« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Hamburg,—rich, busy, yet gay and cheerful Hamburg,—lies beneath me; literally so, for, from my attic in the mighty Hotel de l'Europe, answering "well to its extensive name, I can look down on the scene below. To me it is not at all disagreeable to find even such a vast house as this so full that I myself become a small microscopic object which waiters, commissionaires, and such things, cannot be supposed to see in the distance. I am not at all displeased to be put, lite some "Mr. John Smith," in England, into No. 576, which is the precise date on the door of my room, and to be left there to marvel how it is that people who like to make some noise in the world, are gratified by causing a commotion even in an Hotel de V Europe.
The air is now intensely hot, one of the alternations to which this cold, wet summer suddenly subjects us. No one is abroad, except for business; heated clerks, weary porters, and women walking or working much more actively than men; the pretty, picturesque, but coquettish-looking flowergirls are always out, with petticoats reaching to the knees, and curious round hats, with inverted crowns, made of straw plaited in the manner of what we call bee-hive chairs; and hardy peasant women from the neighbourhood are about also, with flat, wide waists, coloured and very thick petticoats, and bodices rivalling in variety the coat which the patriarch made for his pet son. In one bodice, I counted eighteen very different pieces of eighteen very different patterns or colours, and that without reckoning the great white sleeves. But what a refreshment it is to see any style of national costume preserved, instead of the paltry mimicry of fashion so prevalent among the English people, and rapidly progressing everywhere.
I cannot go out while the sun is so hot. While waiting for its withdrawal, as I would do for that of an importunate visitor, I will tell you a little story about my journey on the railway from Cologne to Hamburg.
First, then, I had to encounter the preliminary horrors of weighing luggage and taking tickets, which in Germany is, I think, above all other places most deeply experienced by a traveller not possessed of much physical strength and resolution. My own opinion (of course, a private one) is, that the German people are the most unpolite fellowtravellers one can meet with, although the olderfashioned ones among them do take off their hats if you are surprised into a sneeze in their company. I travelled once in the Eil wagon, with a bad cold in the head, and really I began to fear I ought, as a matter of conscientiousness, to buy the good gentleman opposite to me a new hat at the end of our journey, so continually did I cause his hand to pluck hastily at its rim. But I think railways have not anywhere mended manners. Certainly, the selfish rudeness, and consequent confusion of Prussian, and even Belgian railway-stations, at the awful process of weighing baggage, surpasses anything to be seen in England, although its good folks have not the highest reputation for courtesy, or taking off hats. You know, the native papers announce the birth of a little German in the terms, "a powerful boy;" you may think, then, how little chance I might have in contending at a railway-station window with a host of grown-up powerful boys, with arms stretched over my head, or fiercely pushing at each of my sides, while their teeth often held the pipe that would, I conclude, have naturally adhered to their mouths from the mere force of habit. I held a sovereign aloft, with Queen Victoria's gracious image stamped thereon; but resistless as such a sight should have been, it would surprise you to see how these powerful boys, who were in desperate haste when no cause for haste existed, thrust it aside to present their own vulgar coin instead.
"You must give me your money," said a voice behind me. These words are often acted in this world; seldom spoken with reasonable hope of a willing consent. I turned, and saw an old gentleman holding out his hand behind me. "You must give me your sovereign," he repeated, and I obeyed. There was something in the tone made me yield up at once my shining representative of Queen Victoria. Some few words, I know not what they were, placed the old man in the van of all the besiegers of the window. He was a short and rather small man for a German, but the most powerful somehow gave way. He got my billet for the place I wanted to go to, but, to my dismay at first, I found he had taken it in the third-class carriage.
"That is no matter," he said, "you must go in it; it is the best class also; not like your third-class, or second-class in England, where people are treated like cattle, and left, too, waiting at the road-side to see those who have more time as well as money, fly by them at the rate of a mile a minute; they must pay in time more than they can afford to pay in money. You must try our third-class now; our time is not stolen when our money is spared."
"It is certainly far better than our second-class," I answered, as we entered the clean, spacious, and pleasant compartment, calledthird-class. "But"—
"There is another privilege allowed to your third-class,—they smoke here."
"And you do not wish that? naturally; you come from England. Well, no one must smoke here."
"He is some railway director," said I to myself, and sat down in content.
Presently came a man with a longpipe to the door.