Part 2 out of 2
fiercely were provided for the occasion by the Arab guards of those
parties, and shipped from Jerusalem for temporary service as Bedouins.
They met together in full view of the pilgrims, after the battle, and
took lunch, divided the bucksheesh extorted in the season of danger, and
then accompanied the cavalcade home to the city! The nuisance of an Arab
guard is one which is created by the Sheiks and the Bedouins together,
for mutual profit, it is said, and no doubt there is a good deal of truth
We visited the fountain the prophet Elisha sweetened (it is sweet yet,)
where he remained some time and was fed by the ravens.
Ancient Jericho is not very picturesque as a ruin. When Joshua marched
around it seven times, some three thousand years ago, and blew it down
with his trumpet, he did the work so well and so completely that he
hardly left enough of the city to cast a shadow. The curse pronounced
against the rebuilding of it, has never been removed. One King, holding
the curse in light estimation, made the attempt, but was stricken sorely
for his presumption. Its site will always remain unoccupied; and yet it
is one of the very best locations for a town we have seen in all
At two in the morning they routed us out of bed--another piece of
unwarranted cruelty--another stupid effort of our dragoman to get ahead
of a rival. It was not two hours to the Jordan. However, we were
dressed and under way before any one thought of looking to see what time
it was, and so we drowsed on through the chill night air and dreamed of
camp fires, warm beds, and other comfortable things.
There was no conversation. People do not talk when they are cold, and
wretched, and sleepy. We nodded in the saddle, at times, and woke up
with a start to find that the procession had disappeared in the gloom.
Then there was energy and attention to business until its dusky outlines
came in sight again. Occasionally the order was passed in a low voice
down the line: "Close up--close up! Bedouins lurk here, every where!"
What an exquisite shudder it sent shivering along one's spine!
We reached the famous river before four o'clock, and the night was so
black that we could have ridden into it without seeing it. Some of us
were in an unhappy frame of mind. We waited and waited for daylight, but
it did not come. Finally we went away in the dark and slept an hour on
the ground, in the bushes, and caught cold. It was a costly nap, on that
account, but otherwise it was a paying investment because it brought
unconsciousness of the dreary minutes and put us in a somewhat fitter
mood for a first glimpse of the sacred river.
With the first suspicion of dawn, every pilgrim took off his clothes and
waded into the dark torrent, singing:
"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wistful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie."
But they did not sing long. The water was so fearfully cold that they
were obliged to stop singing and scamper out again. Then they stood on
the bank shivering, and so chagrined and so grieved, that they merited
holiest compassion. Because another dream, another cherished hope, had
failed. They had promised themselves all along that they would cross the
Jordan where the Israelites crossed it when they entered Canaan from
their long pilgrimage in the desert. They would cross where the twelve
stones were placed in memory of that great event. While they did it they
would picture to themselves that vast army of pilgrims marching through
the cloven waters, bearing the hallowed ark of the covenant and shouting
hosannahs, and singing songs of thanksgiving and praise. Each had
promised himself that he would be the first to cross. They were at the
goal of their hopes at last, but the current was too swift, the water was
It was then that Jack did them a service. With that engaging
recklessness of consequences which is natural to youth, and so proper and
so seemly, as well, he went and led the way across the Jordan, and all
was happiness again. Every individual waded over, then, and stood upon
the further bank. The water was not quite breast deep, any where. If it
had been more, we could hardly have accomplished the feat, for the strong
current would have swept us down the stream, and we would have been
exhausted and drowned before reaching a place where we could make a
landing. The main object compassed, the drooping, miserable party sat
down to wait for the sun again, for all wanted to see the water as well
as feel it. But it was too cold a pastime. Some cans were filled from
the holy river, some canes cut from its banks, and then we mounted and
rode reluctantly away to keep from freezing to death. So we saw the
Jordan very dimly. The thickets of bushes that bordered its banks threw
their shadows across its shallow, turbulent waters ("stormy," the hymn
makes them, which is rather a complimentary stretch of fancy,) and we
could not judge of the width of the stream by the eye. We knew by our
wading experience, however, that many streets in America are double as
wide as the Jordan.
Daylight came, soon after we got under way, and in the course of an hour
or two we reached the Dead Sea. Nothing grows in the flat, burning
desert around it but weeds and the Dead Sea apple the poets say is
beautiful to the eye, but crumbles to ashes and dust when you break it.
Such as we found were not handsome, but they were bitter to the taste.
They yielded no dust. It was because they were not ripe, perhaps.
The desert and the barren hills gleam painfully in the sun, around the
Dead Sea, and there is no pleasant thing or living creature upon it or
about its borders to cheer the eye. It is a scorching, arid, repulsive
solitude. A silence broods over the scene that is depressing to the
spirits. It makes one think of funerals and death.
The Dead Sea is small. Its waters are very clear, and it has a pebbly
bottom and is shallow for some distance out from the shores. It yields
quantities of asphaltum; fragments of it lie all about its banks; this
stuff gives the place something of an unpleasant smell.
All our reading had taught us to expect that the first plunge into the
Dead Sea would be attended with distressing results--our bodies would
feel as if they were suddenly pierced by millions of red-hot needles; the
dreadful smarting would continue for hours; we might even look to be
blistered from head to foot, and suffer miserably for many days. We were
disappointed. Our eight sprang in at the same time that another party of
pilgrims did, and nobody screamed once. None of them ever did complain
of any thing more than a slight pricking sensation in places where their
skin was abraded, and then only for a short time. My face smarted for a
couple of hours, but it was partly because I got it badly sun-burned
while I was bathing, and staid in so long that it became plastered over
No, the water did not blister us; it did not cover us with a slimy ooze
and confer upon us an atrocious fragrance; it was not very slimy; and I
could not discover that we smelt really any worse than we have always
smelt since we have been in Palestine. It was only a different kind of
smell, but not conspicuous on that account, because we have a great deal
of variety in that respect. We didn't smell, there on the Jordan, the
same as we do in Jerusalem; and we don't smell in Jerusalem just as we
did in Nazareth, or Tiberias, or Cesarea Philippi, or any of those other
ruinous ancient towns in Galilee. No, we change all the time, and
generally for the worse. We do our own washing.
It was a funny bath. We could not sink. One could stretch himself at
full length on his back, with his arms on his breast, and all of his body
above a line drawn from the corner of his jaw past the middle of his
side, the middle of his leg and through his ancle bone, would remain out
of water. He could lift his head clear out, if he chose. No position
can be retained long; you lose your balance and whirl over, first on your
back and then on your face, and so on. You can lie comfortably, on your
back, with your head out, and your legs out from your knees down, by
steadying yourself with your hands. You can sit, with your knees drawn
up to your chin and your arms clasped around them, but you are bound to
turn over presently, because you are top-heavy in that position. You can
stand up straight in water that is over your head, and from the middle of
your breast upward you will not be wet. But you can not remain so. The
water will soon float your feet to the surface. You can not swim on your
back and make any progress of any consequence, because your feet stick
away above the surface, and there is nothing to propel yourself with but
your heels. If you swim on your face, you kick up the water like a
stern-wheel boat. You make no headway. A horse is so top-heavy that he
can neither swim nor stand up in the Dead Sea. He turns over on his side
at once. Some of us bathed for more than an hour, and then came out
coated with salt till we shone like icicles. We scrubbed it off with a
coarse towel and rode off with a splendid brand-new smell, though it was
one which was not any more disagreeable than those we have been for
several weeks enjoying. It was the variegated villainy and novelty of it
that charmed us. Salt crystals glitter in the sun about the shores of
the lake. In places they coat the ground like a brilliant crust of ice.
When I was a boy I somehow got the impression that the river Jordan was
four thousand miles long and thirty-five miles wide. It is only ninety
miles long, and so crooked that a man does not know which side of it he
is on half the time. In going ninety miles it does not get over more
than fifty miles of ground. It is not any wider than Broadway in New
There is the Sea of Galilee and this Dead Sea--neither of them twenty
miles long or thirteen wide. And yet when I was in Sunday School I
thought they were sixty thousand miles in diameter.
Travel and experience mar the grandest pictures and rob us of the most
cherished traditions of our boyhood. Well, let them go. I have already
seen the Empire of King Solomon diminish to the size of the State of
Pennsylvania; I suppose I can bear the reduction of the seas and the
We looked every where, as we passed along, but never saw grain or crystal
of Lot's wife. It was a great disappointment. For many and many a year
we had known her sad story, and taken that interest in her which
misfortune always inspires. But she was gone. Her picturesque form no
longer looms above the desert of the Dead Sea to remind the tourist of
the doom that fell upon the lost cities.
I can not describe the hideous afternoon's ride from the Dead Sea to Mars
Saba. It oppresses me yet, to think of it. The sun so pelted us that
the tears ran down our cheeks once or twice. The ghastly, treeless,
grassless, breathless canons smothered us as if we had been in an oven.
The sun had positive weight to it, I think. Not a man could sit erect
under it. All drooped low in the saddles. John preached in this
"Wilderness!" It must have been exhausting work. What a very heaven the
messy towers and ramparts of vast Mars Saba looked to us when we caught a
first glimpse of them!
We staid at this great convent all night, guests of the hospitable
priests. Mars Saba, perched upon a crag, a human nest stock high up
against a perpendicular mountain wall, is a world of grand masonry that
rises, terrace upon terrace away above your head, like the terraced and
retreating colonnades one sees in fanciful pictures of Belshazzar's Feast
and the palaces of the ancient Pharaohs. No other human dwelling is
near. It was founded many ages ago by a holy recluse who lived at first
in a cave in the rock--a cave which is inclosed in the convent walls,
now, and was reverently shown to us by the priests. This recluse, by his
rigorous torturing of his flesh, his diet of bread and water, his utter
withdrawal from all society and from the vanities of the world, and his
constant prayer and saintly contemplation of a skull, inspired an
emulation that brought about him many disciples. The precipice on the
opposite side of the canyon is well perforated with the small holes they
dug in the rock to live in. The present occupants of Mars Saba, about
seventy in number, are all hermits. They wear a coarse robe, an ugly,
brimless stove-pipe of a hat, and go without shoes. They eat nothing
whatever but bread and salt; they drink nothing but water. As long as
they live they can never go outside the walls, or look upon a woman--for
no woman is permitted to enter Mars Saba, upon any pretext whatsoever.
Some of those men have been shut up there for thirty years. In all that
dreary time they have not heard the laughter of a child or the blessed
voice of a woman; they have seen no human tears, no human smiles; they
have known no human joys, no wholesome human sorrows. In their hearts
are no memories of the past, in their brains no dreams of the future.
All that is lovable, beautiful, worthy, they have put far away from them;
against all things that are pleasant to look upon, and all sounds that
are music to the ear, they have barred their massive doors and reared
their relentless walls of stone forever. They have banished the tender
grace of life and left only the sapped and skinny mockery. Their lips
are lips that never kiss and never sing; their hearts are hearts that
never hate and never love; their breasts are breasts that never swell
with the sentiment, "I have a country and a flag." They are dead men who
I set down these first thoughts because they are natural--not because
they are just or because it is right to set them down. It is easy for
book-makers to say "I thought so and so as I looked upon such and such a
scene"--when the truth is, they thought all those fine things afterwards.
One's first thought is not likely to be strictly accurate, yet it is no
crime to think it and none to write it down, subject to modification by
later experience. These hermits are dead men, in several respects, but
not in all; and it is not proper, that, thinking ill of them at first, I
should go on doing so, or, speaking ill of them I should reiterate the
words and stick to them. No, they treated us too kindly for that. There
is something human about them somewhere. They knew we were foreigners
and Protestants, and not likely to feel admiration or much friendliness
toward them. But their large charity was above considering such things.
They simply saw in us men who were hungry, and thirsty, and tired, and
that was sufficient. They opened their doors and gave us welcome. They
asked no questions, and they made no self-righteous display of their
hospitality. They fished for no compliments. They moved quietly about,
setting the table for us, making the beds, and bringing water to wash in,
and paid no heed when we said it was wrong for them to do that when we
had men whose business it was to perform such offices. We fared most
comfortably, and sat late at dinner. We walked all over the building
with the hermits afterward, and then sat on the lofty battlements and
smoked while we enjoyed the cool air, the wild scenery and the sunset.
One or two chose cosy bed-rooms to sleep in, but the nomadic instinct
prompted the rest to sleep on the broad divan that extended around the
great hall, because it seemed like sleeping out of doors, and so was more
cheery and inviting. It was a royal rest we had.
When we got up to breakfast in the morning, we were new men. For all
this hospitality no strict charge was made. We could give something if
we chose; we need give nothing, if we were poor or if we were stingy.
The pauper and the miser are as free as any in the Catholic Convents of
Palestine. I have been educated to enmity toward every thing that is
Catholic, and sometimes, in consequence of this, I find it much easier to
discover Catholic faults than Catholic merits. But there is one thing I
feel no disposition to overlook, and no disposition to forget: and that
is, the honest gratitude I and all pilgrims owe, to the Convent Fathers
in Palestine. Their doors are always open, and there is always a welcome
for any worthy man who comes, whether he comes in rags or clad in purple.
The Catholic Convents are a priceless blessing to the poor. A pilgrim
without money, whether he be a Protestant or a Catholic, can travel the
length and breadth of Palestine, and in the midst of her desert wastes
find wholesome food and a clean bed every night, in these buildings.
Pilgrims in better circumstances are often stricken down by the sun and
the fevers of the country, and then their saving refuge is the Convent.
Without these hospitable retreats, travel in Palestine would be a
pleasure which none but the strongest men could dare to undertake. Our
party, pilgrims and all, will always be ready and always willing, to
touch glasses and drink health, prosperity and long life to the Convent
Fathers of Palestine.
So, rested and refreshed, we fell into line and filed away over the
barren mountains of Judea, and along rocky ridges and through sterile
gorges, where eternal silence and solitude reigned. Even the scattering
groups of armed shepherds we met the afternoon before, tending their
flocks of long-haired goats, were wanting here. We saw but two living
creatures. They were gazelles, of "soft-eyed" notoriety. They looked
like very young kids, but they annihilated distance like an express
train. I have not seen animals that moved faster, unless I might say it
of the antelopes of our own great plains.
At nine or ten in the morning we reached the Plain of the Shepherds, and
stood in a walled garden of olives where the shepherds were watching
their flocks by night, eighteen centuries ago, when the multitude of
angels brought them the tidings that the Saviour was born. A quarter of
a mile away was Bethlehem of Judea, and the pilgrims took some of the
stone wall and hurried on.
The Plain of the Shepherds is a desert, paved with loose stones, void of
vegetation, glaring in the fierce sun. Only the music of the angels it
knew once could charm its shrubs and flowers to life again and restore
its vanished beauty. No less potent enchantment could avail to work this
In the huge Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, built fifteen hundred
years ago by the inveterate St. Helena, they took us below ground, and
into a grotto cut in the living rock. This was the "manger" where Christ
was born. A silver star set in the floor bears a Latin inscription to
that effect. It is polished with the kisses of many generations of
worshiping pilgrims. The grotto was tricked out in the usual tasteless
style observable in all the holy places of Palestine. As in the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, envy and uncharitableness were apparent here. The
priests and the members of the Greek and Latin churches can not come by
the same corridor to kneel in the sacred birthplace of the Redeemer, but
are compelled to approach and retire by different avenues, lest they
quarrel and fight on this holiest ground on earth.
I have no "meditations," suggested by this spot where the very first
"Merry Christmas!" was uttered in all the world, and from whence the
friend of my childhood, Santa Claus, departed on his first journey, to
gladden and continue to gladden roaring firesides on wintry mornings in
many a distant land forever and forever. I touch, with reverent finger,
the actual spot where the infant Jesus lay, but I think--nothing.
You can not think in this place any more than you can in any other in
Palestine that would be likely to inspire reflection. Beggars, cripples
and monks compass you about, and make you think only of bucksheesh when
you would rather think of something more in keeping with the character of
I was glad to get away, and glad when we had walked through the grottoes
where Eusebius wrote, and Jerome fasted, and Joseph prepared for the
flight into Egypt, and the dozen other distinguished grottoes, and knew
we were done. The Church of the Nativity is almost as well packed with
exceeding holy places as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself. They
even have in it a grotto wherein twenty thousand children were
slaughtered by Herod when he was seeking the life of the infant Saviour.
We went to the Milk Grotto, of course--a cavern where Mary hid herself
for a while before the flight into Egypt. Its walls were black before
she entered, but in suckling the Child, a drop of her milk fell upon the
floor and instantly changed the darkness of the walls to its own snowy
hue. We took many little fragments of stone from here, because it is
well known in all the East that a barren woman hath need only to touch
her lips to one of these and her failing will depart from her. We took
many specimens, to the end that we might confer happiness upon certain
households that we wot of.
We got away from Bethlehem and its troops of beggars and relic-peddlers
in the afternoon, and after spending some little time at Rachel's tomb,
hurried to Jerusalem as fast as possible. I never was so glad to get
home again before. I never have enjoyed rest as I have enjoyed it during
these last few hours. The journey to the Dead Sea, the Jordan and
Bethlehem was short, but it was an exhausting one. Such roasting heat,
such oppressive solitude, and such dismal desolation can not surely exist
elsewhere on earth. And such fatigue!
The commonest sagacity warns me that I ought to tell the customary
pleasant lie, and say I tore myself reluctantly away from every noted
place in Palestine. Every body tells that, but with as little
ostentation as I may, I doubt the word of every he who tells it. I could
take a dreadful oath that I have never heard any one of our forty
pilgrims say any thing of the sort, and they are as worthy and as
sincerely devout as any that come here. They will say it when they get
home, fast enough, but why should they not? They do not wish to array
themselves against all the Lamartines and Grimeses in the world. It does
not stand to reason that men are reluctant to leave places where the very
life is almost badgered out of them by importunate swarms of beggars and
peddlers who hang in strings to one's sleeves and coat-tails and shriek
and shout in his ears and horrify his vision with the ghastly sores and
malformations they exhibit. One is glad to get away. I have heard
shameless people say they were glad to get away from Ladies' Festivals
where they were importuned to buy by bevies of lovely young ladies.
Transform those houris into dusky hags and ragged savages, and replace
their rounded forms with shrunken and knotted distortions, their soft
hands with scarred and hideous deformities, and the persuasive music of
their voices with the discordant din of a hated language, and then see
how much lingering reluctance to leave could be mustered. No, it is the
neat thing to say you were reluctant, and then append the profound
thoughts that "struggled for utterance," in your brain; but it is the
true thing to say you were not reluctant, and found it impossible to
think at all--though in good sooth it is not respectable to say it, and
not poetical, either.
We do not think, in the holy places; we think in bed, afterwards, when
the glare, and the noise, and the confusion are gone, and in fancy we
revisit alone, the solemn monuments of the past, and summon the phantom
pageants of an age that has passed away.
We visited all the holy places about Jerusalem which we had left
unvisited when we journeyed to the Jordan and then, about three o'clock
one afternoon, we fell into procession and marched out at the stately
Damascus gate, and the walls of Jerusalem shut us out forever. We paused
on the summit of a distant hill and took a final look and made a final
farewell to the venerable city which had been such a good home to us.
For about four hours we traveled down hill constantly. We followed a
narrow bridle-path which traversed the beds of the mountain gorges, and
when we could we got out of the way of the long trains of laden camels
and asses, and when we could not we suffered the misery of being mashed
up against perpendicular walls of rock and having our legs bruised by the
passing freight. Jack was caught two or three times, and Dan and Moult
as often. One horse had a heavy fall on the slippery rocks, and the
others had narrow escapes. However, this was as good a road as we had
found in Palestine, and possibly even the best, and so there was not much
Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs,
apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was
rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding. Here and there, towers
were perched high up on acclivities which seemed almost inaccessible.
This fashion is as old as Palestine itself and was adopted in ancient
times for security against enemies.
We crossed the brook which furnished David the stone that killed Goliah,
and no doubt we looked upon the very ground whereon that noted battle was
fought. We passed by a picturesque old gothic ruin whose stone pavements
had rung to the armed heels of many a valorous Crusader, and we rode
through a piece of country which we were told once knew Samson as a
We staid all night with the good monks at the convent of Ramleh, and in
the morning got up and galloped the horses a good part of the distance
from there to Jaffa, or Joppa, for the plain was as level as a floor and
free from stones, and besides this was our last march in Holy Land.
These two or three hours finished, we and the tired horses could have
rest and sleep as long as we wanted it. This was the plain of which
Joshua spoke when he said, "Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon, and thou
moon in the valley of Ajalon." As we drew near to Jaffa, the boys
spurred up the horses and indulged in the excitement of an actual race
--an experience we had hardly had since we raced on donkeys in the Azores
We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental
city of Jaffa lies buried; we passed through the walls, and rode again
down narrow streets and among swarms of animated rags, and saw other
sights and had other experiences we had long been familiar with. We
dismounted, for the last time, and out in the offing, riding at anchor,
we saw the ship! I put an exclamation point there because we felt one
when we saw the vessel. The long pilgrimage was ended, and somehow we
seemed to feel glad of it.
[For description of Jaffa, see Universal Gazetteer.] Simon the Tanner
formerly lived here. We went to his house. All the pilgrims visit Simon
the Tanner's house. Peter saw the vision of the beasts let down in a
sheet when he lay upon the roof of Simon the Tanner's house. It was from
Jaffa that Jonah sailed when he was told to go and prophesy against
Nineveh, and no doubt it was not far from the town that the whale threw
him up when he discovered that he had no ticket. Jonah was disobedient,
and of a fault-finding, complaining disposition, and deserves to be
lightly spoken of, almost. The timbers used in the construction of
Solomon's Temple were floated to Jaffa in rafts, and the narrow opening
in the reef through which they passed to the shore is not an inch wider
or a shade less dangerous to navigate than it was then. Such is the
sleepy nature of the population Palestine's only good seaport has now and
always had. Jaffa has a history and a stirring one. It will not be
discovered any where in this book. If the reader will call at the
circulating library and mention my name, he will be furnished with books
which will afford him the fullest information concerning Jaffa.
So ends the pilgrimage. We ought to be glad that we did not make it for
the purpose of feasting our eyes upon fascinating aspects of nature, for
we should have been disappointed--at least at this season of the year. A
writer in "Life in the Holy Land" observes:
"Monotonous and uninviting as much of the Holy Land will appear to
persons accustomed to the almost constant verdure of flowers, ample
streams and varied surface of our own country, we must remember that
its aspect to the Israelites after the weary march of forty years
through the desert must have been very different."
Which all of us will freely grant. But it truly is "monotonous and
uninviting," and there is no sufficient reason for describing it as being
Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be
the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are
unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a
feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and
despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a
vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant
tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or
mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every
feature is distinct, there is no perspective--distance works no
enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.
Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush
of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the
far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side. I would like
much to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem,
Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee--but even then these spots
would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a
curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Where
Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now
floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists--over
whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead
--about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of
cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching
lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about that
ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with
songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins
of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even
as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem
and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about
them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the
Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their
flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to
men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature
that is pleasant to the eye. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest
name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a
pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the
admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was
the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is
lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of
the world, they reared the Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where
Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed
in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and
commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a
shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and
Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the "desert places" round
about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice
and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is
inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.
Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can
the curse of the Deity beautify a land?
Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and
tradition--it is dream-land.
It was worth a kingdom to be at sea again. It was a relief to drop all
anxiety whatsoever--all questions as to where we should go; how long we
should stay; whether it were worth while to go or not; all anxieties
about the condition of the horses; all such questions as "Shall we ever
get to water?" "Shall we ever lunch?" "Ferguson, how many more million
miles have we got to creep under this awful sun before we camp?" It was
a relief to cast all these torturing little anxieties far away--ropes of
steel they were, and every one with a separate and distinct strain on it
--and feel the temporary contentment that is born of the banishment of
all care and responsibility. We did not look at the compass: we did not
care, now, where the ship went to, so that she went out of sight of land
as quickly as possible. When I travel again, I wish to go in a pleasure
ship. No amount of money could have purchased for us, in a strange
vessel and among unfamiliar faces, the perfect satisfaction and the sense
of being at home again which we experienced when we stepped on board the
"Quaker City,"--our own ship--after this wearisome pilgrimage. It is a
something we have felt always when we returned to her, and a something we
had no desire to sell.
We took off our blue woollen shirts, our spurs, and heavy boots, our
sanguinary revolvers and our buckskin-seated pantaloons, and got shaved
and came out in Christian costume once more. All but Jack, who changed
all other articles of his dress, but clung to his traveling pantaloons.
They still preserved their ample buckskin seat intact; and so his short
pea jacket and his long, thin legs assisted to make him a picturesque
object whenever he stood on the forecastle looking abroad upon the ocean
over the bows. At such times his father's last injunction suggested
itself to me. He said:
"Jack, my boy, you are about to go among a brilliant company of gentlemen
and ladies, who are refined and cultivated, and thoroughly accomplished
in the manners and customs of good society. Listen to their
conversation, study their habits of life, and learn. Be polite and
obliging to all, and considerate towards every one's opinions, failings
and prejudices. Command the just respect of all your fellow-voyagers,
even though you fail to win their friendly regard. And Jack--don't you
ever dare, while you live, appear in public on those decks in fair
weather, in a costume unbecoming your mother's drawing-room!"
It would have been worth any price if the father of this hopeful youth
could have stepped on board some time, and seen him standing high on the
fore-castle, pea jacket, tasseled red fez, buckskin patch and all,
placidly contemplating the ocean--a rare spectacle for any body's
After a pleasant voyage and a good rest, we drew near to Egypt and out of
the mellowest of sunsets we saw the domes and minarets of Alexandria rise
into view. As soon as the anchor was down, Jack and I got a boat and
went ashore. It was night by this time, and the other passengers were
content to remain at home and visit ancient Egypt after breakfast. It
was the way they did at Constantinople. They took a lively interest in
new countries, but their school-boy impatience had worn off, and they had
learned that it was wisdom to take things easy and go along comfortably
--these old countries do not go away in the night; they stay till after
When we reached the pier we found an army of Egyptian boys with donkeys
no larger than themselves, waiting for passengers--for donkeys are the
omnibuses of Egypt. We preferred to walk, but we could not have our own
way. The boys crowded about us, clamored around us, and slewed their
donkeys exactly across our path, no matter which way we turned. They
were good-natured rascals, and so were the donkeys. We mounted, and the
boys ran behind us and kept the donkeys in a furious gallop, as is the
fashion at Damascus. I believe I would rather ride a donkey than any
beast in the world. He goes briskly, he puts on no airs, he is docile,
though opinionated. Satan himself could not scare him, and he is
convenient--very convenient. When you are tired riding you can rest your
feet on the ground and let him gallop from under you.
We found the hotel and secured rooms, and were happy to know that the
Prince of Wales had stopped there once. They had it every where on
signs. No other princes had stopped there since, till Jack and I came.
We went abroad through the town, then, and found it a city of huge
commercial buildings, and broad, handsome streets brilliant with
gas-light. By night it was a sort of reminiscence of Paris. But finally
Jack found an ice-cream saloon, and that closed investigations for that
evening. The weather was very hot, it had been many a day since Jack had
seen ice-cream, and so it was useless to talk of leaving the saloon till
it shut up.
In the morning the lost tribes of America came ashore and infested the
hotels and took possession of all the donkeys and other open barouches
that offered. They went in picturesque procession to the American
Consul's; to the great gardens; to Cleopatra's Needles; to Pompey's
Pillar; to the palace of the Viceroy of Egypt; to the Nile; to the superb
groves of date-palms. One of our most inveterate relic-hunters had his
hammer with him, and tried to break a fragment off the upright Needle and
could not do it; he tried the prostrate one and failed; he borrowed a
heavy sledge hammer from a mason and tried again. He tried Pompey's
Pillar, and this baffled him. Scattered all about the mighty monolith
were sphinxes of noble countenance, carved out of Egyptian granite as
hard as blue steel, and whose shapely features the wear of five thousand
years had failed to mark or mar. The relic-hunter battered at these
persistently, and sweated profusely over his work. He might as well have
attempted to deface the moon. They regarded him serenely with the
stately smile they had worn so long, and which seemed to say, "Peck away,
poor insect; we were not made to fear such as you; in ten-score dragging
ages we have seen more of your kind than there are sands at your feet:
have they left a blemish upon us?"
But I am forgetting the Jaffa Colonists. At Jaffa we had taken on board
some forty members of a very celebrated community. They were male and
female; babies, young boys and young girls; young married people, and
some who had passed a shade beyond the prime of life. I refer to the
"Adams Jaffa Colony." Others had deserted before. We left in Jaffa Mr.
Adams, his wife, and fifteen unfortunates who not only had no money but
did not know where to turn or whither to go. Such was the statement made
to us. Our forty were miserable enough in the first place, and they lay
about the decks seasick all the voyage, which about completed their
misery, I take it. However, one or two young men remained upright, and
by constant persecution we wormed out of them some little information.
They gave it reluctantly and in a very fragmentary condition, for, having
been shamefully humbugged by their prophet, they felt humiliated and
unhappy. In such circumstances people do not like to talk.
The colony was a complete fiasco. I have already said that such as could
get away did so, from time to time. The prophet Adams--once an actor,
then several other things, afterward a Mormon and a missionary, always an
adventurer--remains at Jaffa with his handful of sorrowful subjects. The
forty we brought away with us were chiefly destitute, though not all of
them. They wished to get to Egypt. What might become of them then they
did not know and probably did not care--any thing to get away from hated
Jaffa. They had little to hope for. Because after many appeals to the
sympathies of New England, made by strangers of Boston, through the
newspapers, and after the establishment of an office there for the
reception of moneyed contributions for the Jaffa colonists, One Dollar
was subscribed. The consul-general for Egypt showed me the newspaper
paragraph which mentioned the circumstance and mentioned also the
discontinuance of the effort and the closing of the office. It was
evident that practical New England was not sorry to be rid of such
visionaries and was not in the least inclined to hire any body to bring
them back to her. Still, to get to Egypt, was something, in the eyes of
the unfortunate colonists, hopeless as the prospect seemed of ever
Thus circumstanced, they landed at Alexandria from our ship. One of our
passengers, Mr. Moses S. Beach, of the New York Sun, inquired of the
consul-general what it would cost to send these people to their home in
Maine by the way of Liverpool, and he said fifteen hundred dollars in
gold would do it. Mr. Beach gave his check for the money and so the
troubles of the Jaffa colonists were at an end.--[It was an unselfish
act of benevolence; it was done without any ostentation, and has never
been mentioned in any newspaper, I think. Therefore it is refreshing to
learn now, several months after the above narrative was written, that
another man received all the credit of this rescue of the colonists.
Such is life.]
Alexandria was too much like a European city to be novel, and we soon
tired of it. We took the cars and came up here to ancient Cairo, which
is an Oriental city and of the completest pattern. There is little about
it to disabuse one's mind of the error if he should take it into his head
that he was in the heart of Arabia. Stately camels and dromedaries,
swarthy Egyptians, and likewise Turks and black Ethiopians, turbaned,
sashed, and blazing in a rich variety of Oriental costumes of all shades
of flashy colors, are what one sees on every hand crowding the narrow
streets and the honeycombed bazaars. We are stopping at Shepherd's
Hotel, which is the worst on earth except the one I stopped at once in a
small town in the United States. It is pleasant to read this sketch in
my note-book, now, and know that I can stand Shepherd's Hotel, sure,
because I have been in one just like it in America and survived:
I stopped at the Benton House. It used to be a good hotel, but that
proves nothing--I used to be a good boy, for that matter. Both of
us have lost character of late years. The Benton is not a good
hotel. The Benton lacks a very great deal of being a good hotel.
Perdition is full of better hotels than the Benton.
It was late at night when I got there, and I told the clerk I would
like plenty of lights, because I wanted to read an hour or two.
When I reached No. 15 with the porter (we came along a dim hall that
was clad in ancient carpeting, faded, worn out in many places, and
patched with old scraps of oil cloth--a hall that sank under one's
feet, and creaked dismally to every footstep,) he struck a light
-- two inches of sallow, sorrowful, consumptive tallow candle, that
burned blue, and sputtered, and got discouraged and went out. The
porter lit it again, and I asked if that was all the light the clerk
sent. He said, "Oh no, I've got another one here," and he produced
another couple of inches of tallow candle. I said, "Light them both
--I'll have to have one to see the other by." He did it, but the
result was drearier than darkness itself. He was a cheery,
accommodating rascal. He said he would go "somewheres" and steal a
lamp. I abetted and encouraged him in his criminal design. I heard
the landlord get after him in the hall ten minutes afterward.
"Where are you going with that lamp?"
"Fifteen wants it, sir."
"Fifteen! why he's got a double lot of candles--does the man want
to illuminate the house?--does he want to get up a torch-light
procession?--what is he up to, any how?"
"He don't like them candles--says he wants a lamp."
"Why what in the nation does----why I never heard of such a thing?
What on earth can he want with that lamp?"
"Well, he only wants to read--that's what he says."
"Wants to read, does he?--ain't satisfied with a thousand candles,
but has to have a lamp!--I do wonder what the devil that fellow
wants that lamp for? Take him another candle, and then if----"
"But he wants the lamp--says he'll burn the d--d old house down if
he don't get a lamp!" (a remark which I never made.)
"I'd like to see him at it once. Well, you take it along--but I
swear it beats my time, though--and see if you can't find out what
in the very nation he wants with that lamp."
And he went off growling to himself and still wondering and
wondering over the unaccountable conduct of No. 15. The lamp was a
good one, but it revealed some disagreeable things--a bed in the
suburbs of a desert of room--a bed that had hills and valleys in it,
and you'd have to accommodate your body to the impression left in it
by the man that slept there last, before you could lie comfortably;
a carpet that had seen better days; a melancholy washstand in a
remote corner, and a dejected pitcher on it sorrowing over a broken
nose; a looking-glass split across the centre, which chopped your
head off at the chin and made you look like some dreadful unfinished
monster or other; the paper peeling in shreds from the walls.
I sighed and said: "This is charming; and now don't you think you
could get me something to read?"
The porter said, "Oh, certainly; the old man's got dead loads of
books;" and he was gone before I could tell him what sort of
literature I would rather have. And yet his countenance expressed
the utmost confidence in his ability to execute the commission with
credit to himself. The old man made a descent on him.
"What are you going to do with that pile of books?"
"Fifteen wants 'em, sir."
"Fifteen, is it? He'll want a warming-pan, next--he'll want a
nurse! Take him every thing there is in the house--take him the
bar-keeper--take him the baggage-wagon--take him a chamber-maid!
Confound me, I never saw any thing like it. What did he say he
wants with those books?"
"Wants to read 'em, like enough; it ain't likely he wants to eat
'em, I don't reckon."
"Wants to read 'em--wants to read 'em this time of night, the
infernal lunatic! Well, he can't have them."
"But he says he's mor'ly bound to have 'em; he says he'll just go
a-rairin' and a-chargin' through this house and raise more--well,
there's no tellin' what he won't do if he don't get 'em; because
he's drunk and crazy and desperate, and nothing'll soothe him down
but them cussed books." [I had not made any threats, and was not in
the condition ascribed to me by the porter.]
"Well, go on; but I will be around when he goes to rairing and
charging, and the first rair he makes I'll make him rair out of the
window." And then the old gentleman went off, growling as before.
The genius of that porter was something wonderful. He put an armful
of books on the bed and said "Good night" as confidently as if he
knew perfectly well that those books were exactly my style of
reading matter. And well he might. His selection covered the whole
range of legitimate literature. It comprised "The Great
Consummation," by Rev. Dr. Cummings--theology; "Revised Statutes of
the State of Missouri"--law; "The Complete Horse-Doctor"--medicine;
"The Toilers of the Sea," by Victor Hugo--romance; "The works of
William Shakspeare"--poetry. I shall never cease to admire the tact
and the intelligence of that gifted porter.
But all the donkeys in Christendom, and most of the Egyptian boys, I
think, are at the door, and there is some noise going on, not to put it
in stronger language.--We are about starting to the illustrious Pyramids
of Egypt, and the donkeys for the voyage are under inspection. I will go
and select one before the choice animals are all taken.
The donkeys were all good, all handsome, all strong and in good
condition, all fast and all willing to prove it. They were the best we
had found any where, and the most 'recherche'. I do not know what
'recherche' is, but that is what these donkeys were, anyhow. Some
were of a soft mouse-color, and the others were white, black, and
vari-colored. Some were close-shaven, all over, except that a tuft like
a paint-brush was left on the end of the tail. Others were so shaven in
fanciful landscape garden patterns, as to mark their bodies with curving
lines, which were bounded on one side by hair and on the other by the
close plush left by the shears. They had all been newly barbered, and
were exceedingly stylish. Several of the white ones were barred like
zebras with rainbow stripes of blue and red and yellow paint. These
were indescribably gorgeous. Dan and Jack selected from this lot
because they brought back Italian reminiscences of the "old masters."
The saddles were the high, stuffy, frog-shaped things we had known in
Ephesus and Smyrna. The donkey-boys were lively young Egyptian rascals
who could follow a donkey and keep him in a canter half a day without
tiring. We had plenty of spectators when we mounted, for the hotel was
full of English people bound overland to India and officers getting
ready for the African campaign against the Abyssinian King Theodorus.
We were not a very large party, but as we charged through the streets of
the great metropolis, we made noise for five hundred, and displayed
activity and created excitement in proportion. Nobody can steer a
donkey, and some collided with camels, dervishes, effendis, asses,
beggars and every thing else that offered to the donkeys a reasonable
chance for a collision. When we turned into the broad avenue that leads
out of the city toward Old Cairo, there was plenty of room. The walls
of stately date-palms that fenced the gardens and bordered the way,
threw their shadows down and made the air cool and bracing. We rose to
the spirit of the time and the race became a wild rout, a stampede, a
terrific panic. I wish to live to enjoy it again.
Somewhere along this route we had a few startling exhibitions of Oriental
simplicity. A girl apparently thirteen years of age came along the great
thoroughfare dressed like Eve before the fall. We would have called her
thirteen at home; but here girls who look thirteen are often not more
than nine, in reality. Occasionally we saw stark-naked men of superb
build, bathing, and making no attempt at concealment. However, an hour's
acquaintance with this cheerful custom reconciled the pilgrims to it, and
then it ceased to occasion remark. Thus easily do even the most
startling novelties grow tame and spiritless to these sight-surfeited
Arrived at Old Cairo, the camp-followers took up the donkeys and tumbled
them bodily aboard a small boat with a lateen sail, and we followed and
got under way. The deck was closely packed with donkeys and men; the two
sailors had to climb over and under and through the wedged mass to work
the sails, and the steersman had to crowd four or five donkeys out of the
way when he wished to swing his tiller and put his helm hard-down. But
what were their troubles to us? We had nothing to do; nothing to do but
enjoy the trip; nothing to do but shove the donkeys off our corns and
look at the charming scenery of the Nile.
On the island at our right was the machine they call the Nilometer, a
stone-column whose business it is to mark the rise of the river and
prophecy whether it will reach only thirty-two feet and produce a famine,
or whether it will properly flood the land at forty and produce plenty,
or whether it will rise to forty-three and bring death and destruction to
flocks and crops--but how it does all this they could not explain to us
so that we could understand. On the same island is still shown the spot
where Pharaoh's daughter found Moses in the bulrushes. Near the spot we
sailed from, the Holy Family dwelt when they sojourned in Egypt till
Herod should complete his slaughter of the innocents. The same tree they
rested under when they first arrived, was there a short time ago, but the
Viceroy of Egypt sent it to the Empress Eugenie lately. He was just in
time, otherwise our pilgrims would have had it.
The Nile at this point is muddy, swift and turbid, and does not lack a
great deal of being as wide as the Mississippi.
We scrambled up the steep bank at the shabby town of Ghizeh, mounted the
donkeys again, and scampered away. For four or five miles the route lay
along a high embankment which they say is to be the bed of a railway the
Sultan means to build for no other reason than that when the Empress of
the French comes to visit him she can go to the Pyramids in comfort.
This is true Oriental hospitality. I am very glad it is our privilege to
have donkeys instead of cars.
At the distance of a few miles the Pyramids rising above the palms,
looked very clean-cut, very grand and imposing, and very soft and filmy,
as well. They swam in a rich haze that took from them all suggestions of
unfeeling stone, and made them seem only the airy nothings of a dream
--structures which might blossom into tiers of vague arches, or ornate
colonnades, may be, and change and change again, into all graceful forms
of architecture, while we looked, and then melt deliciously away and
blend with the tremulous atmosphere.
At the end of the levee we left the mules and went in a sailboat across
an arm of the Nile or an overflow, and landed where the sands of the
Great Sahara left their embankment, as straight as a wall, along the
verge of the alluvial plain of the river. A laborious walk in the
flaming sun brought us to the foot of the great Pyramid of Cheops. It
was a fairy vision no longer. It was a corrugated, unsightly mountain of
stone. Each of its monstrous sides was a wide stairway which rose
upward, step above step, narrowing as it went, till it tapered to a point
far aloft in the air. Insect men and women--pilgrims from the Quaker
City--were creeping about its dizzy perches, and one little black swarm
were waving postage stamps from the airy summit--handkerchiefs will be
Of course we were besieged by a rabble of muscular Egyptians and Arabs
who wanted the contract of dragging us to the top--all tourists are. Of
course you could not hear your own voice for the din that was around you.
Of course the Sheiks said they were the only responsible parties; that
all contracts must be made with them, all moneys paid over to them, and
none exacted from us by any but themselves alone. Of course they
contracted that the varlets who dragged us up should not mention
bucksheesh once. For such is the usual routine. Of course we contracted
with them, paid them, were delivered into the hands of the draggers,
dragged up the Pyramids, and harried and be-deviled for bucksheesh from
the foundation clear to the summit. We paid it, too, for we were
purposely spread very far apart over the vast side of the Pyramid. There
was no help near if we called, and the Herculeses who dragged us had a
way of asking sweetly and flatteringly for bucksheesh, which was
seductive, and of looking fierce and threatening to throw us down the
precipice, which was persuasive and convincing.
Each step being full as high as a dinner-table; there being very, very
many of the steps; an Arab having hold of each of our arms and springing
upward from step to step and snatching us with them, forcing us to lift
our feet as high as our breasts every time, and do it rapidly and keep it
up till we were ready to faint, who shall say it is not lively,
exhilarating, lacerating, muscle-straining, bone-wrenching and perfectly
excruciating and exhausting pastime, climbing the Pyramids? I beseeched
the varlets not to twist all my joints asunder; I iterated, reiterated,
even swore to them that I did not wish to beat any body to the top; did
all I could to convince them that if I got there the last of all I would
feel blessed above men and grateful to them forever; I begged them,
prayed them, pleaded with them to let me stop and rest a moment--only one
little moment: and they only answered with some more frightful springs,
and an unenlisted volunteer behind opened a bombardment of determined
boosts with his head which threatened to batter my whole political
economy to wreck and ruin.
Twice, for one minute, they let me rest while they extorted bucksheesh,
and then continued their maniac flight up the Pyramid. They wished to
beat the other parties. It was nothing to them that I, a stranger, must
be sacrificed upon the altar of their unholy ambition. But in the midst
of sorrow, joy blooms. Even in this dark hour I had a sweet consolation.
For I knew that except these Mohammedans repented they would go straight
to perdition some day. And they never repent--they never forsake their
paganism. This thought calmed me, cheered me, and I sank down, limp and
exhausted, upon the summit, but happy, so happy and serene within.
On the one hand, a mighty sea of yellow sand stretched away toward the
ends of the earth, solemn, silent, shorn of vegetation, its solitude
uncheered by any forms of creature life; on the other, the Eden of Egypt
was spread below us--a broad green floor, cloven by the sinuous river,
dotted with villages, its vast distances measured and marked by the
diminishing stature of receding clusters of palms. It lay asleep in an
enchanted atmosphere. There was no sound, no motion. Above the
date-plumes in the middle distance, swelled a domed and pinnacled mass,
glimmering through a tinted, exquisite mist; away toward the horizon a
dozen shapely pyramids watched over ruined Memphis: and at our feet the
bland impassible Sphynx looked out upon the picture from her throne in
the sands as placidly and pensively as she had looked upon its like full
fifty lagging centuries ago.
We suffered torture no pen can describe from the hungry appeals for
bucksheesh that gleamed from Arab eyes and poured incessantly from Arab
lips. Why try to call up the traditions of vanished Egyptian grandeur;
why try to fancy Egypt following dead Rameses to his tomb in the Pyramid,
or the long multitude of Israel departing over the desert yonder? Why
try to think at all? The thing was impossible. One must bring his
meditations cut and dried, or else cut and dry them afterward.
The traditional Arab proposed, in the traditional way, to run down
Cheops, cross the eighth of a mile of sand intervening between it and the
tall pyramid of Cephron, ascend to Cephron's summit and return to us on
the top of Cheops--all in nine minutes by the watch, and the whole
service to be rendered for a single dollar. In the first flush of
irritation, I said let the Arab and his exploits go to the mischief.
But stay. The upper third of Cephron was coated with dressed marble,
smooth as glass. A blessed thought entered my brain. He must infallibly
break his neck. Close the contract with dispatch, I said, and let him
go. He started. We watched. He went bounding down the vast broadside,
spring after spring, like an ibex. He grew small and smaller till he
became a bobbing pigmy, away down toward the bottom--then disappeared.
We turned and peered over the other side--forty seconds--eighty seconds
--a hundred--happiness, he is dead already!--two minutes--and a quarter
--"There he goes!" Too true--it was too true. He was very small, now.
Gradually, but surely, he overcame the level ground. He began to spring
and climb again. Up, up, up--at last he reached the smooth coating--now
for it. But he clung to it with toes and fingers, like a fly. He
crawled this way and that--away to the right, slanting upward--away to
the left, still slanting upward--and stood at last, a black peg on the
summit, and waved his pigmy scarf! Then he crept downward to the raw
steps again, then picked up his agile heels and flew. We lost him
presently. But presently again we saw him under us, mounting with
undiminished energy. Shortly he bounded into our midst with a gallant
war-whoop. Time, eight minutes, forty-one seconds. He had won. His
bones were intact. It was a failure. I reflected. I said to myself, he
is tired, and must grow dizzy. I will risk another dollar on him.
He started again. Made the trip again. Slipped on the smooth coating
--I almost had him. But an infamous crevice saved him. He was with us
once more--perfectly sound. Time, eight minutes, forty-six seconds.
I said to Dan, "Lend me a dollar--I can beat this game, yet."
Worse and worse. He won again. Time, eight minutes, forty-eight
seconds. I was out of all patience, now. I was desperate.--Money was
no longer of any consequence. I said, "Sirrah, I will give you a hundred
dollars to jump off this pyramid head first. If you do not like the
terms, name your bet. I scorn to stand on expenses now. I will stay
right here and risk money on you as long as Dan has got a cent."
I was in a fair way to win, now, for it was a dazzling opportunity for an
Arab. He pondered a moment, and would have done it, I think, but his
mother arrived, then, and interfered. Her tears moved me--I never can
look upon the tears of woman with indifference--and I said I would give
her a hundred to jump off, too.
But it was a failure. The Arabs are too high-priced in Egypt. They put
on airs unbecoming to such savages.
We descended, hot and out of humor. The dragoman lit candles, and we all
entered a hole near the base of the pyramid, attended by a crazy rabble
of Arabs who thrust their services upon us uninvited. They dragged us up
a long inclined chute, and dripped candle-grease all over us. This chute
was not more than twice as wide and high as a Saratoga trunk, and was
walled, roofed and floored with solid blocks of Egyptian granite as wide
as a wardrobe, twice as thick and three times as long. We kept on
climbing, through the oppressive gloom, till I thought we ought to be
nearing the top of the pyramid again, and then came to the "Queen's
Chamber," and shortly to the Chamber of the King. These large apartments
were tombs. The walls were built of monstrous masses of smoothed
granite, neatly joined together. Some of them were nearly as large
square as an ordinary parlor. A great stone sarcophagus like a bath-tub
stood in the centre of the King's Chamber. Around it were gathered a
picturesque group of Arab savages and soiled and tattered pilgrims, who
held their candles aloft in the gloom while they chattered, and the
winking blurs of light shed a dim glory down upon one of the
irrepressible memento-seekers who was pecking at the venerable
sarcophagus with his sacrilegious hammer.
We struggled out to the open air and the bright sunshine, and for the
space of thirty minutes received ragged Arabs by couples, dozens and
platoons, and paid them bucksheesh for services they swore and proved by
each other that they had rendered, but which we had not been aware of
before--and as each party was paid, they dropped into the rear of the
procession and in due time arrived again with a newly-invented delinquent
list for liquidation.
We lunched in the shade of the pyramid, and in the midst of this
encroaching and unwelcome company, and then Dan and Jack and I started
away for a walk. A howling swarm of beggars followed us--surrounded us
--almost headed us off. A sheik, in flowing white bournous and gaudy
head-gear, was with them. He wanted more bucksheesh. But we had
adopted a new code--it was millions for defense, but not a cent for
bucksheesh. I asked him if he could persuade the others to depart if we
paid him. He said yes--for ten francs. We accepted the contract, and
"Now persuade your vassals to fall back."
He swung his long staff round his head and three Arabs bit the dust. He
capered among the mob like a very maniac. His blows fell like hail, and
wherever one fell a subject went down. We had to hurry to the rescue and
tell him it was only necessary to damage them a little, he need not kill
them.--In two minutes we were alone with the sheik, and remained so.
The persuasive powers of this illiterate savage were remarkable.
Each side of the Pyramid of Cheops is about as long as the Capitol at
Washington, or the Sultan's new palace on the Bosporus, and is longer
than the greatest depth of St. Peter's at Rome--which is to say that each
side of Cheops extends seven hundred and some odd feet. It is about
seventy-five feet higher than the cross on St. Peter's. The first time I
ever went down the Mississippi, I thought the highest bluff on the river
between St. Louis and New Orleans--it was near Selma, Missouri--was
probably the highest mountain in the world. It is four hundred and
thirteen feet high. It still looms in my memory with undiminished
grandeur. I can still see the trees and bushes growing smaller and
smaller as I followed them up its huge slant with my eye, till they
became a feathery fringe on the distant summit. This symmetrical Pyramid
of Cheops--this solid mountain of stone reared by the patient hands of
men--this mighty tomb of a forgotten monarch--dwarfs my cherished
mountain. For it is four hundred and eighty feet high. In still earlier
years than those I have been recalling, Holliday's Hill, in our town, was
to me the noblest work of God. It appeared to pierce the skies. It was
nearly three hundred feet high. In those days I pondered the subject
much, but I never could understand why it did not swathe its summit with
never-failing clouds, and crown its majestic brow with everlasting snows.
I had heard that such was the custom of great mountains in other parts of
the world. I remembered how I worked with another boy, at odd afternoons
stolen from study and paid for with stripes, to undermine and start from
its bed an immense boulder that rested upon the edge of that hilltop; I
remembered how, one Saturday afternoon, we gave three hours of honest
effort to the task, and saw at last that our reward was at hand; I
remembered how we sat down, then, and wiped the perspiration away, and
waited to let a picnic party get out of the way in the road below--and
then we started the boulder. It was splendid. It went crashing down the
hillside, tearing up saplings, mowing bushes down like grass, ripping and
crushing and smashing every thing in its path--eternally splintered and
scattered a wood pile at the foot of the hill, and then sprang from the
high bank clear over a dray in the road--the negro glanced up once and
dodged--and the next second it made infinitesimal mince-meat of a frame
cooper-shop, and the coopers swarmed out like bees. Then we said it was
perfectly magnificent, and left. Because the coopers were starting up
the hill to inquire.
Still, that mountain, prodigious as it was, was nothing to the Pyramid of
Cheops. I could conjure up no comparison that would convey to my mind a
satisfactory comprehension of the magnitude of a pile of monstrous stones
that covered thirteen acres of ground and stretched upward four hundred
and eighty tiresome feet, and so I gave it up and walked down to the
After years of waiting, it was before me at last. The great face was so
sad, so earnest, so longing, so patient. There was a dignity not of
earth in its mien, and in its countenance a benignity such as never any
thing human wore. It was stone, but it seemed sentient. If ever image
of stone thought, it was thinking. It was looking toward the verge of
the landscape, yet looking at nothing--nothing but distance and vacancy.
It was looking over and beyond every thing of the present, and far into
the past. It was gazing out over the ocean of Time--over lines of
century-waves which, further and further receding, closed nearer and
nearer together, and blended at last into one unbroken tide, away toward
the horizon of remote antiquity. It was thinking of the wars of departed
ages; of the empires it had seen created and destroyed; of the nations
whose birth it had witnessed, whose progress it had watched, whose
annihilation it had noted; of the joy and sorrow, the life and death, the
grandeur and decay, of five thousand slow revolving years. It was the
type of an attribute of man--of a faculty of his heart and brain. It was
MEMORY--RETROSPECTION--wrought into visible, tangible form. All who know
what pathos there is in memories of days that are accomplished and faces
that have vanished--albeit only a trifling score of years gone by--will
have some appreciation of the pathos that dwells in these grave eyes that
look so steadfastly back upon the things they knew before History was
born--before Tradition had being--things that were, and forms that moved,
in a vague era which even Poetry and Romance scarce know of--and passed
one by one away and left the stony dreamer solitary in the midst of a
strange new age, and uncomprehended scenes.
The Sphynx is grand in its loneliness; it is imposing in its magnitude;
it is impressive in the mystery that hangs over its story. And there is
that in the overshadowing majesty of this eternal figure of stone, with
its accusing memory of the deeds of all ages, which reveals to one
something of what he shall feel when he shall stand at last in the awful
presence of God.
There are some things which, for the credit of America, should be left
unsaid, perhaps; but these very things happen sometimes to be the very
things which, for the real benefit of Americans, ought to have prominent
notice. While we stood looking, a wart, or an excrescence of some kind,
appeared on the jaw of the Sphynx. We heard the familiar clink of a
hammer, and understood the case at once. One of our well meaning
reptiles--I mean relic-hunters--had crawled up there and was trying to
break a "specimen" from the face of this the most majestic creation the
hand of man has wrought. But the great image contemplated the dead ages
as calmly as ever, unconscious of the small insect that was fretting at
its jaw. Egyptian granite that has defied the storms and earthquakes of
all time has nothing to fear from the tack-hammers of ignorant
excursionists--highwaymen like this specimen. He failed in his
enterprise. We sent a sheik to arrest him if he had the authority, or to
warn him, if he had not, that by the laws of Egypt the crime he was
attempting to commit was punishable with imprisonment or the bastinado.
Then he desisted and went away.
The Sphynx: a hundred and twenty-five feet long, sixty feet high, and a
hundred and two feet around the head, if I remember rightly--carved out
of one solid block of stone harder than any iron. The block must have
been as large as the Fifth Avenue Hotel before the usual waste (by the
necessities of sculpture) of a fourth or a half of the original mass was
begun. I only set down these figures and these remarks to suggest the
prodigious labor the carving of it so elegantly, so symmetrically, so
faultlessly, must have cost. This species of stone is so hard that
figures cut in it remain sharp and unmarred after exposure to the weather
for two or three thousand years. Now did it take a hundred years of
patient toil to carve the Sphynx? It seems probable.
Something interfered, and we did not visit the Red Sea and walk upon the
sands of Arabia. I shall not describe the great mosque of Mehemet Ali,
whose entire inner walls are built of polished and glistening alabaster;
I shall not tell how the little birds have built their nests in the
globes of the great chandeliers that hang in the mosque, and how they
fill the whole place with their music and are not afraid of any body
because their audacity is pardoned, their rights are respected, and
nobody is allowed to interfere with them, even though the mosque be thus
doomed to go unlighted; I certainly shall not tell the hackneyed story of
the massacre of the Mamelukes, because I am glad the lawless rascals were
massacred, and I do not wish to get up any sympathy in their behalf; I
shall not tell how that one solitary Mameluke jumped his horse a hundred
feet down from the battlements of the citadel and escaped, because I do
not think much of that--I could have done it myself; I shall not tell of
Joseph's well which he dug in the solid rock of the citadel hill and
which is still as good as new, nor how the same mules he bought to draw
up the water (with an endless chain) are still at it yet and are getting
tired of it, too; I shall not tell about Joseph's granaries which he
built to store the grain in, what time the Egyptian brokers were "selling
short," unwitting that there would be no corn in all the land when it
should be time for them to deliver; I shall not tell any thing about the
strange, strange city of Cairo, because it is only a repetition, a good
deal intensified and exaggerated, of the Oriental cities I have already
spoken of; I shall not tell of the Great Caravan which leaves for Mecca
every year, for I did not see it; nor of the fashion the people have of
prostrating themselves and so forming a long human pavement to be ridden
over by the chief of the expedition on its return, to the end that their
salvation may be thus secured, for I did not see that either; I shall not
speak of the railway, for it is like any other railway--I shall only say
that the fuel they use for the locomotive is composed of mummies three
thousand years old, purchased by the ton or by the graveyard for that
purpose, and that sometimes one hears the profane engineer call out
pettishly, "D--n these plebeians, they don't burn worth a cent--pass out
a King;"--[Stated to me for a fact. I only tell it as I got it. I am
willing to believe it. I can believe any thing.]--I shall not tell of
the groups of mud cones stuck like wasps' nests upon a thousand mounds
above high water-mark the length and breadth of Egypt--villages of the
lower classes; I shall not speak of the boundless sweep of level plain,
green with luxuriant grain, that gladdens the eye as far as it can pierce
through the soft, rich atmosphere of Egypt; I shall not speak of the
vision of the Pyramids seen at a distance of five and twenty miles, for
the picture is too ethereal to be limned by an uninspired pen; I shall
not tell of the crowds of dusky women who flocked to the cars when they
stopped a moment at a station, to sell us a drink of water or a ruddy,
juicy pomegranate; I shall not tell of the motley multitudes and wild
costumes that graced a fair we found in full blast at another barbarous
station; I shall not tell how we feasted on fresh dates and enjoyed the
pleasant landscape all through the flying journey; nor how we thundered
into Alexandria, at last, swarmed out of the cars, rowed aboard the ship,
left a comrade behind, (who was to return to Europe, thence home,) raised
the anchor, and turned our bows homeward finally and forever from the
long voyage; nor how, as the mellow sun went down upon the oldest land on
earth, Jack and Moult assembled in solemn state in the smoking-room and
mourned over the lost comrade the whole night long, and would not be
comforted. I shall not speak a word of any of these things, or write a
line. They shall be as a sealed book. I do not know what a sealed book
is, because I never saw one, but a sealed book is the expression to use
in this connection, because it is popular.
We were glad to have seen the land which was the mother of civilization
--which taught Greece her letters, and through Greece Rome, and through
Rome the world; the land which could have humanized and civilized the
hapless children of Israel, but allowed them to depart out of her borders
little better than savages. We were glad to have seen that land which
had an enlightened religion with future eternal rewards and punishment in
it, while even Israel's religion contained no promise of a hereafter.
We were glad to have seen that land which had glass three thousand years
before England had it, and could paint upon it as none of us can paint
now; that land which knew, three thousand years ago, well nigh all of
medicine and surgery which science has discovered lately; which had all
those curious surgical instruments which science has invented recently;
which had in high excellence a thousand luxuries and necessities of an
advanced civilization which we have gradually contrived and accumulated
in modern times and claimed as things that were new under the sun; that
had paper untold centuries before we dreampt of it--and waterfalls before
our women thought of them; that had a perfect system of common schools so
long before we boasted of our achievements in that direction that it
seems forever and forever ago; that so embalmed the dead that flesh was
made almost immortal--which we can not do; that built temples which mock
at destroying time and smile grimly upon our lauded little prodigies of
architecture; that old land that knew all which we know now, perchance,
and more; that walked in the broad highway of civilization in the gray
dawn of creation, ages and ages before we were born; that left the
impress of exalted, cultivated Mind upon the eternal front of the Sphynx
to confound all scoffers who, when all her other proofs had passed away,
might seek to persuade the world that imperial Egypt, in the days of her
high renown, had groped in darkness.
We were at sea now, for a very long voyage--we were to pass through the
entire length of the Levant; through the entire length of the
Mediterranean proper, also, and then cross the full width of the
Atlantic--a voyage of several weeks. We naturally settled down into a
very slow, stay-at-home manner of life, and resolved to be quiet,
exemplary people, and roam no more for twenty or thirty days. No more,
at least, than from stem to stern of the ship. It was a very comfortable
prospect, though, for we were tired and needed a long rest.
We were all lazy and satisfied, now, as the meager entries in my
note-book (that sure index, to me, of my condition), prove. What a
stupid thing a note-book gets to be at sea, any way. Please observe the
"Sunday--Services, as usual, at four bells. Services at night,
also. No cards.
"Monday--Beautiful day, but rained hard. The cattle purchased at
Alexandria for beef ought to be shingled. Or else fattened. The
water stands in deep puddles in the depressions forward of their
after shoulders. Also here and there all over their backs. It is
well they are not cows--it would soak in and ruin the milk. The
poor devil eagle--[Afterwards presented to the Central Park.]--from
Syria looks miserable and droopy in the rain, perched on the forward
capstan. He appears to have his own opinion of a sea voyage, and if
it were put into language and the language solidified, it would
probably essentially dam the widest river in the world.
"Tuesday--Somewhere in the neighborhood of the island of Malta. Can
not stop there. Cholera. Weather very stormy. Many passengers
seasick and invisible.
"Wednesday--Weather still very savage. Storm blew two land birds to
sea, and they came on board. A hawk was blown off, also. He
circled round and round the ship, wanting to light, but afraid of
the people. He was so tired, though, that he had to light, at last,
or perish. He stopped in the foretop, repeatedly, and was as often
blown away by the wind. At last Harry caught him. Sea full of
flying-fish. They rise in flocks of three hundred and flash along
above the tops of the waves a distance of two or three hundred feet,
then fall and disappear.
"Thursday--Anchored off Algiers, Africa. Beautiful city, beautiful
green hilly landscape behind it. Staid half a day and left. Not
permitted to land, though we showed a clean bill of health. They
were afraid of Egyptian plague and cholera.
"Friday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
promenading the deck. Afterwards, charades.
"Saturday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
promenading the decks. Afterwards, dominoes.
"Sunday--Morning service, four bells. Evening service, eight bells.
Monotony till midnight.--Whereupon, dominoes.
"Monday--Morning, dominoes. Afternoon, dominoes. Evening,
promenading the decks. Afterward, charades and a lecture from Dr.
"No date--Anchored off the picturesque city of Cagliari, Sardinia.
Staid till midnight, but not permitted to land by these infamous
foreigners. They smell inodorously--they do not wash--they dare not
"Thursday--Anchored off the beautiful cathedral city of Malaga,
Spain.--Went ashore in the captain's boat--not ashore, either, for
they would not let us land. Quarantine. Shipped my newspaper
correspondence, which they took with tongs, dipped it in sea water,
clipped it full of holes, and then fumigated it with villainous
vapors till it smelt like a Spaniard. Inquired about chances to run
to blockade and visit the Alhambra at Granada. Too risky--they
might hang a body. Set sail--middle of afternoon.
"And so on, and so on, and so forth, for several days. Finally,
anchored off Gibraltar, which looks familiar and home-like."
It reminds me of the journal I opened with the New Year, once, when I was
a boy and a confiding and a willing prey to those impossible schemes of
reform which well-meaning old maids and grandmothers set for the feet of
unwary youths at that season of the year--setting oversized tasks for
them, which, necessarily failing, as infallibly weaken the boy's strength
of will, diminish his confidence in himself and injure his chances of
success in life. Please accept of an extract:
"Monday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Tuesday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Wednesday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Thursday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Friday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Next Friday--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Friday fortnight--Got up, washed, went to bed.
"Following month--Got up, washed, went to bed."
I stopped, then, discouraged. Startling events appeared to be too rare,
in my career, to render a diary necessary. I still reflect with pride,
however, that even at that early age I washed when I got up. That
journal finished me. I never have had the nerve to keep one since. My
loss of confidence in myself in that line was permanent.
The ship had to stay a week or more at Gibraltar to take in coal for the
It would be very tiresome staying here, and so four of us ran the
quarantine blockade and spent seven delightful days in Seville, Cordova,
Cadiz, and wandering through the pleasant rural scenery of Andalusia, the
garden of Old Spain. The experiences of that cheery week were too varied
and numerous for a short chapter and I have not room for a long one.
Therefore I shall leave them all out.
Ten or eleven o'clock found us coming down to breakfast one morning in
Cadiz. They told us the ship had been lying at anchor in the harbor two
or three hours. It was time for us to bestir ourselves. The ship could
wait only a little while because of the quarantine. We were soon on
board, and within the hour the white city and the pleasant shores of
Spain sank down behind the waves and passed out of sight. We had seen no
land fade from view so regretfully.
It had long ago been decided in a noisy public meeting in the main cabin
that we could not go to Lisbon, because we must surely be quarantined
there. We did every thing by mass-meeting, in the good old national way,
from swapping off one empire for another on the programme of the voyage
down to complaining of the cookery and the scarcity of napkins. I am
reminded, now, of one of these complaints of the cookery made by a
passenger. The coffee had been steadily growing more and more execrable
for the space of three weeks, till at last it had ceased to be coffee
altogether and had assumed the nature of mere discolored water--so this
person said. He said it was so weak that it was transparent an inch in
depth around the edge of the cup. As he approached the table one morning
he saw the transparent edge--by means of his extraordinary vision long
before he got to his seat. He went back and complained in a high-handed
way to Capt. Duncan. He said the coffee was disgraceful. The Captain
showed his. It seemed tolerably good. The incipient mutineer was more
outraged than ever, then, at what he denounced as the partiality shown
the captain's table over the other tables in the ship. He flourished
back and got his cup and set it down triumphantly, and said:
"Just try that mixture once, Captain Duncan."
He smelt it--tasted it--smiled benignantly--then said:
"It is inferior--for coffee--but it is pretty fair tea."
The humbled mutineer smelt it, tasted it, and returned to his seat. He
had made an egregious ass of himself before the whole ship. He did it no
more. After that he took things as they came. That was me.
The old-fashioned ship-life had returned, now that we were no longer in
sight of land. For days and days it continued just the same, one day
being exactly like another, and, to me, every one of them pleasant. At
last we anchored in the open roadstead of Funchal, in the beautiful
islands we call the Madeiras.
The mountains looked surpassingly lovely, clad as they were in living,
green; ribbed with lava ridges; flecked with white cottages; riven by
deep chasms purple with shade; the great slopes dashed with sunshine and
mottled with shadows flung from the drifting squadrons of the sky, and
the superb picture fitly crowned by towering peaks whose fronts were
swept by the trailing fringes of the clouds.
But we could not land. We staid all day and looked, we abused the man
who invented quarantine, we held half a dozen mass-meetings and crammed
them full of interrupted speeches, motions that fell still-born,
amendments that came to nought and resolutions that died from sheer
exhaustion in trying to get before the house. At night we set sail.
We averaged four mass-meetings a week for the voyage--we seemed always in
labor in this way, and yet so often fallaciously that whenever at long
intervals we were safely delivered of a resolution, it was cause for
public rejoicing, and we hoisted the flag and fired a salute.
Days passed--and nights; and then the beautiful Bermudas rose out of the
sea, we entered the tortuous channel, steamed hither and thither among
the bright summer islands, and rested at last under the flag of England
and were welcome. We were not a nightmare here, where were civilization
and intelligence in place of Spanish and Italian superstition, dirt and
dread of cholera. A few days among the breezy groves, the flower
gardens, the coral caves, and the lovely vistas of blue water that went
curving in and out, disappearing and anon again appearing through jungle
walls of brilliant foliage, restored the energies dulled by long drowsing
on the ocean, and fitted us for our final cruise--our little run of a
thousand miles to New York--America--HOME.
We bade good-bye to "our friends the Bermudians," as our programme hath
it--the majority of those we were most intimate with were negroes--and
courted the great deep again. I said the majority. We knew more negroes
than white people, because we had a deal of washing to be done, but we
made some most excellent friends among the whites, whom it will be a
pleasant duty to hold long in grateful remembrance.
We sailed, and from that hour all idling ceased. Such another system of
overhauling, general littering of cabins and packing of trunks we had not
seen since we let go the anchor in the harbor of Beirout. Every body was
busy. Lists of all purchases had to be made out, and values attached, to
facilitate matters at the custom-house. Purchases bought by bulk in
partnership had to be equitably divided, outstanding debts canceled,
accounts compared, and trunks, boxes and packages labeled. All day long
the bustle and confusion continued.
And now came our first accident. A passenger was running through a
gangway, between decks, one stormy night, when he caught his foot in the
iron staple of a door that had been heedlessly left off a hatchway, and
the bones of his leg broke at the ancle. It was our first serious
misfortune. We had traveled much more than twenty thousand miles, by
land and sea, in many trying climates, without a single hurt, without a
serious case of sickness and without a death among five and sixty
passengers. Our good fortune had been wonderful. A sailor had jumped
overboard at Constantinople one night, and was seen no more, but it was
suspected that his object was to desert, and there was a slim chance, at
least, that he reached the shore. But the passenger list was complete.
There was no name missing from the register.
At last, one pleasant morning, we steamed up the harbor of New York, all
on deck, all dressed in Christian garb--by special order, for there was a
latent disposition in some quarters to come out as Turks--and amid a
waving of handkerchiefs from welcoming friends, the glad pilgrims noted
the shiver of the decks that told that ship and pier had joined hands
again and the long, strange cruise was over. Amen.
In this place I will print an article which I wrote for the New York
Herald the night we arrived. I do it partly because my contract with my
publishers makes it compulsory; partly because it is a proper, tolerably
accurate, and exhaustive summing up of the cruise of the ship and the
performances of the pilgrims in foreign lands; and partly because some of
the passengers have abused me for writing it, and I wish the public to
see how thankless a task it is to put one's self to trouble to glorify
unappreciative people. I was charged with "rushing into print" with
these compliments. I did not rush. I had written news letters to the
Herald sometimes, but yet when I visited the office that day I did not
say any thing about writing a valedictory. I did go to the Tribune
office to see if such an article was wanted, because I belonged on the
regular staff of that paper and it was simply a duty to do it. The
managing editor was absent, and so I thought no more about it. At night
when the Herald's request came for an article, I did not "rush." In
fact, I demurred for a while, because I did not feel like writing
compliments then, and therefore was afraid to speak of the cruise lest I
might be betrayed into using other than complimentary language. However,
I reflected that it would be a just and righteous thing to go down and
write a kind word for the Hadjis--Hadjis are people who have made the
pilgrimage--because parties not interested could not do it so feelingly
as I, a fellow-Hadji, and so I penned the valedictory. I have read it,
and read it again; and if there is a sentence in it that is not fulsomely
complimentary to captain, ship and passengers, I can not find it. If it
is not a chapter that any company might be proud to have a body write
about them, my judgment is fit for nothing. With these remarks I
confidently submit it to the unprejudiced judgment of the reader:
RETURN OF THE HOLY LAND EXCURSIONISTS--THE STORY OF THE CRUISE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD:
The steamer Quaker City has accomplished at last her extraordinary
voyage and returned to her old pier at the foot of Wall street.
The expedition was a success in some respects, in some it was not.
Originally it was advertised as a "pleasure excursion." Well,
perhaps, it was a pleasure excursion, but certainly it did not look
like one; certainly it did not act like one. Any body's and every
body's notion of a pleasure excursion is that the parties to it will
of a necessity be young and giddy and somewhat boisterous. They
will dance a good deal, sing a good deal, make love, but sermonize
very little. Any body's and every body's notion of a well conducted
funeral is that there must be a hearse and a corpse, and chief
mourners and mourners by courtesy, many old people, much solemnity,
no levity, and a prayer and a sermon withal. Three-fourths of the
Quaker City's passengers were between forty and seventy years of
age! There was a picnic crowd for you! It may be supposed that the
other fourth was composed of young girls. But it was not. It was
chiefly composed of rusty old bachelors and a child of six years.
Let us average the ages of the Quaker City's pilgrims and set the
figure down as fifty years. Is any man insane enough to imagine
that this picnic of patriarchs sang, made love, danced, laughed,
told anecdotes, dealt in ungodly levity? In my experience they
sinned little in these matters. No doubt it was presumed here at
home that these frolicsome veterans laughed and sang and romped all
day, and day after day, and kept up a noisy excitement from one end
of the ship to the other; and that they played blind-man's buff or
danced quadrilles and waltzes on moonlight evenings on the
quarter-deck; and that at odd moments of unoccupied time they jotted
a laconic item or two in the journals they opened on such an
elaborate plan when they left home, and then skurried off to their
whist and euchre labors under the cabin lamps. If these things were
presumed, the presumption was at fault. The venerable excursionists
were not gay and frisky. They played no blind-man's buff; they
dealt not in whist; they shirked not the irksome journal, for alas!
most of them were even writing books. They never romped, they
talked but little, they never sang, save in the nightly
prayer-meeting. The pleasure ship was a synagogue, and the pleasure
trip was a funeral excursion without a corpse. (There is nothing
exhilarating about a funeral excursion without a corpse.) A free,
hearty laugh was a sound that was not heard oftener than once in
seven days about those decks or in those cabins, and when it was
heard it met with precious little sympathy. The excursionists
danced, on three separate evenings, long, long ago, (it seems an
age.) quadrilles, of a single set, made up of three ladies and five
gentlemen, (the latter with handkerchiefs around their arms to
signify their sex.) who timed their feet to the solemn wheezing of a
melodeon; but even this melancholy orgie was voted to be sinful, and
dancing was discontinued.
The pilgrims played dominoes when too much Josephus or Robinson's
Holy Land Researches, or book-writing, made recreation necessary
-- for dominoes is about as mild and sinless a game as any in the
world, perhaps, excepting always the ineffably insipid diversion
they call croquet, which is a game where you don't pocket any balls
and don't carom on any thing of any consequence, and when you are
done nobody has to pay, and there are no refreshments to saw off,
and, consequently, there isn't any satisfaction whatever about it
-- they played dominoes till they were rested, and then they
blackguarded each other privately till prayer-time. When they were
not seasick they were uncommonly prompt when the dinner-gong
sounded. Such was our daily life on board the ship--solemnity,
decorum, dinner, dominoes, devotions, slander. It was not lively
enough for a pleasure trip; but if we had only had a corpse it would
have made a noble funeral excursion. It is all over now; but when I
look back, the idea of these venerable fossils skipping forth on a
six months' picnic, seems exquisitely refreshing. The advertised
title of the expedition--"The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion"
-- was a misnomer. "The Grand Holy Land Funeral Procession" would have
been better--much better.
Wherever we went, in Europe, Asia, or Africa, we made a sensation,
and, I suppose I may add, created a famine. None of us had ever
been any where before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a
wild novelty to us, and we conducted ourselves in accordance with
the natural instincts that were in us, and trammeled ourselves with
no ceremonies, no conventionalities. We always took care to make it
understood that we were Americans--Americans! When we found that a
good many foreigners had hardly ever heard of America, and that a
good many more knew it only as a barbarous province away off
somewhere, that had lately been at war with somebody, we pitied the
ignorance of the Old World, but abated no jot of our importance.
Many and many a simple community in the Eastern hemisphere will
remember for years the incursion of the strange horde in the year of
our Lord 1867, that called themselves Americans, and seemed to
imagine in some unaccountable way that they had a right to be proud
of it. We generally created a famine, partly because the coffee on
the Quaker City was unendurable, and sometimes the more substantial
fare was not strictly first class; and partly because one naturally
tires of sitting long at the same board and eating from the same
The people of those foreign countries are very, very ignorant. They
looked curiously at the costumes we had brought from the wilds of
America. They observed that we talked loudly at table sometimes.
They noticed that we looked out for expenses, and got what we
conveniently could out of a franc, and wondered where in the
mischief we came from. In Paris they just simply opened their eyes
and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in
making those idiots understand their own language. One of our
passengers said to a shopkeeper, in reference to a proposed return
to buy a pair of gloves, "Allong restay trankeel--may be ve coom
Moonday;" and would you believe it, that shopkeeper, a born
Frenchman, had to ask what it was that had been said. Sometimes it
seems to me, somehow, that there must be a difference between
Parisian French and Quaker City French.
The people stared at us every where, and we stared at them. We
generally made them feel rather small, too, before we got done with
them, because we bore down on them with America's greatness until we
crushed them. And yet we took kindly to the manners and customs,
and especially to the fashions of the various people we visited.
When we left the Azores, we wore awful capotes and used fine tooth
combs--successfully. When we came back from Tangier, in Africa, we
were topped with fezzes of the bloodiest hue, hung with tassels like
an Indian's scalp-lock. In France and Spain we attracted some
attention in these costumes. In Italy they naturally took us for
distempered Garibaldians, and set a gunboat to look for any thing
significant in our changes of uniform. We made Rome howl. We could
have made any place howl when we had all our clothes on. We got no
fresh raiment in Greece--they had but little there of any kind. But
at Constantinople, how we turned out! Turbans, scimetars, fezzes,
horse-pistols, tunics, sashes, baggy trowsers, yellow slippers--Oh,
we were gorgeous! The illustrious dogs of Constantinople barked
their under jaws off, and even then failed to do us justice. They
are all dead by this time. They could not go through such a run of
business as we gave them and survive.
And then we went to see the Emperor of Russia. We just called on
him as comfortably as if we had known him a century or so, and when
we had finished our visit we variegated ourselves with selections
from Russian costumes and sailed away again more picturesque than
ever. In Smyrna we picked up camel's hair shawls and other dressy
things from Persia; but in Palestine--ah, in Palestine--our splendid
career ended. They didn't wear any clothes there to speak of. We
were satisfied, and stopped. We made no experiments. We did not
try their costume. But we astonished the natives of that country.
We astonished them with such eccentricities of dress as we could
muster. We prowled through the Holy Land, from Cesarea Philippi to
Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, a weird procession of pilgrims, gotten
up regardless of expense, solemn, gorgeous, green-spectacled,
drowsing under blue umbrellas, and astride of a sorrier lot of
horses, camels and asses than those that came out of Noah's ark,
after eleven months of seasickness and short rations. If ever those
children of Israel in Palestine forget when Gideon's Band went
through there from America, they ought to be cursed once more and
finished. It was the rarest spectacle that ever astounded mortal
Well, we were at home in Palestine. It was easy to see that that
was the grand feature of the expedition. We had cared nothing much
about Europe. We galloped through the Louvre, the Pitti, the
Ufizzi, the Vatican--all the galleries--and through the pictured and
frescoed churches of Venice, Naples, and the cathedrals of Spain;
some of us said that certain of the great works of the old masters
were glorious creations of genius, (we found it out in the
guide-book, though we got hold of the wrong picture sometimes,) and
the others said they were disgraceful old daubs. We examined modern
and ancient statuary with a critical eye in Florence, Rome, or any
where we found it, and praised it if we saw fit, and if we didn't we
said we preferred the wooden Indians in front of the cigar stores of
America. But the Holy Land brought out all our enthusiasm. We fell
into raptures by the barren shores of Galilee; we pondered at Tabor
and at Nazareth; we exploded into poetry over the questionable
loveliness of Esdraelon; we meditated at Jezreel and Samaria over
the missionary zeal of Jehu; we rioted--fairly rioted among the holy
places of Jerusalem; we bathed in Jordan and the Dead Sea, reckless
whether our accident-insurance policies were extra-hazardous or not,
and brought away so many jugs of precious water from both places
that all the country from Jericho to the mountains of Moab will
suffer from drouth this year, I think. Yet, the pilgrimage part of
the excursion was its pet feature--there is no question about that.
After dismal, smileless Palestine, beautiful Egypt had few charms
for us. We merely glanced at it and were ready for home.
They wouldn't let us land at Malta--quarantine; they would not let
us land in Sardinia; nor at Algiers, Africa; nor at Malaga, Spain,
nor Cadiz, nor at the Madeira islands. So we got offended at all
foreigners and turned our backs upon them and came home. I suppose
we only stopped at the Bermudas because they were in the programme.
We did not care any thing about any place at all. We wanted to go
home. Homesickness was abroad in the ship--it was epidemic. If the
authorities of New York had known how badly we had it, they would
have quarantined us here.
The grand pilgrimage is over. Good-bye to it, and a pleasant memory
to it, I am able to say in all kindness. I bear no malice, no
ill-will toward any individual that was connected with it, either as
passenger or officer. Things I did not like at all yesterday I like
very well to-day, now that I am at home, and always hereafter I
shall be able to poke fun at the whole gang if the spirit so moves
me to do, without ever saying a malicious word. The expedition
accomplished all that its programme promised that it should
accomplish, and we ought all to be satisfied with the management of
the matter, certainly. Bye-bye!
I call that complimentary. It is complimentary; and yet I never have
received a word of thanks for it from the Hadjis; on the contrary I speak
nothing but the serious truth when I say that many of them even took
exceptions to the article. In endeavoring to please them I slaved over
that sketch for two hours, and had my labor for my pains. I never will
do a generous deed again.
Nearly one year has flown since this notable pilgrimage was ended; and as
I sit here at home in San Francisco thinking, I am moved to confess that
day by day the mass of my memories of the excursion have grown more and
more pleasant as the disagreeable incidents of travel which encumbered
them flitted one by one out of my mind--and now, if the Quaker City were
weighing her anchor to sail away on the very same cruise again, nothing
could gratify me more than to be a passenger. With the same captain and
even the same pilgrims, the same sinners. I was on excellent terms with
eight or nine of the excursionists (they are my staunch friends yet,) and
was even on speaking terms with the rest of the sixty-five. I have been
at sea quite enough to know that that was a very good average. Because a
long sea-voyage not only brings out all the mean traits one has, and
exaggerates them, but raises up others which he never suspected he
possessed, and even creates new ones. A twelve months' voyage at sea
would make of an ordinary man a very miracle of meanness. On the other
hand, if a man has good qualities, the spirit seldom moves him to exhibit
them on shipboard, at least with any sort of emphasis. Now I am
satisfied that our pilgrims are pleasant old people on shore; I am also
satisfied that at sea on a second voyage they would be pleasanter,
somewhat, than they were on our grand excursion, and so I say without
hesitation that I would be glad enough to sail with them again. I could
at least enjoy life with my handful of old friends. They could enjoy
life with their cliques as well--passengers invariably divide up into
cliques, on all ships.
And I will say, here, that I would rather travel with an excursion party
of Methuselahs than have to be changing ships and comrades constantly, as
people do who travel in the ordinary way. Those latter are always
grieving over some other ship they have known and lost, and over other
comrades whom diverging routes have separated from them. They learn to
love a ship just in time to change it for another, and they become
attached to a pleasant traveling companion only to lose him. They have
that most dismal experience of being in a strange vessel, among strange
people who care nothing about them, and of undergoing the customary
bullying by strange officers and the insolence of strange servants,
repeated over and over again within the compass of every month. They
have also that other misery of packing and unpacking trunks--of running
the distressing gauntlet of custom-houses--of the anxieties attendant
upon getting a mass of baggage from point to point on land in safety.
I had rasher sail with a whole brigade of patriarchs than suffer so.
We never packed our trunks but twice--when we sailed from New York, and
when we returned to it. Whenever we made a land journey, we estimated
how many days we should be gone and what amount of clothing we should
need, figured it down to a mathematical nicety, packed a valise or two
accordingly, and left the trunks on board. We chose our comrades from
among our old, tried friends, and started. We were never dependent upon
strangers for companionship. We often had occasion to pity Americans
whom we found traveling drearily among strangers with no friends to
exchange pains and pleasures with. Whenever we were coming back from a
land journey, our eyes sought one thing in the distance first--the ship
--and when we saw it riding at anchor with the flag apeak, we felt as a
returning wanderer feels when he sees his home. When we stepped on
board, our cares vanished, our troubles were at an end--for the ship was
home to us. We always had the same familiar old state-room to go to, and
feel safe and at peace and comfortable again.
I have no fault to find with the manner in which our excursion was
conducted. Its programme was faithfully carried out--a thing which
surprised me, for great enterprises usually promise vastly more than they
perform. It would be well if such an excursion could be gotten up every
year and the system regularly inaugurated. Travel is fatal to prejudice,
bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on
these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can
not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's
The Excursion is ended, and has passed to its place among the things that
were. But its varied scenes and its manifold incidents will linger
pleasantly in our memories for many a year to come. Always on the wing,
as we were, and merely pausing a moment to catch fitful glimpses of the
wonders of half a world, we could not hope to receive or retain vivid
impressions of all it was our fortune to see. Yet our holyday flight has
not been in vain--for above the confusion of vague recollections, certain
of its best prized pictures lift themselves and will still continue
perfect in tint and outline after their surroundings shall have faded
We shall remember something of pleasant France; and something also of
Paris, though it flashed upon us a splendid meteor, and was gone again,
we hardly knew how or where. We shall remember, always, how we saw
majestic Gibraltar glorified with the rich coloring of a Spanish sunset
and swimming in a sea of rainbows. In fancy we shall see Milan again,
and her stately Cathedral with its marble wilderness of graceful spires.
And Padua--Verona--Como, jeweled with stars; and patrician Venice, afloat
on her stagnant flood--silent, desolate, haughty--scornful of her humbled
state--wrapping herself in memories of her lost fleets, of battle and
triumph, and all the pageantry of a glory that is departed.
We can not forget Florence--Naples--nor the foretaste of heaven that is
in the delicious atmosphere of Greece--and surely not Athens and the
broken temples of the Acropolis. Surely not venerable Rome--nor the
green plain that compasses her round about, contrasting its brightness
with her gray decay--nor the ruined arches that stand apart in the plain
and clothe their looped and windowed raggedness with vines. We shall
remember St. Peter's: not as one sees it when he walks the streets of
Rome and fancies all her domes are just alike, but as he sees it leagues
away, when every meaner edifice has faded out of sight and that one dome
looms superbly up in the flush of sunset, full of dignity and grace,
strongly outlined as a mountain.
We shall remember Constantinople and the Bosporus--the colossal
magnificence of Baalbec--the Pyramids of Egypt--the prodigious form, the
benignant countenance of the Sphynx--Oriental Smyrna--sacred Jerusalem
--Damascus, the "Pearl of the East," the pride of Syria, the fabled Garden
of Eden, the home of princes and genii of the Arabian Nights, the oldest
metropolis on earth, the one city in all the world that has kept its name
and held its place and looked serenely on while the Kingdoms and Empires
of four thousand years have risen to life, enjoyed their little season of
pride and pomp, and then vanished and been forgotten!