Beside the trough, in front of our hotel, there had rested, undisturbed by any German child, for three long days, a good-sized water-pail. On Saturday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, an American family entered the little inn. Five minutes later I thought I heard a familiar melody outside, and looking from the window, beheld a characteristic specimen of Young America standing erect in the pail, and, to the amazement of the peaceful villagers, sailing triumphantly up and down the trough, whistling meantime with all his might the strains of Yankee Doodle! That evening, to escape the tumult in the town, we walked to an adjoining height, and stood in silence to survey the valley. The curtain of the night was falling on that larger stage we call the world. Below us, in the gathering darkness, was the little town, where, on the following day, the story of the Son of Man would be portrayed with a reality and pathos which, we well knew, would be overwhelming. At that great height the dwellings of the villagers appeared as small as earthly things appear beside the awful mysteries of Heaven.
Young America At Ober-Ammergau.
Christ And The Adulteress. (Hoffmann).
"How is it possible," exclaimed my friend, " that simple peasants in the first place can understand, and, secondly, can represent with any skill such a stupendous subject as the Passion Play? Apparently, it is as far above them as is this hill on which we stand."
"Call to mind," I answered, "the face we saw this morning at the fountain, - that of the man who takes the part of Thomas - and remember that the principal characters in this drama are not common peasants. The sacred play is not alone the central feature in the history of this village: it is the one great event in their individual lives. Toward certain parts in it they gradually progress from childhood to old age, and finally enact those characters with wonderful enthusiasm and religious fervor. None but the people of Ober-Ammergau itself may participate in the Passion Play, - and of them only those whose lives are reasonably blameless. Not to be worthy to appear at all is, therefore, a disgrace; while to enact the part of Christ is the greatest honor of which they can conceive."
Looking Down On Ober-Ammergat/.
Going To The Performance.
On Sunday morning, at a quarter before eight o'clock, we approached the theatre, in company with about four thousand people.
Visitors to Ober-Ammergau are, of course, liable to encounter stormy weather, which will seriously detract from their enjoyment of the occasion, although the play goes on in spite of tempests. I, however, was wonderfully fortunate. The weather could not have been finer. The sky was cloudless, and the atmosphere so clear that mountains, miles away, seemed close at hand. Moreover, the air, though cool, was warm enough to make a sojourn out of doors a positive delight. It was the realization of the poet's lines:
" Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridal of the earth and sky."
I noticed that the crowd itself was much more orderly and quiet than ten years before. The cause was evident. Then only the best seats had been reserved, while now each place in the great building had its number and corresponding ticket. Accordingly, the humblest peasant had no need of hurry or solicitude. Above the wooden wall we could discern a part of the interior - especially a pediment decorated with a fresco representing Christ surrounded by the poor and suffering, and bearing the inscription: "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
But it was only on entering the building that we beheld its decorations to advantage. Upon the curtain were finely painted figures of Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. To the right and left of these were passageways which represent streets in Jerusalem. Two houses in the foreground typified respectively, the dwellings of Pilate, the Roman Governor, and Annas, the high priest. The greater part of the stage was entirely open to the sky, the actors being thus fully exposed to sun and rain. About half the seats in the auditorium were covered with a wooden roof. From the first, the impression produced was remarkable. On every face there was a look of eager expectation; and as we sat, awaiting the opening of the play, the view of the mountains and the valley, and of the waving trees, blue sky, and singing birds, gave to the scene a charming air of freshness and reality.