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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 2
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    CHAPTER II Heidelberg [Landing a Monarch at Heidelberg]

    We stopped at a hotel by the railway-station. Next morning, as we sat in
    my room waiting for breakfast to come up, we got a good deal interested
    in something which was going on over the way, in front of another hotel.
    First, the personage who is called the PORTIER (who is not the PORTER,
    but is a sort of first-mate of a hotel) [1. See Appendix A] appeared
    at the door in a spick-and-span new blue cloth uniform, decorated with
    shining brass buttons, and with bands of gold lace around his cap and
    wristbands; and he wore white gloves, too. He shed an official glance
    upon the situation, and then began to give orders. Two women-servants
    came out with pails and brooms and brushes, and gave the sidewalk a
    thorough scrubbing; meanwhile two others scrubbed the four marble steps
    which led up to the door; beyond these we could see some men-servants
    taking up the carpet of the grand staircase. This carpet was carried
    away and the last grain of dust beaten and banged and swept out of it;
    then brought back and put down again. The brass stair-rods received an
    exhaustive polishing and were returned to their places. Now a troop of
    servants brought pots and tubs of blooming plants and formed them into
    a beautiful jungle about the door and the base of the staircase. Other
    servants adorned all the balconies of the various stories with flowers
    and banners; others ascended to the roof and hoisted a great flag on
    a staff there. Now came some more chamber-maids and retouched the
    sidewalk, and afterward wiped the marble steps with damp cloths and
    finished by dusting them off with feather brushes. Now a broad black
    carpet was brought out and laid down the marble steps and out across the
    sidewalk to the curbstone. The PORTIER cast his eye along it, and found
    it was not absolutely straight; he commanded it to be straightened; the
    servants made the effort--made several efforts, in fact--but the PORTIER
    was not satisfied. He finally had it taken up, and then he put it down
    himself and got it right.

    At this stage of the proceedings, a narrow bright red carpet was
    unrolled and stretched from the top of the marble steps to the
    curbstone, along the center of the black carpet. This red path cost the
    PORTIER more trouble than even the black one had done. But he patiently
    fixed and refixed it until it was exactly right and lay precisely in the
    middle of the black carpet. In New York these performances would have
    gathered a mighty crowd of curious and intensely interested spectators;
    but here it only captured an audience of half a dozen little boys who
    stood in a row across the pavement, some with their school-knapsacks on
    their backs and their hands in their pockets, others with arms full of
    bundles, and all absorbed in the show. Occasionally one of them skipped
    irreverently over the carpet and took up a position on the other side.
    This always visibly annoyed the PORTIER.

    Now came a waiting interval. The landlord, in plain clothes, and
    bareheaded, placed himself on the bottom marble step, abreast the
    PORTIER, who stood on the other end of the same steps; six or eight
    waiters, gloved, bareheaded, and wearing their whitest linen, their
    whitest cravats, and their finest swallow-tails, grouped themselves
    about these chiefs, but leaving the carpetway clear. Nobody moved or
    spoke any more but only waited.

    In a short time the shrill piping of a coming train was heard, and
    immediately groups of people began to gather in the street. Two or three
    open carriages arrived, and deposited some maids of honor and some male
    officials at the hotel. Presently another open carriage brought the
    Grand Duke of Baden, a stately man in uniform, who wore the handsome
    brass-mounted, steel-spiked helmet of the army on his head. Last came
    the Empress of Germany and the Grand Duchess of Baden in a closed
    carriage; these passed through the low-bowing groups of servants and
    disappeared in the hotel, exhibiting to us only the backs of their
    heads, and then the show was over.

    It appears to be as difficult to land a monarch as it is to launch a
    ship.

    But as to Heidelberg. The weather was growing pretty warm,--very warm,
    in fact. So we left the valley and took quarters at the Schloss Hotel,
    on the hill, above the Castle.

    Heidelberg lies at the mouth of a narrow gorge--a gorge the shape of
    a shepherd's crook; if one looks up it he perceives that it is about
    straight, for a mile and a half, then makes a sharp curve to the right
    and disappears. This gorge--along whose bottom pours the swift Neckar
    --is confined between (or cloven through) a couple of long, steep
    ridges, a thousand feet high and densely wooded clear to their summits,
    with the exception of one section which has been shaved and put under
    cultivation. These ridges are chopped off at the mouth of the gorge
    and form two bold and conspicuous headlands, with Heidelberg nestling
    between them; from their bases spreads away the vast dim expanse of the
    Rhine valley, and into this expanse the Neckar goes wandering in shining
    curves and is presently lost to view.

    Now if one turns and looks up the gorge once more, he will see the
    Schloss Hotel on the right perched on a precipice overlooking the
    Neckar--a precipice which is so sumptuously cushioned and draped with
    foliage that no glimpse of the rock appears. The building seems very
    airily situated. It has the appearance of being on a shelf half-way
    up the wooded mountainside; and as it is remote and isolated, and very
    white, it makes a strong mark against the lofty leafy rampart at its
    back.

    This hotel had a feature which was a decided novelty, and one which
    might be adopted with advantage by any house which is perched in a
    commanding situation. This feature may be described as a series of
    glass-enclosed parlors CLINGING TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE, one against
    each and every bed-chamber and drawing-room. They are like long, narrow,
    high-ceiled bird-cages hung against the building. My room was a corner
    room, and had two of these things, a north one and a west one.

    From the north cage one looks up the Neckar gorge; from the west one he
    looks down it. This last affords the most extensive view, and it is one
    of the loveliest that can be imagined, too. Out of a billowy upheaval
    of vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge ruin
    of Heidelberg Castle, [2. See Appendix B] with empty window arches,
    ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers--the Lear of inanimate
    nature--deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still,
    and beautiful. It is a fine sight to see the evening sunlight suddenly
    strike the leafy declivity at the Castle's base and dash up it and
    drench it as with a luminous spray, while the adjacent groves are in
    deep shadow.

    Behind the Castle swells a great dome-shaped hill, forest-clad, and
    beyond that a nobler and loftier one. The Castle looks down upon the
    compact brown-roofed town; and from the town two picturesque old bridges
    span the river. Now the view broadens; through the gateway of the
    sentinel headlands you gaze out over the wide Rhine plain, which
    stretches away, softly and richly tinted, grows gradually and dreamily
    indistinct, and finally melts imperceptibly into the remote horizon.

    I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm
    about it as this one gives.

    The first night we were there, we went to bed and to sleep early; but
    I awoke at the end of two or three hours, and lay a comfortable while
    listening to the soothing patter of the rain against the balcony
    windows. I took it to be rain, but it turned out to be only the murmur
    of the restless Neckar, tumbling over her dikes and dams far below, in
    the gorge. I got up and went into the west balcony and saw a wonderful
    sight. Away down on the level under the black mass of the Castle, the
    town lay, stretched along the river, its intricate cobweb of streets
    jeweled with twinkling lights; there were rows of lights on the bridges;
    these flung lances of light upon the water, in the black shadows of the
    arches; and away at the extremity of all this fairy spectacle blinked
    and glowed a massed multitude of gas-jets which seemed to cover acres of
    ground; it was as if all the diamonds in the world had been spread
    out there. I did not know before, that a half-mile of sextuple
    railway-tracks could be made such an adornment.

    One thinks Heidelberg by day--with its surroundings--is the last
    possibility of the beautiful; but when he sees Heidelberg by night, a
    fallen Milky Way, with that glittering railway constellation pinned to
    the border, he requires time to consider upon the verdict.

    One never tires of poking about in the dense woods that clothe all
    these lofty Neckar hills to their beguiling and impressive charm in any
    country; but German legends and fairy tales have given these an added
    charm. They have peopled all that region with gnomes, and dwarfs, and
    all sorts of mysterious and uncanny creatures. At the time I am writing
    of, I had been reading so much of this literature that sometimes I was
    not sure but I was beginning to believe in the gnomes and fairies as
    realities.

    One afternoon I got lost in the woods about a mile from the hotel, and
    presently fell into a train of dreamy thought about animals which talk,
    and kobolds, and enchanted folk, and the rest of the pleasant legendary
    stuff; and so, by stimulating my fancy, I finally got to imagining I
    glimpsed small flitting shapes here and there down the columned
    aisles of the forest. It was a place which was peculiarly meet for the
    occasion. It was a pine wood, with so thick and soft a carpet of brown
    needles that one's footfall made no more sound than if he were treading
    on wool; the tree-trunks were as round and straight and smooth as
    pillars, and stood close together; they were bare of branches to a point
    about twenty-five feet above-ground, and from there upward so thick with
    boughs that not a ray of sunlight could pierce through. The world was
    bright with sunshine outside, but a deep and mellow twilight reigned in
    there, and also a deep silence so profound that I seemed to hear my own
    breathings.

    When I had stood ten minutes, thinking and imagining, and getting
    my spirit in tune with the place, and in the right mood to enjoy the
    supernatural, a raven suddenly uttered a horse croak over my head. It
    made me start; and then I was angry because I started. I looked up, and
    the creature was sitting on a limb right over me, looking down at me.
    I felt something of the same sense of humiliation and injury which
    one feels when he finds that a human stranger has been clandestinely
    inspecting him in his privacy and mentally commenting upon him. I eyed
    the raven, and the raven eyed me. Nothing was said during some seconds.
    Then the bird stepped a little way along his limb to get a better point
    of observation, lifted his wings, stuck his head far down below his
    shoulders toward me and croaked again--a croak with a distinctly
    insulting expression about it. If he had spoken in English he could not
    have said any more plainly that he did say in raven, "Well, what do YOU
    want here?" I felt as foolish as if I had been caught in some mean act
    by a responsible being, and reproved for it. However, I made no reply;
    I would not bandy words with a raven. The adversary waited a while, with
    his shoulders still lifted, his head thrust down between them, and
    his keen bright eye fixed on me; then he threw out two or three more
    insults, which I could not understand, further than that I knew a
    portion of them consisted of language not used in church.

    I still made no reply. Now the adversary raised his head and
    called. There was an answering croak from a little distance in the
    wood--evidently a croak of inquiry. The adversary explained with
    enthusiasm, and the other raven dropped everything and came. The two sat
    side by side on the limb and discussed me as freely and offensively as
    two great naturalists might discuss a new kind of bug. The thing became
    more and more embarrassing. They called in another friend. This was too
    much. I saw that they had the advantage of me, and so I concluded to get
    out of the scrape by walking out of it. They enjoyed my defeat as much
    as any low white people could have done. They craned their necks and
    laughed at me (for a raven CAN laugh, just like a man), they squalled
    insulting remarks after me as long as they could see me. They were
    nothing but ravens--I knew that--what they thought of me could be a
    matter of no consequence--and yet when even a raven shouts after you,
    "What a hat!" "Oh, pull down your vest!" and that sort of thing, it
    hurts you and humiliates you, and there is no getting around it with
    fine reasoning and pretty arguments.

    Animals talk to each other, of course. There can be no question about
    that; but I suppose there are very few people who can understand them.
    I never knew but one man who could. I knew he could, however, because he
    told me so himself. He was a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner who had
    lived in a lonely corner of California, among the woods and mountains,
    a good many years, and had studied the ways of his only neighbors, the
    beasts and the birds, until he believed he could accurately translate
    any remark which they made. This was Jim Baker. According to Jim Baker,
    some animals have only a limited education, and some use only simple
    words, and scarcely ever a comparison or a flowery figure; whereas,
    certain other animals have a large vocabulary, a fine command of
    language and a ready and fluent delivery; consequently these latter talk
    a great deal; they like it; they are so conscious of their talent,
    and they enjoy "showing off." Baker said, that after long and careful
    observation, he had come to the conclusion that the bluejays were the
    best talkers he had found among birds and beasts. Said he:

    "There's more TO a bluejay than any other creature. He has got more
    moods, and more different kinds of feelings than other creatures; and,
    mind you, whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language. And
    no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling, out-and-out
    book-talk--and bristling with metaphor, too--just bristling! And as for
    command of language--why YOU never see a bluejay get stuck for a word.
    No man ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing: I've
    noticed a good deal, and there's no bird, or cow, or anything that uses
    as good grammar as a bluejay. You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well,
    a cat does--but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to
    pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar
    that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the NOISE
    which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's
    the sickening grammar they use. Now I've never heard a jay use bad
    grammar but very seldom; and when they do, they are as ashamed as a
    human; they shut right down and leave.

    "You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure--but he's got
    feathers on him, and don't belong to no church, perhaps; but otherwise
    he is just as much human as you be. And I'll tell you for why. A jay's
    gifts, and instincts, and feelings, and interests, cover the whole
    ground. A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay
    will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and
    four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise. The
    sacredness of an obligation is such a thing which you can't cram into
    no bluejay's head. Now, on top of all this, there's another thing; a
    jay can out-swear any gentleman in the mines. You think a cat can swear.
    Well, a cat can; but you give a bluejay a subject that calls for his
    reserve-powers, and where is your cat? Don't talk to ME--I know too much
    about this thing; in the one little particular of scolding--just good,
    clean, out-and-out scolding--a bluejay can lay over anything, human or
    divine. Yes, sir, a jay is everything that a man is. A jay can cry,
    a jay can laugh, a jay can feel shame, a jay can reason and plan and
    discuss, a jay likes gossip and scandal, a jay has got a sense of humor,
    a jay knows when he is an ass just as well as you do--maybe better. If
    a jay ain't human, he better take in his sign, that's all. Now I'm going
    to tell you a perfectly true fact about some bluejays."
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