The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
when I returned to civilisation.  On the whole, it may be philosophic to conclude that a universal habit in any country has some solid if cryptic reason for its existence, and to surmise that the drinking of ice-water is not so deadly in the States as it might be elsewhere.  It certainly is universal enough.  When you ring a bell or look at a waiter, ice-water is immediately brought to you.  Each meal is started with a full tumbler of that fluid, and the observant darkey rarely allows the tide to ebb until the meal is concluded.  Ice-water is provided gratuitously and copiously on trains, in waiting-rooms, even sometimes in the public fountains.  If, finally, I were asked to name the characteristic sound of the United States, which would tell you of your whereabouts if transported to America in an instant of time, it would be the musical tinkle of the ice in the small white pitchers that the bell-boys in hotels seem perennially carrying along all the corridors, day and night, year in and year out.

FOOTNOTES: 

[30] Lady Theodora Guest, sister of the Duke of Westminster, in her book, “A Round Trip in North America,” bears the same testimony:  “Over eleven thousand miles of railway travelling and miles untold of driving besides, without an accident or a semblance of one.  No contretemps of any kind, except the little delay at Hope from the ‘washout,’ which did not matter the least; lovely weather, and universal kindness and courtesy from man, woman, and child.”

[31]
 “Had you seen but those roads before they were made,
  You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade.”

[32] This epithet must not confirm the usual erroneous belief that Florida means “the flowery State.”  It is so called because discovered on Easter Day (Spanish Pascua Florida).

XIII

The American Note

Those who have done me the honour to read through the earlier pages of this volume will probably find nothing in the present chapter that has not already been implied in them, if not expressed.  Indeed, I should not consider these pages written to any purpose if they did not give some indication of what I believe to be the dominant trend of American civilisation.  A certain amount of condensed explication and recapitulation may not, however, be out of place.

In spite of the heterogeneous elements of which American civilisation consists, and in spite of the ever-ready pitfalls of spurious generalisation, it seems to me that there is very distinctly an American note, different in pitch and tone from any note in the European concert.  The scale to which it belongs is not, indeed, one out of all relation to that of the older hemisphere, in the way, for example, in which the laws governing Chinese music seem to stand apart from all relations to those on which the Sonata Appassionata is constructed.  “The American,” as Emerson said, “is only the continuation of the English genius into new conditions, more or less propitious;” and the American note, as I understand it, is, with allowance for modifications by other nationalities, after all merely the New World incarnation of a British potentiality.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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