There are few prettier things than Carlsbad by night from one of the many bridges which span the Tepl in its course through the town. If it is a starry night, the torrent glides swiftly away with an inverted firmament in its bosom, to which the lamps along its shores and in the houses on either side contribute a planetary splendor of their own. By nine o’clock everything is hushed; not a wheel is heard at that dead hour; the few feet shuffling stealthily through the Alte Wiese whisper a caution of silence to those issuing with a less guarded tread from the opera; the little bowers that overhang the stream are as dark and mute as the restaurants across the way which serve meals in them by day; the whole place is as forsaken as other cities at midnight. People get quickly home to bed, or if they have a mind to snatch a belated joy, they slip into the Theater-Cafe, where the sleepy Frauleins serve them, in an exemplary drowse, with plates of cold ham and bottles of the gently gaseous waters of Giesshubl. Few are of the bold badness which delights in a supper at Schwarzkopf’s, and even these are glad of the drawn curtains which hide their orgy from the chance passer.
The invalids of Burnamy’s party kept together, strengthening themselves in a mutual purpose not to be tempted to eat anything which was not strictly ‘kurgemass’. Mrs. March played upon the interest which each of them felt in his own case so artfully that she kept them talking of their cure, and left Burnamy and Miss Triscoe to a moment on the bridge, by which they profited, while the others strolled on, to lean against the parapet and watch the lights in the skies and the water, and be alone together. The stream shone above and below, and found its way out of and into the darkness under the successive bridges; the town climbed into the night with lamp-lit windows here and there, till the woods of the hill-sides darkened down to meet it, and fold it in an embrace from which some white edifice showed palely in the farthest gloom.
He tried to make her think they could see that great iron crucifix which watches over it day and night from its piny cliff. He had a fancy for a poem, very impressionistic, which should convey the notion of the crucifix’s vigil. He submitted it to her; and they remained talking till the others had got out of sight and hearing; and she was letting him keep the hand on her arm which he had put there to hold her from falling over the parapet, when they were both startled by approaching steps, and a voice calling, “Look here! Who’s running this supper party, anyway?”
His wife had detached March from her group for the mission, as soon as she felt that the young people were abusing her kindness. They answered him with hysterical laughter, and Burnamy said, “Why, it’s Mr. Stoller’s treat, you know.”