When you are in a foreign country, reduced to the condition of a deaf-mute, you can not but curse the memory of him who conceived the idea of building the tower of Babel, and by his pride brought about the confusion of tongues! An ” omnibus took possession of myself and my trunks, and, with the feeling that it must of necessity take me somewhere, I confidingly allowed myself to be stowed in and carried away. The intelligent omnibus set me down before the best hotel in the town, and there, as circumnavigators say in their journals, “I held a parley with the natives.” Among them was a waiter who spoke French in a way that was transparent enough to give me an occasional glimpse of his meaning; and whoa much rarer thing!–even sometimes understood what I said to him.
My name upon the hotel register was a ray of light. The hostess had been notified of my expected arrival, and I was to be sent for as soon as my appearance should be announced; but it was now late in the evening, and I thought it better to wait till the next day. There was served for supper a “chaud-froid” of partridge without confitureand I lay down upon the sofa, hopeless of being able to sleep between the two down-cushions which compose the German and the Danish bed.
I explored Schleswig, which is a city quite peculiar in its appearance. One wide street runs the length of the town, with which narrow cross streets are connected, like the smaller bones with the dorsal vertebrae of a fish. There are handsome modern houses, which, as usual, have not the slightest character. But the more modest dwellings have a local stamp; they are one-story buildings, very lownot over seven or eight feet in heightcapped with a huge roof of fluted red tiles. Windows, broader than they are high, occupy the whole of the front; and behind ‘these windows, spread luxuriantly in porcelain or faience or earthen flower-pots, plants of every description; geraniums, verbenas, fuchsiasand this absolutely `without exception. The poorest house is as well adorned as the best. Sheltered by these perfumed window-blinds, the women sit at work, knitting or sewing, and, out of the corner of their eye, they watch, in the little movable mirror which reflects the streets, the rare passer-by, whose boots resound upon the pavement. The cultivation of flowers seem to be a passion in the north; countries where they grow naturally make but little account of them in comparison.
The church in Schleswig had in store for me a surprise. Protestant churches in general, are not very interesting from an artistic point of view, unless the reformed faith may have installed itself in some Catholic sanctuary diverted from its primitive designation. You find, usually, only whitewashed naves, walls destitute of painting or bas-relief, and rows of oaken benches well-polished and shining. It is neat and comfortable, but it is not beautiful. The church at Schleswig contains, by a grand, unknown artist, an altar-piece in three parts, of carved wood, representing in a ‘series of bas-reliefs, separated by fine architectural designs, the most important scenes in the drama of the Passion.
Around the church stand sepulchral chapels of fine funereal fancy and excellent decorative effect. A vaulted hall contains the tombs of the ancient Dukes of Schleswig; massive slabs of stone, blazoned with armorial devices, covered with inscriptions which are not lacking in character.
In the neighborhood of Schleswig are great saline ponds, communicating with the sea. I paced the high-road, remarking the play of light upon this grayish water, and the surface crisped by the wind; occasionally I extended my walk as far as the chateau metamorphosed into a barrack, and the public gardens, a miniature St. Cloud, with its cascade, its dolphins, and its other aquatic monsters all standing idle. A very good sinecure is that of a Triton in a Louis Quinze basin! I should ask nothing better myself.