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The Innocents Abroad, Part 3 of 6 by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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INNOCENTS ABROAD

by Mark Twain

[From an 1869--1st Edition]

Part 3.

CHAPTER XXI.

We voyaged by steamer down the Lago di Lecco, through wild mountain
scenery, and by hamlets and villas, and disembarked at the town of Lecco.
They said it was two hours, by carriage to the ancient city of Bergamo,
and that we would arrive there in good season for the railway train. We
got an open barouche and a wild, boisterous driver, and set out. It was
delightful. We had a fast team and a perfectly smooth road. There were
towering cliffs on our left, and the pretty Lago di Lecco on our right,
and every now and then it rained on us. Just before starting, the driver
picked up, in the street, a stump of a cigar an inch long, and put it in
his mouth. When he had carried it thus about an hour, I thought it would
be only Christian charity to give him a light. I handed him my cigar,
which I had just lit, and he put it in his mouth and returned his stump
to his pocket! I never saw a more sociable man. At least I never saw a
man who was more sociable on a short acquaintance.

We saw interior Italy, now. The houses were of solid stone, and not
often in good repair. The peasants and their children were idle, as a
general thing, and the donkeys and chickens made themselves at home in
drawing-room and bed-chamber and were not molested. The drivers of each
and every one of the slow-moving market-carts we met were stretched in
the sun upon their merchandise, sound a sleep. Every three or four
hundred yards, it seemed to me, we came upon the shrine of some saint or
other--a rude picture of him built into a huge cross or a stone pillar by
the road-side.--Some of the pictures of the Saviour were curiosities in
their way. They represented him stretched upon the cross, his
countenance distorted with agony. From the wounds of the crown of
thorns; from the pierced side; from the mutilated hands and feet; from
the scourged body--from every hand-breadth of his person streams of blood
were flowing! Such a gory, ghastly spectacle would frighten the children
out of their senses, I should think. There were some unique auxiliaries
to the painting which added to its spirited effect. These were genuine
wooden and iron implements, and were prominently disposed round about the
figure: a bundle of nails; the hammer to drive them; the sponge; the reed
that supported it; the cup of vinegar; the ladder for the ascent of the
cross; the spear that pierced the Saviour's side. The crown of thorns
was made of real thorns, and was nailed to the sacred head. In some
Italian church-paintings, even by the old masters, the Saviour and the
Virgin wear silver or gilded crowns that are fastened to the pictured
head with nails. The effect is as grotesque as it is incongruous.

Here and there, on the fronts of roadside inns, we found huge, coarse
frescoes of suffering martyrs like those in the shrines. It could not
have diminished their sufferings any to be so uncouthly represented.
We were in the heart and home of priest craft--of a happy, cheerful,
contented ignorance, superstition, degradation, poverty, indolence, and
everlasting unaspiring worthlessness. And we said fervently: it suits
these people precisely; let them enjoy it, along with the other animals,
and Heaven forbid that they be molested. We feel no malice toward these
fumigators.

We passed through the strangest, funniest, undreampt-of old towns, wedded
to the customs and steeped in the dreams of the elder ages, and perfectly
unaware that the world turns round! And perfectly indifferent, too, as
to whether it turns around or stands still. They have nothing to do but
eat and sleep and sleep and eat, and toil a little when they can get a
friend to stand by and keep them awake. They are not paid for thinking
--they are not paid to fret about the world's concerns. They were not
respectable people--they were not worthy people--they were not learned
and wise and brilliant people--but in their breasts, all their stupid
lives long, resteth a peace that passeth understanding! How can men,
calling themselves men, consent to be so degraded and happy.

We whisked by many a gray old medieval castle, clad thick with ivy that
swung its green banners down from towers and turrets where once some old
Crusader's flag had floated. The driver pointed to one of these ancient
fortresses, and said, (I translate):

"Do you see that great iron hook that projects from the wall just under
the highest window in the ruined tower?"

We said we could not see it at such a distance, but had no doubt it was
there.

"Well," he said; "there is a legend connected with that iron hook.
Nearly seven hundred years ago, that castle was the property of the noble
Count Luigi Gennaro Guido Alphonso di Genova----"

"What was his other name?" said Dan.

"He had no other name. The name I have spoken was all the name he had.
He was the son of----"

"Poor but honest parents--that is all right--never mind the particulars
--go on with the legend."

THE LEGEND.

Well, then, all the world, at that time, was in a wild excitement about
the Holy Sepulchre. All the great feudal lords in Europe were pledging
their lands and pawning their plate to fit out men-at-arms so that they
might join the grand armies of Christendom and win renown in the Holy
Wars. The Count Luigi raised money, like the rest, and one mild
September morning, armed with battle-ax, portcullis and thundering
culverin, he rode through the greaves and bucklers of his donjon-keep
with as gallant a troop of Christian bandits as ever stepped in Italy.
He had his sword, Excalibur, with him. His beautiful countess and her
young daughter waved him a tearful adieu from the battering-rams and
buttresses of the fortress, and he galloped away with a happy heart.

He made a raid on a neighboring baron and completed his outfit with the
booty secured. He then razed the castle to the ground, massacred the
family and moved on. They were hardy fellows in the grand old days of
chivalry. Alas! Those days will never come again.

Count Luigi grew high in fame in Holy Land. He plunged into the carnage
of a hundred battles, but his good Excalibur always brought him out
alive, albeit often sorely wounded. His face became browned by exposure
to the Syrian sun in long marches; he suffered hunger and thirst; he
pined in prisons, he languished in loathsome plague-hospitals. And many
and many a time he thought of his loved ones at home, and wondered if all
was well with them. But his heart said, Peace, is not thy brother
watching over thy household?

* * * * * * *

Forty-two years waxed and waned; the good fight was won; Godfrey reigned
in Jerusalem--the Christian hosts reared the banner of the cross above
the Holy Sepulchre!

Twilight was approaching. Fifty harlequins, in flowing robes, approached
this castle wearily, for they were on foot, and the dust upon their
garments betokened that they had traveled far. They overtook a peasant,
and asked him if it were likely they could get food and a hospitable bed
there, for love of Christian charity, and if perchance, a moral parlor
entertainment might meet with generous countenance--"for," said they,
"this exhibition hath no feature that could offend the most fastidious
taste."

"Marry," quoth the peasant, "an' it please your worships, ye had better
journey many a good rood hence with your juggling circus than trust your
bones in yonder castle."

"How now, sirrah!" exclaimed the chief monk, "explain thy ribald speech,
or by'r Lady it shall go hard with thee."

"Peace, good mountebank, I did but utter the truth that was in my heart.
San Paolo be my witness that did ye but find the stout Count Leonardo in
his cups, sheer from the castle's topmost battlements would he hurl ye
all! Alack-a-day, the good Lord Luigi reigns not here in these sad
times."

"The good Lord Luigi?"

"Aye, none other, please your worship. In his day, the poor rejoiced in
plenty and the rich he did oppress; taxes were not known, the fathers of
the church waxed fat upon his bounty; travelers went and came, with none
to interfere; and whosoever would, might tarry in his halls in cordial
welcome, and eat his bread and drink his wine, withal. But woe is me!
some two and forty years agone the good count rode hence to fight for
Holy Cross, and many a year hath flown since word or token have we had of
him. Men say his bones lie bleaching in the fields of Palestine."

"And now?"

"Now! God 'a mercy, the cruel Leonardo lords it in the castle. He
wrings taxes from the poor; he robs all travelers that journey by his
gates; he spends his days in feuds and murders, and his nights in revel
and debauch; he roasts the fathers of the church upon his kitchen spits,
and enjoyeth the same, calling it pastime. These thirty years Luigi's
countess hath not been seen by any [he] in all this land, and many
whisper that she pines in the dungeons of the castle for that she will
not wed with Leonardo, saying her dear lord still liveth and that she
will die ere she prove false to him. They whisper likewise that her
daughter is a prisoner as well. Nay, good jugglers, seek ye refreshment
other wheres. 'Twere better that ye perished in a Christian way than
that ye plunged from off yon dizzy tower. Give ye good-day."

"God keep ye, gentle knave--farewell."

But heedless of the peasant's warning, the players moved straightway
toward the castle.

Word was brought to Count Leonardo that a company of mountebanks besought
his hospitality.

"'Tis well. Dispose of them in the customary manner. Yet stay! I have
need of them. Let them come hither. Later, cast them from the
battlements--or--how many priests have ye on hand?"

"The day's results are meagre, good my lord. An abbot and a dozen
beggarly friars is all we have."

"Hell and furies! Is the estate going to seed? Send hither the
mountebanks. Afterward, broil them with the priests."

The robed and close-cowled harlequins entered. The grim Leonardo sate in
state at the head of his council board. Ranged up and down the hall on
either hand stood near a hundred men-at-arms.

"Ha, villains!" quoth the count, "What can ye do to earn the hospitality
ye crave."

"Dread lord and mighty, crowded audiences have greeted our humble efforts
with rapturous applause. Among our body count we the versatile and
talented Ugolino; the justly celebrated Rodolpho; the gifted and
accomplished Roderigo; the management have spared neither pains nor
expense--"

"S'death! What can ye do? Curb thy prating tongue."

"Good my lord, in acrobatic feats, in practice with the dumb-bells, in
balancing and ground and lofty tumbling are we versed--and sith your
highness asketh me, I venture here to publish that in the truly marvelous
and entertaining Zampillaerostation--"

"Gag him! throttle him! Body of Bacchus! am I a dog that I am to be
assailed with polysyllabled blasphemy like to this? But hold! Lucretia,
Isabel, stand forth! Sirrah, behold this dame, this weeping wench. The
first I marry, within the hour; the other shall dry her tears or feed the
vultures. Thou and thy vagabonds shall crown the wedding with thy
merry-makings. Fetch hither the priest!"

The dame sprang toward the chief player.

"O, save me!" she cried; "save me from a fate far worse than death!
Behold these sad eyes, these sunken cheeks, this withered frame! See
thou the wreck this fiend hath made, and let thy heart be moved with
pity! Look upon this damosel; note her wasted form, her halting step,
her bloomless cheeks where youth should blush and happiness exult in
smiles! Hear us and have compassion. This monster was my husband's
brother. He who should have been our shield against all harm, hath kept
us shut within the noisome caverns of his donjon-keep for lo these thirty
years. And for what crime? None other than that I would not belie my
troth, root out my strong love for him who marches with the legions of
the cross in Holy Land, (for O, he is not dead!) and wed with him! Save
us, O, save thy persecuted suppliants!"

She flung herself at his feet and clasped his knees.

"Ha!-ha!-ha!" shouted the brutal Leonardo. "Priest, to thy work!" and
he dragged the weeping dame from her refuge. "Say, once for all, will
you be mine?--for by my halidome, that breath that uttereth thy refusal
shall be thy last on earth!"

"NE-VER?"

"Then die!" and the sword leaped from its scabbard.

Quicker than thought, quicker than the lightning's flash, fifty monkish
habits disappeared, and fifty knights in splendid armor stood revealed!
fifty falchions gleamed in air above the men-at-arms, and brighter,
fiercer than them all, flamed Excalibur aloft, and cleaving downward
struck the brutal Leonardo's weapon from his grasp!

"A Luigi to the rescue! Whoop!"

"A Leonardo! 'tare an ouns!'"

"Oh, God, Oh, God, my husband!"

"Oh, God, Oh, God, my wife!"

"My father!"

"My precious!" [Tableau.]

Count Luigi bound his usurping brother hand and foot. The practiced
knights from Palestine made holyday sport of carving the awkward
men-at-arms into chops and steaks. The victory was complete. Happiness
reigned. The knights all married the daughter. Joy! wassail! finis!

"But what did they do with the wicked brother?"

"Oh nothing--only hanged him on that iron hook I was speaking of. By the
chin."

"As how?"

"Passed it up through his gills into his mouth."

"Leave him there?"

"Couple of years."

"Ah--is--is he dead?"

"Six hundred and fifty years ago, or such a matter."

"Splendid legend--splendid lie--drive on."

We reached the quaint old fortified city of Bergamo, the renowned in
history, some three-quarters of an hour before the train was ready to
start. The place has thirty or forty thousand inhabitants and is
remarkable for being the birthplace of harlequin. When we discovered
that, that legend of our driver took to itself a new interest in our
eyes.

Rested and refreshed, we took the rail happy and contented. I shall not
tarry to speak of the handsome Lago di Gardi; its stately castle that
holds in its stony bosom the secrets of an age so remote that even
tradition goeth not back to it; the imposing mountain scenery that
ennobles the landscape thereabouts; nor yet of ancient Padua or haughty
Verona; nor of their Montagues and Capulets, their famous balconies and
tombs of Juliet and Romeo et al., but hurry straight to the ancient city
of the sea, the widowed bride of the Adriatic. It was a long, long ride.
But toward evening, as we sat silent and hardly conscious of where we
were--subdued into that meditative calm that comes so surely after a
conversational storm--some one shouted--
"VENICE!"

And sure enough, afloat on the placid sea a league away, lay a great
city, with its towers and domes and steeples drowsing in a golden mist of
sunset.

CHAPTER XXII.

This Venice, which was a haughty, invincible, magnificent Republic for
nearly fourteen hundred years; whose armies compelled the world's
applause whenever and wherever they battled; whose navies well nigh held
dominion of the seas, and whose merchant fleets whitened the remotest
oceans with their sails and loaded these piers with the products of every
clime, is fallen a prey to poverty, neglect and melancholy decay. Six
hundred years ago, Venice was the Autocrat of Commerce; her mart was the
great commercial centre, the distributing-house from whence the enormous
trade of the Orient was spread abroad over the Western world. To-day her
piers are deserted, her warehouses are empty, her merchant fleets are
vanished, her armies and her navies are but memories. Her glory is
departed, and with her crumbling grandeur of wharves and palaces about
her she sits among her stagnant lagoons, forlorn and beggared, forgotten
of the world. She that in her palmy days commanded the commerce of a
hemisphere and made the weal or woe of nations with a beck of her
puissant finger, is become the humblest among the peoples of the earth,
--a peddler of glass beads for women, and trifling toys and trinkets for
school-girls and children.

The venerable Mother of the Republics is scarce a fit subject for
flippant speech or the idle gossipping of tourists. It seems a sort of
sacrilege to disturb the glamour of old romance that pictures her to us
softly from afar off as through a tinted mist, and curtains her ruin and
her desolation from our view. One ought, indeed, to turn away from her
rags, her poverty and her humiliation, and think of her only as she was
when she sunk the fleets of Charlemagne; when she humbled Frederick
Barbarossa or waved her victorious banners above the battlements of
Constantinople.

We reached Venice at eight in the evening, and entered a hearse belonging
to the Grand Hotel d'Europe. At any rate, it was more like a hearse than
any thing else, though to speak by the card, it was a gondola. And this
was the storied gondola of Venice!--the fairy boat in which the princely
cavaliers of the olden time were wont to cleave the waters of the moonlit
canals and look the eloquence of love into the soft eyes of patrician
beauties, while the gay gondolier in silken doublet touched his guitar
and sang as only gondoliers can sing! This the famed gondola and this
the gorgeous gondolier!--the one an inky, rusty old canoe with a sable
hearse-body clapped on to the middle of it, and the other a mangy,
barefooted guttersnipe with a portion of his raiment on exhibition which
should have been sacred from public scrutiny. Presently, as he turned a
corner and shot his hearse into a dismal ditch between two long rows of
towering, untenanted buildings, the gay gondolier began to sing, true to
the traditions of his race. I stood it a little while. Then I said:

"Now, here, Roderigo Gonzales Michael Angelo, I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a
stranger, but I am not going to have my feelings lacerated by any such
caterwauling as that. If that goes on, one of us has got to take water.
It is enough that my cherished dreams of Venice have been blighted
forever as to the romantic gondola and the gorgeous gondolier; this
system of destruction shall go no farther; I will accept the hearse,
under protest, and you may fly your flag of truce in peace, but here I
register a dark and bloody oath that you shan't sing. Another yelp, and
overboard you go."

I began to feel that the old Venice of song and story had departed
forever. But I was too hasty. In a few minutes we swept gracefully out
into the Grand Canal, and under the mellow moonlight the Venice of poetry
and romance stood revealed. Right from the water's edge rose long lines
of stately palaces of marble; gondolas were gliding swiftly hither and
thither and disappearing suddenly through unsuspected gates and alleys;
ponderous stone bridges threw their shadows athwart the glittering waves.
There was life and motion everywhere, and yet everywhere there was a
hush, a stealthy sort of stillness, that was suggestive of secret
enterprises of bravoes and of lovers; and clad half in moonbeams and half
in mysterious shadows, the grim old mansions of the Republic seemed to
have an expression about them of having an eye out for just such
enterprises as these at that same moment. Music came floating over the
waters--Venice was complete.

It was a beautiful picture--very soft and dreamy and beautiful. But what
was this Venice to compare with the Venice of midnight? Nothing. There
was a fete--a grand fete in honor of some saint who had been instrumental
in checking the cholera three hundred years ago, and all Venice was
abroad on the water. It was no common affair, for the Venetians did not
know how soon they might need the saint's services again, now that the
cholera was spreading every where. So in one vast space--say a third of
a mile wide and two miles long--were collected two thousand gondolas, and
every one of them had from two to ten, twenty and even thirty colored
lanterns suspended about it, and from four to a dozen occupants. Just as
far as the eye could reach, these painted lights were massed together
--like a vast garden of many-colored flowers, except that these blossoms
were never still; they were ceaselessly gliding in and out, and mingling
together, and seducing you into bewildering attempts to follow their mazy
evolutions. Here and there a strong red, green, or blue glare from a
rocket that was struggling to get away, splendidly illuminated all the
boats around it. Every gondola that swam by us, with its crescents and
pyramids and circles of colored lamps hung aloft, and lighting up the
faces of the young and the sweet-scented and lovely below, was a picture;
and the reflections of those lights, so long, so slender, so numberless,
so many-colored and so distorted and wrinkled by the waves, was a picture
likewise, and one that was enchantingly beautiful. Many and many a party
of young ladies and gentlemen had their state gondolas handsomely
decorated, and ate supper on board, bringing their swallow-tailed,
white-cravatted varlets to wait upon them, and having their tables
tricked out as if for a bridal supper. They had brought along the
costly globe lamps from their drawing-rooms, and the lace and silken
curtains from the same places, I suppose. And they had also brought
pianos and guitars, and they played and sang operas, while the plebeian
paper-lanterned gondolas from the suburbs and the back alleys crowded
around to stare and listen.

There was music every where--choruses, string bands, brass bands, flutes,
every thing. I was so surrounded, walled in, with music, magnificence
and loveliness, that I became inspired with the spirit of the scene, and
sang one tune myself. However, when I observed that the other gondolas
had sailed away, and my gondolier was preparing to go overboard, I
stopped.

The fete was magnificent. They kept it up the whole night long, and I
never enjoyed myself better than I did while it lasted.

What a funny old city this Queen of the Adriatic is! Narrow streets,
vast, gloomy marble palaces, black with the corroding damps of centuries,
and all partly submerged; no dry land visible any where, and no sidewalks
worth mentioning; if you want to go to church, to the theatre, or to the
restaurant, you must call a gondola. It must be a paradise for cripples,
for verily a man has no use for legs here.

For a day or two the place looked so like an overflowed Arkansas town,
because of its currentless waters laving the very doorsteps of all the
houses, and the cluster of boats made fast under the windows, or skimming
in and out of the alleys and by-ways, that I could not get rid of the
impression that there was nothing the matter here but a spring freshet,
and that the river would fall in a few weeks and leave a dirty high-water
mark on the houses, and the streets full of mud and rubbish.

In the glare of day, there is little poetry about Venice, but under the
charitable moon her stained palaces are white again, their battered
sculptures are hidden in shadows, and the old city seems crowned once
more with the grandeur that was hers five hundred years ago. It is easy,
then, in fancy, to people these silent canals with plumed gallants and
fair ladies--with Shylocks in gaberdine and sandals, venturing loans upon
the rich argosies of Venetian commerce--with Othellos and Desdemonas,
with Iagos and Roderigos--with noble fleets and victorious legions
returning from the wars. In the treacherous sunlight we see Venice
decayed, forlorn, poverty-stricken, and commerceless--forgotten and
utterly insignificant. But in the moonlight, her fourteen centuries of
greatness fling their glories about her, and once more is she the
princeliest among the nations of the earth.

"There is a glorious city in the sea;
The sea is in the broad, the narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt-sea weed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.
No track of men, no footsteps to and fro,
Lead to her gates! The path lies o'er the sea,
Invisible: and from the land we went,
As to a floating city--steering in,
And gliding up her streets, as in a dream,
So smoothly, silently--by many a dome,
Mosque-like, and many a stately portico,
The statues ranged along an azure sky;
By many a pile, in more than Eastern pride,
Of old the residence of merchant kings;
The fronts of some, tho' time had shatter'd them,
Still glowing with the richest hues of art,
As tho' the wealth within them had run o'er."

What would one naturally wish to see first in Venice? The Bridge of
Sighs, of course--and next the Church and the Great Square of St. Mark,
the Bronze Horses, and the famous Lion of St. Mark.

We intended to go to the Bridge of Sighs, but happened into the Ducal
Palace first--a building which necessarily figures largely in Venetian
poetry and tradition. In the Senate Chamber of the ancient Republic we
wearied our eyes with staring at acres of historical paintings by
Tintoretto and Paul Veronese, but nothing struck us forcibly except the
one thing that strikes all strangers forcibly--a black square in the
midst of a gallery of portraits. In one long row, around the great hall,
were painted the portraits of the Doges of Venice (venerable fellows,
with flowing white beards, for of the three hundred Senators eligible to
the office, the oldest was usually chosen Doge,) and each had its
complimentary inscription attached--till you came to the place that
should have had Marino Faliero's picture in it, and that was blank and
black--blank, except that it bore a terse inscription, saying that the
conspirator had died for his crime. It seemed cruel to keep that
pitiless inscription still staring from the walls after the unhappy
wretch had been in his grave five hundred years.

At the head of the Giant's Staircase, where Marino Faliero was beheaded,
and where the Doges were crowned in ancient times, two small slits in the
stone wall were pointed out--two harmless, insignificant orifices that
would never attract a stranger's attention--yet these were the terrible
Lions' Mouths! The heads were gone (knocked off by the French during
their occupation of Venice,) but these were the throats, down which went
the anonymous accusation, thrust in secretly at dead of night by an
enemy, that doomed many an innocent man to walk the Bridge of Sighs and
descend into the dungeon which none entered and hoped to see the sun
again. This was in the old days when the Patricians alone governed
Venice--the common herd had no vote and no voice. There were one
thousand five hundred Patricians; from these, three hundred Senators were
chosen; from the Senators a Doge and a Council of Ten were selected, and
by secret ballot the Ten chose from their own number a Council of Three.
All these were Government spies, then, and every spy was under
surveillance himself--men spoke in whispers in Venice, and no man trusted
his neighbor--not always his own brother. No man knew who the Council of
Three were--not even the Senate, not even the Doge; the members of that
dread tribunal met at night in a chamber to themselves, masked, and robed
from head to foot in scarlet cloaks, and did not even know each other,
unless by voice. It was their duty to judge heinous political crimes,
and from their sentence there was no appeal. A nod to the executioner
was sufficient. The doomed man was marched down a hall and out at a
door-way into the covered Bridge of Sighs, through it and into the
dungeon and unto his death. At no time in his transit was he visible to
any save his conductor. If a man had an enemy in those old days, the
cleverest thing he could do was to slip a note for the Council of Three
into the Lion's mouth, saying "This man is plotting against the
Government." If the awful Three found no proof, ten to one they would
drown him anyhow, because he was a deep rascal, since his plots were
unsolvable. Masked judges and masked executioners, with unlimited power,
and no appeal from their judgements, in that hard, cruel age, were not
likely to be lenient with men they suspected yet could not convict.

We walked through the hall of the Council of Ten, and presently entered
the infernal den of the Council of Three.

The table around which they had sat was there still, and likewise the
stations where the masked inquisitors and executioners formerly stood,
frozen, upright and silent, till they received a bloody order, and then,
without a word, moved off like the inexorable machines they were, to
carry it out. The frescoes on the walls were startlingly suited to the
place. In all the other saloons, the halls, the great state chambers of
the palace, the walls and ceilings were bright with gilding, rich with
elaborate carving, and resplendent with gallant pictures of Venetian
victories in war, and Venetian display in foreign courts, and hallowed
with portraits of the Virgin, the Saviour of men, and the holy saints
that preached the Gospel of Peace upon earth--but here, in dismal
contrast, were none but pictures of death and dreadful suffering!--not a
living figure but was writhing in torture, not a dead one but was smeared
with blood, gashed with wounds, and distorted with the agonies that had
taken away its life!

From the palace to the gloomy prison is but a step--one might almost jump
across the narrow canal that intervenes. The ponderous stone Bridge of
Sighs crosses it at the second story--a bridge that is a covered tunnel
--you can not be seen when you walk in it. It is partitioned lengthwise,
and through one compartment walked such as bore light sentences in
ancient times, and through the other marched sadly the wretches whom the
Three had doomed to lingering misery and utter oblivion in the dungeons,
or to sudden and mysterious death. Down below the level of the water, by
the light of smoking torches, we were shown the damp, thick-walled cells
where many a proud patrician's life was eaten away by the long-drawn
miseries of solitary imprisonment--without light, air, books; naked,
unshaven, uncombed, covered with vermin; his useless tongue forgetting
its office, with none to speak to; the days and nights of his life no
longer marked, but merged into one eternal eventless night; far away from
all cheerful sounds, buried in the silence of a tomb; forgotten by his
helpless friends, and his fate a dark mystery to them forever; losing his
own memory at last, and knowing no more who he was or how he came there;
devouring the loaf of bread and drinking the water that were thrust into
the cell by unseen hands, and troubling his worn spirit no more with
hopes and fears and doubts and longings to be free; ceasing to scratch
vain prayers and complainings on walls where none, not even himself,
could see them, and resigning himself to hopeless apathy, driveling
childishness, lunacy! Many and many a sorrowful story like this these
stony walls could tell if they could but speak.

In a little narrow corridor, near by, they showed us where many a
prisoner, after lying in the dungeons until he was forgotten by all save
his persecutors, was brought by masked executioners and garroted, or
sewed up in a sack, passed through a little window to a boat, at dead of
night, and taken to some remote spot and drowned.

They used to show to visitors the implements of torture wherewith the
Three were wont to worm secrets out of the accused--villainous machines
for crushing thumbs; the stocks where a prisoner sat immovable while
water fell drop by drop upon his head till the torture was more than
humanity could bear; and a devilish contrivance of steel, which inclosed
a prisoner's head like a shell, and crushed it slowly by means of a
screw. It bore the stains of blood that had trickled through its joints
long ago, and on one side it had a projection whereon the torturer rested
his elbow comfortably and bent down his ear to catch the moanings of the
sufferer perishing within.

Of course we went to see the venerable relic of the ancient glory of
Venice, with its pavements worn and broken by the passing feet of a
thousand years of plebeians and patricians--The Cathedral of St. Mark.
It is built entirely of precious marbles, brought from the Orient
--nothing in its composition is domestic. Its hoary traditions make it an
object of absorbing interest to even the most careless stranger, and thus
far it had interest for me; but no further. I could not go into
ecstasies over its coarse mosaics, its unlovely Byzantine architecture,
or its five hundred curious interior columns from as many distant
quarries. Every thing was worn out--every block of stone was smooth and
almost shapeless with the polishing hands and shoulders of loungers who
devoutly idled here in by-gone centuries and have died and gone to the
dev--no, simply died, I mean.

Under the altar repose the ashes of St. Mark--and Matthew, Luke and John,
too, for all I know. Venice reveres those relics above all things
earthly. For fourteen hundred years St. Mark has been her patron saint.
Every thing about the city seems to be named after him or so named as to
refer to him in some way--so named, or some purchase rigged in some way
to scrape a sort of hurrahing acquaintance with him. That seems to be
the idea. To be on good terms with St. Mark, seems to be the very summit
of Venetian ambition. They say St. Mark had a tame lion, and used to
travel with him--and every where that St. Mark went, the lion was sure to
go. It was his protector, his friend, his librarian. And so the Winged
Lion of St. Mark, with the open Bible under his paw, is a favorite emblem
in the grand old city. It casts its shadow from the most ancient pillar
in Venice, in the Grand Square of St. Mark, upon the throngs of free
citizens below, and has so done for many a long century. The winged lion
is found every where--and doubtless here, where the winged lion is, no
harm can come.

St. Mark died at Alexandria, in Egypt. He was martyred, I think.
However, that has nothing to do with my legend. About the founding of
the city of Venice--say four hundred and fifty years after Christ--(for
Venice is much younger than any other Italian city,) a priest dreamed
that an angel told him that until the remains of St. Mark were brought to
Venice, the city could never rise to high distinction among the nations;
that the body must be captured, brought to the city, and a magnificent
church built over it; and that if ever the Venetians allowed the Saint to
be removed from his new resting-place, in that day Venice would perish
from off the face of the earth. The priest proclaimed his dream, and
forthwith Venice set about procuring the corpse of St. Mark. One
expedition after another tried and failed, but the project was never
abandoned during four hundred years. At last it was secured by
stratagem, in the year eight hundred and something. The commander of a
Venetian expedition disguised himself, stole the bones, separated them,
and packed them in vessels filled with lard. The religion of Mahomet
causes its devotees to abhor anything that is in the nature of pork, and
so when the Christian was stopped by the officers at the gates of the
city, they only glanced once into his precious baskets, then turned up
their noses at the unholy lard, and let him go. The bones were buried in
the vaults of the grand cathedral, which had been waiting long years to
receive them, and thus the safety and the greatness of Venice were
secured. And to this day there be those in Venice who believe that if
those holy ashes were stolen away, the ancient city would vanish like a
dream, and its foundations be buried forever in the unremembering sea.

CHAPTER XXIII.

The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its gliding movement, as
a serpent. It is twenty or thirty feet long, and is narrow and deep,
like a canoe; its sharp bow and stern sweep upward from the water like
the horns of a crescent with the abruptness of the curve slightly
modified.

The bow is ornamented with a steel comb with a battle-ax attachment which
threatens to cut passing boats in two occasionally, but never does. The
gondola is painted black because in the zenith of Venetian magnificence
the gondolas became too gorgeous altogether, and the Senate decreed that
all such display must cease, and a solemn, unembellished black be
substituted. If the truth were known, it would doubtless appear that
rich plebeians grew too prominent in their affectation of patrician show
on the Grand Canal, and required a wholesome snubbing. Reverence for the
hallowed Past and its traditions keeps the dismal fashion in force now
that the compulsion exists no longer. So let it remain. It is the color
of mourning. Venice mourns. The stern of the boat is decked over and
the gondolier stands there. He uses a single oar--a long blade, of
course, for he stands nearly erect. A wooden peg, a foot and a half
high, with two slight crooks or curves in one side of it and one in the
other, projects above the starboard gunwale. Against that peg the
gondolier takes a purchase with his oar, changing it at intervals to the
other side of the peg or dropping it into another of the crooks, as the
steering of the craft may demand--and how in the world he can back and
fill, shoot straight ahead, or flirt suddenly around a corner, and make
the oar stay in those insignificant notches, is a problem to me and a
never diminishing matter of interest. I am afraid I study the
gondolier's marvelous skill more than I do the sculptured palaces we
glide among. He cuts a corner so closely, now and then, or misses
another gondola by such an imperceptible hair-breadth that I feel myself
"scrooching," as the children say, just as one does when a buggy wheel
grazes his elbow. But he makes all his calculations with the nicest
precision, and goes darting in and out among a Broadway confusion of busy
craft with the easy confidence of the educated hackman. He never makes a
mistake.

Sometimes we go flying down the great canals at such a gait that we can
get only the merest glimpses into front doors, and again, in obscure
alleys in the suburbs, we put on a solemnity suited to the silence, the
mildew, the stagnant waters, the clinging weeds, the deserted houses and
the general lifelessness of the place, and move to the spirit of grave
meditation.

The gondolier is a picturesque rascal for all he wears no satin harness,
no plumed bonnet, no silken tights. His attitude is stately; he is lithe
and supple; all his movements are full of grace. When his long canoe,
and his fine figure, towering from its high perch on the stern, are cut
against the evening sky, they make a picture that is very novel and
striking to a foreign eye.

We sit in the cushioned carriage-body of a cabin, with the curtains
drawn, and smoke, or read, or look out upon the passing boats, the
houses, the bridges, the people, and enjoy ourselves much more than we
could in a buggy jolting over our cobble-stone pavements at home. This
is the gentlest, pleasantest locomotion we have ever known.

But it seems queer--ever so queer--to see a boat doing duty as a private
carriage. We see business men come to the front door, step into a
gondola, instead of a street car, and go off down town to the
counting-room.

We see visiting young ladies stand on the stoop, and laugh, and kiss
good-bye, and flirt their fans and say "Come soon--now do--you've been
just as mean as ever you can be--mother's dying to see you--and we've
moved into the new house, O such a love of a place!--so convenient to the
post office and the church, and the Young Men's Christian Association;
and we do have such fishing, and such carrying on, and such
swimming-matches in the back yard--Oh, you must come--no distance at all,
and if you go down through by St. Mark's and the Bridge of Sighs, and cut
through the alley and come up by the church of Santa Maria dei Frari, and
into the Grand Canal, there isn't a bit of current--now do come, Sally
Maria--by-bye!" and then the little humbug trips down the steps, jumps
into the gondola, says, under her breath, "Disagreeable old thing, I hope
she won't!" goes skimming away, round the corner; and the other girl
slams the street door and says, "Well, that infliction's over, any way,
--but I suppose I've got to go and see her--tiresome stuck-up thing!"
Human nature appears to be just the same, all over the world. We see the
diffident young man, mild of moustache, affluent of hair, indigent of
brain, elegant of costume, drive up to her father's mansion, tell his
hackman to bail out and wait, start fearfully up the steps and meet "the
old gentleman" right on the threshold!--hear him ask what street the new
British Bank is in--as if that were what he came for--and then bounce
into his boat and skurry away with his coward heart in his boots!--see
him come sneaking around the corner again, directly, with a crack of the
curtain open toward the old gentleman's disappearing gondola, and out
scampers his Susan with a flock of little Italian endearments fluttering
from her lips, and goes to drive with him in the watery avenues down
toward the Rialto.

We see the ladies go out shopping, in the most natural way, and flit from
street to street and from store to store, just in the good old fashion,
except that they leave the gondola, instead of a private carriage,
waiting at the curbstone a couple of hours for them,--waiting while they
make the nice young clerks pull down tons and tons of silks and velvets
and moire antiques and those things; and then they buy a paper of pins
and go paddling away to confer the rest of their disastrous patronage on
some other firm. And they always have their purchases sent home just in
the good old way. Human nature is very much the same all over the world;
and it is so like my dear native home to see a Venetian lady go into a
store and buy ten cents' worth of blue ribbon and have it sent home in a
scow. Ah, it is these little touches of nature that move one to tears in
these far-off foreign lands.

We see little girls and boys go out in gondolas with their nurses, for an
airing. We see staid families, with prayer-book and beads, enter the
gondola dressed in their Sunday best, and float away to church. And at
midnight we see the theatre break up and discharge its swarm of hilarious
youth and beauty; we hear the cries of the hackman-gondoliers, and behold
the struggling crowd jump aboard, and the black multitude of boats go
skimming down the moonlit avenues; we see them separate here and there,
and disappear up divergent streets; we hear the faint sounds of laughter
and of shouted farewells floating up out of the distance; and then, the
strange pageant being gone, we have lonely stretches of glittering water
--of stately buildings--of blotting shadows--of weird stone faces
creeping into the moonlight--of deserted bridges--of motionless boats at
anchor. And over all broods that mysterious stillness, that stealthy
quiet, that befits so well this old dreaming Venice.

We have been pretty much every where in our gondola. We have bought
beads and photographs in the stores, and wax matches in the Great Square
of St. Mark. The last remark suggests a digression. Every body goes to
this vast square in the evening. The military bands play in the centre
of it and countless couples of ladies and gentlemen promenade up and down
on either side, and platoons of them are constantly drifting away toward
the old Cathedral, and by the venerable column with the Winged Lion of
St. Mark on its top, and out to where the boats lie moored; and other
platoons are as constantly arriving from the gondolas and joining the
great throng. Between the promenaders and the side-walks are seated
hundreds and hundreds of people at small tables, smoking and taking
granita, (a first cousin to ice-cream;) on the side-walks are more
employing themselves in the same way. The shops in the first floor of
the tall rows of buildings that wall in three sides of the square are
brilliantly lighted, the air is filled with music and merry voices, and
altogether the scene is as bright and spirited and full of cheerfulness
as any man could desire. We enjoy it thoroughly. Very many of the young
women are exceedingly pretty and dress with rare good taste. We are
gradually and laboriously learning the ill-manners of staring them
unflinchingly in the face--not because such conduct is agreeable to us,
but because it is the custom of the country and they say the girls like
it. We wish to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the
different countries, so that we can "show off" and astonish people when
we get home. We wish to excite the envy of our untraveled friends with
our strange foreign fashions which we can't shake off. All our
passengers are paying strict attention to this thing, with the end in
view which I have mentioned. The gentle reader will never, never know
what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now,
of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad,
and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise,
I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and
call him brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own
heart when I shall have finished my travels.

On this subject let me remark that there are Americans abroad in Italy
who have actually forgotten their mother tongue in three months--forgot
it in France. They can not even write their address in English in a
hotel register. I append these evidences, which I copied verbatim from
the register of a hotel in a certain Italian city:

"John P. Whitcomb, Etats Unis. "Wm. L. Ainsworth, travailleur (he
meant traveler, I suppose,) Etats Unis. "George P. Morton et fils,
d'Amerique. "Lloyd B. Williams, et trois amis, ville de Boston,
Amerique. "J. Ellsworth Baker, tout de suite de France, place de
naissance Amerique, destination la Grand Bretagne."

I love this sort of people. A lady passenger of ours tells of a
fellow-citizen of hers who spent eight weeks in Paris and then returned
home and addressed his dearest old bosom friend Herbert as Mr.
"Er-bare!" He apologized, though, and said, "'Pon my soul it is
aggravating, but I cahn't help it--I have got so used to speaking
nothing but French, my dear Erbare--damme there it goes again!--got so
used to French pronunciation that I cahn't get rid of it--it is
positively annoying, I assure you." This entertaining idiot, whose name
was Gordon, allowed himself to be hailed three times in the street
before he paid any attention, and then begged a thousand pardons and
said he had grown so accustomed to hearing himself addressed as "M'sieu
Gor-r-dong," with a roll to the r, that he had forgotten the legitimate
sound of his name! He wore a rose in his button-hole; he gave the French
salutation--two flips of the hand in front of the face; he called Paris
Pairree in ordinary English conversation; he carried envelopes bearing
foreign postmarks protruding from his breast-pocket; he cultivated a
moustache and imperial, and did what else he could to suggest to the
beholder his pet fancy that he resembled Louis Napoleon--and in a spirit
of thankfulness which is entirely unaccountable, considering the slim
foundation there was for it, he praised his Maker that he was as he was,
and went on enjoying his little life just the same as if he really had
been deliberately designed and erected by the great Architect of the
Universe.

Think of our Whitcombs, and our Ainsworths and our Williamses writing
themselves down in dilapidated French in foreign hotel registers! We
laugh at Englishmen, when we are at home, for sticking so sturdily to
their national ways and customs, but we look back upon it from abroad
very forgivingly. It is not pleasant to see an American thrusting his
nationality forward obtrusively in a foreign land, but Oh, it is pitiable
to see him making of himself a thing that is neither male nor female,
neither fish, flesh, nor fowl--a poor, miserable, hermaphrodite
Frenchman!

Among a long list of churches, art galleries, and such things, visited by
us in Venice, I shall mention only one--the church of Santa Maria dei
Frari. It is about five hundred years old, I believe, and stands on
twelve hundred thousand piles. In it lie the body of Canova and the
heart of Titian, under magnificent monuments. Titian died at the age of
almost one hundred years. A plague which swept away fifty thousand lives
was raging at the time, and there is notable evidence of the reverence in
which the great painter was held, in the fact that to him alone the state
permitted a public funeral in all that season of terror and death.

In this church, also, is a monument to the doge Foscari, whose name a
once resident of Venice, Lord Byron, has made permanently famous.

The monument to the doge Giovanni Pesaro, in this church, is a curiosity
in the way of mortuary adornment. It is eighty feet high and is fronted
like some fantastic pagan temple. Against it stand four colossal
Nubians, as black as night, dressed in white marble garments. The black
legs are bare, and through rents in sleeves and breeches, the skin, of
shiny black marble, shows. The artist was as ingenious as his funeral
designs were absurd. There are two bronze skeletons bearing scrolls, and
two great dragons uphold the sarcophagus. On high, amid all this
grotesqueness, sits the departed doge.

In the conventual buildings attached to this church are the state
archives of Venice. We did not see them, but they are said to number
millions of documents. "They are the records of centuries of the most
watchful, observant and suspicious government that ever existed--in which
every thing was written down and nothing spoken out." They fill nearly
three hundred rooms. Among them are manuscripts from the archives of
nearly two thousand families, monasteries and convents. The secret
history of Venice for a thousand years is here--its plots, its hidden
trials, its assassinations, its commissions of hireling spies and masked
bravoes--food, ready to hand, for a world of dark and mysterious
romances.

Yes, I think we have seen all of Venice. We have seen, in these old
churches, a profusion of costly and elaborate sepulchre ornamentation
such as we never dreampt of before. We have stood in the dim religious
light of these hoary sanctuaries, in the midst of long ranks of dusty
monuments and effigies of the great dead of Venice, until we seemed
drifting back, back, back, into the solemn past, and looking upon the
scenes and mingling with the peoples of a remote antiquity. We have been
in a half-waking sort of dream all the time. I do not know how else to
describe the feeling. A part of our being has remained still in the
nineteenth century, while another part of it has seemed in some
unaccountable way walking among the phantoms of the tenth.

We have seen famous pictures until our eyes are weary with looking at
them and refuse to find interest in them any longer. And what wonder,
when there are twelve hundred pictures by Palma the Younger in Venice and
fifteen hundred by Tintoretto? And behold there are Titians and the
works of other artists in proportion. We have seen Titian's celebrated
Cain and Abel, his David and Goliah, his Abraham's Sacrifice. We have
seen Tintoretto's monster picture, which is seventy-four feet long and I
do not know how many feet high, and thought it a very commodious picture.
We have seen pictures of martyrs enough, and saints enough, to regenerate
the world. I ought not to confess it, but still, since one has no
opportunity in America to acquire a critical judgment in art, and since I
could not hope to become educated in it in Europe in a few short weeks, I
may therefore as well acknowledge with such apologies as may be due, that
to me it seemed that when I had seen one of these martyrs I had seen them
all. They all have a marked family resemblance to each other, they dress
alike, in coarse monkish robes and sandals, they are all bald headed,
they all stand in about the same attitude, and without exception they are
gazing heavenward with countenances which the Ainsworths, the Mortons and
the Williamses, et fils, inform me are full of "expression." To me there
is nothing tangible about these imaginary portraits, nothing that I can
grasp and take a living interest in. If great Titian had only been
gifted with prophecy, and had skipped a martyr, and gone over to England
and painted a portrait of Shakspeare, even as a youth, which we could all
have confidence in now, the world down to the latest generations would
have forgiven him the lost martyr in the rescued seer. I think posterity
could have spared one more martyr for the sake of a great historical
picture of Titian's time and painted by his brush--such as Columbus
returning in chains from the discovery of a world, for instance. The old
masters did paint some Venetian historical pictures, and these we did not
tire of looking at, notwithstanding representations of the formal
introduction of defunct doges to the Virgin Mary in regions beyond the
clouds clashed rather harshly with the proprieties, it seemed to us.

But humble as we are, and unpretending, in the matter of art, our
researches among the painted monks and martyrs have not been wholly in
vain. We have striven hard to learn. We have had some success. We have
mastered some things, possibly of trifling import in the eyes of the
learned, but to us they give pleasure, and we take as much pride in our
little acquirements as do others who have learned far more, and we love
to display them full as well. When we see a monk going about with a lion
and looking tranquilly up to heaven, we know that that is St. Mark. When
we see a monk with a book and a pen, looking tranquilly up to heaven,
trying to think of a word, we know that that is St. Matthew. When we see
a monk sitting on a rock, looking tranquilly up to heaven, with a human
skull beside him, and without other baggage, we know that that is St.
Jerome. Because we know that he always went flying light in the matter
of baggage. When we see a party looking tranquilly up to heaven,
unconscious that his body is shot through and through with arrows, we
know that that is St. Sebastian. When we see other monks looking
tranquilly up to heaven, but having no trade-mark, we always ask who
those parties are. We do this because we humbly wish to learn. We have
seen thirteen thousand St. Jeromes, and twenty-two thousand St. Marks,
and sixteen thousand St. Matthews, and sixty thousand St. Sebastians, and
four millions of assorted monks, undesignated, and we feel encouraged to
believe that when we have seen some more of these various pictures, and
had a larger experience, we shall begin to take an absorbing interest in
them like our cultivated countrymen from Amerique.

Now it does give me real pain to speak in this almost unappreciative way
of the old masters and their martyrs, because good friends of mine in the
ship--friends who do thoroughly and conscientiously appreciate them and
are in every way competent to discriminate between good pictures and
inferior ones--have urged me for my own sake not to make public the fact
that I lack this appreciation and this critical discrimination myself. I
believe that what I have written and may still write about pictures will
give them pain, and I am honestly sorry for it. I even promised that I
would hide my uncouth sentiments in my own breast. But alas! I never
could keep a promise. I do not blame myself for this weakness, because
the fault must lie in my physical organization. It is likely that such a
very liberal amount of space was given to the organ which enables me to
make promises, that the organ which should enable me to keep them was
crowded out. But I grieve not. I like no half-way things. I had rather
have one faculty nobly developed than two faculties of mere ordinary
capacity. I certainly meant to keep that promise, but I find I can not
do it. It is impossible to travel through Italy without speaking of
pictures, and can I see them through others' eyes?

If I did not so delight in the grand pictures that are spread before me
every day of my life by that monarch of all the old masters, Nature, I
should come to believe, sometimes, that I had in me no appreciation of
the beautiful, whatsoever.

It seems to me that whenever I glory to think that for once I have
discovered an ancient painting that is beautiful and worthy of all
praise, the pleasure it gives me is an infallible proof that it is not a
beautiful picture and not in any wise worthy of commendation. This very
thing has occurred more times than I can mention, in Venice. In every
single instance the guide has crushed out my swelling enthusiasm with the
remark:

"It is nothing--it is of the Renaissance."

I did not know what in the mischief the Renaissance was, and so always I
had to simply say,

"Ah! so it is--I had not observed it before."

I could not bear to be ignorant before a cultivated negro, the offspring
of a South Carolina slave. But it occurred too often for even my
self-complacency, did that exasperating "It is nothing--it is of the
Renaissance." I said at last:

"Who is this Renaissance? Where did he come from? Who gave him
permission to cram the Republic with his execrable daubs?"

We learned, then, that Renaissance was not a man; that renaissance was a
term used to signify what was at best but an imperfect rejuvenation of
art. The guide said that after Titian's time and the time of the other
great names we had grown so familiar with, high art declined; then it
partially rose again--an inferior sort of painters sprang up, and these
shabby pictures were the work of their hands. Then I said, in my heat,
that I "wished to goodness high art had declined five hundred years
sooner." The Renaissance pictures suit me very well, though sooth to say
its school were too much given to painting real men and did not indulge
enough in martyrs.

The guide I have spoken of is the only one we have had yet who knew any
thing. He was born in South Carolina, of slave parents. They came to
Venice while he was an infant. He has grown up here. He is well
educated. He reads, writes, and speaks English, Italian, Spanish, and
French, with perfect facility; is a worshipper of art and thoroughly
conversant with it; knows the history of Venice by heart and never tires
of talking of her illustrious career. He dresses better than any of us,
I think, and is daintily polite. Negroes are deemed as good as white
people, in Venice, and so this man feels no desire to go back to his
native land. His judgment is correct.

I have had another shave. I was writing in our front room this afternoon
and trying hard to keep my attention on my work and refrain from looking
out upon the canal. I was resisting the soft influences of the climate
as well as I could, and endeavoring to overcome the desire to be indolent
and happy. The boys sent for a barber. They asked me if I would be
shaved. I reminded them of my tortures in Genoa, Milan, Como; of my
declaration that I would suffer no more on Italian soil. I said "Not any
for me, if you please."

I wrote on. The barber began on the doctor. I heard him say:

"Dan, this is the easiest shave I have had since we left the ship."

He said again, presently:

"Why Dan, a man could go to sleep with this man shaving him."

Dan took the chair. Then he said:

"Why this is Titian. This is one of the old masters."

I wrote on. Directly Dan said:

"Doctor, it is perfect luxury. The ship's barber isn't any thing to
him."

My rough beard wee distressing me beyond measure. The barber was rolling
up his apparatus. The temptation was too strong. I said:

"Hold on, please. Shave me also."

I sat down in the chair and closed my eyes. The barber soaped my face,
and then took his razor and gave me a rake that well nigh threw me into
convulsions. I jumped out of the chair: Dan and the doctor were both
wiping blood off their faces and laughing.

I said it was a mean, disgraceful fraud.

They said that the misery of this shave had gone so far beyond any thing
they had ever experienced before, that they could not bear the idea of
losing such a chance of hearing a cordial opinion from me on the subject.

It was shameful. But there was no help for it. The skinning was begun
and had to be finished. The tears flowed with every rake, and so did the
fervent execrations. The barber grew confused, and brought blood every
time. I think the boys enjoyed it better than any thing they have seen
or heard since they left home.

We have seen the Campanile, and Byron's house and Balbi's the geographer,
and the palaces of all the ancient dukes and doges of Venice, and we have
seen their effeminate descendants airing their nobility in fashionable
French attire in the Grand Square of St. Mark, and eating ices and
drinking cheap wines, instead of wearing gallant coats of mail and
destroying fleets and armies as their great ancestors did in the days of
Venetian glory. We have seen no bravoes with poisoned stilettos, no
masks, no wild carnival; but we have seen the ancient pride of Venice,
the grim Bronze Horses that figure in a thousand legends. Venice may
well cherish them, for they are the only horses she ever had. It is said
there are hundreds of people in this curious city who never have seen a
living horse in their lives. It is entirely true, no doubt.

And so, having satisfied ourselves, we depart to-morrow, and leave the
venerable Queen of the Republics to summon her vanished ships, and
marshal her shadowy armies, and know again in dreams the pride of her old
renown.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Some of the Quaker City's passengers had arrived in Venice from
Switzerland and other lands before we left there, and others were
expected every day. We heard of no casualties among them, and no
sickness.

We were a little fatigued with sight seeing, and so we rattled through a
good deal of country by rail without caring to stop. I took few notes.
I find no mention of Bologna in my memorandum book, except that we
arrived there in good season, but saw none of the sausages for which the
place is so justly celebrated.

Pistoia awoke but a passing interest.

Florence pleased us for a while. I think we appreciated the great figure
of David in the grand square, and the sculptured group they call the Rape
of the Sabines. We wandered through the endless collections of paintings
and statues of the Pitti and Ufizzi galleries, of course. I make that
statement in self-defense; there let it stop. I could not rest under the
imputation that I visited Florence and did not traverse its weary miles
of picture galleries. We tried indolently to recollect something about
the Guelphs and Ghibelines and the other historical cut-throats whose
quarrels and assassinations make up so large a share of Florentine
history, but the subject was not attractive. We had been robbed of all
the fine mountain scenery on our little journey by a system of
railroading that had three miles of tunnel to a hundred yards of
daylight, and we were not inclined to be sociable with Florence. We had
seen the spot, outside the city somewhere, where these people had allowed
the bones of Galileo to rest in unconsecrated ground for an age because
his great discovery that the world turned around was regarded as a
damning heresy by the church; and we know that long after the world had
accepted his theory and raised his name high in the list of its great
men, they had still let him rot there. That we had lived to see his dust
in honored sepulture in the church of Santa Croce we owed to a society of
literati, and not to Florence or her rulers. We saw Dante's tomb in that
church, also, but we were glad to know that his body was not in it; that
the ungrateful city that had exiled him and persecuted him would give
much to have it there, but need not hope to ever secure that high honor
to herself. Medicis are good enough for Florence. Let her plant Medicis
and build grand monuments over them to testify how gratefully she was
wont to lick the hand that scourged her.

Magnanimous Florence! Her jewelry marts are filled with artists in
mosaic. Florentine mosaics are the choicest in all the world. Florence
loves to have that said. Florence is proud of it. Florence would foster
this specialty of hers. She is grateful to the artists that bring to her
this high credit and fill her coffers with foreign money, and so she
encourages them with pensions. With pensions! Think of the lavishness
of it. She knows that people who piece together the beautiful trifles
die early, because the labor is so confining, and so exhausting to hand
and brain, and so she has decreed that all these people who reach the age
of sixty shall have a pension after that! I have not heard that any of
them have called for their dividends yet. One man did fight along till
he was sixty, and started after his pension, but it appeared that there
had been a mistake of a year in his family record, and so he gave it up
and died.

These artists will take particles of stone or glass no larger than a
mustard seed, and piece them together on a sleeve button or a shirt stud,
so smoothly and with such nice adjustment of the delicate shades of color
the pieces bear, as to form a pigmy rose with stem, thorn, leaves, petals
complete, and all as softly and as truthfully tinted as though Nature had
builded it herself. They will counterfeit a fly, or a high-toned bug, or
the ruined Coliseum, within the cramped circle of a breastpin, and do it
so deftly and so neatly that any man might think a master painted it.

I saw a little table in the great mosaic school in Florence--a little
trifle of a centre table--whose top was made of some sort of precious
polished stone, and in the stone was inlaid the figure of a flute, with
bell-mouth and a mazy complication of keys. No painting in the world
could have been softer or richer; no shading out of one tint into another
could have been more perfect; no work of art of any kind could have been
more faultless than this flute, and yet to count the multitude of little
fragments of stone of which they swore it was formed would bankrupt any
man's arithmetic! I do not think one could have seen where two particles
joined each other with eyes of ordinary shrewdness. Certainly we could
detect no such blemish. This table-top cost the labor of one man for ten
long years, so they said, and it was for sale for thirty-five thousand
dollars.

We went to the Church of Santa Croce, from time to time, in Florence, to
weep over the tombs of Michael Angelo, Raphael and Machiavelli,
(I suppose they are buried there, but it may be that they reside
elsewhere and rent their tombs to other parties--such being the fashion
in Italy,) and between times we used to go and stand on the bridges and
admire the Arno. It is popular to admire the Arno. It is a great
historical creek with four feet in the channel and some scows floating
around. It would be a very plausible river if they would pump some water
into it. They all call it a river, and they honestly think it is a
river, do these dark and bloody Florentines. They even help out the
delusion by building bridges over it. I do not see why they are too good
to wade.

How the fatigues and annoyances of travel fill one with bitter prejudices
sometimes! I might enter Florence under happier auspices a month hence
and find it all beautiful, all attractive. But I do not care to think of
it now, at all, nor of its roomy shops filled to the ceiling with snowy
marble and alabaster copies of all the celebrated sculptures in Europe
--copies so enchanting to the eye that I wonder how they can really be
shaped like the dingy petrified nightmares they are the portraits of. I
got lost in Florence at nine o'clock, one night, and staid lost in that
labyrinth of narrow streets and long rows of vast buildings that look all
alike, until toward three o'clock in the morning. It was a pleasant
night and at first there were a good many people abroad, and there were
cheerful lights about. Later, I grew accustomed to prowling about
mysterious drifts and tunnels and astonishing and interesting myself with
coming around corners expecting to find the hotel staring me in the face,
and not finding it doing any thing of the kind. Later still, I felt
tired. I soon felt remarkably tired. But there was no one abroad, now
--not even a policeman. I walked till I was out of all patience, and very
hot and thirsty. At last, somewhere after one o'clock, I came
unexpectedly to one of the city gates. I knew then that I was very far
from the hotel. The soldiers thought I wanted to leave the city, and
they sprang up and barred the way with their muskets. I said:

"Hotel d'Europe!"

It was all the Italian I knew, and I was not certain whether that was
Italian or French. The soldiers looked stupidly at each other and at me,
and shook their heads and took me into custody. I said I wanted to go
home. They did not understand me. They took me into the guard-house and
searched me, but they found no sedition on me. They found a small piece
of soap (we carry soap with us, now,) and I made them a present of it,
seeing that they regarded it as a curiosity. I continued to say Hotel
d'Europe, and they continued to shake their heads, until at last a young
soldier nodding in the corner roused up and said something. He said he
knew where the hotel was, I suppose, for the officer of the guard sent
him away with me. We walked a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles, it
appeared to me, and then he got lost. He turned this way and that, and
finally gave it up and signified that he was going to spend the remainder
of the morning trying to find the city gate again. At that moment it
struck me that there was something familiar about the house over the way.
It was the hotel!

It was a happy thing for me that there happened to be a soldier there
that knew even as much as he did; for they say that the policy of the
government is to change the soldiery from one place to another constantly
and from country to city, so that they can not become acquainted with the
people and grow lax in their duties and enter into plots and conspiracies
with friends. My experiences of Florence were chiefly unpleasant. I
will change the subject.

At Pisa we climbed up to the top of the strangest structure the world has
any knowledge of--the Leaning Tower. As every one knows, it is in the
neighborhood of one hundred and eighty feet high--and I beg to observe
that one hundred and eighty feet reach to about the hight of four
ordinary three-story buildings piled one on top of the other, and is a
very considerable altitude for a tower of uniform thickness to aspire to,
even when it stands upright--yet this one leans more than thirteen feet
out of the perpendicular. It is seven hundred years old, but neither
history or tradition say whether it was built as it is, purposely, or
whether one of its sides has settled. There is no record that it ever
stood straight up. It is built of marble. It is an airy and a beautiful
structure, and each of its eight stories is encircled by fluted columns,
some of marble and some of granite, with Corinthian capitals that were
handsome when they were new. It is a bell tower, and in its top hangs a
chime of ancient bells. The winding staircase within is dark, but one
always knows which side of the tower he is on because of his naturally
gravitating from one side to the other of the staircase with the rise or
dip of the tower. Some of the stone steps are foot-worn only on one end;
others only on the other end; others only in the middle. To look down
into the tower from the top is like looking down into a tilted well. A
rope that hangs from the centre of the top touches the wall before it
reaches the bottom. Standing on the summit, one does not feel altogether
comfortable when he looks down from the high side; but to crawl on your
breast to the verge on the lower side and try to stretch your neck out
far enough to see the base of the tower, makes your flesh creep, and
convinces you for a single moment in spite of all your philosophy, that
the building is falling. You handle yourself very carefully, all the
time, under the silly impression that if it is not falling, your trifling
weight will start it unless you are particular not to "bear down" on it.

The Duomo, close at hand, is one of the finest cathedrals in Europe. It
is eight hundred years old. Its grandeur has outlived the high
commercial prosperity and the political importance that made it a
necessity, or rather a possibility. Surrounded by poverty, decay and
ruin, it conveys to us a more tangible impression of the former greatness
of Pisa than books could give us.

The Baptistery, which is a few years older than the Leaning Tower, is a
stately rotunda, of huge dimensions, and was a costly structure. In it
hangs the lamp whose measured swing suggested to Galileo the pendulum.
It looked an insignificant thing to have conferred upon the world of
science and mechanics such a mighty extension of their dominions as it
has. Pondering, in its suggestive presence, I seemed to see a crazy
universe of swinging disks, the toiling children of this sedate parent.
He appeared to have an intelligent expression about him of knowing that
he was not a lamp at all; that he was a Pendulum; a pendulum disguised,
for prodigious and inscrutable purposes of his own deep devising, and not
a common pendulum either, but the old original patriarchal Pendulum--the
Abraham Pendulum of the world.

This Baptistery is endowed with the most pleasing echo of all the echoes
we have read of. The guide sounded two sonorous notes, about half an
octave apart; the echo answered with the most enchanting, the most
melodious, the richest blending of sweet sounds that one can imagine. It
was like a long-drawn chord of a church organ, infinitely softened by
distance. I may be extravagant in this matter, but if this be the case
my ear is to blame--not my pen. I am describing a memory--and one that
will remain long with me.

The peculiar devotional spirit of the olden time, which placed a higher
confidence in outward forms of worship than in the watchful guarding of
the heart against sinful thoughts and the hands against sinful deeds, and
which believed in the protecting virtues of inanimate objects made holy
by contact with holy things, is illustrated in a striking manner in one
of the cemeteries of Pisa. The tombs are set in soil brought in ships
from the Holy Land ages ago. To be buried in such ground was regarded by
the ancient Pisans as being more potent for salvation than many masses
purchased of the church and the vowing of many candles to the Virgin.

Pisa is believed to be about three thousand years old. It was one of the
twelve great cities of ancient Etruria, that commonwealth which has left
so many monuments in testimony of its extraordinary advancement, and so
little history of itself that is tangible and comprehensible. A Pisan
antiquarian gave me an ancient tear-jug which he averred was full four
thousand years old. It was found among the ruins of one of the oldest of
the Etruscan cities. He said it came from a tomb, and was used by some
bereaved family in that remote age when even the Pyramids of Egypt were
young, Damascus a village, Abraham a prattling infant and ancient Troy
not yet [dreampt] of, to receive the tears wept for some lost idol of a
household. It spoke to us in a language of its own; and with a pathos
more tender than any words might bring, its mute eloquence swept down the
long roll of the centuries with its tale of a vacant chair, a familiar
footstep missed from the threshold, a pleasant voice gone from the
chorus, a vanished form!--a tale which is always so new to us, so
startling, so terrible, so benumbing to the senses, and behold how
threadbare and old it is! No shrewdly-worded history could have brought
the myths and shadows of that old dreamy age before us clothed with human
flesh and warmed with human sympathies so vividly as did this poor little
unsentient vessel of pottery.

Pisa was a republic in the middle ages, with a government of her own,
armies and navies of her own and a great commerce. She was a warlike
power, and inscribed upon her banners many a brilliant fight with Genoese
and Turks. It is said that the city once numbered a population of four
hundred thousand; but her sceptre has passed from her grasp, now, her
ships and her armies are gone, her commerce is dead. Her battle-flags
bear the mold and the dust of centuries, her marts are deserted, she has
shrunken far within her crumbling walls, and her great population has
diminished to twenty thousand souls. She has but one thing left to boast
of, and that is not much, viz: she is the second city of Tuscany.

We reached Leghorn in time to see all we wished to see of it long before
the city gates were closed for the evening, and then came on board the
ship.

We felt as though we had been away from home an age. We never entirely
appreciated, before, what a very pleasant den our state-room is; nor how
jolly it is to sit at dinner in one's own seat in one's own cabin, and
hold familiar conversation with friends in one's own language. Oh, the
rare happiness of comprehending every single word that is said, and
knowing that every word one says in return will be understood as well!
We would talk ourselves to death, now, only there are only about ten
passengers out of the sixty-five to talk to. The others are wandering,
we hardly know where. We shall not go ashore in Leghorn. We are
surfeited with Italian cities for the present, and much prefer to walk
the familiar quarterdeck and view this one from a distance.

The stupid magnates of this Leghorn government can not understand that so
large a steamer as ours could cross the broad Atlantic with no other
purpose than to indulge a party of ladies and gentlemen in a pleasure
excursion. It looks too improbable. It is suspicious, they think.
Something more important must be hidden behind it all. They can not
understand it, and they scorn the evidence of the ship's papers. They
have decided at last that we are a battalion of incendiary, blood-thirsty
Garibaldians in disguise! And in all seriousness they have set a
gun-boat to watch the vessel night and day, with orders to close down on
any revolutionary movement in a twinkling! Police boats are on patrol
duty about us all the time, and it is as much as a sailor's liberty is
worth to show himself in a red shirt. These policemen follow the
executive officer's boat from shore to ship and from ship to shore and
watch his dark maneuvres with a vigilant eye. They will arrest him yet
unless he assumes an expression of countenance that shall have less of
carnage, insurrection and sedition in it. A visit paid in a friendly
way to General Garibaldi yesterday (by cordial invitation,) by some of
our passengers, has gone far to confirm the dread suspicions the
government harbors toward us. It is thought the friendly visit was only
the cloak of a bloody conspiracy. These people draw near and watch us
when we bathe in the sea from the ship's side. Do they think we are
communing with a reserve force of rascals at the bottom?

It is said that we shall probably be quarantined at Naples. Two or three
of us prefer not to run this risk. Therefore, when we are rested, we
propose to go in a French steamer to Civita and from thence to Rome, and
by rail to Naples. They do not quarantine the cars, no matter where they
got their passengers from.

CHAPTER XXV.

There are a good many things about this Italy which I do not understand
--and more especially I can not understand how a bankrupt Government can
have such palatial railroad depots and such marvels of turnpikes. Why,
these latter are as hard as adamant, as straight as a line, as smooth as
a floor, and as white as snow. When it is too dark to see any other
object, one can still see the white turnpikes of France and Italy; and
they are clean enough to eat from, without a table-cloth. And yet no
tolls are charged.

As for the railways--we have none like them. The cars slide as smoothly
along as if they were on runners. The depots are vast palaces of cut
marble, with stately colonnades of the same royal stone traversing them
from end to end, and with ample walls and ceilings richly decorated with
frescoes. The lofty gateways are graced with statues, and the broad
floors are all laid in polished flags of marble.

These things win me more than Italy's hundred galleries of priceless art
treasures, because I can understand the one and am not competent to
appreciate the other. In the turnpikes, the railways, the depots, and
the new boulevards of uniform houses in Florence and other cities here, I
see the genius of Louis Napoleon, or rather, I see the works of that
statesman imitated. But Louis has taken care that in France there shall
be a foundation for these improvements--money. He has always the
wherewithal to back up his projects; they strengthen France and never
weaken her. Her material prosperity is genuine. But here the case is
different. This country is bankrupt. There is no real foundation for
these great works. The prosperity they would seem to indicate is a
pretence. There is no money in the treasury, and so they enfeeble her
instead of strengthening. Italy has achieved the dearest wish of her
heart and become an independent State--and in so doing she has drawn an
elephant in the political lottery. She has nothing to feed it on.
Inexperienced in government, she plunged into all manner of useless
expenditure, and swamped her treasury almost in a day. She squandered
millions of francs on a navy which she did not need, and the first time
she took her new toy into action she got it knocked higher than
Gilderoy's kite--to use the language of the Pilgrims.

But it is an ill-wind that blows nobody good. A year ago, when Italy saw
utter ruin staring her in the face and her greenbacks hardly worth the
paper they were printed on, her Parliament ventured upon a 'coup de main'
that would have appalled the stoutest of her statesmen under less
desperate circumstances. They, in a manner, confiscated the domains of
the Church! This in priest-ridden Italy! This in a land which has
groped in the midnight of priestly superstition for sixteen hundred
years! It was a rare good fortune for Italy, the stress of weather that
drove her to break from this prison-house.

They do not call it confiscating the church property. That would sound
too harshly yet. But it amounts to that. There are thousands of
churches in Italy, each with untold millions of treasures stored away in
its closets, and each with its battalion of priests to be supported.
And then there are the estates of the Church--league on league of the
richest lands and the noblest forests in all Italy--all yielding immense
revenues to the Church, and none paying a cent in taxes to the State.
In some great districts the Church owns all the property--lands,
watercourses, woods, mills and factories. They buy, they sell, they
manufacture, and since they pay no taxes, who can hope to compete with
them?

Well, the Government has seized all this in effect, and will yet seize it
in rigid and unpoetical reality, no doubt. Something must be done to
feed a starving treasury, and there is no other resource in all Italy
--none but the riches of the Church. So the Government intends to take to
itself a great portion of the revenues arising from priestly farms,
factories, etc., and also intends to take possession of the churches and
carry them on, after its own fashion and upon its own responsibility.
In a few instances it will leave the establishments of great pet churches
undisturbed, but in all others only a handful of priests will be retained
to preach and pray, a few will be pensioned, and the balance turned
adrift.

Pray glance at some of these churches and their embellishments, and see
whether the Government is doing a righteous thing or not. In Venice,
today, a city of a hundred thousand inhabitants, there are twelve hundred
priests. Heaven only knows how many there were before the Parliament
reduced their numbers. There was the great Jesuit Church. Under the old
regime it required sixty priests to engineer it--the Government does it
with five, now, and the others are discharged from service. All about
that church wretchedness and poverty abound. At its door a dozen hats
and bonnets were doffed to us, as many heads were humbly bowed, and as
many hands extended, appealing for pennies--appealing with foreign words
we could not understand, but appealing mutely, with sad eyes, and sunken
cheeks, and ragged raiment, that no words were needed to translate. Then
we passed within the great doors, and it seemed that the riches of the
world were before us! Huge columns carved out of single masses of
marble, and inlaid from top to bottom with a hundred intricate figures
wrought in costly verde antique; pulpits of the same rich materials,
whose draperies hung down in many a pictured fold, the stony fabric
counterfeiting the delicate work of the loom; the grand altar brilliant
with polished facings and balustrades of oriental agate, jasper, verde
antique, and other precious stones, whose names, even, we seldom hear
--and slabs of priceless lapis lazuli lavished every where as recklessly as
if the church had owned a quarry of it. In the midst of all this
magnificence, the solid gold and silver furniture of the altar seemed
cheap and trivial. Even the floors and ceilings cost a princely fortune.

Now, where is the use of allowing all those riches to lie idle, while
half of that community hardly know, from day to day, how they are going
to keep body and soul together? And, where is the wisdom in permitting
hundreds upon hundreds of millions of francs to be locked up in the
useless trumpery of churches all over Italy, and the people ground to
death with taxation to uphold a perishing Government?

As far as I can see, Italy, for fifteen hundred years, has turned all her
energies, all her finances, and all her industry to the building up of a
vast array of wonderful church edifices, and starving half her citizens
to accomplish it. She is to-day one vast museum of magnificence and
misery. All the churches in an ordinary American city put together could
hardly buy the jeweled frippery in one of her hundred cathedrals. And
for every beggar in America, Italy can show a hundred--and rags and
vermin to match. It is the wretchedest, princeliest land on earth.

Look at the grand Duomo of Florence--a vast pile that has been sapping
the purses of her citizens for five hundred years, and is not nearly
finished yet. Like all other men, I fell down and worshipped it, but
when the filthy beggars swarmed around me the contrast was too striking,
too suggestive, and I said, "O, sons of classic Italy, is the spirit of
enterprise, of self-reliance, of noble endeavor, utterly dead within ye?
Curse your indolent worthlessness, why don't you rob your church?"

Three hundred happy, comfortable priests are employed in that Cathedral.

And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I
can think of. They have a grand mausoleum in Florence, which they built
to bury our Lord and Saviour and the Medici family in. It sounds
blasphemous, but it is true, and here they act blasphemy. The dead and
damned Medicis who cruelly tyrannized over Florence and were her curse
for over two hundred years, are salted away in a circle of costly vaults,
and in their midst the Holy Sepulchre was to have been set up. The
expedition sent to Jerusalem to seize it got into trouble and could not
accomplish the burglary, and so the centre of the mausoleum is vacant
now. They say the entire mausoleum was intended for the Holy Sepulchre,
and was only turned into a family burying place after the Jerusalem
expedition failed--but you will excuse me. Some of those Medicis would
have smuggled themselves in sure.--What they had not the effrontery to
do, was not worth doing. Why, they had their trivial, forgotten exploits
on land and sea pictured out in grand frescoes (as did also the ancient
Doges of Venice) with the Saviour and the Virgin throwing bouquets to
them out of the clouds, and the Deity himself applauding from his throne
in Heaven! And who painted these things? Why, Titian, Tintoretto, Paul
Veronese, Raphael--none other than the world's idols, the "old masters."

Andrea del Sarto glorified his princes in pictures that must save them
for ever from the oblivion they merited, and they let him starve. Served
him right. Raphael pictured such infernal villains as Catherine and
Marie de Medicis seated in heaven and conversing familiarly with the
Virgin Mary and the angels, (to say nothing of higher personages,) and
yet my friends abuse me because I am a little prejudiced against the old
masters--because I fail sometimes to see the beauty that is in their
productions. I can not help but see it, now and then, but I keep on
protesting against the groveling spirit that could persuade those masters
to prostitute their noble talents to the adulation of such monsters as
the French, Venetian and Florentine Princes of two and three hundred
years ago, all the same.

I am told that the old masters had to do these shameful things for bread,
the princes and potentates being the only patrons of art. If a grandly
gifted man may drag his pride and his manhood in the dirt for bread
rather than starve with the nobility that is in him untainted, the excuse
is a valid one. It would excuse theft in Washingtons and Wellingtons,
and unchastity in women as well.

But somehow, I can not keep that Medici mausoleum out of my memory. It
is as large as a church; its pavement is rich enough for the pavement of
a King's palace; its great dome is gorgeous with frescoes; its walls are
made of--what? Marble?--plaster?--wood?--paper? No. Red porphyry
--verde antique--jasper--oriental agate--alabaster--mother-of-pearl
--chalcedony--red coral--lapis lazuli! All the vast walls are made wholly
of these precious stones, worked in, and in and in together in elaborate
pattern s and figures, and polished till they glow like great mirrors
with the pictured splendors reflected from the dome overhead. And before
a statue of one of those dead Medicis reposes a crown that blazes with
diamonds and emeralds enough to buy a ship-of-the-line, almost. These
are the things the Government has its evil eye upon, and a happy thing it
will be for Italy when they melt away in the public treasury.

And now----. However, another beggar approaches. I will go out and
destroy him, and then come back and write another chapter of
vituperation.

Having eaten the friendless orphan--having driven away his comrades
--having grown calm and reflective at length--I now feel in a kindlier
mood. I feel that after talking so freely about the priests and the
churches, justice demands that if I know any thing good about either I
ought to say it. I have heard of many things that redound to the credit
of the priesthood, but the most notable matter that occurs to me now is
the devotion one of the mendicant orders showed during the prevalence of
the cholera last year. I speak of the Dominican friars--men who wear a
coarse, heavy brown robe and a cowl, in this hot climate, and go
barefoot. They live on alms altogether, I believe. They must
unquestionably love their religion, to suffer so much for it. When the
cholera was raging in Naples; when the people were dying by hundreds and
hundreds every day; when every concern for the public welfare was
swallowed up in selfish private interest, and every citizen made the
taking care of himself his sole object, these men banded themselves
together and went about nursing the sick and burying the dead. Their
noble efforts cost many of them their lives. They laid them down
cheerfully, and well they might. Creeds mathematically precise, and
hair-splitting niceties of doctrine, are absolutely necessary for the
salvation of some kinds of souls, but surely the charity, the purity, the
unselfishness that are in the hearts of men like these would save their
souls though they were bankrupt in the true religion--which is ours.

One of these fat bare-footed rascals came here to Civita Vecchia with us
in the little French steamer. There were only half a dozen of us in the
cabin. He belonged in the steerage. He was the life of the ship, the
bloody-minded son of the Inquisition! He and the leader of the marine
band of a French man-of-war played on the piano and sang opera turn
about; they sang duets together; they rigged impromptu theatrical
costumes and gave us extravagant farces and pantomimes. We got along
first-rate with the friar, and were excessively conversational, albeit he
could not understand what we said, and certainly he never uttered a word
that we could guess the meaning of.

This Civita Vecchia is the finest nest of dirt, vermin and ignorance we
have found yet, except that African perdition they call Tangier, which is
just like it. The people here live in alleys two yards wide, which have
a smell about them which is peculiar but not entertaining. It is well
the alleys are not wider, because they hold as much smell now as a person
can stand, and of course, if they were wider they would hold more, and
then the people would die. These alleys are paved with stone, and
carpeted with deceased cats, and decayed rags, and decomposed
vegetable-tops, and remnants of old boots, all soaked with dish-water,
and the people sit around on stools and enjoy it. They are indolent, as
a general thing, and yet have few pastimes. They work two or three
hours at a time, but not hard, and then they knock off and catch flies.
This does not require any talent, because they only have to grab--if
they do not get the one they are after, they get another. It is all the
same to them. They have no partialities. Whichever one they get is the
one they want.

They have other kinds of insects, but it does not make them arrogant.
They are very quiet, unpretending people. They have more of these kind
of things than other communities, but they do not boast.

They are very uncleanly--these people--in face, in person and dress.
When they see any body with a clean shirt on, it arouses their scorn.
The women wash clothes, half the day, at the public tanks in the streets,
but they are probably somebody else's. Or may be they keep one set to
wear and another to wash; because they never put on any that have ever
been washed. When they get done washing, they sit in the alleys and
nurse their cubs. They nurse one ash-cat at a time, and the others
scratch their backs against the door-post and are happy.

All this country belongs to the Papal States. They do not appear to have
any schools here, and only one billiard table. Their education is at a
very low stage. One portion of the men go into the military, another
into the priesthood, and the rest into the shoe-making business.

They keep up the passport system here, but so they do in Turkey. This
shows that the Papal States are as far advanced as Turkey. This fact
will be alone sufficient to silence the tongues of malignant
calumniators. I had to get my passport vised for Rome in Florence, and
then they would not let me come ashore here until a policeman had
examined it on the wharf and sent me a permit. They did not even dare to
let me take my passport in my hands for twelve hours, I looked so
formidable. They judged it best to let me cool down. They thought I
wanted to take the town, likely. Little did they know me. I wouldn't
have it. They examined my baggage at the depot. They took one of my
ablest jokes and read it over carefully twice and then read it backwards.
But it was too deep for them. They passed it around, and every body
speculated on it awhile, but it mastered them all.

It was no common joke. At length a veteran officer spelled it over
deliberately and shook his head three or four times and said that in his
opinion it was seditious. That was the first time I felt alarmed. I
immediately said I would explain the document, and they crowded around.
And so I explained and explained and explained, and they took notes of
all I said, but the more I explained the more they could not understand
it, and when they desisted at last, I could not even understand it
myself. They said they believed it was an incendiary document, leveled
at the government. I declared solemnly that it was not, but they only
shook their heads and would not be satisfied. Then they consulted a good
while; and finally they confiscated it. I was very sorry for this,
because I had worked a long time on that joke, and took a good deal of
pride in it, and now I suppose I shall never see it any more. I suppose
it will be sent up and filed away among the criminal archives of Rome,
and will always be regarded as a mysterious infernal machine which would
have blown up like a mine and scattered the good Pope all around, but for
a miraculous providential interference. And I suppose that all the time
I am in Rome the police will dog me about from place to place because
they think I am a dangerous character.

It is fearfully hot in Civita Vecchia. The streets are made very narrow
and the houses built very solid and heavy and high, as a protection
against the heat. This is the first Italian town I have seen which does
not appear to have a patron saint. I suppose no saint but the one that
went up in the chariot of fire could stand the climate.

There is nothing here to see. They have not even a cathedral, with
eleven tons of solid silver archbishops in the back room; and they do not
show you any moldy buildings that are seven thousand years old; nor any
smoke-dried old fire-screens which are chef d'oeuvres of Reubens or
Simpson, or Titian or Ferguson, or any of those parties; and they haven't
any bottled fragments of saints, and not even a nail from the true cross.
We are going to Rome. There is nothing to see here.

CHAPTER XXVI.

What is it that confers the noblest delight? What is that which swells a
man's breast with pride above that which any other experience can bring
to him? Discovery! To know that you are walking where none others have
walked; that you are beholding what human eye has not seen before; that
you are breathing a virgin atmosphere. To give birth to an idea--to
discover a great thought--an intellectual nugget, right under the dust of
a field that many a brain--plow had gone over before. To find a new
planet, to invent a new hinge, to find the way to make the lightnings
carry your messages. To be the first--that is the idea. To do
something, say something, see something, before any body else--these are
the things that confer a pleasure compared with which other pleasures are
tame and commonplace, other ecstasies cheap and trivial. Morse, with his
first message, brought by his servant, the lightning; Fulton, in that
long-drawn century of suspense, when he placed his hand upon the
throttle-valve and lo, the steamboat moved; Jenner, when his patient with
the cow's virus in his blood, walked through the smallpox hospitals
unscathed; Howe, when the idea shot through his brain that for a hundred
and twenty generations the eye had been bored through the wrong end of
the needle; the nameless lord of art who laid down his chisel in some old
age that is forgotten, now, and gloated upon the finished Laocoon;
Daguerre, when he commanded the sun, riding in the zenith, to print the
landscape upon his insignificant silvered plate, and he obeyed; Columbus,
in the Pinta's shrouds, when he swung his hat above a fabled sea and
gazed abroad upon an unknown world! These are the men who have really
lived--who have actually comprehended what pleasure is--who have crowded
long lifetimes of ecstasy into a single moment.

What is there in Rome for me to see that others have not seen before me?
What is there for me to touch that others have not touched? What is
there for me to feel, to learn, to hear, to know, that shall thrill me
before it pass to others? What can I discover?--Nothing. Nothing
whatsoever. One charm of travel dies here. But if I were only a Roman!
--If, added to my own I could be gifted with modern Roman sloth, modern
Roman superstition, and modern Roman boundlessness of ignorance, what
bewildering worlds of unsuspected wonders I would discover! Ah, if I
were only a habitant of the Campagna five and twenty miles from Rome!
Then I would travel.

I would go to America, and see, and learn, and return to the Campagna and
stand before my countrymen an illustrious discoverer. I would say:

"I saw there a country which has no overshadowing Mother Church, and yet
the people survive. I saw a government which never was protected by
foreign soldiers at a cost greater than that required to carry on the
government itself. I saw common men and common women who could read;
I even saw small children of common country people reading from books;
if I dared think you would believe it, I would say they could write,
also.

"In the cities I saw people drinking a delicious beverage made of chalk
and water, but never once saw goats driven through their Broadway or
their Pennsylvania Avenue or their Montgomery street and milked at the
doors of the houses. I saw real glass windows in the houses of even the
commonest people. Some of the houses are not of stone, nor yet of
bricks; I solemnly swear they are made of wood. Houses there will take
fire and burn, sometimes--actually burn entirely down, and not leave a
single vestige behind. I could state that for a truth, upon my
death-bed. And as a proof that the circumstance is not rare, I aver
that they have a thing which they call a fire-engine, which vomits forth
great streams of water, and is kept always in readiness, by night and by
day, to rush to houses that are burning. You would think one engine
would be sufficient, but some great cities have a hundred; they keep men
hired, and pay them by the month to do nothing but put out fires. For a
certain sum of money other men will insure that your house shall not
burn down; and if it burns they will pay you for it. There are hundreds
and thousands of schools, and any body may go and learn to be wise, like
a priest. In that singular country if a rich man dies a sinner, he is
damned; he can not buy salvation with money for masses. There is really
not much use in being rich, there. Not much use as far as the other
world is concerned, but much, very much use, as concerns this; because
there, if a man be rich, he is very greatly honored, and can become a
legislator, a governor, a general, a senator, no matter how ignorant an
ass he is--just as in our beloved Italy the nobles hold all the great
places, even though sometimes they are born noble idiots. There, if a
man be rich, they give him costly presents, they ask him to feasts, they
invite him to drink complicated beverages; but if he be poor and in
debt, they require him to do that which they term to "settle." The
women put on a different dress almost every day; the dress is usually
fine, but absurd in shape; the very shape and fashion of it changes
twice in a hundred years; and did I but covet to be called an
extravagant falsifier, I would say it changed even oftener. Hair does
not grow upon the American women's heads; it is made for them by cunning
workmen in the shops, and is curled and frizzled into scandalous and
ungodly forms. Some persons wear eyes of glass which they see through
with facility perhaps, else they would not use them; and in the mouths
of some are teeth made by the sacrilegious hand of man. The dress of
the men is laughably grotesque. They carry no musket in ordinary life,
nor no long-pointed pole; they wear no wide green-lined cloak; they wear
no peaked black felt hat, no leathern gaiters reaching to the knee, no
goat-skin breeches with the hair side out, no hob-nailed shoes, no
prodigious spurs. They wear a conical hat termed a "nail-kag;" a coat
of saddest black; a shirt which shows dirt so easily that it has to be
changed every month, and is very troublesome; things called pantaloons,
which are held up by shoulder straps, and on their feet they wear boots
which are ridiculous in pattern and can stand no wear. Yet dressed in
this fantastic garb, these people laughed at my costume. In that
country, books are so common that it is really no curiosity to see one.
Newspapers also. They have a great machine which prints such things by
thousands every hour.

"I saw common men, there--men who were neither priests nor princes--who
yet absolutely owned the land they tilled. It was not rented from the
church, nor from the nobles. I am ready to take my oath of this. In
that country you might fall from a third story window three several
times, and not mash either a soldier or a priest.--The scarcity of such
people is astonishing. In the cities you will see a dozen civilians for
every soldier, and as many for every priest or preacher. Jews, there,
are treated just like human beings, instead of dogs. They can work at
any business they please; they can sell brand new goods if they want to;
they can keep drug-stores; they can practice medicine among Christians;
they can even shake hands with Christians if they choose; they can
associate with them, just the same as one human being does with another
human being; they don't have to stay shut up in one corner of the towns;
they can live in any part of a town they like best; it is said they even
have the privilege of buying land and houses, and owning them themselves,
though I doubt that, myself; they never have had to run races naked
through the public streets, against jackasses, to please the people in
carnival time; there they never have been driven by the soldiers into a
church every Sunday for hundreds of years to hear themselves and their
religion especially and particularly cursed; at this very day, in that
curious country, a Jew is allowed to vote, hold office, yea, get up on a
rostrum in the public street and express his opinion of the government if
the government don't suit him! Ah, it is wonderful. The common people
there know a great deal; they even have the effrontery to complain if
they are not properly governed, and to take hold and help conduct the
government themselves; if they had laws like ours, which give one dollar
of every three a crop produces to the government for taxes, they would
have that law altered: instead of paying thirty-three dollars in taxes,
out of every one hundred they receive, they complain if they have to pay
seven. They are curious people. They do not know when they are well
off. Mendicant priests do not prowl among them with baskets begging for
the church and eating up their substance. One hardly ever sees a
minister of the gospel going around there in his bare feet, with a
basket, begging for subsistence. In that country the preachers are not
like our mendicant orders of friars--they have two or three suits of
clothing, and they wash sometimes. In that land are mountains far higher
than the Alban mountains; the vast Roman Campagna, a hundred miles long
and full forty broad, is really small compared to the United States of
America; the Tiber, that celebrated river of ours, which stretches its
mighty course almost two hundred miles, and which a lad can scarcely
throw a stone across at Rome, is not so long, nor yet so wide, as the
American Mississippi--nor yet the Ohio, nor even the Hudson. In America
the people are absolutely wiser and know much more than their
grandfathers did. They do not plow with a sharpened stick, nor yet with
a three-cornered block of wood that merely scratches the top of the
ground. We do that because our fathers did, three thousand years ago, I
suppose. But those people have no holy reverence for their ancestors.
They plow with a plow that is a sharp, curved blade of iron, and it cuts
into the earth full five inches. And this is not all. They cut their
grain with a horrid machine that mows down whole fields in a day. If I
dared, I would say that sometimes they use a blasphemous plow that works
by fire and vapor and tears up an acre of ground in a single hour--but
--but--I see by your looks that you do not believe the things I am telling
you. Alas, my character is ruined, and I am a branded speaker of
untruths!"

Of course we have been to the monster Church of St. Peter, frequently.
I knew its dimensions. I knew it was a prodigious structure. I knew it
was just about the length of the capitol at Washington--say seven hundred
and thirty feet. I knew it was three hundred and sixty-four feet wide,
and consequently wider than the capitol. I knew that the cross on the
top of the dome of the church was four hundred and thirty-eight feet
above the ground, and therefore about a hundred or may be a hundred and
twenty-five feet higher than the dome of the capitol.--Thus I had one
gauge. I wished to come as near forming a correct idea of how it was
going to look, as possible; I had a curiosity to see how much I would
err. I erred considerably. St. Peter's did not look nearly so large as
the capitol, and certainly not a twentieth part as beautiful, from the
outside.

When we reached the door, and stood fairly within the church, it was
impossible to comprehend that it was a very large building. I had to
cipher a comprehension of it. I had to ransack my memory for some more
similes. St. Peter's is bulky. Its height and size would represent two
of the Washington capitol set one on top of the other--if the capitol
were wider; or two blocks or two blocks and a half of ordinary buildings
set one on top of the other. St. Peter's was that large, but it could
and would not look so. The trouble was that every thing in it and about
it was on such a scale of uniform vastness that there were no contrasts
to judge by--none but the people, and I had not noticed them. They were
insects. The statues of children holding vases of holy water were
immense, according to the tables of figures, but so was every thing else
around them. The mosaic pictures in the dome were huge, and were made of
thousands and thousands of cubes of glass as large as the end of my
little finger, but those pictures looked smooth, and gaudy of color, and
in good proportion to the dome. Evidently they would not answer to
measure by. Away down toward the far end of the church (I thought it was
really clear at the far end, but discovered afterward that it was in the
centre, under the dome,) stood the thing they call the baldacchino--a
great bronze pyramidal frame-work like that which upholds a mosquito bar.
It only looked like a considerably magnified bedstead--nothing more. Yet
I knew it was a good deal more than half as high as Niagara Falls. It
was overshadowed by a dome so mighty that its own height was snubbed.
The four great square piers or pillars that stand equidistant from each
other in the church, and support the roof, I could not work up to their
real dimensions by any method of comparison. I knew that the faces of
each were about the width of a very large dwelling-house front, (fifty or
sixty feet,) and that they were twice as high as an ordinary three-story
dwelling, but still they looked small. I tried all the different ways I
could think of to compel myself to understand how large St. Peter's was,
but with small success. The mosaic portrait of an Apostle who was
writing with a pen six feet long seemed only an ordinary Apostle.

But the people attracted my attention after a while. To stand in the
door of St. Peter's and look at men down toward its further extremity,
two blocks away, has a diminishing effect on them; surrounded by the
prodigious pictures and statues, and lost in the vast spaces, they look
very much smaller than they would if they stood two blocks away in the
open air. I "averaged" a man as he passed me and watched him as he
drifted far down by the baldacchino and beyond--watched him dwindle to an
insignificant school-boy, and then, in the midst of the silent throng of
human pigmies gliding about him, I lost him. The church had lately been
decorated, on the occasion of a great ceremony in honor of St. Peter, and
men were engaged, now, in removing the flowers and gilt paper from the
walls and pillars. As no ladders could reach the great heights, the men
swung themselves down from balustrades and the capitals of pilasters by
ropes, to do this work. The upper gallery which encircles the inner
sweep of the dome is two hundred and forty feet above the floor of the
church--very few steeples in America could reach up to it. Visitors
always go up there to look down into the church because one gets the best
idea of some of the heights and distances from that point. While we
stood on the floor one of the workmen swung loose from that gallery at
the end of a long rope. I had not supposed, before, that a man could
look so much like a spider. He was insignificant in size, and his rope
seemed only a thread. Seeing that he took up so little space, I could
believe the story, then, that ten thousand troops went to St. Peter's,
once, to hear mass, and their commanding officer came afterward, and not
finding them, supposed they had not yet arrived. But they were in the
church, nevertheless--they were in one of the transepts. Nearly fifty
thousand persons assembled in St. Peter's to hear the publishing of the
dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It is estimated that the floor of
the church affords standing room for--for a large number of people; I
have forgotten the exact figures. But it is no matter--it is near
enough.

They have twelve small pillars, in St. Peter's, which came from Solomon's
Temple. They have, also--which was far more interesting to me--a piece
of the true cross, and some nails, and a part of the crown of thorns.

Of course we ascended to the summit of the dome, and of course we also
went up into the gilt copper ball which is above it.--There was room
there for a dozen persons, with a little crowding, and it was as close
and hot as an oven. Some of those people who are so fond of writing
their names in prominent places had been there before us--a million or
two, I should think. From the dome of St. Peter's one can see every
notable object in Rome, from the Castle of St. Angelo to the Coliseum.
He can discern the seven hills upon which Rome is built. He can see the
Tiber, and the locality of the bridge which Horatius kept "in the brave
days of old" when Lars Porsena attempted to cross it with his invading
host. He can see the spot where the Horatii and the Curatii fought their
famous battle. He can see the broad green Campagna, stretching away
toward the mountains, with its scattered arches and broken aqueducts of
the olden time, so picturesque in their gray ruin, and so daintily
festooned with vines. He can see the Alban Mountains, the Appenines, the
Sabine Hills, and the blue Mediterranean. He can see a panorama that is
varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history
than any other in Europe.--About his feet is spread the remnant of a
city that once had a population of four million souls; and among its
massed edifices stand the ruins of temples, columns, and triumphal arches
that knew the Caesars, and the noonday of Roman splendor; and close by
them, in unimpaired strength, is a drain of arched and heavy masonry that
belonged to that older city which stood here before Romulus and Remus
were born or Rome thought of. The Appian Way is here yet, and looking
much as it did, perhaps, when the triumphal processions of the Emperors
moved over it in other days bringing fettered princes from the confines
of the earth. We can not see the long array of chariots and mail-clad
men laden with the spoils of conquest, but we can imagine the pageant,
after a fashion. We look out upon many objects of interest from the dome
of St. Peter's; and last of all, almost at our feet, our eyes rest upon
the building which was once the Inquisition. How times changed, between
the older ages and the new! Some seventeen or eighteen centuries ago,
the ignorant men of Rome were wont to put Christians in the arena of the
Coliseum yonder, and turn the wild beasts in upon them for a show. It
was for a lesson as well. It was to teach the people to abhor and fear
the new doctrine the followers of Christ were teaching. The beasts tore
the victims limb from limb and made poor mangled corpses of them in the
twinkling of an eye. But when the Christians came into power, when the
holy Mother Church became mistress of the barbarians, she taught them the
error of their ways by no such means. No, she put them in this pleasant
Inquisition and pointed to the Blessed Redeemer, who was so gentle and so
merciful toward all men, and they urged the barbarians to love him; and
they did all they could to persuade them to love and honor him--first by
twisting their thumbs out of joint with a screw; then by nipping their
flesh with pincers--red-hot ones, because they are the most comfortable
in cold weather; then by skinning them alive a little, and finally by
roasting them in public. They always convinced those barbarians. The
true religion, properly administered, as the good Mother Church used to
administer it, is very, very soothing. It is wonderfully persuasive,
also. There is a great difference between feeding parties to wild beasts
and stirring up their finer feelings in an Inquisition. One is the
system of degraded barbarians, the other of enlightened, civilized
people. It is a great pity the playful Inquisition is no more.

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