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Around A Spring
by [?]

The greatest piece of good luck that can befall a Continental village is the discovery, within its limits, of a spring supplying some kind of malodorous water. From that moment the entire community, abandoning all other plans, give themselves over to hatching their golden egg, experience having taught them that no other source of prosperity can compare with a source thermale. If the water of the newfound spring, besides having an unpleasant smell, is also hot, then Providence has indeed blessed the township.

The first step is to have the fluid analyzed by a celebrity, and its medicinal qualities duly set forth in a certificate. The second is to get official recognition from the government and the authorization to erect a bath house. Once these preliminaries accomplished, the way lies plain before the fortunate village; every citizen, from the mayor down to the humblest laborer, devotes himself to solving the all-important problem how to attract strangers to the place and keep and amuse them when they have been secured.

Multicolored pamphlets detailing the local attractions are mailed to the four corners of the earth, and brilliant chromos of the village, with groups of peasants in the foreground, wearing picturesque costumes, are posted in every available railway station and booking-office, regardless of the fact that no costumes have been known in the neighborhood for half a century, except those provided by the hotel proprietors for their housemaids. A national dress, however, has a fine effect in the advertisement, and gives a local color to the scene. What, for instance, would Athens be without that superb individual in national get-up whom one is sure to see before the hotel on alighting from the omnibus? I am convinced that he has given as much pleasure as the Acropolis to most travellers; the knowledge that the hotel proprietors share the expenses of his keep and toilet cannot dispel the charm of those scarlet embroideries and glittering arms.

After preparing their trap, the wily inhabitants of a new watering-place have only to sit down and await events. The first people to appear on the scene are, naturally, the English, some hidden natural law compelling that race to wander forever in inexpensive by-ways and serve as pioneers for other nations. No matter how new or inaccessible the spring, you are sure to find a small colony of Britons installed in the half-finished hotels, reading week-old editions of the Times, and grumbling over the increase in prices since the year before.

As soon as the first stray Britons have developed into an “English colony,” the municipality consider themselves authorized to construct a casino and open avenues, which are soon bordered by young trees and younger villas. In the wake of the English come invalids of other nationalities. If a wandering “crowned head” can be secured for a season, a great step is gained, as that will attract the real paying public and the Americans, who as a general thing are the last to appear on the scene.

At this stage of its evolution, the “city fathers” build a theatre in connection with their casino, and (persuading the government to wink at their evasion of the gambling laws) add games of chance to the other temptations of the place.

There is no better example of the way a spring can be developed by clever handling, and satisfactory results obtained from advertising and judicious expenditure, than Aix-les-Bains, which twenty years ago was but a tiny mountain village, and to-day ranks among the wealthiest and most brilliant eaux in Europe. In this case, it is true, they had tradition to fall back on, for Aquæ Gratinæ was already a favorite watering-place in the year 30 B.C., when Cæsar took the cure.

There is little doubt in my mind that when the Roman Emperor first arrived he found a colony of spinsters and retired army officers (from recently conquered Britain) living around this spring in popinæ (which are supposed to have corresponded to our modern boarding-house), wearing waterproof togas and common-sense cothurni, with double cork soles.