Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/75

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the leadership of Hans Balatka, who still wields the baton in Chicago, good orchestral and vocal music was more liberally provided for than in any other city in the West. There was also a very good German theatre. Another attraction was the Hotel Weltstein, the best German inn in the United States. It was named after the proprietor, who had belonged to a learned profession in the fatherland, and was a most intelligent, well-informed, and entertaining host, though too fond of a glass of good wine. He was killed twenty-five years afterwards by a fall from a window. He kept his house very neat and clean, furnished an excellent table, and his charges were reasonable.

I obtained quarters there and quickly became acquainted with a number of the leading Germans, who were either regular guests or who had the habit of enjoying a social glass there. I felt at first encouraged by the fact that my work would be mostly among my own countrymen. But I soon found out that it was, on the contrary, a disadvantage, for most of those I approached knew nothing of American literature and did not care much for it. They had not been in the country long enough for that, and, moreover, their purely German surroundings naturally kept their interest in American affairs at a low point. I was made to feel, before long, that they had not become sufficiently emancipated from their feelings of caste not to look down upon me, more or less, as a book-peddler. I strove very hard to obtain subscribers, and regularly set out every morning and devoted all the day to going about from store to store and office to office. I have a lively recollection of a very heavy snow-storm that raged for several days, and was followed by a bitter cold spell which made canvassing very irksome physically. By degrees, the meagre fruits of my efforts caused my sanguine hopes to vanish, and made me uneasy as to the final outcome. At the end of three weeks, I had sold only thirty-five copies in all, twenty-seven to Americans and eight to Germans. I believe that I am correct in saying that only one out of every twelve attempts