World Travel - Two Monarchs at Close Range
( Originally Published 1903 )
I USED to meet a great many Americans as I went from town to town along the Rhine, and one day I met a party of New York people, who told me they were on their way to Homburg, where the German Emperor and King Humbert of Italy were to hold a grand review of the troops. When I learned this fact, I determined to visit Hamburg, too, and see what these two great monarchs were like at close range. So I immediately shouldered my knapsack and started for the famous watering-place, where I soon arrived.
The next few days were among the most interesting of all my trip. When I reached Homburg, and had settled myself in a little boarding-house, I set out to see what was happening. I found that I was just in time to witness the great review, which was to take place that afternoon on the plains without the city. So I hurried through the streets, which were filled with handsome carriages and richly-dressed people, until I reached the great open plaza where the review was to take place. I had no difficulty in finding a spot from which I could see the display, for the area was so great that one could see the soldiers a mile away.
I was fortunate in taking my stand near the point where the carriage came which contained the Queen of Italy and the Empress of Germany, and soon after they arrived the King and the Emperor came riding up on handsome chargers. They were given a great reception by the crowd, and then the review began.
The Army of an Empire
It was a magnificent spectacle, and as I had never before seen any such military display, I watched it with the greatest interest. An immense body of cavalry came moving majestically across the plain, and when they arrived opposite the royal party the horses were made to canter. It was wonderfully effective in the bright sunlight, and I thought to myself that this German army must be indeed the finest in the world. After the cavalry there came troop after troop of foot-soldiers, and after them the artillery. I had no idea how many soldiers were in line, but certainly there were more than I had ever seen in all my life before, and it seemed to me that there must have been more than two hundred thousand.
The Emperor and the King rode up and down the line as the troops were passing, and they were saluted by every man. I had never before realized so well what it means to be a king, and it was no wonder that Emperor William's face wore an expression of great satisfaction. What ruler could help being proud of such a wonderful army?
There was a great deal of cheering, the bands played continually, and the function appeared to be a success in every way. I was glad that I had journeyed to Homburg to see it all, for it isn't likely that another such review will be held for some time to come.
On the day following the review I called at one of the hotels to see my acquaintances from New York. They had been greatly interested in hearing about my tour, and had asked me many questions about my audiences with Mr. Gladstone and the Queen. They told me that I ought now to shake hands with the Emperor William, and that then I would have good reason to congratulate myself. I told them that I thought the Emperor would be a very difficult person to approach, since he was always surrounded by soldiers. They laughed, and said they thought they could arrange the matter for me.
It developed that they were personal friends of the Emperor, and that they were to call on him that very day. They said that if I would be at his hotel at the time of their visit they would ask him to shake hands with me, anyhow, and that he would gladly do that. I was only too glad to agree to this arrangement, and promptly at three o'clock in the afternoon I stationed myself in the appointed place. My friends came out in about half an hour, and when they were smiling I knew it was all right. " Yes," said the youngest woman of the party, " run right in now; tell his Majesty who you are, shake hands with him and come out at once. We told him your history, and he said we might send you in."
An Audience with the German Emperor
I thanked them, and hurriedly opened the door and entered. The footman seemed to expect me, for he asked no questions. He conducted me through a hallway and into a pleasant reception room. There, in an arm-chair, I saw the Emperor, and as I entered he looked up with a smile. " Oh," he said, " you are the Yankee boy." I was almost too embarrassed to speak, but I managed to say that I was that boy, and then I placed my hand in his. He said but a few words, and I thanked him and left the room. My friends were awaiting me outside, and they asked me what I thought of the German Emperor. " Oh," I exclaimed, " I think he's simply great," and that expressed my feelings very well. For certainly Emperor William has an impressive personality, even when you are in his presence but a moment, and I found him extremely kind, and very different from the stern person I had expected to meet.
When the Emperor and the King left Homburg, the little town resumed its normal condition of peace and quiet, and I started on my way to Heidelberg, where I arranged to stay several days. My stay in that old college town was memorably pleasant. I was fortunate in meeting some Americans who were residing there, and since they were wealthy people, they were able to make things very nice for me. They were even able to give me an opportunity to earn some money, for they were literary folk, and had a great deal of manuscript which they desired to have copied upon the typewriter. I was glad of a chance to earn even the smallest wages, for by this time I had only about fifteen dollars left of the money with which I had arrived in Germany. It was surprising that I had so much, for since leaving London I had traveled several hundred miles, and had seen some of the most interesting places in Europe. I don't think any traveler ever had more for his money than I had for mine.
I found much that was worth seeing during my spare time in Heidelberg. The grand old Schloss, fulfilling all my preconceived ideas of a castle, is situated " high on the forehead of Jettenbuhl," with mountains behind and in front. From the broad terrace of masonry you can almost throw a stone upon the roofs of the town, so closely do they lie below this massive, half-ruined structure, with its octagon and its round and square towers, battered and shattered by the mace of war. It is said to be the most magnificent ruin of the Middle Ages to be found in Europe.
Of course I visited the famous University, with its celebrated schools of law and medicine, whose professional chairs have been adorned by many noted scholars, and where many Americans have studied. It is a very plain and unpretentious building. The students are divided into five different corps, distinguished by the color of their caps—Prussian, white; Rhinelander, blue, etc. They have a very good time while they are at the University, and live a life which is very different from that at American schools.
When I tried to go to church on Sunday, I started for the old Church of the Holy Ghost, whither I was directed to go, under the information that I should there find a Presbyterian service. When I arrived at the building I found myself in a Roman Catholic church, and I thought my informant must have misunderstood me. But on my way through the street I met my American friends, who told me that if I would enter another door of the same church I would find myself among the Presbyterians. I did so, and sure enough, there was the Scotch minister, perched up in a little pulpit far away from his audience, which consisted of only about twenty worshipers. I discovered that the old church had the odd peculiarity of being partitioned through the centre, so that the Romanists held services at one end, and at the same time the Protestant service was conducted at the other. This is an arrangement which is probably not repeated elsewhere in the world, though it has much to recommend it, encouraging, as it does, a spirit of tolerance among Christians.
Sunday in Germany
A Sunday in Heidelberg, as in other German cities, was very much like a holiday. I found that the stores and banks were open, and that people were enjoying themselves in all sorts of ways. Sunday excursions were exceedingly popular, and the people generally seemed to look upon the Sabbath as a day set apart for recreation and a good time.
I made a short trip from Heidelberg to Frankfort-on-the-Main, which is a famed commercial city, and one which presents a fine appearance. It looked indeed, like some capital city, and as I walked through the well-paved streets I thought I had never observed anywhere a more general air of prosperity. Frankfort is still one of the great money centres of the world, and was the first foreign city to take any of the United States Government bonds. I found the banks, as in Amsterdam, to be plain-looking buildings, with iron gratings at the windows, giving them the appearance of jails.
In the Judengasse, or Jews' Alley, Rothschild's first banking-room was shown me. It is about eight feet by ten, without a window—only a door ; and over this entrance were a few old boots hung up for sale. From 146o until recent times the Jews were compelled to reside here, and the thoroughfare was closed by gates at each end, all night and on Sundays and holidays. Those old, dingy, antiquated houses have beheld many a dark scene of Jewish persecution and suffering. Now, many of this once oppressed and downtrodden people live in the most splendid palaces and mansions of Frankfort, and one is encouraged to hope that the day of Jewish persecution throughout the world is over.
I stopped to look at the old, slate-colored house called " Lutherhaus," where Luther preached from the balcony when on his way to Worms. It bears his portrait, and the inscription, " In silentio et spe erit fortutudo vestra."
Ignorance of Some Americans Abroad
Goethe seems to be the God whom the Frankforters worship, and the house where he was born, in 1749, has this inscription : " In Diesem Hause wurde Johann Wolfgang Goethe, am 28 August, 1749, Beboren." I happened to be with a party of Americans when I visited the historic house, and when we were asked to pay the fee of one mark for admission, one of them objected. " I don't think it's worth it," he said, " who ever heard of Goethe in America? " The man had been very successful in business, but his poetical education had been sadly neglected, and he knew absolutely nothing of this literary idol of the Germans. His case was similar to that of a woman whom I met at Heidelberg. I was showing her some exquisite bits of china which I had purchased at the request of a friend. " Yes," she remarked, " they're very nice indeed, but I haven't been buying anything of that sort. You know you can get all of those things in the New York department stores." I managed to refrain from laughing, for indeed it was no laughing matter. It was really pitiable that a person should have no better appreciation of the gems of art which may be found in out-of-the-way corners of Europe and nowhere else in the world. I knew very little about art myself, but I knew enough to know the beauties of the things which I saw on my travels.