Getting Married in Germany
MARY and I had been engaged nearly a year and a half, so that our story begins where most others end. We had both been in Europe several years : I had been working for my degree at Berlin and Heidelberg, and she had been living quietly with her mother at Munich, Florence, and finally at Dresden, studying the languages, and painting a little in water-colors. Mary thought it would be nice to be married in Paris, but there were rumors of so many formalities and possible delays that we had given it up and agreed that Germany should be the favored land ; and, as each of us chanced to have either friends or relatives in Berlin, it was decided that that should be the place, and that June should be the happy month. “ Let it be the 1st,” I had pleaded, and she had consented. We planned to go quietly in the morning to some little church, or to some clergyman’s study, and afterwards, perhaps, to ask our friends to a lunch or breakfast in a private parlor in some hotel, — such as I had once been invited to by a friendly Docent in the university, who married on an income of five hundred dollars a year.
One lovely morning early in May, two weeks before my final examination, I received a letter from Mary saying she had heard that I could not possibly be married without a passport. Her friend, Miss Allen, had a cousin whose chum, an American, had been married in Germany, two years before, to a German lady, and it had first to be done at a common police office, she wrote, and there a passport was required. Now Mary knew that I had criminally evaded the German law, and this was the way it came about: Before I had been settled two days in Berlin my kind-hearted landlady took occasion to explain to me that I must be announced at the police office, and that there a passport would be demanded within ten days. A passport would cost twenty-eight marks, she informed me, at the office of the American legation; and if I cared to save money, and would give her ten marks, she would risk the penalty (as she had done before for my countrymen, for whom she had a great liking), and not announce me at all, and I could remain unmolested and unrecorded as long as I wished. I had paltered with the temptation, and finally, with the aid of an extemporized theory about the relations of natural and legal justice, villainously capitulated, and saved eighteen marks.
Here seemed, at first sight, a dilemma which was not to be evaded without a plump lie. If I obtained and presented a passport now, I should be asked how long I had been in the city, and if it were more than two weeks I might possibly be ordered to leave it for violating the city ordinances, as an unfortunate acquaintance of mine had been six months before. My landlady would certainly be heavily fined for not announcing me, and possibly, if her other delinquencies in that line should come to light, she might be also deprived of her pension license. If, on the other hand, I declared that I had just arrived, my answers to the long cross-questioning to which I was liable to be subjected at the bureau might excite surprise, and a single inquiry at the post-office or of the letter-carrier would be sure to involve us both in far deeper complication. I promptly remembered the Trinkgeld I had so long forgotten to give the postman, and sought counsel of my landlady. She at first seemed quite dismayed at the situation, but at length reminded me that a few days before I had made a trip to Potsdam.
“ Give me your passport,” she said, “ and remember, you arrived in Berlin last Tuesday evening.” Precisely what she did with it, or told the police, my conscience never let me inquire ; but a few days later I was summoned to the police office, where, in answer to many interrogations, I explained that I had been in the city something more than a week; did not know precisely how long I might stay, but would give information when I decided; that I was there to study, and what; that when I did leave I might go home, and might travel, and where ; and at last left with a light heart, feeling that my answers had been so transparent that if there had been any suspicion that I meditated another attempt upon the venerable Kaiser’s life it had been effectually allayed. The next morning I was waked at daybreak by a call from a magnificent police officer, who politely explained that the bureau had some trouble in deciphering the middle name of my honored Frau mother. Foreign names were sometimes very hard, he added. I wrote it out (in my robe de nuit, upon the back of my visiting-card, in the steadiest hand I could command, — “ Cymantha ”), and banded it to him in the corridor through the peep-hole in the door. He apologized again, saluted, retired, and came no more. A week later my passport was returned with a number of official stamps upon it. I carried it thenceforth always with me, as we never fail to carry our legitimation cards after matriculation ; feeling that in the big green seal of the legation and the fair round hand of our ambassador I possessed not only a sort of warrant of citizenship in two countries, but a key to the adytum of Hymen’s temple.
My examination was now to occur in a week. I had paid my preliminary fee, almost finished my thesis, and was cramming at my very best pace with a team of three other Repetents. Still I had found time to order my wedding suit and get the bridal ring, with June 1st and my initials engraved on it, and one morning I ran into the house of our American clergyman, long resident in Berlin, to ask him to perform the ceremony. What was my consternation to be told that the laws of Germany would not allow him to marry us!
“ But,” I pleaded, “ we are Americans. It might be done quietly, and the authorities here need not know it. I am sure it is none of their business.”
“ There is a new international arrangement,— I don’t know precisely what; but I am positive it would not be safe for either of us to attempt it,” he said.
I retired, meditating that the reverend gentleman had no fine feeling for the delicacy of a situation like ours, to say the least.
After losing several hours, now very precious for study, in puzzling over the matter, I resolved to call upon our ambassador himself. Ill though he was, he received me very kindly.
“ Are American citizens ever married in this office ? ” I inquired.
“ It has been done once only, I think, under one of my predecessors ; but there were some very exceptional reasons.”
“ Well and good ; that is my case. Can you marry me here next Wednesday ? ”
“ The lady is not ill, I hope ? ”
“ Not in the least.”
“ Then your best way is to go to England. If you choose the simplest form, and are married by an independent clergyman, it is only necessary that one of the parties should reside there two weeks before the ceremony can be performed.”
“ But that is really impossible in this case,” I replied. “ My — Miss — that is, the lady is rather High Church, and I have an examination just ahead. Besides, we have made all the arrangements for here and the 1st of June.”
“ I think I may say you will find that out of the question.”
“ Then you refuse, — you really cannot do it ? ” I asked, with a strange, unsteady feeling about the corners of my mouth. “ Is not this office construed by international law as American soil ? ” I added, bringing out the grand strategic point of all my morning’s meditation.
“ So far from it under the new arrangement, if it were done here and knowledge of the fact should come to the ears of the authorities, not only should I be myself seriously compromised for ignorant or willful violation of the laws I am here to see observed, but the officiating clergyman would be arrested at the door, and the marriage would be declared void even in an American court, and even though the case be first tested years hence. A marriage must now be valid according to the laws of the place where it is celebrated, or it is null and void,” he explained.
I made an ill-disguised attempt to smother something in my throat, and I am ashamed to say I retired awkwardly, abruptly, ungratefully. What a fool I had been not to learn this before; and Mary would of course think so, too, however much I might plead intense preoccupation with my studies ! It could never be concealed, and it would be a joke which my acquaintances would never forget. Besides, her dresses were probably all ordered or ready, and everything would be out of fashion, perhaps, long before the German authorities — whom I knew to be very fussy about such matters — would let us get married. Mary’s father had left his driving business for six weeks to see the ceremony, and was now upon the sea, and I knew must go back with his wife in July. My old chum, Will Murrey, who had been spending the winter in Italy, was to be in Berlin in time to act “ best man ” for me so far as was needful, and I knew Mary had asked Miss Punto to sustain her in whatever sense might be needful during the ceremony. Besides, early June was the best time, so everybody said, to start on a trip through the provinces along the Danube, where I had planned to make our wedding tour.
It was in no very happy frame of mind that I sat down that night to write the result of my day’s investigation to Mary. What I wrote I no longer remember, nor will she aid me to do so. It must have been, to say the least, queer, for when I pressed her afterwards to let me see that letter she seemed very serious, and confessed at last that she had made a note on the margin of it which she did not wish me to see, but kindly searched the letter out and burned it before my eyes.
I waited nearly two days for an answer, during which I was of course in no mood for work. After all, she wrote, it was perhaps just as well. She would prefer to wait rather than to go to England, unless her father should very strongly urge it. It would be nice and funny, as well as probably very impressive, to take the Lutheran forms, she thought, and ended by exhorting me not to let trifles like that interfere with needful preparation for my degree, because when she did marry me she had her heart set on being a Frau Doctor.
This time I was bound to make sure work, and so, with the best information I could procure, started off for the civil bureau (Standes Amt) to ascertain precisely what was required.
“ Upon what business do you come ? ” demanded the pompous servant at the door.
“ I am an American citizen, and want to know how to get married in Germany,” I faltered.
He opened the door of the main office, and shouted, “ Ein Herr Amerikanner wishes to marry himself ! ” and then showed me into a large and wellfilled waiting - room to take my turn, every occupant of which gazed fixedly at me without winking for some minutes. One thin, dark, wiry man in soiled linen, and bright yellow kid gloves, had dropped in to announce the death of his third wife. A trembling young mother was sharply reprimanded for letting the legal third day pass before announcing the death of her child. A somewhat seedy clerk had come, with a radiant face, to announce the birth of a boy fourteen hours old, and to be called Johannes Conrade Hermann Degenermeister. A servant-girl and her lover were waiting in one corner, — she red and giggling, he erect, dignified, and taciturn as a head-waiter, — to be made man and wife. I had plenty of time to observe, for nearly an hour passed before my turn came. At length I was shown into a long room, with half a dozen clerks at one end, who twisted their necks, adjusted their glasses, and gazed and listened with open-mouthed wonder.
“ I wish to get married in the very simplest and quickest way,” I said, presenting my passport. “ Will you please tell me how to do it ? ”
“ It is extremely simple,” said the officer. “ We must have a certificate of your birth [ Geburtsschein] signed by the burgomaster of the town in which you were born, and with its seal, and witnessed in due form. Your certificate of baptism [ Taufschein] should also be sent, to guard against all error, sealed and witnessed by the present pastor or the proper church officers. These must be presented here by each of the contracting parties, with their passports, as the first step.”
I carefully noted this, and he proceeded : —
“ The parents, if living, should certify to their knowledge and approval of the marriage. We must also be satisfied that there is no obstacle, legal, moral, or otherwise, to it; whether either of you have been married before, and if so whether there are children, and if so their names and ages. The parents’ names should be in full ; also their residence, occupation, age, and place of birth should of course be given for record here.”
I begged for another scrap of paper and made further notes.
“ When we have these here in this desk,” he continued, patting fondly that piece of furniture, “ then either we can publish the bans [Aufgebot] by posting a notice of your intention in the Rathhaus for fourteen days, or else you can have it printed in the journal of the place where you reside in America, and bring us a copy here as evidence that it has actually appeared. After the expiration of this time you can be married in this office.”
“ Must it be here ? ” I queried.
“ Of course,” he said. “ This is the only place which the law now recognizes. Poor people are content with civil marriage only, but all who move in good society go from here to the church for a religious ceremony.”
“ Is it not possible to shorten the time ?” I timidly ventured to inquire. “ We had made all the arrangements for an earlier day, and are seriously incommoded by the delay. I did not know the requirements. It takes four weeks to hear from America, and then two weeks more here, and — You do not, perhaps, exactly understand, and yet I hardly knew how to explain. But there is really haste. We are pressed for time.”
“ Haste ? Pressed for time ? ” he repeated. “ Perhaps I do not understand. I am sorry, but it cannot possibly be sooner. You think we are slow in Germany. True, but we are sure. We require our people to take time to think over the matter beforehand, and divorce with us is far from being the easy matter I have heard it is in America.”
I was in no mood for opening a discussion of the statutes of Indiana, and so demurely withdrew, feeling that it was no use to try to wriggle into matrimony through such mazy meshes of red tape, and that Mary would of course now consent to England. This was naturally implied throughout the letter I dispatched that evening. But I was mistaken. She “ could not think of England for a moment now. It would be so interesting in Berlin,” she wrote. We could be very comfortable for six weeks. The middle of July was not very late, after all, in that latitude. I must write at once the details of the requirements, and she would send for her papers. I complied, and sat down to write for mine.
Now I happened to be born in a little, remote Western hamlet, where I did not at present know a soul, nor in all probability did my parents. How to get the certificate of my birth, or, in other words, how to prove at the civil bureau that I had been really and legally born, was no trivial matter. I finally addressed a detailed and courteous letter to the mayor of Hornersville, begging him to have the fact and date of my birth from the town sent me, witnessed and over the town seal; and in order to inclose two dollars in United States postage-stamps, I ran at random into the nearest bank. I was counting out my German money, and the first clerk had gone to the back office for the stamps, when the brisk junior principal stepped up and asked me if my head was in any way diseased. I thanked him heartily, but not without some surprise, and assured him that it had never been better. " Because,” he continued, “ it is customary in our country to remove the hat in all offices of this importance.” I doffed it instantly, and begged pardon, I am sorry to say, before I thought; and, although I had been taught the same lesson once before in a little shoe-store, regretted passionately half the way home that I had not thoroughly wrung his impertinent nose, in honor of the American eagle.
I next passed to the consideration of the baptismal question, the precise relations of which to the natal problem I have not been able to this day precisely to understand. The least forgery or evasion was of course not to be thought of, however justifiable in a moral point of view I might deem it under the cruel circumstances, because that would make the marriage itself null and void. This I clearly inferred from ray interview at the civil bureau. Moreover, no certificate whatever could have the least value unless it was stamped with an official seal ; and. again, every error would necessitate an additional delay of four weeks ; and, lastly, it was better to do too much than too little. These ground categories, I reflected, must never be lost sight of.
Now the fact was I had never been baptized. My father, although a good church member, entertained, twenty years ago, some rather independent views on the question of infant baptism, and so, despite my mother’s wishes, the matter lingered until I was too big. In Germany, where every boy baby must be either baptized or circumcised, I was a monster, for whom her law made no provision. Mary’s parents held no latitudinurian scruples, and she had been baptized thoroughly as an infant, and again later by immersion. Why had no one hinted to me, when I left home, that it might be convenient to take a Taufschein along with my passport!
After instituting inquiries, I ascertained that, among several other obstacles. I was now too old to be baptized in Germany, and that an English baptism would not help me. I could not think of leaving my examination and crossing the ocean, to be sprinkled in the normal way. Only one thing remained, namely, to get my parents’ pastor and parish clerk to certify amply and strongly, under oath and seal and before witnesses, that, although duly born, I had never been duly baptized, and that such omissions, unfortunately, were not unfrequent in the United States, and were attended there by no civil or temporal disabilities. In my letter I begged my parents to send a certificate of their consent to my marriage, giving them a favorable description of Mary, inclosing her photograph, and gently hinting at the end that if they withheld their approval it would simply necessitate our running over to England. Another letter to my uncle, who happened to be a district judge, begging him to certify that I had never been married before, and that, according to his and my families’ best knowledge and belief, there was no obstacle, “ legal, moral, or otherwise,” to my marriage with Miss Mary Adelaide Prout, of New York, seemed to me to complete the business. Yet, no : it would be best to have the bans priuted in our little home paper, strange as it would look there, and have a copy — or better two, in case a steamer should be sunk at sea — sent me. That might save two weeks And again, it might be well to copy all these letters, and send a duplicate of each a week later, to make assurance doubly sure. If there should be any additional delay by error, there would be some consolation in having the fault on Mary’s side, I reflected. I now had thirty-six hours for cramming before my examination, and at it I went.
Here were the lecture notes of five semesters and two small shelves of textbooks which ought to be reviewed. As the case seemed desperate, I resolved to concentrate myself on anatomy and chemistry, where I was weakest, and risk the seven other ample sciences which a doctor is required to know. Two of my examiners were aware that I had been a diligent student, and I would get a certain good friend of mine to call on another of them and hint that I had been distracted by family troubles, and perhaps, in case of need, they would advocate tempering justice with mercy, and letting me through easily, as it is said is often done with American students. I worked well all day and till about one o’clock at night, and then fell asleep over the group of peptones.
At nine in the morning, while I was taking my coffee, a letter came from Mary requesting more detailed directions for ordering her papers, and when it was answered I realized that I was in a mood which made study impossible. I took a bath, and ran into the gymnasium, but was no better ; drank a glass of beer, and read the American papers at the bank, but grew worse; then started off for a long walk in the Thiergarten, and came back only in time to make my toilet for the dread ordeal. In evening dress, I was ushered into a long room and seated at one end, while my examiners were discussing a comfortable spread at the other. — paid for, I knew, out of the two hundred thalers I had given for being admitted to examination. Of the three hours of mental anguish I here endured I will attempt no description. I was passed from one inquisitor to another, and at last, after waiting ten minutes in an anteroom, recalled to learn that, notwithstanding the excellence of my theme, and my diligence, good conduct, etc., my “ oral examination had not been in all respects entirely satisfactory ; ” and I was advised to take advantage of the new regulations, and present myself again as a Repetent in the autumn.
I retired, scarce knowing what I did, and walked bareheaded in the cool night air a couple of hours, overwhelmed with shame, wondering over and over again what Mary, what my parents and friends, would think of me ; and at last returned, jaded and haggard, designing to slip into my room unobserved and seek the oblivion of sleep. What should I find, however, on opening my door, but my hostess and several friends festively drinking wine around my table, on which was a magnificent piece of confectionery like a skeleton Gothic tower. It had turrets and minarets and festoons, and was wreathed in flowers, and a ginger-snap banner high above all was done off on one side in stripes and stars with red, white, and blue candy-work, and on the other side stood Herr Doctor above my initials, Herr Studiosus Ottfried Wilhelm Griesebach, my best German friend, sprung up and hugged and kissed me in spite of myself, and the congratulations of the others were so loud and given with such beery impetuosity that it was some time before I could make them compre hend the awful truth that I had “ fallen through.” They were really silenced then for an instant, during which I caught a glimpse of my hostess, with real delicacy of feeling, stealthily breaking off the candied, doctored ginger-snap banner and slipping it slyly into her pocket.
It was but for an instant, however, and it was Herr Griesebach, to my surprise, who first attempted to meet what he considered the demands of the occasion. Springing again to his feet, and, I actually believe, brushing away a tear, he thumped upon the table, and cried Silentia ! in true convivial German-student style, though it was just then as still as the grave.
“ Honored Herren,” he began glibly enough, “ love and science are jealous rivals, but thrice, four times happy the man who is favored by either. Our dear friend was going to become a doctor one week and wed a beautiful girl the next.” “ The bride lebe hock ! ” shouted one of my visitors, and all rose, clinked their glasses, and drank deeply, nodding and smiling to me. “ The gods were envious, and in their councils it was ordained that instead of completing a four years’ course of medicine then, as he intended, he should pause for a short course on the German marriage law. In his native land,” — “ Americans leben hoch! ” was shouted and drank to as before, — “ they say, I have heard, that time is money. [These words in English, — all he knew, I believe; but he graciously repeated them sotto voce in German, with a benevolent glance at my hostess.] Well,” slowly shrugging his shoulders and raising his eye-brows, “ our friend’s faculty has given him four months’ time,” laying his forefinger aside his nose at the word “four,” and tapping it again at the word “time.” This was execrable and exasperating enough, it will be confessed, and I suppose my face fell still more and that my convivial friend noticed it; at any rate, he stepped to my side, grasped and wrung my hand, and added in changed and almost tender accents, “ I have been in the university eight years. My head is mossy enough, but of many American students I have known our friend is the only one with true German Gemüth ; and before I say dixi I propose that we rub a vigorous salamander to the Herr Bräutigam. Let him live high, high, high ! ” he cried, raising his glass and drinking long and deep, as did the rest, after which all rattled their glasses noisily at his command till he gave the usual signal for silence, and then sat down.
He had done his awkward best, and so did all the rest in more informal words of consolation, but it was of no use. It only revealed to me how great and lifelong in German eyes was the disaster which had overtaken me.
When they had gone I sank back in my chair (a rocking-chair, by the way, which I had got made only with infinite pains, after satisfying myself that I could not obtain one otherwise in all the city ; indeed, it was the only one I ever saw in all Germany), and tried to think things over calmly and gather courage ; but the longer I sat the more completely unmanned I became. I could think of nothing, in fact; but the words, I have failed ! I have failed ! kept repeating themselves in my mind over and over again, like the inexpugnable “ Punch, brothers, punch with care,” etc., which Mark Twain has described. I sat there for hours, benumbed, in a sort of Oriental trance. I had no wish, no strength even, to go to bed, though I knew dreamily that my condition was morbid. I remember thinking, on the whole, rather favorably of the project of going back to the Thiergarten and shooting myself, as an American student had done in the autumn before, — without a quarter of my provocation, I was sure. But that would require too much effort. Many other absurd things flitted through my mind, while the day dawned and the sunshine stole in at my feet. I wished for half an hour that the window of my room was open ; I knew the air was not the best, but I could not summon the resolution to get up and open it. At length I was roused by the knock and entrance of my hostess, who informed me that my usual breakfast hour was considerably passed. I ate mechanically, and came back to my chair in a room with freshened atmosphere, and slowly began to realize that I was suffering from a nervous reaction which might become indefinitely serious. I will not here pause to go into professional details. Suffice it to say that, following the best medical advice, it was several weeks before I at all recovered my health and spirits.
During the first few days I had been too listless to do more than glance over Mary’s letters as they came, and deferred answering them, always only for an hour or two at a time, till at length, on the fourth day, becoming really alarmed at hearing nothing from me, she had come on to Berlin with her mother, and surprised me at dinner. She seemed to understand the situation at once; found out— Heaven knows how—the regimen that had been prescribed for me, and kept me up to it. She got me out on long walks, astonished me by her own endurance as my companion, and did her best to amuse and keep me cheerful. It must have been a dreary task, for I was so blasé to every intellectual interest, so indifferent to every enthusiasm or even to my own future, that only true love could have made my companionship endurable. And yet she brought me slowly out of my trouble back again to life.
Four weeks bad meanwhile elapsed. Mary’s father had come and returned alone without her mother, and I began to hear from my home letters. First came my parents’ consent to my marriage to Miss Prout, drawn up in stately and formal terms ; for my father was a country squire, and knew something about how a legal period should be stuffed. At the bottom of this my sister had roguishly imprinted the motto of her class in the seminary, of which, as secretary that year, she chanced to have the metallic stamp. It was a Greek translation of the phrase, “ I will find a way or make one.” It was as big as an English penny, and with a bit of red ribbon affixed looked so imposingly official that I thought it best to let it stand ; and good service it did me in the end.
My uncle, the judge, promptly declared that to the best of his knowledge there was no obstacle to my marriage, and affixed the stamp of the county to his certificate that I had never been married before.
Then came the baptismal paper, and a most lame and beggarly document it was. First came the statement of the pastor. He had good-heartedly taken it upon himself to instruct the German government all too elaborately that, much as it was to be regretted, it was nevertheless a fact that scarcely one half of the native-born Americans were nowadays baptized, as the ceremony was not here required by law. After some expatiation upon this point, he graciously added that he had always seen much to commend in the German practice in the matter. His declaration was accompanied by my father’s apologetic statement of his earlier scruples about infant baptism. From my letter and inclosure to the mayor of Hornersville I have never heard to this day. I had, however, anticipated this possibility, and as, fortunately for me, all four of my grandparents were living, asked them to certify to the dates of my parents’ marriage and of my birth. This they did, and as the town where they resided possessed no stamp
or seal, the town clerk good-naturedly pasted round pieces of green paper and a few inches of red ribbon at the bottom of each declaration. These documents, making with my passport seven in all, were carefully laid aside. Within a week Mary had the same number of papers, and, without stopping to examine them, I made them into a formidable budget, and again visited the civil bureau, only to learn that they must all be officially translated, and that each paper must bear the two-dollar stamp of the American legation in witness of the accuracy of the translation. As the office was then quite full of business, five or six days elapsed before this was accomplished. Upon returning to the German bureau, carrying now twenty-eight documents instead of fourteen (some of which, however, proved eventually to be useless or superfluous), it was promptly found that Mary’s papers certified to her two baptisms, but failed to make out that there was no legal or pecuniary obstacle to her marriage. I had heard of the tedious litigations about inheritances which, under the former laxer laws, had grown out of carelessness about this point, but supposed Mary’s mother, who had remained with her, could satisfy the authorities upon that point. Therefore I waited in silence for my own papers to be examined, hoping that if my irregular baptismal certificate was challenged, Mary’s supererogatory baptism might be somehow vicariously credited to me. Mine, however, was accepted, but nothing which Mary’s mother could do or say was sufficient to satisfy the German law that I might not be capturing an heiress by methods which it deems inadmissible. There was therefore no way but for Mary to cable her father in New York, “ Certify consent and no pecuniary obstacle to marriage,” and for us to wait two weeks more for the documents. A delay of another fortnight was needful for the bans, or Aufgebot. Mary herself began to be impatient. It was August, and the heat was intense; all our friends had left the city, and both my best man, Will Murrey, and Mary’s friend, Miss Punto, had returned to America, and were eventually married before we were. The dresses were getting out of season and out of fashion, and it was too late to travel anywhere but in Russia, Sweden, or Scotland, and we were not as enthusiastic about any of those countries as we had been about the Danube.
But the day long sighed for, long delayed, came at last. As I had to be my own best man, and attend to all the thousand and one little unexpected jobs that turned up, I had hired a faithful man-servant for a week, to whom I entrusted the arrangements at the church, the preparation of the spread, the care about carriages, getting off the baggage, etc. Before I escaped in the morning, the house porter, three servants, the washer-woman, coal man, two servants from the laboratory, and a tailoress called, — most of them in their best attire, and several bringing flowers or bouquets,— to give me their parting Glückwunsch, expressed in all the pretty phrases for such occasions in which the German language abounds. They were all moderately feed, but were happy. Some of them almost wept—so I fancied — as I drove off with Johann mounted beside the driver. Mary was ready, and with a half dozen friends we were soon in the little back parlor of the civil bureau. Here again was a long delay. One of the two witnesses required by German law was six months too young, and not one of our friends had the requisite papers of legitimation with them to take her place. One of the latter was personally known to the officiating squire, and another was the wife of a well-known public man, but this was not “regular.” Even my servant had no “ paper with a stamp ” about him, and none of the idlers in the office, who are sometimes called in for a shilling in such emergencies, was any more fortunate. One of Mary’s friends became indignant, and began a caustic history of our vexatious delays in broken German to the officer, until at length he turned his back upon her, tore off his swallow-tail coat, which had been donned for the ceremony, put on an inky gown, and retired to his desk, leaving us to find a way out of the fuss as best we could. None of the party lived nearer than two miles away, but luckily one of them remembered a lady acquaintance upon the next street, and went forth to find her. Although she was ill, she rose, dressed, took her papers, and drove to our rescue. The marriage service was rather long, and under other circumstances might have been impressive. When it was done we signed our names, I took a few more papers for use at the church, tipped four bobbing ushers who had opened four doors for us, left orders for a marriage certificate, — which is not necessary in Germany, but which we thought might be interesting to our friends at home, — and got into the carriage.
“ Mary,” I said, “ we are really and truly married already, and let’s cut the church. It is an hour and a half late; our friends will all have been tired waiting, and have gone home. Besides, I have stood about enough of this. I have kept patient during two months of this rigmarole, but I am afraid a reaction is coming, and that I shall knock the minister down.”
She replied only by pressing my arm more closely with her own as we stopped at the church door. A carpet was laid, and the organ struck up as we were ushered up the main aisle and seated in front of the altar in velvet-cushioned chairs. The clergyman had become tired waiting for us and had gone home to lunch, and we sat there ten minutes until he came in, out of breath, in a black robe and skull-cap. The length of this service depends somewhat upon the fee which he expects, and we found it very long. To me, at least, it was not particularly solemn. He whispered to us in broken English what responses to make, and where to kneel, stand, join hands, etc., as if he feared we did not understand German. When it was all over there were extra fees: one for the fine chairs we sat in, one for opening the church, another for the carpet on the sidewalk, and one each for the organist and bellows-boy. We were invited at the door to buy photographs of the church and clergyman, and his pamphlet discourses, and a printed copy of the Lutheran marriage service. We did so, and drove off to our spread. The thing was done at last.
Here, too, my story ends. It is my first, and will be the last I ever write. Marriage ceremonies and preliminaries were never made so complex, it is said, as the civil marriage law — the compulsory clause of which was repealed, I believe, last spring — made it in Germany for foreigners ; and therefore only the eight or ten American couples who passed the same ordeal during its full operation are as thoroughly married as we.