Interlaken, Switzerland, 1891.
It is a good many years since I was in Switzerland last. In
that remote time there was only one ladder railway in the
country. That state of things is all changed. There isn't a
mountain in Switzerland now that hasn't a ladder railroad or two
up its back like suspenders; indeed, some mountains are latticed
with them, and two years hence all will be. In that day the
peasant of the high altitudes will have to carry a lantern when
he goes visiting in the night to keep from stumbling over
railroads that have been built since his last round. And also in
that day, if there shall remain a high-altitude peasant whose
potato-patch hasn't a railroad through it, it would make him as
conspicuous as William Tell.
However, there are only two best ways to travel through
Switzerland. The first best is afloat. The second best is by
open two-horse carriage. One can come from Lucerne to Interlaken
over the Brunig by ladder railroad in an hour or so now, but you
can glide smoothly in a carriage in ten, and have two hours for
luncheon at noon--for luncheon, not for rest. There is no
fatigue connected with the trip. One arrives fresh in spirit and
in person in the evening--no fret in his heart, no grime on his
face, no grit in his hair, not a cinder in his eye. This is the
right condition of mind and body, the right and due preparation
for the solemn event which closed the day--stepping with
metaphorically uncovered head into the presence of the most
impressive mountain mass that the globe can show--the Jungfrau.
The stranger's first feeling, when suddenly confronted by that
towering and awful apparition wrapped in its shroud of snow, is
breath-taking astonishment. It is as if heaven's gates had swung
open and exposed the throne.
It is peaceful here and pleasant at Interlaken. Nothing
going on--at least nothing but brilliant life-giving sunshine.
There are floods and floods of that. One may properly speak of
it as "going on," for it is full of the suggestion of activity;
the light pours down with energy, with visible enthusiasm. This
is a good atmosphere to be in, morally as well as physically.
After trying the political atmosphere of the neighboring
monarchies, it is healing and refreshing to breathe air that has
known no taint of slavery for six hundred years, and to come
among a people whose political history is great and fine, and
worthy to be taught in all schools and studied by all races and
peoples. For the struggle here throughout the centuries has not
been in the interest of any private family, or any church, but in
the interest of the whole body of the nation, and for shelter and
protection of all forms of belief. This fact is colossal. If
one would realize how colossal it is, and of what dignity and
majesty, let him contrast it with the purposes and objects of the
Crusades, the siege of York, the War of the Roses, and other
historic comedies of that sort and size.
Last week I was beating around the Lake of Four Cantons, and
I saw Rutli and Altorf. Rutli is a remote little patch of
meadow, but I do not know how any piece of ground could be holier
or better worth crossing oceans and continents to see, since it
was there that the great trinity of Switzerland joined hands six
centuries ago and swore the oath which set their enslaved and
insulted country forever free; and Altorf is also honorable
ground and worshipful, since it was there that William, surnamed
Tell (which interpreted means "The foolish talker"--that is to
say, the too-daring talker), refused to bow to Gessler's hat. Of
late years the prying student of history has been delighting
himself beyond measure over a wonderful find which he has made--
to wit, that Tell did not shoot the apple from his son's head.
To hear the students jubilate, one would suppose that the
question of whether Tell shot the apple or didn't was an
important matter; whereas it ranks in importance exactly with the
question of whether Washington chopped down the cherry-tree or
didn't. The deeds of Washington, the patriot, are the essential
thing; the cherry-tree incident is of no consequence. To prove
that Tell did shoot the apple from his son's head would merely
prove that he had better nerve than most men and was skillful
with a bow as a million others who preceded and followed him, but
not one whit more so. But Tell was more and better than a mere
marksman, more and better than a mere cool head; he was a type;
he stands for Swiss patriotism; in his person was represented a
whole people; his spirit was their spirit--the spirit which would
bow to none but God, the spirit which said this in words and
confirmed it with deeds. There have always been Tells in
Switzerland--people who would not bow. There was a sufficiency
of them at Rutli; there were plenty of them at Murten; plenty at
Grandson; there are plenty today. And the first of them all--the
very first, earliest banner-bearer of human freedom in this
world--was not a man, but a woman--Stauffacher's wife. There she
looms dim and great, through the haze of the centuries,
delivering into her husband's ear that gospel of revolt which was
to bear fruit in the conspiracy of Rutli and the birth of the
first free government the world had ever seen.
From this Victoria Hotel one looks straight across a flat of
trifling width to a lofty mountain barrier, which has a gateway
in it shaped like an inverted pyramid. Beyond this gateway
arises the vast bulk of the Jungfrau, a spotless mass of gleaming
snow, into the sky. The gateway, in the dark-colored barrier,
makes a strong frame for the great picture. The somber frame and
the glowing snow-pile are startlingly contrasted. It is this
frame which concentrates and emphasizes the glory of the Jungfrau
and makes it the most engaging and beguiling and fascinating
spectacle that exists on the earth. There are many mountains of
snow that are as lofty as the Jungfrau and as nobly proportioned,
but they lack the fame. They stand at large; they are intruded
upon and elbowed by neighboring domes and summits, and their
grandeur is diminished and fails of effect.
It is a good name, Jungfrau--Virgin. Nothing could be
whiter; nothing could be purer; nothing could be saintlier of
aspect. At six yesterday evening the great intervening barrier
seen through a faint bluish haze seemed made of air and
substanceless, so soft and rich it was, so shimmering where the
wandering lights touched it and so dim where the shadows lay.
Apparently it was a dream stuff, a work of the imagination,
nothing real about it. The tint was green, slightly varying
shades of it, but mainly very dark. The sun was down--as far as
that barrier was concerned, but not for the Jungfrau, towering
into the heavens beyond the gateway. She was a roaring
conflagration of blinding white.
It is said the Fridolin (the old Fridolin), a new saint, but
formerly a missionary, gave the mountain its gracious name. He
was an Irishman, son of an Irish king--there were thirty thousand
kings reigning in County Cork alone in his time, fifteen hundred
years ago. It got so that they could not make a living, there
was so much competition and wages got cut so. Some of them were
out of work months at a time, with wife and little children to
feed, and not a crust in the place. At last a particularly
severe winter fell upon the country, and hundreds of them were
reduced to mendicancy and were to be seen day after day in the
bitterest weather, standing barefoot in the snow, holding out
their crowns for alms. Indeed, they would have been obliged to
emigrate or starve but for a fortunate idea of Prince Fridolin's,
who started a labor-union, the first one in history, and got the
great bulk of them to join it. He thus won the general
gratitude, and they wanted to make him emperor--emperor over them
all--emperor of County Cork, but he said, No, walking delegate
was good enough for him. For behold! he was modest beyond his
years, and keen as a whip. To this day in Germany and
Switzerland, where St. Fridolin is revered and honored, the
peasantry speak of him affectionately as the first walking
The first walk he took was into France and Germany,
missionarying--for missionarying was a better thing in those days
than it is in ours. All you had to do was to cure the savage's
sick daughter by a "miracle"--a miracle like the miracle of
Lourdes in our day, for instance--and immediately that head
savage was your convert, and filled to the eyes with a new
convert's enthusiasm. You could sit down and make yourself easy,
now. He would take an ax and convert the rest of the nation
himself. Charlemagne was that kind of a walking delegate.
Yes, there were great missionaries in those days, for the
methods were sure and the rewards great. We have no such
missionaries now, and no such methods.
But to continue the history of the first walking delegate,
if you are interested. I am interested myself because I have
seen his relics in Sackingen, and also the very spot where he
worked his great miracle--the one which won him his sainthood in
the papal court a few centuries later. To have seen these things
makes me feel very near to him, almost like a member of the
family, in fact. While wandering about the Continent he arrived
at the spot on the Rhine which is now occupied by Sackingen, and
proposed to settle there, but the people warned him off. He
appealed to the king of the Franks, who made him a present of the
whole region, people and all. He built a great cloister there
for women and proceeded to teach in it and accumulate more land.
There were two wealthy brothers in the neighborhood, Urso and
Landulph. Urso died and Fridolin claimed his estates. Landulph
asked for documents and papers. Fridolin had none to show. He
said the bequest had been made to him by word of mouth. Landulph
suggested that he produce a witness and said it in a way which he
thought was very witty, very sarcastic. This shows that he did
not know the walking delegate. Fridolin was not disturbed.
"Appoint your court. I will bring a witness."
The court thus created consisted of fifteen counts and
barons. A day was appointed for the trial of the case. On that
day the judges took their seats in state, and proclamation was
made that the court was ready for business. Five minutes, ten
minutes, fifteen minutes passed, and yet no Fridolin appeared.
Landulph rose, and was in the act of claiming judgment by default
when a strange clacking sound was heard coming up the stairs.
In another moment Fridolin entered at the door and came walking
in a deep hush down the middle aisle, with a tall skeleton
stalking in his rear.
Amazement and terror sat upon every countenance, for everybody
suspected that the skeleton was Urso's. It stopped before the
chief judge and raised its bony arm aloft and began to speak,
while all the assembled shuddered, for they could see the
words leak out between its ribs. It said:
"Brother, why dost thou disturb my blessed rest and withhold
by robbery the gift which I gave thee for the honor of God?"
It seems a strange thing and most irregular, but the verdict
was actually given against Landulph on the testimony of this
wandering rack-heap of unidentified bones. In our day a skeleton
would not be allowed to testify at all, for a skeleton has no
moral responsibility, and its word could not be believed on oath,
and this was probably one of them. However, the incident is
valuable as preserving to us a curious sample of the quaint laws
of evidence of that remote time--a time so remote, so far back
toward the beginning of original idiocy, that the difference
between a bench of judges and a basket of vegetables was as yet
so slight that we may say with all confidence that it didn't
During several afternoons I have been engaged in an
interesting, maybe useful, piece of work--that is to say, I have
been trying to make the mighty Jungfrau earn her living--earn it
in a most humble sphere, but on a prodigious scale, on a
prodigious scale of necessity, for she couldn't do anything in a
small way with her size and style. I have been trying to make
her do service on a stupendous dial and check off the hours as
they glide along her pallid face up there against the sky, and
tell the time of day to the populations lying within fifty miles
of her and to the people in the moon, if they have a good
Until late in the afternoon the Jungfrau's aspect is that of
a spotless desert of snow set upon edge against the sky. But by
mid-afternoon some elevations which rise out of the western
border of the desert, whose presence you perhaps had not detected
or suspected up to that time, began to cast black shadows
eastward across the gleaming surface. At first there is only one
shadow; later there are two. Toward 4 P.M. the other day I was
gazing and worshiping as usual when I chanced to notice that
shadow No. 1 was beginning to take itself something of the shape
of the human profile. By four the back of the head was good, the
military cap was pretty good, the nose was bold and strong, the
upper lip sharp, but not pretty, and there was a great goatee
that shot straight aggressively forward from the chin.
At four-thirty the nose had changed its shape considerably,
and the altered slant of the sun had revealed and made
conspicuous a huge buttress or barrier of naked rock which was so
located as to answer very well for a shoulder or coat-collar to
this swarthy and indiscreet sweetheart who had stolen out there
right before everybody to pillow his head on the Virgin's white
breast and whisper soft sentimentalities to her in the sensuous
music of the crashing ice-domes and the boom and thunder of the
passing avalanche--music very familiar to his ear, for he had
heard it every afternoon at this hour since the day he first came
courting this child of the earth, who lives in the sky, and that
day is far, yes--for he was at this pleasant sport before the
Middle Ages drifted by him in the valley; before the Romans
marched past, and before the antique and recordless barbarians
fished and hunted here and wondered who he might be, and were
probably afraid of him; and before primeval man himself, just
emerged from his four-footed estate, stepped out upon this plain,
first sample of his race, a thousand centuries ago, and cast a
glad eye up there, judging he had found a brother human being and
consequently something to kill; and before the big saurians
wallowed here, still some eons earlier. Oh yes, a day so far
back that the eternal son was present to see that first visit; a
day so far back that neither tradition nor history was born yet
and a whole weary eternity must come and go before the restless
little creature, of whose face this stupendous Shadow Face was
the prophecy, would arrive in the earth and begin his shabby
career and think of a big thing. Oh, indeed yes; when you talk
about your poor Roman and Egyptian day-before-yesterday
antiquities, you should choose a time when the hoary Shadow Face
of the Jungfrau is not by. It antedates all antiquities known or
imaginable; for it was here the world itself created the theater
of future antiquities. And it is the only witness with a human
face that was there to see the marvel, and remains to us a
memorial of it.
By 4:40 P.M. the nose of the shadow is perfect and is
beautiful. It is black and is powerfully marked against the
upright canvas of glowing snow, and covers hundreds of acres of
that resplendent surface.
Meantime shadow No. 2 has been creeping out well to the rear
of the face west of it--and at five o'clock has assumed a shape
that has rather a poor and rude semblance of a shoe.
Meantime, also, the great Shadow Face has been gradually changing
for twenty minutes, and now, 5 P.M., it is becoming a quite fair
portrait of Roscoe Conkling. The likeness is there, and is
unmistakable. The goatee is shortened, now, and has an end;
formerly it hadn't any, but ran off eastward and arrived nowhere.
By 6 P.M. the face has dissolved and gone, and the goatee
has become what looks like the shadow of a tower with a pointed
roof, and the shoe had turned into what the printers call a
"fist" with a finger pointing.
If I were now imprisoned on a mountain summit a hundred
miles northward of this point, and was denied a timepiece, I
could get along well enough from four till six on clear days, for
I could keep trace of the time by the changing shapes of these
mighty shadows of the Virgin's front, the most stupendous dial I
am acquainted with, the oldest clock in the world by a couple of
I suppose I should not have noticed the forms of the shadows
if I hadn't the habit of hunting for faces in the clouds and in
mountain crags--a sort of amusement which is very entertaining
even when you don't find any, and brilliantly satisfying when you
do. I have searched through several bushels of photographs of
the Jungfrau here, but found only one with the Face in it, and in
this case it was not strictly recognizable as a face, which was
evidence that the picture was taken before four o'clock in the
afternoon, and also evidence that all the photographers have
persistently overlooked one of the most fascinating features of
the Jungfrau show. I say fascinating, because if you once detect
a human face produced on a great plan by unconscious nature, you
never get tired of watching it. At first you can't make another
person see it at all, but after he has made it out once he can't
see anything else afterward.
The King of Greece is a man who goes around quietly enough
when off duty. One day this summer he was traveling in an
ordinary first-class compartment, just in his other suit, the one
which he works the realm in when he is at home, and so he was not
looking like anybody in particular, but a good deal like
everybody in general. By and by a hearty and healthy German-
American got in and opened up a frank and interesting and
sympathetic conversation with him, and asked him a couple of
thousand questions about himself, which the king answered good-
naturedly, but in a more or less indefinite way as to private
"Where do you live when you are at home?"
"Greece! Well, now, that is just astonishing! Born there?"
"Do you speak Greek?"
"Now, ain't that strange! I never expected to live to see
that. What is your trade? I mean how do you get your living?
What is your line of business?"
"Well, I hardly know how to answer. I am only a kind of
foreman, on a salary; and the business--well, is a very general
kind of business."
"Yes, I understand--general jobbing--little of everything--
anything that there's money in."
"That's about it, yes."
"Are you traveling for the house now?"
"Well, partly; but not entirely. Of course I do a stroke of
business if it falls in the way--"
"Good! I like that in you! That's me every time. Go on."
"I was only going to say I am off on my vacation now."
"Well that's all right. No harm in that. A man works all
the better for a little let-up now and then. Not that I've been
used to having it myself; for I haven't. I reckon this is my
first. I was born in Germany, and when I was a couple of weeks
old shipped to America, and I've been there ever since, and
that's sixty-four years by the watch. I'm an American in
principle and a German at heart, and it's the boss combination.
Well, how do you get along, as a rule--pretty fair?"
"I've a rather large family--"
"There, that's it--big family and trying to raise them on a
salary. Now, what did you go to do that for?"
"Well, I thought--"
"Of course you did. You were young and confident and
thought you could branch out and make things go with a whirl, and
here you are, you see! But never mind about that. I'm not
trying to discourage you. Dear me! I've been just where you are
myself! You've got good grit; there's good stuff in you, I can
see that. You got a wrong start, that's the whole trouble. But
you hold your grip, and we'll see what can be done. Your case
ain't half as bad as it might be. You are going to come out all
right--I'm bail for that. Boys and girls?"
"My family? Yes, some of them are boys--"
"And the rest girls. It's just as I expected. But that's
all right, and it's better so, anyway. What are the boys doing--
learning a trade?"
"Well, no--I thought--"
"It's a big mistake. It's the biggest mistake you ever
made. You see that in your own case. A man ought always to have
a trade to fall back on. Now, I was harness-maker at first. Did
that prevent me from becoming one of the biggest brewers in
America? Oh no. I always had the harness trick to fall back on
in rough weather. Now, if you had learned how to make harness--
However, it's too late now; too late. But it's no good plan to
cry over spilt milk. But as to the boys, you see--what's to
become of them if anything happens to you?"
"It has been my idea to let the eldest one succeed me--"
"Oh, come! Suppose the firm don't want him?"
"I hadn't thought of that, but--"
"Now, look here; you want to get right down to business and
stop dreaming. You are capable of immense things--man. You can
make a perfect success in life. All you want is somebody to
steady you and boost you along on the right road. Do you own
anything in the business?"
"No--not exactly; but if I continue to give satisfaction, I
suppose I can keep my--"
"Keep your place--yes. Well, don't you depend on anything
of the kind. They'll bounce you the minute you get a little old
and worked out; they'll do it sure. Can't you manage somehow to
get into the firm? That's the great thing, you know."
"I think it is doubtful; very doubtful."
"Um--that's bad--yes, and unfair, too. Do you suppose that
if I should go there and have a talk with your people-- Look
here--do you think you could run a brewery?"
"I have never tried, but I think I could do it after a
little familiarity with the business."
The German was silent for some time. He did a good deal of
thinking, and the king waited curiously to see what the result
was going to be. Finally the German said:
"My mind's made up. You leave that crowd--you'll never
amount to anything there. In these old countries they never give
a fellow a show. Yes, you come over to America--come to my place
in Rochester; bring the family along. You shall have a show in
the business and the foremanship, besides. George--you said your
name was George?--I'll make a man of you. I give you my word.
You've never had a chance here, but that's all going to change.
By gracious! I'll give you a lift that'll make your hair curl!"