Part 2 out of 10
both on the same side, and Trinculian, and Sobaster, and Syraccus, and
"Oh, that will do--that's enough. If you have got your hand in for
inventing authors and testimony, I have nothing more to say--let them be
on the same side."
We don't mind the Oracle. We rather like him. We can tolerate the
Oracle very easily, but we have a poet and a good-natured enterprising
idiot on board, and they do distress the company. The one gives copies
of his verses to consuls, commanders, hotel keepers, Arabs, Dutch--to
anybody, in fact, who will submit to a grievous infliction most kindly
meant. His poetry is all very well on shipboard, notwithstanding when he
wrote an "Ode to the Ocean in a Storm" in one half hour, and an
"Apostrophe to the Rooster in the Waist of the Ship" in the next, the
transition was considered to be rather abrupt; but when he sends an
invoice of rhymes to the Governor of Fayal and another to the commander
in chief and other dignitaries in Gibraltar with the compliments of the
Laureate of the Ship, it is not popular with the passengers.
The other personage I have mentioned is young and green, and not bright,
not learned, and not wise. He will be, though, someday if he recollects
the answers to all his questions. He is known about the ship as the
"Interrogation Point," and this by constant use has become shortened to
"Interrogation." He has distinguished himself twice already. In Fayal
they pointed out a hill and told him it was 800 feet high and 1,100 feet
long. And they told him there was a tunnel 2,000 feet long and 1,000
feet high running through the hill, from end to end. He believed it. He
repeated it to everybody, discussed it, and read it from his notes.
Finally, he took a useful hint from this remark, which a thoughtful old
"Well, yes, it is a little remarkable--singular tunnel altogether--stands
up out of the top of the hill about two hundred feet, and one end of it
sticks out of the hill about nine hundred!"
Here in Gibraltar he corners these educated British officers and badgers
them with braggadocio about America and the wonders she can perform! He
told one of them a couple of our gunboats could come here and knock
Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea!
At this present moment half a dozen of us are taking a private pleasure
excursion of our own devising. We form rather more than half the list of
white passengers on board a small steamer bound for the venerable Moorish
town of Tangier, Africa. Nothing could be more absolutely certain than
that we are enjoying ourselves. One can not do otherwise who speeds over
these sparkling waters and breathes the soft atmosphere of this sunny
land. Care cannot assail us here. We are out of its jurisdiction.
We even steamed recklessly by the frowning fortress of Malabat
(a stronghold of the Emperor of Morocco) without a twinge of fear.
The whole garrison turned out under arms and assumed a threatening
attitude--yet still we did not fear. The entire garrison marched and
counter-marched within the rampart, in full view--yet notwithstanding
even this, we never flinched.
I suppose we really do not know what fear is. I inquired the name of the
garrison of the fortress of Malabat, and they said it was Mehemet Ali Ben
Sancom. I said it would be a good idea to get some more garrisons to
help him; but they said no, he had nothing to do but hold the place, and
he was competent to do that, had done it two years already. That was
evidence which one could not well refute. There is nothing like
Every now and then my glove purchase in Gibraltar last night intrudes
itself upon me. Dan and the ship's surgeon and I had been up to the
great square, listening to the music of the fine military bands and
contemplating English and Spanish female loveliness and fashion, and at
nine o'clock were on our way to the theater, when we met the General, the
Judge, the Commodore, the Colonel, and the Commissioner of the United
States of America to Europe, Asia, and Africa, who had been to the Club
House to register their several titles and impoverish the bill of fare;
and they told us to go over to the little variety store near the Hall of
Justice and buy some kid gloves. They said they were elegant and very
moderate in price. It seemed a stylish thing to go to the theater in kid
gloves, and we acted upon the hint. A very handsome young lady in the
store offered me a pair of blue gloves. I did not want blue, but she
said they would look very pretty on a hand like mine. The remark touched
me tenderly. I glanced furtively at my hand, and somehow it did seem
rather a comely member. I tried a glove on my left and blushed a little.
Manifestly the size was too small for me. But I felt gratified when she
"Oh, it is just right!" Yet I knew it was no such thing.
I tugged at it diligently, but it was discouraging work. She said:
"Ah! I see you are accustomed to wearing kid gloves--but some gentlemen
are so awkward about putting them on."
It was the last compliment I had expected. I only understand putting on
the buckskin article perfectly. I made another effort and tore the glove
from the base of the thumb into the palm of the hand--and tried to hide
the rent. She kept up her compliments, and I kept up my determination to
deserve them or die:
"Ah, you have had experience! [A rip down the back of the hand.] They
are just right for you--your hand is very small--if they tear you need
not pay for them. [A rent across the middle.] I can always tell when a
gentleman understands putting on kid gloves. There is a grace about it
that only comes with long practice." The whole after-guard of the glove
"fetched away," as the sailors say, the fabric parted across the
knuckles, and nothing was left but a melancholy ruin.
I was too much flattered to make an exposure and throw the merchandise on
the angel's hands. I was hot, vexed, confused, but still happy; but I
hated the other boys for taking such an absorbing interest in the
proceedings. I wished they were in Jericho. I felt exquisitely mean
when I said cheerfully:
"This one does very well; it fits elegantly. I like a glove that fits.
No, never mind, ma'am, never mind; I'll put the other on in the street.
It is warm here."
It was warm. It was the warmest place I ever was in. I paid the bill,
and as I passed out with a fascinating bow I thought I detected a light
in the woman's eye that was gently ironical; and when I looked back from
the street, and she was laughing all to herself about something or other,
I said to myself with withering sarcasm, "Oh, certainly; you know how to
put on kid gloves, don't you? A self-complacent ass, ready to be
flattered out of your senses by every petticoat that chooses to take the
trouble to do it!"
The silence of the boys annoyed me. Finally Dan said musingly:
"Some gentlemen don't know how to put on kid gloves at all, but some do."
And the doctor said (to the moon, I thought):
"But it is always easy to tell when a gentleman is used to putting on kid
Dan soliloquized after a pause:
"Ah, yes; there is a grace about it that only comes with long, very long
"Yes, indeed, I've noticed that when a man hauls on a kid glove like he
was dragging a cat out of an ash hole by the tail, he understands putting
on kid gloves; he's had ex--"
"Boys, enough of a thing's enough! You think you are very smart, I
suppose, but I don't. And if you go and tell any of those old gossips in
the ship about this thing, I'll never forgive you for it; that's all."
They let me alone then for the time being. We always let each other
alone in time to prevent ill feeling from spoiling a joke. But they had
bought gloves, too, as I did. We threw all the purchases away together
this morning. They were coarse, unsubstantial, freckled all over with
broad yellow splotches, and could neither stand wear nor public
exhibition. We had entertained an angel unawares, but we did not take
her in. She did that for us.
Tangier! A tribe of stalwart Moors are wading into the sea to carry us
ashore on their backs from the small boats.
This is royal! Let those who went up through Spain make the best of it
--these dominions of the Emperor of Morocco suit our little party well
enough. We have had enough of Spain at Gibraltar for the present.
Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time. Elsewhere we
have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always
with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and
so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force. We wanted
something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign--foreign from top to
bottom--foreign from center to circumference--foreign inside and outside
and all around--nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness
--nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun.
And lo! In Tangier we have found it. Here is not the slightest thing
that ever we have seen save in pictures--and we always mistrusted the
pictures before. We cannot anymore. The pictures used to seem
exaggerations--they seemed too weird and fanciful for reality. But
behold, they were not wild enough--they were not fanciful enough--they
have not told half the story. Tangier is a foreign land if ever there
was one, and the true spirit of it can never be found in any book save
The Arabian Nights. Here are no white men visible, yet swarms of
humanity are all about us. Here is a packed and jammed city enclosed in
a massive stone wall which is more than a thousand years old. All the
houses nearly are one-and two-story, made of thick walls of stone,
plastered outside, square as a dry-goods box, flat as a floor on top, no
cornices, whitewashed all over--a crowded city of snowy tombs! And the
doors are arched with the peculiar arch we see in Moorish pictures; the
floors are laid in varicolored diamond flags; in tesselated, many-colored
porcelain squares wrought in the furnaces of Fez; in red tiles and broad
bricks that time cannot wear; there is no furniture in the rooms (of
Jewish dwellings) save divans--what there is in Moorish ones no man may
know; within their sacred walls no Christian dog can enter. And the
streets are oriental--some of them three feet wide, some six, but only
two that are over a dozen; a man can blockade the most of them by
extending his body across them. Isn't it an oriental picture?
There are stalwart Bedouins of the desert here, and stately Moors proud
of a history that goes back to the night of time; and Jews whose fathers
fled hither centuries upon centuries ago; and swarthy Riffians from the
mountains--born cut-throats--and original, genuine Negroes as black as
Moses; and howling dervishes and a hundred breeds of Arabs--all sorts and
descriptions of people that are foreign and curious to look upon.
And their dresses are strange beyond all description. Here is a bronzed
Moor in a prodigious white turban, curiously embroidered jacket, gold and
crimson sash, of many folds, wrapped round and round his waist, trousers
that only come a little below his knee and yet have twenty yards of stuff
in them, ornamented scimitar, bare shins, stockingless feet, yellow
slippers, and gun of preposterous length--a mere soldier!--I thought he
was the Emperor at least. And here are aged Moors with flowing white
beards and long white robes with vast cowls; and Bedouins with long,
cowled, striped cloaks; and Negroes and Riffians with heads clean-shaven
except a kinky scalp lock back of the ear or, rather, upon the after
corner of the skull; and all sorts of barbarians in all sorts of weird
costumes, and all more or less ragged. And here are Moorish women who
are enveloped from head to foot in coarse white robes, and whose sex can
only be determined by the fact that they only leave one eye visible and
never look at men of their own race, or are looked at by them in public.
Here are five thousand Jews in blue gabardines, sashes about their
waists, slippers upon their feet, little skullcaps upon the backs of
their heads, hair combed down on the forehead, and cut straight across
the middle of it from side to side--the selfsame fashion their Tangier
ancestors have worn for I don't know how many bewildering centuries.
Their feet and ankles are bare. Their noses are all hooked, and hooked
alike. They all resemble each other so much that one could almost
believe they were of one family. Their women are plump and pretty, and
do smile upon a Christian in a way which is in the last degree
What a funny old town it is! It seems like profanation to laugh and jest
and bandy the frivolous chat of our day amid its hoary relics. Only the
stately phraseology and the measured speech of the sons of the Prophet
are suited to a venerable antiquity like this. Here is a crumbling wall
that was old when Columbus discovered America; was old when Peter the
Hermit roused the knightly men of the Middle Ages to arm for the first
Crusade; was old when Charlemagne and his paladins beleaguered enchanted
castles and battled with giants and genii in the fabled days of the olden
time; was old when Christ and his disciples walked the earth; stood where
it stands today when the lips of Memnon were vocal and men bought and
sold in the streets of ancient Thebes!
The Phoenicians, the Carthagenians, the English, Moors, Romans, all have
battled for Tangier--all have won it and lost it. Here is a ragged,
oriental-looking Negro from some desert place in interior Africa, filling
his goatskin with water from a stained and battered fountain built by the
Romans twelve hundred years ago. Yonder is a ruined arch of a bridge
built by Julius Caesar nineteen hundred years ago. Men who had seen the
infant Saviour in the Virgin's arms have stood upon it, maybe.
Near it are the ruins of a dockyard where Caesar repaired his ships and
loaded them with grain when he invaded Britain, fifty years before the
Here, under the quiet stars, these old streets seem thronged with the
phantoms of forgotten ages. My eyes are resting upon a spot where stood
a monument which was seen and described by Roman historians less than two
thousand years ago, whereon was inscribed:
"WE ARE THE CANAANITES. WE ARE THEY THAT
HAVE BEEN DRIVEN OUT OF THE LAND OF CANAAN
BY THE JEWISH ROBBER, JOSHUA."
Joshua drove them out, and they came here. Not many leagues from here is
a tribe of Jews whose ancestors fled thither after an unsuccessful revolt
against King David, and these their descendants are still under a ban and
keep to themselves.
Tangier has been mentioned in history for three thousand years. And it
was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his lion skin,
landed here, four thousand years ago. In these streets he met Anitus,
the king of the country, and brained him with his club, which was the
fashion among gentlemen in those days. The people of Tangier (called
Tingis then) lived in the rudest possible huts and dressed in skins and
carried clubs, and were as savage as the wild beasts they were constantly
obliged to war with. But they were a gentlemanly race and did no work.
They lived on the natural products of the land. Their king's country
residence was at the famous Garden of Hesperides, seventy miles down the
coast from here. The garden, with its golden apples (oranges), is gone
now--no vestige of it remains. Antiquarians concede that such a
personage as Hercules did exist in ancient times and agree that he was an
enterprising and energetic man, but decline to believe him a good,
bona-fide god, because that would be unconstitutional.
Down here at Cape Spartel is the celebrated cave of Hercules, where that
hero took refuge when he was vanquished and driven out of the Tangier
country. It is full of inscriptions in the dead languages, which fact
makes me think Hercules could not have traveled much, else he would not
have kept a journal.
Five days' journey from here--say two hundred miles--are the ruins of an
ancient city, of whose history there is neither record nor tradition.
And yet its arches, its columns, and its statues proclaim it to have been
built by an enlightened race.
The general size of a store in Tangier is about that of an ordinary
shower bath in a civilized land. The Muhammadan merchant, tinman,
shoemaker, or vendor of trifles sits cross-legged on the floor and
reaches after any article you may want to buy. You can rent a whole
block of these pigeonholes for fifty dollars a month. The market people
crowd the marketplace with their baskets of figs, dates, melons,
apricots, etc., and among them file trains of laden asses, not much
larger, if any, than a Newfoundland dog. The scene is lively, is
picturesque, and smells like a police court. The Jewish money-changers
have their dens close at hand, and all day long are counting bronze coins
and transferring them from one bushel basket to another. They don't coin
much money nowadays, I think. I saw none but what was dated four or five
hundred years back, and was badly worn and battered. These coins are not
very valuable. Jack went out to get a napoleon changed, so as to have
money suited to the general cheapness of things, and came back and said
he had "swamped the bank, had bought eleven quarts of coin, and the head
of the firm had gone on the street to negotiate for the balance of the
change." I bought nearly half a pint of their money for a shilling
myself. I am not proud on account of having so much money, though. I
care nothing for wealth.
The Moors have some small silver coins and also some silver slugs worth a
dollar each. The latter are exceedingly scarce--so much so that when
poor ragged Arabs see one they beg to be allowed to kiss it.
They have also a small gold coin worth two dollars. And that reminds me
of something. When Morocco is in a state of war, Arab couriers carry
letters through the country and charge a liberal postage. Every now and
then they fall into the hands of marauding bands and get robbed.
Therefore, warned by experience, as soon as they have collected two
dollars' worth of money they exchange it for one of those little gold
pieces, and when robbers come upon them, swallow it. The stratagem was
good while it was unsuspected, but after that the marauders simply gave
the sagacious United States mail an emetic and sat down to wait.
The Emperor of Morocco is a soulless despot, and the great officers under
him are despots on a smaller scale. There is no regular system of
taxation, but when the Emperor or the Bashaw want money, they levy on
some rich man, and he has to furnish the cash or go to prison.
Therefore, few men in Morocco dare to be rich. It is too dangerous a
luxury. Vanity occasionally leads a man to display wealth, but sooner or
later the Emperor trumps up a charge against him--any sort of one will
do--and confiscates his property. Of course, there are many rich men in
the empire, but their money is buried, and they dress in rags and
counterfeit poverty. Every now and then the Emperor imprisons a man who
is suspected of the crime of being rich, and makes things so
uncomfortable for him that he is forced to discover where he has hidden
Moors and Jews sometimes place themselves under the protection of the
foreign consuls, and then they can flout their riches in the Emperor's
face with impunity.
About the first adventure we had yesterday afternoon, after landing here,
came near finishing that heedless Blucher. We had just mounted some
mules and asses and started out under the guardianship of the stately,
the princely, the magnificent Hadji Muhammad Lamarty (may his tribe
increase!) when we came upon a fine Moorish mosque, with tall tower, rich
with checker-work of many-colored porcelain, and every part and portion
of the edifice adorned with the quaint architecture of the Alhambra, and
Blucher started to ride into the open doorway. A startling "Hi-hi!" from
our camp followers and a loud "Halt!" from an English gentleman in the
party checked the adventurer, and then we were informed that so dire a
profanation is it for a Christian dog to set foot upon the sacred
threshold of a Moorish mosque that no amount of purification can ever
make it fit for the faithful to pray in again. Had Blucher succeeded in
entering the place, he would no doubt have been chased through the town
and stoned; and the time has been, and not many years ago, either, when a
Christian would have been most ruthlessly slaughtered if captured in a
mosque. We caught a glimpse of the handsome tessellated pavements within
and of the devotees performing their ablutions at the fountains, but even
that we took that glimpse was a thing not relished by the Moorish
Some years ago the clock in the tower of the mosque got out of order.
The Moors of Tangier have so degenerated that it has been long since
there was an artificer among them capable of curing so delicate a patient
as a debilitated clock. The great men of the city met in solemn conclave
to consider how the difficulty was to be met. They discussed the matter
thoroughly but arrived at no solution. Finally, a patriarch arose and
"Oh, children of the Prophet, it is known unto you that a Portuguee dog
of a Christian clock mender pollutes the city of Tangier with his
presence. Ye know, also, that when mosques are builded, asses bear the
stones and the cement, and cross the sacred threshold. Now, therefore,
send the Christian dog on all fours, and barefoot, into the holy place to
mend the clock, and let him go as an ass!"
And in that way it was done. Therefore, if Blucher ever sees the inside
of a mosque, he will have to cast aside his humanity and go in his
natural character. We visited the jail and found Moorish prisoners
making mats and baskets. (This thing of utilizing crime savors of
civilization.) Murder is punished with death. A short time ago three
murderers were taken beyond the city walls and shot. Moorish guns are
not good, and neither are Moorish marksmen. In this instance they set up
the poor criminals at long range, like so many targets, and practiced on
them--kept them hopping about and dodging bullets for half an hour before
they managed to drive the center.
When a man steals cattle, they cut off his right hand and left leg and
nail them up in the marketplace as a warning to everybody. Their surgery
is not artistic. They slice around the bone a little, then break off the
limb. Sometimes the patient gets well; but, as a general thing, he
don't. However, the Moorish heart is stout. The Moors were always
brave. These criminals undergo the fearful operation without a wince,
without a tremor of any kind, without a groan! No amount of suffering
can bring down the pride of a Moor or make him shame his dignity with a
Here, marriage is contracted by the parents of the parties to it. There
are no valentines, no stolen interviews, no riding out, no courting in
dim parlors, no lovers' quarrels and reconciliations--no nothing that is
proper to approaching matrimony. The young man takes the girl his father
selects for him, marries her, and after that she is unveiled, and he sees
her for the first time. If after due acquaintance she suits him, he
retains her; but if he suspects her purity, he bundles her back to her
father; if he finds her diseased, the same; or if, after just and
reasonable time is allowed her, she neglects to bear children, back she
goes to the home of her childhood.
Muhammadans here who can afford it keep a good many wives on hand. They
are called wives, though I believe the Koran only allows four genuine
wives--the rest are concubines. The Emperor of Morocco don't know how
many wives he has, but thinks he has five hundred. However, that is near
enough--a dozen or so, one way or the other, don't matter.
Even the Jews in the interior have a plurality of wives.
I have caught a glimpse of the faces of several Moorish women (for they
are only human, and will expose their faces for the admiration of a
Christian dog when no male Moor is by), and I am full of veneration for
the wisdom that leads them to cover up such atrocious ugliness.
They carry their children at their backs, in a sack, like other savages
the world over.
Many of the Negroes are held in slavery by the Moors. But the moment a
female slave becomes her master's concubine her bonds are broken, and as
soon as a male slave can read the first chapter of the Koran (which
contains the creed) he can no longer be held in bondage.
They have three Sundays a week in Tangier. The Muhammadans' comes on
Friday, the Jews' on Saturday, and that of the Christian Consuls on
Sunday. The Jews are the most radical. The Moor goes to his mosque
about noon on his Sabbath, as on any other day, removes his shoes at the
door, performs his ablutions, makes his salaams, pressing his forehead to
the pavement time and again, says his prayers, and goes back to his work.
But the Jew shuts up shop; will not touch copper or bronze money at all;
soils his fingers with nothing meaner than silver and gold; attends the
synagogue devoutly; will not cook or have anything to do with fire; and
religiously refrains from embarking in any enterprise.
The Moor who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca is entitled to high
distinction. Men call him Hadji, and he is thenceforward a great
personage. Hundreds of Moors come to Tangier every year and embark for
Mecca. They go part of the way in English steamers, and the ten or
twelve dollars they pay for passage is about all the trip costs. They
take with them a quantity of food, and when the commissary department
fails they "skirmish," as Jack terms it in his sinful, slangy way. From
the time they leave till they get home again, they never wash, either on
land or sea. They are usually gone from five to seven months, and as
they do not change their clothes during all that time, they are totally
unfit for the drawing room when they get back.
Many of them have to rake and scrape a long time to gather together the
ten dollars their steamer passage costs, and when one of them gets back
he is a bankrupt forever after. Few Moors can ever build up their
fortunes again in one short lifetime after so reckless an outlay. In
order to confine the dignity of Hadji to gentlemen of patrician blood and
possessions, the Emperor decreed that no man should make the pilgrimage
save bloated aristocrats who were worth a hundred dollars in specie. But
behold how iniquity can circumvent the law! For a consideration, the
Jewish money-changer lends the pilgrim one hundred dollars long enough
for him to swear himself through, and then receives it back before the
ship sails out of the harbor!
Spain is the only nation the Moors fear. The reason is that Spain sends
her heaviest ships of war and her loudest guns to astonish these Muslims,
while America and other nations send only a little contemptible tub of a
gunboat occasionally. The Moors, like other savages, learn by what they
see, not what they hear or read. We have great fleets in the
Mediterranean, but they seldom touch at African ports. The Moors have a
small opinion of England, France, and America, and put their
representatives to a deal of red-tape circumlocution before they grant
them their common rights, let alone a favor. But the moment the Spanish
minister makes a demand, it is acceded to at once, whether it be just or
Spain chastised the Moors five or six years ago, about a disputed piece
of property opposite Gibraltar, and captured the city of Tetouan. She
compromised on an augmentation of her territory, twenty million dollars'
indemnity in money, and peace. And then she gave up the city. But she
never gave it up until the Spanish soldiers had eaten up all the cats.
They would not compromise as long as the cats held out. Spaniards are
very fond of cats. On the contrary, the Moors reverence cats as
something sacred. So the Spaniards touched them on a tender point that
time. Their unfeline conduct in eating up all the Tetouan cats aroused a
hatred toward them in the breasts of the Moors, to which even the driving
them out of Spain was tame and passionless. Moors and Spaniards are foes
forever now. France had a minister here once who embittered the nation
against him in the most innocent way. He killed a couple of battalions
of cats (Tangier is full of them) and made a parlor carpet out of their
hides. He made his carpet in circles--first a circle of old gray
tomcats, with their tails all pointing toward the center; then a circle
of yellow cats; next a circle of black cats and a circle of white ones;
then a circle of all sorts of cats; and, finally, a centerpiece of
assorted kittens. It was very beautiful, but the Moors curse his memory
to this day.
When we went to call on our American Consul General today I noticed that
all possible games for parlor amusement seemed to be represented on his
center tables. I thought that hinted at lonesomeness. The idea was
correct. His is the only American family in Tangier. There are many
foreign consuls in this place, but much visiting is not indulged in.
Tangier is clear out of the world, and what is the use of visiting when
people have nothing on earth to talk about? There is none. So each
consul's family stays at home chiefly and amuses itself as best it can.
Tangier is full of interest for one day, but after that it is a weary
prison. The Consul General has been here five years, and has got enough
of it to do him for a century, and is going home shortly. His family
seize upon their letters and papers when the mail arrives, read them over
and over again for two days or three, talk them over and over again for
two or three more till they wear them out, and after that for days
together they eat and drink and sleep, and ride out over the same old
road, and see the same old tiresome things that even decades of centuries
have scarcely changed, and say never a single word! They have literally
nothing whatever to talk about. The arrival of an American man-of-war is
a godsend to them. "O Solitude, where are the charms which sages have
seen in thy face?" It is the completest exile that I can conceive of.
I would seriously recommend to the government of the United States that
when a man commits a crime so heinous that the law provides no adequate
punishment for it, they make him Consul General to Tangier.
I am glad to have seen Tangier--the second-oldest town in the world. But
I am ready to bid it good-bye, I believe.
We shall go hence to Gibraltar this evening or in the morning, and
doubtless the Quaker City will sail from that port within the next
We passed the Fourth of July on board the Quaker City, in mid-ocean. It
was in all respects a characteristic Mediterranean day--faultlessly
beautiful. A cloudless sky; a refreshing summer wind; a radiant sunshine
that glinted cheerily from dancing wavelets instead of crested mountains
of water; a sea beneath us that was so wonderfully blue, so richly,
brilliantly blue, that it overcame the dullest sensibilities with the
spell of its fascination.
They even have fine sunsets on the Mediterranean--a thing that is
certainly rare in most quarters of the globe. The evening we sailed away
from Gibraltar, that hard-featured rock was swimming in a creamy mist so
rich, so soft, so enchantingly vague and dreamy, that even the Oracle,
that serene, that inspired, that overpowering humbug, scorned the dinner
gong and tarried to worship!
He said: "Well, that's gorgis, ain't it! They don't have none of them
things in our parts, do they? I consider that them effects is on account
of the superior refragability, as you may say, of the sun's diramic
combination with the lymphatic forces of the perihelion of Jubiter. What
should you think?"
"Oh, go to bed!" Dan said that, and went away.
"Oh, yes, it's all very well to say go to bed when a man makes an
argument which another man can't answer. Dan don't never stand any
chance in an argument with me. And he knows it, too. What should you
"Now, Doctor, don't you come bothering around me with that dictionary
bosh. I don't do you any harm, do I? Then you let me alone."
"He's gone, too. Well, them fellows have all tackled the old Oracle, as
they say, but the old man's most too many for 'em. Maybe the Poet Lariat
ain't satisfied with them deductions?"
The poet replied with a barbarous rhyme and went below.
"'Pears that he can't qualify, neither. Well, I didn't expect nothing
out of him. I never see one of them poets yet that knowed anything.
He'll go down now and grind out about four reams of the awfullest slush
about that old rock and give it to a consul, or a pilot, or a nigger, or
anybody he comes across first which he can impose on. Pity but
somebody'd take that poor old lunatic and dig all that poetry rubbage out
of him. Why can't a man put his intellect onto things that's some value?
Gibbons, and Hippocratus, and Sarcophagus, and all them old ancient
philosophers was down on poets--"
"Doctor," I said, "you are going to invent authorities now and I'll leave
you, too. I always enjoy your conversation, notwithstanding the
luxuriance of your syllables, when the philosophy you offer rests on your
own responsibility; but when you begin to soar--when you begin to support
it with the evidence of authorities who are the creations of your own
fancy--I lose confidence."
That was the way to flatter the doctor. He considered it a sort of
acknowledgment on my part of a fear to argue with him. He was always
persecuting the passengers with abstruse propositions framed in language
that no man could understand, and they endured the exquisite torture a
minute or two and then abandoned the field. A triumph like this, over
half a dozen antagonists was sufficient for one day; from that time
forward he would patrol the decks beaming blandly upon all comers, and so
tranquilly, blissfully happy!
But I digress. The thunder of our two brave cannon announced the Fourth
of July, at daylight, to all who were awake. But many of us got our
information at a later hour, from the almanac. All the flags were sent
aloft except half a dozen that were needed to decorate portions of the
ship below, and in a short time the vessel assumed a holiday appearance.
During the morning, meetings were held and all manner of committees set
to work on the celebration ceremonies. In the afternoon the ship's
company assembled aft, on deck, under the awnings; the flute, the
asthmatic melodeon, and the consumptive clarinet crippled "The
Star-Spangled Banner," the choir chased it to cover, and George came in
with a peculiarly lacerating screech on the final note and slaughtered
it. Nobody mourned.
We carried out the corpse on three cheers (that joke was not intentional
and I do not endorse it), and then the President, throned behind a cable
locker with a national flag spread over it, announced the "Reader," who
rose up and read that same old Declaration of Independence which we have
all listened to so often without paying any attention to what it said;
and after that the President piped the Orator of the Day to quarters and
he made that same old speech about our national greatness which we so
religiously believe and so fervently applaud. Now came the choir into
court again, with the complaining instruments, and assaulted "Hail
Columbia"; and when victory hung wavering in the scale, George returned
with his dreadful wild-goose stop turned on and the choir won, of course.
A minister pronounced the benediction, and the patriotic little gathering
disbanded. The Fourth of July was safe, as far as the Mediterranean was
At dinner in the evening, a well-written original poem was recited with
spirit by one of the ship's captains, and thirteen regular toasts were
washed down with several baskets of champagne. The speeches were bad
--execrable almost without exception. In fact, without any exception but
one. Captain Duncan made a good speech; he made the only good speech of
the evening. He said:
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--May we all live to a green old age and be
prosperous and happy. Steward, bring up another basket of champagne."
It was regarded as a very able effort.
The festivities, so to speak, closed with another of those miraculous
balls on the promenade deck. We were not used to dancing on an even
keel, though, and it was only a questionable success. But take it all
together, it was a bright, cheerful, pleasant Fourth.
Toward nightfall the next evening, we steamed into the great artificial
harbor of this noble city of Marseilles, and saw the dying sunlight gild
its clustering spires and ramparts, and flood its leagues of environing
verdure with a mellow radiance that touched with an added charm the white
villas that flecked the landscape far and near. [Copyright secured
according to law.]
There were no stages out, and we could not get on the pier from the ship.
It was annoying. We were full of enthusiasm--we wanted to see France!
Just at nightfall our party of three contracted with a waterman for the
privilege of using his boat as a bridge--its stern was at our companion
ladder and its bow touched the pier. We got in and the fellow backed out
into the harbor. I told him in French that all we wanted was to walk
over his thwarts and step ashore, and asked him what he went away out
there for. He said he could not understand me. I repeated. Still he
could not understand. He appeared to be very ignorant of French. The
doctor tried him, but he could not understand the doctor. I asked this
boatman to explain his conduct, which he did; and then I couldn't
understand him. Dan said:
"Oh, go to the pier, you old fool--that's where we want to go!"
We reasoned calmly with Dan that it was useless to speak to this
foreigner in English--that he had better let us conduct this business in
the French language and not let the stranger see how uncultivated he was.
"Well, go on, go on," he said, "don't mind me. I don't wish to
interfere. Only, if you go on telling him in your kind of French, he
never will find out where we want to go to. That is what I think about
We rebuked him severely for this remark and said we never knew an
ignorant person yet but was prejudiced. The Frenchman spoke again, and
the doctor said:
"There now, Dan, he says he is going to allez to the douain. Means he is
going to the hotel. Oh, certainly--we don't know the French language."
This was a crusher, as Jack would say. It silenced further criticism
from the disaffected member. We coasted past the sharp bows of a navy of
great steamships and stopped at last at a government building on a stone
pier. It was easy to remember then that the douain was the customhouse
and not the hotel. We did not mention it, however. With winning French
politeness the officers merely opened and closed our satchels, declined
to examine our passports, and sent us on our way. We stopped at the
first cafe we came to and entered. An old woman seated us at a table and
waited for orders. The doctor said:
"Avez-vous du vin?"
The dame looked perplexed. The doctor said again, with elaborate
distinctness of articulation:
The dame looked more perplexed than before. I said:
"Doctor, there is a flaw in your pronunciation somewhere. Let me try
her. Madame, avez-vous du vin?--It isn't any use, Doctor--take the
"Madame, avez-vous du vin--du fromage--pain--pickled pigs' feet--beurre
--des oeufs--du boeuf--horseradish, sauerkraut, hog and hominy--anything,
anything in the world that can stay a Christian stomach!"
"Bless you, why didn't you speak English before? I don't know anything
about your plagued French!"
The humiliating taunts of the disaffected member spoiled the supper, and
we dispatched it in angry silence and got away as soon as we could. Here
we were in beautiful France--in a vast stone house of quaint
architecture--surrounded by all manner of curiously worded French signs
--stared at by strangely habited, bearded French people--everything
gradually and surely forcing upon us the coveted consciousness that at
last, and beyond all question, we were in beautiful France and absorbing
its nature to the forgetfulness of everything else, and coming to feel
the happy romance of the thing in all its enchanting delightfulness--and
to think of this skinny veteran intruding with her vile English, at such
a moment, to blow the fair vision to the winds! It was exasperating.
We set out to find the centre of the city, inquiring the direction every
now and then. We never did succeed in making anybody understand just
exactly what we wanted, and neither did we ever succeed in comprehending
just exactly what they said in reply, but then they always pointed--they
always did that--and we bowed politely and said, "Merci, monsieur," and
so it was a blighting triumph over the disaffected member anyway. He was
restive under these victories and often asked:
"What did that pirate say?"
"Why, he told us which way to go to find the Grand Casino."
"Yes, but what did he say?"
"Oh, it don't matter what he said--we understood him. These are educated
people--not like that absurd boatman."
"Well, I wish they were educated enough to tell a man a direction that
goes some where--for we've been going around in a circle for an hour.
I've passed this same old drugstore seven times."
We said it was a low, disreputable falsehood (but we knew it was not).
It was plain that it would not do to pass that drugstore again, though
--we might go on asking directions, but we must cease from following
finger-pointings if we hoped to check the suspicions of the disaffected
A long walk through smooth, asphaltum-paved streets bordered by blocks of
vast new mercantile houses of cream-colored stone every house and every
block precisely like all the other houses and all the other blocks for a
mile, and all brilliantly lighted--brought us at last to the principal
thoroughfare. On every hand were bright colors, flashing constellations
of gas burners, gaily dressed men and women thronging the sidewalks
--hurry, life, activity, cheerfulness, conversation, and laughter
everywhere! We found the Grand Hotel du Louvre et de la Paix, and wrote
down who we were, where we were born, what our occupations were, the
place we came from last, whether we were married or single, how we liked
it, how old we were, where we were bound for and when we expected to get
there, and a great deal of information of similar importance--all for the
benefit of the landlord and the secret police. We hired a guide and
began the business of sightseeing immediately. That first night on
French soil was a stirring one. I cannot think of half the places we
went to or what we particularly saw; we had no disposition to examine
carefully into anything at all--we only wanted to glance and go--to move,
keep moving! The spirit of the country was upon us. We sat down,
finally, at a late hour, in the great Casino, and called for unstinted
champagne. It is so easy to be bloated aristocrats where it costs
nothing of consequence! There were about five hundred people in that
dazzling place, I suppose, though the walls being papered entirely with
mirrors, so to speak, one could not really tell but that there were a
hundred thousand. Young, daintily dressed exquisites and young,
stylishly dressed women, and also old gentlemen and old ladies, sat in
couples and groups about innumerable marble-topped tables and ate fancy
suppers, drank wine, and kept up a chattering din of conversation that
was dazing to the senses. There was a stage at the far end and a large
orchestra; and every now and then actors and actresses in preposterous
comic dresses came out and sang the most extravagantly funny songs, to
judge by their absurd actions; but that audience merely suspended its
chatter, stared cynically, and never once smiled, never once applauded!
I had always thought that Frenchmen were ready to laugh at any thing.
We are getting foreignized rapidly and with facility. We are getting
reconciled to halls and bedchambers with unhomelike stone floors and no
carpets--floors that ring to the tread of one's heels with a sharpness
that is death to sentimental musing. We are getting used to tidy,
noiseless waiters, who glide hither and thither, and hover about your
back and your elbows like butterflies, quick to comprehend orders, quick
to fill them; thankful for a gratuity without regard to the amount; and
always polite--never otherwise than polite. That is the strangest
curiosity yet--a really polite hotel waiter who isn't an idiot. We are
getting used to driving right into the central court of the hotel, in the
midst of a fragrant circle of vines and flowers, and in the midst also of
parties of gentlemen sitting quietly reading the paper and smoking. We
are getting used to ice frozen by artificial process in ordinary bottles
--the only kind of ice they have here. We are getting used to all these
things, but we are not getting used to carrying our own soap. We are
sufficiently civilized to carry our own combs and toothbrushes, but this
thing of having to ring for soap every time we wash is new to us and not
pleasant at all. We think of it just after we get our heads and faces
thoroughly wet or just when we think we have been in the bathtub long
enough, and then, of course, an annoying delay follows. These
Marseillaises make Marseillaise hymns and Marseilles vests and Marseilles
soap for all the world, but they never sing their hymns or wear their
vests or wash with their soap themselves.
We have learned to go through the lingering routine of the table d'hote
with patience, with serenity, with satisfaction. We take soup, then wait
a few minutes for the fish; a few minutes more and the plates are
changed, and the roast beef comes; another change and we take peas;
change again and take lentils; change and take snail patties (I prefer
grasshoppers); change and take roast chicken and salad; then strawberry
pie and ice cream; then green figs, pears, oranges, green almonds, etc.;
finally coffee. Wine with every course, of course, being in France.
With such a cargo on board, digestion is a slow process, and we must sit
long in the cool chambers and smoke--and read French newspapers, which
have a strange fashion of telling a perfectly straight story till you get
to the "nub" of it, and then a word drops in that no man can translate,
and that story is ruined. An embankment fell on some Frenchmen
yesterday, and the papers are full of it today--but whether those
sufferers were killed, or crippled, or bruised, or only scared is more
than I can possibly make out, and yet I would just give anything to know.
We were troubled a little at dinner today by the conduct of an American,
who talked very loudly and coarsely and laughed boisterously where all
others were so quiet and well behaved. He ordered wine with a royal
flourish and said:
"I never dine without wine, sir" (which was a pitiful falsehood), and
looked around upon the company to bask in the admiration he expected to
find in their faces. All these airs in a land where they would as soon
expect to leave the soup out of the bill of fare as the wine!--in a land
where wine is nearly as common among all ranks as water! This fellow
said: "I am a free-born sovereign, sir, an American, sir, and I want
everybody to know it!" He did not mention that he was a lineal
descendant of Balaam's ass, but everybody knew that without his telling
We have driven in the Prado--that superb avenue bordered with patrician
mansions and noble shade trees--and have visited the chateau Boarely and
its curious museum. They showed us a miniature cemetery there--a copy of
the first graveyard that was ever in Marseilles, no doubt. The delicate
little skeletons were lying in broken vaults and had their household gods
and kitchen utensils with them. The original of this cemetery was dug up
in the principal street of the city a few years ago. It had remained
there, only twelve feet underground, for a matter of twenty-five hundred
years or thereabouts. Romulus was here before he built Rome, and thought
something of founding a city on this spot, but gave up the idea. He may
have been personally acquainted with some of these Phoenicians whose
skeletons we have been examining.
In the great Zoological Gardens we found specimens of all the animals the
world produces, I think, including a dromedary, a monkey ornamented with
tufts of brilliant blue and carmine hair--a very gorgeous monkey he was
--a hippopotamus from the Nile, and a sort of tall, long-legged bird with a
beak like a powder horn and close-fitting wings like the tails of a dress
coat. This fellow stood up with his eyes shut and his shoulders stooped
forward a little, and looked as if he had his hands under his coat
tails. Such tranquil stupidity, such supernatural gravity, such
self-righteousness, and such ineffable self-complacency as were in the
countenance and attitude of that gray-bodied, dark-winged, bald-headed,
and preposterously uncomely bird! He was so ungainly, so pimply about
the head, so scaly about the legs, yet so serene, so unspeakably
satisfied! He was the most comical-looking creature that can be
imagined. It was good to hear Dan and the doctor laugh--such natural and
such enjoyable laughter had not been heard among our excursionists since
our ship sailed away from America. This bird was a godsend to us, and I
should be an ingrate if I forgot to make honorable mention of him in
these pages. Ours was a pleasure excursion; therefore we stayed with
that bird an hour and made the most of him. We stirred him up
occasionally, but he only unclosed an eye and slowly closed it again,
abating no jot of his stately piety of demeanor or his tremendous
seriousness. He only seemed to say, "Defile not Heaven's anointed with
unsanctified hands." We did not know his name, and so we called him "The
Pilgrim." Dan said:
"All he wants now is a Plymouth Collection."
The boon companion of the colossal elephant was a common cat! This cat
had a fashion of climbing up the elephant's hind legs and roosting on his
back. She would sit up there, with her paws curved under her breast, and
sleep in the sun half the afternoon. It used to annoy the elephant at
first, and he would reach up and take her down, but she would go aft and
climb up again. She persisted until she finally conquered the elephant's
prejudices, and now they are inseparable friends. The cat plays about
her comrade's forefeet or his trunk often, until dogs approach, and then
she goes aloft out of danger. The elephant has annihilated several dogs
lately that pressed his companion too closely.
We hired a sailboat and a guide and made an excursion to one of the small
islands in the harbor to visit the Castle d'If. This ancient fortress
has a melancholy history. It has been used as a prison for political
offenders for two or three hundred years, and its dungeon walls are
scarred with the rudely carved names of many and many a captive who
fretted his life away here and left no record of himself but these sad
epitaphs wrought with his own hands. How thick the names were! And
their long-departed owners seemed to throng the gloomy cells and
corridors with their phantom shapes. We loitered through dungeon after
dungeon, away down into the living rock below the level of the sea, it
seemed. Names everywhere!--some plebeian, some noble, some even
princely. Plebeian, prince, and noble had one solicitude in common--they
would not be forgotten! They could suffer solitude, inactivity, and the
horrors of a silence that no sound ever disturbed, but they could not
bear the thought of being utterly forgotten by the world. Hence the
carved names. In one cell, where a little light penetrated, a man had
lived twenty-seven years without seeing the face of a human being--lived
in filth and wretchedness, with no companionship but his own thoughts,
and they were sorrowful enough and hopeless enough, no doubt. Whatever
his jailers considered that he needed was conveyed to his cell by night
through a wicket.
This man carved the walls of his prison house from floor to roof with all
manner of figures of men and animals grouped in intricate designs. He
had toiled there year after year, at his self-appointed task, while
infants grew to boyhood--to vigorous youth--idled through school and
college--acquired a profession--claimed man's mature estate--married and
looked back to infancy as to a thing of some vague, ancient time, almost.
But who shall tell how many ages it seemed to this prisoner? With the
one, time flew sometimes; with the other, never--it crawled always. To
the one, nights spent in dancing had seemed made of minutes instead of
hours; to the other, those selfsame nights had been like all other nights
of dungeon life and seemed made of slow, dragging weeks instead of hours
One prisoner of fifteen years had scratched verses upon his walls, and
brief prose sentences--brief, but full of pathos. These spoke not of
himself and his hard estate, but only of the shrine where his spirit fled
the prison to worship--of home and the idols that were templed there.
He never lived to see them.
The walls of these dungeons are as thick as some bed-chambers at home are
wide--fifteen feet. We saw the damp, dismal cells in which two of Dumas'
heroes passed their confinement--heroes of "Monte Cristo." It was here
that the brave Abbe wrote a book with his own blood, with a pen made of a
piece of iron hoop, and by the light of a lamp made out of shreds of
cloth soaked in grease obtained from his food; and then dug through the
thick wall with some trifling instrument which he wrought himself out of
a stray piece of iron or table cutlery and freed Dantes from his chains.
It was a pity that so many weeks of dreary labor should have come to
naught at last.
They showed us the noisome cell where the celebrated "Iron Mask"--that
ill-starred brother of a hardhearted king of France--was confined for a
season before he was sent to hide the strange mystery of his life from
the curious in the dungeons of Ste. Marguerite. The place had a far
greater interest for us than it could have had if we had known beyond all
question who the Iron Mask was, and what his history had been, and why
this most unusual punishment had been meted out to him. Mystery! That
was the charm. That speechless tongue, those prisoned features, that
heart so freighted with unspoken troubles, and that breast so oppressed
with its piteous secret had been here. These dank walls had known the
man whose dolorous story is a sealed book forever! There was fascination
in the spot.
We have come five hundred miles by rail through the heart of France.
What a bewitching land it is! What a garden! Surely the leagues of
bright green lawns are swept and brushed and watered every day and their
grasses trimmed by the barber. Surely the hedges are shaped and measured
and their symmetry preserved by the most architectural of gardeners.
Surely the long straight rows of stately poplars that divide the
beautiful landscape like the squares of a checker-board are set with line
and plummet, and their uniform height determined with a spirit level.
Surely the straight, smooth, pure white turnpikes are jack-planed and
sandpapered every day. How else are these marvels of symmetry,
cleanliness, and order attained? It is wonderful. There are no
unsightly stone walls and never a fence of any kind. There is no dirt,
no decay, no rubbish anywhere--nothing that even hints at untidiness
--nothing that ever suggests neglect. All is orderly and beautiful--every
thing is charming to the eye.
We had such glimpses of the Rhone gliding along between its grassy banks;
of cosy cottages buried in flowers and shrubbery; of quaint old red-tiled
villages with mossy medieval cathedrals looming out of their midst; of
wooded hills with ivy-grown towers and turrets of feudal castles
projecting above the foliage; such glimpses of Paradise, it seemed to us,
such visions of fabled fairyland!
We knew then what the poet meant when he sang of: "--thy cornfields
green, and sunny vines, O pleasant land of France!"
And it is a pleasant land. No word describes it so felicitously as that
one. They say there is no word for "home" in the French language. Well,
considering that they have the article itself in such an attractive
aspect, they ought to manage to get along without the word. Let us not
waste too much pity on "homeless" France. I have observed that Frenchmen
abroad seldom wholly give up the idea of going back to France some time
or other. I am not surprised at it now.
We are not infatuated with these French railway cars, though. We took
first-class passage, not because we wished to attract attention by doing
a thing which is uncommon in Europe but because we could make our journey
quicker by so doing. It is hard to make railroading pleasant in any
country. It is too tedious. Stagecoaching is infinitely more
delightful. Once I crossed the plains and deserts and mountains of the
West in a stagecoach, from the Missouri line to California, and since
then all my pleasure trips must be measured to that rare holiday frolic.
Two thousand miles of ceaseless rush and rattle and clatter, by night and
by day, and never a weary moment, never a lapse of interest! The first
seven hundred miles a level continent, its grassy carpet greener and
softer and smoother than any sea and figured with designs fitted to its
magnitude--the shadows of the clouds. Here were no scenes but summer
scenes, and no disposition inspired by them but to lie at full length on
the mail sacks in the grateful breeze and dreamily smoke the pipe of
peace--what other, where all was repose and contentment? In cool
mornings, before the sun was fairly up, it was worth a lifetime of city
toiling and moiling to perch in the foretop with the driver and see the
six mustangs scamper under the sharp snapping of the whip that never
touched them; to scan the blue distances of a world that knew no lords
but us; to cleave the wind with uncovered head and feel the sluggish
pulses rousing to the spirit of a speed that pretended to the resistless
rush of a typhoon! Then thirteen hundred miles of desert solitudes; of
limitless panoramas of bewildering perspective; of mimic cities, of
pinnacled cathedrals, of massive fortresses, counterfeited in the eternal
rocks and splendid with the crimson and gold of the setting sun; of dizzy
altitudes among fog-wreathed peaks and never-melting snows, where
thunders and lightnings and tempests warred magnificently at our feet and
the storm clouds above swung their shredded banners in our very faces!
But I forgot. I am in elegant France now, and not scurrying through the
great South Pass and the Wind River Mountains, among antelopes and
buffaloes and painted Indians on the warpath. It is not meet that I
should make too disparaging comparisons between humdrum travel on a
railway and that royal summer flight across a continent in a stagecoach.
I meant in the beginning to say that railway journeying is tedious and
tiresome, and so it is--though at the time I was thinking particularly of
a dismal fifty-hour pilgrimage between New York and St. Louis. Of course
our trip through France was not really tedious because all its scenes and
experiences were new and strange; but as Dan says, it had its
The cars are built in compartments that hold eight persons each. Each
compartment is partially subdivided, and so there are two tolerably
distinct parties of four in it. Four face the other four. The seats and
backs are thickly padded and cushioned and are very comfortable; you can
smoke if you wish; there are no bothersome peddlers; you are saved the
infliction of a multitude of disagreeable fellow passengers. So far, so
well. But then the conductor locks you in when the train starts; there
is no water to drink in the car; there is no heating apparatus for night
travel; if a drunken rowdy should get in, you could not remove a matter
of twenty seats from him or enter another car; but above all, if you are
worn out and must sleep, you must sit up and do it in naps, with cramped
legs and in a torturing misery that leaves you withered and lifeless the
next day--for behold they have not that culmination of all charity and
human kindness, a sleeping car, in all France. I prefer the American
system. It has not so many grievous "discrepancies."
In France, all is clockwork, all is order. They make no mistakes. Every
third man wears a uniform, and whether he be a marshal of the empire or a
brakeman, he is ready and perfectly willing to answer all your questions
with tireless politeness, ready to tell you which car to take, yea, and
ready to go and put you into it to make sure that you shall not go
astray. You cannot pass into the waiting room of the depot till you have
secured your ticket, and you cannot pass from its only exit till the
train is at its threshold to receive you. Once on board, the train will
not start till your ticket has been examined--till every passenger's
ticket has been inspected. This is chiefly for your own good. If by any
possibility you have managed to take the wrong train, you will be handed
over to a polite official who will take you whither you belong and bestow
you with many an affable bow. Your ticket will be inspected every now
and then along the route, and when it is time to change cars you will
know it. You are in the hands of officials who zealously study your
welfare and your interest, instead of turning their talents to the
invention of new methods of discommoding and snubbing you, as is very
often the main employment of that exceedingly self-satisfied monarch, the
railroad conductor of America.
But the happiest regulation in French railway government is--thirty
minutes to dinner! No five-minute boltings of flabby rolls, muddy
coffee, questionable eggs, gutta-percha beef, and pies whose conception
and execution are a dark and bloody mystery to all save the cook that
created them! No, we sat calmly down--it was in old Dijon, which is so
easy to spell and so impossible to pronounce except when you civilize it
and call it Demijohn--and poured out rich Burgundian wines and munched
calmly through a long table d'hote bill of fare, snail patties, delicious
fruits and all, then paid the trifle it cost and stepped happily aboard
the train again, without once cursing the railroad company. A rare
experience and one to be treasured forever.
They say they do not have accidents on these French roads, and I think it
must be true. If I remember rightly, we passed high above wagon roads or
through tunnels under them, but never crossed them on their own level.
About every quarter of a mile, it seemed to me, a man came out and held
up a club till the train went by, to signify that everything was safe
ahead. Switches were changed a mile in advance by pulling a wire rope
that passed along the ground by the rail, from station to station.
Signals for the day and signals for the night gave constant and timely
notice of the position of switches.
No, they have no railroad accidents to speak of in France. But why?
Because when one occurs, somebody has to hang for it! Not hang, maybe,
but be punished at least with such vigor of emphasis as to make
negligence a thing to be shuddered at by railroad officials for many a
day thereafter. "No blame attached to the officers"--that lying and
disaster-breeding verdict so common to our softhearted juries is seldom
rendered in France. If the trouble occurred in the conductor's
department, that officer must suffer if his subordinate cannot be proven
guilty; if in the engineer's department and the case be similar, the
engineer must answer.
The Old Travelers--those delightful parrots who have "been here before"
and know more about the country than Louis Napoleon knows now or ever
will know--tell us these things, and we believe them because they are
pleasant things to believe and because they are plausible and savor of
the rigid subjection to law and order which we behold about us
But we love the Old Travelers. We love to hear them prate and drivel and
lie. We can tell them the moment we see them. They always throw out a
few feelers; they never cast themselves adrift till they have sounded
every individual and know that he has not traveled. Then they open their
throttle valves, and how they do brag, and sneer, and swell, and soar,
and blaspheme the sacred name of Truth! Their central idea, their grand
aim, is to subjugate you, keep you down, make you feel insignificant and
humble in the blaze of their cosmopolitan glory! They will not let you
know anything. They sneer at your most inoffensive suggestions; they
laugh unfeelingly at your treasured dreams of foreign lands; they brand
the statements of your traveled aunts and uncles as the stupidest
absurdities; they deride your most trusted authors and demolish the fair
images they have set up for your willing worship with the pitiless
ferocity of the fanatic iconoclast! But still I love the Old Travelers.
I love them for their witless platitudes, for their supernatural ability
to bore, for their delightful asinine vanity, for their luxuriant
fertility of imagination, for their startling, their brilliant, their
By Lyons and the Saone (where we saw the lady of Lyons and thought little
of her comeliness), by Villa Franca, Tonnere, venerable Sens, Melun,
Fontainebleau, and scores of other beautiful cities, we swept, always
noting the absence of hog-wallows, broken fences, cow lots, unpainted
houses, and mud, and always noting, as well, the presence of cleanliness,
grace, taste in adorning and beautifying, even to the disposition of a
tree or the turning of a hedge, the marvel of roads in perfect repair,
void of ruts and guiltless of even an inequality of surface--we bowled
along, hour after hour, that brilliant summer day, and as nightfall
approached we entered a wilderness of odorous flowers and shrubbery, sped
through it, and then, excited, delighted, and half persuaded that we were
only the sport of a beautiful dream, lo, we stood in magnificent Paris!
What excellent order they kept about that vast depot! There was no
frantic crowding and jostling, no shouting and swearing, and no
swaggering intrusion of services by rowdy hackmen. These latter gentry
stood outside--stood quietly by their long line of vehicles and said
never a word. A kind of hackman general seemed to have the whole matter
of transportation in his hands. He politely received the passengers and
ushered them to the kind of conveyance they wanted, and told the driver
where to deliver them. There was no "talking back," no dissatisfaction
about overcharging, no grumbling about anything. In a little while we
were speeding through the streets of Paris and delightfully recognizing
certain names and places with which books had long ago made us familiar.
It was like meeting an old friend when we read Rue de Rivoli on the
street corner; we knew the genuine vast palace of the Louvre as well as
we knew its picture; when we passed by the Column of July we needed no
one to tell us what it was or to remind us that on its site once stood
the grim Bastille, that grave of human hopes and happiness, that dismal
prison house within whose dungeons so many young faces put on the
wrinkles of age, so many proud spirits grew humble, so many brave hearts
We secured rooms at the hotel, or rather, we had three beds put into one
room, so that we might be together, and then we went out to a restaurant,
just after lamplighting, and ate a comfortable, satisfactory, lingering
dinner. It was a pleasure to eat where everything was so tidy, the food
so well cooked, the waiters so polite, and the coming and departing
company so moustached, so frisky, so affable, so fearfully and
wonderfully Frenchy! All the surroundings were gay and enlivening. Two
hundred people sat at little tables on the sidewalk, sipping wine and
coffee; the streets were thronged with light vehicles and with joyous
pleasure-seekers; there was music in the air, life and action all about
us, and a conflagration of gaslight everywhere!
After dinner we felt like seeing such Parisian specialties as we might
see without distressing exertion, and so we sauntered through the
brilliant streets and looked at the dainty trifles in variety stores and
jewelry shops. Occasionally, merely for the pleasure of being cruel, we
put unoffending Frenchmen on the rack with questions framed in the
incomprehensible jargon of their native language, and while they writhed
we impaled them, we peppered them, we scarified them, with their own vile
verbs and participles.
We noticed that in the jewelry stores they had some of the articles
marked "gold" and some labeled "imitation." We wondered at this
extravagance of honesty and inquired into the matter. We were informed
that inasmuch as most people are not able to tell false gold from the
genuine article, the government compels jewelers to have their gold work
assayed and stamped officially according to its fineness and their
imitation work duly labeled with the sign of its falsity. They told us
the jewelers would not dare to violate this law, and that whatever a
stranger bought in one of their stores might be depended upon as being
strictly what it was represented to be. Verily, a wonderful land is
Then we hunted for a barber-shop. From earliest infancy it had been
a cherished ambition of mine to be shaved some day in a palatial
barber-shop in Paris. I wished to recline at full length in a cushioned
invalid chair, with pictures about me and sumptuous furniture; with
frescoed walls and gilded arches above me and vistas of Corinthian
columns stretching far before me; with perfumes of Araby to intoxicate
my senses and the slumbrous drone of distant noises to soothe me to
sleep. At the end of an hour I would wake up regretfully and find my
face as smooth and as soft as an infant's. Departing, I would lift my
hands above that barber's head and say, "Heaven bless you, my son!"
So we searched high and low, for a matter of two hours, but never a
barber-shop could we see. We saw only wig-making establishments, with
shocks of dead and repulsive hair bound upon the heads of painted waxen
brigands who stared out from glass boxes upon the passer-by with their
stony eyes and scared him with the ghostly white of their countenances.
We shunned these signs for a time, but finally we concluded that the
wig-makers must of necessity be the barbers as well, since we could find
no single legitimate representative of the fraternity. We entered and
asked, and found that it was even so.
I said I wanted to be shaved. The barber inquired where my room was. I
said never mind where my room was, I wanted to be shaved--there, on the
spot. The doctor said he would be shaved also. Then there was an
excitement among those two barbers! There was a wild consultation, and
afterwards a hurrying to and fro and a feverish gathering up of razors
from obscure places and a ransacking for soap. Next they took us into a
little mean, shabby back room; they got two ordinary sitting-room chairs
and placed us in them with our coats on. My old, old dream of bliss
vanished into thin air!
I sat bolt upright, silent, sad, and solemn. One of the wig-making
villains lathered my face for ten terrible minutes and finished by
plastering a mass of suds into my mouth. I expelled the nasty stuff with
a strong English expletive and said, "Foreigner, beware!" Then this
outlaw strapped his razor on his boot, hovered over me ominously for six
fearful seconds, and then swooped down upon me like the genius of
destruction. The first rake of his razor loosened the very hide from my
face and lifted me out of the chair. I stormed and raved, and the other
boys enjoyed it. Their beards are not strong and thick. Let us draw the
curtain over this harrowing scene.
Suffice it that I submitted and went through with the cruel infliction of
a shave by a French barber; tears of exquisite agony coursed down my
cheeks now and then, but I survived. Then the incipient assassin held a
basin of water under my chin and slopped its contents over my face, and
into my bosom, and down the back of my neck, with a mean pretense of
washing away the soap and blood. He dried my features with a towel and
was going to comb my hair, but I asked to be excused. I said, with
withering irony, that it was sufficient to be skinned--I declined to be
I went away from there with my handkerchief about my face, and never,
never, never desired to dream of palatial Parisian barber-shops anymore.
The truth is, as I believe I have since found out, that they have no
barber shops worthy of the name in Paris--and no barbers, either, for
that matter. The impostor who does duty as a barber brings his pans and
napkins and implements of torture to your residence and deliberately
skins you in your private apartments. Ah, I have suffered, suffered,
suffered, here in Paris, but never mind--the time is coming when I shall
have a dark and bloody revenge. Someday a Parisian barber will come to
my room to skin me, and from that day forth that barber will never be
heard of more.
At eleven o'clock we alighted upon a sign which manifestly referred to
billiards. Joy! We had played billiards in the Azores with balls that
were not round and on an ancient table that was very little smoother than
a brick pavement--one of those wretched old things with dead cushions,
and with patches in the faded cloth and invisible obstructions that made
the balls describe the most astonishing and unsuspected angles and
perform feats in the way of unlooked-for and almost impossible
"scratches" that were perfectly bewildering. We had played at Gibraltar
with balls the size of a walnut, on a table like a public square--and in
both instances we achieved far more aggravation than amusement. We
expected to fare better here, but we were mistaken. The cushions were a
good deal higher than the balls, and as the balls had a fashion of always
stopping under the cushions, we accomplished very little in the way of
caroms. The cushions were hard and unelastic, and the cues were so
crooked that in making a shot you had to allow for the curve or you would
infallibly put the "English" on the wrong side of the hall. Dan was to
mark while the doctor and I played. At the end of an hour neither of us
had made a count, and so Dan was tired of keeping tally with nothing to
tally, and we were heated and angry and disgusted. We paid the heavy
bill--about six cents--and said we would call around sometime when we had
a week to spend, and finish the game.
We adjourned to one of those pretty cafes and took supper and tested the
wines of the country, as we had been instructed to do, and found them
harmless and unexciting. They might have been exciting, however, if we
had chosen to drink a sufficiency of them.
To close our first day in Paris cheerfully and pleasantly, we now sought
our grand room in the Grand Hotel du Louvre and climbed into our
sumptuous bed to read and smoke--but alas!
It was pitiful,
In a whole city-full,
Gas we had none.
No gas to read by--nothing but dismal candles. It was a shame. We tried
to map out excursions for the morrow; we puzzled over French "guides to
Paris"; we talked disjointedly in a vain endeavor to make head or tail of
the wild chaos of the day's sights and experiences; we subsided to
indolent smoking; we gaped and yawned and stretched--then feebly wondered
if we were really and truly in renowned Paris, and drifted drowsily away
into that vast mysterious void which men call sleep.
The next morning we were up and dressed at ten o'clock. We went to the
'commissionaire' of the hotel--I don't know what a 'commissionaire' is,
but that is the man we went to--and told him we wanted a guide. He said
the national Exposition had drawn such multitudes of Englishmen and
Americans to Paris that it would be next to impossible to find a good
guide unemployed. He said he usually kept a dozen or two on hand, but he
only had three now. He called them. One looked so like a very pirate
that we let him go at once. The next one spoke with a simpering
precision of pronunciation that was irritating and said:
"If ze zhentlemans will to me make ze grande honneur to me rattain in
hees serveece, I shall show to him every sing zat is magnifique to look
upon in ze beautiful Parree. I speaky ze Angleesh pairfaitemaw."
He would have done well to have stopped there, because he had that much
by heart and said it right off without making a mistake. But his
self-complacency seduced him into attempting a flight into regions of
unexplored English, and the reckless experiment was his ruin. Within ten
seconds he was so tangled up in a maze of mutilated verbs and torn and
bleeding forms of speech that no human ingenuity could ever have gotten
him out of it with credit. It was plain enough that he could not
"speaky" the English quite as "pairfaitemaw" as he had pretended he
The third man captured us. He was plainly dressed, but he had a
noticeable air of neatness about him. He wore a high silk hat which was
a little old, but had been carefully brushed. He wore second-hand kid
gloves, in good repair, and carried a small rattan cane with a curved
handle--a female leg--of ivory. He stepped as gently and as daintily as
a cat crossing a muddy street; and oh, he was urbanity; he was quiet,
unobtrusive self-possession; he was deference itself! He spoke softly
and guardedly; and when he was about to make a statement on his sole
responsibility or offer a suggestion, he weighed it by drachms and
scruples first, with the crook of his little stick placed meditatively to
his teeth. His opening speech was perfect. It was perfect in
construction, in phraseology, in grammar, in emphasis, in pronunciation
--everything. He spoke little and guardedly after that. We were charmed.
We were more than charmed--we were overjoyed. We hired him at once. We
never even asked him his price. This man--our lackey, our servant, our
unquestioning slave though he was--was still a gentleman--we could see
that--while of the other two one was coarse and awkward and the other was
a born pirate. We asked our man Friday's name. He drew from his
pocketbook a snowy little card and passed it to us with a profound bow:
Guide to Paris, France, Germany,
Spain, &c., &c.
Grande Hotel du Louvre.
"Billfinger! Oh, carry me home to die!"
That was an "aside" from Dan. The atrocious name grated harshly on my
ear, too. The most of us can learn to forgive, and even to like, a
countenance that strikes us unpleasantly at first, but few of us, I
fancy, become reconciled to a jarring name so easily. I was almost sorry
we had hired this man, his name was so unbearable. However, no matter.
We were impatient to start. Billfinger stepped to the door to call a
carriage, and then the doctor said:
"Well, the guide goes with the barbershop, with the billiard-table, with
the gasless room, and may be with many another pretty romance of Paris.
I expected to have a guide named Henri de Montmorency, or Armand de la
Chartreuse, or something that would sound grand in letters to the
villagers at home, but to think of a Frenchman by the name of Billfinger!
Oh! This is absurd, you know. This will never do. We can't say
Billfinger; it is nauseating. Name him over again; what had we better
call him? Alexis du Caulaincourt?"
"Alphonse Henri Gustave de Hauteville," I suggested.
"Call him Ferguson," said Dan.
That was practical, unromantic good sense. Without debate, we expunged
Billfinger as Billfinger, and called him Ferguson.
The carriage--an open barouche--was ready. Ferguson mounted beside the
driver, and we whirled away to breakfast. As was proper, Mr. Ferguson
stood by to transmit our orders and answer questions. By and by, he
mentioned casually--the artful adventurer--that he would go and get his
breakfast as soon as we had finished ours. He knew we could not get
along without him and that we would not want to loiter about and wait for
him. We asked him to sit down and eat with us. He begged, with many a
bow, to be excused. It was not proper, he said; he would sit at another
table. We ordered him peremptorily to sit down with us.
Here endeth the first lesson. It was a mistake.
As long as we had that fellow after that, he was always hungry; he was
always thirsty. He came early; he stayed late; he could not pass a
restaurant; he looked with a lecherous eye upon every wine shop.
Suggestions to stop, excuses to eat and to drink, were forever on his
lips. We tried all we could to fill him so full that he would have no
room to spare for a fortnight, but it was a failure. He did not hold
enough to smother the cravings of his superhuman appetite.
He had another "discrepancy" about him. He was always wanting us to buy
things. On the shallowest pretenses he would inveigle us into shirt
stores, boot stores, tailor shops, glove shops--anywhere under the broad
sweep of the heavens that there seemed a chance of our buying anything.
Anyone could have guessed that the shopkeepers paid him a percentage on
the sales, but in our blessed innocence we didn't until this feature of
his conduct grew unbearably prominent. One day Dan happened to mention
that he thought of buying three or four silk dress patterns for presents.
Ferguson's hungry eye was upon him in an instant. In the course of
twenty minutes the carriage stopped.
"Zis is ze finest silk magazin in Paris--ze most celebrate."
"What did you come here for? We told you to take us to the palace of the
"I suppose ze gentleman say he wish to buy some silk."
"You are not required to 'suppose' things for the party, Ferguson. We do
not wish to tax your energies too much. We will bear some of the burden
and heat of the day ourselves. We will endeavor to do such 'supposing'
as is really necessary to be done. Drive on." So spake the doctor.
Within fifteen minutes the carriage halted again, and before another silk
store. The doctor said:
"Ah, the palace of the Louvre--beautiful, beautiful edifice! Does the
Emperor Napoleon live here now, Ferguson?"
"Ah, Doctor! You do jest; zis is not ze palace; we come there directly.
But since we pass right by zis store, where is such beautiful silk--"
"Ah! I see, I see. I meant to have told you that we did not wish to
purchase any silks to-day, but in my absent-mindedness I forgot it. I
also meant to tell you we wished to go directly to the Louvre, but I
forgot that also. However, we will go there now. Pardon my seeming
carelessness, Ferguson. Drive on."
Within the half hour we stopped again--in front of another silk store.
We were angry; but the doctor was always serene, always smooth-voiced.
"At last! How imposing the Louvre is, and yet how small! How
exquisitely fashioned! How charmingly situated!--Venerable, venerable
"Pairdon, Doctor, zis is not ze Louvre--it is--"
"What is it?"
"I have ze idea--it come to me in a moment--zat ze silk in zis magazin--"
"Ferguson, how heedless I am. I fully intended to tell you that we did
not wish to buy any silks to-day, and I also intended to tell you that we
yearned to go immediately to the palace of the Louvre, but enjoying the
happiness of seeing you devour four breakfasts this morning has so filled
me with pleasurable emotions that I neglect the commonest interests of
the time. However, we will proceed now to the Louvre, Ferguson."
"But, doctor," (excitedly,) "it will take not a minute--not but one small
minute! Ze gentleman need not to buy if he not wish to--but only look at
ze silk--look at ze beautiful fabric. [Then pleadingly.] Sair--just only
one leetle moment!"
Dan said, "Confound the idiot! I don't want to see any silks today, and
I won't look at them. Drive on."
And the doctor: "We need no silks now, Ferguson. Our hearts yearn for
the Louvre. Let us journey on--let us journey on."
"But doctor! It is only one moment--one leetle moment. And ze time will
be save--entirely save! Because zere is nothing to see now--it is too
late. It want ten minute to four and ze Louvre close at four--only one
leetle moment, Doctor!"
The treacherous miscreant! After four breakfasts and a gallon of
champagne, to serve us such a scurvy trick. We got no sight of the
countless treasures of art in the Louvre galleries that day, and our only
poor little satisfaction was in the reflection that Ferguson sold not a
solitary silk dress pattern.
I am writing this chapter partly for the satisfaction of abusing that
accomplished knave Billfinger, and partly to show whosoever shall read
this how Americans fare at the hands of the Paris guides and what sort of
people Paris guides are. It need not be supposed that we were a stupider
or an easier prey than our countrymen generally are, for we were not.
The guides deceive and defraud every American who goes to Paris for the
first time and sees its sights alone or in company with others as little
experienced as himself. I shall visit Paris again someday, and then let
the guides beware! I shall go in my war paint--I shall carry my tomahawk
I think we have lost but little time in Paris. We have gone to bed every
night tired out. Of course we visited the renowned International
Exposition. All the world did that. We went there on our third day in
Paris--and we stayed there nearly two hours. That was our first and last
visit. To tell the truth, we saw at a glance that one would have to
spend weeks--yea, even months--in that monstrous establishment to get an
intelligible idea of it. It was a wonderful show, but the moving masses
of people of all nations we saw there were a still more wonderful show.
I discovered that if I were to stay there a month, I should still find
myself looking at the people instead of the inanimate objects on
exhibition. I got a little interested in some curious old tapestries of
the thirteenth century, but a party of Arabs came by, and their dusky
faces and quaint costumes called my attention away at once. I watched a
silver swan, which had a living grace about his movements and a living
intelligence in his eyes--watched him swimming about as comfortably and
as unconcernedly as if he had been born in a morass instead of a
jeweler's shop--watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and
hold up his head and go through all the customary and elaborate motions
of swallowing it--but the moment it disappeared down his throat some
tattooed South Sea Islanders approached and I yielded to their
Presently I found a revolving pistol several hundred years old which
looked strangely like a modern Colt, but just then I heard that the
Empress of the French was in another part of the building, and hastened
away to see what she might look like. We heard martial music--we saw an
unusual number of soldiers walking hurriedly about--there was a general
movement among the people. We inquired what it was all about and learned
that the Emperor of the French and the Sultan of Turkey were about to
review twenty-five thousand troops at the Arc de l'Etoile. We
immediately departed. I had a greater anxiety to see these men than I
could have had to see twenty expositions.
We drove away and took up a position in an open space opposite the
American minister's house. A speculator bridged a couple of barrels with
a board and we hired standing places on it. Presently there was a sound
of distant music; in another minute a pillar of dust came moving slowly
toward us; a moment more and then, with colors flying and a grand crash
of military music, a gallant array of cavalrymen emerged from the dust
and came down the street on a gentle trot. After them came a long line
of artillery; then more cavalry, in splendid uniforms; and then their
imperial majesties Napoleon III and Abdul Aziz. The vast concourse of
people swung their hats and shouted--the windows and housetops in the
wide vicinity burst into a snowstorm of waving handkerchiefs, and the
wavers of the same mingled their cheers with those of the masses below.
It was a stirring spectacle.
But the two central figures claimed all my attention. Was ever such a
contrast set up before a multitude till then? Napoleon in military
uniform--a long-bodied, short-legged man, fiercely moustached, old,
wrinkled, with eyes half closed, and such a deep, crafty, scheming
expression about them!--Napoleon, bowing ever so gently to the loud
plaudits, and watching everything and everybody with his cat eyes from
under his depressed hat brim, as if to discover any sign that those
cheers were not heartfelt and cordial.
Abdul Aziz, absolute lord of the Ottoman empire--clad in dark green
European clothes, almost without ornament or insignia of rank; a red
Turkish fez on his head; a short, stout, dark man, black-bearded,
black-eyed, stupid, unprepossessing--a man whose whole appearance
somehow suggested that if he only had a cleaver in his hand and a white
apron on, one would not be at all surprised to hear him say: "A mutton
roast today, or will you have a nice porterhouse steak?"
Napoleon III, the representative of the highest modern civilization,
progress, and refinement; Abdul-Aziz, the representative of a people by
nature and training filthy, brutish, ignorant, unprogressive,
superstitious--and a government whose Three Graces are Tyranny, Rapacity,
Blood. Here in brilliant Paris, under this majestic Arch of Triumph, the
First Century greets the Nineteenth!
NAPOLEON III., Emperor of France! Surrounded by shouting thousands, by
military pomp, by the splendors of his capital city, and companioned by
kings and princes--this is the man who was sneered at and reviled and
called Bastard--yet who was dreaming of a crown and an empire all the
while; who was driven into exile--but carried his dreams with him; who
associated with the common herd in America and ran foot races for a
wager--but still sat upon a throne in fancy; who braved every danger to
go to his dying mother--and grieved that she could not be spared to see
him cast aside his plebeian vestments for the purple of royalty; who kept
his faithful watch and walked his weary beat a common policeman of
London--but dreamed the while of a coming night when he should tread the
long-drawn corridors of the Tuileries; who made the miserable fiasco of
Strasbourg; saw his poor, shabby eagle, forgetful of its lesson, refuse
to perch upon his shoulder; delivered his carefully prepared, sententious
burst of eloquence upon unsympathetic ears; found himself a prisoner, the
butt of small wits, a mark for the pitiless ridicule of all the world
--yet went on dreaming of coronations and splendid pageants as before; who
lay a forgotten captive in the dungeons of Ham--and still schemed and
planned and pondered over future glory and future power; President of
France at last! a coup d'etat, and surrounded by applauding armies,
welcomed by the thunders of cannon, he mounts a throne and waves before
an astounded world the sceptre of a mighty empire! Who talks of the
marvels of fiction? Who speaks of the wonders of romance? Who prates of
the tame achievements of Aladdin and the Magii of Arabia?
ABDUL-AZIZ, Sultan of Turkey, Lord of the Ottoman Empire! Born to a
throne; weak, stupid, ignorant, almost, as his meanest slave; chief of a
vast royalty, yet the puppet of his Premier and the obedient child of a
tyrannical mother; a man who sits upon a throne--the beck of whose finger
moves navies and armies--who holds in his hands the power of life and
death over millions--yet who sleeps, sleeps, eats, eats, idles with his
eight hundred concubines, and when he is surfeited with eating and
sleeping and idling, and would rouse up and take the reins of government
and threaten to be a sultan, is charmed from his purpose by wary Fuad
Pacha with a pretty plan for a new palace or a new ship--charmed away
with a new toy, like any other restless child; a man who sees his people
robbed and oppressed by soulless tax-gatherers, but speaks no word to
save them; who believes in gnomes and genii and the wild fables of The
Arabian Nights, but has small regard for the mighty magicians of to-day,
and is nervous in the presence of their mysterious railroads and
steamboats and telegraphs; who would see undone in Egypt all that great
Mehemet Ali achieved, and would prefer rather to forget than emulate him;
a man who found his great empire a blot upon the earth--a degraded,
poverty-stricken, miserable, infamous agglomeration of ignorance, crime,
and brutality--and will idle away the allotted days of his trivial life
and then pass to the dust and the worms and leave it so!
Napoleon has augmented the commercial prosperity of France in ten years
to such a degree that figures can hardly compute it. He has rebuilt
Paris and has partly rebuilt every city in the state. He condemns a
whole street at a time, assesses the damages, pays them, and rebuilds
superbly. Then speculators buy up the ground and sell, but the original
owner is given the first choice by the government at a stated price
before the speculator is permitted to purchase. But above all things, he
has taken the sole control of the empire of France into his hands and
made it a tolerably free land--for people who will not attempt to go too
far in meddling with government affairs. No country offers greater
security to life and property than France, and one has all the freedom he
wants, but no license--no license to interfere with anybody or make
As for the Sultan, one could set a trap any where and catch a dozen abler
men in a night.
The bands struck up, and the brilliant adventurer, Napoleon III., the
genius of Energy, Persistence, Enterprise; and the feeble Abdul-Aziz, the
genius of Ignorance, Bigotry, and Indolence, prepared for the Forward
We saw the splendid review, we saw the white-moustached old Crimean
soldier, Canrobert, Marshal of France, we saw--well, we saw every thing,
and then we went home satisfied.
We went to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We had heard of it before.
It surprises me sometimes to think how much we do know and how
intelligent we are. We recognized the brown old Gothic pile in a moment;
it was like the pictures. We stood at a little distance and changed from
one point of observation to another and gazed long at its lofty square
towers and its rich front, clustered thick with stony, mutilated saints
who had been looking calmly down from their perches for ages. The
Patriarch of Jerusalem stood under them in the old days of chivalry and
romance, and preached the third Crusade, more than six hundred years ago;
and since that day they have stood there and looked quietly down upon the
most thrilling scenes, the grandest pageants, the most extraordinary
spectacles that have grieved or delighted Paris. These battered and
broken-nosed old fellows saw many and many a cavalcade of mail-clad
knights come marching home from Holy Land; they heard the bells above
them toll the signal for the St. Bartholomew's Massacre, and they saw the
slaughter that followed; later they saw the Reign of Terror, the carnage
of the Revolution, the overthrow of a king, the coronation of two
Napoleons, the christening of the young prince that lords it over a
regiment of servants in the Tuileries to-day--and they may possibly
continue to stand there until they see the Napoleon dynasty swept away
and the banners of a great republic floating above its ruins. I wish
these old parties could speak. They could tell a tale worth the
They say that a pagan temple stood where Notre Dame now stands, in the
old Roman days, eighteen or twenty centuries ago--remains of it are still
preserved in Paris; and that a Christian church took its place about A.D.
300; another took the place of that in A.D. 500; and that the foundations
of the present cathedral were laid about A.D. 1100. The ground ought to
be measurably sacred by this time, one would think. One portion of this
noble old edifice is suggestive of the quaint fashions of ancient times.
It was built by Jean Sans-Peur, Duke of Burgundy, to set his conscience
at rest--he had assassinated the Duke of Orleans. Alas! Those good old
times are gone when a murderer could wipe the stain from his name and
soothe his troubles to sleep simply by getting out his bricks and mortar
and building an addition to a church.
The portals of the great western front are bisected by square pillars.
They took the central one away in 1852, on the occasion of thanksgivings
for the reinstitution of the presidential power--but precious soon they
had occasion to reconsider that motion and put it back again! And they
We loitered through the grand aisles for an hour or two, staring up at
the rich stained-glass windows embellished with blue and yellow and
crimson saints and martyrs, and trying to admire the numberless great
pictures in the chapels, and then we were admitted to the sacristy and
shown the magnificent robes which the Pope wore when he crowned Napoleon
I; a wagon-load of solid gold and silver utensils used in the great
public processions and ceremonies of the church; some nails of the true
cross, a fragment of the cross itself, a part of the crown of thorns.
We had already seen a large piece of the true cross in a church in the
Azores, but no nails. They showed us likewise the bloody robe which that
archbishop of Paris wore who exposed his sacred person and braved the
wrath of the insurgents of 1848, to mount the barricades and hold aloft
the olive branch of peace in the hope of stopping the slaughter. His
noble effort cost him his life. He was shot dead. They showed us a cast
of his face taken after death, the bullet that killed him, and the two
vertebrae in which it lodged. These people have a somewhat singular
taste in the matter of relics. Ferguson told us that the silver cross
which the good archbishop wore at his girdle was seized and thrown into
the Seine, where it lay embedded in the mud for fifteen years, and then
an angel appeared to a priest and told him where to dive for it; he did
dive for it and got it, and now it is there on exhibition at Notre Dame,
to be inspected by anybody who feels an interest in inanimate objects of
Next we went to visit the Morgue, that horrible receptacle for the dead
who die mysteriously and leave the manner of their taking off a dismal
secret. We stood before a grating and looked through into a room which
was hung all about with the clothing of dead men; coarse blouses,
water-soaked; the delicate garments of women and children; patrician
vestments, hacked and stabbed and stained with red; a hat that was
crushed and bloody. On a slanting stone lay a drowned man, naked,
swollen, purple; clasping the fragment of a broken bush with a grip
which death had so petrified that human strength could not unloose it
--mute witness of the last despairing effort to save the life that was
doomed beyond all help. A stream of water trickled ceaselessly over the
hideous face. We knew that the body and the clothing were there for
identification by friends, but still we wondered if anybody could love
that repulsive object or grieve for its loss. We grew meditative and
wondered if, some forty years ago, when the mother of that ghastly thing
was dandling it upon her knee, and kissing it and petting it and
displaying it with satisfied pride to the passers-by, a prophetic vision
of this dread ending ever flitted through her brain. I half feared that
the mother, or the wife or a brother of the dead man might come while we
stood there, but nothing of the kind occurred. Men and women came, and
some looked eagerly in and pressed their faces against the bars; others
glanced carelessly at the body and turned away with a disappointed look
--people, I thought, who live upon strong excitements and who attend the
exhibitions of the Morgue regularly, just as other people go to see
theatrical spectacles every night. When one of these looked in and
passed on, I could not help thinking--
"Now this don't afford you any satisfaction--a party with his head shot
off is what you need."
One night we went to the celebrated Jardin Mabille, but only staid a
little while. We wanted to see some of this kind of Paris life, however,
and therefore the next night we went to a similar place of entertainment
in a great garden in the suburb of Asnieres. We went to the railroad
depot, toward evening, and Ferguson got tickets for a second-class
carriage. Such a perfect jam of people I have not often seen--but there
was no noise, no disorder, no rowdyism. Some of the women and young
girls that entered the train we knew to be of the demi-monde, but others
we were not at all sure about.
The girls and women in our carriage behaved themselves modestly and
becomingly all the way out, except that they smoked. When we arrived at
the garden in Asnieres, we paid a franc or two admission and entered a
place which had flower beds in it, and grass plots, and long, curving
rows of ornamental shrubbery, with here and there a secluded bower
convenient for eating ice cream in. We moved along the sinuous gravel
walks, with the great concourse of girls and young men, and suddenly a
domed and filigreed white temple, starred over and over and over again
with brilliant gas jets, burst upon us like a fallen sun. Nearby was a
large, handsome house with its ample front illuminated in the same way,
and above its roof floated the Star-Spangled Banner of America.
"Well!" I said. "How is this?" It nearly took my breath away.
Ferguson said an American--a New Yorker--kept the place, and was carrying
on quite a stirring opposition to the Jardin Mabille.
Crowds composed of both sexes and nearly all ages were frisking about the
garden or sitting in the open air in front of the flagstaff and the
temple, drinking wine and coffee or smoking. The dancing had not begun
yet. Ferguson said there was to be an exhibition. The famous Blondin
was going to perform on a tightrope in another part of the garden. We
went thither. Here the light was dim, and the masses of people were
pretty closely packed together. And now I made a mistake which any
donkey might make, but a sensible man never. I committed an error which
I find myself repeating every day of my life. Standing right before a
young lady, I said:
"Dan, just look at this girl, how beautiful she is!"
"I thank you more for the evident sincerity of the compliment, sir, than
for the extraordinary publicity you have given to it!" This in good,
We took a walk, but my spirits were very, very sadly dampened. I did not
feel right comfortable for some time afterward. Why will people be so
stupid as to suppose themselves the only foreigners among a crowd of ten
But Blondin came out shortly. He appeared on a stretched cable, far away
above the sea of tossing hats and handkerchiefs, and in the glare of the
hundreds of rockets that whizzed heavenward by him he looked like a wee
insect. He balanced his pole and walked the length of his rope--two or
three hundred feet; he came back and got a man and carried him across; he
returned to the center and danced a jig; next he performed some gymnastic
and balancing feats too perilous to afford a pleasant spectacle; and he
finished by fastening to his person a thousand Roman candles, Catherine
wheels, serpents and rockets of all manner of brilliant colors, setting
them on fire all at once and walking and waltzing across his rope again
in a blinding blaze of glory that lit up the garden and the people's
faces like a great conflagration at midnight.
The dance had begun, and we adjourned to the temple. Within it was a
drinking saloon, and all around it was a broad circular platform for the
dancers. I backed up against the wall of the temple, and waited. Twenty
sets formed, the music struck up, and then--I placed my hands before my
face for very shame. But I looked through my fingers. They were dancing
the renowned "Can-can." A handsome girl in the set before me tripped
forward lightly to meet the opposite gentleman, tripped back again,
grasped her dresses vigorously on both sides with her hands, raised them
pretty high, danced an extraordinary jig that had more activity and
exposure about it than any jig I ever saw before, and then, drawing her
clothes still higher, she advanced gaily to the center and launched a
vicious kick full at her vis-a-vis that must infallibly have removed his
nose if he had been seven feet high. It was a mercy he was only six.
That is the can-can. The idea of it is to dance as wildly, as noisily,
as furiously as you can; expose yourself as much as possible if you are a
woman; and kick as high as you can, no matter which sex you belong to.
There is no word of exaggeration in this. Any of the staid, respectable,
aged people who were there that night can testify to the truth of that
statement. There were a good many such people present. I suppose French
morality is not of that straight-laced description which is shocked at
I moved aside and took a general view of the can-can. Shouts, laughter,
furious music, a bewildering chaos of darting and intermingling forms,
stormy jerking and snatching of gay dresses, bobbing beads, flying arms,
lightning flashes of white-stockinged calves and dainty slippers in the
air, and then a grand final rush, riot, a terrific hubbub, and a wild
stampede! Heavens! Nothing like it has been seen on earth since
trembling Tam O'Shanter saw the devil and the witches at their orgies
that stormy night in "Alloway's auld haunted kirk."
We visited the Louvre, at a time when we had no silk purchases in view,
and looked at its miles of paintings by the old masters. Some of them
were beautiful, but at the same time they carried such evidences about
them of the cringing spirit of those great men that we found small
pleasure in examining them. Their nauseous adulation of princely patrons
was more prominent to me and chained my attention more surely than the
charms of color and expression which are claimed to be in the pictures.
Gratitude for kindnesses is well, but it seems to me that some of those
artists carried it so far that it ceased to be gratitude and became
worship. If there is a plausible excuse for the worship of men, then by
all means let us forgive Rubens and his brethren.
But I will drop the subject, lest I say something about the old masters
that might as well be left unsaid.
Of course we drove in the Bois de Boulogne, that limitless park, with its
forests, its lakes, its cascades, and its broad avenues. There were
thousands upon thousands of vehicles abroad, and the scene was full of
life and gaiety. There were very common hacks, with father and mother
and all the children in them; conspicuous little open carriages with
celebrated ladies of questionable reputation in them; there were Dukes
and Duchesses abroad, with gorgeous footmen perched behind, and equally
gorgeous outriders perched on each of the six horses; there were blue and
silver, and green and gold, and pink and black, and all sorts and
descriptions of stunning and startling liveries out, and I almost yearned
to be a flunkey myself, for the sake of the fine clothes.
But presently the Emperor came along and he outshone them all. He was
preceded by a bodyguard of gentlemen on horseback in showy uniforms, his
carriage-horses (there appeared to be somewhere in the remote
neighborhood of a thousand of them,) were bestridden by gallant-looking
fellows, also in stylish uniforms, and after the carriage followed
another detachment of bodyguards. Everybody got out of the way;
everybody bowed to the Emperor and his friend the Sultan; and they went
by on a swinging trot and disappeared.
I will not describe the Bois de Boulogne. I can not do it. It is simply
a beautiful, cultivated, endless, wonderful wilderness. It is an
enchanting place. It is in Paris now, one may say, but a crumbling old
cross in one portion of it reminds one that it was not always so. The
cross marks the spot where a celebrated troubadour was waylaid and
murdered in the fourteenth century. It was in this park that that fellow
with an unpronounceable name made the attempt upon the Russian Czar's
life last spring with a pistol. The bullet struck a tree. Ferguson
showed us the place. Now in America that interesting tree would be
chopped down or forgotten within the next five years, but it will be
treasured here. The guides will point it out to visitors for the next
eight hundred years, and when it decays and falls down they will put up
another there and go on with the same old story just the same.
One of our pleasantest visits was to Pere la Chaise, the national
burying-ground of France, the honored resting-place of some of her
greatest and best children, the last home of scores of illustrious men
and women who were born to no titles, but achieved fame by their own
energy and their own genius. It is a solemn city of winding streets and
of miniature marble temples and mansions of the dead gleaming white from
out a wilderness of foliage and fresh flowers. Not every city is so well
peopled as this, or has so ample an area within its walls. Few palaces
exist in any city that are so exquisite in design, so rich in art, so
costly in material, so graceful, so beautiful.
We had stood in the ancient church of St. Denis, where the marble
effigies of thirty generations of kings and queens lay stretched at
length upon the tombs, and the sensations invoked were startling and
novel; the curious armor, the obsolete costumes, the placid faces, the
hands placed palm to palm in eloquent supplication--it was a vision of
gray antiquity. It seemed curious enough to be standing face to face, as
it were, with old Dagobert I., and Clovis and Charlemagne, those vague,
colossal heroes, those shadows, those myths of a thousand years ago! I
touched their dust-covered faces with my finger, but Dagobert was deader
than the sixteen centuries that have passed over him, Clovis slept well
after his labor for Christ, and old Charlemagne went on dreaming of his
paladins, of bloody Roncesvalles, and gave no heed to me.
The great names of Pere la Chaise impress one, too, but differently.
There the suggestion brought constantly to his mind is, that this place
is sacred to a nobler royalty--the royalty of heart and brain. Every
faculty of mind, every noble trait of human nature, every high occupation
which men engage in, seems represented by a famous name. The effect is a
curious medley. Davoust and Massena, who wrought in many a battle
tragedy, are here, and so also is Rachel, of equal renown in mimic
tragedy on the stage. The Abbe Sicard sleeps here--the first great
teacher of the deaf and dumb--a man whose heart went out to every
unfortunate, and whose life was given to kindly offices in their service;
and not far off, in repose and peace at last, lies Marshal Ney, whose
stormy spirit knew no music like the bugle call to arms. The man who
originated public gas-lighting, and that other benefactor who introduced
the cultivation of the potato and thus blessed millions of his starving
countrymen, lie with the Prince of Masserano, and with exiled queens and
princes of Further India. Gay-Lussac the chemist, Laplace the
astronomer, Larrey the surgeon, de Suze the advocate, are here, and with
them are Talma, Bellini, Rubini; de Balzac, Beaumarchais, Beranger;
Moliere and Lafontaine, and scores of other men whose names and whose
worthy labors are as familiar in the remote by-places of civilization as
are the historic deeds of the kings and princes that sleep in the marble
vaults of St. Denis.
But among the thousands and thousands of tombs in Pere la Chaise, there
is one that no man, no woman, no youth of either sex, ever passes by
without stopping to examine. Every visitor has a sort of indistinct idea
of the history of its dead and comprehends that homage is due there, but
not one in twenty thousand clearly remembers the story of that tomb and
its romantic occupants. This is the grave of Abelard and Heloise--a
grave which has been more revered, more widely known, more written and
sung about and wept over, for seven hundred years, than any other in
Christendom save only that of the Saviour. All visitors linger pensively
about it; all young people capture and carry away keepsakes and mementoes
of it; all Parisian youths and maidens who are disappointed in love come
there to bail out when they are full of tears; yea, many stricken lovers
make pilgrimages to this shrine from distant provinces to weep and wail
and "grit" their teeth over their heavy sorrows, and to purchase the
sympathies of the chastened spirits of that tomb with offerings of
immortelles and budding flowers.
Go when you will, you find somebody snuffling over that tomb. Go when
you will, you find it furnished with those bouquets and immortelles. Go
when you will, you find a gravel-train from Marseilles arriving to supply
the deficiencies caused by memento-cabbaging vandals whose affections
Yet who really knows the story of Abelard and Heloise? Precious few
people. The names are perfectly familiar to every body, and that is
about all. With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that
history, and I propose to narrate it here, partly for the honest
information of the public and partly to show that public that they have
been wasting a good deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily.
STORY OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Heloise was born seven hundred and sixty-six years ago. She may have had
parents. There is no telling. She lived with her uncle Fulbert, a canon
of the cathedral of Paris. I do not know what a canon of a cathedral is,
but that is what he was. He was nothing more than a sort of a mountain
howitzer, likely, because they had no heavy artillery in those days.
Suffice it, then, that Heloise lived with her uncle the howitzer and was
happy. She spent the most of her childhood in the convent of Argenteuil
--never heard of Argenteuil before, but suppose there was really such a
place. She then returned to her uncle, the old gun, or son of a gun, as
the case may be, and he taught her to write and speak Latin, which was