From Rome to Paris and Home Again
( Originally Published 1903 )
I RETURNED to Paris from Rome immediately after my audience with the Pope. I would have liked to visit more of the numerous interesting places in the Eternal City, but the weather was extremely warm, and I knew that my friend would be anxiously awaiting my return to the French capital. Things had not changed much in Paris during our absence of nearly a month. We were glad to find that our old room was vacant in the lodging-house, and lost no time in occupying it again. Jack arrived in the city only a few hours before I did, and when I reached our " home," I found him busily engaged in straightening up the place. He had the alcohol lamp lit, and was making some chocolate for supper, so that it did indeed seem like getting home again after a long trip abroad. We were both glad to be back, and both had lots to tell about our experiences during the last few days. Jack had spent three days in the Rhine country and was enthusiastic over the beautiful scenery and pleasant people. " They are a lot more pleasant up there than down where we were," he said, " and I don't think they can be the same kind of Germans." I told him that they were certainly better cooks along the Rhine than in Bavaria, and that I thought them more hospitable, too. Jack met a party of young Americans in Heidelberg with whom he had traveled for two days, so he had not been lonesome, as I feared he would be. Still, he said that he was glad to be back in Paris. " I don't believe there's another city in Europe like this one," he said, " and we did well to spend so much time here." " Yes," I replied, " we have done well to be here as much as possible, because there is more to see and learn here than in any other city. And we must try and do as much as possible in the short time we have remaining before we start for home."
Last Days in Paris
We did accomplish a great deal during our last few days in Paris. We spent most of our time, of course, in the Exposition. At last everything there seemed to be in good working order, and there were great crowds of visitors every day. Up in the Corn Kitchen everyone had more than they could do. The manager of the baked bean exhibit asked us if we didn't want to take our old positions again, but we told him that we were soon leaving for home and that it wouldn't be worth while for us to start work. All the people in the Corn Kitchen, including the dear old " Mammy," seemed delighted that we were back again, and we had a great time telling them of our varied experiences. " Mammy said that she guessed she'd have to see the Passion Play before she went home, and we told her that whatever she did not to try to walk to Ober-Ammergau from Innsbruck. We could imagine old " Mammy " puffing up the mountain inclines, and knew that she wouldn't probably get more than two or three miles from Innsbruck before she'd be worn out. " I don' know, honey," she said, " I thinks I kin walk as good as you all. I may walk it, I don't know." And we have been wondering ever since whether she was really foolish enough to make the attempt. We thought we'd like to be present when she entered one of those mountain villages, just to see the sensation there'd be among the natives, most of whom have probably never seen a colored person.
We took time during our stay to revisit some of the exhibits which had interested us most, and we were determined to spend one more evening in the Village Suisse. We found the quaint place as attractive as ever, even after we had been seeing the real Alps and the real villagers. Our friends there had not forgotten us, and we were sorry to have to say good-bye to them for good. We told them that if the village could be moved to America we were sure it would be a great success.
On one day we made an excursion to the famous suburb of Fontainebleau, which we had been unable to visit when in Paris before. We were chiefly anxious to see the great palace on account of its associations with Napoleon, in whom we were still greatly interested. We visited his private apartments, including his bedroom and the famous room where he signed his abdiction, and found them even more interesting than the rooms at Versailles. About the palace in Fontainebleau is a great forest, through which we wandered for some distance. It seemed strange to find so great a forest still standing in old France, but, of course, it is protected by the government, and has been for centuries.
We visited again Napoleon's tomb in Paris, and others of the famous places we felt we wanted to see twice, and at the end of a week we had accomplished even more than we had hoped for, and were quite ready to return to London. We decided to stop on the way in the old French city of Rouen, so we left Paris on a Thursday, hoping to reach London on the next Saturday evening.
Good-bye to Our Friends
We found it quite a task to say good-bye to all our friends for good. So many people had been kind to us that we felt that we were leaving behind almost as many friends as we were going to at home. We told them all, however, that we would hope to return sometime before many years, and that we would expect to find them all living in the same places. We learned that people do not move every May in Paris. There was quite a crowd at the St. Lazare station to see us off, and there were many cries of bon voyage, and wishes for our continued success. We had not expected that our French friends would accompany us to the train, but there were on hand three of the Charlon family and two of our neighbors in the lodging-house. They all seemed sorry to have us go, and to tell the truth, Jack and I were glad when the train finally pulled out and the good-byes were over.
We soon reached Rouen, and stayed there overnight. We found that it resembled in many respects the old cities we had seen in Switzerland and Austria; but it had a great deal more bustle in the streets than we had found in Innsbruck or in Munich, even. Rouen is a modern city of many manufactories, and we thought we would have enjoyed it more if there had been only the old streets and old buildings to be seen. The cathedral impressed us greatly. We thought it one of the finest we had seen in Europe, and that is saying a good deal.
We left Rouen again by the train on Friday evening which connects with the Channel steamer at Dieppe, and before very long we found ourselves again skimming over the water. The Channel was more rough than when we crossed it first, and we were much afraid of seasickness, but were lucky enough to get across safely without any such misadventure. We met some boys on board the steamer who were from London, and had been to Paris to see the Exposition. They said they liked it very well, but they simply couldn't tolerate the Frenchmen. " Why," said one, " as we went along the streets the nasty things would cry out and ask us if we spoke English. ` Speek Eengleesh ? ' they would say, and then laugh. I think it most insulting." I told them that Jack and I had been through the same experience. " They don't make any distinction between English and Americans," I said, " but we never worried much about it. It was only the rabble who ever spoke to us in such a way." The English boys seemed highly indignant, and said that they would advise all their friends not to visit the Exposition at all. I said that their friends would be missing something very wonderful if they didn't go.
It seemed to Jack and I that the farther we got from Paris the more delightful the Exposition seemed to us. We began to think over our experiences during the time we had been there, and found that they seemed more pleasant to look back upon than at the time of their happening. And ever since we left Paris we have felt our liking for the place increasing, until now we feel that we simply must go there again.
Two Cities Compared
When we reached London on Saturday morning, we noticed at once the vast difference there is between these two great cities. In London there was just as much noise and traffic as in Paris, but it was a different kind of traffic. Instead of dozens of pleasure carriages there were hundreds of trucking carts, and instead of sidewalks crowded with promenaders out for a stroll, the London thoroughfares were jammed with men hurrying to business. We couldn't help thinking that London is a most substantial city, but Paris is undoubtedly the most pleasant in which to live for any length of time. We heard one American say, when he returned to Paris from London. " Over there the people are fine, but the weather's mighty bad. Here in Paris the weather's fine, but the people are simply disgusting." Of course the majority prefer pleasant people to pleasant weather, and most Americans find London the best place for residence.
We planned to remain for about a week in London before returning to New York, and we went to the house where we had lodged in April. The people there were glad to see us again, and were interested in hearing about our experiences on the Continent. I called at the office of the newspaper for which I had worked in the spring, and was successful in selling several articles describing the adventures and interviews which I had experienced. They were printed as by " the American Boy Traveler," and when I protested to the editor that I was almost too old to be called a " boy traveler " he only laughed. " That's the only name by which you're known to our readers," he said. " If you used any other name, they wouldn't remember anything about you, and so wouldn't be much interested in hearing what you've been doing now."
We decided to travel home as second-cabin passengers. I had been in the first cabin, and I had been in the steerage, and I felt that I ought to know all about a transatlantic liner after traveling second-class. I had sufficient money to purchase a first-class passage, for I earned quite a sum during our stay in Lon-don, but my friend was rather short, and he refused to borrow. And we had no reason to regret our action. The second cabin was very comfortable, indeed, and the food was quite as good as we had been accustomed to during our summer abroad; in fact, it was better than we had had at times.
Glad to be Homeward Bound
We were not sorry to be started on our way home. We had enjoyed a variety of traveling experiences, and we had been " on the go " so many weeks that we were glad at the prospect of being settled in America once again. We counted every day and hour of the voyage, which was generally monotonous. There was one accident, however, which created a great deal of excitement for a time. A number of us were seated on deck one afternoon when the ocean was rough. Great waves were tossing the ship so that it was almost impossible to keep one's seat. My friend and I were seated at the end of the second-cabin deck, where we could look down upon the steerage passengers, who were huddled together to keep warm and dry. The water occasionally splashed over the side, and then the girls would run screaming for shelter. It seemed to me that they were in danger of being washed overboard if an exceptionally high wave should deluge the deck, for the officers had neglected, for some reason, to put up the rope netting which was used in rough weather. I remarked to my friend that the steerage people should be made to go below, and my words seemed to be prophetic, for soon after a tremendous wave swept the ship on the larboard side, from stem to stern. The passengers on all the decks were more or less wet by it, and there was great screaming among the ladies. The greatest scream came from the steerage deck, and as we were looking down we saw a young Swedish girl lifted off her feet by the waters and swept overboard. It was her frantic cry which we had heard. A lady sitting next us also saw the girl go over, and she was hysterical at once. Her cries, and ours, soon attracted the attention of the officers. " Stop the ship ! " was the order given, and the great vessel came to a standstill. Every effort was made to find the body on the surface of the waves, but there was no sign of it anywhere.
When the vessel was again on her way the excitement soon subsided, and the ship's officers were angry that there had been any fuss made about the accident. They preferred having it kept quiet. The fat purser came up to me and asked why I had been so foolish as to raise an alarm, and I told him what I thought of the management of the decks. If the rope netting had been in place the girl could never have been swept over the rail. We learned that she was a young Swedish girl, only seventeen years old, who was going to her brother in America. The passengers generously raised a purse to be sent to her parents in the old country, and our hearts ached when we thought of how the father and mother would feel. Certain of the ship's officers were not very popular on board when the full story of the affair became public.
We arrived in New York on Saturday, and on the following Monday I was at work again in my old position. It hardly seemed possible that I had been away for five months. During that time I had learned a great deal through experience, and I had seen things which would remain with me all through life. The trip had been a profitable one in more ways than one. I reached New York with considerable more money than I had when I started. In London and in Paris I had earned much more than was necessary to pay my expenses, and when the trip was over I decided that at times it is cheaper to travel than to stay at home.