Diary of a Pilgrimage Part 16

At last B. makes the discovery that to get to Heidelberg we must go to Darmstadt and take another train from there. This knowledge gives him renewed hope and strength, and he sets to work afresh--this time, to find trains from Munich to Darmstadt, and from Darmstadt to Heidelberg.

"Here we are," he cries, after a few minutes' hunting. "I've got it!"

(He is of a buoyant disposition.) "This will be it. Leaves Munich 10, gets to Darmstadt 5.25. Leaves Darmstadt for Heidelberg 5.20, gets to--"

"That doesn't allow us much time for changing, does it?" I remark.

"No," he replies, growing thoughtful again. "No, that's awkward. If it were only the other way round, it would be all right, or it would do if our train got there five minutes before its time, and the other one was a little late in starting."

"Hardly safe to reckon on that," I suggest; and he agrees with me, and proceeds to look for some more fitable trains.

It would appear, however, that all the trains from Darmstadt to Heidelberg start just a few minutes before the trains from Munich arrive.

It looks quite pointed, as though they tried to avoid us.

B.'s intellect generally gives way about this point, and he becomes simply drivelling. He discovers trains that run from Munich to Heidelberg in fourteen minutes, by way of Venice and Geneva, with half-an-hour's interval for breakfast at Rome. He rushes up and down the book in pursuit of demon expresses that arrive at their destinations forty-seven minutes before they start, and leave again before they get there. He finds out, all by himself, that the only way to get from South Germany to Paris is to go to Calais, and then take the boat to Moscow.

Before he has done with the timetable, he doesn't know whether he is in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, nor where he wants to get to, nor why he wants to go there.

Then I quietly, but firmly, take the book away from him, and dress him for going out; and we take our bags and walk to the station, and tell a porter that, "Please, we want to go to Heidelberg." And the porter takes us one by each hand, and leads us to a seat and tells us to sit there and be good, and that, when it is time, he will come and fetch us and put us in the train; and this he does.

That is my method of finding out how to get from one place to another.

It is not as dignified, perhaps, as B.'s, but it is simpler and more efficacious.

It is slow work travelling in Germany. The German train does not hurry or excite itself over its work, and when it stops it likes to take a rest. When a German train draws up at a station, everybody gets out and has a walk. The engine-driver and the stoker cross over and knock at the station-master's door. The station-master comes out and greets them effusively, and then runs back into the house to tell his wife that they have come, and she bustles out and also welcomes them effusively, and the four stand chatting about old times and friends and the state of the crops. After a while, the engine-driver, during a pause in the conversation, looks at his watch, and says he is afraid he must be going, but the station-master's wife won't hear of it.

"Oh, you must stop and see the children," she says. "They will be home from school soon, and they'll be so disappointed if they hear you have been here and gone away again. Lizzie will never forgive you."

The engine-driver and the stoker laugh, and say that under those circ.u.mstances they suppose they must stop; and they do so.

Meanwhile the booking-clerk has introduced the guard to his sister, and such a very promising flirtation has been taking place behind the ticket-office door that it would not be surprising if wedding-bells were heard in the neighbourhood before long.

The second guard has gone down into the town to try and sell a dog, and the pa.s.sengers stroll about the platform and smoke, or partake of a light meal in the refreshment-room--the poorer cla.s.ses regaling themselves upon hot sausage, and the more dainty upon soup. When everybody appears to be sufficiently rested, a move onward is suggested by the engine-driver or the guard, and if all are agreeable to the proposal the train starts.

Tremendous excitement was caused during our journey between Heidelberg and Darmstadt by the discovery that we were travelling in an express train (they called it an "express:" it jogged along at the rate of twenty miles an hour when it could be got to move at all; most of its time it seemed to be half asleep) with slow-train tickets. The train was stopped at the next station and B. was marched off between two stern-looking gold-laced officials to explain the matter to a stern-looking gold-laced station-master, surrounded by three stern-looking gold-laced followers.

The scene suggested a drum-head court-martial, and I could see that B.

was nervous, though outwardly calm and brave. He shouted back a light-hearted adieu to me as he pa.s.sed down the platform, and asked me, if the worst happened, to break it gently to his mother.

However, no harm came of it, and he returned to the carriage without a stain upon his character, he having made it clear to the satisfaction of the court--firstly, That he did not know that our tickets were only slow-train tickets; secondly, That he was not aware that we were not travelling by a slow train; and thirdly, That he was ready to pay the difference in the fares.

He blamed himself for having done this last, however, afterwards. He seemed to think that he could have avoided this expense by a.s.suming ignorance of the German language. He said that two years ago, when he was travelling in Germany with three other men, the authorities came down upon them in much the same way for travelling first-cla.s.s with second-cla.s.s tickets.

Why they were doing this B. did not seem able to explain very clearly.

He said that, if he recollected rightly, the guard had told them to get into a first-cla.s.s, or else they had not had time to get into a second-cla.s.s, or else they did not know they were not in a second-cla.s.s.

I must confess his explanation appeared to me to be somewhat lame.

Anyhow, there they were in a first-cla.s.s carriage; and there was the collector at the door, looking indignantly at their second-cla.s.s tickets, and waiting to hear what they had to say for themselves.

One of their party did not know much German, but what little he did know he was very proud of and liked to air; and this one argued the matter with the collector, and expressed himself in German so well that the collector understood and disbelieved every word he said.

He was also, on his part, able, with a little trouble, to understand what the collector said, which was that he must pay eighteen marks. And he had to.

As for the other three, two at all events of whom were excellent German scholars, they did not understand anything, and n.o.body could make them understand anything. The collector roared at them for about ten minutes, and they smiled pleasantly and said they wanted to go to Hanover. He went and fetched the station-master, and the station-master explained to them for another ten minutes that, if they did not pay eighteen shillings each, he should do the German equivalent for summonsing them; and they smiled and nodded, and told him that they wanted to go to Hanover. Then a very important-looking personage in a c.o.c.ked-hat came up, and was very angry; and he and the station-master and the collector took it in turns to explain to B. and his two friends the state of the law on the matter.

They stormed and raged, and threatened and pleaded for a quarter of an hour or so, and then they got sick, and slammed the door, and went off, leaving the Government to lose the fifty-four marks.

We pa.s.sed the German frontier on Wednesday, and have been in Belgium since.

I like the Germans. B. says I ought not to let them know this, because it will make them conceited; but I have no fear of such a result. I am sure they possess too much common-sense for their heads to be turned by praise, no matter from whom.

B. also says that I am displaying more energy than prudence in forming an opinion of a people merely from a few weeks' travel amongst them. But my experience is that first impressions are the most reliable.

At all events, in my case they are. I often arrive at quite sensible ideas and judgments, on the spur of the moment. It is when I stop to think that I become foolish.

Our first thoughts are the thoughts that are given to us; our second thoughts are the thoughts that we make for ourselves. I prefer to trust to the former.

The Germans are a big, square-shouldered, deep-chested race. They do not talk much, but look as though they thought. Like all big things, they are easy-going and good-tempered.

Anti-tobacconists, teetotallers, and such-like faddists, would fare badly in Germany. A German has no anti-nature notions as to its being wicked for him to enjoy his life, and still more criminal for him to let anybody else enjoy theirs. He likes his huge pipe, and he likes his mug of beer, and as these become empty he likes to have them filled again; and he likes to see other people like _their_ pipe and _their_ mug of beer. If you were to go dancing round a German, shrieking out entreaties to him to sign a pledge that he would never drink another drop of beer again as long as he lived, he would ask you to remember that you were talking to a man, not to a child or an imbecile, and he would probably impress the request upon you by boxing your ears for your impertinence. He can conduct himself sensibly without making an a.s.s of himself. He can be "temperate" without tying bits of coloured ribbon all about himself to advertise the fact, and without rushing up and down the street waving a banner and yelling about it.

The German women are not beautiful, but they are lovable and sweet; and they are broad-breasted and broad-hipped, like the mothers of big sons should be. They do not seem to trouble themselves about their "rights,"

but appear to be very contented and happy even without votes. The men treat them with courtesy and tenderness, but with none of that exaggerated deference that one sees among more petticoat-ridden nations.

The Germans are women lovers, not women worshippers; and they are not worried by any doubts as to which s.e.x shall rule the State, and which stop at home and mind the children. The German women are not politicians and mayors and county councillors; they are housewives.

All cla.s.ses of Germans are scrupulously polite to one another; but this is the result of mutual respect, not of sn.o.bbery. The tramcar conductor expects to be treated with precisely the same courtesy that he tenders.

The Count raises his hat to the shopkeeper, and expects the shopkeeper to raise his hat to him.

The Germans are hearty eaters; but they are not, like the French, fussy and finicky over their food. Their stomach is not their G.o.d; and the cook, with his sauces and _pates_ and _ragouts_, is not their High Priest. So long as the dish is wholesome, and there is sufficient of it, they are satisfied.

In the mere sensuous arts of painting and sculpture the Germans are poor, in the enn.o.bling arts of literature and music they are great; and this fact provides a key to their character.

They are a simple, earnest, homely, genuine people. They do not laugh much; but when they do, they laugh deep down. They are slow, but so is a deep river. A placid look generally rests upon their heavy features; but sometimes they frown, and then they look somewhat grim.

A visit to Germany is a tonic to an Englishman. We English are always sneering at ourselves, and patriotism in England is regarded as a stamp of vulgarity. The Germans, on the other hand, believe in themselves, and respect themselves. The world for them is not played out. Their country to them is still the "Fatherland." They look straight before them like a people who see a great future in front of them, and are not afraid to go forward to fulfil it.

GOOD-BYE, SIR (OR MADAM).

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