“POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE”.
Vo. XI, No. 27.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A NEW ATLANTIS.
THE ROUMI IN KABYLIA.
A REMINISCENCE OF THE EXPOSITION OF 1867 by ITA ANIOL PROKOP.
SLAINS CASTLE by LADY BLANCHE MURPHY.
OUR HOME IN THE TYROL by MARGARET HOWITT. CHAPTER III.
SAINT ROMUALDO by EMMA LAZARUS.
A PRINCESS OF THULE by WILLIAM BLACK CHAPTER VIII. “O TERQUE QUATERQUE BEATE!” CHAPTER IX. “FAREWELL, MACKRIMMON!”
THE EMERALD by A.C. HAMLIN, M.D.
BERRYTOWN by REBECCA HARDING DAVIS.
BOWERY ENGLAND by WIRT SIKES.
DAY-DREAM by KATE PUTNAM OSGOOD.
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.
THE GLADSTONE FAMILY.
WHITSUNTIDE AMONG THE MENNISTS.
THE RAW AMERICAN by PRENTICE MULFORD.
FAREWELL by LUCY H. HOOPER.
LITERATURE OF THE DAY.
ATLANTIC CITY FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE.
UP THE INLET.
LANDING-PLACE ON THE INLET.
MR. RICHARD WRIGHT’S COTTAGE.
THE SENATE HOUSE.
ON THE SHINING SANDS.
MR. THOMAS C. HAND’S COTTAGE.
THE EXCURSION HOUSE.
A SCENE IN FRONT OF SCHAUFLER’S HOTEL. ABD-EL-KADER IN KABYLIA.
AN AGHA OF KABYLIA HUNTING WITH THE FALCON. THE DISCIPLES OF TOFAIL.
A KOUBBA, OR MARABOUT’S TOMB.
DEFILE OF THIFILKOULT.
AN ARAB MARKET.
POVERTY AND JEWELS.
GEORGE CHRISTY IN AFRICA.
A NEW ATLANTIS.
[Illustration: ATLANTIC CITY FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE.]
The New Year’s debts are paid, the May-day moving is over and settled, and still a remnant of money is found sticking to the bottom of the old marmalade pot. Where shall we go?
There is nothing like the sea. Shall it be Newport?
But Newport is no longer the ocean pure and deep, in the rich severity of its _sangre azul_. We want to admire the waves, and they drag us off to inspect the last new villa: we like the beach, and they bid us enjoy the gardens, brought every spring in lace-paper out of the florist’s shop. We like to stroll on the shore, barefooted if we choose, and Newport is become an affair of toilette and gold-mounted harness, a bathing-place where people do everything but bathe.
[Illustration: UP THE INLET.]
Well, Nahant, then, or Long Branch?
Too slow and too fast. Besides, we have seen them.
Suppose we try the Isles of Shoals? Appledore and Duck Island and White Island, now? Or Nantucket, or Marblehead?
Too stony, and nothing in particular to eat. You ask for fish, and they give you a rock.
In truth, under that moral and physical dyspepsia to which we bring ourselves regularly every summer, the fine crags of the north become just the least bit of a bore. They necessitate an amount of heroic climbing under the command of a sort of romantic and do-nothing Girls of the Period, who sit about on soft shawls in the lee of the rocks, and gather their shells and anemones vicariously at the expense of your tendon achilles. We know it, for we have suffered. We calculate, and are prepared to prove, that the successful collection of a single ribbon of ruffled seaweed, procured in a slimy haystack of red dulse at the beck of one inconsiderate girl, who is keeping her brass heels dry on a safe and sunny ledge of the Purgatory at Newport, may require more mental calculation, involve more anguish of equilibrium, and encourage more heartfelt secret profanity than the making of a steam-engine or the writing of a proposal.
No, no, we would admire nothing, dare nothing, do nothing, but only suck in rosy health at every pore, pin our souls out on the holly hedge to sweeten, and forget what we had for breakfast. Uneasy daemons that we are all winter, toiling gnomes of the mine and the forge–“O spent ones of a workday age”–can we not for one brief month in our year be Turks?
[Illustration: LANDING-PLACE ON THE INLET.]
Our doctors, slowly acquiring a little sense, are changing their remedies. Where the cry used to be “drugs,” it now is “hygiene.” But hygiene itself might be changed for the better. We can imagine a few improvements in the materia medica of the future. Where the physician used to order a tonic for a feeble pulse, he will simply hold his watch thoughtfully for sixty seconds and prescribe “Paris.” Where he was wont to recommend a strong emetic, he will in future advise a week’s study of the works of art at our National Capital. For lassitude, a donkey-ride up Vesuvius. For color-blindness, a course of sunrises from the Rigi. For deafness, Wachtel in his song of “Di quella Pira.” For melancolia, Naples. For fever, driving an ice-cart. But when the doctor’s most remunerative patient comes along, the pursy manufacturer able to afford the luxury of a bad liver, let him consult the knob of his cane a moment and order “Atlantic City.”
–Because it is lazy, yet stimulating. Because it is unspoilt, yet luxurious. Because the air there is filled with iodine and the sea with chloride of sodium. Because, with a whole universe of water, Atlantic City is dry. Because of its perfect rest and its infinite horizons.
But where and what _is_ Atlantic City? It is a refuge thrown up by the continent-building sea. Fashion took a caprice, and shook it out of a fold of her flounce. A railroad laid a wager to find the shortest distance from Penn’s treaty-elm to the Atlantic Ocean: it dashed into the water, and a City emerged from its freight-cars as a consequence of the manoeuvre. Almost any kind of a parent-age will account for Atlantis. It is beneath shoddy and above mediocrity. It is below Long Branch and higher up than Cape May. It is different from any watering-place in the world, yet its strong individuality might have been planted in any other spot; and a few years ago it was nowhere. Its success is due to its having nothing importunate about it. It promises endless sea, sky, liberty and privacy, and, having made you at home, it leaves you to your devices.
[Illustration: CONGRESS HALL.]
Two of our best marine painters in their works offer us a choice of coast-landscape. Kensett paints the bare stiff crags, whitened with salt, standing out of his foregrounds like the clean and hungry teeth of a wild animal, and looking hard enough to have worn out the painter’s brush with their implacable enamel. From their treeless waste extends the sea, a bath of deep, pure color. All seems keen, fresh, beautiful and severe: it would take a pair of stout New England lungs to breathe enjoyably in such an air. That is the northern coast. Mr. William Richards gives us the southern–the landscape, in fact, of Atlantic City. In his scenes we have the infinitude of soft silver beach, the rolling tumultuousness of a boundless sea, and twisted cedars mounted like toiling ships on the crests of undulating sand-hills. It is the charm, the dream, the power and the peace of the Desert.
And here let us be indulged with a few words about a section of our great continent which has never been sung in rhyme, and which it is almost a matter of course to treat disparagingly. A cheap and threadbare popular joke assigns the Delaware River as the eastern boundary of the United States of America, and defines the out-landers whose homes lie between that current and the Atlantic Ocean as foreigners, Iberians, and we know not what. Scarcely more of an exile was Victor Hugo, sitting on the shores of Old Jersey, than is the denizen of _New_ Jersey when he brings his half-sailor costume and his beach-learned manners into contrast with the thrift and hardness of the neighboring commonwealth. The native of the alluvium is another being from the native of the great mineral State. But, by the very reason of this difference, there is a strange soft charm that comes over our thoughts of the younger Jersey when we have done laughing at it. That broad, pale peninsula, built of shells and crystal-dust, which droops toward the south like some vast tropical leaf, and spreads its two edges toward the fresh and salt waters, enervated with drought and sunshine–that flat leaf of land has characteristics that are almost Oriental. To make it the sea heaved up her breast, and showed the whitened sides against which her tides were beating. To walk upon it is in a sense to walk upon the bottom of the ocean. Here are strange marls, the relics of infinite animal life, into which has sunk the lizard or the dragon of antiquity–the gigantic _Hadrosaurus_, who cranes his snaky throat at us in the museum, swelling with the tale of immemorial times when he weltered here in the sunny ooze. The country is a mighty steppe, but not deprived of trees: the ilex clothes it with its set, dark foliage, and the endless woods of pine, sand-planted, strew over that boundless beach a murmur like the sea. The edibles it bears are of the quaintest and most individual kinds: the cranberry is its native condiment, full of individuality, unknown to Europe, beautiful as a carbuncle, wild as a Tartar belle, and rife with a subacid irony that is like the wit of Heine.
[Illustration: MR. RICHARD WRIGHT’S COTTAGE.]
Here is the _patate douce_, with every kind of sweet-fleshed gourd that loves to gad along the sand–the citron in its carved net, and the enormous melon, carnation-colored within and dark-green to blackness outside. The peaches here are golden-pulped, as if trying to be oranges, and are richly bitter, with a dark hint of prussic acid, fascinating the taste like some enchantress of Venice, the pursuit of whom is made piquant by a fancy that she may poison you. The farther you penetrate this huge idle peninsula, the more its idiosyncrasy is borne in on your mind. Infinite horizons, “an everlasting wash of air,” the wild pure warmth of Arabia, and heated jungles of dwarf oaks balancing balmy plantations of pine. Then, toward the sea, the wiry grasses that dry into “salt hay” begin to dispute possession with the forests, and finally supplant them: the sand is blown into coast-hills, whose crests send off into every gale a foam of flying dust, and which themselves change shape, under pressure of the same winds, with a slower imitation of the waves. Finally, by the gentlest of transitions, the deserts and the quicksands become the ocean.
[Illustration: THE SENATE HOUSE.]
The shore melts into the sea by a network of creeks and inlets, edging the territory (as the flying osprey sees it) with an inimitable lacework of azure waters; the pattern is one of looping channels with oval interstices, and the dentellated border of the commonwealth resembles that sort of lace which was made by arranging on glass the food of a silk-spinning worm: the creature ate and wove, having voracity always before him and Fine Art behind him. Much of the solider part of the State is made of the materials which enter into glass-manufacture: a mighty enchanter might fuse the greater portion of it into one gigantic goblet. A slight approximation to this work of magic is already being carried on. The tourist who has crossed the lagoons of Venice to see the fitful lights flash up from the glass-furnaces of Murano, will find more than one locality here where leaping lights, crowning low banks of sand, are preparing the crystal for our infant industries in glass, and will remind him of his hours by the Adriatic. Every year bubbles of greater and greater beauty are being blown in these secluded places, and soon we hope to enrich commerce with all the elegances of latticinio and schmelze, the perfected glass of an American Venice.
But our business is not with the land, but the sea. Here it lies, basking at our feet, the warm amethystine sea of the South. It does not boom and thunder, as in the country of the “cold gray stones.” On the contrary, saturating itself with sunny ease, thinning its bulk over the shoal flat beach with a succession of voluptuous curves, it spreads thence in distance with strands and belts of varied color, away and away, until blind with light it faints on a prodigiously far horizon. Its falling noises are as soft as the sighs of Christabel. Its colors are the pale and milky colors of the opal. But ah! what an impression of boundlessness! How the silver ribbon of beach unrolls for miles and miles! And landward, what a parallel sea of marshes, bottoms and dunes! The sense of having all the kingdoms of the world spread out beneath one, together with most of the kingdoms of the mermen, has never so come to one’s consciousness before. And again, what an artist is Nature, with these faint washes and tenderest varied hues–varied and tender as the flames from burning gases–while her highest lights (a painter will understand the difficulty of _that_) are still diaphanous and profound!
One goes to the seaside not for pomp and peacock’s tails, but for saltness, Nature and a bite of fresh fish. To build a city there that shall not be an insult to the sentiment of the place is a matter of difficulty. One’s ideal, after all, is a canvas encampment. A range of solid stone villas like those of Newport, so far as congruity with a watering-place goes, pains the taste like a false note in music. Atlantic City pauses halfway between the stone house and the tent, and erects herself in woodwork. A quantity of bright, rather giddy-looking structures, with much open-work and carved ruffling about the eaves and balconies, are poised lightly on the sand, following the course of the two main avenues which lead parallel with the shore, and the series of short, straight, direct streets which leap across them and run eagerly for the sea. They have a low, brooding look, and evidently belong to a class of sybarites who are not fond of staircases. Among them, the great rambling hotel, sprawling in its ungainly length here and there, looks like one of the ordinary tall New York houses that had concluded to lie over on its side and grow, rather than take the trouble of piling on its stories standing. In this encampment of wooden pavilions is lived the peculiar life of the place.
[Illustration: ON THE SHINING SANDS.]
We are sure it is a sincere, natural, sensible kind of life, as compared with that of other bathing-shores. Although there are brass bands at the hotels, and hops in the evening, and an unequal struggle of macassar oil with salt and stubborn locks, yet the artificiality is kept at a minimum. People really do bathe, really do take walks on the beach for the love of the ocean, really do pick up shells and throw them away again, really do go yachting and crab-catching; and if they try city manners in the evening, they are so tired with their honest day’s work that it is apt to end in misery. On the hotel piazzas you see beauties that surprise you with exquisite touches of the warm and languid South. That dark Baltimore girl, her hair a constellation of jessamines, is beating her lover’s shoulders with her fan in a state of ferocity that you would give worlds to encounter. That pair of proud Philadelphia sisters, statues sculptured in peach-pulp and wrapped in gauze, look somehow like twin Muses at the gates of a temple. Whole rows of unmatched girls stare at the sea, desolate but implacable, waiting for partners equal to them in social position. In such a dearth a Philadelphia girl will turn to her old music-teacher and flirt solemnly with him for a whole evening, sooner than involve herself with well-looking young chits from Providence or New York, who may be jewelers’ clerks when at home. Yet the unspoiled and fruity beauty of these Southern belles is very striking to one who comes fresh from Saratoga and the sort of upholstered goddesses who are served to him there.
Some years ago the Surf House was the finest place of entertainment, but it has now many rivals, taller if not finer. Congress Hall, under the management of Mr. G.W. Hinkle, is a universal favorite, while the Senate House, standing under the shadow of the lighthouse, has the advantage of being the nearest to the beach of all the hotels. Both are ample and hospitable hostelries, where you are led persuasively through the Eleusinian mystery of the Philadelphia cuisine. Schaufler’s is an especial resort of our German fellow-citizens, who may there be seen enjoying themselves in the manner depicted by our artist, while concocting–as we are warned by M. Henri Kowalski–the ambitious schemes which they conceal under their ordinary _enveloppe debonnaire_.
[Illustration: MR. THOMAS C. HAND’S COTTAGE.]
There is another feature of the place. With its rarely fine atmosphere, so tonic and bracing, so free from the depressing fog of the North, it is a great sanitarium. There are seasons when the Pennsylvania University seems to have bred its wealth of doctors for the express purpose of marshaling a dying world to the curative shelter of Atlantic City. The trains are encumbered with the halt and the infirm, who are got out at the doors like unwieldy luggage in the arms of nurses and porters. Once arrived, however, they display considerable mobility in distributing themselves through the three or four hundred widely-separated cottages which await them for hire. As you wander through the lanes of these cunning little houses, you catch strange fragments of conversation. Gentlemen living vis-a-vis, and standing with one leg in the grave and the other on their own piazzas, are heard on sunny mornings exciting themselves with the maddest abuse of each other’s doctor. There are large boarding-houses, fifty or more of them, each of which has its contingent of puling valetudinarians. The healthy inmates have the privilege of listening to the symptoms, set forth with that full and conscientious detail not unusual with invalids describing their own complaints. Or the sufferers turn their batteries on each other. On the verandah of a select boarding-house we have seen a fat lady of forty lying on a bench like a dead harlequin, as she rolled herself in the triangles of a glittering afghan. On a neighboring seat a gouty subject, and a tropical sun pouring on both.
“Good-morning! You see I am trying my sun-bath. I am convinced it relieves my spine.” The same remark has introduced seven morning conversations.
“And my gout has shot from the index toe to the ring toe. I feared my slipper was damp, and I am roasting it here. But, dear ma’am, I pity you so with your spine! Tried acupuncture?”
[Illustration: THE THOROUGHFARE.]
The patient probably hears the word as Acapulco. For she answers, “No, but I tried St. Augustine last winter. Not a morsel of good.”
Among these you encounter sometimes lovely, frail, transparent girls, who come down with cheeks of wax, and go home in two months with cheeks of apple. Or stout gentlemen arriving yellow, and going back in due time purple.
Once a hardened siren of many watering-places, large and blooming, arrived at Atlantic City with her latest capture, a stooping invalid gentleman of good family in Rhode Island. They boated, they had croquet on the beach, they paced the shining sands. Both of them people of the world and past their first youth, they found an amusement in each other’s knowing ways and conversation that kept them mutually faithful in a kind of mock-courtship. The gentleman, however, was evidently only amusing himself with this travesty of sentiment, though he was never led away by the charms of younger women. After a month of it he succeeded in persuading her for the first time to enter the water, and there he assisted her to take the billows in the gallant American fashion. Her intention of staying only in the very edge of the ocean he overruled by main force, playfully drawing her out where a breaker washed partially over her. As the water touched her face she screamed, and raised her arm to hide the cheek that had been wet. She then ran hastily to shore, and her friend, fearing some accident, made haste to rejoin her. His astonishment was great at finding one of her cheeks of a ghastly, unhealthy white. Her color had always been very high. That afternoon she sought him and explained. She was really an invalid, she said calmly, and had recently undergone a shocking operation for tumor. But she saw no reason for letting that interfere with her usual summer life, particularly as she felt youth and opportunity making away from her with terrible strides. Having a chance to enjoy his society which might never be repeated, fearing lest his rapid disease should carry him away from before her eyes, she had concluded to make the most of time, dissemble her suffering, and endeavor to conceal by art the cold bloodlessness of her face. This whimsical, worldly heroism happened to strike the gentleman strangely. He was affected to the point of proposing marriage. At the same time he perceived with some amazement that his disease had left him: the, curative spell of the region had wrought its enchantment upon his system. They were wedded, with roles reversed–he as the protector and she as the invalid–and were truly happy during the eighteen months that the lady lived as his wife.
[Illustration: THE EXCURSION HOUSE.]
There are prettier and more innocent stories. Every freckle-nosed girl from the Alleghany valleys who sweeps with her polka-muslin the floors of these generous hotels has an idyl of her own, which she is rehearsing with young Jefferson Jones or little Madison Addison. In the golden afternoons they ride together–not in the fine turn-outs supplied by the office-clerks, nor yet on horse-back, but in guiltless country wagons guided by Jersey Jehus, where close propinquity is a delightful necessity. Ten miles of uninterrupted beach spread before them, which the ocean, transformed for the purpose into a temporary Haussmann, is rolling into a marble boulevard for their use twice a day. On the hard level the wheels scarcely leave a trace. The ride seems like eternity, it lapses off so gentle and smooth, and the landscape is so impressively similar: everywhere the plunging surf, the gray sand-hills, the dark cedars with foliage sliced off sharp and flat by the keen east wind–their stems twisted like a dishclout or like the olives around Florence.
[Illustration: A SCENE IN FRONT OF SCHAUFLER’S HOTEL.]
Or she goes with Jefferson and Madison on a “crabbing” hunt. Out in a boat at the “Thoroughfare,” near the railroad bridge, you lean over the side and see the dark glassy forms moving on the bottom. It is shallow, and a short bit of string will reach them. The bait is a morsel of raw beefsteak from the butcher’s, and no hook is necessary. They make for the titbit with strange monkey-like motions, and nip it with their hard skeleton ringers, trying to tuck it into their mouths; and so you bring them up into blue air, sprawling and astonished, but tenacious. You can put them through their paces where they roost under water, moving the beef about, and seeing them sidle and back on their aimless, Cousin Feenix-like legs: it is a sight to bring a freckle-nosed cousin almost into hysterics. But one day a vivacious girl had committed the offence of boasting too much of her skill in crab-catching, besides being quite unnecessarily gracious to Mr. Jefferson Jones. Then Mr. Madison Addison, who must have been reading Plutarch, did a sly thing indeed. The boat having been drawn unnoted into deeper water, a cunning negro boy who was aboard contrived to slide down one side without remark, and the next trophy of the feminine chase was a red _boiled_ crab, artificially attached to a chocolate caramel, and landed with mingled feelings by the pretty fisherwoman. Then what a tumult of laughter, feigned anger and becoming blushes! It is said that that crimson shell, carved into a heart-shape of incorrect proportions, is worn over Mr. Jones’s diaphragm to this day.
At the Inlet, which penetrates the beach alongside the lighthouse, is draught for light vessels, and the various kinds of society which focus at Atlantic City may be seen concentrated there on the wharf any of these bright warm days. A gay party of beauties and aristocrats, with a champagne-basket and hamper of lunch, are starting thence for a sail over to Brigantine Beach. Two gentlemen in flannel, with guns, are urging a little row-boat up toward the interior country. They will return at night laden with rail or reed-birds, with the additional burden perhaps of a great loon, shot as a curiosity. Others, provided with fishing-tackle, are going out for flounder. Laughing farewells, waving handkerchiefs and the other telegraphic signs of departure, are all very gay, but the tune may be changed when the great sailing-party comes back, wet and wretched, and with three of the principal beauties limp as bolsters on the gentlemen’s hands with sea-sickness.
Another spirited scene takes place at five in the morning–an hour when the city beauties are abed with all that tenacity of somnolence which characterizes Kathleen Mavourneen in the song. The husbands and brothers, who are due in the city before business hours, are out for a good, royal, irresponsible tumble in the surf. There is the great yeasty bath-tub, full of merry dashing figures, dipping the sleek shoulder to the combing wave. On the shore, active humanities hastily undressing. Then the heavens are filled with a new glory, and the dazzling sun leaves his bath at the same time with all these merry roisterers who have shared it with him. He takes up his line of business for the day, and so do the good husbands and brothers, first going through a little ceremony of toilet from which he is exempt.
Thus does the New Atlantis provide for her republic, holding health to her children with one hand, and shaking from the other an infinity of toys and diversions; while for those of more thoughtful bent the sea turns without ceasing its ancient pages, written all over with inexhaustible romance.
The great architect of the city was the Power who graded those streets of immaculate sand, and who laid out that park of mellow, foam-flowered ocean. Its human founders have done what seemed suitable in providing shelter for a throng of fitful sojourners, not forgetting to put up six neat and modest churches, where suitable praise and adoration may be chanted against the chanting of the sea. In several respects the place grows somewhat curiously. For instance, a lawn of turf is made by the simple expedient of fencing off the cattle: the grass then grows, but if the cows get in they pull up the sod by the roots, and the wind in a single season excavates a mighty hollow where the grassy slope was before. So much for building our hopes on sand. An avenue of trees is prepared by the easy plan of thrusting willow-stems into the ground: they sprout directly, and alternate with the fine native cedars and hollies in clothing the streets with shadow. Several citizens, as Mr. Richard Wright and Mr. Thomas C. Hand, whose handsome cottages are tasteful specimens of our seaside architecture, have been tempted by this facility of vegetable life at Atlantic City to lay out elaborate gardens, which with suitable culture are successful. Fine avenues of the best construction lead off to Shell Beach or to the single hill boasted by the locality. Finally, remembering the claims of the great democracy to a wash-basin, the aediles invited Tom, Dick and Harry, and set up the Excursion or Sea-View House, with its broad piazzas, its numberless facilities for amusement, and its enormous dining-hall, which can be changed on occasion into a Jardin Mabille, with flowers and fountains.
To a great city all the renovating and exhilarating qualities of sea-breezes and sea-bathing are but as the waters of Tantalus, unless the place which offers these advantages be easy of access. In this respect Atlantic City has for Philadelphia a superiority over all its rivals. The Camden and Atlantic Railroad, to whose secretary and treasurer, Mr. D.M. Zimmermann, we are indebted for much information, has simply drawn a straight line to the coast, which may be reached in an hour and three-quarters from Vine street wharf. The villages on the route, like the seaside terminus, owe their existence to the road, which is now reaping the reward of a far-sighted enterprise.
THE ROUMI IN KABYLIA.
[Illustration: ABD-EL-KADER IN KABYLIA.]
A noble life, whose course belongs to the subject of these pages, is, while they are preparing, apparently drawing to a close. The severe illness now reported of Abd-el-Kader, coming upon old age, disappointment, war and the lassitude of a great purpose foiled, can have but one result. Dimmed to-day, as our hurrying century so rapidly dims her brightest renowns, Abd-el-Kader’s existence has only to cease and his memory will assume the sacred splendor of the tomb.
Hapless Washington of a betrayed revolution! In these latter days of enforced quiet in Palestine how his early scenes of African experience must have flooded his mind!–his birth, sixty-six years ago, in a family group of Moslem saints; the teachings of his beautiful mother Leila and of his marabout father; his pilgrimage when eight years old to Mecca, and his education in Italy; his visions among the tombs, and the crown of magic light which was seen on his brows when he began to taste the enchanted apple; then, with adolescence, the burning sense of infidel tyranny that made his home at Mascara seem only a cage, barred upon him by the unclean Franks; and soon, while still a youth, his amazing election as emir of Mascara and sultan of Oran, at a moment when the prophet-chief had just four _oukias_ (half-dimes) tied into the corner of his bornouse!
“God will send me others,” said young Abd-el-Kader.
[Illustration: AN AGHA OF KABYLIA HUNTING WITH THE FALCON.]
The tourist remembers the trinity-portrait of him, by Maxime David, in the Luxembourg Gallery at Paris, where his face, framed in its white hood, is seen in full, in profile and in three-quarters view. The visage is aquiline, olive-tinted, refined; but we can describe it more authentically in the terms of one of his enemies, Lieutenant de France, who became his prisoner in 1836, and who followed his movements for five months, taking down his daily talk and habits like a Boswell, but leaving nothing in his narrative that is not to the sultan’s credit. Of Abd-el-Kader at twenty-eight the lieutenant says: “His face is long and deadly pale, his large black eyes are soft and languishing, his mouth small and delicate, and his nose rather aquiline: his beard is thin, but jet-black, and he wears a small moustache, which gives a martial character to his soft, delicate face, and becomes him vastly. His hands are small and exquisitely formed, and his feet equally beautiful.” Every interlocutor leaves a similar portrait, impressing upon the mind the image of some warrior-saint of the Middle Ages, born too late, and beating out his noble fanaticism against our century of machines and chicanery.
[Illustration: THE DISCIPLES OF TOFAIL.]
Himself, according to some accounts, a Berber, the young marabout early saw the importance of inducing the Kabyles to join with him and his Arabs in expelling the French. He affiliated himself with the religious order of Ben-abd-er-Rhaman, a saint whose tomb is one of the sacred places of Kabylia; and it is certain that the college of this order furnished him succor in men and money. He visited the Kabyles in their rock-built villages, casting aside his military pomp and coming among them as a simple pilgrim. If the Kabyles had received him better, he could have shown a stouter front to the enemy. But the mountain Berbers, utterly unused to co-operation and subordination, met him with surprise and distrust.
[Illustration: A KOUBBA, OR MARABOUT’S TOMB.]
At least, such is the account of General Daumas: in this interesting relation we are forced to depend on the French. Daumas, amply provided with documents, letters and evidence, has arranged in his work on _La Grande Kabylie_ the principal evidence we possess of this epoch of Abd-el-Kader’s life.
The chief appeared in 1836 at Bordj-Boghni and at Si-Ali-ou-Moussa among the mountains. The Kabyle tribes visited him in multitudes. He addressed them at the door of his tent, and these rude mountaineers found themselves face to face with that saintly sallow visage, those long gazelle eyes and the prophetic countenance framed in its apostolic beard. Raising his arms in the attitude of Raphael’s Paul at Lystra, he said simply, “I am the thorn which Allah has placed in the eye of the Franks. And if you will help me I will send them weeping into the sea.”
But when it came to a demand for supplies, the Kabyles, says Daumas, utterly refused.
“You have come as a pilgrim,” said their amins, “and we have fed you with kouskoussu. If you were to come as a chief, wishing to lay his authority on us, instead of white kouskoussu we should treat you to black kouskoussu” (gunpowder).
Abd-el-Kader, without losing the serenity of the marabout, argued with the Kabyles, and succeeded in obtaining their reverence and adhesion; but when he mounted his horse to go the amins significantly told him to come among them always as a simple pilgrim, demanding hospitality and white kouskoussu.
[Illustration: KABYLE MEN.]
At Thizzi-Ouzzou he met the tribe of Ameraouas, who promised to submit to his authority as soon as the fractions surrounding that centre should do so. The Sons of Aicha received him with honor and games of horsemanship. At the camp of Ben Salem the chiefs of several tribes came to render homage to the noble marabout, descendant of Berber ancestry and of the Prophet. From thence he sought tribes still more wild, discarding his horse and appearing among the villagers as a simple foot-pilgrim. The natives approached him in throngs, each family bearing a great dish of rancid kouskoussu. Laying the platters before his tent and planting their clubs in them, all vociferated, “Eat! thou art our guest;” and the chieftain was constrained to taste of each. Finally, near Bougie he happened to receive a courier sent by the French commandant. The Kabyles immediately believed him to be in treasonable communication with the enemy, and he was forced to retire.
The young chief was in fact at that time in peaceful communication with the French, having made himself respected by them in the west, while they were attending to the subjugation of Constantina and founding of Philippeville in the east. Protected by the treaty of Taafna in 1837, Abd-el-Kader was at leisure to attempt the consolidation of his little empire and the fusion of the jealous tribes which composed it. The low moral condition of his Arabs, who were for the most part thieves and cowards, and the rude individuality of his Kabyles, who would respect his religious but scoff at his political claims, made the task of the leader a difficult one. To the Kabyles he confided the care of his saintly reputation, renouncing their contributions, and asking only for their prayers as a Berber and as a khouan of the order of Ben-abd-er-Rhaman. For a few years his power increased, without one base measure, without any soilure on the blazon of increasing prosperity. In 1840 the sultan of Oran, at the zenith of his influence, swept the plains beneath the Atlas with his nomad court, defended by two hundred and fifty horsemen. Passing his days in reviewing his troops and in actions of splendid gallantry, he resumed the humility of the saint at evening prayers: his palace of a night received him, watched by thirty negro tent-guards; and here he sheltered his lowly head, whose attitude was perpetually bowed by the habitual weight of his cowl. The French soon became jealous, and encroached upon their treaty. The duke of Orleans, we are told, had Abd-el-Kader’s seal counterfeited by a Jewish coiner at Oran, and with passports thus stamped sent scouting-parties toward the sultan’s dominions, protected by the sultan’s forged safe-conduct. Open conflict followed, and a succession of French razzias. In 1845, Colonels Pelissier and St. Arnaud, under Marshal Bugeaud, conducted that expedition of eternal infamy during which seven hundred of Abd-el-Kader’s Arabs were suffocated in a cave-sanctuary of the Dahra. This sickening measure was put in force at a _cul-de-sac_, where a few hours’ blockade would have commanded a peaceful surrender.
[Illustration: KABYLE WOMEN.]
“The fire was kept up throughout the night, and when the day had fully dawned the then expiring embers were kicked aside, and as soon as a sufficient time had elapsed to render the air of the silent cave breathable, some soldiers were directed to ascertain how matters were within. They were gone but a few minutes, and then came back, we are told, pale, trembling, terrified, hardly daring, it seemed, to confront the light of day. No wonder they trembled and looked pale! They had found all the Arabs dead–men, women, children, all dead!–had beheld them lying just as death had found and left them–the old man grasping his gray beard; the dead mother clasping her dead child with the steel gripe of the last struggle, when all gave way but her strong love.”
Abd-el-Kader’s final defeat in 1848 was due less to the prowess of Lamoriciere and Bugeaud than to the cunning of his traitorous ally, the sultan of Morocco, who, after having induced many of the princely saint’s adherents to desert, finally drove him by force of numbers over the French frontier. Confronting the duke of Aumale on the Morocco borders, he made a gallant fight, but lost half his best men in warding off an attack of the Mencer Kabyles. Fatigued now with a long effort against overwhelming pressure, and world-weary, he met the duke at Nemours, on the sea-coast close to the Morocco line. Depositing his sandals, Arab-fashion, outside the French head-quarters, he awaited the duke’s signal to sit down.
“I should have wished to do this sooner,” said the broken chief, “but I have awaited the hour decreed by Allah. I ask the aman (pardon) of the king of the French for my family and for myself.”
Louis Philippe could not come in contact with this pure spirit without an exhibition of Frankish treachery, like tinder illuminating its foulness at the striking of steel. The sultan’s surrender was conditioned on the freedom to retire to Egypt. The French government no sooner secured him than it treacherously sent him to prison, first to the castle of Pau, then to that of Amboise near Blois, where he was kept from 1848 to 1852, when the late emperor made an early use of his imperial power to set him at liberty. Since his freedom, at Constantinople, Broussa and Damascus the ex-sultan has continued to practice the rigors and holiness of the Oriental saint, proving his catholic spirit by protecting the Christians from Turkish injustice, and awaiting with the deep fatigue of a martyr the moment destined to unite his soul with the souls of Washington, Bozzaris and L’Ouverture.
This noble life, which impinges a moment on our course through Kabylia, is surely the most epical of our century, which can never be reproached for the lack of a hero while Abd-el-Kader’s name is remembered.
[Illustration: DEFILE OF THIFILKOULT.]
The descent from the rock-perched city of Kalaa having been made in safety, and the animals being remounted at the first plateau, our Roumi traveler and his guides arrive in a few hours at the modern, fortified, but altogether Kabylian stronghold of Akbou. Here a letter from a French personage of importance gives us the acquaintance of a Kabyle family of the highest rank.
The ancestors of Ben-Ali-Cherif, remotely descended from Mohammed through one of his sisters, were of Kabylian race, and one of them, settled in Chellata, near Akbou, founded there a prosperous college of the Oriental style. Ben-Ali-Cherif, born in Chellata and residing at Akbou, receives the tourist with a natural icy dignity which only a czar among the sovereigns of Europe could hope to equal: those who have but seen Arabs of inferior class can form no notion of the distinction and lofty gravity of the chiefs of a grand house (or of a grand tent, as they are called): the Kabyle noble is quite as superb as the Arab.
Ben-Ali seats us at a rich table covered with viands half French and half Oriental: a beautiful youth, his son, resembling a girl with his blue head-drapery and slim white hands, places himself at table, and attracts the conversation of the guest. The young man answers in monosyllables and with his large eyes downcast, and the agha significantly observes, “You will excuse him if he does not answer: he is not used to talk before his father.”
The host, disposing of the time of his guests, has arranged a series of diversions. The valley of the river Sahel is full of boars, and panthers and monkeys abound in the neighboring spurs of the Zouaouas. While the Roumi are examining his orchards of oranges and pomegranates the agha’s courtyard fills with guests, magnificent sheikhs on Barbary horses, armed with inlaid guns. These are all entertained for the night, together with the usual throng of parasites, who choke his doors like the clients of the rich Roman in Horace.
At sunrise the party is mounted. The mare of the agha, a graceful creature whose veins form an embroidery over her coat of black satin, is caparisoned with a slender crimson bridle, and a saddle smaller than the Arab saddles and furnished with lighter stirrups. The Christian guests are furnished with veritable arquebuses of the Middle Ages; that is to say, with Kabyle guns, the stock of which, flattened and surmounted with a hammer of flints, is ignited by a wheel-shaped lock, easier to be managed by a Burgundian under Charles the Bold than by an unpretending modern Roumi.
The usual features of an Algerian hunt succeed. A phantom-like silence pervades the column of galloping horsemen up to the moment when the boar is beaten up. Then, with a formidable clamor of “_Haou! haou!_” from his pursuers, the tusked monster bursts through the tamarinds and dwarf palms: after a long chase he suddenly stops, and then his form instantly disappears under the gigantic African hounds who leap upon him and hang at his ears. A huntsman dismounts and stabs his shoulder with the yataghan. After a rest the chase is resumed, but this time under the form of a hawking-party.
Only the djouads and marabouts–that is to say, the religious or secular nobles–have the privilege of hunting with the falcon. The patrician bird, taken by the agha from the shoulder of his hawk-bearer, is about as large as a pigeon, the head small, beak short and strong, the claws yellow and armed with sharp talons. The bird rides upon his master’s leather glove until a hare is started: then, unhooded and released, his first proceeding is to dart into the zenith as if commissioned to make a hole in the sky. No fear, however, that the poor panting quarry is lost for an instant from the vision of that infallible eye, which follows far aloft in the blue, invisible and fatal. Soon the cruel bird drops like an aerolite, and, as the deed is explained to us, doubles up his yellow hand into a fist, and deals the animal a sharp blow on the skull. Directly, as the horsemen approach, he is found with his obtuse head bent over his prey, digging out its eyes by the spoonful.
By noontide the troop is naturally famished. A luncheon, has, however, been prepared by the thoughtfulness of the agha. Riding up to a tent which appears as by magic in the wilderness, the provisions for a sumptuous repast are discovered. Two fires are burning in the open air, and are surrounded by a host of servants or followers. The Roumi and their host adjourn from the neighborhood of the preparations, and are served under a plane tree beautiful as that whose limbs were hung by Xerxes with bracelets. A soup, absolutely set on fire with red pepper, introduces the repast: pancakes follow, and various meats smothered with eggs or onions. Then two half-naked cooks stagger up bearing on a wooden dish, under a gold-bordered napkin, a sheep roasted entire and still impaled with the spit. The chief cook takes hold of the skewer and draws it violently toward himself, applying a smart stroke with his naked heel to the tail of the creature–a contact which would seem almost as trying as the ancient ordeal of the ploughshares, or as the red-hot horseshoes which the fire-eating marabouts are accustomed to dance upon. The Roumi travelers taste the succulent viand, taste again, eat till ashamed, and are ready to declare that never was mutton properly dressed before. If possible, they vow to introduce the undissected roast, the bonfire, the spit and the cook with imperturbable heel into the cuisine of less-favored lands more distant from the sun.
[Illustration: AN ARAB MARKET.]
Champagne, which the cunning Mussulmans do not consider as wine, washes the meal, and coffee and pale perfumed tobacco supplement it. But when the appetite has retired and permitted some sharpness to the ordinary senses, the travelers are amazed at the gradual and silent increase which has taken place in their numbers. Every group of guests is augmented by a circle of prone and creeping forms that, springing apparently from the earth, are busily breaking the fragments of the feast under the care of the servitors, who appear, rather to encourage than repel them. Ben-Ali-Cherif, being interrogated, replies calmly, “They are Tofailians.”
The Tofailian is a parasite on system, an idler who elevates his belly into a divinity, or at least a principle. His prophet or exemplar is a certain Tofail, whose doctrine is expressed in a few practical rules, respectfully observed and numerously followed. “Let him who attends a wedding-feast,” says one of his apophthegms, “having no invitation, avoid glancing here and there dubiously. Choose the best place. If the guests are numerous, pass through boldly without saluting any one, to make the guests of the bride think you a friend of the bridegroom, and those of the groom a friend of the bride.”
An Arab poet said of Tofail: “If he saw two buttered pancakes in a cloud, he would take his flight without hesitation.”
A Tofailian of marked genius once learned that a festival was going on at a grand mansion. He ran thither, but the door was closed and entrance impossible. Inquiring here and there, he learned that a son of the house was absent on the Mecca pilgrimage. Instantly he procured a sheet of parchment, folded it, and sealed it as usual with clay: he rolled his garments in the dust and bent his spine painfully over a long staff. Thus perfect in what an actor would call his reading, he sent word to the host that a messenger had arrived from his son. “You have seen him?” said the delighted Amphitryon, “and how did he bear his fatigues?” “He was in excellent health,” answered the Tofailian very feebly. “Speak, speak!” cried the eager father, “and tell me every detail: how far had he got?” “I cannot, I am faint with hunger,” said the simple fellow. Directly he was seated at the highest place of the feast, and every guest admired that splendid appetite–an appetite quite professional, and cultivated as poulterers cultivate the assimilative powers of livers. “Did my son send no letter?” asked the poor father in a favorable interval caused by strangulation. “Surely,” replied the good friend, and, comprehending that the critical moment had arrived, he drew to himself a chine of kid with one hand while he unwound the letter from his turban with the other. The seal was still moist, and the pilgrim had not found time to write anything on the parchment. “Are you a Tofailian?” asked the host with the illumination of a sudden idea. “Yea, in truth, verily,” said the stranger, struggling with his last mouthful. “Eat, then, and may Sheytan trouble thy digestion!” The parasite was shown the door, but he had dined.
Men of rank and wealth, like Ben-Ali-Cherif, turn the Tofailian into a proverb, and thus laugh at a plague they cannot cure.
[Illustration: POVERTY AND JEWELS.]
The Algerine coast has enriched our language with at least two words, respectively warlike and peaceful–_razzia_ and _fantasia_. The latter is applied to a game of horsemanship, used to express joy or to honor a distinguished friend. A spirited fantasia is organized by the guests of the agha on returning to Akbou. Twenty of the best-mounted horsemen having gone on before, and being completely lost to sight in the whirlwind of dust created by their departure, all of a sudden reappear. Menacing their host and his companions like an army, they gallop up, their bornouses flying and their weapons flashing, until at a few paces they discharge their long guns under the bodies of the horses opposite, and take flight like a covey of birds. Loading as they retire and quickly forming, again they dash to the charge, shouting, galloping, and shooting among the legs of their host’s fine horses: this sham attack is repeated a score or two of times, up to the door of the agha’s house. The Bedouins, in their picturesque expression, are making the powder talk. Finer horsemanship can nowhere be seen. Their horses, accustomed to the exercise, enter into the game with spirit, and the riders, secure in their castellated saddles, sit with ease as they turn, leap or dance on two feet. Used, too, from infancy to the society of their mares, they move with them in a degree of unity, vigor and boldness which the English horseman never attains. The Arab’s love for his horse is not only the pride of the cavalier: it is an article of faith, and the Prophet comprehended the close unity between his nation and their beasts when he said, “The blessings of this world, up to the day of judgment, shall be suspended to the locks which our horses wear between their eyes.”
[Illustration: GEORGE CHRISTY IN AFRICA.]
Truly the Oriental idea of hospitality has its advantages–on the side of the obliged party. This haughty ruler, on the simple stress of a letter from a French commandant, has made himself our servant and teased his brain for devices to amuse us. His chief cook precedes us to his birthplace at Chellata, to arrange a sumptuous Arab supper. After a ride made enervating by the simoom, we descend at the arcaded and galleried Moorish house where Ben-Ali-Cherif was born, and are visited by the sheikh of the college which the agha maintains. It is a strange, peaceful, cloistered scene, consecrated to study and hospitality. Chellata, white and silent, sleeps in the gigantic shadow of the rock Tisibert, and in its graveyard, among the tombs of sacred marabouts, walk the small bald-headed students reciting passages of law or of the Koran. Algeria is dotted over with institutions (_zaouias_) similar to this, which, like monasteries of old, combine the functions of seminaries and gratuitous inns. That of Ben-Ali-Cherif, to which he contributes from his own purse a sum equal to sixteen thousand dollars a year, is enshrined in buildings strewn around the resting-place of his holy ancestors. The sacred koubba (or dome) marking the bones of the marabout is swept by shadows of oak and tamarind trees: professors stray in the shadow, and the pupils con their tasks on the adjoining tombstones.
Every impression of Chellata is silvered over, as with a moonlight of beneficence, by the attentions of Ben-Ali’s house-steward, who rains upon our appetites a shower of most delicious kouskoussu, soothes us with Moorish coffee, and finishes by the politeness of lighting and taking the first whiff of our cigarette–a bit of courtesy that might be spared, but common here as in parts of Spain.
With daybreak we find the town of Chellata preparing to play its role as a mart or place of industry. The labor seems at first sight, however, to be confined to the children and the women: the former lead the flocks out at sunrise to pasture in the mountain, the women make the town ring with their busy work, whether of grinding at the mill, weaving stuff or making graceful vases in pottery. The men are at work in the fields, from which they return at nightfall, sullen, hardy and silent, in their tattered haiks. These are never changed among the poor working-people, for the scars of a bornouse are as dignified as those of the body, and are confided with the garment by a father to his son. The women, as we have remarked before, are in a state of far greater liberty than are the female Arabs, but it is more than anything else the liberty to toil. Among these mountaineers the wife is a chattel from whom it is permissible to extract all the usefulness possible, and whom it is allowable to sell when a bargain can be struck. The Kabyle woman’s sole recreation is her errand to the fountain. This is sometimes situated in the valley, far from the nodding pillar or precipice on which the town is built. There the traveler finds the good wives talking and laughing together, bending their lively–sometimes blonde and blue-eyed–faces together over their jars, and gossiping as in Naples or as in the streets around Notre Dame in Paris. The Kabyles–differing therein from the Arabs–provide a fountain for either sex; and a visit by a man to the women’s fountain is charged, in their singular code of penal fines, “inspired by Allah,” a sum equal to five dollars, or half as much as the theft of an ox.
By the white light of day-dawn we quit Chellata, with the naked crests of the Djurjura printing themselves on the starry vault behind us and the valley below bathed in clouds. As we descend we seem to waken the white, red-roofed villages with our steps. The plateaus are gradually enlivened with spreading herds and men going forth to labor. We skirt the precipice of Azrou-n’hour, crowned with its marabout’s tomb. The plains at our feet are green and glorious, pearled with white, distant villages. Opposite the precipice the granite rocks open to let us pass by a narrow portal where formerly the Kabyles used to stand and levy a toll on all travelers. This straitened gorge, where snow abounds in winter, and which has various narrow fissures, is named the Defile of Thifilkoult: it connects the highways of several tribes, but is impassable from December to April from the snow and the storms which rage among the cliffs. We are still four thousand feet above the plain, whose depth the swimming eye tries in vain to fathom, yet the snowy peaks above us are inaccessible. Descending chains of rocks mingled with flint and lime, we attain a more clement landscape. Kabyle girls crowd around a well called the Mosquitoes’ Fountain, a naked boy plays melancholy tunes on a reed, and the signs of a lower level are abundant in the fields of corn and orchards of olive. But the rugged mountains, in whose grasp we have found so many wonders, are not left without regret. The most picturesque part of our course is now behind us, and as day dies upon our crossing through Iferaouenen, we turn back to behold the fine line of the mountains, half sad and regretful,
While Jove’s planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
Fourteen expeditions were found necessary by the French between 1838 and 1857 to subdue the Kabyles, who under leaders such as Ben-Salem, Ben-Kassim, the Man-with-the-Mule, the Man-with-the-She-Ass, and other chiefs less celebrated, defended their territory step by step. In the great chastisement of 1857, Marshal Randon, after subduing this part of the Djurjura ridge in detail, determined to preserve the fruits of victory by two new constructions–a fort and a military road. France was to reside among her unwilling colonists, and she was to possess an avenue of escape. The building of these two conveniences, as we may call them, over the smoking ruins of victory, was a conspicuous example of the excellent engineering genius of the nation. An English officer, Lieutenant-colonel Walmsley, witnessed, and has left a spirited account of, the great conquest, and the immediate improvement of it. The strongholds of the Djurjura (it being May, 1857) were taken: the most difficult, Icheriden, was soon to fall, yielding only to the assault of the Foreign Legion–that troop of Arabs and of Kabyles from the Zouaoua plain wherefrom we derive the word _zouave_. Marshal Randon selected for his fort the key of the whole district: it was a place known as the Souk-el-Arba (“Market of Wednesday”). It was in the heart of the Beni Raten land, and in a spot where three great mountain-ridges ran down into the plain of the Sebaou. These ridges, subdued and friendly, would be held in respect by the garrison of the fort, and the other ridge of Agacha, still rebellious, would likewise terminate at the fort. The works were immediately laid out and quickly built. As the road sprang into its level flight like magic, the peeping Kabyles, perfectly unaware that they were conquered, laughed in derision. “It is to help the cowards to run away,” they said. In due time rose the pale walls of the citadel, with mountains above and hills below. The Kabyles call it the White Phantom. Their songs, the “traditions” of illiterate tribes, recite the building of the terrible stronghold: “The Roumi has arrived at the Market: he is building there. Weep, O my eyes! tears of blood. The children of Raten are valiant men: they are known as masters of the warlike art. They fell upon the enemy at Icheriden. The Franks fell like lopped branches. Glory to those brave men! But the Roumi has peeled us like seeds. The powder talks no more. The warlike men are fainting. Cover thyself with mourning, O my head!”
As the tourist turns the summit of Aboudid suddenly appears, like an ornamental detail in a panorama, this vast fortress, originally named Fort Napoleon, and since the collapse of the empire called Fort National. During the French troubles of 1871, in the month of August, General Ceres was obliged to inspire terror by burning the village of Thizzi-Ouzzou beneath, and then went on to relieve the fort. When the next opportunity will occur for the Beni Raten to assert their rights it is impossible to tell. We descend from the fort, and all becomes commonplace. The charred ruins of Thizzi-Ouzzou in its valley-bed are being replaced by new buildings. All wears a look of every-day thrift. The Arab, moving his household goods, drives before him his poor dingy wife, loaded down with worthless valuables and also with copper jewels, in which she clanks like a fettered slave. A negro musician from the Desert, a true African minstrel, capers before us and beats the tom-tom, until, distracted with his noise, we pay him and bombard him off the face of the road with projectiles.
From Thizzi-Ouzzou to Algiers it is but four hours’ journey, and the four hours are passed in a diligence. Yes, our circumstances are subdued to the conditions of the diligence! Adieu, our spahi guides, like figures from _Lalla Rookh!_ Adieu, our dream of an African Switzerland! The Roumi, outside of Kabylia, quickly fades into the light of common day, and becomes plain Tom or Harry.
A REMINISCENCE OF THE EXPOSITION OF 1867.
“And you traveled alone?”
“There were two of us–Annie Foster and I.”
“You found no difficulty?”
“Not a bit,” she replied laughing.
“But you had adventures: I see it in your face.”
“Who would travel without adventures?” and she made an expressive gesture.
“Hm!–_tant soit peu_.”
“I am all attention: begin.”
“You promise not to tell?”
“Not for the world: torture could not induce me to divulge a single word.”
“Well, the way it came about was this: Annie and I had been sent from England to a small French town on the coast, for the benefit of the warm sea-water baths. It was a quaint little port; all the houses reminded you of ships in their fitting up; the beds were set into the wall like berths; closets were stowed away in all sorts of impossible places; the floors were uncarpeted and white as a main deck; and articles from distant countries hung about the walls or stood in the corners–East Indian sugar-cane, cotton from America, Chinese crockery and piles of sea-shells. The great sea by which we lodged was represented everywhere. Our food was fish, shrimps and water-fowl–our acquaintance, fishermen, shrimpers and sailors. The leading event of the day was the coming in and going out of the tide, and ducks and geese were the chief domestic animals. On one side was a prospect of wind-tossed waves and the sails of ships, on the other wind-beaten fields and the sails of mills: the few cabins that had rashly ventured beyond the protection of the village shortly lost courage, and, with their thatched roofs not a yard from the earth, seemed crouching low to avoid the continuous blasts. The church alone on the high sea-wall raised itself fearlessly against the tyrant, and though his baffled voice still howled without, within the pious prayed securely before a faith-inspiring altarpiece of Christ stilling the tempest.
“In a few weeks, after we had exhausted every amusement that the dull town afforded, become intimate with all the old gossips, tired of listening to the yarns of the pilot-tars off duty, driven the donkeys over the country until they instinctively avoided us whenever we appeared, sailed in the bay and suffered periodic attacks of sea-sickness therefrom, finished the circulating library, and half learned some barbarous sentences of Norman patois, we sat down disconsolate one afternoon to devise some means of employing the remainder of our time. It was then that the bright idea struck Annie, and she exclaimed, ‘Let us go to the Paris Exposition!’
“‘Just the thing!’ I answered with enthusiasm. ‘I wonder when the next train starts?’
“‘I’ll go and inquire: you begin and pack the trunks. If we can get off to-day, by to-morrow morning we can begin seeing it;’ and she left the room in great excitement.
“The result was, that by seven o’clock that evening we had made our hasty preparations, and were ready to set out. It was raining terribly when the only hack of the village (which, by the by, was an omnibus) called for us at the door. The dripping fluid oozed and sparkled over the blinking lamps, the ribbed sides of the antiquated machine were varnished with moisture, and the horses looked as if each hair was a water-spout to drain the sky. Noah’s patriarchal mansion might have presented a similar appearance during the first days of that celebrated wet season.
“The motherly woman with whom we had been boarding turned dismally from the weather to her invalids and tried to dissuade us from leaving that night, little understanding that we considered it ‘fun.’ As a parting advice she told us to call each other _madame_: it would procure us more consideration. ‘For you know, young ladies,’ she remonstrated mildly, ‘it is not quite proper for you to travel alone.’ After this prudent counsel and many warm adieus we sallied forth.
“The omnibus was crowded, and I had perforce to sit on Annie’s knees. This, with the jolting, the queer effect of the half-light in the rickety interior, together with the expression of the good people, who evidently could see no fun in rain, excited my risibility so strongly that I indulged in a smothered laugh, tempered to fit the publicity of the occasion.
“‘You must not laugh in France,’ whispered Nan, pulling my dress.
“‘I thought the French admired gayety,’ I answered in the same tone.
“‘Be quiet: it isn’t proper.’
“The rest of the way was accomplished in silence. We soon arrived at the station and bought our tickets. Of course we had half a dozen bundles: in gathering them up a most gentlemanly person accosted us and asked, ‘Avez vous perdu quelque chose, mademoiselle?’
“Annie replied in the negative with great dignity, and so cut off any chance of adventure in that quarter.
“On came the train. In France there is fortunately a provision made for women traveling without an escort. In your country they have, I believe, smoking-cars especially for the gentlemen: in that blessed land there is a compartment for ‘ladies alone,’ or _Dames Seules,_ as it is called. A good American once read this inscription with much commiseration, _D—- souls_, and returning told his friends that the ‘wicked’ French allowed His Satanic Majesty the right of running a special car on their roads for his greater accommodation.
“As we were hastening to this most desired refuge I noticed two very student-looking young men walking near us, and caught a bit of their conversation.
“‘They won’t: a bottle of wine on it we go up in the same car with them.’
“‘I told you so!’
“As we found our car and entered the students passed on, not daring to ignore the magic words on the door; so Adventure No. 2 was nipped in the bud.
“Nan and I were the only lady-passengers, and we sank back into the soft cushions with the pleasant sense that no further effort would be needed during the journey. We had been told that the train would arrive in Paris about midnight, but the lateness of the hour caused us no uneasiness, as we had been there before and remembered the city pretty well; and, besides, we thoroughly believed in our ability to take care of ourselves.
“In an interval of wakefulness we discussed our plans, and concluded to spend the night at some hotel near the station, the next morning looking up our friends (several of whom we knew to be in town) and consulting them about our future proceedings, feeling that a midnight visit from us would scarcely be welcome to any one. Annie recalled a fine-looking hotel just opposite the terminus, and, having made our selection in its favor, we dozed off again very comfortably.
“I think we had been on the way some four hours when the welcome lights began to appear–first in the sky above the city, as if the earth in this favored spot threw out rays like the sun; next through the darkness over the country below; and then we plunged tunnel-wise into the earth under the busy streets and fortifications, to emerge at the end of our route.
“We gathered up our bundles in haste, thanking the stars that we had accomplished our ride so safely, and were walking off to the hotel when we suddenly thought of the trunks. Another consultation was held, and we decided to leave them in the baggage-room until morning.
“‘But we must go and see that they are safe,’ suggested Annie.
“‘Where is the baggage-room?’ I asked of a porter.
“‘This way, mademoiselle.’
“‘Madame!’ I ventured to correct in a weak voice.
“‘Vos clefs, s’il vous plait,’ said a polite official as we entered the door, and another laid hands on the satchels we carried, to examine them.
“We had entirely forgotten the octroi officers. ‘Oh my! this affair may keep us another half hour,’ thought I, ‘and I am so sleepy!’ I have often found (I confide this to you as an inviolable secret) that to be unreasonable is a woman’s strongest weakness: it is a shield against which man’s sharpest logic is invariably turned aside. The next thing to there not being a necessity, is not seeing a necessity, and this I prepared in the most innocent manner to do.
“‘Gracious me!’ I exclaimed–or its French equivalent, which I suppose is ‘Mon Dieu’–‘you don’t mean to detain us here opening those bags, and we so tired, and they packed so full that we could scarcely shut them; and if you _do_ open them, we cannot get all the things into them again, and shall have no end of trouble!’ Then I looked as injured as if they had been thieves or highway-men.
“Had a man made this speech they would have mistrusted him, but as women have a reputation for shallowness, such talk is never thought suspicious in them.
“‘What do they contain?’ asked the officer, hesitating.
“‘I don’t know what all: we have been at the sea-side, and they are full of trash. There are some shells and an old hat in mine, and–and things.’
“He tried to conceal a smile, and looked toward the other, who nodded, and we saw the welcome ‘O’ put on in chalk, upon which the bags were given back to us.
“‘Now the trunks,’ said the first who had spoken, holding out his hand for the keys.
“‘Oh, we are going to leave them here till to-morrow: they are all right–you can mark them too;’ and without further ceremony we moved toward the door. One of the men stepped after us. I thought it was to make us return, but it was only to ask if he should get us a carriage.
“We thanked him and replied that we were going to the hotel opposite, and did not need one: he then turned to a person who seemed to be the porter of the establishment, and told him to carry our satchels for us. Now we felt our journey was well at an end, for the windows of our welcome asylum were blazing not more than a hundred feet off.
“We crossed the street, rang at the ladies’ entrance and asked for rooms. After a few moments the servant returned, and, much to our chagrin, said that there were none to be had, every corner was full.
“‘Do let us see the clerk. We _must_ have a room: you can surely find us one somewhere.’
“The man shook his head.
“‘Please go and try,’ we insisted: ‘we shall be satisfied with anything for the night. Won’t you go and ask again?’
“‘It is of no use,’ he answered obstinately, a cause de l’Exposition;’ and he opposed a shrug of his shoulders to every other effort at persuasion that we made.
“Just then a chambermaid passed. ‘Do come here,’ I called. ‘Can’t you find us a room? I will pay you;’ and I put my hand significantly in my pocket.
“‘Very sorry, ladies, but it is impossible,’
“This was a contingency we had not provided for: we looked at each other blankly, and, though loath to do so, we both came to the conclusion that they were telling the truth.
“‘What shall we do?’ asked Annie, speaking to me in English.
“‘I suppose we shall have to take a carriage and go down town, after all,’
“‘They may be full there too,’ she said in a rueful tone.
“Just then the porter with our satchels spoke: ‘There is another hotel near, ladies, and if you will come I will show you to it,’
“I consulted Annie with a look, and she assented. Any prospect was better than a midnight drive of several miles, with no certainty as to our lot at the end of it. So we turned from the inhospitable door and followed our guide.
“The latter walked quickly for perhaps a square, stopped before a neat-looking house and rang. Our courage rose as the door opened and revealed a clean-looking court surrounded by orange trees in boxes, with small coffee-tables under them for the convenience of the guests.
“‘Rooms for two ladies!’ demanded our attendant with the voice of a herald.
“The trim but sleepy servant looked at us a moment, as if not comprehending the situation, then slowly pronounced our sentence in two words, ‘No rooms!’ and as if to emphasize them threw up the palms of his hands, shook his head and added ‘Full!’ after which he closed the door with a hasty click and returned to his nap.
“Our night-errant was visibly disappointed with this reception–not more so than we were–but without allowing us time to speak he said in his most reassuring voice, ‘Never mind, ladies: there are plenty of hotels about here, and we shall soon find lodgings for you.’ Having undertaken the task, he seemed to think it his duty to comfort and provide for us.
“Alas! this was not soon accomplished. Two other hotels were successively tried in vain, and still our indefatigable guide went on. It appeared as if we had walked a considerable distance, but the streets cut each other at odd angles, and we had been turning so often that I confess I had but little idea where we were, or how far we had come, when we entered a quarter where the ways became narrower, passed into a dingy alley, thence plunged through a still darker court, from that to another alley, and the next moment our porter was ringing at the door of a tall, sombre house. I truly hoped that we should not find rooms here, and was turning to Annie to advise a cab and an attempt in a more civilized-looking locality, when the bell was answered and the old question repeated.
“To my surprise and dismay the servant said they could accommodate us. Should we stay? I knew that in the older parts of Paris the best of houses are sometimes found in the poorer streets, and that in no city is a person less able to judge of the interior comfort of a building by its external aspect. We were very tired, and should we turn away from this open door where should we find another open for us? The porter, however good-natured, could not continue to run about with us all night, and our faith in ourselves was considerably diluted since we left the cars: even a cab might be difficult to get at this hour of the night. Annie did not object: indeed, she looked too worn out to have an opinion in the matter, and as I could think of nothing better to do, I began to make the usual inquiries: ‘Have you two adjoining rooms?’
“I remembered the advice that had been given us on starting: here surely was a place to use it, so I said to the servant in a marked tone, ‘Take _madame’s_ bag and show us to our chambers.’
“‘This way, mesdemoiselles,’ he answered with the most provoking coolness.
“I dismissed our faithful porter with regret, and followed the other up stairs. While ascending I racked my brain to determine what peculiarity of manner we could adopt that would give us a more matronly air while traveling, but I could think of nothing. I may as well tell you now that we never for an instant deceived any one on this subject during our stay, and we soon ceased trying to do so.
“Our rooms were much better than I had expected to find them, but even this caused in me a feeling of doubt. They had a hypocritical air, a grasping after appearances that I believe always accompanies deceit and imposition–a sleek shabbiness that I detest. I knew by instinct that if I examined I should find the carpets worn out under the mats, and the chairs faded beneath their smart chintz covers. There was not a candid-looking piece of furniture in the apartment: the table was an impostor with one short leg; the drawers of the bureau would not open; the glasses were all askew, and twisted your face to such a degree that it frightened you to catch a glimpse of yourself in passing. But this was not the worst: from the moment I entered the rooms I felt that they _had been waiting for us_.
“I did not venture to mention my suspicions to Annie, and tried to keep up a cheery sort of conversation while we undressed, but I could see that she too began to be uneasy. We carefully inspected our doors, and found the locks were good, then looked to see that there was no one lurking under the beds. It would be difficult to tell you exactly what I feared, but somehow everything impressed me as mysterious–the quiet of the streets through which we had come, and the quiet of the house. It was such a lonely, eerie kind of place: our feet echoed on the stairways as if human feet seldom ascended them; the shadows appeared especially dark; our candles’ small light made little impression on the gloom; the very air seemed harder to breathe than ordinary; and on recalling the face of the impertinent servant I thought that it had a sinister look.
“I tried to recall whether we were in a good or bad faubourg, but could not; and then I remembered that Paris was now divided into arrondissements, which had a much less ill-omened sound. I went to the window to reconnoitre the locality, but, though the rain had ceased, darkness covered all so thickly that I could see nothing. As I stood there the clock on the station struck, first the quarters, and then _one_, in a doleful, muffled tone. It told me one thing I was glad to know–namely, that we could not have wandered very far during our walk; but there was little comfort in that, after all, since the walk had terminated here.
“Stories that I had read of strange adventures and accidents to midnight guests now trooped into my head. I thought of one in particular, in which the tester of the bed slowly descended to smother the sleeping inmate for purposes of robbery; whereupon I minutely examined mine, and found to my satisfaction that it was scarcely able to discharge the single duty of holding up the curtains, and looked most innocent of further intentions. Finding myself again peering into corners I had already searched, and feeling this general unrest to be growing upon me, I began to think I must be nervous from over-exertion, and determined to get rid of my silly fancies in sleep. Then, as if to take myself by surprise, I suddenly blew out the light, sprang under the covers and shut my eyes tight, afraid that something hateful might glare upon me in the dark.
“Just then Annie came to the communicating doorway, and with an effort to speak in her natural voice she said, ‘Jane, I am going to sleep here.’ And as if this endeavor had consumed her last bit of resistance, she closed and locked the door quickly, ran to my bed and threw herself shivering beside me.
“‘What is the matter?’ I whispered, feeling my presentiment of evil confirmed.
“She put her lips to my ear and answered, ‘I found a door in my room behind the bed-curtains, and it leads I don’t know _where_.”
“‘Did you open it?’
“‘No indeed! I would not open it for the world. There might be something horrible in it;’ and she shuddered.
“‘You have left your light burning.’
“‘I don’t care. I won’t go back: no indeed, I _could_ not.’ There was silence for a few minutes: neither of us moved, when Nan again whispered, ‘Do you think this room quite safe?’
“‘I looked all around before I blew out the light.’
“‘Did you look _behind_ your curtains?’
“‘No!’ I answered with an uncomfortable sensation.
“‘You are next the wall: feel along it,’ in her most persuasive voice.
“The very idea made me creep. Put my hand behind those curtains and touch–what? Even the cold wall would be sufficient to terrify me. For reply I remarked suggestively, ‘If we had the light we could see.’
“‘Yes, that would be just the thing. Go bring it–do!’
“I felt that something must be done, and soon, or I should be in no state to accomplish it. If Nan would not go, I must: when we had the light half our trouble would be over, and, after all, she might have been mistaken.
“‘Did the door move?’ I ventured to ask.
“‘No, it didn’t do anything–at least I don’t think it did–but it _looked_ so awful that it frightened me.’
“‘That light in there may set something on fire,’ I remarked.
“‘Go fetch it: it will only take you a minute. Do go!’
“‘You are sure the door didn’t open?’ I asked, far from liking my task.
“‘I will go with you half-way,’ she volunteered, ‘and stand there while you run in quick. Come on, and don’t let us talk any more about it: we shall only get more and more frightened.’ You will see that Annie’s gifts lay more in persuasion than in action.
“Thus adjured, I went with her to the communicating door, cautiously listened, then looked through the keyhole. The silence within was oppressive, but the flickering bougie warned me that I must make an effort, and without allowing myself time to think I hastily turned the key and opened the door.
“At that moment it seemed to me that I heard distant footsteps. I rushed for the light and turned to go back, when I ran against some one: the candle was extinguished by being jerked from the holder to the floor, and a hand which I vainly tried to shake off clasped my arm. My blood grew thick and still with sudden terror. I tried to speak, but could not. What increased my dread was that I could not tell whether the _Thing_ by my side was a reality or a spectre. I had caught a glimpse of something white as the light disappeared, and I believe that a pistol at my head would have caused me less alarm than this horrible idea of the supernatural. I began to feel that I could endure it no longer, that I should stifle, should die, when Annie’s voice spoke in the darkness quite near, and I found it was she who had grasped my arm.
“‘I could not stay in that room alone,’ she whispered. ‘Don’t you hear?–_footsteps!_ They are coming.’
“‘You have half frightened me to death,’ I murmured trembling: ‘I thought you were something.’
“‘No, I ain’t anything, but something _is_ coming. Don’t you hear?’
“It was true enough. Through the quiet of the house came stealthy footsteps. Nearer, nearer. They were ascending the stairs, at times delaying an instant, as if groping for the way, then on.
“‘Come into your room,’ said Annie convulsively: ‘come, and we can lock ourselves in. Oh, where _is_ your door? I cannot find it, and they are coming. What shall we do? what shall we do?’
“We were in total darkness: not a ray of light came from the window, and in our confusion we had lost our bearings. Neither of us had the least idea in what direction the other room lay.
“‘Let us creep along the floor, perhaps we may find it. Do try,’ said I.
“‘No, no, I cannot move. I wish we had never come. I am dying.’ She was shaking with fright, and would not leave my arm for an instant.
“Just then, from somewhere near us, we could not tell from what side, came a long low whistle, so mournful and unearthly, with such a summons in its tone, that I shivered: then a faint movement followed from the same place.
“‘It is a signal for the other,’ gasped Annie: ‘it is in that door: they are coming, they are here. Shall I scream murder? shall I?’ giving my arm an emphasizing grip.
“‘No, no, wait: it will do no good.’
“She groaned, slipped down on her knees, with one arm still round me, her face pressed against my side, holding her other hand over the unprotected ear, so that she should hear no more; and in this position she began to repeat ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ just as fast as she could gabble it.
“I was no less frightened, and would willingly have crouched down also, but she held me so tight that I could not without a struggle, and above all things I did not want to make a noise.
“It was thus we awaited the crisis. The steps were certainly coming to our room, but whether by the door we had entered or by the one Annie had seen behind the bed, I could not tell. I was too bewildered to locate the sound, nor did I know whether the bed was at my right or left hand. I had a slight hope that the steps might pass on.
“It was for that I waited.
“They came–near, nearer. For a time my heart ceased beating. Annie slipped lower, until she lay on the floor, and I could no longer hear her breathe. My whole being was merged in listening to that step. I could feel that now it was on a level with our room–was there almost beside us. Lightly though distinctly a hand passed over the door, as if fumbling for the latch. This was the intense moment. Had the person paused or hesitated an instant, I think it would have killed us both. But no, he did not falter. Steadily on, the step, guided by the hand, went as it had come, and as I stood, not daring to move, I heard it receding in the distance of the great house. Then all was silence.
“When sensation returned to me I felt as if I had awakened from a nightmare, and found myself shaking from the nervous reaction and the cold. I stooped to find poor Nan on the floor, and said through my chattering teeth, ‘It must have been only a late boarder. Don’t be afraid. It is all over: come, get up.’
“‘Can’t you get a light?’ she begged. ‘I cannot move until you have a light. I am still afraid.’
“I now remembered that the bureau must be behind me, for I had merely turned when I encountered Annie and dropped the candle. There were probably matches upon it: yes, there they were. I struck one and easily found the candle: then Annie rose with the meekest air possible, and, without looking at the obnoxious corner where the bed stood, we walked into the other room and locked the door.
“It was not until the gray morning light crept into the window that we felt quite safe. Every crack in the floor or nibbling mouse caused us to start, and at each quarter the clock of the station would strike as if to warn us to be on the alert. But the bed was not bad, and the house remained quiet; and as soon as the dawn made our candle useless, we began to think we had been very foolish, and the result was a sound sleep.
“When we awoke it was ten o’clock: the morning was bright and clear, and the terrors of the night had all departed during our refreshing rest. The room certainly looked shabby, but if that were a crime, half the houses in the world would be sent to prison. There was nothing in the least mysterious about it. Our courage rose with the day, and we teased and joked each other about our fright. Then, anticipating the glories of the Exposition, we congratulated ourselves that we had come.
“‘We won’t breakfast here,’ said Annie as she was dressing: ‘we will go down town to a nice restaurant, and sit at a window and see the people go by. Afterward we will look up our friends and find a good hotel or boarding-house; and we _must_ go to the Exposition this very day. We shall have a famous time. We can make up parties to drive out, and go monument-hunting and sight-seeing, and to the theatre. Ain’t you glad you came?’
“‘The first thing we do must be to go back to the station and leave these bags with our trunks until we find lodgings,’ I remarked.
“Nan went into the next room to get some of the clothing she had left there. When she returned, lowering her voice she said, ‘Jane, there _is_ a door behind my curtains.’
“‘Very well, let it alone: I suppose it is a closet.’
“‘No such thing: it don’t look like a closet; and why would they hide a closet, I should like to know? Come in and see it.’
“She walked back, and as I followed drew the curtain aside, and there in fact it was.
“‘I am going to open it before I leave the room,’ she said in a determined tone: ‘there is something not right about it.’
“‘I wouldn’t,’ I remonstrated: ‘some one may be in there.’
“‘I am going to see: I must look into it. It is daylight, you know, and we sha’n’t be much frightened. Help me to push away the bed.’
“‘I won’t do anything so absurd. This is a hotel, Annie, and there must be plenty of adjoining rooms in it. Suppose that room is now occupied by a boarder?’
“‘If it is occupied they will lock the door on the other side, and I will try the latch softly to see; but I know it is not. Don’t you see that the only entrance must be from here? There is the entry. opposite, and here is the court: now, how could any one get into it but through this room? It must be a small place, too, for here is the corner of the house, and it has been evidently planned to be kept _concealed_.”
“‘No matter: we have no right to any rooms but these we are in. Come away, and let well enough alone.’
“‘It is not “well enough,” as you call it. I am going to see into it, and why they hide it. I declare,’ and she examined the door critically, ‘it looks like the entrance to Bluebeard’s chamber. Look at these queer marks, these dents and stains, as if there had been a struggle. It is our duty to investigate;’ and her voice grew impressive. ‘Perhaps we have been brought here for that very purpose, and, Jane, if there _is_ a dead body in there, I shall inform the police.’ Annie was very brave in daylight.
“‘Fiddle-de-dee!’ I replied to this fine speech. ‘What you call duty, I call curiosity. I am ravenously hungry, and I wish you would finish dressing and let us get to breakfast.’
“‘I will just tell you this,’ she answered indignantly, and yet with a quiver in her voice, ‘I never in my life felt as I did last night when I saw that door. It was quite like what people write of a mysterious influence, or the presence of some one unseen; and that whistle or voice or moan, as if a soul was calling, came from here; and you must help me to find out what it really was, for I can’t go away without knowing.’
“I saw it was useless to try longer to dissuade her. The bed moved easily: she took my hand and led me behind it; then warily tried the latch. It rose, but she was obliged to lean all her weight against the door before it would give way, and finally it opened so unexpectedly that she almost fell forward.
“What did I see? At the first glimpse a faint light from a cobwebbed window, a narrow room and a floor–red. Was it blood? A sickening mouldy smell came forth, but as I forced myself to look again I saw that it was only red tiles that had startled me. There was an upright brick range in a corner, an old water-tank, some shelves and a cupboard. A missing pane of glass left a space through which the air had entered and moaned up the broad-mouthed flue that opened above the range. This was the ominous ‘signal’ we had heard in answer to the footsteps. The dust was thick over everything, and the only signs of life were the rat-tracks on the floor. We stood still for a few moments, overwhelmed at this solution of the occult ‘influence’ that had so subtly acted on Annie’s nerves, and filled me with no less terror.
“The house had been built for a _hotel garni_; that is, a house with furnished rooms or apartments, something like a tenement-house in your country. This was the kitchen of the suite, and belonged to the two rooms we had taken. Being unused for its proper object, and too small for a bed-chamber, it had been closed, and appeared as if it had been unentered for years. I turned to Annie to see how she would bear this prosaic explanation of our alarm, but with the air of one who had expected nothing but this from the beginning, she remarked, ‘Now you see how much better it is to look into such things. This room would have furnished me with bad dreams for the remainder of my life, and here I find it is only a commonplace kitchen. Think how ludicrous to have the horrors over a kitchen! Sha’n’t I tell of your fright when we get home–how you didn’t want to open the door, and wanted to ‘let well enough alone’? The place _might_ be haunted by the ghost of a chicken or a rabbit, but, my dear, you should not allow that to terrify you.’
“‘Perhaps it was the ghost of a chicken that you feared last night, and that caused your presentiments this morning. I hope you will inform the police of what you have discovered here,’ I remarked quietly.
“‘A truce, a truce, good Jane! I will say no more. We were both boobies. But wouldn’t it be ‘cute to live here, you and me, and make our own breakfast? Look at the hole for charcoal, and the little cupboard, the nails for the pots and pans to hang on: everything is complete. That room could be for dining, the other a parlor, and–‘
“‘The only drawback would be that, except at the North Pole, the night comes once in twenty-four hours.’
“‘Don’t be mean, Jane! Do come in here a minute: it’s a dear little place.’
“‘You will certainly make a housekeeper if a kitchen gives you such ecstasy. Come out, I am so hungry. Put on your bonnet and leave this elysium: I have had enough of it.’
“‘You come in for a second: it will shake the terror off and you won’t dream of it. That is a cure my old nurse once gave me for laying ghosts.’
“‘It may be a good plan to shake off the terror, but the dust on you will not be shaken off so easily.’
“‘Suppose,’ and she stamped her foot–‘suppose that the floor should be hollow, and that this were only a pretended kitchen after all, or that there was a trap-door painted to resemble tiles, or a sliding panel.’ Here she felt over the surface of the wall. ‘Why should I feel so queer last night if this was really nothing but a kitchen?’
“‘Because you are a goose,’ I answered impatiently, ‘and if you don’t come I will leave you. If you like, you can engage boarding here for a week, and raise the tiles one by one with a knife and fork. As for me, I am going to breakfast.’
“‘But don’t you think it really has an uncanny look?’ she asked, giving a last glance over her shoulder as she came out.
“‘If you call dirt uncanny, there is plenty of that. Shut the door, and I will push back the bed.’
“‘Jane,’ she again remarked as she was trying on her bonnet before the crooked glass, ‘if ever I tell of this night, I think I will say that there _was_ a trap-door in the kitchen: you know there might be one and we not see it.’
“‘Oh yes,’ I answered as patiently as I could, ‘I suppose a fib more or less will make but little difference in your lifetime. While you are at it, however, you may as well make a few more additions.’
“‘Now you are unkind.’
“‘A person is not accountable for temper when famishing. Take up your satchel.’
“We found the house a most every-day-looking house, seen by sunlight; but there had lain the difficulty. The clerk in the office did not particularly resemble a cutthroat, or even a cutpurse, and, strange to say, did not overcharge us: in fact, he behaved very civilly. We found we were not far from the station, and depositing our bags there, we walked down the beautiful Rue La Fayette.
“‘It is a great deal pleasanter to travel alone in this way,’ said Nan gayly, her spirits rising in the delightful air. ‘When I was here before with all the family, it was not near so jolly; and I think we manage well, don’t you? Oh, there is an omnibus not _complet_: let us get in. I am too hungry to walk.’
“After we were seated she continued: ‘I wonder what will happen to us to-night. Suppose we find every place full, and have to sleep in a garden or on the steps of a church, or something? Isn’t it delightful not to know in the least what is going to happen next?–just as in fairy-land. Don’t you hope we may have an adventure every night?’
“‘I should not call last night an adventure: it seems to me it was more like a panic,’ I said drily.
“‘You will never let anything be agreeable,’ in a hurt tone: then recovering her good temper, she went on: ‘Well, call it a panic if you like. Now, suppose we had one every night, and we stayed here two weeks, there would be fourteen panics before we go home. Wouldn’t that be glorious?’
“‘You did not appear to enjoy it so much last night.’
“‘At the time I did not,’ she admitted frankly. ‘Weren’t we frightened? But then, you know, how nice it will be to talk of it afterward!’
“We arrived at a restaurant in the Palais Royal, and found a seat by the window, and a breakfast. We had already finished the latter, and were playing with our fruit, when a party entered who attracted our attention by speaking English.
“‘One of them is Miss Rodgers,’ Annie whispered excitedly. ‘I know her well: hadn’t we better run away? What will she think of our being here alone?’
“‘Nonsense! You had better ask her where she is staying. Remember, we are houseless as yet.’
“‘I don’t like to ask her.’
“‘Introduce me: I will ask.’ The idea of spending the night in a garden or on a church-step did not possess the same charms for me as for Nan. Thus prompted, she walked forward and spoke to her friend, afterward presenting me. We chatted a few minutes, when Miss Rodgers asked Annie where she was staying, and how her mamma was.
“‘Mamma is not with us,’ was Nan’s embarrassed reply.
“I went to her rescue, and diverted the questions by asking some myself: ‘Miss Rodgers, where are you staying? We do not like our hotel and want to change.’
“‘There is not a room in our house that is unoccupied, and you won’t find good accommodation anywhere. You had better not change if you have a place to lay your head. Paris is so crowded that everything has been taken up long ago. You can ask at a dozen hotels or boarding-houses and not find a garret to let. You have no idea of the difficulty.’
“Yes, we had an idea, and believed every word she said: in fact, we would rather have felt less convinced on the subject. Even Annie seemed to think that traveling alone might present some disagreeable features, and looked quite unhappy, notwithstanding her love of adventure. But before our mental anguish had time to become unbearable a young girl, a niece of Miss Rodgers, spoke: ‘Auntie, if the young ladies would like, I know of just the place that would suit them.’ Then turning to us, she continued: ‘I am at school a few miles out of the city, and madame told me that if I knew of any one, she had room for a few parlor-boarders. It is a lovely spot, and no end of trains coming and going all day; so that it would be just as convenient as living here, and you would have excellent accommodation. Then, too, I could speak English to you sometimes. I am so tired of talking for ever without half knowing what I am saying.’
“I could have embraced the chatterbox on the spot for this opportune proposal, but controlled my feelings and looked at Nan to see if she approved. She was consenting with every one of her expressive features, and did not appear at all anxious to enjoy one of her fourteen delightful panics this evening if it could be avoided. Being spokesman, I said, ‘I would willingly try the school on your recommendation, Miss Ada, if you think madame could be ready for us this evening.’
“‘Of course she could: come out with me now and see her. I must go at one, and can show you the way. Will you meet me at the station? or shall we call for you at your hotel?’
“‘We will meet at the station,’ I replied, glad to settle it so quickly, ‘if you are quite sure that your madame will like our unceremonious arrival.’
“‘That will be all right, I know. She has several empty rooms, and will be happy to have them filled. You can leave your trunks until to-morrow if you don’t like to come bag and baggage.’
“We needed no further pressing. Here was deliverance and safety, and we bade good-morning to the party with light hearts.
“We found the school all that Miss Ada had promised, and thus ended the nearest approach to an adventure that we had during the two weeks that we remained.”
“And now tell me about the Exposition.”
“Well, we saw it.”
“Describe it to me.”
“Certainly. In the first place, it was very big, and everybody was there, so it was crowded; and you met your friends and you talked; and–and you got fearfully tired; and it was wonderful; and there were ever so many restaurants, and a soda-water fountain, and queer things that you never expected to see there, like the Mexican techcatl and Russian horses; and everything was _real_–real lace and cashmeres and diamonds, and nothing but what was very nice. But, after all, I think you had better get a file of old newspapers and read about it, for I really have no talent for description–or, better still, go and see the one in Vienna this summer.”
ITA ANIOL PROKOP.
In traveling over the old lands of Europe one is sometimes apt to think more of historical and genealogical traditions than of the natural beauties or peculiarities of the country. The old landmarks of a nation, whether monuments built by the hand of man or archives carefully preserved by him, tell us of its growth, just as the strata of the mountain tell of its progress to the geologist; and as every successive layer has some relation both to its predecessor and its successor, so the traditions of each generation have a perceptible influence upon the moral development of the generation following. Every nation is thus the growing fruit of its own history, and every visible step of the grand ladder of facts that has led up to the present result must needs have for a student of human nature an intrinsic interest.
This comes very clearly before my mind as I think of Slains Castle (Aberdeen), a massive crown of granite set on the brow of the rocks of the German Ocean, and the seat of one of those old Scottish families whose origin is hidden away among the suggestive mists of tradition.
Slains Castle stands alone, a giant watchman upon giant cliffs, built up only one story high, on account of the tremendous winds that prevail there in spring and autumn, and cased with the gray Aberdeen granite of the famous quarries near by. The surrounding country is as bare and uninviting as one could imagine; the road from Aberdeen (twenty miles) is bleak and stony; the young trees near the castle are stunted, and in many cases disfigured by the inroads of hungry cows among their lower branches, and a damp veil of mist hangs perpetually over the scene, softening the landscape, but sometimes depressing the spirits. As the hours pass the place grows on you: a weird beauty begins to loom up from among the mist-wreaths, the jagged rocks, the restless waves, and you forget the desolate moor, which in itself displays attractions you will realize later, in the grandeur of the desolate sea.
The original building is of the time of James VI. (of Scotland), and is due to Francis, earl of Erroll, whose more ancient castle, bearing the same name, was destroyed by the king to punish his vassal for the part he had taken in a rebellion. In the seventeenth century Earl Gilbert made great improvements in it, and early in the eighteenth Earl Charles added the front. In 1836 it was rebuilt by Earl William George, the father of the present owner, with the exception of the lower part of the original tower. In this there used to be in olden times an _oubliette_ in which unhappy prisoners were let down. All at first appeared dark around them, but when they had thankfully assured themselves that they at last stood upon solid ground, they would look about them and presently descry a line of fitful light coming from a door ajar in their dungeon. The poor victims would then go in haste to this door, pull it open and, blinded by the sudden light, step out upon the green slope terminating quickly in a precipice, which went sheer down to the sea.
The rest of the house is built around a large covered piazza, intersected by corridors where pictures, armor and all kinds of old family relics decorate the walls. The drawing-room is on the very edge of the rock, and on stormy days the flocks of uneasy sea-gulls almost flap their wings against its window-panes, while the clouds of