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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTheir Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 52
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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 52 Post by :jlassociates Category :Long Stories Author :William Dean Howells Date :May 2012 Read :3480

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 52


The square in front of the station was planted with flag-poles wreathed in evergreens; a triumphal arch was nearly finished, and a colossal allegory in imitation bronze was well on the way to completion, in honor of the majesties who were coming for the manoeuvres. The streets which the omnibus passed through to the Swan Inn were draped with the imperial German and the royal Bavarian colors; and the standards of the visiting nationalities decked the fronts of the houses where their military attaches were lodged; but the Marches failed to see our own banner, and were spared for the moment the ignominy of finding it over an apothecary shop in a retired avenue. The sun had come out, the sky overhead was of a smiling blue; and they felt the gala-day glow and thrill in the depths of their inextinguishable youth.

The Swan Inn sits on one of the long quays bordering the Main, and its windows look down upon the bridges and shipping of the river; but the traveller reaches it by a door in the rear, through an archway into a back street, where an odor dating back to the foundation of the city is waiting to welcome him.

The landlord was there, too, and he greeted the Marches so cordially that they fully partook his grief in being able to offer them rooms on the front of the house for two nights only. They reconciled themselves to the necessity of then turning out for the staff of the King of Saxony, the more readily because they knew that there was no hope of better things at any other hotel.

The rooms which they could have for the time were charming, and they came down to supper in a glazed gallery looking out on the river picturesque with craft of all fashions: with row-boats, sail-boats, and little steamers, but mainly with long black barges built up into houses in the middle, and defended each by a little nervous German dog. Long rafts of logs weltered in the sunset red which painted the swift current, and mantled the immeasurable vineyards of the hills around like the color of their ripening grapes. Directly in face rose a castled steep, which kept the ranging walls and the bastions and battlements of the time when such a stronghold could have defended the city from foes without or from tumult within. The arches of a stately bridge spanned the river sunsetward, and lifted a succession of colossal figures against the crimson sky.

"I guess we have been wasting our time, my dear," said March, as they, turned from this beauty to the question of supper. "I wish we had always been here!"

Their waiter had put them at a table in a division of the gallery beyond that which they entered, where some groups of officers were noisily supping. There was no one in their room but a man whose face was indistinguishable against the light, and two young girls who glanced at them with looks at once quelled and defiant, and then after a stare at the officers in the gallery beyond, whispered together with suppressed giggling. The man fed on without noticing them, except now and then to utter a growl that silenced the whispering and giggling for a moment. The Marches, from no positive evidence of any sense, decided that they were Americans.

"I don't know that I feel responsible for them as their fellow-countryman; I should, once," he said.

"It isn't that. It's the worry of trying to make out why they are just what they are," his wife returned.

The girls drew the man's attention to them and he looked at them for the first time; then after a sort of hesitation he went on with his supper. They had only begun theirs when he rose with the two girls, whom Mrs. March now saw to be of the same size and dressed alike, and came heavily toward them.

"I thought you was in Carlsbad," he said bluntly to March, with a nod at Mrs. March. He added, with a twist of his head toward the two girls, "My daughters," and then left them to her, while he talked on with her husband. "Come to see this foolery, I suppose. I'm on my way to the woods for my after-cure; but I thought I might as well stop and give the girls a chance; they got a week's vacation, anyway." Stoller glanced at them with a sort of troubled tenderness in his strong dull face.

"Oh, yes. I understood they were at school here," said March, and he heard one of them saying, in a sweet, high pipe to his wife:

"Ain't it just splendid? I ha'n't seen anything equal to it since the Worrld's Fairr." She spoke with a strong contortion of the Western r, and her sister hastened to put in:

"I don't think it's to be compared with the Worrld's Fairr. But these German girls, here, just think it's great. It just does me good to laff at 'em, about it. I like to tell 'em about the electric fountain and the Courrt of Lionorr when they get to talkin' about the illuminations they're goun' to have. You goun' out to the parade? You better engage your carriage right away if you arre. The carrs'll be a perfect jam. Father's engaged ourrs; he had to pay sixty marrks forr it."

They chattered on without shyness and on as easy terms with a woman of three times their years as if she had been a girl of their own age; they willingly took the whole talk to themselves, and had left her quite outside of it before Stoller turned to her.

"I been telling Mr. March here that you better both come to the parade with us. I guess my twospanner will hold five; or if it won't, we'll make it. I don't believe there's a carriage left in Wurzburg; and if you go in the cars, you'll have to walk three or four miles before you get to the parade-ground. You think it over," he said to March. "Nobody else is going to have the places, anyway, and you can say yes at the last minute just as well as now."

He moved off with his girls, who looked over their shoulders at the officers as they passed on through the adjoining room.

"My dear!" cried Mrs. March. "Didn't you suppose he classed us with Burnamy in that business? Why should he be polite to us?"

"Perhaps he wants you to chaperon his daughters. He's probably heard of your performance at the Kurhaus ball. But he knows that I thought Burnamy in the wrong. This may be Stoller's way of wiping out an obligation. Wouldn't you like to go with him?"

"The mere thought of his being in the same town is prostrating. I'd far rather he hated us; then he would avoid us."

"Well, he doesn't own the town, and if it comes to the worst, perhaps we can avoid him. Let us go out, anyway, and see if we can't."

"No, no; I'm too tired; but you go. And get all the maps and guides you can; there's so very little in Baedeker, and almost nothing in that great hulking Bradshaw of yours; and I'm sure there must be the most interesting history of Wurzburg. Isn't it strange that we haven't the slightest association with the name?"

"I've been rummaging in my mind, and I've got hold of an association at last," said March. "It's beer; a sign in a Sixth Avenue saloon window Wurzburger Hof-Brau."

"No matter if it is beer. Find some sketch of the history, and we'll try to get away from the Stollers in it. I pitied those wild girls, too. What crazy images of the world must fill their empty minds! How their ignorant thoughts must go whirling out into the unknown! I don't envy their father. Do hurry back! I shall be thinking about them every instant till you come."

She said this, but in their own rooms it was so soothing to sit looking through the long twilight at the lovely landscape that the sort of bruise given by their encounter with the Stollers had left her consciousness before March returned. She made him admire first the convent church on a hill further up the river which exactly balanced the fortress in front of them, and then she seized upon the little books he had brought, and set him to exploring the labyrinths of their German, with a mounting exultation in his discoveries. There was a general guide to the city, and a special guide, with plans and personal details of the approaching manoeuvres and the princes who were to figure in them; and there was a sketch of the local history: a kind of thing that the Germans know how to write particularly, well, with little gleams of pleasant humor blinking through it. For the study of this, Mrs. March realized, more and more passionately, that they were in the very most central and convenient point, for the history of Wurzburg might be said to have begun with her prince-bishops, whose rule had begun in the twelfth century, and who had built, on a forgotten Roman work, the fortress of the Marienburg on that vineyarded hill over against the Swan Inn. There had of course been history before that, but 'nothing so clear, nothing so peculiarly swell, nothing that so united the glory of this world and the next as that of the prince-bishops. They had made the Marienburg their home, and kept it against foreign and domestic foes for five hundred years. Shut within its well-armed walls they had awed the often-turbulent city across the Main; they had held it against the embattled farmers in the Peasants' War, and had splendidly lost it to Gustavus Adolphus, and then got it back again and held it till Napoleon took it from them. He gave it with their flock to the Bavarians, who in turn briefly yielded it to the Prussians in 1866, and were now in apparently final possession of it.

Before the prince-bishops, Charlemagne and Barbarossa had come and gone, and since the prince-bishops there had been visiting thrones and kingdoms enough in the ancient city, which was soon to be illustrated by the presence of imperial Germany, royal, Wirtemberg and Saxony, grand-ducal Baden and Weimar, and a surfeit of all the minor potentates among those who speak the beautiful language of the Ja.

But none of these could dislodge the prince-bishops from that supreme place which they had at once taken in Mrs. March's fancy. The potentates were all going to be housed in the vast palace which the prince-bishops had built themselves in Wurzburg as soon as they found it safe to come down from their stronghold of Marienburg, and begin to adorn their city, and to confirm it in its intense fidelity to the Church. Tiepolo had come up out of Italy to fresco their palace, where he wrought year after year, in that worldly taste which has somehow come to express the most sovereign moment of ecclesiasticism. It prevailed so universally in Wurzburg that it left her with the name of the Rococo City, intrenched in a period of time equally remote from early Christianity and modern Protestantism. Out of her sixty thousand souls, only ten thousand are now of the reformed religion, and these bear about the same relation to the Catholic spirit of the place that the Gothic architecture bears to the baroque.

As long as the prince-bishops lasted the Wurzburgers got on very well with but one newspaper, and perhaps the smallest amount of merrymaking known outside of the colony of Massachusetts Bay at the same epoch. The prince-bishops had their finger in everybody's pie, and they portioned out the cakes and ale, which were made according to formulas of their own. The distractions were all of a religious character; churches, convents, monasteries, abounded; ecclesiastical processions and solemnities were the spectacles that edified if they did not amuse the devout population.

It seemed to March an ironical outcome of all this spiritual severity that one of the greatest modern scientific discoveries should have been made in Wurzburg, and that the Roentgen rays should now be giving her name a splendor destined to eclipse the glories of her past.

Mrs. March could not allow that they would do so; or at least that the name of Roentgen would ever lend more lustre to his city than that of Longfellow's Walther von der Vogelweide. She was no less surprised than pleased to realize that this friend of the birds was a Wurzburger, and she said that their first pilgrimage in the morning should be to the church where he lies buried.

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 53 Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 53

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 53
PART III CHAPTER LIIIMarch went down to breakfast not quite so early as his wife had planned, and left her to have her coffee in her room. He got a pleasant table in the gallery overlooking the river, and he decided that the landscape, though it now seemed to be rather too much studied from a drop-certain, had certainly lost nothing of its charm in the clear morning light. The waiter brought his breakfast, and after a little delay came back with a card which he insisted was for March. It was not till he put on his glasses and read

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 51 Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 51

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 51
PART III CHAPTER LIThe letters which March had asked his Nuremberg banker to send them came just as they were leaving Ansbach. The landlord sent them down to the station, and Mrs. March opened them in the train, and read them first so that she could prepare him if there were anything annoying in them, as well as indulge her livelier curiosity. "They're from both the children," she said, without waiting for him to ask. "You can look at them later. There's a very nice letter from Mrs. Adding to me, and one from dear little Rose for you." Then she