TRANSIT AND HOTELS
The choice of such a trite topic as the means of travel may seem to denote that my observations in the United States must have been superficial. They were. I never hoped that they would be otherwise. In seven weeks (less one day) I could not expect to penetrate very far below the engaging surface of things. Nor did I unnaturally attempt to do so; for the evidence of the superficies is valuable, and it can only be properly gathered by the stranger at first sight. Among the scenes and phenomena that passed before me I of course remember best those which interested me most. Railroads and trains have always appealed to me; I have often tried to express my sense of their romantic savor. And I was eager to see and appreciate these particular manifestations of national character in America.
It happily occurred that my first important journey from New York was on the Pennsylvania Road.
“I’ll meet you at the station,” I said to my particular friend.
“Oh no!” he answered, positively. “I’ll pick you up on my way.”
The fact was that not for ten thousand dollars would he have missed the spectacle of my sensations as I beheld for the first time the most majestic terminus in the world! He alone would usher me into the gates of that marvel! I think he was not disappointed. I frankly surrendered myself to the domination of this extraordinary building. I did not compare. I knew there could be no comparison. Whenever afterward I heard, as I often did, enlightened, Europe-loving citizens of the United States complain that the United States was all very well, but there was no art in the United States, the image of this tremendous masterpiece would rise before me, and I was inclined to say: “Have you ever crossed Seventh Avenue, or are you merely another of those who have been to Europe and learned nothing?” The Pennsylvania station is full of the noble qualities that fine and heroic imagination alone can give. That there existed a railroad man poetic and audacious enough to want it, architects with genius powerful enough to create it, and a public with heart enough to love it—these things are for me a surer proof that the American is a great race than the existence of any quantity of wealthy universities, museums of classic art, associations for prison reform, or deep-delved safe-deposit vaults crammed with bonds. Such a monument does not spring up by chance; it is part of the slow flowering of a nation’s secret spirit!