Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsEurope Revised - Chapter 11. Dressed To Kill
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Europe Revised - Chapter 11. Dressed To Kill Post by :gabby Category :Nonfictions Author :Irvin S. Cobb Date :May 2012 Read :1766

Click below to download : Europe Revised - Chapter 11. Dressed To Kill (Format : PDF)

Europe Revised - Chapter 11. Dressed To Kill

Chapter XI. Dressed to Kill

With us it is the dress of the women that gives life and color to the shifting show of street life. In Europe it is the soldier, and in England the private soldier particularly. The German private soldier is too stiff, and the French private soldier is too limber, and the Italian private soldier has been away from the dry-cleanser's too long; but the British Tommy Atkins is a perfect piece of work --what with his dinky cap tilted over one eye, and his red tunic that fits him without blemish or wrinkle, and his snappy little swagger stick flirting the air. As a picture of a first-class fighting man I know of but one to match him, and that is a khaki-clad, service-hatted Yankee regular--long may he wave!

There may be something finer in the way of a military spectacle than the change of horse-guards at Whitehall or the march of the foot-guards across the green in St. James' Park on a fine, bright morning--but I do not know what it is. One day, passing Buckingham Palace, I came on a footguard on duty in one of the little sentry boxes just outside the walls. He did not look as though he were alive. He looked as though he had been stuffed and mounted by a most expert taxidermist. From under his bearskin shako and from over his brazen chin-strap his face stared out unwinking and solemn and barren of thought.

I said to myself: "It is taking a long chance, but I shall ascertain whether this party has any human emotions." So I halted directly in front of him and began staring fixedly at his midriff as though I saw a button unfastened there or a buckle disarranged. For a space of minutes I kept my gaze on him without cessation.

Finally the situation grew painful; but it was not that British grenadier who grew embarrassed and fidgety--it was the other party to the transaction. His gaze never shifted, his eyes never wavered--but I came away feeling all wriggly.

In no outward regard whatsoever do the soldiers on the Continent compare with the soldiers of the British archipelago. When he is not on actual duty the German private is always going somewhere in a great hurry with something belonging to his superior officer--usually a riding horse or a specially heavy valise. On duty and off he wears that woodenness of expression--or, rather, that wooden lack of expression--which is found nowhere in such flower of perfection as on the faces of German soldiers and German toys.

The Germans prove they have a sense of humor by requiring their soldiers to march on parade with the goose step; and the French prove they have none at all by incasing the defenseless legs of their soldiers in those foolish red-flannel pants that are manufactured in such profusion up at the Pantheon.

In the event of another war between the two nations I anticipate a frightful mortality among pants--especially if the French forces should be retreating. The German soldier is not a particularly good marksman as marksmen go, but he would have to be the worst shot in the world to miss a pair of French pants that were going away from him at the time.

Still, when all is said and done, there is something essentially Frenchy about those red pants. There is something in their length that instinctively suggests Toulon, something in their breadth that makes you think of Toulouse. I realize that this joke, as it stands, is weak and imperfect. If there were only another French seaport called Toubagge I could round it out and improve it structurally.

If the English private soldier is the trimmest, the Austrian officer is the most beautiful to look on. An Austrian officer is gaudier than the door-opener of a London cafe or the porter of a Paris hotel. He achieves effects in gaudiness which even time Italian officer cannot equal.

The Italian officer is addicted to cock feathers and horsetails on his helmet, to bits of yellow and blue let into his clothes, to tufts of red and green hung on him in unexpected and unaccountable spots. Either the design of bottled Italian chianti is modeled after the Italian officer or the Italian officer is modeled after the bottle of chianti--which, though, I am not prepared to say without further study of the subject.

But the Austrian officer is the walking sunset effect of creation. For color schemes I know of nothing in Nature to equal him except the Grand Canon of the Colorado. Circus parades are unknown in Austria--they are not missed either; after an Austrian officer a street parade would seem a colorless and commonplace thing. In his uniform he runs to striking contrasts--canary yellow, with light blue facings; silvers and grays; bright greens with scarlet slashings--and so on.

His collar is the very highest of all high collars and the heaviest with embroidery; his cloak is the longest and the widest; his boots the most varnished; his sword-belt the broadest and the shiniest; and the medals on his bosom are the most numerous and the most glittering. Alf Ringling and John Philip Sousa would take one look at him--and then, mutually filled with an envious despair, they would go apart and hold a grand lodge of sorrow together. Also, he constantly wears his spurs and his sword; he wears them even when he is in a cafe in the evening listening to the orchestra, drinking beer and allowing an admiring civilian to pay the check --and that apparently is every evening.

There was one Austrian colonel who came one night into a cafe in Vienna where we were and sat down at the table next to us; and he put our eyes right out and made all the lights dim and flickery. His epaulets were two hairbrushes of augmented size, gold-mounted; his Plimsoll marks were outlined in bullion, and along his garboard strake ran lines of gold braid; but strangest of all to observe was the locality where he wore what appeared to be his service stripes. Instead of being on his sleeves they were at the extreme southern exposure of his coattails; I presume an Austrian officer acquires merit by sitting down.

This particular officer's saber kept jingling, and so did his spurs, and so did his bracelet. I almost forgot the bracelet. It was an ornate affair of gold links fastened on his left wrist with a big gold locket, and it kept slipping down over his hand and rattling against his cuff. The chain bracelet locked on the left wrist is very common among Austrian officers; it adds just the final needed touch. I did not see any of them carrying lorgnettes or shower bouquets, but I think, in summer they wear veils.

One opportunity is afforded the European who is neither a soldier nor a hotel cashier to dress himself up in comic-opera clothes --and that is when he a-hunting goes. An American going hunting puts on his oldest and most serviceable clothes--a European his giddiest, gayest, gladdest regalia. We were so favored by gracious circumstances as to behold several Englishmen suitably attired for the chase, and we noted that the conventional morning costume of an English gentleman expecting to call informally on a pheasant or something during the course of the forenoon consisted, in the main, of a perfect dear of a Norfolk jacket, all over plaits and pockets, with large leather buttons like oak-galls adhering thickly to it, with a belt high up under the arms and a saucy tail sticking out behind; knee-breeches; a high stock collar; shin-high leggings of buff or white, and a special hat--a truly adorable confection by the world's leading he-milliner.

If you dared to wear such an outfit afield in America the very dickeybirds would fall into fits as you passed--the chipmunks would lean out of the trees and just naturally laugh you to death! But in a land where the woodlands are well-kept groves, and the undergrowth, instead of being weedy and briery, is sweet-scented fern and gorse and bracken, I suppose it is all eminently correct.

Thus appareled the Englishman goes to Scotland to shoot the grouse, the gillie, the heather cock, the niblick, the haggis and other Scotch game. Thus appareled he ranges the preserves of his own fat, fair shires in ardent pursuit of the English rabbit, which pretty nearly corresponds to the guinea pig, but is not so ferocious; and the English hare, which is first cousin to our molly cottontail; and the English pheasant--but particularly the pheasant.

There was great excitement while we were in England concerning the pheasants. Either the pheasants were preying on the mangel-wurzels or the mangel-wurzels were preying on the pheasants. At any rate it had something to do with the Land Bill--practically everything that happens in England has something to do with the Land Bill--and Lloyd George was in a free state of perspiration over it; and the papers were full of it and altogether there was a great pother over it.

We saw pheasants by the score. We saw them first from the windows of our railroad carriage--big, beautiful birds nearly as large as barnyard fowls and as tame, feeding in the bare cabbage patches, regardless of the train chugging by not thirty yards away; and later we saw them again at still closer range as we strolled along the haw-and-holly-lined roads of the wonderful southern counties. They would scuttle on ahead of us, weaving in and out of the hedgerows; and finally, when we insisted on it and flung pebbles at them to emphasize our desires, they would get up, with a great drumming of wings and a fine comet-like display of flowing tailfeathers on the part of the cock birds, and go booming away to what passes in Sussex and Kent for dense cover--meaning by that thickets such as you may find in the upper end of Central Park.

They say King George is one of the best pheasant-shots in England. He also collects postage stamps when not engaged in his regular regal duties, such as laying cornerstones for new workhouses and receiving presentation addresses from charity children. I have never shot pheasants; but, having seen them in their free state as above described, and having in my youth collected postage stamps intermittently, I should say, speaking offhand, that of the two pursuits postage-stamp collecting is infinitely the more exciting and dangerous.

Through the closed season the keepers mind the pheasants, protecting them from poachers and feeding them on selected grain; but a day comes in October when the hunters go forth and take their stands at spaced intervals along a cleared aisle flanking the woods; then the beaters dive into the woods from the opposite side, and when the tame and trusting creatures come clustering about their feet expecting provender the beaters scare them up, by waving their umbrellas at them, I think, and the pheasants go rocketing into the air--rocketing is the correct sporting term--go rocketing into the air like a flock of Sunday supplements; and the gallant gunner downs them in great multitudes, always taking due care to avoid mussing his clothes. For after all the main question is not "What did he kill?" but "How does he look?"

At that, I hold no brief for the pheasant--except when served with breadcrumb dressing and currant jelly he is no friend of mine. It ill becomes Americans, with our own record behind us, to chide other people for the senseless murder of wild things; and besides, speaking personally, I have a reasonably open mind on the subject of wild-game shooting. Myself, I shot a wild duck once. He was not flying at the time. He was, as the stockword goes, setting. I had no self-reproaches afterward however. As between that duck and myself I regarded it as an even break--as fair for one as for the other--because at the moment I myself was, as we say, setting too. But if, in the interests of true sportsmanship, they must have those annual massacres I certainly should admire to see what execution a picked half dozen of American quail hunters, used to snap-shooting in the cane jungles and brier patches of Georgia and Arkansas, could accomplish among English pheasants, until such time as their consciences mastered them and they desisted from slaughter!

Be that as it may, pheasant shooting is the last word in the English sporting calendar. It is a sport strictly for the gentry. Except in the capacity of innocent bystanders the lower orders do not share in it. It is much too good for them; besides, they could not maintain the correct wardrobe for it. The classes derive one substantial benefit from the institution however. The sporting instinct of the landed Englishman has led to the enactment of laws under which an ordinary person goes smack to jail if he is caught sequestrating a clandestine pheasant bird; but it does not militate against the landowner's peddling off his game after he has destroyed it. British thrift comes in here. And so in carload lots it is sold to the marketmen. The result is that in the fall of the year pheasants are cheaper than chickens; and any person who can afford poultry on his dinner table can afford pheasants.

The Continental hunter makes an even more spectacular appearance than his British brother. No self-respecting German or French sportsman would think of faring forth after the incarnate brown hare or the ferocious wood pigeon unless he had on a green hat with a feather in it; and a green suit to match the hat; and swung about his neck with a cord a natty fur muff to keep his hands in between shots; and a swivel chair to sit in while waiting for the wild boar to come along and be bowled over.

Being hunted with a swivel chair is what makes the German wild boar wild. On occasion, also, the hunter wears, suspended from his belt, a cute little hanger like a sawed-off saber, with which to cut the throats of his spoil. Then, when it has spoiled some more, they will serve it at a French restaurant.

It was our fortune to be in France on the famous and ever-memorable occasion when the official stag of the French Republic met a tragic and untimely end, under circumstances acutely distressing to all who believe in the divinity bestowed prerogatives of the nobility. The Paris edition of the Herald printed the lamentable tale on its front page and I clipped the account. I offer it here in exact reproduction, including the headline:

HUNTING INCIDENT SAID TO BE DUE TO CONSPIRACY

Further details are given in this morning's Figaro of the incident between Prince Murat and M. Dauchis, the mayor of Saint-Felix, near Clermont, which was briefly reported in yesterday's Herald.

A regular conspiracy was organized by M. Dauchis, it is alleged, in order to secure the stag Prince Murat and Comte de Valon were hunting in the forest of La Neuville-en-Hetz. Already, at the outset of the hunt, M. Dauchis, according to Le Figaro, charged at a huntsman with a little automobile in which he was driving and threatened to fire. Then when the stag ran into the wood, near the Trye River, one of his keepers shot it. In great haste the animal was loaded on another automobile; and before either the prince or Comte de Valon could interfere it was driven away.

While Comte de Valon spurred his horse in pursuit Prince Murat disarmed the man who had shot the stag, for he was leveling his gun at another huntsman; but before the gun was wrenched from his hands he had struck Prince d'Essling, Prince Murat's uncle, across the face with the butt.

Meantime Comte de Valon had overtaken the automobile and, though threatened with revolvers by its occupants, would have recaptured the stag if the men in charge of it had not taken it into the house of M. Dauchis' father.

The only course left for Prince Murat and Comte de Valon was to lodge a complaint with the police for assault and for killing the stag, which M. Dauchis refused to give back.

From this you may see how very much more exciting stag hunting is in France than in America. Comparing the two systems we find but one point of resemblance--namely, the attempted shooting of a huntsman. In the North Woods we do a good deal of that sort of thing: however with us it is not yet customary to charge the prospective victim in a little automobile--that may come in time. Our best bags are made by the stalking or still-hunting method. Our city-raised sportsman slips up on his guide and pots him from a rest.

But consider the rest of the description so graphically set forth by Le Figaro--the intriguing of the mayor; the opposing groups rampaging round, some on horseback and some in automobile runabouts; the intense disappointment of the highborn Prince Murat and his uncle, the Prince d'Essling, and his friend, the Comte de Valon; the implied grief of the stag at being stricken down by other than noble hands; the action of the base-born commoner, who shot the stag, in striking the Prince d'Essling across his pained and aristocratic face with the butt--exact type of butt and name of owner not being given. Only in its failure to clear up this important point, and in omitting to give descriptions of the costumes worn by the two princes and the comte, is Le Figaro's story lacking. They must have been wearing the very latest creations too.

This last brings us back again to the subject of clothes and serves to remind me that, contrary to a belief prevalent on this side of the water, good clothes cost as much abroad as they cost here. In England a man may buy gloves and certain substantial articles of haberdashery in silk and linen and wool at a much lower figure than in America; and in Italy he will find crocheted handbags and bead necklaces are to be had cheaper than at home--provided, of course, he cares for such things as crocheted handbags and bead necklaces. Handmade laces and embroideries and sundry other feminine fripperies, so women tell me, are moderately priced on the Continent, if so be the tourist-purchaser steers clear of the more fashionable shops and chases the elusive bargain down a back street; but, quality considered, other things cost as much in Europe as they cost here--and frequently they cost more. If you buy at the shopkeeper's first price he has a secret contempt for you; if you haggle him down to a reasonably fair valuation--say about twice the amount a native would pay for the same thing--he has a half-concealed contempt for you; if you refuse to trade at any price he has an open contempt for you; and in any event he dislikes you because you are an American. So there you are. No matter how the transaction turns out you have his contempt; it is the only thing he parts with at cost.

It is true that you may buy a suit of clothes for ten dollars in London; so also may you buy a suit of clothes for ten dollars in any American city, but the reasonably affluent American doesn't buy ten-dollar suits at home. He saves himself up to indulge in that form of idiocy abroad. In Paris or Rome you may get a five-course dinner with wine for forty cents; so you may in certain quarters of New York; but in either place the man who can afford to pay more for his dinner will find it to his ultimate well-being to do so. Simply because a boarding house in France or Italy is known as a pension doesn't keep it from being a boarding house --and a pretty average bad one, as I have been informed by misguided Americans who tried living at a pension, and afterwards put in a good deal of their spare time regretting it.

Altogether, looking back on my own experiences, I can at this time of writing think of but two common commodities which, when grade is taken into the equation, are found to be radically cheaper in Europe than in America--these two things being taxicabs and counts. For their cleanliness and smartness of aspect, and their reasonableness of meter-fare, taxicabs all over Europe are a constant joy to the traveling American. And, though in the United States counts are so costly that only the marriageable daughters of the very wealthy may afford to buy them--and even then, as the count calendars attest, have the utmost difficulty in keeping them after they are bought--in Continental Europe anywhere one may for a moderate price hire a true-born count to do almost any small job, from guiding one through an art gallery to waiting on one at the table. Counts make indifferent guides, but are middling fair waiters.

Outside of the counts and the taxicabs, and the food in Germany, I found in all Europe just one real overpowering bargain--and that was in Naples, where, as a general thing, bargains are not what they seem. For the exceedingly moderate outlay of one lira--Italian --or twenty cents--American--I secured this combination, to wit, as follows:

In the background old Vesuvius, like a wicked, fallen angel, wearing his plumy, fumy halo of sulphurous hell-smoke; in the middle distance the Bay of Naples, each larcenous wave-crest in it triple-plated with silvern glory pilfered from a splendid moon; on the left the riding lights of a visiting squadron of American warships; on the right the myriad slanted sails of the coral-fishers' boats, beating out toward Capri, with the curlew-calls of the fishermen floating back in shrill snatches to meet a jangle of bell and bugle from the fleet; in the immediate foreground a competent and accomplished family troupe of six Neapolitan troubadours --men, women and children--some of them playing guitars and all six of them, with fine mellow voices and tremendous dramatic effect, singing--the words being Italian but the air good American--John Brown's Body Lies a-Moldering in the Grave!

I defy you to get more than that for twenty cents anywhere in the world!

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Europe Revised - Chapter 12. Night Life--With The Life Part Missing Europe Revised - Chapter 12. Night Life--With The Life Part Missing

Europe Revised - Chapter 12. Night Life--With The Life Part Missing
Chapter XII. Night Life--with the Life Part MissingIn our consideration of this topic we come first to the night life of the English. They have none.Passing along to the next subject under the same heading, which is the night life of Paris, we find here so much night life, of such a delightfully transparent and counterfeit character; so much made-to-measure deviltry; so many members of the Madcaps' Union engaged on piece-work; so much delicious, hoydenish derring-do, all carefully stage-managed and expertly timed for the benefit of North and South American spenders, to the end that the deliriousness shall abate automatically in
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Europe Revised - Chapter 10. Modes Of The Moment; A Fashion Article Europe Revised - Chapter 10. Modes Of The Moment; A Fashion Article

Europe Revised - Chapter 10. Modes Of The Moment; A Fashion Article
Chapter X. Modes of the Moment; a Fashion ArticleAmong the furbearing races the adult male of the French species easily excels. Some fine peltries are to be seen in Italy, and there is a type of farming Englishman who wears a stiff set of burnishers projecting out round his face in a circular effect suggestive of a halo that has slipped down. In connection with whiskers I have heard the Russians highly commended. They tell me that, from a distance, it is very hard to distinguish a muzhik from a bosky dell as a grand duke nearly always reminds one of
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT