POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected.
THE NEW HYPERION.
FROM PARIS TO MARLY BY WAY OF THE RHINE.
V.—IN PURSUIT OF A PASSPORT.
"The Strasburgers have a legend—"
We were rolling along very comfortably in the engineer's coach. From pavement to bridge, and from bridge to pavement, we effected the long step which bestrides the Rhine.
"I knew you would prick your ears up at the word. Well, I have found a legend among the people here about the original acquisition of Strasburg by the French. You know Louis XIV. bagged the city quite unwarrantably in 1681, in a time of peace."
I was much delighted with this beginning, and told my friend that to cross the storied Rhine and simultaneously listen to a legend made me feel as if I were Frithiof the Viking entertained on his voyage by a Skald.
"The Alsatians will have it," said my canal-digger, "that the Grand Monarch was a bit of a magician. The depth of what I may call his High-Church sentiment, which at last proved so edifying to the Maintenon, has never convinced them that he wasn't a trifle in league with the devil. At the foot of his praying-chair was always chained a little casket of ebony, bound with iron. In this he imprisoned a little yellow man, a demon of the most concentrated structure, hardly a foot long. This goblin ran through the air, on an errand or with a letter, about as fast as a stroke of lightning, and admirably filled the place of the modern telegraph. For each meal he took three seeds of hemp, which he loved to receive from the king's hand. By and by the little yellow man became more of a gourmand. He demanded seed-pearls, and the king was obliged to rob the queen's jewel-boxes. Then the yellow dwarf's appetite changed, and he required stars, orders and garters: one by one the obedient monarch gave him the decorations of count, marquis, duke. The demon's name was Chamillo.
"One day the small devil-duke of a Chamillo hovered over the imperial free city of Strasburg. Entering by key-holes and doors ajar, he stole into the presence of the principal magistrates, and shortly after the impregnable capital of Alsace opened its gates at a show of French investment.
"For this important service Louis XIV. fancied that Chamillo would require the letters patent constituting him a prince. Not at all. Chamillo was tired of secular honors: he had seen the bishop of Strasburg officiating in scarlet, and he insisted on being made cardinal. The king could not make cardinals, and he doubted whether he could induce the pope to receive a devil among the upper clergy. He refused absolutely. Chamillo left him in dudgeon and went over to Prussia. Apparently he has remained there. At any rate, the French king's fortunes commenced at that epoch to decline, and the Peace of Ryswick almost deprived him of Strasburg, which the little yellow man wanted to get back for Germany."
We had quitted Strasburg by the gate of Austerlitz. While listening to my friend I kept an eye open, and examined the present state of the fortress, the incidents of the road to Kehl, and that fairy Ile des Epis, a perfect little Eden in the Rhine, where the tall trees and nodding flowers bury the tomb of Dessaix, with its inscription, "A Dessaix, l'Armee du Rhin, 1800." This bright morning-ride enchanted me, seasoned as it was with a goblin-story.
"Behind this tale, now, there must be a fact," I said. "There is some bit of history concealed there. The common people never invent: they distort."
"It is possible," he answered. "I tell you the story as it was told me by one of my theodolite-bearers. You may find out the rest: it is in your line."
Kehl has been bombarded or razed a dozen times by French armies crossing the Rhine. The last occasion when the French ruined it, however, was not in vain-glory, but in impotent malice. They fired it on August 19, 1870, during the horrors of the Strasburg bombardment. It is a town formed of a single street—But I will enter no further into topographic details.
I entered this town or street in haste, leaving my engineering acquaintance talking to a Prussian general. The idea had seized me of writing a line to Hohenfels at Marly, actually dated from the grand duchy of Baden. Undoubtedly I should reach Marly before my letter, but the postal mark would be a good proof of the actuality of my wanderings. Clinging, then, to my childishness, as we do to most of our follies, with a fidelity which it would be well to imitate in our grave affairs, and feeling pressed for time, I looked eagerly around for a resting-place where I could procure ink and paper, and entered at the sign of the "Stork." I found a smoky crowd, peasants and military, sucking German pipes and drinking from a variety of glasses, pots, syphons and jugs. I had taken up my pen when an individual by my side, at the next table, said to his opposite neighbor, "The French will hardly take Strasburg again by surprise, as they did two centuries ago."
"It was not the French who took Strasburg," replied the vis-a-vis, evidently a native: "it was the little urchin in yellow."
The expression, joined to what I had just heard in the carriage, was sufficient to attract my attention. My neighbor, a Belgian by his accent, opened his eyes. The man opposite, perceiving that he had more than one auditor, narrated at length, in substance and detail, not the fairy legend of the Alsatians, but accurately and to my amusement, the historical anecdote which I had imagined to be wrapped up in that tale. So then, while he spoke, I wrote—no longer to Hohenfels, but to my own consciousness and memory—these little notes on Chamillo, or rather Chamilly, and obtained a trifling contribution to the back-stairs history of the Grand Nation.
"The marquis of Chamilly, afterward marshal of France, was often promised a good place for a young nephew he had by the powerful Minister de Louvois. Each time, however, that the youth presented himself the experienced minister said, 'Bide your time, young man: I see nothing yet on the horizon worthy of you.' The boy sulked in the tortures of hope deferred. One day in September, 1681, Louvois said, 'Young man, post yourself at Bale on the 18th day of this month, from noon to four o'clock: stand on the bridge; take a note of all you see, without the least omission; come back and report to me; and as you acquit yourself so your future shall be.' The young chevalier found himself on the bridge at Bale at high noon. He expected to meet some deputation from the Swiss cantons, with the great landamman at the head. What he really saw were carts, villagers, flocks of sheep, children who chased each other, mendicants who, with Swiss independence, demanded alms rather than begged it. He gave to each, imagining in each a mysterious agent. An old woman crossing the bridge on a bucking donkey, who threw her, he picked up obsequiously, not knowing but this fall might be a manoeuvre of state, and the precipitate take the form of the landamman in disguise: he had even the idea of running after the donkey, but the animal was already galloping with great relish outside the assigned limits to his diplomacy. When tired of the sun, the dust and the triviality of the panorama, Chamilly prepared to go. It was nearing the hour fixed for his departure, and the absence of all significant events vexed him. As if to put a crown on his discomfiture, toward the close of the last hour an odd little urchin, grotesquely dressed in a yellow coat, came to beat old blankets over the parapet, and flirted the dirt and fluff into the young man's eyes. Already angered, he was about to hang the young imp for a minute or two over the bridge, when four o'clock sounded, his duty came to his mind, and he departed.
"In the middle of the third night, tired and humiliated, he reappeared before the minister and recounted his failure. When he came to the little page in yellow, Louvois fell on his neck and kissed him. Chamilly was dragged incontinently before the king. Louis XIV., who was snoring with his royal nose in the air, was waked for the purpose, and heard with attention the story of the beggars, the donkey and the little monkey in yellow livery. At the apparition of the Yellow Jacket, Louis XIV. leaped over the ruelle and danced a saraband in his night-gown. Chamilly might perhaps have considered himself sufficiently rewarded in being the only man who ever saw the superb king dancing with bare legs in a wig hastily put on crosswise. But to this recompense others were added. The monarch named him chevalier of his orders, count and counselor of state, to the grand stupefaction of the young man, who understood nothing about it.
"The little yellow urchin, shaking his blankets, announced to the king's envoy, on the part of the perjured Strasburg magistrates, that the city was betrayed."
I had now that rare complementing pair, a legend and its historical foundation. I had been obliged to cross the Rhine to obtain my prize, but I did not regret the journey. How far I was from fancying the ill-natured turn that the little yellow man was playing me!
While my neighbor of the Stork was talking, and I was taking down his words with my utmost rapidity, Time took advantage of me, and put double the accustomed length into each of his steps. On recrossing into Strasburg I had before me barely the moments necessary to regain the railway station.
The gate at the first-class passenger-exit was about closing, fifteen minutes in advance of the start, according to the European custom. I pushed in rather roughly.
The railway-officer or porter was at the gate, barring my passage until I could exhibit a ticket. I had not taken time to purchase one: the train was fuming and threatening the belated passengers with a series of false starts. Surprised into rudeness, and quite forgetting that my appearance warranted no airs of autocracy, I made some contemptuous remark.
"Der Herr is much too hasty. Der Herr is doubtless provided with the necessary papers which will enable him to pass the French frontier."
It was not the porter who spoke now: it was some kind of official relic or shadow or mouchard left from the old custom-house, and suffered to hang on the railway-station as an ornament. His costume, half uniform and half fatigue-dress, compromised nobody, and was surmounted by a skull cap. His pantaloons were short, his figure was paunchy, authoritative and German. His German, however, was spoken with a French accent. As I mused in stupefaction upon the hint he had uttered, he pointed with his hand. "The train is starting," he observed.
The reader probably knows Prudhon's great picture in the Louvre, originally painted for the Palace of Justice, and entitled "Divine Justice and Vengeance in Pursuit of Crime"? This picture, which I had not thought of, I suppose, for an age, suddenly seemed to be realized before me, but the heavenly detectives were changed into mortal gendarmes. The porter and the nondescript threw back the gate, preventing my passage. The terrors of Prudhon's avenging spirits were all expressed, to my thinking, in the looks which these two official people exchanged in my favor, and then bent on me. We stood in a triangle.
"One moment: I propose a plan," I cried in desperation. "I do not know a soul in Strasburg, and the friend who brought me here is gone, I cannot tell whither. But I have an acquaintance in the British consulate at Carlsruhe—Berkley, you know," I explained with an insane familiarity, "my old friend Berkley's nephew. Admit me to the train, and we will telegraph to him. His reply will come in ten minutes, and will show you my responsible character. I have come fifteen minutes in advance of the starting-hour."
"The wire to Carlsruhe," said the porter, "is under repairs."
"The train to Paris," said the second man, "is off."
Some fate was pursuing me. Rudely rejected at the wicket, and treated as a man without a nationality, I felt as if I had but one friend now available on earth—the friend who had come into my head while conversing with the railway guard. Old Mr. Berkley, Mr. Sylvester. Berkley and I had once breakfasted together at Brighton, the first sitting in a tub, the second eating nothing but raw macerated beef, and I for my part devouring toast and Icelandic poetry. The nephew had since gone into diplomacy to strengthen his bile. I had not seen him for years.
I approached the schedule of distances hanging on the wall. My movements were those of a man prostrated and resigned. I ran my forefinger over the departures from Kohl to Carlsruhe.
In three hours I was in the latter city.
It was not in beggar's guise that Paul Flemming would fain be seen in the capital of the grand duchy—the most formal capital, the most symmetrical capital, the most monumental capital, as it is the youngest capital, in Europe. Nor was it as a vagabond that he would wish to appear in that capital, before a friend who happened to be a diplomatist. I recollected the engaging aspect in which I had offered myself to the reflections of the Rhine when last beside that romantic stream—a comely youth, with Stultz's best waistcoats on his bosom and with ineffable sorrows in his heart. Frau Himmelauen used to say, at Heidelberg, that my gloves were a shade too light for a strictly virtuous man. The Frau has gone to her account, and Stultz, the great Stultz, is defunct too, after achieving for himself a baronetcy as the prize of his peerless scissors, and founding a hospital here in Carlsruhe. Not to insult the shade of Stultz, I determined to renew my youth, at least in the matter of plumage. A shop of ready-made clothing afforded me lavender gloves, silk pocket handkerchief, satin cravat, detachable collar and a cambric shirt: the American dickey, in which some of my early sartorial triumphs were effected, is not to be had in Rhineland. My ornaments purchased, the trouble was—to change my shirt. The great hotel, the Erbprinz, was no place for a man without a passport and without baggage: not for the world would I have faced a hotel-clerk with his accusing register. Yet the street was not to be thought of: only cats are allowed by etiquette to freshen their linen on the doorstep.
A resource occurred to me. In ransacking the city for my ornaments I had observed the castle-park, with its clumps of verdure and almost deserted walks. Hurrah for the leafy dressing-room!
At the gate a sentinel stopped me. Would he demand my passport? No: he taps with his finger the lid of that faithful botany-box, my sole valise. Aware that it contained nothing contraband, I opened it innocently and demonstratively. At the sight of that resonant cavity, gaping from ear to ear and belching forth gloves, kerchiefs and minor haberdashery, the dragon laughed: his mirth took the form of a deep, guttural, honest German guffaw. He still, however, rapped sonorously on my box, shaking his head from side to side like a china mandarin. In his view my box was luggage, and luggage is not permitted in any European park. Relieved to find that my detention was not more serious, my first thought was to comply with the conditions of entrance. I begged to leave my package in the sentry-box, to be reclaimed at departure. The amiable Cerberus, smiling and nodding, closed his eyes significantly: at this moment I recollected that my only motive for entering the park lay in that feature of my paraphernalia, and caught it up again, with a gesture of parental violence, in the very act of depositing it. The sentry, watching with increasing delight my evolutions and counter evolutions, evidently thought me a nimble lunatic, Heaven-sent for the recreation of his long watch. He no longer opposed any of my demonstrations, and finally, with a hearty chuckle, saw me slink past him into the groves, wardrobe in hand. Most accommodating of sentinels, why were you not in charge of a Paris barrier during the siege?
Once within the park, I found that my sight had deceived me: the day was hot, and the public, driven from the sunny walks, were concentrated in the shade. Not a bough but sheltered its group of Arcadians. I wended from tree to tree, describing singular zigzags on the sward. The guardians began to eye me with lively interest. Finally, Fortune having guided me to a beautiful thicket, a closet curtained with evergreens, I prepared to use it for my toilet, and relinquished a sleeve of my coat. At that moment one of my watchmen suddenly showed himself.
Looking at him with extreme seriousness, I slowly re-entered my sleeve, and walked away with unnecessary dignity, giving the guardian my patronage in the shape of a nod, which he did not return.
Forbidden the green-room, what if I tried the bathroom? Hastily making for the Square of the Obelisk, I took a carriage, engaging it by the hour, and directing it to the nearest bathing-establishment. The driver immediately ran off with me outside the city.
Carlsruhe is an aristocratic construction, whose princely mansions are supposed to be supplied with their own thermal conveniences. The locality suggested for my bath proved to be a vast suburban garden, buried in flowers, with amorous young couples promenading the alleys, and tables crowned with cylinders of beer, each wadded with its handful of foam. At the extremity, on a square building, five lofty letters spelled out the word Baden.
A waiter showed me a handsome bath, decorated with a tub like some Roman mausoleum. I instructed him as to the temperature of my desired plunge. He nodded quietly, and left me. Twenty minutes passed. I thought of my friend Sylvester Berkley, of the document I hoped to obtain by his aid, and, most fondly, of the hour when I could return from Carlsruhe. I thought of the little group who at Marly were expecting and reproaching me. Charles now, for the twentieth time, would be brushing my morning suit and smoking-cap; Josephine, in the act of whipping a mayonnaise, would draw anxiously to the window. The baron, my galling and dispensable old Hohenfels, would have arrived and scolded. My home-circle was like a ring without its jewel, while I, an undenominated waif in search of a vise, was fluttering through the duchy of Baden. Thirty minutes passed, and the bath-house retained the silence of a ruined monastery, while outside, among the perfumes and shadows of twilight, there began to arise strains of admirable harmony. I looked out of the window. Some lanterns placed among the trees were already beginning to assert their light among the shadows of evening. A chorus of fresh and accurate voices was pouring forth from the garden, the pure young tenors and altos weaving their melodies like network over the sustained, vibrating, vigorous bass voices. It was the antiphony of the youthful promenaders to the drinkers, the diastole of the heart above the stomach, the elisire d'amore in rivalry with beer. Amid this scene I recognized my waiter, illuminated fitfully like some extraordinary firefly as he sprang into sight beneath the successive lanterns, and pouring out beer to right and left. To my indignant appeal he turned, lifting his head, and stood in that attitude, finishing a musical phrase which he was contributing to the chorus. Then he told me that my bath was being made ready. The Teutonic placidity of this youth confounded me. Quite disarmed, I closed the shutter, changed my linen in the dark, and drew on my gloves over a pair of hands that decidedly needed the disguise. The lateness of the hour alarmed me, and I fled down the stair in three jumps. At the bottom I met my musical waiter, still tranquilly singing, and armed with a linen wrapper and a hairbrush.
"What do I owe?" I asked.
"Is der Herr not going to take his bath?" asked this most leisurely of valets.
"Very well: it will be half a florin, including towels."
I gave him the half-florin, and was getting into my cab, when he came rambling up.
"And the palm-greaser," he cried, "the trinkgeld?"
In ten minutes I was at the offices of the national representative, but it was now dark, and the porter, without waiting for my question, told me that the offices were closed and everybody gone to the opera.
"The theatre!" I shouted to my charioteer.
The ticket-seller was asleep in his box, and was much astonished at my application for an orchestra-seat. The last act of some obscure German opera was being shouted in full chorus. At Carlsruhe the theatre opens at five o'clock, and closes virtuously at half-past eight. There was no sign of my friend, no indication of a box for members of the diplomatic body. I was very hungry, and would willingly have re-entered the boulevards in search of a supper; but the express-train going toward Paris would start at ten-fifteen, and I could afford to think of nothing but my passport. I drove to the national office again, my new costume quite shipwrecked and foundered in perspiration.
I was more explicit with the porter this time. I asked if Mr. Sylvester Berkley had returned from the opera. I was answered by that functionary that Mr. Pairkley was living at present in the city of Heidelberg, where he was trying a diet of whey for the benefit of his liver.
I became flaccid with despair. I was without a refuge on the habitable globe; my slender provision of funds would be exhausted in paying for the carriage; I was unable even to seek the friend who for the moment represented to me both country and fortune. The driver, witness of my dejection and recipient of my history in part, proposed to me a temporary refuge in a private hotel on the avenue of Ettlingen, where I would find chambers by the day, and a family table. The landlady, he believed, was a Belgian and a widow.
We drew up before a small house of neat appearance. I was shown a chamber, where, no longer dreaming of supper, I fell across a cushion like an overthrown statue. I felt as if a good month must have passed since I possessed a home.
I had in pocket about thirty sous. The philosopher was right enough when he said, "Traveling lengthens one's life;" only he should have added, "It shortens one's purse."
On awakening next morning the linnets and finches communicated through the window a pleasanter sentiment. Nature was gay and inspiring on this lovely May-day. By a perversity quite natural with me, my letter to Berkley, which it was my first care to write and post, contained but a slight reflection of my woes. My need of a passport only appeared in a postscriptum, wherein I begged him to arrange that little affair for me in some way by correspondence. The bulk of my communication was a eulogy of May, of youth, of flowers, of birds, all of which were saluting me as I scribbled from the beautiful little grove outside my casement. Treating the diplomate as an intimate friend—a caprice of the moment on my part—I begged him to go back with me to Marly, promising him the joys described in old Thomas Randolph's invitation to the country:
We'll seek a shade, And hear what music's made— How Philomel Her tale doth tell, And how the other birds do fill the choir: The thrush and blackbird lend their throats, Warbling melodious notes. We will all sport enjoy, which others but desire.
I engaged to furnish him his regimen of whey, and did not omit to quote from the same poem, apropos of that mild Anacreontic drink, the lines which happen to introduce his name:
And drink by stealth A cup or two to noble Barkley's health.
"The cup," I continued, "shall be at once your toast and your medicine, and the whey shall be fresh. If you want to make a Tartar of yourself, and feed on koemiss, I will have the milk fermented." To the baron of Hohenfels I wrote with equal gayety, begging him to plant the stakes of his tent in my garden until my own nomadic career should be finished. A third letter, as my reader may imagine, was directed to the Rue Scribe, and addressed to the American banker, the beloved of all money-needing compatriots—Mr. John Munroe.
My letters committed to a domestic, I felt absolutely relieved from care. I breathed freely, and recovered all my self-possession. Sing loud, little birds! it is a comrade who listens to you.
With two days, perhaps three, of enforced leisure before me, I undertook in a singular spirit of deliberation the criticism of my surroundings. I began with my bed-chamber. It contained both a stove and a fireplace. The fireplace was like all other fireplaces, but not so the stove. Stark and straight, rising from floor to ceiling, it was fixed immovably in the wall, a pilaster of porcelain. No stove-door interrupted its enameled shaft: only a register of fretwork for the emission of heat, and quite dissociated from the cares of fire-building, relieved the ennui of this sybaritic length of polish. It was kindled—and that is the special merit of this famous invention—from without, in the corridor which borders the line of rooms. If you put the idea to profit, O overtoasted friends of Flemming, I shall not regret my forced inspection of Carlsruhe. I would distinguish less honorably that small oblique looking-glass inserted in the bevel of the window-jamb, and common to all the dwellings of Carlsruhe—a handy article, an entertaining distraction, a discreet but immoral spy, which places at your mercy all the mysteries of the public street. This contrivance, which enables you to see the world without being seen, certainly gives you a tempting advantage over the untimely caller or the impertinent creditor; but it encourages, in my opinion, a habit of vision better adapted to a sultan's seraglio than to the discreet eyes of Western folk.
This reflection, by which I satisfied my perhaps exalted moral sense, was no sooner made than I found myself peeping to right and to left in my double mirror, not without a lively sense of curiosity. At first I saw—what Flemming, indeed, was wont to see when he consulted the Fountain of Oblivion—only streets and moss-grown walls and trembling spires, like those of the great City of the Past, and children playing in the gardens like reverberations from one's lost youth. Soon a nearer image approached. From a troop of blond girls, who dragged after them little chariots resembling baby-wagons, one damsel drew apart, allowing the others to pass on. She neared my window. Who is the maiden with the anachronic baby-cart? She is the milkmaid of the country. Here in Germany Perrette does not poise her milk upon her head or weigh it in a balance, in order to afford by its overthrow a fable to La Fontaine. She can dream at her ease as she draws it behind her. My fair-haired neighbor paused. A tall lad thereupon emerged from the neighboring trees, and, replacing Perrette at her wagon, he fitted himself dexterously into her maiden dream and into the shafts of her equipage. As the avenue was deserted for the instant, his arm enlaced her figure, with the obvious and commendable purpose of sustaining her in her walk, and with his lips close to her smiling, rosy ones he contributed a gentle note to the hymeneal chorus that was twittered from the trees.
Who could remain long shut up from such an out-of-doors? Directly I was in the open air, scenting the fresh breath from the parks. I inspected the streets, the factories, the people, the houses. A prolonged and deliberate examination of Carlsruhe enables me to assert that it is the most easy-going, slow-paced, loitering, temporizing, procrastinating capital outside of Dreamland.
A young workingman was assisting some bricklayers in an extension adjacent to the foundry of Christofle and Company. I saw him going, with a slow and lounging pace, toward the brick-pile, stopping by the way to quench his thirst at a hydrant, whose stream was so slender that a good many applications of the cup of Diogenes were necessary to allay the heat concentred in the fellow's thick throat. Arrived finally at the heap of bricks, the goal of his promenade, he took up precisely six, and proceeded with a lordly, lounging step to bear them back to the masons. Then, folding his arms, he watched the imbedding of those bricks in their plaster with a sovereign calm like that of Vitellius eating figs at the combats of the gladiators. When he consented to take up again his serene march, it was the turn of the bricklayers to fold their arms. At each errand he consulted the hydrant, and the builders watched all his movements with sympathy and approval.
I photograph the moving figures in the street with the same simple fidelity which I have employed to represent the trouble-saving conveniences of my chamber. Take another hero, equally worthy of Capua. The placid personage who assisted me to a bath in my room was as happy a dullard as my waiter in the Baden, and both of them caressed their job as Narcissus caressed the fountain.
A large cart drew up before the door, containing twelve kegs, thoroughly bunged. Any stranger would take the load for one of beer, but a tub among the kegs acted as interpreter. The young man from the baths in the first place saw to his horse. He walked around it: the drive having heated the animal, he covered it with a cloth, and guaranteed its head against the flies with several plumes of foliage, beneath which Dobbin, blinded but content, showed only the paralytic flapping of his pendulous, negro-like lips. These indispensable cares despatched, the young man from the baths brought up the tub after a short gossip with the kitchen-maid, who was going out to market. He asked her if there were a stable attached where he could put up the horse during the taking of the bath: being answered in the negative, he then, with an almost painful inconsequence of argument, chucked the girl under the chin. He next inquired if she had any soap-fat. At length he consented to lumber up the steps with one of his little kegs: the tenacity of the bung was so exemplary that a long time was consumed in getting the advantage over it, and the water on its part was but tardy in leaping toward the tub in a series of strangulations. This formula, interrupted by minute attentions to the horse, had to be repeated twelve times, and the bath, which commenced as a warm bath, received its guest as a cold one. Such was the result when to the languor of the individual was added the national complication of apparatus.
The deliberate spectator—or, if you will, the imprisoned spectator like myself, with his artificial leisure—asks himself how long a time was consumed by this little country of Baden, by this people so lumpish in its labor, so restricted in its movements, so friendly to its own ease, in building its elegant metropolis of mansions and palaces? There is something piquant in learning that the city is the hastiest construction on the continent. It only dates from the year 1715.
Carlsruhe reminds the American traveler of Washington. In place of the tortuous plan and picturesque inconvenience of the antique capitals, it offers a predetermined and courteous radiation of broad streets from the grand-ducal palace, much like the fan of avenues that spreads away from the Capitol building. Formal as it is, and recent as it is, Carlsruhe affords as pretty a legend as any fairy-founded city of dimmest ancestry.
The margrave Charles of Baden, hunter and warrior, returned from victory to bathe his soul in the sylvan delights of the chase. One day, as he coursed the stag in the Haardt Forest, he lay down with a sudden sense of fatigue, and fell asleep: an oak tree shadowed him with its broad canopies. Dreaming, he saw the green boughs separate, and in the zenith of the heavens descried a crown blazing with incredible jewels, and inscribed with letters that he felt rather than spelled: "This is the reward of the noble." All around the crown, hanging in air like sculptured cloudwork, spread a splendid city with towers: a noble castle, with open portal and stairway inviting his princely feet, stood at the centre, and the spires of sacred churches still sought, as they seek on earth, to pierce the unattainable heaven. When he awoke his courtiers were around him, for they had searched and found their lord while he slept. He related his dream, and declared his ducal will to build on that very spot a city just as he had seen it, with a splendid palace for central point, and streets like the spokes of light that spread from the sinking sun. So he said, and gave his whole soul to building this graceful capital and developing it with the arts of peace; for heretofore he had thought only of war, and had meant to patch up a seat of government in the little town of Durlach.
The Haardtwald still spreads around Carlsruhe ("Charles's Rest") to the eastward, but the bracken and underbrush have given way to beaten roads, which prolong with perfect regularity the fan of streets. An avenue of the finest Lombardy poplars in Germany, the trees being from ninety to a hundred and twenty feet high, extends for two miles to Durlach. Around the city spread rich plum and cherry orchards, yielding the "lucent sirops" from which is distilled the famous Kirschwasser.
The reputation for drunkenness, in my opinion, has been very erroneously fastened upon the German population. During my sojourn in Carlsruhe I have paid many a visit to the beer-shops, from the petty taverns frequented by the poor to the lofty saloons where Ganymedes in white skirts shuffled with huge tankards through a perfect forest of orange trees in tubs; for, worse luck to my morals, I have not seen a single frightful example, not one individual balancing dispersedly over his legs. In the grand duchy of Baden the debauch is punished by a law of somewhat harsh logic, which commits to prison both drunkards and those who have furnished the wherewithal to excess. The common people form a nation of drinkers, not drunkards. The beer-tables are usually placed in the open air, with shelter for the patrons in case of bad weather. The out-door air is almost indispensable to correct the evils which might proceed from such an artillery of pipes all fired in concert.
For Germany, if not a land of intoxication, is certainly one of fumigation. The face of a German is composed invariably of the following features: two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a pipe. Whichever of these features is movable, the pipe at least is a fixture. Fortified by this vital organ, he lives, loves and moves.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
Seemeth the chorus that greets the ear A dirge for the dying hours, That wake no more for the passing year, Spring's voices of birds and flowers? Or is it a psalm of love upborne From this grateful earth of ours?
Unfold us the burden of your song, Grasshoppers, chirping so Tender and sweet the whole day long! Is it of joy or woe, The music that breathes from each blade of grass In undertone deep and low?
Vainly I list for a jarring tone, All is so blest to me— From the cricket that answers, beneath the stone, The brown toad hid in the tree, To the tiniest insect of them all That helps with the harmony.
Never a pause in the serenade! Like the glory of ripened corn, It filleth the air through sunshine and shade; And from twilight till peep of morn Is a rhythmical pulse in the dreamful night, That of satisfied life seems born.
As the gold of the summer about us floats, Soft melody crowneth the haze Of the yellow ether with choral notes Through these tuneful autumn days. Speak, sphinx of the hearthstone, cricket dear! Is the song of sorrow or praise?
Of this I am sure, that you bring to me Thoughts the sweetest of any I know: Of this I am sure, that you sing to me, In minor tones tenderly low, Of things the dearest that life has brought, And dearest that hopes bestow.
MARY B. DODGE.
SKETCHES OF EASTERN TRAVEL.
"Batavia, ho! and just ahead at that!" exclaimed the captain of our gallant East Indiaman as the entire party of passengers sprang to the quarter-deck on the first cry of "Land ahead!" It was scarcely five o'clock in the morning—not dawn between the tropics—but our impatience could brook no delay, and despite impromptu toilettes and yet unswabbed decks, with sluices of sea-water threatening us at every turn, we hastened forward to catch the earliest possible glimpse of the quaint old city of which we had heard such varied accounts. "You'll think a good part of it was built in Holland three centuries ago," said our captain, "then boxed up, sent across the waters, and dropped down, pell-mell, in the midst of the jungle." We all laughed incredulously at the time, but remembered his words afterward.
Batavia, one of the strongholds of Dutch power in the East, occupies the north-western extremity of the island of Java. It is composed of two distinct settlements, known, respectively, as the "Old City" and the "New City." The former, built directly on the seaboard, consists mainly of warehouses; stores and government offices, with a pretty extensive mingling of native dwellings and bazaars. The business-houses occupied by Europeans are all built in the old Dutch style of centuries ago, and their venerable appearance is largely augmented by the mould and discoloration of the sea-air; while the tout ensemble presents an ancient and dilapidated aspect strangely at variance with the luxuriant verdure of the tropical scenery and the brilliant tints of the picturesque Oriental costumes everywhere visible. The New City is a terrestrial Paradise, with broad avenues shaded by majestic trees, spacious parks, and palace-dwellings of indescribable elegance—a quaint commingling of city and country, of Oriental luxuriousness with the Hollander's characteristic love of solidity. In truth, the New City is not a city at all, but a continuous succession of beautiful villas embowered in orange groves, and surrounded by palms and banians, upon which climb and clamber flowering vines and creepers innumerable, while birds are singing, bees humming and butterflies fluttering their gauzy wings, utterly regardless of the proprieties of city life.
At eight o'clock we found ourselves in the custom-house, surrounded by Dutch revenue-officers, whose insignia of office seemed to consist of the huge bunches of keys with which they were armed. Their stylish uniforms and fair pale faces were singularly in contrast with the chocolate-colored skins, naked busts, scarlet girdles and green or yellow turbans of the crowds of native porters who stood ready to take charge of the baggage as fast as it was examined. Having seen our effects disposed of, we set out for our quarters in the New City, attended by the Bengalese comprador who was to serve as guide and purveyor-general during our stay in the island. We were driven in the neatest of pony palanquins, drawn by horses scarcely larger than Newfoundland dogs, over smooth, well-shaded roads, amid luxuriant fields and meadows, and for a good portion of the route by the banks of a beautiful canal, all aglow with busy life. Here and there were sampans and budgerows, some loaded with merchandise, and others with passengers, their light sails spread and pennons gayly flaunting in the breeze, while men, women and children, bathing and swimming in the smooth waters, sported like fish in their native element, and never dreamed of the possibility of danger.
Among the majestic trees that formed natural archways above our heads, shutting out completely the sun's fervid rays, we noted especially the banians and cotton trees, the latter frequently besprinkling our heads and shoulders with what seemed at first glance a shower of bona fide snow, but on examination proved only the light, fleecy down of sea-island cotton. Conspicuous among the trees we encountered on that pleasant morning drive was the Palmier du voyageur, more generally known as the talipat or priestly palm, which was described in a recent number of this magazine.
One characteristic feature of Javanese residences is their superb baths. The pools are usually of marble or granite, of such huge dimensions that one may float and flounder like fish in a pond, while the superintendent of the bath keeps in constant play a brace of jets that send their sparkling spray over the bather's head and shoulders with most refreshing results. The water is clear as crystal, and sufficiently cool for the relaxed state of the system in a tropical clime. Everybody bathes three times a day, and one would far sooner dispense with a meal than do without either of these stated baths.
The usual routine of European life in India is to rise at "gun-fire" (five o'clock), go out for an airing in boat or palanquin for two full hours, bathe and dress at eight, take breakfast at nine, lunch at one, and siesta from two to four, when everybody retires, and, whether one wishes to sleep or not, he is secure of interruption, and has the full benefit of being en deshabille for the two most oppressive hours of the day. At four the second bath is taken; at five all go out in full dress in open carriages, and after a rapid drive over some of the public thoroughfares, the horses are walked slowly up and down the esplanade, where all the fashionable world assemble at this hour to see and be seen, and exchange passing courtesies or comments. At half-past six "the course" is deserted, and brilliantly-lighted dining-rooms are thronged with guests eager to test the quality of the rich and varied delicacies of which an Oriental dinner consists.
This is the principal meal of the day, and, occupying often two or three hours, it is made not merely an epicurean feast, but also an intellectual and social banquet. Strong coffee, served in the tiniest of porcelain cups, follows the guests on their return to the drawing-rooms, and music, conversation, reading and company fill up the hours till midnight, when the third bath is taken immediately before retiring. This routine is seldom varied, except by the arrival of strangers, bent, like our party at Batavia, on sight-seeing. We soon wearied of the very voluptuousness of this stereo-typed course of indulgence, and welcomed in preference the fatigues and annoyances of exploring the thousand objects of interest that were beckoning us onward to jungle, mountain or sea-coast. Our friends, who were old residents, shook their heads knowingly, and prophesied sunstroke or jungle fever; but we went sight-seeing continually, filled our specimen baskets, and escaped both fever and sunstroke. The climate of Batavia is, however, extremely insalubrious for Europeans: a deadly miasma everywhere overshadows its luxuriant groves and lurks among the petals of its brightest flowers, rendering absolutely necessary regular habits of life. Before the occupation of the New City, when merchants and officers all resided on the seaboard, in the immediate vicinity of their business-places, the mortality was fearful, till utter depopulation seemed to threaten the colony. The inland location of the New City is more salubrious, and the extensive grounds that surround each dwelling give abundant freedom for ventilation, while the few hours passed by business or professional gentlemen at their offices—and those the best hours of the day, from breakfast to luncheon—are not deemed specially detrimental to health, even for foreigners. The Malays, Chinese and East Indians generally reside anywhere with impunity.
As our ship would be several weeks in port, discharging and taking in cargo, we availed ourselves of so fortunate an opportunity to explore some of the native settlements in the interior of the island. A Dutch officer, long resident in Java, kindly offered his escort, and obtained for us such passes and other facilities as were needed. Our first stopping place was at Bandong, the capital of one of the finest provinces of Java. It is under the nominal control of a native prince, who bears the title of "regent," holding his office under the government of Holland, from which he receives, an annuity of about forty thousand dollars. Among the natives he maintains the state of a grand Oriental monarch, and his subjects prostrate themselves in profoundest reverence before him; but both he and his domain are really controlled by half a dozen resident Hollanders, at the head of whom is the prefect. The palace of the regent is a massive structure, completely surrounded by beautiful gardens; and just beneath the windows where we sat I noticed a picturesque little lake, about which were sporting joyously at the evening hour a group of the young maidens of the palace. They were graceful and lovely in the careless abandon of their glee, but they no sooner perceived the white faces of the foreigners looking down at them than they fled like frightened doves, hiding themselves in a grove of bananas, in any single leaf of which one of these dainty demoiselles might have clothed herself entire.
We found the regent surrounded by crowds of native attendants, among whose prostrate forms we wended our way to his presence. He was seated on a raised dais at the upper end of the audience-hall, and received us with the courteous dignity of a well-bred gentleman. His dress was that ordinarily worn by Malayan rajahs—brocade silk sarang fastened by a rich girdle, a loose upper garment of fine muslin, and a massive turban of blue silk wrought in figures of gold. Costly but clumsy Arabic sandals, and a diamond-hilted kris or dagger of fabulous value, completed a costume that looked both graceful and comfortable for a warm climate. He greeted the ladies of our party with marked empressement, thanked them for their visit, and conducted them in person to the entrance of the seraglio to make the acquaintance of his wives and daughters.
The next evening we were all invited to be present at the gammelang, or orchestral and dramatic entertainment, in the harem of this prince. The invitation was gladly accepted, and so novel an exhibition I have seldom witnessed. Many of the musicians were masked, and wore queer-looking, conical caps that looked like exaggerated extinguishers, and a sort of light armor in which their unaccustomed limbs were evidently ill at ease. Occupying a conspicuous position in the very front, I noticed a Siamese raknat-player, robed in the native dress—or rather undress—of his country, and his hair cut a la Bangkok. He was singularly expert in the use of his instrument; and I learned afterward that, though taken to Java as a slave, his great musical talents had won for him not only liberty, but the highest favor of the regent of Bandong. He was the only rahnat-player in the gammelang, but there were some two hundred timbrels, half a dozen drums, ten or twelve tom-toms, twenty violins, sixteen pairs of cymbals, and any imaginable number of horns, flutes and flageolets. I leave the reader to imagine the amount of noise produced by such a combination: my ears did not cease tingling for a week. But everybody praised the music, and evidently enjoyed the fun. The dancing was like all Oriental dancing, very voluptuous and enthusiastic, adapted especially to display the exquisite charms of the performers and move the passions of the audience. The play that followed possessed no merit, except in the bewildering beauty of the girlish actresses, and their superb adornments of natural flowers artistically arranged in coronets and wreaths, with costly pearls and diamonds. The play itself was simply a farce—a series of ridiculous passages between some lovesick swains and their rather tantalizing lady-loves, who eventually escaped, amid a shower of roses and bon-bons, from their pursuers, and disappeared behind a huge palm tree, which the next instant had vanished into air, roots, branches and all.
After a somewhat adventurous ascent of Mount Tan-kon-bau-pra-hou, a hurried visit to the volcanoes of Merbabou and Derapi (the former nine thousand feet high, the latter eight thousand five hundred), and a glimpse at the sacred woods of Wah-Wons, we turned our faces toward Sourakarta and Djokjokarta, the two grand principalities of Java still remaining under native rule. Each is governed by an independent sultan, whom the Dutch have never been able to subjugate; and they are allowed, only by sufferance, to keep a diplomatic agent or "resident" at the courts of these monarchs. We had been forewarned, ere setting out on our tour, of the state maintained by these proud Oriental princes, and the utter impossibility of obtaining an audience without fulfilling to the very letter all the requirements of courtly usage. So we had sent forward some costly presents to each of the sultans, with letters written in Arabic and French, praying for the honor of an interview. Our messenger to the court of Sourakarta soon returned, accompanied by a native officer and five soldiers in full uniform, with a courteous letter of welcome from the sultan to his capital. He did not say to his court, and we were left in doubt as to whether we should see him, after all. But the day of our entree was a most propitious one, as on that very morning this renowned monarch had been made the happy father of his twenty-eighth child. To this fortunate event we doubtless owed our reception at the court of this very exclusive potentate, who, we were told, almost invariably declined the proffered civilities of foreigners. Bonfires, illuminations and processions seemed the order of the day, business was suspended, bells were ringing, gongs sounding, and everybody was taking holiday, in commemoration of an event that seemed to have lost none of its novelty even after nearly a score and a half of repetitions.
The palace is built in pagoda form, with abundant architectural adornments, and is surrounded by a semicircle of smaller buildings of much the same appearance, though somewhat less imposing. The grandest view is at night, when the whole immense pile, from base to turret, is one blaze of light that but for the abundant tropical growth might be seen for miles away. The sultan is a well-informed and courtly gentleman, with a polish of mind and manners we were quite unprepared to find hidden away in the heart of Java. He is said to be the most distinguished of all the Malayan princes of this isle. He conversed with readiness on the general aspect of political affairs in Europe and America, inquired for the latest intelligence, and before we left invited us to be present at a grand military review on the following day. The garb of the troops, both officers and men, consists of long silken sarangs confined by embroidered girdles, gold or silver bangles in lieu of boots, and costly turbans adorned with precious stones—a garb that looked; better suited to the harem than the battle-field but their manoeuvres certainly did credit to their royal instructor in military tactics. The distinguishing weapon of Malayan soldiers, both in Java and elsewhere, is the kris, worn at the back and passed into the girdle. This is always carried both by officers and men, and very frequently civilians: the long sword is worn only by officers.
After the review we were presented to the sultan's eldest son, a tall slender young man, somewhat over twenty, with fierce, gleaming black eyes, and a profusion of black hair falling below his shoulders. His countenance indicated both intelligence and firmness, and his appearance might have been distingue but for his strangely effeminate dress of damask silk made like a girl's, his anklets and bracelets, gold chains and jeweled girdle, and a mitre-shaped coiffure of black and gold studded with enormous diamonds, any one of which would make the fortune of a Pall-Mall pawnbroker. A score of attendants about his own age were standing at the back of the young heir, while four diminutive dwarfs and four jesters in comic garb crouched at his feet, and innumerable other subordinates—such as the fan-holder, the handkerchief-holder, the tea- and bouquet-holders, etc. etc.—made up the retinue of this youthful dignitary. At a subsequent interview the sonsouhounan presented me to his mother and several other ladies of the royal harem. The sultan was first married at the age of twelve, and had at the time of our visit forty-eight wives.
There is very much to interest the tourist in this Javanese city, so unlike the Anglo-Oriental settlements one meets elsewhere in the East, nor does he soon weary of its noble sultan and splendid Oriental court; but time forbade our tarrying longer than the third day, after which we pressed onward to the neighboring principality of Djokjokarta. This is the name most conspicuous in Javanese history, since there, from 1825 to 1830, floated victoriously the colors of the revolt, and victory was purchased at last only by the blood of fifteen thousand soldiers, of whom eight thousand were Europeans, and Djokjokarta remained as it was before, an independent sovereignty. The sultan, who belongs to an ancient family, is fine-looking, with a somewhat martial air, and a native dignity evidently the heritage of high birth. On our first interview he wore above the ordinary silk sarang a tight-fitting jacket of French broadcloth (blue), richly embroidered and trimmed with gold lace.
He displayed also a collection of crosses, stars, and other decorations conferred by various European powers, the French predominating. He had evidently a partiality for la belle France, and exhibited with no little pride an album containing photographs of Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon. He conversed well in several languages, readily using either Arabic or French in lieu of his vernacular, and was evidently up to time in regard to the current political topics of the day. He introduced the ladies of our party to his young and beautiful sultana, and invited them to accompany her to the inner apartments of the harem. We found the private apartments of the seraglio, like so many others I visited all over the East, superbly magnificent in the display of gold and jewels, in costly carpets and exquisite hangings, in the most lavish exhibition of pictures, mirrors, statuettes and bijouterie generally. There were glowing tints and warm, rich colors, but all was sensuous: wealth and splendor were everywhere visible, but neither modesty nor true womanly refinement.
The sultan afterward entertained us by the exhibition of a curious collection of monkeys and apes. Some were of huge proportions, full four feet in height, and looking as fierce as if just captured from their native jungles, while the tiny marmosets were scarcely eight inches long. The orang-outangs and long-armed apes had been trained to go through a variety of military exercises; and when one of us expressed surprise at their seeming intelligence, the sultan said gravely, "They are as really men as you and I, and have the power of speech if they chose to exercise it. They do not talk, because they are unwilling to work and be made slaves of." This strange theory is generally believed by the Malays, in whose language orang-outang is simply "man of the woods."
FANNIE R. FEUDGE.
BY A LONDONER.
How London balls came to be what, in this latter half of the nineteenth century, they are—by what process of development or natural or artificial selection they acquired their present characteristics, and where and when their congregation of frequenters picked up their current ritual—are matters which I, for one, am content to leave to the Dryasdusts of social history. The existing phase of the subject affords phenomena enough and to spare to gossip about, without delving into the rubbish-heaps of the past.
Well, of course there are different sorts of London balls, and indifferent sorts, too, for that matter. It would be a hopeless and endless task to try to classify their various species accurately; and this paper isn't meant for scientific readers, who are hereby solemnly warned off frivolous ground; so let us just mark out the field into three broad divisions—the Public, the Semi-Public and the Private Ball—and take a look at each successively.
About the public ball I do not intend to say much. Take the whole year round, it perhaps gets together the biggest crowds, merely from the fact of its affecting the biggest dancing-areas; but as anybody who wants to realize it has at most only to spend the handful of dollars requisite for a journey to London and a ticket of admission, it hasn't anything but the charm of mere geographical inaccessibility to recommend it. But if you must make acquaintance with the London variety of the public ball, you will hardly find a better place for studying it than St. James's Hall, that big, many-mouthed structure between Regent street and Piccadilly, which with impartial alacrity, provided the hire is paid, opens its doors to every sort of gathering—its platform occupied one night by Joachim and Halle, the next by Jolly Nash or the Christy Minstrels; on Wednesday, maybe, by a knot of Total Abstinence enthusiasts, denouncing publicans as sinners; and on Thursday by the band to which Licensed Victualers and their friends are dancing at their annual public ball. You really want to go in? Very well. Gentlemen's tickets, one guinea; ladies', twenty-five per cent. less—a supposed inducement to the sordid, money-grubbing male relative or friend who has the purse to bring them. Are the prices expressed to be inclusive of wine? If they are, you will be poisoned with some frothy compound of white ordinaire and chemicals—a truly "excellent substitute" for champagne—with which ingenious Cette supplies refreshment contractors (and, alas! others) in inexhaustible abundance. If not, you will have to disburse a sixpence every time a partner accepts your offer of a glass of claret-cup between the dances, and half a sovereign for your bottle of indifferent "fizz" at supper-time. This latter is about the very worst of conceivable arrangements: it is an improper and aggravating tax upon the man, who, as likely as not, has not bethought him of bringing the requisite pocketful of change; while the ladies—at any rate, all the best of them—naturally hate the idea of letting stranger partners pay for them, and often decline refreshments all the evening in consequence.
But now for the company. Mark the splendor of the gentlemen—the glossiness of their hair, the velvet collars of their dress-coats, the snowy amplitude of their wristbands, the shininess of their patent-leather boots or steel-buckled shoes. They don't don this kind of gear every evening, like your blase Belgravian; so it is surely meet and right that the get-up should be more elaborate and brilliant than his when the festive occasions do come round. The aspect of the ladies, gallantry and an imperfect acquaintance with the language of millinery forbid one to criticise. Enough to say that they harmonize perfectly with the gentlemen. The music is generally pretty good on these public occasions, but apt to be over-brazen. It is often a military band. And to organize the dancers—not always an easy task in a crowded hall—and see that the business of introductions goes on duly, a small staff of energetic professional gentlemen, styled M.C.'s (which in London, you know, stands for Master of the Ceremonies), flit ever hither and thither amongst the throng, now catching a wildly errant waltzing couple in politely resolute arms and sending them back into the regular ring, now getting up sets for Lancers and quadrilles, and at all points doing their best to keep the ball a-rolling. Useful members of society, these M.C.'s—a congenial profession for retired Harlequins and—what is pretty much the same thing—dancing-masters. And it is their influence, maybe, in some measure that is accountable for the extraordinary variety of dances that is apt to be found in the programme of the public ball. Mazurka, Schottische, Varsoviana, La Tempete and other curiosities of the art Terpsichorean flourish and abound there, to the distraction of folk who are not fresh from a dancing academy. Away go our friends, though, with happy audacity, whether they're certain of the step or not. If in doubt, make a waltz of it, is the golden rule; and you can't be wrong in twisting your partner half a dozen times in loco whenever you seem to have a few bars to spare in a quadrille.
But we have lingered full long enough at the public ball, though indeed it is quite the correct thing, you know, to go early and stay late at such, and get one's money's worth for one's money. Jump into a swift imaginary hansom, and pass on without more delay to what I have ventured to call, in default of a better name, the semi-public ball. The term will perhaps serve as well as any other to cover all those balls which, though nominally private, are given so much as a matter of course, and on such a large scale, that they tend to exhibit some characteristics of the public ball, and also those which are got up by subscription amongst the members of some semi-public body, such as a volunteer corps. The lady mayoress's annual balls at the Mansion House, and those of the Devil's Own (the Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers) in the Temple or Lincoln's Inn, may stand as typical samples of the species semi-public.
Note those words "Full Dress" in the corner of your card of invitation to the Mansion House ball. They mean that if you are the possessor of anything in the nature of a uniform—military, naval, diplomatic, consular, or what not—you are expected to appear in it. But, in any case, do not omit to put your card in your pocket, for it will be demanded at the door—a not unreasonable precaution against the influx of uninvited guests in such a crowd. And start Cityward betimes, not later than 10 or a quarter-past 10 P. M., if your home lies in Belgravian or Mayfair parts, for it's a terribly long journey to that spot where the Mansion House stands staring at the Bank, and City dances always begin early. Come, now, isn't it something worth living for to have one's coat and hat taken by one of this knot of magnificent crimson-velvet-coated, gold-beplastered, silken-calved beings who are ranged along the sides of the vestibule? For my part, I protest that, familiar though their aspect is to me, I cannot see a lord mayor's flunkeys in their state liveries—their hues varying chameleon-wise from year to year—without feelings of almost reverential wonderment. What a study for the great clothes-philosopher of Sartor Resartus! But it will never do to stand moralizing in the gangway here. Besides, a superb majordomo has caught up our names and announced them electrifyingly; so hurry we forward to where, between two pillars, the lord mayor, distinguished by his chain of office, and the lady mayoress, stand to receive their guests with bow and hand-shaking, and on, past them, into the scene of action, the Egyptian Hall. A fine big room for a dance, now that all those chairs and tables are cleared away that groan so frequently under aldermanic bodies and things edible and potable (for this hall is, as everybody knows, the home and centre of civic hospitality). The platform, see, is occupied by the band of the Grenadier Guards, so the music is sure to be, from a dancer's point of view, pretty good. Though, in truth, at present one might wonder where the dancers are to find space for their gyrations. The whole area of the floor is covered by a gay crowd, all chattering away in a very Babel of tongues. Some royal highness or other is expected to-night, it seems, and it isn't etiquette to begin dancing before he or she arrives. But a few minutes may well be spent in a quick survey of the assembled guests. All peoples, nations and languages appear to be represented in the crowd. Nawabs and other Indian dignitaries of unpronounceable names and indefinite rank, in gorgeous, many-colored raiment (presumably their national idea of evening full dress), culminating in jeweled caps and terminating in the opposite direction, somewhat incongruously, in London-made dress-boots; envoys from Burmah or the khanates, appareled in a kind of bedgowns; diplomates from all the embassies and ministries, in uniforms of all sorts and colors, the amount of stars, orders and suchlike decorations on each illustrious chest being usually in the inverse ratio of the real importance of the country to which the wearer belongs; gallant generals in scarlet and gallant admirals in blue; and gallant militia officers and deputy lieutenants just as scarlet and blue, ay, and golden too, as anybody; and all these encircled and enwrapped by billowy masses of tulle and gauze and silk and satin in which the ladies have come forth conquering and to conquer.
Meanwhile H.R.H. has arrived, and first-quadrille sets forming in every direction speedily drive the non-dancers into the background. Those who mean dancing have turned the preliminary twenty minutes' waiting to useful account by getting their ball-programmes duly penciled with engagements. In doing this one little difficulty peculiar to such places as the Mansion House has to be met. The hall is so vast and the multitude so bewildering that, unless you know exactly where to look, it is as hopeless to expect to find any given partner at the right moment as to seek a needle in a haystack. The only safe expedient is to agree upon a pillar. A row of substantial pillars runs down either side of the hall, the base of each fringed with seats, apt head-quarters for chaperons, who, sitting there at ease, survey the fray and note their charges' movements in it. So, as soon as an introduction is over, and the engagement noted on the cards, "Where will you be?" asks the old hand. "Oh, mamma's by the second pillar from the dais;" and thereupon he and she go their ways, confident of meeting when their dance's turn is reached.
Have you ever gone a-skating on the Serpentine after a fall of snow? Here and there a more or less circular space has been swept clear, and on each space a batch of skaters whirl and attitudinize, the uncleared interspaces of snow-covered, impracticable ice given up to miscellaneous loafers. Even so it is with the wide area of the Egyptian Hall when the ball is in full swing. The waltzers clear four or five ever-shifting rings for themselves, in each of which a dozen to twenty couples go round and round, colliding, jostling and (righteously enough) eliminating the vagrant do-nothings who in aimless perambulation are for ever trenching upon the dancers' ground. For which reprehensible proceeding, mind, there is positively no excuse at the Mansion House, where the range of drawing-rooms and vestibule is ample enough to accommodate without difficulty the largest numbers that ever come together there. There is always the Long Parlor, too, to resort to, where, at about the longest buffet to be found in Christendom, an army of waiters are assiduous all the evening through in dispensing tea, coffee, ices, cakes, claret- and champagne-cups, fruit, and suchlike light refections to all comers. Pretty well thronged the parlor is, too, in the intervals between the dances, until between midnight and 1 A. M., when it begins to be comparatively deserted. The reason? Follow that couple hurrying to a far corner of the vestibule, and you will soon see the reason. Up a flight of stairs we follow to the first floor, to find ourselves at the end of a long queue of couples, all patiently waiting with faces turned toward a doorway barred by two authoritative footmen. Inside that doorway is—Supper, a word of substantial import to the genuine London citizen; and it is with a keen practical appreciation of its meaning that these good folk are gathered here, content to wait their turn till those guardians of the doorway, letting down the barrier of their arms, shall permit them to pass into the supper-room. Truly an instructive and elevating sight! Still, people who dance, and still more devoted matrons who chaperon, need and deserve to be fed, and when one comes to deal with six or seven hundred feeders, it is perhaps necessary to be somewhat methodical and systematic about it; so possibly the queue is inevitable, and not greatly to be sneered at.
The scene inside the supper-room may be dismissed with a very few words. Narrowish tables, with a background of waiters, line all four sides, leaving the centre space for the guests. No seats: every couple occupy the first open standing room they can find at a table, and sup on whatever viands happen to be opposite them. Maybe there is a certain stony sameness about the food, a harping ad infinitum on some eight or ten hackneyed culinary ideas which one always finds where, as here, food and drink for a great many relays of people are provided by contract; but so long as chicken and jelly and fairly wholesome wine, with plenty of that best of antidotal safeguards, seltzer, are obtainable, folk are not apt to be hypercritical on such occasions.
Another staircase leads down again to the vestibule and hall, where the crowd is by this time perceptibly thinning. Chaperons are sailing off to the cloak-room, each followed by her brood; and the hoarse voices of the servants and policemen outside—"Call Mrs. Thingummy's carriage," "Mrs. Whatshername's carriage stops the way"—penetrate almost to the dancers' ears. Let us get our coats and hats and be off. There is an almost amusing coolness in that open display of a saucer for the receipt of tips on the counter at which the coats are applied for. It prosaically recalls one to the fact that these magnificent flunkeys are after all but human, and not above a regard for shillings. Next Tuesday, mind, you must not fail to drop in for a few minutes at the lady mayoress's afternoon "at home," in acknowledgment of your (I trust) pleasant evening at the dance; and be sure you write your name and address in the callers' book on the table near the entrance door, if you wish to be remembered when the cards of invitation for the next dance are going out.
Turn we now to a quite different phase of the ball semi-public. The Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers—familiarly styled (as I have said) The Devil's Own—are giving a dance in the fine newly-rebuilt hall of the Inner Temple; which, by the way, stands on the very site where in past days the Knights Templars used to laugh and quaff. It is a strictly professional corps, this of the Inns of Court. Not only every officer, but every man of the rank and file, is either actually a barrister, or at any rate a student-member of one of the four old Inns, on his way, by means of eating thirty-six dinners in term-time and passing an examination, to achieve his "call" to the Bar. Still, overladen though they be with briefs and business—as of course everybody knows all London barristers are—the Devil's Own manage somehow to find time to attain a passable proficiency in drill and rifle practice, and not a few of them in waltzing too. So the corps determine to get up a dance. Prompted by their festive and hospitable feelings? Oh, of course; that is to say, partly, and partly, at least the moving spirits in the affair, with a shrewdish eye to business. For, behold! it is rumored one summer's day through the Inns that a ball is projected; ay, and such a ball! so well managed, so brilliant, so in every way desirable as has never been known before. Every barrister, every student must be there. BUT—and this is an all-important "but"—it is at the same time to be understood that tickets will be issued to members of the corps only, and that members of the Inns of Court who are not also members of the corps will be specially and particularly inadmissible. Observe the moral pressure thus brought to bear. Brown, Jones and Robinson have hitherto withstood all the persuasive recruiting efforts of their friends in the corps, but this dance turns the scale. They have sisters of their own who beg and demand and insist upon their procuring tickets, and they know sisters of their friends who are sure to be there, and whom they feel ready to give any price to meet; so the long and short of it is that they go off to the orderly-room and qualify themselves for tickets by taking the oath and becoming enrolled members of the corps. Whereat those moving spirits in the affair wink their shrewd eyes gleefully. They will dance all the more heartily, remembering the good stroke of business they have done in the interest of the corps and its recruiting.
The ball committee and their workmen have been hard at the work of preparation till the last minute, and now it is half-past 10 P. M., and carriages are beginning to roll up to the hall with their freights of fair and—other ones. The staircase and corridor are lined with stately tropical plants and banks of many-colored flowers. First to the tea-room, as the stream seems to be flowing in that direction. This suite of cozy paneled rooms are the sacred and most private haunts of the Benchers, the self-electing governing body of the Inn. How astonished, not to say shocked, those berobed and bewigged legal luminaries, in their frames upon the walls, must be to look down upon this gay laughing, talking, tea-and-ice-consuming mob of invaders! I fear no one heeds their possible feelings much to-night, though: there are far more important matters—searching in the crowd for friends, engaging partners for dances, introducing and being introduced—to occupy all one's time and thoughts.
From the dais-end of the hall, where on other days the Benchers' table stands, you may well take a preliminary survey of the scene of action. What a flood of light those sun-burners in the roof pour down! The blazoned escutcheons of past and present judges, members of the Inn, with which the walls are lined, show off all their colors, and the stained-glass windows do their best to look illuminated. In the gallery opposite a band of no less than nine-and-twenty picked men of Coote and Tinney's sit ready to play all the latest dance-music as long as any one will stay to dance to it; while all over the smoothly-polished floor the dancers are somehow evolving a kind of order out of chaos, and sorting themselves into pairs and sets for the opening quadrille. The male half of the gathering is, of course, almost exclusively legal, but there are no distinctions of legal rank to-night. Learned vice-chancellors, queen's counsel, juniors and students fraternize and compete for chats and dances with the ladies quite promiscuously. The hosts of the evening, the members of the corps, are distinguished by a small knot of ribbons, the corps colors, in their button-holes; but, for comfort's sake, uniforms have been tabooed in favor of the ordinary civilian's black and white. There is present, however, a military element, after all. Something like eight hundred guests are assembled here, and no little method is needed to enable such a crowd to move about from room to room without confusion and blocking-up of doorways and passages. So a couple of tall Guardsmen have been providently posted in every doorway, who, you will find, allow you readily enough to pass them in one direction, but, once passed, politely prohibit your returning on your steps, and point you forward on a course which, circling through a suite of rooms and passages, will bring you round again by another entrance into the ball-room. By this simple expedient free circulation to and from the tea-rooms and the supper-tent—a temporary erection stretching nearly to the Temple church outside—is effectually kept up all the evening, and much loss of time and temper saved. Note how, in the hall, too, the crowd of dancers are kept, in their own interest, within bounds. Half a score of the little drummers of the Grenadiers are on duty there, in all the finery of scarlet, braid and overwhelming bearskins. These, as soon as the band strikes up a waltz or galop, raise slender barriers of silken cords at intervals across the hall, cutting up the whole big area into three or four moderate-sized ones, in each of which a distinct ring may spin round and round, without fear of collisions with unexpected errant couples from other quarters of the hall. Truly the ball committee deserve the credit of having been ingeniously provident of many things; though, to be sure, it is just part of their legal stock in trade to be so. But the author of that arrangement in the passage-nooks—have you noticed it in your between-dances saunterings?—smooth-hewn pyramids of crystal ice, embowered in ferns and palms, and lit up from behind by some device which makes them glow a lovely rose-color all over—that man deserves a prize, I protest, for an inspiration that hardly could be expected from the frowsy atmosphere of lawyers' chambers. It will be morning, pale and gray, before the last volunteers see the last ladies to their carriage, and betake themselves bedward with ears ringing with half a dozen waltz tunes, and pleasantly oblivious for the nonce of briefs and work-a-day botherations.
Kind, patient reader—I feel the adjectives are justly due to any one who has accompanied my roving pen thus far—did you ever watch a street-child eating, say, a jam-tart? The dry corners of pastry are first all nibbled off; gradually the outworks where the jam lies thin are trenched upon all round; while the toothsome centre is fondly kept intact for the final morsel. Even so have I been reserving my bonne bouche, the private ball; which in its happiest developments is, to my thinking, as far superior to the semi-public ball as this latter to the public. In its happiest developments, mind; for private balls in London are as infinitely diverse in character as they are infinitely multitudinous in number; and some sorts are (to speak politely) comparatively undesirable. So, in deference to the exigencies of time and space, let us confine our attention to the private dance as it appears in what is called (or calls itself) "society."
And first, as to the people who give these private balls, or dances, or dancing-parties (for these two synonyms are very commonly preferred to the more pretentious word "ball"). They may be roughly classified under five heads:
1st (and foremost). Mothers of marriageable daughters.
2d. People who for some reason or other—official or social position, wealth, vanity, or what not—are expected, or think they are expected, to give balls.
3d. Good-natured, amusement-loving married folk, with money and without grown children.
4th. Benevolent grandfathers, dowagers and aunts.
5th. The most unlikely people.
And how, where and when are these various dance-givers' gifts bestowed? The "how" is the easiest thing possible if the lady about to give the dance is of established position in society. Her set of friends and acquaintances is numerous, even to embarrassment. All the people whose dinners or drums or dances she goes to must of course be asked: a dance for a dance is a rule as obligatory as that of "cutlet for cutlet" (as a matter-of-fact old lady of the world phrased it) is in dinner-giving circles. At least as many young ladies as she can do with are sure to be supplied by this means; while as for men, there are all the host of bachelors to resort to who at the beginning of the season have left their visiting-cards at her door, thereby intimating, "I am in town, and ready to be asked to any entertainment you may happen to get up, and here is my address." But if our intending hostess is a new-comer in London, and has not yet picked up a sufficiency of town-acquaintances, or if those whom she has are not altogether the style of folk she wishes to invite, a different course of procedure has to be adopted. It may be taken as an axiom that there are always plenty of people in society who are ready to go anywhere (within recognized limits) to a ball, provided that some lady of acknowledged experience in such matters will stand sponsor for its probable goodness. So our hostess betakes herself to the half dozen or dozen of her lady friends who are possessed of the most extended and desirable sets of acquaintances, and, diplomatically interesting them in her design, leaves with each of them, for distribution at discretion, a little pack of cards of invitation. And next day young Jones, coming home to his bachelor lodgings in St. James's, find on his table the conventional oblong card:
_Tuesday, May 6th, 1873
150 Queen's Gate. Dancing._
Knowing that he has not the pleasure of Mrs. Smythe's acquaintance, he turns to the back of the card, and reading there (just the sort of thing he had expected to find) the endorsement, "With Lady Fitzbattleaxe's compliments," he at once grasps the situation, and sends off a note to 150 Queen's Gate, to the effect that he has much pleasure in accepting Mrs. Smythe's kind invitation. He feels quite safe. Lady Fitzbattleaxe and her set, all of whom he knows, will be there; and she wouldn't have sent the card unless she had reason to know that the thing was going to be well done. Unattached bachelors who dance have, in fact, little difficulty in getting their fill of dancing in the season if they lay themselves out for doing so. A young lady can't, as a rule, be asked without at the same time sending a card to her mother or other chaperon, whom the hostess may, from considerations of space or otherwise, not want to have; whereas your dancing-man takes up very little room, brings no one but himself, shifts for himself, and is indeed more or less positively useful toward promoting the avowed object of the gathering. Aware of this, it is a not uncommon practice with dance-going bachelors to interrogate a partner whom they feel a wish to meet again as to the locales of her coming dance-engagements, and thereupon, through the medium of some friend of that potent and wonderful class, the Know-everybodys, to manage somehow to procure for themselves cards of invitation to the houses and parties indicated, whosoever and wherever they may be.
But now, supposing Lady This or Mrs. That to have made up her mind to give a ball, where will she give it? At home, no doubt, in the great majority of cases; but if her rooms happen to be small, or she wishes to avoid the nuisance of having her own house turned upside down (as it must be for a couple of days at the least if a ball is to be held in it), she may prefer—I am assuming expense to be no object—to hire some public rooms, like Willis's, or an empty house for the occasion; of which alternatives it is ten to one that the latter will be adopted. True it is that the ball-room at Willis's (in old days so well known as Almack's), though far too narrow for its length, offers a floor of superlative smoothness, and that its position, in the very heart of the St. James's quarter, leaves nothing to be desired; but the place is so generally associated with festivities of the public and semi-public classes that anybody giving a private dance there may feel sure that the guests will not regard it as quite the same sort of thing as a dance in a private house. The empty-house plan is not open to this objection. Owing its origin, doubtless, to the prodigious amount of house-building that has been going on of late in fashionable London, it has become quite a recognized institution of these last few seasons; and it certainly saves the ball-giver a world of trouble. There stand plenty of newly-built first-class mansions in Belgravia that have not yet found tenants, thoroughly finished off, externally and internally, so far as floors and doors and windows and staircases go, but of course entirely unfurnished. One of these is selected and hired (at a cost that would make some people gasp) for the determined evening. An upholsterer is turned in to put up temporary mirrors, chandeliers and curtains, and lay down temporary carpets; a florist, following, covers bare mantelpieces with captivating layers of cut-roses, ferns and mosses, and empties a whole conservatoryful of plants and flowers into halls and passages; essential Gunter, always equal to any accumulation of occasions, sends in the conventional foods and drinks, and a competent staff of waiters to dispense them; from equally essential and omnipresent Coote and Tinney's comes a detachment of competent musicians; and hey, presto! the empty house bursts into light and life and music, and, exulting in its Cinderella finery, welcomes the guests with all the air of an establishment that has been accustomed to this kind of thing for years.
It is not always an easy matter to time one's arrival at a private ball quite satisfactorily. The old hands have of course certain general rules to go by: for instance, if the invitation-card has borne the words "Small and early" in one corner, that dancing may be expected to begin by eleven o'clock or thereabouts; but in the absence of any such guide it is almost impossible to predict with accuracy the time when arrivals will set in; and so one oftentimes falls into the Scylla of over-lateness in anxiety to steer clear of the Charybdis of over-earliness, or vice versa. I call to mind a ball at the close of last season to which I went expressly to meet certain friends, and thought to have hit off the happy mean by entering the ball-room just twenty minutes before midnight; but, lo! the musicians had not yet taken possession of their corner, and sofas and chairs were but sparsely occupied by some couple of dozen specimens of that portion of the fair sex who in outward seeming not attractive, for dancing purposes, to the frivolous male, yet for some inscrutable reason always put in the earliest appearances in ball-rooms.
It is all very well to cry out against dances that don't begin till near midnight as absurd and reprehensible; but, after all, their lateness is easily accounted for. In May and June from six to half-past seven in the evening are the pleasantest of hours for driving in the Park or strolling to see others drive there. Nobody willingly goes home till those pleasant hours are over; so no wonder that dinners tend to begin at a quarter- or even half-past eight; that they consequently are not over much before eleven; and that people who have, after that, to look in and gossip for ten minutes at somebody or other's drum, do not find themselves at the ultimate evening engagement, the ball, much before the stroke of twelve. The balls of the London season will not become much earlier, methinks, until some thorough revolution takes place in the likings and habits of the folk who give and go to them.
Suppose, then, the arrival accurately timed, or, at any rate, any fault on the side of over-earliness corrected by a judicious waste of minutes in the cloak- and tea-rooms down stairs. At the top of the inevitable staircase, or just inside her drawing-room, our hostess stands ready with smile and hand-shake for each and every guest announced by the sonorous butler. Many of the younger men (who have received cards by one or other of the side-winds above spoken of) she has very likely never seen or heard of till this moment; but no matter—they and she are equally equal to the occasion. Perhaps the lady who has sent the stranger a card "with her compliments" hears him announced, and stepping forward introduces him to the hostess. If not, the hardly formidable ordeal of a polite bow and a hand-shake passes him on into the ball-room, where, once arrived, he looks about for friends, and proceeds to engage dances, and (let us hope) enjoy them without the slightest sense of strangeness in the strange house, provided only that he has chanced upon a fair sprinkling of his own set there. Who the master of the house may be he probably, if an average careless Gallio, knows little and cares less. Indeed, Paterfamilias is usually content to sink his own personality and be a nonentity for the nonce on the night of his wife's dancing-party.
The suite of drawing-rooms, usually two rooms occupying the whole of the first floor, have been gutted of furniture and stripped of carpets to form the ball-room. The floor is hardly ever of polished wood in modern London houses, but the boards are smooth, and a very tolerable surface for dancing purposes is produceable by the simple process of washing them over with milk. Some people, not caring to go to the trouble of having carpets taken up, content themselves with a holland cloth tightly stretched over the carpeting, which is indeed preferable to that abomination, a beeswaxed floor, but is, at best, but heavy traveling for the dancers, and apt, too, to tear during the evening into dangerous foot-ensnaring holes.
Are you a connoisseur in costumes? The men's dress is, of course, the same, in general appearance, all the Western world over, and the only varieties in a London ball-room are the better or worse styles of tailoring and an occasional white waistcoat. Fortunately, the fair sex, with all the colors of the rainbow and all the inspirations of the fashion-books and dressmakers at command, can and do give a kaleidoscopic plentitude of variety to the scene. Debutantes just "come out" in society are conventionally confined to simple white, but their more experienced sisters may indulge in any combinations of tulle and other gauzy substance, white or colored, with ribbons, flowers, and all the materials and devices known to millinery, at discretion; to all which the rich and stately velvets and silks of the chaperoning matrons form an effective background.
And now for the introductions. There is no getting on at all in a private dance, nor indeed in any London society, without introductions. Society rigidly requires of every man that he submit to the process as a preliminary to addressing even a remark anent the weather to a lady—much more before asking of her such a favor as a dance. But a man who goes much to dances soon grows somewhat wary in this matter. He learns to shun the overtures of the seemingly benevolent people—above all, the master of the house—who proffer willingness to introduce him to partners; for has not experience taught him that such folk are always actuated by the desire (laudable enough, perhaps) of procuring partners for some lady friend whose personal attractions are not, by themselves, calculated to bring them? No, he prefers, the selfish wretch! to seek and choose for himself—first, to look about and determine to which of all the strange faces in the room he would wish to be introduced, and then to set about finding out means of getting introduced to them.
It is a misfortune that the present habits of society, placing the fair sex in the position of waiting to be asked by would-be male partners, as well for dances as for life-partnerships, do not at the same time, in the former as they do in the latter case, countenance their meeting undesired proposals with a direct negative. It is fully admitted in principle, and is said to be experienced in practice, that a lady may reply to the question, "Will you marry me?" with a conclusive "No." But the same answer, given to the stock ball-room interrogatory, "May I have the (honor/pleasure) of a dance?" would be conventionally reprobated as discourteous, and is practically impossible. The natural consequence is, that the fair answerer is driven to all manner of distressing—sometimes almost amusingly distressing—shifts and equivocations, merely to escape the necessity of dancing with men whom she doesn't wish to dance with, but who insist on asking her to do so. Sometimes she salves her conscience by the device of arranging beforehand with a brother or other near relative that she shall be understood to be engaged to him for every and any dance that may be asked for by a person undesired. At other times she will have mislaid her programme, or "think mamma will want to be gone" before the proposed dance is reached. To young ladies thus embarrassed a practice which has recently gained some hold at private balls, of supplying no dance-programmes at all, has afforded a novel and most happy relief. For when one man has asked for (and perhaps fondly noted on his ample cuff) "the third dance from now," another "the second galop," and a third "the fourth round," she is so genuinely bewildered as to how many and what dances she is and is not engaged for that it becomes alike easy to checkmate proposals by the reply "engaged," and at any time in the course of the evening to give an immediate dance to any favored partner, in sheer hopelessness of remembering to whom, if at all, it has already been promised, and on the chance that the unknown will not appear to claim it.