BY A. EDWARD NEWTON
MANY years ago there appeared in the pages of Punch a series of so-called lectures by one Mrs. Caudle to her husband. They were called ‘Curtain Lectures’ for the reason that they were supposed to be delivered by the lady when the bed curtains were drawn — when the victim could not but hear. The lectures were upon a variety of topics, from the wickedness of loaning the family umbrella to the unnecessity of a man carrying a key to his own front door — the idea being that if he comes home betimes, as a married man should, he will have no need for one. Afterward these lectures were published in book form, and to-day their author, Douglas Jerrold, is chiefly remembered by these amusing examples of his wit.
But the idea of an advice-giving wife was not new with Jerrold. Two hundred years before, Richard Brathwait had published a book called A Boulster Lecture: it was the same thing under another name. The book has an amusing frontispiece in which a woman, in bed, is addressing a man seemingly asleep at her side, and under the quaint old engraving is a verse from which we get the phrase about advice going in one ear and coming out at the other; it reads: —
While the Husband seems to sleep but does not sleep:
But she might full well her Lecture smother,
For entering one ear, it goes out at t’other.
Do not think that I have exhausted the subject; I have not. I merely wish to show my familiarity with it and to make clear to my reader that I, a man of mature years, have found it wise when my wife speaks— ‘either in bed or at board,’ as the old marriage service has it — to pay due heed and to adjust myself to circumstances; indeed, one’s happiness in this world consists almost entirely in so adjusting one’s self.
It was across the narrow chasm separating our two beds that my wife, some months ago, spoke these words: ‘I don’t think we could do better than to go to Norway and Sweden this summer.’ We had been discussing a holiday and I had suggested that after a month in London we hire a motor and spend a few weeks in Devonshire and Cornwall. We had made, a year or two ago, a most delightful motor trip from London to Edinburgh and had promised ourselves that some day we would journey all the way to Land’s End. We had indeed discussed the matter so often that I thought it was as good as settled, and this sudden abandonment of our plans for a tour into a country we knew and loved for one about which we knew little — and, as I thought, cared less — came upon me as a kind of shock. ‘Why not Patagonia?’ I inquired — I could not help it — and was told not to be silly. My wife then deigned to give her reasons, and I was obliged to admit their force. We were to act as guides to a young man who could hardly be expected to get as much pleasure as we in poking about in the beautiful parish churches in the west of England, or peeping over the hedge of Max Gate, Dorchester, in the hope of getting a glimpse of Thomas Hardy, England’s one Grand Old Man. On the other hand, a new and beautiful city in a new and beautiful country, every few days, could not fail to prove delightful to any lad with an easy conscience and a good digestion.
‘But —’ said I.
‘There are no buts about it,’ said my wife; I knew that there were not and that the matter was settled.
In talking over our plans with a friend a few days later, he said to me: ‘Let me give you a word of advice. You will find Norway cold: take plenty of heavy clothing, woolen underwear, and especially heavy socks.’ I reported the conversation to my wife in this wise: ‘Blank tells me that we shall find it very cold in Norway and advises that you wear red flannel underwear.’ ‘I did n’t ask for his advice,’ said my lady, ‘and I would rather die in white cambric than live in red flannel.’ She speaks just like that, does my lady.
A few weeks later our steamer, the Minnetonka, steamed up the Thames to the Port of London. It is a proud river: the docks on each side are superb in character and extent, even if, alongshore, the human misery everywhere evident is distressing to a London-lover, which I here proclaim myself to be.
What we call ‘prohibition’ I believe to be a mistaken gesture, but it is at least an admission that there is a problem: England has, so far, contented herself merely with flirting with it. She closes her countless drinking places for a few hours each day, while her citizens are developing a thirst; but this is not enough, for every saloon is a breeder of poverty and misery. The brewing and distilling interests are, however, so strongly entrenched that if anything is to be accomplished the drink question must be seriously grappled with. The moment one lands in any of the great ports of Britain, either London or Liverpool or Glasgow, one is horrified with the seemingly hopeless poverty and distress everywhere apparent: armies of men and boys, unemployed and unemployable, living off the ‘dole.’ The dole is economically wrong, but without it there would be starvation and revolution; it seems an insoluble problem — one is glad to escape it.
And one does escape it as soon as one arrives in the hotel district, the west end of London — a city which, in spite of the magnificence of New York, remains of unequaled charm and interest, and, if I may use the word, gentleness. There are few signs of poverty there: it is almost impossible to get accommodation in the hotels or a seat at the theatre — although most of the performances are very bad — or a table at a restaurant without ‘booking’ in advance. Poverty and wealth have always existed side by side in London, and the extremes do not strike an Englishman as they do the visitor.
It was on the Fourth of July when we were packing our bags preparatory to sailing from Newcastle next day for Bergen, in Norway, on board the good ship Jupiter, and were almost frozen with the damp and chill, that the words of our friend recurred to us, and we left our light clothing in London, taking with us our heaviest, saying to one another, ‘If it is as cold as this in London, what must it be in Norway?’
It is disgusting the way some people’s stomachs misbehave on a small boat. The Jupiter is a good ship of her class, but her class leaves much to be desired. An excellent sailor myself, I eat as much as I want, then I smoke and read and walk. But not all people are like that: to many, on a troubled sea in a small boat, the very thought of food is nauseating, and a man in robust health walking the deck with a cigar in his mouth is regarded as disturbing the peace. It was about ten at night on the second day that the little Jupiter, having dodged in and out among the islands in the harbor of Bergen, tied up at her dock and we prepared to disembark. Ten at night and as light as day, for as one gets into high latitudes in summer the sun hardly sets: there is a deep twilight for an hour or two, and then, before one can say Jack Robinson, the sun is shining brightly and the night is over. This in summer; in winter it is pitch dark at three in the afternoon. It was not on our programme to go to the North Cape, where in summer the sun scarcely sinks below the horizon, or to spend days, if not weeks, on a steamer penetrating to their utmost limit the fiords, because if it is true, as Dr. Johnson once remarked, ‘one green field is very like another,’ might not the same be said of a fiord — those little bays and inlets which characterize the Norwegian coast? Rather it was our intention to catch a quick impression and pass on. One does not have to say that the scenery of Norway is magnificent— everyone knows that: the great snow-capped mountains come right down, almost sheer, to the fiords, which are very deep, but the channels are so tortuous that they can only be safely navigated by small steamers.
We had not journeyed very extensively when it suddenly dawned on us that we were very hot: where was this cold weather for which we were prepared? We inquired and were told that it was always hot in July; it seemed as though it should have been cold, for the mountains about us were covered with snow, but on the water and in the valleys, dressed as we were, it was uncomfortably warm. We were told that the heat was due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, which, flowing around the north of Scotland, dashes itself to pieces on the rocky cliffs of Norway. We know this now, but when we left home it had not occurred to us, and our friend who had told us to prepare for cold weather in Scandinavia had overlooked this fact.
We had thought of Norway as a country of waterfalls, but we were not prepared for the number that we were to see; one could not get out of sight of one — or more — and we were hardly ever out of hearing of the murmur of rushing water; it made us drowsy in our motors and lulled us to sleep in our beds.
Most people, I fancy, like to climb, to explore, to see things. Once again a remark of Dr. Johnson to his biographer occurred to me. When Boswell inquired whether he did not think the Giant’s Causeway worth seeing, ’Why, sir, yes, worth seeing,’ the Doctor replied but not worth going to see.’ My idea exactly, and so I, being a tourist rather against my will, was satisfied to see what I could see comfortably either from the deck of a small steamer or from a motor (the American motor industry is a thriving one in Norway: Fords and Dodges and Chevrolets everywhere) or occasionally from a little open carriage drawn by a single very small cream-colored horse scarcely larger than a polo pony, but very hardy. The hotels were excellent and as clean as wax; the tables well and bountifully spread. We spent two nights at Stalheim, which is not a village or even a hamlet; merely a hotel superbly situated above and almost against a tremendous waterfall at a point where two great valleys intersect. Here it was that we first encountered the abundance of hors d’œuvre for which Norway is famous. Upon entering the dining room one noticed a great table running almost the entire length of the room; upon it were piles of plates and an immense quantity of food, chiefly fish, salted, smoked, oiled, boiled, — all cold, — and cold meats, with an endless variety of cheese. One was expected to take a plate, help one’s self, — ‘cut and come again,’ — and take one’s place at the table, when some single hot dish, with tea, coffee, or chocolate, was brought by a maid prettily dressed in native costume. To one bored to extinction by the ordinary table d’hôte it was a pleasant change. At Oslo — which in my boyhood was called Christiania — we stayed at an excellent hotel, the Bristol. In European travel one usually finds a Bristol Hotel — if there is one—at least good, generally the best hotel in the place. And here, if I may, I will digress to say why this is so. May I permit myself the luxury of a fresh start?
On August 1, in the year 1730, there was born in England to the ancient and ‘socially prominent’ race of Herveys a son, christened Frederick after the then Prince of Wales. His father was Earl of Bristol, and the lad subsequently came to the title and inherited with it an ample fortune. After the custom of his race, the boy went to Cambridge, but, not caring for the life there, he left without taking his degree, and, going up to London, he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn and resigned himself to the study of the law. But not for long: it soon became evident that even with his family connections a certain amount of work was required of one who expected to achieve distinction at the bar and ultimately a place of honor and emolument on the bench. The Church, on the other hand, offered the chance of equal if not greater distinction, and, could a bishopric be obtained, an equal financial reward — without any work whatever. The fact that the young man was a roué, possibly a Catholic, but more likely an atheist, was not then regarded as being any bar to ecclesiastical preferment in the Church of England; consequently, after taking orders and going through by easy stages the lower priesthood, he applied to his friend the great Earl of Chatham for a bishopric, which was soon granted him, he having in the meantime received a diploma of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford! They did things that way in those days. But the Bishopric of Cloyne, in Ireland, the one first granted him, provided but a meagre stipend for a married man of luxurious tastes with a growing family, and he was soon translated to Derry, which gave him an income sufficient for his needs.
To make a long and fascinating story short, the Earl Bishop, as he came to be called, only resided in his diocese long enough to start the building of several palaces, when he decided to travel extensively. Provided with ample funds, with a group of friends and a large retinue of servants, he wandered from one end of Europe to the other. With occasional brief visits to England and to Ireland, he explored the continent, indulging in every form of extravagance and dissipation. Hail fellow well met, he was equally at home in Rome, where he was taken for a Catholic, as he was in Paris, where he assumed the rôle of a Protestant, or in Geneva, where what we now call agnosticism was the order of the day. Wherever he went he patronized the best hotel, usually taking one entire floor and sometimes the whole establishment. So widely famed was he as a traveler and so great was his reputation as a connoisseur of life, that my Lord Bristol’s hotel soon became the best known and the most highly regarded in every city or town where he sojourned. If it had been the Hôtel de l’Europe when he arrived, it was the Hôtel de l’Europe et Bristol when he left, and subsequently the ‘Hotel Bristol’ only. Hence it is that one may still expect to find—and usually does — the best at the Hotel Bristol, as we did in Oslo, and as we did not elsewhere — as will be related in the proper place.
For many years the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden were united, but some twenty-five years ago a friendly separation was agreed upon and each country went about its own business, the capital of Norway taking its old Norse name, Oslo, and the inhabitants of each country looking down rather upon the other one, as is the way of countries as it is of individuals.
The next great city en route was Stockholm, ‘the Venice of the North,’ as it is called, and certainly it deserves the title: it is magnificent! — superbly situated on a group of islands intimately united by bridges over swiftly flowing rivers or arms of the Baltic Sea. The Grand Hotel had been recommended to me as one of the best in Europe, enjoying, among other things, a splendid site. Here we stayed a week, loitering in the streets, surveying the magnificent buildings, and visiting not once, but several times, its splendid city hall. Why are our city halls, however costly, dirty and impossible, and the people who hang about them a miserable-looking crew? I ask you.
Stockholm’s city hall is new and is a dream of beauty. It is situated on backwater, perhaps on a lake, and is architecturally something between an Italian palazzo municipale and a French hôtel de ville; withal it is not incongruous. Fancy a new and greatly enlarged Ducal Palace (at Venice) and you have a faint suggestion of the magnificence of the city hall at Stockholm. The city is immensely prosperous: no wars, for over a century, have left their blight on the country. Scandinavia throve mightily while all Europe beside destroyed itself in the Great War. And all Europe, except Scandinavia, now envies and despises America for her prosperity. Sweden has dealt with the liquor problem rationally; the people are sober, clean, and industrious; there is no unemployment. The King, a man of seventy, plays tennis; peace and prosperity abound.
But the heat! In our heavy winter clothes we had just managed to survive in Norway, but in Stockholm, with the thermometer at ninety and no night, — for by now the sun practically never went to bed, — we were indeed suffering from the heat and the glare. Give me a well-behaved sun: a sun which knows its place and goes to bed at the proper time. In Stockholm the sun, instead of going to bed, merely threw itself upon a couch for a few moments and then, like a giant refreshed, began again to shine for all. And here a misfortune befell me. My eyes are sensitive to light; the least trace of light in the morning and I am wide awake; hence it is that I always sleep with a long, black, lisle-thread stocking, which I tie loosely around my head and over my eyes as though I were preparing for a game of blind man’s buff. As I know from experience that maids in hotels, finding in my room a woman’s black stocking, feel that they are discovering something which may lead to a scandal, I invariably hide the stocking in the morning, but the second night in the Grand Hotel my stocking had disappeared; it was nowhere to be found, and at two o’clock in the morning I found myself wide awake. There was a time, reader, when the loss of a black stocking meant nothing, when all I had to do was to purloin one of my wife’s, but that was years ago. With the incoming of the present style, when stockings have become mere films of skin-colored silk, it was useless to look for relief among my wife’s lingerie. So, pitching and tossing uneasily in bed from two o’clock until eight next morning, I determined when day came to do some shopping on my own. I wanted a pair of long, heavy, black stockings, and I knew that my work was cut out to get them, for they are as out of date as a bustle —and a bustle is so out of date that there will be people who read this who do not know what a bustle is.
There are fine shops in Stockholm, and in one of the largest and best I inquired for a pair of black stockings. I reveal no secret when I say that I speak no Swedish, and the Swedes speak, generally, only their own language, with here and there a dash of German. By signs and pointing to my own sock and suggesting length as best I could, I was shown a great variety of socks, but I wanted women’s socks, long ones. Ah! then came those filmy things which to men seem designed, when properly filled, for their undoing. These came in every shade except black and of every weight except heavy. At last I made it clear that I wanted black stockings, not too thin, for myself, and out came the socks again. ‘Exactly,’ I said, ‘but opera length' — where this phrase came from I do not know, but I saw that the saleswoman thought that she had a lunatic to deal with. At last I did what I should have done at first, — I asked for an interpreter, — and in time was presented to a little Frenchwoman on whose bosom heaved the flags of all nations, signifying her familiarity with the languages thereof. To her I confided my perplexity. ‘It will be difficult,’ she said. ‘As long as it is not impossible I snap my fingers at difficulties,’ I replied. And after an unbelievable amount of trouble I got what I wanted.
By this time I was in shopping mood, and with the help of my war-widow interpreter — I am sure she was a war widow — I bought the lightest-texture underwear to be had in Sweden, and then decided to buy two suits of readymade clothes. I am not easy to fit at home; in Stockholm it was impossible — almost; but I was determined that I would not go to a luncheon next day (which was to be given us by the American Minister, Mr. Leland Harrison, to whom with due ceremony I had presented a letter of introduction) in a suit the very sight of which brought sweat to my brow. My waist is that of a giant; my length lacks at least a foot of what a giant’s length should be. In due time, dressed in a dark blue alpaca, I was conducted to a mirror—and I was not pleased; I was, in fact, humiliated; but with the removal of ten inches of trouser leg, and a rolling up of several inches more, I declared myself suited and agreed to buy another cream-colored affair after it had undergone the necessary amputation.
Women have no sense of humor: they always laugh in the wrong place — at least my wife did when my bundle came home. ‘Do you intend to wear those things?’ she said. ‘No, I bought them just to exercise my Swedish; I intend to carry them on my arm to the luncheon to-morrow to show that I know what’s what,’ I declared. But next day at the Prins Karl Palats, which is for the time being the home of our distinguished American Minister, I was careful to keep my back to the wall as much as possible to hide the fact that the seat of my breeches was just about level with my knees. However, I was comfortable, and the distinguished company was too well bred to take any notice of my ridiculous appearance.
Some famous Latin lad once remarked that nothing human was alien to him. It is a fine statement, and I wish that I could with a fair amount of truth say the same thing; but I cannot. The fact is, most things don’t interest me at all, and the world has made a habit of gathering these things together and putting them in museums. Some day some wise commission will be formed to study what has been well called ‘museum fatigue.’ Indeed I think I have already heard of one which is to function in connection with the magnificent Pennsylvania Museum just now being completed on the Parkway in Philadelphia. Until that commission functions properly I prefer to study people rather than inanimate objets d’art.
Why is it that a man can walk all day long on a country road or hoof it over the pavements of a great city and almost die from sheer weariness after two hours in an art gallery? There are many such in Stockholm, and a superb — but never mind, we only spent an hour in it and upon that occasion we were the observed of all observers. We did go so far as to make the necessary reservations on a tiny steamer for the ancient city of Wisby, on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, but the heat was so intense that several members of our party balked at spending a night on a tiny boat in necessarily cramped quarters, and we gave over the idea — and were sorry for it afterward; when friends told us of the charm of its ruinous and picturesque beauty it was too late to change our plans. (Why is it that the thing you don’t see is invariably the thing you are catechized upon when you get home?) Long centuries ago — long before Venice became one of the glories of the world — Wisby was a city of great importance, a greater port than London, but the Danes got at it in thirteen hundred and something and practically destroyed it, hoping to bring the trade of northern Europe to Copenhagen, but before they had succeeded in doing so Queen Elizabeth of England worked her will with the Hanseatic League, and London became and has remained the greatest port in Europe. Long may she remain so, but let her keep her eye on Hamburg.
Some wise cosmopolite once said, ‘ Every capital in Europe has something to say.’ I listened but heard nothing important in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. It seemed to us chiefly distinguished for its bicycles: Denmark has but a population of three or four million people, but they all ride bicycles. The streets have sidewalks for pedestrians, smooth, narrow runways for people awheel, and the centre is devoted to the usual traffic. Once again we were in a thriving, industrious country, this one famous for its agriculture. Almost every large building was pointed out to us as some sort of agricultural college. The Danes, once the terror of all Europe, have finally beaten their swords into ploughshares and they are prospering accordingly. How many tons of butter and bacon and how many million eggs they send daily to London is not my business, but one would suppose that England, with its unemployed hundreds of thousands, would profit by the example of Denmark. An enormous and glorified beer garden in the centre of the city, a colossal brewery, and an immense gallery of sculpture, magnificent in plan and execution — the gift to the city of Copenhagen of the owner of the brewery — these are my chief recollections of my short sojourn in Denmark; these and a visit to Frederiksborg Slot—once a superb palace, now a picture gallery and museum, which we visited en route to the Castle Elsinore. Elsinore, it will be remembered, is the scene of Hamlet: we were somewhat surprised to learn, from our guide, that Shakespeare had written the play there, and we were shown and several of us affected an interest in what we were told was Ophelia’s grave; it left me cold, however. I was more interested in the excellent English spoken by our guide; when I complimented him upon it, he told me that he had lived in New York, but that the life there was too swift for him — as indeed it is for many of us — and he had returned to his native land.
A day or two later we were in Hamburg. It was almost forty years ago that I first visited the great free city of Hamburg; famous for its commerce, its wealth, and its hospitality. I had read of grass growing in its streets, during the war: it may then have done so, but it does so no longer. No city in all my travels seemed more prosperous. The streets were thronged with a busy people; the buildings — and there were miles of them — were substantial and magnificent; we hired a motor and were driven all over the city and through the residential district which borders on the Alster; everywhere was evidence of industry, wealth, and prosperity. For miles we were driven over fine, broad boulevards running along the River Alster, which has been dammed up to form a lake. On one side were magnificent mansions, placed in well-kept lawns, giving evidence of the taste of the people who once prided — and perhaps still do — themselves on being very English; certainly their evident love of trees and flowers suggests such refinement as the war had taught us to think was nonexistent in Germany.
I confess that the seeming prosperity of Hamburg carried my thoughts back to that older and greater port of London, which does not seem as yet able to lift itself out of the slough of the war. The world will watch Germany come back with mingled emotions; she emerged from the war ruined indeed, but free from debt. She is paying her indemnities — grudgingly, to be sure — and she will escape them if and when she can, but her tremendous energy and the will to work, conspicuous by its absence in England, give us furiously to think. We traveled rapidly, to be sure, but with eyes open, from Hamburg to Cologne, where we spent the night. En route every factory, as we were passing through industrial Germany, seemed busy; gigantic smokestacks flaunting dates, 1919, 1920, 1921, which were an affront to the world, belched forth smoke, evidence of something doing, and I thought of my friend Mr. Owen D. Young’s great work on the Dawes Commission in setting Germany on her feet again — I suppose it is all right.
On arrival in Cologne our party had to split up: no one hotel had room for all of us. Once again all was bustle and noise. After an uneasy night I rose early, intending to hear a fine choral service in the cathedral, but decided that I could hear cathedral music elsewhere, that this would be my last chance for some time to come to see a German city rouse itself from its slumber. By seven in the morning there were as many people going to their offices as with us at half past eight, and more than London could show at nine.
Our next objective was Paris by way of Brussels, with a detour to Antwerp, once more to spend a few hours in the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which was for centuries one of the great printing houses of the world. As our train entered Brussels I remarked casually, ‘I have made no hotel reservations and I don’t even know the name of one; let’s try the Bristol — there must be a Bristol.’ All were agreed except my daughter, who said she had stayed at an excellent hotel here a year or two before; she had forgotten the name, but she thought it was not the Bristol. We had innumerable handbags which necessitated several porters, and when we descended from the train our luggage was seized and I said to the foremost porter, ‘Hotel Bristol,’and away he started, as I supposed for a taxi; but no — across a sordid square and down a busy and noisy street he went, I after him shouting ‘Taxi, taxi,’ he paying no attention, but marching on through the traffic, I, with my suitcase, powerless to stop him. I had to keep him in sight or lose our luggage, and, looking behind me, I saw the other members of my party with porters, likewise making their way through the crowd. Presently my porter stopped — his journey done — and announced, with evident satisfaction, ‘Hotel Bristol!’ Sure enough, there it was as large as life, but what a place! The Earl Bishop may have sojourned there a century and a half ago; it is quite possible; but a more miserable-looking place in a poorer neighborhood I have hardly seen.
I made my porter put down his load and assembled my party, greatly amused at my predicament. I declined to enter the hotel, and, dismissing our retinue of porters, must have presented a woebegone appearance in my ridiculous Stockholm clothes. My French is not perfect, — I admit that, — but it is effective in an emergency. I wanted a taxi, I wanted a good hotel, and I wanted it tout de suite. While I was gesticulating and trying to make my wants known, a man, completely misunderstanding the situation, came to my rescue: he, supposing that I was overawed by the style of the Bristol, offered for a small fee to conduct me to a hotel much cheaper! I could have killed him. Finally we hailed a taxi — in fact several taxis — and were driven to the Astoria and Claridge, than which nothing could be better.
Brussels is a beautiful city: Paris in miniature, it delights to call itself. Its boulevards are magnificent, and its museums and galleries are immense and interesting, but, as my manicure in Paris confided to me, its people are— well, not gay; she used a stronger word. It is probably the cheapest large city in Europe in which to live, and with the franc at three cents it seems incredibly cheap, especially the taxis. One reason for our sojourn there was our desire to visit what is left of the city of Ypres — which by the British Tommy will always be called ’Wipers.’ It was one of the great storm centres during the World War, and it is said that first and last a hundred and fifty thousand British soldiers laid down their lives in its defense. It was in and around ‘Wipers,’ as well as upon the Verdun front, that the slogan ‘THEY SHALL NOT PASS’ became the watchword of the men against whom the German armies hurled themselves in vain time and again during the long years of the war. With the exception of great cemeteries, crowded for the most part with nameless graves, there is little today to suggest the backward and forward surge of more than a million men. The fields of wheat and rye and pasture all around look as though Nature in her mercy had thrown a great patchwork quilt of gold and green over the once devastated area.
As we approached what was once one of the most famous small cities in Belgium, boasting a group of the finest Gothic buildings in Europe, — buildings which are to-day and probably will ever remain a mass of ruins, — we found ourselves in a throng all moving in the same direction. It was toward a superb war memorial, the most magnificent of many in Europe, which had been dedicated only a day or two before. It takes the form of a great arch and occupies the site of a small gate — the Porte de Menin, it was called — which for centuries gave entrance through the wall to the mediæval city of Ypres. The old gate, which was at the city end of a bridge across a moat or a tiny river, was quickly hammered to pieces by the Germans in their long but futile effort to reach the French channel ports. Not even at Verdun was fiercer fighting than at Ypres, and the names of one hundred and fifty thousand men who died for king and country, that the Germans should not pass, are inscribed in letters of gold on the great marble portal. Not the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, not the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, — nothing, I think, that I have seen, — impressed me more than this enormous and superb triumphal arch giving entrance to a ruined and almost deserted city, but a city which will certainly live forever in its heroic past. The days when men wrought beauty for the love of it, when art and religion were interchangeable terms, are past: mass production has taken the place of it. There is less beauty in the world, if more comfort.
It was with some such thoughts as these that we motored back to Brussels as the sun was setting. At first, reminders of the Great War were all about us; gradually they became fewer, and broad and fertile fields took their place until these were in turn gnawed at by the suburbs of Brussels.
I was tired of travel; it’s all well enough when you are very young to pack a suitcase every morning wondering where you will unpack it at night, but strange scenes fatigue me and I longed to get to Paris, to sit quietly on the Boulevard in front of the Grand Hôtel and watch the world go by. The crowd is losing its individuality somewhat, but its component parts remain the same; while we, who watch it, grow older, the crowd itself does not; a crowd keeps its age. Our train drew into the Gare du Nord. Everything was familiar; the taxi driver seemed glad to see me; I had no idea that it was possible to feel so at home in Paris.