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Diary of a Pilgrimage
Said a friend of mine to me some months ago: "Well now, why don't you write a SENSIBLE book? I should like to see you make people think."
"Do you believe it can be done, then?" I asked.
"Well, try," he replied.
Accordingly, I have tried. This is a sensible book. I want you to understand that. This is a book to improve your mind. In this book I tell you all about Germany--at all events, all I know about Germany--and the Ober-Ammergau Passion Play. I also tell you about other things. I do not tell you all I know about all these other things, because I do not want to swamp you with knowledge. I wish to lead you gradually. When you have learnt this book, you can come again, and I will tell you some more. I should only be defeating my own object did I, by making you think too much at first, give you a perhaps, lasting dislike to the exercise. I have purposely put the matter in a light and attractive form, so that I may secure the attention of the young and the frivolous. I do not want them to notice, as they go on, that they are being instructed; and I have, therefore, endeavoured to disguise from them, so far as is practicable, that this is either an exceptionally clever or an exceptionally useful work. I want to do them good without their knowing it. I want to do you all good--to improve your minds and to make you think, if I can.
WHAT you will think after you have read the book, I do not want to know; indeed, I would rather not know. It will be sufficient reward for me to feel that I have done my duty, and to receive a percentage on the gross sales.
LONDON, March, 1891.
DIARY OF A PILGRIMAGE
My Friend B.--Invitation to the Theatre.--A Most Unpleasant Regulation.--Yearnings of the Embryo Traveller.--How to Make the Most of One's Own Country.--Friday, a Lucky Day.--The Pilgrimage Decided On.
My friend B. called on me this morning and asked me if I would go to a theatre with him on Monday next.
"Oh, yes! certainly, old man," I replied. "Have you got an order, then?"
"No; they don't give orders. We shall have to pay."
"Pay! Pay to go into a theatre!" I answered, in astonishment. "Oh, nonsense! You are joking."
"My dear fellow," he rejoined, "do you think I should suggest paying if it were possible to get in by any other means? But the people who run this theatre would not even understand what was meant by a 'free list,' the uncivilised barbarians! It is of no use pretending to them that you are on the Press, because they don't want the Press; they don't think anything of the Press. It is no good writing to the acting manager, because there is no acting manager. It would be a waste of time offering to exhibit bills, because they don't have any bills--not of that sort. If you want to go in to see the show, you've got to pay. If you don't pay, you stop outside; that's their brutal rule."
"Dear me," I said, "what a very unpleasant arrangement! And whereabouts is this extraordinary theatre? I don't think I can ever have been inside it."
"I don't think you have," he replied; "it is at Ober-Ammergau--first turning on the left after you leave Ober railway-station, fifty miles from Munich."
"Um! rather out of the way for a theatre," I said. "I should not have thought an outlying house like that could have afforded to give itself airs."
"The house holds seven thousand people," answered my friend B., "and money is turned away at each performance. The first production is on Monday next. Will you come?"
I pondered for a moment, looked at my diary, and saw that Aunt Emma was coming to spend Saturday to Wednesday next with us, calculated that if I went I should miss her, and might not see her again for years, and decided that I would go.
To tell the truth, it was the journey more than the play that tempted me. To be a great traveller has always been one of my cherished ambitions. I yearn to be able to write in this sort of strain:-
"I have smoked my fragrant Havana in the sunny streets of old Madrid, and I have puffed the rude and not sweet-smelling calumet of peace in the draughty wigwam of the Wild West; I have sipped my evening coffee in the silent tent, while the tethered camel browsed without upon the desert grass, and I have quaffed the fiery brandy of the North while the reindeer munched his fodder beside me in the hut, and the pale light of the midnight sun threw the shadows of the pines across the snow; I have felt the stab of lustrous eyes that, ghostlike, looked at me from out veil-covered faces in Byzantium's narrow ways, and I have laughed back (though it was wrong of me to do so) at the saucy, wanton glances of the black-eyed girls of Jedo; I have wandered where 'good'--but not too good--Haroun Alraschid crept disguised at nightfall, with his faithful Mesrour by his side; I have stood upon the bridge where Dante watched the sainted Beatrice pass by; I have floated on the waters that once bore the barge of Cleopatra; I have stood where Caesar fell; I have heard the soft rustle of rich, rare robes in the drawing-rooms of Mayfair, and I have heard the teeth-necklaces rattle around the ebony throats of the belles of Tongataboo; I have panted beneath the sun's fierce rays in India, and frozen under the icy blasts of Greenland; I have mingled with the teeming hordes of old Cathay, and, deep in the great pine forests of the Western World, I have lain, wrapped in my blanket, a thousand miles beyond the shores of human life."
B., to whom I explained my leaning towards this style of diction, said that exactly the same effect could be produced by writing about places quite handy. He said:-
"I could go on like that without having been outside England at all. I should say:
"I have smoked my fourpenny shag in the sanded bars of Fleet Street, and I have puffed my twopenny Manilla in the gilded balls of the Criterion; I have quaffed my foaming beer of Burton where Islington's famed Angel gathers the little thirsty ones beneath her shadowing wings, and I have sipped my tenpenny ordinaire in many a garlic-scented salon of Soho. On the back of the strangely-moving ass I have urged--or, to speak more correctly, the proprietor of the ass, or his agent, from behind has urged--my wild career across the sandy heaths of Hampstead, and my canoe has startled the screaming wild-fowl from their lonely haunts amid the sub-tropical regions of Battersea. Adown the long, steep slope of One Tree Hill have I rolled from top to foot, while laughing maidens of the East stood round and clapped their hands and yelled; and, in the old-world garden of that pleasant Court, where played the fair-haired children of the ill-starred Stuarts, have I wandered long through many paths, my arm entwined about the waist of one of Eve's sweet daughters, while her mother raged around indignantly on the other side of the hedge, and never seemed to get any nearer to us. I have chased the lodging-house Norfolk Howard to his watery death by the pale lamp's light; I have, shivering, followed the leaping flea o'er many a mile of pillow and sheet, by the great Atlantic's margin. Round and round, till the heart--and not only the heart--grows sick, and the mad brain whirls and reels, have I ridden the small, but extremely hard, horse, that may, for a penny, be mounted amid the plains of Peckham Rye; and high above the heads of the giddy throngs of Barnet (though it is doubtful if anyone among them was half so giddy as was I) have I swung in highly-coloured car, worked by a man with a rope. I have trod in stately measure the floor of Kensington's Town Hall (the tickets were a guinea each, and included refreshments--when you could get to them through the crowd), and on the green sward of the forest that borders eastern Anglia by the oft-sung town of Epping I have performed quaint ceremonies in a ring; I have mingled with the teeming hordes of Drury Lane on Boxing Night, and, during the run of a high-class piece, I have sat in lonely grandeur in the front row of the gallery, and wished that I had spent my shilling instead in the Oriental halls of the Alhambra."
"There you are," said B., "that is just as good as yours; and you can write like that without going more than a few hours' journey from London."
"We will discuss the matter no further," I replied. "You cannot, I see, enter into my feelings. The wild heart of the traveller does not throb within your breast; you cannot understand his longings. No matter! Suffice it that I will come this journey with you. I will buy a German conversation book, and a check-suit, and a blue veil, and a white umbrella, and suchlike necessities of the English tourist in Germany, this very afternoon. When do you start?"
"Well," he said, "it is a good two days' journey. I propose to start on Friday."
"Is not Friday rather an unlucky day to start on?" I suggested.
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