels, by other writers; the part is especially associated with the performance of Edward Askew Sothern. If that title sounds nebulously familiar, think “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”]
And I say, ‘No, I go no more to Countess, I go to burgomaster.’
Single close quote missing
“Gastuna tantum una,”—“Only one Gastein”—said the old archbishops of Salzburg, hundreds of years ago. “Only one Gastein,” echoes today on lips and in hearts of all who are so fortunate as to find their way into its enchanted valley.
“From Salzburg to Bad-Gastein, by Hallein and Werfen 70½ English miles, a journey of ten hours with post-horses”; “Route two hundred,” in Murray’s Guide-Book; that is the skeleton of the story. Even at Murray’s best spinning, he only takes six pages to tell it, and probably there have been people who did the whole journey in ten hours. Bodies might; but for souls what a horrible spiritual indigestion must follow quick on the taking at one ten-hours sitting the whole feast of this road!
We did better. People who do just as we did will begin by losing their temper at six o’clock in the morning with the cross chambermaid of the Goldener Schiff in Salzburg, eating a bad breakfast in its dirty dining-room, taking delighted leave of its inexperienced landlord, and galloping out of town at seven to the tune of one of Mozart’s old melodies rung on chime-bells. The great Salzburg plain is a goodly sight of a morning; circling meadows for miles, walled at last by mountains which are so far and so green that it is not easy to believe them six or eight thousand feet high; through the meadows the sluggish Salzach River; in the middle of the meadows, and on the river, the shining Salzburg town; in the middle of the town, high up on a rocky crag, the silent Salzburg castle, gray, 35 turreted, and sure to last as long as the world. Those old Archbishops of Salzburg knew how to live. Wherever one comes upon traces of them, one is impressed with their worldly wisdom. The impregnable castle of Salzburg for a stronghold, with the Mönchsberg for pleasure-grounds, a riding-school cut out of solid rock for exercise, Heilbrunn water-works for amusement, and the Baths of Gastein for health and long life,—what more could these jolly old King Coles ask, except the privilege to kill all who disagreed with them? And that little privilege also they enjoyed for some years, enlarging it by every possible ingenuity of cruelty, as many stone dungeons with racks and oubliettes still bear witness.
Four hours steadily up, up. Franz does not urge his horses so much as he might. The nigh horse has no conscience, and shirks abominably on the hills. At last I venture to call Franz’s attention to the fact, by a few ill-spoken German substantives and adjectives, with never a verb or a particle to hold them together. “Ja, ja,” he says, with unruffled complacency; but pointing to the poor off mare, who is straining every muscle in drawing three quarters of the load, “she is a good one; she can pull,” touching her up smartly with the whip at the same time. We cross the Salzach, which grows muddy and rough, fighting bravely to bring down all the logs it can; we leave the wonderful Durrenberg Mountain with its three-galleried salt-mine, and we march steadily out towards the Tannengebirge, which looks more and more threatening every minute. Clouds wheel round its top. We know, though we try not to believe, that storms are making ready: they never look, not they, to see who or what they may drown or hinder. Down the rain pours, and we dash dripping into the basement story of the inn at Golling. It was like an Italian inn; carriages, and horses, and donkeys, and dogs, and cocks, and peasants, and hay, and grain, and dirt, and dampness, all crowded 36 under and among damp arches of whitewashed stone, with only two ways of escape,—the low, broad door through which we had driven in, and the rocky stairs up into the heart of the house. How pitilessly the rain fell! Who of all the gods cared that we wanted that evening to see the waterfall of the Schwarzbach, the finest in all the German Alps, and that if we did not see it then we should never see it, because early the next day we must on to Gastein? Still it rained. Why should one not see a waterfall in a rain? They would not put one another out. This was clearly the thing to be done. Ah, how long the poor damp man, who took me in an einspanner to see that waterfall, will remember the smiling, merciless American, who sat silent, unterrified, and dry, behind the stout leather boot, and went over meadow, through gate, across stream, up gully, in the midst of thunder and lightning and whirling sheets of rain, and never once relented in her purpose of seeing the Schwarzbach! Poor fellow! he shifted from puddle to puddle on his low seat, looking furtively at me to see if I really meant to keep on; at last, in a climax of despair, he stood up, emptied the cushion of water, coiled up the ends of the stout leather reins edgewise into a kind of circular gridiron, sat down doggedly on it, and never looked around again till we reached the end of the road. Here his triumph began; for was not he to stay warm and comfortable by a friend’s fire, while I went on foot the rest of the way to the waterfall? This I had not understood before leaving the inn. “Was it very far?”
“O no, not far.”
I never saw a Tyrolese man or woman who would say that a place was far off. You might as well expect a goat or a chamois to know distances. “O no, not far, only a little,” they say; and you toil and toil and toil, and sit down a dozen times to rest, before you are half-way there. However, if he had said it was ever so far, I should have kept on.37
“There was a path?”
“O yes”; and here out skipped Undine to go and show it to me. I did not need her, for there wound the prophetic little brown path very plain among the trees; but it was a delight to see her flitting along before me. Bare-footed, bare-legged, bare-headed, bare-necked, bare-armed, she did not lack so very much of being bare all over; and I do not suppose she would have minded it any more than a squirrel, if she had been. She looked back pityingly at me, seeing how much my civilized gear hindered me from keeping up with her, as she sprang from tree-root to tree-root, and hopped from stone to stone in the water,—for in many places the path was already under water. On the right hand foamed the stream, not broad but deep, and filled with great mossy boulders which twisted and turned it at every step: on the left, fir-trees and larches and still more mossy boulders. Every green thing glistened, and trickled, and dripped; moss shone like silver: and bluebells—ah, I think I alone know just how bluebells manage in wet weather! Nobody else ever saw so many in one half-hour of glorious rain.
Soon I heard the voice of the fall; a sudden turn in the path and I saw it; but I looked for the first few seconds more at Undine. She stood, poised like a bird, on an old tree-stump, pointing to the fall, and gazing at me with an expression of calm superiority. The longer I looked the more inscrutable seemed the waterfall, and the wiser Undine, till I felt as I might in standing by the side of Belzoni before an Egyptian inscription. How well she understood it, this little wild thing as much of kin to it as the bluebells or the pine-trees! But while I looked she was gone, darting up a steep path to the left, and calling me to follow. There was more, then? Yes, more. O wonderful Schwarzbach Fall! It will mean little to people who read, when I say that it shoots out of a cavern in two distinct 38 streams; they blend in one, which falls one hundred and sixty feet between craggy rocks, takes a cautious step or two, wading darkly under a natural bridge of giant rocks and pines, and then leaps off one hundred and seventy feet more in one wide torrent, with veils of silver threads on each side, and a never-ceasing smoke of spray.
Even destiny itself winces a little before a certain sort and amount of determination. Finding me actually face to face with the waterfall, and as thoroughly wet, the storm stayed itself a little, and rent the clouds here and there for me to look off into the grand distances. No sunny day could have given half such delight. This fall is supposed to be an overflow from the Lake Königsee, in Bavaria; but nobody knows; it hides its own secret.
Next morning we kept up a running fight with the rain through the Pass Lueg, past the great gorge Oefen, “not to be missed,” said Murray. Neither did we miss it, clambering down and in under umbrellas. It is an uncanny place, where thousands of years ago the Salzach River cut a road for itself through mountains of rock, and never went back to see what it had left. Scooped out into arched and moulded hollows, piled up in bridge above bridge, damming up half the river at a time and then letting it fly, there stand the giant rocks to this day only half conquered. Yellow timbers from the mountains were being whirled through, now drawn under as if in a maelstrom, now shot swift as huge arrows over ledges of slippery dark stone.
In the Pass Lueg was just room for the river and us; and if it had not been for shelves of plank here and there, the river would have had all the road. This pass is called the “Gate of the Pongau.” A very hard gate to open it would be to an enemy, for the solid rocky sides of the mountains have been wrought into fortress walls full of embrasures, whose guns one would think must be worked by elf-men in the heart of the 39 mountain, so little foothold seems there for human gunners.
At Werfen, just beyond the pass, we struck the track of the old Salzburg Archbishops again: the great castle of , three hundred and fifty feet up in the air, on a wooded crag overhanging the Salzach River, was another of their strongholds, and was used chiefly for a prison, being within easy reach of one of their favorite hunting-lodges, in the Blühnbachthal valley, only a few hours back; so when they were tired of hunting chamois at Blühnbachthal they could ride down to Hohenwerfen and torture a few Protestants. Now, a company of Austrian sportsmen owns the lodge, and the castle of Hohenwerfen is used for barracks of Austrian soldiers.
At Werfen we contracted friendship with a shoemaker, who, with his wife, three children, and three apprentices, lives, sleeps, and sews in one stone chamber, up three flights of stone ladder, a few doors from the inn. I can recommend him as a good man who will put a new heel to an old boot and no questions asked.
Just beyond Werfen we passed a panorama of mill privilege never to be forgotten; eight tiny brown wooden mills, one close above the other, on the side of a hill, and the white stream leaping patiently over wheel after wheel, all the way to the bottom of the hill, like a circus-rider through hoops. What could decide men bringing grain to be ground, whether to go to the top or the bottom mill? It seemed that the eighth miller up, or down, must stand a poor chance of business.
From Werfen to our bedroom at Schwarzach we did not cease to exclaim at the beauty of the fields and roadsides. Everybody’s house looked comfortable; everybody’s wife was out tying up wheat or pulling flax: everybody else was wearing a high hat and feather and a broad gay belt, and sitting in the sun smoking; though, to be just, we did see here and there an odd-looking 40 man at work. Hollyhocks ruled the gardens,—superb stalking creatures, black and claret, and white, and rose-pink and canary-yellow,—and all as double as double could be. Crowded along the roadsides, the forever half-awake bluebells nodded and nodded on their wonderful necks, which are always just going to break, but never do. Fields of hemp we saw, and took it for a privileged weed until we were told better. Linseed we saw too, in great slippery dark-blue patches, and in the midst of all Franz suddenly reined up in front of the Schwarzach Inn.
Ah, that Schwarzach landlady! She little dreamed how droll she looked as she stood pompously courtesying in her doorway, with her broad-brimmed black felt hat jammed down over her eyebrows like a thatch. Her figure was so square and puffy, it looked as if it had feathers inside, and was made to be sold at a fair, to stick pins in. At the crease of her waist a huge bunch of keys bobbed about incessantly, never finding any spot where they could lie still. Two tables full of Schwarzach men with beer and pipes, and two lattice-work cages of hens and cocks, we passed to go up to the first floor of the inn.
O, the pride of the pincushion landlady in her feather-beds, her linen, her blankets, her crockery! She had come of the family of a Herr Somebody, though she did keep an inn and serve beer to peasants. Her family coat of arms hung in my bedroom, opposite a museum in a cupboard with glass doors. The contents of this museum were only to be explained on the supposition that they were the aggregate result of a century of Christmas-tree. Not an article in the protective tariff of the United States but had been wrought into some queer shape and put away in this Schwarzach cupboard; mysteries of wax, glass, china, worsted, paper, leather, bone. Most distinctly of all I remember a white wax face stuck on top of an egg-shell painted red, with a bit of green fringe for neck, and a bit of 41 black wood for a leg. This impish thing grinned at me all night.
In this inn is a table round which the leaders of the Protestant peasants met in 1729 and took a solemn oath to leave the country rather than abandon their new faith. If the Schwarzach valley were as cold and dark then, as it was at the sundown we saw it in, I can conceive of heavier sacrifices than to exchange it for any possible spot in Prussia, Würtemberg, or North America, to which, according to the Guide-Book, the thirty thousand Protestants fled.
Next day sunshine and silver tent webs all along the road at eight o’clock in the morning.
A few more miles to the west, through Lend, a smutty little village where men have been melting gold and silver since the year 1538, and then we turned sharply to the south, to climb up through the wild “Klamme” to the valley of Gastein. At the turn we met a royal messenger, the shining river Ache, which said, “Go up the road I have come. I left Gastein an hour ago.”
“Less than an hour ago, we should think, O stream, by the rate at which you travel,” said we, as we entered the pass and began to mount slowly up.
Four horses now, and Franz is glad if we all walk. What triumph for a road to keep foothold on these precipices! “Chiefly schistous limestone,” whatever that may be, Murray says that they are; but they look like giant strata of petrified wood. Small bits of the stone lie in your hand like strips of old drift-wood and crumble between your fingers almost as readily; so that you glance uneasily at the walls of it, to right one thousand feet above your head, and to left one thousand feet more of walls of it, down, down to the boiling river. If some giant were to give a stout pinch to a ton or so of it while you pass, it would be bad.
“Dreadful avalanches here in spring,” says Franz.
We are glad it is August, and walk faster. The larches and bluebells and thyme rock away undisturbed, 42 however, and keep the cliffs green and bright and spicy. Here is heath, too, the first we had seen, fairest of lowly blossoms, with tiny pink bells in stiff thick rows fringed with green needle-points of leaves: it crowds the thyme out and makes its purple look dull and coarse.
The Ache seemed to us a most riotous river, all through the Klamme. We never dreamed that we were looking at its sober middle age, and that it had sown its wildest oats far up the Gastein valley.
That is probably one reason it looks so mischievous all through the pass. It knows that people believe it to be doing its best leaping, and it laughs as an old woman who had had mad triumphs in her youth might to hear herself called gay at fifty.
It was through this Klamme that the rich and haughty Dame Weitmoser was riding one day, when she refused to give alms to an old beggar-woman who stood by the roadside.
The beggar-woman cursed her to her face, saying, “You shall yourself live to ask alms.”
“Ha, that is impossible; as impossible as that I shall ever see this ring again,” replied the wicked Frau Weitmoser, drawing from her finger a diamond ring and throwing it into the Ache. Then hitting the beggar-woman across the face with her riding-whip, she galloped off.
Three days later Herr Weitmoser, sitting at the head of his supper-table, surrounded by a party of friends, cut open a large trout and out flew his wife’s diamond ring and rolled across the table towards her. Very pale she turned, but no one knew the reason. From that day Herr Weitmoser’s gold-mines began to yield less and less gold, and his riches melted away, until they were as poor as the poor beggar-woman who had been so cruelly treated in the pass. Legends differ as to the close of the story, some killing the haughty, hard-hearted woman off, in season for Herr Weitmoser 43 to marry again and accumulate another fortune; others making her live to repent in her bitter poverty, and, after she had become so kind and benevolent that she shared her little freely with her fellow-poor, giving back to them tenfold their original wealth. At any rate, the Herr Weitmoser is buried at Hof-Gastein; for did we not see the stone effigy of him on a slab in the little church? He lies flat on his back, in puffed sleeves and enormous boots, and two of his gold-miners stand guarding him, one at his head and one at his feet, with lifted hammers in their hands.
At the entrance of this pass, also, is the chapel of Ethelinda, scene of a still wilder story, and, better than all, one which is believed to be strictly true. In the Hof-Gastein church is a picture of its most startling incidents, and there is not a peasant within ten miles of the Klamme but will tell you that on windy nights can still be heard the words “Ethelinda,” “Ethelinda,” echoing around the chapel walls.
Ethelinda was the wife of another of the rich Weitmosers, who owned the gold-mines in the Radhausberg. Men are alike in all centuries. When Ethelinda died, Ethelinda’s husband shed fewer tears than did another of the Weitmosers, Christopher by name, who had loved Ethelinda long and hopelessly. This lover hid himself in the chapel while the funeral rites were being performed. At midnight he went down into the vault where Ethelinda’s body had been placed. A terrible thunder-storm made the fearful place still more fearful. By light of the sharp flashes he saw the face of the woman he loved. He bent over to kiss her. As he pressed his lips to hers she sighed, opened her eyes, and said, “Where am I?” But before either of them could comprehend the terror and ecstasy of the moment, Ethelinda exclaimed, “O fly, fly for help! The pains of childbirth are upon me! Hasten, or it will be too late!”
The lover forgets all danger to himself in his anguish 44 of fear for her, and bursts breathless into the husband’s presence with the incredible news that his buried wife is alive, and lying in travail in her coffin, in the chapel. Weitmoser’s first impulse is to slay the man whose tale so plainly reveals him as lover of Ethelinda. But he thinks better of it, and, hand in hand, they hurry to the chapel. Angels have been before them, and succored the mother and child. They find Ethelinda kneeling on the altar steps, with her babe in her arms. History wisely forbore to encumber the narrative with any details of how embarrassing it was for them all to live in the same village after this; but in the same little church of Hof-Gastein, where is the picture of Ethelinda in her graveclothes, kneeling on the altar steps holding up her child to the Virgin, are the gravestones of Christopher Weitmoser and his wife and children, from which we can understand that time had the same excellent knack then, as now, of curing that sort of wound.
The Gastein valley reveals itself cautiously by instalments, being in three plateaus. Coming out on the first, and seeing a little hamlet brooding over green meadows before us, we exclaimed, “Gastein, O Gastein!”
“No, indeed,” said Franz, contemptuously, “only Dorf Gastein.”
We wondered and were silent. Miles farther on, another sharp ascent and another valley. “Surely this is Gastein?”
“No, no, only Hof-Gastein.” We wondered still more, but were glad, because Hof-Gastein is white and dusty and glaring. The houses elbow each other and are hideous, and the Ache takes a nap in the marshy meadows.
Steadily we climbed on; one mile, two miles, three miles, up hill. Snow mountains came into view. The Ache began to caper and tumble. Cold air blew in our faces; this was the noon weather of Gastein. Pink 45 heath bordered the road; bushes of it, mats of it; it seemed a sin to scatter so much of any thing so lovely. Dark fir woods stretched and met over our heads; gleams of houses came through.
“Yes, this is Gastein,” said Franz, with proud emphasis, which meant, “Now you will see what it is to mistake any other place for Gastein.”
Sure enough, wise old proverb: “There is but one Gastein.”
For, knows the world any other green and snow-circled village which holds a waterfall three hundred feet high in its centre? One hesitates at first whether to say the waterfall is in the town, or the town in the waterfall, so inextricably mixed up are they; so noisy is the waterfall and so still is the town. Some of the houses hang over the waterfall; some of the threads of the waterfall wriggle into the gardens. The longer you stay the more you feel that the waterfall is somehow at the bottom of everything. From one side to other of this valley an arrow might easily fly. Both walls are green almost to the very top with pastures and fir woods, and dotted with little brown houses, which look as if birds had taken to building walled nests on the ground and roofing them over. To the west the wall is an unbroken line. Behind it the sun drops early in the afternoon like a plummet. Sunset in Gastein is no affair of the almanac. Every point has its own calendar. Long after Gastein—or Bad-Gastein, as we ought to begin to call it—is in shadow, Hof-Gastein, in the open meadow three miles below, is yellow with the sun. To the east and south are more mountains and higher, but not in range with each other,—the Stühle, the Radhausberg, Ankogel, and Gamskarkogel, all between six and twelve thousand feet high. Thus the view from the west side of the valley has far more beauty and variety. There are now on this side only a few houses, but ultimately it must be Gastein’s West End.46
The geologists, who know, say that where now are the valleys of Gastein and Böckstein were once two great lakes, which the earth in a spasm of thirst some day gulped down at a swallow; all but the water of the perverse river Ache, which would not be swallowed. When the cold water went in, some of the pent-up hot water jumped at the chance of getting out: hence the famous hot springs, great marvel and blessing of Gastein.
There are eighteen of these hot springs, some trickling slowly from the rocks, some bubbling out in the very midst of the cold water of the cascade. They make the best of their loopholes of escape, coming into town at the rate of one hundred and thirty-two thousand cubic feet every twenty-four hours. The water is perfectly colorless and tasteless; yet the list of sulphates and chlorides, etc., of which it is made, is a long one, numbering nine in all. The recipe is an old one, and probably good, though it sounds formidable.
The legend of its discovery is, that in the year 680 three hunters, following a wounded stag, found him bathing his wounds in one of these hot springs, whose vapor attracted their attention. A little later the Romans, seeking after gold and silver, penetrated to the valley and found living there two holy men named Primus and Felicianus. This was in the days of Rupert, the first of the Salzburg Archbishops. Primus and Felicianus were carried prisoners to Rome and thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. But they still live as the Patron Saints of Gastein. All good Catholics coming to be cured of disease,—and most who come are good Catholics,—invoke the prayers of Saints Primus and Felicianus, and, when they go away, leave grateful record in the chronicles of Gastein, beginning: “To God and the Saints Primus and Felicianus be thanks.”
The Salzburg Archbishops kept possession of the valley until late in the seventeenth century. Then it 47 went through half a century of political and religious warfares, passing from the Archbishops to other rulers, then to Bavaria, and finally to Austria, which still holds it. There is an Austrian commandant at St. Johann, an Austrian judge at Hof-Gastein, and at Bad-Gastein an Austrian bath inspector and government commissioner.
But still the church holds sway. There is a Roman Catholic curate in every village, a magnificent Catholic church going up in the very centre of Bad-Gastein, and nobody can stay two days in the town without being visited by the sweet-voiced Sisters of Charity in black, who ask, and are sure to get, alms for the poor in the name of Primus and Felicianus.
Life in Gastein begins bewilderingly for the newly arrived. How it began with us I would not dare to tell. It would be foolish to throw away one’s reputation for veracity on the single stake of an utterly incredible statement as to the number of beds one had slept in in forty-eight hours. But not the most experienced and cautious traveller in the world can be sure of escaping an experience like ours. He will have telegraphed beforehand for rooms, having read in his Murray that Wildbad-Gastein in August is so crowded with the nobility of Russia, Germany, and Austria that it is not safe to go there without this precaution. As he steps out of his carriage in front of Straubinger’s Hotel, Gustav, the pompous head-waiter, will wave him back, and explain with much flourish that there is not so much as one square inch of unoccupied room under Straubinger’s roof, but that he can have for one day a room in the great stone Schloss opposite. At end of that day Lord A—— is coming to take the apartment for a month. By that time Count B—— will have vacated another, Gustav does not remember exactly where, but he can have it for a few hours; and then when the Prince, or Duke, or Herr, who has claims on that at a fixed minute, arrives, he can move 48 to another which will be sure to be vacant; or if it is not, he can go to sleep at Böckstein, four miles farther up the valley, or at Hof-Gastein, three miles farther down.
There can be nothing on earth like the problem of lodging at Bad-Gastein in August, except jumping for life from cake to cake of ice in the Polar Sea. It is very exciting and amusing for a time, if the cakes are not too far apart. In the mean time, you eat your breakfast on the cake where you have slept, your dinner on the road to the next one, and your tea when you get there. Very good are the breakfasts and teas in all these lodging-houses, served by smiling, white-aproned housekeepers, who kiss your hand in token of allegiance, and bring you roses and forget-me-nots on your name day, if they happen to find out what it is. Good butter, milk, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, figs, tomatoes, grapes, pears, plums, eggs,—all these you can have for the asking; bread which is white and fine, and which they think delicious who have not communed with Liebig and learned to ask for the good, nutritious bran. But with the milk and the fruit, and now and then a resolute pull at the native black bread, anise-seed and all, one can breakfast and tea happily. But when you ask for dinner, the face of nature changes. The thing called dinner you can eat at a table d’hôte in the hotels, or in a café, or you can have it sent to you at your lodgings, in a slippery tower of small white china tubs, which, when they are ranged round you on your table, make you think of a buttery washing-day. What may be in these tubs, Heaven forbid that I should try to describe. Who lives to dine would better not go to Gastein; in fact, who cannot get along without dining would better stay away. He who is wise will fight clear of the hotels and cafés, make interest with his landlady to give him a sort of picnic lunch at noonday, and postpone ideas of dinner till he returns to that paradise among hotels, the Europa at Salzburg. 49 These hearty, strong, tireless Germans, who climb a mountain or two of a morning for summer pleasure, find it nowise unsatisfactory to stop anywhere on the road, and eat anything for dinner. They do it as naturally as goats nibble a living from one rock to-day and another to-morrow. They are better off than we in being so much less wedded to routine; but it is a freedom not easy to acquire. For the average American to sleep in one house, breakfast in a second, dine in a third, tea in a fourth, and sleep again in a fifth, seems to turn life into a perpetual passover, not to be endured many weeks at a time.
Having made sure of a breakfast, and that Lord A, B, or C will not require your apartment before noon, you go out to look Gastein in the face, hear the sound and feel the heat of its wonderful waters.
Water to right, water to left, cold water, warm water, hot water, water trickling from rocks, water running from spouts, water boiling out of sight and sending up steam, and in and around and above and beyond everything the great waterfall thundering down its three hundred feet, deafening you with noise however far you go, and drenching you with spray if you come near.
“O, which water is for what disease?” we exclaim, curious to taste of all, afraid to taste of any, remembering Hahnemann, whom we revere.
“Go to Dr. Pröll,” says everybody. “He is the man to tell you all about Gastein. He knows it thoroughly.”
Indeed he does. He may be said to have Gastein by heart.
Between nine and eleven in the mornings there is a chance of finding Dr. Pröll at his tiny, odd, three-roomed office, which is composed of equal parts of bare rock and vapor-bath. At all other hours of the day they who wish to see him must watch and waylay him as sportsmen do game. Each man you ask will have 50 seen him just the minute before, running rapidly up or down some hill, but you will be wise not to attempt overtaking him.
Dr. Pröll is a man whom it belongs to Victor Hugo to describe. Words less subtile than his cannot draw the lines of a nature at once so electric, so simple, so pure, so wise, so enthusiastic, so gentle, so childlike, so strong. Reverently I ask his pardon for saying, even at this distance, this much.
On the table in the room where Dr. Pröll receives his patients stands a dingy little apparatus at sight of which one idly wonders,—a magnetic needle swinging by pink floss silk under a low oval clock-case of glass, a small electrical battery, and a red glass vessel half full of water. These are the silent but eloquent witnesses which tell the secret of the naiad of Gastein. The doctor’s blue eyes sparkle with eagerness as he immerses the battery in the water from the hot spring, and, connecting the wires with the electrometer, watches to see the needle move. He has done this perhaps thousands of times, but the thousandth time and the first are alike to all true lovers of science,—to all true lovers in the world, for that matter.
“You see? you see?” he exclaims.
Yes, we see that the needle swings fifty degrees. The temperature of the water was 14° Réaumur. Then he puts the battery into distilled water of the same temperature; the needle swings but twenty degrees, into common well-water, same temperature, and it swings but fifteen.
“Now I will to you show that the Gastein water is the only thing in this world over which time has no power,” says Dr. Pröll, filling the red glass vessel from another bottle. “This is hot spring water, one year old. It would be the same if it were one hundred years old. Look!”
Yes, the needle swings fifty degrees.
“And now remains the most wonderful experiment 51 of all. I will show you how a very little of this magical water can electrify other water, just as one electric soul can electrify hundreds of commoner natures.”
We smile at this. It is not possible in the first moment to be lifted quite to the heights of Dr. Pröll’s enthusiasm. But wait! Here is the battery in common boiled water, temperature 26° Réaumur. The needle moves sluggishly, barely ten degrees.
“You see? you see? we will repeat; all experiments should be twice.”
Yes, the needle moves barely ten degrees.
“Now we will turn in an equal quantity of hot spring water two years old, temperature the same. Look! look!” exclaims the doctor, clasping his hands in the delight of the true experimenter.
Sure enough. The heavy boiled water is electrified into new life. The needle swings forty degrees!
“And this is why I say that the water of Gastein is the water for souls,” continues the doctor, lifting out the battery with unconscious lovingness in his touch; “And this is why I say in my book on Gastein, that these baths are the baths of eternal youth; and this is why an old physician, more than a hundred years ago, wrote a little poem, in which he makes the naiad of Gastein say to the invalids,
“If I cannot please all
And cannot bring health to all,
That is common to me and God.
Where there lingers in the blood
The poison of sin and passion in the soul,
There can enter neither God nor I.”
One is a little sobered by all this. It is nearer to the air of miracles than we commonly come. Under the impressive silent pointing of this magnetic needle-finger, we listened with grave faith to the account of the effect of these waters on wilted flowers. This is a curious experiment, often tried. Flowers which are to all appearance dead, if they are left for three days in this 52 warm water hold up their heads, regain shape, color, fragrance, and live for several days more. No wonder that old madman Paracelsus thought he had discovered in the Gastein waters the elixir of life. No wonder that to-day the sweet wild paths of Gastein are crowded with old men seeking to be made young, or, at least, to be saved from growing older.
“It is a strange thing, though,” says dear, truehearted Dr. Pröll,— “it is a strange thing, but in all these twenty years never has one woman come to me to be made young. Every year come many men, praying that they may not grow old; but never yet one woman.”
Ah, we thought, perhaps the women are less honest than the men, and do not tell their motives.
But there is not time to grow very superstitious over these tales of magic, for there is so much else to be seen. In the rear room of the office is the hot-vapor bath; through a hole in the floor up comes the hot steam, heated no human being can tell how far down in the heart of the earth; night and day the fires go; for twelve hundred years the bath has been standing ready to steam people. Over the hole in the floor is a mysterious wooden structure, looking like a combination of pillory and threshing-machine. In five minutes, the doctor has shown, by a series of slippings and fittings and joinings, how, for every possible disease, every mentionable part of the body can be separately steamed, inch by inch, till one is cooked well. He wound up with imploring me to put my ear to the end of a long, narrow, wooden pipe which he screwed on the apparatus. “This is sure cure for deafness,” he said.
I leaped. I should think it might be. In that second I had heard scouring through my brain all sorts of noises from spheres unknown. The ear-trumpet, which Hood’s old woman bought, and, “the very next day, heard from her husband at Botany Bay,” was nothing to it. The doctor could not understand why I should 53 shrink so from listening to this wild rush of scalding steam from the earth’s middle. He would have been shocked to know that, to my inexperience, it seemed nothing less than a speaking-tube from the infernal regions.
But we went nearer yet to the central fires. Up, up a winding path, shaded and made sweet like all Gastein’s paths by fir-trees, mosses and heath, and bluebells; and there, sunk in the solid rock, was a polished iron gate. A peasant-woman keeps the key of this, and gets a little daily bread by opening it for strangers. She brought suits of stout twilled cloth for us to wear; but we declined them, having learned in the salt-mines of Hallein that, the inside of the earth being much cleaner than the outside, it is all nonsense to take such precautions about going in. A poor sick man who was painfully sitting still on a bench near the gate, seeing our preparations, came up and asked to join our party. I fancied that he had a desire to get a little nearer to the head-quarters of cure, and reassure himself by a sight of the miraculous spring. The peasant-woman went on before, carrying a small lantern, which twinkled like a very little good deed in the worst of worlds. The passage was very narrow and low. Overhead were stalactites of yellow and white; the walls dripped ceaselessly; the path was stony and wet. Hotter and hotter it grew as we went on. How much farther could we afford to go, at such geometrical ratio of heat? we were just beginning to ask, when the woman turned and, setting down her lantern, pointed to the spring. It was a very small stream, running out of the rock above her head fast enough to fill a cup in a very few seconds, and almost boiling hot. We all put our fingers solemnly in and solemnly put them to our lips; the woman nodded and said, “Good, good”; crossing herself, I suppose in the name of the good Saints Primus and Felicianus, she led the way out. I felt like crossing myself too. High-temperature 54 underground places are singularly uncanny, and give one respect for the old mythology’s calculation of the meridian of Tartarus.
For rainy days—and those are, must we own it? seventeen out of every thirty in Gastein—there is a most curious provision in the shape of a long glass gallery, four hundred and fifty feet long and twelve wide. Here the noble invalidism and untitled health and curiosity may walk, read, smoke, eat, trade, and sleep too, for aught I know. It is the oddest of places; so many hundred feet of conservatory, with all sorts of human plants leaning against its sides, in tilted chairs; I never grew weary of walking through it, or flattening my nose against its panes just behind the aristocratic shoulders of his Highness the Grand Chamberlain of ——, as he sat reading some court journal or other. A little room at the end holds a piano and two tables covered with a species of literature which was new to me, but which all Gastein seemed to feed and subsist on, that is, the lists of all the visitors at all the baths and watering-places in Europe. Pamphlet after pamphlet, they arrived every few days, corrected and annotated with care, the silliest and most meaningless census which could be imagined. But eager women came early to secure first reading of them, and other women with eyes fixed on the fortunate possessor of the valuable news sat waiting for their turn to come. This room is exclusively for women; opening out of it, in continuation of satire on their probable requirements, is a confectioner’s shop; next comes the general reading-room, where are all the continental journals of importance; next a long, empty room for promenading, where your only hindrance will be the appealing looks from venders of fancy wares, who have their glass cases in a row on one side; then comes the covered walk, also four fifths glass, on the bridge over the waterfall; and then comes the Straubinger Platz, the smallest, busiest, noisiest, most pompous 55 little Platz in the world; one side hotel, three sides lodging-house, and all sides waterfall; lodgers and loungers incessantly walking to and fro, or sitting on benches taking coffee, and staring listlessly at other lodgers and loungers; booths of fruit; booths of photographs; booths of flowers; booths of shoes; booths of inconceivable odds and ends, which nobody thought of wanting before they came in, but which everybody will buy before they go out, and will wish they had not when they come to pack; here, every day, come bare-kneed hunters, bringing warm, dead chamois slung on their shoulders; black and yellow Eilwagens drive up with postilions in salmon and blue, wearing big brass horns at their sides; Madame the Countess ——, dressed with blue silk trimmed with point lace, sits under a white fringed sunshade, on a chair in front of Straubinger’s Hotel; and Madame the Frau —— sits, barefooted, bareheaded, opposite her, selling strawberries at eight kreutzers a tumblerful, and knitting away for dear life on a woollen stocking; all this and much more in a little square which can be crossed in ten steps. It is like a play; once seated, you sit on and on, unconsciously waiting for the curtain to fall: on your right hand is the orchestra, ten pieces, who play wild Tyrolese airs very well, and add much to the dramatic effect of things. Sunset is the curtain for this theatre, and dinner the only acte. The instant the sun drops, the players scatter, the booths fold up; Madame the Countess sweeps off into the hotel; Madame the Frau rolls up her knitting, cautiously mixes together her fresh and her old strawberries, and starts off brave and strong to mount to her chamber in the air, miles up on some hill.
This play grows wearying to watch sooner than one would suppose. After a few days, one finds that all the climbing roads and paths lead to better things. There are the Schiller-Höhe, the Café Vergissmeinnicht, the Kaiser Friedrichs Laube (where the Emperor Frederick 56 III. took baths four centuries ago); the Pyrker-Höhe, named after the patriarch of Erlau, the poet Pyrker; the Rudolfs-Höhe, the Windischgrätz-Höhe, and many more cafés or summer-houses on shining heights, all of which give new views of the wonderful Gastein valley, and at all of which whoever is German eats and drinks. The lure of a table, a chair, and a beer-mug seems a small reward to hold out, when for every additional mile that is walked a new world opens to the eye, but the Germans see better through smoke and beer-colored glasses.
Strong adventurous people, who can walk and climb without reckoning distances by aching muscles, have unending delights set before them for every day in Gastein.
In the Kölshachthal are four thousand chamois. Every summer come royal hunting parties to , and they who follow them may see chamois flying for their lives; poor things, so helpless in spite of all their marvellous speed and spring.
Then there is the lofty plateau of Nassfeld, the old “Wet Field” mentioned in Roman history. From this can be seen a great amphitheatre of glaciers and the passage by the Malnitzer-Tauern into Carinthia: this dangerous pass has an ineffable charm, from the fact that it is one of the only two ways out of the smiling Gastein valley. Once in, should any chance destroy the road in that wild Klamme through which the fierce Ache goes and you came, you have no possible way of escape, except on foot or on horseback, by the Malnitzer-Tauern.
After the Nassfeld come the old gold-mines in the Radhausberg, where the old Weitmosers made and lost their fortunes, and every stone has its legend: the Böckhardt Mountain, with a poisoned lake in which no fish can swim, near which no bird can fly and no flower can grow; the valley Anlaufthal, on one side of which rises the royal hill Ankogel, eleven thousand 57 feet high, and called the Eldorado of mineralogists; and last, because greatest, the snow-topped mountain Gamskarkogel, The Righi of Austria, which looks down upon more than one hundred glaciers.
All this and more for well people. As for sick people their tale is soon told, either here or elsewhere. Hood’s definition of medicine was exhaustive. In Gastein, however, little is done with spoons; people go into their medicine, instead of its going into them. Nobody takes but one bath a day; the stronger invalids take it in the morning before breakfast, and are allowed to go their ways for the rest of the day. The weaker ones take it at ten o’clock in the forenoon, lie in bed for an hour after it, then eat dinner, then are commanded to dawdle gently about out of doors until one hour before sunset, after which they are, upon no excuse whatever, to leave the house. There are they who drink mineral waters from Böckstein, drink whey, drink goats’ milk, eat grapes, eat figs, all for cure. They all look tired of being ill; and they all give a semi-professional and inquisitive stare at each new-comer, as if they were thinking, “Ha, he looks as if he had it worse Poor souls. It seems a considerable price to pay for the rush-candle, to keep it burning under such difficulties and restrictions.
In a little pamphlet written by Dr. Pröll upon Gastein are some explicit directions as to the proper course to be pursued by all invalids who hope to be cured by the Gastein waters. Reading them over, one smiles, quietly, wondering if careful following out of such directions would not be of itself sufficient cure for most ailments.
“Before arriving at Gastein, visit all such places, cities, mountains, mines, as you would wish to see.
“Also close up all your most annoying or engrossing business affairs.”
Among the “leading conditions of success in the use of the baths,” he enumerates,58
“A cheerful, amiable, and contented disposition,” and
“Implicit obedience to the physician”; and adds that, after the treatment, there must be, during a period of from three to twelve weeks,
“No business nor bodily fatigue.
“No long walks nor climbings.
“No remedials, internal nor external; a tepid bath once a week, but no other bath!”
But from the days of the Archbishops until now, it seems to have been held especially incumbent on all persons coming to these baths for help to come with quiet souls and pure consciences. The first volume of the “Chronicles of Gastein” is black and battered and yellow as an old monkish missal. More than half of the writing is entirely illegible; but clear and distinct on its first page stands out the motto, written there in 1681, and copied, I believe from the bath of some Roman Emperor,—
“Curarum vacuus hunc adeas locum
Ut morborum vacuum abire queas
Non enim curatur qui curat.”
Which good advice freely translated, would be something like this, “Whoever comes here to be cured must leave his cares at home; for if he worries he will never get well.”
These “Chronicles of Gastein” are a never-failing source of amusement. There are fifteen volumes of them, written by the invalids themselves, from 1680 until now. The records are written in old Latin, old German, old French, all more or less illegible, so that there is endless interest in groping among them on the thousandth chance of finding something that can be deciphered. The books are carefully kept at the curé’s house, and the volume for 1869 is quite a grand affair, having a mysterious locked brass box in one of the 59 covers. This is to receive the contributions of charitable people who are not sick, and of sick people who are superstitious and wish to propitiate the good Saints Primus and Felicianus.
The box has the following inscription:—
“For the support of the school, and of the poor of both churches of the holy Primus and Felicianus, and the holy Nicholas church at
In order that the Almighty God may bless, by the prayers of those holy patrons of the Bath, the noble gift of the health-giving spring to all the patients.”
There are many most curious entries in these chronicles, and no one can look through them without being impressed by the singular unanimity of testimony, during two hundred years, to the efficacy of the waters. Here and there, however, a discontented soul has written out his grumblings; as, for instance, one Count Maximilian Joseph, Chamberlain of the King of Bavaria, who wrote on the 4th of July, 1747, in very cramped and crabbed old French: “Reader, greeting! May God preserve you from the four elements of this country which are all equally wonderful, even the ennui”; and an unknown grumbler of the English nation, one hundred and five years later, who was too courteous or too politic to sign his name to this couplet,—
“Drenched with fountain, bath, and rain,
God knows if I’ve been drenched in vain.”
In 1732 Ludovic Frierfund wrote: “The fourth of July I began to use these baths. Now I am so much better, I believe I shall regain my health.” (15th July.)
A few days later the grateful Baroness Anna Sophia, of Gera, writes: “To God and the two patron saints 60 Primus and Felicianus shall be the greatest thanks that I have used for the second time these blessed baths.”
In 1752 the Countess Anna Maria Barbara Christiana, of Rönigs, declared: “I have finished this cure with the aid of God, and the Holy Mother, and the two saints Primus and Felicianus, and depart in full health on the 17th of July.”
In 1830 Babette Brandhuber, may her soul rest in peace! left on one of the pages of the chronicle a little German verse, of which this is almost a literal translation:—
“O holy spring and friendly vale,
I came here full of pain!
My full heart writes this grateful tale,
I leave thee well again.”
I am sorry to say that there have been in Gastein two or three Americans and English less poetically gifted than Babette, who have filled several pages of this volume with rhymes for which one blushes.
The two best things I found were a little record of one “Ruf, a money-changer of Munich,” who, probably in a half-defiant display of his unpoetical calling, left only that signature to this couplet:—
“A kiss from woman’s lips brings luck:
I kissed thee and am well.”
And the following French verses. The author’s name seems to have been purposely written so that no human being can decipher it, though the date is so recent. But the handwriting is evidently that of a woman:—
“Savez-vous qu’et est à Gastein
Ou vous baignez pleins d’espérance?
Mes chers amis, j’en suis certain
C’est la fontaine de jouvence.61
“Dans ses eaux jettez une fleur,
Rose depuis long temps flétrie;
Bientôt fraicheur, parfum, couleur
A la rose rendront la vie.
“Ainsi puis qu’on peut y gagner
De quoi prolonger l’existence;
Amis, venez souvent baigner
A la fontaine de jouvence.”
Half a century ago! Youth and hope are over for her by this time; though perhaps youth and hope are just beginning for her by this time,—the true youth, the immortal hope; but whether she be to-day old on earth or young in heaven, I fancy her all the same, cherishing in her heart the memory of the rare, beautiful, blessed, dear Gastein valley.
Gastuna tantum una!
Original publication: The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 27, January 1871.
“Route two hundred,” in Murray’s Guide-Book
[19th-century guidebooks never talked about individual places, one at a time. Everything was laid out in routes and tours.]
the great castle of Hohenwerfen
text has Höhenwerfen
Protestant peasants met in 1729 and took a solemn oath to leave the country rather than abandon their new faith
[“Protestant” here means Lutheran, which wasn’t all that new by 1729, even in the realm of the Prince-Archbishop. The area was still heavily feudal, so people couldn’t simply leave, but had to be granted permission. It took another two years for the government to decide that instead of letting the Lutherans go, they would make them go. Most ended up in East Prussia.]
a smutty little village where men have been melting gold and silver since the year 1538
[Preparation of precious metals doesn’t seem to have been a picturesque activity in any time or place. There will be longer and more detailed descriptions in a few years, when the author visits California and Colorado.]
cut open a large trout and out flew his wife’s diamond ring
[Was there really a time when fish were not gutted before cooking? It seems improbable, but there is no end to folktales involving similar events.]
A little later the Romans
[Later than A.D. 680? Granted, the Roman empire didn’t really vanish from the face of the earth in the year 476, but color me dubious all the same.]
two holy men named Primus and Felicianus
[Something has got seriously garbled, because there are two pairs of men with the same names. The saints are the brothers Primus and Felician(us), martyred under Diocletian—around 290, give or take a decade.]
on your name day, if they happen to find out what it is
[18 August, the feast day of St. Helena (mother of Constantine). See Encyclicals.]
Hahnemann, whom we revere
[The inventor of homeopathy, also mentioned in Bits of Travel at Home. In addition to its magical-dilution approach to medication, homeopathy subscribed to a package of other beliefs, most of which have since become part of standard medical practice.]
a dingy little apparatus
[Don’t look at me. I have no idea what any of this means.]
[63.5°F or 17.5°C. The Réaumur scale—developed in 1730 and common for the next century and a half—runs from 0 to 80, so everything is a little warmer than you think. A few paragraphs on, 26° Réaumur = 32.5°C or 90.5°F.]
The ear-trumpet, which Hood’s old woman bought
[Thomas Hood, “Tale of a Trumpet”, 1840.]
This room is exclusively for women; opening out of it, in continuation of satire on their probable requirements, is a confectioner’s shop
[In B.C. 1887: A Ramble in British Columbia, James Lees and Walter Clutterbuck describe Canadian railway travel:
the ladies are equally well provided for at the other end, though we believe they have no smoking-room. Probably there is a bonnet-shop or confectioner’s there instead]
dinner the only enter’ acte
royal hunting parties to Hof-Gastein
text has Höf-Gastein
[Properly Bockhart. The area contains more arsenic than one likes to see.]
“Ha, he looks as if he had it worse than I!”
text has spurious . after close quote
from 1680 until now. The records are written in old Latin, old German, old French
[Ha! Yet another writer who doesn’t know the difference between Old and Early Modern.]
Our month’s voyage of Venice had come to an end. We had said so many times to each other in the mornings, “We must go,” that the meaningless declaration had come to be received with bursts of laughter, and nobody dared say it any more. Nevertheless it was true: people who meant to summer in the Tyrol must not spend the whole of June in Venice. Silent, sad, beautiful Venice, how did our eyes cling to thy spires, as looking backward from the railway carriage we saw them slowly go down in the pale water. That one can leave Venice by rail seems the most incredible thing in life. At the first turn of the wheels and snort of the engine we began to doubt whether the city had been real; the first sight of green land was bewildering; and when at the first station we saw wheeled carriages waiting for people, we were struck dumb. What a gigantic and agile creature did the horse appear! and what a marvel of beautiful solidity the level earth, brown under foot, and full of locust hedges and pink-blossomed trees! It is no small proof of the subtile spell of that wonderful city of water and stone, slowly sinking at anchor, that one month’s life on its bosom is enough to make all other living seem unnatural.
We even felt dull misgivings about the Tyrol, and the dolomite mountains of the grand Ampezzo Pass through which we were to pass to reach it. Nevertheless, “Ampezzo Pass” was so stamped upon our whole bearing, that, as soon as we stepped out of the 63 carriage at Conegliano, we were taken possession of by screaming vetturini, each man of whom possessed the very best carriage and the very best horses, and was himself the very best guide in Conegliano! O the persistence, the superhuman persistence, of an Italian with a hope of money! Into the inn, into our very bedchamber, followed the man who spoke loudest and fastest.
Sixty francs a day! O that was very little. The ladies would not find any other man to go for so small a price. And his horses! If we could but see his horses!
How energetic grew our Italian! We would not give sixty francs a day, and we wished to be alone. The dilemma became embarrassing. Women, even if they be American, even if they be three in number, cannot put a man out of a room by main force; but at last moral force prevailed, and he went surlily away. We took counsel; it was nearly dark; we wished to begin our journey early the next morning; no doubt this vetturino would inform his fellows, and they would combine and agree; but sixty a day was a most exorbitant price for a carriage and two horses; we would not pay it; we could go by rail to , and give up the Ampezzo Pass. Sadly the two who knew the least Italian set forth on errand of research among other vetturini. There is surprising advantage sometimes in conducting such bargains in a language which you do not understand. Armed with a few simple phrases stating time, sum, distance, and obstinately reiterating them, ignorance will sometimes conquer by virtue of its very incapacity.
We had barely crossed the threshold of the inn, when the same fierce-mouthed man sprang upon us.
“Go away. We do not want you. We will not take you.”
Go away, indeed! as well dismiss our shadow! Bowing, gesticulating, falling back, and then overtaking, 64 all the while talking like a macaw, he kept on all sides of us, that man of Conegliano. At last he surrendered. That is, he said meekly, “What will the ladies give?”
The moment he said that, we knew the day was ours. Now came my hour of success. I glibly said my lesson, “Forty francs a day. No more!”
A voluble reply ten minutes long, with heart-rending gestures.
“I do not understand Italian. Forty francs a day. No more.”
Fifteen minutes more of volubility, appealing grimace, and gesture.
“I do not understand one word! Forty francs a day. No more!”
Our man fell. He would go for forty francs a day, this father of a family who had assured us with streaming eyes that his children would die of hunger if he went for less than sixty!
Once having accepted our terms, he was abjectly our servant.
“Show us your horses!” Meekly he led the way to his stables. With as knowing look as we could assume we scrutinized the lean black horse and dingy white horse which were walked up and down before us.
“O, they can trot. Yes, yes, Signora!” and lashing them with the halter’s end he ran them up and down the hill at a good pace.
Triumphantly we led our conquered vassal back to the hotel; the story of our victory was received incredulously by the friend whom we had left behind; and who, speaking Italian as fluently as she speaks English, had vainly met the wordy extortioner on his own ground with his own weapons. The contract was signed; supper and bed and night passed, and at seven o’clock next morning, sunniest of Saturdays, we were off. Giacomo, the driver, looked like a Barnstable 65 fisherman: thin, wiry, light blue eyes, pale brown hair, and scanty red whiskers. “O, how came you over here?” thought we as he jumped up and took the reins.
The whole country seemed on the broad laugh. So bright, so green were flower and leaf and field; waving locust hedges, full of morning-glories; and everywhere wide stretches of vineyards, in which the vines were looped across from tree to tree, looking like an array of one-legged dancers.
Lunch at Santa Croce, a town which has a lake, and beech-woods and glimpses of the far-off dolomite peaks. In the distance we could see a misty fringe of solid green, high up in the air. It was the top of the great beech forest, from which the Venice arsenal gets wood for its oars and masts and gun-carriages. Ninety miles in circuit is this government forest, full of game, and with an isolated plateau in its centre, where the keepers and officials live. This would not be of especial moment to know, except that it is said that Titian used to go there to learn how trees grow, and that he spent three months in this neighborhood drawing the background for his “Flight into Egypt.”
After lunch I walked on in advance of the carriage. A man and woman who were working in a vineyard on the right sent their little baby to beg of me. I do not know why I remember that baby as I do no other child in all Italy. She was literally a baby, certainly not more than two years old; she was beautiful, yet not more beautiful than scores of Italian babies; but she was shy as a wild thrush; she absolutely could not take a step towards me if she looked at me. So she clasped her two little inches of hands tight over her eyes, and crept on, in the middle of the dusty road, more and more slowly, till at last she stood still, two yards off; then taking one sly peep at me through her fingers, she instantly shut them down again tighter than ever and stood there, kicking up little clouds of 66 dust with her bare toes, the most irresistible blind beggar I ever saw.
It is of no consequence to anybody that the name of the town where we slept that night was Longarone. If only journeys could be told and the names of towns left out, how marvellously improved stories of travel would be. But whoever sleeps at Longarone will remember it always, the dark, frightened, poverty-stricken looking little town which huddles in such bare hollows of mountain and rock. The dismal inn, also, they will never forget: rooms so huge that lights cannot light them; two stalking high beds in every bedroom; and on the mouldy walls of the great dining-room ghastly pictures of Bible characters in giant size,—the Queen of Sheba leading up to Solomon, on his throne, a procession of black boys loaded down with pumpkin-shaped jewels; Samson with his head in the lap of Delilah, who brandishes aloft at least two pounds of coarse black hair; and Pharaoh’s daughter receiving Moses in a knife-tray, while his mother stands in full sight knee-deep in water on the opposite side of the river.
The Ampezzo road, just beyond Longarone, enters the country of Cadore, the country of Titian. No wonder they were strong in fight, the Cadorini, and loyal of soul. To be born in such mountain fastnesses, to climb such precipices, to breathe such air, and to see such flowers, at once, could not fail to make souls both strong and sweet.
A strange hopelessness almost holds me back from the attempt to speak of that day’s journey through the Ampezzo Pass: they who have not seen it will not believe; they who have seen it will smile that one should try to put such shapes in words. Possibly geologists can tell what a dolomite mountain is; how and why it is so seamed, so jagged, so wrought into castle and battlement and obelisk and cathedral-front; beautiful and terrible and graceful and grotesque; by 67 turns, all at once; in sunlight, in shadow, at noon, at night; shifting and changing tint with every breath of wind or cloud on its surfaces: but to common men’s eyes, those dolomite ranges are as unlike all other mountain forms as is Cellini’s carven work to marketplace pottery.
They seem like supernatural architecture gleaming out of supernatural realms in upper air. There are spires and minarets and bell-towers and turrets and colonnades and wrought walls; that they are ten, twelve, thirteen thousand feet away, that no human foot can scale them, no living earthly thing abide among them, only makes their distinct semblance of palace and church and city the more uncanny. And when, as often happens, a sudden wreath of cloud or fantastic growth of moss changes some scarred and lined rock into giant likeness of human face, it becomes still harder not to believe that they are tenanted by beings not of flesh and blood. One such face we saw, which never took its eyes off us for miles. Even sharp turns in the road made no change in it, except to draw the gray hood of fir closer round its cheeks and to make it look more and more weird.
These startling and fantastic mountain shapes hedged us, walled us, seemed to marshal themselves to oppose us, all the way from Longarone to Tai Cadore. In spite of ourselves we were overawed. If the sun had not shone gayly and the peasants had not whistled and sung, I think we might have been afraid. But every little village was astir with work, and babies were everywhere; we met low two-wheeled wagons filled with hay, slowly pulled along by donkeys, while the driver slept on his back; wagons loaded heavily with beech and pine boards, and drawn by oxen which looked like gigantic maltese kittens with horns. The meadows were green with a greenness so shining that it seemed to blaze; whole fields were solid mosaics of color, with red and blue and yellow and white flowers. 68 Little chapels were perched up on apparently inaccessible heights, above every village. “Why do they put the chapels so high up, Giacomo?” said I. “It must be very hard to climb to them.”
“Ah, Signora, the air is holier there,” replied the Barnstable fisherman.
At Perarollo, the river Boita, and the river Piave, and the huge dolomite Antelao, eleven thousand feet high, all join hands to close up the Ampezzo Pass. This is perhaps the most picturesque spot of the road. The rivers force the mountains back a little, and the sun pours in; high up on all sides are small plateaus of green pasture; the village is built into every niche of foothold it can find, and is full of pretty summer-houses of brown and yellow wood. On each river are lumber-mills, and the glistening logs are rolling and drifting down on both sides.
Three times this wonderful Ampezzo road winds across the front of the Antelao before it can venture to turn it; it seems to cling to the mountain’s side like an elastic ladder of stone, a perfect miracle of engineering. We were hours climbing slowly back and forth on that dolomite wall, tacking, like a ship in contrary winds. From the first tier of the road we looked up to the other two, hanging above our heads; from the upper, we looked down into Perarollo, and could see no trace of the road by which we had come.
At last we fairly rounded the mountain, and, turning back again into the valley of the Boita, saw the village of Tai Cadore shining before us. In an hour we had reached the little inn. But a guest had arrived before us, sudden, unannounced. His unwelcome presence filled every room. As Giacomo, with a ludicrous affectation of effort, reined in his only too willing horses, a man came running out of the house with significant gestures exclaiming, “Do not stop, do not stop; the padrone lies dying.” He was the padrone’s son, and his eyes were red from crying. A crowd of peasants 69 stood about the door and in the hall; the little dingy windows of the room on the left hand of the door were darkened by heads rising one above the other, but all motionless. No doubt it was in that very room that the poor landlord lay, drawing his last breaths with unnecessary difficulty in the close air made still closer by such crowding in of friends and neighbors. I was struck by the oneness of the look which death’s presence brings on faces of simple-hearted, solitary people all the world over. These men of Cadore were earlier on the spot than it is the custom in Maine or New Hampshire for neighbors to gather; but I have seen at many a New England funeral just such a silent, eager circle of men standing around the door through which the dead must be borne, and looking and listening with a weird sort of alert solemnity which seems not wholly sorry for the occasion.
It was a most opportune moment for us, however, which this good soul had selected for his dying. Nothing for the reluctant Giacomo and the nerveless horses to do but to take us a mile and a half off the route for dinner and rest, at Pieve di Cadore. Pieve di Cadore! the very place we had had at heart ever since we left Venice, and which we had had many misgivings about being able to see, while Giacomo rested his horses at Tai. At Pieve di Cadore “Il divino Tiziano” was born in 1477; at Pieve di Cadore he lived till he was ten years old; to Pieve di Cadore he returned year after year, for love of his kindred, men, and mountains. There, after the death of his wife, in 1530, he took refuge with his three motherless little children; and during this visit he painted, on a banner for the village church, a picture of three little children giving flowers to a Madonna seated on a throne.
There, in 1560, he came again, old, but not bent, and bearing the titles of Count of the Empire and Knight of the Golden Spur.
There also he would have fled, in 1576, when the 70 plague was sweeping Venice; but brave and strong to the last, he delayed going until an edict had been issued forbidding the departure of any citizen from Venice. So in Venice he died, ninety-nine years old, alone, forsaken even by his servants; and the pestilence which had taken his life thwarted his purpose even after his death, for none dared carry his body—as he had willed, and left order for its burial—to Pieve di Cadore.
They buried it in haste in the church of the Frari, in Venice, dropping into the grave the knightly insignia which the emperor had given to the painter; and for nearly half a century no stone marked the spot where the insignia lay turning to dust, and the dust lay turning into insignia of those mysterious things “which shall be.”
“No one ever goes to the inn at Pieve di Cadore,” said the displeased Giacomo, with a shrug.
“Why then is it an inn?” said we with sharp logical retort, inwardly blessing the conjunction of our star with the dying landlord’s at Tai, and not caring whether we could dine or not, in an inn on a street where the little boy Tiziano Vecellio had played.
But the inn was an inn, and the dinner not so bad that I remember it. I shall never forget, though, how it was cooked; in big iron pots, swung from derricks of cranes, above a big bonfire, built on a big stone platform, raised up in a sort of bay-window chimney, filling one whole side of the kitchen; benches to right of the bonfire, benches to left of the bonfire; benches and bonfire all in the chimney bay-window; and people sitting on the benches, I among them, with feet at the bonfire; and all the while the great iron pots boiling and steaming and bobbing their covers, among and above our feet; the landlady reaching over and among our shoulders, and sticking in ladles and pokers here and there. If she had knocked off my hat, at any minute, it would have seemed the most natural thing in 71 the world; merely taking off my cover and the beef’s at once, lest we should boil to pieces.
She told us with pride how a deaf and dumb English artist had stayed with her for two months, had walked all over the Cadore country, and had carried away a box full of the most beautiful pictures which he had painted. “Poor gentleman, there was not much else he could do, since he could neither speak nor hear.” “He was the sweetest gentleman.” “Never made any trouble.” “Lived on polenta chiefly.” “All the children knew him and used to follow him when he went off to paint.” And so she ran on, adding adjective after adjective in the sweet Italian superlatives, which are so silver smooth in their endings that there seems far less of exaggeration in them than in the harsher measures of more and most in other tongues. It was plain that the poor lonely deaf-mute had won for himself warm place in the village heart. His speechless language was a universal one; and perhaps, after all, he stood less helpless among the people than we did with our stammer of poor Italian.
After dinner we followed a thread of path down sharp terraces, and behind houses, into a meadow which one must cross to reach the ruins of the Castle of Cadore. The Castle was a castle so late as 1809. Now it is a ruin, and the ugly village church, they say, was built out of its stones. But it is far better as it is,—a great gateway tower, high battlements, several lengths of crumbling wall, and a high square tower in the middle. From its heights must be magnificent view of the valleys of the Piave and the Boita, and the grand mountain masses of dolomite in all directions. But we did not see this view; we climbed no hill; we asked for no castle; we knelt in the meadow among the flowers. The path was so narrow that two could not pass, unless one stepped out; but to step out was like stepping into spicy sea. No foot could fall there without crushing more flowers than it would be easy 72 to count, and the mere brushing by of garments stirred fragrance heavy like incense. We were speechless; we could not believe; the mosaic fields of bloom we had seen on our way were dull and scanty. Then we said, “O, no doubt the legend is true, that Titian, when he was only eleven years old, painted with juices of flowers a picture of the Madonna; this is the field where he picked the flowers; and these are the same reds and blues and yellows which he used.” Up and down in the meadow we went, picking flowers in the sort of frantic haste with which in dreams or in fairy stories men snatch enchanted gold in caves or palaces of wizards. If the meadow had melted away of a sudden, and left us empty-handed in a dusty place, I think it would have been less startling than it grew to be, to see each slope and hollow lying minute after minute unaltered, undiminished in color, while we filled our hands over and over again with flowers whose shapes and whose tints were all new to us. By the reckoning of clocks we were not in that meadow more than twenty minutes; but we carried out of it thirty-two different kinds of flowers which no one of us had ever seen before. Besides these there were dozens more, which we did not pick, because we knew them,—clovers, and gentians, and ladies’-tresses, and buttercups, and columbines, and bellworts, and meadow-rue, and shepherd’s-purse. We never saw such spot again. It is part of my creed that there is no other such spot in the world, and I call it Titian’s Meadow.
It is but a few moments’ walk from this meadow to the house where he was born. It is a poor little cottage, low and black and smoky; an old woman, who looked as if she might be a hundred or a thousand years old, was hobbling and mumbling about in the kitchen, over just such a stone platform of cooking-stove as we had left in the inn. She was used to receiving visitors in the name of Titian, and had a glib string of improbable story at her tongue’s end. The 73 huge rafters overhead were burned and smoked into blacks and yellows and browns, which were stronger witness to centuries than any words could give; and an old stone fountain in front of the house, presided over by a nameless, featureless stone saint, plashed away into an eight-sided stone basin; a very dirty little boy was sailing a chip in it; probably he looked not unlike another little boy who sailed chips in it four hundred years ago, and whose name now gives honor to the cottage walls in this inscription; “Within these humble walls Tiziano Vecelli began his celebrated life.”
Titian is more honored by this inscription than by the full-length painting of him, which stretches up and down on the bell-tower of the Pretura. Anything uglier than the Pretura is seldom seen, and the ambitious Cadorini have made bad matters worse by stuccoing the building from top to bottom and painting it in imitation of old stone. But they carefully refrained from disturbing the picture of Titian, and there it still stands in giant hideousness; a man apparently twelve feet high, and weighing five or six hundred, swathed from neck to ankles in a stiff robe of bright blue, which has so little semblance of fold or fulness that it looks less like a robe than like a huge blue sarcophagus into which the unhappy painter had sunk up to his ears; his left hand points to the “Casa Tiziano”; and at his side, on a table covered with a flagrantly gaudy cloth, lie his palette and brushes; behind the whole, a straight wall of sky, ten shades bluer than the blue robe, and if possible more unnatural. The continued existence of this picture is proof that spirits do not revisit this earth; or at any rate cannot make use of physical machinery to accomplish material ends in this atmosphere. Wherever Titian is to-day, he has not forgotten his beloved Cadore, and he would not let this colossal abomination look down into that piazza another night, if he could help himself.74
From the Pretura to the church through the Sunday crowds of smiling people; women with short, dark blue gowns and white or gray handkerchiefs tied in the Albanian fashion over their heads; men with higher hats, symptom of the nearing Tyrol; children rosy and fat and merry,—comforting contrast to the pallid little ones of Venice. No soul, old or young, but looked at us with straight, curious, friendly gaze; they are off the common routes of travel, the Cadorini, and are all the friendlier and nicer for it. The old sexton knew very well, however, as soon as we crossed the threshold of the church, what we would see; and it was with great pride that he drew the curtain from the group of family portraits under name of Madonna and Saints, which hangs in the chapel of the Vecellio family, and which Titian painted.
There seems odd mixture of reverence for earth and irreverence for heaven in the way the masters painted portraits of wives and nephews for Madonnas and Saints. In this picture, “San Tiziano” the patron saint of the Vecelli kneels on the right hand of the Madonna. He is, however, only Titian’s nephew Marco, and the Madonna is Titian’s wife; while Titian’s uncle Francesco figures, by help of a cross on his shoulder, as St. Andrew, and in one corner Titian himself appears as a sober acolyte. A more comfortable and domestic looking family group was never photographed under name of Smith or Jones. Except that the little baby curled up in the mother’s lap is naked, there seems nothing unnatural (or supernatural) about their all happening to be there together just at that minute.
There is another of Titian’s pictures here, said to have been painted when he was only twenty years old. This also is of a Madonna and Saints; there were a few other pictures which the sexton pressed us to see, a Pordenone, he said, and a Palma Vecchio; but we liked the open air of the market-place and the sight of the mountains better. Stands and wagons of fruit and 75 silk handkerchiefs and chickens and earthen pipkins filled the corners. Cadore is a rough country, and gives small reward to them that farm it, but it has always been famous for fruits. Even in the thirteenth century there came to be a proverb,
“Cadore and Feltre for apples and pears,
Serravalle for swords.”
The clouds began to gather and wheel among the crags of the dolomite mountains. They were ten thousand feet up in air, to be sure, and miles away to north and west and south; but they meant rain,—rain close upon us, violent, pelting, driving rain. These were such sudden gatherings and massings of clouds as Titian had watched and studied and carried away in memory, and reproduced, when, living on the serene, soft, gliding level of Venice, he threw into so many of his pictures marvellous backgrounds of sharp, abrupt mountain outlines with clouds circling round their summits. Doubtless Venetian critics who had not been in Cadore found these mountain backgrounds unnatural and impossible. Certainly a faithful drawing of the weird and fantastic dolomites would seem simply grotesque caricature to one who had never seen them. Even a photograph would seem incredible.
The peaks of Marmarolo and Duranno disappeared; great sheets of mist came driving down, blotting out even the castle; blotting out also every trace of content and good-humor upon Giacomo’s face. This small addition to his prescribed route had been too much for his philosophy, and our delays had finally piled the last feather on the camel’s back of his patience. Perhaps, however, we were unjust; perhaps he knew even better than we did the feebleness of the spectral horses which drew us slowly out of Pieve di Cadore in that streaming rain; it was an uncanny atmosphere; all shapes seemed lost; and then, again, all shapes seemed to loom and quiver and dance; the black horse 76 looked white, and the white horse did not seem to be there, though we heard his languid footfalls.
“Shut up the carriage, Giacomo,” said we. “It is of no use to keep it open in such a blinding storm.”
Quickly and silently he roofed us over with the ill-smelling leather flap; and as silent as he, and almost as sullenly,—shall I confess?—we took the stifling afternoon’s journey to Cortina d’ Ampezzo. We seemed driving in the teeth of sudden winter; the rain changed to sleet and the wind howled; the jagged peaks of dolomite thrust themselves here and there out of the clouds as if they were being hurled at us by invisible giants. It was nearly eight o’clock when we drove into the little piazza of Cortina d’ Ampezzo. Suddenly we halt. In the stormy twilight a woman has run across the road, and almost taken our horses by the head. “Are these the American ladies? Then they are to come to our inn. Their friends are awaiting them there.”
This was one of the sisters Barbaria, who keep the “House of the Star of Gold”; and lest by any ill chance we might go to the rival inn, she had been watching the Cadore road all the afternoon.
O, how beamed the pleasant English faces which smiled our welcome in that low doorway! and how crackled the fire in the kitchen where two sisters Barbaria, with high-crowned black hats on their heads, were washing dishes; one sister Barbaria was picking feathers off tiny birds; another sister Barbaria was piling up our bags and bundles on her brawny arms; another sister Barbaria was asking what we would have for supper; and a fifth sister Barbaria was the hall looking on: five sisters Barbaria! and they have kept the “Albergo Stella d’ Oro” for many years, without any help from man.
Presently appeared a sixth sister Barbaria, but she was a fine lady of quite other style. She was Barbaria no longer, having married a young German engineer, 77 a clever fellow who had had charge of that part of the Ampezzo road between Cortina d’ Ampezzo and Cadore; and, staying at the “Star of Gold,” had found a wife among his landladies. This sister wore a silk gown and a show of jewelry, had been with her husband to Rome and Venice, and was now summering at Cortina, like any other lady of means. But she was far less interesting than her guileless sisters, who had never been out of the village in which they were born, and who shared all the work of the inn, even the hardest and most menial, with a sisterly good-will and good-cheer which were beautiful to see.
The two who wore black hats like common peasants, and who drudged all day in the low basement kitchen and outhouses, seemed as happy and loving as the others, who were much better dressed, and who cared for the rooms, waited at table, kept accounts, etc.
One of these was a woman who would have been an artist if she had not been an innkeeper and lived in Cortina. It was pathetic to see how this poor soul had found outlet for her artistic impulse in works of worsted and crochet cotton. The “best room” of the “Star of Gold” was decorated with her handiwork,—full long curtains of knit lace at the windows and over the bed; a counterpane of the same lace; a full draping for the toilet-table; and crocheted covers for all the chairs. The patterns were all singularly graceful and pretty. Lifting the chair covers, we found, to our astonishment, that the chair bottoms were all most elaborately worked in gay worsteds on cloth. Then we said to one of the sisters, “How pretty these things are! Did you make them?”
Her plain old face lit up with pleasure. “O no; my sister Anita made them all. She does most beautiful work, Sister Anita. She shall show you.” And running out, she called Anita, who came shyly but with pleasure; poor, brown, withered, simple old maiden woman, whose one joy had been to fashion these gay 78 flowers. She brought in her hand pieces of black and brown broadcloth, enough for half a dozen chairs and two crickets, most elaborately embroidered.
The patterns were stiff, and the colors not always good.
“We have to take what we can get, here in this poor place,” said Sister Anita; I think, if I could go myself to Brixen, I could surely find prettier patterns, but I must send always. Are there not prettier patterns?” she asked with pathetic eagerness. Could any human heart have been flinty enough not to equivocate in reply to this question of this poor hungry soul? Then when she found that we were so interested in her work, and admired it so heartily, she darted away and returned presently with great wreaths and bunches of worsted flowers,—lilies and poppies and gentians and pinks, and long ivy vines, made upon wires, and really beautiful. These were to decorate the house with on festa day; she had many drawers full of them; had enough to decorate the whole house, “till it looked like garden!” And no one had ever taught her to make them; she had picked the flowers in the field, she said, and set them up in a glass before her, and copied them as nearly as she could. “Why do you not make up these chairs and crickets?” we thoughtlessly asked; “they are too pretty to be laid away in a drawer.”
Anita replied that she was too poor; it would take much money. But Anita did not tell the truth. I saw in her cheek another story, written in red, as indeed it might well be,—the story which had in it a hope deferred, perhaps lost forever. Poor Anita, she is old and ugly. I am afraid the embroidered chairs will never grace a wedding-feast.
Next morning we looked out on snow; everywhere fine feathery dust of snow; thin rims of ice in the stone fountain before the inn, and solid masses of white on the sides of the mountains. But the first hour of 79 sun melted it all off the meadows, and left the flowers brighter than ever, glistening as after a heavy dew. Tiny white lilies not two inches long nor more than eight inches from the ground, and low gentians of a blue like the blue of lapis-lazuli,—these were growing everywhere; we filled our hands with them within five minutes’ walk of the inn. Later in the day the German engineer brought in a bouquet which he had gathered farther up on the hills, of such flowers as we had seen at Pieve di Cadore; twenty-four different kinds in that bouquet, all colors, all shapes, all fragrances!
There is one shoemaker in Cortina d’ Ampezzo. His shop is in an upper chamber, about eight feet square. There I found him sitting on a low seat, with a leathern apron, and spectacles way down his nose, holding a shoe wrong side up between his knees, and sewing away like any old man in Lynn. I sat down gravely in front of him, held out a morocco bow in one hand and a tattered American boot in the other, and asked if he could sew the bow on the boot. He was a German, but the apparition of my boot was too much for even his phlegm; he turned it over and over and over. A boot that buttoned he had never seen; I showed him my button-hook; his amazement deepened; he buttoned and unbuttoned the boot with it, grunting out thicker and thicker, “Jas, jas,” at every turn of the Finally he set about the sewing on of the bow. The door opened; more men of Cortina came in; they had seen me go up; they scented adventure; one, two, three; the room grew very hot; the buttonhook was passed about; the three men turned it up and down, and looked at me. I could not understand a dozen words they said. It was very embarrassing. The time came to put on my boot; the shoemaker leaned forward to see how I did it; the three men of Cortina crowded around and stooped down to see how I did it; a sense of the ludicrous helplessness of my situation so overcame me that I 80 broke out into a genuine laugh, which, improper as it might have been, seemed to put me quite at my ease again, and I displayed to the good souls the mechanism of button-hook, button, and button-hole as complacently as if I had been a vender of the patent. Then they all four accompanied me to the door, and bade me good morning with the reverence due to the owner of such mysterious boots. But I resolved not to take off my boots again in Tyrolese shoe-shops!
How bitterly we regretted the ignorant haste in which we had, at Conegliano, pledged ourselves to ask but one day’s rest at Cortina d’ Ampezzo. We would gladly have stayed with the sisters Barbaria a week; we comforted ourselves by air castles of another summer in which we would come again and stay a month, bringing with us them whom we most loved. Hopefully the elder sister made it clear to us that she would welcome us as guests for a month at seven francs a day. A month, face to face with those wonderful pink and yellow and gray and white and salmon-colored mountains of dolomite! A month of those flowers! Thirty times as many as we had picked that day; and dear soft brown eyes which we knew, to light up with joy at sight of all we could bring! What a dream it was, on what shore does it stand now, pale in its death, but transfigured in its resurrection among other sweet things which we dare to call lost, when they have only gone before!
The dining-room windows of the “Star of Gold” are filled with geraniums; not “plants,” not “bushes,” as we commonly see, but trees,—trees tall, branching, sturdy, and bearing flowers as apple-trees bear apples, blossoms scarlet and rose-pink, and marvellous white with purple and crimson markings. Lavishly the elder sister gathers them for departing guests; and we drove off in the early afternoon, each of us with a big bunch in our lap.
We were not yet at the summit of the Pass. Hours 81 more of slow climbing among larches and pines and rocks and flowers; at last the larches disappeared, then the pines; nothing was left but stunted firs. On a dark icy plateau at the very top of the Pass we came suddenly upon a great field of blue forget-me-nots; just beyond that, a silent lake which must be unfathomable, to look so black; and then we began to go slowly down, down the other side; soft wooded slopes, and valleys of grain, and a look of thrift. We felt almost like dodging, as if we were pelted with pebbles, when the German gutturals first began to fly in the air. We forgot the German for “chicken,” and fell back on “Kut-kut-ka-da-kut,” which is language for “chicken” all the world over. We shuddered at sight of the huge effigies of the dead Christ, at corners of the roads; we found the men surly, and women and men alike hideous, and hideously alike; we no longer thought the horses too slow; we grudged each mile that they took us farther from Italy. Each of us had left half her heart in Venice, and the other half in the “House of the Star of Gold,” with the sisters Barbaria.
Original publication: The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 27, April 1871.
Women . . . even if they be three in number, cannot put a man out of a room by main force
[Oh, they probably can, Helen. You just have to resolve to be unladylike—and that’s the sticking point, isn’t it?]
but sixty francs a day was a most exorbitant price
text has franks
[Best Typo Ever. “I’ll take you to Ampezzo for sixty hot dogs.”]
we could go by rail to Innspruck
text has Inspruck
rooms so huge that lights cannot light them
[It is not every day that a travel writer complains of hotel rooms being too large.]
Possibly geologists can tell what a dolomite mountain is
[Fun fact: The Dolomites are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.]
“Il divino Tiziano” was born in 1477
[Titian’s birthdate is now generally estimated around 1485-1490.]
From its heights must be magnificent view
text unchanged; the Atlantic has the same wording
Anything uglier than the Pretura is seldom seen
[Mercifully it must since have been demolished, or at least painted over; I couldn’t find a current picture.]
apparently twelve feet high, and weighing five or six hundred
[I don’t think the author meant to imply that he was seriously emaciated, as would be the case if you doubled a man’s linear dimensions while multiplying his mass by no more than four.]
sister Barbaria was standing in
text has stand-/in at line break
five sisters Barbaria!
[I make it six: two sisters washing dishes; one sister plucking birds; another sister carrying bags and bundles; another sister taking their supper orders; a final sister looking on. The sister in the next paragraph, identified as “a sixth sister Barbaria”, would then be the seventh.]
“sometimes I think
open quote missing
at every turn of the instrument.
final . invisible
We went Maying on donkeys, and we found more flowers than could have been picked in a month. What a May-day for people who had all their lives before gone Maying in india-rubbers, and an east-wind, on the Atlantic coast of America; had been glad and grateful over a few saxifrages and houstonias, and knelt in ecstasy if they found a shivering clump of dog-tooth violets.
Our donkey man looked so like a New Englander that I have an uncomfortable curiosity about him: slim, thin, red-haired, freckled, blue-eyed, hollow-chested, I believe he had run away in his youth from Barnstable, and drifted to the shores of the Alban Lake. I watched him in vain to discover any signs of his understanding our conversation, but I am sure I heard him say “gee” to the donkeys.
The donkey boy, too, had New England eyes, honest dark blue gray, with perpetual laugh in them. It was for his eyes I took him along, he being as superfluous as a fifth leg to the donkey. But when he danced up and down with bare feet on the stones in front of the hotel door, and twisted and untwisted his dirty little fingers in agony of fear lest I should say no, all the while looking up into my face with a hopeful imploring smile, so like one I shall never see again, I loved him, and engaged him then and there always to walk by my donkey’s nose so long as I rode donkeys in Albano. I had no sooner done this than, presto, my boy disappeared; and all I could see in his stead was a sort of human pin-wheel, with ten dangerous toes 83 for spokes, flying round and round by my side. What a pleased Italian boy, aged eleven, can do in the way of revolving somersets passes belief, even while you are looking at it. But in a moment he came down right end up, and, with the air of a mature protector, took my donkey by the rope, and off we went.
I never find myself forming part of a donkey, with a donkey man in rear, without being reminded of all the pictures I have seen of the “Flight into Egypt,” and being impressed anew with a sense of the terrible time that Holy Family must have had trying to make haste on such kind of animal: of all beasts, to escape from a hostile monarch on! And one never pities Joseph any more for having to go on foot; except for the name of the thing, walking must always be easier.
If I say that we climbed up a steep hill to the Capuchin church and convent, and then bore off to the right along the shores of the Alban Lake, and resolved to climb on till we reached the Convent of Palazzuola, which is half-way up the side of Monte Cavo, it does not mean anything to people who do not know the Alban Lake and Monte Cavo. Yet how else can I tell where we had our Maying? The donkey path from Albano up to Palazzuola—and there is no other way of going up—zigzags along the side of the hill, which is the south shore of the Alban Lake. Almost to the last it is thickly wooded; looking at this south shore, from a distance, those who have been through the path can trace its line faintly marked among the tree-tops, like a fine thread indenting them; but strangers to it would never dream that it was there. The path is narrow; only wide enough for two donkeys to pass, if both behave well.
On the left hand you look down into the mystic lake, which is always dark and troubled, no matter how blue the sky; never did I see a smile or a placid look of rest on the Alban Lake. Doubtless it is still linked with fates and oracles we do not know. On the right 84 hand the hill stretches up, sometimes sharply in cliffs, sometimes in gentle slopes with moist hollows full of ivies and ferns; everywhere are flowers in clusters, beds, thickets. It seemed paltry to think of putting a few into a basket, hopeless to try to call the roll of their names. First come the vetches—scrambling in and out, hooking on to everything without discrimination; surely a vetch is the most easily contented of plants; it will hold by a grass stalk, or an ilex trunk, or lie flat on the roadside, and blossom away as fast as it can in each place. Yellow, and white, and crimson, and scarlet, and purple, and pink, and pale green;—seven different vetches we brought home. Periwinkle, matted and tangled, with flowers one inch and a half in diameter (by measurement); violets in territories, and of all shades of blue; Solomon’s-seals of three different kinds; dark blue bee-larkspur whose stems were two feet high; white honeysuckle wreathing down from tall trees; feathery eupatoriums; great arums, not growing like ours, on a slender stalk, but looking like a huge cornucopia made out of yellow corn-husks, with one end set in the ground; red catchfly and white; tiny pinks not bigger than heads of pins; clovers of new sorts and sizes; one of a delicate yellow, a pink one in small flat heads, and another growing in plumes or tassels two inches long, crimson at base and shading up to white at top. One could not fancy this munched in mouthfuls even by sacred cattle; it should be eaten, head by head, like asparagus, nibbled slowly down to the luscious color at the stem.
The holly was in blossom and the white thorn, and huge bushes of yellow broom swung out across our path at every turn; we thought they must light it up at night. Here and there were communities of crimson cyclamens, that most bewildering of all Italy’s flowers. “Mad violets” the Italians call them, and there is a pertinence in the name; they hang their heads and look down as if no violet could be more shy, but all 85 the while their petals turn back like the ears of a vicious horse, and their whole expression is of the most fascinating mixture of modesty and mischief. Always with the cyclamens we found the forget-me-nots, nodding above them in fringing canopies of blue; also the little flower that the Italians call forget-me-not, which is the tiniest of things, shaped like our forget-me-not, but of a pale purple color. Dandelions there were too, and buttercups, warming our hearts to see; we would not admit that they were any more golden than under the colder sun where we had first picked them. Upon the chickweed, however, we looked in speechless wonder: chickweed it was, and no mistake,—but if the canary-birds in America could only see it! One bud would be a breakfast. One bud, do I say? I can fancy a thrifty Dicky eating out a ragged hole in one side, like a robin from a cherry, and leaving the rest for next day. The flowers are as wonderful as the buds, whitening the ground and the hedges everywhere with their shining white stars, as large as silver quarters of dollars used to be.
Now I come with shamefacedness to speak of the flowers whose names I did not know. What brutish people we are, even those of us who think we love Nature well, to live our lives out so ignorant of her good old families! We are quite sure to know the names and generations of hundreds of insignificant men and women, merely because they go to our church, or live in our street; and we should feel ourselves much humiliated if we were not on what is called “speaking terms” with the best people wherever we go. But we are not ashamed to spend summer after summer face to face with flowers and trees and stones, and never so much as know them by name. I wonder they treat us so well as they do, provide us with food and beauty so often, poison us so seldom. It must be only out of the pity they feel, being diviner than we.
The flowers which I did not know were many more 86 than those which I knew, and most of them I cannot describe. There was a blue flower like a liverwort, only larger and lighter, and with a finely notched green leaf; there was a tiny bell-shaped flower, yellow, growing by twos and threes, and nodding perpetually; there was a trumpet-shaped flower the size of a thimble, which had scarlet and blue and purple all blended together in fine lines and shadings; there was another trumpet-shaped flower, quite small, which had its blue and purple and scarlet in separate trumpets but on one stem; there was a tiny blue flower, shaped like a verbena, but set at top of a cluster of shut buds whose hairy calyxes were of a brilliant claret red; there was a yellow flower, tube-shaped, slender, long, white at the brim and brown at the base, and set by twos, in shelter of the joining of its leaves to the stalk; there was a fine feathery white flower, in branching heads, like our wild parsley, but larger petalled, and a white, star-shaped flower which ran riot everywhere; and besides these, were so many others which I have no colors to paint, that at night of this wonderful May-day, when we numbered its flowers, there were fifty-two kinds.
As we came out of the woods upon the craggy precipices near the convent, we found the rocks covered with purple and pink thyme. The smell of it, crushed under the donkey’s hoofs, was delicious. Somebody was homesick enough to say that it was like going across a New England kitchen, the day before Thanksgiving, and spilling the sweet marjoram.
The door of the cloister was wide open. Two monks were standing just outside, absorbed in watching an artist who was making a sketch of the old fountain. The temptation was too strong for one member of our party; when nobody looked, she sprang in and walked on, determined to have one look over the parapet down into the lake. She found herself under old ilex-trees, among dark box hedges, and the stone parapet 87 many rods ahead. A monk, weeding among the cabbages, lifted his head, turned pale at sight of her, and looked instantly down at his weeding again, doubtless crossing himself, and praying to be kept from temptation. She saw other monks hurrying to and fro at end of the garden, evidently consulting what was to be done. She knew no one of them would dare to come and speak to a woman, so she pushed on for the parapet, and reached it. Presently a workman, not a monk, came running breathlessly, “Signorina, Signorina, it is not permitted to enter here.”
“I do not understand Italian,” said she, smiling and bowing, and turning away and looking over the parapet. Down, down, hundreds of feet below, lay the lake, black, troubled, unfathomed. A pebble could have been swung by a string from this parapet far out into the lake. It was a sight not to be forgotten. The workman gesticulated with increased alarm and horror: “O dearest Signorina, indeed it is impossible for you to remain here. The holy fathers,”—at this moment the donkey man came hurrying in for dear life, with most obsequious and deprecating gestures and words, beckoning the young lady out, and explaining that it was all a mistake, that the Signorina was Inglese and did not understand a word of Italian, for which gratuitous lie I hope he may be forgiven. I am sure he enjoyed the joke; at any rate, we did, and I shall always be glad that one woman has been inside the closed cloister of Palazzuola, and looked from its wall down into the lake.
We climbed round the convent on a narrow rocky path overhanging the lake, to see an old tomb “supposed to be that of Cneius Cornelius Scipio Hispallus.” We saw no reason to doubt its being his. Then we climbed still farther up, into a field where there was the most wonderful massing of flowers we had yet seen: the whole field was literally a tangle of many-colored vetches, clovers, chickweed, and buttercups. 88 We stumbled and caught our feet in the vetches, as one does in blackberry-vines, but if we had fallen we should have fallen into the snowy arms of the white narcissus, with which the whole field glistened like a silver tent under the sun. Never have I seen any flower show so solemnly beautiful, unless it might have been a great morning opening I once saw of giant pond-lilies, in a pond on Block Island. But here there were, in addition to the glittering white disks, purple and pink and yellow orchids, looking, as orchids always do, like imprisoned spirits just about to escape.
As we came down the mountain the sunset lights kindled the whole Campagna into a flaming sea. The Mediterranean beyond seemed, by some strange optical effect, to be turned up around the horizon, like a golden rim holding the misty sea. The lake looked darker and darker at every step of our descent. Mt. Soracte stood clear cut against the northern sky, and between us and it went up the smoke of that enchantress, Rome, the great dome of St. Peter’s looming and fading and looming and fading again through the yellow mist, like a gigantic bubble, as the power of the faith it represents has loomed, and faded, and loomed, through all the ages.
Original publication: Hours at Home, vol. 11, October 1870.
it is not permitted to enter here
[. . . And that’s how American tourists acquired their bad reputation.]
These were the names on our list, the guide-book, and not we, being responsible for the odd succession.
Poor Paracelsus! it has always seemed that the world dealt hardly by him. Undoubtedly he believed that there was an Elixir of Life which could be put in a bottle, and a philosopher’s stone, at touch of which all things would turn into gold. We have all been searching after these very things all our days, and without half so much philanthropy about it as he had; for we try, by secret ways, after only just so much elixir as will keep our own poor little body fresh, and enough gold to provide it with clothes and pleasures. But he spoke openly of his researches, and meant to sell his elixir to the whole world, and to hire out his philosopher’s stone by the day. Three hundred and twenty-eight years ago he died in Salzburg, and is buried in the churchyard of San Sebastian. The house he died in is still pointed out, but that had no interest to us, while the grave drew us strongly. What unconscious tribute we pay to the doctrine of the resurrection by the love and honor in which we hold graves, century after century! Surely in our hearts we believe that each such spot becomes forever unlike all other ground: by whatever process the dear flesh crumbles, returns to dust, and is changed into the leaf, flower, and seed that perish, in our hearts we believe that the grave remains a grave, and that at least this much is sure; 90 that the happy, soaring, growing spirit, which has gone on in the worlds, will never forget where the tiny spot is on this one in which its human body was laid.
In the time of the cholera, old men and women of Salzburg went in crowds to pray over the grave of Paracelsus, hoping to secure his protection against the disease; such immortal force is there to an earnestly believed idea. Paracelsus, even dead, and three hundred years dead, still finds believers in his Elixir of Life. Doubtless, also, this praying saved many people from cholera; faith being the best Elixir of Life yet discovered.
We had no chance to benefit by any efficacy which may still linger in his tombstone, for find it we could not, though we walked patiently round and round, and over and over the San Sebastian graveyard. Sacristans are always out of the way when you wish them in, and vice versa. There were several sorrowful people there, planting flowers on a grave, and a lifeless old man saying his beads before a shrine, but no sacristan, and nobody who had ever heard of Paracelsus. Probably we saw the stone and walked over it fifty times, for there were many so sunken and old that we could make nothing of the letters on them, and over the oldest and most illegible we spent most time and emotion. The graveyard is so full of stones and crosses, and boxes of earth with little gardens in them, that it looks like some sort of sepulchral shop. The crowding in these German churchyards has something positively blasphemous about it, and is noways redeemed by the setting of flowers and hanging of wreaths. The whole expression is of jostle and jam, suggests all sorts of irreverent conjectures, and robs the words “God’s Acre” of all meaning. When God has so many acres, it is a sin to so crowd graves.
Around three sides of the San Sebastian churchyard are cloister-like galleries, fenced off by iron railings, and divided into compartments for families. Each enclosure 91 was filled with plants in pots, running ivies, and crosses, usually one large and ugly stone in each compartment, and on the crosses most hideous wreaths and pictures; paper wreaths of rusty black and dingy white, looking more like sea-weed than anything else, twists of old limp crape, old evergreen wreaths dark-brown with age, and common penny pictures with tattered artificial flowers round them. But the final horror was in a sort of grotto near the gate. Behind an iron railing in this grotto were shelves holding rows of ghastly skulls, carefully arranged, piled one above another, and labelled with their names. Whether these were skulls which had been crowded out of their graves by the increase of population in the San Sebastian churchyard, I have no right to say; but this seemed the most probable solution of their being where they were. A mumbling old woman stood by one side, and peered in between the rails, her head shaking with palsy, and her poor skinny hands clutching a rosary. “We are all alike in death, alike in death,” muttered she, half to herself and half to us. We walked faster to get away from her. She sounded and felt like an ill omen.
Next on our list came the Church of St. Peter’s; with enthusiasm somewhat damped as to graveyards, we drove there. Here, as before, crowded graves, hideous stones, faded wreaths, and no sacristan. We saw in the church a monument to Michael Haydn, brother of the composer, too ugly to be described. We saw St. Rupert’s cell, which is a hole in a rock, and St. Rupert’s tomb, and then we went on, with still damper enthusiasm, to look up Mozart. This is always the way, I find, in a day of sight-seeing of the historical or memorial order. In the morning, heroes are heroes, and their graves are shrines. By noon, they are nobodies, and you don’t care where they are buried; or, at least, you don’t believe they are buried where people say they are.92
But all our weary indifference vanished the moment we crossed the threshold of the chamber in which Salzburg keeps the relics of her Mozart. We were met by a little sturdy red-faced man, all smiles, from whose lips it would not have surprised us to hear, “Och, an’ it’s mesilf that’s afther bein’ glad to say yees: an’ ye’ll plaze to walk in, shure.” Really, it is impossible to accustom one’s self to this perpetual recurrence of Cork in South Germany; it sounds as oddly to hear these red-headed, red-faced, freckled fellows speaking German, as it would to hear a squad of laborers on the Erie railroad speaking Latin. However, nothing but German could this little man speak, and an avalanche there was of that, so enthusiastic and warm was he in displaying his cherished relics.
Nothing daunted by our ignorance of his language, he went on and on, pouring out information, till, partly by dint of his reiterations, and partly by the mesmeric effect of his determination that we should understand, we really did comprehend much that he said.
On the walls were portraits of Mozart at different ages, beginning with him at six years old, in the court dress which he wore when he played before Maria Theresa. In this he is a round-cheeked, stupid, obstinate-looking little boy, just such as play in the dirt in every road in Germany to-day.
A large and not very good oil-painting shows him as a young man playing a duet with his sister, to the severe critic their father, who sits by listening with his violin resting on his arm. Above them hangs the picture of their mother, a portrait within a portrait, far the most striking face in the group. If the portraits be good, it is easy to see that however much mechanical facility Mozart may have inherited from his father, the Chapel-Master, his fine quality of genius came from his mother.
Constance Weber, with her hair in indescribable snarl, hangs between Mozart’s mother and sister. If she 93 habitually wore her hair in that fashion, Mozart’s marriage is inexplicable. Farther on she appears again, subdued into the meekest of old ladies, with light curls and a close cap, the Frau Nissen. Her “2d Mann,” as the good little Irishman wrote it down for us, was one Nissen, a Danish consul, and a very commonplace-looking Nissen he was, if one may judge from his picture, which looked strangely out of place in the room devoted to relics of Mozart.
In the middle of the room stood Mozart’s piano, a small one of only five octaves, but shaped like the grand pianos of to-day. Tinkle, tinkle, went the keys under the little man’s red puffy fingers. We did not dare ask him to let it alone, but with each note that he struck it became harder than ever to fancy Mozart’s ever having been seated before it. No wonder that Beethoven said disrespectful things of pianos, if this be a specimen of the best their day afforded. What would he and Mozart say to an Erard or Chickering of 1869! Against the wall stood a still more old-fashioned thing with still more pathetic tinkle to its keys, a little old spinet, on which, if we understood correctly, Mozart composed his Requiem. This, too, we wished to see locked forever; how much more touching memorial of a great musician would be his instrument forever locked, never to be played on by mortal hand, than set wide open in a museum to be thrummed by masters and misses in the same mood in which they would carve their names on the legs, if it were permitted.
My letter will be too long, if I tell in detail of all the interesting relics in this room; manuscript music, composed and written by Mozart at the age of eight; old exercise books from which he had practised; four large volumes of manuscript letters; one short note which can be bought for the small sum of two hundred francs; an old frayed and faded satin letter-case, which was embroidered for him by one of his wife’s sisters, 94 and which he always carried in his pocket; a seal and a ring which he always wore; these were tossing about loose in a common wooden box, and with them a garnet cross which had belonged to his sister. We said hard things of the Frau Nissen for not having made sure that these treasures were kept sacred from public view.
We bought a bad photograph of the fat little boy in court dress, wrote our names in a big book, where all the musical and many of the unmusical celebrities of the world had written theirs before us, and then we bade good by to the pleasant and voluble German Irishman. On the way home we looked at the bronze statue of Mozart in the centre of the Michael Platz. It is stiff and unmeaning. Then we drove past two houses, in one of which he was born, and in the other lived; but by this time we were tired again, and were seized with sudden doubts as to the truth of the inscriptions on their walls. At any rate, whoever has or has not been born, lived, and died in them, they look exactly like four fifths of the dreary, pale-colored houses in .
Original publication: Hours at Home, vol. 10, February 1870.
Three hundred and twenty-eight years ago he died
[Most of the author’s European visit took place in 1869.]
find it we could not
[Granted, it would be funnier if it turned out that Paracelsus was buried somewhere else entirely. But they were looking in the right place.]
If the portraits be good
[But, but, splutter, didn’t she just get through saying that the main portrait is “not very good”?]
My letter will be too long
[Whoops! All Helen Hunt’s letters were supposed to be collected in the second part of the volume, “Encyclicals of a Traveller”.]
dreary, pale-colored houses in Salzburg
text has Salzsburg
“‘Ah, that I do not know,’ quoth he;
‘But ’t was a famous victory.’”
The Austrians must have the same happy faculty of being pleased about victories which the old man in the memorable Waterloo ballad had. Seeing them yesterday (June 27, 1869), one would have supposed that the Austrian eagle never slunk out of Italy, and that every one of these veterans had won his title to the name, by helping on a series of glorious successes. On some of the banners there were even names of places where they had memorable defeats, and the wind seemed to take particular pains to keep those banners spread out at full size; but I dare say few people knew the difference: the beer was good, and the bands played the tunes of conquerors.
All the way from Innspruck to Salzburg we had caught glimpses in the little towns of pine arches, green mottoes, and a general expression of “fest”; the Veterans were in our very train, many of them, and we saw them kissing each other, but did not know who they were, nor understand what it all meant, till at Salzburg, in the hall of the Europa, we read the pink placard giving the programme for the Festival the next day.
They begin things early in this country: “Music at six” was first on the list. Sure enough, at six o’clock, there it was, band after band, and a procession of Veterans (all under fifty years of age), marching past our windows. Each man had a bunch of green leaves in his hat, and one involuntarily thought of St. Patrick’s Day in New York. At ten o’clock there was to be a 96 High Mass in one of the churches: armed with a phrase-book and a dictionary, we set out to take part in the proceedings. O the delusion of a phrase-book! Lives there a man who ever found in one the thing he wished to say? Who does not throw it down in a rage a hundred times a month, and resolve never to look in it again? And then in cooler moments, when you have no immediate need of them, the sentences sound so sensible, so probable, that you go back again to your old belief that they must be of use, will certainly come in play to-morrow. As for pocket dictionaries, they are almost as vexing as the phrase-books. If you have knowledge enough to get much good out of one, you have knowledge enough to do without one, and might as well have something else in your pocket. But the blessed language of signs! For that one’s respect increases daily; during this one short month in Germany, I have come to doubt whether to be a mute is so terrible a thing as we suppose. Taking into account that they are usually born also deaf, and thereby escape so much dreadful discord of cannon, pianos, and bad English, it is by no means clear which way should swing the balance of their loss and gain.
The great element of probability of our success this day was the certainty that the driver of our einspanner undoubtedly wanted to see the same things that we wanted to see; on this it was safe to count. By help of this we saw the Festival, and never once opened our phrase-book or dictionary.
Firstly, the square in which stood the church in which the mass was to be. It was hung with flags, and every window was festooned with long wreaths of green, fastened by rosettes of black and yellow. Unwillingly enough we confessed to each other that, setting patriotism aside, the effect of the hated Austrian colors was finer than that of blue and red. The crowd was great, but quiet and grave to an inexplicable degree. It seems to me, thus far, even truer of the 97 Germans than of the Americans, that they take their pleasure solemnly. The other day I saw forty or fifty peasants at a wedding dance in a little inn, and, though I watched them for half an hour, not a laugh did I see, except on one or two of the youngest faces, and they were laughing at us. The rest whirled slowly round, with a stolid, uninterested expression which could not be outdone in the Ocean House in Newport. Several of the men had the comfort of cigars in their mouths, which the Newport men can’t have. It seems something of a feat to waltz and smoke at the same time.
It was said that more than six thousand Veterans had come to this Festival. I think there were almost as many more of the peasants, who had come in from the country to look at them. It was hard to move in the streets. Country people always seem to have more than the usual allowance of elbow; and when to the world-wide country elbow is added the German woman’s hip, the estimate of standing room for each person must be made big. The men were gayer than the women; truer to nature in that, I suppose, than we, since in fish, flesh, and fowl we see always the male with brightest colors. But it strikes civilized eyes oddly to see men with huge shining silver buttons on the fronts of their coats, two and three rows, bright bows of green or red at the knee, and in their hats feathers and flowers and ribbons; while women are wearing plain short black petticoats, and on their heads either sombre black hats, high-crowned, broad-brimmed, and without ornament, except a couple of gold tassels, or else, still worse, a thick black silk kerchief bound tight over the whole head, low on the forehead, down nearly to the eyebrows, and twisted in some mysterious knot at the back, so as to leave one long ear-like flap hanging down on each side. Anything uglier could not be invented. It made young, good-looking faces hideous; and on old and plain ones the effect was uncanny. Many of the women wore 98 round their necks broad necklaces of twenty or thirty rows of small silver beads, clasped tight in front by a great buckle of colored stones and gilt. These seemed, however, to be worn less for ornament than to prevent or conceal the frightful goitre with which four fifths of them were disfigured. One’s first sight of a goitre swelling is something never to be forgotten.
Mingling in picturesquely with the peasants from the country, and the common people of Salzburg, were to be seen here and there showy Austrian officers, English heads of families, with the families behind in waterproof, commercial travellers of all nations, nobilities in fine carriages, and American women,—to be known from all the rest by their quick peering faces, and their being sure to get in everywhere. Really, I think that the day after Babel could not have seen on that memorable plain more sorts of men than made up the crowd in this square yesterday.
At last, by much help from many people, we got into the church and a seat. A High Mass is always an ordeal of endurance; but this one was made endurable by intervals of Mozart’s music, and by the Veterans’ faces. They filled the seats, and stood in double rows down the central aisle. Had I seen them in New York I should have said, “From where did all these Irishmen come?” And those that did not look like Irishmen looked like Yankees. Dark hair and eyes were the exception; red hair and freckles were common; and almost universal was the hard, keen, overworked look which we know so well in America. The more intelligent the face, the surer it was to have this expression. The poorer peasants looked calmer and stupid. Next me sat a barefooted boy, with a heavy, unawakened face. He wore in his hat a gray feather and an Edelweiss. When I made signs to him that I wanted the Edelweiss, and took it out of his hat, and put fifteen kreutzers in his hand in exchange for it, he looked blankly at the money and at me, as 99 if he had not common belief in his senses. But his mother kissed my hand in gratitude.
At the end of the mass the organ and band struck up one of Wagner’s best marches, and we and the Veterans poured out. The Veterans had the best of it though, and got so firmly wedged in the square, ahead of us, that before we could fight our way through to our carriage, we were as tired as ever they were on the fields of Lombardy.
The banners and flags were all stacked on one side of the square, and made a fine show of color beyond the swaying mass of the Veterans’ black hats, with the green leaves and feathers in From a window on the right, orators began to speak most eloquently, I believe; but I only know that they all gesticulated wildly with white-gloved hands, and waited, like all stump speakers, at the places where they expected the Veterans to throw up their hats and cheer.
In the afternoon the performances were to consist of music, cakes, and ale on the Mönchsberg. This sounded simple and virtuous; but how little we dreamed what it meant till we saw it. Why the Mönchsberg—Monk’s Hill—is so called I do not know, unless it be because it is a continuation of the high rocky ridge on which the great castle of Salzburg stands; and in that the archbishops of Salzburg lived, held court, and defied their enemies for centuries. It is a wonderful wall of rock, so steep that it can only be ascended by flights of stairs; so broad that its top spreads out into fields and valleys and groves, as it were, a second story of country, hundreds of feet up in the air. At its narrowest point it has been tunnelled, and the tunnel is four hundred and fifteen feet It was built by an Archbishop Sigismond, a hundred years ago, and will keep him in memory so long as the world stands. A clumsy stone head of him stands over the entrance to the tunnel, and looks down into the road, with the superfluous boast, “Te Saxa .”100
They tell you that from bottom to top of the Mönchsberg it is only two hundred and eighty steps. “O,” you say gayly, “that is nothing,” and spring up. If they had mentioned also that the staircase is for the most part steep as a ladder, and intersected by long stretches of path almost as hard to climb as the ladder, one could better reckon the cost of going up. Also, both staircase and path are very narrow, and when, as yesterday, throngs of people are coming down, it adds sensibly to the fatigue of going up to be obliged to swing on a pivot once in two minutes, to let big German women, big German soldiers with pipes, children by dozens, and men with beer casks go by. We swung off in this way and let so many hundreds pass us, that we almost thought the Festival must be coming to an end. But how we laughed at our want of comprehension, of what a German out-door Fest could be, when we first caught sight of the broad, crowded plateau, and realized that the hundreds we had met were only two or three people who had to go home early. I do not know how many acres full of men and women there were. I only know that the space they filled was so large that at the farthest end of it the gay colors of the banners could scarcely be distinguished, and two full bands and an orator could be going on at once and not jangle with each other; and yet from the higher ground the whole could be seen, one great sea of good-fellowship. On the outer edges of the crowd, under trees, were rows of booths; beer, brown-bread, and snaky sausages for the mass; white bread, cakes, and candies for the few; the whole hillside was settee; greener-cushioned never mortals had; but it was too much stuffed with stone, and in spite of the picturesqueness and jollity of the scene, bones would ache, especially if they were withheld by superfluous scruples from doing among Germans exactly as Germans did, and lying down at full length every now and then to rest.101
The family groups sitting here were pleasant to see; father, mother, six or eight children, all drinking beer, even the baby that could not speak plain, all nibbling at the ends of sticks of sausage, all good-natured but not talkative.
They do more thinking than their share, this German nation; the world is the better for it, no doubt, but if they could only borrow a laugh from Italy, it would do them good.
Next to us on the hillside sat a young German, evidently a mechanic of some sort, who had brought his sister and sweetheart to the Fest. They had one huge glass mug of beer between them, and I observed that the man drank first and oftenest; for the rest, their feast was of white bread and sausage; and they munched and looked at each other, and looked at each other and munched, and not a dozen times did they open their mouths to speak during the two hours and a half that we sat by their side, yet they looked the picture of content.
The Veterans, though there were six thousand of them on the ground, were lost in the crowd. Now and then half a dozen of them would be seen sitting and smoking together, but they formed no distinguishable feature of the occasion which bore their name. Just as we were unwillingly beginning to think of the stairs which lay between us and our carriage, a sudden stir among the people, and much taking off of hats, announced the arrival of dignitaries.
There they were, at our very elbow, and no instinct had told us,—the Archduke, and several ladies and officers of the court. By some magic chairs appeared, and in a few minutes the group were seated in the centre of a hollow square of staring faces. I never supposed that divinity hedging a king could be so undignified and droll as was the fat pompous little man who went up and down before and behind, and pushed the people back if they crowded up too close. Even 102 at risk of getting a wave from his official hand, we walked several times quite close to the backs of the sublime people, and took our fill of looking at court clothes. White muslin over blue silk, Valenciennes lace, and fine white straw hats with blue crape streamers for the women, very dainty and pretty, but just such as any woman may buy in New York at Virefolet’s or Baillard’s; but for the officers—ah, are there elsewhere in the world such colors as the cherry scarlet gray blue, pomegranate red, and deep sea green which these Austrian officers wear? And then the fit of them! It is profane to suppose they are cut and made. It is the coats that come first; and the men are melted over night and poured in in the morning.
The Archduke has light blue eyes, and a weak cruel face; I was glad he was only the Emperor’s brother; I could fancy his doing deadly harm with power. The women were beautiful, the first beautiful women I have seen in Germany. Full into the face of the youngest and most beautiful of them, the handsomest of the officers puffed clouds on clouds of tobacco-smoke as he stood talking with her. This universal smoking in Germany is enough to cure one of all fancy for the practice; cars, dining-rooms, all made insufferable by it; and women sitting by and breathing it all in, hour after hour, as if it were the wholesomest, most delicious air.
We lingered till sunset; then, though nobody appeared to be going away, we found the stairways just as crowded as before with ups and downs; until midnight, they told us the Fest would last.
This morning at six o’clock, music again, and more Veterans, but such different-looking Veterans from those of yesterday! Slowly they dragged along to the railway-station to take the early train; the green leaves in their hats drooping and wilted, and their whole atmosphere bearing that unmistakable expression, common, the whole world over, to “next morning.”
Original publication: Hours at Home, vol. 10, November 1869.
“But ’t was a famous victory”
[Southey, “The Battle of Blenheim”. Seven of the poem’s eleven stanzas end with the words “famous victory”. Final stanza:
“And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why that I cannot tell,” said he,
“But ’t was a famous victory.”
In addition to praise, the Duke of Marlborough was rewarded with what was to become Blenheim Palace.]
the memorable Waterloo ballad
[Lacking an Internet, the author couldn’t look it up and make sure her quotation was right. That part is understandable. But “Waterloo” is a bit of a blooper, since the poem was written in 1796. Maybe some half-remembered references to “The Duke” led her to think of the Duke of Wellington.]
American women . . . being sure to get in everywhere
[Like, say, f’rinstance, the monastery in the Albano chapter.]
When I made signs to him that I wanted the Edelweiss, and took it out of his hat
[Jesus, lady. Have some decency, willya?]
one of Wagner’s best marches
[Hence Bill Nye’s line, “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds”. Not the Science Guy but Edgar Wilson “Bill” Nye, quoted by—and hence often misattributed to—Mark Twain.]
green leaves and feathers in them.
final . invisible
four hundred and fifteen feet long.
final . invisible
“Te Saxa coquunter.”
[Stone soup, anyone? Hours at Home has “coquntur”. The word both editors aimed at and missed is loquuntur.]
cherry scarlet gray blue,
punctuation as shown
Crete had a Labyrinth, and Rome has a Vatican. I wish I knew how many times the Labyrinth could be contained in the Vatican, and if it would not seem a place for plain sailing in comparison. When you read in Murray that the Vatican has four thousand rooms, it conveys no precise idea to your mind; when you look at the huge, irregular pile itself, which appears to have no particular beginning and never to leave off, and to make St. Peter’s look trig and tidy beside it, even then you do not comprehend; when you are told that for many years the little chapel of San Lorenzo, with its solemn frescos by Fra Angelico, was lost in this labyrinth,—utterly lost out of the memory of man, and was accidentally discovered by a German artist, who had to climb in through a window,—even then you are not fully alive to it. Not until you have entered, and toiled and wandered for hours, trying to find some gallery or chapel to which you have been a dozen times, and which you proudly assured your confiding friend you could “go straight to,” do you begin to realize what the Vatican is like. If you could only “bark” your way, as you do in other wildernesses, there would be some hope; but, if you ever do turn the same corner twice, you never know it, and the more you try to remember just how you went the last time, the less likely you will be to go that way. There are in the guide-books plans of the Vatican. They are of use, if carefully studied at home; but once take them out on the ground, after you are already a little confused, 104 and you are hopelessly lost. Your bewilderment is instantly heightened by a sense of conspicuous humiliation, which is unbearable. Twos and threes, and sixes, and sevens of all nations come immediately in sight, walking toward and past you,—heartless Levites, who know the road. Never have I found the Samaritan of the Vatican; no, though I have sat begging by the way. But I have always comforted myself by believing that the Levites also got lost before they had gone far; in fact, I myself have sometimes come upon them, later, standing stock-still and helpless, while I, in my turn, passed by on the other side.
It was on one of the rawest of the raw days for which winter in sunny Italy is not, but ought to be, famous, that we saw the Etruscan Museum. We had walked round and round it, and over it, and under it, till we had almost ceased to believe in it, before we found the door. Once in, we should have known, even without the inscription over the entrance, that we were in the right place. On three sides of the small vestibule lay life-size figures of terra-cotta; a man, crowned with a wreath of laurel, and two women, wearing necklaces, bracelets, and rings. They were a good deal chipped and knocked, these old Etrurians, and one of the women must have been a sad fright in her day, if her portrait were a good one; but, true or false, high or low, there they lay, three citizens of Etruria, in solid shapes of stone, as big as they were when alive, and more famous than they ever dreamed of being. On the walls were fastened several horses’ heads, taken from the entrance to somebody’s tomb. Among the Etrurians, it seems, the horse was an emblem of the passage of the soul to the other world; from which it is fair to infer that break-neck riding and driving are not modern inventions. In the middle of the vestibule was a great scaldino, filled with red-hot coals; and the two custodi of the museum stood over it, blue and shivering, trying to warm their hands. Of all flimsy 105 pretences, the scaldino is the flimsiest and most pretentious. Why a huge kettle of coals, which glow red to the eye, and breathe hot and choking to the lungs, cannot keep you warm five minutes, is unexplainable; but it does not. You rub your hands over them with a vigor which would warm you anywhere, and you might as well spare yourself the unwholesome stifle of the scorched air.
When the custodi saw us take from under our cloaks a big green bound book, and walk off independently into the first chamber on the right, they roused a little from their torpidity, and followed us to see what manner of people those might be who needed none of their help. Ah! we were luckier people than they knew, for the book was “Dennis’s Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria.” Dennis’s description of this museum is so accurate as to seem marvellous when we are told that it was written entirely from memory,—the Pontifical Government, for some reasons best known to itself, not allowing any memoranda to be made in the rooms.
The first chamber is filled with cinerary urns, or ash-chests. Undertaking must have been a more cheerful trade in those days than in these, and have offered openings for fine artistic talent; in fact, these carved ash-chests looked so little like things belonging to burial, that it was hard to believe that they had not been meant originally for some other purpose. There was an endless variety of them,—square chests, oblong chests, round chests, oval chests, big chests, little chests, high and low and wide and narrow chests,—carved figures on all the lids and on the sides, some of them mythological signs, some of them allegorical representations of the last journey of the inhabitants of the chest, in which the soul, looking in nowise unlike the body, is seen, wrapped in a toga, sitting upright astride a horse, which is led by a frisky little demon. On shelves above the chests were heads of the same terra-cotta, 106 portraits of the dead. There had been handles to the lids. Some of the heads of little children were very sweet and lifelike; one, especially, looked so like a baby I know, that I started, and wondered in my heart if really just such another darling had laughed and played on earth two thousand years ago. At the end of the chamber was a large chest, in which had been buried the ashes of a husband and wife, who were perhaps fortunate enough to be “not divided” in their death, as their full-length figures are carved on the lid, lying fondly clasped in each other’s arms.
In the centre of the next room stood a huge sarcophagus, of great interest as an antiquity, carved and carved and carved again with scenes from the stories of Clytemnestra, and Orestes, and the Theban Brothers, and from thence all the way back to the brothers Cain and Abel, one would think. There are minds which take a species of anatomical, statistical, archæological interest in this sort of thing; and will tell you, down to the last joint of Agamemnon’s little finger, what it all means. But I confess I listen to their accounts with a fatiguing mixture of reverence and incredulity. On shelves in the corner of this room were some little stone huts, not more than ten inches high, which interested me far more than the great historical sarcophagus. They were two ash-chests of the very oldest forms, made to imitate the shape of the low, round huts of skins, stretched over cross-poles, in which the Latins lived. They made you think of beehives. Ashes and bits of burnt bone were in them still. They were found, with many other rare things, in a big jar, hid away in one of the Alban Hills; and the people whose dust they held died before Rome was a city.
After one more room of terra-cottas, urns, statues, and bass-reliefs, you come to the rooms of vases. There are four of these rooms, and the vases are arranged on pedestals and shelves. The first thing you do is to resolve that you will learn the names of the different 107 shapes. In a few minutes you persuade yourself that you know, and will remember, which is an amphora, a pelice, a calpis, and a patera. For that one day you will; but in a week all that you will know will be that the amphora, and the calpis, and the pelice are all beautiful kinds of jars, and that the pateræ and pelices are the shapes which lucky people who have them use for card-receivers.
The rarest and most beautiful vases are on single pedestals, in the centre of the rooms. Mythological and historical scenes are painted on all of them. One of these has a picture of Ajax and Achilles playing at the game of “Morra,” which is played all over Italy to-day. As I write, some handsome Albanese men are playing it under my window, and shouting out the numbers so loudly that I cannot, do what I will, help keeping run of their game. It looks stupid enough to one not born to it. Two men thrust out their right hands at each other, shutting up some fingers and opening others. Each man calls out on the instant what he thinks the whole number of extended fingers. If both are right or both are wrong, nothing is counted; but if one only is right, it counts one for him. Nobody would suppose that a mistake could ever be made in calling the number; but it is played with lightning quickness, and there could not be so much excitement in it if blunders were not frequent. On this vase Ajax calls out “Four!” and Achilles “Three!” (the words, printed in Greek letters, coming out of their mouths,) and both the heroes look as intent as if they were planning a battle.
Some of the scenes are very comic, and belong to all time. For instance, a short-legged fat man, looking up hopelessly at his lady-love, sitting in a high window, and a kind friend appearing in the distance, bringing a ladder to his assistance. This was none the funnier when it was meant to show Jupiter serenading Alcmena, and Mercury running to help him up, than it 108 would be as a passage from the life of our Mr. Falstaff. On another vase is a picture of a tall boy, with a hoop in one hand and a cock in the other. His whole expression shows that he has stolen the cock, and is trying to make off slyly with it,—which is a hard thing to manage, as he has no clothes on. Striding along behind him comes a man, either the owner of the cock or the boy’s teacher, with a long switch in his hand, from which there is plainly no escape for the young thief.
In the last vase-room are many curious goblets,—some with great eyes painted on them; some with “Hail, drink!” which seems a good and friendly motto to set on the rim of glasses in a hospitable house. But now we have reached the ninth room, fullest of wonders. To begin with, what is this? A small iron bedstead? Exactly that. And I dare say generations of single Etrurians slept on it. Finally, it came to be the bier-bedstead for the last long sleep of somebody; and in his tomb at Cervetri it was found. Monsignore Regolini and General Galassi discovered this tomb; and it has ever since been known by their names. Antiquaries believe it to be three thousand years old; so it is possible to please one’s self with the fancy that the great warrior or priest who was buried in it died of having eaten too much peacock at the first supper given to Æneas after his arrival in Italy. He must have been the best-dressed man at supper, if he wore the magnificent gold ornaments in which he was buried. Here they are, outshining all the other gold and silver array in the large glass case in the centre of the room,—a broad gold breastplate, embossed with twelve bands of figures, sphinxes, goats, panthers, deer, and winged demons; another ornament for the head, made of two large oval plates, fastened together by a broad band, embossed in the same way, with smaller plates and fringes to hang down behind, bracelets several inches broad, ear-rings several inches long, all matching 109 the breastplate. No worker in gold to-day can equal the shaping and chasing of these ornaments. In an inner room of this same tomb were found also other bracelets, armlets, wreaths, chains, ear-rings, and brooches,—all of the same exquisite workmanship; and it is supposed that some woman of high rank, possibly a priestess, was buried there. One wonders whether it were honesty or superstition which kept tombs so safe in Etruria, and involuntarily fancies the fate of such treasures if buried in public cemeteries to-day.
It is hard to leave this room; but at the end of a day we should not have seen all. On the walls hang rusty metal mirrors, fans, candelabras, shields dented in many fights, visors, axes, javelins, cuirasses, spears, and all shapes and sizes of armor. On shelves are innumerable and inexplicable tools and instruments,—forks, and pins, and ladles, and strainers, and pails, and jugs; in cases by the windows are pounds and pounds of odds and ends,—coins, and weights, and clasps, and little metal bulls, and fishes, and cats, and daggers, and chains, and bits of bone, looking for all the world as if they had been emptied out of some boy-giant’s pocket. Here is a curious stone bottle,—an ink-bottle, they say.—on which some idle scholar scratched off a bit of his primer, “Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu,” in old Pelasgic letters. Going to school must have been as stupid then as now. Here is a pair of clogs; yes, real Etruscan clogs, bronze, filled in with light wood. No. 4½ at least, and much worn by some enterprising woman who went out in all weathers in Veii. Here is the brazier by which she dried her feet when she came home, and the shovel and tongs and poker lying across the top, just as she kept them. The tongs are on wheels and end in snakes’ heads, the shovel-handle is a swan’s neck, and the poker or rake finishes off with a human hand.
Near these is an oval silver casket, most exquisitely carved, found in a tomb at Vulci. The handle is made 110 of two swans, one bearing a boy and the other a girl, holding on by their arms round the swans’ necks. In this were found a little hand-mirror, two broken bone combs (O unneat woman of Vulci), two hair-pins, an ear-pick, and two small pots of rouge.
Three things more, and we have finished our glance at this room,—a Roman war-chariot, found on the Appian Way, and looking triumphant still; a great arm and dolphin’s tail, of bronze, cast up by the sea at Civita Vecchia.
The next room is hung with paintings, exact copies of the painted walls of the tombs of Tarquinii and Veii; and the next and last is the “Chamber of the Tomb,” a long, narrow, low, dark room, fitted up in imitation of the common Etruscan tombs,—stone couches on three sides, bronze and pottery hanging on the walls and standing about,—an exact reproduction, they say, of a real tomb. But it gives you no thrill, probably makes you smile, and remember things you have seen in panoramas. The real presences have been in the other rooms.
We went out through the Gallery of Inscriptions, which is one of the solemn places. On the left hand the tombstones of the early Christians, on the right those of their enemies. It is touching to read these records of the first triumphs of Christianity’s first faith over the grave, “A sweet soul, who sleeps in peace,” is an inscription constantly recurring. Among the Pagan inscriptions are no such comforting words; only grief and gloom.
In the court-yard the Pope’s gay guards were flaunting up and down like enchanted tiger-lilies, making ready for his Holiness to take such modest airing in a close red coach as befits the representative of Jesus Christ; the beggars buzzed up round our ears; the scorching sirocco blew in our faces; and in a few moments we had bridged the gap of twenty centuries, and taken up again our own little thread of to-day.
Earlier publication: Once a Month, vol. 2, August 1869. But this, in turn, may be a reprint from the Independent.
There are but seven in a week. That is their only fault. How clever those gentlemanly fellows, Pompey and Domitian, were, to put their villas on this hill; and as for the cruelties said to have been committed in Domitian’s amphitheatre, a few rods from our hotel, we have decided that there is some mistake about that. In Rome one can believe in all tales of old tortures—and new ones too, for that matter. Even when the larks sing loudest in the Coliseum the stones cry out louder; the air reeks with sirocco vapors, and seems not yet purged from the odor of blood. But in the pure, sun-flooded air of this hill, which must always have been full of marvellous delights, it is impossible to believe that bad men ever did bad deeds. Whatever they might have been in Rome, they were virtuous as soon as they got here. I cannot fancy Domitian’s ever doing anything worse than having a few larks killed for supper; and I am sure he spent most of his afternoons lying on purple thyme on the shores of the Alban Lake (as we lay yesterday), perhaps slyly reading the good sayings of the poor Epictetus whom he had banished. We read yesterday what Epictetus said “concerning those who seek preferment in Rome”; and, as we looked over at the hot, smoky domes and spires, it seemed hard to believe that any one going thither, even if he were “met by a billet from Cæsar,” could choose to stay.
Albano is 1,250 feet above the sea, says Murray. That may be true, say we; but we know it is much more than that above Rome. Have we not been looking 112 longingly at it for months, set high on the side of the Alban Hills? From every height in Rome to which we wearily climbed we saw it, triumphant with banners of clouds, and crowned with green of forests, saying as plainly as tower could say, “Come up here, and I will do you good.” When the watchmen in the old Saracen towers saw the pirate-ships coming over the Mediterranean, they sounded the alarm, and all the people in the plains fled into the mountains for safety. To-day the towers are in ruins, and no corsairs sail from Africa across the sea; but the sirocco, a more deadly foe, comes in their stead, hotter and hotter with each day of May, and wise souls escape to high places.
Of all those within easy reach of Rome, Albano is best. It is only an hour off by the cars. And even at the railroad station you are met by beauty and good cheer—a garden full of roses, and white thorne, and wall-flowers, and ranunculus; and a station-master who, if he treats you as well as he treated us, will give you a big bunch of all, and look hurt and angry when you offer to pay him. From this garden to the village of Albano, two miles and a half, over a good road, up, up, up! the air grows purer minute by minute; the Campagna behind sinks and stretches and fades, and becomes only another sea, purpler and more restless-looking than the broad band of the Mediterranean into which it melts. On each side are vineyards, looking now like miniature military encampments, with play-guns of cane stacked by fives and threes, and little soldiers in green going in and out and playing leap-frog among them, so fantastic are the baby-vines in their first creeping. Olives, gray and solemn, sharing none of the life and joy, most pathetic of trees. The first man who saw an olive-tree must have known that there had been Gethsemane. Never else could such pathos have been put into mere color; they could never have been so gray before that night. Still up and up! It is a long two and a half miles. The bells tinkle slowly at the 113 horse’s head. The driver’s neck bends suspiciously to one side; he is half asleep. You would not be sorry if the horse and he dozed off together, and you stood still for an hour to look. On the right hand is a valley garden, an old lake-bed, set full of vines and fig-trees and fruit-trees in full flower, and wheat, and all the numberless and exquisite-leaved “greens” which Italy boils, eats, and manages to grow fat on. We find them beautiful everywhere but on the dinner-table. High on the crater-like side of this garden is the tower of Ariccia, looking like a gray bird which had just lit on its way up to Monte Cavo. Between Ariccia and Albano is a sharp ravine; and the sensible Pius IX., some twenty years ago, built a fine stone viaduct across it, toward the cost of which we pay half a franc each time we drive over. But only blind men could grudge the money. From every point it is a most beautiful feature in the landscape, with its three tiers of arches; and from its top you look down two hundred feet into the valley garden on one side, and two hundred feet into the tops of a forest of trees on the other. You follow the valley garden till it loses itself in the Campagna; the Campagna, till it loses itself in the Mediterranean, which glistens in the sun twelve miles off; and you hear coming up from the forest the voices of thrushes and nightingales and cuckoos and larks, till you believe that there must be a bird-fancier’s shop in one of the old gray houses joining the bridge. To stand on this bridge for an hour is to see Italian country-life in drama. The donkeys, the men, and the women of Albano and Ariccia and Gensano act their little parts, and are gone. We stayed late at this play last night. The wardrobes were poor, but the acting was nature itself; such pantomime, such chorus! Priests in black, looking always like a sort of ecclesiastical crow, such silly solemnity in their faces, so much slow flap to their petticoats and the brims of their hats; barefooted monks, rolled up in cloaks of faded brown—they also have their similitude, 114 and look as the olive-trees might if they gathered their rusty skirts around them and hobbled out for a walk; workmen, going home from the fields, with odd hoes and pickaxes over their shoulders; women, with the same hoes and pickaxes, going home from the same work in the same fields, and carrying also, firm-set on their heads, bundles, loads of wood, little wine-barrels or water-jars, or anything else which it can happen to an Albanese woman to need to carry. No one gives herself any more trouble about her barrel, or jar, or load of wood, than if it were a second head, which she had worn all her life. They talked and laughed as if it were morning instead of night. They were not tired. Watch them at what they call work, and you will see why. As the sun sank lower the crowd of laborers thinned; the farmers, one degree better off, came riding on donkeys. Two men and a boy on one donkey; four large bundles of wood and one woman on one donkey; four large casks of wine, a bundle of hay, two chairs, some iron utensils, and two small children on one donkey. O the comic tragedy of donkey! the hopeless arch of their eyebrows, the abjectness of their tails, and the vicious twist of their ankles! Nobody can watch them long without becoming wretched. Israelites, coolies, and negroes,—all they have died of misfortunes; but the donkey is the Wandering Jew of misery among animals, and Italy, I think, must be his Ghetto.
Before we reached the hotel we had come upon another drama, in the street,—a lottery drawing; prize, two hens. If it had been two thousand scudi, there could not have been much more excitement. Fifty chances had been sold. The street held its breath, while a storekeeper dropped the counters one by one into a box, held by a rosy boy, mischievous enough, but too young to cheat. Then the boy put in his little brown fingers, and drew out one: “Thirty!” Then the street broke out into chatter for an instant, guessing and betting 115 what would come next; then held its breath stiller than ever. “Thirty-one!” “Thirty-one!” No “Thirty-one” answered. “Thirty-one” was sick at home, or had married a wife, and could not come; and the street grudged him his two hens all the more that he was not on hand to carry them off. The hens screamed and scuffled; the storekeeper crammed them back into a coop on his window; and the street went back to its work, i.e. to sitting about, smoking, and knitting, and selling saddles and fish and shoes and salad and handkerchiefs and donkeys and calico and wine all along its doorsteps, never by any chance being under roof, so long as there is daylight.
We took our sunsetting at the Villa Doria. It is a princely thing of the rich Romans to throw their beautiful villas open to the public. Could it be safely done in America? I fear our people are not gentle enough, and have too much money to spend on cake and peanuts. Here no harm comes of it. In the Villa Doria are ilex-trees which are a kingdom in themselves. It would not seem unnatural to make obeisance to them. They stand in groups, making long vistas, high arches, locking and interlocking their branches, their trunks looking as old as the masses of ruins among them; and the ruins belonged to Pompey’s walls. At sunset the sun slants under and through these ilexes; the purple and wine-colored bands of the Campagna and sky beyond seem to narrow closer and closer round the hill, and flocks of birds wheel and sing. In the Villa Barberini, higher up, is a great field of stone-pines, stately as a council of gods. No wonder that Theodore Parker, when he saw a stone-pine, asked that one be set on his grave. No tree grows which has such bearing of a solemn purpose. Such morning and evening as this make a day in Albano. Words give but glimpse and no color. For other days there are other villas, and fields, and ruins, tombs of Pompey and of Aruns, Lake Nemy and its village, Gensano, and Marino, and 116 Rocca di Papa, all within easy reach and always in sight. There are four lovely winding avenues of trees, called Gallerie, where you drive for miles under arches of gray ilex as grand as stone, and where the oldest trees are propped by pillars to save their strength and keep them alive. There is Monte Cavo, the highest of the Alban Hills, one thousand feet above Albano, where there used to be a temple, and Julius Cæsar went up to be crowned one day. To think that an English cardinal dared to pull down the ruined temple, and build a convent and church in its stead!
Some of the roads are very smooth and good, others are rough and narrow. For these you must take donkeys, and go perhaps two miles an hour; but, going so slowly, you will have great reward in learning the faces of the wayside flowers and getting into fellowship with the lizards. Fifty different kinds of flowers I counted in one afternoon, all growing wild by the road; and the other day, on the road to Marino, I made acquaintance with two lizards, who were finer than Solomon in all his glory, and had a villa with a better view than the Barberini.
Pius IX. . . . built a fine stone viaduct
[In the same sense that the Franciscan friars “built” the California missions. —Ed.]
“Scotch Presbyterian Church!” There were the words, in white letters on a blue ground. We rubbed our eyes and sprang up in our gondola. Yes, we were in a gondola, and we were on the Grand Canal in Venice. But there were the words, and no mistake; white on blue, so plain that he who rowed might read. “Scotch Presbyterian Church!” We had seen, unmoved, the palaces of Doges, Titians, Marco Polos, Lord Byrons, and Dictator Ruskins; we had looked the Lion of St. in the eye, and the statue of St. Theodore out of countenance; but for this we were not prepared. A Presbyterian meeting-house on the Grand Canal! The resolute little sign held our eyes with a fascination amounting almost to an uncanny spell; the distant hand-organ seemed droning off into a sleepy Dundee; our good Luigi’s features seemed changing into something more stern than their wont; the measured sweep of his oar took on a solemn significance; and when the legless beggar who haunts the Grand Canal rowed up by our side, we should not have been surprised if, instead of his usual whine of “qualche cosa,” he had struck up “Life is the time to serve the Lord.” “Scotch Presbyterian Church!” The letters defied perspective, and looked bigger and bigger as we glided away.
“Luigi, is there really a church there?”
“O yes, yes, Signora; every Sunday.”
“Very well. Next Sunday we will go to it.”
Luigi looked glad. The Sunday before, when we 118 went out to take our evening row, he asked with timid interest if we had been to mass in the morning. On hearing that we had not, his face clouded; and I think that after that his gentle soul had been troubled by misgivings as to our future. But now he was reassured. If we could not be good Catholics, it was something that we had a worship of our own. Perhaps, after all, we should not be left forever in purgatory. There was real liberality in the approbation, softened perhaps by pity, with which he smiled on us, as we stepped out of our gondola at the picturesque low stone door, over which was the sign “Scotch Presbyterian Church.”
We were too early by an hour. Even Scotch Presbyterianism had so far accommodated itself to the air of Venice as to postpone the hour of morning service till half past eleven. The door was shut. What should we do? By way of making the antithesis of things sharper yet, we might hear a Roman Catholic mass first.
“Luigi, we will go to St. Mark’s.” Luigi looked gladder still. Surely his “forestiere” were in the right path to-day. His oar dipped fast, and in a few minutes we had slipped into the little sombre canal which creeps under the Bridge of Sighs, and were walking off, in the sunshine of Luigi’s patronizing smile, through the court-yard of the Doge’s Palace, into the great solemn shadows of St. Mark’s. It was crowded,—the first time I had seen it so; but even the stir and hum of so many living men and women did not seem to give it a breath of the atmosphere of to-day. Each man seemed, as soon as he entered and knelt down, to be transformed, as by a magician’s touch, into an enchanted figure which had been praying there for centuries. The priests moved to and fro; the incense films rose, and floated, and faded; invisible bells tinkled sharply. It was only a common, low mass, but it seemed like the worship of some old spell-bound race doomed to kneel, and pray, and swing censers till 119 some predestined deliverer should come, possibly the next hour, possibly not for a thousand years, to set them free. Perhaps it is strange that the worship of the Roman Catholic Church should ever seem like anything less than this. Surely her millions are spell-bound, waiting the deliverer who will one day come. Involuntarily I looked up at the giant apostles and saints frescoed in blue and crimson and gold high overhead; and I half thought that they stirred, as if the hour was near. No; it was only a misty sunbeam stealing around pillar after pillar, and lighting up their stone faces with quivering colors of life. After the mass was over, a fair, gentle-faced priest pattered out from some dark recess behind the high altar, and, standing in front of the railing, read of matrimony for many men and women.
They were really alive then, and they married and were given in marriage, these weird Venetians who made up the spectacle at which I had been looking. I saw also that a young girl nudged her neighbor and smiled scornfully as one name was read. Ah, they had also envies and scandals! From these, too, must come a deliverer. The incense will not help them, nor the naming of saints, nor the keeping of days; only the Lord himself from heaven. As I walked slowly out among the kneeling figures, I thought of Paul in the Athenian temples, and what glorious thrills must have warmed his blood when he called out his watchword of Christ in the midst of their altars.
When we again reached the room of the “Scotch Presbyterian Church” the minister was reading the first hymn. The room was small, with three chintz-curtained windows opening into a green and sunny garden. I much suspect the desk of having been only a temporary arrangement of chairs and tables, with a dark tapestry flung over them. Every seat was filled; there were, perhaps, forty men and women, earnest-looking, plain people, English and Americans.120
We sat down just outside, in a small anteroom, of which one door opened wide into the sunny garden and the other on the Grand Canal. In the garden, on my right, birds sang riotously; on the canal I could see gondolas and great black barges constantly going up and down. Before me stood the young minister, reading, with his odd Scotch accent, that good verse of the Bible, which says that we must bear one another’s burdens. As he read it, it sounded “Bayre ye one anoother’s buddens”; but the doctrine was none the worse for the brogue. Just as I had fairly delivered myself up to the enjoyment of the whole scene, I was touched on the shoulder, and an elderly man, having somewhat the bearing of a Western congressman, said: “Ma’am, are these the American services?”
There was an emphasis on the word “American” which suggested that he had the Fourth of July—stars, stripes, fireworks, eagle, and all—in his pockets. I strangled a wicked impulse to reply, even under the minister’s very face, that I did not know what “American services” were, and answered: “I only know the sign above the door is Scotch Presbyterian Church.”
In a loud, resentful whisper he rejoined: “I was informed that the American services were held at the house of the American Consul.” All this time his family stood waiting in the rear—mother, two young misses, a boy fifteen, and a dear, sturdy little baby-boy, possibly three years old. I replied again, as gravely as I could: “There is no American Consul in Venice at present. The English Church service is held in the house of the English clergyman.” He turned away and strode out, the family procession following. No worshipping under foreign flags would this patriotic family do. The American service or none! The earnest young minister went on with his Bible-reading, and I had almost forgotten the interruption, when lo! a stir at the door, and there they were again,—the 121 discomfited patriots returning crestfallen, after I know not how much research and consultation,—ready at last to make the best of Scotch “services,” since American could not be found.
The mother had, I thought, a sweet and gentle face; and, as she took the baby in her lap, I prepared myself for an hour of delight in watching them. Alas, what, a mistaken hope! The baby was restless. Who would not be, for that matter, with the tempting garden and singing-birds on one hand, and the fairy spectacle of the boats and the water on the other? Moreover, the mercury stood at eighty degrees, or higher: only by help of much fanning did the grown-up people keep still. What was a baby to do? Of course he tried to slip down and run out; and of course, before long, he began to fret and whimper. At last she rose, took him by the hand, and walked into the garden. My heart gave a bound of joy. “O,” thought I, “kind, sensible mother! She will sit in the garden with him, and let him play.”
“O mamma! me be good, me be good!” came down the garden-alley in those unmistakable tones of terror which are never heard from the lips of any children except those whose nerves have had the shock and the pain of blows. All the sunlight seemed in that instant to die out of the fair green place. But I said to myself, “Poor darling. He will escape one whipping at least. She will never dare to whip him here.” Mistaken again. In less than a minute there came from the distance that sharp, quick scream which means but one thing; once, twice, three times,—then all was still. In a few minutes more they returned; the poor baby subdued into a sort of hysterical silence, worse to see than violent crying, his cheeks crimson, and his eyes full of tears. I buried my face in my hands, and tried to take comfort in remembering how many friendly diseases there are which carry little children to heaven. The words of the sermon 122 sounded to me like inarticulate murmur; now and then came the refrain, “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” How I wished I could bear that baby’s! For perhaps one half-hour he sat perfectly still; but, at the age of three, memory is short and animal life is strong. He had a splendid physique, full of nervous overflow; it was simply a physical impossibility for him to sit still long. He began again to make struggles and impatient sounds. Again she took him up, this time with impatience and irritation in her manner, and led him into the sunny garden. Louder and more piteous came the cry, “O mamma! me be good, me be good!” and the poor, sturdy little legs held back with all their force as she dragged him down the walk. I could hear no more. I fled through the opposite door, and sprang into our gondola so quickly that Luigi came running up with alarm and inquiry on his rugged face. In my excitement and indignation I found even Italian language enough to tell him what had driven me from the church. “Ah, it was very terrible. No wonder the signora could not bear it. Now he (Luigi) had four children, one little girl only a year old; and never, no, never, did he strike them. He always talked with them; never a blow,—O no!”
Ah, polite and courteous Luigi! Six months’ observation of the ways of Italian fathers and mothers made it hard for me to believe that his children led lives of such exceptional peace. The Italians never entirely “grow up” themselves; and they are with their children much as children are with kittens—affectionate and cruel by turns. But it was at that moment an unspeakable comfort to me to hear Luigi tell his sympathizing lie.
When the services were ended, I watched with morbid eagerness to see the baby once more. As the gondola of the patriotic family rowed away, I saw the poor little fellow’s flushed face lying, weary and listless, on his father’s shoulder. All day it haunted me. 123 I could not shake off the fear, so well do I know that type of parent, that he had, after he reached the hotel, a third whipping,—such a one as is called in fiendish satire “a good whipping.” Poor baby! Three whippings and a Scotch Presbyterian service in one forenoon; and he is only three years old, and has at least eight or nine years more to live under the lash. Poor baby!
Venice, Italy, June 1.
we had looked the Lion of St. Mark’s in the eye
text has Marks without apostrophe
read bans of matrimony
text unchanged; expected “banns”
those unmistakable tones of terror which are never heard from the lips of any children except those whose nerves have had the shock and the pain of blows
[There is more on this theme in the collection Bits of Talk about Home Matters, published in book form in 1873.]
The longer one stays in Venice the more of a magnet the Lido becomes, and the surer one is to row thither daily. Its low line looks one minute like a mirage, the next like firm and pleasant land; one day it is gone, and the next morning back in its place again; and all the while you know that, shifting and shadowy as it seems, it is really the one solid bit of genuine earth which Venice owns—her life-preserver, so to speak, without which she would not keep her head above water through a single storm. The Adriatic pounds away at the outer edge of it, macadamizing the beach in pink and white with broken shells, but it gains no ground. The quieter sea on the inner side is at work just as industriously, engineering for the harbor defence, sifting and piling the sand which hidden currents bring, night and day, from the feet of the Alps. They come so overloaded that they spill by the way; and, in consequence, there is no straight road to any island in all the Lagoons. Suddenly, without any warning, you find yourself running aground on sand-banks, and have to row many an extra mile to get round them; and, what is more surprising still, at sunset are to be seen men walking about in all directions, apparently on the water. There is no miracle in it, however. These Peters sink only half-way to their knees; and are buoyed up by no greater faith than that they will on the morrow sell at a good price, to Venetian fishermen, the poor sidling crabs which they are scooping up by handfuls on the sand-banks.125
But when one sails Lido-ward, no marvels of men walking on water, no hindrance of unexpected mud countries to be coasted, no glories of color in the sky,—no, not even when a day is setting,—can long withhold his eyes from the Convent of San Lazzaro. Loveliest of all lovely islands in the Lagoons, it seems, in some lights, to be floating, and rising, and sinking on the smooth water, like a great red lily, with gray battlement calyx folding about it, and a fringe of green beneath. Then one stray petal flutters off in the wind; that is the fiery flag of the Sublime Porte, with its pale waning crescent. The dwellers on San Lazzaro are subjects of the Sultan. Then a soft bell-note swings out from the slender bell-tower on the left; it is the hour for vespers. The dwellers on San Lazzaro say prayers after the fashion of the Latins.
But neither the Sultan’s yoke nor the rule of the Latin Church casts any shadow of burden or weariness over the faces of the monks of San Lazzaro. Such peaceful contentedness I have never seen, except in a child’s eyes, as beamed in the smile of the brother who welcomed us, and introduced us to the Egyptian mummy who (should one say who, or which, of a mummy?) occupies the place of state in one of the three fine library-rooms which are shown to strangers. He took us a little by surprise,—the mummy. We had not looked for him in an Armenian convent. But, with the exception of his features, he was handsome; and the bead coverlid in which he was tucked up, and the painted box he journeyed in, were very fine. One could not help wondering, in looking at him, what his next transition would be, and if he did not get out of his glass case at night and study Armenian by starlight. Nowhere could he do it better than in these libraries, whose windows look out over rose and fig trees to the sea, and whose shelves are loaded with the rarest Armenian manuscripts.
Some of the illuminated copies of the Bible are very 126 rare and beautiful. One of the most beautiful of all, though not the oldest, was written and illuminated by one man, probably the work of his whole lifetime; but his name is not even known. Another one, very old and rare, once belonged to an Armenian queen; and the monk showed to us with great reverence a paragraph in it which was written by her own hand. They have their share of devotion to royalty, even these simple-hearted monks; for on the table in the first library-room, where the visitors are requested to write their names, we found a separate book for the names of kings and queens and nobilities. In it we saw the somewhat cramped signatures of poor Maximilian and Carlotta. Lord Byron’s autograph occupied a still more distinguished place, being framed by itself and hung in the window. It was written both in English and in Armenian; so he made that much progress during the months that he lived and studied at San Lazzaro. The table at which he wrote is shown, and the monks appear to regard his having lived with them as an honor. This struck us as a singular inversion of the true order of things; Lord Byron seeming to us the person honored by the arrangement.
We saw the refectory and the kitchen, both as spotlessly neat as if they belonged to an establishment of Shakers. A huge black cat in the kitchen had become so thoroughly imbued with the monkish view of women that he sputtered savagely at sight of our party. “Poor Pussy,” in the gentlest of feminine voices, produced no effect on him, except to set his back still higher in the air.
In the printing-room six lay-brothers were busily at work running off the sheets of a translation of Æschylus into Armenian. In the cool stone stables twenty-seven Swiss cows were eating their fresh clover, mowed that morning on the Lido. In the mouth of a great artesian well, under a thatched straw roof, were floating twelve pails of rich cream and milk, ready to be sold 127 that evening to the Hotel Danielli, in Venice. In the pleasant, airy school-room, eighteen Armenian boys were studying away,—and hating it, I suppose, like boys of any other nation. In chambers here and there, which we might not see, were learned fathers, studying, translating, writing, and planning, all for the instruction of the Armenian people. In one chamber, most sacred of all, of which our guide spoke in lowered tones, was an old lay-brother, one hundred and two years old,—not dying, but yet not quite living; too feeble to walk; waiting with his eyes fixed on the Celestial Mountains, and listening for the feet of the messenger with the token. In the walled gardens were all manner of pleasant things growing,—figs and beans, pomegranates and artichokes, peas, wheat, and maize, and oleanders, roses, lemons, and oranges. Under the school-room windows was the garden of the pupils, in which each boy has his own bed. Good boys have flower-seeds or roots given them as rewards. One lucky fellow had twenty-one kinds of pansy in his garden.
Round all this peaceful, beautiful life stretched the stone-walls,—not like walls, but sheltering arms. Outside the soft water seemed also to be circling and sheltering; and no sound, unless of a passing oar, interrupted the quiet. We longed to stay for the rest of our lives, and drink cream, and translate good books for the benefit of the Armenian nation; and only wished that we had been wicked men and written poetry, so that we could make a precedent of Lord Byron’s having been taken to board there. When we said as much, or nearly as much, to the gentle, smiling brother who had guided us over the convent, he warmed up, in kindly response, and begged me to come again the next Sunday and attend the service in the chapel.
This we did, and it was the crowning pleasure of our glimpses of San Lazzaro. In our first visit we had been mere strangers, to whom were civilly afforded the 128 ordinary facilities for seeing the place. In our second we were invited guests, and now the gracious courtesy of Eastern hospitality surrounded us. While we were sitting in the library, and looking again at the words which the Armenian queen had written thousands of years ago, there entered noiselessly a venerable man, who also might have come, it seemed to me, from quite as far back as her day, and who brought in his hands such refreshments as, I make no doubt, she set before strangers in her court; rose-leaves steeped in syrup till the syrup had become rose and the rose was transparent as syrup, of this one teaspoonful for each guest; the teaspoons resting on tiny glass plates, which took a soft, red tint from the pulpy rose-leaves. In the centre of the tray, a dish of sweets for which I have no name; small square cakes, which might have been honey arrested and made solid by some magic means, and almond meats set thick in the luscious juice. This was all, except glasses of cool-filtered rain-water, almost as great a rarity as the magic honey-cakes and the rose-leaf syrup. “Oh! where were these delicious sweets made?” said we. “By Armenian ladies in Constantinople. They send them to us every year,” replied the monk. “And you, what do you send to them in turn?” said I,—“figs and pomegranates from your garden?” “O no; nothing but letters,” laughed the monk, with a shrug of his shoulders which could not have been as worldly wise and cynical as it looked.
The Armenian liturgy is one of the most solemn in the world. We had read carefully the English translation of it, so that we were not wholly at loss in listening to the sonorous ring of it in the Armenian tongue. The boys chanted with sharp inflections and unusual intervals, which gave to the whole a wild and not unmusical cadence. But it was impossible not to be diverted from the service by the faces of the brothers. Without an exception, they were at once scholarly and 129 childlike,—rare faces, which one would note and admire and trust anywhere, the very realization of the apostolic injunction to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
After the services were ended, we went into the little bookstore room, and looked over the specimens of their printing, and translation, and photography. They have done the Emperor Napoleon the honor to translate his history of Cæsar. By its side lay a translation of Paradise Lost, handsomely bound, and dedicated to Queen Victoria. We bought several pamphlets: one a brief history of their society, from which I suppose I ought to have half filled my letter, and told all about its being founded in Constantinople, in 1700, by Mechitar, a learned Armenian; and thence moved to Modon, in the Morea, in 1702; then broken up by the war between the Venetians and Turks in 1715, and moved to the island of San Lazzaro in 1717, where it has been thriving and prospering ever since, and is now rich, owning lands in Padua and Rome, and bank-stock in Venice, not to mention the twenty-seven Swiss cows. It is doing a great work in the gratuitous education of Armenian youth, the translation of standard books into the Armenian language, and the distribution of them throughout Asia. I bought also an odd little book, a collection of popular Armenian songs, translated into English, from which I copy one. We see that the things of the earth speak the same words to poets under all suns.
Down from yon distant mountain
The water flows through the village. Ha,
A dark boy came forth,
And washing his hands and face,
Washing, yes, washing,
And turning to the water, asked: “Ha,
Water, from what mountain dost thou come,
O my cool and sweet water, Ha?”130
“I came from that mountain
Where the old and the new snow lie one on the other.”
“Water, to what river dost thou go,
O my cool and sweet water, Ha?”
“I go to that river
Where the bunches of violets abound, Ha!”
“Water, to what vineyard dost thou go,
O my cool and sweet water, Ha?”
“I go to that vineyard
Where the vine-dresser is within, Ha!”
“Water, what plant dost thou water,
O my cool and sweet water, Ha?”
“I water that plant
Whose roots give food to the lamb;
The roots give food to the lamb,
Where there are the apple-tree and the anemone.”
“Water, to what garden dost thou go,
O my cool and sweet water, Ha?”
“I go into that garden
Where there is the sweet song of the nightingale, Ha!”
“Water, into what fountain dost thou go,
O my cool and sweet little water?”
“I go to that fountain
Where thy lover comes and drinks;
I go to meet her and kiss her chin,
And satiate myself with her love.”
Just as we were ready to leave, our friendly host—for not knowing whose name we shall never forgive ourselves—came running in from the garden with a large bouquet of roses, and verbenas, and orange blossoms, and said, in his pleasant broken English, “Again you will come?” “Yes,” I said; “again I will come, if there be a next summer.”
half filled my letter
[The first part of the volume is nearing its end. Here come the articles that didn’t quite qualify as Encyclicals, but nevertheless began as letters.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.