A TRAMP ABROAD
By Mark Twain
(Samuel L. Clemens)
First published in 1880
* * * * * *
CHAPTER I [The Knighted Knave of Bergen]
One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world
had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake
a journey through Europe on foot. After much thought, I decided that
I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I
determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.
I looked about me for the right sort of person to accompany me in the
capacity of agent, and finally hired a Mr. Harris for this service.
It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe. Mr. Harris was in
sympathy with me in this. He was as much of an enthusiast in art as
I was, and not less anxious to learn to paint. I desired to learn the
German language; so did Harris.
Toward the middle of April we sailed in the HOLSATIA, Captain Brandt,
and had a very peasant trip, indeed.
After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for a long
pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather, but at the
last moment we changed the program, for private reasons, and took the
We made a short halt at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and found it an
interesting city. I would have liked to visit the birthplace of
Gutenburg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the
house has been kept. So we spent an hour in the Goethe mansion instead.
The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead
of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and
Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of
being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne,
while chasing the Saxons (as HE said), or being chased by them (as THEY
said), arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy
were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get
across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none
was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach
the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he
was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish
victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate the
episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named
Frankfort--the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this
event happened were named for it. This is good evidence that Frankfort
was the first place it occurred at.
Frankfort has another distinction--it is the birthplace of the German
alphabet; or at least of the German word for alphabet--BUCHSTABEN.
They say that the first movable types were made on birch
sticks--BUCHSTABE--hence the name.
I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort. I had brought
from home a box containing a thousand very cheap cigars. By way of
experiment, I stepped into a little shop in a queer old back street,
took four gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars, and
laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave me 43 cents
In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes, and I think we noticed that
this strange thing was the case in Hamburg, too, and in the villages
along the road. Even in the narrowest and poorest and most ancient
quarters of Frankfort neat and clean clothes were the rule. The little
children of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into a
body's lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers, they were newness
and brightness carried to perfection. One could never detect a smirch
or a grain of dust upon them. The street-car conductors and drivers wore
pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox, and their
manners were as fine as their clothes.
In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book which has
charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled THE LEGENDS OF THE RHINE FROM
BASLE TO ROTTERDAM, by F. J. Kiefer; translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A.
All tourists MENTION the Rhine legends--in that sort of way which
quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his
life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them--but no
tourist ever TELLS them. So this little book fed me in a very hungry
place; and I, in my turn, intend to feed my reader, with one or
two little lunches from the same larder. I shall not mar Garnharn's
translation by meddling with its English; for the most toothsome thing
about it is its quaint fashion of building English sentences on the
German plan--and punctuating them accordingly to no plan at all.
In the chapter devoted to "Legends of Frankfort," I find the following:
"THE KNAVE OF BERGEN"
"In Frankfort at the Romer was a great mask-ball, at the coronation
festival, and in the illuminated saloon, the clanging music invited
to dance, and splendidly appeared the rich toilets and charms of the
ladies, and the festively costumed Princes and Knights. All seemed
pleasure, joy, and roguish gaiety, only one of the numerous guests had
a gloomy exterior; but exactly the black armor in which he walked about
excited general attention, and his tall figure, as well as the noble
propriety of his movements, attracted especially the regards of the
ladies. Who the Knight was? Nobody could guess, for his Vizier was
well closed, and nothing made him recognizable. Proud and yet modest he
advanced to the Empress; bowed on one knee before her seat, and begged
for the favor of a waltz with the Queen of the festival. And she allowed
his request. With light and graceful steps he danced through the long
saloon, with the sovereign who thought never to have found a more
dexterous and excellent dancer. But also by the grace of his manner, and
fine conversation he knew to win the Queen, and she graciously accorded
him a second dance for which he begged, a third, and a fourth, as well
as others were not refused him. How all regarded the happy dancer, how
many envied him the high favor; how increased curiosity, who the masked
knight could be.
"Also the Emperor became more and more excited with curiosity, and with
great suspense one awaited the hour, when according to mask-law, each
masked guest must make himself known. This moment came, but although all
other unmasked; the secret knight still refused to allow his features
to be seen, till at last the Queen driven by curiosity, and vexed at the
obstinate refusal; commanded him to open his Vizier. He opened it,
and none of the high ladies and knights knew him. But from the crowded
spectators, 2 officials advanced, who recognized the black dancer, and
horror and terror spread in the saloon, as they said who the supposed
knight was. It was the executioner of Bergen. But glowing with rage,
the King commanded to seize the criminal and lead him to death, who
had ventured to dance, with the queen; so disgraced the Empress, and
insulted the crown. The culpable threw himself at the Emperor, and
"'Indeed I have heavily sinned against all noble guests assembled here,
but most heavily against you my sovereign and my queen. The Queen is
insulted by my haughtiness equal to treason, but no punishment even
blood, will not be able to wash out the disgrace, which you have
suffered by me. Therefore oh King! allow me to propose a remedy, to
efface the shame, and to render it as if not done. Draw your sword and
knight me, then I will throw down my gauntlet, to everyone who dares to
speak disrespectfully of my king.'
"The Emperor was surprised at this bold proposal, however it appeared
the wisest to him; 'You are a knave he replied after a moment's
consideration, however your advice is good, and displays prudence, as
your offense shows adventurous courage. Well then, and gave him the
knight-stroke so I raise you to nobility, who begged for grace for your
offense now kneels before me, rise as knight; knavish you have acted,
and Knave of Bergen shall you be called henceforth, and gladly the Black
knight rose; three cheers were given in honor of the Emperor, and loud
cries of joy testified the approbation with which the Queen danced still
once with the Knave of Bergen."
CHAPTER II Heidelberg [Landing a Monarch at Heidelberg]
We stopped at a hotel by the railway-station. Next morning, as we sat in
my room waiting for breakfast to come up, we got a good deal interested
in something which was going on over the way, in front of another hotel.
First, the personage who is called the PORTIER (who is not the PORTER,
but is a sort of first-mate of a hotel) [1. See Appendix A] appeared
at the door in a spick-and-span new blue cloth uniform, decorated with
shining brass buttons, and with bands of gold lace around his cap and
wristbands; and he wore white gloves, too. He shed an official glance
upon the situation, and then began to give orders. Two women-servants
came out with pails and brooms and brushes, and gave the sidewalk a
thorough scrubbing; meanwhile two others scrubbed the four marble steps
which led up to the door; beyond these we could see some men-servants
taking up the carpet of the grand staircase. This carpet was carried
away and the last grain of dust beaten and banged and swept out of it;
then brought back and put down again. The brass stair-rods received an
exhaustive polishing and were returned to their places. Now a troop of
servants brought pots and tubs of blooming plants and formed them into
a beautiful jungle about the door and the base of the staircase. Other
servants adorned all the balconies of the various stories with flowers
and banners; others ascended to the roof and hoisted a great flag on
a staff there. Now came some more chamber-maids and retouched the
sidewalk, and afterward wiped the marble steps with damp cloths and
finished by dusting them off with feather brushes. Now a broad black
carpet was brought out and laid down the marble steps and out across the
sidewalk to the curbstone. The PORTIER cast his eye along it, and found
it was not absolutely straight; he commanded it to be straightened; the
servants made the effort--made several efforts, in fact--but the PORTIER
was not satisfied. He finally had it taken up, and then he put it down
himself and got it right.
At this stage of the proceedings, a narrow bright red carpet was
unrolled and stretched from the top of the marble steps to the
curbstone, along the center of the black carpet. This red path cost the
PORTIER more trouble than even the black one had done. But he patiently
fixed and refixed it until it was exactly right and lay precisely in the
middle of the black carpet. In New York these performances would have
gathered a mighty crowd of curious and intensely interested spectators;
but here it only captured an audience of half a dozen little boys who
stood in a row across the pavement, some with their school-knapsacks on
their backs and their hands in their pockets, others with arms full of
bundles, and all absorbed in the show. Occasionally one of them skipped
irreverently over the carpet and took up a position on the other side.
This always visibly annoyed the PORTIER.
Now came a waiting interval. The landlord, in plain clothes, and
bareheaded, placed himself on the bottom marble step, abreast the
PORTIER, who stood on the other end of the same steps; six or eight
waiters, gloved, bareheaded, and wearing their whitest linen, their
whitest cravats, and their finest swallow-tails, grouped themselves
about these chiefs, but leaving the carpetway clear. Nobody moved or
spoke any more but only waited.
In a short time the shrill piping of a coming train was heard, and
immediately groups of people began to gather in the street. Two or three
open carriages arrived, and deposited some maids of honor and some male
officials at the hotel. Presently another open carriage brought the
Grand Duke of Baden, a stately man in uniform, who wore the handsome
brass-mounted, steel-spiked helmet of the army on his head. Last came
the Empress of Germany and the Grand Duchess of Baden in a closed
carriage; these passed through the low-bowing groups of servants and
disappeared in the hotel, exhibiting to us only the backs of their
heads, and then the show was over.
It appears to be as difficult to land a monarch as it is to launch a
But as to Heidelberg. The weather was growing pretty warm,--very warm,
in fact. So we left the valley and took quarters at the Schloss Hotel,
on the hill, above the Castle.
Heidelberg lies at the mouth of a narrow gorge--a gorge the shape of
a shepherd's crook; if one looks up it he perceives that it is about
straight, for a mile and a half, then makes a sharp curve to the right
and disappears. This gorge--along whose bottom pours the swift Neckar
--is confined between (or cloven through) a couple of long, steep
ridges, a thousand feet high and densely wooded clear to their summits,
with the exception of one section which has been shaved and put under
cultivation. These ridges are chopped off at the mouth of the gorge
and form two bold and conspicuous headlands, with Heidelberg nestling
between them; from their bases spreads away the vast dim expanse of the
Rhine valley, and into this expanse the Neckar goes wandering in shining
curves and is presently lost to view.
Now if one turns and looks up the gorge once more, he will see the
Schloss Hotel on the right perched on a precipice overlooking the
Neckar--a precipice which is so sumptuously cushioned and draped with
foliage that no glimpse of the rock appears. The building seems very
airily situated. It has the appearance of being on a shelf half-way
up the wooded mountainside; and as it is remote and isolated, and very
white, it makes a strong mark against the lofty leafy rampart at its
This hotel had a feature which was a decided novelty, and one which
might be adopted with advantage by any house which is perched in a
commanding situation. This feature may be described as a series of
glass-enclosed parlors CLINGING TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE, one against
each and every bed-chamber and drawing-room. They are like long, narrow,
high-ceiled bird-cages hung against the building. My room was a corner
room, and had two of these things, a north one and a west one.
From the north cage one looks up the Neckar gorge; from the west one he
looks down it. This last affords the most extensive view, and it is one
of the loveliest that can be imagined, too. Out of a billowy upheaval
of vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge ruin
of Heidelberg Castle, [2. See Appendix B] with empty window arches,
ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers--the Lear of inanimate
nature--deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still,
and beautiful. It is a fine sight to see the evening sunlight suddenly
strike the leafy declivity at the Castle's base and dash up it and
drench it as with a luminous spray, while the adjacent groves are in
Behind the Castle swells a great dome-shaped hill, forest-clad, and
beyond that a nobler and loftier one. The Castle looks down upon the
compact brown-roofed town; and from the town two picturesque old bridges
span the river. Now the view broadens; through the gateway of the
sentinel headlands you gaze out over the wide Rhine plain, which
stretches away, softly and richly tinted, grows gradually and dreamily
indistinct, and finally melts imperceptibly into the remote horizon.
I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm
about it as this one gives.
The first night we were there, we went to bed and to sleep early; but
I awoke at the end of two or three hours, and lay a comfortable while
listening to the soothing patter of the rain against the balcony
windows. I took it to be rain, but it turned out to be only the murmur
of the restless Neckar, tumbling over her dikes and dams far below, in
the gorge. I got up and went into the west balcony and saw a wonderful
sight. Away down on the level under the black mass of the Castle, the
town lay, stretched along the river, its intricate cobweb of streets
jeweled with twinkling lights; there were rows of lights on the bridges;
these flung lances of light upon the water, in the black shadows of the
arches; and away at the extremity of all this fairy spectacle blinked
and glowed a massed multitude of gas-jets which seemed to cover acres of
ground; it was as if all the diamonds in the world had been spread
out there. I did not know before, that a half-mile of sextuple
railway-tracks could be made such an adornment.
One thinks Heidelberg by day--with its surroundings--is the last
possibility of the beautiful; but when he sees Heidelberg by night, a
fallen Milky Way, with that glittering railway constellation pinned to
the border, he requires time to consider upon the verdict.
One never tires of poking about in the dense woods that clothe all
these lofty Neckar hills to their beguiling and impressive charm in any
country; but German legends and fairy tales have given these an added
charm. They have peopled all that region with gnomes, and dwarfs, and
all sorts of mysterious and uncanny creatures. At the time I am writing
of, I had been reading so much of this literature that sometimes I was
not sure but I was beginning to believe in the gnomes and fairies as
One afternoon I got lost in the woods about a mile from the hotel, and
presently fell into a train of dreamy thought about animals which talk,
and kobolds, and enchanted folk, and the rest of the pleasant legendary
stuff; and so, by stimulating my fancy, I finally got to imagining I
glimpsed small flitting shapes here and there down the columned
aisles of the forest. It was a place which was peculiarly meet for the
occasion. It was a pine wood, with so thick and soft a carpet of brown
needles that one's footfall made no more sound than if he were treading
on wool; the tree-trunks were as round and straight and smooth as
pillars, and stood close together; they were bare of branches to a point
about twenty-five feet above-ground, and from there upward so thick with
boughs that not a ray of sunlight could pierce through. The world was
bright with sunshine outside, but a deep and mellow twilight reigned in
there, and also a deep silence so profound that I seemed to hear my own
When I had stood ten minutes, thinking and imagining, and getting
my spirit in tune with the place, and in the right mood to enjoy the
supernatural, a raven suddenly uttered a horse croak over my head. It
made me start; and then I was angry because I started. I looked up, and
the creature was sitting on a limb right over me, looking down at me.
I felt something of the same sense of humiliation and injury which
one feels when he finds that a human stranger has been clandestinely
inspecting him in his privacy and mentally commenting upon him. I eyed
the raven, and the raven eyed me. Nothing was said during some seconds.
Then the bird stepped a little way along his limb to get a better point
of observation, lifted his wings, stuck his head far down below his
shoulders toward me and croaked again--a croak with a distinctly
insulting expression about it. If he had spoken in English he could not
have said any more plainly that he did say in raven, "Well, what do YOU
want here?" I felt as foolish as if I had been caught in some mean act
by a responsible being, and reproved for it. However, I made no reply;
I would not bandy words with a raven. The adversary waited a while, with
his shoulders still lifted, his head thrust down between them, and
his keen bright eye fixed on me; then he threw out two or three more
insults, which I could not understand, further than that I knew a
portion of them consisted of language not used in church.
I still made no reply. Now the adversary raised his head and
called. There was an answering croak from a little distance in the
wood--evidently a croak of inquiry. The adversary explained with
enthusiasm, and the other raven dropped everything and came. The two sat
side by side on the limb and discussed me as freely and offensively as
two great naturalists might discuss a new kind of bug. The thing became
more and more embarrassing. They called in another friend. This was too
much. I saw that they had the advantage of me, and so I concluded to get
out of the scrape by walking out of it. They enjoyed my defeat as much
as any low white people could have done. They craned their necks and
laughed at me (for a raven CAN laugh, just like a man), they squalled
insulting remarks after me as long as they could see me. They were
nothing but ravens--I knew that--what they thought of me could be a
matter of no consequence--and yet when even a raven shouts after you,
"What a hat!" "Oh, pull down your vest!" and that sort of thing, it
hurts you and humiliates you, and there is no getting around it with
fine reasoning and pretty arguments.
Animals talk to each other, of course. There can be no question about
that; but I suppose there are very few people who can understand them.
I never knew but one man who could. I knew he could, however, because he
told me so himself. He was a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner who had
lived in a lonely corner of California, among the woods and mountains,
a good many years, and had studied the ways of his only neighbors, the
beasts and the birds, until he believed he could accurately translate
any remark which they made. This was Jim Baker. According to Jim Baker,
some animals have only a limited education, and some use only simple
words, and scarcely ever a comparison or a flowery figure; whereas,
certain other animals have a large vocabulary, a fine command of
language and a ready and fluent delivery; consequently these latter talk
a great deal; they like it; they are so conscious of their talent,
and they enjoy "showing off." Baker said, that after long and careful
observation, he had come to the conclusion that the bluejays were the
best talkers he had found among birds and beasts. Said he:
"There's more TO a bluejay than any other creature. He has got more
moods, and more different kinds of feelings than other creatures; and,
mind you, whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language. And
no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling, out-and-out
book-talk--and bristling with metaphor, too--just bristling! And as for
command of language--why YOU never see a bluejay get stuck for a word.
No man ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing: I've
noticed a good deal, and there's no bird, or cow, or anything that uses
as good grammar as a bluejay. You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well,
a cat does--but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to
pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar
that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the NOISE
which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's
the sickening grammar they use. Now I've never heard a jay use bad
grammar but very seldom; and when they do, they are as ashamed as a
human; they shut right down and leave.
"You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure--but he's got
feathers on him, and don't belong to no church, perhaps; but otherwise
he is just as much human as you be. And I'll tell you for why. A jay's
gifts, and instincts, and feelings, and interests, cover the whole
ground. A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay
will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and
four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise. The
sacredness of an obligation is such a thing which you can't cram into
no bluejay's head. Now, on top of all this, there's another thing; a
jay can out-swear any gentleman in the mines. You think a cat can swear.
Well, a cat can; but you give a bluejay a subject that calls for his
reserve-powers, and where is your cat? Don't talk to ME--I know too much
about this thing; in the one little particular of scolding--just good,
clean, out-and-out scolding--a bluejay can lay over anything, human or
divine. Yes, sir, a jay is everything that a man is. A jay can cry,
a jay can laugh, a jay can feel shame, a jay can reason and plan and
discuss, a jay likes gossip and scandal, a jay has got a sense of humor,
a jay knows when he is an ass just as well as you do--maybe better. If
a jay ain't human, he better take in his sign, that's all. Now I'm going
to tell you a perfectly true fact about some bluejays."
CHAPTER III Baker's Bluejay Yarn [What Stumped the Blue Jays]
"When I first begun to understand jay language correctly, there was a
little incident happened here. Seven years ago, the last man in this
region but me moved away. There stands his house--been empty ever since;
a log house, with a plank roof--just one big room, and no more; no
ceiling--nothing between the rafters and the floor. Well, one Sunday
morning I was sitting out here in front of my cabin, with my cat, taking
the sun, and looking at the blue hills, and listening to the leaves
rustling so lonely in the trees, and thinking of the home away yonder in
the states, that I hadn't heard from in thirteen years, when a bluejay
lit on that house, with an acorn in his mouth, and says, 'Hello, I
reckon I've struck something.' When he spoke, the acorn dropped out of
his mouth and rolled down the roof, of course, but he didn't care; his
mind was all on the thing he had struck. It was a knot-hole in the roof.
He cocked his head to one side, shut one eye and put the other one to
the hole, like a possum looking down a jug; then he glanced up with
his bright eyes, gave a wink or two with his wings--which signifies
gratification, you understand--and says, 'It looks like a hole, it's
located like a hole--blamed if I don't believe it IS a hole!'
"Then he cocked his head down and took another look; he glances up
perfectly joyful, this time; winks his wings and his tail both,
and says, 'Oh, no, this ain't no fat thing, I reckon! If I ain't in
luck!--Why it's a perfectly elegant hole!' So he flew down and got that
acorn, and fetched it up and dropped it in, and was just tilting his
head back, with the heavenliest smile on his face, when all of a
sudden he was paralyzed into a listening attitude and that smile faded
gradually out of his countenance like breath off'n a razor, and the
queerest look of surprise took its place. Then he says, 'Why, I didn't
hear it fall!' He cocked his eye at the hole again, and took a long
look; raised up and shook his head; stepped around to the other side of
the hole and took another look from that side; shook his head again. He
studied a while, then he just went into the Details--walked round and
round the hole and spied into it from every point of the compass.
No use. Now he took a thinking attitude on the comb of the roof and
scratched the back of his head with his right foot a minute, and finally
says, 'Well, it's too many for ME, that's certain; must be a mighty long
hole; however, I ain't got no time to fool around here, I got to "tend
to business"; I reckon it's all right--chance it, anyway.'
"So he flew off and fetched another acorn and dropped it in, and tried
to flirt his eye to the hole quick enough to see what become of it,
but he was too late. He held his eye there as much as a minute; then he
raised up and sighed, and says, 'Confound it, I don't seem to understand
this thing, no way; however, I'll tackle her again.' He fetched
another acorn, and done his level best to see what become of it, but he
couldn't. He says, 'Well, I never struck no such a hole as this before;
I'm of the opinion it's a totally new kind of a hole.' Then he begun
to get mad. He held in for a spell, walking up and down the comb of the
roof and shaking his head and muttering to himself; but his feelings got
the upper hand of him, presently, and he broke loose and cussed himself
black in the face. I never see a bird take on so about a little thing.
When he got through he walks to the hole and looks in again for half a
minute; then he says, 'Well, you're a long hole, and a deep hole, and
a mighty singular hole altogether--but I've started in to fill you, and
I'm damned if I DON'T fill you, if it takes a hundred years!'
"And with that, away he went. You never see a bird work so since you was
born. He laid into his work like a nigger, and the way he hove acorns
into that hole for about two hours and a half was one of the most
exciting and astonishing spectacles I ever struck. He never stopped to
take a look anymore--he just hove 'em in and went for more. Well, at
last he could hardly flop his wings, he was so tuckered out. He comes
a-dropping down, once more, sweating like an ice-pitcher, dropped his
acorn in and says, 'NOW I guess I've got the bulge on you by this time!'
So he bent down for a look. If you'll believe me, when his head come up
again he was just pale with rage. He says, 'I've shoveled acorns enough
in there to keep the family thirty years, and if I can see a sign of one
of 'em I wish I may land in a museum with a belly full of sawdust in two
"He just had strength enough to crawl up on to the comb and lean his
back agin the chimbly, and then he collected his impressions and
begun to free his mind. I see in a second that what I had mistook for
profanity in the mines was only just the rudiments, as you may say.
"Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions, and stops
to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him the whole circumstance,
and says, 'Now yonder's the hole, and if you don't believe me, go and
look for yourself.' So this fellow went and looked, and comes back and
says, 'How many did you say you put in there?' 'Not any less than
two tons,' says the sufferer. The other jay went and looked again. He
couldn't seem to make it out, so he raised a yell, and three more jays
come. They all examined the hole, they all made the sufferer tell
it over again, then they all discussed it, and got off as many
leather-headed opinions about it as an average crowd of humans could
"They called in more jays; then more and more, till pretty soon this
whole region 'peared to have a blue flush about it. There must have been
five thousand of them; and such another jawing and disputing and ripping
and cussing, you never heard. Every jay in the whole lot put his eye to
the hole and delivered a more chuckle-headed opinion about the mystery
than the jay that went there before him. They examined the house all
over, too. The door was standing half open, and at last one old jay
happened to go and light on it and look in. Of course, that knocked the
mystery galley-west in a second. There lay the acorns, scattered all
over the floor.. He flopped his wings and raised a whoop. 'Come here!'
he says, 'Come here, everybody; hang'd if this fool hasn't been trying
to fill up a house with acorns!' They all came a-swooping down like a
blue cloud, and as each fellow lit on the door and took a glance, the
whole absurdity of the contract that that first jay had tackled hit him
home and he fell over backward suffocating with laughter, and the next
jay took his place and done the same.
"Well, sir, they roosted around here on the housetop and the trees for
an hour, and guffawed over that thing like human beings. It ain't any
use to tell me a bluejay hasn't got a sense of humor, because I know
better. And memory, too. They brought jays here from all over the United
States to look down that hole, every summer for three years. Other
birds, too. And they could all see the point except an owl that come
from Nova Scotia to visit the Yo Semite, and he took this thing in on
his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny in it. But then he
was a good deal disappointed about Yo Semite, too."
CHAPTER IV Student Life [The Laborious Beer King]
The summer semester was in full tide; consequently the most frequent
figure in and about Heidelberg was the student. Most of the students
were Germans, of course, but the representatives of foreign lands
were very numerous. They hailed from every corner of the globe--for
instruction is cheap in Heidelberg, and so is living, too. The
Anglo-American Club, composed of British and American students, had
twenty-five members, and there was still much material left to draw
Nine-tenths of the Heidelberg students wore no badge or uniform;
the other tenth wore caps of various colors, and belonged to social
organizations called "corps." There were five corps, each with a color
of its own; there were white caps, blue caps, and red, yellow, and green
ones. The famous duel-fighting is confined to the "corps" boys. The
"KNEIP" seems to be a specialty of theirs, too. Kneips are held, now and
then, to celebrate great occasions, like the election of a beer king,
for instance. The solemnity is simple; the five corps assemble at night,
and at a signal they all fall loading themselves with beer, out
of pint-mugs, as fast as possible, and each man keeps his own
count--usually by laying aside a lucifer match for each mud he empties.
The election is soon decided. When the candidates can hold no more, a
count is instituted and the one who has drank the greatest number of
pints is proclaimed king. I was told that the last beer king elected
by the corps--or by his own capabilities--emptied his mug seventy-five
times. No stomach could hold all that quantity at one time, of
course--but there are ways of frequently creating a vacuum, which those
who have been much at sea will understand.
One sees so many students abroad at all hours, that he presently begins
to wonder if they ever have any working-hours. Some of them have, some
of them haven't. Each can choose for himself whether he will work or
play; for German university life is a very free life; it seems to have
no restraints. The student does not live in the college buildings, but
hires his own lodgings, in any locality he prefers, and he takes his
meals when and where he pleases. He goes to bed when it suits him, and
does not get up at all unless he wants to. He is not entered at the
university for any particular length of time; so he is likely to change
about. He passes no examinations upon entering college. He merely pays
a trifling fee of five or ten dollars, receives a card entitling him to
the privileges of the university, and that is the end of it. He is now
ready for business--or play, as he shall prefer. If he elects to
work, he finds a large list of lectures to choose from. He selects the
subjects which he will study, and enters his name for these studies; but
he can skip attendance.
The result of this system is, that lecture-courses upon specialties
of an unusual nature are often delivered to very slim audiences,
while those upon more practical and every-day matters of education are
delivered to very large ones. I heard of one case where, day after day,
the lecturer's audience consisted of three students--and always the
same three. But one day two of them remained away. The lecturer began as
"Gentlemen,"--then, without a smile, he corrected himself, saying--
"Sir,"--and went on with his discourse.
It is said that the vast majority of the Heidelberg students are hard
workers, and make the most of their opportunities; that they have
no surplus means to spend in dissipation, and no time to spare for
frolicking. One lecture follows right on the heels of another, with very
little time for the student to get out of one hall and into the next;
but the industrious ones manage it by going on a trot. The professors
assist them in the saving of their time by being promptly in their
little boxed-up pulpits when the hours strike, and as promptly out again
when the hour finishes. I entered an empty lecture-room one day just
before the clock struck. The place had simple, unpainted pine desks and
benches for about two hundred persons.
About a minute before the clock struck, a hundred and fifty students
swarmed in, rushed to their seats, immediately spread open their
notebooks and dipped their pens in ink. When the clock began to strike,
a burly professor entered, was received with a round of applause, moved
swiftly down the center aisle, said "Gentlemen," and began to talk as he
climbed his pulpit steps; and by the time he had arrived in his box and
faced his audience, his lecture was well under way and all the pens were
going. He had no notes, he talked with prodigious rapidity and
energy for an hour--then the students began to remind him in certain
well-understood ways that his time was up; he seized his hat, still
talking, proceeded swiftly down his pulpit steps, got out the last word
of his discourse as he struck the floor; everybody rose respectfully,
and he swept rapidly down the aisle and disappeared. An instant rush for
some other lecture-room followed, and in a minute I was alone with the
empty benches once more.
Yes, without doubt, idle students are not the rule. Out of eight hundred
in the town, I knew the faces of only about fifty; but these I saw
everywhere, and daily. They walked about the streets and the wooded
hills, they drove in cabs, they boated on the river, they sipped beer
and coffee, afternoons, in the Schloss gardens. A good many of them wore
colored caps of the corps. They were finely and fashionably dressed,
their manners were quite superb, and they led an easy, careless,
comfortable life. If a dozen of them sat together and a lady or a
gentleman passed whom one of them knew and saluted, they all rose
to their feet and took off their caps. The members of a corps always
received a fellow-member in this way, too; but they paid no attention
to members of other corps; they did not seem to see them. This was not
a discourtesy; it was only a part of the elaborate and rigid corps
There seems to be no chilly distance existing between the German
students and the professor; but, on the contrary, a companionable
intercourse, the opposite of chilliness and reserve. When the professor
enters a beer-hall in the evening where students are gathered together,
these rise up and take off their caps, and invite the old gentleman to
sit with them and partake. He accepts, and the pleasant talk and the
beer flow for an hour or two, and by and by the professor, properly
charged and comfortable, gives a cordial good night, while the students
stand bowing and uncovered; and then he moves on his happy way homeward
with all his vast cargo of learning afloat in his hold. Nobody finds
fault or feels outraged; no harm has been done.
It seemed to be a part of corps etiquette to keep a dog or so, too.
I mean a corps dog--the common property of the organization, like the
corps steward or head servant; then there are other dogs, owned by
On a summer afternoon in the Castle gardens, I have seen six students
march solemnly into the grounds, in single file, each carrying a bright
Chinese parasol and leading a prodigious dog by a string. It was a very
imposing spectacle. Sometimes there would be as many dogs around the
pavilion as students; and of all breeds and of all degrees of beauty and
ugliness. These dogs had a rather dry time of it; for they were tied
to the benches and had no amusement for an hour or two at a time except
what they could get out of pawing at the gnats, or trying to sleep and
not succeeding. However, they got a lump of sugar occasionally--they
were fond of that.
It seemed right and proper that students should indulge in dogs; but
everybody else had them, too--old men and young ones, old women and
nice young ladies. If there is one spectacle that is unpleasanter than
another, it is that of an elegantly dressed young lady towing a dog by a
string. It is said to be the sign and symbol of blighted love. It seems
to me that some other way of advertising it might be devised, which
would be just as conspicuous and yet not so trying to the proprieties.
It would be a mistake to suppose that the easy-going pleasure-seeking
student carries an empty head. Just the contrary. He has spent nine
years in the gymnasium, under a system which allowed him no freedom, but
vigorously compelled him to work like a slave. Consequently, he has left
the gymnasium with an education which is so extensive and complete, that
the most a university can do for it is to perfect some of its profounder
specialties. It is said that when a pupil leaves the gymnasium, he not
only has a comprehensive education, but he KNOWS what he knows--it is
not befogged with uncertainty, it is burnt into him so that it will
stay. For instance, he does not merely read and write Greek, but speaks
it; the same with the Latin. Foreign youth steer clear of the gymnasium;
its rules are too severe. They go to the university to put a mansard
roof on their whole general education; but the German student already
has his mansard roof, so he goes there to add a steeple in the nature of
some specialty, such as a particular branch of law, or diseases of the
eye, or special study of the ancient Gothic tongues. So this German
attends only the lectures which belong to the chosen branch, and drinks
his beer and tows his dog around and has a general good time the rest of
the day. He has been in rigid bondage so long that the large liberty
of the university life is just what he needs and likes and thoroughly
appreciates; and as it cannot last forever, he makes the most of it
while it does last, and so lays up a good rest against the day that must
see him put on the chains once more and enter the slavery of official or
CHAPTER V At the Students' Dueling-Ground [Dueling by Wholesale]
One day in the interest of science my agent obtained permission to bring
me to the students' dueling-place. We crossed the river and drove up
the bank a few hundred yards, then turned to the left, entered a narrow
alley, followed it a hundred yards and arrived at a two-story public
house; we were acquainted with its outside aspect, for it was visible
from the hotel. We went upstairs and passed into a large whitewashed
apartment which was perhaps fifty feet long by thirty feet wide and
twenty or twenty-five high. It was a well-lighted place. There was no
carpet. Across one end and down both sides of the room extended a row of
tables, and at these tables some fifty or seventy-five students [1. See
Appendix C] were sitting.
Some of them were sipping wine, others were playing cards, others chess,
other groups were chatting together, and many were smoking cigarettes
while they waited for the coming duels. Nearly all of them wore colored
caps; there were white caps, green caps, blue caps, red caps, and
bright-yellow ones; so, all the five corps were present in strong
force. In the windows at the vacant end of the room stood six or eight,
narrow-bladed swords with large protecting guards for the hand,
and outside was a man at work sharpening others on a grindstone. He
understood his business; for when a sword left his hand one could shave
himself with it.
It was observable that the young gentlemen neither bowed to nor spoke
with students whose caps differed in color from their own. This did not
mean hostility, but only an armed neutrality. It was considered that
a person could strike harder in the duel, and with a more earnest
interest, if he had never been in a condition of comradeship with his
antagonist; therefore, comradeship between the corps was not permitted.
At intervals the presidents of the five corps have a cold official
intercourse with each other, but nothing further. For example, when the
regular dueling-day of one of the corps approaches, its president calls
for volunteers from among the membership to offer battle; three or more
respond--but there must not be less than three; the president lays their
names before the other presidents, with the request that they furnish
antagonists for these challengers from among their corps. This is
promptly done. It chanced that the present occasion was the battle-day
of the Red Cap Corps. They were the challengers, and certain caps of
other colors had volunteered to meet them. The students fight duels in
the room which I have described, TWO DAYS IN EVERY WEEK DURING SEVEN
AND A HALF OR EIGHT MONTHS IN EVERY YEAR. This custom had continued in
Germany two hundred and fifty years.
To return to my narrative. A student in a white cap met us and
introduced us to six or eight friends of his who also wore white caps,
and while we stood conversing, two strange-looking figures were led in
from another room. They were students panoplied for the duel. They were
bareheaded; their eyes were protected by iron goggles which projected an
inch or more, the leather straps of which bound their ears flat against
their heads were wound around and around with thick wrappings which
a sword could not cut through; from chin to ankle they were padded
thoroughly against injury; their arms were bandaged and rebandaged,
layer upon layer, until they looked like solid black logs. These weird
apparitions had been handsome youths, clad in fashionable attire,
fifteen minutes before, but now they did not resemble any beings one
ever sees unless in nightmares. They strode along, with their arms
projecting straight out from their bodies; they did not hold them out
themselves, but fellow-students walked beside them and gave the needed
There was a rush for the vacant end of the room, now, and we followed
and got good places. The combatants were placed face to face, each with
several members of his own corps about him to assist; two seconds, well
padded, and with swords in their hands, took their stations; a student
belonging to neither of the opposing corps placed himself in a good
position to umpire the combat; another student stood by with a watch and
a memorandum-book to keep record of the time and the number and nature
of the wounds; a gray-haired surgeon was present with his lint, his
bandages, and his instruments. After a moment's pause the duelists
saluted the umpire respectfully, then one after another the several
officials stepped forward, gracefully removed their caps and saluted him
also, and returned to their places. Everything was ready now; students
stood crowded together in the foreground, and others stood behind
them on chairs and tables. Every face was turned toward the center of
The combatants were watching each other with alert eyes; a perfect
stillness, a breathless interest reigned. I felt that I was going to
see some wary work. But not so. The instant the word was given, the two
apparitions sprang forward and began to rain blows down upon each other
with such lightning rapidity that I could not quite tell whether I saw
the swords or only flashes they made in the air; the rattling din of
these blows as they struck steel or paddings was something wonderfully
stirring, and they were struck with such terrific force that I could not
understand why the opposing sword was not beaten down under the assault.
Presently, in the midst of the sword-flashes, I saw a handful of hair
skip into the air as if it had lain loose on the victim's head and a
breath of wind had puffed it suddenly away.
The seconds cried "Halt!" and knocked up the combatants' swords with
their own. The duelists sat down; a student official stepped forward,
examined the wounded head and touched the place with a sponge once or
twice; the surgeon came and turned back the hair from the wound--and
revealed a crimson gash two or three inches long, and proceeded to bind
an oval piece of leather and a bunch of lint over it; the tally-keeper
stepped up and tallied one for the opposition in his book.
Then the duelists took position again; a small stream of blood was
flowing down the side of the injured man's head, and over his shoulder
and down his body to the floor, but he did not seem to mind this. The
word was given, and they plunged at each other as fiercely as before;
once more the blows rained and rattled and flashed; every few moments
the quick-eyed seconds would notice that a sword was bent--then they
called "Halt!" struck up the contending weapons, and an assisting
student straightened the bent one.
The wonderful turmoil went on--presently a bright spark sprung from
a blade, and that blade broken in several pieces, sent one of its
fragments flying to the ceiling. A new sword was provided and the fight
proceeded. The exercise was tremendous, of course, and in time the
fighters began to show great fatigue. They were allowed to rest a
moment, every little while; they got other rests by wounding each other,
for then they could sit down while the doctor applied the lint and
bandages. The laws is that the battle must continue fifteen minutes
if the men can hold out; and as the pauses do not count, this duel was
protracted to twenty or thirty minutes, I judged. At last it was decided
that the men were too much wearied to do battle longer. They were led
away drenched with crimson from head to foot. That was a good fight, but
it could not count, partly because it did not last the lawful fifteen
minutes (of actual fighting), and partly because neither man was
disabled by his wound. It was a drawn battle, and corps law requires
that drawn battles shall be refought as soon as the adversaries are well
of their hurts.
During the conflict, I had talked a little, now and then, with a young
gentleman of the White Cap Corps, and he had mentioned that he was to
fight next--and had also pointed out his challenger, a young gentleman
who was leaning against the opposite wall smoking a cigarette and
restfully observing the duel then in progress.
My acquaintanceship with a party to the coming contest had the effect of
giving me a kind of personal interest in it; I naturally wished he might
win, and it was the reverse of pleasant to learn that he probably would
not, because, although he was a notable swordsman, the challenger was
held to be his superior.
The duel presently began and in the same furious way which had marked
the previous one. I stood close by, but could not tell which blows told
and which did not, they fell and vanished so like flashes of light. They
all seemed to tell; the swords always bent over the opponents' heads,
from the forehead back over the crown, and seemed to touch, all the
way; but it was not so--a protecting blade, invisible to me, was always
interposed between. At the end of ten seconds each man had struck twelve
or fifteen blows, and warded off twelve or fifteen, and no harm done;
then a sword became disabled, and a short rest followed whilst a new one
was brought. Early in the next round the White Corps student got an ugly
wound on the side of his head and gave his opponent one like it. In the
third round the latter received another bad wound in the head, and the
former had his under-lip divided. After that, the White Corps student
gave many severe wounds, but got none of the consequence in return.
At the end of five minutes from the beginning of the duel the surgeon
stopped it; the challenging party had suffered such injuries that any
addition to them might be dangerous. These injuries were a fearful
spectacle, but are better left undescribed. So, against expectation, my
acquaintance was the victor.
CHAPTER VI [A Sport that Sometimes Kills]
The third duel was brief and bloody. The surgeon stopped it when he saw
that one of the men had received such bad wounds that he could not fight
longer without endangering his life.
The fourth duel was a tremendous encounter; but at the end of five or
six minutes the surgeon interfered once more: another man so severely
hurt as to render it unsafe to add to his harms. I watched this
engagement as I watched the others--with rapt interest and strong
excitement, and with a shrink and a shudder for every blow that laid
open a cheek or a forehead; and a conscious paling of my face when I
occasionally saw a wound of a yet more shocking nature inflicted.
My eyes were upon the loser of this duel when he got his last and
vanquishing wound--it was in his face and it carried away his--but no
matter, I must not enter into details. I had but a glance, and then
turned quickly, but I would not have been looking at all if I had known
what was coming. No, that is probably not true; one thinks he would not
look if he knew what was coming, but the interest and the excitement are
so powerful that they would doubtless conquer all other feelings; and
so, under the fierce exhilaration of the clashing steel, he would yield
and look after all. Sometimes spectators of these duels faint--and it
does seem a very reasonable thing to do, too.
Both parties to this fourth duel were badly hurt so much that the
surgeon was at work upon them nearly or quite an hour--a fact which is
suggestive. But this waiting interval was not wasted in idleness by
the assembled students. It was past noon, therefore they ordered their
landlord, downstairs, to send up hot beefsteaks, chickens, and such
things, and these they ate, sitting comfortable at the several tables,
whilst they chatted, disputed and laughed. The door to the surgeon's
room stood open, meantime, but the cutting, sewing, splicing, and
bandaging going on in there in plain view did not seem to disturb
anyone's appetite. I went in and saw the surgeon labor awhile, but could
not enjoy; it was much less trying to see the wounds given and received
than to see them mended; the stir and turmoil, and the music of the
steel, were wanting here--one's nerves were wrung by this grisly
spectacle, whilst the duel's compensating pleasurable thrill was
Finally the doctor finished, and the men who were to fight the closing
battle of the day came forth. A good many dinners were not completed,
yet, but no matter, they could be eaten cold, after the battle;
therefore everybody crowded forth to see. This was not a love duel, but
a "satisfaction" affair. These two students had quarreled, and were here
to settle it. They did not belong to any of the corps, but they were
furnished with weapons and armor, and permitted to fight here by the
five corps as a courtesy. Evidently these two young men were unfamiliar
with the dueling ceremonies, though they were not unfamiliar with the
sword. When they were placed in position they thought it was time
to begin--and then did begin, too, and with a most impetuous energy,
without waiting for anybody to give the word. This vastly amused the
spectators, and even broke down their studied and courtly gravity and
surprised them into laughter. Of course the seconds struck up the swords
and started the duel over again. At the word, the deluge of blows began,
but before long the surgeon once more interfered--for the only reason
which ever permits him to interfere--and the day's war was over. It was
now two in the afternoon, and I had been present since half past nine in
the morning. The field of battle was indeed a red one by this time;
but some sawdust soon righted that. There had been one duel before I
arrived. In it one of the men received many injuries, while the other
one escaped without a scratch.
I had seen the heads and faces of ten youths gashed in every direction
by the keen two-edged blades, and yet had not seen a victim wince, nor
heard a moan, or detected any fleeting expression which confessed the
sharp pain the hurts were inflicting. This was good fortitude, indeed.
Such endurance is to be expected in savages and prize-fighters, for they
are born and educated to it; but to find it in such perfection in these
gently bred and kindly natured young fellows is matter for surprise.
It was not merely under the excitement of the sword-play that this
fortitude was shown; it was shown in the surgeon's room where an
uninspiring quiet reigned, and where there was no audience. The doctor's
manipulations brought out neither grimaces nor moans. And in the fights
it was observable that these lads hacked and slashed with the same
tremendous spirit, after they were covered with streaming wounds, which
they had shown in the beginning.
The world in general looks upon the college duels as very farcical
affairs: true, but considering that the college duel is fought by boys;
that the swords are real swords; and that the head and face are exposed,
it seems to me that it is a farce which had quite a grave side to it.
People laugh at it mainly because they think the student is so covered
up with armor that he cannot be hurt. But it is not so; his eyes are
ears are protected, but the rest of his face and head are bare. He
can not only be badly wounded, but his life is in danger; and he would
sometimes lose it but for the interference of the surgeon. It is
not intended that his life shall be endangered. Fatal accidents are
possible, however. For instance, the student's sword may break, and the
end of it fly up behind his antagonist's ear and cut an artery which
could not be reached if the sword remained whole. This has happened,
sometimes, and death has resulted on the spot. Formerly the student's
armpits were not protected--and at that time the swords were pointed,
whereas they are blunt, now; so an artery in the armpit was sometimes
cut, and death followed. Then in the days of sharp-pointed swords, a
spectator was an occasional victim--the end of a broken sword flew five
or ten feet and buried itself in his neck or his heart, and death ensued
instantly. The student duels in Germany occasion two or three deaths
every year, now, but this arises only from the carelessness of the
wounded men; they eat or drink imprudently, or commit excesses in the
way of overexertion; inflammation sets in and gets such a headway that
it cannot be arrested. Indeed, there is blood and pain and danger
enough about the college duel to entitle it to a considerable degree of
All the customs, all the laws, all the details, pertaining to the
student duel are quaint and naive. The grave, precise, and courtly
ceremony with which the thing is conducted, invests it with a sort of
This dignity and these knightly graces suggest the tournament, not the
prize-fight. The laws are as curious as they are strict. For instance,
the duelist may step forward from the line he is placed upon, if he
chooses, but never back of it. If he steps back of it, or even leans
back, it is considered that he did it to avoid a blow or contrive an
advantage; so he is dismissed from his corps in disgrace. It would seem
natural to step from under a descending sword unconsciously, and against
one's will and intent--yet this unconsciousness is not allowed. Again:
if under the sudden anguish of a wound the receiver of it makes a
grimace, he falls some degrees in the estimation of his fellows; his
corps are ashamed of him: they call him "hare foot," which is the German
equivalent for chicken-hearted.
CHAPTER VII [How Bismark Fought]
In addition to the corps laws, there are some corps usages which have
the force of laws.
Perhaps the president of a corps notices that one of the membership who
is no longer an exempt--that is a freshman--has remained a sophomore
some little time without volunteering to fight; some day, the president,
instead of calling for volunteers, will APPOINT this sophomore
to measure swords with a student of another corps; he is free to
decline--everybody says so--there is no compulsion. This is all
true--but I have not heard of any student who DID decline; to decline
and still remain in the corps would make him unpleasantly conspicuous,
and properly so, since he knew, when he joined, that his main
business, as a member, would be to fight. No, there is no law against
declining--except the law of custom, which is confessedly stronger than
written law, everywhere.
The ten men whose duels I had witnessed did not go away when their hurts
were dressed, as I had supposed they would, but came back, one after
another, as soon as they were free of the surgeon, and mingled with the
assemblage in the dueling-room. The white-cap student who won the second
fight witnessed the remaining three, and talked with us during the
intermissions. He could not talk very well, because his opponent's sword
had cut his under-lip in two, and then the surgeon had sewed it together
and overlaid it with a profusion of white plaster patches; neither could
he eat easily, still he contrived to accomplish a slow and troublesome
luncheon while the last duel was preparing. The man who was the worst
hurt of all played chess while waiting to see this engagement. A good
part of his face was covered with patches and bandages, and all the
rest of his head was covered and concealed by them. It is said that the
student likes to appear on the street and in other public places in
this kind of array, and that this predilection often keeps him out when
exposure to rain or sun is a positive danger for him. Newly bandaged
students are a very common spectacle in the public gardens of
Heidelberg. It is also said that the student is glad to get wounds in
the face, because the scars they leave will show so well there; and it
is also said that these face wounds are so prized that youths have even
been known to pull them apart from time to time and put red wine in them
to make them heal badly and leave as ugly a scar as possible. It
does not look reasonable, but it is roundly asserted and maintained,
nevertheless; I am sure of one thing--scars are plenty enough in
Germany, among the young men; and very grim ones they are, too.
They crisscross the face in angry red welts, and are permanent and
ineffaceable. Some of these scars are of a very strange and dreadful
aspect; and the effect is striking when several such accent the milder
ones, which form a city map on a man's face; they suggest the "burned
district" then. We had often noticed that many of the students wore
a colored silk band or ribbon diagonally across their breasts. It
transpired that this signifies that the wearer has fought three duels
in which a decision was reached--duels in which he either whipped or
was whipped--for drawn battles do not count.  After a student has
received his ribbon, he is "free"; he can cease from fighting, without
reproach--except some one insult him; his president cannot appoint him
to fight; he can volunteer if he wants to, or remain quiescent if he
prefers to do so. Statistics show that he does NOT prefer to remain
quiescent. They show that the duel has a singular fascination about it
somewhere, for these free men, so far from resting upon the privilege
of the badge, are always volunteering. A corps student told me it was of
record that Prince Bismarck fought thirty-two of these duels in a single
summer term when he was in college. So he fought twenty-nine after his
badge had given him the right to retire from the field.
1. FROM MY DIARY.--Dined in a hotel a few miles up the Neckar,
in a room whose walls were hung all over with framed
portrait-groups of the Five Corps; some were recent,
but many antedated photography, and were pictured in
lithography--the dates ranged back to forty or fifty
years ago. Nearly every individual wore the ribbon across
his breast. In one portrait-group representing (as each
of these pictures did) an entire Corps, I took pains
to count the ribbons: there were twenty-seven members,
and twenty-one of them wore that significant badge.
The statistics may be found to possess interest in several particulars.
Two days in every week are devoted to dueling. The rule is rigid that
there must be three duels on each of these days; there are generally
more, but there cannot be fewer. There were six the day I was present;
sometimes there are seven or eight. It is insisted that eight duels a
week--four for each of the two days--is too low an average to draw
a calculation from, but I will reckon from that basis, preferring an
understatement to an overstatement of the case. This requires about four
hundred and eighty or five hundred duelists a year--for in summer the
college term is about three and a half months, and in winter it is four
months and sometimes longer. Of the seven hundred and fifty students in
the university at the time I am writing of, only eighty belonged to the
five corps, and it is only these corps that do the dueling; occasionally
other students borrow the arms and battleground of the five corps in
order to settle a quarrel, but this does not happen every dueling-day.
 Consequently eighty youths furnish the material for some two hundred
and fifty duels a year. This average gives six fights a year to each
of the eighty. This large work could not be accomplished if the
badge-holders stood upon their privilege and ceased to volunteer.
2. They have to borrow the arms because they could not
get them elsewhere or otherwise. As I understand it,
the public authorities, all over Germany, allow the five
Corps to keep swords, but DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO USE THEM.
This is law is rigid; it is only the execution of it that
Of course, where there is so much fighting, the students make it a point
to keep themselves in constant practice with the foil. One often sees
them, at the tables in the Castle grounds, using their whips or canes to
illustrate some new sword trick which they have heard about; and between
the duels, on the day whose history I have been writing, the swords were
not always idle; every now and then we heard a succession of the keen
hissing sounds which the sword makes when it is being put through its
paces in the air, and this informed us that a student was practicing.
Necessarily, this unceasing attention to the art develops an expert
occasionally. He becomes famous in his own university, his renown
spreads to other universities. He is invited to Goettingen, to fight
with a Goettingen expert; if he is victorious, he will be invited
to other colleges, or those colleges will send their experts to him.
Americans and Englishmen often join one or another of the five corps. A
year or two ago, the principal Heidelberg expert was a big Kentuckian;
he was invited to the various universities and left a wake of victory
behind him all about Germany; but at last a little student in Strasburg
defeated him. There was formerly a student in Heidelberg who had picked
up somewhere and mastered a peculiar trick of cutting up under instead
of cleaving down from above. While the trick lasted he won in sixteen
successive duels in his university; but by that time observers had
discovered what his charm was, and how to break it, therefore his
A rule which forbids social intercourse between members of different
corps is strict. In the dueling-house, in the parks, on the street,
and anywhere and everywhere that the students go, caps of a color group
themselves together. If all the tables in a public garden were crowded
but one, and that one had two red-cap students at it and ten vacant
places, the yellow-caps, the blue-caps, the white caps, and the green
caps, seeking seats, would go by that table and not seem to see it, nor
seem to be aware that there was such a table in the grounds. The student
by whose courtesy we had been enabled to visit the dueling-place, wore
the white cap--Prussian Corps. He introduced us to many white caps, but
to none of another color. The corps etiquette extended even to us, who
were strangers, and required us to group with the white corps only, and
speak only with the white corps, while we were their guests, and keep
aloof from the caps of the other colors. Once I wished to examine some
of the swords, but an American student said, "It would not be quite
polite; these now in the windows all have red hilts or blue; they will
bring in some with white hilts presently, and those you can handle
freely." When a sword was broken in the first duel, I wanted a piece
of it; but its hilt was the wrong color, so it was considered best and
politest to await a properer season. It was brought to me after the room
was cleared, and I will now make a "life-size" sketch of it by tracing a
line around it with my pen, to show the width of the weapon. [Figure
1] The length of these swords is about three feet, and they are quite
heavy. One's disposition to cheer, during the course of the duels or
at their close, was naturally strong, but corps etiquette forbade any
demonstrations of this sort. However brilliant a contest or a victory
might be, no sign or sound betrayed that any one was moved. A dignified
gravity and repression were maintained at all times.
When the dueling was finished and we were ready to go, the gentlemen of
the Prussian Corps to whom we had been introduced took off their caps
in the courteous German way, and also shook hands; their brethren of the
same order took off their caps and bowed, but without shaking hands; the
gentlemen of the other corps treated us just as they would have treated
white caps--they fell apart, apparently unconsciously, and left us an
unobstructed pathway, but did not seem to see us or know we were there.
If we had gone thither the following week as guests of another corps,
the white caps, without meaning any offense, would have observed the
etiquette of their order and ignored our presence.
[How strangely are comedy and tragedy blended in this life!
I had not been home a full half-hour, after witnessing those
playful sham-duels, when circumstances made it necessary for
me to get ready immediately to assist personally at a real
one--a duel with no effeminate limitation in the matter of
results, but a battle to the death. An account of it, in
the next chapter, will show the reader that duels between
boys, for fun, and duels between men in earnest, are very
CHAPTER VIII The Great French Duel [I Second Gambetta in a Terrific
Much as the modern French duel is ridiculed by certain smart people, it
is in reality one of the most dangerous institutions of our day. Since
it is always fought in the open air, the combatants are nearly sure
to catch cold. M. Paul de Cassagnac, the most inveterate of the French
duelists, had suffered so often in this way that he is at last a
confirmed invalid; and the best physician in Paris has expressed
the opinion that if he goes on dueling for fifteen or twenty years
more--unless he forms the habit of fighting in a comfortable room where
damps and draughts cannot intrude--he will eventually endanger his life.
This ought to moderate the talk of those people who are so stubborn
in maintaining that the French duel is the most health-giving of
recreations because of the open-air exercise it affords. And it
ought also to moderate that foolish talk about French duelists and
socialist-hated monarchs being the only people who are immoral.
But it is time to get at my subject. As soon as I heard of the late
fiery outbreak between M. Gambetta and M. Fourtou in the French
Assembly, I knew that trouble must follow. I knew it because a long
personal friendship with M. Gambetta revealed to me the desperate and
implacable nature of the man. Vast as are his physical proportions,
I knew that the thirst for revenge would penetrate to the remotest
frontiers of his person.
I did not wait for him to call on me, but went at once to him. As I had
expected, I found the brave fellow steeped in a profound French calm.
I say French calm, because French calmness and English calmness have
points of difference. He was moving swiftly back and forth among the
debris of his furniture, now and then staving chance fragments of it
across the room with his foot; grinding a constant grist of curses
through his set teeth; and halting every little while to deposit another
handful of his hair on the pile which he had been building of it on the
He threw his arms around my neck, bent me over his stomach to his
breast, kissed me on both cheeks, hugged me four or five times, and
then placed me in his own arm-chair. As soon as I had got well again, we
began business at once.
I said I supposed he would wish me to act as his second, and he said,
"Of course." I said I must be allowed to act under a French name, so
that I might be shielded from obloquy in my country, in case of fatal
results. He winced here, probably at the suggestion that dueling was not
regarded with respect in America. However, he agreed to my requirement.
This accounts for the fact that in all the newspaper reports M.
Gambetta's second was apparently a Frenchman.
First, we drew up my principal's will. I insisted upon this, and stuck
to my point. I said I had never heard of a man in his right mind going
out to fight a duel without first making his will. He said he had never
heard of a man in his right mind doing anything of the kind. When he had
finished the will, he wished to proceed to a choice of his "last words."
He wanted to know how the following words, as a dying exclamation,
"I die for my God, for my country, for freedom of speech, for progress,
and the universal brotherhood of man!"
I objected that this would require too lingering a death; it was a good
speech for a consumptive, but not suited to the exigencies of the field
of honor. We wrangled over a good many ante-mortem outbursts, but I
finally got him to cut his obituary down to this, which he copied into
his memorandum-book, purposing to get it by heart:
"I DIE THAT FRANCE MIGHT LIVE."
I said that this remark seemed to lack relevancy; but he said relevancy
was a matter of no consequence in last words, what you wanted was
The next thing in order was the choice of weapons. My principal said he
was not feeling well, and would leave that and the other details of the
proposed meeting to me. Therefore I wrote the following note and carried
it to M. Fourtou's friend:
Sir: M. Gambetta accepts M. Fourtou's challenge, and authorizes me to
propose Plessis-Piquet as the place of meeting; tomorrow morning at
daybreak as the time; and axes as the weapons.
I am, sir, with great respect,
M. Fourtou's friend read this note, and shuddered. Then he turned to me,
and said, with a suggestion of severity in his tone:
"Have you considered, sir, what would be the inevitable result of such a
meeting as this?"
"Well, for instance, what WOULD it be?"
"That's about the size of it," I said. "Now, if it is a fair question,
what was your side proposing to shed?"
I had him there. He saw he had made a blunder, so he hastened to explain
it away. He said he had spoken jestingly. Then he added that he and his
principal would enjoy axes, and indeed prefer them, but such weapons
were barred by the French code, and so I must change my proposal.
I walked the floor, turning the thing over in my mind, and finally it
occurred to me that Gatling-guns at fifteen paces would be a likely way
to get a verdict on the field of honor. So I framed this idea into a
But it was not accepted. The code was in the way again. I proposed
rifles; then double-barreled shotguns; then Colt's navy revolvers. These
being all rejected, I reflected awhile, and sarcastically suggested
brickbats at three-quarters of a mile. I always hate to fool away a
humorous thing on a person who has no perception of humor; and it filled
me with bitterness when this man went soberly away to submit the last
proposition to his principal.
He came back presently and said his principal was charmed with the idea
of brickbats at three-quarters of a mile, but must decline on account of
the danger to disinterested parties passing between them. Then I said:
"Well, I am at the end of my string, now. Perhaps YOU would be good
enough to suggest a weapon? Perhaps you have even had one in your mind
all the time?"
His countenance brightened, and he said with alacrity:
"Oh, without doubt, monsieur!"
So he fell to hunting in his pockets--pocket after pocket, and he had
plenty of them--muttering all the while, "Now, what could I have done
At last he was successful. He fished out of his vest pocket a couple
of little things which I carried to the light and ascertained to be
pistols. They were single-barreled and silver-mounted, and very dainty
and pretty. I was not able to speak for emotion. I silently hung one of
them on my watch-chain, and returned the other. My companion in crime
now unrolled a postage-stamp containing several cartridges, and gave me
one of them. I asked if he meant to signify by this that our men were
to be allowed but one shot apiece. He replied that the French code
permitted no more. I then begged him to go and suggest a distance, for
my mind was growing weak and confused under the strain which had been
put upon it. He named sixty-five yards. I nearly lost my patience. I
"Sixty-five yards, with these instruments? Squirt-guns would be deadlier
at fifty. Consider, my friend, you and I are banded together to destroy
life, not make it eternal."
But with all my persuasions, all my arguments, I was only able to
get him to reduce the distance to thirty-five yards; and even this
concession he made with reluctance, and said with a sigh, "I wash my
hands of this slaughter; on your head be it."
There was nothing for me but to go home to my old lion-heart and tell my
humiliating story. When I entered, M. Gambetta was laying his last lock
of hair upon the altar. He sprang toward me, exclaiming:
"You have made the fatal arrangements--I see it in your eye!"
His face paled a trifle, and he leaned upon the table for support. He
breathed thick and heavily for a moment or two, so tumultuous were his
feelings; then he hoarsely whispered:
"The weapon, the weapon! Quick! what is the weapon?"
"This!" and I displayed that silver-mounted thing. He cast but one
glance at it, then swooned ponderously to the floor.
When he came to, he said mournfully:
"The unnatural calm to which I have subjected myself has told upon my
nerves. But away with weakness! I will confront my fate like a man and a
He rose to his feet, and assumed an attitude which for sublimity has
never been approached by man, and has seldom been surpassed by statues.
Then he said, in his deep bass tones:
"Behold, I am calm, I am ready; reveal to me the distance."
"Thirty-five yards." ...
I could not lift him up, of course; but I rolled him over, and poured
water down his back. He presently came to, and said:
"Thirty-five yards--without a rest? But why ask? Since murder was that
man's intention, why should he palter with small details? But mark you
one thing: in my fall the world shall see how the chivalry of France
After a long silence he asked:
"Was nothing said about that man's family standing up with him, as
an offset to my bulk? But no matter; I would not stoop to make such
a suggestion; if he is not noble enough to suggest it himself, he is
welcome to this advantage, which no honorable man would take."
He now sank into a sort of stupor of reflection, which lasted some
minutes; after which he broke silence with:
"The hour--what is the hour fixed for the collision?"
He seemed greatly surprised, and immediately said:
"Insanity! I never heard of such a thing. Nobody is abroad at such an
"That is the reason I named it. Do you mean to say you want an
"It is no time to bandy words. I am astonished that M. Fourtou should
ever have agreed to so strange an innovation. Go at once and require a
I ran downstairs, threw open the front door, and almost plunged into the
arms of M. Fourtou's second. He said:
"I have the honor to say that my principal strenuously objects to the
hour chosen, and begs you will consent to change it to half past nine."
"Any courtesy, sir, which it is in our power to extend is at the service
of your excellent principal. We agree to the proposed change of time."
"I beg you to accept the thanks of my client." Then he turned to a
person behind him, and said, "You hear, M. Noir, the hour is altered to
half past nine." Whereupon M. Noir bowed, expressed his thanks, and went
away. My accomplice continued:
"If agreeable to you, your chief surgeons and ours shall proceed to the
field in the same carriage as is customary."
"It is entirely agreeable to me, and I am obliged to you for mentioning
the surgeons, for I am afraid I should not have thought of them. How
many shall I want? I supposed two or three will be enough?"
"Two is the customary number for each party. I refer to 'chief'
surgeons; but considering the exalted positions occupied by our clients,
it will be well and decorous that each of us appoint several consulting
surgeons, from among the highest in the profession. These will come in
their own private carriages. Have you engaged a hearse?"
"Bless my stupidity, I never thought of it! I will attend to it right
away. I must seem very ignorant to you; but you must try to overlook
that, because I have never had any experience of such a swell duel as
this before. I have had a good deal to do with duels on the Pacific
coast, but I see now that they were crude affairs. A hearse--sho! we
used to leave the elected lying around loose, and let anybody cord
them up and cart them off that wanted to. Have you anything further to
"Nothing, except that the head undertakers shall ride together, as is
usual. The subordinates and mutes will go on foot, as is also usual. I
will see you at eight o'clock in the morning, and we will then arrange
the order of the procession. I have the honor to bid you a good day."
I returned to my client, who said, "Very well; at what hour is the
engagement to begin?"
"Half past nine."
"Very good indeed. Have you sent the fact to the newspapers?"
"SIR! If after our long and intimate friendship you can for a moment
deem me capable of so base a treachery--"
"Tut, tut! What words are these, my dear friend? Have I wounded you? Ah,
forgive me; I am overloading you with labor. Therefore go on with the
other details, and drop this one from your list. The bloody-minded
Fourtou will be sure to attend to it. Or I myself--yes, to make certain,
I will drop a note to my journalistic friend, M. Noir--"
"Oh, come to think of it, you may save yourself the trouble; that other
second has informed M. Noir."
"H'm! I might have known it. It is just like that Fourtou, who always
wants to make a display."
At half past nine in the morning the procession approached the field of
Plessis-Piquet in the following order: first came our carriage--nobody
in it but M. Gambetta and myself; then a carriage containing M. Fourtou
and his second; then a carriage containing two poet-orators who did not
believe in God, and these had MS. funeral orations projecting from their
breast pockets; then a carriage containing the head surgeons and their
cases of instruments; then eight private carriages containing consulting
surgeons; then a hack containing a coroner; then the two hearses; then a
carriage containing the head undertakers; then a train of assistants
and mutes on foot; and after these came plodding through the fog a long
procession of camp followers, police, and citizens generally. It was a
noble turnout, and would have made a fine display if we had had thinner
There was no conversation. I spoke several times to my principal, but
I judge he was not aware of it, for he always referred to his note-book
and muttered absently, "I die that France might live."
Arrived on the field, my fellow-second and I paced off the thirty-five
yards, and then drew lots for choice of position. This latter was but
an ornamental ceremony, for all the choices were alike in such weather.
These preliminaries being ended, I went to my principal and asked him
if he was ready. He spread himself out to his full width, and said in a
stern voice, "Ready! Let the batteries be charged."
The loading process was done in the presence of duly constituted
witnesses. We considered it best to perform this delicate service with
the assistance of a lantern, on account of the state of the weather. We
now placed our men.
At this point the police noticed that the public had massed themselves
together on the right and left of the field; they therefore begged a
delay, while they should put these poor people in a place of safety.
The request was granted.
The police having ordered the two multitudes to take positions behind
the duelists, we were once more ready. The weather growing still more
opaque, it was agreed between myself and the other second that before
giving the fatal signal we should each deliver a loud whoop to enable
the combatants to ascertain each other's whereabouts.
I now returned to my principal, and was distressed to observe that he
had lost a good deal of his spirit. I tried my best to hearten him. I
said, "Indeed, sir, things are not as bad as they seem. Considering
the character of the weapons, the limited number of shots allowed, the
generous distance, the impenetrable solidity of the fog, and the added
fact that one of the combatants is one-eyed and the other cross-eyed and
near-sighted, it seems to me that this conflict need not necessarily be
fatal. There are chances that both of you may survive. Therefore, cheer
up; do not be downhearted."
This speech had so good an effect that my principal immediately
stretched forth his hand and said, "I am myself again; give me the
I laid it, all lonely and forlorn, in the center of the vast solitude
of his palm. He gazed at it and shuddered. And still mournfully
contemplating it, he murmured in a broken voice:
"Alas, it is not death I dread, but mutilation."
I heartened him once more, and with such success that he presently
said, "Let the tragedy begin. Stand at my back; do not desert me in this
solemn hour, my friend."
I gave him my promise. I now assisted him to point his pistol toward the
spot where I judged his adversary to be standing, and cautioned him to
listen well and further guide himself by my fellow-second's whoop.
Then I propped myself against M. Gambetta's back, and raised a rousing
"Whoop-ee!" This was answered from out the far distances of the fog, and
I immediately shouted:
Two little sounds like SPIT! SPIT! broke upon my ear, and in the same
instant I was crushed to the earth under a mountain of flesh. Bruised
as I was, I was still able to catch a faint accent from above, to this
"I die for... for ... perdition take it, what IS it I die for? ... oh,
yes--FRANCE! I die that France may live!"
The surgeons swarmed around with their probes in their hands, and
applied their microscopes to the whole area of M. Gambetta's person,
with the happy result of finding nothing in the nature of a wound. Then
a scene ensued which was in every way gratifying and inspiriting.
The two gladiators fell upon each other's neck, with floods of proud and
happy tears; that other second embraced me; the surgeons, the
orators, the undertakers, the police, everybody embraced, everybody
congratulated, everybody cried, and the whole atmosphere was filled with
praise and with joy unspeakable.
It seems to me then that I would rather be a hero of a French duel than
a crowned and sceptered monarch.
When the commotion had somewhat subsided, the body of surgeons held a
consultation, and after a good deal of debate decided that with proper
care and nursing there was reason to believe that I would survive my
injuries. My internal hurts were deemed the most serious, since it was
apparent that a broken rib had penetrated my left lung, and that many of
my organs had been pressed out so far to one side or the other of where
they belonged, that it was doubtful if they would ever learn to perform
their functions in such remote and unaccustomed localities. They then
set my left arm in two places, pulled my right hip into its socket
again, and re-elevated my nose. I was an object of great interest,
and even admiration; and many sincere and warm-hearted persons had
themselves introduced to me, and said they were proud to know the only
man who had been hurt in a French duel in forty years.
I was placed in an ambulance at the very head of the procession;
and thus with gratifying 'ECLAT I was marched into Paris, the most
conspicuous figure in that great spectacle, and deposited at the
The cross of the Legion of Honor has been conferred upon me. However,
few escape that distinction.
Such is the true version of the most memorable private conflict of the
I have no complaints to make against any one. I acted for myself, and I
can stand the consequences.
Without boasting, I think I may say I am not afraid to stand before a
modern French duelist, but as long as I keep in my right mind I will
never consent to stand behind one again.
CHAPTER IX [What the Beautiful Maiden Said]
One day we took the train and went down to Mannheim to see "King Lear"
played in German. It was a mistake. We sat in our seats three whole
hours and never understood anything but the thunder and lightning; and
even that was reversed to suit German ideas, for the thunder came first
and the lightning followed after.
The behavior of the audience was perfect. There were no rustlings, or
whisperings, or other little disturbances; each act was listened to in
silence, and the applauding was done after the curtain was down. The
doors opened at half past four, the play began promptly at half past
five, and within two minutes afterward all who were coming were in their
seats, and quiet reigned. A German gentleman in the train had said that
a Shakespearian play was an appreciated treat in Germany and that
we should find the house filled. It was true; all the six tiers were
filled, and remained so to the end--which suggested that it is not only
balcony people who like Shakespeare in Germany, but those of the pit and
Another time, we went to Mannheim and attended a shivaree--otherwise an
opera--the one called "Lohengrin." The banging and slamming and booming
and crashing were something beyond belief. The racking and pitiless pain
of it remains stored up in my memory alongside the memory of the time
that I had my teeth fixed. There were circumstances which made it
necessary for me to stay through the hour hours to the end, and I
stayed; but the recollection of that long, dragging, relentless season
of suffering is indestructible. To have to endure it in silence, and
sitting still, made it all the harder. I was in a railed compartment
with eight or ten strangers, of the two sexes, and this compelled
repression; yet at times the pain was so exquisite that I could hardly
keep the tears back. At those times, as the howlings and wailings and
shrieking of the singers, and the ragings and roarings and explosions
of the vast orchestra rose higher and higher, and wilder and wilder,
and fiercer and fiercer, I could have cried if I had been alone. Those
strangers would not have been surprised to see a man do such a thing who
was being gradually skinned, but they would have marveled at it here,
and made remarks about it no doubt, whereas there was nothing in the
present case which was an advantage over being skinned. There was a
wait of half an hour at the end of the first act, and I could not trust
myself to do it, for I felt that I should desert to stay out. There was
another wait of half an hour toward nine o'clock, but I had gone through
so much by that time that I had no spirit left, and so had no desire but
to be let alone.
I do not wish to suggest that the rest of the people there were like
me, for, indeed, they were not. Whether it was that they naturally
liked that noise, or whether it was that they had learned to like it by
getting used to it, I did not at the time know; but they did like--this
was plain enough. While it was going on they sat and looked as rapt
and grateful as cats do when one strokes their backs; and whenever the
curtain fell they rose to their feet, in one solid mighty multitude, and
the air was snowed thick with waving handkerchiefs, and hurricanes of
applause swept the place. This was not comprehensible to me. Of course,
there were many people there who were not under compulsion to stay; yet
the tiers were as full at the close as they had been at the beginning.
This showed that the people liked it.
It was a curious sort of a play. In the manner of costumes and scenery
it was fine and showy enough; but there was not much action. That is
to say, there was not much really done, it was only talked about; and
always violently. It was what one might call a narrative play. Everybody
had a narrative and a grievance, and none were reasonable about it, but
all in an offensive and ungovernable state. There was little of that
sort of customary thing where the tenor and the soprano stand down by
the footlights, warbling, with blended voices, and keep holding out
their arms toward each other and drawing them back and spreading both
hands over first one breast and then the other with a shake and a
pressure--no, it was every rioter for himself and no blending. Each sang
his indictive narrative in turn, accompanied by the whole orchestra of
sixty instruments, and when this had continued for some time, and one
was hoping they might come to an understanding and modify the noise, a
great chorus composed entirely of maniacs would suddenly break forth,
and then during two minutes, and sometimes three, I lived over again all
that I suffered the time the orphan asylum burned down.
We only had one brief little season of heaven and heaven's sweet ecstasy
and peace during all this long and diligent and acrimonious reproduction
of the other place. This was while a gorgeous procession of people
marched around and around, in the third act, and sang the Wedding
Chorus. To my untutored ear that was music--almost divine music. While
my seared soul was steeped in the healing balm of those gracious sounds,
it seemed to me that I could almost resuffer the torments which had
gone before, in order to be so healed again. There is where the deep
ingenuity of the operatic idea is betrayed. It deals so largely in pain
that its scattered delights are prodigiously augmented by the contrasts.
A pretty air in an opera is prettier there than it could be anywhere
else, I suppose, just as an honest man in politics shines more than he
I have since found out that there is nothing the Germans like so much as
an opera. They like it, not in a mild and moderate way, but with their
whole hearts. This is a legitimate result of habit and education. Our
nation will like the opera, too, by and by, no doubt. One in fifty of
those who attend our operas likes it already, perhaps, but I think a
good many of the other forty-nine go in order to learn to like it, and
the rest in order to be able to talk knowingly about it. The latter
usually hum the airs while they are being sung, so that their neighbors
may perceive that they have been to operas before. The funerals of these
do not occur often enough.
A gentle, old-maidish person and a sweet young girl of seventeen sat
right in front of us that night at the Mannheim opera. These people
talked, between the acts, and I understood them, though I understood
nothing that was uttered on the distant stage. At first they were
guarded in their talk, but after they had heard my agent and me
conversing in English they dropped their reserve and I picked up many
of their little confidences; no, I mean many of HER little
confidences--meaning the elder party--for the young girl only listened,
and gave assenting nods, but never said a word. How pretty she was,
and how sweet she was! I wished she would speak. But evidently she was
absorbed in her own thoughts, her own young-girl dreams, and found a
dearer pleasure in silence. But she was not dreaming sleepy dreams--no,
she was awake, alive, alert, she could not sit still a moment. She was
an enchanting study. Her gown was of a soft white silky stuff that clung
to her round young figure like a fish's skin, and it was rippled over
with the gracefulest little fringy films of lace; she had deep, tender
eyes, with long, curved lashes; and she had peachy cheeks, and a
dimpled chin, and such a dear little rosebud of a mouth; and she was so
dovelike, so pure, and so gracious, so sweet and so bewitching. For long
hours I did mightily wish she would speak. And at last she did; the red
lips parted, and out leaps her thought--and with such a guileless and
pretty enthusiasm, too: "Auntie, I just KNOW I've got five hundred fleas
That was probably over the average. Yes, it must have been very much
over the average. The average at that time in the Grand Duchy of Baden
was forty-five to a young person (when alone), according to the official
estimate of the home secretary for that year; the average for older
people was shifty and indeterminable, for whenever a wholesome young
girl came into the presence of her elders she immediately lowered their
average and raised her own. She became a sort of contribution-box. This
dear young thing in the theater had been sitting there unconsciously
taking up a collection. Many a skinny old being in our neighborhood was
the happier and the restfuler for her coming.
In that large audience, that night, there were eight very conspicuous
people. These were ladies who had their hats or bonnets on. What a
blessed thing it would be if a lady could make herself conspicuous in
our theaters by wearing her hat. It is not usual in Europe to allow
ladies and gentlemen to take bonnets, hats, overcoats, canes, or
umbrellas into the auditorium, but in Mannheim this rule was not
enforced because the audiences were largely made up of people from a
distance, and among these were always a few timid ladies who were afraid
that if they had to go into an anteroom to get their things when the
play was over, they would miss their train. But the great mass of those
who came from a distance always ran the risk and took the chances,
preferring the loss of a train to a breach of good manners and the
discomfort of being unpleasantly conspicuous during a stretch of three
or four hours.
CHAPTER X [How Wagner Operas Bang Along]
Three or four hours. That is a long time to sit in one place, whether
one be conspicuous or not, yet some of Wagner's operas bang along for
six whole hours on a stretch! But the people sit there and enjoy it all,
and wish it would last longer. A German lady in Munich told me that a
person could not like Wagner's music at first, but must go through the
deliberate process of learning to like it--then he would have his sure
reward; for when he had learned to like it he would hunger for it and
never be able to get enough of it. She said that six hours of Wagner was
by no means too much. She said that this composer had made a complete
revolution in music and was burying the old masters one by one. And
she said that Wagner's operas differed from all others in one notable
respect, and that was that they were not merely spotted with music here
and there, but were ALL music, from the first strain to the last. This
surprised me. I said I had attended one of his insurrections, and found
hardly ANY music in it except the Wedding Chorus. She said "Lohengrin"
was noisier than Wagner's other operas, but that if I would keep on
going to see it I would find by and by that it was all music, and
therefore would then enjoy it. I COULD have said, "But would you advise
a person to deliberately practice having a toothache in the pit of his
stomach for a couple of years in order that he might then come to enjoy
it?" But I reserved that remark.
This lady was full of the praises of the head-tenor who had performed in
a Wagner opera the night before, and went on to enlarge upon his old and
prodigious fame, and how many honors had been lavished upon him by the
princely houses of Germany. Here was another surprise. I had attended
that very opera, in the person of my agent, and had made close and
accurate observations. So I said:
"Why, madam, MY experience warrants me in stating that that tenor's
voice is not a voice at all, but only a shriek--the shriek of a hyena."
"That is very true," she said; "he cannot sing now; it is already many
years that he has lost his voice, but in other times he sang, yes,
divinely! So whenever he comes now, you shall see, yes, that the theater
will not hold the people. JAWOHL BEI GOTT! his voice is WUNDERSCHOEN in
that past time."
I said she was discovering to me a kindly trait in the Germans which
was worth emulating. I said that over the water we were not quite so
generous; that with us, when a singer had lost his voice and a jumper
had lost his legs, these parties ceased to draw. I said I had been to
the opera in Hanover, once, and in Mannheim once, and in Munich
(through my authorized agent) once, and this large experience had nearly
persuaded me that the Germans PREFERRED singers who couldn't sing. This
was not such a very extravagant speech, either, for that burly Mannheim
tenor's praises had been the talk of all Heidelberg for a week before
his performance took place--yet his voice was like the distressing noise
which a nail makes when you screech it across a window-pane. I said so
to Heidelberg friends the next day, and they said, in the calmest and
simplest way, that that was very true, but that in earlier times his
voice HAD been wonderfully fine. And the tenor in Hanover was just
another example of this sort. The English-speaking German gentleman who
went with me to the opera there was brimming with enthusiasm over that
tenor. He said:
"ACH GOTT! a great man! You shall see him. He is so celebrate in all
Germany--and he has a pension, yes, from the government. He not obliged
to sing now, only twice every year; but if he not sing twice each year
they take him his pension away."
Very well, we went. When the renowned old tenor appeared, I got a nudge
and an excited whisper:
"Now you see him!"
But the "celebrate" was an astonishing disappointment to me. If he
had been behind a screen I should have supposed they were performing a
surgical operation on him. I looked at my friend--to my great surprise
he seemed intoxicated with pleasure, his eyes were dancing with eager
delight. When the curtain at last fell, he burst into the stormiest
applause, and kept it up--as did the whole house--until the afflictive
tenor had come three times before the curtain to make his bow. While the
glowing enthusiast was swabbing the perspiration from his face, I said:
"I don't mean the least harm, but really, now, do you think he can
"Him? NO! GOTT IM HIMMEL, ABER, how he has been able to sing twenty-five
years ago?" [Then pensively.] "ACH, no, NOW he not sing any more, he
only cry. When he think he sing, now, he not sing at all, no, he only
make like a cat which is unwell."
Where and how did we get the idea that the Germans are a stolid,
phlegmatic race? In truth, they are widely removed from that. They are
warm-hearted, emotional, impulsive, enthusiastic, their tears come at
the mildest touch, and it is not hard to move them to laughter. They are
the very children of impulse. We are cold and self-contained, compared
to the Germans. They hug and kiss and cry and shout and dance and sing;
and where we use one loving, petting expressions they pour out a score.
Their language is full of endearing diminutives; nothing that they love
escapes the application of a petting diminutive--neither the house, nor
the dog, nor the horse, nor the grandmother, nor any other creature,
animate or inanimate.
In the theaters at Hanover, Hamburg, and Mannheim, they had a wise
custom. The moment the curtain went up, the light in the body of the
house went down. The audience sat in the cool gloom of a deep twilight,
which greatly enhanced the glowing splendors of the stage. It saved gas,
too, and people were not sweated to death.
When I saw "King Lear" played, nobody was allowed to see a scene
shifted; if there was nothing to be done but slide a forest out of the
way and expose a temple beyond, one did not see that forest split itself
in the middle and go shrieking away, with the accompanying disenchanting
spectacle of the hands and heels of the impelling impulse--no, the
curtain was always dropped for an instant--one heard not the least
movement behind it--but when it went up, the next instant, the forest
was gone. Even when the stage was being entirely reset, one heard no
noise. During the whole time that "King Lear" was playing the curtain
was never down two minutes at any one time. The orchestra played until
the curtain was ready to go up for the first time, then they departed
for the evening. Where the stage waits never each two minutes there is
no occasion for music. I had never seen this two-minute business between
acts but once before, and that was when the "Shaughraun" was played at
I was at a concert in Munich one night, the people were streaming in,
the clock-hand pointed to seven, the music struck up, and instantly
all movement in the body of the house ceased--nobody was standing, or
walking up the aisles, or fumbling with a seat, the stream of incomers
had suddenly dried up at its source. I listened undisturbed to a piece
of music that was fifteen minutes long--always expecting some tardy
ticket-holders to come crowding past my knees, and being continuously
and pleasantly disappointed--but when the last note was struck, here
came the stream again. You see, they had made those late comers wait in
the comfortable waiting-parlor from the time the music had begin until
it was ended.
It was the first time I had ever seen this sort of criminals denied the
privilege of destroying the comfort of a house full of their betters.
Some of these were pretty fine birds, but no matter, they had to tarry
outside in the long parlor under the inspection of a double rank of
liveried footmen and waiting-maids who supported the two walls with
their backs and held the wraps and traps of their masters and mistresses
on their arms.
We had no footmen to hold our things, and it was not permissible to take
them into the concert-room; but there were some men and women to take
charge of them for us. They gave us checks for them and charged a fixed
price, payable in advance--five cents.
In Germany they always hear one thing at an opera which has never yet
been heard in America, perhaps--I mean the closing strain of a fine solo
or duet. We always smash into it with an earthquake of applause. The
result is that we rob ourselves of the sweetest part of the treat; we
get the whiskey, but we don't get the sugar in the bottom of the glass.
Our way of scattering applause along through an act seems to me to be
better than the Mannheim way of saving it all up till the act is ended.
I do not see how an actor can forget himself and portray hot passion
before a cold still audience. I should think he would feel foolish. It
is a pain to me to this day, to remember how that old German Lear raged
and wept and howled around the stage, with never a response from that
hushed house, never a single outburst till the act was ended. To
me there was something unspeakably uncomfortable in the solemn dead
silences that always followed this old person's tremendous outpourings
of his feelings. I could not help putting myself in his place--I thought
I knew how sick and flat he felt during those silences, because I
remembered a case which came under my observation once, and which--but I
will tell the incident:
One evening on board a Mississippi steamboat, a boy of ten years lay
asleep in a berth--a long, slim-legged boy, he was, encased in quite
a short shirt; it was the first time he had ever made a trip on a
steamboat, and so he was troubled, and scared, and had gone to bed
with his head filled with impending snaggings, and explosions, and
conflagrations, and sudden death. About ten o'clock some twenty ladies
were sitting around about the ladies' saloon, quietly reading, sewing,
embroidering, and so on, and among them sat a sweet, benignant old dame
with round spectacles on her nose and her busy knitting-needles in her
hands. Now all of a sudden, into the midst of this peaceful scene burst
that slim-shanked boy in the brief shirt, wild-eyed, erect-haired, and
shouting, "Fire, fire! JUMP AND RUN, THE BOAT'S AFIRE AND THERE AIN'T A
MINUTE TO LOSE!" All those ladies looked sweetly up and smiled, nobody
stirred, the old lady pulled her spectacles down, looked over them, and
"But you mustn't catch cold, child. Run and put on your breastpin, and
then come and tell us all about it."
It was a cruel chill to give to a poor little devil's gushing vehemence.
He was expecting to be a sort of hero--the creator of a wild panic--and
here everybody sat and smiled a mocking smile, and an old woman made fun
of his bugbear. I turned and crept away--for I was that boy--and never
even cared to discover whether I had dreamed the fire or actually seen
I am told that in a German concert or opera, they hardly ever encore
a song; that though they may be dying to hear it again, their good
breeding usually preserves them against requiring the repetition.
Kings may encore; that is quite another matter; it delights everybody to
see that the King is pleased; and as to the actor encored, his pride and
gratification are simply boundless. Still, there are circumstances in
which even a royal encore--
But it is better to illustrate. The King of Bavaria is a poet, and has a
poet's eccentricities--with the advantage over all other poets of being
able to gratify them, no matter what form they may take. He is fond
of opera, but not fond of sitting in the presence of an audience;
therefore, it has sometimes occurred, in Munich, that when an opera has
been concluded and the players were getting off their paint and finery,
a command has come to them to get their paint and finery on again.
Presently the King would arrive, solitary and alone, and the players
would begin at the beginning and do the entire opera over again with
only that one individual in the vast solemn theater for audience. Once
he took an odd freak into his head. High up and out of sight, over
the prodigious stage of the court theater is a maze of interlacing
water-pipes, so pierced that in case of fire, innumerable little
thread-like streams of water can be caused to descend; and in case
of need, this discharge can be augmented to a pouring flood. American
managers might want to make a note of that. The King was sole audience.
The opera proceeded, it was a piece with a storm in it; the mimic
thunder began to mutter, the mimic wind began to wail and sough, and
the mimic rain to patter. The King's interest rose higher and higher; it
developed into enthusiasm. He cried out:
"It is very, very good, indeed! But I will have real rain! Turn on the
The manager pleaded for a reversal of the command; said it would ruin
the costly scenery and the splendid costumes, but the King cried:
"No matter, no matter, I will have real rain! Turn on the water!"
So the real rain was turned on and began to descend in gossamer lances
to the mimic flower-beds and gravel walks of the stage. The richly
dressed actresses and actors tripped about singing bravely and
pretending not to mind it. The King was delighted--his enthusiasm grew
higher. He cried out:
"Bravo, bravo! More thunder! more lightning! turn on more rain!"
The thunder boomed, the lightning glared, the storm-winds raged, the
deluge poured down. The mimic royalty on the stage, with their soaked
satins clinging to their bodies, slopped about ankle-deep in water,
warbling their sweetest and best, the fiddlers under the eaves of the
state sawed away for dear life, with the cold overflow spouting down the
backs of their necks, and the dry and happy King sat in his lofty box
and wore his gloves to ribbons applauding.
"More yet!" cried the King; "more yet--let loose all the thunder, turn
on all the water! I will hang the man that raises an umbrella!"
When this most tremendous and effective storm that had ever been
produced in any theater was at last over, the King's approbation was
measureless. He cried:
"Magnificent, magnificent! ENCORE! Do it again!"
But the manager succeeded in persuading him to recall the encore, and
said the company would feel sufficiently rewarded and complimented
in the mere fact that the encore was desired by his Majesty, without
fatiguing him with a repetition to gratify their own vanity.
During the remainder of the act the lucky performers were those whose
parts required changes of dress; the others were a soaked, bedraggled,
and uncomfortable lot, but in the last degree picturesque. The stage
scenery was ruined, trap-doors were so swollen that they wouldn't work
for a week afterward, the fine costumes were spoiled, and no end of
minor damages were done by that remarkable storm.
It was royal idea--that storm--and royally carried out. But observe the
moderation of the King; he did not insist upon his encore. If he had
been a gladsome, unreflecting American opera-audience, he probably would
have had his storm repeated and repeated until he drowned all those
CHAPTER XI [I Paint a "Turner"]
The summer days passed pleasantly in Heidelberg. We had a skilled
trainer, and under his instructions we were getting our legs in the
right condition for the contemplated pedestrian tours; we were well
satisfied with the progress which we had made in the German language,
[1. See Appendix D for information concerning this fearful tongue.] and
more than satisfied with what we had accomplished in art. We had had the
best instructors in drawing and painting in Germany--Haemmerling, Vogel,
Mueller, Dietz, and Schumann. Haemmerling taught us landscape-painting.
Vogel taught us figure-drawing, Mueller taught us to do still-life,
and Dietz and Schumann gave us a finishing course in two
specialties--battle-pieces and shipwrecks. Whatever I am in Art I owe to
these men. I have something of the manner of each and all of them;
but they all said that I had also a manner of my own, and that it
was conspicuous. They said there was a marked individuality about my
style--insomuch that if I ever painted the commonest type of a dog, I
should be sure to throw a something into the aspect of that dog which
would keep him from being mistaken for the creation of any other artist.
Secretly I wanted to believe all these kind sayings, but I could not; I
was afraid that my masters' partiality for me, and pride in me, biased
their judgment. So I resolved to make a test. Privately, and unknown to
any one, I painted my great picture, "Heidelberg Castle Illuminated"--my
first really important work in oils--and had it hung up in the midst
of a wilderness of oil-pictures in the Art Exhibition, with no name
attached to it. To my great gratification it was instantly recognized
as mine. All the town flocked to see it, and people even came from
neighboring localities to visit it. It made more stir than any other
work in the Exhibition. But the most gratifying thing of all was, that
chance strangers, passing through, who had not heard of my picture, were
not only drawn to it, as by a lodestone, the moment they entered the
gallery, but always took it for a "Turner."
Apparently nobody had ever done that. There were ruined castles on the
overhanging cliffs and crags all the way; these were said to have their
legends, like those on the Rhine, and what was better still, they had
never been in print. There was nothing in the books about that lovely
region; it had been neglected by the tourist, it was virgin soil for the
Meantime the knapsacks, the rough walking-suits and the stout
walking-shoes which we had ordered, were finished and brought to us.
A Mr. X and a young Mr. Z had agreed to go with us. We went around one
evening and bade good-by to our friends, and afterward had a little
farewell banquet at the hotel. We got to bed early, for we wanted to
make an early start, so as to take advantage of the cool of the morning.
We were out of bed at break of day, feeling fresh and vigorous, and took
a hearty breakfast, then plunged down through the leafy arcades of the
Castle grounds, toward the town. What a glorious summer morning it was,
and how the flowers did pour out their fragrance, and how the birds did
sing! It was just the time for a tramp through the woods and mountains.
We were all dressed alike: broad slouch hats, to keep the sun off; gray
knapsacks; blue army shirts; blue overalls; leathern gaiters buttoned
tight from knee down to ankle; high-quarter coarse shoes snugly laced.
Each man had an opera-glass, a canteen, and a guide-book case slung over
his shoulder, and carried an alpenstock in one hand and a sun-umbrella
in the other. Around our hats were wound many folds of soft white
muslin, with the ends hanging and flapping down our backs--an idea
brought from the Orient and used by tourists all over Europe. Harris
carried the little watch-like machine called a "pedometer," whose
office is to keep count of a man's steps and tell how far he has walked.
Everybody stopped to admire our costumes and give us a hearty "Pleasant
march to you!"
When we got downtown I found that we could go by rail to within five
miles of Heilbronn. The train was just starting, so we jumped aboard and
went tearing away in splendid spirits. It was agreed all around that we
had done wisely, because it would be just as enjoyable to walk DOWN the
Neckar as up it, and it could not be needful to walk both ways. There
were some nice German people in our compartment. I got to talking some
pretty private matters presently, and Harris became nervous; so he
nudged me and said:
"Speak in German--these Germans may understand English."
I did so, it was well I did; for it turned out that there was not a
German in that party who did not understand English perfectly. It is
curious how widespread our language is in Germany. After a while some of
those folks got out and a German gentleman and his two young daughters
got in. I spoke in German of one of the latter several times, but
without result. Finally she said:
"ICH VERSTEHE NUR DEUTCH UND ENGLISHE,"--or words to that effect. That
is, "I don't understand any language but German and English."
And sure enough, not only she but her father and sister spoke English.
So after that we had all the talk we wanted; and we wanted a good deal,
for they were agreeable people. They were greatly interested in our
customs; especially the alpenstocks, for they had not seen any before.
They said that the Neckar road was perfectly level, so we must be going
to Switzerland or some other rugged country; and asked us if we did not
find the walking pretty fatiguing in such warm weather. But we said no.
We reached Wimpfen--I think it was Wimpfen--in about three hours, and
got out, not the least tired; found a good hotel and ordered beer and
dinner--then took a stroll through the venerable old village. It was
very picturesque and tumble-down, and dirty and interesting. It had
queer houses five hundred years old in it, and a military tower 115 feet
high, which had stood there more than ten centuries. I made a little
sketch of it. I kept a copy, but gave the original to the Burgomaster. I
think the original was better than the copy, because it had more windows
in it and the grass stood up better and had a brisker look. There was
none around the tower, though; I composed the grass myself, from studies
I made in a field by Heidelberg in Haemmerling's time. The man on top,
looking at the view, is apparently too large, but I found he could not
be made smaller, conveniently. I wanted him there, and I wanted him
visible, so I thought out a way to manage it; I composed the picture
from two points of view; the spectator is to observe the man from
bout where that flag is, and he must observe the tower itself from the
ground. This harmonizes the seeming discrepancy. [Figure 2]
Near an old cathedral, under a shed, were three crosses of stone--moldy
and damaged things, bearing life-size stone figures. The two thieves
were dressed in the fanciful court costumes of the middle of the
sixteenth century, while the Saviour was nude, with the exception of a
cloth around the loins.
We had dinner under the green trees in a garden belonging to the hotel
and overlooking the Neckar; then, after a smoke, we went to bed. We had
a refreshing nap, then got up about three in the afternoon and put
on our panoply. As we tramped gaily out at the gate of the town, we
overtook a peasant's cart, partly laden with odds and ends of cabbages
and similar vegetable rubbish, and drawn by a small cow and a smaller
donkey yoked together. It was a pretty slow concern, but it got us into
Heilbronn before dark--five miles, or possibly it was seven.
We stopped at the very same inn which the famous old robber-knight
and rough fighter Goetz von Berlichingen, abode in after he got out of
captivity in the Square Tower of Heilbronn between three hundred and
fifty and four hundred years ago. Harris and I occupied the same room
which he had occupied and the same paper had not quite peeled off the
walls yet. The furniture was quaint old carved stuff, full four hundred
years old, and some of the smells were over a thousand. There was a hook
in the wall, which the landlord said the terrific old Goetz used to hang
his iron hand on when he took it off to go to bed. This room was very
large--it might be called immense--and it was on the first floor; which
means it was in the second story, for in Europe the houses are so
high that they do not count the first story, else they would get tired
climbing before they got to the top. The wallpaper was a fiery red, with
huge gold figures in it, well smirched by time, and it covered all the
doors. These doors fitted so snugly and continued the figures of the
paper so unbrokenly, that when they were closed one had to go feeling
and searching along the wall to find them. There was a stove in the
corner--one of those tall, square, stately white porcelain things that
looks like a monument and keeps you thinking of death when you ought to
be enjoying your travels. The windows looked out on a little alley, and
over that into a stable and some poultry and pig yards in the rear of
some tenement-houses. There were the customary two beds in the room,
one in one end, the other in the other, about an old-fashioned
brass-mounted, single-barreled pistol-shot apart. They were fully
as narrow as the usual German bed, too, and had the German bed's
ineradicable habit of spilling the blankets on the floor every time you
forgot yourself and went to sleep.
A round table as large as King Arthur's stood in the center of the room;
while the waiters were getting ready to serve our dinner on it we
all went out to see the renowned clock on the front of the municipal
CHAPTER XII [What the Wives Saved]
The RATHHAUS, or municipal building, is of the quaintest and most
picturesque Middle-Age architecture. It has a massive portico and steps,
before it, heavily balustraded, and adorned with life-sized rusty iron
knights in complete armor. The clock-face on the front of the building
is very large and of curious pattern. Ordinarily, a gilded angel
strikes the hour on a big bell with a hammer; as the striking ceases, a
life-sized figure of Time raises its hour-glass and turns it; two golden
rams advance and butt each other; a gilded cock lifts its wings; but the
main features are two great angels, who stand on each side of the dial
with long horns at their lips; it was said that they blew melodious
blasts on these horns every hour--but they did not do it for us. We were
told, later, than they blew only at night, when the town was still.
Within the RATHHAUS were a number of huge wild boars' heads, preserved,
and mounted on brackets along the wall; they bore inscriptions telling
who killed them and how many hundred years ago it was done. One room in
the building was devoted to the preservation of ancient archives. There
they showed us no end of aged documents; some were signed by Popes,
some by Tilly and other great generals, and one was a letter written and
subscribed by Goetz von Berlichingen in Heilbronn in 1519 just after his
release from the Square Tower.
This fine old robber-knight was a devoutly and sincerely religious
man, hospitable, charitable to the poor, fearless in fight, active,
enterprising, and possessed of a large and generous nature. He had in
him a quality of being able to overlook moderate injuries, and being
able to forgive and forget mortal ones as soon as he had soundly
trounced the authors of them. He was prompt to take up any poor devil's
quarrel and risk his neck to right him. The common folk held him dear,
and his memory is still green in ballad and tradition. He used to go on
the highway and rob rich wayfarers; and other times he would swoop down
from his high castle on the hills of the Neckar and capture passing
cargoes of merchandise. In his memoirs he piously thanks the Giver of
all Good for remembering him in his needs and delivering sundry such
cargoes into his hands at times when only special providences could have
relieved him. He was a doughty warrior and found a deep joy in battle.
In an assault upon a stronghold in Bavaria when he was only twenty-three
years old, his right hand was shot away, but he was so interested in the
fight that he did not observe it for a while. He said that the iron hand
which was made for him afterward, and which he wore for more than half a
century, was nearly as clever a member as the fleshy one had been. I was
glad to get a facsimile of the letter written by this fine old German
Robin Hood, though I was not able to read it. He was a better artist
with his sword than with his pen.
We went down by the river and saw the Square Tower. It was a very
venerable structure, very strong, and very ornamental. There was no
opening near the ground. They had to use a ladder to get into it, no
We visited the principal church, also--a curious old structure, with a
towerlike spire adorned with all sorts of grotesque images. The inner
walls of the church were placarded with large mural tablets of copper,
bearing engraved inscriptions celebrating the merits of old Heilbronn
worthies of two or three centuries ago, and also bearing rudely painted
effigies of themselves and their families tricked out in the queer
costumes of those days. The head of the family sat in the foreground,
and beyond him extended a sharply receding and diminishing row of
sons; facing him sat his wife, and beyond her extended a low row of
diminishing daughters. The family was usually large, but the perspective
Then we hired the hack and the horse which Goetz von Berlichingen used
to use, and drove several miles into the country to visit the place
called WEIBERTREU--Wife's Fidelity I suppose it means. It was a feudal
castle of the Middle Ages. When we reached its neighborhood we found
it was beautifully situated, but on top of a mound, or hill, round and
tolerably steep, and about two hundred feet high. Therefore, as the sun
was blazing hot, we did not climb up there, but took the place on trust,
and observed it from a distance while the horse leaned up against a
fence and rested. The place has no interest except that which is lent it
by its legend, which is a very pretty one--to this effect:
In the Middle Ages, a couple of young dukes, brothers, took opposite
sides in one of the wars, the one fighting for the Emperor, the other
against him. One of them owned the castle and village on top of the
mound which I have been speaking of, and in his absence his brother
came with his knights and soldiers and began a siege. It was a long and
tedious business, for the people made a stubborn and faithful defense.
But at last their supplies ran out and starvation began its work;
more fell by hunger than by the missiles of the enemy. They by and
by surrendered, and begged for charitable terms. But the beleaguering
prince was so incensed against them for their long resistance that he
said he would spare none but the women and children--all men should be
put to the sword without exception, and all their goods destroyed. Then
the women came and fell on their knees and begged for the lives of their
"No," said the prince, "not a man of them shall escape alive; you
yourselves shall go with your children into houseless and friendless
banishment; but that you may not starve I grant you this one grace,
that each woman may bear with her from this place as much of her most
valuable property as she is able to carry."
Very well, presently the gates swung open and out filed those women
carrying their HUSBANDS on their shoulders. The besiegers, furious at
the trick, rushed forward to slaughter the men, but the Duke stepped
between and said:
"No, put up your swords--a prince's word is inviolable."
When we got back to the hotel, King Arthur's Round Table was ready for
us in its white drapery, and the head waiter and his first assistant, in
swallow-tails and white cravats, brought in the soup and the hot plates
Mr. X had ordered the dinner, and when the wine came on, he picked up
a bottle, glanced at the label, and then turned to the grave, the
melancholy, the sepulchral head waiter and said it was not the sort of
wine he had asked for. The head waiter picked up the bottle, cast his
undertaker-eye on it and said:
"It is true; I beg pardon." Then he turned on his subordinate and calmly
said, "Bring another label."
At the same time he slid the present label off with his hand and laid it
aside; it had been newly put on, its paste was still wet. When the new
label came, he put it on; our French wine being now turned into German
wine, according to desire, the head waiter went blandly about his other
duties, as if the working of this sort of miracle was a common and easy
thing to him.
Mr. X said he had not known, before, that there were people honest
enough to do this miracle in public, but he was aware that thousands
upon thousands of labels were imported into America from Europe every
year, to enable dealers to furnish to their customers in a quiet and
inexpensive way all the different kinds of foreign wines they might
We took a turn around the town, after dinner, and found it fully as
interesting in the moonlight as it had been in the daytime. The streets
were narrow and roughly paved, and there was not a sidewalk or a
street-lamp anywhere. The dwellings were centuries old, and vast enough
for hotels. They widened all the way up; the stories projected further
and further forward and aside as they ascended, and the long rows
of lighted windows, filled with little bits of panes, curtained with
figured white muslin and adorned outside with boxes of flowers, made
a pretty effect. The moon was bright, and the light and shadow very
strong; and nothing could be more picturesque than those curving
streets, with their rows of huge high gables leaning far over toward
each other in a friendly gossiping way, and the crowds below drifting
through the alternating blots of gloom and mellow bars of moonlight.
Nearly everybody was abroad, chatting, singing, romping, or massed in
lazy comfortable attitudes in the doorways.
In one place there was a public building which was fenced about with a
thick, rusty chain, which sagged from post to post in a succession of
low swings. The pavement, here, was made of heavy blocks of stone. In
the glare of the moon a party of barefooted children were swinging on
those chains and having a noisy good time. They were not the first ones
who have done that; even their great-great-grandfathers had not been the
first to do it when they were children. The strokes of the bare feet
had worn grooves inches deep in the stone flags; it had taken many
generations of swinging children to accomplish that. Everywhere in the
town were the mold and decay that go with antiquity, and evidence of it;
but I do not know that anything else gave us so vivid a sense of the old
age of Heilbronn as those footworn grooves in the paving-stones.
CHAPTER XIII [My Long Crawl in the Dark]
When we got back to the hotel I wound and set the pedometer and put
it in my pocket, for I was to carry it next day and keep record of the
miles we made. The work which we had given the instrument to do during
the day which had just closed had not fatigued it perceptibly.
We were in bed by ten, for we wanted to be up and away on our tramp
homeward with the dawn. I hung fire, but Harris went to sleep at once.
I hate a man who goes to sleep at once; there is a sort of indefinable
something about it which is not exactly an insult, and yet is an
insolence; and one which is hard to bear, too. I lay there fretting
over this injury, and trying to go to sleep; but the harder I tried, the
wider awake I grew. I got to feeling very lonely in the dark, with no
company but an undigested dinner. My mind got a start by and by, and
began to consider the beginning of every subject which has ever been
thought of; but it never went further than the beginning; it was touch
and go; it fled from topic to topic with a frantic speed. At the end of
an hour my head was in a perfect whirl and I was dead tired, fagged out.
The fatigue was so great that it presently began to make some head
against the nervous excitement; while imagining myself wide awake, I
would really doze into momentary unconsciousness, and come suddenly out
of it with a physical jerk which nearly wrenched my joints apart--the
delusion of the instant being that I was tumbling backward over a
precipice. After I had fallen over eight or nine precipices and thus
found out that one half of my brain had been asleep eight or nine times
without the wide-awake, hard-working other half suspecting it, the
periodical unconsciousnesses began to extend their spell gradually over
more of my brain-territory, and at last I sank into a drowse which grew
deeper and deeper and was doubtless just on the very point of being a
solid, blessed dreamless stupor, when--what was that?
My dulled faculties dragged themselves partly back to life and took a
receptive attitude. Now out of an immense, a limitless distance, came
a something which grew and grew, and approached, and presently was
recognizable as a sound--it had rather seemed to be a feeling, before.
This sound was a mile away, now--perhaps it was the murmur of a storm;
and now it was nearer--not a quarter of a mile away; was it the muffled
rasping and grinding of distant machinery? No, it came still nearer; was
it the measured tramp of a marching troop? But it came nearer still,
and still nearer--and at last it was right in the room: it was merely
a mouse gnawing the woodwork. So I had held my breath all that time for
such a trifle.
Well, what was done could not be helped; I would go to sleep at once and
make up the lost time. That was a thoughtless thought. Without intending
it--hardly knowing it--I fell to listening intently to that sound, and
even unconsciously counting the strokes of the mouse's nutmeg-grater.
Presently I was deriving exquisite suffering from this employment, yet
maybe I could have endured it if the mouse had attended steadily to
his work; but he did not do that; he stopped every now and then, and I
suffered more while waiting and listening for him to begin again than
I did while he was gnawing. Along at first I was mentally offering a
reward of five--six--seven--ten--dollars for that mouse; but toward
the last I was offering rewards which were entirely beyond my means. I
close-reefed my ears--that is to say, I bent the flaps of them down
and furled them into five or six folds, and pressed them against the
hearing-orifice--but it did no good: the faculty was so sharpened
by nervous excitement that it was become a microphone and could hear
through the overlays without trouble.
My anger grew to a frenzy. I finally did what all persons before me have
done, clear back to Adam,--resolved to throw something. I reached down
and got my walking-shoes, then sat up in bed and listened, in order to
exactly locate the noise. But I couldn't do it; it was as unlocatable as
a cricket's noise; and where one thinks that that is, is always the very
place where it isn't. So I presently hurled a shoe at random, and with
a vicious vigor. It struck the wall over Harris's head and fell down on
him; I had not imagined I could throw so far. It woke Harris, and I was
glad of it until I found he was not angry; then I was sorry. He soon
went to sleep again, which pleased me; but straightway the mouse began
again, which roused my temper once more. I did not want to wake Harris
a second time, but the gnawing continued until I was compelled to
throw the other shoe. This time I broke a mirror--there were two in the
room--I got the largest one, of course. Harris woke again, but did not
complain, and I was sorrier than ever. I resolved that I would suffer
all possible torture before I would disturb him a third time.
The mouse eventually retired, and by and by I was sinking to sleep, when
a clock began to strike; I counted till it was done, and was about to
drowse again when another clock began; I counted; then the two great
RATHHAUS clock angels began to send forth soft, rich, melodious blasts
from their long trumpets. I had never heard anything that was so lovely,
or weird, or mysterious--but when they got to blowing the quarter-hours,
they seemed to me to be overdoing the thing. Every time I dropped
off for the moment, a new noise woke me. Each time I woke I missed my
coverlet, and had to reach down to the floor and get it again.
At last all sleepiness forsook me. I recognized the fact that I was
hopelessly and permanently wide awake. Wide awake, and feverish and
thirsty. When I had lain tossing there as long as I could endure it, it
occurred to me that it would be a good idea to dress and go out in the
great square and take a refreshing wash in the fountain, and smoke and
reflect there until the remnant of the night was gone.
I believed I could dress in the dark without waking Harris. I had
banished my shoes after the mouse, but my slippers would do for a summer
night. So I rose softly, and gradually got on everything--down to one
sock. I couldn't seem to get on the track of that sock, any way I could
fix it. But I had to have it; so I went down on my hands and knees, with
one slipper on and the other in my hand, and began to paw gently around
and rake the floor, but with no success. I enlarged my circle, and went
on pawing and raking. With every pressure of my knee, how the floor
creaked! and every time I chanced to rake against any article, it seemed
to give out thirty-five or thirty-six times more noise than it would
have done in the daytime. In those cases I always stopped and held
my breath till I was sure Harris had not awakened--then I crept along
again. I moved on and on, but I could not find the sock; I could not
seem to find anything but furniture. I could not remember that there was
much furniture in the room when I went to bed, but the place was alive
with it now--especially chairs--chairs everywhere--had a couple of
families moved in, in the mean time? And I never could seem to GLANCE on
one of those chairs, but always struck it full and square with my head.
My temper rose, by steady and sure degrees, and as I pawed on and on, I
fell to making vicious comments under my breath.
Finally, with a venomous access of irritation, I said I would leave
without the sock; so I rose up and made straight for the door--as I
supposed--and suddenly confronted my dim spectral image in the unbroken
mirror. It startled the breath out of me, for an instant; it also showed
me that I was lost, and had no sort of idea where I was. When I realized
this, I was so angry that I had to sit down on the floor and take hold
of something to keep from lifting the roof off with an explosion of
opinion. If there had been only one mirror, it might possibly have
helped to locate me; but there were two, and two were as bad as a
thousand; besides, these were on opposite sides of the room. I could see
the dim blur of the windows, but in my turned-around condition they were
exactly where they ought not to be, and so they only confused me instead
of helping me.
I started to get up, and knocked down an umbrella; it made a noise
like a pistol-shot when it struck that hard, slick, carpetless floor;
I grated my teeth and held my breath--Harris did not stir. I set the
umbrella slowly and carefully on end against the wall, but as soon as
I took my hand away, its heel slipped from under it, and down it came
again with another bang. I shrunk together and listened a moment in
silent fury--no harm done, everything quiet. With the most painstaking
care and nicety, I stood the umbrella up once more, took my hand away,
and down it came again.
I have been strictly reared, but if it had not been so dark and solemn
and awful there in that lonely, vast room, I do believe I should have
said something then which could not be put into a Sunday-school book
without injuring the sale of it. If my reasoning powers had not been
already sapped dry by my harassments, I would have known better than to
try to set an umbrella on end on one of those glassy German floors in
the dark; it can't be done in the daytime without four failures to one
success. I had one comfort, though--Harris was yet still and silent--he
had not stirred.
The umbrella could not locate me--there were four standing around the
room, and all alike. I thought I would feel along the wall and find the
door in that way. I rose up and began this operation, but raked down
a picture. It was not a large one, but it made noise enough for a
panorama. Harris gave out no sound, but I felt that if I experimented
any further with the pictures I should be sure to wake him. Better give
up trying to get out. Yes, I would find King Arthur's Round Table once
more--I had already found it several times--and use it for a base of
departure on an exploring tour for my bed; if I could find my bed I
could then find my water pitcher; I would quench my raging thirst and
turn in. So I started on my hands and knees, because I could go faster
that way, and with more confidence, too, and not knock down things. By
and by I found the table--with my head--rubbed the bruise a little, then
rose up and started, with hands abroad and fingers spread, to balance
myself. I found a chair; then a wall; then another chair; then a sofa;
then an alpenstock, then another sofa; this confounded me, for I had
thought there was only one sofa. I hunted up the table again and took a
fresh start; found some more chairs.
It occurred to me, now, as it ought to have done before, that as the
table was round, it was therefore of no value as a base to aim from; so
I moved off once more, and at random among the wilderness of chairs and
sofas--wandering off into unfamiliar regions, and presently knocked a
candlestick and knocked off a lamp, grabbed at the lamp and knocked
off a water pitcher with a rattling crash, and thought to myself,
"I've found you at last--I judged I was close upon you." Harris shouted
"murder," and "thieves," and finished with "I'm absolutely drowned."
The crash had roused the house. Mr. X pranced in, in his long
night-garment, with a candle, young Z after him with another candle; a
procession swept in at another door, with candles and lanterns--landlord
and two German guests in their nightgowns and a chambermaid in hers.
I looked around; I was at Harris's bed, a Sabbath-day's journey from my
own. There was only one sofa; it was against the wall; there was only
one chair where a body could get at it--I had been revolving around it
like a planet, and colliding with it like a comet half the night.
I explained how I had been employing myself, and why. Then the
landlord's party left, and the rest of us set about our preparations for
breakfast, for the dawn was ready to break. I glanced furtively at my
pedometer, and found I had made 47 miles. But I did not care, for I had
come out for a pedestrian tour anyway.
CHAPTER XIV [Rafting Down the Neckar]
When the landlord learned that I and my agents were artists, our party
rose perceptibly in his esteem; we rose still higher when he learned
that we were making a pedestrian tour of Europe.
He told us all about the Heidelberg road, and which were the best places
to avoid and which the best ones to tarry at; he charged me less than
cost for the things I broke in the night; he put up a fine luncheon
for us and added to it a quantity of great light-green plums, the
pleasantest fruit in Germany; he was so anxious to do us honor that he
would not allow us to walk out of Heilbronn, but called up Goetz von
Berlichingen's horse and cab and made us ride.
I made a sketch of the turnout. It is not a Work, it is only what
artists call a "study"--a thing to make a finished picture from. This
sketch has several blemishes in it; for instance, the wagon is not
traveling as fast as the horse is. This is wrong. Again, the person
trying to get out of the way is too small; he is out of perspective,
as we say. The two upper lines are not the horse's back, they are the
reigns; there seems to be a wheel missing--this would be corrected in a
finished Work, of course. This thing flying out behind is not a flag,
it is a curtain. That other thing up there is the sun, but I didn't get
enough distance on it. I do not remember, now, what that thing is that
is in front of the man who is running, but I think it is a haystack or a
woman. This study was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1879, but did not
take any medal; they do not give medals for studies. [Figure 3]
We discharged the carriage at the bridge. The river was full of
logs--long, slender, barkless pine logs--and we leaned on the rails
of the bridge, and watched the men put them together into rafts. These
rafts were of a shape and construction to suit the crookedness and
extreme narrowness of the Neckar. They were from fifty to one hundred
yards long, and they gradually tapered from a nine-log breadth at their
sterns, to a three-log breadth at their bow-ends. The main part of the
steering is done at the bow, with a pole; the three-log breadth there
furnishes room for only the steersman, for these little logs are not
larger around than an average young lady's waist. The connections of the
several sections of the raft are slack and pliant, so that the raft
may be readily bent into any sort of curve required by the shape of the
The Neckar is in many places so narrow that a person can throw a dog
across it, if he has one; when it is also sharply curved in such places,
the raftsman has to do some pretty nice snug piloting to make the turns.
The river is not always allowed to spread over its whole bed--which is
as much as thirty, and sometimes forty yards wide--but is split into
three equal bodies of water, by stone dikes which throw the main
volume, depth, and current into the central one. In low water these neat
narrow-edged dikes project four or five inches above the surface, like
the comb of a submerged roof, but in high water they are overflowed. A
hatful of rain makes high water in the Neckar, and a basketful produces
There are dikes abreast the Schloss Hotel, and the current is violently
swift at that point. I used to sit for hours in my glass cage, watching
the long, narrow rafts slip along through the central channel, grazing
the right-bank dike and aiming carefully for the middle arch of the
stone bridge below; I watched them in this way, and lost all this time
hoping to see one of them hit the bridge-pier and wreck itself sometime
or other, but was always disappointed. One was smashed there one
morning, but I had just stepped into my room a moment to light a pipe,
so I lost it.
While I was looking down upon the rafts that morning in Heilbronn, the
daredevil spirit of adventure came suddenly upon me, and I said to my
"_I_ am going to Heidelberg on a raft. Will you venture with me?"
Their faces paled a little, but they assented with as good a grace as
they could. Harris wanted to cable his mother--thought it his duty to
do that, as he was all she had in this world--so, while he attended to
this, I went down to the longest and finest raft and hailed the captain
with a hearty "Ahoy, shipmate!" which put us upon pleasant terms at
once, and we entered upon business. I said we were on a pedestrian tour
to Heidelberg, and would like to take passage with him. I said this
partly through young Z, who spoke German very well, and partly through
Mr. X, who spoke it peculiarly. I can UNDERSTAND German as well as the
maniac that invented it, but I TALK it best through an interpreter.
The captain hitched up his trousers, then shifted his quid thoughtfully.
Presently he said just what I was expecting he would say--that he had no
license to carry passengers, and therefore was afraid the law would be
after him in case the matter got noised about or any accident happened.
So I CHARTERED the raft and the crew and took all the responsibilities
With a rattling song the starboard watch bent to their work and hove
the cable short, then got the anchor home, and our bark moved off with a
stately stride, and soon was bowling along at about two knots an hour.
Our party were grouped amidships. At first the talk was a little gloomy,
and ran mainly upon the shortness of life, the uncertainty of it, the
perils which beset it, and the need and wisdom of being always prepared
for the worst; this shaded off into low-voiced references to the dangers
of the deep, and kindred matters; but as the gray east began to redden
and the mysterious solemnity and silence of the dawn to give place
to the joy-songs of the birds, the talk took a cheerier tone, and our
spirits began to rise steadily.
Germany, in the summer, is the perfection of the beautiful, but nobody
has understood, and realized, and enjoyed the utmost possibilities of
this soft and peaceful beauty unless he has voyaged down the Neckar on
a raft. The motion of a raft is the needful motion; it is gentle,
and gliding, and smooth, and noiseless; it calms down all feverish
activities, it soothes to sleep all nervous hurry and impatience; under
its restful influence all the troubles and vexations and sorrows that
harass the mind vanish away, and existence becomes a dream, a charm,
a deep and tranquil ecstasy. How it contrasts with hot and perspiring
pedestrianism, and dusty and deafening railroad rush, and tedious
jolting behind tired horses over blinding white roads!
We went slipping silently along, between the green and fragrant banks,
with a sense of pleasure and contentment that grew, and grew, all the
time. Sometimes the banks were overhung with thick masses of willows
that wholly hid the ground behind; sometimes we had noble hills on one
hand, clothed densely with foliage to their tops, and on the other hand
open levels blazing with poppies, or clothed in the rich blue of
the corn-flower; sometimes we drifted in the shadow of forests, and
sometimes along the margin of long stretches of velvety grass, fresh and
green and bright, a tireless charm to the eye. And the birds!--they were
everywhere; they swept back and forth across the river constantly, and
their jubilant music was never stilled.
It was a deep and satisfying pleasure to see the sun create the new
morning, and gradually, patiently, lovingly, clothe it on with splendor
after splendor, and glory after glory, till the miracle was complete.
How different is this marvel observed from a raft, from what it is when
one observes it through the dingy windows of a railway-station in some
wretched village while he munches a petrified sandwich and waits for the
CHAPTER XV Down the River [Charming Waterside Pictures]
Men and women and cattle were at work in the dewy fields by this time.
The people often stepped aboard the raft, as we glided along the grassy
shores, and gossiped with us and with the crew for a hundred yards or
so, then stepped ashore again, refreshed by the ride.
Only the men did this; the women were too busy. The women do all kinds
of work on the continent. They dig, they hoe, they reap, they sow, they
bear monstrous burdens on their backs, they shove similar ones long
distances on wheelbarrows, they drag the cart when there is no dog or
lean cow to drag it--and when there is, they assist the dog or cow. Age
is no matter--the older the woman the stronger she is, apparently.
On the farm a woman's duties are not defined--she does a little of
everything; but in the towns it is different, there she only does
certain things, the men do the rest. For instance, a hotel chambermaid
has nothing to do but make beds and fires in fifty or sixty rooms, bring
towels and candles, and fetch several tons of water up several flights
of stairs, a hundred pounds at a time, in prodigious metal pitchers. She
does not have to work more than eighteen or twenty hours a day, and
she can always get down on her knees and scrub the floors of halls and
closets when she is tired and needs a rest.
As the morning advanced and the weather grew hot, we took off our
outside clothing and sat in a row along the edge of the raft and enjoyed
the scenery, with our sun-umbrellas over our heads and our legs dangling
in the water. Every now and then we plunged in and had a swim. Every
projecting grassy cape had its joyous group of naked children, the boys
to themselves and the girls to themselves, the latter usually in care of
some motherly dame who sat in the shade of a tree with her knitting.
The little boys swam out to us, sometimes, but the little maids stood
knee-deep in the water and stopped their splashing and frolicking to
inspect the raft with their innocent eyes as it drifted by. Once we
turned a corner suddenly and surprised a slender girl of twelve years or
upward, just stepping into the water. She had not time to run, but she
did what answered just as well; she promptly drew a lithe young willow
bough athwart her white body with one hand, and then contemplated us
with a simple and untroubled interest. Thus she stood while we glided
by. She was a pretty creature, and she and her willow bough made a very
pretty picture, and one which could not offend the modesty of the most
fastidious spectator. Her white skin had a low bank of fresh green
willows for background and effective contrast--for she stood against
them--and above and out of them projected the eager faces and white
shoulders of two smaller girls.
Toward noon we heard the inspiring cry:
"Where away?" shouted the captain.
"Three points off the weather bow!"
We ran forward to see the vessel. It proved to be a steamboat--for they
had begun to run a steamer up the Neckar, for the first time in May.
She was a tug, and one of a very peculiar build and aspect. I had often
watched her from the hotel, and wondered how she propelled herself, for
apparently she had no propeller or paddles. She came churning along,
now, making a deal of noise of one kind or another, and aggravating it
every now and then by blowing a hoarse whistle. She had nine keel-boats
hitched on behind and following after her in a long, slender rank. We
met her in a narrow place, between dikes, and there was hardly room for
us both in the cramped passage. As she went grinding and groaning by, we
perceived the secret of her moving impulse. She did not drive herself up
the river with paddles or propeller, she pulled herself by hauling on
a great chain. This chain is laid in the bed of the river and is only
fastened at the two ends. It is seventy miles long. It comes in over the
boat's bow, passes around a drum, and is payed out astern. She pulls
on that chain, and so drags herself up the river or down it. She has
neither bow or stern, strictly speaking, for she has a long-bladed
rudder on each end and she never turns around. She uses both rudders
all the time, and they are powerful enough to enable her to turn to
the right or the left and steer around curves, in spite of the strong
resistance of the chain. I would not have believed that that impossible
thing could be done; but I saw it done, and therefore I know that there
is one impossible thing which CAN be done. What miracle will man attempt
We met many big keel-boats on their way up, using sails, mule power, and
profanity--a tedious and laborious business. A wire rope led from the
foretopmast to the file of mules on the tow-path a hundred yards ahead,
and by dint of much banging and swearing and urging, the detachment of
drivers managed to get a speed of two or three miles an hour out of the
mules against the stiff current. The Neckar has always been used as a
canal, and thus has given employment to a great many men and animals;
but now that this steamboat is able, with a small crew and a bushel or
so of coal, to take nine keel-boats farther up the river in one hour
than thirty men and thirty mules can do it in two, it is believed
that the old-fashioned towing industry is on its death-bed. A second
steamboat began work in the Neckar three months after the first one was
put in service. [Figure 4]
At noon we stepped ashore and bought some bottled beer and got some
chickens cooked, while the raft waited; then we immediately put to sea
again, and had our dinner while the beer was cold and the chickens hot.
There is no pleasanter place for such a meal than a raft that is
gliding down the winding Neckar past green meadows and wooded hills, and
slumbering villages, and craggy heights graced with crumbling towers and
In one place we saw a nicely dressed German gentleman without any
spectacles. Before I could come to anchor he had got underway. It was a
great pity. I so wanted to make a sketch of him. The captain comforted
me for my loss, however, by saying that the man was without any doubt a
fraud who had spectacles, but kept them in his pocket in order to make
Below Hassmersheim we passed Hornberg, Goetz von Berlichingen's old
castle. It stands on a bold elevation two hundred feet above the surface
of the river; it has high vine-clad walls enclosing trees, and a peaked
tower about seventy-five feet high. The steep hillside, from the castle
clear down to the water's edge, is terraced, and clothed thick with
grape vines. This is like farming a mansard roof. All the steeps along
that part of the river which furnish the proper exposure, are given
up to the grape. That region is a great producer of Rhine wines. The
Germans are exceedingly fond of Rhine wines; they are put up in tall,
slender bottles, and are considered a pleasant beverage. One tells them
from vinegar by the label.
The Hornberg hill is to be tunneled, and the new railway will pass under
THE CAVE OF THE SPECTER
Two miles below Hornberg castle is a cave in a low cliff, which the
captain of the raft said had once been occupied by a beautiful heiress
of Hornberg--the Lady Gertrude--in the old times. It was seven hundred
years ago. She had a number of rich and noble lovers and one poor and
obscure one, Sir Wendel Lobenfeld. With the native chuckleheadedness of
the heroine of romance, she preferred the poor and obscure lover. With
the native sound judgment of the father of a heroine of romance, the von
Berlichingen of that day shut his daughter up in his donjon keep, or his
oubliette, or his culverin, or some such place, and resolved that she
should stay there until she selected a husband from among her rich
and noble lovers. The latter visited her and persecuted her with their
supplications, but without effect, for her heart was true to her poor
despised Crusader, who was fighting in the Holy Land. Finally, she
resolved that she would endure the attentions of the rich lovers no
longer; so one stormy night she escaped and went down the river and hid
herself in the cave on the other side. Her father ransacked the country
for her, but found not a trace of her. As the days went by, and still no
tidings of her came, his conscience began to torture him, and he caused
proclamation to be made that if she were yet living and would return, he
would oppose her no longer, she might marry whom she would. The months
dragged on, all hope forsook the old man, he ceased from his customary
pursuits and pleasures, he devoted himself to pious works, and longed
for the deliverance of death.
Now just at midnight, every night, the lost heiress stood in the mouth
of her cave, arrayed in white robes, and sang a little love ballad which
her Crusader had made for her. She judged that if he came home alive the
superstitious peasants would tell him about the ghost that sang in the
cave, and that as soon as they described the ballad he would know that
none but he and she knew that song, therefore he would suspect that she
was alive, and would come and find her. As time went on, the people of
the region became sorely distressed about the Specter of the Haunted
Cave. It was said that ill luck of one kind or another always overtook
any one who had the misfortune to hear that song. Eventually, every
calamity that happened thereabouts was laid at the door of that music.
Consequently, no boatmen would consent to pass the cave at night; the
peasants shunned the place, even in the daytime.
But the faithful girl sang on, night after night, month after month, and
patiently waited; her reward must come at last. Five years dragged by,
and still, every night at midnight, the plaintive tones floated out over
the silent land, while the distant boatmen and peasants thrust their
fingers into their ears and shuddered out a prayer.
And now came the Crusader home, bronzed and battle-scarred, but bringing
a great and splendid fame to lay at the feet of his bride. The old lord
of Hornberg received him as his son, and wanted him to stay by him
and be the comfort and blessing of his age; but the tale of that young
girl's devotion to him and its pathetic consequences made a changed
man of the knight. He could not enjoy his well-earned rest. He said his
heart was broken, he would give the remnant of his life to high deeds in
the cause of humanity, and so find a worthy death and a blessed reunion
with the brave true heart whose love had more honored him than all his
victories in war.
When the people heard this resolve of his, they came and told him there
was a pitiless dragon in human disguise in the Haunted Cave, a dread
creature which no knight had yet been bold enough to face, and begged
him to rid the land of its desolating presence. He said he would do it.
They told him about the song, and when he asked what song it was, they
said the memory of it was gone, for nobody had been hardy enough to
listen to it for the past four years and more.
Toward midnight the Crusader came floating down the river in a boat,
with his trusty cross-bow in his hands. He drifted silently through the
dim reflections of the crags and trees, with his intent eyes fixed upon
the low cliff which he was approaching. As he drew nearer, he discerned
the black mouth of the cave. Now--is that a white figure? Yes. The
plaintive song begins to well forth and float away over meadow and
river--the cross-bow is slowly raised to position, a steady aim is
taken, the bolt flies straight to the mark--the figure sinks down, still
singing, the knight takes the wool out of his ears, and recognizes the
old ballad--too late! Ah, if he had only not put the wool in his ears!
The Crusader went away to the wars again, and presently fell in battle,
fighting for the Cross. Tradition says that during several centuries the
spirit of the unfortunate girl sang nightly from the cave at midnight,
but the music carried no curse with it; and although many listened for
the mysterious sounds, few were favored, since only those could hear
them who had never failed in a trust. It is believed that the singing
still continues, but it is known that nobody has heard it during the
CHAPTER XVI An Ancient Legend of the Rhine [The Lorelei]
The last legend reminds one of the "Lorelei"--a legend of the Rhine.
There is a song called "The Lorelei."
Germany is rich in folk-songs, and the words and airs of several of them
are peculiarly beautiful--but "The Lorelei" is the people's favorite. I
could not endure it at first, but by and by it began to take hold of me,
and now there is no tune which I like so well.
It is not possible that it is much known in America, else I should have
heard it there. The fact that I never heard it there, is evidence that
there are others in my country who have fared likewise; therefore, for
the sake of these, I mean to print the words and music in this chapter.
And I will refresh the reader's memory by printing the legend of the
Lorelei, too. I have it by me in the LEGENDS OF THE RHINE, done into
English by the wildly gifted Garnham, Bachelor of Arts. I print the
legend partly to refresh my own memory, too, for I have never read it
Lore (two syllables) was a water nymph who used to sit on a high rock
called the Ley or Lei (pronounced like our word LIE) in the Rhine, and
lure boatmen to destruction in a furious rapid which marred the channel
at that spot. She so bewitched them with her plaintive songs and her
wonderful beauty that they forgot everything else to gaze up at her, and
so they presently drifted among the broken reefs and were lost.
In those old, old times, the Count Bruno lived in a great castle near
there with his son, the Count Hermann, a youth of twenty. Hermann had
heard a great deal about the beautiful Lore, and had finally fallen very
deeply in love with her without having seen her. So he used to wander to
the neighborhood of the Lei, evenings, with his Zither and "Express his
Longing in low Singing," as Garnham says. On one of these occasions,
"suddenly there hovered around the top of the rock a brightness of
unequaled clearness and color, which, in increasingly smaller circles
thickened, was the enchanting figure of the beautiful Lore.
"An unintentional cry of Joy escaped the Youth, he let his Zither fall,
and with extended arms he called out the name of the enigmatical Being,
who seemed to stoop lovingly to him and beckon to him in a friendly
manner; indeed, if his ear did not deceive him, she called his name with
unutterable sweet Whispers, proper to love. Beside himself with delight
the youth lost his Senses and sank senseless to the earth."
After that he was a changed person. He went dreaming about, thinking
only of his fairy and caring for naught else in the world. "The old
count saw with affliction this changement in his son," whose cause he
could not divine, and tried to divert his mind into cheerful channels,
but to no purpose. Then the old count used authority. He commanded the
youth to betake himself to the camp. Obedience was promised. Garnham
"It was on the evening before his departure, as he wished still once to
visit the Lei and offer to the Nymph of the Rhine his Sighs, the
tones of his Zither, and his Songs. He went, in his boat, this time
accompanied by a faithful squire, down the stream. The moon shed her
silvery light over the whole country; the steep bank mountains appeared
in the most fantastical shapes, and the high oaks on either side bowed
their Branches on Hermann's passing. As soon as he approached the
Lei, and was aware of the surf-waves, his attendant was seized with an
inexpressible Anxiety and he begged permission to land; but the Knight
swept the strings of his Guitar and sang:
"Once I saw thee in dark night, In supernatural Beauty bright; Of
Light-rays, was the Figure wove, To share its light, locked-hair strove.
"Thy Garment color wave-dove By thy hand the sign of love, Thy eyes
sweet enchantment, Raying to me, oh! enchantment.
"O, wert thou but my sweetheart, How willingly thy love to part! With
delight I should be bound To thy rocky house in deep ground."
That Hermann should have gone to that place at all, was not wise; that
he should have gone with such a song as that in his mouth was a most
serious mistake. The Lorelei did not "call his name in unutterable
sweet Whispers" this time. No, that song naturally worked an instant
and thorough "changement" in her; and not only that, but it stirred the
bowels of the whole afflicted region around about there--for--
"Scarcely had these tones sounded, everywhere there began tumult and
sound, as if voices above and below the water. On the Lei rose flames,
the Fairy stood above, at that time, and beckoned with her right hand
clearly and urgently to the infatuated Knight, while with a staff in
her left hand she called the waves to her service. They began to mount
heavenward; the boat was upset, mocking every exertion; the waves rose
to the gunwale, and splitting on the hard stones, the Boat broke into
Pieces. The youth sank into the depths, but the squire was thrown on
shore by a powerful wave."
The bitterest things have been said about the Lorelei during many
centuries, but surely her conduct upon this occasion entitles her to our
respect. One feels drawn tenderly toward her and is moved to forget her
many crimes and remember only the good deed that crowned and closed her
"The Fairy was never more seen; but her enchanting tones have often been
heard. In the beautiful, refreshing, still nights of spring, when the
moon pours her silver light over the Country, the listening shipper
hears from the rushing of the waves, the echoing Clang of a wonderfully
charming voice, which sings a song from the crystal castle, and with
sorrow and fear he thinks on the young Count Hermann, seduced by the
Here is the music, and the German words by Heinrich Heine. This song has
been a favorite in Germany for forty years, and will remain a favorite
always, maybe. [Figure 5]
I have a prejudice against people who print things in a foreign language
and add no translation. When I am the reader, and the author considers
me able to do the translating myself, he pays me quite a nice
compliment--but if he would do the translating for me I would try to get
along without the compliment.
If I were at home, no doubt I could get a translation of this poem, but
I am abroad and can't; therefore I will make a translation myself. It
may not be a good one, for poetry is out of my line, but it will serve
my purpose--which is, to give the unGerman young girl a jingle of words
to hang the tune on until she can get hold of a good version, made by
some one who is a poet and knows how to convey a poetical thought from
one language to another.
I cannot divine what it meaneth,
This haunting nameless pain:
A tale of the bygone ages
Keeps brooding through my brain:
The faint air cools in the glooming,
And peaceful flows the Rhine,
The thirsty summits are drinking
The sunset's flooding wine;
The loveliest maiden is sitting
High-throned in yon blue air,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She combs her golden hair;
She combs with a comb that is golden,
And sings a weird refrain
That steeps in a deadly enchantment
The list'ner's ravished brain:
The doomed in his drifting shallop,
Is tranced with the sad sweet tone,
He sees not the yawning breakers,
He sees but the maid alone:
The pitiless billows engulf him!--
So perish sailor and bark;
And this, with her baleful singing,
Is the Lorelei's gruesome work.
I have a translation by Garnham, Bachelor of Arts, in the LEGENDS OF THE
RHINE, but it would not answer the purpose I mentioned above, because
the measure is too nobly irregular; it don't fit the tune snugly enough;
in places it hangs over at the ends too far, and in other places one
runs out of words before he gets to the end of a bar. Still, Garnham's
translation has high merits, and I am not dreaming of leaving it out of
my book. I believe this poet is wholly unknown in America and England; I
take peculiar pleasure in bringing him forward because I consider that I
Translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A.
I do not know what it signifies.
That I am so sorrowful?
A fable of old Times so terrifies,
Leaves my heart so thoughtful.
The air is cool and it darkens,
And calmly flows the Rhine;
The summit of the mountain hearkens
In evening sunshine line.
The most beautiful Maiden entrances
Above wonderfully there,
Her beautiful golden attire glances,
She combs her golden hair.
With golden comb so lustrous,
And thereby a song sings,
It has a tone so wondrous,
That powerful melody rings.
The shipper in the little ship
It effects with woe sad might;
He does not see the rocky slip,
He only regards dreaded height.
I believe the turbulent waves
Swallow the last shipper and boat;
She with her singing craves
All to visit her magic moat.
No translation could be closer. He has got in all the facts; and in
their regular order, too. There is not a statistic wanting. It is as
succinct as an invoice. That is what a translation ought to be; it
should exactly reflect the thought of the original. You can't SING
"Above wonderfully there," because it simply won't go to the tune,
without damaging the singer; but it is a most clingingly exact
translation of DORT OBEN WUNDERBAR--fits it like a blister. Mr.
Garnham's reproduction has other merits--a hundred of them--but it is
not necessary to point them out. They will be detected.
No one with a specialty can hope to have a monopoly of it. Even Garnham
has a rival. Mr. X had a small pamphlet with him which he had bought
while on a visit to Munich. It was entitled A CATALOGUE OF PICTURES IN
THE OLD PINACOTEK, and was written in a peculiar kind of English. Here
are a few extracts:
"It is not permitted to make use of the work in question to a
publication of the same contents as well as to the pirated edition of
"An evening landscape. In the foreground near a pond and a group of
white beeches is leading a footpath animated by travelers."
"A learned man in a cynical and torn dress holding an open book in his
"St. Bartholomew and the Executioner with the knife to fulfil the
"Portrait of a young man. A long while this picture was thought to be
Bindi Altoviti's portrait; now somebody will again have it to be the
self-portrait of Raphael."
"Susan bathing, surprised by the two old man. In the background the
lapidation of the condemned."
("Lapidation" is good; it is much more elegant than "stoning.")
"St. Rochus sitting in a landscape with an angel who looks at his
plague-sore, whilst the dog the bread in his mouth attents him."
"Spring. The Goddess Flora, sitting. Behind her a fertile valley
perfused by a river."
"A beautiful bouquet animated by May-bugs, etc."
"A warrior in armor with a gypseous pipe in his hand leans against a
table and blows the smoke far away of himself."
"A Dutch landscape along a navigable river which perfuses it till to the
"Some peasants singing in a cottage. A woman lets drink a child out of a
"St. John's head as a boy--painted in fresco on a brick." (Meaning a
"A young man of the Riccio family, his hair cut off right at the end,
dressed in black with the same cap. Attributed to Raphael, but the
signation is false."
"The Virgin holding the Infant. It is very painted in the manner of
"A Larder with greens and dead game animated by a cook-maid and two
However, the English of this catalogue is at least as happy as that
which distinguishes an inscription upon a certain picture in Rome--to
"Revelations-View. St. John in Patterson's Island."
But meanwhile the raft is moving on.
CHAPTER XVII [Why Germans Wear Spectacles]
A mile or two above Eberbach we saw a peculiar ruin projecting above the
foliage which clothed the peak of a high and very steep hill. This ruin
consisted of merely a couple of crumbling masses of masonry which bore
a rude resemblance to human faces; they leaned forward and touched
foreheads, and had the look of being absorbed in conversation. This
ruin had nothing very imposing or picturesque about it, and there was no
great deal of it, yet it was called the "Spectacular Ruin."
LEGEND OF THE "SPECTACULAR RUIN"
The captain of the raft, who was as full of history as he could stick,
said that in the Middle Ages a most prodigious fire-breathing dragon
used to live in that region, and made more trouble than a tax-collector.
He was as long as a railway-train, and had the customary impenetrable
green scales all over him. His breath bred pestilence and conflagration,
and his appetite bred famine. He ate men and cattle impartially, and
was exceedingly unpopular. The German emperor of that day made the usual
offer: he would grant to the destroyer of the dragon, any one solitary
thing he might ask for; for he had a surplusage of daughters, and it was
customary for dragon-killers to take a daughter for pay.
So the most renowned knights came from the four corners of the earth and
retired down the dragon's throat one after the other. A panic arose and
spread. Heroes grew cautious. The procession ceased. The dragon became
more destructive than ever. The people lost all hope of succor, and fled
to the mountains for refuge.
At last Sir Wissenschaft, a poor and obscure knight, out of a far
country, arrived to do battle with the monster. A pitiable object he
was, with his armor hanging in rags about him, and his strange-shaped
knapsack strapped upon his back. Everybody turned up their noses at him,
and some openly jeered him. But he was calm. He simply inquired if
the emperor's offer was still in force. The emperor said it was--but
charitably advised him to go and hunt hares and not endanger so precious
a life as his in an attempt which had brought death to so many of the
world's most illustrious heroes.
But this tramp only asked--"Were any of these heroes men of science?"
This raised a laugh, of course, for science was despised in those days.
But the tramp was not in the least ruffled. He said he might be a little
in advance of his age, but no matter--science would come to be honored,
some time or other. He said he would march against the dragon in the
morning. Out of compassion, then, a decent spear was offered him, but
he declined, and said, "spears were useless to men of science." They
allowed him to sup in the servants' hall, and gave him a bed in the
When he started forth in the morning, thousands were gathered to see.
The emperor said:
"Do not be rash, take a spear, and leave off your knapsack."
But the tramp said:
"It is not a knapsack," and moved straight on.
The dragon was waiting and ready. He was breathing forth vast volumes
of sulphurous smoke and lurid blasts of flame. The ragged knight
stole warily to a good position, then he unslung his cylindrical
knapsack--which was simply the common fire-extinguisher known to modern
times--and the first chance he got he turned on his hose and shot the
dragon square in the center of his cavernous mouth. Out went the fires
in an instant, and the dragon curled up and died.
This man had brought brains to his aid. He had reared dragons from the
egg, in his laboratory, he had watched over them like a mother, and
patiently studied them and experimented upon them while they grew. Thus
he had found out that fire was the life principle of a dragon; put out
the dragon's fires and it could make steam no longer, and must die.
He could not put out a fire with a spear, therefore he invented the
extinguisher. The dragon being dead, the emperor fell on the hero's neck
"Deliverer, name your request," at the same time beckoning out behind
with his heel for a detachment of his daughters to form and advance. But
the tramp gave them no observance. He simply said:
"My request is, that upon me be conferred the monopoly of the
manufacture and sale of spectacles in Germany."
The emperor sprang aside and exclaimed:
"This transcends all the impudence I ever heard! A modest demand, by my
halidome! Why didn't you ask for the imperial revenues at once, and be
done with it?"
But the monarch had given his word, and he kept it. To everybody's
surprise, the unselfish monopolist immediately reduced the price of
spectacles to such a degree that a great and crushing burden was removed
from the nation. The emperor, to commemorate this generous act, and to
testify his appreciation of it, issued a decree commanding everybody to
buy this benefactor's spectacles and wear them, whether they needed them
So originated the wide-spread custom of wearing spectacles in Germany;
and as a custom once established in these old lands is imperishable,
this one remains universal in the empire to this day. Such is the legend
of the monopolist's once stately and sumptuous castle, now called the
On the right bank, two or three miles below the Spectacular Ruin, we
passed by a noble pile of castellated buildings overlooking the water
from the crest of a lofty elevation. A stretch of two hundred yards of
the high front wall was heavily draped with ivy, and out of the mass
of buildings within rose three picturesque old towers. The place was in
fine order, and was inhabited by a family of princely rank. This castle
had its legend, too, but I should not feel justified in repeating it
because I doubted the truth of some of its minor details.
Along in this region a multitude of Italian laborers were blasting away
the frontage of the hills to make room for the new railway. They were
fifty or a hundred feet above the river. As we turned a sharp corner
they began to wave signals and shout warnings to us to look out for the
explosions. It was all very well to warn us, but what could WE do? You
can't back a raft upstream, you can't hurry it downstream, you can't
scatter out to one side when you haven't any room to speak of, you won't
take to the perpendicular cliffs on the other shore when they appear to
be blasting there, too. Your resources are limited, you see. There is
simply nothing for it but to watch and pray.
For some hours we had been making three and a half or four miles an hour
and we were still making that. We had been dancing right along until
those men began to shout; then for the next ten minutes it seemed to me
that I had never seen a raft go so slowly. When the first blast went
off we raised our sun-umbrellas and waited for the result. No harm
done; none of the stones fell in the water. Another blast followed, and
another and another. Some of the rubbish fell in the water just astern
We ran that whole battery of nine blasts in a row, and it was certainly
one of the most exciting and uncomfortable weeks I ever spent, either
aship or ashore. Of course we frequently manned the poles and shoved
earnestly for a second or so, but every time one of those spurts of dust
and debris shot aloft every man dropped his pole and looked up to get
the bearings of his share of it. It was very busy times along there for
a while. It appeared certain that we must perish, but even that was
not the bitterest thought; no, the abjectly unheroic nature of the
death--that was the sting--that and the bizarre wording of the resulting
obituary: "SHOT WITH A ROCK, ON A RAFT." There would be no poetry
written about it. None COULD be written about it. Example:
NOT by war's shock, or war's shaft,--SHOT, with a rock, on a raft.
No poet who valued his reputation would touch such a theme as that. I
should be distinguished as the only "distinguished dead" who went down
to the grave unsonneted, in 1878.
But we escaped, and I have never regretted it. The last blast was
peculiarly strong one, and after the small rubbish was done raining
around us and we were just going to shake hands over our deliverance, a
later and larger stone came down amongst our little group of pedestrians
and wrecked an umbrella. It did no other harm, but we took to the water
just the same.
It seems that the heavy work in the quarries and the new railway
gradings is done mainly by Italians. That was a revelation. We have
the notion in our country that Italians never do heavy work at all, but
confine themselves to the lighter arts, like organ-grinding, operatic
singing, and assassination. We have blundered, that is plain.
All along the river, near every village, we saw little station-houses
for the future railway. They were finished and waiting for the rails and
business. They were as trim and snug and pretty as they could be. They
were always of brick or stone; they were of graceful shape, they had
vines and flowers about them already, and around them the grass was
bright and green, and showed that it was carefully looked after. They
were a decoration to the beautiful landscape, not an offense. Wherever
one saw a pile of gravel or a pile of broken stone, it was always heaped
as trimly and exactly as a new grave or a stack of cannon-balls; nothing
about those stations or along the railroad or the wagon-road was
allowed to look shabby or be unornamental. The keeping a country in such
beautiful order as Germany exhibits, has a wise practical side to
it, too, for it keeps thousands of people in work and bread who would
otherwise be idle and mischievous.
As the night shut down, the captain wanted to tie up, but I thought
maybe we might make Hirschhorn, so we went on. Presently the sky became
overcast, and the captain came aft looking uneasy. He cast his eye
aloft, then shook his head, and said it was coming on to blow. My party
wanted to land at once--therefore I wanted to go on. The captain said we
ought to shorten sail anyway, out of common prudence. Consequently, the
larboard watch was ordered to lay in his pole. It grew quite dark, now,
and the wind began to rise. It wailed through the swaying branches of
the trees, and swept our decks in fitful gusts. Things were taking on an
ugly look. The captain shouted to the steersman on the forward log:
"How's she landing?"
The answer came faint and hoarse from far forward:
"Nor'-east-and-by-nor'--east-by-east, half-east, sir."
"Let her go off a point!"
"What water have you got?"
"Shoal, sir. Two foot large, on the stabboard, two and a half scant on
"Let her go off another point!"
"Forward, men, all of you! Lively, now! Stand by to crowd her round the
Then followed a wild running and trampling and hoarse shouting, but the
forms of the men were lost in the darkness and the sounds were distorted
and confused by the roaring of the wind through the shingle-bundles. By
this time the sea was running inches high, and threatening every moment
to engulf the frail bark. Now came the mate, hurrying aft, and said,
close to the captain's ear, in a low, agitated voice:
"Prepare for the worst, sir--we have sprung a leak!"
"Right aft the second row of logs."
"Nothing but a miracle can save us! Don't let the men know, or there
will be a panic and mutiny! Lay her in shore and stand by to jump with
the stern-line the moment she touches. Gentlemen, I must look to you to
second my endeavors in this hour of peril. You have hats--go forward and
bail for your lives!"
Down swept another mighty blast of wind, clothed in spray and thick
darkness. At such a moment as this, came from away forward that most
appalling of all cries that are ever heard at sea:
The captain shouted:
"Hard a-port! Never mind the man! Let him climb aboard or wade ashore!"
Another cry came down the wind:
"Not a log's length off her port fore-foot!"
We had groped our slippery way forward, and were now bailing with the
frenzy of despair, when we heard the mate's terrified cry, from far aft:
"Stop that dashed bailing, or we shall be aground!"
But this was immediately followed by the glad shout:
"Land aboard the starboard transom!"
"Saved!" cried the captain. "Jump ashore and take a turn around a tree
and pass the bight aboard!"
The next moment we were all on shore weeping and embracing for joy,
while the rain poured down in torrents. The captain said he had been a
mariner for forty years on the Neckar, and in that time had seen storms
to make a man's cheek blanch and his pulses stop, but he had never,
never seen a storm that even approached this one. How familiar that
sounded! For I have been at sea a good deal and have heard that remark
from captains with a frequency accordingly.
We framed in our minds the usual resolution of thanks and admiration
and gratitude, and took the first opportunity to vote it, and put it
in writing and present it to the captain, with the customary speech. We
tramped through the darkness and the drenching summer rain full three
miles, and reached "The Naturalist Tavern" in the village of Hirschhorn
just an hour before midnight, almost exhausted from hardship, fatigue,
and terror. I can never forget that night.
The landlord was rich, and therefore could afford to be crusty and
disobliging; he did not at all like being turned out of his warm bed to
open his house for us. But no matter, his household got up and cooked
a quick supper for us, and we brewed a hot punch for ourselves, to keep
off consumption. After supper and punch we had an hour's soothing smoke
while we fought the naval battle over again and voted the resolutions;
then we retired to exceedingly neat and pretty chambers upstairs that
had clean, comfortable beds in them with heirloom pillowcases most
elaborately and tastefully embroidered by hand.
Such rooms and beds and embroidered linen are as frequent in German
village inns as they are rare in ours. Our villages are superior
to German villages in more merits, excellences, conveniences, and
privileges than I can enumerate, but the hotels do not belong in the
"The Naturalist Tavern" was not a meaningless name; for all the halls
and all the rooms were lined with large glass cases which were filled
with all sorts of birds and animals, glass-eyed, ably stuffed, and set
up in the most natural eloquent and dramatic attitudes. The moment we
were abed, the rain cleared away and the moon came out. I dozed off to
sleep while contemplating a great white stuffed owl which was looking
intently down on me from a high perch with the air of a person who
thought he had met me before, but could not make out for certain.
But young Z did not get off so easily. He said that as he was sinking
deliciously to sleep, the moon lifted away the shadows and developed
a huge cat, on a bracket, dead and stuffed, but crouching, with every
muscle tense, for a spring, and with its glittering glass eyes aimed
straight at him. It made Z uncomfortable. He tried closing his own eyes,
but that did not answer, for a natural instinct kept making him open
them again to see if the cat was still getting ready to launch at
him--which she always was. He tried turning his back, but that was a
failure; he knew the sinister eyes were on him still. So at last he had
to get up, after an hour or two of worry and experiment, and set the cat
out in the hall. So he won, that time.
CHAPTER XVIII [The Kindly Courtesy of Germans]
In the morning we took breakfast in the garden, under the trees, in the
delightful German summer fashion. The air was filled with the fragrance
of flowers and wild animals; the living portion of the menagerie of the
"Naturalist Tavern" was all about us. There were great cages populous
with fluttering and chattering foreign birds, and other great cages and
greater wire pens, populous with quadrupeds, both native and foreign.
There were some free creatures, too, and quite sociable ones they were.
White rabbits went loping about the place, and occasionally came and
sniffed at our shoes and shins; a fawn, with a red ribbon on its neck,
walked up and examined us fearlessly; rare breeds of chickens and doves
begged for crumbs, and a poor old tailless raven hopped about with
a humble, shamefaced mein which said, "Please do not notice my
exposure--think how you would feel in my circumstances, and be
charitable." If he was observed too much, he would retire behind
something and stay there until he judged the party's interest had found
another object. I never have seen another dumb creature that was
so morbidly sensitive. Bayard Taylor, who could interpret the dim
reasonings of animals, and understood their moral natures better than
most men, would have found some way to make this poor old chap forget
his troubles for a while, but we have not his kindly art, and so had to
leave the raven to his griefs.
After breakfast we climbed the hill and visited the ancient castle of
Hirschhorn, and the ruined church near it. There were some curious old
bas-reliefs leaning against the inner walls of the church--sculptured
lords of Hirschhorn in complete armor, and ladies of Hirschhorn in
the picturesque court costumes of the Middle Ages. These things are
suffering damage and passing to decay, for the last Hirschhorn has been
dead two hundred years, and there is nobody now who cares to preserve
the family relics. In the chancel was a twisted stone column, and the
captain told us a legend about it, of course, for in the matter of
legends he could not seem to restrain himself; but I do not repeat his
tale because there was nothing plausible about it except that the Hero
wrenched this column into its present screw-shape with his hands--just
one single wrench. All the rest of the legend was doubtful.
But Hirschhorn is best seen from a distance, down the river. Then
the clustered brown towers perched on the green hilltop, and the old
battlemented stone wall, stretching up and over the grassy ridge and
disappearing in the leafy sea beyond, make a picture whose grace and
beauty entirely satisfy the eye.
We descended from the church by steep stone stairways which curved this
way and that down narrow alleys between the packed and dirty tenements
of the village. It was a quarter well stocked with deformed, leering,
unkempt and uncombed idiots, who held out hands or caps and begged
piteously. The people of the quarter were not all idiots, of course, but
all that begged seemed to be, and were said to be.
I was thinking of going by skiff to the next town, Necharsteinach; so I
ran to the riverside in advance of the party and asked a man there if
he had a boat to hire. I suppose I must have spoken High German--Court
German--I intended it for that, anyway--so he did not understand me. I
turned and twisted my question around and about, trying to strike that
man's average, but failed. He could not make out what I wanted. Now Mr.
X arrived, faced this same man, looked him in the eye, and emptied this
sentence on him, in the most glib and confident way: "Can man boat get
The mariner promptly understood and promptly answered. I can comprehend
why he was able to understand that particular sentence, because by mere
accident all the words in it except "get" have the same sound and the
same meaning in German that they have in English; but how he managed to
understand Mr. X's next remark puzzled me. I will insert it, presently.
X turned away a moment, and I asked the mariner if he could not find
a board, and so construct an additional seat. I spoke in the purest
German, but I might as well have spoken in the purest Choctaw for all
the good it did. The man tried his best to understand me; he tried, and
kept on trying, harder and harder, until I saw it was really of no use,
"There, don't strain yourself--it is of no consequence."
Then X turned to him and crisply said:
"MACHEN SIE a flat board."
I wish my epitaph may tell the truth about me if the man did not answer
up at once, and say he would go and borrow a board as soon as he had lit
the pipe which he was filling.
We changed our mind about taking a boat, so we did not have to go. I
have given Mr. X's two remarks just as he made them. Four of the five
words in the first one were English, and that they were also German was
only accidental, not intentional; three out of the five words in the
second remark were English, and English only, and the two German ones
did not mean anything in particular, in such a connection.
X always spoke English to Germans, but his plan was to turn the sentence
wrong end first and upside down, according to German construction, and
sprinkle in a German word without any essential meaning to it, here and
there, by way of flavor. Yet he always made himself understood. He could
make those dialect-speaking raftsmen understand him, sometimes, when
even young Z had failed with them; and young Z was a pretty good German
scholar. For one thing, X always spoke with such confidence--perhaps
that helped. And possibly the raftsmen's dialect was what is called
PLATT-DEUTSCH, and so they found his English more familiar to their ears
than another man's German. Quite indifferent students of German can read
Fritz Reuter's charming platt-Deutch tales with some little facility
because many of the words are English. I suppose this is the tongue
which our Saxon ancestors carried to England with them. By and by I will
inquire of some other philologist.
However, in the mean time it had transpired that the men employed to
calk the raft had found that the leak was not a leak at all, but only
a crack between the logs--a crack that belonged there, and was not
dangerous, but had been magnified into a leak by the disordered
imagination of the mate. Therefore we went aboard again with a good
degree of confidence, and presently got to sea without accident. As we
swam smoothly along between the enchanting shores, we fell to swapping
notes about manners and customs in Germany and elsewhere.
As I write, now, many months later, I perceive that each of us, by
observing and noting and inquiring, diligently and day by day, had
managed to lay in a most varied and opulent stock of misinformation. But
this is not surprising; it is very difficult to get accurate details in
any country. For example, I had the idea once, in Heidelberg, to find
out all about those five student-corps. I started with the White Cap
corps. I began to inquire of this and that and the other citizen, and
here is what I found out:
1. It is called the Prussian Corps, because none but Prussians are
admitted to it.
2. It is called the Prussian Corps for no particular reason. It has
simply pleased each corps to name itself after some German state.
3. It is not named the Prussian Corps at all, but only the White Cap
4. Any student can belong to it who is a German by birth.
5. Any student can belong to it who is European by birth.
6. Any European-born student can belong to it, except he be a Frenchman.
7. Any student can belong to it, no matter where he was born.
8. No student can belong to it who is not of noble blood.
9. No student can belong to it who cannot show three full generations of
10. Nobility is not a necessary qualification.
11. No moneyless student can belong to it.
12. Money qualification is nonsense--such a thing has never been thought
I got some of this information from students themselves--students who
did not belong to the corps.
I finally went to headquarters--to the White Caps--where I would
have gone in the first place if I had been acquainted. But even at
headquarters I found difficulties; I perceived that there were things
about the White Cap Corps which one member knew and another one didn't.
It was natural; for very few members of any organization know ALL that
can be known about it. I doubt there is a man or a woman in Heidelberg
who would not answer promptly and confidently three out of every five
questions about the White Cap Corps which a stranger might ask; yet
it is a very safe bet that two of the three answers would be incorrect
There is one German custom which is universal--the bowing courteously
to strangers when sitting down at table or rising up from it. This
bow startles a stranger out of his self-possession, the first time
it occurs, and he is likely to fall over a chair or something, in his
embarrassment, but it pleases him, nevertheless. One soon learns to
expect this bow and be on the lookout and ready to return it; but to
learn to lead off and make the initial bow one's self is a difficult
matter for a diffident man. One thinks, "If I rise to go, and tender my
box, and these ladies and gentlemen take it into their heads to ignore
the custom of their nation, and not return it, how shall I feel, in case
I survive to feel anything." Therefore he is afraid to venture. He sits
out the dinner, and makes the strangers rise first and originate the
bowing. A table d'hôte dinner is a tedious affair for a man who seldom
touches anything after the three first courses; therefore I used to do
some pretty dreary waiting because of my fears. It took me months to
assure myself that those fears were groundless, but I did assure myself
at last by experimenting diligently through my agent. I made Harris get
up and bow and leave; invariably his bow was returned, then I got up and
bowed myself and retired.
Thus my education proceeded easily and comfortably for me, but not for
Harris. Three courses of a table d'hôte dinner were enough for me, but
Harris preferred thirteen.
Even after I had acquired full confidence, and no longer needed the
agent's help, I sometimes encountered difficulties. Once at Baden-Baden
I nearly lost a train because I could not be sure that three young
ladies opposite me at table were Germans, since I had not heard them
speak; they might be American, they might be English, it was not safe
to venture a bow; but just as I had got that far with my thought, one of
them began a German remark, to my great relief and gratitude; and before
she got out her third word, our bows had been delivered and graciously
returned, and we were off.
There is a friendly something about the German character which is very
winning. When Harris and I were making a pedestrian tour through the
Black Forest, we stopped at a little country inn for dinner one day;
two young ladies and a young gentleman entered and sat down opposite us.
They were pedestrians, too. Our knapsacks were strapped upon our backs,
but they had a sturdy youth along to carry theirs for them. All parties
were hungry, so there was no talking. By and by the usual bows were
exchanged, and we separated.
As we sat at a late breakfast in the hotel at Allerheiligen, next
morning, these young people and took places near us without observing
us; but presently they saw us and at once bowed and smiled; not
ceremoniously, but with the gratified look of people who have found
acquaintances where they were expecting strangers. Then they spoke of
the weather and the roads. We also spoke of the weather and the roads.
Next, they said they had had an enjoyable walk, notwithstanding the
weather. We said that that had been our case, too. Then they said they
had walked thirty English miles the day before, and asked how many we
had walked. I could not lie, so I told Harris to do it. Harris told
them we had made thirty English miles, too. That was true; we had "made"
them, though we had had a little assistance here and there.
After breakfast they found us trying to blast some information out
of the dumb hotel clerk about routes, and observing that we were not
succeeding pretty well, they went and got their maps and things, and
pointed out and explained our course so clearly that even a New York
detective could have followed it. And when we started they spoke out a
hearty good-by and wished us a pleasant journey. Perhaps they were more
generous with us than they might have been with native wayfarers because
we were a forlorn lot and in a strange land; I don't know; I only know
it was lovely to be treated so.
Very well, I took an American young lady to one of the fine balls in
Baden-Baden, one night, and at the entrance-door upstairs we were halted
by an official--something about Miss Jones's dress was not according to
rule; I don't remember what it was, now; something was wanting--her back
hair, or a shawl, or a fan, or a shovel, or something. The official
was ever so polite, and every so sorry, but the rule was strict, and he
could not let us in. It was very embarrassing, for many eyes were on us.
But now a richly dressed girl stepped out of the ballroom, inquired into
the trouble, and said she could fix it in a moment. She took Miss Jones
to the robing-room, and soon brought her back in regulation trim, and
then we entered the ballroom with this benefactress unchallenged.
Being safe, now, I began to puzzle through my sincere but ungrammatical
thanks, when there was a sudden mutual recognition--the benefactress and
I had met at Allerheiligen. Two weeks had not altered her good face,
and plainly her heart was in the right place yet, but there was such
a difference between these clothes and the clothes I had seen her in
before, when she was walking thirty miles a day in the Black Forest,
that it was quite natural that I had failed to recognize her sooner. I
had on MY other suit, too, but my German would betray me to a person who
had heard it once, anyway. She brought her brother and sister, and they
made our way smooth for that evening.
Well--months afterward, I was driving through the streets of Munich in a
cab with a German lady, one day, when she said:
"There, that is Prince Ludwig and his wife, walking along there."
Everybody was bowing to them--cabmen, little children, and everybody
else--and they were returning all the bows and overlooking nobody, when
a young lady met them and made a deep courtesy.
"That is probably one of the ladies of the court," said my German
"She is an honor to it, then. I know her. I don't know her name, but I
know HER. I have known her at Allerheiligen and Baden-Baden. She ought
to be an Empress, but she may be only a Duchess; it is the way things go
in this way."
If one asks a German a civil question, he will be quite sure to get a
civil answer. If you stop a German in the street and ask him to direct
you to a certain place, he shows no sign of feeling offended. If the
place be difficult to find, ten to one the man will drop his own matters
and go with you and show you.
In London, too, many a time, strangers have walked several blocks with
me to show me my way.
There is something very real about this sort of politeness. Quite often,
in Germany, shopkeepers who could not furnish me the article I wanted
have sent one of their employees with me to show me a place where it
could be had.
CHAPTER XIX [The Deadly Jest of Dilsberg]
However, I wander from the raft. We made the port of Necharsteinach in
good season, and went to the hotel and ordered a trout dinner, the same
to be ready against our return from a two-hour pedestrian excursion to
the village and castle of Dilsberg, a mile distant, on the other side
of the river. I do not mean that we proposed to be two hours making two
miles--no, we meant to employ most of the time in inspecting Dilsberg.
For Dilsberg is a quaint place. It is most quaintly and picturesquely
situated, too. Imagine the beautiful river before you; then a few rods
of brilliant green sward on its opposite shore; then a sudden hill--no
preparatory gently rising slopes, but a sort of instantaneous hill--a
hill two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet high, as round as a
bowl, with the same taper upward that an inverted bowl has, and with
about the same relation of height to diameter that distinguishes a
bowl of good honest depth--a hill which is thickly clothed with green
bushes--a comely, shapely hill, rising abruptly out of the dead level
of the surrounding green plains, visible from a great distance down the
bends of the river, and with just exactly room on the top of its head
for its steepled and turreted and roof-clustered cap of architecture,
which same is tightly jammed and compacted within the perfectly round
hoop of the ancient village wall.
There is no house outside the wall on the whole hill, or any vestige of
a former house; all the houses are inside the wall, but there isn't room
for another one. It is really a finished town, and has been finished a
very long time. There is no space between the wall and the first circle
of buildings; no, the village wall is itself the rear wall of the first
circle of buildings, and the roofs jut a little over the wall and
thus furnish it with eaves. The general level of the massed roofs is
gracefully broken and relieved by the dominating towers of the ruined
castle and the tall spires of a couple of churches; so, from a distance
Dilsberg has rather more the look of a king's crown than a cap. That
lofty green eminence and its quaint coronet form quite a striking
picture, you may be sure, in the flush of the evening sun.
We crossed over in a boat and began the ascent by a narrow, steep path
which plunged us at once into the leafy deeps of the bushes. But they
were not cool deeps by any means, for the sun's rays were weltering hot
and there was little or no breeze to temper them. As we panted up the
sharp ascent, we met brown, bareheaded and barefooted boys and girls,
occasionally, and sometimes men; they came upon us without warning, they
gave us good day, flashed out of sight in the bushes, and were gone
as suddenly and mysteriously as they had come. They were bound for the
other side of the river to work. This path had been traveled by many
generations of these people. They have always gone down to the valley to
earn their bread, but they have always climbed their hill again to eat
it, and to sleep in their snug town.
It is said that the Dilsbergers do not emigrate much; they find that
living up there above the world, in their peaceful nest, is pleasanter
than living down in the troublous world. The seven hundred inhabitants
are all blood-kin to each other, too; they have always been blood-kin to
each other for fifteen hundred years; they are simply one large family,
and they like the home folks better than they like strangers, hence they
persistently stay at home. It has been said that for ages Dilsberg
has been merely a thriving and diligent idiot-factory. I saw no idiots
there, but the captain said, "Because of late years the government has
taken to lugging them off to asylums and otherwheres; and government
wants to cripple the factory, too, and is trying to get these
Dilsbergers to marry out of the family, but they don't like to."
The captain probably imagined all this, as modern science denies that
the intermarrying of relatives deteriorates the stock.
Arrived within the wall, we found the usual village sights and life. We
moved along a narrow, crooked lane which had been paved in the Middle
Ages. A strapping, ruddy girl was beating flax or some such stuff in
a little bit of a good-box of a barn, and she swung her flail with a
will--if it was a flail; I was not farmer enough to know what she was
at; a frowsy, barelegged girl was herding half a dozen geese with
a stick--driving them along the lane and keeping them out of the
dwellings; a cooper was at work in a shop which I know he did not make
so large a thing as a hogshead in, for there was not room. In the front
rooms of dwellings girls and women were cooking or spinning, and ducks
and chickens were waddling in and out, over the threshold, picking up
chance crumbs and holding pleasant converse; a very old and wrinkled
man sat asleep before his door, with his chin upon his breast and his
extinguished pipe in his lap; soiled children were playing in the dirt
everywhere along the lane, unmindful of the sun.
Except the sleeping old man, everybody was at work, but the place was
very still and peaceful, nevertheless; so still that the distant
cackle of the successful hen smote upon the ear but little dulled
by intervening sounds. That commonest of village sights was lacking
here--the public pump, with its great stone tank or trough of limpid
water, and its group of gossiping pitcher-bearers; for there is no well
or fountain or spring on this tall hill; cisterns of rain-water are
Our alpenstocks and muslin tails compelled attention, and as we moved
through the village we gathered a considerable procession of little boys
and girls, and so went in some state to the castle. It proved to be an
extensive pile of crumbling walls, arches, and towers, massive, properly
grouped for picturesque effect, weedy, grass-grown, and satisfactory.
The children acted as guides; they walked us along the top of the
highest walls, then took us up into a high tower and showed us a wide
and beautiful landscape, made up of wavy distances of woody hills, and
a nearer prospect of undulating expanses of green lowlands, on the one
hand, and castle-graced crags and ridges on the other, with the shining
curves of the Neckar flowing between. But the principal show, the chief
pride of the children, was the ancient and empty well in the grass-grown
court of the castle. Its massive stone curb stands up three or four feet
above-ground, and is whole and uninjured. The children said that in the
Middle Ages this well was four hundred feet deep, and furnished all the
village with an abundant supply of water, in war and peace. They said
that in the old day its bottom was below the level of the Neckar, hence
the water-supply was inexhaustible.
But there were some who believed it had never been a well at all, and
was never deeper than it is now--eighty feet; that at that depth a
subterranean passage branched from it and descended gradually to a
remote place in the valley, where it opened into somebody's cellar or
other hidden recess, and that the secret of this locality is now lost.
Those who hold this belief say that herein lies the explanation that
Dilsberg, besieged by Tilly and many a soldier before him, was
never taken: after the longest and closest sieges the besiegers were
astonished to perceive that the besieged were as fat and hearty as ever,
and were well furnished with munitions of war--therefore it must be
that the Dilsbergers had been bringing these things in through the
subterranean passage all the time.
The children said that there was in truth a subterranean outlet down
there, and they would prove it. So they set a great truss of straw on
fire and threw it down the well, while we leaned on the curb and watched
the glowing mass descend. It struck bottom and gradually burned out. No
smoke came up. The children clapped their hands and said:
"You see! Nothing makes so much smoke as burning straw--now where did
the smoke go to, if there is no subterranean outlet?"
So it seemed quite evident that the subterranean outlet indeed existed.
But the finest thing within the ruin's limits was a noble linden, which
the children said was four hundred years old, and no doubt it was. It
had a mighty trunk and a mighty spread of limb and foliage. The limbs
near the ground were nearly the thickness of a barrel.
That tree had witnessed the assaults of men in mail--how remote such a
time seems, and how ungraspable is the fact that real men ever did fight
in real armor!--and it had seen the time when these broken arches and
crumbling battlements were a trim and strong and stately fortress,
fluttering its gay banners in the sun, and peopled with vigorous
humanity--how impossibly long ago that seems!--and here it stands yet,
and possibly may still be standing here, sunning itself and dreaming its
historical dreams, when today shall have been joined to the days called
Well, we sat down under the tree to smoke, and the captain delivered
himself of his legend:
THE LEGEND OF DILSBERG CASTLE
It was to this effect. In the old times there was once a great company
assembled at the castle, and festivity ran high. Of course there was a
haunted chamber in the castle, and one day the talk fell upon that. It
was said that whoever slept in it would not wake again for fifty years.
Now when a young knight named Conrad von Geisberg heard this, he said
that if the castle were his he would destroy that chamber, so that no
foolish person might have the chance to bring so dreadful a misfortune
upon himself and afflict such as loved him with the memory of it.
Straightway, the company privately laid their heads together to contrive
some way to get this superstitious young man to sleep in that chamber.
And they succeeded--in this way. They persuaded his betrothed, a lovely
mischievous young creature, niece of the lord of the castle, to help
them in their plot. She presently took him aside and had speech with
him. She used all her persuasions, but could not shake him; he said his
belief was firm, that if he should sleep there he would wake no more for
fifty years, and it made him shudder to think of it. Catharina began to
weep. This was a better argument; Conrad could not out against it. He
yielded and said she should have her wish if she would only smile and be
happy again. She flung her arms about his neck, and the kisses she gave
him showed that her thankfulness and her pleasure were very real. Then
she flew to tell the company her success, and the applause she received
made her glad and proud she had undertaken her mission, since all alone
she had accomplished what the multitude had failed in.
At midnight, that night, after the usual feasting, Conrad was taken to
the haunted chamber and left there. He fell asleep, by and by.
When he awoke again and looked about him, his heart stood still with
horror! The whole aspect of the chamber was changed. The walls were
moldy and hung with ancient cobwebs; the curtains and beddings were
rotten; the furniture was rickety and ready to fall to pieces. He sprang
out of bed, but his quaking knees sunk under him and he fell to the
"This is the weakness of age," he said.
He rose and sought his clothing. It was clothing no longer. The colors
were gone, the garments gave way in many places while he was putting
them on. He fled, shuddering, into the corridor, and along it to
the great hall. Here he was met by a middle-aged stranger of a kind
countenance, who stopped and gazed at him with surprise. Conrad said:
"Good sir, will you send hither the lord Ulrich?"
The stranger looked puzzled a moment, then said:
"The lord Ulrich?"
"Yes--if you will be so good."
The stranger called--"Wilhelm!" A young serving-man came, and the
stranger said to him:
"Is there a lord Ulrich among the guests?"
"I know none of the name, so please your honor."
Conrad said, hesitatingly:
"I did not mean a guest, but the lord of the castle, sir."
The stranger and the servant exchanged wondering glances. Then the
"I am the lord of the castle."
"Since when, sir?"
"Since the death of my father, the good lord Ulrich more than forty
Conrad sank upon a bench and covered his face with his hands while he
rocked his body to and fro and moaned. The stranger said in a low voice
to the servant:
"I fear me this poor old creature is mad. Call some one."
In a moment several people came, and grouped themselves about, talking
in whispers. Conrad looked up and scanned the faces about him wistfully.
Then he shook his head and said, in a grieved voice:
"No, there is none among ye that I know. I am old and alone in the
world. They are dead and gone these many years that cared for me. But
sure, some of these aged ones I see about me can tell me some little
word or two concerning them."
Several bent and tottering men and women came nearer and answered his
questions about each former friend as he mentioned the names. This one
they said had been dead ten years, that one twenty, another thirty. Each
succeeding blow struck heavier and heavier. At last the sufferer said:
"There is one more, but I have not the courage to--O my lost Catharina!"
One of the old dames said:
"Ah, I knew her well, poor soul. A misfortune overtook her lover, and
she died of sorrow nearly fifty years ago. She lieth under the linden
tree without the court."
Conrad bowed his head and said:
"Ah, why did I ever wake! And so she died of grief for me, poor child.
So young, so sweet, so good! She never wittingly did a hurtful thing in
all the little summer of her life. Her loving debt shall be repaid--for
I will die of grief for her."
His head drooped upon his breast. In the moment there was a wild burst
of joyous laughter, a pair of round young arms were flung about Conrad's
neck and a sweet voice cried:
"There, Conrad mine, thy kind words kill me--the farce shall go no
further! Look up, and laugh with us--'twas all a jest!"
And he did look up, and gazed, in a dazed wonderment--for the disguises
were stripped away, and the aged men and women were bright and young and
gay again. Catharina's happy tongue ran on:
"'Twas a marvelous jest, and bravely carried out. They gave you a heavy
sleeping-draught before you went to bed, and in the night they bore you
to a ruined chamber where all had fallen to decay, and placed these rags
of clothing by you. And when your sleep was spent and you came forth,
two strangers, well instructed in their parts, were here to meet you;
and all we, your friends, in our disguises, were close at hand, to see
and hear, you may be sure. Ah, 'twas a gallant jest! Come, now, and make
thee ready for the pleasures of the day. How real was thy misery for the
moment, thou poor lad! Look up and have thy laugh, now!"
He looked up, searched the merry faces about him in a dreamy way, then
sighed and said:
"I am aweary, good strangers, I pray you lead me to her grave."
All the smile vanished away, every cheek blanched, Catharina sunk to the
ground in a swoon.
All day the people went about the castle with troubled faces, and
communed together in undertones. A painful hush pervaded the place which
had lately been so full of cheery life. Each in his turn tried to arouse
Conrad out of his hallucination and bring him to himself; but all the
answer any got was a meek, bewildered stare, and then the words:
"Good stranger, I have no friends, all are at rest these many years;
ye speak me fair, ye mean me well, but I know ye not; I am alone and
forlorn in the world--prithee lead me to her grave."
During two years Conrad spent his days, from the early morning till the
night, under the linden tree, mourning over the imaginary grave of his
Catharina. Catharina was the only company of the harmless madman. He was
very friendly toward her because, as he said, in some ways she reminded
him of his Catharina whom he had lost "fifty years ago." He often said:
"She was so gay, so happy-hearted--but you never smile; and always when
you think I am not looking, you cry."
When Conrad died, they buried him under the linden, according to his
directions, so that he might rest "near his poor Catharina." Then
Catharina sat under the linden alone, every day and all day long, a
great many years, speaking to no one, and never smiling; and at last her
long repentance was rewarded with death, and she was buried by Conrad's
Harris pleased the captain by saying it was good legend; and pleased him
further by adding:
"Now that I have seen this mighty tree, vigorous with its four hundred
years, I feel a desire to believe the legend for ITS sake; so I will
humor the desire, and consider that the tree really watches over those
poor hearts and feels a sort of human tenderness for them."
We returned to Necharsteinach, plunged our hot heads into the trough at
the town pump, and then went to the hotel and ate our trout dinner in
leisurely comfort, in the garden, with the beautiful Neckar flowing at
our feet, the quaint Dilsberg looming beyond, and the graceful towers
and battlements of a couple of medieval castles (called the "Swallow's
Nest"  and "The Brothers.") assisting the rugged scenery of a bend
of the river down to our right. We got to sea in season to make the
eight-mile run to Heidelberg before the night shut down. We sailed by
the hotel in the mellow glow of sunset, and came slashing down with
the mad current into the narrow passage between the dikes. I believed I
could shoot the bridge myself, and I went to the forward triplet of logs
and relieved the pilot of his pole and his responsibility.
1. The seeker after information is referred to Appendix E
for our captain's legend of the "Swallow's Nest"
and "The Brothers."
We went tearing along in a most exhilarating way, and I performed the
delicate duties of my office very well indeed for a first attempt;
but perceiving, presently, that I really was going to shoot the bridge
itself instead of the archway under it, I judiciously stepped ashore.
The next moment I had my long-coveted desire: I saw a raft wrecked. It
hit the pier in the center and went all to smash and scatteration like a
box of matches struck by lightning.
I was the only one of our party who saw this grand sight; the others
were attitudinizing, for the benefit of the long rank of young ladies
who were promenading on the bank, and so they lost it. But I helped to
fish them out of the river, down below the bridge, and then described it
to them as well as I could.
They were not interested, though. They said they were wet and felt
ridiculous and did not care anything for descriptions of scenery. The
young ladies, and other people, crowded around and showed a great deal
of sympathy, but that did not help matters; for my friends said they did
not want sympathy, they wanted a back alley and solitude.
CHAPTER XX [My Precious, Priceless Tear-Jug]
Next morning brought good news--our trunks had arrived from Hamburg
at last. Let this be a warning to the reader. The Germans are very
conscientious, and this trait makes them very particular. Therefore if
you tell a German you want a thing done immediately, he takes you
at your word; he thinks you mean what you say; so he does that thing
immediately--according to his idea of immediately--which is about a
week; that is, it is a week if it refers to the building of a garment,
or it is an hour and a half if it refers to the cooking of a trout. Very
well; if you tell a German to send your trunk to you by "slow freight,"
he takes you at your word; he sends it by "slow freight," and you
cannot imagine how long you will go on enlarging your admiration of the
expressiveness of that phrase in the German tongue, before you get that
trunk. The hair on my trunk was soft and thick and youthful, when I
got it ready for shipment in Hamburg; it was baldheaded when it reached
Heidelberg. However, it was still sound, that was a comfort, it was
not battered in the least; the baggagemen seemed to be conscientiously
careful, in Germany, of the baggage entrusted to their hands. There
was nothing now in the way of our departure, therefore we set about our
Naturally my chief solicitude was about my collection of Ceramics. Of
course I could not take it with me, that would be inconvenient, and
dangerous besides. I took advice, but the best brick-a-brackers were
divided as to the wisest course to pursue; some said pack the collection
and warehouse it; others said try to get it into the Grand Ducal Museum
at Mannheim for safe keeping. So I divided the collection, and followed
the advice of both parties. I set aside, for the Museum, those articles
which were the most frail and precious.
Among these was my Etruscan tear-jug. I have made a little sketch of it
here; [Figure 6] that thing creeping up the side is not a bug, it is a
hole. I bought this tear-jug of a dealer in antiquities for four hundred
and fifty dollars. It is very rare. The man said the Etruscans used to
keep tears or something in these things, and that it was very hard to
get hold of a broken one, now. I also set aside my Henri II. plate. See
sketch from my pencil; [Figure 7] it is in the main correct, though I
think I have foreshortened one end of it a little too much, perhaps.
This is very fine and rare; the shape is exceedingly beautiful and
unusual. It has wonderful decorations on it, but I am not able to
reproduce them. It cost more than the tear-jug, as the dealer said there
was not another plate just like it in the world. He said there was much
false Henri II ware around, but that the genuineness of this piece
was unquestionable. He showed me its pedigree, or its history, if you
please; it was a document which traced this plate's movements all the
way down from its birth--showed who bought it, from whom, and what he
paid for it--from the first buyer down to me, whereby I saw that it had
gone steadily up from thirty-five cents to seven hundred dollars. He
said that the whole Ceramic world would be informed that it was now in
my possession and would make a note of it, with the price paid. [Figure
There were Masters in those days, but, alas--it is not so now. Of course
the main preciousness of this piece lies in its color; it is that old
sensuous, pervading, ramifying, interpolating, transboreal blue which is
the despair of modern art. The little sketch which I have made of this
gem cannot and does not do it justice, since I have been obliged to
leave out the color. But I've got the expression, though.
However, I must not be frittering away the reader's time with these
details. I did not intend to go into any detail at all, at first, but
it is the failing of the true ceramiker, or the true devotee in any
department of brick-a-brackery, that once he gets his tongue or his pen
started on his darling theme, he cannot well stop until he drops from
exhaustion. He has no more sense of the flight of time than has any
other lover when talking of his sweetheart. The very "marks" on the
bottom of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into a gibbering
ecstasy; and I could forsake a drowning relative to help dispute about
whether the stopple of a departed Buon Retiro scent-bottle was genuine
Many people say that for a male person, bric-a-brac hunting is about as
robust a business as making doll-clothes, or decorating Japanese pots
with decalcomanie butterflies would be, and these people fling mud at
the elegant Englishman, Byng, who wrote a book called THE BRIC-A-BRAC
HUNTER, and make fun of him for chasing around after what they choose to
call "his despicable trifles"; and for "gushing" over these trifles;
and for exhibiting his "deep infantile delight" in what they call his
"tuppenny collection of beggarly trivialities"; and for beginning his
book with a picture of himself seated, in a "sappy, self-complacent
attitude, in the midst of his poor little ridiculous bric-a-brac junk
It is easy to say these things; it is easy to revile us, easy to despise
us; therefore, let these people rail on; they cannot feel as Byng and
I feel--it is their loss, not ours. For my part I am content to be a
brick-a-bracker and a ceramiker--more, I am proud to be so named. I am
proud to know that I lose my reason as immediately in the presence of a
rare jug with an illustrious mark on the bottom of it, as if I had
just emptied that jug. Very well; I packed and stored a part of my
collection, and the rest of it I placed in the care of the Grand Ducal
Museum in Mannheim, by permission. My Old Blue China Cat remains there
yet. I presented it to that excellent institution.
I had but one misfortune with my things. An egg which I had kept back
from breakfast that morning, was broken in packing. It was a great pity.
I had shown it to the best connoisseurs in Heidelberg, and they all said
it was an antique. We spent a day or two in farewell visits, and then
left for Baden-Baden. We had a pleasant trip to it, for the Rhine valley
is always lovely. The only trouble was that the trip was too short. If
I remember rightly it only occupied a couple of hours, therefore I judge
that the distance was very little, if any, over fifty miles. We
quitted the train at Oos, and walked the entire remaining distance to
Baden-Baden, with the exception of a lift of less than an hour which
we got on a passing wagon, the weather being exhaustingly warm. We came
into town on foot.
One of the first persons we encountered, as we walked up the street,
was the Rev. Mr. ------, an old friend from America--a lucky encounter,
indeed, for his is a most gentle, refined, and sensitive nature, and his
company and companionship are a genuine refreshment. We knew he had been
in Europe some time, but were not at all expecting to run across
him. Both parties burst forth into loving enthusiasms, and Rev. Mr.
"I have got a brimful reservoir of talk to pour out on you, and an empty
one ready and thirsting to receive what you have got; we will sit up
till midnight and have a good satisfying interchange, for I leave here
early in the morning." We agreed to that, of course.
I had been vaguely conscious, for a while, of a person who was walking
in the street abreast of us; I had glanced furtively at him once or
twice, and noticed that he was a fine, large, vigorous young fellow,
with an open, independent countenance, faintly shaded with a pale and
even almost imperceptible crop of early down, and that he was clothed
from head to heel in cool and enviable snow-white linen. I thought I had
also noticed that his head had a sort of listening tilt to it. Now about
this time the Rev. Mr. ------ said:
"The sidewalk is hardly wide enough for three, so I will walk behind;
but keep the talk going, keep the talk going, there's no time to lose,
and you may be sure I will do my share." He ranged himself behind us,
and straightway that stately snow-white young fellow closed up to the
sidewalk alongside him, fetched him a cordial slap on the shoulder with
his broad palm, and sung out with a hearty cheeriness:
"AMERICANS for two-and-a-half and the money up! HEY?"
The Reverend winced, but said mildly:
"Yes--we are Americans."
"Lord love you, you can just bet that's what _I_ am, every time! Put it
He held out his Sahara of his palm, and the Reverend laid his diminutive
hand in it, and got so cordial a shake that we heard his glove burst
"Say, didn't I put you up right?"
"Sho! I spotted you for MY kind the minute I heard your clack. You been
over here long?"
"About four months. Have you been over long?"
"LONG? Well, I should say so! Going on two YEARS, by geeminy! Say, are
"No, I can't say that I am. Are you?"
"Oh, HELL, yes!" This with immense enthusiasm.
The Reverend shrunk a little, in his clothes, and we were aware, rather
by instinct than otherwise, that he was throwing out signals of distress
to us; but we did not interfere or try to succor him, for we were quite
The young fellow hooked his arm into the Reverend's, now, with the
confiding and grateful air of a waif who has been longing for a friend,
and a sympathetic ear, and a chance to lisp once more the sweet accents
of the mother-tongue--and then he limbered up the muscles of his mouth
and turned himself loose--and with such a relish! Some of his words were
not Sunday-school words, so I am obliged to put blanks where they occur.
"Yes indeedy! If _I_ ain't an American there AIN'T any Americans, that's
all. And when I heard you fellows gassing away in the good old American
language, I'm ------ if it wasn't all I could do to keep from hugging
you! My tongue's all warped with trying to curl it around these
------ forsaken wind-galled nine-jointed German words here; now I TELL
you it's awful good to lay it over a Christian word once more and kind
of let the old taste soak it. I'm from western New York. My name is
Cholley Adams. I'm a student, you know. Been here going on two years.
I'm learning to be a horse-doctor! I LIKE that part of it, you know, but
------ these people, they won't learn a fellow in his own language, they
make him learn in German; so before I could tackle the horse-doctoring I
had to tackle this miserable language.
"First off, I thought it would certainly give me the botts, but I don't
mind now. I've got it where the hair's short, I think; and dontchuknow,
they made me learn Latin, too. Now between you and me, I wouldn't give a
------ for all the Latin that was ever jabbered; and the first thing _I_
calculate to do when I get through, is to just sit down and forget it.
'Twon't take me long, and I don't mind the time, anyway. And I tell
you what! the difference between school-teaching over yonder and
school-teaching over here--sho! WE don't know anything about it! Here
you're got to peg and peg and peg and there just ain't any let-up--and
what you learn here, you've got to KNOW, dontchuknow--or else you'll
have one of these ------ spavined, spectacles, ring-boned, knock-kneed
old professors in your hair. I've been here long ENOUGH, and I'm getting
blessed tired of it, mind I TELL you. The old man wrote me that he was
coming over in June, and said he'd take me home in August, whether I was
done with my education or not, but durn him, he didn't come; never said
why; just sent me a hamper of Sunday-school books, and told me to
be good, and hold on a while. I don't take to Sunday-school books,
dontchuknow--I don't hanker after them when I can get pie--but I READ
them, anyway, because whatever the old man tells me to do, that's the
thing that I'm a-going to DO, or tear something, you know. I buckled
in and read all those books, because he wanted me to; but that kind of
thing don't excite ME, I like something HEARTY. But I'm awful homesick.
I'm homesick from ear-socket to crupper, and from crupper to hock-joint;
but it ain't any use, I've got to stay here, till the old man drops the
rag and give the word--yes, SIR, right here in this ------ country I've
got to linger till the old man says COME!--and you bet your bottom
dollar, Johnny, it AIN'T just as easy as it is for a cat to have twins!"
At the end of this profane and cordial explosion he fetched a prodigious
"WHOOSH!" to relieve his lungs and make recognition of the heat, and
then he straightway dived into his narrative again for "Johnny's"
benefit, beginning, "Well, ------ it ain't any use talking, some of
those old American words DO have a kind of a bully swing to them; a man
can EXPRESS himself with 'em--a man can get at what he wants to SAY,
When we reached our hotel and it seemed that he was about to lose the
Reverend, he showed so much sorrow, and begged so hard and so earnestly
that the Reverend's heart was not hard enough to hold out against the
pleadings--so he went away with the parent-honoring student, like a
right Christian, and took supper with him in his lodgings, and sat in
the surf-beat of his slang and profanity till near midnight, and then
left him--left him pretty well talked out, but grateful "clear down
to his frogs," as he expressed it. The Reverend said it had transpired
during the interview that "Cholley" Adams's father was an extensive
dealer in horses in western New York; this accounted for Cholley's
choice of a profession. The Reverend brought away a pretty high opinion
of Cholley as a manly young fellow, with stuff in him for a useful
citizen; he considered him rather a rough gem, but a gem, nevertheless.
CHAPTER XXI [Insolent Shopkeepers and Gabbling Americans]
Baden-Baden sits in the lap of the hills, and the natural and artificial
beauties of the surroundings are combined effectively and charmingly.
The level strip of ground which stretches through and beyond the town is
laid out in handsome pleasure grounds, shaded by noble trees and adorned
at intervals with lofty and sparkling fountain-jets. Thrice a day a fine
band makes music in the public promenade before the Conversation
House, and in the afternoon and evening that locality is populous with
fashionably dressed people of both sexes, who march back and forth past
the great music-stand and look very much bored, though they make a
show of feeling otherwise. It seems like a rather aimless and stupid
existence. A good many of these people are there for a real purpose,
however; they are racked with rheumatism, and they are there to stew it
out in the hot baths. These invalids looked melancholy enough, limping
about on their canes and crutches, and apparently brooding over all
sorts of cheerless things. People say that Germany, with her damp stone
houses, is the home of rheumatism. If that is so, Providence must have
foreseen that it would be so, and therefore filled the land with the
healing baths. Perhaps no other country is so generously supplied with
medicinal springs as Germany. Some of these baths are good for one
ailment, some for another; and again, peculiar ailments are conquered
by combining the individual virtues of several different baths. For
instance, for some forms of disease, the patient drinks the native hot
water of Baden-Baden, with a spoonful of salt from the Carlsbad springs
dissolved in it. That is not a dose to be forgotten right away.
They don't SELL this hot water; no, you go into the great Trinkhalle,
and stand around, first on one foot and then on the other, while two or
three young girls sit pottering at some sort of ladylike sewing-work
in your neighborhood and can't seem to see you--polite as three-dollar
clerks in government offices.
By and by one of these rises painfully, and "stretches"--stretches fists
and body heavenward till she raises her heels from the floor, at the
same time refreshing herself with a yawn of such comprehensiveness that
the bulk of her face disappears behind her upper lip and one is able to
see how she is constructed inside--then she slowly closes her
cavern, brings down her fists and her heels, comes languidly forward,
contemplates you contemptuously, draws you a glass of hot water and sets
it down where you can get it by reaching for it. You take it and say:
"How much?"--and she returns you, with elaborate indifference, a
"NACH BELIEBE" (what you please.)
This thing of using the common beggar's trick and the common beggar's
shibboleth to put you on your liberality when you were expecting a
simple straightforward commercial transaction, adds a little to your
prospering sense of irritation. You ignore her reply, and ask again:
--and she calmly, indifferently, repeats:
You are getting angry, but you are trying not to show it; you resolve
to keep on asking your question till she changes her answer, or at least
her annoyingly indifferent manner. Therefore, if your case be like mine,
you two fools stand there, and without perceptible emotion of any kind,
or any emphasis on any syllable, you look blandly into each other's
eyes, and hold the following idiotic conversation:
I do not know what another person would have done, but at this point I
gave up; that cast-iron indifference, that tranquil contemptuousness,
conquered me, and I struck my colors. Now I knew she was used to
receiving about a penny from manly people who care nothing about the
opinions of scullery-maids, and about tuppence from moral cowards; but
I laid a silver twenty-five cent piece within her reach and tried to
shrivel her up with this sarcastic speech:
"If it isn't enough, will you stoop sufficiently from your official
dignity to say so?"<