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    Chapter 22

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    Chapter 22
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    CHAPTER XXII [The Black Forest and Its Treasures]

    From Baden-Baden we made the customary trip into the Black Forest. We
    were on foot most of the time. One cannot describe those noble woods,
    nor the feeling with which they inspire him. A feature of the feeling,
    however, is a deep sense of contentment; another feature of it is a
    buoyant, boyish gladness; and a third and very conspicuous feature of
    it is one's sense of the remoteness of the work-day world and his entire
    emancipation from it and its affairs.

    Those woods stretch unbroken over a vast region; and everywhere they are
    such dense woods, and so still, and so piney and fragrant. The stems of
    the trees are trim and straight, and in many places all the ground is
    hidden for miles under a thick cushion of moss of a vivid green color,
    with not a decayed or ragged spot in its surface, and not a fallen leaf
    or twig to mar its immaculate tidiness. A rich cathedral gloom pervades
    the pillared aisles; so the stray flecks of sunlight that strike a trunk
    here and a bough yonder are strongly accented, and when they strike the
    moss they fairly seem to burn. But the weirdest effect, and the most
    enchanting is that produced by the diffused light of the low afternoon
    sun; no single ray is able to pierce its way in, then, but the diffused
    light takes color from moss and foliage, and pervades the place like
    a faint, greet-tinted mist, the theatrical fire of fairyland. The
    suggestion of mystery and the supernatural which haunts the forest at
    all times is intensified by this unearthly glow.

    We found the Black Forest farmhouses and villages all that the Black
    Forest stories have pictured them. The first genuine specimen which
    we came upon was the mansion of a rich farmer and member of the Common
    Council of the parish or district. He was an important personage in the
    land and so was his wife also, of course. His daughter was the "catch"
    of the region, and she may be already entering into immortality as the
    heroine of one of Auerbach's novels, for all I know. We shall see, for
    if he puts her in I shall recognize her by her Black Forest clothes,
    and her burned complexion, her plump figure, her fat hands, her dull
    expression, her gentle spirit, her generous feet, her bonnetless head,
    and the plaited tails of hemp-colored hair hanging down her back.

    The house was big enough for a hotel; it was a hundred feet long and
    fifty wide, and ten feet high, from ground to eaves; but from the eaves
    to the comb of the mighty roof was as much as forty feet, or maybe even
    more. This roof was of ancient mud-colored straw thatch a foot thick,
    and was covered all over, except in a few trifling spots, with a
    thriving and luxurious growth of green vegetation, mainly moss. The
    mossless spots were places where repairs had been made by the insertion
    of bright new masses of yellow straw. The eaves projected far down, like
    sheltering, hospitable wings. Across the gable that fronted the road,
    and about ten feet above the ground, ran a narrow porch, with a wooden
    railing; a row of small windows filled with very small panes looked upon
    the porch. Above were two or three other little windows, one clear up
    under the sharp apex of the roof. Before the ground-floor door was a
    huge pile of manure. The door of the second-story room on the side of
    the house was open, and occupied by the rear elevation of a cow. Was
    this probably the drawing-room? All of the front half of the house from
    the ground up seemed to be occupied by the people, the cows, and the
    chickens, and all the rear half by draught-animals and hay. But the
    chief feature, all around this house, was the big heaps of manure.

    We became very familiar with the fertilizer in the Forest. We fell
    unconsciously into the habit of judging of a man's station in life
    by this outward and eloquent sign. Sometimes we said, "Here is a poor
    devil, this is manifest." When we saw a stately accumulation, we said,
    "Here is a banker." When we encountered a country-seat surrounded by an
    Alpine pomp of manure, we said, "Doubtless a duke lives here."

    The importance of this feature has not been properly magnified in the
    Black Forest stories. Manure is evidently the Black-Forester's main
    treasure--his coin, his jewel, his pride, his Old Master, his ceramics,
    his bric-a-brac, his darling, his title to public consideration, envy,
    veneration, and his first solicitude when he gets ready to make his
    will. The true Black Forest novel, if it is ever written, will be
    skeletoned somewhat in this way:


    Rich old farmer, named Huss. Has inherited great wealth of manure, and
    by diligence has added to it. It is double-starred in Baedeker. [1] The
    Black forest artist paints it--his masterpiece. The king comes to see
    it. Gretchen Huss, daughter and heiress. Paul Hoch, young neighbor,
    suitor for Gretchen's hand--ostensibly; he really wants the manure. Hoch
    has a good many cart-loads of the Black Forest currency himself,
    and therefore is a good catch; but he is sordid, mean, and without
    sentiment, whereas Gretchen is all sentiment and poetry. Hans Schmidt,
    young neighbor, full of sentiment, full of poetry, loves Gretchen,
    Gretchen loves him. But he has no manure. Old Huss forbids him in the
    house. His heart breaks, he goes away to die in the woods, far from the
    cruel world--for he says, bitterly, "What is man, without manure?"

    1. When Baedeker's guide-books mention a thing and put
    two stars (**) after it, it means well worth visiting.

    [Interval of six months.]

    Paul Hoch comes to old Huss and says, "I am at last as rich as you
    required--come and view the pile." Old Huss views it and says, "It is
    sufficient--take her and be happy,"--meaning Gretchen.

    [Interval of two weeks.]

    Wedding party assembled in old Huss's drawing-room. Hoch placid and
    content, Gretchen weeping over her hard fate. Enter old Huss's head
    bookkeeper. Huss says fiercely, "I gave you three weeks to find out why
    your books don't balance, and to prove that you are not a defaulter;
    the time is up--find me the missing property or you go to prison as
    a thief." Bookkeeper: "I have found it." "Where?" Bookkeeper
    (sternly--tragically): "In the bridegroom's pile!--behold the thief--see
    him blench and tremble!" [Sensation.] Paul Hoch: "Lost, lost!"--falls
    over the cow in a swoon and is handcuffed. Gretchen: "Saved!" Falls over
    the calf in a swoon of joy, but is caught in the arms of Hans Schmidt,
    who springs in at that moment. Old Huss: "What, you here, varlet? Unhand
    the maid and quit the place." Hans (still supporting the insensible
    girl): "Never! Cruel old man, know that I come with claims which even
    you cannot despise."

    Huss: "What, YOU? name them."

    Hans: "Listen then. The world has forsaken me, I forsook the world, I
    wandered in the solitude of the forest, longing for death but finding
    none. I fed upon roots, and in my bitterness I dug for the bitterest,
    loathing the sweeter kind. Digging, three days agone, I struck a manure
    mine!--a Golconda, a limitless Bonanza, of solid manure! I can buy you
    ALL, and have mountain ranges of manure left! Ha-ha, NOW thou smilest a
    smile!" [Immense sensation.] Exhibition of specimens from the mine. Old
    Huss (enthusiastically): "Wake her up, shake her up, noble young man,
    she is yours!" Wedding takes place on the spot; bookkeeper restored to
    his office and emoluments; Paul Hoch led off to jail. The Bonanza king
    of the Black Forest lives to a good old age, blessed with the love of
    his wife and of his twenty-seven children, and the still sweeter envy of
    everybody around.

    We took our noon meal of fried trout one day at the Plow Inn, in a very
    pretty village (Ottenhoefen), and then went into the public room to rest
    and smoke. There we found nine or ten Black Forest grandees assembled
    around a table. They were the Common Council of the parish. They had
    gathered there at eight o'clock that morning to elect a new member, and
    they had now been drinking beer four hours at the new member's expense.
    They were men of fifty or sixty years of age, with grave good-natured
    faces, and were all dressed in the costume made familiar to us by the
    Black Forest stories; broad, round-topped black felt hats with the brims
    curled up all round; long red waistcoats with large metal buttons, black
    alpaca coats with the waists up between the shoulders. There were no
    speeches, there was but little talk, there were no frivolities; the
    Council filled themselves gradually, steadily, but surely, with beer,
    and conducted themselves with sedate decorum, as became men of position,
    men of influence, men of manure.

    We had a hot afternoon tramp up the valley, along the grassy bank of a
    rushing stream of clear water, past farmhouses, water-mills, and no end
    of wayside crucifixes and saints and Virgins. These crucifixes, etc.,
    are set up in memory of departed friends, by survivors, and are almost
    as frequent as telegraph-poles are in other lands.

    We followed the carriage-road, and had our usual luck; we traveled under
    a beating sun, and always saw the shade leave the shady places before we
    could get to them. In all our wanderings we seldom managed to strike
    a piece of road at its time for being shady. We had a particularly hot
    time of it on that particular afternoon, and with no comfort but what we
    could get out of the fact that the peasants at work away up on the steep
    mountainsides above our heads were even worse off than we were. By and
    by it became impossible to endure the intolerable glare and heat
    any longer; so we struck across the ravine and entered the deep cool
    twilight of the forest, to hunt for what the guide-book called the "old

    We found an old road, and it proved eventually to be the right one,
    though we followed it at the time with the conviction that it was the
    wrong one. If it was the wrong one there could be no use in hurrying;
    therefore we did not hurry, but sat down frequently on the soft moss and
    enjoyed the restful quiet and shade of the forest solitudes. There had
    been distractions in the carriage-road--school-children, peasants,
    wagons, troops of pedestrianizing students from all over Germany--but
    we had the old road to ourselves.

    Now and then, while we rested, we watched the laborious ant at his work.
    I found nothing new in him--certainly nothing to change my opinion of
    him. It seems to me that in the matter of intellect the ant must be a
    strangely overrated bird. During many summers, now, I have watched him,
    when I ought to have been in better business, and I have not yet come
    across a living ant that seemed to have any more sense than a dead one.
    I refer to the ordinary ant, of course; I have had no experience of
    those wonderful Swiss and African ones which vote, keep drilled armies,
    hold slaves, and dispute about religion. Those particular ants may be
    all that the naturalist paints them, but I am persuaded that the
    average ant is a sham. I admit his industry, of course; he is the
    hardest-working creature in the world--when anybody is looking--but
    his leather-headedness is the point I make against him. He goes out
    foraging, he makes a capture, and then what does he do? Go home? No--he
    goes anywhere but home. He doesn't know where home is. His home may be
    only three feet away--no matter, he can't find it. He makes his capture,
    as I have said; it is generally something which can be of no sort of
    use to himself or anybody else; it is usually seven times bigger than
    it ought to be; he hunts out the awkwardest place to take hold of it;
    he lifts it bodily up in the air by main force, and starts; not toward
    home, but in the opposite direction; not calmly and wisely, but with a
    frantic haste which is wasteful of his strength; he fetches up against
    a pebble, and instead of going around it, he climbs over it backward
    dragging his booty after him, tumbles down on the other side, jumps up
    in a passion, kicks the dust off his clothes, moistens his hands, grabs
    his property viciously, yanks it this way, then that, shoves it ahead
    of him a moment, turns tail and lugs it after him another moment,
    gets madder and madder, then presently hoists it into the air and goes
    tearing away in an entirely new direction; comes to a weed; it never
    occurs to him to go around it; no, he must climb it; and he does climb
    it, dragging his worthless property to the top--which is as bright
    a thing to do as it would be for me to carry a sack of flour from
    Heidelberg to Paris by way of Strasburg steeple; when he gets up there
    he finds that that is not the place; takes a cursory glance at the
    scenery and either climbs down again or tumbles down, and starts off
    once more--as usual, in a new direction. At the end of half an hour, he
    fetches up within six inches of the place he started from and lays his
    burden down; meantime he has been over all the ground for two yards
    around, and climbed all the weeds and pebbles he came across. Now he
    wipes the sweat from his brow, strokes his limbs, and then marches
    aimlessly off, in as violently a hurry as ever. He does not remember to
    have ever seen it before; he looks around to see which is not the way
    home, grabs his bundle and starts; he goes through the same adventures
    he had before; finally stops to rest, and a friend comes along.
    Evidently the friend remarks that a last year's grasshopper leg is a
    very noble acquisition, and inquires where he got it. Evidently the
    proprietor does not remember exactly where he did get it, but thinks he
    got it "around here somewhere." Evidently the friend contracts to help
    him freight it home. Then, with a judgment peculiarly antic (pun not
    intended), then take hold of opposite ends of that grasshopper leg and
    begin to tug with all their might in opposite directions. Presently they
    take a rest and confer together. They decide that something is wrong,
    they can't make out what. Then they go at it again, just as before. Same
    result. Mutual recriminations follow. Evidently each accuses the other
    of being an obstructionist. They lock themselves together and chew each
    other's jaws for a while; then they roll and tumble on the ground till
    one loses a horn or a leg and has to haul off for repairs. They make up
    and go to work again in the same old insane way, but the crippled ant is
    at a disadvantage; tug as he may, the other one drags off the booty and
    him at the end of it. Instead of giving up, he hangs on, and gets his
    shins bruised against every obstruction that comes in the way. By and
    by, when that grasshopper leg has been dragged all over the same old
    ground once more, it is finally dumped at about the spot where it
    originally lay, the two perspiring ants inspect it thoughtfully and
    decide that dried grasshopper legs are a poor sort of property after
    all, and then each starts off in a different direction to see if he
    can't find an old nail or something else that is heavy enough to afford
    entertainment and at the same time valueless enough to make an ant want
    to own it.

    There in the Black Forest, on the mountainside, I saw an ant go through
    with such a performance as this with a dead spider of fully ten times
    his own weight. The spider was not quite dead, but too far gone
    to resist. He had a round body the size of a pea. The little ant
    --observing that I was noticing--turned him on his back, sunk his fangs
    into his throat, lifted him into the air and started vigorously off with
    him, stumbling over little pebbles, stepping on the spider's legs and
    tripping himself up, dragging him backward, shoving him bodily ahead,
    dragging him up stones six inches high instead of going around them,
    climbing weeds twenty times his own height and jumping from their
    summits--and finally leaving him in the middle of the road to be
    confiscated by any other fool of an ant that wanted him. I measured the
    ground which this ass traversed, and arrived at the conclusion that what
    he had accomplished inside of twenty minutes would constitute some
    such job as this--relatively speaking--for a man; to wit: to strap two
    eight-hundred-pound horses together, carry them eighteen hundred feet,
    mainly over (not around) boulders averaging six feet high, and in the
    course of the journey climb up and jump from the top of one precipice
    like Niagara, and three steeples, each a hundred and twenty feet high;
    and then put the horses down, in an exposed place, without anybody to
    watch them, and go off to indulge in some other idiotic miracle for
    vanity's sake.

    Science has recently discovered that the ant does not lay up anything
    for winter use. This will knock him out of literature, to some extent.
    He does not work, except when people are looking, and only then when the
    observer has a green, naturalistic look, and seems to be taking notes.
    This amounts to deception, and will injure him for the Sunday-schools.
    He has not judgment enough to know what is good to eat from what isn't.
    This amounts to ignorance, and will impair the world's respect for
    him. He cannot stroll around a stump and find his way home again. This
    amounts to idiocy, and once the damaging fact is established, thoughtful
    people will cease to look up to him, the sentimental will cease to
    fondle him. His vaunted industry is but a vanity and of no effect, since
    he never gets home with anything he starts with. This disposes of the
    last remnant of his reputation and wholly destroys his main usefulness
    as a moral agent, since it will make the sluggard hesitate to go to him
    any more. It is strange, beyond comprehension, that so manifest a humbug
    as the ant has been able to fool so many nations and keep it up so many
    ages without being found out.

    The ant is strong, but we saw another strong thing, where we had not
    suspected the presence of much muscular power before. A toadstool--that
    vegetable which springs to full growth in a single night--had torn loose
    and lifted a matted mass of pine needles and dirt of twice its own bulk
    into the air, and supported it there, like a column supporting a shed.
    Ten thousand toadstools, with the right purchase, could lift a man, I
    suppose. But what good would it do?

    All our afternoon's progress had been uphill. About five or half past we
    reached the summit, and all of a sudden the dense curtain of the forest
    parted and we looked down into a deep and beautiful gorge and out over a
    wide panorama of wooded mountains with their summits shining in the sun
    and their glade-furrowed sides dimmed with purple shade. The gorge under
    our feet--called Allerheiligen--afforded room in the grassy level at its
    head for a cozy and delightful human nest, shut away from the world and
    its botherations, and consequently the monks of the old times had not
    failed to spy it out; and here were the brown and comely ruins of their
    church and convent to prove that priests had as fine an instinct seven
    hundred years ago in ferreting out the choicest nooks and corners in a
    land as priests have today.

    A big hotel crowds the ruins a little, now, and drives a brisk trade
    with summer tourists. We descended into the gorge and had a supper which
    would have been very satisfactory if the trout had not been boiled.
    The Germans are pretty sure to boil a trout or anything else if left to
    their own devices. This is an argument of some value in support of the
    theory that they were the original colonists of the wild islands of the
    coast of Scotland. A schooner laden with oranges was wrecked upon one
    of those islands a few years ago, and the gentle savages rendered the
    captain such willing assistance that he gave them as many oranges as
    they wanted. Next day he asked them how they liked them. They shook
    their heads and said:

    "Baked, they were tough; and even boiled, they warn't things for a
    hungry man to hanker after."

    We went down the glen after supper. It is beautiful--a mixture of sylvan
    loveliness and craggy wildness. A limpid torrent goes whistling down
    the glen, and toward the foot of it winds through a narrow cleft between
    lofty precipices and hurls itself over a succession of falls. After one
    passes the last of these he has a backward glimpse at the falls which
    is very pleasing--they rise in a seven-stepped stairway of foamy and
    glittering cascades, and make a picture which is as charming as it is
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    Chapter 22
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