VOYAGE OF CONSOLATION
BOOKS BY MRS. EVERARD COTES (SARA JEANNETTE DUNCAN).
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A Voyage of Consolation. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.
His Honour, and a Lady. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.
The Story of Sonny Sahib. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00.
Vernon's Aunt. With many Illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.
A Daughter of To-Day. A Novel. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.
A Social Departure. HOW ORTHODOCIA AND I WENT ROUND THE WORLD BY OURSELVES. With 111 Illustrations by F.H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.75.
An American Girl in London. With 80 Illustrations by F.H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth, $1.50.
The Simple Adventures of a Memsahib. With 37 Illustrations by F.H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.
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New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.
A VOYAGE OF CONSOLATION
(BEING IN THE NATURE OF A SEQUEL TO THE EXPERIENCES OF "AN AMERICAN GIRL IN LONDON")
SARA JEANNETTE DUNCAN (MRS. EVERARD COTES)
A SOCIAL DEPARTURE, AN AMERICAN GIRL IN LONDON, A DAUGHTER OF TO-DAY, VERNON's AUNT, THE STORY OF SONNY SAHIB, HIS HONOUR AND A LADY, ETC.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1897, 1898,
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Momma was enjoying herself 36
"I expect you've seen these before" 45
Breakfast with Dicky Dod 99
"Are you paid to make faces?" 140
We followed the monks 169
Dicky shouted till the skeletons turned to listen 189
We were sitting in a narrow balcony 194
"I'm not a crowned head!" 208
"Do you see?" 256
Fervent apologies 265
"Whom are you going to marry?" 322
A VOYAGE OF CONSOLATION.
It seems inexcusable to remind the public that one has written a book. Poppa says I ought not to feel that way about it—that he might just as well be shy about referring to the baking soda that he himself invented—but I do, and it is with every apology that I mention it. I once had such a good time in England that I printed my experiences, and at the very end of the volume it seemed necessary to admit that I was engaged to Mr. Arthur Greenleaf Page, of Yale College, Connecticut. I remember thinking this was indiscreet at the time, but I felt compelled to bow to the requirements of fiction. I was my own heroine, and I had to be disposed of. There seemed to be no alternative. I did not wish to marry Mr. Mafferton, even for literary purposes, and Peter Corke's suggestion, that I should cast myself overboard in mid-ocean at the mere idea of living anywhere out of England for the future, was autobiographically impossible even if I had felt so inclined. So I committed the indiscretion. In order that the world might be assured that my heroine married and lived happily ever afterwards, I took it prematurely into my confidence regarding my intention. The thing that occurred, as naturally and inevitably as the rain if you leave your umbrella at home, was that within a fortnight after my return to Chicago my engagement to Mr. Page terminated; and the even more painful consequence is that I feel obliged on that account to refer to it again.
Even an American man has his lapses into unreasonableness. Arthur especially encouraged the idea of my going to England on the ground that it would be so formative. He said that to gaze upon the headsman's block in the Tower was in itself a liberal education. As we sat together in the drawing-room—momma and poppa always preferred the sitting-room when Arthur was there—he used to gild all our future with the culture which I should acquire by actual contact with the hoary traditions of Great Britain. He advised me earnestly to disembark at Liverpool in a receptive and appreciative, rather than a critical and antagonistic, state of mind, to endeavour to assimilate all that was worth assimilating over there, remembering that this might give me as much as I wanted to do in the time. I remember he expressed himself rather finely about the only proper attitude for Americans visiting England being that of magnanimity, and about the claims of kinship, only once removed, to our forbearance and affection. He put me on my guard, so to speak, about only one thing, and that was spelling. American spelling, he said, had become national, and attachment to it ranked next to patriotism. Such words as "color," "program," "center," had obsolete English forms which I could only acquire at the sacrifice of my independence, and the surrender of my birthright to make such improvements upon the common language as I thought desirable. And I know that I was at some inconvenience to mention "color," "program," and "center," in several of my letters just to assure Mr. Page that my orthography was not in the least likely to be undermined.
Indeed, I took his advice at every point. I hope I do not presume in asking you to remember that I did. I know I was receptive, even to penny buns, and sometimes simply wild with appreciation. I found it as easy as possible to subdue the critical spirit, even in connection with things which I should never care to approve of. I shook hands with Lord Mafferton without the slightest personal indignation with him for being a peer, and remember thinking that if he had been a duke I should have had just the same charity for him. Indeed, I was sorry, and am still sorry, that during the four months I spent in England I didn't meet a single duke. This is less surprising than it looks, as they are known to be very scarce, and at least a quarter of a million Americans visit Great Britain every year; but I should like to have known one or two. As it was, four or five knights—knights are very thick—one baronet, Lord Mafferton, one marquis—but we had no conversation—one colonel of militia, one Lord Mayor, and a Horse Guard, rank unknown, comprise my acquaintance with the aristocracy. A duke or so would have completed the set. And the magnanimity which I would so willingly have stretched to include a duke spread itself over other British institutions as amply as Arthur could have wished. When I saw things in Hyde Park on Sunday that I was compelled to find excuses for, I thought of the tyrant's iron heel; and when I was obliged to overlook the superiorities of the titled great, I reflected upon the difficulty of walking in iron heels without inconveniencing a prostrate population. I should defy anybody to be more magnanimous than I was.
As to the claims of kinship, only once removed, to our forbearance and affection, I never so much as sat out a dance on a staircase with Oddie Pratte without recognising them.
It seems almost incredible that Arthur should not have been gratified, but the fact remains that he was not. Anyone could see, after the first half hour, that he was not. During the first half hour it is, of course, impossible to notice anything. We had sunk to the level of generalities when I happened to mention Oddie.
"He had darker hair than you have, dear," I said, "and his eyes were blue. Not sky blue, or china blue, but a kind of sea blue on a cloudy day. He had rather good eyes," I added reminiscently.
"Had he?" said Arthur.
"But your noses," I went on reassuringly, "were not to be compared with each other."
"Oh!" said Arthur.
"He was so impulsive!" I couldn't help smiling a little at the recollection. "But for that matter they all were."
"Impulsive?" asked Arthur.
"Yes. Ridiculously so. They thought as little of proposing as of asking one to dance."
"Ah!" said Arthur.
"Of course, I never accepted any of them, even for a moment. But they had such a way of taking things for granted. Why one man actually thought I was engaged to him!"
"Really!" said Arthur. "May I inquire——"
"No, dear," I replied, "I think not. I couldn't tell anybody about it—for his sake. It was all a silly mistake. Some of them," I added thoughtfully, "were very stupid."
"Judging from the specimens that find their way over here," Arthur remarked, "I should say there was plenty of room in their heads for their brains."
Arthur was sitting on the other side of the fireplace, and by this time his expression was aggressive. I thought his remark unnecessarily caustic, but I did not challenge it.
"Some of them were stupid," I repeated, "but they were nearly all nice." And I went on to say that what Chicago people as a whole thought about it I didn't know and I didn't care, but so far as my experience went the English were the loveliest nation in the world.
"A nation like a box of strawberries," Mr. Page suggested, "all the big ones on top, all the little ones at the bottom."
"That doesn't matter to us," I replied cheerfully, "we never get any further than the top. And you'll admit there's a great tendency for little ones to shake down. It's only a question of time. They've had so much time in England. You see the effects of it everywhere."
"Not at all. By no means. Our little strawberries rise," he declared.
"Do they? Dear me, so they do! I suppose the American law of gravity is different. In England they would certainly smile at that."
Arthur said nothing, but his whole bearing expressed a contempt for puns.
"Of course," I said, "I mean the loveliest nation after Americans."
I thought he might have taken that for granted. Instead, he looked incredulous and smiled, in an observing, superior way.
"Why do you say 'ahfter'?" he asked. His tone was sweetly acidulated.
"Why do you say 'affter'?" I replied simply.
"Because," he answered with quite unnecessary emphasis, "in the part of the world I come from everybody says it. Because my mother has brought me up to say it."
"Oh," I said, looking at the lamp, "they say it like that in other parts of the world too. In Yorkshire—and such places. As far as mothers go, I must tell you that momma approves of my pronunciation. She likes it better than anything else I have brought back with me—even my tailor-mades—and thinks it wonderful that I should have acquired it in the time."
"Don't you think you could remember a little of your good old American? Doesn't it seem to come back to you?"
All the Wicks hate sarcasm, especially from those they love, and I certainly had not outgrown my fondness for Mr. Page at this time.
"It all came back to me, my dear Arthur," I said, "the moment you opened your lips!"
At that not only Mr. Page's features and his shirt front, but his whole personality seemed to stiffen. He sat up and made an outward movement on the seat of his chair which signified, "My hat and overcoat are in the hall, and if you do not at once retract——"
"Rather than allow anything to issue from them which would imply that I was not an American I would keep them closed for ever," he said.
"You needn't worry about that," I observed. "Nothing ever will. But I don't know why we should glory in talking through our noses." Involuntarily I played with my engagement ring, slipping it up and down, as I spoke.
Arthur rose with an expression of tolerant amusement—entirely forced—and stood by the fireplace. He stood beside it, with his elbow on the mantelpiece, not in front of it with his legs apart, and I thought with a pang how much more graceful the American attitude was.
"Have you come back to tell us that we talk through our noses?" he asked.
"I don't like being called an Anglomaniac," I replied, dropping my ring from one finger to another. Fortunately I was sitting in a rocking chair—the only one I had not been able to persuade momma to have taken out of the drawing-room. The rock was a considerable relief to my nerves.
"I knew that the cockneys on the other side were fond of inventing fictions about what they are pleased to call the 'American accent,'" continued Mr. Page, with a scorn which I felt in the very heels of my shoes, "but I confess I thought you too patriotic to be taken in by them."
"Taken in by them" was hard to bear, but I thought if I said nothing at this point we might still have a peaceful evening. So I kept silence.
"Of course, I speak as a mere product of the American Constitution—a common unit of the democracy," he went on, his sentences gathering wrath as he rolled them out, "but if there were such a thing as an American accent, I think I've lived long enough, and patrolled this little Union of ours extensively enough, to hear it by this time. But it appears to be necessary to reside four months in England, mixing freely with earls and countesses, to detect it."
"Perhaps it is," I said, and I may have smiled.
"I should hate to pay the price."
Mr. Page's tone distinctly expressed that the society of earls and countesses would be, to him, contaminating.
Again I made no reply. I wanted the American accent to drop out of the conversation, if possible, but Fate had willed it otherwise.
"I sai, y'know, awfly hard luck, you're havin' to settle down amongst these barbarians again, bai Jove!"
I am not quite sure that it's a proper term for use in a book, but by this time I was mad. There was criticism in my voice, and a distinct chill as I said composedly, "You don't do it very well."
I did not look at him, I looked at the lamp, but there was that in the air which convinced me that we had arrived at a crisis.
"I suppose not. I'm not a marquis, nor the end man at a minstrel show. I'm only an American, like sixty million other Americans, and the language of Abraham Lincoln is good enough for me. But I suppose I, like the other sixty million, emit it through my nose!"
"I should be sorry to contradict you," I said.
Arthur folded his arms and gathered himself up until he appeared to taper from his stem like a florist's bouquet, and all the upper part of him was pink and trembling with emotion. Arthur may one day attain corpulence; he is already well rounded.
"I need hardly say," he said majestically, "that when I did myself the honour of proposing, I was under the impression that I had a suitable larynx to offer you."
"You see I didn't know," I murmured, and by accident I dropped my engagement ring, which rolled upon the carpet at his feet. He stooped and picked it up.
"Shall I take this with me?" he asked, and I said "By all means."
That was all.
I gave ten minutes to reflection and to the possibility of Arthur's coming back and pleading, on his knees, to be allowed to restore that defective larynx. Then I went straight upstairs to the telephone and rang up the Central office. When they replied "Hello," I said, in the moderate and concentrated tone which we all use through telephones, "Can you give me New York?"
Poppa was in New York, and in an emergency poppa and I always turn to one another. There was a delay, during which I listened attentively, with one eye closed—I believe it is the sign of an unbalanced intellect to shut one eye when you use the telephone, but I needn't go into that—and presently I got New York. In a few minutes more I was accommodated with the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
"Mr. T.P. Wick, of Chicago," I demanded.
"Is his room number Sixty-two?"
That is the kind of mind which you usually find attached to the New York end of a trans-American telephone. But one does not bandy words across a thousand miles of country with a hotel clerk, so I merely responded:
There was a pause, and then the still small voice came again.
"Mr. Wick is in bed at present. Anything important?"
I reflected that while I in Chicago was speaking to the hotel clerk at half-past nine o'clock, the hotel clerk in New York was speaking to me at eleven. This in itself was enough to make our conversation disjointed.
"Yes," I responded, "it is important. Ask Mr. Wick to get out of bed."
Sufficient time elapsed to enable poppa to put on his clothes and come down by the elevator, and then I heard:
"Mr. Wick is now speaking."
"Yes, poppa," I replied, "I guess you are. Your old American accent comes singing across in a way that no member of your family would ever mistake. But you needn't be stiff about it. Sorry to disturb you."
Poppa and I were often personal in our intercourse. I had not the slightest hesitation in mentioning his American accent.
"Hello, Mamie! Don't mention it. What's up? House on fire? Water pipes burst? Strike in the kitchen? Sound the alarm—send for the plumber—raise Gladys's wages and sack Marguerite."
"My engagement to Mr. Page is broken. Do you get me? What do you suggest?"
I heard a whistle, which I cannot express in italics, and then, confidentially:
"You don't say so! Bad break?"
"Very," I responded firmly.
"Any details of the disaster available? What?"
"Not at present," I replied, for it would have been difficult to send them by telephone.
I could hear poppa considering the matter at the other end. He coughed once or twice and made some indistinct inquiries of the hotel clerk. Then he called my attention again.
"Hello!" he said. "On to me? All right. Go abroad. Always done. Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, and the other places. I'll stand in. Germanic sails Wednesdays. Start by night train to-morrow. Bring momma. We can get Germanic in good shape and ten minutes to spare. Right?"
"Right," I responded, and hung up the handle. I did not wish to keep poppa out of bed any longer than was necessary, he was already up so much later than I was. I turned away from the instrument to go down stairs again, and there, immediately behind me, stood momma.
"Well, really!" I exclaimed. It did not occur to me that the privacy of telephonic communication between Chicago and New York was not inviolable. Besides, there are moments when one feels a little annoyed with one's momma for having so lightly undertaken one's existence. This was one of them. But I decided not to express it.
"I was only going to say," I remarked, "that if I had shrieked it would have been your fault."
"I knew everything," said momma, "the minute I heard him shut the gate. I came up immediately, and all this time, dear, you've been confiding in us both. My dear daughter."
Momma carries about with her a well-spring of sentiment, which she did not bequeath to me. In that respect I take almost entirely after my other parent.
"Very well," I said, "then I won't have to do it again."
Her look of disappointment compelled me to speak with decision. "I know what you would like at this juncture, momma. You'd like me to get down on the floor and put my head in your lap and weep all over your new brocade. That's what you'd really enjoy. But, under circumstances like these, I never do things like that. Now the question is, can you get ready to start for Europe to-morrow night, or have you a headache coming on?"
Momma said that she expected Mrs. Judge Simmons to tea to-morrow afternoon, that she hadn't been thinking of it, and that she was out of nerve tincture. At least, these were her principal objections. I said, on mature consideration, I didn't see why Mrs. Simmons shouldn't come to tea, that there were twenty-four hours for all necessary thinking, and that a gallon of nerve tincture, if required, could be at her disposal in ten minutes.
"Being Protestants," I added, "I suppose a convent wouldn't be of any use to us—what do you think?"
Momma thought she could go.
There was no need for hurry, and I attended to only one other matter before I went to bed. That was a communication to the Herald, which I sent off in plenty of time to appear in the morning. It was addressed to the Society Editor, and ran as follows:
"The marriage arranged between Professor Arthur Greenleaf Page, of Yale University, and Miss Mamie Wick, of 1453, Lakeside-avenue, Chicago, will not take place. Mr. and Mrs. Wick, and Miss Wick, sail for Europe on Wednesday by s.s. Germanic."
I reflected, as I closed my eyes, that Arthur was a regular reader of the Herald.
We met poppa on the Germanic gangway, his hat on the back of his head and one finger in each of his waistcoat pockets, an attitude which, with him, always betokens concern. The vessel was at that stage of departure when the people who have been turned off are feeling injured that it should have been done so soon, and apparently only the weight of poppa's personality on its New York end kept the gangway out. As we drove up he appeared to lift his little finger and three dishevelled navigators darted upon the cab. They and we and our trunks swept up the gangway together, which immediately closed behind us, under the direction of an extremely irritated looking Chief Officer. We reunited as a family as well as we could in connection with uncoiled ropes and ship discipline. Then poppa, with his watch in his hand, exclaimed reproachfully, well in hearing of the Chief Officer, "I gave you ten minutes and you had ten minutes. You stopped at Huyler's for candy, I'll lay my last depreciated dollar on it."
My other parent looked guiltily at some oblong boxes tied up in white paper with narrow red ribbon, which, innocently enough I consider, enhance the value of life to us both. But she ignored the charge—momma hates arguments.
"Dear me!" she said, as the space widened between us and the docks. "So we are all going to Europe together this morning! I can hardly realise it. Farewell America! How interesting life is."
"Yes," replied poppa. "And now I guess I'd better show you your cabins before it gets any more interesting."
We had a calm evening, though nothing would induce momma to think so, and at ten o'clock Senator J.P. Wick and I were still pacing the deck talking business. The moon rose, and threw Arthur's shadow across our conversation, but we looked at it with precision and it moved away. That is one of poppa's most comforting characteristics, he would as soon open his bosom to a shot-gun as to a confidence. He asked for details through the telephone merely for bravado. As a matter of fact, if I had begun to send them he would have rung off the connection and said it was an accident. We dipped into politics, and I told the Senator that while I considered his speech on the Silver Compromise a credit to the family on the whole, I thought he had let himself out somewhat unnecessarily at the expense of the British nation.
"We are always twisting a tail," I said reproachfully, "that does nothing but wag at us."
This poppa reluctantly admitted with the usual reference to the Irish vote. We both hoped sincerely that any English friends who saw that speech, and paused to realise that the orator was a parent of mine, would consider the number of Irish resident in Illinois, and the amount of invective which their feelings require. Poppa doesn't really know sometimes whether he is himself or a shillelagh, but whatever his temporary political capacity he is never ungrateful. He went on to give me the particulars of his interview with the President about the Chicago Post Office, and then I gradually unfolded my intention of preparing our foreign experiences as a family for publication in book form. While I was unfolding it poppa eyed me askance.
"Is that usual?" he inquired.
"Very usual indeed," I replied.
"I mean—under the circumstances?"
"Under what circumstances?" I demanded boldly. I knew that nothing would induce him to specify them.
"Oh, I only meant—it wasn't exactly my idea."
"What was your idea—exactly?" It was mean of me to put poppa to the blush, but I had to define the situation.
"Oh," said he, with unlooked-for heroism, "I was basing my calculations with reference to you on the distractions of change—Paris dry-goods, rowing round Venice in gondolas, riding through the St. Gothard tunnel, and the healing hand of time. I don't intend to give a day less than six weeks to it. I'm looking forward to the tranquilising effect of the antique some myself," he added, hedging. "I find these new self-risers that we've undertaken to carry almost more than my temperament can stand. They went up from an output of five hundred dollars to six hundred and fifty thousand, and back again inside seven days last month. I'm looking forward to examining something that hasn't moved for a couple of thousand years with considerable pleasure."
"Poppa," said I, ignoring the self-risers, "if you were as particular about the quality of your fiction as you are about the quality of your table-butter, you would know that the best heroines never have recourse to such measures now. They are simply obsolete. Except for my literary intention, I should be ashamed to go to Europe at all—under the circumstances. But that, you see, brings the situation up to date. I transmit my European impressions through the prism of damaged affection. Nothing could be more modern."
"I see," replied poppa, rubbing his chin searchingly, which is his manner of expressing sagacious doubt. His beard descends from the lower part of his chin in the long unfettered American manner, without which it is impossible for Punch to indicate a citizen of the United States. When he positively disapproves he pulls it severely.
"But Europe's been done before, you know," he continued. "In fact, I don't know any continent more popular than Europe with people that want to publish books of travel. It's been done before."
"Never," I rejoined, "in connection with you, poppa!"
Poppa removed his hand from his chin.
"Oh, if I'm to assist, that's quite another anecdote," he said briskly. "I didn't understand you intended to ring me in. Of course, I don't mean to imply there is any special prejudice against books of travel in Europe. About how many pages did you think of running it to?"
"My idea was three hundred," I replied.
"And how many words to a page?"
"Two hundred and fifty—more or less."
"That's seventy-five thousand words! Pretty big undertaking, if you look at it in bulk."
"We shall have to rely upon momma," I remarked.
Poppa's expression disparaged the idea, and he began to feel round for his beard.
"If I were you," he said, "I wouldn't place much dependence on momma. She'll be able to give you a few hints on sunsets and a pointer or two about the various Venuses, likely—she's had photographs of several of them in the house for years—but I expect it's going to be a question of historical fact pretty often, and momma won't be in it. Not that I want to choke momma off," he continued, "but she will necessitate a whole reference library. And in some parts of Europe I believe they charge you for every pound of luggage, including your lunch, if you don't happen to have concealed it in your person."
"We'll have to pin her down to the guide-books," I remarked.
"That depends. I've always understood that the guide-book market was largely controlled by Mr. Murray and Mr. Baedeker. Also, that Mr. Murray writes in a vein of pretty lofty sentiment, while Mr. Baedeker is about as interesting as a directory. Now where the right emotion is included at the price I don't see the use of momma, but when it's a question of Baedeker we might turn her on. See?"
"Poppa," I replied with emotion, "you will both be invaluable. I will bid you good-night. I believe the electric light burns all night long in the smoking-cabin, but that is not supposed to indicate that gentlemen are expected to stay there till dawn. I see you have two Havanas left. That will be quite enough for one evening. Good-night, poppa."
All the way across momma implored me to become reconciled to Arthur. In extreme moments, when it was very choppy, she composed telegrams on lines which were to drive him wild with contrition without compromising my dignity; and when I suggested the difficulty of tampering with the Atlantic cable in mid-ocean without a diving machine, she wept, hinting that, if I were a true daughter of hers, things would never have come to such a pass. My position, from a filial point of view, was most trying. I could not deny my responsibility for momma's woes—she never left her cabin—yet I was powerless to put an end to them. Young women in novels have thrown themselves into the arms of the wrong man under far less parental pressure, but although it was indeed the hour the man was not available. Neither, such was the irony of circumstances, would our immediate union have affected the motion in the slightest degree. But although I presented these considerations to momma many times a day, she adhered so persistently to the idea of promoting a happy reunion that I was obliged to keep a very careful eye on the possibility of surreptitious messages from Liverpool. Once on dry land, however, momma saw her duty in another light. I might say that she swallowed her principles with the first meal she really enjoyed, after which she expressed her conviction that it was best to let the dead past bury its dead, so long as the obsequies did not necessitate her immediate return to America.
I was looking forward immensely to observing the Senator in London, remembering the effect it had upon my own imagination, but on our arrival he conducted himself in a manner which can only be described as non-committal. He went about with his hands in his pockets, smoking large cigars with an air of reserved criticism that vastly impressed the waiters, acquiescing in strawberry jam for breakfast, for example, in a manner which said that, although this might be to him a new and complex custom, he was acquainted with Chicago ones much more recondite. His air was superior, but modestly so, and if he said nothing you would never suppose it was because he had nothing to say. He meant to give Great Britain a chance before he pronounced anything distinctly unfavourable even to her steaks, and in the meantime to remember what an up-to-date American owes to his country's reputation in the hotels of a foreign town.
He was very much at his ease, and I saw him looking at a couple of just introduced Englishmen embarking in conversation, as if he wondered what could possibly be the matter with them. I am sorry that I can't say as much for my other parent, but before monarchical institutions momma weakened. She had moments of terrible indecision as to how to do her hair, and I am certain it was not a matter of indifference to her that she should make a good impression upon the head butler. Also, she hesitated about examining the mounted Guardsman on duty at Whitehall, preferring to walk past with a casual glance, as if she were accustomed to see things quite as wonderful every day at home, whereas nothing to approach it has ever existed in America, except in the imagination of Mr. Barnum, and he is dead. And shopwalkers patronised her. I congratulated myself sometimes that I was there to assert her dignity.
I must be permitted to generalise in this way about our London experiences because they only lasted a day and a half, and it is impossible to get many particulars into that space. It was really a pity we had so little time. Nothing would have been more interesting than to bring momma into contact with the Poets' Corner, or introduce poppa to the House of Lords, and watch the effect. I am sure, from what I know of my parents, that the effect would have been crisp. But we decided that six weeks was not too much to give to the Continent, also that an opportunity, six weeks long, of absorbing Europe is not likely to occur twice in the average American lifetime. We stayed over two or three trains in London, however, just long enough to get in a background, as it were, for our Continental experiences. The weather was typical, and the background, from an artistic point of view, was perfect. While not precisely opaque, you couldn't see through it anywhere.
When it became a question of how we were to put in the time, it seemed to momma as if she would rather lie down than anything.
"You and your father, dear," she said, "might drive to St. Paul's, when it stops raining. Have a good look at the dome and try to bring me back the sound of the echo. It is said to be very weird. See that poppa doesn't forget to take off his hat in the body of the church, but he might put it on in the Whispering Gallery, where it is sure to be draughty. And remember that the funeral coach of the Duke of Wellington is down in the crypt, darling. You might bring me an impression of that. I think I'll have a cup of chocolate and try to get a little sleep."
"Is it," asked poppa, "the coach which the Duke sent to represent him at the other people's funerals, or the one in which he attended his own?"
"You can look that up," momma replied; "but my belief is that it was presented to the Duke by a grateful nation after his demise. In which case he couldn't possibly have used it more than once."
I looked at momma reprovingly, but, seeing that she had no suspicion of being humorous, I said nothing. The Senator pushed out his under lip and pulled his beard.
"I don't know about St. Paul's," he said; "wouldn't any other impression do as well, momma? It doesn't seem to be just the weather for crypts, and I don't suppose the hearse of a military man is going to make the surroundings any more cheerful. Now, my idea is that when time is limited you've got to let some things go. I'd let the historical go every time. I'd let the instructive go—we can't drag around an idea of the British Museum, for instance. I'd let ancient associations go—unless you're particularly interested in the parties associated."
I thought of the morning I once spent picking up details, traditions, and remains of Dr. Johnson in various parts of the West Central district, and privately sympathised with this view, though I felt compelled to look severe. Momma, who was now lying down, dissented. What, then, she demanded, had we crossed the ocean for?
"Rather," said she, "where time is limited let us spread ourselves, so to speak, over the area of culture available. This morning, for example, you, husband, might ramble round the Tower and try to picture the various tragedies that have been enacted there. You, daughter, might go and bring us those impressions from St. Paul's, while I will content myself with observing the manners of the British chambermaid. So far, I must say, I think they are lovely. Thus, each doing what he can and she can, we shall take back with us, as a family, more real benefit than we could possibly obtain if we all derived it from the same source."
"No," said poppa firmly. "I take exception to your theory right there, Augusta. Culture is a very harmless thing, and there's no reason why you shouldn't take it in, till your back gives out, every day we're here. But I consider that we've got the article in very good shape in our little town over there in Illinois, and personally I don't propose to go nosing round after it in Europe. And as a family man I should hate to be divided up for any such purpose."
"Oh, if you're going to steel yourself against it, my love——"
"Now, what Bramley said to me the day before we sailed was this—No, I'm not steeling myself against it; my every pore is open to it—Bramley said: 'Your time is limited, you can't see everything. Very well. See the unique. Keep that in mind,' he said; 'the unique. And you'll be surprised to find how very little there is in the world, outside Chicago, that is unique.'"
"Applying that rule," continued the Senator, strolling up and down, "the things to see in London are the Crystal Palace and the Albert Memorial. Especially the Albert Memorial. That was a man who played second fiddle to his wife, and enjoyed it, all his life long; and there he sits in Hyde Park to-day, I understand, still receiving the respectful homage of the nation—the only case on record."
"Westminster Abbey would be much better for you," said momma.
"Don't you think," I put in, "that if momma is to get any sleep——"
"Certainly. Now, another thing that Bramley said was, 'Look here,' he said, 'remember the Unattainable Elsewhere—and get it. You're likely to be in London. Now the Unattainable Elsewhere, for that town, is gentlemen's suitings. For style, price, and quality of goods the London tailor leads the known universe. Wick,' he said—he was terribly in earnest—'if you have one hour in London, leave your measure!'"
"In that case," said momma, sitting up and ascertaining the condition of her hair, "you would like me to be with you, love."
Now, if momma doesn't like poppa's clothes, she always gives them away without telling him. This would be thought arbitrary in England, and I have certainly known the Senator suddenly reduced to great destitution through it, but America is a free country, and there is no law to compel us to see our male relations unbecomingly clad against our will.
"Well, to tell the truth, Augusta," said poppa, "I would. I'd like to get this measure through by a unanimous vote. It will save complications afterwards. But are you sure you wouldn't rather lie down?"
Momma replied to the effect that she wouldn't mind his going anywhere else alone, but this was important. She put her gloves on as she spoke, and her manner expressed that she was equal to any personal sacrifice for the end in view.
Colonel Bramley had given the Senator a sartorial address of repute, and presently the hansom drew up before it, in Piccadilly. We went about as a family in one hansom for sociability.
"Look here, driver," said poppa through the roof, "have we got there?"
The cabman, in a dramatic and resentful manner, pointed out the number with his whip.
"There's the address as was given to me, sir."
"Well, there's nothing to get mad about," said poppa sternly. "I'm looking for Marcus Trippit, tailor and outfitter."
"It's all right, sir. All on the brass plite on the door, sir. I can see it puffickly from 'ere."
The cabman seemed appeased, but his tone was still remonstrative.
We all looked at the door with the brass plate. It was flanked on one side by the offices of a house agent, on the other by a superior looking restaurant.
"There isn't the sign of a tailor about the premises," said poppa, "except his name. I don't like the look of that."
"Perhaps," suggested momma, "it's his private address."
"Well, I guess we don't want to call on Marcus, especially as we've got no proper introduction. Driver, that isn't Mr. Trippit's place of business. It's his home."
We all craned up at the hole in the roof at once, like young birds, and we all distinctly saw the driver smile.
"No, sir, I don't think 'e'd put it up like that that 'e was a tyler, not on 'is privit residence, sir. I think you'll find the business premises on the fust or second floor, likely."
"Where's his window?" the Senator demanded. "Where's his display? No, I don't think Marcus will do for me. I'm not confiding enough. Now, you don't happen to be able to recommend a tailor, do you?"
"Yes, sir, I can take you to a gentleman that'll turn you out as 'andsome as need be. Out 'Ampstead way, 'e is."
The Senator smiled. "About a three-and-sixpenny fare, eh?" he said.
"Yes, sir, all of that."
"I thought so. I don't mind the three and sixpence. You can't do much driving where I come from under a dollar; but we've only got about twenty-four hours for the British capital altogether, and I can't spare the time."
"Suppose he drives along slowly," suggested momma.
"Just so. Drive along slowly until you come to a tailor that has a shop, do you see? And a good-sized window, with waxwork figures in it to show off the goods. Then let me hear from you again."
The man's expression changed to one of cheerfulness and benignity. "Right you are, sir," he said, and shut down the door in a manner that suggested entire appreciation of the circumstances.
"I think we can trust him," said poppa. Inside, therefore, we gave ourselves up to enjoyment of what momma called the varied panorama around us; while, outside, the cabman passed in critical review half the gentleman's outfitters in London. It was momma who finally brought him to a halt, and the establishment which inspired her with confidence and emulation was inscribed in neat, white enamelled letters, Court Tailors.
As we entered, a person of serious appearance came forward from the rear, by no means eagerly or inquiringly, but with a grave step and a great deal of deportment. I fancy he looked at momma and me with slight surprise; then, with his hands calmly folded and his head a little on one side, he gave his attention to the Senator. But it was momma who broke the silence.
"We wish," said momma, "to look at gentlemen's suitings."
"Yes, madam, certainly. Is it for—for——" He hesitated in the embarrassed way only affected in the very best class of establishments, and I felt at ease at once as to the probable result.
"For this gentleman," said momma, with a wave of her hand.
The Senator, being indicated, acknowledged it. "Yes," he said, "I'm your subject. But there's just one thing I want to say. I haven't got any use for a Court suit, because where I live we haven't got any use for Courts. My idea would be something aristocratic in quality but democratic in cut—the sort of thing you would make up for a member of Mr. Gladstone's family. Do I make myself clear?"
"Certainly, sir. Ordinary morning dress, sir, or is it evening dress, or both? Will you kindly step this way, sir?"
"We will all step this way," said momma.
"It would be a morning coat and waistcoat then, sir, would it not? And trousers of a different—somewhat lighter——"
"Well, no," the Senator replied. "Something I could wear around pretty much all day."
My calm regard forbade the gentleman's outfitter to smile, even in the back of his head.
"I think I understand, sir. Now, here is something that is being a good deal worn just now. Beautiful finish."
"Nothing brownish, thank you," said momma, with decision.
"No, madam? Then perhaps you would prefer this, sir. More on the iron gray, sir."
"That would certainly be more becoming," said momma. "And I like that invisible line. But it's rather too woolly. I'm afraid it wouldn't keep its appearance. What do you think, Mamie?"
"Oh, there's no woolliness, madam." The gentleman's outfitter's tone implied that wool was the last thing he would care to have anything to do with. "It's the nap. And as to the appearance of these goods"—he smiled slightly—"well, we put our reputation on them, that's all. I can't say more than that. But I have the same thing in a smooth finish, if you would prefer it."
"I think I would prefer it. Wouldn't you, Mamie?"
The man brought the same thing in a smooth finish, and looked interrogatively at poppa.
"Oh, I prefer it, too," said he, with a profound assumption of intelligent interest. "Were you thinking of having the pants made of the same material, Augusta?"
The gentleman's outfitter suddenly turned his back, and stood thus for an instant struggling with something like a spasm. Knowing that if there's one thing in the world momma hates it's the exhibition of poppa's sense of humour, I walked to the door. When I came back they were measuring the Senator.
"Will you have the American shoulder, sir? Most of our customers prefer it."
"Well, no. The English shoulder would be more of a novelty on me. You see I come from the United States myself."
"Do you indeed, sir?"
The manners of some tailors might be emulated in England.
"Tails are a little longer than they were, sir, and waistcoats cut a trifle higher. Not more than half an inch in both cases, sir, but it does make a difference. Now, with reference to the coat, sir; will you have it finished with braid or not? Silk braid, of course, sir."
"Augusta?" demanded the Senator.
"Is braid de nouveau?" asked momma.
"Not precisely, madam, but the Prince certainly has worn it this season while he didn't last."
"Do you refer to Wales?" asked poppa.
"Yes, sir. He's very generally mentioned simply as 'The Prince.' His Royal Highness is very conservative, so to speak, about such things, so when he takes up a style we generally count on its lasting at least through one season. I can assure you, sir, the Prince has appeared in braid. You needn't be afraid to order it."
"I think," put in momma, "that braid would make a very neat finish, love."
Poppa walked slowly towards the door, considering the matter. With his hand on the knob he turned round.
"No," he said, "I don't think that's reason enough for me. We're both men in public positions, but I've got nothing in common with Wales. I'll have a plain hem."
"If there's one thing I hate," said Senator Wick several times in the discussion of our plans, "it's to see a citizen of the United States going round advertising himself. If you analyse it, it's a mean thing to do, for it's no more a virtue to be born American than a fault to be born anything else. I'm proud of my nationality and my income is a source of satisfaction to me, but I don't intend to brandish either of them in the face of Europe."
It was this principle that had induced poppa to buy tourist tickets second class by rail, first class by steamer, all through, like ordinary English people on eight or nine hundred a year. Momma and I thought it rather noble of him and resolved to live up to it if possible, but when he brought forth a large packet of hotel coupons, guaranteed to produce everything, including the deepest respect of the proprietors, at ten shillings and sixpence a day apiece, we thought he was making an unnecessary sacrifice to the feelings of the non-American travelling public.
"Two dollars and a half a day!" momma ejaculated. "Were there no more expensive ones?"
"If there had been," poppa confessed, "I would have taken them. But these were the best they had. And I understand it's a popular, sensible way of travelling. I told the young man that the one thing we wished to avoid was ostentation, and he said that these coupons would be a complete protection."
"There must be some way of paying more," said momma pathetically, looking at the paper books of tickets, held together by a quantity of little holes. "Do they actually include everything?"
"Even wine, I understand, where it is the custom of the hotel to provide it without extra charge, and in Switzerland honey with your breakfast," the Senator responded firmly. "I never made a more interesting purchase. There before us lie our beds, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, lights, and attendance for the next six weeks."
"It is full of the most dramatic possibilities," I remarked, looking at the packet.
"It seems to me a kind of attempt to coerce Providence," said momma, "as much as to say, 'Whatever happens to the world, I am determined to have my bed, breakfast, luncheon, dinner, lights, and attendance for six weeks to come.' Is it not presumptuous?"
"It's very reasonable," said the Senator, "and that's the principal thing you've got against it, Augusta. It's remarkably, pictorially cheap." The Senator put the little books in their detachable cover, snapped the elastic round them and restored the whole to his inside pocket.
"You might almost say enjoyably cheap, if you know what I mean. The inexpensiveness of Europe," he continued, "is going to be a great charm for me. I intend to revel in it."
I am always discovering points about poppa the existence of which I had not suspected. His appreciation of the joy of small prices had been concealed in him up to this date, and I congratulated him warmly upon its appearance. I believe it is inherent in primitive tribes and in all Englishmen, but protective tariffs and other influences are rapidly eradicating it in Americans, who should be condoled with on this point, more than they usually are.
We were on our way to Paris after a miraculous escape of the Channel. So calm it was that we had almost held our breaths in our anxiety lest the wind should rise before we got over. Dieppe lay behind us, and momma at the window declared that she could hardly believe she was looking out at Normandy. Momma at the window was enjoying herself immensely in the midst of Liberty silk travelling cushions, supported by her smelling-bottle, and engaged apparently in the realisation of long-cherished dreams.
"There they are in a row!" she exclaimed. "How lovely to see them standing up in that stiff, unnatural way just as they do in the pictures."
Poppa and I rushed raptly to the window, but discovered nothing remarkable.
"To see what, Augusta?" demanded he.
"The Normandy poplars, love. Aren't you awfully disappointed in them? I am. So wooden!"
Poppa said he didn't know that he had been relying much on the poplar feature of the scenery, and returned to his weary search for American telegrams in a London daily paper.
"Dear me," momma ejaculated, "I never supposed I should see them doing it! And right along the line of the railway, too!"
"See them doing it!" I repeated, searching the landscape.
"The women working in the fields, darling love. Garnering the grain, all in that nice moderate shade of blue-electric, shouldn't you call it? There—there's another! No, you can't see her now. France is fascinating!"
Poppa abruptly folded the newspaper. "I've learnt a great deal more than I wanted to know about Madagascar," said he, "and I understand that there's a likelihood of the London voter being called to arms to prevent High Church trustees introducing candles and incense into the opening exercises of the public schools. I've read eleven different accounts of a battle in Korea, and an article on the fauna and flora of Beluchistan, very well written. And I see it's stated, on good authority, that the Queen drove out yesterday accompanied by the Princess Beatrice. I don't know that I ever got more information for two cents in my life. But for news—Great Scott! I know more news than there is in that paper! The editor ought to be invited to come over and discover America."
"Here's something about America," I protested, "from Chicago, too. A whole column—'Movements of Cereals.'"
"Yes, and look at that for a nice attractive headline," responded the Senator with sarcasm. "'Movements of Cereals!' Gives you a great idea of pace, doesn't it? Why couldn't they have called it 'Grain on the Go'?"
"Did Mr. McConnell get in for Mayor, or Jimmy Fagan?" I inquired, looking down the column.
"They don't seem to have asked anybody."
"And who got the Post Office?"
"Not there, not there, my child!"
"Oh!" said momma at the window, "these little gray-stone villages are too sweet for words. Why talk of Chicago? Mr. McConnell and Mr. Fagan are all very well at home, but now that the ocean heaves between us, and your political campaign is over, may we not forget them?"
"Forget Mike McConnell and Jimmy Fagan!" replied the Senator, regarding a passing church spire with an absent smile. "Well, no, Augusta; as far as I'm concerned I'm afraid it couldn't be done—at all permanently. There's too much involved. But I see what you mean about turning the mind out to pasture when the grazing is interesting—getting in a cud, so to speak, for reflection afterwards. I see your idea."
The Senator is always business-like. He immediately addressed himself through the other window to the appreciation of the scenery, and I felt, as I took out my note-book to record one or two impressions, that he would do it justice.
"No, momma," I was immediately compelled to exclaim, "you mustn't look over my shoulder. It is paralysing to the imagination."
"Then I won't, dear. But oh, if you could only describe it as it is! The ruined chateaux, tree-embosomed——" Momma paused.
"The gray church spires, from which at eventide the Angelus comes pealing—or stealing," she continued. "Perhaps 'stealing' is better."
"Above all the poplars—the poplars are very characteristic, dear. And the women toilers in the sunset fields garnering up the golden grain. You might exclaim, 'Why are they always in blue?' Have you got that down?"
"They were making hay," poppa corrected. "But I suppose the public won't know the difference, any more than you did."
Momma leaned forward, clasping her smelling-bottle, and looked out of the window with a smile of exaltation.
"The cows," she went on, "the proud-legged Norman cows standing knee-deep in the quiet pools. Have you got the cows down, dear?"
The Senator, at the other window, looked across disparagingly, hard at work on his beard. He said nothing, but after a time abruptly thrust his hands in his pockets, and his feet out in front of him in a manner which expressed absolute dissent. When momma said she thought she would try to get a little sleep he looked round observantly, and as soon as her slumber was sound and comfortable he beckoned to me.
"See here," he said, not unkindly, argumentatively. "About those cows. In fact, about all these pointers your mother's been giving you. They're all very nice and poetic—I don't want to run down momma's ideas—but they don't strike me as original. I won't say I could put my finger on it, but I'm perfectly certain I've heard of the poplars and the women field labourers of Normandy somewhere before. She doesn't do it on purpose"—the Senator inclined his head with deprecation toward the sleeping form opposite, and lowered his voice—"and I don't know that I'd mention it to you under any other circumstances, but momma's a fearful plagiarist. She doesn't hesitate anywhere. I've known her do it to William Shakespeare and the Book of Job, let alone modern authors. In dealing with her suggestions you want to be very careful. Otherwise momma'll get you into trouble."
I nodded with affectionate consideration. "I'll make a note of what you say, Senator," I replied, and immediately, from motives of delicacy, we changed the subject. As we talked, poppa told me in confidence how much he expected of the democratic idea in Paris. He said that even the short time we had spent in England was enough to enable him to detect the subserviency of the lower classes there and to resent it, as a man and a brother. He spoke sadly and somewhat bitterly of the manners of the brother man who shaved him, which he found unjustifiably affable, and of the inexcusable abasement of a British railway porter if you gave him a shilling. He said he was glad to leave England, it was demoralising to live there; you lost your sense of the dignity of labour, and in the course of time you were almost bound to degenerate into a swell. He expressed a good deal of sympathy with the aristocracy on this account, concentrating his indignation upon those who, as it were, made aristocrats of innocent human beings against their will. It was more than he would have ventured to say in public, but in talking to me poppa often mentions what a comfort it is to be his own mouthpiece.
"The best thing about these tourists' tickets is," said the Senator as we approached Paris, "that they entitle you to the use of an interpreter. He is said to be found on all station platforms of importance, and I presume he's standing there waiting for us now. I take it we're at liberty to tap his knowledge of the language in any moment of difficulty just as if it were our own."
Ten minutes later the carriage doors were opening upon Paris, and the Senator's eagle eye was searching the crowded platform for this official. Our vague idea was that the interpreter would be a conspicuous and permanent object like a nickle-in-the-slot machine, automatically arranged to open his arms to tourists presenting the right tickets, and emit conversation. When we finally detected him, by his cap, he was shifting uneasily in the midst of a crowd of inquirers. His face was pale, his beard pointed, his expression that of a person constantly interrupted in many languages. The crowd was parting to permit him to escape, when we filled up the available avenue and confronted him.
"Are you the linguist that goes with our tickets?" asked the Senator.
"I am ze interpretare yes, but weez ze tickets I go not, no. All-ways I stay here in zis place, nowheres I go." He stood at bay, so to speak, frowning fiercely as he replied, and then made another bolt for liberty, but poppa laid a compelling hand upon his arm.
"If it's all the same to you," said poppa, firmly, "I've got ladies with me, and——"
"Yes certainly you get presently your tronks. You see zat door beside many people? Immediately it open you go and show ze customs man. You got no duty thing, it is all right. You call one fiacre—carriage—and go at your hotel."
"Oh," exclaimed momma, "is there any charge on nerve tincture, please? It's entirely for my personal use."
"It's only on cigars and eau-de-Cologne, isn't it?" I entreated.
"Which door did you say?" asked the Senator. "I'd be obliged if you would speak more slowly. There's no cause for excitement. From here I can see fourteen doors, and I saw our luggage go in by this door."
"You don't believe wat I say! Very well! All ze same it is zat door beside all ze people wat want zere tronks!"
"All right," said the Senator pacifically. "How you do boil over! I tell you one thing, my friend," he added, as the interpreter washed his hands of us, "you may be a necessity to the travelling public, but you're not a luxury, in any sense of the word."
The Senator, discovering to his surprise that the hotel clerk was a lady, lifted his hat. He did not appear to be surprised, that wasn't the Senator's way, but he forgot what he had to say, which proved it. While he was hesitating she looked at him humorously and said "Good evening, sir!" She was a florid person who wore this sense of humour between hard blue eyes and an iron jaw. Momma took a passionate dislike to her on the spot.
"Oh, then you do," said poppa. "You parlay Anglay. That's a good thing I'm sure, for I know mighty little Fransay. May I ask what sort of accommodation you can give Mrs. Wick, Miss Wick, and myself for to-night? Anything on the first floor?"
"What rooms you require are one double one single, yes? Certainly. Francois, trente-cinq et trente-huit." She handed Francois the keys and her sense of humour disappeared in a smile which told poppa that he might, if he liked, consider her a fine woman. He, wishing doubtless to bask in it to the fullest extent, produced his book of tickets.
"I expect you've seen these before," he said, apparently for the pleasure of continuing the conversation.
As her eye fell upon them a look of startled cynicism suddenly replaced the smile. Her cynicism was paradoxical, she was so large, and sound and wholesome, and the more irritating on this account.
"You 'ave the coupons!" she exclaimed. "Ah-a-ah!" in a crescendo of astonishment at our duplicity. "Then I 'ave made one mistake. Francois! Those first floor rooms they are already taken. But on the third floor are two good beautiful rooms. There is also the lift—you can use the lift."
"I can't dispute with a lady," said poppa, "but that is singular. I should prefer those first floor rooms which were not taken until I mentioned the coupons."
The lady's eye was unflinching, and poppa quailed. He looked ashamed, as if he had been caught in telling a story. They made a picture, as he stood there pulling his beard, of American chivalry and Gallic guile, which was almost pathetic.
"Well," said he, "as it's necessary that Mrs. Wick should lie down as soon as possible you might show us those third floor rooms."
Then he recovered his dignity and glanced at Madame more in sorrow than in anger. "Certainly, sare," she said severely. "Will you use the lift? For the lift there is no sharge."
"That," said the Senator, "is real liberal." In moments of emotion poppa often dropped into an Americanism. "If it's a serious offer I think we will use the lift."
At a nod from Madame, Francois went away to seek the man belonging to the lift, and after a time returned with him. The lady produced another key, with which the man belonging to the lift unlocked the door of the brass cage which guarded it.
"You must find strangers very dishonest, madam," said the Senator courteously as we stepped inside, "to render such a precaution necessary."
But before we arrived at the third floor we were convinced that it was unnecessary. It was not an elevator that the most burglarious would have cared to take away.
So many Americans surrounded the breakfast table next morning that we might almost have imagined ourselves in Chicago. A small, young priest with furtive brown eyes cowered at one of the side tables, and at another a broad-shouldered, unsmiling lady, dressed in black, with brows and a slight moustache to match, dispensed food to a sallow and shrinking object of preternaturally serious aspect who seemed to be her husband, and a little boy who kept an anxious eye on them both. They were French, too, but all the people who sat up and down the long middle table belonged to the United States of America. They were there in groups and in families representing different localities and different social positions—as momma said, you had only to look at their shoulder seams; and each group or family received the advances of the next with the polite tolerance, head a little on one side, which characterises us when we don't know each other's business standing or church membership; but the tide of conversation which ebbed and flowed had a flavour which made the table a geographical unit. I say "flavour," because there was certainly something, but I am now inclined to think with Mr. Page that "accent" is rather too strong a word to describe it. At all events, the gratification of hearing it after his temporary exile in Great Britain almost brought tears to the Senator's eyes. There were only three vacant places, and, as we took them, making the national circle complete, a little smile wavered round the table. It was a proud, conscious smile; it indicated that though we might not be on terms of intimacy we recognised ourselves to be immensely and uniformly American, and considerably the biggest fraction of the travelling public. As poppa said, the prevailing feeling was also American. As he was tucking his napkin into his waistcoat, and ordering our various breakfasts, the gentleman who sat next to him listened—he could not help it—fidgetted, and finally, with some embarrassment, spoke.
"I don't know, sir," he said, "whether you're aware of it—I presume you're a stranger, like myself—but all they allow for what they call breakfast in this hotel is tea or coffee, rolls, and butter; everything else is charged extra."
Poppa was touched. As he said to me afterward, who but an American would have taken the trouble to tell a stranger a thing like that! Not an Englishman, certainly—he would see you bankrupt first! He disguised his own sophistication, and said he was very much obliged, and he almost apologised for not being able to take advantage of the information, and stick to coffee and rolls.
"But the fact is," he said in self-defence, "we may get back for lunch and we may not."
"That's all right," the gentleman replied with distinct relief. "I didn't mind the omelette or the sole, but when it came to fried chicken and strawberries I just had to speak out. You going to make a long stay in Paris?"
As they launched to conversation momma and I glanced at each other with mutual congratulation. It was at last obvious that the Senator was going to enjoy his European experiences; we had been a little doubtful about it. Left to ourselves, we discussed our breakfast and the waiters, the only French people we could see from where we sat, and expressed our annoyance, which was great, at being offered tooth-picks. I was so hungry that it was only when I asked for a third large roll that I noticed momma regarding me with mild disapproval.
"I fear," she said with a little sigh, "that you are thinking very little of what is past and gone, love."
"Momma," I replied, "don't spoil my breakfast." When momma can throw an emotional chill over anything, I never knew her to refrain. "I should like that garcon to bring me some more bread," I continued.
Momma sighed even more deeply. "You may have part of mine," she replied, breaking it with a gesture that said such callousness she could not understand. Her manner for the next few minutes expressed distinctly that she, at least, meant to do her duty by Arthur.
Presently from the other side of poppa came the words, "Not Wick of Chicago!"
"I guess I can't deny it," said poppa.
Poppa lowered his voice. "If it's all the same to you," he said, "not for the present. Just plain Joshua P. Wick. I'm not what you call travelling incognito, do you see, but, so far as the U.S. Senate is concerned, I haven't got it with me."
"Well, sir, I won't mention it again. But all the same, if I may be allowed to say so, I am pleased to meet you, sir—very pleased. I suppose they wired you that Mike McConnell's got the Post Office."
Poppa held out his hand in an instant of speechless gratitude. "Sir," he said, "they did not. Put it there. I said no wires and no letters, and I've been sorry for it ever since. Momma," he continued, "daughter, allow me to present to you Mr.?—Mr. Malt, who has heard by cablegram that our friend Mr. McConnell is Postmaster-General of Chicago."
Momma was grateful, too, though she expressed it somewhat more distantly. Momma has a great deal of manner with strangers; it sometimes completely disguises her real feeling toward them. I was also grateful, though I merely bowed, and kicked the Senator under the table. Nobody would have guessed from our outward bearing the extent to which our political fortunes, as a family, were mixed up with Mike McConnell's. Mr. Malt immediately said that if there was anything else he could do for us he was at our service.
"Well," said poppa, "I suppose there's a good deal of intrinsic interest in this town—relics of Napoleon, the Bon Marche, and so on—and we've got to see it. I must say," he added, turning to momma, "I feel considerably more equal to it now."
"It will take you a good long week," said Mr. Malt earnestly, "to begin to have an idea of it. You might spend two whole days in the Louvre itself. Is your time limited?"
"I don't need to tell any American the market value of it," said poppa smiling.
"Then you can't do better than go straight to the Louvre. I'd be pleased to accompany you, only I've got to go round and see our Ambassador—I've got a little business with him. I daresay you know that one of our man-of-war ships is lying right down here in the Seine river. Well, the captain is giving a reception to-morrow in honour of the Russian Admiral who happens to be there, too. I've got ladies with me and I wrote for four tickets. Did I get the four tickets—or two of them—or one? No, sir, I got a letter in the third person singular saying it wasn't a public entertainment! I wrote back to say I guessed it was an American entertainment, and he could expect me, all the same. He hadn't any sort of excuse—my name and business address were on my letter paper. Now I'm just going round to see what a United States Ambassador's for, in this connection."
Mr. Malt rose and the waiter withdrew his chair. "Thank you, garcon," said he. "I'm coming back again—do you understand? This is not my last meal," and the waiter bowed as if that were a statement which had to be acknowledged, but was of the least possible consequence to him personally. "Well, Mr. Wick," continued Mr. Malt, brushing the crumbs from his waistcoat, "I'll say good morning, and to your ladies also. I'm very pleased to have met you."
"Well," said momma, as he disappeared, "if every American in Paris has decided to go to that reception there won't be much room for the Russians."
"I suppose he's a voter and a tax-payer, and he's got his feelings," replied poppa. The Senator would defend a voter and a tax-payer against any imputation not actually criminal.
"I'm glad I'm not one of his lady-friends," momma continued. "I don't think I could make myself at home on that man-of-war under the circumstances. But I daresay he'll drag them there with him. He seems to be just that kind of a man."
"He's a very patriotic kind of a man," replied the Senator. "It's his patriotism, don't you see, that's giving him all this trouble. It's been outraged. Personally I consider Mr. Malt a very intelligent gentleman, and if he'd given me an opening as big as the eye of a needle I'm the camel that would have gone with him, Augusta."
This statement of the Senator's struck me as something to be acted upon. If there was to be a constant possibility of his going off with any chance American in regular communication with the United States, our European tour would be a good deal less interesting than I had been led to expect. While momma was getting ready for the Louvre, therefore, I stepped down to the office and wired our itinerary to his partner in Chicago. "Keep up daily communication by wire in detail," I telegraphed, "forward copies all important letters care Peters." Peters was the tourist agent who had undertaken to bless our comings and goings. I said nothing whatever to poppa, but I felt a glow of conscious triumph when I thought of Mr. Malt.
We stood and realised Paris on the pavement while the fiacre turned in from the road and drew up for us. I had every intention of being fascinated and so had momma. We had both heard often and often that good Americans when they die go to Paris, and that prepares one for a good deal in this life. We were so anxious to be pleased that we fastened with one accord upon the florist's shop under the hotel and said that it was uniquely charming, though we both knew places in Broadway that it couldn't be compared with. We looked amiably at the passers-by, and did our best to detect in the manner of their faces that esprit that makes the dialogue of French novels so stimulating. What I usually thought I saw when they looked at us was a leisurely indifferentism ornamented with the suspicion of a sneer, and based upon a certain fundamental acquisitiveness and ability to make a valuation that acknowledged the desirability of our presence on business grounds, if not on personal ones. It seemed to be a preconcerted public intention to make as much noise in a given space as possible—we spoke of the cheerfulness of it, stopping our ears. The cracking of the drivers' whips alone made a feu de joie that never ceased, and listening to it we knew that we ought to feel happy and elated. The driver of our fiacre was fat and rubicund, he wore a green coat, brass buttons, and a shiny top hat, and looked as if he drank constantly. His jollity was perfunctory, I know, and covered a grasping nature, but it was very well imitated, like everything in Paris. As he whirled us, with a whip-report like a pistol-shot, into the train of traffic in the middle of the street, we felt that we were indeed in the city of appearances; and I put down in my mind, not having my note-book, that Paris lives up to its photographs.
"We mustn't forget our serious object, dear," said momma, as we rolled over the cobblestones—"our literary object. What shall we note this morning? The broad streets, the elegant shops—do look at that one! Darling, is it absolutely necessary to go to the Louvre this morning? There are some things we really need."
Momma addressed the Senator. I mentioned to her once that her way of doing it was almost English in its demonstrativeness, and my other parent told me privately he wished I hadn't—it aggravated it so.
"Augusta," said poppa, firmly, "I understand your feeling. I take a human interest in those stores myself, which I do not expect this picture gallery, etc., to inspire in me. But there the Louvre is, you see, and it's got to be done. If we spent our whole time in this city in mere pleasure and amusement, you would be the first to reproach yourself, Augusta."
A few minutes later, when we had crossed the stone quadrangle and mounted the stairs, and stood with our catalogue in the Salle Lacaze, momma said that she wouldn't have missed it for anything. She sank ecstatic upon a bench, and gave to every individual picture upon the opposite wall the tribute of her intensest admiration. It was a pleasure to see her enjoying herself so much; and poppa and I vainly tried to keep up to her with the catalogue.
"Oh, why haven't we such things in Chicago!" she exclaimed, at which the Senator checked her mildly.
"It's a mere question of time," said he. "It isn't reasonable to expect Pre-Raphaelites in a new country. But give us three or four hundred years, and we'll produce old masters which, if you ladies will excuse the expression, will knock the spots out of the Middle Ages." Poppa is such an optimist about Chicago.
The Senator went on in a strain of criticism of the pictures perfectly moderate and kindly—nothing he wouldn't have said to the artists themselves—until momma interrupted him. "Don't you think we might be silent for a time, Alexander," she said.
Momma does call him Alexander sometimes. I didn't like to mention it before, but it can't be concealed for ever. She says it's because Joshua always costs her an effort, and every woman ought to have the right to name her own husband.
"Let us offer to all this genius," she continued, indicating it, "the tribute of sealing our lips."
The Senator will always oblige. "Mine are sealed, Augusta," he replied, and so we sat in silence for the next ten minutes. But I could see by his expression, in connection with the angle at which his hat was tipped, that he was comparing the productions before him with the future old masters of Chicago, and wishing it were possible to live long enough to back Chicago.
"How they do sink in!" said momma at last. "How they sink into the soul!"
"They do," replied the Senator. "I don't deny it. But I see by the catalogue, counting Salles and Salons and all, there's seventeen rooms full of them. If they're all to sink in, for my part I'll have to enlarge the premises. And we've been here three-quarters of an hour already, and life is short, Augusta."
So we moved on where the imperishable faces of Greuze and Velasquez and Rembrandt smiled and frowned and wondered at us. As poppa said, it was easy to see that these people had ideas, and were simply longing to express them. "You feel sorry for them," he said, "just as you feel sorry for an intelligent terrier. But these poor things can't even wag their tails! Just let me know when you've had enough, Augusta."
Momma declared, with an accent of reproach, that she could never have enough. I noticed, however, that we did not stay in the second room as long as in the first one, and that our progress was steadily accelerating. Presently the Senator asked us to sit down for a few minutes while he should leave us.
"There's a picture here Bramley said I was to see without fail," he explained. "It's called 'Mona Lisa,' and it's by an artist by the name of Leonardo da Vinci. Bramley said it was a very fine painting, but I don't remember just now whether he said it was what you might call a picture for the family or not. I'll just go and ascertain," said the Senator. "Judging from some of the specimens here, oil paintings in the Middle Ages weren't intended to be chromo-lithographed."
In his absence momma and I discussed French cookery as far as we had experienced it, in detail, with prodigious yawns for which we did not even apologise. Poppa was gone a remarkably short time and came back radiant. "I've found Mona," he exclaimed, "and—she's all right. Bramley said it was the most remarkable portrait of a woman in the world—looking at it, Bramley said, you become insensible to everything—forget all about your past life and future hopes—and I guess he's about right. Come and see it."
Momma arose without enthusiasm, and I thought I detected adverse criticism in advance in her expression.
"Here she is," said the Senator presently. "Now look at that! Did you ever see anything more intellectual and cynical, and contemptuous and sweet, all in one! Lookin' at you as much as to say, 'Who are you, anyhow, from way back in the State of Illinois—commercial traveller? And what do you pretend to know?'"
Momma regarded the portrait for a moment in calm disapprobation. "I daresay she was very clever," she said at length, "but if you wish to know my opinion I don't think much of her. And before taking us to see another female portrait, Mr. Wick, I should be obliged if you would take the precaution of finding out who she was."
After which we drove quietly home.
Poppa decided that we had better go to Versailles by Cook's four-in-hand. There were other ways of going, but he thought we might as well take the most distinguished. He was careful to explain that the mere grandeur of this method of transportation had no weight with him; he was compelled to submit to the ostentation of it for another purpose which he had in view.
"I am not a person," said poppa, "nor is any member of my family, to thrust myself into aristocratic circles in foreign lands; but when an opportunity like this occurs for observing them without prejudice, so to speak, I believe in taking it."
We went to the starting place early, so as to get good seats, for, as momma said, the whole of the Parisian elite with the President thrown in wouldn't induce her to ride with her back to the horses. In that position she would be incapable of observation.
The coaches were not there when we arrived, and presently the Senator discovered why. He told us with a slightly depressed air that they had gone round to the hotels. "Daughter," he said to me, "J.P. Wicks does hate to make a fool of himself, and this morning he's done it twice over. The best seats will go to the people who had the sense to stay at their hotels, and the fact that the coaches go round shows that they run for tourist traffic only. There won't be a Paris aristocrat among them," continued poppa gloomily, "nary an aristocrat."
When they came up we saw that there wasn't. The coaches were full of tourist traffic. It was mounted on the box seats very high up, where it looked conspicuously happy, and sounded a little hysterical; and it was packed, tight and warm and anticipant into every available seat. From its point of vantage, secured by waiting at the hotel for it, the tourist traffic looked down upon the Wick family on the pavement, in irritating compassion. As momma said, if we hadn't taken our tickets it was enough to have sent us to the Bon Marche.
A man in a black frock coat and white shirt cuffs came bareheaded from the office and pointed us out to the interpreter, who wore brass buttons. The interpreter appeared to mention it to the guide, who wiped his perspiring brows under a soft brown felt hat. A fiacre crawled round the corner and paused to look on, and the Senator said, "Now which of you three gentlemen is responsible for my ride to Versailles?"
The interpreter looked at him with a hostile expression, the guide made a gesture of despair at the volume of tourist traffic, and the man with the shirt cuffs said, "You 'ave took your plazes on ze previous day?"
"I took them from you ten minutes ago," poppa replied. "What a memory you've got!"
"Zen zare is nothings guaranteed. But we will send special carriage, and be'ind you can follow up," and he indicated the fiacre which had now drawn into line.
"I don't think so," said poppa, "when I buy four-in-hand tickets I don't take one-in-hand accommodation."
"You will not go in ze private carriage?"
"I will not."
"Mais—it is much ze preferable."
"I don't know why I should contradict you," said poppa, but at that moment the difficulty was solved by the Misses Bingham.
"Guide!" cried one of the Misses Bingham, beckoning with her fan, "Nous voulons a descendre!"
"You want get out?"
"Oui!" replied the Misses Bingham with simultaneous dignity, and, as the guide merely wiped his forehead again, poppa stepped forward. "Can I assist you?" he said, and the Misses Bingham allowed themselves to be assisted. They were small ladies, dressed in black pongee silk, with sloping shoulders, and they each carried a black fan and a brocaded bag for odds and ends. They were not plain-looking, and yet it was readily seen why nobody had ever married them; they had that look of the predestined single state that you sometimes see even among the very well preserved. One of them had an eye-glass, but it was easy to note even when she was not wearing it that she was a person of independent income, of family, and of New York.
"We are quite willing," said the Misses Bingham, "to exchange our seats in the coach for yours in the special carriage, if that arrangement suits you."
"Bon!" interposed the guide, "and opposite there is one other place if that fat gentleman will squeeze himself a little—eh?"
"Come along!" said the fat gentleman equably.
"But I couldn't think of depriving you ladies."
"Sir," said one Miss Bingham, "it is no deprivation."
"We should prefer it," added the other Miss Bingham. They spoke with decision; one saw that they had not reached middle age without knowing their own minds all the way.
"To tell the truth," added the Miss Bingham without the eye-glass in a low voice, "we don't think we can stand it."
"I don't precisely take you, madam," said the Senator politely.
"I'm an American," she continued.
Poppa bowed. "I should have known you for a daughter of the Stars and Stripes anywhere," he said in his most complimentary tone.
Miss Bingham looked disconcerted for an instant and went on. "My great grandfather was A.D.C. to General Washington. I've got that much reason to be loyal."
"There couldn't have been many such officers," the Senator agreed.
"But when I go abroad I don't want the whole of the United States to come with me."
"It takes the gilt off getting back for you?" suggested poppa a little stiffly.
Miss Bingham failed to take the hint. "We find Europe infested with Americans," she continued. "It disturbs one's impressions so. And the travelling American invariably belongs to the very least desirable class."
"Now I shouldn't have thought so," said the Senator, with intentional humour. But it was lost upon Miss Bingham.
"Well, if you like them," said the other one, "you'd better go in the coach."
The Senator lifted his hat. "Madam," he said, "I thank you for giving to me and mine the privilege of visiting a very questionable scene of the past in the very best society of the present."
And as the guide was perspiring more and more impatiently, we got in.
For some moments the Senator sat in silence, reflecting upon this sentiment, with an occasionally heaving breast. Circumstances forbade his talking about it, but he cast an eye full of criticism upon the fiacre rolling along far in the rear, and remarked, with a fervor most unusual, that he hoped they liked our dust. We certainly made a great deal of it. Momma and I, looking at our fellow travellers, at once decided that the Misses Bingham had been a little hasty. The fat gentleman, who wore a straw hat very far back, and meant to enjoy himself, was certainly our fellow-citizen. So was his wife, and brother-in-law. So were a bride and bridegroom on the box seat—nothing less than the best of everything for an American honeymoon—and so was a solitary man with a short cut bristly beard, a slouch hat, a pink cotton shirt, and a celluloid collar. But there was an indescribable something about all the rest that plainly showed they had never voted for a president or celebrated a Fourth of July. I was still revolving it in my mind when the fat gentleman, who had been thinking of the same thing, said to his neighbour on the other side, a person of serious appearance in a black silk hat, apropos of the line he had crossed by, "I may be wrong, but I shouldn't have put you down to be an American."
"Oh, I guess I am," replied the serious man, "but not the United States kind."
"British North," suggested the fat gentleman, with a smile that acknowledged Her Majesty. "First cousin once removed," and momma and I looked at one another intelligently. We had nothing against Canadians, except that they generally talk as if they had the whole of the St. Lawrence river and Niagara Falls in a perpetual lease from Providence—and we had never seen so many of them together before. The coach was three-quarters full of these foreigners, if the Misses Bingham had only known; but as poppa afterwards said, they were probably not foreign enough. It may have been imagination, but I immediately thought I saw a certain meekness, a habit of deference—I wanted to incite them all to treat the Guelphs as we did. Just then we stopped before the church of St. Augustin, and the guide came swinging along the outside of the coach hoarsely emitting facts. Everybody listened intently, and I noticed upon the Canadian countenances the same determination to be instructed that we always show ourselves. We all meant to get the maximum amount of information for the price, and I don't think any of us have forgotten that the site of St. Augustin is three-cornered and its dome resembles a tiara to this day. For a moment I was sorry for the Misses Bingham, who were absorbing nothing but dust; but, as momma said, they looked very well informed.
It must be admitted that we were a little shy with the guide—we let him bully us. As poppa said, he was certainly well up in his subject, but that was no reason why he should have treated us as if we had all come from St. Paul or Kansas City. There was a condescension about him that was not explained by the state of his linen, and a familiarity that I had always supposed confined exclusively to the British aristocracy among themselves. He had a red face and a blue eye, with which he looked down on us with scarcely concealed contempt, and he was marvellously agile, distributing his information as open street-car conductors collect fares.
"They seem extremely careful of their herbage in this town," remarked the serious man, and we noticed that it was so. Precautions were taken in wire that would have dissuaded a grasshopper from venturing on it. It grew very neatly inside, doubtless with a certain chic, but it had a look of being put on for the occasion that was essentially Parisian. Also the trees grew up out of iron plates, which was uncomfortable, though, no doubt, highly finished, and the flowers had a cachet about them which made one think of French bonnets. As we rolled into the Bois it became evident that the guide had something special to communicate. He raised his voice and coughed, in a manner which commanded instant attention.