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Chapter 1
It has long been the custom of the North German Lloyd steamers, which convey
passengers from Bremen to New York, to anchor for several hours in the
pleasant port of Southampton, where their human cargo receives many
additions. An intelligent young German, Count Otto Vogelstein, hardly knew a
few years ago whether to condemn this custom or approve it. He leaned over the
bulwarks of the Donau as the American passengers crossed the plank--the
travellers who embark at Southampton are mainly of that nationality--and
curiously, indifferently, vaguely, through the smoke of his cigar, saw them
absorbed in the huge capacity of the ship, where he had the agreeable
consciousness that his own nest was comfortably made. To watch from such a
point of vantage the struggles of those less fortunate than ourselves--of the
uninformed, the unprovided, the belated, the bewildered--is an occupation not
devoid of sweetness, and there was nothing to mitigate the complacency with
which our young friend gave himself up to it; nothing, that is, save a natural
benevolence which had not yet been extinguished by the consciousness of
official greatness. For Count Vogelstein was official, as I think you would have
seen from the straightness of his back, the lustre of his light elegant spectacles,
and something discreet and diplomatic in the curve of his moustache, which
looked as if it might well contribute to the principal function, as cynics say, of the
lips--the active concealment of thought. He had been appointed to the
secretaryship of the German legation at Washington and in these first days of the
autumn was about to take possession of his post. He was a model character for
such a purpose--serious civil ceremonious curious stiff, stuffed with knowledge
and convinced that, as lately rearranged, the German Empire places in the most
striking light the highest of all the possibilities of the greatest of all the peoples.
He was quite aware, however, of the claims to economic and other consideration
of the United States, and that this quarter of the globe offered a vast field for
The process of inquiry had already begun for him, in spite of his having as yet
spoken to none of his fellow-passengers; the case being that Vogelstein inquired
not only with his tongue, but with his eyes--that is with his spectacles--with his
ears, with his nose, with his palate, with all his senses and organs. He was a
highly upright young man, whose only fault was that his sense of comedy, or of
the humour of things, had never been specifically disengaged from his several
other senses. He vaguely felt that something should be done about this, and in a
general manner proposed to do it, for he was on his way to explore a society
abounding in comic aspects. This consciousness of a missing measure gave him
a certain mistrust of what might be said of him; and if circumspection is the