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The Tragedy Of Washington Square
by [?]

Another aspect of the matter is this. We think the consul ought to know that we spent one night in Switzerland once; we think he ought to know what we were doing that night; but we also think he ought to know just why it was that we spent only one night in his beautiful country. We don’t want him to think we hurried away because we were annoyed by anything, or because the national debt was so many rupees or piasters, or because child labor in Switzerland is—-. It is the thought that the consul and all his staff are in total ignorance of our existence that galls us. Here we are, walking round and round the Square, bursting with information and enthusiasm about Swiss republicanism, and the consul never heard of us. How can we summon up courage enough to tell him the truth? That is the tragedy of Washington Square.

It was a dark, rainy night when we bicycled into Basel. We hid been riding all day long, coming down from the dark clefts of the Black Forest, and we and our knapsack were wet through. We had been bicycling for six weeks with no more luggage than a rucksack could hold. We never saw such rain as fell that day we slithered and sloshed on the rugged slopes that tumble down to the Rhine at Basel. (The annual rainfall in Switzerland is—-.) When we got to the little hotel at Basel we sat in the dining room with water running off us in trickles, until the head waiter glared. And so all we saw of Switzerland was the interior of the tobacconist’s where we tried, unsuccessfully, to get some English baccy. Then he went to bed while our garments were dried. We stayed in bed for ten hours, reading, fairy tales and smoking and answering modestly through the transom when any one asked us questions.

The next morning we overhauled our wardrobe. We will not particularize, but we decided that one change of duds, after six weeks’ bicycling, was not enough of a wardrobe to face the Jungfrau and the national debt and the child-labor problenm, not to speak of the anonymous President and the other sights that matter (such as the Matterhorn). Also, our stock of tobacco had run out, and German or French tobacco we simply cannot smoke. Even if we could get along on substitute fumigants the issue of garments was imperative. The nearest place where we could get any clothes of the kind that we are accustomed to, the kind of clothes that are familiarly symbolized by three well-known initials, was London. And the only way we had to get to London was on our bicycle. We thought we had better get busy. It’s a long bike ride from Basel to London. So we just went as far as the Basel Cathedral, so as not to seem too unappreciative of all the treasures that Switzerland had been saving for us for countless centuries; then we got on board our patient steed and trundled off through Alsace.

That was in August, 1912, and we firmly intended to go back to Switzerland the next year to have another look at, the rainfall and the rest of the statistics and status quos. But the opportunity has not come.

So that is why we wander disconsolately about Washington Square, trying to make up our mind to unburden our bosom to the Swiss consul and tell him the worst. But how can one go and interrupt a consul to tell him that sort of thing? Perhaps he wouldn’t understand it at all; he would misunderstand our pathetic little story and be angry that we took up his time. He wouldn’t think that a shortage of tobacco and clothing was a sufficient excuse for slighting William Tell and the Jungfrau. He wouldn’t appreciate the frustrated emotion and longing with which we watch the little red cross at his front door, and think of all it means to us and all it might have meant.

We took another turn around Washington Square, trying to embolden ourself enough to go in and tell the consul all this. And then our heart failed us. We decided to write a piece for the paper about it, and if the consul ever sees it he will be generous and understand. He will know why, behind the humble facade of his consulate on Washington Square, we see the heaven-piercing summits of Switzerland rising like a dream, blue and silvery and tantalizing.

P.S. Since the above we have definitely decided not to go to call on the Swiss consul. Suppose he were only a vice-consul, a Philadelphia Swiss, who had never been to Switzerland in his life!