The Complete Works of Mark Twain


 
 
Mark Twain > A Tramp Abroad > Chapter XXIV

A Tramp Abroad

Chapter XXIV


[I Protect the Empress of Germany]

That was a thoroughly satisfactory walk--and the only
one we were ever to have which was all the way downhill.
We took the train next morning and returned to Baden-Baden
through fearful fogs of dust. Every seat was crowded, too;
for it was Sunday, and consequently everybody was taking
a "pleasure" excursion. Hot! the sky was an oven--and
a sound one, too, with no cracks in it to let in any air.
An odd time for a pleasure excursion, certainly!

Sunday is the great day on the continent--the free day,
the happy day. One can break the Sabbath in a hundred
ways without committing any sin.

We do not work on Sunday, because the commandment forbids it;
the Germans do not work on Sunday, because the commandment
forbids it. We rest on Sunday, because the commandment
requires it; the Germans rest on Sunday because the
commandment requires it. But in the definition
of the word "rest" lies all the difference. With us,
its Sunday meaning is, stay in the house and keep still;
with the Germans its Sunday and week-day meanings seem
to be the same--rest the TIRED PART, and never mind the
other parts of the frame; rest the tired part, and use
the means best calculated to rest that particular part.
Thus: If one's duties have kept him in the house all the week,
it will rest him to be out on Sunday; if his duties
have required him to read weighty and serious matter all
the week, it will rest him to read light matter on Sunday;
if his occupation has busied him with death and funerals
all the week, it will rest him to go to the theater Sunday
night and put in two or three hours laughing at a comedy;
if he is tired with digging ditches or felling trees
all the week, it will rest him to lie quiet in the house
on Sunday; if the hand, the arm, the brain, the tongue,
or any other member, is fatigued with inanition,
it is not to be rested by added a day's inanition;
but if a member is fatigued with exertion, inanition is
the right rest for it. Such is the way in which the Germans
seem to define the word "rest"; that is to say, they rest
a member by recreating, recuperating, restore its forces.
But our definition is less broad. We all rest alike
on Sunday--by secluding ourselves and keeping still,
whether that is the surest way to rest the most of us
or not. The Germans make the actors, the preachers,
etc., work on Sunday. We encourage the preachers,
the editors, the printers, etc., to work on Sunday,
and imagine that none of the sin of it falls upon us;
but I do not know how we are going to get around the fact
that if it is wrong for the printer to work at his trade
on Sunday it must be equally wrong for the preacher to
work at his, since the commandment has made no exception
in his favor. We buy Monday morning's paper and read it,
and thus encourage Sunday printing. But I shall never do
it again.

The Germans remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy,
by abstaining from work, as commanded; we keep it
holy by abstaining from work, as commanded, and by
also abstaining from play, which is not commanded.
Perhaps we constructively BREAK the command to rest,
because the resting we do is in most cases only a name,
and not a fact.

These reasonings have sufficed, in a measure, to mend
the rent in my conscience which I made by traveling to
Baden-Baden that Sunday. We arrived in time to furbish
up and get to the English church before services began.
We arrived in considerable style, too, for the landlord
had ordered the first carriage that could be found,
since there was no time to lose, and our coachman was
so splendidly liveried that we were probably mistaken
for a brace of stray dukes; why else were we honored
with a pew all to ourselves, away up among the very elect
at the left of the chancel? That was my first thought.
In the pew directly in front of us sat an elderly lady,
plainly and cheaply dressed; at her side sat a young
lady with a very sweet face, and she also was quite
simply dressed; but around us and about us were clothes
and jewels which it would do anybody's heart good to
worship in.

I thought it was pretty manifest that the elderly lady
was embarrassed at finding herself in such a conspicuous
place arrayed in such cheap apparel; I began to feel sorry
for her and troubled about her. She tried to seem very busy
with her prayer-book and her responses, and unconscious
that she was out of place, but I said to myself, "She is
not succeeding--there is a distressed tremulousness
in her voice which betrays increasing embarrassment."
Presently the Savior's name was mentioned, and in her flurry
she lost her head completely, and rose and courtesied,
instead of making a slight nod as everybody else did.
The sympathetic blood surged to my temples and I turned and gave
those fine birds what I intended to be a beseeching look,
but my feelings got the better of me and changed it into
a look which said, "If any of you pets of fortune laugh
at this poor soul, you will deserve to be flayed for it."
Things went from bad to worse, and I shortly found myself
mentally taking the unfriended lady under my protection.
My mind was wholly upon her. I forgot all about the sermon.
Her embarrassment took stronger and stronger hold upon her;
she got to snapping the lid of her smelling-bottle--it
made a loud, sharp sound, but in her trouble she snapped
and snapped away, unconscious of what she was doing.
The last extremity was reached when the collection-plate
began its rounds; the moderate people threw in pennies,
the nobles and the rich contributed silver, but she laid
a twenty-mark gold piece upon the book-rest before her
with a sounding slap! I said to myself, "She has parted
with all her little hoard to buy the consideration of these
unpitying people--it is a sorrowful spectacle." I did not
venture to look around this time; but as the service closed,
I said to myself, "Let them laugh, it is their opportunity;
but at the door of this church they shall see her step
into our fine carriage with us, and our gaudy coachman
shall drive her home."

Then she rose--and all the congregation stood while she
walked down the aisle. She was the Empress of Germany!

No--she had not been so much embarrassed as I had supposed.
My imagination had got started on the wrong scent, and that
is always hopeless; one is sure, then, to go straight
on misinterpreting everything, clear through to the end.
The young lady with her imperial Majesty was a maid of
honor--and I had been taking her for one of her boarders,
all the time.

This is the only time I have ever had an Empress under
my personal protection; and considering my inexperience,
I wonder I got through with it so well. I should have
been a little embarrassed myself if I had known earlier
what sort of a contract I had on my hands.

We found that the Empress had been in Baden-Baden
several days. It is said that she never attends
any but the English form of church service.

I lay abed and read and rested from my journey's fatigues
the remainder of that Sunday, but I sent my agent to represent
me at the afternoon service, for I never allow anything
to interfere with my habit of attending church twice every
Sunday.

There was a vast crowd in the public grounds that night
to hear the band play the "Fremersberg." This piece tells
one of the old legends of the region; how a great noble
of the Middle Ages got lost in the mountains, and wandered
about with his dogs in a violent storm, until at last
the faint tones of a monastery bell, calling the monks
to a midnight service, caught his ear, and he followed
the direction the sounds came from and was saved.
A beautiful air ran through the music, without ceasing,
sometimes loud and strong, sometimes so soft that it
could hardly be distinguished--but it was always there;
it swung grandly along through the shrill whistling
of the storm-wind, the rattling patter of the rain,
and the boom and crash of the thunder; it wound soft
and low through the lesser sounds, the distant ones,
such as the throbbing of the convent bell, the melodious
winding of the hunter's horn, the distressed bayings
of his dogs, and the solemn chanting of the monks;
it rose again, with a jubilant ring, and mingled itself
with the country songs and dances of the peasants assembled
in the convent hall to cheer up the rescued huntsman
while he ate his supper. The instruments imitated all
these sounds with a marvelous exactness. More than one
man started to raise his umbrella when the storm burst
forth and the sheets of mimic rain came driving by;
it was hardly possible to keep from putting your hand
to your hat when the fierce wind began to rage and shriek;
and it was NOT possible to refrain from starting when
those sudden and charmingly real thunder-crashes were
let loose.

I suppose the "Fremersberg" is a very low-grade music;
I know, indeed, that it MUST be low-grade music, because it
delighted me, warmed me, moved me, stirred me, uplifted me,
enraptured me, that I was full of cry all the time,
and mad with enthusiasm. My soul had never had such a
scouring out since I was born. The solemn and majestic
chanting of the monks was not done by instruments,
but by men's voices; and it rose and fell, and rose again
in that rich confusion of warring sounds, and pulsing bells,
and the stately swing of that ever-present enchanting air,
and it seemed to me that nothing but the very lowest
of low-grade music COULD be so divinely beautiful.
The great crowd which the "Fremersberg" had called out was
another evidence that it was low-grade music; for only
the few are educated up to a point where high-grade music
gives pleasure. I have never heard enough classic music
to be able to enjoy it. I dislike the opera because I want
to love it and can't.

I suppose there are two kinds of music--one kind which
one feels, just as an oyster might, and another sort
which requires a higher faculty, a faculty which must
be assisted and developed by teaching. Yet if base music
gives certain of us wings, why should we want any other?
But we do. We want it because the higher and better
like it. We want it without giving it the necessary
time and trouble; so we climb into that upper tier,
that dress-circle, by a lie; we PRETEND we like it.
I know several of that sort of people--and I propose
to be one of them myself when I get home with my fine
European education.

And then there is painting. What a red rag is to a bull,
Turner's "Slave Ship" was to me, before I studied art.
Mr. Ruskin is educated in art up to a point where that
picture throws him into as mad an ecstasy of pleasure
as it used to throw me into one of rage, last year,
when I was ignorant. His cultivation enables him--and me,
now--to see water in that glaring yellow mud, and natural
effects in those lurid explosions of mixed smoke and flame,
and crimson sunset glories; it reconciles him--and me,
now--to the floating of iron cable-chains and other
unfloatable things; it reconciles us to fishes swimming
around on top of the mud--I mean the water. The most of
the picture is a manifest impossibility--that is to say,
a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find
truth in a lie. But it enabled Mr. Ruskin to do it,
and it has enabled me to do it, and I am thankful for it.
A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave
Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds
and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell
cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes. In my then
uneducated state, that went home to my non-cultivation,
and I thought here is a man with an unobstructed eye.
Mr. Ruskin would have said: This person is an ass.
That is what I would say, now. [1]

1. Months after this was written, I happened into the National
    Gallery in London, and soon became so fascinated with the
    Turner pictures that I could hardly get away from the place.
    I went there often, afterward, meaning to see the rest
    of the gallery, but the Turner spell was too strong;
    it could not be shaken off. However, the Turners
    which attracted me most did not remind me of the Slave Ship.

However, our business in Baden-Baden this time,
was to join our courier. I had thought it best
to hire one, as we should be in Italy, by and by,
and we did not know the language. Neither did he.
We found him at the hotel, ready to take charge of us.
I asked him if he was "all fixed." He said he was.
That was very true. He had a trunk, two small satchels,
and an umbrella. I was to pay him fifty-five dollars
a month and railway fares. On the continent the railway
fare on a trunk is about the same it is on a man.
Couriers do not have to pay any board and lodging.
This seems a great saving to the tourist--at first.
It does not occur to the tourist that SOMEBODY pays that
man's board and lodging. It occurs to him by and by,
however, in one of his lucid moments.

< Back
Forward >












Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors


Mark Twain. Copyright 2008, mtwain.com
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.