For months the great pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy Land was chatted about in the newspapers everywhere in America and discussed at countless firesides. It was a novelty in the way of excursions--its like had not been thought of before, and it compelled that interest which attractive novelties always command. It was to be a picnic on a gigantic scale. The participants in it, instead of freighting an ungainly steam ferry--boat with youth and beauty and pies and doughnuts, and paddling up some obscure creek to disembark upon a grassy lawn and wear themselves out with a long summer day's laborious frolicking under the impression that it was fun, were to sail away in a great steamship with flags flying and cannon pealing, and take a royal holiday beyond the broad ocean in many a strange clime and in many a land renowned in history! They were to sail for months over the breezy Atlantic and the sunny Mediterranean; they were to scamper about the decks by day, filling the ship with shouts and laughter--or read novels and poetry in the shade of the smokestacks, or watch for the jelly-fish and the nautilus over the side, and the shark, the whale, and other strange monsters of the deep; and at night they were to dance in the open air, on the upper deck, in the midst of a ballroom that stretched from horizon to horizon, and was domed by the bending heavens and lighted by no meaner lamps than the stars and the magnificent moon--dance, and promenade, and smoke, and sing, and make love, and search the skies for constellations that never associate with the "Big Dipper" they were so tired of; and they were to see the ships of twenty navies--the customs and costumes of twenty curious peoples--the great cities of half a world--they were to hob-nob with nobility and hold friendly converse with kings and princes, grand moguls, and the anointed lords of mighty empires! It was a brave conception; it was the offspring of a most ingenious brain. It was well advertised, but it hardly needed it: the bold originality, the extraordinary character, the seductive nature, and the vastness of the enterprise provoked comment everywhere and advertised it in every household in the land. Who could read the program of the excursion without longing to make one of the party? I will insert it here. It is almost as good as a map. As a text for this book, nothing could be better:
EXCURSION TO THE HOLY LAND, EGYPT, THE CRIMEA, GREECE, AND INTERMEDIATE POINTS OF INTEREST. BROOKLYN, February 1st, 1867
The undersigned will make an excursion as above during the coming season, and begs to submit to you the following programme:
A first-class steamer, to be under his own command, and capable of accommodating at least one hundred and fifty cabin passengers, will be selected, in which will be taken a select company, numbering not more than three-fourths of the ship's capacity. There is good reason to believe that this company can be easily made up in this immediate vicinity, of mutual friends and acquaintances.
The steamer will be provided with every necessary comfort, including library and musical instruments.
An experienced physician will be on board.
Leaving New York about June 1st, a middle and pleasant route will be taken across the Atlantic, and passing through the group of Azores, St. Michael will be reached in about ten days. A day or two will be spent here, enjoying the fruit and wild scenery of these islands, and the voyage continued, and Gibraltar reached in three or four days.
A day or two will be spent here in looking over the wonderful subterraneous fortifications, permission to visit these galleries being readily obtained.
From Gibraltar, running along the coasts of Spain and France, Marseilles will be reached in three days. Here ample time will be given not only to look over the city, which was founded six hundred years before the Christian era, and its artificial port, the finest of the kind in the Mediterranean, but to visit Paris during the Great Exhibition; and the beautiful city of Lyons, lying intermediate, from the heights of which, on a clear day, Mont Blanc and the Alps can be distinctly seen. Passengers who may wish to extend the time at Paris can do so, and, passing down through Switzerland, rejoin the steamer at Genoa.
From Marseilles to Genoa is a run of one night. The excursionists will have an opportunity to look over this, the "magnificent city of palaces," and visit the birthplace of Columbus, twelve miles off, over a beautiful road built by Napoleon I. From this point, excursions may be made to Milan, Lakes Como and Maggiore, or to Milan, Verona (famous for its extraordinary fortifications), Padua, and Venice. Or, if passengers desire to visit Parma (famous for Correggio's frescoes) and Bologna, they can by rail go on to Florence, and rejoin the steamer at Leghorn, thus spending about three weeks amid the cities most famous for art in Italy.
From Genoa the run to Leghorn will be made along the coast in one night, and time appropriated to this point in which to visit Florence, its palaces and galleries; Pisa, its cathedral and "Leaning Tower," and Lucca and its baths, and Roman amphitheater; Florence, the most remote, being distant by rail about sixty miles.
From Leghorn to Naples (calling at Civita Vecchia to land any who may prefer to go to Rome from that point), the distance will be made in about thirty-six hours; the route will lay along the coast of Italy, close by Caprera, Elba, and Corsica. Arrangements have been made to take on board at Leghorn a pilot for Caprera, and, if practicable, a call will be made there to visit the home of Garibaldi.
Rome [by rail], Herculaneum, Pompeii, Vesuvius, Vergil's tomb, and possibly the ruins of Paestum can be visited, as well as the beautiful surroundings of Naples and its charming bay.
The next point of interest will be Palermo, the most beautiful city of Sicily, which will be reached in one night from Naples. A day will be spent here, and leaving in the evening, the course will be taken towards Athens.
Skirting along the north coast of Sicily, passing through the group of Aeolian Isles, in sight of Stromboli and Vulcania, both active volcanoes, through the Straits of Messina, with "Scylla" on the one hand and "Charybdis" on the other, along the east coast of Sicily, and in sight of Mount Etna, along the south coast of Italy, the west and south coast of Greece, in sight of ancient Crete, up Athens Gulf, and into the Piraeus, Athens will be reached in two and a half or three days. After tarrying here awhile, the Bay of Salamis will be crossed, and a day given to Corinth, whence the voyage will be continued to Constantinople, passing on the way through the Grecian Archipelago, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, and the mouth of the Golden Horn, and arriving in about forty-eight hours from Athens.
After leaving Constantinople, the way will be taken out through the beautiful Bosphorus, across the Black Sea to Sebastopol and Balaklava, a run of about twenty-four hours. Here it is proposed to remain two days, visiting the harbors, fortifications, and battlefields of the Crimea; thence back through the Bosphorus, touching at Constantinople to take in any who may have preferred to remain there; down through the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, along the coasts of ancient Troy and Lydia in Asia, to Smyrna, which will be reached in two or two and a half days from Constantinople. A sufficient stay will be made here to give opportunity of visiting Ephesus, fifty miles distant by rail.
From Smyrna towards the Holy Land the course will lay through the Grecian Archipelago, close by the Isle of Patmos, along the coast of Asia, ancient Pamphylia, and the Isle of Cyprus. Beirut will be reached in three days. At Beirut time will be given to visit Damascus; after which the steamer will proceed to Joppa.
From Joppa, Jerusalem, the River Jordan, the Sea of Tiberias, Nazareth, Bethany, Bethlehem, and other points of interest in the Holy Land can be visited, and here those who may have preferred to make the journey from Beirut through the country, passing through Damascus, Galilee, Capernaum, Samaria, and by the River Jordan and Sea of Tiberias, can rejoin the steamer.
Leaving Joppa, the next point of interest to visit will be Alexandria, which will be reached in twenty-four hours. The ruins of Caesar's Palace, Pompey's Pillar, Cleopatra's Needle, the Catacombs, and ruins of ancient Alexandria will be found worth the visit. The journey to Cairo, one hundred and thirty miles by rail, can be made in a few hours, and from which can be visited the site of ancient Memphis, Joseph's Granaries, and the Pyramids.
From Alexandria the route will be taken homeward, calling at Malta, Cagliari (in Sardinia), and Palma (in Majorca), all magnificent harbors, with charming scenery, and abounding in fruits.
A day or two will be spent at each place, and leaving Parma in the evening, Valencia in Spain will be reached the next morning. A few days will be spent in this, the finest city of Spain.
From Valencia, the homeward course will be continued, skirting along the coast of Spain. Alicant, Carthagena, Palos, and Malaga will be passed but a mile or two distant, and Gibraltar reached in about twenty-four hours.
A stay of one day will be made here, and the voyage continued to Madeira, which will be reached in about three days. Captain Marryatt writes: "I do not know a spot on the globe which so much astonishes and delights upon first arrival as Madeira." A stay of one or two days will be made here, which, if time permits, may be extended, and passing on through the islands, and probably in sight of the Peak of Teneriffe, a southern track will be taken, and the Atlantic crossed within the latitudes of the northeast trade winds, where mild and pleasant weather, and a smooth sea, can always be expected.
A call will be made at Bermuda, which lies directly in this route homeward, and will be reached in about ten days from Madeira, and after spending a short time with our friends the Bermudians, the final departure will be made for home, which will be reached in about three days.
Already, applications have been received from parties in Europe wishing to join the Excursion there.
The ship will at all times be a home, where the excursionists, if sick, will be surrounded by kind friends, and have all possible comfort and sympathy.
Should contagious sickness exist in any of the ports named in the program, such ports will be passed, and others of interest substituted.
The price of passage is fixed at $1,250, currency, for each adult passenger. Choice of rooms and of seats at the tables apportioned in the order in which passages are engaged; and no passage considered engaged until ten percent of the passage money is deposited with the treasurer.
Passengers can remain on board of the steamer, at all ports, if they desire, without additional expense, and all boating at the expense of the ship.
All passages must be paid for when taken, in order that the most perfect arrangements be made for starting at the appointed time.
Applications for passage must be approved by the committee before tickets are issued, and can be made to the undersigned.
Articles of interest or curiosity, procured by the passengers during the voyage, may be brought home in the steamer free of charge.
Five dollars per day, in gold, it is believed, will be a fair calculation to make for all traveling expenses onshore and at the various points where passengers may wish to leave the steamer for days at a time.
The trip can be extended, and the route changed, by unanimous vote of the passengers.
CHAS. C. DUNCAN, 117 WALL STREET, NEW YORK R. R. G******, Treasurer
Committee on Applications J. T. H*****, ESQ. R. R. G*****, ESQ. C. C. Duncan
Committee on Selecting Steamer CAPT. W. W. S* * * *, Surveyor for Board of Underwriters
C. W. C******, Consulting Engineer for U.S. and Canada J. T. H*****, Esq. C. C. DUNCAN
P.S.--The very beautiful and substantial side-wheel steamship "Quaker City" has been chartered for the occasion, and will leave New York June 8th. Letters have been issued by the government commending the party to courtesies abroad.
What was there lacking about that program to make it perfectly irresistible? Nothing that any finite mind could discover. Paris, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Italy--Garibaldi! The Grecian Archipelago! Vesuvius! Constantinople! Smyrna! The Holy Land! Egypt and "our friends the Bermudians"! People in Europe desiring to join the excursion--contagious sickness to be avoided--boating at the expense of the ship--physician on board--the circuit of the globe to be made if the passengers unanimously desired it--the company to be rigidly selected by a pitiless "Committee on Applications"--the vessel to be as rigidly selected by as pitiless a "Committee on Selecting Steamer." Human nature could not withstand these bewildering temptations. I hurried to the treasurer's office and deposited my ten percent. I rejoiced to know that a few vacant staterooms were still left. I did avoid a critical personal examination into my character by that bowelless committee, but I referred to all the people of high standing I could think of in the community who would be least likely to know anything about me.
Shortly a supplementary program was issued which set forth that the Plymouth Collection of Hymns would be used on board the ship. I then paid the balance of my passage money.
I was provided with a receipt and duly and officially accepted as an excursionist. There was happiness in that but it was tame compared to the novelty of being "select."
This supplementary program also instructed the excursionists to provide themselves with light musical instruments for amusement in the ship, with saddles for Syrian travel, green spectacles and umbrellas, veils for Egypt, and substantial clothing to use in rough pilgrimizing in the Holy Land. Furthermore, it was suggested that although the ship's library would afford a fair amount of reading matter, it would still be well if each passenger would provide himself with a few guidebooks, a Bible, and some standard works of travel. A list was appended, which consisted chiefly of books relating to the Holy Land, since the Holy Land was part of the excursion and seemed to be its main feature.
Reverend Henry Ward Beecher was to have accompanied the expedition, but urgent duties obliged him to give up the idea. There were other passengers who could have been spared better and would have been spared more willingly. Lieutenant General Sherman was to have been of the party also, but the Indian war compelled his presence on the plains. A popular actress had entered her name on the ship's books, but something interfered and she couldn't go. The "Drummer Boy of the Potomac" deserted, and lo, we had never a celebrity left!
However, we were to have a "battery of guns" from the Navy Department (as per advertisement) to be used in answering royal salutes; and the document furnished by the Secretary of the Navy, which was to make "General Sherman and party" welcome guests in the courts and camps of the old world, was still left to us, though both document and battery, I think, were shorn of somewhat of their original august proportions. However, had not we the seductive program still, with its Paris, its Constantinople, Smyrna, Jerusalem, Jericho, and "our friends the Bermudians?" What did we care?
Occasionally, during the following month, I dropped in at 117 Wall Street to inquire how the repairing and refurnishing of the vessel was coming on, how additions to the passenger list were averaging, how many people the committee were decreeing not "select" every day and banishing in sorrow and tribulation. I was glad to know that we were to have a little printing press on board and issue a daily newspaper of our own. I was glad to learn that our piano, our parlor organ, and our melodeon were to be the best instruments of the kind that could be had in the market. I was proud to observe that among our excursionists were three ministers of the gospel, eight doctors, sixteen or eighteen ladies, several military and naval chieftains with sounding titles, an ample crop of "Professors" of various kinds, and a gentleman who had "COMMISSIONER OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO EUROPE, ASIA, AND AFRICA" thundering after his name in one awful blast! I had carefully prepared myself to take rather a back seat in that ship because of the uncommonly select material that would alone be permitted to pass through the camel's eye of that committee on credentials; I had schooled myself to expect an imposing array of military and naval heroes and to have to set that back seat still further back in consequence of it maybe; but I state frankly that I was all unprepared for this crusher.
I fell under that titular avalanche a torn and blighted thing. I said that if that potentate must go over in our ship, why, I supposed he must --but that to my thinking, when the United States considered it necessary to send a dignitary of that tonnage across the ocean, it would be in better taste, and safer, to take him apart and cart him over in sections in several ships.
Ah, if I had only known then that he was only a common mortal, and that his mission had nothing more overpowering about it than the collecting of seeds and uncommon yams and extraordinary cabbages and peculiar bullfrogs for that poor, useless, innocent, mildewed old fossil the Smithsonian Institute, I would have felt so much relieved.
During that memorable month I basked in the happiness of being for once in my life drifting with the tide of a great popular movement. Everybody was going to Europe--I, too, was going to Europe. Everybody was going to the famous Paris Exposition--I, too, was going to the Paris Exposition. The steamship lines were carrying Americans out of the various ports of the country at the rate of four or five thousand a week in the aggregate. If I met a dozen individuals during that month who were not going to Europe shortly, I have no distinct remembrance of it now. I walked about the city a good deal with a young Mr. Blucher, who was booked for the excursion. He was confiding, good-natured, unsophisticated, companionable; but he was not a man to set the river on fire. He had the most extraordinary notions about this European exodus and came at last to consider the whole nation as packing up for emigration to France. We stepped into a store on Broadway one day, where he bought a handkerchief, and when the man could not make change, Mr. B. said:
"Never mind, I'll hand it to you in Paris."
"But I am not going to Paris."
"How is--what did I understand you to say?"
"I said I am not going to Paris."
"Not going to Paris! Not g---- well, then, where in the nation are you going to?"
"Nowhere at all."
"Not anywhere whatsoever?--not any place on earth but this?"
"Not any place at all but just this--stay here all summer."
My comrade took his purchase and walked out of the store without a word-- walked out with an injured look upon his countenance. Up the street apiece he broke silence and said impressively: "It was a lie--that is my opinion of it!"
In the fullness of time the ship was ready to receive her passengers. I was introduced to the young gentleman who was to be my roommate, and found him to be intelligent, cheerful of spirit, unselfish, full of generous impulses, patient, considerate, and wonderfully good-natured. Not any passenger that sailed in the Quaker City will withhold his endorsement of what I have just said. We selected a stateroom forward of the wheel, on the starboard side, "below decks." It bad two berths in it, a dismal dead-light, a sink with a washbowl in it, and a long, sumptuously cushioned locker, which was to do service as a sofa--partly-- and partly as a hiding place for our things. Notwithstanding all this furniture, there was still room to turn around in, but not to swing a cat in, at least with entire security to the cat. However, the room was large, for a ship's stateroom, and was in every way satisfactory.
The vessel was appointed to sail on a certain Saturday early in June.
A little after noon on that distinguished Saturday I reached the ship and went on board. All was bustle and confusion. [I have seen that remark before somewhere.] The pier was crowded with carriages and men; passengers were arriving and hurrying on board; the vessel's decks were encumbered with trunks and valises; groups of excursionists, arrayed in unattractive traveling costumes, were moping about in a drizzling rain and looking as droopy and woebegone as so many molting chickens. The gallant flag was up, but it was under the spell, too, and hung limp and disheartened by the mast. Altogether, it was the bluest, bluest spectacle! It was a pleasure excursion--there was no gainsaying that, because the program said so--it was so nominated in the bond--but it surely hadn't the general aspect of one.
Finally, above the banging, and rumbling, and shouting, and hissing of steam rang the order to "cast off!"--a sudden rush to the gangways--a scampering ashore of visitors-a revolution of the wheels, and we were off--the pic-nic was begun! Two very mild cheers went up from the dripping crowd on the pier; we answered them gently from the slippery decks; the flag made an effort to wave, and failed; the "battery of guns" spake not--the ammunition was out.
We steamed down to the foot of the harbor and came to anchor. It was still raining. And not only raining, but storming. "Outside" we could see, ourselves, that there was a tremendous sea on. We must lie still, in the calm harbor, till the storm should abate. Our passengers hailed from fifteen states; only a few of them had ever been to sea before; manifestly it would not do to pit them against a full-blown tempest until they had got their sea-legs on. Toward evening the two steam tugs that had accompanied us with a rollicking champagne-party of young New Yorkers on board who wished to bid farewell to one of our number in due and ancient form departed, and we were alone on the deep. On deep five fathoms, and anchored fast to the bottom. And out in the solemn rain, at that. This was pleasuring with a vengeance.
It was an appropriate relief when the gong sounded for prayer meeting. The first Saturday night of any other pleasure excursion might have been devoted to whist and dancing; but I submit it to the unprejudiced mind if it would have been in good taste for us to engage in such frivolities, considering what we had gone through and the frame of mind we were in. We would have shone at a wake, but not at anything more festive.
However, there is always a cheering influence about the sea; and in my berth that night, rocked by the measured swell of the waves and lulled by the murmur of the distant surf, I soon passed tranquilly out of all consciousness of the dreary experiences of the day and damaging premonitions of the future.
All day Sunday at anchor. The storm had gone down a great deal, but the sea had not. It was still piling its frothy hills high in air "outside," as we could plainly see with the glasses. We could not properly begin a pleasure excursion on Sunday; we could not offer untried stomachs to so pitiless a sea as that. We must lie still till Monday. And we did. But we had repetitions of church and prayer-meetings; and so, of course, we were just as eligibly situated as we could have been any where.
I was up early that Sabbath morning and was early to breakfast. I felt a perfectly natural desire to have a good, long, unprejudiced look at the passengers at a time when they should be free from self-consciousness which is at breakfast, when such a moment occurs in the lives of human beings at all.
I was greatly surprised to see so many elderly people--I might almost say, so many venerable people. A glance at the long lines of heads was apt to make one think it was all gray. But it was not. There was a tolerably fair sprinkling of young folks, and another fair sprinkling of gentlemen and ladies who were non-committal as to age, being neither actually old or absolutely young.
The next morning we weighed anchor and went to sea. It was a great happiness to get away after this dragging, dispiriting delay. I thought there never was such gladness in the air before, such brightness in the sun, such beauty in the sea. I was satisfied with the picnic then and with all its belongings. All my malicious instincts were dead within me; and as America faded out of sight, I think a spirit of charity rose up in their place that was as boundless, for the time being, as the broad ocean that was heaving its billows about us. I wished to express my feelings-- I wished to lift up my voice and sing; but I did not know anything to sing, and so I was obliged to give up the idea. It was no loss to the ship, though, perhaps.
It was breezy and pleasant, but the sea was still very rough. One could not promenade without risking his neck; at one moment the bowsprit was taking a deadly aim at the sun in midheaven, and at the next it was trying to harpoon a shark in the bottom of the ocean. What a weird sensation it is to feel the stem of a ship sinking swiftly from under you and see the bow climbing high away among the clouds! One's safest course that day was to clasp a railing and hang on; walking was too precarious a pastime.
By some happy fortune I was not seasick.--That was a thing to be proud of. I had not always escaped before. If there is one thing in the world that will make a man peculiarly and insufferably self-conceited, it is to have his stomach behave itself, the first day it sea, when nearly all his comrades are seasick. Soon a venerable fossil, shawled to the chin and bandaged like a mummy, appeared at the door of the after deck-house, and the next lurch of the ship shot him into my arms. I said:
"Good-morning, Sir. It is a fine day."
He put his hand on his stomach and said, "Oh, my!" and then staggered away and fell over the coop of a skylight.
Presently another old gentleman was projected from the same door with great violence. I said:
"Calm yourself, Sir--There is no hurry. It is a fine day, Sir."
He, also, put his hand on his stomach and said "Oh, my!" and reeled away.
In a little while another veteran was discharged abruptly from the same door, clawing at the air for a saving support. I said:
"Good morning, Sir. It is a fine day for pleasuring. You were about to say--"
I thought so. I anticipated him, anyhow. I stayed there and was bombarded with old gentlemen for an hour, perhaps; and all I got out of any of them was "Oh, my!"
I went away then in a thoughtful mood. I said, this is a good pleasure excursion. I like it. The passengers are not garrulous, but still they are sociable. I like those old people, but somehow they all seem to have the "Oh, my" rather bad.
I knew what was the matter with them. They were seasick. And I was glad of it. We all like to see people seasick when we are not, ourselves. Playing whist by the cabin lamps when it is storming outside is pleasant; walking the quarterdeck in the moonlight is pleasant; smoking in the breezy foretop is pleasant when one is not afraid to go up there; but these are all feeble and commonplace compared with the joy of seeing people suffering the miseries of seasickness.
I picked up a good deal of information during the afternoon. At one time I was climbing up the quarterdeck when the vessel's stem was in the sky; I was smoking a cigar and feeling passably comfortable. Somebody ejaculated:
"Come, now, that won't answer. Read the sign up there--NO SMOKING ABAFT THE WHEEL!"
It was Captain Duncan, chief of the expedition. I went forward, of course. I saw a long spyglass lying on a desk in one of the upper-deck state-rooms back of the pilot-house and reached after it--there was a ship in the distance.
"Ah, ah--hands off! Come out of that!"
I came out of that. I said to a deck-sweep--but in a low voice:
"Who is that overgrown pirate with the whiskers and the discordant voice?"
"It's Captain Bursley--executive officer--sailing master."
I loitered about awhile, and then, for want of something better to do, fell to carving a railing with my knife. Somebody said, in an insinuating, admonitory voice:
"Now, say--my friend--don't you know any better than to be whittling the ship all to pieces that way? You ought to know better than that."
I went back and found the deck sweep.
"Who is that smooth-faced, animated outrage yonder in the fine clothes?"
"That's Captain L****, the owner of the ship--he's one of the main bosses."
In the course of time I brought up on the starboard side of the pilot-house and found a sextant lying on a bench. Now, I said, they "take the sun" through this thing; I should think I might see that vessel through it. I had hardly got it to my eye when someone touched me on the shoulder and said deprecatingly:
"I'll have to get you to give that to me, Sir. If there's anything you'd like to know about taking the sun, I'd as soon tell you as not--but I don't like to trust anybody with that instrument. If you want any figuring done--Aye, aye, sir!"
He was gone to answer a call from the other side. I sought the deck-sweep.
"Who is that spider-legged gorilla yonder with the sanctimonious countenance?"
"It's Captain Jones, sir--the chief mate."
"Well. This goes clear away ahead of anything I ever heard of before. Do you--now I ask you as a man and a brother--do you think I could venture to throw a rock here in any given direction without hitting a captain of this ship?"
"Well, sir, I don't know--I think likely you'd fetch the captain of the watch may be, because he's a-standing right yonder in the way."
I went below--meditating and a little downhearted. I thought, if five cooks can spoil a broth, what may not five captains do with a pleasure excursion.
We plowed along bravely for a week or more, and without any conflict of jurisdiction among the captains worth mentioning. The passengers soon learned to accommodate themselves to their new circumstances, and life in the ship became nearly as systematically monotonous as the routine of a barrack. I do not mean that it was dull, for it was not entirely so by any means--but there was a good deal of sameness about it. As is always the fashion at sea, the passengers shortly began to pick up sailor terms --a sign that they were beginning to feel at home. Half-past six was no longer half-past six to these pilgrims from New England, the South, and the Mississippi Valley, it was "seven bells"; eight, twelve, and four o'clock were "eight bells"; the captain did not take the longitude at nine o'clock, but at "two bells." They spoke glibly of the "after cabin," the "for'rard cabin," "port and starboard" and the "fo'castle."
At seven bells the first gong rang; at eight there was breakfast, for such as were not too seasick to eat it. After that all the well people walked arm-in-arm up and down the long promenade deck, enjoying the fine summer mornings, and the seasick ones crawled out and propped themselves up in the lee of the paddle-boxes and ate their dismal tea and toast, and looked wretched. From eleven o'clock until luncheon, and from luncheon until dinner at six in the evening, the employments and amusements were various. Some reading was done, and much smoking and sewing, though not by the same parties; there were the monsters of the deep to be looked after and wondered at; strange ships had to be scrutinized through opera-glasses, and sage decisions arrived at concerning them; and more than that, everybody took a personal interest in seeing that the flag was run up and politely dipped three times in response to the salutes of those strangers; in the smoking room there were always parties of gentlemen playing euchre, draughts and dominoes, especially dominoes, that delightfully harmless game; and down on the main deck, "for'rard"-- for'rard of the chicken-coops and the cattle--we had what was called "horse billiards." Horse billiards is a fine game. It affords good, active exercise, hilarity, and consuming excitement. It is a mixture of "hop-scotch" and shuffleboard played with a crutch. A large hop-scotch diagram is marked out on the deck with chalk, and each compartment numbered. You stand off three or four steps, with some broad wooden disks before you on the deck, and these you send forward with a vigorous thrust of a long crutch. If a disk stops on a chalk line, it does not count anything. If it stops in division No. 7, it counts 7; in 5, it counts 5, and so on. The game is 100, and four can play at a time. That game would be very simple played on a stationary floor, but with us, to play it well required science. We had to allow for the reeling of the ship to the right or the left. Very often one made calculations for a heel to the right and the ship did not go that way. The consequence was that that disk missed the whole hopscotch plan a yard or two, and then there was humiliation on one side and laughter on the other.
When it rained the passengers had to stay in the house, of course--or at least the cabins--and amuse themselves with games, reading, looking out of the windows at the very familiar billows, and talking gossip.
By 7 o'clock in the evening, dinner was about over; an hour's promenade on the upper deck followed; then the gong sounded and a large majority of the party repaired to the after cabin (upper), a handsome saloon fifty or sixty feet long, for prayers. The unregenerated called this saloon the "Synagogue." The devotions consisted only of two hymns from the Plymouth Collection and a short prayer, and seldom occupied more than fifteen minutes. The hymns were accompanied by parlor-organ music when the sea was smooth enough to allow a performer to sit at the instrument without being lashed to his chair.
After prayers the Synagogue shortly took the semblance of a writing school. The like of that picture was never seen in a ship before. Behind the long dining tables on either side of the saloon, and scattered from one end to the other of the latter, some twenty or thirty gentlemen and ladies sat them down under the swaying lamps and for two or three hours wrote diligently in their journals. Alas! that journals so voluminously begun should come to so lame and impotent a conclusion as most of them did! I doubt if there is a single pilgrim of all that host but can show a hundred fair pages of journal concerning the first twenty days' voyaging in the Quaker City, and I am morally certain that not ten of the party can show twenty pages of journal for the succeeding twenty thousand miles of voyaging! At certain periods it becomes the dearest ambition of a man to keep a faithful record of his performances in a book; and he dashes at this work with an enthusiasm that imposes on him the notion that keeping a journal is the veriest pastime in the world, and the pleasantest. But if he only lives twenty-one days, he will find out that only those rare natures that are made up of pluck, endurance, devotion to duty for duty's sake, and invincible determination may hope to venture upon so tremendous an enterprise as the keeping of a journal and not sustain a shameful defeat.
One of our favorite youths, Jack, a splendid young fellow with a head full of good sense, and a pair of legs that were a wonder to look upon in the way of length and straightness and slimness, used to report progress every morning in the most glowing and spirited way, and say:
"Oh, I'm coming along bully!" (he was a little given to slang in his happier moods.) "I wrote ten pages in my journal last night--and you know I wrote nine the night before and twelve the night before that. Why, it's only fun!"
"What do you find to put in it, Jack?"
"Oh, everything. Latitude and longitude, noon every day; and how many miles we made last twenty-four hours; and all the domino games I beat and horse billiards; and whales and sharks and porpoises; and the text of the sermon Sundays (because that'll tell at home, you know); and the ships we saluted and what nation they were; and which way the wind was, and whether there was a heavy sea, and what sail we carried, though we don't ever carry any, principally, going against a head wind always--wonder what is the reason of that?--and how many lies Moult has told--Oh, every thing! I've got everything down. My father told me to keep that journal. Father wouldn't take a thousand dollars for it when I get it done."
"No, Jack; it will be worth more than a thousand dollars--when you get it done."
"Do you?--no, but do you think it will, though?
"Yes, it will be worth at least as much as a thousand dollars--when you get it done. May be more."
"Well, I about half think so, myself. It ain't no slouch of a journal."
But it shortly became a most lamentable "slouch of a journal." One night in Paris, after a hard day's toil in sightseeing, I said:
"Now I'll go and stroll around the cafes awhile, Jack, and give you a chance to write up your journal, old fellow."
His countenance lost its fire. He said:
"Well, no, you needn't mind. I think I won't run that journal anymore. It is awful tedious. Do you know--I reckon I'm as much as four thousand pages behind hand. I haven't got any France in it at all. First I thought I'd leave France out and start fresh. But that wouldn't do, would it? The governor would say, 'Hello, here--didn't see anything in France? That cat wouldn't fight, you know. First I thought I'd copy France out of the guide-book, like old Badger in the for'rard cabin, who's writing a book, but there's more than three hundred pages of it. Oh, I don't think a journal's any use--do you? They're only a bother, ain't they?"
"Yes, a journal that is incomplete isn't of much use, but a journal properly kept is worth a thousand dollars--when you've got it done."
"A thousand!--well, I should think so. I wouldn't finish it for a million."
His experience was only the experience of the majority of that industrious night school in the cabin. If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.
A good many expedients were resorted to to keep the excursionists amused and satisfied. A club was formed, of all the passengers, which met in the writing school after prayers and read aloud about the countries we were approaching and discussed the information so obtained.
Several times the photographer of the expedition brought out his transparent pictures and gave us a handsome magic-lantern exhibition. His views were nearly all of foreign scenes, but there were one or two home pictures among them. He advertised that he would "open his performance in the after cabin at 'two bells' (nine P.M.) and show the passengers where they shall eventually arrive"--which was all very well, but by a funny accident the first picture that flamed out upon the canvas was a view of Greenwood Cemetery!
On several starlight nights we danced on the upper deck, under the awnings, and made something of a ball-room display of brilliancy by hanging a number of ship's lanterns to the stanchions. Our music consisted of the well-mixed strains of a melodeon which was a little asthmatic and apt to catch its breath where it ought to come out strong, a clarinet which was a little unreliable on the high keys and rather melancholy on the low ones, and a disreputable accordion that had a leak somewhere and breathed louder than it squawked--a more elegant term does not occur to me just now. However, the dancing was infinitely worse than the music. When the ship rolled to starboard the whole platoon of dancers came charging down to starboard with it, and brought up in mass at the rail; and when it rolled to port they went floundering down to port with the same unanimity of sentiment. Waltzers spun around precariously for a matter of fifteen seconds and then went scurrying down to the rail as if they meant to go overboard. The Virginia reel, as performed on board the Quaker City, had more genuine reel about it than any reel I ever saw before, and was as full of interest to the spectator as it was full of desperate chances and hairbreadth escapes to the participant. We gave up dancing, finally.
We celebrated a lady's birthday anniversary with toasts, speeches, a poem, and so forth. We also had a mock trial. No ship ever went to sea that hadn't a mock trial on board. The purser was accused of stealing an overcoat from stateroom No. 10. A judge was appointed; also clerks, a crier of the court, constables, sheriffs; counsel for the State and for the defendant; witnesses were subpoenaed, and a jury empaneled after much challenging. The witnesses were stupid and unreliable and contradictory, as witnesses always are. The counsel were eloquent, argumentative, and vindictively abusive of each other, as was characteristic and proper. The case was at last submitted and duly finished by the judge with an absurd decision and a ridiculous sentence.
The acting of charades was tried on several evenings by the young gentlemen and ladies, in the cabins, and proved the most distinguished success of all the amusement experiments.
An attempt was made to organize a debating club, but it was a failure. There was no oratorical talent in the ship.
We all enjoyed ourselves--I think I can safely say that, but it was in a rather quiet way. We very, very seldom played the piano; we played the flute and the clarinet together, and made good music, too, what there was of it, but we always played the same old tune; it was a very pretty tune --how well I remember it--I wonder when I shall ever get rid of it. We never played either the melodeon or the organ except at devotions--but I am too fast: young Albert did know part of a tune something about "O Something-Or-Other How Sweet It Is to Know That He's His What's-his- Name" (I do not remember the exact title of it, but it was very plaintive and full of sentiment); Albert played that pretty much all the time until we contracted with him to restrain himself. But nobody ever sang by moonlight on the upper deck, and the congregational singing at church and prayers was not of a superior order of architecture. I put up with it as long as I could and then joined in and tried to improve it, but this encouraged young George to join in too, and that made a failure of it; because George's voice was just "turning," and when he was singing a dismal sort of bass it was apt to fly off the handle and startle everybody with a most discordant cackle on the upper notes. George didn't know the tunes, either, which was also a drawback to his performances. I said:
"Come, now, George, don't improvise. It looks too egotistical. It will provoke remark. Just stick to 'Coronation,' like the others. It is a good tune--you can't improve it any, just off-hand, in this way."
"Why, I'm not trying to improve it--and I am singing like the others-- just as it is in the notes."
And he honestly thought he was, too; and so he had no one to blame but himself when his voice caught on the center occasionally and gave him the lockjaw.
There were those among the unregenerated who attributed the unceasing head-winds to our distressing choir-music. There were those who said openly that it was taking chances enough to have such ghastly music going on, even when it was at its best; and that to exaggerate the crime by letting George help was simply flying in the face of Providence. These said that the choir would keep up their lacerating attempts at melody until they would bring down a storm some day that would sink the ship.
There were even grumblers at the prayers. The executive officer said the pilgrims had no charity:
"There they are, down there every night at eight bells, praying for fair winds--when they know as well as I do that this is the only ship going east this time of the year, but there's a thousand coming west--what's a fair wind for us is a head wind to them--the Almighty's blowing a fair wind for a thousand vessels, and this tribe wants him to turn it clear around so as to accommodate one--and she a steamship at that! It ain't good sense, it ain't good reason, it ain't good Christianity, it ain't common human charity. Avast with such nonsense!"
Taking it "by and large," as the sailors say, we had a pleasant ten days' run from New York to the Azores islands--not a fast run, for the distance is only twenty-four hundred miles, but a right pleasant one in the main. True, we had head winds all the time, and several stormy experiences which sent fifty percent of the passengers to bed sick and made the ship look dismal and deserted--stormy experiences that all will remember who weathered them on the tumbling deck and caught the vast sheets of spray that every now and then sprang high in air from the weather bow and swept the ship like a thunder-shower; but for the most part we had balmy summer weather and nights that were even finer than the days. We had the phenomenon of a full moon located just in the same spot in the heavens at the same hour every night. The reason of this singular conduct on the part of the moon did not occur to us at first, but it did afterward when we reflected that we were gaining about twenty minutes every day because we were going east so fast--we gained just about enough every day to keep along with the moon. It was becoming an old moon to the friends we had left behind us, but to us Joshuas it stood still in the same place and remained always the same.
Young Mr. Blucher, who is from the Far West and is on his first voyage, was a good deal worried by the constantly changing "ship time." He was proud of his new watch at first and used to drag it out promptly when eight bells struck at noon, but he came to look after a while as if he were losing confidence in it. Seven days out from New York he came on deck and said with great decision:
"This thing's a swindle!"
"What's a swindle?"
"Why, this watch. I bought her out in Illinois--gave $150 for her--and I thought she was good. And, by George, she is good onshore, but somehow she don't keep up her lick here on the water--gets seasick may be. She skips; she runs along regular enough till half-past eleven, and then, all of a sudden, she lets down. I've set that old regulator up faster and faster, till I've shoved it clear around, but it don't do any good; she just distances every watch in the ship, and clatters along in a way that's astonishing till it is noon, but them eight bells always gets in about ten minutes ahead of her anyway. I don't know what to do with her now. She's doing all she can--she's going her best gait, but it won't save her. Now, don't you know, there ain't a watch in the ship that's making better time than she is, but what does it signify? When you hear them eight bells you'll find her just about ten minutes short of her score sure."
The ship was gaining a full hour every three days, and this fellow was trying to make his watch go fast enough to keep up to her. But, as he had said, he had pushed the regulator up as far as it would go, and the watch was "on its best gait," and so nothing was left him but to fold his hands and see the ship beat the race. We sent him to the captain, and he explained to him the mystery of "ship time" and set his troubled mind at rest. This young man asked a great many questions about seasickness before we left, and wanted to know what its characteristics were and how he was to tell when he had it. He found out.
We saw the usual sharks, blackfish, porpoises, &c., of course, and by and by large schools of Portuguese men-of-war were added to the regular list of sea wonders. Some of them were white and some of a brilliant carmine color. The nautilus is nothing but a transparent web of jelly that spreads itself to catch the wind, and has fleshy-looking strings a foot or two long dangling from it to keep it steady in the water. It is an accomplished sailor and has good sailor judgment. It reefs its sail when a storm threatens or the wind blows pretty hard, and furls it entirely and goes down when a gale blows. Ordinarily it keeps its sail wet and in good sailing order by turning over and dipping it in the water for a moment. Seamen say the nautilus is only found in these waters between the 35th and 45th parallels of latitude.
At three o'clock on the morning of the twenty-first of June, we were awakened and notified that the Azores islands were in sight. I said I did not take any interest in islands at three o'clock in the morning. But another persecutor came, and then another and another, and finally believing that the general enthusiasm would permit no one to slumber in peace, I got up and went sleepily on deck. It was five and a half o'clock now, and a raw, blustering morning. The passengers were huddled about the smoke-stacks and fortified behind ventilators, and all were wrapped in wintry costumes and looking sleepy and unhappy in the pitiless gale and the drenching spray.
The island in sight was Flores. It seemed only a mountain of mud standing up out of the dull mists of the sea. But as we bore down upon it the sun came out and made it a beautiful picture--a mass of green farms and meadows that swelled up to a height of fifteen hundred feet and mingled its upper outlines with the clouds. It was ribbed with sharp, steep ridges and cloven with narrow canyons, and here and there on the heights, rocky upheavals shaped themselves into mimic battlements and castles; and out of rifted clouds came broad shafts of sunlight, that painted summit, and slope and glen, with bands of fire, and left belts of somber shade between. It was the aurora borealis of the frozen pole exiled to a summer land!
We skirted around two-thirds of the island, four miles from shore, and all the opera glasses in the ship were called into requisition to settle disputes as to whether mossy spots on the uplands were groves of trees or groves of weeds, or whether the white villages down by the sea were really villages or only the clustering tombstones of cemeteries. Finally we stood to sea and bore away for San Miguel, and Flores shortly became a dome of mud again and sank down among the mists, and disappeared. But to many a seasick passenger it was good to see the green hills again, and all were more cheerful after this episode than anybody could have expected them to be, considering how sinfully early they had gotten up.
But we had to change our purpose about San Miguel, for a storm came up about noon that so tossed and pitched the vessel that common sense dictated a run for shelter. Therefore we steered for the nearest island of the group--Fayal (the people there pronounce it Fy-all, and put the accent on the first syllable). We anchored in the open roadstead of Horta, half a mile from the shore. The town has eight thousand to ten thousand inhabitants. Its snow-white houses nestle cosily in a sea of fresh green vegetation, and no village could look prettier or more attractive. It sits in the lap of an amphitheater of hills which are three hundred to seven hundred feet high, and carefully cultivated clear to their summits--not a foot of soil left idle. Every farm and every acre is cut up into little square inclosures by stone walls, whose duty it is to protect the growing products from the destructive gales that blow there. These hundreds of green squares, marked by their black lava walls, make the hills look like vast checkerboards.
The islands belong to Portugal, and everything in Fayal has Portuguese characteristics about it. But more of that anon. A swarm of swarthy, noisy, lying, shoulder-shrugging, gesticulating Portuguese boatmen, with brass rings in their ears and fraud in their hearts, climbed the ship's sides, and various parties of us contracted with them to take us ashore at so much a head, silver coin of any country. We landed under the walls of a little fort, armed with batteries of twelve-and-thirty-two-pounders, which Horta considered a most formidable institution, but if we were ever to get after it with one of our turreted monitors, they would have to move it out in the country if they wanted it where they could go and find it again when they needed it. The group on the pier was a rusty one--men and women, and boys and girls, all ragged and barefoot, uncombed and unclean, and by instinct, education, and profession beggars. They trooped after us, and never more while we tarried in Fayal did we get rid of them. We walked up the middle of the principal street, and these vermin surrounded us on all sides and glared upon us; and every moment excited couples shot ahead of the procession to get a good look back, just as village boys do when they accompany the elephant on his advertising trip from street to street. It was very flattering to me to be part of the material for such a sensation. Here and there in the doorways we saw women with fashionable Portuguese hoods on. This hood is of thick blue cloth, attached to a cloak of the same stuff, and is a marvel of ugliness. It stands up high and spreads far abroad, and is unfathomably deep. It fits like a circus tent, and a woman's head is hidden away in it like the man's who prompts the singers from his tin shed in the stage of an opera. There is no particle of trimming about this monstrous capote, as they call it--it is just a plain, ugly dead- blue mass of sail, and a woman can't go within eight points of the wind with one of them on; she has to go before the wind or not at all. The general style of the capote is the same in all the islands, and will remain so for the next ten thousand years, but each island shapes its capotes just enough differently from the others to enable an observer to tell at a glance what particular island a lady hails from.
The Portuguese pennies, or reis (pronounced rays), are prodigious. It takes one thousand reis to make a dollar, and all financial estimates are made in reis. We did not know this until after we had found it out through Blucher. Blucher said he was so happy and so grateful to be on solid land once more that he wanted to give a feast--said he had heard it was a cheap land, and he was bound to have a grand banquet. He invited nine of us, and we ate an excellent dinner at the principal hotel. In the midst of the jollity produced by good cigars, good wine, and passable anecdotes, the landlord presented his bill. Blucher glanced at it and his countenance fell. He took another look to assure himself that his senses had not deceived him and then read the items aloud, in a faltering voice, while the roses in his cheeks turned to ashes:
"'Ten dinners, at 600 reis, 6,000 reis!' Ruin and desolation!
"'Twenty-five cigars, at 100 reis, 2,500 reis!' Oh, my sainted mother!
"'Eleven bottles of wine, at 1,200 reis, 13,200 reis!' Be with us all!
"'TOTAL, TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED REIS!' The suffering Moses! There ain't money enough in the ship to pay that bill! Go--leave me to my misery, boys, I am a ruined community."
I think it was the blankest-looking party I ever saw. Nobody could say a word. It was as if every soul had been stricken dumb. Wine glasses descended slowly to the table, their contents untasted. Cigars dropped unnoticed from nerveless fingers. Each man sought his neighbor's eye, but found in it no ray of hope, no encouragement. At last the fearful silence was broken. The shadow of a desperate resolve settled upon Blucher's countenance like a cloud, and he rose up and said:
"Landlord, this is a low, mean swindle, and I'll never, never stand it. Here's a hundred and fifty dollars, Sir, and it's all you'll get--I'll swim in blood before I'll pay a cent more."
Our spirits rose and the landlord's fell--at least we thought so; he was confused, at any rate, notwithstanding he had not understood a word that had been said. He glanced from the little pile of gold pieces to Blucher several times and then went out. He must have visited an American, for when he returned, he brought back his bill translated into a language that a Christian could understand--thus:
10 dinners, 6,000 reis, or . . .$6.00
25 cigars, 2,500 reis, or . . . 2.50
11 bottles wine, 13,200 reis, or 13.20
Total 21,700 reis, or . . . . $21.70
Happiness reigned once more in Blucher's dinner party. More refreshments were ordered.
I think the Azores must be very little known in America. Out of our whole ship's company there was not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them. Some of the party, well read concerning most other lands, had no other information about the Azores than that they were a group of nine or ten small islands far out in the Atlantic, something more than halfway between New York and Gibraltar. That was all. These considerations move me to put in a paragraph of dry facts just here.
The community is eminently Portuguese--that is to say, it is slow, poor, shiftless, sleepy, and lazy. There is a civil governor, appointed by the King of Portugal, and also a military governor, who can assume supreme control and suspend the civil government at his pleasure. The islands contain a population of about 200,000, almost entirely Portuguese. Everything is staid and settled, for the country was one hundred years old when Columbus discovered America. The principal crop is corn, and they raise it and grind it just as their great-great-great-grandfathers did. They plow with a board slightly shod with iron; their trifling little harrows are drawn by men and women; small windmills grind the corn, ten bushels a day, and there is one assistant superintendent to feed the mill and a general superintendent to stand by and keep him from going to sleep. When the wind changes they hitch on some donkeys and actually turn the whole upper half of the mill around until the sails are in proper position, instead of fixing the concern so that the sails could be moved instead of the mill. Oxen tread the wheat from the ear, after the fashion prevalent in the time of Methuselah. There is not a wheelbarrow in the land--they carry everything on their heads, or on donkeys, or in a wicker-bodied cart, whose wheels are solid blocks of wood and whose axles turn with the wheel. There is not a modern plow in the islands or a threshing machine. All attempts to introduce them have failed. The good Catholic Portuguese crossed himself and prayed God to shield him from all blasphemous desire to know more than his father did before him. The climate is mild; they never have snow or ice, and I saw no chimneys in the town. The donkeys and the men, women, and children of a family all eat and sleep in the same room, and are unclean, are ravaged by vermin, and are truly happy. The people lie, and cheat the stranger, and are desperately ignorant, and have hardly any reverence for their dead. The latter trait shows how little better they are than the donkeys they eat and sleep with. The only well-dressed Portuguese in the camp are the half a dozen well-to-do families, the Jesuit priests, and the soldiers of the little garrison. The wages of a laborer are twenty to twenty-four cents a day, and those of a good mechanic about twice as much. They count it in reis at a thousand to the dollar, and this makes them rich and contented. Fine grapes used to grow in the islands, and an excellent wine was made and exported. But a disease killed all the vines fifteen years ago, and since that time no wine has been made. The islands being wholly of volcanic origin, the soil is necessarily very rich. Nearly every foot of ground is under cultivation, and two or three crops a year of each article are produced, but nothing is exported save a few oranges--chiefly to England. Nobody comes here, and nobody goes away. News is a thing unknown in Fayal. A thirst for it is a passion equally unknown. A Portuguese of average intelligence inquired if our civil war was over. Because, he said, somebody had told him it was--or at least it ran in his mind that somebody had told him something like that! And when a passenger gave an officer of the garrison copies of the Tribune, the Herald, and Times, he was surprised to find later news in them from Lisbon than he had just received by the little monthly steamer. He was told that it came by cable. He said he knew they had tried to lay a cable ten years ago, but it had been in his mind somehow that they hadn't succeeded!
It is in communities like this that Jesuit humbuggery flourishes. We visited a Jesuit cathedral nearly two hundred years old and found in it a piece of the veritable cross upon which our Saviour was crucified. It was polished and hard, and in as excellent a state of preservation as if the dread tragedy on Calvary had occurred yesterday instead of eighteen centuries ago. But these confiding people believe in that piece of wood unhesitatingly.
In a chapel of the cathedral is an altar with facings of solid silver--at least they call it so, and I think myself it would go a couple of hundred to the ton (to speak after the fashion of the silver miners)--and before it is kept forever burning a small lamp. A devout lady who died, left money and contracted for unlimited masses for the repose of her soul, and also stipulated that this lamp should be kept lighted always, day and night. She did all this before she died, you understand. It is a very small lamp and a very dim one, and it could not work her much damage, I think, if it went out altogether.
The great altar of the cathedral and also three or four minor ones are a perfect mass of gilt gimcracks and gingerbread. And they have a swarm of rusty, dusty, battered apostles standing around the filagree work, some on one leg and some with one eye out but a gamey look in the other, and some with two or three fingers gone, and some with not enough nose left to blow--all of them crippled and discouraged, and fitter subjects for the hospital than the cathedral.
The walls of the chancel are of porcelain, all pictured over with figures of almost life size, very elegantly wrought and dressed in the fanciful costumes of two centuries ago. The design was a history of something or somebody, but none of us were learned enough to read the story. The old father, reposing under a stone close by, dated 1686, might have told us if he could have risen. But he didn't.
As we came down through the town we encountered a squad of little donkeys ready saddled for use. The saddles were peculiar, to say the least. They consisted of a sort of saw-buck with a small mattress on it, and this furniture covered about half the donkey. There were no stirrups, but really such supports were not needed--to use such a saddle was the next thing to riding a dinner table--there was ample support clear out to one's knee joints. A pack of ragged Portuguese muleteers crowded around us, offering their beasts at half a dollar an hour--more rascality to the stranger, for the market price is sixteen cents. Half a dozen of us mounted the ungainly affairs and submitted to the indignity of making a ridiculous spectacle of ourselves through the principal streets of a town of 10,000 inhabitants.
We started. It was not a trot, a gallop, or a canter, but a stampede, and made up of all possible or conceivable gaits. No spurs were necessary. There was a muleteer to every donkey and a dozen volunteers beside, and they banged the donkeys with their goad sticks, and pricked them with their spikes, and shouted something that sounded like "Sekki- yah!" and kept up a din and a racket that was worse than Bedlam itself. These rascals were all on foot, but no matter, they were always up to time--they can outrun and outlast a donkey. Altogether, ours was a lively and a picturesque procession, and drew crowded audiences to the balconies wherever we went.
Blucher could do nothing at all with his donkey. The beast scampered zigzag across the road and the others ran into him; he scraped Blucher against carts and the corners of houses; the road was fenced in with high stone walls, and the donkey gave him a polishing first on one side and then on the other, but never once took the middle; he finally came to the house he was born in and darted into the parlor, scraping Blucher off at the doorway. After remounting, Blucher said to the muleteer, "Now, that's enough, you know; you go slow hereafter."
But the fellow knew no English and did not understand, so he simply said, "Sekki-yah!" and the donkey was off again like a shot. He turned a comer suddenly, and Blucher went over his head. And, to speak truly, every mule stumbled over the two, and the whole cavalcade was piled up in a heap. No harm done. A fall from one of those donkeys is of little more consequence than rolling off a sofa. The donkeys all stood still after the catastrophe and waited for their dismembered saddles to be patched up and put on by the noisy muleteers. Blucher was pretty angry and wanted to swear, but every time he opened his mouth his animal did so also and let off a series of brays that drowned all other sounds.
It was fun, scurrying around the breezy hills and through the beautiful canyons. There was that rare thing, novelty, about it; it was a fresh, new, exhilarating sensation, this donkey riding, and worth a hundred worn and threadbare home pleasures.
The roads were a wonder, and well they might be. Here was an island with only a handful of people in it--25,000--and yet such fine roads do not exist in the United States outside of Central Park. Everywhere you go, in any direction, you find either a hard, smooth, level thoroughfare, just sprinkled with black lava sand, and bordered with little gutters neatly paved with small smooth pebbles, or compactly paved ones like Broadway. They talk much of the Russ pavement in New York, and call it a new invention--yet here they have been using it in this remote little isle of the sea for two hundred years! Every street in Horta is handsomely paved with the heavy Russ blocks, and the surface is neat and true as a floor--not marred by holes like Broadway. And every road is fenced in by tall, solid lava walls, which will last a thousand years in this land where frost is unknown. They are very thick, and are often plastered and whitewashed and capped with projecting slabs of cut stone. Trees from gardens above hang their swaying tendrils down, and contrast their bright green with the whitewash or the black lava of the walls and make them beautiful. The trees and vines stretch across these narrow roadways sometimes and so shut out the sun that you seem to be riding through a tunnel. The pavements, the roads, and the bridges are all government work.
The bridges are of a single span--a single arch--of cut stone, without a support, and paved on top with flags of lava and ornamental pebblework. Everywhere are walls, walls, walls, and all of them tasteful and handsome--and eternally substantial; and everywhere are those marvelous pavements, so neat, so smooth, and so indestructible. And if ever roads and streets and the outsides of houses were perfectly free from any sign or semblance of dirt, or dust, or mud, or uncleanliness of any kind, it is Horta, it is Fayal. The lower classes of the people, in their persons and their domiciles, are not clean--but there it stops--the town and the island are miracles of cleanliness.
We arrived home again finally, after a ten-mile excursion, and the irrepressible muleteers scampered at our heels through the main street, goading the donkeys, shouting the everlasting "Sekki-yah," and singing "John Brown's Body" in ruinous English.
When we were dismounted and it came to settling, the shouting and jawing and swearing and quarreling among the muleteers and with us was nearly deafening. One fellow would demand a dollar an hour for the use of his donkey; another claimed half a dollar for pricking him up, another a quarter for helping in that service, and about fourteen guides presented bills for showing us the way through the town and its environs; and every vagrant of them was more vociferous, and more vehement and more frantic in gesture than his neighbor. We paid one guide and paid for one muleteer to each donkey.
The mountains on some of the islands are very high. We sailed along the shore of the island of Pico, under a stately green pyramid that rose up with one unbroken sweep from our very feet to an altitude of 7,613 feet, and thrust its summit above the white clouds like an island adrift in a fog!
We got plenty of fresh oranges, lemons, figs, apricots, etc., in these Azores, of course. But I will desist. I am not here to write Patent Office reports.
We are on our way to Gibraltar, and shall reach there five or six days out from the Azores.
A week of buffeting a tempestuous and relentless sea; a week of seasickness and deserted cabins; of lonely quarterdecks drenched with spray--spray so ambitious that it even coated the smokestacks thick with a white crust of salt to their very tops; a week of shivering in the shelter of the lifeboats and deckhouses by day and blowing suffocating "clouds" and boisterously performing at dominoes in the smoking room at night.
And the last night of the seven was the stormiest of all. There was no thunder, no noise but the pounding bows of the ship, the keen whistling of the gale through the cordage, and the rush of the seething waters. But the vessel climbed aloft as if she would climb to heaven--then paused an instant that seemed a century and plunged headlong down again, as from a precipice. The sheeted sprays drenched the decks like rain. The blackness of darkness was everywhere. At long intervals a flash of lightning clove it with a quivering line of fire that revealed a heaving world of water where was nothing before, kindled the dusky cordage to glittering silver, and lit up the faces of the men with a ghastly luster!
Fear drove many on deck that were used to avoiding the night winds and the spray. Some thought the vessel could not live through the night, and it seemed less dreadful to stand out in the midst of the wild tempest and see the peril that threatened than to be shut up in the sepulchral cabins, under the dim lamps, and imagine the horrors that were abroad on the ocean. And once out--once where they could see the ship struggling in the strong grasp of the storm--once where they could hear the shriek of the winds and face the driving spray and look out upon the majestic picture the lightnings disclosed, they were prisoners to a fierce fascination they could not resist, and so remained. It was a wild night --and a very, very long one.
Everybody was sent scampering to the deck at seven o'clock this lovely morning of the thirtieth of June with the glad news that land was in sight! It was a rare thing and a joyful, to see all the ship's family abroad once more, albeit the happiness that sat upon every countenance could only partly conceal the ravages which that long siege of storms had wrought there. But dull eyes soon sparkled with pleasure, pallid cheeks flushed again, and frames weakened by sickness gathered new life from the quickening influences of the bright, fresh morning. Yea, and from a still more potent influence: the worn castaways were to see the blessed land again!--and to see it was to bring back that motherland that was in all their thoughts.
Within the hour we were fairly within the Straits of Gibraltar, the tall yellow-splotched hills of Africa on our right, with their bases veiled in a blue haze and their summits swathed in clouds--the same being according to Scripture, which says that "clouds and darkness are over the land." The words were spoken of this particular portion of Africa, I believe. On our left were the granite-ribbed domes of old Spain. The strait is only thirteen miles wide in its narrowest part.
At short intervals along the Spanish shore were quaint-looking old stone towers--Moorish, we thought--but learned better afterwards. In former times the Morocco rascals used to coast along the Spanish Main in their boats till a safe opportunity seemed to present itself, and then dart in and capture a Spanish village and carry off all the pretty women they could find. It was a pleasant business, and was very popular. The Spaniards built these watchtowers on the hills to enable them to keep a sharper lookout on the Moroccan speculators.
The picture on the other hand was very beautiful to eyes weary of the changeless sea, and by and by the ship's company grew wonderfully cheerful. But while we stood admiring the cloud-capped peaks and the lowlands robed in misty gloom a finer picture burst upon us and chained every eye like a magnet--a stately ship, with canvas piled on canvas till she was one towering mass of bellying sail! She came speeding over the sea like a great bird. Africa and Spain were forgotten. All homage was for the beautiful stranger. While everybody gazed she swept superbly by and flung the Stars and Stripes to the breeze! Quicker than thought, hats and handkerchiefs flashed in the air, and a cheer went up! She was beautiful before--she was radiant now. Many a one on our decks knew then for the first time how tame a sight his country's flag is at home compared to what it is in a foreign land. To see it is to see a vision of home itself and all its idols, and feel a thrill that would stir a very river of sluggish blood!
We were approaching the famed Pillars of Hercules, and already the African one, "Ape's Hill," a grand old mountain with summit streaked with granite ledges, was in sight. The other, the great Rock of Gibraltar, was yet to come. The ancients considered the Pillars of Hercules the head of navigation and the end of the world. The information the ancients didn't have was very voluminous. Even the prophets wrote book after book and epistle after epistle, yet never once hinted at the existence of a great continent on our side of the water; yet they must have known it was there, I should think.
In a few moments a lonely and enormous mass of rock, standing seemingly in the center of the wide strait and apparently washed on all sides by the sea, swung magnificently into view, and we needed no tedious traveled parrot to tell us it was Gibraltar. There could not be two rocks like that in one kingdom.
The Rock of Gibraltar is about a mile and a half long, I should say, by 1,400 to 1,500 feet high, and a quarter of a mile wide at its base. One side and one end of it come about as straight up out of the sea as the side of a house, the other end is irregular and the other side is a steep slant which an army would find very difficult to climb. At the foot of this slant is the walled town of Gibraltar--or rather the town occupies part of the slant. Everywhere--on hillside, in the precipice, by the sea, on the heights--everywhere you choose to look, Gibraltar is clad with masonry and bristling with guns. It makes a striking and lively picture from whatsoever point you contemplate it. It is pushed out into the sea on the end of a flat, narrow strip of land, and is suggestive of a "gob" of mud on the end of a shingle. A few hundred yards of this flat ground at its base belongs to the English, and then, extending across the strip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, a distance of a quarter of a mile, comes the "Neutral Ground," a space two or three hundred yards wide, which is free to both parties.
"Are you going through Spain to Paris?" That question was bandied about the ship day and night from Fayal to Gibraltar, and I thought I never could get so tired of hearing any one combination of words again or more tired of answering, "I don't know." At the last moment six or seven had sufficient decision of character to make up their minds to go, and did go, and I felt a sense of relief at once--it was forever too late now and I could make up my mind at my leisure not to go. I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
But behold how annoyances repeat themselves. We had no sooner gotten rid of the Spain distress than the Gibraltar guides started another--a tiresome repetition of a legend that had nothing very astonishing about it, even in the first place: "That high hill yonder is called the Queen's Chair; it is because one of the queens of Spain placed her chair there when the French and Spanish troops were besieging Gibraltar, and said she would never move from the spot till the English flag was lowered from the fortresses. If the English hadn't been gallant enough to lower the flag for a few hours one day, she'd have had to break her oath or die up there."
We rode on asses and mules up the steep, narrow streets and entered the subterranean galleries the English have blasted out in the rock. These galleries are like spacious railway tunnels, and at short intervals in them great guns frown out upon sea and town through portholes five or six hundred feet above the ocean. There is a mile or so of this subterranean work, and it must have cost a vast deal of money and labor. The gallery guns command the peninsula and the harbors of both oceans, but they might as well not be there, I should think, for an army could hardly climb the perpendicular wall of the rock anyhow. Those lofty portholes afford superb views of the sea, though. At one place, where a jutting crag was hollowed out into a great chamber whose furniture was huge cannon and whose windows were portholes, a glimpse was caught of a hill not far away, and a soldier said:
"That high hill yonder is called the Queen's Chair; it is because a queen of Spain placed her chair there once when the French and Spanish troops were besieging Gibraltar, and said she would never move from the spot till the English flag was lowered from the fortresses. If the English hadn't been gallant enough to lower the flag for a few hours one day, she'd have had to break her oath or die up there."
On the topmost pinnacle of Gibraltar we halted a good while, and no doubt the mules were tired. They had a right to be. The military road was good, but rather steep, and there was a good deal of it. The view from the narrow ledge was magnificent; from it vessels seeming like the tiniest little toy boats were turned into noble ships by the telescopes, and other vessels that were fifty miles away and even sixty, they said, and invisible to the naked eye, could be clearly distinguished through those same telescopes. Below, on one side, we looked down upon an endless mass of batteries and on the other straight down to the sea.
While I was resting ever so comfortably on a rampart, and cooling my baking head in the delicious breeze, an officious guide belonging to another party came up and said:
"Senor, that high hill yonder is called the Queen's Chair--"
"Sir, I am a helpless orphan in a foreign land. Have pity on me. Don't --now don't inflict that most in-FERNAL old legend on me anymore today!"
There--I had used strong language after promising I would never do so again; but the provocation was more than human nature could bear. If you had been bored so, when you had the noble panorama of Spain and Africa and the blue Mediterranean spread abroad at your feet, and wanted to gaze and enjoy and surfeit yourself in its beauty in silence, you might have even burst into stronger language than I did.
Gibraltar has stood several protracted sieges, one of them of nearly four years' duration (it failed), and the English only captured it by stratagem. The wonder is that anybody should ever dream of trying so impossible a project as the taking it by assault--and yet it has been tried more than once.
The Moors held the place twelve hundred years ago, and a staunch old castle of theirs of that date still frowns from the middle of the town, with moss-grown battlements and sides well scarred by shots fired in battles and sieges that are forgotten now. A secret chamber in the rock behind it was discovered some time ago, which contained a sword of exquisite workmanship, and some quaint old armor of a fashion that antiquaries are not acquainted with, though it is supposed to be Roman. Roman armor and Roman relics of various kinds have been found in a cave in the sea extremity of Gibraltar; history says Rome held this part of the country about the Christian era, and these things seem to confirm the statement.
In that cave also are found human bones, crusted with a very thick, stony coating, and wise men have ventured to say that those men not only lived before the flood, but as much as ten thousand years before it. It may be true--it looks reasonable enough--but as long as those parties can't vote anymore, the matter can be of no great public interest. In this cave likewise are found skeletons and fossils of animals that exist in every part of Africa, yet within memory and tradition have never existed in any portion of Spain save this lone peak of Gibraltar! So the theory is that the channel between Gibraltar and Africa was once dry land, and that the low, neutral neck between Gibraltar and the Spanish hills behind it was once ocean, and of course that these African animals, being over at Gibraltar (after rock, perhaps--there is plenty there), got closed out when the great change occurred. The hills in Africa, across the channel, are full of apes, and there are now and always have been apes on the rock of Gibraltar--but not elsewhere in Spain! The subject is an interesting one.
There is an English garrison at Gibraltar of 6,000 or 7,000 men, and so uniforms of flaming red are plenty; and red and blue, and undress costumes of snowy white, and also the queer uniform of the bare-kneed Highlander; and one sees soft-eyed Spanish girls from San Roque, and veiled Moorish beauties (I suppose they are beauties) from Tarifa, and turbaned, sashed, and trousered Moorish merchants from Fez, and long- robed, bare-legged, ragged Muhammadan vagabonds from Tetuan and Tangier, some brown, some yellow and some as black as virgin ink--and Jews from all around, in gabardine, skullcap, and slippers, just as they are in pictures and theaters, and just as they were three thousand years ago, no doubt. You can easily understand that a tribe (somehow our pilgrims suggest that expression, because they march in a straggling procession through these foreign places with such an Indian-like air of complacency and independence about them) like ours, made up from fifteen or sixteen states of the Union, found enough to stare at in this shifting panorama of fashion today.
Speaking of our pilgrims reminds me that we have one or two people among us who are sometimes an annoyance. However, I do not count the Oracle in that list. I will explain that the Oracle is an innocent old ass who eats for four and looks wiser than the whole Academy of France would have any right to look, and never uses a one-syllable word when he can think of a longer one, and never by any possible chance knows the meaning of any long word he uses or ever gets it in the right place; yet he will serenely venture an opinion on the most abstruse subject and back it up complacently with quotations from authors who never existed, and finally when cornered will slide to the other side of the question, say he has been there all the time, and come back at you with your own spoken arguments, only with the big words all tangled, and play them in your very teeth as original with himself. He reads a chapter in the guidebooks, mixes the facts all up, with his bad memory, and then goes off to inflict the whole mess on somebody as wisdom which has been festering in his brain for years and which he gathered in college from erudite authors who are dead now and out of print. This morning at breakfast he pointed out of the window and said:
"Do you see that there hill out there on that African coast? It's one of them Pillows of Herkewls, I should say--and there's the ultimate one alongside of it."
"The ultimate one--that is a good word--but the pillars are not both on the same side of the strait." (I saw he had been deceived by a carelessly written sentence in the guidebook.)
"Well, it ain't for you to say, nor for me. Some authors states it that way, and some states it different. Old Gibbons don't say nothing about it--just shirks it complete--Gibbons always done that when he got stuck-- but there is Rolampton, what does he say? Why, be says that they was both on the same side, and Trinculian, and Sobaster, and Syraccus, and Langomarganbl----"
"Oh, that will do--that's enough. If you have got your hand in for inventing authors and testimony, I have nothing more to say--let them be on the same side."
We don't mind the Oracle. We rather like him. We can tolerate the Oracle very easily, but we have a poet and a good-natured enterprising idiot on board, and they do distress the company. The one gives copies of his verses to consuls, commanders, hotel keepers, Arabs, Dutch--to anybody, in fact, who will submit to a grievous infliction most kindly meant. His poetry is all very well on shipboard, notwithstanding when he wrote an "Ode to the Ocean in a Storm" in one half hour, and an "Apostrophe to the Rooster in the Waist of the Ship" in the next, the transition was considered to be rather abrupt; but when he sends an invoice of rhymes to the Governor of Fayal and another to the commander in chief and other dignitaries in Gibraltar with the compliments of the Laureate of the Ship, it is not popular with the passengers.
The other personage I have mentioned is young and green, and not bright, not learned, and not wise. He will be, though, someday if he recollects the answers to all his questions. He is known about the ship as the "Interrogation Point," and this by constant use has become shortened to "Interrogation." He has distinguished himself twice already. In Fayal they pointed out a hill and told him it was 800 feet high and 1,100 feet long. And they told him there was a tunnel 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet high running through the hill, from end to end. He believed it. He repeated it to everybody, discussed it, and read it from his notes. Finally, he took a useful hint from this remark, which a thoughtful old pilgrim made:
"Well, yes, it is a little remarkable--singular tunnel altogether--stands up out of the top of the hill about two hundred feet, and one end of it sticks out of the hill about nine hundred!"
Here in Gibraltar he corners these educated British officers and badgers them with braggadocio about America and the wonders she can perform! He told one of them a couple of our gunboats could come here and knock Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea!
At this present moment half a dozen of us are taking a private pleasure excursion of our own devising. We form rather more than half the list of white passengers on board a small steamer bound for the venerable Moorish town of Tangier, Africa. Nothing could be more absolutely certain than that we are enjoying ourselves. One can not do otherwise who speeds over these sparkling waters and breathes the soft atmosphere of this sunny land. Care cannot assail us here. We are out of its jurisdiction.
We even steamed recklessly by the frowning fortress of Malabat (a stronghold of the Emperor of Morocco) without a twinge of fear. The whole garrison turned out under arms and assumed a threatening attitude--yet still we did not fear. The entire garrison marched and counter-marched within the rampart, in full view--yet notwithstanding even this, we never flinched.
I suppose we really do not know what fear is. I inquired the name of the garrison of the fortress of Malabat, and they said it was Mehemet Ali Ben Sancom. I said it would be a good idea to get some more garrisons to help him; but they said no, he had nothing to do but hold the place, and he was competent to do that, had done it two years already. That was evidence which one could not well refute. There is nothing like reputation.
Every now and then my glove purchase in Gibraltar last night intrudes itself upon me. Dan and the ship's surgeon and I had been up to the great square, listening to the music of the fine military bands and contemplating English and Spanish female loveliness and fashion, and at nine o'clock were on our way to the theater, when we met the General, the Judge, the Commodore, the Colonel, and the Commissioner of the United States of America to Europe, Asia, and Africa, who had been to the Club House to register their several titles and impoverish the bill of fare; and they told us to go over to the little variety store near the Hall of Justice and buy some kid gloves. They said they were elegant and very moderate in price. It seemed a stylish thing to go to the theater in kid gloves, and we acted upon the hint. A very handsome young lady in the store offered me a pair of blue gloves. I did not want blue, but she said they would look very pretty on a hand like mine. The remark touched me tenderly. I glanced furtively at my hand, and somehow it did seem rather a comely member. I tried a glove on my left and blushed a little. Manifestly the size was too small for me. But I felt gratified when she said:
"Oh, it is just right!" Yet I knew it was no such thing.
I tugged at it diligently, but it was discouraging work. She said:
"Ah! I see you are accustomed to wearing kid gloves--but some gentlemen are so awkward about putting them on."
It was the last compliment I had expected. I only understand putting on the buckskin article perfectly. I made another effort and tore the glove from the base of the thumb into the palm of the hand--and tried to hide the rent. She kept up her compliments, and I kept up my determination to deserve them or die:
"Ah, you have had experience! [A rip down the back of the hand.] They are just right for you--your hand is very small--if they tear you need not pay for them. [A rent across the middle.] I can always tell when a gentleman understands putting on kid gloves. There is a grace about it that only comes with long practice." The whole after-guard of the glove "fetched away," as the sailors say, the fabric parted across the knuckles, and nothing was left but a melancholy ruin.
I was too much flattered to make an exposure and throw the merchandise on the angel's hands. I was hot, vexed, confused, but still happy; but I hated the other boys for taking such an absorbing interest in the proceedings. I wished they were in Jericho. I felt exquisitely mean when I said cheerfully:
"This one does very well; it fits elegantly. I like a glove that fits. No, never mind, ma'am, never mind; I'll put the other on in the street. It is warm here."
It was warm. It was the warmest place I ever was in. I paid the bill, and as I passed out with a fascinating bow I thought I detected a light in the woman's eye that was gently ironical; and when I looked back from the street, and she was laughing all to herself about something or other, I said to myself with withering sarcasm, "Oh, certainly; you know how to put on kid gloves, don't you? A self-complacent ass, ready to be flattered out of your senses by every petticoat that chooses to take the trouble to do it!"
The silence of the boys annoyed me. Finally Dan said musingly:
"Some gentlemen don't know how to put on kid gloves at all, but some do."
And the doctor said (to the moon, I thought):
"But it is always easy to tell when a gentleman is used to putting on kid gloves."
Dan soliloquized after a pause:
"Ah, yes; there is a grace about it that only comes with long, very long practice."
"Yes, indeed, I've noticed that when a man hauls on a kid glove like he was dragging a cat out of an ash hole by the tail, he understands putting on kid gloves; he's had ex--"
"Boys, enough of a thing's enough! You think you are very smart, I suppose, but I don't. And if you go and tell any of those old gossips in the ship about this thing, I'll never forgive you for it; that's all."
They let me alone then for the time being. We always let each other alone in time to prevent ill feeling from spoiling a joke. But they had bought gloves, too, as I did. We threw all the purchases away together this morning. They were coarse, unsubstantial, freckled all over with broad yellow splotches, and could neither stand wear nor public exhibition. We had entertained an angel unawares, but we did not take her in. She did that for us.
Tangier! A tribe of stalwart Moors are wading into the sea to carry us ashore on their backs from the small boats.
This is royal! Let those who went up through Spain make the best of it-- these dominions of the Emperor of Morocco suit our little party well enough. We have had enough of Spain at Gibraltar for the present. Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time. Elsewhere we have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force. We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign--foreign from top to bottom--foreign from center to circumference--foreign inside and outside and all around--nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness-- nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! In Tangier we have found it. Here is not the slightest thing that ever we have seen save in pictures--and we always mistrusted the pictures before. We cannot anymore. The pictures used to seem exaggerations--they seemed too weird and fanciful for reality. But behold, they were not wild enough--they were not fanciful enough--they have not told half the story. Tangier is a foreign land if ever there was one, and the true spirit of it can never be found in any book save The Arabian Nights. Here are no white men visible, yet swarms of humanity are all about us. Here is a packed and jammed city enclosed in a massive stone wall which is more than a thousand years old. All the houses nearly are one-and two-story, made of thick walls of stone, plastered outside, square as a dry-goods box, flat as a floor on top, no cornices, whitewashed all over--a crowded city of snowy tombs! And the doors are arched with the peculiar arch we see in Moorish pictures; the floors are laid in varicolored diamond flags; in tesselated, many-colored porcelain squares wrought in the furnaces of Fez; in red tiles and broad bricks that time cannot wear; there is no furniture in the rooms (of Jewish dwellings) save divans--what there is in Moorish ones no man may know; within their sacred walls no Christian dog can enter. And the streets are oriental--some of them three feet wide, some six, but only two that are over a dozen; a man can blockade the most of them by extending his body across them. Isn't it an oriental picture?
There are stalwart Bedouins of the desert here, and stately Moors proud of a history that goes back to the night of time; and Jews whose fathers fled hither centuries upon centuries ago; and swarthy Riffians from the mountains--born cut-throats--and original, genuine Negroes as black as Moses; and howling dervishes and a hundred breeds of Arabs--all sorts and descriptions of people that are foreign and curious to look upon.
And their dresses are strange beyond all description. Here is a bronzed Moor in a prodigious white turban, curiously embroidered jacket, gold and crimson sash, of many folds, wrapped round and round his waist, trousers that only come a little below his knee and yet have twenty yards of stuff in them, ornamented scimitar, bare shins, stockingless feet, yellow slippers, and gun of preposterous length--a mere soldier!--I thought he was the Emperor at least. And here are aged Moors with flowing white beards and long white robes with vast cowls; and Bedouins with long, cowled, striped cloaks; and Negroes and Riffians with heads clean-shaven except a kinky scalp lock back of the ear or, rather, upon the after corner of the skull; and all sorts of barbarians in all sorts of weird costumes, and all more or less ragged. And here are Moorish women who are enveloped from head to foot in coarse white robes, and whose sex can only be determined by the fact that they only leave one eye visible and never look at men of their own race, or are looked at by them in public. Here are five thousand Jews in blue gabardines, sashes about their waists, slippers upon their feet, little skullcaps upon the backs of their heads, hair combed down on the forehead, and cut straight across the middle of it from side to side--the selfsame fashion their Tangier ancestors have worn for I don't know how many bewildering centuries. Their feet and ankles are bare. Their noses are all hooked, and hooked alike. They all resemble each other so much that one could almost believe they were of one family. Their women are plump and pretty, and do smile upon a Christian in a way which is in the last degree comforting.
What a funny old town it is! It seems like profanation to laugh and jest and bandy the frivolous chat of our day amid its hoary relics. Only the stately phraseology and the measured speech of the sons of the Prophet are suited to a venerable antiquity like this. Here is a crumbling wall that was old when Columbus discovered America; was old when Peter the Hermit roused the knightly men of the Middle Ages to arm for the first Crusade; was old when Charlemagne and his paladins beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants and genii in the fabled days of the olden time; was old when Christ and his disciples walked the earth; stood where it stands today when the lips of Memnon were vocal and men bought and sold in the streets of ancient Thebes!
The Phoenicians, the Carthagenians, the English, Moors, Romans, all have battled for Tangier--all have won it and lost it. Here is a ragged, oriental-looking Negro from some desert place in interior Africa, filling his goatskin with water from a stained and battered fountain built by the Romans twelve hundred years ago. Yonder is a ruined arch of a bridge built by Julius Caesar nineteen hundred years ago. Men who had seen the infant Saviour in the Virgin's arms have stood upon it, maybe.
Near it are the ruins of a dockyard where Caesar repaired his ships and loaded them with grain when he invaded Britain, fifty years before the Christian era.
Here, under the quiet stars, these old streets seem thronged with the phantoms of forgotten ages. My eyes are resting upon a spot where stood a monument which was seen and described by Roman historians less than two thousand years ago, whereon was inscribed:
"WE ARE THE CANAANITES. WE ARE THEY THAT HAVE BEEN DRIVEN OUT OF THE LAND OF CANAAN BY THE JEWISH ROBBER, JOSHUA."
Joshua drove them out, and they came here. Not many leagues from here is a tribe of Jews whose ancestors fled thither after an unsuccessful revolt against King David, and these their descendants are still under a ban and keep to themselves.
Tangier has been mentioned in history for three thousand years. And it was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his lion skin, landed here, four thousand years ago. In these streets he met Anitus, the king of the country, and brained him with his club, which was the fashion among gentlemen in those days. The people of Tangier (called Tingis then) lived in the rudest possible huts and dressed in skins and carried clubs, and were as savage as the wild beasts they were constantly obliged to war with. But they were a gentlemanly race and did no work. They lived on the natural products of the land. Their king's country residence was at the famous Garden of Hesperides, seventy miles down the coast from here. The garden, with its golden apples (oranges), is gone now--no vestige of it remains. Antiquarians concede that such a personage as Hercules did exist in ancient times and agree that he was an enterprising and energetic man, but decline to believe him a good, bona- fide god, because that would be unconstitutional.
Down here at Cape Spartel is the celebrated cave of Hercules, where that hero took refuge when he was vanquished and driven out of the Tangier country. It is full of inscriptions in the dead languages, which fact makes me think Hercules could not have traveled much, else he would not have kept a journal.
Five days' journey from here--say two hundred miles--are the ruins of an ancient city, of whose history there is neither record nor tradition. And yet its arches, its columns, and its statues proclaim it to have been built by an enlightened race.
The general size of a store in Tangier is about that of an ordinary shower bath in a civilized land. The Muhammadan merchant, tinman, shoemaker, or vendor of trifles sits cross-legged on the floor and reaches after any article you may want to buy. You can rent a whole block of these pigeonholes for fifty dollars a month. The market people crowd the marketplace with their baskets of figs, dates, melons, apricots, etc., and among them file trains of laden asses, not much larger, if any, than a Newfoundland dog. The scene is lively, is picturesque, and smells like a police court. The Jewish money-changers have their dens close at hand, and all day long are counting bronze coins and transferring them from one bushel basket to another. They don't coin much money nowadays, I think. I saw none but what was dated four or five hundred years back, and was badly worn and battered. These coins are not very valuable. Jack went out to get a napoleon changed, so as to have money suited to the general cheapness of things, and came back and said he bad "swamped the bank, had bought eleven quarts of coin, and the head of the firm had gone on the street to negotiate for the balance of the change." I bought nearly half a pint of their money for a shilling myself. I am not proud on account of having so much money, though. I care nothing for wealth.
The Moors have some small silver coins and also some silver slugs worth a dollar each. The latter are exceedingly scarce--so much so that when poor ragged Arabs see one they beg to be allowed to kiss it.
They have also a small gold coin worth two dollars. And that reminds me of something. When Morocco is in a state of war, Arab couriers carry letters through the country and charge a liberal postage. Every now and then they fall into the hands of marauding bands and get robbed. Therefore, warned by experience, as soon as they have collected two dollars' worth of money they exchange it for one of those little gold pieces, and when robbers come upon them, swallow it. The stratagem was good while it was unsuspected, but after that the marauders simply gave the sagacious United States mail an emetic and sat down to wait.
The Emperor of Morocco is a soulless despot, and the great officers under him are despots on a smaller scale. There is no regular system of taxation, but when the Emperor or the Bashaw want money, they levy on some rich man, and he has to furnish the cash or go to prison. Therefore, few men in Morocco dare to be rich. It is too dangerous a luxury. Vanity occasionally leads a man to display wealth, but sooner or later the Emperor trumps up a charge against him--any sort of one will do--and confiscates his property. Of course, there are many rich men in the empire, but their money is buried, and they dress in rags and counterfeit poverty. Every now and then the Emperor imprisons a man who is suspected of the crime of being rich, and makes things so uncomfortable for him that he is forced to discover where he has hidden his money.
Moors and Jews sometimes place themselves under the protection of the foreign consuls, and then they can flout their riches in the Emperor's face with impunity.
About the first adventure we had yesterday afternoon, after landing here, came near finishing that heedless Blucher. We had just mounted some mules and asses and started out under the guardianship of the stately, the princely, the magnificent Hadji Muhammad Lamarty (may his tribe increase!) when we came upon a fine Moorish mosque, with tall tower, rich with checker-work of many-colored porcelain, and every part and portion of the edifice adorned with the quaint architecture of the Alhambra, and Blucher started to ride into the open doorway. A startling "Hi-hi!" from our camp followers and a loud "Halt!" from an English gentleman in the party checked the adventurer, and then we were informed that so dire a profanation is it for a Christian dog to set foot upon the sacred threshold of a Moorish mosque that no amount of purification can ever make it fit for the faithful to pray in again. Had Blucher succeeded in entering the place, he would no doubt have been chased through the town and stoned; and the time has been, and not many years ago, either, when a Christian would have been most ruthlessly slaughtered if captured in a mosque. We caught a glimpse of the handsome tessellated pavements within and of the devotees performing their ablutions at the fountains, but even that we took that glimpse was a thing not relished by the Moorish bystanders.
Some years ago the clock in the tower of the mosque got out of order. The Moors of Tangier have so degenerated that it has been long since there was an artificer among them capable of curing so delicate a patient as a debilitated clock. The great men of the city met in solemn conclave to consider how the difficulty was to be met. They discussed the matter thoroughly but arrived at no solution. Finally, a patriarch arose and said:
"Oh, children of the Prophet, it is known unto you that a Portuguee dog of a Christian clock mender pollutes the city of Tangier with his presence. Ye know, also, that when mosques are builded, asses bear the stones and the cement, and cross the sacred threshold. Now, therefore, send the Christian dog on all fours, and barefoot, into the holy place to mend the clock, and let him go as an ass!"
And in that way it was done. Therefore, if Blucher ever sees the inside of a mosque, he will have to cast aside his humanity and go in his natural character. We visited the jail and found Moorish prisoners making mats and baskets. (This thing of utilizing crime savors of civilization.) Murder is punished with death. A short time ago three murderers were taken beyond the city walls and shot. Moorish guns are not good, and neither are Moorish marksmen. In this instance they set up the poor criminals at long range, like so many targets, and practiced on them--kept them hopping about and dodging bullets for half an hour before they managed to drive the center.
When a man steals cattle, they cut off his right hand and left leg and nail them up in the marketplace as a warning to everybody. Their surgery is not artistic. They slice around the bone a little, then break off the limb. Sometimes the patient gets well; but, as a general thing, he don't. However, the Moorish heart is stout. The Moors were always brave. These criminals undergo the fearful operation without a wince, without a tremor of any kind, without a groan!