The American HTML version

Chapter 1
On a brilliant day in May, in the year 1868, a gentleman was reclining at his ease
on the great circular divan which at that period occupied the centre of the Salon
Carre, in the Museum of the Louvre. This commodious ottoman has since been
removed, to the extreme regret of all weak-kneed lovers of the fine arts, but the
gentleman in question had taken serene possession of its softest spot, and, with
his head thrown back and his legs outstretched, was staring at Murillo's beautiful
moon-borne Madonna in profound enjoyment of his posture. He had removed his
hat, and flung down beside him a little red guide-book and an opera-glass. The
day was warm; he was heated with walking, and he repeatedly passed his
handkerchief over his forehead, with a somewhat wearied gesture. And yet he
was evidently not a man to whom fatigue was familiar; long, lean, and muscular,
he suggested the sort of vigor that is commonly known as "toughness." But his
exertions on this particular day had been of an unwonted sort, and he had
performed great physical feats which left him less jaded than his tranquil stroll
through the Louvre. He had looked out all the pictures to which an asterisk was
affixed in those formidable pages of fine print in his Badeker; his attention had
been strained and his eyes dazzled, and he had sat down with an aesthetic
headache. He had looked, moreover, not only at all the pictures, but at all the
copies that were going forward around them, in the hands of those innumerable
young women in irreproachable toilets who devote themselves, in France, to the
propagation of masterpieces, and if the truth must be told, he had often admired
the copy much more than the original. His physiognomy would have sufficiently
indicated that he was a shrewd and capable fellow, and in truth he had often sat
up all night over a bristling bundle of accounts, and heard the cock crow without
a yawn. But Raphael and Titian and Rubens were a new kind of arithmetic, and
they inspired our friend, for the first time in his life, with a vague self-mistrust.
An observer with anything of an eye for national types would have had no
difficulty in determining the local origin of this undeveloped connoisseur, and
indeed such an observer might have felt a certain humorous relish of the almost
ideal completeness with which he filled out the national mould. The gentleman on
the divan was a powerful specimen of an American. But he was not only a fine
American; he was in the first place, physically, a fine man. He appeared to
possess that kind of health and strength which, when found in perfection, are the
most impressive-- the physical capital which the owner does nothing to "keep
up." If he was a muscular Christian, it was quite without knowing it. If it was
necessary to walk to a remote spot, he walked, but he had never known himself
to "exercise." He had no theory with regard to cold bathing or the use of Indian
clubs; he was neither an oarsman, a rifleman, nor a fencer--he had never had
time for these amusements--and he was quite unaware that the saddle is
recommended for certain forms of indigestion. He was by inclination a temperate
man; but he had supped the night before his visit to the Louvre at the Cafe
Anglais-- some one had told him it was an experience not to be omitted-- and he
had slept none the less the sleep of the just. His usual attitude and carriage were
of a rather relaxed and lounging kind, but when under a special inspiration, he