A Tramp Abroad/XXIV
THAT was a thoroughly satisfactory walk,—and the only one we were ever to have which was all the way down hill. We took the train next morning and returned to Baden-Baden through fearful fogs, of dust. Every seat was crowded, too; for it was Sunday, and consequently everybody was taking a "pleasure" excursion. Hot! the sky was an oven,—and a sound one, too, with no cracks in it to let in any air. An odd time for a pleasure excursion, certainly.
Sunday is the great day, on the continent,—the free day, the happy day. One can break the Sabbath in a hundred ways without committing any sin.
We do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it; the Germans do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it. We rest on Sunday, because the commandment requires it; the Germans rest on Sunday, because the commandment requires it. But in the definition of the word "rest" lies all the difference. With us, its Sunday meaning is, stay in the house and keep still; with the Germans its Sunday and week-day meanings seems to be the same,—rest the tired part, and never mind the other parts of the frame; rest the tired part, and use the means best calculated to rest that particular part. Thus: If one's duties have kept him in the house all the week, it will rest him to be out on Sunday; if his duties have required him to read weighty and serious matter all the week, it will rest him to read light matter on Sunday; if his occupation has busied him with death and funerals all the week, it will rest him to go to the theatre Sunday night and put in two or three hours laughing at a comedy; if he is tired with digging ditches or felling trees all the week, it will rest him to lie quiet in the house on Sunday; if the hand, the arm, the brain, the tongue, or any other member, is fatigued with inanition, it is not to be rested by adding a day's inanition; but if a member is fatigued with exertion, inanition is the right rest for it.
Such is the way in which the Germans seem to define the word "rest;" that is to say, they rest a member by recreating, recuperating, restoring its forces. But our definition is less broad. "We all rest alike on Sunday,—by secluding ourselves and keeping still, whether that is the surest way to rest the most of us or not. The Germans make the actors, the preachers, etc., work on Sunday. We encourage the preachers, the editors, the printers, etc., to work on Sunday, and imagine that none of the sin of it falls upon us; but I do not know how we are going to get around the fact that if it is wrong for the printer to work at his trade on Sunday it must be equally wrong for the preacher to work at his, since the commandment has made no exception in his favor. We buy Monday morning's paper and read it, and thus encourage Sunday-printing. But I shall never do it again.
The Germans remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, by abstaining from work, as commanded; we keep it holy by abstaining from work, as commanded and by also abstaining from play, which is not commanded. Perhaps we constructively break the command to rest, because the resting we do is in most cases only a name, and not a fact.
These reasonings have sufficed, in a measure, to mend the rent in my conscience which I made by traveling to Baden-Baden that Sunday. We arrived in time to furbish up and get to the English church before services began. We arrived in considerable style, too, for the landlord had ordered the first carriage that could be found, since there was no time to lose, and our coachman was so splendidly liveried that we were probably mistaken for a brace of stray dukes; else why were we honored with a pew all to ourselves, away up among the very elect at the left of the chancel? That was my first thought. In the pew directly in front of us sat an elderly lady, plainly and cheaply dressed; at her side sat a young lady with a very sweet face, and she also was quite simply dressed; but around us and about us were clothes and jewels which it would do anybody's heart good to worship in.
I thought it was pretty manifest that the elderly lady was embarrassed at finding herself in such a conspicuous place arrayed in such cheap apparel; I began to feel sorry for her and troubled about her. She tried to seem very busy with her prayer book and her responses, and unconscious that she was out of place, but I said to myself, "She is not succeeding,—there is a distressed tremulousness in her voice which betrays increasing embarrassment." Presently the Savior's name was mentioned, and in her flurry she lost her head completely, and rose and curtsied, instead of making a slight nod as everybody else did. The sympathetic blood surged to my temples and I turned and gave those fine birds what I intended to be a beseeching look, but my feelings got the better of me and changed it into a look which said, "If any of you pets of fortune laugh at this poor soul, you will deserve to be flayed for it." Things went from bad to worse, and I shortly found myself mentally taking the unfriended lady under my protection. My mind was wholly upon her, I forgot all about the sermon. Her embarrassment took stronger and stronger
AN OBJECT OF SYMPATHY.
hold upon her; she got to snapping the lid of her smelling bottle,—it made a loud sharp sound, but in her trouble she snapped and snapped away, unconscious of what she was doing. The last extremity was reached when the collection-plate began its rounds; the moderate people threw in pennies, the nobles and the rich contributed silver, but she laid a twenty-mark gold piece upon the book-rest before her with a sounding slap! I said to myself, "She has parted with all her little hoard to buy the consideration of these unpitying people,—it is a sorrowful spectacle." I did not venture to look around this time; but as the service closed, I said to myself, "Let them laugh, it is their opportunity; but at the door of this church they shall see her step into our fine carnage with us, and our gaudy coachman shall drive her home." Then she rose,—and all the congregation stood while she walked down the aisle. She was the Empress of Germany!
No,—she had not been so much embarrassed as I had supposed. My imagination had got started on the wrong scent, and that is always hopeless; one is sure, then, to go straight on misinterpreting everything, clear through to the end. The young lady with her imperial Majesty was a maid of honor,—and I had been taking her for one of her boarders, all the time.
This is the only time I have ever had an Empress under my personal protection; and considering my inexperience, I wonder I got through with it so well. I should have been a little embarrassed myself if I had known earlier what sort of a contract I had on my hands.
We found that the Empress had been in Baden-Baden several days. It is said that she never attends any but the English form of church service.
I lay abed and read and rested from my journey's fatigues the remainder of that Sunday, but I sent my agent to represent me at the afternoon service, for I never allow anything to interfere with my habit of attending church twice every Sunday.
There was a vast crowd in the public grounds that night to hear the band play the "Fremersberg." This piece tells one of the old legends of the region: how a great noble of the Middle Ages got lost in the mountains, and wandered about with his dogs in a violent storm, until at last the faint tones of a monastery bell, calling the monks to a midnight service, caught his ear, and he followed the direction the sounds came from and was saved. A beautiful air ran through the music, without ceasing; sometimes loud and strong, sometimes so soft that it could hardly be distinguished,—but it was always there; it swung grandly along through the shrill whistling of the storm-wind, the rattling patter of the rain, and the boom and crash of the thunder; it wound soft and low through the lesser sounds, the distant ones, such as the throbbing of the convent bell, the melodious winding of the hunter's horn, the distressed bayings of his dogs, and the solemn chanting of the monks; it rose again, with a jubilant ring, and mingled itself with the country songs and dances of the peasants assembled in the convent hall to cheer up the rescued huntsman while he ate his supper. The instruments imitated all these sounds with a marvelous exactness. More than one man started to raise his umbrella when the storm burst forth and the sheets of mimic rain came driving by; it was hardly possible to keep from putting your hand to your hat when the fierce wind began to rage and shriek; and it
A NON-CLASSICAL STYLE.!
was not possible to refrain from starting when those sudden and charmingly real thundercrashes were let loose.
I suppose the Fremersberg is very low-grade music; I know, indeed, that it must be low-grade music, because it so delighted me, warmed me, moved me, stirred me, uplifted me, enraptured me, that I was full of cry all the time, and mad with enthusiasm. My soul had never had such a scouring out since I was born. The solemn and majestic chanting of the monks was not done by instruments, but by men's voices; and it rose and fell, and rose again in that rich confusion of warring sounds, and pulsing bells, and the stately swing of that ever-present enchanting air, and it seemed to me that nothing but the very lowest of low-grade music could be so divinely beautiful. The great crowd which the Fremersberg had called out was another evidence that it was low-grade music; for only the few are educated up to a point where high-grade music gives pleasure. I have never heard enough classic music to be able to enjoy it. I dislike the opera because I want to love it and can't.
I suppose there are two kinds of music,—one kind which one feels, just as an oyster might, and another sort which requires a higher faculty, a faculty which must be assisted and developed by teaching. Yet if base music gives certain of us wings, why should we want any other? But we do. We want it because the higher and better like it. But we want it without giving it the necessary time and trouble; so we climb into that upper tier, that dress circle, by a lie: we pretend we like it. I know several of that sort of people,—and I propose to be one of them myself when I get home with my fine European education.
And then there is painting. What a red rag is to a bull, Turner's "Slave Ship" was to me, before I studied Art. Mr. Ruskin is educated in art up to a point where that picture throws him into as mad an ecstacy of pleasure as it used to throw me into one of rage, last year, when I was ignorant. His cultivation enables him,—and me, now,—to see water in that glaring yellow mud, and natural effects in those lurid explosions of mixed smoke and flame, and crimson sunset glories; it reconciles him,—and me, now,—to the floating of iron cable-chains and other unfloatable things; it reconciles us to fishes swimming around on top of the mud,—I mean the water. The most of the picture is a manifest impossibility,—that is to say, a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find truth in a lie. But it enabled Mr. Ruskin to do it, and it has enabled me to do it, and I am thankful for it. A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes. In my then uneducated state, that went home to my non-cultivation, and I thought here is a man with an unobstructed eye. Mr. Ruskin would have said: This person is an ass. That is what I would say, now.
However, our business in Baden-Baden this time, was to join our courier. I had thought it best to hire one, as we should be in Italy, by and by, and we did not know that language. Neither did he. We found him at the hotel, ready to take charge of us. I asked him if he was "all fixed." He said he was. That was very true. He had a trunk, two small satchels, and an umbrella. I was to pay him $55 a month and railway fares. On the continent the railway fare on a trunk is about the same it is on a man. Couriers do not have to pay any board and lodging. This seems a great saving to the tourist,—at first. It does not occur to the tourist that somebody pays that man's board and lodging. It occurs to him by and by, however, in one of his lucid moments.
- Months after this was written, I happened into the National Gallery in London, and soon became so fascinated with the Turner pictures that I could hardly get away from the place. I went there often, afterward, meaning to see the rest of the gallery, but the Turner spell was too strong; it could not be shaken off. However, the Turners which attracted me most did not remind me of the Slave Ship.