Puslapio vaizdai

belonged to the quattrocento rather than to the end of the nineteenth century. Had she been born a Medici, she would have held rank as one of the remarkable women of all time.

mer. The latter, then a bewitching girl
of seventeen, later became widely known
as Mrs. Strong, Stevenson's amanuensis.
and biographer.

That she was a woman of intellectual attainments is proved by the fact that she was already a magazine writer of recognized ability, and that at the moment when Stevenson first came into her life she was making a living for herself and her two children with her pen. But this, after all, is a more or less ordinary accomplishment, and Mrs. Osbourne was in no sense ordinary. Indeed, she was gifted with a mysterious sort of over-intelligence which is almost impossible to describe, but which impressed itself upon every one who came within the radius of her influence. Napoleon had much of this; likewise his arch-enemy the great Duke of Wellington; and among women Catharine of Russia and perhaps Elizabeth of England. She was therefore both physically and mentally the very antithesis of the gay, hilarious, open-minded, and open-hearted. Stevenson, and for that very reason, perhaps, the woman in all the world best fitted to be his life-comrade and helpmate. At any rate, we may well ask ourselves if anywhere else he would have found the kind of understanding and devotion which she gave him from the day of their first meeting at Grez until the day of his death in far-away Samoa; if anywhere else there was a woman of equal attainments who would willingly, nay, gladly, throw aside all of the pleasures and comforts of civilization to live among savages, and the still rougher whites of the South Pacific, in order that her husband might have just a little more oxygen for his failing lungs, a little more chance for a respite and an extension of his shortening years? Probably no one ever better deserved than she the noble tribute of verse which her husband gave her, and from which I have quoted the opening line.

Both she and her daughter Isobel had been studying art in Paris through the winter, and had joined the regular AngloSaxon migration to Grez in the early sum

The last time that I ever saw Stevenson
was a year or two later and in semi-tragic
circumstances. The Osbournes had re-
turned to their native California, whither
Stevenson had journeyed some little time
later as "An Amateur Immigrant," and
where he had lived for a space as "The
Silverado Squatter." In the early spring
of the following year, however, he and
Mrs. Stevenson returned once more to
their old haunts about the forest of Fon-
tainebleau. In the meantime I had been
to Italy, whence I had just brought back
to Paris the usual six-by-ten-foot Salon
canvas. Having seen this precious work
of art duly delivered at the doors of the
Palais de l'Industrie, I hastened to join
the gay and care-free cavalcade which at
that season always makes for the woods,
generally toward Barbison or Fontaine-
bleau. This time our own band of half
a dozen, including my brother Alexander
Harrison, the marine-painter, and Ruger
Donoho, the landscape-man, were headed
for Barbison and the Pension Siron, where
we arrived late one evening, only to be in-
formed that all sleeping accommodations.
were taken, and that the best we might
expect was a row of cots in the bare loft
of the annex, on the opposite side of the
village street. This was no hardship, how-
ever, and as an excellent late souper was
soon steaming on the table, we accepted
the situation gaily enough, smoking a pipe
after supper in the still aisles of the forest
before retiring for the night.


It was only at the earliest peep of dawn that the disadvantages of our communal sleeping-apartment became apparent. One of our party woke between three and four o'clock A.M., and, after lying with open eyes for half an hour or so, decided that this sort of thing was not fair play. Whereupon he rose silently, seized a pillow, and moving from cot to cot, delivered to the occupant of each an impartial and sounding thwack.

Instantly there was pandemonium in

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

that attic, and a pillow-fight of unusual proportions immediately developed. As is usual on such occasions, sides were soon formed, and one side quickly demonstrated its superiority over the other, the defeated. party being driven gradually down three flights of stairs, and up the village street from end to end. Finally, overcome with laughter and with the unwontedly early exercise, the combatants called a truce, and returned amicably to their night's quarters in search of more ample raiment, for the early morning air from the forest was chill, and nightgowns and pajamas afforded but meager protection. Having clothed ourselves at leisure we strolled across the street to the common salle à manger for the matutinal rolls and coffee. The first man whom I met in the courtyard was Stevenson, who, I thought, looked rather hollow-eyed and weary. It appeared that he and Mrs. Stevenson had passed the night in the chamber directly

beneath the one occupied by our hilarious. band. The early morning bombardment to which they had been subjected can therefore be readily imagined.

"I had forgotten, Harrison," he said, with a wan smile, "that we were ever such reptiles."

With the unfailing instinct of the true artist Stevenson made a mental note of this incident, and he used it later in one of the most interesting chapters of "The Wrecker."

The duration of the Stevensons' stay in France during this, their last visit to the Old World, was comparatively short, and before many weeks they had returned once more to San Francisco, and thence to the South Seas and Samoa. Some years later chance sent me also to the South Pacific, but several attempts to arrange a meeting were unsuccessful. The Fates were against me, and I never saw Stevenson again.

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]


REVEL in sleeping-cars. I like to think of the original Mr. Pullman, or whoever it was whose mind first conceived the modern sleeping-car, as a philanthropist, a missionary who had a vision of the joy of life, and labored to bring it into our prosy existence. He looked upon his fellow-men, and found them civilized. Because some savage, gloriously dirty, had had the temerity to take a bath and had relished the sensation of cleanliness, cleanliness had become a convention of our century. Because another savage, a little later, had encircled his neck with a starched collar and had enjoyed the esteem which this invention drew from the collarless plebeians, he found the people of our enlightened age slaves to collars and all that collars stand for.

Now, he knew in his heart that his friend Jones would once in a while like to dispense with shaving, let his hair grow, and march to his office, unbathed, in his pajamas. Instead of satisfying this human craving for change in such a pleasantly normal way, Jones waited for his two-weeks' vacation, and then hied himself to the woods, where, with fishing or hunting or communion with nature as a pretext, he could be dirty and uncivilized to his heart's content.

But vacations, reasoned Mr. Pullman, are fleeting. And then he slapped his thigh and cried, "Eureka!

"I shall conventionalize discomfort," he said. "Everybody has to travel by night sometimes; Jones often does. I shall de

vise a form of travel utterly uncomfortable and barbarian. I shall invent a car in which there are no beds, but shelves reached only by a step-ladder or gymnastics. In it there shall be a wash-room in which washing is a difficult adventure and shaving a gamble with death. I shall man it with porters who leave the lights on and waken one at the wrong stations; I shall have the whole car in constant vibration, and shaken up like a medicinebottle once every hour; sleep will thus become as impossible as it is to the camperout on his bed of pointed balsam-twigs. When the traveler arrives at his destination he will feel as if he had n't slept or washed or consorted with the civilized for a fortnight. He will sing in his bath once more, and put on his starched collar with a thankful heart."

So Mr. Pullman drew his plans; and he looked upon the car of his making, and it was uncomfortable.

Those who travel in sleeping-cars may be divided into two classes: people with foresight and people without it. The former engage their accommodations two days in advance and are assigned lower berths, which have, for those resigned to wakefulness, a view. Members of this class tell me that to raise one's head from the pillow and see the moonlit country fly by, or to pass a train-yard and see the locomotives tossing their plumes of steam against the blackness of the sky, or to follow the progress of the dawn in an endlessly varying motion-picture, is a joy so

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

exquisite that it would drive poets to rhapsodies, But the poets belong to the second class; they are on their uppers.

On a sleeper, if at no other time, I fall in the same category with the poets. I never get to the ticket-office until the day of departure, and the answer is always the same.

"A lower on the midnight to New York," I say, just as if I expected to get it. The clerk consults a chart.

"Nothing but uppers to-night," he says. It is as inevitable as the tides.

But as I climb to my exalted place I have this consolation: I am one of the vagabond class, the army of the care-free and improvident. Those whose hats nod to the jolting of the train on the hooks about me are people like myself, who never can keep their accounts up, and never pack their trunks till the last moment, and know what it is to eat a whole restaurant dinner and then find they left their money in their other trousers. Below us the prudent lie behind their petticoat-curtains; we belong to the fellowship of unpreparedness.

The ascent to an upper is an art in itself; and as one would expect of an art, it is long. I do not mean the ascent by step-ladder. There are those who climb. mountains by railroad, who let minions put on their bait, who require caddies to tee their golf-balls, who hunt with beaters to drive the game toward them; there are also those who reach their uppers on carpeted steps. Yet the heroic breed, thank Roosevelt, is not extinct. Luxury has not yet completely sapped our national virility. Some of us are made of sterner stuff. We climb unassisted and alone.

The porter leads us down the green alley to our place. We open our bag, and select those articles which we shall need on our adventure. These we throw into the berth. The porter pushes our bag far into the twilight recesses behind the spittoon and the suitcase of the gentleman in the lower and the golf-bag of the gentleman in the next berth. We are ready for the adventure.

What follows happens very quietly.

There are no heroics. No rope is used in the ascent; no guides help us over the difficult places. There is even nothing distinctive about our attire to catch the casual eye: we wear a simple gray climbing-suit, stout, black climbing-shoes, an unostentatious climbing-collar, and a useful climbing-necktie. Quietly we bid good-by to our trusty guide.

"Nonsense, man, we say heartily, "there will be no accident. Still, if anything should go wrong, perhaps it would be easier for you to bear if you had something to remember us by." Tenderly we take off our shoes and hand them to him. His eyes fill with tears. "Keep these until we return. Carry them off with you to your little room; and if in the long night watches you should ever think of us, take out your little brush and black them. Farewell."

[ocr errors]

We are off. Quickly we assume position A, with both hands grasping the horizontal bar and with our right foot firmly planted on the chest of the old gentleman in the lower. We push off vigorously. If the old gentleman's chest be of a proper firmness and resiliency, this push brings us to position B, with the left knee in the sharp knee-hold on the edge of the upper berth and the right leg at large. The right leg is then brought convulsively upward and forward and laid carefully in the upper berth, and the left leg is at liberty to follow it. From this point on all is plain squirming.

Perfect technic under proper climatic conditions will now have brought us to position C, that is, balancing on the ninth vertebra, with the feet waving gently above us. We have arrived. We are at liberty to enjoy the unrivaled scenic effects which our fatiguing journey has enabled us to secure. And then-we discover that we have left behind an important half of our pajamas.

Let us pass hurriedly over the humiliation of our descent and reascent. Let us modestly draw the curtains-and button them-over the busy scene which follows. Let us suppose the battle ended; the victor prone upon his berth, panting with

stealthily, and then yanks repeatedly and
unexpectedly. At the end of fifteen min-
utes the contest is usually declared a draw,
and passengers are permitted to doze
while the train proceeds to the next shunt-

Later, when morning comes, you will
take scientific interest in the revelations
of the wash-room, in arrangements and
abbreviations of attire which, like the bro-
mide's sunsets, you would n't believe if
you saw them in a picture. You will find
a brisk excitement in washing your face.
with cold water from the hot-water faucet
between two shavers who are virtually
certain to commit either suicide or man-
slaughter when the car hits the next curve.
You will be moved to pity and terror by
the sight of the banker in Lower 4 trying.
to heave himself into his trousers without
divesting himself of his protecting curtains
or entirely losing sight of the berth he
started in. Globe-trotters tell me that the
struggles of a semi-submerged whale un-
der the harpoon are, if anything, more
stupendous; but, then, these globe-trotters
are notoriously big talkers; you have to
take them with a grain of salt.

The train arrives. Dirty, mussy, sleepy, covered with a fine cinder-dust that the porter has brushed to and fro, but not removed, you go to your club. What a soul-satisfying shave! Hot-water faucets that give hot water; real soap, instead of the kind that squirts; a porcelain basin that you 're not in danger of falling into bodily. Your bath is entrancing; each clean garment you put on with a separate delight. And as you go to breakfast you offer a little prayer of thanks to the good Mr. Pullman, who put back the savor in the salt of civilization.

triumph; the defeated underwear hanging limply in their little hammock. Now begins the true joy of the Pullman life.

Sleep? Bless you, no, I don't mean that. Sleep is too prosaic. Why, at home you can sleep any night in a civilized bed; anybody who would want to sleep on a sleeper would be a stupid. I mean lying with the light shining in your eyes and feeling yourself quiver like a chocolate blanc-mange with the vibration of the car. I mean listening to the person in the next upper, who made the ascent in his evening clothes, gasp with the exertion of trying to throw the claw-hammer without stepping out of the circle. I mean poking your head out through the curtain like an African dodger and watching the porter make up a berth, which reminds you of that little game where you say, “Think of a number, and add so-and-so to it, and subtract so-and-so, and add so-and-so, and subtract the number you first thought of, and that leaves 5" (Cheers, and cries of, "I don't see how he does it. Do you, Mr. Nesbit?"). The porter starts with all the blankets and things in one berth, and transfers virtually all of them to the other, and then transfers virtually all of them back again, and so on indefinitely; and the answer is two beds. I mean tasting the excitement of the trainmen's car-shunting gymkhana, which takes place at every station along the journey, and the object of which is to see which can be more successful in waking the porter whom the lady in Upper 12 has been ringing for steadily during fifteen minutes: Team A, which draws off its locomotive to a distance and then charges your car, relying for its success on one prodigious bump; or Team B, which attaches its locomotive to your car

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »