"Here, Jimmy!" said, briskly, a middle-aged administrative person in easy attire, who apparently had dominion over the whole floor beneath the dome. A younger man, also in easy attire, answered the call with an alert smile. The elder pointed sideways with his head at my two friends and myself, and commanded, "Run them through in thirty minutes!" Then, having reached the center of a cuspidor with all the precision of a character in a Californian novel, he added benevolently to Jimmy, "Make it a dollar for them." And Jimmy, consenting, led us away.

In this episode Europe was having her revenge on the United States, and I had planned it. How often, in half a hundred cities of Europe, had I not observed the American citizen seeing the sights thereof at high speed? Yes, even in front of the Michael Angelo sculptures in the Medici Chapel at Florence had I seen him, watch in hand, and heard him murmur "Bully!" to the sculptures and the time of the train to his wife in one breath! Now it was impossible for me to see Washington under the normal conditions of a session. And so I took advantage of the visit to Washington of two friends on business to see Washington hastily, as an excursionist pure and simple. I said to the United States, grimly: "The most important and the most imposing thing in all America is surely the Capitol at Washington. Well, I will see it as you see the sacred sights of Europe. By me Europe shall be revenged."

Thus it came about that we had hired a kind of carriage known as a "sea-going hack," driven by a negro in dark blue, who was even more picturesque than the negroes in white who did the menial work in the classic hotel, and had set forth frankly as excursionists into the streets of Washington, and presently through the celebrated Pennsylvania Avenue had achieved entrance into the Capitol.

It was a breathless pilgrimage - this seeing of the Capitol. And yet an impressive one. The Capitol is a great place. I was astonished - and I admit at once I ought not to have been astonished - that the Capitol appeals to the historic sense just as much as any other vast legislative palace of the world - and perhaps more intimately than some. The sequence of its endless corridors and innumerable chambers, each associated with event or tradition, begets awe. I think it was in the rich Senatorial reception-room that I first caught myself being surprised that the heavy gilded and marmoreal sumptuosity of the decorations recalled the average European palace. Why should I have been expecting the interior of the Capitol to consist of austere bare walls and unornamented floors? Perhaps it was due to some thought of Abraham Lincoln. But whatever its cause, the expectation was naive and derogatory. The young guide, Jimmy, who by birth and genius evidently belonged to the universal race of guides, was there to keep my ideas right and my eyes open. He was infinitely precious, and after his own fashion would have done honor to any public monument in the East. Such men are only bred in the very shadow of genuine history.

"See," he said, touching a wall. "Painted by celebrated Italian artist to look like bas-relief! But put your hand flat against it, and you'll see it isn't carved!" One might have been in Italy.

And a little later he was saying of other painting:

"Although painted in eighteen hundred sixty-five - forty-six years ago - you notice the flesh tints are as fresh as if painted yesterday!"

This, I think, was the finest remark I ever heard a guide make - until this same guide stepped in front of a portrait of Henry Clay, and, after a second's hesitation, threw off airily, patronizingly:

"Henry Clay - quite a good statesman!"

But I also contributed my excursionist's share to these singular conversations. In the swathed Senate Chamber I noticed two holland-covered objects that somehow reminded me of my youth and of religious dissent. I guessed that the daily proceedings of the Senate must be opened with devotional exercises, and these two objects seemed to me to be proper - why, I cannot tell - to the United States Senate; but there was one point that puzzled me.

"Why," I asked, "do you have two harmoniums?"

"Harmoniums, sir!" protested the guide, staggered. "Those are roll-top desks."

If only the floor could have opened and swallowed me up, as it opens and swallows up the grand piano at the Thomas concerts in Chicago!

Neither the Senate Chamber nor the Congress Chamber was as imposing to me as the much less spacious former Senate Chamber and the former Congress Chamber. The old Senate Chamber, being now transferred to the uses of supreme justice, was closed on the day of our visit, owing to the funeral of a judge. Europeans would have acquiesced in the firm negative of its locked doors. But my friends, being American, would not acquiesce. The mere fact that the room was not on view actually sharpened their desire that I should see it. They were deaf to refusals.... I saw that room. And I was glad that I saw it, for in its august simplicity it was worth seeing. The spirit of the early history of the United States seemed to reside in that hemicycle; and the crape on the vacated and peculiar chair added its own effect.

My first notion on entering the former Congress Chamber was that I was in presence of the weirdest collection of ugly statues that I had ever beheld. Which impression, the result of shock, was undoubtedly false. On reflection I am convinced that those statues of the worthies of the different States are not more ugly than many statues I could point to in no matter what fane, museum, or palace of Europe. Their ugliness is only different from our accustomed European ugliness. The most crudely ugly mural decorations in the world are to be found all over Italy - the home of sublime frescos. The most atrociously debased architecture in the world is to be found in France - the home of sober artistic tradition. Europe is simply peppered everywhere with sculpture whose appalling mediocrity defies competition. But when the European meets ugly sculpture or any ugly form of art in the New World, his instinct is to exclaim, "Of course!" His instinct is to exclaim, "This beats everything!" The attitude will not bear examination. And lo! I was adopting it myself.

"And here's Frances Willard!" cried, ecstatically, a young woman in one of the numerous parties of excursionists whose more deliberate paths through the Capitol we were continually crossing in our swift course.

And while, upon the spot where John Quincy Adams fell, I pretended to listen to the guide, who was proving to me from a distance that the place was as good a whispering-gallery as any in Europe, I thought: "And why should not Frances Willard's statue be there? I am glad it is there. And I am glad to see these groups of provincials admiring with open mouths the statues of the makers of their history, though the statues are chiefly painful." And I thought also: "New York may talk, and Chicago may talk, and Boston may talk, but it is these groups of provincials who are the real America." They were extraordinarily like people from the Five Towns - that is to say, extraordinarily like comfortable average people everywhere.

We were outside again, under one of the enormous porticos of the Capitol. The guide was receiving his well-earned dollar. The faithful fellow had kept nicely within the allotted limit of half an hour.

"Now we'll go and see the Congressional Library," said my particular friend.

But I would not. I had put myself in a position to retort to any sight-seeing American in Europe that I had seen his Capitol in thirty minutes, and I was content. I determined to rest on my laurels. Moreover, I had discovered that conventional sight-seeing is a very exhausting form of activity. I would visit neither the Library of Congress, nor the Navy Department, nor the Pension Bureau, nor the Dead-Letter Museum, nor the Zoological Park, nor the White House, nor the National Museum, nor the Lincoln Museum, nor the Smithsonian Institution, nor the Treasury, nor any other of the great spectacles of Washington. We just resumed the sea-going hack and drove indolently to and fro in avenues and parks, tasting the general savor of the city's large pleasantness. And we had not gone far before we got into the clutches of the police.

"I don't know who you are," said a policeman, as he stopped our sea-going hack. "I don't know who you are," he repeated, cautiously, as one accustomed to policing the shahs and grand viziers of the earth, "but it's my duty to tell you your coachman crossed over on the wrong side of the lamp-post. It's not allowed, and he knows it as well as I do."

We admitted by our shamed silence that we had no special "pull" in Washington; the wise negro said not a word; and we crept away from the policeman's wrath, and before I knew it we were up against the Washington Monument - one of those national calamities which ultimately happen to every country, and of which the supreme example is, of course, the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.

When I drove into the magnificent railway station late that night - true American rain was descending in sheets - I was carrying away with me an impression, as it were, of a gigantic plantation of public edifices in a loose tangle and undergrowth of thoroughfares: which seemed proper for a legislative and administrative metropolis. I was amused to reflect how the city, like most cities, had extended in precisely the direction in which its founders had never imagined it would extend; and naturally I was astonished by the rapidity of its development. (One of my friends, who was not old, had potted wild game in a marsh that is now a park close to the Capitol.) I thought that the noble wings of the Capitol were architecturally much superior to the central portion of it. I remembered a dazzling glimpse of the White House as a distinguished little building. I feared that ere my next visit the indefatigable energy of America would have rebuilt Pennsylvania Avenue, especially the higgledy-piggledy and picturesque and untidy portion of it that lies nearest to the Capitol, and I hoped that in doing so the architects would at any rate not carry the cornice to such excess as it has been carried in other parts of the town. And, finally, I was slightly scared by the prevalence of negroes. It seemed to me as if in Washington I had touched the fringe of the negro problem.

It was in a different and a humbler spirit that I went to Boston. I had received more warnings and more advice about Boston than about all the other cities put together. And, in particular, the greatest care had been taken to permeate my whole being with the idea that Boston was "different." In some ways it proved so to be. One difference forced itself upon me immediately I left the station for the streets - the quaint, original odor of the taxis. When I got to the entirely admirable hotel I found a book in a prominent situation on the writing-table in my room. In many hotels this book would have been the Bible. But here it was the catalogue of the hotel library; it ran to a hundred and eighty-two pages. On the other hand, there was no bar in the hotel, and no smoking-room. I make no comments; I draw no conclusions; I state the facts.

The warnings continued after my arrival. I was informed by I don't know how many persons that Boston was "a circular city," with a topography calculated to puzzle the simple. This was true. I usually go about in strange places with a map, but I found the map of Boston even more complex than the city it sought to explain. If I did not lose myself, it was because I never trusted myself alone; other people lost me.

Within an hour or so I had been familiarized by Bostonians with a whole series of apparently stock jokes concerning and against Boston, such as that one hinging on the phrase "cold roast Boston," and that other one about the best thing in Boston being the five o'clock train to New York (I do not vouch for the hour of departure). Even in Cambridge, a less jocular place, a joke seemed to be immanent, to the effect that though you could always tell a Harvard man, you could not tell him much.

Matters more serious awaited me. An old resident of Boston took me out for privacy onto the Common and whispered in my ear: "This is the most snobbish city in the whole world. There is no real democracy here. The first thing people do when they get to know you is to show you their family tree and prove that they came over in the Mayflower." And so he ran on, cursing Boston up hill and down dale. Nevertheless, he was very proud of his Boston. Had I agreed with the condemnation, he might have thrown me into the artificial brook. Another great Bostonian expert, after leading me on to admit that I had come in order to try to learn the real Boston, turned upon me with ferocious gaiety, thus: "You will not learn the real Boston. You cannot. The real Boston is the old Back Bay folk, who gravitate eternally between Beacon Street and State Street and the Somerset Club, and never go beyond. They confuse New England with the created universe, and it is impossible that you should learn them. Nobody could learn them in less than twenty years' intense study and research."

Cautioned, and even intimidated, I thought it would be safest just to take Boston as Boston came, respectfully but casually. And as the hospitality of Boston was prodigious, splendid, unintermittent, and most delightfully unaffected, I had no difficulty whatever in taking Boston as she came. And my impressions began to emerge, one after another, from the rich and cloudy confusion of novel sensations.

What primarily differentiates Boston from all the other cities I saw is this: It is finished; I mean complete. Of the other cities, while admitting their actual achievement, one would say, and their own citizens invariably do say, "They will be ..." Boston is.

Another leading impression, which remains with me, is that Boston is not so English as it perhaps imagines itself to be. An interviewer (among many) came to see me about Boston, and he came with the fixed and sole notion in his head that Boston was English. He would have it that Boston was English. Worn down by his persistency, I did, as a fact, admit in one obscure corner of the interview that Boston had certain English characteristics. The scare-head editor of the interviewing paper, looking through his man's copy for suitable prey, came across my admission. It was just what he wanted; it was what he was thirsting for. In an instant the scare-head was created: "Boston as English as a muffin!" An ideal scare-head! That I had never used the word "muffin" or any such phrase was a detail exquisitely unimportant. The scare-head was immense. It traveled in fine large type across the continent. I met it for weeks afterward in my press-cuttings, and I doubt if Boston was altogether delighted with the comparison. I will not deny that Boston is less strikingly un-English than sundry other cities. I will not deny that I met men in Boston of a somewhat pronounced English type. I will not deny that in certain respects old Kensington reminds me of a street here and there in Boston - such as Mount Vernon Street or Chestnut Street. But I do maintain that the Englishness of Boston has been seriously exaggerated.

And still another very striking memory of Boston - indeed, perhaps, the paramount impression! - is that it contains the loveliest modern thing I saw in America - namely, the Puvis de Chavannes wall-paintings on the grand staircase of the Public Library. The Library itself is a beautiful building, but it holds something more beautiful. Never shall I forget my agitation on beholding these unsurpassed works of art, which alone would suffice to make Boston a place of pilgrimage.

When afterward I went back to Paris, the painters' first question was: "Et les Puvis a Boston - vous les avez vus? Qu'est-ce que vous en dites?"

It was very un-English on the part of Boston to commission these austere and classical works. England would never have done it. The nationality of the greatest decorative painter of modern times would have offended her sense of fitness. What - a French painter officially employed on an English public building? Unthinkable! England would have insisted on an English painter - or, at worst, an American. It is strange that a community which had the wit to honor itself by employing Puvis de Chavannes should be equally enthusiastic about the frigid theatricalities of an E.A. Abbey or the forbidding and opaque intricate dexterity of a John Sargent in the same building. Or, rather, it is not strange, for these contradictions are discoverable everywhere in the patronage of the arts.

It was from the Public Library that some friends and I set out on a little tour of Boston. Whether we went north, south, east, or west I cannot tell, for this was one of the few occasions when the extreme variousness of a city has deprived me definitely of a sense of direction; but I know that we drove many miles through magnificent fenny parks, whose roads were reserved to pleasure, and that at length, after glimpsing famous houses and much of the less centralized wealth and ease of Boston, we came out upon the shores of the old harbor, and went into a yacht-club-house with a glorious prospect. Boston has more book-shops to the acre than any city within my knowledge except Aberdeen (not North Carolina, but Scotland). Its book-shops, however, are as naught to its yacht clubs. And for one yacht club I personally would sacrifice many book-shops. It was an exciting moment in my life when, after further wandering on and off coast roads, and through curving, cobbled, rackety streets, and between thunderous tram-cars and under deafening elevated lines, I was permitted to enter the celestial and calm precincts of the Boston Yacht Club itself, which overlooks another harbor. The acute and splendid nauticality of this club, all fashioned out of an old warehouse, stamps Boston as a city which has comprehended the sea. I saw there the very wheel of the Spray, the cockboat in which the regretted Slocum wafted himself round the world! I sat in an arm-chair which would have suited Falstaff, and whose tabular arms would have held all Falstaff's tankards, and gazed through a magnified port-hole at a six-masted schooner as it crossed the field of vision! And I had never even dreamed that a six-masted schooner existed! It was with difficulty that I left the Boston Yacht Club. Indeed, I would only leave it in order to go and see the frigate Constitution, the ship which was never defeated, and which assuredly, after over a hundred and ten years of buoyant life, remains the most truly English thing in Boston. The afternoon teas of Boston are far less English than that grim and majestic craft.

We passed into the romantic part of Boston, skirting vast wool-warehouses and other enormous establishments bearing such Oriental signs as "Coffee and Spices." And so into a bewildering congeries of crowded streets, where every name on the walls seemed to be Italian, and where every corner was dangerous with vegetable-barrows, tram-cars, and perambulators; through this quarter the legend of Paul Revere seemed to float like a long wisp of vapor. And then I saw the Christopher Wren spire of Paul Revere's signal-church, closed now - but whether because the congregation had dwindled to six or for some more recondite reason I am not clear. And then I beheld the delightful, elegant fabric of the old State House, with the memories of massacre round about it, and the singular spectacle of the Lion and the Unicorn on its roof. Too proudly negligent had Boston been to remove those symbols!

And finally we rolled into the central and most circular shopping quarter, as different from the Italian quarter as the Italian quarter was different from Copley Square; and its heart was occupied by a graveyard. And here I had to rest.

The second portion of the itinerary began with the domed State Capitol, an impressive sight, despite its strange coloring, and despite its curious habit of illuminating itself at dark, as if in competition with such establishments as the "Bijou Dream," on the opposite side of the Common. Here I first set eyes on Beacon Street, familiar - indeed, classic - to the European student of American literature. Commonwealth Avenue, I have to confess, I had never heard of till I saw it. These interminable and gorgeous thoroughfares, where each massive abode is a costly and ceremonial organization of the most polished and civilized existence, leave the simple European speechless - especially when he remembers the swampy origin of the main part of the ground.... The inscrutable, the unknowable Back Bay!

Here, indeed, is evidence of a society in equilibrium, and therefore of a society which will receive genuinely new ideas with an extreme, if polite, caution, while welcoming with warm suavity old ideas that disguise themselves as novelties!

It was a tremendous feat to reclaim from ooze the foundation of Back Bay. Such feats are not accomplished in Europe; they are not even imaginatively conceived there. And now that the great business is achieved, the energy that did it, restless and unoccupied, is seeking another field. I was informed that Boston is dreaming of the construction of an artificial island in the midst of the river Charles, with the hugest cathedral in the world thereon, and the most gorgeous bridges that ever spanned a fine stream. With proper deference, it is to be hoped that Boston, forgetting this infelicitous caprice, will remember in time that she alone among the great cities of America is complete. A project that would consort well with the genius of Chicago might disserve Boston in the eyes of those who esteem a sense of fitness to be among the major qualifications for the true art of life. And, in the matter of the art of daily living, Boston as she is has a great deal to teach to the rest of the country, and little to learn. Such is the diffident view of a stranger.

Cambridge is separated from Boston by the river Charles and by piquant jealousies that tickle no one more humorously than those whom, theoretically, they stab. From the east bank Cambridge is academic, and therefore negligible; from the west, Boston dwindles to a mere quay where one embarks for Europe.

What struck me first about Cambridge was that it must be the only city of its size and amenity in the United States without an imposing hotel. It is difficult to imagine any city in the United States minus at least two imposing hotels, with a barber's shop in the basement and a world's fair in the hall. But one soon perceives that Cambridge is a city apart. In visual characteristics it must have changed very little, and it will never change with facility. Boston is pre-eminently a town of traditions, but the traditions have to be looked for. Cambridge is equally a town of traditions, but the traditions stare you in the face.

My first halt was in front of the conspicuous home of James Russell Lowell. Now in the far recesses of the Five Towns I was brought up on "My Study Windows." My father, who would never accept the authority of an encyclopedia when his children got him in a corner on some debated question of fact, held James Russell Lowell as the supreme judge of letters, from whom not even he could appeal (It is true, he had never heard of Ste. Beuve, and regarded Matthew Arnold as a modern fad.) And there were the study windows of James Russell Lowell! And his house in its garden was only one of hundreds of similar houses standing in like old gardens.

It was highly agreeable to learn that some of the pre-Revolution houses had not yet left the occupation of the families which built them. Beautiful houses, a few of them, utterly dissimilar from anything on the other side of the Atlantic! Did not William Morris always maintain that wood was and forever would be the most suitable material for building a house? On the side of the railroad track near Toledo I saw frame houses, whose architecture is debased from this Cambridge architecture, blown clean over by the gale. But the gale that will deracinate Cambridge has not yet begun to rage.... I rejoiced to see the house of Longfellow. In spite of the fact that he wrote "The Wreck of the Hesperus," he seems to keep his position as the chief minor poet of the English language. And the most American and the most wistful thing in Cambridge was that the children of Cambridge had been guided to buy and make inalienable the land in front of his house, so that his descendant might securely enjoy the free prospect that Longfellow enjoyed. In what other country would just such a delicate, sentimental homage have been paid in just such an ingeniously fanciful manner?[1]

[Footnote 1: This story was related to me by a resident of Cambridge. Mr. Richard H. Dana, Longfellow's son-in-law, has since informed me that it is quite untrue. I regret that it is quite untrue. It ought to have been quite true. The land in question was given by Longfellow's children to the Longfellow Memorial Association, who gave it to the city of Cambridge. The general children of Cambridge did give to Longfellow an arm-chair made from the wood of a certain historic "spreading chestnut-tree," under which stood a certain historic village smithy; and with this I suppose I must be content. - A.B.]

After I had passed the Longfellow house it began to rain, and dusk began to gather in the recesses between the houses; and my memory is that, with an athletic and tireless companion, I walked uncounted leagues through endless avenues of Cambridge homes toward a promised club that seemed ever to retreat before us with the shyness of a fawn. However, we did at length capture it. This club was connected with Harvard, and I do not propose to speak of Harvard in the present chapter.

The typical Cambridge house as I saw it persists in my recollection as being among the most characteristic and comfortable of "real" American phenomena. And one reason why I insisted, in a previous chapter, on the special Americanism of Indianapolis is that Indianapolis is full of a modified variety of these houses which is even more characteristically American - to my mind - than the Cambridge style itself. Indianapolis being by general consent the present chief center of letters in the United States, it is not surprising that I, an author, knew more people from Indianapolis than from any other city. Indeed, I went to Indianapolis simply because I had old friends there, and not at all in the hope of inspecting a city characteristically American. It was quite startlingly different from the mental picture I had formed of it.

I think that in order to savor Indianapolis properly one should approach it as I approached it - in an accommodation-train on a single track, a train with a happy-go-lucky but still agreeable service in its restaurant-car, a train that halts at every barn-door in the vast flat, featureless fields of yellow stubble, rolling sometimes over a muddy, brown river, and skirting now and then a welcome wooded cleft in the monotony of the landscape. The scenes at those barn-doors were full of the picturesque and of the racy. A farmer with a gun and a brace of rabbits and a dog leaping up at them, while two young women talked to or at the farmer from a distance; a fat little German girl in a Scotch frock, cleaning outside windows with the absorbed seriousness of a grandmother; a group of boys dividing their attention between her and the train; an old woman driving a cart, and a negro gesticulating and running after the cart; and all of them, save the nigger, wearing gloves - presumably as a protection against the strong wind that swept through the stubble and shook the houses and the few trees. Those houses, in all their summariness and primitive crudity, yet reminded one of the Cambridge homes; they exhibited some remains of the pre-Revolution style.

And then you come to the inevitable State Fair grounds, and the environs of the city which is the capital and heart of all those plains.

And after you have got away from the railroad station and the imposing hotels and the public monuments and the high central buildings - an affair of five minutes in an automobile - you discover yourself in long, calm streets of essential America. These streets are rectangular; the streets of Cambridge abhor the straight line. They are full everywhere of maple-trees. And on either side they are bordered with homes - each house detached, each house in its own fairly spacious garden, each house individual and different from all the rest. Few of the houses are large; on the other hand, none of them is small: this is the region of the solid middle class, the class which loves comfort and piques itself on its amenities, but is a little ashamed or too timid to be luxurious.

Architecturally the houses represent a declension from the purity of earlier Cambridge. Scarcely one is really beautiful. The style is debased. But then, it possesses the advantage of being modernized; it has not the air of having strayed by accident into the wrong century. And, moreover, it is saved from condemnation by its sobriety and by its honest workmanship. It is the expression of a race incapable of looking foolish, of being giddy, of running to extremes. It is the expression of a race that both clung to the past and reached out to the future; that knew how to make the best of both worlds; that keenly realized the value of security because it had been through insecurity. You can see that all these houses were built by people who loved "a bit of property," and to whom a safe and dignified roof was the final ambition achieved. Why! I do believe that there are men and women behind some of those curtains to this day who haven't quite realized that the Indians aren't coming any more, and that there is permanently enough wood in the pile, and that quinine need no longer figure in the store cupboard as a staple article of diet! I do believe that there are minor millionaires in some of those drawing-rooms who wonder whether, out-soaring the ambition of a bit of property, they would be justified in creeping down-town and buying a cheap automobile!... These are the people who make the link between the academic traditionalism of Cambridge and such excessively modern products of evolution as their own mayor, Mr. Shanks, protector of the poor. They are not above forming deputations to parley with their own mayor.... I loved them. Their drawing-rooms were full of old silver, and book-gossip, and Victorian ladies apparently transported direct from the more aristocratic parts of the Five Towns, who sat behind trays and poured out tea from the identical tea-pot that my grandmother used to keep in a green bag.

In the outer suburbs of the very largest cities I saw revulsions against the wholesale barracky conveniences of the apartment-house, in the shape of little colonies of homes, consciously but superficially imitating the Cambridge-Indianapolis tradition - with streets far more curvily winding than the streets of Cambridge, and sidewalks of a strip of concrete between green turf-bands that recalled the original sidewalks of Indianapolis and even of the rural communities around Indianapolis. Cozy homes, each in its own garden, with its own clothes-drier, and each different from all the rest! Homes that the speculative builder, recking not of the artistic sobriety, had determined should be picturesque at any cost of capricious ingenuity! And not secure homes, because, though they were occupied by their owners, their owners had not built them - had only bought them, and would sell them as casually as they had bought. The apartment-house will probably prove stronger than these throwbacks. And yet the time will come when even the apartment-house will be regarded as a picturesque survival. Into what novel architecture and organization of living it will survive I should not care to prophesy, but I am convinced that the future will be quite as interestingly human as the present is, and as the past was.