Read CHAPTER III - PARIS of As Seen By Me, free online book, by Lilian Bell, on ReadCentral.com.

It was a fortunate thing, after all, that I went to London first, and had my first great astonishment there. It broke Paris to me gently.

For a month I have been in this city of limited republicanism; this extraordinary example of outward beauty and inward uncleanness; this bewildering cosmopolis of cheap luxuries and expensive necessities; this curious city of contradictions, where you might eat your breakfast from the streets they are so clean but where you must close your eyes to the spectacles of the curbstones; this beautiful, whited sepulchre, where exists the unwritten law, “Commit any offence you will, provided you submerge it in poetry and flowers”; this exponent of outward observances, where a gentleman will deliberately push you into the street if he wishes to pass you in a crowd, but where his action is condoned by his inexpressible manner of raising his hat to you, and the heartfelt sincerity of his apology; where one man will run a mile to restore a lost franc, but if you ask him to change a gold piece he will steal five; where your eyes are ravished with the beauty, and the greenness, and the smoothness and apparent ease of living of all its inhabitants; where your mind is filled with the pictures, the music, the art, the general atmosphere of culture and wit; where the cooking is so good but so elusive, and where the shops are so bewitching that you have spent your last dollar without thinking, and you are obliged to cable for a new letter of credit from home before you know it this is Paris.

Paris is very educational. I can imagine its influence broadening some people so much that their own country could never be ample enough to cover them again. I can imagine it narrowing others so that they would return to America more of Puritans than ever. It is amusing, it is fascinating, it is exciting, it is corrupting. The French must be the most curious people on earth. How could even heavenly ingenuity create a more uncommon or bewildering contradiction and combination? Make up your mind that they are as simple as children when you see their innocent picnicking along the boulevards and in the parks with their whole families, yet you dare not trust yourself to hear what they are saying. Believe that they are cynical, and fin de siecle, and skeptical of all women when you hear two men talk, and the next day you hear that one of them has shot himself on the grave of his sweetheart. Believe that politeness is the ruling characteristic of the country because a man kisses your hand when he takes leave of you. But marry him, and no insult as regards other women is too low for him to heap upon you. Believe that the French men are sympathetic because they laugh and cry openly at the theatre. But appeal to their chivalry, and they will rescue you from one discomfort only to offer you a worse. The French have sentimentality, but not sentiment. They have gallantry, but not chivalry. They have vanity, but not pride. They have religion, but not morality. They are a combination of the wildest extravagance and the strictest parsimony. They cultivate the ground so close to the railroad tracks that the trains almost run over their roses, and yet they leave a Place de la Concorde in the heart of the city.

You can buy the wing of a chicken at a butcher’s and take it home to cook it. But your bill at a restaurant will appall you. Water is the most precious and exclusive drink you can order in Paris. Imagine that you who let the water run to cool it! In Paris they actually pay for water in their houses by the quart.

Artichokes, and truffles, and mushrooms, and silk stockings, and kid gloves are so cheap here that it makes you blink your eyes. But eggs, and cream, and milk are luxuries. Silks and velvets are bewilderingly inexpensive. But cotton stuffs are from America, and are extravagances. They make them up into “costumes,” and trim them with velvet ribbon. Never by any chance could you be supposed to send cotton frocks to be washed every week. The luxury of fresh, starched muslin dresses and plenty of shirt-waists is unknown.

I never shall overcome the ecstasies of laughter which assail me when I see varieties of coal exhibited in tiny shop windows, set forth in high glass dishes, as we exploit chocolates at home. But well they may respect it, for it is really very much cheaper to freeze to death than to buy coal in Paris.

The reason of all this is the city tax on every chicken, every carrot, every egg brought into Paris. Every mouthful of food is taxed. This produces an enormous revenue, and this is why the streets are so clean; it is why the asphalt is as smooth as a ballroom floor; it is why the whole of Paris is as beautiful as a dream.

In fact, the city has ideas of cleanliness which its middle-class inhabitants do not share. On a rainy day in Paris the absurdly hoisted dresses will expose to your view all varieties of trimmed, ruffled, and lace petticoats, which would undeniably be benefited by a bath. All the lingerie has ribbons in it, and sometimes I think they are never intended to be taken out.

When I was at the chateau of a friend not long ago she overheard her maid apologizing to two sisters of charity, for the presence of a bath-tub in her mistress’s dressing-room: “You must not blame madame la marquise for bathing every day. She is not more untidy than I, and I, God knows, wash myself but twice a year. It is just a habit of hers which she caught from the English.”

My friend called to her sharply, and told her she need not apologize for her bathing, to which the maid replied, in a tone of meek justification, “But if madame la marquise only knew how she was regarded by the people for this habit of hers!”

I like the way the French take their amusements. At the theatre they laugh and applaud the wit of the hero and hiss the villain. They shout their approval of a duel and weep aloud over the death of the aged mother. When they drive in the Bois they smile and have an air of enjoyment quite at variance with the bored expression of English and Americans who have enough money to own carriages. We drove in Hyde Park in London the day before we came to Paris, and nearly wept with sympathy for the unspoken grief in the faces of the unfortunate rich who were at such pains to enjoy themselves.

The second day from that we had a delightful drive in the Bois in Paris.

“How glad everybody seems to be we have come!” I said to my sister. “See how pleased they all look.”

I was enchanted at their gay faces. I felt like bowing right and left to them, the way queens and circus girls do.

I never saw such handsome men as I saw in London. I never saw such beautiful women as I see in Paris.

The Bois has never been so smart as it was the past season, for the horrible fire of the Bazar de la Charité put an end to the Paris season, and left those who were not personally bereaved no solace but the Bois. Consequently, the costumes one saw between five and seven on that one beautiful boulevard were enough to set one wild. I always wished that my neck turned on a pivot and that I had eyes set like a coronet all around my head. My sister and I were in a constant state of ecstasy and of clutching each other’s gowns, trying to see every one who passed. But it was of no use. Although they drove slowly on purpose to be seen, if you tried to focus your glance on each one it seemed as if they drove like lightning, and you got only astigmatism for your pains. I always came home from the Bois with a headache and a stiff neck.

I never dreamed of such clothes even in my dreams of heaven. But the French are an extravagant race. There was hardly a gown worn last season which was not of the most delicate texture, garnished with chiffon and illusion and tulle the most crushable, airy, inflammable, unserviceable material one can think of. Now, I am a utilitarian. When I see a white gown I always wonder if it will wash. If I see lace on the foot ruffle of a dress I think how it will sound when the wearer steps on it going up-stairs. But anything would be serviceable to wear driving in a victoria in the Bois between five and seven, and as that is where I have seen the most beautiful costumes I have no right to complain, or to thrust at them my American ideas of usefulness. This rage of theirs for beauty is what makes a perpetual honeymoon for the eyes of every inch of France. The way they study color and put greens together in their landscape gardening makes one think with horror of our prairies and sagebrush.

The eye is ravished with beauty all over Paris. The clean streets, the walks between rows of trees for pedestrians, the lanes for bicyclists, the paths through tiny forests, right in Paris, for equestrians, and on each side the loveliest trees trees everywhere except where there are fountains but what is the use of trying to describe a beauty which has staggered braver pens than mine, and which, after all, you must see to appreciate?

The Catholic observances one sees everywhere in Paris are most interesting. When a funeral procession passes, every man takes off his hat and stands watching it with the greatest respect.

In May the streets are full of sweet-faced little girls on their way to their first communion. They were all in white, bareheaded, except for their white veils, white shoes, white gloves, and the dearest look of importance on their earnest little faces. It was most touching.

In all months, however, one sees the comical sight of a French bride and bridegroom, in all the glory of their bridal array white satin, veil, and orange blossoms driving through the streets in open cabs, and hugging and kissing each other with an unctuous freedom which is apt to throw a conservative American into a spasm of laughter. Indeed, the frank and candid way that love-making goes on in public among the lower classes is so amazing that at first you think you never in this world will become accustomed to it, but you get accustomed to a great many strange sights in Paris. If a kiss explodes with unusual violence in a cab near mine it sometimes scares the horse, but it no longer disturbs me in the least. My nervousness over that sort of thing has entirely worn off.

I have had but one adventure, and that was of a simple and primitive character, which seemed to excite no one but myself. They say that there is no drunkenness in France. If that is so then this cabman of mine had a fit of some kind. Perhaps, though, he was only a beast. Most of the cabmen here are beasts. They beat their poor horses so unmercifully that I spend quite a good portion of my time standing up in the cab and arguing with them. But the only efficacious argument I have discovered is to tell them that they will get no pourboire if they beat the horse. That seems to infuse more humanity into them than any number of Scripture texts.

On this occasion my cabman, for no reason whatever, suddenly began to beat his horse in the hatefulest way, leaning down with his whip and striking the horse underneath, as we were going downhill on the Rue de Freycinet. I screamed at him, but he pretended not to hear. The cab rocked from side to side, the horse was galloping, and this brute beating him like a madman. It made me wild. I was being bounced around like corn in a popper and in imminent danger of being thrown to the pavement.

People saw my danger, but nobody did anything just looked, that was all. I saw that I must save myself if there was any saving going to be done. So with one last trial of my lungs I shrieked at the cabman, but the cobblestones were his excuse, and he kept on. So I just stood up and knocked his hat off with my parasol! his big, white, glazed hat. It was glorious! He turned around in a fury and pulled up his horse, with a torrent of French abuse and impudence which scared me nearly to death. I thought he might strike me.

So I pulled my twitching lips into a distortion which passed muster with a Paris cabman for a smile, and begged his pardon so profusely that he relented and didn’t kill me.

I often blush for the cheap Americans with loud voices and provincial speech, and general commonness, whom one meets over here; but with all their faults they cannot approach the vulgarities at table which I have seen in Paris. In all America we have no such vulgar institution as their rince-bouche an affair resembling a two-part finger-bowl, with the water in a cup in the middle. At fashionable tables, men and women in gorgeous clothes, who speak four or five languages, actually rinse their mouths and gargle at the table, and then slop the water thus used back into these bowls. The first time I saw this I do assure you I would not have been more astonished if the next course had been stomach pumps.

And as for the toothpick habit! Let no one ever tell me that that atrocity is American! Here it goes with every course, and without the pretended decency of holding one’s serviette before one’s mouth, which, in my opinion, is a mere affectation, and aggravates the offence.

But the most shameless thing in all Europe is the marriage question. To talk with intelligent, clever, thinking men and women, who know the secret history of all the famous international marriages, as well as the high contracting parties, who will relate the price paid for the husband, and who the intermediary was, and how much commission he or she received, is to make you turn faint and sick at the mere thought, especially if you happen to come from a country where they once fought to abolish the buying and selling of human beings. But our black slaves were above buying and selling themselves or their children. It remains for civilized Europe of our time to do this, and the highest and proudest of her people at that.

It is not so shocking to read about it in glittering generalities. I knew of it in a vague way, just as I knew the history of the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. I thought it was too bad that so many people were killed, and I also thought it a pity that Frenchmen never married without a dot. But when it comes to meeting the people who had thus bargained, and the moment their gorgeous lace and satin backs were turned to hear some one say, “You are always so interested in that sort of thing, have you heard what a scandal was caused by the marriage of those two?” then it ceases to be history; then it becomes almost a family affair.

“How could a marriage between two unattached young people cause a scandal?” I asked, with my stupid, primitive American ideas.

“Oh, the bride’s mother refused to pay the commission to the intermediary,” was the airy reply. “It came near getting into the papers.”

At the Jubilee garden party at Lady Monson’s I saw the most beautiful French girl I have seen in Paris. She was superb. In America she would have been a radiant, a triumphant beauty, and probably would have acquired the insolent manners of some of our spoiled beauties. Instead of that, however, she was modest, even timid-looking, except for her queenly carriage. Her gown was a dream, and a dream of a dress at a Paris garden party means something.

“What a tearing beauty!” I said to my companion. “Who is she?”

“Yes, poor girl!” he said. “She is the daughter of the Comtesse N . One of the prettiest girls in Paris. Not a sou, however; consequently she will never marry. She will probably go into a convent.”

“But why? Why won’t she marry? Why aren’t all the men crazy about her? Why don’t you marry her?”

“Marry a girl without a dot? Thank you, mademoiselle. I am an expense to myself. My wife must not be an additional encumbrance.”

“But surely,” I said, “somebody will want to marry her, if no nobleman will.”

“Ah, yes, but she is of noble blood, and she must not marry beneath her. No one in her own class will marry her, so” a shrug “the convent! See, her chances are quite gone. She has been out five years now.”

I could have cried. Every word of it was quite true. I thought of the dozens of susceptible and rich American men I knew who would have gone through fire and water for her, and who, although they have no title to give her, would have made her adoring and adorable husbands, and I seriously thought of offering a few of them to her for consideration! But alas, there are so many ifs and ands, and well, I didn’t.

I only sighed and said, “Well, I suppose such things are common in France, but I do assure you such things are impossible in America.”

“Such things as what, mademoiselle?”

“This cold-blooded bartering,” I said. “American men are above it.”

“Are American girls above selling themselves, mademoiselle? Do you see that poor, pitifully plain little creature there, in that dress which cost a fortune? Do you see how ill she carries it? Do you see her unformed, uncertain manner? Her husband is the one I just had the honor of presenting to you, who is now talking to the beauty you so much admire.”

“He shows good taste in spite of his marriage,” I said.

“Certainly. But his wife is your countrywoman. That is the last famous international marriage, and the most vulgar of the whole lot. Listen, mademoiselle, and I will tell you the exact truth of the whole affair.

“She came over here with letters to Paris friends, and when it became known that one of the richest heiresses in America was here, naturally all the mammas with marriageable sons were anxious to see her. She was invited everywhere, but as she could not speak French, and as she was as you see her, her success could not be said to be great. No, but that made no difference. The Duchesse de Z was determined that her son should marry the rich heiress. As she expected to remain here a year or more, and the young Duc de Z made a wry face, she did not press the matter. Then the heiress went into a convent to learn French, and the Duchesse went to see her very often and took her to drive, and did her son’s part as well as she could.

“Suddenly, to the amazement of everybody, the heiress sailed for America without a word of warning. The Duchesse was furious. ’You must follow her,’ she said to her son. ’We cannot let so much money escape.’ The son said he would be hanged if he went to America, or if he would marry such a monkey, and as for her money, she could go anywhere she pleased with it, or words to that effect. So that ended the affair of the Duc de Z . When the other impecunious young nobles heard that the Duchesse no longer had any claims upon the American’s money they got together and said, ’Somebody must marry her and divide with the rest. We can’t all marry her, but we can all have a share from whoever does. Now we will draw lots to see who must go to America and marry her.’ The lot fell to the Baron de X , but he had no money for the journey. So all the others raised what money they could and loaned it to him, and took his notes for it, with enormous interest, payable after his marriage. He sailed away, and within eight months he had married her, but he has not paid those notes because his wife won’t give him the money! And these gentlemen are furious! Good joke, I call it.”

“What a shameful thing!” I said. “I wonder if that girl knew how she was being married!”

“Of course she knew! At least, she might have known. She was rich and she was plain. How could she hope to gain one of the proudest titles in France without buying it?”

“I wonder if she could have known!” I said, again.

“It would not have prevented the marriage, would it, mademoiselle, if she had?”

“Indeed it would!” I said (but I don’t know whether it would or not). He shrugged his shoulders.

“America is very different from Europe, then, mademoiselle. Here it would have made no difference. When a great amount of money is to be placed, one must not have too many scruples.”

“If she did know,” I said, with a fervor which was lost upon him, “believe this, whether you can understand it or not: she was not a typical American girl.”

I had, as usual, many more words which he deserved to have had said to him, but education along this line takes too much time. I ought to have begun this great work with his great-grandparents.

What any one can see about Dinard to like is a mystery to me! Is it possible that one who has spent a month there could ever be lured back again? There is a beautiful journey from Paris across France southwesterly to the coast, through odd little French villages, vineyards, poppy-fields, and rose-gardens, across shining rivulets and through an undulating landscape, all so lovely that it is no wonder that one expects all this beauty to lead up to a climax. But what a disappointment Dinard is to one’s enthusiastic anticipations! This famous watering-place has to my mind not one solitary redeeming feature. It has no excuse for being famous. It has not even one happy accident about it as a peg to hang its fame upon, like some writers’ first novels. Dinard simply goes on being famous, nobody knows why. And to go there, after reading pages about it in the papers and hearing people speak of Dinard as Mohammedans whisper sacredly of Mecca, is like meeting celebrities. You wonder what under the sun what in the world how in the name of Heaven such ugly, stupid, uninteresting, heavy, dull, and insufferably ordinary persons are allowed to become famous by an overruling and beneficent Providence! I have met many celebrities, and I have been to Dinard. I have had my share of disappointments.

To begin with, Dinard is not sufficiently picturesque. There are but one or two pretty vistas and three or four points of view. Then it is not typically French. It is inhabited partly by English families who cross the Channel yearly from Southampton and Portsmouth, and who take with them their nine uninteresting daughters, with long front teeth and ill-hanging duck skirts, and partly by Americans who go to Dinard as they go to the Eiffel Tower; not that either is particularly interesting, but they had heard of these places before they came over. The only really interesting thing within five miles of Dinard is that, off St. Malo, on the island of Grand Be, Chateaubriand is buried. But as this really belongs more to the attractions of St. Malo than to Dinard, and nobody who spends summers at Dinard ever mentioned Chateaubriand in my presence, or honored his tomb by a visit, it is pure charity on my part to ascribe this solitary point of real interest to Dinard. For, after all, Chateaubriand does not belong to it. Which logic reminds me forcibly of the plea entered by the defence in a suit for borrowing a kettle: “In the first place, I never borrowed his kettle; in the second place, it was whole when I returned it; and, in the third place, it was cracked when I got it.”

So with Chateaubriand and Dinard. Then Dinard has none of the dash and go of other watering-places. There is nothing to do except to bathe mornings and watch the people win or lose two francs at petits chevaux in the evenings. Not wildly exciting, that. Consequently, you soon begin to stagnate with the rest.

You grow more and more stupid as the weeks pass, and at the end of a month you cease to think. From that time on you do not have such a bad time that is to say, you do not suffer so acutely, because you have now got down to the level of the people who go back to Dinard the next year.

We came away. The hotels are among the worst on earth musty, old-fashioned, and villainously expensive and one of the happiest moments in my life was the day when I left Dinard for Mont St. Michel. Mont St. Michel is one of the most out-of-the-way, un-get-at-able places I found in all Europe; but, oh, how it rewards one who arrives!

Mont St. Michel is too well known to need a description. But to go from Dinard requires, first of all, that one must go by boat over to St. Malo, thence by train; change cars, and alight finally at a lonely little station, behind which stands a sort of vehicle a cross between a London omnibus and a hay-wagon. You scramble to the top of this as best you may. Nobody helps you. The Frenchman behind you crowds forward and climbs up ahead of you and holds you back with his umbrella while he hauls his fat wife up beside him. Then you clamber up by the hub of the wheel and by sundry awkward means which remind you of climbing a stone wall when you were a child. You take any seat left, which the Frenchmen do not want, the horses are put to, and away you go over a smooth sandy road for eleven miles, with the sea crawling up on each side of you over the dunes.

Suddenly, without warning, you come squarely upon Mont St. Michel, rising solidly five hundred feet from nowhere. There is a whole town in this fortress, built upon this rock, street above street, like a flight of stairs, and house piled up behind house, until on the very top there is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world; and as you thread its maze of vaulted chambers and dungeons and come to its gigantic tower you are lost in absolute wonder at the building of it.

Where did they get the material? And when got, what human ingenuity could raise those enormous blocks of stone to that vast height? How those cannon swept all approach by land or sea as far as the eye could reach! It would require superb courage in an enemy to come within reach of that grim sentinel of France, manned by her warrior monks. What secrets those awful dungeons might relate! Here political crimes were avenged with all the cruelty of Siberian exile. Here prisoners wore their lives away in black solitude, no ray of light penetrating their darkness.

The story is told that one poor wretch was eaten alive by gigantic rats, and they have a ghastly reproduction of it in wax, which makes you creepy for a week after you have seen it. Nowhere in all Europe did I see a place which impressed its wonder and its history of horror upon me as did the cathedral dungeon of Mont St. Michel. Its situation was so impregnable, its capacity so vast, its silence and isolation from the outer world so absolute.

All Russia does not boast a situation so replete with possible and probable misery and anguish such as were suggested to my mind here.

But the wonder and charm of the compact little town which clings like a limpet to its base are more than can be expressed on the written page. It is like climbing the uneven stairs of some vast and roofless ancient palace, upon each floor of which dwell families who have come in and roofed over the suites of rooms and made houses out of them. The stairs lead you, not from floor to floor, but from bakery to carpenter-shop, from the blacksmith’s to the telegraph-office.

The streets are paved with large cobblestones, to prevent cart-wheels from slipping, and are so narrow that I often had to stand up at afternoon tea with my cup in one hand and my chair in the other, to let a straining, toiling little donkey pass me, gallantly hauling his load of fagots up an incline of forty-five degrees.

The famous inn here is kept by Madame Poularde, who can cook so marvellously that she is one of the wonders of Normandy. Her kitchen faces the main street; you simply step over the threshold as you hear the beating of eggs, and there, over an immense open fire, which roars gloriously up the chimney, are the fowls twirling on their strings and dripping deliciously into the pans which sizzle complainingly on the coals beneath.

Presently the roaring ceases, the fresh coals are flattened down, and into a skillet, with a handle five feet long, is dropped the butter, which melts almost instantly. A fat little red-faced boy pushes the skillet back and forth to keep the butter from burning. The frantic beating of eggs comes nearer and nearer. The shrill voice of Madame Poularde screams voluble French at her assistants. She boxes somebody’s ears, snatches the eggs, gives them one final puffy beating, which causes them to foam up and overflow, and at that exciting moment out they bubble into the smoking skillet, the handle of which she seizes at the identical moment that she lets go of the empty bowl with one hand and pushes the red-faced boy over backward with the other. It is legerdemain! But then, how she manages that skillet! How her red cheeks flush, her black eyes sparkle, and her plump hands guide that ship of state!

We are all so excited that we get horribly in her way and almost fall into the fire in our anxiety. She stirs and coaxes and coquettes with the lovely foamy mass until it becomes as light as the yellow down on a fledgling’s wings. She calls it an omelette, but she is scrambling those eggs! Then when it is almost done she screams at us to take our places. The red-faced boy rings a huge bell, and we all tumble madly up the narrow stairs to the dining-room, where a score of assorted tourists are seated. They get that first omelette because they behaved better than we did, and were more orderly. There are half a dozen little maids who attend us. They give us bread and bring our wine and get our plates all ready, for, behold, we can hear below the beating of the eggs and the sizzling of the butter, and presently Madame Poularde’s scream and slap, and we know that our omelette is on the way!

There were scores of bridal parties there when we were, for Mont St. Michel seems to be the Niagara of France, and really one could hardly imagine a more charming place for a honeymoon. Indeed, for a newly married couple, for boy and girl, for spinsters and bachelors, ay, even for Darby and Joan, Mont St. Michel has attractions. All sorts and conditions of men here find the most romantic and interesting spot to be found in the whole of France.

While here we got telegrams telling us of the assembling of our friends at a house-party at a chateau in the south of France which once had belonged to Charles VII. So without waiting for anything more we wired a joyful acceptance and set out. We did, however, stop over a few hours at Blois, in order to see the chateau there. We really did Blois in a spirit of Baedeker, for we were crazy to see Velor, in order not to miss an inch of the good times which we knew would riot there. But virtue was its own reward, for as we were looking into the depths of the first real oubliette which I ever had seen, and I was just shivering with the vision of that fiendish Catharine de’ Medici who used to drop people into these holes every morning before breakfast, just as an appetizer, we heard a most blood-curdling shriek, and there stood that wretched Jimmie watching us from an open door, waving his Baedeker at us, with Mrs. Jimmie’s lovely Madonna smile seen over his shoulder.

No one who has not felt the awful pangs of homesickness abroad has any idea of the joy with which one greets intimate friends in Europe. I believe that travel in Europe has done more toward the riveting of lukewarm American friendships than any other thing in the world.

The Jimmies have often appeared upon my pathway like angels of light, and at Blois we simply loved them, for Blois is not only gloomy, but it has a most ghastly history. The murder of the Duc de Guise and his brother, by order of King Henry III., took place here. They show one the rooms where the murder was committed, the door through which the murderer entered, and the private cabinet de travail where the king waited for the news.

Here, also, Margaret of Valois married Henry of Navarre, and Charles, Duc d’Alençon, married Margaret of Anjou. But one hardly ever thinks of the weddings which occurred here for the horrors which overshadow them. How fitting that Marie de’ Medici should have been imprisoned here, and my ancient enemy, Catharine, that queen-mother who perched her children on thrones as carelessly and as easily as did Napoleon and Queen Louise of Denmark that Catharine should have died here, “unregretted and unlamented,” was too lovely!

Then we left the magnificent old castle and took the train for Port-Boulet, where the Marquise met us with her little private omnibus, holding eight, drawn by handsome American horses. They were new horses and young, and the Marquise said that Charles found them quite unmanageable. Jimmie watched him drive them around a moment or two before they could be made to stand, then he broke out laughing. The Marquise was so disgusted at the way they see-sawed that she said she was going to sell them.

“Sell them!” cried Jimmie. “Why, all in the world that’s the matter with those poor brutes is that they don’t speak French! Let me drive them!”

So the Marquise saved Charles’s vanity by saying that monsieur wished to try the new horses. Jimmie climbed upon the box, and gathered up the reins, saying, “So, old boy, you don’t like the dratted language any better than I do. Steady now, boy! Giddap!” Whereat the pretty creatures pricked up their ears, pranced a little, then sprang into their collars, and we were off along the lovely river road at a spanking pace and with as smooth and even a gait as the most experienced roadsters.

We could hear Charles’s polite compliments to Jimmie on his driving, and Jimmie’s awful French, as he assured Charles that the horses were all right, “très gentils” and “très jolis.” “Ne dites jamais ‘doucement’ aux chevaux americains. Dites ‘whoa,’ et ils arreteront, et quand vous dites ‘Giddap,’ ils marcheront bien. Savez?” At which Charles obediently practised “Whoa!” and “Giddap!” while we felt ourselves pulled up and started off, as the object-lesson demanded, but amid shrieks of laughter which quite upset Charles’s dignity.

Finally, we whirled in across the moat and under the great gate to the chateau, and found ourselves in the billiard-room of Velor, with a big open fire, in front of which lay a pile of dogs and around which we all gathered shiveringly, for the day was chilly.

That charming billiard-room at Velor! It is not so grand as the rest of the chateau, but everybody loves it best of all. It is on the ground floor, and it has a writing-desk and two or three little work-tables and several sofas and heaps of easy-chairs, and here everybody came to read or write or sew or play billiards. And as to afternoon tea! Not one of us could have been hired to drink it in the salons up-stairs. In fact, so many of us insisted upon being in the billiard-room that there never was room for a free play of one’s cue, for somebody was always in the way, and it was rather discouraging to hear a woman doing embroidery say, “Don’t hit this ball. Take some other stroke, can’t you? Your cue will strike me in the eye.”

Dunham, the eighteen-year-old son of the Marquise, was teaching me billiards, but his manners were so beautiful that he always pretended that to stick to one’s own ball was a mere arbitrary rule of the game, so he permitted me to play with either ball, which made it easiest for me, or which caused least discomfort to those sitting uncomfortably near the table. A dear boy, that Dunham! He had but one fault, and that was that he would wear cerise and scarlet cravats, and his hair was red so uncompromisingly red, of such an obstinate and determined red, that his mother often said, “Come here, Dunham, dear, and light up this corner of the room with your sunny locks. It is too dark to see how to thread my needle!” Such was his amiability that I am sure he enjoyed it, for he always went promptly, and called her “Mon amour,” and slyly kissed her when he thought we were not looking.

All our remarks upon his red ties fell upon unheeding ears, until one day I bribed his man to bring me every one of them. These I distributed among the women guests, and when, the next morning, Dunham came in complaining that he couldn’t find any of his red ties, lo! every woman in the room was wearing one; and to our credit be it spoken that he failed to get any of them back, and never, to my knowledge at least, wore a scarlet tie again.

Velor is historic. After it passed out of the hands of Charles VII. I have slept in his room, but I must say that he was unpleasantly short if that bed fitted him! it was bought by the old miser Nivelau, whose daughter, Eugenie Belmaison, was the girl Balzac wished to marry. In a rage at being rejected by her father he wrote Eugenie Grandet, and several of the articles, such as her work-box, of which Balzac makes mention, are in the possession of the Marquise.

Every available room in the Velor was filled with our party. Each day we drove in the brake to visit some ancient chateau, such as Azay--Rideau, Islette, Chinon, or the Abbey of Fontevreault, finding the roads and scenery in Touraine the most delightful one can imagine.

Fontevreault was originally an abbey, and a most powerful one, being presided over by daughters of kings or women of none but the highest rank, and these noble women held the power of life and death over all the country which was fief to Fontevreault.

Velor was once fief to Fontevreault, but the abbey is now turned into a prison.

They took away our cameras before they allowed us to enter, but we saw some of the prisoners, of whom there were one thousand. The real object of our visit, however, was to see the tombs of Henry II. and of my beloved Richard the Lion-hearted, who are both buried at Fontevreault. To go to Fontevreault, we were obliged to cross the river Vienne on the most curious little old ferry, which was only a raft with the edges turned up. Charles drove the brake on to this raft, but we preferred, after one look into the eyes of the American horses, to climb down and trust to our own two feet.

We gave and attended breakfasts with the owners of neighboring chateaux, drove into Saumur to the theatre or to dine with the officers of the regiment stationed there, and had altogether a perfect visit. I have made many visits and have been the guest of many hostesses, most of them charming ones, hence it is no discourtesy to them and but a higher compliment to the Marquise when I assert that she is one of the most perfect hostesses I ever met.

A thorough woman of the world, having been presented at three courts and speaking five languages, yet her heart is as untouched by the taint of worldliness, her nature as unembittered by her sorrows, as if she were a child just opening her eyes to society. One of the cleverest of women, she is both humorous and witty, with a gift of mimicry which would have made her a fortune on the stage.

Her servants idolize her, manage the chateau to suit themselves, which fortunately means to perfection, and look upon her as a beloved child who must be protected from all the minor trials of life. She has rescued the most of them from some sort of discomfort, and their gratitude is boundless. Like the majority of the nobility, the peasants of France are royalists. The middle class, the bourgeoisie, are the backbone of the republic.

The servants are stanch Catholics and long for a monarchy again. The Marquise apologized to them for our being heretics, and told them that while we were not Christians (Catholics), yet we tried to be good, and in the main turned out a fair article, but she entreated their clemency and their prayers for her guests. So we had the satisfaction of being ardently prayed for all the time we were there, and of being complimented occasionally by her maid, Marie, an old Normandie peasant seventy years old, for an act on our part now and then which savored of real Christianity. And once when we had private theatricals, and I dressed as a nun, Marie never found out for half the evening that I was not one of the Sisters who frequently came to the chateau, but kept crossing herself whenever she saw me; and when she discovered me she told me, with tears in her eyes, it really was a thousand pities that I would not renounce the world and become a Christian, because I looked so much like a “religieuse.”

We went in oftenest to Chinon always on market day; some of us on horseback, some on wheels, while the rest drove. Chinon is the fortress chateau where Jeanne d’Arc came to see Charles VII. to try to interest him in her plans. Its ruins stand high up on a bluff overlooking the town, and beneath it in an open square is the very finest and most spirited equestrian statue I ever saw. It is of Jeanne d’Arc, and I only regret that the photograph I took of it is too small to show its fire and spirit and the mad rush of the horse, and the glorious, generous pose of the noble martyr’s outstretched arms, as she seems to be in the act of sacrificing her life to her country. There is the divinest patriotism in every line of it.

We saw it on a beautiful crisp day in November. It was our Thanksgiving day at home. We drove along the lovely river-road from Chinon to Velor, and upon our arrival we discovered that the Marquise had arranged an American Thanksgiving dinner for us, sending even to America for certain delicacies appropriate to the season. It was a most gorgeous Thanksgiving dinner, for, aside from the turkey, lo! there appeared a peacock in all its magnificent plumage, sitting there looking so dressy with all his feathers on that we quite blushed for the state of the turkey.

A month of Paris, and then I long for fresh fields and pastures new. Of course there is nowhere like Paris for clothes or to eat. But when one has got all the clothes one can afford and is no longer hungry, having acquired a chronic indigestion from too intimate a knowledge of Marguery’s and Ledoyen’s, what is there to do but to leave?

Paris is essentially a holiday town, but I get horribly tired of too long a holiday, and after the newness is worn off one discovers that it is the superficiality of it all that palls. The people are superficial; their amusements are feathery even the beauty of it all is “only skin deep.”

Therefore, after one glimpse of Poland, the pagan in my nature called me to the East, and six months of Paris have only intensified my longing to get away to get to something solid; to find myself once more with the serious thinkers of the world.

In the mean time Bee has deserted me for the more interesting society of Billy, and now she writes me long letters so filled with his sayings and doings that I must move on or I shall die of homesickness. I have decided on Russia and the Nile, taking intermediate countries by the way. This is entirely Billy’s fault.

When I first decided to go to Russia, I supposed, of course, that I could induce the Jimmies to go with me, but, to my consternation, they revolted, and gently but firmly expressed their determination to go to Egypt by way of Italy. So I have taken a companion, and if all goes well we shall meet the Jimmies on the terrace of Shepheard’s in February.

I packed three trunks in my very best style, only to have Mrs. Jimmie regard my work with a face so full of disapproval that it reminded me of Bee’s. She then proceeded to put “everything any mortal could possibly want” into one trunk, with what seemed to me supernatural skill and common-sense, calmly sending the other two to be stored at Munroe’s. I don’t like to disparage Mrs. Jimmie’s idea of what I need, but it does seem to me that nearly everything I have wanted here in Berlin is “stored at Munroe’s.”

My companion and I, with faultless arithmetic, calculated our expenses and drew out what we considered “plenty of French money to get us to the German frontier.” Then Jimmie took my companion and Mrs. Jimmie took me to the train.

Their cab got to the station first, and when we came up Jimmie was grinning, and my companion looked rather sheepish.

“I didn’t have enough money to pay the extra luggage,” she whispered. “I had to borrow of Mr. Jimmie.”

“That’s just like you,” I said, severely. “Now I drew more than you did.”

Just then Jimmie came up with my little account.

“Forty-nine francs extra luggage,” he announced.

“What?” I gasped, “on that one trunk?” How grateful I was at that moment for the two stored at Munroe’s!

“Oh, Jimmie,” I cried, “I haven’t got near enough! You’ll have to lend me twenty francs!”

My companion smiled in sweet revenge, and has been almost impossible to travel with since then, but we are one in our rage against paying extra luggage. Just think of buying your clothes once and then paying for them over and over again in every foreign country you travel through! Our clothes will be priceless heirlooms by the time we get home. We can never throw them away. They will be too valuable.

The Jimmies have been so kind to us that we nearly choked over leaving them, but we consoled ourselves after the train left, and proceeded to draw the most invidious comparisons between French sleeping-cars and the rolling palaces we are accustomed to at home. I am ashamed to think that I have made unpleasant remarks upon the discomforts of travel in America. Oh, how ungrateful I have been for past mercies!

My companion is very patient, as a rule, but I heard her restlessly tossing around in her berth, and I said, “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, nothing much. But don’t you think they have arranged the knobs in these mattresses in very curious places?"’

Well, it was a little like sleeping on a wood-pile during a continuous earthquake. But that was nothing compared to the news broken to us about eleven o’clock that our luggage would be examined at the German frontier at five o’clock in the morning. That meant being wakened at half past four. But it was quite unnecessary, for we were not asleep.

It was cold and raining. I got up and dressed for the day. But my companion put her seal-skin on over her dressing-gown, and perched her hat on top of that hair of hers, and looked ready to cope with Diana herself.

“They’ll ruin my things if they unpack them,” I said.

“You just keep still and let me manage things,” she answered. So I did. I made myself as small as possible and watched her. She selected her victim and smiled on him most charmingly. He was tearing open the trunk of a fat American got up in gray flannel and curl-papers. He dropped her tray and hurried up to my companion.

“Have you anything to declare, madam?” he asked.

“Tell him absolutely nothing,” she whispered to me. I obeyed, but he never took his eyes from her. She was tugging at the strap of her trunk in apparently wild eagerness to get it open. She frowned and panted a little to show how hard it was, and he bounded forward to help her. Then she smiled at him, and he blinked his eyes and tucked the strap in and chalked her trunk, with a shrug. He hadn’t opened it. She kept her eye on him and pointed to my trunk, and he chalked that. Then seven pieces of hand luggage, and he chalked them all. Then she smiled on him again, and I thanked him, but he didn’t seem to hear me, and she nodded her thanks and pulled me down a long stone corridor to the dining-room where we could get some coffee.

At the door I looked back. The customs officer was still looking after my companion, but she never even saw it.

The dining-room was full of smoke, but the coffee and my first taste of zwieback were delicious. Then we went out through a narrow doorway to the train, where we were jostled by Frenchmen with their habitual “Pardon!” (which partially reconciles you to being walked on), and knocked into by monstrous Germans, who sent us spinning without so much as a look of apology, and both of whom puffed their tobacco smoke directly in our faces. It was still dark and the rain was whimpering down on the car-roof, and, take it all in all, the situation was far from pleasant, but we are hard to depress, and our spirits remain undaunted.

It was so stuffy in our compartment that I stood in the doorway for a few moments near an open window. My companion was lying down in my berth. We still had nineteen hours of travel before us with no prospect of sleep, for sleep in those berths and over such a rough road was absolutely out of the question.

Near me (and spitting in the saddest manner out of the open window) stood the meek little American husband of the gray flannel and curl-papers, whose fury at my companion for her quick work with the customs officer knew no bounds.

The gray flannel had gone to bed again in the compartment next to ours.

The precision of this gentleman’s aim as he expectorated through the open window, and the marvellous rapidity with which he managed his diversion, led me to watch him. He looked tired and cold and ill. It was still dark outside, and the jolting of the train was almost unbearable. He had not once looked at me, but with his gaze still on the darkness he said, slowly,

“They can have the whole blamed country for all of me! I don’t want it.”

It was so exactly the way I felt that even though he said something worse than “blamed,” I gave a shriek of delight, and my companion pounded the pillow in her cooperation of the sentiment.

“You are an American and you are Southern,” I said.

“Yes’m. How did you know?”

“By your accent.”

“Yes’m, I was born in Virginia. I was in the Southern army four years, and I love my country. I hate these blamed foreigners and their blamed churches and their infernal foreign languages. I am over here for my health, my wife says. But I have walked more miles in picture-galleries than I ever marched in the army. I’ve seen more pictures by Raphael than he could have painted if he’d ‘a’ had ten arms and painted a thousand years without stopping to eat or sleep. I’ve seen more ‘old masters,’ as they call ’em, but I call ’em daubs, all varnished till they are so slick that a fly would slip on ’em and break his neck. And the stone floors are so cold that I get cold clean up to my knees, and I don’t get warm for a week. Yet I am over here for my health! Then the way they rob you these blamed French! Lord, if I ever get back to America, where one price includes everything and your hotel bill isn’t sent in on a ladder, and where I can keep warm, won’t I just be too thankful.”

Just then the gray-flannel door banged open and a hand reached out and jerked the poor little old man inside, and we heard him say, “But I was only blaming the French. I ain’t happy over here.” And a sharp voice said, “Well, you’ve said enough. Don’t talk any more at all.” Then she let him out again, but he did not find me in the corridor. He found his open window, and he leaned against our closed door and again aimed at the flying landscape, as he pondered over the disadvantages of Europe.

The sun was just rising over the cathedral as we reached Cologne.

“Let’s get out here and have our breakfast comfortably, see the cathedral, and take the next train to Berlin,” I said to my companion.

She is the courier and I am the banker. She hastily consulted her indicateur and assented. We only had about two seconds in which to decide.

“Let’s throw these bags out of the window,” she said. “I’ve seen other people do it, and the porters catch them.”

“Don’t throw them,” I urged. “You will break my toilet bottles. Poke them out gently.”

She did so, and we hopped off the train just at daybreak, perfectly delighted at doing something we had not planned.

A more lovely sight than the Cologne cathedral, with the rising sun gilding its numerous pinnacles and spires, would be difficult to imagine. The narrow streets were still comparatively dark, and when we arrived we heard the majestic notes of the organ in a Bach fugue, and found ourselves at early mass, with rows of humble worshippers kneeling before the high altar, and the twinkle of many candles in the soft gloom. As we stood and watched and listened, the smell of incense floated down to us, and gradually the first rays of the sun crept downward through the superb colored-glass windows and stained the marble statues in their niches into gorgeous hues of purple and scarlet and amber.

And as the priests intoned and the fresh young voices of an invisible choir floated out and the magnificent rumble of the organ shook the very foundation of the cathedral, we forgot that we were there to visit a sight of Cologne, we forgot our night of discomfort, we forgot everything but the spirit of worship, and we came away without speaking.

From Cologne to Dresden is stupid. We went through a country punctuated with myriads of tall chimneys of factories, which reminded us why so many things in England and America are stamped “Made in Germany.”

We arrived at Dresden at five o’clock, and decided to stop there and go to the opera that night. The opera begins in Dresden at seven o’clock and closes at ten. The best seats are absurdly cheap, and whole families, whole schools, whole communities, I should say, were there together. I never saw so many children at an opera in my life. Coming straight from Paris, from the theatrical, vivacious, enthusiastic French audiences, with their abominable claqueurs, this first German audience seemed serious, thoughtful, appreciative, but unenthusiastic. They use more judgment about applause than the French. They never interrupt a scene or even a musical phrase with misplaced applause because the soprano has executed a flamboyant cadenza or the tenor has reached a higher note than usual. Their appreciation is slow but hearty and always worthily disposed. The French are given to exaggerating an emotion and to applauding an eccentricity. Even their subtlety is overdone.

The German drama is much cleaner than the French, the family tie is made more of, sentiment is encouraged instead of being ridiculed, as it too often is in America; but the German point of view of Americans is quite as much distorted as the French. That statement is severe, but true. For instance, it would be utterly impossible for the American girl to be more exquisitely misunderstood than by French and German men.

Berlin is so full of electric cars that it seemed much more familiar at first sight than Paris. It is a lovely city, although we ought to have seen it before Paris in order fully to appreciate it. Its Brandenburg Gate is most impressive, and I wanted to make some demonstration every time we drove under it and realized that the statue above it has been returned. Their statue of Victory in the Thiergarten is so hideous, however, that I was reminded of General Sherman’s remark when he saw the Pension Office in Washington, “And they tell me the thing is fireproof!”

The streets are filled with beautiful things, mostly German officers. The only trouble is that they themselves seem to know it only too well, and as they will not give us any of the sidewalk, we are obliged to admire them from the gutters. The only way you can keep Germans from knocking you into the middle of the street is to walk sideways and pretend you are examining the shop windows.

In the eyes of men, women are of little account in England compared to the way we are treated in America; of less in France; and of still less in Germany. We have not got to Russia yet.

Paris seems a city of leisure, Berlin a city of war. The streets of Paris are quite as full of soldiers as Berlin, but French soldiers look to me like mechanical toys. I have sent Billy a box of them for Christmas of mechanical soldiers, I mean. The chief difference I noticed was that Billy’s were smaller than the live ones, although French soldiers are small enough. That portion of the French army which I have seen at Longchamps, Chalons-sur-Marne, Saumur, and at various other places are, as a rule, undersized, badly dressed, and badly groomed. They do not look neat, nor even clean, if you want the truth. The uniform is very ugly, and was evidently designed for men thirteen feet high; so that on those comical little toy Frenchmen it is grotesque in the extreme.

Their trousers are always much too long, and so ample in width that they seem to need only a belt at the ankle to turn them into perfect Russian blouses. But English and German soldiers not only appear, but are, in perfect condition, as though they could go to war at a moment’s notice, and would be glad of the chance.

I am keeping my eyes open to see how America bears comparison with other nations in all particulars. In point of appearance the English army stands first, the German second, the American third, and the French fourth. I put the American third only because our uniforms are less impressive. In everything else, except in numbers, they might easily stand first. But uniforms and gold lace, and bright scarlet and waving plumes, make a vast difference in appearance, and every country in the world recognizes this, except America. I wish that everybody in the United States who boasts of democracy and Jeffersonian simplicity could share my dissatisfaction in seeing our ambassadors at Court balls and diplomatic receptions in deacons’ suits of modest black, without even a medal or decoration of any kind, except perhaps that gorgeous and overpowering insignia known as the Loyal Legion button, while every little twopenny kingdom of a mile square sends a representative in a uniform as brilliant as a peony and stiff with gold embroidery.

No matter how magnificent a man, personally, our ambassador may be, no matter how valuable his public services, no matter how unimpeachable his private character, I wish you could see how small and miserable and mean is the appearance he presents at Court functions, where every man there, except the representative of seventy millions of people, is in some sort of uniform. If it really were Thomas Jefferson whose administration inaugurated the disgusting simplicity which goes by his name, I wish the words had stuck in his throat and strangled him. “Jeffersonian simplicity!” How I despise it! Thomas Jefferson, I believe, was the first Populist. We had had gentlemen for Presidents before him, but he was the first one who rooted for votes with the common herd by catering to the gutter instead of to the skyline, and the tail end of his policy is to be seen in the mortifying appearance of our highest officials and representatives. Hinc illae lachrymae!

I looked at the servant who announced our names in Paris at General Porter’s first official reception, and even he was much more gorgeous in dress than the master of the house, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary representing seventy millions of people! Not even in his uniform of a general! The only man in the room in plain black. The United States ought to treat her representatives better. When Mr. White at Berlin was received by the Emperor, he, too, was the only man in plain black.

No wonder we are taken no account of socially when we don’t even give our ambassador a house, as all the other countries do, and when his salary is so inadequate. Every other ambassador except the American has a furnished house given him, and a salary sufficient to entertain as becomes the representative of a great country. All except ours! Yet none of them is obliged to entertain as continuously as our ambassador, because only Americans travel unremittingly, and only Americans expect their ambassador to be their host.

“O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

Of course I notice such things immensely more in Berlin than in Paris, because the glory of a Court is much more than the twinkle of a republic.

I have worked myself into such a towering rage over this subject that there is no getting down to earth gracefully or gradually. I have not polished off the matter by any manner of means. I have only just started in, but a row of stars will cool me off.

Before I came to Berlin I heard so much about Unter den Linden, that magnificent street of the city, that I could scarcely wait to get to it. I pictured it lined on both sides with magnificent linden-trees, gigantic, imposing, impressive. I had had no intimate acquaintance with linden-trees and I wouldn’t know one now if I should see it but I had an idea from the name linden, linden that it was grand and waving; not so grand as an oak nor so waving as a willow, but a cross between the two. I knew that I should see these great monarchs making a giant arch over this broad avenue and mingling their tossing branches overhead.

What I found when I arrived was a broad, handsome street. But those lindens! They are consumptive, stunted little saplings without sufficient energy to grow into real trees. They are set so far apart that you have time to forget one before you come to another, and as to their appearance we have some just like them in Chicago where there is a leak in the gas-pipes near their roots.

On the day before Christmas we felt very low in our minds. We had the doleful prospect ahead of us of eating Christmas dinner alone in a strange country, and in a hotel at that, so we started out shopping. Not that we needed a thing, but it is our rule, “When you have the blues, go shopping.” It always cures you to spend money.

Berlin shop-windows are much more fascinating even than those of Paris, because in Berlin there are so many more things that you can afford to buy that Paris seems expensive in comparison. We became so much interested in the Christmas display that we did not notice the flight of time. When we had bought several heavy things to weigh our trunks down a little more and to pay extra luggage on, I happened to glance at the sun, and it was just above the horizon. It looked to be about four o’clock in the afternoon, and we had had nothing to eat since nine o’clock, and even then only a cup of coffee. I felt myself suddenly grow faint and weak. “Heavens!” I said, “see what time it is! We have shopped all day and we have forgotten to get our luncheon.”

My companion glanced at her watch.

“It’s only half past eleven o’clock by my watch. I couldn’t have wound it last night. No, it is going.”

“Perhaps the hands stick. They do on mine. Whenever I wind it, I have to hit it with the hair-brush to start it; and even then it loses time every day.”

“Let’s take them both to a jeweller,” she said. “We can’t travel with watches which act this way.”

So we left them to be repaired, and as we came out, I said, “It will take us half an hour to get back to the hotel. Don’t you think we ought to go in somewhere and get just a little something to sustain us?”

“Of course we ought,” she said, in a weak voice. So we went in and got a light luncheon. Then we went back to the hotel, intending to lie down and rest after such an arduous day.

“We must not do this again,” I said, firmly. “Mamma told me particularly not to overdo.”

My companion did not answer. She was looking at the clock. It was just noon.

“Why, that clock has stopped too,” she said.

But as we looked into the reading-room that clock struck twelve. Then it dawned on me, and I dropped into a chair and nearly had hysterics.

“It’s because we are so far north!” I cried. “Our watches were all right and the sun’s all right. That is as high as it can get!”

She was too much astonished to laugh.

“And you had to go in and get luncheon because you felt so faint,” she said, in a tone of gentle sarcasm.

“Well, you confessed to a fearful sense of goneness yourself.”

“Don’t tell anybody,” she said.

“I should think not!” I retorted, with dignity. “I hope I have some pride.”

“Have you presented your letter to the ambassador?” she asked.

“Yes, but it’s so near Christmas that I suppose he won’t bother about two waifs like us until after it’s over.”

“My! but you are blue,” she said. “I never heard you refer to yourself as a waif before.”

“I am a worm of the dust. I wish there wasn’t such a thing as Christmas! I wonder what Billy will say when he sees his tree.”

“You might cable and find out,” she said. “It only costs about three marks a word. ’What did Billy say when he saw his tree?’ nine words it would cost you about eight dollars, without counting the address.”

Dead silence. I didn’t think she was at all funny.

“Don’t you think we ought to have champagne to-morrow?” she asked.

“What for? I hate the stuff. It makes me ill. Do you want it?”

“No, only I thought that, being Christmas, and very expensive, perhaps it would do you good to spend ”

A knock on the door made us both jump.

“His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States to see the American ladies!”

It was, indeed, Mr. White and Mrs. White, and Lieutenant Allen, the Military Attache!

“Oh, those blessed angels!” I cried, buckling my belt and dashing for the wash-stand, thereby knocking the comb and hand-glass from the grasp of my companion.

They had come within an hour of the presentation of my letter, and they brought with them an invitation from Mrs. Allen for us to join them at Christmas dinner the next day, as Mrs. White said they could not bear to think of our dining alone.

I had many beautiful things done for me during my thirty thousand miles travel in Europe, but nothing stands out in my mind with more distinctness than the affectionate welcome I received into the homes of our representatives in Berlin. And, in passing, let me say this, I am distinctly proud of them, one and all. I say this because one hears many humiliating anecdotes of the mistakes made by the men and women sent to foreign Courts, appointed because they had earned some recognition for political services. Those of us who have strong national pride and a sense of the eternal fitness of things, are obliged to hear such things in shamed silence, and offer no retort, for there can be no possible excuse for mortifying lapses of etiquette. And these things will continue until our government establishes a school of diplomacy and makes a diplomatic career possible to a man.

As long as it is possible for an ex-coroner or sheriff to be appointed to a secretaryship of a foreign legation a man who does not speak the language and whose wife understands better how to cope with croup and measles than with wives of foreign diplomats who have been properly trained for this vocation, just so long shall we be obliged to bear the ridicule heaped upon us over here, which our government never hears, and wouldn’t care if it did!

Imagine the relief with which I met our Berlin representatives! At the end of four years there will be no sly anecdotes whispered behind fans at their expense, for they have all held the same office before and are well equipped by training, education, and native tact to bear themselves with a proud front at one of the most difficult Courts of Europe. I look back upon that little group of Americans with feelings of unmixed pride.

Mr. White invited us to go with him that afternoon to see the tombs of the kings at Charlottenburg; and when his gorgeous-liveried footman came to announce his presence, the hotel proprietor and about forty of his menials nearly crawled on their hands and knees before us, so great is their deference to pomp and power.

I wish to associate Berlin with this beautiful mausoleum. It is circular in shape, and the light falls from above through lovely colored-glass windows upon those recumbent marble statues. The dignity, the still, solemn beauty of those pale figures lying there in their eternal repose, fill the soul with a sense of the great majesty of death.

When we got back to the hotel we found that the same good fortune which had attended us so far had ordained that the American mail should arrive that day, and behold! there were all our Christmas letters timed as accurately as if they had only gone from Chicago to New York.

Christmas letters! How they go to the heart when one is five thousand miles away! How we tore up to our rooms, and oh! how long it seemed to get the doors unlocked and the electric light turned up, and to plant ourselves in the middle of the bed to read and laugh and cry and interrupt each other, and to read out paragraphs of Billy’s funny baby-talk!

While we were still discussing them, the proprietor came up to announce to us that there was to be a Christmas Eve entertainment in the main dining-room that evening, and would the American ladies do him the honor to come down? The American ladies would.

When we went down we found that the enormous dining-room was packed with people, all standing around a table which ran around two sides of the room. A row of Christmas trees, covered with cotton to represent snow, occupied the middle of the room, and at one end was a space reserved for the lady guests, and in each chair was a handsome bouquet of violets and lilies-of-the-valley.

This entertainment was for the servants of the hotel, of whom there were three hundred and fifty.

First they sang a Lutheran hymn, very slowly, as if it were a dirge. Then there was a short sermon. Then another hymn. Then the manager made a little speech and called, for three cheers for the proprietor, and they gave them with a fervor that nearly split the ears of the groundlings.

Then a signal was given, and in less than one minute three hundred and fifty paper bags were produced, and three hundred and fifty plates full of oranges, apples, buns, and sweetened breads were emptied into them. The table looked as if a plague of grasshoppers had swept over it.

Then each servant presented a number and received a present from the tree, and that ended the festivity. But so typical of the fatherland, so paternal, so like one great family!

Participating in this simple festival brought a little of the Christmas feeling home to us and made us almost happy. We knew that our American parcels would not be delivered until the next day, so we had but just time to reread our precious letters when the clock struck twelve, and with much solemnity my companion and I presented each other with our modest Christmas present which each had announced that she wanted and had helped to select! But, then, who would not rather select one’s own Christmas presents, and so be sure of getting things that one wants?

On Christmas morning registered packages began to arrive for both of us. The first ten presents to arrive for my companion were pocket-handkerchiefs. My first ten were all books. Evidently the dear family had thought that American books would be most acceptable over here, and I could see, with a feeling that warmed my heart, how carefully they had consulted my taste, and had tried to remember to send those I wanted. But I am of a frugal mind, and thoughts of the extra luggage to be paid on bound books would intrude themselves. However, I made no remark over the first ten, but before the day was over I had received twenty-two books and one pen-wiper, and my vocabulary was exhausted. My companion continued to receive handkerchiefs until the room was full of them. Take it all together, there was a good deal of sameness about our presents, but they have been useful as dinner anecdotes ever since. Now that I have sent all mine to be stored at Munroe’s, together with all my other necessities, I feel lighter and more buoyant both in mind and trunk.

A Christmas dinner in a foreign land, in the midst of the diplomatic corps, is the most undiplomatic thing in the world, for that is the one time when you can cease to be diplomatic and dare to criticise the government and make personal remarks to your heart’s content.

It was a beautiful dinner, and after it was over we were all invited to the children’s entertainment at Mrs. Squiers’s. She had gathered about fifty of the American colony for Christmas carols and a tree. Immediately after the ambassador arrived the children marched in and recited in chorus the verses about the birth of Christ, beginning, “Now in the days of Herod the King.” Then they sang their carols, and then “Stille Nacht,” and they sang them beautifully, in their sweet, childish voices.

After these exercises the doors were thrown open, and the most beautiful Christmas-tree I ever beheld burst upon the view of those children, who nearly went wild with delight.

After everybody had gone home except “the diplomatic family,” which for the time being included us, we picnicked on the remains of the Christmas turkey for supper, and there was as little ceremony about it as if it had been at an army post on the frontier. We had a beautiful time, and everybody seemed to like everybody very much and to be excellent friends.

Then Mr. and Mrs. White escorted us back to our hotel, which wasn’t at all necessary, but which illustrates the way in which they treated us all the time we were there.

This ended a truly beautiful Christmas, for, aside from being unexpected and in striking contrast to the forlornness we had anticipated, we had been taken into the families of beautiful people, whose home life was an honor and an inspiration to share.

On New Year’s day we started early and went to Potsdam to visit the palace of Sans Souci.

A most curious and interesting little old man who had been a guide there for thirty years showed us through the grounds, where the King’s greyhounds are buried, and where he pleaded to be buried with them. The guide had no idea that he possessed a certain dramatic genius for pathos, for, parrot-like, he was repeating the story he had told perhaps a thousand times before. But when he showed us the graves of the greyhounds which ate the poisoned food which had been prepared for the King, he said:

“And they lie here. Not there with the other dogs, the favorites of the King, but here, alone, disgraced, without even a headstone. Without even their names, although they saved the great King from death and gave their lives for his. Yet they lie here, and the others lie there. It is the way of the world, ladies.”

Then he took us to the top of the terrace facing the palace, and, pointing to the entrance, he said:

“In the left wing were the chambers of the King’s guests. In the right wing were his own. Therefore, he placed a comma between those two words ‘Sans’ and ‘Souci,’ to indicate that those at the left were ‘without,’ while with himself was ’Care.’”

While we were there the Emperor drove by and spoke to our cabman, saying, “How is business?” Seeing how much pleasure it gave the poor fellow to repeat it, we kept asking him to tell vis what the Kaiser said to him.

First my companion would say:

“When was it and what happened?”

And when he had quite finished, I would say:

“It wasn’t the Emperor himself, was it? It must have been the coachman who spoke to you.”

“No, not so, ladies. It was the great Kaiser himself. He said to me ” And then we would get the whole thing over again. It was charming to see his pleasure.

When we returned home we entered the hotel between rows of palms, and we dropped money into each of them. It seemed to me that fifty servants were between me and the elevators. However, it was New Year’s, and we tried not to be bored by it.

People talk so much of the expense of foreign travel, but to my mind the greatest expenditures are in paying for extra luggage and in fees. Otherwise, I fancy that travel is much the same if one travels luxuriously, and that in the long run things would be about equal. The great difference is that in America all travel luxuries are given to you for the price of your ticket, and here you pay for each separate necessity, to say nothing of luxury, and your ticket only permits you to breathe. But the annoyance of this continuous habit of feeing makes life a burden. One pays for everything. It is the custom of the country, and no matter if you arrange to have “service included,” it is in the air, in the eyes of the servants, in the whole mental atmosphere, and you fee, you fee, you fee until you are nearly dead from the bother of it. In Germany they raise their hats and rise to their feet every time you pass, even if you pass every seven minutes, and when the time comes for you to go, you have to pay for the wear and tear of these hats.

In Paris, at the theatre, you fee the woman who shows you to your seat, you fee the woman who opens the door and the woman who takes your wraps. One night in midsummer we stepped across from the Grand Hotel to the opera without even a scarf for a wrap, and the woman was so disappointed that we were handed from one attendant to another some half dozen times as “three ladies without wraps.” And the next one would look us over from head to foot and repeat the words, “Three ladies without wraps,” until we laughed in their faces.

French servants are the cleverest in the world if you want versatility, but they are absolutely shameless in their greed, and look at the size of your coin before they thank you. In fact, the words in which they thank you indicate whether your fee was not enough, only modest, or handsome.

“It is not too much, madam,” or “thanks, madam,” or “I thank you a thousand times” show your status in their estimation.

If you are an American they reserve the right to rob you by the impudence of their demands, until rather than have a scene, you give them all they ask. I have followed in the footsteps of a French woman and given exactly what she did, and had my money flung in derision upon the pavement.

German servants seem to have more self-respect, for while they expect it quite as much, they smile and thank you and never look at the coin before your eyes. Perhaps they know from the feeling of it, but even if you place it upon the table behind them they thank you and never look at it or take it until you turn away.

However, you fee unmercifully here too. You fee the man at the bank who cashes your checks, you fee the street-car conductor who takes your fare, you fee every uniformed hireling of the government, whether he has done anything for you or not.

The only persons whom I have neglected to fee so far are the ambassadors.

But then, they do not wear uniforms!